The Message Connection of Jim Jones and William Branham

by John Collins and Peter M. Duyzer

(The previous article by John Collins and Peter M. Duyzer for this website is The Intersection of William Branham and Jim Jones. More information about Rev. Branham prepared by John Collins and Peter M. Duyzer may be found at the informational website, www.seekyethetruth.com, and in the book Legend of the Fall available on Amazon.com. Additional information is also available at the Freedom of Mind website here.)

This article seeks to examine what kind of a connection exists between what both Jim Jones and William Branham referred to as “The Message.”

vol14pp87.91_earlvol14pp87.91_earl2In a handwritten note from Rev. Jim Jones to Earl Jackson, believed to be dated between 1957 and 1965, Jones refers to a movement that he describes “the Message,” when the note reads: “God sent you to People’s Temple and you must not release yourself. I know there are things about the Message that you may not see but it is God.”[1] The fact that Jones both capitalized and underlined the word “Message” is stresses its importance. Indeed, the markings on the handwritten note suggest there is more to “The Message” than meets the eye.

Within the overarching understanding of Christendom, use of the term “The Message” is not a novel thing. For the past few centuries, several movements have sprung up claiming to have “The Message.” By simply adding the definite article to “message,” the statement claims authority, as in, “This is not just a message like any other message, this is THE message.” This term then becomes loaded with information that explains what this message contains and means, but it also intends to correct, if not demonize, all that falls outside of its parameters.

An example might be helpful here. At this point in time, the LDS movement (Mormonism) is re-branding itself, which includes subtly substituting, or replacing, words in their message to soften animosity towards the LDS and increase their market share. As a Mormon blog writer notes, the church’s push has become, “Stay on message. Only 12% of Americans know our central message. It is this: We are the re-established, original Christian Church.”[2]

In Pentecostal circles, it is also not uncommon to use the word “message” instead of the word “sermon.” One might refer to a sermon as a “message from god,” or a “message I am bringing you today.” However, the emphasis in Jones’ handwritten note to Brother Jackson is that he is writing about something beyond just a message: it is “The Message.” He uses it in context of a religious movement. His core argument is that the Message itself is not just a message from God, it is God.

In our previous article, we pointed out that the intersection between the ministries of Jim Jones and William Branham was critical to the success of Jones’ early ministry and his rise to prominence. William Branham initiated Jones into the mainstream of post-World War II healing campaigns at the Cadle Tabernacle in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1956. In many of these services, the mentor was advertised as the main speaker. Beyond that, Branham also appears to have held joint faith healing meetings with Jones in multiple cities.

Happy to see today as our host pastor Brother James Jones, from Indianapolis, back there.[3]

William Branham used the term “The Message” in much the same way throughout his own ministry. Even today, Branham’s followers still refer to the religious movement Branham started in the early 1930’s as “The Message.” This is seen in question like, “Do you believe the Message,” or “When did you come into the Message?”

I never called this message to go over the world like this.[4]

Like Jones, Branham said the prophet is the Word (which is The Message) which is god.

A prophet is the Word…you know, the prophet in the Old Testament was called “god.”[5]

While no transcriptions of the personal conversations between Rev. Jim Jones and Rev. William Branham have yet been discovered or released by Branham or Jones’ sources, there exist audio and written records from both ministers to compare the similarities between what each man considered to be “The Message.” A number of Jones’ sermons during this timeframe with references to his understanding of “The Message” within his belief system can be found in transcripts long after Jones’ Pentecostal days. At much the same time, Branham’s campaign team started the process of recording and mass producing reel-to-reel and cassette tape recordings of his sermons. These records provide the necessary information needed to examine whether there is a link between “The Message” of Jones and Branham. It also will help to determine which of these usages had precedence.

Usage of the term “The Message” compared

William Branham stressed the necessity of salvation through a prophet. He introduces it slowly, using Old Testament prophets as examples before introducing and establishing his own ministry, as can be seen in the following quotes:

When John came upon the earth, He was the manifested Word of God for that hour. We know that. He was God’s manifested Word.[6]

In fact, Branham made it very clear that, without receiving “The Message” or the Word of the age, day or hour, of which he is the prophet, there is no salvation:

The evidence of receiving the Holy Ghost today…is receiving the Word of Truth for the day in which you live.[7]

There’s only one evidence of the Holy Spirit that I know of, and that is a genuine faith in the promised Word of the hour.[8]

Throughout Branham’s ministry and until this time, the terms “The Message” and “The Spoken Word” are used interchangeably.

Towards the end of his own life Jim Jones makes a similar claim, referring to himself as “The Spoken Word.”

