What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?/Program 1

By: Joan Cetnar, Brian Garcia, Bob Gray, Keith Walker, and Don Veinot; ©2011
If a Jehovah’s Witness knocked on your door, would you know how to respond to their questions? Most Christians would not. Yet it is critical to understand the vast differences between their beliefs and what the Bible teaches. In this session of The John Ankerberg Show, we will look at some of the basic beliefs regarding this movement, including stories from three former Jehovah’s Witnesses who explain what life was like and how they turned to biblical Christianity.

Contents

Introduction

Today, one out of every 282 Americans is a Jehovah’s Witness. Across the world, 7.5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in 236 countries go door to door preaching the Watchtower message. Who are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and what do they believe? Their headquarters, called the Watchtower, are in Brooklyn, New York. In their publications, the Watchtower claims to be Jehovah’s only channel of communication on earth today; God’s prophet; speaking for God; the only right religion on earth. Yet the Watchtower holds vastly different beliefs than historic Christianity. It has its own Bible, the New World Translation; holds false views of Jesus, Scripture, salvation, and the afterlife; and forbids all Jehovah’s Witnesses from having blood transfusions, celebrating Christmas or Easter, birthdays or holidays. Where did these false beliefs come from? How can you show a Jehovah’s Witness what the Bible really teaches? Today you will find out.

My guests are: Joan Cetnar a former fourth-generation Jehovah’s Witness who served at the Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, where she observed first-hand the President and other leaders. Her husband Bill held the position of answering questions submitted to the Watchtower for one-third of the United States. You’ll hear the shocking story of the doctrinal and behavioral deceptions that caused them to leave, later becoming Christians, and founding a ministry that helps those raised with Watchtower beliefs.

Then, Brian Garcia. He was brought up in a Jehovah’s Witness family, and defended its beliefs in college and on the internet. You’ll hear how a Christian friend helped him understand the message of the true Jesus and the good news of the gospel—that everyone who puts their trust in Jesus, they will go to heaven.

Bob Gray was a Jehovah’s Witness for 24 years and served as an elder in his congregation. He went door to door 100 hours each month. But he came to realize he had no basis in Scripture for what he was teaching, and decided to leave.

And, finally, you will hear from two experts who minister to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Keith Walker, president of Evidence Ministries, and Don Veinot Jr., president of Midwest Christian Outreach. We hope today’s program will help you and others around the world to share the truth with those who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg show.


John Ankerberg: Welcome to our program, we’ve got a great one for you today. Have you ever had a Jehovah’s Witness stop and knock on your door? Did you know what to say to them? Did you wonder what they believed; what they’re going through in their own life? Today, the purpose of our program is, we want to be a friend to Jehovah’s Witnesses who are listening; those who have questions about what they’ve been told. They read their Bibles and they seem to contradict what they’ve been told from the Watchtower Society. Where do they turn?
I hope that you’ll listen, because we’ve got three ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses and two experts that know all about your teachings. And we’re going to talk with them in a moment and find out a little of their background. But we also want to help Christians understand what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe. Many of you, you have relatives that are Jehovah’s Witnesses, or you have friends or neighbors or people that you work with. And it’s time for the Christians to know what to say to people that are their friends that are so sincere about God, but they’ve been deceived in their beliefs. And then, third, we want to show Christians how to answer the questions that the Jehovah’s Witnesses give them. And so, we’ve got a lot to talk about.
And my guests today have already been introduced. We’ve got Brian Garcia, and Joan Cetnar, and we’ve got Bob Gray and Don Veinot and Keith Walker here with us, and you’re going to hear their stories as we go along.
But I’ve started our program today, and I’ve chosen to go with Joan Cetnar. I’ve known Joan for almost 30 years now, and she and her husband were on our program way back when. And then Joan’s been on other programs with Jehovah’s Witness ladies. And the reason, Joan, that I want to come to you on this, is that you’re a fourth generation Jehovah’s Witness. Of course, you found the Lord. But you lived in a Jehovah’s Witness home, and then you went and you worked right at the headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, which is as high as it gets. You were right next to the president of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Your husband answered questions for the Watchtower for a third of the United States. He was involved in the whole blood transfusion ideas—and we’ll talk about that in a moment—and you were involved this smallpox thing; and the forbidding to marry. You have got so much to tell us, and so, let’s start at the beginning. What were your earliest beliefs of the Watchtower in growing up?
Joan Cetnar: I think the thing that my parents wanted to instill in me from the very beginning understanding, was that the Bible is God’s Word, and you can depend on that. But you will not be able to understand it without the publications of the Watchtower Society, because that is God’s organization. It’s the only truth on the earth, the sole channel of communication from God, Jehovah. And, of course, that’s another thing they wanted us to know immediately, is that Jehovah is the only God, and that’s Father.
Ankerberg: Yeah, I remember when you were here, you told me the Watchtower magazine, April 1, 1972, said this, “Does Jehovah have a prophet to help God’s people on earth, to warn of dangers and to declare things to come?” And the answer was, “This prophet was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was a small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as the International Bible Students; today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses.” So, here you have a group that is on earth, and they are the ones that are speaking for God on earth. And that’s what you were told.
Cetnar: We were never told they were a prophet. They used all other kinds of terms to stay away from that, but it was still the same definition. And you were to know that, that they were the ones—when you disobeyed the organization, you’re disobeying God. And that’s a scary thing, so you didn’t question anything that you were told. As long as it was in the Watchtower, it was the truth. And so, going through high school, that meant that I was not allowed to salute the flag; I was not allowed to do the Pledge of Allegiance; couldn’t sing any Christmas carols; couldn’t celebrate any holidays and birthdays of anyone like that. So, we were told these things because this was part of proving to Jehovah that we could be obedient to him.
Ankerberg: How did you get to the Watchtower?
Cetnar: Well, once I graduated from high school, even though I was valedictorian, I was not allowed to go to college. So I had three choices: I could either be a full-time pioneer—put in 100 hours a month; I could go away as a missionary; or I could go to the Watchtower headquarters and serve. And I just chose that because, I thought, there I’m going to be right next to the people who are being,… where the only place the Holy Spirit can come down and tell these people what to do and what to write. It would just be wonderful! And there’s where the Holy Spirit is; the love would be the greatest.
Ankerberg: Yeah. And what did you find out at the Watchtower Society?
Cetnar: Well, unfortunately, that was the opening of disillusionment for me; because I saw the men in authority being cruel to the people that were under them and not loving at all… Not everyone, but many of them.
Ankerberg: You met your husband there, too. Bill.
Cetnar: Yes, I did. And he had already been there four years. And like you had said, he had a position of answering questions for one third of the United States. And that opened a door to him to do some investigation. Because around that same time, they were telling people, in the 40s and the early 50s, that you were not allowed to have a smallpox vaccination. And I, personally, had an experience with that, because my parents took me to a naturopath doctor, and he gave me a scar with acid to look like a vaccination, and signed the certificate that I was vaccinated. And I never was.
