Contributed by: Raye France
It occurred to me for the first time that the Watchtower might be using undue influence when I heard, “Apostates are not sincere….they are mentally diseased…” That was what the speaker said at the July 5-7, 2013 District Convention in Long Beach, CA.
I wrote a note and passed it to my wife. “ALL apostates are mentally diseased”?
She wrote back, “Generally speaking.”
I nodded and went back to note taking, but a few moments later, it started bothering me.
I asked myself, “How could the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society know the motives of everyone called an apostate?”
Huffington Post reports on British inquiries…
The elders come after my wife and me
Several months later, I had the feeling that we might be experiencing undue influence again when my wife and I were called into the back room of the Kingdom Hall.
With the door closed, the elders informed us that they had heard disturbing reports. An anonymous person had reported to the elders that my wife was communicating with her disfellowshipped daughter-in-law, Dorothy. That was not true. In fact, my wife had faithfully obeyed the organization’s mandates, had not spoken to Dorothy, or even said a greeting to her or her son (who had also been disfellowshipped).
My wife denied the accusation. She told the elders that she had received a “cry-for-help” text message from Dorothy about being mistreated by an elder in another congregation – but that was it. And my wife had dutifully replied via text that she should go to her local elders about the matter and pray on it.
The elders were satisfied with her answer, and we left.
My wife and I agreed it was strange behavior. But we filed it away under human error.
A second meeting
But then the elders asked us to visit with them in the back room a second time.
“The person still feels you are communicating with your daughter-in-law. Are you?”
Again, my wife denied the accusation. Then the elder turned to me and said that if I wanted to be sure about things I could check my wife’s phone records and look for any strange numbers.
Now I was really irritated. But I said nothing at the time.
So we went out to the parking lot and got in the car. No sooner did we shut the doors when my wife turned to me and said, “Are we in a cult?”
I said something like, “I know. That was weird. Who is so afraid of you hearing what Dorothy has to say about another elder? ‘Check your wife’s cell phone records’? It seems like someone is afraid of getting exposed for something.”
I call a third meeting
I invited the elders to a third meeting to discuss our concerns. They saw we were upset and promised not talk with us about the matter again.
I could not get the situation out of my mind, fearing there was some truth to what Dorothy had said in her text message, which reported that her sister and (elder) brother-in-law were plotting to take custody of Dorothy’s teen-aged twin daughters.
After experiencing these traumatic back room meetings, I started to wonder if all closed-door meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses went like this. That’s when I decided that YouTube might provide the answer.
Discovering Raymond Franz
While watching one of the videos, in which the accused man hid a camera and recorded the entire event, the accused mentioned a book written by Raymond Franz titled Crisis of Conscience.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know about Ray Franz, as he is the ultimate “apostate” in the minds of most Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, he was one of the original elite members of the Watchtower Society’s Governing Body.
However, it appeared to me that it was finally time to hear what Ray had to say. So I ordered his book and read it in a week.
The amazing thing was that he too had wrestled with every doubt and every unanswered question that I’d ever had. I was so relieved to find that someone else thought as I did. His approach was reasonable and surprisingly respectful toward an organization that suddenly discarded him. What had been his crime? Sharing one meal with an ex-Witness.
Ray Franz’s decades of volunteer service suddenly turned to ashes. But his story, his logic – it all just made too much sense to me.
I was so scared that my wife would find the “apostate” book that I hid the book in my duffel bag. I wanted to reread the book and make my decision without the worry of getting disfellowshipped, which is what would have happened if I had been caught reading the book.
While reading the book again, it dawned on me that I would be late for a dentist appointment if I didn’t stop. So I put the book in my duffel bag, but failed to zip the bag up all the way. While I was gone, my wife decided to vacuum the room. When she picked up my duffel bag, the book slipped out.
After finishing my dentist visit, I ran a few errands. When I arrived home and opened the door, what did I find? My wife was sitting on the couch reading Crisis of Conscience.
She smirked and told me that she was enjoying the book. She also said that months earlier she had come across a portion of the book online, but was afraid to read it. She said that as she clicked the mouse her hands trembled. I was relieved to discover that we were both on the same page with this.
We talked briefly about the need to examine all the evidence, even the inconvenient pieces. Then I was off to work, elated that my wife was open-minded enough to follow the facts – where ever those facts might lead.
To make a long story short, it did not take us long to figure out that the Watchtower Society is a master at using undue influence to control the minds and hearts of its members. And we knew that we had to start in earnest to learn to think for ourselves.
“Raye France” is the pseudonym of a man trying to figure out how to reclaim his critical thinking skills. A transitioning ex-Jehovah’s Witness and writer, he wants to share his story with the non-JW World and explain why he believes the Watchtower Society must be exposed for its use of undue influence.