(Investigator 113, 2007 March)

If people with physical disabilities can preach and make converts how much more zealous the able-bodied should be!

That's the implied message in biographies of physically handicapped converts in Jehovah's Witness (JW) magazines.

The physically disabled may be restricted in mobility, social life and opportunities. Joining a sect may improve the situation. The sect, for example, may help them get to meetings, extend their social life and assist with shopping and house duties.

When a physically handicapped JW discovers his religion has deceived him – that it's not the true religion "agreeing in all details with the Bible" but has flip-flopped in hundreds of doctrines and made numerous false predictions and then lied about them – what does he do?

Like other JWs he's tempted to ignore the problem because if he criticises he'll be treated like other "apostates" – excommunicated, ostracised and any assistance stopped.

The physically handicapped will find it harder than healthy individuals to "pick up the pieces" and live a satisfying life.

For a disabled JW to force the issue knowing the negative consequences therefore requires courage.


The story of JW convert José Martín Pérez appeared in Awake! 1988, November 8.

Titled "Pride Was My Worst Handicap" the story started:

I was born with a severe physical impediment that prevents me from walking, standing up, or even using my hands… I still remember the jealousy and frustration I felt as a child when I watched other children running and jumping. Sometimes I visited a nearby church to beg God's help…

I was born in Granada, a beautiful city in southern Spain… As a young child, having a disability motivated me to develop other skills, and by the time I was seven, I was more advanced scholastically than others of my age…

On one occasion the local newspaper published an article about me, together with photographs showing me writing with my foot. This publicity resulted in my receiving numerous awards and trips, plus the admiration of others. All of this served to foster in me a vain and conceited spirit.

Pérez described his isolation, study by correspondence, winning a scholarship, typewriting using a pen in his mouth, and becoming "morose because of loneliness and a feeling of helplessness."

He prayed to God to demonstrate concern.

In 1973 JWs showed up and taught him from their book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life.

After six months a travelling JW minister asked about Pérez's progress. Perez replied, "I'm doing great. I've already memorized 500 Bible texts." The minister deflated this "pride" by quoting, "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." (1 Corinthians 8:1)

In June 1975 Pérez got baptized. His Awake! article continued:

I still had not conquered my pride… I soon accumulated a vast store of Scriptural knowledge, which I was eager to demonstrate. Witnesses in the congregation…started to come to me with their Bible questions…this too caused my vanity to be flattered.

Pérez described the "real happiness" of preaching, converting ten people, and becoming an elder: "Getting to know the Creator has helped me to be realistic and face up to my impediments, including my pride... I have learned to seek Jehovah's glory, not my own."


"Pride" is often mentioned in JW publications and Pérez's emphasis on it is nothing unusual.

Accusing people of pride helps the JW leadership control them by making them feel inadequate. This heightens their need for approval and makes them more likely to conform. A JW who questions the authority of the leaders or studies excessively will likely be told he's "giving in to pride" and trying to impress others. He'll be reminded, "Knowledge puffs up but love builds up."


By 2001 José Martín Pérez had left JWs.

On the Internet he summed up his JW life as: "22 years serving a human project, believing that it was Divine"

He says of his Awake! magazine article:

It's obvious the main reason for which it appeared there was my physical state... Nevertheless, regrettably the society…and many religious and political groups…use…the disabled to sell their products, to promulgate their ideas…and to motivate a certain action; in sum, to say: "This person is not worth anything, but he does more things than you, why don't you imitate him?"
Pérez says his story "backfired" and was used to "rebuke" him when he left JWs: "Behind are being left 22 years of service, sacrifices, of economic contributions, etc. which according to them, they don't have any value in God's sight, and they have only been good go confirm my pride..."   

He continues:
…a religious organization, assuming the role of God in this XX century, has taken captive my thoughts, my beliefs, and my individuality…

I ended up believing that the organization of the Jehovah's Witnesses, was the channel God was using to communicate his will to men…and that it was necessary to be…supporting such an organization in order to receive his favor.  

He continues further:
I didn't realize that these "children", as soon as they accepted the "maternity" protection of the group they began to lose their individuality and to assume a collective and impersonal one, that at times would be powerful and intolerant against all those that didn't stay within the mother cover…

It has been very costly to reach these conclusions, because my physical and mental dependence on the organization of the Jehovah's Witnesses has always been very strong. They were the first ones that were interested in me, not only so that I could study the Bible, but by picking me up at my house and taking me to the meetings, conventions, etc. In addition, I was invited to social meetings, dinners, trips, etc. where they took care and assisted me.  

After eight years as an elder Pérez resigned from that position in 1995. But he and his wife continued attending meetings and going preaching – these activities being "the thermometers used by the congregation to discern who is considered spiritual and who's not."

