By Faith Wilson
Even when I was very young, I always felt God’s presence in my life. Somehow I just knew he was with me. Unfortunately, that all changed at the tender age of 13 when my parents forced me to be baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
My father’s brother had been a Jehovah’s Witness for many years and was always trying to convert our family, but they wouldn’t hear of it. I can remember many occasions when I’d hear my dad arguing with my uncle about religion. My parents were so totally against Witness doctrines that they even took a stand against my uncle and his beliefs. One Christmas they even bought gifts for my cousins – my uncle’s kids. After that, my uncle told them in no uncertain terms to never do that again.
My parents continued to reject my uncle’s constant attempts to convert them and remained opposed to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their teachings.
Everything changed when my sister died in an automobile accident in 1966.
I was the middle child of five kids with a sister and three brothers. In the summer of 1966 my sister, who had just turned 15, left the church that she attended. On the way to a family gathering with one of her friends, she was killed in a tragic automobile accident.
Of course, my parents were devastated, as we all were. Almost immediately, my family began to attend the church where my sister had become a member before the accident. My uncle responded by coming around to preach to us, even bringing the then overseer of the local Kingdom Hall to help him start a JW Bible study with us. For a while, we were going to church and studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses at the same time.
The biggest JW doctrinal issue my parents had at that time was the “no blood transfusions allowed” teaching. In spite of that, I could see my parents gradually leaning in my uncle’s direction. I remember begging them, “Please don’t make me be a Jehovah’s Witness.”
Sucked in by a false promise
What eventually got through to my parents was the Watchtower’s promise that the “old world” was going to end in 1975. That meant the Witnesses told them, that they would be able to see my sister alive again in less than ten years. My parents were finally convinced.
On the other hand, I wanted my sister to be in Heaven. That’s where I believed she was and couldn’t accept otherwise.
Both of my parents had guilt issues about how they’d treated my sister, and I am convinced that was the weakness the JWs used against them. Now I understand that’s the way Jehovah’s Witnesses can recruit new members. They prey on the vulnerable and convince them that they are “the only true religion” by using whatever tactics and lies they can.
Eventually, of course, I too came to believe Jehovah’s Witness doctrines. When you’re still at a very tender age, you learn to accept that “your parents are always right.”
My brothers and I soon found that our lives were totally changed from what we knew before. I was forced against my will to become part of my parents’ new religion; I was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness at the age of 13. Being Jehovah’s Witness children meant that we had to be completely separated from our usual friends and school activities. My brothers and I were totally blind-sided by these changes. We’d have no more worldly friends, no sports, no holidays, no standing for the Pledge of Allegiance of the Flag. Life – as we knew it – was over.
Another unkept promise
We’d always been a dysfunctional family, and that didn’t change after we became Witnesses. To the congregation, it didn’t matter how things were in your home. Everything was fine as long as you attended all their meetings, went door-to-door, and turned in your hours. On the other hand, you couldn’t celebrate holidays, salute the flag or stand up for the national anthem. They promised that as long as you didn’t break their rules and remained a Jehovah’s Witness – you would live forever!
Ours was an abusive home. My father was a weekend drunk and often very violent. I don’t want to go into detail because before he died in 1996, he asked us all to forgive him, and I did. My mother was always indifferent towards us kids, so there was not a lot of affection in our house.
The strange thing was that even though we now attended meetings at the Kingdom Hall, nothing changed for the better at home. The family fights continued, and even more so on my father’s part. He now had the Witnesses to back him up – because he was “head of the household.” We were supposed to do and act exactly as we were told, and if we didn’t he’d scream and curse at us. On one occasion, he was so angry that he actually threw his book bag out of the car window while weaving all over the road – driving home from a Sunday meeting!
I was always stunned by the fact that every time my mother would call the elders and tell them how bad Daddy was acting, they would do nothing. He could come in drunk, scare us all to death, and beat our mama, but to the elders everything still seemed okay.
