The Marson Report
Concerning Herbert W Armstrong
by Richard Marson
(pg 1) Preface
With newspaper in one hand and Holy writ in the other, Herbert W. Armstrong has been preaching the “soon coming-later than we think-downfall of he Untied States and British Empire” for nearly forty years.
Throughout Mr. Armstrong’s long career, the British and Americans have stood it seems, on the bare “last gasp, but eyed, choking” edge of the final and chaotic oblivion. Final destruction was first slated for 1938; then 1969-1972 and, now, 1979 or 1980.
Possessing “definite knowledge” and “vital keys” this man and his son, Garner Ted Armstrong, utter foreboding omens of certain calamity and doom while expressing unmistakable confidence that their won personal brand of interpretation must be right.
In the mind’s eye, Mr. Armstrong sees most English speaking peoples as none other than the ancient Biblical house of Israel. To him, Germany must be the historic Assyrian Empire and Italians descendants of the great Babylonian nation.
Many of the Biblical events of yesteryear leap to life before his mind to form a kaleidoscopic series of prophetic events. Mr. Armstrong insists that “one-third of the Bible is prophecy ninety-five percent of which has never yet been fulfilled.
Today, Garner Ted Armstrong carries on the work of his father. He expounds the same doctrines with the perfection of a Xerox machine. Rare slips of the tongue result in moments of anxiety as he sits at his desk waiting for a phone call from Dad who often listens carefully. “Ted,” a voice growls as he lifts the receiver, “What are you trying to do, ruin the work???”
(pg 2)Only since joining the work (as far as I know) has Garner Ted Armstrong expressed serious disagreement with his father. At that time, Herbert Armstrong immediately determined he would never again allow his son to speak on radio or television. Garner Ted quickly apologized, however, and today handles virtually all the radio and television broadcasting in the English language.
Whether or not Garner Ted Armstrong always agrees with his father he nonetheless continues to promote the same exact prophetic doctrines with plodding determination.
What about us? Can we afford to accept the prophetic doctrines of this man without demonstrable proof? It is high time the millions who hear Herbert W. Armstrong’s didactic prophetic messages had determined detailed analysis of this man’s concepts.
It is possible to prove when and where Herbert W Armstrong is right or wrong? Yes! The answer lies in some of his remarks. All concepts and doctrines must go back to basic assumptions and foundations. Mr. Armstrong is no exception. We will examine his “vital keys” and find out where he gets his “definite knowledge.”
A copy of a personal letter to Mr. Armstrong follows. As a former member of his group, I wanted to express in a more direct way some of my feelings concerning facts I have discovered.
(pg 6) Introduction
I became par t of Herbert W Armstrong’s group, now known as “The Worldwide Church of God,” in June 1960.
No doubt many people wonder how a person comes to be an Armstrongite. Many readers of Mr. Armstrong’s literature do not fully grasp the fact that every article or book distributed by him is designed as a lure with which to lead its readers into his church.
Some of his articles and booklets question common Christian beliefs and practices in the light of Biblical example. However, other literature is greatly concerned with future prophecy in the light of present-day world news. Some of these news and prophetic type messages contain elements of fear psychology.
Some people who honestly desire to conform to the will of God or a God-like concept are led to believe Herbert Armstrong’s doctrines represent God’s will, and plan because they contain many plausible sounding arguments.
On the other hand, most who read Herbert Armstrong’s literature remain tranquil in spite of the fear psychology and eventually reach a conclusion that he is incorrect while others fail for one reason or another to seriously contend with the question at all.
For two decades or more, Mr. Armstrong’s church grew at about thirty percent per year. In recent years, however, the growth rate has declined and present trends indicate a further shrinkage in membership growth. In October 1969, 54,000 members attended the group’s annual convention in the United States and Canada. An additional 9,000 attended in other countries of the world. Because attendance is demanded of all members this represents a fair estimate of the present size of (pg 7) the organization, a culmination of about forty years’ effort on Mr. Armstrong’s part.
A new member is rapidly and continually taught that he must not disagree with Mr. Armstrong or his representatives. By the time a person is declared to be a member he is expected to have “proven” that Mr. Armstrong’s church represents the Almighty’s work on earth. To expound any other concept to other members is heresy and is not tolerated.
One of the earliest booklets I received from Herbert Armstrong was entitles “1975 in Prophecy.” This booklet was one of the most noticeable examples of fear psychology distributed by the Armstrong movement. An approximate representation of some of the pictures contained in this booklet and other booklets are as follows:
The most horrible example of these pictures shows people in the foreground in the throes of stupefying expressions of abject horror! The entire earth is crumbling around them in cataclysmic convulsions of an unbelievable earthquake. Volcanoes are erupting everywhere. Mile-long chasms open on all sides. People, trucks, cars, buses and bridges are falling into these great yawning gulfs by the thousands. The sky is black with soot, rocks and smoke as the earth erupts in one last great spasm of utter destruction.
In a second picture we see buildings burning everywhere; the result of a fiery sun seven times hotter than normal. People are dashing about holding their heads in fear and pain. Bodies everywhere are covered with great blotches and welts the result of great plaques.
(pg 8) The third picture finds us looking at a scene of comparative quiet. People have been reduced to living, leering, vulture-like remains. One in the foreground is a skeleton clothed in tight fitting skin. Eyes bug from the head, in vacant agony. The mouth, agape, displays missing teeth interlaced with cracked fragmented remains. The head, perched as it were upon a gnarled, twisted rock like neck, is anchored precariously to the remains below. One tree exists in the background shorn of all living evidence save two stub. All is in ruins. A child lies dead in its mother’s grief stricken arms. Some sit wanting for the final end while others barbarously attack the last morsel of food.
“1975 in Prophecy” has had a very definite effect on many people who have read it including me. I well remember one person who had to be treated for mental disorders as a result of Mr. Armstrong’s literature. The book “1975 in Prophecy” was the very first book read by my brother who is still a member of the group.
Today, in order to present a better image, Mr. Armstrong is becoming less vivid in describing future events as he sees them. A short time ago members were ordered to destroy “1975 in Prophecy” was well as certain other booklets. “1975 in Prophecy” was to be destroyed, members were told, because they were too prone to set dates for the downfall and destruction of the Untied States and British Empire. As mater of fact, this booklet did leave one with an impression that the United States and Great Britain would be destroyed about 1972 and the end of the present world would come in 1975. Due to the fact that these dates were approaching all too fast, Mr. Armstrong felt compelled to do something about it. He has become increasingly desirous of playing down such dates.
(pg 9) There is still one book which Mr. Armstrong widely advertises containing similar dating and fear psychology. This booklet is called the Untied States and the British Commonwealth in Prophecy.” One could easily miss the dating evidence in this book because Herbert Armstrong uses non dated phrases similar to the following: A staggering turnoff world events will erupt in the next four to seven years. To see when test four to seven years are to occur, one need only turn to the title page and find the words “Copyright 1967 Ambassador College.” By doing so, it became clear that Herbert Armstrong meant 1971 to 1974 when he wrote the book. I intend to expound on much of what Herbert Armstrong writes in that very book.
In some old Plain Truth articles, particularly in his magazine the Plain truth, Herbert Armstrong has been quite specific in dating prophetic events but has been quite emphatic in denying this fact in recent years. Lately, Mr. Armstrong has begun to feel that there may be about nine more years before the United States and Great Britain are destroyed. Is Mr. Armstrong correct in any of his prophetic interpretations? At one time, he even felt the end of the present world would occur about 1938 to 1949. Many events from the present world News are used by him in an effort to substantiate his predictions. Do these vents prove him right?
(Pg 10) The Marson report is concerned with getting to the core of Herbert Armstrong’s convictions. What are the basic concepts from which he develops his predictions? If these basic foundations are proven wrong then the predictions on which they depend will fall with them.
Herbert Armstrong affected the lives of millions and is looked upon as the interpreter and guide to truth to tens of thousands, who believe he is right. It is high time these members and the general public had a completely documented report expounding on Herbert Armstrong’s doctrines – a report determined to prove, once and for all, whether his concepts can stand the test of a determined, point by point examination.
Many Armstrongites are in for a real shock!
My Big Shock
During a period of time prior to leaving the group, I began to notice certain problems which seemed to exist between doctrines of Herbert Armstrong and Biblical example. It became obvious to me that there was either error in the basic Bible writings or error in the Herbert Armstrong’s interpretation of the Bible or both. I set about examining and making extensive notes on these matters with the thought of bringing them to the attention of the local group in Seattle and Mr. Armstrong.
(pg 11) Before I was able to do so I received a great shock. One night, the local director brought a small group of members together, as he does from time to time. My wife and I were included. During the course of the conversation he began to say that he had doubts as to whether or not the Bible would be used in the world tomorrow because it contained inaccuracies.
At this point, my early warning radar sprang to life! Alarms sounded and my ears perked to attention like great searching antenna. Just what was he trying to say? In Mr. Armstrong’s church the Bible is supposed to be regarded, in its basic form, as being one-hundred percent the inspired word of God without error.
One of the ladies in the group began to question the local director. He did not seem anxious to pursue the subject. His final statement was essentially this: whether or not the Bible was used in the world tomorrow was not important because Herbert Armstrong’s booklets and literature represented an understandable rewriting of the Bible.
I began to have little incentive for remaining a part of this organization. The time had come to conduct a careful investigation into every aspect of the group’s doctrines. About a month later, I mailed a hasty report expounding on some of the concepts which I had begun to seriously question. The report went to about one hundred of Mr. Armstrong’s members. I left the group at this time, whereupon they quickly slammed he door behind me – for sending the report-and forbid any member to see or talk to me.
Continuous investigation since then h as brought shock after shock. It is hard for me to believe how utterly deceived I had been. In this report, I will present some of this vast evidence. Much more must be left for subsequent reports.
