With these thoughts tormenting my mind we returned to Europe. We visited our Gilead graduate friends in Amsterdam. It was then I made a reacquaintance with a charming British sister who was a computer programmer, as well as being “one of the anointed.” We had a couple of conversations over the phone. She confided in me some serious doubts she was having, which, at the time, went far deeper than my own. Whereas I still believed in the “faithful and discreet slave class” and felt all these errors could be turned around, this sister did not. She believed the GB was the “man of iniquity” of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10. I, on the other hand, thought these were sincere Christian men who, when they saw their error, would correct it. I was to be sadly mistaken.
She and her husband later disassociated themselves and took up private Bible studies with others of similar mind in Holland and Britain. This was to become a steady stream of “anointed” brothers and sisters to “leave the truth” in the next year. I estimate at least a half dozen, and later a full dozen of the “anointed” lost faith in the JW Governing Body. To a person they were all deep and serious Bible students who behaved privately as genuine Christians. It was a shame how some were treated.
It was during this brief visit to Amsterdam I had a most unusual experience. I had been tormented by sleepless nights filled with Scriptural dreams about all the facets I had been considering. I began to feel like Job: ‘When I said, 'My divan will comfort me, My bed will help carry my concern,' you even have terrified me with dreams, And by visions you make me start up in fright, So that my soul chooses suffocation, Death rather than my bones.’ (Job 7:13-15) And, again: ‘For God is much more than mortal man. Why is it against him that you contended, Because all your words he does not answer? For God speaks once, And twice-though one does not regard it- In a dream, a vision of the night, When deep sleep falls upon men, During slumbers upon the bed. It is then that he uncovers the ear of men, And on exhortation to them he puts his seal.’ (Job 33:12-16)
Plagued and blessed every night at the same time, I began to beg God: “Please answer my questions. End the dreams!” One night while alone I became very ill. I had similar experiences before when I had thought I was near death and surely must make it to a hospital. I was in painful agony. I cried to the Father again and again to end my pain. I must have been near hallucination from agony, doubled in fetal position from pain.
Suddenly, standing in the room was a tall and well-built man. He wore a long outer robe of heavy cloth. It had vertical strips in three colors: warm brown, black, and vanilla. His black hair was to his shoulders but oiled with some pleasant perfume. His face was angelic kindness itself and his smile completely disarming, removing any fear I had.
He moved to my side and sat beside me. His touch was just a gentle pat on the shoulder. He spoke softly and clearly: “Keep searching and your questions will be answered. Keep asking. Keep knocking. You will find the path of truth.” And, he was gone, along with my pain. I rose trembling and washed my face. I shook my head in disbelief, but knew quite well what had happened?
Was this a real experience? Was someone, the Nazarene of Galilee, in the room with me? I want to believe that he was. No matter, I resolved not to give up, for the Christine visitor said nothing but to continue on my present course and my journey would end in understanding.
Something powerful came over me as if I had suddenly found my answers. Matters began to flow in perfect spiritual harmony. Answers came one after the other. All I had to do was write them down. I determined then to begin to write what was to become Nazarene Principles (formerly The Seven Principles).42 And, later still, Nazarene Apocalypse!
|42||NAZARENE PRINCIPLES. Nazarene Principles is a 58,965-word primer, (110 pages with 382 footnotes) on what Hebrews 6:1 calls ‘The first principles of the Christ.’ (ASV) There are hundreds of Bible citations and scores of references on the subject of the seven elements to the Lord’s Prayer. The work on a complete commentary of Revelation, Nazarene Apocalypse, runs to 130,000 words, 400 pages, with over 1,000 footnotes, and many thousands of Bible citations. It includes a new rendering of Revelation along with a running commentary on the subject of the so-called “end-times” or “last days.” This includes a new rendering of Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 in a compound paraphrase of all three accounts into one.|
I told no one of this experience for obvious reasons. Any JW, including my wife, would think I was under demon attack. They would charge it was the Devil who was influencing me and I was out of my mind just as Jesus and Paul were accused. (Mark 3:21; Acts 26:24) I do not claim the Nazarene appeared to me. I only relate my perceptions of the experience and the result of following what I perceived to be the direction. Any JW who told such a story would in up before elders despite the prophecy in Joel 2:28 about Saints having dreams.
