by Frank Houtz
There are many teachers I have met and known in the Messianic/Hebrew Roots Movement. Most are honorable gifted men of God, but unfortunately, a few spend their time inflaming their audiences against the church and other brothers. Such actions are clearly against the teachings of Yehoshua and do nothing but stir controversy and strife. God hates one who sows discord among his brothers. I want to share about one of my brothers who I believe has acted righteously before us and give some information about his community of believers.
I have known John Conrad, of the House of Aaron in Eskdale, Utah since the year 2000. I have found him to be one of the finest men I have ever met. John teaches with an intellectual approach giving sound reasons for what he believes and uses good methodology. He does not jump to conclusions, weighs a matter well before speaking and usually comes up with challenging ideas. He is stable, balanced, loving and gracious making him welcome in our congregation anytime he is close. Let’s not stop there, his wife Joie is a dear. From my families experience with her, she is an exemplary woman of God. My daughter has worked with her often on dance praise teams. My wife has been with her at conferences and in her home. I have spoken with her often and find her joyful disposition to be a constant testimony for the Lord. She is active in Christian groups such as Women’s Aglow and other such non-denominational fellowships. Her wisdom gives her the ability to transverse diverse groups with no problems and can share with all Christians her testimony. We need more women like her in this movement.
John and Joie are not sectarian and never are demeaning toward those who might be different. I suppose they have developed this from years of being misunderstood and even falsely accused by others who do not take the time to know them. There are several false accusations that have been levied against the Conrads and the character of this family stands firmly above their accusers. My family has eaten at the Conrad’s table and I am pleased to be associated with them, having taught at some of the same conferences and at the House of Aaron. They are truly a blessing.
John and Joie Conrad are not the only people I know from the House of Aaron. David and Pam Sturlin are dear friends and wonderful people. David and Pam have visited our congregation and have stayed in our home. Their character shines wherever it is seen. David is a gentle man who is always willing to help on anything of his expertise and that covers quite a bit. He has been the soundman and conference director at several conferences where I have spoken. Anytime I have been blessed to speak where he held the reigns, it was a pleasure. He also is second in command behind John Conrad at the House of Aaron. John certainly recognizes good qualities when picking leaders. Pam takes care of the office at Eskdale and keeps it running smoothly and efficiently. They are both gifted in their jobs, but I am most impressed with their spirits. They are truly a blessing.
Lois Faber is a musician par excellence, who loves the Lord and glows with it. She also is a dear friend of my wife. Anyone who writes, performs and sings the beautiful praise music to YHWH that I hear from the House of Aaron, must have a wonderful relationship with Him. Lois is an fantastic violinist and teaches music at their high school. She also conducts the House of Aaron choir and is used in other such ensembles when the congregation needs her.
The House of Aaron has been asked to open up their private school to the children of the area by the state of Utah. They graciously have done so and their godly teaching and example is available for the whole community to observe. Lois has taken their small chorus to many State Competitions and this small school has won several State Championships while challenging the bigger better-financed schools. Lois has been named music teacher of the year over all the Utah high schools. I attended a play once performed at the school and it was excellent. Lois was the director and several of the students were from the House of Aaron. Many students from this school have continued into college and have excelled there.
Kiah Conrad is one of the finest cellists I know of and surprisingly enough he is an excellent tenor also. He has been the featured tenor in many of the House of Aaron recordings. While his accomplishments are great, I have found him very humble and eager to serve others. Tara Faber is the soprano counterpart to Kiah often singing duets with him. She excels in her performance as well. They exhibit extraordinary talent; I suspect this is drawn out by extraordinary teaching.
One other family I must mention; John and Mary Weight. John runs the garage for the farm keeping all the machinery running. He has done the same for my vehicle when we have been there. Considering the miles we put on a van, we usually have something we need by the time we get to Eskdale. We were invited to spend a week in their house a little over a year ago while I presented my Theological Swimming 101 course. They were wonderful hosts. Many of you might think it would be easy, but you may not realize I travel with my family. Remember, both fish and guest stink after 3 days. Seven people converged on their house. Now that’s a lot of benevolence. They knew what they were getting into and volunteered for the job in spite of the difficulty. When they built their house, they designed it in such a way as to host guests. Planning to be hospitable is far beyond most of our considerations when building. That’s the kind of people they are and the kind of community the House of Aaron has produced. They were such a pleasure to be around and such a blessing on that section of our trip.
I could name dozens of others from the House of Aaron who have each excelled in their work and show exemplary character in how they treat others. I have hardly scratched the surface in discussing the dear people that I know from Eskdale. I believe the House of Aaron, the teachers and their teachings have contributed to such fruit. We are encouraged to be fruit inspectors and I have seen this fruit and it is good.
I personally have spent at least 3 complete weeks at Eskdale. I do not have a bad word to say about anyone there. If they are faking good character they have practiced it so long, it is real. I have visited their homes watched their children, heard them discuss disagreements and watched them resolve their problems. Please, don’t think that I am saying they are perfect, but the work of Messiah is well evident in their lives. May all our congregations develop to the maturity I see in this community of believers. I just love these brothers and sisters. I don’t believe most of us are ready to lay down enough of our selfish ambitions in order to develop such fine character. Too many are striving to rise to the top and do not care who they tear down in the process. I have wanted to take the elders of our congregation out to Eskdale to witness a thriving community that has developed enough maturity to work together for a common good of the people and further the Lord’s Kingdom. To their credit, this experiment has lasted over 50 years, which has been ample time to prove their methods. It is so rare to see and experience such an encouraging environment.
John has come under attack in the last few years due to what seems to be strange teachings of the community prior to his leadership. John and his father, Robert, have made many changes over the years as they have grown in their understanding of the Lord’s plan for this earth. One should never judge a teacher by writings or actions of their predecessors, but it seems some would like to attack John because of the path taken by the founder of the community. I have been associated with a group that was equally thought to be strange in its early years. It seems pioneering groups are often considered weird, but later a trend is set which takes over the nation. The congregation of my youth had the first family to homeschool in the state of Kentucky. We also had a Passover Seder every year and we were not afraid to work with other congregations in the area. We were strange, and the result was that our hometown became the largest homeschool community in the state while being way down on the list when comparing population. Today, the churches work together on many projects and there is an excellent spirit between diverse denominations. I think that the work of the congregation of my youth was somewhat responsible for the changes in the community. They were strange because they were leaders.
While Paul Harvey has been dead for a few years, I want to give you the rest of the story. My flowery description concerning the House of Aaron has not always been my thoughts. When I first heard of the House of Aaron, I was dramatically turned off. To hear that there were people who thought they were a modern day Christian Levitical priesthood was disturbing. I was inclined to hold them at arms length at best. I could think of numerous biblical reasons to discount their claim and to be honest, I was a bit tired of seeing people walking around in the sacred High Priest clothing just to attend a conference. It seemed way too theatrical for me. I suspected, that the House of Aaron must have been like this since they claimed to be literal Cohanim. I had not met anyone from the House of Aaron, at least to my knowledge, so I had no idea what they were really like.
After attending and speaking at MIA conferences for a few years, I discovered that John Conrad was from the House of Aaron. I had gotten to know and appreciate John by then, but had not realized he was from “that group.” He seemed —- normal. I must say that this revelation did not relieve all my fears concerning the House of Aaron, but it did give me the desire to give them a chance. Surely if this seemingly sane individual was associated with them, they at least deserved a chance. I began to stealthily check them out. I continued to be friendly to John, but asked questions and found out who else was involved. The more checking I did, the more comfortable I became. I started comparing my own doctrines against theirs. I was claiming that we were possibly from the Northern Kingdom, Ephraim, and they were just being more specific. I discovered that their founder had a 500 plus year tradition that he was of Levitical descent going all the way back to ancestors in Scotland.
Others from the group show similar heritage. David Sturlin had his DNA examined by the National Geographic Society. It showed exactly as they suspected according to the tradition passed down. His DNA traced back to Scotland and then to the Middle East. But, even if it did not, consider what the prophet Ezekiel said concerning being identified with a specific tribe if you had no tribe. It seems this verse would indicate that if they dwelt together, they might share in the name and the calling. This sounds somewhat like Samuel being an Ephramite and ministering in the house of God. The House of Aaron claims a Levitical calling, and maybe you do not accept the way they derive that. I have heard others claim a specific tribe and attempt to prove it from Scripture. Even if I disagree with their exegetical methods, that doesn’t mean they are evil. The worse one should conclude is that they could be wrong and we will let Messiah correct us when the time comes. I knew of no connection to Israel in my family tradition when I started teaching that some people in the church might have Israelite heritage. What made their claim more fanciful than mine? They actually had some evidence supporting their claim, I had none.
John asked me to do a conference one Shavuot in Salt Lake City with House of Aaron and I got to meet others from the group. The Salt Lake City conference was a high point in my travels. The music was wonderful including nearly a 30-piece orchestra and a 60-voice choir. The opening call of the shofar was done with 4 perfectly tuned shofars each to a different note in a chord. It was incredible. I was privileged to eat with the rest of the Eskdale community for the meals and I got to know them pretty well in that weekend. Later, on one of my western tours, they sponsored a Biblical Research Techniques seminar in Eskdale. I gave the seminar one week and stayed another week for Passover. After spending two weeks with these dear brothers and sisters all reservations had disappeared. I spent some time looking over their history. I looked at documents they had. I discovered the community had changed considerably over time. I met some of the older members who had been there from way back and found them to be wonderful people. They were so hospitable and just a pleasure to be around. They had done several things that I know people in the church of my youth had considered. I found that they had succeeded and it certainly had wonderful results. My suspicions were totally alleviated and I’m sure if you went through the same process, yours would be too.
John and I will both be speaking at the upcoming ARI Gathering in Orlando. I invite you to come hear the heretic and find out for yourself. Our topic of discussion is worship. Let’s come together and praise YHWH for what He is doing on this earth. I do not know John’s specific topic concerning worship, but I’m certain it will be a blessing.
In my next article I would like to discuss the founder of the House of Aaron, Maurice Glendenning. Let’s examine the path he took which brought the community to where it is today. Some of that path we may question, but the most of it, I think will be very familiar to us and will mimic how we have come to where we are today.
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