Among the most scholastic Seventh-day Adventists, are the proverbial “gatekeepers of Truth” on earth–the highly respected BRI (Biblical Research Institute) members, housed at the General Conference.
While preparing my book, “What Every Seventh-day Adventist Should Know About The Shepherd’s Rod,” I opened a dialogue with the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference. Now that the book is out, below I will share the text of my interview questions for the BRI scholars. I share it now to show the concerns I had upon discovering that for the most part, the world church has been lied to, and the lying continues to this day. There are many Adventist-related Web sites and YouTube videos dedicated to disparaging The Shepherd’s Rod ignorantly by repeating these lies, to their soul’s detriment, and to the detriment of many others who are too indolent to investigate Truth for themselves.
It is my long-held prayer that honest minds and cooler heads will engage in a forensic re-examination of the Shepherd’s Rod, and make an honest determination if the scholarship directed against in nearly more than 88 years ago was of Divine origins or the mutterings of the voice from beneath. In unedited form, here is the text of my interview at the General Conference in 2013 with the BRI leadership.
Special Note: They did not permit me to record the session, but I was able to jot down notes as we spoke.
Garrick D. Augustus
Special Request: May I please have your permission to record this interview for time efficiency and accuracy of reporting? I will give you a copy of this file as well for your records.
Date: August 21, 2013
Subject: Interview with members of the Biblical Research Institute of Seventh-day Adventists, and a representative from The Ellen G. White Estate
Dr. Kwabena Donkor,
Dr. Ekkehardt Mueller
Ms. Brenda Kay Flemmer
Thanks to you all for giving of your time to sit with me for this interview. I consider it both an honor and privilege to be your guest.
Background and Purpose: I am a Seventh-day Adventist, and have been in the church since 1981, and am a native of the beautiful island of Jamaica. I came from the Sunday-keeping churches and studied my way into Adventism; I am a proselyte. Throughout those years I have encountered The Shepherd’s Rod and have decided to study its teachings to validate the findings of our theologians. I have read many of the writings of Victor Houteff, as well as all that our church has published on his views, and have been moved to write and publish my findings in a book. But before doing so, I wish to give our Church every opportunity to state our current position, if unchanged from the past, against The Shepherd’s Rod. My research has caused me some concern from a theological standpoint, and some of these concerns will be cited in this interview below. I consider myself an investigative or forensic author, as I am mostly pouring over the works of people’s who are already deceased, and only their writings are left behind as witnesses and testimonials of the past.
- There were some thirteen principal positions that our church has raised against The Shepherd’s Rod for which she has condemned it as erroneous in these words: “’Since error is found in the Shepherd’s Rod, and it is in open disagreement with the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, the only safe course is to reject its teaching and to discontinue its study.’” (Seventh-day Adventist Teaching versus The Shepherd’s Rod, 24. Compiled by Elder W.M. Adams, January, 1936.) With the passage of time has the church advanced and recanted any of those positions against which she has condemned Mr. Houteff; and if so when?
- Regarding the number mystical number of the beast—666, Mr. Houteff was condemned as erroneous for not placing that number on the Papacy, but instead he placed it on the two horned beast (USA) of Rev. 13 : 11-18., yet I see this change of position in recent years: “VICARIUS FILII DEI (Vicar of the Son of God). Since the Reformation, this papal title has been used to calculate the number 666. But there are several questions that should make us cautious. First, it is not clear that this title is an official one. Second, there is no clear indication in Revelation 13 that the number is based on the numerical value of the letters of a name. The phrase “it is the number of a man” (vs. 18, NIV) could be translated “it is the number of [humanity]”; that is, of humans separated from God. Third, those who insist in counting the numerical value of letters confront the problem of deciding which language will be used. Because the text does not identify any language, the selection of a particular one will be somewhat arbitrary. At the present time, the symbolism of intensified rebellion, six used three times, and total independence from God seem to be the best option. Time will reveal the full meaning of the symbol” (Adult Sabbath School Quarterly, Thursday and Friday, June 6-7, 2002). Have we officially abandoned the notion that the number 666 belongs to the Papacy on account of the papal Tierra: Vicarious Fili Dei, whose Roman numeration adds up to 666?
