Origin And History Of The Sacred Name Movement
The recent history of the Sacred Name Movement is closely related to the history of the Church of God (Seventh Day). It appears that many who have joined the Sacred Name Movement originally were members of one or more of the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God.
Dodd and the Faith Magazine
Clarence O. Dodd states that he began to keep the Passover in 1928, and immediately began keeping the other Feast Days of the year. “After being thwarted in a determined effort to teach the importance of keeping these Holy Days in the group in which he was then affiliated,” Elder Dodd “broke away and inaugurated a magazine to proclaim the importance of this great Truth.”
Dodd had been instrumental along with A.N. Dugger during the 1933 Church of God, Seventh Day split, helping to form the Salem, West Virginia faction. He served as Secretary-Treasurer through the spring of 1939. When the church reacted strongly in opposition to his Feast Day teaching and asked him to resign, Elder Dodd began a new magazine in March, 1937, in order to continue to teach the keeping of the Feast Days.
It is interesting to note that Dodd co-author the book, A History of the True Church with A.N. Dugger, which was published in 1936. Many in the Salem group did keep the Feast Days during these years. Elders John Kiesz and Frank Walker continued to keep them, with Herbert Armstrong, until at least 1945. But in 1937 at a campmeeting in Eugene, Armstrong was forced out of the Church of God, Seventh Day, because he would not cease preaching about the Feast Days and Anglo-Israelism. It is indeed significant that Dodd should break away and start The Faith magazine in the same year, March of 1937.
Dodd “began to publish the [Sacred] Names [idea] in 1939,” says Jacob O. Meyer, but according to L.D. Snow it was October of 1938.
At first he used the name, “Jehovah,” but through continuous study, he began to see that the tetragrammaton should be transliterated as “YAHWEH,” pronounced “Yahway,” Dodd was baptized into the name of Yahshua in 1941 by Elder Earl Bigford of Michigan.
Further, “quite a number of ministers [in the Salem Church of God] . . . accepted the Feasts ultimately and some of them eventually accepted the Sacred Name . . . .” Among these were Elders William Bishop and William Bodine.
Armstrong’s Relations With Dodd
Jacob O. Meyer, current leader of the Sacred Names Movement, writes: “Among some of my interesting research material is a 1939 copy of The Faith magazine in which Elder C.O. Dodd advertised the Feast of Tabernacles which was held in Oregon under the direction of Elder Herbert W. Armstrong. A similar advertisement appears in 1941, in which Elder Dodd calls Mr. Armstrong ‘a pioneer in this great truth.’ The notice even hints strongly that some of that Oregon group [Armstrong’s] were using the Sacred Names!”
The Conns and Mrs. Bobbie Fisher, early converts through Armstrong’s preaching, strongly feel that Armstrong came to understand the Feast Days through self-study, and not through Dodd. But Mrs. Vera Henion, who with her husband Dave Henion moved to Oregon in October of 1934 (they were Church of God members previously in Nebraska), notes that there might have been some tie between Armstrong and Dodd. She herself learned much of her beliefs concerning the Holydays from Dodd’s tracts and articles. She took the Salem Bible Advocate, and might have learned something about the Feast Days from that source. She wrote questions to Dodd, and recalls that Armstrong’s knowledge of the Holydays was increased through her, as she gave him Dodd’s material and they studied them together. She recalls that a woman in Eugene (a big, fleshy woman, now deceased) started Armstrong on the Holydays. Mrs. Henion, who went to the Scravel Hill church, believes it was the latter part of 1935 that she started keeping the Holy Days, along with 40-60 others, including the Helms, McGills, Davis and Armstrongs.
Work of Dodd — The Faith Continues
Meyer notes that Dodd “was not blessed with an advertising flair as some men are, and as a consequence the Sacred Name message reached a rather limited audience. Dodd died in December, 1955, and his magazine passed to different individuals. Yet his work continued in The Faith magazine and the Assemblies of Yahweh.
