Davidian Seventh-day Adventist

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Victor T. Houteff

Davidian Seventh-day Adventist is a layman's reform movement that arose from within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The late Victor T. Houteff, a Bulgarian immigrant who became a convert to the Seventh-day Adventist faith in 1919, founded the movement in the 1930s. Davidians are best identified and most widely known as The Shepherd's Rod (or The Rod), a reference to Houteff's first publication, "The Shepherd's Rod"; however, the organization itself considers it incorrect to refer to the adherents of the movement by this title.[1]


In 1930, Victor Houteff compiled his message in a manuscript entitled The Shepherd's Rod[2] and personally handed thirty-three copies to church leaders at the General Conference held in San Francisco, California, from May 29 to June 12.[3] While not contradicting the church’s fundamental doctrines, his message called for a worldwide denominational reform and allegedly brought “new thought” to Seventh-day Adventists eschatology. In 1930, Houteff published his first volume, also entitled The Shepherd’s Rod. He published a second volume in 1932.[4] Finding no other recourse after the Seventh-day Adventist Church refuted Houteff's claims and demands for reformation, Rod believers organized the Universal Publishing Association (UPA) in Los Angeles, California. The purpose of the UPA was the publishing of the Rod’s particular message, which Rod adherents believe is the Lord's fulfillment of Micah 6:9 and 7:14 [5].

In the August 15, 1934 issue of his monthly publication, The Symbolic Code, Houteff wrote,

Being deprived of all denominational advantages such as sanitariums, health food factories, printing presses, etc., perhaps it may be necessary for a rural location for the establishment of a combined unit to assist in carrying the message to the church until the "siege against it" shall be successfully culminated in a glorious victory when "the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." (Isa. 9:7.) This has been suggested by a sister and her husband who have had considerable experience in this line. Therefore we call the attention of all who are standing in the light to give consideration to such an enterprise. Any one having knowledge of such a location and the necessary information regarding it, please communicate it to this office. Our prayers for such an undertaking in behalf of God's people will be answered by whatever the results to this call might be.[6]

In 1935, Houteff established the original Davidian headquarters, known as the Mount Carmel Center, a training center located in Waco, Texas.[7] Up to 125 persons resided at the Center.[8] By the mid-1950s, its regular subscribers, students, and devotees may have numbered close to 100,000 worldwide.[8]

In 1937, the organization took a more definite form through a few steps: by purchasing an additional 186 acres, naming nine persons to form an Executive Council, listing field secretaries and other officers and composing a constitution and by-laws under the name “The General Association of Shepherd’s Rod Seventh-day Adventists.[9] In 1942, the name was officially changed to “Davidian Seventh-day Adventists”[10] and three organizational tracts were issued in early 1943 identifying additional components of the existing organization. The organization became known as The General Association of Davidian Seventh-day Adventists. It was also called The Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association in one of its organizational tracts.

Houteff's teachings include a message intended directly to the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Viewing the Adventist Church as backsliding from the beliefs upon which it had been founded a hundred years before, Houteff saw his message as a method of solving the many doctrinal disagreements which had arisen as the Church expanded in the 1900s after the death of Ellen G. White.[11]

Through Houteff's evangelistic endeavors, several thousand Adventists accepted the doctrine of The Shepherd's Rod. It is believed that Benjamin Roden, founder of the Branch Davidians, not to be confused with Davidian Seventh-day Adventists, accepted these teachings in 1946,[12] and together with his wife, Lois, tried to share the message with others within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[8]. Later Roden broke away from Houteff's teachings and started his own organization, of which has numerous divergent teachings apart and separate from DSDA doctrines. Such as the Holy Spirit is a female being, the Feast days must be kept.

Name and affiliation[edit]

Believers to the writings of Victor Houteff have often been referred to as The Shepherd's Rods; however, the correct term is "Davidian Seventh-day Adventists".[13] This name is derived from the title of a two-volume series authored by Houteff, the first volume of which was released in 1930.

The Shepherd's Rod, Volume 1 and 2. The first publications of the Davidian movement, published in 1930 and 1932 respectively.

In both volumes of his original work, Houteff made references to the biblical book of Micah:

"The Lord's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it," Micah 6:9 and

"Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old'." Micah 7:14.

