The truth is

I never intended to use this space as a  religious platform. I have made every effort to post DIY projects, positive joys of parenting, and family updates as we explore living in Texas. But who wants to write about how to save money buying an Anthropologie couch, or our babymoon at the beach, when the truth is, there is literally a life-or-death matter that needs to be addressed?

My purpose in writing this post is not an attempt to pull anyone away from their faith. I just wanted to explain how and why I started on a journey with mine. I have spent the last 4 years researching and over a year composing and editing this post. I wasn’t even sure if I would ever post it, but a recent turn of event has shown me that it is vital to put this information out there; that I can not blend in with the crowd and bury my head in the sand. The truth is, this is not a fun story- either to read or to tell (and some parts will be boring if you aren’t familiar with this topic). It’s gritty. It’s sad. It’s long. But despite this experience I am finding myself on the other side, looking forward; thankful for grace, faith, hope, and of course, above all, love.

I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and chose to become baptized at age 11. When I was baptized, I knew I wanted to follow the standards set out in the Bible and serve our creator. What I didn’t know was that by being baptized, I would have to change what I believed each time the leaders- the members of the Governing Body- decided to make doctrinal changes. JWs excuse it by saying “the light gets brighter,” quoting Proverbs 4:18. There are 3 main flaws to this explanation.

The first being that the entire context of Proverbs 4 is referring to the life of a righteous person vs. a wicked person. It is in no way referencing information that God gives to his people.

The second flaw in this faulty explanation is that if light were getting brighter, the views formerly held would still be accurate but incomplete. Unfortunately, in the Witness world, the doctrines change completely, and former views are now considered false (but they would refer to them as “inaccurate concepts”, “misunderstandings”, “cherished errors”, “old truths”, “misplaced zeal”… and many more cleverly worded phrases found in this post). Also problematic would be the views which have flip-flopped more than once; consider the teaching regarding organ transplants. In the Awake! Dec 22, 1949 organ transplants were described as “the wonders of modern surgery,” only to be “enlightened by Gods Word” and condemned as cannibalistic in the 1967 issue of the Watchtower Nov 15 (pp.702-704), then to have the Mar 15 issue of the Watchtower in 1980 (p.31) admit that “there is no Biblical command pointedly forbidding the taking in of other human tissue. It is a matter for personal decision.” (see also the same multiple changing of their interpretation of “superior authorities”). Also, changing “truth” means that the current “truth” might be regarded as false in the future, but JWs have to believe it anyway– and teach it to others. The truth is, in these cases it seems the light is going on, turning off, and then going on again- not “getting brighter”.

The third major flaw is this– if this information is coming from God, why is it changing, and then changing back again? Does God want us to believe false doctrine? 1 John 4:1 “Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.”

The truth is, according to the Bible, God does not change. (Mal 3:6)

Understanding the changing doctrine is important to me because it has affected my life immensely.

When Philippa was born four years ago, I delivered her at the same birth center where I delivered Georgia- in fact, they were born in the very same room. The birth went well– until it was time for the placenta to be delivered.

Cutting the umbilical cord just after it stopped pulsing. What happened next changed my life forever.

I was given 30 minutes for it to come out naturally, with no sign of it being ready. At which point the midwife attending to me administered an IV and a shot of pitocin to stimulate stronger contractions. She told me they would allow another 30 minutes, after which I would need to be transferred to the nearby hospital, anticipating a good deal of blood loss and most likely a necessary blood transfusion. I reminded her that I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and under no circumstances would I accept a blood transfusion– so, “Do what you can while I am here,” I told her, “because once I get to the hospital, there is nothing more they will be able to do for me.” I had no thoughts other than a sense of peace; “whatever is going to happen will happen”. I gave no thought to the possibility of my two children being raised without their mother. (Yes, this does happen in modern times, and yes, I did know a woman personally, in my congregation at the time, who died of blood loss just after delivering her son.)

Not a glamour shot, obviously. This was taken shortly after she was born. You can see the IV in my arm; not a standard practice at the birth center we used.

I was thoroughly convinced at the time that this was based on Biblical standards, found at Acts 15:20.
Fortunately, 3 minutes prior to being transferred to the hospital, the placenta was delivered and there was minimal blood loss. However, this single experience– being willing to allow myself to die, while there was a chance to save my life– has changed the entire outcome of my life. I can not dismiss what might have been simply because it did not happen. It has happened to others and it will happen to others. My question is why?

Four days after she was born; the picture which might not have been, had things gone differently.

