Jewels from Bro. Saether’s Interview (Part 3 of 6)

22 Sep

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Baylor University Institute for Oral History


Continuing with part three —

SAETHER: The thought came to me like this: if in 1954 when I
asked Brother Houteff two questions about Revelations, a book
that he had written quite a little on and talked a lot on—if
he wasn’t able to answer two simple questions about this because
he wasn’t up to par, then what dependence could you put
on his statement when he was just ready to die?

Would his word and his opinions and his judgment be better or worse  than it was say, six months before that? In 1954?

No, I tell you, I think the Hermansons were ambitious and
the first thing that was done—well I might mention this, that
Brother Bingham was dowm in the Caribbeans at the time.

McGEE: At the time of Brother Houteff’s death? 

SAETHER: Yeah, his death. He was sent a cablegram right away
that Brother Houteff had died. As I recall he came back right
away. Of course, he didn’t like the setup, (pause) As I look
back over it I don’t know what we could have done better, than
to have had Mrs. Houteff as the leader because of this rivalry
between especially Brother Bingham and Brother Wolfe. We didn’t
know anything about Roden at the time. It wasn’t until in the
fall of the year— 

McGEE: Of 1955?

SAETHER: Of 1955—that Roden came to the fore.

McGEE: Brother Wilson did not resist the idea of Mrs. Houteff
being named vice president in his place?

SAETHER: He was sick at the time and I don’t know how it was that
his name was by-passed. As I see it now, he was considered incompetent.
I think maybe he was. There was something eating on
him. He was here—right here in this building in one of these
rooms, in what we called the dispensary.

We had a duplex here. This was one room and that was another and then we had a bedroom over there and kitchen in here, and a bathroom. The same setup
was on the other end of this duplex. It was used for a dispensary
for anyone that was sick. He was in here as I understand it. He was not out in field work. He was here as a patient.

McGEE: Anyway, he was in no position I suppose to object to this
and as far as you know he did not object to being replaced?

SAETHER: No. We had the authority to do it and, as I recall,
we considered that he was—because I’d talked with him here—he
and I were good friends.
He was a very amiable man but he could be stern, too. He
was stern when he was manager in Brother Houteff’s absence.

He had been a leader among the Adventists. And a man has to be, to be a president of a conference he deals with all kinds of people
especially the workers. There are quite a few workers in a

McGEE: … Mrs. Houteff was now vice president and general manager. How did things develop from that point forward? 

SAETHER: The first thing that she said when we had our council
meeting was, “I want you men to go all over the camp,” I guess
we used to call it the camp. We figured this was just a camp,
see. We’re just camping out here for the duration.
When Brother Houteff first started this work he figured it
would be all over in a year. When he first started out there in
California there was just a unit there.

Well, then when they came here that was different but he called this a camp. He got
that from Ezekiel, that we should set up a camp and the church
is the city and that’s what we did...She said, “I’m interested in the Bible study and I want to do some private studying.” Well, it wasn’t long after that— 

...This was in 1955 and Mrs. Houteff cornered me one day in the office. We closed at noon on Friday so everybody could go home and get ready for Sabbath.  She cornered me there and she talked all afternoon to me, trying to persuade me
to her idea in Revelation 11. 

Well, one thing I could see and I acknowledged this right
away. I told her, “I can see you’re right in this, that those
days didn’t take place back in the Dark Ages as the church had
thought and as we thought. Brother Houteff thought and taught.

We taught that those days were the days of papal supremacy and
had to do with that. I could see that they don’t. They’re in
present time. That they apply now in any definite way, you
haven’t shown it. You haven’t got the proof, you haven’t got
the backing of it. Where is the proof of this?”

I was courteous with her, I wasn’t rough. I should have
even made fun of it but I didn’t. She was in earnest, I thought
she’d lost her mind.

….I thought that Mrs. Houteff was wrong but she talked all
afternoon. Hour after hour. Pleading with me. Just pleading.
What she should have done was taken it to the council. What she
did was go to each individual in the council and talk with them
about it. 

That’s what she must have done because in the fall of the year
we sent out a code—every month a code came out. In this code, on
November 9, we opened them—we got them over at the office—they
were sent out to the—that’s what was printed I think, as I recall.

