Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Watchtower Experience - R. Stuart Marshall

(experience in the 12/01/08 Watchtower - pgs 26-29)

"We do not talk to Jehovah's Witnesses," said the Jesuit priest. "They use the Bible." His answer took me by surprise, since I had just asked him to help my wife by showing her some inconsistencies in the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses. I decided I would have to study the Bible with the Witnesses myself so that I could show her."
It was at this point that, at age 43, I set out to refute the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, using my knowledge of logic and theology. From elementary school through college, I had been in Catholic institutions. Though I earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics in 1969 and took the required courses in philosophy and theology along the way, none of my Catholic education included a study of the Bible.
After college, I married Patricia McGinn, a fellow Catholic. Both of us then earned doctorate degrees at Stanford University. Our son, Stuart, was born in 1977, and we eventually settled in Sacramento, California, U.S.A. For the next 23 years, I worked for the state of California in the Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO), analyzing the financial impact of state education budgets. I worked hard and enjoyed a good life. I loved being a father to our son as he grew up. My beloved wife was my staunchest supporter, and I supported her as well.

A 25-Cent Answer
When our son was two years old, Patricia obtained a Bible from Jehovah's Witnesses and began to study it with them. She was baptized three years later. I felt that Jehovah's Witnesses were narrow in their views on holidays and blood transfusions, yet I found their reasoning on certain subjects compelling. To my surprise, I made my feelings public one day in 1987 when I was called to testify before a joint hearing of the senate and assembly committees concerning one of my recommendations to the state legislature. The University of California wanted funds to compete with other states to win a six-billion-dollar federal project. The project was to build a superconducting supercollider for research on subatomic particles. I had recommended against the funding, stating that in the long run, it would provide little for the state economy. The university countered by bringing in two Nobel laureates in physics to testify before the legislature. Each of them described the knowledge that the project could provide. One said that it could answer questions on the origin of the universe. The other said that it could shed light on the beginning of life on our planet. The chairman of the committee turned to me.
"Do you think six billion dollars is too much to pay for answers to these questions?" he asked.
"I agree that these are important questions," I answered. "However, Jehovah's Witnesses come to my door on Saturday mornings and offer a magazine on a 25-cent donation that will answer the same questions. And I'm not sure that their 25-cent answer isn't better than the six-billion-dollar answers we might get from this project."
Everyone in the room roared with laughter, including the Nobel laureates. Even though the legislature granted funding to pursue the project, no one refuted my point.

As time went on, I began to see the need to address a developing situation at home. After six years of discussions with Patricia about the Bible and Jehovah's Witnesses, I felt disappointed when she wanted to spend more time in the ministry. This would involve cutting back on her work at the university. How an otherwise logical person could have that kind of goal frustrated me, and there seemed to be nothing that I could say or do that would change her mind.
I tried to enlist the help of an expert, someone who had more Bible knowledge than I had, someone who, I thought, could easily point out the inconsistencies between the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses and the Bible. Proving just one of their teachings wrong would put the rest into question. That was all I would need to reach my wife's mathematical mind. I contacted the Jesuit priest of the church that Patricia and I had previously attended. Our meeting concluded with the conversation described at the beginning of this article. When the priest refused to talk to my wife, I knew that even though it would take me a little longer, I would have to be the one to find the flaws and point them out to Patricia.

My Search for Errors
As I studied the Bible with the Witnesses, what impressed me most was Bible prophecy. I read from the prophet Isaiah details of the fall of Babylon written nearly 200 years before the event, actually naming Cyrus as the conqueror and describing the tactic of diverting the Euphrates River to conquer Babylon. (Isaiah 44:27-45:4) Years earlier, I had studied the fall of Babylon in a class on military strategy. I also learned that the prophet Daniel had foretold, more than 200 years in advance, details of a powerful king of Greece whose kingdom would be divided into four less-powerful kingdoms after his death. (Daniel 8:21, 22) I remembered that fact about Alexander the Great from my study of ancient history. Through personal research in reference works, I established for myself that these books of the Bible were in fact written before the events they foretold.
The more I studied with the Witnesses, the more convinced I became that the Bible is God's Word, something that years of studying Catholic theology had not done for me. What would I do with my knowledge? I decided to dedicate my life to Jehovah and become one of his Witnesses. (Isaiah 43:10)
I was baptized in 1991, just two years after that conversation with the priest. Our son was baptized the following year. With our new focus, we changed our family goals. One of the first things I did after my baptism was to set in place a five-year plan for my wife to phase out of university teaching by age 50. She wanted to become a pioneer minister, which at that time involved devoting 1000 hours a year, or about 83 hours a month, to helping others learn Bible truths. By 1994, she had reduced her work schedule enough to enroll as a pioneer. My initial goals included improving my ministry, assisting where I could in our congregation, and volunteering my services to do accounting for the construction of Kingdom Halls in the area.
On one occasion, I had the opportunity to discuss the Bible at work. A new budget analyst at the LAO turned out to be a Witness who was no longer actively practicing what she believed. Doubts about the Bible had weakened her faith. I had the joy of helping her spiritually. She returned to her home state and began pioneering.
In 1995, I was attending a special joint assembly and senate education committee hearing on federal research. The committee chairperson asked the federal representative what had happened to the superconducting supercollider project. In response, the federal official said that the project had been awarded to the state of Texas but that it was never completed for three reasons. First, the cost of the project increased from six billion to nine billion dollars before it was started. Second, the federal government wanted funds to be used elsewhere, notably the 1991 Iraq war. Third, they found out that they could get the answers to life's questions from Jehovah's Witnesses for 25 cents! It appeared that the remark had made its way around and back to where it had started. As everyone laughed, some committee members looked at me. I spoke out to update all present and said, "You can now get the answers free if you just read the literature."

A Full and Meaningful Life
Once my wife retired, we made a five-year plan for me. I discreetly inquired at other agencies about working part-time because I now wanted to spend more time in teaching Bible truths to others. Unexpectedly, the LAO offered me the opportunity to work a reduced schedule. So, in 1998, I too became a pioneer minister.
One morning as my wife and I were preparing to go in the ministry, I received a phone call from the United States branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York. Following up on an earlier survey, the caller asked if I was interested in working on a project in Brooklyn. I responded with a definite yes. That led to our working at world headquarters for 18 months.
I ended up taking an early retirement from the state of California in order to finish the project. After that, we volunteered our services at the construction of the Assembly Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Fairfield, California. We sold our home in Sacramento and moved into a small apartment in Palo Alto. My early retirement opened up the way for further blessings. We have since worked on projects at branch offices of Jehovah's Witnesses in Nigeria, South Africa, Canada, Britain, and Germany.
Like the Witnesses who helped us, my wife and I now have the joy of helping others learn the truths of the Bible. I honestly feel that education from Jehovah is the most rewarding of all my higher education. It is unlike any other educational program on earth in its breadth and comprehensiveness. Jehovah has trained his Witnesses to teach Bible truth in a way that touches both the mind and the heart. That is what motivates me to continue to learn. My wife and I feel thankful for the life we now enjoy and for the privilege of using our education to serve the Sovereign of the Universe, Jehovah God.