Why do all your men wear beards and tie their hair back?
Our men have beards because men were created with facial hair.
It is normal and natural for a man to have a beard. Besides, it is not fitting
for a priest to crop his hair or to grow long, effeminate locks. In ancient
Israel both unbound hair and a shaved head were public signs of mourning or
some uncleanness. It is priestly for a man to bind his hair at the back of the
neck and keep it trimmed as indicated in Ezekiel 44:20: "They shall not
shave their heads nor let their hair hang loose, but they shall keep their hair
trimmed." Priests are concerned about pleasing their Creator rather than
chasing after fashions or calling attention to themselves.
Why do your women dress the way they do?
Our women wear the clothes they do because of their desire to be
For more information, read an article on Modesty by one of the women of the community.
What does a person have to do if he wants to visit one of your
Anyone who is sincerely interested in our life can visit our
communities without making any further commitment. As long as a person respects
our ways, he is welcome to stay in one of our homes and share in the normal
life there. We expect visitors to participate in our social life and to ask
questions about whatever they see. We don't charge anyone to stay with us. On
the contrary, we enjoy offering hospitality to any who come through our doors.
Do you have one leader who lives off the labor of the rest of
No, there is no special class of leadership in our midst, or
those who live by a different standard from the rest of us.
Why are you called Twelve Tribes?
The fact that we are called the Twelve Tribes has nothing to do
with mystical tribalism, as in the beliefs of the Mormons, the Rastafarians, or
British Israelism. Rather, we are speaking of people actually dwelling together
in unity, living a tribal life in twelve different geographical areas on the
earth, so as to be a demonstration of how God has always wanted His people to
live. For more information, look at "Why Twelve Tribes?".
Are you a cult?
If you mean a weird, dangerous, or oppressive religious group, no.
Do you watch TV?
No, we do not normally have TV sets in our homes, nor do we
think it is healthy for our children to watch them. We see human relationships
as the central focus of our lives; we are learning on a daily basis to be
friends and pay attention to each other's real needs. TV would be a distraction
and would be detrimental to learning, loving, and being "normal."
How many are in your group?
Worldwide we probably number somewhere between two and three
thousand men, women and children. But we do not keep count or take a census. We
can tell, however, that we are growing, and we welcome new members.
What keeps you all together?
We stay together because of the power of our Master Yahshua's
sacrifice. His death in our place makes it possible for each of us to be
forgiven and to forgive others. And so the things that usually alienate people
from one another don't have to divide us. Because our Master saved us from a
life of alienation, loneliness, and sin, we love Him and want to do His will.
We express our devotion to Him by submitting to each other. That mutual respect
and affection makes unity possible. Our desire is to follow Him, be like Him,
and give all that we have to bringing about His purpose. This is our common
goal, and love compels us to make sure our fellow disciples have the
encouragement they need to make it.
Wonder what we think about God or the Bible? First, please see our What We Believe page, then look here for more information.
- Is Yahshua the same as Jesus Christ?
Yes. We understand Yahshua to be the original
Hebrew name of the Messiah. Jesus is an inaccurate English
version of an inaccurate Greek version of that Hebrew name. We see that just as
His name has been changed over the centuries, so also many vital aspects of His
teaching have been obscured by centuries of man's traditions. For us the
restoration of His original name goes along with the recovery of the whole
truth about His life and message.
- Do you follow the Bible, or some other writings?
We regard the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments together,
as God's Word, and we do not believe He will speak to us now contrary to how He
spoke then. The teachers in the Community base their instruction on the Bible,
and not on theological commentaries, psychology texts, or self-help guides.
- Do you say that you are the only ones?
We are absolutely convinced that our beliefs are the truth, our
practices are the way, and our culture is the life that the Creator wants to
fill the earth. Of course, we do not endorse beliefs and practices that are
contrary to ours.
How is a person saved?
Romans 10:13 says, "Everyone who calls on the name of the
Lord will be saved." So, if you call on His name you will be saved. But,
of course, no one would call on Him unless they had put their trust in Him, as
the next sentence in Romans 10:14 says, "How, then, can they call on the
one they have not believed in?"
