Beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses

Beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses

The beliefs and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses are based on the Bible teachings of its founder, Charles Taze Russell and his successors, Joseph Franklin Rutherford and Nathan Homer Knorr. Since about 1976 they have also been based on decisions made at closed meetings of the religion's Governing Body. [cite book|title=Crisis of Conscience|author=Franz, Raymond|publisher=Commentary Press, Fourth edition|date=2007|pages=106] These teachings are disseminated through "The Watchtower" magazine as well as conventions and congregation meetings.

Witnesses believe that there is a difference between "Christianity" and "Christendom". [The Watchtower, “Christendom Has Failed God! After Her End, What?”, April 15, 1962 p. 229 par. 6, “As a word, Christendom is used to include such countries that claim to be Christian or that have been legally called Christian as Great Britain, the United States of America, Spain, and so forth. Christendom particularly refers to the whole body of hundreds of religious sects that claim to be Christian in such lands. Eight hundred millions claim to belong to such a Christendom.”] They define Christendom as the part of the world where Christianity prevails, largely, the Western world. They claim that, as a whole, these nations fail to live by the Bible, ["What Is the Purpose of Life? How Can You Find It?" section 4 pp. 16-17 par. 3 Christendom Has Betrayed God and the Bible "3 Included among those who do not live by the Bible are the peoples and nations of Christendom. “Christendom” is defined as that part of the world where Christianity prevails, . It is largely the Western world with its church systems..."] thus misrepresenting Christ and his teachings. [The Watchtower 3/1/06 p. 3 Where Are Christ’s Teachings Applied Today? "Many others, however, view things differently. Their problem is not with Christianity as it is defined in one dictionary: “A religion that is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the belief that he was the son of God.” (Collins Cobuild) Rather, they are repelled by the conduct of the religious institutions and organizations that claim to represent Christianity."] Based on this reasoning, Jehovah's Witnesses claim they alone practise true Christianity. ["Awake!", August 8, 1973, p. 6 “Is it not true that Christendom with her thousands of sects, Catholic and Protestant, is teeming with degradation? Does this indicate that Christianity has lost its power to change people’s lives for the better? No, it does not. Why not? Because Christendom is not Christian. She does not represent the Christianity of the Bible.”] [The Watchtower, What Does God Require of Us?, January 15, 1997, p. 22 “There is only one religious organization on this earth that has all these marks of true Christianity—Jehovah’s Witnesses!”]


Restoration of "true" Christianity

Witnesses believe that after the death of the apostles, the Church gradually diverged, in a "Great Apostasy", from the original teachings of Jesus on several major points. Influenced by Restorationism in the 19th century ["Awake!" | 10/22/89 p. 17 Part 20—19th Century Onward—Restoration Imminent!|Religion’s Future in View of Its Past] , Charles Taze Russell and his associates formed a Bible study group in the 1870s in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, in what they believed to be a return to original Christianity. They believe that "true religion" had until then been imperfectly represented since the "Great Apostasy" by a number of historical Christian groups. [‘The Faithful Slave’ Passes the Test!, "The Watchtower" March 1, 2004, p. 13-18.] Although their teachings, most notably on key dates that provide pointers to the "last days", Christ's return and Armageddon, have changed over the years ["The Watchtower" | 2/1/84 p. 29 Do You Meditate or Just Daydream? |“occasionally there are changes in our understanding of certain Bible passages or prophecies. “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established,” says the Bible at Proverbs 4:18.”| ] , Jehovah's Witnesses have consistently claimed to be the only true religion. ["Reasoning from the Scriptures" p. 203.]


The entire Protestant canon of scripture is seen as the inspired, inerrant word of God. They claim to use the Bible as the basis for all their beliefs ["Reasoning From The Scriptures" | p. 199 - p. 208 Jehovah’s Witnesses “Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God, and instead of adhering to a creed based on human tradition, they hold to the Bible as the standard for all their beliefs.”] . The Witnesses interpret much of the Bible literally, but accept that Bible writers and characters often employed symbology, parable, figures of speech, and poeticism. ["A Book for All People" (1997)] For example, though evolution is rejected ["Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation?" (1998)] and the Genesis creation account is taken literally, they understand the Bible as often using the word "day" to depict periods of time other than 24 hours. ["Insight On The Scriptures" |it-1 pp. 593-594 “Day”] Thus they do not believe the creation days would be limited to 24-hour periods. ["Reconciling Science and Religion"; Web version available at accessed on February 19, 2006] They teach that each of the creative days were probably thousands of years long. ["Insight On The Scriptures" -1 p. 545 Creation | “) And, since the seventh day has been continuing for thousands of years, it may reasonably be concluded that each of the six creative periods, or days, was a thousand years in length. —Ps. 90:4; 2 Pet. 3:8)] They also teach that earth likely existed billions of years before the first "creative day" began. ["Awake!" 9/06 p. 28 How Can I Defend My Belief in Creation? | "… the universe may well have been in existence for billions of years before the beginning of the first creative “day.”—Genesis 1:1, 2."]

The Witnesses use the terms "Hebrew" and "Greek" scriptures rather than "Old" and "New" Testaments to avoid any implication that the Old Testament is somehow outdated or inferior. ["The Watchtower" 3/1 p. 1995 | “”Old Testament” or “Hebrew Scriptures”—Which?”
“In this connection, the “National Catholic Reporter” stated: “The term ‘Old Testament’ inevitably creates an atmosphere of inferiority and outdatedness.” But the Bible is really one work, and no part is outdated, or “old.” Its message is consistent from the first book in the Hebrew part to the last book in the Greek part. (Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17) So we have valid reasons to avoid these terms that are based on incorrect assumptions, and we prefer to use the more correct terms “Hebrew Scriptures” and “Christian Greek Scriptures”
] They believe the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) contain prophecy that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ ["We Have Found the Messiah"!, "The Watchtower" October 1, 1992, p. 10.] while the Greek Scriptures (New Testament) are primarily directed to those who hope for a resurrection in heaven, or the 144,000, ["United In Worship of the Only True God"; 1983, p. 111] and, by extension, those associated with them. ["The Watchtower" 5/15/55 p. 314 par. 24 “Christian Channel of Communication” | ‘...the congregation of Christ must accept all the progressive revelations ... in the Greek Scriptures channeled through Christ Jesus and his disciples. Only the remnant of Jehovah’s anointed witnesses and their companions, the “other sheep,” do.”]

The Witnesses feel that God's name, as represented by the Tetragrammaton, should not be rendered "God" or "Lord". They render it "Jehovah" in the tradition of earlier versions of the KJV, and others, although they accept the usage "Yahweh". They claim the terms "lord" and "god" are not true translations of the tetragrammaton, but of the words Elohim and Adonai. ["The Watchtower" | 9/1/53 p. 535 par. 22 “Walk in the Name of Jehovah Our God for Ever” |“… the New World Translation takes note of the 134 cases where the ancient Hebrew Sopherim or Bible copyists changed the original Hebrew text from the Tetragrammaton or “Jehovah” to read Adonay´ or “the Lord”, and also some other cases where they changed it to Elohim´ or “God”.”] .

Basis for beliefs

Their policy is somewhat like the doctrine of sola scriptura, though they haven't adopted that term. They say that only the Bible should be used for deciding issues of doctrine. The interpretation and application of scripture is the role of the Governing Body. ["The Watchtower" | 12/1/62 p. 726 Understanding the Beasts of Revelation] These ones are said to represent the Faithful and Discreet Slave, a term derived from a parable of Jesus at Matthew 24:45. (NWT) ["Insight On The Scriptures" -1 p. 499 Congregation | “Jesus, as part of his prophecy concerning his own presence and “the conclusion of the system of things,” showed that, on arriving, the “master” would appoint this “faithful and discreet slave” “over all his belongings.”—Mt 24:3, 45-47.] This "slave" is authorized by Jesus Christ to give "spiritual food" to the congregation. ["God’s Kingdom Has Approached" chap. 17 p. 345 par. 29 The “Slave” Who Lived to See the “Sign” "They had the faithful spirit of the “slave” appointed to give the “domestics” the needed spiritual “food at the proper time.”"] [Christ Leads His Congregation, "The Watchtower", March 15, 2002, p. 13-16.] All members are expected to abide by the doctrines and organizational requirements as determined by the Governing Body.Questions From Readers, "The Watchtower" 1 April, 1986 pp. 30-31.]

The nature of God

Jehovah's Witnesses believe God is the creator and supreme being. He is the father, and therefore separate from the son, an invisible spirit 'person'. They say he is "infinite, but approachable". He is not omnipresent, but has a location in heaven. ["Insight In The Scriptures" -1 p. 969 God"] It is possible to have a personal relationship with him as a friend. ["Awake!" 3/8 1995 © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | p. 21 "Is God Everywhere?" | —James 4:8."] He is kind and merciful, and would not 'torture' even wicked people. [Watchtower 4/15/93 p. 5 Eternal Torment—Why a Disturbing Doctrine? | “Indeed, how can the God who tells us in the Bible that we are to love our enemies wish to torture his enemies for eternity? (1 John 4:8-10) Not surprisingly, some people conclude that the nature of hell simply is not compatible with the nature of God,”] Using God's name, as derived from the Tetragrammaton (Jehovah in English), is vital for true worship. [Why True Worship Receives God's Blessing, "The Watchtower" April 15, 1996 p. 17.] The Holy Spirit is God's active force, not the third person of the Trinity [Questions From Readers, "The Watchtower", May 15, 2004, p. 29-31.]

The nature of Christ

Jesus is God's only begotten son. ["Insight On The Scriptures" -2 p. 52 Jesus Christ | (def) “The name and title of the Son of God from the time of his anointing while on earth.] As such, he began his life in heaven. ["Insight On The Scriptures" -2 p. 52 Jesus Christ | “Prehuman Existence. The person who became known as Jesus Christ did not begin life here on earth. He himself spoke of his prehuman heavenly life.] He was God's first creation and the 'exact representation of God'. [ “Worship the Only True God” © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania 2002 |chap. 21 p. 184 par. 2 Jehovah’s Purpose Attains Glorious Success
“2 Jehovah began fulfilling this grand purpose when he started his works of creation. His first creation was a Son who since his resurrection is “the reflection of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of his very being.” (Hebrews 1:1-3)”
] He is the perfect image of God. [Colossians 1:15] Yet he is a separate entity and much less powerful than God. Jesus was used by God in the creation of all other things. [ What Do the Scriptures Say About "the Divinity of Christ"?, "The Watchtower" January 15, 1992 p. 20-23.] Jesus was known as the Archangel Michael, and also "the Word," [ John 1:14] in his pre-human existence; his birth on earth was accomplished when he willingly allowed himself to be transferred, by God, from heaven to the womb of the Virgin Mary. [Jesus?The Ruler "Whose Origin Is From Early Times", "The Watchtower", June 15, 1998, p. 22.] While on earth, Jesus was executed as a sacrifice to atone for mankind's sins. He ultimately becomes 'eternal father' to the human family. ["Worldwide Security Under the “Prince of Peace”", chap. 20 p. 163 par. 8 A Happy Human Family Under a New Fatherhood | “8 The Son of God is to become the “Eternal Father” to this human family, for which he laid down his perfect human life in sacrifice.]

Jehovah's Witnesses reject the cross as a symbol for Christ's death, as it is seen as a later pagan addition. [The Cross—Symbol of Christianity?, "The Watchtower", November 15, 1992, p.7.] [] They insist that his execution was on a single-beamed torture stake. They believe that after his death, Jesus appeared to his disciples and convinced them of his resurrection, and then ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of Jehovah until he would become the promised king of God's heavenly kingdom. (See Eschatology of Jehovah's Witnesses#Presence of Christ Jesus) Jesus acts as the mediator of the "new covenant" referred to in Jeremiah 31:31 and Luke 22:20 for those going to heaven (the 144,000). [Questions From Readers, "The Watchtower", August 15, 1989, p. 30.] Jesus remains subordinate to God even in all his heavenly glory. [1Co 15:27, 28 "For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And "when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him" that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." KJV)] [ [ Is Jesus God Almighty? - Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site ] ]
Mary was not perpetually virgin, but rather bore more children after Jesus. [Jesus' Family-Who Were They? "The Watchtower" December 15, 2003, p. 3]


The "seven times" of Daniel chapter 4 are interpreted as a 2,520 (7x360) year period from 607 BC to 1914 AD, referred to as the "Gentile Times" [Be Thankful—Jehovah's Messianic Kingdom Rules, "The Watchtower", October 15, 1990, p. 15-20.] Though secular historians state that Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed in 587 BC, Jehovah's Witnesses place the event in 607, based on their understanding that Daniel 9:2 ("he would accomplish "seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem" (MKJV)) and Jeremiah 29:10 ("When ... "seventy years have been fulfilled" for Babylon, I will ... "bring you back" to this place." (MKJV)) refer to a 70-year period of captivity of the Jews in Babylon until their release by the king of Persia, [The "Cup" That All Nations Must Drink at God's Hand, "The Watchtower", September 15, 1979 p. 21-24.] which they believe was probably in 537 BC. ["“All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial”" –1990 | p. 85 par. 3 “Bible Book Number 15—Ezra” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania] ["Insight On The Scriptures" –1988 | p. 85 par. 3 “Bible Book Number 15—Ezra” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “Another date that can be used as a pivotal point is the year 539 B.C.E., supported by various historical sources as the year for the overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian. (Secular sources for Cyrus’ reign include Diodorus, Africanus, Eusebius, and Ptolemy, as well as the Babylonian tablets.) During Cyrus’ first year his decree releasing the Jews from exile was given. And, as considered in the article on CYRUS, it is very probable that the decree was made by the winter of 538 B.C.E. or toward the spring of 537 B.C.E. This would permit the Jews time to make necessary preparations, effect the four-month journey to Jerusalem, and still arrive there by the seventh month (Tishri, or about October 1) of 537 B.C.E.—Ezr 1:1-11; 2:64-70; 3:1.”]