Without a prophet, you cannot be saved. That’s what I am. The Word. The Spoken Word. The Living Word.[9]

We’re not in a praying house here, we’re in a speakiling house. The Spoken Word is here. The Word is made flesh.[10]

spokenIn many Christian churches – especially in the Pentecostal-style churches in the era of Jones and Branham – the Bible in its written form is referred to as the “Word of God,” or simplified to “the Word.” The statements made by both Jones and Branham, in contrast, were considered to be the “Spoken Word.” They were in effect making the claim that their own statements were a continuation of the Bible and should be regarded as holy, without error and indisputable. Upon William Branham’s death, his sermons were sold under the title “The Spoken Word” until ownership was transferred to the “Voice of God Recordings.”

Healing Methods Compared

Healed by a picture:

Child: And when I seen a bird in front of my house, I asked my sister to go get some food for it and she went to go get some… When I got it, I dropped the bird. I sure did and my (unintelligible) said go get the picture of Jim, and she got it and I put it on the bird and it came back alive![11]

She went and got that picture, and set it down on the floor, and knelt down, and she said, “Oh, angel of God, whose picture is on this paper, send Brother Branham to me, right quick.”[12]

Healed by the Message:

When you get my teaching… you’ll get your healing. You’ll get your protection.[13]

This woman saw me as God… That’s why the woman over there with a paralyzed side was healed, because they saw me as God. but when you start telling me something, you see me as man. You have to have faith and keep coming and see God.[14]

You’re to take a message of Divine healing to the peoples of the world.[15]

The greatest support I have on the field is the Pentecostal people, because they believe the message of Divine healing…The rest of them turn their nose up at it.[16]

Claims of being “God” or “a god.”

I have come in the name of Jesus. I have come in the fathership degree. I am a God.[17]

When I say I am God, when I say I am God, when I say I am God! (Glossolalia). When I say I am God, then I feel (unintelligible word) well up within my soul. And I see it well up in you, and I see the sick healed, and the blind see, and the dead raised. You wanna know how I feel, I never feel so good as when I say I am God.[18]

I am God, I’m the only God there is–[19]

Branham too, intimated that he was God or a god.

Man is omnipotent. You don’t believe that, but he is. A man that’s fully surrendered to God is omnipotent.[20]

I want you to know now that my heart is completely surrendered…[21]

If you could see the Spirit of God in Moses, which he was God. Moses was a god. Joseph was a god. The prophets were gods. The Bible said they were. They were gods because it–they had completely surrendered themselves to the Spirit of God.[22]

Deification of the Prophet

A very critical component to the establishment of a religious cult is found in the theology of prophet deification. Using illustrations of key figures in the Bible, the “Message” of both Jim Jones and William Branham shaped their followers to deify prophets of the Old Testament. The two men then applied this deification to their own persons. The listeners were led to conclude that were no ordinary men, that they were likened to gods. Some in both followings went so far as to claim that the men were gods. According to the “Message” of both men, this made perfect sense to their followers.

Jesus said, we all are gods, and I had to come back to remind you what I told you 2000 years ago. I’m on the scene to tell you, ye are gods. And not take it away. Won’t let you take it away. So don’t be judges of the fact, that my people say I am God. Jesus said, ye are gods.[23]

Moses was what? … He was the God of his day, leading his people through the wilderness.[24]

A core concept repeated throughout Branham’s “Message” is the idea that the Bible itself is written in mystery, and that it required a prophet to interpret the hidden meanings. God sent a prophet in each age, Branham said, to correct the errors of the theologians.

Each age, He sends a prophet on there, with anointed. The Word of the Lord comes to the prophet, always, to vindicate It in the age.[25]

God in sundry times wrote the Bible by His Own chosen way. He never wrote It by theologians, neither does He interpret by theologians… The interpretation comes only to a prophet. And the only way we’re ever going to get out of this mess is for God to send us that prophet…The Bible said, ‘The Word of the Lord comes to the prophets.”[26]

Though Jones was not as articulate in his explanation of this aspect of the “Message”, his view was much the same. The Temple leader promoted the idea that a prophet was sent to each dispensation to interpret the Bible and to separate truth from error. Even later in his ministry, long after he abandoned his Pentecostal faith, Jones continued this concept.

There is a prophet in our day who unquestioningly proves that he is sent from God. He has all the gifts of the spirit as given in the Bible: Word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues. (See I Cor. 12:8-10). We must have a prophet who is living the Christ life to direct us in this hour.[27]

But King James put lies in the Bible, and that’s why you have to have a prophet in every dispensation, to teach you, to show you the truth from the error.[28]

The terms “The Message” and “Gospel of Divine Healing,” were used interchangeably by both men. Crowds came from all over the nation and beyond for healing of their physical ailments and conditions. As each person stepped up to the platform, Branham and Jones would each claim to have a prophetic voice that could “discern” their diseases and afflictions. This process Branham called “discernment.”

Under that power of discernment, when the prophetic utterance goes forth, it tells you just exactly where your trouble is…Then get that out of the way first. Then God’s got to heal you.[29]

Jones’ Message was much the same. According to Jones, the prophetic voice was directly tied to the physical healing.

