This is a particularly important article because it shows in detail how the Governing Body from its start has made decisions that are not based on the Bible and that have harmed hundreds of thousands of Witnesses and ruined the lives of other hundreds of thousands of Witnesses, as well as an unknown number of deaths.
There was no governing body in the first century CE
The first part shows that there was no governing body in the first century, and this is particularly shown by the experiences of Paul and his words to the congregations in Galatia.
How the members of Jehovah’s Witnesses made their decisions before the Governing Body was created.
The leaders of the Watchtower Society were not the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah God and Jesus Christ were the leaders. This is seen by the fact that The Watchtower refused to make rules about secular work and other pursuits. The conscience of each Witness had to decide, and no one should criticize the personal decisions that were made.
How the members of the Governing Body made their decisions in the 1970s and 1980s
Raymond Franz was a member of the Governing Body for nine years in the 1970s and 1980s, and I use some of his descriptions of the Governing Body meetings, and I assume that these are basically correct.
The members of the Governing Body were so busy that they had little time for Bible study.
The Bible was rarely used at the Governing Body meetings because most of the issues they should decide were not mentioned in the Bible
The disastrous decisions of the Governing Body.
The prohibition against the use of coagulation Factor VIII for hemophiliacs resulted in great pain and death. It lasted four years (1972-1975).
Disfellowshipping persons who used tobacco. It has lasted 48 years (1973-2023).
Prohibition against the use of methadone. It lasted 40 years (1973-2013).
Sexual immorality (porneia) can occur between marriage partners. It lasted five years (1973-1978).
A number of new laws regarding secular work. This has lasted 48 years (1974-2022).
New law: those who resign from Jehovah’s Witnesses are wicked and must be shunned. It has lasted 41 years (1981-2023).
Anal and oral copulation are again disfellowshipping offenses. It has lasted 39 years (1983-2023).
The plain words of Jesus regarding the resurrection are rejected. It has lasted 34 years (1988-2023).
A compromise on neutrality. The status of Jehovah’s Witnesses as ambassadors for God’s Kingdom is rejected. It has lasted 26 years (1996-2023).
Prohibition against storing one’s own blood for a later operation. It has lasted 22 years (2000-2023).
Disastrous decisions in the 21st century
Thirty-seven new disfellowshipping offenses were introduced.
The crusade against higher education.
Several wrong understandings of biblical texts have been introduced.
The belief in the full inspiration of the Bible has been abandoned.
The final decision of the Governing Body — the dictatorial organization
The conclusion of the discussion of the Governing Body is: We have seen that the members of the GB both have ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of Witnesses by their extrabiblical laws and rules, they have weakened the faith of the Witnesses in the full inspiration of the Bible, and they have caused sickness and death for an unknown number of Witnesses.
The elder arrangement.
Elders must be teachers and shepherds. From the start of the elder arrangement in 1972 and for more than a decade, there were many good teachers who helped the members of the congregations in a good way. But in the 1980s and 1990s, the Governing Body had put restrictions on the personal initiative of the elders, and only the voice of the Governing Body should be heard. In the 21st century, the possibility of personal teaching from the platform became more restricted.
From the start of the elder arrangement until today, the Governing Body has encouraged the elders to be shepherds. I give a description of how this could be done in a congregation with few elders. The members of the Hospital Liaison Committees have been a blessing for sick Witnesses in connection with bloodless treatment since 1990 when this arrangement was implemented.
In most of the 20th century, the elders were a blessing to the congregation members both as teachers and as shepherds. In the 21st century, many elders have been of great help to the congregation members. But because they also have been instructed to enforce the application of all the human commandments made by the Governing Body, including the disfellowshipping of hundreds of thousands of Witnesses, they have also caused harm and ruined the lives of a great number of their fellow Witnesses.
The situation has been that the elders who were a blessing for the congregations for a decade or more, gradually became influenced by the hardliners in the Governing Body, and particularly in the 21st century they have both been a blessing for millions, and they have destroyed the lives of millions of others.
The prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 33 and verse 22 (NWT13): “For Jehovah is our Judge, Jehovah is our Lawgiver, Jehovah is our king. He is the One who will save us.” In ancient Israel, Jehovah had given the laws through Moses, and the king, the judges, and the elders in the city gate represented Jehovah as judges.
In democratic nations today, the three branches are separated. There is one government, one national assembly giving the laws, and one judicial branch where the courts are. In dictatorial nations, the three branches usually exist. But one person or a group of persons has unlimited power, and the three branches are not independent institutions, but they are dictated by the ruler or the rulers.
Jehovah God was the judge, the lawgiver, and the king of the Christian congregations in the first century CE, and the same is true with the Christian congregations in our time. However, there is a great difference between the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 21st century and the first Christian congregations in the first century CE.
This is implied by the use of tenses in the heading of this article. The use of past tense refers the action to the past and shows that the action does not include the present, and the use of perfect refers to the action from its beginning to the present. The work of the Governing Body from its beginning in 1971 and to the present has been a disaster. But the implementation of the elder arrangement in 1972 was a blessing for many years. But in 1976, the members of the Governing Body started to transfer power from the bodies of elders and to themselves, and this has continued during the 21st century. But for most of the 20th century, the bodies of elders continued to be a blessing. In the 21st century, the members of the Governing Body gave themselves unlimited power, and the bodies of elders have had little independent power. But they function in the same way as institutions in countries with dictators. However, also in the 21st century are many individual elders a blessing for Witnesses in their congregation.
THERE WAS NO GOVERNING BODY IN THE FIRST CENTURY CE
There are two basic reasons why the Governing Body has been a disaster, 1) The creation of the Governing Body has no basis in the Bible, and 2) the application of the power of the Governing Body has since its creation ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Chapter 3 in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, shows clearly that the claim that there was a governing body in the first century CE, and therefore there likewise must be a governing body in our time, has no basis. In this discussion, I will give a few examples of the faulty reasoning of the members of the Governing Body in the light of some wise words in an article discussing disfellowshipping in The Watchtower of August 1. 1974, page 472:
Holding to the Scriptures, neither minimizing what they say nor reading into them something they do not say, will enable us to keep a balanced view toward disfellowshipped ones.
The important point here is that all Christians should fully accept what the words of the Bible say and not add or subtract anything to these words. In light of this important principle, I will discuss some arguments made by the present Governing Body in the margin of the Online NWT13 with references. Below is an excerpt of the text telling about the meeting in Jerusalem in 49 CE where circumcision was discussed. Acts 15:2, 22-29 (NWT13) says:
But after quite a bit of dissension and disputing by Paul and Barʹna·bas with them, it was arranged for Paul, Barʹna·bas, and some of the others to go up to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem regarding this issue…
Then the apostles and the elders, together with the whole congregation, decided to send chosen men from among them to Antioch, along with Paul and Barʹna·bas; they sent Judas who was called Barʹsab·bas and Silas, who were leading men among the brothers. 23 They wrote this and sent it through them: “The apostles and the elders, your brothers, to those brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Ci·liʹcia who are from the nations: Greetings! 24 Since we have heard that some went out from among us and caused you trouble with what they have said, trying to subvert you, although we did not give them any instructions, 25 we have come to a unanimous decision to choose men to send to you together with our beloved Barʹna·bas and Paul, 26 men who have given up their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We are therefore sending Judas and Silas, so that they also may report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you except these necessary things: 29 to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!”
Let us now look at the arguments in the margin of these verses that are expressed by the present members of the Governing Body as a study note to Acts 15:2:
Elders: Lit., “older men.” Here the Greek term pre·sbyʹte·ros to those who held a position of responsibility in the early Christian congregation. The elders of the Jerusalem congregation are mentioned together with the apostles as the ones to whom Paul, Barnabas, and some other brothers from Syrian Antioch went in order to get the matter of circumcision settled. So just as some elders served in fleshly Israel on a national level, these elders together with the apostles formed a governing body for all the Christian congregations in the first century C.E. This indicates that the original group serving as a governing body, the 12 apostles had now been enlarged—Ac 1:21,22, 26; see study notes on Mt 16:21; Ac 11:30. (Bold script in the original)
The claim is that the words of verse 2 and the account of the discussions show that “these elders, together with the apostles, formed a governing body for all the Christian congregations in the first century C.E.” This is a clear example of the violation of the principle expressed in The Watchtower of 1974 of “nor reading into them [the Scriptures] something they do not say.” The words about a governing body are constructed by the present Governing Body without any Scriptural basis whatsoever.
We note that the decision by the apostles and the elders were inspired by holy spirit, so it cannot be argued that the apostles and the elders had the power to make binding laws for other Christians. We also note that the decision to send some men to Antioch was made by “the apostles and the elders, together with the whole congregation.” If it is argued that the fact that the apostles and the elders made a decision together shows that they were a governing body, the argument can be made that “the whole congregation” was a part of the governing body because they were included in the decision to send men to Antioch.
The claim in the marginal note is that the apostles of the elders formed a governing body for all the congregations. Against this claim is the fact that only in Acts chapter 15 are the apostles and the elders mentioned together. This cannot be viewed as negative evidence that has no weight because of the account in chapter 21 about Paul’s visit to Jerusalem. Acts 21:18, 19 says:
17 When we got to Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us gladly. 18 But on the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 And he greeted them and began giving a detailed account of the things God did among the nations through his ministry.
The visit of Paul evidently occurred in the year 56, seven years after the meeting in Jerusalem. If there was a governing body consisting of the apostles and the elders, it would be natural that Paul gave a detailed account before this governing body. But he only met James and the elders. The present Governing Body sees a problem here as well, and they try to explain away this problem by their study note to Acts 21:18:
And all the elders: See study notes on Ac 15:2; 16:4. None of the apostles are mentioned in connection with this meeting that took place in 56 C.E. The Bible does not explain why. However, regarding the time leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction, the historian Eusebius (born about 260 B.C.). said: “the remaining apostles, in constant danger from murderous plots, were driven out of Judea. But to teach their message they travelled to every land in the power of Christ.” (Eusebius’, book III, V, v. 2) Although Eusebius’ words are not part of the inspired record, they do harmonize with what the Bible says. For example, by 62 C.E., Peter was in Babylon—far from Jerusalem. (1Pe 5:13) However, James the brother of Jesus was still in Jerusalem, likely presiding at this meeting when “all elders were present” with Paul. (Bold script in the original)
These comments are strange. The words of Eusebius do “ harmonize with what the Bible says” because the apostles are not mentioned in the Acts after the meeting in 49 CE. But the writer evidently presumes that there was a governing body, and the words of Eusebius may explain why the apostles were not mentioned in connection with the visit of Paul. But we may ask that if there was persecution, why would only the apostles and not James and the elders be driven from Jerusalem. The conclusion is that the fact that Paul only met the elders and not the apostles argues against the view that there was a governing body of the apostles and the elders in the year 56 CE.
Paul visited Jerusalem different times, and his words about these visits in his letter to the Galatians question the existence of a governing body as well. Galatians 1:15-19; 2:1, 2, 6-10 say:
15 But when God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through his undeserved kindness, thought good 16 to reveal his Son through me so that I might declare the good news about him to the nations, I did not immediately consult with any human; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before I was, but I went to Arabia, and then I returned to Damascus. 18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to visit Ceʹphas, and I stayed with him for 15 days. 19 But I did not see any of the other apostles, only James the brother of the Lord.
1 Then after 14 years I again went up to Jerusalem with Barʹna·bas, also taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up as a result of a revelation, and I presented to them the good news that I am preaching among the nations. This was done privately, however, before the men who were highly regarded, to make sure that I was not running or had not run in vain…
6 But regarding those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me, for God does not go by a man’s outward appearance—those highly regarded men imparted nothing new to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the good news for those who are uncircumcised, just as Peter had been for those who are circumcised—8 for the one who empowered Peter for an apostleship to those who are circumcised also empowered me for those who are of the nations—9 and when they recognized the undeserved kindness that was given me, James and Ceʹphas and John, the ones who seemed to be pillars, gave Barʹna·bas and me the right hand of fellowship, so that we should go to the nations but they to those who are circumcised. 10 They asked only that we keep the poor in mind, and this I have also earnestly endeavored to do.
Three years after his trip to Arabia and his return to Damascus, Paul went up to Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18). This must have been around the year 36 CE, and it is too early to speak of a governing body, according to the governing Body. If Paul’s conversion occurred in 36 CE, 14 years after that would be the year 49 CE, and in this year he went up to Jerusalem together with Barnabas in connection with the circumcision issue. We do not find any mention of a governing body in the words of Paul. On the contrary, his words suggest that there was no governing body. The study note of Galatians 2:7 says:
Just as Peter: Paul here shows that those taking the lead in the congregation cooperated with one another. (See study note on Ga 2:9.) The governing body in Jerusalem agreed that Paul had been entrusted with a ministry focusing on non-Jews, while Peter’s focus was primarily on preaching to the Jews. (Bold script in the original)
This is a misleading note because no governing body is mentioned. Nothing is said in the text about a collective group of leaders (the governing body). In 2:8, Paul says that “the one [Jesus Christ] who empowered Peter for and apostleship” also “empowered me for those who are of the nations.” Paul continues to show that James, Kephas, and John “recognized the undeserved kindness that Paul was given,” and they showed this by “giving Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, i.e., they gave Paul and Barnabas their support. The claim that “the governing body in Jerusalem agreed that Paul had been entrusted with a ministry focusing on non-Jews” is utterly false.
The words of Paul in 2:6 also speak against a governing body. The verb in the first part of the verse is dokeō, and its meaning is “think, imagine, suppose, presume, seem, appear” according to Mounce. The verb is present active participle, which means that the action or state continues. Literally, the first part of the verse says: “As for those being viewed as something,” and the second part of the verse speaks of “those outstanding men.” ”Who were they? The indexes of the Watchtower literature back to 1930 do not answer this question. But because the context is the meeting in Jerusalem in 49 CE, it is logical that “the outstanding men” refer to persons who were present at this meeting.
If the apostles and the elders at the meeting in Jerusalem constituted a governing body, “those being viewed as something/the outstanding men” must refer to the members of the governing body. Paul’s words show that he neither looks down on those who others viewed as “outstanding men” nor that he looks up to them. And then follow an important expression, which according to NWT13 reads: “those outstanding men imparted nothing new.” The verb prostithemi has the meaning “to add something to an existing quantity” according to Louw and Nida. The implied object in the clause must be Paul. So the outstanding men did not add anything to Paul.
Verse 7 starts with the words, “But, on the contrary.” The outstanding men did not add anything to Paul because that was not necessary. Paul had already received the powers from Jesus Christ to be a preacher to the nations, as verses 8 and 9 show. And when James, Kephas, and John, who were pillars — real outstanding Christians — realized the undeserved kindness that was given to Paul by Jesus, they gave Paul and Barnabas “the right hand of fellowship” (NIV). This means that they accepted that Paul was appointed to preach for the people of the nations.
The study note to 2:7 says: “The governing body in Jerusalem agreed that Paul had been entrusted with a ministry focusing on non-Jews.” But these words are false because the points are:
- If a governing body existed, the reference “the outstanding men” must refer to the members of this body. But the last part of verse 6 says that “the outstanding men “imparted nothing new” or added anything to Paul.
- The authority and the power of Paul to preach to the nations did not come from any man but from Jesus Christ himself.
- “The outstanding men” did not “give Paul “the right hand of fellowship” and by this agreed that Paul had been entrusted with the ministry to non-Jews. But this was done by the three pillars James, Kephas, and John.
There can be no doubt that Paul’s words in Galatians chapter 2 about the meeting in Jerusalem in 49 CE contradict the claim that there was a governing body in Jerusalem. It was three experienced Christians who “gave the right hand of fellowship” and not a group called “the governing body.”
|The Watchtower of August 1. 1974, page 472, wrote:
“Holding to the Scriptures, neither minimizing what they say nor reading into them something they do not say, will enable us to keep a balanced view toward disfellowshipped ones.”
The study notes to Acts 15:2, 21:18, and Galatians 2:7 regarding the governing body in the online NWT13 read into the Scriptures something they do not say. Because of this, the readers are cheated.
HOW THE MEMBERS OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES MADE THEIR DECISIONS BEFORE THE GOVERNING BODY WAS CREATED
When Jesus said that the good news of the Kingdom should be preached to a witness for the inhabited earth (Matthew 24:14), he implied that there should be a Christian community or a Christian organization worldwide. In a big organization that is going to preach to all nations, there must be leaders, and these leaders must make some decisions that are binding for all the members and other decisions that are non-binding.
Binding decisions relate to different sides of the organization, the organizing of preaching campaigns, the program for meetings and assemblies, and other sides dealing with how the organization is functioning. No leader has the right to make binding decisions regarding the life and faith of the Christian members of the organization, for example, make rules for disfellowshipping that are not directly based on the Bible. Only the Christians themselves can make decisions in these areas, decisions that are based on the Bible.
Non-binding decisions are decisions of indicative value, for example, speeches and articles that discuss how to behave as Christians and how to grow to maturity and take on the new personality. In such situations, no rules can be made, but the individual must apply the exhortations in the way he or she finds them fitting. With a few exceptions, between 1942, when H.H. Knorr became the president of the Watchtower Society, and 1971, when the first Governing Body was formed, the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses followed what has been described above — their decisions were based on the Bible.
THE LEADERS OF THE WATCHTOWER SOCIETY WERE NOT THE LEADERS OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
After World War II, the leaders of The Watchtower Society kept themselves in the background, and the focus was on Jehovah God and the King Jesus Christ. This was expressed in a beautiful way in The Watchtower of November 1, 1946, page 330:
The written Word of God, therefore, does not need the addition of traditions which are the private interpretations of men and of religious organizations. It is not on our own authority that we say that the Bible is sufficient without such…
How is this? How is disunity over each one’s individual interpretation of the Holy Scriptures now overcome and avoided? Is it because they are united around a visible human organization or around a visible human leader? The answer is No.
She [the church of the living God, 1Timothy 3:15] is not the teacher of God’s servants and witnesses, but looks to God as the Teacher by Christ Jesus. As it is written for her benefit: “And all thy children shall be taught of Jehovah.” (Isa 54:13, A.S.V.; John 6:45). . . .
