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Boys dressed in suits and ties greeted me at the door to the Lamar Kingdom Hall on the evening of March 30. Inside were more boys in suits and ties and girls in dresses, all matching the formality of their parents and chatting happily. Once the evening’s program began, however, they became seen and not heard — and remarkably still. “They know what’s expected of them,” one woman told me. “And sometimes, we practice at home.” Of course, that’s during the program — she was also quick to tell stories about how the kids’ training for ministry turns them into accomplished and comfortable public speakers.

And they must train for ministry. One congregant explained to me, “If you’re Methodist or Roman Catholic, you get baptized and you’re a member.” But Jehovah’s Witnesses limit their membership to those who are actually witnessing for Jehovah. “Our mission is to invite people to get to know their Bible. We don’t interpret it — if you read it carefully, it kind of interprets itself.”

Inside, the bright fluorescent lights shining from the low ceiling, the patterned wall-to-wall carpet, and the lack of windows combined to give the place the feel of an upscale hotel conference room. (Albeit one with comfortable, movie-style seating.) As things got started, we stood and sang along with a piped-in piano:

“Jehovah our Father in heaven, O this is a most sacred night/ It was Nisan Fourteen when Your glory was seen, Your love, justice, wisdom, and might.”

Nisan Fourteen was the date of the first Passover — the date of “the Lord’s Evening Meal,” which tonight was being commemorated by more than 10,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. Why? Elder Joel Early gave the answer: “appreciation for Jesus’ ransom sacrifice,” which sacrifice He “arranged to be remembered in a simple ceremony. It’s one we’ll repeat this evening,” repeating His words from the Last Supper and passing out the bread and the wine, which “represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

But first, a brief account from Elder Mike Watts of why the sacrifice was necessary. The account was peppered with quotations from Scripture that had the congregation flipping back and forth in their Bibles — a whispering of pages following each announcement of chapter and verse. Elder Watts began at the beginning. “Jehovah placed Adam in the Garden of Eden with a promise — living forever in a paradise earth. If Adam hadn’t sinned...he would still be living on the face of the earth today. But Adam willfully disobeyed, and...the wages of sin is death.” But when Jesus gave up His own perfect human life, He bought back what Adam lost — “a great gift.”

There are requirements for this gift. “John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son in order that everyone exercising faith in him might...have everlasting life.’ Faith is something you have to exercise. You can’t just join a gym...you’ve got to do something. James 2: 24–26: ‘As the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.’ We need to prove to Jehovah that we’re worthy of that gift, show him that we want to do what’s right. What a beautiful choice we have.”

If you make that choice, you fall into one of two groups, “a little flock or a great crowd. We don’t get to choose that assignment. There are a limited number in the little flock who receive everlasting life in the heavens. The number is very clear in Scripture. Revelations 14:1. ‘I saw, and look, the lamb’ — Jesus Christ — ‘standing upon Mount Zion, and with him, 144,000.’ Their assignment is to rule as kings with Jesus Christ in the heavens. They’re to rule over those of us on the face of the earth in the new system. What a beautiful arrangement that will be.”

The new system will be full of “tremendous blessings,” said Watts. He quoted Isaiah 65: “‘They will certainly build houses and have occupancy, and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat their fruitage.’ This prophecy from Jehovah shows that there will be no economic hardship. We’ll be able to do many things we’ve never dreamed of doing.” And some things we have. “Think about living forever on the face of the earth. What could you do? I’d like to learn how to play the banjo from my great-grandfather. You could sit down with King David and learn about the melodies to the Psalms. Or ask Noah, ‘How did you build the ark?’ That reality can be yours, if you continue to take in knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes.”

After the lesson came the ceremony. Bread on trays and wine in goblets passed to members of the congregation, just like Communion in many other denominations. Unlike other denominations, “only those in the New Covenant with Jehovah partake of these emblems. They know who they are and what their assignment is. How many of you have ever gone to a wedding and said, ‘I wonder if I’m getting married today?’ You know if you’re the one. You don’t wonder if you’re part of the Bride of Christ.... Romans 8:16: ‘The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If then we are children, we are also...joint heirs with Christ.’ What a beautiful hope the little flock has.”

