Rise of the Shepherd’s Rod

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalms 23:1-4

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? 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 6:8-9

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Psalm 23:5

“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

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Psalm 23:6.

“Prophecy must be fulfilled. The Lord says: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”(Malachi 4:5) “Somebody is to come in the spirit and power of Elijah, and when he appears, men may say: “You are too earnest, you do not interpret the Scriptures in the proper way. Let me tell you how to teach your message.” Testimonies to Minister p.475 by Ellen G. White (1890)

A prophet—One person- is to be sent “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” to make ready a group of people to be brought in connection with the Elijah’s message, so…“in the hour of greatest peril, the God of Elijah will raise up human instrumentalities to bear a message that will not be silenced.” Prophets and Kings p.186.3 by Ellen G. White

“As never before, we should pray not only that laborers may be sent forth into the great harvest-field, but that we may have a clear conception of truth, so that when the messengers of truth shall come, we may accept the message and respect the messenger.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, p.420 by Ellen G. White

“A vital connection with the Chief Shepherd will make the under-shepherd a living representative of Christ, a light indeed to the world.” GW92 41.2 by Ellen G. White

“God has never left Himself without witness on the earth.” (Letter 190, 1905). {1BC 1092.8} by Ellen G. White

Rise of the Shepherd’s Rod

The Shepherd’s Rod message began in Los Angeles, California, in 1929 when Brother Victor T. Houteff (VTH) published a book by that name. Calling for “reformation and revival,” Volume 1 of The Shepherd’s Rod contained an exposition of the 144,000. VTH did not intend for his message to create a new movement, and he saw no reason why the Rod would not be accepted by Adventism. The Church leadership, however, rejected it largely for two reasons. First, the message did not come from the leadership of the church; second it brought new light on the sealing of the 144,000, and called for a revival and reformation. Despite concerted opposition from Adventist officials, the Shepherd’s Rod aroused the Los Angeles SDA community, and VTH soon drew a group of Adventists to hear him give studies. Included in this group were the Hermansons, parents of VTH’s future wife, Florence.

The number of Adventists who accepted the Rod was growing but so was the opposition from church leaders. Finally, at the insistence of the Tabernacle Church of SDA in Fullerton, California, the Pacific Union Conference and the General Conference were forced to give Brother Houteff a hearing, which turned out to be a predetermined affair designed to create the appearance of an open investigation. The full documentation of this hearing, which provides eye-witness accounts and a broad view of events, is found in The Great Controversy Over the Shepherds Rod, Tract No. 7. The leading men took a strong stand against Brother Houteff and the few followers who accepted his teachings. Despite their opposition, the message was making headway through the only publication then available, The Shepherd’s Rod, Volume I, Fireside Edition. A copy of this book was sent to all the pastors in the Denomination. It reached the Colorado Conference, where Elder E. T. Wilson was the President and Brother H. G. Warden the Conference Colporteur Field Secretary. These two brethren gave the Rod an unbiased study, and finally, although it meant being discharged from Conference employment, they accepted the message. Both were immediately terminated from Conference employment. Not long after Brother Warden and his wife moved to Southern California. At that time VTH was writing The Shepherd’s Rod, Volume 2. Brother Warden helped Brother Houteff in editing and preparing the book for printing. Around 1931-1932, he was sent to San Diego to teach the Rod message to SDA believers. On one of these trips he met the young M. J. Bingham, who was still wearing leg braces and relearning to walk (he would use a cane the rest of his life though his fingers returned to normalcy).

Brother Warden was holding meetings in San Diego, and Brother Bingham heard of them. The Bible worker, believing M.J.B. was young in the faith, decided to accompany him to the first meeting-although he was thoroughly acquainted with the SDA message and did not need her protection. The study under discussion was the 11th Hour Message, Matthew 20. Brother Bingham took numerous Spirit of Prophecy books to dispute what Brother Warden was teaching but, as he listened, he saw he could not refute anything, and one by one the books went under his chair. The study was in two parts, and there was a short intermission. At that time, Brother Bingham rose to his feet and said, “One thing I know, this message is either from above or below.” He then expressed his desire to find out if the message was right or wrong, and he made a decided effort to study it, comparing it with the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy writings. Despite his stiffened limbs and difficulty in walking, he not only accepted the message but immediately wanted to give it to others. Of course the ministers, who had great faith in Brother Bingham’s becoming a minister were angry, and not long afterward they disfellowshipped him.

