by Bangalore 3 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Bangalore

    In chapter three of his book "Crisis Of Conscience" Ray Franz mentions that the GB interfered in the private bedroom matters of the JW's. Here is an excerpt from that chapter.

    These are only a partial sampling of things discussed during the first two years or two of my being on the Body. The effect of our decisions was considerable in its impact on the lives of others. In matters of divorce, for example, the congregation elders serve as a sort of religious court and if they are not satisfied as to the validity of a divorce action, the individual who goes through with such a divorce and then later remarries becomes subject to disfellowshiping.

    A matter, not among those just mentioned, but which brought considerable discussion involved a Witness couple in California. Someone had seen in their bedroom certain literature and photographs dealing with unusual sex practices. (I do not recall that we learned just how or why the Witness individual reporting this happened to have access to the couple's bedroom.) Investigation and interrogation by the local elders confirmed that the couple did engage in sexual relations other than simple genital copulation.8 Correspondence from the elders came in to Brooklyn and the Governing Body was called upon to rule as to what action if any should be taken toward the couple.

    Until the correspondence was read to us that morning, none of us aside from the president had had any opportunity to think about the subject. Yet within a couple of hours the decision was reached that the couple was subject to disfellowshiping. This was thereafter set out as a formal published policy, applicable to any persons engaging willfully in similar practices.

    The published material was understood and applied in such a way that marriage mates generally felt obliged to report to the elders if any such practice existed or developed in their marriage, whether mutually agreed upon or done solely at the initiation of one of the mates. (In the latter case the noninitiating mate was expected to come forward and convey this information to the elders if the initiating mate was unwilling to do so.) To fail to come forward generally is viewed as indicative of an unrepentant attitude and as weighing in favor of disfellowshiping. The belief that disfellowshiping cuts one off from the one organization where salvation can be found, as well as from friends and relatives, exercises heavy pressure on the person to conform, no matter how difficult confession (or reporting) to the elders may be.

    The Governing Body's decision in 1972 resulted in a sizeable number of "judicial hearings" as elders followed up on reports or confessions of the sexual practices involved. Women experienced painful embarrassment in such hearings as they responded to the elders' questions about the intimacies of their marital relations. Many marriages where one of the mates was not a Witness underwent a
    turbulent period, with the non-Witness mate objecting strenuously to what he or she considered an unwarranted invasion of bedroom privacy. Some marriages broke up with resulting divorce.

    An unprecedented volume of mail came in over a period of five years, most of it questioning the Scriptural basis for the Governing Body members inserting themselves into the private lives of others in such a way, and expressing inability to see the validity of the arguments advanced in print to support the stand taken. (The principal
    portion of Scripture relied upon was Romans, chapter one, verses 24-27, dealing with homosexuality, and those writing to the Society pointed out that they could not see how it could rightly be applied to heterosexual relations between man and wife.) Other letters, often
    from wives, simply expressed confusion and anguish over their uncertainty as to the properness of their "sexual foreplay."

    One woman said she had talked to an elder and he had told her to write to the Governing Body "for a sure answer." So she wrote, saying that she and her husband loved each other deeply and then she described the "certain type of foreplay" they were accustomed to, stating "I believe it's a matter of conscience, but I am writing you to be sure." Her closing words were: I am scared, I am hurt, and I am more worried at this time about [my husband's] feeling for the truth. . . . I know you will tell me what to do.

    In another typical letter an elder wrote, saying that he had a problem he wanted to get straightened out in his mind and heart and that to do this he felt "it's best to contact the ‘mother' for advice."

    The problem dealt with his marital sex life and he said that he and his wife were confused as to "where to draw the line in the act of foreplay before the actual act of sex." He assured the Society that he and his wife would "follow any advice you give us to the letter."

    These letters illustrate the implicit trust these persons had come to place in the Governing Body, the belief that the men forming that Body could tell them where to "draw the line" in even such intimate aspects of their personal lives, and that they should rightly hew to that line "to the letter."

    Many letters went out from the Society in response. Often they endeavored to provide some limited clarification (saying without exactly saying) as to what sexual foreplay fell within the bounds of condemned actions, other foreplay thereby being exempt.

    A memo from a member of the Society's Service Department, in June of 1976, discusses a telephone conversation with an Instructor of seminars (held with elders). The memo relates that the Instructor had phoned about an elder attending the seminar who confessed to certain disapproved sexual practices within his marriage. The
    memo states: Brother [here giving the name of the instructor] closely discussed the matter with him to determine whether it was really oral copulation that was involved. . . . [The Instructor] had told him in
    view of the circumstances that he ought to go to the other
    members of the committee and it happened that the other two members of the committee were in the class and so he went and talked with them. Now [the Instructor] was wondering what else should be done. . . . It was suggested to [him] that he write a full report on this to the Society so that in the future when he has any
    such case come up he will have direction on how to handle the matter and he will not have to call.