His doubts began over questions of "progressive truth":

Jehovah's Witnesses could assure with dogmatism that their biblical and doctrinal conclusions were "the truth", (and in fact, all their members had to accept such conclusions, in order not to be disfellowshiped), and some months later, they modify these doctrine…saying that this also "was the truth"... This can be made over again on the same matter three or four times, going 'back and forward' and always their last interpretation is at all times the final truth.
Pérez gives as an example the doctrine of "the sheep and the goats".

JWs believe that Christ returned in 1914. Until 1995 they believed that Jesus was judging and sorting people into "sheep" and "goats" by their response to the JW preaching.

Says Pérez:

If someone had dared to question that interpretation, he would have been unforgivably disfellowshiped. If anyone would dare to question anything regarding their current concepts, he will also be disfellowshiped.
The Watchtower (May 15, 1986) claimed the doctrine was first "properly understood" in 1923: "Thus, in 1923 Jesus' great prophecy about the sheep and the goats was properly understood, and it was discerned that the whole world was under judgment". (p. 14)

The sheep/goat separation, however, could not have been "properly understood" in 1923 because in 1935 JWs began to teach that there were two groups of sheep and it was time to convert the second group. The first group called "remnant" and "chosen ones" were converted until 1935, the second group called "the great multitude" were converted from 1935 onwards:
Such a gathering in of those doers of good to the "chosen ones" began in the spring of 1935. What gave tremendous impetus to the ingathering was the speech given on Friday, May 31, 1935, at the widely advertised convention of Jehovah's Witnesses held in Washington, D.C. On that day the president of the Watch Tower Society spoke on the theme "The Great Multitude" and discussed the prophecy of Revelation 7:9-14, Authorized Version. He identified the "great multitude" as being the same as the "sheep" in Jesus' parable at Matthew 25:31-46. (The Watchtower 1980 September 1, p. 21)
The sheep-and-goats doctrine supposedly came from "Jehovah" and the "holy spirit" as a "flash of light": 
Jehovah, by means of holy spirit, favored these early Bible Students with flashes of light... bright light shone on the parable of the sheep and the goats. It was seen that this prophecy was to be fulfilled in the present Lord's day, not in the future during the Millennium as previously thought. (The Watchtower 1995 May 15, pp 17-18)
It was for 60 years a central, often-repeated, doctrine. (Investigator 47)  Then in 1995 (The Watchtower, October 15) this "properly understood", "bright light" from "Jehovah" and the "holy spirit" was changed. The sheep and goats were not separated since 1935 after all but will be separated in the future "during the Millennium".

Another change that influenced Pérez was the prophecy that the generation that witnessed 1914 would live to survive Armageddon.

That doctrine too was changed in 1995:

I wondered: What guarantees I had at that moment, that the new explanation was better than the previous one? What guarantees, that this new explanation that we all had to accept without complaint as "the truth", tomorrow wasn't denied or modified or even rejected as false? 
Pérez and his wife then obtained Crisis of Conscience written by Raymond Franz, a former member of the JW governing body:
It was as if a the veil that blinded us, had fallen suddenly before our eyes (2 Co. 4:4)… There was no question about it. The deceit and manipulation…by the Watch Tower Society were evident. I didn't judge any of the brothers because we all were victims…  
Pérez wrote a letter of disassociation wherein he mentioned the false predictions for 1975 by quoting the Life Everlasting book:
"How appropriate it would be for Jehovah God to make of this coming seventh period of a thousand years a sabbath period of rest and release, a great Jubilee sabbath for the proclaiming of liberty throughout the earth to all its inhabitants! This would be most timely for mankind." (1966 pp 29, 30)
JWs retaliated by boycotting Pérez's Consultant-advice business: "The fact that I was married and with two small children or my physical state didn't matter to them."

To a JW painter who came to withdraw his documents Pérez said:
"Can you imagine if all your clients, when you became a Jehovah Witness did to you what you are doing right now…? Or if your clients asked you for your religion before hiring you, and when realizing that you were a Witness didn't want anything to do with you?"   
Pérez continues:
…new circles of friendship began to arise, especially people that previously have belonged to the Witnesses… And since they live at different geographical locations in Spain, now we travel more often…   
He says of JWs:
…the courage and the sacrifice of many of them have been in vain…and all suffering they have gone through, was unnecessary. I regret collaborating with a group like this…a teaching based on the tradition and caprice.
Pérez concludes:
I support all those people that in freedom, opt to adore God without losing their individuality, their autonomy…

I don't consider myself better than anyone. In fact, I have gotten off the pedestal where the Witnesses had put me…

God does respond to those who cry out to him for help, but that answer doesn't necessarily have to come because a gentleman calls at your door…


More true biographies of JWs on this website:

Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: