The Inside Story Of A Former Third Generation Jehovah's Witness

by Paul Blizard

To the average Christian, the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" brings to mind a group of neatly dressed people going from door to door in the neighborhood, selling the Watchtower magazine, or perhaps a book. However, when I think of Jehovah's Witnesses, I recall a lifetime of bondage to a cult which I served for the first 28 years of my life. My grandfather became a part of the Watchtower Society in the early 1900s. My parents are active Jehovah's Witnesses. My father still is presiding elder at his local Kingdom Hall.

I was taught that Jehovah's Witnesses had the only true religion, a religion governed from Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. The governing body controls 2.3 million people. I use the word "control" is because Jehovah's Witnesses believe that everything written by the Watchtower is from God and is not to be questioned. They believe that the governing body receives "new light" from angels that explains what the Bible is all about. They believe the Watchtower is the sole agency that God is using. So, they believe that apart from the Watchtower organization, people have no hope. They believe that they alone have the truth, that they alone are true Christians, that they alone will be saved and that all others will be destroyed by Jehovah God at the battle of Armageddon.

I began full-time Watchtower service in 1971 after dropping out of High School at the encouragement of Watchtower leaders because of the end of the world they predicted for 1975. Thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses cashed in insurance policies, abandoned careers, and sold their possessions to spend the "short time remaining" in the ministry work before the end of the world. As a missionary worker or "Pioneer," I went from door to door trying to convince people that they must become Jehovah's Witnesses to please God and perhaps receive salvation.

I use the word "perhaps" because all Jehovah's Witnesses are not sure of their salvation. The Watchtower's way of salvation is based upon works, and not the saving grace of Jesus Christ's blood, which through faith we freely receive.

This works system of selling Watchtower books from door to door puts the Jehovah's Witness in a position to be saved if he is faithful to the organization and does all he is told to. Faithfulness to the organization involves adhering to a host of rules and regulations, which Watchtower elders enforce with great zeal.

Violation of any rules as set forth by the Watchtower Society's governing body could result in punishment and restrictions, depending upon the offense. Elders have the power to take away salvation, restrict prayer life, to interrupt family communication or anything else they believe will bring a wayward Witness to repentance.

Jehovah's Witnesses must report the time they spend doing Society work to the elders, who put the information into a file. There is a file on each member of the congregation. This file also contains information on any major sins. All information related to a Witness' private life is kept in master files in New York. They are never destroyed.

Since I had been living in this system all my life, I knew what was expected of me. I had to follow the rules and laws to gain salvation. I had been going from door to door since I was a small child, so I adapted to full-time service easily.

I continued such service for a number of years, but with little satisfaction. The burden of keeping up with the monthly quotas of 100 hours of time, as well as sales of a minimum of 100 magazines and 40 books, started to discourage me. All of this work is voluntary and there are no salaries paid. Witnesses must find employment that will support this work.

In 1973, I was accepted to go to the World Headquarters in Brooklyn to be part of the vast staff of workers who produce the literature. In a personal letter from the president of The Watchtower Society, Nathan H. Knorr, he stated: "Additionally, you are going to get a wonderful four-year advanced theocratic training which is far better than any secular education you can get."

With much anticipation I boarded a plane for New York City. While on the plane I recalled all my friends' envy, in that I was going to be living with the governing body members, and how grand it would be to be at the hub of all the activity of the work around the world. My friends gave me going-away parties and gifts, commending my proud parents on raising me in the organization so well that they could see their son go to such a place.

Soon after arriving in New York, the illusion wore off as I was assigned to work in the factory. Hard labor and learning the ways of the organization from the inside out was the "education" I obtained at Watchtower headquarters.

Space does not permit details of what I experienced while spending long hours working in the book bindery. There I fed machines for "God's organization." I recall the mental stress of a profusion of rules and regulations. The master plan of the Watchtower leaders controlled where I went, what I did, and how I did it.

After spending three years at headquarters, with no money to start out in the world (our pay was $14.00 per month), I learned the harsh reality of trying to make a living with no training or skills. Jehovah's Witnesses are strongly discouraged from attending college.

I married a good Jehovah's Witness girl, and we set out together trying to please God the best way we knew how. That is, we were good Jehovah's Witnesses and followed all the rules and laws. My wife had been a missionary for eight years. She had been sent to different parts of the United States in her work, under the direction of the Watchtower Society.

After I returned home with a fairly "clean file" from the New York office, the local elders were using me quite extensively in teaching from the platform. Most Jehovah's Witnesses agree that anyone who has spent any time at headquarters is special and worthy of greater responsibilities in the local congregation.

