105 Years in the Watchtower Service – Program 6

By: Lorrie MacGregor, Joan Cetnar, Jean Eason, Helen Ortega; ©1986
For Jehovah’s Witnesses the path to salvation and eternal life is very difficult and uncertain. Why are so many Jehovah’s Witnesses discouraged and what is the good news we can give them?

How Does a Jehovah’s Witness Expect to Have Eternal Life?


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: On our program tonight we have four ladies that have been Jehovah’s Witnesses all of their life, and I would like for you to listen to what they have to say, because some information has come to them that, when they started to think about it, it changed their life. It cost them dearly, but they followed the Truth. And I know that if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness tonight, you love the truth. Because you believe you are following Jehovah God, and you want to follow Him and His word expressly, that’s what you teach. But we want to talk with you and we want to share some of these things, and I hope you will stay tuned tonight, and especially in this area.
Ladies, I’d like to come to you. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, you taught certain people that you were the only right way, that the Watchtower Society was the only place of safety. All the other religions were absolutely of the devil, were wrong and would be annihilated someday. Tell me, and explain to our audience, what you actually believed salvation was, how you got it, what your joy was with that salvation, and then, what was the tremendous thing that changed your mind? Who wants to start?
Cetnar: We’re taught that Scripture, in John it says, “This means everlasting life [I’m giving the New World Translation rendition], their taking in knowledge of thee, the only true God under the one whom He sent forth, Jesus Christ.” [John 17:3] “Taking in knowledge” was the key. You have to take in knowledge, be in the organization in order to get that important knowledge that is coming out…
Ankerberg: That’s what you believed as a Jehovah’s Witness.
Cetnar: That’s what I believed. As long as I was taking in this knowledge and giving it out to somebody else and remaining active in the organization, I was pretty sure that I would get eternal life. Not absolutely sure. I didn’t know that I had eternal life. I hoped that I would get it because of what I was doing.
Ankerberg: Then the Watchtower divided up where you would spend eternal life into two places. Would you explain what that is?
Cetnar: I was never offered eternal life in heaven because I came in after 1935.
Ankerberg: What does that mean?
Cetnar: Because the heavenly class had too many people in 1935.
Ankerberg: What’s the heavenly class?
Cetnar: The 144,000 is the heavenly class.
Ankerberg: Where did you get that from?
Cetnar: Revelation 7:4 talks about 144,000 and they’re Jews. And they said that these would come from the organization. Well, in 1935 they had more than 144,000 people so they had to do something.
Ankerberg: There were 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses and they already had their tickets for heaven.
Cetnar: They had over 144,000.
Ankerberg: So a new revelation came from headquarters, speaking for God, that now heaven was shut and earth was going to be the next spot.
Cetnar: And the great crowd would now become, instead of a secondary heavenly class, it would become now an earthly class.
Ankerberg: And so that was the only thing you could get.
Cetnar: That’s all I expected. Right.
Ankerberg: Now, in order to get that, you’re saying you had to have knowledge. So, how much knowledge?
Cetnar: All that you could get. You have to be able to read…
Ankerberg: What if you didn’t get enough?
Cetnar: You don’t ever get enough. You have to continually read the Watchtower magazine as soon as it comes. If you don’t, you’re not appreciative of the light that is coming from the Watchtower organization.
Ankerberg: Did you only have to have knowledge or when you got the magazine did they ever tell you to do anything and what if you didn’t do it? You just had the knowledge.
Cetnar: Oh, you had to go door-to-door with it.
Ankerberg: You mean do something besides know something?
Cetnar: You have to go from door to door or you’re not counted…
Ankerberg: Why go door-to-door?
Cetnar: You’re not counted as a Jehovah’s Witness unless you put time in preaching.
Ankerberg: How did the Jehovah’s Witnesses come up with this fantastic thing of going door-to-door? Where did you get that?
Cetnar: Acts 20:20.
Ankerberg: “I taught you publicly, privately and door-to-door?”
Cetnar: Yes.
