"Study to shew thyself approved unto God" --
1 Timothy 2:15, King James Version
If I could condense my life as a Witness into two words, the first would be "study". I was surprised to discover recently that the English word "study" does not appear even one time in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the translation produced by Jehovah's Witnesses. During my childhood and on into my adult life as a Witness, study was the foundation stone on which everything else was built.
Although personal Bible reading was a habit of mine (established, no doubt, during those early morning family sessions), most of my study time was occupied with reading and studying publications of the Watchtower Society. Every summer, new books were "released" at the large conventions that we always attended as a family. Each of these was devoured greedily, as most purported to reveal the fulfillment of Bible prophecies in what was always termed this "Time of the End". Many explanations of Bible prophecy focused on the work of "modern-day" Jehovah's Witnesses and drew parallels between the Witnesses, ancient Israel, and the early Christians. Some of these books, such as the lengthy Babylon the Great has Fallen, God's Kingdom Rules, a discussion of the book of Revelation, identified all religions other than the Witnesses as being lead (knowingly or unknowingly) by the Devil in opposition to the Witnesses (God's people). Written in what appeared to be scholarly terms, these books also included references to events in history, together with dates for these events.
The Babylon book came out in 1963, the summer after my sixth grade year, and a few years before my baptism in 1967. I studied it intently, even though it was not used in formal group studies for several years. I loved the charts of kings and world events, and was pleased to be learning so much about history.
My first World History class as a sophomore in high school, however, was not what my study had lead me to expect. The Babylonian kings were detailed in this class, along with the dates of their reigns. But when I compared the dates in my history book with the dates in my prized Babylon book, I discovered that there were serious areas of difference. In particular, my world history book dated the destruction of Jerusalem as occuring in 586 or 587 B.C., while the Babylon book and other publications of the Watchtower Society insisted that this destruction occured in 607 B.C. Not only that, but 607 B.C. was used as the basis for Jehovah's Witnesses understanding of the beginning of the "Time of the End" and their insistence that the end of the wicked world was imminent.
It is indicative of the degree of trust that I held in my religion that I did not raise these questions with anyone, not even with my father, who had always assured me that he was willing to discuss anything. Our various study books did at times instruct us that there were differences between secular chronology and "Bible" chronology. I told myself that this was just one of those differences, pushed down my questions, and continued to read and study everything the Watchtower Society sent out.
All of this studying, intense as it was, was not drawing me closer to God. The more I studied, the farther I seemed to move from the innocent child who could always talk to her Heavenly Father. Even my baptism at age 14, much desired and eagerly anticipated as it was, did not fill the strange empty space that I found growing in my heart.
In a poem written shortly before my baptism in 1967, I remarked:
I remember when touching the mantlepiece was an accomplishment,
And Mommy was a long way up.
Funny, heaven seemed so much closer then.
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