Thirty-Five Years in
"Everyone believing that Jesus
is the Christ, has been born from God." (1 John 5:1----- NWT)
As I read this verse, it was
as if scales had fallen from my eyes. (Acts 9:18) I had come to appreciate in a
more complete sense God's mercy and grace, and how important my relationship
with his son Jesus was. Thirty-five years of training and indoctrination by the
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society were quickly being eroded by a new-found
desire to understand God and his Holy Word, the Bible. (1 Corinthians 11:3) This
conversion from a man-made religion to a faith and belief based on God's Holy
Spirit and truth was really a culmination of events that started in the mid-
It was in 1965 that my father
was first exposed to the Jehovah's Witnesses. His marriage to my mother was on
the rocks, and lack of fulfillment both personally and secularly made him a
prime target for the Watchtower teachings. He was a brilliant man who had wasted
his vast potential on drinking, womanizing and the fast life. The opportunity to
be a "somebody" in the Watchtower Organization coupled with the gloom-and-doom
prophecy of 1975 proved a powerful draw to him, as it did to hundreds of
thousands in the late 1960's to early 1970's. By 1966, when I was three years
old, my father and mother both became baptized JWs. In the next few years, my
grandparents, 2 aunts, and uncle took the same step.
My father made rapid
advancement, becoming a Book Study Conductor in the local congregation and was
appointed an elder when that arrangement was established in 1973 (my grandfather
was appointed at the same time). My life and training were centered around the
JWs from 1966 on, and our family looked forward to the end of the "system of
things" in 1975. My parents continued having children, until I had six younger
brothers and sisters.
Meetings and field service
were automatic, and there was never a question as to what was the priority in
our family. I was repeatedly told that I was so fortunate to be able to grow up
in the very last days of this "system", that I would never have to worry about
graduating from school, finding a job, or having a family in this system.
Nevertheless, I continued to do well in school, consistently being at the head
of the class.
In 1970, my father had been
asked by the Circuit Overseer to go and help an inner-city congregation in
Rochester, NY. The congregation was mostly black, and was meeting in a shambles
of a Kingdom Hall on Berlin St. Unbeknownst to him, the C.O. (who was Asian) was
a racist, and had it in for the congregation servant. (title formerly given to
the Presiding Overseer) My father, being idealistic and naive, ended up serving
as a unknowing accomplice in an effort to remove this faithful man.
The C.O. sent in other white
elders, and with the help of one black elder, succeeded in removing this
faithful man from his post and also stripped him of his pioneering privileges,
which he had done continuously for over 20 years. The matter was viewed so
seriously that my father and the black turn-coat elder actually made an
appearance before the Governing Body in Brooklyn Headquarters. The GB ruled in
favor of the white elders and the faithful black brother was removed. (so much
for God's spirit-directed organization)
( Interestingly, as years
passed on, the brother was restored to his eldership, while all the elders who
railroaded him have drifted away or became inactive.)
After the fiasco, my father
decided to move the family to the Finger Lakes of NY, where we attended a
congregation with a mixture of local farmers and commuters to the city of
Rochester. The cong. was under the control of a eloquent, powerful, but young
presiding overseer, and half the congregation was related to this elder. As a
result, the elder body was split into two factions, the country elders vs the
While attending this
congregation, the much-anticipated year of 1975 came and went. One of my most
vivid memories was seeing the book "Famine 1975" in the Kingdom Hall library.
The Watch Tower Society had had used this book liberally in support of it's now
There was a different
attitude in the post-1975 period. My aunt, who by the way had 6 children, had
been putting off dental work on all of her children in the early 70's, thinking
that it wasn't necessary to do so with the "New Order" so close at hand.
Discouragement over the delay of Armageddon was also evident in the activity of
the congregation. Field service and meeting attendance was noticeably declining,
and our family service activity on weekends wasn't "automatic" anymore.
Meanwhile, the situation in
our family was deteriorating. My father who had seven children, was loaded with
debt, and lost his job; also, a deep rift had developed in the congregation,
pitting my father and another elder against the country faction.
It all came to a head when
serious wrongdoing was uncovered in the P.O.'s family. Such wrongdoing as ,
rape, adultery, drunkenness, spouse and child abuse had become entrenched in the
cong. and the P.O. was using his power to cover up these sins and protect his
family and position. (I always found it amazing that such people could tolerate,
even participate, in such wrongdoing and then have the nerve to shun a
disfellowshipped brother or sister.)