Ankerberg: Okay. You said that’s how you’re supposed to know God’s chosen people?
Cetnar: Right.
Ankerberg: Okay.
MacGregor: I think that we have to take a moment and give the correct rendering of that Scripture. She gave the Watchtower rendering that this is everlasting life, taking in knowledge. But what it says is: “This is eternal life, to know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” [John 17:3] It’s a knowing of Jesus, not a taking in of knowledge .
Ankerberg: Yes. And Acts 20:20 doesn’t identify you as one of God’s children, it’s simply something that Paul did to the church at Ephesus. And it’s not a way of identifying people that are in the kingdom of God. But you believed that didn’t you?
Cetnar: But what he did, he was teaching in the synagogue and then he says “Go into the private homes after you find out who’s interested.” It wasn’t knocking on cold doors.
Ankerberg: So they told you to do that and you did that. How much did you do it?
Cetnar: As much as you possibly could.
MacGregor: You had to meet quotas.
Ankerberg: I mean, if I went to five homes, was I clear?
MacGregor: If you spent at least ten hours a month and placed at least 12 magazines and conducted several Bible studies.
Ankerberg: Did you have categories? You know, superior Jehovah’s Witness callers, medium?
MacGregor: We had Pioneer Jehovah’s Witnesses that…
Ankerberg: How many hours did you have to do to be a Pioneer?
MacGregor: It was 100. I understand it’s down to 80 now.
Ankerberg: One hundred hours a month?
MacGregor: Yeah.
Ankerberg: Now it’s 80. Eighty hours a month you have to go knocking on doors?
Cetnar: It used to be 150.
MacGregor: They may have changed their light again. Don’t quote me. It was at one time.
Ankerberg: But, I mean, let’s get this straight. Eighty hours a month knocking on doors?
MacGregor: That’s considered full-time, and then there was a category above that.
Ankerberg: Did you get paid for that?
MacGregor: No, there’s no payment in Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ankerberg: Did you girls do that?
Eason: Oh, yes. Sure.
Ankerberg: How many Bible studies did you have, Helen?
Ortega: I had 13 a week.
Ankerberg: And you still went door-to-door?
Ortega: I went door-to-door, and I had a magazine route, and I made back calls.
Ankerberg: What does that mean?
Ortega: Magazine route is when you go on Saturdays or whatever day you go and you just place magazines. “Will you take the latest issue?” Then you go the next time: “Here is the latest”. And you work up a route. People see you coming. You know, “Hi. Here I am again. Here’s the latest issue,” and you point out an article. That’s the way you build up a route.
Ankerberg: By the way, right in this area you actually, as a Jehovah’s Witness, I don’t think many people know this, maybe the Witnesses understand this, but the Witnesses have never totaled up all the money that was made on an issue. Let’s tell them a few figures here. Last time I checked the figures, a couple of months ago, it was 40 some million magazines a month went out. Okay? Now, who paid for those magazines?
Cetnar: The Witnesses.
Ortega: The publisher.
Ankerberg: Not the guy that you sold them to necessarily, but you, before you left the Kingdom Hail, you bought them.
Ladies: Yes.
MacGregor: No credit at the Kingdom Hall.
Ortega: Cash!
Ankerberg: If they put out 44 million magazines, they knew that that was paid for by the Witnesses that bought it themselves.
Ladies: Right.
Ankerberg: Now, Jean, you told me a few of the figures of the cash flow that would come in on a month and a year. Now we figured this out on a couple of years back, not even on 44 million a month, so our figures are going to be lower than what they actually are right now. What was the total figure of money that would come in, I think it was in a year, wasn’t it?
Eason: Well, for one year, just the Watchtower and Awake alone, is $67 million. One year alone.
Ankerberg: Sixty-seven million dollars.
Eason: Yes, that goes to the Watchtower Society.
Ankerberg: In ten years, according to that, they would have what?
Eason: Well, with the other books, too, is what the research friend had done and that came to over $2 trillion.
Ankerberg: That’s a little bit of money, isn’t it?
