Students of the Seven Seals: An Organization History

Cary R.W.Voss
Communication Studies Dept.
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas
October 24, 1994

Copyright 1994, Cary Voss, Ph.D.

"Four Agents Slain In Cult Raid - 16 Officers Wounded In Failed
Assault." 1 "6 Die As Texas Cult Battles U.S. Agents - Sect Leader 'Shot
Through The Guts'" 2 "Bullets Were Hitting The Dirt - I Told Them To Send
Every Ambulance They Had." 3 "Routine Story Erupted Into Day of Terror,
Death." 4 "'I Am The Anointed One- Texas Cult Leader Claims To Be The
Second Coming of Christ." 5 "Cult Leader Drinks Beer, Plays Guitar And
Packs A Pistol." 6 "Many Have Feared Well-Armed Sect Would Explode; The
Cult In Texas Has An Assortment Of Powerful Weapons, And Its Leader
Admits He Is A Sinner Without Equal." 7"Cult Has Arsenal Of Military Arms;
Members Told Deputies They Put 'Hell-Fire' Triggers On Guns." 8 "Final
Assault On Cult Readied; Witnesses Says Federal Agents Looked Like A
Defeated Army." 9 "Cult May Have Believed Battle Was World's Last." 10
"Cult's Believers Waiting For Judgment Day." 11
These graphic and apocalyptic March 1, 1993 newspaper headlines from
around the U.S. and the world were the first introduction most people had to
the group which came to be known in the media as the "Branch Davidians."
Within the group, however, members referred to themselves as "Students of
the Seven Seals." 12 These "students", of different nationalities from several
countries including Australia, Canada, England and Israel, lived in a
communal building called the "Mount Carmel Center", located on 80 acres of
land titled "Ranch Apocalypse," about ten miles east of Waco, Texas. 13 They
studied under the leadership of a man named David Koresh, who had legally
changed his name from Vernon Howell in 1990. 14
The physical conflict began on Sunday, February 28, 1993, at 9:55 a.m.,
as two cattle trailers loaded with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
and Firearms (ATF) attempted to serve a warrant for the arrest of David
Koresh and to search the Mount Carmel Center for illegal weapons. 15 In the
process of serving the warrants, a two-hour gun battle ensued, which left four
ATF agents dead and sixteen wounded; two Davidians dead and three wounded,
including Koresh himself. 16 Later accounts by Davidians claim six members
died on the first day. 17
The unsuccessful initial raid resulted in a 51 day siege, during which the
F.B.I. assumed control of the situation, and engaged in a strategy of
negotiation with increasing amounts of pressure on the Davidians. The
electricity was cut off, spotlights were focused on the building all night, and
recording of dying rabbits and Gregorian chants were played at high volume.
The final F.B.I. push was instituted at six a.m. on April 19, 1993, when tanks
started ramming the building and inserting tear gas, with the intention of
forcing the people from the building. Because they had gas masks, the
Davidians were able to remain in the building. However, shortly after noon,
flames from the building were noticed by law enforcement officials, and by
"about 12:40 p.m., the compound was nothing more than a blazing heap of
tangled wreckage." 18 The press reported that the fire left over 80 Davidians
dead, 16 of which were children, while 8 managed to escape. 19 Later accounts
place the count at 114. 20
How could this possibly happen? Were these individuals mentally
unstable with a deep anti-government commitment? Why would they stay in a
building surrounded by law enforcement agents who ordered them to come out?
Why would they endure the harsh weather conditions without air conditioning,
and the lights and sounds hurled against them?
This essay will make a preliminary attempt at a partial answer to those
questions by tracing the history of the Students of the Seven Seals. Only by
understanding their history and religious beliefs, can a satisfactory answer be
offered. Only by viewing the situation through their eyes, from their
perspective, can their motivations be explained. Although history cannot
provide the entire explanation, it is the logical place to begin. Their apocalyptic
interpretations of scripture played an important part in shaping their
perspective on the situation in 1993. Their religious beliefs and commitments
did not arise in a vacuum, but were the result of a cumulative and branching
Adventist religious tradition which began in the 1840s. By understanding this
tradition, one can better understand their present and future.
Historical accounts are, however, never really objective. Those writing
historical accounts always engage in a process of selection of events for
inclusion, which necessarily implies that other events are excluded. Because of
its recency and controversial nature (claims of prophetic authority and the
violent confrontation with law enforcement), the available accounts of the
history of the Branch Davidians suffer two problems. First, they are
incomplete. No major work has been published which chronicles their entire
history. Only selective accounts of the various periods are available. Second,
most works which have been published are highly partisan. Some works seek
to valorize the Davidians, while the majority of the works thus far are highly
critical of both their theology and their actions. For example, many events of
the day of the initial raid are still contested, including how the shooting actually
started. One Davidian condemning account from Prophets of the Apocalypse,
written by the Christian Research Institute fellows, described the situation as
follows:
On the ground, two cattle trucks filled with heavily armed law
enforcement officers entered the property and slowly pulled up to the
front door. The trucks had barely rolled to a stop when ATF officers
began pouring out of their Trojan-Horse vehicles. "Federal agents with
a warrant!" they screamed. The front door momentarily swung open
and a voice from inside yelled, "What's going on here?" Then, just as
quickly, the door slammed shut. High-caliber-rifle-rounds from inside
suddenly burst their way through the door and into the agents on the
other side. At the same instant, the rest of the unwelcome government
intruders received a similarly brutal greeting - "heavy and sustained
gunfire" from all directions. 21
Another account from Ron Cole, a Davidian sympathizer, provides a different
perspective:
David [Koresh] was standing in the open front door when two ATF
cattle trailers sped down the driveway and came to a screeching halt
only feet in front of him. As soon as he thought he could be heard, he
shouted, "Stop! We have women and children in here! Lets talk
about..." and David was abruptly cut off by a burst of 9mm gunfire.
This opening salvo, fired by an ATF agent with an MP-5 sub-machine
gun, struck the door that David held open with his right hand. The
force of the bullets pushed the door back and knocked David off
balance. David used the momentum to throw himself clear of the
barrage. Perry Jones was standing directly behind David at this time.
Perry had accompanied David to the door for moral support, now Perry
was taking the shots meant for David. Perry was struck three times in
his stomach and once in his right elbow. Perry Jones, father of seven
children, fell to the floor writhing in agony. 22
As these accounts indicate, emotions still run high concerning the events of the
initial raid. And given that most of the Davidian participants are dead and the
"crime scene" destroyed by fire and bulldozers, we may never know the "real"
truth about who fired first or who started the fire. But answers to those
particular questions are not the subject of this account.
This chapter will seek to provide an objective account of the significant
historical and theological developments leading up to the fatal fire, and some
projections of the future of the group. The history of the Branch Davidians will
be divided into major sections around prominent leaders of the movement. The
important chronological and theological developments will be presented as they
seem relevant to understanding the worldview in which the Branch Davidians
lived. For purposes of section consistency, however, a detailed account of David
Koresh's theology will not be presented here. It will be fully developed in a
subsequent chapter.
This account, like all other histories, will of necessity be selective. It will
draw on the various sources available at this time, most of them highly
partisan in both directions. As time progresses and more "objective"
information becomes available, a more complete history will be possible. But
for now, this is the best that can be done.

