Why I Left the Message by Jennifer Hamilton
The following is the testimony of Jennifer Hamilton published in January 2016.
It is difficult to describe in words the vast variety of emotions, doubts, and stages of denial that were present during this difficult journey over the past year. To hint that the possibility that everything I believed in all my life might be a distorted version of the truth was scary. To have ministers admit that they covered up discrepancies is hurtful. To admit that I was wrong, to so many family and friends for something I defended and stood for, is embarrassing. To leave a church system of close friends, not just in one city but world-wide, knowing I would be disfellowshipped by most, was painful.
I felt it important to write out my testimony as to why I left something I believed so strongly and to share it with you. My primary reason is because of how I viewed those who left while I was still in the Message. I saw them as back-sliders or altogether unsaved.
I understand that each person who leaves a Message church may have left for different reasons. Some weren’t seeking God when they left. But never once did I view any who left as possible ‘truth-seekers’ or that they were following God’s leading for their lives. When I would see former Message believers, I would feel uncomfortable, and even pity that they would walk away from it. I judged them. I judged them for not attending a Message church, which I believed was the only place to truly find God. I judged them by the changes in their outward appearance to my own holiness standards. Standards I believed were so clear in scripture. I was also afraid that fellowship with them would hinder my walk with God. But, now being on the other side, I saw my previous attitude was not of God (who is love), but of religiousness and fear.
My testimony is not against the people of the Message; there are dear and sincere Holy Ghost filled Christians in the Message that I know personally. My testimony is of my journey to free myself from the spirit behind the Message and the doctrines it stands on. While I do struggle with bitterness against some of the attitudes and things I’ve found to be false, I do not resent my years attending Message churches. I had some wonderful, life-changing experiences over the past 20+ years: including meeting my wonderful husband. I felt spiritually fed for many years. I never thought in a million years that I would become one of “those” who left The Message. I believed everything I was taught with my whole heart.
Changes I noticed in the message
A little over a year ago. I witnessed a huge change in the ministry at the local Message church that I had attended for 8 plus years. Where there used to be encouragement to read the Bible, there was now a new focus on the prophet and pressure to rely on his message. As www.BelievetheSign.com] asked questions, sermons began to shift into fear-based preaching against having questions or studying them. Instead of approaching it as an opportunity to prove the “truth”, we were warned to avoid any questions at all.
The 2 most common quotes stated again and again from across the pulpit to explain the issues in theology and events in Bro Branham’s life and ministry that didn’t line up:
- Don’t question it: Put it on a shelf until God reveals it to you
- ```God doesn’t require us to understand, he just requires us to believe it```.
I realized there was something terribly wrong if ministers were scared when their church members began researching questions. Then as I read deeper into my Bible, I realized that neither of the above 2 statements are Biblical. In fact, they were the very opposite.
What I saw in the Bible
I thought I knew my Bible. I thought I knew The Message. I read my Bible almost every day. I listened to all the sermons. But, once I started “studying” the Bible and the Message together, I realized how many things didn’t add up. I didn’t use any anti-Message websites at first. I simply compared my Bible with the Voice Of God Recordings website by searching hours and hours through sermons myself.
My “shelf of questions” became a bookcase; then became a full library. And then I discovered scriptures upon scriptures of how we should understand the Bible (1 Corin 2:12, 2 Tim 2:7, Col 1:9-29, etc.) without needing an interpreter/prophet; that we should ‘examine all things’ (Acts 17:11).
Never once are we commanded by scripture to believe a man or prophet blindly without understanding. We are commanded, however, to “prove all things” according to 1 Thess. 5:20-21:
- “Do not despise the gifts of the prophets, but test and prove all things until you can recognize what is good; to that hold fast...
and to be watchful of “false prophets with signs and wonders” (Matt 24:24 and Mark 13:22), and to be wary of anyone who preaches “another Jesus”.
Signs and wonders do NOT vindicate a prophet. 1 John 4 says:
- “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.”
The reaction from our pastor
The last year we attended a Message Church, we were starving for spiritual food. The sermons were all about “God sent a prophet” and very little about Christ and God in our lives. After the items on our “shelf” became full, we tried to seek guidance and clarity from our pastor. He refused to meet with us for 3 months, wanting instead that we email him our questions. When he finally did meet with us, he didn’t address any of our questions or concerns regarding Message doctrines that we were questioning as differing from scripture.
Instead, he said that when issues appeared to not align with the bible, he filtered the Bible through the prophet’s teachings. The Bible was no longer his Absolute, it was the Message.
What had happened to "All scripture is inspired by God" ( 2 Tim 3:16)? The Bible is very clear that if someone adds or takes away from the Bible, they will be removed from the Tree of Life (Rev 22:19) We were devastated, but also relieved that after several months we finally had the answer from God. We needed to leave.
What we discovered
At the time, we still held to many Message beliefs, and visited other Message churches in search of a new place of worship. But, after many hours of studying God’s Word and Bro. Branham’s sermons, I realized 2 truths:
1. The Message taught a Jesus-Plus mentality. Jesus wasn’t enough; we also needed a prophet.
2. The Message was full of traditions of men.
The Jesus-Plus Teaching of the Message
The Jesus that the Message points to is not reachable without going through Bro. Branham’s message first. Only through Bro. Branham can we be introduced to Christ, like the story of Eliezer with Rebecca and Isaac. But the Bible teaches us differently:
- John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
- Galatians 1:4: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel until you than that which we have preached until you, let him be accursed.”
- Matt 24:10 “See that no one misleads you… At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased…”
- Matthew 27:50-51 “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to bottom…”
The renting of the veil in the Tabernacle during Christ’s death represented the change from law to grace and that through Christ’s death we are now given direct access to God. William Branham’s entire message has stitched the veil back up to work as an ‘end-time prophet’ and the need to have God tell a prophet what we needed to hear. God longs for direct access between Himself and man. Not another veil, otherwise Christ’s death was in vain.
For me, signs and wonders are not Biblical vindication for a “true” prophet because false prophets will also have signs and wonders (Matt 24:24, Mark 13:22). The 2 events that were supposed to vindicate Bro Branham as a “fore-runner to Christ’s second coming” and a “revelator” of the Bible were:
- God’s voice at the river when Bro Branham was baptizing the 17th person in August of 1933 on the Ohio River (he mentioned 3,000-10,000 were on the shore watching it and that it was printed in newspapers all over the country). The only article found says just 14 were baptized and no mention of a light.
- The angels’ visitation to Bro Branham at the Canyon to give him the 7 Seals and the Cloud appearing as they ascended. (The Cloud happened a week later when Bro Branham was in a different state AND the story changes every time he tells it (number of angels, the cloud appearing when the angles came or when they left. He also says that he was given the revelation of the Seals from an angel, when in fact his sermons are nearly word-for-word from Clarence Larkin).
Unfortunately, studying the Messages only makes the story unravel until I finally had to give it to God and admit that there was little truth or honesty found at all.
I had to stop making excuses. Other discrepancies I found:
- Lack of fulfilled prophecies. Not one prophecy that has “come to pass” was given before the fact. All prophecies he gave have changed over time, he changed with current events of his day, or they can’t be confirmed.
- Revelation 10:7 is future tense for the subsequent chapter - the 7th angel doesn’t come to earth or ‘sound his trumpet’ until AFTER the 2 witnesses appear to Israel (Rev 11).
- He changed his date of birth in his own handwriting from April 6, 1908 on his 1st marriage certificate to April 8th, 1909 on his second marriage certificate to follow his claim on being born under the planetary alignment.
- He gives 4 different locations/times for his conversion: a Baptist church, a coal shed, a converted bar room, and a hospital
- He stated that the reason he quit school was because his father died and he was needed to take care of his siblings. Yet, his father’s death certificate places William Branham at 27 years old at his time of death.
- Time discrepancies of related events that according to records were months/years apart and could have never happened together (for example: his wife dying during the Ohio River Flood. Her and Sharon Rose’s death certificate shows the time of death 5 months after the Ohio flood. William Branham tells the story that he was out helping victims in the flood by boat when he got the call that she was passing.)
- His claim on when he joined the Pentecostal movement and the timeline of the Branham Tabernacle. He says that he didn’t join the Pentecostals because of his 1st mother-in-law until after Hope’s death. Yet, Hope’s obituary states that she belonged to the Pentecostal Tabernacle at the time of her death. The city directory before she died prints William Branham as the pastor of that church.
- He changed what original scriptures meant to place himself in authority (Matthew 17:11, Malachi 4:5, Matthew 24:28, Zechariah 14:7, Revelation 10:7,1 John 1:7)
- He preached a works-based faith to prove election by God.
- He taught many doctrines on the KJV, which has been proven misleading from some of the original Hebrew interpretations. If he received doctrines from God, the doctrines would have remained the same as the original thought of God, despite incorrect or dated translations.
Traditions of Men
The book of Romans addresses the issues with the human nature of mixing traditions of men with what is important to God. In Romans 14, Paul speaks of the division among God’s people about whether eating meat sacrificed to idols was allowed. Circumcision was another huge debate, and Paul writes that our personal convictions should not be preached or judged at each other, whether one believes one way or another. “For the kingdom of God is not meat or drink (legalism); but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” Romans 14:17. Some common Message legalistic ‘traditions of men’ are:
Women not cutting their hair
There are quotes back and forth from Bro Braham on the issue of women cutting their hair. Hearing the quote: ‘Thus saith the Lord, a man has the right to divorce his wife if she cuts her hair’ started me researching what exactly Bro Branham and the Bible said about the issue. Bro Branham said:
- many times that women shouldn’t cut their hair ‘at all’.
- it was okay for the girls to cut their bangs. His daughter was 24 years old when he mentioned her in this. (64-0830)
- in a "Questions and Answers" session that he had no scripture to back up that women couldn’t trim their hair. (64-0830)
- a man has the right to divorce his wife if she cuts her hair. (53-0729)
There are also photographs of Bro Branham’s wife and girls with bangs and trimmed hair (see photo on right).
So I started studying hair and women in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 11 used the Greek word of “cutting close to the head” as something women shouldn’t do. They were just commanded to have long hair, not long ‘uncut’ hair. The only scripture for not cutting the hair ‘at all’ was the Nazarite vow in the Old Testament (Numbers 6:1-21) in which:
- It was for a season of time
- It was for both men and women
- They wouldn’t cut their hair at all during their season of time
- Would not drink any juice or eat from grapes
- They would not be around any dead person, even deceased family
- After the season of the Nazarite vow is over, they would shave their heads and offer a sacrifice at the temple
The question in my heart was, “Why would something that wasn’t in scripture, and something that Bro Branham went from one extreme (allowing divorcement over to it) to another (okay to trim) become such a huge doctrine in the Message?”
Men not wearing shorts
William Branham taught that men should not wear shorts:
- A man put on them little old sissy-looking shorts, and get out here, I don't think there is much man to him. He is the biggest sissy I know of.
However, there are pictures of Bro. Branham (to the right) and (the image above) his son wearing shorts.
Definition of modesty
William Branham taught that women should wear modest dresses and that God requires clothing-styles to be separate between the genders.
- 1. The Bible outlines feminine modesty as follows:
- “women should adorn themselves modestly and appropriately and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with elaborate hair arrangement or gold or pearls or expensive clothing”.
- At this time of scripture, and when Deut 22:5 was written, men and women both wore the same type of garment, a long tunic to the knees or lower and a mantle to cover the head. From a distance, men and women would look exactly the same. Modesty in the New Testament is outlined as sensibly and not gaudy or expensive which might make others around you feel inferior.
- 2. If Deuteronomy 22:5 says that “the woman should not wear that which pertained unto a man…for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God” (KJV), then why stop at pants for a woman? Every garment would need to be researched. Ties were uniform for teachers in the earlier centuries, stockings and hosiery were first worn by men, t-shirts were military undershirts designed in the 1920s, hoodies, baseball caps, tennis shoes, etc. Where would it end? BUT, the KJV is very different from the ancient Hebrew for that verse. The word "pertaineth" in “that which pertaineth” is translated from the Hebrew word “keliy” which means “article, utensil, vessel” which in other scriptures in the old testament, “keliy” is translated into “weapon, armor, or instrument”. The word “man” in this specific scripture is from the Hebrew word, “geber”, which means “Strong man or warrior”. One of the pagan temples in Moses’ day required women to dress up as warriors to enter the temple, which better defines the Hebrew translation that a “woman should not put on the armor of a warrior for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God”.
- 3. When God made clothing of skins for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, it is recorded that God made them “kethoneth”, which in Hebrew means “a long shirt-like garment”; they were not gender-specific clothing styles.
Sinful behavior - Dancing, playing cards, secular music, drinking wine, etc.
All personal convictions taught by the prophet, not commandments of scripture (even though dancing, gambling, secular music, drinking wine, etc is found in scripture). We are each called to a PERSONAL walk with God, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us in our own convictions of the ‘gray’ areas, not someone else’s. And not to judge each other, preach at each other, or condemn each other based on our personal convictions. This is specifically spelled out in Romans 14, even to the point of naming those who live legalistic as being “weak in the faith”. Mark 7:8 and Matt 15:6 “You disregard and give up and ask to depart from you the commandment of God and cling to the tradition of men; you have set aside the Word of God, making it of no effect” God help us!
I still remember my first service at the non-Message church my husband and I now attend. I expected to find the absence of God. I expected to only glean “nuggets” of truth from the sermon and to “spit out the pits”. Instead, I found His beautiful presence. God was there! I found love and joy. The pastor spoke from the heart, rebuked in love, and encouraged with scriptures. There was outreach to the lost souls of the community. They fed the hungry and poor. They opened their doors to the hurt and broken. They extended grace, not judgement. I then realized what the “fruit” of a Believer would look like. They are Christ-like, being a friend and a light to the sinner as Jesus was. Not standing off with a passive approach - if a sinner is “seed”, they’ll come to us with questions.
Since leaving the Message, I have been shunned, mocked, and de-Christianized by some Message Believers. But, instead of falling away from God as so many message followers believe, I’ve found a deeper relationship with Christ than I ever have had before. I’ve fallen back in love with my Bible, which has become a new Book to me. I have found healing for hurts that I have experienced in my life. I’ve discovered that it’s only God’s grace and His grace alone that saves and redeems me and fills me with His spirit. Thank you Jesus! I am such a broken human mess that could never be deserving of Him without the sacrifice of His son for my sins. I didn’t receive salvation or the Holy Ghost because I believed the words of William Branham, but because they are a gift from God to every soul on earth who will accept that Jesus died for their sins. My prayer is that each one would search for truth as God commands us and be blessed beyond measure! If you are searching your scriptures and also have questions, I would love to meet with you!
- William Branham, 65-0829 - Satan's Eden, para. 141
- 1 Tim 2:9