Last week, there was one that was lame, lame for some 20 years, unable to walk, but the Spoken Word went forth, and the discernment about her condition was given.[30]

Thus his prophets will be loving, compassionate and yet powerfully wise and all consumed by the power, the power of God Almighty to proceed to break the bondages of negation over the earth. By healing the sick both physically, psychologically, emotionally and mentally, all shall be healed by the power of a prophetic voice. You can know a prophet.[31]

The Message was sent to correct doctrinal error in the church

The “Message” of both men as God’s prophets was to proclaim that Christianity as a whole – but especially the Pentecostal movement – was in error, setting up the platform for their doctrinal correction. According to both, doctrinal issues had caused divisions in the church, and because of these divisions, they could not ascend to a higher plane. The “Message” of Divine Healing had the answer:

And that’s where it comes to show to me that all you Pentecostal groups of people who fuss about your little doctrines and things, some of these days that’ll be shook out of you. That’s right. You’re one big Church, brother. That’s right. Your little points don’t mean nothing in the sight of God. You’re one big Church of God…They believed in Divine healing, and they all run together in that big coliseum, about thirty-thousand packed out.[32]

You could have sixty percent of God as some endeavor to do in the so-called Pentecostal and Latter Rain movements. Or you could move on, on beyond the sixty percent, in which forty percent of you are still dead, and only sixty percent alive. You could move on up to the consciousness of one hundred percent, where there is nothing but God.[33]

Healing by means of prophetic discernment

The strategies employed by Jones to “discern” the secrets of the hearts may never be known beyond the anecdotal suggestions of Temple leaders poking through parishioners’ trash – or even their medicine cabinets – to collect clues. While modern faith healers are often exposed using technology, mnemonics or other techniques to guess their patients’ private lives, Jones’ intelligence apparently was collected in a cruder, more clandestine manner.

Branham’s campaigns, on the other hand, often required the sick and afflicted attending his services to fill out designated “prayer cards” soliciting their names, addresses, and afflictions. As patients stepped up to the platform, Branham claimed his own prophetic voice knew the information written on their cards. Evidence clearly shows his gift suffered when the prayer lines were not in the same order as the cards, or when a difficult name was written on the card.

250px-Prayer_Card_Front_and_BackEvidence exists that Branham was in contacts with his campaign staff during the sermons, including with his son, Billy Paul, whom the healer mentioned as being in charge of organizing the prayer cards. Witnesses have described ushers approaching the platform in the lag time between patients coming to Branham, or during prayer times. A 1954 campaign video entitled “Deep Calleth Unto The Deep” shows Billy Paul, approaching the pulpit and standing at Branham’s right side during the prayer, prior to a series of people approaching the healer. For a long period of time during this prayer, Billy Paul can be seen holding his hand over his mouth.

Regardless of the strategy used, Branham’s healing lines were well-polished. Even when mistakes were made, Branham was able to quickly divert the focus and to continue without distraction. In a 1963 prayer line, Branham appears to fumble the names he is “discerning.” A Mrs. Burton comes first, followed by his landlord, and finally a “Mrs. Parker.” Branham misses the Parker person and he mistakenly “discerns” another “Burton,” and claims that “he didn’t mean it.”

Mrs. Burton… I don’t know the woman, but if you’ll believe with all your heart {…}
[Next person approaches]
Sister Larsen, I do know you. She’s my landlord. {…}
[Next person approaches] {…}
You’re near Bedford, Springville, something like. That’s where it’s at, Springville. Mrs. Burton… not… I beg your pardon; I didn’t mean it. Mrs. Parker, that’s your name, isn’t it?[34]

Close examination of the transcripts of Jim Jones’ prayer lines suggests that he was using a similar strategy, though his technique does not appear as polished as Branham’s. In Transcript Q 920, he appears to have expected a “Russell” and then “Loreen Hayes” instead of Ms. Mitchell. Mitchell is a bit confused, and Jones quickly shifts focus from one name to another.

Jones: Uh– Russell– Mitchell? Mitchell! Who’s Mitchell? Hands clasped. I’m in the realms of heart… Willis. Hmm. (Pause) My God. Who is Loreen Hayes?
Ms. Mitchell: (Pause) I don’t know him.
Jones: You know anyone of the name Loreen Hayes?
Ms. Mitchell: No–
Jones: Yeah, we’ll move on from one to another. Loreen– what is it?
Ms. Mitchell: (unintelligible)
Jones: Hayes– Is Mitchell– Mitchell connected with you?
Ms. Mitchell: Right.
Jones: There’s another Mitchell?
Ms. Mitchell: Right. I’m Mitchell.[35]

Once this “prophecy” was uttered, Branham would send the patient from the platform to accept their healing. And on their way out, they could purchase a pamphlet written by Gordon Lindsay[37] entitled “Divine Healing in the Branham Campaigns,” which described how their sickness would return if their faith wavered.

There are, however, numbers of good Christians, conscientious people who evidently receive a gracious touch from the Lord, but for some reason or other do not seem to get a complete healing. To those who have had certain types of disease, special instructions need to be given. In the case of a cancer patient, the cancer is usually killed after prayer. Nevertheless, in some cases the cancer has yet to be eliminated from the body. Sometimes severe pain attends this elimination. If the person fails to understand this, he may fail to recognize his healing altogether.[37]

Healing conditional to the faith of the patients

Branham himself would prepare the audience by issuing a warning about the level of faith required for healing. He warned that regardless of their religious affiliation, if they did not have enough faith to heal themselves, the ritual would not be successful.

I’ve seen many people come by, lovely people, real Christians, but didn’t have enough faith to be healed, and some sinner pass by and has the faith to be healed.[38]

When faith fails, then your healing will fail.[39]

Divine healing lasts just as long as faith lasts (That’s right.), just as long as faith last.[40]

Jones also placed the actual healing on the shoulders of the “healed.” When a the healing was not successful, Jones blamed the failure on their lack of faith.

She called me and told me she wanted me to come to prayer for her. So, I went there and told her… I says you lack faith. You were where you would– you’d kept going and been under his teachings, you would’ve been healed by now.[41]

You gotta have faith before you get healed.[42]

The Message was the End-Time Message

In the aftermath of World War II, a new era of political and military tensions known as the Cold War between the two remaining superpowers – the Communist USSR in the east, and the capitalist USA in the west – commenced. The era was made more dangerous by the development of nuclear weapons, which each side possessed. Coincidentally, the Great Healing Revival began in 1947, about the same time as the Cold War, according to one source, and lasted through 1958:

After the lean spiritual years of World War II, two major national movements revitalized the American church. One was the evangelical movement spearheaded by Billy Graham and [the] other was the healing revival represented by William Branham and Oral Roberts.[43]

Both the Branham and Jones ministries started out as healing ministries. Beyond the common themes of healing and salvation through a god-prophet alone, both men recognized that Communism was a force preparing to take over the world, a realization that re-shaped their ministries. Jones seemed to embrace Communism in his sermons, declaring it was the only path to peace on earth. He preached that the ultimate salvation, communalism, was founded by Jesus and His disciples, and was developed into its present form by Karl Marx:

The only ethic by which we can lift mankind today is some form of socialism. There’s a smattering of it in the New Testament. It’s very evidently clear on the day of Pentecost that they that believed were together and had all things common. They bought their possessions to the apostles’ feet, and the apostles parted every man as he had need. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Now we’ve been told that this was a Marxist concoction, but it isn’t. It’s older than the Bible by far, it’s a couple thousand years and then even more than that in its age.[44]

Branham too, believed that Communism would take over the world. In fact, Branham agreed with the system of Communism, but not the Russian kind:

Like Russia…communism is right, but not forced like that.[45]

I said, “If communism had Christianity in it, I’d be a communist.” But I can’t be, because it denies Christianity.[46]

Jones, like Branham, was not happy with the hard-core expression of it as it was seen in Russia and other Communist nations:

I shall call myself a Marxist, because certainly no one taught me my brand of Marxism… I wanted to retreat from this gnawing sense of conscience that pushed me forward. Then I decided, where can I demonstrate my Marxism? I demonstrated it in many places… And today, no matter what disillusionment I may have — and I have come to the point that I’m a communalist. I sought haven in a socialist country, I theoretically feel that communism in unobtainable in the terms of man’s present evolution in the nuclear technology, but I do believe that a communal lifestyle offers much to people, and it certainly is greatly accepted in the republic in which we lived in… I decided, how can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church. So I consciously made a decision to look into… And so I did. (Laughs) Very quickly did. I’d had my religious heritage in Pentecostalism — deep-rooted emotions in the Christian tradition…The early years, I’d approached Christendom from a communalist standpoint, with only intermittent mention of my Marxist views. However, in later years, there wasn’t a person that attended any of my meetings that did not hear me say, at some time, that I was a communist…The main purpose of writing is that, to help protect my people, because I really have a strong desire to die. At the time of this writing, I have been imprisoned in my mind for many, many years constantly trying to conceal a lifestyle alien to the American society, that would have caused great pain for my devoted and precious wife, and those who followed on in my footsteps to become socialist or communist… everyone in our parish certainly subscribes to some form of socialism.[47]

It would appear that Jones became disillusioned with not being able to realize the bringing of his own brand of Marxism, Communism or Socialism to the USA. Instead, he moved his people and assets to Guyana in South America. Jones was conflicted in his mind regarding his original ideas of melding the best of his experiences in Pentecostalism and Communism.

Salvation was available to mankind, Jones preached, a social salvation, a deliverance from oppression, sickness, loneliness, etc., right here on earth. But he couldn’t get it to work in Indianapolis, so he went to California and again it did not work. In the end, he moved his people to Guyana and, as we know now, it didn’t work there either. It is peculiar that Jones still hung on to a kind of “spiritual” escape when he speaks about death.

I, with respect, die with dignity. Lay down your life with dignity. Dson’tDon’t lay down with tears and agony. There’s noting to death…it’s just stepping over into another plane.[48]

In every era there appears in people’s minds an antichrist and it was no different in the Twentieth Century. There were at least three major considerations within Christianity at that time – Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin – as can be seen even in Branham’s messages.

That was Communism, and—and Hitler and—and Nazi, and so forth; and how that Fascism of Mussolini, and Hitler, and Stalin. I said, “One of them will take the place of it. I don’t know which one it’ll be, but I believe it’ll be the king of the north.”[49]

Years later, Branham affirmed that he did warn about Russia as King of the North and had prophesied that all isms wound up in Communism.

Watch Russia! Watch Russia, the King of the North! Watch Russia, King of the North! Watch Russia, King of the North!”? How many has heard me just say, just wave that over, over? … ” Watch Russia, the King of the North! See, what he would do, for all those isms will heap up into Russia.”[50]

However, Branham’s view of Communism eventually changed from it being a danger to the West, to simply being a tool in the hand of God:

Don’t think that Stalin is the antichrist.[51]

Russia’s not the antichrist…[52]

God’s using Communism. He will use it. And Communism will destroy the entire thing according to the Scripture, and we’re in that day.[53]

However, in the end – literally – all of the various political and economic systems held out little hope for humankind. Instead, it was his “Message” that the only way out was the Rapture, which is a fairly novel interpretation of the “Things of the End.”
The Rapture is a doctrine which teaches that when the world comes to an end, there is a means of escape from all the troubles, known as the Tribulation. Believers who are alive will be taken up from the earth into heaven. Regardless of its biblical meaning, it is the way Branham developed the theory that is disturbing:

65 The true Bride of Christ will be waiting for that revelation of the rapture… 81 This rapture that we’re talking about is only for the Bride… The Message calls the Bride together.[54]

1977This means that all who did not receive Branham as the End-Time prophet or who would not hear “The Message,” would end up as what he called cannon fodder, people who were used sacrificially during battles. This, of course, created a great urgency on the part of Branham’s followers. Somewhere around 1973, William Branham’s son(s) published a 60-page booklet entitled “…by 1977,“ which contains Branham’s prophecies of the imminent end of the world.

As the inside page states:

Brother William Marrion Branham, God’s major prophet to this Laodicean Church Age, predicted seven events, including the United States of America, according to a vision he had from the Lord in 1933, and “I predict that that’ll all happen between right now, 1933, and 1977.” Many excerpts have been taken from his Messages, regarding these events, and printed herein unabridged. This booklet is printed and distributed free of charge by: SPOKEN WORD PUBLICATIONS, P.O..P.O. Box 888, Jeffersonville, Indiana, USA. 47130.

If for no other reason, the prophecy of 1977 as doomsday arguably came to pass for Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. His health had started to deteriorate, and he took more and more drugs. His critics were becoming more numerous and emboldened, especially after publication of an article in New West Magazine,[55] the first detailed criticism of Jones in five years. Rumors of official probes into the Temple’s wealth and political influences were circulating. In response, Jones took 1000 of his followers and left for Guyana, a socialist country, to the agricultural mission known as Jonestown.

All hope of redemption through faith was long abandoned. God had become the Sky God whom Jones mocked; there was no heaven unless it was founded on earth.

Let them go out there and believe in a Sky God that’ll never come. Let them believe that these things’ll never happen. Let them die in the gas chambers if they want to, even though I want to save everyone. That’s their choice. But don’t let them be in here holding us back by looking back to other gods or looking back to Sodom and Gomorrah. Don’t let it be.[56]

There’s no hope up there. Nobody’s going to come out of the sky. Nobody ever come to save us. There’s no heaven up there! We’ll have to make heaven down here![57]

Jones had claimed to be a reincarnation of his childhood heroes, Jesus, Buddha, Lenin, and Father Divine,[58] but in his later years, it abundantly clear that he thought he was God and was pushing his followers to confess the same:

How many believe I’m the Almighty God?…Creator of heaven and earth…How many of you believe I created everything that ever was?[59]

There can only be speculation but, it seems quite possible that, had Jones remained in the US, his influence would have diminished and he might have spent the rest of his days, if not in prison, in obscurity. All that he was, even his Message, would have become a dim memory. This was not to be. In 1978 Jones and more than 900 people died in Guyana. The Message of Jim Jones did disappear, but his intended meaning did.

This same obscure fate might have awaited the Message of William Branham – he too might have disappeared into the annals of history as a figure of the American Restoration scene – had it not been for some clever business people who made Branham into a mythological giant. Years after Branham’s death in 1965, several of his pastoral associates and children started mass-producing audiotapes and transcribing his sermons into booklets and later into larger bound volumes. These entrepreneurs had a ready made audience for their wares. Fortunes have been made – and will continue to be made – as the Message of William Branham now shifts to the Third World. Millions of unsuspecting people have been duped and brainwashed into believing that The Message has the power to transform mortals into immortals. Jim Jones conveyed this very overtly, but Branham did it in very subtle ways, mostly by insinuation, leading questions and other means, leaving people on both sides of any of his statements wondering what he really said. Those who believed his subtle “promptings” that only true believers would understand and get it, made for very dedicated followers.

Was “The Message” successful?

Success is measured by the outcome of what the original premise of the venture was designed to be. Both Jones and Branham were born in obscurity and poverty, and both experienced the Hungry Thirties. They both had alcoholic, unemployed fathers and mothers who had to support the family. They both understood the menace of the Cold War, that the world could come to an end at any moment. And they both offered solutions.

Jones offered Utopia on earth in the here and now, and Branham offered a spiritual escape from the troubles. Both saw Communism taking over the world as it was, but where Jones saw it as a positive development, Branham initially saw it in negative terms. Still, both used Communism to generate finances to procure their end goal. Both capitalized on fear as a motivating factor to hold on to followers. They both showed strong signs of paranoia: in Jones’s case it was exacerbated by drugs; in Branham’s case it appears to have been a mental illness he had since childhood, with his mother, father, doctor and others describing him as a nervous, hysterical and crazy child.[60] Over time, both men were able to promote themselves as saviors, at least within the Christian Fringe, claiming godlike power.

But was this what they set out to become?

Jim Jones’ Story

By most accounts, Jim Jones appeared to have been quite successful in his early endeavors. He decided to use religion to promote his versions of Marxism, Communism, socialism and communalism to achieve his goals. His church offered physical and emotional help for those lacking in such things as medical assistance, shelter, clothing, education, etc. As a result, Temple membership roles swelled.

Garrett Lambrev, Peoples Temple Member: When I joined Peoples Temple in the spring of 1966, there were exactly eighty-one members. Five years later, an extended family of eighty people had become an organization of thousands.

Deborah Layton, Peoples Temple Member, Author, Seductive Poison: Every single person felt that they had a purpose there and that they were exceptionally special. And that is how he brought so many young college kids in, so many older black women in, so many people from diverse backgrounds who realized that there was something bigger than themselves that they needed to be involved in — and that Jim Jones offered that…The membership increased substantially as he procured more and more Greyhound buses and fixed them up, and every summer he began this cross-country tour… As older people joined, it took a year or so and he’d convince the people that he was doing so much in the community and so why not rather than just tithe your twenty percent, why not sell your home, give the money to the church? And that is what people began to do.

Mike Touchette, Peoples Temple Member: They had their own rooms, they had every need taken care of, they had their food provided. They were well looked after.

Tim Carter, Peoples Temple Member: If I had to go to the doctor, it was taken care of. If I had to go to the dentist, it was taken care of. If I needed clothes, that was taken care of.[61]

Positive things were also being said by non-members:

John R. Hall, Sociologist: They were giving their life’s money and savings to the church, but in exchange, the church was agreeing to take care of them in the community, not just in a nursing home.

Willie Brown, California State Assemblyman (archival): You have managed to make the many persons associated with Peoples Temple part of a family. If you are in need of healthcare, you get healthcare. If you’re in need of legal assistance of some sort, you get that. If you’re in need of transportation, you get that. And that’s the kind of religious thing that I am excited about, and have some respect for.

Tim Reiterman, Journalist: When vice presidential candidate, Walter Mondale, came to San Francisco, Jim Jones was part of the entourage that boarded his private jet. When Rosalyn Carter came to San Francisco, she gave Jim Jones a private audience. Jim Jones had political power that few people, let alone preachers, could have imagined.[62]

What happened? By 1977, mounting pressures had forced Jim Jones to emigrate to Guyana and to take his followers with him. But his maladies – his drug use, his paranoia, his antipathy towards the political and economic systems of the United States – not only accompanied him, they flourished in the jungle heat in the months to follow. One of Jones’ speeches from his last year in Jonestown is uncannily and eerily similar to Branham’s voice in tone, pitch and cadence. Jones, like Branham, shouts very loudly and appears to be completely out of control:

I’ve got a hell of a lot of weapons to fight! I’ve got my claws. I’ve got cutlasses. I’ve got guns. I’ve got dynamite. I’ve got a hell of a lot to fight! I’ll fight! I’ll fight![63]

In the end – when all these maladies exploded with the assassination of Leo Ryan and the mass murder/suicide in Jonestown – he ensured that his Message would fail miserably.

William Branham’s Story

Branham often spoke of his father as running a family business selling moonshine from a number of his own stills. Contrary to Branham’s stories about his childhood poverty, the business was most likely a profitable one. In 1926, for example, he owned a 1926 Ford.

I had to come and pack water to this still, to keep those coils cool while they were making the whiskey. Then he got to selling it, and then he got two or three of those stills.[64]

Mama, you remember when I had that little old T-model Ford, the little old ’26 model? How I’d polish that thing. I was just a kid about sixteen, seventeen years old.[65]

The younger Branham hung around boxing emporiums and horse races, which at the time were considered quite questionable businesses. Jeffersonville was a noted hang-out for gangsters, with casinos and betting venues for horse races taking place across the country, a good fit someone already involved in the illegal moonshine business? In time, the government shut these operations down, and people had to find legal opportunities to make a profit. What could be more legal than a church organization? The shift to religion is what appears to have been Branham’s decision.

What support exists for this shift in direction? We don’t know, since everything Branham stated from the very beginning appears to be false. He lied about his parent’s ages. He lied about their wedding date, as well as about his own birth date. He fabricated his background history and even perjured his marriage certificate. His name was modified to Marrion from Marion and Branham from Branan or Branam, to fit his “numerology of sevens.” He lied about being ordained as a Missionary Baptist pastor. He set himself up as an infallible Old Testament prophet, whose prophecies were not to be judged. His biography will show that he was never a Christian in any sense of the word. Like Jim Jones, William Branham finally ended up in a “Jesus Only,” church which he used as a springboard to launch his campaigns.

After Branham made his way into the post-war Healing Movement, he recruited some well-known healing professionals as campaign managers, as well as a number of his siblings for his campaigns. He was able to amass a sizeable fortune before his death, and his progeny has carried on the empire they inherited from him. If William Branham’s goal was to never ever be poor again, he must be considered successful in that endeavor. He owned a number of homes, and he went on trophy hunts and African safaris. Though he masked himself in humility, for all intents and purposes, he lived the life of the rich and famous. As a spiritual leader and prophet, he and his ministry turned out disastrous for his followers.

Conclusion

This article has sought to demonstrate the connection between what both Jim Jones and William Branham referred to as “The Message.” Clearly both men drank from the same fountain. Even though they were a generation apart, some of their early childhood experiences were quite similar. Growing up within Oneness Pentecostalism – which was quite small at that time – Jones would have been aware of the older man’s status as a famed Pentecostal Healing Evangelist; livingEvangelist, since Branham lived only a couple of hours away. Already in 1953, Branham used to preach in Connersville, Indiana, about 40 miles from where Jones grew up. Jones started his own ministry of healing and deliverance around 1952 or 1953. A few years later, in 1956 – when Branham was about 49 years old and Jones was about 25 – Branham headlined at the opening of Jones’ Peoples Temple convention in Indianapolis. Jones witnessed Branham’s ministry up close and personal, and appears to have patterned his ministry on that of his mentor. The connection that existed between The Message of Jim Jones and that of William Branham is seen in their use of Oneness Pentecostalism and Communism to achieve their ends. The difference is that Jones opted to use religion to promote a positive view of Communism and Branham chose a negative view.

At the close of 1977 – and the continued existence of the earth – Branham’s followers were in complete confusion, and the thrust of The Message disappeared. Yes, the Message of William Branham is still being promoted today. However, due to the electronic availability of all Branham said, the younger and better-educated generation now has instant access to information and eyes are being opened. The Message has failed, is continuing to fail, and will most likely have its complete demise within the next generation.

And at the end of 1977, Jim Jones was in Jonestown, Guyana, the community which he would never leave. Within a year, he, his most loyal followers, and his Message would all be dead.