 

The Beginning: The William Miller Period

 

The calculations of a man whose mind was loaded with historical events
and who was able not only to "repeat almost any passage" of Scripture,
but also to "name the exact place, book, chapter and verse" proved
convincing to thousands. 23

Except for the number of converts, the above quotation could be said
concerning David Koresh. However, it actually refers to the theological
patriarch of the Davidian faith, William Miller, who convinced thousands of
people that the end of the world as they knew it would end in 1844.
He was born on February 15, 1782 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts; the
oldest of sixteen children. His family was poor and eventually moved to Low
Hampton, New York. 24 Because of his poverty, he received little formal
education. However, he loved to read, and borrowed numerous books from
friends and neighbors, expanding his knowledge. He eventually got a job as a
community scribe. 25
His early religious training came from his mother, a devout Baptist,
whose father and brothers were preachers in that denomination. Miller's
father, also a Baptist, served as an army captain in the American Revolution.
Based on their influence, he adopted the Christian faith. He married Lucy P.
Smith, and moved to Poultney, Vermont in 1803. While in Vermont, he became
disillusioned with Christianity because of the hypocrisy of practitioners, and
the inadequacy of answers to questions posed to local ministers. This
disillusionment was the beginning of a religious quest.
By this time, Miller had become well read in the major works of the time,
including Hume, Payne, and Voltaire. He had also become friends with
numerous educated individuals who were deists, rejecting the divinity of Christ,
the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and supernatural intervention in
world affairs. 26 They did believe in a creator, but viewed the entity as setting
the world in motion with natural laws, then leaving the creation to operate on
its own. Based on these influences, he rejected the Christian faith in favor of
Deism, a more "rational" approach to religion.
Miller held a variety of jobs, including serving as a constable, justice of
the peace, and deputy sheriff. By 1812, America was at war with Britain, and
Miller rose to the rank of captain. But the war was to again change his religious
outlook. He had begun to question the utility of Deism to fill the void in his
spiritual life. He had also used his prior Christian training to compare the
history of the children of Israel with that of the United States. This was
especially brought home in the battle of Plattsburg in 1814, "where he and
about 5000 other Americans squared off against a reported 15,000 British
troops." 27 Based on the initial odds, he was convinced that defeat was
inevitable. But when the American forces emerged victorious, he considered it
a miracle from God.
After returning home, and after several years of soul searching and
Bible study, he was finally reconciled to Christianity, and the Baptist church in
1816. He accepted Jesus as the savior of the world, and the Bible as the
inspired word of God. 28 But he could not abandon his deistic friends, nor his
rational worldview. He embarked on an intensive study of the Bible to defend
his faith before his friends. The results of this study led to an apocalyptic
conclusion, as Everett Dick explained:
Miller was familiar with Whitby's teaching of the temporal millennium,
but his study of the Bible convinced him that post-millennialism was
clearly contrary to the Book's plain teaching. Also, he was astonished to
discover to his own satisfaction that the time of the Advent was
revealed by the Bible prophecies. The Scripture passage that seemed to
him to foretell the time of Christ's return was Daniel 8:14 "Unto two
thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be
cleansed." Following the rules of interpretation used by standard
commentators of the day, particularly the "day-year principle," and
accepting the contemporary view that in the Christian Age the earth is
the sanctuary, Miller understood the cleansing to be the purification of
the earth by fire at Christ's Advent as it had been purified by water in
the days of Noah. After diligent study he became convinced that the
2,300 day period began in 457 B.C. with the decree of Artaxerxes to
rebuild Jerusalem. On that basis, simple arithmetic revealed that the
prophetic period would end in 1843. 29
Although Daniel 8:14 provided the date for the second Advent, Miller had other
historical and biblical "proofs" for his chronology, including Daniel 9: 24-27,
which gave 70 weeks of repentance before the Messiah would return, an event
Miller believed was fulfilled with the birth of Jesus in A.D. 33. Miller continued
to study and recheck his calculations until 1823, when he became convinced
his interpretation was correct. He began to selectively reveal his findings to
friends and acquaintances, but was disappointed when their enthusiasm did
not match his. 30 After unsuccessful discussions with several ministers, Miller
was convinced that he had to spread the message himself. But with no formal
theological or speech training, he felt unqualified and intimidated.
On Saturday, August 13, 1831, the guilt of his silence was
overwhelming. He felt compelled to proclaim his revelation. He subsequently
prayed and made a promise to God that if an invitation to speak arrived, he
would accept, relieved that the probabilities were in his favor of remaining
silent. Interestingly, within half an hour, a messenger arrived and asked him to
present his prophetic views to the Baptist congregation of Dresden, New York,
the very next day. After some deep soul searching and prayer, he accepted the
invitation. 31
Miller's public speaking career began in the log home of his brother-in-
law, Hiram Guilford. Because of the enthusiastic response, the services were
moved to the church and turned into a week long revival. This revival led to
many more invitations to speak, from rural Baptist, Methodist, and
Congregational churches in New York, New England, and Canada. In his
lectures, "eager listeners hung on his words, spellbound for two hours at a time,
and packed houses were the rule." 32His ability to draw large crowds and to
generate revivals expanded his base to larger urban churches, and he was
granted a license to preach by the Baptist Church in 1833. Ultimately, the
invitations eventually outstripped his ability to respond. 33 By January of
1844, he estimated that he had given 4,500 lectures over twelve years to
500,000 people. 34
As his notoriety increased, Miller gathered a following among the clergy,
including Josiah Litch of the New England Methodist Episcopal conference, and
Charles Fitch, "an orthodox Congregational minister and pastor of the
Marlboro Chapel in Boston." 35 Both of these men left their pastorates to
proclaim Miller's message full time. For purposes of spreading his message,
Miller's most significant convert was Joshua V. Himes, who was a gifted
organizer and promoter. Himes was able to attract newspaper attention to
Miller, as well as establish two independent periodicals: the Signs of the Times
(later called The Advent Herald), and the Midnight Cry, as Miller's message
was dubbed. 36
By 1842, the Millerite movement was established. 37 It was composed of
between fifty to one hundred thousand people, drawn from various
denominations. Numerous individuals were traveling around the country
spreading the message. As a result of conferences, camp meetings, and
publications, an inter-denominationally based, but separate sect was born,
whose adherents were known as Millerites. This was contrary to Miller's
wishes, who hoped his message would be embraced by the various Christian
churches. By 1843, Second Advent associations were established in most large
Northern cities. 38
As the time for the second coming approached, adherents pressed Miller
for a date. He finally acceded to their pressure, and claimed that sometime in
the Jewish year of 1843, meaning between March 21, 1843 to March 21, 1844,
Christ would return. 39 This was later clarified using the Karaite method of
chronology, and April 18, 1844 became the lattermost date for the Advent to
occur. Unfortunately, this date came and went, and nothing happened. As was
expected, this led to unhappiness and frustration among the Millerites, with
some members leaving the fold. Miller initially admitted his error, but
continued to expect the imminent return of Christ. It was finally decided that
they were in the "tarrying time", a waiting period interpreted from Habakkuk
2:3. 40
Followers continued to meet, the most significant of which occurred on
August 12, 1844 at Exeter, New Hampshire. There was an expectation among
the leaders of receiving a "new light," 41 which is interesting in that David
Koresh called some of his controversial polygamous practices the "new light
doctrine." 42 It was at that conference that Samuel S. Snow presented his
refinement and correction of Miller's calculations, based on additional study and
textual proofs, that the Second Advent would occur on October 22, 1844. This
correction came to be known as the "True Midnight Cry", and was published
under that name. 43
The "True Midnight Cry" both invigorated and galvanized the Millerites,
who spread the message with new zeal. As the zeal increased, opposition from
mainline churches also increased. Ministers who proclaimed the new message
from their pulpits were in some instances defrocked from their denominations.
Some Millerites denounced churches who rejected the Advent message as
having sided with "Babylon," who would be judged harshly at Christ's return.
As a result, thousands of members left or were forced out of the mainstream
churches. 44
People also began acting on their beliefs. Fields were left unharvested,
shops were closed, people quit their jobs, paid their debts, and freely gave away
their possessions with no thought of repayment. They were leaving the world in
bodily form, and would no longer need these things. When October 22 finally
arrived, the believers gathered together across the country to prepare to meet
the Lord. But when morning arrived on October 23, the "worshipers went
home, worn out and bitterly disappointed." The day is remembered by modern
Adventists as the "Great Disappointment." 45
It was a crushing blow for the Millerite movement. Both members and
leaders alike were spiritually and psychologically devastated, and many left the
movement. The consequences were more physical for others, as they had
essentially given away all their worldly possessions, and means of support had
to be reestablished. Additionally, physical violence was directed toward several
gatherings of Millerites, with people being beaten and buildings burned. Some
explanations were offered for why the return had not happened. Some claimed
that Christ had returned in a spiritual way and that the doors of heaven had
been shut to all but those who believed Miller's message. Others claimed that
they were in an extended Sabbath, and that work should cease. But after a
time, the leadership, including Miller and Himes, gathered together to provide
some direction for the movement and to dispel some aberrant doctrines and
explanations that arose from the "Great Disappointment." The Mutual
Conference of Adventists was held in Albany, New York on April 29, 1845. The
conference had the effect of unifying and strengthening the moderate
Adventists, but also created some divisions among Adventists that still exist
today. 46 The most lasting effect was to lay the groundwork for the most
widespread of the various Adventist sects, the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

 

Ellen G. White and Seventh-day Adventism

 

Ellen G. Harmon was born on a farm on November 26, 1827 near
Gorman, Maine, although the family moved to Portland when she was very
young. 47 She and her twin were the youngest of seven children of a poor family.
Her father was a hatter and the whole family was involved in the business. She
was raised in the Methodist Episcopal church, where her family faithfully
attended. 48
When she was nine years old, she was hit in the nose by a rock, an event
that changed her life. The impact caused a concussion, with longer term
physical and mental health effects, such as permanent disfigurement. As a
result of the accident, her formal education ended, and she sunk into a life of
despair. 49 She did learn to read, and avidly devoured books. But she also
became convinced, based on overheard conversations between her parents and
their friends, that she did not have long to live. As a consequence, she went
through an agonizing period of spiritual struggle concerning her physical
condition and eternal salvation. She was seeking a, "deeper, religious
experience to give meaning and purpose to her life." 50
A partial answer to her quest came in 1836, when she found, "a scrap
of paper containing an account of a man in England, who was preaching that
this earth would be consumed in about thirty years from that time." 51 Then,
on February 13, 1840, she heard William Miller speak in Portland, and
immediately accepted his Adventist message. But she still felt the need for a
personal conversion experience to provide assurance for her salvation. Her
"experience" occurred in the summer of 1841 at a Methodist camp meeting in
Buxton, Maine, and she was later baptized into the church on June 26, 1842.
But her spiritual quest did not end there and she sought a "second blessing,"
that would answer her need for a feeling of peace to quell her confusion over
the doctrines of "sanctification" and "justification." Given Christ's imminent
return, she had a desperate need to be ready to meet him. At the advice of her
mother, she consulted Elder Stockman, an advent preacher in Portland. She
presented her spiritual struggles, and Stockman assured her that she was
being prepared for a special ministry. This meeting greatly reassured her, and
she started her life of helping others and spreading the Advent message. 52
Her personal peace and satisfaction also helped carry her through the
"Great Disappointment." She accepted the interpretation that, "the finishing of
the atonement" had occurred in heaven on October 22, 1843, and that people
needed to be told to, "abide the day of His coming." 53 This event of the
"cleansing of the sanctuary" was introduced by Hiram Edson, and formed one
of the tenants of Seventh-day Adventist doctrine known as the "Investigative
Judgment." 54
This was also the period in which she began receiving her "visions" from
God. The first one occurred in December of 1844, and concerned "the travels of
the Advent people to the holy city." 55 The vision provided considerable
encouragement to the disappointed Millerites, as Arthur White explained:
[T]his first revelation indicated beyond all question that the seventh-
month movement was of divine origin, and that God's blessing would
rest upon those who maintained confidence in it, while those who
abandoned their confidence would do so at the peril of their salvation. It
brought assurance that Christ was leading them, and that after some
delay they would meet their Lord for whom they waited. It established
the order of future events, and held out a reward to those who rested
their confidence in the movement and continued to follow Christ's
leading. 56
Thus began the prophetic ministry of Ellen Harmon. She continued to have
visions throughout her life, many of which occurred to her in public, allowing
others to, "observe the phenomena of her visions." 57 These visions provided
divine confirmation to the theological and organizational work of the early
Adventist leadership, such as acceptance of the sanctuary doctrine, as well as
unity and inspiration to the believers. 58 Additionally, they comprised the
medium for changes and new advances in doctrines in the emerging Adventist
consciousness.
Ellen Harmon's ministry was to spread her testimony and visions
among the emerging Adventist congregations, which involved much travel, and
to do that she needed an escort. As a result of shared beliefs, as well as social
proprieties that prevented young women from traveling with young men, she
married the Adventist minister James White on August 30, 1846. 59
Another doctrine introduced in this period, which Ellen and James White
endorsed, was the keeping of the Seventh-day Sabbath. Joseph Bates
introduced this doctrine, citing Revelation 14:12 concerning keeping the
commandments. The fourth commandment said to keep the Sabbath, which
was interpreted as the Jewish Sabbath, meaning Saturday. 60
The three doctrines of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, the
Seventh-day Sabbath, and the belief in contemporary prophets in the form of
Ellen White became the distinguishing foundational beliefs of the Seventh-day
Adventists, a name they formally adopted in October of 1860. 61 By 1850, the
more mainstream Christian doctrines had also been accepted, as Godfrey
Anderson noted:
Although there were differences in interpretation ... on a number of
points, the leaders of what was to become the Seventh-day Adventist
Church had by this time accepted the Bible - and the Bible only - as
their rule of faith and duty; the law of God as immutable (including the
binding obligation to observe the Seventh-day Sabbath); the imminent
personal Advent of Christ; the conditional immortality of the soul; and
the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary after 1844 in the
blotting out of sins. Furthermore, the gained impetus to spread these
beliefs by reading the message of the third angel of Revelation 14 as
descriptive of the work of Sabbatarian Adventists to reestablish the
Sabbath and prepare a remnant ready for Christ's Second Coming. In
addition to these basic beliefs, by mid-century ... this small group was
agreed on such practices as baptism by immersion, the ordinance of
footwashing, and the Lord's Supper. 62
In 1861 at the Battle Creek conference, a binding membership covenant was
adopted, helping to establish an organizational structure which included
recommendations on local church organization and ministerial ordination. By
1863, a constitution was adopted which established elected officers, and the
rules by which the organization would be run, finally establishing the Seventh-
day Adventists as a separate denomination. 63
The leadership of Ellen White continued for more than half a century,
until she died in 1915. But her influence continues to this day, due in large
measure to her prolific writings, which includes, "over forty-six books totaling
more than 25 million words, dealing with virtually every facet of Adventist
beliefs and social issues..."64 She was largely responsible for the guiding, "the
development of a publishing work, the development of health institutions, the
establishment of colleges to train ministers, teachers, and doctors, a parochial
school system, evangelistic centres [sic] and missions, ... and was influential in
major reorganizations of the SDA administrative structure." 65 Theologically,
she has been credited with moving the, "church away from arianism, crass
legalism, and pantheism," 66 and toward what some conservative evangelicals
have termed "orthodox Christianity." 67 The main impact of her death was the
fact that their living prophet had died. And as the years passed, some felt that
the move toward orthodoxy had caused the denomination to stray from their
foundational Advent message and mission. 68

 

 

Victor Houteff and the "Shepherd's Rod."

 

 

Victor T. Houteff was born in Raikova, Bulgaria in 1886, and was raised
in the Eastern Orthodox Church. 69 He was a merchant, and did very well at
selling perfume. His ability to undercut his competitor's prices resulted in
several instances of vandalism, prompting him to ask church authorities to
help settle the conflict. When they refused, he decided on a more permanent
solution to his business problems, and emigrated to the United States in 1907.
70
Houteff first settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but soon moved to
Rockford, Illinois, where he became the operator of a small hotel. He had
abandoned his early Orthodox faith, but felt the need for spiritual fulfillment.
His first exposure to Adventist teachings occurred at a tent-meeting in 1918,
where he accepted the message, and was baptized into the Seventh-day
Adventist Church on May 10, 1919.71 His business prospered, and he helped
fund a new Seventh-day Adventist church in Rockford. 72
Because of the cold Illinois climate, Houteff moved to California in 1923,
where he came down with a serious illness. He sought help at a Seventh-day
Adventist sanitarium, but was denied assistance until the check for his
twenty-five dollar admission fee cleared the bank. This experience left him
bitter and disappointed, and may have sparked his questioning of the difference
between Adventist doctrine and actual practice.
He continued with the church in Los Angeles, and eventually accepted
the position of assistant superintendent of the Sabbath School of the Olympic
Exposition Park Seventh-day Adventist church. 73 This position required
Houteff to review and teach weekly lessons. He was a gifted teacher, and all
went well until 1929, when he began changing some of the established
curriculum in his classes concerning interpretations of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and
Revelation. 74 He was subsequently refused permission to teach in the church,
and moved his classes across the street to a member's house. This prompted
church leaders to threaten disfellowshipment to anyone who studied with,
listened to, or read Houteff's literature. A permanent break with the church by
Houteff occurred when he was injured outside the church, and a doctor in the
congregation refused him treatment. 75
Houteff continued his "present truth" teachings, arguing that he had
new insights into scriptural truths for the present age, following in the lineage
of Martin Luther, John Wesley, William Miller, and Ellen White. 76 He
embraced the Adventist doctrines of Sabbath worship, the imminent return of
Christ, vegetarianism, and non-violence, but felt that the Seventh-day
Adventist church had compromised too much with the world. He especially
blamed Adventist ministers for allowing members to go to ball games, motion
pictures, and to wear make-up, resulting in an undisciplined, lukewarm
Laodicean church. These were all activities he felt Ellen White had condemned
in her writings. He viewed his mission as convincing 144,000 Seventh-day
Adventists to reform themselves, thus ushering in the return of Christ. 77
Through his teaching, Houteff gathered enough followers from the Los
Angeles congregation to form an organization called the "Shepherd's Rod" in
1934. He also published two volumes of his teachings by the same name. 78
The name originated from the idea of hearing the "rod" in Micah 6:9, the
emancipatory work Moses performed with his rod in Egypt, and the idea of
Christ as the good shepherd, who would have the rod of Truth. 79 These
followers, who were disfellowshipped from the mother church, considered
Houteff an inspired prophet, and formed the splinter group that followed him to
Texas. 80
Texas was chosen based on Houteff's interpretation of Isaiah 19:24
which discusses "a blessing in the midst of the land." Houteff considered Texas
to be central for both North and South America, a good location to spread his
message. Additionally, Texas is much warmer in the winter, saving on heating
cost as well as increasing comfort. 81 After rejecting land near Dallas, San
Antonio, and Houston, Houteff and two followers scouted the Waco area, and
subsequently purchased three hundred and seventy-seven acres overlooking
Lake Waco, about two miles from the city proper. They then returned to Los
Angeles to prepare for the exodus to the interim promised land. Twelve people
from seven families agreed to go, and these prophetically significant numbers
were interpreted as a divine sanction for the plan. 82 Thus began the Mount
Carmel community.
Before the property was developed, five members lived in a trailer, while
the rest stayed in town. By August of 1935, the group had grown to thirty
seven, and by November, two residence buildings were almost complete. The
group was supported financially by a common fund, contributions coming from
those who migrated as well as followers who stayed in Los Angeles. But money
was not considered a long term problem. Because Houteff viewed his primary
mission as reforming God's people and gathering the saints to hasten the
return of Christ, he believed they would only occupy Mount Carmel for a year.
83 But that was not to be, and the community lasted for twenty-four years.
By 1940, Mount Carmel had grown to sixty-four residents. Ten buildings
had been erected, including an administration building, a school, a kitchen and
dining facility, a laundry, dormitories, warehouses, and garages. They had also,
"created systems for water supply and sewage, and had installed electricity
and a single telephone." 84 They grew and canned much of their own food,
including fruit from their orchards, and vegetables from expansive gardens.
They also utilized the trees on their acreage for building materials, and raised
cattle for milk on pasture land. For additional income, several members worked
in town. But most members worked on site and were paid in Mount Carmel
currency, which could be exchanged at the community mercantile for needed
items. 85
When World War II broke out, it created a problem for Houteff. He
wanted his young male followers to receive the historic Seventh-day Adventist
conscientious objector status, but his group was not formally recognized as a
part of the SDA Conference. He consequently incorporated in 1942, and
changed the name of his group from the Shepherd's Rod to the Davidian
Seventh-day Adventists. 86 The name derived from his belief in the imminent
restoration of David's kingdom in Palestine. 87
The community and the publishing ministry flourished under Houteff.
By the early 1950s, the following had grown to nearly ten-thousand world wide,
but only one hundred and twenty-five lived at Mount Carmel. 88 Volumes of
literature had been distributed and Davidian missionaries had visited Adventist
congregations around the U.S. and Canada, as well as England, India, the West
Indies, and Australia. It was through these efforts that the 144,000 believers
would be recruited, out of existing Seventh-day Adventist congregations. 89
In 1955 the unthinkable happened: Victor Houteff died. This caused an
internal crisis among the Davidians, who had expected him to "be the king in
the new kingdom, or at least Elijah announcing the kingdom, and would never
die." 90 Several factions began to develop at this time. However, Victor's wife,
Florence Houteff, stepped forward and assumed not only his leadership, but his
prophetic role for the largest faction. She soon shocked her followers with a
prophetic revelation of her own.
Victor Houteff had taught his followers his millennial message, and had
reached Revelation 11 before his death. This passage spoke about the twelve
hundred sixty days of judgment, but Houteff had never specified when the
period would begin. 91 Florence Houteff announced in the November 5, 1955
issue of the Symbolic Code, the Davidian monthly magazine, that the judgment
had arrived. The twelve hundred and sixty days would begin with the release of
her revelation, and the kingdom would begin on April 22, 1959, which fell on the
Jewish Passover. 92 The prophecy included some important details, as Bill
Pitts, and expert on the Davidians explains.
Members expected the following to occur: (1) outbreak of war in the
Middle East, (2) purification of the Seventh-day Adventist church, (3)
establishment of God's kingdom in Jerusalem, and (4) purification of the
remainder of the world's population. The media reported that the
Davidians were predicting Christ's return. This was a misperception.
They taught that Christ would return at a later time. The essential
point was that the Kingdom of God would be re-established in Jerusalem,
and that signs of its inauguration would appear. The Davidians expected
to escape an imminent slaughter and become special servants to God
and to the nations. This would make them the "firstfruits" of the living.
93
Given the timeframe involved, the Davidians had four years to prepare.
In the fall of 1957, the Davidians sold their property near Waco, because of
city encroachment. They used the proceeds to purchase nine hundred and
forty-one acres near Elk, nine miles east of Waco, and named this site the New
Mount Carmel. 94 It was on this site that the 1993 siege and fire would occur.
It was also during this interim that Florence Houteff also issued a call
for the faithful to gather at New Mount Carmel, beginning on April 16, 1959, in
anticipation moving to Israel. 95 The call was effective, and about nine-hundred
people sold their homes and businesses, and moved to Texas to wait for signs of
the end. It took over seventy-five tents to accommodate the pilgrims at the
site. 96 It has also been reported that many Davidians felt that Victor Houteff
would be raised from the dead as a sign that the Kingdom of God was near. 97
Unfortunately for the Davidians, April 22 turned out to be another
"Great Disappointment", although surviving members referred to it as "the big
fall" and "the fiasco." 98 The day came and went, and none of the prophetic
events transpired. By May 5, the crowd had dropped to four hundred and fifty,
and by mid 1960, only about fifty truly devout followers remained on the
property, where barracks were constructed for their residence. 99 These
individuals formed the nucleus of the group that would follow Ben Roden, who's
leadership period will be developed in the next section.
Others had left and formed splinter groups, the largest of which survives
today in Exeter, Missouri under the name Davidian Seventh-day Adventist
Association. 100 This group had never accepted Florence Houteff's April 22
prophecy, and was never associated with the leadership of David Koresh.
These Davidians took great pains during the 1993 standoff to denounce
Koresh's actions, and to disassociate Houteff and his teachings from Koresh.
101
By 1962, Florence Houteff had publicly admitted her prophetic errors,
formally dissolved the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists, and had sold most of
the new Mount Carmel property 102, with proceeds divided among members
after lawyers fees. 103 So ended the Houteff leadership period of the Davidians
in Waco, "but the work of Houteff would continue to shape the essential lines of
the movement. It would remain millenarian, sabbatarian, authoritarian, and
communal." 104

 

Ben Roden and "The Branch"

 

Benjamin Roden, a trucking contractor, was originally an elder in an
Adventist church in Odessa, Texas, but became a Daviaian in 1946. 105 His
formal connections with the Mount Carmel group occurred shortly after
Houteff's death in 1955, when God told him to write seven letters to Florence
Houteff. 106 He believed that Victor Houteff had served as the fourth angel of
Revelation 8:12, and that he had been called by God to serve as the fifth angel
of Revelation 9:1. 107 He also claimed that while writing these letters, God
spoke to him and told him to sign it "The Branch." 108 This referred to the
writings of Ellen White, and also to numerous Bible verses that mention the
word "branch", a key one being Zechariah 6:12 which reads, "Then say to him,
'Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Behold a man whose name is Branch, for He will
branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord." 109
Roden argued that Jesus Christ's new name was "The Branch," but that he
had a prophetic mission to lead the Branch believers, a major work being to
help rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, restoring David's kingdom on earth. 110
Based on these teachings, he was to call his followers "Branch Davidians." 111
When Roden presented his message to Houteff's followers in 1955, many
rejected it. In 1958, he and his wife Lois and some followers went to Israel and
attempted to found a community there, in anticipation of rebuilding the temple,
but the effort failed. 112 When Florence Houteff's 1959 prophecy failed, he did
gain a following from those who remained at the New Mount Carmel Center,
and who considered him a prophet.113 In the subsequent 1962 court battles
over property, he made a downpayment on the seventy-seven unsold acres,
and the "Branch Davidians" had a home.114
Daily activities at the New Mount Carmel Center were very much like
living at old Mount Carmel under Houteff, although the numbers of residents
were were smaller. By 1978, there were about 35 residents living in frame
houes on the property. 115 They grew their own fruits and vegetables
organically, and got water from an artesian well. They also raised dairy cattle
for milk, but continued the vegetarian tradition, adopting many Old Testament
Jewish feast days and dietary restrictions as well. 116 Children attended school
on site, and were taught agricultural and household skills as well as academic
subjects. Many of the adults had jobs in Waco, with two serving as nurses at
Hillcrest Hospital.
Members worshipped at 9 a.m and 3 p.m. in the chapel, with hour long
studies taught by Ben Roden. These worship times were considered
scripturally significant, as Roden explained:
The Angel, Who is Christ Himself, "in the messenger He sends" is today
teaching the "Daily" ministration of His blood in the Sanctuary above
and is calling all Israel to the daily worship hours, 9 and 3, that each
may be prepared to stand in the great and dreadful day in chish Elijah
commands all to,"Remember ye the law of Moses, my servant .... with
the statues and judgements. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." Malachi
4:4,5. 117
Roden was also concerned greatly with world events as they implicated biblical
prophecy. For example, he believed that the 1967 Six-Day War in Isreal was
prophetically significant as a foreshadowing of the end times. 118 A good
synopsis of his teaching were summarized in a pamplet entitled, "The Master
Plan For America" published in 1979.
For over twenty years The Branch message has been sharing with us
the worderful revelations of the living Spirit of Prophecy showing the
trials and glorious future of God's remnant church. In 1976 Ben L.
Roden, in "The Energy Crisis and Sunday Sacredness," revealed the
imminent national health program outlawing independent evangelism
and the Sunday law hidden in Kennedy's 1975 Energy Bill. In 1977,
"Constantine to Carter," revealed the coming Catholic-control of
America, and thrilled us with the prophecy of America's deliverence like
Esther from Hamam's death decree. Since publication of these tracts,
events have transpired showing us the validity of The Branch
predictions. This tract brings us to the very "opening of the curtain" of
Jacob's time of trouble over Sunday laws. Now as never before let us
seek the truth and power of the Holy Spirit that we may stand firm for
the Sabbath truth, separation of church and state, and becom holy
instruments through which God will deliver America (Assyria) into the
Kingdom (Isaiah 19: 23-25.) 119
Lois Roden, Ben's wife, had begun receiving visions of her own in 1977. Her
most significant one concerned the feminine nature of the Holy Spirit, which
she saw as a "shining, silver angel" which "represented the Holy Spirit
Mother," while studying Revelation 18:1. 120 This vision was part of a tradition
of prophetic revelation, as she explained in a 1980 pamplet.
Truimphant over attempts to hide the seventh-day Sabbath truth for
centuries, the flickering flame of truth began to leap higher as the
Reformation progressed and climaxed with the blazing fire of truth when
Ellen G. White was shown in vision the validity of the seventh-day
Sabbath. Paralleling this was the truth of the Holy Spirit MOTHER,
whose earthly children lost sight of HER PERSON until the 19th
century when SHE began to send gleams of truth about Herself to Her
children, climaxing in a fireball of direct revelation to Lois I. Roden in
1977 that the Holy Spirit is, indeed, our HEAVENLY MOTHER! 121
She continued to develop this doctrinal theme and ultimately published a
magazine called Shekinah, "which won the Religion in Media Award for
Excellence in 1983." 122 Based upon her extensive study, she was granted
Davidian ministrial credentials, which were not recognized by the general
Seventh-day Adventist Conference. 123 She subsequently became an advocate
for women's rights, and led a contingent of followers to Dallas for the fifty-third
Seventh-day Adventist World Conference in 1980 to press for the acceptance
of women in ordained ministry. 124
In 1978, Ben Roden died. Based on her prophetic role as the sixth angel
of Revelation 9:16, Lois Roden assumed control of the Branch Davidians. 125
However, her theological views on the feminine nature of the Holy Spirit were
not accepted by everyone in the group. Additionaly, her son GeorgeRoden,
viewed himself as the rightful heir to leadership. Over the next several years,
the dispute between George and Lois became so bitter that she ultimately
obtained a court order barring him from the Mount Carmel property. 126 It was
into this embattled situation that Vernon Howell, later David Koresh, entered
the group.

 

David Koresh and the "Students of the Seven Seals"

 

Vernon Howell was born to Bonnie Clark in Houston, Texas in 1959. His
father, Bobby Howell, had never married his mother, and he was raised by his
grandmother in Houston until he was five. 127 By that time Bonnie had married
her second husband, Roy Heldeman, and took Vernon to live with them in
Richardson, Texas, near Dallas. During this time, Vernon's brother Roger was
born, and Vernon was said to have suffered sexual abuse by an un-named male
relative of his mother. 128
At the age of nine, Vernon began attending a Seventh-day Adventist
church in Richardson, the denomination of his mother. He also attended grades
one through six at the Dallas Seventh-day Adventist Academy. He became
engrossed in Bible study, and memorized large portions of Isaiah, Exekiel, and
Jeremiah. He also read extensively in the writings of William Miller and Ellen
G. White. He also reportedly became interested in the continued role of living
prophets in the modern chruch. 129
Howell attended the eight and nineth grades in the Garland school
district, and it was there that he met his first love Linda. She became
pregnant, and the young couple wanted to marry. Linda's father refused, and
the three were seperated, Linda having given birth to a daughter. This was
devestating to the eighteen-year-old Vernon, who stayed in Richardson when
his parents moved to Tyler, Texas. He had quit attending church during this
period, and worked at a variety of jobs. 130 He learned to play the guitar and
became interested in restoring cars, both of which would later serve him well.
131 He continued to try and win Linda's father's approval, but to no avail.
Vernon began attending his mother's SDA church in Tyler, and became
interested in the new pastor's daughter, Sandy Berlin, and a relationship
developed. His passion for Bible study also renewed, and he became active in
the church. After a time, his studies led him to interpretations of Bible
passages that were in conflict with SDA teachings, interpretations he believed
were God inspired. 132 He also believed that God wanted him to marry Sandy.
Meetings were disrupted, as he attempted to gain a following for his teachings,
and in April of 1983 he was, "disfellowshipped for 'his refusal to adhere to the
principles of the church and not be disruptive' and for exerting a 'bad influence
on the young people of the church.'" 133 This also ended his relationship with
Sandy, leaving him hurt and bitter again.
Prior to this, in 1981, he had been introduced to the Branch Davidians
living at Mount Carmel. He joined the group and began working as a handyman
for Lois Roden. 134 This began an intense period of spiritual growth and soul
searching, including long crying spells and physical denials of food, as he
absorbed the teachings of Lois Roden. He also became popular for his musical
contributions to the group. He became Lois Roden's prodegy, and she
eventually allowed him to teach some lessons, increasing his status with the
membership. 135
By 1983 it was rumored that Howell and Roden were romantically
involved, and were supposedly married in a private service before they took a
trip together to Israel. 136 Upon their return from Israel, the leadership conflict
with George Roden flared up again, and Lois named Vernon to suceed her as
the prophetic leader of the group. 137 An invitation by Lois was issued to the
various Branch Davidian adherents not living at Mount Carmel to come and
hear him teach.
In 1984, Howell married fourteen year old Rachael Jones, whose father
Perry was one of the longtime members of the Branch Davidians. This
strengthend his following with some members in the group, as conflict and
dissent broke out among others. 138 George Roden had discovered Howell's
involvement with his mother, and was greatly angered by his marriage to
Rachael. Howell's marriage to Jones also upset Lois Roden, who reportedly
became very hostile, and began doing strange things like showing a positive
pregnancy test to members, and accusing Howell sexual abuses with her. 139
In 1985, George Roden forced Vernon and Rachael to leave Mount Carmel, and
was himself elected as leader of the group by the members who chose to stay.
Many had left and followed Howell as a result of the turmoil. 140
It was also in 1985 that Rachael and Vernon visited Israel. While there,
Howell had a vision where God told him to change his name to David Koresh,
and that he would be given the keys to unlock the seven seals of Revelation. 141
Gordon Melton explained the meaning of the name:
From Isaiah 45, he assumed the name David Koresh (Koresh being a
form of Cyrus). Cyrus was the only non-Isrealite who was given the title
"annointed" or "a messiah" or in Greek, "a christ." As a modern-day
Koresh, he saw his role as that of the Lamb mentioned in Revelation 5.
While traditionally this Lamb has been identified as Jesus Christ,
Koresh dissented and claimed that the Lamb was identical with the rider
of the White Horse who appeared in Revelation 6:1-2 and 19:7-19. The
rider was clearly not Jesus. 142
When they returned in May, Koresh purchased some land in Palestine, Texas
and his following joined him there. 143 The accomodations were primitive,
consisting of tents, buses, and plywood shacks, with no heat or running water.
The group also began aquiring firearms, as a means of self protection from
George Roden, and to be sold for profits at gun shows. 144
By this time, George had renamed the Mount Carmel community
Rodenville, ruled it with an iron fist, causing most of the inhabitants to leave,
many of whom joined Koresh. 145 This created financial problems for Roden,
who was unable to pay property taxes on the land. Lois Roden died in 1986,
further undermining any hold he had over remaining members. In an effort to
regain control, George issued a leadership challenge to Koresh in 1987. The test
would be to raise Anna Hughes, who had died twenty years before, from the
dead. Instead of accepting the test, Koresh and some followers went to Mount
Carmel and covertly attempted to photograph Hughes's body and coffin, to be
used as evidence for force Roden from the property. While on the property, a
gun fight ensued, and Roden was shot in the arm. In the subsequent trial,
attempted murder charges were dismissed against Koresh, but Roden was held
in contempt of court for violating the 1979 restraining order against him filed
by his mother Lois, and for filing profanity laden legal motions. 146 George
subsequently moved to Odessa, Texas, and shot a man in 1989 who he claimed
was senty by Koresh sent to kill him. He was found not guilty by reason of
insanity, and is currently confined in a mental hospital. 147
Koresh and his followers moved back to Mount Carmel on the day of
Roden's initial incarceration in 1987. A wealthy Davidian paid the back taxes
owed on the property, and the property became theirs. Much of the property
had fallen into dis-repair, and a major cleanup and rennovation effort was
established. 148 Buildings and living quarters were expanded over several years,
and the community became much more communal under Koresh's leadership.
Like the Houteff and Roden periods, many members worked in the outside
community and contributed wages to the group. They grew much of their own
food, and made their own clothes. They also set up an automobile repair and
renovation shop, called the Mag Bag, and a firearms business, buying guns and
hunting products mail order, then selling them at gun shows. 149 Koresh also
became adept a recruiting younger converts among Seventh-day Adventist
and Davidian congretations through this teaching and his music. By 1993,
there were about 100 Branch Davidians living in and around Mount Carmel, as
David Bromley and Edward Silver note.
It was a multiracial and multinational community, reflecting the
diversity in the SDA church, the primary target of Branch Davidian
evangelizing. Blacks, Mexicans, and Asians constituted about hald of the
Branch Davidian community. Although Americans were the largest
nationality, there was a sizable contingent from the United Kingdom and
smaller groups from Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, and the
Phillipines. 150
Daily life at Mount Carmel began around six a.m., when members would eat a
communal breakfast. Some members would go to work in town, and others
would stay and work at the center. Some children were home schooled, while
others were sent to local schools.
Theology played a vital part in the lives of the Branch Davidians. They
still observed a Saturday Sabbath, and followed many Jewish dietary
restrictions such as not eating pork or pork products. But they also studied on
a daily basis. After a communal supper, members would engage in long study
sessions with David Koresh, sometimes lasting all night. There were also often
morining and afternoon studies as well. It was during these sessions that
Koresh continued to develop and teach his doctrines that served to galvanize,
and in some cases, divide the group. 151 Koresh's teachings are vital to
understanding how the Branch Davidians perceived the 1993 raid on Mount
Carmel. These doctrines will be fully developed in the subsequent chapter, but
the primary beliefs will help to explain why the group endured the fire, and
what their future might hold.
David Koresh viewed himself as part of the line of succession in the
Branch Davidian tradition. Truth had been revealed down through the ages, as
doctor James Tabor explains.
According to this scenario, each figure is associated with a key step or
insight that brought the people of God closer to the original, primitive
truth of the early Church: Luther/Faith; Knox/Spirit; Wesley/Grace;
Campbell/Baptism; Miller/Second Coming; White/Sabbath;
Houteff/Davidic Kingdom on Earth; Roden/Jewish Feast Days; Lois
Roden/Feminine Nature of God. 152
David believed and taught that he was the seventh and final messenger in the
Davidian tradition, "who would restore all things before the return of Christ."
153 As mentioned before, his role took the form of the Lamb mentioned in
Revelation 5. He was provided by God with the knowledge to unlock the
mysteries of the seven seals of Revelation, which he taught his followers. He
believed that the tribulation period had already begun, and that he and his
disciples were the,'"wavesheaf,' God's faithful, courageous followers who are the
elite that will ascend to heaven prior to the 144,000 exemplary souls selected
to reign with the Messiah during the millennium." 154 Koresh originally thought
that the Branch Davidians would migrate to Israel and begin converting Jews,
triggering an international conflict, with the United States involved. He later
determined that Armageddon, the final battle of Revelation, would begin with
an attack on the Branch Davidians in the United States. This prompted his
referring to Mount Carmel as "Ranch Apocalypse," beginning in 1992. It also
promoted the survivalist mentality, which resulted in many weapons and food
supplies being stored at Mount Carmel.
As proff for his message, Koresh used Psalm 45 as a "key of David" to
unlock the mysteries of the first seal. In that Psalm, the earthly king is
described as having multiple wives. David interpreted this literally, and
revealed his "new light doctrine" in 1989. 155 The doctrine made him the
"spiritual husband" of the women of the group, and the "physical husband" for
of potentially all the women for purposes of bearing children. The actual
husbands of female group members would be united with their spouses in
heaven. These children would eventually, "erect the House of David and
ultimately rule the world." 156 He subsequently "married" several women, who
gave birth to several children. This doctrine would eventually lead to some
membership defections, which began the civil and criminal investigations of the
Davidians, leading to the 1993 raid.
As this brief theological overview reveals, the Students of the Seven
Seals viewed themselves as a divinely inspired people led by a messianic
prophet. When the 1993 raid occurred, they interpreted events in the light of
Bible prophecies. They believed that seals one through four of Revelation had
already been fulfilled in the life of the community prior to that time. 157 When
several members were killed in the initial raid, they were convinced that the
fifth seal of Revelation 6:9-11 had been fulfilled, which reads in part,"And when
he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were
slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held..." They
believed that they were to remain in Mount Carmel until the rest of them
would be killed, bring God's judgement down on Babylon, and ushering in the
new age. 158

Conclusion

 

Just as the Millerites sold their property and gathered in 1844, and
many of Houteff's followers did the same in 1959, so the Branch Davidians in
1993 took their biblical interpretations as authoritative, and waited for the
prophecies to be fulfilled. Even after the fatal fire and the subsequent trial,
where several surviving members were convicted on weapons possession
charges, they continue to look for the bodily resurrection of Koresh and the
establishment of the Davidic kingdom. 159 There are between twenty and
fourty adult members of Koresh's group living, sixteen of which came out
during the siege, and nine others escaped the fire. 160 At this point, no member
has arisen to lead the group. Marc Bunds, a member, suggested in 1993 that
his father Donald Bunds, a Branch Davidian since the 1950s, might lead the
group, but that has not happened yet. 161 They have since dispersed around
the country, many moving close to where their various members are being
incarcerated.

 

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White, Cecile Holmes. "New Movement Could Arise from the Ashes, Experts
Say." Houston Chronicle, 27 February 1994, 1.

Wieseltier, Leon. "The True Fire." The New Republic, 17 May, 1993, 25-27.


Endnotes

 

1Chicago Tribune, March 1, 1993, 1.

2Toronto Star, March 1, 1993, A1.

3Daily Mail, March 1, 1993, 12.

4Sacramento Bee, March 1, 1993, A1.

5Ottawa Citizen, March 1, 1993, A10.

6Vancouver Sun, March 1, 1993, A8.

7Orlando Sentinel Tribune, March 1, 1993, A6.

8Montreal Gazette, March 1, 1993, A6.

9Houston Chronicle, March 1, 1993, A1.

10Houston Chronicle, March 1, 1993, A9.

11Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1993, A1.

12David G. Bromley and Edward D. Silver, "The Branch Davidians: A Social Profile And
Organizational History." (Unpublished Manuscript, 1994), 4. For ease in understanding,
the followers of Koresh will be referred to as Davidians in this essay.

13Cecile Holmes White, "New Movement Could Arise from the Ashes, Experts Say." Houston
Chronicle, February 27, 1994, 1.

14Bromley and Silver, 1.

15James D. Tabor, "Apocalypse At Waco: Could The Tragedy Have Been Averted?" Bible
Review (October, 1990): 26.

16Mark England, "6 Dead, 18 Hurt." Waco Tribune-Herald, March 1, 1993, A1.

17Darlene McCormick, "Cult Says 6 of Group Died in Raid." Waco Tribune-Herald, April 10,
1993, A1; Ron Cole, Sinister Twilight: A Tragedy Near Waco, and a Sinister Twilight in
America, 2nd Ed. (Waco: Ron Cole, 1994), 46, 49.

18Drew Parma, "A Fiery End." Waco Tribune-Herald (Special Report), April 19, 1993, A1.

19Mark England, "BLACK MONDAY: More than 80 feared dead in compound blaze." Waco
Tribune-Herald, April 19, 1993, A1,A6.

20Cole, 96.

21Kenneth Samples, Erwin de Castro, Richard Abanes, and Robert Lyle, Prophets of the
Apocalypse: David Koresh and Other American Messiahs (Grand Rapids: Baker Books,
1994), 14.

22Cole, 41.