Everyone received the plate and the cup, but nobody present partook of the emblems. Said Watts, “While the anointed partake of the emblems, those of us, the other sheep, attend as respectful observers. We’re happy to be here. We certainly appreciate the ransom sacrifice made on behalf of all mankind. There really is nothing else to put our faith and trust in in this life.”

Throughout, prayers of thanksgiving were offered, but also, prayers of petition. Elder Early closed by asking, “Help us to always put our trust in You, knowing that we’re living in a dying system, that Satan is working against us.... Help us to do our best to live up to Your name, to live up to the opportunities You hold out for us.”

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Comments

Gayle777 April 7, 2010 @ 1:40 p.m.

"boys in suits and ties and girls in dresses, all matching the formality of their parents and chatting happily" and being so "still."

JW kids just love dressing like this for 5 meetings a week that are boring and not child realistic. They just love to go into boring door-to-door work which is unproductive. They love to not celebrate their birthdays, or do any holidays. They love not to do any school extracurriculars as organized sports, band, nor any encouragement plans for collge. They love how they are taught that the non-JW kids, as well 99%+ of the world population will be destroyed soon at Armageddon.

Why do 2 out of 3 JW children leave this high-mind control religion by their adulthood??

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JJ2014 April 7, 2010 @ 2:14 p.m.

The following SUMMARIES OF OVER 1400 JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES CRIMINAL and CIVIL COURT CASES will provide the BEST and MOST ACCURATE info about Jehovah's Witnesses, their beliefs, and how they ACTUALLY practice such day to day.

The following website summarizes 900 court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah's Witness Parents, including 400 cases where the JW Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions for their dying children, as well as nearly 400 CRIMINAL cases -- most involving MURDERS:

DIVORCE, BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS, AND OTHER LEGAL ISSUES AFFECTING CHILDREN OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

jwdivorces.bravehost.com

The following website summarizes over 500 lawsuits filed by Jehovah's Witnesses against their Employers, incidents involving problem JW Employees, and other secret JW "history" court cases:

EMPLOYMENT ISSUES UNIQUE TO JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES

jwemployees.bravehost.com

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DannyHaszard April 7, 2010 @ 2:29 p.m.

Lifelong Jehovah's Witnesses dissident speaks out on JW belief system .

A) They are at your door to recruit you for their watchtower society corporation,they will say that "we are just here to share a message from the Bible" this is deception right off.

B) Their 'message' creed is a false Gospel that Jesus had his second coming in 1914.The problem with this is it's not just a cute fairy tale,Jesus warned of the false prophets who would claim "..look he is here in the wilderness,or see here he is at the temple."

C) Their anti-blood transfusion ban against whole blood has killed thousands.

D) once they recruit you they will "love bomb" you in cult fashion to also recruit your family & friends or cut them off.

Danny Haszard Jehovah's Witness X 33 years http://www.dannyhaszard.com

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Gayle777 April 7, 2010 @ 2:35 p.m.

"Bread on trays and wine in goblets passed to members of the congregation, just like Communion in many other denominations."

Last year, only 10,857 partook of those emblems (chosen for their heavenly calling), 18 million attended, not allowed to partake.

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JJ2014 April 7, 2010 @ 2:37 p.m.

There are approximately 105,000 Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses scattered around the world. More than 17,000,000 persons worldwide attend the "memorial of Christ's death" at these 105,000 congregations. Less than 10,000 JW attendees at the WatchTower "Black Mass" partake of the wine and bread sacraments. That means that even if there were no more than one partaker at any given congregation, then there are approximately 95,000 congregations where NOONE partakes of the sacraments.

In fact, the WatchTower Cult is conducting the world's largest satanic BLACK MASS. The 17,000,000 attendees are required to individually accept into their hands the cup of wine and plate of bread, BUT then REFUSE to drink and eat -- thereby signaling their personal and individual REJECTION of Christ's sacrifice and rejection of Christ as their personal savior.

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jmtrudeau April 7, 2010 @ 4:14 p.m.

144,000.... Wouldn't heaven be full by now?

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bugmenot April 7, 2010 @ 4:46 p.m.

. . . . . . If you would like more REAL and accurate info about Jehovah's Witnesses on the web be sure to check out the official web site at www.Watchtower.org . . . . . . . . . .

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Loiel1 April 8, 2010 @ 12:30 a.m.

I just wanted to personally thank you Mr Lickona for your honest and open portrail of what you saw and experienced. I found your editorial both refreshing and easy to follow.

I too feel for you, especially if this is the first time you've experienced, the zeal of those that have "kept on opposing and speaking abusively." (Acts 18:6)

May Jehovah bless you and yours for your time and attention to detail in what amounts to a loving act and a favorable report.

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Robin3663 April 8, 2010 @ 12:39 a.m.

The Jehovah's Witnesses cite four biblical texts (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:12-14, Acts 15:29 and Acts 21:25). They say these mean that blood, the life-force, belongs to God and is not there for human use. They believe it a sin to eat not just black pudding but also to eat the flesh of animals that have not been properly bled.

And they extend the ban to transfusions. They won't even allow someone's blood to be stored before an operation and then used after it to replace their own blood loss. Blood is not to be stored; it is to be poured out and returned to God. Some JWs even reject dialysis or cell salvage on these grounds. Some will not accept red cells, white cells, platelets or plasma, but accept "fractions" made from these components.

There is a philosophical problem here. When a substance is broken down into components does the original remain? Some 90-96 per cent of blood plasma consists of water. The remainder is albumin, globulins, fibrinogen and coagulation factors. JWs say these may be used, according to conscience, but only if taken separately. Opponents say is like outlawing a ham and cheese sandwich but allowing the eating of bread, ham and cheese separately.

They are criticised for other inconsistencies. Blood fraction products are only available because of blood donation – a practice JWs condemn as unethical.

Watchtower bloodless surgery propaganda http://www.theopenpress.com/?a=articles&code=01&id=479

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David Dodd April 8, 2010 @ 5:32 a.m.

Not in defense of the Watch Tower Society, but more in defense of the English language, Jehovah's Witnesses are best defined as a New Religious Movement, or NRM. NRM's are defined by scholars and authors as being of recent origin and different from existing religions at the time they originated. Some define the term "recent origin" from the Bahá'í Faith as far back as 1844, others define the starting point for NRM's as at the time of the Second World War. Never the less, it is either an existing religion or more probably a NRM.

To indiscriminately drop the pejorative term of cult on a religious organization of over seven million members is at the very least foolish and at the very most incorrect.

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Mik Dago April 8, 2010 @ 8:27 a.m.

I was just posting my comedy show on monday and wednesday and thought I would take the time to see what is in here. I was raised a Jehovah Witness from the time I was born until I was about 10 yrs. old. I look back on my childhood now, being 35 now, and learned one thing about religion. I have a 9 yr. old son and I will never tell him things that I do not know for fact. The fact is, he will choose what he thinks when he grows. All I can do is teach him to be a loyal, trustworthy man. I felt segregated as a witness, being made to sit in the hallway during holiday celebrations in school. Never had a Christmas Present, a Birthday Present or party, and didn't speak to alot of my family members until my Mom decided that it wasn't the right way. After the divorce of my parents, the Jehovah Witnesses turned their back on my Mom and my Dad. What a Joke, and they call themselves Christians. They can have the Paradise on earth if that is how it will be. THANK YOU

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nibornagrom April 8, 2010 @ 9:48 a.m.