Are you saved by grace through faith, or do you have to do
something to be saved?
No one is saved by his own efforts, but we do not see how
someone can have faith in the Son of God and not do what He said. Faith in
Yahshua means trusting in His power to save us. If we surrender to Him and call
on His name in the waters of baptism, He gives us the power to obey Him - to
forsake houses, lands, family ties, and even our own personal welfare. That is
why the Scriptures speak of "obeying" the Gospel (2 Thessalonians
1:6-8, Acts 5:32 and Hebrews 5:9). He calls us to rid ourselves of things that
would hinder us from loving the way He loved. Any "salvation" that
doesn't produce the "works" of simple obedience and loving others is
exposed as a fraud by the Apostle James when He says, "Faith without works
is dead." (James 2:26)
If you are forgiven and saved by grace, why do you have to live
Although eternal life is a free gift, our loving Creator only
gives it to those who are willing to do His will and live entirely for Him
(Hebrews 5:9; Acts 5:32; 2 Corinthians 5:15). This is the meaning of
repentance, not just to quit stealing and fornicating, or even to stop smoking
and drinking, but to no longer live for oneself in any way.
Do you say that a person has to give up everything to have
Yes, we do, because that is what our Master said, and we are not
ashamed of His words (Mark 8:38). Someone asked Him, "Good Teacher, what
shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17). After finding out that
the man had a high moral standard, Yahshua answered, "One thing you lack:
go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure
in heaven; and come, follow Me" (Mark 10:21).
How we relate to the authorities in the places we live.
- Does your group have a religious exemption from paying taxes?
No, we pay property taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes just
like everybody else. It is against our religious beliefs to evade taxes. The
Bible commands us to pay taxes (Romans 13:6-7). Besides, since we use some of
the facilities and services that are supported by taxes, we think we ought to
pay a share of them. We don't deserve a free ride just because we have
- Do you believe in separation of church and state?
Absolutely. It is not the business of our religion to control
the civil government, and it is not the business of the civil government to
control our religion. Whenever religion and politics have mixed in history,
those with minority beliefs were deprived of their liberty, their property, and
even their lives. We do not, however, believe in the separation of conscience
and state. This is why we pray that those in authority would rule in accord
with "natural law" (their own knowledge of good and evil).
- Do you obey the laws of the land?
The Word of God commands us to obey earthly authorities because
He established them to punish evil and praise those who do good. Of course we
obey such authorities. See Romans 13:1-7.
- Do you participate in local civic events?
Yes, whenever we have something to contribute, we do. This
participation has included laboring on local building projects, volunteer work
with the fire department and rescue squads, providing first aid services and
instruction, attendance at local government meetings, etc.
- Do you vote?
It is not our practice to vote or to seek public office.
Although we respect the people in democratic nations who are compelled by their
conscience to cast their vote on certain issues, our Master Yahshua made it
very clear that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). As members of
His "royal priesthood and holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9) we are called
instead to pray for those in positions of authority as it says in 1 Timothy
2:1-2. Since our hope is not in this world or the governments of this world, we
avoid getting entangled in politics (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
- Do you believe it is wrong to fight for your country?
No, it is not wrong for citizens to defend their homeland
against foreign invasion. But since we in the Community are disciples of
Yahshua, we have been called to demonstrate the life of the age to come. In
that age, "they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears
into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never
again will they learn war"(Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3). For this reason, we do
not study or practice war now.
Our Master said to Peter when he took up the sword to defend
Him, "Stop, no more of this!" (Luke 22:51). He also told Pilate at
His trial, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this
world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to
the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm"(John 18:36). We
take these passages as a clear indication that we as disciples are not to fight
in the wars of this world or use the weapons of this world.
You may wonder what is it like to be a woman or child in the Twelve Tribes?
- What is the role of women in the Twelve Tribes?
