Rochelle Sevier never expected the treatment she received from her local congregation merely for asking the 'wrong' questions
Rochelle Sevier never expected the treatment she received from her local congregation merely for asking the ‘wrong’ questions

If you happen to be studying the bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, you would be forgiven for assuming that your opinion counts for something, that you are free to scrutinize everything you are taught, and that no questions are considered off-limits.

This was exactly what Rochelle Sevier understood to be the case when she agreed to study the bible with a Witness lady from her local congregation in Salem, Massachusetts – home of the infamous witch trials of the late 17th Century.

Rochelle wasn’t a total stranger to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Born Jewish, her mother had started studying with the Witnesses when she was only five. “My mother would take my sister and I along with her to the meetings. I even attended an International Convention as a child,” she recalls.

But Rochelle lost interest and stopped attending meetings by the time she entered her teens. She credits her mother for not forcing the religion on her when she could see it wasn’t for her. This allowed her to explore her spirituality, including her Jewish roots.

“As an adult, I begin searching for some meaning to life. I attended weekly Torah studies, along with other Jewish co-workers, taught by an Orthodox Rabbi. After several years I went to several Jewish temples to embrace my heritage. Unfortunately, I did not feel fulfilled after attending these temples.”

Rochelle’s spiritual journey brought her back to the Witnesses in 2011. By this point her father, who had previously resisted involvement with the religion, had been studying for a few years. She decided to attend her first meeting as an adult and was soon overwhelmed by the affection and interest she received.

Rochelle agreed to a bible study with the wife of the Coordinator of the body of elders. Together they studied the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?

Jehovah's Witness conduct studies with interested ones using the "Bible Teach" book
Jehovah’s Witness conduct studies with interested ones using the “Bible Teach” book

“Due to my zeal, I was having two bible studies each week, along with attending meeting, assemblies, and conventions,” she explains. “Along the way I would meet other sisters in the congregation who would sit in on my studies. I became the ‘ideal bible student’ due to my inquisitive nature and my knowledge of the material being studied.”

Despite making progress, Rochelle’s “inquisitive nature” gradually surfaced, and she made occasional forays online to see what objective information she could find on the Witnesses.

This made her feel guilty to begin with, but she took her studies seriously and wanted to know if this was really ‘the truth’. “Every now and again I would come across a story that would make me think, particularly Barbara Anderson’s life story. I would put this information in the back of my mind.”

Questions lead to a scolding

Despite her early willingness to bury her doubts, by around the time of January 2014 Rochelle was resolved to do more digging, and go wherever the evidence took her no matter how uncomfortable.

Watchtower's nine-year secret affiliation with the United Nations highlights the organization's hypocrisy
Watchtower’s nine-year secret affiliation with the United Nations highlights the organization’s hypocrisy

“I came across a plethora of information that challenged the image the Watchtower was portraying. The first story I came across was how the Watchtower became an NGO member of the United Nations, the ‘wild beast’. Then I read the stories about how Watchtower was protecting pedophiles and allowing pedophiles to roam freely because of the two-witness rule.”

Disturbed by the information she was uncovering, Rochelle decided to do what any normal student of Jehovah’s Witnesses would do… she asked her teacher about it. But this didn’t turn out quite how she expected.

“My teacher would not address my questions. Her reaction was one of anger and disdain. She treated me like I had been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.”

But rather than convince her she had done something wrong, her teacher’s reaction only made Rochelle more resolved to uncover the real truth. With her mentor stubbornly refusing to give her the answers she craved, she returned to the internet and continued to be appalled by what she was uncovering.

Ending the study

It was around this time that Rochelle’s father was preparing for his baptism, and she couldn’t help but share her discoveries with her parents in the hopes of averting what she now realized was a terrible decision.

“I was hoping that I could wake them up and stop my father’s baptism, especially after I learned that they changed the baptism questions. I realized my father wasn’t getting baptized in the name of Jesus, the holy spirit, and God, but in the name of an organization.”

To her dismay, the baptism went ahead anyway. Rochelle decided not to attend, but her father later told her that he had approached one of the local elders during the event about her issues, asking if he could arrange to meet with her. “The elder said he needed to speak with the other elders first and he would get back to my father. The following day he told my father he couldn’t speak to me but didn’t give a reason why.”

Amid such indifference to her genuine concerns, Rochelle terminated her bible study. She also stopped attending meetings. But it wasn’t long before her former mentor began trying to make inroads again.

