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Chapter Twenty-eight

A week later Jill accompanied Randy to the Thursday night
meeting at his Kingdom Hall. The elders had already spoken to him
and cautioned him about Jill, warning him to have nothing to do with a
worldly girl. But he hoped that bringing her to the Hall would show
them she was not what they thought she was. Randy's work schedule
allowed for Tuesday and Thursday nights off for his meetings, but Jill
had to re-arrange her schedule to accompany him. She had mixed
feelings about going, especially after her pastor mentioned mind
control and brainwashing in connection with the group, but she went
because it seemed to be so important to Randy.

The first thing that impressed her as they drove up to the hall was
that the rectangular brick building had no windows. "A precaution
against crime and vandalism," Randy explained, repeating the
instructions that had come down from Brooklyn headquarters. But the
only other building she had ever seen constructed similarly was the
Masonic Temple in Stoughton, Jill recalled.

Inside, the Kingdom Hall lived up to its name. It consisted
primarily of a large auditorium with pastel green walls interrupted
periodically by large heavy draperies at intervals where windows
would normally have been expected. Rows of detachable metal chairs
faced the front where a carpeted platform, raised up two steps above
the similarly carpeted main floor, gave visibility to a speaker's stand
in the center, a standing microphone to the left, and a small table with
two chairs to the right. The wall behind the platform was covered by
a wide floor-to-ceiling mural depicting a summer garden landscape in
unobtrusive pastel tones. Draperies at either side of the mural gave
the option of concealing it from sight.

Expecting to see people seated, silently waiting for the program to
begin, Jill was surprised by the boisterous activity in the building.
Children played while parents, themselves engaged in loud
conversation with each other, occasionally reached out ineffective
hands to quiet them. Other adults stood in short lines at counters to
the rear of the auditorium where supplies of books and magazines
were dispensed for use in door-to-door solicitation. Only a few elderly
or handicapped individuals sat waiting for the meeting to start;
everyone else was up and about, adding to the general commotion.

Joe Fontaine, however, was among those seated silently staring
straight ahead. Always a quiet fellow, he seemed more so than usual
this evening -- almost withdrawn -- when Randy introduced him to
Jill. And no wonder: Joe had met with the elders several days earlier
and knew that an announcement disfellowshipping him would be read
at the end of the meeting. After that, no one would speak to him at
the Hall or anywhere else they might encounter him. Joe was
especially disappointed that, instead of rejoicing that he had started
attending meetings of Ex-Gays United, the elders actually warned him
against that group. If he were truly repentant he would have to
demonstrate this by turning only to God's organization for help, they
had said. Besides, worldly people were all corrupt, whether 'gay' or
'straight,' they added, so he should keep to himself until God's
organization saw fit to reinstate him. When might that be? The elders
would meet with him again in six months, and that would be the
soonest they would be willing to consider reinstatement.

A few rows in front of Joe sat Tommy Troulson, now out of the
hospital. While his parents stood in the aisle chatting with friends,
young Tommy slumped in one of the straight-backed seats. He moved
as if to get up when Jill French approached, but his mother stopped
him with a firm hand on the shoulder that reminded him what she
had said a few minutes earlier when she first spotted his rescuer
entering the hall with Randy:

"Jehovah used that nurse to save your life because He is God and
can use anyone he wants to. But that does not change the fact that she
is a worldly person, and that she is leading Randy Mason into sin. So,
don't speak to her or to Randy. Just ignore them."

Tommy wondered what sort of sin it was. It couldn't have been
worse than his own sin of receiving blood, he mused.

Randy knew what it meant when he saw Ralph and Ruth Troulson
turn their backs as he and Jill passed them in the aisle. He grasped
Jill's elbow and motioned her toward two vacant seats farther to the
front. "Don't feel hurt," he whispered. "They're just indicating their
disapproval of our friendship."

Actually almost all of the seats were vacant as far as human
occupants were concerned. But places were held by songbooks,
magazines, sweaters draped over the backs of chairs, and even purses
placed there by trusting owners.

