Vance's Story

I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness by a zealous mother and I spent many years striving to be all that was required of me by the Organization. I attended the International Convention in New York City in 1958 with my mother and my brother and sisters. My father was the younger brother of my mother's first husband, and though he was a good man, he was seriously snubbed by the rest of the family, including my older brother and sisters, who were actually his nieces and nephews before his brother died. Before I came along, my mother was a widow with four children, looking for some hope in a difficult world just after W.W.II. She was taken by the Witnesses' teachings of paradise soon to come on earth. My dad had just gotten back from overseas and fell for her. They were married and I came along soon thereafter. My dad, having the same last name as the children, didn't adopt them, but felt closer to them than an uncle would.

The children really loved him, but that changed when he wouldn't accept the religion, and instead he went into the military reserves and was called up for active duty during the Korean War. He wanted me to be like him, patriotic, athletic and a leader. He encouraged me to excel in baseball, but when the International Assembly in 1958 conflicted with Little League, I had a choice to make. Later that year, at age 9, I was baptized as a Witness. My dad turned to alcohol and that lead to a divorce in 1960. My dad and mom had a little girl when I was 4, and she and I were dominated by the older siblings.

I decided to be the best I could be as a Witness and a student and I tried to excel at everything. I vacation pioneered every school vacation and stood out at school for my grades as well as for my refusal to salute the flag, stand for the National Anthem, participate in holiday programs or attend school extracurricular activities. I was in the Theocratic Ministry School from age 7, and I gave my first hour talk just after graduation from high school. In fact, I gave it first to a senior class group as a special project. I was popular, voted the most outstanding scholar in the senior class, and I graduated 5th in a class of 502 with a nearly perfect GPA. But I couldn't go to college, so I immediately signed up as a Pioneer. This was 1967, and I registered for the Draft as a conscientious objector. I was interviewed by the local newspaper because of that stand at the time of the Vietnam War.

My family moved to a remote area of Northern California, where I believe they planned to survive the tumultuous days before Armageddon away from the corruption of Southern California. I chose to move in with my dad and grandmother in Southern California and eventually married a nice Witness girl. Rather secretly, I had been studying comparative religions and philosophy on my own. I questioned more and more how the Witnesses came up with some of their beliefs, but I continued to preach and even advanced to become a ministerial servant. We had a son and then a daughter, and at first I planned to raise them as I had been raised. But things that I had studied, including some of the old Witness literature, made me see things differently than I had been taught. I had even won my dad over to accept most of the doctrines, and his mother was baptized at age 90.

Seeing the continuing changes and cover-ups in the Society, I always questioned my true faith. As new rules were imposed in the early 70's about conduct of sexual partners, I felt more restrictions on my life. When 1975 went by with no cataclysm, I had to face people who were asking me for an interpretation of what the WBTS meant in the literature. More and more I felt hypocritical with answers learned at the Kingdom Hall. I couldn't even give my kids valid answers to questions about the New World and Armageddon. The pressures from trying to make a living and please family members and keep up the spiritual activity became such a burden that I started drinking like my dad had. He died in '75, still wondering why all the predictions had not come true, and my grandmother died early in '76.

I had started a business and was attending night classes at the community college in an effort to get head financially as I could see the world was continuing on as usual. My marriage was strained and my wife's father, who wasn't a JW really made an issue about 1975. He was angry with all of the Witnesses and his wife soon became involved in a political campaign for her son, who had never accepted the 'Truth' nor had been accepted due to his rumored bisexuality. She eventually was reproved, and she never tried to get back in. This all affected my marriage and eventually my wife and I stopped attending meetings. The faith that was supposed to make us all strong had weakened our spirits and torn up our relationship. Due to infidelity, we divorced, and my children moved away with their Mom. She later ended up marrying her new boyfriend and they stayed together for a rocky few years.

I met and married a wonderful woman and moved in with her and her two teenage children. Before our marriage, with all four of our children, I introduce her to my mother and older siblings. I had told her that it was going to be a difficult situation, but she never had any idea what I was leading her into. After the introductions, my brother and a brother-in-law, both elders for many years, asked me to go into another room. They asked me what was going on, because I had not confided in any of them about my marital problem, or anything else. I told them that night that I was no longer a Jehovah's Witness, that I was planning to remarry as soon as my divorce was final, and that I was disassociating myself from the Organization. Without making a scene, my future wife and I left with our kids. Some of the family has not spoken to any of us since. We have been happily married for 17 years, and we are very strong spiritually.

We have close relationships with the two youngest of my sisters, both of whom have also separated from the Witnesses. We also are meeting many of my relatives whom I was not allowed to visit or get to know during all those years of my bondage and seclusion within the concentration camp known as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Jehovah's Witnesses. It has been a very cleansing experience for me to put this into words, and I thank you for your indulgence.