As I gained status in the congregation, I was being exposed to and trained in some of the undercover work of the elders. It was exciting going around at night, following members of the congregation who were suspected of wrongdoing. I also was given access to the congregation files, which revealed the inside information of all in the congregation. I was being used in the same kind of covert operations I had seen control the workers at headquarters.

Through all this I could not receive any satisfaction and peace. The pressure of trying to serve a God who is vengeful and full of wrath is more than I can describe. The organization always painted a picture of Jehovah as a God ready to "pour out vengeance." All I knew of God was what I read in the Watchtower. Yes, we did read the Bible, but were told that if we did so apart from the Watchtower books to interpret it, we were destined to fall into error and apostasy.

A friend introduced me to a book that was written by a former Jehovah's Witness called "Thirty Years a Watchtower Slave." I knew that my duty as a good Witness was to turn in my friend to the elders, for we were forbidden to read any anti-Witness material.

But in defiance, I read the book. It disturbed me very much, for the author was a former worker at headquarters, and I could relate to many of the things he was saying. Many things that I had tried to erase from my memory were surfacing again, and questions of the Watchtower's authority left me very unsettled. The author mentioned that he had found spiritually truth by studying the Bible apart from Watchtower publications.

All this time the Holy Spirit was calling me to study the Word of God. Even though we had our own New World Translation of the Bible (translated by the Watchtower Society and refuted by Hebrew and Greek scholars as being a biased, twisted version of the Bible), I bought a New American Standard Bible.

My wife and I secretly studied our new Bible long hours into the night, discovering that many of the major doctrines that we had been willing to die for were false. I confronted my father about some of these issues. Being an elder, my father saw that I was questioning some of the main teachings, and he reported my wife and I to the elders, to stand trial for apostasy.

After a lengthy, tearful hearing, we repented of doubting the Watchtower Society and were allowed to remain as Jehovah's Witnesses, but I was stripped of all my responsibilities in the congregation. I was to be watched for a period of time before serving in any capacity in the congregation again.

A job transfer to another town was a welcome relief. I looked forward to entering another congregation and getting a fresh start. But soon the disappointment came when I remembered that the hearing was still in my file and would follow me wherever I went for the rest of my life.

Of course, the elders in the new congregation had my file soon after I started to attend the meetings. They told me they would be watching me for a while to see if these apostate ideas of mine would resurface. They warned me that they would excommunicate me if I tried to share such ideas with anyone in the congregation. I vowed loyalty to the organization, and said I would not read or speak about anything that would be different from the Watchtower's position on Scripture.

Two years passed. Being under the elders' scrutiny left me very empty. Nothing, not even my children who had brought me so much joy, made my life fulfilling. I had a need for something, but what it was I did not know. My wife and I would drink to excess often, searching for some kind of joy, but only emptiness resulted.

Having two boys, we longed for a girl to be born and hoped that having a little girl would complete the happiness missing from our family. On Aug. 10, 1980, Jenny Leigh Blizard was born. We were so excited. But tragedy struck. At five weeks old, Jenny was found to have a rare blood problem. It was not clotting.

Local doctors sent us to San Antonio, Texas, for treatment of Jenny's condition. We took her to the doctors at Santa Rosa Medical Center's special care nursery, looking for the treatment that would make Jenny well. Why was Jenny bleeding internally? Why wouldn't her blood clot? The doctors spent days trying to come to a conclusion.

Finally, a team of doctors informed us that Jenny needed an emergency blood transfusion to save her life. This was a difficult problem for us because Watchtower law does not permit any Jehovah's Witness to take blood in any form. Jehovah's Witnesses carry cards stating that under no circumstances will they take a blood transfusion, even if it means death.

We sent the doctors out of the room and told them that we would give them our answer soon. My wife and I prayed and cried out to God for answers. I remember thinking; "Oh Jehovah, how can you ask me to make such a decision - a yes or no whether Jenny lives or dies! What kind of God are you!" Finally my wife and I called the doctors back into the room, and we informed them that we had to obey God's law and we would have to let Jenny die.

The hospital officials contacted the Texas Child Welfare Dept. and a suit was filed against us for child abuse and neglect. A court order was issued to ensure that Jenny would receive the blood she needed to save her life. The Sheriff's Department of Bexar County gave me and my wife citations and warned the hospital staff not to allow us to remove Jenny from the hospital. Jehovah's Witnesses have a long history of sneaking patients out of hospitals to avoid blood transfusions at all costs.

My wife and I were secretly relieved that Jenny would get the care she needed in getting the blood. I felt that I had done all I could in trying to stop her from getting blood, not realizing that the courts would step in.

