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Letter to Bethel

The following is a letter sent to Bethel with a question about changes to doctrine. Most brothers are not aware that Bethel usually does not respond to letters, but refers them back to the congregation elders. The eventual response is interesting in its evasiveness, and shows the attitude that we must not question the Governing Body, regardless of how logical the question may be.

Dear Brothers,

I would like to first thank you for your ongoing work of providing rich spiritual food to us Brothers. I have asked the Elders in my congregation the following question but did not feel the response was adequate nor logical. Would you please assist me?

How are we to understand changes in doctrine, when conceding to past doctrine may have resulted in health problems and/or death, and when "unrepentant" violation of past doctrine may have resulted in disfellowshipping? Even if judicial action was not required, Jehovah's Witnesses were taught that such actions were sins against Jehovah and prohibited in the scriptures. Example: Organ transplant (w67 11/15 p. 702), blood fractions (g54 1/8 p. 23-24, g56 9/8 p. 20, w58 9/15 p. 575, w61 9/15 p. 557-559, w61 11/1 p. 669, w61 11/1 p. 670, w63 2/15 p. 124, g75 2/22 p. 30, w92 10/15 p. 31), "procedures involving the medical use of your own blood" (w59 10/15 p. 640,g72 4/8 pp. 29-30, g82 6/22 p. 25), not fighting rape equals "consenting to fornication or adultery" (w64 1/15 p. 63), consenting oral sex within marriage is porneia (w72 12/1 p. 735) homosexual/bestiality does not allow for scriptural divorce (w72 1/1 p. 32), etc. The answer given to me by the Elders was along the lines of Christians today not knowing why Jehovah allows such things to take place.

Direction from the Watchtower is described by statements such as "God's...channel of communication" (w91 3/15 p. 22), "It is vital that we appreciate this fact and respond to the directions of the 'slave' as we would to the voice of God, because it is His provision." (w57 6/15 p. 370 par. 7), and "Would not a failure to respond to direction from God through his organization really indicate a rejection of divine rulership?" (w76 2/15 p. 124 par. 20). Therefore, since the decisions Christians make may involve life or death and Jehovah's standards never change, how can we be sure that the direction we receive from the Watchtower today represents Jehovah's true thoughts on such serious matters? If a brother or sister had disagreed with the position on blood fractions or organ transplant in the past, would it have been justifiable for them to act according to their own understanding?

I feel pity for Jehovah's Witnesses who may have lost their lives/the lives of loved ones, suffered medical difficulties (including loved ones), were disfellowshipped (including loved ones), or had tormented consciences because of abiding with doctrines that were later changed. Furthermore, if a person was disfellowshipped in the past for violating a doctrine that later changed and showed their action was not definitely a sin, would that person need to display repentance over their past "sin" to be reinstated?

About a month or two after sending the letter, I received a call from one of the local Elders saying something along the lines of "We would like to meet and talk". I was under the impression that they wanted to provide a shepherding call. When they came over, the first thing they mentioned was that they were told by the branch that I had written a letter and were visiting with me via the branch's direction. One of the Elders said that the "brother from the branch was wondering what my motive was in writing the letter". The part about me "feeling pity" for disfellowshipped ones (where doctrine later changed) was of real concern to them.

Ultimately, they asked the question "Do you trust the 'slave''? I did not answer their question, because I was suspicious of what he was implying. We had a few polite exchanges and ultimately one Elder politely ended the 'shepherding call'.

I sent a copy of my letter to the Elders (they did not receive a copy from the branch) and I got this back from the elders.

Thank you for the copy of your letter. No one can question what is in a person's heart when these kinds of questions are raised. So **** and I are certainly not in a position to make that kind of judgemental decision. The concern is how each of us feel at any given time about the direction that is coming from the Faithful and Discreet Slave that Jehovah has been using since the first century.

As **** and I shared with you on Wednesday, all of us want to make sure that we understand how decisions are reached and what they are based on. The key is what James said at James 2:5-8. Our faith is not blind but isn't based on doubts either. It would be presumptuous on our part to ever feel that we can't trust the direction of the faithful and discreet slave because we feel that at some future time the decision may change. Doing so can only cause us to question what we will do at that time or moment. It could cause us to disobey. How sad that would be to disobey Jehovah's direction because we cannot trust the channel he is using and suffer spiritually from that now and lose out on life in the end. **** and I as well as our body of elders do not want that for you or others. It was with that motive on our part that we followed up at the Branch's direction.

A couple days went by and I received a message saying that they wanted to visit again to discuss the letter. I declined by writing in an email:

I do not feel it is necessary to meet again to discuss my letter to the branch. I feel that the visit will not be productive, seeing that we have already discussed the answer to my question and the motives/reasons behind my asking it.

Thank you for your assistance so far.

The Brother just responded that he would inform the "body of your decision". I talked to him shortly thereafter and he mentioned that the body had discussed the issue and that one of the Elders stated "Couldn't he be spending his time going in service, instead of doing all this?"

A couple months after that, an Elder asked me in service if I "got all the answers I needed" and that the CO was concerned that I get all my answers. I stated that I had not. So, I made an appointment with the CO for service and the nice guy just tried his best to give me some sort of satisfiable answer.

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