As Bethelites We Misled the “Superior Authorities”

In 1989, Joe and I, along with another Bethel couple, Dorothy and Dennis, traveled to Turkey on vacation and stayed at the Watch Tower Branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Istanbul. At that time, the Watch Tower and Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned by the Turkish government and could not legally operate in Turkey. To overcome the ban, the branch was directed by a German Witness who disguised it as a German business and incoming mail was frequently searched because the activities at that residence seemed suspicious to the authorities.

So as a favor, we took with us a large brown envelope to give to the director of the branch containing US branch letters and outlines of talks given to us by Don Adams, the president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania. When mailed, material such as we were carrying, if opened by the authorities, would be linked to the Watch Tower and the residents of that small building could be arrested. We didn’t believe we were engaged in anything like smuggling, but just sneaking in private mail, and it was done for “the Kingdom” although we were aware of the illegality of what we were doing.

At the airport when we were going through Turkish Customs and our luggage was searched, custom officials didn’t bother to look in that brown envelope we carried. And Joe and I were under the impression Dorothy and Dennis were carrying correspondence from the Executive Office at Brooklyn Bethel to the branch director too.

What we didn’t know was that our fellow Bethelites were carrying with them a laptop computer which they stated to custom’s officials was theirs. They were asked why they needed a computer. In that they were writing a book about the Turkish culture and needed it to take notes, they declared. We listened to that story with amazement because we knew neither of them was writing a book.

Back then, laptops were scarce and very expensive. Their having one raised suspicions so the custom official called two military officers over to further question Dorothy and Dennis. We watched nervously as the two officers, with machine guns in hand, seriously interrogated them. The officers were accusing them of smuggling the computer into the country to sell it, which they fervently denied. Turkey was known to arrest foreigners for doing this type of thing. We had heard that it could take months of negotiations by a representative from a foreigner’s government to be freed from jail.

We were asked by one of the officers if we knew about the computer. We said no and Dennis quickly agreed. After about thirty minutes of questioning, we were all released and on trembling legs we hailed a taxi to take us to Istanbul to the branch.

Later Dennis admitted to us that he and Dorothy were bringing the computer into Turkey to give it to the Turkish branch. Computers weren’t banned in Turkey, so why would they smuggle one into the Turkish branch, we asked. The answer was stunning – it was so the Watch Tower wouldn’t have to pay the import tax (duty). Our fellow travelers put their safety on the line and ours too to assist Watch Tower headquarters to get a computer to the branch without paying duty. To us that reason was not acceptable and we said so. (Joe tried hard not to react too harshly, but was extremely irate over the issue.)

Dorothy told me that when she and Dennis traveled they often took things into countries for the Watch Tower’s Executive Office declaring the material as their own and didn’t give it a moment’s thought. Usually, she said they took correspondence, etc., to the branch. But to bring in something like a computer and not pay the tax just to save the Watch Tower some money, how foolish was that? Was their attitude unusual? No! I can remember as far back as in the 1960s when Jehovah’s Witnesses thought nothing of misleading custom people by smuggling into countries various goods to take to Witness missionaries without paying any import duty.

For example, one Witness and his wife came up with a plan back then to smuggle into Colombia, SA, a used car, a Volkswagen Beetle, by taking with them into the country a part of the Beetle each time they crossed the border. To take a used car into the country was prohibitively expensive, but not to take in used car parts. In time, the car was reassembled and the local missionaries had a car to use for the ministry.

At the time, we all laughed at the craftiness of the Witnesses to mislead government officials. In days gone by, such experiences were often mentioned in Watchtower literature, especially taking into countries Watch Tower books and magazines that were banned. It’s not something to brag about now that we are no longer Jehovah’s Witnesses, and wouldn’t think of doing such things because it’s dishonest! Cult mind-manipulation is an awesome thing.


As Bethelites We Misled the “Superior Authorities” — 13 Comments

  1. i remember a brother telling me that in his ‘early’ days they used to get on trains or busses without paying the fare as this was considered ‘robbing the Egyptians’. What?
    I call it outright theft- dishonesty.
    As for ‘Robbing the Egyptians’ when did God ever require such behaviour.
    As many have said these are the doings of a cult. Read in the book of Numbers where God required the use of honest scales, honest dealings.

  2. I and the congregation servant of our congregation in AZ went to Mexico to buy some supplies. While there he bought a lot more liquor than tourists were allowed while I bought the legal amount. I thought maybe he knows something I don’t. At the border the guards found his hidden hooch and he ended paying a hefty fine. He had come from Bethel so maybe he had “trained” there in this behavior.

  3. It is so sad to realize now, that this organization (we considered as a mother…) has no respect for the lives and safety of its witnesses. It has no respect for the law and use the Bible to justify his acts of civil disobedience.
    My husband was born in a country where the Watchtower is banned and knew the danger if found to preach or attend secret meetings.
    Years later, he was an elder, had left the country where he was born and had a family life. A district overseer asked him if he would go with him in the former Yugoslavia, where the work was banned, to bring the WT publications. My husband, who was concerned about the impact on his freedom and family in case he would have been discovered, refused. The DO insisted as if it would have been a pleasure trip, but my husband remained firm in his refusal.

    Only now, that fully know the proceedings of the WT, we realize that it is foolish to trust this organization who thinks only to his own interests!

    • Hi Rosy, do you know anyone JW in the former Yugoslavia ? Yes, it was banned there until March 2010. We were there for a while and know a lot JW there but that is where we woke up too.

  4. I am not surprised at all. I remember a circuit overseer who sat at my dining room table recounting how the brothers smuggled suitcases of money to other countries. For claiming to be the most honest people , they sure are dishonest.

  5. Even a few years after I have left the JWs, and the resulting revulsion that I have for that horrible cult, I still have that part of my brain that could see the ‘logic’ of smuggling for the Watchtower Society.
    I would never think of smuggling in even small items for a company or even my government and I would be disgusted if I was asked to do this for them. But my programming kicks in and I could have easily done this for any “brother” or I would have eagerly done it for Jehovah’s Organization.
    I remember reading about brothers sneaking in cars parts, one by one, and then reassembling a car to avoid paying and tax. I bought into their reasoning fully.
    That’s what I am the most mad about; this cult had me from infancy and they totally screwed up my mind. It’s been hard to clear their BS out of my brain and even harder to get it out of my life.

  6. I stole a cream pie once when I was in pioneer service…was hot and hungry after a day in service…no money..Well a bit I got a few donations for the bks and mags I placed…but that was for the “Society”… even though I paid for them already…but I could not use that money…would be like…stealing from…Jehovah…Not good…better to steal from a worldly store keeper, he was going to die at Armegedom anyhow…and well I was out in service…and if I told Jehovah how I felt…maybe He would understand…and …Good grief hey? Go figure…..Glad to know…the higher ups are as guilty at times as us low pubs were …;)

  7. Armageddon, that was to read!…Whoops…been “out” to long! Forgot the spelling! Thankyou Barbara for this info and site…Gd day to all…

  8. Watchtower & JWS have always subscribed to the “theocratic strategy” rule that claimed that while living in a world controlled by the DevIL, who plays with no rules, they could do likewise: any thing goes. Only they decided the degree of application of the honesty rule.

  9. It’s not till you leave that you see the hypocrisy of this organisation and you are so shocked that you could have been so blinded but then Satan is devious and used our love of God as a way to deceive us we should not be surprised

  10. When I was in London Bethel we shipped a new truck to the South Africa branch. But the South African government charged customs duty on imported vehicles. Then someone in Bethel discovered there’s no (or maybe, lower – I don’t remember) duty on vehicle parts. So the truck was disassembled and all the parts packed into a shipping container and sent out. I’ve no idea how much they were saving by doing this. Of course, I was a True Believer at the time and thought it was a wonderful ruse!

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