As is my custom, I attended the annual Memorial of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Witnesses celebrate what most Christians refer to as communion only once a year. Things were different for me this year because my wife also attended, but we didn’t go in together. She had an interesting idea that I will explain later. I’ll give a short summary of what usually happens at this ceremony, explain why my wife came with me this time and then I will describe the events of the evening.
Since this is the only religious holiday Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate, attendance at Kingdom Halls for this service is much like Christmas and Easter is for Christians. If you are associated with the Witnesses in any way, and you could only make one meeting all year, this would be the meeting. Parking lots are filled and everyone is wearing their Sunday best. The service starts just after sunset. Since there is limited space at Kingdom Halls, sometimes the Witnesses will rent out public halls or hotel conference rooms. They also have a later meeting at 9:00 to accommodate everyone who wants to attend.
The meeting begins with an announcement for everyone to begin finding their seats. The building is usually packed so they want to make sure everyone is seated before they begin. A very respected man (an elder or someone of greater authority), will stand up in front of the audience and give a presentation that lasts approximately 45 minutes. Our guy was shorter this year and managed to get through the Watchtower supplied outline in less than 40 minutes.
The speaker will jump from verse to verse in the Bible attempting to prove that the only ones who are allowed to partake of the bread and wine are those of the anointed class, numbered at 144,000 members. Since there are very few Jehovah’s Witnesses who claim to be of the anointed (Witnesses are STRONGLY counseled against such claims), yet there are more than 19 million people in attendance at this event world-wide, the average Kingdom Hall does not have anyone who partakes of the emblems. There were 13,204 partakers last year.
So basically, someone will get up and speak about how important it is that Jehovah’s Witnesses attend while emphasizing that practically no one will participate. They will then pass the emblems around, watch everyone reject them, then go home. It seems pointless, but Jehovah’s Witnesses look forward to this evening almost like high school students look forward to prom.
My wife and I have attended together in the past, but for the last few years we have not always gone together. Becky and an ex-Mormon friend of ours have been meeting with the same two Jehovah’s Witness ladies for more than three years and they have developed quite a unique relationship. One of the Witness ladies has a real kinship with our ex-Mormon friend and sees so much of herself in what our friend went through in Mormonism.
A number of years ago the Witnesses invited my wife and her friend to the memorial and explained the meeting beforehand. Prior to the invitation, the four ladies had already discussed the heavenly hope versus the earthly hope. My wife did a great job of explaining from the Bible why she believes that she will immediately go to heaven when she dies. The Witness ladies couldn’t counter her arguments, but insisted that they will live in paradise earth and not in heaven. My wife said something like, “Fine, you can be content being a gardener forever but, I’m going to be with Jesus.”
Because they had this lively discussion, my wife felt compelled to partake of the emblems when she attended the memorial. It embarrassed the mess out of the two Witness ladies, but she believed she had to make a stand in her belief that she is going to heaven. Every time my wife has attended a memorial since then, she feels like she has to partake because she knows the subject will come up and she needs to stand firm in her convictions.
Prior to the meetings with these two Witness ladies, neither my wife nor myself have ever partaken of the emblems. We do not go to cause a scene. We usually do not even go to get a study started with a Witness. Most of the time we go as a reminder of exactly how lost these Jehovah’s Witnesses are. We silently observe Witnesses rejecting the New Covenant and pray, especially for the children.
Getting back to this year. I always go and my wife wasn’t sure she wanted to… until I told her that I have heard a rumor that this may be the last time the Memorial is “celebrated.” I don’t want to get into too much detail in this blog post, but if Watchtower doctrine is correct, the number of partakers should be decreasing every year as the anointed remnant die off. The Watchtower does allow for unfaithful anointed to be replaced, but if that happened, then number should remain steady, but never grow, yet since the Watchtower had a doctrinal change in 2007 the number of partakers has increased every year. (For more about this phenomenon, read this excellent article titled, “Increasing Memorial Partakers.”) Since this poses an obvious problem for the Watchtower, they may change doctrine once again and cease the practice altogether. That is what I have been hearing from some sources who are close to the Watchtower.
