Exit and Support Network

Leaders of Totalistic Groups
Have These Traits in Common

  • Claims he is "divinely appointed by God" and is given "a special commission to fulfill on this earth"

  • Claims to have been given "special, revealed knowledge," and is "restoring essential truths"

  • Claims his writings are "absolute truths" or "revelations from God" and heavily distributes them to members

  • Claims he has "answers to all of life's questions" (black and white thinking)

  • Authoritatively teaches members to conform to dietary laws, dress codes, child rearing techniques, dating, marriage, observances of days, and sexual teachings

  • Encourages members to "cut off ties" with friends, family members, co-workers and relatives (isolation)

  • Strictly controls members' finances; coerces them into giving financially

  • Unites the group by causing them to focus on Satan (and his "lies"), who is seen in everything outside the group's teachings

  • Claims that apocalypse, Armageddon, the Great Tribulation and "End of the Age" is just around the corner and members must stay in the group or go else through it

  • Practices shunning, denouncing, marking and disfellowshipping

  • Teaches that leaving the group is equated to "eternal death in the Lake of Fire" and "losing one's chance for salvation."

  • Places a priesthood or other hierarchy between the believer and God. Members must go through the "proper channels"

  • Has a shepherding, discipling or visitation program to "keep members in check" (practices spying)

  • Teaches and circulates many sacred myths and stories concerning his "divine appointment" or "calling from God"

  • Has "sacred roots," which means he perpetuates stories of how the group's beginnings can be traced back to the original, ancient "true" church or disciples

  • Is considered an "end-time prophet," "That Prophet," "the Elijah," an "Apostle," etc. When the prophecies fail, members are blamed for not being "pure enough"

  • Engages in living standards (usually without the members' knowledge) that far exceeds the living standards of the members

  • Does not observe, or apply to himself, the rules that govern his membership (a double-standard exists)

By Kelly Marshall
Exit & Support Network™
July 2, 2001
Last updated October 18, 2005


Totalistic Groups Have Much in Common:

While the following applies to Seventh-day Adventism (co-founded by Ellen G. White), a group that HWA is known to have plagiarized/copied1 from, try substituting the words "Herbert Armstrong" for "Mrs. White"; "prophecies" for "visions"; "dissidents" for "rebels"; "unconverted" for "infidels," etc.

Why I Once Believed Mrs. White Inspired:

1. I once accepted Mrs. White's claim to inspiration for the same reason that most of her followers do. I first accepted the Sabbath and then the other points of the faith till I came to believe it all.

2. Once among and of them I found all stating in strong terms that Mrs. White was inspired of God. I supposed they knew, and so took their word for it; and that is what all the others do as they come in, deny it as they may.

3. I soon found that her revelations were so connected with the whole history and belief of that church that I could not consistently separate them any more than a person could be a Mormon and not believe in Joseph Smith. I believed the other doctrines so firmly that I swallowed the visions with the rest, and that is what all do.

4. When I began to have suspicions about the visions I found the pressure so strong that I feared to express them, or even to admit them to myself. All said such doubts were of the Devil and would lead to a rejection of the truth and then to ruin. So I dared not entertain them nor investigate the matter; and this is the way it is with others.

5. I saw that all who expressed any doubts about the visions were immediately branded as "rebels," as "in the dark," "led by Satan," "infidels," etc.

6. Having no faith in any other doctrine or people, I did not know what to do nor where to go. So I tried to believe the visions and go along just as thousands of them do when really they are in doubt about them all the time.

~Excerpted from: Seventh Day Adventism Renounced by D. M. Canright

Posted by AJW
Exit & Support Network™
September 18, 2013

Related Article: All or Nothing Statements (from those that have "the truth")

Footnote by ESN:

1 HWA is known to have plagiarized / copied his doctrines from other religious groups; i. e., the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism (which has occult roots), and 7th-day Adventists, along with distorting historical church documents. See: Plagiarized / Copied Doctrine from Others. For evidence of HWA's copying from the Jehovah's Witnesses, read chapter three, Pt. 2 and chapter six of our critical review of Mystery of the Ages (search for the word "Watchtower") and for his copying from Mormonism, see chapter two of the same review (search for the phrase "Latter Day Saints). 


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