Michelle – Catholic to JW to believer in Jesus!

Michelle – From Italian Catholic to Jehovah’s Witness to Believer in the Lord Jesus!

Growing up in an Italian-Catholic family…

…from New Haven, Conn., I had little knowledge of the Bible, other than the stories of Jesus that I learned in my C.C.D. classes at the local Catholic church. Ever since I could remember, I was always asking questions about the Bible that went unanswered.

Accepted a “Bible” study…

So, in 1969, when I was 10 years old, my mother accepted what we then thought was a “Bible study” from a “pioneer” Witness lady. I was pleased that we were finally going to learn the Bible.

Baptised into “the truth…”

In 1974, after moving to South Florida, I was baptized at a local circuit convention. As a teenager, I remember feeling so very fortunate to be one of the few people that knew Jehovah and worshipped him “in spirit and truth.” I believed that I was a true Christian in the only organization to which God gave His approval.

In January 1980, I moved to New York, where I had the opportunity to live with Donna Fried. She was a pioneer, which is someone who promises 90 to 100 hours a month of preaching for the Watchtower Society. During this time, I sought part-time employment so I too, could devote more hours in “Jehovah’s Service.”

The first 10 years as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Watchtower Society were pleasant for me. I never questioned my authorities or doctrine…

If something was “in print” from the Watchtower Society, I believed it–and that settled it! I was involved in regular meeting attendance which consisted of five meetings per week, and weekly field service.

Working out my salvation…

I believed that according to Philippians 2:12, I was “working out my own salvation.” This is something all Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that means we actually are working for our own salvation or approval from Jehovah only within this visible organization based on self-effort and performance. How delighted I would be years later to read and finally understand John 6:28-29 in regard to salvation.

Here, Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the works that God requires? Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’” I would not understand God’s grace for years to come.

Married my best friend…

In December 1981, I married my best friend, Ron–a Jehovah’s Witness. We would serve God together as we were happily working our way to eternal life on paradise earth!

Doubts arising in my friends…

Unknown to me, however, doubts about the organization were stirring in the minds and hearts of the two people closest to me–my husband and my good friend, Donna. She saw first-hand the many problems at Brooklyn headquarters in New York, while Ron started having doubts about the “no blood transfusion” doctrine because of information he had gained through his medical training as a respiratory therapist. He began to recognize some grave inconsistencies with the organization’s logic and reasoning on this life-and-death issue.

Donna began to share her thoughts…

Back when we were still roommates, Donna began to share her thoughts with me about what the Bible says on the subject of “who made up the true church and the Christian congregation.”

I simply believed that all who worshipped God in spirit and truth (Jehovah’s Witnesses) were the Christian congregation. This seemed to me to be the logical answer, but she showed me on page 371 of The Aid to Bible Understanding published by the Watchtower, that the congregation, or true church, was limited to only 144,000 “anointed ones” of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Donna resigns from the Organization…

Although this disturbed me, I simply shelved it into a corner of my mind until 1983 when I received a detailed letter from Donna explaining why her conscience was moving her to resign from the Watchtower Society. It was a terrible disappointment to me, and my reaction towards her was one of hurt and anger. Her actions now placed my membership in jeopardy because the rules of the Society forbid association with former members.

I was hurt and angry…

To even speak to my friend would put me in a position to be “disfellowshiped,” or ex-communicated from the JW’s and to die at Armageddon. I was hurt by her rejection of what I thought at the time was God’s Organization and responded to her by saying she was “like a dog returning to its own vomit” by leaving “The Truth.” She was now branded by those who knew her as a “wicked apostate.”

However, I knew deep down that these labels were really false because one of the things that stood out in my mind about her was how much she loved God. This was evident to me by her longing to read the Bible daily and her desire to do God’s will in everything. I knew in my heart I could not call her an apostate against God, for she was merely leaving an organization. Sadly, to a Jehovah’s Witness, leaving the organization is synonymous with leaving God, Himself!

Another milestone–a book by a former member of the governing body..

Another milestone in my life came in September 1984. I came across a book that was to change our lives forever. The book was Crisis of Conscience by Raymond Franz, a former governing body member of the Watchtower. Although I was taught that reading such a book was exposing myself to “spiritual pornography,” I had a heartfelt feeling that the reasons for Donna’s resignation were in that book. And I believed that no one could tear down THE TRUTH–if it really was THE TRUTH!

A liberating experience for my husband…

For my husband Ron, this book was truly a liberating experience. Mr. Franz knew first-hand the abuses of authority and exposed the Society’s true history by citing the many false prophecies, doctrinal inconsistencies, changes, and contradictions between the Bible and Watchtower literature, and had photo-documentation to prove it. Anyone could look it up for themselves.

But I did not know where else to go…

It was at that time Ron stopped attending the Kingdom Hall without guilt, but I dealt with this situation a bit differently. Although my faith in the Watchtower was definitely shattered, I was bound by fear and mind control, and had no trust in “so-called” Christians and the churches.

