How to Rescue
Your Loved One
from the

an online guide
to helping
Jehovah's Witnesses
escape from bondage

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How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower 2010 edition
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"Rescue" from a Religion?
Don't Delay--Act Today!
Overall Strategy
Techniques that Work
Tools to Use
Step by Step
God's "Prophet"
A Changing "Channel"
Doctoring Medical Doctrines
Strange Ideas Taught in God's Name
"God's Visible Organization"
Providing an Alternative
Can This Marriage Be Saved?
When Children Are Involved
Warning: The Life You Save May Be Your Own
Afterwork: Gradual Rehabilitation
Appendix: Resources & Support Groups

How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower
Home | Preface | Introduction | "Rescue" from a Religion? | Don't Delay--Act Today! | Overall Strategy | Techniques that Work | Tools to Use | Step by Step | God's "Prophet" | A Changing "Channel" | Doctoring Medical Doctrines | Strange Ideas Taught in God's Name | "God's Visible Organization" | Providing an Alternative | Can This Marriage Be Saved? | When Children Are Involved | Warning: The Life You Save May Be Your Own | Afterwork: Gradual Rehabilitation | Appendix: Resources & Support Groups
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Chapter 4
Techniques that Work

Consider the story of Henry.

When Henry discovered that his wife was already deeply involved with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and was in fact about to be baptized as a full-fledged member, he began doing research to accumulate evidence against the Watchtower Society and its teachings. After a month of intense effort he had gathered together six books, twelve cassette tapes, two dozen tracts and a hundred pages of notes. He was now ready to present the evidence to his wife. Knowing that she was about to return home from the Tuesday night Congregation Book Study meeting, he assembled his materials and waited for her in the front hallway, half-way up the stairs. When he heard the sound of her key in the lock, he picked up all his materials, and as she entered the hall and turned to face him, he swung his arms in the air and flung everything he had at her. All at once she was engulfed in a hailstorm of books and tapes, followed by a flurry of notepapers and tracts.

“See! The Watchtower is wrong! wrong! wrong!” Henry shouted at her, as his wife beat a hasty retreat to the car.

She returned to the Kingdom Hall just in time, before the elders had locked it up for the night, and asked them to find her temporary lodging so she could take refuge from her husband’s “vicious persecution.”


This parable of Henry and his wife is a fictitious story, but it is not far off from describing what actually happens in many cases. Though not literally dumping books and tapes on a Witness’s head, overzealous friends or relatives will often bombard a JW with facts, figures, quotes, and Bible verses in rapid-fire succession. And the results are usually as disastrous as in Henry’s case.

The would-be rescuer has no trouble receiving all that information, because each new point is a welcome addition to the arsenal of facts he is collecting to support his contention. The Witness, on the other hand, sees each point as a strange and frightening new thought, a scary challenge to cherished beliefs. Someone unaccustomed to “independent thinking” finds it difficult to entertain even one unfamiliar notion, never mind a surging flood of foreign ideas. And this flash flood of ideas threatens to wash away the Witness’s faith and undermine the structure of his universe.

Cult members aside, the ordinary person can absorb only so much new information at one time. Especially is this true when the data appears not to fit in with, or even to contradict, other data already stored in the brain. The mind needs time to analyze the new information, look at it from all angles, and decide which of the contrary notions ought to be stored for future use and which ought to be discarded as useless rubbish. This process can not be rushed, especially when the push comes from someone else who is trying to force-feed new concepts.

A gardener will appreciate that even though a dry plot of land may be dying of thirst, a sudden heavy downpour does more harm than good: instead of penetrating the soil, the pouring rain just runs off, washing away topsoil and perhaps even newly planted seed. What is needed to relieve the drought is gentle rain—even just a  sprinkle at first—repeated often and over a long period of time.

Naturally, anyone with a close friend or relative trapped in a cult wants to get that person out as soon as possible. So the temptation is strong to act quickly and forcefully, pouring out as much evidence as can be obtained, all at once, and with great gusto. Indeed that may be the best course to take when a loved one is just beginning to get involved with a cult; it may be just what is needed to scare them off from further involvement. But it is generally not the advisable course when the cultist is already fully involved and has been for some time. Such an individual is likely to be scared off from you and to run back to the cult for the comfort of familiar surroundings.

The point is that getting someone out of a controlling sect is not a quick job, like pulling a tooth. The process of extraction can be expected to take some time. Techniques must be used that will allow you to work gradually over a period of time.

In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses even more is required than simply to “go slow.” It is also necessary to “play dumb.” This is because the Watchtower Society has forewarned its followers that attempts will be made to dissuade them from their beliefs, and the organization has instructed them to avoid anyone who appears bent on accomplishing that end. As already mentioned, early-on in their “free home Bible study” Jehovah’s Witnesses tell their students that Satan the devil is likely to use friends or relatives in an attempt to get them to “stop examining the Scriptures” (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, pp. 22–23). So, if you tell the new “student” that you think he ought to stop studying with the Witnesses, you (1) make the JW’s look like true prophets, because you fulfilled their prediction that you would act that way; and (2) you identify yourself as someone under the influence of Satan the devil and opposed to God. Watchtower leaders have intentionally planted these thoughts in the minds of new “students” in order to head off any attempt by friends or relatives to stop the study.

