Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses

Overview
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian
Millennialism
Millennialism , or chiliasm in Greek, is a belief held by some Christian denominations that there will be a Golden Age or Paradise on Earth in which "Christ will reign" for 1000 years prior to the final judgment and future eternal state...

 restorationist Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. The religion reports worldwide membership of over 7 million adherents involved in evangelism
Evangelism
Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. The term is often used in reference to Christianity....

, convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual Memorial attendance of over 18 million. They are directed by the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses
Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses
The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses is the ruling council of Jehovah's Witnesses based in Brooklyn, New York. The body assumes responsibility for formulating policy and doctrines, producing material for publications and conventions, and administering its worldwide branch office staff...

, a group of elders in Brooklyn, New York
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

, that establishes and controls all doctrines.
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Encyclopedia
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian
Millennialism
Millennialism , or chiliasm in Greek, is a belief held by some Christian denominations that there will be a Golden Age or Paradise on Earth in which "Christ will reign" for 1000 years prior to the final judgment and future eternal state...

 restorationist Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. The religion reports worldwide membership of over 7 million adherents involved in evangelism
Evangelism
Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. The term is often used in reference to Christianity....

, convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual Memorial attendance of over 18 million. They are directed by the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses
Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses
The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses is the ruling council of Jehovah's Witnesses based in Brooklyn, New York. The body assumes responsibility for formulating policy and doctrines, producing material for publications and conventions, and administering its worldwide branch office staff...

, a group of elders in Brooklyn, New York
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

, that establishes and controls all doctrines. Jehovah's Witnesses' beliefs are based on their interpretations of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, with a preference for their own translation, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is a translation of the Bible published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in 1961; it is used and distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses. Though it is not the first Bible to be published by the group, it is their first original translation of...

. They believe that the destruction of the present world system at Armageddon
Armageddon
Armageddon is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle during the end times, variously interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location...

 is imminent, and that the establishment of God's kingdom
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

 on earth is the only solution for all problems faced by humankind.

The group emerged from the Bible Student movement
Bible Student movement
The Bible Student movement is the name adopted by a Millennialist Restorationist Christian movement that emerged from the teachings and ministry of Charles Taze Russell, also known as Pastor Russell...

—founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell
Charles Taze Russell
Charles Taze Russell , or Pastor Russell, was a prominent early 20th century Christian restorationist minister from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and founder of what is now known as the Bible Student movement, from which Jehovah's Witnesses and numerous independent Bible Student groups emerged...

 with the formation of Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania is a non-stock, not-for-profit organization headquartered in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, United States. It is the main legal entity used worldwide by Jehovah's Witnesses to direct, administer and develop doctrines for the religion...

—with significant organizational and doctrinal changes under the leadership of Joseph Franklin Rutherford
Joseph Franklin Rutherford
Joseph Franklin Rutherford , also known as "Judge" Rutherford, was the second president of the incorporated Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and played a primary role in the organization and doctrinal development of Jehovah's Witnesses, which emerged from the Bible Student movement established...

. The name Jehovah's witnesses, based on Isaiah 43:10–12, was adopted in 1931 to clearly distinguish themselves from other Bible Student groups.

Jehovah's Witnesses are best known for their door-to-door preaching, distributing literature such as The Watchtower
The Watchtower
The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom is an illustrated religious magazine, published semi-monthly in 194 languages by Jehovah's Witnesses via the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and printed in various branch offices around the world...

and Awake!
Awake!
Awake! is a monthly illustrated magazine published by Jehovah's Witnesses via the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and printed in various branch offices around the world. It is considered to be a companion magazine of The Watchtower, and is distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses in...

, and refusing military service
Military service
Military service, in its simplest sense, is service by an individual or group in an army or other militia, whether as a chosen job or as a result of an involuntary draft . Some nations require a specific amount of military service from every citizen...

 and blood transfusion
Blood transfusion
Blood transfusion is the process of receiving blood products into one's circulation intravenously. Transfusions are used in a variety of medical conditions to replace lost components of the blood...

s. They consider use of the name Jehovah
Jehovah
Jehovah is an anglicized representation of Hebrew , a vocalization of the Tetragrammaton , the proper name of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible....

vital for proper worship. They reject Trinitarianism
Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

, inherent immortality of the soul, and hellfire
Hell in Christian beliefs
Christian views on Hell vary, but in general traditionally agree that hell is a place or a state in which the souls of the unsaved suffer the consequences of sin....

, which they consider to be unscriptural doctrines. They do not observe Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

, Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

, birthday
Birthday
A birthday is a day or anniversary where a person celebrates his or her date of birth. Birthdays are celebrated in numerous cultures, often with a gift, party or rite of passage. Although the major religions celebrate the birth of their founders , Christmas – which is celebrated widely by...

s, or other holidays and customs they consider to have pagan
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 origins incompatible with Christianity. Adherents commonly refer to their body of beliefs as "the truth" and consider themselves to be "in the truth". Jehovah's Witnesses consider secular society
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

, and limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses.

Congregational disciplinary actions
Church discipline
Church discipline comes in two types: formative and corrective. Formative discipline, or discipleship, seeks to help form the character and life of the believer. In this sense, every church disciplines it members. Jonathan Leeman has noted that "every church disciplines its members formally...

 include disfellowshipping, their term for formal expulsion and shunning
Shunning
Shunning can be the act of social rejection, or mental rejection. Social rejection is when a person or group deliberately avoids association with, and habitually keeps away from an individual or group. This can be a formal decision by a group, or a less formal group action which will spread to all...

. Members who formally leave are considered disassociated and are also shunned. Disfellowshipped and disassociated individuals may eventually be reinstated if considered repentant.

The religion's position regarding conscientious objection
Conscientious objector
A conscientious objector is an "individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service" on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion....

 to military service and refusal to salute
Salute
A salute is a gesture or other action used to display respect. Salutes are primarily associated with armed forces, but other organizations and civil people also use salutes.-Military salutes:...

 national flag
Flag
A flag is a piece of fabric with a distinctive design that is usually rectangular and used as a symbol, as a signaling device, or decoration. The term flag is also used to refer to the graphic design employed by a flag, or to its depiction in another medium.The first flags were used to assist...

s has brought it into conflict with some governments. Consequently, activities of Jehovah's Witnesses have been banned or restricted in some countries. Persistent legal challenges by Jehovah's Witnesses have influenced legislation related to civil rights in various countries.

Background (1870–1916)


In 1870, Charles Taze Russell
Charles Taze Russell
Charles Taze Russell , or Pastor Russell, was a prominent early 20th century Christian restorationist minister from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and founder of what is now known as the Bible Student movement, from which Jehovah's Witnesses and numerous independent Bible Student groups emerged...

 and others formed an independent group in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 to study the Bible. During the course of his ministry Russell disputed many of the creeds, doctrines, and traditions of mainstream Christianity including immortality of the soul, hellfire, predestination, the fleshly return of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, and the burning up of the world. In 1876 Russell met Nelson H. Barbour
Nelson H. Barbour
Nelson Horatio Barbour was born in Throopsville, New York, August 21, 1824, and died in Tacoma, Washington, August 30, 1905. Barbour was an influential Adventist writer and publisher, best known for his association with and later opposition to Charles Taze Russell.- Life :Barbour was the son of...

 and later that year they jointly produced the book The Three Worlds
The Three Worlds
The Three Worlds Cycle is a series of novels written by author Ian Irvine. The series comprises The View from the Mirror quartet, The Well of Echoes quartet, The Song of the Tears trilogy, and The Fate of the Children trilogy.-The Three Worlds:The "Three Worlds" after which the cycle is named are...

