Child abuse is listed as a disfellowshipping offense in the Shepherd book. Of the different definitions of this abuse, only porneia, which is sexual intercourse with the child, is listed as a disfellowshipping action in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
This study has two sections. The first section deals with the sexual side of child abuse. This section is short because most of the definitions of porneia in the Shepherd book are not disfellowshipping offenses according to the Bible. And I refer to the article, “Sexual immorality (porneia)” in the category, “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses.”
The other section deals with the extreme neglect of children. And because the members of the Governing Body are involved in this, the section is rather long.
Defining the expression “extreme neglect” is difficult because the expression is diffuse and ambiguous. But there is one area where the Governing Body is guilty of extreme neglect of a particular group of children on a grand scale and therefore are guilty of child abuse. The first step of this abuse is the campaign of baptisms of young children. The second step is the appointment of many of these young children as pioneers. The pioneer service requires so much of the young children that it can be classified as “child labor.” It may deprive the children of their childhood, and it may prevent the children from getting a good primary education.
The present view of the Scandinavian branch office is that only those who are mature enough to understand the responsibility of baptism should be baptized. This is a balanced view, and it was practiced in most of the 20th century. But in the last part of the 20th century and in the 21st century, baptism of very young children has been practiced. I give several examples of children between eight and twelve years old that have been baptized.
In order to enter into marriage, a person must be 18 years old. A child at the age of 12 and lower is not mature enough to marry, and he or she is not mature enough to take the responsibility of baptism. In the Bible, Jehovah often likens his relationship with his servants on earth to a marriage. Dedication and baptism represents a disowning of oneself and committing to enter into a permanent and binding relationship with God—which is even more serious and weightier than a marriage between a husband and wife. Most societies prohibit 12-year-old children, for example, from entering into wedlock because they are not mature enough. So, why should they be pushed into entering a more serious bond with the Almighty as mere children? Clearly, such young ones are not mature enough to take the responsibility of baptism. In my view, there will be a rare exception if a person is mature enough to be baptized before he or she is in his late teens.
The second step to child abuse is to appoint small children as pioneers. In the USA in 2012, there were 212 regular pioneers aged 12 and below, and two of these were seven years old. There were also 6,844 pioneers between 12 and 18 years old. This shows that children in the pioneer service are widespread.
I calculate that a child uses about 160 hours per month for his primary education—hours at school, preparation, and travel between school and home included. A regular pioneer uses about 150 hours for his service—hours used in the preaching, preparation and travel included. This means that a child who is a pioneer uses about 10 hours every day for this service and schooling.
This shows that pioneer service for children is the same as child labor and is an abuse of children. The children are deprived of their childhood, and they do not have time to get a good primary education.
One of the 46 disfellowshipping actions that are listed in the book “Shepherd The Flock Of God” is “child abuse.” Chapter 12, point 13 says:
Child Abuse: Child abuse includes the sexual or physical abuse of a minor. It would also include the extreme neglect of a minor by her parent. Child sexual abuse is a perversion and generally includes sexual intercourse with a minor; oral and anal sex with a minor; fondling the genitals, breasts, or buttocks of a minor; voyeurism of a minor; indecent exposure to a minor; or soliciting a minor for sexual conduct. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may include involvement in child pornography or “sexting” with a minor. “Sexting” involves the sending of sexually explicit messages or images electronically.
The quotation refers to two different kinds of abuse, namely, sexual abuse, and the extreme neglect of a minor by her parent. This study will focus on the extreme neglect of a minor both by the parents and by the Governing Body.
SEXUAL ABUSE OF CHILDREN
The sexual abuse of children is a grave sin and a perversion, as the Shepherd book shows. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been accused of the abuse of children on a grand scale and of a cover-up of situations of child abuse.
While sexual abuse of children has occurred, it seems to me that the enemies of JW and the press in a number of cases have made a mountain out of a molehill. As far as Norway is concerned, I can speak from experience.
In the 1990s, the abuse of children was brought to the attention of the elders. The next twenty years plus, the elders received several letters discussing the issue. And the elders were admonished to cooperate with the authorities. If a brother was accused of child abuse, the elders could not do anything with the brother if there were not two eyewitnesses. But any such accusation should be reported to the police. The elders had no right or competence to investigate an accusation, but the police could do that.
That a child was abused was a rare event among JW. But when it happened, the elders were told to fully cooperate with the authorities. I am only aware of one example of a cover-up in Norway. The district overseer was sent by the branch office to look into a case of child abuse. He promised the involved persons that transparency would occur and that the authorities would be informed. One of those who were involved and whose words I trust told me that the brothers who directed the district overseer were smothering up the situation and the authorities were not informed.
Apart from this single example, I am not aware of any attempt by responsible elders to violate the advice of the Watchtower Society to fully cooperate with the authorities. And my experience is that the abuse of children rarely has occurred in the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses in Norway.
In 2015, The Royal Commission in Australia investigated the way Jehovah’s Witnesses treated child abuse cases and whether those who were abused were protected by their congregation. I have read all the documents that the Royal Commission has published, and my conclusion is that the Witnesses generally have treated cases of sexual abuse of children in a prudent way. But, of course, there are exceptions where the abused children were not treated in a good way.
The documents from Australia show that sexual abuse of children among Jehovah’s Witnesses is less widespread than in the population of Australia. A law firm reported that there were 355,935 cases of child abuse in Australia in 2025-2016. Of these, 12% was sexual abuse of children, which is 42,720 cases. The population in Australia was 25 million, and this means that sexual abuse of children constituted 0,17% of the general population.
