What is the Shepherd’s Rod?
It is the name of a message that came to the SDA church in the year 1929 with a reformatory message of the judgment of the living to prepare the church for His soon coming kingdom.
Davidian Seventh-day Adventist is the official title given to the adherents of 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 by the name of its first publication, The Shepherd’s Rod; however, the organization itself considers it incorrect to refer to the adherents of the movement by this title.
Is there a difference between the Shepherd's Rod and the Branch Davidians?
Although often confused with Branch Davidians (known for the standoff and fire of 1993 near Waco, Texas) the two groups are separate and distinct. Branch Davidian began by the late Benjamin Roden after the death of Davidian founder Victor T. Houteff in 1955. After Roden's death, the Branch Davidian Association was continued by Lois I. Roden.
All beliefs and associations marked by these two individuals to the name Davidia qualify the connection as Branch and not original Davidian, as it is not directly associated with the originator, Victor T. Houteff. Tenets not held in common with original Davidians include the femininity of the Holy Spirit, The Branch as God's new name, and the keeping of Feast days. After the passing of Lois Roden, Vernon Howell (who later changed his name to David Koresh) assumed control of the Branch organization and held additional beliefs that were not maintained by original Davidians. Original Davidians adhere to the original message as it was presented under Victor Houteff. Houteff himself wrote, Do not weave into 'The Shepherd's Rod' message your own interpretations of the Bible and of Sr. White's writings, nor any of your constructions on anything that is written therein before first submitting your points to this office.
Name and affiliation
Adherents to the writings of V. T. Houteff have often been referred to as Shepherd's Rods, however, the correct term is Davidian Seventh Day Adventists.This name is derived from the title of a two-volume series authored by Victor Houteff, the first volume of which was released in 1929. The Shepherd's Rod, Volume 1 and 2.
The first publications of the Davidian movement were 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. 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. DSDA uses the writings of Ellen G. White. The basis of the 144,000 coming from the SDA church is from Ellen White. Here she says that the Israel of today is the SDA church.
The Davidian Seventh-day Adventist organization’s mission is to announce and prepare the way for the restoration of the kingdom of peace predicted in the Bible. This is understood to be David’s kingdom in antitype and is the concept from which the term “Davidian” is derived. This Davidic kingdom is to bring about “peace on earth and goodwill 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 at the end of all sorrow and suffering.
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. Differing interpretations of certain prophetic subjects add fifteen fundamental beliefs to those that are held in common with mainstream Adventists.
The Davidian Seventh-day Adventist message largely focuses on the interpretation of symbolic prophecy. Because of this, it has been criticized as leading its adherents to be legalistic and neglecting “more important” matters such as love and devotion to God. Houteff addressed these criticisms both directly and indirectly in his publications. The major themes of the Rod message published by Houteff are listed below with brief explanations:
A Call for Reformation It is believed that the Adventist church had become lax in its standards, practices, and devotion to God. It is also believed that the church’s institutions have changed from the original founder’s pattern of operation and purpose. Reformation on an individual and corporate level is needed to correct these areas. In recent years the Adventist church has agreed that reformation is needed, though it sharply differs from Davidians as to how it should be brought about.
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 they were the same company as the “marked ones” found in Ezekiel 9 (see the next section). Next, he described them as Christian Jews that had lost their racial identity over the centuries. Finally, he described them as the ones who would preach to all nations and gather an innumerable company of people who would accept their teachings. Regarding this final point, he stated that the S.D.A. church had taught nearly identical views just three years prior to the publication of his first book, and he felt that it should not have been a point of contention.
Ezekiel 9 Though it is largely attributed to his views, Houteff was not the first writer connected with Seventh-day Adventism to fuse Ezekiel 9 with Revelation 7. Adventist pioneer James White was the first to make the link in their first publication. His wife, church prophetess Ellen White, made the connection later in more detail. Houteff relied heavily on the link from Ellen White but is unique in describing the event in detail as the beginning of the “investigative judgment for the living” see the next section. He 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. 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 his death appears to substantiate this assertion. He is also sometimes falsely credited with teaching that Davidians will perform the slaying depicted. His writings do not reflect such teachings and contain a direct denial of this, dismissing such notions as “absurd.” 5. 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 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, but he did assert that it would begin in the Adventist church and was depicted in Ezekiel 9 and Matthew 13:30. The 144,000 would be those who survived the judgment in the church. The Pre-Millennial Kingdom This concept represents their widest departure from Adventist theology.