Reporters of two San Antonio newspapers, "The San Antonio Express/News" and "The San Antonio Light," learned about Jenny and exposed the story, though we refused to talk to the reporters. In retrospect, I commend their work.

In the meantime, friends contacted the local elders, who promptly came to visit us. They were relieved to find out that there was still time to plan a way to get Jenny out of the hospital before the blood could be administered.

I explained to them that the matter was out of my hands and that I was under court order not to remove Jenny. That did not seem to matter to them. Their main concern was to get her out.

I knew that Jenny would shortly die if I removed her from the machines that were keeping her alive, and I would be charged with murder. I explained this to the elders. They replied, "That's the chance you have to take! You cannot allow them to give your child blood!"

Without further discussion, I asked them to leave, stating that we could not allow our child to die in this way. "If this is the God I serve, I am through with Him."

The elders left the hospital upset with me that I would not submit to them. "I hope," one elder even said, "she gets hepatitis from that blood, just to prove that it's bad!"

When we finally returned home with Jenny, the Witnesses had received word that even though we had protested the blood transfusion, We allowed her to take it. This made us outcasts in the eyes of the Witnesses, but they would not be taking action to excommunicate us. The law calling for excommunication would have applied only if I had freely given permission for the transfusion.

This is when God stepped in. Christians came to our home and helped us out with food and money and whatever they could do. The living testimony of these people affected my wife and I so much that we decided to start again studying the Bible.

Those months of intense secret study of the Bible led us to conclude we had lived a lie. We had been in bondage to a system of interpretation of scripture that squelched any free thinking of ours. On the issues and doctrinal points that I had so much trouble with, the Bible was clear. I read the whole Bible in context, without the aid of a book or magazine to instruct me.

The result of this study was that we found that all we needed for Salvation was the Lord Jesus Christ. We found that God is a God of love and not a God of wrath.

One night, my wife and I held hands and gave our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. Suddenly, we felt a release in our spirit, a release that brought freedom, liberty, and salvation. We were "born again." I had never had a feeling like it in all the thousands of hours I had spent striving to please God as a good Jehovah's Witness. We knew that we were changed. We were a "new creation." As the Apostle John said: "that ye may know that ye have eternal life."(I John 5:13)

Of course, we were promptly disfellowshipped from the Jehovah's Witnesses. Under the rules of our excommunication, we cannot have any contact with our family and former friends in the organization. Our own parents will not be allowed to go to our funeral. According to the Watchtower law, we are to be regarded as dead. Any Witnesses caught talking to us are subject to judicial action, including disfellowshipping.

In conclusion, I must say that we are not dead, but very much alive. Yes, we are dead to a former way of life, but alive in Jesus Christ, full of the Holy Spirit and power, saved by the blood of the Lamb.

In conclusion Jenny's condition was more serious than what a blood transfusion could permanently correct. The transfusions given to her as an infant did prolong her life, but on March 3, 1987, our 6- year-old Jenny went home to be with the Lord.

On Jenny's memorial stone it is inscribed: "God's special messenger." We believe she truly was. Through her illness and brief life, we came to recognize the deception of the Watchtower Society, profess and receive Jesus Christ as savior and Lord and share this redemptive knowledge of the Savior with Jehovah's Witnesses across the country.

In addition, during the final 39 days of Jenny's life, in Dallas' Children's Medical Center, My wife and I spent much of our time praying and testifying for Christ with families of other serious and terminally ill children at the hospital.

Finally, some details of Jenny's funeral attest to the nature of the Watchtower Society and the control it holds over its members. At Jenny's funeral, the first four pews were reserved for family members. The remaining rows of pews were open to church family and local townspeople. The latter were packed. People from all over came to share in the grief of the loss of this small child. However, the pews set aside for Jenny's family were occupied by only four people -- Myself, my wife Pat, and Jenny's two brothers.

No other family members attended the funeral. They were ordered not to by Watchtower leaders. The callousness shown by the Watchtower Society in forbidding relatives from attending the service is incredible. We can only pray that through our testimony those caught in bondage will wake up to the freedom found only in Christ Jesus. ----------------

Paul Blizard is now Senior Pastor of the Reidland Baptist Church, Paducah, KY, USA Since leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses, Paul has earned degrees from Howard Payne University (B.A.) Brownwood, TX and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (M.Div.) Lounsville, KY. Paul is currently pursuing his Doctor of Ministry degree at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Memphis, TN.

Paul Blizard , Reidland Baptist Church, 5559 Benton Rd. Paducah, KY 42003 (502) 898-6243

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