It has long been alleged that Herbert W. Armstrong carried on a years-long incestuous relationship with his daughter Dorothy, beginning when she was a teenager. Armstrongites, at least those who have opened their ears enough to even hear these allegations, have vehemently denied it. Yet, those close to the situation -- including Dorothy herself -- never did, while others have verified it. The preponderance of the evidence would have convicted Armstrong of incest and sex crimes against a minor in a court of law.
In Arizona, had Armstrong been tried and convicted of incest alone, he could have spent upwards to 25 years in prison. If convicted for the rape of his daughter, Armstrong would today face up to an additional 14 years in prison. If convicted of sexual abuse of a child, the punishments would have been even more severe, along with putting him on the sex offender registry forever. Basically, for his years of abusing his own child, he should have rotted at least 40 years in a state prison and almost certainly died there. But there was no such justice administered.
Recently, members of Armstrong's own family have discussed the allegations, adding to the pile of evidence and leaving the well of denials empty save for those from blinded acolytes without firsthand, secondhand or even thirdhand knowledge of the situation, only their misguided faith in a corrupt man.
Why does this matter? Armstrong is dead. While it's true the most important issues facing the COG today are rooted in its current corrupt leadership, and most criticisms of Armstrong are simply cautionary history lessons anymore, it's still an issue of "buyer beware." Anyone choosing to be part of anything should make the most informed decision possible. That considered, how many would knowingly jump on board with organizations directly tied to a church built by a child abusing rapist?
Because after weighing all the information available, what remains seems, to many, to be simple: the COG was headed and founded by a incestuous, child molesting, rapist pervert who sexually abused his own daughter for years.
Have fun with that, COG members. If the allegations were proven beyond the shadow of any doubt (almost no doubt remains) would you still be piling into Sabbath services at your local splinter congregation? Or would you take your beliefs to a less poisoned well? The morally sensible option is clear.
Before anyone kicks and screams in a pouty, angry fit over supposed libel or slander, please note we are merely sharing the allegations and background details provided by several different sources over the years. We didn't think this up, nor did any other blog. Seriously, what's more likely: that a bunch of disparate people (former ministers, members, those related to Armstrong, etc) would somehow come up with the same undenied allegations and stick to them for the sake of maintaining some "bitter" conspiracy against HWA's memory? Or that Armstrong raped and carried on an illegal and immoral relationship his own daughter? Because in the long history of corruption and amorality among religious leaders, we know it's the latter that has stronger precedence.
Here's a stack of allegations, all reporting the same thing from different sources, including Armstrong family members, that corroborate the incest allegations. It takes someone in incredible denial to reject these accounts on their face simply to preserve the memory of a man whose portrait sits in the living rooms of some COG members to this very day.
This book was written by David Robinson, a former WCG minister and employee, which provided an in-depth look at corruption within the cult. It also has a chapter dedicated to the incest allegations against Armstrong, who could have easily filed and won a libelous defamation suit against Robinson if the allegations were false. Armstrong instead just tried to block the book's publication, lending further support to the allegations being true.
How serious is the sin of incest, such as when a father uses his authority to force himself on his own daughter, his own flesh? All generations of the human family have viewed this conduct as anunnatural act. The apostle Paul referred to a somewhat similar relationship in the Corinthian church: "...such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentles, that one should have his father's wife" (I Cor. 5:1). Incest was disgusting beyond measure to Paul, who was led to record his revulsion for posterity in the inspired Bible.
Even during this time of "sexual freedom" the American nation was recently shocked to witness a television program, "The Phil Donahue Show," on which victims of incest discussed their emotional suffering that resulted from such parental abuse. The psychological penalty for such sin continues for generations.
Sometimes perpetrators of such crimes try to justify themselves by citing the case of Lot, the nephew of Abraham, in the book of Genesis. Does the biblical account of the conduct of Lot in any way justify a man taking his own daughter? Let's look at this matter:
- Lot was without a wife, as she had been killed on the trip from Sodom.
- Lot was not the initiator, his daughters were. They plied him with wine, in preparation for what they wanted, children. They thought all mankind had been destroyed, and they wanted to preserve the race.
- Lot performed his part while drunk and never repeated that reprehensible conduct.
Not that there is ever any justification for such acts, but the sin of Lot, bad as it was, is not to be compared with that of a married man who, on a continuing basis, engages in sex with his own daughter!
Many American states legislated the death penalty in such cases in the earlier years of this country. I knew personally of such a case in Texas back in the 1950's. The father was executed in Huntsville for such an act. He was convicted in Live Oak County, Texas. He had seduced his thirteen-year-old daughter and had continued the affair with her until relatives discovered the crime. It was his own people who demanded the death penalty and the State of Texas accommodated them. I don't know for sure, but I suspect the laws of Oregon and California were not all that different during the thirties and forties.
Incest is a terrible and unnatural crime, an extreme perversity. That is why I was shocked beyond measure to hear that Herbert Armstrong was, himself, guilty of this vile sin. I learned of this in the summer of 1979 from members of his own family. The story, sordid beyond imagination, was told in awful detail.
One family source was Garner Ted Armstrong. Last summer, as HWA attacked his own son in such savage fury, his son was in the depths of despair. His emotional mix included anger and deep hurt. In such a state he told family secrets that otherwise would have been locked within him forever. He said he had learned in 1971 of his father's incredible conduct during the '30's and '40s. The story came directly to him in lurid detail, but he kept it sealed in his own consciousness for all those years. But, in the spring of 1978 while in his father's house for the last time, his father had threatened to "destroy him." Ted, in response, replied, "Dad, I will destroy you. I know about you and -----." (He was speaking of the younger of his two sisters.)
His father had been on a high-handed autocratic binge. But at that comment he sat down quietly and responded, "Well, Ted, there have been times when I have been very far away from God." (Admittedly, this was a strange turn of events in the relationship of the two whom HWA had likened to God the Father and Jesus Christ!)
Ted has told many people that there was a look in his father's eyes he had never seen before. Ted knew his father was now determined to totally destroy any credibility he might have. It was either him or his son. Self-preservation now demanded such action. It was a matter of give or get, and HWA meant to get!
None who have objectively heard the incest story in its awful detail doubt it. This is a vital chapter left out of HWA's autobiography. This sin occurred over a long span of years, a decade after his ordination to the ministry, according to his own family members. No wonder he was not receptive to David Antion's "qualifications for the ministry" paper back in 1974.
Many of us have wondered why HWA was so forceful in covering up Ted's sins for so many years. Ted then seemed to be an extension of himself in his own mind and was not even a separate entity. It was like covering for himself. But when finally he knew he must cut his son off, he had to go all the way. It was either destroy or be destroyed. and there were still some things he wanted to "get" out of life even if he were nearly ninety.
Such matters should not normally be mentioned, but this is by no means a normal case. The welfare of thousands is at stake, and thousands who look to HWA, idolizing him as if he were God himself, must come to understand how dangerous such a view is. Thousands around the world have been hurt by blindly following this man. Now people must be given enough information to make an intelligent decision on whether this is the man who is going to lead them to safety during the "crisis at the close," or whether he is just going to continue taking their money and calling them "dumb sheep"!
Some may feel I should just cover up this whole sordid affair and forget it. But I find that impossible to do, because the welfare of too many people hinges on the truth about his personality.
Paul wrote to Christians of his day: "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but insteadexpose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret" (Eph. 5:11-12, RSV). Earlier in the same chapter, Paul had written: "But immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints" (Eph. 5:3, RSV).
"But," some say, "you shouldn't judge God's apostle." The Bible says otherwise! Jesus Christ himselfcommended the Ephesian church for trying and testing those who claimed to be apostles. Notice Jesus' words: "Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and has found them liars" (Rev. 2:2).
Can someone preach truth for many years and fail in his own spiritual life? Of course! Lucifer did, Solomon did, and so have many others down through the years. That is why Christ asked, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Christ also said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). The way a man talks in private is the way he is. His public utterances alone aren't enough to judge a man's character—his trustworthiness. It is especially necessary to know what kind of man you follow when he promises to lead you in the kingdom of God.
In Matthew 7:21-23, we read this warning from Jesus himself:
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."In the 59th chapter of Isaiah, that prophet warns of those who conceive mischief, lie, and bring forth iniquity. Their feet run to do evil. The way of peace they know not. They make themselves crooked paths, and they weave spiders' webs. But Isaiah promises in the name of God that those webs shall not be a covering for their sins in the end!
Herbert Armstrong has become tangled in his own web of lies. And the time has come for him to be revealed for what he really is. May God help his followers to see.
Ambassador Report #27 (April 1984)
HWA Confesses to Incest!
