herbert w. armstrong
Herbert W. Armstrong Confesses to Incest!

Excerpted from Ambassador Report #27

"Many readers will recall that when David Robinson's book appeared in 1980 it contained numerous allegations shocking to even some of Herbert W. Armstrong's longtime critics. No accusation was more startling than that found in the book's last chapter. There Robinson charged that Herbert W. Armstrong had maintained an intimate sexual relationship with the younger of his two daughters for a period of approximately one decade beginning in the early 1930s. The Armstrong organization, through surrogates, attempted to use the courts to block distribution of the Robinson book, but failed miserably (Ambassador Report, Sept 1980). It is most remarkable, however, that in attempting to stop distribution of the Robinson book, never once was it asserted that the incest allegation was untrue. Nor did Dorothy Mattson, Herbert W. Armstrong's younger daughter, ever come forth to deny the incest story (and she has repeatedly refused to respond to queries from the Report regarding the matter). In spite of all this, it seems there are still some who prefer to believe that the incest story was fabricated.

 Let us briefly review the facts. In 1971 Garner Ted Armstrong paid a visit to his younger sister Dorothy. He had long been suspicious of the kind of relationship his father and sister maintained during his youth. They chatted over a few drinks and then Ted told her bluntly of his suspicions. She did more than admit the allegations. With candor she related detail after shocking detail.

For a number of years Garner Ted Armstrong kept the information to himself. But Dorothy did not She divulged the same information to many others including David Antion (Garner Ted Armstrong's brother-in-law) and Lois Chapman (who had been married to the late Richard Armstrong, Ted's older brother).

Dorothy's story as related to Ted and others was that Herbert had begun fondling and heavy petting her in 1933 when she was thirteen years old, around the same time that Herbert W. Armstrong now claims God was using him to found the modern era of the only true church. But he did not begin to go "all the way" with her until three years later. One day Dorothy returned home from a date with a young bank teller to inform her father that she had just been "half-raped." To her surprise, Herbert was actually "elated" over the news. Herbert decided it was time to show her how it was really done. From then on Herbert went "all the way." The year was 1936; Dorothy was 16 years old. Strangely, Dorothy has claimed that Herbert later went on to become a good friend of the bank teller.

The incestuous relationship went on for years, but it was apparently not mutually enjoyable. Dorothy has related to friends how on one occasion in a hotel room she so strongly protested Herbert's abuse that the manager knocked on the door and asked what the reason was for all the noise. Herbert was quick to inform him that his "young bride" was a bit uncooperative due to inexperience. Satisfied with the alibi, the manager left. Dorothy has claimed that Herbert then overpowered her, and after tying her to the bed and gagging her, proceeded to rape her. It's a pity Herbert neglected to include this incident in his book God Speaks Out on the New Morality.

During those years, besides taking her on supposedly church or ministry-related business trips, it was not uncommon for Herbert to take Dorothy out dancing on Friday nights. On one such occasion she asked him if he ever worried that one of his church members would see them. He told her no, because, in effect, they were too stupid to be out dancing on Friday night and that he had them well-trained (in keeping the Friday sunset to Saturday sunset Sabbath).

These incidents were but a part of the awful truth Dorothy related to Garner Ted and others. In spite of church upheavals, arguments with his father, personal emotional problems and considerable notoriety about his own sins, Ted said nothing about his father's shameful past. Not until 1978.

That year, during a heated argument between Garner Ted Armstrong and his father, Herbert W. Armstrong threatened to "destroy" Ted through making public certain information about his personal life. But Ted responded in kind saying he could destroy HWA with the information he had. Ted charged his father in no uncertain terms, yelling: "You fucked my sister!" Herbert, shocked at Ted's knowledge of the incestuous relationship, could only reply, "Well-there have been times in my life when I have gotten far away from God." The conversation overheard by Garner Ted Armstrong associate Benny Sharp was the last face to face meeting between the two men. And Ted has since related how the hateful look he saw in his father's eye made him suspect they would never see each other again.

As was covered in great detail in our 1977 issue, during the early '70s Garner Ted Armstrong became highly infatuated with an Ambassador College coed. The resulting affair caused great confusion in the higher echelons of the Worldwide Church of God. Former Worldwide Church of God evangelist David Antion recalls how, at the time, he discussed the problem with Herbert W. Armstrong. Antion was for years perplexed by the almost Freudian analysis offered. Herbert W. Armstrong told Antion that Ted was simply fantasizing the younger woman as being his own daughter. The statement made no sense to Antion until years later. (As an aside, it is interesting how Ramona has claimed that Herbert W. Armstrong has been, over the years, very jealous of Garner Ted Armstrong's supposed sexual prowess.)