I felt that I had no where else to go. I did not understand at that time, but as Peter had said (John 6:68) “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

I continued going to the Kingdom Hall feeling like a hypocrite…

I continued on at the Kingdom Hall for three more years. It was a difficult and painful time in my life. I loved the friends at the three congregations of which I had been a part in New York and Florida, and yet felt like a terrible hypocrite because I no longer trusted the Society as teaching THE TRUTH.

I began to investigate…

I began to do what the Watchtower wanted everyone else to do–except Jehovah’s Witnesses–I investigated the religious organization with which I was associated.

Why did Jehovah’s Wintesses keep changing “the truth?”

What was “truth,” I wondered, when they kept changing it? God doesn’t change his mind about truth, yet I found out that for over 100 years, the Watchtower kept changing, (or as they call it,“adjusting”) its stand on major issues–even life-and-death matters–spiritual and physical.

Looking back…

…I realize that Jehovah was guiding and directing my life even though my search for Him personally was detoured while in the Watchtower Society. It is during these painful experiences that we seem to learn the most. I started to read, look, and listen to others, compare and evaluate other religions like never before.

Ron and I spent the summer of 1987 in the Rockies and visited the Mormon welcome center in Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons have some similarities…

I remember saying to Ron, “They are just like Jehovah’s Witnesses, only some of their doctrines are slightly different.” Little did I know then that some of the early Mormon and Watchtower doctrines shared some commonality, because both Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon religion) and Charles Taze Russell (founder of the Watchtower Society, then known as International Bible Students) were both Masons.

I would read a book years later that would show how highly occultic the Masonic Order truly is.  My feeling that both these religions were similar stemmed from the fact that all cults have a similar high-demand authoritative structure set up on a “good works” performance system in order to gain favor with God or merit eternal life.

I asked Jehovah’s permission to speak to Jesus…

Early in the Spring of 1988, I did something I now know was the most important thing I could ever do in respect to my relationship with God. One day, while on my way to work, I asked Jehovah’s permission to talk to Jesus.

We were taught that it was idolatry to talk or pray to Jesus. I was so afraid! Yet, I wanted to do instinctively what Jesus, Himself said to do in John 14:14– “Ask me anything in my name…” (Later I would find out that the Watchtower actually removed the “me” in that scripture from the original Greek text in their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.)

I sought the Savior alone, not the organization…

I told Jesus how miserable I felt and that I needed His help to settle all the uncertainties that remained concerning the Watchtower Organization. I had done something that Jehovah’s Witnesses are never taught to do–I asked Jesus to come into my life and trusted Him with it.

As a loyal Watchtower follower, I had wrongly believed the book Worldwide Security Under the Prince of Peace when it stated that Jehovah and Jesus worked only through THE ORGANIZATION and that Jesus Christ was not my personal mediator, but only the mediator for those in “Spiritual Israel–the 144,000” (p. 10).

But, as I stepped beyond the fear, I sought the Savior alone, not in addition to a religion or an organization. I believed my request would be honored for good—not for evil (Luke 11:10-13)–and it was!

My thinking began to change as I turned to Jesus…

There were no bells that rang, or any instant, miraculous answers to all of my questions, but the most peculiar thing happened in my thinking. Shortly thereafter, within days, I began to have this desire to want to be with Jesus–wherever he was! I really did not understand this feeling because the Watchtower had shut the door to Heaven since 1935; my hope had been an earthly paradise, without Jesus.

Could it be that I had finally submitted to the authority of Christ, trusting Him alone for my salvation and according to John 3 and 1 John 5:1 and that I had become a child of God–a born-again believer in Jesus Christ? I believe I did!

Letters of resignation…

In July of 1988, my husband and I gave letters of resignation to the elders at our local Davie, Florida Kingdom Hall. As a former JW, I had lots of questions, but I came to see that we need not have immediate answers to ALL our questions!

We no longer need to be in fear…

We no longer need to be in fear of examining the beliefs of others in light of what the Bible says. I found the Holy Spirit to be my teacher, and not a religious organization. Jesus said he would send Him to teach us. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14) The true church of Christianity is made up of a family, not an organization, with members from many denominations of Christendom, and even includes individuals who may not be attending a church at the time.

A personal relationship with Christ Jesus…

I found out that there is a difference between uniformity imposed from an organization and true Christianity, where there is “unity in the essentials, liberty in the non-essentials, and charity in all things.”

A Christian is someone who simply has a personal relationship through their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. John 3:16— “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever (a limitless number, not 144,000) believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Will you join me?

Will you join me and become a “whosoever” by trusting in Jesus today? The Watchtower says it is the truth, but in John 14:6, Jesus says he is the way, the truth and the life. Do it today! Trust in him alone! He is THE TRUTH–not any man-made organization!

ML—revised 1997

We regret–and yet are joyful–to tell you that Michelle went home to be with her Lord in the spring of 2015. We miss her sweet smile and the twinkle in her eye, her incredible networking skills in her quest to reach out the hurting and her love of and dedication to her husband and her adult children. She is greatly missed but is even now rejoicing in the presence of the Lord Jesus and those who have gone before her.

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