A Letter to my ex-girlfriend's Parents
by Mark Z.
(Background: I’m 23 years old and the only girl I’ve ever loved was a Jehovah’s Witness. We dated in the summers of ’99 and ’00 [since I was away at school during the rest of the year]. I sent this letter with Crisis of Conscience and a tract of a Paul Blizzard sermon. My main purpose was to relate to them as much as possible and take them through my thought process and experiences from the time my relationship began with their daughter. I cautiously hoped that this would some how trigger some kind of logical thought process within them. I know there are things I could have done better, but I guess that’s just the perfectionist in me. Here it is…)
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Sovak,
This is probably one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever done in my life. However, I feel it would be wrong for me to do nothing. I think you both know the relationship I had with Lynn a while back and I hope you know that I would have done, and still will do anything for her. You sincerely have raised a wonderful daughter. When I asked her out I can assure you I had no idea what I was getting into as far as her religious beliefs are concerned. I knew nothing about them and so that whole aspect didn’t concern me at all. I just thought that would all work itself out in time.
After things started going very well and we became closer, I decided that it was time to start looking into the faith and the possibility of converting. After all, if there’s anyone I want to please most, it’s God. So, that desire to please God, coupled with the desire to please this beautiful girl I loved gave me every reason in the world to want to convert. It didn’t matter what anyone else said; this was something I wanted to do. Mr. Sovak, I believe you were in the same situation as I was at my age, and you ended up converting and marrying the woman of your dreams. So I think you can relate the most with my situation. Again, I cannot stress enough to you both how much I wanted to convert.
In the beginning of my research I told myself that I would give this religion every chance to become my core belief system. The first thing I read was a little book that Lynn gave me called, “You can live forever in Paradise.” I was deeply impressed. I thought, “Wow! This is really interesting stuff, and it makes so much sense! I could get used to this.” Certainly, it didn’t all make sense to me and I still had questions, but that did not stop my initial enthusiasm for what I was reading. Growing up Roman Catholic, no one had ever put together such a tightly wrapped package of what they believed the Bible to mean. So the next thing I did was to go on to the Internet to learn more. I went to a search engine and typed in “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” To my surprise there were hundreds upon hundreds of websites critical of the religion and only a couple for it (one being the main Jehovah’s Witness website). I was quite stunned and overwhelmed as you could imagine. Thus began my independent research.
I came across terms I didn’t understand, biographies of people I have never heard of, and dates of which I had no idea what they meant. I then read a book called the “Case for Christ” which I received from some neighbors of my great aunt’s while I was visiting her in California. They are born-again Christians and gave me this book as a result of a conversation I had with them about religion and my confusion regarding it. When I got back from California, I went to the Monroe library and came across only two books that discussed Jehovah’s Witnesses at all. One was called “The Culting of America” and the other was, “Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom.” These are clearly two very different books taking extreme, yet opposing views of the same issue. Very confused, and only scratching the surface, this is about the time I met with Mrs. Sovak, Holly, and Lynn to discuss some things. I would like to now apologize for anything that I said during that night which was due to my ignorance with just about everything. I had only really read “The Case for Christ” book which was directed mainly toward atheists and agnostics. (There was only one reference to Jehovah’s Witnesses in the book during an interview the author recorded with a theologian who was a Trinitarian. It certainly was not a book geared at attacking Jehovah’s Witnesses, but merely a general argument to believe in Christ). Also, the one section in “The Culting of America” that pertained to Jehovah’s Witnesses was something I had read along with some quotes from biblical “scholars” on the Internet. Essentially, I just was not prepared for that kind of conversation that night at your house. Also, it was my fault that we wasted a lot of that time on a relatively trivial issue (the cross vs. the stake) as opposed to discussing more important ones. So, I am sorry for that. All in all, I think I just wanted to sort out the truth in my head about everything in a quick hour and a half discussion. Unfortunately, it only confused me more and I had no choice but to continue my independent research because I knew that information would be the only thing that could stop the tug-o-war going on inside my head.
