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Posted July 17, 2011
The Seventh Messenger - Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat
'Like obedient children the people formed a circle around Benjamin. He closed his eyes and raised his hands to pray, but instead of the comforting words that the group expected, an agonized cry forced itself from Ben's mouth and he fell to the floor. Suddenly Benjamin seemed to go into a convulsion. As the people gasped in fear, Mary ran forward to help her husband. Her efforts to grab hold of him failed as he was rolling around thrashing his arms and legs and moaning and yelling words that could not be understood. Mary was frightened and began to cry. Then, as suddenly as the convulsion started it ended. Ben lay quietly for a few seconds and then with the help of Jacob and Silas rose to his feet. His face was streaked with tears and fresh tears were spilling from his dark eyes. Finally, he spoke. "I was seized by the Spirit of the Lord, so that His truth could be spoken through me. For the Lord revealed to me that Michael Mills is indeed a false profit, a heretic, and I, Benjamin Franklin Purnell, am the true Seventh Messenger. It is I who will lead God's people to the Millennium. It is I who will lead you out of the strife of these awful times and into the light of peace and prosperity. Michael has blasphemed and we have followed him, and God's displeasure has silenced our voices and made us afraid to venture into the sunlight."
Benjamin Franklin Purnell, along with his wife Mary, had joined the religious group that called themselves "Flying Rollers." But after the conviction of their leader Michael Mills for raping several of the group's young girls, another leader was needed. With his gift for talking, preaching and steering people to his way of thinking, Benjamin became that leader.
Benjamin moved his people to Benton Harbor, Michigan in 1903 and created what he would call "The House of David." The facilities grew with the addition of an amusement park, zoo, hotel, restaurant and even its own baseball team. And as The House of David grew, so did the treasury which allowed Benjamin and Mary to live true to the names the people gave them which were King Benjamin and Queen Mary.
To become a member of the colony, applicants turned over all earthly items of value to The House of David. They were to eat no meats and married couples were to live as brother and sister. In other words, no sex was allowed. But Benjamin was the king so his own laws didn't necessarily apply to him. He created what he called the Inner Circle which was made up of girls no older than 16. These girls were to live under the roof of his home and he in turn would "purify them." After the age of 16 they would be sent to work in other areas of the compound. Most of the girls kept their "purification" to themselves but one who found herself pregnant decided to bide her time while committing herself to the destruction of King Benjamin.
The Seventh Messenger has been one of the most intriguing books I've read in a long time. When I read that the story was inspired by the true story of Benjamin Franklin Purnell I had to check it out for myself so I Googled the name and found events and places just as they are depicted in the book. I don't remember the downfall of The House of David being publicized here in the south but I do remember another colony that did make the papers here for doing a lot of the same things.