(pg 13) After joining that organization, I studied and believed all that was written or said. At times, small questions would arise but we would seldom allow ourselves to question Mr. Armstrong feeling he must know best. Many times we were reminded that Herbert Armstrong was supposed to be the Almighty’s top physical representative on earth today. How could we question God? Large questions and problems concerning the doctrines of this man failed to arouse me to the realization that much of his doctrinal foundation could be in error.
Eventually, I was used by his group to visit members as ahead of a two-man team under the local representative. I expounded his doctrines faithfully, can could not conceive or understand when others differed with him.
Some time later they ordained me (a) deacon. I was then assigned responsibility in taking care of certain physical functions of the local group area. Bookkeeping and sound communications were my basic duties.
(pg 14) Many would ask why I failed to question various doctrines before ten whole years had elapsed. The answer is simple. When a person enters this group he normally finds his time completely taken up. Members are encouraged to study their Bibles but, in reality, seldom find time for the real searching effort needed to properly understand many little understood facts concerning it.
Many people realize the fact that Mr. Armstrong’s organization distributes large quantities of books, booklets, articles, study courses, etc. Members are asked to study and restudy them as they have time. They must attend Saturday services each week and attend regular Bible Study meetings as often as possible. There are also special Holy Day meetings plus resultant review notes they must study. Many belong to local choir groups with rehearsals once or twice a week. The groups conducts a speech club for men once a week plus the many extra-curricular activities associated with it including speech preparation, money raising activities, banquets, etc.
There are also many social activities which while good and of an excellent nature, are designed to devour spare time. Thus, this great use of time contributes to the fact that few members will question basic ideas once caught in the fold. There is just not much time in which to become suspicious.
(pg 19) Mr. Armstrong says in his book to “expect breathtaking surprises,” We are to be ready for “startling, amazing, eye-opening facts until now hidden from our eyes.” We are told that these prophecies have not been understood or believed until now because the vital key which unlocks prophecy to our understanding has been lost. At last, Mr. Armstrong stands ready to reveal those secrets to us! He asserts that the great lost key is none other than the proof of the identity of the United States and the British peoples in Biblical prophecy! “The same key has been found” he says, and it is to be presented to “those whose unprejudiced eyes are willing to see it.”
It becomes obvious at once reading U.S. B.C.P. that this theory is pretend as being revealed knowledge to Herbert Armstrong from God. However, Garner Ted Armstrong has mentioned on the (pg 20) radio broadcast, from time to time, that U.S.B.C.P. was taken from another book. Which book he does not say. Some within the organization recognize the book mentioned as being Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright. This book was written by JOHN Allen in 1917.
But, if this great “reveled” knowledge is not unique to with Herbert Armstrong…then neither is it unique with J.H. Allen. In the preface to Mr. Allen’s book we receive a clue as to where the theory came from. We will quote: “Consequently, when, perchance, we found some prophetic utterance therein [the Bible], which we were forced to admit had not become a historic verity, and since this was the dispensation of the Spirit, we felt at liberty to give the reigns to our somewhat vivid imagination, and let it run unchecked through the verdant and fruitful fields of speculation…” Who gave him this liberty? God?
Was the result of J. H. Allen’s “vivid imagination” really unique with him? No, not quite! The ultimate invention of the concept originated with a man by the name of Richard Brothers. The Hastings Encyclopedia of religion and Ethics states: “Anglo-Israelism owes its modern success to Richard Brothers (1757-1824), a half-pay officer of eccentric habits in the English Navy. He described himself as ‘nephew of the Almighty’ and claimed descent from David. Among his prophecies were those from the immanent restoration of Israel to the Holy Land and the elevation of himself as ‘Prince of the Hebrews’ and ruler of the world! Richard Brother’s was confined as a lunatic, but succeeded in obtaining many admirers.”
(pg 21) Mr. Armstrong’s book U.S.B.C.P. Is a direct though modified, descendent of Richard Brothers’ Anglo-Israelism. A good insight into the past history of this theory may be gained by reading J.H. Allen’s Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright as it shows some of the revising used to get the concept into its somewhat modern form from which Herbert Armstrong obtained it. One might also read The Delusions of British Israelism by Anton Darms.
A lesson well learned in studying the whole history of British Israelism is the fact that the theory grows around events of history, not Biblical example.
The main question is, of course, is not who invented the concept but whether or not there is any shred of Biblical truth in it.
The vast importance of knowing the truth regarding this theory becomes all too evident when one understands how it effects virtually all prophecy of the Bible in this latter day as interpreted by Herbert Armstrong.
(Marson the recommends that the ready take up a copy of the US&BC in hand and follow along. He proceeds to debunk and disprove Armstrong’s various interpretations.
Most books on Armstrong’s tend to attack the British Israel silliness. This theory is the first obstacle they need to remove. Once you removed and debunked British Israelism, everything else in Armstrong’s House of Cards starts crumbling. )