GB Member Samuel Herd: Anointed Saboteur?
On Sunday, June 4, 2006, Governing Body member Samuel Herd delivered two talks on the Special Assembly Day program in Mira Loma, CA. Intended to shore up flagging allegiance to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, one talk in particular would seem to be generating the exact opposite result.
Since that day’s program, one unswervingly loyal [to “Jehovah’s organization”], very-highly regarded Presiding Overseer/former pioneer/former Bethelite from Southern CA who is personally acquainted with Herd, has in private expressed deep concern regarding a number of Herd’s statements during the program, including one particularly candid revelation. Doubts plaguing this elder now are ones he’s managed to ignore or successfully rationalize for many decades. They are a) evidence of a caste system within the organization; and, of greatest concern b) who really is the “faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over all his belongings,” and exactly how is it Jehovah guides their oversight of his people?
What follows are the near-verbatim (except where noted) transcripts of 5 particular excerpts that have aroused quiet yet increasing skepticism as regards the Society’s arrogated authority. While I would like to make the audio file itself available online--those who’ve never heard him speak would appreciate why Herd has garnered for himself over several decades near-worshipful adulation among Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide as a gifted, charismatic public speaker---I cannot. The good news, regrettably, is also the bad news: the near-perfect digital quality of the recording, while clearly reproducing the program, also picks up the occasional distinct speaking or singing voice I fear could betray its origins as I lack the technical expertise to filter them out. Therefore, in an overabundance of caution I’ve opted to be as conscientious as humanly possible in rendering the transcription (sprinkle ‘sic’ as needed.)
These excerpts are not here presented in the order in which they were spoken by Herd.
Excerpts 1 and 2 are provided for their general information value and the insight they may offer into the WBTS’s attempts to staunch the most debilitating symptoms afflicting its ranks in developed nations. Excerpts 3, 4, and 5 reflect those parts of Herd’s talk(s) that are nurturing the most recent doubts harbored by some who have been the most faithful JWs. Excerpt #1 (The following introductory comments were delivered in what I find to be a somewhat subdued, deliberative tone, his pacing and choice of words seeming to be carefully measured---the polar opposite of the artificial, hyper-optimism one might expect Herd to affect for this topic. Wild guess on my part would be that perhaps Herd and his wife have been personally affected by the “downsizing” at HQ themselves in maybe having close friends who dismissed. One can easily imagine personal friends with whom they’ve been especially close over many years futilely appealing to him as one of the GB for favored consideration. Again, purely wild guess on my part, but there is something unmistakable in his tone.)
“The Bethel family located at Patterson, Walkhill and Brooklyn all send their loving greetings to you brothers and sisters assembled here. “A lot’s been going on this past year at Bethel. There’s been a lot of changes. Many of our brothers and sisters are receiving new assignments out of Bethel into various different congregations throughout the United States where there is a need. And a few individuals are being sent to various branches throughout the world where they can be put to greater use. There was a need to cut back in the number of Bethel members here in the United States and this was one way to do it. And of course the brothers have responded to it quite well and the congregations out here in the field, too, have been writing asking if they can receive some of these brothers and sisters who are being assigned to the field. “So the work is moving along and of course we never know what Jehovah has in store for his people before the end of this system of things. But we know one thing: as long as the curtain has not dropped, then we are going to keep on preaching, we’re going to keep telling people about the kingdom of God and letting them have an opportunity to take sides with Jehovah. And we’re happy to see that many thousands throughout the earth at various parts of the world come to know of the truth and become our brothers and sisters.”
Excerpt #2: (“semi”-verbatim, highly-reliable paraphrase)
“All of us depend on the same spiritual food—our 5 meetings. Yes it’s tiring. It’s tiring at Bethel. Some old brothers and sisters in their 90s are tired but they still go [to the meetings] because they’re still depending on the spiritual food. Everybody gets the same meal, same amount. We need to take it in on a regular basis and appreciate what is served. Eat what is put on the table and not expect a special meal because of the job that you do.
“Some brothers are excellent speakers you just enjoy so much and others are kind of dry and just …[indecipherable]. But what’s coming out of their mouths is still from Jehovah’s table, it’s still food we need.
[faulty illustration about nutritious meals mothers provide their children even when the meal presentation may be lacking] “The food is still good and we still need it. We just have to learn to enjoy the food and not pay attention to who it is giving us the food, but it’s the food; thus take it in and benefit from it by meditating on it.”
Sounds like some might be experiencing heartburn and acid reflux as a result of partaking of the provisions of “Jehovah’s bountiful spiritual table.”