Once my wife decided she was going to attend, she didn’t want to go to the congregation her two Witness ladies attend because there are a couple of elders there who know about me and our ministry. She decided to come with me, but came up with the idea of going in separately. This would give me the opportunity to watch the reactions of those around her when she partakes of the emblems and it would give me a better chance of getting one of the guys to study with me. I seriously doubt that would happen if we sat together and she partook of the bread and wine.
Once we arrived at the Kingdom Hall, I dropped my wife off at the front and then went to park the car. One of the parking attendants asked how my “backing up” skills were because they needed some cars to back into their spaces for an easier exit after the meeting. I backed into my space and then wait for 15 minutes before I went into the Kingdom Hall.
I watched numerous Jehovah’s Witnesses attempt to back their cars into parking spaces and I didn’t see one of them get it right on the first try. One lady even got out of her car and had the parking attendant do it for her. It reminded me of the Watchtower article that explained the Watchtower’s numerous doctrinal flip-flops as, “Tacking into the Wind.” The December 1, 1981 Watchtower tried to explain on page 26 how their doctrinal reversals are actually stepping forward. It states, “At times explanations given by Jehovah’s visible organization have shown adjustments, seemingly to previous points of view. But this has not actually been the case. This might be compared to what is known in navigational circles as “tacking.” By maneuvering the sails the sailors can cause a ship to go from right to left, back and forth, but all the time making progress toward their destination in spite of contrary winds.” If Jesus can control the wind and the waves (Matthew 8:27), I never understood why Jehovah can’t just sail straight. Evidently his Witnesses can drive straight either.
When I walked into the Hall, I saw that it was completely packed. They even had seats set up in the vestibule area back near the literature counter. One of the attendants told me that there were only two seats left so I’d better grab one quickly. I quickly looked for my wife, but did not see her. I didn’t want to sit where I could not see her partake of the emblems so I excused myself and went to the restroom telling the attendant that I would be willing to stand and give my seat to one of the ladies.
When I walked out of the restroom, my wife walked out of the ladies room at the exact same time. We quickly ignored each other, but I followed her into the main room to see where she sat. I began looking for a spot on the wall to lean against, but there was nothing available. Last year I gave up my seat for a lady and was able to stand up against the wall and take a picture during one of the prayers. I wanted to be able to do that again, but the way the seating was arranged, there was nothing available.
I walked back towards the PA system where I saw a bit of room. I mentioned to one of the guys there that I was looking for a place to stand against a wall. One of the ladies overheard my comment and informed me that she had just received a text from someone who couldn’t come and since they saved a seat for her, I could have her place. This worked out perfectly because I had a decent view of my wife.
I think she was so helpful because she knew I was not a Witness. I purposefully wore nice clothes, but did not wear a suit and tie so that I could be identified as a non-Witness in hopes of getting into a conversation after the meeting. I followed her to my seat and we small talked before the meeting started. I brought my iPad to take notes so she asked me if I had internet access, then told me where to see the song book on their web site. I opened three apps to use during the meeting; a Bible app, notes and a browser for the songs. A number of other people came up to me and introduced themselves. They were very friendly and jovial.
The service began by singing song number eight (The Lord’s Evening Meal) in their song book. I snapped a picture with my phone during the song. I think the couple next to me noticed. Usually the singing in a Kingdom Hall is horrible. The “Kingdom Melodies” are lame by the standards of any normal Church. There are no instruments, but they do play an instrumental recording of the song and the congregation is supposed to sing on their own with no conductor. This often leads to whiney and out of tune singers starting the song at different times and purposefully singing softly because they know they can’t sing. This was not the case at this Kingdom Hall. Both my wife and I noticed that the singing was much better than any other Kingdom Hall I remember attending. I was pleasantly surprised.
Once the meeting started, I began to take notes fast and furiously. Even though I’ve heard the presentation so many times I am sure that I could have delivered it myself, I still take notes because I want to be able to ask a question afterwards and refer to my notes as to what was said. I am pretty sure my wife and I were the only two people in the place taking notes. I also like to take note of how many times they use any form of the word “appreciate.”
Like I mentioned in last year’s blog post, my wife noticed it a number of years ago so now every time I attend a witness function, I always keep track of how many times the word is mentioned. Last year it was mentioned 15 times and this year it was 18 times in less than 45 minutes. The title of the talk was, “Appreciate What Christ Has Done For You.” There is the first mention of the word. After the song someone opened in prayer using the word “appreciate” three times. We were off to a quick start.
The very first verse mentioned in the talk was Luke 22:19-20 which reads in the Revised New World Translation (RNWT), “Also, he took a loaf, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This means my body, which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” 20 Also, he did the same with the cup after they had the evening meal, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.”
When the speaker read verse 19, he paused after stating that Jesus gave the bread to them. He then added his own comments that the “them” referred to in this verse was the 11 faithful disciples because Judas had already been dismissed by Jesus. Last year there was no reference to this idea mentioned at all which surprised me. However this year, the speaker again made that point. I made note of it and planned to ask someone about it after the service because verse 21, a verse the never read states, “But look! the hand of my betrayer is with me at the table.”
Since this idea is usually taught during the memorial, I decided to do something I haven’t done in more than a year. I made a Quick Questions For Jehovah’s Witnesses video to ask this question. It will be interesting to see the responses of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The rest of the service was like all the others I have attended. The speaker quickly runs through no less than 20 verses in the short presentation lastly less than 30 minutes. At the rate of one verse every 1 and a half minutes, that is too many verses to be able to effectively keep up with the speaker, read the verses and think about what is being taught. There is ZERO time to look at the context and evaluate the accuracy of what is being said.
This is one reason why the Watchtower can get away with things like the above. They can point to certain verses, claim they teach one thing when the context clearly states the opposite. Jehovah’s Witnesses simply do not have the time to check it out for themselves.
One thing this speaker did that was different was he actually mentioned four points at the beginning of his presentation;
1) Why do humans need to be delivered?
2) Who benefit from Jesus’ loving sacrifice?
3) Who properly or scripturally will partake of the bread and wine?
4) What else must we do to show our appreciation and obedience to Jehovah God?
The speaker started talking about how Adam once had the prospect of living forever depending on his obedience. We inherited our sin from Adam, but through the sacrifice of Christ we can be ransomed. He then went to John 3:16 and made a distinction between mere belief and exercising faith. He emphasized that we need to do something to be saved.
He then spoke about the two hopes, one earthly and the other heavenly. He actually said, “The Bible speaks very clearly that there are two hopes.” The Watchtower teaches that the 144,000 have a heavenly hope while everyone else hope to live forever on a paradise earth. I immediately thought of Ephesians 4:4 which says even in the RNWT, “One body there is, and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling.” I do not know why the speaker said there are “clearly” two hopes when the Bible clearly says there is only one.
The speaker then began talking about the 144,000 being in heaven and how they know they are chosen to be of the anointed. He kept referring to the “few remaining” who are on the earth are the only ones who have a right to partake of the emblems. No one else does.
He read 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For whenever you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he comes.” The speaker emphasized the phrase, “Until he comes” and explained that this meant that the Lord’s Evening meal would be observed only as long as there are those of the anointed remaining on the earth. He stated, “Once Jesus arrives in the sense of resurrecting all of the 144,000 and takes them home to be with him in heaven, that is the last time there will be a Lord’s Evening Meal.” This was the same thought brought out last year and is a point that deserves to be challenged.
It makes no sense to read the phrase, “until he comes” and interpret that to mean, “until a certain group of people dies off.” First Corinthians 11:26 specifically states that we are to continue to do it until Jesus arrives, not until the anointed remnant leaves. There is a big difference between those two ideas. Think about this from the perspective of the first century Christian. They knew nothing of “the great crowd” doctrine as it wasn’t “revealed” until 1935. Would the 11 faithful apostles who were with Jesus on that night understood His statement to mean they should continue to remember Jesus’ death on Passover until they are all dead and go to heaven thus leaving the Christian congregation to a group of people that will not exist for 19 centuries? Did they really catch that?
There is also another implication about this doctrine that I’ve never thought of before I began writing this blog post. If all of the anointed are to die off, what will happen to the Faithful and Discreet Slave? Current Watchtower doctrine teaches that only members of the anointed are allowed to be Governing Body members who serve together as the composite Slave mentioned in Matthew 24:45-47. If this doctrine is true, this would mean that the Faithful and Discreet Slave would have to die before Jesus returns. If this happens, where will Jehovah’s Witnesses get the spiritual food for the proper time? Jehovah’s Witnesses need to think about these questions.
In the context of this point, (the anointed dying off) the speaker asked a question which may be one of the reasons for the rumor I heard mentioned above. He asked, “Might this be our last Memorial? Could the new system be so close at hand?” He continued with this line of thought by talking about how this world will soon come to an end.
The speaker then read 1 Corinthians 11:23-24, invited another elder to pray for the bread, then the ushers distributed it. I looked over to watch my wife partake and when she broke off a piece of bread, the lady sitting next to her literally stiffened up like a human exclamation point. She was frozen in place and didn’t want to look at my wife. When Becky handed the plate to her, the Witness lady moved her arm to take the plate, but she did not turn in my wife’s direction like everyone else was turning to make sure the plate wasn’t dropped. It was a bit of an awkward scene. No one behind them noticed that my wife took the bread.
After the attendants were done making sure every Jehovah’s Witness had an opportunity to visibly reject the New Covenant, they returned to the front. The speaker then read 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 and invited another elder to pray over the wine. One thing that struck me about his prayer was that he mentioned that “both of you” referring to Jehovah and Jesus, “made a sacrifice and showed how much you really care.”
Both Jehovah and Jesus made a sacrifice? It reminded me of the joke where two farm animals are talking about how Thanksgiving is coming up. The turkey says to the chicken, who will be providing deviled eggs, “Thanksgiving is a donation for you, but for me it is a commitment.” John 15:13 reads in the RNWT, “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends.” Jesus died for us, but the Father didn’t. Unless you have a Trinitarian view of God, you can’t say that Jehovah loves us more than Jesus does. It was also interesting to note that the elder who prayed addressed both the Father and the Son. This has got to be the first time I have ever heard a Jehovah’s Witness pray to Jesus.
This was diametrically opposed to what he prayed next. He said, “We recognize that this organization that you have created has the sayings and truth of everlasting life and through it, we know what our future holds. That is more than anywhere else that anyone can turn.”
Does this look familiar? I seem to remember someone saying something similar, but in a different context. John 6:66-68 says in the RNWT, “Because of this, many of his disciples went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve: “You do not want to go also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered him: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.”
This my friends is what we call blasphemy. An elder in the congregation prays to Jehovah and thanks Him for an organization that “has the sayings of everlasting life” when Peter said that specifically of Jesus and not an organization. Note also that the elder said the Watchtower has more to offer than anywhere else that people could turn. Peter didn’t say that. He asked, “Whom shall we go away to?” Not “where” or “what organization.” Lest you think this was a slip up of one imperfect man, The September 1, 1975 Watchtower said on page 531, “Where could we turn if we would leave God’s organization today? There is nowhere else! (John 6:66-69).” While the Bible clearly teaches that we need to go to Jesus for everlasting life, the Watchtower teaches that we must go to them and then uses a proof text that should only apply to Jesus. This elder only prayed what the Watchtower teaches about itself.
As the wine was being distributed, the speaker again made reference to the fact that once there are none of the 144,000 left on earth, there will be no need for the Lord’s Evening Meal. This was stressed throughout the entire evening.
