As many of you will already be aware, I recently began uploading videos to YouTube featuring various excerpts from recordings of talks by Anthony Morris III, who is a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In making these videos I wasn’t seeking to unfairly target Anthony Morris, but rather show more broadly how the Governing Body members think and talk about certain subjects.
For this reason, aside from using related films and music to hopefully liven up the videos and make them humorous and thought-provoking for a broader audience, I try to limit any personal commentary as much as possible (if I make any remarks at all). My idea has always been to let the recordings speak for themselves, and allow people to draw their own conclusions based on the words they are hearing.
It was always my intention to give similar attention to other members of the Governing Body (preferably all of them), and I have now begun uploading videos focussing on the words of Gerrit Lösch – another Governing Body member. Again, it is hoped that these videos will help people to realize how these men (who claim to serve as representatives of the Faithful and Discreet Slave) think and feel on certain topics. After all, we are talking about individuals who profess to have Jesus as their leader and role model, and Jesus was far from shy about having the words he spoke in public recorded and analyzed. We can take his famous “sermon on the mount” as one of numerous examples.
Even some of Christ’s apostles were happy to have their publically spoken words later quoted in verse, and the publications repeatedly make a direct link between “the apostles and older men” and the Governing Body. – Acts 15:2
Should their words be heard?
Even so, many publishers would likely argue that it is misleading to broadcast the personal views of individual members of the Governing Body as though these are to be taken as official organizational doctrine. Such ones would likely point to the fact that it is what is written in the official publications of the Watch Tower Society that is to be considered scriptural “truth”, and in this context the individual thoughts and reflections of Governing Body members must be inconsequential.
Too such ones I would draw attention to the words of Christ in Matthew 12:34 where he said: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” The purpose of these videos is not to establish the official beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses – it is to “get to know” these men who assume for themselves such a lofty and responsible role as representatives of the Slave Class, or God’s earthly organization.
Is it so wrong to want to know what these people are like personally, or are we forbidden from knowing their idiosyncracies – whether good or bad? Bear in mind that Christ’s apostles were never sheepish about having their personalities and foibles exposed in the early Christian writings, and the book of Acts is littered with candid accounts of various apostles. Such scriptures may occasionally portray these men in a less than flattering light. Even so, with Christ’s words in Matthew 12 in mind, what better way is there to find out what is truly in the hearts of those “taking the lead” than by hearing how they personally express themselves before a public audience?
Furthermore, it is worth remembering that these recordings were made, not covertly during an unguarded moment of privacy, but in a public setting when these men were speaking before thousands of people. I find it difficult to imagine how any member of the Governing Body could successfully argue that the words he once spoke to an audience of many thousands of people are not also appropriate for people in other parts of the world to listen to at any time thereafter, since he had ample opportunity to consider his words carefully and speak as one keeping his “lips in check” at the time. – Proverbs 10:19
A Ban On Recordings
Even so, some would point to a recent “Question Box” that appeared in the April 2010 Kingdom Ministry, which posed the question “Should Jehovah’s Witnesses circulate recordings or transcripts of talks?” This question was answered as follows:
“We are strengthened and encouraged by Bible discourses. (Acts 15:32) Therefore, it is natural to want to share such encouraging information with those who were not present. With the advent of various recording devices, a talk can be recorded and distributed to others at a moment’s notice. Some have maintained a collection of recorded talks, including talks that were given many years ago, and with good motive they lend these talks or reproduce them for friends. Others have created Web sites and posted talks there for anyone to download.
Understandably, there is no objection if we record talks for personal use or for members of our family. In addition, elders may arrange for talks to be recorded for infirm members of the congregation who are unable to attend the meetings. However, there are good reasons for us not to circulate transcripts or recordings of talks.
Because talks are often delivered with local needs in mind, we could easily misconstrue points from a circulated recording, since we would not be aware of the setting in which the talk was given. In addition, it would be difficult for us to verify who gave the talk and when, so that we can have confidence that the information presented is up-to-date and accurate. (Luke 1:1-4) Further, circulating transcripts or recordings of talks might tempt some to give or accept undue attention and honor.—1 Cor. 3:5-7.
The faithful and discreet slave works hard to provide spiritual food in the right ‘measure’ and at ‘the proper time.’ (Luke 12:42) This includes the arrangement for talks to be given at local congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses and audio recordings that can be downloaded from the official jw.org Web site. We can be confident that the faithful and discreet slave and its Governing Body will provide what we need in order to be made firm in the faith.—Acts 16:4, 5.”
I can remember being in the audience as a semi-indoctrinated publisher when this material was discussed at the Service Meeting in 2010, and even back then it made very little sense to me. I knew of so many brothers and sisters, some old and lonely, who derived genuine joy from listening to recorded talks over and over again. It seemed unreasonable in my mind to insist that recordings of talks should only be circulated on a one-off basis, strictly if someone was unable to attend a meeting for health reasons. After all, if the teachings given from the platform are beneficial when spoken, should they not always be so? Do words of truth have a sell-by date?