, which combined restitutionist views with time prophecy. In the book they taught that God's dealings with mankind were divided dispensationally, each ending with a "harvest", that Christ had returned as an invisible spirit being in 1874 inaugurating the "harvest of the Gospel age", and that 1914 would mark the end of a 2520-year period called "the Gentile Times". Beginning in 1878 they jointly edited a religious journal, Herald of the Morning. In June 1879 the two split over doctrinal differences and in July Russell began publishing the magazine Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence
The Watchtower
The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah's Kingdom is an illustrated religious magazine, published semi-monthly in 194 languages by Jehovah's Witnesses via the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania and printed in various branch offices around the world...

, stating that its purpose was to demonstrate the world was in "the last days" and that a new age of earthly and human restitution under the invisible reign of Christ was imminent. As early as 1876, Russell taught that a period known as "the Gentile Times" would end in October 1914, at which time world society would be replaced by the full establishment of God's kingdom on earth.

From 1879 Watch Tower supporters gathered as autonomous congregations to study the Bible topically. Thirty congregations had been founded, and during 1879 and 1880 Russell visited each to teach the pattern of meetings he recommended. In 1881 he founded Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society and in 1884 incorporated it as a non-profit business to distribute tracts and Bibles. By about 1900 Russell had organized thousands of part- and full-time colporteurs, and was appointing foreign missionaries and establishing branch offices. By the 1910s, Russell's organization was maintaining nearly a hundred "pilgrims", or traveling preachers.

Russell moved headquarters to Brooklyn
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

, New York, in 1909, combining printing and corporate offices with a house of worship; volunteers were housed in a nearby residence he named Bethel. He identified the religious movement as "Bible Students", and more formally as the International Bible Students Association. About 500 congregations worldwide elected him as their pastor
Pastor
The word pastor usually refers to an ordained leader of a Christian congregation. When used as an ecclesiastical styling or title, this role may be abbreviated to "Pr." or often "Ps"....

. Russell died in late 1916 at age 64 while returning from a ministerial speaking tour.

Reorganization (1917–1942)


In January 1917, the Watch Tower Society's legal representative, Joseph Franklin Rutherford
Joseph Franklin Rutherford
Joseph Franklin Rutherford , also known as "Judge" Rutherford, was the second president of the incorporated Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and played a primary role in the organization and doctrinal development of Jehovah's Witnesses, which emerged from the Bible Student movement established...

, was elected as its next president. His election was disputed, and soon after members of the Board of Directors accused him of acting in an autocratic and secretive manner. The divisions between his supporters and opponents triggered a major turnover of members over the next decade. In June 1917 he released The Finished Mystery as a seventh volume of Russell's Studies in the Scriptures
Studies in the Scriptures
Studies in the Scriptures is a series of publications, intended as a Bible study aid, containing seven volumes of great importance to the history of the Bible Students, and the early history of the Jehovah's Witnesses.-Origin and author:...

 series without prior approval of the board of directors. The book, largely written by two Bible Students, was claimed to be the "posthumous work" of Russell. It strongly criticized Catholic and Protestant clergy and Christian involvement in the Great War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. As a result, Watch Tower Society directors were jailed for sedition under the Espionage Act
Espionage Act of 1917
The Espionage Act of 1917 is a United States federal law passed on June 15, 1917, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I. It has been amended numerous times over the years. It was originally found in Title 50 of the U.S. Code but is now found under Title 18, Crime...

in 1918 and members were subjected to mob violence; charges against the directors were dropped in 1920.

Rutherford centralized organizational control of the Watch Tower Society. In 1919 the Brooklyn headquarters appointed a director in each congregation, and a year later all members were instructed to report their preaching activity weekly. At an international convention held at Cedar Point
Cedar Point
Cedar Point is a 364 acre amusement park located in Sandusky, Ohio, United States on a narrow peninsula jutting into Lake Erie. Cedar Point is the only amusement park with four roller coasters that are taller than...

, Ohio, in September 1922, a new emphasis was made on house-to-house preaching. Significant changes in doctrine were made under Rutherford's leadership, including the 1918 announcement that Jewish patriarchs (such as Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

 and Isaac
Isaac
Isaac as described in the Hebrew Bible, was the only son Abraham had with his wife Sarah, and was the father of Jacob and Esau. Isaac was one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites...

) would be resurrected in 1925, marking the beginning of Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

's thousand-year reign. By mid-1919, about one in seven Bible Students had ceased their association with the Society and further defections occurred through the 1920s, leading to the formation of various Bible Student groups independent of the Watch Tower Society, many of which still exist. William Schnell, author and former Witness, has claimed that three quarters of the Bible Students who had been associating in 1921 had left by 1931. Rutherford himself stated in 1930 that the number of those who had withdrawn from the Society was "comparatively large".

On July 26, 1931, at a convention in Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
Columbus is the capital of and the largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio. The broader metropolitan area encompasses several counties and is the third largest in Ohio behind those of Cleveland and Cincinnati. Columbus is the third largest city in the American Midwest, and the fifteenth largest city...

, Rutherford introduced the new name—Jehovah's witnesses—based on Isaiah 43:10: "Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen"—which was adopted by resolution. The name was chosen to distinguish his group of Bible Students from other independent groups that had severed ties with the Society. In 1932, Rutherford eliminated the system of locally elected elders and in 1938 introduced what he called a "theocratic" (literally, God-ruled) organizational system, under which appointments in congregations worldwide were made from the Brooklyn headquarters. Rutherford later claimed that this and other changes he had instituted fulfilled Bible prophecies in the book of Daniel
Book of Daniel
The Book of Daniel is a book in the Hebrew Bible. The book tells of how Daniel, and his Judean companions, were inducted into Babylon during Jewish exile, and how their positions elevated in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. The court tales span events that occur during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar,...

.

From 1932 it was taught that a separate class of members would live in a paradise restored on earth; from 1935, new converts to the movement were considered part of that class. Previously, membership was generally composed of those who believed they would be resurrected to live in heaven to rule over earth with Christ. By 1933, the timing of the beginning of Christ's presence (Greek: parousía), his enthronement as king, and the start of the "last days
End times
The end time, end times, or end of days is a time period described in the eschatological writings in the three Abrahamic religions and in doomsday scenarios in various other non-Abrahamic religions...

" were each moved to 1914.

As their interpretations of scripture developed, Witness publications taught that saluting national flags and singing the national anthem
National anthem
A national anthem is a generally patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people.- History :Anthems rose to prominence...

 are forms of idolatry, which led to a new outbreak of mob violence and government opposition in the United States, Canada, Germany, and other countries.

Continued development (1942–present)



Following Rutherford's death in January 1942, Nathan Knorr was appointed as third president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. He commissioned a new translation of the Bible, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is a translation of the Bible published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in 1961; it is used and distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses. Though it is not the first Bible to be published by the group, it is their first original translation of...

, the full version of which was released in 1961. He organized large international assemblies, instituted new training programs for members, and expanded missionary activity and branch offices throughout the world. Knorr's presidency was also marked by an increasing use of explicit instructions guiding Witnesses in their lifestyle and conduct, and a greater use of congregational judicial procedures to enforce strict moral codes.