His stand for the Rod brought a quick and unChristlike response from members of the San Diego Church: they locked the church doors to keep him out. When he went to a window to listen to the meetings, one Wednesday night, one sister got up and unceremoniously threw a glass of water in his face! Still, these and other incidents of opposition did not deter him from the course he had chosen.

Never one to sit in the sidelines and watch others, M. J. Bingham began poring over the Rod message, learning it so he could teach it to others. He began giving studies in San Diego and Lorna Linda, California, recalling that at first his enthusiasm was so great he strained his vocal cords in giving group studies until he learned to modulate his voice. The Shepherd’s Rod believers were zealous and the message spread throughout Southern California. With a growing membership, and after the General Conference Committee rejected the message, Brother Houteff announced in the April l935, Symbolic Code that the headquarters of the work had sought a new location, away from the cities and closer to the center of the United States. After looking at several places in San Antonio, Ft. Worth, and Dallas they went to Waco, a realtor finally took them to see a deserted acreage in Waco. The property lay two and half miles outside the city limits of Waco, “far enough from it,” wrote VTH, “to be away from the world and its evil environment.” When VTH and the three brethren with him saw the land, which no one wanted to buy (it was owned by a widow and had been in the hands of realtors for several years), he was convinced it was the place for his headquarters. What should they name it, they wondered. One of the members spoke up and said that Elijah was at Mt. Carmel of old, and the place should be called Carmel. Although this name was in The Shepherds Rod, Volume 1, page 243, Brother Houteff had no recollection of it, and later wrote that he did not know about Micah 7:14 when the place was named (11 Code 12:23:3). The 189 acres were purchased, and a group of twelve able-bodied brethren moved to Waco on May 19, 1935 to build the headquarters. Referring to it as their “camp,” Mt. Carmel in time grew to 385 acres and became the center of the Davidian movement until his death in 1955.

Enthusiastic at the prospect of being one of the builders of the camp, M.J. Bingham volunteered to go to Texas, but Brother Houteff told him the work of pioneering needed able bodied men. In the meantime, there was another assignment for him– teaching a school in La Crescenta, California, for children of Shepherd’s Rod believers and giving studies to the Rod groups in Southern California. He eventually went to Mt. Carmel around 1937, and became very active in the work, teaching the school (Mt. Carmel Academy), and writing articles for The Symbolic Code. Later, he became the editor of Brother Houteff’s writings until he died in 1955. When the hunting campaign was launched, Brother Bingham was sent to the field to lead the hunting work and to train several young men to give studies. In 1953, he was the first foreign field worker to take the message outside of North America.

The Shepherd’s Rod movement came into existence as a publishing organization and was first called The Shepherd’s Rod Publishing Association, then The Universal Publishing Association. The first publication, as noted, was The Shepherds Rod, Volume 1, followed in 1932 by The Shepherd’s Rod, Volume 2. The books gained the attention of church leaders and numerous lay members but were too expensive to produce in large numbers to give away, a step that was necessary to make the message widely and easily available to lay members. Brother Houteff saw the need for small publications that could be printed and mailed inexpensively, and thus the pocket-size tract and later the Timely Greetings series was born. The first tract, Pre “Eleventh Hour” Extra, appeared in 1933. Mrs. Hermanson, who was the second treasurer of The Shepherd’s Rod Publishing Association, also helped in editing The Shepherd’s Rod, Volume 1. R G Warden, served as editor of Volume 2. By the time the tracts were written, Brother Warden was busy traveling around the field giving studies, and Brother Houteff was concerned about Mrs. Hermanson’s desire to interpret the message herself. He thus turned to the young M.J. Bingham as his editorial assistant. Brother Bingham edited the tracts, The Answerers, and other publication such as The White House Recruiter.

