The Shunned Speak Out
Location: Newport, Oregon
Years Out: 28
Mona Miller was five years old when a Jehovah’s Witness knocked on the door at her house. By the next year, in 1970, her mother was baptized. Mona’s dad never joined, but Mona and her three brothers became devout.
Mona’s family believed Armageddon would come in 1975, which the organization taught until the year came and went. So Mona grew up looking for war on the horizon and her family was constantly on alert. But she constantly wondered why non-believers in her small town in eastern Oregon, who seemed like good people, wouldn’t survive the war.
Mona excelled academically, but college was out of the question. Her father died of cancer when she was a teenager and she began working at a grocery store part time to help support her mother. She auxiliary pioneered (part time evangelizing) while working at the grocery store. The congregation disapproved when she missed meetings because of work. "We have to trust in Jehovah," they told her. "It became unbearable," she said.
Mona had never been on a date before by the time she was in her 20s. And then a man in a cowboy hat came to the grocery store where she worked. They flirted. He came back the next day and a relationship blossomed. Then one day, he came to Mona’s house and formally asked permission to date her. Mona’s mother couldn’t let her daughter date an unbeliever, but she knew Mona’s prospects for marriage in their small congregation were bleak. So she came up with an idea: he would study to become a Witness and she would chaperone their dates.
Elders threatened Mona with disfellowshipping for dating a man who wasn’t an official member. They brought her in for a judicial meeting over the relationship. "But it is not a disfellowshipping offense," she said. The elders ignored her. An elder also privately threatened her relationship with her mother. Dreading the shame disfellowshipping would cause her mother, Mona drove to a cliff and contemplated suicide.
"There was a great big mountain by where we lived, so I drove up the top and I was just going to drive off." - Mona Miller
"I kept thinking if I killed myself, my mother would never forgive me for not talking to her about it first," said Mona.
"He said you can't live there anymore. And if your mom keeps talking to you, she's going to get disfellowshipped too." - Mona Miller
Mona decided to tell her mother about the meeting with the elders. Alarmed, her mother wrote a letter to headquarters and got a reply, which said that Mona had not committed a disfellowshipping offense. But the damage was done and Mona stopped going to meetings. Soon after, her brother told her he could no longer speak to her.
Throughout the years, Mona saw things that she says opened her eyes. When her mother died, her Jehovah’s Witness sister-in-law claimed $67 she had found in Mona’s mother’s purse to pay for gas they had used driving to hospital visits. Then they left Mona to bury her mother alone.
Though she still doesn’t know if she was ever officially disfellowshipped, her family and friends shun her.
Mona’s been out for 28 years, and still feels angry. "I’m really resentful because so much of my life was given up for this thing," she said.