“Over the course of time, my teacher would text me or send cards telling me she was thinking of me. I initially did not know if or how I should respond to her because I was angry and hurt at the way she had brushed off my questions. I finally told her how I felt, and she said she never meant to hurt me but had to protect her relationship with Jehovah, and this was the reason why she could not address my questions.”

The forbidden text message

More time passed until only recently, when Rochelle learned about Watchtower’s moves to make congregations commit to pledging a monthly donation amount. Appalled at this development, Rochelle felt compelled to send her friend a text message, which read as follows…

“First I want to say I have great love for you and the others in the congregation. I truly care about them. What I am about to say to you is out of love from my heart. I heard about the new donation arrangement that Watchtower has and think it is not right that they are now asking the flock to commit to a set monthly donation. Watchtower is no better than any other religion now. Rutherford was right when he said religion is a snare and a racket. I hope this wakes people up and they realize that they are being fleeced. Btw the elders need to stop lying to the [flock]. The donation letter was four pages long but the elders were instructed to only read the first page. I have a copy of the whole letter because an elder leaked it out.”

Rochelle could not have anticipated what would ensue from sending this message.

Days later, Rochelle’s instinct told her to phone in to her local meeting and listen to the program. Her ears pricked when it was hinted that there would be a special talk in the service meeting that the congregation had to listen to. Once this talk began, Rochelle soon realized that it was about her. She was being singled out and accused of apostasy, even though she wasn’t baptized as a Witness!

A recording of the talk is available below…

Highlights from a 21st Century ‘Salem Witch Trial’

“Some that study God’s word… have fallen prey to apostasy, so we want the congregation to be aware of that.”

The speaker’s introduction is slightly confusing, suggesting that he might be referring to several individuals rather than one.

“Some friends who are not of our sort have been contacting at times, and they contact some of the friends with information that’s negative regarding the Governing Body, even accusing the local body of elders of lying to the congregation.”

Given Rochelle’s text message only days earlier, it is by this point obvious that this talk is about her – even though the speaker curiously insists on referring to her as “some friends.”

The speaker, who happens to be the Secretary of the Salem congregation, goes on to paint Rochelle as someone who has set out to gather contact details for sinister motives.

“But sometimes some that have associated with us for a while, and we get to know them a little bit… get cellphone numbers and email addresses. Someone calls you on the phone, you have their number. You email someone ‘Oh I’ll email you this’ and bang, you have their email address. So we want you to be careful if, and that’s ‘if’, you were to be contacted with any information that’s apostate… and to avoid that.”

The speaker ignores the fact that it is perfectly normal for Witnesses to communicate with their bible students by text message.

Those guilty of “apostate thinking” are then ridiculed as subversive and questioning of “Jehovah’s channel of dispensing the truth” – prone to the evil of “debating.”

“We don’t debate the truth, certainly not with apostates!”

In making this remark (indeed, throughout his talk) the speaker forgets that Rochelle is only an unbaptized bible student and therefore incapable of meeting the definition of an “apostate.”

As this site has already discussed, “apostasy” refers to the act of leaving one’s religion, and you cannot leave a religion if you haven’t joined it in the first place. Rochelle wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness. She hadn’t even started preaching yet. Her only crime was to ask the wrong questions, but the speaker apparently fails to see it quite that way.

“And, when you think about it friends, it’s a lot different from answering a question, someone who’s honest-hearted and looking for the truth, yearning for answers. That’s different. But we should never engage in conversation with someone with apostate thinking. And that’s either, y’know, in person, text messaging, emailing, any other types of sites going back and forth thinking that we have to help this individual. That’s not their design. Their goal is not to learn the truth, their goal is to subvert our faith. That’s their goal. So we don’t want to mistakenly think that we’re there to help someone. It doesn’t happen. They can’t be helped. We want to safeguard ourselves.”

The speaker thus rushes to question Rochelle’s motives. In his mind, she could not have been honest-hearted and yearning for truth. If she was asking about the UN affiliation or the two-witness rule she HAD to be focused on subverting her teacher’s faith, even though she was only going through the Bible Teach book.

“At times we may wonder ‘How can someone who’s studying the bible with us, even attending some of the meetings, how can they succumb to apostate thinking? Now, we have to remember such ones really never allowed themselves to become grounded, or as the scriptures say ‘stable in the faith’. They never really developed a relationship with Jehovah God, love for his word. Most of the time it’s very poor study habits, probably not even preparing for their studies… coming to meetings hit or miss, never getting that relationship with Jehovah God. And so what ends up happening is they open themselves up to the devil, and problems such that then begin to rise.”

The speaker’s scathing characterization of Rochelle’s study habits conflicts with her own account of being a student who studied twice weekly and regularly attended meetings, but it is all too convenient for the speaker to dismiss her so-called “apostasy” by blaming it on her being a poor student.

In the minds of some Witnesses, Jehovah and the Watch Tower Society are barely distinguishable
In the minds of some Witnesses, Jehovah and the Watch Tower Society are barely distinguishable

Of further curiosity is the speaker’s rather naive and blinkered description of the studying process itself. In his view, students simply cannot be indoctrinated and brought under undue influence through one-sided Watchtower propaganda. Rather, through information they become “grounded” and more “stable in the faith.”

The speaker also makes the common mistake among Watchtower apologists of equating Jehovah God with the Watch Tower Society, so that “Jehovah” and the “organization” are referred to interchangeably.

If Rochelle doesn’t embrace the history and policies of Watchtower, then by default she is deemed to be spurning a “relationship with Jehovah God.” If she doesn’t accept every word her mentor is teaching her without question, then she must be opening herself up to the devil.

Indeed, the speaker admits that his talk is based extensively on the notorious “Human Apostates” talk of the 2013 district convention – itself a tour de force in name-calling and ad hominem. But he gives his own twist on Watchtower’s “table of demons” rant by likening Rochelle’s antics to that of a wife on a TV crime series who poisoned several husbands by mixing anti-freeze with gatorade.

That a mature adult could stoop to such wild exaggerations can be explained only by the fact that he is both a recipient and dispenser, not of poisoned gatorade as such, but of Watchtower’s extremely potent koolaid. Reason and logic go out the window when there is an enemy or questioner of “Jehovah’s organization” to be vanquished.

An unnecessary warning

The speaker finally concludes by reading Psalm 26:4, and using this verse to remind his congregation not to associate with apostates. Rochelle, who is still not technically a Witness, is thus effectively “marked” – a lesser form of shunning used by elders whenever Witnesses show “a flagrant disregard for theocratic order though not practicing a grave sin that would result in judicial action” (according to page 124 of the elders’ 2010 “Shepherd Book” manual).

Rochelle says that, fortunately, so few know about her text message that many in the Salem congregation will be oblivious to the fact that the talk was directed at her. Her own mother refuses to accept that she was the object of the speaker’s diatribe.

If the talk was indeed a marking (or “warning”) talk, this only underlines how unnecessary and overly-reactionary it was. As the Shepherd Book itself says under the section on marking: “If the disorderly conduct is generally unknown to others and poses no threat to their spiritual well-being, usually it is best to handle things through admonition and counsel. The elders should not be hasty in giving a warning talk.”

In Rochelle’s case, no “admonition” was offered. No effort was made to help her address her questions, even after prompting from her father. The moment she showed she knew too much, her elders went straight into panic mode.

A lucky escape

To Rochelle’s credit, though shaken by this experience, when I spoke to her on the phone last night she seemed to be taking it all in her stride. Having completed a lucky escape from the grips of a high-control cult, her thoughts are now turning to her parents and her understandable concern for their predicament.

They have sadly been hoodwinked by an organization that is infatuated with itself and ruthlessly crushes any attempts at independent thinking or honest inquiry.

If you happen to be thinking about having a bible study with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Rochelle would like you to consider her story. Any organization that claims it has the one and only “truth” should welcome the closest possible scrutiny of its teachings and practices if it wishes to be taken seriously.

But in the case of Watchtower, asking the wrong questions or investigating too thoroughly can land you in hot water. You could well end up being condemned from the platform as a poisonous “apostate” before you have even joined.







An article on this story for German speakers is available on this link

157 thoughts on “The Unbaptized ‘Apostate’ of Salem, Massachusetts

  • June 6, 2014 at 11:24 am

    you apostate’s get hot up in arm’s real quick when you hear the truth you have and axe to grind with WT / Gb

    • June 6, 2014 at 11:38 am

      I think I’ll let this guy continue posting. I like how he displays his ignorance in nice terse bite-size chunks rather than trolling us with reams and reams of nonsensical vitriol in the style of Norman and others.

      You trolls out there, watch and learn!

      Carry on cowboy. (is that a film?)