From 1966, Witness publications and convention talks built anticipation of the possibility that Christ's thousand-year reign might begin in late 1975 or shortly thereafter. The number of baptisms increased significantly, from about 59,000 in 1966 to more than 297,000 in 1974, but membership declined after expectations for the year were proved wrong. Watch Tower Society literature did not state dogmatically that 1975 would definitely mark the end, but in 1980 the Watch Tower Society admitted its responsibility in building up hope regarding that year.

The offices of elder and ministerial servant were restored to Witness congregations in 1972, with appointments made from headquarters (and later, also by branch committees). In a major organizational overhaul in 1976, the power of the Watch Tower Society president was diminished, with authority for doctrinal and organizational decisions passed to the Governing Body
Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses
The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses is the ruling council of Jehovah's Witnesses based in Brooklyn, New York. The body assumes responsibility for formulating policy and doctrines, producing material for publications and conventions, and administering its worldwide branch office staff...

. Reflecting these organizational changes, publications of Jehovah's Witnesses began using the capitalized name, Jehovah's Witnesses.First occurrence: Since Knorr's death in 1977, the position of president has been occupied by Frederick Franz
Frederick William Franz
Frederick William Franz served as President of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the legal entity used to direct the work of Jehovah's Witnesses. He had previously served as Vice President of the same corporation from 1945 until 1977 and as a member of the Governing Body of...

 (1977–1992) and Milton Henschel
Milton George Henschel
Milton George Henschel was a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses and succeeded Frederick W. Franz as president of the Watch Tower Society in 1992.-Personal life:...

 (1992–2000), both members of the Governing Body, and since 2000 by Don A. Adams
Don A. Adams
Don Alden Adams is the current president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the principal corporation of Jehovah's Witnesses.- Biography :...

, not a member of the Governing Body.

Organization



Jehovah's Witnesses are organized under a hierarchical
Hierarchy
A hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another...

 arrangement, which their leadership calls a "theocratic government", reflecting their belief that it is God's "visible organization" on earth. The organization is headed by the Governing Body
Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses
The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses is the ruling council of Jehovah's Witnesses based in Brooklyn, New York. The body assumes responsibility for formulating policy and doctrines, producing material for publications and conventions, and administering its worldwide branch office staff...

—an all-male group that varies in size, but since December 2010 has comprised seven members,Twelve members as of September 2005 (See The Watchtower, March 15, 2006, page 26)
Schroeder died March 8, 2006. (See The Watchtower, September 15, 2006, page 31)
Sydlik died April 18, 2006. (See The Watchtower, January 1, 2007, page 8)
Barber died April 8, 2007. (See The Watchtower, October 15, 2007, page 31)
Jaracz died June 9, 2010. (See The Watchtower, November 15, 2010, page 23)
Barr died December 4, 2010. (See The Watchtower, May 15, 2011, page 6)
all of whom profess to be of the "anointed" class with a hope of heavenly life—based in the Watch Tower Society's Brooklyn headquarters. There is no election for membership; new members are selected by the existing body. The Governing Body is described as the "spokesman" for God's "faithful and discreet slave
Faithful and Discreet Slave
The faithful and discreet slave is the term used by Jehovah's Witnesses to describe the collective body of "anointed" Christians alive on earth who expect to ascend to heaven at death. Approximately 11,000 Jehovah's Witnesses profess to be members of this "remnant" of the 144,000...

 class" (approximately 10,000 self-professed "anointed" Jehovah's Witnesses). It directs several committees that are responsible for administrative functions, including publishing, assembly programs and evangelizing activities. It directly appoints all branch committee members and traveling overseers, after they have been recommended by local branches, with traveling overseers supervising districts or circuits of congregations within their jurisdictions. Branch offices appoint local elders and ministerial servants, and may appoint regional committees for matters such as Kingdom Hall
Kingdom Hall
A Kingdom Hall is a place of worship used by Jehovah's Witnesses. The term was first suggested in 1935 by Joseph Franklin Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, for a building in Hawaii...

 construction or disaster relief.

Each congregation has a body of appointed unpaid male elders and ministerial servants. Elders maintain general responsibility for congregational governance, setting meeting times, selecting speakers and conducting meetings, directing the public preaching work, and creating "judicial committees" to investigate and decide disciplinary action for cases that are seen as breaching their doctrines. New elders are appointed by branch offices after recommendation by the existing body of elders. Ministerial servants—appointed in a similar manner to elders—fulfill clerical and attendant duties, but may also teach and conduct meetings. Witnesses do not use elder as a title to signify a formal clergy-laity division, though elders may employ ecclesiastical privilege.

Individuals undergoing baptism must affirm publicly that dedication and baptism identify them "as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization," though Witness publications say baptism symbolizes personal dedication to God and not "to a man, work or organization."From 1956, baptism candidates were asked to acknowledge they were sinners needing salvation and confirm that they had dedicated themselves unreservedly to God and to do his will as revealed through Jesus Christ and the Bible. In the June 1, 1985 Watchtower, it was announced that the questions had changed, with candidates from that point asked to confirm they had repented of their sins and dedicated themselves to do Jehovah's will, and to acknowledge that their baptism identified themselves as one of Jehovah's Witnesses "in association with God's spirit-directed organization". Critic Raymond Franz (Crisis of Conscience, page 118) states that the change in the questions requires baptism candidates to declare their submission and obligation to an earthly organization, or human authority structure. He contends: "The Watch Tower Society's second baptismal question effectively replaces God's holy Spirit with the "spirit-directed organization". Watch Tower Society publications emphasize the need for members to be obedient and loyal to Jehovah and to "his organization",For examples of what Franz (p.449) says is a concept "stressed with mesmerizing frequency", see the following: "Following Faithful Shepherds with Life in View", The Watchtower, October 1, 1967, page 591, "Make haste to identify the visible theocratic organization of God that represents his king, Jesus Christ. It is essential for life. Doing so, be complete in accepting its every aspect."; The Watchtower, September 1, 2006, pg 15, "Have we formed a loyal attachment to the organization that Jehovah is using today?"; "Your Reminders Are What I Am Fond Of", The Watchtower, June 15, 2006, pg 26, "We too should remain faithful to Jehovah and to his organization regardless of injustices we suffer and regardless of what others do."; "Are You Prepared for Survival?", The Watchtower, May 15, 2006, pg 22, "Just as Noah and his God-fearing family were preserved in the ark, survival of individuals today depends on their faith and their loyal association with the earthly part of Jehovah’s universal organization."; Worship The Only True God (Watch Tower Society, 2002), pg 134, "Jehovah is guiding us today by means of his visible organization under Christ. Our attitude toward this arrangement demonstrates how we feel about the issue of sovereignty ... By being loyal to Jehovah’s organization, we show that Jehovah is our God and that we are united in worship of him." stating that individuals must remain part of it to receive God's favor and to survive Armageddon. Witness publications state that acceptable service to God can be rendered only through that organization and that members should remain submissive to the religion's leaders and to local congregational elders. There is no tithing
Tithe
A tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural products...

 or collection; funding for all activities of the organization is provided by voluntary contributions
Donation
A donation is a gift given by physical or legal persons, typically for charitable purposes and/or to benefit a cause. A donation may take various forms, including cash, services, new or used goods including clothing, toys, food, and vehicles...

, primarily from members.

Beliefs


Sources of doctrine


Doctrine
Doctrine
Doctrine is a codification of beliefs or a body of teachings or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system...

s of Jehovah's Witnesses are established by the Governing Body
Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses
The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses is the ruling council of Jehovah's Witnesses based in Brooklyn, New York. The body assumes responsibility for formulating policy and doctrines, producing material for publications and conventions, and administering its worldwide branch office staff...

