of J.W.ese

the unique language
of Jehovah's Witnesses

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Language's Role in Control

Orwell’s 1984 and J.W.ese

Language with an Agenda

J.W.ese Changes on Command

Breaking the Language Barrier

The Author’s Testimony


Key to Abbreviated Refs.



Former Jehovah's Witness elder David A. Reed


The Author’s Testimony



My early religious training was in a big, white Unitarian Church in rural New England, just south of Boston.  I still remember the time when, in my boyish innocence, I expressed to the Pastor my belief that God had actually parted the Red Sea to let Moses and the Israelites pass through;  he turned to the Assistant Pastor and said, with a laugh,  “This boy has a lot to learn.”  As I grew older I did, in fact, learn what this church taught.  Encountering their pamphlet What Unitarians Believe , I read that “Some Unitarians believe in God, and some do not”  — and quickly realized the ministers must have been among those who did not believe. 

By the time I was fourteen years old, I had reached my own conclusion that religion was “the opium of the people”, a convenient thought for an adolescent for who preferred not to have God watching him all the time.  And when I went on to Harvard University, I found that atheism and agnosticism flourished there, too.  So, between the Unitarian Church and my Ivy League schooling, I seldom encountered any strong pressure to believe in God.

By the time I was twenty-two, though, I had thought through atheistic evolution to it its ultimate end:  a pointless existence, followed by death.  After all, if humans were nothing more than the last in a series of chemical and biological accidents, then any ‘meaning’ or ‘purpose’ we might try to find in life would just be a self-deceptive fiction produced in our own minds.  It would have no real connection with the harsh, cold reality of a universe where nothing really mattered.  So, I saw myself faced with two choices:  God or suicide.  Since suicide would be an easy way out for me — I believed there was nothing after death — but would leave those who cared about me to face the pain I would cause, I began to think about God.

Coincidentally (perhaps?), a Jehovah’s Witness was assigned to work alongside me at my job.  Since God was on my mind, I began asking him questions about his beliefs.  His answers amazed me.  It was the first time that I had ever heard religious thoughts presented in a tight-knit logical framework.  Everything that he said fit together.  He had an answer for every question, and so I kept coming up with more questions.  Before long, he was conducting a study with me twice a week in the Watchtower Society’s new (1968) book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life .

In no time, I became a very zealous Witness.  After receiving my initial indoctrination and getting baptized, I served as a full-time ‘pioneer minister’.  This required that I spend at least one hundred hours each month preaching from house to house and conducting home Bible studies — actually a commitment of much more than a hundred hours, since travel time could not be included in my monthly ‘field service report’.  I kept on ‘pioneering’ until 1971, when I married Penni, who had been raised in the organization and who also ‘pioneered’.

My zeal for Jehovah and my proficiency in preaching were rewarded, after a few years, with appointment as an elder.  In that capacity I taught the 150-odd people in my home congregation on a regular basis, and made frequent visits to other congregations as a Sunday morning speaker.  Occasionally, I also received assignments to speak to audiences ranging in the thousands at Jehovah’s Witness assemblies. 

Other responsibilities I cared for included presiding over the other local elders, handling correspondence between the local congregation and the Society’s Brooklyn headquarters, and serving on judicial committees set up to deal with cases of wrongdoing in the congregation.  (I can recall disfellowshipping people for such offenses as selling drugs at Kingdom Hall, smoking cigarettes, wife-swapping, and having a Christmas decoration in the home.)

Although we were not able to continue ‘pioneering’ after our marriage, Penni and I remained very zealous for the preaching work.  Between the two of us, we conducted ‘home Bible studies’ with dozens of people, and brought well over twenty of them into the organization as baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses.  We also put ‘the Kingdom’ first in our personal lives by keeping our secular employment to a minimum and living in an inexpensive three-room apartment in order to be able to devote more time to the door-to-door preaching activity.

What interrupted this life of full dedication to the Watchtower organization, and caused us to enter a path that would lead us out?  In one word, it was Jesus .  Let me explain:

When Penni and I were at a large Witness convention, we saw a handful of opposers picketing outside.  One of them carried a sign that said, “READ THE BIBLE,  NOT THE WATCHTOWER”.  We had no sympathy for the picketers, but we did feel convicted by this sign, because we knew that we had been reading Watchtower publications to the exclusion of reading the Bible.  (Later on, we actually counted up all of the material that the organization expected Witnesses to read.  The books, magazines, lessons, etc. added up to over three thousand pages each year, compared with less than two hundred pages of Bible reading assigned — and most of that was in the Old  Testament.  The majority of Witnesses were so bogged down by the three thousand pages of the organization’s literature that they never got around to doing the Bible reading.)