Why anybody listens to professional enemies of a single religious group is beyond me. The hatred and bitterness displayed in their comments is palpable, leaving Danny Haszard and his followers dubious reporters of factual information about Jehovah's Witnesses. They fit in perfectly with other so-called "dissenters" such as the Klu Klux Klan, The John Birch Society and "Pro-life" doctor killers. Their hateful desire will turn into eager and ready action as James 1:13-14 says, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Hateful words of dissent are quickly turning into action as Hate Crimes abound around the world against all peaceful persons seeking God's Kingdom as man's only hope. The professional enemies of Jehovah's Witnesses or "dissenters" end will be as Malachi 4:1 says, “For, look! the day is coming that is burning like the furnace, and all the presumptuous ones and all those doing wickedness must become as stubble. And the day that is coming will certainly devour them,” Jehovah of armies has said, “so that it will not leave to them either root or bough." But peace is available for those who avail themselves of God's Kingdom rule, Matthew 6:9-15; Revelation 21:1-5.

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Duhbya April 8, 2010 @ 12:22 p.m.

Yoo hoo, nibornagrom....or is it robin morgan? Please respond to:

Ask any JW about the Spanish mansion that was built by them on Braeburn St. in San Diego (Kensington area) and intended as living quarters for the prophets Abraham, Isaac, and "the old saints" upon their return, and gauge their reaction, or if they even acknowledge its existence.

http://www.bibletopics.com/BibleStudy

http://www.bibletopics.com/BIBLESTUDY/89.htm

http://www.watchman.org/jw/bethsarm.htm

Care to comment? Never met a Witness yet who didn't either deny it's existence or claim ignorance.

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Mahseer April 8, 2010 @ 3:08 p.m.

Regarding the above vitriol: "Do not resist him that is wicked; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him" Matthew 5:39

Mr. Lickona, Thank You for your concise and accurate account of the Memorial celebration. It was a pleasure meeting you. I have been a believer of the Truth all of my life but spent 10 years outside the organization as well. Belief in God's word the Bible inevitably convinced me as to what course I should take. Anyone who is interested is always welcome. One should inquire and decide for themselves if they wish to believe. Thank You.

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Duhbya April 8, 2010 @ 4:18 p.m.

Vitriol? HA!!! Answer the question! Simple task. Again, not one JW of the more than 70 I have worked with has been up to the task. Why is that?

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pinkfly86 April 11, 2010 @ 9:18 p.m.

Well, I must say nobody likes to be ridiculed or criticized, but I'm really not surprised that there are more negative comments on the list. And it only goes to show who is more mature, Jehovah's Witnesses respect others and their beliefs. If someone does not have interest in "good news" than that's ok. There are thousands of other sincere and HUMBLE people who know and accept what the truth is. All of their beliefs are based in the Bible, and throughout the years have made plenty of adjustments to make things better. I have seen with my own eyes MANY happy children who love to preach door to door and do not feel like they miss out on holidays. I am one of those kids that grew up as a Jehovah's Witness. I honestly felt bad for the other kids who ONLY got gifts on Christmas and their birthday. When my mom would give me a gift on any random day because she loved me not because the occasion obligated her to. Anyways, I am proud of my faith and know there will be many who oppose, but Jesus had MANY opposers and that never stopped him from doing the will of God. For those of you who truly are interested in knowing the truth about JW's go to the OFFICIAL website: watchtower.org or speak to a true member of JW's. I really enjoyed the article and Mr Lickona's observations!

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8553LCR April 13, 2010 @ 4:38 p.m.

