Twentieth-Century Spiritual Expression

Branch davidians

The Branch Davidian religious group had its origins when Victor Houteff (1885–1929) separated from the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in 1929 to form the Shepherds Rod, Branch Seventh-Day Adventist. In 1935, with 11 of his followers, Houteff founded the Mount Carmel Center near Waco, Texas. In 1942 he changed the name of his group to the Davidian Seventh-Day Adventist Association.

Houteff died in 1955, and his wife, Florence Houteff, focused the group with her vision that Judgment Day would occur on April 22, 1959. Her prophecy having failed, she sold Mount Carmel in 1965 to Benjamin Roden, who named his faction the Branch Davidian Seventh-Day Adventist Association. After Roden's death in 1978, his wife, Lois Roden, declared herself the Sixth Angel in Revelation and a prophet speaking through the feminine aspect of the Holy Spirit.

A young man named Vernon Howell joined the Branch Davidians in 1981 and almost immediately caught Lois Roden's eye as the group's next prophet. Howell assumed control of the Davidians in 1988 and changed his name to David Koresh in 1990. He pronounced himself the Lamb of Revelation, who would open the seven seals of the scroll and interpret the secrets that would immediately bring about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Koresh believed that the final struggle between good and evil would begin in the United States, rather than Israel, so the community of believers stockpiled food, water, and weapons. In 1992, Koresh renamed the Mount Carmel commune "Ranch Apocalypse."

Rumors began to circulate that the Branch Davidians were abusing children and storing large amounts of illegal firearms and explosives. On February 28, 1993, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) agents

David Koresh, founder of the Branch Davidian. (AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS)
David Koresh, founder of the Branch Davidian. (
raided Ranch Apocalypse, resulting in ten deaths and 25 wounded. The FBI took over, and the ensuing siege lasted 51 days. On April 14, Koresh had a vision that instructed him to write his translation of the seven seals in Revelation and then surrender. But the encircling forces had grown tired of his biblical babblings and apocalyptic pronouncements. On April 19, the FBI attacked and ended the stand-off at Ranch Apocalypse.

Koresh and 75 of his followers, including 21 children, died in the fire that swept through the entire compound. Prior to the siege at Ranch Apocalypse, there were about 130 members of the Branch Davidians. After the destruction of the compound, there were estimates of 30 to 50 members who had managed to leave the commune before the final days or who had escaped the inferno. Accusations circulated that the FBI was responsible for starting the fire with incendiary tear gas cartridges.

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