It is a fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for being among the most honest and trustworthy people you can meet. If they find your wallet, they will return it with the money intact. If they work for your company, you won’t have to worry about embezzlement. If they clean your home, you’re valuables will not be stolen. I personally knew a Jehovah’s Witness woman who was asked by her employer to lie about something. Although it wasn’t a big lie, she refused. When her employer became angry with her, she calmly informed him “If I won’t lie for you, then you know that I won’t lie to you.” The employer changed his attitude over this. Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that “a lying tongue” is one of the seven sins that Jehovah God hates most (Proverbs 6:16-19), and that liars are among those who will suffer “everlasting death” (Revelation 21:8).
Are they REALLY taught to never lie?
Of course, even though the individual members are known for being so honest and trustworthy, many outside the denomination are realistic and keep mindful that some Jehovah’s Witness are not as…shall we say… devoted? to their beliefs. You can’t have a membership of 7.5 million without having a certain number who don’t adhere strictly to what they are taught. But we aren’t talking about these particular ones. We’re talking about the entire membership worldwide. Let’s take a look at this.
First of all, the Watchtower Society defines a “lie” as follows:
Every lie is an untruth, but not every untruth is a lie. Why not? A dictionary defines a lie as “an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker to be untrue with intent to deceive.” Yes, lying includes the intention to deceive someone. Hence, to speak an untruth unwittingly—such as giving someone incorrect facts or figures by mistake—is not the same as to tell a lie. (The Watchtower, February 1, 2007, p.6 article “Why Be Truthful?” subheading “What Is A Lie?”)
In short, a lie is only a lie when it is told deliberately, not unintentionally. This statement is something that we can all agree with.
However, many who are opposed to the Jehovah’s Witness denomination bring up that fact that the Watchtower Society once taught a doctrine of “Theocratic Warfare”, in which it was expected that members should lie under certain conditions. What is this all about?
Several decades ago the Watchtower Society published the following statement:
As a soldier of Christ he is in theocratic warfare and he must exercise added caution when dealing with God’s foes. Thus the Scriptures show that for the purpose of protecting the interests of God’s cause, it is proper to hide the truth from God’s enemies. A Scriptural example of this is that of Rahab the harlot. She hid the Israelite spies because of her faith in their God Jehovah. This she did both by her actions and by her lips. That she had Jehovah’s approval in doing so is seen from James’ commendation of her faith.—Josh. 2:4, 5; Jas. 2:25. (The Watchtower, June 1, 1960, p.352)
Similar statements regarding Abraham’s lying about Sarah (Genesis 12:10-2o) are viewed in the same vein in publications such as The Watchtower, February 1, 1956, pp.78-79, par. 10-15. It is also notable that, in the Watchtower Society’s definition, a “lie” is defined as follows:
The opposite of truth. Lying generally involves saying something false to a person who is entitled to know the truth and doing so with the intent to deceive or to injure him or another person. A lie need not always be verbal. (Insight On the Scriptures, Vol. 2, 1988, p.244)
They have also stated:
A lie is defined as “1. a false statement or action, especially one made with intent to deceive . . . 2. anything that gives or is meant to give a false impression.” The intention is to cause others to believe something that the liar knows is not the truth. By lies or half-truths, he strives to deceive those who are entitled to know the truth. (The Watchtower, December 15, 1992, p.22)
The question, then, is: Who is “entitled to know the truth“? Who decides who is “God’s enemies” which are not entitled to the truth?
Granted, we can see a situation in which an innocent person will actually die if you tell the truth and thus you lie, especially in cases of genocide and other political violence. Nobody will fault you for that. But what many people wonder is, who else does the Watchtower Society view as not being entitled to the truth? For example, if a Jehovah’s Witness parent is in a custody battle with a non-Jehovah’s Witness parent, should the Jehovah’s Witness mislead the judge with false information if the truth would affect the judge’s decision against the Jehovah’s Witness parent? Let’s allow the facts to decide:
According to this video, a long-time elder evades the question of a “custody packet” that Jehovah’s Witness parents are given when going to court for custody. It is only a ten minute video, but you will see that this elder is trying very hard to deny such a packet exists. HOWEVER…. such a packet does exist, as mentioned in the Watchtower Society’s own literature:
A packet of legal material is available to assist publishers who are involved in lawsuits over child custody and visitation matters in which our religion is under attack. The packet should be requested by the body of elders only in a case in which it is evident that the publisher’s religious beliefs will be at issue. For those facing secular issues on child custody or visitation, helpful information can be found in Awake! of December 8, 1997, pages 3-12; in Awake! of October 22, 1988, pages 2-14; and on the chart found in Awake! of April 22, 1991, page 9. (Our Kingdom Ministry, January 2008, p.7).
And, as you continue watching the video, you will see the attorney ask the elder about a “custody book” published by the Watchtower Society. Again, the elder on the stand denies knowledge of such a book…. HOWEVER, such a booklet does exist, and is titled “Preparing For Child Custody Cases“. The table of contents of this booklet includes (but is not limited to) topics such as:
- Sample Cross Examining Questions That Witness Parent Could Face
- Sample Approach By Witness Parent to Cross Examination
- Sample Direct Examination and Sample Responses for Local Elder
- Sample Direct Examination and Sample Responses for Young Witnesses
In this book, it is important to understand what kind of material is presented. Although we cannot legally give the entire contents of this booklet. We heavily recommend that you click here to see snippets of some of the material published in it before reading this post any further. If you read the information in the link, combined with the above-mentioned video, you can see that honesty is not necessarily their best policy in this matter. Not only is it expected to directly lie, but it is also expected to lie-by-omission (i.e. purposely omitting important information in order to mislead someone).
Now, we can understand that a Jehovah’s Witness truly believes his or her denomination is correct and true, and would thus try to portray it in a positive light — we have no problem with that in itself. The problem is when the member actively and knowingly deceives others into thinking the denomination teaches or advocates something that it really does not. This is when it enters into the realm of lying; telling falsehoods. A Jehovah’s Witness member is taught that he or she is protecting the interests of the child or the denomination by hiding such information; apparently the judges are not “entitled” to know the truth. In reality though, this kind of action only betrays a member’s lack of trust in God: Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jehovah is a God of truth. Therefore, if Jehovah God were really on the member’s “side”, shouldn’t the member believe that He will cause the best outcome to happen without involving lies, instead of fearing what mere men can do? Even biblical precedent shows that the employment of lies causes bad things to happen, as shown by Sarah being abducted TWICE due to Abraham’s lies (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-18), causing big problems with otherwise innocent people in the process.
Child custody cases aren’t the only times in which this “theocratic war” strategy is employed. For example, in the year 1998, the government of Bulgaria wasn’t willing to recognize the the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a legal denomination due to the Watchtower Society’s ban on the use of blood transfusions. As a means of gaining a foothold in that country, the Watchtower Society signed a document stating that, in the case of blood transfusions, “members should have free choice in the matter for themselves and their children, without any control or sanction on the part of the association“. In other words, even though the official Watchtower Society’s stance is to disfellowship or disassociate those who willingly and knowingly accept a transfusion, the Watchtower Society used theocratic war strategy to deceptively obtain legal recognition as a denomination in Bulgaria by denying such a policy was in place. You can read more about this situation by clicking here.
As you can see, although the Watchtower Society teaches the general membership of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be honest and truthful in their everyday affairs, the Watchtower Society also teaches them that it is acceptable to hide the truth from those who are viewed as God’s enemies. In most cases, this tends to occur when the Watchtower Society’s policies risk looking bad in the public eye.