Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Plain Truth
The Plain Truth is a magazine founded by Herbert W. Armstrong who also founded the Radio Church of God (later renamed the Worldwide Church of God), Ambassador College and The World Tomorrow radio and television programs. Herbert W. Armstrong began his ministry headquarters in Eugene, Oregon and later moved to Pasadena, California. The history of the magazine can be divided into two distinctive eras: the years before the death of Herbert W. Armstrong and the years following his death when the magazine was placed under new management and its entire editorial content restructured to reflect information that it had previously denounced, while denouncing information that it had previously advocated.
Herbert W. Armstrong
In the latter years of his life Herbert W. Armstrong was portrayed as "God's Apostle" on Earth, having similar status in his church to that of the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. However, when he was first ordained in the 1930s as a minister by an existing church, he became an ordinary minister of that church. The changes in the life and ministry of Herbert W. Armstrong were first manifest through his own magazine which became known as The Plain Truth magazine.
As his ministry began to develop and as his own doctrines moved further away from the denomination which ordained him, Herbert W. Armstrong took to the airwaves under the name of the Radio Church of God. Later still he broke away entirely from his original denomination and moved from Oregon to California where he incorporated a church using the name of his radio program.
The Plain Truth magazine began to evolve into a standard size monthly publication which eventually gained the outside look and feel of a high quality magazine which appeared similar to both TIME, Newsweek and US News and World Report. Eventually several millions of this magazine were distributed free of charge each year in several languages by free subscription offers over the airwaves; by double page advertisments in such publications as Reader's Digest and from street corner racks
Meanwhile the Radio Church of God broadcast changed its name to The World Tomorrow. The main speaker became his son Garner Ted Armstrong who delivered a daily, thirty minutes news editorial format style of delivery in the manner of Paul Harvey. He was introduced by Art Gilmore (known for his commentary on such major shows as Highway Patrol) and the only closing music on the broadcast came from a Hollywood jingle music company.
However, the editorial content of The Plain Truth magazine was anything but that of a mainstream news magazine, although its masthead proclaimed that it was "A magazine of understanding." The editorial was written under the name of Herbert W. Armstrong as publisher, but the features were usually written by graduates from one of the three Ambassador Colleges (one in California, another in Texas and a third in England.) Other contents included a world wide radio and later television log for The World Tomorrow program, which at its peak reflected the largest purchases of airtime on broadcasting and cable stations by any independent broadcasting organization, anywhere in the world.
What made The Plain Truth magazine unique was its editorial content which reflected a number of ideas which individually might be found in other news and religious magazines, but when combined and refined composed a unique message that could not be read anywhere else but in the literature of the Worldwide Church of God. Because the church shunned mainstream Christian holy days and adopted a variation of holy days and dietry practices that were more familiar to Jews, analysts had a difficult time in trying to describe exactly where it belonged as a category.
Central to its editorial approach were three main platforms. The first was a belief that the White, Anglo-Saxon peoples of the USA, UK, Western Europe and lands to which those people had migrated were the peoples of the "Lost Ten Tribes of Israel". The second was the celebration of several holy days including (but not limited to) the seventh-day Sabbath (instead of Sunday); Passover (instead of Easter and the Feast of Tabernacles (instead of Christmas). The Worldwide Church of God taught that God is a family consisting of an extremely large and unknown number of members (instead of a Trinity). Members did not celebrate birthdays; vote in any election or serve in any branch of the Armed Forces of any country in which they were located. The third major platform was that of prophecy, which was graphically and horrendously illustrated in Bible stories within the magazine by its own Worldwide Church of God minister and MAD magazine illustrator, Basil Wolverton.
The main thrust of these prophetic claims was that a timetable had been set in motion by God and it was the sole purpose of Herbert W. Armstrong and his entire church to warn the world of what was going to happen, before time ran out. The Worldwide Church of God did not seek new members but it did accept new members by a complicated recruiting process. The time frame (called time cycles by the church), was first set in motion when the church began under the leadership of Herbert W. Armstrong. The first time cycle expired in 1953 when the second time cycle began with the broadcast of The World Tomorrow program over Radio Luxembourg in Europe. This event was compared to the Apostle Paul taking the Christian message to the world for the first time. This second time cycle of 19 years was set to expire in February of 1972.
