Being Raised as One of Jehovahs Witnesses... and the Eleven Years Since Every child raised as a Jehovahs Witness will have different circumstances. However, the intensity of pressure to conform remains constant. Heres my story: I didnt come from the standard Jehovahs Witness background, since I only had one parent who was a Jehovahs Witness. She wasnt raised as one, though. My mom was actually raised Catholic but her family wasnt very religious. She was introduced to the Watchtower Society by her first husbands family. Her brother-in-law and his wife were Jehovahs Witnesses and her husband was beginning to study with them.
One night, they offered to go out to dinner together, but they deceitfully took her to the Kingdom Hall, first. Initially my mom was angry about being tricked. However, since she had never been encouraged to build scriptural foundation for her beliefs, she was swept away by the charismatic presentation of twisted scriptures. As a result, my mom became a baptized Jehovahs Witness. Her husband did not. Their marriage ultimately failed due to his ongoing affair with another woman. My mom moved back to her mothers home, pregnant with her second child. Shortly after, she became acquaintances with my father, a controlling man who had no religious beliefs or morals. I believe she was desperate for someone to take care of her and her children, and my dad took advantage of her vulnerability, weaseling his way into her life. Not long after, she was pregnant and disfellowshipped. My mom was 7 months pregnant with me when they were married. I dont know what transpired for the next five years, aside from hearing that my father was relentlessly cruel to my moms sons (my half-brothers) especially the one who was later diagnosed with Aspergers, taunting him for his delayed development. Ive also heard chilling stories of border-line abuse in the name of punishment. But I was completely unaware of this. He was actually pretty good to me until my pre-teens, and I was even a daddys girl. When I was five, my mom was reinstated as a Jehovahs Witness. At about the same time, my father got custody of his two sons from his previous marriage. (I have four half-brothers, two from each parent.) My mom had already started taking me and her sons to the Kingdom Hall. My dads sons only attended a few meetings before deciding not to go back. I continued to go and a year later I was thoroughly indoctrinated. I was NOT at all like other children. My mom had already ingrained into my brain that Bad association spoils useful habits. This would include everyone who is not a Jehovahs Witness (aka worldly people). Let me paint a picture of what that looks like in action. At age six, I had no friends at school since my two Jehovahs Witness friends moved away. I remember sitting on a swing next to a worldly classmate and suddenly realizing that I was becoming friends with this girl. Immediately, I explained to her that I was not allowed to be friends with her. I also explained that sometimes I forget and asked her to remind me not to talk to her in the future. We were only SIX! My dads sons had friends, so we were allowed to play with them when they came over. However, my mom was very uptight about me playing with any boys. She always wanted me to be proper and scolded me for being playful and silly. And I was not allowed to make any of my own friends. If I got caught talking to a neighbor when my mom got home, I would quickly end the conversation and head inside feeling shamed by my moms disappointment in me. So in just one year of attending the Kingdom Hall, I already secluded myself from society and I already knew the basics of the religion, including which Bible verse to share with other students about what Gods name really is (however, I now know this is false.) I would take WTS publications to school to defend my religion and try to win converts before I was even on the big kids side of the playground. I would ask to be removed from any classroom birthday or holiday activities. Sometimes, my father would encourage me to celebrate holidays, and twice I gave in. But I felt torn inside, because God was displeased with me for doing so. I sometimes laid in bed asking God to make my dad a Jehovahs Witness so he wouldnt have to die in Armageddon. As soon as I was able to read, I was pressured into studying the WTS publications. I hated to read and often got drowsy while attempting to read their propaganda. But, I always strived to do what was right, no matter how difficult it was. I was also trained to answer objections to my religion and shut out any opposing views. Questioning the Watchtower Society, I was told, was the same as Questioning God! Three to five times a week, shed ask the same question: Have you studied for the meeting, yet? She was constantly hounding me and almost never had a nice thing to say. I was also taught how to go out in door-to-door service as a young, trembling child. I did have some good times during these years, most of which I attribute to my oldest brother (my moms son) who always looked out for me. He was the one who glued us kids together. We were a team, the kids versus the parents. He sheltered me from the chaos of my unblended family. However, the pressure built up to a degree that he could no longer take, and he buckled. My dad continued his verbal abuse towards my moms sons, and my mom countered using my dads son as a pawn. Their real dad was no better, treating them as second-rate to his daughters from the other woman, whom he married. It got worse. After he failed to stay faithful to his second wife, he ended his life, leaving my brothers (and even my mom) with scars I will never understand. These events drove my oldest brother to drugs, alcohol and the type of friends that go along with that life style. At this point, he was an unbaptized publisher and was constantly being reprimanded by the elders and eventually he left, never to return. Being that I was still so young, I didnt understand what was going on with him. All I knew is that he was bad because he had the truth and he left it! Now that the glue in our family had become undone, my life began to take a turn for the worst. Without him to make sure that there was fair play, my other brothers began to pick on me relentlessly. Even my mom wouldnt stand up for me! Instead, she always told me just to ignore their taunting and scolded me for fighting with them. My mom was trying to turn me into a clone of herself. For as long as I can remember, she has been a down-trodden, non-confrontational people-pleaser. No doubt this demeanor is a strong factor in why she fell into the snare of the WTS. She would project this attitude onto me, expecting me to let everyone walk all over me. It wasnt just with my brothers. My father would hypocritically spank me for not eating peas, when he wouldnt even allow beets into the house. My mom said nothing. When I told her that the girls at school picked on me, my mom insisted that the other girls must have had a good reason for not liking me. (They did. It was my lack of social skills and odd religious behavior, but I was too young to comprehend this.) No matter how much I wanted to please her (and Jehovah), it just wasn't in my nature to accept these injustices. I would have extreme crying bouts, shoving my face into the pillow and screaming at the top of my lungs, leaving my door open for all to hear. I always hoped that my parents would see how deeply I was wounded and come to my aid. They never did. This led to some very dark thoughts at the age of 10. Since it didn't seem enough to them that I was hurting so deeply, then I began to imagine "how sorry they'd be" if I were dead. I never had the guts to actually attempt suicide, nor did I want to displease God! But, I was so angry to the core that I often fantasized about the sorrow and regrets theyd have if I chose to go through with it. I wanted them to hurt to the same degree that I was hurting! When I was about twelve, while visiting my uncle, he told me that he had a book with all these facts about CT Russell being a liar and a crook. I didn't dare look at it (for doing so would be questioning God!) but just the what if thoughts freaked me out. I felt sick to my stomach and couldn't sleep that night. I just couldnt bear to think that I was wrong, that my mom was wrong, and that our congregation was wrong. And it was dangerous to toy with the idea. After all, Id already been warned about apostate lies. I convinced myself that whatever that book said, it just couldnt be true. I went back to trying to please "Jehovah" and my mom, JW-style. With time, I even repressed the memory. At age 13, I began getting pressure from my mom to get baptized. Every time someone my age or younger was baptized, my mom would nudge me, as if to say, What about you? She thought it was admirable when an eight-year old was considered mature enough to make that decision, as did the rest of my congregation. Mature or NAÏVE?! The other two girls my age were already baptized and, in the eyes of my mother and my congregation, I was becoming a public disgrace. I was constantly compared to one of these other girls, specifically. She was far more sheltered and far more indoctrinated. Both of her parents were Jehovahs Witnesses, her father was an elder, and she was home schooled. She was baptized at about thirteen. Her P.E. requirement was fulfilled by door-to-door service. She put so many hours into field service that she was considered a pioneer (I think its about 60 hrs a month) and her name was mentioned monthly in the Kingdom Hall. Of course, this would again result in my mom giving me the comparison nudge. This other girl was considered to be more spiritual, more mature than I was. After all, I was still an unbaptized publisher going out in service less than 15 hours a month. If my hours fell under 10 a month, I had an elder of the congregation calling my house asking to speak to me to find out why my hours dropped Oh, I dont know. Maybe going to school, doing homework, studying for meetings three times a week and going door-to-door more than two hours a week is a bit much to ask of a thirteen year-old! By age fifteen I started realizing that Id never chosen my religion. Everything Id done was a result from outside pressures, especially that of my mom. Thankfully, I had not yet been baptized! (This is an important fact. All the Jehovahs Witness children who were baptized, even at the ripe old age of eight, suffered far more when they chose to leave. There are strict rules regarding former Jehovahs Witnesses. They are considered apostates and are worse than worldly people because they had the Truth and turned away from it. They loose all their friends and even some family members refuse to speak to them. Even though I am not technically an apostate, JWs who know my past will still avoid me like the plague!) My parents marriage was falling apart. By this time, I was fully aware of who my dad really was and I hated him! The elders deemed that my mom had grounds for separation since my father was verbally abusing my entire family and was sexually abusing her, driving her to a suicide attempt. I was thrilled when we moved out. Only three weeks later, my mom dragged my brother (with Aspergers) and me back to my dads, crying and pleading the whole time. (Eventually, they divorced.) Since I realized no one was looking out for my best interests, I pinned them against each other, to break free from the control of the Watchtower. As long as I was living in my fathers household, my mom didnt have the power to force me to go the meetings. I had a strong anti-God attitude decided to start living life MY way, taking care of myself. I used my new-found freedoms to choose my own friends. My best friend, a Jehovahs Witness was actually a bit pushy with me, but because she was the only JW in my grade level, she had become my best friend by process of elimination. But now I had options! I made quick friends with a classmate who had a crush on me. Although I wasnt interested, our friendship grew. He was there for me when I needed to be angry and vent. He was there for me when I needed to cry. And he was there for me when I needed to laugh and for the first time in my life, I had someone to be silly with! It wasnt long before we fell in love. My mom strongly objected to our relationship. But Id never been able to gain her approval in the past, so her continued disappointment had very little effect. She kept hoping that I would return to the Kingdom Hall and stop dating a worldly boy. I did neither. After four years of dating, at age twenty, I married him! My husband was raised Christian but wasnt exactly strong in his faith during his teen years. As he got older, he began taking his faith more seriously. He also began praying for me on a regular basis. God honored his prayers. At age 21, God revealed Himself to me. He warned me that if I didnt turn to Him, that I was headed for hell. I woke up shaking and crying. For the first time in six years, I prayed. I poured out my heart and begged God to show me who He really is. I began going to a Christian church and independently comparing it to the doctrine I was raised on. My mom lent me some materials to aid in my research. One of the publications I borrowed was a Kingdom Interlinear (A Greek-to-English Bible translation). When I saw the discrepancies between the original Greek and the English of the New World Translation, I knew that the WTS had intentionally altered their Bible to conceal the Deity of Jesus Christ. In one moment, I knew they were a false prophet and couldnt be trusted on any theology. And even though I became a born-again Christian, I still grappled with confusion over the indoctrination of my past. I still had to cover each issue, one by one, to figure out what was true and what was not. My mom and I tip-toed around religion for five years. Recently, we reached a boiling point. This resulted in sending me back through the doctrinal differences, since I needed a stronger case to prove to her what I already know. This time, when I researched, I dug much deeper than before. What Ive discovered was so sickening that it makes me physically nauseated. In addition to faulty doctrine, I discovered a long history of false prophecies. I also found a history of flip-flopping on their position regarding blood transfusions and organ transplants. Theyve even repetitively protected rapists and child-molesters and shunned the victims, labeling them as fornicators! Learning the depth of deception and the horrors that are taking place within Kingdom Halls, I finally felt free letting go of the legalism that I had been clining to, even after five years as a Christian. I now know the source of my unexplained depresion and I am beginning a journey towards true healing, that only God can bring. God's grace is overflowing in my life and I'm brought to tears when I realize how much He loves me. I'm figuring out who I am, and I like the person that God is turning me into! Now, I actively work towards opening the eyes of the members of this horrendous cult, including my mom and one brother who are still active Jehovahs Witnesses. I have a solid case, but theyve been so indoctrinated to assume that any former member is spreading vicious lies that they refuse to even look at the evidence. I have not been disowned, though (which most former JWs are disowned by family members) and I look for open doors to share my faith. Even my oldest brother, who never returned to the Kingdom Hall, still carries the wounds of his spiritual abuse, along with the other trials hes endured. Hes into his thirties now and has achieved some level of stability. Hes now married, owns a home, works full-time, attends a trade school and has three dogs. However, he is still attempting to mask his pain with marijuana and alcohol. Deep down, he still believes in the teachings of the WTS. He cant yet see that the god of the Watchtower is not the God of the Bible. As a result, religion is too painful for him to consider, at this time. Its just recently that God has allowed me to see his inner pain and I am beginning to reach out to him, with positive results. As a Christian, I am learning to forgive my father for what hes done to my family. I no longer hate him but he has not changed, so I keep him at a safe distance. I worry about him and his sons the most, since they are all content with their Godless lives of depravity. Their names are often included in my very long prayer list. Kimberly Los Angeles, California