In the archives of the branch office of Australia, there were papers dealing with 1006 cases of sexual abuse of children during the last 65 years. If we divide the number 1006 by 2, we get 503. If we assume that 500 cases of child abuse have occurred during the last 20 years, we get a frequency of 25 child abuse cases per year. Australia had 66,000 publishers in 2015, and 25 cases per year constitute a frequency of 0,04% of child abuse cases among Jehovah’s Witnesses. So, we see that the frequency of sexual abuse of children among the Witnesses is about 1/4 of the frequency in the general population.
IS THE ABUSE OF CHILDREN AV DISFELLOWSHIPPING OFFENSE?
All the actions mentioned in the Shepherd book as child abuse are abominable actions, and I believe that a person who is guilty of one of these actions can be indicted in a Norwegian court and be sentenced to a time on jail. But will a person who has abused a child be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation?
Sexual abuse and disfellowshipping
In the quotation from the Shepherd book, I count 11 different sexual actions that are included in child abuse. The view of the Governing Body is that each one of these actions can lead to disfellowshipping. But that is a view that is invented and introduced by the members of the GB and has no basis in the Bible.
According to 1 Corinthians 6:9, persons “who are sexually immoral” must be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation. What does that mean? The Norwegian revised NWT (2017) has the following rendering, “de som praktiserer seksuell umoral” (literally translated, “those who are practicing sexual immorality”), and this is an accurate rendering. My book, My Beloved Religion — And The Governing Body, second edition, pages 266 -270, points out that the words in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 that describe disfellowshipping offenses are verbal nouns. This means that a person should not be disfellowshipped for doing a wicked action one or two or five times. But only when a person is permeated by one of the actions that are mentioned will he deserve to be disfellowshipped.
The disfellowshipping offense that can be related to the abuse of children is, according to 1 Corinthians 6:9, being a pornos, one who is permeated by porneia (“sexual immorality”). As mentioned, I counted 11 actions listed in the Shepherd book with sexual content. Are all these 11 actions porneia, and are all these 11 actions disfellowshipping offenses? The members of the GB have twisted the word porneia and included actions in this term that have no basis in the Bible.
It is important to realize that porneia is a generic word with the meaning “sexual immorality” and no particular actions are included in the meaning of this word. In order to understand this better, we can compare porneia with the generic word “sport.” The word “sport” is defined as “A human activity involving physical skill and exertion.” This word can be used as an example because no particular actions are included in the meaning of the word “sport.” However, while the word “sport” does not include any particular actions, it can refer to different actions. In a similar way, the word porneia does not include any particular actions, but it can refer to different actions.
There are several actions that everyone will agree can be referred to as “sport,” such as playing football, wrestling, and running a race. But what about bullfighting, hunting, fishing, playing chess or poker, dancing, e-gaming, and skydiving? Can these actions be subsumed under the umbrella term “sport”? Different persons will give different answers. In connection with what the word porneia can refer to, different persons will also give different answers.
While there is no final authority that can decide whether the activities mentioned above can be referred to as “sport,” there is one authority that decides to what the Greek word porneia can refer. This authority is The Christian Greek Scriptures. There are three actions mentioned in the Scriptures that can be referred to as porneia (“sexual immorality”), 1) Sexual intercourse between a married person and one to whom he or she is not married, 2) sexual intercourse between unmarried persons, and 3) homosexual intercourse.
The words of Jesus in Matthew 19:5, 6 may illuminate the issue we are discussing:
5 and said: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will stick to his wife, and the two will be one flesh’? 6 So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together, let no man put apart.”
Being “one flesh” means that the two persons constitute a unit where they can have sexual relations and procreate children. This is confirmed by Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:16. I give a literal translation of these words.
16 Do you not know that anyone who is gluing together (kollaō) with a prostitute he is one body [with her]? For it is being said “the two to one flesh [will become].” 17 The one who is being glued to the Lord is one spirit [with him].” 18 Flee from sexual immorality (porneia)! Any sin that a man would do is outside the body. But the one who is practicing sexual immorality (porneuō) is sinning against his own body.
The Greek word kollaō has the meaning “stick or cling to something” according to Louw and Nida, and “to glue or weld together,” according to Mounce. It is obvious that “gluing together” with a prostitute means having sexual intercourse with her. Because this “gluing together” means that the man becomes “one flesh” with the prostitute, the expression “become one flesh” means that two persons have sexual intercourse. The mentioned “gluing together” is associated with porneia (“sexual immorality”) in verse 18. And that the “gluing together” is the same as sexual intercourse is confirmed by the words that he “is sinning against his own body.”
The words of Jesus also confirm that porneia refers to sexual intercourse between persons who are not married. We read in Matthew 5:27, 28, 31, 32:
27 “You heard that it was said: ‘You must not commit adultery (moikheia).’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery (moikheuō) with her in his heart… 31 “Moreover, it was said: ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 However, I say to you that everyone divorcing his wife, except on account of sexual immorality (porneia), makes her a subject for adultery (moikheuō), and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (moikheia).
The noun moikheia means adultery, i.e., a married person has sexual intercourse with a person to whom he or she is not married. The corresponding verb moikheuō has the meaning “to commit adultery.” Verse 32 uses the word porneia with reference to actions of adultery. This shows that mooikheia is subsumed under the umbrella term porneia (“sexual immorality”.) All actions of moikheia are porneia. But all actions of porneia are not moikheia — only sexual immorality performed by a married person is moikheia.
It is clear that both “adultery” (moikheia) and porneia (sexual immorality) in Matthew 5:27, 28, 31, 32 refer to sexual intercourse and not to “oral and anal sex with a minor; fondling the genitals, breasts, or buttocks of a minor; voyeurism of a minor; indecent exposure to a minor; or soliciting a minor for sexual conduct…or ‘sexting’ with a minor” that are mentioned in the Shepherd book as examples of abuse of a child. That porneia only refers to sexual intercourse is confirmed by the study note to Matthew 5:32 in the online NWT13:
Sexual immorality: The Greek word por·nei’a is a general term for all sexual intercourse that is unlawful according to the Bible. It includes adultery, prostitution, sexual relations between unmarried individuals, homosexuality, and bestiality.
According to the law of Moses, bestiality was a serious sin. The Christian Greek Scriptures do not mention bestiality, so it cannot be included in the Greek word porneia. Because the first part of the quotation says that porneia is “sexual intercourse,” the word “prostitution” must only include sexual intercourse with a prostitute.
In connection with sexual abuse of children the discussion above shows that only sexual intercourse with a child is porneia and a disfellowshipping offense. The other sexual actions mentioned in the shepherd book are disgusting when a child is involved. But they are not included in the word porneia.
I will close this section by pointing out the logic in the conclusion that porneia only includes “sexual intercourse.” The basic reason for this is Jehovah’s concern for unborn children. This concern is expressed in God’s laws regarding the sanctity of marriage. Only sexual relations can produce a child, and because a child should have the best environment for growing up, sexual relations with the result of procreating children should only occur inside wedlock.
When Jesus said in Matthew 5:27, “You heard that it was said: ‘You must not commit adultery (moikheia),’ this did not mean that sexual relations under the law of Moses should only occur between a man and his single wife. In Israel, polygamy was allowed. And the commandment in Exodus 20:14 said that a man could only have sexual relations with one or more women to whom he was married. In this way, children would be born inside wedlock. But in Matthew 19:3-7, Jesus introduced the new Christian view that a man or a woman could have only one spouse with whom he or she could have sexual relations.
The conclusion of the discussion above is that the word porneia (“sexual immorality”) as it is used in the Christian Greek Scriptures, only refers to sexual intercourse between one who is married and another person, between unmarried persons, and between homosexuals. All the actions that lead to sexual immorality in the mentioned three situations violate the moral principles of God. But they are not included in the word porneia, and they are not disfellowshipping offenses according to the Scriptures.
Applied to the abuse of children, only one of the eleven actions mentioned in the quotation from the Shepherd book, represents sexual immorality and is a disfellowshipping offense. This action is sexual intercourse between an adult and a child. This is not a devaluation of the badness of the other ten actions that are mentioned. All these ten actions done to a child are serious sins. But persons who believe in the Bible as the only authority cannot add anything to the laws of the Bible. And as I have shown, the only action that is expressed by the Greek word porneia (“sexual immorality”) is sexual intercourse with one to whom a person is not married.
Extreme neglect of a child and disfellowshipping
The definition “extreme neglect of a minor by her parents” is also an abominable action. But it is not listed in the Christian Greek Scriptures as a disfellowshipping offense. Moreover, as so many definitions given by the GB of disfellowshipping offenses, this definition is unclear and ambiguous. This means that hardline elders may view different actions by a parent as “extreme neglect,” while other elders would have a different opinion. So, some Witnesses would be disfellowshipped because of the gut feeling of the elders in the committee.
Some actions, though, are so bad that they clearly represent “extreme neglect.” For example, if a parent gives a small child less food and clothes than he or she needs and regularly kicks the child to the point where the child is bleeding, this is “extreme neglect.” And further, if the boy or girl is doing child labor to the point where the child is deprived of recreation and rest or primary education, this is also extreme neglect. In what follows, I will show how the Governing Body is guilty of child abuse by letting small children do “child labor.”
EXCURSUS ON 1 TIMOTHY 5:8
According to NWT13, the verse reads:
In this verse, Paul uses strong words about a Christian who does not care for persons who are his own. By using the expressions “disowned the faith” and “is worse than a person without faith,” does Paul mean that he should be disfellowshipped from the congregation?
In order to understand the meaning, we need to analyze different words in the verse. Our first task is to understand to which actions Paul refers, and this means that we need to understand the expression “provide for” on what is included in “his own” and “his household.”
The verb arneomai (“provide”) has several different meanings and references. among the meanings given by Louw and Nida are:
The verb arneomai is used two times in the Christian Greek Scriptures in addition to 1 Timotheus 5:8:
2 Corinthians 8:21:
In Romans 12:17, arneomai is rendered as “take into consideration,” and in 2 Corinthians 8:21, it is rendered “care for.” As Louw and Nida show, the meaning of arneomai is rather broad. The rendering “provide for” is a possible rendering. But there are alternatives, such as “to look after” and “to see to.”
Verse 4 in chapter 5 of 1 Timothy suggests that Paul uses arneomai as a synonym of the verb timaō in “Honor (timaō) your father and mother.” (Matthew 15:3) To honor close relatives would mean to help them cover all their needs.
Who should a Christian care for? Especially for okeiōn, (plural of okeios; “one who belongs to a particular household or extended family,” Louw and Nida). A household would include relatives but also slaves. So, the master of the house should care for all of those that he was responsible for and see to that their needs were covered.
But this is not all because Paul says that he should also look after or care for “those who are his own,” and they were outside of his household. Paul does not specify this expression but most likely it would include relatives that were not a part of his household.
If the master of the household did not do that, “he has disowned (arneomai) the faith and is worse than a person without faith.” Does this mean that the person should be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation? Let us look at the details.
The word “disown” is translated from the Greek word arneomai, and according to Louw and Nida, this word has the following meanings:
We see that the person who does not support “his own” and “the members of his household” does not attack or reject his Christian faith, nor does he leave his faith. But we note the definition “is untrue to one’s real self,” and “denying certain valid aspects of his personality.”
