Ex Jehovah’s Witness, Cynthia Velasco Hampton shared her testimony on her blog: Ex JWs Los Angeles. She now runs a support group for former Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Finding Jesus: Leaving the Watchtower and other False Practices Behind
Before my family joined the Watchtower Organization in around 1971-1972, my family was Roman Catholic. But we were not really good practicing Catholics. My family, especially my father’s side of the family was heavily involved in astrology beliefs and the occult. My father and my grandfather seemed to love the false prophecies of Edgar Cayce. We had books on meditation and visualization in our house.
I read all these books. I used to go over to my aunt and uncle’s house and my cousin taught me how to use a Ouija board when I was 9 years old. I got my own spirit board and used a pendulum to talk to spirits. I got books on witchcraft and learned how to read Tarot cards. I was heavily into these practices by the time my mother began to study with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
When I had heard about the apocalyptic teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower, I thought much of it sounded very much like what I had learned from Edgar Cayce’s writings. So prophecy was what interested me because it sounded so much like what I had already believed. There was only one problem: I really enjoyed my belief in astrology and occultic practices. The Watchtower does not allow their members to practice such things as they really rightfully say that these things are of satanic origin. I never gave up my desire to read my horoscope and my desire to practice visualization even though I was joining the Watchtower organization who forbids such practices.
I kept my spirit board for a time and my Tarot cards. Finally one day I had put them up in my closet and thought they would be alright up there. But one day the box with the pendulum and board “jumped” down off the shelf several times. There was no reason for them to fall out, we were in Arizona and there were no earthquakes happening. It scared me so much I took all if it out to the trash in the back and never saw it again. But we still had our Edgar Cayce books, the astrology books and all our other “New Age” books in the house. Nothing else ever “jumped” off the shelf that I saw. So I started to seriously study with Jehovah’s Witnesses after that.
The Watchtower presents a very distorted view of demons and the occult. So when I joined them, I was trained to think that demons were around every corner and were out to get me. We were taught a lot of superstition, like to be afraid of Smurf dolls and Cabbage Patch dolls because they were thought to have demons. We were told not to buy items at yard sales or second hand stores because demons might be attached to some object such as an article of clothing or an appliance. When my 2nd hand sewing machine was not working right, I was told it was “demonized.” I never knew what to think or what to believe about that while I was a JW. I was all mixed up with confusion. But thinking about it now, that is exactly what the enemy wants, is for us to be confused about who God is and what his will is for our lives.
After going to several assemblies and through heavy indoctrination, I decided the Watchtower was the truth. I was baptized in 1972.
We all believed that Armageddon was coming in 1975. Everyone was speculating as to when it might arrive. Some even speculated that it might be 1974 instead of 1975. I remember the District Overseer, named “Brother Sales” (I believe it was him, but not entirely sure), giving a talk at the International Assembly in Oakland in 1973. His actual words were, “When an alarm clock is ready to ring, just before it rings, there is a click and just a split second before the alarm actually rings. Well we are in that time period between the click and the actual ringing of the alarm clock. That’s how much time we have left before Armageddon!” The crowd clapped and cheered. All everyone talked about was how little time we had left before Armageddon.
Because there was so little time left, many teenagers began to get married quite young. It is traditional and typical for a Jehovah’s Witness to marry young. Since one is not allowed to date unless you intend to be married, anyone who dates is expected to get married. However, since Armageddon was so close, it just seemed like there was a frenzy of young teens getting married. We had been told that we didn’t know whether there would be marriage in the new system. Since it wasn’t for sure that we might be able to get married in the new system, many decided that they would be married before Armageddon, rather than have to remain single for eternity.
When young hormones are raging, this thinking is dangerous. Many young people ended up in very unhappy marriages, including me. I married another young Jehovah’s Witness in 1974 at the age of 18. It was the worst mistake of my life. This young man was physically abusive with me and got away with it. He began to hit me exactly one week after we were married. When I approached the elders with the fact that he beat me, their response was one of disinterest. They said there was no WT policy on this, and it wasn’t a “disfellowshipping offense.” It was to be considered a family problem and they could not get involved.
Well that family problem translated into a lot of physical and mental abuse. I always carried bruises all over my body and no one really knew and maybe they did not care. I was told to not to discuss this with anyone and to quit nagging. Apparently they thought that I nagged my husband too much and that was the reason for the beatings. He was eventually disfellowshipped in 1976 for smoking. So I began to think, is smoking a worse sin than beating up your wife? I knew something was wrong with this picture. When he was disfellowshipped, I was pregnant with my son at the time.
In 1976, after my son was born, I decided I could no longer take the abuse, so I left my husband, moved out, and went back to live with my parents. I subsequently divorced him after a year went by. The elders told me that I wasn’t “scripturally divorced” and was not allowed to date. I was only 21 at the time.