The tracts were intended for both Adventist and Rod believer, while The Symbolic Code was for Rod believers only. It contained news about the progress of the work in the field, reports from Mt Carmel, answers to doctrinal question, and doctrinal articles. The first issue of The Symbolic Code (legal size format) was dated July 15, l934, and continued to appear until January-December 1943. The Answerer series were drawn largely from the Codes after editing, clarifying, or expanding the material. The first Code was a brief three pages long, and noted on page two the work of Brother Bingham and Brother Deeter in Loma Linda: “The studies in Loma Linda were well attended and practically no opposition was manifested by those present…Having digged that hill with the ‘mattock,’ it was proposed to send forth ‘oxen,’ and the proposition was carried by unanimous vote that Brother M.L Deeter and Brother M. J. Bingham should be the ‘ox’ team [sent] to another field.” Subsequently, Brother Bingham began writing for The Symbolic Code, and his by line (“M.J.B.” or “M.J. Bingham”) appears frequently between 1936 and 1942. In some cases, he wrote articles, poems, or paragraphs that appeared without his by-line.

In addition to writing and editing publication M.J. Bingham served as the principal of the Mt Carmel Academy and was listed as an associate editor of the publications. He was also a member of Mt Carmel’s executive council. He served in the field extensively, traveling by bus and train throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. In the early days, field workers often had to “live off the land” in more than a figurative sense. On one trip, M.J. Bingham and Brother Deeter did not have a place to stay for the night but found an alfalfa field where they parked their car and slept. In the morning no food was available, so they picked alfalfa and ate it. On another trip to Canada by bus, the driver let him off at a side road but the people he had come to study with were not there to meet him. He spent the next few hours standing on a deserted stretch of road, waiting for them. Such traveling would have been difficult for an able-bodied person but it was particularly difficult for him given his difficulties in walking.

Besides his difficulties in walking, another health problem, a stomach ulcer, began to trouble him. Like everyone else at that time, he did not understand the cause of ulcers and believed that he had picked it up from eating too fast or a wrong diet as a youngster. It is now known that this is not always the case. Stomach ulcers can be caused by bacterial infections, but this discovery was still many years in the future. As the years passed, the ulcer troubled him intensely and would eventually threaten his life until he agreed to have stomach surgery in 1972. This resulted in curing the ulcer and giving him peace and comfort, plus the ability to eat normally. Despite these health problems, he pressed ahead and was in the forefront of giving the Rod message throughout the Mt. Carmel era.

Unwavering Support for the Message and Messenger

His relationship with Brother Houteff never wavered, and he had an abiding love and respect for the “little Bulgarian,” as he called him. His loyalty to Brother Houteff was clear when Elder E. T. Wilson, a former SDA conference president and vice-president of the Mt.Carmel association, stirred up a take-over bid when Brother Houteff was in Europe attending to family business. Wilson and his followers, believing it was necessary to re-structure the work more along the lines of the SDA organization, took over Mt. Carmel. A few young people, led by M.J Bingham, resisted. The insurgents viewed them with so much hostility that the loyalists had to retreat to the woods to live, though sympathizers brought them food from the camp every day. When Brother Houteff returned, he ended the uprising and revoked Wilson’s ministerial credentials-a massive blow to a man who treasured his certification and position. Wilson never recovered from this event, although his credentials were restored several years later. On another occasion, Mt. Carmel residents became critical of Brother Houteff over a dietary contention. VTH, carrying the load of sustained criticism both from Adventism and now his own followers, experienced an Elijah-like moment of discouragement. Scheduled to deliver a Friday night study, he asked Brother Bingham to stand in for him. As M.J.B. walked from his cottage to the chapel, he saw a fledgling bird flopping on the ground, having fallen from its nest. Stooping, he picked it up and found its wing to be injured. Slipping it into his coat pocket, he continued to the chapel. When he opened his study, he brought out the little bird, held it up, and told the congregation, “This little bird has a wounded wing, and your fault-finding has wounded Brother Houteff.” To the end of the Mt. Carmel organization, M. J. Bingham remained loyal to V. T. Houteff and the Shepherd’s Rod message, even though others began to criticize VTH in the years shortly before his death.

