LArry's Story

At age 13 during the summer of 1975, some of my cousins and I were contacted by people who could seemingly jump to any point in the Bible in response to all questions-- Jehovah's Witnesses. One, who I will call Hugh, started the Bible study, during which the "truth" was delivered in tiny bits and pieces.

After a couple weeks of study, Hugh invited me to the Kingdom Hall, saying that since I wasn't old enough to drive, he would take me. As I wasn't attending church at the time, the offer was OK with my parents, as none of us knew much about the JWs. We had thought they were simply a very zealous mainline Christian group. How wrong we were!

They started taking me along on field service, which is one of the ways they impress a potential believer. I watched in amazement as the Witnesses blew away the householders' arguments with their canned responses. Being only thirteen, I did not realize it was because the Witnesses has been to the Theocratic School, but most householders have not been to a corresponding prospect school. These Witnesses had certain houses they would avoid, saying that they had been told not to call on them anymore. I later learned the houses' occupants were devout Bible quoting Christians, some of them preachers. Now, they had been to prospect school!

The public talks by visiting elders impressed me, as I did not immediately know that the elders visited various Kingdom Halls giving that talk again and again. I soon joined the Theocratic School, where they learn how to give talks and go door to door.

As I've always been talkative and outgoing most of the time (I have worked in sales, marketing, and collections), and have a gift for writing, (I recently became a published novelist)I progressed, and was well liked at the Hall. People said that "someday Brother Larry will be giving the public talk," and that one day I would "serve at Bethel." I have always loved to read, which meant I studied a lot. Of course, a Watchtower "Bible" study is mostly based on the "faithful and discreet slave's" publications. You read a paragraph, quickly look at a verse (or maybe half a verse) to back it up, then go to the next paragraph. You don't get time to think about what you have just read in the Bible.

I enjoyed watching the various JWs give talks, and respond to the "householder" in skits. They were what salespeople would call rebuttals, although they never used that word. They love to brag about their theocratic school, and were much like sales seminars that I attended.

Not having attended any church long enough to make a comparison to what I was now learning, I really got into the Witnesses; they seemed to know it all. I was helped along in my spiritual progress by a mother and son whom I will call Laura and Harry. Laura was into the religion like no one else I saw at they KH-- were she a man, she would have been a circuit overseer at minimum, probably a member of the governing body. She was highly respected, almost deified, and her opinion was law as much as the governing body's decrees were unquestioned.

As you have noted, I began attending the KH in 1975. Not once did I hear that the JWs felt that the "wicked system of things" must end in 1975. I did not know till I saw this site and others recently, that the "faithful and discreet slave" had set that year in stone. Indeed, someone at school told me that they had heard that Jehovah's Witnesses had said the world would end in 1975, and I confidently and unabashedly told them it wasn't so. Well, 1976 rolled around. There was a minute discussion of a few "lukewarm members weak in faith" who had said they would leave if the "present system of things" didn't end in 1975. I did not hear anyone mention that the date 1975 had been set by the "faithful and discreet slave." Yes, you read that correctly: not once. I did not know that till I read it on this site!

However, the end was considered to be imminent beyond a shadow of doubt. Many stated that would be a year away, two at the most. At that time, I never doubted that "fact." A central theme was that the UN would crackdown on religion, beginning with a ban on all religious holidays. There were Watchtower articles titled "Is the UN maneuvering to curb religion?," and "The Millennium is NOW!"