Many readers will recall that when David Robinson's book appeared in 1980 it contained numerous allegations shocking to even some of HWA's longtime critics. No accusation was more startling than that found in the book's last chapter. There Robinson charged that HWA had maintained an intimate sexual relationship with the younger of his two daughters for a period of approximately one decade beginning in the early 1930s.
The Armstrong organization, through surrogates, attempted to use the courts to block distribution of the Robinson book, but failed miserably (Ambassador Report, Sept. 1980). It is most remarkable, however, that in attempting to stop distribution of the Robinson book, never once was it asserted that the incest allegation was untrue. Nor did Dorothy Mattson, HWA's younger daughter, ever come forth to deny the incest story (and she has repeatedly refused to respond to queries from the Report regarding the matter). In spite of all this, it seems there are still some who prefer to believe that the incest story was fabricated. Let us briefly review the facts.
In 1971 Garner Ted Armstrong paid a visit to his younger sister Dorothy. He had long been suspicious of the kind of relationship his father and sister maintained during his youth. They chatted over a few drinks and then Ted told her bluntly of his suspicions. She did more than admit the allegations. With candor she related detail after shocking detail.
For a number of years GTA kept the information to himself. But Dorothy did not. She divulged the same information to many others including David Antion (GTA's brother-in-law) and Lois Chapman (who had been married to the late Richard Armstrong, Ted's older brother).
Dorothy's story as related to Ted and others was that Herbert had begun fondling and heavy petting her in 1933 when she was thirteen years old - around the same time that HWA now claims God was using him to found the modem era of the only true church. But he did not begin to go "all the way" with her until three years later. One day Dorothy returned home from a date with a young bank teller to inform her father that she had just been "half-raped." To her surprise, Herbert was actually "elated" over the news. Herbert decided it was time to show her how it was really done. From then on Herbert went "all the way." The year was 1936; Dorothy was 16 years old. Strangely, Dorothy has claimed that Herbert later went on to become a good friend of the bank teller.
The incestuous relationship went on for years, but it was apparently not mutually enjoyable. Dorothy has related to friends how on one occasion in a hotel room she so strongly protested Herbert's abuse that the manager knocked on the door and asked what the reason was for all the noise. Herbert was quick to inform him that his "young bride" was a bit uncooperative due to inexperience. Satisfied with the alibi the manager left. Dorothy has claimed that Herbert then overpowered her, and after tying her to the bed and gagging her, proceeded to rape her. It's a pity Herbert neglected to include this incident in his book God Speaks Out on the New Morality.
During those years, besides taking her on supposedly church or ministry-related business trips, it was not uncommon for Herbert to take Dorothy out dancing on Friday nights. On one such occasion she asked him if he ever worried that one of his church members would see them. He told her no, because, in effect, they were too stupid to be out dancing on Friday night and that he had them well-trained (in keeping the Friday sunset to Saturday sunset Sabbath).
These incidents were but a part of the awful truth Dorothy related to Garner Ted and others. In spite of church upheavals, arguments with his father, personal emotional problems and considerable notority about his own sins, Ted said nothing about his father's shameful past. Not until 1978.
That year, during a heated argument between GTA and his father, HWA threatened to "destroy" Ted through making public certain information about his personal life. But Ted responded in kind saying he could destroy HWA with the information he had. Ted charged his father in no uncertain terms, yelling: "You fucked my sister!" Herbert, shocked at Ted's knowledge of the incestuous relationship, could only reply, "Well there have been times in my life when I have gotten far away from God." The conversation - overheard by GTA associate Benny Sharp - was the last face to face meeting between the two men. And Ted has since related how the hateful look he saw in his father's eye made him suspect they would never see each other again.
As was covered in great detail in our 1977 issue, during the early '70s Garner Ted Armstrong became highly infatuated with an Ambassador College coed. The resulting affair caused great confusion in the higher echelons of the WCG. Former WCG evangelist David Antion recalls how, at the time, he discussed the problem with HWA. Antion was for years perplexed by the almost Freudian analysis offered. HWA told Antion that Ted was simply fantasizing the younger woman as being his own daughter. The statement made no sense to Antion until years later. (As an aside, it is interesting how Ramona has claimed that HWA has been, over the years, very jealous of GTA's supposed sexual prowess.)
