One former member calls it the “number one killer cult,” and says it has been responsible for more premature deaths than the horror of Jonestown. Its members, nicely dressed, go door to door offering literature and an invitation to “be in the truth.” They hardly look dangerous.

But William Cetnar, once a highly placed official, believes they are. Cetnar left the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) in 1962 and has since devoted much effort to leading others out of the sect. A Pennsylvania stockbroker, he now spends only about 5 percent of his time on that job—occupying the rest with conferences and lectures about JW and other cults.

Last month he was host to the third annual National Convention of Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, held in New Ringgold, Pennsylvania. At an interview before the conference, Cetnar said he believed the JW would continue as an unorthodox cult even after younger charges take over the leadership. Frederick Franz, JW president, is now 87.

Cetnar, who probably watches the organization more closely than any other person outside Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, believes it will stay an unorthodox cult “because a wolf cannot become a sheep.” He does, however, believe some substantial changes are forthcoming:

• The controversial ban on receiving blood transfusions will probably be lifted after Franz’s death, Cetnar thinks.

• A new date for the end of the world (JWs have previously predicted Christ’s return seven times) is likely to be announced, possibly 1988.

• By sheer mathematical necessity, some change will have to be made in the JW doctrine that Christ will return before an elect 144,000 Witnesses have died. The 144,000 places were filled by those living in 1914 and few remain alive today. But Christ is supposed to return ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: