Tony Morris - now slightly better acquainted with JWsurvey
Tony Morris – now on more personal terms with JWsurvey

On Wednesday evening something very rare and unexpected happened. I had a phone conversation with Anthony Morris III – a Governing Body member (and one of Advocate magazine’s Craziest Right-Wing Conspiracy Theorists of 2014).

As almost anyone outside of Watchtower headquarters will tell you – having a tete-a-tete with one seventh of the faithful and discreet slave is not something that happens every day.

But on this occasion, the odds were slightly more in my favor. I was armed with inside information from a reliable source who gave detailed instructions on how and when to get through.

Before the call I had tried a few times to get hold of various people in Watchtower HQ, with mixed success. The bethelite who screens PR spokesperson J.R. Brown’s calls did a masterful job of deflecting my request for a response on the Rama Singh misquote. I also had a nice chat with the bethelite responsible for the “Happy at Bethel” video, which will remain private because he was actually a really nice guy.

When it came time to try and get through to Tony, I had in mind that if I succeeded I would pretend to be someone else – at least for the first few moments of the phone call. Being open about my true identity from the beginning would almost certainly not result in a conversation of any significant length.

And so I concocted a humorous scenario in which I would be “Brother Cedars” – a newbie bethelite calling from the Brooklyn laundry room, and asking what should be done if tight pants or yoga pants are discovered among bethelite clothing. (If you don’t get the joke, click here.)

Tony was cordial, good-humored and polite, and took the call in good spirits. He quickly figured out that my cover story was a ruse, and after some light banter he set about trying to find out who I was. For the majority of our 2 minute, 20 second conversation he seemed under the impression that I was a high-spirited bethelite. Almost as soon as he realized I wasn’t an admirer, he put the receiver down.

Shortly after making this call I posted the obligatory video to YouTube, which clocked up 3,700 views in the first 24 hours. There was a huge reaction from viewers – the majority of which was positive. Many exJWs seem to have derived vicarious pleasure from hearing me tell a Governing Body member directly that I think he is deluded.

Some have questioned the wisdom of insulting Tony when, having come so far in getting through to him, a conversation seemed on the cards. But from the moment he discovered I wasn’t a bethelite, I knew I was on borrowed time. And I wanted any conversation with him to be on a frank and honest footing. Calling him deluded was NOT an invitation on my part for him to end the call – I was more than willing for him to challenge me on why I said that.

Others have suggested I should have kept my “bethelite” rouse going for longer so that I could elicit more information. However, that scale of deception is not in my nature. My aim from the beginning was to get my foot through the door and then be open with who I was as quickly as possible.

If, once the inevitable barrage of questions about my identity came, I had added yet more layers to my subterfuge, the accusations that I was living up to the lying, deceptive apostate stereotype would have been inevitable and deserved.

Still others have said I was “juvenile” and that my prank call represents a “wasted opportunity” to confront a Governing Body member with tough, meaningful questions on serious issues. Well, I make no secret that I have a juvenile streak in me, and I actually think humor is one of the most effective weapons against cults. If there is one thing cults hate, it is to be laughed at.

And I invite anyone under similar circumstances to see how many probing questions on shunning, child abuse or blood transfusions a Governing Body member will listen to before taking the easy way out.

I am not saying for a moment that my phonecall couldn’t have gone better. I am my own worst critic over this sort of thing, and can conceive of any number of ways I could have made more of the opportunity. Hindsight, after all, is a marvelous thing. But I can also easily envision the phonecall going much worse, and ending far more abruptly.

tightpantsTony

Despite drawing the ire of a few armchair activists, I feel my phone call was quite productive. It showed any JWs (or still-indoctrinated exJWs) who listen to it that a Governing Body member will readily be flippant about ‘bible counsel’ he expects ordinary JWs to treat with deadly seriousness.

You can imagine how a devout sister who has not long since thrown out all her yoga pants and husband’s tight trousers would feel listening to this conversation. For those on a tight budget who actually have to pay for their own clothes, these petty, capricious injunctions are no laughing matter.

But perhaps more importantly, my phone conversation with Tony reveals his unvarnished human side. He is not some saintly, mystical guru with a hotline to heaven, but a fairly ordinary old man who just so happens to be a spiritual overlord to 8 million doting followers.

Well, I say 8 million. Tony will have left this conversation under no illusions that not even everyone under the rooftops of Brooklyn bethel truly believe him to be anything special. And if he hadn’t figured that out before this incident, he certainly should have. You cannot claim the unquestioned, uniform loyalty of a group of people who you are threatening with cruel, immoral punishment if they dare to walk away.

