Former Jehovah’s Witnesses Testify – Program 1

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Bill Cetnar, Joan Cetnar, Helen Ortega, Ken Oakley, Debbie Oakley; ©1982
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that their leaders are prophets who speak God’s message to the world today. What evidence do they give for this claim?


Bill Cetnar. For more than 25 years he was a Jehovah’s Witness. He rose in the Brooklyn Headquarters of the Watchtower Society until he was given the responsibility to answer all questions submitted by people south of the Mason-Dixon line. He worked with the president of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He looked into doctrinal questions. He found out how the Jehovah’s Witnesses New World Translation of the Bible was really put together and who the unnamed translators were. He will explain what evidence made him come to believe that he had been deceived.
Joan Cetnar. One of the heirs to the S. S. Kresge family. Joan worked in the Brooklyn Headquarters where she observed first-hand the president and other leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She will tell why she became disillusioned and what convinced her to believe Jesus is God. Her conviction cost her an inheritance which would have made her a millionaire.
Helen Ortega. Helen was raised in a Jehovah’s Witness home. She married a Jehovah’s Witness. She conducted 13 Bible studies each week and still had time to go door to door telling people about her faith. Helen came to believe that she was one of the “special” 144,000 chosen elect and publicly announced this to her Kingdom Hall. Then one day she read something in her Bible that changed her whole life. She will be sharing that information and the events that followed.
Debbie & Ken Oakley. Debbie grew up in the Ortega home where she was taught the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She listened to her mother testify of her conviction that she was one of the 144,000 elect. Debbie and Ken married, and Ken became an elder in the local Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall. But then one day Debbie found out that the Watchtower Society leaders had told her husband that he was to disfellowship her mother from the Jehovah’s Witnesses Society. Why and what happened is what Ken and Debbie will tell us as well as what convinced them that all their lives they had been deceived about Jesus.

Program 1: Former Jehovah’s Witnesses Testify
Does the Watchtower Society Claim to Speak for God?

John Ankerberg: Tonight we are going to do a program with folks that know quite a bit about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can remember back some months ago when we did a debate with the leaders in Kansas City. Our folks on the platform tonight have probably over 100 years of experience, with their families included, of actually living in the Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine. Some of them have been in the highest echelons of the leadership of the Watchtower Society. And I would like to ask you folks in beginning this program exactly who do the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be?
Bill Cetnar: Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be God’s prophet. In the April l, 1972 Watchtower, of which I have a photo. The question is propounded, Who is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society? And it says, “Identifying The Prophet.” They claim to be “The Prophet” of Jehovah God. In other words, what they say comes from God. In fact, the president of Jehovah’s Witnesses in a courtroom when asked who was the editor of the Watchtower Magazine, and here we have a photograph of the court transcript, and he says, “The editor of the Watchtower is Jehovah God.”
Ankerberg: So in other words, the Watchtower Society is the direct spokesman or, spokes-organization if you want, for the very words of God.
Bill Cetnar: That’s right. That’s a lot of authority. That’s the highest position a person or an organization can have.
Ankerberg: How long have they been making that claim?
Bill Cetnar: Here is the photo of the first president of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, who made it through the seventh grade. And he says that he is the angel of Laodicea spoken of in Revelation 3. He is God’s channel of communication. God’s spokesman and he is God’s prophet. And that he is the “faithful and wise servant” spoken of in Matthew 24. Jesus merely asked the question and he volunteered.
Ankerberg: When did the Jehovah’s Witnesses actually begin?
Bill Cetnar: Jehovah’s Witnesses began in 1874 with the announcement that Jesus would be here, visibly in 1874. In 1875 Charles Taze Russell was a little upset because Jesus didn’t show up when he told Him to come.
Ankerberg: What did he say?
Bill Cetnar: So for about two years he didn’t know what to say and then he met a man by the name of Barber. And Mr. Barber, who never studied Greek, told Mr. Russell that there is a word in the Bible parousia. Now neither of these men knew anything about Greek and they were explaining Greek to each other. And they came up with a definition that the word parousia means presence, so that Jesus really did come in 1874, you just can’t see him. And so that started the excitement and the new Watchtower that was born in 1879 with the headline, “Christ’s Presence is Here.” It violates Matthew, the last sentence in Matthew, where Jesus says, “I will be with you always.” [Matt. 28:20] But according to the Watchtower, Jesus really did come in 1874, invisibly.
