Newspaper and TV reporters have begun digging into the bizarre world of Marcus Wesson, the man charged with killing nine of his children and grandchildren in Fresno, Calif., during the weekend, and some have latched onto an overly simple explanation: he may be an Adventist. Reports also suggest that he was a polygamist and that he fathered grandchildren with two of his own daughters. USA Today showed enough concern for reporting to check with an Adventist church and to end its story with this simple disclaimer: "A church spokeswoman said Monday there's no record of Wesson's membership."
The Seventh-day Adventist Church posted an unequivocal statement that Wesson was not among its members:
"This is incorrect," said Kermit Netteburg, assistant to the president for communication in the church's North American region. "We cannot find any record of Mr. Wesson's being a member of any Seventh-day Adventist church."
Perhaps Wesson is an Adventist in the same sense that David Koresh was: in claiming to have a fuller revelation than most other Adventists, and in splitting away to teach a fatal distortion of Adventist belief. In 1993 Adventist Today interviewed Charlie Liu, an Adventist pastor who lost some members to Koresh while serving in Hawaii. Money quotes:
A typical response was, "We have the new messenger, the new light. What you are reasoning from is the old light. Our leader is the only one who can open the seven seals and lay before us the truth of the very last days." I reasoned from Christian principles, pointing out the fallacy of playing to people's fears and using threats and manipulation.
Koresh and Wesson notwithstanding, nothing in Adventist doctrine logically leads to polygamy, child molesting or incest. Referring back to Koresh's mass immolation at Waco and to the story depicted in the film A Cry in the Dark, a posting to SDAnet.org stated it well:
I wish to convey my total dismay and helplessness on the news of the killing of the family in Fresno. The word cult and Adventists have once again been adjoined, and we bear the stigmatism of Waco and the Australian family accused of sacrificing their infant.
Much prayer is needed, and I pray that we can all exercise our heritage of a loving relationship with our Savior and fellow humans, and illuminate much love and compassion.