This chronology leads them to conclude that the "Gentile Times" ended in October of 1914, and Jesus was invisibly enthroned as King in Heaven. This was followed by the ouster of Satan and his angels from heaven to Earth leading to world wars and pestilence. [Rev. 12: 7-10 7 And war broke out in heaven: Mi´cha·el and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled 8 but it did not prevail, neither was a place found for them any longer in heaven. 9 So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. … 12 On this account be glad, YOU heavens and YOU who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to YOU, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”] ["The Watchtower" - Feb 1, 2004, p. 20 par. 10. | “The Scene of This World Is Changing” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania] During this time period there was an inspection period of all religions claiming to represent Christ. [ Malachi 3:1-3 3 “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he must clear up a way before me. And suddenly there will come to His temple the [true] Lord, whom YOU people are seeking, and the messenger of the covenant in whom YOU are delighting. Look! He will certainly come,” Jehovah of armies has said.2 “But who will be putting up with the day of his coming, and who will be the one standing when he appears? For he will be like the fire of a refiner and like the lye of laundrymen. 3 And he must sit as a refiner and cleanser of silver and must cleanse the sons of Le´vi; and he must clarify them like gold and like silver, and they will certainly become to Jehovah people presenting a gift offering in righteousness.] ["The Watchtower" - May 1, 1993, pgs. 15 par. 2. | “Expanded Activities During Christ’s Presence” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania] .

In 1918 Jesus resurrected those of the 144,000 (the "anointed") who had already died, to heavenly life; since 1918, any "anointed" are individually resurrected to heavenly life at the time of their death ["Revelation--It's Grand Climax At Hand!", page 102] In 1919, Jehovah's Witnesses were chosen by Jesus as the only true Christian organization. [Expanded Activities During Christ's Presence, "The Watchtower" May 1, 1993 p. 16, 17 paragraphs 4-8]

The "last days" began in 1914, ["In the Last Days" Since When?, "The Watchtower" October 1, 1980, p. 19.] but they will conclude at Armageddon.They contend that one of the beasts of Revelation represents the United Nations. ["Revelation-Its Grand Climax at Hand!" (1988), p. 257 par 10 ] This beast is described as attacking and destroying the ‘Harlot,’ ‘Babylon the Great,’ which, they say, represents false religion worldwide. ["Revelation-Its Grand Climax at Hand!" (1988), p. 257 par 21] They believe this to be the beginning of the ‘great tribulation’ described by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. (24: 21) Then, this 'great tribulation' will end at Armageddon. At some point during the 'great tribulation,' Satan will attack God’s true worshipers. ["Revelation-Its Grand Climax at Hand!" (1988), p. 257] This attack will prompt God to initiate Armageddon, in which all governments, which are under Satan's control [Luk 4:5,61Jn 5:19] and thus opposed to God's Kingdom under Christ, will then be destroyed. ["Revelation-Its Grand Climax at Hand!" (1988), pp. 279-280 par. 1, 2 The Warrior-King Triumphs at Armageddon] [Flight to Safety Before the "Great Tribulation", "The Watchtower" June 1, 1996, p. 14-19.] This scenario also includes scenes from Ezekiel’s prophecy about ‘Gog of Magog,’ identified by Witnesses as 'Satan and his hordes' who tries to obliterate God's people. ["The Watchtower" 2/15/95 p. 20 par. 10 | “Have No Fear, Little Flock” | “10 Satan and his demons have been debased to the vicinity of the earth. He and his hordes are being maneuvered to make their all-out attack on Jehovah’s people. This attack, foretold in the Bible, is described as the attack of Gog of Magog. Upon whom does the Devil specifically focus his assault? Is it not upon the last members of the little flock, the spiritual Israel of God, who are dwelling peacefully “in the center of the earth”? (Ezekiel 38:1-12) Yes, but the remnant of the faithful anointed class, together with their loyal companions, the other sheep, will witness how Satan’s attack precipitates a dramatic response on the part of Jehovah God. He will intervene in defense of his people, and this will trigger the outbreak of “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.””]


The soul is believed to be mortal, based on scriptures such as Ezekiel 18:4 "The soul that sins, it shall die." (MKJV) ["The Watchtower" 4/15/93 p. 7 "Thus, at Matthew 10:28, where the King James Version mentions God’s destroying “both soul and body in hell,” the inherent idea is destroying in death, not in eternal suffering"] Thus they believe the soul does not continue to live, after one dies. ["Is There LIFE After Death?", "The Watchtower" July 15, 2001. Web version available at [] accessed January 26, 2006.] Death is considered a state of non-existence, based on their understanding of Ecclesiastes 9:5, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing." They also believe that Hell (hades or sheol) is not a place of fiery torment, but rather the common grave of mankind, a place of unconsciousness. [Hell-Eternal Torture or Common Grave? "The Watchtower", April 15, 1993, p. 6.] They believe that the Bible word commonly translated "hellfire" is not 'Hades' or 'Sheol,' but "Gehenna," a word describing the judgment of complete destruction. [Comfort for Those Who Mourn, "Awake!" May 8, 2002, p. 19.] They conclude that complete destruction does not allow for literal 'torture' since the person is dead and lacks consciousness. ["Insight On The Scriptures"-1 p. 906 Gehenna "That the symbolic picture here is not one of torture but, rather, of complete destruction is evident from the fact that the Isaiah text dealt, not with persons who were alive, but with “the carcasses of the men that were transgressing”] The Witnesses point out that one scripture often used to support torture in Gehenna is from an apocryphal Bible book. ["The Watchtower" 4/15 p. 7 Hell—Eternal Torture or Common Grave? "Regarding those cast into Gehenna, Jesus said that “their maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.” (Mark 9:47, 48) Influenced by the words in the apocryphal book of Judith (“He will send fire and worms in their flesh and they shall weep with pain for evermore.”—Judith 16:17, The Jerusalem Bible), some Bible commentaries contend that Jesus’ words imply eternal torment. Yet, the apocryphal book of Judith, not being inspired by God, is hardly a criterion for determining the meaning of Mark’s writings."]

The Witnesses say that sometimes wicked angels (demons) pretend to be spirits of the dead, and that their deception is the basis for many beliefs about the activities of 'dead' people. Forms of worship or customs "based on the false doctrine of the immortality of the soul" are attributed to demon activity. ["The Watchtower"| 9/1/88 p. 5 Satan Worship in Our Time “What practices of “the nations” can be identified as demon worship, or worship of Satan? God’s words to Israel give us some examples: “There should not be found in you . . . anyone who employs divination, a practice of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.”—Deuteronomy 18:10-12.”|] ["Awake!" - 12/8/74, pp. 26-28 | “What Is the Bible’s View? Mourning for the Dead” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania ] They cite this as a reason for not saying "bless you" when someone sneezes. They consider that phrase to be a superstition based on false beliefs about the soul. ["Awake!" 10/22 1979 . p. 3|“Superstitions—How Widespread Today?” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania |“Believing that it is simply common courtesy rooted in social etiquette, you may have given little thought to why people say this. Yet, the expression is rooted in superstition. Moira Smith, librarian at the Folklore Institute at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A., says of the expression: “It comes from the idea that you are sneezing out your soul.” To say “God bless” is, in effect, asking God to restore it.”]