"The meeting is about to begin," Randy told Jill as Ralph Troulson
mounted the platform, songbook in hand. But only a few others joined
the young couple in taking the hint and taking their seats. Most
continued talking until the Ralph made his second appeal for everyone
to open to Song Number 38, "Displaying Loyalty." So, quite a number
were still finding their seats as the taped music began and those who
were ready joined in singing,

"God, Jehovah, has a people Who delight to bear his name . . ."

Randy, too, sang along out of habit until he realized that Jill's
silence stemmed from more than unfamiliarity with the tune. She was
evidently giving consideration to the lyrics and choosing not to mouth

". . . To God's loyal congregation We too will show loyalty, Give it
our steadfast allegiance Even in adversity . . ."

After those words were sung Jill tugged on Randy's sportcoat
sleeve. "Now I know why none of the J.W. kids in school used to say
the Pledge of Allegiance," she whispered to him. "They had already
pledged their allegiance to this organization instead."

Randy thought for a moment, then nodded.

After the song Ralph Troulson prayed. He asked God to make His
name Jehovah known in all the nations of the earth, to bless the
organization worldwide with unity and growth, and to teach the local
congregation through the speakers on the evening's program. His
prayer never touched on the matters that were upon his heart.

Randy had explained to Jill that the first half of the meeting --
which was to last nearly two hours altogether -- was the Theocratic
School. Witnesses of varying ability, from elders to housewives to
young children, gave talks and were graded on various aspects of their
performance as speakers. Following the School would be the Service
Meeting in which a handful of qualified men instructed the
congregation primarily in techniques for door-to-door preaching, but
also covered a host of other subjects of importance to Witnesses in
their religious and personal lives.

Frank Sturgis felt uncomfortable as he mounted the platform to
give the School's fifteen minute Instruction Talk on "God's View of
Blood." He would gladly have presented this material a few weeks
later, rather than at the very moment when the Troulson family was
having such a bad time of it. But the School schedule came from
Brooklyn and had to be followed without deviation in all congregations
across the United States.

Similarly Ralph Troulson, seeing the subject of Frank's talk on the
schedule, would have kept his family home from the meeting. But
wilfully missing a meeting was considered sinful, and Ralph was afraid
to upset his wife again by suggesting it. So, he found himself listening
to words that he could no longer fully agree with. In fact, for the first
time in his life, he began picking apart a teaching handed down by
God's organization. As Frank made the usual transition from Jewish
dietary laws to the modern prohibition of blood transfusions, Ralph
critically examined each point on its merits, concluding that some
were questionable whereas others were outright misapplications of
Scripture. His wife, however, as he feared, had gone off the deep end
in the other direction. She had now become super-loyal, almost
chauvinistic, supporter of the Watchtower's teaching on blood. Ralph
could see her getting worked up as the lecture progressed, to the point
that he almost expected her to stand up and shout, "Amen, brother!"
But his thoughts were mostly toward his son, seated at his other side.

Glancing down he noticed that Tommy's arms were straight at his
sides, his hands gripping the square metal chair frame with such force
that his knuckles were white. As the speaker developed his
conclusion, namely that people who misused blood were under the
wrath of God, deserved the severest punishment, and would indeed
receive it at God's command, Ralph could feel the tension in his son.

He put his arm on the boy's shoulder and gave him a squeeze, which
normally would have resulted in Tommy's head sliding affectionately
against him, but this time there was no reaction. The boy was dying
inside and Ralph knew it, but he felt powerless to do anything about

"Oh, Jehovah God, please help my son!" he pleaded silently.

"You help him Ralph!," was the response he imagined he heard.

"Why do you continue putting him through this misery?" But Ralph
dismissed the thought, since God doesn't talk to people nowadays.

Besides, Ralph didn't want to hear that it was up to him to stop
tormenting his son. And if it really was God telling him that, He would
use a thundering voice as he did with Moses at Mount Sinai, wouldn't
He, not a small voice that could be mistaken for his own thoughts and
ignored. If God really wanted Tommy removed from these
circumstances, then He would do something about it, Ralph assured

Frank Sturgis walked to the back of the Hall after concluding his
talk, and he was met there by Harold Brainard. They had spoken
briefly just before the meeting and had decided to use this moment --
when students assigned to give talks in the downstairs classrooms
were leaving their seats -- to take Randy aside and counsel him.

