Thanks for this great post! I can't wait for more questions being answered.
interesting EX-CO AMA ( Ask Me Anything) over on exjwreddit
I actually think I know this former CO. As he won't provide his name, but he sounds very similar to someone that I know.
Despite not giving his name and current location, he nonetheless risks being 'outed'. A few posters indicate they may know him or have heard of him.
I don't think there'd be many JWs who would fit his profile.
I wouldn't say his name but I am like 90% sure I know exactly who he is. And for as long as I have known him he has always been pretty straight forward with me about his feelings.
More AMA Answers....
Have you considered going public with who you are and become an exjw activist? Also are there any apostates in the central american countries that you have since become aware of?
I highly respect Cedars and his work. I watch his videos and I learn from them. But for now I want to stay underwater and try to slowly help some out. I made a huge mistake and outright blasted my mother with the facts and she disowned me. She has been a Witness for 47 years. So with my wife I went very very slow. I read on here questions to ask and methods to use. Slowly.
It worked! Now I want to do the same with others I know.
As far as apostates in Central America, I don't know of any. I know some who have faded, but I have no idea if they are apostate.
I bet you know to speak Spanish.....so I will ask this. There is a very active Facebook page in Spanish its name is Crecer como Testigo de Jehova (something like:'growing up as Jehova's Witness) There are a lot of opinions and debates exposed for the Spanish speaking community... everything can be anonymous we understand... Thanks for your great story we hope from hearing from you. Your story will have a great impact to the people living in Spanish speaking countries Gracias.
Si claro. Con tan solo que no me identifican. Hay pocos norteamericanos en esos paises y soy conocido.
Yes of course. As long as they don't identify me. There are very few North Americans in those countries and I am known there.
I will see how to join that page.
I don't remember the details of the 95 generation teaching change. I do remember the overlapping teaching. Was that 2008 or 10. How did that hit you?
It was 1995. We studied it on Monday morning in the missionary home as is the custom. (Bethel homes have their WT study at night). There were 13 of us, missionaries from Canada, US, Spain, and Mexico.
It was an awkward study. No one said anything against what was written. But afterward we all talked about it in private conversation. We tried to smooth it over saying that it's obvious we are in the last days. I had always decided to leave my assignment if the end didn't come by 2000.
At this point, I just have my sister and brother-in-law still mentally in, and my best friend who left with me still has his parents mentally in. Both of us successfully faded and our families aren't shunning either of us yet. What do you think would be the best way to slowly chip away at our families without triggering the "apostate alarms?"
They can't know you are "guiding them." That is tough for me to do especially since I love to debate and I have problems controlling my counter-points I tend to raise my voice. So you have to ask questions that don't raise alarms. And you have to figure out what their triggers are. What matters to them. For some it's the lack of protection for children. For others it's the hypocrisy of the Organization. Listen a lot while not letting them preach to you. My wife previously became very angry when I criticized the Governing Body. So I stopped that. Since we have small children I started talking about safety. About once a week maybe. She would talk about it also. One day I asked, "If you found out for sure that the organization was lax on safety for children, would it make a difference to you?" She said yes it would. THEN I showed her the Australian Royal Commission. She watched hours of it. So make sure that you find out what is really important to them first.
Another example: Suppose your family is talking about earthquakes and how there are more and more. Don't blast them with earthquake data. Ask them, "What If you found out that the rate of earthquakes has remained constant in the past 100 years? Would that be a big deal to you?"
Let THEM make the connection. Remember you already have a strike against you. You have faded. So they already likely view you with suspicion. They are on the defence.
Recently I was taking to my brother in law who still attends. He was saying how the elders are not fit to judge people and how some of the doctrines don't make sense. Then he said, "All I know is that Jehovah is God's name and that he is God."
What question would you ask him? I asked him, "What IF Jehovah is not Gods name?"
He sat for literally a full minute in silence. Then he changed the subject. I left it alone. Little by little.
One final thing I want to tell you. None of these questions or methods I am saying are mine. None.
