Gene Smalley and the Watchtower's Blood Transfusion Doctrine

by Dogpatch 41 Replies latest jw friends

  • Dogpatch

    Gene Smalley and the Watchtower's Blood Transfusion Doctrine


    [In preparation for this article I called Gene Smalley at Bethel on 3/29/07 to make sure he was still alive and kicking. You can read the summary of the conversation here .]

    Recently I have had communication with a mole from Bethel who has been there many years, and is privy to certain information from the Legal Dept. regarding several matters, not the least of which is the blood transfusion issue among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Obviously the identity of this person must be kept a secret, especially since they have no intention of leaving at this point.

    As many already know, this doctrine (no blood transfusions) first suddenly appeared in 1945 1, in spite of the founder C.T. Russell’s biblically correct and astute statements contrary to this position in The Watchtower of April 1, 1909, page 116, 117 . 2

    Why, then, did the Watchtower decide to ban the transfusing of blood, which has no relevance to the Old Testament law of banning the eating of blood (because blood represented life)? If anything, the transfusing of blood’s primary purpose is to SAVE LIVES, not to DEMEAN life as was the slaughtering of animals wantonly . (Orthodox Jews today, considering themselves still under the Law Covenant, will not eat blood but have no objections to blood transfusions for this very reason.) Was this “new light” from Jehovah, or was it the agenda of primarily one man inside the headquarters of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society in Brooklyn, New York? Could one man be responsible for a new doctrine that has cost the lives of unknown thousands of unwitting victims over the last few decades?

    What many people are not aware of (unless they have worked at Bethel -- Watchtower headquarters) is that policies are dictated by a crony system among the loyal aged leadership. This practice began in the days of J. F. “Judge” Rutherford from the very beginning when he sought to wrest control of the organization in a political coup after the death of C.T. Russell. Those loyal to Rutherford were granted positions of greater responsibility, whereas those loyal to Russell were ousted as “opposers of the truth.”

    This practice continued under the presidency of Nathan Knorr and his resident seer , Frederick W. Franz, who was responsible for much of the “new light” that came out after the death of Rutherford. Knorr was never much for Biblical exegesis, and was happy to leave almost all matters of theology to Franz. Franz was known among old timers at Bethel as the ghost writer for many of the books written post-Rutherford that had no author listed. The concept was that the “new light” now came directly from Jehovah by means of his “holy spirit” via the “faithful and discreet slave” (the supposed 144,000 chosen to be of the “heavenly calling” and who were supposed to be feeding the “sheep at the proper time”) This doctrine is presently under flux as of 2007, but this will not be discussed here.

    Though Franz was well-known among many old timers in the organization to be the author of many of the books printed by the Watchtower, little is known about other contributors to doctrinal changes that also lived, and still live, at the Watchtower headquarters. One of these men is Gene Smalley. He is by and large the author of this “new light” on blood transfusions.

    Smalley has probably been at Bethel nearly forty years or more. Rumor has it that one of his legs is somewhat deformed. As a young man this made him the butt of cruel jokes which probably turned him into the callous fellow he is today.

    The “new light” on blood transfusions has changed considerably and often over the last few decades, for two specific reasons. 1) Inaccuracy of research on the issue from a scientific and medical standpoint, and 2) for legal reasons that implicate the Watchtower Society in the unnecessary deaths of many individuals whose lives could have been saved by a blood transfusion. In the early decades of this doctrine most of the changes were due to corrections on inaccuracies, but in recent decades the Legal Dept. of the Watchtower has had some influence on the doctrine itself. In addition, many countries that would have banned Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religion because of denying life-saving transfusions have been issued public relations statements that would seem to indicate that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not PROHIBITED from having blood transfusions, but do so as a PERSONAL CHOICE . (Of course, if they make the personal choice to HAVE a blood transfusion, they are immediately shunned and considered as excommunicated, but this is not mentioned in their PR campaigns.)

    However, one should not assume that the powers that be in the Watchtower are in total agreement with each other. While I was at Bethel (1974 to 1980 as a Bethel Elder and floor overseer in the pressroom), it was well-known among insiders that the Service Dept., which handles matters such as policing the organization and disfellowshipping/shunning, was at times at odds with the Writing Dept ., who were often more concerned with Biblical accuracy over controlling the masses. (See Crisis of Conscience and In Search of Christian Freedom by Raymond Franz, former member of the Watchtower’s Governing Body and nephew of Fred Franz. See also the Critical Years essay.)

