The “Branch Davidians”: An Offshoot of Seventh-day Adventism
The following is from the Handbook of Denominations in the United States (10th ed.) by Mead & Hill (p. 82):
Largely unknown before 1993, the Branch Davidians became world famous through their 51-day standoff against federal authorities. The culmination on April 19, 1993, in the fiery death of 86 members was one of the most tragic and spectacular events of the year. The members who lived at Mt. Carmel Center, a group compound near Waco, Texas, followed their messianic leader, David Koresh, who commanded resistance against government officials and finally ignited the fire that took the lives of all still living there.
This group of radical sectarians is a subset of one offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist movement. (It was never a part of the large church that goes by that name.) In fact, the group’s actual name is “Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association,” or more properly, “Branch Seventh Day Adventists.” They trace a lineage to 1930 when Victor T. Houteff, a SDA church member in Los Angeles, expounded his new divinely inspired message in a book, The Shepherd’s Rod.
Houteff and his followers found themselves unwelcome in SDA congregations and in 1935 moved to their central Texas site. Here, they believed, the redeemed 144,000 mentioned in the biblical book of Revelation would gather temporarily while directing the establishment of the Davidic kingdom. Living there together under theocratic rule, they would await the second coming of Christ.
David Koresh assumed the mantle of leadership of that theocratic regime in 1986 and the community became ever more isolated and defensive. Reports of the acquisition of a large cache of weapons and of the mistreatment of children occasioned the U.S. government’s interest. By the time the confrontation ended in disaster, the power of Koresh’s control had become dramatically evident.
Two other Davidian Adventist groups remain, one near Exeter, Missouri, the other near Salem, South Carolina. They too stand in the heritage of Houteff and his vision of the restoration of the King David-like theocracy, in these cases in anticipation of Christ’s return.