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The Branch Davidians/Shepherd's Rod—Who Are They?
George W. Reid

The Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas, fame were themselves a division of a small offshoot group known as the Shepherd's Rod, who left the Adventists Church in 1930. To meet a continuing need for information about this group, this brief article, reprinted with slight alteration from theAdventist Review, is provided for readers.

Beginnings of the Shepherd's Rod

      The experience of the Branch Davidians was part of the saga of a breakaway splinter group that left the Adventist Church in southern California in 1930. Then and now they represent themselves as the true Seventh-day Adventists. 
      Victor T. Houteff, then an Adventist church member, introduced personal ideas into his Sabbath school classes, ideas he taught at private meetings as well. Following earnest efforts to reason with him, the congregation finally dropped him from membership in November 1930. 
      Within two years Houteff had produced and circulated two large documents titled "The Shepherd's Rod" promoting beliefs directly contrary to Adventist understandings. These, he claimed, were the genuine message of God. Building on Houteff's assertion that he was the antitypical David, as well as on his claims to possess the prophetic gift, his group adopted the name The Shepherd's Rod. 
      In 1935 Houteff and 11 followers moved to a newly purchased farm near Waco, Texas, which they named Mount Carmel Center. By 1937 a tentative organization was functioning, calling itself "The General Association of the Shepherd's Rod Seventh-day Adventists." The group continued zealously producing and distributing its literature, infiltrating Adventist churches in search of anyone who could be persuaded to join them. 
      The U.S. Selective Service draft in 1942 confronted Shepherd's Rods with a quandary. Draftees could be granted Sabbath privileges only if they could be shown to be bona fide members of a recognized religious group advocating that belief. 
      Being unrecognized as members by Seventh-day Adventists, Shepherd's Rod draftees faced serious difficulties. Therefore the leaders dropped their claim to be regular Seventh-day Adventist members and registered with the United States government under the name Davidian Seventh-day Adventists. 
      They issued certificates of membership and documented their ministers. The transition to a separated group in 1942 was almost complete; however, they continued to insist that they comprised the true and faithful Adventists. 
      Shortly before his death in 1955, Houteff announced that following a period of 1260 literal days, Christ would initiate His kingdom. His wife, Florence, succeeding to leadership, identified the 1260 days as extending from November 9, 1955, to April 22, 1959. As the fateful day approached, a call was issued for the faithful to dispose of property and come to Mount Carmel Center. An estimated 800 persons arrived, many bringing the proceeds from the sale of possessions. 
      When the day came and went, unmarked by the expected event, disillusionment led to fracture of the Shepherd's Rods into smaller groups, the largest remaining at Waco and adding the name "Branch." Some members returned to Seventh-day Adventist churches. 
      Following an unsuccessful effort by Adventists for reconciliation, late in 1961 Mrs. Houteff renounced the Shepherd's Rod teachings as in error and shortly moved to disband the group.
      However, one of the factions gained possession of the Mount Carmel Center. Eventually the center came under the control (in 1984) of Vernon Howell, who had been disfellowedshiped in 1981 from the Tyler (Texas) Seventh-day Adventist Church. Howell later changed his name to David Koresh. Under his leadership the group radicalized its program and stockpiled heavy firearms, prompting the February 28 raid by law enforcement authorities—ending in a shootout and standoff that propelled the Branch Davidian group into the media limelight worldwide.

Shepherd's Rod Teachings 

      The question arises, What are the main teachings that distinguish Shepherd's Rods from Seventh-day Adventists? In brief, the differences center on a series of assertions having to do with last-day events. 
      Perhaps the most important is the idea that a Davidic kingdom of absolute righteousness is to be established in Palestine prior to the close of probation. This was the event foreseen for April 22, 1959. By divine intervention, Arabs, Jews, and others would be displaced to make room for this kingdom, whose citizens would be the 144,000, including Shepherd's Rods and certain others. 
      Shepherd's Rod teachings deny that messianic prophecies such as Isaiah 7:14 ("Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son. . .") and Micah 5:2 ("But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, . . .out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel") met complete fulfillment with Jesus, arguing that they should apply to the coming Davidic kingdom. Shepherd's Rods see themselves as called to announce the approach of this Davidic kingdom. Afterward, it is said, Jesus will return to establish another kingdom with the Second Advent, which is to follow the close of probation. 
      Houteff also interpreted the parable of wheat and tares and the harvest of Revelation (Matt. 13:36-43; Rev. 14:14-19). These he applied to the present time period, anticipating the coming of the Davidic kingdom. Instead of describing events to occur at Jesus' return, Houteff believed the harvest of grain began January 1, 1931, with a vision he received appointing him to call out the 144,000. The harvest of tares, he taught, will be a divine slaughter of Adventists who reject his message, fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel 9. 
      Yet Jesus clearly assigns the harvest and the separation of grain from tares to His return at the end of the world, which follows the close of probation (Matt. 13:39-43). 
      A major theme of Shepherd's Rod teaching has been an interpretation of the prophecy of Ezekiel 9. At a point prior to probation's close, we are told, divine agencies will destroy those Adventists who reject the appeals of the Shepherd's Rod. This represents an invisible coming of Christ to establish the Davidic kingdom prior to probation's close. Later, Jesus is to come in visible glory to establish His kingdom following the seven last plagues. 
      Adventists, in contrast, see the prophecy's primary meaning in the Babylonian conquest of Judah, although parallels with the visions of Revelation 7:15,16 indicate analogies with certain final events. But those events will follow the close of probation.
      The fracturing of the Shepherd's Rod movement that began in 1961 has led to a wide variety of additional beliefs promoted by different subgroups. Vernon Howell's special interpretation of the seven seals of Revelation (6:1-8:1) offers an example. 
      His declaration that he alone holds a satisfactory understanding of the seals is used to bolster his claim to be the Lamb who alone can open the seals (Revelation 5). His interpretation stands in marked contrast to the Adventist understanding, which sees Jesus as the Lamb and the seals as reaching across 2,000 years from the time of Jesus to His return.

Sifting Truth From Error—Questions to Ask

      The experience of the Shepherd's Rods and similar groups illustrates the hazards, not in holding strong religious faith, but in distorting it. As Ellen White reminds us, "the track of truth lies close beside the track of error" (Review and Herald; Oct. 22, 1903). Several simple but important tests should be applied by every believer who wants to build solid faith while hedging against error. 
      1.    Is there a heavy concentration on one or two main points? 
      2.    Am I hearing a careful pursuit of understanding, or an urging toward quick conclusions? 
      3.    Does the person or group distance themselves from the larger body of believers? Such separation robs us of the balance provided by hearing the whole church. 
      4.    Does the promoter or group emphasize impending danger to the point of creating a feeling of desperation? A true walk with Christ builds hope and confidence, not terror. 
      5.    Is undue attention given to the ideas of one person? 
      6.    Am I urged to accept uncritically whatever is promoted, buttressed by the use of selected Bible texts and Spirit of Prophecy quotations as proofs? 
      Ours is a perilous age for Christians, not only from unbelief, but a willingness to believe too much. The false lies beside the true. The drives of human needs and the hype of marketing, both in products and ideas, push us to make the most crucial of decisions on shallow evidence. Christ has a better way: careful searching of His Word and placing utter trust in Him alone.


Reprinted from Adventist Review, April 1, 1993
Distributed by the Biblical Research Institute

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  MS 236

  Study the ninth chapter of Ezekiel. These words will be literally fulfilled; yet the time is passing, and the people are asleep. They refuse to humble their souls and to be converted. Not a great while longer will the Lord bear with the people who have such great and important truths revealed to them, but who refuse to bring these truths into their individual experience. The time is short. God is calling. Will you hear? Will you receive His message? Will you be converted before it is too late? Soon, very soon, every case will be decided for eternity.--Letter 106, 1909. This one of the Stand of the DSDA how can i refuse to hear when it is written?

