Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses Convention – Program 3

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Joan Cetnar, Duane Magnani, Lorri MacGregor, David Reed; ©1999
There have been many changes in the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses over the years. What are some of those changes, and how did they come about?


Today on the John Ankerberg Show, you will meet four former Jehovah’s Witnesses who will share with you the startling evidence that proved to them that they had been deceived by their own religious organization.

David Reed became an atheist in his teens, went to Harvard University and after a year left in a determined search for God. Jehovah’s Witnesses befriended him and he joined the Watchtower, but over time, reading his Bible and examining the claims of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, he realized that he had been deceived. He left the Watchtower organization and put his belief in Jesus as his Savior.

Lorri MacGregor became a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses at age eighteen and later almost died refusing a blood transfusion. When she began to honestly question what the Watchtower taught, she was excommunicated and cut off. Eventually her study of the Bible brought her to true belief in Jesus Christ.

Duane Magnani was a child of Jehovah’s Witness parents. He left the Watchtower and later was recruited as an adult; eventually the evidence led him to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Duane is now recognized as a fully qualified expert in court cases on beliefs and practices and has testified in over 110 child custody cases.

Joan Cetnar was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness home and was one of the heirs to the S.S. Kresge fortune. Joan married a Jehovah’s Witness leader and joined him in Brooklyn Headquarters in New York. She was able to observe firsthand how the president and other leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses lived. She left the Watchtower Society and became a Christian when she realized the Watchtower was not teaching her what the Bible said. Her convictions separated her from her family and cost her an inheritance which would have made her a millionaire.

We invite you to listen as our guests present the evidence they discovered concerning the false teachings and claim of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization.

Program 3: Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses Convention
Changes in the Watchtower

