Hello. My name is Jerome

In 1974 I began an intense study of the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and was baptized in May of 1976. I served as an elder for about 25 years and over the course of time served as secretary, Theocratic Ministry School Overseer and Watchtower Study Conductor in my congregation. For those of you who remember the Congregation Bookstudy arrangement, I really enjoyed conducting one in my home. It really afforded me the opportunity to work closely with and get to know more intimately those in my group. As a result, I truly felt like a shepherd.

In 1977, I met a very zealous young woman who later became my wife. We had one child that we raised together to love Jehovah. Being an elder with all the responsibility that goes with it, such as giving public talks, preparing meeting parts, going on shepherding calls, long hours at elder’s meetings, et cetera, left me little time to spend with my family. I remember trying hard to be there for everyone; to be genuine and not just share a couple of scriptures and wish them well. Often, this led to my spending long hours late into the night with those experiencing distress. In those days there were many articles focusing on the responsibilities of elders to care for the flock and I really took them seriously. Feeling compassion for those suffering from depression, I remember compiling an indexed book of Watchtower articles on the subject. It came to the attention of one visiting Circuit Overseer and he asked for a copy. Of course, every now and then it was mentioned that our first priority was to our family, but looking back, since much emphasis was placed on men reaching out for more responsibility, it appears to me that this was just so that you would make sure our family was towing the line so as not to reflect unfavorably on our qualifications. (1 Tim. 3:4)

Sometimes, the friends would express concern that I might “burn out”. But, although I saw the wisdom in modestly not taking on too much, I felt I could handle it with Jehovah’s help. What I couldn’t see, however, was that although I could handle the responsibilities and assignments I was taking on, my family, in particular my son, was feeling neglected. Studying the Bible, spending time in the ministry and at meetings, simply cannot replace just being a dad. As a result, at about age 17, my son declared he no longer felt he could continue in the religion just to please us. It was a very emotionally stressful time. I resigned as an elder to spend more time at home but by then it really was too late and my son moved out on his own. He was not baptized and so technically was not to be treated as disfellowshipped. This went on for about 5 years with us worrying about how he was doing, me wondering where I went wrong, being angry at Jehovah and really hating to hear Proverbs 22:6. After trying to be the best elder, shepherd, Christian father and husband I could be, I felt betrayed.

Gradually though, his attitude and outlook began to change. I think he was experiencing an identity crisis and just had to find out who he was and make his own personal relationship with God. When he decided to once again attend meetings I felt it was the happiest time of my life.

In 2013 I again qualified and was re-appointed as an elder.

Championing Bible truths taught by the Watchtower Society has been a special passion of mine for many years. In fact, I spent about 15 years in an intense study of whether or not the Bible supports the view that God is a Trinity. Over a period of about two years, I exchanged letters in a debate with a local minister on the subject. This, with help from correspondence with the writing department, really sharpened my ability to reason on the subject from the Scriptures. But at times there were questions raised that led me to research outside of the publications, as I discovered a lack of understanding on the part of the Society for the Trinitarian viewpoint.

Without this clear understanding you end up fighting a strawman and accomplishing nothing except making yourself look foolish. Hence, I read many books written by Trinitarians trying to see through their eyes so as to provide an adequate, coherent scriptural response. I prided myself in my ability to reason logically and prove by references that what I believed was indeed the truth. (Acts 17:3) I really wanted to be a Watchtower apologist.

However, in 2016 a pioneer sister in our congregation encountered a man in the field ministry who asked her why Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon in the year 607 BCE when all secular historians say it was in the year 586/587. Since her explanation was not satisfying to him, she asked me to come along. Before meeting with him though, I decided to research the subject. I soon learned that there is really no archaeological proof for the date of 607 BCE.

The October 1, 2011 Watchtower arrives at this date by using 537 BCE, the date that the Jews supposedly returned to Jerusalem, as an anchor point and counts back seventy years. While historians have uncovered archaeological evidence for the 587 BCE date, the same article as well as the November 1, 2011 Watchtower denigrates this evidence. However, I was troubled that the Society accepts the evidence from the same historians for the date of 539 BCE for the fall of Babylon as a pivotal date in history. Why? At first, I thought, well… obviously this is because the Bible clearly says that the Jews would be in bondage for seventy years starting from the time Jerusalem was destroyed. However, looking at the book of Jeremiah, there were certain statements that appeared to indicate otherwise. Jeremiah 25:11,12 says that, not just the Jews but, all these nations would have to serve the king of Babylon. Furthermore, after that 70-year period, Jehovah would call the nation of Babylon to account. Did this not happen at the time of the handwriting on the wall, rather than at the time the Jews returned.  Thus, 539 not 537 BCE would mark the end point. (Dan. 5:26-28) That would effectively end the servitude to Babylon for all the nations. I soon began to wonder that since 607 BCE is very important in order for the Society to arrive at 1914 whether their judgement and use of the Scriptures might be affected more by loyalty to the 1914 doctrine than to the truth.

When carefully reading Daniel chapter 4, does it not call for one to stretch far beyond what is written in order to say that Nebuchadnezzar pictures Jehovah and that the chopping down of the tree pictures the limiting of the expression of his rulership toward the earth, that seven times are to be regarded as seven prophetic years of 360 days each amounting to a total of 2,520 days, that each day stands for a year, that God’s kingdom would be set up in the heavens at the end of this time and that Jesus had this in mind when he made his comment about Jerusalem’s being

trampled by the nations? None of these interpretations are stated explicitly. Daniel simply says that all of this befell Nebuchadnezzar. Is there a clear scriptural basis for calling this Bible account a prophetic drama according to the March 15, 2015 Watchtower article, “A Simpler, Clearer Approach to Bible Narratives”? And rather than giving an indication of a way to calculate the timing of the coming of his kingdom, did not Jesus repeatedly urge his disciples to keep on the watch, because they do not know the day nor the hour not just of the end but even of the restoring of the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6,7)

In the beginning of 2017, I composed a four-page letter with specific questions about differences in statements in the publications and what Jeremiah actually said in his prophecy and sent it off to the Society telling them how much these things weighed on my mind. To this day I have yet to receive a response. Furthermore, the Governing Body has recently published an adjusted understanding of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:34 about “this generation” being two groups of anointed ones whose lives overlap. However, I had great difficulty understanding how Exodus 1:6 in reference to Joseph and his brothers supports the point. The generation being spoken of there did not include Joseph’s sons. Once again, could it be that loyalty to the 1914 doctrine was the cause of this? Not able to see clear scriptural support for these teachings troubled my conscience greatly when called upon to teach them to others, so I avoided doing so, along with sharing any of my concerns with anyone in the congregation so as not to either sow doubt nor create division among others. But it was very frustrating keeping these issues to myself. I eventually had to resign from being an elder.

There was one close friend and fellow elder with whom I felt I could talk to. He told me that he had read from Ray Franz that the Governing Body in one of its sessions briefly considered the 1914 doctrine and discussed various alternatives that ended up not being approved. Since he was considered the worst of apostates, I had never read anything from Ray Franz. But now, curious, I had to know. What alternatives? Why would they even consider alternatives? And, even more disturbing, is it possible they know it is not supported by the Scriptures and yet are willfully perpetuating it?

So, I searched online for a copy of Crisis of Conscience but found that it was no longer in print and at that time under some sort of copyright dispute. However, I did stumble across someone that dictated audio files of it, downloaded them and, suspiciously at first, listened to it, expecting to hear the words of a raving angry JW bashing apostate. I had read the words of critics of the Society before, so was accustomed to picking out misrepresentations and flaws in argumentation. However, discovered that these were not the words of someone with an axe to grind. Here was a man that spent nearly 60 years of his life in the organization and obviously still loved the people caught up in it. He obviously knew the scriptures very well and his words had the ring of sincerity and truth. I couldn’t stop! I listened to the entire book over and over again about 5 or 6 times.

