Seventh-Day Adventists/Shepherds Rod


QUESTION: Hello Tom Norris,
I have run across many Shepherds Rod people within the SDA. It looks to have been started by a Victor Houteff, a dis-fellowshipped Sabbath school teacher in 1930.  The message has been around over 80 years and we can not shake it.
The bible tells us that in Acts 5:38   And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:  
5:39   But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.  
The message is still here.
Have you looked into the message to see if there is truth there? The pastors and Elders I speak with tell me to leave it alone, but they themselves have not looked into it.

Thanks for any insight you may have.  Sister White has told us that there is more light to come and we have many many things to unlearn.

ANSWER: Today, it has never been easier to investigate doctrine or church history.  There is so much information available online that there is no excuse for anyone not to find the facts.  Those that seek truth will find it.

As for the Shepherd’s Rod, they represent an offshoot of the early 20th century SDA’s. They were very legalistic, great believers in the doctrine of the IJ and Ellen White as a latter day prophet.  They focused on the 144,000 and what would take place AFTER the IJ was completed.    

In short, they tried to push flawed SDA eschatology forward, claiming they had “present truth” for the Adventist Community.   

Victor Houteff, the leader, became an SDA zealot in 1919 in his thirties.  By 1929, this former Maytag salesman, claimed to have visions about the last day events. He was not trying to start a new denomination, but reform the SDA church and purify it.  He claimed that the Adventist church had become lukewarm and had lost their way; thus he tried to revive them.

Shepherd’s Rod History

“After relocating to Los Angeles, California in 1923, Brother Houteff became a respected church member and Sabbath School Teacher. It was during the last quarter of 1929 when the Seventh Day Adventist Church Sabbath School Quarterly was addressing the later chapters in the book of Isaiah that he began to receive inspired revelations that identified the Israel of today, the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Testimonies Vol. 9, p. 56), as the central focus of these latter day prophecies. He began to share them with his class.”

“In complete harmony with the fundamental pillars and doctrines of the church, this new development of truth shed additional light to Seventh-day Adventist eschatology and called for world-wide revival and reformation of God’s beloved last day church, Laodicea, the seventh church found in Revelation 3:14-18, represented by the Seventh Day Adventist Church (Testimonies, Vol. 3, pp. 252-56).”

The Shepherd’s Rod, like the SDA’s, were so Old Covenant minded, that their name is actually based on the “rod of Moses, the Shepherd of Midian.”  They embraced the IJ and were not trying to change or remove it.  They were also obsessed with obscure, Old Testament prophecies, like Ezekiel 9, and Hosea chapters 1-2.  And also with the New Testament prophecies such as the Leopard Beast of Rev 13 and Matt. 20."

The Shepherds Rod claims:  

“The truth is that the Shepherd’s Rod is the name of a reformatory and prophetic message specifically for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  It is not a separate denomination.  Its adherents are Seventh-day Adventists Christians who are striving to know and walk with Christ, and who hold on to the fundamental truths of Adventism. They are typically members of the denominational churches but who share the prophetic series of interpretations known as, ‘The Shepherd’s Rod…’”

“You will find that Rod believers are not aberrant or religious freaks, lurking about to destroy the church or to take you out of it.  They are in fact, Seventh-day Adventists who, although imperfect, love Christ, the Scriptures, and the Third Angel’s message.”

Not only did Houteff claim to have visions, like the late Ellen White, he had no idea how to define or explain the Gospel, which is absent in his writings.  Nor did he understand the true Fundamentals that define the Advent Movement, although he claimed otherwise.   Houteff promoted legalism and perfectionism in place of the Gospel, even as the IJ played a major role in his confused theology.

Today, the teachings of the Shepherds Rod make little sense.  They represent the incoherent and amateur ramblings of a sincere SDA that was trying to purify and reform the Advent church.   Thus a partial list of “abominations” included the “lack of reverence” in church, following the fashions of the world, and misspending tithe money.  

Houteff, a strict SDA, also railed against the church selling its’ many publications, which he said made the Denomination look like it was more interested in merchandising then saving souls.  He also complained about the high cost of SDA schools and institutions, claiming they were too expensive.  

Unlike many SDA critics, Houteff embraced and defended Ellen White’s writings from the growing disbelief about her views within the church.  Because he was supposedly promoting new light about prophecy for the church, he was specifically enamored with Ellen White’s views that 1) the SDA’s did not have all the truth and 2) more truth was to come.   He viewed himself as the vehicle for this new truth that would come to the Advent people.

