GETTING A CHILDREN BOOK FROM THE JUDGE, THEN ON TO BETHEL AND THE CIRCUIT WORK
One of my earliest memories is going to the St. Louis assembly in 1941 with my mother and grandmother and getting a copy of the book, Children, from Judge Rutherford. Then on December 7, 1941 of being at the Kingdom Hall in Dodge City, Kansas, and listening to everyone talk about Pearl Harbor. My grandmother was one of the anointed and she told me I would never finish grade school as Armageddon was very near.
I graduated Dodge City High in 1952 and became a pioneer in Wichita and then spent a year in Brooklyn, New York. I served in Bethel and sat at Brother Knorr’s table when he announced that he was going to marry Audrey Mock. I was asked to become a permanent member at Bethel but I said, “No” and went back to Kansas. I pioneered and became the Presiding Overseer in Salina, Kansas, in 1954. In 1957 I married Alice Bachman, a Minnesota girl who was pioneering in Beloit, Kansas. Alice and I special-pioneered in Vinton, Iowa, and then in 1960 I became a Circuit Servant in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The first congregation I visited as a Circuit Overseer was Chisago City, Minnesota, and there I met Ron and Mavis Fry and their daughter, Jamie. They were a very loving and zealous family. On one visit to the congregation at Luck, Wisconsin, I was asked to encourage Walter Sukita, an ex-Bethelite, who was becoming inactive. Walter was having serious doubts about the date 607 used for the fall of Jerusalem. Walter said he was confronted with this problem when a person whom he was studying with showed him that the encyclopedia said 587. Walter was a very studious person and sought to prove the Witness view and found that it could not be supported. Walter tried to shown me the letters he had exchanged with the Watch Tower Society and I saw the problem but refused to consider that we could be wrong.
I enjoyed the brothers in Minnesota and Wisconsin and although Alice and I did not have a home and all of our possessions were packed in our car every Monday, we believed we were doing God’s will.
In 1963, we were assigned to a Circuit in Arkansas. Once again we found the brothers and sisters loving and a joy to be around. On Sunday evenings Alice I enjoyed watching “Bonanza.” At the congregation where Billie Bowen was the overseer, Sister Bowen told Alice that we stumbled her by our watching Bonanza because the Watch Tower condemned watching westerns and insipid comedies. Alice said that seemed stupid causing the Bowens to question her loyalty to the Watch Tower. When their young son grew up he started the Silent Lambs website.
WILL GOD KILL EVERYONE BUT JWS? THIS QUESTION STARTS MY FADE
One hot July day in Malvern, Arkansas, with an older sister going door to door, we called on a young woman, carrying a baby in her arms and a young boy holding onto her legs. The lady listened politely as the sister told her the last days were here and God would destroy all the wicked soon including little children. The young woman politely declined the literature but asked us, “Would you like a glass of cold water?” At that moment I realized that this woman was as good a person as I was and did I really believe that Jehovah would kill her and her children if she did not believe like me.
That thought troubled me and I began to think I should change my life course. I discussed having a family with Alice and when she became pregnant we left the full-time service, but I remained loyal to the organization. I became the Congregational Overseer in Casper, Wyoming, in 1963 and determined to put aside any doubts and bring “every thought in harmony with Christ.” I tried my best for several years until I started to wake up in the night and think, “Am I lying to myself and is that wrong.”
The year 1975 was a problem for me because I had thoroughly studied the Bible’s time-lines and knew it was impossible to exactly pinpoint the end of 6,000 years of human existence. The date could only be correct if the Governing Body had knowledge beyond the Bible, something they did not claim, but something most Witnesses believed they had. I saw many in the congregation taking the date seriously and one circuit overseer chastised me for down-playing the date, and when I told him about the Bible’s lack of sufficient details, he told me to trust the “faithful slave.”
