Governing Body Casts Its Ballot for "New Light" on Voting

by Keith and Becky Walker

Can you imagine being brutally beaten by government officials because you believed that God would rather have you beaten than vote in a political election? Jehovah’s Witnesses can, because this is exactly what happened in the spring of 1970 in Cameroon, Africa.

In the Oct. 15, 1970 issue of The Watchtower, we learn about this awful persecution in an article entitled "Cameroon says ‘No!’ to Freedom of worship." The article describes how JWs in Cameroon were beaten, starved, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and consigned to slave labor because of their refusal to vote in political elections. It explains that "the witnesses refrain from participation in political affairs in all countries of the world" because of their "Bible-trained consciences" and their "Bible-based stand." Much of what is described in the article is comparable to what took place in Nazi concentration camps. When JWs suffered this persecution, they thought they were honoring God by obeying His organization. Their loyalty has been betrayed 30 years later by a simple flick of the "new light" switch. (the Watchtower’s excuse for doctrinal changes) Before examining this new teaching, let’s thoroughly examine what the Watchtower has said in the past regarding voting.

Historically, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been forbidden to participate in politics. They interpret John 17:14 "because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world" to mean that God absolutely will not allow His followers to mix with "this world." They are to recognize Jehovah God only as their ruler, but not earthly governments. Participating in politics, and particularly voting, has been classified as a sin that makes one worthy of disfellowhipping. ( Pay Attention to Yourselves and All the Flock, 1977 p. 57-59.) A disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witness is totally ostracized by his family and friends and considered as if he were dead.

Over the past 30 years, the Watchtower Society has made many statements regarding how offensive voting is to God. In WT 12/1/89 p. 13-14 the Society states that those who reject truth, "can even vote for one of the political parties of the 'wild beast.' (Revelation 13:1,7) Thus, as unsteady souls, some have been seduced and misled from the straight path of accurate knowledge by those who, while ‘promising them freedom, are themselves existing as slaves of corruption.' 2 Peter 2:15-19." This quote indicates that those who vote are "unsteady," "seduced," "misled," and "slaves of corruption." Does this lead the Witness to believe that this doctrine may change someday?

Obedient Jehovah’s Witnesses are described as follows: "They do not seek or offer compromises…To serve in the army, to vote, or to give the Hitler salute would have meant a recognition of the claims of this world as dominant over the claims of God." (WT 9/1/86 p. 21.) This clearly states that a JW who chooses to vote is recognizing the claims of this world as dominant over the claims of God. The Watchtower rhetorically asks JWs if they will, "vote for political leaders or support nationalistic schemes, will we compromise and get disqualified and sidetracked from the race for life?"  This statement indicates that if a JW votes, they are "compromising" and being "disqualified and sidetracked from the race for life." (WT 8/15/75 p. 496-7.) Would this be an acceptable condition for a Jehovah's Witness?

Lastly, the article "Earth’s Rulers for a Thousand Years" from p. 741 of the Dec. 15, 1973 Watchtower describes the "spiritual brother" as follows: "They do not have the "mark upon their forehead and upon their hand. That is, they do not have the identification as slaves of the state and do not lend an active hand in carrying on its worldly activities, often beastly. They do not run for political offices, or vote for political candidates." Does this mean, then, that if Witnesses ever voted, they would have the mark of the beast that identified them as "slaves of the state?" This would associate them not only with the government rulers, but also with Satan himself. The position taken by the Watchtower Society was that voting is strictly forbidden by God. It was not an issue that was up for debate…until…

November 1, 1999 Watchtower p.28-29

The section is entitled "Questions from Readers" and the question that is presented asks "How do Jehovah’s Witnesses view voting?" Although the answer given by the Watchtower Society gives 5 negative factors to be considered, the overall tone of the answer leaves the decision up to the individual JW. This is so drastically different than the staunch stand against voting that is so graphically laid out and demonstrated in the article about Cameroon, Africa mentioned earlier. The 1999 article states six times that the JW has to make their own personal decision regarding whether or not to vote in a political election. If this is the case, why did so many dedicated followers of Jehovah have to suffer such physical brutality in the spring of 1970? The article mentions the same "Bible-trained conscience" that the JWs are to use to make this "personal decision." What has changed in the Bible’s teachings in the last 30 years that now gives the JW freedom to vote? Would the Witnesses in Cameroon have subjected themselves to this persecution, if they knew then what they know now? Did those who suffered in Cameroon know that "in matters of individual conscience such as this, each Christian has to make his own decision before Jehovah God?"

The question each JW must consider is whether or not something that they are willing to die for today will be changed tomorrow. What a tragedy for those JWs who have lost friends and loves ones because of the Watchtower’s past rulings, only to have these rulings softened or completely overturned in 1999. These Witnesses suffered for nothing! Since the God of the Bible is unchanging, obviously, these actions were not inspired by the true and living God, but by the sinful, fallible humans who govern the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Keith and Becky Walker are the founders of Evidence Ministries, a missionary outreach to Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. They can be reached at Evidence Ministries, P.O. Box 690371, San Antonio, TX 78269
210-340-TRUE or

NOTE: Read this article as well. The summary:

This is actually a hypocritical move on the part of the Watchtower leadership to gain acceptance as a legitimate religion in Eastern block countries. In essence the fact of the matter is, YOU are DISASSOCIATING YOURSELF by voting, we don't need to disfellowship you! If you really vote in an election, you will still be shunned. - Randy


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