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Signs of a Cult

John Collins05/23/2013

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I recently had a very long conversation with a man trapped in the cult of William Branham.  He had left his family behind, refused to speak with them anymore, and his only reasoning was that they did not believe the same “message” that he did.  

The cult had taught him to stay away from those who did not believe because they were “diseased,” and taught him to fear that if he went near them, he might catch that same disease.  I tried to explain to him that Jesus did not come to save the saved, but spent His time fellowshipping with the prostitutes, thieving tax collectors, and other people who were considered to be the lowest of sinners.

But the headquarters of the cult, Jeffersonville, Indiana, had already programmed his mind with a cult response to every question, and had already trained him to believe the words of the cult leader, William Branham over the Bible.  In fact, when direct conflicts were described between the words of Branham and the words of Christ, the programmed response was to believe Branham over what his Bible said.

It is very easy to identify some religious cults.  Especially the cult of William Branham, because of the doctrines about the fallen angel Wormwood, the Zodiac being the Bible, the separation doctrines, and other false teachings that Branham copied from other cult leaders.  But not all religious cults are so easily identified.  

Especially in today’s world, when cults are so tightly integrated into Christianity.  On the surface, these religious cults seem righteous, but underneath the plastered smiles behind devious pastors is pure flowing evil that comes from doctrines of demons.

In 1990, a man named Steven Hassan published a book, “Combating Cult Mind Control.”  Hassan, who was once a cult member, is now a counselor helping those affected by destructive cults.  In this book, Hassan exposes the sobering facts about cults' recruitment, their use of psychological manipulation, and their often subtle influence on government, the legal system, and society as a whole. 

Hassan has ten main points that are strikingly common between all religious cults, and help you to easily identify if the church you attend has roots of evil.  It is good to review these, and make sure you have not mistakenly joined a religious cult.

I have studied several religious cults, from Jim Jones, the pastor Branham started who killed every member of his following through cyanide poisoning, to the Zionists led by John Alexander Dowie, to the Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses -- false prophets studied and promoted by William Branham through his teaching.  

But not having been under the other religious cults, I find it easier to compare these ten signs of a religious cult to the one I escaped: the “Message of the Hour,” or “Branhamites,” or “The Message”.  The followers of the false prophet, William Marrion Branham.

Autonomy and individuality are discouraged.  Dependence, conformity and obedience are encouraged and sometimes required. 

The cult I escaped fit this mold.  Many extra-biblical “laws” were added to make the people -- especially the women -- look the same.  The individuality was discouraged not only on the surface with appearance, but also inside from the heart.  There were pictures on the wall of the church of examples of how NOT to cut your hair if you were a man, and scissors touching a woman’s hair was strictly forbidden even though women shaved their heads during mourning during Jewish custom.  

A person must shed his old identity and aquire a new one that is desired by the group. 

Religious cults call this “casting away the old man and putting on the new man.”  To some extent, this is scriptural, because to follow Christ is to have spiritual rebirth.  But religious cults, such as the cult of William Branham, require another new birth after accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  You must also accept the “gospel of Branham,” and you must also accept Branham’s opinion of what a new identity looks like -- even when most of that viewpoint cannot be found in scriptures.

The information one is allowed to access and be exposed to is tightly restricted. 

This one shocked even me.  For the thirty-seven years I was trapped in the cult of William Branham, I never even knew there were “hidden secrets.”  I never knew there were conflicts in Branham’s teachings, but once I found out, I was shocked that so many elders in the cult already knew this and hid it from the people.  My grandfather, the pastor of the Branham Tabernacle in Jeffersonville, Indiana, scolded me: “People have known these things for years!  What does it hurt you to believe it anyway?”

Information that should be on display is not.  Branham’s flyleaf, supposedly containing the six (or seven) visions of 1933, does not exist.  So you are not allowed to ask to see it!  The death certificates of those raised from the dead that William Branham brags about do not exist.  So if you ask for them, you are in violation of the rules.

The doctrine claims to answer all questions and problems. One need not think for themselves, the doctrine does the thinking for him. 

Most cult followers admittedly do not even try to understand their bibles.  While Peter tells us that the Bible is of no private interpretation, the cult will teach you that only “the prophet” is able to read and understand the scriptures.  Therefore, the cult leader gives you all the answers you need to know!  

The Church of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, and the Watchtower Society, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, produced writings with titles like “Questions and Answers.”  If memory serves, another cult leader, William Sowders who has a strikingly similar “commission story” to William Branham also had sermons with that title.  Those in the cult of William Branham are familiar with these series of sermons, where a follower submits a question, and Branham, the cult leader, gives the answer with the ultimate authority.  Many times, the answers conflicted with themselves, and conflicted with the words of the Apostles or even Jesus Christ.  

But to the programmed cult mind, and like the cult follower I spoke with described, the words of the cult leader are more authentic than the words of Jesus Christ that are written in the Bible.

Members are assigned specific goals and tasks thus restricting their free time and behavior. In destructive cults there is always something to do. 

This one really, REALLY bothers me.  The cult headquarters, Voice of God Recordings, holds camps for the children, and they teach the children to study the recorded sermons of William Branham.  While Christian churches teach their children to study the Bibles, free time is devoted to studying cult propaganda.  

It is strange when I consider my free time after escaping the cult versus while being enslaved.  I really can’t account for all of my hours while trapped.  And yet, my lifestyle after leaving has increased my workload and my time spent in apologetics. 

Yet, while working hours from sunup to sundown after leaving the cult, it seems like I have more time for church, friends, and more.  My family time, while it seems lessoned with my work in apologetics, is more quality family time.  The restriction seems not only to be in quantity, but in quality.

The cults "loaded language" keeps members feeling special and seperate from the world around them. It also confuses newcomers and implies that they must simply "study harder" in order to "understand". Understanding simply means believing. 

Christian churches teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Good news that God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins.  Christ fulfilled the part of the Old Covenant that mankind was unable to fulfill, bearing our sins on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice.  He died and rose again, so that we can rise with them.  

It’s not hard to proclaim, really.  It is easy to explain, because that comes straight from the pages of the Bible.  

But to enslave a new member of the cult of William Branham, you have to EASE into it.  You can’t unload quickly on them that they must believe in prophecies of egg-shaped cars, black squirrels, antlers, and “mystery clouds” that look exactly like T.H.O.R. missile detonations.  If you did, people would look at you, and BUST A GUT laughing at your nonsense!

No, you have to ease into it before giving them the “loaded language.”  They would be confused by it.  You have to understand, and more than that, you have to accept the entire set of prophecies “by faith,” because not a single one of them can be proven to be accurate.  (because they are not).

Members are trained to disbelieve any criticism. Critical words are explained away in advance as " the lies Satan puts in people's minds" 

Cult leaders, and all the men surrounding them, will make you try to prove a negative with your questions, and then condemn you for doing it.  It does not matter if William Branham prophesied about the wrong bridge, falsely claiming that he had a vision in his childhood about sixteen men falling off of a bridge -- when he got the wrong bridge and sixteen men fell off of another bridge built long before Branham was born.  

The cult will ask you to “try and prove that sixteen men DIDN’T fall off of that bridge!”

Then, when a group of people like “” DOES prove that sixteen men did not fall from the wrong bridge, the cult will tell you that Satan has tricked them by hiding the information that does not exist.  

In the Old Testament, the prophets had scribes.  These scribes wrote the prophecy in multiple scrolls, because the words did not come from the prophet.  They were the words of GOD.  Sometimes, the Word from the Lord was written on stone pillars for all to see.

The events were so clear that when the prophecy came to pass, it was easily identified in either a scroll or a stone pillar.  Yahweh WANTED the people to see that He was God.  He did not want to hide it so that only a specific few would find it.  God loves the WORLD.  He does not want a single person to be lost, though many people deny Him.

Members are told to avoid contact with ex-members, those who could provide the most information are ones to be especially shunned.

My poor wife is the worst-case scenario of this.  I was shunned, because I questioned “the prophet.”  Before a single book was published, before a single article was written, before a single video was posted, I was ex-communicated for questioning the prophet.  None of my past friends or family were allowed to speak, the pastor referencing Ananias and Sapphira.  These two men, according to the book of Acts were stealing money, making a mockery of the early church through serving Mammon.  Much different than my questioning failed prophecy.

But my wife, also ex-communicated, had absolutely nothing to do with the situation.  The pastor did not care about her soul, and did not even ask her if she was still a believer.  Though he was a family member, my own grandfather, his only motive was to hide the hidden secrets from the people.  At the time, most of the church had never heard of a single apologetic site, and I was the one that was holding the key that could unlock their chains of bondage.  So not just me -- my wife -- must be shunned.

That leads us into the next sign of a cult:  questioning.

People are not allowed to question the leaders or the doctrine. If there is a problem it is always that of the individual's and they are at fault.  Since the doctrine is the 'TRUTH' any flaw is viewed as the believer's imperfection.

We have proven that William Branham lied about his past.  He lied about his commission.  He lied about his motives.  He lied about his prophecies.  He even lied about the Word of God.  It was NOT the truth, but his words are held as truth to the cult mind.  Because I had a question, not only myself, but also my wife, had a “spiritual disease.”  It was my imperfection for questioning in the first place, not the man who was caught lying on recorded sermon.

People have the freedom to join but not the freedom to leave a destuctive cult. There's not a legitimate reason for a person to ever leave and those doing so will have evil befall them.

Any person born and raised in the cult of William Branham who has now experienced freedom will tell you that this is the most difficult one.  There are no physical chains of bondage.  There are no locked doors and no guards standing with automatic rifles to shoot you down as you leave.

But once you leave, you are cursed.  You will be told that your only reason for leaving the cult was because there was something wrong with you.  You will likely die.  

Worse, there will be a few members that will try to make that happen.  One lady who left and started a support group had her brakes cut.  Another had her business shut down by internet attack, and she lost her entire clientele.  

You are easily welcomed into the cult of William Branham, but you may never leave.  William Branham’s cult is “Hotel California.”  

To the cult mind who has been brainwashed enough to take William Branham’s word over their own bibles, there is little hope.  Only God can save them.  There is no argument once they have denied God by denying their own bible.

The cult mind who has not been programmed that deeply can find escape after seeing documented proof of some of William Branham’s many lies, which you can now easily find on one of several websites -- or even by searching to see Branham’s own words condemn himself as a liar.

But Peter gives us hope in 2 Peter 2.  These cult leaders, and the pastors who lift them up, will not last forever.  New ones may rise, but old ones will fall.

All throughout the New Testament, there is a common theme of warning:  False prophets will rise.  False teachers will rise.  But they will die., a Branham apologetic site, produced a video describing another prophet prophesying William Branham’s death before the event.  

But William Branham’s death was already predicted, long before that prophet was ever even born.  This prediction is also in 2 Peter 2:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.  Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Scriptures like this are commonly used to condemn those who point out William Branham’s failed prophecies or doctrines that are contrary to scripture.  But it is a programmed response, and not one that matches the scripture.

It is the FALSE PROPHETS who will rise, NOT those who try to point others back to the Bible.  It is FALSE TEACHERS who will rise, and they are the ones who are not teaching the truth.  They are the ones, like Branham, who are proven to have lied.

Peter says that their condemnation is from long ago, and their destruction is not asleep, or waiting.  They will fall.  

I pray that every mind that has been programmed by false teaching in these religious cults may escape and be pointed back to Jesus Christ.  It is more than we are able to do, there is only ONE who can save.  The only door into salvation is given to us by grace, and that door is only opened by faith in Jesus Christ. 

Cults will place another door in front of it, one that can only be opened by faith in their cult leader.  But the problem with that door is that it may never be opened, because the leader will be standing in the way with false teaching.  Some in the cults will find a way through faith in Jesus Christ.  Some will not.

Join with me in prayer that those trapped in religious cults will one day be led back to Jesus Christ.  May God, who sent His only Son to die for our sins, grant their deliverance.