Please allow me to make one personal comment here – this is not an isolated, simple mistake of human error. This is a pervasiveness that extends regularly into Watchtower comments, private conversations, field service, public prayers and even Sunday talks. What is a person to do when an entire body of elders has shown a repeated history of false statements, “protecting their interests” and complete disregard for theocratic procedures and THEN publicly does what happened on August 6th 2017 during the Sunday talk? On your last visit my brother Benjamin told you the elders were targeting my family. I tell you now that my wife is absolutely frightened and wishes me to not even contact you in this matter because she feels we have no protection afforded to our family.
If you don’t believe my family’s word then I merely ask that you speak candidly with others in the Hillsboro congregation with very specific questions – “Are elders here loving and encouraging or do you feel they lord it over others?” “Have you ever heard Richard Fisher make comments that you felt should have been confidential?” “How did you feel about Smith’s public talks… namely his comments about wives several months ago and his Sunday talk on Aug 6th?”
I appreciate the scriptures that you have sent my father and myself all of these months. John 13:35 is one that I would like to share as you approach this situation once again. Our family is driving over 80 miles a week just to attend meetings in our search for a loving congregation. We don’t feel safe in a place where elders lord it over others while lacking the humility to follow clearly defined rules themselves.
Background: After you last visit I asked Sam Garrison for a Shepharding visit so I could find closure and move forward but given the situation I didn’t feel comfortable with the other elders. It could be him and anyone else like a ministerial servant or an elder from another congregation – whichever worked best for him. Over the next two months, I would check in with Sam on the status of our request for a visit. It was being worked on but I was never given a date. Then Smith approached me in the lobby of the Hall and asked to speak with me. I said sure… And he said “no not here in the lobby, let’s talk privately.” He pulled me into the back room and said that since I’m assigned to his service group he should join Sam in the Shepharding visit. I said, “plans have already been made with Sam.” He insisted. I said “it’s already being handled.” He kept insisting. Finally, I said, “I am not comfortable with you Shepharding my family.” He asked why. This confused me so I said “you can’t be this oblivious?” He said why a second time so I repeated again “you can’t be this oblivious?” He said, “help me brother I don’t understand” so I said, “because you’ve lied repeatedly to my family and I don’t trust the words that come out of your mouth.” His immediate response was “I’ve never had any DIRECT dealings with your IMMEDIATE family.” The nature of such a carefully constructed sentence was very upsetting so to avoid saying something in anger I said “I am finished with this conversation” and left. I immediately wrote down the exact details of the conversation with Smith and then called Sam from my car on my drive home.
Main points here:
- My request for Sam’s sheparding visit was already approved by the “body”
- Smith’s feelings of being my service group coordinator was more important than my feelings as a publisher
- Smith didn’t seem aware or sensitive to the damage done to my family’s trust in elders
- I considered this a private conversation with Smith, an elder in my congregation, to be shepharding visit itself and thus very confidential
Then on August 6th 2017, we were running behind getting the kids ready, but made a point of going to the Sunday Meeting. We got to the meeting about 15 after it had started. I dropped my wife and kids at the door and then parked the car. As Jennifer got seated, Herman Smith said from the stage during his Sunday talk, “…a publisher who has a minor issue with an elder refuse to let that elder provide a sheparding visit in their home…. this kind of action is “brazen conduct” on the part of the publisher”. The tone and language used was enough to give her pause and she was about to call me to not come into the Kingdom Hall. As I sat down beside my wife, Smith repeated the words, “HOW DARE a publisher who has a minor issue with an elder refuse to let that elder provide a sheparding visit in their home…. this kind of action is “brazen conduct” on the part of the publisher”. His tone, pitch and volume was extremely exaggerated in his delivery. He said elders are also imperfect people, just like publishers, and they can make “minor mistakes“. He used “minor mistakes” several times in reference to elders. He repeatedly stressed (8-15 times within 15 minutes) “this body of elders” and “in the Hillsboro Congregation” and “Brazen Conduct.”
I am well aware that ‘brazen conduct‘ are acts of a SERIOUS violation to laws which must also incorporate elements of contempt for authority. It’s a two-part test. The statement Smith gave was false because his example fails BOTH of the two part tests for Brazen Conduct. I was also shocked to see once again an elder was breaking confidentiality, during a Sunday talk no less. As such I opened my phone and began recording the rest of the talk. That recording is attached to this webpage. The recording is for the last 9 min but he didn’t read any scriptures during the last 15min of his talk. If you find the tone of the recording concerning please note that the tone was even more harsh before the recording started. It’s hard for me to comprehend but rather than working to gain my trust, Smith went and confirmed my fears from the Sunday stage by breaking confidentiality AND making false statements about me.
I spoke with Sam later that day and said, “I love you Sam and I take none of this personally in respect to you but I am no longer comfortable having an elder’s visit in the Hillsboro Congregation.” I told Sam that in light of issues I feel happened with both of my brothers, I am especially concerned that the body of elders still does not seem to agree on what is and is NOT a disfellowshipable offense (brazen conduct among other things).
That next Tuesday night on August 8th, I attended the Hillsboro congregation in hopes that the local needs part might include a correcting comment that properly explains the Bible definition of Brazen Conduct. None was given. At this point, over a month after Smith’s Sunday talk, I still must assume that the entire body of elders believes someone commits brazen conduct by privately requesting a specific elder for a sheparding visit. I must also assume that the body of elders is comfortable with the public shaming and ‘marking’ of a publisher from the Sunday stage on August 6th 2017.
Note that I take it VERY seriously that an elder has broken confidential information about me, made false statements in my regard and publicly shamed my name. My name and my family has been repeatedly slandered and yet I have no ability to defend or correct the matter. This behavior is unacceptable yet the Hillsboro congregation has effectively silenced my concerns with PUBLIC THREATS of disfellowshiping me by making false claims of brazen conduct. This talk included the entire body of elders by name and no correction was ever given on the topic – so I hold that Smith’s comments represent those of the body and therefore was a public marking of my name under false pretense.