Tell us about your early life as a JW.
I was a MS for many years, then became an elder. My wife and I pioneered a few times. I have handled almost every position in the congregation from accounts, to School overseer and Watchtower conductor. I was a travelling speaker. My wife & I both took a lot of time off work to take part in building projects. I was in charge of a department for some time & heavily involved in the RBC as was my wife who was in a position of responsibility.
Our children were raised as JWs but left in their late teens and early 20’s. One of our grandchildren was raised as a witness but left at age 18.
We were fairly liberal, not hard core. Although strict and moral, we did have a lot of good times including camping holidays, trips overseas, and a fairly balanced view of life. We had our own business with staff.
How would you describe your family life while you were a JW?
We were typically JW, in that our kids could not associate with non JW friends,made to not take part in many school activities, and did not celebrate anything except our wedding anniversary. Our children were quite feisty individuals, so certainly not the mellow, conformist types that the JW leadership extols. We had our moments, and even came close to splitting up at one stage, but we pulled through and my feeling is that our kids had a reasonably balanced childhood.
How would you describe your level of devotion to the organization prior to waking?
I was not an Uber Dub, but I was well known in the wider community as a JW and was fully involved in all activities. We had a book study group at our house for many decades (when they were still doing that) and later had a field service group at our house every week. I also organised a weekly mid-week field service group, and arranged telephone witnessing and letter writing.
If baptized, why did you decide to take that step? If not, why not?
I made the decision at age 15. I think it was to please my mother who was a JW, and because I had a mentor at the time, a regular pioneer who was rather charismatic and fun to be with. My wife was baptized at age 16 as a result of encouragement from her grandmother.
If born-in, what kind of Jehovah’s Witnesses were / are your family?
We were very devout, engaged and regular in all aspects of meeting attendance and service.
None of our family had any special positions in the Organization. This may have been an advantage in hindsight.
Are there any particular experiences or circumstances while you were a believer that come to mind now that you’re awake?
I was at an elders school and another elder asked me if I could take notes for him because he had a disability.
I took special care to record everything on my iPad and gave him copies. He later revealed that his father had given him a full transcript of the entire school despite this being something that was expressly frowned upon.
He was an elder who was especially manipulative and would try to volunteer others for assignments all the time.
I soon discovered that he would try to use me to advance anything that he wanted and try to get information from me about others. When I questioned him on one occasion he got very angry and shouted loudly that he was the senior elder and should be obeyed. This was one of the things that got me wondering about the quality of some elders.
Was your waking up journey sudden or gradual? Describe it for us.
Very sudden. I had been concerned at the overlapping generations teaching. It did not make sense. I asked a couple of other elders and past elders for their thoughts. Several commented that they did not believe it at all.
This worried me. How could they preach to others when they did not believe what was being taught? How could I do that?
I decided to research so that I could explain the dates. I decided to look up the dates that were used to arrive at 1914. I Googled one sentence – date for destruction of Jerusalem by Babylonians – it came up 587. I got my Bible and tried to get 607 from the Bible accounts, but got 586. Convinced that it was not going to come out at 1914, I started to look at other things and decided to get a copy of Crisis of Conscience. I was reading this book during the midweek meeting after doing the Google search. We left the following week and have not been back.
Did you ever have so-called “doubts”? If so, what were they?
I doubted a lot of things, but always pushed them to the back of my mind.
When the 2013 Watchtower said to obey the Governing Body even if what they said was not reasonable or made no sense, this struck me as wrong on so many levels. Would Jehovah not tell us logical and correct things? How could a God of Truth tell us things that made no sense?
There were other doubts, mainly around the ways that things were organised, as they did not seem to be done in a way that indicated Divine direction. The final straw was the JW Broadcasting issue where Stephen Lett engaged in a blatant bit of TV evangelism and outright begging for money. It sickened me, and left us in no doubt that this was not a religion that was directed by God. It was a man made, money hungry, ego driven business.
Did you share your so-called “doubts” with anyone, and if so, how did it turn out?
I told my best friend of over 40 years. He became very agitated, shouted and accused me of apostasy. He later sent an email demanding that I confirm my allegiance to the GB as the sole channel that God was using. I could not do this, so he told us that he would be shunning us. My wife had her best friend send her a text message stating “we are on different paths” – they shunned us too. Others did the same. We lost all our friends within a few months.
In hindsight, I would have said less or nothing. I did not realize the depth of cult programming and cognitive dissonance that is at work in JWs. Now that I understand how cults work it makes perfect sense that they were simply doing as they had been programmed to react.
Are you currently being shunned / ostracized by any Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Yes, by all.
What has changed in your life since waking up?
My children tell me that I am so much more relaxed and chilled out, not stressed at all.
I am happier, my marriage is happier. We do fun things all the time, and we laugh more.
We feel more compassionate towards others. We are starting to develop our own feelings and beliefs on matters.
We have made some really great new friends who have proven to us 100% that the JWs are wrong when they make the blanket statement that “worldly” or normal people are bad.
We can stay in bed later on weekends if we wish, do things that we want to do, and not worry about who might see us or what they might think.
Our relationship with our children and grandchildren has gone from distant to very close in just over a year.
What does the future hold for you now that you’re awake?
Freedom to choose. Who we are friends with, what we do, and when we do it.
We look forward with optimism to our retirement and doing things together and with our family.
What would you like to say to doubting or questioning JWs who might be reading this?
Please listen to that inner voice when you have doubts. The Bible encourages us to “test every inspired expression” as the Governing Body claim to be inspired by God, then this scripture applies to all that they teach.
God does not want blind followers. Use your brain. Look at a variety of sources for information, and then weigh that information to decide what is true and what simply does not hold up.
Do not be afraid. Fear is the main tool that cults use to trap people mentally. Be brave, check out reddit/r/exjw
Look up older publications. See the flip flops, errors, changes and failed prophecies. I compiled over 800 pages of such inconsistencies in Watchtower publications, covering dozens of subjects that interested me. It proved to me beyond a shadow of doubt that I had been lied to, misled and used by a cult for 60+ years.
What would you like to say to still-in believing-JW family and or friends who might come across this?
I am not an angry apostate. I still love my family, in fact more so now. I care that you are being conned by a very manipulative and high control cult. I can clearly see the deception, the cult techniques and mind control. All I ask is that you step back, look at the facts and history of Watchtower. If you do your research and wish to stay a JW, mother, that is your choice, but at least examine what you are being taught with an open mind. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. We will love you no matter what your decision. A cult would have you reject your family, not show them love, since they did not agree with cult teachings. Is this Godlike behaviour?