The Story of the Shepherd’s Rod

The Church Takes Action

The church board of the Olympic Exposition Park church,
in Los Angeles, in a meeting held on November 14, 1929, gave study to
the problem that Mr. Houteff was creating, and voted that he discontinue
holding such meetings in the church. 9 The board also voted to ask the
conference to examine his teachings. 9

In response to this request, J. E. Fulton, then president
of the Pacific Union Conference; P. E. Brodersen, then president of the
Southern California Conference; B. M. Emerson, then Pacific Union Conference
secretary-treasurer; and one or two others, including W. G. Wirth, a Bible
teacher at the College of Medical Evangelists, were delegated by the conference
committee to meet Houteff at the Olympic Exposition Park church with Elder
Schacht. Mr. Houteff presented his views, and they were so fanciful that
they did not take them seriously," says Dr. Wirth.

Determined to spread further his erroneous teachings,
Mr. Houteff issued his doctrines in hectographed form under the title
of "The Shepherd’s Rod" in the spring of 1930. And he distributed
thirty-three copies among leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
during the General Conference held in San Francisco, California, from
May 29 to June 12 of 1930.11 He says: "These manuscripts

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contained only the first 172 pages of the book dealing
with the 144,000 and a call for reformation." 12

The leaders of the denomination were then exceedingly
occupied with the services and the business of that great meeting, and
could not give to that document the immediate study and consideration
that he demanded. Moreover, since the Houteff affair was at that time
merely a local one, the matter was left to the local and the union conference
concerned.

Nevertheless, F. C. Gilbert, a veteran field secretary
of the General Conference, examined the treatise and found that it contained
error. On June 26, shortly after a copy of The Shepherd’s Rod had been
given to him, Elder Gilbert wrote a letter to the author and pointed out
to him that his teachings were erroneous and should be given up."
At the same time Elder Gilbert wrote to the leaders of the Seventh-day
Adventist denomination in the Los Angeles area a similar report.

The church board of the Olympic Exposition Park church,
in Los Angeles, met on July 23, 1930, with the conference president in
attendance, and voted to recommend to a church business meeting that Mr.
Houteff be disciplined, that he be asked to retract a statement that W.
A. Spicer was not a Sabbathkeeper, and to apologize for his rebellions
attitude toward the church on Sabbath morning, November 16, 1929. It requested
the conference president to be present at the church business meeting.9

On August 14, 1930, the church board held still another
meeting, the record of which contains this item: "It was moved and
supported that Brother Houteff be asked to retract his statement that
Elder Spicer is not a Sabbathkeeper and to apologize for the disturbance
in the church on Sabbath, November 30, 1929. Since Brother Houteff did
not make these apologies, the motion was amended as follows, [that] the
church wished to express its disapproval of Brother Houteff’s action in
this matter." 9 The conference president was present at this meeting,
as was also Mr. Houteff.

A little later another effort was made to save the erring
soul. On October 16, 1930, J. E. Fulton, the Pacific Union Conference
president; P. E. Brodersen, president of the Southern California Conference;
W. H. Schacht, pastor of the Olympic Exposition Park church; and W. G.
Wirth 14 "met with the author of The Shepherd’s Rod in the Pacific
Union Conference office, and pointed out to him

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that the teaching of The Shepherd’s Rod was wrong. Action
was taken as follows: ‘"The Shepherd’s Rod" is neither true
to simple facts, nor true to the word of God, and it is condemned by the
very "Testimonies" it quotes from. We warn our dear brethren
against the false conclusions this poor man has come to.’"15

Still set in opposition to all the counsel given him
by brethren of experience in California, Mr. Houteff began to propagate
his teachings in printed form. He took The Shepherd’s Rod to a printer
in Los Angeles in November, 1930, and it was issued as a book of 255 pages
the following December.16 Copies were then mailed to many denominational
workers.

In the meantime, the church of which he was a member
made a final effort to save him. Herewith is a transcript of the official
record of the specially called business meeting held on November 20, 1930,
to consider his case:

"A special business meeting was held on this evening
in reference to Brother Houteff’s teachings. Present were Elder [J. E]
Fulton, Elder [P. E.] Brodersen, Dr. [W. G.] Wirth, and Prof. [L. W.]
Avery. Elder [W. H.] Schacht was the presiding officer….

