105 Years in the Watchtower Service – Program 1

By: Lorrie MacGregor, Joan Cetnar, Jean Eason, Helen Ortega; ©1986
Our guests related the particular information that caused them to leave the Watchtower Society once they realized they had been deceived.

Deceived by the Watchtower Society


Tonight on The John Ankerberg Show, you will meet four women who have spent a combined total of 110 years serving as Jehovah’s Witnesses. After years of service, they began to ask questions that the Watchtower Society could not or would not answer. Their search for the truth continued in spite of their being tragically cut off from their families and friends. Tonight, we’ll find out what questions they asked, why those questions were so important, and what they discovered.

John’s guests are Lorri MacGregor from Canada; Jean Eason from Kentucky; Joan Cetnar from Pennsylvania; and Helen Ortega from Georgia. Please join us.

John Ankerberg: We’re glad that you joined us. Tonight I’d like you to meet four ladies that have been Jehovah’s Witnesses almost all of their lives. We totaled up the experience that they have had in serving in the Watchtower Society, and there’s over 105 years of service that is in our room tonight.
When we’ve done programs concerning the Jehovah’s Witnesses, what I’ve been very conscious of is that they are people that are very sincere. They really believe that they are serving God with all of their heart, very zealous, and they have a real love for the truth. And, yet, there are many things that are happening today inside the Watchtower Society, some of them that are just shocking. There are things concerning truth that I would like to share with you tonight, and I hope that you’ll stay tuned and listen as these ladies talk. There are questions that have come up that concern the truth that have changed their lives. Gals, we’re very glad that you’re here tonight. And, Lorri, I’m going to come to you first of all. Maybe you might want to share with us one of those questions that somebody gave to you as a Jehovah’s Witness that changed your life.
Lorri MacGregor: Well, I’d have to begin by mentioning the year 1975, because we were taught all through the ‘60s, and very strongly taught, that 1975 would be the end of the world. It would be Armageddon. And yet now the Society is denying that they ever really set the date. But I’m here to testify to you that although they were very, very careful about how much they put in print, due to the egg that they got on their face for their other false dates that they discussed at length in print, still I remember sitting in the conventions in 1968—I have very good hearing—and I heard them say, “Do not conduct Bible studies longer than six months. The end will be here in 1975.”
Ankerberg: You really expected it, but it didn’t pan out.
MacGregor: Absolutely. They even put people up as an example and said, “Look at these wonderful brothers and sisters who’ve sold their homes. They only have enough to live on for the remaining months till Armageddon.” We were all urged to do that. And, you know, that date failed and no wonder it did, because Jesus said that we shouldn’t be setting dates. We don’t know the day or hour.
Ankerberg: Joan?
Joan Cetnar: Yes, I was taught, and it was taught to all Jehovah’s Witnesses, that “Jehovah” is God’s name. It is the only name. But the word “Jehovah” is a false transliteration of God’s name. The original tetragrammaton is YHWH. And all you have to do is go to your Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. It says it’s a false reading of the Hebrew “Yahweh.” And you go to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, it’s a false form. And the Encyclopedia Judaica says, “The true pronunciation of the name YHWH was never lost.”
Ankerberg: Yet the Watchtower said that it was.
Cetnar: That’s what they say. So the name “Jehovah,” another one says, makes no sense at all in Hebrew, and the correct translation has never been lost.
Ankerberg: When you found that out, because the Society was supposed to be the most truthful, did that shock you?
Cetnar: Yes, it did, because they claim to be the accurate knowledge organization, and they do know that “Jehovah” is not a correct transliteration and still they refuse to change. What’s interesting is that this started around the 15th century. Jesus never used the word Jehovah; God the Father never used the word Jehovah; the early Jews and the early Christians never used it. But they insist on using it.
Ankerberg: Jean?
Jean Eason: As modern day literature often refers to the older publications, I got curious. I decided to look up some of the magazines and books that they were quoting from and I got a shock. I found out that they believe that Christ returned invisibly in 1874, and that the earthly kingdom would begin in 1914 right here on the earth. I found out that the truth was not consistent with itself, its own organization, its own history.
Ankerberg: Because that date you found that up in the attic when you checked with your grandparents’ materials that they had as Jehovah’s Witnesses and you actually saw that? You found out that they changed that.
Eason: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Helen?
Helen Ortega: Well, one thing is that the Society says that Jesus is the mediator for only the anointed remnant. Now, being that I was of the anointed remnant, that suited me fine. But it was not according to 1 Timothy 2:5, because it says that Jesus is the mediator for all men. It just wasn’t consistent with Bible teaching.
Ankerberg: How many Bible studies did you conduct every week?
Ortega: Thirteen Bible studies a week.
Ankerberg: So you came across that in your Bible studies and that was a shocker.
Ortega: Yes, right. Because it wasn’t just the anointed or the 144,000; Jesus was a ransom for all.
