An old thread of Metatron's was brought up yesterday discussing an incident at bethel that occurred in August of 1971. The story has become a legend to some including, as legends often do, a little myth. This story illustrated Metatrons point that the WT does not change because it loves truth, but changes when it is forced to.
A family with a BA (bad attitude)
The spirit at Bethel had become rather discontent. The aid book had been out for several years and many were wondering why the environment at Bethel was not that of a Christian congregation but strictly an industrial institution, big business. The average stay at Bethel was about one year despite the fact that all made a commitment upon entering to stay at least four years. As Onacruse said in another post, we had recently purged about 40 homosexuals from the Bethel staff, including one of the Gilead instructors.
To try to improve the Bethel environment Pappy Knorr brought in several married Circuit and District overseers and instructed them to basically do there at Bethel what they had been doing in the field, shepherd the flock. There seemed to be a thing about the name Fred because the three who took their job seriously were Fred Hilmo (District Overseer), Fred Fredean, and Fred Barns (both Circuit Overseers). These three were assigned to the Machine shop, Plumbing shop, and Electric shop, all on the fifth floor of the #2 factory building where I worked..
To the extent that YOU did it to one of the least of these my brothers, YOU did it to me (Mat 25:40)
They soon were hearing horror stories and not much later they experienced a few of their own. Department overseers were abusing their authority and dealing ruthlessly with the young naive brothers. Ego and power, saving face and self advancement were common characteristics found in many, but not all overseers.
An example of abuse was experienced by Fred Fredean himself. He was an excellent machine designer with impressive experience before going into the 'full time work'. But the department overseer, Russel Mock, thought of himself as the only capable designer at Bethel. He was desperate to maintain his image and status. After all, he couldn't let it be thought that he may have got his job just because he was the brother-in-law of Nathan Knorr. So as soon as it became obvious that Fred Fredean was a Thomas Edison and Russel Mock was a Rube Goldberg Fred had to go. He was taken off the fifth floor and moved to a paper storage floor so he would have little contact with the guys. He was given a sheet of plywood set up on two paper rolls as his office. Fred soon learned this was the pattern as the same thing had happened to Don Datersman before him and John Kursen, the inventor of the vertical phonograph. Meanwhile the machine shop continued to churn out non-functional robot feces using the voluntary donations of the brothers. The situation was so bad and so widely known in the factory that when Duwane Wilkie, overseer of the Magazine department, wanted to automate material handling in his department he hid the project from Mock. Fred and I did it on the sly with Wilkie's approval.
Taking it to the loving head of Jehovah’s organization
As history began to paint a clear picture of abuse of power Fred Fredean was talking with Barns and Hilmo who were likewise uncovering a mass of injustices going on in the factory. Soon they were accumulating stories out of the 'home' (the Bethel home was run by a separate administration under George Couch). So one morning in August the "three Freds" approach Pappy after breakfast and told him they had some problems they had uncovered that they wanted to go over with him. It was their impression this was exactly what Knorr wanted them to do, what they had been called into Bethel to do. They, and the rest of us involved were in for a surprise. What non of us were aware of was the turmoil the Watchtower administration was going through at the time. Knorr took offense and immediately went ballistic.
The 'three Freds' were given one week to get their witnesses together and meet in the Bethel Kingdom Hall in the bottom of the 107 building. They went to work. It was scary times as we felt like a line had been drawn and we were on the wrong side, waiting for lightning bolts and the earth to open up. The Freds pushed ahead confidently as Knorr's reaction had validated their findings and exposed the source of the spirit of abuse that existed.
That black day came and we met at the KH. All Bethel heavies were there, every Bethel department overseer and over one hundred witnesses waiting to testify. The Freds stayed calm and presented their findings in a business like manner despite the negative atmosphere Knorr had created. Witnesses were presented one by one, many being called down from the empty Gilead classrooms upstairs where they waited, frequenting the rest rooms to puke their guts out, sick with anxiety. The summary at the end was made mainly by Knorr and Freddie Franz. Knorr basically called it a shame and compared the Freds to Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Freddie was a little more cautious and suggested we give it some thought before reacting.
Why the overreaction
At that time the GB was trying to convince Knorr and Freddie that the new understanding of the 'elder arrangement' revealed in the Aid to Bible Understanding should likewise apply to the administration of the Watchtower Society. When Dan Kalistead, while engaged in a relaxed conversation in the 124 steam bath, asked Freddie Franz if this new understanding would effect change at the top Freddie's response was "all the power of this organization is invested in the president". It turned out that he and Pappy were desperately trying to keep it that way. We and the three Freds had no idea what doo doo we were stirring by presenting the 'abuse of authority' issue at that point in Watchtower history.
The immediate outcome was that the three Fred's were treated like lepers. No official action was taken against them or any of the witnesses that I'm aware of. Later a few department overseers got shuffled but no official action was taken against them for the abuses, that I'm aware of. Over all, however, this event helped change the Watchtower forever. Ray Franz, who was also at this meeting, recently told me that this event laid the foundation for the eventual take-over of the presidency by the Governing Body. That certainly was not the intention of those involved, but Knorr's own reaction probably sealed the significance of this event in1971.
The day after the meeting I turned in my fourteen day notice for leaving Bethel. Nearly five years there was enough in view of the turmoil that had just occurred. I returned to Bethel about three years later with my wife thinking Bethel had changed, which it had, and was yet going to change in the next 8 years. Yes change does occur at Bethel but with great pain and not always for the good. I left Bethel permanently in 1976. In just four more years the GB was going to become worse than the Presidency. There determination to keep things from changing any further lead to the witch hunt of the 1980’s and the eventual disfellowshipping of good men like Ed Dunlap and Ray Franz. Even Franz feels this atrocity would not have occurred if president Knorr had still been alive and in control.
I do not tell this story to make Bethel or the WT society look bad. From my experience most of the men and women there are genuine in good motivation. They believe it is the "truth" as I did. They support it despite it's flaws believing there is no where else to go, as I believed. It is the self perpetuating system that is responsible for misleading its supporters. Its is a "movement" going through its phases as all movements will (See Eric Hoffer, "True Believer") If I understand Hoffer correctly it will eventually mellow and become a more mainstream religion or it will gradually loose it’s relevancy until it completely disappears. If it were not for the personal harm so many of us have endured from our Watchtower experience we would easily dismiss this organization as a meaningless flash in the pan. It’s just another movement, making changes as it needs to stay alive like a blind man running through a forest. But, OH, how we once thought it was Divine.
If anyone else was there and would like to add to this it would be fun to reminisce.