A horrible secret revealed
After my parents finally divorced, we lived with my mother. Mother wanted my brothers to have a decent “father figure” around them, so she encouraged them to hang out with the overseer of our congregation. After a while, two of my brothers began to act strangely quiet and depressed. The truth was that the elder was molesting them, but they were afraid that if they told anyone – after all, he was the “overseer” – that no one would believe them.
When the truth finally came out (from someone outside our congregation), my mother went crazy, calling everyone she could try to get some answers. Two of my brothers admitted to being molested, while the other one said that he was approached – but had run away. It turned out that they were not the only victims; we learned later that this same elder had molested two of my cousins for years!
The other elders at our Kingdom Hall convinced my parents that this problem would have to be handled inside of the organization “according to Jehovah’s will.” One elder who claimed to be a member of “the anointed class,” came by and told my parents that the guilty overseer would be forced to come to our house and apologize to my brothers.
What? This man who was, and had been, a pedophile for many years was coming to our house? After my parents had a fit and threatened to call the police, the elders decided to contact the circuit servant. The CO convinced my parents that Jehovah would disapprove of that kind of drastic action (getting the police involved), and everything “had to be handled inside the organization.”
The guilty overseer’s punishment was being disfellowshipped for one year. At the end of that year, he was appointed right back into a prominent position in our Kingdom Hall. My brothers and the rest of my family were left to deal with the injustice of it all. We found it very uncomfortable to have to raise our hands during the Watchtower Study as this very same elder conducted it with a smirk on his face.
Shortly after all of this happened, my oldest brother married and moved away. However, he hated that man until the day he died. When he got the call that the molester had passed away, my brother’s response was, “Good. Maybe now I can find a little peace.”
Our lives in turmoil
Soon after that, my family fell completely apart. During our teens, we all moved out of our home and went our separate ways. Three of us eventually ended up being disfellowshipped.
I’m going to jump ahead several years because there is no way I could write about everything that went on. My youngest two brothers eventually became involved in alcohol and drugs; one is currently in bad health, and does not associate with the Witnesses. My other brother committed suicide at the age of thirty.
I went down a long hard road for many years. I never prayed, thinking there was no need because Jehovah wouldn’t hear me since I left “His organization.” I had set my mind to the probability that when I died “that would be it for me.” So why not just have fun?
Later, when I was disfellowshipped, it was for smoking. When I refused to go to the Judicial Committee, they took action without me being there.
I drank alcohol for much of my life; I finally quit six years ago. It may seem ironic to some, but in 1975 I had a son out-of-wedlock. I was married briefly for two years. After my divorce, I decided to go back to the Kingdom Hall to give my son a chance at eternal life because I was still under the impression that if I didn’t, I would be the one guilty for his dying at Armageddon.
My welcome back to the Kingdom Hall
Eventually, when I finally decided to go back to the Kingdom Hall I did not own an automobile. But my mother owned a car. She lived in an apartment next to mine and we talked daily. But the elders refused to allow me to ride to the meetings with her and my son. Instead, I had to ride with one of the elders. The truth was that I was going back not because I wanted to, but rather out of love for my son. I truly believed that he would die at Armageddon if I didn’t become “reinstated.” Even then it felt so wrong and so unloving to me. It’s unimaginable how a person tends to look past their own feelings when they are convinced theirs is the “only true religion.”
I was told not to expect any Witness men to ever want to marry me, since I’d been disfellowshipped twice and had a child. I didn’t date or drink alcohol for eight long years and was very unhappy. I just knew in my gut that this was not the “loving group of Christians” they claimed to be.
When my son was 17, he told me that he had doubts about Jehovah’s Witness doctrines, and he quit going to meetings. When he left, I was right behind him. I wrote a letter “disassociating” myself and haven’t been back since.
A new direction – A new beginning
I’ve been married for 18 years to a loving husband who knows all about my past. I don’t have to worry about him looking down on me.
I’ve managed to get my life together and have been a Christian for the last five years. I finally feel that I have a close relationship with God – the true and only God! I thank Jesus everyday of my life for bringing me out of that darkness. I no longer believe a word of what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach and consider myself a truly born again Christian.