Let me get back to my status at the KH. Even though I was well-liked, I was in some ways considered controversial. Doublethink? Yes, the Witnesses are used to that. Why was I controversial? One reason was that I never dropped the close friendships that had developed in elementary school. I was encouraged not to have close friendships with the "worldly." (My friends, who had never done anything bad to me, have stuck with me to this day. Though most of us have left our native state and live up to a thousand miles apart, we still talk frequently enough on the phone that I am constantly jumping to the long distance company with the lowest rates, just as the JWs jump around to various scriptures; maybe I did learn something worthy from them after all!!) How could I leave my unsaved friends? Even though this was encouraged at the Hall, I still hung in with them, and they stuck with me. I reasoned that sticking with them would help them to see the truth, and they reasoned that still hanging around with me would get me out of that "crazy church and into a proper one." I disagreed (gasp!) with the unfaithful and indiscreet slave on this. Why should I leave my friends when hanging around with them could lead them into "paradise earth?." Why should I not hang around with them, when the Bible said to "go teach all nations," and to go "into the uttermost parts of the earth." I did not buy their stringent and unscriptural interpretation of "be no part of this world." But I still attended, as I unfortunately swallowed most of the other dogmatic dogma.

At home, my parents, especially my mother, did not approve as they saw the JW dogma unfold. I remember one particular instance. A particularly obnoxious elder, whom I will call Morgan, came to visit one day. My father wasn't home, but my mother was, and "brother" Morgan, immediately pointed out that Last Supper painting on our dining room wall was "false," that "Jesus did not have a halo on his head. If he had a halo, how could he have disappeared in the crowd?" When he left, my mother was very upset, as she had received the painting as a wedding present. When my father came home, she told him. He looked the painting up in an encyclopedia, and found that da Vinci had put a halo on Christ's head to show that he "was the light of the world." What was so bad about that? At the KH, I told "brother" Morgan about this personal "new light" I had discovered, and he still said the painting was false! That was the start of my doubts, which made me become more controversial.

After that, the doubts started coming like bullets leaving the barrel of an automatic weapon-- the same type of automatic weapon that delivered the JWs from Nazi concentration camps.

The first doubt was about their adamance against joining the military. One brother, whom I will call Will, told me emphatically that I would never have to worry about being drafted, as we would "be in the new order long before" I reached draft age. Guess what? I'm 39 years old! In one of the Witness yearbooks, they detailed how grateful they were that "American soldiers" had rescued them from concentration camps. Then how could portray America as "bad" and "responsible" for World War II as the Nazis? How could they have been neutral? Where would the JWs have been in 1975 if everyone in the US had resisted the draft as they did? America would probably have become Axis colony, and the JWs would not have had the freedoms they do today. (As the display in Wal-Mart says, "the greatest generation did nothing less than save civilization.") One day, that thought came to a head, when my father, a World War II veteran, commented to Harry that Hitler had "murdered six million Jews," so he felt that America had to join the war effort. Harry couldn't come up with a decent response. How many wars was Israel, with God's backing, involved in? What about the centurion in Acts 10 who had always worshipped God? A centurion has authority over 100 soldiers. Cornelius wasn't an enlisted man, but an officer, probably what we would call a captain! One day at the KH, they were talking about "tyrants of the last days." They played a record and identified the speaker as Hitler; next on tap was Mussolini. Surprisingly, what the third person on the record said made sense, so I listened with amazement. An elder said: "This person is as bad as the other two. He is Franklin Delano Roosevelt." My amazement increased to astonishment! They then went on to say that Roosevelt had been planning to take the world, but had died before he could invoke his plans to do so. How could a president who had been planning to take the world not have entered W.W.II till it was imperative? It didn't make sense. I won't even mention my surprise when I found out a future assembly would be held at a National guard Armory!

My second doubt concerned their interpretation of "being no part of the world," as I felt we could not make the best of our stay in "this system of things" by isolating ourselves. They emphatically state that every government official in the world is corrupt. Many are, but many are not. Quite a few are good Christians. What about former senator and current attorney general John Ashcroft, for example. There are two excellent examples of righteous men setting examples and making a difference in at least two governments: Joseph was almost equivalent to the pharaoh of Egypt; Daniel was "third" in the Babylonian government, probably equivalent to our secretary of state, which is way beyond the simple act of voting that the JWs find abominable. So, If the JWs felt that the rest of the world was wrong and "worldly," was it not their duty to "let the light shine" and set an example by participating in the political process? After all, what about the scripture that states we should "render Caeser's things to Caeser," and the one that states governments are set up by God? Suppose the 1st Century Roman Empire had put religious freedom to a vote. The apostle Paul was a Roman citizen. Can you honestly tell me he would not have done his civic and Christian duty? I think not! Don't join "worldly" clubs or , sports teams. Why not, when you can be in the spotlight and make a Christian difference. Professional football players such as the converted Deion Sanders are an example.

