Many have asked that we explain our connection to Herbert W. Armstrong. Some have asked that we write a biography of his life. For some time, we felt this was largely unnecessary, because we cover so much of the latter years of his life in certain of our literature, and because it could also appear to be an attempt to focus attention too heavily on the man rather than on his work and teachings. Over time, our thinking and concern changed.
Here is why.
First, in the early 1960s, Mr. Armstrong did take the time to thoroughly write his own two-volume, 86-chapter autobiography of over 1,300 pages. Before circumstances forced him to discontinue writing it, in serial publication appearing monthly in The Plain Truth magazine, he had written nearly 1,100 pages—and this only took him to 1959, covering his early life and just the first half of his ministry. The final, almost 27 years of Mr. Armstrong’s life and ministry were represented in the last part of Volume Two by an assembly of Member/Co-Worker Letters and excerpts almost exclusively from his other writings, spanning this later period.
Why then write another book that is barely more than a synopsis, only one-eighth as long?
Mr. Armstrong’s remarkable, compelling and fascinating autobiography is no longer easily accessible. Its original copyright holders no longer wished to publish it, and the current holders do not believe or represent all the many doctrines held by its author, and may or may not ever publish it.
But another important reason that this book had to be written is that Herbert W. Armstrong’s story is inseparable from our story—his journey is inseparable from The Restored Church of God’s journey—his calling, ministry, purpose and work are inseparable from our calling, ministry, purpose and work, a work that we have been commissioned to finish. The life and ministry of this man are inseparable from the history of the true Church of God. And he represents the early, middle and middle-late chapters in the history of this Work!
As the only custodians of all the doctrines that Mr. Armstrong taught, and as the true extension of the role that he fulfilled, it became our responsibility to record at least the highpoints of his life—the most important events, the biggest decisions, the most crucial lessons, the most difficult circumstances, and the most significant milestones and developments.
Herbert W. Armstrong was, by all rights, a great leader. All great leaders, regardless of their arena of endeavor, must possess and reflect some combination of several unusual and often even very rare qualities in order to be truly effective—to achieve what they do. But Mr. Armstrong’s story and astounding accomplishments evidenced the coming together of far more than just the normal attributes found in the lives of those typically considered to be great leaders in the affairs of this world.
This short but compelling biography bears witness to the uniqueness of Herbert W. Armstrong. By all accounts, including those of his detractors, he had an absolutely relentless determination to carry through with his life’s work. But there were other qualities that made him truly unique.
He was a study in unwavering faith, coupled with patient endurance. He dealt with the most severe adversity and setbacks, learning to expect miracles as he walked through open doors that God set before him. He continually reminded himself that he was a tool of God, not one who was building something through mere human, or even superhuman, effort.
Mr. Armstrong knew both to expect and how to accept even the most extreme disappointment and frustration. He also learned to overcome all forms of discouragement, and to press on, never accepting anything but full victory and complete success in the pursuit of a goal. And he pointed vast numbers of people toward life’s greatest goal, completely unknown to the preachers and religions of this world.
He was, quite literally, consumed with the task of preaching, teaching and explaining the precious truth of God, centering around proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God. Those who knew him could never forget how he did this in an absolutely uncompromising manner, until his responsibility came to an end with his death on January 16, 1986.
Mr. Armstrong’s dedication—and special ability to keep his focus on the big picture—drove him to sacrifice beyond all bounds, as long as he knew that his purpose was right and that God’s Work would ultimately be advanced. This often meant being willing to demonstrate enormous courage under fire—sometimes very intense fire, with no relief in sight. And this meant that he also had to conduct himself with “grace under pressure,” something he wrote that he had to learn in the early years of his ministry.
This book will demonstrate that, especially in the early days, Mr. Armstrong struggled against seemingly insurmountable odds just to avoid complete failure, and the end of the Work. You will see how this period taught him to practice the seven laws of success.
Because he was not without weaknesses, by his own admission, Mr. Armstrong understood the importance of continually relying on the strength of God to overcome all obstacles so that God could achieve what men would say could never be done.
Mr. Armstrong was also forced to learn to wait on God through an endless array of circumstances, without either trying to get ahead of, or letting himself fall behind, Christ’s overall timetable for expansion and advancement of God’s Work and Church.
He came to understand and live the central biblical principle that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Mr. Armstrong recognized that no matter how difficult the challenge—or how many the setbacks, which he likened to the “cocking of a gun” before a “bullet is fired forward”—with faith and patience, events would soon turn for the good, and the Work would, often in some unforeseen way, grow bigger or faster.
Mr. Armstrong long believed that writing the story of his life, or even allowing his picture to be taken, which he would not permit for many years, placed an undue emphasis on himself. Yet, the Bible details the personal experiences, calling, training and development of God’s greatest servants—and the Bible is scripture recording these things for all time. In this light, the apostle Paul wrote, “Now all these things happened unto them [Old Testament Israel and famous Bible figures] for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (I Cor. 10:11). Mr. Armstrong knew he lived in the time of the end. Therefore, he eventually came to recognize that experiences and events of his life could be useful in the same way as were those of well-known Bible figures and of the nation of ancient Israel. Hence, the writing of his autobiography.
Opposition and hatred against Mr. Armstrong, then and today, defies normal logic. I too have experienced this vitriol, and seen how it can go beyond all bounds. Mr. Armstrong was persecuted like few men who have ever lived. But, because he was attacked beyond all reasonable understanding and explanation, this becomes one of its own proofs that Mr. Armstrong’s ministry was of God. The way of life that his students learned continues, and those “students” who teach it today are themselves attacked for the very same reasons.
Here is why: Mr. Armstrong’s life produced a unique “problem,” in that he left a spiritual legacy that transcended his death—requiring an organization to carry on in his stead. Truly, his is a story that was not completed when his life was. For this reason, this book includes a special Epilogue tying 1986 to the present.
The collective effort of all those on The Restored Church of God editorial staff who assisted in the writing of this biography has successfully captured the dynamic vitality of the most extraordinary human being I have ever known.
David C. Pack
He was a husband and a father of four children. He was a successful advertising executive who ran a thriving Chicago advertising and marketing business. He was known among multimillionaires and several of the nation’s top leaders of industry before reaching age 30. He was a prolific writer and speaker with a gift for explaining things in plain, easy-to-understand language.
He was the head of a multi-media empire, employing the tools of radio, magazines, books, booklets and television to proclaim a message that had been withheld from the world for almost 1,900 years. He was the editor and publisher of the largest worldwide circulation news magazine in the world, second among all magazines only to Reader’s Digest, reaching more than eight million subscribers and up to 25 million readers at any given time. His voice was heard, on both The World Tomorrow broadcast and telecast, by ten times this many, on every continent and in almost every nation of the world. He also established and led the world’s largest annual multi-site convention of any kind.
He was the founder and chancellor of three colleges—yet never attended college himself. He was a world traveler who met with one-third of all the world’s heads of state of his time—kings, queens, emperors, presidents, prime ministers and chancellors. He was applauded and highly esteemed—yet also continually attacked, ridiculed and eventually terribly betrayed. He was widely known, yet truly understood by few.
He was Herbert W. Armstrong, an ambassador for world peace, without portfolio.
Mr. Armstrong’s detractors accuse him of every evil deed imaginable. This book cannot—and will not—answer his accusers. But it will do something much more important, and necessary.
Herbert W. Armstrong – His Life in Proper Perspective will explain the who, what, how and why regarding this man who was perhaps one of the least understood of all God’s servants: why he started three Ambassador Colleges—how and why he had to make a clean break from the fifth era of God’s Church in order to begin the next era—how he was a man of extraordinary vision, drive and perseverance, destined to fulfill an important end-time role that few today any longer acknowledge and even fewer truly understand—what motivated him, what drove his thinking—why he was so viciously attacked during his lifetime, and even more so, long after his death—how he learned from his mistakes, weaknesses and faults, and from those of others, and why he was not above admitting when he was wrong, even sometimes publicly doing this in sermons and articles to the Church—how his life embodied the seven laws of success in action—how and why he “walked by faith and not by sight” (II Cor. 5:7), while constantly surrounded by people who “didn’t get it,” who could not see what he saw—and how, like Abraham, he feared, believed and wholeheartedly obeyed the true God of the Bible.
We live in the age of the Internet, a time when people from every continent and virtually every nation and territory can easily access a vast storehouse of information about almost anyone or anything. Yet, like the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, such information is usually a hodgepodge of facts mixed with rumors, innuendos, gossip, spin, half-truths and outright lies.
This is especially true when it comes to the name Herbert W. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong was a bold and dynamic speaker, writer and leader. He lived—almost literally breathed—to do the Work of God. He was consumed by the need to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God to every nation—to warn the modern-day descendants of the house of Israel, who are headed for the worst time of trouble man has ever seen—and to feed, protect and lead the flock of God. And yet, today, this man’s life, role, purpose and mission have been almost completely misunderstood and misrepresented.
Recent history has demonstrated that there are two categories—two opposite ditches—that people fall into in regard to this little understood man.
In one ditch are those who hate Mr. Armstrong—who abhor everything about him—who assault his memory with every kind of slander, outrageous accusation and personal attack imaginable. Invariably, these are people who claim to have the “inside story”—who claim to know “where the bodies are buried.” They use the perceived or reported faults and shortcomings of men as license to attack what Mr. Armstrong taught: the way of giving, helping, cooperating—of outgoing love and concern for others—the only way that brings lasting peace, prosperity and true success. Even though Mr. Armstrong has been dead since 1986, attackers feel compelled to “expose” him—largely through inventions about his character—to the widest possible audience.
Such people cannot be helped by this book. Their minds are already made up—closed. Of course, some will attack this book in their effort to continue smearing the man that it honors and explains. Our response to these is Proverbs 26, verse 4: “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like unto him.” Mr. Armstrong deeply understood II Timothy 3:12—that “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”—and that this would apply before (and after) the death of godly men. He did not answer his accusers and would not want us or anyone else to serve as his “apologists.”
Then there are those of the other ditch, the people who adore—who unknowingly worship—Mr. Armstrong. These could be likened to those who place a statue of “Mary” on the lawn or mantle because they require something physical to worship. Such people treat Mr. Armstrong’s writings like Scripture, and view his sermons and broadcasts as sacred. Instead of seeing Mr. Armstrong as a human instrument used by God to place truth into His Church, they speak of him in almost hushed tones of reverence, thinking they most correctly honor him. Yet, almost invariably, these generally refuse to continue his work.
In reality, Mr. Armstrong would be embarrassed by such unbalanced and unwarranted gushing over his name and person. And he would be furious! He never wanted people to confuse him with the message God used him to preach.
Some leaders immerse themselves in Mr. Armstrong’s image, using his name as a marketing tool to attract sincere yet misguided people who confuse revering Mr. Armstrong with practicing what he taught. This book can help the latter—if they are willing to see his life from the proper perspective.
And thus we come to why this book is titled Herbert W. Armstrong – His Life in Proper Perspective. More than a mere biographical sketch, this book reveals who Mr. Armstrong was: what drove his thinking—what motivated his life—why, like the apostle Paul, he felt that “necessity was laid upon” him (I Cor. 9:16) to “cry aloud, and spare not” (Isa. 58:1)—and what he would expect from those today who claim to follow what he taught.
Here is Herbert W. Armstrong’s life in proper perspective.
Herbert W. Armstrong was born on July 31, 1892, in Des Moines, Iowa, the oldest of five children—the others, Mabel (who died at age nine), Russell, and twins Dwight and Mary. The Armstrong family grew up in the Quaker religion. Their ancestors had migrated to America in the late 1600s with William Penn, a famous Quaker and the founder of Pennsylvania. Mr. Armstrong’s family line traces back to King Edward I of England.
For much of his childhood, Mr. Armstrong grew up surrounded by an extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents and even great-grandparents, who lived into their 90s.
The early years of his life took place during the age of milkmen, streetcars and gas-powered streetlamps. It was a time when Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Britain’s Queen Victoria, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, George Washington Carver, Theodore Roosevelt, the Wright brothers and other thinkers, leaders and inventors were making their mark in history.
Mr. Armstrong’s youth and early adulthood saw the birth and explosion of amazing inventions and exciting developments in science, technology and medicine, in a way that the world had never seen before: open-heart surgery, radio, hydroelectric energy, mass-produced automobiles, airplanes, turbine engines, motion pictures, X-ray technology, mass-produced cameras, subways, plastics, hydrogen-filled airships (zeppelins), internal combustion engines, electric batteries, fingerprinting, air conditioners, electric typewriters, electrical hearing aids, motor-powered lawn mowers, taxi cabs, motorcycles, photostats, freeze-drying, artificial joints, outboard motors, diesel locomotives, escalators and many other advancements taken for granted today.
Mr. Armstrong’s childhood was a happy one, filled with swimming, iceskating, bicycling and playing football, baseball, marbles, going to school, and growing up with childhood chums, several of whom went on to become successful men and leaders in their community.
He was an inquisitive little boy, who constantly peppered adults with questions of “Why?” and “How?” From his earliest memories, he craved understanding—he wanted to know the world around him and how it worked. When Mr. Armstrong was five, he remembered hearing his father, frustrated with his son’s many questions, say, “That young’un is always asking so many questions he’s sure to be a Philadelphia lawyer, when he grows up.”
(In a sense, Mr. Armstrong did become a “Philadelphia lawyer.” As the one God used to lead the Philadelphian Era of the Church Christ built, he had the greatest depth of knowledge and understanding of God’s Law of any man of his day. This will be explained later.)
From age 12 to 16, Mr. Armstrong held various weekend and summer jobs: newspaper routes, running errands for a grocery store and a dry-goods store, being a draftsman for a furnace company, and other odd jobs.
At age 16, Mr. Armstrong came to a monumental, life-changing turning point. It happened at the end of his first summer job away from home, in which he waited on tables in the dining room of a semi-resort in a nearby town. The owner highly complimented his work, saying that he saw something within Mr. Armstrong that would lead him to great success.
From that moment, a spark of ambition ignited within him—Mr. Armstrong began to believe in himself. He grew in self-confidence. He wanted to be someone important—someone considered successful in the eyes of the world’s prominent businessmen and leaders. He wanted to be a “success”!
Looking back on this event years later, Mr. Armstrong recognized this as “grossly overrated self-confidence and cocky conceit.” However, even as a teen, he realized that most people drift through life, accepting whatever are the conditions into which they were born. Young Herbert Armstrong took his hunger and thirst for success and used it to develop his mind—to grow in knowledge and understanding, and improve himself. This burning desire became a driving force in his life.
Little could he know where this would take him.
By the time summer vacation ended, and school was back in session, Mr. Armstrong set out to apply himself. He spent many hours at the public library, studying business administration, philosophy (Plato, Socrates and other thinkers), and the autobiographies of dynamic historic figures (such as Benjamin Franklin). He yearned to develop and expand his mind.
Mr. Armstrong also worked on developing his physical strength and endurance, participating in football, basketball, and track and field.
When he was 18, he discovered the book Choosing a Vocation, which he used to examine himself—his natural strengths and weaknesses. Through a thorough self-analysis survey, the book revealed that Mr. Armstrong would most likely achieve success in the fields of advertising and journalism.
It just so happened that his Uncle Frank was Iowa’s most prominent advertising executive. Recognizing that his uncle was a reservoir of practical experience and that he possessed “unusual insight, understanding, and sound judgment,” Mr. Armstrong turned to him for guidance.
In those days, colleges and universities did not offer comprehensive, proven courses in advertising. So Frank Armstrong told his nephew that, with initiative and drive, he could achieve a general college-level education through intensive on-the-job training. He offered to help Mr. Armstrong find the right books to study, especially in the areas of advertising, journalism, psychology, merchandising, business management, and English. He encouraged his nephew to learn and to master an effective writing style, and to study ad copy and layout.
To begin his advertising career, Mr. Armstrong was advised to get one year’s experience in the want-ad department of a daily newspaper. This, his uncle told him, was the “freshman class” in advertising.
Brimming with self-confidence and drive, Mr. Armstrong went to The Des Moines Daily Capital. But instead of asking for a job, he boldly informed the want-ad department manager that he was entering the field of advertising, and that he decided to join his staff, since it offered the best opportunity to learn and to advance.
Naturally, the manager was taken aback by the young man’s assertiveness. But it grabbed his attention. Mr. Armstrong’s self-assurance paid off, and he was able to “hire himself a job,” as he put it, starting at the entry-level pay of $6 per week. (Remember, this was 1910.)
Mr. Armstrong was just as bold, driven and resourceful in how he worked, constantly searching for the most effective ways to sell room-for-rent ads to boarding room establishments. While other want-ad salesmen made their usual sales pitches, Mr. Armstrong devised several creative and efficient methods to sell his services, and quickly became known for his resourcefulness and drive. His ingenuity served him well, and he was promoted to selling real estate ads, with a $2 per week raise in pay.
The Register & Ledger, the competing newspaper, began to feel the pressure of Mr. Armstrong’s salesmanship. They offered to hire him away from their competitor, at $10 per week. Though tempting to a young man on the fast track, Mr. Armstrong turned to his uncle before making a hasty decision.
Frank Armstrong told him, “There’s a good deal to the old adage, after all, that a rolling stone gathers no moss. One of the great success lessons you need to learn is persistence—to stay with a thing.
“Now suppose you quit the Capital and go over to the Register. You wouldn’t learn any more about the advertising profession over there than you’re learning where you are. The only advantage is the $2 per week. You’d probably blow that…and ten years from now you wouldn’t remember having had it. I think the time has come for you to pay the $2 a week to learn the important lesson of staying with a thing. Every week, when you draw your $8 at the Capital, remember you are paying the extra $2 you might be getting at the Register as the price of that lesson, and I think you’ll remember it.”
Mr. Armstrong heeded his uncle’s advice.
When his one-year training at the Daily Capital came to an end, Mr. Armstrong did accept another flattering offer—one that took him off his career track. Lured by the adventure of traveling hundreds of miles by train into the Deep South, he became the timekeeper and paymaster of a large lumber mill, The Finkbine Lumber Company, in Wiggins, Mississippi.
Before Mr. Armstrong set off on his journey, his new employer, millionaire W.O. Finkbine, gave him valuable advice: Travel the very best one can afford, riding only in luxurious Pullman cars and staying at the finest hotels, which were of higher quality, and safer than cheaper alternatives. This would put him in close contact with successful and highly important people. He encouraged Mr. Armstrong to study them and learn why they were so successful.
This advice influenced and shaped Mr. Armstrong’s mindset even later in life, for he taught Church members, Ambassador College students and headquarters staff to strive for quality and excellence, to appreciate the worth of a beautiful environment, and to purchase the best that one could afford. Doing so uplifts one’s thinking, inspiring him to go above and beyond in every task undertaken.
Six months of laboring in a position that did not match his natural talents and gifts led Mr. Armstrong to see that he was the proverbial “square peg” desperately trying to fit into a round hole—it simply did not work! He came to realize that the glamour of travel, being offered an important position, and earning a larger income had temporarily sidetracked him from his career.
In addition, six months of working from early in the morning to almost midnight took its toll on his body. Due to overexertion, Mr. Armstrong ended up in the hospital with typhoid fever. Following doctors’ instructions, he returned home to Des Moines until full recovery.
On the way back home, Mr. Armstrong managed to “hire himself” another job, this time at the Mahan Advertising Agency, headquartered in Chicago. During the two weeks before he was expected to start his new position, he returned to Des Moines and told his Uncle Frank the good news.
Frank Armstrong was pleased that his nephew was finally “back on track.” But when it came to the new job, he said, “No, Herbert, you’re not ready for agency experience yet. Mahan is one of the major agencies, and it would be years before you’d even work up to being noticed by any of the top men, who are the only ones over there that could teach you anything. They wouldn’t know you existed.”
Mr. Armstrong wisely heeded his advice and “hired himself” another job—this time at the Merchants Trade Journal, the largest trade journal in the country at that time. It was devoted to publishing proven ideas that merchants and other businessmen were successfully using to increase their sales, reduce costs, train personnel, improve public relations, and so forth.
This new position put Mr. Armstrong under the professional guidance of R.H. Miles and Arthur I. Boreman, experts in advertising, marketing psychology, merchandising and effective business methods.
Mr. Armstrong also gained from these two men valuable on-the-job training in writing and designing display ads. He learned how to write headlines that catch the readers’ eyes, pull them in and convince them to want to read more—how to effectively use white space to make headlines stand out and grab attention—how to use lead-in text and subheads to create and hold suspense, and make readers want to read the main body of text.
He also learned to avoid trying to impress readers with scholarly language. Mr. Boreman explained, “The purpose of words is to convey facts, thoughts, ideas—a message! When 98% of the people do not understand your words, they do not receive your message. They only become confused and turn to something interesting.
“Use only plain, simple words. Use words that even readers of no more than a third or fourth grade education can understand. Try to achieve good literary quality with a large vocabulary of common, simple words, and by the manner in which you weave those words into the sentence structure.”
Mr. Armstrong learned to write in a style that was distinct, fast-moving, crisp—yet simple, plain and easy to understand, with a proper balance between quick, short, staccato-like sentences mixed with long and medium-sized ones.
After about two years of training in writing dynamic ad copy, designing effective layouts, selling advertising space, and performing certain office duties, Mr. Armstrong was promoted. He became the Merchants Trade Journal’s “Idea Man.” Armed with a reasonably liberal expense account, he set off on business trips to the east coast and to the Gulf of Mexico in search of innovative ideas and potential magazine articles. One of his missions was to ask various businessmen throughout the country why some men failed while others were successful. Of the hundreds who answered, the vast majority said, “Lack of ability.”
He discovered that many farmers, tired of the harsh, grueling life of farming, sold their farms to take up the “easy” life of retail merchants. But most farmers lacked the proper education in math, and did not possess the much-needed training in interacting with customers, advertising, marketing, etc. Thus, they lacked the ability to succeed.
It was during one of his “Idea Man” trips that Mr. Armstrong became acquainted with Elbert Hubbard, a famous writer, publisher and lecturer of the day. He was the author of “A Message to Garcia,” a classic essay about initiative. Following his Uncle Frank’s instruction, Mr. Armstrong had been reading Mr. Hubbard’s writings for years, studying his writing style, delivery, use of vocabulary, and his philosophical ideas. (However, his uncle warned him not to blindly accept the author’s musings.)
With his trademark longish hairstyle, wide-brim hat and artist’s bowtie, Elbert Hubbard, popularly referred to as the “Sage of East Aurora” and “The Fra,” had a knack for standing out from the crowd. As a believer in rugged individualism, Mr. Hubbard was his own best promoter.
Tragically, his life was cut short in the historic attack on the Lusitania, which was sunk by a German submarine on May 7, 1915.
In November 1914, Mr. Armstrong began what came to be his last idea tour. He was set to travel as far west as Nebraska, and then journey to Houston, Texas, over to Birmingham, Alabama, north to Detroit, and then back home.
During this tour, he accomplished some “firsts”—The Journal published his first magazine article, and Mr. Armstrong conducted his first “opinion poll” business survey.
In spite of these, Mr. Armstrong was shocked to receive a letter from Mr. Boreman, stating that he was not pleased with the young man’s progress. Though he constantly drove himself, Mr. Armstrong worked in “spurts.” When he was “on,” he was red hot!—but during his “off” days, he could not seem to accomplish much. (Years later, Mr. Armstrong would learn to overcome this obstacle, teaching others to do the same.)
Mr. Boreman’s letter frightened Mr. Armstrong into believing that he was about to be fired—and it made him work much harder.
Even so, the letter continued to gnaw at his mind. He was haunted by humiliating thoughts of being fired once he returned home. His fear grew so large that he made another hasty decision and “hired himself” a job. He became the Assistant Secretary of the South Bend, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and then mailed his resignation letter. By the time he arrived home, Mr. Armstrong discovered the truth—that Mr. Boreman had no intentions of firing him. His letter was only meant to motivate Mr. Armstrong to work harder. Once again, his career got “off track.”
Unlike today, there were no national or state highways crisscrossing America in the early twentieth century. When people drove their cars outside the paved streets of the city, they had to travel along the same roads used by horse and carriage. Getting stuck in the mud or ditches was inevitable. Only the most adventurous would attempt to drive into the country.
In order for their towns and cities to be connected, county and township governments decided to combine their resources and build roads. The South Bend Chamber of Commerce had endorsed the Dixie Highway project, which was designed to build a highway that extended from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Mr. Armstrong was designated to sign up farmers and other property owners so that the project could be built through their lands. However, one county refused to cooperate, putting the entire plan in jeopardy. In solving the problem, Mr. Armstrong came in personal contact with several of South Bend’s millionaires, gaining invaluable insight from them. He helped to devise an ingenious plan for designating land for the highway project.
Though his endeavor was successful, Mr. Armstrong decided to improve his financial situation by moving on to Danville, Illinois, where he sold a unique, in-depth marketing survey to the local newspaper’s advertising department. The results of his report were so revealing that it caught the attention of several businessmen. This led to various doors of employment opportunities opening to him. Mr. Armstrong took the one he considered to be the most promising: selling pianos.
However, he quickly learned that there are two kinds of effective salesmen—those who sell products, and those who sell ideas. Mr. Armstrong was a dynamic idea salesman. He never sold a single piano.
Once again, his Uncle Frank offered sound advice, telling Mr. Armstrong that he had allowed himself to get sidetracked from a promising career. Frank Armstrong intervened, and lined up a temporary advertising job for his nephew back in Des Moines.
Northwestern Banker magazine was planning to publish a special advertising section showcasing many new bank buildings. Mr. Armstrong was hired to sell to these banks as much advertising space as possible. He discovered that it was far more effective to sell ad space by designing attractive, eye-popping layouts before calling on potential clients.
This temporary position was only to last one month, but quickly turned into a steady job—which developed into a profitable business. Before long, Mr. Armstrong’s advertising career was “back on track” and booming.
At only 23 years of age, he had become the publishing representative for nine of the leading national bankers’ magazines. He decided to open his own advertising office in Chicago, one of the two capitals of advertising (along with New York), in the heart of the Loop. He worked only about half a block from LaSalle Street, where the city’s most prominent banks and investment houses were headquartered. Mr. Armstrong’s work opened the door to gaining personal contact with the vice-presidents (and, in some cases, presidents) of the nation’s many leading financial institutions, as well as with the presidents and board members of several corporations, such as Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and John Deere & Company.
In January 1917, Mr. Armstrong visited Des Moines to renew contracts and search for potential clients. At his mother’s request, he visited his Aunt Emma (his mother’s twin sister), who was sick with pneumonia. She lived on a farm about 30 miles away, a mile outside a tiny crossroads town called Motor. Upon his arrival, he was relieved to find that his aunt was already quickly recovering from her illness.
That afternoon, he met two young ladies who were also visiting Aunt Emma—sisters Loma and Bertha Dillon. They were Mr. Armstrong’s distant relatives (third cousins). Around the same age as he, Loma Dillon was a local school teacher.
Like a lightning bolt, Mr. Armstrong was struck by her natural energy and zest for life. Describing her, he wrote, “I hadn’t seen such fresh, joyous, ‘zip and go’ in a long time. She literally exuded energy, sparkle, good cheer, the friendly warmth of a sincere, outgoing personality…She was even prettier than her sister. There was something different about her—something wholesome that I liked…She seemed to be a girl of sound-minded good sense and high ideals. She had superior intelligence. There was a mental depth most girls lacked…There was none of the haughty social veneer—none of the acquired artificial mannerisms of the eastern ‘finishing school’ products or the social debutante. Indeed, I perceived she was a bit naive. She was completely sincere in trusting and believing in people. She had not seen or learned much of the rottenness and evils of this world. She had that innocent, completely unspoiled freshness of a breath of spring…She was full of fun, yet serious—with the unspoiled wholesomeness of an Iowa country girl. And, most important of all, strength of character! I observed quickly that although she was alert and active-minded, hers was not one of those flighty surface minds, active but shallow. She was able to discuss serious and deep things intelligently. She was very much an extrovert, but not a shallow, gossipy chatterbox.”
The two began to spend time together, slowly getting to know each other. Yet, Mr. Armstrong made a conscious effort not to rush things. Like many, he thought that love was some “mysterious force” that struck unsuspecting men and caused them to “fall” for someone. Mr. Armstrong feared being romantically caught off guard, rushing off into a marriage with the wrong woman. So he deliberately took his time in dating.
Resuming his work back in Chicago, he and Loma Dillon sent letters to each other almost daily. And he “discovered” that Iowa just happened to have potential business opportunities that required him to make frequent trips there.
Later, when he became serious about her, Mr. Armstrong asked a doctor if there were any reasons why third cousins should not marry. The doctor assured him that, when it came to marriage, third cousins were so far apart from each other in the family tree that they were not truly cousins.
Dating eventually led to courtship, and courtship soon led to marriage. Herbert W. Armstrong and Loma Dillon were married on July 31, 1917.
Their wedding date was moved up due to America’s entrance into World War I. Since the U.S. army was in dire need of military officers, Mr. Armstrong planned to enlist and serve his country. He wanted to postpone the wedding until after the war was over, but his fiancée and peers convinced him that it was better to get married before going off to war.
Mr. Armstrong applied to Officers’ Training Camp, and, armed with written statements of prominent business leaders who verified that he possessed a college-level education, he was accepted. However, just as he was prepared to be shipped off to war, Mr. Armstrong was turned away at the last minute due to an over-abundance of applicants with military experience. This happened to him twice.
He proceeded to get married, expecting to be drafted soon after. But the call never came.
The newlyweds lived in the heart of Chicago. Mrs. Armstrong, who was born and reared an Iowa country girl, was shocked and disturbed by the harsh, suspicious, self-centered, fast-paced lifestyles of the big city.
The Armstrongs had to move from apartment to apartment several times, often subleasing. Chicago’s booming metropolitan area was undergoing a massive population explosion, growing from 2.2 million people in 1910 to 2.7 million in 1920—an increase of about 516,000 in just ten years! A 50,000-plus annual growth rate of residents meant that housing—especially quality housing in a safe environment—was hard to come by.
From the very start, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong’s marriage was a close-knit partnership, with Mr. Armstrong taking the lead, and his wife assisting him. For example, when Mr. Armstrong conceived of opinion surveys or produced display ads to win over potential clients, he listened to and valued his wife’s opinion and insight. Their partnership would later prove invaluable in Mr. Armstrong’s ministry to take Christ’s true gospel to the world. He wrote, “From the time of my conversion Mrs. Armstrong has always studied with me. We didn’t realize it then, but God was calling us together. We were always a team, working together in unity.”
Mr. Armstrong came to understand that a wife is fully one-half of a man’s ministry. She stands as a support to all of the many aspects of his responsibility to serve the people of God and do God’s Work. He was to reiterate this many times in later years.
The Armstrongs soon became a family, with the birth of Beverly in May 1918. Two years later, they had their second child, Dorothy Jane.
It was during this pregnancy that Mrs. Armstrong fell sick with toxemia eclampsia and was hospitalized. A medical specialist helped her to recover and she was able to have a healthy delivery. However, the illness had prematurely turned Mrs. Armstrong’s golden blonde hair to white! Far worse, medical experts informed her that another pregnancy would mean certain death for her and the baby.
While Mrs. Armstrong maintained a steady interest in religion, her husband had stopped regularly attending church when he turned 18. Like many in the world today, Mr. Armstrong’s mind was focused on pursuing a successful career. From 1918 to 1920, his personal annual income grew to today’s equivalent of a six-figure salary. His pursuit of material success left little time for religious interests, other than occasionally attending Sunday services at the corner church.
About a week or so after their wedding, Mrs. Armstrong experienced a dream so vivid—so extraordinary—that when she woke up, it seemed as though nothing else was real for the next two to three days.
Here is how Mr. Armstrong described the mysterious events within his wife’s dream:
“In her dream she and I were crossing the wide intersection… Suddenly there appeared an awesome sight in the sky above. It was a dazzling spectacle—the sky filled with a gigantic solid mass of brilliant stars, shaped like a huge banner. The stars began to quiver and separate, finally vanishing. She called my attention to the vanishing stars, when another huge grouping of flashing stars appeared, then quivering, separating, and vanishing like the first.
“As she and I, in her dream, looked upward at the vanishing stars, three large white birds suddenly appeared in the sky between us and the vanishing stars. These great white birds flew directly toward us. As they descended nearer, she perceived that they were angels.
“‘Then,’ my wife wrote a day or two after the dream…‘it dawned on me that Christ was coming, and I was so happy I was just crying for joy. Then suddenly I thought of Herbert and was rather worried.’
“She knew I had evidenced very little religious interest, although we had attended a corner church two or three times. Then it seemed that, from among these angels in her dream, that, ‘Christ descended from among them and stood directly in front of us. At first I was a little doubtful and afraid of how He would receive us, because I remembered we had neglected our Bible study and had our minds too much on things apart from His interests. But as we went up to Him, He put His arms around both of us, and we were so happy! I thought people all over the world had seen Him come. As far as we could see, people were just swarming into the streets at this broad intersection. Some were glad and some were afraid.
“‘Then it seemed He had changed into an angel. I was terribly disappointed at first, until he told me Christ was really coming in a very short time.’
“At that time, we had been going quite regularly to motion-picture theatres. She asked the angel if this were wrong. He replied Christ had important work for us to do, preparing for His coming—there would be no time for ‘movies’…Then the angel and the whole spectacle seemed to vanish, and she awakened, shaken and wondering!”
She immediately told her husband about the dream.
In his autobiography, Mr. Armstrong warned readers that of those who think God has personally spoken to them in dreams or visions, the overwhelming majority—“about 99,999 times out of 100,000”—actually have deceived themselves. Most dreams mean nothing, he wrote, and false prophets have misled people with false dreams, just as God warns in Jeremiah 23, verse 32: “I am against prophets who recount lying dreams, leading My people astray with their lies and their empty pretensions, though I never sent them, never commissioned them; they are no help whatever to this people, says the Eternal” (Moffatt translation).
Mr. Armstrong did not rush to the conclusion that this had to be a dream from God. As a matter of fact, he was embarrassed by it. He did not want to think about it—yet, the dream was so unusual that he could not dismiss it. So he settled on advising his wife to ask the minister at the corner church if her dream had any real meaning. Satisfied, he put the matter out of his mind.
It would only be a handful of years later that God would get Mr. Armstrong’s full and undivided attention.
In January 1920, Mr. Armstrong attended an important business luncheon and listened to guest speaker Roger Babson give a startling speech. To the surprise of the leading Chicago bankers and business executives, Mr. Babson, a well-known statistician, proclaimed that they were about to enter the worst business depression of their generation. “I advise you all to set your houses in order,” he said.
Mr. Armstrong glanced around the room and saw that many of these prominent business leaders smirked and looked amused. Because the demands of World War I had artificially inflated the price of food and supplies, the postwar economy was riding a wave of prosperity. Bank clearings, business activity, stock car loadings and stock market quotes were all booming. Therefore, these men did not believe or bother to heed Mr. Babson’s warning.
Yet, by the end of that same year, Mr. Babson’s prediction came true. The economic wave gave way to the flash depression of 1920, which came crashing down, sweeping away many American businesses—including Mr. Armstrong’s. All of his clients went into receivership, and his large advertising contracts were cancelled.
Again, Mr. Armstrong and other businessmen met for a luncheon to listen to Roger Babson, the guest speaker. Mr. Babson explained that he was able to know a depression was coming by looking at the way people lived—how they dealt with one another as a whole.
He said, “I looked to the source which determines future conditions. I have found that the source may be defined in terms of ‘righteousness.’ When 51 percent or more of the whole people are reasonably ‘righteous’ in their dealings with one another, we are heading into increasing prosperity. When 51 percent of the people become ‘unrighteous’ in their business dealings with their fellows, then we are headed for bad times economically!”
Mr. Armstrong never forgot this sobering and insightful explanation.
Though his advertising business had been swept away through no fault of his own, Mr. Armstrong was determined to build it back up again. However, with so many other businesses having been crushed and destroyed, those which struggled to survive were not ready to spend advertising money as they had before.
Some business executives, lacking the strength and determination to cope with their sudden loss of wealth and influence, turned to suicide.
But Mr. Armstrong was no quitter. “I had been knocked down, stunned, made groggy—but not knocked out,” he wrote. “Desperately I clung on, hoping to climb back on top.” He was determined to once again reap the fruits of success. For the next two years, he fought and struggled to revive a dead enterprise.
In February 1921, the secretary of the National Implement and Vehicle Association asked Mr. Armstrong to attend an important meeting held by its board of directors, seven corporate heads. The chairman was Mr. Wallis, president of J.I. Case Plow Works, Mr. Armstrong’s largest client.
The mood of the meeting was sober. The flash depression was destroying their businesses. Each man faced financial ruin.
The meeting’s agenda was to find a way to stimulate the farm tractor industry. Mr. Wallis explained that the industry would not survive the depression unless sales were brought back to life.
Since Mr. Armstrong did business with the editors of the national bank journals, these top corporate leaders wanted him to pressure the editors into writing strong editorials urging bankers to advise farmers to start buying tractors again.
An entire industry was at stake! Here were seven of the leading corporate executives asking 28-year-old Herbert W. Armstrong to help them save the national farm tractor industry from bankruptcy!
“What an appeal to my egotism!” Mr. Armstrong would later write. “What a temptation to think of personal importance!”
The unspoken implication was that if he could come through for them, an abundance of advertising contracts would be his. This was a hard temptation to resist.
But no matter how tempting the offer, Mr. Armstrong knew the cold, hard facts. Since his business had put him in constant contact with numerous bankers, he was well aware of the farm tractor situation at the grassroots level.
“Bankers know that one tractor replaces six horses,” he explained. “Tractors have to be fed gasoline, which is expensive right now. Horses are fed on 18-cent corn and oats and hay that have skidded likewise in price. Country bankers know their farmer customers would think they were fools to recommend buying tractors and feeding them on high-priced gasoline, when they have their horses being fed on grain they can’t sell.”
Convincing these farmers to buy tractors they did not absolutely need went against Mr. Armstrong’s conscience. He considered it an act of dishonesty. He told the men at the meeting that he could not help them.
The next day, J.I. Case Plow Works cancelled doing business with Mr. Armstrong. It was his last remaining tractor account.
Mr. Armstrong feverishly stayed the course for another year and a half to bring his advertising business back to life, but things went from bad to worse. By July 1922, his income had dropped tremendously—too low to even support his family. The financial crunch forced Mr. Armstrong to give up their apartment and sell the bulk of their furniture in order to survive. He then entered three of the bleakest, most discouraging months of his life.
That fall, he and his family moved back to Iowa to temporarily live on his father-in-law’s farm. Mr. Armstrong did the best he could to help around the farm, but he was the proverbial “fish out of water.” He lacked farming experience, and could not keep up with shucking corn alongside his father-in-law. Mr. Armstrong felt even more demoralized and defeated.
Mr. Armstrong went to the town of Ames, home of Iowa State College, and sold the idea of conducting an opinion survey to the owner and manager of the local newspaper, the Ames Daily Tribune. The survey revealed little known facts about customers’ shopping habits. It also changed business practices for the better, and increased sales. Everyone benefited.
Mr. Armstrong then visited an old friend who was the advertising manager of both the Des Moines Register and the Evening Tribune, and offered to conduct a thorough survey of department stores across the state. The friend and his superiors loved the idea, and were willing to hire Mr. Armstrong’s services. But there was a catch. They needed to hire a full-time advertising manager, and they believed that Mr. Armstrong was the right man for the position.
Mr. Armstrong was surprised by the offer. However, he was not confident that he had the ability to direct the work of a small staff and carry out other administrative duties. Mr. Armstrong knew that he could work with or under men, but he did not believe that he could direct others.
He told them, “But that will kill everything. I am not an executive. I can’t manage the work of others. I’m like a lone wolf. I have to do my own work in my own way. I often work in streaks. When I’m ‘on’ I know I’m good. But on the ‘off’ days I couldn’t sell genuine gold bricks for a dime. I’d have daily reports to make out, and that’s one thing I just never have been able to do. I’d get way behind on the reports.”
Despite his friend’s plea, he refused to take the position.
Many years later, Mr. Armstrong did become an executive. Upon founding Ambassador College, he went on to successfully direct the work of thousands of employees, as well as write, edit and publish magazines, lead an expanding worldwide church, give sermons, produce radio and television broadcasts, and meet heads of state around the world.
Though he may have been a “lone wolf” during his advertising career, Mr. Armstrong grew to be a leader. He was a man who constantly prodded himself to learn, develop and achieve.
In 1924, the Armstrong family embarked on an adventurous road trip to Salem, Oregon, to visit Mr. Armstrong’s parents, who had moved there several years earlier.
Along the way, a Vancouver, Washington newspaper hired Mr. Armstrong to conduct an opinion survey. They also temporarily hired him to be a merchandising specialist for a six-month period.
Afterward, he moved his family to Portland, Oregon. There, Mr. Armstrong discovered a profitable niche market for his services, where there was little, if any, competition. He started a successful advertising and efficiency-management service for the leading laundries in Oregon and Washington. In only six months, Mr. Armstrong’s business had doubled. His career was about to skyrocket.
And then suddenly, everything came to an abrupt halt!
The Laundryowners National Association began a $5 million nationwide cooperative advertising campaign, which took away virtually all of Mr. Armstrong’s clients, except one. Once again, through no fault of his own, his advertising business was swept out from beneath him—and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
With his morale beaten and worn, he concentrated on leading and helping his family struggle to survive through more rough financial times.
While visiting her in-laws in Salem, Mrs. Armstrong became friends with a Mrs. Ora Runcorn, an elderly neighbor. Their frequent religious discussions led Mrs. Armstrong to see the Bible in a completely new light.
One day, Mrs. Runcorn asked Mrs. Armstrong to turn to a certain Bible passage and read it. Then to another passage, and then another, for about an hour. At no time did Mrs. Runcorn comment on the scriptures Mrs. Armstrong read. She simply let the Bible speak for itself.
Mrs. Armstrong was amazed by how often God’s Word said the opposite of what the world’s churches taught—especially when it came to the seventh-day Sabbath. The scriptures clearly revealed that God’s Sabbath is on Saturday, not Sunday! She rushed to tell her husband about the good news of her awesome discovery.
But Mr. Armstrong was far from pleased!
“Are you crazy?” he asked. The seventh-day Sabbath was only for Jews, he reasoned, while Sunday worship was for Christians.
“Now look, Loma! I simply am not going to tolerate any such religious fanaticism in our family. You have to give that up, right here and now!”
But Mrs. Armstrong refused. No matter how many arguments her husband came up with, she was determined to follow the truth.
Mr. Armstrong was desperate. He began to worry about what his former business acquaintances and peers might think. This news hit his pride and vanity harder than anything he had ever experienced before. He felt that it was more than he could take.
He said, “Loma, you can’t tell me that all these churches have been wrong all these hundreds of years! Why, aren’t these all Christ’s churches?”
Back and forth they debated—yet his wife would not budge.
Finally, she said, “If you can prove by the Bible that we are commanded to observe Sunday instead of the seventh-day Sabbath—yes, then of course I will obey what I see in the Bible.”
Mr. Armstrong knew very little about God’s Word, but his marriage and reputation were at stake. He accepted his wife’s challenge.
Around the same time, Mr. Armstrong’s sister-in-law accused him of being ignorant about the theory of evolution. “One is uneducated and simply ignorant,” she said to him, “if he has not studied evolution. All educated people know it’s true.”
To Mr. Armstrong, this felt like a slap in the face. It stung his pride. So he took on his sister-in-law’s biting remarks as a challenge. For the next six months, he researched and studied day and night to understand and gather undeniable proof that God’s Sabbath was on Sunday and that the theory of evolution was false.
He searched through various texts on biology, paleontology and geology. He read the works of the chief authorities of science—Darwin, Haeckel, Huxley and others. He learned the facts about radioactive elements—that there was a time when physical matter did not exist. Mr. Armstrong also learned about the law of biogenesis: life can only come from life.
He also plunged into the study of history and discovered that every single Bible prophecy that was ever foretold (except for those scheduled to be fulfilled in the future) came to pass, and on schedule. This proved the Bible’s divine authority.
