|Against the Gates of Hell
Our Paths Cross The Meeting January 1957, I saw Ambassador College for the driven out from Beverly Hills after receiving a telephone call from an advertising man whose business I had man — from the brink of bankruptcy. "There's someone in Pasadena with a big, big problem," he had said. "Runs a small college of some kind and he wants me to buy him some radio and television time. But he's got financial worries. I told him what you did for me and that you could help him too. He wants to meet you."
Reluctantly, I agreed to go. As a partner in a successful accountancy firm in the Los Angeles area with clients in the communications fields, work was piling up and my time was beginning sharply limited.
I called for an appointment and, on a bright morning, drove to Pasadena Leaving the Freeway, I turned into South Orange Grove Boulevard and searched for Grove Street, and the address I had been given. A moment later I spotted it, turned right and braked to a stop in front of number 363, the college's "main building."
It was a large house of venerable age, which once could have laid claim to elegance, looking rather more like the home of a wealthy businessman than a hall of academe, and indeed it once was. The property (I learned afterward) was built originally in the late nineteenth century by Eldridge M. Fowler, brother of Cyrus Hall McCormick, who invented the reaper and founded the firm that eventually became the International Harvester Company. It was known as the Fowler Estate.
Nearby was another structure, much smaller, the two squatting on two and one-quarter acres of smooth lawn and attractive shrubbery. I walked past the main building to the smaller one where I had been asked to go, This one had started life as a stable, mutated into a garage when cars replaced the horse, and had been converted once again, this time into the business office of the college.
It was here that I saw Herbert W. Armstrong. It was a meeting that would lead to a strong, continuing, and still enduring relationship.
A secretary led me into a sixteen by twenty-foot room tastefully decorated with handsome, traditional furniture, not in the current height of fashion favored by business executives of those years, but solid and dignified. A fine rug covered the broad flooring and drapes were hung over the casement windows. The room gave the appearance of an upstairs bedchamber doing double duty as a home office.
Seated behind the desk, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and neatly knotted striped tie, sat Herbert Armstrong.
He was then sixty-five years old but looked much like he still does today, a small, somewhat portly man with rimless glasses that had gone out of style thirty years before, and white hair that he combed straight back. He greeted me courteously and invited me to sit down.
I felt, at first, that I was in the presence of a kindly, grandfatherly sort of man, but one who was also somewhat reserved and even diffident.
This was soon dispelled as our It talk began. Then Herbert Armstrong's warmth and personal magnetism conveyed by his rich baritone voice and beaming smile, was almost palpable.
He leaned toward me and, in his deep, musical voice, said: "I have a problem. Can you help me?"
I have never been easily impressed. But I felt myself strangely drawn to this smiling man. I had met many people, dealt with many types of clients, but I knew almost at once that Herbert Armstrong was a special kind of person.
We got down to business. He told me about the Church and the work of God he was carrying out, but added there was now a threat from Washington that could not only block further growth but even imperil the future of his entire movement. The federal authorities, he explained, were seeking to take away the tax-exempt status held
By the church, and neither his attorneys in Washington nor local council had been able to clear up the matter.
He handed me a thick file. "Please look it over," he said. There is a great deal of information there." He paused — "But we have grown rather rapidly in just a few years and perhaps our paper work has not kept pace with our work for God," he continued "Could you come back tomorrow and tell me what you can do to help us?"
I glanced at the heavy folder and riffled the contents. I'm afraid I smiled a little. That single look told me the file was not the most professional one I'd seen. "Oh," Armstrong said quickly, "of course, I'll pay you for your time." I nodded and he walked with me to the door.
"Would you like to see our college?" he asked me. I agreed and he took me on a brief tour. We walked across to the main building, which consisted of just two stories and an attic. On the floor classrooms had been fashioned from the living room,
Dinning room, the old music room and the servants' quarters; the largest room had been converted into a library, filled floor to ceiling with books. Armstrong explained to me that he taught twelve hours himself, giving four separate theology courses, which met three times weekly. On the second floor I was surprised to see a fully equipped broadcasting studio from which
Herbert Armstrong's voice was beamed out seven days a week on his half-hour programs.
