#27:  The Good Ole Jehovah Witnesses

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Kingdom Hall

Kingdom Hall

A couple of times a week the Jehovah Witnesses come knocking on my door.  Despite their consistent efforts to pop in for a visit, they managed to miss me every time.  Patrick knew I had every intention of reviewing the Jehovah Witnesses, so he told the two ladies about my 52 prayers project and invited them to come back at a later date.

Since we’d missed one another many times, I decided to introduce myself a few Thursday’s back.  I did the ole’ pop by into the JW’s house of worship referred to as their Kingdom Hall, located on the corner of Church and Lauderdale in Short Pump.

When asked if he could describe the witnesses so I could seek them out when I attended, the description Patrick gave me of the two women was “nice and young ladies”.  Clearly that didn’t help much in my efforts to identify them so I was at quite a disadvantage when trying to find out which Jehovah’s were assigned to my territory. 

I approached the small, slightly rundown brown building with my Bible in hand and let myself in.  As soon as the double doors opened, I felt a bit like Lindsey Lohan walking into a club in NYC.  Every person in the room looked my way, smiling from ear to ear, whispering under their breaths to their friends “who is that?” as if I was some sort of celebrity.  Appearing fairly star struck in the way they approached me. I could tell by the looks on their faces that they identified me as a non-JW: fresh meat. 

The look in their eyes was quite similar to the way the Mormon’s appeared when I had attended their service.  As if no one in the universe but me existed, while simultaneously a bit anxious that I might “belong” to another Mormon and therefore shouldn’t be scared off by the intensity that comes with their eagerness to convert.  The best way I can describe it is that they all gaze at your like a prize needing to be won.  Like you see on TV, when someone is hypnotized with stars or swirlies in their eyes.

Each individual came over to introduce themselves and wrote down their phone numbers and assured me that I could call “morning noon or night if I had any questions at all”.  I appreciated their kindness and willingness to help, but undoubtedly, it was a bit extreme since they all shared the same lingo.  Every person I encountered stopped, touched my arm, and asked me how I heard about them and what I intended to do next. 

I told each of them that I had been visited by “two very nice and young ladies” but had no idea who they were.  With an incredible amount of nervous energy they all ran around, whispering to one another quite frantically, “This is Jessica.  Someone came to her home and now she wants to check us out.  Isn’t that great?  This is special!  Oh Jessica is here with us.  This is so special!  Do you think it was Judy?  Was it Sue and Cara? Maureen? Mary?  Beth Anne? Elizabeth?  Bernadette?”  Eventually, the buzzing subsided when the sermon was about to begin.

I looked for a chair that wasn’t surrounded with JW’s hunting their prey, and took a seat.  Instead of a typical devotional service, there was a 30 minute dramatization of “How to Witness” that they performed on stage before their JW audience.  One JW played the part as a non-JW, another played the part as a JW, and one moderated.  They played out the scenerio’s they ran into often during their door knocking and taught everyone how to best argue their points.

The moderator says, “Okay, so you just approached a house and they say that they believe in the Saturday Sabbath. This is how you deal with the issue.”

Actor #1 The non-JW.  “I believe in the Saturday Sabbath because we can see in the Bible that the Sabbath was never changed to Sunday” 

Actor #2 playing the JW:  “We are no longer under the laws therefore, we don’t observe the Sabbath says Jehovah.” 

Moderator:  Now, Maggie.  Show them these two verses from Scripture that prove this point.  Don’t go into a bunch of other verses, that will confuse the non-JW, but stick with just two to prove your case.  If the non-JW’s bounce all around the Bible to show you why the Sabbath still exists today, we will set them straight and asked that we only look at these few verse….as not to confuse.”

As I’m watching this dramatization I couldn’t help but feel as though I was eavesdropping on the competitions sales strategy.  They were teaching everyone how to sell someone like me on being a JW.  A couple rules they insisted upon:

1)  Don’t use a bunch of Bible verses that will just CONFUSE them. 

2)  Don’t let them pray in your presence. 

3)  Show them your Bible and tell them why theirs is limited. 

4)  Make them start out with simple stuff and then go to the more advanced.  Build upon your argument.

I felt like I was cheating because I knew how they were going to try and convert me when they came by my house again next week and I was learning their secret techniques.  I also felt like I was at a sales strategy meeting for closing water filter sales. 

The Moderator aka Sales Manager says this is how you sell:  “So, Mrs. X says that she doesn’t have money to buy your water filter product.  You’re the sales guy, you say, “But you see Mrs. X.  With 4 easy payments of 19.99 that’s as much as a price of a CD once a month.  You can afford a CD, right? “ and then the moderator says “Don’t mention the interest on that 19.99, that will just CONFUSE them.”

Are these guys for real, I wondered?  This isn’t witnessing, this is more like a boiler room of life insurance salesman teaching unfair business practices.  And saying “don’t use a lot of the Bible because that will confuse them” is downright offensive, not only to Christians but to God and His Word!

When I finally had enough, I stood up in an attempt to leave.  Just as I did, the herd approached.  Within 30 seconds, I had no less than 15 ladies surrounding me, each inquiring who I was and what brought me here.  They were also quite interested in the Bible I was holding.  I knew from my research it was because JW’s only believe in using one version of Scripture; their New World Translation.  The one Bible in the entire universe that’s been altered to fit their theology that Jesus isn’t a deity

I literally was sitting in the middle of a circle while 15 ladies you’d see on Wisteria Lane surrounded me so I could not leave.  At one point one woman even joked, “haha, it appears as though we have you surrounded.  You can’t get out, you have to stay with us.”  But after the joke she didn’t move an inch as to make a break in the barrier they had formed.  I nervously laughed while the thought of karate chopping my way out between two of the smallest ones and making a run for it raced through my mind.

Finally an hour after the service ended, I was permitted to leave.  Just as I made my way toward my car, “a young nice lady” called from behind me. “You’re new here, right?  I’m Lisa.” 

With my Honda in arms length, I sighed, and briefly relished the thought of just booking it to my car and completely ignoring her question. I enjoyed the fantasy for a second before returning back to reality.  “Oh, Hi Lisa.  I’m Jessica and yes, I am new. I just came to check out the Kingdom Hall.”  I quickly shook her hand, put everything I had into shelling out a smile and then quickly turned my foot back to the direction of my car.  “Wait!  Jessica of Plymouth Drive, Jessica?  Is your husband, Patrick?  Dog Charlie?  I think Megan and I have been to your house!  SO GLAD TO FINALLY MEET YOU GIVE ME A HUG!!!! MEGAN NEEDS TO MEET YOU TOO, SHE’S INSIDE!  WERE SO HAPPY YOU ARE HERE…...  Come back inside.” 

“Oh MY GOODNESS!” I said smiling with the biggest fake smile in the entire universe.  And then reluctantly went back into the mob of swirly eyed Jehovah’s and met the other “nice young lady” Megan who also wrapped her arms around me, conspicuously looked at my version of the Bible and insisted she come over my house sometime this week to study. 

They both then became my 21st  and 22nd phone number to add on my list of Jehovah’s I could contact if I needed more information and after 30 minutes and a solid commitment to study with them on Monday, I was finally permitted to go home at around 11:30 at night, well over 2 hours after the service came to a close!

I’ve been studying with these two nice young ladies, Megan and Lisa for about 5 weeks now.  They are very nice and very young just as Patrick had described them, however I can certainly not get behind a God that will keep you out of heaven because you refused to call Him by a misprounced version of His Hebrew name YHWH.

If you like swirly eyed people, lots of intense really jumpy energy, and your own special version of your Bible that just so happens to fit your theology ever so perfectly, you might want to check out the Jehovah’s.

Some things they believe I find interesting:

1)      You must call God Jehovah, (a misprounced version of YHWH in English) or you’re not going to heaven.

2)      Jesus is not God.  He was a created being and worshipping him keeps you out of heaven.

3)      You must not celebrate any holidays including Easter, Birthdays, Christmas.

4)      Salvation is through a combination of grace and good works.  Grace and faith alone is not enough.

5)      Independent thinking is strongly discouraged.  The governing body of the JW’s, the Watchtower Society is the final authority on Scripture.

6)      You can’t pray with a Jehovah unless you are a Jehovah.