From March 1937 to August 1955, The Faith was published at Salem, West Virginia, by Dodd’s Faith Bible and Tract Society. After his death, headquarters passed on to Robert C. Darnell at Kansas City (February 1956 — February 1957). Dodd’s wife Martha continues to operate The Faith Bible and Tract Society at Salem. B.C. Wright continued the editorship from March 1957 to August 1961, during which The Faith headquarters moved in August 1958 to Tulsa and later back to Grandview, Missouri. In September 1961 it moved to Washington, D.C. where Elder D.G. Werner served as editor until January 1966. In January 1964, the paper moved to Morton (near Philadelphia), Pennsylvania. From 1966 — 1969, several members of the Morton Assembly of Yahweh, “The Faith Staff” served as editor.
In February, 1969, the paper again moved, this time to its seventh home, Holt, Michigan, where the “Holt Assembly” served as Co-Editors. In 1969 these were Samuel Graham, President; Lloyd Parry, Vice President; Richard Francis, Treasurer; Ruth Parry, Secretary; and Donald Trowbridge, Earl Bigford and George Kinney, Directors. Ruth Fink of Morton provided Quarterly Lessons.
The assembly of Yahweh which puts out The Faith does not consider itself to be any denomination, but is made up of small groups and individuals around the nation, each completely autonomous.
Sacred Name Leaders
According to a letter from a Sacred Names believer, Ruth Fink of Philadelphia, Alexander McWhorter wrote a book or tract, “The Memorial Name, or Yahweh-Christ,” in 1857. He may have been one of the earliest Sacred Name believers.
She also notes that Dodd, a member in the Church of God (Seventh Day), along with A.B. Traina, John Briggs, Bro. Cessna of Detroit, Marvin Gay of Richmond, Michigan, Bro. Owsen of Livenia, Michigan and other became interested in the Sacred Name. Others were Mr. and Mrs. William Bodine of Van Buren, Arkansas (Bodine was chosen # 5 of the 70 elders at the November 4, 1933 meeting in Salem, West Virginia. William Bishop was also a Church of God (Seventh Day) Associate who became a Sacred Name leader.).
Fink notes that there was a Camp Yah in Eaton Rapids, and Sister Pearl Smith of Lansing had quite a group for a number of years. Mr. and Mrs. Parry, Sister Bertha O. Saxman and Richard Francis are of the Holt group.
Dr. John Briggs and Yahweh Beth Israel
About 1933 to 1936, Angelo B. Traina, now deceased, pastured a church called the Gospel Kingdom Assembly in Irvington, New Jersey. It believed in baptizing in hyssop and rejected Pauline writings. One of his members, a Czech named August Sheffick, may have introduced Traina to the Sacred Name concept, as he claimed that he hated the word Christ, as it was a profane Greek name, meaning “smeared with excrement.” Traina studied the subject further, especially nothing the word Jehovah in Psalms 83:18. “Dr.” John Briggs, from Michigan, was living in New York City and considered himself a disciple of Traina, learning of the Sabbath, the “tribes” message and clean foods from Traina. Briggs came to Irvington on weekends and became convinced of the Sacred Name through Sheffick. Briggs prayed for a sick girl in “the Sacred Name of Yahshua” and she was healed; after that Briggs always used this name in prayer, although not all the church in Irvington believed it. Traina told Briggs to “soft peddle” the idea, so Briggs and Paul Penn, a Jewish member of the church, moved to Detroit, resuming a study at Briggs’ house on February 13, 1937. They attended a Church of God (Seventh Day) assembly, at 1400 Orleans Street, “the first place evangelized” in the Sacred Name. When the elders of the church were away attending a convention in Flint, Briggs was asked to speak. His Sacred Names sermon in December, 1936, convinced William Bishop, after Briggs explained why Christ is reported to have said “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabacthani,” Bishop was of the “fighting type,” and this apparently caused a stir over the issue in the Church of God. He rented a church for three months so he and Briggs could preach the name doctrine. Bishop was the first to evangelize in the name of Yahshua. Briggs came to believe in triune immersion, first in the name of the Father,YAHVEH, second in the name of His Son YAHSHUA, and third in the name KADESH, group name for the Heaven’s angels.
Brigg’s group of followers was chartered in Michigan on July 11, 1939 as The Assembly of YHVH with Charted members Joseph Owsinski, John Bigelow Briggs, Squire La Rue Cessna, Harlan Van Camp, George Reiss, Daniel Morris, William L. Bodine, John M. Cardona, Edmond P. Roche and Marvin Gay. Supposed to be a “general organization,” the group permitted transliterations as Yahovah, Yahveh, Yah and Yahavah. The Assembly of YHVH may be the oldest chartered name group in America.