Outside he told me what had already been done and what he envisioned for the future.
The college itself was less than ten years old, having opened its doors on October 8, 1947, and was moving ahead steadily Two years after its first students arrived, enrollment had increased to the point where a student resident facility was needed; And so a handsome twenty-eight-room late Tudor-style structure called Mayfair — he pointed a half block to the north — was remodeled to serve as a dormitory. Late in 1950, another piece of property was acquired. It lay to the east across Terrace Drive — again a sweep of his arm — and was, at present a Camellia nursery. That, Mr. Armstrong said, would one day be a large athletic field, complete with underground parking facilities. Along the surrounding streets would rise a great college, with a vast auditorium, student center, separate buildings for the various departments, residence balls, a fine library, and other structures, all set down on a beautifully landscaped campus. The streets, which were then still opened to traffic, would be closed off so that the institution could be self-contained in its own acreage.
I had worked with builders, had a fairly sound knowledge of architecture, and could visualize how an area could be transformed from concept into reality. Seeing through the eyes of this man, who was earnestly describing a dream — but a dream he knew eventually could come to pass — I was even more he impressed than I had been an hour earlier.
Having worked with nonprofit institutions such as churches, colleges, and hospitals, I felt I could be of help. At the same time, my experience had given me a down-to-earth recognition of the difficulties these organizations could face. They could be formidable, though not insurmountable.
I said goodbye to Mr. Armstrong, drove back, and began to study his file.
It was, to put it bluntly, a mess.
I could discern no pattern in the massive number of documents he gave me. Before any solution could be found the files had to be sorted and broken down into other files, with each separate paper analyzed. There would be no quick, easy answer. I put the file back in my briefcase and decided to see Armstrong the next day, to tell him frankly what needed to be done.
He came to the point quickly. "Well, do you have a solution for us?
My answer was just as forthright, No I haven't. In fact, I don't even know what the problem is yet. But obviously it's one with some history behind it and one that is very important to you. I like what I see here, and I like you. I think I could probably help, but no guarantees until I really dig into the facts and figures."
He brought up the question of a fee for my services. There was surprisingly little discussion and certainly no haggling. The immediate problem of taxes had to be settled, followed at once by tidying up the fiscal disarray. I suggested he set the figure for a monthly retainer, to continue as long as he was happy with my work and he did. I accepted it promptly although I knew the effort involved would be prodigious.
I've worked with Herbert Armstrong ever since. In some ways, It has been almost like a father-son relationship, something I say I never was able to maintain with my real father.
California Bound "They say, best men are molded out of faults," wrote William Shakespeare in Measure for Measure. Candor permits no other evaluation of my early years than that they were flawed by the usual faults — to which, I must add, I contributed a few original ones—of young People growing up in a difficult era. But faults, like adolescent fantasies, can be outgrown and, as the poet Ed Waller put it, one can become "stronger by weakness." I know my own earlier imperfections strengthened me because I was able to recognize and profit from them. Whether they me into the "best" man surely is not for me to say; others gauge my performance and accomplishments. Yet, I would be less than honest if I were not enormously proud of what has achieved in the more than two decades I was privileged to serve with Herbert Armstrong, great advances to which I hope I have contributed in no small measure.
I was born in White Plains, a commuter suburb in Westchester County north of New York City, on August 13, 1930, My father, Nathan, was a successful designer and manufacturer of hotel and restaurant fixtures and facilities, a number of which won coveted awards in the field. He had met my mother, Pearl, while on a visit east from his native California. Mother, who lived in Pennsylvania, was visiting friends in Westchester. They were married in 1929 and my father did not return to California until many years later.
With my younger sister, Joan, our family lived in a two-story colonial house on a quiet tree-shaded street. Despite the hard times that afflicted the country, my father's shrewd business sense enabled him to provide extremely well for us all.
And so I wore good clothes, had all the toys and sporting equipment I wanted, went on costly vacations, and always had a generous allowance. My lifestyle was pleasant and undemanding.
It was a good life. Missing from it was a warm, solid relationship with my father. Sadly, the communications gap between us was too wide to be bridged.