The last meeting between GTA and his father in 1978 was not the only time HWA confessed to the incest allegation. In 1980 Henry Cornwall, then an aide to HWA, read the Robinson book soon after it appeared and asked HWA directly if the chapter on incest was accurate. HWA told him it was. He then instructed Cornwall that his wife Ramona was not to see the book or learn of the incest story. Unfortunately for Herbert, Ramona already had a copy of the book and was in the next room listening to the Cornwall-HWA discussion. Shortly thereafter, she too confronted HWA about the incest allegation. And once again, Herbert admitted it was true, but begged and pleaded with Ramona not to let this fact get in the way of their marriage. The cause of the problem, he said, had been Loma, his first wife. Considering the perversity of Herbert's past, is it any wonder Ramona's love would begin to wane?
One can only speculate on how much Herbert's first wife Loma knew of what had transpired for ten years between her husband and her younger daughter. but some individuals who were then close to the Armstrong family did notice that toward the end of her life Loma was not on good speaking terms with Dorothy and that during the last year or so of her life she appeared to have lost almost all will to live. She died in 1967 after an illness that many say could have been cured by medical science, had she availed herself of that help. It is interesting to note also that HWA's great preoccupation with world touring began right around that time.
Ramona has reported to friends how the Robinson allegations preoccupied HWA's mind for a considerable period. She has also reported seeing a typed statement intended for Dorothy's signature. It stated that she (Dorothy) had never had a sexual relationship with her father. The document was, and we'd be willing to bet still is, unsigned. Dorothy undoubtedly knows that to sign such a statement would prove financially costly, removing any leverage she still possesses over her father. (On a recent trip to Big Sandy, Texas, HWA was quoted as saying his daughters show him very little affection and care only for his money.)
Dorothy has stated that her sexual relationship with her father continued into the early forties. In 1943 Herbert officiated at the ceremony in which Dorothy was married to Vern Mattson, who soon afterward was to serve overseas in the U.S. Marines. We have no information that the incestuous relationship continued beyond that point. However, Dorothy has related to friends how, around the time of her engagement, Herbert told her that her marriage need not put an end to their own special relationship.
Shortly after Vern's discharge from the military, Herbert was able to provide him with employment within his growing organization. Although Dorothy drifted away from her father's church by around 1951, Vern continued his association. He was the organization's business manager before the Albert Portune era.
What caused him to leave the Armstrong corporation? Was it then that he discovered the awful truth about his wife and father-in-law? The following quote taken from the transcript of one HWA deposition provides a clue (Ramona's lawyer is asking about Dorothy's house being sold to the WCG):
Q Did she sell it to the church?
MR. BROWNE: Objected to as being irrelevant and immaterial and constitutionally impermissible. Transactions between third parties and the church are none of anyone's business in this particular case and instruct you not to answer.
THE WITNESS: I refuse to answer.
MR. DECKTER: Okay. Where did you provide her with living accommodations?
A I provided her with living accommodations ever since, on and off ever since - Now, wait a minute until I think of the year. Let's see, I don't know. Began back in the 1950s, ever since Vern Mattson resigned from being business manager of the church.
Before leaving the subject, one other desposition excerpt is worth quoting. Ramona's lawyer was asking HWA some background questions concerning his health.
Q And do you suffer from any other diseases or chronic problems other than what we've discussed?
A Not that I know of.... I have had difficulty sleeping for the last, oh, let me see, ever since 1933.
That was the year HWA began abusing his own daughter. Is it any wonder he hasn't slept well since?
Associated Press article (May 12, 1984)****
Dear friends in the Worldwide Church of God,
In late November of 1992 I read an incredible account of Herbert Armstrong carrying on an incestuous relationship with his youngest daughter Dorothy from 1933 to 1943, the year she married Verne Mattson. Later, in January I read another account of it in a book by former WCG minister David Robinson. It was Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web published in 1980. At the time I discounted the story as fiction. But over the succeeding months leading up to last April 12 I'd learned of many other serious moral sins in the man's life. They were widely reported on by many former ministers who knew him.
But I still doubted the incest allegations -- that is until Mr. Gary Antion confirmed that they were entirely true when I talked with him after his sermon on the last day of Unleavened Bread, April 12. I'd asked him if he'd read David Robinson's book. He said he had. I told him that I'd read in another publication that Dorothy Mattson told his brother David Antion (a former WCG evangelist) all about the incest. (They were and are in-laws.) He nodded. I asked him if David ever said anything to him about it. "Yes," he said.
"What did he say?" I responded.
"He told me the story was true," he calmly said. "But before you get all upset and say how could he have done such a horrible thing, we should remember that we don't know what went on in his mind. We don't know if he repented or not. Maybe he repented in 1980 after David Robinson's book came out."