Ankerberg: Yeah, because at that time, Bill said that he was told that they were making those vaccinations with cow blood.
Cetnar: Yes.
Ankerberg: And then Bill, actually was sent over there and he actually researched it and found out, the guy says, you, know, “We’re not making it with cow’s blood, we’re making it with eggs. And who told you that it was made with cow blood?” And Bill said, you know, in his way, ”God told me back at the Watchtower.” And he said, “Well, God forgot to tell us, ‘cause we’re doing this with eggs.” So, you started to find out that what they were telling you at the Watchtower, which was supposed to be God’s truth, wasn’t. And then what happened?
Cetnar: Truth doesn’t change, John. If it comes from God, it’s going to remain truth, and thank God for that. But when we realized that they changed on the smallpox vaccination, then blood transfusion: they were going to start coming up with that, and making it an offense whereby you could be disfellowshipped. And that was serious, because now we knew people were going to lose their lives.
Ankerberg: Yeah. According to the Red Cross, what, 20% of the world needs a blood transfusion of some kind every year?
Cetnar: If it’s only one a day…
Ankerberg: Yeah.
Cetnar: …that’s too many.
Ankerberg: And there’s seven million plus Jehovah’s Witnesses in the world, so that’s almost 1.4 million that are in jeopardy every year because of the teachings of the Watchtower.
Cetnar: Well, they’re false prophets; and Jesus called them ravenous wolves. They won’t just take this life with the blood transfusion, but they’re taking your everlasting life by saying that Jesus is not the “I AM,” and not believing that. And so it’s a dangerous organization. But those people coming to your door are good people who are deceived, and they need to know who the organization really is.
Ankerberg: Brian, you’re just out of the JWs a few years. You were a person that was very zealous. You went on the internet and you actually tried to defend the Watchtower beliefs. And what did you think about this thing of the Watchtower headquarters being the sole communication for God on earth? Did you actually believe that?
Brian Garcia: Absolutely. I had to believe; I had no choice to believe it. The whole thing is that when I started looking in the internet for answers, the reason why I was doing so was because I had friend who was interested in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And he decided to go on YouTube and on Google to try to find information on Jehovah’s Witnesses. And then he found all this apostate material. And so I kind of wanted to go on the internet and defend the truth, defend the organization against the alleged false prophecies; defend the fact that Jesus Christ was not God—according to the Watchtower—and to teach what the organization had been teaching me all these years.
Ankerberg: Yeah. But it led you all the way around the corner, and what happened?
Garcia: Jesus. What happened with me was that I started to search more and more into the deep things of the organization. I started seeing the different things that were contradicting, not only the Bible, but things that the Watchtower had said before. And so what I decided to do was just to study the Bible by itself. And it took me about a whole summer to read through the New Testament. I started going through the book of Acts. As I was going through the book of Acts, I started to see, in Acts 7, where Stephen is being martyred. He says that he begins to pray or to intercede to Jesus. And he says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” At that moment I said, “Wow, Jesus was just prayed to.” I was reading the New World Translation, the study edition, the reference Bible, and it had a little star next to the word right there, and it says in the footnote, it says that, “or he prayed to.” And, I’m like, wait a minute, if Stephen could pray to Jesus, why can’t I? So I decided to pray to Jesus, and I received him as Lord and Savior.
Ankerberg: Bob, you were a Jehovah’s Witness for over 20 years, what, 24 years? And you were actually an overseer in the congregation, an elder. Did you hold on to this thing that the Watchtower was, again, God’s prophetic spokesman on earth, the channel which God spoke, and you were the only right religion?
Bob Gray: Absolutely. Yeah, I believed it, for all the years. And kind of like what Joan,… being in a position of leadership, being an elder, and being a regular pioneer, I was committed to 1,000 hours a year.
Ankerberg: What’s a pioneer?
Gray: I was a regular pioneer at the time. Now, when Joan was a pioneer, it was 100 hours a month.
Ankerberg: What’d you do for 100 hours a month?
Cetnar: Knock on doors; had Bible studies.
Ankerberg: You knocked on doors, to be a pioneer, for 100 hours a month?
Gray: Yep.
Ankerberg: And what’d it go up to?
Gray: It went down. And it’s been going down ever since. But it was 1,000 hours a year when I was a regular pioneer. But being a pioneer and being an elder allowed me a view of the organization that most people don’t have. And in the same way that Joan saw the governing body and other very responsible men at Bethel being unkind, I saw the same thing. And I got to see some of the financial stuff that was going on, some of the organizational stuff that was going on. And that’s what really… I came out of the organization and then it was a period of time before all of the doctrinal changes took place.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re going to take a break. And when we come back, we’re going to hear more from these dear folks. And, again, if you are a Jehovah’s Witness, hang in there. The reason we’re doing this is for you. I know there are people that can’t even send us a letter, because if we send something back to them, your family could disfellowship you; they would cut you off. So this is an opportunity for you to listen, and we’re going to try to present the information that will answer your questions. So stick with us, we’ll be right back.