7)      They don’t believe in blood transfusions and use Acts 15:20 as their reasoning why.

8)      Satan originated the doctrine of Trinity.

9)      Holy Spirit is a force, not a person or part of the Godhead.

10)   Jesus was not raised from the dead.

11)  They refuse to salute the United States flag.

12)  In 1914 Satan and his angels (demons) were cast down to the earth and the end of the world began.  In the same year, Jesus returned invisibly and began his rule in heaven.

13)  Refuse any military service

14)  Discourage their congregation from any political affiliations, even voting in elections.

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25 Comments

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 03, 2010

    wow, what an experience.  you’ve taught me much that i didn’t know in this post.  thanks, jess.

    i can actually get on board with a few of the things you listed about JW, though the majority are pretty out there as far as i’m concerned.  particularly, i think their view of salvation (grace and good works) is pretty much as close to biblical as most protestant evangelical views of salvation.  and i always only call God Jehovah.

    [that last bit’s not true.]

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 03, 2010

    I should tell you about a Jehovah Witness hayride that I went on when I was dating my wife way back in 1989.

    I was the Pentecostal Pastor’s kid who was ‘missionary’ dating the daughter of a Jehovah Witness. 

    Just to give you some idea what it was like - we were in the back of a pickup truck in the middle of the day driving down a country highway.  We weren’t allowed to throw the straw because it might upset some of the people.  And the whole time I felt as if I were the boy-who-had-horns.  One thing that was interesting.. I don’t remember any of them trying to ‘witness’ to me. 

    I also remember attending a communion service where we were only allowed to look at the cup of wine and bread as it was passed along through the congregation. Only the 144,000 were allowed to partake of the wine and bread.

    I will have to keep up on any future posts that you do about the JW’s.

  • Scott

    Scott August 03, 2010

    In reference to your studying with them for five weeks:

    2 John 9-11 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.  (10)  If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:  (11)  For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

  • Gavin

    Gavin August 03, 2010

    @ Scott, I’m not sure that passage applies. Listening to someone else’s viewpoint isn’t a transgression. Do you believe that Jesus did not talk with those of other faiths?

    How can you spread the word if you can only speak to those of a like belief/faith?

  • Scott

    Scott August 04, 2010

    Gavin,
    There is a difference between just talking to someone and inviting them into your house to study JW theology with them. Jesus Christ ate with publicans, harlots, etc, but He did not go to their homes. The portion of the passage I quoted is quite appropriate especially verses 10 and 11 (I included the other verses for context).

    I hope Jessica has been witnessing to them. However, at the same time they have been doing the same. My fear is that more of what they teach is sinking into her than the other way around.

    This post of Jessica’s explains why she is more readily open to the non-Biblical, Jehovah Witness doctrine of soul sleep. She, James, and I had that conversation around the time that she started studying with them, if my memory is right.

    I am glad to read posts by Jessica like the one about the Bible recently and today’s about sin. She is showing discernment in these areas and that is great! But Jessica treads a dangerous path with some of these visits with non-Christian beliefs.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 04, 2010

    scott, i know for sure that Jesus went to zaccheus’ house, and even stayed there for a time.  and he (zaccheus) was a thieving tax collector.

    and i’ll be honest, i’m not sure that i understand 2 john correctly.  but i have to wonder at least if the instructions not to take into your home those who claim to be of God, yet deny Christ, might be talking about your community of faith—as the church to whom the letter is written is meeting in someone’s home (or the lady to whom the letter is written is hosting a church in her own home).

    regardless, i assume the teaching has more to do with accepting into your group, family, or life those who denounce Christ—and therefore giving them credibility and encouragement in those things they misunderstand.  i doubt it is the actual having these people within the walls of our houses that is being denounced.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 04, 2010

    scott, you said, “This post of Jessica‚Äôs explains why she is more readily open to the non-Biblical, Jehovah Witness doctrine of soul sleep. She, James, and I had that conversation around the time that she started studying with them, if my memory is right.”

    scott, does this mean that i, too, have been entertaining pagans in my home?  am i entertaining the idea that Jesus Christ didn’t come in the flesh?  is that why i question whether or not the spirit leaves the body upon death and goes directly to heaven or hell?

