This concept of making the doctrines of the Jehovah’s witnesses my own caused dissonance for me for many years growing up as a Jehovah’s witness. The entire body of teachings is known as the “truth” as taught by the eight men who lead the more than eight million Jehovah’s witnesses around the world.
But there’s a catch, it is “present truth” that we were encouraged to keep up with .
It is no secret even to “outsiders” or ” worldly” people that the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses change frequently mostly due to false expectations and false predictions of the end of the world by the leaders. What is “true” in the world of a Jehovah’s witness today can be 100% false the next day with a stroke of a pen in a corporate letter, publication, announcement at the local kingdom hall or in a more dramatic and sweeping fashion , the new “truth” is presented at a Jehovah’s witness convention.
For many years I sang a song produced by the Jehovah’s witness organization called, “Make The Truth Your Own.” It was a beloved song in my home congregation. It was one of my favorite songs as much of the songs produced by the organization tended to be marching or war type songs. One of the very few hobbies I was allowed to have as a Jehovah’s witness child was playing my tenor saxophone in the jazz and marching band in high school.(After begging my parents they finally agreed with ridiculous demands on my time as required by the organization. I eventually had to quit). In my lonesome times I remember playing that song over and over I loved the arrangement and the lyrics at the time. ” Make the truth your own, Shun the world leave it alone .By the way you do conduct yourself, You make known that the truth is your own”. ( The 90s version 😉 ) I can hear the congregation even now as I write this singing this song full throated among the attendees at the hall.
“Shunning the world” also meant shunning their wisdom and advice as I was often told by my parents and the organization through meetings and publications growing up. Because of this I grew up doubting even medical advice regarding medical blood transfusions for instance . I was also shamed for loving a philosophy class at my college because I loved the courses on critical thinking. You see from medical advice, theology, philosophy, science , history were all shaped by the organization. They had the “truth” regarding all these fields because they were “appointed” as God’s representatives. Or so I was taught from the age of about five. After a talk with my elders about how my college schedule was affecting my pioneering or full time ministry I conceded and dropped out of college. I felt guilty for loving different “truths” or exploring a new worldview outside the one I had been indoctrinated with from a young age. It was as a result of my “programming” that I believed that college was a tool of Satan to make me question the beliefs and ideals of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. After all you can find in their publications spanning from the 90s onward “counsel” against pursing higher education. We are taught that it is a waste of time, a materialistic pursuit which is frown upon and that it leaves us with reduced time to serve Jehovah (e.g organizational goals and pursuits)
Here is a recent example of this in their literature:
“Satan appeals to natural desires. We have a natural desire to learn skills that can help us provide for ourselves and our families. (1 Tim. 5:8) Often, we can gain those skills by attending school and being diligent students. But we must be cautious. The educational system in many countries teaches students not only practical skills but also human philosophy. Students are encouraged to question the existence of God and to disregard the Bible. They are told that the theory of evolution is the only intelligent explanation for the origin of life. (Rom. 1:21-23) Such teachings are opposed to “the wisdom of God.”—1 Cor. 1:19-21; 3:18-20.
Human philosophy ignores or contradicts Jehovah’s righteous standards. It does not nurture the fruitage of God’s spirit but, rather, “the works of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:19-23) It generates pride and arrogance, and the result is that people become “lovers of themselves.” (2 Tim. 3:2-4) These qualities are the opposite of the meek, humble spirit that God’s servants are encouraged to have. (2 Sam. 22:28) Some Christians who have pursued university education have had their minds molded by human thinking rather than by God’s thinking.” Watchtower 2019 Jun pp.6-7
“What, though, of higher education, received in a college or a university? This is widely viewed as vital to success. Yet, many who pursue such education end up with their minds filled with harmful propaganda. Such education wastes valuable youthful years that could best be used in Jehovah’s service. (Eccl. 12:1) Perhaps it is not surprising that in lands where many have received such an education, belief in God is at an all-time low.” Watchtower 2008 Apr 15 p.4
The brief time I had in college I was pushed to learn how to learn, learn how to think critically . It was during this time that I desperately wanted to make the truth as presented by the Jehovah’s witnesses my own truth as I had been told by my parents from a young age . However, when I discovered that no history book put the destruction of Jerusalem at 607 B.C.E as taught primarily by the Jehovah’s witnesses this gave me pause and the dissonance began to set in . This timetable was used by the organization to prop up their 1914 end times doctrine which is used to predict the end of the world by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Having faced off with my father regarding this doctrine growing up I knew that if I went down this rabbit hole, so to speak ,that it was possible that the whole proverbial house of cards would fall down . This is a primary doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the surrounding “truth” around this doctrine has been changed or “adjusted” many times in order to preserve the 1914 date. The rest is history as they say . After talking to a pioneer friend who doubted this doctrine I went down the rabbit hole. I began reading Meletivivlon’s ( also known as Eric Wilson) and Apollos’ articles concerning 1914 and began my journey of deconstructing from the Jehovah’s Witness religion.
I had the same choice that current Jehovah’s witnesses have today regarding this doctrine. I had to decide whether “the” truth was more precious than “a ” truth I had found regarding the secular history vs history as told by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. There was a time that I held on to the fact that I needn’t reject “the truth” because of this falsehood. As I pulled the string more and examined the history of the organization I found that many of their “truths” were not truths at all . So for years as an ex- Jehovah’s witness I was searching for “the truth” somewhere else. The black and white thinking of the organization that was so deeply ingrained in my own thinking that I believed that the “the truth” was out there somewhere. As I travel on this journey I am learning that I am capable of finding some truth but there is no absolute truth in religion and many other fields as I once believed. So I made that newfound truth my own after losing the truth I never could quite make my own growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness.