Keith Hunt - Armstrong's Empire Explodes - Page One   Restitution of All Things
  Home Next Page

Herbert W. Armstrong's Empire!

The Beginning of it Exploding!

             HERBERT ARMSTRONG'S EMPIRE EXPOSED AND EXPLODING

                                    by 

                                 John Tuit
                                  (1981)


In the 1960s and 1970s there was probably no larger work in the
world of Christian religion, that had a outward impact of not
only the Christian world but the world in general, than the
Worldwide Church of God. With its "Plain Truth" magazine on every
corner it seemed of every town in North America, also published
in other languages, and its daily radio and finally weekly TV
program. Herbert Armstrong and his son Garner Ted Armstrong were
just about household names in North America (and some other parts
of the world). I was a member of the Worldwide Church of God from
1961 to 1972. The following book and its events were AFTER I had
left that organization. For those "not in the know" (and those
"in the know" will become like some other creatures of earth
"extinct" if this world goes on for another generation) this will
perhaps just be interesting history as to what CAN happen to
"church organizations" if corruption of various shades and
"control" attitudes are allowed to infest the church. The
Worldwide Church of God was not the first and will not be the
last, to enter the domain of "controlism" and finally
explosionism - Keith Hunt



Discovering the Worldwide Church of God


     MY WIFE, PAULA, AND I STOOD SHIVERING IN THE COOL BASEMENT
along with several other people that Saturday in the early spring
of 1975. We were dripping wet, having just stepped out of the
chill waters of a large galvanized tub, having been baptized by
two ministers of the Worldwide Church of God. It was a very
emotion-filled moment, after having stepped out of the tub, to
stand there and have Ministers Maceo Hampton and Walter Scull lay
hands upon us, praying to God, asking Him, in the Name of Jesus
Christ, to impart to us His Holy Spirit.
     Little did I realize that my first contact with the
Worldwide Church of God, about eighteen years ago, would lead to
this moment, nor could I ever have imagined what it would lead to
in just a few years. Only a few years later my wife and I were to
make the decision to initiate a lawsuit against the Worldwide
Church of God and its officials, alleging that the officials were
misappropriating funds. This lawsuit was destined to become one
of the most massive church/state confrontations in recent
history.