Jerusalem central to all teachings
Unlike churches who believe in a Rapture theory, the Worldwide Church of God believed that they would go to a "place of safety" which was usually identified as being Petra in Jordan. This physical world wide migration would take place shortly before a United States of Europe led by a new German dictator similar to Adolf Hitler (called The Beast) and dominated by the Pope of Rome (called Antichrist), successfully launched and won World War III. In this battle both the United States of America and the United Kingdom would be destroyed as nations and survivors would be taken into slave captivity. At the juncture when this new superpower attacked a combined USSR and China, then Jesus would return to Jerusalem and halt Armageddon by taking up rulership over a physical world for one thousand years. Within this final scenerio members of the Worldwide Church of God would then come of the hiding and assume positions of world leadership under the Messiah from the new world headquarters of the church at Jerusalem.
This outline warning of the "end times" had been published before the end of World War II when Herbert W. Armstrong fully expected Hitler to become victorious. In the May/June edition of 1941, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote (using emphasis shown) that:
Since the last issue many things have occurred, every one in accordance with prophecy! ... War events thunder on, rapidly approaching the prophesied climax!... Hitler now emerges as the "BEAST" of Revelation! Bible prophecy shows the Roman Axis forces will take Egypt, Suez, Palestine, — even Gibraltar. Britain will go down. And, unless we turn as a nation to God our beloved United States will have to go under ... we lack TOTAL Defense, without which we shall never win. We are at the END of the present order. ARMAGEDDON is now just a short way off.
According to Armstrong there was one key element that had to occur before the return of Jesus Christ as Messiah and that was the rebuilding of the Temple by the Jews. Since the location of the Temple had been in that part of Jerusalem which was a part of the modern day kingdom of Jordan, Armstrong believed that Israel would eventually retake that part of Jerusalem in order for construction to commence. On page 4 of the October 1958 edition, The Plain Truth magazine reported that:
A temple or sanctuary is yet to be built by the Jews in Jerusalem. It shall happen in less than 14 years from now (1972).
There will be a Jewish Temple built in Jerusalem, with animal sacrifices once again being offered -- probably within about four-and-one-half years. It is going to take some time to build such a Temple. And I don't see how they have another month to spare. ... There will very soon be a Temple in Jerusalem, with daily sacrifices once again being offered.
In Australia this editorial was read by Michael Dennis Rohan who decided to act upon this same information and cause the destruction of the Al Aqsa mosque which he believed was preventing the Temple from being rebuilt. The aftereffects of his attempted arson are still being experienced today in attacks upon Israel which are carried out to avenge this act. The cause of the arson was, of course, not the State of Israel, but a person's attempt to carry out his interpretation of the editorial policy of The Plain Truth magazine.
Beginning in 1962, chess champion Bobby Fischer became yet one more person whose was influenced as a result of ideas expressed in The Plain Truth magazine and the predicted end time prophecies for the year 1972. In that year the celebrated Game of the Century took place, just as the collapsing prophecies of Herbert W. Armstrong were beginning to create havoc in the private life of Bobby Fischer. Had these prophecies come true, it seems reasonable to have assumed that Fischer would have been in Petra, Jordan taking safety as "World War III" was unleashed against the United States of America and not thinking about a major chess championship. By many accounts it took a lot of convincing for Fischer to play the Game of the Century.
It has also been reported that several other famous individuals were readers of the magazine, but what effect its editorial content had on their lives and consequently upon the lives of others in contact with them, is not known at the present time.
When the prophecies of the Worldwide Church of God failed to come to pass in 1972 and it was revealed that Garner Ted Armstrong had become a sexual playboy living off church funds, a series of splits and divisions began to rock the church. This upheaval continued up until the death of Herbert W. Armstrong in 1986. By the time of his death the church had already begun closing some of its college campuses and retrenching on its publishing and broadcasting activities.
Following the death of Herbert W. Armstong a series of new leaders took over the church and began to close the remaining college campuses and embark upon selling all buildings and grounds. The church has recently announced its plans to move from Pasadena, California after the final real estate transactions are completed. All previous broadcasting activities were terminated and eventually The Plain Truth magazine ceased publication under its original style and format.
After the vast majority of beliefs that the Worldwide Church of God taught under the administration of Herbert W. Armstrong had also been repudiated and having lost the majority of its original membership, the Worldwide Church of God sought and was granted admission to several mainstream evangelical groups.
The Plain Truth magazine has subsequently been spun off from the corporate structure of the Worldwide Church of God and it is now published by a new organization having no connection to either the beliefs or church structure established by Herbert W. Armstrong. However similarities between the original The Plain Truth magazine and the current publication exist. The magazine is currently published bimonthly and it has a related weekly radio broadcast called Plain Truth Radio.
|See: Herbert W. Armstrong (index) for other articles related to this subject.|
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