It is very exciting to announce to all of you that the manuscript for our new book,
A Peculiar Treasure: The Enduring Legacy of Herbert & Loma Armstrong, has been
completed. In fact, by the time you receive this mailing, the bookbinding company that
we selected for the job, Taylor Communications, will be preparing the offset presses to
create the finished work this very month.
Just as we did in the February Monthly Letter, this month’s issue will offer you
the chance to read one of the brand new chapters of the book that no one has read
before. We hope that this material will help you and many of God’s people to make
sense of particular controversial events which occurred in our parent church during the
What About Mistakes and Bad Behavior?
If the Worldwide Church of God was not God’s true Church—His peculiar
treasure—then where might it be, and what would it actually look like? What are you
looking for, and how will you know if you find it?
Will the true work of Jesus Christ through human beings be ideal, physically?
Will it exist in a state of near-perfect unity among all participants, without doctrinal
dispute, and having human leaders who will always reflect the character of Jesus Christ
Himself? Is that what you are looking for? Good luck in finding it! That is not a
flippant statement to denigrate the possibility of finding Christ’s Work on this earth. But
it is an admonition against using a faulty yardstick that will never lead you to find real
Truth. Why? Because that has never been the way Christ described the actual behavior
of His peculiar treasure! Such a yardstick will never reveal any physical assembly that
will ever measure up.
Oh yes, the Body of Jesus Christ will be known for love and unity (John 13:35).
It will be known for faithful defense of revealed doctrine (John 14:15). But this is
speaking of the spiritual organism in which the Holy Spirit is dominant in each true
member. However, God’s church has always existed physically as a mixed multitude,
made up of all kinds of people in varying states of spiritual conversion (or lack thereof).
At best, the physical assembly of those called by God is a hodgepodge of fallible human
beings working to cast off the burdens of their ingrained wretched habits and carnal
inclinations. At best, it is a hard slog to put off the flesh, to let Jesus Christ truly begin
to rule in our lives and to manifest the fruits of His Spirit. Some ministers and
laymembers do so, but many in the end do not.
Those looking primarily for a church that is filled with “nice people” can go to
any number of corner churches. It is especially easy among groups that believe God’s
Law is done away and that a person does not really have to change to be saved. Where
there is no pressure or expectation of personal overcoming, there is a very “low bar” of
expectation that makes it much easier for members to pat each other on the back and
believe that they are all OK in God’s sight. No pressure. Just “be nice.” Everybody
goes to heaven.
But that is not how the Bible defines the expectation for real salvation, and neither
is it how the physical members of the “true church” are described by Christ. If no
murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, liars, idolaters, or abominable people will be
allowed into God’s Kingdom—and that is exactly what Jesus Christ said in Revelation
21:8, reinforcing the hold of the Ten Commandments—then the true Church, wherever
it is found, will be made up of individuals who know that God requires them to change
their behavior, because He will not accept them just as they are. Such individuals who
are schooled in the need to become “overcomers” recognize that salvation is not really
as easy as falling off a log. It requires the crucifixion of our natural impulses and
concepts of mind, and the need to actually walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, not just
to spout a lot of religious platitudes.
Now then, take a group of called individuals like that, put them in a physical
assembly with others who are tasked with the very same quest, mix in a lot of
individuals who are not really serious about the quest at all, and a dash of others who
are actually there for more nefarious reasons, and you have a perfect stew of potential
and predictable drama. That is the kind of church that Jesus Christ chose to assemble
in the flesh. What is the evidence?
Just read the epistles of Paul, Peter, and John from the first century, and examine
the problems that they were grappling with within the true churches of God at the time!
Where is the blissful harmony? Oh yes, the Book of Acts records an initial flush of
unity and oneness that prevailed when the church first began (Acts 2:44–47; 4:32–34).
But that was very short-lived indeed (like a honeymoon period), replaced within just a few years with all kinds of internal strife, gross personal sins of weakness, doctrinal
argumentation, political debate, and the misbehavior of shepherds who did not remain
loyal to the revealed Truth.
