Today, we will look at specific doctrinal changes the Watchtower has made over the years regarding three life and death health issues—vaccinations, organ transplants, and blood transfusions.
Except as noted below, the Watchtower documents I refer to are available for downloading and printing at ex-Witness elder David Reed’s website.
1931: Vaccinations banned as “a direct violation of the everlasting covenant that God made with Noah after the flood.” (Source: The Golden Age, 2/4/31, p. 293).
1952: Vaccination ban dropped: December 1, 1952 edition of The Watchtower, p. 764. Reed doesn’t post this on his website, so ask the Witnesses to locate this article and provide you a copy.
How to follow up regarding vaccinations (pp. 269-270)
Once you have shown the Witnesses the change in doctrine, ask questions similar to the following, as many as are needed to make your point:
- At the time the Watchtower writers published the doctrine that vaccinations were forbidden by the Scriptures, do you think they honestly believed that this teaching came from Jehovah?”
- Looking back on it now, do you believe that doctrine really did come from Jehovah?”
- “In their role as Jehovah’s channel of communication, how do Watchtower writers know that such a teaching truly comes from Jehovah and isn’t just their fallible human understanding?”
- “Do you see why I’m concerned about making a commitment that would require me to make life and death decisions regarding myself and my family based on Watchtower teachings that might be discarded later?”
If the Witnesses complain that you are dredging up doctrines the Watchtower no longer teaches, you can say, “That’s just the point! I realize this happened many years ago. But it had a major impact on Jehovah’s Witnesses’ lives. I think, ‘How would I have felt if I were a Jehovah’s Witness parent and my child died during those 21 years because I refused to allow them to be vaccinated, and then the Watchtower later acknowledged that this tragedy was not really required by Jehovah after all?’ I personally think I would be burdened with guilt and filled with anger. How would you feel if that happened to you?”
Organ transplants (pp. 271-272)
1967: Organ transplants banned as cannibalism: (Source: The Watchtower, “Questions from Readers”, 11/15/67, p. 702).
1968: Organ transplant ban repeated: (Source: Awake! 6/6/68, p. 21).
1980: Organ transplant ban dropped: “While the Bible specifically forbids consuming blood, there is no biblical command pointedly forbidding the taking of other human tissue… It is a matter for personal decision.” (Source: The Watchtower, “Questions from Readers”, 3/15/80, p. 31).
How to follow up regarding organ transplants (p. 272)
After the Witnesses have seen the evidence, you can make comments such as these:
- “I think of Jehovah’s Witnesses who out of obedience allowed parents or spouses or children to die rather than have an organ transplant. When the Watchtower changed its teaching and it became evident that they died for a mistake, what did the Watchtower authorities do to take responsibility for the consequences of that erroneous teaching?”
- “Do you see why this troubles me so much? I think of Jehovah’s Witnesses during from 1967 to 1980 who might have gone blind because they faithfully refused a cornea transplant or who might even have allowed a child to die by refusing a life-saving kidney transplant. Given these major shifts in what the Watchtower has taught that God’s law requires, help me understand why you feel you would have to let a loved one die in reliance on what they say God requires regarding various medical procedures. Aren’t they just fallible men?”
Blood transfusions (pp. 272-278)
Witnesses are unlikely to dispute that the Watchtower used to forbid all blood products. If they do, refer them to the 1963 article below. There is no photocopy available online, so ask them to look it up for you. Your goal will be to get them to examine the Watchtower literature to see these changes for themselves.
1963: Anything derived from blood is forbidden: (Source: The Watchtower, “Carry Your Own Load of Responsibility”, 2/15/63, p. 124). An obedient Jehovah’s Witness, accepting this as truth from God’s organization, would have died or let a spouse or child die rather than allowing a doctor to treat them with anything that is derived from blood.
2000: Blood fractions are a matter of conscience: This article regarding blood fractions is available in the Watchtower online library at JW.org. (Source: The Watchtower, “Questions from Readers”, 6/15/00, p. 30)
How to follow up regarding blood transfusions (p. 274)
After Witnesses acknowledge that the Watchtower has changed its teachings regarding the use of blood fractions, you can make comments such as these:
- “Isn’t the light supposed to get brighter and brighter as time goes by? So why is there less certainty and less unity on this matter now than there was before?”
- “What changed in the year 2000? The Bible didn’t change.”
- “What troubles me is that either the Watchtower is Jehovah’s channel of communication or it isn’t. I can’t help thinking about how I would feel if I let my child die without needed blood fractions because the Watchtower said it was required by Jehovah, only to have them come out a few months later and say that taking those life-saving fractions was not forbidden by Jehovah after all. Please help me understand why you or I or anyone should allow people whose doctrines change that kind of life-and-death control over our children’s lives.”
How might these questions be helpful in getting Jehovah’s Witnesses to consider the unreliability of the Watchtower as a guide to Bible truth? (pp. 269-270)
- “Do you believe now that that anti-vaccination doctrine really came from Jehovah?”
- “How do Watchtower writers know that such a teaching truly comes from Jehovah and isn’t just their fallible human understanding?”
- “If I had been a Jehovah’s Witness who loyally allowed my child to die because I wouldn’t allow them to be vaccinated, and then the Watchtower decided that this tragedy wasn’t really required by Jehovah after all, I personally would be burdened with guilt and filled with anger. How would you feel if that had happened to you?”
- “Do you see why I’m concerned about making a commitment that would require me to make life and death decisions regarding myself and my family based on teachings of a religious organization that might be discarded later?”
- How might you use a similar line of questioning on the topics of organ transplants and blood transfusions? (pp. 271-274)