I thought it was fitting for me to share my freedom from the witnesses story on Independence day weekend.
I don’t have any secret info, just experiences that happened to me and started to open my eyes.
I was a third generation, raised in the “truth” kid who was never supposed to be born, and then never supposed to graduate high school. I’ve now been out of high school longer than I was in school.
The beginning of the end started a little less than a decade ago. I was late 20’s at the time. I quit my job after a circuit assembly where the CO at the time, Louis B. Rayzor, said we were in the last of the last days!! He likened it to an old school alarm clock where you would hear a click momentarily before the alarm sounded. We were living after that click. I was still naïve and I fell for it. I should pioneer! What better way to spend the last days of this system? Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I made, and also one of the worst. It was an eye-opening experience as it let me see behind the curtain. I struggled that year with friends who excluded me from activities for reasons I don’t know. I struggled to get my time. I would ask other sisters in the hall if they would like to go in service with me during the week and they had no problem telling me NO! If it weren’t for a friend in a neighboring congregation who was also pioneering that year I wouldn’t have made my time. I was asked at one point by a brother assigned by Rayzor to find an experience for the upcoming circuit assembly that fit certain criteria. When I told him I didn’t have an experience that fit, he looked at me rather puzzled. He then told me to think about. He was sure I could come up with something; it didn’t need to be recent. Reading thru the lines I think he was hoping I would make something up. I firmly told him I didn’t have anything. Having grown up a witness, I never knew they grasped at straws for experiences. I thought they were things that actually happened, and happened recently. There was a pioneer couple (husband was an elder) in my congregation who both worked full time and only went in service Wednesday morning and Saturday morning, which is when they did the few studies they had. I really want to know what creative math they used to make their time year after year. Because I worked hard that year and made my time, I had the “privilege” of being invited to pioneer service school. That was six years ago today. Yes, I had to spend 4 th of July in pioneer school. Everyone else got to hang out at the pool and have a BBQ and spend time with their husbands on their day off. Not me. I had to sit in dress clothes and study all day and then go home that evening and prepare for the next day! What a privilege.
Pioneer school was a struggle. Our CO was still Rayzor. His nickname thru the circuit was slice ‘em and dice ‘em Rayzor because he was harsh and had no problem ripping you up. I’m a fairly shy person, but I did my best to answer frequently during school. One of the comments I gave in response to a question about Jesus’ death and subsequent rising to heaven was slightly off. It was mostly right but I missed one very small technical aspect to it. He had no problem shouting from the stage “WRONG! Who can give us the right answer?” I was assigned a seat in the front row (yes, assigned like I was back in first grade) and wished I could have melted into the floor. It was humiliating, especially since my answer wasn’t far off. I forgot one technicality. For the life of me I can’t remember the exact question or my exact answer. Probably cause I blocked it. On another day, when it was the other CO’s turn to instruct, he sat in the back of the hall and animatedly waved his arm back and forth to get his attention because he needed to correct what the other CO had just said. The nerve of him to correct the other CO in front of the entire class of about 20. Towards the end of the torturous two weeks, Rayzor saw fit to instruct the sisters during one of the sessions on how they should act. We were to make sure we cleaned the house in the morning before we left for service. What right did he have to tell me when to clean my house?!?! But it gets better. He felt it was his place to tell us how to act when it was that time of the month! We were to tell our book study overseers so that they would understand if we didn’t act like ourselves. WE should also inform the car group we were assigned to. And we would never want to stay home from the meeting, just sit in the back of the hall so we could quickly get to the bathroom. Is this joker for real? When I went home that evening and told my husband he looked at me with a disbelieving look and was convinced I made it up. What elder would ever say such things from the platform? But I am not that creative; I couldn’t make that stuff up if I tried. I went off the list and we moved shortly afterwards. Why I didn’t stop going to meetings after that still puzzles me.