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto
carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with
meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife,
and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (1 Corinthians 3:1–3)
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such
fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should
have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned,
that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you (1
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in
among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise,
speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore
watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn
every one night and day with tears (Acts 20:29–31).
That is the New Testament record God gave to us to describe His peculiar
treasure of the day! Sadly, in spite of having access to the power of the Holy Spirit to
help them behave differently, many of them instead followed in the very footsteps of the
ancient Israelites—God’s church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38)—the first rendition of
His peculiar treasure. Is this shocking? It should not be if we simply read the entire
biblical record with open eyes.
By the end of the first century, very few had held firm to the true Faith. The
physical—organized—church had been taken over by men who did not love the original
revelation. By the 90s a.d., the Apostle John had been put out of his own church!
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the
preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will
remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious
words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the
brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the
church (3 John 9–10).
But Jesus Christ did not orchestrate all of this for our failure. All of it is part of
His ingenious program to produce real spiritual character out of a crucible of serious
trial. Salvation is not easy, but it is very much achievable—possible for any of those
called ones who come to love that Way enough to fight for it.
What then can help make such a wobbly construct of a physical church—like the
one Christ assembled—successful? Firstly, the power of God’s Holy Spirit helping
many to be transformed in mind in spite of the negative pressures—pressures both
inside and outside of the body. Secondly, good leadership of shepherds who are
applying real wisdom in the administration of their duties. The whole enterprise, as
Christ designed it, is very much like a house of cards—extremely fragile and merely one
wrong move away from disaster. But it can stand, nevertheless, if Christ’s rules for both
laymember and minister are followed. Often, those rules are not followed, and that is
why bad fruits manifest. But wherever Christ is truly working, there will indeed be a
vestige of legitimacy, even if you have to look more closely to find it.
According to a realistic measure in evaluating the physical assembly of God’s
true church, the Worldwide Church of God cannot be discounted at all. The fact that
this organization over time became wracked with division, infighting, bad behavior of
many ministers and laymembers alike, watering down of revealed doctrines, and the
ultimate implosion of its empire, does not prove that it could not have been God’s true
church. Many have drawn that conclusion, citing documented “bad fruits.” But in fact,
it actually makes it more credible that this might actually have been the church that God
raised up in the twentieth century! If that seems the reverse of good logic, then pray tell,
where is the biblical evidence for the fairytale manifestation of a physical church that
many have demanded to see? It simply does not exist that way. It never did exist that
way in the past, and God prophesied that His last-day church would do all of the very
things that the WCG ended up doing. Here are just a few examples:
Jesus said He would build a church, the leadership of that church would bear His
authority, and that this church would never perish (Matthew 16:18–19). The WCG was
built as an unusual and amazing church from the 1930s through the 1960s, Herbert
Armstrong claimed God’s authority to guide that church, and remnants of that work still
survive today because his teachings which have intrinsic value have never been
That Church was to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ—His inspired message
and instructions (Mark 16:15). Herbert Armstrong proclaimed the Gospel—the Good
News of the coming Kingdom of God—and that message touched thousands around the
That very Church that Christ built would go astray—apostatize from revealed
Truth (Acts 20:28–31; Jude 4, 18; 2 Timothy 3:1, 5; 4:3–4; 2 Peter 3:3–4). The WCG
changed its foundational teachings which had been so blessed during its first forty-year
history, reverting over the ensuing twenty-year period to the very same false teachings
that original members had initially renounced as empty and unsatisfying.
This is what Jesus said His church would be like, and what it would eventually
do, and that is exactly what the WCG was like, and what it eventually did. What other
religious denomination that you know of today fits that model nearly as well? There is
When a legitimate church that God raises up falls away from Him and separates
from revealed Truth, there is a reason. It would never happen if the ministry and its core
members insisted upon remaining faithful. The only way such a prophesied apostasy
can take place is for serious mistakes to occur, God’s Holy Spirit as a guiding force to
be quenched, gross negligence to ensue, and serious sins to overtake those who were
You can never apostatize (fall away) from Truth, if you did not first possess
Truth! Deceived peoples of the world cannot commit apostasy. They have never yet
had that Truth revealed to them. What is the only group of people who can possibly
fulfill the very prophecy that Christ said would befall His own church? It must be His
own called—legitimate—sheep! They are the only ones who can fulfill this prophecy.
There is no other possibility.
With that premise in place, let us now examine the tabloid accusations that have
been leveled against Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God over the past
For many years there have been provocative and salacious accusations made
against key figures within the Worldwide Church of God, and Mr. Herbert Armstrong
in particular. Once internal strife broke out in the 1970s and ministers and members
alike began to defect en masse, a number of “tell-all books” and other tabloid-style
publications began to crop up. Especially heading into the 1980s and beyond,
newsletters, books, and other media items began to be distributed by former members
and ministers who now sought to destroy the very church they had once served with
loyalty. The internet is rife today with all manner of “Armstrong hate sites.”
Understand this distinction: There had always been detractors of Herbert
Armstrong and his religious enterprise, but until the 1970s it had largely come from
other Christian denominations that considered the WCG a dangerous cult. They sought
to denigrate the doctrines (biblical exegesis) of Herbert Armstrong which challenged
their “orthodox” interpretation of Scripture and which often set mainstream scholars
back on their heels. But this new brand of hater was very different.
There is no adversary like the one who begins as a devoted follower but then flips
one-hundred-eighty degrees. In chapter fifteen we spotlighted the main categories of
individuals who became members over the years, including the ones who were there
primarily out of fear of future world events—seeking to save their skins. But when the
world did not end in the 1970s, leadership judgment began to be questioned, and then
when the misbehavior of certain prominent church icons began to be divulged, many
who had followed previously with blind faith now reacted with feelings of betrayal,
disappointment, and embarrassment that they had ever been so “duped.” Many just left
the fellowship and faded back into the world, but some responded with greater volatility.
In some cases, ministers (or minister wannabes) who found themselves “outside
the fold” sought a following of their own. One of the best ways to poach members from
your former affiliation is to begin a campaign to vilify the parent body, sow discord, and
thereby shake loose vulnerable members for your own new group.
Others just seemed to need a kind of cathartic outlet to cope with their own deep
disappointments and hurt feelings. They became crusaders—as a “public service”—to
try to expose the real danger of that Armstrong cult so that other unsuspecting people
could be spared from being abused and taken advantage of as they now believe they had
been. They became warriors for a new humanitarian cause.
Still others found solace in attacking the WCG for a different reason: Having
separated for whatever outward reason, they carried with them a real sense of guilt that
perhaps—just maybe—they had abandoned the real Faith and were now estranged from
God. That is a terrible feeling, whether rational or not, and if it persists in the mind it
becomes devastating. One solution was to return to that former faith in some way. But
if that was not an option (for whatever reason), the only way for some to try to dispel
the persistent guilt was to convince themselves that it really was not God’s Church at all.
If I can convince myself that it really was just a man-made cult, I am safe with God.
Conscience clear. Therefore, let me become a consumer of every salacious accusation
I can find against that church, and let me practice self-psychotherapy by sharing with
others my own horror stories from my past affiliation. In so doing, maybe I can
eventually convince myself that I did not really do the wrong thing.
That is just a brief summary of some (not all) of the motivations behind much of
the anti-Armstrong literature that began to surface in the 1970s and beyond.
