Victor Tasho Houteff was a man concerning whom there has always been, and continues to be, much controversy.1 The very mention of his name or of his message often excites fierce opposition, even to the point of violence at the hands of men who profess to be followers, or even minsters, of God.2 On one hand, his opponents branded him a cult leader, accusing him of subversion and promulgation of a “heretical” ideology, which they deemed dangerous. On the other hand, those who accepted his message viewed him as a humble man who was appointed by God to call for a much needed revival and reformation and who was inspired with incredible insight into many prophecies of Scripture, the understanding of which had evaded the most brilliant minds for centuries. So, who was Victor Houteff? Why the controversy? Here are the facts:
Victor Houteff was born in Raicovo, Bulgaria – March 2, 1885. After being attacked by an armed mob in 1907,3 he was forced out of Bulgaria and found himself in America without a dime. Being a keen business man, though, he was soon able to find work and, not long after, started his own business. In 1919, Victor became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church, which, at that time, was experiencing radical changes in the aftermath of the death of their founder and prophet, Ellen G. White.
In order to correctly understand Victor Houteff and the message he bore, it is necessary to have at least a basic knowledge of the fundamental principles involved in Seventh-day Adventism, both in relation to its teachings and its history. Seventh-day Adventism itself is, in actuality, an outgrowth of an early movement which has become known as The Great Second Advent Movement,4 whose participants also became known as Millerites (named after William Miller). Beginning in the early 1800s, this movement was composed of Christians from a wide range of denominations and sects all bound together by the common belief in the soon coming of Christ. The prominent view among Christians at the time was that Christ would only return after a millennium of peace on earth. Since the Adventist position contradicted this view, they were often outcast.
A number of Adventists had taken note of the fact that certain prophecies from the books of Daniel and Revelation had met fulfillment in some of the events which had recently taken place, and thus they looked for the fulfillment of other prophecies. Chief among these prophecies was that of Daniel 8:14, which says, “unto 2300 days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” They had seen that the period of 1260 days mentioned in Daniel and Revelation had been fulfilled in the 1260 years from 538 CE (start of Papal supremacy) to 1798 CE when Pope Pius VI was taken captive by General Louis-Alexandre Berthier (Rev. 13:10),5 which was a manifestation of a deadly wound which had been inflicted upon the Papacy. By a careful study of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, William Miller and his associates came to the conclusion that the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 extended from 457 BCE (when the the decree went forward to restore and rebuild Jerusalem) to about the year 1843,6 which was later corrected to the autumn of 1844.7 Since the common idea among Christians at the time was that the sanctuary was the earth, the Millerites concluded that, at the end of the 2300 days the earth would be cleansed by fire (Heb. 6:7), which they understood to be at the second coming of Christ. The proclamation of the soon coming of Christ was understood to be in fulfillment of the message of the angel of Revelation 14:6-7 (the first angel’s message).
As the time expected for the Advent grew nearer, the Millerite preachers taught their message more and more decidedly and thus became a greater and greater threat to the denominational churches. The churches began to mistreat and disfellowship Advent believers simply for believing that their Savior was coming soon. This mistreatment, along with other evils present in the churches (such as drunkenness, vain philosophy, and slavery), led many of the Adventists in 1843 and 1844 to give what they understood to be the second angel’s message (Rev. 14:8).8 They declared that the churches had followed in the footsteps of the Papacy and were thus as fully Babylon as was the Roman power. By late 1844, there were at least 50,0009 Millerites expecting the coming of Christ.
In the summer of 1844, at a camp meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, a man named Samuel Snow presented what became known as “The True Midnight Cry.” His teaching demonstrated that the symbols and types contained in the ceremonial law of the Hebrew Bible always meet their fulfillment on the exact day on which they took place in the ancient Hebrew calendar. Since the event at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 was the cleansing of the sanctuary, and since the cleansing of the sanctuary took place on the tenth day of the seventh month (the day of Atonement), then, he reasoned, the fulfillment of the end of the 2300 period must take place on the tenth day of the seventh month of 1844, which, that year, fell on October 22. Thousands of Millerites eagerly expected to see their Lord, and many of them even sold their possessions to use the means for the proclamation of the message. October 22 came, and the Millerites solemnly, yet joyfully, waited. When the day came to an end and there was no Savior in sight, there was great weeping and anguish of soul beyond that which most can comprehend. This became known as “The Great Disappointment.” After that dreadful night passed, many of the Millerites returned to their former churches, left their faith altogether, or went off in various directions. The morning after the disappointment, one man, Hiram Edson, received a vision in which he saw Jesus in a sanctuary in Heaven going from the Holy Place to the Most Holy Place. This prompted him and a number of other Adventists to investigate the Scriptures more closely on the question of what the sanctuary is. A close investigation of Scripture led to the understanding that the sanctuary to be cleansed at the end of the 2300 days was not the earth, but was the Sanctuary in Heaven (Heb. 8-9), and that on Oct. 22, 1844, Jesus moved from the Holy Place, where he had been ministering since his ascension in 31 CE, to the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary to accomplish the work of “investigative judgment.”10 This became the backbone doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist church.
As this small company of Advent believers came together to investigate the Scriptures, a young woman among them, then known as Ellen Gould Harmon (later Ellen White), began to receive profound dreams and visions which pointed out the experience of the Advent people and which brought to their attention the Scriptural truths which they were then to receive. Through much study, and by revelation, this small flock gained a unique understanding which set them apart from the rest of the world. These included a knowledge of the Heavenly Sanctuary and the investigative judgment going forward there,11 the perpetual validity of the seventh-day Sabbath,12 the physical person-hood of both God and His Son (Jesus),13 the strictly material nature of existence (which necessitated that humans do not have a non-physical aspect to them which remains alive after death, among other things),14 and the need for the Spirit of Prophecy active in the church (which they understood could only be manifested through a living prophet).15 All of these truths they understood to be bound up in the third angel’s message of Revelation 14:9-12.
As time went on, it soon became apparent that the members of the Adventist church had fallen into spiritual darkness as had the churches before them. Ellen White sent many testimonies to individuals and churches in an attempt to rouse them from their spiritual slumber. In the year 1888, God sent a message through two men, A.T. Jones, and E.J. Waggoner, which was designed to awaken this sleeping people. It was the message of Justification by Faith, which declared that true righteousness is always expressed in full conformity to the law of God, and since to be justified is to be made righteous, and since sin is unrighteousness, then Justification by Faith means to be made free from sin by means of genuine faith.16 At that time, Ellen White had been pointing out the sins of many in the leadership of the SDA church, and so when Jones and Waggoner came with the message of Justification by Faith it showed them that they stood guilty before God – that they were not justified, as they had formerly believed. This pill was too hard to swallow and so they rejected the message and mocked and ridiculed the messengers, and also Ellen White.17 The spiritual condition of the church continued to decline over the following decades. In the early 1900s a number of theories become prominent in the Adventist church which worked to destroy their foundations; in particular, the pantheistic theories concerning the person and presence of God as promoted by John Harvey Kellog.18 On July 16, 1915, Ellen White passed away, and the church again plunged into an even deeper sleep.
In the next few years after the death of Ellen White, there were a number of doctrinal changes which took place in Adventism. In 1916, the SDA leadership began to teach that the writings of Ellen White are themselves The Spirit of Prophecy and that there is no more need for living prophets.19 In 1919, a number of church leaders held an exclusive Bible Conference20 in which they discussed a number of theological issues and came to radically different conclusions from what had previously been so foundational to Adventism. At that conference, some of the prominent church leaders denied that Jesus was literally begotten of the Father at some point in the distant past, but asserted instead that he was eternally co-existent with God as the second person of the triune Godhead, a view which was clearly opposed by the early Adventists.21 Also, in connection with this was the thought that the existence of all matter was contingent upon Christ, thus necessitating that the Godhead existed before matter and is thus essentially immaterial (non-physical). Furthermore, one of the most pivotal points discussed at the conference was the relation of Ellen White’s writings to the Bible. It was agreed upon that the Spirit of Prophecy should not be considered as authoritative as the writings of the biblical prophets and also that the Spirit of Prophecy is not the only means of correctly interpreting Scripture and that therefore it is not necessary to consult the Spirit of Prophecy when seeking to understand the Bible. Again, these teachings directly contradicted the position of the early SDA pioneers. Clearly, this was a time of major theological restructuring which would forever change the face of Adventism. It was at this time that Victor Houteff arrived on the scene, and this is the Adventism into which he came.
