By Stan Covell
Being raised in a religious system that hinders freedom destroys the will and mind of an individual. It makes it impossible to see the world as it is and the reality of what life actually contains. My years being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness impressed upon me that outside the Watchtower organization, there was no life that contained meaning. To leave the mother organization, as the Watchtower has been referred to, is to leave Jehovah God and the truth.
This line of thought being dictated year after year, service after service, meeting after meeting, to a child being raised as a Jehovah Witness leaves the child (or adult for that matter) with no sense of hope outside the Watchtower.
I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness with my two brothers – one older, one younger. I went in the door to door service as a young child. I first started handing Watchtower literature out to householders at the age of five and was giving presentations at the door at the age of eight, selling (“placing”) the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. From what I remember, my first public talk at the Kingdom Hall was at the age of nine. I was speaking to audiences of a hundred people or more at the age of ten. I always thought my brothers were much better speakers than I was. I never really cared for the door to door work as well as most of the duties that came with being a Jehovah’s Witness.
My brothers and I were raised very strict. My father was disfellowshipped for adultery when I was about seven years old. Our mother, who “ran a tight ship,” so to speak, raised us. During the meetings at the Kingdom Hall (the place where Jehovah’s Witnesses meet for worship) my brothers and I had to sit through two hours of meetings, two days a week, as children. Also, there was another one-hour study during the week where we met at someone’s home as well as preparing for the meetings by studying the aids provided by the Watchtower.
During these meetings, we were made to sit and listen as well as participate by answering questions from a publication by the Society (WT) or reading a Bible verse. My mother was very strict and was complimented by many at the Kingdom Hall on how well my two brothers and I behaved at the meetings and at people’s homes.
It wasn’t until I turned fourteen, that my mother started openly questioning the Watchtower Society and their claim to being “God’s channel of communication.” She was disappointed in advice received from the elders, as well as others in the congregation, as far as her having to work full-time to support our family – and also about her missing meetings and service now and then.
The elders also reinstated my father believing that he would start to do better as far as his spiritual interest toward the congregation – and meeting his responsibilities as far as paying child support. My father never paid any child support to my mother for several years, and after being reinstated, he still failed to pay a dime in support. And yet he still remained in good standing with the congregations he visited.
At the age of nineteen, I moved out on my own after receiving a full-time job at a seed processing company. My meeting attendance at the Kingdom Hall dropped considerably and I basically stopped attending field service. I did report time for incidental witnessing, but this only equaled about an hour or two a week. Eventually, I stopped attending the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the age of about 21.
I worked my way up in the company I worked for and was made the mill foreman of the plant. Every year I would be sent to different locations either in my state or another state to build a new seed processing plant or to help with bringing production levels up at existing plants.
My life seemed good. I saved money, had friends outside the organization, and was basically free to do as I wished. The only thing that haunted me on occasion was the thoughts that I was not doing what God wanted as far as attending meetings at the KH and doing what the Watchtower organization required of true believers in Jehovah God.
I experimented with drugs but only casually. I was never really into the drug scene, mainly because I liked to stay in shape and workout a lot. I used to box at a gym in Sacramento, California with senior amateurs that were turning pro. I did this weekly for a few years.
In 1984, I left the seed company I worked for and started my own landscaping and maintenance service.
In 1985, I married a woman eight years younger than I was. Our first daughter was born in 1986. I started to rethink my position in life, and did not want to bring up my children without a belief in God. The only belief I knew and thought to be true was that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I started studying with my older brother, who at that time was a ministerial servant in the congregation. I attended meetings again and was soon accepted as an approved associate. One problem the elders had with me at the time was that I was still boxing. I was reprimanded for my continued activity with this sport. But I continued and did my best to keep it from the congregation.
In 1988, my second daughter was born. I attended the meetings with both daughters without the help of my wife. With all the responsibilities of the business and family life, and dealing with an unbelieving wife who basically did not care for the Watchtower religion and had no interest in spiritual matters or God, the pressure of attending all the activities that are required of one to be an active participant in the Jehovah Witness religion began to wear me down.
My mother stopped attending meetings altogether. My younger brother also quit going to meetings and started researching the past history of the Watchtower organization. He gave me information occasionally about the Watchtower’s failed predictions and we would discuss some of what he gave me. I told the elders about some of the things my brother and I were discussing. They eventually told me to stop having contact with my brother – as well as limit my contact with my mother. They also said that I was not to discuss spiritual matters with them as far as anything negative that may arise about the organization. This bothered me greatly because my younger brother was not only a biological brother, but also a best friend who had always been honest with me. Also, the things presented to me by my mother and brother were things I wanted legitimate answers to. The elders basically wanted me to ignore the information presented to me and focus on the “new light” presented by the Watchtower organization.
One day, while having a somewhat heated discussion with my mother about the organization, she asked if I would read a book by a former Governing Body member. I said that I would, and took home the book Crisis of Conscience by Raymond Franz. I mulled it over slightly; in other words, I did not actually read it. I gave it back to my mother about two weeks after I borrowed it. I told her that it was “written by a man who has lost the truth and is just another disgruntled Witness.” I also told her that it was sad that a person has to “spend so much time lying about God’s organization” – he must have an agenda that is ungodly.
My mother was a bit miffed at my response, and asked me a few questions about the book. I had no answers to her questions, and it was apparent to her that I had not read the book. I found myself at times lying to defend the organization. I occasionally lied to people at the door when in service, to my friends when I was asked probing questions about some of the Societies doctrines – and now I was lying to my family. My mother quoted the scripture at Proverbs 18:13, ” When anyone is replying to a matter before hearing [it], that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation.” [NWT]
I felt like an ass after leaving my mother’s home that day. I was truly bothered that I did not have an answer for people – especially my family – when asked questions about what I thought to believe was God’s organization and the truth.
Shortly after this, I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the Yuba City Assembly Hall. I thought that if I were baptized, God’s Spirit or “active force,” as the Witnesses call it, would help me gain the insight I was lacking to combat these opposers to Jehovah’s people. The day I was baptized was one filled with doubt and depression. After being baptized, I felt worse than before. I saw others in the room where we changed our clothes to return to the main hall, that seemed so happy and sure of their decision to dedicate their lives to Jehovah and his organization. I did not share those feelings.
About two weeks after being baptized, I prayed to Jehovah for help. I wanted to know the truth of God’s word and also to be able to defend it. I wanted this confusion I had about the Watchtower to subside, and I wanted to be sure about what I believed. I called my mother and asked if I could borrow the book she gave me before, Crisis of Conscience. The main reason I wanted to read it this time was to disprove it and vindicate the Watchtower Society.
I read the book in about five days. I took notes and went to the Kingdom Hall Library to see if what was written in the book, as far as quotes by the Society, were taken out of context or fabricated. I spent hours in the KH library – something I never did in all the years that I was a JW.
I also borrowed a tape from my mother that had Lori McGregor on the “John Ankerberg Show” speaking about the Watchtower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was amused to see that Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, dabbled in phrenology. “Phrenology” is the belief that the shape of the skull, and therefore the brain, determine an individual’s character.
On the tape, Lori mentioned that in the March 15, 1913 Watch Tower magazine and the January 15, 1912 Watch Tower, Russell said that someone’s desire to worship God was due to the shape of their brain. He also said that if a dog’s head was shaped like a man, the dog would think as a man.
When I read this I could not help but laugh. I wondered, “If we are all creations of God, why would God want some with a brain that would be shaped so that the individual would have no desire to worship him? Were these ones deemed for destruction within the womb? Were they bad children at a young age so their skulls would form in a way that displeased God?”
The more I read about the early writings of the Watchtower, the more I could see that this organization could not have Jehovah’s backing – unless Jehovah tested his people with lies and half-truths, as well as false prophetic blundering.
My meeting attendance at the Kingdom Hall finally boiled down to just the time I spent in the library researching and taking notes. I stopped going out in the door to door work, as well as giving talks. In good conscience, I could not tell people that this organization was from God and that all other religions were in grave error and doomed to destruction – as Jehovah’s Witnesses believe.
The elders called me on one Saturday morning and asked if we could talk. I met with them at my home. After two hours of debate, they mentioned that I could research all I wanted, but not to tell anyone what I had found out about the organization. They said that if I did, I would be classified as an “opposer.” I asked them by whom? God – or the organization?
I could no longer equate this organization with God. My younger brother, who I was still speaking with about the WT organization, mentioned what he thought: What better way for Satan to drag Jehovah’s name through the mud, than to have control over an organization that claims to be “Jehovah’s sole channel of communication”?
I wasn’t surprised by the elders’ responses. Another former elder, who had many doubts about the organization, already informed me about some things that were somewhat shocking within the Watchtower Society and the local congregation. The way he was treated – after stepping down from his position as elder – was as if he was disfellowshipped from the congregation.
About a week after my visit with the elders, I was invited to a wedding for a friend. At the reception, there were three Jehovah Witnesses there who were from the congregation I attended. We sat together with a few others that were not Jehovah’s Witnesses. The conversation turned to me. Why I was spending so much time researching the history, as well as other things within the WT organization?
I spent a short time explaining what I had found out, as well as where to find the information at the Kingdom Hall. I told them I no longer believed this organization to be God’s channel of communication. I could tell by the look on one face (an elder’s daughter) that I may have said too much to the wrong person.
Also that week, while at my mother’s home, a JW friend of ours stopped by to purchase “Barley Green,” a health food powder that mixes as a drink. My mother sold this on occasion to some Witnesses in our congregation. While conversing about the day’s events, he started asking my mother questions about why she no longer attended meetings. My mother explained briefly that she could no longer support the organization in good conscience. She did not go into great detail, but a few of her reasons were the false prophecies and the control over people’s lives that the organization requires of each Witness – in order to be considered an active and approved member. I interjected a few things that I had found out, and said that the “Watchtower is no better than the many religions it condemns.”
On Friday night, a week after the aforementioned visit, two elders came to my home and said that they had information pertaining to me telling individuals in the congregation that I “no longer considered the Watchtower to be God’s organization.” Before this visit, I’d spent several hours earlier in the month with three elders and a Circuit Overseer, tactfully answering many questions they had about the research I was doing at the Kingdom Hall.
The elders said that they would like me to be at the Kingdom Hall at 4 PM – after the afternoon meeting was over on Sunday. The reason was that I was being called before a “judicial committee.”
I agreed to the meeting, but said that I would like to bring a witness in my behalf to be present during the judicial hearing. The elders said that they would have to check on this and would return Saturday with the decision.
At 4 PM on Saturday, the two elders returned to my home with their decision. They repeated their previous reply, asking me to be at the Kingdom Hall at 4 PM on Sunday, after the Watchtower study. They also said that I could not to have any witnesses on my behalf, but there would be other individuals within the congregation that would be there as witnesses pertaining to my hearing.
I said that I had a change of mind and that I would want the judicial hearing at my home. I would not only have a witness in my behalf, but my attorney would also be present – and that the hearing would be taped. By their reaction, I could see this was not something they were ready for.
We spoke briefly. Finally, John C., one of the elders present, asked me if I “still wanted to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
I said that I would always be a witness for Jehovah. He again repeated his question. I again gave the same reply. Paul P., the other elder present [just appointed an elder one month previous], the one who I thought was one of my best and trusted friends within the congregation, asked me what I thought of the organization. I told them that I thought “Satan controlled the Watchtower organization, and that they were doing the work of demons.”
John C. took a step back and said that was “all they needed to know.”
One month later on June 5, 1989, I received a certified ten-page letter from “James M. McCabe, Attorney at Law, WTBTS, 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn NY.” The letter stated that because what I said to the elders, they considered this a “statement of disassociation from the Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Woodland, California.” Along with this letter were over fifty pages of court cases the WTBTS had won in court from individuals suing for defamation of character, etc.
The many cases enclosed with that correspondence sent to me bear out one fact:
THERE ARE MANY LAWS BUT LITTLE JUSTICE.
I found it interesting on the first page, under the heading “Disassociation,” it stated under “C. Reinstatement: A disassociated person may be reinstated in the congregation when giving evidence of repentance, demonstrating that he or she is desirous of having a good relationship with Jehovah and his organization.”
One reason I returned to the Witness faith was because I thought that outside the Watchtower organization there would be no true relationship with God. How faulty my reasoning was. It is sad to believe that God bases His relationship with an individual on what religion he belongs to and their adherence to that belief system.
My mother also received a certified letter the same day that I did, from the same attorney, stating that she was disfellowshipped for refusing to meet with the judicial committee hearing set for her. She requested witnesses in her behalf, as I did, and was also refused by the elders. What is ironic. and hypocritical as well, on the part of the Jehovah’s Witness faith, is that on page 3 of my mother’s letter from the Watchtower Attorney it stated:
“If the person wishes to bring witnesses who can speak in his or her defense regarding the matter, the person may do so.”
Both of us were refused any witnesses on our behalf.
Reflecting back on the many years I spent in the Watchtower organization, there was much that was sacrificed by my family and me. That included my years in school, especially high school; I gave up being on the football team, as well as other athletic events that I did well in.
I had no desire to go to college because of the Watchtower’s teachings about 1975 and the end of the world being so close. “Do not pursue higher education. There is very little time left! Make pioneer service, the full-time ministry with the possibility of Bethel or missionary service, your goal.” (WT 3/15/1969)
I graduated from high school in 1975, expecting what I believed to be God’s organization to be correct and truthful in the spiritual food dispensed by the so-called “Faithful and Discreet Slave.” I basically believed and lived a life of one lie after another, taught by this false, unfaithful slave class of individuals who seem bent on controlling the lives of rank and file Jehovah Witnesses. The lack of Godly humility on their part to express sorrow, or to offer an apology to those that they have misled, as well as to the families they have destroyed year after year, is just another aspect in why this organization is lacking the Godly love they claim that they alone have.
The salvation and true Christian freedom that Jehovah gives through his Son, Jesus, is not found in an organization or religion, as I once believed. The many ludicrous and deplorable statements made by the WT on the topic of salvation over the years sicken the spiritually educated.
“Your attitude toward the anointed is the determining factor whether you go into everlasting cutting off or everlasting life.” (WT 11/15/1981, p.26)
“Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do.” (WT 12/1/1981, p.21)
“But if we were to draw away from Jehovah’s organization, there would be no place else to go for salvation and true joy.” (WT 9/15/1993 p.22)
A religion, such as the Watchtower, can offer only empty promises. Only God can fulfill real promises through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Today I am married to my beautiful God-fearing wife, Linda, and three children. My family and I are fortunate today to have the real joy and freedom that is found in God through His Son, Jesus.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
– John 3:16