New Religions Essay

This essay has a total of 1841 words and 9 pages.


New Religions







New Religions

Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity are religions that have been around for
thousands of years. At some point in time all four of these religions were new, and I am
sure viewed with some skepticism of this ideology being taught. Within all of these
religions there have been people who have disagreed with the beliefs being practiced and
this has caused many to leave to form their own religious groups. The road to finding
one's faith is not always easy and that is why religions are constantly being recreated to
fit one's perception of God.

The new religious movement for this paper will be defined as religions less then two
hundred years old. They were formed due to separation from an established church or by an
individual having a "vision" from God. There are two in particular that I will cover
Branch Davidians and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I will not be
focusing on the religion from where it came but rather on the history of the person,
beliefs and the practices of these new religious movements.

The Branch Davidians were once known as The Shepherds Rod, a Seventh-Day Adventist Branch.
Victor Houteff first heard the teachings of the Seventh- Day Adventist Church in 1918 at a
revival meeting. Houteff eventually came to believe that the Seventh-day Adventist
doctrines and teachings were inaccurate and he called for reform. The church isolated
Houteff and his followers that resulted in a brake from SDA and the foundation of "The
Shepherd's Rod." Houteff saw himself as a divine messenger sent by God to reveal the
secret information in the scroll mentioned in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 5. Houteff
compiled his beliefs in his book "The Shepherd's Rod." He began the process of attaining
followers by founding the Mount Carmel Center near Waco, Texas with eleven of his
followers in 1935. This event prompted Houteff to change the name of his group to the
Davidian Seventh-Day Adventist Association. In 1955, Victor Houteff died. With his mission
incomplete and his prophetic claims unfulfilled, unease swept throughout the group.

Houteff's wife, Florence, assumed leadership of the movement despite splintering within
the group. One such splintered group, the Branch Davidians, led by Benjamin Roden, would
later take control of the Davidian movement. Before this occurred, however, "Florence
Houteff predicted that the time of God's judgement would fall on April 22, 1959. She
believed this would be when the 1,260 days of Revelation 11 would be completed and on that
day God would intervene in Palestine. Followers began to assemble at the New Mount Carmel,
located east of Waco, and on April 16, 1959 prepared to move to the Holy Land." (Dallas
Morning News)

Roden named his faction the Branch Davidian SDA. Roden declared himself the fifth angel
(Revelation 9:1), in the same vein as Houteff, who had declared himself the fourth angel
(Revelation 8:12). He lead the Branch until his death in 1978, whereupon his wife, Lois
Roden, assumed the role of the sixth angel (Revelation 9:16).

Vernon Howell joined the group in 1981 and Lois expressed her belief that he would be the
group's next prophet. However, George Roden, Lois's son, forced Howell and his followers
out of Mount Carmel in 1984. In 1990, Vernon Howell changed his name to David Koresh. He
chose his name from Isaiah 45, which states that Cyrus "was the only non-Israelite who was
given the title 'anointed' or 'a messiah' or in Greek, ' a Christ'."

The Branch Davidians embrace the core teachings of the Seventh-Day Adventists. The SDA
Church follows most of the conservative Christian beliefs: creation, original sin, the
virgin birth, the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, the divinity of Christ, the
Trinity, belief in Satan as evil, the infallibility of Scripture, salvation by the
atonement of Christ, etc. However, three major doctrinal differences exist, and they also
deny the concept of "innate mortality". They believe that when someone dies they remain
unconscious until they are either resurrected into eternal life with God, which is only
given to righteous Christians, or annihilated. A second resurrection will occur and the
righteous will return to a newly cleansed earth and establish the New Jerusalem.

Houteff interpreted current events as signs of the end of time. Under Roden, the Branch
Davidians created a logo to represent their beliefs. In his writings, Roden focused on
anti-Catholicism, recovery of Israelite festivals, and general conference reform. David
Koresh ultimately became the leader of the Branch Davidians and ushered in a new era for
this sect with his "New Light" doctrine and elevated prophetic status. Koresh furthered
the work of his forefathers by continuing with the Adventist tradition, adopting a
messianic role essential to human salvation, and ordaining the end time. With his focus on
the Book of Revelation, Koresh desired to create a new lineage of God's children from his
seed, making him the perfect mate for all female adherents. Koresh established what he
called the House of David and in 1984 began taking "spiritual wives." Differing from past
eras, he progressively linked his group's activities to an imminent future and not too
past traditions. A key distinction within Koresh's era was his gradual revelation of the
secrets of the seven seals in Bible study sessions, which convinced the group that they
were living in the end time. In 1992, he renamed the Mount Carmel community "Ranch
Apocalypse." Under Koresh's leadership, the group adopted a much more communal form of
organization and recruited heavily from the young adult population. The "Mighty Men" were
Koresh's lieutenants who held various responsibilities with in the community. Gradually,
tension with the larger society increased as the Davidians moved toward prophetic movement
organization.

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