My father had many interests which he indulged, sometimes including my mother, Joan, and me, but just as often leaving us out. He loved sports and, in the 1930s, sponsored semiprofessional basketball and football teams. He would hire outstanding coaches, make side bets, and move in sporting circles.
That left my mother alone a great deal and to amuse herself she began to teach me all kinds of things when I was very young. By the time I was three, I could read newspapers and was doing advanced work in music. I was a kind of prodigy, and when I went to elementary school the teachers were somewhat at a loss at first. They didn't know where to place me because my reading skills were far above grade level, about five years advanced. I remember, as a first grade student, being sent to a third grade class to read to the students while the teacher was busy.
Looking back, I could see that my father and I did not understand one another because we saw life through different prisms. Like most parents, he wanted his son to have even more than he did, and to achieve higher goals. His generosity to me, however, was motivated by a quid pro quo, never stated but all too clearly understood: "If I do all these nice things for you, you are supposed to be an obedient son, agree with me in all things, and do things the way I want them done."
My father, moreover, was a strong-willed man with firm, decided opinions, who would never admit to being wrong, not in his business, certainly not in his home. Since I was the product of a generation that was beginning to ask questions, the result was a continuing confrontation. Restless, unhappy despite the comforts, I made a decision when I was sixteen to remove myself from his orbit. I would leave home for college, I determined, but never again return.
I enrolled in St. Lawrence University, a small but good liberal arts institution in Canton, New York. When I shook hands with my father and kissed my tearful mother in early September of 1946 and left to begin my college career, I knew I would not be back ever again, except for brief, occasional visits.
And I wasn't. *
Two years later, I decided to head out for the West Coast. I planned to attend Stanford University in Palo Alto and, on my way there, stopped off to visit one of my father's boyhood friends who bad become a successful motion picture and theatrical producer. He was in his early forties and to me, a young man not quite nineteen, led the most glamorous life conceivable. He was on first-name terms with stars and movie personalities who were, to me, only figures on a movie screen or names in the newspapers and magazines. He knew press agents, musicians and, of course, dozens of the stunningly beautiful girls who flock to the world's film capital in search of elusive stardom.
I was completely dazzled. "Stanford," I said to myself, "may be a great university but this — this is paradise!" The decision to change colleges made itself. I enrolled in the University of California in Los Angeles.
UCLA is a "streetcar" university; there are no residential dormitories, everyone commutes. In that milieu, being a stranger from a strange land, a student all the way from the East Coast, gave me a certain cachet, which helped me make friends.
Since I had not the vaguest notion of what I wanted to do with my life, nor any special field I wanted to pursue, I just took taste portions from the large educational smorgasbord UCLA offered. I searched the college catalogue and signed up for courses that sounded interesting. As a result, I kept bouncing from division to division of the university, winding Lip with an accumulation of credits in a wide assortment of academic disciplines, ranging from architecture, fine arts and — of all areas — furniture, to French and Latin. Somehow, I acquired more Latin credits than most persons have who teach the subject at the graduate level. To this day, I can read the Odes and Epistles of Quintus Horatius Flaccus — Horace, if you please — in the original, and, if pressed, can quote you lines from Catullus or Ovid, Alas, nobody ever asks. Foreign languages have always had an appeal for me. Recently I translated into English a complex analysis written in French of eighteen chaotic days in the life of King Leopold III of Belgium. In the summer of 1979, in Rabat, I was called upon without chance of preparation to deliver a twenty-minute talk in French to the leaders of that French-speaking Moroccan capital city. I got through it very well, thanks to my constant study of the French language.
Generally, however, I did not work very hard at college. In fact, I rarely went to classes, relying on an ability to assimilate and retain material without much application, to rack up excellent grades. I spent most of my time with the friends I had made in the more glamorous world of show business, attending parties in their mansions, swimming in their pools and, of course, meeting the beautiful girls. I was floating through school on a lovely pink cloud, enjoying myself hugely. I was like a kid in a candy store when it came to the models and starlets. Once, between summer and January, I dated the entire chorus line of a hit show. I had no time for the coeds at the university — that is, until one afternoon in May of my junior year.