    In recent years the Legal Dept. has had to butt heads with the Governing Body over many doctrines that have caused them legal problems with lawsuits and with the legal status of the organization in emerging democracies such as Bulgaria , Russia, etc. In order to retain such arcane teachings while appearing to allow their members much freedom in matters of doctrine and conscience, the Watchtower Society has had to publish one set of rules to their followers in their literature (and more importantly, by oral teachings not specifically spelled out in print), yet another to the public media and the governments. It is noteworthy to mention that the Watchtower is not averse to using what they call “ theocratic warfare 3 ,” which is defined as not disclosing to the enemy what they are not deserving to hear (in this case, the enemy can be anyone who is not favorable to the Watchtower Society, such as “worldly “ governments and news reporters). In modern parlance this is known as “speaking out of both sides of the mouth.”

    Gene Smalley has been loyal to the old-timers at Bethel and continues to be, and many of them will side with him over the Legal Dept. or with any threats to the blood doctrine. The Legal Dept. is a necessary evil to the Governing Body, only because they need to do business with the outside world, which they consider to be completely controlled by Satan the devil. So it is not surprising that Gene stood in the way of the WT attorneys that were assigned to handle blood cases to do what was right. Apparently the Governing Body listened to Gene and not to their attorneys. Even today the attorneys have a problem with the GB taking their advice.

    Maybe when all the old GB are gone, there might not be any loyalty towards Smalley, who tends to make enemies of certain people. But I think it will take a huge win in a blood lawsuit filed against WT to really make a difference to even the new GB who are even more rabid than Ted Jaracz (head of the WT’s Service Dept.) is about obeying the blood injunction. Isn't he, Barr and Barber the last of the old GB? Barr as head of Writing would never turn on Smalley who he likes and is loyal to, but perhaps after Barr dies, things might change.

    Barr is known to have said to be aware of Smalley's faults but has said Gene is a good man. Jaracz uses Smalley to work the PR for him and Carey Barber is so old he's like the walking dead at this point in time. So how could one expect such people to wise up to Smalley? He was so slick he even had senior GB member Lloyd Barry fooled, but the rest of the senior writers did not like him at all. If Gene wasn't with a GB member or his wife, or his secretary, he was always alone. Few except Ciro Aulicino in the Writing Dept. would talk with him, and then only when Gene would come to Ciro's office to find out which way the wind was blowing. Life at Bethel is like a soap opera, and I know from six years of personal experience there.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses will avidly defend the modern day revisions of their blood doctrine. Yet few actually realize how much it has changed over the years, nor are they able to explain all the recent changes . It is simply too confusing to try and ascertain what the Watchtower is really asking of them. At present, one can transfuse virtually all components of blood separately, but not altogether at once. The hypocrisy and unbiblical nature of the doctrine is astonishing! It is sad that because of the ever-changing and confusing explanations of the doctrine as to what is a matter of conscience and what isn’t, many Witnesses (due to fear of being destroyed at Armageddon for disobedience) would rather not have ANY blood fractions transfused and take the risk of death, for they believe they will be resurrected in the “new system” when Jehovah destroys all the governments of their earth along with all non-believers.

    Can one man be largely responsible for the death of untold thousands? You bet. I believe Gene Smalley is bloodguilty, along with the other members of the Watchtower’s Governing Body who have conspired to placate Gene and his pet doctrine. The history of authoritarian religions in our century, with their stringent rules and harsh penalties to those who don't comply, is evidence enough that it happens all the time.

    Randall Watters


    1. 1956 "Certain blood fractions, particularly albumin, also come under the Scriptural ban." {AWAKE Sep 8 1956, p. 20} [The ban dating from 1945, though albumin has many other sources. The prohibition against blood fractions was then reversed, allowing it in WT Sep 15 1958, p. 575. Then banned again in WT Sep 15 1961, p. 557. Then allowed again in WT Nov 1 1961, p. 669-70. Then banned yet again with "Any fraction of blood considered as a nutrient not to be used in medical treatment." in WT Feb 15 1963, p. 123-4. And partially reversed in AWAKE Aug 22 1965, p. 18. But AWAKE Feb 22 1975, p. 30 may have reimposed it. Then grudgingly allowed for hemophiliacs in WT Jun 15 1978, p. 20 and expanded on in BSYL p. 27. Finally, and many deaths later, came in 1982 "Witness religious understanding does not absolutely prohibit the use of components such as albumin, immune globulins, and hemophiliac preparations; each Witness must decide individually if he can accept these." {AWAKE Jun 22 1982, p. 25}? Also read WT Jun 1 1990 p. 30, WT Aug 15 1990 p. 29, WT Oct 1 1994 p. 31, and AWAKE Nov 8 1996 p. 30 for concessions and further rules]