, which assumes responsibility for interpreting
Exegesis
Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...

 and applying scripture
Eisegesis
Eisegesis is the process of misinterpreting a text in such a way that it introduces one's own ideas, reading into the text. This is best understood when contrasted with exegesis. While exegesis draws out the meaning from the text, eisegesis occurs when a reader reads his/her interpretation into...

. Watch Tower Society publications teach that doctrinal changes and refinements result from a process of progressive revelation
Revelation
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

, in which God gradually reveals his will and purpose, and that such enlightenment results from the application of reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

 and study
Biblical studies
Biblical studies is the academic study of the Judeo-Christian Bible and related texts. For Christianity, the Bible traditionally comprises the New Testament and Old Testament, which together are sometimes called the "Scriptures." Judaism recognizes as scripture only the Hebrew Bible, also known as...

, the guidance of the holy spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

, and direction from Jesus Christ and angels. The Society also teaches that "responsible representatives" of the "faithful and discreet slave class" at the religion's headquarters are helped by the holy spirit to discern "deep truths", which are then considered by the entire Governing Body before it makes doctrinal decisions. The religion's leadership, while disclaiming divine inspiration and infallibility
Infallibility of the Church
The Infallibility of the Church is the belief that the Holy Spirit will not allow the Church to err in its belief or teaching under certain circumstances...

, is said to provide "divine guidance" through its teachings described as "based on God's Word thus...not from men, but from Jehovah."

The entire Protestant canon of scripture
Biblical canon
A biblical canon, or canon of scripture, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. The term itself was first coined by Christians, but the idea is found in Jewish sources. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example...

 is considered the inspired
Biblical inspiration
Biblical inspiration is the doctrine in Christian theology that the authors and editors of the Bible were led or influenced by God with the result that their writings many be designated in some sense the word of God.- Etymology :...

, inerrant
Biblical inerrancy
Biblical inerrancy is the doctrinal position that the Bible is accurate and totally free of error, that "Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact." Some equate inerrancy with infallibility; others do not.Conservative Christians generally believe that...

 word of God. Jehovah's Witnesses consider the Bible to be scientifically
Science and the Bible
Some of the various books of the Hebrew Bible contain descriptions of the physical world. These descriptions can be part of developing a history of science during Levant's Iron Age....

 and historically
The Bible and history
The Bible from a historical perspective, includes numerous fields of study, ranging from archeology and astronomy to linguistics and methods of comparative literature. The Bible may provide insight into pursuits, including but not limited to; our understanding of ancient and modern culture,...

 accurate and reliable and interpret much of it literally
Biblical literalism
Biblical literalism is the interpretation or translation of the explicit and primary sense of words in the Bible. A literal Biblical interpretation is associated with the fundamentalist and evangelical hermeneutical approach to Scripture, and is used almost exclusively by conservative Christians...

, but accept parts of it as symbolic
Allegorical interpretation
In a biblical context, allegorical interpretation is an approach assuming that the authors of a text intended something other than what is literally expressed....

. They consider the Bible to be the final authority for all their beliefs, although sociologist Andrew Holden's ethnographic
Ethnography
Ethnography is a qualitative method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group...

 study of the religion concluded that pronouncements of the Governing Body, through Watch Tower Society publications, carry almost as much weight as the Bible. Jehovah's Witnesses believe their religion restores the doctrines of "true" Christianity. The religion makes no provision for members to criticize or contribute to official teachings and all Witnesses must abide by its doctrines and organizational requirements. Witnesses are cautioned against studying the Bible independently from its publications or to read any other religious literature. Adherents are told to have "complete confidence" in the leadership, avoid skepticism over Watchtower teachings and "not advocate or insist on personal opinions or harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding".

Jehovah and Jesus Christ


Jehovah's Witnesses emphasize use of God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

's biblical name, represented in the original texts by the Tetragrammaton
Tetragrammaton
The term Tetragrammaton refers to the name of the God of Israel YHWH used in the Hebrew Bible.-Hebrew Bible:...

, and in English they prefer to use the name, Jehovah
Jehovah
Jehovah is an anglicized representation of Hebrew , a vocalization of the Tetragrammaton , the proper name of the God of Israel in the Hebrew Bible....

. They believe that Jehovah is the only true God, the creator of all things, and the "Universal Sovereign". They believe that all worship should be directed toward him, and that he is not part of a Trinity
Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

; consequently, the religion places more emphasis on God than on Christ. They believe that the holy spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 is God's power or "active force" rather than a person.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 was God's only direct creation, that everything else was created by means of Christ, and that the initial unassisted act of creation uniquely identifies Jesus as God's "only-begotten Son". Jesus served as a redeemer
Redeemer (Christianity)
In Christian theology, Jesus is sometimes referred to as a Redeemer. This refers to the salvation he is believed to have accomplished, and is based on the metaphor of redemption, or "buying back". Although the New Testament does not use the title "Redeemer", the word "redemption" is used in several...

 and a ransom sacrifice to pay for the sins of humankind. They believe Jesus died on a single upright torture stake
Torture stake
Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus died on an upright pole: "The Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John use the Greek word stau·ros′ when referring to the instrument of execution on which Jesus died...

 rather than the traditional cross
Crucifixion of Jesus
The crucifixion of Jesus and his ensuing death is an event that occurred during the 1st century AD. Jesus, who Christians believe is the Son of God as well as the Messiah, was arrested, tried, and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged, and finally executed on a cross...

. They believe that references in the Bible to the Archangel Michael
Michael (archangel)
Michael , Micha'el or Mîkhā'ēl; , Mikhaḗl; or Míchaël; , Mīkhā'īl) is an archangel in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic teachings. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans refer to him as Saint Michael the Archangel and also simply as Saint Michael...

, Abaddon
Abaddon
Abaddon in the Revelation of St. John, is the king of tormenting locusts and the angel of the bottomless pit. The exact nature of Abaddon is debated, but the Hebrew word is related to the triliteral root אבד , which in verb form means "to perish."...

 (Apollyon), and the Word all refer to Jesus. Jesus is considered to be the only intercessor
Intercession
Intercession is the act of interceding between two parties. In both Christian and Islamic religious usage, it is a prayer to God on behalf of others....

 and high priest
High priest
The term "high priest" usually refers either to an individual who holds the office of ruler-priest, or to one who is the head of a religious caste.-Ancient Egypt:...

 between God and humankind, and appointed by God as the king and judge of his kingdom. His role as a mediator (referred to in 1 Timothy 2:5) is restricted to anointed Christians.

Satan


Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Satan
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

 was originally a perfect angel
Angel
Angels are mythical beings often depicted as messengers of God in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles along with the Quran. The English word angel is derived from the Greek ἄγγελος, a translation of in the Hebrew Bible ; a similar term, ملائكة , is used in the Qur'an...

 who developed feelings of self-importance and craved worship. Satan caused Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

 to disobey God, and humanity subsequently became participants in a challenge involving the competing claims of Jehovah and Satan to universal sovereignty. Other angels who sided with Satan became demon
Demon
call - 1347 531 7769 for more infoIn Ancient Near Eastern religions as well as in the Abrahamic traditions, including ancient and medieval Christian demonology, a demon is considered an "unclean spirit" which may cause demonic possession, to be addressed with an act of exorcism...

s.

Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Satan and his demons were cast down to earth from heaven after October 1, 1914, at which point the end times began. Witnesses believe that Satan is the ruler of the current world order, that human society is influenced and misled by Satan and his demons, and that they are a cause of human suffering. However, they do not believe that individual rulers or governments are under Satan's direct control. Researchers including sociologist James Beckford and psychologist Havor Montague have noted Jehovah's Witnesses' dread of demons, which James Penton says is "sometimes so extreme that it becomes quite superstitious." Penton also notes that avoidance of "demonistic practices" has released many people in Africa and Latin America from fear of spirits.

Life after death



Jehovah's Witnesses believe death is a state of non-existence with no consciousness
Consciousness
Consciousness is a term that refers to the relationship between the mind and the world with which it interacts. It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind...

. There is no Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

 of fiery torment; Hades
Hades in Christianity
According to various Christian faiths, Hades is "the place or state of departed spirits".-Hades in the Old Testament:In the Septuagint , the Greek term "ᾅδης" is used to translate the Hebrew term "שׁאול" in, for example,...

 and Sheol
Sheol
Sheol |Hebrew]] Šʾôl) is the "grave", "pit", or "abyss" in Hebrew. She'ol is the earliest conception of the afterlife in the Jewish scriptures. It is a place of darkness to which all dead go, regardless of the moral choices made in life, and where they are "removed from the light of God"...

 are understood to refer to the condition of death, termed the common grave. Jehovah's Witnesses consider the soul to be a life or a living body that can die. Witnesses believe that a limited "little flock" go to heaven, but that the hope for life after death for the majority of "other sheep" involves being resurrected by God to a cleansed earth after Armageddon.
Watch Tower Society publications teach that humanity is in a sinful state, from which release is only possible by means of Jesus' shed blood as a payment, or atonement
Substitutionary atonement
Technically speaking, substitutionary atonement is the name given to a number of Christian models of the atonement that all regard Jesus as dying as a substitute for others, "instead of" them...

, for the sins of humankind. Witnesses believe there are two destinations for those saved by God. They interpret Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 14:1–5 to mean that the number of Christians going to heaven is limited to exactly 144,000, who will rule with Jesus as kings and priests over earth. The remainder hope to live forever in an earthly paradise. Jehovah's Witnesses teach that only they meet scriptural requirements for surviving Armageddon, but that God is the final judge. During the millennium, most other people who died since the time of Abel
Cain and Abel
In the Hebrew Bible, Cain and Abel are two sons of Adam and Eve. The Qur'an mentions the story, calling them the two sons of Adam only....

 and before Armageddon will be resurrected with the prospect of living forever; they will be taught the proper way to worship God to prepare them for their final test before the end of the millennium.

God's kingdom


Witness publications teach that God's kingdom
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

 is a literal government in heaven, ruled by Jesus Christ and 144,000 Christians drawn from the earth. The kingdom is viewed as the means by which God will accomplish his original purpose for the earth, transforming it into a paradise without sickness or death. It is said to have been the focal point of Jesus' ministry on earth and established in heaven in 1914. They believe 1914 marks the restoration of God's rule over earth after being halted for 2520 years since 607 BCE, the date they uniquely assign to the destruction of Jerusalem
Siege of Jerusalem (587 BC)
In 589 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege to Jerusalem, culminating in the destruction of the city and its temple in 587 BC.-Siege:Following the siege of 597 BC, Nebuchadnezzar installed Zedekiah as tributary king of Judah at the age of twenty-one. However, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon, and...

 by the Babylonians.

Eschatology



A central teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses is that the current world era, or "system of things", entered the "last days" in 1914 and faces imminent destruction through intervention by God and Jesus Christ, leading to deliverance for those who worship God acceptably. They consider all other present-day religions to be false, identifying them with "Babylon the Great", or the "harlot", of Revelation 17, and believe that they will soon be destroyed by the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

. This development will mark the beginning of the great tribulation. Satan will subsequently attack Jehovah's Witnesses, an action that will prompt God to begin the war of Armageddon
Armageddon
Armageddon is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle during the end times, variously interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location...

, during which all forms of government and all people not counted as Christ's "sheep", or true followers, will be destroyed. After Armageddon, God will extend his heavenly kingdom to include earth, which will be transformed into a paradise similar to the garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is in the Bible's Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden...

. After Armageddon, most of those who had died before God's intervention will gradually be resurrected during "judgment day" lasting for a thousand years
Millenarianism
Millenarianism is the belief by a religious, social, or political group or movement in a coming major transformation of society, after which all things will be changed, based on a one-thousand-year cycle. The term is more generically used to refer to any belief centered around 1000 year intervals...

. This judgment will be based on their actions after resurrection, not on past deeds.At the end of the thousand years, a final test will take place when Satan is released to mislead perfect mankind. The end result will be a fully tested, glorified human race. Christ will then hand all authority back to God.

Watch Tower Society publications teach that Jesus Christ began to rule in heaven as king of God's Kingdom in October 1914, and that Satan was subsequently ousted from heaven to the earth, resulting in "woe" to mankind. They believe that Jesus rules invisibly, perceived only as a series of "signs". They base this belief on a rendering of the Greek word parousia—usually translated as "coming" when referring to Christ—as "presence". They believe Jesus' presence refers to a period of unknown duration rather than a moment of arrival.

Worship



Meetings for worship and study are held at Kingdom Hall
Kingdom Hall
A Kingdom Hall is a place of worship used by Jehovah's Witnesses. The term was first suggested in 1935 by Joseph Franklin Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, for a building in Hawaii...

s, which are typically functional in character, and do not contain religious symbols. Witnesses are assigned to a congregation in whose "territory" they reside and attend weekly services they refer to as "meetings" as scheduled by congregation elders. The meetings are largely devoted to study of Watch Tower Society literature and the Bible. The format of the meetings is established by the religion's headquarters, and the subject matter for most meetings is the same worldwide. Congregations meet for two sessions each week comprising five distinct meetings that total about three-and-a-half hours, typically gathering mid-week (three meetings) and on the weekend (two meetings). Gatherings are opened and closed with kingdom songs
Kingdom songs
Kingdom songs are the hymns sung by Jehovah's Witnesses at their religious meetings. Since 1879, the Watch Tower Society has published hymnal lyrics; by the 1920s they had published hundreds of adapted and original songs, and by the 1930s they referred to these as "Kingdom songs" in reference to...

 and brief prayers. Each year, Witnesses from a number of congregations that form a "circuit" gather for one-day, and two-day assemblies. Several circuits meet once a year for a three-day "district convention", usually at rented stadiums or auditoriums. Their most important and solemn event is the commemoration of the "Lord's Evening Meal", or "Memorial of Christ's Death", which generally falls on the same date as the Jewish Passover
Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

.

Evangelism




Jehovah's Witnesses are perhaps best known for their efforts to spread their beliefs, most notably by visiting people from house to house. Free home Bible studies are offered to people who show interest in their beliefs, which they present with the aid of books, brochures and magazines, including The Watchtower. Some literature is available in more than 500 languages. Witnesses are told they are under a biblical command to engage in public preaching. They are instructed to devote as much time as possible to their ministry and are required to submit an individual monthly "Field Service Report". Baptized members who fail to submit a report every month are termed "irregular" and may be counseled by elders; those who do not submit a report for six consecutive months are termed "inactive".

Ethics and morality


Their views of morality reflect conservative Christian values. All sexual relations outside of marriage are grounds for expulsion if the individual is not deemed repentant; homosexuality
Homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

 is considered a serious sin, and same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....

s are forbidden. Abortion is considered murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

. Modesty in dress and grooming is frequently emphasized. Gambling
Gambling
Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods...

