One of my final and most bizarre experiences as a Jehovah’s Witness came in November 2011 when I attended my father’s graduation ceremony for MTS (or “Bible School for Single Brothers,” as it was by then known).
Sitting in such a large audience of Witnesses despite having awoken from my indoctrination was itself surreal. But especially peculiar was a feature on the graduation program that had been absent during my own MTS graduation six years earlier.
One of the students stood on the stage and read out a letter of thanks, composed by the class, to the Governing Body. Maybe I was the only one in the audience to be bemused by this, but then I knew a little more about the school than most, having been through it myself.
You see, the program for all elements of the now-defunct Bible School for Single Brothers (including its MTS predecessor) was laid out by the Teaching Committee of the Governing Body.
What was essentially happening before my very eyes was this: the Governing Body were making the students of this school, my father included, give them thanks for providing it.
The whole thing reminded me of Christ’s observations about the pharisees. In Matthew 6:2 he urged his disciples: “So when you make gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”
My father’s graduation was thus a profound experience for me for all the wrong reasons. I hadn’t until that point seen a more obvious example of the Governing Body blowing their own trumpet and glorifying themselves.
Since then it is almost as though each year marks the breaking of some new record in that regard. Just when it seems the Governing Body can’t sink into self-adulation any further, they go right ahead and surpass my expectations.
Sliding into self-obsession
2012 saw the Governing Body out themselves as the “faithful slave” – the sole representatives of God on Earth. A year later they raised their profile among Witnesses still further through a number of clever publicity stunts, most notably the launch of the 2013 edition of the New World Translation.
A special video was also released, ostensibly to promote the new Warwick headquarters, in which all 8 members made appearances.
More recently, this winter the Governing Body sunk to new depths in their push for self-glorification with a special one-hour talk outline that was delivered only to pioneers and missionaries through December and January. The theme? “Remember Those Who Are Taking the Lead Among You and Imitate Their Faith.”
I first heard about this outline a few weeks ago when some of the text was leaked on the Ex-JW Reddit community and elsewhere, but I decided to hold off on writing an article until I had seen a copy for myself.
Now, thanks to another Watchtower insider who has bravely stepped forward, I have a PDF of the outline and have been able to verify that the rumours were true. The Governing Body’s egotism in this document is simply breathtaking.
The outline starts off with five-minute opening remarks in which Paul’s words at Hebrews 13:7 are discussed, as quoted in the theme. The following application is then given…
It is beyond any reasonable doubt that the Governing Body are indeed “taking the lead” among Witnesses. Whether they have a mandate to do so aside from a self-proclaimed one is another matter entirely.
Certainly no scripture is given to support the brazen supposition offered by the words: “Jesus has placed a weighty responsibility on the Governing Body.” This is because, apart from the convoluted “new light” about Matthew 24:45, no such bible verse is available.
A 10-minute section then follows, entitled “Imitate their faith as the scene of the world is changing.” Drawing on Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 7:31, the writers explain how the “ever changing” world scene requires that the “faithful and discreet slave make adjustments from time to time in our preaching methods, use of resources, and understanding.” In doing so, they (the Governing Body) are said to “follow Jesus Christ’s example and wisely adapt to changes.”
Pioneers and missionaries are then reminded of the need to imitate their dear leaders in three main areas: (1) preaching methods, (2) Bible reading, and (3) use of resources…
“Imitate our preaching methods”
The first area of imitation is perhaps the most baffling.
Aside from the occasional publicity shot showing a Governing Body member going door-to-door, personal preaching activity is not something the “faithful slave” are individually renowned for.
The next 17-minute section of the outline on “preaching methods” is thus a rather hollow one. The faithful slave is lauded for indicating that the house-to-house ministry is “our primary way of spreading the good news.”
A rather bemusing question is then asked…
One could easily imagine the deafening silence in the pioneer meeting if the first part of the above question were to be read out without the latter. After all, how CAN pioneers imitate the Governing Body’s approach to the preaching work based on nothing more than a handful of photo-opportunities?
A second question is thus needed to reassure pioneers that the Governing Body members at least provide “suggestions” for overcoming preaching obstacles, even if they are seemingly above giving practical demonstrations.
A “do as I say, not as I do” approach.
“Imitate our Bible reading”
A second area of imitation is then addressed…
It is noteworthy that, not just reading the Bible is stressed in this section, but keeping “up to date with new Bible understanding.”
To put this another way, by accepting the “new light” on the scriptures dreamt up by the Governing Body without question we are following their example.
Make sense of that, if you can.
“Imitate our use of resources”
The third and final area of imitation is, for me, the most astounding – as it will be for any who know a little of the Governing Body’s property schemes over the past few months.
The section starts with an entirely false proposition, namely that the Governing Body are selling property in Brooklyn and moving their headquarters to Warwick because they are “not sentimentally attached to material things.”
In making this statement, the Governing Body relies on pioneers and missionaries to be oblivious to the fact that Watchtower has pocketed over a billion dollars from selling off its Brooklyn portfolio, while the cost of the new headquarters at Warwick has been estimated at a mere $11.5 million.
If you don’t believe me, click on this link to a third-party New York real estate website and scroll down to the section headed “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
With this in mind, for the Governing Body to have the audacity to brag that they are spurning material things by moving to Warwick instead of amassing an eye-watering fortune for Watchtower is simply beyond comprehension.
Their statement is nothing short of shameless deception – made even more nauseating by the fact that it is aimed at further hoodwinking hard-working pioneers and missionaries into pursuing lives of austerity and servitude.
The bizarre self-congratulatory remarks on the Governing Body’s use of technology and how this fulfils prophecy in Isaiah will also leave many scratching their heads. But frankly it all pales into insignificance when compared with the shameful preceeding comments about Warwick.
“Get ready for the great tribulation”
A minute is alloted for the outline to be wrapped up with a reminder to pioneers that their obedience is all the more important because the end is nigh.
Having spent a total of eight years pioneering, I have sat through a number of these pioneer meeting outlines. I have even helped deliver one during my brief stint as an elder. But I have never seen such an overt piece of propaganda, in which the Governing Body has not only praised their achievements but encouraged their followers to be more like them.
Whenever someone’s motives or character are brought into question, I always try as much as possible to give that person (or persons) the benefit of the doubt. Just because someone does something evil, does not necessarily make that person evil. It could simply be that they are deluded or otherwise oblivious to what they are doing.
This has been my approach thus far whenever I see injustice or harm brought about by the Governing Body’s words or actions.
But when I see such blatant misrepresentation of the facts, shrouded in self-praise and adulation, things become a little different. It becomes harder to excuse a group of men who exude all the hallmarks, not just of ignorant delusion, but of arrogance and dangerous calculated deception aimed at enforcing control and subservience.
It may be that there remain individuals on the Governing Body who can be excused as well-meaning but essentially misguided simpletons who have bought into their own publicity. But it is increasingly beyond doubt that, when this group of men act as one, the end product is often far from something to be imitated or admired.
- Deluded or dangerous? – My thoughts on Anthony Morris III following his Rome visit
- JWsurvey articles on Warwick Headquarters
- JWsurvey articles on Brooklyn property sales
If you require a copy of the meeting outline in question, please email us and let us know.