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(This originally appeared in the July/August 1997 MCOI Journal)

The aliens are coming! The earth and its inhabitants are about to be destroyed, “spaded under.” Is this the script of a Hollywood science–fiction movie? No, these are the real–life beliefs that cost Marshall Applewhite and his followers their lives.

Leader-1-150x150In the aftermath of the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide in California this past spring, we were interviewed by television, radio, and newspaper reporters as the mainstream media tried to help their viewers, listeners, and readers understand how such a thing could happen. WHY would 39 people kill themselves at the behest of a man like Applewhite? Were they insane? Wacko? No, their suicides were rational acts, given the core beliefs they held as true. These were intelligent people. Nice people. They were not insane; rather, they were dangerously, mortally deceived. If you truly believed as they did, that the earth was about to be destroyed and that your only hope for escape was to take up your purple triangle and leave your “container,” you might have just done just as they did if you had the courage.

Then were their beliefs insane? If your definition of insane is “out of the mainstream of American thought,” perhaps you could save their beliefs were insane. Most people were not aware, though, that these beliefs were not at all out of the mainstream of cultic thought. Is it insane to believe that wearing certain sacred undergarments will protect you from evil influences, as the Mormons believe? Insane to die or let your child die rather than permit a blood transfusion that would save your or her life? Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) make this decision every day. In fact, as I examined the Heaven’s Gate literature I retrieved from their website, I found striking similarities to the mainstream cults that often are viewed by the unwitting public as just other Christian denominations.

Leader-2-150x150I think, at least, some perspective Jehovah’s Witnesses may have been uneasy as they noticed striking similarities between their group and Heaven’s Gate because of all of the media attention given to cults and their characteristics after the story broke. I’m sure there was fear at the Jehovah’s Witnesses Brooklyn headquarters – fear of people drawing unwanted comparisons, because the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS, a.k.a. Jehovah’s Witnesses) came out with another “we are not a cult” issue soon after the sensationalism died down.

They always seem to come out with a “we are not a cult” issue when it becomes apparent that they are indeed a cult. For example, after the fire at Waco, the Watchtower Society published an issue condemning cults to assure its flock the Jehovah’s Witnesses certainly are not one. It did this by setting up a straw man called “persona” and then “proving” (to the satisfaction of people who wish to remain snookered) that God’s organization just does not meet the criteria that they created. Slick.

The recent June 1, 1997, Watchtower magazine1Watchtower and Awake! magazines are bi-weekly publications of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a.k.a Jehovah’s Witnesses warns all of the threat of “secret societies.” Is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society a Secret Society? Why no! Just ask them. They say on p. 6, “If it has ever been crossed your mind that Jehovah’s Witnesses might be a secret cult or sect, that was likely because you knew too little about them.” As a person who knows an awful lot about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’d make a very slight change to that assertion to make it true. I would add one little “n” to the sentence so it would read, “If it has [n]ever crossed your mind that the Jehovah’s Witnesses might be a secret cult or sect, that was likely because you knew too little about them.” That’s more like it.

The same Watchtower declares on p. 7:

Those who follow the lead of Satan are characterized by duplicity and deceit. They try to portray themselves in a good light while doing works belonging to darkness.”

“Works of darkness” like causing the death of innocent children, who believe the Society’s ban on blood transfusions is a Bible-based requirement of Jehovah? 2‘Fifteen-year-old Adrian died refusing a blood transfusion. Adrian said, “ To disobey God and extend my life for a few years now and then because of my disobedience to God lose out on a resurrection and living forever in his paradise earth — that’s just not smart!”; Awake!, May 22, 1994. pp. 4-5

“Works of darkness” like covering up and even outright lying about the embarrassing facts of their past history? “Works of dark­ness” like teaching people that lying or de­ceiving is not necessarily bad if it’s for a good cause, such as “protecting” new con­verts from accessing all of the pertinent facts before joining?

Boldly, they even have coined a phrase for this supposed God-sanctioned duplicity and deceit, calling it “Theocratic War Strat­egy.” Theocratic War Strategy is defined in the May 1, 1957, Watchtower, p. 285 as “hid­ing the truth by action and word for the sake of the ministry.” Hiding the truth??? Yet, with incredible audacity, they roundly con­demn secrecy in the “Secret Society” issue, saying on p. 6, “True religion in no way prac­tices secretiveness.” But then, on p. 12 of this same Watchtower, they tell us that Chris­tians should preach “divinely provided Bib­lical information while being careful to avoid saying things that might offend others at the outset.” I have noted the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society unfailingly skates the most brazenly on the thinnest ice. Amaz­ing.

