W. A. Draves
|W. A. Draves|
|Founder and Apostle of the
Church of Christ with the Elijah Message
|1943 – June 28, 1994|
|Born||William August Draves
May 12, 1912
|Died||June 28, 1994
|Resting place||Salem Cemetery Association Cemetery
Ruby Jessie Siefort
Marjorie Marie Truitt
William August Draves (born "Wilhelm") (12 May 1912 — 28 June 1994) was the founder and an apostle of the Church of Christ with the Elijah Message, a successor to the organization founded by former Church of Christ (Temple Lot) Apostle Otto Fetting. Like Fetting, Draves claimed to have received visits and messages from John the Baptist. Although accepted by many Fettingites, Draves was rejected by portions of the Fettingite leadership, leading him to found his own church in 1939. He continued to produce a total of ninety messages from the alleged angelic visitor throughout succeeding decades, serving in the church as an apostle until his death in 1994.
William "Oley" Draves was born in Keystone, Nebraska on 12 May 1912, the third of eight children born to Wilhelm August Heinrich Draves (born in a covered wagon April 8, 1877 near Oshkosh, Wisconsin - d. April 9, 1929 Gilcrest, Colorado) and Sylvia Stella Dunwoody (b. February 17, 1884 Valparaiso, Nebraska - d. August 11, 1962 Kingston Township, Caldwell County, Missouri). Draves' paternal grandfather Leopold Friedrich Johann Drews/Draves was born in Coburg, Germany January 10, 1848 and died January 12, 1904 in Dows, Iowa. Raised by what he called "goodly parents," ten-year-old Draves embraced the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now called the Community of Christ) through baptism in 1922 at an RLDS reunion being held at North Platte, Nebraska. During his subsequent confirmation, Draves testified that the RLDS elder prophesied that he would have "a peculiar work to do among [his] Brethren", and that he "would behold Angels and be considered a prophet in God's Work." Days later, a "prophetess" at this same reunion reemphasized Draves' destiny to him, predicting that his mother would pass away exactly forty years from that date (August 11, 1922). Much later, Draves reported the prophecy came true — to the day — exactly as specified, confirming to him the truth of what he had experienced in 1922.
Three years after his baptism in the RLDS church, Draves moved with his family to Nucla, Colorado, where they were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there. Draves later testified that he was uneasy at the thought of taking water (instead of wine or grape juice) for communion, as is the usual practice among the "Utah Mormons", and so he refrained from taking the Sacrament during that time. He reported that he continued to study the Bible and Book of Mormon during these years, preparing himself for an as-yet unknown mission within the Latter Day Saint movement.
In 1929, a seventeen-year-old Draves heard of a series of revelations being given to Otto Fetting, an apostle in the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) who—as with William Draves—had previously been baptized in the RLDS church. Fetting's messages—allegedly coming from John the Baptist-- excited the Draves family, and they wondered whether Fetting were actually receiving such revelations. Although his father was killed in an April, 1929 in a truck-train collision, Draves' mother invited elders from the Temple Lot church to her home, resulting in the family's baptism by Temple Lot apostle Thomas Barton. According to Draves, Barton's words at his confirmation almost exactly echoed those spoken by the RLDS elder who had confirmed him seven years earlier. Stirred at the prospect of assisting in a sacred construction at the Temple Lot in Independence, Missouri, Draves eagerly made plans to move to the "Center Place" and help with the Temple Project which had commenced with a groundbreaking ceremony April 6, 1929. However, a serious crisis brewing within the Temple Lot organization would alter Draves' plans—eventually leading to an alleged prophetic calling and the foundation of his own church organization.
Trouble on the Temple Lot
Although the Temple Lot church had enthusiastically accepted the first eleven of Fetting's messages, this would not hold true for the twelfth. In verse four of this missive, John the Baptist states that all individuals coming into the Church of Christ must be rebaptized, as "the Lord has rejected all creeds and factions of men". While this reflects the practice of the majority of Latter Day Saint denominations (including the Temple Lot church itself, today), it did not reflect the policy of the Temple Lot church at the time, which accepted members during this period from the Reorganized church, certain other Latter Day Saint organizations, and Joseph Smith's pre-1844 church on their original baptisms. This message equally declared Fetting to have been given the same "keys to the priesthood" that were given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on May 15, 1829.