They say that parables such as that of "the rich man and Lazarus" should not be interpreted literally, that such were speaking of symbolic death, not the physical death of actual individuals. ["The Watchtower" 2/1 1965 . p76 par. 16 | “The Dead Who Are in Line for Resurrection” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | "16 Accordingly, the “certain rich man” and the “certain beggar named Lazarus” were not literal men; they simply pictured two classes of people. The one class died to its favored position with the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, and thereafter had a tormenting religious experience on earth. The other class died to its unfavorable religious condition and was conducted by angelic power into the favor of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, through his sacrificed Son, Jesus Christ. This understanding and explanation of Jesus’ prophetic parable is based upon the actual historical experience of the two general religious classes among the natural descendants of the patriarch Abraham in Jesus’ day. 17 Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Sheol are awaiting the fulfillment of Revelation 20:12-14 by their resurrection from the dead,] ["Is This Life All There Is?" –1974, chap. 12 pg. 98 | “A Rich Man in Hades” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | Since Jesus spoke in the hearing of the Pharisees, was he relating an actual case or was he simply using an illustration? Concerning Jesus’ method of teaching the crowds, we read: “Indeed, without an illustration he would not speak to them.” (Matthew 13:34) Accordingly, the account about the rich man and Lazarus must be an illustration. ] They point out that a "literal" interpretation of torment of a soul by God in hell does not take into account scriptures like Matthew 10:28, which says that God destroys "both soul and body in hell." (MKJV) They emphasize that the word translated 'hell' in this verse is not "hades", the Greek word for 'hell,' but Gehenna, referring to a special judgment by God which results in complete destruction. ["Reasoning From The Scriptures" –1985, pg. 173 par 3 Hell | “What is the ‘fiery Gehenna’ to which Jesus referred?” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “At Matthew 10:28, Jesus warned his hearers to “be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” What does it mean? Notice that there is no mention here of torment in the fires of Gehenna; rather, he says to ‘fear him that can destroy in Gehenna.’ By referring to the “soul” separately, Jesus here emphasizes that God can destroy all of a person’s life prospects; thus there is no hope of resurrection for him. So, the references to the ‘fiery Gehenna’ have the same meaning as ‘the lake of fire’ of Revelation 21:8, namely, destruction, “second death.””] Their view is that the Bible promises a resurrection of all mankind who died, but did not go to 'Gehenna', based on their understanding of Jesus words in John 5: 28, 29 "Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves shall hear His voice,... shall come forth."

The Witnesses insist that the only hope for life after death is in the resurrection, (as opposed to an immortal soul) which they say involves re-creation by God of the same individual with a new body. ["Reasoning From The Scriptures" p. 333 Resurrection “involves a reactivating of the life pattern of the individual, which life pattern God has retained in his memory” ] They believe that a relatively small number of humans (144,000) will be resurrected to a heavenly life to be priestly rulers under Christ, but the vast majority, to life on a paradise earth. ["The Watchtower" 3/15/06 p. 6 The Only Remedy!| “Those ruling with Christ as kings and priests number 144,000. (Revelation 14:1, 3) What type of body do they receive when they are resurrected? “A spiritual body,” says the Bible. This will make it possible for them to live in heaven.—1 Corinthians 15:35, 38, 42-45… According to the Scriptures, the vast majority of the dead will be brought back to life on earth. (Psalm 37:29; Matthew 6:10)”] Resurrected mankind will undergo a final test to determine their eligibility for everlasting life on earth. ["The Watchtower" 3/15/06 p. 6 The Only Remedy! “Those in Hades, or Sheol—mankind’s common grave—are in God’s memory. Every single one of them will be released from the grip of death. (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:31) And each one will be judged according to the deeds he performs after he is resurrected.”]


All humanity is in a sinful state. [Jehovah Cares For You, "The Watchtower" October 15, 2002, p. 15.] Release from this is possible because Jesus' shed blood provided a payment, or atonement for the sins of humankind. ["Insight On The Scriptures" - 2 p. 733 Ransom | “The basic idea of “ransom” is a price that covers (as in payment for damages or to satisfy justice), while “redemption” emphasizes the releasing accomplished as a result of the ransom paid. The most significant ransom price is the shed blood of Jesus Christ, which made deliverance from sin and death possible for the offspring of Adam.] ["The Watchtower" 11/1/06 p. 23 par. 5 Do You Share Jehovah’s View of Sacred Things? “His shed blood would provide the ransom through which human sinners could be saved. (Matthew 20:28; Hebrews 9:14) We therefore hold Jesus’ blood as something sacred, “precious.”—1 Peter 1:19.] ["Jesus Saves-How?", "The Watchtower" November 15, 2001. Web version available at [] accessed January 26, 2006.] However, to be saved, one needs faith, demonstrated by Christian works. These works include proper discharge of family duties, kindness and concern for others, proper conduct, and 'zealously' preaching. ["The Watchtower" 6/1/78 p. 29 Christian “Works”—What Do They Include? | “Genuine faith calls for activity—at our place of work, in the family circle, among our neighbors and in the vital field of witnessing”.] These works serve to demonstrate faith, but don't actually 'earn' salvation. ["Reasoning From The Scriptures" –1985, chap. 132 Faith | “Are works really necessary if a person has faith?” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania] It is only by the undeserved kindness (grace) of God that one can attain this salvation. [Keep Your "Hope of Salvation" Bright!, "The Watchtower", June 1, 2000, p. 12.]