L.D. Snow reports that Briggs and Penn were the first to pronounce and use the name Yahshua. Later William Bishop and S.L. Cessna used it.
At one time in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, there was such a large group of names believers around Detroit that they sponsored a radio program with Elder Ralph Kinney as spokesman, beginning in 1939. Elder Joseph Owsinski led the group in Dearborn, and Elder Cessna pastured the Detroit church.
Brigg’s group later became known as YAHVEH BETH ISRAEL. Briggs served as its executive secretary until his death on October 12, 1961, previously ordaining ministers to continue his work. By 1965, Paul Penn was the President, Norbert Bown the Treasurer, and William E. Bishop the Executive Secretary.
Briggs’ “Kadesh Name Society,” or “Names Evangelization Program” has also been referred to as “The Hallowed be Thy Name Movement.”
It continues, with congregations in Dearborn Heights, Michigan (Yahveh Beth Israel). Taylor, Michigan (B’Nai B’Rith Yah); and Detroit (B’Na Yah).
A.B. Traina and the Holy Name Bible
In 1938 Traina had received a copy of The Faith magazine from Dodd. He apparently went to Dodd in Salem, West Virginia, convincing Dodd of the “Israel message.” Dodd had Traina write this down, so he could put it into The Faith.
Traina seems to recall that this same year, 1936 as he remembers, but 1938 in fact, Dodd asked him this same year, 1936 as he remembers, but 1938 in fact, Dodd asked him to accompany him to a campmeeting in Warrior, Alabama. Traina was the first one called on to speak. When he got to the platform, he announced that he was anti-Christ, and that before he got through, there would be many other anti-Christs with him. After a two-hour sermon, he had an altar call, answered first by the Dodds, and then almost half the congregation. At this time they believed the proper name was Yahovah, but later learned that Yahweh was more proper.
Traina was an important figure in the Sacred Names Movement. He translated the New Testament into the sacred Name in 1950, and published the Holy Name Bible in 1963. Traina continued to work with The Faith but formed his one Scripture Research Association, Inc. of 1125 Stuyvesant Avenue, Irvington, New Jersey. Traina said he began to keep the Sabbath in 1916, through reading the Scofield Bible. He says he never a member of the Church of God (Seventh Day). Exactly what his Israel beliefs are is not known;he apparently identified them with the Caucasian race. He maintains that he did not “hear of the tribes from Destiny Magazine NOR from Armstrong. [But] when I was in Los Angeles, in 1947, I tried to get Armstrong right o the question of the tribes and the Name, BUT he refused to discuss the subjects so he is just as ignorant as Jere. 8:8 and 9 says about false prophets.”
Interestingly, the Scripture Research Association’s headquarters at one time was Box 47, Cessia Florida. Traina may have ben the “minister from Florida” that wrote Herbert Armstrong in 1927 or 1928, saying that he was ignorant unless he knew the identity of the United States and Britain as the Birthright people of Israel.
This started Armstrong on his researches on the Anglo-Israel question.
Traina reported he kept three Feast, Passover, First Fruits and Feast of Tabernacles. He died in 1971 or 1972.
L.D. Snow and The Elijah Messenger and Assembly of Yahvah
L.D. Snow was first converted in 1929 under preaching of a Free Will Baptist minister in 1929 under the preaching of a Free Will Baptist minister, in Fort Smith, pastured by Elder R.A. Barnes. Soon after his marriage on October 17, 1933, Snow was given an American Standard Version of the Bible, and came to respect the name “Jerovah.”
Barnes church went into Salem Church of God of God faction, and Sniw became a minister. A.N. Dugger, General Overseer, called a ministers’ meeting during the Campmeeting at Galena, Kansas in 1936, requesting several months in advance that the ministers prepare to make a decision as to the exact words for the ceremony of water baptism. Snow privately felt that “Jehovah” was the proper name, and later believed that this conference, and the resultant discussion, was important in starting the name movement.
Elder C.O. Dodd, one of the “mainsprings” in founding the Salem Group, served as Secretary-Treasurer through 1936. But because he differed on the subject of the Feast Days, he was asked to resign, and in March of 1937 he started The Faith Magazine. Someone from Michigan sent Dodd a clipping about the Savior’s name, which Dodd published as “filler.” But great interest was sparked by the article, and Dodd began to use the Jah-oshuah and Jahoshua in the October 1938 Faith. This same issue contains an article A.B. Traina, “What is His Son’s Name?” in which he used Jehovah for the Father and Jah-oshuah for the Son. Also there was an article by William Bishop and John Briggs of the Kadesh Name Society of Detroit on “The King James’ Version Regarding Sacred Names.”
The first “name” campmeeting was the Feast of Tabernacles of the Church of God at Warrior, Alabama, held in the home of Church of God minister J.D. Bagwell. Dodd and Traina attended, as well as elders C.J. Ayers, J.A. McClain, Arthur Barnes, and L.D. Snow. Traina, through not a Church of God minister, was the main speaker, given 4-6 hours a day to lecture on the name subject. Names then used were Jehovah, and Jah-oshuah.
Snow considers October 1938 campmeeting as “the real beginning of the Name Movement.” It was also the year that Dodd founded The Faith Bible and Tract Society.
Snow and his wife were convinced the Name in 1943. He was credentialed with The Assembly of YHVH in Michigan in the early 1940s. At this time, Dodd was using the form Yahweh and Snow went along with this spelling but prounced it Yah-WAH for a short time, later YAHVAH. In 1950 Snow changed his spelling of the Name to Yahcah. Others who supported Snow on this usage were Elder Squire La Rue Cessna (a former Church of God, Seventh Day, minister) and Elder Israel Kalr. Cessna in the Late 1920s called his group “The Assembly of Jehovah,” and in the early 1930’s, “The Assemblies of Yahvah.”
Snow maintains that during the early years of Dodd’s work, Dodd used the four letter YHVH and the form Yahavah, pronounced Yahvah. But later Dodd changed to “Yahweh,” pronounced “YahWAY.” As early as 1938, the issue of just how to pronounce and spell the Hebrew name has been a hotly disputed issue among Name Believers.
In 1945, Snow began publishing The Yahwist Field Reporter, which was later changed to Kingdom Messenger and Field Reporter, and still later to The Eliyah Messenger and Field Reporter. He formed the Sacred Name Publishing Association at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Associate ministers were C.A. Davis of Tulsa, L.F. Wilds who moved to Fort Smith in 1945, C.J. Ayers and W.L. Bodine.
In 1949, Snow moved to Emory, Texas, where that summer he orangized The Assembly of Yahvah with himself as Overseer and E.B. Adair Assistant Overseer. In 1956 the Group was incorporated in Texas, and Snow began to teach “apostolic organization.”
Snow’s literature resulted in the organization of Sacred Name work in India as early as 1948, as the Phippines and Jamaica.
Differing greatly over the pronunciation of the Name with Elder A.B. Traina, SNow nevertheless notes the Traina did much to spread the name message.
Snow moved to Junction City, Oregon in 1957, where he was assisted in 1966 by Wilburn Stricklin of Harrisburg. Another associate that year was James Pridmore of Moline, Illinois.
The Eliyah Messenger uses both Yahvahshua and Yahshua for the Messiah name. The group is rather against Anglo-Israelism, although admitting that “many of us are israelites.” Passover is kept, but Feast Day observance is allowed to individual members or local churches, but not promoted by the Messenger.
“Yah” and “The Word”
Another Sacred names groups is The Assemblies of Yah, headquarters at Albany, Oregon. Formerly associated with the Assemblies of Yahweh, this group publishes the paper, The Word (since 1961) and in 1969 was led by Hans H. Schallig. The annual feasts are kept by the “Yah” group.
Boyds and Sacred Name Herald
Still another group has been Earl and Mrs. Boyd, who since 1958 have published the Sacred Name Herald, from Wilder, Idaho. In 1969, it was moved to Claremore, Oklahoma. The “Feasts of Weeks” is figured by the Boyds from the annual Sabbath.
