On the 16th of February 2018, Lauren Stuart shot dead her husband and two children before turning the gun on herself.
The killings, which have been widely reported upon, shocked the community of Keego Harbour, Michigan USA, and seemed deeply confusing on the surface.
Lauren was a personal trainer and model with a family and her whole life ahead of her; there was seemingly no reason for this tragic murder/suicide.
However, as time passed, more details became available to the public. Stuart and her family had been Jehovah Witnesses, but had left the faith over ten years ago over a number of doctrinal disagreements such as their desire to send their children to college, something the religion has increasingly and aggressively discouraged in recent years.
As a result of leaving, they were utterly shunned by all their Jehovah’s Witness family and friends, as per the explicit policy of the religion. As can be clearly demonstrated by reading Witness literature anyone who is Disfellowshipped (involuntarily removed from being a member of the religion) or Disassociated (voluntary choosing to leave the religion) is to be completely and utterly shunned.
Jehovah’s Witnesses world-wide were even shown a video in 2016, (created by the corporation that controls the religion, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) that shows a scenario where parents throw their daughter out of the family home and then completely shun her for breaking the faith’s strict rules on pre-martial sex. Disturbing as the video is, it is actually intended to be a positive example of how the religion’s leaders expect their followers to treat family members who leave.
It was this total shunning that the Stuart family was subjected to for ten years.
This shunning had a detrimental effect upon Lauren’s mental health and emotions according to news reports, yet more details have emerged in recent days that confirm the killings were not simply the result of depression alone, but were also driven by key Jehovah’s Witness beliefs about the end of the world and Armageddon.
The Detroit Free press have just published an article by Journalist Tresa Baldas, which has subsequently appeared in many media outlets around the globe. The article contains the experiences of many former Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been subjected to significant hardship and suffering as a result of the religion’s strict shunning policy. However, the article also contains additional information that sheds light on the tragic Keego Harbour killings.
Joyce Taylor was a close friend of the Stuarts and also formerly a Jehovah’s Witness. In the article, Taylor recounts that Laura still believed much of the religion’s teachings including the doomsday teaching about Armageddon and who would survive it.
Armageddon: What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe?
Put simply, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that any day now, God is going to personally bring about the end of the world, and that when he does so, he will kill every single man, woman and child who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Watchtower publications are very explicit on this point, with JW Leader Tony Morris even going so far as to say that even some Witnesses will not survive the event if they’ve not sufficiently pleased God.
The next step in God’s plan, according to the religion, will be to resurrect any faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses to life who died before God brought the end of the world. Together with the surviving JW’s whom God spared at Armageddon, they will go on to live an eternal life without any death or suffering on a paradise Earth, an environment the Witnesses often refer to as the “New System.”
However, this is not all. The religion also teaches that God will resurrect most of the non-Jehovah’s Witnesses who died before he brought the end of the world. This is a doctrine the Witnesses refer to as the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous, which they claim is the meaning of the scripture at Acts 24:15. *See footnote
Thus, according to doctrine, the only people who will not see this paradise Earth and have a chance for eternal life will be those God actually kills when he brings Armageddon to the earth.
These may seem like the obscure and strange doctrines of a fundamentalist doomsday sect, but they are essential to understanding why the Keego Harbour tragedy unfolded the way it did.
In Baldas’ article, Joyce Taylor relates how in the weeks leading up to the tragedy, an increasingly isolated and depressed Lauren kept talking about the doctrine, and insisting the end times had arrived. Taylor also revealed that she had been allowed by police to read the suicide note Lauren left.
In the note Lauren apparently stated that she was sorry she had to kill her family, but it was the only way to save them.
In other words, she was relying on the “Armageddon loophole.”
The Armageddon loophole: What is it?
If you’ve studied the quick summary of the JW Armageddon doctrine as outlined previously in this article, you may have spotted a loophole; a way for you (or someone you love) to possibly escape eternal destruction by an angry God at Armageddon that doesn’t rely on converting to the One Truth Faith right here and now.
Did you see it?
It goes like this:
- Step 1: Anyone who isn’t a Witness (including those who have left the faith) when God brings Armageddon is destroyed forever.
