Ernest Charles Manning was born September 20, 1908 in Carnduff, Saskatchewan, son of George H. Manning and Elisabeth M. Dickson. He was educated at a rural school outside Rosetown, Saskatchewan. After listening to many of William Aberhart's radio broadcasts, he enrolled in the new Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute in 1927. He was raised in a nominally United Church family, but became a committed Baptist during his time at the Institute. Quickly taken under the wing of William Aberhart, Manning became the Institute's first graduate in 1930. He remained with the Institute and began assisting and speaking on the Institute's radio broadcast "Back to the Bible Hour". While at the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute, he met the pianist for the church and radio broadcasts, Muriel Preston. They married in 1939; the bride was given away by Premier Aberhart. They had two children, Keith and Preston.