I first met Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) in March 1971, I would be 20 the following month. I had always had an interest in the
Bible, not that my parents had been religious in any sense. But I wanted to know why this particular book had such an influence
on people. But really had no idea what to do about it and where to learn. My friends and I at the time used to have long discussions
about religion, meaning of life etc. Sometimes when we where in a local bar, we would have everyone in the room involved.
One of these friends worked with a man who was a JW (actually he was just having a study with the JWs at the time and was
baptized later) and he used to come back and tell me about it. It sounded interesting and I asked to meet him. The JW arranged
for me to meet another one who was more experienced. The way in which this JW answered my questions impressed me. The answers
were clear, concise and logical. He used the Bible to answer questions. A regular study was arranged using the book "The
Truth that Leads to Eternal Life" which is no longer used. I also started to attend the meetings at the local Kingdom
Hall. I knew a few of those who were there as I worked in a local shop and they were customers.
In time I became
convinced that this was the "truth" and was baptized on January 6th.1972. I was a fairly shy person and found the
door-to-door preaching work hard going. But as what you were going to say was usually set out for you it wasn't to bad. Eventually
I joined the Theocratic Ministry School in the congregation where you where taught to speak, give talks etc. If there is anything
that I am grateful for to the JWs is that they did teach me how to get up in front of an audience and speak. By the time I
left I was able to give talks, handle items on the platform ranging from 5 minutes to 45 minutes, in front of 100+ people.
One thing I must say at this point is that though this was the early 1970's and the well known year of 1975 was coming
up. I can honestly say that in the congregation I was in it was never put over as a big thing, in fact it was rarely mentioned.
Yet from what I have read recently other congregations took to it in a big way. In fact through the years I noticed how congregations
did vary in some ways from each other.
In 1974 I got married to a JW sister. In the due course of time between 1975
to 1989 we had seven children. Of course our life centered on being JWs, attending meeting, field ministry, going to conventions
etc. I became a Ministerial Servant in 1988. All in all we had a fairly good life, I didn't have a well paid job but we managed.
Through the years as a JW I never really questioned any teachings, except for the way in which Jesus Christ was sort
of given a secondary role, when the Scriptures clearly stated that He was the only means if being saved. Everything was "Jehovah"
centered, we must use the name of Jehovah, Jehovah did this or that, be part of Jehovah's organization to be saved. Yet when
reading the Greek scriptures, the whole emphasis is on Jesus being the only means of salvation. Every writer, Paul, James,
John, Peter, Jude all spoke about Jesus with no mention of Jehovah. When asking any Elder about this I would get a vague answer,
"Jehovah's the only one" or "Those scriptures are only for the 144,000." I now know that according to
the Watchtower organization the ordinary JW, (those not of the 144,000 or one of the 8,000 plus of that group left on Earth.)
have no relationship with Christ, because according to the Watchtower, Christ is only mediator between Jehovah and the "anointed"
144,000. The only way an ordinary JW can approach God is through the fact that the Watchtower is the only channel.
I digress, lets get back to where I am now. In 1989 we moved to a bigger house. This meant extra expense, 5 bedroom house,
7 children you can imagine. Also I wanted my children to have what I could give them, I wanted a family life that a JW should
have. Bills kept coming in and I started to use credit cards to pay them, you can imagine what was going to happen, I took
out a loan to try and pay everything off. I kept all this hidden from my wife, because I knew she wouldn't approve and also
that as a JW you weren't suppose to get yourself into debt. I suppose also being from a upbringing where the man was considered
the breadwinner, I felt I was letting everyone down. I am not proud of how I got into that state. If I had turned round and
said "we can't afford it" it might have been different. Its with great sorrow that I feel I betrayed the trust of
my wife and family. As a husband and father I wanted the best for my family and that sometimes clouds your judgment and I
must carry that side of it with me. By the beginning of 1996 the pressure of all this became too much and by April I had a
breakdown. I won't go in to details over what I did, but basically I walked out of the house one morning never intending to
return, planning to commit suicide. I ended up in the Lake District.