As to whether there will be any more conversations with Governing Body members – I am sure this will be more problematic in the wake of my intrusion. But that needn’t stop me from trying.

 

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Many thanks to Vincent Deporter for supplying artwork for this article!

For an Italian translation of the conversation, please click here.

155 thoughts on “The day I prank-called a Governing Body member

  • February 12, 2015 at 1:41 pm
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    Amen Anonymous,

    When I first came here I was already mentally prepared to walk out the door with no turning back. I had left once before but never went to ‘apostate’ sites or read or talked to ‘negative’ people. I wasn’t ready then. When I came here, I had truly had enough. This site has helped me to come to terms with my feelings about why things didn’t sit right with me for so long & why I disliked this religion so much & always have. I kept coming back here to read the articles but what also helped was the humour with it to get me over the emotional hurdles as well. Once you see how silly & fanciful it all is it empowers you to move forward.

  • February 12, 2015 at 3:34 pm
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    @Anonymous

    I hear what you are saying but I disagree only because I speak from personal experience.

    I would not go near any apostate site when I was in but due to the nature of Cedars site I felt ok reading it and that was before I was mentally out or even questioning the GB.

    Others I have come to know through various forums have had the same experience.

    So whilst there may be some who will not come near this site the fact is some do when they are still in and if we capture them and Cedars manages to help them break free then what a power sites like these can become.

    Still-ins will avoid plainly obvious apostate sites but if you can convey the fact that the GB are just men but do so in a way that makes still-ins think then surely that is worth it rather than posting blog posts about prank calls.

    That is my point and that is why I think it is best Cedars avoids anything like what he did, not because it was bad, poor, stupid etc but because I see that Cedars could have an audience that is the hardest to reach…those still-in.

  • February 12, 2015 at 4:34 pm
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    Growing up in Puerto Rico, all kids are taught the following story:

    In Puerto Rico on 1511, the chief of the Tainos, Agüeybaná II had his doubts that the Spaniards that had landed on the island were “Gods”. He came up with a plan to lure a Spaniard by the name of Diego Salcedo into a river and drown him. They watched over Salcedo’s body to make sure that he would not come back to life (like Christ). Salcedo’s death was enough to convince him and the rest of the Taíno people that the Spaniards were not gods.

    All in all, I think Tony Morris got off light…

  • February 12, 2015 at 7:03 pm
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    @dontknowwheretogo. Cedars wasn’t doing that phone call as a “prank” (practical joke) or to make fun of Anthony Morris the 3rd even though that is the name he gave the posting.

    According to Websters, a prank is a practical joke. No matter how you look at it, telling Anthony Morris the 3rd that he is deluded could hardly be called a practical joke. I don’t think Anthony Morris the 3rd took it as a practical joke at all. A practical joke is putting a whoopee cushion under a person’s butt and making a farting noise so people laugh at the victim or scaring a person.

    What you consider a joke, I call bravery. I’d give anything to say that had been me that had gotten the opportunity to tell Anthony Morris the 3rd that he’s delusional. Like StrongHaiku said, he got off easy. That would be the best day of my life, if I could add that accomplishment to my resume’. I would be proud of myself for the rest of my life if I could have done that.

    A person would have to be a moron to not realize that this is a “apostate” web site. When Cedars started it, he wasn’t disassociated or disfellowshipped yet but of course, it’s pretty hard to miss that fact now.

    Cedars could have made that phone call and not recorded it and none of us would have been privy to what happened. I for one am very glad that he decided to share it with us.

  • February 13, 2015 at 6:43 am
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    I quite honestly can’t believe how upset some are. Why are you so concerned. Calling Lloyd juvenile is a bit much. He is not your local MP or in any position where you have to support him. You haven’t voted in him and now he is letting you down. You are simply reading and watching stuff he has produced. But you don’t have to. After all It’s just Lloyd, doing Lloyd stuff. Try supporting him in the things you agree with, and if you don’t, just say so, there is no need to be rude about it.

    Personally I giggle right through it, Lloyds mischievous look at the camera was the hi light. But the end was brilliant, well done Lloyd.

  • February 18, 2015 at 3:07 pm
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    I love all of this bantering. But all the complainers are missing out on the wonderful opportunity of showing everyone in the entire world that they have made changes in their lives for the better. They were part of a religious organization, then left it. Great. They have arrived. Now, I am curious as to what they call their new religion. Do they have one? Or did they just quit and sit back on the couch and complain. All right. They got hooked up with the wrong people, according to their complaints. Now do something about it. They joined up because they thought this organization had what they were looking for. Then they decided it did not. Well….duh….start their own church and show ’em what’s up. Two mistakes do not make a right. You made a mistake. Now correct it. Start your own church and announce to the world that you now have all the answers. Just think how the world of mankind can learn from your mistakes. What? You mean you only gave it one chance? C’mon, people, get some backbone. Pull your bootstraps up and move on and set an example. Don’t grab a Diet Coke and a bag of chips and sit back and watch the tube. No intelligence there. TV appeals to the intellect of 12 year olds. Again, please post the name of your new religion so we all can pick it apart and make a phone call to you to see if you are true blue. Hey, nobody said being a Christian is easy.

  • February 18, 2015 at 4:22 pm
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    Big Jim, stop being a narrow minded individual. Why does religion have to be the centre of a persons existence. No one is going to force a religion down your throat because you already have one to do that. Think for yourself, you don’t need someone else to do that for you.

  • February 20, 2015 at 10:58 pm
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    Thank you, Cedars, for that HILARIOUS prank call to Tony Morris. Very entertaining. I love how you messed with his head by saying that his sermons are driving AWAY Witnesses! Maybe he’ll start giving talks on the benefits of wearing tight pants. LOL

  • February 22, 2015 at 11:07 am
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    Big Jim, why do you think we have belong to a religion in the first place???

  • February 23, 2015 at 6:55 am
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    Big Jim, you have a great sense of humor and I applaud that. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority who leave JW’s become atheist or agnostics. And why do you suppose is that? I suspect it is because they are burnt up.
    In the name of God they’ve been abused psychologically,browbeaten, they’ve been denied even the most basic pleasures in life from their babyhood. Happy moments such as singing Christmas carols in the neighborhood with other kids, going trick or treating, playing baseball in their
    school team, having their birthday party with friends and family, while at the same time their life being in constant danger of dying in case they needed a transfusion. Let’s not talk about dating, college etc. well, Big Jim,you know this. The list of “can’t do” is infinite. Then there is the
    doctrinal brainwashing which leaves one drained. How many people, under those circumstances, have the will or even the energy to look for something else?
    They are too busy grieving because they’ve lost all their
    friends, their parents, their children. Who has time to look around?
    Well, 30% eventually do. And they find a happiness that
    Is foreign to them, that cannot be described with words.
    I suspect you are not very happy. Just a hunch.
    I really wish the best for you.

  • February 23, 2015 at 8:56 am
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    @Big Jim-
    Is that the best that you have? Many of the people on here have lost something. Be it family, friends, material items, their god or perhaps they have lost all of the above. What makes you think that after losing everything to something called ” the truth” they will run to another religion? Or, as you suggest start their own. These are people who have been hurt and are still in pain. Your post illustrated the heartless nature of jdubs and quite frankly the complete lack of true love that exists within the borg. Expressing Conditional love is just about the worst thing that one could do to a child.

    DblA

    • March 8, 2015 at 12:17 pm
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      The point big Jim is making is that’s it is easier to criticise someone else’s answer than to come up with an answer of your own. It is better to lead by example than to tear down. These are basic human qualities, no?

  • April 12, 2015 at 12:32 am
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    Dear Lloyd,
    Today is the branch visit of Anthony Morris to Ukraine. He is in Ukraine’s Bethel now and they are broadcasting his speech all over Ukraine. But the most outrageous and offending for me is why I cant listen to this broadcast when I am ill at home? What is so special about that speech that they annouced that it is forbidden to broadcast via phone? I am ill and I cant come and if it were ordinary meeting thay would broadcast it for me via phone but this is different. Why?And the elder that I called to ask for broadcast just closed phone and that is all. Is it normal? I had to call to mom ( she is in different city on the meeting) to listen. Anthony is talking about “blessings” to all brothers and sisters in Ukraine and encouragement for them during meeting. What encouragement can I get if that elder closed phone?Hypocrites. This attitude gives me no desire to come to meetings at all.

    • April 12, 2015 at 12:56 am
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      I heard Anthony’s voice and after that another brother’s( didnt hear his name). That brother makes branch visit as I understood. I wish connection be better.

  • April 28, 2015 at 1:07 am
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    The best part of the phone call was Tony trying to figure out who had called him. That caused a ***t storm at the switchboard. Bethelites are not to call the GB with such frivolous matters. He was trying to draw a bead on who had called him so he could send you out of Bethel ASAP.

    On the brighter side of things, it was a great laugh for me to hear him hang up on you because you set him up with being a fan of his! LOL After he hung up on you, I could not help but laugh, knowing how he rarely listens to any dissenting opinions.

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