UTAH, 1956. I also began to give full hour “talks” in various congregations throughout southern California. I remember my first one: “A World Without Tears Before Us.” I was to quickly have my own “Bible studies” (one hour weekly Bible discussion with an interested person) and even though I was quite young and “new in the truth” I was soon to have my own “letters of recommendation”7 in the form of new JW disciples. Some of these went on to become “special pioneers,” “pioneers,” and “circuit overseers.” These would be the first of hundreds of Bible students who became JWs as a direct result of my preaching efforts. Though I was told I would “never grow up in this system” because the “end was coming soon” I did not know then forty years would flow by with marriage, children, and grandchildren.
|7||LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION. This phrase is from 2 Co 3.1, 2 and JWs use it to refer to a peson who has studiedthe Bible with a JW and then was baptized.|
I must here comment on my in-laws. My wife to be was a lovely blonde. She was the only daughter with three brothers of a couple, the Parsons, who originally came from Hondo, Texas. [The country of the Newton Boys of the movie.] The Parsons owned a large chicken farm selling eggs to the local community of Hemet. They also farmed one of the largest apricot ranches in the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley. Mary’s oldest brother, Bob, was very intelligent though a country boy by nature. Her youngest brother, William, was to become a respected friend in late years. These relationships were doomed to a radical change as you will see.
Mary herself was a good friend of my sister. They both used one another to get close to each one’s brother. Mary was a natural leader: president of her Methodist youth group and her class student bodies. She was naturally intelligent and inherited from her family a bent toward a strong sense of self-esteem and self-determination. They were extremely hard workers who labored night and day for their rancher father.
Following high school, Robert Parsons, my future brother-in-law and my school mate (he also qualified for a full scholarship), left to the first of many “pioneering assignments” in “unassigned and isolated territory.”8 A group of us young “brothers” worked Nye County, Nevada and Lander, Wyoming. I remember Robert Perrin and Ray Lewis. Working among many south-western Indian tribes became a common territory. I was to go on to preach among Navajos, Apaches, Utes, Arapaho, Shoshone, and the local Soboba and Cahuilla Indian tribes. I was to come to love working with these true Americans. Some became JWs, including the matriarch of the local Cahuilla tribe.
|8||UNASSIGNED AND ISOLATED TERRITORY. These were large and isolated counties or areas not assigned to a JW congregation or were great distances away from a Kingdom Hall. I was to be assigned or work in over a dozen of these.|
Later we two “pioneer partners” came to Saint George, Utah, in the shadow of a Mormon Temple. The nearest “Kingdom Hall” was 150 miles away in Las Vegas. Ten hours a day we would “work” the rurals around St. George. We would “witness” primarily to Mormons. I came to like and respect them. Early on, new myself, I examined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints carefully. I read my own copy of the Book of Mormon over half a dozen times. It was as marked up and under-lined as my own King James Version, and later the New World Translation. I also went on to read Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, The Journal of Discourses, and The Articles of Faith by Talmage. Many were the friendly debates with Mormon elders, bishops and missionaries. Often we were told how “we would make good Mormons.” They were a strong, close knit family-like “church” convinced theirs was “the only true religion” just as JWs claimed. Unlike JWs, however, the LDS felt there was a place in the future of God’s purpose for JWs, but the JWs did not think this so for the LDS. [The Mormons are referenced over 165 times in the Watchtower publications, usually in a poor light.]
We even attended a Mormon “stake” meeting which was addressed by the then president of the Mormon Church, David O. McKay. I observed this large group carefully and noted during prayers the younger people were paying little attention, even laughing and joking during the prayers. [Many years later I was to observe the same behavior among JW youth at large conventions.] I noted one of the main themes of the president’s address dealt with adultery so I suspected this was a problem among the Mormons. Craving fellowship so much, we began to make the drive to Las Vegas to attend “meetings” there at the only Kingdom Hall within a hundred miles. Today there are scores of congregations in these areas. Some of those we preached to and studied with became JWs and so years later I was to visit the area and run into “spiritual children’ from these early efforts.