- What has caused this change of course?
- My research shows that the denomination rejected Mr. Houteff because we claim that he said he is “infallible,” but I have not seen this suggestion in his writings, only a statement to the effect: “Well, let me tell you something: in 1931, after The Shepherd’s Rod, Vol. 1, came off the press, we published a two-page article in which we said that what God has led us into is either all truth or not truth.” (V.T. Houteff, 1947, Timely Greetings, Vol. 1, No. 18 p. 20). In this light I see Ellen White saying something the equivalent, if not stronger: “While I am able to do this work, the people must have things to revive past history, that they may see that there is one straight chain of truth, without one heretical sentence, in that which I have written. This, I am instructed, is to be a living letter to all in regard to my faith.”— Ellen G. White, Letter 329A, 1905. In this letter, would assert that Ellen White is making a claim of infallibility?
- The seven-headed beast of Rev. 13 and 17, respectively has been a focal point for our theologians in their examination of Mr. Houteff’s message. One statement which summarizes our church’s position is the following: “(N.B. – The Seventh-day Adventists teach that the Beast of Rev. 13 is the “papacy.” The Shepherd’s Rod declares that “is altogether wrong.” Is that “pure Seventh-day Adventist Doctrine?” – W.M.A.) (Seventh – day Adventist Teaching versus The Shepherd’s Rod, p. 2. Compiled by Elder W.M. Adams, January, 1936). In light of this statement, how did they overlook the following from his pen in the same book: “But the “leopard-like” shows the papacy in her wounded state, and the imprisonment of the pope. Thus, the two beasts (the non-descript and the leopard-like) overlap each other, from the fall of imperial Rome to 1798. Therefore, while the non-descript beast in its second stage represents the papacy, she is secondarily described by the ‘leopard-like’. The one reveals the tyrannical authority, and the other describes her downfall.”— The Shepherd’s Rod, Vol. 2, 1932, p. 87.
- On the same subject, the quotation on the left is critiqued as being anti-Adventist theology by the original reviewers of Mr. Houteff’s message, yet I find the BRI sharing similar sentiments in 2005. Does this position of ours require a review and re-examination?
|“The idea concerning the symbolical application of the false Prophet of Revelation 19:20, the woman on the scarlet colored beast of Revelation 17, the leopard-like beast of Revelation 13, the scarlet colored beast of Revelation 17, and the nondescript beast of Daniel, AS BEING SYMBOLS OF THE PAPACY [same power], IS UNBIBLICAL AND ALSO ILLOGICAL.” (Shepherd’s Rod, Vol.2, 148).||“We suggest that: (1) The seven heads of the beast seem to represent kingdoms rather than individual kings. These kingdoms are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the papacy. (2) The beasts in Rev 12, 13, and 17 do not exactly represent the same power. The beast of Rev 17 is Satan working through political powers.” Biblical Research Institute General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists®, January, 2005.|
- Elder Neal C. Wilson, in defending our church against a lawsuit wrote the following in his court brief: “Although it is true that there was a period in the life of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when the denomination took a distinctly anti-Roman Catholic viewpoint, and the term ‘hierarchy’ was used in a pejorative sense to refer to the papal form of church governance,that attitude on the church’s part was nothing more than a manifestation of widespread anti-popery among conservative Protestant denominations in the early part of this century and the latter part of the last, and which has now been consigned to the historical trash heap so far as the Seventh-day Adventist Church is concerned.” Reply Brief for the Defendant, p 4, EEOC vs. PPPA and GC. Civil Case #C-74-2025 CBR. March 30, 1975. Is this a new position by our church that the “anti-popery” doctrines have “now been consigned to the historical trash heap”?