Ankerberg: Okay. Lorri, I’m going to come to you. How did you get into the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
MacGregor: Well, when I was 18 years of age I had a real hunger in my heart for God. I began to seek for Him although I wasn’t raised in a Christian home. I actually approached a couple of clergymen and asked them, “How could I understand the triune God? And how could I come to know God better?” And all I can say is some are called by God and some just went. I got a couple that just went and really didn’t know about salvation.
Ankerberg: So they didn’t help you at all.
MacGregor: I turned to the encyclopedia to find out about God and I found all kinds of things there. I couldn’t understand how God could be manifested in three ways. And so came the knock on my door. First it was the Mormons and I kept saying, “But who is God? But who is God?” And they finally admitted to me they believed He was an exalted man from the planet Kolob with numerous wives. And I said, “I don’t think so. I want to know about the God of the Bible.” So Jehovah’s Witnesses came in. I said, “Would you please tell me about God? Because I really do want to know God.” And I want the people listening to understand that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not go into that organization because they want to be in some cult group. They are people seeking in their hearts for the Lord, wanting to serve Him with their lives.
Ankerberg: You actually even gave a chance to the Christian church. You went to the encyclopedia. You had the Mormons stop by. You had a whole group of people. It was really, you were searching; you just didn’t get the answers that seemed to satisfy you. And so then you actually joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
MacGregor: Yes. No Christian ever shared their testimony with me. If anyone had told me, “This is how to be saved: receive Jesus Christ,” I would have done it instantly, but nobody ever did. So I became a very zealous Jehovah’s Witness. I was told to forget about grace and get to work. And so I knocked on doors; I met quotas; I spent…
Ankerberg: When you say that, what does that mean, “You forget about grace, get to work?”
MacGregor: Well, in the Jehovah’s Witness organization your salvation is dependent upon how many hours you spend knocking on doors witnessing, how many Bible studies. You have quotas and you must report your time every week and you have to live up to all of this. You have to attend five meetings a week. And I really did these things. I was deeply drawn into the organization. I was urged by the elders into a very unhappy first marriage. In those days Jehovah’s Witnesses were marrying 15 and 16 year old girls to 18 year old boys. And being of the advanced age of 18, I was practically “over the hill.” So they urged me to break up with the boyfriend that I had, because there was no way he was going to become a Jehovah’s Witness. They told me arranged marriages were really God’s way and I should pick out a real spiritual fellow from among the Jehovah’s Witnesses and forget about my university degree. It wouldn’t do me any good. Armageddon would be there before I graduated. And so I really believed it. I believed I was doing what God wanted me to do. I became a Jehovah’s Witness. All I can say about the next 15 years was that I got up every morning and quoted a Scripture out of context: “He that endures to the end is the one that will be saved.” [Matt. 24:13]
Ankerberg: So you were kind of just trudging along?
MacGregor: Yes, because I was in a very, very unhappy marriage.
Ankerberg: What were your circumstances?
MacGregor: I was hoping that Armageddon was coming. I nearly died refusing a blood transfusion. I was very ill for years. My children’s father would not support the family. I was really living like a drudge. I was sick for eight years after refusing the blood transfusion. And I really dragged along, though. I was determined my kids weren’t going to die at Armageddon; because if I gave up, they would lose it all. So I went along to the point where finally the elders counseled with me and told me I should get a mental cruelty divorce.
Ankerberg: Because your husband wasn’t living up to his side of the bargain.
MacGregor: That’s right.
Ankerberg: And they came to you and said, “Get rid of him”?
MacGregor: No, I went to them and asked them what I should do and they looked the situation over and they counseled me and told me to proceed with it, which I did under their guidance. You do everything the elders tell you when you’re a Jehovah’s Witness. And so this is how I came to be living on my own with my two sons. I had a good job, and I was going out in the so-called service every time, and my life was going along very well until a Christian walked into my office one day and attempted to be friendly with me. I was not a very friendly person. I was very much a loner. I’d been hurt and discouraged over the years. And so anyway this Christian, this person, challenged me and said, “You know, you’re a Jehovah’s Witness and I know that I’m saved.” And I was so indignant. I said, “How dare you be saved! You know, I’ve done good works for 15 years and I don’t know that I’m saved.”
Ankerberg: That’s really true. You did not know.
MacGregor: There is no assurance of salvation in the Jehovah’s Witness organization at all. You are striving, striving, striving. If you make Armageddon and you get into the thousand years, you could lose it all during the thousand years. You could lose it at the end of the thousand years.
Ankerberg: So your hope was that: “While I am working, when we get there, this better be good enough.” And that’s all the hope that you have.
MacGregor: Even if you survive everything and have got so-called “eternal life,” if you ever disobey the 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses on Mount Zion, you’ve lost it all.
Ankerberg: For the people that aren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are the 144,000?
MacGregor: Oh, they are the elite group that get to go to heaven. The rest of us stay on earth.
Ankerberg: Two classes?
MacGregor: Yes, two classes: heavenly and earthly.
Ankerberg: 144,000 get to go to heaven and the rest go where?
MacGregor: Stay on earth. Live here.
Ankerberg: And all those that aren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses, what happens to them?
MacGregor: Bite the dust at Armageddon. There’s no salvation for you.
Ankerberg: They’re annihilated.
MacGregor: They’re annihilated, right. Anyway, about this time my ex-husband decided Armageddon was getting very close, within a few months.
Ankerberg: Why did he decide that?
MacGregor: Well, because Armageddon was coming in October of 1975…
Ankerberg: Because the Watchtower was saying this.
MacGregor: …and he thought, “I haven’t been living up to it. I’d better smarten up.” So, whereas I was questioning the organization because this person had challenged me and said, “Prove to me out of the Bible that Jesus Christ is Michael the archangel. I want Scripture and verse.”
Ankerberg: That was his question.
MacGregor: That was his question. I said, “No problem. I’ll provide this for you.”
Ankerberg: Because you really thought you had that cold, right?
MacGregor: Absolutely. I went in the Bible. I got my concordances out. I did everything, and, you know…
Ankerberg: Why did you feel that that was no problem? What did you believe as a Jehovah’s Witness about Jesus?
MacGregor: Well, I believed that we had the truth.
Ankerberg: What was it?
MacGregor: You see, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus Christ is a secondary god; He’s the archangel Michael; He was only a good man.
Ankerberg: That’s what you were told.
MacGregor: That’s what I believed was the truth.
Ankerberg: And you believed the organization was right, but you hadn’t checked it out.
MacGregor: Well, I had looked at the Scriptures they told me to look at, but I had never really looked at all the Scriptures I should have looked at.
Ankerberg: So you were going to prove it and what happened?
MacGregor: And what happened was the more I looked the bigger can of worms I opened. I opened to Daniel 10:13 and it said Michael was one of the chief princes. That meant there were others. Were there other Jesuses? I went to Jude 9 and what did I find? That Michael the archangel didn’t dare rebuke Satan. He had to go and get the Lord to do it. Now Jesus rebuked Satan successfully all the time. So I thought, “My goodness.” I called up the elders. I said, “Brothers, somebody is stumbling me in my faith. I want some answers.”
Ankerberg: And you really expected they would come back and just settle it all.
MacGregor: Oh, I thought I’d have a wonderful spiritual discussion with them. They’d give me Scriptures. Everything would be straightened out. Instead they said to me, “Lorri, you are forbidden to speak to this person again. If you speak to them, you will be disfellowshipped. And secondly, if the Watchtower Society says Jesus Christ is Michael the archangel, then Jesus Christ is Michael the archangel. Dismissed.”
Ankerberg: What did you do?
MacGregor: Well, I was really beginning to have doubts by this time, and I should mention that my aunt and uncle who were Christians had their whole church praying in the background that the Holy Spirit would shake me up, and I got plenty shook. I was ordered to quit talking to this Christian person, Keith. However, I couldn’t seem to stop talking to him about points in the Bible, even though I was forbidden to do so by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And one night a knock came on the door and two sheriff’s officers served papers on both of us as we were having a Bible discussion. And I found out that I was being charged with being an unfit mother and that my ex-husband intended to take my children from me. The charges were so vile that I wouldn’t repeat them over public television. I couldn’t believe this. I phoned up the head elder and I said, “What is going on? You know that I’m a very good mother.” He said, “Yes, we know that.” He said, “But you see Armageddon will be here the beginning of October and you are disobeying us.” And he said, “If we don’t take your children away from you, they will not survive Armageddon.” And I said, “Do you mean to tell me that you would go into a court of law, lay your hand on the Bible – God’s Word, the Bible – and swear that you were telling the truth and would tell these filthy, ugly lies about me?” And the elder said to me, “Yes, we would because that’s justified lying.”
Ankerberg: What’s justified lying?
MacGregor: Aid to Bible Understanding, a Jehovah’s Witness publication, defines it as “a Witness only has to tell the truth to those that are entitled to know the truth” under the heading of a lie. The judge and jury were not entitled to know the truth.
Ankerberg: Now this was being used on you and you were a Witness.
MacGregor: But I was being disobedient by talking to this Christian.
Ankerberg: In other words, you wouldn’t give up talking to this person?
MacGregor: I couldn’t seem to, because the Holy Spirit was leading me to keep looking into the Bible.
Ankerberg: So you are hauled into court then?
MacGregor: Yes, and as I approached my wonderful Witness friends—I was such a good Jehovah’s Witness I had no friends outside of the organization—asking them for character references for me….
Ankerberg: And you thought you’d just go to all of these people you had worked with, for how many years?
MacGregor: Oh, yes. Fifteen.
Ankerberg: Fifteen years. These were the people you had worked with day, after day, after day, so you said, “Give me help, support me in court,” and what did they say?