Now if persons who are only in the second chapter of their first book are already being conditioned to view opposition to the Watchtower as originating with the devil, just think of how those must feel who have been exposed to years of indoctrination from the study of dozens of books and hundreds of magazines, plus five hours of meetings each week! They can almost see Satan standing behind you, the opposer, manipulating you and speaking through you.

Every so often we hear on the evening news that a firebug has set fire to a building, destroying property and endangering lives. Usually, however, most of the intended victims managed to escape because they heeded the sound of fire alarms or the shouts of their neighbors. But suppose for a moment that a more calculating pyromaniac were to dress himself in a business suit and calmly knock at each door in a hotel or apartment building, warning the residents to “Please, remain inside your unit, because a sniper is on the loose. The sniper’s method is to sound a fire alarm and then shoot at people as they flee into the hallways or onto the balconies. Regardless of what you hear, don’t open your door, or the sniper will get you.” Then the firebug proceeds to set the building on fire and leave. The alarm sounds, but people remain in their units with the doors shut. An off-duty fireman sees smoke and enters the building before any engines arrive. He starts pounding on doors calling, “Fire! Fire! Evacuate the building!” but the people inside remain silent or else shout, “Go away!” An off-duty policeman joins him and kicks down the door of a unit where he saw children peeking out the window. But the father, determined to save his family from the “sniper,” fires a rifle at the open door. In self-defense, the policeman returns the fire. Now others in the building who had begun to think of leaving change their mind. The warning was correct; there really is a sniper—they heard the shots.

The frustration faced by these would-be rescuers illustrates the situation of anyone trying to rescue a friend or relative from the Watchtower: the harder you try to help, the more the Witness resists. The more forcefully you attempt to effect a rescue, the more convinced the JW becomes that Satan has sent you.

So, there is no alternative other than to conceal the fact that your aim is to get the individual out of the organization. To do otherwise would almost certainly doom your effort to failure.

When dealing with someone who has only recently started to study with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but who has already been warned that the devil will use friends and relatives against him, you might try an approach like this:


I’m glad to see that you are really sincere about wanting to know God and to do his will. I feel the same way myself. Of course, it’s a serious matter to commit oneself to a particular religious organization, and I would want to be absolutely certain before taking such a serious step. So I have begun investigating the Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, looking at both sides of the story. I mean that there is much to be said in favor of the group, but there is also much in their history that makes me see the need for caution. They paint a rosy picture of themselves, but I’m afraid they may be telling only part of the story. And when they instruct people not to read anything by persons who left the group, it’s enough to make you wonder if they may have something to hide. In fact, I found some interesting information in this [book/or tape]. Here—perhaps you would like to [read/or listen to] it. I’m sure you, too, want to know all the facts before you get so deeply involved that they can tell you not to listen to anything else.


That approach may open the door to reach someone newly studying with the Witnesses. It will not work with those who have already become “dedicated and baptized” or who have been undergoing indoctrination for a long period of time. They have been fed a steady diet of warnings such as these:


Beware of those who try to put forward their own contrary opinions (The Watchtower, 3/15/86, p. 17).


Do you refuse to listen to bitter criticism of Jehovah’s organization? You should refuse (The Watchtower, 5/15/84, p. 17).


Avoid Independent Thinking

… How is such independent thinking manifested? A common way is by questioning the counsel that is provided by God’s visible organization. (The Watchtower, 1/15/83, p. 22).


Fight Against Independent Thinking

… And just as in the first century there was only one true Christian organization so today Jehovah is using only one organization. (Ephesians 4:4, 5; Matthew 24:45–47). Yet there are some who point out that the organization has had to make adjustments before, and so they argue: “This shows that we have to make up our own mind on what to believe.” This is independent thinking. Why is it so dangerous? Such thinking is an evidence of pride (The Watchtower, 1/15/83, p. 27).


Although a Jehovah’s Witness who believes that these instructions are from God will go up to the door of a person of another religion to preach to him and offer him Watchtower books and magazines, the Witness will not listen to anyone preach another religion and will not accept anyone else’s literature. So you can not appeal to him to hear “the other side of the story.” He does not want to hear the other side of the story, because he sincerely believes that it is wrong for him to listen to or even to think about anything contrary to what the Society teaches. (Even if the particular JW is one who does not really believe this, he is intimidated by the organization’s system of disciplinary judicial committees and fears that he might be cut off from family and friends were he to be caught and punished for deviating from the prescribed course.)

How, then, can you share any new thoughts with someone who is so hemmed in? The most effective way is to take advantage of the JW’s training to teach you. If he thinks he is teaching you, a Witness will discuss subjects that would have sent him fleeing if he thought that you were trying to teach him. The key to helping the individual then becomes a matter of asking the right questions.