A basic Christian commandment is to honor his father and mother and to love his relatives and all men. When a man does not care for “his own” and for “the members of his household,” he does not honor his relatives and showing love for those he should care for. So, “these aspects of his personality” he no longer follows. This means that he has disowned these aspects of his faith but not the rest of his faith.
A worldly person would care for “his own” and for “his household” because this is natural for human beings. So, a Christian who does not do this “is worse than a person without faith.” The expression “a person without faith” is translated from the Greek word apistos. The word pistos is an adjective with the meaning “believer,” and when an “a” is placed before an adjective or substantive, the meaning becomes the very opposite of the word without the “a.”
The point is not that this person in every respect is worse than one who does not have faith. But in this one respect, not taking care of “his own” and “those who belong to his household,” he is worse than a person without faith.
This analysis shows that Paul is not speaking of disfellowshipping. A disfellowshipping offense must be clearly defined.
In this case, what the person does not do, namely, “provide for,” “take care of,” “see to” is unclear and ambiguous. Moreover, “those who belong to his household” is a concrete expression, but “his own” is unclear and ambiguous. A Christian cannot be disfellowshipped because “he does not see to his own.”
We should also note that the person has not disowned his Christian faith. But one aspect of his faith, namely, honoring his relatives and loving all persons, he has disowned. And in this respect, he is worse than a worldly person without faith.
. See the article, «Sexual immorality (porneia)” in the category, “The eleven disfellowshipping offenses.”
 . Ibid.
THE EXTREME NEGLECT OF CHILDREN
Two of the definitions of “child abuse” in the Shepherd book are “physical abuse of a minor” and “extreme neglect of a minor by her parent.” Neither of these is a disfellowshipping action according to the Christian Greek Scriptures. Moreover, as many of the disfellowshipping offenses that the GB have made up and invented, these definitions are diffuse and ambiguous. This means the personal viewpoints of elders in a congregation, who for the most part are not trained for judicial cases, will decide whether a Witness will be disfellowshipped or not.
While the mentioned definitions are not disfellowshipping offenses, they represent child abuse. And sad to say, the members of the GB are guilty of child abuse on a grand scale in the name of Jehovah because of their “extreme neglect” of a particular group of children. The actions of the GB toward some minors have can have the same effect as child labor.
Wikipedia gives the following definition of child labor:
Child labour (British English) or child labor (American English; see spelling differences) refers to the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially and morally harmful.
The first step on the way to child abuse is the campaign of GB of the baptism of children at an early age. The second step is that children at an early age, some as young as seven years old, are being appointed as pioneers. This is, in reality, child labor. And the consequence of this is that these children are deprived of their childhood, and while they attend school, the quality of their learning is hampered because of all the time they must use in their pioneer service. This represents an extreme neglect of these minors.
The first step on the way to child abuse is a baptism at an early age
The view of child baptism changed in the last years of the 20th century. The new view is not always conceded by representatives of the Watchtower Society. But it is found in the Watchtower literature.
The view of the Scandinavian branch office on baptism
The Scandinavian Branch Office of Jehovah’s Witnesses had asked for a meeting with representatives of the Norwegian Minister for Children and Families. The purpose was to correct some wrong information about JW that was presented in a TV program. After the meeting, JW sent a letter to the Minister to answer some questions.
One question was: “How old must a person be to be baptized? If a person can be baptized before he is 18 years old, can such a person be disfellowshipped? Is there an age limit in connection with disfellowshipping?” The answer was:
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not baptize infants. So, in order to be baptized, one must be old enough to understand what the Bible teaches, believe in it, and have made a decision to live in accord with it. This is something that an infant cannot do. When children become older, they may, at a certain point in time, choose to be baptized. But before they can make such a decision, they must be mature enough to understand the responsibility that they take.
This is a good answer. That a person must be mature enough to understand the responsibility that baptism leads to is, of course, very important. This was practiced for most of the 20th century. But in the last part of the 20th century and in the 21st century, the GB has led a campaign that, for all practical purposes, works against the importance of maturity as a requirement for baptism. Moreover, in addition, the GB has placed a responsibility on the shoulders of young children that they are too young to carry. I will elucidate this.
Baptism of children in the 20th century
The word “children” is used for persons who are below 18 years old. What was the view of the baptism of children in the years after World War II? The article “Youth in the New World Society” in The Watchtower of May 15, 1956, page 304 says:
Some may ask, then, Would it be proper for me in my early teens to make such a dedication vow and symbolize this by water immersion? Since many children are baptized each year at circuit assemblies and other conventions of Jehovah’s people, can it be said that this is the proper course for these young ministers to take? Of course, if they do not know in their own mind what they are doing, then they are not ready to take this vital and important step.
The definite age as to when baptism or dedication is appropriate cannot be designated. If a child has sufficient knowledge of Almighty God, Jehovah, and his righteous purposes and adheres faithfully to the upright principles set down in his Word, if the child has reached the age of accountability and desires to make a dedication to Jehovah, it is in order for him to do so and it is then proper to take the step of baptism by water.
This is a fine description of the requirements for Christian baptism, and the points mentioned are:
- No definite age.
- Baptism from early teens possible.
- Must know what they are doing.
- Must have sufficient knowledge of God.
- Has reached age of accountability.
- Adheres faithfully to the principles in God’s word.
The only exception I will take is that most children in their early teens have not reached the age of accountability.
The Watchtower of August 1, 1956, page 473, has a warning in connection with persons who consider being baptized at an early age:
These have been young people, or perhaps children of dedicated parents, hence well acquainted with the hope of life in a restored paradise. Sometimes these young ones, perhaps in their early teens, have been immersed, claiming to be dedicated. Then shortly they disappear from view as far as Jehovah’s witnesses are concerned. They become wholly absorbed in worldly ways and pleasures, sometimes indulging in shameful conduct, bringing reproach on their parents.
