Elder reveals his secret

By “Shadow Elder, Jr.”

A few weeks ago, my father and I were out working together in the door-to-door preaching work. That morning only four of us showed up at the Kingdom Hall –my dad and I, and a married brother and sister. The other couple announced that they only had a little over an hour available for service and had some return calls to make. They would go off on their own while my dad and I would visit a territory a few miles away in a more rural area.

I am the youngest in my family. I was born into the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as was my father, and his father before him. Dad would not allow any of us to be baptized until we were at least sixteen years old, just to make sure that we truly wanted to dedicate our lives to Jehovah’s service. My oldest brother was baptized when he turned seventeen. My other brothers have not been baptized, although they do go to meetings and occasionally take part in field service. I was baptized the summer before I went to high school.

But back to my story…

My father silently chewed on his lower lip as we drove toward the territory. I could tell that something was definitely on his mind and he seemed troubled. I asked if he was feeling OK. I suggested that he might want to stop and get a cup of coffee before we started knocking on doors. He denied that anything was wrong, but agreed that a cup of coffee might do him some good.

One of our favorite little coffee shops was on the way. I’m not much of a coffee drinker. And when I do have a cup, I put so much sugar and creamers in it that I can barely taste the coffee itself. Then I find myself totally “wired” all day. But for some reason, I felt today was definitely a day when a coffee break was needed.

We sat at a little table off in a corner while we had our coffee and shared a cinnamon roll. Dad looked at me and then surprised me with “What do you think about going back to school? You always got decent grades in high school, and…” he paused, “I was wondering if you had any plans about going to college?”

“Gee, I don’t know, Dad,” I answered. “I haven’t really thought too much about it because I know the Society frowns on anyone going to college – especially a 4-year school. I don’t want to get into any trouble at the Kingdom Hall. After all, you’re an elder – I don’t want you to get into trouble either.”

Dad was deep in thought as he gazed over my head, watching people pass by the window of the coffee shop. He’d start to say something, but failed to form any words. I worried that he was going to tell me he had cancer or that my mother had some terrible disease. “Dad – what is wrong? Are you OK? Is everything OK?”

That’s when he told me that he was in mental turmoil. As an elder, he should have a strong faith in Jehovah and the Society, and set a good example as a faithful Witness. “Look, son – I’m having some doubts about things – mostly Watchtower teachings. I guess you know what that means and the problems that could cause our family, right?”

I was shocked. My dad having doubts? My dad? I had no idea. I sat silent as he tried to find ways to tell me how he felt and what exactly was bothering him.

“I’m not sure that the Governing Body and the rest of the Society are right about everything. I sometimes find it hard to believe that they are really being guided by Jehovah’s Holy Spirit. I have real problems with a few things they are doing and teaching right now.”

“Why are you telling me this now? How long have you felt this way?” I asked.

“Actually, I’ve been troubled in mind and spirit for quite a while. Sometimes I feel like a total hypocrite – feeling this way and still being an elder. I’m not sure that I should even be telling you this. But you are my son, and I trust you to keep this between us. If you don’t, you could destroy our family.”

Dad was becoming emotional. His normally robust voice was choked and he was blinking away tears. I knew at that very moment he was being totally honest with me.

“Look. I’ve been thinking. With the economy so bad right now, I’m thinking this might be a good time for you to go back to school and work toward getting a degree. You could continue living at home and your mom and I would provide for you. At least until you were able to get out on your own. I worry that you’ll miss the opportunity to go to school now while you still can – thinking that Jehovah will judge you harshly. But, you know, I just don’t believe it.  I don’t think Jehovah wants his people to be uneducated. After all, I wouldn’t have the job I’ve got if I hadn’t gotten a degree. I went to night school all those years. I’d still be driving a truck or working in a warehouse somewhere if I hadn’t.”

Anyway, “to make a long story short,” that morning my dad and I never went to a single door. We just sat in that coffee shop and talked. We occupied that table for so long we had to order lunch to keep the waitresses from chasing us away.

That was the day I got to know my dad for real. In Jehovah’s Witness families, fathers are so totally into being “head of the household,” or “spiritual leader and example to the family,” that they will be very distant, cold, and often cruel to their kids. Even my dad could be that way at times – but I think he felt he had to act that way, even though his heart wasn’t in it. I sometimes feared my dad, but I always knew that he loved me – at least a little.

