(Note: the following was printed in 10,000 copies and sent out to remote locations around the world in 1981. Special thanks to Pastor Ralph Moore of Hope Chapel, the "surfer" church of Hermosa Beach, CA for printing them free of charge.
Though my tone and approach has changed in the years since then, this essay represents what was truly one of the most fascinating stories I could have witnessed. Because my disassociating letter took them by surprise, I was never treated badly by the Witnesses personally, and I still love them individually. This lack of anger on my part has helped me to be more objective than most, who are often not so lucky in the treatment they receive from the "mother" organization.)
What Happened at the World Headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Spring of 1980?
Great disturbances had been in the works for years in the organization known as the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. These disturbances surfaced in the spring of 1980 and efforts were quickly made to conceal these difficulties. Can even the witnesses themselves tell you what really happened?
In the spring of 1980 three prominent members of the Writing Department of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society in Brooklyn, N.Y. suddenly became subject to intense interrogation. These men were responsible for writing most of their recent books. One was subsequently thrown out of the organization. Another, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, was stripped of his privileges, and the third was later encouraged to leave. What crime had they committed?
They dared to question the Watchtower as God's sole channel of communication with mankind. These men were well-respected by all of the headquarters staff as sincere and honest Bible students. I know, because I was there.
Are Man-Made Organizations The Key?
Certain prominent members of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society had come to realize what all true Christians realize; that we cannot look to men or organizations for ultimate truth. The scriptures say we must look to Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6). But what do the Witnesses teach about this? The Watchtower says:
"...the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah's visible organization in mind." 1
"We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the scriptural guidance we need outside the 'faithful and discreet slave' organization.'"2
Witnesses may say that these men at headquarters were just 'troublemakers. The truth is that none of these men were seeking to cause trouble or to disturb people. But immediately several 'interrogation' committees were set up to put the heat on anyone who did not fully accept everything that The Watchtower says.
What Did Charles Taze Russell Warn Against?
If you are a Witness, you know that you really have to be on your toes to keep up with doctrinal changes in this organization. Countless doctrines have been changed or discarded in the past 100 years, and you probably are not aware of what the Society taught on many subjects even 20 years ago. Do you realize that if Charles Taze Russell, their founder, were a member of the organization today, he would most certainly be disfellowshipped for his 'anti-organizational' beliefs? Some quotes from Russell:
"The endeavor to compel all men to think alike on all subjects, culminated in the great apostasy and the development of the great papal system, and thereby the gospel, the one faith that Paul and the other apostles set forth, was lost - buried under the mass of uninspired decrees of popes and councils. The unity of the early church, based upon the simple gospel and bound only by love, gave place to the bondage of the church of Rome...Each new reform movement (like Protestantism) has made the failure of attempting to make a creed just large enough for its prime movers."3
On why organizations don't work -
"...we have pointed out continually the tendency of Christian people toward union, showing, too, that such a union is predicted in scripture; but that its results, while designed to be good, will really be bad; and this because it will be a mechanical union instead of a heart unity."4
How can these and other continually changing doctrines be explained away? If "truth" changes, it is not truth, but falsehood. Witnesses explain it very cleverly, "The light is getting brighter and brighter until the day is firmly established," meaning that God gives them bits of truth at a time. Although the Bible does speak of progressive revelation, it builds upon itself and supports what has already been established.
Let's be reasonable. If God reveals new "truth" to us tomorrow, and five years later this "truth" is replaced by another "truth", does not this make the original "truth" a falsehood? To Witnesses there is really no such thing as absolute truth. The current "truth" is to be found by studying the latest issue of The Watchtower. And you had better not question what it says, or you may be disfellowshipped from "Jehovah's organization". This may sound like an exaggeration but it is precisely what occurred in 1980 as well as other times in the history of this organization.
"Faithful & Discreet" Organization
The unifying power of the Witnesses lies in their interpretation of Matthew 24:45-47 where Jesus said, "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 arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings."
Witnesses teach that Jesus returned (invisible) in 1914 (originally the date was 1874) and since this organization was the only one in the world pleasing God, they claimed themselves to be the personification of this ' slave' that Jesus talked about.
