Before David Koresh, there was Lois Roden, the wife of Benjamin Roden, president and founder of the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Church. Lois comes up briefly in the Netflix documentary series Waco: American Apocalypse. Here’s everything you need to know about the former leader of the Branch Davidians before Koresh took over the apocalyptic Christian group.
Branch Davidian beliefs began in 1929 with Benjamin and Lois Roden
According to the Texas State Historical Association, Victor T. Houteff established the Davidians, a small Adventist reform movement. A Bulgarian immigrant, Houteff left the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and accepted Seventh-day Adventist teaching in 1918, starting the Davidians in 1929. In 1955, Benjamin organized the Branch Davidians, a group focused on preparing for the second coming of Christ.
When Benjamin died in 1978, his wife, Lois, assumed leadership. She shifted her teachings to focus on the female character of the Holy Spirit and ordination for women. Her and Benjamin’s son George Roden assumed leadership of the Branch Davidians in 1985, but not for long.
Vernon Howell aka David Koresh held George Roden at gunpoint
Before becoming the Branch Davidians’ leader, Koresh was known as Vernon Howell, a member and Bible teacher under George’s leadership. However, in late 1983, Howell/Koresh led “a rival faction that George expelled at gunpoint.”
Howell/Koresh and his followers moved to Palestine, Texas, but returned to Mount Carmel in 1987 and exchanged gunfire with George, who was eventually jailed. Howell/Koresh secured control of Mount Carmel by paying the back taxes and thus began his reign in Waco.
David Koresh allegedly had an affair with Lois Roden
According to Colin Wilson’s book The Devil’s Party: A History of Charlatan Messiahs, Koresh had an affair with Lois before challenging her leadership of the Branch Davidians. Koresh allegedly justified his relationship with Lois by claiming God chose him to father her child, who would become the “Chosen One.” Koresh brought this practice to his chapter of the Branch Davidians where he had many wives and children.
Waco siege is the subject of Netflix’s docuseries ‘Waco: American Apocalypse’
Waco: American Apocalypse is a three-part documentary series containing the definitive account of what happened at the Mount Carmel compound in 1993 when Koresh faced off against the federal government in a bloody 51-day siege. The conflict began in February with the biggest gunfight on American soil since the Civil War and ended on April 19 with a fiery inferno captured live on national television.
The series is directed by acclaimed filmmaker Tiller Russell (Night Stalker) and is being released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of this national tragedy on March 22. Waco: American Apocalypse features exclusive access to recently unearthed videotapes filmed inside the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit, raw news footage never released to the American public, and FBI recordings.
Plus, viewers will hear from one of Koresh’s spiritual wives, the last child released from the compound alive, a sniper from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit Chief, the key journalists covering the story, and members of the ATF tactical team. Waco: American Apocalypse plunges viewers inside the multifaceted clash between the Branch Davidians and federal law enforcement in an epic drama about God and guns in America.
Watch Waco: American Apocalypse on Netflix.