    is it at least possible that jessica and i are open to other readings of scripture (than yours) simply because we think the texts may be best understood and explained that way?  or because we’re simply open to the idea that what we believe might be incorrect, and so we try to remain objective, always searching for truth?

    i have no problem with the fact that we disagree on some issues, but i do take offense when you would suggest jessica is being influenced by the evils of the JWs just because she holds (or is even open to) a different interpretation than yours.  i think that’s an incredibly arrogant way to look at it.

    the thing is… i even acknowledge that 2 john 10-11 may speak to this situation (i’m not sure and i lean against, but i acknowledge that it may very well apply).  so it’s not that i think your view is wrong or foolish.  what bothers me is that you’re attempting to prove your point by directing attention to times in which jessica has erred (by not agreeing with you on some pretty gray issues).

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 04, 2010

    gavin (or patrick, i assume?),

    on your buckethead website, i can’t get the button for “blog” to work.  is that under construction or is there a problem there or what?

  • Scott

    Scott August 04, 2010

    Did Zacchaeus remain the same as he was before Jesus Christ came? Plus Zacchaeus was searching for Jesus Christ to see who He is, and after meeting with Him did not remain the same. It is really a different situation than Jessica’s.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 04, 2010

    scott, i did not suggest one way or another that Jessica’s situation was the same as Jesus with zaccheus.  i merely was disagreeing with your statement below:

    “Jesus Christ ate with publicans, harlots, etc, but He did not go to their homes.”

  • Gavin

    Gavin August 04, 2010

    @Scott, We I don’t have the biblical knowledge to debate scripture with you. I do however, have the benefit of witnessing Jessica’s journey first hand. Which is why I can confidently say your quoted scripture doesn’t apply to her. She’s stated many times her beliefs are rooted solely in the bible and it seems clear to me on this post she doesn’t share the beliefs of the JHs. I can also say, her soulsleep belief did not come from them.

    @James, You busted me, the link is inactive. It’s the old “The cobbler’s children have no shoes” problem. The site is 4 years old and I have 4 unused redesigns siting on my computer…one day…one day…

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 04, 2010

    Oh Scott…this again;-)  Just kidding—I welcome your insights as always, however, there are a couple of things I would like to clear up.

    1)  The Jehovah Witnesses believe in God, does this mean that if I state that I believe in God I got that from a JW?  Of course not.  I do hold to my position that I believe that we might not enjoy heaven immediately upon physical death.  I’m not 100% certain, but I am leaning that way. This idea did not come from the JW’s but from reading my Bible.  However, the timing was pretty spot on so I can see why you suspected that. 

    2) If we use 2 John 10 to mean that we can’t let anyone who doesn’t have Christian doctrine into our homes or bid them Godspeed, does that mean I shouldn’t have my uncle Ralph over for Thanksgiving?  He’s a Buddhist.  And if we take that verse to mean that no one who doesn’t have the doctrine of Christ is allowed in our homes, we also have to add the Godspeed part.  So I also can’t tell Uncle Ralph Godspeed either?

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 04, 2010

    I found the second book of John to be a very interesting read.  We are not given much in the way of context so it is hard to determine if the letter was to a specific individual, a church, or some people meeting in someone’s home.

    However, what we can be sure of is that John is giving a clear ‘danger’ sign for entertaining those who bring a message that is false.

    I am not a Greek scholar (James may be able to assist here) but the word usage in verses 10 and 11 seem to imply more than just receiving someone into your home for a conversation. Specifically, a study of ‘receive’ and ‘greet’ would be beneficial for better understanding.

    That being said, I did look at one of my commentaries (Warren Weirsbe) and he pointed out some things in context for that period of history where traveling ‘teachers’ would look for hospitality from people who were willing to put them up.  The act of providing that hospitality could be deemed as support for the teaching being offered. It may be like housing the leader of the Watch Tower society at your house while he was in town to lead a meeting for local Jehovah Witnesses.  That could be deemed as support for their teaching.

    Today we use the term ecumenical when 2 ‘different’ groups try to work together ... sometimes it is a dirty word (and rightfully so). 