MacGregor: One by one they turned away with tears in their eyes and said, “Lorri, the elders have told us we cannot speak on your behalf.” So when we went to court, I had nobody.
Ankerberg: What did your lawyer say?
MacGregor: My lawyer told me there was a very good chance I would lose my children because they had a whole room full of people to testify against me. Prior to this I became so upset about this, and my Christian friend, Keith, kept witnessing to me about Jesus and finally one night I fell on my knees and I said, “Jesus! You know, I don’t know who you are; I don’t know if you’re God or ‘a god’ or the archangel Michael, but, Jesus, I want to know who you are. Please come into my life, come into my heart, and show me who you are.”
Ankerberg: Why did you ask Him to come into your life? What tipped you off on that?
MacGregor: Because I had been reading along on the wrong side, or should I say the right side of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation
Ankerberg: The Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation, okay?
MacGregor: With the Greek/English on one side and the New World Translation on the other, and I had found out that Jesus really did come in.
Ankerberg: Because they have the Westcott and Hort text over there and they didn’t fudge there and they just put the words right underneath the Greek words, but then when you get over to the English, it changes all of a sudden. What verse hit you?
MacGregor: Well, the fact that Jesus would come in and be within you.
Ankerberg: Because the Bible says He will come in.
MacGregor: So there we were in court. I had nobody for me, I was hanging on to the edge of my chair, and all I could say was, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” I didn’t know what else to say. And as they called my case, their lawyer—a very well known, outspoken, high paid man, used to winning cases—came up to the doors of the courtroom to go through and he spun around on his heel and he announced to us, “I am not going into court against this woman.”
Ankerberg: Just like that.
MacGregor: Their lawyer. He turned to me and he said, “You will have custody of your children. He turned to my ex-husband and he said, “As for you, you’re going to pay support.”
Ankerberg: Now this is your husband’s lawyer.
MacGregor: Yes.
Ankerberg: He had the case basically in his hand, and going into the court he turns around and surprises you all to pieces.
MacGregor: As I said, all of us sitting there, if they could describe a scene like we looked, I would say it would be entitled “village idiots.” All our mouths fell open, you know, we were just so surprised.
Ankerberg: Then what happened?
MacGregor: Well, I received my children back and through another series of miracles, really, I received the little house that I owned back because the Witnesses had told my ex-husband that he should take over that house and prevent me from going in because in the Watchtower Society the husband isn’t the head of the wife, he is the owner of the wife.
Ankerberg: Is that really true?
MacGregor: I as a woman couldn’t own anything. It was his. And so, anyway, as I went along and really came to know the Lord….
Ankerberg: How did you get your mind straightened out about who Jesus actually is, then? How did that develop?
MacGregor: That developed due to my determination that no man was ever going to teach me doctrine again. I realized that those people were not God’s organization when they pulled this “justified lying” bit. I had called them up and I said, “I am through with you. You are not God’s people.” And I was bitter for a while. But what it did was it drove me into the Word of God. I could not get enough of the Word of God. I got a concordance with every word in the Bible, and I looked up every Scripture on Jesus and God and Christ and Messiah and everything you can think of, and I began to make notes on who Christ really was, and I found out He is truly God, and truly man.
Ankerberg: You laid them all out in front of you, didn’t you? And you just looked at it and you realized Jesus is God.
MacGregor: You see, nobody has ever become a Jehovah’s Witness by reading the Bible alone…
Ankerberg: Say that again.
MacGregor: I challenge them to produce one person who ever became a Jehovah’s Witness by reading the Bible alone.
Ankerberg: And yet the Witnesses say that the Bible is their authority. What do they mean by that, then?
MacGregor: Well, they say it’s their authority and everything they believe is based on the Bible. Yet when you really look into the Watchtower, what are they saying? They had a warning in the Watchtower recently. “Do not read the Bible alone. If you persist in reading the Bible alone, you could end up returning to the apostate doctrines of the early church.” Imagine! What an admission! If you read the Bible alone, you’re going to believe there’s one God who has manifested Himself as Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Ankerberg: Where do they say that?
MacGregor: In the Watchtower magazine. And their people are warned, “It’s [the Bible] an organization book. Don’t read it for yourself, don’t search for yourself.” But you know, as I began going through, and thank God for the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, it set me free. Places like Colossians 2:9 that said of Christ, “For in Him all the fullness of the godship is dwelling bodily.” All is all, full is full. Christ is truly God, even in the flesh.
Ankerberg: People ask, “Where’s the word ‘godhead?’” Right there, theotetos.
MacGregor: But they changed the word godhead to “divine quality,” something the Greek has never heard of. And the more I looked from the left to the right side of the page, the more shocked I was at the perversion, the outright deliberate perversion of the Word of God.