There are two destinations for those saved by God. The number of Christians going to heaven is limited to precisely 144,000 (the "anointed"), who will rule there with Jesus as kings and priests over Earth. ["Have No Fear, Little Flock", "The Watchtower", February 15, 1995 p. 18-22.] The rest of mankind has the hope of living forever in an earthly paradise. [A Great Crowd Rendering Sacred Service, "The Watchtower" February 1, 1995, p. 14-17.] Jehovah's Witnesses teach that the only scriptural hope of surviving Armageddon comes through adherence to the biblical teachings, including faith in Jesus' shed blood. Those who do not, face destruction at Armageddon. ["The Watchtower" September 1, 1989 p. 19 par.7] ["The Watchtower" July 1, 1995 p. 21 par 18.] ["The Watchtower" October 1, 1983 p. 16 par. 13] ["The Watchtower" April 1, 1994 p. 28] The fate of some, such as small children or the mentally ill, will be determined by the righteous and merciful judgment of God. [Strengthening Our Confidence in God's Righteousness, "The Watchtower" August 15, 1998 p. 20] After Armageddon, most of mankind will be resurrected, ["The Watchtower" 3/15/06 p. 6 The Only Remedy! "According to the Scriptures, the vast majority of the dead will be brought back to life on earth. (Psalm 37:29; Matthew 6:10)] with the prospect of living forever. Those who have already been condemned by God will not be resurrected. ["The Watchtower" July 1, 1998, p. 19-24] (These are said to include any killed at Armageddon, or those in "Gehenna", a Bible term which the Witnesses understand to mean everlasting destruction ["What Does The Bible Really Teach?" chap. 7 p. 73 par. 20 ... The Bible says that some of the dead are in “Gehenna.” (Luke 12:5) ... The dead whose bodies were thrown there were considered by the Jews to be unworthy of a burial and a resurrection. So Gehenna is a fitting symbol of everlasting destruction”] ["The Watchtower" 5/15/07 p. 30 par. 15 “Jesus said: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10:28) … He alone has the power to take away life and all prospects for future life, destroying both body and soul in Gehenna.. . ] .) Christ will rule for a thousand years, during which time the Earth will be transformed into a paradise, while Satan is abyssed and unable to influence mankind. At the end of the thousand years, Satan will be released one last time to mislead as many people as he can. [“God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached” chap. 9 p. 149 par. 7 “The Post-Millennial Test of All Mankind”] [ Watchtower 10/15 2000 p. 19 par. 14 What God’s Kingdom Will Do.”] The final judgment will then take place, when Satan and all those corrupted by him will be destroyed forever, with evil never occurring again. ["Revelation - Its Grand Climax At Hand" 1988, p. 292. ] Those who survive that final test will live forever. ["What Does The Bible Really Teach?" p. 215 par. 2 “Those who resist him will enjoy the complete fulfillment of the Bible’s promise: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Psalm 37:29)”]


Practices of Jehovah's Witnesses include activities common to many Christian denominations, such as evangelism, gathering for group worship and study, and donating money to support their religious activities. This section discusses how the doctrines as well as non-doctrinal organizational and cultural arrangements manifest themselves in the practices and stances of Jehovah's Witnesses.


Jehovah's Witnesses are organized into congregations. Each congregation has weekly meetings. Men are selected by representatives of the Governing Body to teach and direct the preaching work. Distinctive titles of address (such as Father, Reverend, Elder etc) are not employed; all members are referred to as either "Brother" or "Sister". ["The Watchtower" 7/15/02 p. 21 par. | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | 5 “They Keep On Walking in the Truth “... Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One.” (Matthew 23:8, 9)] Women cannot teach the congregation, except in the extremely rare circumstance that no baptized male is available, though female Witnesses do participate in meeting programs. ["The Bible's Viewpoint" The 'Weaker Vessel'—An Insult to Women?, "Awake!" October 8, 1994, p. 19.] Prayer and songs are considered an important part of meetings. ["The Watchtower" 2/1, 1997, p. 26. | “Restoring Music to Its Proper Place in Worship” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania] Prayers at meetings or on other occasions are considered acceptable if directed to the Father Jehovah in the name of the Son. [Whose Prayers Are Answered?, "The Watchtower", January 15, 1990, p. 4.] The use of idols is prohibited. They reject the veneration of Mary, the saints, or the cross. [Is Christendom Truly Christ's Domain? "The Watchtower" May 1, 1966, p. 277.]