During Houteff’s first ten years in Adventism (from 1919-1929), he became an avid student of the Bible and the writings of Ellen White. Also during this time, he became well acquainted with the history and teachings of the denomination as well as the increasingly Christless condition into which it had fallen. Victor was a Sabbath School teacher at the Exposition Park Church of Los Angeles, California, when, in 1929, M.L. Andreason (one of the most prominent Adventist theologians at the time) came out with a Sabbath School quarterly22 called Isaiah The Gospel Prophet, which had its focus on Isaiah 54-66. Both Andreason and Houteff saw that these chapters are applicable to the church in the last days and therefore must receive thorough investigation. Through careful study and by revelation, Houteff received much additional light on these chapters as well as on many other passages of Scripture which had, up till then, been shrouded in mystery. He wrote down this new light in a manuscript called The Shepherd’s Rod (named after the rod which Moses used while delivering Israel from Egypt), 33 copies of which he delivered to denominational leaders in 1930. The primary subject of the book was the 144,000 and a call for reformation, which included a call to return to many of the doctrines and practices which the church had been leaving.23
Over the next few years, this primary subject was again picked up in a second volume and a series of tracts. The message declared that while the investigative judgment had been going forward in Heaven since 1844, the time was approaching when the investigation would pass from the cases of the dead to the cases of the living. Adventists had long understood that the investigative judgment consisted of a review of the cases of all the professed people of God, from the beginning of the world to the end, and they knew that at some point the review would catch up to the “present.” What Houteff was proclaiming is that that time was almost come, and that, when it did come, there would begin a sifting and separating process in the church – the church would be weighed in the balances, and if she did not wake up from her spiritual slumber, she would be found wanting. He explained from the Scriptures that the final work of proclaiming the gospel to all the world would be accomplished by a pure church – free from sin, but that before that could take place there must necessarily be a purification among God’s professed people. Those who would accept the truth and thus be purified from sin would receive the mark of God’s sealing approval, but those who refuse it and remain in their sins would be slain in divine judgment as predicted in Ezekiel 9.24
Of the 33 men who had received the manuscript of The Shepherd’s Rod, Vol. 1, only two ever replied. The first, according to his own words, only “took a little time and perused certain sections,” while the second carefully and prayerfully read the manuscript three times, comparing it with Scripture to discern whether its contents were true.25 The first raised objections, which only revealed his ignorance of the subjects at hand, while the second, under deep conviction, confessed his errors and sins as a minister and took up the study and proclamation of the message contained in The Shepherd’s Rod, only to soon be disfellowshipped from the SDA church. Houteff’s call for reform automatically necessitated a humbling on the part of the leadership, but since they refused to be corrected, they opposed the message and all who accepted it.26
By 1935, Victor Houteff had organized the movement, then known as The Shepherd’s Rod Seventh-Day Adventists, and moved the organizational headquarters to just outside of Waco, Texas, where he established what became known as Mt. Carmel Center. There, in the midst of the Great Depression, the budding movement flourished. They were able to establish a rest home, a ministerial education center, a grade school, an employment agency, agricultural projects, and even a bank, among other things. Being a part of the movement at the time was a unique experience. It was anything but stagnant. The Rod believers had come to recognize that God had risen up another prophet. Old truths were being restored and new truths were being revealed. To be a member meant to sacrifice popularity, reputation, and even (at times) one’s physical safety. They had a message to bear, and there was no time to waste. The movement, being a part of the SDA denomination, was very much focused on declaring the message to the church, for they understood that judgment always begins at the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17) and it is therefore necessary to warn her first.
The arrival of World War II brought new challenges to the movement. They had been disfellowshipped from the Adventist church and therefore could not prove membership in an organization which would qualify them for status as conscientious objectors.27 This issue was solved with the movement being raised to a higher level of organization wherein it was given its name – The Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists.28 The name Davidian signified that the movement was dedicated to the work of announcing and bringing forward the restoration of the Davidic kingdom in anti-type. The message of the Davidic kingdom is one which Houteff had been teaching since 1937 and it basically consisted of the idea that prior to the second coming of Christ (and the millennium), God would establish His kingdom on earth with its capital in the land of Israel, and that from there the gospel would be preached to all nations. The first fruits of this kingdom would be gathered from among the modern descendants of the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:1-8) – that is, those among them who receive the truth, and thereafter, there would be a great ingathering from among the gentiles (Rev. 7:9; Isaiah 66:15-120).29 This teaching, along with the teaching of the purification of the church, became one of the most prominent and distinguishing features of the Davidian movement.