* Remy, The Eighteenth Day, The Tragedy of King Leopold III of Belgium (Los Angeles: Gateway Publishers, Inc., 1978). I had dropped by the Student Union at the university for coffee. Cup in hand, I headed for a table occupied by only one person, a very pretty dark-haired girl. As I approached, I noticed that she was moving her lips and glancing, from time to time, at a pad in her hand. I surmised that she was trying to memorize something. That was my first glimpse of Niki, my wife of almost thirty years.
I pulled over a chair to her table. "Would it bother you if I sat here?"
"Not at all," she replied, "as a matter of fact, you can help.
Here, ask me these questions."
Niki confided that she was cramming for a test in art history, which she absolutely had to pass or flunk the course. For the next half-hour I quizzed her. But we really were not making much progress.
Finally, I blurted out, "You must be kidding! Are you really going to take that exam'? You don't know this material. You've only gotten one out of two correct."
She took it pretty nicely. "I know," she laughed. "I can't seem to keep this stuff in my head. But I'm going to pass. I'll just sit here and cram until exam time." I wished her luck and went on my way. Later I found out she made a C on the exam. Before I left, however, I asked if I might see her again.
"Sure," she said, "call me after the exam." She told me she lived with her parents in Beverly Hills but had her own phone under her name, Natalie Gartenberg. I took her telephone number but I actually did not call her for several months, and then it was to get a blind date for someone I didn't even know.
It's strange, the way we got together again. It happens often in life. One thing, one decision, one accidental encounter may start a chain of events that can influence the rest of a lifetime.
In August, I received a telephone call from my father's friend, Paul, asking for help in finding a date for a young man he knew. "He's all broken up," Paul said. "He's just been divorced and he's feeling pretty low."
"I don't know any college girls," I told Paul. "And even if I did, I wouldn't know where to reach them now. School is in recess." Paul was persistent, however, so I promised to try, but didn't do much about it for a few weeks.
One morning, the young man called quite early, waking me from a sound sleep. Partly to get rid of him and partly because I was half groggy, I agreed to try to find him a date. Then Nike popped into my mind. I couldn't find my notebook with her telephone number but I remembered that she lived in Beverly Hills and her name began with a "G." I got the telephone book, looked through the "Gs" and found her listing.
I called her, chatted a while, then admitted I had a problem. I explained that I knew a young man — well, didn't exactly know him but someone I knew did know him, and he wanted to meet some nice girls and well, would she . . . . .?
Suddenly the absurdity of the entire episode struck me. Why am I calling you for him?" I asked. "I haven't even met him . . . Tell you what — why don't you come out with me and get him another girl?"
Niki laughed, agreed, and we arranged a double date. Next night the four of us met for dinner at the Drake Hotel in Los Angeles, then saw a movie at the Egyptian Theatre. Afterwards we parted and neither of us ever saw either of them again.
But I saw Niki, often. I dropped completely out of the other crowd, which I was moving, courted Niki constantly, and five months later, on January 26, 1951, we eloped. We were both twenty years old.
I have never ceased to be amazed at the strange turns life can take. In my own experience, this has been one of the most extraordinary crowd with which I was moving, courted
A New Direction We were young, we were in love, we were very happy. But when I telegraphed the news to my parents and followed it with a call home, the reception was not only chilly but downright hostile. My father, seething with fury, would not even come to
The phone and mother, totally dominated by him, would not intercede for me. I tried to explain that it was my life, my future, my decision, my happiness that were in the balance, but he would neither listen nor yield, then or later. All he did was send word through my mother that he did not want me to be married, that I was to young for the role of husband and would not even acknowledge that I already had a Wife. He sent no wedding gift of course. Even more disheartening, he cut off my allowance.
We were at long last, totally estranged, and sad to say we remained so even when he moved to Los Angeles much later. We reconciled, though only partially, years afterward, when I had begun to achieve a certain amount of success that gave me status in his eyes. Niki's parents offered to step into the breach and help us until we finished college, but I declined.
