Former Jehovah’s Witnesses Testify – Program 2

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Bill Cetnar, Joan Cetnar, Helen Ortega, Ken Oakley, Debbie Oakley; ©1982
Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that they are the only right religion on earth, and a place of safety against God’s wrath. Why would someone want to leave the organization?


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 2: Former Jehovah’s Witnesses Testify
What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?

Ankerberg: Some time ago we did a program with the leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many questions came out of that discussion. Tonight on our program I have five guests that, if you were to combine the experience that they have had living as Jehovah’s Witnesses, we figured it up that there would be more than 120 years of experience that they have had as Jehovah’s Witnesses. And I would like to ask you folks for some quick remarks to open up our program tonight about the Jehovah’s Witnesses that might help us understand what they are saying. First of all would you tell me, what are the claims of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? What do they claim? Could you just give me some statements about that?
Bill Cetnar: John, I believe the most important thing that Jehovah’s Witnesses claim is that they are God’s prophet; they are God’s spokesman. They are speaking for God.
Ankerberg: Are they the only one?
Bill Cetnar: And that they are the only right religion on earth.
Ankerberg: Alright, what else are they saying?
Helen Ortega: They also claim that they are the “faithful and discreet slave” that dispense spiritual food in due season and you can only get it through them.
Debbie Oakley: They also claim they are the “place of safety.” The only place where you can be when God’s wrath comes upon the world.
Joan Cetnar: The “sole channel of truth” on the earth today, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
Ken Oakley: That’s what I get for being last, I was thinking the same thing: that they claim to know more about the accuracy of the Bible than any organization today.
Joan Cetnar: The only ones with an accurate knowledge.
Ankerberg: Alright, if you were to say that theirs is the only translation of the Bible, do they point people to the Bible only?
Bill Cetnar: Every Jehovah’s Witness carries a Bible with him. If he is working in the Catholic neighborhood it will be a Douay translation, or an American translation. However, eventually they will switch you to their perversion of the Bible which I call the “Green Phantom.” It is a phantom because nobody knows who translated it and it is green.
Ankerberg: Alright, is their authority only the Scripture then?
Bill Cetnar: They claim that the Bible is the only authority, and then when you come in because of that Bible principle, they exchange it for the authority of their president or organization.
Ankerberg: Okay, that is what they are claiming. And if we said there was more than 120 years that you have actually participated as a Jehovah’s Witness in that, may I ask you this question, do you folks still believe that now?
Bill Cetnar: Absolutely not. Not anymore.
Joan Cetnar: No.
Ankerberg: Alright, let me ask you folks this, if you are saying that the Watchtower Society, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only way to God, that is what they were saying, and you participated in that most of your adult life, why is it that you changed your mind?
Bill Cetnar: The basic reason that I changed my mind was that Jehovah’s Witnesses claimed to be speaking for God. The Bible says that if you are speaking for God, the prophecies that you make, the statements that you make have to be absolutely true. They have to happen. Jehovah’s Witnesses announced the end of the world for 1874, 1879, 1881, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975 and now they display that new disease called “loss of memory.” They can’t remember ever predicting the end of the world.
Ankerberg: Give me an example that documented it.
Bill Cetnar: I have with me a copy of the Watchtower magazine, August 15, 1968. It says, “Why are you looking forward to 1975?”
Ankerberg: And why were they?
Bill Cetnar: Because they said that the world would end prior to October 1, 1975, because the 6,000 years of man’s existence will end in October and Armageddon has to come before the last 1,000 year period.
Ankerberg: Are you talking about a spiritual ending or a real solid everybody disappear?
Bill Cetnar: No, I am talking about fumigation of the earth, of everybody but Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ankerberg: They actually said that?
Bill Cetnar: Absolutely!
Ankerberg: And the Kingdom Halls, were they expecting that? Had it up on the wall, mark this date, this is going to happen?
Ken Oakley: Well, I remember back that far, too, when we were at the Kingdom Hall in California. During that time there was a thermometer on the back door of the Kingdom Hall and it was marking the months till October 1, 1975 when, like Bill had said, 6,000 years of human existence would come to an end, marking the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ. And, in fact, the battle of Armageddon when all wickedness would be done away with. So it was continually in front of us at every meeting, at every gathering. It was always right there, it was always preached from the platform. 1975 is the date: be faithful to the Society.
Ankerberg: Alright, in Deuteronomy 18, everybody that looks at their Bible realizes there is a definition of a true and a false prophet that is given there. Refresh our memories on what it actually says.
Bill Cetnar: You always need two witnesses to establish a matter. One is Deuteronomy 18:21-22, John, that you mentioned. This is a clear definition. If you want to know the answer to this question, if you are sincere, how may I know a word that does not come from YHWH? “If a prophet speaks in the authority, the name of YHWH and if a word does not come true or come to pass, the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him.” Jesus also said in Matthew 7:15, you will recognize the false prophets by their fruit. The fruit of a false prophet has to be false prophecy.
Ankerberg: The word that you are spelling out for people, YHWH. Tell us what that means.
Bill Cetnar: The tetragrammaton is the four-lettered word that refers to God. In Hebrew it means I AM, that He is the eternal one.
Ankerberg: YHWH, and that is translated in, by the Jehovah’s Witnesses as?
Bill Cetnar: Well, they claim to be the most accurate knowledge religion and yet everything about them is false, including the word Jehovah. That can be documented easily by opening the Collegiate Dictionary and looking up the word “Jehovah.” It says, “A false reading of God’s name.” If you don’t like the Collegiate Dictionary, use the Merriam-Webster. If you don’t like the Merriam-Webster, the New Catholic. If you don’t like the New Catholic use the Britannica. If you don’t like the Britannica, us the Americana. If you don’t like the Americana, use a Jewish encyclopedia. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia says “Jehovah” makes no sense at all in Hebrew.
Ankerberg: Okay, why would the King James use it?
Bill Cetnar: Accidently it got in there four times: in Exodus, Isaiah, and in Psalms two times.
Ankerberg: Okay, coming back to this thing of being a true or false prophet, what is the criteria then?
Bill Cetnar: Alright, the test of a prophet is if he says he got the message from God and it is false, he is a false prophet. [Deut.18:21-22] You don’t even need that message from God. That’s just plain.
Ankerberg: How do we know it is false?
Bill Cetnar: If it doesn’t happen. .
Ankerberg: Okay, if it doesn’t happen, …
Bill Cetnar: Alright, they said that Abraham would be here in 1925 and he would live in San Diego. They built him a house.
Ankerberg: Run that by me again.
Bill Cetnar: In the book, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, page 89, it says, “We can confidently expect the return of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” They built a house for them in San Diego. I even slept there. Can you imagine?
Ankerberg: Wait, we just got to get this straight. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Old Testament, they were going to come back from the dead?
Bill Cetnar: Yes. All of these men who lived prior to John the Baptist, starting from John the Baptist back to Adam, they were all supposed to arrive in San Diego.
Ankerberg: Why would they come back and go live in San Diego?
Helen Ortega: They are going to be princes in all the earth.
Ankerberg: They were going to be the princes. What does that mean?
Bill Cetnar: The earth was going to be fumigated of everybody except the princes and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ankerberg: When was that to take place?
Bill Cetnar: Well, eight different times.
Ankerberg: Eight different times?
Bill Cetnar: The one that we are talking about is 1925. And they actually built a home for Abraham, filled it with mahogany furniture. And Judge Rutherford moved in when Abraham refused to show up.
Joan Cetnar: John, one of the things that Deuteronomy says, not only that it “come to pass,” but “come true”. They have to say things that are true. And for a long time they said this home called Beth Sarim, house of princes, in San Diego was for the faithful men of old mentioned in Hebrews 11. Then in their 1975 Yearbook, they didn’t even mention anything about princes. They said this house was built for Judge Rutherford, for him to go as a home away from Brooklyn.
Ankerberg: What did you folks, when you were in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, when you got this in one statement and year or two later or even a couple months later, the thing changes, what did you think?
Bill Cetnar: Joan and I were born into the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion. In fact, Joan’s parents lived through 1925 and 1914. And when we began reading the old books in the attic, Joan says, “Mom, you were selling this book from house to house telling people the world was going to end in 1925 and Abraham would be here.” She says, “Yes, but we didn’t believe it.” No, not in 1926, but you believed it in 1923 and 1922, 1918. Our own parents lied to us. They actually lied to us. I said, “Dad, did we ever announce an end of the world for 1914?” And they said, “We did not do it.”
Ankerberg: Give me another prophecy that is documented that would be evidence that what you saying is true. In other words today a false prophet.
Bill Cetnar: In the book The Truth Shall Make You Free, page 285, it says, “that man will never by airplane or rocket ever get up above the air envelope which is about our earthly globe and in which man breathes.”
Ankerberg: When was that written?
Bill Cetnar: 1943.
Ankerberg: 1943. What did they say when man hit the moon?
