"Children of Thunder" CULT and God Complex

Click below to hear UPC's resident psychotherapist, Michael Drane (@upcmd) dive into the story of a small, but powerful cult known as "The Children of Thunder." Glenn Taylor Helzer, an infamous cult leader and murderer. Everything in his life was the perfect combination to create such a narcissistic "prophet," including a strong Mormon upbringing, bizarre parenting, mission trips and of course, plenty of charm on his part. Listen to this episode of the podcast to hear Michael's take on the psychology of a cult leader. STAY TUNED: (Next week's UNPLUGGED is "Ranking Cults"). Should the Children of Thunder be included? #GodComplex 

This episode is about Glenn Taylor Helzer and his small, but powerful cult known as the Children of Thunder. You might think of cults as a big hoard of people. Jonestown was, but we picked this specific cult to talk about today because it's a reminder that it's not the size of the cult that matters, but the purpose. A cult doesn't have to be big, to be deadly. This cult was perhaps the smallest I've ever heard of. But the small size of it in no way diminishes it's lethal potency. What I think is interesting about Glenn Taylor Helzer is that it's as if he was bred to be a false profit. Everything in his environment was in line to turn him into the perfect cult leader. We hope you enjoy the show. 

In the 1993 film, "Malice," Alec Baldwin plays a villainous character, so narcissistic that he actually believes he is God. 

“I have an M.D. from Harvard, I am board certified in cardio-thoracic medicine and trauma surgery, I have been awarded citations from seven different medical boards in New England, and I am never, ever sick at sea. So I ask you; when someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn’t miscarry or that their daughter doesn’t bleed to death or that their mother doesn’t suffer acute neural trauma from postoperative shock, who do you think they’re praying to?
“Now, go ahead and read your Bible.. and go to your church, and, with any luck, you might win the annual raffle — but if you’re looking for God, he was in operating room number two on November 17, and he doesn’t like to be second guessed.
“You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God.”

What can happen when narcissism reaches a level where a person thinks they are God?


The trouble with Narcissists (among other things) is that any decision they make, it should be assumed, is in the interest of serving themselves. They consider themselves to be the superior intellect in the room. Therefore, YOUR ideas, beliefs, desires, are all inferior to the Narcissist. Narcissists's ability to project confidence often draws weaker minds to their cause. Others may inherently look to the narcissist for guidance. If you believe you are God, BUT everyone else around you ALSO believes you are God, is it still a delusion?

The term 'cult' sounds extreme given how common they actually are.

People hear the word cult and it sounds foreign, bizarre, something out of a horror movie. But honestly, cults exist in many different ways, and are right under our noses. The psychology behind why someone would join a cult is that a cult is seductive ... contagious.

"Us vs. Them" Mentality fuels Exclusion from Society

Cults are exclusive, secretive and authoritarian. Their tightly-knit belief system is different from the majority population around them. Because the majority population thinks the cult is crazy for what they believe & practice, it becomes easy for the cult to embrace an "us vs. them" mentality. Therefore the cults are socially ostracized. But as the amount of people that believe in a cult increases in numbers.. it becomes a more socially acceptable religion. Therefore, it seems the only difference between a cult and a religion is how many people believe that particular ideology to be true. 

You may be wondering, why would you ever become a cult member? Are you picturing a group of chanting fanatics, hooded in robes, shrouded in secret? Most cults don't come off this way. If you were to visit the inner workings of a cult for a while, perhaps hang out with them on take-your-cult-to work day,  you might be surprised by what you see. If you were to have lunch with The Peoples Temple, you may see familiar sights: kids running around happily, people playing music, laughing, working together in harmony.

There are a lot of benefits to being in a cult.

Cults offer: friendship, a definite sense of community, a purpose and an identity for those who can't find that on their own. This environment is particularly alluring to to the troubled youth or the social outcast. For them, they don't see a cult (at least at first). They see a new home, a new family. A group of people who seem to accept them for who they are, even after they have been rejected by their families, by society. 

Cults offer a structured lifestyle, it's purpose in a box. If you can just believe in the cults extreme ideology, then you can believe everything is going to work out for you. Life becomes simplified. You have chosen to let someone tell you what your sense of purpose is, rather than taking the much more uncomfortable path of not knowing what your life should be or trying to discover this for yourself.

Cult behavior is all around you. In fact, you may have already been in some version of one. 

If you're a member of a fraternity, you probably exist in an authoritarian society where the higher-ups conduct some ritual to acquire new inductees, an initiation process. This is cult behavior.

Take the military, (very cult-like), once again. authoritarian structure. All new inductees undergo a physical and psychological breakdown process, where they strip you of your identity and replace it with that of a soldier. Uniformity among your peers reduces your sense of individuality and increases social compliance. If your commander speaks to your platoon, You all speak in unison when spoken to. 

Or even on a much more relatable level, our political parties. The democratic party- the republican party. Bound together by common ideology that's different from the rest of the country. These political parties contain a hierarchy, and an authoritarian base, seeking to push their agenda for social change. 

So, as you can see cults can be religious or racial, political or mystical, but above all, common. Any situation in which you let someone think for you. Any situation in which you stop thinking for yourself.

Cult mentality is not specific to large groups. In the first episode we did about cults, we talked about Jim Jones and his cult: The People's Temple. This was comprised of more than a thousand people that followed him to another continent, to the other side of the world, and then committed mass suicide with him. In this episode, we'll talk about a much smaller cult: The Children of Thunder, which only consisted of a few, influential and deadly people.

Glenn Taylor Helzer's Childhood (matters)

Throughout the course of his life, Glenn Taylor Helzer (known as Taylor Helzer) is continually bred to become a cult leader. Growing up in San Fransisco, with his brother, Justin, his faithfully Mormon family grooms Taylor to be the spiritual leader of not only his siblings, but their entire family and all of the people around him. Religion is central in his life, it's a culture he is born into. Their grandfather claimed to have been visited by Jesus in the flesh, so trans-generational delusional behavior is present in this devoutly Mormon family. Taylor Helzer's mother tells him that he is a chosen prophet. From when they were young, their mother would spin a tale—a bible story about two brothers—the youngest being undyingly loyal to the firstborn. This, no doubt, contributes to Taylor's younger brother Justin's reverence of him. It's important to stress the subservient nature that the younger brother has under Taylor. When Taylor says something, Justin believes it without question or hesitation and always. This gives Taylor control over his brother, Justin is a true minion.

The Helzer family's delusion that Taylor is the chosen prophet is reinforced over the years, even well into his teens. People like Taylor, they describe him as charming and harmless. Taylor's parents regard him as a spiritual leader. He is seen as the head of the household, even over his parents. At age 14, he makes claims that he's hearing "divine voices." In the clinical world, hearing "divine" voices, is known as religious-type auditory hallucinations. And age 14 is within the window of time people start to show potential signs of psychosis, but it's hard to say if this is a true mental illness. Is it that he develops schizophrenia? Or is he only saying he hears these voices because his family has always told him he's special? It's being fostered in his household. If he were in a different family, he might be treated, diagnosed with schizophrenia and put on anti-psychotics. Then again, a different family wouldn't have put the idea that he has special abilities in his head in the first place. If another family's 14 year old came up to them and said they were hearing voices, they would probably be quite alarmed. But Taylor Helzer's family encourages it.  

As per Mormon tradition, Taylor is assigned to do missionary work oversees. Where he has the opportunity to convert people, persuade and manipulate them and has the confidence that he's capable of this already, because it's been cultivating - his whole life.

He spends time in poor cities in Brazil, where they all flock to his natural charisma and intelligence and love him. His high conversion rate for the church is exceptional. His wild success at converting people further reinforces that he is a prophet. This Brazil trip ignites a fire in him. 

The Grand "Prophet of Doom" Delusion

As a budding cult leader, Taylor's at the point in his development where he's starting to truly believe his own mythology, after his family has cultivated it, he's traveled across the globe where a whole society of people is reinforcing that he's a "God"— You might buy into it too! Taylor is starting to feel truly special ... justified. His calling grows even more extreme along with his confidence and arrogance. It's around this time he starts telling people that the rapture is coming. The end of the world is right around the corner, and, of course, HE is the one who can grant everyone salvation. Typical cult leader, "The end of the world is coming and I happen to have the solution for you," After all, what is a prophet without a mission? 

The age-old "Prophet of Doom" delusion. By telling people that the world is going to end, and you are some kind of condoit for salvation and safety, you create a sense of urgency for people to follow you, based in fear.

As his ego grows, Taylor Helzer bypasses his church leader as he believes he has more divine authority, can talk directly to God himself and should be the one to lead the worlds 9 million Mormons.