One night I decided the time had come, so I
took about 30 or so Paracetmol tablets, some aspirin and drank a bottle of brandy. This was while sitting on a hill overlooking
a valley, it was beautiful. But I felt I had lost everything, wife, family and my God. I gradually fell unconscious, only
to wake up the next morning, still on the hill, feeling awful. I went back to the guesthouse, spent the day in bed, taking
even more tablets. I was still here the next day, for some reason, and so decided to head back home. Eventually I got to a
hospital and told them what I had done. They put me on a drip, next day they said considering what I had taken there was hardly
any trace of anything in my blood. My wife had been contacted, we had a tearful reunion. Subsequently, I was due to spend
about 4 weeks in a psychiatric hospital. I was diagnosed as having acute clinical depression and that I had probably had it
for about three years or more and that this was the culmination of it. I was given ECT treatment. One aside was that whenever
any of the medical staff found out I was a JW. They would sort of say "Well, that explains it", one of the psychiatrists
said that depression was very common amongst JW and I was the fourth one that year.
Now during all this I thought
that "Jehovah's loving organization" would help me recover. Boy! Was I wrong. While in the hospital my wife would
visit, as it was some distance she usually got a lift, most times from an Elder of the congregation. You would think they
would try and give me some encouragement, but they usually came and said hello then waited outside. I saw other patients visited
by their ministers who spent time talking to them.
When I was allowed home I had visits from those concerned with
my "case." They did not seem to be able to deal with it. The main concern was how soon can we have a "judicial
committee" , they seem to spend more time talking to my wife than me. Also I got the feeling my wife was more concerned
with the shame that it brought on her and what her standing in the congregation was, from the time I came home we never slept
At this point I want to say thanks to one JW who helped me. Remember I still had the debts. He put
me in touch with a person who deals with such things to see if they could come up with a solution, but eventually I had to
be declared bankrupt. That brother paid for that person to help. Even though I had not seen him for a long time, of them all,
he was the only one to give any practical help and I will always be grateful to him.
I was eventually brought before
a "judicial committee" and was "privately reproved." Their whole answer to my problem was "go on
the preaching work, attend meetings." To anyone who has depression the last thing you want to do is knock on doors and
talk to strangers. This is when I started getting the feeling that it was not the "loving organization" I thought
it was. Over the following weeks I got the impression that I was "persona non grata."
Then one day my
wife told me she wanted me to leave the home, she even found me a bedsit and paid the deposit. Later on I was told that she
had been told to do this by the Elders as I was considered a "spiritual danger" to the family. I moved to another
town as my wife didn't want me to attend the same congregation. My new congregation was not interested in me either. In the
three years I had been there I had one visit from an Elder and that was to ask why I wasn't going on the ministry. One sister
there said that in the twenty years she had been there she has never had an Elder visit her. While attending a circuit assembly
an Elder from another congregation I knew came up to me and said how sorry he was to hear about what happened, he seemed to
know it all, I asked how he knew, he said "There are some brothers who can't keep their mouth shut" when he was
going he said "They'll get rid of you, they don't know how to deal with you, you're an embarrassment to them." Up
till now I still believed the Watchtower to be God's organization, but doubts where beginning to appear. Then one day, just
over a year ago in the local library, I came across the book "Awake to the Watchtower" by Doug Harris and Bill Browning
by the Reachout Trust. I picked it up and thought "another of those books against JWs" and sat down to see what
lies were being said. I sat and practically read the whole book. I saw Scripture in a new light (to use a JW saying).
I felt something lift from me especially when I read about Christ being the only way to salvation, it brought back what
I had thought years ago. It also brought attention to the Watchtower not being God's organization and much more.
I had to have more evidence, the library had recently had a computer section installed where for a fee you could use them.
I decided to look on the Internet to see if there was anything. Boy! what stuff did I find! Being of a cautious nature I checked
and double checked what I was finding. It was all clear evidence that for the past 28 years it had all been a lie. The Watchtower
Society started to condemn the Internet, virtually saying it was Satan's tool and only apostates used it and put lies on it.
I got the feeling they were scared of what it contained because they couldn't control it. I started to amass a huge amount
of information, from how the WT had changed doctrine to false prophecy. I spoke to various ones over the phone, ex-JWs who
had been in it for 20, 30, 40 or more years and then found out the truth. Because of learning all this I was at a meeting
at the Kingdom Hall in August 1999, listening to the speaker I realized it was the same old thing "do more hours, place
more books this is the only way to get spiritual and be close to God." That was my last meeting. I have never had a visit
from the Elders, not even to see if I was coming to the Memorial, which is what I had decided was my cut off point, if they
didn't contact me then for such an important event then they didn't care about me, so I finished with them.
realized that I needed to talk to someone about it. So I got in touch with the Reachout Trust and they put me in contact with
one of their representatives Vince McCann, who I am grateful to for putting up with me over the last few months and giving
me some spiritual support. A couple of weeks ago he took me to a Christian meeting, where we watched a film about Christ.