     My first contact with the Worldwide Church of God came in
1957 as a result of my father having heard Herbert W. Armstrong
on his radio program, "The World Tomorrow." I was unmarried and
living with my parents at that time. I can still recall how my
parents were impressed by Armstrong's apparent knowledge of
prophecy and the meaning of coming events as foretold in the
Bible. It wasn't long after my father first heard the program
that we began to receive The Plain Truth, the magazine published
by Ambassador College, which was an arm of the Church. The Church
in those days was known as the Radio Church of God, and didn't
change its name until about ten or eleven years later. I quickly
became a regular listener of Herbert Armstrong's programs and a
regular reader of his magazine. I was very receptive to much of
what he had to say, as I was brought up in a fundamentalist
Protestant Church in Paterson, New Jersey, known as the First
Berean Church. By my late teens, however, I had become quite
disillusioned with that Church due to inconsistencies in
teaching, and what appeared to be too much political in-fighting
within it. As any teenager would normally do, I made the quick
and easy decision that all churches were confused or crooked in
one way or another, and that I could believe in God without
having to go to a church.
     Herbert Armstrong, with his program and Plain Truth
magazine, seemed to fill my need at that time, and it wasn't long
before I considered myself to be a member of an electronic
mailbox church. I never knew at that time that there were local
congregations throughout the country, as the organization in
those years functioned almost as an underground church. It did
not advertise the fact that there were congregations, but simply
let it be known that if one had a specific question to ask, then
they should ask it in a letter. For several years, I read The
Plain Truth and continued to listen to the Armstrong broadcasts.
I was mainly interested in the constant theme concerning prophecy
and the explanation of the various prophetic books of the Bible,
mainly Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation. The main point being made
was that Christ would soon return to earth to establish the
Kingdom of God, and that He would be Ruler of the entire earth
for a one-thousand-year reign, prior to the coming of God the
Father to earth, at which time Christ would turn over the Kingdom
to the Father. This new heaven and new earth would be the
headquarters, so to speak, of God's ever-increasing creation. All
humans who had repented of their sins, been baptized, and
accepted Christ as their savior, would at that time be spirit
beings with eternal life and actually be as Christ. Of course,
the events leading up to this were rather frightening and were
prophetically spoken of as times of great trouble; famine, war
and natural disasters were to occur just prior to the time of
Christ's return. Back at that time, Armstrong was saying
that a union of ten nations or ten groups of nations would be
formed in Europe, with Germany being politically dominant, and
with the Roman Catholic Church having the dominant unifying
religious power that would hold it all together. This would
constitute the Resurgent Holy Roman Empire, which would
ultimately - militarily or economically - defeat Great Britain
and the United States and take our nations captive.
     Over the years I was then exposed to teachings such as the
fact that while we are forgiven of our past sins through the
grace and shed blood of Christ, we are expected to keep the Ten
Commandments in the future. While no one could suddenly be
perfect and keep the Commandments, it was taught that a Christian
should grow in this direction. These teachings, although somewhat
more detailed than I had heard in the past, were not that much
unlike what I had learned from time to time in the Church in
which I was raised. I further proved these teachings to my
satisfaction by looking up the Scripture references. While I
began contributing to the Radio Church of God in the early 1960s,
I never indicated any further interest regarding ministerial
contact, as I did not agree at that time with the teachings on
the Sabbath and on Baptism. Herbert Armstrong constantly spoke
and wrote of the fact that the Sabbath is on the Seventh Day, on
Saturday, starting from sundown Friday night and running through
to sundown Saturday night. Sunday, according to him, was a day
that had been instituted in the early Christian church as part of
its drift towards paganism. That sounded just a little bit too
Jewish to me. Not wanting to have anything to do with something
that might be Jewish, I rejected the Sabbath teaching.
     The teaching on Baptism by total immersion was also
something that I rejected. I didn't reject it because I couldn't
prove it - in fact I did prove it - but I refused to accept it.
The reason I refused to accept it was simply the fact that I had
developed my religious prejudices and preconceived notions over
years of being brought up in a certain religious system. This,
unfortunately, seems to be the danger with anyone in any church.
Whatever errors may exist become so acceptable to the individual
that when they are proven to be wrong, if in fact they are, the
individual does not want to admit he has made an error and will
then stick with that which he knows is wrong.
     I had heard so many years of teaching in the First Berean
Church regarding the fact that Baptism of any sort was not
necessary, and that we were symbolically baptized in the shed
Blood of Christ when we accepted Him as our Savior, that I
strongly resisted the teaching that you must be baptized. I
believed this in spite of the fact that the Apostle Peter said in
response to a question as to how someone may be saved, that you
must repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and
receive the Holy Spirit.
     At the time Paula and I were married in 1969, I was still a
faithful reader of The Plain Truth and a regular listener of the
Armstrong broadcasts. By this time Herbert Armstrong's son,
Garner Ted Armstrong, had been doing the program for several
years. My wife and I had then begun to receive The Plain Truth in
our own home, and this was Paula's first introduction to what had
by then become the Worldwide Church of God. Paula's religious
background was rather mixed. She had been exposed both to a
Baptist Church environment and also to quite a bit of Lutheran
and Catholic teaching. Her mother had been a Lutheran, and her
father a Roman Catholic. Sharing my disillusionment with past
religious experiences for many of the same reasons, she soon
found herself agreeing with most of the teachings of the Church.
My rejection of the Sabbath and Baptism by immersion was rejected
by Paula also.
     Paula and I had one major point of disagreement on the
Armstrong teachings. I can recall violent arguments as to whether
or not we should have a Christmas tree, or whether or not we
should have Halloween decorations or Valentine's Day decorations
in our house. Throughout the year The Plain Truth would carry
articles on holidays such as Valentine's Day, May Day, Easter,
Halloween, Christmas and New Year's Day, showing from Biblical
and historical references that they were all pagan in origin and
had no place in the Christian Church.
     While in my own youth my family did celebrate Christmas,
there was always an attempt to keep it low-key because the pagan
origin was recognized by my parents, but they also thought that
there was a reason to celebrate Christ's birthday and some sort
of a compromise accommodation always seemed to be worked out in
their minds. Paula, however, had no prior knowledge of even the
slightest connection of those days with pagan practices and
wanted to continue observing them. Somehow we made it through
those years of disagreement on this subject and, as I recall, I
did most of the compromising and we had our Christmas tree.

