Behavior (Control) During Prayers

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Nov 212009

I generally avoid using terms such as mind control cult when talking  about Jehovah’s Witnesses, but every so often the writers of the Watchtower publish something that makes it hard not to. Although I was a Jehovah’s Witness for over two decades and have been out now for over a dozen years, it still amazes me the degree to which Witness leadership seeks to exercise control over their followers.

The November 15, 2009 Watchtower study article (page 6 par 19) contains an example of this:

When we are being represented in public prayer, we need to display reverential “fear of God.” (1 Pet 2:17) There may be a proper time and place for some actions that would be inappropriate at a Christian meeting.(Eccl 3:1) For instance, suppose someone sought to have all in a group link arms or hold hands during prayer. This might offend or distract some, including visitors who do not share our beliefs. Some marriage mates might discreetly hold hands, but if they embraced each other during public prayer, those who got a glimpse of such conduct might be stumbled. They might think or get the impression that the couple was focusing on their romantic relationship instead of reverence for Jehovah. Out of deep respect for him, let us therefore “do all things for God’s glory” and avoid conduct that could distract, shock or stumble anyone.- 1 Cor 10:31,32; 2 Cor 6:3.

The first step to understanding this paragraph is grasping the concept of “being represented in prayer.” Not all Jehovah’s Witnesses are allowed to pray at meetings. Only “spiritually mature” men are allowed to open or close meetings with prayer lest some spiritually less mature man (or God forbid, a woman) might say something not in keeping with current Witness teaching or something that is otherwise inappropriate.

The idea of being stumbled over one thing or other is a common theme in Jehovah’s Witness teaching and culture. Jehovah’s Witness leadership take perfectly valid warnings about stumbling from Jesus and Paul and effectively employ them to their own ends. If they want to prevent the rank and file Witness from engaging in some practice or from adopting some form of dress or grooming, all they have to do is mention that someone might be stumbled over it. By doing that, they implicitly give permission for all Jehovah’s Witnessnes to be stumbled over it. At that point all the true Witnesses will refrain from that behavior.

By doing it that way they have effectively banned the practice or mode of dress without doing so explicitly. They have avoided the appearance of a mind control cult while exercising  the same amount of control over their followers as would any cult.

The Society Says “Don’t say the Society says …”

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Feb 242005

In recent years, the “faithful slave” has encouraged Jehovah’s Witnesses to present their beliefs as though the Witness came to these beliefs as a result of their private study of the Bible.

Here is the quote from the 3/15/98 WT, page 19, para 4. After discussing the difference between the Watchtower Society and the “faithful slave,” the article says:

“In order to avoid misunderstandings, Jehovah’s Witnesses try to be careful about how they express themselves. Instead of saying ‘the Society teaches,’ many Witnesses prefer to use such expressions as, ‘the Bible says,’ or, ‘I understand the Bible to teach.’ In this way they emphasize the personal decision that each Witness has made in accepting Bible teachings and also avoid giving the false impression that Witnesses are somehow bound to the dictates of some religious sect.”

This quote is interesting on a couple of levels. First, any distinction between the Watchtower Society and the “faithful slave” is a distinction without a difference. The Watchtower Society publishes exactly what the “faithful slave” sends to it – nothing more, nothing less. Second, the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses immediately adopt whatever teaching is transmitted to them by the “faithful slave” by means of the Watchtower Society. As a friend of mine puts it, “Every time the ‘faithful slave’ changes directions, 6 million people get whiplash.”

It Hurts

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Jan 262005

The following is how former cult members and members of spiritually abusive systems described how they felt when they finally left their group. This may give you some insight into their pain and why there are no easy answers for them.

This material may be distributed freely but please leave our
original details for identification of source.


IT HURTS to discover you were deceived – that what you thought was the “one true religion,” the “path to total fredom,” or “truth” was in reality a cult.

IT HURTS when you learn that people you trusted implicitly – whom you were taught not to question – were “pulling the wool over your eyes” albeit unwittingly.

IT HURTS when you learn that those you were taught were your “enemies” were telling the truth after all — but you had been told they were liars, deceivers, repressive, satanic etc and not to listen to them.

IT HURTS when you know your faith in God hasn’t changed – only your trust in an organization – yet you are accused of apostasy, being a trouble maker, a “Judas”. It hurts even more when it is your family and friends making these accusations.

IT HURTS to realize their love and acceptance was conditional on you remaining a member of good standing. This cuts so deeply you try and suppress it. All you want to do is forget – but how can you forget your family and friends?

IT HURTS to see the looks of hatred coming from the faces of those you love – to hear the deafening silence when you try and talk to them. It cuts deeply when you try and give your child a hug and they stand like a statue, pretending you aren’t there. It stabs like a knife when you know your spouse looks upon you as demonised and teaches your children to hate you.

IT HURTS to know you must start all over again. You feel you have wasted so much time. You feel betrayed, disillusioned, suspicious of everyone including family, friends and other former members.

IT HURTS when you find yourself feeling guilty or ashamed of what you were – even about leaving them. You feel depressed, confused, lonely. You find it difficult to make decisions. You don’t know what to do with yourself because you have so much time on your hands now – yet you still feel guilty for spending time on recreation.

IT HURTS when you feel as though you have lost touch with reality. You feel as though you are “floating” and wonder if you really are better off and long for the security you had in the organization and yet you know you cannot go back.

IT HURTS when you feel you are all alone – that no one seems to understand what you are feeling. It hurts when you realize your self confidence and self worth are almost non-existent.

IT HURTS when you have to front up to friends and family to hear their “I told you so” whether that statement is verbal or not. It makes you feel even more stupid than you already do – your confidence and self worth plummet even further.

IT HURTS when you realize you gave up everything for the cult – your education, career, finances, time and energy – and now have to seek employment or restart your education. How do you explain all those missing years?

IT HURTS because you know that even though you were deceived, you are responsible for being taken in. All that wasted time
…….. at least that is what it seems to you – wasted time.


Leaving a cult is like experiencing the death of a close relative or a broken relationship. The feeling is often described as like having been betrayed by someone with whom you were in love. You feel you were simply used.

There is a grieving process to pass through. Whereas most people understand that a person must grieve after a death etc, they find it difficult to understand the same applies in this situation. There is no instant cure for the grief, confusion and pain. Like all grieving periods, time is the healer.

Some feel guilty, or wrong about this grief. They shouldn’t — It IS normal. It is NOT wrong to feel confused, uncertain, disillusioned, guilty, angry, untrusting – these are all part of the process. In time the negative feelings will be replaced with clear thinking, joy, peace, and trust.


There is life after the cult.

(C) Jan Groenveld Internet:
Cult Awareness & Information Centre, PO Box 2444,
Mansfield, 4122, Australia

Reproduction is permitted as long as the identifying information remains intact.


NOTE: Jan Groenveld passed away in October of 2002. You can see an online memorial to her at In Memory of Jan Groenveld

Avoid Independent Thinking!

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Jan 232005

The phrase “Avoid Independent Thinking” appears as a subheading in the 1/15/1983 issue of “The Watchtower.” For many years, the Watchtower has warned Jehovah’s Witnesses of the dangers of “independent thinking.” This article will explore the Watchtower’s present view of independent thinking and how that view has changed over the years.

The Watchtower has not always used the phrase “independent thinking” in such a negative context. In the 8/1/1957 Watchtower, they were promoting independent thinking and criticizing those who were afraid to be alone with their own thoughts.

7 Though not sought by crowds as Jesus was, his followers today are hard-pressed by modern living to find solitude for meditation. In many places in the world simplicity of living has been replaced by a life of complexity, with waking hours crammed with both important and trivial matters. Moreover, people today are developing an aversion to thinking. They fear being alone with their own thoughts. If other people are not around, they fill the void with television, movies, light reading matter, or if they go to the beach or park the portable radio goes too so they will not have to be with their own thoughts. Their thinking must be channeled for them, ready-made by propagandists. This suits Satan’s purpose. He deluges the mass mind with anything and everything but God’s truth. To keep minds from doing godly thinking Satan keeps them busy with thoughts that are either trivial or ungodly. It is tailor-made thinking, and the tailor of it is the Devil. Minds work, but in the way that a horse is led. Independent thinking is difficult, unpopular and even suspect. Thought conformity is the order of our day. To seek solitude for meditation is frowned upon as antisocial and neurotic.-Rev. 16:13, 14. – The Watchtower, 8/1/1957, page 469, para 7, “Will You Get to Live on Earth Forever?”

In the 1958 Watchtower, they talk about how the Irish do little independent thinking because of the influence of the Church.

Fear has a great hold on the people. People are afraid of what their neighbors, their friends, relatives and clergy might think if they were even so much as to read the Bible on their own. For centuries the clergy have dominated their lives, told them what they can read, what they should believe and do. To ask a sound religious question is a demonstration of lack of faith in God and the church, according to the clergy. As a result, the Irish people do very little independent thinking. They are victims of the clergy and fear; but freedom is in sight. – The Watchtower, 8/1/1958, page 460

While the 1957 Watchtower talked about how the world filled people’s minds with Satan’s tailor made thinking in order to keep them from independent thinking, just three years later the Watchtower says the following:

Today the trend of this world is to seek independent thinking as the ideal goal, but even as the unrealistic thinking of a scientist who tries to ignore the law of gravity is doomed to failure, so also is the unrealistic thinking of those who try to ignore the fact of man’s dependence on God. .“It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his steps.” (Jer 10:23; Prov. 16:1-3) When men try to think independently of God, they set aside the perfect standard of goodness, righteousness, virtue and faithfulness and become victims of their own selfish, sinful inclinations and degrade their own thinking ability.-Rom. 1:21-32; Eph. 4:17-19. – The Watchtower, 2/15/1960, page 106-7, para 5, “Safeguard Your Thinking Ability”

My, how the world changed in 3 short years.

Now in the context in which the WT uses the term more recently. It would be nice if the WT did use the term to describe thinking indepent of Jehovah, but that is not really the case.

It seems that some in association with the early Corinthian congregation were disregarding Paul’s authority, looking at him according to what he appeared to be in the flesh, and neglecting to take into account his special commission from Christ. Today, too, there are those who, by their independent thinking, question Christ’s ability to have and use on the earth a specially appointed governing body of imperfect humans, to whom he has entrusted all the Kingdom interests or “belongings” on earth. (Matt. 24:45-47) When such independent thinkers receive counsel and direction based on the Bible, they incline to the thought, ‘This is only from fleshly men, so it is up to me to decide whether to accept it or not.’ – The Watchtower, 6/1/1966, page 324, “Intellectual Freedom or Captivity to the Christ?”

So they are saying that independent thinkers question, not the organization itself, but “Christ’s ability to have and use on the earth a specially appointed governing body of imperfect humans,”. I certainly do not question Christ’s abilities in this area, only that the Watchtower Society is an expression of those abilities.

In the 1/15/1983 Watchtower, there were two articles that dealt with indepenent thinking. In the first, under the subheading “Avoid Independent Thinking”, the Watchtower said:

How is such independent thinking manifested? A common way is by questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization. For example, God’s organization has from time to time given warnings about listening to certain types of immoral and suggestive music, and about frequenting discos and other types of worldly dance halls where such music is played and people are known to engage in immoral conduct. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Yet certain ones have professed to know better. They have rebelled against such counsel and have done what is right in their own eyes. With what result? Very often they have become involved in sexual immorality and have suffered severe spiritual harm. But even if they have not been so affected, are they not reprehensible if others follow their example and suffer bad consequences?-Matthew 18:6. – The Watchtower, 1/15/1983, page 22, para 21, “Exposing the Devil’s Subtle Designs”

So rather than questioning God’s Word, the Watchtower says that independent thinkers question “the counsel that is provided by God’s visibile organization.”

19 As we study the Bible we learn that Jehovah has always guided his servants in an organized way. And just as in the first century there was only one true Christian organization, so today Jehovah is using only one organization. (Ephesians 4:4, 5; Matthew 24:45-47) Yet there are some who point out that the organization has had to make adjustments before, and so they argue: “This shows that we have to make up our own mind on what to believe.” This is independent thinking. Why is it so dangerous? 20 Such thinking is an evidence of pride. And the Bible says: “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Proverbs 16:18) If we get to thinking that we know better than the organization, we should ask ourselves: “Where did we learn Bible truth in the first place? Would we know the way of the truth if it had not been for guidance from the organization? Really, can we get along without the direction of God’s organization?” No, we cannot! -Compare Acts 15:2, 28, 29; 16:4, 5. – The Watchtower, 1/15/1983, page 27, “Armed for the Fight Against Wicked Spirits”

Again, independent thinkers are cast, not as questioning God Himself, but thinking they know better than the organization.

In the world, there is a tendency to reject leadership. As one lecturer said: “The rising education level has improved the talent pool such that followers have become so critical that they are almost impossible to lead.” But a spirit of independent thinking does not prevail in God’s organization, and we have sound reasons for confidence in the men taking the lead among us. For instance, only those meeting Scriptural requirements are appointed as elders. (1 Timothy 3:1-7) They are trained to be kind, loving, and helpful, yet firm in upholding Jehovah’s righteous standards. The elders adhere to Scriptural truth, ‘holding firmly to the faithful word, that they may be able to exhort by healthful teaching.’ (Titus 1:5-9) Of course, we should not magnify their human imperfections, for all of us are imperfect. (1 Kings 8:46; Romans 5:12) Instead of feeling frustrated by their limitations and treating their counsel lightly, let us appreciate and accept the Bible-based direction of the elders as coming from God. – The Watchtower, 9/15/1989, Page 23, para 13, “Be Obedient to Those Taking the Lead”

So the WT characterization has changed drastically since 1957. And most recently, it has not been geared toward thinking independent of God, but independent of the WT organization.