In general, what is a true Christian supposed to do if he/she finds out about the
private sins of someone else? Is it a godly principle to expose secret sins as a way to
help defeat hypocrisy through a militant purge? Hardly. Oh yes, there are many biblical
texts that emphasize the need to “call out” sin for what it is, but this is always speaking
of heresy—blatant sin being espoused to try to teach God’s people that wrong is actually
right; to espouse something that threatens the entire body. That is very different than
a sin of personal weakness that one has not yet been able to overcome. If you do not
understand the difference between heresy (spreading false doctrine) and personal
weakness, then you will make serious mistakes in trying to apply God’s instructions. He
commanded that we do both—show mercy and resist sin. You cannot do both of them
correctly without knowing the difference in application.
In any case, because all of God’s commandments are expressions of love, wisdom
to know when to reveal a sin vs. when to cover (not cover up) a sin requires one to have
a sincere desire to create peace and harmony within the church. If someone is rabble-rousing within a group—being contentious and robbing the church of peace—that must
not be tolerated. Call it for what it is and get rid of that cancerous influence. But if it
is merely the weakness of a brother or sister of the faith—a weakness that one has not
yet been able to master, though acknowledging it as sin—it would be a direct violation
of godly wisdom to “expose” that person’s private mistakes and not to provide time and
patience for true repentance. Jesus indicted those who were hardhearted and
cruel—lacking sincere love—and thereby becoming guilty of hanging a millstone
around the necks of His dear children (Matthew 18:6).
A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth
the matter (Proverbs 11:13).
He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter
separateth very friends (Proverbs 17:9).
And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity
shall cover the multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore
such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be
tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ
So the question is, concerning these individuals who have written tell-all books
to reveal private sins of their targets within the WCG, is this very premise even remotely
an expression of God’s love? In other words, is that what Jesus would have done? You
be the judge. Just understand that if you believe you need to read every salacious
accusation written against Herbert Armstrong to complete your investigation of his
legitimacy, then at least recognize that you are choosing to receive testimony from
individuals who are proving that they do not reflect God’s Spirit or anything resembling
a Christian mind. Anyone who would choose to write such a publication is proving an
inherent lack of moral character. So just be careful not to be duped by their claims of
innocence and altruistic public service.
And if it is necessary to put Herbert Armstrong under the microscope in order to
be totally objective about him, how about applying the very same standard to these
detractors? Perhaps we should be willing to delve into their personal histories to
discover what “hidden secrets” existed in their lives which account for their taking part
in such endeavors. After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Who is
to say they are credible? Maybe there are people who knew them, who will testify, third
or fourth hand, about things somebody else saw or “witnessed.” Should that kind of
hearsay testimony not also be weighed, if you think as a general principle it is
appropriate and needful to find out all the dirt?
Part of anyone’s credibility is showing a foundation of reliability. Many of these
critical authors once chose to join the Worldwide Church of God—to become baptized
and to devote themselves to seeking salvation in God’s Kingdom. The official church
doctrine always emphasized that making this commitment was a very serious matter,
and should never be undertaken by anyone who is not absolutely sure. Prospective
members were strongly advised to count the cost (Luke 14:28), and to be certain to
prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Herbert Armstrong often repeated to his
audiences, “Don’t believe me; believe your Bibles!” Therefore, anyone who chose to
get baptized into that faith was one who claimed to have performed that comprehensive
due diligence and was convinced that it really was God’s revealed Way of Life.
And yet, within a few years’ time, these very ones who separated from the church
and then began to make accusations, also began to claim they had been duped by a
charlatan from the beginning. Well, if they are correct—and Herbert Armstrong was
merely an opportunistic snake oil salesman—then what else does that prove? These
individuals had never really proven the Truth at all! They were admonished to check
out in their Bibles everything Herbert Armstrong preached and to verify if it were so.
They supposedly did so and became convinced—by their own diligent
investigation—that what he taught was the real Truth! But if, in the end, it was not the
real Truth, why then did they not discover that during their own initial study? They had
all of the tools. They were told to prove it for themselves!