Ankerberg: We’re going to talk more about that, Lorri. But for folks that are in the Watchtower Society that are looking in tonight, I believe there are many folks that are almost to the point that you were before you went into court—desperate. Maybe they have had questions, they went to the elders and they hit a stone wall or the information was not correct. Many of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are finding out that the Watchtower Society is saying it’s not only the fact of the Bible, but our interpretation and then all the other things that we’re going to add on. “You must show your loyalty and come right into line on that.” And they say, “That’s not right.” But they’ve got their family, they’ve got their friends, all of their life tied up with the Watchtower Society. What can you say to those people that are in such turmoil tonight?
MacGregor: Well, I want to say to them first of all that salvation is not through any organization, it is through the Person of Jesus Christ. If the Witnesses have quoted to you what they have quoted to me out of Philippians 2: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” what a heavy trip that one is. But they never finish the Scripture that says, “for it is God who is at work in you.” [Phil. 2:13] They don’t like to talk about Scriptures like Ephesians 2:8-9, you know: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” Friends, it’s not by works, it’s by Jesus.
Ankerberg: And if they invite the Lord Jesus into their life right now, He then gives them the power to go through the drastic circumstances that they know they’ll have to go through. We’re not playing games with them. There will be some drastic circumstances, but the Lord can give you the strength to go through it, because He did to all of you ladies.
MacGregor: And what they need to do is take the Bible test to see whether they are in the true faith. Second Corinthians 13:5 gives us all this test: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test.”
Ankerberg: Okay, we’re going to ask you to join us for our next program, and we’re going to talk to one of the other gals that gave up maybe $1 million to leave the Watchtower Society. After she had all of that, plus the money, she left, and we’re going to find out why. Please join us on our next program.
Ankerberg: No kidding!
Cetnar: He is buried at this moment under a pyramid, with his books. In 1914 they had a talk at one of their conventions on the Zodiac, showing how the signs of the Zodiac would help you arrive at God’s divine plan, and they made the statement, “Indeed the same Bible which points to the great pyramid points also to the heavens as declaring the wonderful plan of salvation,” and he’s talking about the Zodiac.
Ankerberg: What prophecy did they come up with by measuring the pyramid?
Cetnar: In 1874 they measured the distance from the pit to the entrance and it was a certain number of feet, and that they added to another number—I don’t know what they measured—and came up with 1874.
Ankerberg: What was supposed to happen in 1874?
Cetnar: That was when Jesus was supposed to arrive first visibly. And when He didn’t come visibly then they changed it to “invisibly.”
Ankerberg: So they set the date that He would come back as 1874.
Cetnar: What’s interesting is that when it didn’t happen in 1874, they re-measured the pyramid, added 41 years or inches, and came up with 1914.
Ankerberg: So the pyramid grew?
Cetnar: Yeah, it stretched….
Ankerberg: My, my.
Cetnar: Also, but what really shocks me is that they would go to a spirit medium, Johannes Greber, to find a translation of John 1:1 that exactly agrees with theirs.
Ankerberg: Where do you find that? How can you prove that they have done that?
Cetnar: Well, they have quoted him seven places in their publications, twice in Aid to Bible Understanding and in their Watchtower magazine, under “Trinity” in the Make Sure of All Things.”
Ankerberg: Now, who’s Johannes Greber?
Cetnar: Johannes Greber was an admitted spirit medium. He said he received that translation, “the word was a God” from the spirits themselves, by words passing before his eyes.
Ankerberg: Now, that’s condemned in Leviticus, though, isn’t it?
Cetnar: It’s condemned, and even the Watchtower condemns going to spirit mediums. They knew about it; they wrote about him in 1956 and said, “Don’t read his works. Don’t go to him; he’s a spirit medium.” And then later they quoted him. And what’s interesting is, he wrote another book, Communication with God’s Spirit World, and here are some of the things that we’ve found in that book: “Jesus Christ is not God. Jehovah alone is God the Father. Christ Jesus is a created being. Michael is a god.” Does that sound familiar, girls?
Ortega: Watchtower doctrine.
Cetnar: “There is no eternal hell.” And we found the exact same doctrines in Jehovah’s Witnesses publications.
Ankerberg: So you’re saying that that doctrine that they are documenting in…
Cetnar: Those are doctrines of demons.
Ankerberg: …books that Jehovah’s Witnesses have at home right now that they can look at?
Cetnar: Oh, yes.
Ankerberg: Okay. They came from the demonic, really.
Cetnar: That’s right. Straight from that. And that’s what Paul said to Timothy, said that there would be doctrines of demons. [1 Tim. 4:11]
Ankerberg: When you saw that, what did you think?
Cetnar: That shocked me. I mean, this was supposed to be God’s organization. We should have nothing to do with Satan’s spirit world or with anything that he teaches.
Ankerberg: Jean?
Eason: Well, I was a third generation Jehovah’s Witness, and so I didn’t really symbolize my dedication by baptism until after I married a Catholic and he, too, studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses. So we became dedicated Witnesses, going from house to house, and we did all the things that were expected of us. And we just believed that Armageddon was coming in 1954. We believed it with our whole heart, soul and mind.