    Again, I am by no means a theologian but my first pass of these scriptures would be that we are not to lend credence or appearance of acceptance to those who teach a false doctrine. 

    As far as having Jehovah Witnesses into my home, I would readily sit down with them and go across their teachings and mine.  I would not suggest that all people do that because some are not prepared for that type of encounter.

    I might also point out that most of the JW’s going door-to-door are not the ‘teachers’ of their religion but those who wish to complete tasks along their ‘pioneer’ process.  Very few JW’s that I have talked to have the ability to teach their own religion. (I could say this about most Christian sects as well.)  Our modern door-to-door methodologies may not fit into the traveling teacher mold that we see at play in 2 John.

    I am open to thoughts as I have found this a difficult passage to think on as far as its implications as to how we conduct our faith when it comes to conversations with the many different philosophies/religions that we will come into contact with on our front doorstep.

  • Gavin

    Gavin August 04, 2010

    @ Tony, you make some great points. While many of the teachings in the bible transcend the ethos for a given time period, I think sometimes passages need to be interpreted a bit to truly understand how they relate to present day situations.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 04, 2010

    tony, thanks for your vote of confidence, but i am no greek scholar.  i’ve studied just enough to confuse myself. 

    but some quick looks show that the word for “receive” is lambanete, which looks to pretty much mean receive or accept.  it’s used when talking about receiving the gospel or God, receiving wages, and even “taking” up your cross.

    and chairein is the word translated “welcome,” “greet,” or “bid Godspeed.”  it really means simply to rejoice or be glad.  but it was used sometimes as a greeting or a farewell, surely having something to do with rejoicing to be with someone and share time with them.

    so (as seems to be usual) i don’t think the greek here gives many great clues beyond what is already in the text.  i still lean towards this receiving and greeting being something like we today call fellowship—the sharing of lives with one another.  i don’t think that’s what jessica was doing. 

    i believe john is urging christians not to share their lives with those who claim to be christians, but don’t believe in Christ (as both man and God).  i think it’s probably a disassociation with intent to save—as paul discusses in 2 corinthians 5 (there in terms of disfellowship or excommunication).  we don’t give others the opportunity to believe that we can have communion with them as the body of Christ if they do not believe in Christ himself.

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 04, 2010

    James,

    I know that Greek is one of those languages that takes great care in translation so I have to trust the scholars that did the footwork to help me with the English translation.  I use a couple of resources when trying to get more information about context of a verse based on the Greek word usage behind a verse. 

    When I looked into the words of ‘receive’ and ‘greet’, I got the appearance of a fellowship experience that you have so adequately pointed out. 

    It is interesting that we may want to use the words ‘receive’ and ‘let or allow’ interchangeably in our context but the verse does not say “Don’t let them into your house”  or “Don’t allow them to enter your house”.  It say not to receive them.  So, at least to me, the word receive has a greater meaning than just whether or not a person should be allowed entry but in WHAT manner they are met.

    Used in conjunction with the understanding that ‘greet’ is a ‘rejoicing’ term, we have some context for the manner of the reception that John was alluding to.

    Just some ‘light’ thoughts for a Wednesday afternoon.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 04, 2010

    thanks, tony.  i enjoy your “light” comments.  living in tanzania with very few english speakers around, i’m really blessed to have these forums in which to participate in some solid discussion.  also, i miss formal school (as much as i teach that it’s not necessary); i just enjoy being challenged.

    and i’m with you on your (our?) interpretation of the passage.

    one of my pet peeves is when people use the greek language to try and teach something that is better understood from the text itself, leaving the plain, old english word in there.  i’m convinced the bible is written in such a way that the dumb missionaries of the world (and anyone else) can understand it without understanding greek and hebrew and lots of big words.

    all of that said, would you mind sharing with me what resources you use when looking at the greek (or hebrew) language?  i’ve had to narrow my library quite a bit and, so, am always looking for really quality stuff…

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 04, 2010

    I think it was John MacArthur that stated, on how to study the bible, that we should begin with just reading it.  Let the words speak for themselves first.