This stretches the criteria for clinical narcissism, and falls in line more so with a literal God complex. If you believe that you're divine BUT everyone around you also believes that you're divine, is it still narcissism?

If being raised by a family that treated you like a prophet was cult-leader kindergarten, and going on a mission and converting an entire community to follow you is cult-leader high school, then our perfectly engineered cult-leader, Taylor Helzer is now about to attend the university level.

In California, Taylor Helzer's mom takes a reformative class on personal growth, and convinces Taylor to come home and take the class, too. For her, it's a simple, self-help class she takes casually, a curiosity on an idle Tuesday after work. For Taylor this is a pivotal milestone in his cult leader development. His mother is reported to have said that she had no idea it would have such a deep-seated influence on him. What happens next will weaponize his ideology.

The basic concept behind this self-help group was implemented to overcome negative feelings and limitations. Harmony Impact Training believes that "there is no right and no wrong" "...only results." This is a well-intended philosophy that's reported to have helped a lot of people. But to somebody as arrogant and sociopathic as Taylor Helzer, it becomes the exact logic that he needs to justify anything he wants to do. If there is no right and wrong, it doesn't matter if he kills people.

When you have a strong ideology, you can rationalize devaluating others that don't share it.

By focusing on only the results of your group and getting only the results you want, you have a blank check to compromise not only everyone else's beliefs but even their value as human beings.

Like the age-old tale, these cult followers are slaughtered minions of a holy war—expendable casualties swept up in the cause of a great profit. A terrorist group blows up a populated area full of innocent people, but it's "Gods will."

This is not just devaluating, it's walking around in the world thinking all that matters are the results, by any means necessary. This is how a psychopath already thinks.

No human being could be bred to be a better cult leader than Taylor Helzer, even if you did it on purpose.

Now this is the equivalent of graduating from cult-leader college and not being able to get a job. Taylor Helzer returns to the U.S. and attempts to take the next step of a typical Mormon lifestyle; get a wife, have kids, start a family, get a steady job, support the church. He abruptly tries to settle into normalcy. But for the first time in his life he's no longer the prophetic center of attention, or special. He's an unemployed every-man, but underneath: he's a leader without the cult.

Taylor Helzer quickly becomes discontent with this lifestyle. He is bored managing retirement portfolios and develops a noticeable irritability, especially when people don't listen to him. His claims grow even more elaborate, in 1998, when he tells everyone it's not God that will usher in the second coming, it's him.

Taylor gets divorced and leaves his family. Within months he starts building a new company: an escort service that takes off, allowing him to save money. It says something that he's able to be so successful as an undisputed leader of another group of people so quickly. And like we'll see a couple of times in Taylor's life, with this group he pulls in a woman to be his right-hand, his undyingly loyal minion. He even goes so far as to marry one of these prostitutes, Keri Furman.

Taylor Helzer's increasingly delusional behavior and power struggle with the leadership gets him excommunicated from the church. This level of rejection and social embarrassment would be a massive blow to the narcissist's fragile ego. Emotionally wounded, Taylor Helzer tries to gain control and turns to his new subservient wife. He manipulates Keri Furman into feeling bad for him about being kicked out of the church. Taylor forces her to do the Harmony Impact Training with him. She is stripped of her beliefs in training, so that he can begin inserting HIS ideology.

He has so much influence over her, he even convinces her to help him fake a mental breakdown so he can collect disability payments. All of these actions prove his ability to organize, his intelligence, his ability to manipulate others into serving him. 

Keri is working as a prostitute in his sex ring, when he convinces her to apply to be a centerfold in Playboy. But this decision blows up in his face when she gets the job, finding success and freedom. These new life achievements give her an exit, and starts her down a path that will ultimately snap her out of the spell that Taylor has over her. He would never again choose someone with a likelihood for success and independence, somebody that he could ultimately lose his control over.

Now, Taylor Helzer knows he needs to go after somebody weak, vulnerable, impressionable.

On a September night in 1999, at a Mormon Temple Dinner, Taylor Helzer meets Don Godman, the girlfriend of younger brother Justin. She has been bred to be a cult follower in the same way he has been bred to be a cult leader. Don Godman was raised evangelical, had a crisis of faith, got into drugs, became suicidal, and then was ultimately saved by someone putting the Book of Mormon in her hand. The Mormon religion replaced her broken in her shell, somebody in such a fragile emotional state would be particularly susceptible to strongly attaching to a new identity. And Taylor Helzer personified this. She suddenly has someone to put her identity into. To her, he is a very attractive and charismatic prophet.