, drunkenness, illegal drugs, and tobacco use are forbidden. Drinking of alcoholic beverage
Alcoholic beverage
An alcoholic beverage is a drink containing ethanol, commonly known as alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are divided into three general classes: beers, wines, and spirits. They are legally consumed in most countries, and over 100 countries have laws regulating their production, sale, and consumption...

s is permitted in moderation.

The family structure is patriarchal
Patriarchy
Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of the male as the primary authority figure is central to social organization, and where fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination...

. The husband is considered the final authority on family decisions, but is encouraged to solicit his wife's thoughts and feelings, as well as those of his children. Marriages are required to be monogamous
Monogamy
Monogamy /Gr. μονός+γάμος - one+marriage/ a form of marriage in which an individual has only one spouse at any one time. In current usage monogamy often refers to having one sexual partner irrespective of marriage or reproduction...

, legally registered
Civil registry
Civil registration is the system by which a government records the vital events of its citizens and residents. The resulting repository or database is called civil register or registry, or population registry. The primary purpose of civil registration is to create legal documents that are used to...

 and to be only within the fellow believers. Divorce
Divorce
Divorce is the final termination of a marital union, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between the parties...

 is discouraged, and remarriage is forbidden unless a divorce is obtained on the grounds of adultery
Adultery
Adultery is sexual infidelity to one's spouse, and is a form of extramarital sex. It originally referred only to sex between a woman who was married and a person other than her spouse. Even in cases of separation from one's spouse, an extramarital affair is still considered adultery.Adultery is...

, termed "a scriptural divorce". If a divorce is obtained for any other reason, remarriage is considered adultery while the prior spouse is still alive and has not begun another sexual relationship. Extreme physical abuse, willful non-support of one's family, and what the religion terms "absolute endangerment of spirituality" are considered grounds for legal separation.

Disciplinary action



Formal discipline is administered by congregation elders. When a baptized member is accused of committing a serious sin—usually involving offenses against the religion's code of personal morality or charges of apostasy
Apostasy
Apostasy , 'a defection or revolt', from ἀπό, apo, 'away, apart', στάσις, stasis, 'stand, 'standing') is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy is known as an apostate. These terms have a pejorative implication in everyday...

 for disputing the Watch Tower Society's doctrines—a judicial committee is formed to determine guilt, provide help and possibly administer discipline. Disfellowshipping, a form of shunning
Shunning
Shunning can be the act of social rejection, or mental rejection. Social rejection is when a person or group deliberately avoids association with, and habitually keeps away from an individual or group. This can be a formal decision by a group, or a less formal group action which will spread to all...

, is the strongest form of discipline administered. Contact with disfellowshipped individuals is limited to direct family members living in the same home, and with congregation elders who may invite disfellowshipped persons to apply for reinstatement; formal business dealings may continue if contractually or financially obliged. Witnesses are taught that avoiding social and spiritual interaction with disfellowshipped individuals keeps the congregation free from immoral influence and that "losing precious fellowship with loved ones may help [the shunned individual] to come 'to his senses,' see the seriousness of his wrong, and take steps to return to Jehovah." The practice of shunning may also serve to deter other members from dissident behavior. Members who disassociate (formally resign) are described in Watch Tower Society literature as lawless and wicked and are also shunned. Expelled individuals may eventually be reinstated to the congregation if deemed repentant by local elders. Reproof is given formally by a judicial committee to a baptized Witness who is considered repentant of serious sin; the reproved person temporarily loses conspicuous privileges of service, but suffers no restriction of social or spiritual fellowship. Marking, a curtailing of social but not spiritual fellowship, is practiced if a baptized member persists in a course of action regarded as a violation of Bible principles but not a serious sin.The most common example given is a baptized Witness who dates a non-Witness; see The Watchtower, July 15, 1999, p. 30.

Separateness


Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible condemns the mixing of religions, on the basis that there can only be one truth from God, and therefore reject interfaith and ecumenical movements. They believe that only their religion represents true Christianity, and that other religions fail to meet all the requirements set by God and will soon be destroyed. Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that it is vital to remain "separate from the world." Watch Tower Society publications define the "world" as "the mass of mankind apart from Jehovah's approved servants" and teach that it is ruled by Satan and a place of danger and moral contamination. Because of perceived dangers from "worldly" association, Witnesses are advised to minimize social contact with non-members to better maintain their own standards of morality.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe their highest allegiance belongs to God's kingdom, which is viewed as an actual government in heaven, with Christ as king. They remain politically neutral, do not seek public office, and are discouraged from voting, though individual members may participate in uncontroversial community improvement issues. They abstain from celebrating religious holidays and birthdays and reject many customs they believe have pagan origins. They do not work in industries associated with the military, do not serve in the armed services, and refuse national military service, which in some countries may result in their arrest and imprisonment. They do not salute or pledge allegiance to flags or sing national anthems or patriotic songs. Jehovah's Witnesses see themselves as a worldwide brotherhood that transcends national boundaries and ethnic loyalties. Sociologist Ronald Lawson has suggested the religion's intellectual and organizational isolation, coupled with the intense indoctrination of adherents, rigid internal discipline and considerable persecution, has contributed to the consistency of its sense of urgency in its apocalyptic message.

Rejection of blood transfusions



Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood transfusion
Blood transfusion
Blood transfusion is the process of receiving blood products into one's circulation intravenously. Transfusions are used in a variety of medical conditions to replace lost components of the blood...

s, which they consider a violation of God's law based on their interpretation of Acts
Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age...

 15:28, 29 and other scriptures. Since 1961 the willing acceptance of a blood transfusion by an unrepentant member has been grounds for expulsion from the religion. Watch Tower Society literature directs Witnesses to refuse blood transfusions, even in "a life-or-death situation". Jehovah's Witnesses accept non-blood alternatives and other medical procedures in lieu of blood transfusions, and the Watch Tower Society provides information about current non-blood medical procedures.

Though Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions of whole blood, they may accept some blood plasma fractions
Blood plasma fractionation
Blood plasma fractionation refers to the general processes of separating the various components of blood plasma, which in turn is a component of blood obtained through blood fractionation.-Blood plasma:...

 at their own discretion. The Watch Tower Society provides pre-formatted Power of Attorney
Power of attorney
A power of attorney or letter of attorney is a written authorization to represent or act on another's behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter...

 documents prohibiting major blood components, in which members can specify which allowable fractions and treatments they will personally accept. Jehovah's Witnesses have established Hospital Liaison Committees as a cooperative arrangement between individual Jehovah's Witnesses and medical professionals and hospitals.

Demographics


Jehovah's Witnesses have an active presence in most countries, but do not form a large part of the population of any country.

As of August 2010, Jehovah's Witnesses report an average of 7.2 million publishers—the term they use for members actively involved in preaching—in 107,000 congregations. In 2010, these reports indicated over 1.6 billion hours spent in preaching and Bible study activity. Since the mid-1990s, the number of peak publishers has increased from 4.5 million to 7.5 million. Jehovah's Witnesses estimate their current worldwide growth rate to be 2.5% per year.