Helen Ortega: Not much.
Bill Cetnar: They forgot about The Truth Shall Make You Free.
Ankerberg: How many prophecies are in their literature that are like that that have been conveniently forgotten?
Bill Cetnar: Over 100 that I have documented.
Ankerberg: Where have you documented it? Have you got this literature someplace?
Bill Cetnar: We have a publication that Joan and I helped write: We Left Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Non-prophet Organization. They claim to be a non-profit organization, we corrected their spelling a little. In it we photographed the false prophecies made by Jehovah’s Witnesses and how they corrected them after they failed. In fact, a Jehovah’s Witness will sell you a book, originally it said the world was going to end before 1914, after 1914, same edition, they took out “before” and put in “after.” Isn’t that a fantastic book? Did anybody come here tonight not knowing the world was going to end after 1914? Why buy the book for fifty cents that will tell you the same thing? Jehovah’s Witnesses have to cover their past, their behind. They are ashamed of it. And they have to. Every false prophet has to do it.
Ankerberg: Alright, Ken.
Ken Oakley: We are constantly told about the Old Light/New Light, and “Old Light” meaning something that they believed back in Rutherford’s time or Russell’s time and “New Light” being the way they believe now. And what they’re saying is that what they thought was the truth then really wasn’t the truth so they went from “Old Light” to the “New Light” which is getting lighter…
Debbie Oakley: …and brighter.
Joan Cetnar: We are not encouraged to go into the old publications. We are kept so busy with the New Light because that was the best, and so I never bothered to check on it
Ankerberg: We want to talk about something that you told me on the side that was very interesting. Bill, you were telling me that when you came into the Jehovah’s Witnesses they had a rule that stated that you could not marry. Obviously you and Joan are married. What happened?
Bill Cetnar: I would like to preface that before I answer it with this statement that the president of Jehovah’s Witnesses under oath in a courtroom in New York City was asked, “Who is the editor of the Watchtower magazine?” He said, “Jehovah God.” The Watchtower of 1938, November 1 issue, says, “Should they marry?” Answer, “No, is the answer supported by the Scriptures.” I was eight years old at the time. I remember those days when people were not allowed to marry. Why did Joan and I get married? Because in 1952 the president of Jehovah’s Witnesses obviously violated God’s law by getting married. If the president can get married, I thought us in the lower echelon could also marry in the rank and file. I asked Joan if she would marry me and she said yes.
Ankerberg: In other words, before that time nobody got married, and the thing is, what did the president say? Did he say anything?
Joan Cetnar: Nothing really.
Bill Cetnar: Before that if you were married from 1938 to 1950 it would be on, you would be a weak, lukewarm Jehovah’s Witness. Not willing to give your full energies to selling books for fifty cents. (They cost seven cents to print and you make no profit.)
Helen Ortega: I became a witness in 1950 and I know when I came in there, about a year later there was a girl in our congregation that was pregnant, so I wanted to give her a baby shower and she was thrilled to death. This was her second child, and she said with the first child no one would speak to her through the whole nine months, let alone have a baby shower. She was looked down upon because she got pregnant. So it wasn’t only getting married, if you want to get married, for heaven’s sake don’t have children.
Joan Cetnar: That’s right.
Bill Cetnar: The real reason, John, for prohibiting marriage is to fulfill what the apostles said in 1 Timothy 4:3, that the false prophets would forbid marriage. So it’s just a fulfillment of something that Jesus said 2,000 years ago.
Ankerberg: To be fair to the Witnesses at this point, is it fair to let the president, who apparently, according to that affidavit that you read, can speak for God, can God change His mind?
Bill Cetnar: Evidently God didn’t.
Helen Ortega: Back and forth.
Bill Cetnar: Jesus didn’t change His mind and Jesus didn’t write the Watchtower. Jehovah’s Witnesses’ president did just what he wanted to prove that he is the authority or the prophet for the Watchtower.
Ankerberg: We have a question here.
Audience: When you were a Jehovah’s Witness, how did you view orthodox Christianity?
Bill Cetnar: We were trained, we knew that all religions were of the god of this world, Satan. The colloquial expression. ..
Ankerberg: Run that by us again. Every religion….
Bill Cetnar: Every religion was of Satan. In fact, that is clearly explained in the February 15th issue of the Watchtower, 1955, that categorically takes all the branches of the Christian church and destroys them by saying, “If you believe in the Trinity, number one, you are not God’s religion.” The only right one is Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Helen Ortega: When you get out of being a Jehovah’s Witness you don’t know where to go because your mind is so I’ll say brainwashed to the point that it is very difficult to go right back into another church, even though you know this isn’t true. It is a very difficult situation and it takes a lot of tender loving care.