To summarize, the three reasons given for NOT circulating recorded talks in the above article are as follows:
- Points made in a talk might be misconstrued by the listener if they don’t know the circumstances in which the talk was given
- It’s hard to verify who gave a talk and when, so that you can be sure the information is up-to-date and accurate
- By circulating transcripts or recordings of talks, we might be giving the speakers undue attention or honor
As regards the first point, the words spoken from a platform in a christian congregation should be true and readily understandable regardless of the circumstances, and therefore impossible to be misconstrued. For example, let’s suppose a person listens to a recording of a local needs talk giving strong counsel against alcoholism – perhaps aimed at the conduct of one or two individuals in a congregation at that moment. The counsel given to address this issue would be applicable to EVERYONE at ANY TIME – not just the brother or sister with the drinking problem at the time the talk is given.
By extension, anyone listening to the talk later as a recording would understand that the counsel in general is beneficial, even if they are not personally the ones for whom the talk was prepared. It’s therefore difficult to understand how a person could misconstrue the points made in a talk regardless of the circumstances, because the counsel should be accurate and beneficial regardless.
To illustrate – my father used to enjoy telling me a story (I don’t know whether it is true or not) of a brother at an assembly who was serving as an attendant and was singled out by his overseer and given strong counsel for some perceived misdemeanor. Someone witnessed the brother being admonished, and approached him afterwards saying: “why did you accept all that criticism? I know full well that you didn’t do what it was he said you did!” The brother responded, “I know, but it was such good counsel! I just had to listen to it!” Similarly, regardless of whether the counsel given from the platform is personally applicable to the listener, if based on scripture and not personal interpretation it should be beneficial to a Christian nonetheless. Otherwise, it should not be said in the first place.
The second point alludes to whether the information is up-to-date and accurate. I would argue that it is the responsibility of the brother giving the talk to check whether the words he is speaking from the platform are true or not – and not the person listening to the recording afterwards, or the audience for that matter. If he is speaking from a mistaken belief, or based on insufficient research, then this should be pointed out to him afterwards by the local elders (who are responsible for teaching in the congregation), and he would have every opportunity to make sure that any recordings of the talk are destroyed or not circulated. If the speaker neglected to put a stop to the talk recording being circulated under such circumstances, then it would be the duty of the elders as spiritual shepherds to make sure that this happened.
Some would say “ah, but what if something is said that later turns out to be old light?” As I have expressed in previous articles, nothing should be “old light”. Either it is true, or it is not. If something is not true, or only partially understood, then it should not be written or spoken of in the first place without being explicitly qualified as conjecture. Words spoken from a public platform at a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses should not be secretive or confidential, but should be appropriate for anyone to listen to for an indefinite period. There is no sound scriptural justification that anyone could conceivably offer to the contrary.
The third point relates to undue honor. In the case of Governing Body members, I find this point ironic to say the least given that these men seem to go out of their way to receive honor irrespective of how recordings of their talks are used.
- Governing Body members do not need to personally appear on the Society’s DVDs with a caption stating that they are speaking as a member of the Governing Body, but they do.
- Governing Body members do not need to have “monarchical ordinals” (roman numerals) after their name in honour of their ancestors, but at least one of them does (Anthony Morris III – or “the Third”).
- Governing Body members do not need to be introduced to the platform as “a member of the Governing Body” when they are giving a talk (but merely as an elder from such-and-such congregation), but all of them do.
- Above all, Governing Body members do not need to elevate themselves as modern-day equivalents to the First Century apostles, or claim to speak on behalf of God’s earthly organization without any scriptural justification, but they have been doing this since 1971.
The fact that they can do all these things but NOT have recordings of their talks circulated for fear of receiving undue honor is simply laughable in my own personal opinion.
I’m afraid the real reason why this issue of “undue honor”, and indeed all the reasons stated in the above article were made, is because the Governing Body does not want public speakers other than themselves to become “celebrities” – and the only conceivable way this could happen on any significant scale would be if recordings of speakers’ talks were to become widely circulated.
By limiting celebrity status to themselves, the Governing Body is asserting its authority in the organization and limiting the likelihood of having its position usurped by any brothers with greater popularity. That is the real purpose behind this Kingdom Ministry article, so it would be misguided to apply any of its assertions to the circulation of Governing Body talk recordings (or excerpts thereof) for that reason alone.
If, having considered all of the above points, you still feel it would be wrong or somehow inappropriate to listen to my “Getting to Know” video series about the Governing Body, then nobody is pressuring you to do so. Hopefully I have at least given you some food for thought, and I appreciate you reading this far in the article.