Ankerberg: Okay, today are they still making the same claims? I mean, they said they were the spokesperson for God and they have made some claims that didn’t come true. Are they still saying that they are the only ones that have the true religion, the only way to God?
Helen Ortega: Absolutely! They do.
Ankerberg: What’s the evidence that they are saying that?
Joan Cetnar: Okay. In the 1965 Watchtower, July 1, he says, “He (that is speaking of God) does not impart his Holy Spirit and an understanding and appreciation of His Word apart from his visible organization.” So this is the spokespaper of the Watchtower organization, the Watchtower magazine.
Ankerberg: Watchtower magazine is actually a doctrinal organ.
Joan Cetnar: Right.
Ankerberg: Is that correct?
Bill Cetnar: It was written by Jehovah God.
Ankerberg: Now, do the Jehovah’s Witnesses actually hold that the Bible is the authority or is it the Jehovah’s Witnesses magazine with the Bible?
Helen Ortega: I have a friend, her name is Charlene, and she was a very zealous Jehovah’s Witness. And when she saw things weren’t going according to the Bible, some of the things, the circuit servant that travels around asked her if she had the Bible on one hand and the Watchtower magazine on the other and the magazine said something a little contrary to the Bible, which would she choose, and she said the Bible. And she was disfellowshipped for that.
Ankerberg: What does the word mean to be disfellowshipped?
Helen Ortega: That means that you are completely taken out of the organization and no one speaks to you and you are just dead. Spiritually dead.
Bill Cetnar: Dismembered.
Helen Ortega: Dismembered, Yes. Excommunicated is a good word.
Joan Cetnar: You are not allowed to have fellowship with anyone of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and they are not allowed to have fellowship with you.
Helen Ortega: Right!
Joan Cetnar: Eating with you, come into your home. Even speak to you and say “Hello” if they should meet you on the street.
Helen Ortega: And this includes families.
Joan Cetnar: You become a dead person.
Ankerberg: So, let me get this straight now. So through the Watchtower magazine, they are making the claims that they are the only organization that gives the true word from God. Alright. Now, that comes from where, the Watchtower magazine?
Bill Cetnar: It is really edited by the president of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ankerberg: Who is now?
Bill Cetnar: Fred W. Franz.
Ankerberg: Alright, and he gives it out completely or does a group of editors?
Bill Cetnar: Yes, there is a group of editors, but they have to agree with Freddie Franz who talks to angels. He has been talking to angels since about 1920.
Ankerberg: Where does he say that?
Bill Cetnar: He says it in Watchtower magazines, he says it in Watchtower publications and prior to Freddie it was Judge Rutherford, who was never a judge. He also claimed to talk to angels and so did Charles Taze Russell. Now this is a typical sign of all the prophets who are in existence on earth today and who have been in our generation who all speak to God.
Ankerberg: So the president is actually considered to be the prophet right now. The spokesman for God through that organization, and the believers down below must follow that light.
Bill Cetnar: He has established a scapegoat prophet in that he says that all the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are part of 144,000 – the remnant of the 144,000 – are this prophet. But this group has never gotten together at any place to vote on any prophecy.
Helen Ortega: And not only that, I was a part of that group and because I expressed myself that I didn’t agree with some of those. In fact, there was quite a few of us that didn’t agree. We were disfellowshiped. So if we were part of it why didn’t we have the opportunity to express ourselves?
Bill Cetnar: Did you ever come up with any prophecies?
Helen Ortega: No, just that they were wrong.
Bill Cetnar: So these people who are part of the 144,000 have no voice.
Helen Ortega: That’s right.
Bill Cetnar: In fact, should they express their voice they would be dismembered from an organization that has no members.
Helen Ortega: That’s right. That is the claim, there is no membership.
Ankerberg: Alright, what else do the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim?