    It is usually in that manner that I start to form questions about “how”, “why”, “what”, “when”, and “who”.  Just the general stuff.  Some of the questions (actually most) cause me to do more digging to make sure that I keep the local interpretation of scripture in accordance with the rest of the scripture.  Those digging sessions usually consist of using 2 tools (not sure how good quality they are.. I could really use a primer on how to better interpret Greek, myself).

    I have one of the honking big Strong’s Concordance that have the Hebrew and Greek words cross indexed.  But I like to use www. BlueLetterBible.org to do a lot of my research because things are so much faster for me electronically.

    The site will give the Greek or Hebrew word behind the verse and give the major definitions and usages of the word. It also has an audio pronunciation of the word which is pretty cool.  I think BibleGateway may have similar tools.

    If you have some helps that you can send my way, I would be interested as well.  smile

  • Jessica

    Jessica August 04, 2010

    Love the blueletterbible.org!  When I first found it, I felt like I hit a goldmine.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 04, 2010

    tony, sorry i’ve got no research tools to share with you.  what books i once occasionally used were either given away or are still packed up from the move.  i use biblegateway when i want to see a text in different versions (including greek).  and to be honest, i haven’t looked up more than five greek words in a lexicon in the past year (two were today and one was a couple of days ago).  for those i just google searched the word and “greek definition.”  hopefully this blueletterbible site will be of use to me.  what i want most to be able to do is look at the other uses of a word in the new testament (though i’d really like a program that gave its uses in classical greek literature as well).

  • Tony York

    Tony York August 04, 2010

    I think you may find some of the things that you are looking for at BlueLetterBible .. I remember that is where I found a classical Greek usage for the terms that are used to describe baptism. 
    I never expected that the practical Greek usage of terms as applied to making a pickle would help me better understand those verses.  smile

    Let me know what you think of it.

  • JamesBrett

    JamesBrett August 04, 2010

    i did know about the pickle thing, but it’s only because i’m church of Christ, so it was kind of beat into me at a very young age.

    i’ll have a look at it tomorrow morning and let you know.  thanks for the advice.  and now… i’m off to bed.

  • Melissa Outten

    Melissa Outten December 10, 2010

    Oh Jess, how could I have missed this one!  I haven’t been keeping up, shame on me!  I was raised in the Kingdom Hall I have/had so much I could say!  It was CRAZY!!  Just a few things and I will let it go.  1. NO ONE but the 144,000 are going to heaven!  2.  Big time on the works thing!  Keep working, working, working.  3. ( and this breaks my heart)  There is no mercy, grace, or true love given to the members in there.  For instance, my mother and father had divorced, mom started dating a man who would later be her 2nd hubby.  She was seeing him without a chaperone and was intimate with him.  She went forward and told the elders about her indiscretion and they kicked her out, she was disfellowshipped.  We still went EVERY Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.  No one was allowed to speak to us, they looked the other way when we came.  She was shunned 3x a week.  Where was the mercy and grace that Christ would have given?  Where was the helping her back up after she had fallen?  As you know the JW WILL NOT associate themselves with people in the world so my mother had lost EVERYONE whom she loved.  Her BFF’s had turned away from her.  Finally after about a year of this they let her back in with restrictions.  I can not say how thankful that I am to have found a church family who would walk beside me and guide me through anything.  They love me and encourage me literally every day.  I hope and pray that after this year you have found a church home.  Anytime you have any questions about JW’s just ask.  Although their whole belief system changes every couple of decades.  By the way my mother and grandmother are still Jehovah’s Witnesses.  My 7 year old son loves to say the blessings over meals, my mother then says her own because his aren’t good enough.  I guess she thinks that the prayers of a child aren’t heard, funny enough he actually does pray from his heart and his prayers aren’t the same every time.

  • Andrew

    Andrew January 20, 2011

    Melissa, I still remember the day my sister in law married a non JW, and was herself kicked out. The funny thing is, I kept listening to my wife joyfully testify everywhere, “My sister was just kicked out of church….My sister was just kicked out of church!” lol.

  • Cecelia Dowdy

    Cecelia Dowdy February 05, 2011

    Yes, those were the days. I recall listening to those “talks.” JWs have their own lingo. They don’t use “worldly” terms. They call their sermons and their skits: “talks.”

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