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult? I know there will be some who bristle at the very suggestion. Yet, the Society itself, in the “Secret Societies” issue, correctly labels Aum Shin Rykyo, the Branch Davidians, and the Solar Temple as cults. Was it wrong/un­fair/mean for the WTBTS to identify these groups as cults, even if doing so might of­fend a member of one of these groups? No, because it is the simple truth. And if you do not like the label “cult” applied to the Watchtower Society, please remember that the Christian church as a whole and indi­vidual Christians (especially “opposers” like me) are labeled the “whore of Babylon,” “false prophets,” “false teachers,” “pagans,” and even “rotten figs” in just about every issue of the Watchtower magazine. I never allow myself to take these attacks person­ally. So let’s rein in our defenses and just look at a few of the similarities between Heaven’s Gate and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

The most obvious similarity is that Heaven’s Gate, like the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, teaches that “this old system of things” (our world) is about to be “spaded under” at Armageddon, which is (as it has been for the past century and longer, according to the WTBTS) “right around the corner.” Somehow, though, like the “rabbit” in a dog race, that corner never gets any closer.

The Heaven’s Gate 39 waited in vain for spaceship pickups that were prophesied but never came, and the prophetic failures of the WTBTS are numerous and well-known. Tragically, Applewhite and Heaven’s Gate got tired of waiting for their destiny and went out to meet it. Why did the Heaven’s Gate 39 trust Applewhite’s prophecies and strange teachings? It’s not that difficult to understand really. They trusted what he said because they believed that Applewhite, far from offering them his own opinions and imaginations, was merely a conduit for truth from beyond our world.

I was not at all surprised to learn that Applewhite and Nettles, a.k.a. “Do” and “Ti” a.k.a. “The Two,” were believed to channel information to their followers from the higher beings of the Level Above Hu­man. After Nettles died in 1985, she still “communicated” with Applewhite and gave him instructions. Similarly, after the Watchtower Society founder C.T. Russell died in 1916, the JWs (then known as Bible Stu­dents), believed that Russell, being their sole source of enlightenment at the time, continued “managing every feature of the harvest work” from “beyond the veil” (The Finished Mystery, p. 144). Their second President, Joseph Rutherford, taught the flock that the Holy Spirit had been “taken away” in 1918, and he claimed that angels transmitted information to him directly from Jehovah (Preparation, pp. 36-37). Ask yourself what kind of “angels” would channel false information. Today, the Govern­ing Body of the WTBTS is somewhat coy about just how it is “enlightened” or ex­actly how the “revelations” are received, but they still unabashedly claim to be God’s channel of communication to mankind.

Is this channeling stuff open to just anyone with a great imagination? No, you must get under the tutelage of the only correct channel to find yourself approved by God or the higher beings of the Next Level Above Human. (I guess this is to keep us from changing channels during commercial breaks) To illustrate, Applewhite states:

“Our mission here is twofold One part was to allow new potential graduates into the Next Level the opportunity to gain experiences that would strengthen them, and prove themselves worthy of receiving issue of a true Next Level vehicle … This can only be realized through the close supervision and guidance of our ‘midwives’ the role played by Ti and Do, as Representatives of the Evolutionary Level Above Human” (By Drrody, member of Heaven’s Gate)

The Watchtower teaches:

“Indeed this ‘slave’, or spirit anointed congregation, is the one approved channel representing God’s kingdom on earth” (Watchtower. March 1. 1981, p. 19).

Of course, these two groups are far from the only ones claim­ing to be giving us messages from beyond. Elizabeth Clare Prophet, a.k.a. “Guru Ma,” of the Church Universal and Triumphant, claims to be channeling the “Ascended Masters,” including Buddha and Jesus Christ, as well as her late husband Mark, who died in 1979.

Might we reasonably expect that channeled information would prove to be reliably true? I mean, after all, “higher beings,” God’s angels, or “Ascended Masters” should know what they are talking about; that’s the only reason I can think of to listen to them! And, of course, they would not lie, would they? Yet Applewhite, the Watchtower Society, Guru Ma, and all of God’s other channels/”prophets”/ psychics have instead proved to be reliably false in their prognosti­cations and prophecies. Does this cause a problem for the sheep, do you suppose? It doesn’t seem so.

Prophet “Guru Ma” explains it this way; she tells her followers she is “human,” “imperfect,” and that she “makes mistakes.” Indeed. She mistakenly predicted Armageddon several times and said that California would fall into the sea in I987. California didn’t go anyplace, and neither did Ms. Prophet’s followers, who stuck with her even though, biblically speaking, such “mistakes” unfailingly label her as a false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:22). So also do the mistakes of the Watchtower Society; Mormon founder, Joseph Smith; Marshall Applewhite; and all the rest. The Bible knows nothing of “mistaken prophe­cies”; it speaks only of true or false ones.

