The story made headlines in May: Police were told that the mummified remains of the female leader of Love Has Won (LHW) were in a Moffat, Colorado, home. In July, those remains—with missing eyes, glittery makeup, and a body wrapped in a sleeping bag and Christmas lights—were positively identified as Amy Carlson Stroud, aka "Mother God." In a lengthy piece for Marie Claire, Virginia Pelley doesn't touch on what may have befallen Carlson Stroud but instead looks at the larger question of who she was and how she managed to convince people to follow her. The number of LHW adherents who lived with her rarely exceeded a dozen, but an in-depth website, daily livestream videos, and social media vastly extended her reach: LHW counts nearly 10,000 followers on YouTube, where LHW videos have been viewed more than 1.5 million times.
Pelley describes Carlson Stroud as "a thin, hippie-ish white woman who favored rainbow-colored clothing and makeup," and details some of her more outlandish claims and beliefs: that she hailed from a mythical place called Lemuria, that she had access to the technology behind the explosion that sunk Atlantis, that Donald Trump was her father, that she was Jesus and Joan of Arc in past lives, and that lemon and baking soda are cancer cures. Pelley talks to Sarah, a woman who decided to join the group in Colorado after suffering a break-up and battling autoimmune liver failure and lived with them for a year-and-a-half before plotting an escape. She says that when not doing chores she copied and pasted content from elsewhere on the web onto LHW's site (as God, Sarah says Carlson Stroud thought all internet content was hers) and only slept two hours a night "because she had to keep watch in case Mother God needed help with anything, like using the bathroom." (Read the wild story in full here.)