"The name, Davidian, deriving from the name of the king of Ancient Israel, accrues to this Association by reason of its following aspects: First, it is dedicated to the work of announcing and bringing forth the restoration (as predicted in Hosea 1:11; 3:5) of David's kingdom in antitype, upon the throne of which Christ, "the son of David," is to sit. Second, it purports itself to be the first of the first fruits of the living, the vanguard from among the present-day descendants of those Jews who composed the Early Christian Church. With the emergence of this vanguard and its army, the first fruits, from which are elected the 12,000 out of each of the twelve tribes of Jacob, "the 144,000" (Rev. 14:1; 7:2–8) who stand on Mount Zion with the Lamb (Rev. 14:1; 7:2–8), the reign of antitypical David begins."[14]

Davidian Seventh-day Adventists use the Bible, especially all prophetic writings of the old and new testament pointing to the fulfillment of many prophecies neglected by the majority of the Christian church as provisional, conditional and or having lost sight of. Davidians also use the writings of Ellen G. White similarly to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The basis of the 144,000 is from the Davidians interpretation of White's writings in which she states that the "Israel of today" is the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[15]


The Davidian Seventh-day Adventist organization’s mission is to announce and prepare the way for the restoration of kingdom of peace predicted in the Bible. This is understood to be a kingdom of David in anti-type, and is the concept from which the term “Davidian” is derived.[16] This Davidic kingdom is to bring about “peace on earth and good will toward men.” The mission states that it will accomplish this by first calling for reformation in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and then spreading the “Three Angels’ Messages” of Revelation 14 throughout the world. It is believed that this will prepare a people for Christ’s Second Coming and usher in the end of all sorrow and suffering.

Main doctrine[edit]

Davidian Seventh-day Adventists have the same fundamental beliefs as their Adventist counterparts. The divergence of views begins with the interpretation of additional subjects of prophecy. Due to differing interpretations of certain prophetic subjects, Davidians add fifteen fundamental beliefs to those that are held in common with the mainstream Seventh-day Adventist Church.[17]

The Davidians' message largely focuses on the interpretation of symbolic prophecy. Because of this, it has been criticized as leading its believers to being legalistic and neglecting what is considered "more important” matters, such as love and devotion to God. Houteff addressed these criticisms both directly and indirectly in his publications.[18][19]

The major themes of The Rod message published by Victor Houteff are listed below with brief explanations:

1. A Call for Reformation It is believed that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has become lax in its standards, practices and devotion to God. It is also believed that the Seventh-day Adventist Church's institutions have changed from the original founder’s pattern of operation and purpose.[20] Reformation on an individual and corporate level is needed to correct these areas. In recent years, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has agreed that reformation is needed, though it sharply differs with Davidians as to how it should be brought about.[citation needed]

2. The 144,000: Revelation Chapter 7 The fundamental purpose of the Shepherd’s Rod message is to identify the corporate identity of the 144,000 of Revelation 7. This topic has been a much-discussed subject in Adventism for many years. Houteff believed that he received revelations that unlocked the mystery. First, he asserted that Davidians were the same company as the “marked ones” found in Ezekiel 9 (see the next section).[11] Next, Houteff described Davidians as Christian Jews that had lost their racial identity over the centuries.[21] Finally, he described Davidians as those who would preach to all nations and gather an innumerable company of people who would accept Davidians' teachings.[22] Regarding this final point, Houteff stated that the Seventh-day Adventist Church had taught nearly identical views just three years prior to the publication of his first book, The Shepard's Rod,[23] and Houteff felt that it should not have been a point of contention.

3. Ezekiel 9 Though it is largely attributed to his views, Houteff was not the first writer connected with Adventism to fuse Ezekiel 9 with Revelation 7. Seventh-day Adventist pioneer James White was the first to make the link in the Seventh-day Adventist Church's first publication.[24] His wife, church prophetess Ellen G. White, made the connection later in more detail.[25][26] Houteff relied heavily on the link from James White, but is unique in describing the event in detail as the beginning of the “investigative judgment for the living” (see the next section).[27] Houteff is also unique in describing it as the final purification of the church and placing its fulfillment just prior to the gathering of the innumerable company.[citation needed]