Fifteen hundred had been sent out to the people and there it
says, “We’ve now entered these days.” When I opened it up I was
dumbfounded. I knew she talked to me about it but that’s the last
I heard of it. Not another word was said.

In March—it was in March that she told me this or April,
March, we’ll say. April, May, June, July, August, September,
October, November, eight months—not a word. Not a word was said.
In the council or anywhere else. It was just kept on the q,t.
Then, she come out and said we’d entered these days.

Hermanson was getting his mail—they were distributing the
mail over in the office, to the office workers. He got his code,
too, with the mail and he gave us each our code. The codes had
been sent out. Taken dovm to the post office. So they’d gone
out to all the people.
I said, “Did you see this?” “Yes.” “We’ve now entered these
days, ” I said. “If we’ve entered those days they’re gonna end
some day and then what?” “Well,” he says, “she wrote it. It’s
her responsibility.”

SAETHER: Right then and there what I should have said and insisted
on, was that this thing should be brought before the council and if
it could be proven we’d accept it. But, if it can’t, we’ll tell the
people there’s a mistake made. How easy that would have been compared
to what happened. Well, I didn’t know what to do about it.

McGEE: How did things develop after the fall of 1955 when this
message went out? How did things develop here at Mt. Carmel?

SAETHER: It was quite a shock to many of the Davidians that Brother
Houteff died. Some felt that he never would die, that he’d be the
king in the new kingdom. He taught, and we all believed, that there
was to be a kingdom. There were some things we couldn’t understand,I couldn’t. But I couldn’t get a better answer. That was my policy,
if you can’t give a better reason, a better answer, better not say
anything. Why criticize something if you can’t have a better answer
for it? I couldn’t see through some of those things.

McGEE: All right. Then along comes this message that we’re in
the last days—”We’re in these days.” How did the people respond
to that over the next year or two?

SAETHER: I think there was division came in then, more than before.
This came out November 9, [1955]. About October 9 or 10, somewhere
around there, we received a letter from Springfield, Missouri,
general delivery. The group of Davidians wanted to come to Mt.
Carmel, in a group, and they wanted our permission to come as a
group. If it was satisfactory we should let them know by a certain
date and if not they were going to come then.

….In two or three days here came a whole group of people from
West Texas. I knew almost all of them. There was a woman that—
she was just a young woman. She was just a girl here and married
while she was here. They left and she had three children in the

They were here, too, with her There were two other
women from California, I think, that I’d never seen. But the
Rodens and the Bowlings and different ones from out there who
lived out in West Texas, They came in and they—we had seats in the office. We had
sort of a lobby out there in front and had curtains. Not curtains
but counters, on three sides, with openings, two openings. It
made a really nice lobby there. 

…They wanted to pray and have the children pray, too.
What did the children know about this and they were famished?
They were healthy young children. They looked like they hadn’t
been fasting at all because they were just as healthy as any children
you ever saw. The father was really a husky fellow. He had
been a student here, too. The mother was a strong woman. Well,
they went on and we couldn’t get head or tail. Some of the people were actually discourteous to us.

McGEE: Now, these people had just suddenly showed up from West Texas?

SAETHER: Yes. But they came in answer to The Branch. Now they had—
this letter was signed The Branch. Well, who’s The Branch?

Finally after a long time we understood that they were the ones
that wrote this letter. And The Branch. Well who’s The Branch?
They didn’t tell us who The Branch was for a long time. Finally,
it was Brother Roden. He acted like he was modest but we subsequently
found out that this modesty was just all put on.

McGEE: What had he done? Had he written inviting them to come
here? Had he sent out a —

SAETHER: He—they’d all lived out there. He knew them out—
they evidently met together and they had the phones. They all
lived right there. I’d never been right there at Odessa but
I knew about where that was. Little towns all around there.

I just thought it was daffy, you know. I didn’t realize—I
didn’t realize the seriousness of it. To me it was just foolishness.
Them putting on a demonstration like that.

But what it was, Dr, McGee, they were using incantation. That’s
the way incantation was. Either by words or action, by song. They
do something. What was it designed for? It was designed to terrorize
us. To make us fear, fearful, that fire was coming down and destroy
us unless we’d leave. Then if we’d leave what would happen? They’d step in and take over. 

That was the idea. That’s what they wanted us to—they
were going to scare us. Nobody was scared. I never saw any
intimation that any of the people there—the office workers
were there—and the council members. Just about every available
person was there.

McGEE: So this group showed up from the Odessa area? What happened
that day, that night?

SAETHER: They pulled out and—

McGEE: Did they pull out because the council decided that they
were not welcome or —

SAETHER: No, They were just going to leave us to our fate.

McGEE: Oh, yes. I see

.McGEE: All right. He was with this group from Odessa and they
were talking about The Branch which was the term which he had
created or they had created to describe their particular movement?

SAETHER: That’s right.

SAETHER: It seems, too, that later—after Brother Houteff’s death—
and in that year of 1955—Bingham was electioneering already. What
he wanted to do—he was asked to come here but he refused to come
here. After Brother Houteff’s death—as I understand it—it made
him sick, I guess, because he said he couldn’t carry on his work
so he went home to his home, where his mother lived, in California.

SAETHER: This was Bingham. His wife was here. He’d been separated
from her ten years, I guess. He wanted to go out and visit all the
people. Well, Mrs. Houteff said he should come here. He worked
here in the office. But he wouldn’t come.

McGEE: All right. Let’s continue with that story then. What
happened with that group in the immediate future?

SAETHER: They came again on the twenty-second of October. This time they really—well, I’ll tell you, I’ve forgotten what their position then was. They went away and if they didn’t come back on the twenty-fifth. Now the twenty-fifth was what we call our
Day of Days. Back in 1938 when Brother Houteff was gone to
Europe, there was a rebellion then. Headed by M, J. Bingham
against Elder Wilson’s regime.

McGEE: Um-hum. Well, what happened on this Day of Days, October 25,
1955? The Rodens, you say, were back here on October 25.

SAETHER: Yes, and it was the same thing, trying to get a foothold
some way or other.

McGEE: Were they able to get a foothold?

SAETHER: Not with anybody here, I don’t think. As I recall, there
wasn’t anybody that went with them or—

SAETHER: Yes, those people are deceitful, those Rodens. Deceitful.
They’re treacherous. Because they’re possessed of the devil.
They must be. They’ve resorted to various forms of incantation.

….I went back to the office later on and the wind was out of
their sails. They were allowed to come in the office. That is,
two or three at a time. Roden was in there. He wanted to buy
some charts and Hermanson asked him, “Are you prepared to pay your bill here?” When he came here as a gardener he ran quite a
bill. He just ignored what he said. He didn’t pay any attention
to it. I’m pretty sure that he still owes that bill. He didn’t
pay it. He volunteered to come and have an organic garden. 

It takes something to put a large family—to come and stay for
months at a time and no income. That was his agreement but he
owed this seven hundred dollars anyway, for rent and food and
one thing and another.
That indicates the kind of a leader they had behind them. It’s of the devil.

McGEE: …Mrs. Houteff had said that we were in these days. That was in 1955. Did she
continue to elaborate on her prophecy during 1956 and 1957?

SAETHER Yes, It was in the code that was sent out to our own

McGEE: What kind of response did she get to that?

SAETHER: Some of them believed and some of them didn’t. There
was a division. The very fact that about a thousand people came
here in 1959 showed that they had some reservations as to whether
they believed or didn’t believe. Some of them became believers.

McGEE: How did things develop in the council during 1956 and 1957?
Did the council go along with Mrs. Houteff? Did she continue to
exert leadership?

SAETHER: Yeah, I think so. I was really the only one who was at
loggerheads in regards this moving but I went along with it. Not
very enthusiastic, but I went along with it. It was a—it was
something that— We had opposition on the outside. There was
Bashan and there were the Rodens, there were the Binghams.

…I was approached by Sister Houteff in regard to this question
of there’d be twelve hundred and sixty days in—all one Friday
afternoon. I can see that it didn’t go on back in the Dark Ages
but I couldn’t see how it applied today. What evidence was there that those days were beginning? I can’t see it today. There
is no evidence. And, there wasn’t any then. I think that we
ought to have let the people know that we were mistaken. We
were mistaken.  (Interview no. 8, p.336-383)

…To be continued  with part four


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