After seeing the picket sign Penni turned to me and said, ”We should be reading the Bible and  the Watchtower.”  I agreed;  so, we began doing regular personal Bible reading.

That’s when we began to think about Jesus.  Not that we began to question the Watchtower’s teaching that Christ was just Michael the archangel in human flesh — It didn’t even occur to us to question that.  But we were really impressed with Jesus as a person:  what He said and did, how He treated people.  We wanted to be His followers.  Especially, we were struck with how Jesus responded to the hypocritical religious leaders of the day, the Scribes and Pharisees.  I remember reading, over and over again, the accounts relating how the Pharisees objected to Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath, His disciples’ eating with unwashed hands, and other details of behavior that violated their traditions.  How I loved Jesus’ response:  “You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me.  It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.’”  (Matt. 15:7-9 NW )

Commands of men as doctrines!  That thought stuck in my mind.  And I began to realize that, in fulfilling my role as an elder, I was acting more like a Pharisee than a follower of Jesus.  For example, the elders were the enforcers of all sorts of petty rules about dress and grooming.  We told ‘sisters’ how long they could wear their dresses, and we told ‘brothers’ how to comb their hair, how to trim their sideburns, and what sort of flare or taper they could wear in their pants.  We actually told people that they could not please God unless they conformed.  It reminded me of the Pharisees who condemned Jesus’ disciples for eating with unwashed hands.

My own dress and grooming conformed to the letter.  But I ran into problems with newly interested young men that I brought to Kingdom Hall.  Instead of telling them to buy a white shirt and sport coat, and to cut their hair short, I told them, “Don’t be disturbed if people at Kingdom Hall dress and groom a little on the old-fashioned side.  You can continue as you are.  God doesn’t judge people by their haircut or their clothing.”  But that didn’t work.  Someone else would tell them to get a haircut, or offer to give them a white shirt — or they would simply feel so out of place that they left never to return. 

This upset me, because I believed their life depended on joining ‘God’s organization’.  If we Witnesses acted like Pharisees to the point of driving young people away from the only way to salvation, their innocent blood would be on our hands.  Talking to the other elders about it didn’t help.  They felt that the old styles were inherently righteous.  But then Jesus’ example came to mind:

“And he went on from there and entered their synagogue.  And behold, there was a man with a withered hand.  And they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?’ so that they might accuse him.  He said to them, ‘What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?  Of how much more value is a man than a sheep!  So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.’  Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’”  (Matt. 12:9-13 RSV )

If I were truly to follow Jesus, instead of men, I saw only one course open to me.  I personally violated the tradition of the elders by letting my hair grow a half inch over my ears.  My reasoning was:  How can they pressure a newcomer to get a haircut, now, with one of the elders wearing the same style?

Well, the other elders reacted the same way the Pharisees did when Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand.  Scripture says they “went out and took counsel against him, how to destroy him.”  (Matt. 12:14 RSV )   It took them a while to react, but the elders actually put me on trial, called in witnesses to testify, and spent dozens of hours discussing half an inch of hair.

Grooming was not the real issue, however.  For me it was a question of whose disciple I was.  Was I a follower of Jesus, or an obedient servant to a human hierarchy?  The elders who put me on trial knew that that was the real issue, too.  They kept asking, “Do you believe that the Watchtower Society is God’s organization?  Do you believe that the Society speaks as Jehovah’s mouthpiece?”  At that time I answered Yes  because  I still did believe it was God’s organization — but that it had become corrupt, like the Jewish religious system at the time when Jesus was opposed by the Pharisees. 

It was what I said at the congregation meetings that got me into real trouble, though.  I was still an elder, so, when I was assigned to give a 15-minute talk on the book of Zechariah at the Thursday night ‘Theocratic Ministry School’ meeting, I took advantage of the opportunity to encourage the audience to read the Bible.  In fact, I told them that, if their time was limited and they had to choose between reading the Bible and reading The Watchtower  magazine, they should choose the Bible, because it was inspired by God while The Watchtower  was not inspired and often taught errors that had to be corrected later.