He gives the proof by fulfilling the Bible and its prophecies and thus providing the official interpretation of it. Then Jehovah’ holy spirit discloses such interpretation in the fulfilled Bible. By accepting such interpretation the true church safeguards herself against private, individual interpretation. . . .
The main point here is not that the leaders of the Watchtower Society through the publications were not the teachers of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But the point was that God is the teacher because he fulfills his own prophecies, and the Bible shows what Christians shall believe and how they shall lead their lives. The reason why those who wrote the articles kept themselves in the background was that the articles were written in a way so their conclusions could be checked against the Bible, and the readers were invited to do this check, just as the Christians in Beroea. (Acts 17:11) Because of this, God and the Bible were the teachers.
THE LEADERS OF THE WATCHTOWER SOCIETY DID NOT MAKE LAWS AN RULES IN ADDITION TO THE BIBLE
The important principles in the quotation above were also applied to Christian living. Individual Christians should make decisions regarding their occupations and different situations in their daily life, and the leaders of the Watchtower Society should not make these decisions for them, over their heads.
A Witness asked whether the selling of Christmas cards and Christmas trees was right, and The Watchtower of September 15, 1951, page 574, answered:
The Watchtower Society is organized for the purpose of preaching the good news of the Kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all nations, and it encourages and aids all to have a part in that work, freely advising as to the most effective procedures. As to other forms of activity or work the Society has no specific recommendation to make. To draw up rules for all the possible situations relative to secular work would embark us upon the compilation of a voluminous, Talmudlike set of regulations, seeking to make all the fine distinctions as to when and when not certain work becomes objectionable. The Lord has not laid that responsibility upon the Society; it is each individual’s responsibility to decide his own case. To illustrate the problem involved, consider the matter of selling Christmas cards or trees. If that is wrong, then what about the butcher that sells a turkey for a Christmas dinner, or the saleslady that sells a sweater to be used as a Christmas present? Where is the line to be drawn? Or, when does work become defense work? You do not have to be working on a tank assembly line to be making items used in warfare…
The Society’s silence on these matters is not to be viewed as giving consent, nor is it to be viewed as a condemnation we do not wish to openly express. It means that we think it is the individual’s responsibility to choose, not ours. It is his conscience that must be at ease for his course, not ours… So let each one accept his own responsibility and answer to his own conscience, not criticizing others or being criticized by them, when individual consciences allow different decisions on the same matter.
Today, a Witness who was selling Christmas trees and Christmas cards would be disfellowshipped. But in 1951, he or she could do that without any problems if his or her conscience allowed it. Today, a person who is working for a gambling enterprise will be disfellowshipped. But in 1954, he or she could do that without being punished for it, as The Watchtower of February 1, 1954, page 94, says:
Gambling appeals to selfishness and weakens moral fiber; it tempts many into habits of cheating and crookedness… Can a Christian be employed in a gambling enterprise that is legally recognized and allowed? He may think that he can do so if he refrains from gambling himself or allowing his spiritual brothers to gamble through his services. One may be able to conscientiously do this, while another would not be able to do so in good conscience. Each one will have to decide individually whether he can or cannot do so conscientiously. It is doubtless preferable to be separate from the atmosphere surrounding such activities, and the Christian may wisely arrange to make a change in his occupation. It is a matter each one must decide for himself and in accord with his circumstances and conscience. The Watch Tower Society does not decide as to an individual’s employment, as we previously stated in the September 15, 1951, Watchtower, page 574 (Italics mine)
The quotations above show that Christian freedom prevailed among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
EACH WITNESS SHOULD MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON HIS OR HER CONSCIENCE
The freedom to make personal decisions regarding one’s occupation and one’s way of living continued until the early 1970s. This is shown by an article in The Watchtower that was written one year after the Governing Body was created and in the same year that the elder arrangement was implemented. We read in The Watchtower of October 1, 1972, page 589:
DIFFICULT DECISIONS OF CONSCIENCE
9 Thus there are many, many acts and practices that are specifically approved or condemned in the Bible. Many, many others are clearly in harmony with, or in violation of, principles contained therein. Yet, particularly in the modern, complex society that has developed in many parts of the earth, there remain situations and circumstances where personal decision, based on the individual conscience of the one involved, is required. So many things in life are a matter of degree. The difference between a gentle pat and a vicious blow is a matter of degree of force. The difference between simple respect—as, for example, respect to a ruler or a national emblem—and reverential worship is also a matter of degree. Where extremes are involved there is no real question. It is when the matter comes within what might be called a ‘gray area,’ approaching the borderline between what is clearly right and what is clearly wrong, that questions arise. The closer to such ‘borderline situation’ the matter comes, the greater the part the individual’s conscience must play in his decision. Faced with such circumstances, what should we do?
10 Jehovah God expects us to use our faculties of intelligence, our knowledge, understanding and judgment, and to do conscientiously what our faith points us to do. God does not place us under the conscience of some other human in such matters. We must each make our own decision in harmony with conscience—conscience molded by God’s Word. We must also take the consequences of our own decisions, not expect someone else to make the decision and bear that responsibility for us.
11 It would therefore be wrong in such matters to try to extract from someone else, from a body of elders or from the governing body of the Christian congregation, some rule or regulation that ‘draws the line’ on matters. Where God’s Word does not itself ‘draw the line,’ no human has the right to add to that Word by doing so. God in his wisdom allows us to show what we are in the “secret person of the heart,” and the decisions we make in such personal cases may reveal this. True, we may err at times without wrong motive, and God, who reads our hearts, can discern this. (my bold script)
The three quotations above show that for 30 years from 1942, the members of Jehovah’s Witnesses had full Christian freedom. The leaders of the Watchtower Society would not make rules and laws in addition to the Bible that individual Witnesses had to follow. Each Witness would make personal decisions in all areas of life, and others had no right to criticize these decisions.
The article from 1951, which is quoted above, says that if the leaders of The Watchtower Society should make rules for different kinds of work, they had to make “a compilation of a voluminous, Talmudlike set of regulations.” After 1972, this is exactly what the members of the Governing Body have done, not only for different kinds of work but for all sides of the daily life of the Witnesses. These Talmudlike sets of regulations are found in the book for elders “Shepherd The Flock Of God” (2019) and the book for branch committees Aid to Answering Branch Office Correspondence. These books will be discussed below.
In the following discussion, I will first show how the members of the Governing Body make decisions that are binding for every Witness, and I will show that the Bible rarely is used at the meetings of the Governing Body. After that, I will give some examples of decisions the members of the Governing Body have made that have ruined the lives of tens of thousands of Witnesses.
. A detailed discussion on how the view of gambling has changed is found in my article “Gambling” in the category “Apostasy.”
HOW THE MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNING BODY MADE THEIR DECISIONS IN THE 1970s AND 1980s
Those who are not members of the Governing Body have no way to know what happens at the meetings of the Governing Body. However, Raymond Franz was a member of the Governing Body for nine years before he left the organization, and he has written the books Crisis of Conscience and In Search of Christian Freedom dealing with the organization and the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And he gives several reports of what happened at the meetings of the Governing Body.
The books of Franz, particularly In Search for Christian Freedom, are very critical of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so the question is whether we can trust the historical information Franz gives in his books. I have written a review of the two books entitled “My Beloved Religion and Raymond Franz” in the category “Disfellowshipping” on my website, and I strongly criticize the way he uses the Bible and much of his criticism of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the books. However, I have no reason to doubt that the information he gives about factual events is correct. He made notes of what happened, and it is likely that he filled in lacking information from his memory. This means that we have good reasons to believe the accounts he presents of factual events. But some details may be erroneous because his memory may be incorrect.
In what follows, I will make some long quotations from Crisis of Conscience about the work of the Governing Body, and I assume that these quotations basically are correct.
THE MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNING BODY WERE SO BUSY THAT THEY HAD LITTLE TIME FOR BIBLE STUDY
Two years after the Governing Body was created, I asked a brother who had been at the Gilead school in New York about how the members of the Governing Body made their decisions. He told me that when a subject was considered, a member of the Governing Body or of the Writing Department first made a detailed study of the subject. A copy of the study was given to each of the members of the Governing Body so they could study it and compare it with the Bible. Then the subject was discussed at one or more meetings of the Governing Body before a decision was made. I was also told that a study with a new understanding of a biblical subject could circulate among the members of the Governing Body and the Writing Department for several months before the Governing Body made a decision regarding this subject. Following this procedure would certainly give legitimacy to the final decision of the Governing Body. But unfortunately, the mentioned procedure is not followed, and decisions of the Governing Body are often made on a very weak foundation. This is shown by the quotation from Crisis of Conscience, pages 111, 112:
Most of Jehovah’s Witnesses envision Governing Body sessions as meetings of men who spend a great amount of their time in intense study of God’s Word. They think of them as meeting together to consider humbly how they can better help their brothers understand the Scriptures, to discuss constructive and positive ways to build them up in faith and love, the qualities that motivate genuine Christian works, doing all this in sessions where Scripture is always appealed to as the only valid and final and supreme authority.
Since all Governing Body sessions are completely private, only its members are witnesses of what actually occurs in those sessions. As has been noted, the Governing Body members, better than anyone, knew that the Watchtower articles describing the relationship between the corporation and the Governing Body presented a picture that did not accord with reality. So, too, members of the Governing Body know, better than anyone else, that the picture described in the preceding paragraph differs measurably from reality. I spent nine years on the Governing Body. Going over the records of meeting after meeting after meeting, the most prominent, constant and time-occupying feature found is the discussion of issues ultimately coming down to this question: “Is it a disfellowshiping matter?”
I would liken the Governing Body (and in my mind I often did) to a group of men backed up against a wall with numerous persons tossing balls at them for them to catch and throw back. The balls came so frequently and in such number that there was little time for anything else. Indeed, it seemed that every disfellowshiping ruling made and sent out only brought additional questions thrown at us from new angles, leaving little time for thought, study, discussion and action of a truly positive, constructive nature.
Over the years I sat through many, many sessions where issues that could seriously affect the lives of people were discussed, yet where the Bible did not come into the hands or even on the lips of practically any of those participating. There were reasons, a combination of reasons, for this.
Many Governing Body members admitted that they found themselves so occupied with various matters that there was little time for Bible study. It is no exaggeration to say that the average member spent no more time, and sometimes less, in such study than many Witnesses among the so-called “rank and file.” Some of those on the Publishing Committee (which included the officers and directors of the Pennsylvania corporation) were notable in this regard, for a tremendous amount of paper work came their way and they evidently felt that they could not or should not delegate this to anyone else to review and present conclusions or recommendations.
On the few occasions when some purely Scriptural discussion was programmed it was generally to discuss an article or articles for the Watchtower that an individual had prepared and to which there was some objection. In these cases it regularly occurred that, even though notified a week or two in advance of the matter, Milton Henschel, Grant Suiter or another member of this Committee felt obliged to say, “I only had time to look this over briefly, I’ve been so busy.”
There was no reason to doubt that they were truly busy. The question that came to mind was, How then can they vote in good conscience on approval of the material when they have not been able to meditate on it, search the Scriptures to test it out? Once published it was to be viewed as “truth” by millions of people. What paper work could equal this in importance? (my bold script)
That the members of the Governing Body were very busy with different non-biblical projects and had little time for spiritual matters accords with observations made by brothers who worked together with these members in the 1980s and 1990s. But there are exceptions, such as Fred Franz who was a scholar with great knowledge of the Bible and the original Bible languages.
The question: “Is it a disfellowshipping matter,” that so often was discussed, shows how the Bible was placed in the background. Such a question should never have been asked because the Bible has 11 disfellowshipping offenses and that humans should add other disfellowshipping offenses would contradict the Bible. Relatively few disfellowshipping offenses were added in the 1970s and 1980s. But today, 37 disfellowshipping offenses have been added to the 11 found in the Bible.
THE BIBLE WAS RARELY USED AT THE GOVERNING BODY MEETINGS BECAUSE MOST DECISIONS RELATED TO ISSUES THAT WERE NOT MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE
Franz was rightly concerned with the limited role that the Bible had in the discussions of the Governing Body. And he gives the following reasons for this on pages 113, 114:
A second reason for lack of real Bible discussion, follows obviously, I believe, from the preceding one. And that is that most of the Body were actually not that well versed in the Scriptures, for their “busyness” was not something of recent origin. In my own case, right up until 1965 I had been on such a “treadmill” of activity that I had found little time for truly serious study. But I think the matter goes deeper than that. I believe that the feeling prevailed that such study and research were really not all that essential, that the policies and teachings of the organization—developed over many decades—were a reliable guide in themselves, so that, whatever motion might be made in the Body, as long as it conformed satisfactorily to such traditional policy or teaching, it must be all right.
The facts point to this conclusion. At times a long discussion on some “disfellowshiping” issue would suddenly be resolved because one member had found a statement related to the matter in the Society’s Organization book, or, more likely, in the book called “Aid to Answering Branch Office Correspondence,” a compendium of policies arranged alphabetically on a broad range of subjects—employment, marriage, divorce, politics, military matters, labor unions, blood and scores of others. When such statement was found, even though no Scripture was cited in support of the particular point of policy, this seemed to settle the matter for most of the Body members and they would usually vote without hesitation in favor of any motion that conformed to the printed policy. I saw this happen on several occasions and I never ceased to be impressed by the way that kind of printed policy statement could effect such a sudden transformation in the progress and resolution of a discussion.
A final reason for the Bible’s playing little part in such discussion is that in case after case the issue involved something on which the Scriptures themselves were silent. To cite specific examples, the discussion might be to decide whether the injection of serums should be viewed the same as blood transfusions, or whether platelets should be considered just as objectionable for acceptance as packed red blood cells. Or the discussion might center on the policy that a wife who committed one act of unfaithfulness was obliged to confess this to her husband (even though he was known to be extremely violent in nature) or else her claim of repentance would not be considered valid, leaving her liable for disfellowshiping. What scriptures discuss such matters?
What is particularly important in the words of Franz is that most questions that were discussed at the Governing Body meetings related to areas where the Bible was silent. Therefore, the Bible could not be used in connection with these questions.
From 1971 to 1975, all the decisions of the Governing Body had to be unanimous. But from 1975 on, decisions would be made on the basis of a two-thirds majority. Franz tells that often there was much disagreement among the members of the Governing Body. And he shows that the two-third-majority rule could create problems for individual Witnesses, as we read on pages 115-117:
A major factor in Governing Body decisions was the two-thirds majority rule. This produced some strange effects at times.
The rule was that a two-thirds majority (of the total active membership) was needed to carry a motion. I personally appreciated the opportunity this allowed for a member to vote differently from the majority or simply to abstain without feeling that he was, in effect, exercising ‘‘veto power.” On minor matters, even when not in complete agreement, I generally voted with the majority. But when issues came up that genuinely affected my conscience I frequently found myself in the minority—seldom alone but often with only one, two or three other members expressing conscientious objection by not voting for the motion. This was not so often the case during the first two years or so after the major change effected in the authority structure (officially put in motion on January 1, 1976). In the final two years of my membership, however, a strong trend toward a “hard line” approach obliged me either to vote differently from the majority—or to abstain—with greater frequency.
But consider now what sometimes happened when the Body was quite divided in its viewpoint, not nearly so uncommon an occurrence as some might think.
An issue might be under discussion involving conduct that had, somewhere in the Society’s past, been designated a “disfellowshiping offense,” perhaps a person’s having a particular blood fraction injected to control a potentially fatal ailment; or possibly the case of a wife who had a non-Witness husband in military service and who worked in a commissary on her husband’s military base.
At times in such discussions the Body might be quite divided, sometimes even split right down the middle. Or there might be a majority who favored removing the particular action, conduct or type. of employment from the “disfellowshiping offense” category. Consider what might happen because of the two-thirds majority rule:
If out of fourteen members present, nine favored removing the disfellowshiping offense “label” and only five favored retaining it, the majority was not sufficient to change the disfellowshiping label. Though a clear majority, the nine were not a two-thirds majority. (Even if there were ten of them favoring change this was still not enough, for though they would be two-thirds majority of the fourteen present, the rule was two-thirds majority of the total active membership, which during much of the time was seventeen.) If someone from the nine favoring removal of the disfellowshiping category advanced a motion it would fail, because twelve votes were needed for it to pass. If someone from the five favoring retention of the disfellowshiping offense category advanced a motion that the policy be maintained, the motion would, of course, fail also. But even the failure of the motion in favor of retaining the category would not result in the removal of that disfellowshiping category. Why not? Because the policy was that some motion had to carry before any change would be made in previous policy. In one of the first of these instances of such a divided vote, Milton Henschel had expressed the view that, where there was no two-thirds majority, then “status quo should prevail,” nothing should change. It was quite uncommon in these cases for any member to change over on his vote and so a stalemate usually resulted. (italics in the original)
That meant that the Witness taking the particular action or having the particular employment involved would continue to be subject to disfellowshiping, even though a majority of the Body had made clear their feeling that he or she should not be!
On more than one occasion when a sizeable minority or even a majority (though not two-thirds) felt that a matter should not be a disfellowshiping offense, I voiced my feelings that our position was unreasonable, even incomprehensible. How could we let things go on as before, with people being disfellowshiped for such things, when right within the Governing Body there were a number of us, sometimes a majority, who felt that the action involved did not merit such severe judgment? How would the brothers and sisters feel to know that this was the case and yet they were being disfellowshiped?
To illustrate, if five congregational elders forming a “judicial committee” were to hear a case and three of the five did not believe that the person’s action or conduct called for disfellowshiping, would the fact that they were only a three-fifths majority and not a two-thirds majority make their position invalid? Would the person then be disfellowshiped? Surely not. How could we, then, let a mere procedural rule of voting cause a traditional stand on disfellowshiping to prevail when most of the Body members felt otherwise? Should we not at least take the position that, in all disfellowshiping matters, when even a considerable minority (and especially a majority, however small) felt that there were not sufficient grounds for disfellowshiping, then no disfellowshiping ruling should be sustained? (italics in the original)
These questions put to the Body brought no response, but again and again in such cases the previously-established traditional policy was kept in force, and this was done as a matter of course, as normal. The effect on people’s lives somehow did not carry enough weight to make the members feel moved to set aside their “standard” policy in such cases. Somewhere in the past history of the organization a disfellowshiping policy had been formulated (often the product of one man’s thinking, a man all too often pathetically isolated from the circumstances being dealt with) and that policy had been put into effect; a rule had been adopted and that rule controlled unless a two-thirds majority could overturn it.