    2. We have in Vs. 22-29 the decision of the Apostles on the question. They not only wrote it out. but sent it at the hand of two of their trusted Brethren, Judah-Barnabas and Silas, with Paul and Barnabas, that they might have the matter in written and in oral testimony. The declaration was that the disquieting teachings had not been authorized by the Apostles at Jerusalem. Then they briefly summed up, not as law, but as “necessary things,” the following :

    (1) Abstain from sacrifices to idols;

    (2) And from blood;

    (3) And from things strangled;

    (4) And from harlotry.

    It was not intimated that abstinence from these things would make them Christians, for nothing but faith in Christ and consecration to him and endeavor to walk in his steps could constitute them Christians. By these recommended abstentions they declared. “It will be well with you”; you will find these recommendations profitable to you as followers of the Lord. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul has pointed out most forcefully that “Love is the fulfilling of the Law,” because love for God would control the life as respects holiness, and love for our neighbor as respects earthly justice. The things here recommended were necessary to a preservation of the fellowship of the “body” composed of Jews and Gentiles of their different education and sentiments. Without discussing whether or not harm could come to the meats sold in the markets, by reason of pagan ceremonies in connection with their killing, the advice was that these be abstained from, because Jews certainly would consider the eating of such meats as participations in the heathen idolatry -- even though from the broad standpoint of fact the idol, being nothing but wood or metal or stone, could neither profit nor injure the food. Nevertheless, it was advisable that the Gentile Christians abstain from the use of their liberty in this direction, out of deference to the weaker brethren, Jews and Gentiles, who could not so deeply philosophize and whose consciences might be injured.

    A similar thought attaches to the prohibition of the use of blood. To the Jew it was forbidden, and under his covenant it was made a symbol of life -- to partake it would reply responsibility for the life taken. Moreover. in the typical ceremonies of the Law the prohibited blood was used as a symbol representing the sin-offering; for by the blood atonement for sins was effected. To emphasize these typical lessons the Jew had been forbidden to use blood. And there may be other, sanitary, reasons connected with the matter, which are not yet known to us. These prohibitions had never come to the Gentiles, because they had never been under the Law Covenant; but so deeply rooted were the Jewish ideas on this subject that it was necessary to the peace of the church that the Gentiles should observe this matter also. The things strangled meant animals taken in traps, whose blood was not shed or drained out by bleeding to death, as the Jewish Law required of all meats that should be eaten. This restriction was necessary to the harmony between the two branches of spiritual Israel – that which came from Judaism and that which came from the Gentiles.

    3. 1956 "The enemies [here identified as those who resist or persecute Jehovah's Witnesses] did not deserve to learn the truth to the hurt or endangerment of Jehovah's servants. In wartime it is proper to misdirect the wolfish enemy. .. It is proper to cover over our arrangements for the work that God commands us to do. If the wolfish foes draw wrong conclusions from our maneuvers to outwit them, no harm has been done to them by the harmless sheep, innocent in their motives as doves." {WT Feb 1 1956 p. 80/86}

    1957 "Trust Your Proved, Faithful Brothers... Showing respect for Jehovah's organization really resolves itself down to our attitude toward God's visible channel and the trust that we place in our proved, faithful brothers. If we have become thoroughly convinced that this is Jehovah's organization, that he is guiding and directing his people, then we shall not be unsettled by anything that happens. If something comes up that we do not understand we will wait patiently until it is made thoroughly clear to us. If we feel sure something is wrong we will 'keep the commandment' of our Father and take whatever theocratic steps are open to us and then wait on Jehovah. We will not 'forsake our mother's teaching' by immediately beginning to criticize and find fault. We will realize that Jehovah knows what is going on in his organization, and if he is willing to permit it, who are we to insist it should be different? If we really have faith, we will know that if it is wrong he will straighten it out eventually, and we are far safer inside his organization even with these minor difficulties than we would be on the outside where only chaos and destruction await us.. [We must] show our respect for Jehovah's organization, for she is our mother and the beloved wife of our heavenly Father, Jehovah God.. A Witness of Jehovah was going from house to house in Eastern Germany when she met a violent opposer. Knowing at once what to expect she changed her red blouse for a green one in the very next hallway. No sooner had she appeared on the street than a Communist officer asked her if she had seen a woman with a red blouse. No, she replied, and went on her way. Did she tell a lie? No, she did not. She was not a liar. Rather, she was using theocratic war strategy, hiding the truth by action and word for the sake of the ministry." {WT May 1 1957 p. 284-5}

    4. WT: Good afternoon, Jehovah's Witnesses.
    Randy: Yes, I'd like to know if you could connect me with Gene Smalley's desk?
    WT: Thank you, one moment please.
    Smalley: Hello?
    Randy: Hi, is this Gene?
    Smalley: It is.
    Randy: Hi Gene, my name is Randy Watters, and I'd like to know, is it true that you've had a lot of influence in the
    Watchtower's blood doctrine?
    Smalley: (slight pause) And, why are you asking?
    Randy: Well, I've had some neighbors that are having a struggle with the blood issue, and they don't seem to be able to
    figure out if they can take certain fractions of blood or not, and someone indicated that you'd be helpful in that
    area. I'd like to know what publications in particular spell out the details on what fractions are allowed and
    what aren't?
    Smalley: And, did you serve here at Bethel at one time?
    Randy: Uh, yes.
    Smalley: Well then I think you know what publications.
    Randy: Well I haven't been reading the magazines lately so I'd be interested in knowing.
    Smalley: The congregation can be of help. Bye now.

    Related recent scholarly articles on JWs and Blood: (PDF format)

    Optimal Care for Patients Who Are Jehovah's Witnesses

    What Is Blood and What Is Not? Caring for the Jehovah's Witness Patient Undergoing Cardiac Surgery

    Coagulopathy After Cardiopulmonary Bypass in Jehovah's Witness Patients: Management of Two Cases Using Fractionated Components and Factor VIIa

    Coagulopathy After Cardiopulmonary Bypass in Jehovah's Witness Patients: Management of and for the Individual Rather than the Religious Institution

  • Dogpatch

    Sorry, some of the links in the above post will not work unless you view the article directly from this page:


  • garybuss

    There's a nice full color interview with Reverend Smalley on the "Knocking" CD extras.

  • minimus

    Randy, thanks for this inside info!

  • AK - Jeff
    AK - Jeff

    Doesn't seem to cotter to former Bethel elders, now does he? Friendly sort. Geez.


  • anewme

    How thorough! I sure appreciate the info Randy!


  • GermanXJW

    I like the introduction that you actually called Gene Smalley. Good job.

  • Dogpatch

    For any who want to do any kind of editorial submissions, etc, there is a shorter news-friendly article at:


  • TD

    Very interesting in a tantalizing, unsatiating sort of way. If Smalley has been at Bethel for forty years, give or take, that places him there from the mid to late 1960's onward.

    So what part of the blood doctrine would he be responsible for I wonder? The doctrine was introduced in stages with the first negative comment actually appearing in 1944. The first references were brief and somewhat oblique, but these statements gradually became more and more disapproving. The idea was expanded upon and transfusion was condemned in 1949 in terms that no one could miss and this prompted a flood of questions from readers, some of which were actually (poorly) answered in the 1950 Watchtower. During the 1950's Adherence to the doctrine became more and more important and actually became a disfellowshipping offense in 1961.

    What was going vis a vis the blood doctrine in the the mid to late 60's? The wild flip-flops on the use of plasma proteins settled down and the current pattern of allowing some parts of blood while forbidding others on the basis of various flawed rationales began. Organ and tissue transplantation was forbidden in 1967 using basically the same argument that originally condemned transfusion. The ungrammatical "Abstain" argument gradually replaced the earlier assertion that transfusion actually nourished the recipient and the ban on organ transplants was eventually dropped.

    Curiouser and curiouser

  • Dogpatch


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