For a long time, my dad was really into being an “elder.” He was even a primary overseer for a while. But he asked to be relieved of that level of responsibility because of long hours at his job due to a promotion he got a few years back. I did notice that he seemed to have lost enthusiasm for going to meetings and in field service, but he’d force himself to go door-to-door at least once a week. He never turned down any assignments that he was given as an elder. I also knew that he really hated being on a “judicial committee.” I remember him coming home and locking himself in his bedroom – and then throwing up – after having to disfellowship a young JW sister earlier that day.

Now I knew that my dad was entering a new phase in his life as a Jehovah’s Witness. I found out that he turned the corner when he told me he had written an article on the Internet. “Yeah,” he said, “and it’s on an apostate’s web page!”

You could have knocked me over with a whisper. My dad? Writing an article for an apostate website? No freaking way! It was true, he said, but he thought it actually might do some good for other people who were also having doubts. “If they know that someone like me, a lifelong JW who’s an elder, has questions and concerns about the Truth, then maybe they will feel better about their own doubts and fears,” he told me.

“I doubt that anyone around here will figure out who I am, or what Kingdom Hall I go to, but you never know,” he said. “The guy who runs the web page promised to keep my identity private and to delete any of my emails after he reads them. I believe him and think he will protect my identity.”

“So exactly what did you write, Dad? I want to know!”

“I wrote about a lot of things. I wished I could have done more, but I think I touched on the main issues that were bothering me. I guess my number one issue is the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses, even elders like me, can’t ask too many questions. We can’t challenge anything the Watchtower leaders tell us. I can’t sit down and have a talk like this with another brother, even someone who has been a close friend all my life, without fearing that he will blab it all over the Kingdom Hall, creating gossip and dissension. I might even be disfellowshipped. How would I deal with your mother and the rest of our JW family members if that happened? I’m not ready for any of that – not as long as you’re still in school.”

“Does Mom know?” I asked. “Does she have any idea how you feel and that you have doubts? Does she know about the article you wrote?”

“No. No, and no,” he replied. “I don’t think your mom is ready to deal with any of this yet. I think that if I asserted my ‘husbandly authority’ over her, she would give in eventually. But right now? No. She’s not ready.”

We finally left the coffee shop and drove to a branch library nearby to use a computer they had available to the public. My dad logged into www.Jehovahs-Witness.net and showed me that they had thousands of visitors who wrote articles and comments about the Watchtower and about JW life. “I’ve learned more from that bulletin board than I ever did reading any Watchtower books. Here, let me show you my article.”

Then he logged into www.Ex-JW.com, typed “shadow elder” in the search box, and suddenly a link to an article appeared on the screen. “Look, the guy who runs it even put in a little picture of a shadow guy with a brief case walking in front of the factory in Brooklyn. I guess that’s supposed to be me. Hah! Now go ahead and read the article and tell me what you think.”

As my dad sat beside me and looked over my shoulder, I read through the article from top to bottom. In his story he covered a lot of subjects that included how the Governing Body makes decisions, what it’s like to go to a Witness funeral, and his feelings about how some apostates – and even Jehovah’s Witnesses – appear to outsiders. “Yes,” he said, “I’m afraid that some of the younger and angrier apostate writers might actually ‘stumble’ people INTO the Organization – instead of out of it – just because of the way they present themselves. Some of them are very angry. It shows in the way they write.”

He told me that he’d read comments about his article on www.Jehovahs-Witness.net. “Yeah, a lot of people on that bulletin board thought I was a fake or that I was being unfair to apostates, and even to many Jehovah’s Witnesses who write poorly. They felt I was really full of myself and was being hateful to others. One person even called me a ‘typical JW elder’ because of my attitude. I think they missed my point, but I’m OK with their criticism. I have to admit that it hurt a little, but I think they meant well. At least I hope so.”

It was getting late. Mom called us on Dad’s cell phone. She was wondering where we were and what we were up to. Dad just told her that we were just enjoying the day together and would be home soon. For me, it was probably the most fun I’d ever had alone with my dad. That day I discovered he was very different than I’d imagined. He was still my dad – but for me he became my very special friend and confidant that day.

Dad and I still keep our little secret – at least for now. I am now going to the library at the junior college and checking out some of the “apostate web sites.” Dad was right – you really learn a lot of secret truth about the real story of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society. I try to read as much as I can – every chance I get.