Ankerberg: Welcome! We’re here in beautiful Pennsylvania and we’re here with a group of folks that, the majority of them, used to be Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is an Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Convention. And these folks along the way came to information that caused them to leave the Watchtower Society. And if you’ve listen to our program today, you’ll understand why. Maybe you are a Jehovah’s Witness and you want to see if they’re telling the truth, and you’ve thought about these things yourself.
On stage we have four former Jehovah’s Witnesses. And, folks, we’re glad that you’re here. Duane, you grew up in the Watchtower Society. You are now considered to be an expert in court cases across our country concerning the beliefs and practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. What we want to zero in on is what the Jehovah’s Witnesses held concerning education. You were going toward a law career and you were in school and you didn’t finish it because of the Watchtower Society. How in the world can that be? What is their policy?
Magnani: Well, particularly at that time—this was about 1975, John—Jehovah’s Witnesses believed that the end was coming very soon, as they still do, but they had a year at that time: 1975 was the end. At that time they were saying, why would you spend your time going and getting a long education when you didn’t have much time to actually have a career? In other words, you couldn’t really fulfill the time. And isn’t it better to educate yourself in the new world in a Paradise condition than it is right now? And not only that, who would you be going to school with? You’d be going to school with non-Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that might infiltrate, you know, your faith in the Watchtower organization’s teachings.
Ankerberg: So the policy was basically, don’t get a higher education.
Magnani: Basically. It was very, very difficult for a Jehovah’s Witness at that time to pursue a higher education.
Ankerberg: We have a Harvard student here. You were going to Harvard, and as a student at Harvard, you still were not immune to believing what the Watchtower was presenting. Can you tell us how that happened and then when you actually got into it, it caused you to leave Harvard? How could that be, David?
Reed: Well, even though I was well educated, I was biblically illiterate. And so when Jehovah’s Witnesses gave me a guided tour through the Bible, I didn’t know I wasn’t seeing the real gospel message but just certain Scriptures they pulled out of context. So I did fall for the Witness teachings. Now, this took place at a time when I was on a leave of absence from Harvard University, and I could have gone back to school. I was scheduled to go back. I would have received my Harvard scholarship and my national merit scholarship both reinstated when I went back. But because Jehovah’s Witnesses taught us that the end was coming very closely and a college education wasn’t appropriate, I chose not to go back to Harvard University.
Ankerberg: Lorrie, How did this policy on education affect you?
MacGregor: Well, I became a Jehovah’s Witness out of high school. I was already enrolled for a degree in honors English and Latin, and the elders soon approached me and said to me that I would be wasting four years of my life because the important work of separating the sheep and goats was going on, and I had to get out there and knock on doors. And they suggested that I take a quick course and learn how to type so I could support myself while I did their important work. How sad that I not only missed out on my university education, but now I find out that all the years I knocked on doors, I wasn’t really separating sheep and goats anyway
Ankerberg:. And Joan, how did this affect you?
Cetnar: Well, being raised in a Watchtower family—a fourth generation witness—it was not even presented to me as an option when I graduated from high school, although I was an honor student and my principal was appalled that I was not going on to higher education. My parents said, “No way. The end is too close!” Even in 1952 the end was too close. And so my options were full-time service—either go to Bethel, Watchtower Headquarters; go into missionary work—or go full-time pioneer work. I chose to go to Bethel. So it wasn’t even an option for me.
Ankerberg: Where is it at right now, Duane? What is the current teaching on education for Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Magnani: Well, there’s been a change. In 1992, apparently the organization realized that Jehovah’s Witnesses couldn’t make enough money in some of the more menial jobs without some higher education to support themselves part-time so that they could go full-time knocking on doors or working in some other capacity in the organization. So since 1992, they are allowed “some” higher education.
Ankerberg: Alright, now is this significant with your guys that were under the old regime, in a sense. How does that hit you right now, in terms of even talking about this change?
Magnani: Well, to me it’s fantastic, because if I’m a JW, I get an opportunity to learn what other people believe. JW’s live in some kind of semi-communal atmosphere: all their friends are JW’s, all their associations, so you really only get one worldview. If you get out into college, you can learn things. And some of them aren’t the greatest things, but at least you get to meet other people and see other ideas.
Ankerberg: You think the Watchtower’s afraid of that?
Magnani: Deathly afraid.
Ankerberg: So what’s going to happen?
Magnani: Well, I’m already seeing the signs in the literature that they recognize they’ve made a mistake on this. And so I think it’s probably going to be reversed, which is not unusual for the Watchtower.
Ankerberg: I think we have to say to that, as you have all decided to leave the Watchtower Society—you have left it, and you have decided to embrace Jesus Christ—that once you realized the truth about Jesus Christ and come into a relationship with him, you don’t have to fear what you learn at the secular institutions; you don’t have to worry about God messing up on saying false prophecy; you don’t have to worry that what you are going to learn in higher education is going to rip your faith away. The fact is that God has his evidence that’s there. But talk to the JW’s that are out there in terms of the truth question. I mean, why are we bringing this thing up about education? What’s the significance about this?
Cetnar: It’s the change that’s been made. If you’re getting your information from God, as they claim, and this is the truth, why is this truth changing even though it’s only about education? It’s controlling the lives of these people. They cannot think for themselves whether or not they want to go to college. I had no choice. Jehovah’s organization said, “No!” And I could not question that because that came “straight from God.”
Ankerberg: Duane, you’ve also done this on the military. What is the policy on military? What has it been in the past?
Magnani: Well, let me read you something that is fascinating, I think. It’s from the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses out of an early Watchtower magazine statement by Charles Taze Russell, the founder. Now, get this: “There could be nothing against our conscience in going into the Army. Wherever we would go, we would take the Lord with us, the captain of our salvation; and wherever we would go, we could find opportunities to serve him and his cause.”
They go on to say that, of course, you can’t shoot anybody because that would be against God’s law; but you could go out there and make yourself a target. But you could go. You could be in the military at this point in time, early on.
Ankerberg: And that has changed now.
Magnani: That has radically changed.
Ankerberg: How so?
Magnani: After about 1918, Jehovah’s Witnesses actually at that time had a split in their movement. Some people took a firm stand against World War I. Others decided that they would go in the military. And eventually what happened is, all Jehovah’s Witnesses were forbidden from entering military service, even working in alternative service like, you know, at a hospital or doing charity-type work for the government.
Ankerberg: And again, what we’ve got to tell the people that are watching in saying why this is significant is because the Watchtower is really “God’s spokesman on earth.” What the Watchtower says is basically what God is saying—God is speaking directly to the people across earth through the Watchtower—so when God says, “Hey, you shouldn’t be a part of the military,” or “You should be a part of the military,” and then changes his mind, you say, “Hey, is God changing his mind? Is he flip-flopping back and forth on this stuff?”
Now, sometimes they’ve gotten away with this because the length of time. Some of you guys did not know some of the things they had said before you had gotten into it. You just came into it, you just had this little slice of history right here, you were cruising right along, and you believed that God was speaking through the Society then all of a sudden you hit a brick wall on some of these things and you started researching it and you realized you have a history of how many years on this thing, David?
Reed: Oh, it goes back, as Duane mentioned, it goes all the way back to the first World War, they were changing the doctrine on that point.
Ankerberg: So, this goes back to all of these years of time, and the only way you can check this out is to read the literature. Why didn’t you guys read the literature, you know, while you were in it?
Cetnar: Too busy with the “new light.”
MacGregor: John, you don’t realize, five meetings a week; having to make up your quotas of magazines; having to spend so many hours out in the service; having to prepare for all these meetings, studying your Watchtower, reading the things assigned, going to the Theocratic Ministry School. We could barely breathe when we weren’t doing the current stuff.
Cetnar: And that’s old “light.” Why would you want to go back there and find out what they said? We’ve got the latest “light.”
Ankerberg: But how about contradictory “light”? It’s not old “light,” it’s contradictory. I mean, it’s black and white here.
Reed: That’s what we ran into in 1996. The May 1 Watchtower of that year announced “new truth” that young men among Jehovah’s Witnesses could take alternative service work assigned by their draft board. They could go to work in a hospital instead of going to prison. But the amazing thing about it is, a former governing body member, Raymond Franz, wrote a book exposing the inner workings of the leadership, and he points out there that ever since 1978, a majority of the governing body wanted to allow this to happen. They wanted to let their young men work in hospitals instead of going to prison. But they needed a two-thirds majority to present it as a new truth in the Watchtower. And that two-thirds couldn’t be achieved until a couple of the older members died and the membership changed. And finally, in 1996, they came out with this new truth. In the meantime, countless numbers of Jehovah’s Witness young men went to prison and had their lives ruined.
Ankerberg: So here, in the name of God, you have flip-flopping sentences and statements and advice of how to live your life. People followed it and got ruined in the process. And you came to realize that this was not really God’s society. This was not where you needed to be.