Houteff Excommunicated in 1934

Though he had been forced out of the SDA Church, Houteff had no intention of leaving it. Since the Church leadership had rejected his message, he took it to the people with great success. In 1934, his evangelistic endeavors began to bear fruit. Several thousand Adventists accepted Houteff's doctrine of the Shepherd's Rod.

His Message began to have a considerable impact on the Adventist Church, which, at that time, counted less than 250,000 members worldwide.   In 1934, Houteff formed the Universal Publishing Association. While he had no intention of forming his own church, he did wish to use every medium within his power to spread his message within the SDA Church.

He viewed the Adventist Church as backsliding from the beliefs upon which it had been founded a hundred years before, and saw his message as a method of solving the many doctrinal disagreements which had arisen as the Church expanded in the 1900s after Ellen G. White's death.

See also:—who-are-they

Shepherds Rod Morphs Into Branch Dividians –David Koresh

The most infamous Branch Dividian was David Koresh.  Raised SDA by his mother, he gained control of the Branch Dividians and made up his own twisted version of SDA eschatology, with himself playing a leading, prophetic role.  The whole world watched as he and many of his delusional followers burned to death in a standoff with the US Government.


David Koresh- SDA 1981

“When he was 20, Koresh turned to the Church of Seventh Day Adventists, his mother's church. But he was expelled for being a bad influence on the young people. Sometime during the next couple of years, Koresh went to Hollywood to become a rock star but nothing came of it. Instead, in 1981 he went to Waco, Texas where he joined the Branch Davidians, a religious sect which in 1935 had settled 10 miles outside of Waco. At one time, it had more than 1,400 members…”

“By 1990 Koresh had become the leader of the Branch Davidians and legally changed his name, saying on the court document that the change was "for publicity and business purposes." He said the switch arose from his belief that he was now head of the biblical House of David. (Koresh is a Hebrew transliteration of Cyrus, the name of the Persian king who allowed the Jews held captive in Babylon to return to Israel.)”

See also:


The Shepherds Rod, which later morphed into David Koresh’s infamous Branch Dividians cult, is a cautionary tale for the Adventist Community.  This entire episode shows the evil results of the legalistic, anti-Gospel doctrine of the Investigative Judgment, which becomes even more toxic when combined with the misuse of Ellen White.

The Gospel is not to be found in the confusion of either the Shepherds Rod or the Branch Dividians.  Nor can it be found in the SDA Denomination, which refuses to repent for their many false doctrines, including the IJ and the misuse of Ellen White.  

Had the Takoma Park leaders understood the Gospel and the history of the Three Angels Messages correctly, they would NOT have promoted the IJ, or viewed Ellen White’s writings as if they were like scripture.  They should have known better then to promote the IJ based legalism that has driven the modern Advent Movement into theological confusion, irrelevance, and schism.  

What happened in WACO Texas is a clear warning for the Advent Community.  They need to repent of the IJ and correct the false record in the White Estate about Ellen White.  They also need to understand the “new light” that came to the church in 1888 through EJ Waggoner and Ellen White, which theology was covered up and hidden by the White Estate.  

It is time for all SDA’s to repent of the IJ and Glacier View, returning to the genuine pillars that define the Three Angels Messages.  Such reform requires the removal of the many false and legalistic doctrines that has turned the Advent Movement into a worthless, dying, cult.  

Although many have tried to reform the SDA’s over the years, including Ellen White, none have succeeded.  This is why the Adventists are self-destructing for all to see.  They refuse to correct their many doctrinal errors and polices, starting with the IJ.  Such stubborn rebellion against the Gospel is destroying the Advent Movement at the very time it should be moving forward to prepare the church for the great time of trouble and the 2nd Coming.  It is time for serious Gospel Reform within Adventism.  

Is anyone listening?

Tom Norris for All Experts.Com & Adventist Reform

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I do agree with you on the 1888 message.  A lot was lost there.  As I have looked further into the Rod, I have found one misconception, which you hinted to.  The Shepherds Rod did not morph into the Branch.  Koresh was part of the Rod movement, but then left and started his own church, the branch. They are completely 2 different organizations. The fire and destruction from ATF did not effect the Davidian SDA or Rod people, just the Branch.  My question is, what are your thoughts on the fact that it is still within spiritual Israel and it can not be shaken loose? In relation to the verse quoted before.
Acts 5:38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:  
5:39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
Thanks again for your thoughts.