"A letter from Elder [F. C.] Gilbert, commenting
on Brother Houteff’s teachings, was read by Elder Schacht, [and] this
was followed by an earnest appeal by Elder Fulton, saying Brother Houteff’s
teachings were not in harmony with the Bible nor the Spirit of prophecy,
and he could see no light in them. Elder Brodersen followed with timely
remarks, saying he could not follow Brother Houteff in his teachings,
which he considered dangerous. Elder Fulton made a strong appeal to Brother
Houteff to drop his teachings; but after a long and tiresome discourse
by Brother Houteff, he refused to follow this advice. Timely remarks were
also made by Dr. Wirth and Prof. Avery.

"A motion was then made by Brother Rhodes, and
supported, that for the protection of the church we withdraw the membership
of Brother Houteff and our fellowship with him until such a time as he
will conform to the church and withdraw his teachings. This motion was
carried." 17

Because Mr. Houteff persisted in propagating his ideas,
there was nothing else to do but to disfellowship him from the church.

In 1885 the Lord had sent to His people this timely
warning: "There are a thousand temptations in disguise prepared for
those

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who have the light of truth; and the only safety for
any of us is in receiving no new doctrine, no new interpretation of the
Scriptures, without first submitting it to brethren of experience. Lay
it before them in a humble, teachable spirit, with earnest prayer; and
if they see no light in it, yield to their judgment; for ‘in the multitude
of counselors there is safety.’"18

Victor Houteff himself once said: "At the time
the message of ‘The Shepherd’s Rod’ came, I was both a member and officer
in one of our churches. It was after the book had been written that my
name was dropped from the church records." 19 Again: "My name
was still on the church books at the time the ‘Rod’ was written."19
The brethren had been very, very patient with him. He had begun to teach
his views in 1928, had continued it through 1929, and on into the greater
part of 1930, and against repeated counsels of brethren of experience,
before official action was taken to disfellowship him from the church.

And yet he himself wrote on April 22, 1932: "From
the very start I tried to get either a private hearing, or else some of
the leading men to come and see what it was all about, pleading with them
that it was their duty to correct us if we were in error, or if we had
any truth that they should know it. While they refused to give us any
kind of hearing, they did everything possible to close our place of meeting,
and some of those who attended these studies were frightened for fear
of losing their church membership."20

In September of 1932 the author of The Shepherd’s Rod
added a second volume, which consisted of 304 pages.’ And although the
man had gone so far astray, efforts to recover him from his error were
not yet abandoned. 0. J. Graf, a veteran educator in the ranks of Seventh-day
Adventists, and his wife arranged to meet with Mr. Houteff in their home
at Loma Linda, California, to examine his teachings on November 11, 1932.
Brother Graf said:

"Six persons were present: the author [of The Shepherd’s
Rod], two of his associates (a former leader in one of our churches who
had some months before accepted the teachings of The Shepherd’s Rod, but
had since then discovered error in the book), Mrs. Graf and the writer.
For nearly eight hours we studied, discussed and exchanged views."’

In the meantime, other brethren of experience had examined
the man’s teachings and found them unsound. This is shown by

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the date of a letter that Elder G. A. Roberts wrote
to Elder G. W. Chambers in Colorado, on November 16, 1932, saying that
"Elder J. C. Stevens (pastor] of the Glendale church also prepared
a review of the book"23 by Mr. Houteff. He added: "I am sending
herewith copy of matter gotten out by Elder [R. S.] Fries, who was then
president of the Central California Conference," concerning the error
taught by Mr. Houteff. Copies of these documents are still extant. In
spite of this, Mr. Houteff later told people that his doctrine had never
been considered by brethren of experience.

Moreover, 0. J. Graf, who gave Mr. Houteff a hearing
of eight hours’ duration on November 11, 1932, issued a document entitled
"The Shepherd’s Rod" (An Answer) prior to March 14, 1933, in
which he showed that he had carefully examined Mr. Houteff’s teachings
and found them in error.’ Already issued was another document, Review
of "The Shepherd’s Rod," by R. S. Fries, 1. M. Burke, and C.
J. Ritchie, also ministers of experience, in which the teachings of Mr.
Houteff were shown to contain error.24 Another minister of wide experience,
B. F. Kneeland, had also prepared a document entitled The "Shepherd’s
Rod" Not a Safe Guide, in which the Houteff doctrine was shown to
contain error.24 Copies of these documents are still extant.

In 1933 Mr. Houteff began to issue a series of small
tracts, which, he said, formed the third volume of The Shepherd’s Rod.21
These and also the first volume of The Shepherd’s Rod were revised after
their first printing.