However, just before leaving for Spain I made a private visit to the one person on this earth I had always gone to with deeper questions, Andrew Foss in San Clemente. I knew he would never have a critical eye to any question. He owned one of the largest private libraries of Biblical commentaries, thousands of volumes, and was much respected as a Biblical student. I presented some of the thoughts on Daniel chapter 7 and he seemed to agree with my findings completely. We were to become very good friends and were in correspondence contact during the year I spent in Spain. We were both moving in the same direction but did not realize it at the time. He was to be disfellowshipped by jealous men in an unfair judicial environment. He remains a most respected friend to this day and assisted in the preparation of certain manuscripts.
1995: MOJACAR, SPAIN. Spain became one of life’s most pleasant experiences. My wife, my sister, and I lived in a three story Spanish villa with an expansive view of the cobalt sea displaying magnificent sunsets every evening. The lights of the small fishing boats at night. The sounds of the British tourists dancing until dawn. Of all the countries I have ever visited Spain was the most . . . spiritual. Perhaps it was because of my spiritual experience in Holland. Perhaps because the flow of understanding overwhelmed me. There is a story about the difference between languages: if you wish to speak to your dog, use German; if you wish to speak to your lover, use French; if you wish to speak to a friend, use English; but, if you wish to speak to God, use Spanish.
We settled into a pioneering schedule. I later devoted myself about 100 hours a month to working the freighters in the small harbor at Garrucha. There were daily contacts with the small band of British JWs as part of the English Group of the local Spanish congregation in Vera. I shared in responsibilities as an elder with the group, giving several talks each week and conducting the Congregation Book Study, the Theocratic Ministry School, and in rotation directing the Watchtower study. There were speaking assignments at circuit and district assemblies along with a full public talk schedule in congregations hundreds of miles away. Later I was to give Bible readings in Spanish as we were required to attend one Spanish meeting per week.
We were always very hospitable so there were many locals and visitors who gathered at our home for meals, Spanish wine and enjoyable company. Since we also had a swimming pool we had young visitors who enjoyed the cool water on those hot Spanish days.
I had a fine office study with a laptop computer and enough Bible commentaries to serve my needs. As before I tried not to consult commentaries other than translations and lexicons. I wanted no outside influence on my search. During this period I wrote volumes to the Society. My IBM Thinkpad counted over 300,000 words. I did several verse by verse studies of the Fifth Book of Psalms, the Book of Proverbs, and master outlines of all of Paul’s epistles. Additionally, I prepared massive notes on First John and Ephesians. These all contained every important reference in the Watchtower publications back to 1955 when I first came into the truth.
There were several areas I wanted to particularly explore: the teachings of Jesus the Nazarene, the so-called “last days,” and, the Divine Name. I will not go into detail here on these subjects as they became the basis for other books43 to be written between June and September of 1997. But, a few thoughts on these subjects will demonstrate the course I was taking, that path I had been encouraged to walk.
|43||OTHER BOOKS. Nazarene Principles; The Nazarene’s Mountain Teachings; Nazarene Apocalypse!; Nazarene Commandments; Nazarene Community.|
Jesus’ teachings. It may come as a surprise, or it may not to some, but JWs are not very knowledgeable on such topics. Any review of JW publications and articles in the magazines will show a strong bias to Moses and the Prophets. To illustrate, consider an article in the Awake! (September 22, 1997) which dealt with a proper view toward “riches.” These pages considered the subject from several angles, quoting from the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. However, it lacks any reference at all to what Jesus had to say on the subject. The word-group “rich(es)” is a subject often discussed by the Nazarene. This illustrates this strong JW bias for the Hebrew Scriptures.
It is true there is a publication The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived covering the life of Christ. But, despite this, JWs as a rule cannot easily recall portions of Jesus’ teachings. I had come across a verse though which was to change my perspective. It was Hebrews 1:1, 2: ‘God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son.’ This stressed God no longer spoke to us by means of the Hebrew Prophets but by means of His Son. If one were to study or memorize anything, it ought to be those teachings of the Nazarene. I began a renewed consideration of everything Jesus taught.
