Saturday, August 22, 2009

JW Study Meeting #25

Today was enjoyable. After Uriah got here, we spent some time in small-talk at first. He saw the background picture on my computer, which was a photo I'd taken while walking on the Great Wall of China, so I shared some of my thoughts from that. It's steep, it's packed with people, and the vendors are really, really annoying. We also ate some banana bread--I've got two home-made loaves here, and they're delicious.

We never quite got to any particular topic, theologically or biblically speaking. He hadn't managed to find the article he'd promised last time, so he's going to continue searching for that. He thinks that he'll be able to bring me a guidebook from the Theocratic Ministry School next week; he had to order one in. He did bring me a little brochure called "See the Good Land", which is basically a collection of maps relevant to the Bible, sort of like a thin Bible atlas. As for the Commentary on the Letter of James, both his and his wife's have gone missing by this point, so he plans to continue searching. He hasn't found one anywhere else yet. For those who don't know, let me explain that, to maximize efficiency, congregations keep their inventories in a network so that, if one congregation needs a publication and a nearby congregation has a copy, they can handle that between themselves without any need to order one fresh from the headquarters in Brooklyn. Uriah's going to print a copy of their inventory for me next time so that I can see what's in stock. *grin*

I asked what they're currently working on in their book study. Uriah thought for a moment and sheepishly admitted that he couldn't remember the title. He never really bothered to look at the cover and see what it was, haha. So I asked him to describe the contents, and after about a sentence, I named the title on the first guess. That's kind of scary, actually. I'm starting to know their publications better than they do--and he's the literature servant! Anyway, it was "Keep Yourselves in God's Love", which is basically about living a moral, God-pleasing life. Nothing he's really hearing for the first time, he said, but things it's always nice to get a bit of a refresher on, even if it is somewhat dull. And, of course, there are always some there who still need those basics. I had my copy on hand to remind him what it looks like. I remarked that it wasn't exactly their most aesthetically pleasing cover; it reminded him of a Hallmark greeting card. Also, I inquired when they might get to read "Bearing Thorough Witness" About God's Kingdom in their book study, and he said that it's usually at least a year between a release and the use of that book in the book study. However, now that they've cut back on meetings, they only spend 25 minutes a week in book study instead of an hour, which may put it off even longer.

I got to see their daily devotional for the first time today. Examining the Scriptures Daily - 2009. It's fairly thin and non-descript, but I imagine it does the trick for them. I still consider it a bit odd to have one and only one devotional for everyone. It's a bit too uniform for my tastes. But, they don't seem to mind. Oh, and Uriah had a few stories from being the literature servant for the two congregations at the local Kingdom Hall. For example, there's this family of three--a woman and her two kids--who once came to him and asked for eight copies of Examining the Scriptures Daily. He was somewhat confused and asked why. She explained that she likes to have two for herself--one for the desk at home and one to carry in her bag. Still, of course, even if each of them did that, it wouldn't add up to quite eight. Not wanting to press the point further, though, he went ahead and ordered them. The next week, she asked him for eight more! When he asked why, she explained that she had lost them. "All of them?!?" Yes, in her car somewhere. So he said to her, "Alright, look, I'll give you one." And that was that. If I'd been in his shoes, I would've said that I will trade her the eight new copies for her car, and she can have the vehicle back once I find the old ones there. I mean, that's just ridiculous.

Oh, and you all no doubt know that Jehovah's Witnesses have to turn in sheets reporting how many hours they did door-to-door witnessing, how many studies they conducted, etc., each week. If it were just for overall statistical purposes, I suppose there wouldn't be anything wrong with it. But it also functions to keep tabs on the performance of each individual Witness, in a rather legalistic way. But anyway, he noticed that although there were maybe 80 publishers in each congregation, somehow about 250 were being taken each week. Seems that the people like to use them as scratch paper now and then, or take a half-inch stack home to ration out over time--'cept they never really do. So eventually he decided to take them all home himself except for 100 in the pile for each congregation. So when the people from each congregation came to him and complained that they were out, he said, "No, you're not", explained that there were more than enough there, and told them to have the congregations look around at home and in their bags for them. Sure enough, suddenly there was a stack of 300 sheets that he hadn't even put there! He also mentioned that even with the brochures and books, sometimes he'll have to hide some at home because it's the only way to get people to ration them reasonably. I must say, it is rather entertaining to hear these stories. Jehovah's Witnesses are, more or less, like anyone else you'll find in an evangelical church. Leaders occasionally have to figure out ways to get people to behave themselves. Of course, maybe that's my cynicism talking more than anything else.

I also got to hear another anecdote from the door-to-door ministry. Uriah was out covering a local neighborhood with Ham, Shem's brother. Now, Ham is great at going to doors he's never gone to before, but return calls terrify him. For some reason, when people are receptive, he gets very, very nervous. Heh, Uriah said that the first time Ham had to do a return visit at my house, the guy nearly had a stroke! Anyway, they went to this lady's house, and she came out of her garage with a fairly hostile tone. It would've normally been Uriah's house to handle, but Ham was between them so he took it. The lady was under the mistaken impression that Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe that Jesus was the Son of God at all, so after they corrected that at great length, she calmed down and there came a 45-minute conversation. Uriah encouraged her to toss out other "goofy things" she'd heard about Witnesses, so she did, and he said Ham did a good job handling each of them.

At any rate, I asked Uriah about any books they might have in stock that I don't yet own. He's going to see about bringing me a copy of Sing Praise to Jehovah, their current songbook. Of course, it'll be replaced in January by the new one, but I think I'd still like a hardcopy of the current one. And maybe later I can see about getting the new one, too. He's also going to try to get me my own copy of Examine the Scriptures Daily - 2009. At our last meeting, there was one book whose title escaped my mind and drove me crazy. I remembered finally that it was Make Sure of All Things; Hold Fast to What is Fine. He looked confused and wasn't sure he'd ever heard of it before. I said I thought it was maybe replaced by a newer publication. As it turns out, I was right. It's what was used before Reasoning from the Scriptures, which makes it extra-interesting to me. Reasoning from the Scriptures is basically the book that helps them answer objections on a wide range of topics. I have two copies, but I'd love to see what came before it.

I also inquired what books they'd had dealing with Revelation. He was somewhat at a loss. We remembered together that This Finished Mystery, the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures, had included commentaries on Ezekiel and Revelation. But, as Uriah said, Russell got way ahead of himself, and so a lot of his material on Revelation was just plain wrong in that book. The current Revelation book is Revelation--Its Grand Climax at Hand!, which I'm currently reading. I'm up to about chapter 23 out of around 44, so I'm at the second woe. It's... interesting. He couldn't remember any of the ones in between. I suggested "Babylon the Great Has Fallen"--God's Kingdom Rules!, which he remembered was a book they had but wasn't sure that it was about Revelation in the same way. According to Wikipedia, the only one I missed was "Then Is Finished the Mystery of God!".

The meeting ended with a recap of the subjects we need to return to sometime. There's the Trinity, the condition of the dead, the comprehensiveness of the general resurrection, the nature of Christ's resurrection, whether there is such a thing as resurrection as a spirit creature, and the anointed vs. great crowd divide. In short, although I didn't mention this at our meeting, everything we'd disagreed on over the past year or so. I haven't been persuaded by their arguments on a single one of those subjects.

We'll probably have two more meetings before we'll need to take a long break, since I'll be away for a few months. Perhaps, however, I'll have a chance to irritate Jehovah's Witnesses in another continent while I'm gone. We'll see!

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