My Life as a Jehovah's Witness
Being one of Jehovah's Witnesses was a way of life for me. I never knew anything different. I was a Jehovah's Witness since I was a child.
I always felt it was the Truth and never, ever questioned. Questioning was something that you just did not do. So I went along from young childhood, teenage years, and had an early marriage to a Jehovah's Witness boy at the age of 19. He was disfellowshipped after one year of marriage. He happened to leave me the night I told him I was pregnant. I was single for three years, then married another Jehovah's Witness young man. He was also disfellowshipped. He left me with my older son and his own little baby. When he left, he never came back, and never gave me a penny of support.
The reason why I mention my two past marriages to Jehovah's Witness boys, is that very few children that are raised Jehovah's Witnesses continue with the religion. Instead, they are usually very emotionally guilt ridden, confused, and knowing that they are going to die at Armageddon, go off the deep end. I have seen this many, many times.
However, I hung in there. I tried to raise my boys as Jehovah's Witnesses. I went out in service and even pioneered. I always tried to get at least my quota of 10 hours per month. I went in to my boys' classes and explained that my sons would not participate in the flag salute, any holidays, including Christmas and birthdays, and that they could not play after school sports.
When my youngest son was around 5 years old, I married a "worldly man." This is one of the things very condemned when you are a JW. I have been married to this man now for 18 years. He is a very loving, caring, honest person, who didn't happen to believe in the Jehovah's Witness religion. So, because I was married to a worldly man, I was very rarely included in the congregation functions. My sons were kind of left out, because we were not considered a really theocratic family. But even though my sons were left out of witness functions, they were certainly always counseled about playing sports like baseball and playing with "worldly kids."
The years went by and I continued to hang in there. I guess the reason I say "hang in there" is because I really felt it was the Truth, but there was an emptiness in my heart. I always felt that I should be trying to please Jehovah. I knew that Jehovah thought I was bad because I always was struggling to stay afloat in that religion. There were times, though, that I thought about how some of their prophesies didn't make sense. But, I never questioned.
There were a couple of things that did happen over the years that made me wonder. They were just little seeds of doubt that I never let grow until much later. One instance was in 1972 when I had my second son. I am RH negative. After the baby was born the nurse asked if I would like Rhogam to protect me if I wanted to have any further children. I said no because at that time JWs refused that medication, since it was thought to have blood in it. Well years later, it was brought out in the Watchtower (the biweekly magazine that is supposed to be Jehovah's mouthpiece) that we could now take that medication. That bothered me, but again, I felt Jehovah would take care of it.
I was raped in 1973. The person broke into my house, told me he would hurt my kids if I did not cooperate, and would kill me. I cooperated. He raped me and left. He finally was caught and jailed. But at that time, a JW girl was supposed to fight to the death for her honor. I had to turn myself in to the committee and tell them what had happened to me. Thank goodness they were kind to me and did not disfellowship or reprove me. Can you imagine how horrible you feel right after you were raped, then to have to face three men on a committee so they can judge whether you should have fought more. Over the years the policy on this has changed back and forth. But the point is, again, does Jehovah change his mind, or is it men that run the organization?
When one of my son's was 16 he was brought before the committee of three elders because he did not tell on his friend, who committed fornication. My husband and I were in the committee meeting along with several other parents and kids. One of the elders was literally screaming at us. I remember him saying, "Linda, I don't know what to do, but your husband and your son are going to die at Armageddon." I couldn't believe how unloving the whole scenario was. But because I was raised to believe that Jehovah worked directly through these men, I never uttered a word about it. Anyway, my son was disassociated. The boy who actually committed the act was forgiven because he was repentant. The procedure when you are disassociated is that your name is announced at the next meeting in front of the whole congregation. Then after this meeting people, including relatives that don't live in the same house, close friends, any JW, can not even say a greeting to this person. If you ran into this person in the grocery store that you have known all of your life you would have to act like you never knew him. This is a very serious matter. Because as a JW you do not have any outside friends. "Bad association spoils useful habits." All the world is going to die at Armageddon. So when this person is disassociated from JWs he is left with no one. Well anyway, we accepted this reprimanding. Our son, though, never went to another meeting. Approximately two months later the Watchtower came out with an article that stated that there was no more disassociating unbaptized JWs (which was my son's case). Well as easy as it was to disassociate him, he was then reinstated. Anyone who did not speak to him the day before the Watchtower lesson on Sunday, could now speak to him as a friend. This really disgusted me, but I continued on knowing this was the Truth and there was nothing else out there for me.
The years passed, but I think the disassociating of my son was kind of my last straw. I kept going to the meetings though, and going in service but my heart was really hurt. My youngest son (I have three) really did love God. He would always go with me to the meetings. One evening they had all of the boys his age on the platform (I can't remember why) but everyone was up there except my little boy. When ? left the Kingdom Hall I just cried all the way home. You see when you have an unbelieving husband, you are kind of marked as weak in the Truth, so my kids were never included in anything. I felt horrible during this time.