“Right now we’ve got a few problems; every congregation has a problem or two that comes up; it usually dies down, disappears, but another one will replace it, comes up. Jesus said that’s the way it’s going to be. He outlined […] Pergamum, Thyatira, Laodicea […] all the seven congregations in the book of Revelation, he mentions all of them, one by one, and he first of all commends them, but then he isolates the weakness doesn’t he, and he centers attention on that weakness.
“Thyatira had a Jezebel-like spirit along with sexual immorality. They had a group of women with a personality of Jezebel as a whole wanting to control the congregation. Well we don’t really have congregations like that today. We may have a sister or two who gets out of line a little bit but generally-speaking we don’t have sisters who are really trying to take over the congregations. But that’s the way it was back then and so Jesus had to address that. And they had to make amends in order to be blessed. “So even though we fully are convinced we don’t have the same identical problem with the Jezebelian spirit as they had back then, we may have a tinge of it and so sisters should strive not to give a hint of endeavoring to instruct and correct the brothers through their comments at meetings.
“If a brother makes a wrong comment or statement, let the brother conducting the meeting correct him. If you’re sisters, sit on your hands. Don’t let your hand be the first one to shoot up to correct that brother who made the erroneous statement. And it was a wrong statement that he made, you know it. But you know what happens sometimes when you put your hand up that fast? You scare the conductor; you scare him into calling on you. If he had time to think he wouldn’t call on you cause he knows you’re gonna correct the brother. But he don’t have time to think-- your hand shot up there so fast, the only thing he could see was your name, so he calls on you and yet you correct that brother.
“How do you think that makes [the brother] feel? How do you think it makes the rest of the congregation feel about you? You think they’re thinking “Boy, what a smart sister!”? No, they’re thinking just the opposite and feeling sorry for the brother, thinking “…she didn’t have to correct him; we all knew; none of us would’ve walked out of here believing what he said.
“So if this situation exists in the congregation it should be corrected if we find it happening in our congregation.”
Our friend, the elder who recorded this program and about whom I speak at the outset, was highly offended at this manner of speaking down to the sisters in the audience. He himself is a mild-mannered brother who is very respectful and appreciative of the women in the congregations and the tremendous contributions they make to keep congregations running. Indeed, were it not for the women, little if any of a congregation’s territories would get covered and those dry-as-gunpowder-and-twice-as-deadly Q&A parts on the weekly programs would die the deaths most of them deserve. Excerpt 4: In his keynote address during the Special Assembly Day program themed “Keeping a Simple Eye,” Herd, ironically, thought it “edifying” to offer the following when extolling the vaunted “unity” of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
“We are fitly united in our thinking. That’s what unifies us, that bonds us as a beautiful people, the only people on earth that are bonded with the love of God that we have. It’s so beautiful to know that you’re loved dearly by your brothers and that they’ll share anything they have with you.
“Here’s an example:
“When my wife and I were in the District work a few years back, visiting a congregation for a week, the PO came up to us and told us “a brother and his wife who just moved out of our congregation left word that they want you and your wife to stay in their home. It’s up for sale but hasn’t sold yet. It has everything in it that you’ll need.”
“We replied “Fine, whatever you’ve arranged.”
“He drove us into this ritzy neighborhood—you know the kind, a neighborhood where all the houses [looked like they’d been] castles moved over here from England or Norway. Beautiful.
“He pulled into the driveway of the biggest, prettiest one. I turned and asked “Brother, do I know this brother?” He said ‘Well, he’s your brother and he knew you were coming to serve the congregation and he just wanted you to live in his house while you were here.’
“He gave us the key and we went in. Well, you could get lost just turning around in there. There was a swimming pool in bathroom! :::pause, chuckle::: In reality it was a Jacuzzi, but to a country boy like me, it was a swimming pool.
“So big, so spacious, so beautiful my wife was scared to death to be there by herself. Just gave me the key. That’s love, isn’t it? All that this brother wanted to know was that I’m a brother, in the truth, serving Jehovah, that’s all. And what was his became ours.
“That’s the way it is all over the earth, no matter where you go your brothers are there for you and they’ll share whatever they have with you. That is unity and we are united worldwide as a family.”
