In a ‘Questions from Readers’ section in The Watchtower, August 1, 1961 the question about organ transplants is answered:
"Is there anything in the Bible against giving one’s eyes (after death) to be transplanted to some living person?—L. C., United States.
The question of placing one’s body or parts of one’s body at the disposal of men of science or doctors at one’s death for purposes of scientific experimentation or replacement in others is frowned upon by certain religious bodies. However, it does not seem that any Scriptural principle or law is involved. It therefore is something that each individual must decide for himself. If he is satisfied in his own mind and conscience that this is a proper thing to do, then he can make such provision, and no one else should criticize him for doing so. On the other hand, no one should be criticized for refusing to enter into any such agreement."
The Watchtower Society had no objections at first to organ transplants. Indeed, there is no scriptural principle or law involved. However, the Society changed its tune just a few years later in 1967. Take note of this Watchtower from November 15, 1967 in its ‘Questions from Readers’ section:
"Is there any Scriptural objection to donating one's body for use in medical research or to accepting organs for transplant from such a source?-W. L., U.S.A.
. . . When there is a diseased or defective organ, the usual way health is restored is by taking in nutrients. The body uses the food eaten to repair or heal the organ, gradually replacing the cells. When men of science conclude that this normal process will no longer work and they suggest removing the organ and replacing it directly with an organ from another human, this is simply a shortcut. Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic. However, in allowing man to eat animal flesh Jehovah God did not grant permission for humans to try to perpetuate their lives by cannibalistically taking into their bodies human flesh, whether chewed or in the form of whole organs or body parts taken from others."
Somehow the Watchtower Society has formed an opinion based upon their interpretation of scriptures that since God did not specifically grant permission for organ transplants they should no longer be permitted. They have also labeled such a procedure as “cannibalistic”.
It is shocking to most people to reason in such a way. If asked, many would reason that organ transplants are not cannibalistic. However, in a little over 6 years the Watchtower Society has turned a personal decision into cannibalism for Jehovah’s Witnesses. And Jehovah’s Witnesses would have to obey. After all such information is coming from God’s spirit-directed organization. At this point, Jehovah’s Witnesses are essentially being instructed they should rather die or be crippled than accept an organ transplant.
For the Watchtower Society, it has always been of prime importance to give Jehovah’s Witnesses the idea that rules or decision really benefit them. The Watchtower Society will use propaganda on Jehovah Witnesses to convince and firmly believed that organ transplants are evil and bad for them. For instance, notice the Watchtower comments from September 1, 1975:
"A peculiar factor sometimes noted is a so-called ‘personality transplant.’ That is, the recipient in some cases has seemed to adopt certain personality factors of the person from whom the organ came. One young promiscuous woman who received a kidney from her older, conservative, well-behaved sister, at first seemed very upset. Then she began imitating her sister in much of her conduct. Another patient claimed to receive a changed outlook on life after his kidney transplant. Following a transplant, one mild-tempered man became aggressive like the donor. The problem may be largely or wholly mental. But it is of interest, at least, that the Bible links the kidneys closely with human emotions." (p. 519)
The magazine is being used as a vehicle for driving Jehovah’s Witnesses to believe that when it comes to the matter of organ transplants the benefit is virtually zero and the risks are huge. This makes it easier for Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept such “God-given” directions. Since they have now also placed in the minds of its followers the notion that if you obtain for instance a kidney transplants it will manipulate your emotions. It will make you someone you are not.
The Watchtower Society did not just stop with the kidney transplants. They also provided instructions that will scare Jehovah’s Witnesses with a change to the literal heart. Similar to the notion that a kidney is linked to the literal emotional makeup of an individual, the heart would now be linked with the literal thinking faculties of a person. While it is true the Bible mentions the heart as a seat for our desires, people will understand this symbolically, realizing that desires and thoughts reside in our brain.
Nonetheless, the Watchtower from March 1, 1971 provided this:
"Most psychiatrists and psychologists tend to over categorize the mind and allow for little if any influence from the fleshly heart, looking upon the word "heart" merely as a figure of speech apart from its use in identifying the organ that pumps our blood. . . . The heart is a marvelously designed muscular pump, but, more significantly, our emotional and motivating capacities are built within it. Love, hate, desire (good and bad), preference for one thing over another, ambition, fear-in effect, all that serves to motivate us in relationship to our affections and desires springs from the heart." (p.134)
In the same article, the Watchtower Society admonishes that people who accepted donor hearts lost their personalities, and more than suggested that people who received a heart transplant were really without 'heart':
"These patients have donor-supplied pumps for their blood, but do they now have all the factors needed to say they have a "heart"? One thing is sure, in losing their own hearts, they have had taken away from them the capacities of "heart" built up in them over the years and which contributed to making them who they were as to personality."
Any individual with even a little understanding of science or medicine would know the ridiculousness of these teachings. Again, this is from God’s spirit-directed organization. What it illustrates is the danger of allowing men with such shallow reasoning based on unfounded science along with a twisted interpretation of scriptures to decide life and death matters for millions of Jehovah Witnesses.