Then the parents, in great grief, raise the question as to whether their young son or daughter really understood the significance of dedication and baptism. But is that not a poor time to raise that question? Should they not have made sure about that at the time? It is so easy for young ones to take up something with great enthusiasm for a time, then take up something else with equal zest. They are just getting a taste of what life has to offer, including the attractions of this world with its dreams and vanities. (Eccl. 4:7) They are susceptible to suggestions. They see others of their age being immersed, so why not they? With their knowledge of the truth they feel they can say Yes to the two questions put to them at the time of immersion.
But can it be said that at that stage they really appreciate what it means to take the step of dedication as a perpetual “vow to God” to do his will for all time, involving their whole life? The scripture says: “Better is it that you vow not than that you vow and do not pay,” pleading “it was a mistake.” “Why should the true God become indignant on account of your voice and have to wreck the work of your hands?” That is just what happened to the prodigal son.—Eccl. 5:4-6.
Of course, individuals, including young ones, vary greatly. At a surprisingly early age some can take a serious view of things and hold to it. There are Bible examples of this, such as Samuel. We cannot lay down a general rule or age limit. Each one in the family must be dealt with individually. At the same time, we want to avoid a course that, in effect, tends to produce prodigal sons.
The article has several fine points. The reason for this article evidently was that several young ones, some in their early teens, had been baptized. And after a short time, they have left the congregation and became a part of the world.
The reasons given are important. Young ones are susceptible to suggestions, they do something with great enthusiasm for a time, and then they start to do something else with great enthusiasm. These youngsters are inexperienced, and they are not mature enough to take the responsibility of baptism.
My experience from 1961, when I became a Witness, and for most of the 20th century, is that the view of the baptism of persons below 18 years of age was quite balanced. And there was no campaign for children to be baptized at an early age.
Baptism of small children in the last part of the 20th century and in the 21st century
Something must have happened inside the GB in the late 1980s because several strange things occurred inside the organization, including the focus on the baptism of small children.
Every article in The Watchtower has a particular purpose and is carefully scrutinized. When illustrations show persons with clothes, the clothes are modest and show how Witnesses should dress. And when examples of behavior are mentioned, the purpose is to show that this kind of behavior is what the Witnesses should seek. When examples of baptisms at an early age are given, these are also examples that may be followed. In connection with baptism, we read in The Watchtower of April 15, 1987, page 13:
15 ‘What, though, if my son or daughter gets baptized when young and then cools off?’ some parents wonder. Certainly, a youth should not get baptized just to please a parent or because some friends do. Yet Joseph, Samuel, King Josiah, and Jesus when teenagers all had a serious view of the worship of God and held to it. (Genesis 37:2; 39:1-3; 1 Samuel 1:24-28; 2:18-21; 2 Chronicles 34:3; Luke 2:42-49)
In modern times, a Christian named Jean was baptized when she was only ten years old. When asked years later if she really understood the step, Jean replied: “I knew I loved Jehovah, I appreciated what Jesus did for us, and I wanted to serve Jehovah.” She has served faithfully for some 40 years since her baptism. Each youth is an individual; no one can set a standard age limit. Parents should strive to reach their child’s heart, helping him or her to develop godly devotion. They should not only keep before their children the privilege of dedication and baptism but also fortify them to be steadfast worshipers.
Examples of young children that were baptized continued in the literature, and in The Watchtower of March 15, 1988, page 14, we read:
An infant could not understand that the holy spirit is God’s active force; nor could it repent of past sins and make a solemn vow to do God’s will.
But it seems that some among Jehovah’s people have gone to the other extreme. Many Christian parents let their children wait until they are in their late teens before broaching the subject of baptism. Time and again, we hear of youngsters making a valid dedication solely on their own initiative. For example, the preteen son of an elder sincerely wanted to get baptized. So his father had three other elders discuss with the youngster the questions designed for those contemplating baptism. Their conclusion was that, though quite young, he qualified to be baptized as an ordained minister of Jehovah God. Why, attending the Pioneer Service School in the Bahamas recently was a ten-year-old baptized girl, the daughter of two full-time ministers!
In recent years, the GB has launched a campaign in favor of the early baptism of children. One example is that Mark Sanderson, as zone overseer, gave lectures where he admonished parents to help their small children to be baptized. The Watchtower of March 2016, page 3, had an article entitled: “Young ones — are you ready to get baptized?” The article said:
“I HAVE known you since you were born,” said a Christian elder to 12-year-old Christopher, “and I’m happy to hear that you want to get baptized. I would like to ask you, ‘Why do you want to take that step?’” The elder’s question was valid. Of course, it gives all of us much joy to see that every year thousands of young people around the world get baptized. (Eccl. 12:1) At the same time, Christian parents and elders in the congregation want to make sure that such young ones make a decision that is not only voluntary but also well-founded.
The Yearbook of 2017, page 26, contained another example of the baptism of a young child:
Kodi, from England, says: “Thanks for all the time and effort you put into making jw.org, JW Broadcasting, and the Caleb and Sophia videos. Thank you for making the Bible easier to understand. I was baptized when I was eight. When I’m a bit older, I’m going to volunteer to help build Kingdom Halls! And I would like to work at Bethel. I’m nine now, so I’ve not got long to go.”
These examples in the Watchtower literature of children that were baptized at the age of 8, 10, 12, and 12 years or younger are read both by parents and by their children. And they set an example for other parents and children to consider.