"Frank, if you'll ask Sister Hargrove to take her baby somewhere
else," Harold said, looking through the library's glass front at the
plump young woman rocking the teething infant in her arms, "I'll go
get Brother Mason and bring him back there."

The subordinate elder nodded and entered the library room to
evict the mother and child, while Brainard went to fetch Randy. All it
took was a tap on the shoulder, and he followed him out of the
auditorium. Jill waited a moment, then looked back in time to see
Randy in the library with the two elders, one of them pointing an
accusing finger as he spoke.

"Randy, I thought you understood," Brainard spoke as if to a
naughty child, "that you should not be dating a worldly woman. We
counseled you on this last week, and now here you are, not only
ignoring our counsel, but openly flaunting your relationship by sitting
with her at Kingdom Hall. There are a number of morally clean
theocratic young ladies right here in the congregation. What good
motive could you possibly have to look elsewhere for a different kind
of woman? Randy, I expected better of you. I'm really disappointed!"
Sturgis nodded his agreement.

"But, brothers," Randy began his defense, "Jill French isn't at all like
the worldly girls you've spoken to me about. She reads her Bible and
prays -- and she saved Tommy Troulson's life last week."
"I understand she's a nurse, and that's part of a nurse's job,"
Sturgis countered, assuming that Mason's last remark had to do with
Tommy's medical problems. (The Troulsons had decided not to
mention the window ledge incident to the elders -- Ruth because she
refused to see it as attempted suicide, telling herself instead that
Tommy had simply sought reckless adventure as boys do when they
climb trees, while Ralph, knowing that he had tried to take his life,
knew also that the elders would only reproach him for this and make
a bad situation even worse.) "And as for reading the Bible and
praying, they count for nothing if done in connection with a church
that is part of the devil's system of things."

Randy puzzled for a moment over what Sturgis said, but then
continued with his defense: "I thought that her attending meetings
would prove to you that she is not at all like you've implied. She loves
God and . . . and . . ."

"And she loves you, right?" Brainard finished the thought for him.

"Yes, I think she loves me!" Randy glanced out the glass, meeting
Jill's eyes as she looked back again to check on him. "And I love her!"
he added boldly.

"I know you think that to be the case," the senior elder nodded
with an indulgent smile, "but the Bible says at First John 5:3, 'This is
what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.'
Now is this worldly woman observing God's commandments? Is she
going from house to house preaching the Good News? Is she making
herself 'no part of the world'? Is she honoring God's name Jehovah?
Is she avoiding pagan celebrations like Easter, Christmas, Mother's
Day, and New Year's? Is she abstaining from blood?"

By now Randy had noticed his grandmother Virginia May looking
back to see what was going on. Also his parents and some of his
friends. Actually, elders Brainard and Sturgis had planned it this way.
Since he had publicly brought Jill to the Hall, they chose to publicly
offer him 'private' counsel in the glass-fronted library so that all
would see their condemnation of his course. With the library door
closed and the meeting going on outside, no one would overhear their
counsel, of course, but it would be obvious to everyone that he was
being counseled about his relationship with Jill.

"No, brothers," Randy responded, "of course she doesn't do those
things -- because she hasn't been taught. But everything she does do
is good."

"Oh?" Harold Brainard objected. "I suppose you now think it's good
for a nurse to participate in administering blood transfusions? Is that
what you think?"

Randy looked at him blankly.

"We didn't mention it in our discussion last week, but you were
overheard agreeing with attacks she made on God's organization and
the truths it teaches about God's view of blood. Do you admit to that?"

"You brothers have been associated with the organization for many
years. I've heard that, before my time, the Watchtower used to teach
that we couldn't have cornea or kidney transplants, and before that it
taught that we couldn't have vaccinations. Do you brothers remember

"Look, Mason," Brainard snapped angrily, "I hesitate to call you
'brother' because you're talking like an apostate. It appears that this
is much more serious than simply a case of dating outside the Truth.
You seem to have developed a rebellious attitude and to be flirting
with apostasy. I'm afraid that a judicial committee may have to be
formed to examine your standing with God's clean organization."

