In a small east Texas town, a little girl sat crying on a stump in the woods. She had just been to the local
Methodist church and found out that if she’s not a good girl, she will burn forever in a Lake of Fire. She
looked up to heaven in anguish and cried out, “God, if you are real, I want to know why you would burn
people in hell?” Years passed and the little girl grew up, fell in love and got engaged. She was introduced
to her soon-to-be father-in-law whose first words to her were, “Young lady, do you know that God has a
name, and it is ‘Jehovah’?” Then, he told her what she wanted to hear — “hell was not hot”. These were
the answers she had been looking for many years ago when she sat on that stump in the woods.
This was my mother, and this is how she became the unwitting victim of cult mind control. She was
baptized into the Watchtower organization when I was barely two years old. My dad was soon to follow.
He served the Watchtower as an accounts servant until they began the elder arrangement. My father was
appointed as an elder and remained an elder until the year 1999, when a dispute between he and other
elders concerning his grandson (my son) led to his “stepping down.” Publicly he said he was stepping
down in order to devote more time to pioneering (spending an average of 83 hours a month in the door-
to-door discipleship work). He was a full-time pioneer at the time, and as far as I know, still is.
Jehovah’s Witnesses obey a group of men known as “The Governing Body.” These men claim to be
God’s channel of communication to people on earth. They believe only they can interpret the Word of
God accurately and only 144,000 of their most elite are eligible for heavenly life. Questioning the authority
of the “Governing Body” is a punishable crime, as you will see.
In my 30s, I began to pioneer. I was a religious zealot, a modern day Pharisee, looking down scornfully at
anyone too lazy to pursue the “truth,” as we called it, the same way I did. I had to judge others severely in
order to feel righteous, (self-righteousness actually). Something in me always knew my hard work was
never good enough, but in the moments I spent comparing myself to others, I would feel a tiny reprieve
from the steady diet of constant guilt and condemnation. This is the underlying message you get for 5
hours a week in the Kingdom Hall (what we call our meeting place). I believed I was doing all I could to
please God and obliging Him to protect me through the battle of Armageddon. Still, the very best I could
hope for was to die while in the door-to-door ministry or in the process of refusing a blood transfusion.
That’s the closest any Witness gets to a guarantee of getting into the “new order,” the paradise earth.
This is the hope most Jehovah’s Witnesses look forward to since heaven only has room for 144,000.
Once you make it into the “new order,” then you have to go without any major sin for 1,000 years and
then you have to be tested again to see if you deserve eternal life. Even if you pass all the tests, there is
no hope of lasting security. If you pass the test, you will only win “perfection” which is supposed to greatly
reduce your risk of sinning again and being permanently destroyed.
My faith started to wane when I had a miscarriage. I could never reconcile that my baby would have no
resurrection according to Jehovah’s Witness beliefs. I did not see it as outright rebellion at the time, but I
secretly rejected the Jehovah’s Witness idea that Jesus was not my personal Mediator. I also remember a
prayer just before the time of Memorial when I was really searching for the love of God, and I distinctly
remember standing in my kitchen and begging God to help me understand what kind of love would allow
Him to give up His Son as a sacrifice for people who didn’t even know Him. Ultimately, in time, he
answered that prayer.
I remember feeling sorry for the people who refused to embrace the JW paradigm. I considered my way
of life far superior to theirs. I never believed it when people I met in my door-to-door ministry told me they
had a personal relationship with Jesus. I wrote them off as poor deluded fools. I wanted them to embrace
the good news that they could live forever in a paradise earth with no sickness, pain or death if only they
would study the Bible with me for six to 12 months, read all the Jehovah’s Witness literature, report an
average of ten hours a month in the door-to-door ministry, attend five meetings a week and live by the
Watchtower tenets which included no smoking, no voting, no blood transfusions, no participation in
worldly holidays, no birthday celebrations and no military service. Easy! What’s not to love about that?!?!