In all these controversial cases the “disfellowshiping offense” was not something clearly identified in Scripture as sinful. It was purely the result of organizational policy. Once published, that policy became fixed on the worldwide brotherhood for them to bear, along with the consequences of the policy. Is it wrong in such circumstances to feel that Jesus’ words apply: “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them”? I leave that to the reader to decide. I only know what my conscience told me and the stand I felt compelled to take. (my bold script)
The observations of Franz show that the works of the members of the Governing Body in the 1970s and 1980s were very far from the ideal we learn, that they are men who spend a great amount of their time in intense study of God’s Word, and that they use their great knowledge of the Bible in their discussions to the best of individual Witnesses. The decisions of the Governing Body in the 21st century suggest that the way the Governing body works is the same as in the days of Franz.
What we learn from Franz is that most of the subjects that were discussed at the meetings of the Governing Body were subjects that were not found in the Bible. And one subject that often came up in the discussions was whether a particular action was a disfellowshipping offense or not.
Supporting the presentation of Franz is the contents of the book for elders Shepherd The Flock Of God, and the book for branch committees Aid to Answering Branch Office Correspondence. The contents of this last-mentioned book is listed in In Search of Christian Freedom. pages 242-245:
Adultery, Evidence 27, 28
Alien 2, 3
Annulment 31, 32
Anthems 54, 55
Appeal Committee 64, 65
Military Service 86a
Retarded Person 7
Bible Study, Disfellowshiped Person 22
Birth Control 52
Birthday 22, 23
Bloodguilt 12, 34
Bride Price 32
Business Partnerships 34
Wrongdoing 50• 64
Church, Buying or Selling Kingdom Hall 96
Removing Name 5, 6
Clothing that Is Proper 15
Committee. Need 61
Common Law Marriage 16
Conduct w1th Persons of Oppos1te Sex 1.7, 18
Adultery 25, 28
From Elder 34
Consensual Marriage 29
Death, Prolonging 79, 80
Disassociation 19, 87, 88, 90
Marriage to 6, 7
Move into Home 74
Porneia 104 6-2, 63
Where D1ff1cult 30
Doctor, Blood 10, 11
Formerly D1sfellowsh1ped 64
Armed 47, 48
Business Partnership 34
Involving Blood 10
Schoolteachers 99, 100
Tobacco 109, 110
Exemption, Military Service 87
Family Affairs 49-52
Flag, D1splaying 55
Flag Salute and National or School Anthems 54 . 55
Forgiveness, or porneia 28
Kingdom Hall 70
War Veteran 55
Gambling 59, 60
Government Bonds 6oa
Government, Required Work 90
Gun, Armed Employment 47, 48
Handling Cases or Wrongdo1ng 61-65
Head Cover1ng 66
Holidays, Unbel1eving Mate 49, 50
Honor to OovernQent orr1c1als 67
Hospitals, Rel1g1ous 46
Hypnotism 78, 79
Illegal Activities 68
Kingdom Hall, Buying from Church 96
Children Attend 51
Disfellowshiped Person 22
Financing 71, 72
Selling to Church 96
Legal Matters 73
Living Accommodation 711
Loans 71, 72
Loose Conduct 17, 18
Marriage 75-77, 113, 114
Alien 2, 3
Annulment 31, 32
Co1nmon Law 16
Divorce, Interlocutory Decree 30
to Disfellowshiped Person 6, 7
Disfellowsh1ped Person 21
Kingdom Hall 70
to Unbeliever 35, 9, 50, 75, 76
Medical Treatment 78-81
Medicine, Illegal 79
Disfellowshiped Person 22
Membership in Various Organizations 83
Memorial 8 , 85
Mentally Retarded 51
Military Service 86-88
Ministerial Servant, Formerly Disfellowshiped 64
Music, Anthems 54, 55
Neutral Committee 64. 65
Neutrality 90. 91
News Service 92
Organ Transplants Bl
Pants, Women 15
Parents, Care for 52
Patr1ot1sm, Plag Salute and Anthems 54, 55
Pioneer Qual1f1cat1ons 93
Political Elect1ons 94
Porneia 17, 18, 5, 103, 104
Evidence 27. 28
Registering to Vote 94
Pr1v1leges 63, 6
Religious Involvement 96, 97
Schools, Religious 45, 46
Secular Education 98-100
Separation, Christians 27
Sex Change 104, 105
Sex Relations, Divorced Persons 30, 31
Sexual Conduct 103-105
Spiritism 79, 106
Statement Pledglng,Falthfulness ’30,’76
Sterilization ·80, 81
Theocratic School, Enrollment 82
Transplanting Organs 81
Transsexual 104, 105
Union Membership and Activities 111, 112
Venereal Disease 28
Wedd1ngs 113, 11
Widow, Pension 77
When I worked at the Norwegian branch office for some months in 1972, 1973, and 1974, some of my appointments required that I read the book, so I can confirm that the contents given by Franz is correct.
. See chapter 5 in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition.
THE DISASTROUS DECISIONS MADE BY THE GOVERNING BODY
|The real issue is that the members of the Governing Body have not followed the principle of sola scriptura (”scripture alone”) which was the basic principle for the Bible Students in the days of Russell and also was the basic principle Jehovah’s Witnesses followed before the first Governing Body was created. This is shown in the following discussion because:
1) The Governing Body has created several hundred rules and laws that have no basis in the Bible.
2) The Governing Body has made decisions that contradict what the text of the Bible says.
The Cambridge dictionary defines “disaster” in the following way: “(an event that results in) great harm, damage, or death, or serious difficulty” And the decisions of the Governing Body has caused great harm to literally hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses; these decisions have even caused sickness and death for a great number of Witnesses. These are very strong and serious accusations, and in what follows, I will present the evidence.
The real issue in connection with the decisions of the Governing Body is the principle sola scriptura (“scripture alone”), It means that the Christian scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith and practice. This principle was followed by the Bible Students in the days of C.T. Russell, it was followed in the days of J.F. Rutherford, and it was followed in the days of N.H. Knorr. This principle was already violated in 1972, the year the Governing Body was created, when the members of the Governing Body prohibited the use of the coagulation Factor VIII for hemophiliacs. And similar violations continued throughout the years.
Connected with the sola scriptura are the passages in 1 Corinthians 4:6 (above) and 2 Peter 3:16 (NWT13):
Do not go beyond the things that are written.
Speaking about these things as he does in all his [Paul’s letters] letters. However, some things in them are hard to understand, and these things the ignorant and unstable are twisting, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Because the whole Bible was not completed when Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthians, the things that are written” cannot refer to the 66 books of the Bible. However, the 39 books of the Hebrew Scriptures were written as well as parts of the Christian Greek Scriptures. All these scriptures must be the reference. Because we today have the whole Bible, these words suggest for us the principle of sola scriptura.
The Greek word amatheis, which is translated “ignorant,” is an adjective with the meaning “unlearned; ignorant,” according to Louw and Nida. The Greek word that is translated as “unstable” is astēriktos with the meaning “pertaining to the tendency to change and waver in one’s views and attitudes,” according to the same lexicon. The Greek verb that is translated as “are twisting” is strebloō, and the meaning is “to distort the meaning of something in communicating to others,” according to the same lexicon.
One can violate the principle of sola scriptura by creating extra-biblical rules and laws that Christians must follow, and one can violate the principle by claiming that only the text of the Bible is the norm for Christians while at the same time distorting the meaning of one or more passages in the Bible in communicating to others.
I will give two examples of how Scriptures have been distorted or twisted by the members of the Governing Body. In 2 John verse 10, we read:
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him.
This scripture is used as proof that Witnesses must not greet or speak with persons who have been disfellowshipped from the congregation, thus shunning them. However, the members of the Governing Body knows that the persons who are referred to in the text are the antichrists, which are active propagandists for the view that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh. But when they know that, why do The Watchtower apply these words to those who have been disfellowshipped? The Watchtower of August 1, 1974, page 465 says:
Do the apostle’s words here necessarily apply to all persons who are put out of the congregation for wrongdoing?…Are, then, all who have been disfellowshipped like the persons described in John’s second letter? At the time that they had to be disfellowshipped they were apparently following a course like such ones or at least manifesting a similar sentiment. (my bold script)
Do we see the point here? The author of the article does not say that the text refers to disfellowshipped persons. But he says that at the time persons were disfellowshipped, they were like the persons described in verse 10, like the antichrists. Therefore, the text shows that Jehovah’s Witnesses must not speak to or greet persons who have been disfellowshipped. This is a clear example of “(distorting) the meaning of something in communicating to others” because 2 John 10 does not refer to disfellowshipped persons. It is The Watchtower that says that disfellowshipped persons “are like” the antichrists and not the Bible. So the readers are made to believe that it is the Bible that is saying that disfellowshipped persons must be shunned and treated as if they did not exist. But the truth is that it is the members of the Governing Body through The Watchtower who are saying this. Thus, the text of 2 John 10 is distorted or twisted!
The second example is 2 Corinthians 7:1, where we read according to NWT´T13:
Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
The Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses of 1985, page 167, says:
It was good that the brothers were already reasoning this way [avoiding producing and using tobacco] because this line of thinking was to make it much easier for them just two years later. It was in the early part of 1974 that the Kingdom Ministry contained a special insert headed “Harmonizing Our Employment with ‘Love of Neighbor.’” This insert clearly presented the Scriptural view of the matter. Tobacco smoking is a defilement of the flesh and hence a disfellowshipping offense, according to 2 Corinthians 7:1. That being the case, would it be right for a Christian to grow this plant, or process and sell it to others? The obvious Scriptural answer is, No. We could not do that and still show love to our neighbors. This is the way the insert reasoned.
The quotation above represents a clear twisting of the words of Paul. Neither tobacco nor disfellowshipping is mentioned. The study note of NWT13 says:
Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement: The Greek verb rendered “to cleanse” and related terms (rendered “purifying; cleansing”; “clean”; “pure”) are broad in meaning. These terms can refer to being physically clean (MT 23:25), ceremonially clean (Lu 2:22; 5;14; Joh 1:55), cleansed from sin (2 Pe 1:9), and clean in mind, heart, and conscience (1 Ti 1:5; Tit 1:15; Heb 9:14). The verb can also refer to curing disease. (Mt 8:2; 11:5; Mr 1:40-42; Lu 17:14; see study note on Lu 4:27.) Paul uses it here in its broadest sense with regard to being physically, morally, and spiritually clean.
Of flesh and spirit: Practices that pollute or damage the physical body may result in defilement of the flesh. Going contrary to the moral values and doctrines taught in the Scriptures defiles the spirit, that is, one’s mental inclination. Together, “flesh and spirit” encompass everything that affects the life of a Christian, physically and mentally.
It is true that the Greek verb with the meaning “to cleanse” is broad in meaning. However, the context in 6:14-16 mentions unbelievers and particular unclean things that are connected with such persons, such as lawlessness, Belial (Satan), and idols. Verse 17 (NWT13) says:
“Therefore, get out from among them, and separate yourselves, ‘says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing‘ “; —” and I will take you in.‘ “
The things mentioned in verses 14-16 represent the context, and these things are rather restricted. But in principle (but not in context) Paul’s words may refer to “everything that affects the life of a Christian.” That the use of tobacco is an unclean habit cannot be denied. Nevertheless, the situation before 1973 was that each Christian had to decide what to do if he or she used tobacco. The conclusion is that to say that 2 Corinthians 7:1 shows that the use of tobacco is a disfellowshipping offense is a twisting of this scripture. And disfellowshipping persons who use tobacco is a human commandment that violates the Scriptures.
I will now discuss some of the different decisions that the Governing Body has made through the years, decisions that have been disastrous for tens of thousands of Witnesses.
A DECISION THAT CAUSED GREAT HARM AND POSSIBLE DEATH TO HEMOPHILIACS
Hemophilia is a condition when the blood of a person does not clot normally. External wounds usually are not serious, but internal bleeding in joints, tissues, and muscles may be serious, particularly bleeding in vital organs, such as the brain. Internal bleeding can be very painful and it can also lead to death. Hemophiliacs especially lack Factor VIII and sometimes Factor IX in the coagulations chain, and the treatment is particularly to give these persons infusions of Factor VIII or Factor IX.
When I was district overseer between 1972 and 1974, between the rounds of assemblies that we participated in, my wife and I worked at the branch office for 1 1/2 months in the winter and 3 1/2 months in the summer. In 1972, I was asked to answer a letter from a brother who was a hemophiliac who asked about the use of cryoprecipitate, which contains Factor VIII. I remember that I answered that accepting inoculations of cryoprecipitate would be a violation of the sanctity of blood. Cryoprecipitate, or Factor VIII, had not been discussed in the Watchtower literature, so my answer was based on information that the branch office had. I also remember that a few years after I wrote this letter, the view of the Governing Body changed, and the use of Cryoprecipitate and Factor VIII was viewed as a matter of conscience. I do not know whether the branch office informed the brother about the change of view.
As mentioned, I was aware of the prohibition of Cryoprecipitate and that this later was reversed. But Raymond Franz gives more detailed information on the decisions of the Governing Body regarding the use of Factor VIII in Crisis of Conscience, pages 120, 121:
For many years inquiries sent by hemophiliacs to the headquarters organization (or its Branch Offices) received the reply that to accept such blood fraction one time could be viewed as not objectionable, as, in effect, “medication.” But to do so more than once would constitute a “feeding” on such blood fraction and therefore be considered a violation of the Scriptural injunction against eating blood.
Years later, this ruling changed. Those staff members who worked at answering correspondence knew that in the past they had sent out letters to the contrary and that hemophiliacs who had taken their “one time” injection were still under the impression that to do so again would be counted as a violation of Scripture. They could bleed to death because of holding to such a stand.
The administration was not in favor of publishing the new position in print since the old position had never been put in print but only conveyed to the particular individuals inquiring. To publish something would require first explaining what the old position had been and then explaining that it was now obsolete. This did not seem desirable. So the staff workers made a diligent search through their files to try to find the names and addresses of all those persons who had written inquiries and another letter was sent to each advising of the change.
The staff workers felt better about this. Then they realized that many of the inquiries had come in by phone and that they had no record of such phone calls and absolutely no way of determining who such inquiring hemophiliacs were. Whether, in the interim between the old ruling and the new, some had died, they did not know; whether some whom they had not been able to contact would yet die because of holding to the old ruling, they did not know. They only knew that they had followed instructions, being loyally obedient to their superiors in the organization. This change in policy was made official at the June 11, 1975, session of the Governing Body. It was not until three years later, in 1978, however, that the change was finally put into print, though rather obscurely stated and, strangely, listed in with the issue of the use of serum injections to combat disease (whereas hemophilia is not a disease but a hereditary defect), in the June 15, 1978, issue of the Watchtower. It still was not acknowledged that this represented a change in the previous policy as to multiple use of blood fractions by hemophiliacs.
The situation outlined by Franz is not only strange, but it is very bad.
First, the opinion of the Governing Body was that only eating blood was against God’s will and not any use of blood. I show in the article “Willingly and unrepentantly accepting blood” in the category “Disassociation” that there have been two different schools among the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding blood. One school held the correct view that all uses of blood were prohibited, and the other school held the view that only eating blood was forbidden. In connection with Factor VIII, the Governing Body held the wrong view.
Second, the view was that taking factor VIII one time was the same as taking medicine and was acceptable, but taking it two times was the same as eating blood, which was forbidden. This is utter nonsense! But what is really bad is that hemophiliacs could suffer extreme pain or even die — not because of faithfulness to God’s law in the Bible — but because of the Governing Body’s idiosyncratic definition of the word “eat.” This situation simply was crazy, and that intelligent persons could make such a ruling is unbelievable.
Third, the change of policy in 1975 by saying that accepting both cryoprecipitate and Factor VIII was a matter of conscience was an admission that their previous prohibition was wrong. But the Governong Body did not want to publish this decision because it could destroy their credibility.
Fourth, as Franz wrote, the new ruling was “obscurely stated” in The Watchtower of June 15, 1978, page 31 — just see for yourself:
What, however, about accepting serum injections to fight against disease, such as are employed for diphtheria, tetanus, viral hepatitis, rabies, hemophilia and Rh incompatibility? This seems to fall into a ‘gray area.’ Some Christians believe that accepting a small amount of a blood derivative for such a purpose would not be a manifestation of disrespect for God’s law; their conscience would permit such.
Hemophilia is mentioned in the quotation, but as Franz notes, hemophilia is not a disease but a hereditary defect. So, it is not clear that Factor VIII was included in the “gray area” that is mentioned.
Fifth, the original ruling could lead to bloodguilt on the part of the Governing Body. Hemophilia is a serious disorder, and in some situations, a person with the disease could bleed to death without Factor VIII. In such a case, forbidding the use of this Factor more than one time would lead to bloodguilt if the person bled to death. Moreover, the failure to publish the reversal, so the good name of the Governing Body should not be tainted, shows a lack of love and care for the special group of Witnesses with the hereditary defect. That the leaders of the organization of true Christians should act in this way is again unbelievable. This clearly is “criminal negligence,” and it would lead to bloodguilt if someone died because they did not know about the new ruling.
1973 — 2023
DISFELLOWSHIPPING PERSONS WHO WERE USING TOBACCO
The use of tobacco clearly is an unclean habit. And the important question is how Christians shall view this use. In the year when J.F. Rutherford died and N.H. Knorr became the president of the Watchtower Society, The Watchtower of 1942, pages 205 and 206, wrote:
The use of tobacco is extremely filthy, regardless of the form in which it is used… To be sure, the Society has no power or authority or desire to say that a person who wishes to use tobacco may not do so. Nor can it say, “You may not witness for the Kingdom.”
These words represent a true Christian viewpoint. It was pointed out that the habit was bad. But it was left to the individual Christian to decide if he or she would use tobacco. The policy that the leaders of the Watchtower Society would not meddle in the personal affairs of individual Christians continued for many years. In 1961, the book Questions in Connection With the Service of the Kingdom for judicial committees was published. It said that the rule was that men who used tobacco could not be appointed as full-time servants or servants in the congregation, with one exception. If there was no person available in a congregation, a man who used tobacco could be appointed as a ministerial servant or congregation servant (overseer). But he had to refrain from using tobacco in public.
Over the years, several articles about the dangers of using tobacco have appeared, and in The Watchtower of February 15, 1969, pages 126-129, there was an article regarding tobacco saying that “Jehovah’s Witnesses strongly discourage its use.” But still, persons who used tobacco were not punished in any way. The magazine had a question on page 129 regarding the attitude of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding the use of tobacco. The answer was:
The Bible does not comment directly on the view that God’s servants should have concerning the use of tobacco…Yet, from what we read in God’s Word, it is easy to see that the use of tobacco, whether one is smoking, chewing or snuffing it, is an unclean habit that goes contrary to Bible principles. So Jehovah’s Witnesses strongly discourage its use, and they view as spiritually immature any Christian who continue to use tobacco…
The quotation shows that tobacco is not mentioned in the Bible, but the use pf tobacco goes contrary to the principles of the Bible. Then, The Watchtower of June 1, 1973, pages 340-343, shows that persons who used tobacco would get a period of six months to quit their habit, and if they did not do that, they would be disfellowshipped. The article says:
What, then, of those who in the past were baptized while still using such addictive products as tobacco, other drugs, or who are on some treatment such as the “methadone program” and who continue in such practice? They may now be given a reasonable period of time, such as six months, in which to free themselves of the addiction. So doing, they will show their sincere desire to remain within Jehovah God’s clean congregation of dedicated servants… If persons already baptized are not willing to abandon their addiction to damaging and enslaving products, what then?… They should therefore be removed from the congregation due to such conduct unbecoming a Christian.—1 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 12:15, 16.
When The Watchtower of February 15, 1969, correctly shows that tobacco is not mentioned in the Bible, this shows that when The Watchtower of June 1, 1973, says that persons who use tobacco will be disfellowshipped, this is a human commandment that is not based on the Bible. However, tens of thousands of Witnesses were disfellowshipped because they used tobacco from 1973 onward. And this was a disaster for these Witnesses.
1973 — 2013
THE PROHIBITION AGAINST THE USE OF METHADONE
Witnesses who become drug abusers have not planned to become abusers. Young persons may, in a moment of carelessness, accept a tablet and later another one, and suddenly they are hooked. Different tablets and pills containing morphine have been used as a treatment for chronic pain for many decades, and fentanyl started to be used as a painkiller in the 1990s. In a great number of cases, persons who used fentanyl and morphine as painkillers became abusers of opioids, and Witnesses who became abusers were disfellowshipped.
To be able to quit drug abuse is extremely difficult. But there are two resources that can help persons who are determined to quit to achieve their goal. One resource is loving family members and friends who can help and support the addict, also when there are relapses. And the other source is the chemical methadone. However, the Governing Body has prohibited both resources.
Methadone is a long-acting opioid that fills the same opioid receptors in the brain that heroin and painkillers do. But persons who use methadone are not intoxicated, and in Norway, they are allowed to drive a car while using the drug. The Watchtower of June 1, 1973, says that the questions of whether methadone can be used by the Witnesses “have come up for prayerful consideration,” and the answer is No. The issue was again discussed 30 years later in The Watchtower of August 3, 2003, and the answer was that persons who had been addicts of hard drugs and now used methadone as a help to stay away from hard drugs would be viewed as still being “hooked on narcotics.”
However, the article says that if a doctor prescribed methadone as a painkiller, that could be accepted because this person “could hardly be said to be seeking intoxication.” This is really inconsistent because it shows that it is not the use of methadone that is wrong, according to the Governing Body, but the purpose of the use. It can be used as a painkiller but not as a medicine for those who have managed to quit their abuse of hard drugs. This also shows the lack of knowledge of the members of the Governing Body regarding the function of methadone. That the use of methadone as a painkiller is allowed because this use does not lead to intoxication implies that those who no longer are abusing hard drugs but using methadone do so to become intoxicated. But this clearly is incorrect because methadone does not cause intoxication. And as mentioned, in Norway, users of methadone are allowed to drive a car.
Forty years after the prohibition against the use of methadone was introduced, the Governing Body decided that its use by those who had been abusers of hard drugs was allowed. However, there was no retraction of the old view in The Watchtower. But the change of viewpoint was introduced in a covert way. A letter from the Norwegian branch office to all bodies of elders of February 6, 2013, said that the 2003 letter forbidding the use of methadone should be destroyed. But no new letter with instructions regarding the use of methadone was sent to the bodies of elders. Persons who anticipated a change of view had to make a telephone call to the branch office in order to get information about the new decision made by the members of the Governing Body.
What is the consequence of the prohibition against the use of methadone for 40 years, and then the new view that methadone now could be used by the Witnesses? Implying that God was behind the prohibition, the article in The Watchtower of 1973 said that the prohibition was the result of “prayerful consideration.” However, the new view of 2013 showed that the prohibition was a human commandment, and by retracting the prohibition, the members of the Governing Body admitted that the 40-year-long prohibition was wrong. The prohibition should never have been issued!
The members of the Governing Body retracted the prohibition in a covert way — evidently, they did not want to be held publicly accountable for their error that had caused so much harm for so many persons. But they could not eliminate their accountability and responsibility. During the 40 years of prohibition, the members of the Governing Body clearly were guilty of “criminal negligence” — they prevented a great number of persons the medicine that could have saved their lives. A great number of Witnesses who had been hooked on hard drugs wanted to stop their abuse. But to do that without any support from family and friends and without the help of methadone is extremely difficult. A great number of those who wanted to stop their drug abuse have died of an overdose or have died from sicknesses related to their drug abuse, and in connection with many, or most of these, the Governing Body has bloodguilt because of their extreme law of prohibition. This 40-year prohibition had disastrous consequences for thousands of drug abusers and their families.
1974 — 1978
Question from Readers in The Watchtower of December 15, 1969, pages 765, 766, discussed some sexual questions. The article quoted the words “the natural use of the female” in Romans 1:27, and it said that the view that “anything done between husband and wife is permissible” is wrong. But the article did not discuss what was not permissible. Some elders who read this may have been sensitive to this issue and had looked for wrong actions among the Witnesses of their congregation. Raymond Franz refers to an example of this. In Crisis of Conscience, page 47, we read:
A matter, not among those just mentioned, but which brought considerable discussion involved a Witness couple in California. Someone had seen in their bedroom certain literature and photographs dealing with unusual sex practices. (I do not recall that we learned just how or why the Witness individual reporting this happened to have access to the couple’s bedroom.) Investigation and interrogation by the local elders confirmed that the couple did engage in sexual relations other than simple genital copulation. Correspondence from the elders came in to Brooklyn and the Governing Body was called upon to rule as to what action if any should be taken toward the couple. Until the correspondence was read to us that morning, none of us aside from the president had had any opportunity to think about the subject. Yet within a couple of hours the decision was reached that the couple was subject to disfellowshiping. This was thereafter set out as a formal published policy, applicable to any persons engaging willfully in similar practices.
In his account of the meetings of the Governing Body, Franz tells that a number of times the Governing Body members did not know what they should discuss before the meeting started. In connection with the mentioned unusual sex practices, the members of the Governing Body came to a conclusion in a short time without having time to search the Bible and meditate on the issue. As a result of this decision, The Watchtower of 1972, pages 734-736 contained an article where it was stated that oral or anal copulation were disfellowshipping offenses:
We believe that, aside from those who have been indoctrinated with the view that ‘in marriage anything goes,’ the vast majority of persons would normally reject as repugnant the practice of oral copulation, as also anal copulation. If these forms of intercourse are not “contrary to nature,” then what is?…
It is not our purpose to attempt to draw a precise line as to where what is “natural” ends and what is “unnatural” begins. But we believe that, by meditating on Bible principles, a Christian should at least be able to discern what is grossly [the author’s italics] unnatural. In other areas, the Christian’s individual conscience will have to guide, and this includes questions regarding caresses and ‘love play’ prior to intercourse…
It is certainly not the responsibility of elders or any others in a Christian congregation to search into the private lives of married couples. Nevertheless, if future cases of gross unnatural conduct, such as the practice of oral or anal copulation, are brought to their attention, the elders should act to try to correct the situation before further harm results, as they would do with any other serious wrong. Their concern is, of course, to try to help those who go astray and are ‘caught in the snare of the Devil.’ (2 Tim. 2:26) But if persons willfully show disrespect for Jehovah God’s marital arrangements, then it becomes necessary to remove them from the congregation as dangerous “leaven” that could contaminate others.—1 Cor. 5:6, 11-13.
Two years after this decision of the Governing Body, another decision was made. A new meaning of the word porneia (“wrong sexual intercourse”) was introduced. The decision of the Governing Body was that oral and anal copulation and other lewd practices by married couples were included in the meaning of porneia. This meant that not only were the mentioned actions disfellowshipping offenses, but they could also terminate the marriage. The Watchtower of November 15, 1974, page 703, says:
As to Jesus’ statements about divorce, they do not specify with whom the “fornication” or por·nei’a is practiced. They leave the matter open. That por·nei’a can rightly be considered as including perversions within the marriage arrangement is seen in that the man who forces his wife to have unnatural sexual relations with him in effect “prostitutes” or “debauches” her. This makes him guilty of por·nei’a, for the related Greek verb porneu’o means “to prostitute, debauch.”
Hence, circumstances could arise that would make lewd practices of a married person toward that one’s marriage mate a Scriptural basis for divorce.
The new view of sexual relations created immense problems. A great number of Witnesses were disfellowshipped, and a great number of marriages were dissolved contrary to the words of Jesus. A great number of letters came to the Watchtower Society. On page 48 in Crisis of Conscience, Franz writes:
The Governing Body’s decision in 1972 resulted in a sizeable number of “judicial hearings” as elders followed up on reports or confessions of the sexual practices involved. Women experienced painful embarrassment in such hearings as they responded to the elders’ questions about the intimacies of their marital relations. Many marriages where one of the mates was not a Witness underwent a turbulent period, with the non-Witness mate objecting strenuously to what he or she considered an unwarranted invasion of bedroom privacy. Some marriages broke up with resulting divorce.
An unprecedented volume of mail came in over a period of five years, most of it questioning the Scriptural basis for the Governing Body members inserting themselves into the private lives of others in such a way, and expressing inability to see the validity of the arguments advanced in print to support the stand taken. (The principal portion of Scripture relied upon was Romans, chapter one, verses 24-27, dealing with homosexuality, and those writing to the Society pointed out that they could not see how it could rightly be applied to heterosexual relations between man and wife.) Other letters, often from wives, simply expressed confusion and anguish over their uncertainty as to the properness of their “sexual foreplay.”
There was strong pressure on the members of the Governing Body to change their decision, and this happened in 1978. The Watchtower of February 1978, page 31 wrote:
A careful further weighing of this matter, however, convinces us that, in view of the absence of clear Scriptural instruction, these are matters for which the married couple themselves must bear the responsibility before God and that these marital intimacies do not come within the province of the congregational elders to attempt to control nor to take disfellowshipping action with such matters as the sole basis.
The most important portion of the reversal was the words “In view of the absence of clear Scriptural instruction.” This is an admission that the decisions of 1972 that oral and anal copulation would lead to disfellowshipping were not based on the Bible. And it is an admission that de decision of 1974 that oral and anal copulation and other lewd practices inside marriage were porneia (“sexual immorality”) and could lead to disfellowshipping and the termination of the marriage were not based on the Bible. This means that because of the extra-biblical decisions of the Governing Body, thousands, or perhaps even tens of thousands of lives were ruined and men, women, and children were suffering.
(1961) 1974 — 2022
NEW LAWS IN CONNECTION WITH SECULAR WORK
I have already quoted The Watchtower of September 15, 1951, page 574, regarding secular work. But here I repeat a part of that quotation:
As to other forms of activity or work the Society has no specific recommendation to make. To draw up rules for all the possible situations relative to secular work would embark us upon the compilation of a voluminous, Talmudlike set of regulations, seeking to make all the fine distinctions as to when and when not certain work becomes objectionable… So let each one accept his own responsibility and answer to his own conscience, not criticizing others or being criticized by them, when individual consciences allow different decisions on the same matter.
The point here is that the Watchtower Society will not give any advice regarding secular work; that would require a Talmudlike set of regulations. Each one must follow his or her conscience. This stance included works in connection with gambling, and The Watchtower of February 1, 1954, page 94, showed that being employed in a gambling enterprise was a matter of conscience.
Can a Christian be employed in a gambling enterprise that is legally recognized and allowed? He may think that he can do so if he refrains from gambling himself or allowing his spiritual brothers to gamble through his services. One may be able to conscientiously do this, while another would not be able to do so in good conscience.
However, in 1961, there was a reversal of this stance. The book for judicial committees, Questions in Connection with the Service of the Kingdom, 1961, page 60. Says regarding gambling:
Selling lottery tickets or having a gambling enterprise for betting in connection with money is a form of extortion. The Bible shows that extortioners must be disfellowshipped from the congregation.
In addition to gambling, a Witness could also be disfellowshipped if he produced idolatrous objects or his work supported the armed forces or political organizations. From 1974 onward, there was a full-scale attempt by the Governing Body to decide which kinds of secular work Witnesses could have. This is seen in an article in Kingdom Ministry of February 1974, pages 5 and 6. The Watchtower of July 1, 1973, made the use of tobacco a disfellowshipping offense, and Kingdom Ministry of July 1973 showed how the congregation should deal with those who continued to use tobacco.
Since then [the two mentioned publications] a number of questions have been raised concerning the growing, selling, and distributing of tobacco and tobacco products in connection with one’s employment. There are some types of employment that are quite clearly in open conflict with the Bible standards. Thus, Jehovah’s witnesses have long refused to recognize as approved members of the congregation persons who make their living at gambling, or by producing idolatrous objects, or who do work that is directly contrary to the ways of peace described at Isaiah 2:4. When one’s work is clearly contrary to Bible standards, it can rightly result in one’s being rejected by the congregation, disfellowshipped. The Bible itself sets the standard or rule that is the basis for such action.
The Watchtower has presented a clear-cut statement showing the damaging effects of tobacco on the body and rightly categorizing it as a harmfully addictive drug. Various governmental authorities have recognized the harmful effects of tobacco but up to now have not outlawed the use of tobacco or its production. The legality of tobacco does not alter the basic wrong involved in producing or selling for gain a product that is harmful to one’s neighbors. To illustrate, a country might declare marijuana legal (even as some states may have legal prostitution), yet the person who made his living from the production or sale of marijuana would still clearly not be a suitable member of God’s congregation.
Therefore, a person who owns a tobacco store, or one who has accepted employment in a factory devoted to producing tobacco products, or a salesman whose business is selling tobacco, or a farmer who controls the raising of crops on his farm and who chooses to raise tobacco should recognize that he has a responsibility for what he is doing. How can his Christian conscience allow him to bring harm to his neighbor when he is in a position to exercise control over what is being done? The brothers should be able to weigh the seriousness of the matter and also weigh the heaviness of the responsibility that individuals have in matters of employment where a wrong practice comes into the picture. There should be no doubt as to the gross wrong on the part of those who gain their principal source of income from promoting the use of tobacco at the expense of the well-being of their fellowman. Such a course is an open contradiction of the basic command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.—Matt. 22:39.
After the quotation above, there is a discussion of several different situations, such as when a brother is a partner with a non-Witness, regarding franchise arrangements, when contracts of producing or selling tobacco have been made, and several other situations. This is a contribution to the Talmud-like rules that have been made by the members of the Governing Body.
The next focus on secular work with rules made by the Governing Body is found in the Kingdom Ministry of September 1976, pages 3-6. Under the heading “The major questions” we find the following:
The principal question is: “Does the work or activity to be performed in itself constitute an act condemned by God’s Word? Or, if it does not, is it nevertheless so directly linked to such condemned practices that it would make those doing such work actual accomplices or promoters of the wrong practice?” In such cases Christian conscience should surely cause them to reject such employment.
The first question is relatively clear. But the second is problematic because the expressions “directly linked” and “accomplices or promoters” must be interpreted, and the interpretation of the Governing Body is very strict. One example given of a contemned practice is working “as a cashier in a gambling establishment.” However, the quotation from The Watchtower of 1954 above shows that this was no “condemned practice” in that year. But 22 years later, the Governing Body had defined this as a “condemned practice.”
The change of viewpoint by the members of the Governing Body shows that while the Bible is appealed to, to a great extent, “condemned practices” are basically defined by the Governing Body or by the elders. This means that persons may be disfellowshipped for actions that previously were not considered wrong. Not only the changing views of the members of the Governing Body may lead to disfellowshipping but also the viewpoints of the elders who make up a judicial committee. The following quotation shows that in 1976 the elders were given the power over life and death:
Where a brother engages in employment that clearly violates God’s law, the congregation and its elders rightly become concerned in the matter. Where work or a product thereof is condemned in the Scriptures, or is such as to make one an accomplice or promoter in wrongdoing, the elders should first endeavor to help the person see the wrongness of his course. In such cases where the connection is definite and evident, it should be possible to make what the Bible says clear to him and enable him to see why it does indeed apply to him. It may, however, take a number of discussions, perhaps over a period of some weeks, to help him see the point and give prayerful consideration to what has been brought to his attention. If it is definitely established that his employment violates Christian principles and he, nevertheless, insists on continuing in it, he may be disfellowshiped from the congregation.
No work and no products are condemned in the Scriptures, so the basis of the new disfellowshipping power given to the elders have no basis in the Bible. It is the members of the Governing Body who falsely claim that some works and products are condemned in the Scriptures. A person can be disfellowshipped if “his employment violates Christian principles.” But “the Christian principles” are the manmade principles of the Governing Body.