     As we entered 1974 we were approaching our fifth wedding
anniversary, and by that time had had the first two of our four
children. At that time, David was a little over three years old
and Anita was approaching her second birthday. While Paula and I
continued to feel we didn't need a church for ourselves, we began
to realize that as our children would be getting older there
would be a certain amount of religious teaching that we could not
give them, and that they could receive in a more formal religious
training program. At that point we began to look around for a
Sunday School to which we could send our children. We checked
into the various churches in our locality and were not very
impressed. They all seemed to be more oriented towards a social
gospel, or if they were more Biblically oriented, seemed to be so
distorted, since many of them were of the traditional hellfire
and brimstone type, that we became very frustrated in determining
what to do regarding our children's religious instruction.
     At that time Paula said, "Why don't we write to The Plain
Truth? Maybe they have some people meeting around here." I
thought that, as a last resort, it might not be a bad idea, and
said to her, "Okay, why don't you write a letter? I don't know
that they have any meetings around here, though, because I have
never seen any advertised. I don't think they have any actual
churches, as they appear to be mainly a broadcasting and
publishing type church". 
     Paula wrote a letter requesting information, and I expected
sooner or later to hear from a former Ambassador College student
who might be doing some part-time work as a local religious
leader. I was quite surprised to receive a letter from someone
who was actually a minister and to find out from him that there
was actually a Church group meeting in Union, New Jersey. I later
found that Church meetings were kept rather secret so that
outsiders wouldn't wander in. Looking back on this, I wonder how
the Worldwide Church of God could have ever expected to do the
work that Christ commanded when they spent so much effort at
keeping themselves hidden in the local community. The Church had
a great image as a so-called electronic mailbox church. I often
thought that if only all those listeners knew that there was
actually a congregation meeting within a few miles of their home,
how many more might have been motivated to contact the Church?
Of course, not realizing how many minds have been so manipulated
by Herbert Armstrong, I believe that God was merciful in allowing
things to be done that way for that time. After a few phone calls
with the minister who contacted us, Mike Swagerty, he put me in
touch with his associate, Maceo Hampton. We had difficulty
arranging a meeting at that time due to the gasoline crisis, but
were finally able to get together. The first meeting was in the
spring of 1974, when I had lunch with Maceo Hampton. While I did
not consider myself to be racially prejudiced, it was still
somewhat difficult to adjust to the fact that my first contact
with the Worldwide Church of God was with a black minister. Maceo
Hampton is a short, slightly built man, who at that time was in
his early forties. I couldn't help but be impressed by the
knowledge of Scriptures that he seemed to have and his almost
total recall of just about any Scripture on any subject that
might come up. Since I was mainly concerned about whether or not
the keeping of the Sabbath and Baptism were essential, those were
the main points of our discussion. He seemed to make a good case
for the fact that the Sabbath must be kept on the Seventh Day,
explaining that Christ did it and therefore we must do so. He
stated further that the early Christian Church, to a great
degree, kept the Sabbath and that Sunday keeping did not become
prevalent until around the middle of the Fourth Century, when the
Catholic Church decreed that Sunday was the official day of
worship.
     Regarding Baptism, which was another doctrine that I had
difficulty accepting, Hampton stated that the only scriptural
form of baptism was baptism by immersion. This, he said, was
according to the example set by the early church, when the
apostles baptized new converts, and further by the example set by
Christ Himself, when He was baptized by John the Baptist. He said
that Christ set this example even though it was not necessary for
Him to be baptized as He had never sinned.
     "The immersion into water is symbolic of a burial and then
the stepping out of the symbolic watery grave is symbolic of a
resurrection," is the way Hampton explained it. These were all
things that I could think about and study further, but I still
had the matter of the pagan holidays to be discussed. I said,
"Mr. Hampton, I understand that traditional Christian holidays
such as Christmas and Easter, were pagan in origin, and I have
not felt comfortable having anything to do with them. But most
people I speak to, including my wife, think that it is good to
observe them because they are Christian celebrations observing
Christ's Resurrection in one case, and His birth in the other.
There can certainly be nothing wrong with that, according to
these people." Hampton replied, "That's just the whole point,
that's the way Satan works, they are his subtle counterfeits. If
a day is a pagan day, just to attach a Christian significance to
it does not make it Christian. God has something better. He has
His own holy days, which we observe."
     He then went on to explain that the Worldwide Church of God
observed the following holy days.