Perhaps they never really did the work to put those teachings to the test. Instead,
they must have subscribed to those church tenets because they were enamored by the
personality of Herbert Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong, or some other physical aspect
of that organization. Otherwise, if he has truly searched the Scriptures to verify the truth
(like the Bereans did; Acts 17:10–11), then it matters not what any man does, minister
or otherwise. Truth is truth! If he has proven it, then he believes it no matter what
another human being does, now or in the future. And if instead, his commitment to a
belief system is ever contingent upon the future actions of a minister, another
laymember, an organization, etc., it is glaring proof that the command of 1
Thessalonians 5:21 was never really followed.
The true believers were the ones who discovered value in those doctrines taught
by Herbert Armstrong which were found in no other church! They really did prove their
veracity, especially by practicing those teachings. If you prove something by living it
and you verify that blessings from God actually derive from following His
commandments, then who should ever be able to take that “evidence” away from you in
the future? No one!
So what do we say about those who supposedly proved it, followed it for a time,
but then changed their minds and became enemies of that very same church—enough
so to seek to destroy what they once professed to believe? Someone was either not
diligent enough in their initial study, or else they allowed superficial attractions to bring
them into the church rather than real interest in God’s salvation plan.
The third category is also one that God warned about—legitimate children who
did indeed prove it, but then later forgot all of those proofs because of severe tribulation
(Psalm 78). Regardless of which reason it may be, whose fault is that? God will hold
each individual accountable for himself.
If you conclude that you are being advised to ignore and to suppress knowledge
of gross impropriety in leaders of the Worldwide Church of God, and to refuse to
consider that some (even many) might have done some really bad things, you are
mistaken. That is not the point here at all.
This particular work—like no other before it—has attempted to show you the
facts of what happened without resorting to salacious gossip to make a point. It has
shown you evidence that plenty of mistakes were made over the years, but without
attacking or maligning the good intentions of those involved. When possible, a
summary of documented facts has been cast in the light of possible motivations behind
the scenes, but without claiming the ability to read anyone’s heart or mind.
That is why when addressing Herbert Armstrong’s actions, you have seen most
of the analysis taken from his own words. There is always much that is revealing, even
without resorting to the testimony of avowed enemies. To discover what is truly
important, it simply is not necessary to get down into the cesspits of character
assassination. This assertion is not a way to try to deflect attention away from potential
serious personal failings, but to point out the futility in trying to chase real truth by
probing gossip and presumptions that come from others—especially those who are
unreliable because they have an axe to grind.
Even in assessing the actions of Joseph Tkach, this work has focused upon his
actions and his own explanations of his actions, rather than implying any evil intent.
He may have been very sincere in what he did. Why not allow for that? It has no
bearing on whether he was right or wrong in his doctrinal conclusions. Why not stick
to the issues? It is all about judging the value of any religious doctrine on the basis of
soundness of rationale from the Bible, rather than just attempting to “win” by attacking
someone else’s personal character. We have plenty of politicians who engage in
scorched-earth defamation of character to try to “win power.” They do not care if their
opponent is really guilty of being “evil” or not. It is only about winning the prize. In
those circles, trampling someone’s character and reputation is considered part of the
price of winning.
For us, why not instead stick to evaluating doctrinal issues? The fundamentals
of belief of the Radio Church of God should either stand or fall based upon their own
merits. If that church just might have been God’s peculiar treasure in our time, then it
will have redeeming value in its explanation of God’s plan for human salvation,
irrespective of the weaknesses of those who first brought those truths to our attention.
Do not forget that being innocent provides no firewall against personal attacks.
If it were so, then Jesus, being perfect, would never have been maligned as a mentally
unbalanced, carousing, gluttonous drunkard (Matthew 11:18–19; John 7:20). That point
is not to try to change the subject or to obfuscate any man’s mistakes. It is just a
reminder that if you insist upon believing always that where there’s smoke there’s fire,
then you likewise would have rejected the Savior because He was accused without
mercy by His enemies. Just be very careful about taking personal accusations at face
value. Consider the source.