After that, it became more difficult to maintain a positive spirit. While at the meetings, I often found myself focusing on other teachings of the Governing Body to determine whether they showed evidence of handling the word of the truth aright. (2 Tim. 2:15) I do realize that God did choose the sons of Israel in the past and organized them into a nation, even calling them his

witnesses, his servant (Isa. 43:10). A nation of imperfect men and yet still his will was accomplished. Eventually that nation became corrupt and was abandoned after the murder of his Son. Jesus denounced the religious leaders for their placing a higher regard for their traditions than on Scripture, yet he told those Jews living at the time to be submissive to the arrangement. (Matt. 23:1) Nevertheless, subsequently, Jesus established the Christian congregation and organized it as spiritual Israel. Even though all of the disciples were viewed by the Jewish leaders as apostates, they were God’s chosen ones, his witnesses. Again, a nation of imperfect men that were vulnerable to corruption. In fact, Jesus likened himself to a man who sowed fine seed in his field but said that an enemy would over-sow it with weeds. He said that this situation would continue until a harvest when the weeds would be separated out. (Matthew 13:41) Paul spoke of a “man of lawlessness” that would appear and would eventually have to be revealed and done away with by Jesus at the manifestation of his presence. (2 Thess. 2:1-12) My constant prayer was that God would give me the wisdom and discernment to know how these things would be fulfilled, and if I should continue to support this organization until his Son comes with his angels to collect out from his Kingdom all things that cause stumbling and people who practice lawlessness. I was moved by the example of David. When being pursued by Saul, he was determined not to put his hand out against the anointed of Jehovah. (1 Sam. 26:10,11) And of Habakkuk who saw injustice among the leadership of God’s people yet was determined to wait on Jehovah. (Hab. 2:1)

However, later developments would change all of that. To begin with, because of what I had learned, I felt a strong sense of responsibility to my family and others to tell the truth about the organization. But how?

I decided to approach my son first. He was now married. I purchased an mp3 player and downloaded all the audio files on it and presented it to him saying that there was something very important on it that I thought he should know; something that could change his entire life; something that would help to explain his past turmoil and might explain his bouts of depression.

I said even though I felt responsible to tell him, I would not share it unless he was ready to hear it. At first, he didn’t know how to take what I was saying and thought perhaps that I might have cancer or some incurable disease and was near death. I assured him it was nothing like that but nonetheless very serious information about Jehovah’s Witnesses and the truth. He thought for a moment and said he was not ready yet but wanted me to assure him that I was not going apostate. I said that for now I had only spoken to one other person and the both of us are keeping it to ourselves and investigating the matter further on our own. He said he would let me know, which he did about six months later. Since then he and his wife have stopped attending meetings.

My next approach was to my wife. She had known for some time that the reason I resigned was because I was conflicted and was deeply involved in study in the hope of coming to some resolve and, like an elder’s wife, respectfully gave me space. I revealed to her that I had written to the Society about what was troubling me and asked if she would like to read my letter. However, after the announcement of my resignation, an air of suspicion began to surround me. Elders and others were inquisitive as to the reason, and there was a real possibility they might ask her what she knew. Hence, the both of us decided to wait and see what the response from the Society would be.

Perhaps their answer would clear everything up. Also, if she was ever to be approached by others

she couldn’t reveal any of the particulars—which the publishers couldn’t really handle anyway. At that point, I was still attending meetings and tried to go out in the ministry but with a personalized presentation focusing on Jesus or the Bible. But it didn’t take long for me to feel concern that I was representing essentially a false religion. So I stopped.

On March 25, 2018 Two elders asked to meet with me in the library after the meeting. It was the day of the special talk “Who is the Real Jesus Christ?”; the first ever public talk on video.

They wanted to let me know they were concerned over my reduced activity and wanted to know how I was doing.

Had I spoken to anyone else of my concerns? I answered no.

They called the Society and found out they had misplaced my letter. One brother said: “While on the phone with them, we could hear the brother going through the files and then locating it. He said that it was due to departments merging. I asked these two elders how they came to know about my letter? Previous to this, I met with two different elders to at least give them a little bit more information as to why I resigned. During that meeting I told them of the letter.  But they said they had heard about it, not from the other two brothers, but from elders in the neighboring congregation where my son and daughter-in-law announced they were no longer going to be attending meetings, and my daughter-in-law told some sisters that I had spoken to her about my letter to the Society and that, since then, both my son and daughter-in-law have refused to discuss anything with the elders. So, they knew about my letter prior to my speaking to the other two brothers. They wanted to know why had I spoken to my daughter-in-law? I told them she wanted to ask me about information she found on the internet that Jehovah’s Witnesses were the only ones that claimed Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon in 607 BCE. All other historians state that it was in 587 BCE. Could I explain why? I did discuss some of my research at the time and that I had written the Society and that some months had already gone by without a response.

Had I spoken with my wife, they asked. I told them that my wife knows that I resigned as an elder due to doctrinal questions and that I had written the Society. She is unaware of the contents of my letter.

How could they believe me if I had lied about my daughter-in-law?

They informed me that an investigation was underway (obviously before talking to me). Three congregations and the circuit overseer were involved. It is disturbing to many and the elders are concerned. Is this a gangrene spreading? If months had gone by without a response from the Society, why didn’t I call and ask about the letter? I told them that I didn’t want to appear pushy and was waiting to address the issue at the next Circuit Overseer’s visit. The letter raised questions that I felt the local brothers were not qualified to answer. They wondered how I could feel the need to spare the elders of the contents of my letter and yet have a conversation about it with my daughter-in-law. Obviously she respected me and rather than allaying her doubts, it

enhanced them to the point where she decided to stop attending meetings. I agreed that perhaps I could have just recommended she ask one of her elders.

Then one of the brothers, getting emotional, asked: “Do you believe the faithful slave is God’s channel? “Don’t you know that you are sitting here because of the organization? Everything you have learned about God came from the organization.”

“Well, not everything”, I replied.

They wanted to know what was my understanding of Matthew 24:45? I tried to explain that from my understanding of the verse, Jesus raised a question as to who really is the faithful and discreet slave. The slave was given an assignment and would be pronounced faithful in carrying out that assignment at the return of the master. Therefore, how could the slave consider itself “faithful” until the master pronounces them so? This appeared similar to Jesus parable about the talents. (Matt. 25:23-30) The Society used to believe that there was an evil slave class. However, that was adjusted. The new understanding is that this is a hypothetical warning as to what would happen if the slave became wicked. (See The Watchtower July 15, 2013 box on page 24) It is difficult to understand why Jesus would give such a warning if there were no possibility for the slave to become wicked.

As in the previous meeting with the other two brothers the question was raised by these two brothers as to where else can we go? (John 6:68) I tried to reason that Peter’s question was directed to a person and the wording was “Lord, whom shall we go away to?”, not where else can we go as if there was some place or organization that one needed to associate oneself with in order to gain God’s approval. His focus was that only through Jesus could one gain the sayings of everlasting life. One of the elders said, “But since the slave is appointed by Jesus isn’t it just a case of semantics. Where else can we go – whom shall we go away to is just saying the same thing. I replied that when Peter spoke, there was no congregation authority, no slave, no middle-man. Only Jesus.

But, one brother stated, Jehovah has always had an organization. I pointed out that, according to the Watchtower there has been no faithful slave for 1,900 years. (July 15 2013 Watchtower, pages 20-25, as well as the Bethel Morning Worship talk, “The Slave is not 1,900 Years Old”, by David H. Splane.)

Again, I tried to reason from the Scriptures on the fact that God’s organization, the nation of Israel went astray. By the first century, the religious leaders were condemning anyone that would listen to Jesus. (John 7:44-52; 9:22-3) If I were a Jew at that time I would have a difficult decision to make. Should I listen to Jesus or to the Pharisees? How could I come to the correct conclusion? Could I just trust in God’s organization and take the Pharisees word for it? Every person faced with that decision had to see for themselves if Jesus was fulfilling what the Scriptures said the Messiah would do.

One brother said: “Let me get this right, so you compare the faithful slave to the Pharisees? What connection do you see between the faithful slave and the Pharisees?”

I replied, “Matthew 23:2.” He looked it up but didn’t see the connection that unlike Moses who had a divine appointment, the Pharisees placed themselves in the seat of Moses. This is how I see the slave considering themselves faithful before the Master proclaims them to be such.

So, he asked again: “So, you don’t believe that the faithful slave is appointed by God to be

his channel?” I told him that I didn’t see how that fit with Jesus illustration of the wheat and weeds.

He then raised the question: “What about Korah? Did he not rebel against Moses who was used by God at that time as his channel?”

I replied, “Yes. However, Moses appointment was proven by clear miraculous evidence of God’s backing. Also, when Korah and the other rebels were dealt with, who brought the fire out of heaven? Who opened the ground to swallow them up? Was it Moses? All Moses did was to ask them to take their fire holders and offer incense and Jehovah would choose.” (Numbers chapter 16)

They warned me that reading apostate literature is poisonous to the mind. But I responded, that depends on whose definition of apostate you go by. We meet persons in the ministry that tell us they cannot accept our literature because their minister told them it is apostate. One of the brothers seemed to indicate that when he was at Bethel he either heard about or dealt with apostates. They all end up not accomplishing anything in harmony with the Scriptures he said. No growth, no great preaching work. Ray Franz was a former member of the Governing Body and he died a broken man.

“Do you still believe that Jesus is God’s son?” they asked.

“Absolutely!”, I replied. I tried to explain that previously I had been a Methodist. When I began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was encouraged to check what my religion taught with what the Bible actually teaches. I did, and before long I was convinced that what I was being taught was the truth. Yet when I tried to share these things with my family, it caused great disturbance. But I continued to pursue it, because I felt that love for God should outweigh love of family ties and loyalty to the Methodist church.

One of them brought to my attention that my conduct in the Kingdom hall had been disturbing to many for some time. There was talk of my having created a clique with another brother I was close to. He called them “Little church meetings” in the back of the kingdom hall. Others had overheard us discussing divergent views. He said that I do not make an effort to associate with anyone else at the meetings.

Others were noticing that, by my facial expressions, I appear to them to be showing disagreement when certain comments are made during the meetings. It was extremely disturbing to me that my facial expressions were being watched and scrutinized and persons were drawing conclusions from overhearing my private conversations. It made me consider not attending anymore.

I told them my concerns were addressed to the Society. Although I let them know that I had written, I did not reveal to them the particulars of what I wrote. If I had searched the Society’s literature and could not come to a conclusion, my sharing it with them would only be burdensome. What could they say beyond what had been printed?

“You can talk to us about your doubts,” they said. “We may be able to point out something you missed. We want to help you. We won’t disfellowship you.”

In an emotional appeal, one of them pleaded: “Before you do anything, think about the paradise. Please try and picture yourself there with your family. Do you want to throw all that away?”

I told him that I could not see how trying to serve Jehovah in harmony with truth was throwing that away. My desire is not to leave Jehovah but to serve him in spirit and truth.

Again, they suggested that I call the Society about the letter. But again, I decided it would be better to wait. A call had been made a couple of weeks ago, they have located the letter. I think it would be best to see what reply would come. I told them if we did not hear from them by the time of the next circuit overseer’s visit, I would offer to share the letter with them. One of the brothers seemed to indicate that he would not be interested in hearing the contents of the letter. The other said he would look forward to it.

It was agreed that due to the circumstances it would be best for me not to handle microphones. At that point, I felt their need to grasp at some form of punishment petty and actually quite humorous.

Since it was agreed that I no longer qualified to have privileges in the congregation, the next day I sent one of the brothers a text message with the following question:

“If the brothers feel it would be best to arrange for another service group location, I would understand.”

He replied:

“Hey Jerome. We discussed service group location and we do feel it’s best to move the group. Thanks for the hospitality through the years.”

I was not present at the following midweek meeting but I was told that this was announced to the congregation along with a warning talk about reading apostate literature.

Since then, I have been deeply engrossed in a study of the Bible along with a wide range of source material including commentaries, original language tools and other helps. Beroean Pickets along with Discuss the Truth have been of tremendous help to me. Currently, my wife still attends meetings. I sense a certain fear there that prevents her from wanting to know all that I have learned; but patiently I try to plant seeds here and there hoping to arouse her curiosity and enable her awakening process. Still, only she and God can make that happen. (1 Co 3:5,6)

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.
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