Passover

Passover was observed in the early spring and was a commemoration
of the death of Christ. This observance consists of a service
where wine is drunk in remembrance of Christ's blood and a piece
of unleavened bread is eaten in remembrance of His body. Prior to
the taking of the wine and the bread, a foot-washing service is
conducted, where members wash each other's feet, as a sign of
humility following the example of Christ washing the apostles'
feet.

Days of Unleavened Bread

The Days of Unleavened Bread started at the evening after the
Passover service and lasted for seven days. The first and last
day were holy days, at which time there would be services. During
this period of time no leavening was to be in the homes, and
members were not to eat leavened bread. Leavening is a symbol
often used to signify sin in the Bible, as leavening puffs one's
self up. This was to be a reminder that sin was to be constantly
put out of our lives, once we had been forgiven of all past sins.

Pentecost

The next holy day was Pentecost, which occurred fifty days after
the Sabbath that fell during the Passover week. This day
signified the time when the Holy Spirit was given to the New
Testament Church, shortly after Christ's Resurrection and His
return to heaven.

Feast of Trumpets

The Feast of Trumpets occurs in the fall, and is the same day
that the Jews call Rosh Hashanah. The New Testament significance
is that this is a prophetic day, and depicts the day when Christ
will return at the sound of the trumpets.

Day of Atonement

Shortly after the Feast of Trumpets is the Day of Atonement. This
too is on the same day that the Jews keep a similar observance.
It is a twenty-four hour period of total fasting and again has a
prophetic significance, depicting the day on which Satan will be
bound by Christ.

Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day

A few days after the Day of Atonement is the Feast of
Tabernacles, an eight-day festival time. It consists of the first
day, which is the holy day of a seven-day period constituting the
Feast of Tabernacles, and then an eighth day, which is called the
Last Great Day. Members go to various meeting places, which are
established in several parts of the country. This is like a
vacation time, with two services on the first holy day and on the
Last Great Day, and then one service per day on the other days
during the week. The rest of the time is spent in various social
activities and family vacationing. This is supposed to be a very
joyous time, and the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles
signify the millenial reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. The
last day, called the Last Great Day, is a prophetic day, looking
forward to the time when, at the end of the thousand year reign
of Jesus Christ, God the Father will bring His Throne to the
earth, when all things shall be made new, and Christ will turn
the Kingdom over to the Father.

     Hampton explained that these holy days help us to understand
the total plan of God; these days encompass His plan of salvation
for mankind and lead to the time when those who partake of that
salvation will become spirit beings as God is, and have eternal
life with Him, following in the steps of Jesus Christ, who is
called the first born of many brethren.

     All of this was quite a bit to handle, and I could see that
Paula and I would have a lot of studying to do before we could be
sure that we wanted to get involved with the Worldwide Church of
God.
     After my initial visit with Maceo Hampton, there were
follow-up visits by Hampton and Mike Swagerty, the Pastor of the
Church in our area. Swagerty was a youthful, energetic type of
person, and I remember so well that the two of them were always
so helpful and also very patient with us in handling our various
questions and concerns about the Church. After considerable
studying of Church literature and the Bible, both Paula and I
became convinced that we should observe the Sabbath, and that
Baptism by total immersion was required. As stated in Acts 2:38
when Peter said unto the crowd, "Repent and be baptized everyone
of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and
ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
     Soon after we had come to this understanding, Paula decided
that, once and for all, she was going to find an answer to the
pagan holiday question. One day I came home from work and found
that Paula had strewn various copies of The Plain Truth all over
the floor, having gone through our entire twenty-year collection.
She had found just about every article dealing with the
traditional Christian holidays, such as Easter, Christmas,
Valentine's Day, Halloween and even May Day. As I stood looking
at this mess of magazines, Paula exclaimed, "I've been praying to
know the truth, and it's true, Christmas and all those other days
are pagan. Look, it says right here that you can even read it in
the Encyclopedia Brittanica. And here's another article where
they actually refer to a Catholic publication that says "that
these days were introduced into worship long after the time of
Christ." Suddenly she was preaching to me the very thing that I
had been preaching to her for so long. I thought, what an
incredible turnabout, this is really an answer to prayer, as I
had been praying that God would enable her to see things clearly
and understand the truth about these matters.

