The Organisation Sponsored My Higher Education
During the recent Australian Royal Commission’s (ARC) inquiry into Jehovah’s Witnesses’ (JW) responses to child sexual abuse, many nuggets of truth came to light, not least of which concerned the subject of higher education.
I’d like to begin my analysis by saying: ‘Angus Stewart, I salute you.’
The first witness to take the stand on August 5, 2015 was none other than Vincent Joseph Toole, 67, legal counsel for the Australian branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was appointed Elder in 1977, served as Circuit Overseer (CO) from 1980-1989, and from ’89 onwards became a bethelite in Australia. The interesting tidbit proceeds as follows:
Stewart: When you commenced working at the branch headquarters, is it then that you commenced your legal studies?
Toole: Yes, not long after I arrived there.
Stewart: Yes. And did the Branch Committee or the Jehovah’s Witnesses then sponsor your legal studies?
Stewart: And in 1993 you completed those studies and were admitted as a solicitor, is that right?
Toole: Yes, that’s correct.
Stewart: And since then you’ve done legal work for ‘Jehovah’s Witness Australia’ or Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia on a voluntary basis, is that correct?
Toole: Yes, that’s right.
Let’s back track a little bit. So the Australian branch of Jehovah’s Witness sponsored a Brother’s legal studies?
Wag net ‘n bietjie, let me rephrase: So the organisation took donated funds, out of the contribution boxes, in order to sponsor a Brother’s pursuit of higher education?
No wait! Wait wait wait, hold on, let me rephrase that just one more time; bear with me here… I have to process all of this: So the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses (the ‘Faithful and Discreet Slave’… ‘Guardians of our Doctrine’) authorized the sending of a Brother to university in order for him to obtain a law degree – higher education – notwithstanding the ‘fact’ that we are living in the Last Days, so deep in the time of the End, when Jehovah’s Day could come at any time?
Am I getting this right?
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, shall we. Let’s peruse the pages of the Awake! magazine of May 22, 1969, pages 14 and 15. The title of said article reads: ‘What Future For the Young?’ It vigorously states:
‘If you are a young person, you […] need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this system of things […] because all evidence in fulfillment of bible prophecy indicates that this corrupt system is due to end in a few years. Of the generation that observed the beginning of the “Last Days” in 1914, Jesus foretold: “This generation will by no means pass away until all these things [including Armageddon]” occur. – Matthew 24:34. Therefore, as a young person, you will never fulfill any career that this system offers. [If you pursue a degree], where will this system of things be by [the time you finish]? It will be on its way towards the finish, if not actually gone!’ [Emphasis mine]
Whoa! Okay… a‘ight.
To understand the nature of this Awake! article and it’s position, we have to put it in context. This article was written during the time when Witnesses the world over had a bona fide belief that the world would come to an end in 1975. This belief was not the invention of the rank-and-file Witness, it was a product of the organisation’s innovation. The book ‘Life Everlasting – In Freedom of the Sons of God’ (1966), a book believed to have been authoured by the then chief theologian, the late Frederick ‘The Wizard’ Franz, 73, speculated that ‘the seventh period of a thousand years of human history will begin in the fall of 1975 C.E.’ Further still the book emphatically proclaimed:
‘How appropriate it would be for Jehovah God to make this coming seventh period of a thousand years a Sabbath period of rest and release. […] It would be most fitting on God’s part [to make this a Sabbath].’ [Bold mine]
Also, one particular District Overseer (DO), Charles Sinutko, is credited as having said – at least in one District Convention held at Wisconsin Sheboygan (1967), in a talk entitled ‘Serving with Everlasting Life in View’ – the now famous words: “Stay alive ’til ’75.”
Again, in an effort to make the imminence clear in the minds of the Witnesses, one Watchtower article (1969) even stated:
‘In view of the short time left in which to do the work, Jehovah’s witnesses do not continue to study the bible with any who fail to respond to its urgent message within six months. […] This Arrangement is not meant to be harsh, but the urgency of the time in which we live demands it.’ [Bold mine]
There were earlier statements made (and written) in praise of those who abandoned ‘worldly’ pursuits and material goods in order to spend the ‘remaining months’ of this system serving ‘where the need is great.’ As an example, the Kingdom Ministry of 1974 stated:
‘Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly, this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world’s end.’ [Bold mine]
Add to that the then understanding of the generation of Matthew 24:34, namely, that this referred to the literal generation of people that lived (or were born) in 1914; that it was ‘this generation’ of people, as a class, that would not go extinct before this system came to an end (i.e. Armageddon) – and, take note, this was before the current ‘overlapping generation’ innovation.
As further evidence of this, the Awake! masthead even confidently stated of itself that ‘this magazine build’s confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.’ [Bold mine] This masthead was subsequently changed as of November 8, 1995 to read: ‘…secure new world that is about to replace the present wicked, lawless system of things.’
If that isn’t enough, there was a Watchtower (January 1, 1989) article that boldly stated:
‘The Apostle Paul was spearheading the Christian missionary activity. He was also laying a foundation for a work that would be completed in our 20th century.’ [Bold mine]
The ‘20th century’ part was subsequently airbrushed out in the bound volume edition of the Watchtower, to instead read: ‘…in our day.’ This suggests that the Governing Body was already preparing itself for the possibility of extra time, in case the ‘Creator’s promise’ failed.
Succeeding members of the Governing Body continued the onslaught on higher education with some radical rhetoric and guilt-tripping nuances. Consider the following.
In May 22, 2005 while giving a keynote talk at a Special convention in the city of Monza, Italy, Governing Body member, Gerrit Lösch, said:
‘Going to college or not may be a reflection of your faith, or lack of your faith, and it may indicate how present the imminence of the Great Tribulation is in your mind. What is undoubtable is that the time left is reduced […].
If you are currently going to college, why not meditate in prayer on the possibility of dropping out and doing something better? [..] There are more worthy reasons for not putting a worldly career first in our lives. […] The End is near.
[…] Now you have listened to the advice. What will you do now? Some advocate going to college by citing the example of some Elders’ children who are attending college or that did so [in the past]. We are not able, nor willing, to tell you what you should do. […] We are not masters over your faith; however, the Faithful and Discreet Slave has the responsibility to warn against spiritual dangers and to encourage to put kingdom interests first. So, the Slave discourages from going to college for a long period of time. I have often times heard experiences of individuals who were about to complete their college programs, and who dropped out when they learned the Truth. Some other baptised individuals have turned down scholarships. What will you do? What decision will you make? Will you refuse or not? Will you get a university education or not? You will be accountable to Jehovah for this. We would like to praise those in the audience who dropped out of college when they accepted the Truth, as we praise all those who, after listening to this talk, will make the same decision.
Maybe you still want to advocate the possibility of going to college. You may say: “You see, Brother X went to college, and now he’s serving in the congregation and is also a pioneer.” True, he may have survived college, so to speak. […] Some have survived college, but would you recommend that to others? Instead of investing in a higher education it would be advisable to grow in the knowledge of Jehovah.’
Vincent Toole’s admission that the organisation sponsored his legal studies comes hot on the heels of the organisation’s eventual admission and confirmation, in the January 2015 JW Broadcasting monthly program, of the long-held rumours that the organisation not only launched, but financed, the higher education of a number of bethel brothers, assisting them obtain law degrees; one such brother being Philip Brumley, 59, son of missionary George Brumley, who got accepted into bethel (circ. 1975), and subsequently became ‘overseer of the legal department’ (circ. 1987) having been admitted as an attorney in New York in 1988 – he obtained his law degree (JD) from Brooklyn Law School.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: Is this not patently duplicitous? You discourage higher education, you flood the subject with negativity, you question people’s motives, their faith, you tell them to trust in Jehovah, to abandon higher education, to drop out of college and ‘do something better’ (i.e. pioneering); you create these false dichotomies, making youngsters believe that it’s either one or the other, higher education or fulltime service, as if one can’t actually do both, as if it’s impossible to serve Jehovah while studying towards a degree; you tell people it’s their choice to decide, that they are free to do as they wish, that they are accountable to Jehovah, but then you turn around, generate pessimism and phobias around the topic, such that the words ‘higher education’ now carry a stigma and make the average Witness cringe and wince at the mere sound; and after creating this false dichotomy – this false choice – you effectively take the actual choice away; you put under review anyone holding a congregation privilege who happens to take up higher education, and in so doing, you create a climate of concealment and suppression, where anyone who chooses to study is left with little choice but to bend over backwards trying to fly under the radar of your anti-higher education missiles. Every opportunity you get, you take a jab at higher education. And yet, the funny thing is, at annual conventions and assemblies there’s usually a petition made out, for anyone who has a qualification (i.e. lawyers, doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers) to please consider rendering their services at the local bethel branch. Why, a bethelite once quoted to me – correctly or not – that Frans Muller, co-ordinator of the South African Branch Committee, once said: ‘We don’t encourage Brothers to go to university, but, if they have a degree, we’ll use it to the full.’