"We're grateful, of course, but we will support ourselves," we told them; It was a brave declaration I did not completely feel because neither of us had learned a single marketable skill. Niki had never worked in her life, nor was I, just six months from graduation, trained for anything that could earn a dollar.
All we would accept from Niki Parents was the continuation of her allowance, although they furnished a lovely apartment for us in the West Los Angeles area, a wedding gift we were hardly in a position to refuse. Niki set out one day to find a job and got one in a few hours, selling candy at Blum's.
She was fired after one day. Later, she found an Office job; this time she did better, lasting several months. She never returned to school to get her degree.
Meanwhile, in the last half of my final year at college, I got the perfect job for a person unprepared to do much of anything.
I became assistant to the president of a company who did nothing.
This interesting situation arose when my father's friend suggested I apply for a position at the only plant of its kind in Los Angeles: a company that manufactured heels for ladies' shoes. The president, I soon learned, hadn't the vaguest idea of the manufacturing process but had a plant manager who did, a bright, aggressive man who had laid down the law to him. "I'll run this plant," he had warned, "but you stay out of the factory. If you as much as set foot inside, I'll leave."' Since you could scour Los Angeles, or even the entire country west of St. Louis, and not find another person who knew how to operate a heel — manufacturing company, the president did as he was told.
It was, as you can imagine, somewhat embarrassing for him to come to work each day and have nobody or anything to be president of and only a secretary to answer the occasional telephone calls. So he decided to hire an assistant. That, he felt, would make the office look a little busy. When I applied, I got the job.
It wasn't long before I got restless helping the president with nonexistent functions and began to handle the banking arrangements and other paperwork. Once the president discovered I was able to perform these simple things, he stopped coming into the office completely. Since I was not persona non grata in the plant area, as he was, I wandered through and got along famously with the autocratic manager. In no time I was running the whole operation, learning on the job. Meanwhile, I was completing the few remaining credits required for graduation.
By this time Niki was pregnant with our first child. Although we were doing reasonably well on my pay, which was small but adequate, the absurdity of my so-called job hit me strongly,
Still, what to do? I was unfocused, with no clear notion of what I wanted to do and certainly no burning desire to follow any particular path.
On January 22, 1952, almost a year after we got married, we had our first child, Janis Anne. Becoming a father for the first time has traditionally jolted a man into the awareness of his responsibilities, and it did no less for me. So even though I was not suffering economic distress, thanks to my salary and the luxuries showered on us by Niki's parents — her father was a successful sales manager for a large men's — clothing manufacturer I made a resolve to establish a direction for my life.
I had noticed that each month a young man came to the office to check over the company's books. I chatted with him one day and accountancy — which I had placed somewhere between animal training and polar exploration so far as a life work was concerned — was suddenly opened to me as a viable profession.
He explained what he did and I listened carefully. Talking to me at about the level of a high school guidance counselor explaining an occupation to a student, he told me that accountancy is the nerve center of almost every business, and that modern companies could not function efficiently, or even at all, without accurate facts and figures provided by an accountant and, much more important, interpreted by him. Warming to his subject, he explained that businesses can succeed or fail depending upon the skill and wisdom of their accountants. Improper or erroneous calculation of operating costs, incorrect forecasting of future trends based on current data, the inability to tell if the records he finds on audit fairly reflect the company's financial health — any of these can cause a business or an institution to founder.
How, I asked, does one become a certified public accountant? If I sounded naive, I was no worse than many college graduates of my day, or any day including the present, who enroll in a college and emerge with a smattering of knowledge but no real notion of the real world and its needs, and how they can equip themselves for it with marketable skills. He described the courses I would need, and added that I would have to pass an examination and serve an internship or apprenticeship before I could become a certified public accountant.
I wanted to know if, in addition to these educational and professional requirements, there were personal qualifications and aptitudes that equipped one for this profession. There were: An accountant, he said, must have a keen analytical mind. Check. He or she should enjoy meeting people and be able to set down thoughts in clear, crisp English. Check again. He or she should be a stickler for accuracy. Another check. He or she must be able to devote long, arduous hours and days to the job. Well, a question here. Never having had to work especially hard at anything, I could not honestly give myself high marks for diligence.