Ankerberg: Armageddon was supposed to be the end of the world, right?
Eason: Yes. Now the Society did not name that date, but they used Bible prophecies like 40 years, and they worked it out so that you would count it from 1914 which would bring it to 1954, plus they constantly said, “Armageddon is near, Armageddon is near.” So we just talked to our little boy that, “Pretty soon you will be living in a new world of righteousness. You’ll be playing with the lions and the animals. No more sorrow, no more killing, no more death, no more jails.” And he was just really excited, you know. It was like going on a vacation. 1954 came and he started to school. We were surprised and so was he.
Ankerberg: It didn’t pan out that way, did it?
Eason: No, it didn’t.
Ankerberg: What did they say when it didn’t pan out that way?
Eason: Well, they don’t really say anything. They just continue talking about it being near the end.
Ankerberg: How many times have the Jehovah’s Witnesses set a date for the end of the world?
Eason: Gee, so many times I couldn’t tell you right now. Many, many times.
Cetnar: ‘14, ‘18, ‘25, ‘41, ‘54, ‘75….
Ankerberg: All those times, and they’re documented in the books of the Watchtower Society?
Cetnar: Yes.
Ankerberg: What does Deuteronomy say when somebody is speaking for God, because this is what the Watchtower was doing, right? You believed that this was God’s organization and the leaders were speaking and directing, for God, a theocratic society on earth. You were the only right way. Did you ever come across Deuteronomy 18 where it says, “If the prophet speaks, how will you know he is telling the truth.” If he says this is what the Lord said and it doesn’t come about, what are you supposed to do? [Deut 18:20-22]
Eason: You don’t fear him. And he shall die.
Ankerberg: That’s right. You don’t have to fear him. Helen?
Ortega: Well, you certainly know he’s the false prophet if it doesn’t come about. And I know as a Jehovah’s Witness I couldn’t quite put Jesus in his place. I always wanted to be with Jesus, and yet I knew I couldn’t. Later on I knew I could. But I didn’t know what the Bible really said because they go to that John 1:1, “Jesus was ‘a’ God.” And yet in Deuteronomy it says there’s one God, [Deut 6:4] “No gods after me, none before me; I, even I, am the Lord, YHWH.” [Isa. 43:10-11] So if there were no gods after him, then where did Jesus work in? And when I was going out of the organization I was really in confusion. And I happened to come upon Titus and I have been asked later on about this, but one girl said, “If you can show me any place in the New World Translation”—because that’s the only Bible….
Ankerberg: Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible.
Ortega: …Jehovah’s Witness Bible—“where Jesus is called God, then I will definitely study and come out of the organization.” And we used to use Thomas, you know, where he said, “My Lord and my God” or “My Savior and my God.” [John 20:28] But they have an explanation for that, so I found the footnote in Titus 2:13, and the footnote says, “While we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ….”
Ankerberg: That’s in the footnote.
Ortega: That’s in the footnote of the New World Translation. And if I had only seen that, if somebody had only showed me that when I was a Jehovah’s Witness, I wouldn’t have wasted 20 years of my life.
Ankerberg: Okay. Joan, tell us a little bit about your background.
Cetnar: Well, Jehovah’s Witnesses started very early in my family. My great-grandmother started out as one of the first Jehovah’s Witnesses under their first president, Charles Taze Russell, and they came to the door with those six volumes and they bought them out there in the country. And they passed it on to their two daughters, my grandmother, one of them, and then to my father, and then to me. And so I was a fourth generation Jehovah’s Witness.
And by this time it had become very strong in our family. So growing up I was taught that all of the things that a good Jehovah’s Witness knows: that only Jehovah is God; Jesus is the created being; you don’t salute the flag when you go to school; you do not bear arms; and things like that. And I also, when it was time for me to go to school when I was six years old, at that time it was against God’s law and just as much a violation of God’s law among Jehovah’s Witnesses, to take a vaccination, a smallpox vaccination, as it is today not to take a blood transfusion.
Ankerberg: In other words they came out with a dictum, a law, in the Watchtower Society saying, “Listen, we’ve decided that God says don’t have a smallpox vaccination.”
Cetnar: A policy, right, and the government, the federal government says you don’t go to school unless you have a smallpox vaccination.
Ankerberg: So how do you get around that?
Cetnar: Well, my parents found a doctor, so-called, who would give me an acid scar, so that’s how I got to school. They went and took me and I had an acid scar….
Ankerberg: They just put a little acid on your skin and burned a little hole there and made it look like a…..
Cetnar: And made it look just like a vaccination. He signed the certificate that I had a smallpox vaccination and I went to school. Now, as I think back now, which was worse, getting the smallpox vaccination and violating a policy of the Watchtower, or lying? And I didn’t know that I didn’t have one until much later. So then as I grew up I wanted to be the most faithful Jehovah’s Witness there ever was, because two things were burned into my mind: The Bible is God’s Word, and this is God’s organization here on the earth. He has always had an organization, and it will help to explain God’s Word. These publications are for that reason. So we were taught to study them. And I wanted to be faithful to Jehovah and I loved Jehovah with all my heart.