Jacob O. Meyer and the Sacred Name Broadcast
Born in Bethel, Pennsylvania German-accented Jacob O. Meyer’s ancestors arrived in America from Germany in 1732. They were among the founding fathers of the old German Baptist Brethren (which later took the name, Church of the Brethren). Meyer notes that one of the strange customs of this church was the annual spring deacon’s visits to each member, to see if they still held fast to the teachings of the church. The tradition stemmed from a split in the church in colonial times, when Conrad Beissel preached the keeping of the Scriptural Sabbath, and founded the monastic community at Ephrata, Pennsylvania. There is a strong possibility, Meyer notes, that some of his forefathers were in the Ephrata community, which observed the memorial supper four times a year, one of these at the Passover season.
Meyer learned the Sacred Names doctrine from a Bible course he took in conjunction with Albright College, sponsored by the Berks County Sabbath School association. He first associated with a small groups all over the world. He noticed the “most of the Sacred Name believers were firmly committed to Feast Day keeping” as a result of “the able teaching of Elder Dodd.”
The was during the early 1960’s and Meyer was “terribly disillusioned” when he found out that the sacred Names people were “terribly fragmented on doctrine. [And] There was really no determined effort to work toward unity or preach this magnificent Bible Truth to the world.” Meyer was re-baptized into the Sacred Name, and volunteered his services to assist Elder Boyd, who was publishing a Sacred Name periodical the Sacred Name Herald, in Wilder, Idaho. His first Feast of Tabernacles was in 1964, when his family went to Oregon and assembled with some 30-50 brethren at a campground in Turner. The Feast was arranged by the Lebanon Assembly of Yahweh.
Meyer apparently stayed in Oregon for a time and worked with them, supporting them financially and journalistically in their effort to establish a magazine. But “Satan entered the flock and caused this group to disintegrate,” and Meyer returned to his birthplace in Bethel, Pennsylvania.
In 1965, Meyer kept the Feast of Tabernacles at Nevada, Missouri with 30-40 people. Mrs. Pearl Smith of Michigan was there also. Meyer was ordained to the ministry there. A few months later in February of 1966, he initialed the Sacred Name Broadcast radio program, over radio program, over radio WBMD, Baltimore. In 1968, Meyer began Sacred Name Broadcaster magazine.
In 1969, Meyer launched the Assemblies of Yahweh, Inc. as a vehicle to unify all the Sacred Name elements.
During the previous years, Meyer had observed the Feasts with small groups in Alabama and Michigan. The 1969 Feast of the Assemblies of Yahweh was held in Bethel, with 60 people. In 1970, there were 100 people. The people outgrew this place, so in 1971 and 1972, the Feast was observed in St. Louis in a state park.
Meyer began a magazine for members only, called The Narrow Way. In 1972 his administrative assistant, and managing editor
of The Narrow Way, was Henry D. McFarland, formerly of the Worldwide Church of God. In 1971, Meyer was the only fulltime member of the staff, but by 1972 there were eight. A “School of the Prophets,” that is, a college, was planned for the fall of 1972. Private tutelage would be given young men, who enrolled in local college Bible courses.
A Pasadena, California assembly of Yahweh was expected to begin in August of 1972 under the guidance of Donald Capra.
The Spanish work began on June 29, 1972 with the decision to publish a “Curse De Correspondencia.”
The Sacred Name Broadcast of Meyer is heard across the nation and is becoming widely known. Both the Bethel and Holt groups works together. All the Holy Days are kept by the Assembly of Yahweh (Pentecost Sunday), which makes them differ from the Assembly of Yahvah, which keeps Passover only, and the Assembly of Yah, which keeps Pentecost as the Jews do.
“A Brief History of the Name Movement in America,” by L.D. Snow in May 1966 Eliyah Messenger.
The Faith, February 1969 and February 1970
Good News, August 1969.
Interviews with Mrs. Vera Henion, Bill and Jean Conn and Mrs. Bobbie Fischer.
Letter of Ruth Fink.
Letter of Paul Penn, dated December 22, 1970.
Letter of A. B. Traina, January 28, 1971.
“North American Names Movement Start,” from March 1969 Word, and tracts “Primitive Baptism” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”
Sacred Name Broadcaster, September-October 1972, November-December 1972, January-February 1973.
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