Victor Houteff ’s Marriage
Victor Houteff ’s Marriage
In 1937, fifty-two year old Houteff married eighteen or twenty year old (the precise age is still unclear) Florence Hermanson, daughter of Sophia Hermanson, and granddaughter of the first committed convert, Florence Charboneau. Although she was young, Florence was mature for her age, exemplary in conduct and demeanor, talented, and worked diligently to promote the cause. All of this, along with her family’s commitment to the message, played a key role in his choosing her as his lifetime partner. However, his marriage gave rise to questions from both regular church leaders and Rod believing church members. Ellen White appeared to have spoken against marriages with great disparity of age between partners. So his marriage they raised the concern. But was it wrong? Was it contrary to the Scriptures and the Spirit of Prophecy?
Both messengers explain two general but profound principles:
“In most cases,” said Sister White, “there should not be a great disparity in age...may result in seriously impairing the health of the younger.
Then there is the concern that he taught that women should not marry before age twenty, and Florence, although close, may have been under the age of twenty. “A young woman,” he said, “is seldom thus prepared [for marriage] before she has reached the age of twenty — the day of women’s full growth and development.” [Bracket ours]
Now the key word we should respect is “most,” which does not mean “all”, or “all cases” So there are exceptions. Furthermore, there are numerous exceptions in the Bible.
Victor Houteff himself explains further with biblical examples:
“ .... As to the matter of age, the following Biblical marriages represent a great disparity of years: Abraham, the father of the faithful, certainly took to himself a wife much younger than himself, for when he married the second time, he must have been over 140 years of age, as he was a hundred years old when Isaac was born (Gen. 21:5), and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebecca (Gen. 25:20), at which time Sarah, Abraham’s first wife was yet living (Gen 24: 67), and Keturah, his second wife, was evidently somewhere under forty years of age, for she bare him six sons (Gen. 25:1,2), which facts present a difference of at least a hundred years between the ages of Abraham and his second wife.
“Again, the Lord chose for His lineage, Boaz (a Jew), an old man and Ruth a Young woman (Ruth 3:10)--a union contrary to the principles held by Brother Houteff’s critics.
“Moreover, the Jewess, Esther, who was forbidden by the common rule of the Jews to marry outside of her own nation, was blessed in her affinity to the old Medo-Persian king, in that her nation was thereby preserved.
“Still further, Joseph married the daughter of the idolatrous priest of Egypt, and Moses took for a wife an Ethiopian woman. . . . Thus we see from the above unions that no set rule can be fixed to govern each individual’s case. . . .
“Brother Houteff’s marriage is far more in accordance with the accepted customs of today than were the above marriages in their day. Abraham’s case alone is sufficient to satisfy those whom the truth can convince...
“Some reason that in ancient times people lived longer than they do now, and that, therefore, great differences in the ages of husband and wife were then permissible. However, we see no logic in such reasoning, for though the man lived longer then than he now does, yet the woman also lived longer in those days than she does today.
“The trouble is not with Brother Houteff’s marriage, but rather with those who judge Brother Houteff by their own standards. Had Brother Houteff married for the same reason that most other marry, then of course, he could have taken a wife of almost any age...But Brother Houteff’s critics seem utterly to forget that he has a tremendous work, and that he does not need a wife able only to make a home for him, but rather one most able to assist him in his work. Hence an aged woman, or one without experience in the work, would be to him a hindrance rather than a help. Therefore, God has provided for him a “helpmeet” that will really help him, as he cannot successfully carry on the work while single.”
Finally, we should keep in mind that his choice of a life partner has no bearing on the truth of the message.
Was the Davidian Ministry a Family Affair?
Church officials not only criticized Houteff’s marriage, but his family’s having held key positions in the Association. “Note,” said church officials,“that Mr. Houteff did not deal with the really disconcerting aspect of the reorganization of 1937—that of concentrating power of administration chiefly in the hands of his own family.”
This accusation came about because Florence Charboneau was not only first of converts, but also the first treasurer and had a street named after her. After her death, her daughter Sophia became the treasurer, and her daughter and his wife Florence Hermanson became the secretary. And of course, he was the President. This led opponents to accuse him of running the then Association as a family affair. Like his marriage, this does not alter the veracity of the message. But since it may cause some to stumble over the matter—thinking that he personally benefitted from the Association, we will touch on the matter.
The truth is that he did not inappropriately benefit financially or otherwise from the Association. In fact, the opposite. He never owned property, was not bonded, did not have a personal bank account, and compensated his secretaries more than himself. Furthermore, we know of not even a single accusation of financial impropriety! Thus we must conclude that he chose his family members to man these key positions because they were capable and trustworthy, not for personal advantage.
Now we must be careful. By way of example, God Himself had a family affair. Do we remember Moses and the children of Israel? Do we remember that God appointed Moses as the leader or president (Exodus 3:10-16); and Aaron as his assistant (vice-president, so to speak), and High Priest (Exodus 4:14 -17). Miriam lead the choir and was a prophetess (Exodus 15:20 - 22), and his father-in-law Jethro helped him set up the distribution of power (Exodus 18: 13 - 21). So we could accuse Moses of running a family affair!
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