I count myself lucky not to have had the fate of sacrificing my life, and I count myself naive for never having investigated the whole picture. I mean, if you are willing to live, and even more importantly– die– for a cause, shouldn’t you be allowed to investigate it fully? We were always taught never to look into opposing ideas, with fear that they would be half-truths, composed with the goal of pulling us away from serving God. That is not the case in the research I conducted. There are many well written articles that do not appeal to emotion as a basis for decision making. Besides, the truth is, if your faith is only based on one side of the argument, that is not a solid foundation. (Proverbs 18:17)
I tried to justify the stand I had taken. I tried to prove to myself I did right by taking a stand to be “obedient to God”, even to the point of death. But the truth is… this is not something that GOD asks of us.
The entire purpose for the laws regarding the use of blood was to show respect for God’s ownership of life when a life had been lost. But in order to save a life through the use of blood, no life (either animal or human) would be lost to provide the blood for a transfusion.
Matthew 12:11 “Who will be the man among YOU that has one sheep and, if this falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not get hold of it and lift it out? All considered, of how much more worth is a man than a sheep!”
The truth is, Jesus taught that life is more precious than law.
In addition, there is no biblical basis for refusing the use of blood to the point of death. The truth is, sacrificing a life does not show respect for life.
The one and only reference regarding use of blood in the Christian Greek scriptures is found at Acts 15:20, which says, “Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.”
To demand that Acts 15:20 means never taking any kind of blood into the body for any reason, in any way, is going far beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). (The best references regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses and blood found here.)
So then, it always come down to this: “Do you trust the “faithful and discreet slave”– the members of the Governing Body, the leaders of
Jehovah’s Witnesses– to interpret the scriptures for us and work as
God’s mouthpiece?”
“Jehovah’s people confess no powers of inspiration today”
Watchtower 1952 Apr 15 p.253
“Those who make up the one true Christian organization today do
not have angelic revelations or divine inspiration.” Jehovah’s
Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (1993) p.708
 
If they admit they are not inspired, and they might change their
doctrine in the future, then why are we willing to follow them to the death?
Especially when the organization is known to change its teachings.
I would like to now share my recent personal experience because I think it is relevant to helping others understand the thought process and inner workings of JWs.
Don’t think that this quest has been easy on me. The truth is, I have had days where the only way I survived the day was through the lyrics to “Defying Gravity” and the love of my husband and children, along with support from a strong base of friends. Especially recently, as an unexpected turn of events resulted in us being uninvited to my brothers wedding.
Back in February, I decided I was finally comfortable with my beliefs enough to share them through pictures on my instagram account. To do so, I switched my account to the private setting and changed the name on my account. I also decided to block any and all Jehovah’s Witnesses following me at the time. I did this because I did not want to affect their beliefs, nor did I want to face the gossip and criticism that would follow. The block on JWs included my family; my mom, sister, and brother. My sister somehow caught on to what I had done and I explained to her that I would be posting things she would not agree with and it was no longer the way I would choose to communicate with her. Fast forward to October 4th. By this time I was very comfortable in my beliefs and was no longer concerned with the gossip or criticism, so I had switched my account back to public, but kept JWs blocked so as to not affect their faith. My sister again eventually ended up seeing my account (she should become a P.I., that girl…) and called to tell me that she no longer wanted to be my friend or be involved in my life. She had seen my posts, and I had two days to inform our brother that my beliefs had changed, or else she would. I started to talk to her about it, by asking, “Well, what does the Bible say…” But I wasn’t able to finish. She cut me off, the way we are taught, by saying. “And that’s where our conversation will end.”
The post she found so offensive contained the following picture and caption:

“Gearing up to have a 4-year-old next Saturday has me feeling all the feelings. We will be celebrating for the first time, and it just feels right; to celebrate the birth of the girl who changed the world as we knew it. Potential for tragedy after her birth forced us to grow. Maybe someday these jumbled thoughts on dangers of being raised in a cult will form themselves into coherent sentences, but for now I am ever so grateful that her and I are here to celebrate together.”

Rough, I know. In hindsight, perhaps a different wording, maybe “high control group” would have been better. But the truth is, it is a cult. It checks all the boxes:
– Unquestioning commitment to their leaders
– Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged
– Members are encouraged to sacrifice for the leaders enterprise (through the preaching work and support financially)
– Polarization of members (separating them from society)
– Rebellion against other sources of authority (if it conflicts with “Gods” laws)
– Alteration of personality
Jehovah’s Witnesses also fit the description for mind control groups.
That link is key to understanding the way they work; they hit nearly
all the points under Behavior Control, every single point under
Information Control, many of the points under Thought Control, and so, SO many under Emotional Control. Understanding and accepting this was not easy. A lifetime of mind control techniques is difficult to overcome.
After my sister informed me she would have no further contact with me (per JW rules), I sent her the following email. (Edited only to remove names, out of respect for her.)

“Hey –, I’ve given it a lot of thought since we talked yesterday and here’s what I have come up with.

I don’t see why a change in my personal beliefs would necessitate a
conversation of any sort, with anyone. I am not disfellowshipped and I
have not disassociated myself, and my family and I continue to maintain strict Christian morals. I have done this deliberately so that my children might have the opportunity to associate freely with family. I have not spread my beliefs to the point of persuading anyone to change their views, nor do I intend to. Rather, I have taken many precautions not to affect the faith of others- because that is not my place, as we all render our own account.

My whole purpose for attending —- and —–s wedding is to support the union of two people who love each other, for which purpose I was invited.

If you still feel the need to disclose my personal views, please do so sooner rather than later, as we have already invested a lot financially as well as time-wise (planning), and I would hate to spend any more time or effort to attend this event, taking the risk that I or my family might be treated poorly upon our arrival.

Love
Steph”

{Being disfellowshipped (when a judicial committee of 3 elders meet together to decide if you should be removed from the congregation) or
disassociated (writing a letter to say you no longer want to be recognized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses) are the only two ways for a baptized member to officially be shunned by JWs. However, there is also a provision which I never knew until recently (it’s in a book that is only provided for elders, and the rules and guidelines for elders are not made know to the members of the congregation). The loophole states that if a member tells two witnesses, either together or separately at different times that they no longer want to be a Jehovah’s Witness, an official announcement can be made from the platform which amounts to a disfellowshipping. (You can’t shun us! We will shun you!)}
She responded, “I understand your concerns. I talked to him tonight.”
A few days went by, and I finally called my brother to tell him I knew he had talked with my sister and I asked if anything had changed. He said he was going to look over the information and he would have a few questions for me but he thought it shouldn’t be a problem.
He called me later that night to ask the following questions:
-Did I still love God? (Yes.)
-Did I join another church? (No.)
-How did I feel about Jehovah’s Witnesses? (I respect them as I am sure they are trying to do what they believe is right.)
-If I wasn’t trying to “affect the faith of others”, as I had said in my
email to my sister, then why did I refer to it as a cult?
This last question was where it gets sticky. I answered it openly and
honestly, saying that I had blocked all JWs from seeing my posts, and I
had no intention of persuading them away from their faith. He then asked, “But what about non-believers?” And I paused. Because, the truth is, I would tell anyone, shout it from the rooftops- all the flaws and inaccuracies and problems with their teachings- and I told him so. It was tough for both of us, as I love my little (younger. He’s not little anymore.) brother SO much and really wanted to support and celebrate with him on his special day. But I knew this admission would prevent that from happening. He knew it too, and both of us were crying. I finally, through my tears, had to offer him the opportunity to uninvite us. “If it’s better for you… if it will create less problems… It’s OK if we can’t be there.” Brokenly, he said, ” I think… that would be best.” We cried together for a few minutes, and I asked if he could provide me with an address so I could still send a gift. He agreed, and finally, through my tears, I told him I had to go.
The next morning I called my mom. My brother had already called her and she asked for an explanation. Up until this point I had told none of them what prompted the change in my beliefs. I simply told them there had been a reason but that I did not want to spread my beliefs if they were satisfied with theirs. My mom did not accept that answer, “I have to know why,” she told me. I explained it to her the best way I could, but talking on the phone gives me anxiety (which she knows) and it was an emotionally charged situation; I am sure I did not do my explanation justice. “So you really are an apostate,” she spat out angrily when I tried to explain how the Governing Body wrongly teach that following them is the way to salvation. Ad hominem is a common way for JWs to avoid reasoning; attack the person, not the problem. I wasn’t even able to explain the recent court cases which have resulted from Jehovah’s Witnesses hiding child molesters in their congregations.
The hardest part, by far, was breaking the news to my kids. “But… We
already bought new dresses!” Georgia (she’s 6) said. Philippa, on the other hand, burst into tears. “Why are you upset?” I asked her. “Because,” she said through her sobs, “I love Uncle —.” It was a tough few days.
I can’t understand how I am paying the consequences now for a decision I made when I was 11. I mean, I slicked my hair back with too much gel and pulled it into a ponytail with a scrunchie every day. Plus, socks with sandals! Come on. I didn’t make the best decisions. Besides, my baptism was a commitment to God, not any man or organization.
In conclusion, based on my faith in the the value of the life Jesus sacrificed, I can not agree with the following quote: “The other sheep should never forget that their salvation depends on their active support of Christ’s anointed “brothers” still on earth.” (w12 3/15 p. 20 par. 2) To do so would seriously undervalue the ransom– as if saying “it’s good enough to give you the chance to live eternally, but you’ll only really get it if you now listen to us.” An excellent article explaining this concept found here.
 

Additionally, I can not support an organization that admits they are not inspired of God and yet teaches: “At that time, the lifesaving direction that we receive from Jehovah’s organization may not appear practical from a human standpoint. All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.” (Watchtower 2013 Nov 15 p.20) (Made bold and italics added by me.)

Although I have stated many times that my goal is not to change the beliefs of anyone, I am happy to help those who have unanswered questions. In the past year, I have been able to speak with six people who have come to me saying they also no longer believe what is being taught in the Kingdom Halls.
As far as my little family goes, we do not do drugs, get drunk, or abuse
others. We are happily married, law abiding citizens. We teach our kids kindness and respect and love for God and neighbor. I can not grasp the concept of how not following these men is reason enough to be shunned- but we are all accountable for our own actions (Romans 14:12). I am wishing the best for them as I do every other human being on Earth, and hope that one day we can overlook our differences in a peaceable, respectful way.
As always, please feel free to leave questions or comments, either publicly or privately, and I will do my best to respond.

If you are a JW, and have had unanswered questions, the best resources I have found are from here and here.

Stephanie

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