In the late 1990s there was magazine article that asked the question, are JWs a secret society?
Obviously they said no, because they claim to be transparent to outsiders and new members.
But they really are not transparent at all. I don't know if they deserve the grand title "secret society" exactly, but there is something decidedly secretive about the way the way they structure their organisation.
For example, other religions have elders and ministers, and they have guidebooks to tell them how to perform their duties. But how many other religions have elder guidebooks that are kept secret from ordinary members? Even to the point that wives are not supposed to read them (or even handle them) and they must be returned immediately if the elder is demoted. Do other churches conduct themselves in such a furtive manner? Apart from maybe Mormons and Scientologists. I am talking about regular churches. Do any regular denominations behave like that? I don't think so.
The elder's book and other organisational guidebooks contain rules that ordinary members don't even know exist! Like all the tedious shades of "loose conduct". How many ordinary JWs know you can get disfellowshipped for touching breasts? Or that gay porn is serious but a little straight porn is okay? It's in the guidebook and letters, but not for ordinary members to consult. What a bizarre way to run any sort of association.
Then there is the ludicrous situation that regular JWs don't even know how major decisions are decided upon in the organisation because the decision making procedure of the Governing Body is shrouded in mystery. What other church is there where the ordinary members don't even know how doctrines and policies are arrived at? Presbyterians have votes and Episcopalians have bishops to make decisions. Ordinary members, even if they are not involved, at least know how the system works and decisions are made. The only reason JWs know that the Governing Body operates on votes and a two thirds majority system is because a defector wrote about it.
It's a secretive system designed to avoid accountability, make elders feel as if they are important, and give mundane structural processes an aura of mystical "theocratic" specialness.
And it worked pretty well for decades. But the Information Age is taking its toll.
Now everyone who wants to look for them has access to the secret elder's book, the secret Circuit Overseer book and various branch books, not to mention hundreds of internal letters, forms, videos, talks. The whole thing. Their whole pathetic furtive web of self-important graduated knowledge is laid bare for the whole world to see.
If they aspired to be a secret society they certainly aren't one anyone more.