I was introduced to the Message in 1983, when I was about 13 years old. Although my initial impression was that the Message was cultish, I was impressed by what seemed to be a higher standard of holiness and sincerity than I had seen in other Christian groups. I accepted the teachings as truth in 1985, and I resolved to live by its standards, marry a fellow believer if God willed, and raise my children according to its teachings.
As I grew into adulthood, I felt that the holiness standard was cumbersome. I would pray, “Jesus, You said that Your yoke is easy, and Your burden is light. But I feel so weighed down. The preachers are saying that this is freedom, but it feels like bondage.” I kept these feelings to myself because I knew that I would be looked upon with disdain if I dared to say anything to anyone. There were no reasons given for these standards except that “the prophet said so”.
I was troubled that we had to believe and uphold doctrines that could not be supported by Scripture.
When I would come across a Message teaching that contradicted Scripture, I knew what to do: put my questions on “the shelf” and wait for God to reveal the answer in His time. I read Message sermons and William Branham’s life story books to my children when they were young, but as they got older – and my “shelf” became more crowded with unanswered questions – I stopped reading the Message to them because I was afraid that they would ask questions that I could not answer. All along, though, I regularly read the Bible with them and encouraged them to hold the Scriptures as the ultimate standard for truth.
When my oldest child was about nine years old, he said something that deeply disturbed me: “People in denominations are evil!” Having grown up in denominational churches until I accepted the Message and having relatives in denominational churches, I knew that the people in them are not inherently evil by association. I had to acknowledge that he was getting that impression from the Message teaching. I began to pray that God would open doors for me to bring the children into fellowship with denominational churches, and the Lord did. My children and I have cultivated deep friendships with believers from various groups, and we learned to respect and appreciate their passion for God and His Word.
In 2015, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: “Look up Clarence Larkin.” I had heard that people were saying that William Branham plagiarized from Larkin, but I had never researched the matter. On that fateful day, I found Larkin’s book on Revelation and started reading. To my amazement, I found the same wording and concepts that I had read in the Church Ages book. This was absolutely devastating. Thirty years of believing in an end-time prophet and standing for a Message that was supposed to be sent from God all came to an end. My “shelf” gave way, and everything came crashing down. I knew that I had been deceived. My family had been deceived. Millions of people around the world had been led in error.
From that point, I have resolved more firmly to hold the Scriptures alone as the standard of truth. The Bible resonates more clearly as I depend upon the Holy Spirit – the Inward Teacher – to enlighten me. I see so clearly that the foundation of the Message is not Christ, but it is William Branham. Now, my hope is built on nothing less – and nothing else -- than Jesus Christ.
In January 2018, I left the Message church I had been attending for over 27 years. The anguish of enduring false teaching became greater than the fear of leaving. As difficult as this move was, I know that I did the best thing for my children and myself. I am currently visiting churches of various denominations in my area, being blessed and edified by hearing the real Gospel.
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