But I was fascinated. "This might be what I want," I told
Niki that evening. She was enthusiastic. I suspect she had been waiting for me to discover myself and would have been equally approving if I had announced an interest in chair — caning or hydroponic farming, as long as I wanted to do it.
So accountancy it would be. Since I had my job organized so that I could come to the office at 7:00 A.m. and leave by 1:00 P.m., I decided to spend the afternoons hunting for a job as a junior accountant. Meanwhile, I would enroll for the summer in a graduate course and, in the fall, continue with the UCLA extension program. I could thus earn some money while completing my education.
I studied hard that summer but it was September before I found the kind of job I was looking for in an office in Beverly Hills. I was interviewed and hired almost immediately by a young man in his early thirties who was a member of a firm with a burgeoning practice.
"Of course, you have a college degree," he said. "Oh, yes," I replied, truthfully. "You're an accounting major, of course," he continued. "Oh, absolutely," I said. (Well, I thought to myself, I was — for only two months, but he hadn't asked how long.)
"I'll have to get your transcript," he told me. "Oh, absolutely, you'll get it," I assured him, wondering how his eyes would pop at the bizarre mix of courses listed thereupon, not one of which was even remotely concerned with accounting. I never did get the transcript for him and he never asked, but I settled down and worked as hard as I could.
Two years to the day after I began working for him, I was a CPA. I had completed all my courses at night at the UCLA Extension Division, passed the CPA exam, and obtained my license in the minimum period of time permitted by statute. Almost at once I was invited to join the firm as a junior partner but, though grateful for the invitation, I refused. I intended to go into practice for myself, I said. My plan was to join forces with a man I had met, the financial vice-president of one of the companies for which we had worked.
He was about fifty years old, was trained as a CPA, and had always wanted to get into public accounting. He had offered to put up most of the cash to buy a practice, while I contributed a portion and gave him a note for the balance. We shopped the ads and bought two-thirds of a going practice, in partnership with the original owner.
The three of us meshed beautifully. I was the youngest, and perhaps the most energetic. The practice grew rapidly. Soon we had a large staff and three offices, one in Montebello in the East Los Angeles industrial area, another in the Sunset Strip area, and a third at Hollywood and Vine. Later, we consolidated all three in a high-rise building on the west side of town.
Our clients ranged from a large order of Catholic nuns to theatrical and motion picture people and others in advertising and television. We specialized, not merely in the auditing aspects of the profession, but in the engineering solutions to tax and financial problems, finding answers to questions that had eluded others. I was happy with my work, thoroughly enjoyed the challenges which came with assimilating new clientele and new problems and discovering solutions. I became expert in dealing with nonprofit institutions, in working with people of different backgrounds, ideas and ages. Ultimately it was this facility that led to my first contacts with the Worldwide Church of God.
Labor of Love After I had agreed to work with Herbert Armstrong on the Church's fiscal affairs, I assigned several staff members to organize and collate the mammoth file he had given to me.
Meanwhile, the first priority was to tackle the problem of tax exemption. I decided on a bold plan.
"I think I should go to Washington," I told him one day. "Communicating by mail is tedious and roundabout and phoning no help at all. I plan to fly there and remain until it's adjusted." Mr. Armstrong agreed enthusiastically and gave me the name of the attorneys representing him in the nation's capital.
In Washington I bypassed his lawyers and, without a prior request for an appointment, I appeared at the office of a Mr. Worley, chief of the Tax Exempt Section. I stressed to his secretary the urgency of the matter, explaining how I had come directly from California without delay, and asked to see Mr. Worley.
Worley was in, and I was ushered in to see him. I apologized for the inconvenience I was causing him, but I stressed how important my matter was both to my client and to his brethren around the world. After we reviewed the matter in general terms, he admitted to a lack of personal knowledge of the case. But because I was there at his office, he expressed his willingness to accommodate me as best he could. He called for the files and for two government lawyers who were familiar with the case.
It soon was apparent to me that much of the problem was caused by a misapprehension on the government's side of the very nature of the organization known then as the Radio Church of God, and of its operations in general. The government had obviously confused Herbert Armstrong with the likes of Sinclair Lewis's Elmer Gantry, or on the other hand, with A. A. Allen, a well-known radio evangelist with whom the government had been at war for some time.
Thus I knew how to solve the problem. I explained in detail what the Radio Church of God was, what it taught, how it promulgated its message, and, indeed, everything relevant and material about the organization and its operations that I had learned from several weeks of intensive study of the facts. The Internal Revenue Service has developed a list of fourteen characteristics that it uses in determining whether an organization qualifies as a church. I simply demonstrated how the Radio Church of God satisfied these requirements.
Within forty-eight hours the matter had been, for all practical purposes, resolved. The government's file was full of an abundance of facts — all easily verifiable — about a well-established church, a church with ministers in attendance around the nation and, in fact, around the world, who were ministering to a flock, congregation by congregation, as that flock increased from year to year through Herbert Armstrong's dynamic leadership. I stressed how the Church had grown from its humble antecedents in Oregon in 1934, and I enumerated as carefully as I could its major doctrines in order to underscore how it could be, distinguished from other groups. Because its tax exemption was also being attacked, I also reviewed the history and de — of Ambassador College, emphasizing the college's curriculum, its full-time faculty and student body, its physical plant, and its overall purpose of recapturing the true values in education and thus instructing young people how to live abundant and happy lives as well as how to earn a living.
I left Washington confident that only a short time would pass before the new letters of exemption would be received by the Church and the College and I reported this forthwith to Herbert Armstrong. The tax exemption for the Church was renewed and I was regarded as somewhat of a miracle worker, although there was nothing really mysterious in what I had done. I had pulled no political strings — I had none to pull. All I did was unblock the bureaucratic process by going straight to the individual in charge, who quickly understood that the Church was entitled to its exemption.
A small room in the main building was set aside as an office for me, although at the start, I spent only about two or three hours a week there. Almost from the first, a strong affinity existed between Herbert Armstrong and me. He regarded me as someone to whom he could talk frankly and freely about problems of deepest concern and 1, in turn, felt increasingly drawn to him. I was, nonetheless, equally candid in my own way. When we first discussed the possibility of my working with him, I told him an adviser had to be forthright and vigorous in giving his advice. "You are not accustomed, I am certain, to being told what you may not want to hear," I recall saying. "I'm equally sure you're not accustomed to being told that what you want to do may be fiscally unsound, unfeasible, or both. But if I am going to be of any use to you, I must be permitted to err on the side of bluntness." He had looked nonplussed but agreed to these ground rules of our relationship, and they have never changed.
At first, as I had done for many of my clients, I took on the role of a private receiver — if I may dare to use the word in light of what was to happen years later. I supervised the installation of a modern bookkeeping system that would enable the organization to know quickly and completely its true financial position. I placed expenditures under rigorous controls. I con — those creditors who were becoming restive to grant extensions, assuring them they would eventually be paid, and they were. As soon as feasible, I made certain that all future bills were paid when due so that faith in the institution's credit worthiness could be built up and maintained. I made sure no unnecessary risks were taken and that the best possible use was made of the Church's assets.
As time went on, Mr. Armstrong called on me to work more and more frequently with him. He summoned me to many consultations and invited me to accompany him on trips. Slowly, our relationship became as personal as it was institutional.
By this time, as so often happens with young men, the dilettantism of college years had vanished and I became charged with motivation. With my accounting practice booming and my association with Armstrong growing firmer and more richly satisfying as I saw the Church come back to fiscal health, I decided to become a lawyer. Looking back, I am somewhat dismayed at the chunk I was biting off. I was the father of three children — Carol Lee had been born in May 1953 and Stephen Paul had come along in April 1955. Where would I find the time?
Still, I knew that a legal background would enable me to serve my clients even more knowledgeably, and so I enrolled in the University of Southern California School of Law. For the next three and one-half years, I was a CPA and law student, attending classes both day and night, whenever they could be fitted into my dizzyingly busy schedule. My motivation never deserted me; nor, I must add, did Niki ever fail to encourage me. Proudly I say that I graduated first in my class in 1963.