Though rejected by the Adventist leadership, the Davidian movement continued to grow. Houteff wrote more and more literature, covering an increasingly broad range of subjects and distributed his tracts freely all over the Adventist world. By the mid 1950’s, Mt. Carmel center was publishing and distributing approximately 50,000 pieces of literature each month. In 1953, the Davidian movement took a turn with the inception of the “hunting campaign,” an operation in which Davidian Ministers went door-to-door visiting Adventists all over the United States, and other countries as well. This campaign continued expanding and the work of the movement continued excelling until the fateful day of February 5, 1955 when Victor Houteff died of heart failure. From that day forward, the Davidian movement would never be the same. Some of the very truths which it was the purpose of the Shepherd’s Rod message to restore were again lost30 and Davidians plunged into an even worse spiritual condition than the Adventists. Victor’s wife, Florence, took control of the organization the day after his death, and through her influence in making false predictions (among other things), the movement was scattered, split into numerous sects, and, in 1961, supposedly disbanded. All the various Davidian sects today have arisen out of attempts to resurrect the disbanded organization and to proclaim one form or another of The Shepherd’s Rod message.
So, who was Victor Houteff? He was a man of mission, a reformer, and a messenger from God. To him, religion was not a static system of theological theories; instead, it was an ever progressive revelation of truth,31 moving its hearers to walk according to the ways and laws of God, extending sympathy to those in need, and feeding those who are starving for truth with fresh fruit from the tree of life.32 His vision was one of progress in practically every respect. His purpose was to announce the purification of the church and the setting up of the Davidic Kingdom. These things he did with faithfulness, and his mission was not in vain. Only months after his passing, the Lord rose up another, Benjamin L. Roden, to bear a new message of truth, which Houteff himself predicted.33 In the last years of his life, Victor stressed more than ever the stealthy approach of the investigative judgment of the living.34 Ben Roden then came with the message that the time had come.
In the preceding paragraphs we have attempted to give you a glimpse of the message of the Shepherd’s Rod, the man who bore it, and the import of his work. Ultimately, how you view the controversy is up to you. You will have to decide whether Houteff was a mad man with a devious plan to destroy the Seventh-day Adventist church or whether he was a messenger sent by God to call for a much needed reform and to proclaim a message of truth given him by Inspiration. Victor Houteff challenged Seventh-day Adventists to read his literature and put it to the test – to see if it is true. We challenge you to do the same.
What follows is a complete list of Victor Houteff’s literature. We will regularly be adding more until the task is complete.
In addition to the literature as found below, you can DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE PUBLISHED SHEPHERD’S ROD LITERATURE35 in a searchable Folio Views database. In order to use this database it is necessary to already have Folio Views on your computer. One way to do this is to download the Ellen White CD-ROM available here. The Ellen White software also includes much of the writings of the early SDA pioneers and is available for both Mac and PC. Once downloaded, the Shepherd’s Rod database will work on either platform. To open the Shepherd’s Rod database within folio once you have the Ellen White CD-ROM open, all you have to do is click File > Open > then locate the unzipped SROD folio file and select Open.
No. 1 The Way Back To Eden
No. 2 Only Two Ways
No. 3 Question and Answer Discussion (Part I)
No. 4 Question and Answer Discussion (Part II)
No. 5 That Which Shall Be In The Last Days
No. 6 Zion And Her Daughters In The Last Days
No. 7 What Makes One Eligible?
No. 8 Laodicean or Davidian—Which?
No. 9 The House of David as The Angel of The Lord
No. 10 What Brings Success to Revival and Reformation?
No. 11 Build The Cities, Comfort Zion, Choose Jerusalem
No. 12 If Only 144,000 Translated, What Chance For You?
No. 13 The Revival and Reformation
No. 14 Isms, and the Remedy
No. 15 The Jews and the Christians’ Faith in the Prophets
No. 16 The Exodus of Today
No. 17 Bright Clouds Bring Gentle Rain
No. 18 The End of Human Idols and Their Worshipers
No. 19 The Fate of Jerusalem, The Call of Its Future Inhabitants
No. 20 The Kingdom of Judah, The Sifting of the Nations
No. 21 The Church Entering Into and In the Harvest Period
No. 22 The Hated Jews of Today Not The Admired Jews of Tomorrow
No. 23 The Fate of Assyria, and the Triumph of the Church
No. 24 Is World War II yet to be Finished – Saints yet to be Delivered?
No. 25 Which Nations Will Disarm, And Why?