This sort of thing used to baffle me during my time as a regular pioneer; it created a conflict in my mind that I chalked up to a lack faith on my part. I now appreciate that the inconsistencies presented – based on empirical evidence – were gradually fermenting cognitive dissonance in my mind. Think: is the request for qualified persons not an appalling request under the circumstances? Would it not amount to an unconscionable attempt at having one’s bread buttered on both sides at the expense of others? You tell them not to go to varsity but then petition them to use their qualifications ‘to serve Jehovah’ – to serve you, really?! And worse still, you tell them not to pursue higher education, but then secretly send others to law school using the very funds donated by some of the most indigent Witnesses.
You are poor examples of your own mandate. Yes, you tell Witnesses they are free to do what they want, but then you put all your ‘theocratic’ weight into discouraging them not to, you practically marinate them into your private views, through overt statements, subliminal messages and cherry-picked stories of Brother so-and-so who got wrecked by the pursuit of higher education. Your appeals to the emotions are stellar. You’ve crafted the art of argumentum ad passiones; your command thereof puts most propagandists to shame.
But, now, we must ask: what happened to the ‘fact’ that ‘you will never grow old in this system,’ that all ‘evidence’ shows that this system will end in a ‘few years,’ few ‘remaining months,’ the ‘20th century’ and that consequently ‘you will never fulfill any career that this system has to offer,’ that this system could very-well be ‘gone’ by the time you graduate and so why not consider ‘dropping out’ and doing something better?
When will you ‘Guardians of our Doctrines’ ever learn (to mind your own business)? When will you ever learn not to lord it over the flock? When will you learn not to super-impose yourselves? Did y’all never read the story of the highly esteemed prophet, Samuel, when he went to anoint as king one of the sons of Jesse? Jehovah made it abundantly clear that what mattered most was not Samuel’s view, but Jehovah’s view. Samuel was a bona fide prophet whose appointment was not contested, whose opinions were esteemed by the public, yes; and, yet, even he had to learn to step aside and let God; the reason was simply that ‘the way men sees is not the way God sees, for God sees what the heart is’ (1 Samuel 16:7). Will you ever learn?
Alas! To my dismay, empirical evidence suggests not any time soon… at least not in my generation.
 South African born lawyer, Angus Stewart SC, 50, Counsel Assisting at the Australian Royal Commission, case study of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
 Life Everlasting – In Freedom of the Sons of God (1966) pages 29, 30.
 ‘Have You Been Studying For Six Months?’ The Watchtower (969) May 15 page 312.
 The Watchtower (1941) September 15 page 288.
 ‘How Are You Using Your Life?’ Our Kingdom Ministry May 1974 page 3.
 The Watchtower (1989) January 1 page 12.
 The talk was captured on video and the YouTube link was last accessed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7R4f9ygxDbk on September 28, 2015. The talk was delivered in Italian and we operate under the assumption that the subtitles are a fair translation of what was said.
 ‘The Joy that Serving Jehovah Has Brought Me’ The Watchtower (1992) December 1 pages 21-25.
 New York State Unified Court System: last accessed at https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/attorney/AttorneyDetails?attorneyId=5453452 on September 24, 2015.