Elders and Governing Body

Did the 2016 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses Lie In Their Very First Experience?

Jehovah’s Witnesses have a yearbook that includes a rundown of numbers and statistics from each previous “service year,” which I believe begins in September for them, as well as experiences as shared by Witnesses from various countries. The 2016 yearbook was just recently released, and the facts and figures are being dissected as we speak.

While the math homework is being done, I wanted to comment on an experience that was related in the yearbook, right at the beginning, on page 4:

A married couple became disillusioned with religion because of the hypocrisy they had observed. In their search for spiritual guidance, they discovered our website. They began regularly visiting the site to read articles from our publications and to watch videos. They even downloaded the booklet Examining the Scriptures Daily and began to read the daily text along with their two teenage children. In fact, that is what they were doing the morning that Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on their door. The Witnesses learned that as a result of visiting the website, the family had made many changes. They had removed their tattoos and body piercings, discarded their religious images, discontinued celebrating worldly holidays, and stopped viewing inappropriate movies—all of this before the couple’s initial personal contact with the Witnesses! As of this writing, both parents and one of the children are publishers and the parents plan to be baptized soon.

Note what they said about the extent of the changes this couple had made, just from viewing a website. They “removed their tattoos.”

A tattoo can be removed, yes, but not very easily. It’s not like something you draw onto your body with ink and then just scrub off with some baby oil and a stiff shower brush. There are also tattoo removal creams you can buy, but these are often ineffective.

Tattoos are permanent stains on the skin that go several layers deep, and which are meant to stand up to harsh scrubbing, sunlight, body lotions, and the like. Note what is said about tattoo removal by ASDS (American Society for Dermatological Surgery):

  • Professionally applied tattoos tend to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin at uniform levels. This uniformity allows dermatologic surgeons to use techniques that remove broader areas of inked skin at the same depth.
  • Professional tattoos made with some of the newer inks and pastel colors may be difficult to remove entirely.
  • Removal of homemade tattoos – often applied with an uneven hand – may be more difficult to remove.
  • Deeper blue and black ink colors are particularly challenging.
  • Newer tattoos often tend to be more difficult to remove than older ones.
  • Complete tattoo removal is not always possible.

From the experts, you see that tattoo removal is obviously not a minor issue, and obviously isn’t done as quickly and easily as removing a piercing.

Yet, the 2016 yearbook doesn’t say that they “went through the pain and expense” of derm-abrasion or laser tattoo removal, or any other such process. It notes in a very casual, offhand, flippant manner that they just “removed their tattoos,” as if they were taking out a pair of earrings.

Not only is this mentioned in a very casual way, but I would wonder why they may have felt a need to do it in the first place. If you visit jw.org, there are articles listed about carefully making the decision to get a tattoo, but the April 8, 2001, Awake magazine, noted this supposed question from a reader and the response:

I am writing in response to your article “The Bible’s Viewpoint: Body Decoration—The Need for Reasonableness.” (August 8, 2000) Tasteful body decoration is beautiful—a true work of art. Society may judge me and classify me by my looks, but I know that in God’s eyes I am loved. I hope and pray that others will not dwell on my tattoos but look at what I am inside.

K. M., United States

The article acknowledged that whether a person decides to indulge in body decoration or not is a personal decision. Nevertheless, one way a person gives evidence of being beautiful inside is by ‘adorning himself with modesty and soundness of mind.’ (1 Timothy 2:9) The Bible also makes it clear that a Christian is under obligation to take into account not only his own conscience but “that of the other person.” (1 Corinthians 10:29)—ED.

It doesn’t seem from this exchange that tattoos in of themselves are a horrific, blasphemous outrage that should make someone feel horrendously guilty or somehow “dirty.” When I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there were a few people who had become Witnesses after having gotten tattoos and they still had them, without any thought of getting them removed.

It’s also good to consider that not all tattoos are so visible that they would all need to be removed; I can understand someone removing a questionable tattoo that’s on their neck, but what about something on their shoulder, or their back or hip, or another place you don’t readily see in everyday life? Why go to the expense and through the pain of getting these removed if no one is likely to ever see them? The experience doesn’t say they removed some tattoos or only the most visible, but just “their tattoos.”

I will openly admit that there may be other factors that were simply not noted in the article; maybe the tattoos in question were especially vulgar or offensive. The experience said that they “discarded their religious images,” so maybe they had tattoos of crosses or other symbols that Jehovah’s Witnesses deem inappropriate.

lie5However, this casual mention of tattoos, without any inclusion as to the difficulty of having them removed, or why this couple felt they should be removed in the first place, along with the story of how this couple flipped their entire life upside down based on a website alone, just seems a bit far-fetched.

It also seems a bit much to think that a couple who left one religion because of its hypocrisy would then so easily turn to another religion, without researching any of its own hypocrisy. You can easily go through this website and see the many failed predictions and prophecies made by Jehovah’s Witnesses, the control they have over their congregants that is not backed up by any scripture, and their problems with pedophilia, domestic violence, and shunning.

Jehovah’s Witnesses proved their own gross hypocrisies during the Australian Royal Commission Inquiry in 2015, and about something as horrific as child rape and abuse; I can’t imagine some random couple just tossing away their tattoos and ignoring these horrific facts based on a website alone.

I could be wrong, but the level of their life changes, told in such a casual way, just doesn’t ring true to me.

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Do you think this story was true, an outright lie, or at least exaggerated a bit? Please post via social media below.