Be strong Alli , in the LORD. His WORD is like a two-edged sword. Love conquers All!

clark is aware that leslie is not a seventh day adventist


if she is to be ousted out it will be clark who will do it

we just wish there were more like leslies in our adventist

church who is very strong in promoting adventism like she does

of what she believes

anyone heard that

just wish they too have a site like this that we can visit

will there be a seventh day adventist visiting and be a member 

you think?  i dont think so

so meanwhile lets just acommodate them here being our guest

in our presence  

you can stay here leslie

no harm done




Because they joined.  :-)

Before anyone can join Adventist Online, they must answer "Yes" to this question:  "Do you agree to uphold the principles and beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist church in your conduct on this site and follow the Site Rules & Guidelines?"

Because all here have agreed to this, we now have a standard of conduct to hold each member to:

Those rules don't make being wrong on any issue grounds for removal.  We all differ on beliefs in some manner.  Whose version should we use to enforce the rules?

But you asked about Shepherd's Rods and Davidians.  Let me post a response we just made in another post on this topic.

A member said:

AO has taken the position that it is not removing a member for being a Shepherd's Rod.

No, we haven't said it quite like that.  We have said that we retain or remove members based on how well they follow our Site Rules & Guidelines.  Nowhere in our rules does it prohibit being "wrong" on any issue.  It does say this:

11. This is a site by Seventh-day Adventists for Seventh-day Adventists.  We welcome all seekers of God's truth here.  We believe that God will continue to reveal His truth to His people as time progresses.  Thus we are constantly seeking a better understanding of God and His word.  We welcome all that are doing the same. That said, if it becomes apparent that your purpose in being a member of this site is to promote a different agenda and/or sow discord among the brethren, your ability to interact with this site may be restricted.

Our rules do allow for differing views.  So if anyone is looking for a site where only one flavor of Adventism is permitted and questions about it are not allowed, this site is not it.  This site does not permit you to let others do your thinking for you just because 'we are all Adventists and we all believe the same'.  Each individual is responsible to know the basis of their faith and be able to prove it from scripture.  There is no better way to do that than to explain and defend your positions to others.  The positions that are based on scripture will prevail for God's people... and those who treat others with the love of Christ while showing them the truth will have the greatest effect.

If you do the study that a site like this demands, you will end up with a greater understanding of scripture and sharper tools to combat the deception of the evil one.

Ongoing promotion of false beliefs WILL get a response from us.  That may end up with the member behaving differently here or they might leave or be removed.  But promotion of false beliefs should also get a response from every member who stands for truth.  Use your God given insight and do as our prophet says:

"If a brother differs with you on some points of truth, do not stoop to ridicule, do not place him in a false light or misconstrue his words, making sport of them; do not misinterpret his words and wrest them of their true meaning.  This is not conscientious argument  Do not present him before others as a heretic, when you have not with him investigated his positions, taking the Scriptures text-by-text in the Spirit of Christ to show him what is truth.  You do not yourself really know the evidence he has for his faith, and you cannot clearly define your own position.  Take your Bible, and in a kindly spirit weigh every argument that he presents, and show him by the Scripture if he is in error.  When you do this without unkind feelings, you will do only that which is your duty and the duty of every minister of Christ."  (EGW to G.I. Butler, Letter 21, 1888 [October 14], The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials 1:98)

So to sum up, we see the original question as similar to the questions: "Why are there still sinners in God's church?  Why are there still tares among the wheat?  Shouldn't we remove all of them?  Christ's answer was  "No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them." (Matt 13:29)

Well ty for that...I am now aware of this...and accept it....I was NOT aware of this when I joined, so of course I was disheartened, confused etc because I did not understand the differences in what people were saying. You are right..that it may lead to us learning more etc.