I made huge mistakes with my family when I first was waking up. Then after reading on this subreddit and jehovahs-witness.com for years I learned how to help someone out of a cult. I also read Steve Hassan's books. And even still I get too excited when I talk with family and friends that are still in and I go too far and then of course I become their enemy. So go slow. And don't think I came up with any of these methods because I didn't. I learned all these methods on this forum.
Good luck and keep me posted. You can PM me if you prefer. Try to remember how conversations with your family went and let us know. Your experience will help us also who are trying with our families. We are trying to help others out of a cult! Let's do it!
You asked: "What do you mean 'funkiest running congregation story'?" - The congregations were even more patriarchal than English. The elders didn't really try to hide that they ran the congregation as they see fit. It didn't matter if that ran contrary to the stated rules. They started the congregations and it was going to do what they wanted. That's what I mean by funky.
For example, all counsel was personal opinion and we'll outside of their jurisdiction. I'd tell my dad who was an elder about these things. He'd always say they're imperfect men, but I've never heard of someone doing that before.
Oh I see. Yes, I can think of several examples. One is that the elders required publishers to get permission from them to have a party. And if they gave permission, then the elders would be there to supervise. They would control the music and in some congs would ban songs in English. Also. No slow dancing allowed unless you were married. In the rural areas the elders banned alcohol. Also, when a brother became interested in a sister then the elders would meet with him, then her, then them both. They would also counsel the sisters on dress. If a small group went to a lake or the beach, the elders would require that all sisters wear a dark t-shirt over their bathing suit and also wear shorts.
Yep, lots of rules.
Sadly, [my family are] a little too long time indoctrinated for 'what if' socratic questions. Closest we got was the ARC abuse write up online with my mom (BBC news as I recall). She came back with a trump-style "fake news the world is in the power of the wicked one" response a day later. If people want to believe, they will, and there's not a thing you can do to stop it.
True. Some in my family are shunning me, but my wife, to my surprise, woke up. We are still trying little by little to reach the "authentic person" behind our family members that still talk to us.
I was an Elder for 4.5 years for the age of 27-32. Born and raised in the truth, I hid the fact I was gay. I knew I was gay when I got baptized. But never did anything about it. I was the "perfect example" in the cong. After being appointed as an elder, I started seeing guys, late at night. In the USA how common is this type of situation? Hiding the fact you are gay or trying to live 2 lives.
I think the percentage of gay people is the same in each country, some just hide it. Unfortunately I didn't help those in my circuit. I just repeated whatever the Watchtower said. We did find out that several were living a double life. In Central America even outside the organization it is frowned upon though.
Here in the US I know several JW non-practicing gays, and I know some who were found out for having a boyfriend in secret. So no, you are not alone. Even in Bethel some brothers have secret boyfriends.
What do you feel about many people who speak out on having mental health problems because of the religion?
They are correct. The organization causes horrible depression and anxiety.
I was sucked in via door-to-door with the 1984 magazine claiming the 1914 generation would not die. Woke up in 2009 and never looked back. I hear snippets from other exjw sites and the many local exjws in my area about so many changes I hardly recognise it as something I once belonged to. My youngest child went to a JW wedding at the weekend and got love bombed. Although both newlyweds work at the same office as my daughter and they all do the same hours the talk encouraged the wife to be keeping the house clean and cooking her husband's favourite meal and new hubby was instructed to buy random bunches of flowers to show his appreciation for her hard work in the home! Clearly the misogyny hasn't changed. Lol
Misogyny. That's the word I was looking for. Thank you. Once in my assignment during the WT study in the congregation, there was a photo of a husband doing the dishes. One of the comments FROM AN ELDER was, "Well that doesn't apply here in Central America."
I've heard a lot about demonism in Latin America and the brothers not being able to leave behind spiritistic practices. Have you had any experience with this?
They all have crazy demon stories. I tried to get them to stop but they wouldn't. One of my friends there insisted that his grandmother's house was demonized and he needed the brothers to help him get on and out of the house since the demons would hold him in there with a cold breeze. The elders also mischaracterize mental illness as demon influence. I have known them to check a person's possessions to see if some have dubious origin, in their opinion.
Did you ever see people die from refusing a blood transfusion. It is my understanding, albeit anecdotally, that this can be more common in developing nations, due to lack of resources that might be more common in western medicine.