Applewhite taught his followers that his teachings were sub­ject to change without notice as he received “higher understand­ing”:

“Consequently, new steps and understandings were presented throughout our awakening in a carefully calculated sequence. By this method, the limited human mechanism could, with some effort, be reprogrammed to accept and assimilate the advanced, non-human perspectives we were receiving. As a result, you will notice that throughout our materials, our understandings are constantly being updated and refined as our circuitry adapted. One ‘fact’ that we learned early on is that what is truth for us today may be just a stepping stone to a higher understanding that may be given to us tomorrow” (By Jwnody. member of Heaven’s Gate)

Oh, I see. These changes in view over time were for his follower’s own good. After all, the limited human mechanism might have blown a circuit if it had been given the “correct” understanding the very first time. (Is it easier to assimilate falsehood?) With this explanation, however, Applewhite was hardly going where no man has gone before. The Watchtower Society had long beaten him to the punch to explain away its changes in doctrine and understanding. They explain them this way:

The pathway of Jehovah’s people has been and is like the bright light that gets ever brighter. As they came out of the gross darkness enveloping Babylon the Great,’ the world empire of false religion, it was not to be expected that they would see all things immediately in their true light. The brilliance of revealed truth could have had a blinding, even confusing effect upon them spiritually. We might illustrate this by a man who gets up before daybreak and who sets out on foot to travel across the countryside. He might see an outline of a building in the distance, but at first glance cannot tell whether it is a barn or a house. Gradually, as day dawns and he gets closer, he can see that it is a house. After a while, he is able to tell that it is a wooden, not a brick house. Then later, he can make out the color of the house, and so forth” (Watchtower, December 1, 1981, pp 26 and 16).

As a person who has studied this group extensively, I must report that this little picture does not at all fit the facts. No, the light on the path of the Watchtower Society is more like this. With pro­gressive light, the man sees that there is a building ahead. “It’s a house!” he emphatically declares. A while later, “No, it’s a red barn for sure!” Later, “It is DEFINITELY a blue snowplow, and if you “barn people” refuse to keep up with revealed ‘truth,’ you are free to leave and die at Armageddon!”

Then it becomes an outhouse of indeterminate color, then a little boy with an umbrella. NOW it’s a house again; who knows WHAT it will be tomorrow! ‘Round and ’round and ’round she goes, and where she stops, nobody knows. All this is DOGMA, and to disagree with any of it is to disagree with God himself,… until the light flickers again, that is. You gotta hang on tight if you are to keep up with “the truth!”

What is this “Babylon the Great” they speak of? Oh, don’t you know? “Babylon” is all of the various denominations of big, bad, old “Christendom.” The Watchtower Society holds the churches in complete contempt, along with all of her pastors, teachers, mission­aries, etc. But, they are certainly not the only cult group that dis­dains the church. Most cult groups teach that true Christianity was lost off the earth and is now being restored by the cult’s leader/ group. The Christian church is the enemy, the root of all of the world’s ills, hypocrites, war-mongers, flea-bitten, and immoral. Applewhite agrees:


“Those who are unhappy with what this world has to offer, or are seeking the real Truth, have turned to New Age, Eastern Religions, or simply have ‘dropped out’ to indulge in whatever excesses might bring them pleasure … Who can blame them? Nowhere, especially not in the churches, can they find the answers to the purpose of their existence or any hope for a soul’s future. The most significant information, that which was offered two thousand years ago by a representative from the ‘future’ – the Evolutionary Level Above Human (the real Kingdom of Heaven), has been completely ignored or obscured. That Representative’s ‘hard core’ teaching — the formula for entering ‘His Father’s Kingdom” (that Evolutionary Level Above Human) — cannot be found anywhere on the planet, least of all in the teachings of the churches. The Christians have unwittingly become their own dreaded Anti-Christ (Heaven’s Gate)

How come we in the churches always have to be the Antichrist or the whore of Babylon? Is that fair? I am gratified to learn, though, that whatever Christendom’s faults might be, Applewhite’s view of Jesus’ hard-core teaching formula cannot be found in the churches!

What happens to all who may find they disagree with Applewhite and his gang? It’s the sheep and the goats all over again!:

Luciferians through their human devotees, who presently find their main stronghold among the seeming religious, will, in fact, be the catalyst for the Age’s end judging process. All who condemn this truth and its bearers will be condemned by the NEXT LEVEL — all who acknowledge this truth and its deliverers will be ‘saved’ for future nurturing” (Heaven’s Gate).

The Watchtower similarly teaches:

“Your attitude toward the wheatlike anointed ‘brothers’ of Christ and the treatment you accord them will be the determining factor as to whether you go into ‘everlasting cutting-off or receive ‘everlasting life'” (Watchtower, August 1, 1981, p. 26).

But the Bible proclaims:

And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son, has the life; he who does not have the Son does not have the life” (1 John 5:11-12).

The main charge leveled at the church by cultists is that the church teaches that salvation is truly and totally a free gift and not a reward for prescribed behavior. Applewhite calls the hope of attaining heaven “through His [Christ’s] shed blood” a “worthless religious precept,” All cult groups teach that one’s “salvation,” however defined by the particular group, is based upon one’s own efforts, and these necessary works are the ones demanded by the leadership of the group.

Heaven’s Gate:

“The transition to becoming a beginning Next Level member is the most difficult undertaking any human can undergo or even imagine — yet the reward is priceless” (By Drrody, Heaven’s Gate)

Watchtower Society (JWs)

“It is for the reward of eternal life that every last person should now be working … The man who does not shrink back from the hard work of being a Christian will come in line for the splendid and ultimate reward — eternal life” (Watchtower, August 15, 1972, p. 492).

But the Bible proclaims:

Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor but as what is due fa reward). But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no one should boast” (Romans 4:4-5, Ephesians 2:8-9).

And, of course, no one outside the cult group can be saved whether or not he does the works required. That is, one cannot be saved unless he is under the tutelage of the cult group, as well as performing the required works.


Heaven’s Gate:

“How membership in the true Kingdom of God is attained: by overcoming all human-mammalian characteristics and behavior under the direct personal tutorship of a member of that Kingdom” (Heaven’s Gate).

Watchtower Society:

“A third requirement is that we be associated with God’s channel, his organization … To receive everlasting life in the earthly Paradise we must identify that organization and serve God as part of it” (Watchtower, February 15, 1983, p.12).

The Bible:

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6).

In stark contrast to Applewhite’s assertion that his way was the only way, Jesus claimed to be THE WAY, and THE TRUTH. Applewhite blasphemously named his group Heaven’s Gate, but Jesus said in John 10:9-10 that He was THE DOOR and that salva¬tion could only be attained by entering through HIM. Then He proved his claim by rising from the dead, something Applewhite has yet to do. Jesus came “that they might have life and might have it abundantly.” Jesus also claimed that any other contenders for His rightful title were thieves who come “only to steal, and kill, and destroy,” while His words are so true. Cults kill and destroy their members. Applewhite teaches:

“CAUTION: If the above information is consumed or assimi¬lated, you may experience such side effects as loss of marriage, family, friends, career, respectability, and credibility. Continued use may even result in the loss of your membership in the human kingdom” (USA Today, 1993; Heaven’s Gate advertisement).

Watchtower teaching:

In former times, thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue” (Awake!, May 22, 1994, p. 2), (Italics added for emphasis.)

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a life-threatening cult? Yes. Their own words condemn them. With their unwarranted ban on blood transfusions, they are responsible for more deaths than Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Marshall Applewhite together.

In the June 1, 1997, Watchtower, p. 7, they tell us:

“[Jehovah’s Witnesses] made the choice (to join the group) according to their own free will without coercion. And they continued to have freedom of will and action.”

I guess whether or not you accept that depends upon your definition of “coercion” and “free will.” Interestingly, Guru Ma says that she is not a cult leader and insists her followers have “free will” to consider what she says and make their own decisions.

What about Heaven’s Gate? Did they practice coercion on their members? Their advertisement in USA Today, 1993 continues:

“Some religious ‘cults’ might participate in physical or mental abuse, hold members against their will, have weapons, or break laws in general, while we have long been aware that that type of behavior is inappropriate.”

Cults rarely use physical coercion to gain or keep members. The coercion practiced by these groups is the coercion of terrible fear, while the “free will” they enjoy is the freedom to get “spaded under” along with the rest of humanity at Armageddon, which is “right around the comer”Ω

Love to all,


Independence Day
If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).Ω

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End Notes

End Notes
1 Watchtower and Awake! magazines are bi-weekly publications of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a.k.a Jehovah’s Witnesses
2 ‘Fifteen-year-old Adrian died refusing a blood transfusion. Adrian said, “ To disobey God and extend my life for a few years now and then because of my disobedience to God lose out on a resurrection and living forever in his paradise earth — that’s just not smart!”; Awake!, May 22, 1994. pp. 4-5