In one area, however, the article gave some very good advice. We read:
It seems evident from the Scriptures that the payment of money by a Christian to a person or organization of the world for goods or services or, vice versa, the receipt of money by a Christian from such person or organization does not automatically imply that the Christian supports or condones any wrongdoing in which such person or organization may engage. As seen earlier, Christians could buy meat that proceeded from pagan temples. The pagan temples benefited monetarily. This was not by direct contribution but indirectly through the sale of meat.
The problem with this very good advice is that it neither have been followed by the Governing Body nor by the elders, as I will show below. Raymond Franz in his book Crisis of Conscience, page 114, refers to one such example:
Consider this case that came up for discussion and decision by the Governing Body. One of Jehovah’s Witnesses, driving a truck for the Coca-Cola Company, had as his route a large military base where numerous deliveries were made. The question: Could he do this and remain a member in good standing or is this a disfellowshipping offense? (The crucial factor here being that military property and personnel were involved.)
Again, what scriptures discuss such matters—in a way that can be clearly and reasonably seen, in a way that obviates the need for involved reasonings and interpretations? None were brought forward, yet the majority of the Body decided that this work was not acceptable and that the man would have to obtain another route to remain in good standing. A similar case came up involving a Witness musician who played in a “combo” at an officers’ club on a military base. This, too, was ruled unacceptable by the majority of the Body. The Scriptures being silent, human reasoning supplied the answer.
The comment of Franz is that the issue is not mentioned in the Bible, yet the members of the Governing Body made a decision regarding it with bad effects for the brother. We note that the truck driver was not even paid by the military, and his delivery at the military base was just one of many deliveries.
Moreover, the extreme sensitivity of the members of the Governing Body regarding the armed forces is not based on biblical principles. Because Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to be ambassadors to the nations of the world, they are neutral as to the pursuits of these nations. This means that they accept the rights of a nation to have a judicial system, a police force, and armed forces.
What Christians do not accept is that the soldiers of the armed forces engage in wars and kill people. Both because of this and because they are ambassadors, they will not be a part of the armed forces. But there are no biblical principles forbidding a Witness to work in a factory that produces engines for military vehicles or other items that the military needs. So, to decide that delivering Coca Cola to a military base is a disfellowshipping offense is completely absurd. We should also keep in mind that soldiers are used for many non-combatant purposes, such as police duties and helping health workers with vaccination.
Franz also refers to some examples from the book for branch committees Aid to Answering Branch Office Correspondence that is interesting. Under the subheading “Work that is not itself unscriptural but that links one with a wrong practice or makes one a promoter of it” we find the following examples:
EXAMPLE: Two women work as maids on a military base. One is employed in a home by a family, the husband of which is in the military. The other is a maid employed to clean the barracks.
Comments: The first woman concludes that she could accept such work for the family and not be in conflict with Isaiah 2:4 [which speaks of beating one’s swords into plowshares and not learning war anymore]. She reasons that, despite the location of her work and the fact that the “breadwinner” of the family is in the military, she is providing a common service for individuals in a home and is not employed by an organization in conflict with the Scriptures. (2 Ki. 5:2, 3; 5:15-19; Phil. 4:22) She continues to be a member of the congregation, though if she sought the privilege of pioneer service consideration might have to be given to how her employment is affecting others and whether she is viewed as a good example.
The other woman, by her regular work, is performing a needed service in the accomplishment of the overall objectives of an organization the purpose of which is out of harmony with Isaiah 2:4. She is paid by the military, works on military property and is doing work regularly that makes her a part of that organization and its objectives. She is in conflict with Isaiah 2:4.
Thus, the first woman who works domestically for a military man in his household on the base can retain her standing in the congregation; the second, who cleans barracks, perhaps on the same base, cannot. As the rest of the manual and as all Watch Tower publications make clear, anyone “in conflict with Isaiah 2:4” is either to be disfellowshiped or pronounced “disassociated.” The first woman might be paid by an officer, even a general, who orders the men in the barracks into combat. Her pay comes from him, true, but the money comes from his military salary. Still, her work does not make her “unclean.” The second woman who cleans barracks, because her pay comes from the military as an organization and because she is somehow viewed as contributing to the “overall objectives” of the military, is counted as bloodguilty and worthy of being cut off from the congregation.
It is quite a dramatic claim that a woman who cleans the barracks on a military base is supporting an organization that has bloodguilt and that a woman who works in the home of a military man does not support that organization. Neither of the women has killed anyone, and they have no plans to do that. The distinction that the Governing Body has created here is artificial, and it contradicts the quotation in green above from the Kingdom Ministry of September 1976 that if a Christian is paid by a worldly organization “does not automatically imply that the Christian supports or condones any wrongdoing in which such person or organization may engage.” First, when the person himself or herself kills somebody or condones killing somebody, will the person have bloodguilt.
Moreover, because Jehovah’s Witnesses as ambassadors accept that a country has the right to have a military force, it must be a matter of conscience for the individual Christian if he or she will do some work for the military. This accords with the words of The Watchtowers of 1951 and 1954 that the Watchtower Society will not recommend any kind of secular work, but that each one must make a personal decision based on his or her conscience.
I will also quote another example from Aid to Answering Branch Office Correspondence:
EXAMPLE: A brother owning a plumbing business receives a call to do emergency repairs on a broken water pipe in the basement of a local church. Some time later a representative of the church contacts another brother, a builder, about putting a new roof and addition on the church.
Comments: The first brother concludes that, as a human service, his conscience would permit him to care for the emergency situation, though advising the church to seek another plumber for any regular work. Likely few would be critical of his helping anyone during an emergency or view him as reprehensible.
The second brother realizes that even though he has put roofs and additions on many homes and businesses, for him to contract to do so in the case of the church would be lending considerable support to the advancement of false worship. It would not be just an incidental contact, such as a postman’s delivering mail, or an act of humanitarian aid in a desperate situation. It would be a major undertaking that would involve lengthy work on a building used exclusively for the advancement of false worship, aiding in the perpetuation of Babylon the Great. (2 Cor. 6:14-18) As a Christian, he could not do that.
The words “As a Christian, he could not do that” means that he will be disfellowshipped if he does the kind of work that is mentioned. In my view, the reasoning is flawed. The words of Kingdom Ministry of September 1976 can also be applied here. A Christian does not “support or condone” the actions of an organization that is paying him for a work done.
Moreover, I cannot see a principal difference between emergency work on a Church building and a planned work on the same building. If working on a Church building is the same as supporting the advancement of false worship, then emergency work would also be a support of the advancement of false worship.
For example, if there is a war and the soldiers are shooting at an enemy, and there is a broken water pipe that would cause flooding and destruction of all the ammunition the soldiers use for shooting, would it be right for a Christian plumber to stop the flooding and save the ammunition because there is an emergency? If he saves the ammunition, he has a direct responsibility for the killing of human beings, and a Christian cannot be guilty of this with the excuse that there is an emergency.
It is similar with a Church building. If a bigger work on the building is wrong, then a smaller work is wrong as well, even if there is an emergency. I assume that most Witnesses would not feel good if they worked on a church building because of what is going on in this building.
However, we may take Afghanistan as an example where millions of people do not have work, and millions may starve. A Christian with a wife and children is a carpenter without any work to do and has no income. One day he is offered the job of repairing a part of a mosque that would give him work for several weeks. Should he refuse to accept this offer because the building is a mosque? According to the reasoning of the Governing Body that would have been necessary in order not to support or condone false religion. But in my view, the reasoning of the members of the Governing Body is wrong, and just as the Pharisees “they bind up heavy loads and put them on the shoulders” (Matthew 23:4) of the Witnesses. Only when a Witness directly participates in false worship is he a promoter of a wrong practice, not when he works on a church building or on a mosque.
1981 — 2023
THOSE WHO RESIGN FROM JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES MUST BE SHUNNED
Until the year 1981, a person who wanted to leave Jehovah’s Witnesses and no longer would be counted as a Witness could do that without being punished for it. However, that was now changed. The Watchtower of September 15, 1981, page 23, said:
One who has been a true Christian might renounce the way of the truth, stating that he no longer considers himself to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses or wants to be known as one. When this rare event occurs, the person is renouncing his standing as a Christian, deliberately disassociating himself from the congregation. The apostle John wrote: “They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us.”—1 John 2:19.
Or, a person might renounce his place in the Christian congregation by his actions, such as by becoming part of an organization whose objective is contrary to the Bible, and, hence, is under judgment by Jehovah God. (Compare Revelation 19:17-21; Isaiah 2:4.) So if one who was a Christian chose to join those who are disapproved of God, it would be fitting for the congregation to acknowledge by a brief announcement that he had disassociated himself and is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Persons who make themselves “not of our sort” by deliberately rejecting the faith and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses should appropriately be viewed and treated as are those who have been disfellowshiped for wrongdoing.
This new policy meant that resigning from Jehovah’s Witnesses was no longer possible. A person who expressed by his word or in writing that he did not want to be a Witness no longer would, in reality, be disfellowshipped. The decision that was published in 1981 was reiterated in The Watchtower of July 15, 1985, page 30:
Did 2 John 10, which says not to receive into one’s home or to greet certain ones, refer only to those who had promoted false doctrine?
In context, this counsel concerned the “many deceivers” who had gone forth, “persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” (2 John 7) The apostle John offered directions on how Christians back there should treat one who denied that Jesus had existed or that he was the Christ and Ransomer. John directed: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 John 10, 11) But the Bible elsewhere shows that this had a wider application…
Aid to Bible Understanding shows that the word “apostasy” comes from a Greek word that literally means “ ‘a standing away from’ but has the sense of ‘desertion, abandonment or rebellion.’” The Aid book adds: “Among the varied causes of apostasy set forth in apostolic warnings were: lack of faith (Heb. 3:12), lack of endurance in the face of persecution (Heb. 10:32-39), abandonment of right moral standards (2 Pet. 2:15-22), the heeding of the ‘counterfeit words’ of false teachers and ‘misleading inspired utterances’ (1 Tim. 4:1-3) Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the ‘antichrist.’ (1 John 2:18,19)”
A person who had willfully and formally disassociated himself from the congregation would have matched that description. By deliberately repudiating God’s congregation and by renouncing the Christian way, he would have made himself an apostate. (the author’s italics)
The quotation above shows that the view of the members of the Governing Body is that a person who wants to resign from Jehovah’s Witnesses is just as wicked as the antichrists mentioned in the first and second letters of John.
The quotation also shows how the members of the Governing Body are misusing the Bible. The quotation says: “But the Bible elsewhere shows that this [the treatment of the antichrists] had a wider application.” Such expressions are typical for the members of the Governing Body. They often say that the Bible says this or that but there is no reference to any scripture. The reason is that the Bible does not say anything about the subject. In this case, this is clear. The quotation says: “A person who had willfully and formally disassociated himself from the congregation [by saying that he no longer wants to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses] would have matched that description [of the antichrists].” (the author’s italics) It is not the Bible that says that those resigning have matched the description of the antichrists but the members of the Governing Body.
|The members of the Governing Body often use the expression “the Bible shows,” “the Bible elsewhere shows,” and “the thoughts of God are.” But the truth is that the decisions of the governing Body are not based on God’s thoughts or on the Bible but on the thoughts of the members of the Governing Body that they falsely ascribe to God.|
1983 — 2023
ORAL AND ANAL COPULATION ARE AGAIN DISFELLOWSHIPPING OFFENSES
We would think that the members of the Governing Body had learned something from all the misery they had created by their decision of porneia-inside-marriage. But not at all! In 1983, five years after the reversal of 1978, the Governing Body introduced a partial reversal of the reversal, as I will show below.
The article in The Watchtower of February 15, 1978, page 31, showed that “in view of the absence of Scriptural instruction,” only the couples themselves should make decisions about marital intimacies, and neither the elders nor the Governing Body had any right to intervene. But The Watchtower of March 15, 1983, page 31, reversed this view:
How about sexual activity between married couples within the marriage bond? It is not for the elders to pry into the intimate lives of married Christians. However, the Bible certainly enters into their lives. Those who would “keep walking by spirit” should not ignore the Scriptural indications of God’s thinking.
We may compare the two quotations from 1978 and 1983. The first quotation says correctly that there is an “absence of clear scriptural instruction” regarding marital intimacies, i.e., how the sexual relations between a married couple should occur. But the second quotation speaks about “the Scriptural indication of God’s thinking” in connection with “marital intimacies.” But because the Scriptures are silent on marital intimacies, “the Scriptural indication of God’s thinking” is, in reality, “the Governing Body’s thinking of marital intimacies.”
So what is “God’s thinking” (= the thinking of the members of the GB)? The article answers:
As already stated, it is not for elders to “police” the private marital matters of couples in the congregation. However, if it becomes known that a member of the congregation is practicing or openly advocating perverted sex relations within the marriage bond, that one certainly would not be irreprehensible, and so would not be acceptable for special privileges, such as serving as an elder, a ministerial servant or a pioneer. Such practice and advocacy could even lead to expulsion from the congregation.
The quoted words indicate a partial reversal of the reversal of the decision of 1978. The expression “perverted sex relations” includes “oral and anal copulation and other lewd practices.” The view here presented is that these actions are not the same as porneia, as the view was between 1974 and 1978. But these actions are disfellowshipping offenses. So, the Governing Body in 1983 overruled the true words in The Watchtower of 1978 that in connection with sexual relations inside marriage there is “absence of Scriptural direction. ” The GB now claim that they know “God’s thinking” on this.
|1972-1978||The Governing Body made rules for the sexual life of married couples.|
|1978-1983||The Governing Body’s rules for the sexual life of married couples were abolished.|
|1983-2022||The Governing Body made again rules for the sexual life of married couples.|
We have so far discussed decisions of the Governing Body that have had a disastrous effect on the lives of the Witnesses. In what follows, I will also discuss decisions regarding the interpretation of the Scriptures that can have a detrimental effect on the faith of the Witnesses and their trust in Jehovah.
RESURRECTION — A REJECTION OF WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS
In the spring of 1965, The Watchtower had five excellent articles on the resurrection. These articles discussed all the different sides of the resurrection that are found both in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek Scriptures. The basis for the articles was the ransom sacrifice of Jesus. He bought all Adam’s descendants by his death, and every descendant of Adam will get a full chance to accept or reject the sacrifice of Jesus. Those who had not received this chance before their death will get this change by a resurrection from the dead. These articles are excellent examples of interactive teaching because they are written in a way that the readers can check all the basic conclusions with the Bible.
Jesus speaks about the resurrection on the last day several times, and he mentions the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. According to the 1965-articles, the people of these cities will be resurrected even though they acted in a wicked way. The Watchtower of January 15, 1987 compared the actions of the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Sodom and Gomorrah and said:
Jesus goes on to single out for reproach the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, where he has performed most of his powerful works. If he had done them in the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus says, these cities would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. Condemning Capernaum, which apparently has been his home base during his ministry, Jesus declares: “It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom on Judgment Day than for you.”
What does Jesus mean by this? Evidently, he is showing that, during Judgment Day when proud ones in Capernaum are resurrected, it will be more difficult for them to admit their mistakes and accept Christ than it will be for the resurrected ancient Sodomites to repent humbly and learn righteousness.
The explanation of this article is logical, and it accords with what the text literally says. However, in The Watchtower of June 1, 1988, the question was raised: “Will those whom Jehovah destroyed by fire in Sodom and Gomorrah be resurrected?” The article says:
A recent review of this suggests that these verses need not be taken as statements about the future for the people of Sodom/Gomorrah…
A reexamination of Matthew 11:20-24, though, has brought into question whether Jesus was there discussing eternal judgment and resurrection. His point was how unresponsive the people in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were and how unlikely it was that they would reform even in the Judgment Day. Saying that it would be “more endurable” for Tyre/Sidon and Sodom/Gomorrah “on Judgment Day” was a form of hyperbole (exaggeration to emphasize a point) that Jesus need not have intended to be taken literally, any more than other graphic hyperboles that he used.
These comments are, in reality, a rejection of the full inspiration of the Bible. The basic approach to the text of the Bible that I have learned through The Watchtower literature is as follows: We must take the text of the Bible in its literal meaning if the context does not explicitly say otherwise, and we cannot make any exceptions to what is written if the context does not clearly show that there is an exception. This is grossly violated by the quotation above because the quotation says that the meaning of the text is the very opposite of what the text literally says.
The sentences below that are marked in the brown show without any doubt that the basic conclusions of the article are wrong — the inhabitants of Nineveh, Capernaum, and Sodom will get a resurrection:
Matthew 12:41, 42:
41 Men of Nin’e·veh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, because they repented at what Jo’nah preached. But look! something more than Jo’nah is here. 42 The queen of the south will be raised up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Sol’o·mon. But look! something more than Sol’o·mon is here.
23 And you, Ca·per’na·um, will you perhaps be exalted to heaven? Down to the Grave you will come; because if the powerful works that took place in you had taken place in Sod’om, it would have remained until this very day.24 But I say to you, it will be more endurable for the land of Sod’om on Judgment Day than for you.”
Jesus said that the men of Nineveh and the queen of the south would get a resurrection together with “this generation” (“this adulterous and wicked generation,” 12:39). This shows that the persons who did not accept that the powerful works Jesus showed that he was God’s servant, including the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida, will get a resurrection. And these persons were wicked and adulterous, according to Jesus. Thus, when The Watchtower says that Jesus did not speak about the resurrection, this claim is clearly wrong.
And what about the inhabitants of Sodom? The clause. “it (Sodom) would have remained until this very day” can only be understood in one way, as The Watchtower of March 1, 1965, page 139 says:
As in the case of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus showed that Sodom, bad as it was, had not got to the state of being unable to repent. That is why Jesus said that, if his powerful works that had taken place in Capernaum had taken place in Sodom, “it would have remained” until Jesus’ day. And in that connection Jesus said that Capernaum, which had been exalted in a spiritual way to heaven, would be abased down to Ha’des, not to Gehenna. Heaven for height and Ha’des or Sheol for depth; and by using this contrast Jesus meant that Capernaum would undergo the deepest abasement. Though highly favored by Jesus, that city does not exist today any more than Sodom does. But if Sodom had had Capernaum’s opportunity Sodom would have had ten or more righteous persons in it and it would have continued over nineteen hundred years longer till Jesus’ day and then some. So the spiritual recovery of the dead people of Sodom is not hopeless. (Gen. 18:22-32) Ezekiel 16:46-61 speaks hopefully of people compared to ancient Sodomites.
The requirement that Sodom “would have remained until this very day” was that the city had ten or more righteous persons. The words of Jesus show that there were at least ten righteous persons in Sodom. To claim that these ten or more are eternally annihilated, as does The Watchtower of June 1, 1988, is a rejection both of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, that he bought all Adam’s descendants, and a rejection of God’s righteousness.
|The Watchtower of 1988 rejects the inspiration of the text of the Bible by saying that the meaning of the words of Jesus is the opposite of what the text literally says. The reduction of the number of persons who will get a resurrection is also a devaluation of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus.|
. See the article “The use of tobacco” in the category “Gross uncleanness with greediness.”
. A detailed discussion of the issue regarding the prohibition against the use of methadone is found in the article “The use of methadone — A disfellowshipping offense” in the category
. A discussion of drug abuse from the point of view of the Bible is found in the article “Abuse of medical and addictive drugs” in the category “Gross uncleanness with greediness.”
. See the article “The Word porneia (“sexual immorality”) was applied inside marriage” in the category “Reversed view of disfellowshipping offenses.”
. The reason why the year 1961 is written inside a parenthesis, is that, as far as I know, in this year the stance that The Watchtower Society did not give any advice regarding secular work was reversed. But the full-scale reversal when the Governing Body made rules for many kinds of secular work with threats for those who did not follow the rules of being disfellowshipped, was the year 1974.
. “Death and Hades to Give Up the Dead”; “The Dead Who Are in Line for Resurrection”; “For Whom There Are Resurrection Hopes”; “Who Will be Resurrected from the Dead?”; “Who Will be Resurrected—Why?” in The Watchtower of 15 January, February 1, February 15, March 1, and March 15, 1965.
. For a detailed discussion of the application of the ransom sacrifice and God’s righteousness in connection with the resurrection, see the article “Participating in Interfaith Activities” and in the category “ and “Deliberately spreading teachings contrary to Bible truth.” Both are found in the category “Apostasy.” See also, “The members of the Governing Body have devalued and restricted the ransom sacrifice of Jesus” in the category “The Governing Body.”
. I am aware of a few examples where the text of the Bible was contradicted in the time when sola scripture was followed. I will return to that.
THE REJECTION OF THE STATUS OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES AS AMBASSADORS FOR GOD’S KINGDOM
Paul shows that Christians were ambassadors for God’s Kingdom. In 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NWT13) we read:
Therefore, we are ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us. As substitutes for Christ, we beg: “Become reconciled to God.”
The history of early Christianity shows that the Christians refused to become soldiers, and that they were neutral to all the pursuits of the Roman Empire.
How the status of being ambassadors was practiced and abandoned
Because of the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20, young Witnesses who were called to do military service did the same as an ambassador of a foreign country would do: They refused to do military service. In some countries, like Norway and Denmark, the Witnesses who refused military service were offered to do alternative civil service instead. But again, they did the same as an ambassador would have done: They refused to do alternative civil service. There was nothing wrong with the civil service in itself. But the point is that like an ambassador, who does not accept that the nation to which he is an ambassador has the right to put him under compulsory service, the Witnesses did not accept that any nation had the right to put them under compulsory service — they would be neutral to the pursuits of the nations of the world.
The book Let God Be True, which was designed for Bible study, was published in 1946. This book has a detailed description of the real issue. On pages 227-230 we read:
Since Jehovah’s government, standing forever, is the greatest of all governments, it follows that his ministers or ambassadors should have the same rights and exemptions as the ministers of this world have. An ambassador of a foreign power is by the laws of this world exempt from payment of tax and the giving of allegiance to the government of the land where he is domiciled . He is relieved of rendering political obligations of any sort. The nation wherein he resides is without authority to impose any regulation that burdens or abridges the performance of his duty as such…
The time, energy and life of the witness of Jehovah are dedicated exclusively to the service of Almighty God . He has entered into a covenant or contract with Almighty God to perform faithfully his God-given preaching activity as long as he lives, and never to turn away therefrom. His turning aside from that assigned duty, to engage in serving another master, to perform other work assigned by the civil state, or his refraining from preaching because of compliance with arbitrary commands to stop, is in the eyes of Jehovah covenant-breaking…
The preaching activity of Jehovah’s witnesses as ministers entitles them to claim exemption from performing military training and service in the armed forces of the nations wherein they dwell. The exempt status of Jehovah’s witnesses also relieves them of the performance of governmental work required of conscientious objectors to both combatant and noncombatant military service, because Jehovah’s witnesses are ministers of the gospel and are not religious, political or academic pacifists. They claim neutrality and the rights of neutrals because of their status as ambassadors of the kingdom of Almighty God . This is exactly the same position taken by Christ Jesus and his apostles. (John 18 : 36) Additionally, that position was assumed at Rome by early Christians, who were thrown to the lions by the authoritarian rulers…
For another reason each minister of Almighty God as a follower of Christ Jesus claims his exemption from military training and service: He is in the army of Christ Jesus, serving as a soldier of Jehovah’s appointed Commander, Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2 : 3, 4) Inasmuch as the war weapons of the soldier of Christ Jesus are not carnal, he is not authorized by his Commander to engage in carnal warfare of this world. (2 Corinthians 10 :3,4 ; Ephesians 6 : 11-18) Furthermore, being enlisted in the army of Christ Jesus, he cannot desert the forces of Jehovah to assume the obligations of a soldier in any army of this world without being guilty of desertion and suffering the punishment meted out to deserters by Almighty God.
The following points are expressed in the quotation: Jehovah’s Witnesses are ambassadors for God’s Kingdom, and therefore, they are neutral to the pursuits of the nations. Because they are ambassadors, they refuse military service and other compulsory service. Each Witness is a part of the army of Jesus, and to use time for any form of compulsory service would be the same as desertion from this army.
I studied the book Let God Be True when I became a Witness in 1961, and almost all interested persons who became Witnesses studied the same book. This means that the Witnesses knew that they were ambassadors and would be neutral to all pursuits of the nation where they lived. And this continued for 50 years after World War II. The result of this was that thousands of young Witnesses who refused both military service and alternative civil service, had to serve jail sentences of 18 months or several years. However, in the year 1996, there was a reversal of the position of being ambassadors and being neutral to the pursuits of the world. The Watchtower of May 1, 1996, page 16 says:
16 However, there are lands where the State, while not allowing exemption for ministers of religion, nevertheless acknowledges that some individuals may object to military service. Many of these lands make provision for such conscientious individuals not to be forced into military service. In some places a required civilian service, such as useful work in the community, is regarded as nonmilitary national service. Could a dedicated Christian undertake such service? Here again, a dedicated, baptized Christian would have to make his own decision on the basis of his Bible-trained conscience.
This new position was a clear compromise because from now on, Jehovah’s Witnesses could not rightly claim to be ambassadors for God’s Kingdom. The Watchtower Society are still claiming that the Witnesses are ambassadors, but on the mentioned background, this is a hollow claim without any substance.
A detailed discussion of this issue is found in the article “We cannot trust the views and decisions of the Governing Body” in the category “the Governing Body.” In this context, I will show how the compromise of abandoning the position of ambassadors was the result of a long process inside the Governing Body and that the final decision was not based on the Bible.
The development Inside the Governing Body that led to the abandoning of the position of ambassadors
Raymond Franz has a long discussion about military service and alternative civil service in his book Crisis of Conscience. He tells that in November 1978, a letter arrived from a Witness in Belgium who questioned the policy of refusing alternative service. On page 125, Franz shows the reaction of the members of the Governing Body to this letter:
This led to the alternative service issue being dealt with by the Governing Body in a number of lengthy and intense discussions, first on January 28, 1978, then on March 1, and again on September 26, October 11, October 18 and November 15. A worldwide survey was made and letters were received from some 90 branch offices.
As documentation shows, many Branch office committees, including those from several major countries, indicated that the Witness men affected did not understand either the logic or the Scripturalness of the organization’s position. In a number of cases the Branch committees themselves raised questions as to the rightness of the policy and presented Scriptural reasons for allowing the matter to be one of conscience.
The whole situation outlined by Franz is strange, particularly because the information given in the Bible study book Let God Be True (1946) is crystal clear: Because Jehovah’s Witnesses are ambassadors for God’s Kingdom they are neutral to all the pursuits of the nations. And as ambassadors, they do not accept that any nation can put them under compulsory service. Franz was one of those who strongest argued for a change, and because of this, it is strange that he himself did not understand what the issue was all about. On page 124 in Crisis of Conscience, he writes:
The official position of the Watch Tower Society, developed in the early 1940s during the Second World War, was that if one of Jehovah’s Witnesses accepted such alternative service he had “compromised,” had broken integrity with God. The reasoning behind this was that because this service was a “substitute” it therefore took the place of what it substituted for and (so the reasoning apparently went) came to stand for the same thing. Since it was offered in place of military service and since military service involved (potentially at least) the shedding of blood, then anyone accepting the substitute became “bloodguilty.” This remarkable policy developed before the Governing Body became a genuine reality and was evidently decided upon by Fred Franz and Nathan Knorr during the period when they produced all major policy decisions. Failure to adhere to this policy would mean being viewed automatically as “disassociated” and being treated the same as if disfellowshiped.
I have never heard or seen the word “bloodguilt” mentioned in connection with alternative civil service, as Franz says. And he has not understood the point that ambassadors do not accept compulsory service. On page 135 he says that “I personally had already presented to the Body some fourteen pages of historical, Scriptural and lexical evidence pointing in the same direction [of changing the present policy].” This shows again his lack of understanding of the real issue. No historical or lexical evidence has anything to do with the issue. There is only the Scriptural evidence that counts, and that is the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20 that each Christian is an ambassador for God’s Kingdom. If this scripture is taken at face value, there is no room for alternative civil service instead of military service.
In footnote 12 on page 124, Franz writes: “As late as November 1, 1990, Watchtower, this [that civil service stands for the same thing as military service] was alluded to as a “compromising substitute” for an unscriptural service.” But his misunderstanding of the real issue caused him to fail to understand the argument of The Watchtower of May 1, 1990. Romans chapter 13 is discussed, including the paying of taxes (verse 7). And the words of Jesus, “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar” are quoted. Then the magazine on page 12 says:
Hence, when Christians are ordered by governments to share in community works, they quite properly comply as long as those works do not amount to a compromising substitute for some unscriptural service or otherwise violate Scriptural principles, such as that found at Isaiah 2:4.
The point here is that just as the authorities have the right to order the inhabitants to pay taxes, they have also the right to order “community service,” which can be viewed as a tax. But “community service” as a compulsory service that is an alternative to compulsory military service would be an unscriptural compromise. The important thing to notice is that Franz’s memorandum of 14 pages would lead the members of the Governing Body in the wrong direction because the real issue became clouded and was not mentioned at all.
Let us then look at the description of the proceedings of the Governing Body regarding alternative civil service. In Crisis of Conscience, page 135, we read:
At the October 11, 1978, meeting, of thirteen members present, nine voted in favor of changing the traditional policy so that the decision to accept or reject alternative service would be left to the conscience of the individual; four did not vote for this. The result? Since there were then sixteen members in the Body (though not all were present) and since nine was not two-thirds of sixteen, no change was made.
On October 18 there was discussion on the subject but no vote taken. On November 15, all sixteen members were present and eleven voted for changing the policy so that the Witness who conscientiously felt he could accept such service would not be automatically categorized as unfaithful to God and disassociated from the congregation. This was a two-thirds majority. Was the change made? No, for after a brief intermission, Governing Body member Lloyd Barry, who had voted with the majority in favor of a change, announced that he had changed his mind and would vote for continuance of the traditional policy. That destroyed the two-thirds majority. A subsequent vote taken, with fifteen members present, showed nine favoring a change, five against and one abstention.
Six sessions of the Governing Body had discussed the issue and, when votes were taken, in every case a majority of the Governing Body members had favored removal of the existing policy. The one vote with the two-thirds majority lasted less than one hour and the policy remained in force. As a result Witness men were still expected to risk imprisonment rather than accept alternative service—even though, as the letters coming in from the survey showed, they might conscientiously feel such acceptance was proper in God’s sight.
Incredible as it may seem, this was the position taken, and most members of the Body appeared to accept it all as nothing to be disturbed about. They were, after all, simply following the rules in force. A year later, on September 15, 1979, another vote was taken and it was evenly divided, half for a change, half against.
It seems to me that Franz, who so strongly favored a change, led the members of the Governing Body in a wrong direction because he did not understand the real issue. That so many were in favor of a change, shows in my view the lack of balance and understanding of these members of the Governing Body. The words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20 and the comments on these words in the book Let God Be True should have prevented all these discussions. Franz criticizes Barry for his stance, but the memorandum of Barry that Franz criticizes really accords with 2 Corinthians 5:20. In his book In Search for Christian Freedom, pages 263. 264, Franz quotes the memorandum written by Barry:
In this, the issue is not taxation, employment, etc., but COMPROMISE. We are agreed that we should not take up arms for the military. Then we should be agreed, too, that if the military or any other agency asks us to do something as a substitute therefore, we do not accept the alternative. That is our action. Then, if we are handed over to a court, and a judge sentences us, that is his action. We accept the sentence. We have not compromised. We are integrity keepers. It is as simple as all that.—Job 27:5.
Whether Barry, in the discussion of his memorandum, mentioned 2 Corinthians 5:20 or not we do not know. But his words both accord with the words of this scripture and with the words of Let God Be True. This shows that Barry in contrast with Franz understood what the real issue was. The view of alternative civil service was not changed in 1977 and 1978, and the conclusion of Franz regarding this is found in Crisis of Conscience, pages 135, 136:
For another 16 years the policy remained in effect, until the May 1, 1996 Watchtower abruptly decreed that acceptance of alternative service was now a matter of conscience. During those 16 years, thousands of Witnesses, mainly young men, spent time in prison for refusing to accept assignments to perform various forms of community service as an alternative to military service. As late as 1988, a report by Amnesty International stated that in France, “More than 500 conscientious objectors to military service, the vast majority of them Jehovah’s Witnesses, were imprisoned during the year.” For the same year, in Italy, “Approximately 1,000 conscientious objectors, mostly Jehovah’s Witnesses, were reported to be imprisoned in 10 military prisons for refusing to perform military service or the alternative civilian service.”
That is just a partial picture. If that one Governing Body member had not changed his vote in 1978, virtually none of these men would have gone to prison—for the branch office committees’ reports give clear evidence that it was not the personal, individual consciences of these young men that produced the imprisonment. It was the compulsion to adhere to an organizationally imposed policy. The policy change is unquestionably welcome. Nonetheless, the fact that it took some 50 years for the organization’s to finally remove itself from this area of personal conscience surely has significance. One cannot but think of all the thousands of years collectively lost during half a century by Witness men as to their freedom to associate with family and friends, or to contribute to their own economy and the economy of those related to them, or pursue other worthwhile activities in ways not possible within prison walls. It represents an incredible waste of valuable years for the simple reason that it was unnecessary, being the result of an unscriptural position, imposed by organizational authority.
Franz hailed the change of 1996, and he expressed regrets that it took 50 years to change the policy. But the real truth is the very opposite. It took 50 years to reach the compromise by which the status of ambassadors for God’s Kingdom was abolished. And this is one of the decisions of the Governing Body justifying the words in the title that the creation of the Governing Body has been a disaster. A discussion of the issue of civil service is also found in the article, “We cannot trust the ever-shifting views and decisions of the Governing Body.”
|In 1978, Lloyd Barry called the acceptance of alternative civil service that was decided by the Governing Body in 1996 a COMPROMISE. This was a true characterization because the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses as ambassadors of God’s Kingdom was now compromised and abolished.|
STORING ONE’S OWN BLOOD IN ORDER TO GET IT INFUSED LATER
The book How to Remain in God’s Love? states that storing one’s own blood for later infusion is prohibited. The issue was discussed in The Watchtower of October 15, 2000, page 31:
Occasionally, a doctor will urge a patient to deposit his own blood weeks before surgery (preoperative autologous blood donation, or PAD) so that if the need arises, he could transfuse the patient with his own stored blood. However, such collecting, storing, and transfusing of blood directly contradicts what is said in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Blood is not to be stored; it is to be poured out—returned to God, as it were. Granted, the Mosaic Law is not in force now. Nevertheless, Jehovah’s Witnesses respect the principles God included in it, and they are determined to ‘abstain from blood.’ Hence, we do not donate blood, nor do we store for transfusion our blood that should be ‘poured out.’ That practice conflicts with God’s law.
Other procedures or tests involving an individual’s own blood are not so clearly in conflict with God’s stated principles. For instance, many Christians have allowed some of their blood to be withdrawn for testing or analysis, after which the sample is discarded. Other more complex procedures involving one’s blood may also be recommended.
For example, during certain surgical procedures, some blood may be diverted from the body in a process called hemodilution. The blood remaining in the patient is diluted. Later, his blood in the external circuit is directed back into him, thus bringing his blood count closer to normal. Similarly, blood that flows into a wound may be captured and filtered so that the red cells can be returned to the patient; this is called cell salvage. In a different process, blood may be directed to a machine that temporarily carries on a function normally handled by body organs (for example, the heart, lungs, or kidneys). The blood from the machine is then returned to the patient. In other procedures, blood is diverted to a separator (centrifuge) so that damaging or defective portions of it can be eliminated. Or the goal may be to isolate some of a blood component and apply that elsewhere on the body. There are also tests in which a quantity of blood is withdrawn in order to tag it or to mix it with medicine, whereupon it is put back into the patient.