If you DO decide to view these videos, then I am confident you will find them enlightening (assuming you haven’t already watched them!), because they help to show some of the thought processes and reasoning that is used to arrive at various doctrinal standpoints that many Jehovah’s Witnesses may give little thought to, or otherwise take for granted. It is also hoped that certain videos will provide some lighthearted humor for the not-so-easily offended!
Below I have embedded the videos as YouTube playlists. As new videos are added, these will be included in the playlists so that they will always be up-to-date with the most recent uploads. As I turn my attention to other members of the Governing Body, I will also add these to the list below.
Anthony Morris III
Part 1: Releasing the Sparlock DVD – This video shows Anthony Morris III at the Special Convention in Dublin, Ireland – specifically the point in his talk where he released the controversial Become Jehovah’s Friend – Listen, Obey and Be Blessed children’s DVD. Anthony relates an experience of a two-year-old girl who is allowed to watch the video eight times in quick succession by her grandfather.
Part 2: Anthony explains eternity – In an excerpt from another talk given at the 2012 Dublin Special Convention, Anthony gives a strange and confusing illustration to try to explain the concept of eternity. His bizarre and rather needless metaphor involves a fly walking on a steel ball that is the size of the sun.
Part 3: Anthony discusses screaming – This video features excerpts from two different talks. The first talk excerpt was recorded in 2012 at the Special Convention, and explains how brothers speaking on the platform are NOT to use personal pronouns (i.e. “you”) in such a way as to imply that the counsel they are giving applies only to the audience and not to them personally. The second excerpt shows Anthony blatantly contradicting this counsel during a Special Assembly Day talk given in 2011 in Pennsylvania in which he repeatedly berated an audience for screaming at each other in family arguments.
Part 4: Anthony explains political neutrality – In his 2011 Special Assembly Day talk in Pennsylvania, Anthony spoke against getting involved in the politics of this system of things – but still managed to express a strong political opinion by criticizing the US involvement in Libya, and lambasting the first term of the Obama presidency as being marked by failed promises.
Part 5: Anthony in Vietnam – Also taken from his 2011 Pennsylvania talk, this is an excerpt of Anthony relating his experience from his military service in Vietnam. He tells of his disapproval of the bunker that was used by troops as a shelter from incoming enemy fire on the Long Binh base (where he was stationed), and boasts of how he disobeyed orders by refusing to run to this bomb shelter, which he describes as a “coffin”, when the base came under attack. The irony, of course, is that the Governing Body repeatedly requests our obedience as those “taking the lead”, and yet here we have an example of a Governing Body member bragging about his inability to follow orders from a superior in a life-or-death situation.
Part 6: Anthony’s warning about the media – In this video, Anthony warns his audience to ignore anything in the newspapers that is critical of “God’s organization”, because the media is under Satan’s control. I then show a quote from page 110 of the book Bearing Thorough Witness About God’s Kingdom in which it is said that the Coordinators’ Committee of the Governing Body oversees “use of the media when necessary to convey an accurate picture of our beliefs”. The obvious question is raised: how can the Governing Body admit to using the media when it is under Satan’s control? I close the video with some clips where Jehovah’s Witnesses are presented in a favorable light in the media in support of the above statement.
Part 7: Anthony talks about teenage baptism – This disturbing video features comments made by Anthony where he strongly advises parents not to let their children pass through their teenage years without being baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As he puts it “they’re not gettin’ through on your coattails”. He gives an example of how a parent might blackmail a sixteen-year-old into baptism by threatening them with not paying for their driver’s license unless they first make this life-altering commitment to the organization.
Part 8: Anthony the shoemaker – This lighthearted video takes excerpts from three different talks where Anthony uses words to the effect of: “I’m just a shoemaker, if the shoe fits you have to wear it!” In repeating this catchphrase (which he is obviously fond of), Anthony arrogantly misses the point that if anyone is the “shoemaker”, it is Jehovah God.
Part 9: Anthony reminds us to donate – In this video, Anthony reminds his audience of their “privilege” to donate to the organization. He cites the example of pioneers who get into credit card debt and are unable to fulfil this responsibility. He adds “and it wasn’t for your needs, it was for your greeds” – in other words, anyone who gets into credit card debt has done so by being greedy. Anthony also relates conversations with his elderly father who inquired as to whether the organization was using the money honestly, and he boasts that he told his father that he was “part of the they” – in other words, one of those in charge of how the money is spent. In relating this anecdote and then roaring with laughter, Anthony appears to be overcome with his own importance. Finally, he implies that donating to the worldwide work is something we all pledged to do at our dedication and baptism.
Part 10: Anthony warns against higher education – Anthony insists that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not against education, they are merely “selective with who does the educating” – meaning that only Jehovah (specifically his organization) supplies the only approved form of education. He insists that college courses include courses on philosophy that are designed to draw people away from God, and cites an example of one boy who went to college and became an evolutionist to support this sweeping statement. He implies that the sole motive for pursuing higher education is to get a better salary and a “dream house”. He says that the Governing Body refuses to apologize for its stance on higher education, claiming “there’s no need to” and that to do so would be “absurd and offensive to God”.
Part 11: The “thinkingest” people on the planet – This is another disturbing video where Anthony denounces “independent thinking” whilst hailing Jehovah’s Witnesses as “the thinkingest people on the planet”. Despite the humor surrounding his obvious “bushism” (i.e. inventing the word “thinkingest”), there is a darker side to the video. Anthony insists that Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t chained to their religion. In other words, they can leave freely if they so wish. The video ends with three former Witnesses relating experiences of shunning by friends and family after they left the faith, thus giving evidence that the unscriptural shunning of family members is used by the Society as a tool to prevent people from leaving the religion, or to force people to return through emotional blackmail.
Part 1: Armageddon – At a 2008 Zone Visit in Sydney, Australia, Gerrit Lösch (who is currently the most senior member of the Governing Body having been appointed in 1994) described his strange views about Armageddon. He believes that billions of people will be killed during the great day of God’s wrath, and that (based on a prophecy in Zechariah) God may execute these ones using a special form of radiation that will decay the flesh of people as they are standing. Gerrit also believes that, for a long period following Armageddon, specially assigned teams of brothers and sisters will do nothing but bury the dead. Not only is his morbid vision of Armageddon far from appealing from the viewpoint of the survivors (who can look forward to years of doing nothing but burying irradiated bodies) – it also paints a picture of a harsh and unloving God who will kill billions of people in a terrifyingly painful way rather than end their lives suddenly and mercifully.
Part 2: Higher Education and OCD – Also taken from a recording of his 2008 Zone Visit to Australia, this video reveals Gerrit’s strange and frankly offensive views about higher education. Gerrit relates the experience of a man suffering from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) who decided to end his life by shooting himself in the head. Miraculously the bullet didn’t kill him, but instead cured the part of the brain causing the disorder, allowing him to live a normal life. Gerrit points out that the man obviously wouldn’t recommend this technique as a cure to other sufferers of OCD due to the risk. He then says that, just as with the “bullet operation” to cure an illness, higher education isn’t to be recommended for young ones. Simply put, Gerrit likens wanting to better oneself by means of higher education with having a traumatic psychological disorder.
Part 1: What does “express will” mean? – This video uses a recorded clip from one of Stephen’s talks at a 2012 Special Assembly Day. In this clip, Stephen reads Acts 13:36 and feels compelled to explain to his audience that the term “express will” means “clearly stated will”, and has nothing to do with express trains or espresso coffee. After seeing the video, one person commented on a JW forum: “You can only teach what you know and he’s showing us all he’s got, which ain’t much.”
Part 2: Politicians and the Brooklyn Police – This video, which features a clip from an assembly talk in 2006, shows Stephen Lett criticizing politicians and the police officers in Brooklyn for acting as though they are “above the law”.
Part 1: The Worldly Guy At The Office – During his 2005 talk in Sweden, Samuel Herd tells the cautionary tale of an “extremely beautiful” sister, who has everything every woman wants “in all the right places”, and who commits the sin of falling in love with a guy at her workplace who treats her well. Samuel criticizes the fictional woman for not being specific in her prayers to Jehovah, in which she only says “I don’t feel good”.
I can understand that not all of the above videos will be to everyone’s taste. Some may find them crude or disrespectful. This was honestly not my intention in making them, and I apologize in advance if I end up causing any offence. As stated above, I merely want to help ordinary Jehovah’s Witnesses become better acquainted with the men who are “taking the lead” over them. For the reasons expressed above, I see nothing wrong with this. Indeed, there is ample scriptural precedent in the examples of Jesus Christ and his apostles for Governing Body members to have their words repeated and analyzed by those who follow their lead.
Also, please remember that even though these men insist on being viewed as representatives of God’s organization (and therefore of God), they are really only human and should have the humility to be able to laugh at themselves if attention should be drawn to their flaws in a lighthearted manner. It would be sad if they should take themselves so seriously as to be offended by these videos – especially since I am only conveying their very own words, spoken before vast audiences, and not changing or otherwise misrepresenting these words in any way.
As I have already explained in another article, in reality the Governing Body is a fairly young institution (that can be traced as recently as 1971), and I believe its members, though sincere, are really just misguided men who are overcome with their own importance and who feel a burning responsibility to keep what they perceive as being “God’s organization” afloat. It is hoped that, by “getting to know” them, we will strip away some of the mystery and reverence surrounding these people, and finally get a glimpse of who they really are.
If you have any recordings of talks by current Governing Body members, I would love to hear them. Please contact me at [email protected]