home > interesting > growing up a jehovah's witness
Growing Up as One of Jehovah's Witnesses
Religious belief has power to shape a person unlike any other. A person raised as one of Jehovah’s Witness has a unique way of thinking that is difficult for others to comprehend. The best way to understand Jehovah's Witnesses is through an examination of the information they receive in their formative years on key aspects of life.
Let’s imagine a child called Matthew, born to Jehovah’s Witness parents. To understand his view of life, we can trace what Matthew he is taught to believe by looking at Watchtower quotes that appeared at key moments in his life.
Firstly, it is necessary to understand the power the Governing Body, the leaders of the religion, have over Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Governing Body claim to be the “Faithful & Discreet Slave” that Jehovah uses to dispense “truth” through the Watchtower.
“[Have] complete confidence in the truth as it is revealed by Jehovah God through his Son, Jesus Christ, and "the faithful and discreet slave.” - Watchtower 2001 Aug 1 p.14
“Since Jehovah God and Jesus Christ completely trust the faithful and discreet slave, should we not do the same?” - Watchtower 2009 Feb 15 p.27
Matthew was born and raised to accept that what he is told through the Watchtower has come from Jehovah.
Matthew was born in 1960. As a child, one of the first things Matthew was taught is that Jehovah is God. Since only Jehovah’s Witnesses worship “Jehovah,” only they will be saved.
“There is no middle ground. We are either actively for Jehovah God or actively or tacitly for the gods of this world. Make your choice, and know that your decision means life or death for you.” - Watchtower 1965 Feb 15 p.119
As a minor, Matthew will be encouraged to be baptized.
Image source: Watchtower 2011 June 15 p.5
“... at 12 and a half years of age, Dustin was baptized at a circuit assembly.” Watchtower 1985 Jun 1 p.30
“On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will? ... Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization?” Watchtower 1985 Jun 1 p.30
The core belief for Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they will live forever on earth and Matthew is told he will never die! Soon, the earth will become a paradise and Jehovah’s Witnesses will be brought back to perfection so they can live forever on earth.
“THERE are thousands of millions of persons living on earth today. Millions of these are now learning of the wonderful opportunity of keeping on living upon it without ever dying off it.” - Watchtower 1983 July 1 p.17
Image source: You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth
Whilst this sounds like a beautiful promise to Matthew, he is also taught that for this to happen, Jehovah will need to kill billions of unbelievers.
“Yes, today, with Armageddon staring us in the face, we must keep in mind the sobering thought that millions, even billions, of lives may shortly come to a swift and decisive end, putting their onetime owners beyond the reach of any expression of love on our part.” - Watchtower 1965 Apr 1 p.212
“They’ll run screaming out of their houses with this striking them, and yet they’ll see that Jehovah’s Witnesses are untouched.” 1967 District Convention talk by Charles Suntuko
"Only Jehovah's Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the "great crowd," as a united organization under the protection of the Supreme Organizer, have any Scriptural hope of survivingthe impending end of this doomed system dominated by Satan the Devil." Watchtower 1989 Sep 1 p.19
Image source: Enjoy Life 1982 p.28
Image source: Paradise Lost p.209
Watchtower 1997 Sep 1
At Armageddon, even children will die with their parents.
“... at Armageddon ... parents will be held accountable for their children, and children will suffer for the failure of their parents.” - Watchtower 1968 Feb 1 pp.83-84
So, Matthew is instructed to preach, in order to help save the children he goes to school with.
“Are you training your children in the field service? And when you work in the field service with your children or others, do you see that they have a part?” - Kingdom Ministry Nov 1978 p.8
Matthew is taught the destruction of the wicked at Armageddon will happen within the next few years.
Image source: Awake 1968
“They expect it to come at any hour, and almost certainly within the next 10 years.” - Watchtower 1968 Aug 1 p.466
Matthew was told he would never:
- finish school
- Never fulfill a career
- Never grow old
"If you are a young person, you also need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this present system of things. Why not? Because all the evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that this corrupt system is due to end in a few years. ... Therefore, as a young person, you will never fulfill any career that this system offers. If you are in highschool and thinking about a college education, it means at least four, perhaps even six or eight more years to graduate into a specialized career. But where will this system of things be by that time? It will be well on the way toward its finish, if not actually gone!"