Some are academic teachers. Others teach art or music or
apprenticeship courses for our youth. We are writers, bakers, café workers,
creators of curriculum, bookkeepers, clothing designers and seamstresses,
artist/sign makers, and shopkeepers. Some of us write poetry and set it to
music, others choreograph dances. Many of us run household kitchens that are the
equivalent of sizeable restaurants, organizing the serving of home-cooked meals
at least three times daily, not to mention hospitality for guests and special
gatherings and meetings at a moment's notice. Many of us do several things
along with being wives and mothers. It is according to the need and what each
person is able to do. Finally, all of us are priests, sharing in the work of
publicly praying and speaking our Father's word morning and evening, which for
us is the highest calling anyone in the Community can aspire to. In reality
there is practically nothing that we "can't do", but we choose not to
do certain things.
- Do you spank your children?
Yes, we do. We love our children and consider them precious and
wonderful. Because we love them we do spank them. We teach them to listen to
what their parents say and to obey their parents and teachers. When they are
disobedient or intentionally hurtful to others we spank them with a small
reed-like rod, which only inflicts pain and not damage. Desiring to be good
parents, we do not hit our children in anger, nor with our hand or fist. And we
know that discipline is ineffective unless our child is ready to receive
We know that some people consider this aspect of our life
controversial, but we have seen from experience that discipline keeps a child
from becoming mean-spirited and disrespectful of authority. Furthermore, we
place much weight on what the Scriptures say about this. See Proverbs 13:24,
22:6, 19:18, 6:20, 29:17, 23:13-15, 29:15, Ephesians 6:4, Hebrews 12:11.
- Are your child-rearing practices abusive?
Not at all. We teach that parents are to promptly spank their
children whenever they disobey. If a parent is faithful to do this, the child
sees that discipline is consistent and fair and based on an objective standard.
As a result, the child is secure and learns respect. The parent also does not
become frustrated or angry with the child. It is only when a parent is
frustrated that abuse is likely to occur. A psychologist who studied these
practices in connection with a custody case in 1994 found that they are
"based on developmentally sound principles of discipline."
For more information, you can read Dr. Knapp's psychological report from the 1994 Rutland, VT case Lavin v. Lavin.
- Are men and women equal in the Twelve Tribes?
Equal, yes. Identical, no. "Man," created in the image
of God, is composed of two parts: male and female, as it says in Genesis 1:27.
Each has a separate function, like the heart and the head. Both are equally
necessary, but they are not interchangable.
- Do you use child labor?
If "child labor" means putting children to work in
oppressive conditions, as a labor force to secure our income, the answer is
explicitly "no." We do include our children (side by side with their
parents) in some of our work activities: caring for farm animals, learning
carpentry skills, learning how to work on cars, planting and harvesting,
learning to work with their hands. We teach our children proper values, such as
diligence, thrift, and hard work.
- Are minors allowed to join your group?
Sometimes parents do allow their children to join us before they
turn 18. If parents do not allow this, we tell interested youth that they must
wait until they are of legal age.
- How are older people cared for within the Community?
Because we live a tribal life (as one large family), older
people are always needed. They do not retire, they do not go on welfare, and
they do not get stuck in nursing homes. We care for each other within our
- What role do animals have in the life of the Twelve Tribes?
In our communities, animals live
under the rule of human beings, as God intended. On our farms we may keep barn
cats to deal with rodents, or workhorses to serve us. There we also have
chickens, cows, and goats, because we want to eat organic eggs, drink fresh
milk, raise our own beef, and make our own yogurt and cheese. Taking the life
of an animal for food is a very serious activity, and not something we do
lightly, knowing that we will answer to the Creator for how we treat his
Creation. We involve our children in every facet of caring for our animals so
they can learn to treat all living creatures with respect and kindness.
We're often misunderstood or mispresented about some of these topics that require deeper consideration and discussion.
- What is your stand on homosexuality?
We do not approve of homosexual behavior. We do not regard it as
a genetic variation, a valid alternative lifestyle, or a mere psychological
quirk. We embrace what God says on this subject without regard for political
correctness. Homosexual behavior is immoral and can be mortally dangerous.
Are you anti-Semitic?
No, we are not. It is amazing that anyone would consider us
anti-Semitic, when we honor the Sabbath, follow the dietary guidelines in
Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and have approximately the same proportion of Jews
in our Communities as in the general population. We don't hate Jews, we love
Jews. Our Master Yahshua and all his apostles were Jews, along with most of His
early followers. And all of us in the Community consider ourselves to be the
spiritual offspring of Abraham, whether we are physically descended from him or
not. Strangely enough, while some call us anti-Semitic, others call us
Judaizers. They say we mix Judaism with the New Testament faith because we
believe that our Master Yahshua did not abolish the Law of Moses (Matthew
Are you racist?
No. Inside the Community, Yahshua's death for our sins removes
all hostility between the races. In Him there is no racial distinction. People
of every nationality are able to live and function together, doing what they
are best able to do. It should come as no surprise when you see Hispanic or
black or Jewish leaders in some of our Communities. As disciples, we are not
concerned with who is over whom.
Our "common" life is quite uncommon. You might wonder just how we put our Biblical teachings and beliefs into practice.
- Are you a commune?
We do live together communally, but we do not call ourselves a commune.
- Does everyone have his own job?
We do not have independent sources of income. As followers of
Yahshua we are the Commonwealth of Israel, that is, a body of people with one
government and a shared economy. We work together as crews and teams and, like
the first believers in Jerusalem, remain devoted to fellowship even as we earn
The income we earn is not our own individual means of support but is
voluntarily shared to meet whatever the pressing needs of the local community
happen to be. Our goal in working together in the businesses we operate is to
seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice. Seeing to it that all have their
needs met is a basic part of that justice being expressed.
- Where does all the money go?
Most of our shared earnings go to pay for property taxes, food,
electricity, phone, car insurance, clothing, and health care. Since we are a
commonwealth of tribes comprising a nation, we also willingly contribute toward
the development of new communities that are not yet self-supporting. As a
people we choose to live frugally, and none of us, including our leaders, have
property or wealth which we do not voluntarily share.
- Do you use drugs?
No. Drug and alcohol use is an attempt to fill the emptiness and
soothe the pain caused by a bad conscience. As the proverb says, "Give
strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let
him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his trouble no more"
(Proverbs 31:6-7). This passage captures very well the darkness some of us have
experienced in the past by using drugs and alcohol. Now they have no place in
our life because we are forgiven, have the power to forgive others, and lead a
rich, full life in the Community.
- What kind of sexual practices do you engage in?
We uphold the standard of a lifelong marriage covenant between
one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24). Within this marriage relationship we
enjoy sexual intimacy. Outside of the marriage covenant, sexual relations are
sin, and we do not approve of or practice sin.
- Do you allow members to have access to medical care?
We are very concerned about our health. This is why we place so
much emphasis on a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, fresh air, and rest.
When we need the services of dentists, doctors, or hospitals, we seek them out.
Medical care is a matter of personal choice based on each
person's faith and conviction. While we as a people prefer the simplest and
most natural means of healing possible, we do not restrict people's access to
medical care, nor do we presume to know just how their healing will come.
- Do you celebrate Christmas?
We often give thanks for the amazing birth of our Master in
Judea long ago, pondering its many deep meanings. But, like the believers of
the Early Church, we pay no attention to any particular day. The fact that He
came as one of us is what fills us with awe and hope, not any particular date
on the annual calendar.
The modern Christmas holiday is a collection of religious
beliefs and cultural practices that have piled up over the centuries. While
some of them might have some validity, the frantic materialism we see so often
in our day leaves us cold.
We do like to make a special effort during this season to open
our homes to those left lonely and dissatisfied by the holiday spirit, so we
often have a special meal for guests on such traditional holidays.
- Do you hold regular religious services or meetings?
We gather every morning and evening to share our hearts and
worship and pray. Our dress is somewhat informal compared to most religious
meetings, yet is modest and clean. All have freedom to share what they are
hearing in their heart from our Father (1 Peter 4:11). We sing songs and dance
Israeli-style folk dances. We pray together at the end of our gatherings and
usually have a meal together afterwards. You are welcome to join us at any of these
gatherings. Please check with the local Community for the exact time.