A few weeks later I signed up for some classes in English, Spanish and Accounting at the community college. My dad got in a little hot water over that at the Kingdom Hall, but he just told the other elders that I was studying to become a “bookkeeper” and had to take those other classes as well. I’m not sure how I can go to a 4-year college without getting myself and my dad in trouble at the Kingdom Hall, but hopefully I will eventually find a way.

One thing changed for the better: Now I love going with my dad in the door-to-door preaching work. My mother has noticed my apparent enthusiasm for the preaching work – and so far hasn’t guessed the truth about what my dad and I are up to.

Another thing has changed as well: I’ve never been as close to another human being than I am now with Dad. I know that I will follow his lead, no matter where it takes us. If we stay in the Truth, then I guess that’s what we’ll do. But if Dad decides to disassociate and leave the “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” then that’s what I will do as well.

Deep down – that’s what I’m hoping our final decision will be. I look forward to the day “I can be free to be me!” and escape the control of the Watchtower Society. I think that’s what my father wants as well – but only when the right time comes for us to make our move.

Editor’s Notes: Eighteen months ago, I received an article submission [“An Elder shares his honest opinions”] from an active JW in the general area of New York City. He said he had to be vague about his location and would disguise his identity with some misleading information. He wrote, “I am real. I do live within 30 minutes of New York City. I am legit and what I write about is the truth. But I have been active and well-known for many years and unless I misidentify myself somewhat, I’m sure that someone in my area will figure out who I am and expose me. I’m not ready for that just yet. That time will come, I’m sure. But it will be on my schedule – not the Watchtower’s. He recently wrote me and asked if I would publish an article by one of his sons. The young man wanted to describe what happened when his father revealed his secret for the first time. “What Dad told me changed my life forever. My mind is free, even though my body is not. Now I can see the truth and think for myself.” He’s hoping that his story will influence young JWs to investigate the facts for themselves. “Maybe their parents would like to get out too, but they are afraid of the damage to their families. Like my Dad, they just live with it for as long as they can, hoping that their kids make a break for freedom on their own, allowing the parents to follow them out.”

13 thoughts on “Elder reveals his secret

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, it is great you are developing a stronger relationship with your father; he only wants the best for you. Stay open to the path of discovery and consider the notion truth has nothing to hide or anything to fear. I am a former Jehovah’s Witness, so while I suffer the pain of having lost friends and family, I don’t have to be in the shadows expressing my disagreements with the Watchtower; one of those disagreements is in regards to the cultish practice of shunning/disfellowshipping; after all, who would work for a company that as a condition of employment you couldn’t speak to a former employee nor read anything about the employer unless it was written by the employer – the rational mind would ask “what are they hiding?” Being disfellowshipped from the religion I was raised in, while traumatic, was the greatest blessing of my life as it was the very low point that propelled me to think for myself.
    Your pursuing a higher education struck a nerve and it is one the main sticking points I have in disagreeing with the Watchtower. While I would be inclined to say an elder allowing a son to pursue an education is the height of hypocrisy, it may really help those that are in similar circumstances as I was in. It was exactly this climate/dynamic that existed within the Jehovah’s Witnesses that intensified my anger toward the Watchtower and eventually got me out of the organization. You see, it was quite clear and well documented that the message from the “faithful and discreet slave” that pursuing a higher education was the path of the spiritually weak and not “trusting in Jehovah.” Such a message was so clear that individuals not heeding the admonition would become “marked” – someone to avoid outside the confines of the Kingdom Hall.
    While the seeds of anger were already there, one incident really started the ball rolling; I was serving at Bethel and assigned to a congregation in the south Bronx, there was a young brother, from a single parent family (Mom), that decided to enroll in college, the elders removed all his “privileges” as his course of action was not in accordance with the Watchtower teachings. While “marking” is not an official pronouncement, it is clearly practiced and the removing of “privileges” kicks starts the unofficial process, this poor young brother soon became very depressed. This incensed me, especially since there were a number of JWs that pursued a higher education and the common denominator amongst all of them was their fathers were elders! The children of elders were immune to the “faithful and discreet slave’s” direction and the congregation’s disapproval.
    I was raised in a single parent family of very limited means, at an early age I realized that while my circumstances were less than ideal, it need not limit my future and getting a college education was of utmost importance. Being a fatherless boy, I was soon taken under the wing of “elders” and other well-meaning brothers, and was indoctrinated into the teachings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The 100 plus years of Watchtower methodology and reasoning was no match for the teenage mind and I was soon a true believer. Somehow I lost sight of what was best for me based on my circumstances and was now heeding the admonition to “trust in Jehovah” and put the Kingdom first, after all, if we are truly living in the last days, wouldn’t it be selfish to improve ones’ circumstances for just a short period?
    While I am fortunate to have been disfellowshipped in my early 20’s and have been able to obtain a Master’s degree, it came later and at a higher cost. I had a non JW grandmother that offered to put me through school, and every fiber in my body told me that is what I wanted and needed to do, but because of following the “faithful and discreet slave” I got started late and spent many years paying for it unnecessarily.
    I hope your father can become vocal in his disagreement with the Watchtower’s admonition to stay clear of getting a higher education; there are many less fortunate that may truly heed the advice coming from the stage and in print and may make decisions that could impact them for the rest of their lives.

  2. There is no such thing as holy spirit guiding and directing the organization or elder bodies. Elders are allowed to hide their own immorality and disfellowshipping offenses and still remain elders with no scriptural precedent or backing, they will “discern” for themselves if a woman is lying about being raped while demanding two witnesses to cases of pedophilia, make known pedophiles elders, have called pedophilia “minor uncleanness,” and have told women to treat a rapist “respectfully” and “understandingly.” There is nothing special about them or their supposed wisdom.

  3. Don’t live leaning on your father’s faith. Make the “truth” your own. If your dad leaves the WT, make your PERSONAL decision, but no basing on his decisions because when the Judgment Day comes, each one of us will render an account of HIMSELF [or HERSELF] to Jesus [the Judge appointed by Jehovah]. _ Romans 14:12.

  4. To the governing body- Psalms 146-3&4 says for me not to put my trust in earthling men or nobles, WHY? Because they die and go back to the ground the same way I do.So this is why I trust no earthling man or men. And the governing body is a bunch of men in Brooklyn.

  5. Jason. Stop right there. I am 78 years of age ,my wife is 75.I left that nonsense 8 years ago.My wife of 5 years also left. But her heart is still there.I have shown her every thing I could, Ray Franz book,All the history of them,All the lies they have been caught in, but she still defends it. She has been to a few meetings since this, and they did not even speak to her. They made her feel like dirt. But she wont condem them. She hangs on to it in silence. Now you mentioned potential spouse, you can avoid what I am going through.Cut it off. If she is leaving you for a cult that is ran out of Brooklyn by 12 old men (the governing body) then let her go. Believe me her heart will always be there and you will have hell on your hands. Believe me. It wont work. If one will believe a lie then let her believe in that lie. Get out while there is no binding arraignment. In conclusion.IT WONT WORK. IT WILL BE ONE UNHAPPY JASON.

  6. This is a great heart warming story. I’m glad that you and your dad have this new revitalized relationship now. It can be scary just the very thought of questioning the Organization. I know it brought me to my knees literally in 2009. I took from this story that we’re not alone. There’s always someone there to help us grow as human beings. Since I left I questioned ” is there really truly happy ex JW’s ?” Will I find myself crawling back to the Org ? Life has certainly thrown its curveballs at me since I left. My wife left me, I lost my job that I was committed too for ten years. I was raising my son with my JW MOTHER who still disapproves of my lifestyle. But I’m sure you get that. But happiness is tricky, I personally have to pause so I can say “oh yes I’m happy because of this reason.” I’m 33 now and engaged to a beautiful young lady who Loves me for me. And we plan on making a great future together with our children. I can honestly say with some hard work and understanding you can be HAPPY! But it seems that you guys are happy now. And I would just like to wish you some more happiness guys. Thank you for this writing this . I read your fathers prior to reading yours. His was really good too. Cali love

  7. RUN, RUN from JW’s. I seriously can not believe in our modern day and age people actually believe this BS.

    Spolier: There is no “jehovah” (decided to keep the name lower case on purpose). There is however family, and that is what needs to be cherished, not some imaginary spaghetti monster in the sky..

  8. I have not been part of this organization for over 18 years! I too was raised in these teachings, although I found refuge in keeping my personal life away from my past life events, that lead me to run ! My decisions has haunted me dailey,with unhealthy thoughts, while praying for guidance, that keeps me stAnding , along with new good friends I met thru the years, without judgement
    Mentall illness, fell soon for some family members, that now have them come to the conclusion I am evil, while locked up medicated.(I could write a book!)
    Family is important to me, but I’m sure our heavenly Father understands and has been guiding me thru my changes, while helping me heal.
    Some of my family members will never be the same and from these teachings and I am still scared to loose loved ones that feel trapped, so my life stays private, except for those who have been helping me find my healthy path to true” Love” God speed….

  9. I want to learn more about the secrets and rules made by Jehovahs Witnesses. I believe stronly that God us the Almighty Gid names JEHOVAH. His son is Jesus Christ. They are 2… not 1……like the Trinity supports. I believe that Jesus dued on a TORTURE STAKE……Not a CROSS.
    My mom is a baptized Jehovah’s Witness & wants her children to be Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well.
    I am faithful and a loyal believer in Jehovah…….but the JW congregation is too strict and has too many rules. I always feel uptight and cant relax at the Kingdom Hall because of the strict guidelines. I shouldn’t feel that way when going to Gods house…….RIGHT??
    The people always ask so many questions and are very pushy when it comes to home bible studies, field service, meetings and baptism. My husband gets overwhelmed & so stressed & scared that he is going to be pushed and pressured into something. I feel the same way. Everytime we attend meetings, everyone approaches us with another home bible study. We just want to go and learn more about Jehovah and the Bible but our fear is preventing us from going to any more meetings. They made my husband PRAY at our home Bible Study. My husband is so quiet & shy. He was so scared that he couldn’t breath & he threw up. Because of their pushy ways and strict rules, We stopped going. I also disagree with DISFELLOWSHING & DISASSOCIATION. That is so wrong and sad. These poor witnesses need love, understanding & support. Not us turning our back on them. We are imperfect humans born into sin with Satan & his Demons making our lives difficult with so many temptations. Adam & Eve were perfect & they sinned. Yes they were punished. But they were perfect. We are not! Why should we be punished for inherited sin? We should be helped by Gods people to become stronger & not to give up on God. Jesus always showed love and compassion to bad people. We were taught to be loving and forgiving. Helping our brothers who struggle with temptation. It could be a cry for help. We shouldn’t turn our backs on our brothers.!!! Jesus never did!! I also believe in COLLEGE. That is important in this life of financial stress. College increases hourly income. That is so important when rent, bills, food & clothing is outrageously expensive. Not to mention the cost of car insurance & repairs. I dont agee with JW rules. They are hurting Jehovahs true at heart followers.
    PLEASE help me with a better understanding??

  10. You said you’ll follow your Dad wherever he goes….truly worshipping Jehovah means not letting any human being, be it an elder, a bethelite, a politician, or a family member, come between you and Jehovah. I’m very hurt and angry by how I have been treated recently by elders supporting my cheating ex husband, but I’m not angry at Jehovah. You didn’t mention Jehovah once in your post- so maybe the best thing would be for you to leave- regardless of what your father does. I lived with a man who stayed in the truth because he was too scared to leave- and his lies and cruelty nearly destroyed me. You shouldn’t go to the Kingdom Hall if you don’t want to- you should leave the people who DO want a relationship with Jehovah alone. If my ex husband would have left when he knew in his heart he didn’t want to be a witness- he could have spared me from the sexual, and physical abuse he heaped on me. I’m working very hard now to remove several elders who aided my ex husband in his double life- and who continue to provide him with my personal information. Believing in Jehovah doesn’t mean we all blindly believe in the WTS, it means we believe that Jehovah is still with us. There’s going to be mistakes made, sometimes big ones- but those of us going to meetings and in service are just trying to hang on- we don’t need people around us making our lives miserable who are leading double lives. You want to go? Then go! Don’t whine and complain- just go and leave us alone! Also, I’m a mother and my children know that I expect them to pioneer AND go to college so they can support themselves. The Bible has never said an education is wrong- it says don’t let it crowd out your ministry and your relationship with Jehovah. Please don’t quote some long lost article from the 70’s or 80’d that says otherwise- I believe in moving forward with our education- NOT backwards.

  11. For all the comment i have read here…Yes truly sad reality. But even they the organization hurt you. Even if the organization cause you so much pain . Please…let us all forget the pain and forgive those people who caused it…. There are only two things that Yahweh or Jehovah wants, to love Him and Love other people, that includes enemy or people who hurt you…

    Please let us all stop hate… If you are ex jw, ex muslims or whatever your religion is or if you are still belong to any religion, please stop hate. Stop judging. The true God never said to make religion and if someone is not in that RELIGION judge him. Jesus never expelled sinners. Jesus never condimed sinners. Jesus save all sinners. So please let us have love in our heart even if you are in pain. Even your hurt…

    I’m ana , an ex jw. 😉

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