Waco, David Koresh, Mount Carmel, burnout, branch davidians, cult . . . Do these words sound familiar and recall uncomfortable images from one of the most notorious conflicts in the history of American law enforcement? It seems that this haunting episode in our contemporary history cannot rest while so many questions remain unanswered. Even the elitist and ereudite publication “The New Yorker” has brought attention to the strange and mysterious debacle in a recent article by Malcolm Gladwell entitled “Sacred and Profane: How not to negotiate with believers.” Essentially Mr. Gladwell’s article is a review of the new autobiographical book by on the survivors of the infamous Waco siege and burnout entitled “A Journey to Waco” by Clive Doyle. Therein Mr. Galdwell regurgitates a number of errors and misconceptions about Davidian Seventh-day Adventists and their founder Victor T. Houteff who stand in stark contrast are radically divergent teaching and practices for the branch davidian faction under the control of David Koresh. We will examine some of these oft repeated and misleading sentiments in this post.
Some Serious Misconceptions Perpetuated in Mr. Gladwell’s Article:
- That Victor T. Houteff was a “self-proclaimed prophet”.
- That Victor T. Houteff after joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church later “parted ways” and “broke away to start the Davidian movement at Mount Carmel.”
- Davidians are typically “neither wealthy nor well educated.”
- That the religious retreat of the branch davidians, New Mt. Carmel Center was founded by V. T. Houteff.
- David Koresh was the successor of a series of prophetic leaders going back to the ministry of William Miller in the early 1830′s.
- That Christian religious traditions that expect the soon return of Christ (“millennielists”) are connected or associated with Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses.
- That David Koresh saw himself as the one who was to unlock the secrets of the seven seals when in fact this was already done by Victor Houeff.
- That one of the failures of the government agents in the Waco standoff is that they did not know how to negotiate with people with sincere religious convictions.
Some Facts to Relieve Unwarranted Conclusions About Davidian Seventh-day Adventists
- The insinuation the Victor T. Houteff was a “self-proclaimed prophet” is false. For those who have ever taken the time to investigate the entire body of his writings know that Brother Houteff never promoted himself nor made any statement staking a claim that he was a “prophet”. Years ago when provocateurs from the Seventh-day Adventist Church would confront him and ask in mocking tones, “are you Elijah the prophet?” he would always reply, “have you read my writings?”. Perhaps it would be best for Mr. Gladwell and others to do the same. Here is a link to a page where anyone can download digital scans of some of V. T. Houteff’s original publications. Most especially should all read the tract entitled “1950 General Conference Special” that expounds about the antitypical Elijah the prophet coming to announce the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
- Once again anyone who has read all of the writings of the original Shepherd’s Rod message by V. T. Houteff will know that he never “parted ways” nor separated from the mother Seventh-day Adventist Church but rather was violently disfellowshipped without due cause in direct contradiction to the Bible protocol and the S.D.A. Church Manual which the church professes to follow. Some details of this sordid affair have been recorded for the merits of the honest seeker of truth weighing evidence carefully before firing for or against. Timely Greetings, Vol. 2, No. 35; Tract No. 7, “The Great Controversy Over the Shepherd’s Rod”.
- Since the Shepherd’s Rod message first entered the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1930 it has arrested the attention of honest seekers of Truth from among the membership of the church from all levels of social and economic status including church elders, pastors, and even a Conference President. To this day the Rod message still awakens the spiritual interest of Seventh-day Adventists from the lowliest having only a grade school education all the way up to even some with Ph.D.’s and good paying academic jobs. As the Bible plainly teaches God is no respecter of persons. Jesus preached the gospel to all classes despite stereotypes and long standing cultural biases. The world has much difficulty in accepting that God would choose as His two last day prophets humble agents of such low estate by the worldly standards to bring much needed Truth to His church (see the study from Zecharich chapter 4 to prove that there will be only two latter day prophets). Ellen White had no more that a formal third grade education and Victor Houteff that of a fourth grader. Have the educated and wealthy classes ever pondered to consider why is it that even the worldly scholars have come to the point of having to acknowledge the tremendous impact and profound depth of insight of the prolific writings of Mrs. White as evidenced by the forthcoming Oxford University Press publication “Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet” which has contributions from experts both from within and without the church regarding some of the many varied and diverse dimensions of her writings? Or why the scholarly theologians from the S.D.A. church continue to scratch their heads in puzzlement at Brother Houteff’s uncanny ability to explain and harmonize portions of prophetic scripture that have remained mysteries for centuries?