I came to be a witness as a teenager, I am now almost 40 years old. My experience has been nothing but positive. I have stayed close to my family who do not share my religious beliefs. I make myself available to them when they need me. I also have a full-time job, as many witnesses do, and have very good relationships with those I work with, who also, do not share my beliefs. I cannot help but feel that perhaps on some negative comments, the full story is not really being shared or understood. I started going door-to-door at the age of 16 because I knew what I learned from the bible had to be shared. It was difficult to hear criticism, and to learn to defend my faith. I have been successful in my career because of my training in the door-to-door ministry. I have held leadership positions, and am seen as a strong resource, and a people person. I know many witnesses who have similar careers. One person said this to me one time, you show me a international brotherhood, that provides free bible education to any who desire it and I will go there. In my opinion, no one is doing that except the Jehovahs Witnesses, so here I am... and I have been very happy, I know hard to believe! The bible says the blessing of God and that is what makes rich and he adds no pain with it. I have two beautiful little boys, 9 and 6... and they are AMAZING. They do not celebrate certain holidays, and truth be told, they have no desire to. I give them so much of my heart, my time, my energy - nothing gets in the way of my being a good mother to them. I volunteer at the school, and I can hear other kids in the classroom say to my kids, Wow, your mom is nice! So I get the stamp of approval from the kids as well. I wonder if kids had to pick over celebrating a holiday that is not really christian in nature and a great mom, what would they pick? I have many many friends, and all of our children are very happy well adjusted kids, honor roll, etc. etc.

The basis of the bible is love, and so for me I don't see anyone doing this better, for me I made the right choice.

Christ said on earth, you will know my followers by the love they show for one another. Witnesses do not raise arms against any person of any religion. Witnesses do not ask for donations of any kind when visiting their places of worship. Witnesses engage in a public ministry by donating their time and energy. Witnesses will not speak abusively of any other religion, though many will respond in kind towards us.

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nada April 23, 2010 @ 11:06 p.m.

If you don't think this religion causes no harm then just look what happened to MICHAEL JACKSON.(look it up!)

I rest my case.

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SHLOVE May 3, 2011 @ 8:35 a.m.

I was raised as a JW until I was about 10 years old. My faith was strong, but I must admit that the members were mean to anyone who wasnt part of the congregation. I also felt very segregated, and felt I couldnt be friends with children who were not JW. However, as an adult I wonder if maybe that was my perception as a child and if the reality was somewhat different. My mother became very ill when I was 10, and we were unable to continue going to the meetings. Because of this were were looked down upon, and no longer felt welcome. My mother later passed away, and I was left without any religion. I converted to Catholicisim, where I was welcome regardless of my weekly attendence, and regardless of my mistakes. However, I never continued that religion either. In the back of my mind, I felt that the WatchTower organization was more structured and did things according to the bible. I simply disliked the people in the congregation, and I remained resentful of the way they treated my mother. This behavior was backed up by the many people who have experienced the same from members who turn their backs on "brothers/sisters" when they are faced with life difficulties, and are unable to give 100% to the religion. That, I didnt like. Im 29 years old now. I am really not a part of any religion, but I still find myself praying to Jehova. I'm not sure if its force of habit, from the 10 years of my childhood being raised in the religion, but His name is who I envoke during prayer. Last December to gentlemen came to my door preeching JW values. Though I normally avoid JW who come knocking, I entertained them with a little conversation that day. When they left I was left feeling warm and NOT PRESSURED to do anythign I didnt want. They simply left me with some WatchTower Magazines, and not once were they pushing me to do anything I didnt want to do. Weeks went by, and I would find the occational Watch Tower on my doorstep left by the two gentlemen who came and missed me. This was on 3 different occations. Its April now, and I've moved. When I moved I felt "Wow, if they come they wont find me now" Part of me felt bad that I had lost contact with them, and then yesterday they called me on the phone. I dont know how they got my number, I suppose they got it online somehow... I dont really mind. They told me if I wished to continue receiving the Magazines they were leaving. I kindly told him that "At this time, I felt I couldnt commit to anything, but I appreciated them looking after me"... without any pressure, he told me I had his phone number and to call him if I changed my mind. Part of me wants to reach out and participate, but I cant comit to something I am not sure I can follow thru with. I'm not sure if I'm a true believer or what.... and I'm not sure they welcome half-assed members.

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