If it is true that the Radio Church of God was indeed raised up by Jesus Christ as
His peculiar treasure in our time—founded upon the revelation of true doctrine to a
called people—then the very most serious sin that Herbert Armstrong committed as
physical head of that church was allowing, while on his watch, God’s Truth to be
besmirched and abandoned by covetous underlings. It was a mistake that permitted the
personal faith of thousands to be destroyed, and it set in motion all of the chaos that
resulted over the next twenty years. And lest you believe that this assertion in itself is
an uncorroborated personal attack, again, weigh it from Mr. Armstrong’s own words:
So I will just tell you now, that I myself, cannot see one scintilla of an
argument so far that is going to overthrow the teaching of God’s Church on
divorce and remarriage. . . If we would do that, brethren, do you know
what would happen in less than another three months? I’ll bet you nearly
hundreds and hundreds of members of the Worldwide Church of God
would divorce and they would go out and marry someone else. And that
would be the end of the Worldwide Church of God—and Jesus Christ
would spue us out of His mouth. And anyone who does go and do that will
get spued out. I have to warn you (Transcribed from audio recording of
Herbert Armstrong Bible study on Divorce and Remarriage; Ambassador
College Gymnasium; Pasadena, California; April 13, 1973).
Either this statement in 1973 is true, or else it is not true. You need no salacious
personal exposé to confirm this as a mistake, if it was indeed the fulfillment of God’s
prophecy that His true church would go into apostasy (Malachi 2:14–16). You have
already seen the public evidence of it from the history highlighted in Part II of this work.
You only need to decide if you think it matters.
It would be so much nicer to believe that Herbert Armstrong made no serious
mistakes in leading the church, and that the “real trouble” came only after he died.
Again, there are plenty of other written works out there to reinforce that particular
notion. But every one of those versions leaves much to be desired, and they do not
address many nagging questions at the heart of the story which you have seen
highlighted here. The point is this: Our confidence in the validity of Herbert
Armstrong’s legitimacy as a servant of God is not dependent upon making him out to
have been virtually perfect. We need not chase every personal attack against him and
then rebut it. Whether he secretly engaged in personal behaviors that were wrong is not
germane to our belief that he offered us something of immense value. That doctrine he
taught to the exclusion of all other religionists has value in and of itself.
As for the rest, God will indeed be the Judge of every one of us, and He knows
what those secret intents of heart and mind have always been.
What if it is true that God purposely called and used a man in our time to establish
His Church, but a man who had natural weaknesses that would manifest under pressure
in his old age? What if God did this intentionally to assure that His prophecy of a
falling away would come to pass as stated (2 Thessalonians 2:3)? What if God allowed
this to happen for reason—to verify whether each member of that church was actually
there because of love for the revealed Truth, or whether they were only following a man
or a physical organization? What if God decided that there is no better way to show
what is truly in each member’s heart than to allow the very man through whom that Way
of Life was preached to fall prey to a character weakness in his old age and permit the
church to go astray? What if God could have prevented that personal weakness from
manifesting by choosing to keep strong defenders of the faith surrounding Mr.
Armstrong, like his faithful son Richard Armstrong, and his wife, Loma? What if it
were possible—by taking a liberal influence like Garner Ted Armstrong out of the way
instead of Richard—that the church might have had stronger leadership in the 1970s in
order to rebuff attempts to water down God’s Truth? What if God intentionally allowed
that liberal son (and others) to gain power in that organization in order to help
precipitate the prophesied challenge to sound doctrine?
And what if Herbert Armstrong was actually very sincere in his heart, and what
if he came to recognize his error before he died and to repent bitterly before God, even
if he was too weak physically by that time to be able to bring the church back to the
original revelation (on doctrines like Pentecost, divorce and remarriage, etc.)?
Again, none of us can read hearts and minds. But because the real legacy of
Herbert Armstrong is found in God’s true plan of salvation—which we received by his
preaching and no one else’s—this author chooses to hope for that outcome, and to
continue to respect and to defend his memory for all of the blessings that we received
through his work. It truly changed our lives for the good.