The official published membership statistics, such as those mentioned above, include only those who submit reports for their personal ministry; official statistics do not include inactive and disfellowshipped individuals or others who might attend their meetings. As a result, only about half of those who self-identified as Jehovah's Witnesses in independent demographic studies are considered active by the faith itself. The 2008 US Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Pew Research Center
The Pew Research Center is an American think tank organization based in Washington, D.C. that provides information on issues, attitudes and trends shaping the United States and the world. The Center and its projects receive funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts. In 1990, Donald S...

 survey found a low retention rate among members of the religion: about 37% of people raised in the religion continued to identify themselves as Jehovah's Witnesses. Despite this, the National Council of Churches
National Council of Churches
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is an ecumenical partnership of 37 Christian faith groups in the United States. Its member denominations, churches, conventions, and archdioceses include Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, African American, Evangelical, and historic peace...

 concluded that Jehovah's Witnesses "had the largest growth of any single denomination [in America]" with a 4.7% increase in 2009.

Sociological analysis



Sociologist James A. Beckford
James A. Beckford
James Arthur Beckford is a British sociologist of religion. He is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Warwick and a Fellow of the British Academy...

 has classified the organizational structure of Jehovah's Witnesses as Totalizing, characterized by an assertive leadership, specific and narrow objectives, control over competing demands on members' time and energy, and control over the quality of new members. Other characteristics of the classification include likelihood of friction with secular authorities, reluctance to co-operate with other religious organizations, a high rate of membership turnover, a low rate of doctrinal change, and strict uniformity of beliefs among members. Beckford identified the religion's chief characteristics as historicism (identifying historical events as relating to the outworking of God's purpose), absolutism (conviction that the Watch Tower Society dispenses absolute truth), activism (capacity to motivate members to perform missionary tasks), rationalism (conviction that Witness doctrines have a rational basis devoid of mystery), authoritarianism (rigid presentation of regulations without the opportunity for criticism) and world indifference (rejection of certain secular requirements and medical treatments).

Sociologist Bryan R. Wilson
Bryan R. Wilson
Bryan Ronald Wilson, , was Reader Emeritus in Sociology at the University of Oxford and President of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion 1971-75.-Academic life:...

, in his consideration of five religions including Jehovah's Witnesses, noted that each of the religions:
  1. "exists in a state of tension with the wider society;"
  2. "imposes tests of merit on would-be members;"
  3. "exercises stern discipline, regulating the declared beliefs and the life habits of members and prescribing and operating sanctions for those who deviate, including the possibility of expulsion;"
  4. "demands sustained and total commitment from its members, and the subordination, and perhaps even the exclusion of all other interests."

Opposition


Controversy surrounding various beliefs, doctrines and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses has led to opposition from local governments, communities, and religious groups. Religious commentator Ken Jubber wrote that "Viewed globally, this persecution has been so persistent and of such an intensity that it would not be inaccurate to regard Jehovah's witnesses as the most persecuted religion of the twentieth century."

Persecution



Political and religious animosity against Jehovah's Witnesses has at times led to mob action
Mob Action
Mob Action is a clothing label based in Leipzig, Germany. The name is synonymous with riot, outlining the company's political appeal....

 and government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 oppression in various countries. Their doctrine of political neutrality and their refusal to serve in the military has led to imprisonment of members who refused conscription during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and at other times where national service
National service
National service is a common name for mandatory government service programmes . The term became common British usage during and for some years following the Second World War. Many young people spent one or more years in such programmes...

 has been compulsory. In Germany, as many as 12,000 Witnesses were sent to concentration camps, and were identified by purple triangle
Purple triangle
The purple triangle was a concentration camp badge used by the Nazis to identify Bibelforscher , the German name for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nazi Germany. A small number of Adventists, Baptists and pacifists were also identified by the badge...

s; as many as 5000 died. More than 200 men were executed at the orders of German war courts. In Canada, Jehovah's Witnesses were interned in camps along with political dissidents and people of Chinese and Japanese descent. In the former Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, about 9300 Jehovah's Witness families were deported to Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

 as part of Operation North
Operation North
Operation North was the code name assigned by the USSR Ministry of State Security to massive deportation of the members of the Jehovah's Witnesses and their families to Siberia in the Soviet Union on 1–2 April 1951.-Background:...

 in April 1951. Their religious activities are currently banned or restricted in some countries, including China, Vietnam and some Islamic states. Writers including Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison was an American journalist, essayist and memoirist. She is best known for her autobiographical work, particularly her account of growing up as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, and for her travel writing.- Early life :Barbara Grizzuti was born in Queens, New York City, on 14...

, William Whalen, Alan Rogerson and William Schnell have claimed the religion often incited opposition to pursue a course of martyrdom in a bid to attract dispossessed members of society and also reassure members of the "truth" of the Watchtower cause as evidenced by the level of persecution from the outside world as they struggled to serve God.

Legal challenges



Several cases involving Jehovah's Witnesses have been heard by Supreme Courts throughout the world. Their persistent legal challenges have broadened the definition of civil liberties in various countries. The cases generally relate to the right to practice their religion, displays of patriotism and military service, and blood transfusions.

Criticism



Jehovah's Witnesses have attracted criticism over issues surrounding their Bible translation, doctrines, their handling of sexual abuse cases, and what is claimed to be coercion of members. Many of the claims are denied by Jehovah's Witnesses and some have also been disputed by courts and religious scholars.

Suppression of free speech and thought


Critics have described the religion's leadership as autocratic
Autocracy
An autocracy is a form of government in which one person is the supreme power within the state. It is derived from the Greek : and , and may be translated as "one who rules by himself". It is distinct from oligarchy and democracy...

 and totalitarian
Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

 because of Watch Tower Society requirements for loyalty and obedience by Witnesses, intolerance of dissent about doctrines and practices, and the practice of expelling and shunning members who cannot conscientiously agree with all the religion's teachings. Sociologist Andrew Holden says those who choose to leave the religion "are seldom allowed a dignified exit." Sociologist Rodney Stark
Rodney Stark
Rodney Stark is an American sociologist of religion. He grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota in a Lutheran family. He spent time in the U.S. Army and worked as a journalist before pursuing graduate studies at The University of California, Berkeley...

, however, states that while Jehovah's Witness leaders are "not always very democratic" and members are expected to conform to "rather strict standards," enforcement tends to be informal, sustained by close bonds of friendship and that Jehovah's Witnesses see themselves as "part of the power structure rather than subject to it."

The Watch Tower Society's publications strongly discourage followers from questioning its doctrines and counsel, reasoning that the Society is to be trusted as "God's organization". It warns members to "avoid independent thinking", claiming such thinking "was introduced by Satan the Devil" and would "cause division". Critics charge that by disparaging individual decision-making, the Watch Tower Society cultivates a system of unquestioning obedience in which Witnesses abrogate all responsibility and rights over their personal lives. Critics have accused the Watch Tower Society of exercising "intellectual dominance" over Witnesses, controlling information and creating "mental isolation", which former Governing Body member Raymond Franz
Raymond Franz
Raymond Victor Franz was a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses from 20 October 1971 until 22 May 1980, and served at the organization's world headquarters for fifteen years, from 1965 until 1980. Franz claimed the request for his resignation and his subsequent disfellowshipping...

 argued were all elements of mind control
Mind control
Mind control refers to a process in which a group or individual "systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator, often to the detriment of the person being manipulated"...

. Holden, however, says the tabloid depiction of members as "brainwashed" is inaccurate, and that most members who join millenarian movements such as Jehovah's Witnesses have made an informed choice.

Watch Tower Society publications state that consensus of faith aids unity. They deny that unity restricts individuality or imagination. In a case involving Jehovah's Witnesses' activities in Russia, the European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is a supra-national court established by the European Convention on Human Rights and hears complaints that a contracting state has violated the human rights enshrined in the Convention and its protocols. Complaints can be brought by individuals or...

 stated that the religion's requirements "are not fundamentally different from similar limitations that other religions impose on their followers' private lives" and that charges of "mind control" in the case were "based on conjecture and uncorroborated by fact."