- Victor T. Houteff founded a religious ministry on the outskirts of Waco, Texas from 1935 to 1955 called Mt. Carmel Center whose sole purpose was to publish and disseminate the urgent message of revival and reformation to the decadent Seventh-day Adventist Church due to her indecent worldly associations. This message, known as the Shepherd’s Rod, was completed in 1954 at which time the original property of Old Mt. Carmel comprised of 385 acres near Lake Waco was ordered to be sold off due to the encroaching city limits. This sell off was completed by 1957 and the assets were used by the apostate wife Florence Houteff and her followers to purchase over 900 acres approximately east of Waco in the area of Elk, Texas which became know as New Mt. Carmel. This was the place that was later taken over by the branch davidian faction started by Ben L. Roden and later David Koresh. For some more important details about this history please click here.
- David Koresh is not the true successor of the original Shepherd’s Rod message. He is a false prophet who adopted the false teachings of the Branch Davidian faction started by Ben L. Roden in 1955 shortly after the death of V. T. Houteff. Roden was one of the many false prophets that the Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy (the wriitings of Ellen White) and the original Shepherd’s Rod message warned about that would arise teaching perverse things of their own private interpretation and out of harmony with God’s Holy Spirit inspired true prophets. For more details that contrast the purely Biblical teachings of the original Shepherd’s Rod which true and sincere Davidian Seventh-day Adventists follow in contrast with some of the heterodox teachings of Roden’s branch please click links here or here.
- The association between Seventh-day Adventists, Mormons, and Jehovah Witnesses as being “millennialists” in their soon expectation of Christ’s imminent return is rather short sighted without knowing the history and radically diverse doctrinal teachings of each sect. It is true that there is some connection between S.D.A.’s and Jehovah Witnesses as the later arose from a break away group. But the practice of the past leaders of the Jehovah’s to set continual dates in expectation of some future prophetic event is seen as a Satanic diversion contrary to God’s plan by Ellen White in her infamous book, The Great Controversy, p. 457. Many S.D.A.’s see the arise the false prophet Joseph Smith and the Mormon church as a direct counterfeit to the Seventh-day Adventist movement. There are some striking similarities. For example, both groups believe in a latter day prophet(s), both believe in some form of temperance and health reform, both believe the writings of their prophets to be inspired (Ellen White’s 9 Volume “Testistmonies to the Church” verses Joseph Smith’s Doctrines and Covenants“). To the surface reader these connections may seem close but to the serious student of Bible doctrine and history the differences between these sects are far and wide.
- The assumption, whether believed or not, that David Koresh had something to do with the unlocking of the meaning of the seven seals reveals the complete ignorance of Koresh of the original writings of the Shepherd’s Rod which he is so often associated with. Anyone who even gives a cursory look at the writings of Brother Houteff will know that Koresh is nothing but a rank imposter along with his counterfeit predessors Ben and Lois Roden since the inspired interpretation of the seven seals was revealed and first published by V. T. Houteff in Shepherd’s Rod, Vol. 2 (1932) and then later in a separate tract entitled, “To The Seven Churches: The Breaking of the Seven Seals” published in 1947. Why is it that the worldly scholars and media reporters overlook, or fail to acknowledge, this vital point? If they did and really investigated for themselves without a preconceived agenda they would see plainly for themselves that Koresh was nothing but a self-styled impostor. This is a significant omission that could have had a very significant impact on the course of negotiations.
- One can on a cursory level point the finger at a number of individuals in an effort to place blame on the series of tragic events that lead up the burnout of the Koresh branch compound at New Mt. Carmel center in 1993. However, the underlying history and doctrinal issues that lead up to this conflict will never be comprehended nor understood by the worldly scholars or the popular media who are content on repeating fables for the entertainment of their “enlightened” readership. But what the worldly mindset will never understand how it is that God works in diverse ways upon the minds of His chosen agents and uses the simple things of this world to confound the wisdom of the wise (read 1 Corinthians chapters 1 and 2). In order to fully understand the conflict at Waco then one must read and study the original body of works of Ellen White and Victor Houteff in their entirety. That coupled with earnest prayer and supplication for the Holy Spirit to guide, lead, and direct unto all Truth will then afford the viewer a whole new perspective on the situation. That perspective being that of one who believes and has faith in God’s directing the varied affairs of mankind to its ultimate destiny.