The last meeting between Garner Ted Armstrong and his father in 1978 was not the only time Herbert W. Armstrong confessed to the incest allegation. In 1980 Henry Cornwall, then an aide to Herbert W. Armstrong, read the Robinson book soon after it appeared and asked HWA directly if the chapter on incest was accurate. Herbert W. Armstrong told him it was. He then instructed Cornwall that his wife Ramona was not to see the book or learn of the incest story. Unfortunately for Herbert, Ramona already had a copy of the book and was in the next room listening to the Cornwall-Herbert W. Armstrong discussion. Shortly thereafter, she too confronted Herbert W. Armstrong about the incest allegation. And once again, Herbert admitted it was true, but begged and pleaded with Ramona not to let this fact get in the way of their marriage. The cause of the problem, he said, had been Loma, his first wife. Considering the perversity of Herbert's past, is it any wonder Ramona's love would begin to wane?

One can only speculate on how much Herbert's first wife Loma knew of what had transpired for ten years between her husband and her younger daughter. but some individuals who were then close to the Armstrong family did notice that toward the end of her life Loma was not on good speaking terms with Dorothy and that during the last year or so of her life she appeared to have lost almost all will to live. She died in 1967 after an illness that many say could have been cured by medical science, had she availed herself of that help. It is interesting to note also that Herbert W. Armstrong's great preoccupation with world touring began right around that time.

Ramona has reported to friends how the Robinson allegations preoccupied Herbert W. Armstrong's mind for a considerable period. She has also reported seeing a typed statement intended for Dorothy's signature. It stated that she (Dorothy) had never had a sexual relationship with her father. The document was, and we'd be willing to bet still is, unsigned. Dorothy undoubtedly knows that to sign such a statement would prove financially costly, removing any leverage she still possesses over her father. (On a recent trip to Big Sandy, Texas, Herbert W. Armstrong was quoted as saying his daughters show him very little affection and care only for his money.)

Dorothy has stated that her sexual relationship with her father continued into the early forties. In 1943 Herbert officiated at the ceremony in which Dorothy was married to Vern Mattson, who soon afterward was to serve overseas in the U.S. Marines. We have no information that the incestuous relationship continued beyond that point However, Dorothy has related to friends how, around the time of her engagement, Herbert told her that her marriage need not put an end to their own special relationship.

Shortly after Vern's discharge from the military, Herbert was able to provide him with employment within his growing organization. Although Dorothy drifted away from her father's church by around 1951, Vern continued his association. He was the organization's business manager before the Albert Portune era.

What caused him to leave the Armstrong corporation? Was it then that he discovered the awful truth about his wife and father-in-law? The following quote taken from the transcript of one Herbert W. Armstrong deposition provides a clue (Ramona's lawyer is asking about Dorothy's house being sold to the Worldwide Church of God):

Q: Did she sell it to the church?

MR. BROWNE: Objected to as being irrelevant and immaterial and constitutionally impermissible. Transactions between third parties and the church are none of anyone's business in this particular case and instruct you not to answer.

THE WITNESS (Herbert W. Armstrong): I refuse to answer.

MR. DECKTER: Okay. Where did you provide her with living accommodations?

A:  I provided her with living accommodations ever since, on and off ever since... Now, wait a minute until I think of the year. Let's see, I don't know. Began back in the 1950s, ever since Vern Mattson resigned from being business manager of the church.

Before leaving the subject, one other deposition excerpt is worth quoting. Ramona's lawyer was asking Herbert W. Armstrong some background questions concerning his health:

Q: And do you suffer from any other diseases or chronic problems other than what we've discussed?

A: Not that I know of.... I have had difficulty sleeping for the last, oh, let me see, ever since 1933.

That was the year Herbert W. Armstrong began abusing his own daughter. Is it any wonder he hasn't slept well since?"

 End Excerpt

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Related Reading:
"Incest And Inspiration"

"Garner Ted Armstrong Letter Regarding Herbert W. Armstrong's Incest"

Bruce Renehan interviewed some members of the Church of God (Seventh Day) who reported they were aware of the incest.

David Robinson's 1979 letter to Herbert Armstrong telling him to resign.

Deborah Armstrong, and HWA's grandson, Larry Gott, have both confirmed in interviews that the incest did take place.

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