It was a simple meeting nothing special, the person in charge, not a minister or Elder, just an ordinary man who is a Christian,
gave a short talk and asked a prayer. He asked if anyone wanted to give themselves to Christ to raise their hand. I did! Now
I need to learn more about Christ. There is probably a lot more I could have put in this story, but some of them are still
hurtful to me.
November 2000 update
During the last 3 months I have been attending an Elim Pentecostal
church. At first I found it quite strange, because it was so full of emotion. The singing, raising hands in the air, shouts
of praise, people talking in tongues. All this to a JW is extremely strange and considered satanic, because of the JW view
of other religions. Because of the past experience I was very wary at first and not wanting emotion to lead me down the wrong
path again. But having spoken to members of this church and attended Bible classes they hold and a house group. I have come
to learn that they have a genuine love for God and Christ, not based on being part of some organization that claims to be
Gods only true organization. The only book they use is the Bible, no magazines or books like the JWs, just the Bible. When
they say a Bible study that is what it is, not using some book and the Bible on the side. At the house groups they discuss
various aspects of Christian life and I mean discuss, not following some format laid down by an organization. I have started
what is called a "Nurture" course where you learn about the basics of Christian faith, Christ, salvation, baptism,
prayer etc. If you don't agree with some aspect of the teachings you are not considered an apostate or troublemaker. There
is a great belief in the power of the Holy Spirit bringing people to God and guiding them. There is also a tremendous belief
in the power of prayer, I don't think I have come across a group who pray so much at their meetings.
As time goes
on I am learning more an more about the true Christian faith. I have learnt about the true Christ not the one the JWs believe
is the Archangel Michael, which is an insult to both Jehovah and Christ. Oh! Yes, Christians do use the name Jehovah, maybe
not as often as the JWs but they do use it and know it is God's name. They also call on people from door to door, maybe not
in such a highly organized way as the JWs but they do, do it. They call it an Outreach ministry where they try to tell people
about Christ and the hope and love He holds out to them. They do not tell people that they have to be part of some organization
to be saved, but to believe in Christ and follow Him.
What affect has this had on me? I feel that a burden has been
lifted from me that I am no longer following the teachings of a man-made organization who wants to control people's lives.
I no longer attend meetings where you worry about what "they" think of you. No longer is the love shown to you conditional
that you "toe the party line" and accept all without question. This does not mean that everything is all well, I
still have periods of depression, I still have financial problems. But now I know I have someone you I can turn to and understands
and no matter what happens that Christ will be there to help me through it all.
What about my family? Those children
of mine who live with me have noticed a difference in me. My daughter said that I seem less inhibited and have a happier attitude,
she has expressed an interest in attending one of the meetings at the church. The children who live wife my wife I see every
week. Though they still go to the JW meetings with my wife they have no desire to be one. My wife has not spoken to me for
about a year. I have not disassociated myself from the JWs or as far as I know I have not been disfellowshipped as when I'm
out they still say hello to me. No JW elder has been to see me or contacted me in any way for 15 months since I last attended
a meeting at the Kingdom Hall.
Judging by what has been happening with the Watchtower organization in recent months
over the blood doctrine and reorganization, etc., many JWs are in a state of confusion as to what or which way they organization
is going. Some who I have spoken to have been shaken by the way the blood doctrine has been whittled away to such an extent
that it barely means anything now. To them this was one of the main doctrines that set them apart from Christendom. Just like
the change in the "1914 generation" teaching it has hit their confidence in the organization. It will be interesting
to see in coming months what develops.
Though my leaving the JWs has been a painful process. I now know the true
meaning of relying on God and not a man-made organization. Since my story has appeared on the Internet I have had many many
letters from ex-JW's giving support, JWs wanting to leave and how difficult they find it. People wanting help in dealing with
JWs, those with family or friends who are JWs or are studying with them. One thing I must say is that when I get the occasional
letter from a serving JW it always has the same style, they are usually arrogant, self-righteous, and sometimes downright
abusive, using words I thought a JW wouldn't know. One I received just said "You suck! I'm a JW and you're going to die
at Armageddon". I always reply and ask for a reason why I should remain a JW. If I get a reply they usually say because
the Watchtower organization is God's only true one on earth, but no scriptural basis for their belief. If you tell them about
the Watchtower's past, false prophecies, changes in doctrine, doctrine that changes to new then back to old, then even back
again to new. They say I'm making it up, when it can all be found in their own publications.