These six months of daily in-depth, intensive study involved Mr. Armstrong waiting for Portland’s public library to open its door early each morning, leaving the library at 9 p.m. (closing time), and working at home, many times late into the night.
Eventually, Mr. Armstrong’s studies enabled him to chop down the trunk of the tree of evolution. If evolution was true, he reasoned, then the simplest fossil records would be found at the oldest strata levels in the earth. Likewise, the more complex fossils would be found near the top.
But this was not the case!
Mr. Armstrong learned that what was considered the most recent strata sometimes lay below the most ancient levels. The age of strata was not determined by stages of depth, but by the fossils found in them! Holding fast that the evolution theory was indeed fact, scientists assumed the age of certain strata by estimating how many millions of years ago certain fossils may have been deposited. Evolution was based on assumption—blind faith! (Ironically, this is the same thing atheists accuse of those who believe God exists.)
Mr. Armstrong quickly wrote a short article summarizing his discovery, and showed it to the head of the library’s technical and science department. She was amazed by his proof—yet she confessed that she had been so steeped in the world of academia that she could not give up believing in evolution.
“What a pitiful confession,” he wrote, “from one so steeped in ‘the wisdom of this world.’”
Next, Mr. Armstrong turned his full attention to learning about the Sabbath. He studied every piece of literature he could find—both for and against the seventh-day Sabbath. He examined exhaustive concordances, which revealed that nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Thou shalt keep Sunday.” God’s Word revealed to Mr. Armstrong that our Creator measures days from sunset to sunset, instead of from midnight to midnight—and that there was not a single example in the Bible of God’s servants holding weekly religious services on Sunday (midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday, as men measure time).
Not only was there no command to observe Sunday as God’s Sabbath, Mr. Armstrong also discovered that Jesus kept the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week. And so did the apostle Paul, who routinely preached to the Gentiles on the Sabbath—NOT on Sunday! This was the same Paul who commanded all Christians, both Jew and Gentile, “Be you followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). God’s Word also revealed to Mr. Armstrong that, as Creator, God made the Sabbath holy by resting on that day. And only God has the authority to make things holy—men cannot!
Mr. Armstrong then discovered the truth about the special Sabbath covenant, found in Exodus 31:12-18. In it, God set apart the weekly Sabbath as a sign—a special mark of identity—that identifies the one true God and His people. This Sabbath covenant was never “done away,” as so many erroneously believe. It is binding upon God’s people forever.
After six long months of studying day and night, Mr. Armstrong gave in. He accepted the truth that God’s Word revealed to him—that the Sabbath was indeed on the seventh day of the week (from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday), and that God expects people to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8).
In addition to accepting this truth, along with disproving the theory of evolution, Mr. Armstrong was able to prove that God exists—that the Bible is His inspired instruction book for mankind, and that it carries divine authority!
He came to learn that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), not eternal life “roasting” in hell fire—that eternal life is God’s gift (same verse)—that the annual holy days and festivals of the Old Testament are still in effect and must be kept by God’s people—that the United States, Britain and other nations of the West descended from the “lost” ten tribes of ancient Israel—the pre-existence of angels at the creation of earth—and several other doctrinal truths.
Mr. Armstrong also came to accept the fact that God had been calling him (John 6:44), knocking him down and sweeping away his businesses in order to get his full attention. God wanted Mr. Armstrong to redirect his life’s focus to the most important goal in the universe: being born into the kingdom of God.
Ever since Mr. Armstrong was 16 years old, he had unknowingly practiced six of the seven laws of success. When it came to this world’s version of success, he had the right goal (the first law)—in this case, to be a dynamic, innovative business leader in the advertising profession.
To accomplish this goal, he had put himself through extensive on-the-job training and gained real-world experience. He had studied marketing, advertising, psychology, business management, journalism and writing, acquiring a solid and valuable education—the second law of success.
Mr. Armstrong also had learned to keep his body and mind healthy. He discovered the benefits of physical fasting. He learned to limit the amount of eggs he ate, because they made him sluggish. He limited how much alcohol he consumed. He had also made it a point not to be obsessed with the escapism of motion pictures and fiction novels. In maintaining good health, Mr. Armstrong practiced the third law of success.
He also prodded and drove himself. He worked against his natural tendency to slow down and lay back and, instead, pushed forward and ahead—especially when most men would take it easy. In constantly pushing and driving himself, Mr. Armstrong followed the fourth law of success.
Experience taught him that things do not always go as planned. At times, opportunities will arise from seemingly nowhere. Sometimes, trials, troubles and other problems suddenly erupt. Decisions must be made—many times on the spot! Mr. Armstrong experienced such circumstances many times, and it taught him to think on his feet—to solve the problem, not just identify it—to be resourceful, the fifth law.
But even practicing these first five laws was not enough to guarantee success. Mr. Armstrong knew that in order to be successful, he had to be able to weather the storm—to never give up, never give in—to keep moving forward, despite every trial and obstacle that presented itself. This was perseverance—stick-to-it-iveness—the sixth law of success. Those who fail to practice this law usually give up at the first sign of trouble. When things get tough, when problems pile up, most people give up, and doom themselves to failure.
Mr. Armstrong obeyed these first six laws—yet, at best, he could only achieve worldly, material success. God, through His inspired Word, revealed to him that true and lasting success was eternal, something men know nothing about. This seventh and all-encompassing law of success—contact with, guidance from and continuous help of God—meant focusing one’s life on mankind’s awesome human potential: to be born into the kingdom of God!
Because of this seventh law, Mr. Armstrong changed his life’s goal (the first law) of being a prominent and successful advertising executive. He now wanted to center his life on obeying and serving the true God of the Bible.
The seventh law also changed the way he observed the second law (having the right education). Instead of concerning himself almost exclusively with advertising, psychology and other business topics, Mr. Armstrong plunged into daily Bible study with a relentless interest.
In fact, by observing the seventh law of success, his focus in practicing the other six laws changed.
With his successful businesses twice swept out from beneath him, his wife’s amazing dream, and then having proved that God does exist and that the Bible is His inspired Word, and learning that the teachings and practices of traditional “Christianity” originate from the pagan traditions of men (Mark 7:6-7, 9), Mr. Armstrong came to realize that God was dealing with him. He came to recognize that God had been knocking him down, sweeping away the idols of vanity and self-importance, and the carnal desire for material success.
Mr. Armstrong faced an important crossroads in his life. One path led to rejecting God’s revealed truths, turning his back on these precious nuggets of knowledge and deep understanding. The other path led to accepting the truth of God’s Sabbath—which meant living contrary to all of his former friends, acquaintances and business associates, who rarely (if ever) concerned themselves with religion. (Those few who were religious blindly followed after the popular pagan customs of traditional Christianity.)
Concerning this monumental decision, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “To accept this truth meant—so I supposed—to cut me off from all former friends, acquaintances and business associates. I had come to meet some of the independent ‘Sabbath-keepers’ down around Salem and the Willamette Valley. Some of them were what I then, in my pride and conceit, regarded as backwoods ‘hillbillies.’ None were of the financial and social position of those I had associated with.
“My associations and pride had led me to ‘look down upon’ this class of people. I had been ambitious to hobnob with the wealthy and the cultural.
“I saw plainly what a decision was before me. To accept this truth meant to throw in my lot for life with a class of people I had always looked on as inferior. I learned later that God looks on the heart, and these humble people were the real salt of the earth. But I was then still looking on the outward appearance. It meant being cut off completely and forever from all to which I had aspired. It meant a total crushing of vanity. It meant a total change of life!”
Mr. Armstrong’s vanity and pride gave way to humility and defeat. Beaten, worn, frustrated, abased, he came to see himself the way God saw him. And despite all his unique talents, gifts, skills, training and experience, he humbly acknowledged that he was “nothing but a burned-out old hunk of junk.” From that moment on, Mr. Armstrong humbled himself and set his mind to serve God.
It was humiliating for him to admit to his wife that she had been right about the Sabbath. However, Mr. Armstrong was overjoyed to know that Christ, the living Word (John 1:1, 14), was revealing His truth to him through His written Word, the Holy Bible (17:17; II Tim. 3:16-17).
Upon unconditionally surrendering to God, Mr. Armstrong found that he no longer resented Mrs. Runcorn, the elderly woman who had revealed the truth about the Sabbath to Mrs. Armstrong. Instead, he and his wife came to look up to Mr. and Mrs. Runcorn as their spiritual parents.
The Runcorns were members of the Church of God, Seventh-Day, which was headquartered in Stanberry, Missouri. Through this couple, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong became acquainted with a small group of Church of God people scattered in Salem and down south in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Mr. Armstrong believed Christ’s promise that He would not let His true Church die out (Matt. 16:18)—but where was it? He knew that true Christians faithfully kept all of God’s commandments, including the seventh-day Sabbath. To Mr. Armstrong’s knowledge, the only Sabbath-keeping churches were the Seventh-Day Baptists, the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Church of God, Seventh-Day.
Mr. Armstrong’s daily Bible studies revealed that Christ promised to keep His disciples in His Father’s name (John 17:12), and that the Bible lists the name of God’s Church 12 times—“Church of God.” This ruled out the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Seventh-Day Baptists, who were named by human beings.
Some have believed that Mr. Armstrong was once a member of the Seventh-Day Adventists—but this was never the case. In fact, he never attended any of their services. Since that organization was not named after God, Mr. Armstrong determined it could not be the same Church Christ built in A.D. 31.
Mr. Armstrong’s search for the true Church had narrowed to the Church of God, Seventh-Day. And yet, he wrote, “They were so small, so uneducated, except for their limited amount of ‘Sabbath-keeping’ Bible knowledge—and their work, as I found, so ineffective and unproductive, I could not believe they could be God’s one and only true Church” (“History of the Beginning and Growth of the Worldwide Church of God,” The Good News, May 1980).
At that time, the Church was small and scattered, with less than 2,100 members, most living in rural areas. There were very few local congregations, and none as large as 100 members, and its ministry consisted of men who had little education. Though its elders preached with zeal, they lacked the power to attract sizeable audiences—the kind of preaching that moves people to action, stirs them up, and leads them to want to change their lifestyles.
Mr. Armstrong understood that “No person is even a member of the true Church unless he has received, and is filled and led by, the Holy Spirit—and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of power! This little church seemed to be powerless—comparatively impotent! It was not stirring up the world! It was not making the whole world conscious of its existence and its power! I failed to see where it was bearing much if any fruit! Could a fruitless church be the one and only true Church of God on Earth?
“I was deeply perplexed,” he wrote.
How could such a tiny, scattered, virtually dead organization be God’s one true Church? This question constantly troubled Mr. Armstrong’s mind: “I could not then reconcile myself to believing a church so small, so fruitless, with an uneducated ministry, could be God’s one and only true Church” (Ibid.).
Because he could not reconcile this in his mind, Mr. Armstrong associated with its membership, but never became an official member of that organization.
Jesus Christ foretold that, from its birth on Pentecost, A.D. 31, His Church would exist through seven distinct eras over a 2,000-year time span—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea (Rev. 2 and 3). Mr. Armstrong would later come to understand that the ministers and lay members he had been associating with were of the Sardis Era, whom Christ warned, “I know your works, that you have a name [“Church of God”] that you live, and are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God” (Rev. 3:1-2). This passage reveals the condition of the Sardis Era of God’s Church and of its brethren.
Mr. Armstrong no longer wanted to live his former way of life, that of putting material, worldly success first and foremost in his mind. His initial six months of study had led him to fear and to believe God. Now, he wanted to obey Him, to unconditionally surrender to God’s rule. Instead of following the way of vanity and self-importance, he decided to seek God’s way of love—outgoing concern for the well-being of others.
He learned that upon repenting of going the way of vanity and self-importance, he had fulfilled the first of two conditions to receiving God’s Holy Spirit: “repent, and be baptized” (Acts 2:38).
Mr. Armstrong knew he had to be baptized, but he wanted to do it God’s way. But how?—through immersion?—through the sprinkling, or pouring, of water? While he sought the counsel of several ministers to help him thoroughly understand water baptism, Mr. Armstrong determined to base his decision solely on the Word of God.
First, he approached a Church of God, Seventh-Day minister who was visiting from Texas, and asked him about water baptism. But this man was gruff and impatient. He let Mr. Armstrong know that he did not want to “waste” his time on answering the many questions of someone who was not baptized. Mr. Armstrong could not rely on this man for help.
So he went to three other men: a Quaker minister, a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor and a Baptist preacher. And, in the meantime, Mr. Armstrong studied the subject in the Bible.
The Quaker religion (which Mr. Armstrong and his parents and ancestors were reared in) did not teach water baptism—being immersed in water. After Mr. Armstrong peppered him with several questions, the Quaker minister admitted that he too had questioned his church’s teaching. But the man resolved his crisis of conscience by ignoring what the Bible taught about baptism, and following the traditions that the esteemed leaders of his church taught. Mr. Armstrong came away from this discussion both amazed and disappointed. Like so many have done throughout the centuries, the Quaker minister had rejected the laws of God to follow after the commandments of men (Mark 7:6-9).
Mr. Armstrong spoke with a preacher from the Seventh-Day Adventists, but he found his explanations to be cold and legalistic.
However, his counsel with a Baptist minister was different. Not only did he give the clearest and best explanation of water baptism, but he was also warm and friendly. He sincerely wanted to help. Though this man’s church observed Sunday worship and other pagan traditions, his knowledge about water baptism and the laying on of hands was in line with what the Bible actually taught. (Mr. Armstrong knew that the churches and denominations of traditional Christianity teach customs and traditions rooted in paganism—Christmas, Easter, birthday celebrations, etc. But many of these churches of the world did correctly teach one or two doctrines as taught in the Bible.)
Convinced that the Baptist minister would baptize according to the way God’s Word instructs, Mr. Armstrong asked him to perform his baptism. However, he stressed that he did NOT want to be baptized into that man’s church, denomination or religion. Instead, he asked that he be “baptized into Jesus Christ” (Rom. 6:3).
(Today, during baptismal ceremonies conducted by God’s Church, just before the ceremony is to take place, the person to be baptized is told that he is not being baptized into any sect or denomination of this world.)
Mr. Armstrong had to appear before a board of trustees to see if they would authorize their pastor to fulfill his request. The board was so impressed by his understanding of the scriptures that they unanimously agreed in his favor.
And so, in the spring of 1927, Herbert W. Armstrong was baptized into the body of Christ.
The Armstrongs continued living in Portland, frequently visiting with Church of God brethren in neighboring Oregon City, and down in Salem, Jefferson and other towns.
It was the practice of one small, leaderless group to ask its visitors to give a sermon. Mr. Armstrong received such a request, but he quickly declined. Being a preacher was the last thing he wanted to be.
However, when he received another invitation, he accepted it, because he was anxious to tell them about God’s special Sabbath covenant (Ex. 31:12-18), of which he knew they were unaware.
As he grew in biblical knowledge and understanding, and continued to come out of the traditions and customs in which he had been reared, Mr. Armstrong learned the truths of God one doctrine at a time. That August, he learned that God heals.
Mrs. Armstrong had been suffering from a series of health problems (a swelling in her throat that kept her from eating and drinking, blood poisoning, etc.), and a doctor determined that she had only 24 hours to live. Also, having gone without sleep, food and drink for three days, Mrs. Armstrong was near exhaustion.
At that time, a neighbor visited her and asked whether Mr. Armstrong would permit a man to come with his wife for the purpose of anointing Mrs. Armstrong and praying for her healing. Though he feared that the couple might turn out to be religious fanatics, Mr. Armstrong reluctantly agreed.
When they arrived, Mr. Armstrong asked the man if he would answer a few questions before praying for his wife. This man welcomed his questions, and all of his answers came directly from the Bible. Mr. Armstrong was familiar with the passages the man quoted, but had never before thought of them in regard to healing. He began to understand and believe in God’s promise to heal—and Mrs. Armstrong also agreed.
When the man anointed Mrs. Armstrong with oil, he prayed in a quiet, positive tone with earnestness and sincerity. It was unlike any prayer that Mr. Armstrong had ever heard. In it, the man boldly approached God, reminding Him of what He had promised to do. The man acknowledged that people deserve nothing from God, but can claim promises because of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s boundless mercy. He then asked God to completely heal Mrs. Armstrong, stressing that he was holding God to His promise to heal.
Mr. Armstrong had never heard anyone talk so boldly to God as did this man. It was a short prayer, lasting only a couple of minutes, but the words were heartfelt. Mr. Armstrong knew God heard them—both he and his wife had complete faith that she was healed.
After the prayer, the man’s wife assured Mrs. Armstrong that she would sleep well that night. And she did. She awoke at nearly noon the next day, arose and dressed as if she had never been ill. This healing was a powerful new lesson in faith for the Armstrongs—that whatever God has promised, He will do. The Bible is filled with thousands of promises, and they are there for us to claim.
Although some evangelical groups try to make healing their centerpiece (like a disreputable circus sideshow seeking to deceive the public for money), Mr. Armstrong learned that healing in the first-century Church was intricately tied to preaching the gospel—the good news of the kingdom of God. He came to understand that the Church, from its start in A.D. 31, always looked to God for healing.
Naturally, Mr. Armstrong wanted to share this wonderful revealed knowledge of truth with others. The next time he visited brethren in the Willamette Valley, he received another invitation to speak, and that Sabbath morning, he preached that God is our Healer, and still heals today.
However, during the afternoon services, a visiting minister attacked Mr. Armstrong’s sermon, twisting scriptures to drive his point home. This was the first of many attempts by ministers to accuse and attack him. Yet, in spite of this attack, the lay members liked Mr. Armstrong and appreciated his message.
Due to his training in writing advertising copy and magazine articles, Mr. Armstrong routinely transformed his daily Bible studies into articles for his own benefit. He then submitted several of them to The Bible Advocate, a magazine published by the Church of God, Seventh-Day, and his articles began appearing on the front cover.
However, after a (seemingly) friendly visit with a minister from headquarters, Mr. Armstrong’s article submissions were soon rejected.
Mr. Armstrong began to regularly meet with a small group of Church of God brethren who assembled every Sabbath in Oregon City, just outside Portland. Lacking a local minister to guide and teach them, they studied their “Sabbath-school lessons” from quarterlies published by Stanberry headquarters.
Almost immediately, they asked Mr. Armstrong to lead them in studying their lessons, and—because of his drive, growing knowledge of God’s Word, and his ability to organize his thoughts and explain ideas in plain, easy-to-understand language—he was soon delivering “sermons” (more like informal talks) every Sabbath.
G.A. Hobbs, an elderly pillar of the congregation, learned that The Bible Advocate had stopped publishing Mr. Armstrong’s articles. Mr. Hobbs wrote a scorching letter of protest to Stanberry. The editor of the magazine explained that Mr. Armstrong’s articles were being rejected at the request of that visiting minister. Since Mr. Armstrong was not a member of their organization, the minister felt threatened and reasoned that it was dangerous to give him such standing and prestige in the eyes of the local brethren. Mr. Hobbs sent back a fiery response—and Mr. Armstrong’s articles were immediately reinstated.
At this time, with only one laundry account to rely upon, the Armstrongs went through very difficult financial times, often going hungry and not having enough money to pay their electric and gas bills. Many times, lacking carfare to take his family, Mr. Armstrong had to travel alone to Sabbath services in Oregon City. There were even times that he had to walk the entire trip.
His family’s situation became so desperate, Mr. Armstrong fervently prayed for God to open a door and provide them with money or a way to earn it.
About an hour or so later, a woman they had never seen before came to their home and told Mr. Armstrong about an opportunity to make money. It involved throwing two truckloads of wood into someone’s basement. In Portland, this was the kind of odd job that was given to people who were “down and out”—the poorest of the poor. To be seen doing this kind of work was a humiliating blow to someone who had once run a successful Chicago advertising business.
But Mr. Armstrong did not allow pride to get in the way. His family’s survival was far more important. He also realized that God was teaching him a valuable lesson in humility. Mr. Armstrong determined to do the best job he could—striving to do it god’s way.
As he stacked the wood into a neat and orderly pile, Mr. Armstrong winced every time someone passed by, for he knew they thought he was nothing more than a bum.
“Each passerby knocked off a little more of that vanity. But I just prayed silently to God about it, and thanked Him for the lesson, and asked Him to help me to be humble and industrious.”
When Mr. Armstrong was finished, he was paid double for doing such fast and orderly work.
Looking back years later at these and many other humbling lessons, Mr. Armstrong recognized that God had been preparing him to fulfill a great commission—a role that required someone of outstanding talent and training, but also of great meekness and humility. He knew that every human being has an idol that must be torn down before God can use him. In Mr. Armstrong’s case, God was tearing down “an egotistical sense of self-importance—a cocky self-assurance—a passion to become successful in the eyes of the material world.”
As He does with all His servants, God was developing His holy, righteous character within Mr. Armstrong, which could only be done through time and experience. While Mr. Armstrong grew in the spiritual riches of biblical knowledge and understanding, God withheld material blessings from him. For 28 years, Mr. Armstrong’s self-confidence was being replaced with total reliance and dependence on God.
Back when Mrs. Armstrong had been healed of her near-deathbed illness in August 1927, she and her husband had claimed God’s promise to completely heal her of everything, including her inability to bear more children.
And so, walking by faith, they had another child—a baby boy. Richard David Armstrong was born on October 13, 1928. “That day,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “was the happiest day of my life. I was simply filled to overflowing with gratitude to a merciful, loving God who so richly lavishes on us His grace and blessings completely beyond all we can anticipate or hope for—if we yield our lives to Him and do those things that are pleasing in His sight—if we seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness!”
The Armstrongs were so grateful to God that they dedicated young Richard to His service. And, 15 months later, God gave them another son—Garner Ted.
Near the end of 1930, the Oregon members of the Church of God (half of whom were opposed to the leadership at Stanberry, Missouri) formed the Oregon Conference. Like other state conferences, its purpose was to create a local treasury and keep their tithes and offerings in the state, instead of sending them off to headquarters. It also established a democratic form of church government: Ministers were employed by, and under the authority of, lay members—in other words, government from the bottom up.
Similar to the question of “Where is God’s true Church?”, Mr. Armstrong was perplexed about Church government. Without the clear understanding that would come to him several years later, he went along with the Conference’s idea of “bottom up” government.
