105 Years in the Watchtower Service – Program 2

By: Lorrie MacGregor, Joan Cetnar, Jean Eason, Helen Ortega; ©1986
Jehovah’s Witnesses are divided into two classes – the Heavenly Class and the Earthly Class. How do they differ? Also discussed: Armageddon, blood transfusions and disfellowshiping.

Two Classes


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.

Ankerberg: Welcome. We’re glad that you joined us. I’d like you to meet four ladies that have been Jehovah’s Witnesses all of their lives. Maybe you’ve never talked with one. You’ve maybe had one knock on your door. We’re going to find out what they think; what they have thought; what they have been taught.
As we have done programs with the Jehovah’s Witnesses—and actually we have had the overseers of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on our program—you know what I’ve found out is that they’re not the “monsters” most people think they are. They are very sincere, nice, wonderful family people. If you could characterize them with a statement, they are people that zealously are serving Jehovah God, as they see it. They believe they have the truth and they want to tell people about it. One person told me, “If you can prove to me that we don’t have the truth, I’ll listen. And if you’ve got the goods, I’ll change my mind.”
And tonight, I’d like you to listen to these ladies talk because there were questions that came up along the way in their lives. And maybe, gals, you could share with us some of those questions, either from history, or from the Scriptures, or from personal experience, because I know that among you, you have over 100 years of dedicated service to the Watchtower Society. Lorri, can I come to you? What kind of question came to you along the way that started you thinking?
MacGregor: Well, you know, I always had a great desire to be close to Jesus Christ. But as a Jehovah’s Witness I was told the door is shut for the heavenly class. Don’t even think about being part of the Bride of Christ. Your hope is to live on the earth. This was a fairly recent teaching that came into the Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they had more than 144,000 members, and what were they going to do with them at the time? They had to put them on the earth.
Ankerberg: Well, backtrack a little bit. First of all, Charles Taze Russell or Rutherford, who was it that said that there were two classes?
MacGregor: Russell taught there were two classes but they were both heavenly. During Rutherford’s time it changed to earthly.
Ankerberg: So that there were 144,000 people who were going to Heaven and the rest were going to be on this earth.
MacGregor: Yes, and you know, as I began to do some independent Bible reading—something that was forbidden and yet I couldn’t stay out of the Word of God….
Ankerberg: You weren’t allowed to independently read the Bible?
MacGregor: No, we were only to read it in the light of the Watchtower. Anyway, I came across Scriptures that I just couldn’t deal with, supposedly having an earthly hope. In Zephaniah 1, the word of Yahweh or Jehovah was this: “‘I will completely remove all things from the face of the earth,’ declares Jehovah. ‘I will remove man and beast; I will remove birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, and the ruins along with the wicked; and I will cut off man from the face of the earth.’” [Zeph. 1:2-3] And I thought, well, here we are being taught that we are going to live on in the earth and here’s Jehovah God saying that, like in verse 18, “I’m going to make an end, a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.” [Zeph. 1:18] And you see, I began to realize that if we were looking for a place of safety, we ought to be looking to Jesus Christ who has prepared a place for us, and not to an organization that is going to be wiped out, if they intend to stay on this earth.
Ankerberg: Joan, what got you thinking?
Cetnar: You know it shocked me and it didn’t happen so much while I was a Jehovah’s Witness, but after I got out, to find how involved with the occult world the so-called “God’s Organization” was.
Ankerberg: Are you kidding?
Cetnar: The first president believed in pyramidology. He arrived at the date 1874 by measuring the great pyramid in Egypt.
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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