A year later, our new CO was a brother named Roger Triplett. The week before one of his visits our area had two feet of snow. We don’t get snow in our area so it pretty much shut everything down. The elders cancelled our Sunday meeting. During Triplett’s visit he publicly chastised the elders for cancelling the meeting just about every chance he got. This wasn’t a one-time comment. This was the main thread thru most of his meetings for field service. He spent his entire talk on Thursday evening telling about his experience as a missionary in El Salvador during their civil war in the 80’s and how they had to get to meetings thru gunfire and bombs going off. We were a bunch of wimpy Americans (yes, his words) who had to cancel meeting because it snowed out!! I was appalled that he would rip the elders in front of the entire congregation. For the most part, they were a nice body. We even hung out with a few. And frankly, when they cancelled meeting I thought they were being smart because our Sunday meeting was at 6pm and in the winter here, it’s black out at that time, and I didn’t feel safe having to drive. The CO lost my respect at that point because he was so unreasonable. He also condemned those in the hall who had seat warmers in their car as being too soft and enjoying the finer things in life. Well, when he retired and had to get his own car, he had a car that had seat warmers in it. Well, I hope he enjoys them. After every one of his visits, I felt as if I had been beat up. I couldn’t understand how something that was supposed to be refreshing could make me feel like I’d been hit by a Mack truck. It really made me question the Governing Body and why they would allow someone like this to travel to congregations, but I guess his guilt tactics work. But I had had a lifetime of guilt and I was about done.
Then the GB changed itsdefinition of a generation, but I won’t go into that cause that’s not unique. But I do have to say it gave me great pause.
A couple years ago my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Wait! I’m barely 30! My parents weren’t supposed to get sick and possibly die. Armageddon was supposed to come and we’d all be in paradise! Well, that wasn’t reality. The reality I was faced with was losing a parent at too young of an age. My mom is still alive but that event woke me up that the society has been leading us down a false path.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the constant harping on having NO contact with disfellowshipped ones. My brother has been disfellowshipped for years. I couldn’t rationalize how we could be such a loving people, but yet I’m supposed to ignore him, his wife and children because they’ve chosen to not believe the same. It never sat right with me. I didn’t want his children to grow up and not know who I was because of a religion! So that was the end. The GB made me chose between them and my family, and my family wins!!
But how can I say my family wins when I still have family members that go to meetings? The fear of losing them kept me going for years. Far longer than I should have. I finally realized I couldn’t keep doing something I didn’t believe.
So my husband and I walked away! We decided one night we weren’t going to meeting, and we’ve never looked back. We quit cold turkey. We didn’t fade. We just walked away. Was it an easy decision? Yes and no. It felt right, but we knew we were going to have a fight on our hands. What happened to our friends? Well, friendship in the organization is conditional. They texted and called for a while, wondering where we were. They talked amongst themselves about us behind our backs. One ex-friend was stupid enough to admit they’d been emailing each other about us, and the elders from our hall even called her to see what was going on with us. This was an elder that in the year we’ve been gone has never called or stopped by, but was trying to get info thru the back door. The nerve of them. All they know is that we stopped going. In an attempt to make it easier on our parents we are keeping our reasons for leaving away from any elders who might feel the need to “discipline” us so we see the error of our ways. The elders have knocked on our doors at all the required times – memorial, district convention. They even bring their little daughters to leave handwritten notes in an attempt to guilt us back. Well, their guilt no longer works on us.
It’s been a long enough to feel like we finally have some distance. We’re finally out from the control and guilt of that awful organization. I’m thankful to have a forgiving enough brother who doesn’t hold my stupidity in following the witnesses against me and I once again get to have a real friendship with him and his family. And my parents are still talking to me even though they know the truth about why I left. It wasn’t easy telling them, but to my surprise they have a lot of the same feelings and feel there’s nowhere for them to talk about it. It hasn’t been easy. It’s been stressful but not for a second do I consider going back! My hope is that someone who reads this has the same fear of losing their witness family, and it gives them some hope that they too can leave and not lose their family.
Bottom line is I’ve been in the center of the organization for long enough to realize that it is not God’s organization, at least no god I want to worship.
So we get to spend our first “Independence Day” having a BBQ, drinking sangria and lighting off fireworks and not having to be guilted into going in service and meeting tonight. A real and relaxing holiday.