Even though he was not a minister, the newly elected officers asked Mr. Armstrong to hold an 11-night evangelistic campaign in Harrisburg, Oregon. This was the first time he ever preached before the general public, and it yielded fruit: Four new converts asked to be baptized.
Since he was not ordained, Mr. Armstrong consulted with a visiting Stanberry minister, who was confined to his bed due to a broken leg. Both men examined Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 2:37-41, and the example of the deacon Philip in Acts 8, who baptized those to whom he preached in Samaria. Both men concluded that Mr. Armstrong had God’s authority to baptize these four new converts. So he baptized them.
This brought him criticism from certain church leaders at Stanberry because the Oregon Conference had paid for Mr. Armstrong’s expenses, even though he was not a member of the Church of God, Seventh-Day. This was only the beginning of much more opposition to come.
The campaign stirred things up in the local religious community, and got the attention of a pastor in neighboring Junction City, who invited Mr. Armstrong to hold a campaign there as well.
In the spring of 1931, the Armstrongs moved to nearby Salem. In the summer, the Oregon Conference asked Mr. R.L. Taylor, a minister visiting from California, to hold an evangelistic campaign down in Eugene. The board members were impressed by his preaching style. Mr. Taylor gladly accepted, but on one condition: that Mr. Armstrong be put into the full-time ministry and join him in the campaign.
Again, when God first called him, the very last thing Mr. Armstrong wanted to become was a minister. However, after having preached a great deal for about three and a half years, he was zealous to serve God in whatever role He determined.
In June 1931, Herbert W. Armstrong was ordained by the Oregon Conference of The Church of God (which was separately incorporated from Stanberry headquarters). Mr. Armstrong was never a member nor under the ministerial authority of Stanberry.
Employed as evangelists at $20 per week, Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Taylor set off to hold their campaign. Yet, contrary to the success he had during his first campaign, Mr. Armstrong was surprised that this one bore no fruit. People came to hear the preaching, but were not moved to do anything about it. He was perplexed.
Then came one stormy, water-soaked night that kept people from attending—everyone except for Elmer and Margaret Fisher, successful farmers who lived seven miles west of Eugene. Since no one else had shown up, services were cancelled. Mr. Taylor decided to go home, but Mr. Armstrong stayed to conduct a Bible study for the Fishers. Upon their request, he revealed to them and explained the New Testament passages about the Sabbath. And, because of his patience, hospitality, and ability to make things plain, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher decided to keep God’s Sabbath.
During the Eugene campaign, the Oregon Conference hired another minister, Elder R. Dailey. He and Mr. Armstrong were assigned to conduct a campaign in St. Helens, about 25 miles north of Portland. Despite newspaper ads and advertising circulars, the campaign was a failure.
With the Conference’s permission, they switched to Umapine. After two weeks of campaign meetings, Mr. Taylor rushed off to attend a Conference business meeting, fearing that he was about to be laid off. But Mr. Armstrong chose to stay behind and continue the campaign—which, when he worked alone, had produced a small congregation of five local members, including four new converts.
They did not have a trained and experienced local minister to lead them, so Mr. Armstrong organized this small group into a local Sabbath school, and appointed one of them to act as superintendent and teacher. The tiny flock lasted for a while after Mr. Armstrong left. However, without a faithful shepherd to lead and protect God’s flock from “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29), they scattered into the wind.
These and other events would lead Mr. Armstrong to understand two things:
(1) When he teamed with ministers of the Sardis Era, no fruit was borne. But whenever he worked alone, God blessed him with growth. (Years later, Mr. Armstrong asked Mrs. Runcorn and others if there had ever been a single true convert resulting from the efforts of any of the Stanberry ministers. They all answered no.)
(2) God’s people need faithful, loyal ministers to teach, protect, feed and guide them—otherwise, they cannot spiritually and doctrinally survive. Many unsuccessful attempts to start and maintain thriving congregations would prove this point time and again.
At this same time, the nation was in the midst of the Great Depression, affecting everyone. Low on funds, the board of the Oregon Conference could no longer afford the salaries of three full-time ministers. So Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Dailey were temporarily laid off, while Mr. Taylor was kept on.
Mr. Armstrong reluctantly took a temporary advertising job with The Morning Messenger, a fledgling daily newspaper in Astoria, Oregon. He knew that God had called him to the ministry, so Mr. Armstrong intended to keep this job only for a month. However, “Human reason is usually faulty,” he wrote. “But this did seem like the right decision. I was to pay a high price over the next 15 months to learn that lesson.”
Mr. Armstrong’s one-month job turned into 15 months. God waited until the end of February 1933 to give him another opportunity to return to His ministry. And afterward, Mr. Armstrong made sure to never again detour from the Work of God.
During the 15 long months from the ministry, Mr. Armstrong studied the subject of tithing. He learned that God owns the earth and everything in it (Psa. 24:1), and that He only requires man to pay ten percent of his income, plus offerings: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me. But you say, Wherein have we robbed You? In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in My house, and prove me now herewith, says the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:8-10).
This is a test command—with many benefits for obedience.
Mr. Armstrong recognized his mistake, and began to tithe, along with giving offerings. That same day, a door of opportunity opened and the Armstrong household was able to reasonably stock up with food—including a thick steak dinner! Though they experienced another 14 years of poverty, never again did they go hungry from lack of food. Since they obeyed God’s tithing command, God kept His promise to provide for their every need—and more.
Over the years, Mr. Armstrong’s writings revealed the doctrine of tithing to countless people, many of whom sent reports of how God had wonderfully blessed them for their faithful obedience.
In late February 1933, God answered Mr. Armstrong’s prayers and led him back into the full-time ministry. Small amounts of tithes and offerings had trickled in to the Oregon Conference, adding up to enough funds to hire another minister—but only at $3 per week. However, the local membership, most of whom were farmers, agreed to supply the minister and his family with vegetables, grains and so forth, along with a limited supply of foodstuffs (sacks of whole wheat flour, beans, raw sugar, etc.). The congregation would also pay the house rent.
Mr. A.J. Ray, former president of the California Conference, was maneuvering to get his close friend, Elder S. Oberg, the position. But Mike Helms, a friend of Mr. Armstrong’s and president of the Oregon board, swiftly intervened and Mr. Armstrong was hired.
Sometimes, the Conference was unable to pay the Armstrongs’ rent, so Mrs. Armstrong would occasionally have to earn money by washing the landlady’s laundry.
Mr. Armstrong followed the practice of thinking big. He wanted to hold a large city-wide campaign, along with Mr. Oberg.
But Mr. Oberg did not see the big picture. Instead, he and Mr. Ray wanted to hold a small campaign limited to a local Salem neighborhood. They had their way, and, as had always happened when Mr. Armstrong teamed with Sardis ministers, their tiny campaign bore no fruit.
Four months of meetings largely attracted “Pentecostal” and “holy roller” types, who only came to have a “good time,” not to hear the inspired preaching of God’s truth.
This, along with constant plots and backstabbing from Sardis ministers, frustrated Mr. Armstrong. On top of this, he had to deal with the death of his father, which happened that same year.
Finally, the fruitless campaign came to an end. Mr. Fisher, the chairman of the school board, asked Mr. Armstrong to start a campaign in the one-room, 36-seat Firbutte schoolhouse, out in the countryside west of Eugene. Mr. Armstrong agreed, and, working alone, maintained an average attendance of about 40 people during the six-week campaign. A sizeable number became members of the Church.
Meanwhile, the Conference had rented a 150-seat church in Harrisburg and assigned Mr. Oberg to minister there. His campaign yielded a much smaller audience. This fueled even more jealousy over Mr. Armstrong’s ministry.
Mr. Oberg and Mr. Ray were warm and friendly to Mr. Armstrong’s face, but they constantly plotted against him, seemingly at every turn. They secretly spoke against him and his wife, sowing seeds of hatred toward him among certain brethren. These two preachers desperately wanted to get Mr. Armstrong thrown out of the ministry and take his meager salary and the other money used for his rent and food supplies.
In one of their plots, they planned to discredit him by falsely accusing Mrs. Armstrong of not being a neat housekeeper—supposed “proof” that Mr. Armstrong did not rule his household well, and therefore that he failed to meet one of the biblical qualifications of a true minister of God (I Tim. 3:1-7).
Their plan, however, backfired.
In another plot, Mr. Oberg and Mr. Ray spread the word that, while the brethren toiled and labored on their farms, Mr. Armstrong was living the “easy life.” They used innuendo to subtly suggest that he was lazy, and that the “only” work Mr. Armstrong had to do was preach sermons, visit and counsel with brethren and prospective members, conduct Bible studies, publish church announcements, and so forth. Incredibly, some were gullible enough to believe these attacks.
Milas Helms warned Mr. Armstrong of what was being said, and offered a way to counteract the plot: If Mr. Armstrong would chop down a large tree on the Helms farm, and split the wood, he could keep it for his household—a year’s worth of fuel. Mr. Armstrong gladly accepted. News of his hard labor spread and another plot came to nothing.
In yet another attack, Mr. Armstrong was accused of not preaching to prospective members the doctrine of avoiding unclean meats. To address this, he calmly explained in writing that he was aware that God forbids people to eat unclean meats, such as pork, lobster, crab, etc., and that these and other animals were not created for man’s consumption. To eat of their flesh was a physical sin. Mr. Armstrong pointed out that eating unclean meats does not directly violate the Ten Commandments, unless someone lusts for it, breaking the Tenth Commandment (which, we could add for purposes here, would almost always be the case). Then, pointing to Romans 14:17—“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”—Mr. Armstrong explained that he was commissioned to preach the gospel of God’s kingdom to the general public, while teaching the details of doctrine to God’s flock, including clean and unclean meats.
Then he asked his accusers to show him from the Bible where he was wrong, or where the Bible teaches that God’s ministers must preach about unclean meats to those who are not being called.
The only answer Mr. Armstrong received was silence.
About a week before the end of his campaign at the Firbutte schoolhouse, Mr. Armstrong baptized Elmer Fisher’s brother Ernest. Mr. Oberg and Mr. Ray used this and other recent baptisms that Mr. Armstrong had performed, and proceeded to attack. They accused him of baptizing people before preaching to them the laws of clean and unclean meats.
Mr. Armstrong had to silently sit through an all-day, inquisition-like trial at a Conference business meeting in Harrisburg while his detractors preached against him. Yet, he was only allowed 15 minutes to speak in his defense.
He clearly explained his position, and then, due to circumstances that needed his presence back at the schoolhouse, Mr. Armstrong asked the board members and ministers to postpone making a decision until he could attend another meeting with them. All agreed.
However, the minute he and those who supported him (about half) had departed, Mr. Oberg and Mr. Ray broke their promise. They swayed the remaining people to establish a resolution requiring Mr. Armstrong to baptize people their way.
Learning of their decision, Mr. Armstrong wrote them back, telling them to keep the $3 per week salary. He neither resigned from the Conference nor was he removed from it. In fact, he continued his friendship and brotherhood with these people. However, Mr. Armstrong knew that he had to obey God rather than men. Unlike most preachers, he was determined not to bend to the will of the people over the will of God. He stepped out in faith and relied on God—not men—to supply his needs.
In the June 24, 1985 special edition of the Worldwide News, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “I continued to work with and fellowship with West Coast members of the Sardis era until 1942, when the rapidly growing work of the fledgling Philadelphia era required my full time. The present era was officially begun in October, 1933.”
Mr. Armstrong had come to a crucial crossroads. He knew that he had to preach the truth God’s way—not the way men wanted it done. If he chose to bend to the will of the people, God could not use him. Mr. Armstrong had known of preachers who held back from preaching the truth of the Bible, because they knew it would upset some people, perhaps even causing some to stop supporting their ministry. Fear of losing financial support caused such men to be more concerned with preaching what people wanted to hear instead of what they needed to hear.
But Mr. Armstrong was different. Like Paul and other faithful servants of God, he was driven to preach what God wanted him to preach (I Cor. 9:16). To serve God, Mr. Armstrong knew that he would have to rely solely on Him for support, not people. So he rejected his $3 per week salary, choosing to trust God instead to provide for his every need (Phil. 4:19).
Even after severing direct ties with the Oregon Conference brethren, Mr. Armstrong continued to be friendly and cooperate with them. And many of them often attended the services he conducted at the Firbutte schoolhouse. The Sardis membership had, for the most part, always been friendly toward Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong. It was their ministers who attacked and persecuted them. They were jealous at his success in attracting followers, while their campaigns were fruitless. They did everything they could to attack his ministry and stop God’s Work.
Andrew Dugger, the leading minister of the Church of God, Seventh-Day, had a falling out with his organization, and started his own church group in 1932, headquartered at Salem, West Virginia. Mr. Dugger and his new offshoot claimed that their form of government came directly from the Bible—“12 apostles, 70 elders” and a board of seven. In turn, this new group accused the organization it had splintered from of having an unbiblical form of Church government.
This puzzled and confused all the brethren as to what was actually the right form of Church government. Even Mr. Armstrong was uncertain:
“But in my days of trying to work with them, between 1927 and somewhere around 1941 to 1947, there was so much controversy over what constituted God’s church government that I, myself, became completely confused on that point. I could see that their systems were so wrong that I assumed that God’s Church is a spiritual organism, and not a church organization. I did not want to assume any rule or authority that I ought not, and consequently when troublemakers and wrong attitudes came into our little Church in Eugene, Oregon, I wielded no authority whatsoever, and the result was a church split in two” (“Personal,” The Good News, August 1969).
Since God had not yet revealed to him what kind of government should function in the true Church, Mr. Armstrong went along with what the brethren were practicing at the time—-a form of democracy, or congregationalism.
The Sardis brethren in the Willamette Valley were divided. One faction remained loyal to Stanberry, while the Oregon Conference was attracted to Mr. Dugger’s group and its “Bible form of organization.” Elders Ray and Oberg tried to steer the Conference into joining Mr. Dugger’s offshoot.
But Mr. Armstrong and those under him decided to leave it up to God to show them what to do. For about three years, they fellowshipped and cooperated with the Salem, West Virginia group—regularly sending minister’s reports, for example—but neither officially joined its membership nor came under its authority. Neither did Mr. Armstrong accept a salary or expense money from them. He was not fully convinced that Mr. Dugger had the “Bible form of organization,” as he had claimed. However, Mr. Dugger listed him as one of the “70 elders,” despite the fact that Mr. Armstrong had never joined them or worked for them.
In these early years of the Great Depression, Mr. Armstrong and his family struggled to stay afloat in the turbulent financial waters of the times. Mrs. Armstrong wore hand-me-downs from her younger sister. Mr. Armstrong often had to walk or hitchhike to Church services, eight miles away. He owned only one pair of shoes—and they had holes in them. He only possessed one suit, which he wore virtually every day of the week as he conducted Church services and Bible studies, and counseled with people. The brethren were moved to take up a collection, and bought him a new suit.
But what Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong lacked in material possessions, they made up for with growing faith and increasing trust in God. Time and again, they learned through firsthand experience—through numerous miraculous answers to fervent prayer—that God provides for those who put His will and interests first.
With the exception of two or three families, none of the Sardis brethren would accept the truth God had revealed to Mr. Armstrong early in his calling: the observance of God’s annual feasts and holy days, the identity of the Anglo-Saxon peoples of the United States and Britain as descendants of the ten “lost” tribes of Israel, and other biblical teachings. The people of Sardis were content with the small number of doctrines they possessed and were not willing to change.
Mr. Armstrong had even tested Stanberry headquarters with biblical proof that they were teaching error. Privately, they admitted that he was right, yet they refused to correct their errors. They were too afraid of upsetting tithepayers, fearing that they might leave. Even the top leader privately admitted that new Bible truth had been revealed to Mr. Armstrong—but that minister, like the others, publicly rejected the truth, and even attacked Mr. Armstrong for preaching it.
And so, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong kept the Feast of Tabernacles and the other annual festivals and Sabbaths of God by themselves. Seven years would pass before God revealed to them the true meaning and significance of His days. But, like the patriarch Abraham, Mr. Armstrong did not wait for an explanation before following God’s commands. Whenever God revealed His will to him, Mr. Armstrong obeyed without question.
Immediately after Mr. Armstrong rejected his salary from the Oregon Conference, God opened a door to preach the gospel to a wider audience.
In October 1933, Mr. Armstrong learned that KORE, a local 100-watt radio station, offered 15 minutes of free daily broadcasting as a public service. This was an opportunity to instantly reach several hundred listeners at once! Mr. Armstrong immediately went down to the station, and was given free airtime the following week.
Looking back years later, he was amazed that “The ministers of the churches in Eugene had not considered the opportunity to get a Gospel message on the air of sufficient importance to rise early enough to be at the radio station at 7:45 weekday mornings. But to me, it was the most important opportunity to proclaim God’s truth that had so far come to me” (“The History of the Beginning and Growth of the Worldwide Church of God, Chapter Four,” The Good News, August 1980).
Mr. Armstrong spent that week preparing extensive notes. For all he knew, this might have been a one-time opportunity. He was determined not to waste it.
Having never done a radio broadcast before, Mr. Armstrong worried that he would be struck by “mike-fright.” On the morning of the first broadcast, the program announcer did not arrive until 15 seconds before it was time to go on the air. Mr. Armstrong asked him for instructions, but all the man said was “Just stand up there in front of the mike, and start talking as soon as I announce you.”
During the brief announcement, Mr. Armstrong felt calm and secure. “Well,” he thought, “I don’t have any ‘mike-fright.’ I’m sure glad of that!”
He confidently spoke into the microphone: “Greetings, friends!”
And then he froze!
With all his might, Mr. Armstrong struggled to control his grasping for breath and fought to ignore the wild, heart-pounding fear that shot through his body. He forced himself to focus on his notes, and then he spoke carefully, deliberately, while trying to sound as calm and as natural as he could. After two or three minutes, his breathing was under control. Fear gave way to zeal—and for the rest of the program, he boldly preached the truth of the Bible, making it plain and easy to understand.
His 15-minute message struck at the heart of the gospel of the kingdom of God. Beginning with Genesis 12, Mr. Armstrong revealed that God had promised the entire earth to Abraham and his descendants for an everlasting possession—not heaven, as is commonly believed in the churches of traditional Christianity.
During the next morning’s broadcast, Mr. Armstrong knew that his case of “mike-fright” was a thing of the past. Throughout that week of radio broadcasts, he confidently preached about the world tomorrow and God’s soon-coming kingdom.
That Thursday after the morning broadcast, Frank Hill, the owner/manager of KORE, had some news for Mr. Armstrong—both good and bad.
First, the good news: The messages Mr. Armstrong had given were unlike anything radio listeners had ever heard before. They wanted to learn more—they made phone calls and sent in letters to the radio station, asking for literature, even though Mr. Armstrong did not offer any.
Next was the bad news: Mr. Armstrong’s listeners had confronted their pastors and asked them why they were preaching the opposite of what the Bible taught. Embarrassed, these local ministers got together, and informed Mr. Hill that they did not want Mr. Armstrong preaching on the air anymore. And to make certain of this, one of them would be at the station every morning thereafter and take up the free 15-minute airtime.
Mr. Hill could no longer give Mr. Armstrong free air time, but he liked the listener response, and he thought highly of Mr. Armstrong’s broadcasting voice. So he suggested to Mr. Armstrong that they work out a half-hour radio program, broadcasting it as a public service every Sunday. Mr. Hill offered to sell him a half-hour segment on Sunday mornings for less than half of what it would cost the station—$2.50 per half hour.
Mr. Armstrong sent a letter to a small mailing list of Church members and past contributors, asking them for pledges to finance the broadcasting of the radio program. Preaching the true gospel cost money, yet the brethren were not of the rich and famous, the “movers and shakers” of society. They were mostly farmers and country people, who scrimped and saved to regularly pay tithes and give offerings. In order to spread Christ’s gospel beyond the walls of Church services, the brethren had to sacrifice above and beyond their regular contributions—not an easy thing to do during the Great Depression. However, following Mr. Armstrong’s lead, they took up pledges and were able to raise half the amount to finance the weekly broadcast: $1.25 per week. Deciding to step out on faith and trust God to provide the other half, Mr. Armstrong arranged to begin broadcasting the radio program every Sunday, beginning January 1934. This was the birth of the Radio Church of God radio program—and the start of many amazing, awe-inspiring things to come.
The cost seems insignificant by today’s standards, but $2.50 per week during the Great Depression seemed like a huge obstacle—especially after Mr. Armstrong had rejected his $3 per week salary. But he knew that God had opened this door, and he was determined to walk through it. He decided to rely on God to provide the money, which had to be paid in advance of each broadcast.
And God did provide.
For instance, one Sunday morning when Mr. Armstrong did not have the money to pay for the broadcast, he and his wife fervently prayed for God to intervene. As they prayed, a man knocked on the door and handed them his tithe payment—which paid the radio time for that morning. On another Sunday morning in which Mr. Armstrong did not have the money, he started walking to the radio station, believing that God would intervene—and on the way, a stranger handed him the funds that were needed.
These and similar events increased Mr. Armstrong’s faith even more, and inspired him to be even more urgent in proclaiming the good news of Christ returning to bring world peace and universal happiness.
By the end of Mr. Armstrong’s six-week nightly campaign at the Firbutte schoolhouse, a congregation of 19 had been established, including the Armstrongs, the Fishers and others. These early brethren were the pioneers of what became the Philadelphian Era.
The members were organized as The Church of God at Eugene, Oregon, and met at the Jeans schoolhouse, about four miles west of their former location and 12 miles west of Eugene. With Mr. Armstrong as pastor and Mr. Fisher as deacon, the Church met three times a week—Tuesday and Thursday nights, and afternoon services on the Sabbath. The average attendance was 22 people.
In addition to doing radio broadcasts, Mr. Armstrong began holding evangelistic campaign meetings three times a week at an old Masonic Temple building in downtown Eugene, which had an auditorium on the second floor, with retail stores on the first floor.
These meetings, held every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday night for almost six months, were Mr. Armstrong’s first attempt at holding campaigns three times a week. He advertised them through the radio program and mimeographed handbills. About 100 people attended per meeting, with only about 15 being baptized during this time period.
At these meetings, Mr. Armstrong had trouble dealing with “Pentecostal” types—people who were more concerned with getting emotional “highs” than with learning God’s truth. They were turned off by any sermon that taught obedience to God and His laws. Ironically, whenever these people needed a minister to pray for their healing, they rushed to Mr. Armstrong.
