Shortly after the first of the year (1988), I made the first tentative steps to investigate my religious beliefs. I began reading up on Witnesses in the Seattle Public library, which was a short walk from work. These early attempts at research were half-hearted. I was not happy where I was, but I had neither the strength nor courage to leave.
One of my concerns was Debbie's commitment to the religion. Although both of us had slacked off on meeting attendance and field service I thought she was she was still a heartfelt Witness. I believed that her lack of activity was due to health issues.
In the Spring of 1988 we attended a circuit assembly in Puyallup, Washington. The Watchtower has constructed an auditorium there for just that purpose. Some two thousand people were present. One talk in particular made an indelible impression (by that time few such talks registered anymore).
This speaker talked about the nearness of the End and stressed the fact that higher education was a waste of time. I remember standing there and thinking "if the end has been about to arrive all this time, if they're right doesn't it actually have to get here?" That was followed immediately by the thought that I wanted my children (the two older kids were eleven and twelve) to get a good education.
I returned home from that assembly determined to reach a better understanding of my own religion. The trips to the library became more frequent and more intense. My most significant find was Ray Franz's "Crisis of Conscience." Franz was the disfellowshipped former Governing Body member. Shortly I purchased a copy of the book, which I kept hidden, as simple possession of it would have led to a judicial committee.
The tipping point came on a Sunday morning in May, 1988. Debbie and I made a decision not to go to meeting that morning. It seemed that neither of us wanted to go. In an effort to sound out Debbie's feelings on the matter, I remarked that the only thing we knew about Witnesses was what they had told us about themselves. I don't remember what she said, but it was sort of noncommittal. Then she got up from the table where we were drinking coffee and headed for our bedroom at the back of the house.
She came out with Crisis of Conscience in her hand. The thought "I'm busted" flashed through my mind. I had no idea what would happen to my family when I was booted from the religion. At that point (probably seeing the look on my face) she grinned and said "This is MY copy." Apparently she had found mine in its hiding place, we had both been researching the Watchtower and afraid to tell the other one what we were doing.
This event launched a year of intense investigation. My focus was on the prophetic aspects. Debbie, who had been raised in a mainstream Christian church, had a lot of issues with Witness doctrine. She simply could not square what she knew the Bible said with what Witnesses were teaching. Most notably the following:
"Is Jesus the "mediator" only for anointed Christians? ? So in this strict Biblical sense Jesus is the "mediator" only for anointed Christians. ?The "great crowd" of "other sheep" that is forming today is not in that new covenant. However, by their associating with the "little flock" of those yet in that covenant they come under benefits that flow from that new covenant." Watchtower 1979 April 1 p.31
"They recognize that they are not spiritual Israelites in the new covenant mediated by Jesus Christ, nor part of the "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation."-1 Pet. 2:9. 24 Yet they do benefit from the operation of the new covenant. They benefit from this just as, in ancient Israel, the "alien resident" benefited from residing in among the Israelites who were in the Law covenant.-Ex. 20:10; Lev. 19:10, 33, 34; Rev. 7:9-15. 25 To keep in relationship with "our Savior, God," the "great crowd" needs to remain united with the remnant of spiritual Israelites." Watchtower 1979 November 15 p.27 Benefiting from "One Mediator Between God and Men"
We stopped going to meetings entirely. We did attend a three-day convention in July, but quickly concluded we did not belong in this religion any more. We did attempt to share some of what we were learning, our friends and the JW members of Debbie's family refused to listen to us.
After the convention, I took a week long vacation from work, which we spent camping on the Olympic Peninsula. I used this as an opportunity to regrow my beard, another violation of Watchtower rules. Other changes happened rapidly. Debbie and I both registered to vote (on the same day, independently, and without talking to each other). We celebrated Halloween and then Christmas.
Through all of this time, I was working on a long letter containing the results of all our research and formally ending our relationship with the Jehovah's Witnesses. We wanted to make it clear that our reason for leaving was a belief that the Watchtower Society does not represent God and does not teach the truth of the Bible. We were sure the rumor mill would assume we had committed some sexual transgression.
On March 18, 1989 we mailed that letter to the Society, our local congregation and a few members of our families.
We were free.