He went on to say that God gave king David time to repent and that if Mr. Armstrong repented, that he'll be in God's kingdom and if not, he won't be there. He also said he'd known about the whole thing in 1978. I asked if his brother David knew about this before he left the church in 1974 or after. He said David knew before. Antion was casual and relaxed with his words and never hesitated with any of the information.
He said that this should show us not to look to a man for our salvation which he said the church had done in the past. Finally, he asked me why I'm here; meaning the church. I said because I believe what the church believes, for the most part. He smiled, nodded and encouraged me not to let the matter bother me.
But as you can see, it does bother me a great deal. HWA claimed that God used him to raise up the Philadelphia era of His true Church beginning in 1933. I don't think so. In addition to raping his young daughter for many years, the "apostle" was widely known to have habitual sexual sins throughout his life including fornication, adultery, and masturbation. He frequently lied, misused church money, and had a serious drinking problem. And despite his appearing public image, Joe Tkach is not much of an improvement.
So there you have it. I've sung my swan song, thus ending nine years as a loyal WCG member.
Bruce Renehan, author of "Daughter of Babylon," said he heard about Armstrong's incest from COG7 members who knew the cult leader in the 1930s.
I first heard of the incest from some of their members, two of whom--Israel Hager and John Keiss--had known Armstrong in the 20s and 30s. Keiss, who was Armstrong's closest friend in the COG7 had actually discussed the incest with Dorothy Armstrong who confessed to him. Not wanting to believe hearsay from just one group, I placed a call to a friend of mine (Bob Mizell) in Pasadena. Bob was a very close friend to Joe Tkach Senior and, if anyone would know if the stories were true or not, he certainly would. Bob told me openly that both he and Joe Tkach had known about Armstrong's incest with his daughter and then he quickly brought up the David was a man after God's heart" ploy.
Among the many people I interviewed in researching my book, I had the opportunity to talk to David Robinson for about 2 hours on the phone. If you read Robinson's book, Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web, you'll see that Robinson confronted Herbert about the incest before Stanley Rader and Henry Cornwall, another church attorney, in his Tucson home. Robinson had received a phone call late one night from a tearful Garner Ted Armstrong who had had an argument with his dad, stating, "Dad, I could destroy you with what I know about Dorothy. Dad, you fucked my sister!" Herbert immediately disfellowshiped his son for the last time. Robinson told me that Herbert Armstrong admitted he had committed the incest. I said to Robinson, "Wait a minute. You mean to tell me that Armstrong didn't try to deny it? That's hard for me to believe." David Robinson answered me, "You don't understand the way Herbert Armstrong thought. He said, 'Alexander the Great and many Roman emperors committed incest. They were great men and I am a great man also'."
Deborah Armstrong Interview (2013)
Deborah is the niece of the founder of the cult the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong; and her father, Dwight, was the composer of the church’s hymnal.
In this interview Deborah shares her opinions — and the views expressed by several in her family — about Herbert and allegations that he committed incest with his daughter, her views on religion and society in general, as well as her recommendations for those who are having doubts about their own faith.
Larry Gott Interview (2014)****
Larry is the grandson of Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of the cult/church, the Worldwide Church of God. He is the eldest child of Herbert’s eldest daughter, Beverly.
Finally, Larry discusses his view and the family’s views about the allegations that his grandfather, Herbert, committed incest with his youngest daughter, Dorothy (Larry’s aunt) and his general views about the personality and character of his grandfather and whether he was qualified — according to his own Biblical teachings — to be considered “God’s apostle on earth” or even a minister of Jesus Christ.
Gott said in the interview: “We all knew it happened. Nobody spoke about it because of Dottie, we didn’t want to disturb or upset her. None of it was her fault. She was 14 or 15 when it began, so she was not capable of consent in the first place, so what it was, was basically rape. It went on for quite a while. Yes, he did commit incest with his younger daughter.”
Other potential evidence
We have attempted in the recent past to get the transcripts of Armstrong talking about his incestuous relationship with Dorothy during his divorce proceedings from the Tuscon courthouse. The records exist, they're just very hard to get and we have yet to obtain them.
Rumors of an audio recording of Armstrong's confession have persisted throughout the years, but it's likely time has disintegrated it.
Bottom line: the allegations bend the COG's history from being rooted in the legacy of a mere false prophet, to that of a false prophet rapist child molester. The preponderance of the evidence strongly supports the assertion, the strength of the available testimonies outweighing the weak and virtually non-existent denials.