The details may vary, and new procedures, treatments, and tests will certainly be developed. It is not our place to analyze each variation and render a decision. A Christian must decide for himself how his own blood will be handled in the course of a surgical procedure, medical test, or current therapy. Ahead of time, he should obtain from the doctor or technician the facts about what might be done with his blood during the procedure. Then he must decide according to what his conscience permits. (italics of the author)
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
If some of my blood will be diverted outside my body and the flow might even be interrupted for a time, will my conscience allow me to view this blood as still part of me, thus not requiring that it be ‘poured out on the ground’?
Would my Bible-trained conscience be troubled if during a diagnostic or therapeutic procedure some of my own blood was withdrawn, modified, and directed back into (or onto) my body?
We should note that the reason given for not storing one’s own blood is different from the reason given for not taking full blood, red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma into the body. The mentioned blood components are prohibited because taking them into the body is the same as eating them, which is forbidden, is the argument. But the prohibition against storing one’s blood is based on the commandment that blood must be poured out on the ground, that is, the blood of a dead creature must not be used for any purpose.
However, the blood was poured out on the ground when the creature was dead. This was a token indicating respect for the lifegiver. When the blood was poured out, the life of the creature was symbolically returned to God. But when a person stored his own blood with an operation in view, the person is not dead, and his life should not be returned to God. Also, the blood that is transfused into the veins of the person is not the blood of another human being, but it is his own blood.
An article in The Watchtower of March 15, 1980, page 31, discussing transplantation and whether taking a transplant is the same as eating another person’s flesh, thus being a cannibal, says:
It may be argued, too, that organ transplants are different from cannibalism since the “donor” is not killed to supply food.
In a similar way, it is the blood of a dead creature and not a living one that should not be stored. Because the person who is storing his blood is not dead, the prohibition against storing the blood of a dead creature cannot be used to show that storing a living creature’s own blood is wrong. There is no law in the Bible showing that the storing of one’s own blood is against God’s law.
We must therefore conclude that the decision — or rather the order — of the Governing Body that one’s own blood must not be stored has no biblical basis. So, whether to store one’s blood or not is a matter of conscience; each one has the right to decide.
|Blood from dead creatures must not be stored but must be poured out on the ground. The commandment for doing this cannot be used as a prohibition against storing one’s own blood for a future operation because the commandment only relates to the blood of dead creatures.|
In order to drive home the points above, I will compare the situation of blood storage with other procedures mentioned in the Question from readers. Please consider the following examples:
- When a quantity of blood is withdrawn in order to tag it or mix it with medicine, it can be stored for several minutes before it is returned to the patient.
- When blood flows into a wound, and it is captured, filtered, and the red cells are returned to the patient, the red cells can be stored in the process for half an hour or more.
- When blood is withdrawn for testing and analysis, the blood can be stored for several days if it is sent to a laboratory specializing in particular tests. After that, it will be discarded.
- When blood is withdrawn from the patient with the purpose of returning it to the patient during an operation, the blood can be stored for one or two or for several weeks.
In all these cases, it is the blood of the patient that is withdrawn from him and later returned to him or discarded. The basic difference between the four examples is the time, i.e., how long the blood is stored. It does not make sense to claim that a person’s blood that is withdrawn and stored for three days before it is processed at a laboratory is a matter of conscience, but a person’s blood that is withdrawn and stored for seven days or two weeks before it is returned to him during an operation is forbidden.
Today, there are many alternatives to blood transfusion, and it almost never happens that a Witness dies because he or she refuses a transfusion. However, there is one area where the prohibition against storing one’s own blood for an operation can have disastrous consequences. One reason why a doctor asks a Witness to store his or her blood for use in an operation is that the operation is big. I have been told by surgeons that if all the sick tissue is removed, the blood loss may be so severe that even all the alternatives to blood transfusion cannot save the life of the patient. This means that a Witness who refuses blood transfusion and does not have his own blood stored often will not get the best treatment. If there is severe bleeding, the surgeon may only remove the great part of the sick issue but not all of it. If the sick tissue, for example, is cancerous, the tissue that is not removed may soon start to grow and the life of the patient will be shortened. So the lives of a great number of Witnesses may have been shortened because of the Governing Body’s prohibition against storing one’s own blood.
THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a power struggle inside the Governing Body between Lloyd Barry and Theodore Jaracz. Barry was a more balanced person, while Jaracz was a hardliner who wanted to make laws and rules for everything. In 1999, Barry suddenly died, and to his death in 2010, Jaracz was the leader of the Governing Body, and he had the final say when new members of the Governing Body should be appointed. The personality of Jaracz as a person who wanted to make many laws formed the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the 21st century. Under the leadership of Jaracz, the organization became more and more militant and legalistic.
Thirty-seven new disfellowshipping offenses introduced
The legalistic nature of the organization is seen in the increase of disfellowshipping offenses. After the death of Barry, the number of disfellowshipping offenses doubled. In 1991, the book “Pay Attention To Yourselves And To All Your Flock” was published, and in this book, I count 20 disfellowshipping offenses. In 2019, the book “Shepherd The Flock Of God” was published, and in this book, I count 46 disfellowshipping offenses. And two other disfellowshipping offenses are mentioned elsewhere. Included in these are four situations where a person is said to be “disassociating himself” from the organization. But “disassociating” is really a euphemism for disfellowshipping. The book Shepherd The Flock Of God which was published in 2010, has the same 46 disfellowshipping offenses as the book with the same name that was published in 2019. This shows that the addition of the 35 new disfellowshipping offenses occurred while Jaracz was alive.
The crusade against higher education
In addition to new disfellowshipping offenses, a number of new rules were introduced as well. Barry was university educated, and he had a balanced view of higher education. This is seen in an article about education that he wrote in The Watchtower in 1990. Jaracz only had a basic education, and he had a negative view both of higher education and of persons with higher education. In 2005, on Jaracz’ watch, a campaign against higher education was started, and it continues to this day. This has been a disaster for tens of thousands of young brothers and sisters who have been pressured not to pursue higher education.
New and wrong understandings of biblical texts have been introduced
The members of the Governing Body in the 21st century have directed the focus on themselves by claiming that the members of the Governing Body are “the faithful and discreet slave.” They have also claimed to be wiser than previous members of the Governing Body. In The Watchtower of March 15, 2015, page 7, we read:
Jehovah has helped “the faithful and discreet slave” to become steadily more discreet.
Because of this, they claim that they understand things that have not been understood before, and they have presented a great number of “clarified beliefs.” During the 120 years between 1870 and 1989, 107 “clarified beliefs” were presented, according to the Online Watchtower Index. But during the 31 years between 1990 and 2020, 94 different “clarified beliefs were presented.” During the eight years from 2013 to 2020, the members of the Governing Body have been particularly busy because I count 46 “clarified beliefs” in these years.
In the article “Analysis of evidence used to show that the Governing Body is the faithful and discreet slave” in the category “The Governing Body” I show that 15 of the so-called “clarified beliefs” simply are wrong. And the “clarified beliefs” are, in reality, “clouded beliefs” by which the Witnesses are led astray.
The belief in the full inspiration of the Bible has been abandoned
When I was preaching the good news about the Kingdom from door to door, sometimes I met a person who said that he believed that the whole Bible is inspired by God. I often asked the person: “Do you believe that Adam was the first human who was created about 6,000 years ago, as Luke 3:23-38 shows. When the person says No, which happened in most cases, I concluded that he did not believe in the full inspiration of God.
If you ask a member of the Governing Body if he believes in the full inspiration of the Bible, he certainly will say Yes. Then I ask: “Do you believe that the Song of Solomon is a prophetic drama where the different persons foreshadow persons today? Then he will say No, and the same answer he will give to a great number of other accounts in the Hebrew Scriptures. Then I conclude that he does not believe in the full inspiration of the Bible because he believes that a great part of the Bible is just “filling material” with no meaning for us. This new view of the Bible was expressed in The Watchtower of June 15, 2015.
The members of the Governing Body have given themselves dictatorial power
Since 1971, when the Governing Body was formed, its members have had absolute power over the doctrines. Everything that they write must be accepted as the truth that comes from God. However, in 2013, their position as those who are appointed by God as the interpreters of the Bible was stressed and enhanced, because The Watchtower of July 15, 2013, page 22, said that these eight men, and not all the anointed Christians, were “The faithful and discreet slave” who would give spiritual food at the right time.
However, their power basis was not yet complete. The Watchtower of February 15, 2009, page 26 says:
Moreover, Jesus Christ has appointed the faithful and discreet slave “over all his belongings”—all Kingdom interests on earth. (Matt. 24:47) Included among these belongings are the facilities at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, at branch offices in various lands, and at Assembly Halls and Kingdom Halls worldwide. Included too is the work of Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making. Would anyone assign someone he did not trust to keep and use his valuable things?
In 2013, the Governing Body did not yet have the power over “all kingdom interests on earth.” What was lacking was the assets and the money of all the congregations. The Kingdom Halls were owned by the congregation members, and the congregation members, and not the Governing Body, had the power over the money of the congregation. As I show under the heading “The new view of soliciting money” in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, pages 145-155, it seems that the members of the Governing Body already from 2009 made plans for gradually to come in the position that they could take over the ownership of each Kingdom Hall. When this goal was reached, they also introduced a system where all the money of each congregation, except expenses for three months, should be donated to the branch office.
This means that from now on, the members of the Governing Body had all power over the doctrines, the assets, and the money. It is quite ironic that now when the members of the Governing Body had all power over “all kingdom interests on earth,” the view of the meaning of the words “over all his belongings” has changed. The belief is that this is something the anointed ones get by their heavenly resurrection and that the words do not refer to the Kingdom Halls and the money of the congregations.
. “Death and Hades to Give Up the Dead”; “The Dead Who Are in Line for Resurrection”; “For Whom There Are Resurrection Hopes”; “Who Will be Resurrected from the Dead?”; “Who Will be Resurrected—Why?” in The Watchtower of January 15, February 1, February 15, March 1, and March 15, 1965.
. For a detailed discussion of the application of the ransom sacrifice and God’s righteousness in connection with the resurrection, see the article “Participating in Interfaith Activities” and in the category “ and “Deliberately spreading teachings contrary to Bible truth.” Both are found in the category “Apostasy.” See also the article, “The members of the Governing Body have devalued and restricted the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ” in the category, “The Governing Body.”
. See the article “The power struggle inside the Governing Body in the 1980s and 1990s” in the category “The Governing Body.”
. See chapter 4, “The extreme view of higher education” in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition.
THE FINAL RESULT OF THE DECISIONS OF THE GOVERNING BODY — THE DICTATORIAL ORGANIZATION
If a Witness studies the Bible with a Catholic man, and the man leaves the Church and becomes a member of a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the man becomes a part of an organization that is more hierarchical and more dictatorial than the Catholic Church that he left. This is a situation that violates several Bible principles. If a Catholic man became a Witness in 1972, when the elder arrangement was implemented, he would become a part of an organization that cherished Christian freedom for all—an organization that in all important areas was the diametrical opposite of the Catholic Church. If this present situation cannot be called a disaster, I do not know which situations can qualify for this term.
When the new view of elders and responsible positions among Jehovah’s Witnesses was presented, all the details of how to implement this in the organization were not clear. And I am certain that the formation of the Governing Body in 1971 and the elder arrangement in 1972 was based on sincere wishes to bring the organization more in line with the words of the Bible. But something went wrong, yes, very wrong!
In a worldwide organization, there must be leaders who can make arrangements, so the organization functions in a smooth way. When we read the Christian Greek Scriptures, we see that there were elders in each congregation who made arrangements for the congregation members, and we see that there also were some elders, such as the apostles of Jesus, who were viewed as pillars among the congregations. But as I demonstrate in chapter 2 of My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, there was no governing body consisting of the apostles and the elders in Jerusalem. I also show in chapter 3 of this book that the words about “the faithful and discreet slave” in Matthew 24:45-47 are grossly misunderstood. There is no “faithful and discreet slave” in the sense of teachers appointed by God. On the other hand, I show that there is only one true religion, and the truth about Jehovah God and Jesus Christ can only be learned from representatives of the true religion.
In this article, I have discussed a number of decisions made by the members of the Governing Body since 1971 that have resulted in disastrous consequences for hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When we look at these decisions, why are they wrong? Can we see a common denominator? I find two common denominators: Let us look at the first one:
Prohibition against taking Factor VIII for hemophiliacs. (1972-1975)
Disfellowshipping those who use tobacco. (1973-2022)
Prohibition against the use of methadone for drug addicts. (1973-2013)
Anal and oral copulation are porneia and can dissolve the marriage. (1974-1978)
A number of new laws regarding secular work. (1974-2022)
Prohibition against storing one’s own blood for use at an operation. (2000.2022)
There is a common denominator in the six issues mentioned above, namely, that the prohibitions relate to issues that are not mentioned in the Bible. This means that the disastrous consequences for the hundreds of thousands of Witnesses who have been affected by one or more of the mentioned decisions are based on human commandments that have no basis in the Bible. This shows that contrary to the words in 1 Peter 5:3 the members of the Governing Body are “lording it over those who are God’s inheritance.” This represents anti-Christian actions!
Let us look at the second common denominator: This is all the disfellowshipping offenses that have been invented and introduced by the members of the Governing Body without any basis in the Bible. A list of the 11 disfellowshipping offenses that are based on the Bible and a list of those invented by the Governing Body are found in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, pages 205-206. In addition to the 35 extra-biblical disfellowshipping offenses in the book for elders Shepherd The flock Of God, plus two found elsewhere, Witnesses will also be disfellowshipped for refusing to follow any of the 100+ decisions made by the Governing Body in the book for branch committees Aid to Answering Branch Office Correspondence.
My book shows that according to the words of Paul only persons who are permeated with one of the 11 disfellowshipping offenses mentioned in the Bible should be disfellowshipped. The members of the Governing Body have not only rejected this biblical truth. But they have gone to the other extreme, saying that only one single act of wrongdoing can lead to disfellowshipping. Shepherd The Flock Of God. Chapter 16, point 7 says:
Even if this is the individual’s first time before a judicial committee, he must give evidence of genuine repentance if he is to remain in the congregation.
These words show that a Witness can be disfellowshipped because of one single act of wrongdoing.
During the 21st century, about one million Witnesses have been disfellowshipped. If the Bible had been followed, and only persons that were permeated by one of the 11 disfellowshipping offenses were disfellowshipped, I estimate that more than 90% of the mentioned one million Witnesses would not have been disfellowshipped. There can be no doubt that the human commandments regarding disfellowshipping have led to a disaster for more than 900,000 Witnesses.
The fact that the members of the Governing Body have decided in favor of different prohibitions of non-biblical issues, and made extra-biblical laws and rules that are binding for all Witnesses, as well as disfellowshipping offenses that are not based on the Bible, show that the eight members of the Governing Body have given themselves dictatorial powers.
The eight members of the Governing Body are not competent to be Bible expositors.
This is seen by the simple fact that none of them know Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. It is impossible to understand the nuances of the text of the Bible without having an intimate knowledge of the original biblical languages. In spite of this, they claim that everything that they write is based on the Bible, and they speak of what they write as “the thoughts of God.” But in reality, a great part of what they write is the thoughts of humans, the thought of the eight members of the Governing Body.
In a discussion of the new version of the New World Translation (NWT13), The Watchtower of December 15, 2015, page 11, says that “approval was given” for the rendering of sheol and hades as “the grave.” The same words are used in connection with the rendering of nepesh and psyche with different English words. This approval was given by the members of the Governing Body.
It is quite ironic the members of the Governing Body who do not know the biblical languages have the final say in translation issues. But this underlines their dictatorial position. The fact that the NWT13 does not convey the nuances and subtleties of the original texts shows that the members of the Governing Body do not understand the importance of these details. The following account speaks in the same direction.
I have a good friend who is the most knowledgable Witness I have ever met. He has been a full-time servant from his youth. Like me, who was the instructor for the two-week course of all elders in Norway between 1974 and 1975, he was the instructor of this course in Switzerland. He has been circuit overseer and district overseer, and he has worked at the branch office. He is fluent in ten modern languages, and he has for many years been a university teacher of Greek and Latin. He also has a good knowledge of Hebrew. Twenty years ago, when he worked at the branch office in Switzerland, the zone overseer recommended that he be transferred to Brooklyn Bethel, so his skills could be used there. But this was denied by the Governing Body.
In my view, we have a situation similar to the one in the late 1980s when several brothers with knowledge of the original biblical languages worked together to list the subtleties and nuances of the words of the Bible. Instead of viewing these brothers as a resource, the members of the Governing Body evidently viewed them as rivals because the members of the Governing Body did not know the biblical languages. Therefore, the whole department for the study of the original languages was laid down. In a similar way, they evidently viewed this brother as a rival, and they did not want to use his skills.
The members of the GB do not always accept what the text of the Bible says and its full inspiration.
One example is the discussion above under the heading “Resurrection — a rejection of what the Bible says.” The Governing Body claims that persons in Sodom and Gomorrah will not get a resurrection, in spite of the fact that Jesus explicitly shows that they will get a resurrection.
Even more serious is the article in The Watchtower of June 15, 2015, page 8, where the full inspiration of the Bible is rejected by claiming that a great part of the Hebrew Scriptures does not have any meaning for us today. This issue is discussed in detail in chapter 7 entitled “The Governing Body’s new view of the Bible” in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition.
So we see that the members of the Governing Body both have ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of Witnesses with their extrabiblical laws and rules, they have weakened the faith of the Witnesses in the full inspiration of the Bible, and they have caused sickness and death for an unknown number of Witnesses. This justifies the words in the heading that “The creation of the Governing Body has been a disaster.”
|The members of the Governing Body have rejected the principle of sola scripture (“Scripture alone”) that Jehovah’s Witnesses followed until 1971 when the Governing Body was formed by:
1) Introducing a great number of extra-biblical laws and rules that are binding for all Witnesses.
2) Introducing 37 named disfellowshipping offenses that are not based on the Bible, as well as a number of unnamed disfellowshipping offenses.
3) Rejecting the full inspiration of the Bible by not accepting what the text says, and by claiming that a great part of the Hebrew Scriptures have no meaning for us today.
THE ELDER ARRANGEMENT
In 1972, I was the circuit servant (overseer) in the Oslo circuit. All the circuit servants had received a letter where they were told that from now on they did not have any power over the congregations. But the circuit servants were traveling pioneers who could help the congregations in different areas when the congregations asked for it.
