Paul's Story

I was “raised in the truth” all my life. Now I am 23 years old. Both of my parents have been JW’s for over 20 years and I have one brother who is 21. As a child, I was raised as the typical Witness child: First I started reciting “presentations” for the door to door ministry when I was small, gave my first talk when I was about 6 or 7, always defended “The Truth” as a child, had plenty of parts on the Theocratic Ministry School, got baptized when I was 13 because everyone was doing it, etc. The real problems started to surface when I got to high school.

Music has always been my first love. I finally started to realize it when I started 9th grade. I started out as an OK singer and great piano player. Because of this, I was one of the first chosen for a “Madrigal” group, the “best of the best” type deal. But of course, when I told my parents about it, the issue of holidays, pagan Catholic songs and worldly association would always come up. I was allowed to join another choir group that didn’t have the same spotlight and demands of my time, but I was still happy because it was a chance to do what I loved. My teachers were always behind me 100%, even though they knew my parents made it hard for me to do many things socially with other kids in school. But honestly, the little social freedom I did have was more than most Witness parents give their children and I’m grateful for that.

For the most part, I was still an active Witness at the time in 9th grade. Then, in 10th grade, I guess you could say I had my first “true love” at the time. Her name was Courtney. She had moved from Seattle, WA with her father and was new to the city. We gradually started to get to know each other and then started to date very regularly. The whole time I had to hide this from my parents. When I think back on it it’s pretty embarrassing. I would tell them I was practicing with a group and have them drop me off and then pick me up from her house. There were a few times where I wouldn’t come home from school immediately and I’d have to lie about where I was and who I was with, etc. It was pretty stressful. But we eventually broke up and I dated lots of other girls in high school. My parents only found out about one because I accidentally left a “love letter” she wrote in my pants pocket. All in all, it seemed that the further I got into music and school, the less time I found for “spiritual” things. My parents, as lenient as they were for Witnesses, were very concerned throughout all 4 years, especially the last 2. I was barely going to the Hall and commenting. Since we weren’t really encouraged to purse “secular” careers, especially in music, I passed up several opportunities for music scholarships and didn’t really focus on my grades too much in my junior and senior years. During my last year I rarely even went to the Hall. I had engrossed myself into the musical plays, talent shows, singing at pep rallies, etc. The only problems I really encountered during high school when it came to being a JW was my social life, which I consider now to be minimal in light of when I would eventually learn. One incident that does stick out in my mind is when I had a lead role in a musical our senior year. Every night after our performances, the cast would go over to someone’s house and celebrate. But when I didn’t show up, everyone knew it was not because I didn’t want to be there, but it was because of my religion. When I look back on it my parents had already started to create double standards for me. It was all right for me to participate in the musical and associate with “worldly kids” while doing so, but I couldn’t celebrate its success with them because it was “bad association”. As trivial as it may sound now, it was very difficult back then.

So after I graduated, I re-evaluated things and promised myself I would do better serving Jehovah. I left for the summer and stayed with a Witness family in Florida. That turned me around 180 degrees. I started studying again, taking the lead out in field service only after being there for 2 or 3 weeks, joined the school again. I was putting in pioneer hours and felt that everything was starting to fall into place again. But music was always in the back of my mind and I would always deny it. I felt as if my life was finally whipping into shape and I knew that most worldly music was a “snare” used by Satan to “lead us astray”.

When I came back home a few months later, my parents and friends saw the change in me and were astounded. However, it only lasted for a few months. As I got back into the swing of things at home, I started to lose my “zeal” again for “The Truth.” But this time it was for a different reason. I had begun to question the validity of the Governing Body’s claim to be God’s ONLY earthly channel of communication. Another issue I had was the Watchtower bashing of other religions and the obvious pride we took in being “better” then the rest of Christianity. I also had questions about the chronology of 1914, as well as the belief that even little children and babies who cannot make decisions for themselves would die at Armageddon if their parents did not become JW’s. But I let it go. I let it go because I felt guilty at even questioning the Society. I would think to myself, “After growing up in the Truth and knowing how to defend every belief we held, this had to be the only true religion on earth. Look at our growth, the preaching work, the love among our people, etc.” I was secure and I didn’t want anything to disrupt my “spiritual paradise”. So I put my doubts aside and kept a good standing in the congregation for a number of years, but I also lived a double life like the many of the youth in the organization do.

Everything has come to a head within the past year though. I stopped going to meetings & field service altogether. I guess it was kind of a mixture of apathy and confusion.

During all this time, I had only browsed “apostate” literature on the Internet, but never gave it much consideration. Then a few months ago I was interviewing job candidates and in walked someone I knew by face that was a Witness. He was definitely qualified for the position, but I was afraid to hire him because I thought that if he learned of my “conduct” at work it would somehow get back to the Elders. But I was backed into a wall because no one else we interviewed was really qualified and I couldn’t reveal my true reasons for not wanting to hire him, so we did. Over the course of the next few weeks we would usually talk about work-related issues, but one day we ended up eating lunch together. It was as if we were both choosing our words carefully, but it was obvious we were feeling each other out. Speaking about certain subjects (like disagreeing with doctrinal beliefs) is almost taboo in the JW organization; it’s also cause for excommunication from the congregation. In the end though, it was acknowledged that we held similar views that differed from the JW beliefs.