Of course, to get good information is sometimes difficult to do, so I wanted to make sure that that is exactly what I got. I took everything I read with a grain of salt because every once in a while there will be a bad seed out there with bad information or flat out lying just for the sake of lying. However, I do feel that people are generally honest and for the most part, do what they feel is the right thing. If that was not the case, I think the human race would have wiped itself out by now. Also, just from my admittedly short twenty-three years of existence, I have normally found that to be the case. So, I just began to print out things and read them, whether they were theological arguments, or personal experiences, or the organizational background. I tried to take the information from as many different angles as I could from both sides of the fence. I felt that if I didn’t understand both arguments for and against the faith, it would not be fair to either side. The more material I read from different people from various backgrounds, the more questions I began to have. The one thing that kept coming to my mind was this idea:
Certainly, people have the right to believe whatever they want. However it seemed to me that despite clearly having been wrong hundreds of times in the past, if a witness still did not conform to exactly the same current beliefs from doctrine to doctrine, life-idea to life-idea, then they would be disfellowshipped if they failed to change their mind. I read numerous stories of nice people who simply could not in good conscience agree with a certain doctrine. Certainly not anti-Christs, these God-loving and God-fearing people were ruthlessly kicked out of the organization that they dedicated so much of their time and service for. Sometimes thirty, forty, even fifty years of service would be thrown away simply because they honestly disagreed with an idea or two. Most people didn’t go talking up their differences either. They simply may have made a statement in a private conversation that they thought was innocent enough only to find themselves in front of a judicial committee to explain how they could even question anything. I thought at this point that the organization itself seems to lack the humility that is so often mentioned in the Bible. Even looking past that, I just could not believe story after story of people losing their families as a result of this “conditional” type of love. Parents have missed out on their daughter’s weddings, grandparents have not been able to see their grandchildren, and kids have been kicked out of their homes simply because a legitimate difference in opinion about a couple of ideas. Certainly unity of faith in Christ is a must, but I couldn’t help but think how this type of conformity only led to deeper divisions. In my opinion, which I hope you agree with, a belief system that is going to have this type of “shunning” policy, should have a perfect historical record itself. Clearly, with ideas such as the pyramids, steam engines, a house deeded to “anyone mentioned in Hebrews Chapter 11,” they have not been right all the time. There may even be explanations for these outrages ideas (which to me personally, would be an insult to my intelligence and my own ability to judge right from wrong), but that does not escape the fact that it has been proven to be a mistake. Hundreds of these types of mistakes have been made and should indicate that they are apt to make them in general. If the organization is vulnerable to mistakes, then I do not see how they have the right to judge other people with the heaviest of hands. For example, what about people who stood up in disagreement when Vice-President Fred Franz wrote this in 1969 in the May 22nd issue of Awake?:
“If you are a young person, you also need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this present system of things. Why not? Because all evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that this corrupt system is due to end in a few years. Of the generation that observed the beginning of the “last days” in 1914, Jesus foretold: ‘This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.’ –Matt. 24:34
Therefore, as a young person you will never fulfill any career that this system offers. If you are in high school and thinking about a college education, it means four, perhaps even six or eight years to graduate into a specialized career. But where will this system of things be by that time? It will be well on the way toward its finish, if not actually gone!”
Were the people that stood up against this statement (and most certainly disfellowshipped for it) allowed back into the congregation after 1975 came and went with no Armageddon, or after the governing body realized that Jesus was not talking about the 1914 generation in Matt 24:34? From 1969-1975 means six years of being ignored by your family and friends, and being shunned for something that ultimately proved a dissenter right. What about those that died when the policy was that organ transplants were equated with cannibalism? Certainly, their deaths were needless I hope you agree?
I’m sorry that I’m getting off the topic there. But you can see the thought process that began to develop as I read all of these stories about emotionally broken people who had their lives change for the worse for next to no reason at all; for standing up for what ultimately turned out to be right. I wanted no part of that. I think if you were in my position, you would feel the same way.
