Study No. 74

  Donald Mansager is leader of a Sacred Name group headquartered in Missouri, formerly called Assemblies of Yahweh in Messiah, now Yahweh’s New Covenant Assembly. This group began a couple of years ago as a result of some becoming disaffected with the Assemblies of Yahweh, Bethel, Pennsylvania, headed by Jacob O. Meyer.

Mr. Mansager asked me to assist him in defending himself and his religious organization against a lawsuit filed by the Bethel group, May 27, 1983. The Bethel group has obtained a "service mark" which is similar to a trademark, and claims exclusive use of the name "Assemblies of Yahweh" or any "colorable imitation thereof."

I believe that I Corinthians 6:1-8 forbids true Bible believers from appearing in court against each other. I cataloged the facts I know relative to history of Sacred Names groups. The issue appears to be whether or not the Assemblies of Yahweh, Bethel, Pennsylvania, has exclusive rights to use the name "Assemblies of Yahweh" or close variations thereof.

The Sacred Name groups descended from the Church of God, Seventh Day, as explained in my books, History of the Seventh Day Church of God, Vols. I and II, and Six Papers on the History of the Church of God. These books on Church of God, Seventh Day history have been requested by Oxford University, Cornell University, Loma Linda and James White Universities (Seventh Day Adventist), as well as Ambassador College (Worldwide Church of God). Write Giving & Sharing for a current listing.

As history shows, Sabbatarian history is rife with many splinter groups, among which are the Sacred Name groups. Volume II of the History, Section H has 145 pages of historical material on Sacred Name groups, including a short "Origin and History of the Sacred Name Movement" (pages H53-H70).

I have never been a member of a Sacred Name group. I was a member of the Worldwide Church of God, Pasadena, Ca., from 1969-1975. This organization was founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, a contemporary and acquaintance of Clarence O. Dodd, the modern founder of the Sacred Name movement. Both Armstrong and Dodd were ministers of the Church of God, Seventh Day (Salem, W. Va.) group, one of the factions of the Church of God, Seventh Day. They began their respective movements at about the same time (1934-1937). At the outset, both Armstrong and Dodd became independent mainly over the issue of the Feast Days of Leviticus 23. Armstrong and Dodd both believed these days should be kept today, while the majority of Church of God, Seventh Day people disagreed. Dodd later came to believe in the "Sacred Name" doctrine, which means a belief in the exclusive use of the Hebrew names for the Supreme Being (Yahweh, and Yahshua the Messiah).

Dodd did not originate the Sacred Name doctrine. Its exact origin appears to be long before his time. However, Dodd crystallized the movement, making it a major force among Saturday keeping church organizations. His The Faith magazine began in 1937, and still continues to use the name "Assembly of Yahweh." Dodd died in 1955, but the Assemblies of Yahweh movement which Dodd founded, continues today in a number of organizations. Church of God, Seventh Day, and Assemblies of Yahweh history continue to be marked by splits, new groups being formed and some old ones dying out.

The Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups (Bible Sabbath Association, Fairview, Oklahoma, 1980), lists no less than 37 distinct Sacred Name groups out of a total of 139 Sabbath-keeping groups. The question is, does the Bethel group have the exclusive right to use the name "Assemblies of Yahweh"? I am not acquainted with the legal aspects of this question. But from an historical perspective, there is nothing to indicate that the Bethel group, incorporated in Pennsylvania in 1969, has any exclusive right to use this term. As historical proof, I offer the following evidence:

(1) Jacob O. Meyer, founder of the Sacred Name Broadcast and Assemblies of Yahweh, Bethel, Pa., did not know Clarence O. Dodd (Dodd died in 1955, Meyer accepted the Sacred Name doctrine in the early 1960’s). His group has no more historical ties to Dodd’s movement than any of the many other Sacred Name groups.

(2) There has never been a time when all Sacred Name believers were in one organization. There have been, and continue to be, a number of organizations of significant size utilizing a form of the name "Assemblies of Yahweh."

(3) There are Assemblies of Yahweh organizations outside North America which originated before the Bethel group, that do not have ties with them. The Bethel group could not force them to stop using "Assemblies of Yahweh."

(4) I estimate total "Yahwists" worldwide to number over 50,000, most of these being in Third World countries. The Bethel group does not have majority status in numbers, when looked at from a worldwide perspective.