Taylor says he can tell her his true identity at the church because Satan can't hear them, with all the angels surrounding the church land. He spouts off an enormous amount of scripture so she is afflicted by his influence, believing like his family and so many in Brazil that he is actually a prophet of God.

To highlight the severity of the grip that he has on her, Don Godman gives up her 5 year old child to move in with Taylor Helzer. What would it take for you to give up your child? Is there any scenario where you can picture yourself making this decision?

So the cult leader has found his cult. He now has two disciples. To his right, vulnerable lover Don Godman, and to his left, adoring younger brother, Justin. Jesus called his two disciples the Sons of Thunder. This, becomes the inspiration for the name that Taylor gives his cult of three, the Children of Thunder.  

In 2000, July 30th would be the perfect day for the Children of Thunder to act because it is Taylor's 30th birthday and the Mormon founder wrote the Book of Mormon in his 30th year, so Taylor feels he needs to accomplish something great.

Initially the Children of Thunder's purpose is about peace and harmony throughout the world through individual enlightenment. This altruistic foundation disintegrates early on, following the principles of Harmony Impact Training. Taylor is already in the mindset that in order to get the results he wants (money)... the means are justified. The Peace and Harmony mentality was never going to work, because, as we've learned, Glenn Taylor Helzer is a typical narcissist in that he only cares about himself. This marks a turning point in the story — The Children of Thunder are about to cross a deadly line.

Now that the Children of Thunder are under one roof, the house they live in will serve as an incubator. A haven for Taylor to spin his crazy ideas, and keep Don and Justin constantly under his influence and surveillance. Taylor quickly enacts a plan that the minions blindly follow. He goes to a rave club and introduces himself to Selena Bishop, another younger, vulnerable woman, using the fake name Jordan Taylor. Making her believe that he loves her, he manipulates their elusive relationship and in a few months is able to convince her to open a bank account for him, but this was only step one.

The following day, Taylor wastes no time, taking the Children of Thunder out to raid the home of Ivan and Annette Steinman. This poor elderly couple were clients of Taylor's as a financial advisor, so he knew they had money. With Don in the getaway car, his younger brother follows him, and together they smash in the windows of the elderly couple's home. They force Ivan and Annette to write checks totaling $100,000 to Selena Bishop.

Up until this point, Taylor has been calculated. Aside from getting excommunicated from the Mormon Church, Taylor Helzer has shown an extraordinary capacity to manipulate circumstances and people around him. Playing a near flawless game of chess, every move has been successful in gaining him disciples. Up until this point, he's had no reason to doubt his own abilities. Everything has reinforced his delusions. But Taylor is about to make his first fatal flaw.

After having the Steinmans write these two checks, Taylor thinks he no longer has use for them, and that it would be better not to leave witnesses. The Children of Thunder beat the Steinmann's heads against the ground. They cracked the skulls, but after being unable to kill them, Taylor pulls out a knife and stabs them to death.

It's at this time that he has to remind his disciples that this was a means to a "greater power" — that by killing the Steinmans, they would get money that they would then use to "make the world a better place." Taylor did this to prevent the Children of Thunder from falling back on old social morals and questioning his will. In a bizarre final ritual, they kneel together and pray over the Steinman's and thanked them for giving their lives.

The ritual of being on their knees and holding hands makes the event feel psychologically significant and the prayer makes them feel morally valid, and therefore justified. He ceremonializes the event and by thanking them for their sacrifice, they're simultaneously releiving themselves of any guilt. This kind of ceremonial behavior and finding meaning in a death is normally a functional and healthy way to deal with grief. If your husband dies of cancer, you would want to ceremonialize his loss, maybe by spreading his ashes on the beach.

But, at the same time, this mentality is also a way for people like Taylor to help his followers move past any remorse or guilt they might have over murdering the Steinmans. 

After the ceremony, they dismember the couple's bodies and put them in duffle bags in the river.