I was persuasive enough to lead five people to the point of baptism. I reported a monthly average of ten
Bible studies and placed hundreds of pieces of literature. I read and studied the organization’s material to
an extent that I was able to argue the doctrine better than any elder in our congregation, and this by their
own admission. I gave “talks” and “demonstrations” at nearly every ministry school and service meeting;
so much so that I suffered nervous stomach aches nearly every Tuesday night. But I had a gift for
argumentation and had been used on the stage frequently since the age of seven. My own son began in
the ministry school when he was only five. Picture a little boy in a suit, like a miniature man, standing on a
milk crate, speaking before an audience of about 100 people, reading a chapter of Ezekiel. Adorable! You
could say I was a chief Jehovah’s Witness among Jehovah’s Witnesses and our family the “exemplary”
Jehovah’s Witness family. Despite my hard work, I was desperately lonely, empty and longing for
something, I didn’t know what. My mother sensed this in me and used to say; “Girl, why are you so
driven?” As a Jehovah’s Witness, I received a “conditional” kind of love and acceptance. It is no surprise
that this is the kind of love I brought to my marriage, and it is no surprise that my marriage fell apart after
There was a lot of hypocrisy in my life, as there is in all Jehovah’s Witness lives, but my heart really
ached for people when they refused to see the “truth” I was trying to give them. I would cry and
desperately pray for them. I did not want them to die at Armageddon. I think in this way I was a little
different than other Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most of them were just trying to make the mark, stay in good
standing with the organization, survive. I did this too sometimes. We all did whatever we had to do to
please the powers that be — not having a real relationship with God results in a lot of “man-pleasing”
busy work. I could say a lot about the detrimental effects of the busy work which consumed our lives. We
always sought relief, not even realizing we were running away, but all Jehovah’s Witnesses run or hide in
their own way. When I was tired of running, I ran away from my marriage instead and was
I took a secular job and began noticing Christian people who acted more like Christians than some of my
Jehovah’s Witness’ friends (myself included). I was impressed with how a woman brought her Bible to
work and actually read it during her lunch hour. Another man showed me unusual kindness by inviting me
to see his family perform in the Christmas pageant at his church and he gave me a Christmas present
when I barely knew him. I had never heard the expression “daily devotional,” but another woman in the
office asked if she could begin sending them to me. When I saw these were only verses from the Bible, I
wondered why I had been warned all my life not to read other people’s religious materials. I observed
these people’s lives, how they really lived what they believed, and I began to wonder why a God of love
wanted to kill these people at Armageddon. Was God really so cruel, wanting to destroy these people
who obviously love Him, just because they are not Jehovah’s Witnesses? This bothered me, but being so
good at avoiding conflict, I shelved these disquieting thoughts until I met someone who forced me to take
them off the shelf.
I began dating a Baptist man. After attending some of my meetings at the Kingdom Hall, he saw I was
actually involved in a cult. He tried to convince me, but I would not listen. I threw away anything he
brought me that questioned or spoke against the Witnesses. He tried to show me Scriptures that
disproved my beliefs, and when I could not refute them with my normal Jehovah’s Witnesses rhetoric, I
became frustrated and angry with God for allowing other Bibles to exist with the wrong words in them,
words that contradicted my trustworthy New World Translation Bible printed by the Watchtower Society.
Bless his heart, he never gave up on me. When he found out I was throwing away the books he gave me,
he asked me why I was so afraid to read them. I don’t know what I said to justify myself, but he only said
“He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world.” I told him that’s not in the bible, so he showed it to
me in his bible. I never told him this, but when he read that to me, I thought…”Wow! I wish I that was me, I
wish I didn’t have to be afraid of everything.”
During this time, I transferred to a job where I worked with a Baptist woman who was married to a
Jehovah’s Witness. She invited me to a Bible study in someone’s house. I only accepted her invitation so
I could prove to her how wrong she was and hopefully get her to convert to Jehovah’s Witness like her
husband. I was not prepared for what I encountered at that Bible study. I heard how God had been
answering these women’s prayers. This was impossible since I knew God would only answer Witness
prayers because Witnesses are the only ones who call God by his name “Jehovah.” Then, they watched
a Beth Moore teaching video where a description was given of a woman who one day knew she was
secure in knowing where she would be for eternity one day and how the next day, she wasn’t sure. This
hit me so hard because it described my whole life. I was that woman. I cried all the way home and asked
God that if there was a way I could know, for sure, that I would not die at Armageddon, would He please
reveal it to me, although I kept confessing to Jehovah that there’s no way this could be true.