New World Translation


Some Bible scholars including Bruce M. Metzger have asserted that the translation of certain texts in its New World Translation
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is a translation of the Bible published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in 1961; it is used and distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses. Though it is not the first Bible to be published by the group, it is their first original translation of...

of the Bible is biased in favor of Witness practices and doctrines. English Bible editor Dr. Harold H. Rowley criticized the pre-release edition of the first volume (Genesis to Ruth) published in 1953 as "a shining example of how the Bible should not be translated." In his study on nine of "the Bibles most widely in use in the English-speaking world" Bible scholar Jason BeDuhn
Jason BeDuhn
Jason David BeDuhn, Ph.D. is an historian of religion and culture, currently Professor of Religious Studies at Northern Arizona University.Debuhn holds a B.A. in Religious studies from the University of Illinois, Urbana, an M.T.S. in New Testament and Christian Origins from Harvard Divinity School,...

 claimed that the New World Translation was not bias free, but that he considered it to be "the most accurate of the translations compared," and "a remarkably good translation." Professor Benjamin Kedar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ; ; abbreviated HUJI) is Israel's second-oldest university, after the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The Hebrew University has three campuses in Jerusalem and one in Rehovot. The world's largest Jewish studies library is located on its Edmond J...

 described the translation as "an honest endeavor to achieve an understanding of the text that is as accurate as possible."

Bruce M. Metzger after stating, "on the whole, one gains a tolerably good impression of the scholarly equipment of the translators", goes on to criticize their insertion of the name Jehovah in the New Testament since it does not appear in the extant Greek manuscripts. Watch Tower Society publications have said the name was "restored" on a sound basis, particularly when New Testament writers used the Greek Kyrios (Lord) when quoting Old Testament scriptures that contained the Tetragrammaton. That view is endorsed by Bible scholar George Howard and R. B. Girdlestone, late principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

Failed predictions


Watch Tower Society publications have claimed that God has used Jehovah's Witnesses (and formerly, the International Bible Students) to declare his will and has provided advance knowledge about Armageddon
Armageddon
Armageddon is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle during the end times, variously interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location...

 and the establishment of God's kingdom. Raymond Franz
Raymond Franz
Raymond Victor Franz was a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses from 20 October 1971 until 22 May 1980, and served at the organization's world headquarters for fifteen years, from 1965 until 1980. Franz claimed the request for his resignation and his subsequent disfellowshipping...

, who became a critic of the religion, has cited publications that claimed that God has used Jehovah's Witnesses and the International Bible Students as a modern-day prophet.Raymond Franz cites numerous examples. In Crisis of Conscience, 2002, pg. 173, he quotes from "They Shall Know That a Prophet Was Among Them", (The Watchtower, April 1, 1972,) which states that God had raised Jehovah's Witnesses as a prophet "to warn (people) of dangers and declare things to come" He also cites "Identifying the Right Kind of Messenger" (The Watchtower, May 1, 1997, page 8) which identifies the Witnesses as his "true messengers ... by making the messages he delivers through them come true", in contrast to "false messengers", whose predictions fail. In In Search of Christian Freedom, 2007, he quotes The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah – How? (1971, pg 70, 292) which describes Witnesses as the modern Ezekiel class, "a genuine prophet within our generation". The Watch Tower book noted: "Concerning the message faithfully delivered by the Ezekiel class, Jehovah positively states that it 'must come true' ... those who wait undecided until it does 'come true' will also have to know that a prophet himself had proved to be in the midst of them." He also cites "Execution of the Great Harlot Nears", (The Watchtower, October 15, 1980, pg 17) which claims God gives the Witnesses "special knowledge that others do not have ... advance knowledge about this system's end". Jehovah's Witnesses' publications have made various predictions about world events they believe were prophesied in the Bible. Failed predictions have led to the alteration or abandonment of some doctrines. Critics highlight failed predictions that the Watch Tower Society had claimed were "beyond doubt" or "approved by God". The Watch Tower Society rejects accusations that it is a false prophet. It says that unlike Old Testament prophets, its interpretations of the Bible are not inspired or infallible, and that its predictions were not claimed as "the words of Jehovah." It states that some of its expectations have needed adjustment as a part of progressive revelation and of its eagerness for God's kingdom, adding that Witnesses are always ready to accept such adjustments and that it would be "foolish to take the view that expectations needing some adjustment should call into question the whole body of truth." George D. Chryssides
George D. Chryssides
Dr George D. Chryssides was a senior lecturer and Head of Religious Studies at the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences of the University of Wolverhampton now working for Birmingham University....

 has suggested that with the exception of statements about 1925 and 1975, the changing views and dates of the Jehovah's Witnesses are largely attributable to changed understandings of biblical chronology than to failed predictions.

Handling of sexual abuse cases


Critics have accused Jehovah's Witnesses of employing organizational policies that make the reporting of sexual abuse
Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is the forcing of undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another. When that force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. The offender is referred to as a sexual abuser or molester...

 difficult for members. Some victims of sexual abuse have asserted that they were ordered by certain local elders to maintain silence so as to avoid embarrassment to both the accused and the organization. Jehovah's Witnesses maintain that they have no policy of silence, and that elders are directed to report abuse to authorities when there is evidence of abuse, and when required to by law. In 1997, Jehovah's Witnesses' Office of Public Information published their policy for elders to report allegations of child abuse to the authorities where required by law to do so, even if there was only one witness. Any person known to have sexually abused a child is prohibited from holding any responsibility inside the organization. Unless considered by the congregation elders to demonstrate repentance, such a person is typically disfellowshipped.

Further reading

  • George D. Chryssides, Historical Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses (2008)
  • Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses by M. James Penton
    James Penton
    James Penton is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Lethbridge in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.Born in April 1932, Penton was raised as a fourth-generation Jehovah's Witness. He gradually came to disagree with the teachings of the religion during the 1970s and was eventually...

    . Penton, professor emeritus of history at University of Lethbridge and a former member of the religion, examines the history of Jehovah's Witnesses, and their doctrines. Read selections from: Apocalypse Delayed: the Story of Jehovah's Witnesses University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0802079733 (Canada, 1998) (Google book search)
  • Jehovah's Witnesses: Portrait of a Contemporary Religious Movement by Andrew Holden. An academic study on the sociological aspects of Jehovah's Witnesses phenomenon. Publisher: Routledge; 1st edition 2002, ISBN 9780415266109.
  • Jehovah's Witnesses—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom (1993) by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
    Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
    The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania is a non-stock, not-for-profit organization headquartered in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, United States. It is the main legal entity used worldwide by Jehovah's Witnesses to direct, administer and develop doctrines for the religion...

    . Official history of the development of the beliefs, practices, and organisational structure of Jehovah's Witnesses.
  • Counting the Days to Armageddon by Robert Crompton (1996). A detailed examination of the development of Jehovah's Witnesses' eschatology. James Clarke & Co, Cambridge, ISBN 0227679393.
  • Millions Now Living Will Never Die by Alan Rogerson. Detailed history of the Watch Tower movement, particularly its early years, a summary of Witness doctrines and the organizational and personal framework in which Witnesses conduct their lives. Constable & Co, London, 1969. SBN 094559406
  • State and Salvation by William Kaplan (1989). Documents the Witnesses' fight for civil rights in Canada and the US amid political persecution during World War II. University of Toronto Press, ISBN 0802058426.

Official websites


Other sites