I was the 5th generation to be raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were proud of that. I remember taking pictures on the porch of the family homestead of the 4 generations that were still alive. We were all so close. My grandmother taught me how to cook in her kitchen next door when she could. All of us lived on an old farm alone. It was peaceful and quiet. I spent a lot of time with my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We all went to the same kingdom hall. We would work in the garden together, go in service together, and go to meetings together. The fun I had as a child was either playing alone or playing marbles with my grandparents.
I am sure that it seems like everything was wonderful back then. It seemed that way to everyone else too. I was struggling inside though. I had a very hard time with a few things. First, I never felt like what I did was good enough to please my family or anyone in the congregation. I never felt like I fit in or was included in things. I remember being left out of the things the other kids did at the kingdom hall. I had a hard time with this because everyone liked me at school but my fellow believers did not want to have much to do with me. There was a large family who were all related in the congregation and if you weren’t a member of their family, they just did not ask you to do things with them.
I realize now, even though I did not quite understand then, that I was trying to please the elders instead of trying to please God. I know my mother had a hard time with the same thing. I heard her say many times, “Jehovah God understands my limitations. I think He is more merciful than the elders are.”
Another thing that bothered me was the lack of love. So many of the sisters and brothers were so rude to me. I kept telling myself that they were just imperfect humans and I expected too much. I also spoke out many times about the motivation everyone had for going door-to-door. They counted hours. I saw many times pioneers waste time on purpose. They would go to people who obviously just wanted company and did not care about our religion. They could give them literature and count it on their time cards. They did not care about baptizing people. They just wanted to make their time card look good. I remember 2 people getting baptized who were converts instead of being “raised in the truth.” In 24 years there were only two.
Please do not get me wrong. I was not a perfect angel myself. I had my faults. I kept trying and trying. I kept making new commitments to Jehovah, only to find myself sinning yet again. I would try and fail. I never really felt like I was growing though. I felt more like I was just running and then I would get exhausted. I would run some more, and then get exhausted.
At this point I was 18 years old. I saw many things that I thought needed to improve in the congregation. Never did I imagine or fathom that all of it was a lie.
I graduated from high school May 2000. I was very tired of being told every single move to make. My parents would not let me date even though I was legally an adult. They told me I was going to have to pioneer until I started college in the fall. They let me go to college, interestingly enough. I was the second to go to college in my congregation in its history. I am glad I was not the first. I remember how much she (the first one) was criticized. My parents refused to pay for college. They told me that I would have to work to pay for it myself.
During college I began to learn so much about history and how to logically think. I was bothered that the arguments and logic of the society commonly made little sense. Their reasoning was so empty to me. Their arguments were just not sufficient to me. I remember, in the summer of 2005, reading the scriptures and coming to a conclusion about a point in the scriptures. I tried to show my family and they dismissed me quickly. They would not believe me. Then two weeks later the WatchTower had “new light” and said exactly what I had just said. I showed my family yet again and they said, “You should have just waited on Jehovah to reveal it.” That made me realize that no matter how true something is, they would not believe it unless the WatchTower said it. I was stunned.
That time in life was when things really started to change for me. On June 1st, 2006, I decided that I could not take being told every single step to make. I wanted to remain a faithful Jehovah’s Witness, but I wanted to have the freedom to let my own conscience guide me. I left home and eloped with a boy from the kingdom hall. We married without having been on a single date.
I did not do anything wrong by getting married. I had some of my close friends disown me at that point. They did not agree with the decision I made so they refused to speak to me. They would say hello but that was about it.
The boy was one that had been interested in me for a long time. He went to school with me and started coming to the kingdom hall when we were about sixteen. He got baptized in about 1999. I had suspicions then that he only converted because he wanted a relationship with me. I did not realize that he knew the whole time how much of a lie it all was. He pretended for years to be a Jehovah’s Witness until he gave up about a year after we were married. He just faded away. He never told me or any of the other Jehovah’s Witnesses that he did not believe them. He also never told me until after my disassociation that he had decided he was going to hell for leaving Christ to be a Jehovah’s Witness. Because he had decided he was going to hell anyway, he treated me in any way he selfishly felt like.
While we were married, he slyly put doubts into my mind. He would ask me questions like: “Why do they not welcome people in whatever clothes they have? Why do they insist that they dress differently even if they cannot afford it?” He would never agree that Jesus was Michael the archangel no matter what. He actually got me to think and defend my doctrine. I realized how little proof I had for a few of the things. He asked me why a lot but never attacked me. I do not know how he held back from telling me the truth all of that time. I guess he knew that I would shut off talking to him about it if he admitted that he did not agree with their doctrine.
Those times were really hard for me. He was selfishly treating me very badly. He hit me on quite a few occasions while we were married. One time was especially bad when he left welts and bruises. The other times he would just push me down or hold me down. He would yell and yell to the point where I could not take it any longer. I began to pull my own hair out – literally – in frustration. The yelling and criticism were the worst part of it. He had such control over me that he would not let me even go places with my mother. I was constantly accused of cheating on him when the truth was that I did not even want to look at a man at that point. I had little money because he barely worked. It really hurt me that his “worldly” family helped me by giving me food while the “friends” did nothing. I called a pioneer once who lived about a mile from me and asked her for a ride to the kingdom hall because I could not afford the gas to get there. She would not even do that for me. The lack of love once again hurt me.
After I was done with college and had a job, things did get much better for me. I was going door to door and had much better results than the other “friends.” Interestingly, I met a Christian who actually defended his faith in the door to door ministry. It was a thought provoking experience. I had never met anyone like him in my life. During that time, I had 2 Bible studies. I did not have time for anything else in the week because my husband was so demanding of me. I was taken to the back room for council quite a few times because my service time was so low. It was about 6 hours a month. I was so hurt by that because I was studying with 2 girls and doing some good when many of the pioneers could not even say that they had two Bible studies. This focus on hours and placements and lack of concern for actual people yet again hurt me.
I finally decided that I could not bear to stay with my husband any longer. June 2005, I finally left him. I went to the elders for counseling. They told me that I should have tried to stay because now I was setting both of us up for sin. He was abusive to me. I did not care if I set him up for sin or not. The elder’s reaction in the meeting shocked both my mother and I. She was so proud of me and the fact that the elders would say such things upset her tremendously.
I decided at that point that I was not going to be single for the rest of my life. I did not care if I had to spend the rest of eternity in the silent grave. I was going to live a happy life now. I made the decision to leave Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I quit going to the meetings except now and then. I wanted to just fade away. I knew I would be disfellowshipped when I remarried at some point but I wanted to put that off. I lived a completely reckless life at that point. I did whatever I pleased. I did all sorts of immoral things. I hid it all from my parents and the congregation. I was not going to the meetings but I did not want to be shunned so I lied.
I had done everything else wrong in the world so I decided to talk to apostates. I began to tell them my story. I met a lady named Mary. Mary changed my life. She told me that the way they had been treating me was wrong. She told me that God still loved me and wanted me to be one of his children. She told me that eternal life was a free gift and I could stop working for it. Mary promised me that if I would give my life over to Him that he would take care of me. It took a while for all of that to sink in.
I began serious research day and night. Hours and hours I studied the scriptures with a goal to find the truth. I learned then why they did not want you to go to college. I had learned how to think critically and could see that their logic made no rational sense. It was amazing what I found in my studies. The veil was gone and I could see the real truth. The first thing that I realized was that I was going to heaven. I had doubts during a lot of my early days but I kept saying to myself, “But I am sure that they are wrong because the Bible says I’m going to heaven.” I realized that my faith and belief in the Lord was the most important thing and that he would supply all that I needed if I would just trust him. My relationship with God took on a whole knew meaning.
December 2005 I was called for a judicial committee meeting. I thought it was because I had asked one too many questions. I found out that they knew about something that had happened seven years prior. They had been digging around in my past and found out about something. I had confessed this sin to them when I was young and had been put on private reproof for it. They were saying that they found out more about it that I withheld from them so they would probably disfellowship me for withholding the details from them.
I cried. I had no idea what to do. My father came to tell me goodbye. My mother came to tell me goodbye. I called many of those I knew who were former Jehovah’s Witnesses and now Christians. They helped me to make a decision about what to do. I remember Frankie telling me that I had to make a decision. I had to stand for Jesus and make a decision to follow him and depend on him or else to give in to the Witnesses. I followed her advice. I prayed to receive Christ into my life and I decided what I had to do. That was the moment that my life began to transform.
I walked into the room of the judicial committee. They asked me to describe the details of the sin to them. I told them that God had already forgiven me seven years prior and I did not have to justify myself to them. I added that I no longer wished to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They asked me to leave the room so they could talk. I waited. When it was time, they called me back. They said that they wanted me to make a donation for $1282.00 for some work they had “volunteered” to do after the Katrina disaster to my great grandmother’s house in which I was livng. For some reason I gave them the money. They asked me to sign a piece of paper saying that I no longer wished to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was over.
My family asked me to leave my house. I had to move. I found a new place to live. I found a distant family member who was also an apostate and we were able to talk and he helped me emotionally. He helped me grow into a Christian. I found a church home and I am busy there. It has been less than a year since my disassociation from the WatchTower society. It has been the best year of my life. I can hardly wait to see where God takes me. It has been a ride of joy just so far despite the losses.