I remember attending a meeting with family, as a young'un where the congregation was told they should immediately scan the Watchtower as soon as it came in the mail (back before they got too cheap to pay postage), to sit down and read it thoroughly as soon as they had time, read it again to offer it in service, study the articles for the Watchtower study, then one more time at the Watchtower study. I distinctly remember this, because even as a young child the speaker repeatedly stating every Watchtower should be read at least 5 times struck me as completely insane.
Thank you for those links Blondie - exactly what I was looking for.
Viola I have to agree that those "conscience matters" are a huge red flag for unwritten rules. And they do vary from one congregation to another. I lived in a territory that had both an English and a French cong and was in both. The French allowed many things that the English would never permit - like how much cleavage a woman could show before getting hauled into the back room for a chat about her grooming.
baltar I have seen many instances where people could make a conscience decision but only if agreed with the WT stance. If it didn't agree then you would be considered weak or just plain wrong. You were free to make it though. I think they have moved a lot closer to this when it comes to the issue of blood. You are free to accepot the blood but then that means you are no longer a JW. There is a price to pay for your decision.
mamalove, MrFreeze and Wiz Thank you.
Investments - verty interesting. Wasn't investment like playing the lotto and therefore gambling - a definite sin?
wont leave Yes I do remember that - I never read them like that.
watson - yup All aspects of grooming right down to keeping your shoes shined (back in the day where people actually did shine their shoes)
What's a "rule" in one congregation doesn't necessarily apply in the next.
For example, one congregation I was in was fairly liberal when it came to men's fashions for giving talks or parts on the meetings. Dark colored shirts were okay, sport jackets with slacks were fine for most meeting parts, jacket's weren't required in service. Another congregation - that met in the very same building - had a much stricter code. Only white shirts with suits. Only suits on stage, no sport jacks/slacks. Jackets had to be worn in service. No facial hair period.
Speaking of facial hair, in the US, beards are pretty much a no-no most everywhere. You can grow one, but you won't be allowed to serve as elder/MS or have any "teaching" parts. You'll also be looked at sideways as "that rebellious brother". It's not a written rule...it's an oral rule that no one questions. And it pretty much is a rule. I've seen Circuit Overseers come in and enforce it when the local body of elders hadn't really given it any thought.
Similar rule for pantyhose for women. Or it was back in the day, I don't know about the last ten years. It seemed pantyhose were required with all dresses/skirts. No bare legs - not even in 90degree summer days in service. That was across the board with every congregation I was a part of. Maybe it's a regional thing...
Four door cars were always encougaged but my first 5 cars (from teen years to mid-20s) were sports cars and a pick-up truck. I didn't get a four door car until I decided to get one as a second car. While an elder here and there may have brought the subject up, there were no repurcussions over my owning/driving a two door car. Yet a friend of mine bought a VW Beetle after coming back from Bethel. It was cheap and dependable and he knew how to work on it. He was counseled by his local elders...and the visiting CO...for not buying a proper car to use in what they assumed would be his pioneering career. What they didn't know was that he wasn't going to pioneer. He was getting married and getting a real job. He wanted no part of full time service.
When it comes to "obeying rules" or "abiding by guidelines" it's not so much a written edict or decree that forces JWs to conform. It's peer pressure. When enough people conform to the unwritten rules (though orally given or even spread by rumor/gossip) then it makes it easier to force the more non-conformist thinking individuals to comply. By giving anyone who does not comform the sense of becoming a pariah, it causes people to try to fit in, even when it goes against their own ideals. It's the "If all of Jehovah's people don't have beards, then my thinking must not be right for wanting one. I should just avoid it so as to not cause trouble" type thinking.
This scenerio is worse than having a lot of written rules. Written rules eventually lead to people questioning and rebelling if no satisfactory reason is given for instituting the rule. But if the rule is orally handed down with only the peer pressure of the group forcing most to conform, it keeps the weak and the lazy in line.
Here is one for those wanting to move up the WT ladder.. "being visible." Don't know if this is as widespread as other unwritten rules, but here is the lowdown on what I saw.
When I was in my first MS meeting with the CO, I heard this for the first time. I was confused for a good 5 minutes. The CO and PO at the time bantered back and forth for a good while talking about how they should see you (and your wife and family) in service, and at the meeting for service as well. Not good enough to get 10 hours a month if you weren't seen at the meetings for service or out in the territory, you had to be at the hall or meeting place several times a month.
I hated bare legs so always wore panyhose. But I know many women who went withoug and I don't recall it being an issue
The beard thing was an issue. We had a black man in the congregation that wound up getting special permission to sport a very short beard due to a skin problem he had. Once he had his special permission he became an elder. How absurd that he would even need permission.
I get the _be visible" one. You have to live so that other people see that you are "reaching out".
Our cong weent through several back and forths on the colored shirt thing
The unwritten rule that everybody has to look like the pictures in the WT. They even released a booklet on how to dress when going to Bethel and this was said to also apply in the meetings.
The unwritten rule that whatever your conscience allows you to do, you should never talk about it with anyone.
The unwritten rule that you should not have access to non-mainstream JW materials (the elder book, the gilead school notes)
The unwritten rule that it doesn't matter how much you claim to go out in service, if you're not seen by others you won't ever be appointed.
The unwritten rule that you better get married before doing any privilege of service. Not being married means you're either spanking the monkey or are gay, either is not acceptable for privileged people.