One “Pentecostal” church, which also broadcast a radio program on KORE, told its listeners that it was acceptable to visit any other churches—just as long as they stayed away from Mr. Armstrong’s campaign meetings.
The converts produced from Mr. Armstrong’s efforts were organized into a local congregation, meeting at his home for morning Sabbath services in Eugene.
Mr. Armstrong began another campaign—this time six nights per week for six weeks—at the two-room Alvadore schoolhouse, 15 miles northwest of Eugene. About three or four Seventh Day Adventist families attended, but one man among them came only to find out what Mr. Armstrong was preaching so that he could discredit him. Yet, the others would not listen to these attacks.
Desperate, the man heckled Mr. Armstrong during his sermon, which was about Christ being in the tomb three days and three nights, proving that the crucifixion was not on Friday, and that Christ was not resurrected on Sunday morning. The heckler tried to embarrass Mr. Armstrong—so Mr. Armstrong had no choice but to embarrass him. He told the young man to spend the rest of the sermon looking up biblical proof for his claims, and to be ready to read it aloud to the whole audience. When the sermon concluded, Mr. Armstrong called on his heckler to read aloud his proof—but the man could not answer. He fumbled through his Bible, looking for verses to refute what Mr. Armstrong had just proven from the scriptures. The heckler stood helpless and confused as people sitting around him began to laugh. Finally, Mr. Armstrong put the man out of his misery and told him to sit down. This was the only time Mr. Armstrong had ever done this, and he did so because, in that circumstance, he felt it was the best way to defend God’s truth and keep people from being deceived. (Notice Proverbs 26:5.)
These meetings also yielded 15 baptized members.
As early as 1927, Mr. Armstrong had envisioned the creation of a magazine that would be like no other publication on Earth, without commercial advertising or a subscription price. In the spirit of Mark 13:10 and Matthew 24:14, he would publish and proclaim the gospel, or good news, of the kingdom of God. It would explain why man cannot solve the troubles, ills, evils and problems that continually plague him. It would reveal the true meaning of biblical prophecy, which had been concealed in the murky waters of false prophetic teachings. This unique magazine would be called The Plain Truth.
Relying on his extensive advertising training and experience, Mr. Armstrong created a mock-up version. He also had a professional letter-artist design its front cover. However, it was not God’s timing to publish The Plain Truth in 1927.
Now that God had opened the door for him to proclaim Christ’s gospel on the radio, Mr. Armstrong believed that the time was ripe to publish The Plain Truth magazine, which Mr. Armstrong decided should carry the subtitle of “a magazine of understanding.” He announced it to listeners of the Radio Church of God program, offering it free of charge. Mr. Armstrong knew that this Work had to be of God—that it could not be of men. He relied on God to inspire those who requested the magazine to contribute donations, tithes and offerings. Yet, Mr. Armstrong never asked the general public for contributions. He only asked this of regular contributors, whom he called “co-workers”—human instruments God had called to contribute to the spreading of the true gospel, the most important message in the history of mankind—people who voluntarily wanted to spread this message, who wanted to share with others the spiritual knowledge and understanding with which God had blessed them.
The first issue of The Plain Truth was published on February 1, 1934, and began with about 350 subscribers. Without extra funds to fall back on, Mr. Armstrong employed the fifth law of success—resourcefulness. He borrowed a typewriter and bought some mimeograph stencils and paper, and, having free, temporary access to a mimeograph machine, he produced and published the inaugural edition.
Afterward, the magazine was published on a used $10 Neostyle, which predated the mimeograph. It had to be operated by hand, with paper being fed into it one sheet at a time. Articles were created on a secondhand typewriter, which also cost $-10.
The Plain Truth was always intended to be written for the general public, and not exclusively for Church members or religious people. Its purpose was to take the gospel to non-religious people and make God’s truth plain to them.
Years later, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “It is doubtful whether any institution in human history started from as humble and small beginnings. When God starts something on His power alone, it is big from the beginning. For example, the creation of the universe—the creation of the earth. But when God starts something through humans, it usually, like the grain of mustard seed, starts the very smallest and most humble, and then grows as the spiritual character of the humans develops” (“Now It Must Be Revealed How the Worldwide Church of God Began,” The Good News, May 1979).
The Plain Truth was part of what Mr. Armstrong called a “Three-Point Campaign”: The radio broadcast brought in listeners—the magazine gave readers greater details of what the Bible actually teaches—and these were followed and reinforced by nightly evangelistic campaigns.
Mr. Hill suggested that the Radio Church of God program be like a Sunday morning church service in a 30-minute format. Mr. Armstrong agreed. The format involved: singers (at first, it was a duet of Claude and Velma Ellis; then it became a mixed quartette of Mrs. Armstrong singing alto, daughter Beverly soprano, Mr. Ellis tenor, Alfred Freeze bass, and Mrs. Ellis on piano) singing church hymns. Then Mr. Armstrong would give his message.
Over the years, the format was eventually changed in order to attract a much wider audience of both the religious and non-religious.
Since he had remained puzzled as to what form of government should function in God’s Church, Mr. Armstrong went along with the status quo—democratic government, in which the lay members had at least as much a voice in things as the ministry did. For example, when Mr. Armstrong was first offered radio time, he brought the decision before the Church, which unanimously approved.
God did not reveal to him His true form of government until the winter of 1952-53—after many trials, tests and acts of persecution forced Mr. Armstrong to see that democracy never worked in God’s Church. In order to feed, protect and lead the flock most effectively, he would learn that God’s government must be administered from the top down by loyal, faithful ministers and leaders, beginning with one leader.
Government is just one of many truths that God revealed to Mr. Armstrong one step at a time.
The Work of God started small and slowly grew—but grow it did! Mr. Armstrong knew that this was God’s Work, not his. He understood that he was only an instrument in God’s hands.
By the spring of 1935, morning Sabbath services were alternatively held at the Jeans and Alvadore schoolhouses, with afternoon services at Mr. Armstrong’s house in Eugene. The three groups needed to be combined into one local congregation. This reality led Mr. Armstrong and the brethren to buy a small church house (for $500, with a $100 down payment), which had been built by Elder Taylor four years earlier. The building was in much need of work, so Mr. Armstrong asked the membership to contribute to a special offering fund to supply lumber and paint. Then he and the other brethren made all the necessary repairs. When it was finished, the Church of God at Eugene, Oregon held its first Sabbath service there, on June 1st of that year.
Soon after, Mr. Armstrong held an evangelistic campaign at this location, attracting a sizeable audience every night. At the close of one service, a young woman spoke with Mrs. Armstrong. She said that she was an atheist, and had come with two other friends in order to laugh at how “ignorant” and “backward” ministers were. But this young lady was amazed by Mr. Armstrong’s explanation of the prophecy of Daniel 11, showing its biblical fulfillments through history. This woman—who was the secretary of the local Communist Party—continued attending the meetings, and eventually repented and was baptized! (Of course, she resigned from the Communist party.) Her example led her mother to be baptized also.
Following the campaigns he held at the old Masonic Temple in downtown Eugene, Mr. Armstrong used one of its smaller rooms as an office, free of charge. But when the owner found a tenant for the entire building, Mr. Armstrong had to move. The owner offered him a room in the Hampton Building, which was across from the Post Office. This new office cost $5 per month. It had no windows, only a transom over the door to the hall, and one over the door leading to the Labor Union Hall. Mr. Armstrong and the other office staff could only work two hours at a time before having to retreat for about an hour due to stale tobacco smoke that drifted in from the Labor Union Hall.
A few months later, they were able to afford a small fan, which circulated the stale air. The office did have a skylight, but it was so filthy with dirt and grime that sunlight could barely filter through.
There were not enough funds to buy desks, so Mr. Armstrong used a table for his office desk, while other tables were used for printing, folding and mailing the magazine. Instead of filing cabinets, they acquired cardboard cartons from grocery stores, using them to store correspondence folders and records. The cartons had to be pasted with plain wrapping paper to cover up their whiskey labels.
Mr. Armstrong wrote articles on a used typewriter, and then cut the stencils for headlines. Mrs. Armstrong hand-cranked sheets of the magazine on the Neostyle, assembled the pages, folded them, and then addressed them in pen and ink. She also maintained The Plain Truth mailing list. Before carrying them across the street to the Post Office, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong always knelt down, prayed and laid hands over the magazines, asking God to put His blessing on the copies and their readers.
Beverly Armstrong worked as office secretary. Many others volunteered their time in the office on various occasions, wherever there was a need.
For a time, Mrs. Helen Starkey worked as an unpaid secretary. She later received a salary of $5 per week. In 1937, Mrs. Starkey sent a letter to co-workers, without Mr. Armstrong’s prior knowledge, asking them to contribute to buying the Armstrongs a car. (Their previous car had just “given up the ghost.”) Without a reliable car, Mr. Armstrong could not make the weekly circuit to and from Portland—the radio program would die out. The co-workers responded by sending in enough money for Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong to buy, on monthly payments, a 1934 Graham.
In December 1934, Christ opened the door for the gospel to be preached, via radio hook-up, from KORE in Eugene to Portland’s KXL and Salem’s KSLM. Mr. Armstrong wrote a letter to co-workers, asking them to pledge enough money—$50 per month for both 100-watt stations—to finance this wonderful opportunity. Portland had the potential to expand the listening audience tenfold!
However, as before, only half of the amount needed could be guaranteed (at least, humanly). Unfortunately, like other servants of God before him, Mr. Armstrong wavered in faith and did not walk through the door Christ had opened to him. To teach His servant a lesson in faith, God withheld other opportunities to expand the Work for two years. Mr. Armstrong and the Radio Church of God program remained limited to one tiny 100-watt radio station.
In addition, The Plain Truth ceased to be published for 2½ years! After July 1935, not another issue of the magazine was published until January 1938. Mr. Armstrong knew that this was because he had walked by sight instead of by faith. After 2½ years of witnessing the Work being affected by that decision, Mr. Armstrong was determined to never again doubt where God was working.
Despite these two setbacks, Mr. Armstrong’s estimated listening audience grew to 8,000 every broadcast. And, by August, the radio audience grew to about 10,000 people.
In late 1936, Mr. Armstrong tried to get the program on Portland’s most powerful station—50 times more powerful than KORE—reaching throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The cost was $110 per month, and the pledges fell short by more than half. It was obvious to him that this door was closed. Mr. Armstrong had to learn to wait on Christ to open each door according to His time schedule.
In the meantime, after being on the air for almost two years, the monthly income of the Work grew to about $40 to 45.
In November, the door was opened in Portland—but only on KXL, a tiny 100-watt station. Salem’s KSLM was added to this hook-up, creating the Work of God’s first radio network.
In early 1937, mail response indicated that the program’s audience had leaped to 40,000-50,000 listeners, and by spring, 60,000. In November, this mushroomed to 100,000 weekly listeners! (And yet, the Philadelphian Era of God’s Church only had a membership of a relatively small number of people, with a few co-workers. Just like today, God was using a tiny flock to reach an audience many, many times its size.)
In September 1937, the radio program left KXL to step up to 500-watt station KWJJ, also in Portland. Along with an increase in broadcasting power, this meant an increase in travel. Mr. Armstrong would broadcast live from KORE each Sunday at 10 a.m., simultaneously broadcasting over KSLM. Then he would drive north to Portland for the 4 p.m. broadcast—a roundtrip of 200-plus miles every week. Combine this with conducting two Sabbath services, weekly Bible studies, magazine writing and publishing, answering letters, running an office, holding evangelistic campaigns, visiting and counseling with the brethren, raising a family—Mr. Armstrong was a very busy man!
He decided to launch a few short campaigns—a two-week campaign at the Clear Lake schoolhouse, between Eugene and Alvadore, and at another schoolhouse near Globe, Oregon, about 40 miles north of Eugene. There was also a three-week campaign held at the Eldreage schoolhouse, 12 miles north of Salem. It maintained a nightly turnout of 50 to 70 people.
Finally, The Plain Truth magazine was back in operation, beginning January 1, 1938, with a mailing list of 1,050 subscribers. With that many copies to make, the magazine was becoming too large to mimeograph. The Plain Truth had to be reduced to only three pages per issue—and only seven could be sent out that year.
By early 1939, the old, worn-out Neostyle was ready to be “put out to pasture.” A new mimeograph had to be obtained or the magazine would cease to exist. The Plain Truth was being read by several thousand people, and the Radio Church of God program was being heard by 100,000 people—yet only a few took the next step and contributed to God’s Work. (Remember, at no time did Mr. Armstrong ever ask for money from the general public, only from those who gave regular contributions.)
By this time, Mr. Armstrong was driving 600 miles a week in order to get out Christ’s true gospel—a message that had not been preached to the world at large since the apostle Paul’s ministry!
The February-March 1939 issue of The Plain Truth featured an article about the coming final resurrection of the Roman Empire under a unified European government. It also warned that God would use that resurrected government as His instrument of punishment against the modern-day descendants of the “lost tribes” of the house of Israel—largely the American and British peoples.
The following month, about 1,000 extra subscription requests came in for the magazine.
Not long after the article was published, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini emerged on the world scene, with Hitler, culminating the prophesied sixth “head” of the beast of Revelation (Rev. 17:9-10).
By March 1940, the magazine, though still mimeographed, reached a circulation of 2,000.
In between holding evangelistic campaigns, writing and publishing The Plain Truth magazine, broadcasting the radio program, and leading the Church at Eugene, Mr. Armstrong somehow made time for visiting new converts and prospective members. However, lacking local ministers to feed, protect and lead the flock—to counsel with them about their personal problems, and keep them from being deceived by “grievous wolves…speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30)—many brethren gave up. Only a tiny few kept themselves from being conquered by man’s three deadly spiritual enemies: the world, the god of this world (II Cor. 4:4), and the self.
In May 1937, the three-station radio program, in association with high schools across Oregon and southwestern Washington, targeted high school students. This led to a youth camp meeting held in cooperation with the Salem, West Virginia Church of God group.
The son of one of the “twelve apostles” of that group told Mr. Armstrong that the Salem leaders were plotting against him. They planned to discredit him at the camp meeting and thus destroy the Radio Church of God program.
Mr. Armstrong boldly told his attackers that there would be no camp meeting. When one of the “apostles” protested, Mr. Armstrong reminded him that he had rented the campgrounds in his name, and that he also controlled the mailing list. And the vast majority of the attendees were of the congregations he pastored in Eugene and Jefferson. They would follow his lead. “On next Sunday, I shall announce to the radio audience that the camp meeting, to start that night, has been cancelled. nobody will come! Now tell me, please—how are you going to stop me from stopping the camp meeting, and saving the broadcast?”
Though he was reluctant, the man gave his personal guarantee that Mr. Armstrong would not be attacked at the camp meeting. And yet, whenever Mr. Armstrong preached at the meetings, the preacher speaking after him would do everything in his sermon to distort, undermine and rip apart whatever Mr. Armstrong had talked about.
Then came a ministers’ meeting, in which Mr. Armstrong was craftily betrayed by a man he thought was a friend. Speaking before everyone, this “friend” sadly announced that, since Mr. Armstrong was so overworked, the ministry was going to “help” him by relieving him of some of his “burdensome” duties and appoint one of their elders—one who happened to be hostile to Mr. Armstrong—to take over as pastor of the Jefferson congregation.
That was the last straw! Every member of the Eugene church and half the members of the Jefferson congregation, including the local elder and deacon, severed all ties with the Salem, West Virginia group. All cooperation with that organization came to a halt.
Over the many years, that group and its ministers dwindled into numerous, tiny splintering groups. “Then they split and re-split,” Mr. Armstrong later wrote, “until I lost all knowledge of how many splintering groups there are” (“Personal,” The Good News, August 1969).
The Armstrong family was under continual scrutiny by some in the Church. Though the Armstrongs were poor, reduced to wearing hand-me-downs, some actually criticized how they used their income, which came from the tithes and offerings of the lay members, as the Bible instructs.
One woman stopped tithing because she did not want “her” tithes (which actually belong to God—Mal. 3:8-10) to be used to buy silk stockings for Beverly and Dorothy Armstrong. The woman thought that cotton stockings were good enough. (Nylon stockings were not yet invented.) The Armstrong girls were in high school at the time, an awkward age for most who were growing into adulthood. To wear cotton stockings to school at that stage in their young lives would have made them social misfits, dooming them to all kinds of cruel taunts and ridicule. Mrs. Armstrong was determined to keep this from happening, so she humbly accepted worn silk stockings from other women, sewing up the runs in them.
In his autobiography, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “It was incidents like this that soured and prejudiced our children against God’s truth. Through the years most of the members of the church in Eugene lived better, economically, than we.”
In an April 1940 letter, Mr. Armstrong had to inform co-workers that funds were becoming so scarce that he had to take money intended for his family’s needs and use it for God’s Work. They were on the verge of losing their home. One of the Armstrong girls had to quit school. For quite some time, they had gone without much-needed clothing. He wrote, “I could tell you more, but do not want to talk about ourselves—our heavenly Father knows. We are willing and glad to make any sacrifice. but the point is, we have now come to the END, unless substantial help comes at once. The work cannot be held up by this method of personal sacrifice any longer. As long as it was only us who suffered, I said nothing. But now the Lord’s work will stop unless substantial help comes quickly. For the work’s sake I must appeal to our helpers. I would starve, before I would ask one cent as charity for myself. But I’m willing to humiliate myself in any way for the gospel’s sake.”
When he first began the radio program, he only envisioned taking the gospel throughout the Willamette Valley and maybe Portland. After getting on the air in Portland, he set his sights on Seattle, and then the Pacific Northwest. But it was in May 1940 that he began to think in terms of a national—even worldwide—-Work.
The heart-rending sacrifice of one particular married couple, listeners of the KWJJ broadcast, led to the Work being able to afford to broadcast from Seattle. Their offering was followed by three separate offerings of $100 each—the largest sums the Work had ever received. Besides these, three $50 contributions were sent, along with other offerings. The radio program came on the air Sunday, September 15, 1940, at Seattle’s KRSC, a 1,000-watt station. By November, more than 500 subscription requests came from the Seattle market, and overall mail response indicated a listening audience of 150,000, while the magazine had 3,000 subscribers. It took several days of volunteering from the brethren to write or type each mailing address.
With radio stations in Eugene, Salem, Portland and Seattle, copies of The Plain Truth reached 4,000, with letters from housewives, laborers, farmers, office workers, businessmen, professionals—people from all walks of life.
As the leader of the Work, Mr. Armstrong sacrificed his time and energy to labor under a grueling routine: Leaving Eugene Saturday afternoon, he would travel 320 miles all night to Seattle. That morning, he would go to his hotel and sleep for a few hours. He would be awakened at 5 a.m., shower, shave and dress, and then go to the corner drugstore and buy a newspaper, where he would browse for prophetic news events, while drinking orange juice and coffee. He would finish a 30-minute radio script and make two copies (one for himself, the other for the station owner). Then he would check out of the hotel, and drive to KRSC, scan for last-minute news bulletins, clip them and write out comments, and then go on the air promptly at 8:30 a.m. At nine, he would rush back to his car and drive to Portland, stopping off for breakfast and lunch. He would arrive at Portland by 3 p.m., giving him one hour to check again for last-minute news. Then he would be on the air at 4 p.m., and afterward head for Eugene, arriving at 7:30 p.m. That evening, he would hold a campaign meeting, preaching a sermon every night of the week. During the day, Mr. Armstrong would work in the office answering letters and writing magazine articles, or he would go out and counsel with people, speak with prospective members, etc. On the Sabbath, he would conduct morning and afternoon services, and so the routine started all over again.
By mid-May 1941, The Plain Truth reached 5,000 subscribers, and with the August-September issue, it went from being mimeographed sheets of paper to a 16-page printed magazine, published every two months.
For the last seven years, the Work had to be produced from a smoky, windowless, one-room office—and without desks or mailing equipment. Then God opened another door for the Work: an office with large windows, plus the ability to afford a desk, which Mr. Armstrong used in God’s service for many years. They were also able to buy a used, foot-operated addressing machine and Mr. Armstrong’s first filing cabinet. “If anyone doubts that this work started the very smallest, let him realize we had to wait seven years for this cardboard file cabinet—and then we could afford only the one.”
“So now I saw Ezekiel was set a watchman—to watch international conditions as well as God’s prophecies—and when this invasion is preparing, and near, shortly prior to Christ’s coming to rule the world, the watchman is to WARN the people who had migrated, in Ezekiel’s day, to northwestern Europe and the British Isles! But Ezekiel never carried that warning! It was not for his time! He was used merely to write it! It now became plain to me that God was to use a modern 20th-century ‘Ezekiel’ to shout this warning.”
America was on the verge of being pulled into World War II, which had been raging across Europe for almost two years. Mr. Armstrong wondered: Could this be the prophetic “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7), the divine punishment of military invasion, famine, pestilence and slavery that God would unleash and use to chastise the modern descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh? If so, then they had to be warned! Mr. Armstrong did not see himself as a modern-day “Ezekiel” chosen by God to cry out and boldly tell the American and British peoples of their sins—on the other hand, he saw that no other man was taking this strong warning to Israel.
“…I did see, plainly, that God said: ‘IF the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned’ that God would require the blood of the people—and now whole peoples—at the watchman’s hand!
“That was a stern warning to me. At least I was one of the watchmen who did see it coming! God had already placed the broadcasting facilities of three radio stations at my disposal. A quarter of a million people now heard my voice weekly. Possibly ten or fifteen thousand people read the 5,000 copies of The Plain Truth.
“Of course I had been sounding this warning all along—but only in the Pacific Northwest. Now I began to see that God intended to send it to ALL ISRAEL. And He had revealed to me that that meant, today, the United States, the British Commonwealth, and the nations of northwestern Europe. The idea of my being used, personally, in reaching Britain and these other countries did not yet take sharp focus in my mind. But I did now, for the first time, begin to think actively and definitely about this work expanding to the entire United States!”
Soon after Mr. Armstrong came to this conclusion, his sister-in-law and a friend decided to go on a road trip to Detroit. They asked Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong to go with them. The Armstrongs drove their car, their first “new” one (bought from a DeSoto dealer, whose wife had only used it for six weeks; it only had 1,700 miles on it).