The basis for the elder arrangement was that the brothers in each congregation should be scrutinized in relation to the requirements for elders that Paul mentions in 1 Timotheus 3:1-7. Someone had to lead the discussions, and the circuit servants were asked to do that. The discussions were thorough, and they could last for ten hours in some congregations.
I show in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, pages 138-140, that the bodies of elders in the first years of their existence were quite independent of the Watchtower Society and the Governing Body. Today, the members of the Governing Body exercise their power over the bodies of elders in two ways, by sending letters of instruction and by the visits of the circuit overseers. These visits are particularly important because the circuit overseers will check that all the instructions of the Governing Body have been followed.
In the first years after the implementation of the elder arrangement, the circuit overseer was not even allowed to be present at the meeting of elders when they recommended new elders. But gradually, the circuit overseers got more and more power until they today even appoint elders and remove elders.
THE WORK OF THE ELDERS AS TEACHERS
It was in 1976, four years after the elder arrangement was implemented, that the Governing Body started to transfer power from the elders to themselves. Until then, the bodies of elders had been encouraged to make their own outlines for public talks on the basis of what they believed would interest people in their territory. From now on, only outlines made by the Watchtower Society could be used.
As I already have mentioned, the Governing Body made a great number of extra-biblical laws and rules, and the elders had to ascertain that these laws and rules were followed. This means that the elders had to be members of a number of judicial committees when human laws were broken, and they had to disfellowship some Witnesses. I do not think that this situation was problematic for most elders, and the Witnesses had been taught to have complete confidence in everything the Governing Body did. So those who were not disfellowshipped believed that every disfellowshipping was based on the Bible and did not object when someone was disfellowshipped.
My impression was that during the 20th century, the elders had a good measure of freedom, and the circuit overseers did not behave as police officers. This means that the elders and the congregation members looked forward to the visit of the circuit overseer with anticipation and expected to get some spiritual values from his visit. Let us then take a look at the requirement of the elders to be teachers.
According to the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 3:2, elders must be “qualified to teach.” This teaching ability should be applied in three ways, 1) teaching from the platform in the congregation, 2) teaching the congregation members privately, and 3) teaching by one’s example. The instruction of The Watchtower in connection with the recommendation of new elders was that the private teaching was just as important as teaching in the congregation. This means that a brother did not need to be a good speaker in order to be qualified to teach.
In the first part of chapter 7 in my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition,I show how the interactive teaching method of The Watchtower greatly benefitted me and my fellow elders in connection with our qualifications as teachers. As the instructor of the two-week course for elders in 1974 and 1975, I became acquainted with all the elders in Norway. By listening to their comments and the short talks they gave during the course, I could see that a great number of them were very qualified to teach.
As I already have mentioned, we were encouraged to make our own outlines for public talks. Making these public lectures required much research, and that helped the elders to give interesting public lectures with points that they personally found interesting. In the first years after the elder arrangement was implemented, we were also encouraged to discuss deep Bible doctrines at the meetings of elders and not only “the business” of the congregation. All of this led to a situation where the elders had a very good knowledge of the Bible, and this they taught to the congregation members. So the congregations flourished, and the spirituality was high.
But then came the new instruction regarding public lectures in 1976. Now we were not allowed to make our own outlines, but we only had to give lectures based on the printed outlines from the Watchtower Society. And we were also instructed to follow the outline line for line and point for point and not add any material that we ourselves thought was interesting but that was not mentioned in the outline. What was the result of this?
In the congregations, there were a great number of good speakers who had a long experience of making their own outlines for public talks, and who were used to including things in their talks that they themselves loved and wanted to convey to the congregation members. For some years after 1976, many brothers used the titles of the printed outlines. But they did not follow these line for line, but they included interesting points from their own studies. The result was that the public lectures generally were interesting, and the congregation members learned many new things from these lectures.
This continued for several years. But new elders were appointed that had not experienced the previous interactive teaching, including the ability to do personal research and to present things to the congregations that they themselves found interesting. The tendency during the 1980s and later was that the elders who gave the public lectures slavishly followed the outline line by line and point by point. And it is not possible to give a good lecture if you only follow the points that another person has written — then the lecture lacks any personal touch. So most public lectures were boring, and the listeners learned very little.
Around 1990, the general view among the circuit overseers and those working at the branch office was that the teaching of public lectures was bad. I also received signals from other countries about the same views. It seems that even the members of the Governing Body realized the less than good teaching of the public lectures. In the early 1990s, there was a course for elders, and I was assigned to give the lecture about how to use the outline of a public lecture in a good way. The outline opened a little for a personal touch of the lecturer, and I used this point to the full. But the public lectures after this course followed the same track — generally, they were boring.
The same has been the case in the 21st century. It has been stressed that the outlines represent the voice of the Governing Body, and it is this voice that the congregations must listen to. Therefore, it is important to follow the outlines slavishly.
The quality of the outlines themselves has also contributed to the lack of good teaching. During the 55 years from 1976, only about 150 different outlines have been sent to the congregations. Because there is one public lecture each week, there have been 2,860 lectures during these years. If we apply the 150 outlines to these years, it means that each lecture on average has been given 19 times. But some of the lectures of the first outlines have been given more often than the others. Today there even are two outlines that I used for public lectures as a circuit servant in the late 1960s.
The elders must be qualified to teach. But it does not seem that the members of the Governing Body are qualified to teach. Not only are the same lectures given over and over again, but the contents of most of them is inexpressive or vapid. Almost never is there a detailed analysis of a text in the Bible. A person who has been a Witness for some years learns very little from each lecture. But in connection with public lectures, the members of the Governing Body have had a golden opportunity to teach the Witnesses the truth of the Bible. They could, for example, have published a number of new outlines with interesting subjects each year. But instead, the same old unimpressive stuff is discussed over and over again.
As long as there were three meetings every week, including the congregation book studies, elders who loved the Bible and who wanted to teach others to love the Bible had a fine opportunity when they were conducting the hour-long book study. In connection with the questions and answers, the book study conductor could give some personal comments based on his own research. However, the book study arrangement was terminated in 2009, and today there are only two meetings every week. I agree that the change to two meetings a week was a fine decision, but the quality of the teaching material for these meetings given by the Governing Body is much inferior to the teaching material that we got in the 20th century.
Before the change in 2009, there was a theocratic ministry school and a service meeting of 45 minutes each. Particularly in the 20th century, the outlines for the service meeting and the first part of the school gave the elders the possibility to teach the congregation from their personal knowledge. In the 21st century, the possibilities of personal teaching have been restricted, and from 2009, when the mid-week meeting had a part of the school, a part of the service meeting, and a part of the book study, there was very little possibility of personal teaching from the platform as far as the elders were concerned. It was basically the voice of the Governing Body that was heard at the meetings.
I would also like to mention that the quality of the articles in The Watchtower in the 21st century is inferior to the quality of the articles in The Watchtower in the 20th century. Only rarely has The Watchtower in the 21st century contained detailed analyses of the text of the Bible, and the study articles usually contain material that we already know well.
The conclusion is that from the implementation of the elder arrangement in 1972 and until the middle of the 1980s, the elders generally had good Bible knowledge, and their teaching in the congregation and privately was a blessing for the congregation members. From the middle of the 1980s, the teaching of the public lectures was not good, but the teaching of the elders who had a good knowledge of the Bible at the congregational book study, the ministry school, and the service meeting would stimulate the faith of the congregation members. From 2009, when there were two weekly meetings, the possibility of personal teaching for the elders at the meetings was very limited. The conclusion is that there is a clear difference between the teaching of the elders in the 20th and 21st centuries.
THE WORK OF THE ELDERS AS SHEPHERDS
Since the implementation of the elder arrangement in 1972 and until today, the Governing Body has encouraged the elders to focus on being shepherds, i.e., helping the members of the congregations on a personal level.
During the 20th century and until 2009, there were three meetings every week. In addition, all the brothers were encouraged to have a family study one evening each week. The goal for the conductor of the congregation book study was to visit every member of his book study group in his or her home during a reasonable time.
I was presiding overseer and later coordinator in the Majorstua congregation between 1975 and 2010, when I moved to another congregation. The congregation had between 120 and 140 members, and we were between 3 and 7 elders; two of us were also members of the Hospital Liaison Committee. The situation with four meetings a week and other work in the congregation made it impossible for us elders to visit each member in their home.
However, each elder had a good relationship with the congregation members, and the brothers and sisters knew that if they had a problem, they could get help from one of the elders. Many small and big problems were solved in discussions between an elder and a brother or sister.
We also were sensitive to the particular needs of the brothers and sisters when we were not asked to help. On one occasion, a sister became very sick, and it came to our notice that if the sister did not pay 20,000 Norwegian kroner (2.200 US $) within a week, she would lose her flat — and she had no money. The elders asked the congregation to pay the money, which was granted, and the sister did not lose her flat. On another occasion, a Norwegian pioneer in Lithuania told us about a boy who needed a heart operation that had to be done in another country. The congregation was informed about the situation, and the congregation members contributed so much money that he could get his operation.
We, as elders, were concerned that we could not visit each congregation member privately, and because we were so occupied with congregation work, we could only, to a limited degree, accompany different publishers in the field service. What could we do? Of the members of the congregation, there were between 50 and 60 young unmarried brothers and sisters, and there were many temptations for them in a big city like Oslo. In order to be shepherds for these young ones, we made some special arrangements. During a year, we arranged five gatherings during three months where we discussed important moral issues with the young ones. We were also concerned with the Bible study habits of the young ones and not only with moral issues. Two times each year, we invited everyone to a special day that we called “Bible Day,” where everyone present was taught interactive study and interactive learning by personal participating in the program of the day.
We created these special programs because there were so many young unmarried persons in our congregation and because it was difficult to be able to visit each one privately. Other congregations had fewer young unmarried members, and most congregations had more elders than we had and were able to do more shepherd visits.
In 2009, the congregation book study was terminated, and the meeting schedule changed. The meeting in the weekend of the public lecture and the Watchtower study continued, and there was the mid-week meeting consisting of a shortened school and a shortened service meeting and book study. And each brother was encouraged to have a family study one time each week. The Governing Body should be commended for this change because it gave the elders more time to function as shepherds.
In each congregation, groups of about 15 members were organized with one elder as the leader. The members of each group would work together in the preaching work. And with more time at his disposition, the elder of each group could be able to visit each member of his group in his or her home during a reasonable time period. This was very difficult when there were three meetings per week in addition to the family study. So the conclusion is that the elders in each congregation followed the admonition of the Governing Body to be shepherds for the members of the congregation. And this really was a blessing for the congregation.
THE WORK OF THE ELDERS IN THE HOSPITAL LIAISON COMMITTEES
While the duties of the elders of being teachers and shepherds are stated in the Bible, this is not the case with the Hospital Liaison Committee, which was created in 1990. However, if a Witness is sick and weak and is taken to the hospital, and the issue of blood is raised, it is very good to have support from others. Members of the HLC fill this need, and we can view the work of these as an expansion of their duty as shepherds.
From the start of the three-day seminar in Arboga in Sweden in 1990, the members of the HLC got very fine instruction. Norwegian doctors in the 1990s had a good medical education and high expertise. But because they had blood or blood products at their disposition in connection with surgery or chemotherapy, they were not trained in bloodless surgery or bloodless treatment.
The members of the HLC had medical articles dealing with bloodless treatment, and we could call the Hospital Services in Brooklyn at any time to get articles dealing with the situation we were in. They could also give us names of doctors in different countries who had treated a special sickness without the use of blood. There were situations where we supplied a doctor with the name of a doctor in another country, and he called this doctor in the middle of the night and got advice as how to treat a patient. In the early 1990s, the use of Erythropoietin (EPO) and intravenous iron to increase the number of red blood cells was in its infancy. But many doctors started to use this procedure when we supplied them with particular medical articles.
One side of the work of the HLC was to clarify the situation for the sick Witness and help him or her to make informed decisions about the treatment he or she wanted. It is clear that when you are sick and weak, you are not in a position to do research in order to choose your treatment. We were admonished never to make decisions for the sick Witness, but to help him or her to understand the principles and issues in order to make a personal decision.
At the seminar in Arboga, we were admonished to inform our wives about our work. In the early 1990s, we did not have cell phones so we could immediately be reached in a situation of emergency. But our wives could give information if someone called. Another brother and I had a meeting with an experienced surgeon who worked at a hospital for cancer patients. He said that if there was an emergency and other doctors would not treat a Witness, he was willing to treat the person even if he or she did not have cancer. I informed my wife about this, and the next day she got a telephone call from a member of the HLC. He was at a small hospital together with a sister who was bleeding, but the doctors did not feel they had the expertise to operate on her. My wife referred to the mentioned surgeon, the sister was rushed to his hospital, and the surgeon saved her life. The members of the HLC functioned as shepherds in special situations, and it cannot be any doubt that the arrangement with the HLC was a blessing for many Witnesses.
THE ELDERS HAVE BEEN A BLESSING BUT THEY HAVE ALSO CAUSED SUFFERING
In most congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses today, there is a good spirit and the members show love for each other. The members of the congregations follow the meeting program, they preach the good news of the Kingdom, and they work together in unity. And there can be no doubt that the work of the elders of the congregations has contributed to this unity.
But how have the viewpoints and work of the members of the Governing Body influenced the elders and the members of the congregations? If the creation of the Governing Body has been a disaster, how can the congregations function in such a good way? I show in chapter 1 of my book My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, third edition, that Jehovah’s Witnesses is the only religious group whose basic doctrines are built on the Bible. This means that Jehovah God must be behind this religious denomination, and it means that we must expect that his congregations function in a good way even though its leaders have abused their power.
The first decade after the implementation of the elder arrangement, the elders were a blessing to the congregations. They used their deep Bible knowledge to teach the congregations, and they were good shepherds for the flock. So the congregations prospered. In 1991, the book for elders Pay attention to yourself and to all the flock was released, and it contained 20 disfellowshipping offenses. This means that the Governing Body had added eight disfellowshipping offenses to the 11 ones that are mentioned in the Bible. In addition to the fine work of being teachers and shepherds for the congregation members, the elders had to follow the direction of the Governing Body and disfellowship Witnesses for reasons that have no basis in the Bible. The elders were still a blessing for the congregations, but a negative work had been introduced, and because of this, some elders ruined the lives of congregation members by disfellowshipping them and shunning them because of human commandments.
From the year 2000 to 2010, when Ted Jaracz was the leader of the Governing Body, more disfellowshipping offenses without a basis in the Bible were introduced, and the book “Shepherd the Flock of God” (2010) contained 35 disfellowshipping offenses that had no basis in the Bible. Jaracz was a hardliner, and the new members of the Governing Body that he chose were hardliners as well. The influence of the members of the Governing Body also made a great number of elders into hardliners.
In 2005, the crusade against higher education started — it is still going on. The elders in a great number of congregations exercised a strong pressure on tens of thousands of young Witnesses not to pursue higher education. This pressure from the elders has been the very opposite of a blessing to these Witnesses because many of them have difficulties in finding decent jobs. All the new extra-biblical disfellowshipping offenses caused a big increase in judicial cases and in disfellowshipping. About one million Witnesses have been disfellowshipped in the 21st century, and this has led to ruined lives for most of these. We must also realize that all the Witnesses who have been summoned for a judicial case but have not been disfellowshipped have received some spiritual scars because of this treatment.
The conclusion is that the elders who were a blessing for the congregations for a decade or more gradually became influenced by the hardliners in the Governing Body, and particularly in the 21st century, they have both been a blessing for millions, and they have destroyed the lives of millions of others. In the 21st century, the elders have functioned in the same way as the judicial system in a dictatorial country like Russia. They have obediently followed all the requirements of the Governing Body, including those that violate Bible principles and laws.
|The elders were a blessing for the Witnesses for more than a decade from 1972. For the rest of the 20th century, the elders were a blessing for most of the Witnesses. But during the 21st century, under the influence of the hardliners in the Governing Body, the elders have been a blessing for millions of witnesses and have ruined the lives of other millions.|
. For a discussion of these meetings and the Bible Day see the article “Teaching young brothers and sisters to love the Bible” in the category “Writings.”
. A discussion of the HLC is found in the article “Willingly and unrepentantly accepting blood” in the category “Disassociation.”
I am quite certain that the leading brothers in 1971, in all sincerity concluded that a group of experienced elders would be the best leadership for Jehovah’s organization. But something went wrong, very wrong!
The quotations at the beginning of this article show that the purpose of the Watchtower Society was to lead the worldwide preaching of the Kingdom and not to make decisions regarding how the Witnesses should lead their lives. This was reserved for the conscience of each Witness. The reversal of this by the Governing Body is what has caused the real disaster.
If the members of the Governing Body had restricted their decisions to organizational issues in connection with the preaching of the Kingdom and not intervened in the personal lives of the Witnesses and made a great number of rules, the Governing Body would have been a blessing.
But as I have shown in this article, the members of the Governing Body made rules for the daily lives of the Witnesses — rules that were not based on the Bible — and they made up and invented a number of disfellowshipping offenses that were not based on the Bible. In other words, they rejected the principle of sola scriptura (“scripture alone”) and made a Talmud-like set of regulations in addition to the Bible. This has throughout the 21st century led to a disaster for hundreds of thousands of Witnesses.
The elder arrangement started in 1972, and for more than a decade, the elders were a blessing for the members of the congregations both as teachers and as shepherds. In the last part of the 20th century, the elders carried out some new rules and a few new disfellowshipping offenses. But by and large, the elders were still a blessing for their congregations.
However, there was a change in the 21st century. The elders were influenced by the hardliners in the Governing Body. In most congregations, the elders pressured young Witnesses not to pursue higher education. And the elders enforced a number of new rules and disfellowshipping offenses that were made up and introduced by the Governing Body. This means that the elders had, together with the members of the Governing Body, the responsibility for the disfellowshipping of one million Witnesses — and the responsibility for the ruined lives of hundreds of thousands of these. But individual elders still were a blessing to others in their congregation.