    • June 6, 2014 at 11:46 am

      I agree Cowboy. Those apostates cannot bear the TRUTH about the 1925 Armageddon and the resurrection of Abraham in San Diego that year. The early 20th century rapture is another unbearable TRUTH.

      But we know better, don’t we Cowboy? Everything spoken and written by the Bible Student and JW bosses is truly truthful, truthfully told Jehovah issued TRUTH, and those silly old apostates who don’t like the fact will get fried at Armageddon – Hurrah!

  • June 6, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    o thank you thank you I feel special. cedars

  • June 7, 2014 at 10:37 am

    “You email someone ‘Oh I’ll email you this’ and bang, you have their email address.”

    Does this even make sense? Surely the speaker meant that if you e-mail someone, then “THEY have YOUR e-mail address” (and “bang”, then they may start sending you all sorts of wicked apostate material to undermine your precious faith).

  • June 7, 2014 at 11:22 am

    H.K. Fauskanger you asked “Does this even make sense?”

    If you’re blond it does make sense.

    “You email someone ‘Oh I’ll email you this’ and bang, you have their email address.”

    I’ll translate it for you…You (go to) email someone (because you want their email address by saying) ‘Oh I’ll email you this’ (article, recipe, document, etc, but first I need your email address) and bang, you (now) have their email address.”

    Just like the statement “Someone calls you on the phone, you have their number.” Meaning that when someone calls you, you now have their telephone number for yourself.

    I hope that clears it up for all non-blondes….even those who are blond by Clairol.

    I’m like you HK, I’d prefer to read grammatically correct comments, where the meaning is clear, words are spelled right, punctuation is correct and there are paragraphs to make it easier to read.

    Not everyone has the same abilities and we all express ourselves differently. When you listen with love from the heart, you can overlook minor imperfections and usually figure out what the intent is, which is what communication is all about.

    Jesus doesn’t judge our writing ability, he judges our hearts which is all that matters to him.

    This does not excuse a person from trying to improve their writing ability, IMHO.

  • June 25, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    i dont know who this cowboy person is, or what his issue is but I think he needs to appreciate former governing body member, ray franz in his book In search of Christian Freedom, by getting it an reading it, and looking up the Scriptures.
    Ray was by no means a spiteful person, he was very involved, understanding, and knowledgeable. he wrote the aid to bible understanding book back in the 70s, of course in the way the society wished it to be, but he did the research so he knows the bible better than most of us.
    the comfort this book brings no matter what path you choose, is of value.

  • March 27, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    I’m trying to fine the new information released at the 2014 District Convention. It’s supposedly evidence of the nearness of either Armageddon or the Great Tribulation (not to be confused with the last days). If you come across this, could you post it to google+ or to my email. In the past, I’ve been disappointed with said “new points” as they never struck me as such, just restatements with a minor tweek, even more like speculation. I don’t mind speculation, but don’t treat it like “new information.” It’s misleading.

  • April 18, 2016 at 12:08 am


    Thank you for posting this story. JW’s publish experiences about people asking pastors or priest questions that were not answered. Then they say that only the JW’s have the answers.

    This is a disgusting lie. JW’s are not allowed to investigate the 2 sides of an issue. The GB demands blind and ignorant obedience from their members. Anyone asking questions will be reprimanded at best and disfellowshipped at worst (if baptized).

    The Bereans are said by Paul (for those that believe the Bible) that they tested against the Bible what they were being taught. JW’s are not allowed to do that. The GB has become the Lord’s of their members. Yet they attack other religions that do not answer the questions from their ranks.

  • January 4, 2017 at 8:47 am

    I’ve been a bible study student for a little over a year. At first I was curious… but I liked some of what they taught about no hell and the earthly paradise, and also how the trinity teaching wasn’t in the Bible. But then I began to (for reasons unlinked to JWs) become bitter and unbelieving of god. So I backed away. Only very rarely after that did my bible study teacher stop by or text me. Then just recently I decided to regain my faith and thought the Bible study would help. So I started back again with her. I’ve been going to all the meetings and studying fervently. I do feel closer to God and that has made me happier as a person. But I have been studying the book “Gods kingdom rules!” And the whole 1914 thing and how they esteem the organization as much as Jehovah really bothers me. After reading this and watching videos of exJWs I’ve come to the conclusion that I do not want to pursue being a JW anymore. Thank you for sharing and any advice on backing away from them is appreciated.

