Question 17 (ABM) - The Mystery of the Empty Cornerstone
The following are a series of questions and answers between one of our editors (referred to as BTS) and an anonymous Branham minister (referred to as ABM). This series of Q&A relates to William Branham's credibility. The full text of this question and its answer is below.
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Question 17 - The Mystery of the Empty Cornerstone
Regarding your last comment - that we should accept the answer that reconciles WMB's beliefs - I have to take his statements in line with other similar statements he made. When he makes comments describing the doctrine of the Trinity as "heathen", "of the devil" (Thus saith the Lord), or "polytheistic", I have to believe him when he also states that if you believe the doctrine of the Trinity that you are lost. It is in line with his other comments. I think he is completely wrong but he very often contradicted himself. It is also in complete opposition to the vision he had. We will eventually get to some of the doctrinal issues in the future but I am not even close to exhausting the many issues surrounding WMB's prophetic ministry (or rather the lack thereof) and also his credibility.
The following is another issue that has puzzled me and, again, it appears to point to WMB making things up (which I consider a clear case of him telling a lie).
In 1953, WMB told of putting the record of a vision in the cornerstone of Branham Tabernacle:
He repeated this many times. Here is another retelling from 10 years later:
Sometime in the late 1970's, someone ran a car into the front corner of the Branham Tabernacle, right where the cornerstone was. As a result of the structural damage, the original cornerstone had to be replaced.
We talked to a person that was present when the original cornerstone was removed. Everyone was excited as they were all going to see first hand William Branham's prophecy on the flyleaf of his Bible that was placed there when the cornerstone was originally laid.
The cornerstone was removed and taken apart with great care. The crowd standing around were in great expectation. Virtually the entire congregation of Branham Tabernacle (a crowd of around 200 people) was there to witness the event.
And when they opened the cornerstone, what did they find?
Nothing! There was no Bible. There was no prophecy written on the flyleaf. There was no book of prophecies. There was not even a piece of paper with William Branham's handwriting.
Of course, none of his followers could believe that William Branham, their prophet, would have been dishonest about something so important. So conspiracy theories abounded, with most finally believing that God had taken it into another dimension, similar to what happened to Joseph Smith's golden tablets.
Was this yet another falsehood of William Branham? Why did he say that he had put a Bible with a prophecy in the cornerstone when the evidence is clear that he did not?
Thank you for your continued dialogue.
Getting into the Godhead is a major topic, and that really lays at the heart of your last question. So let me expand on that just a bit. Keep in mind, there are a large number of message believers who believe in the manner I am going to explain. The idolaters generally reject this.
Bro. Branham statements on the Godhead were incomplete. On the face of it, he seemed generally to believe in the Oneness version. Yet he also disagreed with the Oneness, but never really gave a solid explanation as to why. He frequently said Jesus was God, but also said Jesus was not God. He rejected the Trinity in its entirety. He was sure the Trinity and the Oneness were wrong, but he was either not quite sure what was right or afraid to openly say it. That is how we interpret Bro. Branham's teachings on the Godhead. So on the Godhead, Bro. Branham told us what was wrong, but he did not clearly tell us what was right in any meaningful or scriptural way. (He did state what was right at different times, but just in passing) If you only ever listened to the idolators, you would have had "Jehovah of the old is Jesus of the new", that Trinity was of the devil, and other similar quotes. It is sad that they could not just be honest about Bro. Branham's teachings and admit they were not fully developed.
It is our belief that his message did not include a fully defined doctrine of the Godhead. Certainly not one based in the scripture. He knew what was wrong, but was not certain about what was right. We believe Bro. Branham did not have a full understanding of the Godhead.
To give a very precise statement: if someone has the opportunity to understand the Godhead properly (an opportunity few people have in modern times) and they reject it, that would be rejecting Jesus, and truly would be blaspheming. But if they never knew better to begin with, or failed to comprehend it in the manner it was explained, they can still be saved. This all reconciles to what Bro. Branham believed and taught. Because he most certainly left the door open to trinitarians to be saved, as you yourself have quoted. I do not believe he was a lunatic man, he had some logic in his mind behind what he was saying.
Bro. Branham was within his right to condemn the doctrine of the trinity as a false teaching. It was invented by the clergy in the second and third centuries of Christianity. The apostles never taught it. People who accepted it and knew better have rejected Christ.
I hope though that if nothing else, I am at least demonstrating to you that there are message believers who do not believe the message in the way you interpret it.
One of the eyewitnesses of the opening of the cornerstone has been collaborating with me in my correspondence with you. I am afraid you actually have some missing facts. The day of Bro. Branham's funeral (not the burial, the funeral) a group of men took a jackhammer and dug up the cornerstone.
They dug out around the building to get down to the foundation, then using the jack hammer cut lose the concrete blocks to examine what was in them. The blocks were typical concrete blocks with two large hold in each one. The blocks in question was slightly below ground level. Inside three different blocks they found some unrecognizable debris like stones, rocks, dirt and one in particular they found a tin can. The lid of the can had not been sealed. Inside the can was nothing but mush, whatever had been in there completely decayed. The men who dug it up were devastated. They thought they were going to find a hidden prophecy concerning the return of Bro. Branham.
Besides the tin can, there was nothing else but decayed debris in the concrete blocks. The tin can was not large enough to hold a normal sized bible. So we believe the bible must have been put into the block unsealed and unprotected. Exposed to moisture, paper will decay in two to six weeks. Leather, assuming the bible cover was leather, would decay in about 25 years. The bible would have been there for 32 years at the time it was dug up. The building had been flooded in 1937 and was underwater for many days. It seems completely reasonable to assume the debris in the block was the decomposed bible and papers.
So the cornerstone had already been dug up before the car struck the building. That was a second time it was dug up. The witness you interviewed to obtain your facts was in Arizona at the time of the funeral. We recall laughing about the people who dug up the cornerstone in the 1978 and found nothing. Billy Paul and Willard Collins were both aware of the first digging up of the cornerstone. At the time they thought the previous finding was the wrong corner.
Very interestingly, Bro. Branham had said multiple times "If you don't believe me, go dig up the cornerstone." That is exactly what the unbelievers did. Idolaters is what they were.
Additionally, I think you are mistaken in saying there was a bible in the cornerstone.
You ask "Was this yet another falsehood of William Branham?" Answer: No. You ask: "Why did he say that he had put a Bible with a prophecy in the cornerstone when the evidence is clear that he did not?" There is evidence, you are just unaware of it.
I do believe you are trying to be honest in the things you are presenting, but there are various things where you just do not know all the facts. That is not your fault. It is the fault of the so-called ministers who taught you their twisted version of the gospel. Please do not take this as a castigation, but I am suggesting maybe you are little too confident in some of the statements you make on your website and do not leave open the possibility of alternative explanations.
My apology, I stated "Additionally, I think you are mistaken in saying there was a bible in the cornerstone." That is incorrect, it is just not in the quotes you provided. I verified this with another minister to confirm Bro. Branham did say there was a bible in the cornerstone.
BTS Response to ABM follow-up
It’s interesting that no word of this expedition to get into the cornerstone was ever related to anyone. Billy Paul never mentioned it. It was not mentioned to the congregation gathered at Branham Tabernacle in the ‘70’s.
I am aware that people are prepared to lie to try to make the message seem true or protect their position. My message pastor lied to me on several occasions. I refused to believe it at first but, in the end, the evidence was clear that he lied.
We have examples of this online where people have photoshopped pictures to make it appear that the picture from Houston really is in the (completely fictions) Hall of Religious Art in Washington, DC. Here is the photoshopped picture and the original of one example - http://en.believethesign.com/index.php/Games_that_message_people_play
So please forgive me when I say that I have no confidence that the people who say they opened the “real” cornerstone are telling the truth. I think it more likely that they are lying.
It amazes me that, with the many references that WMB made to his list of prophecies, any written record of the 1933 prophecies are as elusive as Joseph Smith’s Golden tablets.
ABM response to BTS
I understand if you don't want to believe me. But we our witness is confident in what his eyes saw and the other people who were present when it happened. Your other eye witness account has given you no more hard evidence of their account than I have. So with neither of us able to produce anything but an eyewitness account, I will leave it at that.
In either event, even if you want to discount our position, paper and leather would have been completely decayed by 1978. There is a completely plausible explanation as to why it was not found in the corner stone when it was dug up. Unlike Joseph Smith, Bro. Branham's did not have tablets made of gold which would prevent decay.
I agree it is unusual that Billy Paul cannot simply put a photocopy of the leaf of his father's bible online so that we could just see it. I have also heard so many "Bro. Branham legends" made up by people that I know many are made up fairy tales. A lot of it is not real. Which is why so many of us have moved on. Bro. Branham is gone, and not everything he did or said is defensible. I would not give you eyewitness accounts unless I was confident in them.