[Translated from Spanish by Vivi]
By Felix of South America. (Names are changed to avoid retaliation.)
Introduction: In Part I of the series, Felix from South America told us about how his parents learned about the Jehovah’s Witness movement and how his family joined the organization. Félix explained to us how he passed his childhood and adolescence within a congregation where the abuse of power and disinterest of the Elders and the Circuit Overseer were observed to affect his family. In this Part 2, Félix tells us about his awakening and how the elders showed him the “love that never fails” to clarify his doubts about the organization’s teachings, failed prophecies, and handling of sexual abuse of minors.
For my part, I always tried to behave as a Christian. I was baptized at 12 years of age and went through the same pressures as many young witnesses, such as not celebrating birthdays, not singing the national anthem, not swearing allegiance to the flag, as well as morality issues. I remember one time I had to ask permission at work to get to meetings early, and my boss asked me, “Are you a Jehovah’s Witness?”
“Yes,” I replied proudly.
“You are one of those who don’t have sex before getting married, right?”
“Yes,” I replied again.
“You are not married so you are a virgin, right?”, he asked me.
“Yes,” I replied, and then he called all my coworkers and said, “Look, this one is still a virgin. He is 22 years old and a virgin.”
Everyone made fun of me at the time, but since I am a person who cares very little about what others think, I did not care, and I laughed along with them. Finally, he let me leave early from work, and I got what I wanted. But these are the kind of pressures that all the witnesses faced.
I came to have many responsibilities within the congregation: literature, sound, attendant, scheduling field service arrangements, hall maintenance, etc. I had all these responsibilities at the same time; not even the ministerial servants had as many privileges as I did. Unsurprisingly, they appointed me a ministerial servant, and that was the pretext that the elders used in order to start pressuring, me since they wanted to control all aspects of my life—I now had to go out to preach on Saturdays, although the lack of this had not been an impediment to their recommendation of me; I had to arrive 30 minutes before all the meetings when they, the elders, arrived “right on the hour” or late every time. Things that they did not even fulfill themselves, were demanded of me. In time, I started dating and naturally I wanted to spend time with my girlfriend. So, I went out to preach in her congregation quite often and attended her meetings from time to time, enough for the elders to take me to Room B to scold me for not attending the meetings or for not preaching enough or that I fabricated the hours of my report. They knew that I was honest in my report although they reproached me otherwise, because they knew that I met in the congregation of she who was to be my future wife. But apparently there was a kind of rivalry between these two neighboring congregations. In fact, when I got married, the elders of my congregation showed displeasure at my decision to get married.
I felt rejection from among the elders of the congregations, because once I was asked to go to work on a Saturday in the neighboring congregation, and since we are all brothers, I agreed without reservations and for a change. And faithful to their custom, the elders of my congregation took me back to Room B to have me explain the reasons why I didn’t go out to preach on Saturday. I told them I went to work in another Kingdom Hall, and they said, “This is your congregation!”
I replied, “But my service is to Jehovah. It does not matter if I did it for another congregation. It is for Jehovah”.
But they repeated to me, “This is your congregation.” There were many more situations like this.
On another occasion, I had planned to go on vacation to my cousins’ house, and since I knew that the elders were watching me, I decided to go to the house of the Elder in charge of my group and let him know that I was leaving for a week; and he told me to go on and not to worry. We chatted for a while, and then I left and went on vacation.
At the next meeting, after I came back from vacation, I was again taken by two Elders to Room B. Surprisingly, one of these Elders was the one I went to visit before going on vacation. And I was questioned about why I had been absent from the meetings during the week. I looked at the Elder in charge of my group and replied, “I went on vacation”. The first thing I thought was that maybe they thought I had gone with my girlfriend on vacation, which was not true and that that was why they spoke to me. The strange thing was that they claimed that I had left without warning, and that I neglected my privileges that week, and that no one had taken over to replace me. I asked the brother in charge of my group if he didn’t remember that I had gone to his house on that day and had told him that I was going to be away for a week.