I did feel that an issue was being forced upon me last night about the sabbath..and when I would not accept the persons teaching i felt the person was putting me down in a way that seemed to pile on the guilt of not being ok with God for it.

But now I understand...I wish someone had explained it when i questioned similar in a previous profile. I would have at least felt someone understood what i was saying and in fact is keeping an eye open.

Thank you. God Bless.

Well, you did say that you read this when you joined.  ;-)   I know, people don't always read stuff when joining a web site.  But it would have saved you from other assumptions.

11. This is a site by Seventh-day Adventists for Seventh-day Adventists.  We welcome all seekers of God's truth here.  We believe that God will continue to reveal His truth to His people as time progresses.  Thus we are constantly seeking a better understanding of God and His word.  We welcome all that are doing the same. That said, if it becomes apparent that your purpose in being a member of this site is to promote a different agenda and/or sow discord among the brethren, your ability to interact with this site may be restricted.

Well where it said sda for me meant it was all sda's. Sorry..where it says 'we welcome all seekers of Gods truth here' I took that to mean all sda's as well after the first sentence lol.

If you believe and accept the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy of Ellen G. White and Christ as your Personal Saviour..............then you are a Seventh-Day Adventist.

The Bible is RIGHT and TRUE, and all what is written,or prophesied must be fulfilled and that these different groups in the SDA are just a fulfillment of the WHEAT & TARES must grow together in the Church until the HARVEST.....!!!

and this religious group, SDA need to be purged.   We, individually investigate it. The Waco of Koresh group is past and Koresh was an impostor! But the message of VT Houteff, I think it's wise for us to investigate our Bible and SOP whether they are offshoot or upshoot.

While there are infiltrators also inside the Church. Keep watch!

Laodicea (SDA) is in danger condition. Let us ponder!

Yeah we have more unbiblical beliefs in our church now brought in by every tom dick and harry...we have enough offshoots...definitely no UPshoots..we have people who believe ernie knoll is a prophet...houteff..and people who think ellen is not all right...we have some woman calling herself a prophet on some island...we have them putting info out there and calling them SDA's..we have them in SDA chatrooms...but one cannot discuss certain beliefs SDA's have because those running the SDA chatrooms are not SDA's...we have them putting studies out there and people think they are studying SDA stuff...we have them in forums SDA groups etc..and they sit next to us in church and tell our pastyors they are teaching wrong things.

Thennnnnnnnnnnnnnn..we have others in the church saying we must get to marrying gays and the list goes the meantime lets all say nothing, do nothing and let it all happen...there are no boundaries wonder the young are leaving our churches in droves..they are getting confused by the minute...

They watch the big conference re studying the women as pastors issue and then see women pastors already in the church...yup...

Lets just have no clear clear anything..and that is how it already is in many places.

There is NO place for the ordinary SDA to go and be sure they are talking with like minded people anymore.

But eyes have been wonder people hate our church..its full of confusion and boy are outsiders loving it.

So only SDA is Laodicea? hmm ok, whatever....maybe someone will call it the beast next.

I at least know now that people are watching for false teachings etc..and I at least understand the reasoning behind it being an open forum. I did not know that before. I understood it to be an SDA only.

But I am glad that I now know and understand.

God Bless.

Even EGW said that SDA is Laodicean church.  it will never be a beast, neither be called a babylon.

Yes, Laodicea is a dangerous state to be in.  We must strive to do better.

But the message of Victor Houteff is demonstrably false.  He was a false prophet.  He interpreted scripture erroneously.  So I suggest we study the genuine truth - Scripture.  Studying a false prophet will only ensnare us in the deceivers trap.  So don't suggest that because there is much wrong with many in the church that we should consider outside falsehood.  That will never get us closer to Christ.

Blessings and prayers,


By the way, what's the purpose of AO is it for a limited discussion only? Limits the degree of what we discuss on religious matters?. I believe this is also a TOOL in the ministry........


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