On Monday, August 2nd, Taylor Helzer sends Don Godman into the bank to cash the Steinman's checks. Taylor says that the more outrageous she looks, the less-likely it is that people will recognize her. Don Godman literally shows up to the bank in a wheelchair, wearing a lime green body suit, sunglasses and a cowboy hat. She immediately draws the attention of a teller that reports noticing her from the second she entered the bank. Dawn attempts to deposit the money into Selena's account, saying that Selena Bishop is the granddaughter of Ivan and Annette Steinman, and that she needs the money immediately for emergency open heart surgery. The bank teller is suspicious, so she calls the Steinmans, who obviously, do not answer. The teller does not give Don Godman the money and is able to easily identify her to police later on.

Here we can see sudden massive flaws in Taylor's logic. This was a huge mistake, and will greatly attribute to his downfall. 

Now that Taylor sees that this plan has blown-up, he has to erase the evidence. He invites Selena  Bishop to his house with the Children of Thunder. When Selena arrives, Justin smashes her in the back of the head with a hammer, but again isn't able to kill her. While Don Godman watched, Taylor Helzer slices Selena Bishop's throat in their bathroom.

The Children of Thunder dismember her body and put her in duffle bags in the river, like the Steinmanns, but not before cutting the tattoo off her arm and feeding it to the dog.

This ability to forge a long-lasting romantic relationship with someone for the sole purposes of using her bank account and murdering her later on is a true demonstration of psychopathic behavior.

Taylor remembers that there is one other person who knows about him at all: Selena's mom, Jessica. So this same night he crawls through the window of Selena's mother's house and shoots both Jessica and a friend staying the night, while they sleep in bed. Killing them both, he jumps back into the getaway car that Don Godman is driving.

This makes the Children of Thunder's death count 5. All this in the name of God in their mind.

Obviously, the sound of the gunshots draw police to the scene quickly, in such a small town.

It's less than a week later and police are putting things together. They issue a missing persons alert for Selena— AND on the same day a phone call comes in from the daughter of the Steinmanns reporting them to be missing. After talking to Selena's friends, police are able to find the residence in Concord listed under the Helzer name. When police arrive on scene at the home of the Children of Thunder, the apartment is in utter disarray. Trash bags everywhere, blood on the carpet, it was a disgusting mess. A careless Taylor left it riddled with evidence: There were documents connecting them to the Steinmans, duffle bags just like the ones used to dispose of the bodies, anything you could ever need to convict them of these crimes. 

The Children of Thunder are taken into custody on August 7th, 2000. Though the Helzer family still continues the delusion that their sons are innocent, a safe at Don Godmans house reveals all weapons and IDs of every victim. A "Cult Deprogrammer" works with Don to fix her understanding and reorient her to reality. David Sullivan, her "deprogrammer" says that he was called in by Don's lawyers because she was uncooperative toward her own defense and showed "unswerving loyalty" to Taylor as a prophet.

After several months, he is able to help her snap out of it and even become remorseful enough to testify against the Helzer brothers.

Even after the conviction, Taylor's ever-increasing delusions sustain his belief that he has done nothing wrong. Yes he took life, but because of the context, it wasn't murder. He was like a soldier in the battlefield of a holy-war. His rationalization harkens back to that self-help group that started it all. There is no right or wrong, only results.

In 2012, Justin Helzer, is interviewed by Nancy Mullane for an episode of "The Life of the Law"

While on death-row, Justin Helzer stabbed himself in the eyes in an attempt to commit suicide. He was unsuccessful, and the attempt left him blinded.

It would stand to reason that without Taylor being in control over his younger brother while in prison, Justin would start to snap out of it and maybe even understand the consequences and gravity of his actions. It is perhaps guilt or not wanting to be in prison any more, but for whatever reason, he stabs himself in the eyes. Not a particularly insightful way to kill yourself, but with limited resources in prison: you use whatchagot.

April 15, 2013, Justin Helzer, would successfully commit suicide in his cell. The District Attorney on the case, Harold Jewett said "In no sense of the word was Justin Helzer a victim, Nevertheless, the origin of the obvious torment he experienced in prison, reflected in self-mutilation and now suicide, clearly rests at the doorstep of his older brother, Taylor.

You could make the argument that Justin has been brainwashed by his brother Taylor (and their family). Just like Patty Hearst, the american heiress brainwashed by her captors to rob banks but as we tried to breakdown in the Patty Hearst episode, IS "I was brainwashed" an acceptable excuse for committing murder?

Cult leaders are usually intelligent enough that what they say makes sense. They're almost predictable in that they will act in their own self-interest always. And they can rationalize anything. 

It's logical, but crazy. Even as crazy as these things are, at it's fundamental core, it's somewhat grounded in reality. Ability to rationalize anything is what makes him a good cult leader, and why we've learned that Don Godman, his brother, his whole family followed him.  

Narcissists rationalizing their own behavior is common because they only see a given situation through their own point of view. If they bumped into you on the street, they'd be mad at you for not watching where you were going. Especially someone who is narcissistic to the point of having a literal God Complex. And this delusion is fueled by all of the other factors in his life, too.

If you were a master chef, and you were going to create the ultimate Cult-Leader, he'd probably look talk and walk like Taylor Helzer. He'd have a background in religion and military, ritualistic behavior to increase social cohesion. He'd have a charming personality, high intelligence, a fundamental belief in himself, and a mission.

Just like Jesus Christ himself, Taylor Helzer is raised to believe that he is the son of God, some divine entity, a spiritual leader.


And now, my friend,
Submitted for your approval,  
A Psychological Profile of Glenn Taylor Helzer

Glenn Taylor Helzer is a 47-year-old Caucasian Male who is, as of June 22nd, 2017 on death-row awaiting execution for exploitation, kidnapping and murder.

Presents with symptoms of psychosis as evidenced by delusional religious-type ideations via actively maintaining the belief that he possesses devine ability and is a prophet of God.

Further, Taylor reports non-command auditory hallucinations via reporting that he hears "divine voices." Onset of psychosis appears to be age 14, and duration of symptoms seem to be constant since that time. 

Taylor has No Known History of Suicidal Ideation/Attempts (SI), which makes him a low risk danger to himself. 

Taylor does have an Extensive History of Homicidal Ideations which appear to be pre-meditated and not impulsive in nature. This is demonstrated in Taylor taking steps to not get caught, which shows that he has foreknowledge of the consequences of his actions.

Extensive History of 5 successful Homicide attempts with apparent means, motive, plan and intent to commit murder. 

At baseline, his mood appears to be calm, stable and pro-social. Taylor appears to have high social skills, as evidence by history of successful social engagements, building relationships with others, and an apparent ability to charm and manipulate others.

Taylor presents with psychopathic features, as evidenced by demonstrating a blatant disregard for the safety and well-being of others, manipulating others, lying and changing his identity, all in the name of achieving his own goals. Taylor shows no level of remorse for the people he has murdered or the lives he has affected. The onset of these psychopathic behaviors appear to have not been present throughout his life, until his early 30's, at which point, they manifested quite suddenly and severely. This sudden onset suggests events in his life right around this time contributed to Taylor crossing new moral thresholds and breaking a new level of social norms. 

Taylor appears to have personality traits that are narcissistic in nature. He demonstrates an unrealistically inflated sense of self, as indicated by the belief that he is divine and therefore is entitled to special treatment from others. Onset of narcissistic traits appear to begin at an early age, and contributing factors include a strong back ground in religion and family and friends reinforcing the idea he is "special" . 

Taylor was on no known psychoactive drugs at the time of his crimes, so we can assume they played no role in his decision making. 

No known medical factors gave contribution to his anti-social or psychotic behavior. 

Childhood history indicates Taylor has no known history of psychological, sexual, or physical trauma. It is reported Taylor has a normal upbringing. Therefore, history of trauma is not a likely contributing factor to sociopathic or narcissistic behavior. 


So I know all of that is all very technical, clinical terminology like "Narcissism" and "Psychopathy" being used to describe this case, but here's the gist: To me, the issue at the heart of all of this, more than other cults, more than The Peoples Temple, or Heaven's Gate, is Narcissism. If you go back in time and take a baby Taylor Helzer out of his situation, put him in a different family in an alternate universe. He grows up like anyone else: he is NOT told he is a prophet, he is NOT treated as the spiritual leader of his family even over his own parents, he's not given a little brother who is told to follow him around as his "Number 2", Not sent off to a far away land to learn how to convert others to his beliefs. If all of this NEVER happens in the beginning, do we ever get The Children of Thunder?

Though a series of extreme situations came together perfectly to create The Children of Thunder, just know that there are more common examples of cult behavior all around you. Any situation where you are letting someone think for you will rob you of your individuality. You are leaving your fate in the hands of someone else, and then you become a device for their agenda. 

So On behalf of UPC I'd like to say think for yourself.