MacGregor: You wonder why they have the cash to buy up most of Brooklyn Heights in New York.
Cetnar: At one point the Let God Be True, which older Witnesses will remember, cost fifty cents; forty-five cents to the Jehovah’s Witness who would come to your door. And it cost the Watchtower, total, seven cents to print that book. So “they don’t make any profit.”?!
Ortega: You bet they make profit.
Ankerberg: Who spends the money, by the way?
Cetnar: The ones who go from door to door. They spend their money, their time, their everything.
Ankerberg: I mean, who gets the money when you guys pay for it? Who’s up in Brooklyn that’s spending the $2 trillion or whatever it is?
MacGregor: Well, you’ll have to ask the fellow in the penthouse.
Ortega: We’re not told.
Ankerberg: Did you ever think of that as Jehovah’s Witnesses? What’s happening to all this money?
MacGregor: Oh, we thought that they all lived so frugally, and we just never dreamt that they had expense accounts and traveled first class and all the things that the leaders do.
Ankerberg: Joan, you went and you actually worked there. What did you see in the leadership?
Cetnar: I knew the President at that time, Mr. Knorr, very well, and he invited me to his home at Watchtower headquarters. It was not one room like everyone else had. He had several rooms, very well furnished, beautiful apartment, his own private valet, any kind of meat he wanted at any time. He had at that time a Cadillac that he could drive. Later he drove an Oldsmobile, for morale, I understand. So on $14 a month, which they claimed everybody at that time got…
Ankerberg: At Brooklyn.
Cetnar: Right. That he was doing very well at inflation, I thought.
Ankerberg: Okay, coming back to the fact of some of these things you guys did not know at that time and only found out later, but we’re talking about salvation and how you got it. You were told to go door-to-door. You sold these magazines. What else did you have to do?
Ortega: Go to five meetings a week.
Ankerberg: Five meetings a week. You had your Bible studies. What else?
Eason: And you called back and you held Bible studies, so-called Bible studies, with them in hopes that they would teach others to teach others to teach others.
Ankerberg: Well, I would say just offhand that most of the pastors from Christian churches, thinking about getting their members in their congregation to do 100 hours of door-to-door calling would be a kind of a staggering thought. But you girls did that. Now, was this salvation? I mean, did you feel like you had arrived?
MacGregor: No. We were striving all the time to be good enough for God, and this is why you had to meet these quotas. You had to go out. You were constantly bombarded at the Kingdom Hall: “You haven’t done enough.” “We don’t have enough hours in this congregation.” “Our book placements aren’t up.” “We need more magazines done.” You were badgered continually to be driven, driven, driven, driven. And then you were never promised salvation. It was the carrot in front of the donkey’s nose. Maybe you’d be hid in the day of Jehovah’s anger. But if you quit two weeks before Armageddon arrived, you would be found unfaithful and you would lose it all.
Ortega: They quote Jesus saying, “He that endures to the end shall be saved,” [Matt. 24:13] so we had to keep “enduring to the end.” It might have been our end, but…
Ankerberg: Alright, let me ask you this. What about sin? How did you handle sin? What was the theology on sin?
MacGregor: Well, you didn’t dare sin.
Ankerberg: But what about the sins you had already done?
MacGregor: Well, what happened before you came into the organization was forgotten.
Ankerberg: Didn’t you ever sin when you were in the organization?
MacGregor: Well, what happens in the organization is that you have all these rigid rules. What happens is you put on a veneer of righteousness and you clench your teeth and you live according to the rules; because if you don’t, elder is going to call on you and jack you up if you don’t. But what happens is that nothing is more tiresome than your own righteousness. Let me tell you, it’s tiresome.
Ankerberg: You’re also making the rules: sin is not an attitude; it’s an act.
Ladies: That’s right. Exactly.
MacGregor: And so what a change when you receive Christ and you have His righteousness.
Ankerberg: Well, before we get to that point, what did you believe about what did Jesus do at the cross? What were you told there? Well, first of all, He didn’t go to the cross, right? He went to the stake.