When the wine came to my wife, she took a sip and quietly passed the cup to the still embarrassed lady sitting next to her. My wife told me afterwards that she was an elder’s wife and that she left as soon as the service was over. She didn’t even bother to say goodbye which was very strange because they were getting along fine before the meeting started.
The speaker then concluded the service by addressing the point, “What else must we do to show our appreciation and obedience to Jehovah God?” He strongly encouraged to crowd to come back and continue “showing appreciation for Jehovah God by attending meetings.”
People clapped afterwards and the couple next to me noticed that I did not clap. I was busy typing notes. Another Witness read a letter from the Watchtower inviting non Witnesses to accept a bible study. After the letter they sang a closing song (# 109, Hail Jehovah’s Firstborn) then someone prayed closing the meeting.
The couple next to me left without saying a word, but the man and wife in front of me introduced themselves. They were nice and glad that I visited. I looked over to where my wife was sitting and she was talking with one of the elders. My wife told me afterwards that they were questioning her about whether or not she was one of the anointed. They asked if she was from another congregation. She answered, “Yes, I go to Community Bible Church off of 1604 near 281.” I don’t think that was the answer they were looking for.
My couple continued to talk to me, but I was hesitant because I thought I recognized the lady from a conversation I had with a Witness years ago. They invited me back and asked me a few question about myself. I was hoping that I could get one of the guys to come over and talk to me because I really didn’t want to talk to this lady. No one came over so I decided to ask her a question and see what would happen.
I asked about Jesus celebrating the meal with his 11 faithful disciples and she told me that Jesus had already dismissed Judas because he was going to betray Jesus. I told her I wanted to see it in my Bible and started to navigate to Luke 22:21. I started to point out that the speaker stopped reading at verse 20, and then said something that I found confusing because of what verse 21 says.
Right then one man came over and introduced himself. I found out later that he is a pioneer, but I do not yet know if he is an elder. The lady then told him I had a question and he replied, “Oh you’re a thinker are you?”
“Yes, and I took notes too.”
“Well, we like thinkers. Thinkers are good.”
“Thinking sometimes gets me into trouble.”
“We need a lot more thinkers.”
I agreed with him, but not verbally. Other people started coming over and introducing themselves too. One guy had a peculiar last name so I started cracking jokes. The next thing I knew, I was the life of the party. Everyone seemed so happy to meet me and they all laughed at my jokes. They laughed hard too.
The Pioneer then asked about my question. I explained the scenario again and read verse 21 in the New American Standard, “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table.”
The Pioneer immediately let out a big Hmmmmmm…
I asked, “How could Jesus say this if Judas wasn’t there?” I quickly joked that maybe Judas didn’t leave because he was disobedient. The small group of people laughed.
The Pioneer gave an answer that I have never heard before and explained that Jesus said this because he was fulfilling a prophecy from one of the Psalms. He couldn’t remember the reference so we exchanged numbers and he promised to get back with me with an answer.
As we were exchanging numbers, he said, “I like the fact that you think. Most people would just glaze over that.”
I thought to myself, “You like that the fact that I think now, but I wonder how long that will last?” I also wondered how many times he has glazed over this passage himself.
I said, “I am glad you like thinkers because I am definitely a thinker.”
As he was getting a piece of paper to write down my number, He again reiterated that he likes thinkers. He wrote down my name and number and then next to my name he said, “I’ll put ‘betrayer at my table.’”
I quickly refused that designation and jokingly said, “I’m not the betrayer at your table! Don’t write that down next to my name! You’re going to forget this card and then in a week you’re going to find it and ask yourself, ‘Who is this guy?’”
The small group of people laughed again and the Pioneer added “question about” as he was laughing.
I thanked him and told him he was freaking me out.
As we all left the Kingdom Hall, the Pioneer thanked me for coming and for paying attention. The husband of the Witness lady who sat in front of me offered, “Come back and ask us hard questions any time. We like that.”
I smiled and said, “I just may take you up on that.”