The Branch never asked to me to go on the HLC or on Patient Visitation. They usually asked need-greaters to do that. As a CO I didn't have the time, also need-greaters usually had businesses and more local clout to deal with doctors, if that makes sense. I would hear of cases but I personally never saw one. I would always visit sick ones in the hospital but only once was the blood issue involved. The government somehow provided erythropoietin (EPO) for free and saved the patient. Since I know other missionaries in other countries they have told me they personally have seen Witnesses die in refusing blood. They were proud of them.
i knew a missionary that was ultimately assigned to the branch in a central american country...and became '2nd in command' there....but the actual branch overseer was jealous and deliberately did things to make him look incompetent - like not passing on correspondence from hq etc....did you come across such jealousy - were you a victim - were you a perpetrator ?
More AMA Answers....
When you mentioned how common adultery and fornication were in your assignment, do you think that was a product of the culture there, or do you think it's just as common here in the states?
I tend to think adultery is more common there. I always had to have substitute speakers ready for assemblies because some elder would always be caught or confess to adultery. Prominent elders to not so prominent elders. I served as an elder here in the US and although there is adultery, I know hundreds of elders here and it's a very small percentage in comparison. I rarely heard of an elder here being disfellowshipped.
As far as fornication is concerned, my guess would be that over 90% of young people engage in sexual activity. Each week in each congregation I had to review recommendations for elder and servant and sometimes regular pioneer. It was extremely rare to see someone who did not have some judicial action in their past. I think the percentage is about the same here in the US, maybe a little lower.
Can you give any advice on how to best stay under the radar when the local circuit overseer visits? And maybe also regarding the elders. I want to avoid any shepherding call or making appointments with a grinning or kind of demanding person standing before me.
Stay away. Or go and don't comment. Don't stand out in any way. I used to stand in the back of the Hall and look around and listen. Who is commenting? Who isn't? Who seems to be "reaching out?"
I didn't really look for rebellious ones who could cause problems, but if someone stood out by not sitting down and paying attention I might ask about them.
The advice given on this forum is gold. If the CO wants to talk to you ty to avoid it, and if you can't get out of it, just nod. Don't give any info.
This now marks the end of the Ask Me Anything (AMA) thread:
Sorry it took me so much time to answer all of your questions on the AMA. I think I answered them all though. If I didn't, remind me please.
I know my writing is sometimes disjointed, I have two jobs and two little children and not a ton of education nor time. Plus my thoughts on your questions are sometimes disjointed, some things you ask I have never thought about. Some questions I answer no and then later realize I DID experience whatever you were asking.
OK so back to the circuit work. I think some in here are picturing a Circuit Overseer driving up in his Buick in his suit, a mature, experienced man who commands respect, his wife at his side, speaking in serious tones as he greets the elders then the rest of the congregation. I know not all are like that but you get the idea.
That wasn't me. In my assignment the new CO's were and are young, strong elders under 30 who are assigned to rural areas and can walk for miles in the heat and sleep on a cot. I rode the bus to my assignments my first two years in the circuit. Once I actually rode on the OUTSIDE of a bus, hanging on as I got covered in dust. I slept on a hard cot in the same room as the hosts with a curtain dividing us. I used outhouses and took bucket showers, no hot water in those areas. I walked all day on dusty roads and then gave talks on someone's back porch that doubled as a Kingdom Hall with a yeartext tacked onto the wall and their boom box for the songs. No microphone. Eventually I got the bigger circuits in the city and I got a car which I actually brought from the States, a salvage vehicle. Ask some of the posters on here who have served in those countries. They no doubt have crazy stories also.
Even worse was my life experience. I had hardly any. Raised a JW, not married, and working part time. I was arrogant and ignorant, the worst combination for a human being and even worse for a Circuit Overseer. I had my 600 pages of notes from MTS and my binder of letters from the Society to all Circuit Overseers. I was a true believer, clueless to the real world, clueless to real moral values and ethics. I was good at spouting Witness doctrine and I acted humble, inside I thought I was the coolest dude around. A missionary CO, what could be better than that?
