Herbert W. Armstrong and the Incest
We take no delight in posting these shameful offenses. It is only with the hope that others will be spared from holding Herbert Armstrong up as a man "used of God." The truth is always hard to hear, especially if it is not what someone wants to believe.
The following chapter is taken from Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web by former WCG minister and employee, David Robinson, 1980, a book which was instrumental in waking many up to the corruption of the entire Worldwide Church of God organization.
HWA could have filed a libel suit against Robinson, but instead he tried to prevent this book from being published. (See words below after this chapter for more details.) Unfortunately, many will still deny the incest, in spite of it being commonly reported to others in high positions. Read this part in: Why HWA Couldn't Have Been God's Apostle for the names of those who knew of the incest.
"In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
~II Corinthians 13:1 (also see Matthew 18:16 & Deut. 19:15)
How serious is the sin of incest, such as when a father uses his authority to force himself on his own daughter, his own flesh? All generations of the human family have viewed this conduct as an unnatural act. The apostle Paul referred to a somewhat similar relationship in the Corinthian church: "...such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentles, that one should have his father's wife" (I Cor. 5:1). Incest was disgusting beyond measure to Paul, who was led to record his revulsion for posterity in the inspired Bible.
Even during this time of "sexual freedom" the American nation was recently shocked to witness a television program, "The Phil Donahue Show," on which victims of incest discussed their emotional suffering that resulted from such parental abuse. The psychological penalty for such sin continues for generations.
Sometimes perpetrators of such crimes try to justify themselves by citing the case of Lot, the nephew of Abraham, in the book of Genesis. Does the biblical account of the conduct of Lot in any way justify a man taking his own daughter? Let's look at this matter:
- Lot was without a wife, as she had been killed on the trip from Sodom.
- Lot was not the initiator, his daughters were. They plied him with wine, in preparation for what they wanted, children. They thought all mankind had been destroyed, and they wanted to preserve the race.
- Lot performed his part while drunk and never repeated that reprehensible conduct.
Not that there is ever any justification for such acts, but the sin of Lot, bad as it was, is not to be compared with that of a married man who, on a continuing basis, engages in sex with his own daughter!
Many American states legislated the death penalty in such cases in the earlier years of this country. I knew personally of such a case in Texas back in the 1950's. The father was executed in Huntsville for such an act. He was convicted in Live Oak County, Texas. He had seduced his thirteen-year-old daughter and had continued the affair with her until relatives discovered the crime. It was his own people who demanded the death penalty and the State of Texas accommodated them. I don't know for sure, but I suspect the laws of Oregon and California were not all that different during the thirties and forties.
Incest is a terrible and unnatural crime, an extreme perversity. That is why I was shocked beyond measure to hear that Herbert Armstrong was, himself, guilty of this vile sin. I learned of this in the summer of 1979 from members of his own family. The story, sordid beyond imagination, was told in awful detail.
One family source was Garner Ted Armstrong. Last summer, as HWA attacked his own son in such savage fury, his son was in the depths of despair. His emotional mix included anger and deep hurt. In such a state he told family secrets that otherwise would have been locked within him forever. He said he had learned in 1971 of his father's incredible conduct during the '30's and '40s. The story came directly to him in lurid detail, but he kept it sealed in his own consciousness for all those years. But, in the spring of 1978 while in his father's house for the last time, his father had threatened to "destroy him." Ted, in response, replied, "Dad, I will destroy you. I know about you and -----." (He was speaking of the younger of his two sisters.)
His father had been on a high-handed autocratic binge. But at that comment he sat down quietly and responded, "Well, Ted, there have been times when I have been very far away from God." (Admittedly, this was a strange turn of events in the relationship of the two whom HWA had likened to God the Father and Jesus Christ!)
Ted has told many people that there was a look in his father's eyes he had never seen before. Ted knew his father was now determined to totally destroy any credibility he might have. It was either him or his son. Self-preservation now demanded such action. It was a matter of give or get, and HWA meant to get!
None who have objectively heard the incest story in its awful detail doubt it. This is a vital chapter left out of HWA's autobiography. This sin occurred over a long span of years, a decade after his ordination to the ministry, according to his own family members. No wonder he was not receptive to David Antion's "qualifications for the ministry" paper back in 1974.