    This illustrates the extent to which interrogation went in intimacy and the extent to which the headquarters organization supervised the whole situation.

    Letter after letter revealed that the persons involved felt positively responsible before God to report to the elders any deviance from the norm established by the Governing Body. A man in a Midwestern state who confessed to an infringement of the Governing Body's decision as regards his marital relations with his wife was told by the elders that they were writing about this to the Society; he also wrote an accompanying letter. Eight weeks passed and finally he wrote again to Brooklyn, saying that "the waiting, anxiety and anticipation
    is almost more than I can bear." He said that he had been removed from all congregational assignments, including offering prayer at the meetings, and that "almost weekly I am losing something that I have worked and prayed for for thirty years." He pleaded for an early answer, saying
    I do need some mental relief as to how I stand with Jehovah's organization.

    Some elders endeavored to take a moderate approach to the matter. Doing so, however, could make them liable for reprimand from the headquarters' offices in Brooklyn. Consider the letter on the following page. The letter is a photocopy of that sent by the Society's Service
    Department to one body of elders (names and specific places have been blocked out).

    Interestingly, some elders actually felt that the Governing Body's position was, if anything, somewhat lenient or limited. A letter sent by an elder in the United States says: Some of the older brothers felt that the Governing Body could have gone even further in condemning unnatural practices among married couples to include assuming certain positions when performing
    the sexual act. . . .

    Later this elder expressed his own feelings saying:
    Since Jehovah went into great detail in this chapter [18] of Leviticus as well as other chapters on sexual behavior, why is there no statement made to married couples as to acceptable or unacceptable forms of copulation? Would it not be likely that Jehovah would have done so if he wanted this personal and private
    area of the marriage union open to the scrutiny or opinions of the "Judges" or "Older men" of Israel so that appropriate action could be taken against offending individuals?

    Some of those affected by the organization's ruling were persons whose normal sexual functions had been seriously impaired by an operation or by an accident. Some of these expressed dismay at the position in which the Governing Body's decision placed them.

    One such person who had become impotent in this way, had,
    during the years that followed, been able to perform a sexual role through one of the means now condemned by the organization. Before the Governing Body's ruling he said he had been able to stop feeling like half a man, because he could still please his wife. Now, he wrote saying
    that he could not see the Scriptural proof for the stand taken in the Watchtower magazine but that his wife felt duty bound to obey, and because he loved her he acceded. He said he knew that he was the same as before, yet emotionally he was crumbling since he feared their marriage would be seriously affected. He pleaded to be told if there was not some "loophole" in God's will that would allow him the satisfaction of pleasing his wife.

    All of these situations put considerable strain on the conscience of elders called upon to deal with those offending against the Governing Body's decision. At the conclusion of the earlier-mentioned letter from one elder, that elder states: I find I can only use what Bible laws and principles I understand with any degree of sincerity and conviction in representing Jehovah and Christ Jesus, and if I have to administer these laws
    and principles in exercising my responsibility as an elder in the congregation I want to do it not because I have come to take for granted that this is Jehovah's organization and I'm going to follow it no matter what it says, but do it because I truly believe it to be scripturally proven and correct. I truly want to continue
    believing as Paul admonished the Thessalonians in the second chapter, verse 13, to accept the word of God, not as of men, but as it truthfully is, as the word of God.

    His position is notable. I frankly doubt that many elders today would feel free to express themselves in this manner, declaring their position in such clear, frank terms. Though I find the sexual practices involved to be definitely contrary to my personal standards, I can honestly say that I did not favor the disfellowshiping decision made by the Body. But that is all that I can say. For when the vote came I conformed to the majority
    decision. I felt dismayed when the Body assigned me to prepare material in support of the decision, yet I accepted the assignment and wrote it as was desired by the Body, in conformity with its decision.

    Thus I cannot say that I acted according to the same fine outlook expressed by the elder just quoted. My belief in the organization as God's only agency on earth caused me to do what I did at that time without particularly great qualms of conscience. The bulk of the correspondence on this subject never reached the Governing Body, being handled by the staff members assigned to "correspondence desks" or by the members of the Service Department.
    I am sure, however, that the various Governing Body members must have been made aware, likely through personal contacts and conversations, that many felt they had improperly invaded people's private lives.

    When finally, after some five years, the matter came up again on the agenda, the disfellowshiping policy was reversed and the Governing Body in effect now withdrew itself from that intimate area of others' lives. Again the Body assigned me to prepare material for publication, this time advising of the change. I found it personally
    satisfying to be able to acknowledge, even though rather
    obliquely, that the organization had been in error.
    The February 15, 1978, Watchtower, pages 30 and 32, carried the material and included the following points:

    Actually, I felt that way about a whole host of matters that came before us, that there was really no basis in Scripture for taking dogmatic stands on the vast majority of things we were ruling on. I expressed that view here and it was accepted by the Body on this point. I expressed that same view again and again in the future but it was rarely accepted.

    Looking over the letters at hand, some of which have been
    presented, whatever satisfaction it brought to write that corrective material seems rather hollow. For I know that no matter what was said, it could never in any way compensate for or repair all the damage in embarrassment, mental confusion, emotional distress, guilt pangs, and broken marriages that resulted from the earlier decision-
    a decision made in a few hours by men almost all of whom were approaching the matter ‘cold,' with no previous knowledge, thought, meditation, specific prayer on the matter or searching of Scriptures, but whose decision was nonetheless put in force globally for five years and affected many people for a lifetime. None of it needed ever to have occurred.

    Another issue that arose, somewhat linked to the above, involved a Witness in South America whose husband had confessed to having had sexual relations with another woman. The problem was that he said that the relations were of the kind involved in the issue earlier described, in this particular case anal and not genital copulation.

    The decision of the Governing Body was that this did not qualify as adultery; that adultery required strictly genital copulation ‘capable of producing children.' Therefore the man had not become "one flesh" with the other woman and hence the decision was that the wife
    had no grounds for Scriptural divorce and future remarriage.

    The existing rule of voting required unanimity of decision and I conformed. I felt genuinely disturbed, however, at thinking about this woman and her being told that she could not Scripturally choose to become free from a man guilty of such an act. The decision also meant
    that a husband who engaged in homosexual acts with other men or who even had relations with a beast was not subject to "Scriptural divorce," since a man could not, with any procreative possibilities, become "one flesh" with another man or with an animal. A Watchtower
    magazine earlier that year had, in fact, specifically ruled this way.

    The emotional upset I felt moved me to make a study of the original language terms (in Greek) used in Matthew, chapter nineteen, verse 9. The Society's New World Translation there presents Jesus as saying: I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground
    of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.
    Two different words are used, "fornication" and "adultery," yet the Watchtower publications for many decades had taken the position that they both referred essentially to the same thing, that the "fornication"
    meant a man's having adulterous relations with a woman
    other than his wife (or a wife's having such relations with a man not her husband). Why then, I asked myself, did Matthew, in recording Jesus' statement, use two different words (porneia and moikheia) if the same thing, adultery, was actually meant in both cases?

    Searching through the many translations, Bible dictionaries, commentaries and lexicons in the Bethel library, the reason became obvious. Practically every book I opened showed that the Greek term porneia (rendered as "fornication" in the New World Translation) was a very broad term and applied to ALL types of sexual immorality and for this reason many Bible translations simply render it as "immorality," "sexual immorality," "unchastity," "unfaithfulness."

    Lexicons clearly showed that the term was also applied to homosexual relations. The conclusive point to me, however, was realizing that in the Bible itself porneia is used at Jude, verse 7, to denote the notorious
    homosexual conduct of people in Sodom and Gomorrah.
    I prepared fourteen pages of material containing the results of the research and made copies for each member of the Body. But I felt very uncertain as to how this would be received and so I went to Fred Franz's office and explained what I had done, expressing my doubt that the material would be favorably accepted. He said, "I don't believe there will be any difficulty." Though very brief, the words were spoken with a tone of confidence. When I inquired if he would like to see what had been found, he declined and again said he thought there
    would be "no problem."

    My impression was that he was already aware of some of the
    points my research had revealed, though for how long I had no way of knowing. Since he had been the principal translator of the Society's New World Translation I felt he must surely have at least been apprised of the true sense of the word porneia ("fornication").

    When the matter came up in the Governing Body session, the
    material I submitted was accepted, Fred Franz having expressed his support, and I was assigned to prepare articles for publication in the Watchtower presenting the changed stand this would bring about.

    I still remember, some time after the articles appeared, a letter that came in from a Witness who some years before had discovered her husband having sexual relations with an animal. As she said, "I couldn't live with a man like that," and she divorced him. Later she remarried. The congregation then disfellowshiped her for so
    doing as she was not "Scripturally free." After the Watchtower articles appeared, she now wrote and asked that, in view of the changed position, something be done to clear her name of the reproach she had suffered as a result of the disfellowshiping action. I could only
    write her that the articles published were themselves a vindication of her course.

    Though again it had been satisfying to prepare the material acknowledging the organization's erroneous view and rectifying it, the sobering thought remained that this could never undo whatever harm the previous position had caused over decades of time and only God knows-to how many people.


  • Bangalore



  • Libelle

    Wow.... Interesting stuff here.

    By the way, what does Bttt mean?

  • Lillith26

    BTTT- bump to the top....

    Great info, thank you Bangalore

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