He looked at me and said, “I don’t remember”.
I had not only talked to that Elder but had also told my assistant so that he would not be absent, but he was absent. Again I repeated, “I went to your house to let you know”.
And again he answered, “I don’t remember”.
The other Elder, without preamble, told me, “From today, you only have the title of ministerial servant until the circuit overseer comes and he decides what we will do about you”.
It was obvious that between my word as ministerial servant and the word of an Elder, the word of the Elder prevailed. It wasn’t a matter of knowing who was right, rather, it was a matter of hierarchy. It does not matter if I gave notice to all the Elders that I was going on vacation. If they said that it was not true, their word was worth more than mine due to a question of rank. I am very indignant about this.
After that, I lost my ministerial servant privileges. But within myself, I decided that I would never again expose myself to such a situation.
I married at the age of 24 and moved to the congregation where my current wife attended, and soon after, perhaps because I like to be helpful, I had more responsibilities in my new congregation than any other ministerial servant. So, the elders met with me to tell me that they had recommended me to be a ministerial servant, and they asked me if I agreed. And I sincerely said that I did not agree. They looked at me with surprised eyes and asked why. I explained to them about my experience in the other congregation, that I was unwilling to put up with an appointment again, giving them the right to try to manage and interfere in every aspect of my life, and that I was happy without any appointments. They told me that not all congregations were the same. They quoted 1 Timothy 3: 1 and told me that whoever works to have a position in the congregation works for something excellent, etc., but I kept rejecting it.
After a year in that congregation, my wife and I had the opportunity to buy our house, so we had to move to a congregation in which we were very well received. The congregation was very loving and the elders seemed to be very different from those in my previous congregations. As time went by, the elders of my new congregation began to give me privileges and I accepted them. Subsequently, two elders met with me to inform me that they had recommended me as a ministerial servant, and I thanked them and clarified that I was not interested in obtaining any appointment. Frightened, they asked me “why”, and again I told them everything I went through as a ministerial servant and what my brother had gone through as well, and that I was not willing to go through it again, that I understood that they were different from the other elders, because they really were, but that I was not willing to let anything put me in that situation again.
On the next visit of the overseer, together with the elders, they met with me, to convince me to accept the privileges they offered me. And, again I refused. So the overseer told me that obviously I was not prepared to go through those tests, and that the devil had achieved his purpose with me, which was to prevent me from progressing in a spiritual sense. What did an appointment, a title, have to do with spirituality? I hoped that the overseer would tell me, “how bad it was that the Elders and the other overseer had handled themselves so poorly”, and that he would at least tell me that it was logical that having had experiences like this, I would refuse to have privileges. I expected a little understanding and empathy, but not recriminations.
That same year I learned that in the congregation I was attending before I married, there had been a case of a Jehovah’s Witness who had abused his three minor nieces, who, although they expelled him from the congregation, had not been imprisoned, as the law requires in the case of this very serious crime. How could this be? “Were the police not informed?”, I asked myself. I asked my mom to tell me what had happened, since she was in that congregation and she confirmed the situation. No one from the congregation, neither the elders nor the parents of the minors who had suffered the abuse, reported the matter to the competent authorities, supposedly so as not to stain Jehovah’s name or the organization. That caused me a lot of confusion. How could it be that neither the parents of the victims nor the elders who formed the judicial committee and expelled the offender will not denounce him? What happened to what the Lord Jesus said “to Caesar the things of Caesar and to God things of God”? I was so bewildered that I started to investigate what the organization said regarding the handling of child sexual abuse, and I could not find anything about this situation. And I looked in the Bible about this, and what I found did not match how the Elders handled matters.
In 6 years, I had two children and more than ever the issue of how the organization handled child abuse began to bother me, and I was thinking that if I had to go through a situation with my children like that, it would be impossible for me to abide by what the organization asked. Over those years, I had many conversations with my mom and my family members, and they thought like me about how the organization could say that they abhor the act of the rapist and yet, due to their inaction, leave him without legal consequences. This is not the way of Jehovah’s justice in any respect. So I began to wonder, if in this morally and biblically clear question, they were failing, in what else could they be failing? Was the mishandling of cases of child sexual abuse and what I experienced during my life regarding the abuse of power and the imposition of the rank of those who took the lead, together with the impunity of their acts, indications of something?
I began to hear cases of other brothers who were victims of sexual abuse when they were minors and how the Elders handled matters. I learned of several different cases where the common factor in all of them was always telling the brothers that reporting it to the competent authorities was to stain Jehovah’s name, and therefore none were reported to the authorities. What bothered me the most is the “gag rule” imposed on the victims, since they could not discuss the matter with anyone either, because it would be speaking ill of the abuser “brother” and that could lead to disfellowshipping. What “great and loving” help the elders were providing to direct and indirect victims! And most ominously, in no case were families with minors alerted that there was a sexual predator among the brothers of the congregation.
By then my mom started asking me biblical questions about the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses—for example, the overlapping generation. As any indoctrinated Witness would, I told her from the beginning to be careful, because she was bordering on “apostasy” (because that’s what they call it if one questions any teaching of the organization), and although I studied the overlapping generation, I accepted it without questioning anything. But doubt came up again in regard to whether they are wrong in their handling of child sexual abuse, because this was a separate issue.
So, I started from scratch with Matthew chapter 24, trying to understand what generation he was referring to, and I was shocked to see that not only were there no elements to confirm belief in the overlapping super generation, but that the concept of generation could not even be applied as it had been interpreted in previous years.
I told my mom that she was right; that what the Bible says could not fit with the teaching of the generation. My research led me to realize also that whenever the doctrine of the generation was changed, it was after the previous doctrine had failed to come true. And every time it was re-formulated to a future event, and again failed to be fulfilled, they changed it again. I started to think it was about failed prophecies. And the Bible talks about false prophets. I found that a false prophet is condemned for prophesying only “once” in Jehovah’s name and failing. Ananias was an example in Jeremiah chapter 28. And the “generation doctrine” has failed at least three times, three times with the same doctrine.
So I mentioned it to my mom and she said that she was finding things out on Internet pages. Because I was still very indoctrinated, I told her that she shouldn’t do that, saying, “but we cannot search on pages that are not the official pages of jw.org.”
She replied that she had discovered that the order not to look at things on the Internet was so that we wouldn’t see the truth of what the Bible says, and that would leave us with the interpretation of the organization.
So, I said to myself, “If what is on the Internet is a lie, the truth will overcome it.”
So, I started searching the Internet, too. And I discovered various pages and blogs of people who were sexually abused when they were minors by members of the organization, and who were also mistreated by the elders of the congregation for denouncing the aggressor. Also, I discovered that these were not isolated cases in congregations, but that it was something very widespread.
One day I found a video titled “Why I left Jehovah’s Witnesses after serving as an Elder for over 40 Years” on the YouTube channel Los Bereanos, and I began to see how for years the organization taught many doctrines that I had held as true and which were, in fact, false. For example, the teaching that the Archangel Michael was Jesus; the cry of peace and security that we were waiting so long to be fulfilled; the last days. All were lies.
All this information hit me very hard. It is not easy to find out that you have been cheated all your life and to have endured so much suffering because of a sect. The disappointment was terrible, and my wife noticed it. I was mad at myself for a long time. I couldn’t sleep for more than two months, and I couldn’t believe that I was tricked like that. Today, I am 35 years old and for 30 of those years I was cheated. I shared the page of Los Bereanos with my mom and my younger sister, and they also appreciated the content.
As I mentioned earlier, my wife began to realize that something was wrong with me and began to ask me why I was like this. I just said that I did not agree with certain ways of handling matters in the congregation such as the issue of sexual abuse of minors. But she did not see it as something serious. I couldn’t tell her everything I had seen all at once, because I knew that, like any witness, and just as I had also reacted with my mother, she would reject everything outright. My wife had also been a witness since she was a little girl, but she was baptized when she was 17 years old, and after that she regular pioneered for 8 years. So she was very indoctrinated and did not have the doubts that I had.
Little by little, I began to reject the privileges that I had, with the excuse that my children needed attention during the meetings and it was not fair for me to leave my wife with that burden. And more than an excuse, it was true. It helped me to get rid of those congregation privileges. Also my conscience did not allow me to comment in the meetings. It was not easy for me to know what I knew and yet be in the meetings where I continued to lie to myself and my wife and my brothers in the faith. So, little by little I also began missing the meetings, and I stopped preaching. This soon caught the attention of the elders and two of them came to my house to find out what was going on. With my wife present, I told them that I had a lot of work and health problems. Then they asked me if there was anything I wanted to ask them, and I asked them about the procedures in cases of sexual abuse of minors. And they showed me the book for the Elders, “Shepherd the Flock”, and said that the elders should denounce them whenever the local laws compelled them to do this.
Compelled them? Does the law have to compel you to report a crime?
Then a debate began on whether or not they should make a report. I gave them millions of examples, as what if the victim is a minor and the abuser is his father, and the elders do not report it, but they disfellowship him, then the minor stays at the mercy of his abuser. But they always responded in the same way; that they were not obligated to report it, and that their instruction is to call the legal desk of the Branch Office and nothing else. Here, there was nothing about what one’s trained conscience dictated or what was morally right. None of that matters at all. They only obey the directive of the Governing Body because “they are not going to do anything that is harmful to anyone, least of all for a victim of sexual abuse”.
Our discussion ended the moment they told me that I was being a fool for questioning the decisions of the Governing Body . They did not say goodbye without first warning us not to discuss the issues of child sexual abuse with anyone. Why? What were they afraid of if the decisions they make are the right ones? I asked my wife that.
I kept missing meetings and tried not to preach. If I did, I made sure to preach with the Bible only and tried to give people biblical hope for the future. And since I did not do what the organization demanded, what supposedly any good Christian should do, one day my wife asked me, “And what will happen between us if you don’t want to serve Jehovah?”
She was trying to tell me that she could not live with someone who wanted to leave Jehovah, and I tried to understand why she said that. It was not because she did not love me anymore, but rather that if she had to choose between me and Jehovah, it was obvious that she would choose Jehovah. Her point of view was understandable. It was the point of view of the organization. So, I only replied that it was not me who was going to be making that decision.
Honestly, I didn’t get upset over what she told me, because I knew how a witness is conditioned to think. But I knew that if I didn’t hurry to wake her up, nothing good would follow.
My mom, having been in the organization for 30 years, had accumulated many books and magazines wherein the anointed ones proclaimed themselves to be prophets of God in modern days, the Ezekiel class (The Nations Will Know That I Am Jehovah, How? page 62). There were also the false prophecies regarding the year 1975 (Eternal Life in Freedom of the Children of God, pages 26 to 31; The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, (called the Blue Bomb), pages 9 and 95). She had heard other brothers say “many brothers believed that the end was coming in 1975 but it has never been recognized by the Governing Body that the organization predicted and gave much emphasis to the end coming in 1975”. Now they say on behalf of the Governing Body that it was the brothers’ fault to have believed in that date. In addition, there were other publications that said that the end would come within “our twentieth century” (The Nations Will Know That I Am Jehovah, How? page 216) and magazines such as The Watchtower that was titled “1914, the Generation That Did Not Pass” and others.
I borrowed these publications from my mom. But little by little, I was showing my wife “little pearls” like what the Reasoning book said on “How to identify a false prophet”, and how they omitted the best answer the Bible gives in Deuteronomy 18:22.
My wife continued to attend meetings, but I did not. At one of those meetings she asked to speak to the elders for them to help me clear up any doubts I had. She really thought that the elders could answer all my questions satisfactorily, but I did not know that she asked for help. Then one day that I attended the meeting, two elders approached me and asked if I could stay after the meeting because they wanted to talk to me. I agreed, although I didn’t have the books with me that my mother had lent me, but I was willing to do whatever I could to make my wife realize the real help that the Elders wanted to give me. So I decided to record the talk that lasted two and a half hours, and which I am willing to publish on the Los Bereanos site. In this “friendly talk of loving help” I exposed half of my doubts, the mishandling of child sexual abuse, that 1914 has no biblical basis, that if 1914 does not exist then 1918 does not exist, much less 1919; and I exposed how all these doctrines crumble because of 1914 not being true. I told them what I read in the JW.Org books about false prophecies and they simply refused to respond to those doubts. Mainly they dedicated themselves to attacking me, saying that I pretended to know more than the Governing Body. And they branded me a liar.
But none of that mattered to me. I knew that with the things they said they were going to help me to show my wife how the elders who supposedly are teachers who know how to defend “the truth” in fact do not know how to defend it at all. I even said to one of them: “Do you have no doubts that 1914 is a true doctrine?” He answered me with a “no”. And I said, “Well, convince me.” And he said, “I don’t have to convince you. If you don’t believe that 1914 is true, don’t preach it, don’t talk about it in the territory and that’s it.”
How could it be possible that if 1914 is a true doctrine, you, an elder, a supposed teacher of the word of God, does not defend it to the death with biblical arguments? Why don’t you want to convince me that I am wrong? Or can the truth not emerge victorious in the face of scrutiny?
For me, it was obvious that these “shepherds” were not the same ones that the Lord Jesus spoke of; those who, having 99 protected sheep, are willing to go in search of a single lost sheep, leaving the 99 alone until they find the lost one.
As much as I laid out all these topics to them, I knew that it was not the moment to stand firm with what I thought. I listened to them and refuted the times that I could firmly, but without giving them reasons to send me to a judicial committee. As I said, the conversation lasted two and a half hours, but I tried to stay calm all the time and when I returned to my house I also kept calm since I had obtained the evidence I needed to wake up my wife. And so, after telling her what happened, I showed her the recording of the talk so that she could evaluate it for herself. After a few days, she confessed to me that she had asked the elders to speak to me, but that she had not thought that the elders would come without intending to answer my questions.
Taking advantage of the fact that my wife was willing to discuss the matter, I showed her the publications I had found and she was already much more receptive to the information. And from that moment on, we began to study together what the Bible really teaches and the videos of brother Eric Wilson.
My wife’s awakening was much faster than mine, as she realized the lies of the Governing Body and why they lied.
I was surprised when at one point she said to me, “We cannot be in an organization that is not true worship”.
I did not expect such firm resolution from her. But it could not be so simple. Both she and I still have our relatives within the organization. By then my whole family opened their eyes regarding the organization. My two younger sisters no longer attend meetings. My parents continue to go to the meetings for their friends within the congregation, but my mother very discreetly tries to get other brothers to open their eyes. And my older brothers and their families don’t go to meetings any more.
We couldn’t disappear from meetings without first trying to get my in-laws to awaken to reality, so my wife and I have decided to continue attending meetings until we accomplish this.
My wife started raising doubts with her parents about child abuse and raised doubts about false prophecies to her brother (I have to say that my father-in-law was an elder, although currently removed, and my brother-in-law is an ex-Bethelite, an elder and a regular pioneer) and as expected, they flatly refused to see any evidence of what was said. Their response is the same that any Jehovah’s Witness always gives, which is, “We are imperfect humans who can make mistakes and the anointed are humans who also make mistakes.”
Though my wife and I continued to attend meetings, this became increasingly difficult, because the book of Revelation was being studied, and at each meeting we had to listen to assumptions taken as absolute truth. Expressions such as “evidently”, “surely” and “probably” were assumed as true and indisputable facts, although there was not enough evidence whatsoever, such as the message of condemnation that was represented by hail stones, a total delirium. When we got home we began to investigate whether the Bible supported such a claim.