The Middle East has a significant role in the Davidian understanding of end-time events. In modern 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. Houteff claimed that every prophet in the Old Testament scriptures predicted this kingdom. He explained that the current State of Israel did not fulfill those prophecies. Mainstream 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. In addition to symbolic prophecy, the Shepherd’s Rod message contains counsel regarding healthful living, a successful marriage and family life, education, prayer, and other practical topics.
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” and the “literature of reformation.” This tract contains the constitution and by-laws as well as the 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.
The Executive Council constitutes the governing body of the Association, with full administrative and executive authority between Sessions. When the Association is in Session, the Executive Council yields its authority to the Session. Ideally, it consists of seven members: four officers and three non-officers. The regular officers of the council are President, Vice-President, Secretary, and treasurer. 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. The President has the dual role of 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.
In the absence of someone to fill the position of President, some Davidian groups have a Vice-President as their chief administrator. Their vice-president assumes the administrative role only and not the prophetic role. 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.
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 adherents to the Davidian message when mainstream Adventist ministers refuse to do so.
Field Secretaries are credentialed ministers or Bible workers who are responsible for a particular geographic area within a designated territory. They may make contact with interested parties, answer inquiries, and direct individuals to workers within their territory. Bible workers are individuals who have demonstrated competency in teaching the Davidian message. 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.). These training schools are held at various times in various locations domestically and internationally.
Members generally fall into two classifications: accredited and non-accredited. The accredited member is one who has applied for and been granted a Certificate of Fellowship. 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.
1929 Sabbath School Lesson Controversy 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. During the first quarter of 1929 Sabbath School lessons, he 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. He 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.
Shortly thereafter, he had an informal, unofficial meeting with some local and regional administrators to share his views. Initially, they dismissed his views as “fanciful” and did not take him seriously. Approximately one year later, he prepared a 172-page manuscript entitled “The Shepherd’s Rod, Volume One.” In this book he listed twelve specific areas that he felt the church needed to address under the heading “Partial List of Abominations. According to him, the book’s chief purpose was “a call for reformation.” 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 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. Houteff also desired an official hearing. In the subsequent six years, only two recipients responded. It is unclear 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. 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.
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. He also sent church leaders in the Los Angeles area copies of his findings. 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, he was disfellowshipped “for the protection of the church. 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
Despite being disfellowshipped, Houteff remained opposed to establishing a new movement. His instructions were “in case someone’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. 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. Up to that point, no official investigation of Houteff’s teachings had been made or an official statement issued. Demand for Houteff’s materials increased.
In response, in 1932 he published The Shepherd’s Rod, Volume 2, a 304-page book. Two additional booklets followed in 1933 comprising the beginning of a series of tracts that would be later referred to as Volume Three. 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. Reports also spread that Houteff himself was brutally assaulted upon attempting to enter a Seventh-day Adventist church in Los Angeles, California. 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.
In December of the same year, Carolina Conference president E.T. Wilson publicly embraced Houteff’s views and began promoting them. 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.
The 1934 Hearing
On January 18, 1934, one month after Wilson’s public confession, a formal hearing was finally granted when the Tabernacle S.D.A. Church of Fullerton, California sent a request to regional administrators requesting an official hearing to examine Victor Houteff’s teachings. The agreement stipulated that twelve ministers were to assemble as a panel to hear Houteff’s views. He 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 an error was found in the study, the meeting was to be discontinued. The same terms were to apply to each succeeding study.
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. Twelve experienced ministers were chosen to hear his views and decide whether they 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 SDA church in Glendale; 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. 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.
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 continues with the remainder of his studies after the conclusion of his first study, so they could get the “full picture. 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. The committee presented their findings in writing four weeks later, on March 18.
They unanimously declared that his teachings were false. This investigation was controversial and Houteff composed a document explaining the facts from his perspective. After feeling that he was unjustly dealt with at his hearing, he 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, he continued to advocate that adherents continue to maintain membership within the SDA 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 insight into the reasons that the controversy continues in the Adventist church to a greater or lesser degree. Adventists feel 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 dis-fellowship him. Davidians respond that his 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.
Adventists also contend that the panel of twelve ministers heard his views even after he was disfellowshipped and found them to be unsound. Davidians assert that his 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. There is contention about whether Houteff voluntarily forfeited his membership or not. The official Adventist history states in several places that he was disfellowshipped and did not voluntarily forfeit his membership.