23Kai Arasola, The End of Historicism: Millerite Hermeneutic of Time Prophecies in the Old
Testament (Sigtuna: Datem Publishing, 1990), 169.

24Primary sources for the Miller period are as follows: Samples et.al., 98-108; Everett N.
Dick, "The Millerite Movement 1830-1845." in Adventism In America, ed. Gary Land (Grand
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 1-35;

25Samples et.al., 98.

26Dick, 3.

27Samples et.al., 99.

28Dick, 4; Samples et.al., 100.

29Dick, 4-5.

30Dick, 5.

31Dick, 5.

32Dick, 7.

33Dick, 6.

34Dick, 8.

35Dick, 8.

36Samples, et.al., 105.

37Samples, et.al., 105.

38Dick, 11.

39Dick, 20.

40Dick, 26.

41Dick, 27.

42Samples et.al, 62.

43Dick, 27.

44Dick, 28.

45Dick, 29.

46Dick, 33.

47Primary sources for the White period are as follows: Roy E. Graham, Ellen G. White: Co-
Founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc., 1986);
Godfrey T. Anderson, "Sectarianism and Organization 1846-1864." in Adventism In America,
ed. Gary Land (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 36-65;

48Graham, 16.

49Graham, 17.

50Graham, 19.

51Graham, 20.

52Graham, 22.

53Graham, 23.

54Samples et.al., 110.

55Graham, 23.

56Graham, 25.

57Graham, 25.

58Anderson, 40.

59Graham, 28.

60Anderson, 38; Samples et.al., 110.

61Anderson, 59-60.

62Anderson, 41.

63Anderson, 46, 62-65.

64Samples et.al., 112-113.

65Graham, 31-32.

66Graham, 32.

67Samples et. al., 113.

68Samples et.al., 113.

69Primary sources for the Houteff period: Bill Pitts, "The Mount Carmel Davidians:
Adventist Reformers, 1935-1959." Syzygy: Journal of Alternative Religion and Culture, vol.
2: 1-2 (Winter / Spring 1993): 39-54; Bill Pitts, "The Davidian Tradition." in From The
Ashes: Making Sense of Waco, ed. James R. Lewis (Lanham and London: Rowman and
Littlefield, 1994), 33-39; Samples et. al, 114.

70Pitts, 1993, 39.

71Samples et.al., 114.

72Pitts, 1993, 39.

73Pitts, 1993, 40.

74Samples et.al., 115.

75Pitts, 1993, 40.

76Pitts, 1994, 34.

77Pitts, 1994, 34.

78Samples et. al, 115.

79Pitts, 1993, 40.

80Pitts, 1993, 43-44.

81Pitts, 1993, 44.

82Pitts, 1993, 44.

83Pitts, 1993, 44.

84Pitts, 1993, 44.

85Pitts, 1993, 45.

86Pitts, 1994, 35; Pitts, 1993, 40.

87Pitts, 1993, 40.

88Samples et. al., 117.

89Pitts, 1993, 48.

90Pitts, 1993, 49.

91Pitts, 1993, 48-49.

92Pitts, 1993, 49.

93Pitts, 1993, 50.

94Pitts, 1993, 49.

95J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedia of American Religions: Fourth Edition Supplement
(Washington D.C. and London: Gale Research Inc., 1994), 38.

96Pitts, 1993, 49-50.

97Pitts, 1993, 50; Samples et.al., 117-118; Bromley and Silver, 4; John F. Maguire,
"Correspondence." The American Spectator, November 1993, 87.

98Pitts, 1993, 50.

99Pitts, 1993, 50.

100Bromley and Silver, 14.

101Jeriel E. Bingham (Vice-President, Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association), "Official
Statement of the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association, Exeter, Missouri." June 4,
1993.

102Bromley and Silver, 4; Melton, 38.

103Pitts, 1993, 50.

104Pitts, 1994, 36.

105Samples et.al., 118.

106Linda Johnson, "Waco Home Base for Adventists' Sect." Waco Tribune-Herald, May 18,
1978, A8; Melton, 38.

107Melton, 38.

108Maguire, 87.

109Benjamin Roden, "The Might Angel of Revelation 18:1." Pamplet published by The
Branch, Waco, Texas, June 1970; Ben Roden, "The Branch of My Planting." Pamplet
published by The Branch, Waco, Texas, no date provided.

110Ben Roden, "Deliverance In Mount Zion And In Jerusalem ... And In The Remnant Whom
The Lord Shall Call." Pamplet published by The Brahch, Waco, Texas, 1977.

111Samples et. al., 118.

112Maguire, 87; Melton, 38; Bromley and Silver, 5.

113Johnson, A8.

114Bromley and Silver, 4.

115Johnson, A8.

116Samples et. al., 118.

117Ben L. Roden, The "Daily" Part 1. (Waco: The Universal Publishing Assn, June 3, 1976):
7-8.

118Ben Roden, "As Birds Flying." Pamplet published by The Branch, Waco, Texas, June,
1969.

119Ben Roden, "The Master Plan For America." Pamplet published by Living Waters
Branch, Bellmead, Texas, December 1979.

120Samples et.al., 119.

121Lois Roden, "By His Spirit." Pamplet published by Living Waters, Bellmead, Texas, April
1980. (Emphasis in Original)

122Maguire, 87.

123Rita Haliburton, "Centexan: Holy Spirit Female." Waco Tribune-Herald, April 26, 1980,
B5.

124Haliburton, B5.

125Melton, 38.

126Bromley and Silver, 5.

127Samples, et.al., 19-20.

128Samples, et.al, 21.

129Samples, et.al, 22-23.

130Samples et.al., 23-24.

131Bromley and Silver, 5.

132Samples et.al., 24-25.

133Samples et.al., 26; Bromley and Silver, 6.

134Samples et.al., 31; Bromley and Silver, 6.

135Samples, et.al., 32-35; Bromley and Silver, 6.

136Samples, et.al., 37,39.

137Samples, et.al, 39; Bromley and Silver, 6.

138Samples, et.al., 39; Bromley and Silver, 6.

139Samples, et.al., 40-42.

140Samples et.al., 42-43; Bromley and Silver, 6.

141James Tabor, "The Dynamics of Biblical Apocaypticism at Waco." in Armageddon In
Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict, ed. Stuart Wright (Pre-
publication copy, 1994): 7.

142Melton, 38.

143I will refer to Vernon Howell as David Koresh through the rest of the essay, even though
he did not legally change his name until 1990.

144Samples et.al., 43.

145Bromley and Silver, 6.

 

146Bromley and Silver, 7; Samples et.al., 54-56.

147Melton, 38; Samples et.al., 56.

148Bromley and Silver, 10; Samples et.al., 56-57.

149Melton, 38; Bromley and Silver, 10.

150Bromley and Silver, 10.

151Bromley and Silver, 11; Samples et.al., 57-58.

152Tabor, 23.

153Tabor, 8.

154Bromley and Silver, 8.

155Samples et.al., 62; Bromley and Silver, 8-9.

156Bromley and Silver, 9; Melton, 38.

157J. Phillip Arnold, "The Davidian Dilemma - To Obey God or Man?" in From The Ashes:
Making Sense of Waco, ed. James R. Lewis (Lanham and London: Rowman and Littlefield,
1994): 25.

158Arnold, 25-26.

159Interviews with surviving Davidians in Waco, April 19, 1994.

160White, 1.

161Richard Vara and Cecile Holmes White, "Deadly Finale at Mount Carmel." The Houston
Chronicle, April 21, 1993, A12.