The situation became so in
tolerable that my father asked to be deleted, which the elder body was more than
happy to do. After his deletion, my father became inactive, even missing the
most-hallowed annual Memorial Celebration. My younger brother followed suit,
while my mother and I tried to keep ourselves and younger children active in the
In the meantime, I was
nearing completion of high school. I scored extremely high on my SAT's and had
won a statewide scholastic competition, and had handfuls of scholarship offers
to every major college in the country in the mail box daily. My math teacher had
even arranged a special grant through a state college that would let me earn a
good living in research while I earned a degree. Although I wanted terribly to
go to college so I could have a career that followed my natural interests, I
knew how my parents and the congregation viewed college education. To go to
college would have been viewed as a lack of faith that we were in the "last
days." So despite tremendous pressure from school officials and teachers, upon
graduation I decided to apprentice in a trade with a brother in Rochester.
Eventually, I was blessed
with a beautiful wife and four children. I served as a ministerial servant for
many years and was appointed in 1994 as an elder. Although I hated my career
path and was still plying my trade (now in Florida), I felt the sacrifices I had
made in a educational and secular way were insignificant in comparison to the
joy my family and congregation activity brought. I used to reflect on how
fortunate I had been to grow up"in the truth." I genuinely felt sorry for the
"worldly" people who would soon die in Armageddon.
Any doubts or discrepancies
in the WT doctrine I usually swept aside as inconsequential or left it to
Jehovah to clarify later. There were two items though that I couldn't set aside
no matter how hard I tried. The major one was that despite my training, I could
not shake the feeling that I had the heavenly hope. I knew that I couldn't or
shouldn't have this desire according to the WTS, so I kept waiting on Jehovah to
help me cope until he changed my frame of mind.
Much to my consternation
though, I seemed to get continual reminders that I had been "called." On such
occasion was at the Sunday meeting. A sister who was given to grand-mal seizures
so violent she would end up on the floor started having an unusually intense
seizure. I said a brief prayer to Jehovah, asking him to relieve her in this
instance. As I opened my eyes her seizure stopped suddenly, surprising her
husband and her friends. I was overwhelmed at this point, wondering what Jehovah
meant by this. I recalled James 5:16, about the force of a righteous mans
prayer, but what had just happened to me was contrary to the thinking of the
The other item that never
seemed to fully resolve itself was the identity of the "great crowd." I could
never see a clear connection between the "other sheep" of John 10:16 and the
"great crowd" of Rev. 7:9. Subsequent articles over the years failed to convince
me of a connection, so I patiently waited for "increasing light" From Jehovah's
As the 90's came to an end, I
began to regret my decision to skip college. Many brothers with families and
only minimal education like myself were now working extra hours to care for
families that the WTS had said would never come. In most cases, the wife was
also working, and this devotion to work was having disastrous effects on the JW
families. Teenagers and young adults were leaving the Watchtower in droves. To
top it all off, the WTS was easing it's restrictions on college education. Such
a change left a bad taste in my mouth, but once again, I took solace that I had
obeyed Jehovah and His will at that time.
The WTS also saw fit to
change two other "linchpin" teachings. One concerned the "generation" of Matt
24:34, and I welcomed this change because it was clearly evident that the WTS
had totally mis-interpreted this part of Jesus' Great Prophecy. The other
change, although having less impact on the congregation, disturbed me greatly.
This had to do with the "judgement"
of the sheep and goats in Matt. 25:31-46. The fact that the "new" understanding
placed the event in the future did not upset me. What was appalling was that the
"new light" was nearly identical to the prevailing doctrine of "Christendom".
For the WTS to call this "Judgement Day" teaching wrong for so long and then
make a complete reversal was very unsettling. John's words at 1 John 2:21, where
he wrote that "no lie originates with the truth", made me question the source of
the Watchtower's direction. How Jehovah could use his spirit to direct his
organization to preach a falsehood was beyond me.
While in the midst of dealing
with these diverse issues, I had two eye-opening experiences in the field
ministry. The first occurred at the door of a very devout born-again woman. We
started talking about Rev. 7, and she asked if I would wait while she got her
Bible. Of course I was thrilled to talk to such an eager reader of God's Word,
so I waited as she got her Bible. As we began talking, I was amazed at how
readily she defended her beliefs from the Bible (she was more adept than many
ministers I'd met in the door-to-door work). The pages of her Bible were crammed
with hand-written marginal notes, and key scriptures were high-lighted or
underlined. After we chatted amicably for several minutes, I ended the call,
explaining that others were waiting for us (can you imagine Jesus doing that, I
don't think so). Before we left, though, I commended her for being such a keen
The next morning was Sunday,
and I was handling microphones on the main aisle in the Kingdom Hall during the
Watchtower Study. A feeling of disgust swept over me as I roamed the aisle,
noticing that very few people had bothered to prepare for the study. Even the
elders and their families were unprepared, one even asking me for a copy since
he hadn't even brought one. I thought back to that woman at the door the day
before. How could these Witnesses sitting here be so arrogant to believe that
they were worthy of salvation, while they would unanimously declare that woman
part of Satan's seed? Who was really trying to discern God's will, who was
really reading His Word and letting it exert power in their life?