Cetnar: He died in Adam’s place.
Ankerberg: Why was that so important?
Ortega: For the 144,000.
Eason: He gave His life as a ransom, you see.
Ankerberg: What does that mean?
Eason: That means that’s going to cover all the people who are resurrected onto the new earth. You see, Christ is only a mediator for the 144,000.
Ankerberg: Weren’t you guys going to be one of those?
Eason: Well, yes, but we have to sort of ride in on the coattails of the 144,000, then live during the 1,000 years, and if we’re obedient we can get everlasting life.
Ankerberg: You lost me. Start me over again. Let’s go back to Jesus. He did the ransom and He did it for whom?
Ortega: The 144,000.
MacGregor: That was the opportunity only for the 144,000. He is mediator only for 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ankerberg: Okay, but we’ve already said you guys didn’t qualify for the 144,000. Those seats were taken in heaven.
MacGregor: So what we had to do, we had to get right with the 144,000. We were what was in the early days called “Jonadabs.” We were the kids that did all the work, the hewers of wood, the carriers of water.
Ankerberg: You had to get right with the guys that had the seats in heaven, but you weren’t going to go there.
MacGregor: No, but if we weren’t in good with them we didn’t get anything.
Ankerberg: Why did you get in good with the guys that were dead and already in heaven?
MacGregor: Well, there’s a remnant of them on earth, about 9,000 of them left that are supposedly of the 144,000 class.
Ankerberg: How did you know who they were?
MacGregor: Well, because they partook of the emblems and they made up the governing body at headquarters.
Ankerberg: In other words, they were the ones that took communion and they were the ones that were at Brooklyn, supposedly.
MacGregor: Some were scattered around the various congregations.
Ankerberg: Okay, so you were supposed to do what to them?
MacGregor: We had to do what they told us to do, be obedient to them. If they said, “Go out in service ten hours a month,” we’d better do it, otherwise we wouldn’t get any salvation.
Ankerberg: So, in other words, if you weren’t obedient to them, then they could be the ones that cancelled you being accepted on Paradise Earth.
Cetnar: Disfellowship you and you lose out on your eternal life. See, now we’re getting back into the importance of the organization. You have to be in the organization in order to get the benefits of the new covenant. That’s where they have these questions from readers that we’ve been referring to about them not having a mediator, those that are going to live here on the earth. Their statement here is, “The great crowd, the earthly class, that is forming today is not in that new covenant. However, by their associating with the little flock, the heavenly class of those yet in that covenant, they come under benefits that flow from that new covenant.” So, once again it’s back there. You’ve got to be in the organization to get the salvation. You don’t get any of the benefits unless you are in the organization.
Ankerberg: Tell me what you mean.
Cetnar: Well, in the “Questions From Readers” in the Watchtower where they’re explaining how that Jesus is only the mediator for the 144,000, the heavenly class, it goes on to show and say that the great crowd—that would be the ones that are going to live here on the earth—that is forming today, is not in that covenant. They don’t have Jesus as their mediator. However, by their associating with the little flock, the heavenly class, of those yet in that covenant, they come under benefits that flow from that new covenant.
Ankerberg: What if somebody from the outside simply said, “Hey, the Watchtower dreamed that up so that they can control you guys.”
Cetnar: Well you believe it because you believe it comes from God. You have already accepted this organization is speaking for God. And if you are to question it you’re going to be disfellowshipped; and no one wants to lose his eternal life. So there’s that constant fear: Don’t question. Don’t question. So you go along with it until you begin to get disillusioned and you get strong enough to overcome that.
Ortega: In Zechariah 8:23 it says that they will cling to the skirt of him that is a Jew and say we want to go with you because God is with you. And then in Romans it says there is the spiritual Jew, and so they say, “See, the anointed are the spiritual Jew and we cling to the skirt of him that is a Jew.”
Ankerberg: How far did they control you?
Ortega: Oh, your thinking: you have given your thinking over to an organization. That is exactly what you’ve done.