     By this time we were into the summer of 1974 and Paula was
well along in her pregnancy with our third child Melissa. It was
difficult for her to travel any distance or sit for any length of
time, but we thought that we should check out the Church further.
We agreed that I would attend and, if we decided to continue,
then she would attend at a later date after the baby was born. I
looked forward to my first day of Church attendance with great
anticipation.

     On that first Sabbath that I would spend in Church
attendance, I wondered as I drove North on the Garden State
Parkway from Freehold going to Union, just what kind of a group
would I be meeting? Would they be religious nuts? Would they be
friendly? And I thought that a movie theater was certainly a
strange place for a church to meet. As these thoughts were
rolling around in my mind, I finally pulled into the parking lot
of the Fox Theater on Route 22 in Union. I was greeted at the
door by two very friendly couples, and was made to feel very
welcome. As I walked through the busy lobby into the theater, I
think I was somewhat overwhelmed by the group of over four
hundred people, who were not just quietly seated waiting for the
service to begin but standing and milling about with everyone
seeming to be engaged in conversation. It seemed as though this
was a real family affair, with children running up and down the
aisles, looking for friends that they had not seen since the
previous week. It seemed that at least a third of the people in
the crowd were black, yet everyone seemed to be mingling very
freely. The whole scene looked like one grand family reunion. My
first thoughts were that this must be some very special kind of a
church, as the people seemed so happy and friendly. Also, in an
area of the state that was not at all free of racial tension, it
was like stepping into another world to see such a mixed group of
people acting so at ease with one another.
     I had only been there a few minutes, and people who noticed
that I was a stranger welcomed me. Soon I felt very much at home,
engaging in conversation with the Church members. After a few
more minutes passed, at about 10:00 A.M., a man stepped up to the
microphone and called out, "Okay, everybody, find your seats, we
will be starting in a few minutes." Never had I seen a church
service start off in that way before. The service opened with two
songs, which were rather dreary versions of the Psalms which had
been put to music by Dwight Armstrong, Herbert Armstrong's
brother. I found later that the only song book used was the
official Worldwide Church of God hymnal, and that they had gone
to great extremes not to have any traditional Protestant songs in
the book.
     Next was an opening prayer by one of the members, and then
there was a sermonette, which is a fifteen-to twenty-minute
sermon given by an elder, a deacon, or one of the senior members
of the congregation. After that there was another song from the
official song book, followed by the announcements which were
given by the minister. While I didn't realize it at the time,
this was part of the programming of the membership, in which a
good deal of the announcements related to Herbert Armstrong's
activities to bring the gospel to world leaders. This was also
the first time I had heard him referred to as God's apostle. It
seemed strange to me at that time, but it was the beginning of
the process that led to my believing that he was specially called
by God and was His end-time apostle.
     After the announcements, there was a sermon which ran for
approximately one hour, and which contained heavy references to
Scripture throughout. I was very impressed by this, as the
minister really explained the Scriptures, and I thought, surely
the people in this church must be getting a very good education
in the Bible. Many people were taking notes, and also recording
the sermons on portable tape recorders. After the sermon there
was a closing song and then a prayer by another member of the
congregation. When the prayer was over, no one seemed to be
anxious to leave. I had always been accustomed to the typical
church service, where at the end the minister went to the door of
the church, everyone would quickly file out, and, having done
their religious deed for the week, hurry on home. This was
certainly different. After a total of two hours in a church
service, people were still not anxious to leave. Lines of people
wanting to speak to the two ministers began to form. The entire
auditorium became a hubbub of activity with people again engaging
in conversation or running about looking for someone in another
section of the auditorium that they wanted to speak to. I decided
to hang around and see how long this whole thing lasted. Soon I
found myself caught up in several conversations, and it was about
an hour after the end of the service before the crowd began to
diminish and people left for home. When I arrived, Paula said,
"Well, how did it go?", and I replied, "You've got to see it to
believe it. I stayed an hour after services talking to people and
as I pulled out of the parking lot, there were still groups of
people standing around by their cars talking." I then began to
tell her about the entire service.