At that time I realized that
the Watchtower publications had replaced the Bible, and the Watchtower Society
had been substituted for Jesus Christ. The JWs were smugly relying on their
religious affiliation to save them, not God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. To make
matters worse, they had rendered judgement on other religions, taking that away
from Jesus Christ also.
A short time later, the
second pivotal event took place. A brother and I were in the door-to-door
ministry when we came upon a born-again Christian named Curtis M. Although he
wasn't as well-studied as the woman mentioned earlier, his love of the Bible and
his faith in God and Christ was very evident. We talked a few minutes, read some
scriptures, and I offered him a tract. He said he would like to read it, and
that he had one for me also. He went to get it, and I could see that it wasn't
"apostate", but merely talked about repentance and accepting Christ.
I found myself in a serious
dilemma. Being an elder (and needing to set an example for my service
companion), I was obligated to not accept Curtis' tract. My conscience though,
was telling me that there was nothing wrong with doing so. But I let my loyalty
to the Watchtower organization over-ride my conscience, and I declined Curtis'
tract. When I did so, Curtis was crushed. My declining of his tract while I
insisted he take mine was clearly a message of condemnation. I tried to leave on
a friendly note, but what I had done was obviously a slap to his face.
I reflected for months on
that incident. I started to feel hypocritical about the WT policy on accepting
literature at the door. In the field service, we regularly encouraged the
householders to compare their religion to the Bible, and to see if their
religion or church had the fruitage we'd expect of Christ's followers. Our
publications shamelessly attacked these religions, exposing their past mis-deeds
and false doctrines. Using selected Bible verses and Bible commentaries,
encyclopaedias, historical records and chronicles, the WT unapologetically
discredited all other religions.
Yet, despite our insistence
that others investigate their religion, the WTS forbid us from doing research on
it's background. Our study was restricted to what the WTS published, although we
were allowed to use other Bible translations for comparative study. I started to
feel that our stance on this issue was hypocritical at best, and
life-threatening at worse. I still , though, avoided any material deemed
"apostate" knowing that some of it focused on the short-comings of our brothers,
which I felt shifts attention from the real core problems in the WTS.
My confidence in the WTS was
shaken, but key events in the congregation relating to my responsibilities as an
elder would push me further away from the organization. These had to do with
judicial committees I served on. This judging arrangement is unique to the WT
organization, although various religions have tribunals of some sort.
I was appointed to chairman
of a judicial committee dealing with a case of fornication. Following
instructions in the Kingdom Ministry School Textbook ( a confidential elder's
manual), I was preparing my opening comments for our first meeting with the
young sister who had sinned. I felt that showing her from the Bible why we had
authority to form a judicial committee and how it would benefit her would be a
fine way to get the proceedings underway.
You can understand my shock
and dismay when I found no clear biblical support for such judicial committees.
There were various scriptures about reproving the erring ones, snatching our
brothers from the fire, and casting out unrepentant wrongdoers. But I was
dumbfounded that such an integral part of congregational over-sight had no clear
biblical support. It would seem that if such an arrangement existed in the early
Christian congregations, there would be some record of it in the Bible.
Later, as I served on other
judicial committees, I began to realize why they didn't have such an arrangement
in the primitive church. The elders on these committees rarely reached a logical
conclusion, and the clandestine nature of these hearings released the elders
from any accountability to the congregation (although the accountability to God
is weightier and unavoidable). It began to occur to me that the judicial
arrangement was wielded as a sword, not a shepherd's staff, and was contrary to
the shepherding that the elders were instructed to carry out in the Bible.
Even though I was starting to
doubt much of what I had believed, I still resisted the reading of any
"apostate" material. I had run across many of such "apostate" web-sites on the
internet, but had "loyally" avoided them. Fortunately, an ex-JW named Mike had
popped in on a JW chat-room on the internet and made a reference to Franci ching,
who's book "The Neck of the Giraffe" was a major source of information for the
Watchtower Society's anti-evolution publication "Life- How did it get here? By
Evolution or Creation?" Mike claimed that Franci ching wasn't a scientist after
all, but a paranormal researcher and occultist. Although I rejected most
chat-room claims as half-truths, I felt this claim would be easy enough to
verify on the internet. I used a search engine to find information on Hitching,
and voila, Mike was right after all.