In 1972 I stepped down as a servant and went into real estate and construction. In 1980 I sold out our things in Casper and with Alice and my three sons moved to Chico, California. We bought some land and built a house. One of the elders in Chico was Dave Dani who I went to Kingdom School with in 1959. He and some others called on me and I frankly told them the reason I was not active. I did not want to raise my sons to believe that the world would end soon and I believed that God would approve of many people who were not baptized Witnesses. We talked honestly and open with each other and they continued to treat me as a friend, but that was before the trouble began at Bethel in the 1980’s and during the witch-hunt that followed.
DOUBT IS APOSTASY
Alice continued to go to meetings. Then one day three brothers come to the house and started telling me that since I did not believe the truth, I should disassociate or be disfellowshipped. Alice arrived home and saw the elders and asked what was going on. I told her that we could be disfelllowshipped for apostasy if we spoke about our doubts to anyone, even our children. Alice, exploded. “That is outrageous, unkind and unchristian. You mean if I am honest with anyone about my doubts, I am an apostate?” After that Alice never went to another meeting.
I had enough money to live without working but I was bored and got a college degree and then went to law school. In 1985 I became a Public Defender and for 30 years I have enjoyed that work. Over the years I have represented more than10,000 juveniles who got into trouble. I always tell them, “You have one life to live, do not waste it.” That is what I would also tell any Jehovah’s Witness.
A FIGHT OVER A KINGDOM HALL IN BONHAM, TEXAS
In 1986 I helped some former who claimed ownership of their Kingdom Hall in Bonham Texas. Ralph Deal, Wes Ruddell and a small band of stouthearted former successfully evicted the Watchtower from the Bonham Kingdom Hall. The Watchtower came after them with all legal guns blazing. The Society hired a top Dallas law firm, Boyd & Fults, and sued the group in federal court. I agreed to represent them.
Leslie Long, the Society’s lawyer, paid the Dallas firm hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to intimidate the group and me. We slugged it out with them and in the end got the case dismissed and then won again when they appealed. The case was hard on me as I had to travel to Texas from California to appear in court and I was inexperienced in federal court, but the truth is, I enjoyed the fight because the Society was pretty stupid in their tactics and the Dallas firm was happy to just clock up the billable hours.
At one point the Dallas firm asked if the case could be settled. I told them that I knew that the Girl Scouts needed a building and we would return the building to the Watch Tower if then the Watch Tower would give the building to the Girl Scouts. The non-witness lawyers loved the idea; they prepared the Girl Scouts for the good news and told some of the community what was planned. I, of course, was playing with them. I knew the Society would never give anything to the Girl Scouts. I had a wonderful time a few days later when the Dallas attorney had to call me and tell me they would not give the building to the Girl Scouts.
LIFE WITHOUT THE WATCHTOWER
I am now 80 years old, happily married for 57 years, work at a job I love, am respected in my profession and community. My childhood was happy and I do not have regrets about the time I was a Witness, but every day I thank God that I left when I did. I am a spiritual person and enjoy seeing the good in people. When I was a Witness I thought I had all the answers but that was an illusion. Today, I can say there are many things I do not know or understand, but part of the joy of life is learning and growing in knowledge.
I do have one source of anger and that is how the Watch Tower Society has become a hollow core, devoid of the good qualities that once existed. The brothers and sisters that I knew over the years were mostly good-hearted people who loved God and their neighbor.
I stood on the street with the Watchtower magazine in 1943 and was arrested for doing so. I stood before the draft board in 1952 and was called a coward. I watched my brothers go to prison for their beliefs. My wife and I often went without material things to seek kingdom interests. I tried hard to hold on to the organization believing it would change. I expected the wise and loving brothers, I came to know in the organization, to step forward and be honest about their mistakes. We missed the mark on 1914 and no double-talk can change that. Men may delude themselves, but to be a leader of others in this delusion is inexcusable. But, I cannot condemn any individuals for falsely leading seven-million Witnesses. The leaders are themselves victims and captives of an organizationally forged trap that prevents their admitting a mistake. I can only thank God that I am not in that trap.
If you Google: Ron Reed attorney Chico, CA you can learn more about me.