Controversy over the meaning and application of Fetting's twelfth message became so great that Fetting himself was "silenced" in October 1929 by the Temple Lot organization. Choosing to withdraw rather than continue under such a restriction, Fetting led approximately half of the Church of Christ members (including some of its apostles) to found an organization of his own, which became known as the Church of Christ (Fettingite). Since the main Temple Lot organization retained possession of the Temple Lot and its meetinghouse, Fetting's organization met in members' homes for a considerable period prior to building their own worship facilities.
Draves reported that upon confronting Apostle Barton with his own questions about Fetting and his twelfth message, he was told not to look into it or he would be "put out of the church". Draves chose to proceed with his inquiry, which led to his baptism into Fetting's organization in 1931. Later, he was ordained an elder in Fetting's church. Otto Fetting would receive a total of thirty "messages" prior to his death in January 1933.
Founding a church
Four years after Fetting's death, in October 1937, Draves claimed that the "messenger" had appeared to him with further instruction for the Fettingite church. While many of Fetting's adherents accepted Draves and his missives, some did not, causing a split within the Fettingite organization. Draves and his followers formed the Church of Christ with the Elijah Message, currently (as of 2009) headquartered in Independence, Missouri. This church operates missions in England, Germany, Belgium, Holland, India, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Draves continued to allegedly receive visits and messages from John the Baptist up to his death in 1994.
Draves' messages (ninety in all), together with the earlier ones from Otto Fetting, were published in a book entitled The Word of the Lord Brought to Mankind by an Angel. This book is still used by his organization today.
In 1940, William Draves authored the following testimonial, which contains interesting details about the alleged "Messenger's" appearance:
- "TO WHO IT MAY CONCERN:
- "In all sincereness I make this solemn declaration before my Lord this day. He being my witness also my judge. I expect to stand before the great and pleasing bar of God to answer for what I may say herein.
- "The manifestations, experiences and words of the visits of the Messenger are true. I have seen him from time to time. I have heard his voice. I have seen his face. I have seen the light that accompanies him which precedes his appearance and remains after he leaves, sometimes for an hour or more. I have felt his touch on my shoulder, and in holding my hand. I have been enwrapped in that wonderful Heavenly and Divine Power of God.
- "I want to make this statement that everyone may know that this is true. I do not fear the hereafter, and cannot, nor will not deny the things that I have seen and heard from this Heavenly source, the Messenger, as long as I have my right mind and God gives me life and His grace to endure here on Earth.
- "I may have been misunderstood by those who should be my fellows and I may have failed in some things in the past, still others may make statements about me, but I want this to be understood that this statement is true. I shall abide by the advice and instruction given by the Messenger regardless of what man or men may say.
- "The messenger wears a white robe, his hair is a tiny bit gold next to his skin and blended to whiteness like pure wool, white as snow. His eyes are like a flame and his feet like the brightness of fine brass, as if they were ablaze. His voice has the sound of one having authority. His countenance is as the brightness of the sun with its greatness in light, even brighter than light that shineth down on the earth. He is enveloped in light and immediately around him is very bright.
- "I wish all could see or feel the sweet powerful influence that comes with this Heavenly one and surely all doubt would flee from the minds of natural man.
- "Peace to all and may the Lord's Will be done. These are my words to you this day and may the spirit of God bear witness
- "Signed W. A. Draves
- "Independence, Missouri, June 17, 1940"
- A Brief History of W.A. Draves' Life. Draves' autobiographical sketch, focusing mostly upon his early years prior to receiving his first "message". Includes photo of Draves.
- Church of Christ With the Elijah Message. Website of Draves' church. Contains internal link to all of his "messages", together with those of Otto Fetting.
- Testimonies of Otto Fetting and William A. Draves. Contains photos of both men.
- William "Oley" Draves at Findagrave.com