Consequently, the advice the Watchtower Society gave on day-to-day situations based on its literal understanding of heart and mind was sometimes unintentionally humorous:
"To illustrate, suppose the time comes when you must make a decision on buying a new suit or dress. First, the mind is confronted with certain facts. Perhaps older clothes are getting past their usefulness or there is a need for a change for some good reason. The heart comes very much into the picture too, as there is a desire at heart to look presentable. Heart and mind are in agreement that a new dress or suit be obtained. The mind now collects information on prices, quality, styles, and so forth, so that when you go shopping you have a pretty good idea which suit or dress should be purchased. But when you arrive at the store, there in the window is quite an eye-catcher, just waiting for the impulse buyer. It is not really practical for you; it involves much more money; it is rather extreme in styling; but how it tantalizes the heart! "It’s the heart’s delight!" Now what will be done? What decision will be made? Will it be a practical, reasoned-out one, or one according to this new desire of the heart? If you are not very careful, the heart will overwhelm the mind." – From the Watchtower, March 1, 1971, page 140.
Such reasoning would persist and be indoctrinated into Jehovah’s Witnesses for years. Not only just in the Watchtower, but in the Awake! magazine as well. From page 23 of the March 22, 1974 Awake! magazine it states the following:
"Today much is also made of the transplanting of various organs—kidneys, hearts, lungs and livers. . . Because of what I have reason to believe is the Creator’s view of organ transplants, I have serious reservations as to their Scriptural propriety."
Exaggerated accounts of the dangers of organ transplants were also provided in the “Watching the World” feature found in the magazine:
"More Transplant Complications …
Recently it was reported that the incidence of cancer is 100 times greater among organ-transplant recipients than among the general population. However, the frequency of brain tumors is ‘about 1,000 times greater,’ according to Dr. Wolff M. Kirsch, of the University of Colorado Medical Center. The prolonged immunosuppressive therapy to prevent rejection of the new organ frequently entangles the patient ‘in a snare of pathological processes,’ he says. Prospects for helping such patients are considered ‘bleak.’" – From Awake! February 22, 1974, page 31.
After a 13 year run, the ban placed on organ transplants by the Watchtower Society was lifted for Jehovah’s Witnesses. A reason was never provided or explained. The Watchtower Society simply went back to their teaching from 1961:
"Should congregation action be taken if a baptized Christian accepts a human organ transplant, such as of a cornea or a kidney?
Regarding the transplantation of human tissue or bone from one human to another, this is a matter for conscientious decision by each one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Some Christians might feel that taking into their bodies any tissue or body part from another human is cannibalistic. . . . Other sincere Christians today may feel that the Bible does not definitely rule out medical transplants of human organs. . . . It may be argued, too, that organ transplants are different from cannibalism since the "donor" is not killed to supply food." – From the Watchtower, March 15, 1980, page 31.
“Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic.” - From the Watchtower, November 15, 1967.
How were Jehovah’s Witnesses supposed to feel with such direction? When individual Jehovah’s Witnesses risked their lives they did it because they were ordered to do so under threat of being disfellowshipped, believing the Watchtower Society spoke for God. It begs the question, did Jehovah God change his mind on these matters, or was the Watchtower Society simply wrong? Why would God have his chosen organization take a stand on an issue, change it, and flip back to the original stance again?
1961 = Organ Transplants = Conscience choice.
1967 = Organ Transplants = Cannibalistic.
1980 = Organ Transplants = Conscience choice.
Since, the Watchtower Society has changed its stance, so would now information contained in the Watchtower magazine when the topic was brought to the fore. Notice this article from the Watchtower September 1, 1984 on pages 3-7:
"What are we to understand, then, by the word ‘heart’?...What an amazing number of different functions and capabilities are ascribed to the heart! Do all of these reside in the literal heart? That could hardly be so... in nearly a thousand other references to ‘heart’ in the Bible, ‘heart’ is obviously used in a figurative sense… obviously, a distinction must be drawn between the heart organ and the figurative heart."
Hypocritically enough, looking at the Watchtower from June 1, 1986, on page 15 it states:
"The ancient Egyptians believed that the physical heart was the seat of intelligence and the emotions. They also thought that it had a will of its own. The Babylonians said that the heart housed the intellect as well as love. The Greek philosopher Aristotle taught that it was the seat of the senses and the domain of the soul. But as time passed and knowledge increased, these views were discarded. Finally the heart became known for what it is, a pump to circulate the blood throughout the body."
The article did not mention that the Watchtower Society had taught the same as the ancients Egyptians not too long ago:
“The heart is a marvelously designed muscular pump, but, more significantly, our emotional and motivating capacities are built within it.” – From the Watchtower, March 1, 1971.
Any Jehovah’s Witness who did not recall the organ transplant prohibition would probably never find out. New individuals coming into the organization may never come across such information regarding the Watchtower Society’s past teaching on the matter. Any who supposedly “compromised” with regards to organ transplants were disfellowshipped and, according to the Watchtower Society, were “cannibalistic” when the ban was in effect. What shocking unreasonable beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses will be done away with in the future; blood transfusions perhaps? Time will tell.