So how do we help those that are still in the message?
The psychological background
- Related articles: Cognitive Dissonance
People who are still in the message have a hard time even listening to explanations of why the message is false. This is because of "cognitive dissonance," which is a term used to describe the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs (the message is God's word / the message is false). This conflict can cause feelings of unease, discomfort, frustration, nausea, dread, guilt, anger, anxiety, and other negative feelings.
In fact, when you offer someone in the message undeniable proof that the message is false, they will generally believe the message more intensely and fanatically then they did previously. This is a direct result of cognitive dissonance.
You need to speak to the elephant
The conventional wisdom in psychology is that the brain has two independent systems at work at all times. First, there’s what we called the emotional side. It’s the part of you that is instinctive, that feels pain and pleasure. Second, there’s the rational side, also known as the reflective or conscious system. It’s the part of you that deliberates and analyzes and looks into the future.
Jonathan Haidt describes this in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, as the Elephant (emotional self) and the Rider (rational self). Like a rider on the back of an elephant, the conscious, reasoning part of the mind has only limited control of what the elephant does. Reason and emotion must both work together to create intelligent behavior, but emotion and "gut feelings" ( major parts of the elephant) do most of the work. The elephant includes the gut feelings, visceral reactions, emotions, and intuitions that comprise much of the automatic system. The elephant and the rider each have their own intelligence, and when they work together well, they enable the unique brilliance of human beings. But they don’t always work together well.
If you listen closely to the arguments of message followers, you will understand that it is really the elephant that is guiding the rider (and not the other way around). It is the elephant who decides what is good or bad, right or wrong. But only the rider can string sentences together and create arguments to give to other people. For message followers who are defending William Branham, the rider goes beyond being just an advisor to the elephant; he becomes the lawyer, fighting to persuade you of the elephant’s point of view.
The message follower is like the proverbial drunken man looking for his car keys under the street light:
- “Did you drop your keys here?” asks the police officer, trying to help.
- “No” says the man, “I dropped them back there in the alley, but the light is better over here.”
The reasons that message followers give for believing the message are like the tail which is being wagged by the dog. The dog’s tail wags to communicate. But you can’t make a dog happy by forcibly wagging its tail. And you can’t change the minds of message followers by utterly refuting their arguments (which we know is easy to do).
If you want to change their minds, you’ve got to talk to their elephant. You have to convey respect, warmth, and an openness to dialogue before stating the case against the message.
Our self-righteous minds readily shift into combat mode. Our own rider and our elephant work together smoothly to lob rhetorical grenades and fend off attacks. The performance may impress our friends and show allies that we are committed members of the anti-message team, but no matter how good our logic, it’s not going to change the minds of message followers if they are in combat mode too.
Therefore, if you want to change a message follower’s mind about William Branham, you must talk to their elephant first. If you ask people to believe something that violates their long-held beliefs, they will devote their efforts to finding an escape hatch — a reason to doubt your argument or conclusion. AND they will almost always succeed.
Your friends and family in the message are afraid
People in the message are fearful. This is true even if they don't seem to be afraid. Message ministers constantly preach fear to their congregations. They say, "Don't go on those websites!" or "Stay away from the internet!" or "Don't you go questioning the prophet or his message!" Some go on to say you will "catch an evil spirit" or you will be in danger of "blaspheming the Holy Ghost". Fear creates anxiety and can prevent people from interacting with a former message follower.
So how do you deal with this fear?
It is important to take things very slow because you need to speak to the elephant.
It is also critical to understand cognitive dissonance and to recognize it when you are confronted by it (and you will be).
Things not to do
Things you need to avoid with people who are in the message:
- DO NOT Tell them that William Branham was a false prophet.
- DO NOT Tell them that they are in a cult.
- DO NOT Tell them that they are believing false doctrine.
- DO NOT provide them with a list of all of William Branham's failed prophecies.
- DO NOT provide them with a list of all of lies that William Branham told.
Violating any of the above will likely cause cognitive dissonance. It is critically important that you have a good understanding of cognitive dissonance if you are going to help anyone in the message.
If you messed up and did exactly what we recommended not to? For information on how to recover, see our comments below.
So where do you start?
This is especially important for spouses or family members that are in the message.
Imagine the following conversation with your mom/dad/wife/husband:
- I am having a lot of doubts. But in my heart, I just want to follow Christ. I love the Lord with all my heart but there is an issue with William Branham and his message that is causing me to have doubts. All I want is to know the truth. Would you help me find the truth?
This last question is difficult to say "no" to IF it is said in the right attitude and with sincerity. However, it is important that you ask the question truthfully. I think all of us want to find the truth and we all know that it is important to search for the truth.
If the message follower responds with a "yes", then they are potentially on a journey towards truth. It depends on their attitude but, if they are sincerely interested in helping you find the truth, this is a big first step.
Ask One REALLY Good Question
There are 2 methods that have been very successful in our experience with message followers. They are both quite similar. It requires a lot of thought ahead of time... not telling them exactly what you think... and perhaps playing just a little bit dumb.
WARNING: You should generally keep this approach to family members or friends. Pastors or deacons in message churches generally do not respond well to questions.
Both of these methods should only be used after the person you are dealing with understands CLEARLY that you love and respect them. Remember, you have to speak to the elephant first.
The "Rock in the Shoe" method
Can you ask one simple question that will nag at a message follower as if they had a rock in their shoe? It requires a question to be well thought out and asked at the right time. Don't ask multiple questions. One well thought out question is all that you need. It might be followed up with another "rock in the shoe" at some later date but starting simply and slowly is the way to go.
An example of the "Rock in the Shoe" method
Q: I was looking up something on the message on the internet and saw something that I don't understand. Bro. Branham said that his vision of the 16 men drowning when the bridge was being built in Jeffersonville was fulfilled. But now I understand that it wasn't. Even George Smith, William Branham's son-in-law admitted that it didn't come to pass. Can you help me understand this?
If questioned you can send them a link to our article on The Municipal Bridge Vision.
Do not try to explain it to them. They have to explain it to you. If they can't, just say "I don't understand this." Next time you see them, ask them again, "Can you help me understand this? I'm trying to understand it... if William Branham was a prophet, this shouldn't happen. It's really bothering me."
The Socratic Method
This is similar to the "Rock in the Shoe" but is for someone who is perhaps a little more cerebral.
Socrates was a famous philosopher who died in 399 BC, over 2400 years ago. He developed a method of teaching that is referred to as the Socratic method which is still used today. It is simply using questions to get a person to find the proper conclusion for themselves, without having to tell them.
An example of the Socratic method
Q: If Bro. Branham was a prophet then all of his prophecies will have to come true, correct?
Q: I was doing some research on the internet regarding Bro. Branham and some people say that some of his prophecies failed.
A: But that's not true.
Q: So can you help me understand why these people are wrong?
Q: Bro. Branham said in sermon in 1959 that:
- I was playing marbles out with my little brothers, out in the front yard. And all at once I had a strange feeling come on me. And I stopped and set down aside of a tree. And we were right up on the bank from the Ohio River. And I looked down towards Jeffersonville, and I seen a bridge rise up and go across that, the river, span the river. And I seen sixteen men (I counted them) that dropped off of there and lost their lives on that bridge. I run in real quick and told my mother, and she thought I went to sleep. But they kept it in mind, and twenty-two years from then the Municipal Bridge now (that many of you cross when you cross there) crossed the river at the same place, and sixteen men lost their life building that bridge across the river. It's never failed to be perfectly true. 
So Bro. Branham said that 16 men died building the bridge across the river, correct?
A: That's what he said.
Q: So can we try to find the evidence that the 16 men died like Bro. Branham said they did?
At this point, you refer to the facts which can be found in our article on the Municipal Bride vision to express puzzlement... if what you say is true, how can you explain this? I just don't get it. Can you help me to understand?
NOTE: It is critically important that you do not provide any of the answers. They must search for the answers themselves.
Sometimes, it is important to even pretend that you don't get it. Continue to simply ask the question on the ONE issue that you have chosen for them. Don't tell them they don't get it. Just simply keep asking the question.
If you don't understand how to do this in the context of your situation, please feel free to send us an email and we will try to help you out.
Where do we go after we deal with the first question?
Only after you have had the message follower do the research themselves (DO NOT DO THE RESEARCH FOR THEM but you can do it with them), and after they have reached whatever conclusion they are going to reach (which may not be what the facts say), do you go on to deal with a second question.
We have a long list of questions which can be found in our article entitled "List of Issues with the Message". You can go through this list and deal with them one at a time.
WARNING: Do not deal with multiple questions at once as this is likely to trigger cognitive dissonance. Only deal with one issue at a time.
It is CRITICAL that the message follower is the one to do the research and to arrive at the conclusions. YOUR ONLY ROLE IS TO ASK QUESTIONS.
If you have concerns or run into issues while you are engaged with a message follower using the Socratic method, please feel free to send us an email.
A comment we received from a former message minister
In my personal experience in dealing with message believers, I found the shock almost overwhelming when they hit a cul-de-sac.
You may find the message believer going quiet or refuse to continue the discussion, but the seed has been sown.
Many returned months later to thank me for helping them open their eyes to the deception.
But, be warned, it takes a lot of patience.
I messed up, what do I do now?
Many message followers, when they find out the truth, immediately tell their friends, family or their spouse that:
- William Branham was a false prophet.
- They are in a cult.
- The message is false doctrine.
- All of William Branham's prophecies failed.
- William Branham lied constantly.
This will cause cognitive dissonance to kick in and your friends, family or even your spouse may completely shut down on you.
So what do you do if this happens?
You are going to have to eat a bit of humble pie...
Your conversation with your mom/dad/wife/husband/friend is going to have to go something like this:
- I'm sorry I came on so strong. The problem is I am overwhelmed with doubt about the message. But in my heart, I just want to follow Christ. I love the Lord with all my heart but there are a few issues with William Branham and his message that I am having some serious problems with. All I want is to know the truth. Am I seeing things incorrectly? I need help with understanding these things or I am going to have to walk away from the message? Do you want me to do that? Would you help me understand where I am wrong? Would you help me find the truth?
These last questions are difficult to say "no" to. However, it is important that you ask the questions truthfully. I think all of us want to find the truth and it is important to search for the truth.
If the message follower responds with a "yes", then they are potentially on a journey towards truth. But you are going to have to go SUPER SLOW.
Because you have already got in their face with the problems, you are going to have to simply ask one question at a time and don't do anything other than to focus on simple questions. DO NOT OVERWHELM THEM WITH QUESTIONS!!!
We then slowly go forward using the Socratic method which we discussed above.
- Heath, Chip; Heath, Dan. Switch (p. 6). Crown. Kindle Edition.
- Haidt, Jonathan. The Happiness Hypothesis (p. 10-34). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind (p. 56-59). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
- My Life Story, Los Angeles, April 19, 1959