Ankerberg: And you were faithful. You were so faithful in a sense that you went up the ladder of the Watchtower Society structure.
Cetnar: Yes, I got an invitation from the president to serve at Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, and so I was very happy to go, feeling that I was giving God my all.
Ankerberg: So you got there.
Cetnar: And I got there and I served there for four years. But it was a real eye-opener, because I had known a great deal of love. I was a happy Jehovah’s Witness, which is, I find, rare now. But I was happy. My parents, we got along fine, we had a happy home. I didn’t see a lot of what I see going on in the organization today in our little congregation. But when I got to Watchtower headquarters, where I thought the love should be intensified, I mean, these are the men that are going to rule us forever and ever in Heaven and certainly they would be the most loving people in the world. I found just the opposite. I found more a political structure where you buy your way in some cases, and where when you don’t do exactly as that individual says, you are shown no love, you are just cast aside. And it was just shocking to me and really an eye-opener.
Ankerberg: Then you met a guy.
Cetnar: I met a real nice fellow there, yes, and he rather pursued me and after being there four years—he was there 8 ½ years we discussed some things that happened while we were at the Watchtower headquarters: the way people were being treated just because they disagreed with things that the president said, being treated without love; and the question of blood transfusion came up.
Ankerberg: Your husband actually answered all the questions via mail for one-third of the United States, and so he was looking into many of the questions that were submitted to the Watchtower Society, and here you two guys are talking on the side.
Cetnar: What’s interesting is that he was instrumental in helping the Watchtower to change on the policy of vaccination. He was acquainted with it from one angle, I was acquainted with it from another angle. So we were both in a position now to question since they changed on vaccination and now it is no longer against God’s law—God changed His mind—then what would keep them from changing their minds somewhere downstream on blood transfusion? Because we couldn’t find any plain Scripture that said this taking a blood transfusion is a violation of God’s law.
Ankerberg: So did you let the word out about what you actually thought in contradiction to the Watchtower?
Cetnar: They knew what he felt, but because it was argued at headquarters privately, nothing was ever said. But after we married and we left the Watchtower headquarters, Bethel, under good graces with the blessings of the Watchtower Society, and my husband was offered a job by my parents on their beautiful farm, and a place to live, we decided we would do that. Because my husband was only trained as a minister and they don’t pay their ministers, and so we did that.
Ankerberg: You had come from quite a solid background. Why don’t you tell them a little bit about it.
Cetnar: Well, one of my grandmother’s brothers, my great uncle, was S. S. Kresge. He never did become a Jehovah’s Witness, never did stay with the organization. He was a Christian, and his son and daughter-in-law today are very good Christian people. But he was being pestered with “1914 is the end” by his mother. And he said, “No, Mom, I don’t believe that.” And he built her a home, and it was the same house in which I was born and raised, and the house that we moved into after we were married, and the house that I would have stood to inherit at one point.
Ankerberg: So you went back to the farm.
Cetnar: So we went back to the farm, and we were relatively happy people. We had still these questions nagging. For instance, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” At one point they had us teaching that, “God so loved the New World,” and we couldn’t give that sermon. God loves the whole world. What is this business He only loves the new world, which was essentially Jehovah’s Witnesses? So then they changed back on that and then while we were in this period of transition, they came up with a new understanding of Romans 13. They thought for a long time, and were teaching, that the higher powers were Jehovah God and Christ Jesus and that made them the theocratic organization. And then they changed that in the early 60’s and said, “No, now it’s the earthly rulers, but you give them only relative authority.” So this was only adding more weight to our doubts and to our disillusionment, until at one point my husband was asked, what would he do if his child needed a blood transfusion? Now, we were never faced with that and I thank the Lord, but he was asked what would you do? And he said, “If it was my child, I would let the doctor decide,” and that started….
Ankerberg: Somebody told on you.
Cetnar: Yes. So therefore we were called on the carpet, or he was first, by the authorities.
Ankerberg: Your husband, Bill, made a statement and what happened? The world kind of exploded for you, didn’t it?
Cetnar: Yes. They brought him before a committee and he was disfellowshipped. They did not disfellowship me at the same time. They hoped to use me as a wedge to get him back. But my parents, because we were living in their home and he was working for my father, invited us over to their home and gave us an ultimatum: either you come back or you’ll have to leave. Well, we had three small children by this time.
Ankerberg: When you say you had to leave, what does that mean? You had to leave the farm?
Cetnar: We would have to leave the farm, leave his employment, leave the home we were living in and find somewhere else to live, some other job.
Ankerberg: And lose your inheritance.
Cetnar: Yeah, afraid so.
Ankerberg: Which could have been what?
Cetnar: Up to $1 million, I guess. It was quite a bit. That didn’t bother me quite as much as the fellowship with my family.
