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Today's Davidians focus on 7 seals

March 7, 2003

By Hannah Lodwick

Although the Branch Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists emerged onto the national scene 10 years ago, the infamous siege at Mount Carmel did not eradicate their sect. Remaining Branch Davidians actively recruit members, and they have a mailing list of more than 600 people.

Worldwide, roughly 3,000 Davidians believe that David Koresh, their leader who died in the April 19, 1993 assault, will resurrect himself before the end of the world.

'The members still believe David was speaking truth,' Ron Goins, the Davidian visitor's center volunteer and compound protector, said. 'They anticipated earlier results, I mean with the resurrection, but that hasn't happened yet. Some of them thought three days, and some thought three and a half years, but we still expect him to come back when the time is right.'

As historical and doctrinal descendants of Seventh-Day Adventists, the Branch Davidians use the Old Testament as their main source of authority. Dr. Bill Pitts, a religion professor at Baylor, said the group's founder wanted to create a more holy community.

'Victor Houteff thought the church had compromised with the world so much that a new group needed to form,' Pitts said. 'Later on, they believed the leaders had the power to interpret more truth as they went on. They wanted to create a separate Christian community.'

The group's name refers to Benjamin Rodin, a Davidian leader who thought he personified the branch mentioned in Zechariah 3:8. Members view books by leaders like Rodin and Koresh as inspired prophecy, and despite several failed apocalyptical prophecies, Davidians see themselves as living in the end-times.

'All prophets in the Bible have something in common,' Goins said. 'They're wrong. They've all had things go unfulfilled in their lifetime. It's through fulfilled prophecy that a prophet is true.'

Pitts said the group probably attracted people because the leaders' interpretations of the Bible made sense. He said classifying a religious group as a cult depends on several factors.

'Calling a group a cult is a matter of opinion,' Pitts said. 'Usually it's a small group that tends to emphasize one or two special doctrines. Special attention is given to group leaders. They're seen as having authority. A third criterion is how far these people are willing to go in their belief. They tend to go live together, to call for a complete separation from the world. A certain mentality happens when they group together like that.'

To the Branch Davidians, 'salvation' means understanding the seven seals mentioned in the book of Revelation. In an April 10, 1993, letter to his followers, Koresh wrote, 'Your only Savior is My Truth. My Truth is the Seven Seals. If we disregard the first seal. This indifference most surely will place one's salvation in jeopardy.'

Contrary to popular belief, Branch Davidians do not claim Koresh as their deity. Instead, they believe he embodied 'the messiah of iniquities.' Koresh referred to himself as Yahweh Koresh and claimed he attained unity with the mind of God, an 'anointed one' who embodied the scapegoat mentioned in Leviticus 16:7-26.

'David heard voices and had visions,' Goins said. 'He accepted the Trinity as the father, mother and son. The Hebrew word Torah ends in the letter h, and that's a feminine ending. We see the Holy Spirit as the feminine aspect of God.'

Rachel Sciretti, a third-year student at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, said that although the letter does have a feminine sounding ending, she disagrees with that interpretation of the word.

'The Torah is the law,' Sciretti said. 'It is a feminine word, but God is not the law. That is not valid.'

Pitts said that the idea of a feminine aspect of God came from Lois Rodin, a Davidian leader in the 1970s.

'Lois Rodin went to the heart of the theological idea,' Pitts said. 'She had a journal, and she bold faced 'she' for God. In the last few years, there has been added emphasis that the nature of God includes nurturing, sheltering aspects of parenting balanced with the generally male aspects.'

Koresh believed that in order to maintain communal peace, men and women had to live in separate areas. Believing that polygamy furthered his influence and immortality, Koresh also voided marriages between members, claiming that only he could sleep with the women, some as young as 14 years old.

Goins said Koresh justified his actions based on the traditional Catholic belief that nuns and priests comprise the bride of Christ.

'If God had lived on earth, he would have fathered children through nuns,' Goins said. 'If you look at Mormons 100 years ago, they did things that were much worse. Having the women wasn't about pleasure for David. It was about keeping peace. Any woman who wanted a child would go through David.'

Livingstone Fagan, the jailed Branch Davidian theologian, said Davidian believers become gods through knowing the mind of God.

'I mean, there's a great big universe out there, and that universe is for his children,' Fagan said in an interview with The Watchman Expositor. 'And there are going to be provinces that they populate with their own creations.'

In perhaps his furthest departure from Christianity, Fagan stated that Jesus achieved unity with God but failed to teach the seven seals.

'Jesus did not come to die, albeit he ran that risk,' Fagan said in the interview. 'Christ himself made it clear he did not come to die. Christ created a temporary system of salvation by grace because of man's ignorance.'

Goins, who teaches a class for Davidians about the seven seals, said he analyzes biblical codes to predict the future.

'Believers say that at some time America will become the great Satan,' Goins said. 'I've seen David in the codes, and I saw the Titanic, Bill Clinton, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. You'd be surprised.'

In spite of the loss of Davidian members, Goins said the survivors will continue their practices.

'They are students of the seals,' Goins said. 'For legal reasons, they're still called Branch Davidians, but for their own souls, they are students of the seven seals.'