Ankerberg: Alright, welcome back. We’re talking with three ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses and two fellows that are actually experts on the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And I want to start out with this thing, it’s hard to believe, but here’s an organization on earth claiming to be the spokesman, the prophet, for God on earth; the direct channel of communication to everybody; and they’re the only right religion. If you’re not in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the fact is, you are nowhere, you’re out, okay, and you’re in big trouble. Now, let’s say they are the organization that is speaking for God on earth. The Bible has a way of testing whether that is true or not. And Deuteronomy 18:21-22, says this, “You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord.’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or does not come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously.” And then it says, “Do not be afraid of him.”
Ankerberg: Joan, did the Watchtower, all through the years, did the Watchtower ever make false prophecies, false predictions that didn’t work out?
Cetnar: Yes. In their literature they have said many times, eight or nine times, predicted, in the name of Jehovah, that the end of the world would come. And the beginning was 1874, then 1914, 1918, 1925—each administration would pick it up and give another date—and then 1941, 1975. And in between that, when I grew up, it was imminent, any day. I never thought I’d get out of high school before the Armageddon would come. And then, after we left, they did the 1975 prediction. And then 1995 was the last one, and that was called the “Creator’s Promise.” False prophecy; that’s kind of the way we dubbed it. Because in their Awake magazine they have a masthead that explained why the magazine was printed. At the end of that and up until October 22, 1995, it said this, that the “magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 would pass away.” Well, the following Awake magazine, November 8, 1995, they said this, “this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world that is about to replace the present wicked lawless system of things.” What’s missing? 1914 generation. And it’s the Creator’s promise. This is not our idea, the Watchtower’s idea, it’s the Creator’s promise. And that’s the way they’ve done it all through time.
Ankerberg: Yeah, as I’ve done research in the Jehovah’s Witnesses books, I’ve seen that they’ve published the same book over, you know, many years, and before the end of the world’s coming on a date—whichever one of those eight dates that they have given—they’ll say it’s coming, it’s going to happen before this date. And then when you get past that date, they just go into that publication, it’s the same word for word, and they just say “after this date”. What were the ramifications on the dear Jehovah’s Witness people that maybe sold their homes, you didn’t go to school, people that changed their lives, and then these dates, nothing happened? How did that affect them?
Cetnar: A lot of them left the organization very disillusioned; didn’t know where to go. I know when we left the organization, we knew nothing,… I knew nothing about 1918, 1925, what they’d said, because they changed their books; they changed their history. And we had to do some research to find out what those dates were. And so, when we did, we had the proof then that they were not God’s organization—at least one thing that we were absolutely sure about.
Ankerberg: Keith, you’ve also found some, in fact, you’ve got one of the original books right in your hands there.
Keith Walker: This is Thy Kingdom Come. And I don’t know if it’s a sin or not to have a favorite false prophecy, but I’ve got three of them. And this one here says, “and with the end of AD 1914, what God calls Babylon and what men call Christendom will have passed away, as already shown from prophecy.” Now, when the Watchtower talks about Christendom, they’re talking about people who claim the name of Christ but are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. So, I showed this prophecy to a Jehovah’s Witness friend of mine. And I asked him after showing it, I said, “Should we even be having this conversation?” And he looked at me and says, “No, you shouldn’t be here.”
Ankerberg: The ramifications are, they make a statement in the name of God, it doesn’t happen, according to scripture itself, that’s one that God has not sent and don’t listen to him.
Cetnar: That’s right.
Walker: What’s great about that is, we are all living proof that the Watchtower is a false prophet—the fact that we’re here.
Don Veinot: When Rutherford took over in the late 1918s, 1919s, he served the “Millions” campaign. This is huge. “Millions now living will never die.” And they were going door to door actually with phonograph records to play his messages and bring people in. And around 1925, Jehovah’s Witness farmers didn’t even plant, because that was going to be the end of the world.
Ankerberg: Bob, why was this so serious to you as a Jehovah’s Witness?
Gray: Well, I came in just before 1975. It was in 1973. So I lived through all of that. But the thing that caught me as I was leaving was finding out that they had really dishonestly changed some of what they wrote. In 1989 they wrote in the January 1st Watchtower, “the Apostle Paul was spearheading the Christian missionary activity. He was also laying a foundation for a work that would be completed in our 20th century.”
Cetnar: Wow.
Gray: So basically the preaching work would be over in our 20th century, and then the end would come. That’s what they printed in the magazine itself. At the end of the year, when they produced the bound volume, and on their CD-ROM, they changed the part that said,” in our 20th century” to “in our day.”
Ankerberg: Brian, when you’re listening to this, what advice would you give to Jehovah’s Witnesses? Because you used to listen to my program, and you used to be mad as all get out at me for even bringing this information up. What would you say to somebody that’s just mad as hops out there, listening to us bring up these false prophecies?
Garcia: The whole point of this ministry, and the whole point that we’re here, is because we don’t want people to be under the bondage of a religion. The Jehovah’s Witnesses love to quote what Jesus says in John 8, where he says, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” I believe in that. And I believe in what Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “For it is [for] freedom that Christ set us free.” And so I believe that we need to gear Jehovah’s Witnesses towards the living Savior Jesus Christ; bring them to a living relationship with Jesus, show them that, in the error of the Watchtower, that they are false prophets, which Jesus warned us about.
Ankerberg: Folks, those of you that are listening that are Jehovah’s Witnesses or you’ve got a member of your family who is a Jehovah’s Witness, and you’ld like to ask these folks a question. Go to our website at the JAshow, the John Ankerberg Show, either one you can use and ask your question. There will be a place for you to ask your question. And I’m going to ask these folks to answer as many as they’ve got time to answer, and we will post them for everybody to see.
Don, summarize all that we’ve heard and point people toward Jesus. Give me a word on that.
Don Veinot: I would say Romans 10:9-13, there’s a little Greek word there, kurios, which is translated “Lord” in verse 9 and in verse 12, but “Jehovah” in verse 13. It’s all the same person through the whole passage. And Paul is writing there that the one thing we must believe and confess is that Jesus is Jehovah, to be saved, and to believe that God raised him from the dead.
Ankerberg: Give me the whole verse.
Veinot: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation,” and as you follow it through, verse 13 says, “for whoever calls on the name of Jehovah,” that’s in their New World Translation, “will be saved.” And so, we have to confess Jesus is Jehovah, call on his name to be saved, and God will then save us.
Ankerberg: Folks, we’re going to talk some more about the false prophecies of the Watchtower. We’re also going to talk about their doctrines about the Trinity, and how they say that that’s not biblically true. We’re going to talk eventually about their Bible. They’ve got their own Bible, the New World Translation. We’re going to talk, is it an accurate translation? We’re going to talk about blood transfusion a little bit more, and how this has hurt so many people across the world and why you don’t need to be afraid of that. So, we’ve got a lot to talk about; we have some wonderful guests; I hope you’ll join me next week.

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  1. […] Who Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses? By: Joan Cetnar, Brian Garcia, Bob Gray, Keith Walker, and Don Veinot […]

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