Bill Cetnar: That’s why their question is, “Where do we go?”
Ankerberg: Let me ask some questions here. Let’s get some background on you, because these folks need to know how much you do know. Bill, tell us a little bit about your background and your rise in the echelons of the Watchtower Society.
Bill Cetnar: I was born at a very early age to two Jehovah’s Witnesses, my mother and father. I would listen to my parents who taught me two things: Number one, the Bible is God’s book; number two, the Watchtower president talks to angels. He gets information directly from heaven and he will interpret, explain the Bible to you.
Ankerberg: Do the society papers, I mean, is the Watchtower magazine actually say that the president talks to angels?
Bill Cetnar: The Watchtower magazine said, “You cannot learn about God through the Bible alone. You must read Watchtower publications and you will learn about God even if you have never read one page out of the Bible But if you read the Watchtower publications you will know about God.”
Ankerberg: So a guy that just got the Bible and not the Watchtower magazine can’t make it?
Bill Cetnar: Can’t make it.
Joan Cetnar and Helen Ortega: That’s right.
Ken Oakley: That’s leaning on your own understanding, and that is forbidden.
Joan Cetnar: Right.
Ankerberg: Let’s go on back, Bill, what else?
Bill Cetnar: My parents taught me those two principal items. I wanted to be with God’s visible, theocratic organization. I wanted to see how the president of Jehovah’s Witnesses holds his fork. He must hold it just right, and so I wanted to work at the Watchtower headquarters, give my whole life to it. And on January 1, 1950, I was invited to work at the Watchtower headquarters. I got a fantastic job washing dishes. And the next day I became a waiter, and in six months I was working in the Watchtower offices, and a year later I was answering questions for one third of the United States, starting at the Mason-Dixon Line, south to Texas.
Now, one of the first questions was, “Is it really a violation of God’s law to have a smallpox vaccination?” Now, I knew the answer to that without looking up any books, because I lived through it. My wife is a fourth generation Jehovah’s Witness whose parents took her to a doctor, in Camden, New Jersey, who took acid and burned a hole in Joan’s leg to simulate a smallpox vaccination and then signed a certificate that she was vaccinated. Joan had to go to school lying to the principal and to the school board and to the teacher that she’d had a smallpox vaccination.
Ankerberg: For people that don’t know, why did the Jehovah’s Witnesses forbid them?
Bill Cetnar: Jehovah’s Witnesses said that the Bible forbids mixing animal blood with human blood. They didn’t even understand what that meant. But they said that you take cow’s blood, put cowpox in it and inject it into the arm. I took a trip to New Jersey where they make smallpox vaccine right after I answered that question. And they said it is made out of eggs. The process is called avianization. I said, “Where is the blood?” They said, “What blood?” I said, “God said there is blood in smallpox vaccine. Where is it?” He said, “Who said it did?” And I said, “God!” And he said, “Well, God forgot to tell us. We have been making it out of eggs.” I went back to the Watchtower and wrote them a memo, and April 14, 1952, God changed His mind. All Jehovah’s Witnesses can now have a smallpox vaccination.
Ankerberg: Now, when you say God changed His mind, that means that you were sitting on that committee that actually made doctrine. You were on what, the 9th floor of the headquarters?
Bill Cetnar: Yes, the 9th floor was the headquarters of the Service Department where we wrote the Kingdom Ministry and answered Bible questions for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ankerberg: How did the Jehovah’s Witnesses look at Brooklyn, by the way?
Bill Cetnar: Brooklyn is the “secret place” mentioned in Matthew 24:26 where Jesus said the false prophets will have a secret place. In other words, they will be able to go to this place to get information directly from heaven via angels. And the Watchtower was looked at as that place where they got information which will explain the Bible.
Ankerberg: And when you gave that information, you came up with that. What did you do? Majority vote? I mean, you went back with that information, who decided?
Bill Cetnar: Mr. Franz, who we had to get in touch with made the final decision after we proved to them that there was no blood in smallpox vaccine.
Ankerberg: And he did and it came out in the presses.
Bill Cetnar: I found out later they didn’t pay any attention to me. The federal government issued a federal law that you must have a smallpox vaccination. The federal government was planning on investigating their doctor who was scratching arms, putting a patch on it and forging certificates that they had a smallpox vaccination.
Ankerberg: Alright. We are going to continue this. God bless you, we will see you next week.

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