Matthew 24:45-47 can be easily understood in the light of Paul's words in 1 Thes. 5:11 and Jude 20,21. There is no basis whatsoever in applying this to a select group of 16 men in Brooklyn, N.Y., and saying that if God speaks to man, he will speak through these men. These are the spokesmen of 'God's organization' (see The Watchtower, January 1, 1977, pg. 16). Unbelievable? Here are some quotes to this effect:
"In view of its unbreakable connection with the Christian Theocratic organization, the Bible is organization-minded and it cannot be fully understood without our having the Theocratic organization in mind... All the sheep in God's flock must be organization-minded, like the Bible."5
"If we are to walk in the light of truth we must recognize not only Jehovah God as our father but his organization as our 'mother'."6
Christians can easily understand why these certain men on the headquarters staff could come to appreciate that God works through people individually (1 John 2:27) and not through man-made organizations. Notice the words of Jesus in John 10:7-9:
"Most truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All those that have come in place of me are thieves and plunderers; but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the door; Whoever Enters Through Me will be saved, and he will go in and out and find pasturage." (italics ours)
Jesus does not play the role of false prophet and shepherd, but men and religious organizations often do. This became evident quickly to these members of the Writing Dept. and many others at headquarters, also known as "Bethel." One prominent member of the Governing Body, during one of their meetings, said of the president, F.W. Franz, that "he has been our oracle for the last 67 years." Fred Franz himself said to the entire Bethel family on May 25, 1980 (in reference to setting dates and building expectations), that some "expected me to ignore the influence of world events in the light of Bible prophecy for the last 67 years, and to start over where we began 67 years ago."
Salvation By A "Law System"?
Albert Schroeder (a prominent spokesman on the Governing Body), during a meeting of the elders of the Bethel family on May 29, 1980 (referring to those who have questioned their absolute authority), said: "All the things they are teaching ignore the framework we have been developing all these many years."
Many Witnesses at headquarters were also beginning to appreciate that Christianity is not a religion based on rules and regulations (like the Mosaic Law), but that Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ and that Christians walk by means of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul said in Gal. 2:20,21:
"I am impaled along with Christ. It is no longer I that live, but it is Christ that is living in union with me... if righteousness is through the law, Christ actually died for nothing."
"Furthermore, if you are being led by the spirit, you are not under law." (Gal. 5:18)
It is good to know that wherever the word 'law' is not capitalized in the New World Translation (or any other Bible), it is not necessarily referring to the Mosaic Law but to Law Systems Or Rules Imposed Upon Christians. This Is The Key Message Of The Gospel That Collapses The Watchtower System: Are We Saved By Faith In Jesus Christ, Or Like The 'Judaizers' In The First Century, Must We Add The Rules And Standards Of An Organization? (see Gal. 5:1-4).
The surfacing of this issue was more than the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses could bear. Stinging responses were made to the Bethel family such as these, made by Albert Schroeder, speaking to elders of the Bethel family on May 29, 1980:
"We serve not only Jehovah God but we are under our 'mother' (the organization). Our 'mother' has the right to make rules and regulations for us... This book, entitled Branch Organization Procedure, contains 28 subjects; and its sub-sections involve regulations and administration. In it there are 1,177 policies and regulations...this is an improved, fine-tuned organization, and we are expected to follow its policies. If there are some who feel that they cannot subject themselves to the rules and regulations now in operation, such ones ought to be leaving and not be involved here in the further progressive work."
"Some have fallen away from the organization, NOT FROM THE BIBLE, saying there is no need for COMING UNDER LAW...This great program of organization procedure is gathering the things of heaven and earth."
What treatment would this 'fine-tuned', 'mother' organization mete out to those who believe they are not saved by following the organizational laws, but by faith in Jesus Christ?
While one member of the Governing Body was away on leave of absence, a special committee was established to extract confessions of his close friends and acquaintances, to determine everything he had said in private that could be used against him. For two weeks these committees intimidated members of the Bethel family and recorded their confessions. Then the unfortunate fellow was suddenly called back to Bethel and made to listen to these tapes in the presence of the Governing Body. Then he was cast out and stripped of his privileges. He had served in every responsible positions for decades and had traveled the world visiting the branch offices, but this made no difference.
