When I began studying with the Witnesses I was constantly reminded that I could leave at any time. If I didn't like what I was hearing I could stop my bible study at any time. Armed with this veto I decided to keep studying not afraid to ask questions not afraid to state how I felt about their teachings. However in a relatively short period of time I realised that using the get out of jail card wasn't going to be easy, why? Though I was only studying for four or five months I found that I had become attached to this introverted group. I had already began to loose or dodge a lot of my "worldly" associations because "bad association spoils useful habits" 1 Cor 15:33. In addition I had reached a point where I no longer asked questions that might embarrass my tutor, questions that might display a "lack of faith". There is a point when a bible student crosses a threshold, at this point I was fully convinced that I had found the Truth I didn't want to display any sign of doubt, I was on the "narrow road that leads to life" and it was a good place to be. I was attending several meetings a week and had what the secular world calls a development plan in place. I wanted to go on the doors (the house to house preaching work) and any display of weakness might impair this. So for the next 8 years or so I was part of the group. In a relative short time period I was on the doors and heading to baptism. Following this I became very involved with the group and made many new friends, my wife began to study and was also baptised, things couldn't be better.
When a lot of the cornerstone teachings began to change in the lat 1990's I began to question my faith. I couldn't understand how an organization that claimed to represent god could be so wrong, so far out in one of its main teachings. This wasn't a minor issue it was a core belief and now I had poked a hole into something that I couldn't fix no matter what I did. I one way I had started to panic deep inside. I could feel the tidal wave of emotions overwhelm me every time I thought of the confrontation that was now inedible. I was going to have to confront the elders of the congregation. This wouldn't be easy because there were several methods of sanctions that the Elders could use to stop me from talking about my findings. At the very least it was possible that I would be publicly "marked" by the congregation. This is done when an Elder delivers a talk to the congregation aimed at an individual or at the traits of an individual that have been identified as "unscriptural". In my time as a Witnesses I can remember a couple instances where the congregation was warned about certain individuals. Following one such incident one family of Witnesses moved from my congregation, the issues were relatively minor however the man in question found them serious enough to move 50klms away to a new congregation, unfortunately the same person has since committed suicide. We will never know if the practices of the congregation effected the man to such an extent that he would take his life, we will never know now however rest assured this practice can have a huge impact on your life if left unchecked.
I made a snap decision before things got to this point, I photocopied and printed out all the information I had and gave it to another witness with whom I had formed a very good relationship. He took it and read it however it wasn't long before the Elders in the congregation got wind of it. It wasn't too long before a talk was given in the local Kingdom Hall warning the congregation that I had become a treat to the congregation and as such no contact was to be made with me, the only people that had any kind of contact with going forward would be the Elders. This is done to limit my contact with the congregation however in this case it only had a limited affect as my friend was greatly influenced by the information he had seen besides this he had his doubts for sometime anyway. Not too long after I left he did the same thing his wife also resigned with him as my wife did with me. Before leaving he handed the paperwork onto another Witness he also resigned a short time later.
The weeks before we resigned my wife and I had a constant stream of Elders coming to see us. One of the elders was a good friend, he confronted me and was visibly upset that I had taken the time to dig below the surface of these new "understandings" or "new light". I wasn't happy with the new direction that the organization had taken, I had questioned these teachings as I originally questioned my position as a Catholic before I resigned from this organization as I readied myself for my baptism as a Jehovah Witnesses. The presiding overseer listened to my arguments regarding Charles Russell and the founding of the organization, the failed prophecies, the fact that Russell initially based his teachings and findings upon Pyramidology (see Time Line Prophecies). He looked straight at me and told me that he knew all about these things and that these were "pathetic" reasons for leaving. I asked how he could go from door to door knowing full well that many of these teaching were founded upon a lie, he said he was willing to leave it in Jehovah's hands. I was warned by him not to speak to any other members of the congregation about anything I had found or "the consequences would be very serious". I asked him if this meant I would be disfellowshipped, he repeated that the consequences would be very serious. The following day my wife and I resigned from the organization.
From that point on my wife and I were on our own, it was as if the previous 10 years of our life hadn't happened. We had lost all but a few of our friends outside of the Jehovah Witnesses. I want to take this opportunity to thank Willie and Tina for their friendship and for hanging in there regardless of our religious persuasion. Besides Willie I had only my family and workmates. In some ways we had already resigned because in the run up to our handing in the letter of resignation we had cut ourselves off from the group by not attending meetings or socially associating with the group. However we had other issues that needed to be addressed immediately upon leaving, our two kids.
My son was just entering his teen years as we left my daughter was two years younger. They had been raised as Jehovah Witnesses however they weren't baptized as Witnesses as they don't approve of infant baptism. This wasn't the issue as they had been raised thinking that the Witnesses were the only way to god, they were constantly told that whole world was under the power of Satin the Devil and therefore were not to be associated with. How would I tell them that I was wrong.
I was advised to contact an organization called Dialogue Ireland, I was fortunate enough to speak with Mike Garde of Dialogue Ireland. Once upon a time I viewed him as very much as the "enemy" when I was in Jehovah Witness circles. For many years Mike has worked tirelessly all over the country challenging organizations such as Jehovah Witnesses and other new religious movements. Time and again Mike has challenged some of the bigger religious establishments when necessary in fact the year before I left the Witnesses I had seen Mike on TV and read several news paper articles in which challenged certain activities practiced in the Catholic Church.
When I spoke to Mike he was very reassuring reminding me several times that there was life after the Witnesses. He also gave my wife and I the benefit of his own experience, our case wasn't the first nor will it be the last where Mike has tried to help pick up the pieces. I am sure that the advise he gave us had a huge impact on our successful extraction and reintegration to "normal" life. When I look back now it feels surreal like a dream, I find it hard to believe that we have come so far. As it turned out my two children have grown into two fine young adults who now have their own thoughts and aspirations. There is an old expression it goes something like "the proof of the pudding is in the eating", I have found this to be so true. When we went through our self imposed extraction I found the kids to be very resilient it wasn't too long before they had new friends as they too were ignored by their old " friends" despite the fact that they were never actually baptized as Jehovah Witnesses.
You decide to leave, What's Next?