What was it like with the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

I would define that in terms of meetings, study, witnessing and lifestyle. But it is 24/7 as you will see. As you read please bear in mind I was doing this from the age of 8 to 14.

Meetings (take place once a week)

Bible Study

This is the first form of meeting that you are started with – that could be with two or one person with you in the comfort of your own home. While it is called bible study it is actually reading one of the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society (WTS)publications. The first one I studied with an elder was My Book Of Bible Stories aimed at children. After reading would discuss the issues covered in the book and general chit chat about spiritual matters.

Hours: 2

Group Study

Like a bible study only with a group of people, in my case round an elder’s house. Again this would be reading another WTS publication. The first one I studied there was Life How Did It Get Here? By evolution or creation? Much more social afterwards drinking coffee biscuits and discussing the chapter we had just read (we would all take it in turns to read paragraphs).

Hours: 2-3

Theocratic Ministerial School

This is an essential meeting to go to when witnessing, going door to door, or taking part in ministry. Here you will not only learn theology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses but how to communicate them to people. How to preach with the right inflection, gesture. There would be a main talk, but also now and again you would be a part of a small group with for example an overseer or elder where you would give a talk on bible scripture being examined on one particular point (use of WTS sources, gestures, eye contact etc.).

This used to happen at the Kingdom Hall (i.e. church)

Hours: 2-3

Congregation Meeting (Kingdom Hall)

In effect what you would expect from church on Sunday. Except we met on Saturday (pagan doing that on Sunday!). A visiting speaker would come for the main talk, and we would also read an article from the Watchtower magazine. We would also sing hymns that the organisation had written with lines like: Christ died upon a tree, to set all mankind free.

This was the main event and after the bible and group study you would probably be invited to attend. For example I think I was about 10 when I started going regularly to the Congregation meetings and then the theocratic ministry school ones.

Hours: 2-3

So in a week that was ten hours worth of meetings discussing WTS publications. Now one thing is that when a bible quote is being read everyone would flick to that part on their bible to make sure it said that. I was competitive and wanted to get to the quote before anyone else did – or at least before the rustling of bible pages had stopped.

The format is very similar in each meetings. A paragraph would be read out then a question would be asked which was always in the footnotes of the page related to the paragraph that were numbered. In a bible study you answered all the questions – in a group study you could be called on to answer the question. In the other two main meetings it was voluntary to answer questions but it was noted who was putting their hand up and the quality of your answers.

In short you had to prepare for these meetings – hence me mentioning that life as a Jehovah’s Witness is also one of study.

Study

For the meetings it was essential that you had read the relevant section covered before the meeting. For example say in a paragraph it mentioned a verse in Matthew but did not quote it. At the meeting if you were asked the question and the elder asked you what does Matthew say you may be caught out. There was no fear here – but you wanted to ensure that you knew your stuff. If you could quote relevant bible sources not mentioned that was especially appreciated – such quote mining was what I aimed for. Not so much to look good, but to show I really cared about what the bible said.

As you can imagine the time you would invest in these meetings could be anything. Just reading the publications I would put at about 2-3 hours. But for serious study 5 hours.

Then of course there was the study you would do in your own time. For example each fortnight the new Watchtower and Awake! publications would come out. You would read these – not least because socialising afterwards people would talk about it. The Watchtower was more the dogma publication, while Awake! is more a lifestyle magazine reflecting the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs.

Then there were other books to read too. Reasoning from the Scriptures was the book to know when going door to door witnessing to people about Jehovah. It covered questions people asked, how to answer them and what scriptures to use. There was also a daily one that meant you would read the bible in a year. Then of course other publications too – especially if you wanted to give them to people on the doorstep. Originally we charged the cost of the book but I understand they are free now to the person on the door but I am not sure if the witnesses still pay for the book to use.

Total hours study a week: 5 -15

Witnessing

This is the bread and butter of being Jehovah’s Witness. Going door to door and saving people. Yes when we went out we thought we were bringing you salvation, the chance for you to call upon the name of Jehovah and be saved. All those meetings and study were aimed at effectively saving your life. That is the motivation, come rain or shine.

We had report cards that we filled in mentioning how many hours we did and what books or magazines we had given away. Also we kept records of responses on the door step and ranked them. For example if someone seemed very interested that info would be passed on to someone that was very effective in starting bible studies. It was organised, with feedback.

Pioneers devoted themselves to spreading the word in this way. It was my aim to become one. I liked talking to people and to save their lives seemed a noble purpose. The hours were about 100 a calendar month and I think there was a very small re-numeration – the sister I knew that was a pioneer had a part time job to keep going. For your hours you could include a conversation you had on a bus, or in a classroom.

I used to do about 4 hours on a Saturday and Sunday plus extra hours witnessing when ever the opportunity presented itself.

Hours: 10

Lifestyle

If you add up the hours you will see that  I was doing over thirty hours a week devoted to being a Jehovah’s Witness as a child. When I started Secondary School I found the extra work load was clashing with my time spent worshipping Jehovah. At the age of eleven I was getting warn out. Not only that but I was being bullied at school because of my beliefs (for more about that please see blog here where I talk about leaving the faith). In the end, believing that the end of the world was near my mother agreed to have me taught at home.

The mindset is the end of days is coming soon. There really is no time to waste because it could happen anytime. Be prepared, save as many as you can.

The other is that “bad associations spoil useful habits”. As a child I was constantly being encouraged to judge my classmates on the basis of whether their behaviour would cause me to fall away from Jehovah. That, and not celebrating birthdays, valentines, christmas, easter and not having much time to socialise outside the faith generally meant that I successfully isolated myself from my peer group. One that I did not have much time for anyway.

Additional get together included twice yearly regional conventions where speakers would turn up, and once a year national convention usually where a new book would be launched. These meetings and networking did invigorate you in your faith.

The lifestyle of a Jehovah’s Witness is 24/7. It impacts in how you intereact with people, the decisions you make and the time you have. The teachings are constantly being reinforced with regular meetings and personal study. There is no time for outside inquiry – indeed that would be frowned upon as the world belongs to the evil one. You cut yourself off from the darkness and trust in the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society being the only source of truth in this world.

Are they are cult? Yes in terms of the indoctrination and the way they isolate you from society. They may not be aiming to fleece you of your money, but they will take something of far more value

Your life.

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14 Comments

Filed under Jehovah's Witnesses, Religion

14 responses to “What was it like with the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

  1. anthony

    I have been aware of the witnesses since my grandmother started getting visits in new your over 50 years ago,I have gone on in my search for God through Christ to discover that most churches are to some degree a cult or culture (being a Christ follower ) is readin the word of God ,in context and living (or trying to live ) a Holy life with the help of the Holy Spirit.We all have a trail of cults in our past ,Accept Christ ,read what he said and did in the red letters,you could spend the rest of your life in Matthew starting in chapter 5 .if you have any specific dogmas you want to be mirrored in the light of the word please ,email me

  2. tiff

    may I have your email please?

  3. cafeofdreams

    Wow, when did you study, like 1960?

  4. cafeofdreams: 1980s in the United Kingdom, as a child.

    tiff: john_sarge@msn.com

    anthony: I would refer you to Hitchen’s “god is not great”. For me, I can appreciate beauty without a fantasy. But we try to muddle through our brief existence as best we can. If you are not hurting anyone with your belief good – but please leave me out of it.

  5. I knew a childhood friend a pioneer of Rock music early 60s in Mumbai India , whose grandmother was a fiery obsessed Jeovahs Witness, she destroyed her grandson , he went into drugs and died recently , he was the wealthiest kid as his parents had both died and this grandmother had bought him up, he lost everything , and died unheard of.. his name was Keith Kanga of the Atomic Forest band…I was his neighbor for sometime, his grandmother had made me read the bible for hours.. and once she took me to the beach to baptize me, and it began to rain, we fled but I thing that natural baptism was the best that happened to me..
    Firoze Shakir
    Photographerno1

  6. Thankfully chickenpox prevented me being baptized. The stigma of being baptized and then “falling away from the truth” is not exactly fun. Having been a student, one confirmed as ready to be baptized to a point that sisters in my presence leading pray covered their heads as a mark of respect before Jehovah and me is one that I will not forget. Because I will never appreciate the way religion makes people feel low and unequal.

  7. Pingback: Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses a cult? « Homo economicus’ Weblog

  8. Jehovah’s Witnesses and the flag salute.

    I was born into the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1957.I was the good little JW boy who got beaten up in the school yard for not saluting the flag and remaining seated for the Star Spangled Banner as demanded by my Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders.
    This was the ‘better dead than red’ era of the 1960’s, I suffered much,only to learn that the Watchtower corporation is just another made up man-made religion and not the true one.
    Kids suffer because of arbitrary rules by Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders,senile old men squatting in their insulated ivory tower.

    Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?

    They will extol and preach “God’s Kingdom” and this sounds attractive,what they hide from you is their blasphemous Watchtower cult version that Jesus has already had his second coming in 1914 and is working “invisibly” through them.

    They have won 37 of their 46 U.S. Supreme Court cases, assuring us all of freedom of speech and assembly and equal protection under the law.

    The sad irony is that the Watchtower Society *daily* abuses the human rights of thousands of its members. It denies current members the right of free speech by forbidding them to speak to former members, even close family members.

    And it denies former members their right of freedom of worship by refusing to allow them to leave the religion with dignity, should they come to disagree with Watchtower’s practices or doctrines.

    The ‘religion’ of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a dangerous cult that controls every aspect of its members’ lives.

    Are they knocking on your door?
    —-
    Danny Haszard

  9. More often than not I don’t post comments on blogs, but I’d just like to say that this post really has compelled me to do so! Thanks for your perceptive article.

  10. Rescripting_myself

    I’ve found my life being choked out by my growing up in what i now consider to be a cult. I grew up in it from age 6 and was mentally in its captivity up to age 37 when I concluded that it was a dangerous cult that had stolen my life from me. I’m now 47 still very depressed and still finding it difficult to find my place in life. Every day I pray that I get healed and restored to normality that I may live like other people – get married, raise a family and be happy and fulfilled – things that have so far eluded me. But I want to remain hopeful and look forward to one day feeling and knowing I am normal.

  11. JD

    Really sad to hear that people have spend their formative years, the childhood and teen years which are meant for leaning, playing and exploring this way. Forget about the no holidays, THIS is the real tragedy. You can never be 8 or 14 again. You can never experience the world the way you would have at that age :(

    • No you can’t – and talking to others biggest regret is we have no childhood friends that grew up with us in our adulthood.

      Still, I was fortunate to leave at 14 so I had last two full years of secondary (high) school. School play, tennis (nominally owned by Methodist church but not run by them) and chess club great lifelines which would have been banned by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

      That stood me in good stead for college and University. Let alone life.

      My hope is parents hearing our stories of childhood experience do not put their kids through it.

      • mrmagoo23

        Back prior to 1987 unbaptized publishers who left the jehovahs witnesses where shunned what caused this change in jw policy.
        How could we all that is all ex jws change policy.
        Dissfellowshipping is a unusual painful and creul punishment and it contravenes the 8th amendment that being said in australia there legal representative said when questioned that dissfellowshipping is a myth so going back to 1987 what caused the change in policy.
        Is there any leverage with what happened back then to now.
        I want this practice to end is that possible soon your thoughts we be very much appreciated

        Yours Faithfuly

      • Agree it’s cruel. I was lucky my mother wanted to leave before I did, but I got there eventually so did not do so alone.

        Plenty of kids out there who do have to go it alone in a family.

        The pressure for change would have to be from inside; legally I don’t see how you can make people have social contact with others.

        It’s arcane and unusual punishment in this day and age. I have felt an undercurrent of change from some grassroots who think unchristian not to talk, and missionaries who feel they should discuss their faith with apostates.

        The governing body, as always, is the stumbling bloc to overcome.

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