In 1953 the Rod message was given for the first time outside North America when M. J. Bingham traveled to the Caribbean and Guyana, an English-speaking British colony at he began giving studies in the Guyanese College and a group was raised up from the Adventist community. At this time, he met Jemmy Rohoman, who worked in the SDA conference office. Although warned by the mission president not to attend the meetings she attended anyway, eventually accepting the Rod message. After two years, Brother Bingham returned to Guyana, and at that time he proposed marriage and she became Mrs. Martin J. Bingham. It was during this visit to Guyana that news came that Brother Houteff had died on February 5, 1955. Brother and Sister Bingham left for the United States in 1956, where they would encounter the consequences of VTH’s death, mainly the fragmentation of the movement and the rush by numerous ones to be prophets, messengers, or leaders. They found that the words of Zechariah applied fittingly: “Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Zech. 13:7) The sheep were indeed scattering because some Davidians had placed their faith in their visible leader, V. T. Houteff, rather than in the Rod message. Although many Davidians believed M. J. Bingham, who at 50 was an experienced teacher, editor, and minister, was the natural choice to lead the movement, he himself later said that this thought never crossed his mind.

Instead, Florence Houteff, 37 years old, announced that before Brother Houteff’s death, she was appointed as Vice President of the Association. So she, along with a seven member council, including her mother, Mrs. Hermanson, and her brother, Oliver, took over the reins of leadership. In quick succession, a parade of would-be prophets, seers, and leaders appeared. Among this number was Evelyn Juergen, who had a conglomeration of different views, Dr. Roller and Faith Pruett, with the Friday Sabbath doctrine, Lillian Zumstein, who termed herself “the voice of the turtle,” and from whom sprang Benjamin Roden, agitating his “Branch” message with its catchphrase, “Get off a dead rod onto a living branch.” The desire to be a prophet became international when Samuel Licayen began publishing his “Root of Jesse” in the Philippines. Roden was the most persistent and aggressive of these would-be leaders, and minced no words in stating that he, not Florence Houteff, had been granted the prophetic mantle. Roden’s “Seven Letters to Florence Houteff’ and his prediction that divine wrath would fall on Mt. Carmel, created a stir. When the predicted wrath failed to materialize, he declared the prediction to have been symbolic wrath.

The Educators: Defending the Rod

In the midst of these competing, confusing voices with their colorful catch phrases, bizarre names (“The Voice of the Turtle,” for example), and heady claims and counter-claims, a thoughtful, sober, and in-depth publication emerged as a voice of reason, calm, and stability. Titled The Timely-Truth Educator, the first edition appeared in September 1957 and immediately took up the task of defending the Rod against all opponents and claimants. The opening paragraph of the Educator summed up the issues at stake: “Perhaps Satan’s first and most effective purpose to the end of destroying man and in turn Christ’s creation is his perverting truth and creating confusion …. Every truth [Satan] can pervert, he is perverting. Every error he can spawn, he is spawning. Every strife he can engender, he is engendering. Every confusion he can create, he is creating. By every conceivable means, he is working ceaselessly to deceive and confound and to wreck the faith of even ‘the very elect’ (Matt. 24:24 ), if possible, and thus to engulf them in ruin with the rest.”

The Educators thus became a clear voice calling on divided Davidians to hold fast, to stay on the track of the Rod, and to reject speculation, fanaticism, and lukewarm adventurism. Some heeded this voice that urged Davidians to be “100%, Rod only Davidians” but many did not and became involved with the various roots, shoots, and branches that were flourishing. Ironically, the most dangerous doctrinal speculator was the late VTH’s own wife, Florence Houteff. The Educators continued to contend against Rodenism and the Branch, and then they began to stand against the growing tide of prophetic speculation that Florence Houteff and her executive council were unleashing and which would grow to a tidal wave that would eventually sweep her, her followers, executive council, and establishment away onto the shores of religious failure and disintegration.

Coming Next “The Educators Contend Against Florence Houteff and call for the “Little Flock” to reorganize the Association that she had unconstitutionally disbanded.

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” Zechariah 13:7

If you want to know more concerning the history of Divided Davidia, please click the link below and God bless you….always in the faith of Jesus. https://extraoilmessage.com/about/


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