In 2015, the Royal Commission of Australia investigated how Jehovah’s Witnesses treated cases of sexual abuse of children and whether the victims were given the right protection. Geoffrey Jackson, who is a member of the Governing Body, gave his testimony in court, and he defended the baptism of small children, and the following exchange between him and counsel assisting Angus Stewart shows (pages 15082, 15083 of the proceedings):
Stewart: Mr Jackson, you were baptised at age 13, am I right?Jackson: I certainly was, yes.
Stewart: And in fact many Jehovah’s Witnesses are baptized at an age even younger than that?
Jackson: There have been some I have met that have been younger.Stewart: Do you consider that at that age someone is old enough and mature enough to make a decision affecting the rest of their lives?
Jackson: Yes, I do in some cases. Obviously there are some children that wouldn’t be able to make that decision, and perhaps some question whether I could make that decision at 13 years of age, but I work with people that have been baptised when they were 11 and they have stuck by that determination their whole life.
Are children between 8 and 12 years old qualified to be baptized?
The letter from the Scandinavian branch office to the Norwegian Minister of Children and Family said that persons who are going to be baptized must be “mature enough to understand the responsibility that they take.” And The Watchtower of August 1, 1956, page 473, said that dedication to Jehovah is “as a perpetual vow to God” to do his will for all time, “involving their whole life.”
Are children between 8 and 12 mature enough to fully understand what it means to dedicate their lives to Jehovah for all time? I will answer this by asking another question: Is a child between 8 and 12 years old mature enough to marry and promise the mate to be faithful to him or her as long as life lasts?
Regarding marriage, the Norwegian Government writes:
The person who will enter into marriage must be 18 years old. This is an absolute age limit, and no dispensation will be given.
In connection with this age limit, I will one time more quote from The Watchtower of 1956, page 473:
It is so easy for young ones to take up something with great enthusiasm for a time, then take up something else with equal zest. They are just getting a taste of what life has to offer, including the attractions of this world with its dreams and vanities. (Eccl. 4:7) They are susceptible to suggestions.
No person from 12 years old and below is mature enough to enter into marriage. And I will say with certainty that no child from 12 years old and below is mature enough to understand and take the responsibility of being baptized. There is no exception. From my point of view, I will say that if a child below his late teens is mature enough to be baptized, that will be a rare exception.
The problem with encouraging small children to be baptized is that a huge responsibility is placed on their shoulders, a responsibility that they are not able to carry. In many cases, this may hamper the psychical growth that should occur during the teen years. In some cases, early baptism will work out well, as in the case of Jean that was baptized at the age of ten, as mentioned above. But in many cases, it has worked out in a bad way, leading to disfellowshipping or the weakening of a person’s faith in God.
The second step on the way to child abuse is to appoint small children as pioneers
While the baptism of young children may be bad for some of these children, I will now discuss one side of this issue that is bad for all. This is the appointment of young children as pioneers. This is, in reality, “child labor” because it takes such a great part of the time and strength of the children. The pioneer service may deprive the children of their childhood, and it may prevent them from getting a good primary education.
Examples of children who are pioneers
In the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are regular pioneers as young as seven years, and I will give some examples of young pioneers. The Watchtower of March 15, 1988, pages 14, 15, says:
But it seems that some among Jehovah’s people have gone to the other extreme [of baptizing infants]. Many Christian parents let their children wait until they are in their late teens before broaching the subject of baptism. Time and again, we hear of youngsters making a valid dedication solely on their own initiative. For example, the preteen son of an elder sincerely wanted to get baptized. So his father had three other elders discuss with the youngster the questions designed for those contemplating baptism. Their conclusion was that, though quite young, he qualified to be baptized as an ordained minister of Jehovah God. Why, attending the Pioneer Service School in the Bahamas recently was a ten-year-old baptized girl, the daughter of two full-time ministers!
The Watchtower February 15, 1995, page 25, says:
Indeed, young people, both those brought up in the truth and others, seem to take their worship of God seriously. For example, Tamar and her sister Keila were both baptized at the age of 10 and entered the full-time pioneer ministry by 11. Wendy Carolina was 12 when she symbolized her dedication by water baptism, and two years later, in 1985, she started regular pioneering. Today she is an effective teacher, still enjoying the full-time ministry. Young Jovanny, baptized at 10 and a regular pioneer at 11, is conducting four home Bible studies. When ten-year-old Rey discovered that a secondhand-book vendor had a booklet published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, Rey begged his mother to buy it for him. He read it from cover to cover. His search for more Bible literature eventually led him to the branch office. Today he is enjoying the full-time service, and his mother is also serving God.
The Yearbook of 2001, page 222, says:
Young ones are also showing their zeal in preaching the word. Elber Heguía, a 13-year-old brother, has been pioneering for two years in the Centro Congregation in San Pedro in the province of Jujuy [in Argentina].
The first quotation mentions a ten-year-old girl who was a pioneer who was attending the Pioneer Service School. In order to attend this school, a person must start pioneering before the month of September in the previous year. This means that this girl must have started pioneering when she was nine years old. The second quotation speaks about Tamar, Keila, and Jovanny, who became pioneers at the age of 11, and Wendy Carolina, who started pioneering at the age of 14. The third quotation tells about Elber Heguía, who started pioneering at the age of 11.
Should we view these examples of young children who were regular pioneers as exceptions? Because they are mentioned in the Watchtower literature, these must be taken as examples for others. That young children serve as pioneers is not an exception. This was shown at the morning worship at Brooklyn Bethel on Wednesday, October 3, 2012. Regarding the USA, the chairman said that there were 212 pioneers who were 12 years and younger, and two of these were only seven years old. There were also 6,844 pioneers between 12 and 18 years.
But why do I say that this situation with so many young pioneers represents child abuse? This is so because Wikipedia defines child labor as “the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school.” And this is the case with young children who serves as pioneers.
The similarity between child labor and the pioneer service of children
What does the Watchtower Society expect from a regular pioneer? Until 1999, the requirement was that a pioneer should use 1,000 hours during one year to preach to other people. This means a requirement of preaching 83 hours per month, or if the pioneer takes a four-week vacation per year with limited preaching, he or she needs to use about 90 hours per month to preach the good news of the Kingdom.
In 1999, the requirement of hours of preaching was reduced to 840 hours per year.
The need for children of a good education, recreation, and rest
The Awake! magazine of May 22, 1999, had an article on child labor. On page 11, the article discussed how the parents educated their children in ancient Israel and how the children also found time to play:
Surely, children in Bible times had a lot to do. As they grew, boys were given practical training by their fathers in agriculture or in a trade, such as carpentry. (Genesis 37:2; 1 Samuel 16:11) While at home, girls were taught by their mothers the domestic arts that would be of value in adult life. Rachel, Jacob’s wife, was a shepherdess when she was a young girl. (Genesis 29:6-9) Young women worked in the fields during the grain harvest and in the vineyards. (Ruth 2:5-9; Song of Solomon 1:6) Such work was generally done under loving parental supervision and was combined with education.
At the same time, young children in Israel knew the joy of relaxation and amusements. The prophet Zechariah spoke of ‘public squares of the city being filled with boys and girls playing.’ (Zechariah 8:5) And Jesus Christ mentioned young children sitting in the marketplaces who played the flute and danced. (Matthew 11:16, 17) What was behind such dignified treatment of children?
Regarding the situation of children today, the magazine says on page 13:
Of course, we are living in “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Because of harsh economic realities, in many countries even Christian families may find it necessary to let their children join the work force. As already noted, there is nothing wrong with work that is wholesome and educational for children. Such work can promote or enhance a child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral, or social development without interfering with necessary schooling, balanced recreation, and needed rest.
Undoubtedly, Christian parents want to have their children work under their own caring supervision, not as virtual slaves of cruel, insensitive, or unscrupulous employers. Such parents want to make sure that any type of work their children perform does not expose them to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Also, they want to have their children nearby. In this way they can fulfill their Bible-based role of spiritual educators: “You must inculcate [God’s words] in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.”—Deuteronomy 6:6, 7.
The advice given by the Awake! article is excellent!
Pioneer service will exclude a good education, recreation, and rest
In this section, I will show that pioneer service for children has the same effect as child labor. I started in the pioneer service when I was 19 years old, and I continued for 15 years. And I appreciated this service very much. But my point is that pioneer service is not for children.
I will now look at the time a child must spend to get a good primary education, and I use Norway as an example. In the first year, children use 24 hours per week at school; in the second year, they use 25 hours, and from the fifth to the seventh year, they are at school for 28 hours. This means that the children use between 100 and 110 hours for their education for nine and a half months every year.
To this amount, we should add two hours per day for dressing and being ready for school and for traveling to school and back; this is 40 hours per month. To get a good education, some homework is necessary, and if we use the small number of one hour per day for homework, that is 20 hours per month. Adding these numbers, we see that children use between 160 and 170 years per month for their primary education.
Both small children and older ones need recreation; they need to spend time together with their friends, they need to be able to play with others—they simply need a childhood. If a child is a part of a family of Witnesses, he or she will attend meetings two times a week and perhaps use some time to prepare for these meetings.
A child who is a pioneer will use about 75 hours per month for preaching—one vacation month with less preaching is included. He will also spend time for personal study of Bible subjects that he can use in his preaching. He must prepare for Bible studies that he is conducting, and he uses a lot of time to travel to the places where he is preaching and back home again. My experience is that the necessary extra time he needs to spend is more than the time he uses for preaching.
But to be generous, let us say that he uses the same amount of extra time as he uses for preaching. This would mean that he uses 150 hours per month, which is five hours per day in his pioneer service. If we add to this the 160 hours a child uses for his education, we find that schooling and pioneer service requires the use of 310 hours per month or 10 hours per day. This is beyond the capacity of any child because there is little time for recreation and rest!
|A child in elementary school uses 160 hours per month for his education, including preparation and traveling. If the child is a pioneer, he uses 150 hours per month in the preaching work, including preparation and traveling. This means that this child uses 10 hours per day for schooling and pioneer service. This shows that pioneering for a child has the same effect as child labor.|
Who has the responsibility for the abuse of the children?
There are four areas of responsibility, 1) the child has some responsibility, 2) the parents have some responsibility, 3) the elders have some responsibility, and 4) the members of the Governing Body have the greatest responsibility. I will elucidate the responsibility by quoting from an article in The Watchtower of September 15, 2006, page 30, discussing whether a Witness who killed another person with his car has bloodguilt:
To illustrate: If weather conditions were bad at the time of the accident, the driver should have exercised greater care. If he was drowsy, he should have stopped and rested until he was no longer sleepy, or he should have had someone else drive.
Suppose the driver was speeding. If any Christian exceeds the speed limit, this is a failure to render “Caesar’s things to Caesar.” It also betrays a disregard for the sacredness of life, for there is the possibility of fatal consequences.
The important point here is that every Christian has a responsibility for his or her actions and how they affect other persons. If we are careless and cause harm to someone else, we have a responsibility for this harm. To let a child between seven and 16 years of age — the time when the child is in elementary school and high school—become a pioneer is extremely careless. And someone must take responsibility for this carelessness.
The child himself has, of course, some responsibility. But as The Watchtower of August 1, 1956, page 473, said: “It is so easy for young ones to take up something with great enthusiasm for a time, then take up something else with equal zest.” Children are susceptible to suggestions, and a child has a strong conscience. In all sincerity, the child wants to serve Jehovah, but he or she often lacks the ability to see the consequences of his or her actions. So, in my view, the child has little responsibility for the situation.
