While the Duggars were filming season 2 of their TLC show, which was titled 17 Kids and Counting at the time, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) founder Gothard, 88, came to visit the family.
Jill, 32, explained it was a “huge deal” and she practiced what she would tell him when they got the opportunity to speak.
“If it weren’t for you, Mr. Gothard, I likely wouldn’t be here!” she wrote in the book, which was released on Tuesday, September 12. She recalled that he looked “intrigued” by the comment before she explained.
“My parents have always told me that they would have stopped having children after they had the twins, numbers two and three,” Jill told Gothard at the time. “I’m number four, so thank you for teaching them that children really are a blessing from the Lord!”
According to Gothard’s teachings, he believes that children are a gift and families should have as many kids as possible.
Jim Bob, 58, and Michelle, 56, welcomed their eldest child, son Josh, in 1988, followed by twins John David and Jana in 1990. Jill was born in 1991, while the couple went on to welcome an additional 15 kids.
The interaction with Gothard is not the only anecdote Jill shared about the controversial religious leader in Counting the Cost. She also recalled him personally inviting Jana, 33, to visit and work at the organization’s headquarters in Chicago.
“We were new to the inner workings of IBLP, but we knew enough already to understand why it was only Jana who was invited,” the former reality star wrote. “She was the only elder Duggar girl who was blond, and everybody knew that Mr. Gothard liked blond girls.”
Jill added, “We’d joke about it, calling Jana one of ‘Gothard’s Girls.’ It didn’t occur to me at all how strange, unsafe, and unwise it was.”
She then admitted she doubts she “would have been able to speak out against it” even if she had been concerned. “I was still terrified of conflict and would do anything to avoid it,” Jill continued.
IBLP has faced backlash over the years for how women are treated within the organization. However, the controversy reached a new level in 2014 when more than 30 women accused Gothard of sexual harassment. He was placed on administrative leave, though IBLP concluded there was “no criminal activity” found following an investigation. However, they noted Gothard had “acted in an inappropriate manner.”
While Jill was raised to follow the religion, she hasn’t been shy when it comes to speaking out against IBLP.
“I really do think that IBLP is a form of a cult. I think that even if you remove the person in leadership, a lot of those same values and principles are still being taught, so it doesn’t fix the problem,” she told People in an interview published on September 12. “I think that’s what some people think like, ‘Oh, we’ve removed Bill Gothard from the situation. It makes everything better.’ No, it changes and maybe adds a nice storefront to the picture, but it doesn’t change the overall principles that are still being taught and held to.”
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