Cetnar: If they say, “Do not get married,” you don’t get married.
Ankerberg: Did they say that?
Cetnar: In 1938 they said, “Do not get married.” And then they said, “If you do get married, don’t have children, because the end is too close and God would rather…” And they quote Scripture.
Ankerberg: And by them saying that, you thought that God has said that to everybody.
Cetnar: Absolutely. You would not question that.
MacGregor: And you’re told, “Don’t eat hot dogs.” “Don’t eat bologna.” “Don’t eat this.”
Cetnar: “Don’t take a blood transfusion.”
MacGregor: “Don’t put fertilizer on your lawn. It might have a blood product.” My goodness, I got hauled on the carpet for buying some gum boots for little boys to play in. They were afraid the waterproof glue might have a blood product and I might be unfaithful.
Cetnar: “Don’t wear a beard.”
Ortega: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Is that what the Bible teaches, though?
Ladies: No, of course not.
Cetnar: That’s their policy. But when you believe that what is coming from the organization is coming from God, you have to buy that first and they make it very certain when they’re studying with you that you are walked down a path in their little book; till you believe it.
Ankerberg: The thing that I’m getting to right here is the fact that you guys obviously bought that hook, line and sinker….
Ladies: Absolutely.
Ankerberg: …to the point that they could tell you how to live your life, who to marry, who to divorce, how to have sex. Raymond Franz, in his book Crisis of Conscience, said for five years they told you how to have sex and how not to have sex, and after five years they changed their mind and blamed it on God.
Cetnar: What’s sad is, it destroyed marriages that cannot be repaired now.
Ankerberg: Which he regrets that they did that.
Cetnar: It’s killing people who will never be able to come back again.
Ankerberg: Okay. How long did it take you before you figured out that couldn’t be God’s way, that can’t be salvation? Because what did you have? You’re working as hard as you can. All you have is the idea that “Maybe, I’ll be accepted.” You don’t even have any assurance on it. You don’t have any promise that you will be accepted. You’re not even going to heaven to be with Jesus. You’re only going to be on Paradise Earth and you still could lose it. What is wrong with all of that now that you see it from this perspective? What changed your mind?
Cetnar: Well, there’s four basic things that helped me. 1) I found out that they claimed to be God’s prophets. They’re not true prophets; they’re false prophets. 2) I found out that they quoted men. I’ve got a whole book full of people that they quoted of notoriety that have credentials and lied about what they said. 3) They deliberately changed the Word of God to agree with their doctrine. 4) They deliberately went to someone they knew was a spirit medium to try to get to prove that they had the correct translation of “a Jesus” and “a God.”
Ankerberg: You’re talking about Johannes Greber.
Cetnar: Johannes Greber. Now, if they’re God’s organization, no one who really loves God would do any of these things.
Ankerberg: Okay. What was the good news that you found out that the Bible did say? Compare the good news of what the Bible does say. What is salvation? What did Jesus do at the cross? What about sin? What about these things?
MacGregor: Well, let me share with you a little bit about the salvation at Calvary. I found Scriptures in reading the Bible that we never discussed as Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they only look at Scriptures that agree with their doctrine. They don’t look at ones that don’t.
But in Zechariah is an amazing prophecy that every Jehovah’s Witness should get their Bible out and look up. Here Zechariah says, “And I said to them, if it’s good in your sight, give me my wages; but if not, never mind. So they weighed out thirty shekels of silver as my wages. Then YHWH [Jehovah] said to me, Throw it to the potter, that magnificent price at which I was valued by them.” [Zech. 11:12-13] Jehovah says, “I was sold for thirty pieces of silver.” And over in Zechariah 12:10, Jehovah’s speaking again. “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so they will look on me whom they have pierced.” Who was sold? Who was pierced? Jehovah said, “It was me.” And Acts 20:28 says that God purchased the church with His own blood.