Houteff maintained that the “slaying” mentioned in the text was a literal, future event performed by angels. A statement published by the Ellen G. White Estate twenty-five years after Houteff's death appears to substantiate this assertion.[28] He is also sometimes credited with teaching that Davidians will perform the slaying depicted; however, Houteff's writings do not reflect such teachings and contain a direct denial of this claim, dismissing such notion as “absurd.”[29][30]

4. The Investigative Judgment for the Living The concept of the “investigative judgment” is almost exclusive to Seventh-day Adventists. The coming of Christ is believed to be imminent. Just prior to the Second Coming of Christ, a judgment is to take place in heaven that constitutes a review of the records to see who will be saved and lost (see Dan. 7:9, 10). In common with Seventh-day Adventists, Davidians believe that this judgment began in 1844 with the dead. Houteff explained that the judgment for the living was not only an investigation of the records in heaven, but also an investigation of the people on earth; first in the church, then in the world. He never set a date for when this would occur,[31] but he did assert that it would begin in the Adventist church and was depicted in Ezekiel 9 and Matthew 13:30.[32] According to Houteff, the 144,000 would be those who survived the judgment in the church.[8]

5. The Pre-Millennial Kingdom This concept represents Davidians' widest departure from Seventh-day Adventist theology. The Middle East has a significant role in the Davidians' understanding of end-time events. In modern Seventh-day Adventist eschatology, it has little to none. Davidians believe that a kingdom will be set up in Palestine just prior to Christ’s return based primarily upon numerous Old Testament prophecies (such as Hosea 3: 4, 5; Mic. 4, Eze. 36, 37; Jer. 30, 31; Isa. 11). It is believed that it will be a kingdom of peace where none, human or animal, will harm another.[33] Houteff claimed that every prophet in the Old Testament scriptures predicted this kingdom,[33] and went on to explain how the current State of Israel did not fulfill those prophecies.[33] Mainstream Seventh-day Adventists view these prophecies as conditional based on ancient Israel’s obedience; some may never be fulfilled and some may be fulfilled in principle but not necessarily in every detail.[34]

In addition to symbolic prophecy, the Shepherd’s Rod message contains counsel regarding healthful living,[35] a successful marriage and family life,[36][37] education,[38] prayer,[39] and other practical topics.

Organizational structure[edit]

The governing document for Davidian Seventh-day Adventists is entitled The Leviticus of the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists. It is referred to as one of “three organizational tracts... of 102 pages”[40] and the “literature of reformation.”.[41] This tract contains the constitution and by-laws as well as the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association’s purpose and pattern. While it claims to constitute the literature of “reformation,” it acknowledges that its constitution and by-laws will not be fully operational until the proposed “kingdom of peace” is established.[42]

Cover page for the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Constitution and By-laws

The Executive Council constitutes the governing body. Ideally, it consists of seven members: four officers and three non-officers. The Executive Council has full administrative and executive authority between sessions of the Association. When the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association is in Session, the Executive Council yields its authority to the Session. The regular officers of the council are: President, Vice-President, Treasurer and Secretary. The scriptural examples referred to in the constitution outline that the President is chosen directly by God through a direct, face-to-face encounter. This process is without any other human involvement.[43] The President has the dual role as prophet and chief administrator of the Association.

The scriptural examples connected with all of the other officers outline three methods of appointment: direct appointment by the President, indirect appointment by the President and direct appointment by the body of believers.[44] In the absence of someone to fill the position of President, some Davidian groups have a Vice-President as their chief administrator. The vice-president assumes the administrative role and the prophetic role (by other Davidic Group. This position is taken based on the understanding that no additional inspired interpreters (prophets) are due to the church until after the establishment of the kingdom.[45]

Davidian ministers may be either licensed or ordained. Ordained ministers are qualified to officially teach and represent the Davidian movement as well as perform ceremonies such as baptisms, funerals and weddings. Licensed ministers may teach and represent the movement, but may not perform scriptural ceremonies unless specially authorized by the Executive Council. Since there is no desire to establish separate houses of worship, the ministers do not function in the traditional sense but have the capacity to do so if and when the need arises. The ceremonies are usually performed for believers to the Davidian message when mainstream Seventh-day Adventist ministers refuse to do so.[46]

Field Secretaries are credentialed ministers or Bible workers who are responsible for a particular geographic area within a designated territory.[citation needed] They may make contact with interested parties, answer inquiries and direct individuals to workers within their territory.[citation needed]

Bible workers are individuals who have demonstrated competency with teaching the Davidian message.[citation needed] They may engage in this activity on a full-time or part-time basis. Under most circumstances, those who became credentialed Bible workers and ministers graduated from the training school: the Davidic-Levitical Institute (D.L.I.).[47] These training schools are held at various times in various locations domestically and internationally.

