Hi everyone! I just wanted to add another piece to the puzzle that is the exile from the organization. A little background about myself first. I was not born into the religion, technically. I think my mother started studying off and on for years prior to me entering the world but had some issues giving up smoking or staying consistent, or a combination of the both. I remember birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, and all that when I was little. It may have been around 2nd or 3rd grade where it became mandatory from my mother that we were going to meetings, not doing holidays, and that I was going to study the bible stories book with a brother from the hall.
Looking back now, I don't understand why my dad allowed this to happen. I think it was presented as a "choice" and my parents would let us pick what we wanted to do but my mother was always the disciplinarian and the one who was pushy, as most newly baptized JWs are. So it really wasn't a choice for a 7 year old kid as much as my parents thought it was.
I don't think I ever became an unbaptized publisher, but I did join the theocratic ministry school. It was about that time I realized I loved sports, and was pretty good at them. I also loved the friends and camaraderie of being part of a sports team. My mother said I couldn't play sports on the school team. When I turned 13 my sister told my mom she didn't want to go to meetings anymore, and I quickly followed suit. At this point it really was a decision we could make and my dad was happy we did. I joined the basketball team, baseball team, football team, and I'm sure I had a much more enriching high school experience had I not left when I did.
Fast forward to me at 19, when I thought I was invincible. I was living at my college dorm, got arrested twice. Once for alcohol and another time for marijuana possession. I came home from college, and had a hard breakup with my girlfriend, one of my best friends was going to fight in the Iraq war, and a few other things in my life had me at a crossroads. I was vulnerable.
The witnesses came by one day to see my mom who was now inactive for three years. I thought to myself, I will study with this guy and play devil's advocate to disprove it all. I don't know if it was the love-bombing, the shady reasoning and manipulation, or what..but I was baptized six months later, pioneering after a year, and appointed as a ministerial servant after two years.
I was being pushed towards ministerial training school and probably would have gone. But I then met my lovely wife. I had never dated as a witness so the whole chaperon/dating thing was kind of foreign. Anyhow, we dated secretly for like a year, got in trouble, were disfellowshipped, got married, and then we were reinstated in the standard fashion a year later.
After six years of marriage and being your exemplary Christians, the new God's Kingdom Rules! book came out. I wanted to make it my goal to study the book thoroughly. I got to page 11, where it talks about the Generation that wouldn't pass away and the new understanding of two overlapping generations. I thought to myself, okay, I guess that makes sense. But why the need to change it? So I started researching the development of the teaching in the WT library. I don't remember how it happened but this led me to researching 1914, 1919, and 607 teachings. The reasoning and resources used in the articles were not adding up and I had this horrible feeling inside that something was wrong.
I told my wife I wasn't sure about some things, and she just said.."like apostasy?" I was just like "I'm not really sure I think I'm going to talk to the elders." I attempted to schedule a meeting with them. I told my service group overseer (because there are no longer "book study" overseers) that I was having some doubts and needed to talk. He just asked me what my doubts were in a nutshell to give him an idea. So I told him I had doubts about the teachings above, and how Jehovah's spirit can direct false teachings. That was the extent of the conversation, and it took them over a month to finally meet with me.
My research at that point had already taken me to JWFacts.com because I was trying to research original quotes referred to in articles regarding 607. On the train to NYC I found and read entirely Crisis of Conscience. In order to not put myself in a compromising situation right away, as I wasn't sure what my exit plan was, I kept the conversation very light with the elders when we eventually met. Their basic message to me was that we know this is Jehovah's organization, that I needed to be humble, and I needed to put these doubts on the back-burner and come back to them later with a different viewpoint. I said okay I would try, but at the same time asked to have all my privileges revoked, no longer a reader, no talks, no prayer at meetings, no doing the sound, etc. They were fine with that but clearly disturbed at my though process.
As fearful as I was, I love my wife, and I had to tell her what I had found. She surprisingly said she would support whatever decision that I made because she trusted I would research enough to not be misled. That was a relief. For months I battled over whether I was going to just fade away, or tell the elders straight up what I thought. My many close friends knew something was up and I gave them some crumbs of where I was heading and what I was thinking to prepare them for the inevitable. Some friends just steered clear of me just like that, while others wanted to have serious talks so they could either understand or try to sway me.
I always said I was going to grow a beard in the "new system" so by this time, no longer going to meetings or in service, my beard got pretty nice and thick. I was playing basketball with some friends at a nearby school late at night where someone's dad was a coach and got us access to the gym. A member of my previous congregation was a security guard who now as ministerial servant, and interestingly enough, was someone I had studied with, and found in the door-to-door ministry when I was an unbaptized publisher. He was definitely one of those crazy JWs, like super strange..you know the type. There is some in every congregation.
So he saw me with the beard and asked "What are you doing with a beard?"
"It's just hair, Andrew, it grows on your face." I said back.
"Why aren't you home with your wife this late hour?" He replied.
"I'm playing basketball..."
He said "With THESE people?" and his eyes scanned the people I was there with.
We had words after that but he helped me see the elitist mentality that is right below the surface of most JWs. I probably had it myself at some point and was ashamed. That week I wrote a letter to the elders to formally disassociate myself as one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
For whatever reason they have had the letter for over a month, and not made an announcement. I've heard through some friends that still talk to me despite knowing I actually wrote the letter they are planning to have an elder or two talk with me first. I think I will meet with them if they are respectable enough former friends who I was close with. There were definitely some elders who were pretty chill and some who weren't. I really don't know what they are trying to accomplish and I'm looking forward to how it all plays out. My wife is still sitting on the fence, but mostly inactive. She wants me to go to the memorial with her just to see our old friends and make them feel bad or something for how they have just cut us both off so quickly. I don't know what she is thinking fully but hope to see her fully on the right side of things soon.