No. 26 A World Wide Stir, and its Results
No. 27 A Rod That Speaks Calls for Reformation and Creates Great Controversy
No. 28 On the Threshold of a New World in the Sight of the Old
No. 29 A Trodden-Down Kingdom Rising To Prominence and Peace
No. 30 “Seven Women Take Hold Of One Man”
No. 31 The Old Family Tree
No. 32 Fathers Preferred Deceit Their Children Given Grace
No. 33 The Dispersion, The Time, and The Deliverance
No. 34 The Spoiler’s Spoils Taken by the Lame and the Weak
No. 35 Nations See Edom Perish, Deserts Blossom, and a Highway to Zion
No. 36 “Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye, My People”
No. 37 The End of Your Long and Trying Journey
No. 38 If Not Awakened Now, They May Sleep Forever
No. 39 The Children of the Barren More Than the Children of the Bearing Woman
No. 40 Zion in the Height of Her Glory
No. 41 The Fruits of the Anointed One
No. 42 Zion’s Reward and God’s Mighty Effort
No. 43 The Year of His Redeemed – The Sign of the Day of Vengeance
No. 44 Things That Obtain Before and After the Earth is Made New
No. 45 The Mighty Esaus and the Unpretentious Jacobs
No. 46 The Servants of God in the Gathering Time
No. 47 Jacob’s Time of Trouble; Judah and Israel Going Home
No. 48 God’s Certification to Resurrect, Purify, and Consolidate Judah and Israel
No. 49 What is Religion? Does it Profit Both Now and Hereafter?
No. 50 Life Is But What We Make It
No. 51 Is Religion Something Living and Growing? Or is it Something Dead and Waning?
No. 52 Five Men Slay After One Sets A Mark
No. 1 The Lord’s Answer to the Inquirer of God
No. 2 One Shepherd to Accomplish What a Multitude of Them Failed to Accomplish
No. 3 The Christian’s Land Renovation and Heart Operation
No. 4 The Dead and The Living Make Up The Whole House of Israel; Gog Fails
No. 5 A Feast That Rolls Away The Veil, Open The Gates, And Causes Death To Flee Away
No. 6 Lewdness Flees Away at Children’s Protest! Revival and Reformation Win
No. 7 The Time of “The Time of Trouble,” and the Reward of One’s Faith in God
No. 8 Revival and Reformation Precede The Great and Dreadful Day of the Lord
No. 9 Be A New Threshing Instrument in the Hand of God
No. 10 Upshoots, Not Offshoots
No. 11 The Way the Kingdom is to Come
No. 12 The Revelation – What is it?
No. 13 Where Do The Seals and Trumpets Begin and End?
No. 14 The Chronological Setting of the Revelation Chapter by Chapter – The Summary
No. 15 That Which is to be During the Sixth Trumpet While Probation Still Lasts
No. 16 Satan’s Triple Defeat Brings The “Time Of Trouble Such As Never Was”
No. 17 A World Government And The Only People Who Will Not Bow Down To It
No. 18 The Final World Government, Communistic or Capitalistic – Which?
No. 19 Baptism and The Lord Our Righteousness – The Gate to the Church
No. 20 The Laodiceans Perish Without The “Message To The Laodiceans”
No. 21 Children Born to a Lewd Mother Bring Peace and Happiness in the Home
No. 22 The Great Paradox of the Ages
No. 23 Keeping The Commandments, The Stony Heart and The Carnal Mind
No. 24 The People That Hardly Stand A Chance
No. 25 The Product of the School of God and the Product of the School of Man
No. 26 Shintoism and Non-Progressive Christianity
No. 27 Chronically Ill With Too Much Knowledge and Too Little Understanding
No. 28 The Spirit That Originated Evil, And Its Manifestation Today
No. 29 Truth’s Decree On Earth Is The Decree In Heaven
No. 30 The Revival and Reformation Crowned with the Purification
No. 31 The Restoration and The Time
No. 32 If A Man Dies How Shall He Live Again? And What Shall He Be Like?
No. 33 The Cleansing of the Sanctuary – When and How Done?
No. 34 If You Were Nothing, What Would You Choose To Be?
No. 35 “The Lord Our Righteousness”
No. 36 Democracy, Communism, Catholicism, or Protestantism – Which is Next to Rule the World?
No. 37 History and Prophecy, Commandments and Statutes – The Bible
No. 38 Fundamental Principles of Education
No. 39 Righteousness by Grace, Righteousness by Faith, and the Righteousness of Christ
No. 40 The Education of Christian Youth – Where and How Obtained
No. 41 Current Events, The Palestinian Situation, and How Close the Separation?
No. 42 That Which is to be During the Time of the End
No. 43 A Dead Top, an Offshoot, or an Upshoot – Which?
No. 44 The Signs of Christ’s Coming or the Signs of the Kingdom – Which?
No. 45 What is Christianity? Who May Take Hold of It? And Who May Miss It?
No. 46 The Gift of Miracles Especially Healing and Speaking in Tongues, – When, How, Who?