     This first service which I attended was typical of the
services held by the Worldwide Church of God. From this point on,
Paula and I began to study the Bible in earnest to prove or
disprove the Church's teachings. We were impressed by the fact
that the ministers, and in fact both of the Armstrongs,
constantly reminded us not to believe them but check up on them
in the Bible ourselves. Through further study of the Church's
publications, we learned of the Church's teachings on many items
that were quite different from traditional Christianity, or
"Churchianity" as it was referred to frequently in Church
publications.
     We delved into many teachings, such as the Trinity Doctrine,
which the Worldwide Church proves is false, since there is only
God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the
power of God and not a third personage. God the Father and Jesus
Christ are two separate beings. Then there was the teaching on
Christ's death: It was not a Friday with a Sunday resurrection,
but rather on a Wednesday afternoon with the Resurrection
immediately after sundown Saturday. This, of course, fits with
the Biblical statement that Christ was three days and three
nights in the tomb.
     Another key teaching is that there is no immortal soul, nor
is there a place of eternal torture such as an ever-burning hell,
as taught by traditional Christian churches. The Worldwide Church
of God teaches that upon dying a person is just dead and remains
in the grave. The person does not go to heaven or hell. If that
person is a converted Christian, which according to Armstrong
could only be a member of the Worldwide Church of God, then that
person would be resurrected at Christ's Second Coming. All others
would be resurrected at the end of the thousand years, and be
given a chance to accept or reject Christ at that time. All those
who do not accept Christ at that time are to be destroyed in a
lake of fire. The Church also taught that it was a sin not to
tithe on one's income, meaning that each member was to give a
tenth of his income to the Church. By this time we believed that
the Worldwide Church of God was God's only true church on the
earth and that it was the only Church keeping God's Commandments
and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world. We also
felt that we must support it with our tithes.
     We were to find out later that one of the greatest emphases
in the doctrinal area was on that of tithing. We were also taught
that we should save an additional full tenth of our earnings for
use at the annual Feast of Tabernacles. A tenth of the amount
saved would be sent to headquarters to pay for festival expenses.
Anything that was left over from our own spending at the end of
the Feast was to be given in on the last day as an excess second
tithe. Then, of course, there were the holy day offerings on each
of the seven holy days.

     On top of that there was a third tithe every three years,
which again was another tenth of that third year's income. There
was an attempt made on the part of the Church to support all
these tithing doctrines with Scripture. While we were in accord
with the doctrine of the basic first tithe, we never did
understand or agree with the additional tithing doctrines. While
we had come to believe that this was God's only true church, we
were perhaps more resistant than most members in doing everything
that the Church taught. We did give holy day offerings, as we
felt able, but we did not save a full tenth for our feast
expenses. For purposes of going to the Feast we saved what we
felt would be an appropriate amount for an eightday family
vacation. Since we did not agree with the doctrine of the third
tithe, we totally disregarded that. In addition to all of these
tithes and offerings there would be the additional special
offering called for, at least a couple of times a year, in order
to "bail the Work," as it was called, out of some emergency
financial situation. What a contrast all this was to Christ's
simple statement that God loves a cheerful giver. Whenever I
talked to someone who was in what they called their third tithe
year, I did not find a cheerful giver.

     Through the rest of 1974, Paula and I reviewed many of the
old back issues of The Plain Truth and read Herbert Armstrong's
autobiography to get a better idea of what the Church itself was
about, and also to have a better understanding about Herbert
Armstrong. We didn't realize at the time that most of what was
written about the Church history and Herbert Armstrong was just a
subtle device to condition people's minds into blindly following
the Church's teachings as expounded by Armstrong. I should have
realized at the time that any man who claimed to be the only
servant of Jesus Christ would not put out a 540-page
autobiography which only covered the period from his birth in
1892 up until the year 1938. This book, significantly, was the
largest publication ever issued by the Church. There is more
written about Herbert Armstrong in this autobiography than there
is written about Christ in the entire Bible. Further updates on
Armstrong's autobiography were carried as installments in The
Plain Truth.
     Armstrong writes in the introduction to his autobiography,
"And since this is the life story of a man, what led a man who
has been unusually successful in the world of mammon, with his
energy and drive solely directed toward self-gain and status in
the business world, to come to reverse his entire life goal and
become dedicated to the things of God? Why would a man turn his
back on material rewards, and devote his life to GIVING instead
of getting?" That all sounded very good when I read it, but it
doesn't fit the description of a man who today enjoys a salary of
$200,000 a year, plus free servants, chauffeur, living quarters,
and a virtual blank checkbook to indulge his every whim.
     Then Armstrong says further, "Coming to the present, why do
Heads of State, Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers of many
governments around the world invite personal meetings with a
private citizen of my status? Why do governments officially
confer highest honors on such a private alien?" Armstrong thought
that such things were taking place because God was opening doors
before him to bring the Gospel to these leaders. However, the
real answer is quite different and has become apparent to me only
quite recently: They were all solicited by an aide name Osamu
Gotoh.