- The infliction of the “deadly wound” to the leopard-like beast of Rev. 13 has been challenged by our theologians. In summary here is their finding: “(N.B.:- The Seventh-day Adventists teach that the deadly wound was inflicted by taking Pope Pius VI prisoner in 1798. The Shepherd’s Rod says, No. The Papal head was wounded by Martin Luther in 1500 A.D. Note the contradiction. — W.M.A.) (Seventh – day Adventist Teaching versus The Shepherd’s Rod, 3. Compiled by Elder W.M. Adams, January, 1936.)” With this back drop, how do we resolve the following quoted against the supposed heresy of the Shepherd’s Rod?
- “The ‘deadly wound’ here forecast found its fulfillment in the Protestant Reformation, in the French Revolution, and culminated in the apparently mortal thrust at the very heart of the papacy when the pope was deposed and imprisoned by the French in 1798.” (Signs of the Times, 30, 1934, p. 6. Italics ours)
- “The Calm, dignified power of Luther humbled his enemies, and dealt a most dreadful BLOW to the papacy.” –Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, p. 373.
- “Luther gained a victory at Worms which weakened the papacy, the news of which spread to other kingdoms and nations. It was an effectual BLOW in favor of the Reformation.” (Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, p. 375. Emphasis added)
- The affirmation of our faith in Sabbath sacredness has caused much heartburn with Mr. Houteff’s teaching that the seal of the 144,000 is not a Sabbath only seal, but a settling into the truth, whereas our scholars saw things much differently: (“N.B. – Seventh-Day Adventist teach that the seventh-day Sabbath is the seal; The Shepherd’s Rod say it “is not a Sabbath Seal.” Another flat contradiction. — W.M.A.”) (Seventh – day Adventist Teaching versus The Shepherd’s Rod, 4. Compiled by Elder W.M. Adams, January, 1936). Yet in recent years, the church seems to have reversed her position on this subject as shown below: Does this require a re-examination of the basic facts surrounding this charge?
|“Seventh-Day Adventists teach that the seventh-day Sabbath is the Seal; The Shepherd’s Rod say it ‘is not a Sabbath Seal.’ Another flat contradiction.”-Seventh-Day Adventist Teaching versus The Shepherd’s Rod, 1936, p.4. Emphasis theirs.
|“The seal that the 144,000 receive is the gift of God’s character by the Holy Spirit. They have ‘his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads’…God’s name and Christ’s name are symbols of their perfect character by the gift of the Holy Spirit”- Seventh-Day Adventist Adult Sabbath School Lessons, Teacher’s Edition, Jan. to Mar. 1994, p.152, also found on p. 91 in the Standard Edition of that issue of The Adult Quarterly.)|
- What do you make of the following Ellen White statement which speaks against a Sabbath-only seal for redemption? “Not all who profess to keep the Sabbath will be sealed. There are many even among those who teach the truth to others who will not receive the seal of God in their foreheads. They had the light of truth, they knew their Master’s will, they understood every point of our faith, but they had not corresponding works.”— (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5. p. 213. Italics added)
- Another troubling teaching our church has taken issue against to The Shepherd’s Rod on, is the notion of sinless-ness before the second coming of Christ to our earth in power and great glory. The official position against the Rod’s teachings is summarized as follows: false brethren will be in the church till the close of time—end of the world. In support of which the juxtaposed statements were provided as proof:
| Impure Church Teaching by E.G. White
“He (Christ) has said that false brethren will be found in the church till the close of time.” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 73)
| Pure Church Teaching by E.G. White
“Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in his people, then will He come to claim them as His own.” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69)
- How do we as “His church”, “perfectly reproduce his character” and still be sinning?
- “It is necessary if the whole [Church] is to be perfect to have every part perfect also. No chain can be strong if one of its links is weak. No wall is perfect that contains crumbling stone or defective mortar. We can not, if imperfect, pass the approval of the great Inspector by being assembled with perfect ones.”— Adult Sabbath School Lesson, 1st, 1928, p. 36; Italics and emphasis added.
- Doesn’t the Sabbath School Lesson of 1928 teach the same doctrine against which Mr. Houteff was condemned as a false prophet?
- In this vein, the subject of Ezekiel 9 has been strongly challenged by our theologians as having only one application—the time of the seven last plagues, with the original fulfillment being in the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Yet, the following recently released statement from Ellen White’s pen, proves to be in agreement with Mr. Houteff’s views:
- “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.”—EGW, Letter 106, 1909, also in, Manuscript Releases Volume Eighteen, released1990, p. 236; italic and emphasis mine.
- How do we harmonize both views, especially since the charge against the Shepherd’s Rod is that they believe the slaughter to be literal as Ellen White here teaches?
- On Current Events, Mr. Houteff’s interpretation makes relevant the prophecies form Isaiah to Malachi, and sees the existence of a political Israel over a decade before this became reality. At the same time our church’s theologians were advancing the statement in Early Writings pp. 75-76, which announces that “Old Jerusalem never would be built up again.” Is the church rethinking its stance on the relevance of Israel in last day prophecy?
- Have you seen and or read the Book by Drs. Roy Allen Anderson and Jay Milton Hoffman—“All Eyes on Israel?”
- What make you of the following extract form their book:
- “His promises to Abraham included much more than that narrow strip of land on the east of the Mediterranean Sea for in Romans 4:13, we read that Abraham would be “heir of the world.” That promise was fantastic, too big for him, or even for us, to fully comprehend. But we can at least try to grasp it. Some readers may have to lay aside a few preconceived ideas as the authors of All Eyes On Israel had to do many years ago. But the larger concept of God’s purpose for His ancient people adds much to our understanding of God’s revelation and in no way does it undermine the beauty of truth; it enhances it. To change one’s prophetic viewpoint is not easy, but to know God’s plan for the present and the future is worth everything. (All Eyes On Israel, 1975, By Roy Allan Anderson and Jay Milton Hoffman, p. 110. Italics and emphasis added)
- Do you believe it is time for fresh thinking, by our church, to be advanced on the relevance of the prophecies regarding God’s covenant to Israel?
- Regarding the “stone” of Daniel 2, our church has historically held that it represents the Second Coming of Christ when He will vanquish the nations with the brightness of His coming. The attached letter from Arthur White suggests that Ellen White lightly spoke on this stone. How comfortable are we with this teaching, given that:
- The stone was cut from a mountain (verse 45)
- The stone grew and “became a mountain great mountain” and filled the whole earth?
- How does appearance and growth of the “mountain” help or hinder the current interpretation?
- The Shepherd’s Rod holds that the harvest is in two sections, a judgment for the church, and one for the world. These are separate and distinct events both in heaven and on earth. On the other hand our church holds that there is only one general close of probation at the commencement of the seven last plagues. With this as a backdrop, how do you harmonize the following statements:
- “Verse 20. [Isa. 59.] ‘The Redeemer shall come to Zion.’ This is not the coming in the clouds, but coming to the church. And when He comes, He will do the work mentioned in Malachi 3:1-3.”—1929 Adult Sabbath School Lesson, Isaiah, the Gospel Prophet, Vol. 3, p. 49
- How do reconcile the 1929 view with our current position?
- Our church holds the view that the 144,000 only learnt the song, whereas The Shepherd’s Rod says they both learnt and sang the song, and was condemned for this. How do you resolve the following: “It contradicts the Spirit of Prophecy: Rod (Vol. 2, p. 172, last par.) says the 144,000 learn the song, but do not sing it. But the GREAT CONTROVERSY, pp. 648, 649, says the 144,000 sing the song.” (Seventh – day Adventist Teaching versus The Shepherd’s Rod, p. 23. Compiled by Elder W.M. Adams, January, 1936.) This was one of the points on which the church charged Mr. Houteff for teaching error, although these statements were penned before the charge was made:
|“The song was sung in heaven by heavenly beings before the throne, and before the beasts, and the elders. Therefore, it is evident that the judgment was in progress. (Further explanation to follow) Note that the 144,000 did not sing, but they only could learn the “song” as it was sung in heaven; that is, they alone understood the heavenly truth in that particular time and their position in connection with the message they must bear.” (The Shepherd’s Rod Vol. 2, 1932, p. 172. Emphasis added)
“And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: And they [the harpers] sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” (Rev. 14:2, 3).
