This article will be one of a series of articles published once every two weeks.
This series is based on the a series of Reddit posts originally posted on the subreddit r/exjw.
Introduction and Comments by Lester Somrah. Published on July 23, 2023
The following introduction have been written for readers who are not familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
What is Bethel?
According to the Terminology Guide published by Jehovah’s Witnesses:
“Bethel” is a Hebrew name meaning “House of God.” It is the designation for facilities used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to direct and support their Bible-based spiritual activities in each country or region. Witnesses who serve at these complexes as members of the Witnesses’ religious order are known as “Bethelites.” Collectively, they are referred to as the “Bethel family” because, like a family, they live, worship, and work together at such facilities. The term “Bethelite” is not used as an honorific title.
According to page 116 of the book the Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry (1989), a members’ handbook published by Jehovah’s Witnesses:
“Serving at one of the many Bethel homes around the world is a very special privilege. The name Bethel means "House of God," and that designation is certainly appropriate for these centers of theocratic activity. Brothers and sisters who are in Bethel service do a vital work in connection with producing and distributing literature used by Jehovah's Witnesses everywhere.
Page 112 of its updated version, Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will (2021 edition), states:
Serving at Bethel is a special privilege. The name Bethel means “House of God,” and that designation is certainly appropriate for these centers of theocratic activity. Brothers and sisters in Bethel service do a vital work in connection with producing, translating, and distributing Bible literature. Their service is invaluable to the Governing Body, which provides oversight and direction for congregations throughout the earth.
Both quotations of the members’ handbook are accurate and valid. There are Bethel facilities in different regions. Some facilities produce and distribute Watchtower literature; some produce and distribute Watchtower videos; some facilities produce and distribute both Watchtower videos and literature; and some facilities distribute only.
Bethel also serves as the local administrative center for directing and supervising the religious activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses for a particular region or country. A Branch Committee oversees this administrative work and its headquarters/office is normally at Bethel. Some Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to Bethel as “the Branch” or “the Branch Office”.
The United States of America functions as the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses and therefore there are multiple Bethel facilities in New York, Brooklyn and Wallkill.
In this series, the original writer does not state in their Reddit post which facility they work at for their own safety, as Reddit is heavily monitored by a team of Jehovah’s Witnesses based at the United States Bethel.
Requirements for Bethel Applicants
“ONLY those in good spiritual, physical, and emotional health should apply. All should have the spirit of the prophet Isaiah, who said: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isa. 6:8) This means that you view special full-time service as a rare privilege that calls for whole-souled devotion and strong faith and that you arewilling to accept whatever assignment you are given by the Order. (Mark 10:28-30)...."
Those Jehovah’s Witnesses who are accepted to work at Bethel must:
Bethel applicants “should not have viewed any type of pornography within the previous twelve months prior to submitting their application” (See Letter To Those Applying For Theocratic Schools, Bethel Service, Or Other Forms Of Special Full-Time Service).
As a result of the above high purity standards, Bethel applicants are very, very exemplary baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses already possessing most if not all of the above religious qualifications. This is determined and reflected by the questions on the Bethel Application form and the recommendations of their local body of elders.
Therefore, Bethel applicants and Bethelites are the cream of the crop of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are the best of the best; the most holiest than thou. These exemplary Jehovah’s Witnesses do not marsh ants!!! Keep this in mind as you read this series.
It all starts with the Biblical book of Isaiah 6:8. This is the verse where many Bethelites were encouraged to join Bethel. From the outside, everything appears quaint in the videos and publications. But internally, in the first few hours, you feel discouraged and long to return home due to the rules outlined in the manual Dwelling Together in Unity.
When I arrived approximately 10 years ago, Bethel had rules for everything. From the way you breathe, speak, cut your hair, dress, and the music you should listen to, to the subjects you spend time discussing, and more. It may seem like an exaggeration, but everything in Bethel is under scrutiny. I joined as an MS, and it wasn't long before I became an elder. That's when things began to change.
I started attending numerous meetings at the branch, and amidst it all, I noticed something peculiar. The meetings I attended were not led by the Holy Spirit. This became apparent during the pandemic. Personal opinions carried more weight there. Before a meeting, small groups would decide which side they would take on a particular matter. If you happened to be on the opposing side too frequently, your days were numbered.
During the pandemic, this became even more evident. Many Bethelites developed alcohol-related issues, and conflicts escalated among roommates. Since the branches had limited activities during the pandemic, their only focus was on appeasing the members of the Bethel family. Removing them would have been problematic at the time, as it would have resulted in a shortage of qualified labor. However, in many branches, after the pandemic ended, almost all Bethelites who had problems during that time vanished without a trace. In some branches, we received information that certain Bethelites got into fights during the pandemic and were subsequently disfellowshipped.
By the end of the pandemic, only those who remained silent and obedient to the organization's guidelines were left. Some Bethels reported cases of Covid-19, but the information remained confidential. It was not to be disclosed outside of any congregation. Fortunately, no deaths were reported. For a few days, we received information about our dear friend TOMO3. This case has caused quite a stir here in Bethel. When this topic is discussed among Bethelites, many ask, "Is he still anointed? What did he do? What is happening to him?" However, that's not all.
The most talked-about subject is that his son delivered a talk to the newly graduated Gilead class shortly after completing his own training and because his father had recently left. Many believe that he may eventually replace his father. But we still don't know if he is anointed or not. If he is, he will be announced as a new member of the governing body. As for the reason behind his father's departure, there are various theories circulating in Bethel, but it's all speculation. What I can tell you now is that the video of him purchasing alcohol has finally reached the majority of Bethelites and Jehovah's Witnesses around the world. The rest is open to interpretation, allowing anyone to speculate about what happened for him to leave...
That's all for today. I still have much more to share with you, but I will divide it into parts. Feel free to suggest topics for me to develop in the future.
The Rules of Bethel can be found in the book Dwelling Together in Unity. It governs every aspect of the life of each Bethel volunteer from their speech, conduct, grooming, onsite consumption of alcohol; and bans the possession of questionable music and videos.
This manual is not made available to Bethel applicants as part of the application process. So Jehovah’s Witnesses submit their applications without knowing all the facts or based on hearsay from Bethelites.
Its no surprise that there were fights at the U.S Bethel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Bible is their sole guide for resolving and deescalating “hairy situations”; they have very little regard if none, for worldly principles of conflict resolution.
TOMO3 refers to Anthony Morris III, a Vietnam war veteran, who converted to Jehovah’s Witnesses shortly after his return from the war. His documented testimonial contains evidence that he suffered from post-war PTSD. In spite of this, Jehovah’s Witnesses elevated him through their “religious corporate ladder” and eventually became a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses in September 2005.
In March 31 2019 video footage showed Anthony Morris purchasing expensive alcohol in a liquor store, evidence that he most likely used alcohol as a coping mechanism for PTSD rather than seeking external professional counselling and therapy.
Anthony Morris III was removed from the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses in February 2023 without any public expression of gratitude and best wishes for sacrificing 18 years of his life for his religion.