Believe it or not, my mother took up with my worldly ex-fiance. Not ony that, but the Witnesses actually welcomed him into the Kingdom Hall while shunning me.
I no longer have anything to do with my mother or brother. They knew that I wouldn’t go along with how they tried to rule over me, so they’d take advantage of any opportunity to make me feel worthless.
The Witnesses still harass me. They’ll knock on my door, tell me to repent, and then try to force their magazines on me. The last contact I had with Jehovah’s Witnesses took place just a couple of months ago. A Witness woman came by my house for the third time – after I had already told her that I no longer believed what she was preaching. She told me that I could come back “to ask for forgiveness” and that she was “concerned about my life.” I politely told her that I was just as concerned about hers. I finally told her not to come back to my house any more. I knew she may have meant well, but I wasn’t the one who “needed to be saved” – it was she.
I also called an elder (whom I hadn’t spoken to in years) and asked him to put me on the “do not call list.” I can’t understand how they can call me an “apostate” and still insist on invading my privacy with their false message. It’s not just the pain from living in a religion that controls your mind and actions, it’s also very uncomfortable being forced to relive those memories.
Even though Jehovah’s Witnesses call me “an apostate” and consider me to be “mentally diseased,” I call it being “mentally relieved.”
I urge anyone who encounters Jehovah’s Witnesses at their door or anywhere else – please don’t invite them in! Don’t believe their lies! They really are a cult!
I feel sad for those Jehovah’s Witnesses who feel trapped, afraid to leave the Watchtower organization because it will mean losing their families. It’s difficult to try to find your place in normal society when you’ve been separated from it for so long. I truly believe that within that human-controlled organization there are many good-hearted people who stay only because of fear. I want them to know that even though it’s taken me a long time, I’ve finally achieved peace in my life because I’ve found the true God.
The following happened after I finally left the Witnesses, but it still hurt and angered me:
Three years after I disassociated myself, daddy became ill with cancer. At his request, I went to the Kingdom Hall with him a few Sundays to give him some hope that I might try to be reinstated. I felt sick every time I walked through those doors and then had to sit there while they shunned us both as if we were invisible. I knew I had no intentions of ever going back, but I was there out of love for my father. As my way to give him some inner-peace, I let him believe that I would return some day. I could not hurt him anymore than he already was.
Shortly after my father was disfellowshipped, he found out that he was dying from pancreatic cancer and would only live another six months. Right away he started going back to the Kingdom Hall, hoping he could be reinstated. He finally wrote a letter to the overseer and begged for another chance, especially since all the elders were his nephews – except for one. That one man actually phoned my father on his death-bed and insulted him. It broke his heart when that elder told my father that he did not believe that he was “really remorseful for his actions” and that he was “only trying to save his life.” The elder told my father that “it will be in Jehovah’s hands” as to whether he would be resurrected or not.
How can a “loving, caring, organization” refuse a repenting, dying man asking for a chance for peace of mind? I pray that before he passed my father opened his eyes to see the love of Jesus Christ.
I don’t want to seem contradictory as I express my feelings about my father. It’s true that he was terrible to all of us while I was growing up, but after the divorce and scandal involving my mother and ex boyfriend, Dad took me in for a while and he was always there for me until the day he died.
I’ve never stepped back into the Kingdom Hall since his death.
I haven’t been a Witness for over twenty years. My mother and one brother still remain Jehovah’s Witnesses to this day. My mother and I have no relationship. Over the years she has made it clear that she has no love for me. Even though my brother considers me an “apostate,” I still love him. Maybe someday he will open his eyes to the false teachings and all that is wrong with the organization he is still involved with. I won’t change my mind again.
As far as what I do now? I stay at home and read my Bible. I tried several Churches and just felt closed in even though I believe much the same way. I occasionally visit different churches with my friends, but don’t want to be a member of any of them.
I’m finally at peace with my Heavenly Father.
Editor’s notes: Faith Wilson lives in the southeastern United States. Recently she’s been reading and commenting on online articles that discuss the Watchtower Society’s dysfunctional environment. After years of personal and family turmoil, she says that she has finally found a measure of peace in her life and a close personal relationship to God.