One personal assignment considered the impact of John 14:15: ‘If you love me, you will observe my commandments.’ And, another: ‘You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you.’ (John 15:14) What exactly were the Nazarene’s commandments? I began a special study of just this subject and was finally to list about 60 positive and negative commands. Subjects like this I might have shared with others from time to time for they really do not violate JW teachings.
An example of one of these positive “commandments” was to create a wrinkle later. It was the verse following one verse every JW knows, Luke 12:32: ‘Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.’ Every JW uses this to prove only a few would go to heaven, precisely 144,000. (Revelation 14:1) But, I never met a single JW who knew what the next verse said. In other words, what was it the “little flock” were not to fear?
This subject, Fear Not, Little Flock, was the subject of a February 15, 1995 Watchtower article. The entire article never explains what Jesus had in mind by the words “fear not.” Indeed, Luke 12:33 is completely missing in the article. The article applied it to the Great Tribulation. But, the next verse presents a serious problem to such a “little flock” with enormous financial and real estate holdings in a variety of properties around the world. Note what Luke 12:33 says: ‘Sell the things belonging to you and give gifts of mercy.’ Now this is a command to the “little flock.” It seems to say the “little flock” cannot own property! This was to cause me considerable conflict.
For example, when once visiting Brooklyn Bethel I was roomed at the rejuvenated Bossert Hotel, a JW property in Brooklyn Heights. My friend, Tim Wilson, in the Art Department told me with pride that one column in the main lobby took 400 man-hours to restore. I remember just shaking my head. I was well aware of the multi-millions of dollars owned in Brooklyn Heights by the Watchtower Society. I had visited most of them from time to time, having stayed in at least three or four different “hotels” and visited a number of others.
Later, when I was to photograph the various factories and the elegant new 30-story building going up nearby I had firsthand knowledge of the enormous wealth here. The Watchtower commands one of the finest views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the island of Manhattan. It is so unique that various groups will request permission to photograph commercials or events from atop one of the buildings. This included world famous fashion designers and professional photographers.
Trips on assignments to upstate New York and various “farms” owned by the Society made me well aware of this expensive real estate. It is impressive, indeed. So impressive there is a constant flow of tourist charter buses loaded with wide-eyed JWs surely seeing this as proof of Jehovah’s blessing. And this is repeated all over the world in fine structures belonging to Branches in other nations. The properties in Spain, England, Germany, France, Japan, and elsewhere are just as impressive.
I had also visited the private rooms of numerous members of the Writing and Art Departments. It is true from one perspective these may seem austere. On the other hand, consider they are high-rise apartments with staggering views of Manhattan. Everyone I ever knew had a substantial liquor cabinet. They had excellent meals prepared for them each day. Their rooms are cleaned daily just as in a luxury hotel. Their dry cleaning and laundry are taken care of. They have access to free dental, medical, and optical services. They receive a monthly figure to cover personal expenses. In addition to this, they receive certain amounts of vacation time each year. Many have underground parking and a car provided for them. Many executives now have two apartments, with another at Paterson Farm. Some have chauffeurs from the driver pool. Hundreds travel monthly to speaking assignments where they receive cash contributions. Bethel workers receive contributions from friends and relatives which can drive their “income” to something quite reasonable.
Consider a personal friend and his wife, Timothy and Olga Wilson. They lived in the Sliver Building, a tall 24-story building extremely narrow. It has its own door-man and around the clock security. These two each received about $200 a month for personal experiences. Free food. Free medical. Free dental. Free hair-grooming. Free cleaning services. In addition to this, I am aware of others contributing cash to them each month. I know how much I sent them. My own friends and family members sent a constant flow of cash to them. Now, imagine living in this kind of environment with no expenses and ready cash in your pocket. That is not a bad life, is it? Now there are thousands like this at Brooklyn Bethel alone. Yearly, the Society alone spends over $60,000,000.00 providing for these Bethel workers around the world.
This all seemed a contradiction to Luke 12:33. I wrote about this following the above mentioned article, Fear Not, Little Flock, and asked what the next verse meant. I never got a response. I must mention here that at some point, because of the sensitivity of the subjects and the questions, I asked the Society never to show what I wrote to one of the “other sheep.” I learned later this was never respected. I had thought as a fellow in the “faithful and discreet slave class” I had a right to correspond with the GB on those matters of a Scriptural nature. This was not to prove to be true.
This matter of church-owned property was to be one Wycliffe and Luther attacked themselves when they revolted against the Catholic Church. An example of this is seen in Will Durant’s comprehensive work, The Story of Civilization, Volume VI, “The Reformation.” He writes about John Wycliffe (1320-84): “Now it is clear from Scripture that Christ intended His Apostles, their successors, and their ordained delegates to have no property. Any church or priest that owns property is violating the Lord’s commandments, is therefore in a state of sin, and consequently cannot validly administer the sacraments The reform most needed in Church and clergy is their complete renunciation of worldly goods.” (Page 32)
Now John Wycliffe is highly praised in various Watchtower articles.44 (w80 7/1 pp24-27) One wonders what the dear man’s response would be to the landed estates of the Society? I suspect if the man were a JW he would end up disfellowshipped for those ideas stated above by Will Durant. One is reminded of the Nazarene’s denunciation: ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the graves of the prophets and decorate the memorial tombs of the righteous ones, and you say, 'If we were in the days of our forefathers, we would not be sharers with them in the blood of the prophets.' Therefore you are bearing witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Well, then, fill up the measure of your forefathers.’ (Matthew 23:29-32)
|44|| Wycliffe. “The Reformation-The Search Took a New Turn: 9 Often referred to as "the morning star of the Reformation," John Wycliffe (1330?-84) was a Catholic priest and a professor of theology at Oxford, England. Well aware of the abuses in the church, he wrote and preached against such matters as corruption in the monastic orders, papal taxation, the doctrine of transubstantiation (the claim that the bread and wine used in the Mass literally change into the body and blood of Jesus Christ), the confession, and church involvement in temporal affairs.|
“10 Wycliffe was particularly outspoken when it came to the church's neglect in teaching the Bible. Once he declared: "Would to God that every parish church in this land had a good Bible and good expositions on the gospel, and that the priests studied them well, and taught truly the gospel and God's commands to the people!" (Mankind’s Search for God, page 310) [note the absence of Wycliffe’s statements about church-owned property.]
Throughout 40 years as one of the anointed I was not one marked by large or regular contributions to the Society. For some reason, I had felt one ought to use their money to help those people you knew were in need. Four times I had “sold everything” and used the funds to travel at my own expense to serve in poor territories. Our home was always open and we shared whatever we had with those less fortunate.
There was a certain uncharitable attitude among many JWs, including the Society, in obeying a particular command of the Lord: ‘But I say to you who are listening, Continue to love your enemies, to do good to those hating you, to bless those cursing you, to pray for those who are insulting you. To him that strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also; and from him that takes away your outer garment, do not withhold even the undergarment. Give to everyone asking you, and from the one taking your things away do not ask [them] back. Also, just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them. And if you love those loving you, of what credit is it to you? For even the sinners love those loving them. And if you do good to those doing good to you, really of what credit is it to you? Even the sinners do the same. Also, if you lend [without interest] to those from whom you hope to receive, of what credit is it to you? Even sinners lend [without interest] to sinners that they may get back as much. To the contrary, continue to love your enemies and to do good and to lend [without interest], not hoping for anything back; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind toward the unthankful and wicked. Continue becoming merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’ (Luke 6:27-36)
Two things illustrate this JW attitude. While attending the Kingdom Ministry School for elders in Spain much time was spent to establish from Watchtower publications that we Christians only gave to those who were “faithful and approved.” I cannot tell you how many citations in the publications we read and discussed. For example, consider the organizational manual Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry pages 122-3: “At times, faithful ones in the congregation may be in need of material assistance. ... True worship involves looking after faithful and loyal ones who may be in need of material assistance. ... Paul explained how material assistance may be provided to deserving ones. ... A situation may arise where it might become necessary for the congregation as a whole to consider providing some form of assistance to certain needy brothers and sisters who have a long history of faithful service.” It was stressed to us elders that JWs give financial assistance to only those described in red letters above. In this discussion not once was Jesus referenced in his own instructions regarding giving to the poor, including the “wicked” and “unthankful.”
Compare the above quotation with Luke 6:30-36: ‘Give to everyone asking you, and from the one taking your things away do not ask [them] back. Also, just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them. And if you love those loving you, of what credit is it to you? For even the sinners love those loving them. And if you do good to those doing good to you, really of what credit is it to you? Even the sinners do the same. Also, if you lend [without interest] to those from whom you hope to receive, of what credit is it to you? Even sinners lend [without interest] to sinners that they may get back as much. To the contrary, continue to love your enemies and to do good and to lend [without interest], not hoping for anything back; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind toward the unthankful and wicked. Continue becoming merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’
This seemed completely opposite to that emphasis given to elders at the Kingdom Ministry School which must reflect the official position of the Society. It seemed to me that the Society was strongly urging all of us to “care for their own.” And, only those who were good examples. This “care” did not cover the weak or strangers. This seemed to me to violate that text above in Luke. Perhaps JWs, privately critical of Mother Teresa and her “false religion,” could learn something from her: “to see Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.” (Mother Teresa)
The Watchtower Society functions something like a bank. It extends loans on interest to congregations to build halls while the ownership remains with the corporation. Personal loans had been extended on occasion but were expected to be paid back in full. How this affects the attitudes of elders and publishers as it trickles down was illustrated in one particular case I will never forget.
An emotionally distraught sister from Colorado journeyed to Newport Beach, California to serve papers on her divorced husband who owed her $50,000 in back alimony. She had nothing of her own and found herself destitute and on the street. By chance she met a lovely sister with six children. This Californian widow took in the visiting sister. Both were in great need and when the visiting sister saw how poor the “widow” with her children were she scrapped up the last little bit of money to help. Both in need, they by chance met up with a friend of mine who offered to help.
When congregation elders learned of this effort of my friend to help these two, they called her and cautioned her against such help. It was explained that JWs only assist their faithful Witnesses in good standing and with a long record of loyal service. Some how this question of whether to help these women reached me. Over the phone I said I could not believe Christian elders were discussing this question at all. I asked if these two sisters were “enemies”?45 The answer was no. I asked them to read the text from Luke above and wondered how this would solve their problem. There was no budging them! My friend explained to these men that she was going to help them anyway based on Luke 6:27-36.
|45||ENEMY. Compare 2 Thessalonians 3:13, 14.|
This poor sister, a beautiful and caring woman with six children, had no refrigerator. She provided for her children from an ice-chest. My friend and others gathered together some money to help these sisters. Was this just an isolated case of uncaring elders?
Later, my friend was to contact the presiding overseer in the Colorado sister’s congregation. This elder also gave the same instructions to my friend, not to help this one, based on his training at the elder’s school. My friend was irate and let the word out of the need. A “worldly” man on hearing of this woman’s situation, brought a brand new refrigerator and stocked it with food and then had it delivered to the poor widow’s home.
I never want to forget this episode. It illustrates something subtle going on with regard to those funds available to the Society. They would prefer, despite any preachments to the contrary, to have any funds go to Brooklyn. While this “widow” and her children were in need, meanwhile corporate executives lived in fine style in Brooklyn Heights with ample liquor cabinets.
[NOTE: more recently this mother’s car quit on her and she was in desperate need to continue her meager secular occupation. Happily, a Catholic family arranged for her to have a fine new automobile and paid the first six months of insurance also.]
I was reminded of James 1:25-27: ‘ ... this man's form of worship is futile. The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation.’ James seems to indicate that a “form of worship” that fails the real needs of “widows and orphans” is unclean and defiled from God’s own viewpoint. Attitudes like those experienced above did not help in my loyalty to those corporate executives ensconced in their ivory watchtower.
Nazarene Commentary 2000©
Mark Heber Miller
©2000 All Rights Reserved