So some of my answers reflect more my experiences as a missionary rather than a CO. I certainly tried to act like one, in fact I would meet with the CO when I was on vacation back home. I would literally hunt him down in whatever Hall he was at and ask him tons of questions on policy and procedure. All CO's are required to have several "service talks" on hand to use and adapt to local needs. I didn't have any when I started. I just copied talks I heard from CO's here in the States and passed them off as mine.
When I came back here to the States and re-entered the work force I was a joke. I missed a lot of work on purpose to prove how "spiritual" I still was. I talked like an elder to my co-workers. I had instant problems getting along with others and respecting boundaries. During work meetings I would agree with whatever the boss said, and raise my hand to support whatever he was saying and wondered why everyone laughed and called me a brown-noser. So much for my CO experience. At least now I have woken up. I am so thankful for all of you for helping me over the years.
So anyway, my experience as a CO was in a foreign country, although I did have a lot of interaction with CO's here and I did serve in Bethel here.
I definitely have some issues to work out, but thanks to all of you I feel I am headed in the right direction.
Who is he mad at? Who let him down the most?
There's one thing I've never understood: How do missionaries go door to door in foreign countries?
The first three months in my assignment are spent with mornings in the ministry and then 4 hours of Language class in the afternoon , usually taught by an older missionary. Our little class had me, another MTS grad and two couples from Gilead. After those three months I was conversational enough, though it took me two years to get fairly fluent.
Tell us more about your time at Bethel! I know you can't get too specific, but I would love to know what your thoughts about Bethel were at the time and what they are now. Also comparing US Bethel to the Central American Bethel.
In poor countries, is the standard of living at Bethel higher than on the outside? In other words is it more advantageous from a purely economical perspective to go to Bethel than to not?
I stayed only occasionally at the local Branch since I lived mostly in a missionary home. In comparing the Central American Bethel to the local loving standard, it was WAY higher. Eating meat every day, nice rooms with a television. There was no air conditioning but it was cool in there. Some of the local Bethelites were so poor they lived in houses with dirt floors. So when they came to Bethel they used to spit on the floors in their rooms. Hey had to be taught not to do that. They also got a monthly stipend. They didn't get rich but it was a nicer life.
There are a few very rich families in Central America that live in mansions and have maids and cooks and chauffeurs. A few of them are actually Witnesses. They would NEVER apply to Bethel. Too much work and no servants.
What it's like to be a Circuit Overseer - Part 1
I was in the circuit work from 1993 to 2000. Many things were different then, plus I served in a foreign country and I lived mostly in a missionary home. My comments are mine of course and other CO's may have completely different feelings about the circuit work. I did however interact with a lot of other CO's and DO's and hear their personal thoughts, which were often strikingly similar. There was always another CO or DO living in the missionary home where I lived, some were locals and some were missionaries as well. We would talk and compare notes every week. Also, while I vacationed here in the States, I would visit other CO's to get advice, we would talk for a long time. I enjoyed the camaraderie even though they were usually way older than me. We felt the same about a lot of things. I guess what I am trying to say is that a lot of CO's feel the same as I did, they just won't tell you, just as I wouldn't have told you back then.
Anyway, for what it's worth, here is my take:
Time to find the Kingdom Hall for that week and go over the records. It was always hot and sometimes I had a hard time finding the Hall. I would sit with the Secretary and go over the numbers. I would pull the last Circuit Overseers report and see what he wrote they needed to work on and I would ask the Secretary what they had done to apply the last CO's recommendations. I would see the percentage of meeting attendance versus publisher count. Usually it was over 100% on Sundays, a lot of non-publisher children were counted, and way less attendance during the week. I looked at the number of new publishers, newly baptized, how many were disfellowshipped and for what, who was deleted as elder or servant and why, who became inactive, what major problems were going on, etc. Mostly it was crunching numbers, though.
I would also see who they wanted to recommend for elder and servant. And I would try and get the secretary to talk to me about congregation problems and matters while I did the numbers, so I wouldn't have to stay too long. There was always at least one disfellowshipping and a reproof or two and they would always tell me why. Fornication or adultery usually. I also looked at the pioneers publishers cards, at those who had become inactive and I would ask why that happened. I wouldn't go over every name, only those that stood out somehow. For example, I would see a publisher card of a brother age 21 who was putting in 30 hours a month and have a lot of placements and a Bible study. I would ask about him. Why wasn't he being recommended as a servant? Sometimes he was recently reproved or he had problems with his attitude or perhaps pornography or drinking or a worldly girlfriend or he misses a ton of meetings or he was in college. Yep, college was a valid reason not to recommend.
Or another card would show someone whose hours had gone way down. Why? They were sick or had been offended or they were reproved or they seemed to be hiding something, they had suddenly started missing meetings. I would try to find out and schedule a visit with them. I would try to get a sense of the personality of the congregation and I learned early on to try to solve the problems early in the week. I tried to limit that initial Tuesday meeting to one hour.
Did you feel you could really "know" individuals, say ones who were recommended, just by their hours or what other elders thought of them. Did you ever question the reasons given?
I always looked for what I considered "humble" brothers. Those who followed "theocratic direction." In hindsight they were the ones who would not rock the boat and would be somewhat scared to "sin" so as not to lose their privileges. But at the time it seemed like the "humble"' ones who were "reaching out" would be the most likely to be recommended. Yes, they recommended brothers for crazy reasons. They had this thing that engaged brothers couldn't be Ministerial Servants because they would probably sin with their fiancée. Which was true that usually happened. I tried to point out that being engaged didn't disqualify them from appointment but the elders knew from experience that appointing engaged brothers was not usually a good idea.
So, no, I never really knew the brothers I recommended even though I tried to work with them in service and the like.
If an ex Bethelite had been inactive for about 10 years, what's the likelihood this comes up to the C.O.? Not DFd. No discipline. Just straight up faded.
It depends on the following:
Does this ex-Bethelite have regular contact with member of the congregation somehow, such as through his work?
Does this ex-Bethelite live in the territory and is known by the friends when they preach in that area?
Does this ex-Bethelite make comments or posts or do something that could get him noticed by the CO?
Does this ex-Bethelite have family members in that congregation that could talk to the CO so he could "help" him?
When I was a new CO, I really went all out to find inactive ones. After a couple of years, I noticed that I hardly ever reactivated anyone. Seems they had their reasons to be inactive. Usually it seemed they were offended by something or someone and none of my scriptures about returning to Jehovah worked. So I didn't really try that hard after that to track them down. I might ask about someone if he was known and then became inactive but if he didn't have a lot of association with the friends and didn't identify himself as a Witness then I didn't bother. Now if he was openly living in sin in the territory and everyone knew about it then I would ask the elders if this person was "known" as a witness. If he was, then I would encourage them to form a judicial committee even if the guy wouldn't attend it. I wanted to "keep the organization clean" of those thought to be Witnesses in the community who were living in sin.
Skipping ahead to that last Tuesday, approximately, what did you notice that tipped you off as this organization being rotten?
Also, did you have any dealings with the HLC, or any anti-transfusion seminars, big wigs, etc?
What really bothered me was the idea that "Holy Spirit" was appointing men. At first when I started in the circuit work I believed it. But so many elders and ministerial servants would be appointed and then deleted within a year or two. It always seemed like every adult male in the congregation had been appointed and deleted and appointed again, at least in the country I served in. We averaged two elders and three servants in each congregation and the number would always fluctuate. That bothered me. Plus it seemed that some of the good guys never got appointed unless they sucked up to the elders. That bothered me as well but didn't make me leave until I as an elder I was on the hot seat years later for bogus reasons. Sadly, for years before that I played the game thinking that even though we were "imperfect", God was using us.
Yes I dealt with the HLC occasionally. They were appointed directly by the Branch in the country I served and were usually rich and influential. The Branch wanted brothers who could make an impression on doctors and so local elders who owned business and were prominent were usually chosen. They sometimes appeared on local television acting knowledgeable about blood. I went to those anti-transfusion seminars once or twice I didn't understand all the lingo. I accepted the idea that transfusions were dangerous and I ignored the hard questions.
hat tip: https://redd.it/6zkzvt