|“In the exodus movement, all the tribes went out of Egypt. If this is a photograph of Israel by the promise, then all the twelve tribes must come out now as well. Twelve tribes must escape the ruin of Ezekiel 9 (death of the firstborn), and Isaiah 63 (The Red Sea). The number of them is said to be 12,000 from each tribe, making a total of 144,000. For the reason that they have passed through a similar experience as ancient Israel, they (the 144,000) sing a new song of Moses and the Lamb.” (The Shepherd’s Rod Vol. 1, 1930, p. 101-102. Emphasis added)
“But those who never died have seen the fulfillment of Ezekiel 9; Isaiah 63; Isaiah 60; the closing of the third angel’s message, (the loud cry, close of probation), all of the seven last plagues, and they sing this song ( of their experience and deliverance) “which no man can learn save the 144,000.” (The Shepherd’s Rod Vol. 1, 1930, p. 24. Emphasis added)
- Does this warrant an apology to The Shepherd’s Rod or at least a re-examination of the charges?
- Concerning the former and latter rains, the Shepherd’s Rod holds that they are two intimately related, yet separate manifestations of the Holy Spirit, first comes the sanctifying truth after which comes the sanctifying Since our church stridently opposes this view, how do we understand the following verse?
- “GIVE ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine [teaching – Margin] shall drop as rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.” (Deut. 32:1,2)
- My research has led me to believe that there are two separate theological camps: The original Shepherd’s Rods (followers of Victor Houteff’s teachings) and the Branch Davidians (Followers of Benjamin Rhoden). This is strengthened by my read of the booklets “A Reply To the Shepherd’s Rod” and “History and Teachings of The Shepherd’s Rod” (Both published by the General Conference), and none of them used the term Branch Davidians to describe the Message or Movement of Victor Houteff, why has the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) chosen to state in “The Branch Davidians/Shepherd’s Rod—Who Are They,” that “The Shepherd’s Rod group [is also] called Branch Davidians”? Are they really one and the same?
- In the booklet “A Reply To The Shepherd’s Rod” there is report that there were two stenographers on hand at the hearing with Mr. Houteff in March 1934. How may I obtain a copy of the stenographic transcript of that meeting?
- Theologically speaking, what doctrines of The Shepherd’s Rod, as taught by Victor Houteff does the Seventh-day Adventist Church find most offensive?
- The following apocryphal quote attributed to Ellen White has been in circulation for many years:
- “In 1888 at the General Conference Held in Minneapolis, Minn., the Angel of Rev. 18:1 came down to do His work, and was ridiculed, criticized, and rejected. And when the message He brings again swells into a Loud Cry, it will again be ridiculed, spoken against, and be rejected by the majority.” E.G. White, Taking up a Reproach, Reprinted in, Are Seventh-day Adventists Doing God’s Will? 10, Elder Brisbin.
- I understand from good source that while Ellen White did not make the above statement, she has made one quite similar. How may I obtain a copy of her authentic statement?
- In the booklets mentioned above, I have noticed reference to another article entitled “The Seventh-day Adventist Teachings vs. The Shepherd’s Rod” compiled by one W.M. Adams in 1934, how may I obtain a copy of that document?
- Back in 1942, then field secretary to the General Conference, M.L. Andreasen went to Waco Texas, at the General Conference’s request, and spent a few days interviewing Mr. Houteff. Andreasen has made and official report of that interview to the GC. How may I obtain a copy of that report?
- In “The Story of The Shepherd’s Rod” citations were taken from “(3) Church Record Book, Bk. B, of clerk of the Seventh-day Adventist church of Rockford, Illinois; 0. W. Bacheller letter to R. L. Odom, dated Aug. 29, 1955.” How may I obtain a copy of this document?
- In the same book, “The Story,” reference was made to the following articles, documents and or manuscripts:
- “(7.) W. H. Schacht letter to R. L. Odom, dated Nov. 28, 1951; letter to R. L. Odom, dated May 20, 1955.”
- General Conference Committee, Shepherd’s Rod Propaganda (Dec. 15, 1946),
pp. 1, 2.
- Church Record Book, no. 3, of clerk of the Seventh-day Adventist church
at 54th Street, Los Angeles, Calif.; Margaret L. N. Robb, church clerk,
letter to M. E. Kern, dated June 11, 1955.
- W. G. Wirth letter to W. E. Read, dated Feb. 25, 1955.
- 0. J. Graf and D. E. Robinson, “The Shepherd’s Rod”-A Review (January, 1934)
- R. S. Fries, 1. M. Burke, C. J. Ritchie, Review of “The Shepherd’s Rod,” p. 2; W. G. Wirth letter to W. E. Read, dated Feb. 25, 1955.
- General Conference Committee, A Warning Against Error (1934)
- Church Record Book, no. 3, of clerk of the Seventh-day Adventist church at 54th Street, Los Angeles, Calif.; Margaret L. N. Robb, church clerk, letter to M. E. Kern, dated June 11, 1955.
- 0. J. Graf, “Meeting With the Author of ‘The Shepherd’s Rod’”
- G. A. Roberts letter to G. W. Chambers, dated Nov. 16, 1932. (Eider Roberts was then president of the Southern California Conference.)
- W. E. Howell general letter, dated March 14, 1933, which accompanied
the three documents mentioned.
- H. M. S. Richards letter to W. E. Read, dated March 9, 1955.
32. Minutes of the Meeting of the Large Houteff Committee at Pacific Union Conference Office, Glendale, California, March 8, 1934.
- Glenn A. Calkins letter to W. E. Read, dated Feb. 22, 1955.
34. Minutes of the General Conference Committee, Feb. 19, 1934, p. 1208.
- Minutes of the General Conference Committee, April 16, 1934, p. 1238.
- Minutes of the General Conference Committee, May 8, 1934, p. 1301.
- Minutes of the General Conference Committee, May 14, 1934, p. 1309.
- Actions of the Autumn Council of the General Conference Committee, Battle Creek, Michigan, Nov. 6-14, 1934, p. 96.
- Minutes of the General Conference Committee, Feb. 6, 1936, pp. 1891-93.
- Esther Domocmat letter to V. T. Houteff, dated Nov. 8, 1951.
- V. T. Houteff letter to Esther Domocmat, dated Nov. 29, 1951.
- How may I obtain a copy of these documents? I will pay for their reproduction and mailing if necessary.
Thank you very much for your time. I will notify your office when the book is released from press.
3 thoughts on “An Interview with The Adventists’ BRI”
I have read this section with interest. I am particularly interested in the section regarding 1500 A.D. and Martin Luther.
I have read The Shepherd’s Rod Vol. 1 and was impressed. I do have a question about Martin Luther finding the Bible to mark his calling.
1. Is there any historical reference that marks this event as occurring in 1500 A.D?
2. Are there any historical records to demonstrate that the Protestant world at large agreed that this event happened around 1500 during the time of the publication of the Shepherd’s Rod Vol. 1?
The ansswer to your question is easy, as it was discussed by V.T. Houteff:
” In another misrepresentation, the committee says: “It is claimed that Luther at that time (1500 A.D.) gave the deadly wound.” — A Reply to The Shepherd’s Rod, p. 43. But we earnestly ask all who love the Third Angel’s Message, to look into this important matter, and see for themselves that the Rod does not teach the blow was delivered in 1500 as they are trying to make the laity believe it teaches, but rather after 1500. (Read The Shepherd’s Rod, Vol. 1. pp. 209-222, and Vol. 2, pp. 85-107.)–“The Great Controversy Over The Shepherd’s Rod, (Tract 7), p. 36
I also have a question about more information in the “Coincidences chart” In the chart, Houteff lists 1850 as the date of the publication of the first testimony to the church. My research has uncovered that it was 1849. Could you please clarify this apparent contradiction?