Whatever the cause, I experienced some type of nervous breakdown in the spring of 1988. I resigned as an elder and pioneer and separated from my wife for over a month. All my life I had been discouraged from writing, particularly by my wife, but now I decided to give it a try, since I could not work anyway. In Pine Cove we lived in a fine home with a grand view of that old rock I used to climb, Tahquitz. I got a word processor and in the space of a year wrote a half dozen screen plays, as many novels, and an epic long, 600 page poem titled Across Infinity.
A literary agent in New York showed much interest in a mountaineering story, Dance With White Clouds. It was widely circulated in Hollywood and evidently reviewed by Mel Gibson, Jodi Foster, and several directors and screen writers, including the producers of Die Hard. Evidently, someone passed my idea onto Sylvester Stallone and the result was Cliffhanger. This movie “borrowed” over 60 elements of my novel. I gave some thought to a lawsuit, but one attorney wanted just $50,000 to start with no promises. About this time we began to give thought to another move to a foreign assignment. I weighed the time it would take to fight this case against my desire to escape this political nonsense among JWs.
In harmony with this I began a review of the entire Bible again. It was a paragraph by paragraph outline of the entire Bible. I returned to pioneering and serving as an elder, though at my doctor’s orders, refrained from accepting another appointment as presiding overseer. I began to avoid any kind of responsibility within the circuit or district, though I still made my visits to Brooklyn Bethel and occasional photographic trips into wilderness and mountain regions. I continued to submit volumes of questions and thoughts to Brooklyn.
About 1988 I had begun to think something was wrong. Was it Christianity itself? Was it the Bible? Was it Jehovah’s Witnesses? I had reached a point of doubt and disillusionment with JWs that I began my own private investigation. I had no flood of disloyalty. There was not a bone in my body that was not dedicated to Brooklyn Bethel. God knows that. I wondered if we were wrong somewhere. Somewhere fundamental. Had the Pastor erred in his “invisible presence” of Christ in 1874? Had the Judge erred in the statement: “millions now living will never die” and the subject of the Great Crowd and the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses”? Why had Freddy Franz been wrong in his predictions regarding 1975? I began reading the old books again to find their error, if any. I totally believed it was a simple matter of discovering this and relating that to the Tenth Floor at Bethel.
I visited an elder, the original presiding overseer in Carlsbad, who had been removed from his office as elder. He was a man who loved the Bible and took study seriously. One might think I could turn to any number of men. Such is not the case. Most elders, even traveling elders, have a limited knowledge of the Bible despite any claims by JWs to the contrary. Over the years I had approached several circuit overseers, almost to a man they admitted they did not have time to really study the Bible seriously. These are corporate or organizational “suits” who are limited to congregational problems. Most JWs have memorized an affective list of about three dozen texts and these will usually undermine the faith of a searching person from another church completely ignorant of the Bible.
Illustrating this lack of real Bible knowledge is an experienced related to me from an eyewitness. A district overseer was working with a group of corporate executives around Bethel in Brooklyn Heights. Among them was the president, Nathan Knorr. By accident the district overseer worked some doors already worked by the Watchtower president. He realized his error when one householder said: “One of your people was just here and I asked him to prove only 144,000 go to heaven, and he could not produce a single Bible verse!” After returning to the group’s car, the district overseer asked who that was. The president admitted it was him.
JWs generally rely on a few publications designed to answer questions in the field ministry, particularly Reasoning From the Scriptures. All, including elders and pioneers, are encouraged to use this manual rather than the Bible itself to demonstrate how the literature answers Bible questions. “Direct interest to the organization” is a repeated theme. If asked a question in the field they cannot answer JWs will often return with someone more prepared or experienced. I used to go on many of these calls to debate evolution, the Trinity, or some other subject.
In 30 years of “working in service” I had only come across one question which was difficult to handle: the Rapture and 1 Thessalonians 4.15-17. There are few JWs who can deal with this text and will, like I did, change the subject. Someone well prepared on this text, and not willing to move from that one subject, will find JWs turning to their Reasoning manual. And, this will be true as much for elders and pioneers.
I have stated the above to illustrate my difficulties in going to others to discuss a deep Biblical point, particularly one at odds with the Watchtower. Most JWs absolutely refuse to discuss anything that is not already published in the Watchtower. In the ten years before this period in the late 80s and early 90s I had only approached two brothers, both intelligent and deep Bible students. They all had commentaries in their libraries, something later discouraged by peer pressure. One circuit overseer had told an audience: “We do not have to study the Bible deeply for that is already done for us by Bethel.”
My question involved the Book of Daniel chapter 11 regarding the movements of the “king of the north” and its apparent fulfillment in the First Century. The Society held the view the “king of the north” was Russia but it appeared to have already been fulfilled by the Romans in their war against the Jews from 66 to 70 AD. Both these men I had approached saw the point right away. I learned later both used this in criticism against me, but this was something I was slow in realizing. After this I never approached a single person on any of my questions, save the Society.
So, I was being bothered by a) the slanderous conduct of so many elders and their wives; and, b) a growing concern JWs had deviated somewhere in their doctrinal history. There was to be a shocking matter which would conspire with those attacks beginning to take place in Idyllwild.
While the political shenanigans were ongoing, in Hawaii an adult JW ministerial servant (or, deacon) (1 Timothy 3:9-11 NWT ftn) used cunning to deceive my wife and then seduced my 14 year old daughter. I only learned later that many JWs youths were involved in such things. This deceitful young man called me, after this episode, charging me with being unchristian because I would not forgive him for violating my daughter. He presented himself as righteous and I, as one of the anointed, should be willing to forgive him anything. As it turned out he had done similar things to other young girls and was later disfellowshipped, not precisely for his conduct with my daughter. My wrath crossed those telephone lines for thousands of miles and I threatened the hypocrite never let me see him. I warned him never set foot on the mainland for I would find him.
My daughter was “raped” by the judgment of any civilized nation. However, she was accused of fornication by the judicial committee in Idyllwild. They actually met with my daughter without either my wife or myself present. This is supposed to be “against the rules” but elders will often transgress organizational policies when it suits them. I challenged them on this later. One can probably understand my emotions at this lime: I was being attacked secretly by the same men who were judging my daughter.
In all of this I had kept my thoughts and knowledge of what was going on behind the scene from my wife and family. My son and daughter-in-law and their children had moved in with us in a large three story home in Idyllwild shared with my sister. We were a close family doing all those things families do and there were thoughts of moving to Equator to do missionary work as a family.
My health, no doubt due in part to the high level of stress, was causing me great difficulties. An arthritic infection in my little finger turned gangrenous and spread poison throughout my body. I was confined to bed for months on intravenous antibiotic therapy. During this time not a single elder visited me to check on my health. This includes the circuit overseer, Robert Hall, who came in a car to my home when a ministerial servant visited me but did not get out of his car to walk the fifty feet to my convalescent bed. Why would a man do that, unless he had already been poisoned by the local elders?
I was to have the finger amputated. These several months saw me afflicted with considerable pain and discomfort, the rape of my daughter, the charge against her of fornication, and the political intrigues going on among the elders and the circuit overseer. Picture yourself in these circumstances and trying to maintain your faith in JWs.
Several other things were to only make matters worse: my daughter was to be “raped” a second time by another adult JW ministerial servant, exactly like the episode in Hawaii. I was to be struck again by this plague. This was my little daughter who sang hymns high in fruits trees in the Bahamas. The same one who rode her little bicycle to meetings and field service at the age of 8. I wanted to kill someone! I was so violent inside I had to control myself with an exterior character that did not reflect what was going on inside. Unfortunately, in my rage, I said some things I later regretted but it was too late. The words were out.
At this time, several local ministerial servants approached me in private. I was still confined to bed and they came to my room to talk. These were the only JW “servants” who showed concern for my well-being. All three began to relate their own observations about what was going on. I stopped them in mid-sentence, saying: “Note this, that I did not tell you any of these things, because later it will be charged that I misdirected you and tried to create division, when it is you who came to me.” Having said that we discussed the whole matter and decided to put in writing our thoughts and give these to the District Overseer. None of us felt we could trust the local circuit overseer who had already shown he had prejudged those of us bringing charges against the elders.
Other rumors, gossip, and slander began to spread and since others realized what was going on, it seemed the time to finally inform my household of the difficulties afoot. From this family discussion other matters unknown to me also materialized. Listening to my wife’s pleas, we moved to Anza and then San Jacinto, nearby communities. We also attended Spanish meetings and worked in service with the Spanish.
About this time a terrible blow, if all that went before was not enough, was struck me, my wife and our household. In a single month three of my children were disfellowshipped by Jehovah’s Witnesses. For being raped twice my youngest daughter was disfellowshipped. Within days my oldest daughter. Then my son, whether weakened and disillusioned by what was going on, committed adultery and was disfellowshipped. This was a terrible blow as we were all prepared to move to Ecuador. Because of our views at the time we had to conform to the Watchtower and have virtually nothing to do with our children. They were to be viewed as dead! They were to be “hated” for leaving Jehovah. (Psalm 31:6; 68:1; 139:21, 22)
My youngest daughter went to live with her sister on Maui. I have not spoken to or seen her since. I have written several letters asking forgiveness for anything I had done – including those I am unaware of – but without response. Of my four children, I have had no dealings with three of them since 1993. And with the fourth, very little contact through 1997. I do not understand this, but I have resolved to blame myself for all of it.
Nazarene Commentary 2000©
Mark Heber Miller
©2000 All Rights Reserved