Official Organization and Establishment of Mount Carmel Center
On March 12, 1934, the Davidian movement was officially organized. Houteff argued that this was done because the Fullerton agreement stipulated that the SDA Conference committee should have responded to his first study in approximately 24 hours and several weeks had passed with no communication from them after abruptly adjourning the meeting. The church responded that they told him at the close of the first study that they would need time to study and compare notes. On July 15 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 in September the headquarters' office was relocated to that property. 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.
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.
In 1942 the name was officially changed to “Davidian Seventh-day Adventists” 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 from the applicable medical and educational boards. Ironically, some of Houteff’s critics issued similar complaints. The Davidian organization countered these moves by establishing institutions of its own, claiming to strictly follow the guidelines of the original church founders.
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. There was also an extensive farming operation with an orchard of approximately 900 trees, dairy cows, and a large vegetable garden. 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, 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 and purchased half a dozen new automobiles. An additional factor fueling the sale of Mount Carmel’s property was its encroachment onto Waco’s city limits. 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.”
The Rise of Florence Houteff
Florence Houteff Houteff unexpectedly died in the midst of this campaign, on February 5, 1955. This left a vacancy in 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. He 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. E. T. Wilson was not present because of illness. In his absence, Florence successfully convinced the Executive Council to appoint her (from Secretary to) Vice-President and remove him from the post. The strength of her argument rested upon the assertion that these actions “were in harmony with recommendations made by Bro. 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. Despite acknowledging that she could not provide any proof, the Executive Council yielded to her and continued to uphold her request. Once she was established as Vice-President, she announced that she had some procedural changes in mind. She increased the veto power of the Vice-President.
A challenge came to her authority several months later. Benjamin Roden, a follower of Houteff’s teachings, began to circulate that he had received new revelations from God and should be recognized as the new leader of the movement. Florence Houteff and the Executive Council rebuffed his attempts. He founded the Branch Davidian organization several months later.
Failed Prediction of 1959
Shortly after rebuffing Roden's quest for leadership Florence 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. This prediction has been falsely attributed to Victor Houteff but no statement from Houteff’s writings has ever been produced supporting this interpretation. Mrs. Houteff's claims, assertions, challenges, and subsequent false predictions are entirely separate from and contrary to Victor Houteff's teachings.
In 1958 M.J. Bingham, a pioneer Davidian documented his opposition to her interpretation. This document gained some acceptance. Mrs. Houteff and the Executive Council were undaunted and published an open challenge to the Adventist church leadership shortly before the termination of the 42 months. Florence'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 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. Some joined the Branch Davidian movement, as it had been Ben Roden who had initially opposed her prediction.
In 1962, the group of Davidians that sent the protest letter to Seventh-day Adventist church authorities banded together and went to California to reorganize and continue the distribution of Houteff’s original literature. They became the forerunners of the Davidians of today. Mrs. Houteff 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.
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 Victor Houteff's Sabbath sermons given after believers in both the Spirit of Prophecy (Ellen 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 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. 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.
Adventist / Davidian relations
Davidian believers can be found worshiping in a Seventh-day Adventist church on any given Sabbath when allowed to do so. 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.” Any member choosing to identify with either the Davidian message or its originator subjects himself to church discipline, up to and including being disfellowshipped. This is primarily accomplished through the local church board.
Because of the above and in addition to the reformatory nature of their message and frequent misidentification of Davidians with the Branch and David Koresh, relations with the general body of Seventh-day Adventists have been tense and remain that way presently. While there is a uniform policy regarding Adventist 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 toleration 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.
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.” 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. Published testimonies by adherents at the time suggest that those instructions were carried out.
Davidian representatives were implicated by certain Adventist leaders in setting a fire that resulted in four deaths in San Francisco, California at the time of the General Conference Session in 1936. The Davidians suspected were detained, questioned, and cleared and released within thirty minutes. The lapse of time since 1929 has not softened the sharp rhetoric of some Adventist leadership.
In a memo to its area pastors, the Georgia-Cumberland Conference referred to adherents of the Davidian message as “hardcore aggressors against the church” and compared them to “cancer cells.” 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, they 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 SDA leadership or church personnel. They advocate that the Davidian message strictly teaches to be non-disruptive and peaceful.
Davidian Seventh-day Adventists 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 for 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 number of Davidian Seventh-day Adventist adherents is not known, however, they can trace their origin to the 1961 group that reorganized in California subsequent to the death of Victor Houteff.