A year later, I enrolled in community college and decided I liked going to college – after all I hadn’t studied as well as I should have in high school. I saw no need since Armageddon “was just around the corner.” So there I was and I had no means to get a job, and I certainly didn’t want to be a cleaning woman or do janitorial work, (like many of the JWs did) as I am not cut out for that type of work and prefer working at a desk. I decided to put my brain to work and enroll in community college. It was already 1977 and Armageddon still hadn’t arrived.
After a while, it began to seem to me that those in the Kingdom Hall were not as intellectual as I thought I was becoming. I was learning how to use critical thinking skills and believed in asking questions at a time when independent thinking was starting to be frowned upon.
I remember talking to an “elderette” (an elder’s wife) one day and telling her that I was taking a psychology class and that I was enjoying it. Her response to me was that I should quit school because I was studying doctrines of demons. I didn’t listen to her – I did my own thing.
By 1979, I had all but quit going to the meetings. I think I went to one day of the district convention that year in Tucson, and I did not go out in field service at all by that time. I was very tired of the entire situation. In February 1980, I wrote a handwritten letter to the elders letting them know I wasn’t going to any more meetings and not to consider me a Jehovah’s Witness any longer. I gave the letter to my brother to hand deliver to the elders.
I always had a few doubts about the Watchtower organization and I think that made it easier to leave. For example, I never truly believed that it was wrong to get a blood transfusion, so I never carried one of those “No Blood Transfusion” cards. I always knew that if I were looking death in the face, I would accept a blood transfusion to save my life.
Another thing that always bothered me was that the Watchtower made an issue out of whether or not a woman screamed if she were being raped. The Watchtower rule was if a woman did not scream, then she must have enjoyed it, and therefore was committing adultery or fornication and would be disfellowshipped. How could any woman in her right mind agree with that kind of thinking and that policy?
I never looked back, although I did attend the “Memorial” in 1980 and made the decision then to never set foot in Kingdom Hall ever again. (For those of you who do not know, the “Memorial of the Death of Jesus Christ” is observed once a year at the Kingdom Hall. It is a faux communion service and observed around Passover. Only select members who believe that they are of the 144,000 elite who are chosen for heavenly life are allowed to partake of the emblems. The Watchtower forbids the celebration of Easter and does not celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.)
After I disassociated myself from the Watchtower in 1980, I decided to go back to practicing New Age philosophies. Although I did not read Tarot cards again, I got heavily into different meditation practices. I used to love emptying my mind and having a leader take me on a “journey” where I would be in a type of trance. I had no idea how dangerous these practices were and how demonic it all was. I continued with going back to reading my horoscope and bought more books on astrology. I thought if the Watchtower did not have the answers for me, surely astrology and meditation would have my answers.
It did not help. I suffered from an enormous amount of depression and anxiety. My relationships were all failures during that time. I had few friends. Any man I dated surely thought I was very weird. And I guess I really was.
In 1982, a good friend who had been my neighbor invited me to his church and I accepted the invitation. You know nothing in life is ever merely a coincidence, when God is working in your life, even though you do not know it, a “God incidence” can happen. I visited to his church and discovered that the Christians I met there were warm and caring people who loved Jesus Christ. But I was still scared. Did I really do the right thing by going to this church? Would something bad happen to me because I dared go into what the Watchtower calls “Babylon”? As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we were always taught that demons were present in the churches of Babylon.
Then I received my answer: After the church service was over, I looked around and saw a familiar face – I thought. “No, it couldn’t be,” I’m thinking. But I thought it was another ex-Jehovah’s Witness! I did a double take and yes, I did recognize this lady. I went up to her and asked her, “Didn’t I used to see you at the assemblies?”
Her eyes were wide open as she asked me, “Did you just leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
I said, “Yes!” I left 2 years before and this was my first time in the church since leaving the JWs. It turned out that this lady, her name is Mary Kling. Her husband is the first cousin of M. James Penton, author of the book, Apocalypse Delayed! I was just so thrilled to know that I wasn’t the only person who left the JWs who decided to go to church!
Mary took me under her wing and began showing me what was wrong with the Watchtower organization. See, at that time I knew that there was something wrong, I just didn’t know how to prove it! She showed me an old Watchtower from April 1, 1979 that taught that Jesus was the mediator for only 144,000! When I read that I knew that the Watchtower was a false organization and that the truth could only be found in Jesus Christ. Shortly thereafter in May, 1982 I gave my life over to Jesus Christ.
It was no coincidence that out of all the churches in Tucson, Arizona, I happened to visit the one that Mary had been attending. I knew that God had His hand in this the whole time. However, it was not without a price. I told my father, who was not yet a baptized JW, about my experience. He told my mother – and my mother and I had the biggest, most awful blowout. It ended by her telling me that I was not welcome in her home ever again! She shunned me for 17 years.
At the end of the year, I moved to Los Angeles, CA and began a new life away from my old friends and family who were shunning me. I met Randy Watters who founded the Free Minds Ministry that helped ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. I began attending his quarterly potlucks which were events for ex JWs to get together. I eventually volunteered to help him in his home/office with his ministry, which was called “Bethel Ministries” at the time. I learned so much from Randy Watters and will be forever grateful that he was my friend, teacher and brother in Christ.
In the summer of 1998, I found that one of my JW cousins, Andy Burns, had leukemia at the age of 39. I’d heard through the family “grapevine” that he had not been feeling well and suffering from some migraine headaches. After some tests and a diagnosis of acute leukemia, he was hospitalized for some intense chemotherapy. He lived another six weeks before he died. Of course, he being a JW elder, refused all blood transfusions. His blood count became so dangerously low that the chemotherapy treatments had to be discontinued. He did not have to die that quickly if it had not been for the Watchtower’s ban on blood transfusions
In 1999, my JW mother decided to start speaking to me again. In 2000, she and my father come to my house and visit. They even went out to dinner with my husband and me. I did not know what was going through my mother’s mind, but I think they were tired of not knowing their grandchildren. My brother is the only one of the children in our family who remained a JW, and of course, he had been an elder. He and his wife never had children and ended up divorced. He remarried later but never became an elder again.
My sister and I both have children, and my parents never got to know them until they had grown up somewhat. It is very sad how the Watchtower separates families. My two younger children were 10 and 13 when they first met my parents, their grandparents. I lost contact with my parents, because I know that the August 2002 Kingdom Ministry had once again instructed the JWs to shun the former members.
I no longer knew where I stood with my parents, except that I know my mother was very angry with me, as she did find out about this website. She also refused to acknowledge the recent issues regarding child sexual abuse in the Watchtower, and claims it is all just “baloney.” I felt sorry for her because she did not know the real Jesus. After all, Jesus did say at John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”
My mother’s life has been tied up with an organization that will NEVER show her Jesus Christ. It is an empty organization with false promises and false prophesies. The Bible never talks about joining an organization for salvation.
Eventually, my father was disfellowshiped from the Watchtower and never went back. He suffered through cancer, strokes, and finally cancer took his life. He died in 2016 as a believer in Jesus Christ. My mother is now in her 80’s and currently has dementia. The good thing is that our relationship that was once severed is now healed. She even lets me lay hands on her and pray for her.
Some people, after leaving the Watchtower organization ask, “Where else can we go?” This inevitably comes up because the Watchtower has so effectively indoctrinated their followers to believe that there is no place to go except the Watchtower organization. The thing to remember is that Jesus never talked about where to go or how to be in the right group. He told his followers to come to Him. “So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69 NASB) Jesus wanted us to go to HIM as a “who” not a “where” or a “what”.
I’ve been a Christian now for over 35 years and have never been happier since becoming a Christian and knowing who the true Jesus Christ is. For many years, I told my testimony leaving out the part about how my family was led into the occult before becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, I now realize that this is a very important part of my story because Satan had me blinded and threw me from one frying pan to another and back again.
My journey has not been easy, but the joy I have from knowing the true Jesus Christ is amazing. The Watchtower was merely an idol that took the place of the true God. The occult with all its attractions, illusions, and deceptions are nothing more than idols. They lead to the worship of false gods, which are really demons. As a Christian, I now know the truth about demons and how they are out to oppress, destroy, and keep you from knowing Jesus Christ.
The New Age, astrology, witchcraft, false prophets such as Edgar Cayce and the like are all demonic in origin. It took me many years to acknowledge and to realize that all these false prophets are demonic and were responsible for leading me down the wrong path for quite a few years of my life. Thankfully, I am healed and rid of all of that false teaching and the desires that led me to the occult.
Many blessings have come my way. Today I am married (over 20 years now) to a good Christian man. I have three grown children who are all happily married, in their own homes and have good jobs. My husband and I belong to a good church where we feel a calling to ministry.
Since 2002, I have run a support group for former Jehovah’s Witnesses who need support coming out of this cult and answers to their questions. One thing that really bothers JWs when they leave is the thought of “what if they are really the truth?” I have to reassure them that because they are guilty of false prophecy, they can never be the truth.
Then I read them Deuteronomy 18:20-22: “But if any prophet presumes to speak anything in my name that I have not authorized him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. Now if you say to yourselves, ‘How can we tell that a message is not from the Lord?’ — Whatever a prophet speaks in my name and the prediction is not fulfilled, then I have not spoken it; the prophet has presumed to speak it, so you need not fear him.” (NET)
There is no need to fear a false prophet! The Watchtower is guilty of not only the 1975 false prophecy, but many others since their beginnings in the late 1800’s under Charles Taze Russell.
I am very thankful that my eyes were opened and that God delivered me from all false teaching from the Watchtower and the occultic deceptions. Today my goal is to help others know the real truth that is only found in knowing Jesus Christ. There is no other way but Jesus Christ.
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It’s nice to read about others who’ve escaped from the Organization (JW’s). Congratulations on a life lived freely & intelligently.