1957: HEMET, CALIF. Due to severe illness, I returned to Hemet and settled down to pioneering in this lovely valley, also called “the foothills of heaven.” My mother remained “opposed” but I lived there with her and my sister. I took various part time jobs to maintain myself in the “pioneer work.” I worked as a theater manager, janitor, tractor and caterpillar driver, and ranch hand. I worked as a milkman for Marilyn Monroe’s father, Stanely Gifford, who owned Red Rock Dairy.
I must state that all of this time I viewed myself as “one of the other sheep” (Jn 10.16), “of the Great Crowd,” (Re 7.9) and thus what was then called a “Jonadab.”9 I accepted all of this with extreme, even militant loyalty, and never for a moment doubted the “faithful and discreet slave” (Mt 24.45) as represented by that entire body of the “anointed remnant” who would all one day be the “144,000.” (Re 14.1) No one was ever more loyal than I.
|9||JONADAB. All JWs are divided into two groups or “classes” regarding their hope for an everlasting future. The anointed or Jehu class are those who believe they will go to heaven. The so-called “earthly class” do not attain to the heavenly hope, limited to 144,000. This vast majority are called the “other sheep” or “great crowd.”|
After returning to Hemet I was to conduct many “Bible studies” who later “came into the truth.” Some are elders to this day. I gave public lectures throughout southern California, accepted speaking assignments at “circuit assemblies.” I had abandoned any idea of being a writer or an Olympic champion for the “end was so close” I would never realize any of these. I had also taken up an interest in oil painting and won several blue ribbons for my first efforts. These also I did not pursue for they might prove to be “worldly” and distract me from the “full time service.”
This new Christian personality made me re-evaluate my relationship with my father as I now believed I should be forgiving. As a result, though my father, ever the extreme patriot, objected to my being a JW, we did make contact and this was to heal itself to a degree. My mother still “opposed” me though she seemed to realize I was serious. I am sure she thought “this too will pass.”
1958: A DEMONIZED APOSTATE! Life progressed and soon I was married to a delightful and pretty blonde. Both of us were determined to leave and “serve where the need was great.”10 We wrote Brooklyn and requested an assignment. We were offered the usual three options and chose Brownwood, Texas. Before settling there, we attended the famous international convention in New York which had a closing day attendance of nearly 300,000. It had featured the largest mass baptism of the time, over 7,000 persons. It was during this convention I was first to meet the Vice President of the Society, Fred Franz, the Society’s scholar and translator.
|10||NEED IS GREAT. These are “territories” where there are few or no JWs to preach door to door. I was do this in half a dozen states and three foreign countries.|
We settled into pioneer life in the Heart of Texas, the city of Brady our specific assignment. Life was very austere and often the only money for food was a few cents from “placing magazines” or trading literature for cans of soup. I worked for the “congregation servant” who was a taxidermist. We were to gather quite a group of “Bible students” in nearby Brady. We were ever so innocent and had no idea what jealousy could do to a person. A disease was growing in the congregation resulting from our youthful presence in this small group of two dozen “publishers.”
Then, one day, I believe as the result of my study of the Bible, like a voice out of the blue, I felt strong urgings in the direction of “a heavenly hope.” One must understand, that this was almost unthinkable, for it was generally viewed that “the door to heaven was closed” in 1935. The only new ones who professed a heavenly calling were supposedly those who evidently replaced some fallen JW anointed brother or sister. This was to happen to me. I felt this strong compulsion to leave and carry on prayer for many hours by an isolated lake. After, I had no doubt I “had been called” to the heavenly Kingdom, and was, thus, now one of the anointed. My wife took this news with a startled shock. Though I kept this secret to myself, the news slowly got out and resentment began.
This was something to follow me throughout the next forty years. There is a natural distrust of anyone, particularly someone so young, who professed “anointing.” Even when this new hope is kept private without blowing one’s “trumpet.” Most of the “anointed” at the time were advanced in years, and so it was quite startling to hear of such a new one who held this hope. After all, we felt only a total number of 144,000 would ultimately go to heaven and the rest, the “other sheep,” would live on earth forever. This roughly works out to only 75 persons a year throughout history who would be invited to heaven. Since my wife and I had held this earthy hope, and since Armageddon was right around the corner, we anticipated living together on earth forever as man and wife. This new awareness on my part was to cause difficulty between us and become a source of ongoing jealously and resentment on the part of elder after elder.11
|11||JEALOUSY OF THE ANOINTED. The Society would deny this exists at all. Note The Greatest Man book: “These last two folds, or pens of sheep, have different destinies. The ‘little flock’ in one fold will rule with Christ in heaven, and the ‘other sheep’ in the other fold will live on the Paradise earth. Yet, despite being in two folds, the sheep have no jealousy.” (page 80) I later was to ask a dozen anointed JWs about this jealousy and they all admitted it was a problem with the “other sheep.”|
There was an episode one morning at “the meeting for service” (called “rendezvous” then) before going out into the ministry from door to door. A “daily text” is considered which includes the reading of a given scripture for that day from the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This day it was Matthew 24.45:12 ‘Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?’ This verse can be considered a major foundation to JWs for the “faithful and discreet slave class” is considered the only source of spiritual food from Jehovah.
|12||MT 24.45. This single verses occurs over 1,000 times in Watchtower Publications contained in the 1993 CD Library.|
The congregation servant conducted the meeting and asked during the audience participation portion: “Who is this ‘slave’?” No one raised their hand so I volunteered and said: ”The slave class is the entire body of the anointed remnant.” He asked: “You mean all of the anointed?” To which I had to respond, “Yes.” He then showed his irritation of me by saying: “That is not ‘present truth’! That is false doctrine! The ‘slave’ is only the seven directors of the Society.” I thought that was the end to it because I made no protestations and was willing to accept the “counsel” from the brother.
Bothered by this episode, after service I went home to research through the “current publications” to compile examples of what “the literature” said on the subject.13 All the citations I could find upheld my answer as the correct one. I had no intent of trying to correct the brother because I had a certain degree of fear of his position. He had the power to disfellowship or excommunicate at will.
|13||FAITHFUL SLAVE. From this it was seen that the "faithful and wise servant" that Jesus spoke about was a class made up of the remnant.” (Watchtower April 1, 1958, page 222) “This ‘faithful and discreet slave, then, is not an individual man but a company following the example of Christ; it is the united company of the anointed followers of Christ.” (Watchtower, June 1, 1957, page 328)|
That night, about midnight, I was awakened to attend a judicial meeting with a committee of three. This was composed of a Spanish “congregation servant” who could not speak English, and a sister, something unheard of. I was asked the question again and I gave the same answer. The congregation servant kept re-reading the Society’s comment in the daily text as if this repetition would some how prove his contention the ‘slave class’ was limited to those seven men in Brooklyn, New York.
It should be understood that “the faithful and discreet slave class was the sole source or “channel”14 for spiritual food in this so-called “time of the end.” The rhetorical question posed by the Nazarene at Matthew 24.45 is one that comes up many times throughout the year. It is technically viewed by the Society that this “slave class” is identical with the nineteen centuries old Christian “congregation.” In other words, the “slave” is that entire body of anointed from the time of Christ. I was to discover later that most JWs cannot give a correct answer to this question, but rather they will associate the “slave” with the “remnant,” “the anointed,” the 144,000, or in many cases they assume it is limited to what is now called “the governing body (GB).”
|14||CHANNEL. Note a Watchtower at that time: “These would serve as her representatives and would therefore be easily recognizable by their conformity to God's requirements for his visible channel of communication.” (w57, 5/1, page275)|
Since my answer inferred I was also a member of the “faithful slave” – because of my own profession of being one of the anointed – it became a source of jealous irritation to the congregation servant. How much his wife had been behind this is hard to tell. She was a very large, muscular woman, who clearly dominated her husband and was in absolute control of their household. She had on an earlier occasion grilled me with question after question from “Questions from Readers” which then appeared at the end of every Watchtower. Since I had consumed these, she was unable to read one that could not be answered. This seemed to greatly irritate her.
I was to think much later that one of the biggest mistakes of “the Society” was the view the “faithful slave” included all of the anointed on earth today. That made 10,000 persons part and parcel with the “faithful and discreet slave class.” Had they put forth the view it was limited to just the GB, or governing body, it would have not only been accepted without question, it would solve certain other problems. As a fellow member of the “faithful and discreet slave class” I had a perfect right to submit questions to Brooklyn. This I had done with one of them occurring as the source for a “Question from Readers.” (See the Watchtower15 Sep 9/15, 1959) [Indeed, it is still the mistaken view of many JWs that all of the anointed as the faithful and discreet slave class share in compiling the literature. The truth is today that few of the anointed actually write the literature, most of it done by “other sheep.”]
|15||QUESTIONS FROM READERS. (w59 9/15 576) Questions from Readers: At Romans 10:18 the apostle Paul quotes Psalm 19:4 and apparently applies it to people, but the context of Psalm 19:4 is speaking of the heavenly creation. How are we to understand Paul's application of the text?-M. M., U.S.A.|
At the midnight meeting, with a sister and non-English speaking Mexican brother, I was being reproved for what he insisted was “false doctrine” and “false prophecy.” I told him of my research and asked if I could show the result to the others but he adamantly prohibited such an idea. I was dismissed without further comment.
I told my wife of my experience and it was devastating to her. In our ignorance we thought this kind of thing was unthinkable. However, early that morning the Spanish congregation servant, though not expressing himself well, knew what was going on. He called and read portions of a Watchtower article to us which dealt with envy.16 He was extremely kind and evidently knew, or suspected, things about this “anglo” brother. These matters would be revealed later.
|16||ENVY. The article quoted was (w56 9/15, page 553): “A jealous person is not happy himself and he makes others unhappy. It is torment for a jealous person to speak well of the person he envies. In fact, the jealous person shies away from the one he envies. This leads to another manifestation of envy. This is coolness. The jealous person is cold and unfriendly toward the one he envies. ... It begets all kinds of causes for friction and division in a Christian congregation. For one thing, a jealous man often likes to belittle the person he envies. A selfish, begrudging spirit is now at work. The envious one likes to make all kinds of remarks to other people to try to reduce the stature of the person he envies, for the envious tend to praise only that which they can surpass; that which surpasses them they find fault with or belittle.”|
It should be mentioned that there was an uncomfortable degree of racism among the “white” JWs in Texas. The “colored” brothers met separately in an extremely modest shack of a Kingdom Hall. We had attended these meetings, evidently to the slanderous gossip of the “whites.” We did this at the invitation of a “black” couple who were also “pioneers” and later they would attend the Watchtower missionary school, Gilead. We discovered we enjoyed our worship much more among the “colored.”
At the invitation of the black circuit overseer, I gave a public lecture to this tiny congregation of African Americans, much to their delight, for such a thing never happened where an “anglo” addressed their group. This was not received well by the white congregation servant and later the white circuit overseer. I was summarily dressed down. I was very contrite for my deviation. Thereafter, my wife and I associated with our black brothers in private, something also never done by the “white” JWs.
The next evening at the meeting something was to happen which I never forgot. At the end of the “Service Meeting” this congregation servant addressed the small group: “The Society has appointed me to keep an eye on Mark Miller as they believed I was demonized, a false prophet, and part of the evil slave. You will no longer go in service without me present. You must turn over your Bible studies and relinquish your congregational responsibilities.” We were shocked and my wife devastated leading to a near nervous breakdown on her part.
Though we had a dozen “Bible studies” we were no longer permitted to care for these. No one did. I had one “study” which I kept up secretly. It was with a Mister Smith, a blind man with no legs who was rapidly going deaf. He was later to be baptized at the age of ninety.
Many of the “sisters” in this congregation of mostly women came to us wanting to tell us what had been going on for years. I refused to listen to them because I did not want in any way to be accused of slander or “dividing the congregation.” Privately though, we made contacts with an older brother in Lander, Wyoming who had long ago befriended me. He was truly like a spiritual father to me. He and his wife invited us to come to their pioneer assignment beneath the Wind River mountains in Lander, Wyoming.
Shortly before we left, three sisters came to our little trailer and begged us to listen to them. Reluctantly, I agreed. They told a story of harassment and threats of being disfellowshipped. They explained how the congregation servant was involved in questionable business activity with some locals. They were told to put this in writing and to send it to my new address in Wyoming.
1960: LANDER, WYOMING. We settled into our new pioneer assignment during one of the worst winters in Wyoming history, with temperatures dropping to 65 below zero. My profession of anointing and being “born again” was to loose the first of former friends. Once my former “spiritual father” learned of my profession, he became distinctly cool, though he behaved correctly on other levels in his duty as the congregation servant. He would become one of many whose attitude would quickly change once they discovered I “professed” to be one of the anointed. This word “professed” is said with a certain degree of sarcasm. JWs hold a high degree of criticism for what they call “born-againers” among “Christendom.” (“Christendom” is all Christian religions other than JWs.)
During this period of pioneering in Wyoming we started many “studies” among the Arapaho and Shoshone Indians with many an interesting experience. One group of children would gather weekly in a reservation home and I would find myself teaching a dozen or more pre-teens about the Bible.
Although very much in love, my wife and I struggled with many of those problems of a young couple: control. My wife’s natural ability to take the lead often created a struggle between us. Since we belong to a religion which viewed the husband as the absolute head I struggled to be head against a woman who wanted to be in control. Only once in my life did I loose my temper to such an extent that I struck my wife. I was greatly grieved by this because of my own father’s example. I begged forgiveness. But, thereafter, my wife knew I would never become physical with her. This was to become an ungoing problem throughout our marriage.
A particular experience was to become similar to many I would have later. One day I was called by a distraught husband who wanted me to get to his home right away. I thought they were breaking up or something. It turned out his wife, a sister given to deep and serious study, thought she had been “called to the heavenly Kingdom.” (He 3.1) She was in profuse tears and when I asked she explained, “I have just loved to study the Bible, and everyone knows only the anointed really like to do this, so I felt I was being invited to be one of the anointed.” I spent much time clarifying these matters, but it was something I was to see dozens of times in the years that followed: those who were really serious Bible students who went beyond just the “publications” but read and studied primarily the Bible itself often came to this conclusion. In most cases they were corrected or reproved and declined to partake of the annual emblems at the Memorial. Those that did go on to partake came under a high degree of subtle harassment and private criticism or slander. I know I have and I know many others, scores, who have also. The JW environment is one that takes a jaundiced eye of those who “profess to be of the anointed” and when one is mentioned it is usually with the qualifier “professes to be.”17
|17||PROFESSES TO BE. The comparable phrase “born again” is rarely used among JWs and when it is the words are generally derogatory in its association with “Christendom.” (Jn 3.3-5)|
In this small congregation I was to be introduced to those congregational jealousies, infighting, gossip, and political ambitions which plague most congregations of JWs, at least those I have associated with.
One day a letter arrived from Nathan Knorr, the well-known president of the Watchtower Society. It was an invitation to accept an assignment to “Bethel.” Bethel is the term for the headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. It was considered an immense privilege, particularly for a couple so young. At the time marriage was still highly discouraged because “the end was so close.” And, children, were virtually verboten by innuendo and peer pressure. So, this invitation to Bethel was both welcome and startling.
That very night my wife became ill and thereafter bedridden from an outbreak of hepatitis. She was to become confined to bed-rest for many months. This necessitated a return to Hemet, California. We were later to be invited to Gilead and special pioneer service with an appointment as congregation servant. All of this was very rare for someone just turning twenty. However, we had to turn it all down, for not only was my wife ill, she was now pregnant.
Nazarene Commentary 2000©
Mark Heber Miller
©2000 All Rights Reserved