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Step 1: The Basics

"The Message" is the religious movement that follows the teachings of William Marrion Branham, which originated in the small city of Jeffersonville, Indiana, in the United States. Through various outreach programs, this movement has spread into all parts of the world Between two and four million people are involved with this movement worldwide. It is largely unorganized, based simply on Branham's recorded sermons which have now printed and digitized into several types of media.

While this religion claims to be founded in scripture alone, it will not take you very long to realize that followers are asked to adhere to a combination of scripture and William Branham's recorded words. These include accounts of Branham's personal life and events he claimed to be spiritual. These events are believed by his followers to be another "chapter" of the New Testament.

These are some of the stories followers of William Branham are expected to believe:

Supernatural Birth

In current cult theology, followers are asked to believe that William Branham was born under a supernatural sign given by God. According to Branham's "Life Stories", he was informed by a fortune teller that his birth was confirmed by planetary alignment and astrology. Though William Branham used multiple birth years, others of which were also associated with the "supernatural", this is the birthdate used in cult publications and statements to the press.

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Toddler Prophecy

As early as 1946, William Branham claimed to have had a supernatural childhood. In the stories that he told, Branham described having his first prophecy as early as fifteen months of age. Branham claimed that God spoke through him as just a toddler to tell his parents that he would live near a city called "New Albany," which is located about ten miles from his hometown of Jeffersonville, Indiana. This was the first of a series of supernatural events Branham claimed were signs that the Hand of God was directing his life.

Branham describes his simple life in the hills of Kentucky as he struggled to provide for his widowed mother and siblings from a very early age. According to Branham, he was not able to finish school after the death of his father, Charles. According to Branham, his family relied on his skills in hunting, fishing, and trapping to survive. This element of his life would become very important later, as most of the supernatural events Branham claimed were a part of his wilderness life.

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Bridge Prophecy

The "toddler prophecy" was not the only one he claimed took place during his childhood. Later in his ministry, Branham promoted the idea that he saw a vision of sixteen men falling to their deaths during the construction of a bridge. He then claimed to have witnessed that event taking place later in his life. This bridge and its claimed prophecy are a fundamental milestone in your journey into the Message.

His accounts of the rest of his childhood describe a boy walking with God. The followers of William Branham believe that God spoke to Branham from a "burning bush," and later in the form of a man. This man instructed Branham to become a teetotaler and a non-smoker, living a life devoted to the ministry. But as you study the ministry of William Branham, the most important aspect of his childhood are the stories describing his early hatred towards women. Branham admitted struggling with his feelings towards women late in his teenage years, after witnessing the horrific events that took place in his father's alcohol parties. (You'll notice this was the same father who Branham claimed to have died when he was young, which we will discuss in more detail.)

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Ohio River Baptism

Branham claimed to have been a Baptist minister when he received his first "commission" from God. According to Branham, he was baptizing a group of over five hundred people in the Ohio River at Jeffersonville. As the seventeenth person was baptized, the heavens parted. Just as the Father spoke from the heavens to announce his Son, Jesus Christ, Branham said that God chose this method to proclaim Branham's ministry to the people. According to the story, which is a fundamental element to "The Message," a voice boomed from the heavens and a bright light shone onto the scene, painting a similar picture to that of John baptizing Jesus. This event was purportedly recorded by the newspapers, and spread quickly throughout the United States and Canada through the Associated Press. Many followers of this demonination are amazed that the world could hear the voice of God speaking from the heavens, see the star like the Wise Men followed, and yet ignore the "Message" given by this man from Jeffersonville.

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Prophecies of 1933

There is some confusion as to how many prophecies, where they were written, and where they are kept, but we do know that Branham claimed to have had at least six prophecies given to him by God around the year 1933. Starting in the 1950's, Branham claimed to have either written these prophecies in the flyleaf of his Bible or in a notebook in his desk drawer. During sermons, Branham claimed to have read directly from this page in his Bible, while in other sermons he described his burying them in the foundation of the church that was built in his name. These prophecies give a clear account of the rising of technology as the world reaches the Apocalypse, starting with the description of world leaders, wars, automobiles, eggs, valleys, and ending in the complete destruction of the United States immediately before the annihilation of mankind. Because of these prophecies, and combined with the commission story, followers of William Branham believe that he is the return of Elijah the prophet, preparing the way for the second coming of Jesus Christ

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An Angered God

But this voice was evidently not enough to conquer the influence of a mother-in-law. According to Branham, he was convinced that the Pentecostal movement was the 29th chapter to the book of Acts. His desire was to join this movement, but his wife's mother refused to let her daughter be a part of it. According to Branham, this angered God, and God was forced to punish him for listening to her. In 1937, Jeffersonville suffered the worst flood in its history, and this flood claimed the lives of many throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana. According to Branham, this flood also claimed the life of his wife and daughter, fully because of the wrath of God.

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Faith Healing

The most important element of the religious faith in William Branham's ministry is that of his ability to heal the people, which his followers believe came through divine power from God. In fact, Branham's accounts of this healing power is used for vindication of prophecy instead of the outcomes of the prophecies themselves. Branham trained his followers to believe that healing can only come through Jesus Christ, and all other religions — even those in Christian circles outside of his own ministry — could not produce healing for the body. Branham gave examples of this healing power in a 1945 pamphlet, "I Was Not Disobedient To The Heavenly Vision," which was used throughout his latter ministry.

After establishing this faith-healing ministry earlier in his career, William Branham started promoting a story around 1947 that an angel giving him a commission to heal the sick and afflicted. The angel, who Branham claimed to have been Jesus Christ, instructed him to use two spiritual signs as a method to convince the people of his power to heal. According to Branham, this angel gave him instructions to elevate the people's faith in his own ministry, and once that faith was achieved, nothing would stand in the way of their healing.

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A Pillar Of Fire By Night

Followers of William Branham are asked to believe that the same Pillar of Fire and Spiritual Cloud that led the Children of Israel out of Egypt were present and photographed during Branham's ministry. These instances, photographed and printed, are considered to be evidence that God was using Moses to lead them out of their other denominations and into Branham's movement, just as Israel was being led away from Pharaoh and into the Promised Land.

In a 1950 religious debate, a series of photographs were taken of Branham as he stood for his beliefs. According to Branham, there was only one single photograph that developed, and this photograph captured the "Pillar of Fire" behind his head in the darkness of the Houston Coliseum. After the photographers reviewed the photograph, it was sent immediately to a man named George J. Lacy, who Branham claimed was the Head of the FBI's Fingerprints and Documents division. From Lacy, the photograph was sent directly to Washington, DC, where it was immortalized in the "Religious Hall of Art."

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A Cloud By Day

Later in 1963, the "cloud by day" was photographed. William Branham claimed to have been hunting on Sunset Mountain when seven angels visited him from the heavens. During this event, the angels gave him the revelation of the mystery behind the seven seals, and instructed him to quickly return to Jeffersonville, Indiana, to relay this message to his followers. As the angels left the earth's atmosphere, Branham claimed to have stood and witnessed their departure through the heavens. He also claimed that this left a trail of vapor that resembled the face of Jesus Christ. This "cloud of mystery" is a fundamental element to the ministry. Adherents believe it was given as a sign in the heavens to confirm the doctrines that Branham would later teach concerning the Seven Seals of Revelation and their relationship to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor. These churches that Paul visited, according to Branham, represented "Seven Church Ages" that started with the Apostle Paul and ended with himself.

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William Branham's Doomsday Predictions

William Branham was a doomsday prophet. By this, we mean to say that throughout his ministry, Branham continually predicted dates for what he declared to be impending Armageddon. These predictions appear to be used as fear tactics for the sole purpose of "scaring" his prey into his version of religion. According to witness testimony, this strategy was successful. Many cult escapees remember January 1, 1978 very vividly -- shocked to see the world still standing after midnight December 31, 1977.

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Marks of the Beast

In the latter part of his ministry, William Branham claimed that the many "mysteries" that he claimed to have revealed were required to bring his church to a level of holiness that would produce rapturing faith. According to Branham's theories on the Seven Churches and the Seven Seals, the church was only given a portion of truth until these last days, when the last "messenger" to the last "age" restored the bride to a condition of readiness for the Bridegroom. From his formula of baptism to the Oneness Pentecostal belief concerning the singularity of God, Branham claimed that only the redeemed would have the knowledge required to produce a state of enlightenment Branham called "rapturing faith." According to this theology, Christians in the denominational churches could not bring themselves to this level of enlightenment without the mysteries, and therefore had fulfilled the "Mark of the Beast" from the book of Revelation.

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Ground Rules

William Branham promoted the idea that an ascetic lifestyle would produce "rapturing faith." Throughout the course of his ministry, Branham listed several forms of entertainment, articles of clothing, sports, and other forbidden pleasures that he believed true Christians should refrain from. Though many of these are no longer required in the denomination of faith that follows William Marrion Branham, some isolated churches remain who mold their lives to these extra-biblical doctrines.

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Jehovah's Witness

William Branham promoted specific portions of the teachings of Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, with regards to the nature of the Godhead and more specifically, Jesus Christ. Branham claimed that Christ was not eternal, and was simply an angel (Michael) who he claimed to be equal in rank with Satan before the world was created. Christ, Branham taught, was nothing more than a man until His baptism, and became a "god-man" until the Garden of Gethsemane. According to Branham, Christ died as just a man, and his loss in the Garden was greater than his death on the cross.

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William Branham's Resurrection

Many of William Branham's followers believed that Bramham would rise from his pyramid tomb after his sudden death in 1965 brought an end to his career and left some of his prophecies unfulfilled. Cult leaders at Branham's two main churches, Tucson, AZ, and Jeffersonville, IN, helped propagate this belief, which made national news when his body was buried at Easter in 1966.

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Stuck In The Elevator

Before the climax of his ministry was completed, and before Branham's visions concerning his own ministry were fulfilled, God removed William Branham from the scene. A tragic car accident claimed his life in December of 1965, leaving the recorded sermons to the control of his sons. It was an atomic bomb that scattered the sheep, leaving each group in a state of limbo as they struggle to reconcile the unfulfilled visions with the removal of their leader. Some are forced to believe that Branham will rise from the dead to finish the prophecies, while others believe that viewpoint is heresy and do not attempt to reconcile. Some claim that they alone have the mystery behind the "Seven Thunders of Revelation," which Branham never declared, while others claim that these mysteries were never meant to be known until after we enter New Jerusalem. Some claim that Branham was misleading in his teaching concerning the last messenger, and have elected a new leader in Branham's place. Others claim that William Branham was the complete fulfillment of the return of Christ, and that we are now living in eternal bliss. But all are pillars in the foundation laid by William Branham, and all are upholding the same body of members that stand firmly on the idea that one must believe in William Branham to merit salvation and enter the rapture when Christ returns.

It is an elevator that started to rise, but did not make it to the top. The door is open, the people are peering outside, but none are willing to accept the fact that this lift will not make the next floor. You are asked to stand with them, peering outside the open door, holding hands of faith and watching with eager eyes to see if it has budged even a single inch.

Step 2: Easy Questions