The Mystery Cloud of Sunset Mountain is one of the most prominent supernatural signs to occur during the ministry of Bro. William Branham. A mild controversy around this cloud began in the 1970s. In modern times, this controversy is presented as one of the key pieces of criticism against Bro. Branham and his teachings. In this article we will look at the facts surrounding this event, Bro. Branham’s statements, the timeline, and the critics allegations.
Significance of the cloud
In December of 1962, Bro. Branham reported a vision that occurred while he was at his home in Jeffersonville, Indiana. In the vision he was visited by angels traveling in the form of a constellation he described as pyramid shaped. He heard a great blast as part of the vision. The angels then picked up Bro. Branham and turned him eastward. He did not understand the interpretation of the vision and speculated it had something to do with the seven seals in the Book of Revelation. He retold the vision several times.
In January 1963, while hunting in Sabino Canyon, Arizona, Bro Branham had a vision in which a sword appeared in his hand and he was told by a voice it was the “King’s Sword”. At the time he was unsure of its meaning.
In March 1963, Bro. Branham was again hunting in the area of Sabino Canyon, Arizona. While pondering in his heart the meaning of his visions in December and January, he heard a great blast which shook the mountain, and then he was visited by seven angels. He was instructed by the angels to return to Jeffersonville, Indiana, where he would be given the revelation of the seals to preach. After leaving him, the angels ascended to heaven in the form of a constellation shaped like a pyramid. Bro. Branham believed this event was the fulfillment of his prior two visions.
He returned to Indiana after this and then preached his series of messages on the seven seals. The December and January visions and the March event in Sabino Canyon served as part of his inspiration.
A Strange Cloud Was Photographed
Unbeknownst to Bro. Branham, a strange cloud had been photographed hovering over the American southwest during February, in a close proximity of time to his angelic visitation on March. The cloud was several miles high, above the elevation at which water droplets could form into clouds, and multiple sources reported them as a scientific mystery. The photographs were published is multiple news sources beginning in May 1963. The photos were shown to Bro. Branham by his friends. Many people, including Bro. Branham, began to connect the photographed cloud to the angels traveling in the formation of a constellation, and later began to point out the resemblance of the cloud to the face of Jesus.
Timing of the events
The timing of the events around the hunting trips to Sabino Canyon and the visions are well established. Bro. Branham’s daughter Rebecca wrote an article in Only Believe magazine in which she gave a detailed timeline of the events. Rebecca traveled with her father and lived in Arizona with him during the period and was aware of his hunting trips and travels. Her article can be read below.
According to the magazine, and recorded sermons of Bro. Branham we can establish the following order of events.
- December 22, 1962 – Vision of the angels appearing in a constellation
- January 10 or 11, 1963 – Vision of the King’s Sword in Sabino Canyon
- February 28, 1963 – Mystery cloud was photographed over Arizona
- March 4, 1963 – Bro. Branham preached in Houston, Texas. In his sermon, he stated he would go hunting with Gene Norman and Fred Sothsman on his return to Arizona.
- March 8, 1963 – Angels appear to Bro. Branham in Sabino Canyon while he was hunting with Gene Norman and Fred Sothsman.
- March 17, 1963 – Bro. Branham begins his series of messages on the seven seals
- May 17, 1963 – The Feb. 28 photographs of the cloud are published in Life Magazine
Critics have three primary points on which they attack the events surrounding the cloud. They assert that 1) Bro. Branham was not present when and where the cloud was photographed, 2) he only connected his experience to the cloud after seeing it in the magazines, and that 3) the cloud was discovered to not be of supernatural origin. We will examine each of these primary criticisms.
Bro. Branham was not present when the cloud was photographed
Critics allege that Bro. Branham misled his followers and lied to them, saying he was present when the cloud was photographed. But what did Bro. Branham say?
When I come, one thing, was by a vision, that I was standing above Tucson up here when a blast went off. Brother Fred was there when it went off. And they took that picture, you know, in the sky. And I didn’t think much about it, never noticed it. So it begin to impress me somehow the other day. And Brother Norman, Norma’s father here, told me, said, “Did you notice this?” And just as I looked, right there was them angels just as plain as they could be, setting right there in that picture. You see? I looked to see when it was, and it was time, same ’bout day or two before or, day or two after I was up there. I looked where it was at: northeast of Flagstaff, or Prescott, which is below Flagstaff. Well, that’s just where we was at (See?), just exactly.Come, Follow Me (63-0601)
The preceding quote was the first recorded statement made by Bro. Branham about the cloud. In this statement Bro. Branham makes clear that the picture was not taken the day he was there. He said the picture was taken a day or two after or before he was there. He is uncertain just when he was there, but he is certain he was not there when the photograph was taken.
Because he clearly stated he was not present at the time of the photograph, we have to interpret the other things he says about the cloud in light of that fact. The critics ignore this statement because it undermines their attack. As we look at the time frame, we find this cloud was photographed eight days before Bro. Branham was at the site. We can conclude safely he was not present in Sabino Canyon when the cloud was photographed and that he was honest about this.
Bro. Branham clearly believed the cloud was important, but his determination of it’s importance was based on seeing a vision of angels in the photograph itself. Having had his attention drawn to the photograph, Bro. Branham when on to explain what he believed the picture was.
And, now, I didn’t know at the time, that they were taking pictures of that, scientists was, as the Angels lowered themselves from Heaven, to bring the Message.STANDING.IN.THE.GAP_ JEFF.IN V-6 N-7 SUNDAY_ 63-0623M
From this statement it is clear he viewed the photograph as being taken of the angels lowering themselves, or descending to earth. He believed the photo was of their arrival, not their departure. The photos were taken eight day before he witnessed the cloud, which fits this interpretation. He repeats a similar statement in another sermon, supporting the fact that he believed the cloud was photographed just days before his visitation.
That day they took pictures all across southern United States and Mexico. There it hangs now in the Life Magazine, still a mystery to them. But He declares it in the heavens before He does it on earth. He always does that. He shows His signs in the heavens first.SHALOM_ SIERRA.VISTA.AZ 64-0112
Bro. Branham was not present where the cloud was located
Critics also attack Bro. Branham’s statements saying he was present where the cloud was photographed. Bro. Branham clearly stated he was personally north of Tuscon (truly northeast of Tuscon), and also clearly stated that the cloud was centered in the vicinity of Flagstaff. Both of these facts are true and Bro. Branham never claimed to be in Flagstaff where the cloud was centered. Actually, it is the critics who are twisting his statements and ignoring what he said.
The cloud was visible for hundreds of miles around because of its great height and size. Clear pictures of the cloud were taken from over 300 miles away. Bro. Branham’s hunting site was less than 200 miles from the center of the cloud. Multiple photos of the cloud were taken in Tuscon, which was farther away from the cloud than Bro. Branham’s hunting site. His hunting location was certainly within clear viewing distance of the cloud that was photographed – although he was not hunting the day the photograph was made. Because of this, he can fairly say that he was present at the location of the cloud.
Critics also misuse his quotes to support their allegation that he was lying about being present when and where the cloud was photographed. But lets review the quotes they use and see what he actually says.
Later, the Angels appeared as was prophesied. And at the same time, a great cluster of Light left where I was standing, and moved thirty miles high in the air, and around the circle, like the wings of the Angels, and drawed into the skies a shape of a pyramid in the same constellation of Angels that appeared.IT.IS.THE.RISING.OF.THE.SUN JEFF.IN 65-0418M
In this preceding quote he clearly indicates what he personally witnessed was when the angels departed on March 8. He never claims to have witnessed the arrival of the angels descending from heaven. This matches his account given in the message on the seven seals in which he related that he was suddenly surrounded by the angels and he did not witness their arrival. In the preceding quote, he goes on to compare his experience of the angel’s departure on March 8 to the photograph of the cloud that appeared on Feb 28. In connecting the departure scene (which he witnessed), to the cloud in the photograph (which he did not witness), it is clear that he believe that there were two appearances of the cloud (or constellation) and that they were identical, not that they were not the same cloud on the same day.
The editors of this website agree, there are things in his account of the cloud that he left open to interpretation. He indirectly indicated he was more connected to the photograph than he actually was. As we review in our article, Elijah Waffles, Bro. Branham was a known exaggerator. That, however, does not make this story a total fabrication.
The cloud was not supernatural
Critics use scientific reports to try and discredit the supernatural nature of the cloud. A report was made by Dr. James MacDonald of University of Arizona Institute of Atmospheric Physics, who investigated the cloud and determined that it was the result of a rocket explosion in California and that the resulting cloud drifted into Arizona. The editors of this website have no dispute with this claim.
No known cloud has ever been determined to be of supernatural origin. There is likely a scientific explanation for the cloud of glory in which the Lord ascended to heaven in Acts 1. True science does not disprove God, it merely shows the manner in which he does his work to cause phenomena to occur.
Whatever Bro. Branham personally saw on the mountain on March 8 was not photographed that day. Yet there are multiple eye witnesses who were with Bro. Branham that day and attest to the truth of his account. If the cloud in the magazine had nothing to do with the seals, what negative impact would it have? At most, it just means Bro. Branham was mistaken in thinking it was the same cloud he saw.
Only elements of the Branham movement who teach Jesus Christ returned to earth in 1963 place any real emphasis on the cloud. The majority of the Branham Movement does not adhere to this belief. The majority view the cloud as just one of multiple supernatural signs validating the authenticity of Bro. Branham’s sermons on the seals.
The sermons on the seven seals were preached and accepted by Bro. Branham’s followers before there was a picture of the cloud. His visions and other supernatural experiences were accepted as adequate vindication of the sermons before the cloud picture was discovered. The cloud picture was never more than “icing on the cake”, and just one of multiple signs.
Furthermore, it has been widely and clearly known, since at least the early 1970s, that Bro. Branham was not present when the photos were taken. Bro. Branham personally said as much in 1963 as quoted earlier in this article. Thus we have to conclude these allegations concerning the cloud are ultimately meaningless and the critics are misunderstanding Bro. Branham’s statements concerning the cloud.