But Hitching's credentials
were just the tip of the iceberg. Other articles on the site exposed many
half-truths and outright lies contained in the "Creation" book. I carefully
leafed through every reference, and a pattern of deliberate deception emerged. I
was well acquainted with what real scientific research and peer-review
accomplished, namely scientific and scholastic integrity. If the "Creation" book
was so poorly researched and bore the mark of scientific fraud, what about other
publications? I always felt that the WTS' integrity was unquestionable, that I
could stake my life and my childrens' lives on them as God's Spokesman. To find
out that such a publication could be so corrupted and biased was devastating to
say the least.
I felt that my life had now
reached a critical juncture. My own children were reaching the age where
decisions that would determine their life-course were going to be made. On a
personal level, I had given up a successful business to more fully devote myself
to congregation responsibilities; now I had come to believe the WT religion for
which I'd sacrificed everything was in reality a sham. A feeling of
victimization and depression settled in, and was compounded by further research
into the blood transfusion issue and the WTS' cover-up of it's 1934 appeal to
Hitler and his Nazi party.
I decided to talk to my
father, who although totally inactive, still considered himself a JW. I related
to him several of the things I'd recently read, leading off with the Franci
ching issue, which seemed to be the safest place to start. He stiffened right
up, and started spouting the usual "anti-apostate" rhetoric, although I had
never mentioned the source of my information. He pointed out that the new
"Creator" book had just been released, and that maybe it was written to replace
a suspect "Creation" book. He also reminded me that although the WTS had been
wrong on issues in the past, they still proved they were Jehovah's Prophet when
Knorr prophesied in 1942 that the League of Nations would rise out of the abyss.
I calmed him down and assured him that I wasn't going to leave the "truth", and
that I was still faithful to the organization.
The next day, my new issue of
the "Awake" came in the mail. The back page of the cover sent me into shock. The
article described how "well researched and accurate" the "Creation" book was,
although by now the WTS surely knew about the discrepancies that it contained.
That night, I went to the Kingdom Hall and used the library to research Knorr's
"supposed" prophecy. What I found in the older publications was astonishing. The
famous "prophecy" of 1942 by Knorr at the convention that summer was a complete
reversal of what Judge Rutherford's last book published that same year had said.
Not only that, but Knorr used the expression "United Nations'. How could he have
known the exact name of the new incarnation, when it wasn't established until
I logged on to the United
Nations website, and found a page describing the founding of itself. The United
Nations was actually proposed Jan. 1, 1942, when FDR gave a nationally broadcast
speech entitled "Declaration of United nations". That day, 24 different
countries had signed the aforementioned Declaration, vowing to wipe out the Axis
powers and set up a new world governing body. So Knorr was just repeating what
had been public knowledge. To confirm my research, I wrote the Roosevelt Library
and received even more corroborating evidence.
The last shred of credibility
the WTS had was now cut. I delved head-first into a very intense research
period. I re-read the entire New Testament and used several Bible translations
and commentaries to examine every teaching unique to the Watchtower Society.
Reading "Crisis of Conscience" by Ray Franz and "Answering Jehovah's Witnesses"
by David Reed provided further enlightenment. Several websites on the internet
added more weight to the evidence that the WTS was a grossly blatant counterfeit
I told the elder body I no
longer desired to be an elder, citing financial and health problems as the main
factors for my deletion. Although much pressure was brought on me to stay, they
fulfilled my request. For the sake of my wife and children, I declined to tell
them the real "truth", knowing I'd be disfellowshipped. I felt that even though
I was strong enough to handle the "shunning", it would bring unnecessary
hardship on my precious family. Hopefully, with much prayer and God's help, they
will understand what God's will is for us and put their trust in Jesus Christ,
not the usurper of hi authority, the WTS.
My long struggle with the
"anointed" and "great crowd" issue has finally been resolved. A great help in
this area was Jon Mitchell's "Where is the Great Crowd Serving God?" I can now
eagerly and whole-heartedly look forward to inheriting God's Kingdom in the
fullest sense. The uncertainty of whether I was good enough to be "saved' has
been resolved in my accepting Christ as my Savior completely and without
I pray that God's Spirit and
the love of Christ will be with all those who read this witness I give. Praise
be to him forever. Amen
P.S. By the
way, our company hired a new installer. It turns out it is Curtis M., the same
man who offered me the tract and unknowingly changed my life. It'd kind of
ironic that declining his tract was more powerful an influence than if I had
accepted it, don't you think? Since joining the company, we've had genuine Bible
discussions that went beyond anything I ever experienced as a Jehovah's Witness.