Look at doctrine

Whatever else has been said about the Mount Carmel tragedy, one thing more needs airing. No matter how long and loudly some churches strive to distance themselves from Vernon Howell, they need to examine the doctrines they themselves are teaching sensitive, idealistic children.

Howell was one of those children whose thinking was molded by interpretations of the Bible as a battleground between good (us) and evil (them).

I was brought up listening to many preachers plead with children to escape the wrath to come, the final battle between good and evil when the “saved” would be separated from the “lost.”

The Book of Revelation was a favorite text upon which to build a profound message to children and adults who sinned and fell short of the glory. Vernon Howell’s departure from those old-time preachers into the murky world of mental illness took a fatally tragic turn when he began using his undoubted magnetism to ratify himself and to control others.

I grieve for all the Branch Davidians at Mount Carmel and their lost little ones. And, yes, that includes little pony boy Howell, whose life might have been different if he had been less of a religious fanatic and more of a musician. Who knows?

Martha Nichols


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.