But it was more than just a pleasurable road trip. Mr. Armstrong intended to get the radio program to air over WHO, in Des Moines, his hometown. This was a 50,000-watt radio station that transmitted not far from the middle of the United States, broadcasting across the nation.
As he had done decades ago, Mr. Armstrong sought the help of his uncle Frank, who used his influence to arrange a meeting with WHO’s general manager. Three Sundays a month were cleared for Mr. Armstrong for about $60 per half hour. It was definitely an incredible opportunity, but it was one the Work at that time could not afford.
On the way home to the West Coast, Mr. Armstrong headed for Los Angeles to look for potential radio stations there. Hollywood was America’s radio headquarters, producing most of the top programs. This meant that the Radio Church of God program could get quality recordings for its transcription disc. At that point in time, Mr. Armstrong had been limited to producing homemade transcriptions that lacked the tell-tale sign of professionalism. Having been in advertising for several years, Mr. Armstrong knew that the more professional a product was, the more that product would command respect and be taken seriously. The recordings he made back in Oregon would not be accepted at larger-watt stations.
Though Los Angeles had religious programs on the air, the stations there were beginning to turn away their business. Mr. Armstrong did speak with the station manager of KMTR, who seemed to be open to having his program on their airwaves. Though he was not ready to broadcast over their airwaves at that time, Mr. Armstrong would inquire about it later when the time was right.
Mr. Armstrong had worked virtually day and night nonstop for the past 7½ years—and he was in dire need of rest. So he, along with his family, rented a small cabin along the Oregon Coast, and fasted for 18 days. After being recharged, both physically and spiritually, Mr. Armstrong resumed his work back in Eugene, ready to spread the gospel further than before.
To cut down on the strain of driving all the way to Seattle and back every weekend, he decided to leave his car in Portland, and then take a train to Seattle. But the train was running late—too late to do the Seattle broadcast on time. Mr. Armstrong decided to ride the train to Tacoma, Washington, and then he caught a taxi to Seattle, arriving there on schedule. Not wanting to chance being late again, after the broadcast he caught a plane back to Portland so he would be on time for the 4 p.m. broadcast there.
For Mr. Armstrong, this plane ride was memorable for two reasons. First, it was the first time in his life that he had ever flown. Second, during the flight, the captain of the plane exited the cabin and spoke to each passenger, breaking bad news: That morning, December 7, 1941, the Japanese fleet had just attacked Pearl Harbor and other U.S. military bases and airfields in the region. Thousands of soldiers were killed, missing or wounded—hundreds of military aircraft were damaged or destroyed—eight battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers and several auxiliary vessels were either damaged or sunk. The United States Pacific Fleet was virtually destroyed.
America had been pulled into World War II!
Mr. Armstrong’s 4 p.m. broadcast from Portland was driven by this devastating news. In it, he explained to his listeners the prophetic meaning behind these earth-shattering events. Mr. Armstrong’s future broadcasts came to analyze the war, combining his biblical knowledge and prophetic understanding with his business training in analyzing and processing the news. The listening audience grew. The radio station managers noticed the changes to the program and encouraged Mr. Armstrong to continue. For some time, they suggested that he drop the program’s church format altogether. Mr. Armstrong did not want to do this at first, but he had gradually reduced the live hymn singing. Finally, he changed the radio program to an all-talk format, examining world events in the light of Bible prophecy.
Another change was made: The Radio Church of God program took on a new name, becoming The World Tomorrow radio program. It still proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God, but in a way that appealed to the non-religious as well as churchgoers.
By the spring of 1942, Mr. Armstrong believed that the Work was ready to branch out in Southern California. He drove to Los Angeles and got The World Tomorrow program on the air at Hollywood’s KMTR. Though only a 1,000-watt station, its transmitter stood above an underground river—which, through a quirk of nature, produced a radio signal equivalent to 40,000 watts! Its programs could even be heard over the mountains in Bakersfield.
Two weeks after debuting on KMTR, Mr. Armstrong was offered a timeslot of 5:30 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. Mr. Armstrong knew that Christ was opening this door, the biggest one to date. It was a tremendous opportunity to expand God’s Work even further—yet it cost six times more than what it cost to broadcast only once a week. There was no time to send out Co-Worker letters, asking for pledges. Mr. Armstrong had 24 hours to take the timeslot or turn it down.
Back in Portland, he had learned the lesson of not walking through the doors Christ opened to him—two years of being limited to a tiny 500-watt station and 2½ years of The Plain Truth shutting down for lack of funds. Mr. Armstrong did NOT want to repeat this! He telephoned his wife back in Eugene to find out the total balance of what they had in the bank—which happened to be exactly one week’s worth of radio airtime. Mr. Armstrong took every cent he had in the bank and committed to air six times a week on KMTR. He trusted in God to provide the rest.
Mr. Armstrong was not disappointed, for not only did a huge mail response result from this, more tithes and offerings came in, too! Week after week, just enough money was sent in to Eugene headquarters to purchase a week’s worth of airtime. Mr. Armstrong recognized that God was providing for their every need. And the size, span and power of the Work were doubling.
From 1942 to 1947, Mr. Armstrong used several different men as the radio program’s announcer. But the one who was to hold the job for many decades was Art Gilmore. His voice was well-known as the announcer for popular national radio shows of the day, like Amos ‘n’ Andy, Red Ryder, Dr. Christian, Stars Over Hollywood, and Murder & Mr. Malone.
In June 1942, Mr. Armstrong invited his listeners to attend a campaign meeting he was holding at the Biltmore Theater, the largest theater in downtown Los Angeles. At the meeting, Mr. Armstrong addressed 1,750 people, and talked about events in the war, tying in biblical prophecy. At the close of the service, instead of passing collection plates and asking for donations like most preachers did, Mr. Armstrong merely mentioned that there were two offering boxes at the rear of the lobby for those who wanted to leave a contribution. And many of the attendees did leave offerings. In fact, there was exactly—to the penny—enough money to pay for the theater, the janitor, the electrician, the lobby signs and other expenses.
Mr. Armstrong’s stay in Los Angeles lasted for months. Before heading back home to Eugene, he was able to get the radio program over the air at San Diego’s KFMB, whose signal could be picked up more than 100 miles away.
Next, Mr. Armstrong traveled back to Des Moines and, now being able to afford it, bought daily airtime on WHO. He first broadcast from there at the end of August 1942. The World Tomorrow program had finally gone nationwide!
However, that following January, WHO gave Mr. Armstrong notice that the program would be cancelled. Mr. Armstrong moved into action. He contacted the listeners of the WHO broadcasts, who listened from every state in the continent. This led to 2,200 letters flooding the radio station. The sales manager was not pleased. However, he and Mr. Armstrong worked it out so that the radio program could stay on the air until their contract was up.
Mr. Armstrong then arranged to have The World Tomorrow air at WOAI, in San Antonio, Texas. It, too, was a 50,000-watt station. In this way, he could establish a large audience with WOAI before going off the air at WHO 6½ months later.
From 1941 to 1943, Mr. Armstrong had been holding evangelistic meetings in downtown Seattle and in Everett, Washington, resulting in a local congregation. The tithes and offerings of this small church led to going on the air at 5,000-watt station KVI, in Tacoma. Its signal was enhanced to about 25,000 watts, due to the station’s transmitter being sent from an island in Puget Sound. Meanwhile, the program continued to be broadcast from Seattle’s KRSC.
As more radio stations were added in 1943, the program’s audience grew to hundreds of thousands of listeners and The Plain Truth went to 35,000 copies, reaching every American state and every English-speaking province in Canada.
Mr. Armstrong made several trips to Hollywood, broadcasting from there several weeks at a time, while continuing to hold campaign meetings in Los Angeles. The baptisms resulting from this led Mr. Armstrong to form a small congregation of 23 people. This happened in the fall of 1943. Mr. Armstrong also decided to set over them a former minister, a man whom he had become acquainted with during his visits to Southern California. This man appeared to be friendly, had a good personality and seemed liked by all. Mr. Armstrong even had this minister visit Eugene, paid for by the Work, to help him in holding the Feast of Tabernacles there.
But one year later, Mr. Armstrong discovered that the little flock in Los Angeles had been destroyed. Of those he was able to contact, Mr. Armstrong learned that this minister was not so well liked after all.
At the next Feast of Tabernacles, in 1944, the man attended the Eugene services, and then gained the affection of the brethren from the Seattle/Everett congregation. He soon became their local pastor.
It turned out that this “minister” did not believe the truths of God’s Word, as he had proclaimed to Mr. Armstrong so many times previously. As soon as he made a following for himself out of the Seattle/Everett brethren, he preached against tithing. The brethren under him stopped sending in tithes to Eugene headquarters—and about 25 percent of the Work’s income was suddenly taken away!
Then, their new pastor proclaimed that tithing was okay after all. So the brethren resumed paying tithes—only now the money went directly to him.
This man’s treachery was a huge setback to the Work.
Due to low funds, the 1944 January-February issue of The Plain Truth was cancelled. Ten thousand requests for one of the earlier versions of Mr. Armstrong’s United States and Britain in Prophecy booklet went unfulfilled. The Work was getting behind in paying its broadcasting bills, and the radio program was in danger of being taken off the air. Co-workers did not send in enough money to avert this financial emergency. So Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong went the extra mile, selling their home to put the money back into God’s Work.
The March-April Plain Truth was published, as were extra copies of the booklet. The program continued broadcasting. The Work continued forward.
But Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong’s sacrifice meant putting their furniture in storage, and moving from motel room to motel room every three days, and sometimes living in motor courts up to a week or two at a time. It meant being refused by motel owners, who reserved their rooms for out-of-towners only. It meant eating out at restaurants every night, which was both costly and unhealthy, while struggling to raise two teenaged boys (the girls had since married and moved out). And it meant, months later, finally being able to at least rent two rooms in a boarding house, while still having to share a bathroom with other renters.
Meanwhile, The Plain Truth had grown too large for the local printing company to continue publishing it. Since Mr. Armstrong visited Hollywood to use its quality recording facilities as often as he could, he began to investigate potential large-scale printing operations in Los Angeles. The idea of permanently moving to Southern California was taking shape.
It was early 1945. America’s President Franklin D. Roosevelt was dead. Nazi Germany was all but defeated. Representatives from nations around the world met in San Francisco to form the United Nations. As editor and publisher of The Plain Truth magazine, Mr. Armstrong received full press credentials from the U.S. State Department for himself and his wife. And then, on that historic April 25, the Armstrongs watched as men delivered speech after speech, proclaiming that this manmade global organization would be mankind’s last hope for world peace.
But Mr. Armstrong knew what the Bible said—that the only chance for lasting world peace would not come from any of the governments of men, but from the soon-coming, world-ruling government—kingdom—of God.
At the Conference, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong met and interviewed several dignitaries from various nations, such as Sheik Hafiz Wabba of Saudi Arabia.
Toward the end of 1945, God opened two huge doors for His Work: daily broadcasts at 100,000-watt station XELO, and debuting daily at 150,000-watt station XEG. Both reached all across America. Meanwhile, The Plain Truth reached 75,000 in circulation.
Mr. Armstrong was beginning to see that the Work was becoming a worldwide organization—and yet the headquarters in Eugene did not reflect this. For the past 12 years, he had assumed the roles of business manager, editor, printer and office clerk, and had taken on other various duties.
By mid-February, his son-in-law Vern Mattson, who had married daughter Dorothy, joined the growing staff and became office manager, handling the bills, financial records, budgeting, etc.
In late May, Mr. Armstrong’s other son-in-law, James Gott, who had married daughter Beverly, headed the new printing department, which was used to publish booklets.
The publishing and mailing of 75,000 magazines and the producing of top-quality broadcast recordings were causing the Work to outgrow its facilities in Eugene, Oregon. This led to a need to acquire larger office space. Moving office headquarters to Southern California went from an idea to a necessity. But neither Mr. Armstrong nor Mrs. Armstrong wanted to live in Hollywood or Los Angeles, so they set their sights on the city of Pasadena, whose pace of life was more traditional and conservative than Los Angeles or Hollywood.
In December 1945, during one of his visits to Hollywood for recording the radio program, Mr. Armstrong began his search for office space in Pasadena, as well as a place to live. Weeks turned into months. The Work continued to explode. There was a growing need for trained help.
In the past, Mr. Armstrong had held nightly evangelistic campaigns in various towns and cities in Oregon and Washington. His efforts yielded newly baptized members, who were then organized into local Church of God congregations. However, without a trained minister to spiritually feed, protect and lead them, these new converts got pulled back into the world, or were deceived by false leaders bringing false doctrines. Not one of these small congregations survived more than six months.
Mr. Armstrong took note of what a large denominational church in Eugene did to prevent this same problem from happening to its followers. That church established a school to train ministers, which became its headquarters. With trained pastors to establish, maintain and nurture each new congregation, these tiny churches grew.
In Old Testament times, servants of God such as Samuel and Elijah led schools or colleges that trained men to preserve true, godly values in rebellious ancient Israel. Mr. Armstrong began to realize that God wanted a college once again—an institution of higher education founded on His principles and His teachings. This college would educate and train young people to become leaders. Some would become ministers and lead congregations that would continue to be established. Others would serve in the ever-growing Work, which would be headquartered on campus.
However, Mr. Armstrong knew that God’s college should not be a “Bible school” or theological seminary. In the world, people choose to be ministers, treating it like any other profession. But the Bible reveals that no human being can choose to be an ordained minister of Jesus Christ. That man must be called into the ministry. And, just as Christ chose which disciples would be His apostles, a true minister of God is chosen by Christ (John 15:16). No man can choose to be ordained into God’s ministry.
Mr. Armstrong knew that it was imperative that no student come to God’s college expecting to become a minister. Only one’s fruits can reveal if that is God’s will.
Rather than specializing in theology alone, this new college would provide students with a balanced, well-rounded liberal arts education—with biblical and theological training offered as just one of several fields of study.
God’s college would also be coeducational, training young women to take on vital roles in the Work. This new college would develop the character and personality of young, teachable minds, providing poised, properly cultured, well-rounded individuals who would, upon graduation, in some cases, return home to local congregations and set right examples among the brethren.
The schools, colleges and universities of this world have rejected God and His divine revelation—the foundation of true knowledge. As a result, mankind’s modern educational system has embraced a deadly mixture of truth and error. Ambassador College’s basic purpose was to mold young, fresh teachable minds and teach its students how to live—not just how to make a living.
This is how Mr. Armstrong envisioned Ambassador College’s purpose and goals:
“Ambassador College knows and teaches the PURPOSE and true meaning of life—the TRUE VALUES that pay off—and THE WAY to peace, happiness and abundant well-being.”
“The Bible is the world’s biggest seller, but also the book almost nobody knows. It is the FOUNDATION of all knowledge, and the approach to acquirable knowledge.
“Ambassador College is pioneering the educational system of the WORLD TOMORROW. A foretaste of that peace, happiness and abundant well-being is radiated by Ambassador students.
“Ambassador students learn HOW to live—THE WAY to happiness—but the ‘how to EARN a living’ is not neglected.
“Ambassador students are taught the MISSING DIMENSION in education—the underlying PURPOSE and the real meaning of life; the worthwhile values; the basic laws of success, not only in economic fields, but in life as a whole. They are given individual attention in the development of character, poise, culture and personality. Ambassador is a unique character-building institution” (The ‘86 Envoy – An Annual Pictorial Record).
At first, Mr. Armstrong only envisioned a small college campus, just one building with three or four classrooms and an auditorium, as well as office space to conduct the Work.
Then he and Mrs. Armstrong searched day after day for a suitable location in Pasadena. They found a vacant lot, about 250 feet by 100 feet, that closely matched what Mr. Armstrong had in mind. Next, he hired two architects to come up with design concepts for the college building. Then, to purchase the land, he planned to set aside a certain amount of money each week until there would be enough for a down payment.
Letters from listeners of The World Tomorrow continued to pour in from all over the nation. Many of them asked to be baptized. So, in the summer of 1946, Mr. Armstrong, with his wife accompanying him, set off on a baptism tour through the United States and Canada.
Their long journey took them to Texas, the bayous of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, back down through Alabama, into western Florida, up the East Coast through Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and then New York and up to Maine. Then they crossed over to New Hampshire, Vermont, then up to Montreal, Canada. From there, they visited prospective members in Ottawa, Toronto, then over to Windsor. They crossed back over into the U.S., visiting Detroit, Chicago, Des Moines, then down into Oklahoma, west through Kansas and back to Colorado. After this, they traveled across the Rocky Mountains, and headed back to Eugene, Oregon.
Many people were baptized. Lives were being converted—changed. The need for trained ministers to pastor local congregations became even more evident.
Mr. Armstrong was unable to carry out his plan to save for a down payment. And even if they could purchase land for the college, the Radio Church of God that Mr. Armstrong had started was a nonprofit organization, not a profitable commercial business. This meant that it was impossible for them to borrow the money needed to construct even a small college campus.
But Mr. Armstrong was determined not to give up. In November 1946, he called upon the services of Mrs. C.J. McCormick, a real estate broker, who showed him a small, 18-room mansion in Pasadena’s “millionaire row.”
It was obvious that the property had, at one time, been magnificently landscaped, though it had not been kept in good condition for several years. In addition to the main building, there was a four-car garage with two servants’ apartments, fountains, beautifully sculptured landscapes, an ornamental retaining wall, lower gardens, a large square pool and other architecturally pleasing garden schemes. With extra work, such as clearing out weeds and re-landscaping to restore its former magnificence, the space held promise.
But the owner, whom Mr. Armstrong referred to as “Dr. B.” (a doctor of law) in his autobiography, wanted $100,000—and he wanted it in cash.
The Work did not have the funds available, but Mr. Armstrong thought more and more about the space. It had the potential for several classrooms, a library and assembly room. The adjoining large dining room could serve as an additional library room, administrative offices, and offices for Church headquarters, including a large mailing department.
Mr. Armstrong asked his architects to inspect the property. They confirmed that it was ideal for a small, but beautiful, college campus. Mrs. Armstrong felt the same way.
It seemed like God wanted the college to be founded there, but where would the money come from?
On Mrs. McCormick’s recommendation, Mr. Armstrong hired Pasadena attorney Judge Morton to draw up a lease-and-option contract of 25 monthly payments of $1,000 each. The contract provided for taking occupancy of the property the following July 1, 1947. Once the monthly payments reached $25,000, this would be used as the down payment. The Church would then exercise its option to buy, and then be given the deed to the property. Dr. B. would retain a trust deed until fully paid.
Would God perform a miracle?
“Then I prayed earnestly,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “I asked God to reveal His will respecting His college by causing Dr. B. to accept if that were God’s will, but to cause him to reject it, if this was not the place God had chosen for His college. I realized there did not appear to be one chance in a thousand that a man who wanted $100,000 cash would let his property go for only $1,000 per month, with no down payment at the start whatever—and taking two whole years and one additional month to build up a 25 percent down payment.”
About three days after submitting his proposition, Mrs. McCormick told Mr. Armstrong that she had the contract “signed, sealed, and delivered”! This was November 27, 1946.
In December 1946, the idea of founding a college immediately led Mr. Armstrong to contact his brother-in-law, Walter E. Dillon (Mrs. Armstrong’s brother). Mr. Dillon held a Master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon, and was a teacher, and later the principal of one of the largest public schools in Oregon. Between 1922 and 1924, Mr. Armstrong coached and helped his brother-in-law win speech contests at Iowa’s Simpson College, and to go on to also win the state contest. Since then, the two men had been closer than their own brothers.
Mr. Armstrong was convinced that Walter Dillon, due to his extensive background as an education administrator and experienced teacher, was the man he needed to be president of the college. After giving it much thought, Mr. Dillon accepted the position.
Next, Mr. Armstrong published a special edition of The Plain Truth (the January-February 1947 issue), using it to recruit students by announcing the fall start of their new college—Ambassador College.
On December 31, 1946, Mr. Armstrong stayed as an overnight guest of Dr. B., who, along with his sister, was still living in the building that was to become Ambassador College.
During a friendly discussion, Mr. Armstrong expressed his concern for the need to train students in several foreign languages so that the gospel could spread to all nations. He wanted them to be able to speak these languages like a native—without a foreign accent. Therefore, the average college foreign language course was insufficient. To achieve what Mr. Armstrong wanted, students would need to live in these foreign countries and learn their languages through everyday experience. This led to the idea of starting a second college, in Europe. Dr. B. said he knew of a villa in Lugano, Switzerland, that would be ideal.
Mr. Armstrong gave the idea extensive thought, then further discussed it with Dr. B., who suggested they both travel to Europe and see the property. Switzerland was a nation of several languages, so it seemed ideal for students to learn various languages. Mr. Armstrong decided to go immediately.
With Mrs. Armstrong accompanying them, they booked passage aboard the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, which was to leave port on February 19. At almost a quarter mile long, 14 decks tall, about twice the weight of a large battleship, and carrying 3,500 passengers, the Queen Elizabeth was, at the time, the largest passenger liner ever built.
Six days later, the Armstrongs arrived in England, docking at Southampton.
Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong checked in at London’s Dorchester Hotel. The next day, when Mr. Armstrong noticed several Arab officials in the hotel lobby, he asked the reception desk if Sheik Hafiz Wabba was in the hotel. He was not, but the sheik did come to this hotel quite often.
The next day, the sheik’s private secretary telephoned him. She told Mr. Armstrong that His Excellency had heard that he was in London, and wished to invite him and Mrs. Armstrong to attend a royal reception to be held that evening in the hotel’s ballroom. The sheik desired to speak with Mr. Armstrong again, as they had done two years previously in San Francisco. The reception—which was in honor of His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, Emir Saud, who later became King Saud of Saudi Arabia—would be the only opportunity to chat, since the sheik planned to leave the next morning.
At the reception, the Armstrongs mingled with an international crowd of lords, ladies, earls, dukes, admirals, commodores, ambassadors and other dignitaries. Later, they were given a private talk with the sheik, who offered a statement that was later published in The Plain Truth.
Resuming their trip, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong caught a sleeping car from France and made their way to Switzerland, where they inspected the potential campus site there. Mr. Armstrong described Lugano as “the Swiss Riviera…different from our mountain or lake scenery,” and called the villa “the most beautiful and elegant interior” he and Mrs. Armstrong had ever seen. He saw that it could house 40 to 50 students and offer six classrooms, a library, a lounge and a dining hall. It certainly appeared that the second campus of God’s college should begin there.
Mr. Armstrong was so impressed with the property’s potential, he wrote, “I have decided DEFINITELY and FINALLY on the Swiss branch of Ambassador. The idea is right. But the PLACE is still open for investigation.”
But it was not to be. God was not ready to start a European campus—at least not at that time. And Mr. Armstrong eventually found out that the place God would choose, over a decade later, would not be in Switzerland.
Having ended their European adventure, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong traveled back to America aboard the Queen Elizabeth, docking in New York in late March, and returning to Eugene, Oregon a few days later.
Putting aside further plans regarding a European branch of the college, Mr. Armstrong focused his attention on making Ambassador College in Pasadena a reality.
The special January-February edition of The Plain Truth, which announced the future college in Pasadena, brought in many applications from prospective faculty members. All were well-educated and had previous teaching experience.
One application came from Dr. H.O. Taylor, chairman emeritus of Wheaton College’s department of physics. He held a Ph.D. from Cornell University, had taught at Cornell, Harvard, and MIT, and was a U.S. naval consultant. Dr. Taylor professed to be a Christian. He was appointed dean of instruction and registrar of Ambassador College.
Another applicant was a high school English teacher who held Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University and the University of Oregon. She was hired as the English instructor. The French instructor was born and educated in France. The history and Spanish instructor held an M.A. from Colorado University. The head of the music department was a graduate of Chicago Musical College. The woman who became Ambassador College’s librarian had served on the staff of the Library of Congress and held degrees in music. The director of physical education had an M.S. from the University of Southern California and had been in charge of the U.S. Navy’s physical fitness program.
These, along with Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Dillon, were Ambassador College’s first faculty.
Returning to Pasadena on March 27, Mr. Armstrong turned his attention to finding a home. Mrs. McCormick, the real estate broker, had three places lined up for him to inspect. The first two were not suitable, but the third was just right, and only three miles from the campus. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Williams, were only willing to sell it to those who would lovingly take care of the property. They took an instant liking to Mrs. Armstrong, and agreed to sell their home for half the listed price. With no down payment or interest, the Armstrongs were to make quarterly payments. The Williams would take a trust deed, while giving possession and the deed in 90 days, when the second payment was to be made.
This was an unbelievable deal! Even Mrs. McCormick said, “It’s like a miracle.”
Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong figured out that the money they had been forced to spend eating out at restaurants, due to living in motels, was almost the same amount as the payments. By buying the house and eating economical home-cooked meals, their new home would not cost them any more than what they had already been spending.
Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong rejoiced to receive this grand blessing, signing the contract on April 1, 1947.
Though he appeared to be a friend to Mr. Armstrong, Dr. B. actually had a secret agenda. His plan was to keep the monthly lease payments and keep the property. Mr. Armstrong soon became aware of his scheme, and, turning to God rather than relying upon himself, was able to thwart his efforts. But this did not happen overnight. It involved many trials, obstacles and headaches—which, if God had not intervened, would have ensured that Ambassador College never got off the ground.
For example, Dr. B. had assured Mr. Armstrong that the property he was purchasing was of solid concrete, fireproof construction. The two architects Mr. Armstrong had hired said the same thing.
However, a month before the school’s inaugural opening, Pasadena building inspectors bored inside the outer layer of hard concrete and found that the structure was actually a frame building—one that did not meet the codes to qualify as a classroom building!
Before they could officially use the building as a college, all walls and ceilings had to be torn out and replaced with fire resistant construction! When the walls were being torn out, the inspector ordered that new electric conduits were required throughout, along with all new plumbing pipes! This extensive work added up to be a $30,000 nightmare!
Mr. Armstrong sent a letter to the brethren and co-workers, explaining this desperate situation. They were moved into action, many sending in thousands of dollars. One man—a farmer who wanted others to receive the type of higher education he had been denied growing up—sent most of his life’s savings. Another radio listener mortgaged his home, loaning the money to Mr. Armstrong, without requiring security.
The people who responded to this emergency letter had taken Christ’s teachings to heart. They were doers, not just listeners, of God’s Word, and believed that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Their hearts, as well as tithes and contributions, were in God’s Work.
What Mr. Armstrong called a “$30,000 headache” not only threatened the college, it also led to the Work getting behind making airtime payment to XELO, the now 150,000 watt clear-channel station at Juarez, Mexico. Together with XEG, these two stations transmitted the radio program over most of the U.S. and into central Canada.
The World Tomorrow was forced off XELO. At XEG, the program had to cancel its weeknight broadcasts, airing only on Sunday nights, until the following October.
Other bills began to pile up. Persistent creditors hounded Mr. Armstrong, demanding payment. The Work even got behind in paying the faculty—which obviously did not go well with the instructors.
Added to this was the constant pressure of naysaying and complaints from within the Church and the faculty. Mr. Armstrong was surrounded by men and women who lacked vision—who could not see beyond the here and now. Like the Israelites in Moses’ day, many in the Church grumbled and moaned, saying that the college should not have been started the way that it did—that Mr. Armstrong should shut it down and focus just on the radio program. They could not see that the living Eternal God was actually building the college, so they constantly talked about “when this thing folds up.” This was irritating—frustrating!—to hear. Mr. Armstrong was determined that Ambassador College would not close its doors.
Though he had suffered many trials and tests, Mr. Armstrong never lost faith in God. Years of living the way that produces lasting peace and true success had taught him that God always keeps His promises. But the constant pressures of such nerve-shattering ordeals came to a boiling point. Every man has his limits—Mr. Armstrong was no different:
“It became almost impossible to sleep nights. I never lost faith—really. I never doubted the outcome. Yet I had not yet learned the total, implicit, trusting faith that can relax and leave it quietly in God’s hands. I was under terrific strain. It was literally multiple nightmares condensed into a super one!
“On one occasion, I almost snapped. I weakened to the extent that I actually prayed, one night, that God would let me die through the night, and relieve me from the almost unbearable agony. But next morning, I was deeply repentant for that, and prayed earnestly for God’s forgiveness. Twice I did give up, on going to bed at night. But next morning was another day, and I bounced back, repentant for having given up—if only momentarily.”
Mr. Armstrong did learn how to relax in faith and quietly place the burden of worry in God’s hands.
Mr. Armstrong received about 40 applications from young people who wanted to attend Ambassador College. However, due to the emergency reconstruction, he had to notify each applicant that the college’s opening would be delayed until further notice.
When it finally did swing open, on October 8, 1947, nearly all applicants had enrolled in other colleges. Including Mr. Armstrong’s son Richard, this left only four students to begin the first year of Ambassador College.
Mr. Armstrong always taught that whenever God does a work through human instruments, that work starts off small like the proverbial mustard seed. In this case, no other college could have started off smaller. At first, there were no dormitories for students to live on campus. There was no real college library—just a room with some books and encyclopedias on shelves, which served as a library, music room, assembly room, study room and lounge. There was no gymnasium, track or athletic field. Some of the living rooms were turned into business offices. The central garage space was converted into a general mailing room. A small printing shop for producing booklets occupied the rear ground-floor room.
These four first-year students were truly pioneers. They had to live off campus to rough it through sparse economic times. The college supplied part-time janitorial work for them, at $40 per month. But their off-campus rent was $31.50 per month! In order to have enough to eat, they often had to go out and pick lamb’s-quarter (wild spinach) growing along certain streets and in vacant lots. And there were times when they went hungry.
Yet they never grumbled or complained, for they hungered even more for the right kind of education. They were of a generation that grew up during the Great Depression. The harsh realities of life had taught them how to go without and make due with whatever was on hand.
Like Mr. Armstrong, they heard people talk about the college in terms of “when this thing folds up.” But these four pioneering students never doubted that this was God’s college—that not only would God keep it alive, He would make it grow!
As stated, Ambassador College was founded to provide a general liberal arts education based on true values, as found in the Bible. Yet finding college instructors who shared this vision was next to impossible. Initially, Mr. Armstrong had to hire instructors who had been educated by man’s educational system, which was founded on human reasoning and pagan traditions. The men and women who became the college’s first faculty members were not the “foolish” or “weak things of the world” (I Cor. 1:26-29). They were highly educated, experienced and talented—but they did not realize that “every man at his best state is altogether vanity” (Psa. 39:5). Since their personal training and education had not been founded on God’s Word, the foundation of true knowledge, they sometimes did things that went against everything Mr. Armstrong was striving to accomplish.
For example, when he had left the planning of the school curriculum, class schedules and the other academic issues in their hands, Mr. Armstrong discovered that his own theology course—the real foundational course of the college—had been reduced to a two-hour minor subject! And it was too late to change the schedule. Classes were under way—all schedules were fixed—all records had been set. He would have to wait a whole school year before making any changes.
Mr. Armstrong sensed an undercurrent of hostility from the teaching staff. They wanted things done their way. After all, they reasoned, we are the experts here.
To steer the college the way it was meant to go—God’s way—Mr. Armstrong required all faculty members and students to attend his classes. This gave him a sounding board, enabling him to constantly keep the biblical foundation of knowledge before the faculty and student body. Mr. Armstrong did his best to make his lectures so logical and fact-based that no one could refute what he taught them.
When the second year began, he made certain that the theological courses were three-hour class periods per week.
That summer of 1948, after much counsel, meditation, prayer and much thinking, Mr. Armstrong was forced to make a tough decision. In the face of all the doomsayers who thought the college was dead in the water, he decided to reduce the school schedule to half-time for one year, along with reducing salaries to half, as well as reducing the number of faculty members. And so, Ambassador College’s second year offered classes only three days a week.
Yet, despite making no efforts to recruit additional students, three new students enrolled that year.
Another crisis appeared on the horizon:
“While we had paid the $25,000 as rent (to be converted into a $25,000 down payment via the lease option), we had, of course, paid no interest. Neither had we paid the taxes or insurance. These accumulated amounts were all to come due on December 27, 1948. They amounted to several thousand dollars. Taxes had to be paid, retroactive for the twenty-five months. Also, interest on the unpaid balance, starting at $100,000, less $1,000 each month for the twenty-five months. Insurance for the twenty-five months also became due in one lump sum on December 27.
“HOW, in our strained circumstances, were we going to raise that large sum of money by December 27? It was a frightening dilemma.”
This came to be a $17,000 problem. Mr. Armstrong did everything he could to solve it, relying on God to save His college. And, once again, God inspired the co-workers to move into action.
At that time, the Work’s normal daily income was about $500. When the tax problem was made known to the co-workers, about $3,000 came in one day—then, the next day, another $3,000 came in—and the next day—and the next day—and the next day! By December 15, the Work had received more than $50,000!
Mr. Armstrong knew that this could not be mere coincidence. No human explanation could explain away what happened. This was a miracle.
“It seemed like God had sent us a great deal more than we needed!” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “But we were soon to see that He had not. The college could not have been saved, had there been less. It turned out we needed considerably more money by December 27 than we had realized. Dr. B. had a $17,000 mortgage on the property that he had to pay off in order to transfer the deed to us. He was several years behind in paying taxes. Under the circumstances, the way he acted—and considering that he was planning to prevent allowing us to exercise our option—unless we had some $15,000 to $20,000 to temporarily loan him, in addition to the money we had to pay him, he could have beaten us and we should have lost the property, after all!
“But God knew precisely what we needed—and he sent it!”
But Dr. B. was not yet finished trying to retain ownership of the property. Even though Mr. Armstrong had the full amount due him in escrow on December 15, Dr. B. and his sister made no effort to sign the papers for the transaction.
Mr. Armstrong discovered through the escrow company that the mortgage had been long, long past due. He made an arrangement that, if Dr. B. refused to sign the papers, the man who held the mortgage would willingly sell it to the Work. Mr. Armstrong did not want to take this route, but it was good to know that, if push came to shove, God had worked it out so that he could force Dr. B.’s hand.
Dr. B. agreed to sign—IF he was loaned a few thousand dollars on top of the money that was deposited to pay for the interest, taxes and insurance. Mr. Armstrong tried to work with the man. He agreed to loan him the money, arranging to deduct $250 from the $1,000-monthly lease payments until the loan was repaid.
Still, Dr. B. and his sister made no move to sign the papers. He claimed that she was too ill to be disturbed. The deadline drew dangerously near. Mr. Armstrong’s back was against the wall. He had no choice but to force their hand. He gave Dr. B. and his sister an ultimatum: Sign now or the lease money would be withdrawn from escrow that afternoon, and placed with a judge. Then Mr. Armstrong would seek for every delay the law allowed—even if it took years. Dr. B. and his sister would not receive a single payment. Meanwhile, the college would still take possession of the property.
“All right, Dr. B.,” Mr. Armstrong said. “Either your sister signs in the next thirty minutes, or I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. I have exhausted my patience on you. I have suffered your harassment now for two years. I’m going to end it here and now!
“Unless I telephone my attorneys that your sister has signed, before 1 o’clock, it will be too late—they will be on the way to file suit in Superior Court. All the money will be withdrawn from escrow yet this afternoon, and placed with the judge. We know you need that money to live. We will then seek for every delay the law allows. My lawyers tell me we can delay action on the suit for years. Meanwhile we remain in possession of the property. The college will go right along. You will receive no payments whatsoever.
“But that is not all. I have negotiated with Mr. Blank to purchase the trust deed on this property which you owe him. I have the money on hand to purchase it. Then, because you have violated the terms of the mortgage, by not paying taxes, I shall immediately foreclose on you. In that manner we will take complete ownership of the property by paying only the amount of this mortgage. We will freeze you out completely. Once this is done, we can withdraw our suit, and recover all the money.”
Mr. Armstrong pleaded with him not to let this happen. Reluctantly, Dr. B. and his sister gave in, went to a notary public and signed the deal.
Ambassador College was now set for an incredible rollercoaster ride into the future.
Ambassador College had survived its first two years, and was set to expand. Added to the original two and one-quarter-acre campus was Mayfair, a stately, 28-room, Tudor-style mansion. This addition expanded the campus to four acres. Used for on-campus housing, most of its re-landscaping was done by students.
In fall of 1949, the student enrollment grew to 12, with Richard Armstrong as the first student body president.
That same year, The World Tomorrow program was still being heard on only nine radio stations. Yet ratings agencies revealed that the program was the second highest rated in Chicago during its half-hour time-slot. Also, during this period, the Work continued to grow at its steady—yet extraordinary—rate of 30 percent each year, which was to continue for 35 years, beginning from 1935 and continuing through 1969, inclusively.
The year 1950 saw a tight financial crunch for the Work, resulting in only four issues of The Plain Truth being published—and these had to be reduced to eight pages each.
That fall, ten new students had enrolled, and the school acquired its third piece of property—a camellia nursery, which became a small athletic field.
Also, for the first time, Ambassador College had freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes. This meant that the school’s first commencement ceremony was held in May 1951.
Even though the gospel was being spread across the nation and into Canada, the Church was still small, with only about 150 people and four congregations, helped by many co-workers. The Work was basically being done by a one-man ministry.
In the years Mr. Armstrong had been away from Oregon and Washington—acquiring airtime on radio stations, making quality recordings for the program, writing all of The Plain Truth articles, moving headquarters offices to southern California, founding and running a college, as well as teaching classes—the Eugene congregation had dwindled from approximately 100 people to about 30. Most brethren and field leaders lacked the vision Mr. Armstrong possessed. Without his constant, reassuring presence before them, many simply could not endure. Consequently, they were led astray by three would-be leaders. Even the 30 members who remained had split into two opposing factions.
Meanwhile, the Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington congregations combined into one congregation, with only about 12 members.
The Church needed trained ministers and leaders in the field to stabilize congregations—fast!
The elders who rebelled, whom Mr. Armstrong had entrusted the care of the brethren, did not remain humble. With Mr. Armstrong far away, they began to view themselves with delusions of grandeur. They forgot they were not—on their own, without guidance from headquarters—equipped to feed Christ’s sheep the proper spiritual diet necessary to overcome the pulls of the flesh, the wiles of the devil, and the influences of the world Satan influences. They did not, on their own, know how to properly structure local Church functions in a way that would yield success and thus grow the local congregations, or how to set the right example before the brethren in speech, dress and conduct. These men were not extensively trained to protect Christ’s sheepfold from false doctrines and other snares.
The brethren in Washington and Oregon were in the midst of doctrinal confusion and opposing factions, led by false leaders. Mr. Armstrong soon came to recognize the root cause for the chaos: the right form of government—God’s government—had to be re-established in the Church.
Meantime, Mr. Armstrong was forced to scrap The Plain Truth mailing list and start from scratch. (The magazine had grown to 50,000 copies.) This solved part of the financial problem of not having enough money to publish so many issues.
Then he decided to publish a magazine for brethren and co-workers, offering practical, spiritual food: The Good News. He would train certain students to write articles for the magazine, giving them the necessary training and experience that would prepare them to eventually write for its sister publication, The Plain Truth.
Since first being called into the understanding of God’s truth in 1927, Mr. Armstrong had been perplexed over the years as to how the Church should be governed. God was not ready to reveal the towering truth of this most important biblical teaching until Ambassador College was established, providing a team of teachable, dedicated and trained leaders for Church headquarters and the field.
In his May 2, 1974 letter to brethren and co-workers, Mr. Armstrong explained why the Church abandoned the inefficient, chaotic, manmade government of democracy, and restored God’s government—administration from the top down. This extensive quote tells the pivotal story in his own words:
“Many times I have told you, dear Brethren, that when God first called me, beginning in the autumn of 1926, that the living Christ brought me into His truth a step at a time. YOU have not had to learn the truth so slowly—Christ used me to do it for you. And one of the very last truths He opened to me was that of CHURCH ORGANIZATION AND GOVERNMENT! There was a reason for this.”
“I want to give you a brief synopsis of my association with the ‘Sardis’ church...”
“Brethren, I have felt it necessary that you should know and understand these things, so you may realize WHY I did not yet fully understand the truth regarding church government and organization, in February, 1939—MORE THAN 35 YEARS AGO—when I wrote an article on church organization.
“There had been much confusion and argument among the ‘Sardis’ brethren about church organization. When the new so-called ‘Bible Form of Church Organization’ was introduced at Salem, naturally the Stanberry people argued against it. I think we all became confused on the question. It’s like being too close to one tree to see the forest. I KNEW that the so-called ‘12, the 70, and the 7’ was entirely misapplied, and definitely NOT God’s form of organization. But also I knew that the ‘General Conference’ form was not Biblical. In both of those—Stanberry and Salem—the people voted—government from the bottom like these dissenters today.
“For this reason I did write an article more than 35 years ago, in the February, 1939, GOOD NEWS—WHICH WENT TO OUR OWN ‘Philadelphia Era’ MEMBERS—NOT to the Salem or Stanberry membership—intended to PROTECT OUR OWN MEMBERS WHO WERE MY OWN CONVERTS, AND NOT TO CONFUSE OR TAKE MEMBERS FROM EITHER OF THEM—proving that this so-called ‘Bible Form of Organization’ was NOT Biblical.
“By that time our own churches, and the RADIO CHURCH OF GOD were operating separately from either of them. But I had not, as yet, come to understand WHAT IS the true Bible form of church organization. When the true knowledge was revealed, LATER, to those of us in the ‘Philadelphia Era’ we put it into practice and PUBLISHED THIS TRUTH.
“Brethren, do you realize THIS IS THE ONLY CHURCH on earth, so far as I know, which has consistently GROWN in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18) as God commands. We GREW into the TRUE knowledge regarding church organization and government.
“We published an article revealing new truth about church organization in The GOOD NEWS, November, 1952, and again in August, 1953, ‘GOVERNMENT in Our Church,’ and in November, 1953, ‘JUDGING and DISCIPLINE in God’s Church.’ As God revealed truth, His Church accepted it. And long since, we came into the FULL TRUTH on church organization and government.”
“Now let’s look into New Testament teaching to see how this is POSITIVELY REVEALED.
“Take the Apostle Paul, called and chosen by Christ direct, as leader, under Christ, in getting THE WORK to the Gentiles, as well as the conducting of services in the churches, after the Work has resulted in conversions and local churches—that is, the function of ‘feeding the flock,’ after THE WORK has not only proclaimed the Gospel as a witness, but also resulted in conversions and adding members to the Church.
“I quoted from Galatians 2:7-8 about how Paul was assigned by Christ to head THE WORK to the Gentiles.
“Now notice Titus 1:4-5 and 2:15—Paul wrote to Titus (UNDER PAUL), ‘To Titus, mine own son after the common faith (even as those under me in THE WORK today, are MY own sons, directly or indirectly, in the Lord)...from God the Father (first in rank) and the Lord Jesus Christ (second in rank) our Savior. For this cause left I (next in rank—to Gentiles—under Christ) thee (under Paul’s authority in the Work) in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders (under Titus who is under Paul, who is under Christ) in every city as I had appointed thee.’
“Paul gave reason, in the following verses, for GOVERNMENT and AUTHORITY in the Church—‘For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers...whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses (even as those fighting against order and government in God’s Church are doing today), teaching things they ought not (as right now), for filthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, (lazy gluttons – RSV)...This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.’ And Paul adds, chapter 2:15, ‘...and REBUKE, with ALL AUTHORITY.’
“Yes, God’s Government is NECESSARY in His Church, and He PUT IT THERE!
“No authority in the Church? What did God MEAN when He says in His Word, ‘OBEY them that have the RULE over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account (as I know I shall) that they may do it with JOY, and not with grief for that (causing those over you grief) is unprofitable for YOU. Pray for us (THOSE OF US GOD HAS SET IN AUTHORITY TODAY) for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things, willing to live honestly’ (Heb. 13:17-18).
“No government in God’s Church? Then WHY did God inspire this to the Thessalonians? ‘And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are OVER YOU in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves’ (I Thes. 5:12-13).
“One of the things SATAN works overtime in injecting into any mind that will let it enter, is RESENTMENT OF AUTHORITY. GOD’S authority is administered in LOVE—and actually as one SERVING those under His authority for THEIR GOOD and out of loving CONCERN for them. That is the way I try to use what authority God has delegated to me, and I try to teach those under me to use it in the same manner—as a servant, not one lording it over those under him—as JESUS gave us an example. Satan DESPISES government, except as HE himself harshly and in hate employs it.”