Image source: Awake 1969 May 22 p.15
“Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world's end.” - Kingdom Ministry May 1974 p.3
Billions of people will die, but if Matthew remains one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he will survive. How can Matthew be convinced he is special enough for Jehovah to save him, but murder billions of people, including the children he goes to school with? By being given a unique set of rules that set him and Jehovah’s Witnesses apart from everyone else.
Matthew is repeatedly told Witnesses are unique.
“Who are no part of the world ... ONLY Jehovah's Witnesses.” Watchtower 1992 Apr 1 p.12
“Who in our time demonstrate ... love? ... ONLY Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Watchtower 1989 May 1 p.28
“ONLY one group of people is doing this work that Jesus foretold ... Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Watchtower 1994 Jun 1 p.18
“Jehovah's Witnesses [are] the happiest people on earth.” Kingdom Ministry 2002 p.1 "Jehovah's servants are the most loving, united, peaceful, law-abiding people on earth." Watchtower 2007 Aug 15 p.26
Matthew is warned against people around him and told normal, healthy activities are wrong.
"We must also be on guard against extended association with worldly people." Watchtower 1994 Feb 15 p.24
“Birthday celebrations ... Christmas ... Easter, ... Halloween ... All Saint’s Day ... New Year’s Day ...Valentine’s Day ... May Day ... Mother’s Day. We appreciate it very much when teachers kindly excuse our children from participation in all activities that in any way commemorate these holidays.” School and Jehovah’s Witnesses pp.18-21
“Witness parents feel that schools often overemphasize sports. ... Participation in organized sports, we believe, would expose Witness youths to unwholesome associations.” School and Jehovah's Witnesses p.23
“The essence, the soul, of disco was shown to be free, “liberated” sexual expression.... Satan is manipulating this world for his own purposes, shouldn’t we expect that he would also use the world’s entertainment in his efforts to turn people from true worship?” Awake 1979 Dec 22 p.20
“Dancing in the past, and at the present, has often been done in a way so as to arouse sexual passions and to lead people into sexual immorality. ... Therefore, favor home gatherings with whole families present.” Awake 1984 Apr 22 pp.12,13
Sex is used as a source of guilt, including masturbation.
“The real question, then, is, not how much physical harm could result from masturbation, but whether spiritual harm results. ... to help to avoid or reduce sexual tension... you may find it helpful to sleep on your side rather than on your back or face down. Another thing that may be helpful is to see to it that your clothing does not unnecessarily cause friction with the sexual organs. ... In fact, masturbation can lead into homosexuality... Contrary to what many persons think, homosexuals are not born that way, but their homosexual behavior is learned.” Your Youth - Getting the Best Out of It pp.35,42
University education is discouraged
“Rather than being content with "sustenance and covering," those who devote themselves to getting a "higher education" usually want to be able to enjoy "the rest of the things" that money can buy.” Watchtower 1967 Feb 1 p.76
"The time left is reduced"! ... For all its presumed benefits, would four years or more in a university be the best use of that remaining time?” Awake! 1989 May 8 p.13
Theocratic Goals are Encouraged
Matthew is told to avoid worldly people and activates, and instead volunteer to help grow the religion.
"In the early years, put before your children theocratic goals - regular pioneering, Bethel service or missionary work." Kingdom Ministry Oct 1983 p.2
Becoming An Adult
Matthew has reached his twenties. He was told he was not going to leave school, now he has a job and considers starting a family. Even that decision can be ladened with guilt.
“... Christians to ask themselves how getting married or, if married, having children will affect their share in that vital work. ... During all this pre-Flood period, Noah's sons and their wives had no children.” Watchtower 1988 Mar 1 p.19
Fortunately, most Jehovah’s Witnesses ignore that advice, get married and have children.
Although only in his twenties, Matthew has already experienced the falsehood of Watchtower comments that the world was about to end. He may start having doubts about whether the religion really is the truth, but even this is covered by Watchtower, which tells him doubts comes from the Devil.
“Be assured that the Devil is ready to sow seeds of doubt and revolt in such fields of impatience. Endurance and faith are needed.” Watchtower 1986 Mar 15 p.17
If Matthew discusses his doubts, he risks being disfellowshipped and shunned as an apostate by all his family and friends.
“The fact is that when a Christian gives himself over to sin and has to be disfellowshipped, he forfeits much: his approved standing with God; . . . sweet fellowship with the brothers, including much of the association he had with Christian relatives." Watchtower 1981 Sep 15 p.25
That can be the start of a spiral into depression, living an unwanted life out of fear of loss:
- Loss of family
- Loss of friends
- Loss of identity and belief
It is 2010 and Matthew is now 50. He is still one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as he never confronted his doubts. Due to cognitive dissonance, he locked the doubts away, as it was too difficult to accept the consequences of deciding his religion was not the truth.
Matthew was raised to believe he had to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to survive Armageddon, and constantly told it was about to happen. If he had any doubts, he was coerced to ignore them with threats of being disfellowshipped and shunned by everyone that he was close to.
Matthew isn’t unique. You could replace him with Jehovah’s Witnesses born at any point from when the religion was started in the 1800s, up to those being born today.
The Current Generation
Jehovah’s Witnesses may say the Watchtower has changed since Matthew was a born in 1960, but Watchtower still says Armageddon is about to happen.
"we're living in the final part of the Last Days. Undoubtedly, the final part of the final part of the Last Days, shortly before the last day of the Last Days." JW Broadcast March 2020
Watchtower still directs to shun loved ones that leave the religion.
“Is strict avoidance really necessary? Yes... Loyal Christian family members do not look for excuses to have dealings with a disfellowshipped relative not living at home.” Keep Yourself in God's Love (2008) p.207
Jehovah’s Witness children are still told they won’t grow old.
“Those blessed with a lasting place in the new earth will not grow old and inevitably die.” Watchtower 2000 Apr 15 p.16
University is still discouraged.
"What though of higher education received in a college or university? This is widely viewed as vital to success, yet, many who pursue such education end up with their minds filled with harmful propaganda. Such education wastes valuable youthful years that could best be used in Jehovah's service. ... Rather than looking to the advanced educational systems of this world for security, a Christian trusts in Jehovah." Watchtower 2008 Apr 15 p.4
Image source: Watchtower 2008 Sep 1
What Hope For the Future?
From its inception in the 1800’s, Watchtower has said the world is about to end. It was supposed to end in 1914.
“... we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished at the end of A. D. 1914.” The Time Is At Hand (1889) p.101
Even after Watchtower’s predictions for 1914 were proven false, it continued to say the end would be within a few years, or even months.
"... the remaining months before Armageddon." Watchtower 1941 Sep 15 p.288
Over a 100 years later, Witnesses are still told it will be soon.
“... the good news that soon God will rock the nations at Armageddon.” - Watchtower 2006 Apr 15 p.24
For how much longer will Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to be misled to believe the fantasy that they will never die? For how much longer will Watchtower threaten Jehovah’s Witnesses with being shunned if they question these falsehoods and wish to leave?
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe their religion is the only truth, despite its false predictions of the world’s end, and ongoing contradictory changes in doctrine. This highlights how susceptible humans are to manipulation and how our education systems fail at teaching critical thinking skills.
How can children raised in coercive religions such as Jehovah’s Witnesses be helped? This is a difficult question to answer.
I am averse to suggest Governments get involved by encroaching on freedom of choice and religion, but governments should sanction religions that encourage breaking the law under the guise of religious freedom.
A religion that enforces shunning of family members violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12, which states:
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation."
Tax free status should be removed from religious groups that show no meaningful effort to assist the community at large. If a religion is not reinvesting the money it makes in helping the community, the profits it retain should be subject to tax.
More importantly, the education system needs to teach critical thinking skills, so children grow up learning how to avoid manipulation, be it political, corporate or religious.
I look forward to the progression of human rights and a time when people are provided with the tools to be able to make informed decisions and availed the opportunity to make choices that are best for themselves, rather than coerced to live for the interests of others.
Script for Growing Up a Jehovah's Witness 921 KB PDF
Link to original black html web page.
Physically In, Mentally Out (PIMO) at 60 shows the difficulties of realizing it is not the truth later in life. This experience contains no resolution or happy ending. It is here to highlight that putting off the hardship of leaving early in life leads to even greater hardship later in life.
10 Things that Sucked about Growing up a Jehovah's Witness
Written 2010. Latest update April 2023.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2023