"Look at it this way," Frank Sturgis added. "The book of Revelation
describes false religion as Babylon the Great, 'the mother of the harlots
and of the disgusting things of the earth.' Now this woman you
brought tonight is a member of a babylonish church. So, what does
that make her? Think about it! A handsome young man like you
could have the pick of the clean, moral young women in this
congregation, or you could go off to visit the 'mother of harlots' and
fall for one of her temptresses. But where do you think that would
lead you?"

"Look, Frank," Randy steamed, his face flushed with anger, "you're
sick! If you think I'm going to stand here and listen to you insult my
friend Jill, you're crazy. And if you want to convene one of your
kangaroo courts on me, go right ahead. But don't expect me to show
up and listen to any more of this garbage!"

With that, he strode back to his seat next to Jill and, partly to defy
the elders but more so to express the feelings he had been
suppressing so far this evening, he put his arm around her shoulder.

"What was that all about, Randy?" she asked, suspecting the
answer. "Was it about us?"

"What else?" he returned her whisper. "But it's a long story. I'll
tell you afterward."

Rather than pay attention to the remaining talks dealing mostly
with techniques for the door-to-door ministry, Randy meditated on
what he would do with his life. It wasn't a matter of choosing
between Jill and 'the Truth,' because he no longer believed the
organization deserving of that designation. Nor was it even a choice at
all, because any alternative to Jill was unthinkable. The big question
mark that stood before Randy now was this: What would his parents
and his grandmother and his friends do when it became clear, sooner
or later, that he would be leaving the organization? He expected to
lose all his friends, but what about his family? They had been in 'the
Truth' -- no, they had been in the organization -- for years. Would
they join in condemning him, or would they see things the way they
really were?

Randy's musings were interrupted by the sound of Harold
Brainard's voice over the sound system. He was giving the concluding
talk, and it was one set aside for "local needs" in the Kingdom Ministry
schedule for Service Meetings. When the elder reviewed the biblical
account of Sodom and Gomorrah to introduce his talk and then went
on to discuss homosexuality in a modern context, Randy and most
other experienced Witnesses in the audience knew what was coming:
there would be an announcement at the conclusion of the meeting that
So-and-so has been disfellowshipped. The individual's offense would
be "confidential" and would not be mentioned in the announcement,
but everyone would know that it involved the type of sin discussed
earlier in the talk.

It didn't take Randy long to guess that the one to be
disfellowshipped would be Joe Fontaine. First of all, he had seemed
quite depressed before the meeting. Second, his longtime roommate
Larry had missed the last two meetings, was not here tonight, and was
rumored to have left town. And third, Larry had long roused Randy's
suspicions by inappropriately flirtatious mannerisms. Catching sight
of Joe with his eyes cast down and obviously in great distress, Randy's
heart went out to him.

But then the speaker's words took a surprising turn:
"Of course, friends, the sin of homosexuality has appeal for only a
limited number of people who are inclined that way. So, I would be
remiss if I did not add to this talk a warning to the young men of the
congregation concerning a danger that is a more real threat to them:
namely, showing interest in a woman of the world. . . ."
Randy could not believe what his ears were hearing. He hoped that
Jill, attending for the first time, would not pick up the implications
that were obvious to the regular attendees -- the Witnesses who
recognized Jill as an outsider also knew that these words were
directed at Randy Mason.

". . . For one of Jehovah's people to get involved with a worldly
woman poses a number of hazards: It may be the first step toward
violating First Corinthians 7:39 by marrying outside the Truth. But,
even more immediately, dating a non-Witness can lead to sexual
immorality because the women of the world do not adhere to the high
moral standards of Jehovah's people. . . ."