Not surprisingly, that was the last time they allowed me to give a talk.  But I could still speak from my seat during question-and-answer periods at the meetings.  Everyone was expected to answer in their own words, but not in their own thoughts.  You were to give the thought found in the paragraph of the lesson being discussed.  But, after I said a few things they didn’t like, they stopped giving me the microphone. 

With the new perspective that I was gaining from Bible reading, it upset me to see the organization elevate itself above Scripture, as it did when the December 1, 1981, Watchtower  said:  “Jehovah God has also provided his visible organization . . . Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using, we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do.”  (page 27, ¶ 4)  It really disturbed me to see those men elevate themselves above God’s Word.  Since I could not speak out at the meetings, I decided to try writing. 

That’s when I started publishing the newsletter Comments from the Friends .  I wrote articles questioning what the organization was teaching, and signed them with the pen name ‘Bill Tyndale, Jr.’ — a reference to sixteenth century English Bible translator William Tyndale, who was burned at the stake for what he wrote.  To avoid getting caught, Penni and I drove across the state line at night to an out-of-state post office and mailed the articles in unmarked envelopes.  We sent them to local Witnesses and also to hundreds of Kingdom Halls all across the country, whose addresses we had obtained from telephone books at the town library.

Penni and I knew that we had to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  But, to us, it was similar to the question of what to do in a burning apartment building.  Do you escape through the nearest exit?  Or, do you bang on doors first, waking the neighbors and helping them escape, too?  We felt an obligation to help others get out — especially our families and our ‘students’ that we had brought into the organization.  If we had just walked out, our families left behind would have been forbidden to associate with us.

In February, 1982, I wrote an article drawing parallels between the world of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and the world I lived in as a Jehovah’s Witness.  I used Orwell’s “Newspeak” word facecrime to describe the instructions issued at that month’s circuit assembly to the effect that “Sisters should not express disagreement with judicial decisions of the elders even by their facial expressions.  (First I phoned the District Overseer who ran the convention and had him verify for me that those instructions were actually found in the “Theocratic Subjection” talk outline supplied by Brooklyn headquarters, not an imaginative addition ad libbed by local Witnesses.) 

To accompany the article, which I published in the March 1982 issue of my newsletter Comments from the Friends, I reproduced illustrations of a family studying together taken from the March 1, 1981 Watchtower and the March 8, 1982 Awake! magazines—illustrations that were identical except that the father’s and son’s hair was cut considerably shorter in the 1982 version to reflect “new truths” requiring theocratic hair styles cut above the ears so that Witness males would look different from the world.  The altered illustration could easily have come from the desk of Winston Smith in Orwell’s novel, since he had the job of altering periodicals and illustrations to bring them into line with Party policy under Big Brother. 

The remainder of my article reproduced astonishingly similar quotes from Nineteen Eighty-Four and the December 15, 1981 Watchtower attributing to the Party and to the Society respectively the right to dispense “truth” to followers.  And it concluded with a comparison between the JW teaching that twelve symbolic numbers add up to a literal number of 144,000 in Revelation 7:4-8, and a Party functionary torturing Winston Smith until he admits that 2+2=5 if the Party says so.

But, after a few weeks a friend discovered that I was the publisher of the newsletter and turned me in. So, one night when Penni and I were returning home from conducting a Bible study, two elders stepped out of a parked car, accosted us in the street, and questioned us about the newsletter.  They wanted to put us on trial for publishing it, but we simply stopped going to the Kingdom Hall.  By that time most of our former friends there had become quite hostile toward us.  One young man called on the phone and threatened to “come over and take care of” me if he got another one of our newsletters.  And another Witness actually left a couple of death threats on our answering machine.  The elders went ahead and tried us in absentia  and disfellowshipped us.

It was a great relief to be out from under the oppressive yoke of that organization.  But, we now had to face the immediate challenge of where to go and what to believe.  It takes some time to re-think your entire religious outlook on life.  Before leaving the Watchtower, we had rejected the claims that the organization was God’s ‘channel of communication’, that Christ returned invisibly in the year 1914, and that the ‘great crowd’ of believers since 1935 should not partake of the communion loaf and cup.  But, we were only beginning to re-examine other doctrines.  And we had not yet come into fellowship with Christians outside J.W. the organization.

All Penni and I knew was that we wanted to follow Jesus and that the Bible contained all the information we needed.  So, we really devoted ourselves to reading the Bible, and to prayer.  We also invited our families and remaining friends to meet in our apartment on Sunday mornings.  While the Witnesses gathered at Kingdom Hall to hear a lecture and study the Watchtower, we met to read the Bible.  As many as fifteen attended — mostly family, but some friends also.

