If you are looking for answers --
Are you sure you are asking the right questions?
Introductions -- conclusions -- leading questions -- rhetorical questions: All these were elements of the "theocratic" training that I received every week as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Equipped with books like Make Sure of All Things and its successor Reasoning from the Scriptures, I went forth to knock on the doors of my neighbors with the very sincere intention of bringing them the "good news of the kingdom". I was fully convinced that this was a life-saving work.
Repeatedly, through the pages of Watchtower and other publications, the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses asserted that 1) God's Kingdom had come in 1914, with Jesus arriving invisibly and continuing to be present, 2) a great work of separating the "sheep" from the "goats" was being done by those who recognized the invisible arrival and presence of Jesus in his Kingdom, and 3) based on Jesus' words in Matthew ("this generation will not pass away"), the war of the great day of God the Almighty was imminent (Armageddon).* In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a Biblical timetable was drawn up and distributed through the pages of several publications (including Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God (1966) and Then is Finished the Mystery of God (1969)) that pointed to 1975 as the end of 6,000 years of human history AND THE BEGINNING OF THE THOUSAND YEAR REIGN OF CHRIST.
The beginning of the thousand year reign of Christ presupposed the fulfillment of Bible prophecies regarding the Battle of Armageddon, a war in which God would destroy all the wicked, all the “goats” who had refused to listen to the “good news” being proclaimed by Jehovah’s Witnesses. As I walked from door to door in field service in nice neighborhoods, I was sometimes shocked to hear my companion say something like, “THAT is the house I want to live in after Armageddon!!”. It did not seem very Christian to me to be anticipating the sudden apocalyptic death of our neighbors. (For further information about what the Witnesses taught about the year 1975, see “What Happened in 1975?” ).
In between the release of these two publications, the book The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life was released in 1968 amid much fanfare. Small in size and distributed for the small price of $0.25, this book was intended to form the basis for a six month Bible study program that Jehovah's Witnesses were urged to conduct in the homes of all interested persons. We were told that "Jehovah is speeding up the work" because "the end is near".
As my high school graduation in 1970 approached, I was torn between the hopes and expectations of my teachers and counselors and the admonition of my parents. As I was a good student, my teachers and counselors were very much in favor of my going to college. Because I was the recipient of a national award in my junior year, I received numerous scholarship offers from colleges all over the country. My father, however, was determined that I should devote myself to the “preaching of the good news”, especially in view of the “times and seasons” in which we believed we lived. Attending college would have meant forsaking my family and striking out completely on my own. I had never openly disobeyed my parents; following my graduation (as fourth in my high school class), I began full-time service as a “pioneer”, devoting one hundred hours per month to the door-to-door and Bible study ministry.
I was very successful as a pioneer. Over the next three years, at least three persons with whom I conducted home Bible studies were subsequently baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses. In most cases, their families followed them. I had become expert at directing conversations by asking just the right questions, and following a scripture in one part of the Bible with a scripture written hundreds of years earlier (or later), tying the two scriptures together in the same manner that our literature did. It would be many years before I would, upon commencing a study of logic in college, discover that I was using poorly constructed arguments and logical fallacies to reach conclusions that were not in fact supported by the evidence.
In the Fall of 1973 I had the opportunity to travel, in the company of my best friend and her family, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for an International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Little did I know the many ways in which this trip would change my life forever.
*The Witness understanding of these doctrines continues to change over time, and their doctrine is somewhat different at present than it was at that time. What I describe is the doctrine that I both learned and taught during the time period being discussed.
Next: From My Father's House to My Husband's House