The third part of their theology I doubted was their edict against blood transfusions. At first, I carried a blood card in my wallet. (They should have consulted my parents before giving it to me. Do I see grounds for a lawsuit?) Then I began to see the hypocrisy. They rationalized it by saying that blood transfusions have potential side effects. What medical procedure doesn't? Many people on the operating table never wake again, at least in this life. Does that mean blood transfusions are inherently bad? Hardly. My own mother had been saved by one years before I began attending the KH. Another reason that blood transfusions are wrong is that you should not "eat" blood. Even having only been in junior high, I knew that a transfusion was not eating blood. Is the transfused blood digested? Of course not! So then, how is a transfusion "eating" blood? Not to mention the statement on the card that lists blood "substitutes." Substitutes?! Once again, even one with a junior high science background knows that blood is a very unique aggregate of compounds that no earthly laboratory can duplicate! Lastly, how could they be against a lifesaving procedure? During the home study, my father asked if you could store your own blood for an upcoming surgery. A ministerial servant turned not to the Bible, but to the Watchtower. After a couple days of searching, he found a WT article that said "no," and he accepted it without question. I then realized that the JWs do have the clergy class they profess not to have, and their clergy has more authority than any true Christian clergy.

I began to doubt their saved by works theology during a talk an elder gave concerning those who weren't putting in much field service time. He said: "To those of you who are only putting in an hour a month, I don't know if that will save you. It might. Then again, it might not. I wouldn't risk it." I thought: "You don't know! You don't know what the requirements are to receive salvation, and you're claiming to be God's sole channel of communication.?!" The one true religion? Unbelievable!" Everyone organization you join, whether it be your church or Jaycees or the Scouts knows their prerequisites and activities for achievements. And the Jehovah's Witnesses who claim to be the only uncorrupted and unworldly organization don't know theirs? (Let me go to the present for a minute. About a year ago, I read a book on Martin Luther. He worked very diligently in the church, but had many sleepless nights wondering if he was doing enough to save him. The worry was so intense, that if were in this age, he would be diagnosed with anxiety disorder and given Prozac or something similar. He realized that God certainly would want someone to know if they were receiving salvation. Nowhere in the Bible does it say you must do so much of this and so much of that to be saved. If we were saved by works it would definitely say how much you had to do to be saved, which it does not. There is no recipe or 12 step program or diagram to be saved. Salvation is free and uncomplicated and based on faith or belief, which we learn in Romans chapter 10. Romans could be interpreted as THE book of salvation. Incidentally, I don't remember the JWs using Romans much at all.)

When I was a JW, the organization had only 2,000,000 members. Only 2,000,000 out of over the then world population of 4,000,000,000 would be saved. That was truly self centered and egotistical, and certainly no "great crowd. I live in metro Memphis, and we have half that many people. Memphis is a very small microcosm of a huge, huge world. Only 2,000,000 million "good" people out of 4,000,000,000 "bad?!" Sounds like extreme conceit to me. The JWs feel that any person who is truly honest with themselves, will after a "Bible" study with the Watchtower, know beyond a doubt that the Watchtower is "in the truth." If, after a study, you don't acknowledge they are the one true faith, you are lying to yourself. Of course, they don't tell you that when the study starts. The "present system of things" will end when everyone in the world has had a chance to become a JW, and the vast majority will refuse. Sounds like to me they are elitists. In other words, when I was attending, there were almost 4,000,000,000 bad people in the world! Most of the "worldly" people I knew in 1975 were not "bad."

I began to mentally question their failed prophecies, especially the dates for the "end of this system of things." Of course, their response to the number of mistakes they admitted to (far less than the actual number) was that true preaching hadn't existed for well over a millennium, and that when the WT society was started, it took many years for the "light to shine brighter." God allowing no true preaching for over 1,000 years?! I don't think so!

