Davidian Seventh-day Adventists will hold their first open-to-the-public meeting in 10 days at 3 p.m. today. It will be at the Davidian world headquarters, new Mt. Carmel Center nine miles east of Waco off U.S. Hwy 84.

The Davidians have been meeting three times a day since April 18 in preparation for a series of events they believe will lead to the “purification” of their church and their establishment of God’s Kingdom in Jerusalem. However, the meetings have been closed to the press and public since April 22.

Davidian council member George W. Saether said recent meetings have been “slightly different” from the first series held April 18-22, but declined to elaborate on the difference.

Ad Tells Message

He also declined comment on the purpose of today’s meeting, saying only that the subject would be announced in an advertisement in Sunday’s Waco Tribune-Herald.

The ad, on page 18-A, simply announces the meeting and the subject: “The Middle East Crisis and the Setting Up of God’s Kingdom.”

Status on the Davidian group is, at present, anybody’s guess. The camp appears peaceful and wet — it sprinkled in Waco throughout most of the day Saturday — from the count road nearby and if anything, there are a few more tents on the grounds than there were when the meetings first started.

However, some members of the group have indicated there is a “feeling of desperation, of panic” among the group despite an outward appearance of calmness and that only about two-thirds of the original number are still present and attending meetings.

Saether declined to comment on the number still present, saying he “had been too busy” to keep up with them.

But while the Davidians still are awaiting the predicted events, there is at least one group among them which believes the Davidian prophecies are one year early and will not occur until the spring of 1960.

This group is known as the Branch and is headed by Benjamin L. Roden of Odessa, regarded as the modern-day counterpart of the prophet Joshua by his followers.

Members of that group are attending the Davidian sessions and, in addition, are holding meetings on their own.

“We are not criticizing the Davidians,” Roden said. “They are sincere people, but they are in error. They are being deceived, but it is an honest deception. We are seeking to help, to help them understand. We’re not seeking to hinder.”

Living Prophet

Beliefs of members of The Branch differ from the Davidians in that they feel the church must have a living prophet — Roden — and that the Davidians have miscalculated a predicted period from the prophesies of William Miller in the 1840s.

They also believe the Davidian predictions that the events would occur this year already have been proved in error since the purification of the church — the slaughter of the sinners — did not occur at sundown April 22, the beginning of the Passover.

“The Lord ‘smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt’ (Exodus 12:29) beginning at midnight, April 22, the start of the Passover,” Roden said. “When the purification of the church — the slaying of the sinners — did not begin on the evening of the 22nd, we knew the events would not occur this year.

No Specific Date

The Davidians themselves have set no specific date as to when the expected events will begin. They have only said they will occur “shortly after April 22.”

They also have said they are expecting a “definite sign” and there were some indications that it might come April 22. If it did come, however, it was not a visible sign and was not made public. Persons attending the April 22 meetings reported no unusual events or occurrences.

Roden, on the other hand, claims a divine sign was revealed to him that day.

“The sign appeared,” he said, “but they didn’t recognize it.

“As far as that goes, my appearance here — the morning of April 22 — actually could be considered a sign. I had been in Jerusalem only a short time before — I flew back — and as far as the people knew I was still in the Holy Land.”

Davidian officials Saturday denied they were expecting the resurrection of V.T. Houteff, founder of the sect, as the divine sign.

They said references to the return of Elijah (the Davidians regard Houteff as the modern-day counterpart of Elijah) just before the day of the Lord concerned work Houteff did before his death in 1955.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.