For many years Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mexico did not open their meetings with song and prayer. Jehovah’s Witnesses did not use Bible at their meetings or in field service in this land.
Because doing so would have been illegal. In Mexico the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society had chosen to be registered, not as a religion, but as a ‘cultural group’.
The reason for doing this is very interesting when we consider the subject of Jehovah’s Witnesses and neutrality. Witnesses cite many examples in the Bible of servants of Jehovah not bowing to pressure from ‘superior authorities’ but instead keeping their integrity to their Heavenly Father and being blessed as a result.
The situation in Mexico for many years was that religious groups could not own property. If they did own property, the law required it be handed over to the state. The religious group could still use the property for religious purposes, they just couldn’t own the property.
As the Watch Tower Society began to grow and establish congregations in Mexico, they were faced with a dilemma. Would they obey the ‘superior authorities’ and turn ownership of their properties over to the government, trusting that Jehovah would sustain and look after them? No. Instead, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses took the decision to keep ownership of property and sacrifice the use of the Bible at meetings and ministry, using the names Jehovah and Jesus, prayer and singing songs of worship and praise at meetings.
In order to facilitate this they had to register in Mexico, not as a religious group, but instead as a cultural group. Thus, they choose bricks and mortar over the Bible and prayer.
What would have been the neutral thing to do?
Surely Jehovah would have been well pleased if the Watch Tower Society had turned ownership of their Kingdom Halls over to the government in order that the Witnesses could still openly praise his name, use his Word, pray publicly to him. Rather, they made a political decision to sidestep the laws of Mexico. Didn’t this show a lack of trust in God?
In the late 1980s things changed politically in Mexico and religious groups could now own property.
The Yearbook 1990 page 10 reported this change. It said;
‘On April 1st a change in the status and organisational procedures of JWs took place in Mexico: Prayer may now be freely offered at all congregation meetings, and the bible may be used in field service. A woman active in a Catholic Bible Study program said about the witnesses new religious freedom: ‘If they left us speechless before, now that they are opening the bible at the doors, we are lost!’
Pause and think about this for a second. For many years Jehovah’s Witnesses did not use God’s inspired word the Bible when preaching from door to door. Yet, Catholics could actively be part of Bible study programs. For many years Jehovah’s Witnesses did not lift up their voices in praise to their Heavenly Father. At meetings they could only use Watch Tower publications, not the Bible.
All so that they could remain in control of their property.
Quite a sacrifice to make.
And just think, the government’s rules changed in Mexico, so in due course Jehovah’s Witnesses were able to own property. What a waste those years of not using the Bible, praying and singing publicly were.
In part 3 we will consider what happened to Jehovah’s Witnesses in Malawi due to their neutral stand and we’ll compare that to, again, Mexico.