ASU 'Cult and Religions' professor weighs in on 'Doomsday Couple'

CBS News 5, Arizona/February 25, 2020

By Kim Powell

PHoenix -- Since the beginning of the Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell saga, many people who knew them said they always seemed nice and "normal." However, they now claim to be preparing for the end of the world and are referred to as a "Doomsday couple." A professor at Arizona State University says it can be easy for people to get sucked into these extreme groups.

"When people become a part of these groups, the leaders have a goal in mind for creating a structured, controlled environment that will ultimately lead to the achievement of the leader's goals," explained Dr. Linda Demaine.

Dr. Demaine said it all breaks down to human nature; people join the groups initially for social reasons and to feel accepted. "One idea is they provide a sense of belonging; they provide a sense of acceptance that is hard to find within mainstream society. It's a tight-knit group, and they embrace new members, and so it's something that, as again, social creatures, is hard to turn down," Dr. Demaine said.

She said sometimes people might have more extreme views than their religion and then branch off. Often these groups have leaders, and members are told the group is exclusive.

"It's the people who fully immerse themselves in the culture that regularly interact with others that glean the most benefits from society, glean more benefits than those who stay on the fringe and stay asocial," Dr. Demaine explained. "By the time people become aware of the true purposes of the group, they've undergone some sort of extreme persuasion program and, therefore, no longer are thinking critically, no longer have the means to extract them from the group."

In court paperwork from February 2019, Lori's previous husband, Charles Vallow, filed for divorce and custody of their son JJ because of her ever-changing mental health and stability. He said he became worried about her decision-making skills. He also claimed that Lori told him she was a God, has lived multiple lives, and has now been sent by God to gather 144,000 chosen people for the Second Coming of Christ.

The family has said that Lori began reading Chad Daybell's doomsday books a few years ago, and then she started attending his seminars. Shortly after Charles' death, Chad and Lori married. "When somebody is claiming to be a God, like a deity or a messenger of a deity, we're going to place great credence in what they have to say if we're a believer," Dr. Demaine said.

Members of extremist groups who are preparing for doomsday tend to stock up on food and other supplies, they have cash stowed away, and some even have bunkers. "There's perhaps little that's more important to [them] than preparing for that arrival of Christ," the professor said.

Lori and Chad claim to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; however, that does not mean their views are that of the church.

"There's a distinction to be made between preparing for some sort of disaster and preparing for a disaster of the magnitude of the Second Coming of Christ and the Armageddon that will ensue," said Dr. Demaine.

The professor said these extreme groups are nothing new, and there are more of them than people might think.

"These kinds of bizarre, destructive groups often operate under the radar in our society, so the estimates are that there are a few thousand of these groups at any given time in American society."

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