The Branch Davidians have their origins in the Seventh-day Adventist church. This in turn had its origins in the "Millerite" movement in the USA - a group who followed the teachings of Baptist William Miller who in 1833 concluded that Bible prophecy told the date for the end of the world.
Following the "Great Disappointment" of 1844 when Christ failed to return on the date expected by Miller's prophecies, some Millerites formed what became the Seventh-day Adventist Church (officially formed as a denomination in 1863). From the beginning Adventists believed God was specially guiding the movement and sent visions to communicate with the group. One woman in particular, Ellen Gould Harmon (later Ellen G. White) was believed to be chosen by God as a special prophetess with messages to guide the church. From her first vision in 1844 to her death in 1915, Ellen White passed messages from God to the church, providing thousands of messages from God to the church.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church still exists and believes now as then that it is God's specially chosen church. However since Ellen White's death there have been no more "prophets" and the church has become an "established" denomination, similar to many other churches.
In the 1930s an American Adventist called Victor Houteff claimed that he was God's new prophet for the church. His claims were not accepted and he was disfellowshipped from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, however a number of Adventists believed his claims and left with him to form the "Davidian Seventh-day Adventists", also known as "The Shepherd's Rod".
The Branch Davidians
Following the death of Victor Houteff in 1955 his widow Florence Houteff took over the leadership, however this was opposed by Ben Roden who claimed that God had chosen him. After Florence Houteff incorrectly claimed the world would end in 1959 Ben Roden formed the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventists, recruiting a large number of Davidian Seventh-day Adventists to his cause.
Ben Roden introduced the observance of various Hebrew feast days, such as Passover, Pentecost, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles.
After Ben Roden died in 1978 his wife Lois became president of the organization. She claimed to have been shown by God that the Holy Spirit is the feminine aspect of the trinity.
In 1981 Vernon Howell joins the Branch Davidians, and in 1983 has his first vision from God. This generates friction between him and George Roden, Lois's son. Eventually Vernon Howell takes control of the group. In 1990 Vernon Howell changes his name to David Koresh.
On 28 February 1993 the ATF raid the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, but are beaten back by the Davidians. On 19th April the ATF attack again, causing the compund to explode into flames, killing eighty-six people, including seventeen children. Vernon Howell (David Koresh) also dies in the flames. There are only nine survivors: Renos Avreem, Jaime Castillo, Graeme Craddock, Misty Ferguson, Derrick Lovelock, Ruth Ottman-Riddle, David Thibodeaux, Marjorie Thomas and Clive Doyle. During the seige a number of adults and children were released from the compound, including Livingstone Fagan (author of a number of documents available from the Mark Swett site).