Bill Cetnar: Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that there is only one right religion. Now this is a photograph of the Watchtower February 15, 1955. It says there is only one right religion and that religion is the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ankerberg: What if somebody doesn’t belong to the Watchtower Society or the Kingdom Hall?
Bill Cetnar: Well, they are part of the Devil’s organization.
Helen Ortega: That’s right.
Bill Cetnar: All of the pastors, all of the ministers, all of your Bible schools are all an abomination in the sight of God.
Ankerberg: What is going to happen to all the people that are not a part of the Watchtower Society?
Bill Cetnar: They are going to be exterminated.
Helen Ortega: Destroyed at Armageddon.
Bill Cetnar: October 1, 1975.
Ankerberg: But that is post and we are all sitting here so…
Helen Ortega: They made a mistake.
Ankerberg: Where does it say that?
Bill Cetnar: In the August 15, 1968 Watchtower it tells all Jehovah’s Witnesses – now this is 1968 – they are telling all Jehovah’s Witnesses to look forward to 1975. But they also told them to look forward to 1874, 1879, 1881, 1914, 1918, 1925 and now they have that new disease called “loss of memory.” They can’t remember ever saying anything about any date for Jesus to come. And here it is in their publication.
Ankerberg: What did they say was going to happen in 1975?
Bill Cetnar: That the earth would be “exfumigated” of everybody other than Jehovah’s Witnesses. So you must get into the ark with Noah and all of the animals before 1975.
Helen Ortega: Into the organization.
Joan Cetnar: It was through chronology that they arrived at that date. They claimed that mankind will only be upon this earth for 6,000 years. There has to be 7,000 year period in which the 1,000 year reign of Christ has to come so they said that 1975, October 1, would be the end of 6,000 years of man’s existence. So, according to their own chronology Armageddon should have come before that so that the millennium could begin then.
Bill Cetnar: Mr. Franz apologized for 1975 because a lot of people sold their homes, ran up their MasterCard and cashed in their life insurance policies, and because they wouldn’t need anything, they just liked to leave a bill for 1976. He has come up with a new date however, in the last graduating class of Gilead. Gilead is missionaries that they send out every six months, and he intimated several times that the world is going to end prior to 1988.
Ankerberg: Okay, now, Bill, why don’t you tell the folks what your position has been in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Bill Cetnar: I was born at a very early age to two Jehovah’s Witnesses. And I grew up through the organization, starting out with short pants knocking on people’s homes and asking them do they have an immortal soul. One lady said, “What?” I said, “Do you have an immortal soul?” She says she didn’t know for sure, and I told her that she didn’t have an immortal soul, and she says, “Oh, yes I do.” I said, “Ezekiel 18:4 says you don’t have an immortal soul.” Well, as I grew up through high school and finished high school by refusing to salute the flag, refusing to eat anything cooked in aluminum pots, refusing to get married, refusing to smoke, chew tobacco, or get drunk.
Helen Ortega: Or celebrate Christmas.
Bill Cetnar: Celebrate Christmas, or Easter, not allowed to vote, or serve on the jury duty. When I was 17-years-old I was invited by the president of Jehovah’s Witnesses to work in God’s visible, theocratic organization, which, to the Watchtower, is the “secret place.” In Matthew 24:26 Jesus says that these false prophets will have a “secret place.” That means that they are going to be able to go to a place so that they could talk to angels to get information, superhuman information. And then 1950 is when I entered the “secret place,” which is 124 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York. No secret anymore.
Ankerberg: And how long were you there?
Bill Cetnar: Eight and a half years. My first job was washing dishes. The second one, on the next day, was being a waiter, handing food to the president of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to the legal counsel. Making hot coffee for them. And then within about a year I was working in the Service Department. Now the Service Department is where you answer questions. My section was the Mason-Dixon Line south through Texas. That would include Tennessee. So people in this area who would be asking, from the Kingdom Halls, questions or if they were disfellowshipping, someone who was disfellowshipped, they had a supreme court to go to. I at the age of 20 was answering marital problems, and questions from the headquarters because information from heaven by angels somehow permeated my brain, went down the spinal column, around the elbow onto my fingertips through the typewriter.
Ankerberg: And what you typed went into the presses and when it came out in the Watchtower magazines, through the materials that were printed, at that point it was God’s truth.
Bill Cetnar: Right. The Service Department in 1952 was located on the 9th floor. We would have editorial meetings as to what was going to be in the next issue of a little internal magazine called Kingdom Ministry and I remember one time we were discussing something and it got into a little bit of an argument. Mr. Knorr at that time who was the president got up from his chair walked over to the door and he says, “You can argue about it here as long as you want to. Once you get it thrashed out and it comes off the 6th floor (the 6th floor is the printing press) once it is off the printing press,” he says, “it is the truth.” He made it very short. Once it is off the 6th floor it is the Truth.
Ankerberg: Alright, we want to find out the other positions that you folks held, and I want to ask you gals something that came through my mind while you were talking, Bill, was the fact that, I know you and Joan are married, if marriage was forbidden of everybody, how in the world did you get married?
Bill Cetnar: The Watchtower very clearly came out and said in 1938 that we were not to marry.
Ankerberg: Everybody was not to marry?
Bill Cetnar: No one was allowed to marry. Of course, that is a fulfillment of the prophecy made by the apostle Paul to Timothy where he said that the false prophets would forbid marriage. In the November 1, 1938 Watchtower it says, “Should they marry? No is the answer supported by the Scriptures.” Now in 1952 the president of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Nathan Homer Knorr, married. So I…
Ankerberg: Just out of the blue just got married?
Bill Cetnar: No direct instructions from heaven. It just happened. So since he married, we thought it would be all right if the president married that we could marry. So I asked Joan if she would marry me.
Ankerberg: Joan, how many years have you been a Jehovah’s Witness?
Joan Cetnar: All my life. In fact, it was the only religion in our family for four generations. My great grandmother began with the ministry of Pastor Russell and it passed down through four generations. And as it passed down it intensified till my father and mother were very, very active; began the congregation that is in our area of Pennsylvania and I grew up believing it was the only right religion; it was the truth; it was God speaking through that organization. And I wouldn’t of thought of questioning any of the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I accepted them as the truth and I felt I had enough scriptural proof to believe that that was true.
Ankerberg: What was the thing that then started you doubting?
Joan Cetnar: I dedicated my life at age 13 by water baptism to Jehovah, and I did love Jehovah very much. To me He was only God. And I, therefore, wanted to devote my life to Him and consequently I ended up at Watchtower headquarters also in 1954 and spent four years there. And that is where I met Bill. And it was while I was there, where I felt there should be an intensity of love because this is where the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses are, I saw just the opposite. I saw a lack of love toward brothers in the organization. I even felt it many cases myself – I thought unjustifiably so. And also as we began to talk the thing that we talked together about as we planned to get married was what about blood transfusion. And I found that Bill questioned their doctrine of blood transfusion as I also did. I did not feel that this was something that was taught in God’s Word.
Ankerberg: What do the Witnesses hold about blood transfusion?
Bill Cetnar: We have a little of an advantage because in 1952 the Watchtower forbade smallpox vaccination. Well, Joan when she was about to go to first grade, her parents took her to a so-called doctor, really a doctor, and he put acid on Joan’s leg, burned a hole in her leg to simulate a smallpox vaccination. Well, when I was at the Watchtower headquarters and I was supposed to answer a question as to how do we support it in the Bible that you are not to have a smallpox vaccination. I went to a firm that makes smallpox vaccine. Now we were told you are “cow-inating” man, you are taking cow’s blood, putting cow’s blood into it and inoculating man. But they (the firm) said it is made out of eggs. No blood at all. And so what do you know, God changed His mind on April 14, 1952: all Jehovah’s Witnesses can now have a smallpox vaccination.
Ankerberg: How about blood transfusion?
Bill Cetnar: At that time is when Jehovah’s Witnesses, their president, made the edict that anybody who does take a blood transfusion will now be excommunicated from Jehovah’s Witnesses. And they base it on Acts 15:20, 29, don’t drink blood. And Mark 7:15 tells us nothing that goes into the mouth defiles a man. We knew that the Bible teaches, that blood is not sacred, it is what it signifies or what it is a symbol for and that is life. Life is what is sacred. God, Jesus, even while on earth said that if an animal falls in a ditch and his life is at stake on the Sabbath, get him out. [Luke 14.5] So life is sacred. Not a pint of blood.