- Do your people collect welfare?
No. We do not believe we should take money that the government
raises by taxing our neighbors to support us in our voluntary lifestyle. That
money is for destitute people who have no means of support and no way to get
that means. We believe that Our Father in heaven will see to it that we never
lack food and clothing (Matthew 6:25-34).
- Do your members collect social security benefits?
Yes. Social security is different from welfare. It is mandatory
group insurance based on premiums paid out of a person's earnings. Although we
do not collect welfare, we think those in our midst who spent perhaps many
years paying into the Social Security system are entitled to their benefits.
- How are leaders chosen?
Leaders are chosen because they have administrative gifting and
the heart of a shepherd, and their personal life meets the qualifications
described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. This is done with the full
consent of those whom they will be leading.
Ever consider the things children today are learning and the environment they learn in? We did, and the answers to these questions express our convictions on the subject.
- How are your children educated?
In 1979, the parents in our communities came to the conviction that
they could no longer send their children to public schools. It was becoming
clear to us that our children's training was for a very special purpose,
and must take place within the "church" or the community of believers.
We have not sent them since, and they never will be enrolled in the
public education system. What follows is the stand we took then and
continue to take now as we teach our children to love the Lord our
God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37).
We train our children in our own homes. We have developed our
own curriculum, designed to meet our children's needs. We report our children's
educational progress to the state regularly in recognition of their right to
know that our children are being educated.
For more information, read our Statement of Education
- Do you send your children on to college?
We do not send our children to college, and we do not think
college is a healthy environment, either for learning or social development. We
do advocate that our children gain wisdom and skills through community-based
apprenticeship and hands-on learning. We encourage their creativity and their
ability to communicate well and take initiative. We are training them to be
leaders, parents, providers, craftsmen, and teachers. But more importantly, we
want them to have good character, to be honest, decent, and loving human
In the media hype and cult hysteria of today, any group that does not adhere to the status quo is likely to be the target of confrontational questions.
- Can people leave if they want to?
Of course. No one is compelled to stay who does not want to
stay. In fact, no one is compelled to join or give up his possessions who does
not want to. We are a social order of volunteers. If someone loses his
willingness to participate, he is free to go. We do not pressure people to stay
in a life that they don't love.
- Who is this Gene Spriggs?
Gene Spriggs is one of the founders of our Communities. He is a
former high school teacher from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who desired to share
his sincere beliefs with others who, like himself, longed for a spiritual life
corresponding to the actual gospels. He did not have a plan to create or form
an international commonwealth of tribes, nor did he foresee an organization of
many clans in many locations all sharing a common spirit, united in a common
cause. But as the reality of the Twelve Tribes emerged, he knew in his heart
that the God of Heaven wanted "a people for His own possession" (1
Peter 2:9). In the Community we know him as "Yoneq" (the Hebrew word
for "sprig", pronounced as "yoh-NAKE").
For more information, you can read about Our Beginnings.
- If your life is so wonderful, why do the TV and newspapers have
such bad things to say about you?
Journalists are taught that they must present both sides of
every story, regardless of whether they personally believe one side to be a
lie. This is said to be "objectivity," but it is actually economics. Readers are
drawn to conflict and controversy, for it sells newspapers. False or
exaggerated charges are printed because false or exaggerated charges were
spoken. And, sadly enough, some people even make a living out of circulating
- So, why are these bad things spoken if they're not true?
When people live closely together as in a marriage or family,
sometimes they do not treat each other as they should. Our Master apparently
knew such things would happen among his disciples, because He commanded them to
repeatedly forgive one another. It is a fact of human relationships, however,
that those who do not choose to forgive usually do not choose to remain with
those they bear grudges against. It is also true that those who do not forgive find
it hard to resist speaking ill of the unforgiven ones. For this reason
exaggerated accounts of some of our failures to love and care have come to the
attention of the press.