Later, my boyfriend was invited to a non-denominational church by one of his clients. He gave me the
invitation card to the church and said he thought I should go see what it was like. I owed my boyfriend at
least one visit to a church because he went many times with me to the Kingdom Hall. I went, but thought I
was going to be struck by lightning as soon as my foot entered the door. I had been told my whole life that
the only reason churches exist is so preachers can extort money from people. I was also praying for
forgiveness for walking into a place where demons live and asking God to protect me from the evil spirits.
The sight of a cross was frightening because I was taught that the cross was a pagan symbol. I wanted to
get out, but I was going to do this one thing for my boyfriend to be fair.
The people smiled and acted friendly, but I was sure they had a secret agenda. They seemed like normal
people, and they seemed to be sincere. I met the older couple who had invited my boyfriend to this
church. They were kind, but I thought they could be faking it. I remember exuding warmth and love
bombing new people who came to visit our Kingdom Hall. I knew my hidden agenda; I just wanted to help
get them converted. How could everything I had been taught about these people be wrong? I followed the
sermon in my own New World Translation and could find no point upon which to discredit the Pastor.
There was a song they sang at the end with the word “Trinity” in it, which I strongly disagreed with. This
was enough to make me decide the whole thing was wrong, and I set out to prove it.
I had a plan to prove to my boyfriend that my religion was right and his was wrong. I was going to meet
with the Pastor and get him to agree that I was right and he was wrong, and then my boyfriend would stop
going there. I was extremely confident in my ability to do this. I met with Pastor Bruce Hess who, after
several rounds on the hellfire doctrine, refused to argue with me anymore. He said arguing over doctrine
was a pointless endeavor. (What! Arguing doctrine was my life!) He said it all boils down to this one thing:
“do” vs. “done.” He explained that if any of my works as a Jehovah’s Witness could earn me some kind of
favor with God, then Christ’s work on the “cross” (Ouch! I winced at that word) was in some way deficient.
He went on to explain that if I could add even one tiny bit to my own salvation, then Christ’s sacrifice
wasn’t good enough. Oh no…I knew very well the sufferings of Jesus and the idea of telling Jesus that his
sacrifice was good, but not enough, that it was only a down payment towards my salvation, and how I
would have to work off the rest of the payments until my salvation could be secured…well, it was the
worst thing I could imagine saying to Jesus…yet this is exactly how I was raised to believe.
At this point, I sarcastically asked about an expression I had heard church people say. I asked, “What is
this whole ‘getting saved’ thing and how is that supposed to work?” Pastor Bruce must have sensed that I
imagined the term “getting saved” to be some kind of hollow, emotionally driven human formula, devoid of
any real merit with God. He knew my works-driven mentality had reduced the sinner’s prayer to a lazy
person’s way out. After all, my whole life was centered on works and I was not going to let my works go
this easily. The whole thing seemed very naïve to me — that I could just pray this little prayer and be
forever safe from the wrath of God. I was no dummy; I knew works had to be in there somewhere.
In very simple terms, Pastor Bruce laid out to me the way to go to Jesus, confess my sin, ask for
forgiveness and for Christ to come and live inside my heart. He said the experience is different for
everyone. Sometimes it’s emotional and sometimes not. He didn’t think I was paying attention, but without
realizing it, he gave me something “to do.” I told myself, “Tammie, just do it. What if on the off chance
there might be something to this?” I went to be by myself, and I prayed the way Pastor Bruce told me. I
didn’t believe it would make any difference, but just in case … and of course, I was careful to ask for
forgiveness for praying to “Jesus” who I thought was not God, but a created angel, and we certainly don’t
pray to angels.
About a week later, my friend at work who had invited me to her Bible study gave me a phone number of
someone from her church named Omar. Omar told my friend he had to talk to me. I didn’t know what to
do. He might be an apostate. I was afraid to call him. With some encouragement from my son, I finally
called him and agreed to meet with him and his wife. Omar had been deeply involved with the Jehovah’s
Witnesses in the past and knew all their doctrine inside out. He showed me enough Scripture that I could
begin to see alternative answers to what I had been raised to believe. I was intrigued but not totally
convinced. In the meantime, I got on the Internet and found an ex-Jehovah’s Witness who generously
sent me lots of books and videos about the failed prophesies and wrong doctrine of the Jehovah’s
Witnesses. My eyes were being opened, but I was filled with fear. My attachment to the Jehovah’s
Witnesses was becoming less Scriptural and more emotional.