Members generally fall into two classifications: accredited and non-accredited.[48] The accredited member is one who has applied for and been granted a Certificate of Fellowship.[8] A non-accredited member is someone who has not been granted a Certificate of Fellowship but supports the movement through various means and believes in its publications.[8]


1929 Sabbath School lesson controversy[edit]

Davidian Seventh-day Adventists trace their roots to Victor Tasho Houteff, a Sabbath School teacher and assistant Sabbath School superintendent in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Initially, Houteff had no intention of establishing a new movement and was actually opposed to the idea.[49] During the first quarter of 1929 Sabbath School lessons, Houteff came into conflict with church authorities over differing interpretations of the book of Isaiah, chapters 54–66. He believed that the church was becoming lax in its standards and needed to reform.[50] Houteff shared these concepts through the vehicle of the Sabbath School lesson as well as in afternoon study classes at the church that some members asked him to conduct. After complaints from other members, local leadership determined that his interpretations were not compatible with Adventist theology and he was asked to discontinue his classes at the church.

Victor T. Houteff disfellowshipped[edit]

Shortly thereafter, Houteff had an informal, unofficial meeting with some local and regional administrators to share his views. Initially, the leaders dismissed his views as “fanciful” and did not take him seriously.[51] Approximately one year later, he prepared a 172-page manuscript entitled “The Shepherd’s Rod, Volume One.” In this book, Houteff listed twelve specific areas that he felt the church needed to address under the heading “Partial List of Abominations".[52] According to Houteff, the book’s chief purpose was “a call for reformation.”[53] It also included information attempting to define the identity of the 144,000 of the book of Revelation, as well as his disputed interpretations of Isaiah 54–66. Thirty-three hectographed copies were distributed to leading officials at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Session in June 1930. According to Houteff, each recipient promised to investigate the book thoroughly and respond to him either in person or by letter.[52] Houteff also desired an official hearing. In the subsequent six years only two recipients responded. It is unclear as to whether there were additional responses prior to Houteff's death in 1955. The official church explanation was that the recipients were preoccupied with the tasks of the Session and did not have sufficient time to review the manuscript.[51]

One of the recipients, F.C. Gilbert, a field secretary for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, responded approximately two weeks after receiving the manuscript. After an incomplete investigation, he composed a letter stating his findings.[54] To Houteff's disappointment, he did not address his twelve points or views on the “144,000.” He challenged Houteff's application of certain symbols, questioned his method of analysis and rejected his manuscript as unsound. Gilbert also sent church leaders in the Los Angeles area copies of his findings.[51] Church leaders were satisfied that Houteff's interpretations had been refuted. Houteff, however, remained sure of his teachings. He completed his book by adding 83 pages and had it printed in November 1930. Two weeks prior to the publication of his book, Houteff was disfellowshipped “for the protection of the church".[55] Houteff was completely unmoved by this action. Five thousand copies of his book were published in December and distributed to various ministers, workers and laymen.

F.C.Gilbert, former field secretary general for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

The controversy spreads[edit]

Despite being disfellowshipped, Houteff remained opposed to establishing a new movement. His instructions were “in case some one’s name is taken off the church books for carrying on the message, do not be discouraged in any way but press onward as though nothing happened. Pay your honest tithe and offering to your church and feel like IT IS your Father’s house.[56] Collections of study groups began to form in various Adventist churches across the country for the purpose of reviewing Houteff's new doctrines. Those who accepted his conclusions and promoted his material were also disfellowshipped.[57] Up to that point, no official investigation of Houteff's teachings had been made or official statement issued.