    • January 4, 2017 at 10:13 am

      Hi April. You are so right in the conclusion that you came to in backing away from the JW’s. It does seem so good when you first start to study and you get love bombed and once you start going to meetings etc. it becomes harder and harder to back away because they have a way of making you feel really unloved and guilty for backing away from “God”.

      I believe that when you study the Bible you do feel “closer” to God. I know it happened to me, especially when I was reading the Psalms and about Jesus but you need to also listen to videos that question God, like in debates on whether God exists or not and whether or not the Bible is inspired so you can get the other side of the story as well.

      In the ministry, we should have been able to talk to people who didn’t believe in the Bible but I know that every time I ran across somebody that didn’t believe in the Bible, they never wanted to talk about it, but in reality, we as Witnesses should have been able to back up our belief in how to prove that God exists and that God actually did author the Bible and if you want to do that with the Witnesses that come by, why not ask them if they can prove that God exists and if they can prove that God authored the Bible or not?

      Ask them if they can prove that God is actually backing the Watchtower Society and if they can prove that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E. and not 586 B.C.E. when every other authority on earth says it really happened and even the 2011 Watchtower admitted that they are the only ones that believe that.

      Ask them if they know about the Australian Royal Commission’s looking into the serial child abuse that is going on in the organization and the fact that just in Australia alone, the Society covered up for over 1,000 pedophiles since 1950.

      Ask them if they can show you even one Bible verse that a paradise earth is found in the Bible after Armageddon. Ask them to explain the “overlapping generation.”

      Ask them how to prove that the 144,000 is a literal number when all the other numbers in the Bible are not literal numbers.

      Ask them if they can explain why it was okay for the JW’s to join the United Nations in 1992 and were NGO’s until 2002 when it was printed in a newspaper that they were members and they withdrew their membership the very next day, when all along, JW’s were told that the UN was the beast that was supposed to come after the JW’s to destroy them along with all other religions.

      Ask them what happens if they get baptized and sometime down the line, they find out that they disagree with what the Society has said about one of their doctrines if they will be shunned if they decide they don’t want to be a JW anymore? Ask them if they are free to read books from so-called “apostates” from the Watchtower and if they say no, ask them why not? Ask them if they are barred from reading material that disagrees with the Watchtower. Ask them that if they were going to make a purchase, wouldn’t they look at opinions of those who found fault with that product and why they found fault. Why would they only look at the good opinions?

      Ask them if God is going to destroy all the people in all the world who are not JW’s at Armageddon and how does that fit with the fact that there are so many billions of people who live in countries where there aren’t even any Witnesses to warn them of their coming destruction. Ask them how could Jehovah be a god of love if he kills all those people before even giving them a warning of their coming destruction for not worshiping him when they have never even heard of him.

      Ask them if they are able to question any of their teachings in lieu of the February 2017 study Watchtower where the Society openly admits they are not inspired and make doctrinal mistakes. Ask them how they can explain how the Watchtower literature is backed by God if the Society is not inspired of God?

      Ask them to explain the difference between being inspired and spirit directed of God, which they claim.

      Ask them if they’d rather see their child die, rather than take a blood transfusion.

      Ask them to show you any Biblical reason why you can’t celebrate birthdays. If they tell you that there were two be-headings in the Bible at birthday parties, ask them if they are afraid of be-headings today at birthday parties.

      If you ask them those questions, they won’t come back and your conscience will be clear of the guilt that they have tried to lay on you for not worshiping Jehovah.

      One other thing, ask them how they can “restore” God’s name Jehovah in the Bible when it was never in there in the first place. It was YHVH, not Jehovah which even the Society admits would be the more correct say of saying those letters.

      • January 4, 2017 at 10:24 am

        I should have said that even the Society admits that Yahweh would be the correct pronunciation of the divine name (Insight book #2 page 5).

    • January 4, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Good for you – you woke up in time!
      Some might say that the Holy Spirit has intervened on your behalf, and rescued you from entering into a dangerous cult.

      If you’re still a believer in the Bible, read it yourself. I have stopped trusting books about the Bible. Why do JWs insist that it has to be explained to them by some men in New York?

      Jesus came and spoke directly to the people… and he even spoke to the people who spoke against him… unlike the JWs. Anyone who disagrees with them is branded as an apostate and should be avoided.

      Best advice, is to just tell them that you’re no longer interested. Trying to reason with them, is like throwing ping pong balls against a brick wall. Chances are, when they find out you’ve been listening to apostates, they will flee on their own. That’s what happened to me.

      Once they know you’ve discovered the facts about their organization, you become dangerous to them.

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