Motives of the Governing Body
What is the motive of the Governing Body? Do they really believe they represent Jehovah, or are they after power and money, fully aware that what they teach is not true? I have received many emails asking about the motive of the Governing Body, and had exactly the same question when I first left. I received an extraordinary insight into the motives of the Governing Body from Raymond Franz, and feel it only fair to share this with others.
Raymond Franz was a member of the Governing Body in the 1970's, before leaving and writing the book Crisis of Conscience. I was in email correspondence with Franz regarding jwfacts.com in 2005 when Geoffrey Jackson was made a member of the Governing Body. This prompted me to ask about the motives of Governing Body members and was fortunate to receive a detailed response from Franz.
I was a family friend of Geoff Jackson. He lived in Tasmania, a small island at the bottom of Australia, when I was a child. He married Jennifer Alcock, whose father Frank Alcock studied with my parents before they were baptised and then studied with me as a teenager. Jenny and Geoff special pioneered in Tuvalu, and I enjoyed talking to Geoff when he would return to Tasmania to visit family.
Geoff was always friendly, charismatic, with a great sense of humour. In fact, his jovial attitude had some of his Tasmanian peers questioning his claim to be of the anointed in the 1990’s aged around 40. When he was announced as one of the Governing Body in 2005, this same relaxed attitude made me think that he may be humble enough to realise the Governing Body are not directed by Jehovah, and make a stand to leave just as Franz had a quarter of a century earlier.
I wrote to Franz asking what motivated the Governing Body, and what was the chance of someone like Geoffrey Jackson stepping down. I also included a comment my mother told me Geoff made when they met for lunch shortly after his appointment. Here is Franz’s response.
“From: Commentary Press
Date: 25 December 2005 at 8:02:22 am AEDT
To: paul grundy
Thanks for your letter. I spent two weeks in Germany in September and am now still trying to catch up with things. You say of Geoff Jackson that:
"He claimed to be in awe of the older GB members and the great knowledge and energy that they possess."
I do not know, of course, to whom he refers as so many have died since I was there. But with me it was just the contrary. Almost from the first GB meeting onward I was severely disturbed to see how little Scriptural knowledge most members manifested. I had expected to witness meetings where God’s Word played a major part but it seemed rarely to come into the picture. The same was true with the conducting of the morning discussions at the breakfast table, chair manned on a weekly basis by a GB member. With the great majority, their concluding comments were mainly a repetition of WT material with very little of original thought or research. Very few of them are true students of the Scriptures, virtually none are scholars (my uncle perhaps being the only member who could be viewed in that light). Perhaps one overriding concern as regards any expression that does not hold to the “party line” stems from fear, for they must realize, even if subconsciously, that their position is weak on many issues. Even here, however, I think that many believe that they are acting to protect the only “good” religion left on earth.
As to their sincerity then, it is, I believe, as to their belief that they are serving God, and their belief that the organization they head is superior to all other religious organizations on the face of the earth. In the latter case, I believe they can hold that belief only by being in a state of denial, not allowing themselves to face the reality of the organization’s flawed course and seriously flawed record. Whatever their sincerity in their desire to serve God, it has not protected them from a remarkable insensitivity to the disillusioning effect of their failed apocalyptic predictions on the membership, the weakening effect it has on their confidence in the reliability and worth of the Scriptures.
I doubt that the reason for the secretive and authoritarian nature of the organization’s leadership can be reduced down to any one or two factors. Knowing the men, I have no question that some, such as John Booth, George Gangas and others, simply believed, somewhat blindly, that the organization is God’s sole channel. They seem to have no other motivation. Others manifested a degree, greater or smaller, of ambition and concern for prestige. Only a few displayed some measure of willingness to act in a harsh manner reminiscent of inquisitional times. Among the Governing Body members as a whole there was not great excitement about the 1975 predictions. As shown in Crisis of Conscience, they did express a measure of concern as to the possibility of disillusionment at one meeting described. But in other respects, it was almost as if they were bystanders, watching what went on but not feeling directly involved or responsible. This degree of detachment was not unusual and illustrates the effect of being an elite body.
Anyone who holds the view that someone, myself for example, could have “worked from within” to effect a fundamental change is laboring under an illusion. Had they been there they would realize that to attempt that could only lead to eventual isolation and rejection. It would be “beating the air” with no worthwhile results.
I too am sure that financial wealth is not the motivating force for by far the majority of Governing Body members. Not that their circumstances, in many cases, are not far superior to those of ordinary wage-earning persons, for they basically live a life free from any of the burdens and concerns that most people face in life; they are able to travel far more than most persons would think of doing; their lodging and the services they receive are such as would require a very high salary if obtained by persons of the world. Yet it remains true that this is all contingent on their remaining where they are (and what they are), since generally they hold no property in their own name.
There are, of course, things other than money that hold strong appeal to persons. While the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were “money lovers” (Luke 16:14), they seem to have been equally driven by a love for authority and acclaim and position. Prestige, prominence and power can exert as forceful an attraction as monetary wealth. And there is no question that being a member of the Governing Body gives those things, though the extent of them varies with the individual members, some being more prestigious, prominent and powerful than others.
My personal feeling is that the strongest force is their devotion, even reverence, for the concept of organization, and of the Watch Tower organization’s claim to being exclusively God’s channel, serving virtually as the vicegerent of Christ on earth, so that when the organization speaks (actually when its leadership speaks), it is as if it were the voice of God; when it acts or makes rules, it is as if Christ the King were acting and ruling. I personally came to find such a concept repugnant and could not harmonize it with Scripture. I am reminded of the apostle’s words at Galatians 5:1: For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.
Their opinion of elders in general was not high. The only persons whose opinions and viewpoints seemed to carry some weight are those individuals who held positions on Branch committees, and perhaps some of the district overseers. There were elders whose views are received with respect, but generally these are men who were personal, and perhaps longtime, acquaintances of certain Body members, or men who are persons of wealth—an example being Dallas Wallace, who lived (now deceased) in the Atlanta area, and who for many years has acted as agent in the purchase of major real estate by the Society. He was a multimillionaire as a result of a business he developed. He was also a basically balanced person but completely wedded to the organization. I believe one the books contains a brief quotation from him.
Essentially, the likelihood of a member taking an open stand in favor of recognizing that only Christ has the right to act as the Leader and Guide and Judge of his disciples is remote; the great majority manifest a feeling like that described at John 12:42, 43, and the prospect of losing their high position weighs heavily in their motivation, not a lack of intelligence.”
To summarise, Ray identified that
- even if they admit their position is weak on many issues, they feel they are protecting the only “good” religion left on earth
- they are strongly devoted to the concept of organization
- whilst financially comfortable, financial wealth is not the motivating force as they do not accumulate money, though it may hold them in the role, as they would leave with nothing to their name
- prestige, prominence and power is a forceful attraction and the prospect of losing their high position weighs heavily in their motivation
Key to understanding the Governing Body is to recognise all members spent decades working for the organization, subjected to decades of the same means of indoctrination they now perpetuate. Hence, they believe they are doing what is best in the same way that the average publisher thinks so too. There is no secret agenda and no significant permanent financial aim. The motives that drive all Jehovah's Witnesses are the social relationships and the hope of living forever. Some desire the prestige of titles such as Elder, and this prominence is the underlying motivation of the Governing Body. Once at the top some may become more realistic that they are not directed by holy spirit but are too afraid to stand up and lose everything, instead justifying to themselves this is at least the best of all religions.
Did Watchtower's founder, Charles Russell believe he was directed by God? We will never know. How about the leaders of the roughly 35,000 other Christian sects in existence? Were the 35,000 founders' charlatans, insane, or genuine in their belief that God was directing them as religious leaders, or a combination of the three? What is important to recognise is that Watchtower's current Governing Body is not like these religious founders. They did not stumble upon personal enlightenment but were indoctrinated into it.
All current Governing Body members claimed to have received the heavenly calling after the calling was said to have been closed. From the 1930's until 2007, Watchtower doctrine claimed the heavenly calling ended in 1935, with only a select few being picked to replace any of the unfaithful 144,000 as they died. They undermine their own legitimacy when printing that those making claims to be anointed can be mistaken due to "mental or emotional problems."
"The number of partakers includes those who mistakenly think that they are anointed. Some who at one point started to partake of the emblems later stopped. Others may have mental or emotional problems that lead them to believe that they will rule with Christ in heaven. Therefore, the number of partakers does not accurately indicate the number of anointed ones left on earth." Watchtower 2016 Jan study ed. pp.25-26
One cannot help but think they may have strategically started taking the Memorial emblems, knowing it would open a pathway to the top only available to the anointed.
The Governing Body admit they are not inspired.
"The Governing Body is neither inspired nor infallible." Watchtower 2017 Feb p.26
This must make it easier for them to overlook errors, comforting themselves that there is nowhere else that is better. Except for one thing; the wealth of information now available regarding the harm the religion causes through its teachings on child abuse, blood transfusions, disfellowshipping and higher education, just to name a few. Whilst they may have joined the Governing Body with high ideals due to their indoctrination, they have no excuse for continuing to believe they are God's channel.
I have tried to forgive the Governing Body, remembering that I too believed the religion was "the truth," struggling for many years to see past my indoctrination and cognitive dissonance. They too are only human, prone to compartmentalization and rationalization as ways to quell cognitive dissonance. As a person rises through the Watchtower ranks of Elder, Circuit Overseer and Bethelite they become more aware of the flaws of the religion, but also stand to lose more than the average publisher if they admit to themselves it is not the truth and leave. This is even moreso for the Governing Body. Possibly they are not consciously misleading others, but rather clinging desperately to their own delusional beliefs.
Sadly, any illusion that one of the current Governing Body members may have the integrity of Ray Franz to walk away from their position was shattered when I observed Geoffrey Jackson under oath in the 2015 Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Royal Commission examined a vast range of institutions, with the intent of developing best practices to protect all Australian children. Yet Watchtower representatives described the proceedings as an attack from Satan. Geoff responded to questions with scorn, belittling the right to be questioned about doctrine by a secular body, and providing answers that ranged from evasive to outrightly disohonest, such as when discussing Corporal Punishment.
It does not matter what the motive was, or has become, for each member of the Governing Body. They have no excuse for the power they wield, demanding unquestioning obedience despite admitting to being fallible. They are fully aware of the Organization's checkered history, and the harm it currently causes. If you have been able to question Watchtower's claim to be the truth, possibly leaving at tremendous personal loss, there is no reason they have not as well, except for reasons of selfish denial.
Written May 2020.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2021