     In this autobiography, Armstrong states the following
response to people who had asked him to write it: "I did ask
myself, should the story of my life be written and published? For
some time, I felt it should not. I felt it was my responsibility
to get on with getting the job done, not to talk or write about
myself." If only Armstrong had maintained that attitude.
     By 1978 members were being barraged by a constant outpouring
of writings that placed Armstrong on the pedestal of idolatry. An
example was the Good News of July 31, 1978. Headlines announced
"THE GREAT MAJESTIC GOD BEING ENTHRONED IN EYES OF CHURCH ONCE
AGAIN BY JESUS CHRIST." The article, covering nearly the entire
front page of this tabloid-sized publication, was nothing more
than a rehash of Armstrong's early history. Further on in the
article, Armstrong is not at all immodest to state the following:
"God's Church is being set back by the living Christ on the track
of original truth as Christ instilled it into God's church
through His chosen apostle."

     Armstrong's autobiography goes through over two hundred
pages covering his early youth and his ultimate involvement as an
advertising man or publisher's representative. In these early
years, Armstrong was already impressed with the fact that he was
doing business with millionaires. He says, "It became necessary
to do business direct with the presidents of these great
corporations. Thus, once again, I was thrown into business
contact with important millionaire executives. These contacts
were important in the early training for the job I was destined
to be called to later." After Armstrong's wedding in 1917 to Loma
Dillon, they lived in Chicago as he continued in the advertising
business. In the depression of 1920, Armstrong lost his business.
He says, "Everyone of my big-space advertisers in the tractor and
similar industries went into economic failure in that flash
depression of late 1920. It wiped out my business and source of
income literally! I was not a quiter. I had learned now not to
give up. But I had not learned that a dead horse is DEAD! For two
years I stayed on in Chicago vainly attempting to revive a dead
business. "
     From Chicago the Armstrongs moved to Iowa, and then in the
winter of 1923-24 moved into the Eugene, Oregon area. It was here
that Armstrong's wife announced that she had discovered from a
friend the fact that Saturday was the proper day of worship.
Armstrong writes, "Indeed, I wondered if she had really lost her
mind! Deciding to 'keep Saturday for a Sunday'! Why, that seemed
like rank FANATICISM! And my wife had always had such a sound
mind! There was nothing shallow about her. She had always had a
well balanced mind with depth." He states further: "And so it was
that in the Fall of 1926 - crushed in spirit from business
reverses not of my making - humiliated by what I regarded as
wifely religious fanaticism, that I entered into an in-depth
study of the Bible for the first time in my life". Soon after
Armstrong was baptized and began his fellowship with people of
the Oregon Conference of the Church of God, which was in some way
affiliated with the Church of God Seventh Day in Stanbury,
Missouri.

     In 1931, Armstrong was ordained to the ministry by the
Oregon Conference of the Church of God. He was employed by the
Oregon Conference for a salary of three dollars per week. In his
autobiography, on page 433, is reproduced a copy of what is
identified as Armstrong's second ordination certificate, issued
in 1932 by the Oregon Conference of the Church of God at Salem,
Oregon. Armstrong always claimed that he was not a member of the
Church of God in Stanbury, Missouri, nor any other group known as
the Church of God Seventh Day, but that he fellowshipped among
them. He also claims that he was in no other official way tied to
that organization.