Demand for Houteff's materials increased. In response, he published The Shepherd’s Rod, Volume 2, a 304-page book in 1932. Two additional booklets followed in 1933 comprising the beginning of a series of tracts that would be later referred to as Volume Three.[58] Allegations began to surface that believers of Houteff's teachings were being physically removed from worship services simply due to their attendance at meetings where Houteff's materials were being studied.[59] Reports also spread that Houteff himself was brutally assaulted upon attempting to enter a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.[60][61] There was still no official investigation of Houteff's teachings made, no official statement issued and no record of an investigation of the alleged incidents. In spite of this, Houteff continued to be opposed to starting a new movement.[citation needed]

In December of the same year, Carolina Conference President E.T. Wilson publicly embraced Houteff's views and began promoting them.[62] Wilson was also the Religious Liberty Director and held the position of Conference President in a sister conference for several years prior to relocating to the Carolinas.

1934 hearing[edit]

On January 18, 1934, one month after Wilson’s public confession, a formal hearing was finally granted when the Tabernacle Seventh-day Adventist Church of Fullerton, California sent a request to regional administrators requesting an official hearing to examine Houteff's teachings. The agreement stipulated that twelve ministers were to assemble as a panel to hear Houteff's views. Houteff was to present five studies to the panel in one week. After each study, the panel was to review his study, determine its veracity and reconvene the meeting. If error was found in the study, the meeting was to be discontinued. The same terms were to apply to each succeeding study.[55]

The hearing took place on Monday, February 19, 1934, in Los Angeles, California. According to Houteff, he only learned of the details of the hearing on the previous Thursday.[63] Twelve experienced ministers were chosen to hear Houteff's views and decide if those views were consistent with the Church’s understanding of prophecy. The twelve ministers were: A. G. Daniells, Field Secretary; Glenn A. Calkins, President of the Pacific Union Conference; G. A. Roberts, President of the Southern California Conference; C. S. Prout, President of the Southeastern California-Arizona Conference; W. G. Wirth, Bible Teacher at the College of Medical Evangelists; H. M. S. Richards, Evangelist; C. M. Sorenson, Bible Teacher at Southern California Junior College; J. A. Burden, Manager of Paradise Valley Sanitarium; J. C. Stevens, Pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Glendale, California; W. M. Adams, Religious Liberty Secretary of the Pacific Union Conference; J. E. Fulton, President of the Northern California Conference; and F. C. Gilbert, Field Secretary of the General Conference. Unknown to Houteff, the highest ecclesiastical body of the church met that same day in Washington, D.C., declared his teaching to be heresy and appointed a committee to prepare a document refuting his arguments for general circulation.[63]

H.M.S. Richards Sr., Seventh-day Adventist evangelist and author

In Los Angeles, the meeting began with prayer and a verbatim reading of the agreement that brought the panel together. It was expressed by the Chairman, A.G. Daniells, that the meeting would be conducted “in strict harmony with the terms of the agreement set forth in the written request.[63] Houteff presented his first study on the topic of “The Harvest.” Despite the Chairman’s statement and the terms of the agreement, the Panel requested that Houteff continue with the remainder of his studies after the conclusion of his first study, so the Panel could get the "full picture".[63] When Houteff declined in harmony with the terms of the agreement previously read by the Secretary of the Panel, W.G. Wirth, the meeting was abruptly adjourned.[63] The Committee presented its findings in writing four weeks later on March 18, 1934,[51] unanimously declaring that his teachings were false. The investigation was considered controversial and Houteff composed a document explaining the facts from his perspective.[64] After feeling that he was unjustly dealt with at his hearing, Houteff started to form an association for the purpose of promoting the looked-for revival and reformation among Seventh-day Adventists. Despite feeling forced to take this step,[59] Houteff continued to advocate that adherents continue to maintain membership within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

A.G. Daniells, former Seventh-day Adventist leader and General Conference president

