Title: The Chilling Tale of a Monastery Follower Who Almost Committed Suicide
Author: Theodore Kalmoukos
Date Published: 2/21/2013
Publication: The National Herald
Florence, AZ David Smith, who was connected for a number of years with St. Anthony's Monastery of Arizona in an interview with TNH revealed the chilling admission that he came close to committing suicide because of teachings and brainwashing at the Monastery.
He said that "I had a 9 millimeter and I was tempted to pull the trigger, and when I told my wife about it she broke down and we took the gun and turned it in. I had to overcome the thought that God wanted me dead."
Smith, 34 today, managed to disassociate himself from the teachings of the Monastery, he saved his marriage, he and his wife graduated college degrees, established their careers, and are the parents of two teenage children.
Abbot Paisios of the Monastery did not respond to TNH's request for an interview, and neither did Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, in whose ecclesiastical jurisdiction the Monastery belongs. The interview with Smith follows:
TNH: How did you get involved with the Monastery of St. Antony's in Arizona?
Smith: I had an uncle who was sending me information about the Orthodox Church because he had converted. He was sending information about different Orthodox Monasteries and he introduced me to the idea of traditional living saints and things like that. I became interested and someone at St. Catherine's Greek Orthodox Church in Chandler had said there is a living saint an hour drive from my town and he said you go and check it out. The person who told me this was Gianni Devoras who is very close to elder Ephraim. It was in 1998. I was 20 years old.
TNH: What attracted you to Orthodoxy?
Smith: At the time it seemed the most Ancient form of Christianity. My wife grew up in Arizona in a Mexican Catholic Family and wanted something more traditional. I was also baptized Roman Catholic.
TNH: Did they rebaptize you at the Monastery?
Smith: They arranged it and it was performed of myself, my wife and another lady who I never seen before and I never saw again and that was done outside at the back of Gianni Devoras spa store.
TNH: Did you tell the Abbot Paisios that you had been baptized Roman Catholic?
Smith: Yes he knew that. In the minds of Ephraim and Paisios Catholics are heretics, their baptism doesn't count anything. I told Fr. Paisios what my goals were in Christianity, he gave a prayer book and he said to come back. The parish priest at St. Catherin's Fr. Phil Armstrong. I asked Fr. Paisios should I keep going to confession to Fr. Phil and he said no you come here from now on.
When he was performing our baptism, Gianni Devoras and his wife were going to be our Godparents and Fr. Paisios pointed out if they would both be our Godparents after we were baptized we couldn't be married because we would be spiritual brother and sister. So, Fr. Paisios said one of you needs a different Godparent and Gianni and Maria really liked my wife and they chose her and then Paisios said "I will be your Godfather."
I stopped going to St. Catherine's because they told me at the Monastery it had a shorter form of the Liturgy, some of it was in English, they were on the new calendar. Even though the Monastery celebrates with the new calendar, in private Paisios was saying get your hands on the old calendar.
TNH: Did they try to enter into your private lives?
Smith: Paisios was saying to us repeatedly that in Orthodox spirituality there is no difference between a monk and a married person with the exception that the married person has a spouse. A monk doesn't have sex, a married person doesn't have sex. A monk stays up all night in prayer, a married person stays up all night in prayer. Your career doesn't matter. Your marriage doesn't matter. You kids don't matter. You have a spouse and you live in the same space with her as a monk would if there was a nun staying with him.
TNH: What did you think of that initially?
Smith: Initially, you take small steps. They are trying to get your brain to dissociate with the decision that they are trying you to make.
TNH: Did you stop your sexual relationship with your wife?
TNH: Are you serious?
Smith: Yes, it was either that or hell, what could you choose? We slept in separate beds, they were pushed apart. There was no affection, we lived in the same house and we treated each other like a monk and a nun do.
TNH: Did your wife agree to this situation?
Smith: Everyone agrees to it, but nobody wants to do it.
TNH: For how long did you stay apart?
Smith: For two and one half years or even longer.
TNH: Did you get to know Fr. Ephraim?
Smith: Not too much other than his presence was always felt because everyone was talking about him constantly. It's hard to describe how much he saturates everything in the spiritual life there. We talked more about elder Ephraim than we talked about Jesus. They even have icons of Fr. Ephraim, they have made them to buttons the monks were that the lay people put them inside their jacket so it wasn't display on the outside, they venerated like an icon they made the sign of the cross and venerate it.
TNH: Did Fr. Paisios tell you to whip yourself?
Smith: Paisios told me to make a whip out of an electrical cord and whip myself with it and do it in an inconspicuous place so people wouldn't notice. He recommended on chest or my back or on the shoulders.
TNH: Did you do that?
Smith: Sure, I chose the upper part of my body. That was part of the daily routine. He even showed me how thick the whip should be. I went to Walmart and I was describing it to the salesperson, who asked me for what purpose would I use it, and I couldn't come up with an answer.
[Fr. Ephraim] told me how many meals I can have a day, what time of day, and what I could and could not drink.
You have to make a list of all your passions either in your head or on paper and bring them to confession and tell him all about it.
TNH: Could you tell us some of the things they were teaching you at the Monastery?
Smith: Yes, it is [close to] the end of the world, it's only a matter of time, we know the end is coming because Turkey invaded Cyprus. Television is the devil's box.
TNH: Did you inform the Archbishop?
Smith: I sent a letter to all the bishops.
TNH: How are you doing today?
Smith: We found someone who knew what cults are, and we found literature about mind control and it took a good four years and with a lot of struggle and my wife and I are still together.
TNH: Do you have an opinion about Scott Nevins' suicide?
Smith: I had spoken with him after he left the Monastery and before he died. Scott was dead at the age of 18 when he entered the Monastery and whoever got out was not Scott Nevins. The Monastery told you very graphically that when you enter the Monastic life, it's a death to the world. I watched him struggle with the same things I had struggled with. I never met him in person but I corresponded with him after he came out.