While it is true that the 1888 Message was rejected in Battle Creek, and covered up in Takoma Park, the details of this infamous Gospel Debate are not lost, as the church leaders have dishonestly claimed.  I entered the White Estate in 1979 and found the facts.   I discovered Arthur White hiding a large collection of 1888 materials that told the real story.  

Hidden Documents in the White Estate

The White Estate was hiding this large amount of material in order to deceive the public and the Adventist Community about Ellen White’s true views.  This fraud was uncovered some time ago, in 1979, but the SDA leaders have since covered it up again, trying to pretend nothing wrong has taken place in the White Estate, when they know this is not true.  Thus the cover-up and manipulation about Ellen White is alive and well within the Adventist Community.

Today, the facts about Ellen White and the 1888 debates are known; the White Estate has been promoting a false view of Ellen White and church history all these years, even to this very day.  Shame on them!  This massive and long running fraud is the real reason why the SDA’s are self-destructing in confusion, anger, and schism.

The SDA leaders should repent for promoting such false and misleading views about Ellen White and her teachings all these years.  This massive fraud has caused a lot of unnecessary debate and damage to the Advent Movement, including the development of a number of breakaway cults such as the Dividians and the Branch Dividians.  There would have been no such groups had the SDA’s been honest about Ellen White and church history.

Second, it is true that David Koresh made up his own doctrines and invented a new “Branch” of Dividians.  But both Houteff and Koresh were cut from the same Old Covenant cloth of incorrect, SDA doctrines.  Both embraced the IJ and both viewed Ellen White as a modern day prophet that others, like themselves, could imitate.

So it is the IJ and the false teachings about Ellen White that are “hard to shake.”  These false and fatal doctrines open the door to even more errors and cultic hubris.  Thus, all Davidians have most everything wrong.  None are Protestant.  They have little knowledge of the genuine Gospel, much less about Adventist history or prophecy.

Houteff’s legalistic theology, which is nothing more than confused prophetic nonsense, was based on many SDA errors, especially the IJ and this hermeneutical myth from the White Estate that Ellen White has doctrinal authority.  None of which were true.

Had the SDA’s not promoted Ellen White as a latter day prophet with doctrinal authority, these unstable amateurs would not have thought that they too could have visions, as well as proclaim new doctrines.  

Moreover, Ellen White never believed that the IJ was part of the 1st Angels Message, as the Takoma Park apologists have claimed.  That was never her position at any time in her life.  Which means something is very wrong in the White Estate.

Let all understand: Ellen White would have supported Dr. Ford at Glacier View, not those legalists that claimed the IJ was located in the 1st Angels Message, and that it was a sacred “pillar” that could not be changed or removed.  Ellen White has been horribly misunderstood and manipulated by the White Estate, and this crime needs to stop.

The cover-up of 1888 combined with the errors of the Takoma Park apologists about Ellen White, set the stage for some within Adventism to become doctrinally delusional, thinking that they too could have visions and declare new doctrine like Ellen White supposedly did. There were a number that have done this.

Both Houteff and Koresh quoted approvingly from Ellen White, even as they thought they could also have visions and dreams to correct the church.  They were actually trying to be like Ellen White, thinking they too could be a latter day prophets.  Such false assumptions were based on the errors of the White Estate, not on the New Testament.

The Takoma Park leaders planted evil seeds of doctrinal confusion and error that has brought forth poisonous fruit for all to see.  False doctrine, when fully mature, brings forth even more false, anti-Gospel doctrine, as well as theological confusion and schism.  Look around at the Adventist wasteland and see the results.  The Advent Movement is near death.

Gal. 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

Let all understand: the failure of the Adventists to realize that:

1) The Cannon closed with the last book of Revelation, and that

2) Ellen White has no doctrinal authority,

Facilitated the development of the delusional Davidians, and the later rise of the even more absurd, David Koresh.  These cultic-minded groups could not have gained traction had it not been for the fundamental errors of the SDA’s, which they still refuse to acknowledge and repudiate.

In other words, without this false teaching about Ellen White from the early Takoma Park leaders, and later the White Estate, there would have been no Davidians and no David Koresh or WACO disaster.  Nor could Glacier View have taken place, much less the great schism, which followed.  

Such is the price for this great deception about the Ellen White and the IJ, which is still taking place today.  