I ended up attending a Christian women’s conference with my friend at work and all the ladies from her
Bible class. I had never heard people pray like these women did in our hotel room that night. I could tell
they had a real relationship with God. At the conference, I heard so many wonderful things, all backed up
by the Bible. I was attentive and excited about everything I was hearing. It was not like the ultra-boring
assemblies and conventions I had attended as a Jehovah’s Witness. As an act of spiritual freedom, I
purchased my first non-Jehovah’s Witness Bible at the conference. A woman who was a speaker at the
conference saw me with tears in my eyes and asked me if I was okay. I told her about how I was battling
to decide what to do about my religion, and she insisted on taking my name and address and promised to
be praying for me. I was taken aback with such genuine concern from a complete stranger. The event
included a song with the name “Jehovah” in it. My heart nearly burst through my chest as I sensed this
song was God’s gift to me, to set me free from all the lies I had been told about these people. These
precious people really do know my God. They sing songs to glorify his Name! God had spoken to me in a
The days which followed were some of the most difficult I have ever known. I was torn up inside, so
fearful of making a mistake. My parents were pleading and pulling one way and my heart was pulling the
opposite way. At one point, I thought maybe I was imagining all this. Perhaps I was going crazy. I called
my dad crying and I begged him to come quickly and re-indoctrinate me. He was so confident of my
“Watchtower knowledge,” my abilities as a highly trained, highly motivated Jehovah’s Witness that he
refused to come. He said, “Baby, you don’t need me to tell you anything. You know the truth.”
I wish I could describe the fear associated with coming out of a cult. It is a painful effort to begin thinking
for oneself. I had depended on the organization to do that for me my whole life. The organization had
been everything to me, my mother, my father, my friend, my life. I could not envision life apart from it. I
was certain to be alienated from everyone I knew if I stopped believing like them. At one point, I
considered suicide over the pain of disappointing my parents by leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
1 John 2:27 says that I don’t need another teacher because the Holy Spirit will be my teacher. I believed
this enough to stop reading The Watchtower, but allowing the Spirit to lead me and explain Bible truth to
me was completely new. Could I trust my new understanding or was this some colossal deception, some
trick of the enemy to lead me away from my old religion? I prayed one day very hard for an answer. I
asked God for a “Road to Damascus” experience because I had to be absolutely certain how He wanted
me to believe. After praying hard all day, I got an email from my friend at work with a devotional for that
day. It was 1 John 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they
are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” I said “No God! This does not
help me at all. This is not the answer I need because I don’t know who is or who isn’t a false prophet!”
Then it (Holy Spirit) dawned on me. God gives a test to know how to judge a false prophet at
Deuteronomy 18:22, “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come
true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be
afraid of him.” This was it! The Witnesses have claimed to be God’s true prophet for over 100 years and
their failed prophesies are infamous. My prayer was answered!
About a week later, I received a phone call from Omar. He insisted on leading me through the prayer of
salvation right there on the phone while I was driving down highway 9. However, I could still not agree to
pray to Jesus. He asked if it would be okay to pray to the “God of the Bible” and I said “yes.” Something
big happened that day. I didn’t understand about the angels rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who
repents but that must have been what happened. I remember saying to my boyfriend later, “I got saved
today,” the words still so foreign to my lips and not really understanding everything it means to be
“saved.” Even so, there was a peace in me that had never been there before. The wrestling match was
over, and a victory was won. That was May 2001.
The following month I told my parents that I had accepted Christ as my Savior, my mother cried and said
she would never speak to me again. (She refused to see me or speak to me though I made many
attempts until she passed away in November 2020). My new beliefs are “foolishness” to them. They
believe Satan has blinded my mind so I can’t see the Truth anymore. They believe they are “in” the Truth
and I am an apostate for willfully leaving the “Truth.” I have discovered that the Truth is not an
organization or a religion; it’s a person, it’s Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Way, THE TRUTH and the Life
(John 14:6). My mother and father and sister have all forsaken me, but Jesus has never abandoned me. I
have the blessing of many more mothers, fathers and sisters just as He promised me at Luke 18:29-30, “I
tell you the truth, … no one who has left home or … brothers or parents … for the sake of the kingdom of
God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
Today, I not only have a real relationship with Jesus, but it is my great blessing to worship Him as He
rightfully is — my Lord and my God (John 20:28).