For example, if you forcefully point out to a Jehovah’s Witness that the Watchtower Society’s founder, Charles Taze Russell, believed the Great Pyramid of Egypt was inspired by God, just like the Bible, and that some of Russell’s false prophecies were based on his calculations of measurements of chambers within the pyramid, the Witness will view you as an opposer and will refuse to examine the documentary evidence that you offer him. But if you are the Witness’s “student,” and you happen to come across this material and have questions about it, the Witness will feel obligated to help you. And in the course of helping you he may have to look at and read the same material that he would have refused to look at if you had confronted him with it as a challenge to his faith.

Questions can thus be raised about the Watchtower Society’s many false prophecies over the years, back-and-forth doctrinal changes, prohibitions on vaccinations and organ transplants that were later abandoned and other peculiar teachings not found in the Bible—beliefs that would naturally raise questions in your mind, and that should in turn cause the Jehovah’s Witness himself to question whether he is really in “God’s organization.” If these subjects were brought up confrontationally as a challenge to his faith, the JW would become defensive and back away from examining them. But if the issues are raised unemotionally as honest questions that require answers, the Witness may find himself face-to-face with overwhelming and convincing evidence that he can not ignore.

Besides asking about these embarrassing skeletons in the Watchtower’s closet, scriptural points can also be raised in the form of questions. In fact, you can even approach the JW with a list of verses that you would like some “help” with. Or, if that is not appropriate, you could present them as Scriptures that you would like to hear his comments on. The important point is to avoid any appearance of confronting the Witness, challenging him, pushing him, or otherwise trying to impose on him your understanding of the verses.

So instead of pointing at John 20:28 and saying, “See! The apostle Thomas called Jesus ‘My Lord and my God!’ That proves that Jesus is God,” it would be more effective to ask the Witness to look up the verse and explain it to you. If he misses the point, use a few tactful questions to redirect his thinking. For example, he may try to minimize the import of Thomas’s words by saying, “That was merely an exclamation of surprise at seeing Jesus alive again—just like you might say, ‘Oh, my God!’ when you are startled. Thomas didn’t mean anything by it.” In that case, you could ask what Jesus meant when he responded, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29 rsv). Ask, What did Thomas believe? How did his words reveal his belief? If Thomas had used the words Lord and God merely as an exclamation of surprise, wouldn’t that have been blasphemy? Wouldn’t Jesus have rebuked him? Why did Jesus commend him? What belief that Thomas expressed would bring blessings on others in the future who also come to believe the same thing? If I visited the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses and told the elders there that I accept Jesus as “My Lord and my God,” will they commend me for my belief?

The purpose of all these questions is twofold: (1) to get the JW to see what the Bible actually says, in context; and (2) to  help him reach a conclusion about the meaning of the verse that is different from the prepackaged conclusion offered by his leaders.

If you tell him what the verse means, then you are simply offering him another prepackaged conclusion—namely, yours—and he must decide whether to accept yours or the Watchtower’s. But, if you can skillfully ask the right questions to enable him to reach the right conclusion in his own mind, it will have a much more profound effect.

To learn how to do this—how to ask leading questions that let you teach answers without telling answers—study the example of Jesus Christ. As the greatest teacher ever to walk the earth, he knew how to instruct his hearers by asking them questions. When people doubted that he had the power to forgive sins, he asked, “Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” (Mark 2:9 niv). When enemies tried to trap him in the controversy over whether or not to pay taxes to Caesar, he had them produce a coin and then asked, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” (Mark 12:16 niv). Faced with Pharisees who disapproved of his healing on the Sabbath, he asked, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 14:5 nkj). In each case the answer that his listeners were forced to come up with in their own minds was powerful and conclusive.

Besides being useful in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are programmed to accept questions but not teaching from persons outside their religion, questions are a powerful teaching tool in their own right. This is because people are much more strongly impressed by answers they form in their own minds than by answers fed to them by someone else. Elementary-school-classroom teachers know and use this technique when teaching children, and you can do the same with Jehovah’s Witnesses. For example, if you assert that Jesus was resurrected bodily, which is contrary to Watchtower teaching, you will make little headway with a JW; but if you have the same Witness read in John 2:19, 20 niv: “ ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.… ’ the temple he had spoken of was his body” (italics added), and then ask, “What did Jesus say would happen to his body?” the Witness will know the right answer even if he is afraid to say it out loud.

After hearing this technique explained, a man who had previously been in the habit of arguing doctrine with his JW wife summed it up this way: Instead of wagging your finger in their faces, you get the finger to wag inside their heads.

And whose finger is it that begins to wag inside the Witness’s head when Scripture is presented in this way, using questions rather than arguments? It is the finger of his or her own conscience, since deep inside, they come to realize what is right.… “their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing … them” (Rom. 2:15 niv).

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