If we don’t know who Jesus is, if we don’t know who died on Calvary, we’re lost. Never mind faithfulness to an organization, we’d better find out who died for us. The great I AM, Jesus Christ. And here it plainly shows Jesus is YHWH or Jehovah. John 19:37 takes this Scripture and applies it to Jesus Christ. We’d better know that.
Ankerberg: Helen, you also found out that your children could go to heaven with you, and all your friends. You didn’t have to worry about just going to Paradise Earth. You could go to heaven because why?
Ortega: Why could I go to heaven?
Ankerberg: Why could everybody else?
Ortega: Because of Jesus. Because He died for our sins. He opened the way.
Ankerberg: What verse tells us that?
Ortega: What verse tells us that? Oh, in John He tells us that. In Hebrews He tells us that. He said He opened the way through His blood. We can go right in the throne room through the blood of Christ.
MacGregor: John 1:12 says, “As many as received Him,” not just 144,000. Jesus said, “Whosoever will…” [Matt. 10:32; Rev. 22:17]
Ortega: Besides if I had just read “the 144,000” it says “men, all men.” So that would have let me out, you know. And there “was never a lie found on their lips,” and I do not qualify. In my lifetime I have fibbed. There’s no doubt about it. So, right there; the majority, I think, of the 144,000 so-called left on earth today are women, not men.
Eason: And also 1 John 5:1 says, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Now that says “whosoever.” That means anybody could be born of God.
Ankerberg: And the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe only the 144,000 can be born again.
Ladies: That’s right.
Ankerberg: And it says “anybody” there.
Ortega: That’s right.
Ankerberg: Alright, for those that are watching in that are Jehovah’s Witnesses right now, that you have put this information into their minds and you have messed them up terribly. They’re really troubled.
MacGregor: I hoped we’ve messed them up enough that they’ll look to Jesus instead of the organization.
Ankerberg: And you’re saying that because you girls were all there. You served 100 or more years in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, just you four gals. All that time, and you were in darkness, and you taught these things door-to-door zealously, and you believed them, and had really no hope.
Ladies: That’s right.
Cetnar: John, Jesus said, “I am the way” [John 14:6]; the Watchtower says, “No, there is no other way. We’re the way.” Jesus says, “I am the truth;” and they said, “No, you have to be in the organization and you’re in the truth.” No, the truth has to be in you and “I am the life.” They say, “There’s no life outside the organization.” So, from where I stand now that organization is standing in their way of knowing Jesus as the only way, truth and life.
Ankerberg: And if Christ will come into their life, they ought to allow Him to, ask Him to. And when He does, He will give them the power to face all the fantastic circumstances that they will probably have to face. Because you girls, you paid the price, correct?
Cetnar: And we’re only four, John. We’re only four. There are thousands. We have a convention every year, ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses for Jesus, and it’s marvelous.
Ankerberg: I want to say this, that if they do come out, the fact is they won’t be alone.
Ladies: That’s right.
Ankerberg: You gals basically were alone, weren’t you?
Ladies: Yes, we were.
MacGregor: But there is life after the Watchtower, and that more abundantly. That’s right.
Ankerberg: Do you remember how it felt when you found that you guys were not alone and there were other Christians, when you first met together and you found out you all had come out of the Watchtower? What was it like?
Cetnar: It was so exciting.
MacGregor: We couldn’t believe that there were other people like us who had come out, had found Christ, and were reaching back in love, because we love the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We want to see them come to Christ. We’ve given our lives for this.
Ankerberg: And there are now conventions they can attend. They can get more information. They can ask every question they want and you’re available.
Eason: But they really need to be “deprogrammed.”
Ankerberg: What does that mean?
Eason: That means learning how to become a Christian.
Ankerberg: You need to invite the Lord into your life and get somebody that knows the Lord, that’s been through the same path, and can help. And there are people that are probably living right near them.
MacGregor: Well, Jesus said that He washes His bride with the water of the Word. That’s how you get “deprogrammed,” not in some way like you grab someone in a motel room or something and submit them to all kinds of violence. But when you put the Word of God in you wash out all that wrong doctrine.

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