The events of the first few years of the Davidian movement provide, to a degree, some insight into the reasons that the controversy continues in the Seventh-day Adventist Church today. Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders felt that Houteff was incorrigible and headstrong, listening to no voice but his own and persisted in teaching his ideas until the Church was forced to disfellowship him. Davidians respond that Houteff's teachings were not officially declared heresy at the time he was disfellowshipped or for several years thereafter, and there were no other grounds upon which to do so. Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders also contend that the panel of twelve ministers heard Houteff's views even after he was disfellowshipped and found the views to be unsound. Davidians assert that Houteff's hearing was unfair because it reportedly violated the Fullerton Agreement and his teachings had already been judged. Davidians point out that, in their view, the leadership was underhanded by having the meeting in Washington, D.C. behind Houteff's back before the Committee’s decision was made.[65] There is also contention about whether Houteff voluntarily forfeited his membership or not. However, official Seventh-day Adventist Church history states that he was disfellowshipped and did not voluntarily forfeit his membership in several places.[51][66]

Official organization and establishment of Mount Carmel Center[edit]

On March 12, 1934, the Davidian movement was officially organized. Houteff argued that this was done because the Fullerton Agreement stipulated that the Seventh-day Adventist Conference Committee should have responded to his first study in approximately 24 hours and several weeks had passed with no communication from the Committee after abruptly adjourning the meeting.[54] The Seventh-day Adventist Church responded that he was informed at the close of the first study that the Committee would need time to study and compare notes.[67]

On July 15, 1934, the organization’s first newsletter, `The Symbolic Code`, was published. Davidian leaders began to desire a larger, more centrally located place to establish headquarters. In April 1935, 189 acres were purchased just outside Waco, Texas and the headquarters' office was relocated to that property in September 1934. Envisioning the work that they desired to be accomplished from there, the new home for their work was named “Mount Carmel Center” after the Biblical place where Elijah called the Israelites back to worshiping God.[68]

In 1937, the organization took a more definite form by purchasing an additional 186 acres, naming nine persons to form an Executive Council, listing field secretaries and other officers and composing a constitution and by-laws under the name “The General Association of Shepherd’s Rod Seventh-day Adventists.[9] In 1942, the name was officially changed to “Davidian Seventh-day Adventists[10] and three organizational tracts were issued in early 1943 identifying additional components of the existing organization. The organization became known as “The General Association of Davidian Seventh-day Adventists.” It was also called “The Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association” in one of its organizational tracts.

One of Houteff’s primary complaints was that the church’s institutions were compromising their message and mission by seeking approval and accreditation of the applicable medical and educational boards.[69][70][71] Ironically, some of Houteff’s critics issued similar complaints.[72][73] The Davidian organization countered these moves by establishing institutions of its own, claiming to strictly follow the guidelines of the original church founders.[74] Over the next twenty years a children’s school, sanitarium, rest home, vocational and home economics school, and other improvements were established on the property.[75][76] There was also an extensive farming operation with an orchard of approximately 900 trees, dairy cows and a large vegetable garden.[77] The flagship structure was the multi-level administration building, which housed the main office, additional staff offices, chapel, printing equipment and Houteff’s sleeping quarters. This building is currently in the possession of Vanguard College Preparatory School.

This was the largest building within the Davidian grounds, known as the administration building, in Waco, Texas. Circa early 1950s.

The height of Davidian strength and activity occurred in the early 1950s. Believing that the predicted events in Houteff’s writings may have been on the verge of fulfillment and seizing on apparent momentum from a failed prediction that the church made regarding the return of the Jews to Palestine,[78] the movement launched a “hunting campaign” in 1953. This was a door-to-door effort to reach Adventists with the Davidian publications. To help accomplish this, the Association began to sell Mount Carmel Center property [79] and purchased half a dozen new automobiles.[80] An additional factor fueling the sale of Mount Carmel’s property was its encroachment onto Waco’s city limits.[81] The anticipation was that the encroachment of the city limits upon the property would coalesce with the completion of the door-to-door effort. It was believed that this would have led to witnessing the fulfillment of Houteff’s predictions and going to “the Kingdom.”[79]

Rise of Florence Houteff[edit]

Florence Houteff

Houteff unexpectedly died in the midst of this campaign, on February 5, 1955. This left a vacancy of the President's position. A power struggle ensued. E.T. Wilson had been Vice-President of the Association since its inception and was appointed to that position by Houteff personally.[9] Wilson became chief administrator by default, but he did not receive a chance to officiate in that capacity. Houteff’s widow, Florence, convened an Executive Council meeting the day after her husband's death. Wilson was not present because of illness. In his absence, Mrs. Houteff successfully convinced the Executive Council to appoint her from Secretary to Vice-President and remove Wilson from the post. The strength of her argument rested upon the assertion that these actions “were in harmony with recommendations made by Brother Houteff prior to his death”. This request seemed so unusual that, in a meeting the next day, an Executive Council member challenged her to provide evidence for her claim.[82] Despite acknowledging that she could not provide any proof, the Executive Council yielded and continued to uphold her request. Once established as Vice-President, Mrs. Houteff announced that she had some procedural changes in mind. She increased the veto power of the Vice-President.[82]