What about their insistence that higher education is unnecessary? How did the attorneys the society uses get to be attorneys? Watchtower society president F.W. Franz had attended college. The apostle Paul had "higher education," as did Moses and Daniel. Were these three stalwarts wrong? Then again, there are good Christians who have not had much education. "It takes all kinds."

What about shunning? Anyone who leaves, or questions in the slightest way the faithful and discreet slave, is disfellowshipped and shunned. Even family is supposed to have little or no contact with a disfellowshipped person! And you can get disfellowshipped for even speaking to a disfellowshipped person. Isn't there a scripture where you are supposed to bring a lost sheep back into the fold and rejoice when he or she returns? Moses made mistakes; King David made plenty of errors. Were they disfellowshipped or shunned? No! There is such a thing as forgiveness. God forgives. If the JWs do not, are they putting themselves above our Creator?

My slow loss of interest, thought not vocalized, was noted. My parents noticed that I didn't talk about the religion as much, and fellow Witnesses noticed that I wasn't as commentive and participative as I had been.

Let me get to the final act which made me decide to leave, the confrontation with Laura over a trivial matter. They were talking about special pioneers, and someone brought up a question as to whether the special pioneers (temporary pioneers who worked "only" 60 hours in field service) should get the WT publications at the regular reduced pioneer price. Laura said that they should not. I said: "I disagree. A pioneer is still a pioneer." The reaction was about the same as if I had entered a DEA meeting and said that drugs weren't harmful. Or if I told my pastor I had decided to become a JW! Open mouths. Gasps. Everywhere. Comments like: "My conscience would bother me if I did that." "Brother Larry, how can you think that way?" I didn't really resign, as I wasn't baptized yet, and never would be. Thank God! I stopped attending. As I wasn't baptized, they couldn't start disfellowship proceedings.

About a year later, my mother died. Only two JWs attended the funeral, and one of them was my cousin. True friends indeed! My true friends I have had since elementary school did not abandon me.

In 1995, I saw in a newspaper where the JWs had abandoned the interpretation of "the generation of 1914 that sees all of these things will by no means pass away." One witness discussed the new arrangement by saying: "Anyone could see that. It is obvious." Well, it wasn't obvious for almost a century! Looking at the 'net, I now see that the latest failed prophecy has been whitewashed by the faithful and discreet slave.

So now here I am. I harbor no ill will toward the rank and file Witnesses, but feel an anger toward the "faithful and discreet slave" for misleading so many. " The faithful and discreet slave has my ire, especially when I see what I see on the net. No, being a Christian now, I am not angry at them, just at their policies. I can see why they don't like the Internet, as so many have used it as a medium to come forward. I looked at the article where JWs were advised not to use the 'net, because so much of it is bad. Lots of publications are bad. Does that mean printing presses are inherently bad? I'm certain that the apostle Paul, the greatest Christian, would have used the Internet had it been available. I just emailed my pastor asking him to pray for someone I know who is in a bad situation. What is so wrong with that?

So what can we do to help the JWs? I have noticed that there are several Witness chatrooms and bulletin boards (in opposition to what the Society recommends) on the 'net. Why not go to these boards and chatrooms and witness to them, especially using scriptures such as John 20:28, which proves the Trinity, and Romans chapter 10, which tells one how to get saved? True Christians can out maneuver them. In a Witness meeting, God does not take control-- everything is cut and dried and rehearsed, even the songs to be sung. A Witness public talk is based on a simple theme with quick references to it pulled form every corner of the Bible. My pastor's sermons are usually based on one verse, sometimes two or three. And he can talk for a long time on that one section. Jehovah's Witnesses cannot. My pastor, a true Christian, can get more out of the Bible. I think I know, as I remember Harry's talk on "work" was taken from concordance listings of the word "work" in his "Bible." He, like all other Witnesses, rarely stays on a verse for more than a few minutes. Let us all pray for the Jehovah's Witnesses!!