Ankerberg: Okay, we are going to come back to this blood transfusion, but that was one of the things that started you doubting?
Joan Cetnar: Well, because of their change on vaccination which was just as strongly taught as blood transfusion is today, I felt now that I could question their blood transfusion edict, because in this case it is a life not just a vaccination. And one thing led to another so that after we were married about four years, we had to come to a decision, not in our own family but in someone else’s by giving counsel to them. The Watchtower headquarters heard about our giving counsel. But just to let the doctor decide in the case of this child whether or not it should have blood transfusion because we questioned the Watchtower Society and its authority, we were disfellowshipped. Bill first and then me.
Bill Cetnar: John, this brings up the real point, one of the reasons for our program. Here I would like to express for all of us. We really love Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Joan Cetnar: Oh, yes.
Bill Cetnar: We used to be Jehovah’s Witnesses, we know what dedication they have. There are today approximately 1,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses being killed on earth weekly because of blood transfusion.
Ankerberg: So they really believe it?
Joan Cetnar: Oh, yes!
Bill Cetnar: Jehovah’s Witnesses are the number one killer cult right now.
Ankerberg: Helen, I want to know how long were you a Jehovah’s Witness and why was it that you came out.
Helen Ortega: Well, I was a Jehovah’s Witness for 20 years. I started questioning after reading the first literature, Russell’s literature, Rutherford’s literature, which we were not encouraged to read. But I started reading it and then I started comparing prophecies that they gave then to the prophecies that were being prophesied at the present date.
Ankerberg: What did you find out?
Helen Ortega: I found out that they had many, many false prophecies. And it just took the whole foundation and swept it out from under me.
Ankerberg: Such as?
Helen Ortega: Well, for instance, in 1925 they said the princes were coming back and they built this home in San Diego, California, for the princes to come back.
Ankerberg: Who were the princes?
Helen Ortega: The princes were Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, anyone of renown and they were supposed to come back and be princes upon the earth.
Ankerberg: Literally, they were supposed to come back?
Helen Ortega: Yes, literally.
Ankerberg: And where were they going to live?
Helen Ortega: They were going to live in San Diego.
Ankerberg: It would have made the value of the land go up there.
Helen Ortega: That’s right. And they waited, and they waited, and they never came back, so finally Rutherford started to live there.
Bill Cetnar: They filled the place with marble furniture.
Helen Ortega: Oh, yes, it was all ready.
Bill Cetnar: Then Judge Rutherford moved in.
Ankerberg: They actually said that would happen?
Helen Ortega: Yes, they tried to deed it to David, but they couldn’t do it, and the princes. That’s true.
Ankerberg: So did they actually buy a house out there then?
Helen Ortega: They built it, yes.
Joan Cetnar: They deeded it to David.
Ankerberg: Is it still standing now?
Helen Ortega: As far as I know it is.
Bill Cetnar: A Chinese doctor owns it now. They purchased it after Abraham refused to show up.
Ankerberg: Abraham didn’t show?
Helen Ortega: Yes, that is right.
Joan Cetnar: It was named Beth Sarim, House of Princes.
Helen Ortega: Yes.
Bill Cetnar: John, the point that we are trying to make is that Jesus in Matthew 7:15 said, “Beware of false prophets who are going to come to you,” how? All dressed up like Christians, sheep, but they are killers, they are “ravenous wolves.” Deuteronomy 18:21-22 tells us how we can recognize someone who is not speaking for Jehovah. If he says that he is speaking for Jehovah and if he says a word that does not come to true, or come to pass, “the prophet has spoken presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.” This gives us courage now to say, “Hey, you said that millions now living will never die; Abraham will be here; we can confidently expect Abraham to be here in 1925.” In 1926 we can say, “Hey, fellow you are a false prophet, the one that Jesus predicted.”
Ankerberg: Okay, we have got lots more that we want to talk about and we are going to continue this next week. I hope that you will join us.

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