Before I conclude my letter, I would like to point out the thing that disturbed me the most during the course of my research. The year 1914 has continually been pointed to by the organization as the year of Christ’s second presence. This may be legitimate, as it certainly cannot be disproven. However, the society has maintained through the years that the date for His return was known by Bible Students beforehand. Actually, in the 1929 Watchtower publication, “Prophecy,” (as well as in all other publications throughout the 1920’s) Rutherford was still proclaiming 1874 as the date of our Lord’s return. It said this on page 65:
“The Scriptural proof is that the second presence of the Lord Jesus Christ began in 1874 A.D.”
Numerous other publications stated this idea as well up to 1929. Then in 1930, Rutherford began connecting Christ’s second presence to the 1914 date beginning with The Golden Age magazine on page 503 where he wrote, “Jesus has been present since 1914.”
In essence, it was actually 16 years after 1914 that Rutherford began stating that 1914 was the date of the Lord’s presence. The fact that the society has written statements such as the following became a big concern for me:
As for the
time of Christ’s second presence, Daniel’s prophecy is again the one that gives
the chronology for it. (Dan. 4:16) It was figured out as pointing to A.D. 1914,
and The Watchtower called notice to the significance of 1914 in the year
(WT 1952 November 1, p. 658)
do the nations not realize and accept the approach of this climax of judgment?
It is because they have not heeded the world wide advertising of Christ’s return
and his second Presence. Since long before World War I Jehovah’s witnesses
pointed to 1914 as the time for this great event to occur.
(WT 1954 June 15 p. 370)
chronology also fixes the time for Christ’s second presence and the assuming of
his right to rule as at 1914; this date was published in the Watchtower as early
as 1879, 35 years before 1914.
(Tract: Sign of Christ’s Presence 1955 p. 3)
believe in the second advent of the Lord?” I asked the young man [a WTS
colporteur in 1928] who came to the door.
“Christ’s second advent was realized in 1914” he answered.
In astonishment, I told him that was impossible. “You should read this book,” he said, handing me The Harp of God. I was baptized the following year, March 23, 1929...
(WT 1988 May 1 p. 22)
[Note: Nowhere in The Harp of God (1921) is the “second advent” of Christ put in 1914. On the contrary, 1874 as the date of the “presence” of Jesus is mentioned in The Harp of God on pages 230, 231, 234, 235, 236, 237 241, 244, 271). Also “the young man” could not have known in 1928 that “Christ’s second advent” was realized in 1914” because that teaching had not been published at that time! Even the later editions of The Harp of God (1937 & 1940) retained 1874 as the date of Christ’s “presence”.]
He [a WTS
colporteur of 1921] explained to me that Jesus had been present since 1914,
invisible to man. This was the most thrilling news I had ever heard... In late
1921 I was transferred back to England, and in the spring of 1922, I was
discharged from the army.
(WT l990 September 1 p. 11)
[Note: When this purported conversation occurred in 1921 no WTS publication had mentioned 1914 as the date for the “return of Christ’’-nor for nine years afterwards!]
After reading these statements, it seems to me like someone is either ignorant of the past, or out and out lying. I do not see how any other conclusion can be drawn.
After seven months of research, I feel still like there is more to be done. I have read books by many authors, and have not pre-judged any work I have read. If the author was overweight, I judged his work based on what he had to say. If the author was not very good-looking, I again judged his work based on what he had to say. I did not discount any material regardless of the author’s background. I plead with you only to judge books not by who the author’s are, but what they have to say. I assure you that people who you may not think of actually have some pretty eye-opening things to say. That is why I am sending you this book. I am asking you to please read what this author has to say. I have read it and can assure you it is not a waste of time. It will help you to “make sure of all things” as the society likes to say. I am of the belief as well that the truth will stand up to scrutiny no matter how tough. I am of the belief that this is a socially destructive group of men who make policies, policies that deeply affect the lives of others, on a very human two-thirds majority vote. I will close with this statement I came across the other day from a psychology web site. It said this:
“Only persons truly responsible for injustice prefer silence and seek to impose it.”
Thank you very much for the time you have given to this letter and I hope you both understand that my intentions are good. My mom has always taught me to do what I thought was right. Thank you again and I’m always praying for you guys.
With love and sincerity,
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