My experience of being an Active Jehovah’s Witness and leaving the Cult.
By Maria (An alias as a protect against persecution.)
I started studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses over 20 years ago after my first marriage was breaking up. My daughter was only a few months old, so I was very vulnerable at the time, and suicidal.
I didn’t come into contact with the Witnesses through the preaching work, but through a new friend I had made once my husband had left me. When I heard this Witness speak about the last days and how men would be, it sounded very true to me. I thought she was a bit weird, but was intrigued. After a few weeks, I bumped into her again, and we had another discussion. She wanted to visit me at home but I was a bit reluctant to have a stranger come to my house. (What I haven’t mentioned is that my dad was a devout Muslim, and he didn’t have a very good view of the Witnesses.)
This lady eventually won my trust and I gave her my address, but I remember regretting that because she lived nearby, and because she had started to auxiliary pioneer, she took every opportunity to call on me, so much so that I had to hide from her on a couple of occasions, pretending I wasn’t home.
After about 4 months, I started to study and progressed really well, attending meetings, answering up and then becoming an unbaptised publisher. In the mean time my husband would come back and give me grief over my contact with the Witnesses. He became violent, threatening to burn my books, and even trying to prevent me from going to meetings. None of that stopped me as I thought it was part of Jesus’ prophecy at Matthew 5:11, 12. I made good progress in spite of this opposition.
Eventually, I had enough of his treatment towards me, his temper, and his taking of drugs. I decided to separate. I didn’t want to divorce him as the elders had advised against it, but they said a separation would be okay with a view to trying to reconcile things. After a few months, I filed for divorce, writing a letter to my solicitor detailing my reasons. After about six months, my solicitor asked if I still wanted to get a divorce. I still hesitated as my study of the Bible with the Witnesses taught me that we should try to remain married unless there are scriptural grounds for divorce. I hadn’t any proof that he had been unfaithful, but it was quite likely as he was often gone for two or more weeks at a time, and now had been away for six months. I believed it was very likely that he had slept with someone else. I again read the letter that I had written to the solicitor with my reasons for wanting a divorce. After reading it, I had no doubt that I could not stay with him and filed for the divorce. A few months later, I was a single mum. I got baptised. Although not looking to remarry, I soon started dating a brother and got married a year later. I thought my life was going to be wonderful, with Armageddon and Paradise just around the corner.
For a while I was happy, I was making new friends, and was enjoying the ministry. I started to regular pioneer. I had a beautiful little girl and a loving husband. Life was good. So different to what life had been like and the depression I had suffered over the years. As time went on though friction built between me and my second husband. He hated going out in the ministry, especially on weekends. He wasn’t keen to answer up or attend meetings whilst on holiday; yet to me it was normal. It was my way of life! It didn’t help that my parents were very opposed to my new life and religion. My father didn’t talk to me for over five years. But none of this put me off, I kept pioneering and threw myself into my new religion. (I had been raised a Catholic).
The Problems Start
What I didn’t mention is the problems that started soon after attending the book study, when I was new to the religion. I used to work part time and had to collect my daughter from my parents, then had less than an hour to eat and make the half-hour walk to the book study group. After a few weeks, I was told I should not wear trousers to the group. I said that it was hard especially as I had little time to prepare and had to walk in the cold and wet. After being shown a scripture and thinking about it, I turned up in a dress the following week for the book study.
A few weeks later, I was accused by the couple whose home was used for the book study, that my daughter had spilt her drink on their cream carpet. There were other children there, but we got the blame. That upset me, especially as I had great difficulty getting there that evening.
Just before my baptism, I had started courting this brother. My Bible study conductor was getting a little upset that I was spending less time with her and more time with this brother. (How else would I get to know him?) The night before my baptism, the elders called me to a meeting, and told me off over upsetting this sister. I told them I hadn’t stopped being her friend, just had less time to spend with her as I was getting to know this brother. At the end of this meeting, the night before my baptism, I was in tears. I should have realised then that this was not a very loving religion.
There were many times when things weren’t quite how ‘The Truth’ should have been. The elders didn’t seem very interested in helping me to pioneer, especially when I tried to organise a lunch followed by an afternoon ministry group to help the auxiliary pioneers. Again, I kept going.
I was accused of not helping out at the Kingdom Hall by one elder. He was and still is very aggressive. I had a bad back, so hadn’t helped with the physical side of things, but had cooked a meal, brought it along and served it up to the volunteers.
Another time, I was called out into the back room and told my tops were too low and that the brother could see down my top whilst he was taking an item on the platform!? First, he shouldn’t have been looking, and second, that simply wasn’t possible as I sat about three rows in and always put my hand over my chest when leaning forward or down to my book bag. I often wore a camisole under tops too. My husband and I couldn’t believe it.
I finally had a really good study with an Indian lady. She was very zealous and she progressed swiftly to become an unbaptised publisher. After going through the questions, the elders delayed in giving a decision. We all wondered what had happened. They were bothered by her very small nose stud. They wrote off to the Bethel about it and had to wait two weeks for a reply. (Whatever happened to doing research on the CD ROM, or just using common sense?)
As a former Hindu, it was normal for her to wear a nose stud or ring as part of their customary jewelry. There wasn’t any religious significance to it. Eventually she got the all-clear and could go out in the ministry. She progressed well towards baptism, and like me had met a brother whom she had known previously through work. She had mentioned him to us about a month before her baptism and assured us they were not courting. (When we first asked her about it, we had to explain what that word meant.) She said they only spoke occasionally on the phone, usually about the Watchtower study. She hadn’t even mentioned marriage to her Hindu parents, as she also had opposition from her father. She waited until the day after her baptism and phoned her father in India. He wasn’t happy that she wanted to marry a Jehovah’s Witness, but he agreed to it. She married the following month, but of course it wasn’t that straight forward.
I had a visit from two elders whilst my husband sat upstairs. He didn’t think it was necessary to sit in and was told there was no need. The two elders accused me of all sorts of things, like making this study a follower of me—even though I always went with other sisters—and of covering up her alleged immoral courtship. When reduced to tears, brother-with-the-temper said with no emotion “that he knew he had a reputation for reducing sisters to tears”. The only scripture produced in that meeting was used totally out of context. Then I was threatened with removal as a regular pioneer if I didn’t agree with what they had said! I couldn’t believe it. Of course, I agreed to their terms as I enjoyed the ministry; it was my life. After they left, my husband couldn’t believe what had happened. We were told not to speak of this to others. (I wonder why?)
Brother-with-the-temper decided to write a letter about this sister to the congregation in India where she would be married. He put in his letter that she had been having a secret relationship with this brother and that they were not in good standing. After some investigation, the brothers in India could see the couple were innocent and disregarded Brother-with-the-temper’s letter.
When the newly weds returned to the U.K. they told me about the letter. I was so angry, and unfortunately said things in front of another sister. Oh dear! Off she went and obediently told the elders. (We are instructed to inform on our brothers when we see any infraction or sign of disloyalty to the elders.) At yet another meeting—this time with my husband present—three elders came, but I was assured the third elder was there to make sure things were done properly. (It was not a judicial hearing. Ha!)
After going through what was said, I apologised profusely. My husband and I stayed calm and polite. They had nothing on us, but that didn’t stop them. Time and again, they made trouble because they felt we were not complying with their dress code, such as whether my husband should wear a very smart jacket and trousers to read the Watchtower or a suit? Having had enough of their games, my husband stepped down from his duties. Nevertheless, we kept going. I kept pioneering until my circumstances changed, and then came off.
Then came the time when my husband woke up to the Truth about the Truth, though I did not.
My husband started asking me questions about the cross, blood transfusions, the faithful and discreet slave, and more. I defended everything as best as I could, using my knowledge of the Bible and the Reasoning book. Eventually he mentioned the child abuse cover-up.
Again, I tried to defend the Organization. What I couldn’t understand is how Jehovah would appoint these bad men?
Then the penny dropped. They had not been appointed by Holy Spirit! Now this did open a can of worms. If they were not appointed by Jehovah, only by men, then this couldn’t be God’s Organisation. My world fell apart. 1914 was incorrect as was 1925, and 1975. I now was in a terrible state, not sure what to believe and unable to talk to anyone else about it, not even my so-called JW friends.
I decided to go to counselling as I didn’t want to take antidepressants. After two sessions, I decided I had to tell the lady everything so she could help me. Of course, we had been taught not to go for counselling so as not to bring reproach on Jehovah’s name. Once I tearfully poured out my heart to her, I started to feel better. She had explained that I hadn’t had a balanced view of things, but only a one-sided view. At the end of six sessions, I felt a lot better, and decided I had to start living my life free from Organization control. I stopped attending meetings, stopped going on the ministry and stopped putting in a report. (I couldn’t go on the ministry knowing what I knew, my conscience would not allow me).
I was free! It was scary at first and I was scared that I would change for the worse, but guess what? I didn’t! I am less judgemental, more balanced, happier, and generally nicer and kinder to everyone. I dress in a more colourful, less frumpy style. I changed my hair. I feel younger and happier. My husband and I get on better, and our relationship with our non-Witness family members is so much better. We’ve even made a few new friends.
The downside? We are shunned by our so-called friends from the Organization. It just shows they weren’t true friends. Their love was conditional. It depended on our going to meetings, out in the ministry, and answering up.
Would I go back to the Organization? Definitely not!
I thought I might want to, but I have thrown out all their books and literature. I read other translations of the Bible, use Vines Expository and Strong’s Concordance, and look at the Hebrew and Greek words. Am I happier? Over a year later, the answer is still YES!
So, if I would want to help any out there who were or are JWs, I would say get counselling; it can help. It can help you find out who you are, and what you can now do in life. It takes time to be free. I had feelings of anger and resentment at first, but once I got on with my life doing everyday things and not feeling guilty for that, I felt less bitter and more sorry for those still trapped. Now I want to help get people out of the Organization instead of bringing them in!