We spent 3 hours laying everything out on the table as far as our feelings on many issues. He also mentioned the name Raymond Franz in his conversation, but I didn’t know who he was until I looked him up on the Internet. I found out he was a former member of the “Governing Body” (a sort of tribunal, or synod that is responsible for the spiritual instruction of all JW’s) who had resigned and then was later disfellowshipped for eating a meal with a former employer who was also disfellowshipped. I began to wonder what could’ve caused this man to resign the highest position within the JW organization. Then I checked out a few search engines on the Internet and found two books he’s written. The first, entitled ‘Crisis of Conscience’ deals with his 9-year experience on the GB and sheds light on how decisions were, and still are, made within the organization. The second, entitled ‘In Search of Christian Freedom’ deals with the fundamental beliefs of JW’s and basically exposes the many “House of cards” type doctrines, which are taught within the organization. After reading those books, I decided once and for all that I was not going back.

I can see why the Society does not want anyone reading those two books, classified as “Apostate” literature. There is no way you can read them and NOT come to the conclusion that many of the beliefs of JW’s do not truly have a scriptural basis. It was also very disturbing because my whole belief system was not only thrown into question; it was shattered to an extent. I learned the truth about “The Truth”. The material was not dogmatic or bitter, like much of the books published by Ex-JW’s. It presented matters in an unbiased manner. All the questions I harbored privately were addressed, presenting both sides of different issues.

But what really upset me was the fact that teachings such as the 2 class system (144,000 going to heaven, all others residing on earth), the original “Good News” presented by the apostles of Jesus’ day, and other issues were not honestly examined in the Watchtower articles. They were half truths and beliefs based on circular reasoning. It sickened me. Although I love many of the individuals within the organization, I cannot consciously continue to sit, listen, and watch people be misled.

But now I have a problem: My family & friends. Although I didn’t build my relationships exclusively around JW’s, I have lots of friends who are still part of the organization. Because I don’t go to the Hall anymore, I am already categorized as spiritually weak or dead. No longer am I able to truly express myself on spiritual issues with them because I know it will result in their labeling me as “apostate”. If that were to happen, I would eventually be reported to the elders. As a matter of fact, they’re already calling several times a week so they can speak with me about my meeting attendance. So far I’ve managed to avoid them, but I can’t hide forever. Things would be much easier if I could just fade into the background and eventually be forgotten. That way I could still visit family and friends occasionally. Unfortunately, that’s almost impossible to do. I’m also afraid that if I do meet with the elders that I’ll slip and say something “apostate” while their counseling me on “forsaking the gathering of ourselves together.” And once they ask if I fully support and will continue to teach everything currently taught by the organization, my conscience will force me to say no. It’ll all be over and the word will be out that I was disfellowshipped for “apostasy”. Everyone will avoid me like the plague. My whole family will be affected and since my father is an elder they’ll be more tension in his congregation’s body of elders because a “known apostate” will officially be living in the house. Although my dad may not say so, moving out will be the best decision in the end for all of us, even if he does respect and understand my position.

So what do I do, what do I do? It’s ironic that my family (extend family included), thought of my brother and I as the “last spiritual hope” when it came to all of the youth in our family. Everyone else “flopped out the truth” for other reasons, like fornication or just not wanting it. If things work out the way I think, I’ll be the first “apostate” child in our family history. What a way to be remembered, eh?

In the end though, what matters is my personal relationship with Jehovah & Jesus. I may not be the most spiritual person in the world, but I do know that my relationship with them is much more important than being in good standing with men, even if it does include your family.

Another thing I want to mention is that before, although I would never admit it, my underlying reason for trying to measure up to the organization’s standards when I first got out of high school was mainly for the praise. I am a fairly good public speaker and I liked the fact that it was recognized time and time again when I gave parts on the meeting. It was the approval of men that I was seeking. I loved the ego-boost I got while speaking on stage, reading the Watchtower ever other week and listening to others talk about the “warmth and depth” I gave otherwise dull material, taking the lead and directing members of the congregation in field service, the constant invitations to peoples homes or other outings, singing at JW functions and hearing about how I could “make it” in the world, being considered for more privileges within the organization, all of it…I had a sense of belonging which for most JW’s within the organization, myself included, is hard to give up. The alarming reality is that, even though no one wants to admit it, most friendships between JW’s are directly related to your standing within the organization. For the most part, even if you’ve had a friend for 10 - 15 years, perhaps someone you grew up with, that friendship is cut off if you enter a “Disfellowshipped state”. All communication with them is cut off because of organizational policy. From there it is once again up to a judicial group of men to determine your heart condition (something only God & Jesus can do) and, upon THEIR approval, make the decision as to whether your sincere or not. But it most instances, even if they do not feel that you should be disfellowshipped, in many cases organizational policy overrules their consciences. And for them to stay in good standing with the Society, they are compelled to stick to the prescribed rules and regulations. Individuals will go up to 2 years or more without speaking to their families, relatives, and friends. It is the approval of God through men (something clearly not taught in Scripture) that makes many people go through such difficulties in getting “re-instated”.

We were not meant to serve God through men claiming to speak for Him. Coming to that realization was one of the hardest things to acknowledge at first. The lesson I’ve learned is that only God knows what’s in our hearts as an individual. It’s His approval that we should be concerned about, not man’s. In the process of the Society and the Governing Body claiming they are God’s only mouthpiece and channel of communication on earth today, they are, whether willingly or unwillingly, using JW’s to accomplish their goals, to advocate their view of matters, and essentially doing the thinking when it comes to discerning spiritual matters for over 6 million people. Ironically, the Catholic church has a history claming that it was the only authority on biblical matters, that only the clergy, not the laity (or common people) could truly understand the Bible, and that it was pointless for anyone to try and understand it without them. Anyone who disagreed with the clergy was labeled a heretic, slanderer, serpent-like person who God despised. The parallel between their organizational “top-down” structure, and that of JW’s, is without a doubt very similar. Realizing this helped me to start reading the Bible personally and studying it for myself, knowing that being associated with an earthly organization is not essential to my salvation. It does make things easier for me as I look to once source for ultimate “Truth”, God Word the Bible.