Michael Pearl

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Michael Ford Pearl
Born 1945
Memphis, Tennessee
Citizenship United States
Education Messick High School 1965; Memphis Academy of Arts (now Memphis College of Art)
Alma mater Mid-South Bible College (now Victory University)
Occupation Author, artist, CEO/President of No Greater Joy Ministries
Years active 1994-present as an author
Home town Pleasantville, Tennessee
Spouse(s) Deborah Kay Smith

Michael Pearl (born 1945)[1] is an American Christian fundamentalist pastor, missionary, evangelist and book author.[2] He is best known for his controversial book, written with his wife Debi Pearl, entitled To Train Up A Child.


Pearl has a Bachelor of Science from Victory University (formerly Mid-South Bible College). He worked with Union Mission in Memphis, Tennessee for 25 years.[3]

No Greater Joy (NGJ) is Pearl's 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The organization brings in between $1.5 and $1.7 million a year through product sales and donations.[4][5] The Pearls state that they do not receive royalties from the sales, and that the profits are used for ministry purposes.[6]

Pearl has sold or donated over 1.5 million copies of his books, CDs, DVDs, and other materials.[4]

Controversy over To Train Up a Child[edit]

To Train Up a Child was published by Michael and Debi Pearl in 1994. Michael Pearl claims that it has sold more than 670,000 copies,[7] although Nielsen BookScan records only 9,579 sales since 2001.[8]

The book advises parents to use objects like a quarter-inch plumbing tube to spank children and "break their will". It also mentions withholding food and putting children under a cold garden hose.[1][9]

To Train Up a Child
Book cover of To Train Up a Child

The content of Pearl's book has been cited as advocating child abuse and its teachings were linked to the deaths of Sean Paddock,[10] Lydia Schatz,[11] and Hana Grace-Rose Williams.[12] In all three cases the parents were homeschooling their children and are believed to have read Pearl's book.[13] Michael Ramsey, a Butte County, California District Attorney who prosecuted the Schatz case, investigated the Pearls' teachings and called To Train Up A Child, "an extraordinarily dangerous book for those who take it literally." "It's truly an evil book," he said.[14] Dr. Frances Chalmers, the pediatrician who examined Hana's death, said “My fear is that this book, while perhaps well intended, could easily be misinterpreted and could lead to what I consider significant abuse.” [5]

The parents of Hana Grace-Rose Williams, Larry and Carri Williams, were found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to 28 and 37 years in jail, respectively.[15]


On his website, Pearl issued official responses to the controversy over To Train Up a Child and the deaths of Hana Williams and Lydia Schatz. The responses list quotes from Pearl’s book that warn against abuse.[16][17] In an article published after Lydia's death, Pearl explained, "I laugh at my caustic critics, for our properly-spanked and trained children grow to maturity in great peace and love."[18] Pearl has also spoken to the media about the controversy, stating that the 15-inch plastic tubing he recommends in the book is “too light to cause damage to the muscle or the bone.”[5][19] Pearl stated of the death of Hana Williams, “What her parents did is diametrically opposed to the philosophy of No Greater Joy Ministries and what is taught in the book.”[20]

The Seattle Times noted that there is no mention in To Train Up a Child of the discipline used on Hana Williams except for spanking, although "spanking is clearly the heart of the book."[14] The New York Times suggests that the Williamses’ other discipline tactics involve Pearl’s book taken to extremes, such as Pearl’s advice that “a little fasting is good training.”[5] A witness in the trial reported that the Williamses followed the book's recommendations "to use a switch, cold baths, withhold food and force children outside in cold weather as punishment," all of which were used on Hana before her death.[12]

Pearl has stated, "The book repeatedly warns parents against abuse and emphasizes the parents' responsibility to love and properly care for their children, which includes training them for success."[9]

Other publications[edit]

Other publications released by Michael Pearl and No Greater Joy Ministries include:

  • No Greater Joy Magazine[21]
  • Training Children to be Strong in Spirit[22]
  • Good and Evil[23]
  • Created to Be His Help Meet[24]

Good and Evil won the Independent Publishers Ippy Award Bronze Medal in the Graphic Novel/Drama category in 2009,[25] and was a 2009 ForeWord Book Award finalist.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Michael Pearl married Debi in 1971.[27] As of February 2012, the Pearls have five children and eighteen grandchildren.[3] Daughters Rebekah Pearl Anast and Shoshanna Easling have spoken about their childhood in interviews.[1][28]


  1. ^ a b c Erik Eckholm, Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even as Deaths Fuel Debate, New York Times, November 7, 2011.
  2. ^ Michael Pearl's No Greater Joy Ministry website.
  3. ^ a b "Meet the Pearls". No Greater Joy website. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Harris, Lynn. "Spare the quarter-inch plumbing line, spare the child". Article published May 25, 2006. Salon.com. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Eckholm, Erik. "Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even as Deaths Fuel Debate". Article published Nov. 6, 2011. The New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  6. ^ "About Us". No Greater Joy website. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  7. ^ Hodson, Jeff. "Did Hana’s parents "train" her to death?". Article published Nov. 27, 2011. The Seattle Times. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  8. ^ Merritt, Jonathan. "How influential are Michael and Debi Pearl? And how harmful?". Article published Apr. 22, 2013. Religion News Service. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Thane Burnett, Was child abused to death due to advice from book?, Toronto Sun, October 08, 2011.
  10. ^ Is Conservative Christian Group, No Greater Joy Ministries, Pushing Parents to Beat Kids to Death? , CBS News, March 4, 2010.
  11. ^ DA: Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz Killed Daughter With "Religious Whips" for Mispronouncing Word , CBS News, February 22, 2010.
  12. ^ a b Stoll, Lee. "Kids testify in parents' murder and abuse trial". KIRO TV. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  13. ^ Hodson, Jeff (September 29, 2011). "Murder charges for parents who left girl outside". The Seattle Times. 
  14. ^ a b Hodson, Jeff (November 27, 2011). "Did Hana's parents 'train' her to death?". The Seattle Times. 
  15. ^ http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/11/4/christian-homeschoolers-receive-maximum-jail-time-for-death-of-child#. Retrieved 8 November 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ "Response to Schatz Case". No Greater Joy website. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  17. ^ "Hana Williams Official Statement". No Greater Joy website. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  18. ^ "Laughing". No Greater Joy website. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  19. ^ Cooper, Anderson. "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees, Aired October 26, 2011". CNN. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  20. ^ Burnett, Thane. "Was child abused to death due to advice from book?". Article published Oct. 8, 2011. Toronto Sun. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  21. ^ "Magazine". No Greater Joy website. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  22. ^ Pearl, Michael (2011). Training Children to be Strong in Spirit. No Greater Joy Ministries. ISBN 1-61644-037-6. 
  23. ^ Pearl, Michael (2006). Good and Evil. No Greater Joy Ministries. ISBN 1-892112-38-8. 
  24. ^ Pearl, Michael (2012). Created to Need a Help Meet. No Greater Joy Ministries. 
  25. ^ "Announcing 2009 IPPY Awards National and Regional Results". Independent Publisher website. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  26. ^ "Book of the Year Awards". ForeWord Publishing website. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  27. ^ Pearl, Michael and Debi (1994). To Train Up a Child. No Greater Joy Ministries. pp. About the Author. ISBN 1-892112-00-0. 
  28. ^ Harris, Lynn. "Spare the quarter-inch plumbing line, spoil the child". Article published May 25, 2006. Salon.com. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 

External links[edit]