Was William Branham's discernment ministry genuine?

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    Front and back of a signed prayer card, asking for all the information he would later 'discern'.

    Some followers of William Branham admit that their "prophet" did make mistakes, but these were all minor. They also state that we must avoid examining those mistakes but simply look at when he was under the "anointing" when the "Angel" was standing beside him.

    Some of his followers, having been exposed to several critical flaws in the fundamental teachings of William Branham, even acknowledge that the sermons themselves contain several errors, but the prayer lines were "God's voice to us."

    The following articles deal with errors and problems with William Branham's discernment ministry:

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    This article asks the question: Was William Branham's discernment infallible or were there errors?

    What is the "Oracle" act?

    Once you watch the video above, please ask yourself these questions - Why did William Branham start out guessing the diseases? Why did he normally need to talk to people and ask them questions?

    He said, “I’ll be with you.” And said, “That you might know, it’ll come to pass that you’ll take people by the right hand in your left.” And said, “You’ll feel the results of it” (Now, I call it vibrations.) “upon your hand. You’ll become familiar with that. And you’ll tell people all of their diseases, and what they’ve got in their body. And then if you’ll be…”
    Now, when I was in Texas the other time, that was in operation. Is that right? Any of you was in my meeting before, raise your hand if that was in operation. And if this… Now, you people raise your hands, all that was in my meeting, and know that was in operation. Not perfect, because I—I guessed at the diseases a whole lot. See? Because I didn’t know how it felt.[1]
    Later on, why, when He met me, He told me what it was to do, was to go pray for the sick people. I told Him that they would not believe me. He said, “There’ll be giving you signs, like was given to the prophet Moses. As Moses was given two signs to prove to the people that he—God had sent him to deliver them,” said, “so would I be deliver… given two signs. One of them would come immediately, and the other one would follow along if I’d be sincere.” That, which I guess, there’s many of you here tonight, know that how it come to pass. First was to discern the diseases… kind of diseases. Then I did that till it got to a perfect way where It never failed. Then It started in to telling the people the secrets of their hearts, the things that they had done in life, all the way down through life’s journey; which many of you might stagger at that now, and get it wrong.[2]

    Was he simply doing what Derren Brown does?

    Why did William Branham turn his back to the audience? Was it similar to Derren Brown putting on a blindfold?

    I want to turn my back to this audience.[3]
    Now I’m going to turn my back on this audience. Now, I don’t want you people that’s here at this tabernacle; I better look this way. I don’t want any of the tabernacle people; I want you that’s never been here before, or you know that I don’t know you. Out-of-town people, raise your hands again, where I can see where you’re at, that you’re sick. Let the Holy Spirit move now. Now, to you people, I don’t know you.[4]

    Why did William Branham use prayer cards?

    Above you will see a copy of one of the prayer cards that William Branham used in the meetings. Why did he make people fill out prayer cards when other faith healers, such as Oral Roberts, did not use them? More specifically, why did he insist that people people had to line up in numerical order?

    Jesus never did this...

    Now, 53? 54? 55? 56, 57, 58, 59, 60? You line right up along here, right in—in numerical order just the way you are. All right. All right, 60? Is that about…[5]
    You believe the Lord? You people with your prayer cards now, Z 1 to 50, line up here, numerical order, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and on like that. When you’re praying for the sick and talking to them, more you pray, more you talk to the person, the more you know of them.
    ...Now, bring those with prayer cards Z-1 to Z-50. And let them line up in numerical order, right along here: Z-1, Z-50. And then immediately after that, when those go through, we’re going to line up all that wants to be prayed for in that aisle, then all that wants to be prayed for in this aisle, then all that want to be prayed for in this aisle, and all that wants to be prayed for over there. And bring them right around, and pray for everybody tonight. [6]
    How many people’s got your prayer cards? I believe it’s—my boy said they had O’s. There’s a hundred of them. Let the first fifteen or twenty line up down here and come across the stage, and according to your number. Number 1, number 2, number 3, number 4, we’ll just take… ’Cause you can’t put too much standing room. Who’s got prayer card number 1 raise your hand. Number 1? Prayer card number 1, raise your hand. Prayer card number 2, raise your hand. Number 3, number 4, number 5, just line up down here like that, right—right across the end of this line down here, while the piano plays, “Only Believe,” if you will. [7]
    Will everybody be in prayer now? Let’s just begin out there. Let’s begin with the number 1, and start from number 1 and line up over here. Number 1 prayer card. Fine. Then Z number 2, number 3, number 4, number 5, on down, number 6, number 7, number 8. How many can you put down there, Brother Sharrit? About ten or fifteen, line up down there somewhere. All right, everybody reverent. Take ten first, so you won’t get them all… everybody have to stand a long time, ’cause seldom we ever get over that. Yes. Yes, sir. Thank you, brother. All right…?… Billy, check all these along here. Some of them are hard hearing and things. Look along on these and see if—if any of these crippled people here’s got them. If they have, then you pick them up ever where they’re at. Z-1 to 10 or 15, somewhere along in there. Check all them.[8]

    I found that the use of cards that had diseases and addresses written down to be quite puzzling but Derren Brown's talk put it in an interesting context.

    If there were errors, what caused them?

    And now, I want that lady here, just to stand right here by the microphone. I know the lady. I--I think her name is Sutton; I'm not mistake... [The sister says, "No. Cobb, now."--Ed.] Oh, Cobb, I'm sorry. I've seen the woman before, so she comes here to the Tabernacle once in a while. And now... But I know nothing of what's wrong with her. But now, the only way that I would have of knowing that, would be some way that God would have telling me. Isn't that right, Mrs... Cobb? All right. Cobb, would be, is your name now? All right. All right, Mrs. Cobb, the only way that I'd know that what was wrong with you, would be God would have to reveal it to me.[9]

    Now, just with your heads bowed just a moment. How long have you been that way? Hear me now? Can you... Amen. Two years...?... You hear? Yes. Amen. He can hear now. Let's say, "Praise the Lord." God bless you now. Go on your road rejoicing and be happy. Amen.

    [Lady says, "Brother Branham, Brother Branham."] Yes? ["He isn't deaf, he has hardening of the arteries; he can't talk."--Ed.] Can't talk? Well, he's sure doing a good job of it now. He's...

    Let me see him just a moment. I thought it was your hearing. Can you...?... It was his hearing and his speech. Say, "I" [I] "Love" [Live] "Love," [Love] "Jesus," [Jesus.] Sure you can say it. Say, "Thank You." [Thank you.] All right. It's over now. You can go on rejoicing. All right. Do you believe with all your heart?[10]

    You believe? If thou canst believe, all things are possible. You're from out-of-town too, but do you believe? You're scared, aren't you. You are to be mother, and the reason you're scared, you got a rupture; and you are afraid of this baby whether it'll be right or not. Only if you won't doubt, Mrs. Hoffman--Huffler, then you can believe--healed. You believe it? How does He know your name and know who you are? Do you believe it with all your heart? All right, Mrs. Huffler, you can go home and bring forth the baby in peace.[11]

    Say, will you do me a favor, sister, that God done you one? We're strangers, aren't we? Lay your hand on that woman behind you, call her Mrs. McAlister. She don't know me. McAllen, rather. She's got trouble with her head. But it's going to leave her, and she's going to be all right. She don't hear too well. All right. It's all over now, Mrs. McAllen, you can go home too. You believe Jesus Christ now makes you well. All right. Then go home, be made well.[12]

    What about in this section, somewhere in here? Have faith. There is a man standing before me, he's had a operation for hemorrhoids; didn't do any good. Mr. Day, I beg your pardon, Mr. Short, stand up and receive your healing. With my Bible before me, I never seen the man in my life, we're total strangers one to the other.[13]

    What do you think? You're up for an operation, too. You're a stranger to me. Is that right? [The sister says, "Yes."--Ed.] You're not from here. ["I know you, but you don't know me."] You know me, but I don't know you. ["You don't know me."] But God knows you. You believe that? ["Yes, I do."] You're up for an operation. You don't live here. You're near Bedford, Springville, something like... That's where it's at, Springville. Mrs. Burton... No, no, I beg your pardon, I didn't mean that. Mrs. Parker, that's your name. Isn't it? Greater is He that's in you, than he that's trying to kill you. Is that right? Do you believe with all your heart? Then you won't need your operation, if you do.[14]

    Here is a lady right out here in front of me. And she is very sick, perhaps sicker than what she thinks she had. She is actually suffering with hemorrhoids, and they're becoming cancerous. Mrs. Morgan... not Mrs. Morgan, I'm sorry. It's Mrs. Anderson. If you'll believe with all your heart, Jesus Christ will make you well. Do you believe that, lady?

    Stand up on your feet, if that's right. I don't know the lady. She is exactly in line with this other lady, and I could see that still hanging there. That's the reason. The other night... You may sit down, if you wish to, sister. And believe, and you'll be made well.[15]

    Now, when He come to Simon, He told him who he was. You believe God can tell me what your name is? Would it make you believe more? It would? Mrs. Strong... [The sister says, "Stout."--Ed.] Stout, would you believe? Go and believe, and you... It's all over. Amen.[16]

    If his discernment was supernatural, why were so few people healed?

    Walter Hollenweger, a noted Pentecostal historian who worked as translator for Branham in one of his campaigns in Switzerland, wrote of Branham:

    He possessed an extraordinary diagnostic gift and could identify the illnesses (sometimes even the names) of persons he had never seen. Unfortunately his healing prognosis was accurate only in rare cases. The excuse of healing evangelists in such cases has always been: The patient did not really believe; for they were convinced that faith leads automatically to health.[17]

    Hollenwegger also stated that however generously Branham is judged:

    ...by contrast to what he claimed, only a small percentage of those that sought healing were actually healed."[18]

    The question must be asked - If William Branham's discernment ministry was supernatural, why were actually healings "rare"? Was the discernment genuine? Was Billy Paul feeding information to William Branham? Is that why William Branham prayed for very few people while Oral Roberts and others prayed for hundreds of people in each service?

    If there are no errors, why are there so many blank spots on the tapes?

    We have heard that “It’s never failed one single time.” And outside of a few people out of order in the prayer lines, foreign names Branham struggled to pronounce when under the “anointing,” and the lady who corrected Branham during the prayer line, this would appear to have some validity when you listen to the recordings.

    But have you ever stopped to consider how differently a prayer line might seem if you heard the unedited versions?

    Here are a few examples. Can fill in the blanks? (Blank spots on tape, that is):

    Friends, you'll have to keep your head bowed. As I raised my head, at least two dozen cold waves of vibration struck across me [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.].[19]

    ...thought I'd tell you something's happening right now that you would know, and that you would know that... Now, that's right, isn't it? [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][20]

    How do you do? Are you the patient? [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][21]

    Good evening, young lady. You have a very...?... faith to be healed. What are you... [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][22]

    All right, brother. I'm... After speaking, makes me just a little shook up, you know, I get... I guess that's humanly nervous, you know, just it's... It just happens that way, I guess. But, anyhow, I've got to get myself quietened down to the anointing of that Angel of the Lord.
    Now, I don't mean that that would heal you. That has nothing to do with your healing: only might make your faith greater (You see?), or something like that. 'Cause I presume that you and I are strangers. I don't believe I ever met you. I don't know you. [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][23]

    That's when your faith healed you. You haven't got stomach trouble now. Jesus Christ has healed you. Now, looky here [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][24]

    All right, lady, you come ahead. [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][25]

    All right, lady, get ready to get your braces off your child. All right. Every one of you believe it? Put your hands over on one another now. Are you ready to make a confession? Are you ready to believe God? [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][26]

    That was the woman with the goiter. I can see, I just give her something to do, so it just...?... [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][27]

    How do you do, sister. Do you believe me as God's prophet? You have sufferings... There's more than one thing. One thing, a heart trouble that's been bothering you, and another thing, you're a... anemic... [Blank.spot.on.tape—Ed.][28]

    Do you believe me to be His prophet, sir? [Blank.spot.on.tape—Ed.][29]

    Now, this... The person don't have to be on the platform here. [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][30]

    [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.] Two? There's nothing I can do.[31]

    All right. Are... You and I are strangers. [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][32]

    What is your number, sir? What? Q. All right, who has Q number 1? I don't know who you are. [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][33]

    What cards was give out? [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.]... here for your first time?[34]

    Who has G-number-1, raise up your hand. [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.] And don't doubt, and you'll see the glory of God, if you can believe. But you must believe.[35]

    Come, lady. Do you believe with all your heart? You do? You just answer me, 'cause I'm contacting your spirit. [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][36]

    And what's yours name?... You're a junior. And your last name? McCloud. [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][37]

    Lady, come right here. 51, would you...? [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][38]

    Now, if Jesus was here today, and you come down to where He was... You heard He was down here in Brooklyn, and you come to Him, and He come to you, now, He would know you, wouldn't He? He--He would what you--what was your...?... [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][39]

    Dark skinned lady setting right here. She's suffering with a bladder trouble. That's right. I never seen you in my life. But Christ let me catch your prayer. You believe me to be His prophet? His servant, rather. You do? [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][40]

    Your healing is already purchased. Healing is a finished work. I have no healing in my hand. I have... [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.] You must be mistaken, brother.[41]

    If I could see number 5, the gentleman here, would you come? Number 6, would you... [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.] How they do it, they come right down and shuffle the cards out between you, and mix up... [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][42]

    The boy is your son, and he has a mental condition. That's THUS SAITH THE LORD GOD. [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][43]

    I never seen you in my life. That's right. If it is, raise up your hand, that I'm a stranger to you. [Blank.spot.on.tape--Ed.][44]

    Additional prayer line quotes

    You believe the Lord? You people with your prayer cards now, Z 1 to 50, line up here, numerical order, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and on like that. When you're praying for the sick and talking to them, more you pray, more you talk to the person, the more you know of them.
    I'm going to have my minister brothers, if they will, to stand right back here behind me just a moment. The reason that I said someone without a prayer card, some of them think, you know, that looking at the prayer card that the person thinking about what, it'll be mental telepathy. But it is not.
    It is--I take those who don't have prayer cards. That doesn't matter. Anybody in the audience, wouldn't make a bit of difference; you know that. The people come here and told of things they done when they were little children, and so forth. Isn't that right? And that's not mental telepathy, anyone. It's the power of Almighty God.
    Now, if you don't believe it, it'll never do you any good. But if you do believe it, it's healing for you. Everybody be reverent.
    Now, bring those with prayer cards Z-1 to Z-50. And let them line up in numerical order, right along here: Z-1, Z-50. And then immediately after that, when those go through, we're going to line up all that wants to be prayed for in that aisle, then all that wants to be prayed for in this aisle, then all that want to be prayed for in this aisle, and all that wants to be prayed for over there. And bring them right around, and pray for everybody tonight. You believe we can do it? Are you going to accept it as your healing? Now--now, just let those stand up first who have prayer cards.[45]
    Let the first fifteen, from D-1 to D-15... You people setting near them that's got cards, they may be deaf. You look at their cards and examine it, 'cause they wouldn't be able to hear me. And line up here according to your number in numerical order. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 up in... D-10, or D-15 rather. D-1 to D-15. We'll begin with them to start and just pray for as many as we possibly can.[46]
    How many cards did you give? All right. Start right from this, just line up the line. He give F from 51. Get start it right here, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, just as many as you can crowd in there, I guess. Let it get up to about... Well, you can get... Can you get more than ten in there? All right, try the first ten, and then maybe we can get some more after that. 51 to 60, that's six... 51 to 60. And then as soon as that crowd gets down, as soon as they level down, if there's more room, step right up. Just start 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, up to 70. That crowd gets down, start right on to 80, like that. And then when that gets... By that time, every one of you ought to be in the right position, the Holy Ghost falling over this building for every one of you to be healed.[47]
    What was that 50 to 60, I... 60, 60? 60 to 70, D-60 to 70. Come down in this way if you will as you're come out. The line's forming this a way and so it's... 60 to 70. The ushers will place you just in your position. We never know... The reason we do that, we never know where, what's going to happen.
    You see? The Holy Spirit might do something (You see?), and He might stop the line at a second. He might... We've had much experience in eight years. 70 to 80, D-70 to 80. That's good. Come this way, everybody. Line up this way with your--your cards in this way. 70 to 80, 80 to 90, 80 to 90. Uh-huh.[48]
    All right. Now, from 50 to 100 in B's, let them go right back in the back, and start going back that way, and taking your place.
    Now, if anyone here's got one of those prayer cards that's crippled and can't walk, well let them just be brought right up here and I'll--I'll come down and pray for them.
    Now, let's us who are waiting now, let's just bow our heads. And the organist, if you will give us a little chord of that "Only Believe," will you?
    Every one real reverent now as we're making the lines ready, and making everything just in order as we possibly can to make it easy for each person to get into the line. Each person will have their place and position.[49]
    everyone keep your position and just reverently pray. What say? Huh? I've ten back there now? 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15... Would prayer cards 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25... That ought to make a pretty good line, if we... I hope we don't have to keep you here very long, but now... Be with ten then... That's all right; just let...[50]
    What was that 22? 23, 23, prayer card 23, 24, 25, 26? Good. 27, 28, 28, 29, 29, 29, 30? Thank you. 31, 32, 33, 33? I didn't see it. 34, 34, 35, 36, 36, 37, 37? I didn't get it. 37, 37? Look around at your neighbor. He might have a prayer card. 37? He might be deaf, might be able... can't get up. See? He's paralyzed, and can't move. 37?
    Somebody must've got it and went out. If they come in, put them in the line, position them in their place now. The ushers will be there to help. 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 47? That's good. 48, 49, 50, 50, the man back there.
    Now, is all the people that has prayer cards up? Has anybody else got a prayer card? All prayer cards standing in the row? I want to be sure of this now. We called one, 37. I seen a couple of brethren come in since then. I just wonder. I've called prayer card 37, and it didn't answer. That's the only one that I seen myself that didn't answer. Prayer card number 5? Did it answer? Brother Vayle said he didn't notice prayer card number 5. Number 5, is it there, and 37?
    Now, if you will just give us a moment or two, friends. Now, we'll... Someone coming in again with a baby. Maybe it might be some of the women and brothers has to step out with their little ones. And--and if they're out now and that number comes in, put them right in line, right in their place, put them where 37 and 5 belongs. And that makes everything just right then. 37 and 5. Everybody now be alert, be ready, be willing.[51]
    The prayer cards in this section, come over here and stand now. The prayer cards over in that booth, come over and stand. And as soon as that line goes down, let this side come, and that. Then let the balcony come down next. And now, everybody now, while they get in their position and place, let's... And then, if we have time left, the rest of them come.[52]


    1. William Branham, 50-0110 - Moses, para. 33-34
    2. William Branham, 50-0711 - Ministry Explained, para. 9
    3. William Branham, 59-0812 - Discerning The Body Of The Lord, para. 151
    4. William Branham, 59-0823 - Palmerworm, Locust, Cankerworm, Caterpillard, para. 219
    5. William Branham, 51-0505 - My Commission, para. 52
    6. William Branham, 51-0508 - Faith Is The Substance, para. 69-70
    7. William Branham, 51-0923 - The Principles Of Divine Healing, para. 69
    8. William Branham, 51-0415E - The Hour Is Come, para. 41
    14. HE THAT IS IN YOU JEFF.IN 63-1110E
    17. Hollenweger, Walter J. (1997). Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide. Baker Academic. ISBN 978-0801046605.
    18. Hollenweger, Walter J. (1997). Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide. Baker Academic. ISBN 978-0801046605.
    20. 50-0110 MOSES
    21. 50-0715 LED.BY.THE.SPIRIT
    24. 50-0714 AT.THY.WORD
    25. 51-0728 THREE.WITNESSES
    26. 51-1003 BELIEVEST.THOU.THIS
    27. 52-0224 BELIEVING.GOD
    30. 53-0510 TESTIMONY
    31. 53-0607E A.TESTIMONY
    33. 54-0401 GOD'S.PREPARATION
    34. 55-0818 BLIND.BARTIMAEUS
    36. 56-0613 JEHOVAH.JIREH
    37. 56-0923 SPIRITUAL.ADOPTION
    38. 56-1206 A.SECONDHANDED.ROBE
    39. 56-1206 A.SECONDHANDED.ROBE
    40. 56-1209E JEHOVAH.JIREH
    41. 57-1211 SIRS.WE.WOULD.SEE.JESUS
    43. 58-0328 GOD.KEEPS.HIS.WORD