The parents have a greater responsibility. Some parents are pioneers, and they may follow the example of Hannah, who said: If you…give your servant a male child, I will give him to Jehovah all the days of his life.” (1 Samuel 1:11) Because of this or for other reasons, the parents view primary education as not so important compared with the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom. Both the view of Hannah in our present world and looking at basic education as of little value are unbalanced viewpoints. The parents of a child pioneer have a great responsibility for his or her “child labor.”
The elders have a greater responsibility than the parents. Their duty is to be certain that the person who applies for the pioneer service has the right Christian moral standard and that he or she will be able to fill the requirements of a pioneer. When they recommend a child who still is in elementary school or high school, they should know that pioneer service is not compatible with their school work.
But the members of the Governing Body have the greatest responsibility. Just as a driver who drives in a careless way and kills a person may get bloodguilt, their glorification of children who are pioneers must be viewed as extreme carelessness. Their campaign in the 21st century of baptisms of children at an early age and the examples in the Watchtower literature of very young children who are pioneers both influence sincere children, their parents, and the elders of viewing child pioneering as something great. And the information at morning worship on October 3, 2012, that almost 7,000 children in the USA alone were pioneers shows that the advertisements of the GB for children to become pioneers are working.
|To let children in elementary school or high school become pioneers is the same as putting them under child labor because it will deprive them of their childhood and a good education. The members of the Governing Body have the supreme responsibility for child pioneers. This means that the members of the GB are abusing children.|
. The Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses 2017, page 26.
. Our Kingdom Ministry of September 1994, page 1.
. Our Kingdom Ministry of January 1999, page 7.
Of the definitions of child abuse in the Shepherd book, only porneia, which is sexual intercourse with another person to whom he or she is not married, is a disfellowshipping offense according to the Christian Greek Scriptures.
In this study, the focus is on the definition of child abuse as “the extreme neglect of a minor.” The important point is that the members of the Governing Body are guilty of “the extreme neglect” of a particular group of children by causing them to do child labor. By doing this, the members of the GB are guilty of child abuse.
The first step of this abuse is the campaign of the 21st century for the baptism of children at a young age, as low as seven years. The second step is the appointment of small children as young as seven years old, as pioneers.
I have calculated that children in primary school use about 160 hours per month in connection with their schooling. I have also calculated that regular pioneers use about 150 hours in connection with their pioneer service per month.
This means that if a child in primary school or high school is a pioneer, he uses about 10 hours per day for this service and for his education. This is beyond the capacity of any child because there is little time for recreation and rest! A child who is a pioneer may be deprived of his childhood, and the quality of his learning is hampered because of all the time he must use in his pioneer service.
Thousands of young children are working as pioneers among JW, and this is the same as child labor. Because these pioneers are appointed with the blessings of the members of the GB, these members are responsible for their child labor. And this means that the members of the GB are guilty of the abuse of children.
I have received several e-mails of appreciation from persons who have experienced “child labor” and who have experienced problems with this. I attach a translation of one e-mail from a Norwegian woman.
Letter of appreciation
To Rolf Furuli
I would one more time thank you for what you have written about “child labor” and religious work by youngsters.
I read the examples to which you refer, and they were even younger than I was.
I started as a regular auxiliary pioneer when I was 14 years old when I still attended junior high school (19..19..). I continued as regular poineer when I was 16 years old (19—19–). Therefore, I did not attend high school as my coeval friends.
I had given God a promise when I was 12 years old that I should serve as a pioneer for the rest of my life.
Assemblies that influenced me:
The talk “We do not live for ourselves.”
This text was like a sharp light shining on me.
Speakers also called out with loud voices:
“Who are you youngsters who dare to sit at your desk in the classroom when Armageddon comes?”
“Who are you who can say in your prayer to God ‘I cannot be a pioneer’?”
When you describe this as religious labor that is too heavy a responsibility for minors, I know that this is true. I feel like one who has been completely used to exhaustion. All my energy as a youngster was used in the full-time service, and I was not able to take care of myself.
I was spiritless. And all the time when I as a youngster was a pioneer, I felt anguish and I was depressed. And I even had suicidal thoughts at times. I felt that I was captured, and mentally I pressed myself to the extreme, so I should not get “bloodguilt.”
Often I walked alone on the street, and I was fond of speaking with people I did not know. I had many Bible studies, and I helped several persons into “the truth.”
But as an adult, I have had problems with taking into my mind what “happened” because my parents said; “You were so earnest, and it was impossible to stop you.” I feel that all that fault is placed on me because of my choices when I was a child and a youngster.
But I strongly feel that this was not my fault. Therefore, when you wrote about child labor, I became so thankful. I was only a child when I started as a preacher. And I pressed myself so much when I was a youngster that I got a migraine.
I did not stop before I banged my head against the wall. Then I was 21 years old. At that time I realized that I could not manage my life effectively without an education. Then I was 21, and I started to attend high school at that age 🙂
Many greeting from one who does not manage any longer to carry so much responsibility and guilt, and who is happy for everything you write on your website that lessens my pain — and now I understand much more.
. The expression “pioneer” refers to a person who has bound himself to use most of his time preaching about God’s Kingdom. The expression “auxiliary pioneer” refers to one who has bound himself to use a great part of his time as a preacher. Both pioneers and auxiliary pioneers are appointed to the service by their congregation. The expression “bloodguilt” is used in the Watchtower literature about persons who do not preach to others. The one who is not preached to will not serve God. And therefore, when he will be killed in the great tribulation, the one who has failed to preach for him, has some guilt in connection with his death. This is “bloodguilt.”