“Notice what Jesus taught: ‘And there was also a strife among them, which of them (Jesus’ disciples) should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them...but ye shall not be so; but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve’ (Luke 22:24-26). This same conversation is also recorded in Mark 10:42: ‘...ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them...but so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister...’ But no one can say Jesus had no authority.
“Years ago, seeing this, and not considering the many, MANY Scriptures charging some in the Church with authority, rulership, saying to ‘rebuke’ the unruly, etc., I took the above scriptures to mean there is no authority in the Church. I did not want to exercise authority. I was still NEW in God’s truth (this was over 40 years ago). So, in the early days of the parent Church of the Philadelphia era, at Eugene, Oregon, I allowed ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ to come in and sow the seeds of discord among brethren. It resulted in splitting the church in two—possibly turning half my flock onto the way that leads into a lake of fire! God had His own way of REBUKING ME SOUNDLY, making me see this in its true light. Jesus here is talking about THE MANNER in which the authority Christ delegates is used. He is NOT saying there is NO AUTHORITY.”
Mr. Armstrong learned that God’s government protects the Church. It also enabled the Work to leap forward, because without the bureaucratic “red tape” that is a natural by-product of democracy, Mr. Armstrong and leaders under him were able to smoothly administer and execute vital—and often time-sensitive—decisions.
Mr. Armstrong knew that the “Rock” of the Old Testament—the One who spoke to Abraham, wrestled with Jacob, and worked through Moses to lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt—was the Word, or Spokesman, of the God Family (John 1:1-2), who later became Jesus Christ (vs. 14; I Cor. 10:1-4). Since Christ is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), and He declares, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal. 3:6), Mr. Armstrong came to realize that the same God who established a structured, top down government with ancient Israel (Ex. 18:19-22, 25-26), the Old Testament “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38), also established His government for spiritual Israel, the Church. Mr. Armstrong studied passages such as Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12, which list the ranks and offices within the true government of God, and describes the operations, duties and administrations that carry out God’s Work and structures, feeds and protects the Church.
In 1954, Mr. Armstrong wrote the following in the Good News magazine: “It’s vital that you know how God confers the authority of office in His Church.
“Jesus conferred upon His called ministers of His Church the keys of the Kingdom of God. He vested them with authority to guide His Church, and carry on His work, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
“But how can you know who carries this authority? How are those upon whom it is conferred ordained to office? How can you recognize the one and only true Church of God—the very Church Jesus said He would build—His body, thru whom the Spirit of God today carries on the work of God?”
“What is God’s order of authority in His Church?
“You find it in Ephesians 4:11-12: ‘And He (Christ, the head of the Church) gave some, apostles, and some, prophets, and some, evangelists, and some, pastors (leading or presiding elders of local churches), and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come to the unity of the faith...’ In other words, to prevent separate, independent, and competing work which would introduce confusion, and division, driving many out of the Body of Christ, God has organized government in His Church. That government is the government of God.
“It operates from God, at the top, on down. It is government of and by and from God the Father, thru Christ, thru God-called and ordained apostles, thru evangelists, thru pastors, thru teachers, in that order. This government means teamwork. It works for unity, not division.”
“Must God’s Ministers Be Ordained by the Hand of Man?”,
GN, May, 1954
As he came to understand that God’s government is structured with ranks and offices, Mr. Armstrong grew to recognize the true nature of the office and authority he held in the Church and in God’s Work.
For about the first 19 years in leading the Philadelphia era, Mr. Armstrong assumed that, in preaching the gospel and announcing the Ezekiel Warning, he was doing the work of an evangelist.
But it was during a Church festival, held at Belknap Springs, Oregon, in the autumn of 1951, when he was presented with a shocking statement. A man who had just graduated from Ambassador College delivered a sermonette in which he stated with unwavering conviction that “Mr. Armstrong is not a prophet—but a man called to the same kind of commission as the original evangelists and apostles of the first century Church of God: to proclaim the message—the announcement—the good news of the kingdom of God—the message that Christ brought from God and taught His disciples.”
The mere mention of being compared to an apostle made Mr. Armstrong uncomfortable. Initially, he decided to shrug off the sermonette as simply being that of a young man who got carried away in expressing his zeal.
Still, the message did inspire Mr. Armstrong to study the Bible to examine how God’s government was to function in the Church. Over the following year, he learned that the government of God is not a democracy—a system wherein the people rule, deciding who should be ordained into the ministry, how God’s Work should be carried out, and other crucial decisions. Rather, Jesus Christ directs His government through His ordained leaders, functioning from the top down—not as a ruthless dictatorship, as seen in the non-democratic governments and regimes of men (Luke 22:25), but with humility, wisdom, service, and with genuine love and outgoing concern for others, all while upholding the doctrines and traditions of the Bible.
The ministry of that government is structured, from the lowest office to the highest, with local elders, preaching elders, pastors, evangelists, prophets and apostles. Examining each office and then comparing them to how God had used him to preach the gospel and feed the Church, Mr. Armstrong slowly (and reluctantly) recognized that he held the office of apostle. (It was not until the 1970s, when a series of church-wide rebellions forced him to remind the brethren of the authority—and responsibility—Christ bestowed upon him.)
It has always solely been the duty of apostles to take the gospel of the kingdom of God to all nations—the whole world. This began with the original apostles, who were told by Jesus before Pentecost in A.D. 31 to “Go you, therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).
Jesus foretold that the “gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world...unto all nations” before and up to “the end come” (Matt. 24:14), also called “the end of days” (Dan. 12:13) and “the time of the end” (vs. 4), just prior to Christ’s Return. For this to occur, an apostle had to exist in the modern age, when “Many shall run to and fro [mass transportation systems of superhighways, international flight and high-speed bullet trains], and knowledge shall be increased [mass media communications]” (same verse).
“The word apostle means ‘one sent forth,’ Mr. Armstrong explained in a 1978 Good News article.
“The New Testament Church of God received all its teachings, practices, customs, from the apostles, with Peter chief over all the others.
“Yet the apostles were the teachers, who instilled in the Church the beliefs, teachings, practices and customs of the Church. And all members of the Church were required by God to believe and speak the same thing!
“There was no doctrinal board! The teachings of the Church did not come from a council of ministers and/or lay members, who voted on what to believe.
“Right here, mark well this point: God put His truth into His church through Christ and through the apostles!
“Note this! The Church of God is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets...
“I have shown you...that Peter was leader of the apostles—and that the Church received its teachings and doctrines from the apostles!
“So now let it be made official—by Christ’s present-day apostle—that this binding and loosing plainly, clearly was given to Christ’s chief apostle—not to lower-rank ministers ordained by his authority—not by the Church as a body—but by the apostle!
“Jesus Christ is the living head of this Church! He built it through His apostle. And He, Christ, still rules supreme in the one and only area on earth where the government of God is being administered today!”
“How Christ Gives the Church its Beliefs,” GN, Nov. 20, 1978
When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You He that should come [the Christ, the prophesied Messiah], or do we look for another?” (Matt. 11:2-3).
Jesus replied, “Go your way, and tell John what things you have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached” (vs. 4-5).
In answer to how he knew he was an apostle, Mr. Armstrong said in a July 21, 1978 sermon, “I will answer just as Jesus Christ answered when the messengers of John the Baptist came to Him and said, ‘Well John wants to know, are you really the Messiah that was to come?’ Jesus didn’t say yes or no. He said, ‘You go tell John what you hear and what you see being done. Go and show him the fruits of what you see coming from Me.’ By their fruits you shall know.
“No, back in 1933 I didn’t know. Well, how do I know now? Because I looked back in all these years, and I see the fruits. And you’re here as part of it. You’re part of the evidence. Because you’re here. And I had something to do with that. And so did Jesus Christ. And He was using me. I didn’t do it myself. And woe be to me if I ever take credit for doing it.”
God had used him to publicly preach the gospel to several towns and communities, and to broadcast it across the radio and through the pages of The Plain Truth, through which the gospel reached large regions of the United States, Canada and into Mexico. Mr. Armstrong had also been used to baptize a steady and growing number of believers, to heal the sick, and to establish new congregations and ordain elders and deacons within them.
Mr. Armstrong never tied his recognition of the office he held to an ordination service specifically designating him to the rank of apostle. He followed Christ’s instruction to look at the fruits of his work.
This is not to say that Mr. Armstrong was perfect. The authenticity of an apostle—or any minister—does not turn on whether he is or has been absolutely flawless in all his ways. Since no one is perfect—that is, without sin (Rom. 3:23; John 8:7)—this could never be the standard by which that person’s fruits are assessed. And God knows this.
Over the years, many have felt Mr. Armstrong could not have been an apostle because of what “people reported” about him. While he did make mistakes, and certainly committed sins—but nothing remotely close to what is reported—none of these could alter the office he held.
Consider some of God’s greatest servants. The apostle Peter was guilty of blatant racism, which caused Paul to address this with him face-to-face in Galatians 2. The Bible records this for us to see that even the chief apostle, whom Jesus had personally trained, was not perfect—in fact, far from it. And never mind the things that Peter did during his training, before receiving God’s Spirit.
How many today would follow Noah if they knew he got drunk and, in his vulnerable drunken state, was abused by his grandson? Yet Noah is listed with Job and Daniel as “righteous men” of extraordinary spiritual stature (Ezek. 14:14, 20).
Then there is the terrible self-righteousness attitude of Job, reflected throughout the book bearing his name. Yet Job was loyal to God, faithful in observing His Law.
How many today would follow Abraham, called “the father of the faithful,” if they knew that he had lied twice out of fear regarding his wife Sarah—and offered her to a foreign king for sexual favors in order to save his own skin? Most would think Abraham not to be faithful at all, let alone the father of all who would have faith (Rom. 4:16) for the 7,000-year duration of God’s Plan.
Moses had a severe anger problem—and it kept him from entering the Promised Land. He also lacked faith in God’s ability to use him before Pharaoh. At times Moses wished to die because continuing to carry the tremendous burden of leading millions of accusative and constantly complaining Israelites seemed too difficult. In addition, he was a stutterer and previously killed an Egyptian in a violent encounter.
Stubbornly rebelling against God using him to warn Nineveh, Jonah wished to die. So did Elijah and Job. So did Mr. Armstrong, who chronicled this in his autobiography. Of course, all repented and kept going forward.
Certainly Samuel, Aaron and Eli were not renowned for their child-rearing skills—look at the lives of their sons.
Finally, there was King David. Where do we start with him? He was guilty of adultery with the wife of one his most faithful servants, whom David then murdered—even requiring the complicity of other servants to pull it off. In another moment of weakness, David, lacking faith in God to protect his kingdom, numbered the army of Israel. He also fell far short of exercising good childrearing training. And yet, upon his resurrection and being born into the kingdom of God, David will lead all the tribes of Israel, with the 12 original apostles reporting to him.
No, Mr. Armstrong was not perfect, and neither is any apostle. His fruits were discerned by the things he accomplished in serving God—not by someone’s list of real or perceived sins. If Jesus Christ is truly using a man—placing him to the high office of apostle, and charging him with great responsibility—his validity does not depend on whether people think he “passes muster.”
Here is something else to consider: What would be the point of Christ appointing a man to an office or responsibility—any office or responsibility—and then not reveal to His Church how to know that He had done so—and how to distinguish that man from imposters? What if the office were so broad in scope and authority that it affected every possible aspect and element concerning the functioning of the Church around the world—what it believed, including doctrines and traditions, its commissions, who held offices at every level within it, including who became ministers and who did not, who made various levels of decisions and when, as well as who had final authority over God’s tithes, among others? How is the Church to know to follow him? How would other ministers know to defer to one with such extraordinary and all-encompassing authority?
Obviously, Christ would never leave in doubt the means for knowing. He would have to establish the criteria in a way that none who truly knew where and how He was at work could be confused or mistake this. And the means Christ presented would have to be above debate, crystal clear. He has done that: “Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them” (Matt. 7:20).
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “If you’ve watched the growth and development of this work for any length of time—the rich and abundant harvest of precious souls being reaped by it—the miracles of healing and changed lives God is performing with and thru it, then you’ll recognize, and you’ll know—and exult in joy and great rejoicing in the recognition—that this is indeed the very work of God!
“You’ll know it by its fruits—rich, abundant, continuous.”
“And Now...ON TO EUROPE!”, GN, April 1952
From the time he understood the true nature of his office, hundreds of thousands believed Mr. Armstrong was an apostle of Jesus Christ—and the meteoric growth and international expansion of the Church and Work served as testimony to this.
With the ranks and offices of the New Testament ministry restored, the Church and the Work began to expand and flourish.
Staffed with trained writers and editors to help him, Mr. Armstrong began to offer The Plain Truth over the air once again. This began with the June 1953 issue.
There was even more exciting news in the Work: God had opened the door for broadcasting The World Tomorrow program on the most powerful station on the planet—Radio Luxembourg! Finally, Mr. Armstrong’s voice was being heard in Europe!
However, Mr. Armstrong had faced an interesting challenge as the door opened for Radio Luxembourg:
“In the fall of that year , time did finally open to us on Radio Luxembourg. But it was altogether different from broadcasting to an American audience. Luxembourg is a small country sandwiched in between Germany, Belgium, and France—and its powerful signal heard in several other countries. Their very commercial life depends on being careful in what not to allow to be said over their powerful facilities. They allow no political propaganda not even any allusions to anything political. And, in accepting religious broadcasts, the station obviously enforces strict rules that no offense is given to any religion or religious belief.
“In speaking on biblical prophecy, dealing with today’s world events, we soon learned we had to become very familiar with their policies, lest our analysis of today’s world news be construed as an allusion to things political.
“November 22, 1952, was a historic day for us!
“On that day I recorded the first broadcast for Radio Luxembourg!
“I have written many times about how Christ opened the giant door of Radio Luxembourg to proclaim His gospel to Europe precisely nineteen years—one time-cycle—after the beginning of the work in 1934. The door of radio first opened on the first Sunday in 1934. Our first broadcast to Europe occurred the first Thursday in 1953—the first week in January both times!
“but we did not plan it that way! GOD DID!
“My November 22 recording was rejected by the station. A second try was rejected. The third time I had finally come to comprehend clearly the station policies—and it was accepted! It went on the air the first week in January, 1953!”
Along with the magazine, this, with other stations blanketing the United States and parts of Canada, meant that Christ’s true gospel was being preached to humanity at large for the first time in 1,900 years! The last time this gospel message had been widely proclaimed was in A.D. 53, by Paul. This gospel OF Christ had been suppressed and counterfeited by a false gospel ABOUT Christ. Now mankind was beginning to hear that true message of hope once again.
Speaking of the impediments to going on the air in Britain, Mr. Armstrong described the miraculous events that allowed the preaching of the gospel to continue in that country:
“The British government would not allow any broadcasting facilities within its jurisdiction that might be used by God’s servants to proclaim God’s message of this hour to the British peoples!
“But God was determined to get His message to the British!
“So, the first week in 1953, God’s message started getting into Britain from Europe—when The World Tomorrow program began going out on the superpowered voice of Radio Luxembourg!
“When Radio Luxembourg was no longer effective for this message, God raised up broadcasting stations on ships, anchored just outside Britain’s jurisdiction. ‘The World Tomorrow’ was then thundered over all of Britain daily, from seven of these ships” (The United States and Britain in Prophecy).
Late 1953 saw another big leap in doing the Work: The radio program was broadcast over the ABC national radio network. This meant an instant audience of millions of listeners to 90 radio stations throughout the U.S.—including 50,000-watt stations in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and other metropolitan areas.
God’s Work could now truly take off as never before!
For years, many listeners of the radio program and readers of the magazine sent letters to Mr. Armstrong, requesting that he show a photograph of himself. Naturally, they wanted to see the face of the man who spoke and wrote so boldly.
While Mr. Armstrong loved to preach the gospel message, he wanted people to focus on it—not on himself. This is why, for many years, he did not send photographs of himself to brethren and co-workers.
However, one letter finally changed his mind. “I can’t quote that letter word for word,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “but it said, in effect: ‘What have you got to hide, Mr. Armstrong? Why do you refuse to let us listeners know what you look like? Are you trying to cover up something? Suppose you attend a church service, and the pastor hides behind the pulpit. Suppose he lets the congregation hear his voice, but he hides his face. Wouldn’t you get suspicious? Wouldn’t you think he was covering up something? When I go to church, I want to see what the preacher looks like, as well as to listen to his sermon. A man’s character shows in his face. Are you ashamed of yours? why won’t you publish your picture?’”
Mr. Armstrong did just that, publishing his picture in the November 1951 issue of The Good News. Over the years, as he increasingly became a public figure, he allowed more photos of himself to be published.
Yet here is the irony: Because he finally (and reluctantly) did this, he was falsely accused of promoting himself!
The following excerpts were taken from Mr. Armstrong’s March 1954 Member/Co-Worker letter:
“The broadcast, and The PLAIN TRUTH, are literally shaking Britain [and Europe]! You probably have no conception of the tremendous influence this program, which is made possible by your dollars and your PRAYERS, is having on our British cousins overseas!
“Letters are pouring in by the hundreds! British leaders tell me the effect of The WORLD TOMORROW on Britain is almost beyond belief! They are being STIRRED more than you people in America ever were!
“So now look over my shoulder, as it were—here are just a FEW of the thousands of letters:”
A man in the Royal Air Force, stationed in Wales, wrote: “I am writing to sincerely thank you for your wonderful, inspired radio programme, which we hear on Radio Luxembourg, and for the January ‘54 issue of your ‘Plain Truth’ magazine. I really must tell you how much your radio programme and magazine mean to me personally and my friends in the R.A.F. who listen to your programme. We hear many religious programmes but we honestly believe that the ‘World Tomorrow’ is the ‘Tops’ for sincerity and interest…The Plain Truth is quite definitely the most forthright and down to earth magazine I have ever read. It sets out your message so clearly and distinctly and I only wish I could assist you with a contribution. But as you know, the Chancellor of the Exchequer forbids sending money out of the country. Well, Mr. Armstrong, I hope you will have many such letters as mine from Great Britain and the rest of Europe; don’t ever take your programme from Radio Luxembourg—it is needed here as everywhere.”
From an official of a large British religious federation: “Dear Brother in Israel: I was asked by a friend some time ago if I ever listened to you on Radio Lux.; and when I did, I came to the conclusion that you knew where modern Israel was, and the meaning of these days. Your magazine, for which I sincerely thank you is to hand today, and confirms what I thought. I have read it with great appreciation. Those who know this truth (our identity is ISRAEL) are VERY many today in these islands, and in the Commonwealth. I would like to tell you for your encouragement that you are listened to by many more people than your mail might indicate. I have been amazed at the number of people who have told me they listen to you regularly. May God’s blessing rest on your witness.”
From Cornwall, England: “Dear Mr. Armstrong: So many times we have intended writing you regarding your Gospel broadcast over Radio Luxembourg. Truly it is a very special time of spiritual uplift. We do thank God that He has privileged us to be amongst your vast audience to listen to your inspiring messages of the Scriptures. I’m sure, too, that your ministry will be mightily used to enlighten the intellectuals, because you can meet them on their own ground. The Holy Spirit is truly revealing wonderful truths through you. My father and I are just ordinary simple folks, and we would surely like to say a big ‘THANK YOU’ to you for your profound yet simple messages.”
From Genoa, Italy: “Dear Sir: Last Monday night I heard your very interesting broadcast…The programme was a rather unusual one. I should like to know something more of it. It appears to be both religious and scientific. I have never heard a programme just like yours. Thanks for the broadcast. Perhaps you would send me your magazine.”
From Oslo, Norway: “Dear Mr. Armstrong: Thank you very much for your interesting programme that reached me from Radio Luxembourg yesterday. I should be thankful to receive your offered book.”
From Malung, Sweden: “Dear Mr. Armstrong: I have been very glad to listen to your radio message last night over Radio Luxembourg, and I will say you my heartily thanks for that. In the same time, I will wish you God’s richest blessing over your works for God in this style. I will be very thankful to you when you will send me a copy of your book.”
From Paris, France: “Dear Mr. Armstrong: I heard you again last night from Luxembourg. I admire your zeal, ability, and courage. May the Lord bless you richly in bringing pure light to those who are confused…Send me please The Plain Truth and ‘What is Prophesied.’ When I was recently in Yugoslavia crowds of people were seeking the Lord,—something unusual. Could you do something for East Europe also?”
From Belfast, North Ireland: “Dear Mr. Armstrong: I am thrilled to hear your message of hope these past Mondays over Radio Luxembourg. I should like to have you put my name down for the booklet you offered so kindly over this station last night. I am not being greedy, but then I am sure you will understand, as this Kingdom message of hope for the future is not touched by most churches, so I would like to hear more. Once again thanking you for your hope-inspiring messages, and I trust God may bless your efforts in His work.”
From Neslandsvat, Norway: “Dear Sir: I have been listening to your program over Radio Luxembourg, and I am sending you a few words to let you know that I am very thankful to God and to you every time I hear the Gospel go out in the air like that.”
From Denmark: “Dear Mr. Armstrong, Yesterday I tuned in to your broadcast over Radio Luxembourg. Your powerful message attracted me, and as it was new thought for me, the wish arose in my heart to study those thoughts a little closer. Therefore, I was happy that you later on offered a little book written by you which I should be very glad to read. I must say that your message interested me very much and I am looking forward to being better acquainted with you through the printed page. Your talk yesterday was very powerful and inspiring.”
Here is how Mr. Armstrong commented on these and other numerous letters:
“My, how these letters ought to warm our hearts, and encourage us to PRESS ON! Just remember, as you read these heart-touching letters, it is YOUR DOLLARS that are being turned into THE VERY WORD OF GOD, finding lodgment in the hearts of these people in MANY NATIONS.”
The August 1952 issue of The Plain Truth was the first to offer articles written by people other than Mr. Armstrong. One was written by his son Richard, with a dateline from London, England. He was overseas in order to pursue his dream of visiting Paris. Richard Armstrong had a natural gift for learning languages. He was so proficient that he could speak French as fluently a