He had over two hundred failed prophecies.1 Having just one disqualifies someone as being a true prophet of God. (See Deuteronomy 18:22) All of God’s prophets were right 100% of the time. While HWA may not have proclaimed himself to be “a prophet,” the fact is he gave out many false prophecies over decades and claimed to have received new truth or revelation from God.
Unqualified and Hypocritical:
He didn’t fulfill the Biblical qualifications in I Timothy 3:1-10, Titus 1:6-8 and I Peter 5:3. He preached that his members be truthful, honest, faithful and pure, yet he himself was a hypocrite. He preached against drunkenness, but was himself known to frequently overindulge in alcohol. (Herbert Armstrong’s Tangled Web by David Robinson [available as PDF download]) Many scandals, lawsuits and accusations of the most serious sort have been revealed. These were not merely “allegations” but were documented in various issues of the Ambassador Report, in books and in letters by Worldwide Church of God ministers who held high ranking positions and had nothing to gain by exposing these things.
It is known that Herbert Armstrong began sexually abusing his daughter Dorothy, starting in 1933, the year he was founding his radio ministry, and then three years later started committing incest with her, ending it in the early `40s.2 Dorothy admitted this to certain others, such as Garner Ted Armstrong, David Antion (GTA’s brother-in-law), Richard Armstrong (HWA’s son), Lois Chapman3 (former wife of Richard Armstrong) and Henry Cornwall (an aid to HWA). Plus, Ramona Armstrong (HWA’s second wife, Ramona Martin) found out about it later and divorced HWA. Jack Kessler said it was commonly reported among the board members. It was reported in newspapers during the divorce trial. All this, along with covering up his son’s sexual immorality! HWA never denied the incest charges; therefore, how could he have been letting himself be “corrected by the Word of God”? Doesn’t God remove His “true ministers” from service if they are living a life of sin, instead of letting them continue on for decades, destroying innocent lives?
Life of Opulence:
He lived a life of opulence and extravagance, wasting money on concerts, jet planes, paintings, jewelry, banquets, lavish gifts to foreign leaders and expensive homes staffed with servants. His salary was reported to be $258,426.96 a year in 1983. Added to this was his fringe benefits, his expense account and his limousine service. All this while many of his followers had to live in abject poverty and sickness. (See Ezekiel 34:4)
He plagiarized / copied in his early years from the Church of God (Seventh Day) material. Examples: Much of the material in HWA’s book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy (copyright 1967), was copied nearly verbatim from John H. Allen’s book, Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright (written in 1902, copyrighted 1917). (Also mentioned in Ambassador Report #2, 1977, p. 48.) He stated that this “truth” was revealed to him alone. In addition, on at least two different occasions, Ambassador College employees discovered boxes in Herbert’s basement containing material published by G.G. Rupert (minister of Church of God 7th day).
Herbert W. Armstrong’s Religious Roots (The origin of Herbert’s unique doctrines.)
He also copied from 7th Day Adventism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism and Pentecostals, but lied about it, saying he “already had the truth before he read their material.”
Similar Message as Other Bible-based Cults:
He was only one of many Bible-based or religious cults that say they alone are the “one true Church of God,” and their leader is the end-time Elijah, a Prophet, true Apostle of God, etc. They preach the Kingdom of God or “New World” or “the End” is “coming soon,” claim extra biblical revelation, or mysteries, insist they are the “chosen” or elect, and use secrecy, isolation, cover-up and hidden agendas, never being upfront about their true intentions.
Promises Never Materialized:
He promised that his followers would have an abundant life, happy marriages, happy families, financial success, good health, a position in the Kingdom of God (which was “coming within the next few years!”)–if they kept the Ten Commandments, Feast days (annual Sabbaths), Laws of Success, Laws of Health, Laws of Finances, all Tithing laws, and endured until the end by staying in “God’s only true Church” (this continues to be taught by authoritarian WCG offshoots such as Philadelphia Church of God, Living Church of God, Restored Church of God and others), but HWA’s promises never materialized.
Ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ:
He said that he was spreading the true gospel (“the good news of the Kingdom of God”), yet refused to mention the name of “Jesus” or “Christ” when making “trips” to foreign nations, instead using the words “the give way,” and “the get way.” He ridiculed sacred hymns and messages that spoke of Jesus, calling them sanctimonious and unscriptural. (See Luke 9:26)
A Gnostic Gospel:
His teaching that one could (in so many words) only be saved by special enlightenment and being one of the spiritually elite actually resembles an ancient Christian heresy known as “Gnosticism” (prevalent in the 1st and 2nd centuries of the church.) The Gnostics put knowledge (i. e., secret knowledge) above faith and believed in “hidden” truth.)
