Many myths surround Loma Armstrong, the woman who motivated her husband to begin the Radio Church of God in 1934. This seemingly innocent religious radio program eventually claimed to be “God’s one and only true Church” and went on to morph into one of the most destructive cults in America. This article will cover how some have deceptively attempted to embellish Loma’s memory.
Most members of the Worldwide Church of God1 remember reading the story in Herbert W. Armstrong’s autobiography where he said that Loma, shortly after he married her in 1917, related to him a dream she had had. In this dream (which Herbert thought was more like a “vision”) both of them were looking up at the sky and saw a “gigantic solid mass of brilliant (flashing) stars shaped like a huge banner that twice quivered, separated and vanished.” Then she says she saw “three large white birds” that flew toward them (which Loma perceived were angels.2. Loma says it then dawned on her that “Christ was coming.” She watched Christ descending from among these angels, who then stood in front of them and embraced both of them (even though she says they hadn’t been faithful in their Bible study). Then Christ seemed to change into an angel2 and told Loma that Christ was “really coming in a very short time” and that he had “important work for them to do” to prepare them for Christ’s coming.3 (HWA said that he later came to believe that this was a bonafide call from God.)
Anyone can quickly realize that Christ did not come in a “very short time” after this bogus dream of Loma’s, and the “important work” they were to do eventually turned out to be nothing more than the hoodwinking of thousands by marketing their product (religion).
What Role Did Loma Play?
What role did Loma play in getting this religion off the ground?
In 1926 Loma Armstrong4 was convinced by an Adventist friend that “all Sunday churches were wrong about not keeping Saturday as the Sabbath.”5 At the time, HWA’s many business schemes to become wealthy had fallen through and his family was regularly going without food.6 History bears out how Herbert (who previously had no interest in religion) soon began to see how easily religion could be used to bring in millions of dollars. (Questionable activities that HWA was involved in around this same period of time have been covered in OIU #6, pt. 3, and OIU #5, Pt. 3 “The Private Letters of Herbert W. Armstrong and Loma Armstrong.) (OIUs available as PDF download)
Far-fetched Tales About the Hymns
Some of these far-fetched tales which lift Loma up in a sentimental, glowing way are as follows:
Carn Catherwood (on WCG staff; retired 2005) paid a “tribute” to Loma Armstrong at a conference in 1998, at which time he stated that, when he was a student at Ambassador College (he attended AC in Bricket Wood between 1957 and 1961), Loma instructed him to “be sure her favorite hymn was included wherever she attended WCG services.”7 And what was this “favorite hymn” asserted to be? “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” When did members ever sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”?8 Herbert Armstrong forbade members from singing “Protestant hymns,” labeling them syrupy and sanctimonious. In fact, he scorned sacred church hymns9 and members were only to sing from the hymnal with songs predominantly written by Dwight Armstrong.10 (Note: Read the letters ESN posted in November 2005 regarding this matter.)
During this same weekend conference, Catherwood also stated that Loma reprimanded him by saying, “not enough emphasis is being put on the Savior” by the ministers.7 Since when did members–or ministers–ever refer to Jesus as “my Savior,” “our Savior,” or “the Savior”? It is known that HWA downplayed Jesus as Savior, calling Him instead a “newscaster” or “messenger.” Since HWA ruled with absolute authority, commanding his ministers what to say and what not to say, if not enough emphasis was being put on “the Savior,” whose fault would it be?
No Longer Needed a Prayer Closet
Another nostalgic myth that has circulated to make Loma appear to be a genuine Christian “woman of faith” is how she presumably told a WCG member that she “prayed a thousand times a day” (no longer needing a prayer closet).11 HWA clearly taught Mathew 6:6 about “entering into your closet and praying to your Father in secret.” Members were specifically instructed in how they were to pray and it was to be at specific times and in specific ways.12
Deceit and Propaganda
It should be evident to anyone who was in WCG for any length of time–and who takes the time to stop and think–that these words Loma is “supposed” to have said are nothing but propaganda in order to cause members (old and new) to fondly look upon their founder’s wife, feeling appreciation for her contribution to their “denominational history.” Could it be to only deceive and further numb members into believing WCG was something it never was? To have these feelings would definitely serve to divert attention away from the true history of the Worldwide Church of God.13
By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
March 27, 2012
1 Worldwide Church of God changed their name to Grace Communion International in April 2009. Some local church areas and countries may still carry the former name or a different one.
2 Galatians 1:8 says: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (bolding ours] Jeremiah 23:32 says: “Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them:”
3Autobiography of Herbert Armstrong, Vol. 1, pp. 203-205.
4 Loma Dillion Armstrong died April 15, 1967 after failing to receive the medical attention she needed. Even her illness became an opportunity for Herbert Armstrong to milk his followers out of more money.
5 Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, Vol. 1, pp. 285-287 (chapters 21-23, etc.)
6 Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, Vol. 1, pp. 285-287; chapters 21-23.
7 “Women’s Ministry/Tribute to Loma Armstrong” by Sheila Graham, The Worldwide News, June1998.
8 While HWA said he was “forced to use a Protestant hymnal” when he first founded the Radio Church of God, as they had no hymnal of their own, he states: “For some time I had realized that many of the standard hymnals contained songs that were unscriptural” and he admitted to “even having to change words in a few instances.” (The Bible Hymnal, “How This Hymnal Came to Be” by Herbert W. Armstrong)
9 The words of several sacred hymns can be read on our site by going to Comfort in Words of Hymns.
10 Dwight L. Armstrong, Herbert W. Armstrong’s younger brother, was used by HWA to write some of the songs in the Radio Church of God hymnal (Bible Hymnal) and in the Worldwide Church of God 1974 hymnal (The Bible Hymnal). He began this work for the Radio Church of God (RCOG) in 1947 and originally “borrowed” many of his songs from old Presbyterian hymns. Dwight Armstrong died of cancer November 17, 1984 at the age of 80. Read: The Awful Music of Dwight L. Armstrong (letter to ESN).
11 March-April 1998 CWT Newsletter, “Coming out of the Prayer Closet” by Tammy Tkach.
12 Read ESN writing: The Way We Were Told to Pray
13 Read: Historical Background Info on Worldwide Church of God