By the Editor
It was a beautiful weekend in southern California in July, 1982. Temperatures were pushing 100F in the valleys and the desert, but where I lived soft ocean breezes made their way inland and gently kissed our Orange County neighborhood. I was sitting out in my newly redesigned and sodded backyard relaxing and day-dreaming. With a cold beer in hand, I was thankful for my good luck and wonderful family life…
Then my wife came through the sliding doors carrying a letter in her hand.
“This just came for you. Looks like it’s from your father. It’s marked ‘Personal.’ I wonder why he would send you a letter like that?”
She was right. Dad never wrote letters to me or anyone. Mom did. He rarely called me on the phone. Mom did. This was totally out of character for him. Holding the envelope in my hand, my first thoughts were that maybe my mother was ill, or that Dad needed money, or he was trying to tell me something he found very uncomfortable discussing (like “the birds and bees”). So I took a deep breath and opened the envelope. This is what it said:
I HOPE YOU WILL READ THIS LETTER AS I WAS TOO EMOTIONAL TO TALK ON THE TELEPHONE. MOTHER AND I WERE SICK TO LEARN THAT WE WERE NOT TO SOCIALIZE WITH YOU AND [MY BROTHER] IN THE SEPT. W.T.
WE HAVE READ IT OVER AND OVER MANY TIMES AND THE MORE WE READ AND STUDY THE SCRIPTURES, THE MORE WE SEE THE REASONING OF IT BECAUSE, THESE WHO HAVE A KNOWLEDGE OF GOD'S WORD AND REJECT IT, ARE SAYING HIS PROMISES ARE WORTHLESS.
SATAN BOASTED THAT HE COULD TURN ALL OF MANKIND AWAY FROM THE TRUTH AND HE HAS SUCCEDED IN TURNING MANY AWAY BECAUSE THEIR LOVE FOR WORLDLY THINGS SURPASSES THEIR LOVE OF GOD AND NEIGHBOR. YOU MIGHT TAKE TIME TO LOOK UP (1 JOHN 2:15-17) WE CAN SEE , NOT MONEY, BUT THE LOVE OF IT AND THE FREEMORALS OF THE WORLD LEADS US INTO MANY PROBLEMS AND FALSE TEACHINGS GO ALONG WITH MUCH OF THE WORLD'S WAY OF THINKING. WE ARE NOT SAYING YOU DO ALL THESE THINGS BUT YOU GO ALONG WITH THEM.
THERE ARE ONLY TWO WAYS TO TRAVEL, THE NARROW ROAD THAT LEADS TO EVERLASTING LIFE, WHICH IS JEHOVAH'S WAY, BEING OUR CREATOR CERTAINLY KNOWS WHAT IS BEST FOR US; OR THE WIDE ROAD THAT MOST PEOPLE PREFER TO TRAVEL THAT LEADS TO DESTRUCTION AND THAT IS WHAT SATAN IS ENCOURAGING EVERYONE TO TAKE BY DOING THEIR OWN THING. SO WHETHER WE DO THEM OR NOT IF WE TURN OUR BACK ON JEHOVAH AND HIS WORD WE ARE SHOWING OUR APPROVAL OF THE WORLD THAT SATAN HAS PRODUCED.
YOU BOTH HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE THE WAY YOU WANT TO EVEN IF WE DISAGREE. YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU BOTH WERE NEUTRAL AND HAVE NO RELIGION OR COMMITMENT. THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER HAD A KNOWLEDGE OF THE BIBLE HAVE A CHANCE UNTIL ARMAGEDDON STARTS TO ACCEPT THE TRUTH. ALSO THOSE WHO ARE DISFELLOWSHIPPED OR DISASSOCIATED ALSO CAN COME BACK, BUT THE CONGREGATION CANNOT FELLOWSHIP WITH THEM UNTIL THEY MAKE THEIR PEACE WITH JEHOVAH SHOW THAT THEY LOVE HIM BECAUSE WE CANNOT SERVE TWO MASTERS THAT ARE ON OPPOSITE SIDES.
AS AN EXAMPLE: A FATHER WITH SEVERAL TEENAGERS THAT HE LOVES VERY MUCH; HE HAS BROUGHT THEM UP TO RESPECT AUTHORITY AND SET CERTAIN RULES. ONE OF THEM DISOBEYS A VERY SERIOUS RULE, SUCH AS STAYING OUT ALL NIGHT REFUSING TO SAY WHERE SHE WAS OR WITH WHO. THE FATHER REALIZES IT IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM AND COULD INFLUENCE THE OTHERS TO DISOBEY (THIS ONE REFUSES COUNSEL AND REBELS). THE FATHER INSISTS THAT THE REST OF THE FAMILY NOT TALK OR SHOW CONCERN AS LONG AS THAT ONE KEEPS A REBELLIOUS ATTITUDE. WHEN THAT ONE SEES THE DISAPPROVAL OF THE FAMILY OF THEIR ACTIONS, IN MOST CASES THEY WILL CHANGE THEIR WAYS AND ALL IS SOON FORGOTTEN AND THEY ARE BACK AS A HAPPY FAMILY. BUT IF ANOTHER ONE OF THE FAMILY TOOK HER SIDE, AGREED WITH HER, THIS ONE WOULD BE DISOBEYING TOO.
SO ONE IS PUTTING HIMSELF IN A DANGEROUS POSITION WHEN THEY ACT REBELLIOUSLY AND DENY GOD, MAKING NO EFFORT TO RESTORE A THAT GOOD RELATIONSHIP THEY ONCE HAD.
WE TOO HAVE THE SAME RIGHT TO LIVE THE WAY WE WANT TO AND HAVE FOR THIRTY YEARS. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DISAGREE AS YOU ARE AWARE THAT MOST OF THE FAMILY WENT AGAINST US WHEN WE BECAME WITNESSES / NOT EVER SPEAKING TO US.
WE KNOW THAT CHANGING THE PART ABOUT SOCIALIZING WITH OUR RELATIVES IS UPSETTING TO YOU BECAUSE THEY CHANGED IT SO WE COULD AND THEN CHANGED IT SO WE COULDN'T. WE WERE TOO AND STUDIED IT OVER AND OVER. THOUSANDS OF LETTERS HAVE BEEN WRITTEN TO THE WATCHTOWER QUESTIONING THE CHANGE. THE ANSWER WAS THAT THEY HAVE A CLEARER VIEW OF WHAT SOCIALIZING WITH DISFELLOWSHIPPED RELATIVES MAKE IT SEEM THEY APPROVE OF WHAT THEY DID. WE PRAY THAT YOU BOTH WILL NOT CLOSE YOUR MINDS OR HEARTS TO WHAT YOU LEARNED IN THE EARLY YEARS OF YOUR LIVES; MAYBE SOME DAY YOU WILL REALIZE YOU HAVE LOST THE MOST VALUABLE JEWEL ONE CAN FIND, THE TRUTH OF GOD'S WORD. WHETHER OR NOT YOU DO , WE WILL ALWAYS TREASURE THE MEMORIES OF OUR TIMES TOGETHER.
YOU BOTH HAVE ALWAYS BEEN GOOD TO US, WE ARE PROUD OF YOUR SUCCESSES, AND HURT WHEN YOU WERE HURT IN FAMILY AFFAIRS WE WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY AND OF COURSE WE WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU.
TRY NOT TO THINK TOO BADLY OF US AND WE HOPE THAT THE GIRLS WILL UNDERSTAND SOME DAY. WE KNOW [MY OLDEST DAUGHTER] IS VERY CONFUSED RIGHT NOW AND WE CAN UNDERSTAND . WE LOVE THEM DEARLY
Love Dad and Mom
P.S. WE HOPE YOU WILL READ THIS WATCHTOWER ESPECIALLY PAGE 31 par.28 BUT IT WOULD BE GOOD IF YOU WOULD READ THE WHOLEARTICLE STARTING ON PAGE 26.
WE FEEL YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO EXPRESS YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MATTER, SO WRITE US IF YOU WANT TO.
My brother and I had been through this same situation about ten years before. Mom called me at home. She was noticeably upset and sobbing. “John, your father has something to tell you…I’m sorry, so sorry. Here – talk to your dad.”
It’s been too long to remember those words exchanged over the phone, but Dad basically said then what he said in his letter to me. Both times he asked me to relay the message to my brother. Mom told me later that Dad knew that I would probably be reasonable and accepting, but my brother would either hangup on him or give him an earful. Later, when the Watchtower reversed its position after Armageddon failed to come in 1975, Dad took the entire blame for “misunderstanding what the Governing Body was trying to tell us to do.” I don’t know how he really felt, but accepting the blame and not pointing at the Society was the only thing he felt he could do. He took the same position in connection with the 1975 teaching, telling me that he and Mom had “run ahead of Jehovah and assumed too much from what the Watchtower had said.”
This was the call that Dad referred to in his letter. Apparently, as 1975 was approaching, the Watchtower Society began pressuring the brothers to take a “makeup or breakup” stand with disfellowshipped relatives and friends. By cranking up the use of shunning, the Governing Body hoped to force many who had left the religion to come back. If they didn’t, not only would they lose their lives at Armageddon in 1975, but unrepentant ones would also lose connections to their families and close friends during the years before. I’d already been hit with this devious plan by my wife, who was still a Jehovah’s Witness during those years between 1966 and 1975.
The hidden truth buried in this letter is found in this revealing sentence from Dad’s letter:
“We know that changing the part about socializing with our relatives is upsetting to you because they changed it so we could and then changed it so we couldn’t. We were too, and studied it over and over. Thousands of letters have been written to the Watchtower questioning the change. The answer was that they have a clearer view…”
Another Watchtower “flip-flop.”
Dad must have been upset when he sent off his letter. He’d forgotten to include the Watchtower that he referred to. It was only in later years that I actually read that quote and article that he was referring to from the September 15, 1981 Watchtower, “If a Relative is Disfellowshipped…” Here is what it said:
28 Naturally, if a close relative is disfellowshiped, human emotions can pose a major test for us. Sentiment and family ties are particularly strong between parents and their children, and they are also powerful when a marriage mate is disfellowshiped. Still, we must recognize that, in the final analysis, we will not benefit anyone or please God if we allow emotion to lead us into ignoring His wise counsel and guidance. We need to display our complete confidence in the perfect righteousness of God’s ways, including his provision to disfellowship unrepentant wrongdoers. If we remain loyal to God and to the congregation, the wrongdoer may in time take a lesson from that, repent and be reinstated in the congregation. Yet, whether that occurs or not, we can draw comfort and strength from what David said late in life:
“All [God’s] judicial decisions are in front of me; . . . And let Jehovah repay me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in front of his eyes. With someone loyal you will act in loyalty; with the faultless, mighty one you will deal faultlessly; with the one keeping clean you will show yourself clean . . . And the humble people you will save.”—2 Sam. 22:23-28.
Over the years between 1970 and 1995, my father had to go through this same trauma three times. My brother’s reaction to the news? I can not print what he actually said, but his profane response was clear and to the point. It was basically along the lines of, “they’re going to shun me? I’ll shun them!” Over the years, we ignored the Watchtower’s directive and would just call Dad and announce that we were on our way. Since our trip to his home was nearly 2000 miles, he couldn’t very well turn us away once we got there. Although he would not let us stay at his house or discuss spiritual matters, other than that he was always welcoming and cordial to us. He always showed some independence when it made sense to him. And being able to visit with his sons in his later years was a logical choice for him – no matter what the Watchtower said.
Editor’s comment: I was an active Jehovah’s Witness for over fifteen years starting at the age of eight. My father could be very strict at times and really held the line when it came to service and meetings, but I knew that he really loved Mom and all of us kids. In an earlier article I described his love of sports and how he pushed against the Watchtower’s general ban on competitive athletics. He was not a “funny” fellow, but had a very dry sense of humor that would occasionally pop out of nowhere. When I asked him how he liked living in a very small town in the south, he replied, “Well – you don’t have to be rich or smart to live in Arkansas. So I guess I like it just fine.” My brother and I made our stand and never went back to the Witnesses. My father and mother also made their stand and both remained faithful Witnesses for the rest of their lives.