We were just amazed at what we found in prayerfully reading the New Testament over and over again — things that we had never appreciated before, like the closeness that the early disciples had with the risen Lord, the activity of the Holy Spirit in the early church, and Jesus’ words about being ‘born again’.

All those years as Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watchtower had taken us on a guided tour through the Bible.  We gained a lot of knowledge about the Old Testament, and we could quote a lot of Scriptures, but we never heard the Gospel of salvation in Christ.  We never learned to depend on Jesus for our salvation and to look to Him personally as our Lord.  Everything centered around the Watchtower’s works program, and people were expected to come to Jehovah God through the organization.

When I realized from reading Romans, chapter 8, and John, chapter 3, that I needed to be ‘born of the Spirit’, I was afraid at first.  Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that ‘born again’ people, who claim to have the Holy Spirit, are actually possessed by demons.  And so I feared that, if I prayed out loud to turn my life over to Jesus Christ, some demon might be listening; and the demon might jump in and possess me, pretending to be the Holy Spirit.  (Many Jehovah’s Witnesses live in constant fear of the demons.  Some of our friends would even throw out furniture and clothing, fearing that the demons could enter their homes through those articles.)  But, then I read Jesus’ words at Luke 11:9-13.  In a context where He was teaching about prayer and casting out unclean spirits, Jesus said: “And I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you;  seek, and you will find;  knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  If a son asks for bread from any of you who is a father, will he give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?  Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!  (NKJ )

I knew, after reading those words, that I could safely ask for Christ’s Spirit (Rom. 8:9), without fearing that I would receive a demon.  So, in the early morning privacy of our kitchen, I proceeded to confess my need for salvation and to commit my life to Christ. 

About a half hour later, I was on my way to work, and I was about to pray again.  It had been my custom for many years to start out my prayers by saying, ‘Jehovah God, . . .  But, this time when I opened my mouth to pray, I started out by saying, ‘Father, . . .’  It was not because I had reasoned on the subject and reached the conclusion that I should address God differently; the word Father  just came out, without my even thinking about it.  Immediately, I understood why:  ‘God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba , Father!”’  (Galatians 4:6 NKJ )  I wept with joy at God’s confirmation of this new, more intimate relationship with Him.

Penni and I soon developed the desire to worship and praise the Lord in a congregation of believers, and to benefit from the wisdom of mature Christians.  Since the small group of ex-J.W.’s was still meeting in our apartment on Sunday mornings for Bible reading, and most of them were not yet ready to venture into a church, we began visiting churches that had evening services.  One church we attended was so legalistic that we almost felt as though we were back in the Kingdom Hall.  Another was so liberal that the sermon always seemed to be on philosophy or politics — instead of Jesus.  Finally, though, the Lord led us to a congregation where we felt comfortable, and where the focus was on Jesus Christ and His Gospel, rather than on side issues.  And, desiring to be obedient to Jesus' command to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," (Matthew 28:19), Penni and I received Christian baptism. 

Penni went on to teach Fifth Grade in a Christian school that had students from about seventeen different churches.  She really enjoyed it, because she could tie in the Scriptures with all sorts of subjects.  For some eighteen years I continued publishing Comments from the Friends  as a quarterly newsletter aimed at reaching Jehovah’s Witnesses with the Gospel, and helping Christians interested in talking to J.W.’s.  It also contained articles of special interest to ex-Witnesses.  Subscribers were found in a dozen  foreign  countries, as well as all across the United States and Canada.  Many back issues are still available in web format at  I have also written a number of books on Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Besides continuing to write on this and other topics, I speak occasionally to church groups interested in learning how to answer Jehovah’s Witnesses so as to lead them to Christ. 

The thrust of my outreach ministry is to help Jehovah’s Witnesses break free from deception and put faith in the original Gospel of Christ as it is presented in the Bible.  The most important lesson Penni and I learned since leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses is that Jesus is not just a historical figure that we read about.  He is alive and is actively involved with Christians today, just as He was back in the first century.  He  personally  saves  us,  teaches  us, and leads us.  This personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ is so wonderful!  The individual who knows Jesus and follows Him will not even think about following anyone else:  “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. . . . My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;  and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”  (John 10:5,27,28 RSV)