Are Jehovah's Witnesses a Cult?

A Former Elder Breaks Down the Highs and Lows of the 2017 Regional Convention

The 2017 Regional Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses have commenced and, as they do, I can’t help but feel profoundly sad.  This is not because I miss everyone that I knew for over 30 years, not because I think Armageddon is coming any second and I’m in fear of losing my life, and not because I’m ridden with guilt over living a life that displeases Jehovah God.  I am not the least bit sad, nor do I have reason to be, about those things.  I am, however, profoundly sad for the many people who have convinced themselves that this convention is going to be one of the best times of the year for themselves.

Few events outside of the memorial of Christ’s death are built up as much as the yearly conventions for Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They are touted as a time of happiness and spiritual refreshment.  However, as I look back on over three decades of attending such conventions, I have long since come to realize the real reason why I looked forward to conventions.  It had nothing to do with refreshing spiritual teachings, or flashings of new light, or being impressed with the wisdom of the speakers on the stage.  The only thing I truly enjoyed, and I honestly believe anyone truly enjoys, about conventions is seeing old friends from far away that you don’t see that often.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, for the most part, lead lonely lives, though they convince themselves otherwise.  The average Jehovah’s Witness (JW) only associates with other JWs, and usually those in their own congregation, or perhaps local congregations.  Oftentimes they will meet other JWs from farther away, and perhaps form good friendships with them.  But, being busy with meetings, field service (their preaching and proselytizing work), and endless studying of JW literature, they often don’t have the time to develop these friendships as they would probably like.

Typically speaking, this would not matter.  However, for JWs, it is actually more important than they know.  Since JWs only associate with other JWs, and usually only with individuals who live relatively close, their choice of friends is severely limited.  Chances of finding true friendship in such a small group is difficult, both because you are always taught to be suspicious and judgmental of everyone else, including JWs, and secondarily because in such a setting, it is very difficult to find someone with whom you can truly have a meaningful friendship. (See the post, Teaching Children to Shun Others, Even Inside the Congregation.)  On top of all that, true friendship is rendered practically impossible by the fact that at any given moment, if a friend is disfellowshipped, you must shun them.  When friendship must be cut off at a moment’s notice, one becomes used to keeping a certain distance, even with their closest friends.

Conventions are the one time of the year where JWs can convince themselves that they aren’t just a small group that must keep everyone else around them at arm’s length.  It is the one time they can get together and collectively put on a show of how neat, clean, righteous and well-mannered they are.  There is strength in numbers, and during conventions, JWs feel it.  For once, they are normal and everyone else is not.

Once you get past the sheer human aspect of the convention, next you need to deal with the spiritual food that is offered at such events.  Everything is choreographed and highly controlled.  From the time the JWs pull into the parking lot, there are lines of brothers directing them where to park.  Once inside the convention center, there are brothers with signs reminding people to keep moving.  There are ample attendants watching every action of the crowd, always ready to step in if things get out of control.  There are programs telling you when to be in your seat, and announcements to remind you to get to your seat.  During the sessions there are brothers in the hall with signs reminding you to get to your seat, though many people regularly ignore such advice.  During the program you are told to be in your seat for the program, you are told to take notes, to pay rapt attention, to discuss the convention after the day’s program is over.  In bathrooms you are told to only use one towel to dry your hands.  You are reminded to participate in your congregation’s cleaning assignment after the convention.  In short, there is no lack of ways at the convention in which JWs are told what to do, where to go, and how to act.  Certainly, that must be a thing of joy.

Now to the actual convention material.  For 2017, you can find pretty much all convention source material.  This year, it includes a denial of the predictions for 1975, along with ridiculing those who actually believed the Watchtower and sold their homes, or didn’t have children to engage in full time ministry in the “very short time remaining.”  However, the following quotes come directly from the Watchtower CD-Rom from 2013, demonstrating this point.  Please look the quotes up to see for yourselves, they come from the May 1974 Kingdom Ministry, and the November 1974 Awake:

*** km 5/74 p. 3 How Are You Using Your Life? ***  

Yes, since the summer of 1973 there have been new peaks in pioneers every month. Now there are 20,394 regular and special pioneers in the United States, an all-time peak. That is 5,190 more than there were in February 1973! A 34-percent increase! Does that not warm our hearts? Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end.—1 John 2:17.

*** g74 11/8 p. 11 Is This the Time to Have Children? *** 

Today there is a great crowd of people who are confident that a destruction of even greater magnitude is now imminent. The evidence is that Jesus’ prophecy will shortly have a major fulfillment, upon this entire system of things. This has been a major factor in influencing many couples to decide not to have children at this time. They have chosen to remain childless so that they would be less encumbered to carry out the instructions of Jesus Christ to preach the good news of God’s kingdom earth wide before the end of this system comes.—Matt. 24:14.

So, here we have the Watchtower in one fell swoop accomplishing the following:

  • Being dishonest about what they previously taught
  • Ridiculing the people who actually believed them and took their advice
  • Attempting to coerce others to follow the same ill-advised course they ridicule people for – sacrificing everything to spend time working for the corporation

When considered for what it is, it is extremely difficult not to consider this part of the convention to be a rather malicious attempt to derail the lives of the generation that are the grandchildren of the people duped in 1975.

Ironically, the last talk of the convention contains the admission that the system must be ending soon because the overlapping generation is so advanced in years.  That is ironic because, when I was 5 years old, the end of the system had to be close because the generation that saw 1914 was so old, and the system had to come before they died.  If you doubt me, look up the Live Forever Book on the CD-ROM, page 154 paragraph 8.

This is but some of the strengthening, timely spiritual food the governing body sees fit to ram down the throats of the JWs.  Of course, no convention would be complete without the audience being told how joyful they are to receive such food, and then being asked to give the Governing Body a veritable standing ovation for forcing them to sit for 3 days listening to that drivel.  Of course, throughout the convention they are reminded that they have to pay for this privilege, and reminded that now they can use their credit card to donate.

As I reflect back on the time I spent at the conventions, the only fond memories I have are of time spent with friends.  As I think of conventions now, I am saddened for the loss of all those attending, and for their vast, sorry, unappreciated waste of time.  Down the road, it could well be any of them the governing body ridicules for following the direction of, you guessed it, the governing body.  Nothing like blaming the victim.  There is, however, one thing that makes me extremely happy during the convention time.  That is the fact that I won’t waste my time being there.

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19 replies »

  1. Your description of the conventions was spot on. I was a third generation JW. I faded away because this was just more than I could do. I never felt worthy of the so called reward on a paradise earth. So much was expected and I just knew that I was going to die at Armageddon. I refused to participate in the “elders meeting”. I made it very clear that my personal choices were none of their business. That’s something that’s between me and my God. So, needless to say, you know where I stand with them. I haven’t been disfellowshipped simply because I refuse to go through that ritual with them. I haven’t written a letter to the congregation because I don’t think that I have to. Why should I give them that respect, when they are not giving you respect in return? Not happening.

    • Kay… your experience describes exactly what happened to me and i feel the same way that you do.
      I was asked to talk to a couple of elders..’in the back room’.. i said no..eveyone knows you get taken ito the back room to receive the cane.. ( like a school boy from the 1960’s )…and even if that is not the case in reality…thats what everyone thinks and gossips about. All of this kerfuffe was about me seeing bruises and hand marks on a married sister and speaking up about it…she was censured and ORDERED to tell the ones who saw the bruises that her husband does not beat her………bastards.

      • I will take this one step further. I found out a few years ago that my grandfather who was an elder in the congregation was a pedophile. One of his victims was his great granddaughter. The congregation knew about this and kept it hidden. This was a man that I looked up to the whole of my life. We do have the proof. My mother, that is one of the “anointed” finally coughed up the proof. There had been suspicions and talk to sadly find out that it was true. I don’t know if I will ever be normal again, but knowing that I came out of the darkness into the light gives me hope. With each day there is new hope.

      • OMG. I thought I had heard it all. You did the right thing about speaking up for this sister that was being abused. WOW. what brain dead humans to allow this. My dad (he was an elder for nearly 40 years) passed away about 12 years ago. He wasnt happy at all with the Governing Body. He always had issues because they thought my pops was doing his own thing too much. He just thought they were all full of crap and weren’t honest. He was a good man and always helped build KH (he was on the building committee in Calif).

    • Re write a letter. I was never given any written welcome to the cong when iwas baptised. Not a card not a letter nil, nought nothing. I was wondering why so many feel they have to write these letters of resignation. and the wt in a court case in state of Victoria in Australia the wt lawyers stated that the wt does not have members they have people doing their own personal mission. So no actual membership. Interesting. This must be some sleazy legal trick.
      The descriptions of conventions is spot on. Hours of speeches by speakers who have little speaking ability using 100 words when 10 would do. Keeping our little ones settled or walked then ‘final prayers’ which assume god is an idiot and must have the entire program summed up for him; by again a speaker who is having his big moment in the sun and taking as long as he can.
      You missed one matter though its trying to get out of the convention when its finally over when ‘Gordian knots’ of sisters have to meet up and talk endlessly blocking the hallways, stairways and exits.
      I met a young family at the last convention I attended and they said they would never again attend any large convention after the last debacle (for them) in Sydney where it was 8.30 at night before they got back to their accommodation due to slow moving crowds exiting and packed trains. She with a little one was exhausted the little one was out of nappies (diapers) and very distressed.
      Where were the organising Bethel/branch office elders? No doubt having a slap up dinner some where; and of course they don’t have kids do they…

    • Kaye – your experiences are beyond Horrid! And your Grandfather was a child molester? This truly brings tears. I was molested at the age of 5 by an elder. I am (54) and this was during the 1960’s. I have never committed myself to this false spiritual paradise because I knew even at a very young age something just didnt make any sense.

      • Yes Robin. Very true. To be honest, when this was finally uncovered, a lot of things began to make sense to me. You never want to think that a member of your family is capable of such a thing. But alas, it really happened. Goes in line with Russell’s charges. To thing that he disrespected his wife to such a degree. It’s unimaginable.

  2. Brilliant ! All so so true. & So disgusting how those who sacrificed so much for Watchtower prior to 1975 are being mocked by this organisation. Staggering that the GB could be so arrogant. Upsetting & emotionally devastating that the Governing Body can be so unchristian & heartless in their portrayal of that time period.

  3. I appreciate your TRUE comments about the conventions. How everything is controlled. How sad to criticize the ones who gave so much in 1975 an on to the organization and fail to admit their fault in fault in misleading so many people who gave their time, money, resources, homes. Then to blame them for following the organization completely. They know the average Jehovah witness will not even look up this information because they have been trained by the organization not to. They have done the worst that you can do to a person…. that is take away what the organization love that being freedom of speech.,the rights you have in this country and many others is freedom of religion freedom of speech. The organization takes advantage of these yet they take it away from their followers without them even realizing it , and when they do realize and they express themselves to those loving brothers they watched and treated like an enemy. You don’t have true friends in that organization because no trust anyone. All are watching one another. Yet they say they are a loving organization. That too is just another one of their LIES!!!

  4. I did from 1984 till 2005 at this painful tortuous ritual. Most JW;s HATE the Conventions , they HATE the the expense, they hate all of it. But after 30 years myself of this cult, its a a game of every JW saving face. They are all pretending to REALLY ENJOY it, Trying to look spiritual, ( So others are watching) , taking notes ( So others are watching). In fact every activity is connected to trying to impress each other, even the mindless ( ” oh what a wonderful talk that was”). Its also brilliant mind control technique that Rutherford knew off as are the meetings. The average person cannot sit for more than an hour without loosing concentration. Looking at your watch and yawning means you have switched of. But Rutherford Knew as he studied psychology that the mind while unable to no longer reason as its so tired, is STILL subconsciously having repetitive comments sink in. This is programming on a massive scale. Hours and hours of the same comments that are into your mind.

    • I have done it all. The note taking, being attentive, smiling when all the while under my breath I am saying that if this doesn’t end soon, I am going to stand up and shout giving everyone something to really look at and listen to. But then I would think, how could I subject these poor souls to any more torture. That’s when I started sitting at the very top of the arena behind the stage so that I could just sleep. It finally occurred to me that I didn’t have to do this anymore. The light bulb came on!

  5. sounds about it.
    You forgot to mention the bros who will use 100 words in a talk when 10 would do; a mark of very bad public speaking.
    “Inebriated by the exuberance of their own verbosity”

    • The billion minute prayers come to mind. Lunchtime: 10 min prayer mark … I’m sooooo hungry, why is he still talking? Exit time: 10 min prayer mark … I’m sooooo exhaulted, 2 hr drive back home, 4 am wakeup, Why.Is.He.Still.Talking!??? Please God make that brother say ‘Amen’ soon.

      A prayer should only last as long as one said in a Roman arena where you are a 4 minutes away from being eaten by lions.

    • I would sit at the very top of the arena so that no one would see me falling asleep. The sessions were so long. It was torture.

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