And then, when you made the decision that you had to question it, or that you wanted to look up some information and you wanted to check out some things, you were encompassing another problem, namely that if you did, even while you were researching it, asking sincere questions from the bottom of your heart, the people in the Kingdom Hall, if they thought you’re going too far, they could disfellowship you. We’re going to find out what that means. We’re going to take a break and we’ll come right back. Stick with us.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re here in a convention of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, and you might find this hard to believe, but if a Jehovah’s Witness actually started to question what he was being taught in his Kingdom Hall, if he was questioning what he was reading in his Watchtower magazine, that caused him another problem. David, you faced this thing. It’s called “disfellowshipping.” What in the world is disfellowshipping?
Reed: Well, disfellowshipping means being put on trial in front of a judicial committee of Elders. And they order that you’re disfellowshipped, you’re shunned. That means the Witnesses who are friends of yours can’t talk to you anymore. Your family who are Witnesses can’t have you into their home. If a Witness sees you on the street, they can’t even say hello to you. I experienced that myself because when I questioned things at the Kingdom Hall in my talks, they wouldn’t let me give talks anymore. When I questioned from the floor at a microphone….
Ankerberg: Hey, you were an Elder; you were the preacher at one time and then the fact is, you started asking too many questions and so you were parked down there in the congregation and then you weren’t even allowed to ask questions after a while.
Reed: That’s right. And so I began writing articles on some of those questions. When they found that out, they put me on trial and disfellowshipped me.
Ankerberg: Now, what did that mean to you in terms of family, friends, work, the whole shooting match?
Reed: Well, in my case, my family members had already been disfellowshipped. My mother and my sister were caught in the change in the smoking doctrine, and when they ruled smoking a disfellowshipped offense, they were both thrown out of the organization, so most of my family was out. The rest of my family happily didn’t cut me off, but instead left along with me.
Ankerberg: Lorri, did that happen to you?
MacGregor: My experience was, I asked honest-hearted questions of the Elders. I wanted to know how they explained that Jesus was Michael, because I got to the point I just couldn’t see it anymore. One of the Elders banged his fist on the Bible and said, “If the Watchtower Society says Jesus Christ is Michael the archangel, then that’s who he is, and don’t ask any more questions!”
The other one said, “If you continue to pursue this questioning, you will be disfellowshipped.”
And they were as good as their word. I continued to ask questions and they did disfellowship me. So when I was disfellowshipped—I thought it was kind of cute—the announcement they made at the Kingdom Hall finally was, I was disfellowshipped for “conduct unbefitting a Christian.” I guess it’s unbefitting of a Christian to ask honest-hearted questions.
After I was disfellowshipped, not too long after, I was walking along the street and two former brothers were holding up the magazines, and I knew them very well, had known them for many years. I went up to them to say hello, and to my amazement, their formerly friendly faces contorted with hatred and they turned away from me. And so I had no choice. I had my two small children with me. I just walked further on up the street. What I didn’t know was that a woman who was studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses was coming along the street behind and she saw them spit on the ground behind me. That’s how “Christian love” can turn to hate if the organization decides that you are disfellowshipped. The happy ending is that she discontinued her study with Jehovah’s Witnesses and came to Christ later on.
Ankerberg: Let me ask—this is just a general question to any of you on the stage— somebody in the audience said to me that when her daughter was disfellowshipped, she was a JW in good standing, and she was told that she could not pray for her own daughter who was now wayward. Is that true? How about the other thing, if that’s true, if you couldn’t even pray, that caught her attention, can’t God do something about these people that go wayward and have questions? The other one is, were you taught to actually “hate” the person that was disfellowshipped? David?
Reed: Yes. Disfellowshipped people are viewed as pretty much the lowest of the low. The absolute lowest are the ones that are called apostates who actually go on and speak against the Watchtower organization. And, of course, I….
MacGregor: We all qualified!
Ankerberg: What did you do when you saw that Jesus in the New Testament said that we’re to love not only our friends, but we’re to love even our enemies, not hate anybody?
Reed: That’s what helped my wife and me to wake up. We saw changes in this disfellowshipping doctrine. In 1974 they said that Jesus wouldn’t treat a man of the nations or a tax collector that badly. We thought that was great. Well, in 1981 they reversed the teaching and told us to go ahead and hate those people and not talk to them anymore —exactly what they said was un-Christ-like before. And that helped my wife and myself to start reexamining our beliefs.
Ankerberg: Duane, many times you have seen the disastrous effects of disfellowshipping in the lives of people. Give me a couple of illustrations.