Regarding the example of Christian “love and unity” Herd offered above:
In a daylong program specifically designed to “warn” against the crafty machinations employed by Satan-the-Devil (necessarily identified as such so as never to be confused with Satan-the-Drycleaner or Satan-the-Cable Guy) to lure Jehovah’s people into “[…] everything in the world---the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life…,” Herd, via said example, unwittingly unveils to his audience of mostly under-employed plodders those among Jehovah’s people who won’t countenance the hand-to-mouth version of “seeking first the kingdom” hawked by the Society for the clueless masses. Far from it, this particular wealthy brother apparently had it so large that he was able not only to afford to house his family elsewhere while his mansion sat unsold, he could casually make it available for guests rent-free! And impress and get into the good graces of the DO as a bonus.
Further, Herd confirms vague suspicions that float about that it’s only the humble, obedient, downtrodden, hand-to-mouth brothers and sisters’ meager, widow’s-mite-like hospitality members of the Governing Body will tolerate when there is not available to them “big, spacious, and beautiful.” It surely betrays no lack of spiritual maturity to prefer luxurious “love and unity” over modest-to-shabby “love and unity.”
Either genuinely clueless or simply arrogantly contemptuous of his audience’s “perceptive powers,” rather than consider it prudent to perhaps embellish his account to at least claim that he and wifey thanked the PO but decided it more advantageous to the congregation, setting the appropriate example and all, to eschew such luxury in favor of more modest accommodations, Herd enjoyed titillating his audience with
his and wifey’s delight in their good fortune an example of the “love and unity” of God’s people.
As if this weren’t offensive enough, there isn’t a Jehovah’s Witness with a cocker spaniel’s powers of observation and 6-12 months “in the truth” who hasn’t figured it out that the extent of most JWs’ “love” is in direct correlation to the corporate office held by the prospective recipient. No high-level, influential position? Sorry, you might just be S-O-L.
For those not familiar with him, Herd is self-assured, rather self-satisfied, impressed himself even with his country-boy-makes-good career. He recognizes, though, shrewdly, that much of his rock star appeal owes to his carefully-honed “Every-Brother” mock humility. Amazingly, he seems to so relish his reviews from audiences of swooning rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses it would appear to completely escape him just how contrary to its conscious intent (and illuminating in a way he definitely never intends) the subliminal message is of his little yuk-a-minute, homey “fireside chat” presentations.
Our friend, the elder who found this so offensive, could scarcely fathom that Herd, someone he thought he knew, would choose this example for the modestly-living working-class Christians in his audience being counseled to keep their eye simple. Excerpt #5 In his keynote address at the “Keeping A Simple Eye” Special Assembly Day, Herd provided his audience a most surprising, unprecedented keyhole glimpse into the operation of the Holy of Holies, as it were, into the super-secret, mystery-shrouded, holy spirit-directed inner workings of God’s special possession on earth, His hand-picked, anointed representatives of the Messianic Kingdom ---the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
“One thing that will stumble you out of the truth faster than anything else is to doubt that this is Jehovah’s organization. Never doubt the organization. Do not ask sarcastically [in high, mimmicky voice] ‘what are those brothers talking about up there in Brooklyn?’
“Why not ask ‘What are they talking about up there in heaven, Jehovah and Jesus?’
“That’s kind of hard to do isn’t it, asking a question like that? In fact most of us know… they know what they’re doing. That’s right, they know what they’re doing up there in heaven. We’re not going to doubt that.
“But sometimes if we’re not careful we’ll doubt what those brothers are doing up there in Brooklyn. 28:31 – “Now what’s the difference?
“Imperfection, that’s the difference. There’s more than that, though, but that’s the difference, the big difference right there.
“That’s what stumbles us. We know that Jehovah is perfect, we know that Jesus is perfect. We know that Jehovah is love, we know that Jesus is love and that they’re never going to do anything to harm us and we know that. There’s no problem in our minds about that at all and we know they’ve never made a mistake, never made a mistake.
“Now, let’s go from there to down here, up there in Brooklyn.
“[mumbling under his breath] ‘…those brothers are imperfect; some of ‘em are old, too. They’ve forgotten what life is like … why would they put that in the WT magazine?
“See what’s happening?
“We’re forgetting what? We’re forgetting that this is Jehovah’s organization. We’re forgetting that Jehovah has put Jesus in charge of his organization. Jehovah did that. He put Jesus in charge of his organization. And we never want to forget that.
“I can remember there was a group, the Governing Body, having a meeting and we were trying to find the best scripture to fit a certain theme for either a CA or SAD program. This one said this, that one said that No sooner than it came out of his mouth someone would find fault with it. And so that went on for about 1½ hour back and forth, just rasslin’ around. Now these are spiritual men but trying to come to grips with the best thing that’s gonna satisfy the org with the mind of God so they will walk out knowing this was the thinking of J. So finally all that debate we came to a conclusion.
“After all that debate we came to a conclusion.
“And back in those days we had a few Older, members of GB, who were almost dead; now that’s not funny, but they were almost dead. They were just so tired, those little frail bodies worn out and barely hanging on best they could. Couldn’t barely hear or see. They were so tired. Some would fall asleep .One old brother head dropped I personally just sorta felt he was resting or sleep during all this discussion he had nothing to say
“So finally after we’d selected that number one scripture, this old brother raised his hand and he said ‘Excuse me, brother, if you’ll just look at the context of this verse you’ll see that there’s no way you can apply this the way you’re applying it.’
“And we looked at it and he was absolutely right.
“You know what we learned from that? That Jehovah took an old sleeping brother and woke the rest of us up.
[uproarious laughter and applause] “Don’t doubt the organization because Jehovah’s in control and Jesus is head of the Christian congregation. We need to keep spiritual matters in sharp focus, in the center of our field of vision.”
Absolutely, everything related by Herd in the above was repugnant in the extreme to the friend I cited at the outset.
First, he was simply blown away at being instructed, in imperious fashion, not to doubt or question the GB! This given their innumerable errors, flip-flops and just plain bass ackwards interpretations of scripture; and not merely hinting, but pointedly placing such on par with questioning what Jehovah and Jesus are doing in heaven! For him it crosses an immovable line and has really raised his disillusions in the organization to new heights.
Moreover, he found Herd’s tone regarding the meeting of the GB and the proceedings as he described them to lack the solemnity and sanctity that JWs would naturally associate with such a holy occasion from which emerge the decisions and counsel brothers and sisters are not just expected, but required, to view as from Jehovah Himself.
Further, our friend says he finds it appalling, indeed sacrilegious hokum, the fact that the “spiritual food” and “direction by Jehovah of his people through the faithful and discreet slave,” upon which millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses make life and family and career plans and upon which dire, gut-wrenching life or death decisions are based, come about by no more exalted or “spirit-directed” means than the all-too-familiar, exceedingly human, tedious, mundane, petty back-and-forth bickering and haggling that freights most every decision rendered by local judicial committees and bodies of elders on which he’s served--- be it whether to disfellowship or reprove Brother Jose Cuervo, whether to hold this year’s Memorial in the high school gymnasium or the No-tell Motel, or at precisely what height is deemed most theocratic to pound the nail on which to hang the oversized, lacquered faux-wood plaque, bearing this year’s text!
And at the end of all that deliberation by these anointed brothers of Christ, Herd had the temerity to admit that the whole lot of them, spirit-anointed and directed as they claim to be, were still misapplying the damn scripture in consideration until the elderly slobbering, sleeping, near-death GB member was inspired by Jehovah! It’s difficult to take seriously that Jehovah chose not to intervene to direct their 1½ hour long “rasslin’” match in the first place but did choose to do so in order to enlighten one old brother.
Seriously strains credulity of even the most gullible JW, of whom our friend is not.
If, as would not surprise me in the least, Herd concocted this lively account purely for the purpose of leading to his punchline (“You know what we learned from that? That Jehovah took an old sleeping brother and woke the rest of us up.”) and his admonition to trust without question whatever the GB says, I can assure you it misfired disastrously. Concocted or not, it seriously undercuts the trance under which the WBTS desperately needs to keep its victims. You may well wonder if anything about our friend’s demeanor or facial expression betrayed his horror at what he heard that day. The answer would be no, not at all. He can be clearly heard on the recording appreciatively chuckling and applauding in delight along with everyone else who appeared to chuckle and applaud in delight. The lesson is instructive: Jehovah’s Witnesses are no different from most people in general; you cannot hope to accurately determine their true thoughts and feelings merely by observing their guarded outward appearance and verbal expressions. Most of us here on JWD found it imperative that we sport this very façade for years while sitting in Kingdom Halls even after we’d suffered our crises of conscience but before we could find a way to break for the exit. It’s the reason I have no trouble mustering compassion for the many I strongly suspect suffer as I did for years, desperate to escape but feeling trapped. Yet, here I am, 5 years out after 29 years in. I’m feeling optimistic for our dear friend and other increasingly weary, increasingly doubtful, yet intelligent, thinking JWs who are hearing this current round of talks being delivered by Herd and likely others of the GB. Perhaps holy spirit is truly these days speaking through them---not in the way they would have JWs think. More likely in the manner it employed Balaam’s ass! AMNESIAN