This article first appeared December 28, 2013 and has been updated.
Jimmy and Johnny Ghent were born joined near the hip and spine. The doctors wanted to separate the children at birth, but their parent’s righteous stand against blood prevented the surgery. At the time, they could not find a surgeon willing to do the operation while still respecting Jehovah’s law. The boys grew up in the mental regulation of Jehovah and waited on Jehovah to separate them. They were baptized at aged ten and began pioneering at sixteen, when they were legally allowed to drop out of high school. They are now twenty-five, and Jimmy has been disfellowshiped. Johnny tells us how he endures having his wicked brother attached to him.
“It wasn’t so bad being a conjoined twin. Jimmy was a part of me, and I was a part of him. When you’re born that way, you really don’t know any differently so if felt pretty normal. The Friends were always kind, even though we had to endure bullying at school. But we handled it with a faithful spirit because we were bullied more often for being True Christians than we were for being conjoined twins. Our Kingdom Hall had a special seat built for us, and we just patiently waited on Jehovah to fix our situation.
However, you did have an opportunity later to have the surgery?
When we were twelve, a surgeon agreed to separate us without using blood. The only problem was that the separation would likely leave me paralyzed and possibly kill me. I was willing to take the chance. I didn’t mind being paralyzed because that meant I would qualify for a disability check, and that would enable me to pioneer until Armageddon. Medical opinion was that Jimmy would be fine and lead a normal life, which surprised us because he has the weaker legs. Jimmy adamantly refused the surgery because he would not risk losing me. He said he couldn’t enjoy his legs if mine weren’t working. So we didn’t have the surgery.
Yet, you both pushed forward with zeal and faith?
We dropped out of high school at sixteen and pioneered. There was no sense wasting any more time on a secular education. The end is so close, and we were both able to read well enough to understand the Bible. What more did we need?
It sounds like Jehovah truly blessed you.
Yes, until we were twenty. A brother gifted us with smart phones, and he paid the service for a year. This was so generous of him. He said that we could use them to visit jw.org, and we could download some of the literature onto our phones. The Society is so cutting edge. We were delighted. Jimmy and I would use those phones to do our research and prepare for meetings. Jimmy often plugged ear phones in. The way we are attached, I couldn’t see his screen so I asked him what he was listening to. He told me he had loaded Kingdom Melodies into the phone, and they helped him sleep. That was a wonderful idea so I did the same.”
He wasn’t listening to Kingdom Melodies, was he?
“No. I was devastated. One day I grabbed his phone by mistake and saw that he had watched one of the Smurf movies. I was deeply concerned and confronted him with it. He said he was just curious, and he was sorry, and it wouldn’t happen again. Well, we all make mistakes, but I was a little worried that the phone may have picked up a demon.”
Did you go to the elders?
“I thought about it, but he promised not to do it again. It wasn’t a disfellowshiping offense, so I thought we had handled it. I grew to regret that decision.
If we had nipped it in the bud when he watched Smurfs, we could have helped him. But one thing leads to another . . . “
What happened next?
“Well, we seemed to have put the Smurf sin behind us and went about our business as usual. Jimmy typed a lot on his phone, but he told me he was just working on his talks. Those phones have nifty word processing programs in them. As time went on, Jimmy didn’t feel like getting up for service most mornings. He was staying up too late doing research on his phone. I reasoned with him. I told him that it was a very good thing that he liked to read the Society’s literature, but we had to keep things in balance.”
Did that solve the problem?
“Sadly, no. It was becoming difficult for me to make my time each month because Jimmy fought me about getting up. Then he started fussing about going to all the meetings. Well, I have the stronger legs, and while I didn’t force him to go out into service because he wouldn’t dress properly, I didn’t care if I dragged him to meetings in his pajamas. I knew the Friends would understand, and they did. They just kept trying to encourage him.
That’s pretty bad, but it grew worse didn’t it?
Late one night, I was awakened by what felt like toes in my calves. This confused me because Jimmy’s toes don’t point that way. It took a few minutes for me to realize that Jimmy was committing fornication. It was just awful. I lay there stunned. He must have met this woman on the internet. I think it’s safe to say he probably got involved in social networking. He didn’t heed the warnings from the Society. The next morning, I dragged him directly to the elders.
That was the righteous thing to do.
Things were confusing for a while. Jimmy wouldn’t admit to the fornication, and I was only one witness. There was also some question as to whether this was a confession on my part. The Brothers asked me if I had screamed. I hadn’t. I was too shocked to make a sound at the time. So they told me that may make me guilty of fornication since, technically, I shared a body with Jimmy. They called the Society for guidance.”
That’s frightening. How long did you wait, and what was their answer?
“We waited about a week. The Society assured the brothers that I was not guilty of fornication because I was not a willing participant in the act, and the latest Watchtower update did not require screaming. However, because we were conjoined, they could treat my testimony not only as a confession, but also as two witnesses. They further advised that Jimmy was also guilty of incest and homosexuality along with fornication with a woman. I broke down and told them about the Smurf movie so they added brazen conduct to the list. They formed a judicial committee.
I begged Jimmy to confess and repent, but he refused. I suspect his heart had begun to harden when he watched the movie. The brothers disfellowshiped Jimmy a year ago.”
It must be very difficult to have to be in his presence all the time.
Yes, it is incredibly trying, but Jehovah gives me strength. I’m able to drag him to meetings, but he causes disturbances. For instance, he will read posts out loud from the apostate sites like, jwfacts or jwsurvey. It makes the children cry. He wears a Smurf T-shirt to the meetings. Of course, it makes it very difficult for me to pioneer, but I use the internet a lot. I count my time on Twitter, and if someone responds, I count it as a return visit. Once they have responded five times, I count it as a bible study. I tried phone witnessing, but Jimmy always yells apostate lies in the background. For instance, he will insist that the Society joined the United Nations or that they mishandle child sexual abuse cases. The important thing is that I still put in the effort. Jehovah will provide the rest.
What are some practical things you do to shun your conjoined twin?
I limit any conversation with him to necessary family business. Unfortunately, we have more necessary family business than most siblingss. For instance, I have to speak to him every time I need to visit the bathroom, although I try to do that as infrequently as possible. That leads to bladder infections, but it’s a small price to pay for staying loyal. Meals are problematic. Jimmy will not respect the arrangement that I can’t share a meal with him so he refuses to wait until I’m finished eating to start his meal. He takes a very long time, sometimes as long as three hours. But I am committed to never having a piece of food in my mouth at the same time that he does. I wait patiently. My dinner is usually cold and unappetizing when he is finished, but my real food comes from Jehovah so it’s a small sacrifice.”
You certainly are an example for the rest of us, Brother Ghent.
“Thank you. Put your trust in Jehovah, and you can endure all things.”
Friends, are we not deeply encouraged by the faith that Brother Ghent displays? If he can find a way to shun his conjoined twin, none of us can complain that it is too difficult to shun our children and parents. Let’s take this example to heart and remain ever committed to withdraw all love and support from those that depend on us for companionship and socializing. We can only truly love them if we are willing to reject them. It only takes faith the size of a mustard seed.