Randy was furious. Virtually everyone at the Hall would realize
that this portion of the talk was directed at him -- with Jill sitting right
there. He was tempted to stand up, tell them all off, and leave with
Jill. But he knew that that would embarrass her, whereas it was
possible that much of what Brainard was saying would fail to affect
her the way it would have affected someone more familiar with the
organization and its ways of communicating.

". . . Moreover, just as once-wise king Solomon was lured into false
worship by his pagan wives, interest in a worldly woman can become
a quick road to apostasy for one of Jehovah's Witnesses. A word to
the wise is sufficient. Now, before we conclude the meeting with song
and prayer, I have a brief announcement to be read to the
congregation: Joseph Fontaine has been disfellowshipped. Now, let's
stand and sing Song Number 195, 'This Is Jehovah's Day.'"

"Come on, Jill," Randy said with sufficient volume to be heard by
more than just her. "Let's get out of here! I've had more than enough
of this."

On the front steps of the Hall they caught up with Joe, who had also
decided not to stay for the song and closing prayer. The social
mingling after the meeting would have become for him a cruel gantlet.
"Randy, look, I'm disfellowshipped now so I know you can't talk to
me," Joe began on the way to the parking lot. "But I just wanted to
say one last thing to you and to Jill: You folks didn't deserve what he
just did to you in there. I deserved what I got, but you two didn't
deserve what you just got."

"Thanks, Joe! That's kind of you," Randy replied.

"Yes, thank you, Joe," Jill added. "You must be in a lot of pain right
now yourself. Thank you for thinking of us!"

"It doesn't make what I did any better, but I want you to know
that the reason the elders found out about it is that I broke off with
Larry and went to them and confessed. And I've started going to Ex-
Gays United for help in changing my life around."

"I've heard a lot of good things about that group, Joe," Jill surprised
Randy by saying. "It's run by some Christians who used to live the
homosexual life style before they came to know Jesus."

Joe's eyes lit up. "I don't think I know Jesus yet, but I want to," he
said. "I really do, more than anything else." There were tears in his

"Joe, I know they use just first names at the Ex-Gays United
meetings," Jill continued, "but ask for Denise. I'd like you to meet her.
Denise French -- she's my older sister, and she helped found the local
chapter after receiving Christ two years ago."

Joe was at a loss for words. With tears running down his cheeks he
hugged Jill, shook Randy's hand, and walked off.

When they were alone in his car Randy kissed Jill's cheek and said,
"You know, you're just full of miracles, Jill. I didn't know about your

"You'll meet her Sunday when you come to dinner at my parents'.
She's lots of fun. Didn't used to be -- until she changed -- but she's lots
of fun now."

"Listen, Jill, I want to apologize. This was your first time at
Kingdom Hall . . ."

"And my last," she interrupted.

"Yeah, and my last too. But I don't want to leave these people
behind. They're my family and my friends. And many of them are
hurting. Like the Troulson family. They need help really bad --
especially little Tommy. We need some miracles for them, Jill."
"Really it's God who's full of miracles, Randy, not me."
"Yeah, I know," he smiled.

"I'm sure He's reaching out to them already, Randy. And some day
hopefully they'll all respond and come out."

"It's going to take more than a laundry basket to get Tommy and
his family out of this mess -- and my mom and dad and grandma

"There's help available, Randy, just like Joe found. And there are
miracles, too -- and lots of people who'll join us in praying for them."
"Then what are we sitting here in the Kingdom Hall parking lot for?
Let's GO!"

"Wait a minute, Randy. Don't you think it would help if you get
your own feet on solid ground first?"

"You're right, Jill. Will you help me?"

"Of course I will, Randy. But I think my pastor knows more about
the thinking of the group you're coming out of than I do. He asked me
to stop over briefly to talk to him after the meeting tonight, in case
there was anything I heard there that raised doubts in my mind. Why
don't we stop by to see him together?"

"That sounds like a great idea!" Randy pulled out of the Kingdom
Hall parking lot. "And I'm going to ask him to pray with me about
receiving Christ like you did and your sister did. Do you think he'll

"No, Randy," Jill replied, uttering her own silent prayer of praise at
the same time, "I'm sure he won't mind at all."

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