He also taught that Jesus was raised as a spirit body (no bodily resurrection). This was a teaching of Gnosticism, one of the earliest heresies of the church.
The first heresy in the church was the denial of the bodily resurrection. [covered in “Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)” by Kelly Marshall, chapter 6. (PDF)]
Twisted the Word of God:
He twisted and reinterpreted the Scriptures; thereby, teaching a false gospel and a false God. For instance, he told his followers that “law” in the book of Galatians was referring to the “sacrificial” laws and not to the whole law. Yet when you read the expression “the law” in the Bible, it means the entire law that God gave Israel–ceremonial laws, judicial laws, offerings, incense, new moons, etc. Either they’ve all been fulfilled in Christ, or they’re all in force. You can’t pick and choose from the 613 old covenant laws. If you’re going to observe them, you are obligated to do the whole law. (Galatians 3:10)
HWA’s False Teachings (2009 letter to ESN)
“A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject” (Titus 3:10).
Didn’t Fit the Biblical Definition of Apostle:
He allowed himself to be called an “Apostle” (even calling himself “Christ’s apostle”4), yet the Scriptures show that an apostle was a man who had seen the resurrected Christ directly and was personally commissioned by Him to be an apostle. (Galatians 1:1)
No Evidence of Genuine Repentance:
He left no written record, nor reliable witnessed testimony, that he ever repented to God before he died for his many sins, or that he apologized and made amends to the thousands that he deceived, abused, and exploited, causing their lives and faith to be shattered.
Used Abusive Methods of Mind Control:
He used manipulative, abusive and destructive methods of mind control that other religious cults employ in order to recruit and retain their members: fear, guilt, shame and blind obedience (with no doubts allowed) to a leader with no accountability. He slandered, accused and treated harshly those that genuinely tried to bring problems to his attention. He studied Adolph Hitler’s methods of thought reform and crowd control.
Fit the Definition of a Bible-based Cult:
His “one and only true church” fit the criteria of a deceptive, destructive Bible-based cult (i. e. a totalitarian, and mind-controlling organization) and he fit the criteria of a religious cult leader.
Thousands of innocent lives down through the decades have been deceived into following “God’s Way” (HWA’s way) and have reaped nothing but misery, pain, agony and heartache. Precious lives (including children’s) have been shattered and destroyed. Their painful testimonies written in many books, publications, letters, journals, and interviews stand as a witness that Herbert Armstrong’s way was not “God’s Way.” It didn’t bring peace, harmony and love, nor was there any grace or mercy in it.
By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
Note: Herbert W. Armstrong died on January 16, 1986 at the age of 93. There was no coroner’s inquest.
Update: In April 2009 Worldwide Church of God changed their name in the United States to Grace Communion International. (Some local church areas and countries may still carry the former name or a different one.)
Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-Off? (An Exposé of the Armstrong Modus Operandi) by Marion J. McNair (available as PDF download)
Was Herbert W. Armstrong Really an Apostle? [offsite article]
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:
because many false prophets are gone out into the world” ~I John 4:1
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves
into the apostles of Christ” ~II Cor. 11:13
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be
false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies…” ~II Pet. 2:1
“Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked;
For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.” ~Proverbs 24:19-20
1 These prophecies are listed on the Internet. Also read: Did Herbert Armstrong Set Dates?
2 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”). The AR brings out that Herbert Armstrong never sued David Robinson for publishing his book, and never did any of the members of Armstrong’s family. The Ambassador Report may be viewed online. Dorothy married Vern Mattson in 1943, drifted away from the WCG around 1951, and died May 10, 2010. Read the reply to: Herbert Armstrong’s Daughters (2007 letter to ESN). More info about the incest can be found in Herbie’s Secret Sins: Hearsay vs. Proof (correspondence between former WCG member and the author of Daughter of Babylon, The True History of the Worldwide Church of God).
Shocking Words That Herbert Armstrong Told His Daughter Dorothy (covers Vern Mattson’s words which corroborate the story).
Herbert Armstrong’s incest was also mentioned several times in the testimony of the divorce trial (between Herbert Armstrong and Ramona Martin) 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)
The incest is also mentioned several times in the New Times Los Angeles article, “Honey, I Shrunk the Church,” December 4, 1997.
3 Lois Lemon married Richard David Armstrong in June 1957. He died in July 1958 as a result of an automobile accident. Their son, Richard II, was born in 1958. About 2 l/2 years later, Lois married Ben Chapman. (The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, Plain Truth, August 1967)
4 Statements by HWA claiming to be “God’s Apostle” or “Christ’s Apostle” are quoted here.
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