He loved to sing.
He had a rare singing voice that could have opened many musical doors had he chosen to knock on them. Tears would fill his eyes as his heart took him to deep emotional places he otherwise could not bear to go. But the Lord had other plans for him, and giving up on his passion for transcendent melodies was undoubtedly the sacrifice of his life.
He had not yet given up, though, when he was invited to sing in a William Branham tent revival meeting. This was a proud day that he told of many times throughout his years to come. At some point thereafter, he crossed paths with Branham on the street. Their eyes met, and as his story went, the two men shared a moment in which the baton of Branham’s ministry was passed on to him: the next generation. Unbeknownst to either at the time, just a short time later, Branham would die in a car accident and everything would suddenly make sense. All of the pieces clicked into place and a life would be forever changed. He was to be Branham’s predecessor and their interaction had been providence.
He soon began to see his own special revelation in the Bible and in William Branham’s
teachings. As he stepped forward to proclaim these new truths, he was met with strong
resistance and ultimately forced out of Branhamite churches. These so-called believers, these true Israelites, had been frauds–they didn’t have eyes to see and ears to hear–and they had to be left behind, for he was called by God.
When he took his second wife in the practice of polygamy, his first wife divorced him. He
lost her and the fragile relationships with his six children whom he had abused for years.
Heartbreakingly, the now ex-wife hadn’t been right with the Lord, or she would, with certainty, have been in agreement with the Lord’s plan for his life. Despite hidden Playboys, a craned neck at passing female joggers, and peeps through the bathroom door at his blossoming daughter, his decision to pursue polygamy was not a choice at all. Rather, having multiple wives was his duty as the next prophet. And age wouldn’t matter in eternity, so a forty-year difference between him and another wife was merely of earthly consequence: keep it secret from unbelievers who wouldn’t understand and all would be well. And his temper? He had the spirit of Elisha; he was supposed to have a temper. This was a reflection of God in him and he had a double portion of God’s Spirit. Holding him accountable to his outbursts would equate to disobeying the Almighty.
This man then became my father.
I was his second girl, from his second wife. After my sister died from cancer far too young, I became the eldest girl at the age of twelve. My existence was ruled by fear and characterized by secrets. I was raised with a public school education in a rented home in the suburbs. I was an excellent student, who knew how to perform in order to guarantee only positive attention.
It was impossible to garner positive attention at home, though. I never knew what would
happen to me when he was in town. I was terrified of him, and yet, I needed him. I needed him because he was my god. He was God’s spokesman; and goodness, was I one blessed girl to be singled out in my Heavenly Father’s chosen few. All I needed to do was be as quiet as possible, become as small as possible, and I would be both safe and saved. We would all walk into the new heavens and the new earth together, for my parents and their associated generation in the group could not and would not die. I took these truths for granted, finding some semblance of rest in them.
Then he died.
After three days, he was cremated, returning dust to dust. He wasn’t in
that body anymore anyway. He was in his new young body and was teaching and preaching in another country. Any day now and new believers would be joining us, so we had to be ready. We couldn’t move, because they wouldn’t be able to find us. We stored up hundreds of books–my dad’s and William Branham’s–so they would have the necessary educational tools. We just had to wait and see. Any day.
But then she died.
My mom had been the center of my world and I watched her die in her bed in an apartment room. Since God’s will would be done, medical care was not an option. He would heal her, if he wanted to keep her on earth...I never truly imagined he wouldn’t want to keep her here...but I had already heard the gurney’s tires squeak as they turned out of my dad’s room; I knew death could come again.
And death did come.
She hallucinated, screaming and pointing at nothing on the floor in complete terror. She tried to tell me things that I could not understand. She told me I was her best friend. This I understood with every drop of love I had in my heart. In return, I combed her hair and tried to brush her teeth while avoiding the sores in her mouth. She had always been modest–a lady in every sense of the word–and I needed to give her dignity, if at all possible, as I followed through on her wishes. Her wishes that stole her from me long before her time.
But my parents had died and a string had been pulled that I could not easily tuck back
into the tightly woven narrative of my upbringing. They were not supposed to die, but they had. The thread had been irreversibly pulled.
The unraveling continued in a new state after I moved away in desperate need of air. It continued as I tried to contact my parents through Tarot cards and Reiki. It continued as I stepped into a church building for the first time, genuinely praying that God would not smite me for doing so. It continued as I was baptized in a nondenominational church and as I read the Bible for myself for the first time. My worldview–my entire world–unraveled until I had to either admit the truth or refuse to do so. With the unbearable weight of the generations impacted by what I was going to admit to myself, I chose to allow my mind to acknowledge the truth anyway, because it was the truth:
I had been raised in a cult.
My dad was abusive, a sexual predator, and a false teacher. My mom had been deceived and had not protected me. My brother was an Atheist because of the damage they caused.
And me? I had not questioned my childhood indoctrination like I was responsible to do. A
deeper depth of humility cannot exist than that of a “special one” realizing her everything had been built on sand, rather than on the Rock. Yet, I have lived to share the story. And I pray its sharing provides hope for others that they, too, can experience freedom. Things will likely feel worse for a while, as they did for me, but there is another side to the devastation: healing.
And healing is worth every small, yet painstaking, step of effort to obtain it.