We are not so naïve as to believe that the many significant changes made by the 21st century Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses since the October 2023 annual meeting are the result of being guided by holy spirit.
As we saw in the last video, their unwillingness to repent and apologize for their past mistakes and to acknowledge the pain and suffering they have caused Jehovah’s Witnesses for the past century is proof they are not being guided by holy spirit.
But that still leaves the question hanging: What is really behind all these changes? What motivating spirit really guides them?
To begin to answer that question, we should look at an ancient counterpart to the Governing Body, the scribes, Pharisees, and Chief Priests of Israel in the first century. This comparison may offend some, but please bear with me, as the parallels are quite striking.
The leaders of Israel in the time of Christ judged and ruled the nation through their position of power and influence. The rank-and-file Jew viewed these men to be righteous and wise in the law of God. Sound familiar? With me so far?
Their highest court of law was called the Sanhedrin. Like the supreme court of one’s own country, the decisions coming forth from rulings by the Sanhedrin were deemed the final word on any matter. But behind their carefully constructed façade of righteousness, they were wicked. Jesus knew this and compared them to whitewashed graves. [insert picture]
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you resemble whitewashed graves, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of every sort of uncleanness. In the same way, on the outside you appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27, 28 NWT)
The scribes and Pharisees were able to hide their wickedness for a time, but when put to the test, their true colors were revealed. These “most righteous” of men turned out to be capable of murder. How remarkable!
What really mattered to that first century governing body who ruled over the Jewish nation was their position of wealth and power. Look what choice they made when they believed their status was threatened by Jesus.
“Then the chief priests and Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:47, 48 BSB)
Do you see the parallel here? Is the 21st century Governing Body capable of putting their personal interests above the needs of their flock? Will they compromise their faith to protect “their place and their nation,” their Organization, just as the first century governing body of the Pharisees and chief priests did?
Are the landmark policy and doctrinal changes we’ve covered in this series on the annual meeting truly the result of new light from God, or are they the result of the Governing Body giving in to outside pressure?
To answer that question, let’s look at an actual documented example of how they have bowed to outside pressure in the recent past. Did you ever wonder why they changed their teaching about who the faithful and discreet slave of Matthew 24:45 is? If memory serves, the announcement that only the Governing Body was appointed by Jesus as his faithful and discreet slave was made by David Splaine in the 2012 annual meeting.
What a shock that was since the previous understanding dating back to 1927 was that all the anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses on earth constituted the faithful slave class. The belief from that time until 2012 was that all the possessions of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society—the funds, the assets, the buildings, the real estate, the whole kit and kaboodle—belonged collectively to all the anointed on earth. In 1927, that’s all there were—anointed ones. The Other Sheep class of non-anointed Christians had yet to be devised by J.F. Rutherford in 1934, when he introduced the Jonadab class.
Here’s what the Watchtower magazine of February 1, 1995 had to say about the 1927 understanding of who the faithful and discreet slave was that “the faithful and discreet slave” is the entire body of spirit-anointed Christians on earth…” (w95 2/1 pp. 12-13 par. 15)
So, then, what brought about the radical change of 2012? If you’re not clear on what the “new doctrine” is, here’s an explanation from the Watchtower of 2013:
[Box on page 22]
DID YOU GET THE POINT?
“The faithful and discreet slave”: A small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Today, these anointed brothers make up the Governing Body.”
“He will appoint him over all his belongings”: Those who make up the composite slave will get this appointment when they receive their heavenly reward. Along with the rest of the 144,000, they will share Christ’s vast heavenly authority.
(w13 7/15 p. 22 “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?”)
So, instead of all the anointed around the world being the faithful and discreet slave as was believed for more than 80 years, now it was only the members of the Governing Body who could lay claim to that title. And instead of being appointed over all the earthly belongings of Jesus Christ since 1919—the bank accounts, the investment portfolio, stocks, the real estate holdings—which was the previous belief, that appointment would only come in the future upon the return of Christ.
Of course, we all know that is BS. We know they have full control over everything now. But officially, doctrinally, they do not. Why this change? Was it because of divine revelation or expedient necessity?
To arrive at an answer, let’s go back to the moment that this doctrinal change was announced. I just said that to the best of my recollection it was at the annual meeting of 2012. So, you can imagine my surprise when I was informed that it actually came out a year before that in 2011, announced not by a member of the Governing Body, but by, of all things, a female lawyer representing the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia in a lawsuit in Australia!
This female lawyer would go on to represent Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body in other litigation in Australia, but I digress.
I’m going to give you some excerpts from a podcast in which Steven Unthank, a former Jehovah’s Witness from Australia, recounts the remarkable story of how he personally conducted a criminal prosecution against Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide which was the cause for this stunning doctrinal change.
I met Steven Unthank in Pennsylvania in early 2019. Steven was in Pennsylvania for a special meeting with the Office of the Attorney General. The purpose of the meeting was to seek the forming of an investigation into Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania in relation to allegations they were involved in the covering up of child sexual abuse. As we now know that meeting was fruitful, resulting in the current Grand Jury investigation being formed.
Also, while in Pennsylvania, Steven met with key politicians to get the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse crimes and civil claims amended. Working with Barbara Anderson, a well-known exJW advocate for victims of child sexual abuse, their efforts were successful. Barbara met with special investigators. All this work resulted in the charges and arrests of 14 Jehovah’s Witnesses to date.
Steven has spent his adult life as an advocate, activist, and advisor to people around the world who are fighting against the scourge of child sexual abuse in all institutions, religious and otherwise. He also was a victim of child sexual abuse by a man he trusted, a leader of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a man who would go on the serve as a director of Watchtower Australia, as well as being on the branch committee of the Australia branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I’ll put a link to the source of the podcast interview of Steven Unthank discussing the faithful and discreet slave court case at the end of this video and in the description field as well.
I’m only going to give you the highlights of that podcast that pertain to our question of what truly motivates the Governing Body to make certain doctrinal changes. Specifically, we’ll focus on why they assumed the role of the faithful and discreet slave and why they no longer claim to be appointed over all the master’s belongings.
In Australia, it is possible for a private citizen to launch a criminal lawsuit. There are a lot of hurdles to overcome to achieve this, one hurdle being that the relevant authorities are unwilling to prosecute the case themselves. In 2008, child protection laws came into force in Australia requiring anyone working with children within a religious setting to get a police background check and obtain a “working with children” card. Since elders and ministerial servants are frequently in a position where they are working with children, out in field service for instance and in conducting meetings, they are required by law to go through this process.
If anyone refuses to comply, they can face a criminal offence punishable by up to two years in jail and fines of up to $30,000. In addition, the religious organization that engaged them could also face criminal prosecution.
It will be no surprise to any long-time Witness listening to this video to learn that the Organization refused to comply with this new law.
In 2011, after a long and arduous battle with official authorities, Steven Unthank was granted the extraordinary right by the Chief Magistrate to launch a private criminal prosecution against various JW entities, both incorporated and unincorporated. Of primary importance was his decision to charge the faithful and discreet slave in this suit about non-compliance with the “working with children” laws.
Why was this important? Well, remember that at that time the faithful and discreet slave possessed all the assets of the organization based on their interpretation of Matthew 24:45-47 which reads:
““Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on coming finds him doing so! Truly I say to you, he will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:45-47)
That appointment over all the Lord’s belongings came about in 1919, again, according to JW doctrine.
Steven Unthank, so as to serve the seven separate charges against the faithful and discreet slave, presented them to an elderly Jehovah’s Witness who was of the anointed and who lived in Victoria State, Australia. That satisfied service under law as all members of the anointed are members of the unincorporated faithful and discreet slave class. Another copy was served through the congregation arrangement. This enabled Steven to bring the entire slave class into the lawsuit which meant that the worldwide wealth of the Organization was exposed and vulnerable.
The wealth of the Governing Body was now on the table and under threat. What would they do? Would they stick to what they taught was the truth revealed by God to them since 1927, that all the anointed were the faithful slave and possessed all the belongings of the Organization? Or would some new light miraculously shine forth to save their wealth and position?
I’m quoting now directly from the podcast:
Steven Unthank relates that “it didn’t take the Watch Tower Society in America very long to realize that they had an Achilles heel. The Faithful and Discreet Slave, if they set up “the church,” they are the custodian owners. Sue them, seize all the assets in litigation to pay the fines. So, during the hearing, it was announced in a statement issued by Watch Tower’s lawyer, a woman, which was quite interesting…the Governing Body chose a female to make the biggest doctrinal change in their evolution. And she stated in behalf of all the defendants, “the Faithful and Discreet Slave class are a theological arrangement”. And to understand what that means think of a musical arrangement. It doesn’t exist. You can hear it, you can listen to it, you can read the sheet music, but the sheet music isn’t the music. You can have a recording of it, but it doesn’t exist.”
There were Jehovah’s Witnesses in the court who heard this and were stunned. They came up to Steven Unthank to inquire what it all meant. How could the faithful and discreet slave not exist? It wasn’t Santa Claus after all, some figment of imagination.
Following that doctrinal alteration announced in a court of law in Australia, the final result was to change the identity of the faithful and discreet slave from all the anointed to just a few men, those making up the Governing Body. Remember, at that time the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses were also the Governing Body of the faithful and discreet slave having been appointed as that class’s representative. And for added financial protection, to declare that the belief they had been appointed over all Christ’s belongings in 1919 was wrong, and that the appointment was only going to occur in the future when they were taken to heaven.
Was this the only time Watch Tower leadership ever caved to outside pressure and changed a core doctrine to protect their wealth? What do you think?
Well, in Spain, in December 2023, they just lost a lawsuit against a small group of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who had the audacity to claim they were being victimized by the Organization. That loss resulted in the Organization being officially classified as a cult. One thing about a cult is that it seeks to control all aspects of the lives of its members, even down to personal matters of dress and grooming. Suddenly, after 100 years of saying “no beards”, it is now revealed that beards are okay and that there never was a scriptural prohibition against them after all.
What about the recent change of no longer requiring witnesses to turn in monthly reports detailing their activity in the preaching work?
The ridiculous and unscriptural excuse given for the change was that the tithe under the Mosaic Law was based on the honor system. No one was required to report to the Levite priestly class and so in a similar way, their reasoning goes, reporting one’s time and placements to the local elders is not scriptural. However, an exception was made for pioneers and other so-called full-time workers. They were likened to the Nazarenes in Israel who took a vow to do something for God and so came under strict requirements such as not cutting their hair nor drinking wine.
But that logic fails because the Nazarenes were not required to report their compliance with their vow to the priestly class either, so why, after a century of control, are they releasing one group but not the other? Divine revelation? Seriously?! After a hundred years of getting it wrong, they would have us believe that Almighty, all seeing God is only now getting around to setting things straight?!
One of our regular commentors shared this information with me that might shed some light on the real motivation behind these changes.
This is what he found out for us:
Hi Eric. I looked up the government website in the UK and found the Charity Commission rules and found something quite interesting. There are two groups mentioned therein, firstly “volunteer workers” and then, “volunteers”. Two distinct groups with different rules attached.
It shows that “volunteer workers” (AKA pioneers) have a contract to do certain things set down by the charity, much like the hourly commitment pioneers and circuit overseers sign up for.
On the other hand, the efforts of “Volunteers” (AKA congregation publishers) should remain voluntary only. So, they should not feel pressured into a time giving contract as in the case of publishers and the 10-hour goal to provide a service to the charity. If the charity lays down an hour requirement then that becomes a contract, which the charity is not supposed to bind volunteers with. This information is found on the UK Government web site, but I understand that the UK rules operate the same as the USA.
So, to help ensure they don’t lose their charitable status, the Organization is scurrying to make adjustments to their policies. Of course, they have to justify these changes as coming from God. So, this explains the silly and unscriptural excuses they give for making these changes. It’s supposedly all new light from Jehovah God.
We continue to see news reports indicating that the Organization’s charitable status and even its religious registration is being challenged in country after country. For instance, Norway has already acted against them. They are being examined in Spain, in the UK, and in Japan. If their practices and policies are all based on God’s word, then there can be no compromise. They must be loyal to their God, Jehovah. He will protect them if they are truly faithful to his word and acting in loyalty to Him.
This is the promise of God:
“Know that Jehovah will treat his loyal one in a special way; Jehovah will hear when I call to him.” (Psalm 4:3)
But if the reason they abandon old doctrine and old policies is to save themselves from financial lost, and the loss of their position and power, much like the first century Pharisees and Chief Priests, then this whole new light thing is just a charade, a thinly veiled pretense to fool the more credulous, an increasingly smaller number as time goes by.
They have indeed become like the Pharisees of the first century. Hypocrites! Whitewashed graves that look clean and bright on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all manner of corruption. The Pharisees conspired to murder our Lord because they feared that he would cost them their position of prestige and power. The irony is that by murdering Jesus, they brought upon themselves the very thing there were trying to avoid.
The Governing Body’s increasingly desperate attempts to appease the worldly authorities will not bring the result they are seeking.
What will come next? What further cost cutting measures will they employ to stem the loss of funding, both from reduced donations and governmental curtailment? Time will tell.
Peter and the other apostles stood before the Sanhedrin, the very governing body that murdered Jesus, and were commanded to obey them. If you were standing now before the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and under threat of shunning were commanded to do something contrary to Scripture, how would you answer?
Would you answer in line with what Peter and the other apostles fearlessly said?
“We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
I hope this series of videos on the content of the October 2023 annual meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society has been illuminating.
We appreciate all the support you’ve given us to continue producing this content.
Thank you for your time.