A challenge came to her authority several months later. A follower of Houteff's teachings, Benjamin Roden, began to circulate that he had received new revelations from God and that he should be recognized as the new leader of the movement.[83] Mrs. Houteff and the Executive Council rebuffed his attempts. Roden founded The Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association several months later. The "Branch" differ from the original Davidians in several areas, such as the requirement that the Feast days must be kept and the Holy Spirit is a female being.

Failed prediction of 1959[edit]

Shortly after rebuffing Roden's quest for leadership, Mrs. Houteff published a prediction that the forty-two month period of Revelation 11:3–6 began in November 1955 and would terminate on April 22, 1959.[84] This prediction has been allegedly attributed to Victor Houteff, but no statement from his writings has ever been produced supporting this interpretation.[citation needed] Mrs. Houteff's claims, assertions, challenges and subsequent false predictions are entirely separate from and contrary to Houteff's teachings [85]. Mrs. Houteff and the Executive Council published an open challenge to the Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership shortly before the termination of the 42 months.[86] Mrs. Houteff's challenge stated that the fulfillment of her prediction would determine whether her late husband’s message was true or not. On April 9, 1959, a group of The Branch Davidians who opposed her prediction sent a protest letter to the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists clarifying their opposition to Mrs. Houteff’s predictions and their rationale for doing so. The date passed without the predicted events materializing. Confusion and embarrassment set in. The Davidian movement began to fracture. Many adherents left the organization.

Following this disappointment, Benjamin Roden formed a splinter group called the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists and succeeded in taking control of the Mount Carmel property. This name is an allusion to the anointed 'Branch' (mentioned in Zechariah 3:8; 6:12).[87][88] Not all but several former Davidians joined The Branch Davidian movement, as it had been Benjamin Roden who had initially opposed Mrs. Houteff's prediction.[83]

In 1962, a group of Davidians, not connected to Roden's Branch DSDA and who also sent a protest letter to Seventh-day Adventist Church authorities, rejecting Florence Houteff's 42 month prediction, banded together and went to California to reorganize and continue the distribution of Houteff's original literature.[89] These individuals became the forerunners of the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association of today. Mrs. Houteff announced her intention to disband the Davidian organization, with the assets to be sold off and the proceeds disbursed among her Executive Council. This arrangement was opposed by many members. She and the Executive Council members that remained loyal to her resigned on March 1, 1962, took five thousand dollars in cash with them, and left the remaining assets in the hands of a lawyer for distribution.[90] Most of the Mount Carmel Center property ended up in the hands of the EE Ranch, but the Branch Davidians retained a core 77 acres (310,000 m2) around the administrative building.


Victor Houteff continued to publish additional volumes of his prophetic writings until his death in 1955. These publications contain, but are not limited to, no fewer than 15 numbered tracts, five volumes of "The Answerer" (questions submitted to his office from believers and non-believers of his message), two volumes of "Timely Greetings", (Volume 1 containing 52 books and Volume 2 containing 46 books), a series of usually monthly publications entitled "The Symbolic Code" containing many of Houteff's Sabbath sermons given after believers in both "the Spirit of Prophecy" (Ellen G. White) and Davidian messages were disfellowshipped and chose to have private worship rather than begin a new church denomination. All included were questions and answers, recipes for healthful living, spiritual encouragement and admonition, letters from the field of their work in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and many other practical Christian-living topics. He also published miscellaneous publications and public letters to the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (nine "Jezreel Letters"). All of these publications were distributed and mailed free of charge to many thousands of recipients throughout the world. (See "1950 General Conference Special" p. 34–35, p. 44.)