Magnani: Well, as David was talking about, the saddest thing, I think, in a disfellowshipping or shunning situation is that a parent can actually hate their own child. I had a situation I can recall when a young girl came over to our place, and she had been kicked out of her home by her mother because the sister had left Jehovah’s Witnesses voluntarily and this young 14-year-old kid wanted to know why her sister left. She loved her sister. Her mother said, “You can’t go over there! Don’t go over there. There will be dire consequences.” She went anyway because she was so curious. When she was at her sister’s house, the mother had a postman deliver a Death Certificate to the child. A 14-year-old kid. Alright? And I met with this little girl and we talked about Jesus and she could see the other side. That’s the good part of it. But I don’t know if they ever got together again, John.
Ankerberg: Yes. Horror stories, just horror stories. And yet, Joan, when I heard your story the first time, I don’t think anything’s ever topped it. You broke my heart when I heard how you and Bill, here you were up at the headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, and Bill was answering questions for the Watchtower for a whole quarter of the United States. And you are working there and then you started to question, and as a result of your questioning, it split you off from your own wonderful mother and father. Tell us a little bit about that.
Cetnar: Well, we were already married at the time that we actually were disfellowshipped —actually, he was disfellowshipped first. We were living in a home that my parents owned. He was working for my father. And when we decided that we were not going to make a move to come back to the organization when he was disfellowshipped, they just asked us to leave the house and find another job, because “you’re not welcome here anymore.” And we ended up in California where, happily, we met the Lord and were saved and came back to Pennsylvania in 1975. What is interesting now is, I live only a half mile away from the home that I was asked to leave. I often see my sister and my mother in the grocery store or in some other store, and they don’t see me. I was at my father’s funeral and it was like I was invisible. People just looked through me, because they’re obeying the organization feeling that they’re obeying God. And I love them. I love my mother. I pray for her and my sister, and all the rest of my family that are still Jehovah’s Witnesses, because I know they are deceived and that they just need to know that the organization is not going to come through with the promises that it has made for their salvation. There is only one way and that’s Jesus, not an organization.
Ankerberg: In essence, what you have is an organization that in the name of God is giving false teaching and to cover it up and protect that, the people that ask questions that might discover that are kicked out. And you’re to hate those people and you’re told not to talk to them, not to fellowship with them—that’s why it’s called disfellowshipping. And in terms of your mom and dad, you see them in the store….
Cetnar: It has been 35 years. I’ve been in this home since 1975, and none of my family has ever set foot in my house. That’s mind control.
Ankerberg: That’s mind control. And for the person that’s facing that, Joan, how in the world did you face that and how do you keep on facing that? How do you bear up underneath that? Where did you get the strength?
Cetnar: Well, at first it was strength that we derived from one another because we did not know Jesus at that time. We just knew that we were going to stay together no matter what. But when we did come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, I forgave everything that ever happened. I could not hold that against them anymore. And he gave me a love in my heart for them and for all Jehovah’s Witnesses. I can’t hate them.
Ankerberg: David, wrap this up for us. If somebody wants to know how to start a relationship with Jesus for real, they’ve been reading even their Interlinear of their New World Translation or their New World Translation itself and God himself has shown them even in that distorted version the fact of the truth about Christ—that he is actually God —don’t understand it, don’t comprehend all of that, but the fact is, he’s God, he died and paid for our sins, and he is offering Heaven to everybody, how would you suggest to somebody to come into a relationship with him that’s scared to death out there listening to us right now?
Reed: Well, I think they have to stop looking to the Watchtower and start looking to the Bible. I shunned my own mother when the organization told me to do that, even though the Bible said to “honor your father and your mother.” Witnesses have to learn to put the Bible above the Watchtower. And by putting the Bible above the Watchtower, they can see that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Their organization called itself “the truth.” Well, Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t in the truth. The Truth is Jesus and they need to transfer their loyalty from that organizational headquarters to Jesus Christ because he will lead them to the Father.
Ankerberg: Yes. Put your trust in him. He’s the Savior.
Next week we’re going to talk about blood transfusions and how this has actually killed people in the name of truth. And we’re also going to find out, if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, you’re going to find out that even that—you might have sacrificed a son or a daughter in years past—you’ll be shocked to find out that is changing as well. We’re going to talk about that next week.

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