Who are Branch Davidians?

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The Branch Davidians are a religious group that originated from the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They have different beliefs and practices from other Adventist bodies. The group split into factions after the death of their leaders, with David Koresh leading one. The group was involved in a siege in 1993, resulting in the deaths of many members, including Koresh. Today, scattered groups of Branch Davidians exist, some still following Koresh’s teachings.

Branch Davidians are a small religious denomination classified as part of the Seventh-day Adventist Christian branch. Branch Davidians trace their heritage through Seventh-day Adventists to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. However, it is important to note that the doctrines and practices of Branch Davidians are very different from the tenets of Seventh-day Adventists, the Advent Christian church, and other Adventist bodies.

The Branch Davidian movement first appeared as a separate religious entity in 1955. Due to a schism within Davidian Seventh-day Adventists following the death of founder Victor Houteff, members who chose to support Benjamin L. assumed the Branch Davidian Seventh Day Adventist name. “Branch” was added to the group’s official name with the understanding that the name was another reference to Jesus Christ. The newly formed Branch Davidians established a settlement outside the city of Waco, Texas. There the faith functioned under the leadership of Roden and his wife Lois until his death in 1978.

After Benjamin Roden’s death, several people claimed the right to lead the faith. George Roden attempted to take over the settlement over his mother’s objections. Charles Pace, an influential figure within the denomination, also sought spiritual guidance. By 1981, Lois Roden had secured the loyalty of most of the Branch Davidian members.

It was in this environment that Vernon Wayne Howell joined the Branch Davidians. Slowly, Howell began to gain prominence within the movement. Within a few years, he had assumed the name of David Koresh, basing his name on biblical figures.

Tensions continued to build between the Branch Davidians. During an Easter celebration at Mount Carmel in 1984, the movement split into several factions, with Howell leading one faction. All leaders and their followers were banned from the property, which remained under the control of George Roden.

While many of the factions continued to operate under the Branch Davidian name, Howell renamed his splinter group Davidian Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists. Howell actively taught that the group was the spiritual successor to the group that had been expelled from the main Seventh-day Adventist church in the 1930s.

After the death of Lois Roden in 1986 and the collapse of George Roden’s group in 1988, Howell and his group of Branch Davidians assumed control of the property near Waco. By 1990, Howell had become David Koresh and was actively teaching a belief system centered around the Seven Seals mentioned in the New Testament book of Revelations. Koresh taught his followers that he had been given the correct interpretation of the Seven Seals and thus was able to interpret scripture correctly.
Rumors of various activity among the Branch Davidians led to raids on church property in early 1993. Led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the result was a siege that began with the deaths of six Branch Davidians and four agents of the ATF, and ended with the deaths of seventy-six other Branch Davidians on April 19, 1993. David Koresh was among those who died in the destruction of the Mount Carmel compound.

Today, scattered groups of Branch Davidians continue to exist. Some still stand by David Koresh’s claims, while others reject Koresh and his teachings. Attempts to bring together the remnants of the faith into a unified body have so far been unsuccessful.

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