• Name/Pseudonym: Sail Away
• Gender: Female
• Country: USA
• Were/are you a JW? (Pick one): Yes, I was a JW.
• How were/are you associated with JWs:
Other (Please state): My father accepted a family study when I was nine years old. By age 10 I became an unbaptized publisher. My entire family stopped studying with the witnesses within two years, but I stayed in and was baptized at age 16 in 1975 with my father’s permission.
• How long were you a JW? (If applicable): 42 years
• What drew you to the JWs? The witnesses target vulnerable, idealistic people. I was drawn in by their promise of a happy family life. My mother was/is mentally ill and my father was an alcoholic and serial cheater who couldn’t keep a job. We were at times homeless.
• What do/did you enjoy about being a JW? I thought I was pleasing God.
• What is your best/fondest memory? Working in food service during assemblies and conventions gave me a sense of belonging and made me feel needed.
• What is your funniest memory?
One day out in the field ministry a much-loved elder/pioneer came back to the car stammering, wide-eyed and speechless. A man was out mowing the lawn, and his wife jumped out from behind a bush to surprise him wearing only a raincoat. She opened the raincoat for the elder thinking he was her hubby. The elder’s wife (also a pioneer) was in the car group, and she laughed hysterically. The elder did not say another word for the rest of the morning.
• If alive in 1975 as a JW, do you remember it? What are you memories as a JW?
I remember reading in the Watchtower that I would never be old enough to graduate from college, get married or have children before Armageddon came. I remember the increased pressure and talks from the platform to do more in the ministry, as the time was short and so many lives were at stake. There were articles in the Watchtower magazine about the 6,000 years of mankind’s existence which helped mark the year 1975. I gave up a college scholarship to pioneer where the need was great out of high school, as higher education was forbidden. I remember the articles afterward about not serving with a date in view and how some were overzealous. I remember people who went into debt by spending money they didn’t have, because they thought they wouldn’t have to pay back the loans when Armageddon came. Mostly I remember nightmares about my family being destroyed at Armageddon and being raped and tortured in a concentration camp for being loyal to Jehovah.
• Can you think of anything positive or good to say about the watchtower organization?
It served as my substitute family during my pre-teen and teen years and added structure to my life, perhaps saving me from alcoholism and drug addiction which was the path most of my siblings took.
• Do you believe the JWs have the ‘truth’? Absolutely not
• Would you recommend being a JW and why do you answer thus?
I would in no way recommend becoming a JW. The organization is a destructive high control group (cult) that destroys human potential by forbidding higher education, destroys families by its disfellowshipping doctrine and mandatory shunning, puts lives at risk due to the ban on blood transfusions and protects pedophiles by implementing the “two-witness rule” and treating child molestation as a sin to be handled by the congregation elders rather than a crime that needs to be reported to and handled by the proper authorities. The organization lies to its members and prints revisionist history to cover its tracks.
• Please tell us what you want us to know about being a JW.
I suffered a life time of severe clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a JW in large part due to the doctrines, beliefs and practices of the organization. Cognitive dissonance nearly killed me. Mishandling of a personal crisis in my son’s life by the elders nearly killed him. He is now disfellowshipped, and I was expected to shun him. That just wasn’t going to happen.
I have been out for nearly four years now and am medication free and happy. The organization interferes in marriages and family lives with all of its rules and heavy demands on time and resources. It isolates people with the Us vs.Them mentality that “worldly people” (including non-believing family members) are under Satan’s control and wicked. My immediate family is all out of the organization, and we have mended the rifts caused by the organization. My in-laws are still in and have continued to shun their only son, my husband, for over 30 years. They now shun me and our children as well and have no interest in getting to know their first great grandchild—all because we left the organization.