Well, in 1993 we moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho from California. (I am smiling now as I write this because my life has changed). When I moved I kept thinking I've got to get back to the meetings, but something was holding me back. I was so hurt by what had happened in the past, but I knew that I would die at Armageddon and that my son would too. I was being tortured. The guilt was almost unbearable. I had to find out if this really was the true religion. I went to the library and found a book written by an ex-JW. I checked out the book. I took it home, opened it up and almost got physically sick. I knew I was hurting Jehovah. I was reading apostate material. In fact, now I would be apostate. But I had to read the book. I couldn't believe it, he felt the same way I did. I went back to the library and looked up in the publications index "Jehovah's Witnesses." I couldn't believe it! there were three columns with books and articles written by former JWs. I thought all of this time that I was the only person in the world to question JWs.
After that, it was like the flood gates opened up. There are support groups, newsletters, tapes, videos, books, etc., all by former JWs who truly found that JWs are wrong and it has been a lie all of these years. For approximately 5 months, all I did was read whatever I could. I read the bible by itself. The Witnesses say it can only be understood with the help of the Watchtower. But now I know that God made the inspired bible and nothing else is needed. My family thought I was crazy because all I did was read. The book that changed my life, though, I believe is, "Crisis of Conscious" by Raymond Franz. He very lovingly and without bitterness told the facts of what really goes on at the headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses. There were some very shocking situations that took place and still does take place back there.
Another very instrumental book to me was the Jehovah's Witness purple Interlinear Bible. This bible has the Greek translation in the left column and the JW translation on the right. I was talking to this one woman that has a ministry for Ex-JWs. She told me to look up certain scriptures in that bible. Every scripture that uses the word "exercises faith" in the JW bible, actually in the original Greek says "believe" and "grace" is "undeserved kindness" in the JW bible. That may not seem important at all to someone who isn't a JW. But as a JW you are taught that "exercising faith" is movement, service, knocking on doors. But when the bible really says the words "believe", that really takes the works orientation off our salvation. That was very important to me. I could not believe all the changes that the JW bible made and I found these changes in their own publication!
Well, I moved to Coeur d' Alene in May, started my research in September and by December I was convinced that God does not work through an Organization, that he works through individuals' hearts. What I found out was so freeing. I could look at people in a different way. Instead of looking at people as potential witnesses or people who were going to die at Armageddon, I looked at them as humans. I could see the good in people. It was such a joy to get to know people. My heart didn't hurt from guilt anymore. I knew that God was really my loving father who wanted the best for me, not the Watchtower Jehovah that makes you feel guilty if you don't make every meeting or go out in service. The God I was getting to know was a real person that wanted the best for me.
As a Jehovah's Witness, one of the worst thing you could possibly do is become a "saved or born-again Christian." I wasn't looking to become a Christian per se, because we were taught that Christendom is part of Satan's organization and that all churches were part of Christendom. Anything from the media that was negative about Christians was always brought to the forefront. So, I really felt that all ministers were rich, committed adultery, and were insincere. (The televangelist stereotype) I really didn't want any part of it. But I still believed in God and wanted to get to know him better.
My son was on a homeschool basketball team. Most of the kids on the team were Christian. I was so impressed with how nice and wholesome those kids were. They truly made an impression on me of what a Christian. should be like. I decided that after I did my research and was
convinced that I wasn't in the true religion, that I would just give it a try and go to a church. So my husband, son and I decided after the first of the year we would go. I was scared to death when I walked in there. But everyone was so friendly in a really genuine way. The music and preaching were very interesting. But it was very different. I said to myself that I would be open.
The thing that I appreciate so much is the fact that God loves me personally and that I can have a personal relationship with him. I don't have to go through an Organization. I can also disagree or agree. I do not have to believe something just because a magazine or the fear of disfellowshipping haunts me. I love the feeling of my heart welling up with love, joy and peace.
I am free and that is the most wonderful feeling in the world!
I guess to close I would like to summarize, now that I have been away from the Jehovah's Witnesses for almost two years, what makes me realize that they do not have the Truth:
• The numerous dates in which the Watchtower Society have stated in their publications as being the end or close to the end. They are 1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, early 1940s and 1975. These have been printed on numerous occasions in their own publications. This makes us, as JWs, always feel a real urgency to carry on.
• The changes in position the Watchtower Society has taken over the years on very important matters that involved disfellowshipping and sometimes even death. For instance, organ transplants and vaccines were forbidden in the early years. Then later were approved in the pages of the Watchtower magazine. What happened to those who either died or were disfellowshipped because of the Watchtower changes?
• The improper use of disfellowshipping. It is an extremely unloving, unscriptural practice. Sometimes, as in my son's case, it would be a more loving approach to try to shepherd a person, especially a teenager, instead of very unlovingly removing him from any contact with the only people he has ever known.
• Finally, the use of the Watchtower as authority even before the bible. When I was a JW I would have never admitted that we used the Watchtower in place of the bible. But we did! If the Watchtower carne out with "new light'' on a subject, it had to be accepted by everyone even if there was no particular scriptural backing on the subject.
I have always been a very open person. There is nothing in this life that I would not sign my last name to; however, because I am not disfellowship from the Jehovah's Witness Organization, and my mother is still a JW, and I love her very much, I do not want her to have to decide if she should speak to me or not. So I choose to sign my name only,
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