Notes

[1] The full text of the note appears at http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=13782
[2] Sharon Lindbloom, “The Central Message of Mormonism,” E-magazine Mormon Coffee, dated May 2, 2011. Http://blog.mrm.org/2011/05/the-central-message-of-mormonism/, Accessed Aug 18, 2015.
[3] William Marrion Branham, 56-1002A, Father, The Hour Has Come. http://table.branham.org.
[4] William Marrion Branham, 48-0302, Experiences. http://table.branham.org.
[5] William Marion Branham, 60-1204M, Revelation Of Jesus Christ. http://table.branham.org.
[6] William Marion Branham, 64-0206B, Paradox. http://table.branham.org.
[7] William Marion Branham, Church Ages. http://table.branham.org. Italics added by authors.
[8] William Marrion Branham, 64-0823E, Questions And Answers #2. http://table.branham.org.
[9] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 612, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27492.
[10] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 353, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27429.
[11] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 357, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27432.
[12] William Marrion Branham, 58-0330A. Missionary Talk, http://table.branham.org.
[13] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 356, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27431.
[14] Jones, Q 356.
[15] William Marrion Branham, 50-0819, Show Us The Father And It Suffices. http://table.branham.org.
[16] William Marrion Branham, 54-0515, Questions And Answers. http://table.branham.org.
[17] Jones, Q 356.
[18] Jones, Q 356.
[19] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 1059-1, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27331.
[20] William Marrion Branham, 60- 0412E, Patmos Vision. http://table.branham.org.
[21] William Marrion Branham, 64-0307, Testimony On The Sea. http://table.branham.org.
[22] William Marrion Branham, 60-0308, Discernment Of Spirit. http://table.branham.org.
[23] Jones, Q 353.
[24] Jones, Q 612.
[25] William Marrion Branham,,Branham, 64-0212 , When Their Eyes Were Opened, They Knew Him, http://table.branham.org.
[26] William Marrion Branham, 65-1206, Modern Events Are Made Clear By Prophecy, http://table.branham.org.
[27] Jim Jones, The Letter Killeth (original Version, n/d. 24 pp.) California Historical Society, MS 3800 (Peoples Temple) & MS 4123 (Margaret T. Singer materials on Peoples Temple, 1956-1998). Also available here.
[28] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 953, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27625.
[29] William Marrion Branham, 53-0905, Faith without works is dead. http://table.branham.org.
[30] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 1053-6, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27319.
[31] Jones, Q 1053-6.
[32] William Marrion Branham, 53-0509, The Pillar Of Fire. http://table.branham.org.
[33] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 951, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27623.
[34] William Marrion Branham, 63-1110E, He That Is In You. http://table.branham.org.
[35] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 920, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27612.
[36] James Gordon Lindsay, a revivalist preacher and contemporary of William Branham, should not be confused with a reporter named Gordon Lindsay, whose article for the National Enquirer – one that was never published – earned him the enmity of Peoples Temple.
[37] Gordon Lindsay, Divine Healing in the Branham Campaigns, available from https://www.google.ca/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=pInkVZr_JOqV8QeanoSoCg&gws_rd=ssl#q=Gordon+Lindsay%2C+Divine+Healing+in+the+Branham+Campaigns. Accessed August 31, 2015.
[38] William Marrion Branham, 47-0412, Faith Is The Substance. http://table.branham.org.
[39] William Marrion Branham, 50-0100, Diseases and Afflictions, http://table.branham.org.
[40] William Marrion Branham, 58-1002, From The Beginning It Was Not So. http://table.branham.org.
[41] Jones, Q 357.
[42] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 968, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=60700.
[43] Voice of Healing, The Healing Revival 1947-1958 – An Overview. Available from http://www.voiceofhealing.info/03healingrevival/overview.html. Accessed 21 September, 2015.
[44] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 932, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27618.
[45] William Marrion Branham, 58-0130, The Handwriting On The Wall. http://table.branham.org.
[46] William Marrion Branham, 58-1012, Sudden, Secret Going Away Of The Church. http://table.branham.org.
[47] Jim Jones, Transcript 134, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27339. Italics added by authors.
[48] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 042, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=29079.
[49] William Marrion Branham, 54-0103M, Questions And Answers #1. http://table.branham.org.
[50] William Marrion Branham, 60-1211E, The Laodicean Church Age. http://table.branham.org. Italics added by authors.
[51] William Marrion Branham, 52- 0900, God’s Way That’s Been Made For Us. http://table.branham.org.
[52] William Marrion Branham, 53-0609A, Demonology, Religious Realm. http://table.branham.org.
[53] William Marrion Branham, 58-0928M, The Baptism Of The Holy Spirit. http://table.branham.org.
[54] William Marrion Branham, 65-1204, The Rapture, http://table.branham.org.
[55] http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=14025.
[56] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 1057-4, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27327.
[57] Jim Jones, Transcript Q 1057-2, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=27325.
[58] Antoinette Pick-Jones, Jim Jones and the History of Peoples Temple, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=33190. Accessed 21 September 2015.
[59] Jones, Q 1057-4.
[60] Branham, 48-0302, Experiences; 51-0923, The Principles Ofof Divine Healing; 62-0713, From That Time; 53-1108A, Life Story. http://table.branham.org.
[61] Transcript, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/transcript/jonestown-transcript/.
[62] Transcript, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple.
[63] Available from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUyBaOgKIXo. Accessed 17 September 2015. Clip starts at 2:20 ends at 4:00. Originally featured on NPR’s series, Father Cares.
[64] William Marrion Branham, 59-0419A, My Life Story, http://table.branham.org.
[65] William Marrion Branham, 56-0603, Lamb’s Book Of Life, http://table.branham.org.

Last modified on November 10th, 2015.
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