Ankerberg: When you say disfellowshipping, for people that aren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses, that means what?
Cetnar: Cutting off from everyone who was a Jehovah’s Witness. They are not allowed to speak to you. They are not allowed to have you in their home. This is what my parents were saying, “Now you’re disfellowshipped. We can’t have you in our home anymore.”
Ankerberg: So you knew that if you went through with this and followed your conscience, followed the truth as you saw it, that your folks might never talk to you again.
Cetnar: That’s right.
Ankerberg: And in fact you made that decision.
Cetnar: And we had to go with Proverbs where it says to take “The path of a righteous man” [Prov. 15:19] one step at a time. We knew what was right at that point and we had to follow it. We could not be hypocrites any longer.
Ankerberg: So you left the $1 million….
Cetnar: So we left and we were given mercy by my husband’s brother in California. Although he was a Jehovah’s Witness, he said “I’ll give you a job,” and we went on that.
Ankerberg: But I want people that are listening, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses that are following their conscience, to realize what you gave up. You gave up your inheritance of $1 million, and in fact, when you made that decision to go with the truth, your parents and Bill’s parents to this day, how many years later?
Cetnar: Twenty-one.
Ankerberg: …have not even talked to you. Is that correct?
Cetnar: That’s right.
Ankerberg: And you have seen them in the store and Bill has said, “Hi, Mom and Dad,” and they did not even turn, did they?
Cetnar: That’s right.
Ankerberg: So you faced that and you took that step anyway: your children, your husband, everything. You had to leave.
Cetnar: We just piled it into the car and went to California. But California was very good to us because that’s where we met Jesus. But before that happened we were a very disillusioned little family. We felt very much alone. We knew we couldn’t go back to where we were, and we were taught all the churches were of the devil, so where do we go? What do we do? I had not yet been disfellowshipped, but Bill, my husband, was asked to speak in a church, and I went to hear him. And all, of course, he spoke on at that point was no blood transfusion, and they heard about it so they disfellowshipped me.
Ankerberg: Because you went to the meeting?
Cetnar: Because I went to the meeting. And when that happened, they had a trial, they disfellowshipped me, and then we put it in the paper. Well, that brought to our attention now many of the things about the past of the Watchtower that we had never known before, about their false prophecies. And I was dumbstruck. I mean, I never knew that they said in 1914 that the end was coming in 1914; in 1925 Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be back. Oh, no! That can’t be! How could I have been right at headquarters and never known these things?
Ankerberg: The men speaking for God said the end of the world would come in 1914 and it didn’t happen. And then in 1925, it didn’t happen.
Cetnar: Right.
Ankerberg: These were documented in the materials. You found out by looking at the old magazines and so on. Then what did you do?
Cetnar: Then the Scripture came to us in Deuteronomy 18:21, “If they say a word in my name that doesn’t come true or come to pass, you need not be afraid of them.” And I said, “Oh, I don’t have to be afraid. They’re not going to kill me at Armageddon!”
Ankerberg: But you still didn’t know who Jesus was.
Cetnar: I still didn’t know who Jesus was. But that did get rid of the fear, and then Luke 21:8 where it says, “If they said ‘I am’ and ‘the time is at hand,’” you don’t follow them. And I said, well, now we know we’re on the right track. And then I went to John 5:39, which says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that bear witness of me; and you are unwilling to come to me that you may have life.” And I said, oh, that’s where we’re supposed to go! We’re supposed to go right to Jesus.
Then someone handed us a little booklet, “Jesus is Jehovah.” And I said, “No, I don’t want to read it. Jehovah is the Father; Jesus the Son. Now don’t mix me up with this.” Bill said, “Let’s look at it.” So we looked at it together and that’s when we came up with a little circle that we put together on the back of our book, Jesus is YHWH. I found out that YHWH is the Judge, Jesus is the Judge; Jesus is the life. And the “I am,” this was really something; John 8:24: “If you do not believe that I am, you’re going to die in your sins.”
Ankerberg: Jesus said that about Himself.
Cetnar: That’s right. And that is so true. Jesus is the I Am.
Ankerberg: For those people, Joanie, that are Jehovah’s Witnesses that are listening in tonight, and they’ve got doubts, or maybe they’re in the process of going to trial or somebody’s found out something about them, or one of the things, they’re holding all of this inside, what would you say to them right now?
Cetnar: Well, Jesus is the only Way. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. [John 14:6] There is no organization that can save you, only Jesus can. And I had to get down on my knees and say, “Lord, no matter all the good things that I’ve done – I never was a bad person – but still I’m a sinner. I need you; I need your blood. And Jesus, I’m not sure who you are, but help me!” And He did. That’s when He brought Himself to us and since then He’s just blessed us in so many ways, and has just been there every time we needed Him.
Ankerberg: Please join us for our next program. We’re going to have a gal that was in a Christian church and left it to go into the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we want to hear her story.

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