The SDA’s have almost destroyed themselves because of their false views about Ellen White and the Judgment, and yet, they still refuse to repent and correct the record.  If they continue on this present course, it will be fatal.

I repeat: Ellen White did not have doctrinal authority at any time when she was alive.  Nor did she ever place the IJ in the 1st Angels Message; much less claim it to be a “pillar” in any of the Three Angels Messages. Such facts change everything for the Adventist Community, even as they prove the White Estate guilty of promoting a massive, long running publishing fraud.

Although there is no question that Koresh taught some very different doctrines from Houteff, they were both delusional SDA’s, and they both share common, SDA errors, even as Koresh made up many more wild, anti-Gospel teachings.  

As for the remaining Dividians today, they are obviously trying to distance themselves from Koresh and his ultra extreme views.  Regardless, they have no Gospel truth, nor do they understand Protestant hermeneutics or Adventist Eschatology correctly, much less the genuine “pillars” that form the Three Angels Messages.  

None of these Davidian groups have any worthwhile doctrines from God or Christ.  They teach a confused and legalistic Gospel that is incoherent and outdated, just like Traditional Adventism, from which they came.

Unless these confused Adventists, as well as all others, repent of the their many false and legalistic doctrines, including the IJ and Ellen White, they are doomed.  The Bible does not support what they teach, nor should anyone think they have any spiritual credibility or Gospel knowledge.  They do not.

Today, it is time for genuine Gospel Reform in every church and denomination, starting with the confused and cultic SDA’s.  As Protestants, the Adventists must repudiate the IJ, and this idea that Ellen White has any doctrinal authority.  She has none, and she never said otherwise.

The Fraud of Traditional Adventism

Ellen White

It is time for all within the Adventist Community to take a "time out" and get their doctrinal bearings and history straight.  The church must stop both the pluralism and the propaganda in order to find their way back to the original fundamentals that control the Adventist Apocalyptic.  

The General Conference must repent for both 1888 and Glacier View, even as they confess to the massive publishing fraud in the White Estate that must be exposed and corrected.

It is time for the Denomination to repent and tell the truth about Ellen White and the genuine pillars that define the Three Angels Messages.  The present wicked charade is not sustainable.

Repentance and Gospel Reform is the only way for the Advent Movement to go forward and complete its eschatological mission to prepare the church for the great Tribulation and the 2nd Coming.  Is anyone listening?

I hope this helps.

Tom Norris for All Experts.Com & Adventist Reform

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Tom Norris


I can answer most any question about church history and theology, starting from 1818 when William Miller articulated the 1st Angels Message that became the foundation of the Adventist Movement. While this first prophetic message terminated in the spring of 1844, it was followed by what Adventists refer to as the 2nd Angels Message, which dates from the spring of 1844 until the great disappointment of October 22, 1844. By 1847, the 3rd Angels Message had been developed and this Sabbatarian theology represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Moreover, I can explain the historical and theological development of the SDA denomination from its beginning and on through the great Battle Creek schism that forced the SDA's to retreat to Takoma Park. Here the 20th century church recovered from their internal battles that had erupted at the 1888 General Conference in Minneapolis over the definition of the law and the Gospel. Fearing another repeat of this disaster, President Daniels, determined to hide this debate. However, this policy led to more conflict, especially over the role and authority of Ellen White, a unique and accomplished religious writer that had remarkable spiritual gifts. However, by the decade of the 1970`s, the church once again erupted into debate. The hierarchy settled the turmoil in 1980 with the trial of Dr. Desmond Ford at Glacier View. Here Dr. Ford was exiled because he supposedly disagreed with Ellen White over the Fundamentals. But this controversial action resulted in another major schism that is still in progress today.


Tom Norris was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist in Takoma Park, Md. He attended SDA grade and High schools, moving on to study Adventist theology at Columbia Union College. He also spent significant time conducting independent research in the General Conference Archives and the Ellen G. White Estate. Over the years he has also interviewed a number of prominent Adventist scholars, theologians, and Pastors ranging from the late Arthur White to the exiled Dr. Desmond Ford. In addition, he has amassed a large private library, which includes numerous rare books and manuscripts about Adventist theology and history. He is presently the online editor of Adventist Reform, and can be found at Adventist for Tomorrow answering questions online about SDA theology and history as well as promoting Adventist Reform.

Tom Norris attended SDA grade and High schools, moving on to study Adventist theology at Columbia Union College. He also spent significant time conducting independent research in the General Conference Archives and the Ellen G. White Estate.

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