(5) Here is documented evidence of early use of name "Assembly of Yahweh" or the like:

Reference: Existence of "Assembly of YHVH" in Detroit, Michigan and "Assembly of Yahvah" in Pennsylvania. Source: The Faith magazine, October, 1939.

Reference: The Eliyah Messenger, published by L.D. Snow and Wilburn Stricklin was the official organ of the Assembly of Yahvah, Junction City, Oregon, which began in 1945. Elder LaRue Cessna, a Church of God, Seventh Day elder, called his group Assembly of Jehovah in the late 1920’s, and Assembly of Yahvah in the early 1940’s. Dodd used the term Jehovah at first, later Yahvah. In 1949, Snow moved to Emory, Texas and organized the Assembly of Yahvah, incorporating in 1956. Snow claims to have organized the Assembly of Yahvah groups in India, Philippines and Jamaica. Source: The Faith magazine, May, 1966.

Reference: "The Faith" magazine staff states that they are not a denomination, but "The Assembly of Yahweh," made up of small groups and scattered individuals, some of whom are incorporated as non-profit religious organizations. Each of the groups is completely autonomous, some print magazines, some sponsor radio programs, others print tracts, or Bibles. Source: The Faith magazine, February 1969 issue.

Reference: An assembly of Yahweh was incorporated at Morton, Pennsylvania in 1960 and published The Faith from 1961-1968. The congregation continues in Philadelphia. Source: Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups, pages 31-32.

Reference: Assemblies of Yahweh in Nigeria began in 1958. Source: Directory, pages 25-27.

Based upon historical evidence, the name "Assembly of Yahweh" or variations thereof, was in use long before Jacob O. Meyer came on the scene. The Bethel group is a unique Assembly of Yahweh organization in that its stated purpose (Directory, page 22) is to unite all scattered Sacred Name believers. Based upon historical precedence, this goal seems to be illusory. In comparing Sacred Name groups to their cousins of the Church of God, Seventh Day groups, it appears that Sacred Name groups tend to fractionalize more, and thus it would be much more difficult to unite them. Meyer’s lawsuit may have been an attempt to create a legal precedent to confiscate the property of all other Sacred Name groups. But it is doubtful that this will happen.

Can a religious organization’s name be patented or "service mark" protected? Witness the more than 250 different organizations with variations of the name "Church of God." Many of them, of course, do not keep the Sabbath. In Sabbath-keeping circles, the name "Church of God" is almost as much a generic term as "Assemblies of Yahweh." To put it another way, when I meet someone who says "I am a member of the Assembly of Yahweh," I can no more determine to which particular organization this person belongs, than if he stated he was "Church of God." How can a generic term be "service mark" protected with exclusive rights?

In my work with Giving & Sharing, a non-profit mail order bookstore serving Sabbath keepers around the world, I come into contact with many "Yahwists" or Sacred Name believers. A "Yahwehist" is not synonymous with Assemblies of Yahweh, Bethel, Pennsylvania. I am amazed how often I come into contact with new groups who state they are "Assemblies of Yahweh" who obviously have no connection with Bethel. These have all taken the same religious mark, which for 50 years has been in general use.

The tone of the lawsuit brings the religious organizations involved down to the level of the business and commercial aspects of worldly profiteers. The Assemblies of Yahweh, Bethel group is reputed to be "doing business" in Missouri and their basic complaint was that Mansager’s group had diverted funds that would have gone to Bethel. If religion is a business, then why does it hold a non-profit tax exempt status? If religion is a charity, then it is not a business. It can’t be both ways.

I am saddened at the frequent legal battles between Sabbath-keeping groups. I respect those who use Hebrew names for the Supreme Being. I frequently use these terms also. Attempting to put a trademark or patent on the name of the Creator, and forcing others not to use this name appears to border on idolatry. I do not worship a name. I worship a Being who is much more than a phonetic sound. He is not pleased when His Holy Name is being contested in the courts. YAHWEH, INC.? No mortal human has a corner on the name of Yahweh.

Material to Write For

History of the Seventh Day Church of God, Volume I

Volume II Part H (145 pp.) on Sacred Name

Six Papers on the History of the Church of God

History of the True Religion, by A.N. Dugger & C.O. Dodd W

 Bible Study Index