As the number one student from a leading law school, I was somewhat in the position of a star high school quarterback: the offers from scouts came flooding in. Law firms from all over the country invited me to join their staffs, but I never seriously considered any. I was proud, too, to be offered a Sterling Fellowship from Yale University, a prestigious award that carried a high stipend. At first I accepted it and even went to New Haven to search for a house for my family. But almost at the last moment I declined that too, deciding at length that I would continue what I was doing and, at the same time, build up a private law practice.
Niki and I had moved our growing family to Beverly Hills. The time I was devoting to the Church was increasing steadily — indeed, before I realized it, I had become Herbert Armstrong's personal financial adviser as well as business engineer for the institution, consulted with increasing frequency on difficult policy questions that involved the commitment of funds for growth and development.
My work with him had become a labor of love. It was an enormously rewarding feeling to watch the organization — including the college — grow, and to know that I had a role in helping to create what was rising up. By 1969, five streets had been closed off to provide a large campus, new buildings were completed, and the foundation had been laid for the financing of the auditorium.
As for my earnings, let me put that on the record. I was being paid about $2,000 a month, although my services could then command considerably more. Accountants bill their clients, as attorneys do, at hourly rates; mine was $75 an hour. At this rate, I could have earned the $2,000 fee by working less than thirty hours, but where Herbert Armstrong was concerned I just about threw away the clock.
One day in 1969, at a luncheon meeting, Mr. Armstrong turned to me and said: "Can't you give us all your time?"
It was simultaneously stunning and flattering. Quickly he asked what I would need as income. Before we discussed compensation, I told him I could not cut completely loose from my practice at once; my partners and others who depended on me would be left high and dry. He agreed that I must not let that happen. Then, with his smiling yet quiet persistence, he asked me again how much I would require for living expenses.
I muttered something about $50,000 after taxes to cover the costs of my home, schools for my children, and all the other things. He nodded. "I want all your personal time," he said.
I talked it over with Niki, who was a little apprehensive. She adored Mr. Armstrong but was concerned about our relationship with the Church members. After all, I was not a member but a professional performing a function. Niki and I didn't have the same background as the Church members; we were not motivated by the same set of values. The difference between us, as Shakespeare said, was not, perhaps, "so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door" — but, as the line from Romeo and Juliet continues, " 'tis enough, "twill serve . . ." Could that gulf be bridged? Would there be acceptance, or would there be animosity?
After lengthy discussions, we could come to no answer, but I felt that I should, nevertheless, accept what was a virtual draft from Armstrong.
And I did.
Before 1969, Church members had known about me as the lawyer and fiscal expert, but I had still been someone in the shadows. Now, suddenly, I was thrust into the limelight. The Church had purchased its own airplane and, from that time on, I began to accompany Mr. Armstrong everywhere on Church business. He began to mention me by name wherever he went; photographs of the two of us visiting heads of state began appearing in the newspapers.
My sole intention was to perform as sound and solid a job of building the institution as I could. I would never become a minister of the Church and, at the time, I never even considered becoming a member. (I did become a member in 1975). But because of my new prominence, there were some who misunderstood why I was there and what my goals were. My political problems within the Church had their beginnings in these first rumblings of discontent, although I had no notion at the time that anything was amiss.
Church membership spurted. By the end of the 1970s, there were 100,000 baptized members and several hundred thousand other dedicated co-workers. Over a span of thirty-five years since its founding, the Church's growth averaged an amazing 30 percent every year, a record that is probably unequalled by any business or institution in any country.
Through its far-flung operations, the Church was serving almost 150 million persons on every continent. To accomplish this, Armstrong and 1, with a staff, were logging thousands of miles each year to meet with world leaders, and reaching tens of millions of people through radio and television. The message of the Church was being spread throughout the United States and the world by a variety of adjunct activities through its publications and its International Cultural Foundation. All of these major religious, humanitarian, educational, and cultural projects will be discussed later in this book.
Then, at the point of its greatest growth, after more than twenty foreign countries had presented awards and commendations to Church-supported programs, the state of California mindlessly sent us reeling.
This is how it all began: