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” — 21 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!

  11. When the stakes are high, people will go to great lengths to secure that which is essential, even if in doing so they’re forced to engage in questionable ethical, legal, or at times even moral behavior. (Spoiler Alert) The classic Michael Curtiz film “Casablanca” is just such an example. The crook Ugarte acquires two letters of transit by murdering two German war couriers. Later, the owner & namesake of Rick’s Café Américain gains control of these when Ugarte is arrested and subsequently executed by the corrupt Vichy police Captain, Renault. The beautiful Ilsa Lund, wife of the fugitive resistance leader Victor Lazslo, is so intent on procuring these “letters” for her husband that she enters Rick’s living quarters above the Café uninvited and threatens Rick’s life at the point of a gun. Of course, we all know how this story turns out, and we cheer our heroes on despite the cost in human life and despite the questionable ethical choices these protagonists make. Why? because, in the long run, the stakes were high enough, the cause dear enough, that ultimately these choices are understandable, justifiable, even unavoidable.

    Granted, not every choice made by JW’s is just and true. Obviously, quite the contrary. Regardless, those who remain Jehovah’s Witnesses today do so because we continue to believe the conclusions WE’VE reached about the things we’ve learned ARE just and true, even when those within or even “taking the lead” amongst us prove themselves less so. For us, like Ted Kennedy once said at the end of his presidential quest, “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” For JW’s, our dream is so vivid, not even the present ugly realities can diminish the scope of its power nor weaken its hold on the imagination. For you, that makes us cult members. For us, it reminds us how large the stakes, and how convinced we remain of the dream’s realization IF we don’t give out beforehand. If “a thousand years are in Jehovah’s eyes just as yesterday when it is past, and just as a watch during the night” when they are through, I’m convinced even the worst trespass or injustice, even the ones that have occurred many times over, can and eventually will be made right if they haven’t been already. Despite all the other alternatives offered by so many, I’ll continue to place my hope in Jehovah God. At the end of the day, I can’t understand how anyone making a genuinely informed choice would choose otherwise.

    • You will have to face the choice one day, Jehovah or the organization. No-one is taking your faith away, but you will have to make that choice, one day, sooner or later. Many have already made it and now have stronger faith in Jehovah God and the truth of the Bible. WT and it’s many corporations don’t have truth, they just want your money, they don’t care what you believe. All the best in waking up.

      • I’m convinced Jehovah God has used and continues to use this “organization” regardless of how “many” you say believe otherwise. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he rightfully could claim that he, Paul, was a father in Christ to them as it was through his work and teaching that they came to learn of the “good news” and all it would mean for them. In the modern era, it was only through the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society that any of us learned of the good news and all it implies, and it was similarly only due to the work of this organization and those under its direction that people throughout the world came to learn these same things — regardless of where on the planet they lived or what race or religion they came from.

        Jehovah’s Witnesses have accomplished this despite fierce and relatively unrelenting opposition throughout the modern era and could easily apply Psalms 83: 2-5 to their own experience. How about you and the “many” you claim you share your faith with? Where is your evidence you’re making God’s name and purposes known? If you still believe the Kingdom is the vehicle by which Jehovah God fulfills his will towards humankind, why is it that besides actual JW’s, I’ve not physically met one person out and about sharing this information in the communities I live and work in? Why is it I’ve never heard of one example of anyone sharing this information in any community any of my friends live and work in? How awake do I have to be to meet someone/anyone such as yourself actually engaged in the work Jesus cited at Matt. 24:14 which he said would be a significant piece of the consummate sign of the conclusion of this system of things?

        WT corporations have been a means to an end, but not the end in themselves. They’re compatible w/Jesus words to pay Caesar’s things to Caesar, comply w/the laws of the governing authorities throughout the world, and harmonize with Paul’s words to the Corinthians that all matters should take place decently and by arrangement, both within the Christian congregation and without in dealings with “outside” agencies. Why do you find this aspect of the worldwide work so objectionable, and where is your evidence that any individual or group of individuals within the organization has personally profited financially? At any rate, thanks for your kind wishes. Stan Laurel once said he once had a dream he was awake only to wake up to find he’d been sleeping. As regards the serious matters we’re considering, may that not prove to be the case for either one of us.

        • How do you feel about the cover up regarding rape, pedophilia, and incest? How do you feel about elderly people suffering from a diagnosis of dementia who are not a baptized witness who are preyed upon in service and tricked into signing over their entire estate to the Watchtower Society? When they die, they are not even given a memorial. Family members have to hire a probate/wills/trusts attorney within two years (in California) after their family member died to fight them for elder financial abuse.

    • The Trouble with your argument Pat, is that the characters in Casablanca were not claiming sole and absolute access to divinely inspired knowledge about morality. Jehovah ‘s Witnesses are. They insist that they, and they alone will survive the end of the world because they are the only good people.

  12. There is not enough room in these comments to write about the trauma my family and I have endured due to this organization.

    The fact that they all drink alcohol and think it is fine is appalling. The alcohol abuse in the Bethel organization is shocking!

    The Spirit of Deception has taken possession of the group to such a degree that they are completely blinded as to the truth! It is truly a cult! If you have remaining members, please pray for them so they will not go to hell!

    My prayer is that they wake up to the truth before they die!

    I pray that every one of them get delivered, leave the cult, and know Jesus intimately so they may go to heaven when they die. John 3:16

  13. My daughter recently arrived home from her foreign ‘needs greater’ assignment. She disclosed to my wife and I that many ‘need greaters’ enter foreign preaching assignments under false visa declarations and continue to renew their visas similarly. Some of these individuals support themselves financially on false representation to acquire government pensions. Some financially solicit as a means for personal sponsorship from congregations and other trusting members. Many discount the personal liability they bear before government authorities and seem oblivious to offending Jehovah who never supports rank egocentricity. Yet they receive the highest acclaim as spiritually mature and zealous ministers of Almighty God within the Jehovah’s Witness community.

  14. This is so scandalous! I think it is high time for every government to tax churches. After all, they are money making enterprises! We went to the Mormon church for a little while until they asked my husband for access to the payroll department at his employment so that they can get an accurate 10% monthly tithe from him. Our daughter worked for a bank where the church deposited their money. She said they had seven million in their account and the amount increased every month. Then we heard of a single mother at the church who was battling breast cancer, who had left an abusive husband with four children. She asked for financial help while she underwent chemotherapy. The elders told her “to go back to her husband and that they thought she was capable of supporting herself.” I believe they could have afforded to help her out while she went through treatment. Instead she relied on social services. She lost all her breasts/hair, was a living skeleton, and is now cancer free thanks to the taxpayers!

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