- Step 2: However, anyone who dies before God brings Armageddon will most probably be resurrected on the planet after the divinely sanctioned genocide has passed.
- Conclusion: Therefore, if someone is refusing to become a Jehovah’s Witness, or if they have left the faith and are refusing to return, and you feel that Armageddon is coming any day now, killing that person before Armageddon comes spares them eternal destruction and allows them to get a resurrection into eternal life.
I’ve actually written about this disturbing loophole before on JW Survey, when analysing the dubious ethics and unintended consequences of the Armageddon teaching. In it I wrote;
You don’t have to use your imagination to see what Armageddon would look like. Human history is replete with examples of genocide. To glimpse the future that a “loving” God will bring, look to the concentration camps of World War II. Look to the mass graves and “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans, or the hacking to death of vast scores of Tutsi and moderate Hutu by the Hutu majority in Rwanda.
Or look on the news reports right now at the work of ISIS in the Middle East, who are currently engaged in the wholesale slaughter of the Yazidi people.
Now, it goes without saying that 99% of Jehovah’s Witness are no doubt just as horrified as everyone else when they see the awful genocide that the so-called Islamic State are currently committing against the Yazidi population. The wholesale slaughter of men women and children, often in gruesome and sadistic ways, is an appalling crime that has brought universal condemnation from the international community and revulsion from anyone with even a halfway decent moral code.
Yet these men, women and children being slaughtered at the hands of ISIS, are the very same men, women and children who would be slaughtered at the hands of Jehovah if he brought Armageddon today, a slaughter the Jehovah’s Witnesses would be obligated to support and celebrate as a righteous act…
..Even worse, according to Watchtower theology, those who die before Armageddon will almost certainly be resurrected into God’s New World in order to have a second chance, whereas those who die at his hands at Armageddon are eternally destroyed. Remember that Watchtower FAQ quoted earlier in the article?
“Many millions who lived in centuries past and who weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses will have an opportunity for salvation. The Bible explains that in God’s promised new world, “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Why do I say “even worse?” Because this teaching creates an horrific moral loophole. If Witnesses take their theology to its logical conclusion, they should be celebrating the deaths of “worldly” people at the hands of killers like ISIS, for those “worldly” people at least have a chance of resurrection in the new world, whereas if they escape the ISIS sadists but then die at Armageddon, they are doomed forever.
Now before we go any further it is important to stress something and I want you read this at least three times to make sure this is clear:
Jehovah’s Witnesses are not directly taught this loophole and nowhere in the religion is the killing of others by Jehovah’s Witnesses encouraged or advised. In fact the religion specifically forbids JW’s to commit murder.
Most Jehovah’s Witnesses have not even realised this loophole exists; they are discouraged from questioning or speculating beyond the specific teachings presented by their leaders, and their leaders have never discussed or acknowledged this loophole.
The loophole is an unintended oversight of a poorly thought-through doctrine that has been fiddled with and changed countless times over the decades by a leadership who did not fully think through all the implications of each change.
In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a strong taboo against personally being involved in any killing. They refuse military service, are not supposed to take employment that requires carrying a weapon (such as an armed police officer or security guard), are prohibited from learning martial arts or boxing and so forth.
However Jehovah’s Witnesses do have a strong culture of being prepared to sacrifice a loved one now in order to preserve their chances at eternal life. The most infamous example of this is their strict policy, enforce from the top down, of refusing blood transfusions for their children and loved ones, which they believe to be a sinful act that could rob a person of God’s favour and thus earn death at Armageddon.
Better to die in God’s favour and be resurrected, they reason, than save yourself now by displeasing him and losing your eternal life. As a result many children have either been allowed to die (or subjected to medical treatments that were far less effective and thus failed) by their parents out of a genuine sense of love. Watchtower has even issued literature celebrating the sacrifices that were made.
Additionally, Watchtower also glorifies Witnesses who give up their lives rather than make even the slightest religious compromise over some seemingly insignificant matter. The awful accounts of Witnesses being tortured and murdered in Malawi over seemingly insignificant technicalities that even Witnesses in other countries were not beholden to illustrates how deeply ingrained this martyrdom culture is in the religion.
