I have been lurking here for about 6 months, and being the last day of the year, and ready to start the new one afresh, I want to share the story of our exit from the Org. I have found the personal experiences of others of immeasurable value, (and it’s been a while since a good exit story has been posted) that I hope this can be of benefit to at least someone.
My mother became a Jehovah’s Witness when I was about 9 or 10. I remember initially hating all of the new sanctions put on our lives (no birthdays and Christmas anymore) but for some reason I soon after joined her in attending the meetings and eventually got baptized at the age of 14. My staunch catholic father converted a couple of years later. I left school at 15 to pioneer and was a regular pioneer from 16-18. I was married at the age of 18 (because it’s way better to do that than to sin and have sex before marriage) to a fellow pioneer. Thankfully we didn’t have any children until much later.
It was around the time of the birth of our first child that my husband began to change and question his beliefs. He did not set out to try to undermine his faith, in fact I’m sure that he would have been more than happy to continue as a Witness if his research found that it really was the “truth.” Truth was of the utmost importance to him. His feelings mirrored those of early C.T. Russell who stated:
“We should learn to love and value truth for it’s own sake; to respect and honor it by owning and acknowledging it wherever we find it and by whomever presented. A truth presented by Satan himself is just as true as a truth stated by God.”
The presentation of “truths” at the meetings and in the publications began to frustrate him. He could see serious flaws in the way arguments were presented by the organization and this led him to do further research into critical thinking, logical fallacies and rhetoric. He learned to analyze every argument that he was presented with and became adept at pointing out their flaws. He was becoming increasingly frustrated at every meeting and the tension it created was enormous. He soon stopped going to the meetings.
Needless to say as a “still fully in” at the time JW this was devastating for me. I was an emotional wreck. I continued to take my children to the meetings despite his having stopped. This began the most heart-wrenching and stressful period of our married life. I was not open to any kind of different thinking. My husband would raise issues with me about the bible, WT doctrine and JW policies. I would go away and do WT publication research thinking that it would be easy to defeat his arguments, but I could not. I put it down to a lack of faith on his part and continued on. I remember going to assemblies and becoming “righteously indignant” guns blazing when I came home and ready to tear his arguments apart, but again this had little if any effect. Our marriage was “fine” when no religious or doctrinal issues were raised, but as soon as they were we plummeted back into a horrible emotional cycle. I was ever protective of my precious beliefs and put mental walls up whenever there was a possibility that they would be undermined.
The purpose of his raising these issues with me was so that I could understand him, not so that I would stop being a witness. He always stated that he all he wished to do was to figure out if our lives were actually going in the same direction and if not, we needed to have an honest conversation about whether we should stay together. I could not comprehend how he could possibly question the organization or heaven forbid the bible itself and not intend to stop me from being a witness (Satan is cunning after all). I was absolutely sure that if I perfectly applied 1 Peter 3:1 that eventually he would come back to the “truth.” So the walls stayed up and the cycle continued.
He put up with this for 5 years, and I am so thankful that he never gave up on me. We truly love each other and I am so grateful that this did not end up destroying our marriage (it came very close to doing so on more than one occasion).
The struggle to continue as a faithful witness actually led to the beginning of my downfall. As I soldiered on going to the meetings and out witnessing, I felt unsupported and isolated as part of the congregation. I felt as if the awkwardness of having a husband who was once a ministerial servant and now no longer in “the truth” was too much for some people to bear. Rather than rally around me to help me to continue, I was avoided, even by friends I’d had for 20 odd years. I would go to the meetings and no one would even bother to come up and talk to me. We were never invited to social gatherings as a family (my husband was never disfellowshipped). I felt as if I was now a questionable associate because the emotional trauma I was dealing with meant that I wasn’t at all of the meetings. I had done nothing scripturally wrong, yet I felt like an outsider. The publications also had very little to offer in the way of support. I kept thinking that I wasn't applying the scriptures properly and if I just try a little bit harder everything will be better. If I'm more regular, if I answer more, if I make more sacrifices, if I throw myself headfirst into the ministry it will fix everything, but I was the loneliest I had ever been in my life, I was absolutely miserable.
I thought that a change of congregation would help me to revive my spirituality and so we moved a fair distance away from our hometown. The new congregation was nice, but it finally dawned on me that I had to be content with having separate friends from my husband and that we would never really have family friends. That some way our family would never be united.
I was finding myself going to the meetings wondering why I was even there. I would sit there mentally disagreeing with the material provided. It became more of a chance at a social experience, but even then I had to prove myself to be a “fine Christian” before I would even be considered to be worthy of someone’s friendship. I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and in all honesty, I really could not have been bothered to try to prove myself.
Then the ARC happened.
I don’t know exactly what it was that prompted me to actually look into it. I was absolutely convinced that there was not even a possibility that there was anything wrong with the way the organization dealt with perpetrators of sexual abuse. After all, they were so vocal about abuses within the Catholic Church; it would be hypocritical if they weren’t flawless themselves!
I read the entire transcript of the ARC. Although not a victim of abuses myself, the similarities between the way that the victims had been treated by the congregation and my personal experience was uncanny. I was horrified at the responses given by the elders testifying and could not believe the dishonest representation given by them of the way things work within the organization. Oh, and of course Geoffrey Jackson’s obfuscation of most questions within his testimony was the final straw. My heart was broken. The organization, which I had given 20 years of my life to, was a sham. The dishonesty was overwhelming. The lack of concern for individuals within the org was inexcusable, especially considering that (according to WT teachings) this meant the future life of the persons involved!
I went to a meeting throughout the ARC and could not believe that no announcements about it were made from the platform. That no one else seemed to even know that it was going on! I attended the regional convention with the hopes that something would be announced there, but nothing. The closest anyone came to saying anything about it was during the final talk on Sunday when the speaker visiting from Bethel said, “There are many negative reports about Jehovah’s Witnesses in the media. Don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper!” I could not comprehend that a massive problem such as this within the organization which negatively effected thousands, would not be addressed head on.
I have not attended a meeting or been witnessing since. My conscience would not allow me to be complicit with the actions of the Org by supporting it any way.
The ARC talked about doctrinal matters I had never even heard of such as: the two witness rule; the possibility of a woman who is raped being disfellowshipped for fornication; losing faith in the GB as the FDS = disfellowshipping for apostasy; questioning anything the GB presents as equal to apostasy; lying being acceptable if it meant protecting the Org; preemptive shunning; the list goes on.
At this point I had still never read any information on an “apostate” website, but I finally worked up the courage to read information on JW facts. The way arguments are presented on Paul’s site, unemotionally and straight from WT publications, is an awesome way for anyone new to questioning the org to get information. The Pandora’s box was opened and after much research on numerous websites, you tube videos and through this forum, I found that I knew very little about the religion I had been a part of for the last 20 years of my life.
There are many more nuanced details to my story, all of which added fuel to the fire to help me leave. If I had mentioned them here, this post would have been a novel! I am sure that I will bring them out in posts to come.
Our life now is very good. Our marriage is stronger than it has ever been. We are making new friends. I finished high school and have enrolled in University next year. My children are happy. I am happy. I no longer have to half-heartedly try to convince them of believing in something I am not convinced of myself. I have learned so much about life and I’m looking forward to embracing our life on this planet with open arms.