     Armstrong began broadcasting in 1934 according to the
booklet This Is The Worldwide Church of God: "The first week in
1934, 'The World Tomorrow' program went on the air. It met with
an immediate response, considering the small power and limited
coverage of the station. It was then of the very smallest wattage
for commercial broadcasting - 100 watts. Gradually the program
went on more and more stations. By 1942 the program had gained
national coverage in the United States, and by 1945 it became a
daily program. Today it is broadcast on some 400 radio and TV
stations worldwide-more than 50 million watts of power weekly
reaching an estmiated 100 million listeners, besides many
additional millions reached by other media. On February 1, 1934,
THE PLAIN TRUTH magazine made its most humble bow. That Volume I,
Number 1 had a circulation of approximately 250 copies. THE PLAIN
TRUTH was offered radio listeners gratis, but subscriptions were
entered only on a personal request. It has never been a policy to
put a price on the magazine, nor to request financial support in
its columns or on the air. Today, THE PLAIN TRUTH is one of the
finest quality magazines in the world, 52 pages of solid reading
- no advertising, full color, with circulation more than 2
million copies worldwide - published simultaneously at Pasadena,
California; Radlett, England; and North Sidney, Australia."

     While Armstrong was publishing The Plain Truth and doing
radio broadcasting on his own starting in 1934, he continued to
write articles for the Bible Advocate, published by the Church of
God Seventh Day in Stanbury, Missouri. As recently as 1937, he
was still writing articles for that publication, and the Advocate
continued to carry reports on Armstrong's evangelistic tent
meeting campaigns in the Eugene, Oregon area.
     In 1935, Armstrong began calling his organization the Radio
Church of God. He continued to operate as the Radio Church of God
in Eugene, Oregon until the late 1940s, when he moved the Church
operation to Pasadena, California. At the same time, a small
college called Ambassador College began to function as a part of
the Church. The college property is an old estate, and over the
years has grown considerably by the acquisition of many 
adjoining parcels of land. Today, the college and Church
headquarters complex can only be described as magnificent in its
beauty. It consists of a mix of several old mansions, some modern
buildings, including an ultra-modern Hall of Adminstration, and
what many have now come to view as Herbert Armstrong's monument
to his own ego, the Ambassador Auditorium. The grounds are
beautifully landscaped and have won many awards.

     Of course, back in 1974, I could only be impressed by all of
this and thought that for anything to have grown in such a way
from such a small beginning, it must be the one and only "Work of
God." The Ambassador Auditorium is actually the headquarters
Church building, having a seating capacity of slightly over
twelve hundred. It was completed in 1974 and opened on April 7,
1974 with an inaugural concert by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra,
which was conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini. The basic cost of the
auditorium was over ten million dollars. It was featured in the
August 1974 issue of The Plain Truth, and I recall being
impressed by its lavishness.
     According to Arthur S. Mann, a vice-president of the
engineering firm which designed and built the auditorium, "The
auditorium has the classic dignity of the ancient Grecian
Parthenon, and a suggestion of that famous design, although of
different proportions. The surrounding colonnades are of
glistening quartz which glow in contrasting whiteness to the
emerald green-black walls of the building. The column soffits of
Italian glass and white and gold mosaics also recall the
greatness of Greece and Rome, and a degree of craftsmanship that
many believe had disappeared in this century.... The precious
stones, rare woods, fine fabrics and metals which grace the
outside and interior are the finest available, as are the
building's modern mechanical and electrical systems ... As
Solomon's Temple was the pride of Israel, the new auditorium is
the symbol of the glory and accomplishment that is Ambassador
College."

     The auditorium is a large square structure with a glass
front, the other three walls being of the emerald green-black
stone. The overhanging roof is supported by the glistening quartz
columns. The underside of the roof overhang is decorated in gold
leaf. The inside wall of the lobby is of onyx, and has a gold
legend on it: "AMBASSADOR AUDITORIUM - MADE POSSIBLE BY GIFTS
FROM THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD - DEDICATED TO THE HONOR AND
GLORY OF THE GREAT GOD." In the foyer is a huge three-tiered
genuine crystal chandelier. The floor is covered with special
custom-made carpeting. The stairway leading up to the balcony and
down to the lounge was constructed of rose onyx with the entire
underside of the stairway overlaid with gold leaf. The downstairs
lounge is completely panelled in genuine rosewood.
     It's hard to believe now how impressed I was with all this
back in 1974.

     After our continuing study and review of Church literature,
Paula and I were convinced that this was the very work of God,
and decided to be baptized. We were baptized on the Sabbath
before Passover 1975. Truly, that was a turning point in our
life, more than we could ever imagine at that time.

                          ......................


To be continued with "Beginning of Troubles"


  Home Top of Page Next Page

 
Navigation List:
 

 
Word Search:

PicoSearch
  Help