Put simply, the concept of sacrificing your life or the life of a loved one in order to preserve their eternal salvation is a key and core part of the Witness mentality.
Nonetheless, the killing in Keego is highly unusual. In fact it is the first time I have ever heard of such a tragedy taking place motivated by the loophole, and most Witnesses are probably just as horrified by it as you are. It’s clear that depression and mental health issues (no doubt severely worsened and perhaps even caused by a decade of shunning) had a significant part to play in the unfolding tragedy. You are no more likely to be murdered by a JW than you are by any other member of the general public.
However, the unavoidable fact is that if one extrapolates the JW doctrine on Armageddon and resurrection to their logical conclusion, then Lauren Stuart was correct in her understanding of how to get her family through the apocalypse and into paradise. In recent years, the organisation has also indicated that those who commit suicide may also be resurrected (something they previously indicated was not possible) so Lauren probably felt she had a good chance of being re-united with her family on the other side. The Witnesses believe that death pays for all your sins, so the sin of three murders would be paid for by her own death, allowing her to be resurrected with a clean slate.
And even if she felt that her own resurrection was not possible, wouldn’t you sacrifice your eternal life if it meant the chance of paradise for your loved ones?
The Tragedy of POMI
There is a phrase sometimes used amongst former Witnesses to describe a person who has left the religion, or has been thrown out of it for some transgression of its vast web of controlling and detailed regulations, but who still believes some or all of the core doctrines.
It’s a simple acronym:
Physically Out, Mentally In.
It is possibly one of the most traumatic and damaging situations an exJW can find themselves in.
Imagine living every day convinced that, at any moment, an angry and vengeful God is going to wreak supernatural destruction upon the world around you. Your non JW workmates, friends, even your non-JW family will all die screaming, a gruesome death that JW leader Tony Morris gloatingly described in a public address as looking like “split open like hotdogs on a barbique.”
You too will suffer the same death. Nothing you do now has any meaning. Any career, any relationship, any life you build for yourself will be swept away in a tide of blood and pain. It might be tomorrow. In fact it could be an hour from now.
Or a minute.
This is the life of a POMI. Going from day to day, waiting for everything and everyone they love to be brutally torn apart by a genocidal God. When one understands this, one can see how a depressed, desperate and mentally troubled mother, under the influence of badly thought-through and gruesome end-of-the-world religious dogma, was driven to a final act of murder and suicide through the tragic motivation of love.
If you know someone who is POMI, please understand what they might be going through, and if you can, please encourage them to investigate the truth of their beliefs.
JWFacts.com is an excellent resource for calmly and rationally debunking Jehovah’s Witness doctrines with carefully fact-checked and referenced evidence.
And if you are someone who has left the religion or been thrown out of it, but still believes the doctrines, our heart goes out to you. There is no need for you to suffer the constant anguish and dread of a looming Armageddon. There is good and reliable evidence to prove that these gruesome teachings are wrong.
Knowledge is power. Truth fears no enquiry.
Start the journey to becoming free at JWFacts.com.
JW Survey founder and senior editor Lloyd Evans has also discussed this tragic loss of life on his youtube channel here.
Follow me on twitter @covertfade
Footnote* The religion has on occasion implied that a few people who die before Armageddon are so wicked that they will never get a resurrection. For example, they include Judas Iscariot in this category. These people are referred to as going to Gehenna, which JW’s believe symbolises everlasting death, which is also where those killed at Armageddon go.
However, the religion teaches that most of the people who die go to “Sheol,” which is a Hebrew word for the grave, and that everyone in sheol will get resurrected. Since even some of the most evil, rebellious people in the Bible are stated to have gone to “sheol” (such as the rebellious Sons of Korah, who according to the Bible were executed by God himself) they reason that almost every human who has ever lived will probably get resurrected. The full discussion of this doctrine is very complex, is constantly being revised by the leadership, and is beyond the scope of this article, but the summary I have given boils it down to bullet points that apply to 99% of cases.