Several others were subjected to long hours of intense interrogation as the 'Watchtower committees' set up series of 'special questions' to ask any person suspected of talking about what was going on in the Governing Body. Many were disfellowshipped from the organization simply because they could not believe and conscientiously teach certain doctrines of the Witnesses. Such persons are then viewed as 'spiritually dead' by the others and they are not even allowed to talk with such ones.
In the following weeks and months I noticed that the members of the Governing Body minced no words in slandering and name-calling such individuals, and being careful not to mention their names for legal reasons. They were called 'spiritual fornicators', 'mentally diseased' and 'insane'; they were said to be following the 'teaching of demons' and that they were 'adding to the scriptures'. In one committee meeting where a married couple who had faithfully served for decades was disfellowshipped, one member of the Governing Body called them 'suckers' and 'liars'. One poor fellow had his phone calls redirected through the 'service department' to check up on his outside connections. 'Spies' were everywhere, and many members of the family would turn in even their own friends for suspicion of 'apostasy'. It is important to know that few of the family members knew what was really going on; the Governing Body kept it well-concealed and responded by defaming the characters of those involved.
Some members of the family had been holding their own Bible studies to help understand the scriptures apart from Watchtower dogma. These groups were soon discovered and told to stop unless they would use the Society's publications for reference. On April 30, 1980, Karl Klein of the Governing Body stated to the whole family:
"If you have a tendency towards 'apostasy', get a hobby and keep yourself busy to keep your mind off of it. Stay away from deep Bible study to determine meanings of the scriptures."
Another member of the Governing Body, Lloyd Barry, said on May 29, 1980 in addressing the elders of the Bethel family:
"When we talk about law, we talk about organization. With all our hearts we need to search after that law. Jehovah doesn't give individuals interpretation (of the scriptures). We need a guide, and that is the 'faithful and discreet slave'. We should not be getting together in a clique to discuss views contrary to the 'faithful and Discreet slave'. We must recognize the source of our instruction. We must be like an ass, be humble, and stay in the manger; and we won't get any poison."
These are a few of the many shocking things that could be seen and heard at headquarters. If you find it hard to believe, write the Society yourself and ask if these things really happened. Imagine yourself as one of these Bethel elders who had recently just begun to discover what real Christianity is all about, and then imagine listening to these blasphemous statements that clearly contradict the entire message of the letters to the Romans and Galatians, as well as the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Free From What?
Free from the traditions and false teachings of men. I became fully aware that man can only be saved by the Blood of the Lamb, and not through any works of law or organization (Eph. 2:8-10). The Apostle Paul stated clearly the proper view of this:
"You are parted from Christ, whoever you are that try to be declared righteous be means of law; you have fallen away from his undeserved kindness." (Gal.5:4)
"For all those who depend upon works of law are under a curse; for it is written: 'Cursed is every one that does not continue in all the things written in the scroll of the law in order to do them.'" (Gal. 3:10)
Paul is plainly saying that if anyone comes along and says that we need something in addition to faith in Christ to be saved, then such person is a heretic and will come under HEAVY JUDGMENT from God. Witnesses teach very similar to what the 'Judaizers' taught in the first century; that along with accepting Christ you have to keep their standards. You have just finished reading what the members of the Governing Body said about law systems; judge for yourself where the organization stands in the sight of God. The Apostle Paul says:
"But now we have been discharged from the Law, because we have died to that by which we were being held fast, that we might be slaves in a new sense by the spirit, and not in the old sense by the written code." (Rom. 7:6)
"Therefore by works of law no flesh will be declared righteous before him, for by law is the accurate knowledge of sin. But now apart from law God's righteousness has been made manifest, as it is borne witness to by the Law and the Prophets; yes, God's righteousness through the faith in Jesus Christ, for all those having faith. For there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and it is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom (paid) by Christ Jesus." (Rom. 3:20-24)
Imperfect humans have a tendency to try and justify themselves in God's sight, just like the first man Adam (Gen.3:12). Man cannot justify himself before God; only Jesus Christ can satisfy the penalty for our sinful nature. Dear Witness, do you REALLY BELIEVE THAT? Do you realize that no amount of works you can do will ever, can ever, even during the 1,000 year reign of Christ, justify you before God Almighty? Only if you ask Jesus Christ to come into your life and be your personal Savior will you gain everlasting life (John 5:40, 14:23). Loyalty to an organization of dogmatic and ever changing beliefs cannot save you from the judgment of God, any more than being a 'son of Abraham' could save a Jew (Matt.3:8-10).
A Different Jesus
When I began to study the identity of Jesus Christ and the things he said about himself, and the things his disciples said about him, it soon became obvious that I had been misled by the false doctrines of the Watchtower. Jesus voluntarily placed himself in subjection to the Father, and he was bound with the limitations of men; but he was also God (John 1:1). Pick up the Watchtower's Kingdom Interlinear Translation and look up these verses in the original Greek literal rendering:
* His disciples recognized him as God (Jn 1:1, 5:18, 20:28, Rom. 9:5, 1 Jn 5:20, Col. 1:19, 2:9)
* The angels worshiped him as God (Heb. 1:6-12)
* Jesus and the Father are both the Alpha and Omega (Rev.1:8, 22:13)
These and many other proofs were not easy to accept, having been taught that Jesus is an archangel and merely one of God's creations. Fully understanding the nature of God is beyond human reasoning; just as we are unable to comprehend an infinite God with no beginning. We must listen to the whole Word of God to get an accurate picture, and not attempt to ignore or explain away the scriptures that refer to Jesus as Jehovah God, just because we cannot explain it in human terms.
I prayed to Jesus in the spirit of Stephen (Acts 7:59) and asked forgiveness for my alienation from him, and asked him to come into my heart and fill me with the Holy Spirit, which he did. Never before in my life have I felt such deep joy and happiness, as the Spirit testified in my heart that Jesus IS God and worthy of my worship. I felt his loving presence in me, revealing and filling the inner emptiness that no Watchtower ever filled, and no amount of door-to-door work or public speaking could ever satisfy. It takes the Holy Spirit to accept Jesus as Lord of your life (1 Cor. 12:3).
From Darkness Into Light
I served in the Brooklyn Bethel headquarters for almost six years, up to July 1980, when I chose to leave (on good terms with everyone, and with good recommendations). But inside I could no longer bear the name-calling and abuse of so many individuals, many of whom were my friends. I had often traveled around the Northeastern United States giving public discourses and slide presentations under the direction of the Governing Body and the Service Department. I was Assistant Pressroom Overseer for the factory complex, and directly in charge of the presses that printed the New World Translation. I conducted studies in The Watchtower for the Bethel family on occasion. I was a zealous Witness, and entrusted with much responsibility. The Service Department can easily testify to all of these things.
Why did I then submit a letter to the Governing Body showing the feelings of many of us who had left, and then a letter to my local congregation disassociating myself from the Witnesses? Was I 'stumbled' by the mistakes of men? Was it a streak of rebelliousness in me? Did what happened at Bethel cause me to lose my faith in what they call 'God's organization'?
To the contrary. If you have spent years in the Watchtower Society and have served at headquarters, you get used to men doing 'unorthodox' things for the 'sake of the organization'. I left because they were teaching false doctrine.
In the last couple of years leading up to the spring of 1980, many members of the headquarters staff as well as many on the outside began to appreciate from the letters to the Romans and Galatians that we do not earn our salvation by works or by obeying organizational rules. Witnesses will say that they don't either, but their teachings belie their claims. We began to appreciate that Jesus Christ is the sole channel of truth to men and not the governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses, as we were perpetually taught (Col. 2:3, 4, 8, 9). We realized that the hundreds of false prophecies we had taught and put into print for the last hundred years were the result of the 'blind leading the blind'. They despise the simplicity of accepting Jesus into their lives, and instead feel obliged to build an immense theological framework. The president of the WTB&TS said early in 1980 that "Baby food is not the message of the hour today," 'baby food' meaning the basic message of faith and salvation.
It became obvious to us that Jesus Christ did not return in 1914; but that he has been with Christians personally, dwelling in them through the Holy Spirit, since Pentecost (Matt. 28:20, 1 Cor. 6:19). We came to appreciate that the 1,177 rules and regulations in the Branch Organization Procedure book, as well as the countless dictates poured out from The Watchtower are like a 'Mosaic Law' to Witnesses, and necessary to establish their righteousness before God (Romans 10:2-4). They are sincere people. But the Apostle Paul makes it clear in Galatians 1:8,9 that if you add anything (religious burdens in the form of rules) to faith in Jesus Christ, you are accursed of God. Many Witnesses are coming out from under this curse and accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Satan uses the cults today to prevent us from having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which is necessary for salvation (John 5:39,40). These are his tools:
1. Establish a 'new brand of truth' and use the Bible to support it. However, in order to make the Bible fit their understanding, there must be other books to read. C. T. Russell once said, "Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the 'Scripture Studies' (his books) aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years - if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the 'Scripture Studies' with their references and had not read a page of the Bible as such, he would be in light at the end of two years, because he would have the light of the scriptures."7
2. Establish yourself as the sole channel of god's truth. (The Watchtower, Feb 15, 1981, p.19; comp. WT, Apr 1, 1978, p.19
3. Make Jesus Christ a secondary figure. (2 Cor. 4:4,5, also The Watchtower, Feb 15, 1979, p.31 and the information under "Archangel" in the book, Aid to Bible Understanding, page 114).
4. Discourage the reading or consideration of anything other than the 'current truths' (heavily emphasized to the Bethel family during 1980).
5. Teach that only persons from your organization will be saved, because you alone have the truth and all others have been misled by Satan (see WT, Feb.15, 1979, p.30, also WT, Oct.1, 1979, pp.28,29).
Seek The True Shepherd
When I left Bethel in the summer of 1980, I prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive me for ignoring him all those years and to come live in me and fill me with the Holy Spirit, and to remain with me forever. He answered my prayer then and there, and he can answer yours too, dear friend. If you knew how much Jesus loves you, you would come on home to him and let him take you in his arms. He will remove your anxieties and bless you with peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Matt. 11:28-30).
Thousands leave the Watchtower each year, but not all come to know Jesus Christ. Many are so effectively brainwashed by the system that they can do nothing else. Here is what you must do.
*Pray to him (Heb. 1:6).
* Ask forgiveness for your sins and accept this forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
* Then ask him to come live with you for all eternity and let him testify in your heart that you are now 'born again' (John 3:3-5).
* Let the Holy Spirit begin to work changes in your life and lead you to real Christians that are like those we read about in the book of Acts (Acts 2:46-47).
* Enjoy the freedom of walking by the Spirit and not by the rules and 'heavy loads' that men may bind upon you (Matt. 23:4, 10).
*Now begin to tell others what Christ has done for you and begin to lead an active life in Christ (Phil. 1:11).
The ever-changing doctrines of The Watchtower crumble in the light of God's word. The light IS getting brighter and brighter in these days; but that light is Jesus Christ, and he never changes (Heb. 13:8). His light is probing into the dark cellars of Watchtower doctrine and revealing it as unclear and death-dealing. If you are a Witness or are studying with the Witnesses, ask yourself these pointed questions:
* Do I believe that the Bible was written to me personally? (see The Watchtower, April 1, 1979, p.31).
* Do I believe that I have been 'born again' and will live with Christ forever? (John 3:3).
* Do I believe that I will be saved due to my faith and not due to my own 'works of righteousness'? (Romans 3:20).
* Is Jesus living in me and sharing communion with me? (Col. 2:6-7)
* Am I filled with the joy and happiness of walking with Christ day by day? Does he comfort me in my time of affliction? (John 14:26,27; Rev. 3:20)
If you can answer, "Yes!" to these questions, you are walking contrary to Watchtower teachings.
I am so happy to know Jesus Christ; it is like having a fountain of life bubbling over within me (John 4:14), and I want to share this joy with you. Ask him to come into your life:
"Look! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and take the evening meal with him and he with me" (Rev 3:20)
1. The Watchtower, Oct 1, 1967, p.587.
2. ibid., Feb 15, 1981, p.19.
3. ibid., Sep 1893, p.1572.
4. ibid., Mar 1893, p. 1504. (See also WT, Oct/Nov 1881, p.295; Apr 1882, p.344; Mar 1883, p.458; Oct 1883, p.536, 538).
5. ibid., Sep 1954, p. 528.
6. ibid., May 1957, p. 274. (See also WT, Feb 15, 1981, p.19).
7. ibid., Sep 15, 1910, p. 298.
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