Davidians today[edit]

Davidian Seventh-day Adventists continue to exist in various locations across the world. While their theology has been far from accepted or considered mainstream, Davidian contributions have received historical and artistic recognition in some circles. For example, the administration building, the flagship building of the Old Mount Carmel Center complex, has recently been remodeled through a grant from the Scott Poage Foundation, and renamed Bostic Hall. It is currently owned by the Vanguard College Preparatory School in Waco, Texas and houses state-of-the-art science labs, a student activity center, and The Scott Poage Foundation Reference Center.[91][92] School officials expect it to receive recognition as a Texas Historical Site at some time in the future. Also, eight of Victor Houteff’s prophetic charts were featured in an art exhibit entitled, “At the Eleventh Hour”, in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 2009.[93]

Adventist / Davidian relations[edit]

In 1934–1936 the Seventh-day Adventist Church declared the Shepherd's Rod message to be heresy. Today, it continues to identify the Davidian movement as a “disloyal, divisive movement.”[94] Any member choosing to identify with either the Davidian message or its originator subjects himself/herself to Church discipline, up to and including being disfellowshipped, which is primarily accomplished through the local church board.

While the Seventh-day Adventist Church has a uniform policy regarding views of the Davidian message and movement, there is not a church-wide policy regarding church attendance. Consequently, local and regional perceptions of Davidians are varied. In some localities, Davidians experience tepid tolerance to mild acceptance. Attitudes toward them range from being a mild annoyance to a serious threat to the stability and mission of the church. This has led to some far-reaching policies and recommendations regarding how to deal with them. At the very least, church members are instructed not to study with Davidians.[95] According to Dr. William Pitts, Professor of Religion at Baylor University and noted Davidian expert, “Adventists have told me of their counselors who collected Davidian tracts from campers as soon as they were distributed and deposited them in trash cans.”[80] Some Adventist leaders have published that Davidians were so apostate that they should be denied participation in communion services held by the church even though the church traditionally allows non-members to participate. [96] Published testimonies by adherents at the time suggest that those instructions were carried out.[97]

Davidian representatives were implicated by certain Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders in setting a fire that resulted in four deaths in San Francisco, California, at the time of the General Conference Session in 1936.[98] The Davidians suspected were detained, questioned and were cleared and released within thirty minutes.[98] The lapse of time since 1929 has not softened the sharp rhetoric of some Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership. In a memo to its area pastors, the Georgia-Cumberland Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church referred to adherents of the Davidian message as “hardcore aggressors against the church” and compared them to “cancer cells.” [99] The memo also includes a form letter that is to be given to any individual identified with the Davidian movement requesting that they cease and desist from coming onto church property immediately. It further states that if the individual decides to recant The Rod message, he/she will not receive help from the local congregation, but must communicate with local conference officials. There is evidence that this policy has been implemented. In countering and dispelling these allegations, Davidians generally point to historical incidents in which their adherents were treated with unprovoked physical and psychological abuse, from the Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership or church personnel.[97][100] As a result, Davidians advocate that The Rod message strictly teaches to be non-disruptive and peaceful.[101]

Davidians have existed parallel to Branch Davidians since 1955. While they are not as cohesive as in earlier years, Davidians continue to exist today in various locations domestically and internationally. There are various publishing houses throughout the country that publish the original writings of Victor Houteff. The support of these sites appears to be growing. With the onset of the internet, these publishing houses and individuals who adhere to the Davidian message have been able to make the Shepherd’s Rod message available to interested parties, fueling their reported growth, both nationally and internationally. The exact numbers of Davidian Seventh-day Adventist adherents is not known; however, they can trace their origin to the 1961 group who reorganized in California subsequent to the death of Victor Houteff.

Succession movements[edit]

  • Advanced Truth Laymen's Movement – Florida
  • General Association of Davidian Seventh-day Adventists, Waco, Texas
  • Mt. Carmel Center, Salem SC (Adair)
  • General Association of Davidian Seventh-day Adventists, Mountaindale, NY
  • Bashan Hill, Exeter Missouri (Bingham)


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  30. ^ "(page 1)". 
  31. ^ "(page 94-95)". 
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  37. ^ "(page 81-94)". 
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  83. ^ a b "Seven Letters to Florence Houteff". the-branch.org. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
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  95. ^ (Citation needed)
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  101. ^ (vol.1,Feb.5,1935,page 8)

External links[edit]