Many of us have wondered why HWA was so forceful in covering up Ted's sins for so many years. Ted then seemed to be an extension of himself in his own mind and was not even a separate entity. It was like covering for himself. But when finally he knew he must cut his son off, he had to go all the way. It was either destroy or be destroyed. and there were still some things he wanted to "get" out of life even if he were nearly ninety.
Such matters should not normally be mentioned, but this is by no means a normal case. The welfare of thousands is at stake, and thousands who look to HWA, idolizing him as if he were God himself, must come to understand how dangerous such a view is. Thousands around the world have been hurt by blindly following this man. Now people must be given enough information to make an intelligent decision on whether this is the man who is going to lead them to safety during the "crisis at the close," or whether he is just going to continue taking their money and calling them "dumb sheep"!
Some may feel I should just cover up this whole sordid affair and forget it. But I find that impossible to do, because the welfare of too many people hinges on the truth about his personality.
Paul wrote to Christians of his day: "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret" (Eph. 5:11-12, RSV). Earlier in the same chapter, Paul had written: "But immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints" (Eph. 5:3, RSV).
"But," some say, "you shouldn't judge God's apostle." The Bible says otherwise! Jesus Christ himself commended the Ephesian church for trying and testing those who claimed to be apostles. Notice Jesus' words: "Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and has found them liars" (Rev. 2:2).
Can someone preach truth for many years and fail in his own spiritual life? Of course! Lucifer did, Solomon did, and so have many others down through the years. That is why Christ asked, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Christ also said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). The way a man talks in private is the way he is. His public utterances alone aren't enough to judge a man's character—his trustworthiness. It is especially necessary to know what kind of man you follow when he promises to lead you in the kingdom of God.
In Matthew 7:21-23, we read this warning from Jesus himself:
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
In the 59th chapter of Isaiah, that prophet warns of those who conceive mischief, lie, and bring forth iniquity. Their feet run to do evil. The way of peace they know not. They make themselves crooked paths, and they weave spiders' webs. But Isaiah promises in the name of God that those webs shall not be a covering for their sins in the end!
Herbert Armstrong has become tangled in his own web of lies. And the time has come for him to be revealed for what he really is. May God help his followers to see.
By David Robinson (1922-1995)
"The truth is that this man is so profligate, so practiced a liar, so evil that he can only be a direct servant of Satan the devil. He operates in the name of God to serve his own wicked self, just as he took his own teenage daughter and abused her for 10 years, in the name of God! Many of his ministers know this and privately say so. He has brought great shame on the name of God and on true religions." ~David Robinson, (excerpted from a 1981 letter Robinson wrote; published in Ambassador Report #17)
Related material on our site:
Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web Book a Real Eye-Opener (letter to ESN)
Loving What's Right Means Hating What's Wrong (includes "Is it Wrong to Judge?)
Other sources for the incest story:
(1) The incest story was exposed in Ambassador Report #14, December 1980 ("HWA incest allegations not denied"); AR#27, April 1984 ("HWA confesses to incest"); AR#40, March 1988 ("strong evidence of HWA's incestuous relationship with his daughter Dorothy during the early '40s") and AR#68, April 1998 ("HWA incest again confirmed"). Herbert Armstrong never sued David Robinson for publishing his book, and neither did any of the members of his family. However, Robinson was burdened with a noisome suit (approved by HWA) that was brought about by Henry Cornwall and Sherwin McMichael (two HWA employees, later disfellowshipped). After the suit was settled, WCG had to pay $25,000. The Ambassador Report may be viewed online. (Note: Please be aware that the AR is now posted on an atheist website.)
(2) Herbert Armstrong's incest was also mentioned several times in the testimony of the divorce trial between Herbert Armstrong and Ramona Martin as reported by the Associated Press in the May 17th, 1984 edition of the Tulsa World newspaper. Actual news clipping: "Church leader's marriage dissolved" (scroll down on page) (Note: Please be aware that this is now posted on an atheist website.)
(3) Honey, I Shrunk the Church (New Times Los Angeles, December 4, 1997; the incest is mentioned several times)
(5) Herbie's Secret Sins: Hearsay vs. Proof (Correspondence between ex WCG member and Bruce Renehan, author of Daughter of Babylon, The True History of the Worldwide Church of God. Includes names of several that Renehan talked to who knew of the incest.) (Note: Please be aware that this is now posted on an atheist website.)
Back to Questioning Herbert W. Armstrong (was he who he said he was?)