If something you have read has raised genuine questions about
our safety, health, or sanity, you are welcome to personally write or visit us
and express your concerns. We will be happy to hear you out and respond.
- Do you believe the end of the world is at hand?
While we do believe that this world is coming to an end, this
belief does not lead us to isolate ourselves, to stockpile weapons, or to
consider suicide. Instead, it leads us to demonstrate the life that will fill
the earth in the next age: a wholesome, peaceful, tribal life.
- Do you stockpile weapons?
No, we don't even have hunting rifles or archery sets. Our
Master said in Matthew 26:52, "All those who take up the sword shall
perish by the sword." We have no need to defend ourselves.
- Do you break up families?
No. Selfishness breaks up families. That is why so many of the
marriages in this country end in divorce. We call people to deny self and
follow Yahshua as it says in Luke 9:23. Families who obey His commands do not
break up. But if one family member desires to be devoted to Yahshua while the
other wants to live for himself, then selfishness will break up that family.
That is why our Master said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on
the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man
against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law
against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be the members of his
household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and
he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does
not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me" (Matthew
- Aren't you teaching "another Gospel" calling people to
be saved by works?
We are saying that no one can be saved apart from obeying the
Son of God, as it says in John 3:36, "He who believes in the Son has
eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the
wrath of God abides on him."
- Do you share wives along with everything else?
No, we uphold the standard of a lifelong marriage covenant
between one man and one woman. Outside of the marriage covenant, sexual
relations are sin, and we do not approve of sin.
- Do you practice mind control?
No, we practice self-control. We do not approve of manipulation.
And besides, it would be senseless to manipulate people into believing
something they don't want to believe, because they would just quit believing it
sooner or later. Instead, we share our convictions in a straightforward manner.
If sharing our faith causes others to have faith, then they will be controlled
by the same love for our Master that we are controlled by (2 Corinthians
- Do you put things in your drinks to alter people's mental state?
No. We do drink herbal teas such as hibiscus, yerba maté, and
peppermint. Although such herbs may be considered stimulants, we avoid
mind-altering substances like alcoholic beverages.
- Doesn't your leader teach members to lie to courts, police, or
other public officials?
No, we do not teach or encourage anyone to lie. This charge is a
serious distortion of our teachings and practices.
- If a person wants to join you, does he have to give all his
things to the group?
If a person wants to join us in the Commonwealth of Israel, then
he wants to voluntarily share all that he has. Our Master told a story once
about a man who found a very valuable pearl. He said that for joy the man sold
all that he had and bought that pearl. It is just so for everyone who believes
in Yahshua. They are thrilled to find a life worth living and do not hesitate
to freely give all that they have and all that they are to meet any pressing
need. If a person feels only obligation or pressure about their money or
property, they shouldn't give it. Such giving is not from faith. We believe
that whatever is done apart from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
- If someone leaves your group, can he get his things back, or be
Not usually. We do not encourage light or impulsive commitments.
If people convince us that they have the faith to forsake all they possess,
like the first believers in Jerusalem, then their property will be put to use
for the benefit of the community. We believe such giving will bring no regret.
If later on someone realizes that he was not serious about his
commitment, he is free to leave with whatever property he still has or we can
locate for him. But if what was freely given has been either used up or spent,
then it is gone. To the best of our means, we will help such a person leave. But
as far as his days, months, or years of contribution to our life, there is no
getting them back. What he gave in good faith, we used in good faith. It is
similar to a person leaving a church after years of attendance and
contributions. Such a person wouldn't even think of asking to have their freely
given tithes and offerings returned.
- Do you believe that God speaks to everyone or just through one
God speaks to every human being through the conscience about
issues of right and wrong. Beyond this there is a grave danger in any leader
(or any individual) thinking he hears from God on his own. Our Master said,
"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in
their midst" (Matthew 18:20). We have confidence that our opinions are
from God if we find confirmation in what our brothers say. So you could say
that God often speaks to each of us in an audible voice - the voice of one of
our friends who love us.