You may be wondering how on earth I could possibly still believe what the Watchtower organisation teaches after 25 years of not attending meetings and not being a Jehovah’s Witness. If you’ve never been a Jehovah’s Witness this probably has you really scratching your head in total confusion. I’m not a psychologist and can’t necessarily explain it in the most coherent way because it’s difficult for me to really understand this too. However, if I give you more of an insight into my family background it may help you understand why I was so fully indoctrinated and why I never really questioned their beliefs even after I left so many years ago.
Please note that some of the details will be needfully vague to avoid identification, however, if you are an activist and would like to confirm anything that I discuss here, please contact me for more information. All of the photographs used here are in the public domain and I have deliberately not used any of my personal family photographs, once again, to avoid identification.
My parents were both Jehovah’s Witnesses. My mother had been baptised as a child in in a bath in someone’s home during World War II. My mother’s sister had been baptised at the same time but she was somewhat older in her early teens. Also baptised at this time was my maternal grandfather who had failed the medical when conscripted into the military due to flat feet. Ironically, my grandparents had first heard about the “truth” in the 1930s but my grandfather hadn’t been a conscientious objector when WWII started. However, this wasn’t an issue because by the time he wanted to get baptised the powers that be had decided that they didn’t want him anyway due to his dodgy feet. My maternal grandmother didn’t get baptised until the early 1950s because she “wanted to make sure it was the truth”. Honestly, grandma I wish you’d done a bit more digging.
Both my mother and her sister left school as soon as they were able which was 15 for my mother and 14 for her sister. They both became pioneers straight away. At some point in the 1950s they were both special pioneers and had assignments all over the UK and the Republic of Ireland. I heard lots of stories of how faithful they were in their pioneering due to the harsh conditions that they had to endure due to substandard accommodation, health problems and opposition from the “world” and “Babylon the Great”. I know it was very hard for them and some of the stories were extremely harrowing to hear, but now I’m starting to wake up I’m horrified as to the situations that these two young people were thrown into with no real training or support and with hardly enough money on which to subsist.
In the early 1950’s my father’s parents were called on by my maternal grandmother. She started studying with my paternal grandmother. My paternal grandfather was having none of it. I understand that he, and a lot of his family, were Plymouth Brethren. Oh what a joyous mix of hell-fire and brimstone that combination must have been. My paternal grandmother was baptised, I think, in the mid 1950s and although my father studied also from being a teenager, he didn’t get baptised until in his 20s a few years later.
My mother and her family mixed with all of the “royalty” of the Watchtower organisation back in the 1950s and 1960s. They went to numerous international conventions in the USA and UK, travelled to visit Witnesses in France and Germany. They lived in pioneer homes and in bedsits. They were involved in demonstrations, talks and drama productions at most of the assemblies and conventions. Most of those that they knew from that time ended up in various international Bethels or in the Watchtower Headquarters in Brooklyn, NY.
My mother’s sibling ended up marrying someone from Canada who was a missionary who had been to Gilead Missionary School. His whole family were Witnesses who had become Bible Students back in the 1920s. He had been imprisoned in the internment camps in Canada during World War II and some of the horrendous treatment that he experienced was truly shocking. The rest of his life he was never the same and, I’m sure looking back at how he were, he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Of course, all of this was framed as proof that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had “the truth”. Yeah, because no other groups of individuals had received similar treatment… oh wait! Yes this comment is sarcasm. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses at this time was terrible and I’m not saying that it was deserved or that anyone should be treated in such an inhuman way. However, at this time in history there was huge upheaval and human rights violations of millions of people from various groups world wide.
It never occurred to me to question any of this growing up. Why would I? We had a vast library of Watchtower publications for me to peruse that went back to the 1930s. We had volumes of old Watchtower and Awake magazines. There were so many photographs of all of the well known and “faithful” brothers and sisters that my family knew. We knew and were friends of members of the “Faithful and Discreet Slave Class” as they anointed were referred to back then (I know that Watchtower teaching has changed with regards to this). As a teenager I was taken to Bethel as a guest of a particular brother and sister. I volunteered at Bethel in the kitchen and when they expanded the printing of the magazines, I volunteered on the construction site cleaning out concrete moulds for the pillars. Every assembly I volunteered in the kitchen. This was at the time when hot meals were provided for the delegates for a small cost.
By my teens I was caught up in the heart of the organisation, I had dreams of living at Bethel with a loving spouse and serving Jehovah faithfully. In the mid 1980s when I was in my mid teens I got baptised at one of the district conventions out in a temporary swimming pool at one of the sports stadia where the conventions were held. I wore a long white cotton shirt dress over my swimming costume to maintain modesty and I was so ecstatic. I thought that I truly felt the Holy Spirit. Everyone was so welcoming and happy for me. This was the best it ever was. There was an assembly at some point in the early 1980s, if I remember correctly, where a Governing Body member coined the phrase “the best is yet to come”. This was used ad nauseam by Witnesses to say how amazing things would shortly be and that we shouldn’t get disheartened by how awful things were in the here and now. It was a false hope, of course, used to keep people with their “eyes on the prize” rather than seeing what was really going on in everyday life to everyday people in every congregation throughout the globe.
I hope this blog has given you some insight into my family life and a bit of background to help you understand how I never questioned if it was the “truth” even after I left. Now I’m slowly waking up and it’s a painful process. I can see the wasted and abused lives, young and old throughout the years in my family alone. I shudder to think of the suffering caused to millions of other Jehovah’s Witnesses over the years and still going on today. I shall, of course, be writing lots more blogs as there is so much to recount and so many individual stories to remember.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.