Most congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses meet three times each week, with some variation due to local circumstances, for five weekly meetings, totaling approximately five hours. (This will be condensed to 2 times per week in 2009.) (See "Meetings" below.) Each year, there is also a 'Special Assembly Day', an 'Assembly' (usually 2 days), and a 'District Convention' (usually 3 days), in facilities owned or maintained by the Watchtower Society or in rented stadiums or auditoriums. During the week, there are also meetings throughout the community to organize the preaching work. On Saturdays, the "Watchtower" and "Awake!" magazines are featured. On most days, literature is offered based on monthly campaigns. ["Our Kingdom Ministry" 7/82 p. 1 Making Wise Use of Our Literature "WHY WE HAVE CAMPAIGNS"] [“Do the Work of an Evangelizer” "The Watchtower", March 15, 2004, p. 10-14] Each month, a report is submitted to the congregation elders by active Witnesses indicating the number of hours in the ministry, literature placed, and bible studies conducted. This is required for one to be officially counted as an active Jehovah's Witness. Jehovah's Witnesses are encouraged to read the Bible every day, as well as publications such as "Examining the Scriptures Daily", a booklet with a daily biblical scripture and commentary.

An important part of their worship is the 'family study'. Fathers are reminded of their responsibility to take the lead in instructing his wife and children in the Bible on a regular weekly schedule. ["The Watchtower" 2/15/68 p. 111 par. 16 “Husbands, Assume Your Responsibilities of Headship” . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “16 Hold your family study at a definite time, regularly, and at each study consider certain material, selected beforetime and known to all the family so that all will receive the greatest benefit possible from the study. Proceed in a formal way, the husband leading in opening with prayer and closing with prayer” |] ["The Watchtower" 10/1/01 p. 12 par. 18 © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “Imitate Jehovah When Training Your Children” | “18 Among the best ways to instruct your children are a regular family Bible study and a daily Scriptural discussion. A family study is most effective when it is regular. If left up to chance or to a spur-of-the-moment decision, it is likely to be infrequent at best. So parents must ‘buy out the time’ for the study” |] Where the father is absent or not a believer, the responsibility is assigned to the mother.

The most important event is the celebration of the Lord's Evening Meal or Memorial of Christ's Death. See ("Memorial of Christ's death") below.

To become a Jehovah's Witness, a systematic Bible study course is followed. One must also accept Jesus' ransom sacrifice and repent of sins, and make a personal dedication to God. ["The Watchtower" 1/15/89 p. 13 par. 18 What Prevents You From Getting Baptized? “Even before baptism, such faith manifests itself in godly conduct, trust in Jehovah, participation in the Kingdom-preaching work, and acceptance of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. Faith in the ransom is emphasized for baptismal candidates, for the first of two questions the speaker asks them is: “On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?” Only if the individual answers in the affirmative and also understands that his dedication and baptism identify him as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization can he acceptably undergo water immersion.”| ] Participation in the preaching work is required, as well as regular meeting attendance. ["What Does The Bible Really Teach" chap. 18 pp. 175-176 pars. 4-5 Baptism and Your Relationship With God 4…To qualify for baptism, however, you must take definite steps… 5 You have already begun to take the first step. How? By taking in knowledge of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, perhaps by means of a systematic study of the Bible. (John 17:3) But there is more to learn. Christians want to be “filled with the accurate knowledge of [God’s] will.” (Colossians 1:9) Attending the congregation meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses is a big help in this regard. It is important to attend such meetings. (Hebrews 10:24, 25)”] Then, the Elders ask a series of questions to ensure that the person understands and accepts the beliefs of the Witnesses. ["Organized to Do Jehovah's Will"] This is done in preparation for baptism. ["What Does The Bible Really Teach?" . | chap. 18 p. 182 par. 21 “Baptism and Your Relationship With God” | “21 Let the presiding overseer of your congregation know that you want to get baptized. He will arrange for some elders to review with you a number of questions that cover the Bible’s basic teachings. If these elders agree that you qualify, they will tell you that you can be baptized at the next opportunity. A talk reviewing the meaning of baptism is usually given on such occasions. The speaker then invites all baptism candidates to answer two simple questions as one way to make a verbal “public declaration” of their faith.”] Baptisms are normally performed at assemblies and conventions. At these baptisms, the candidates make a "public declaration" of their prior dedication to God. ["The Watchtower" 5/15/03 p. 31 Questions From Readers "By making a dedication to God and by going on public record as having done so by being immersed in water in the name of Jesus Christ."]

Kingdom Halls

Jehovah's Witnesses call their meeting places "Kingdom Halls" instead of churches. The original reason for this is because the Witnesses preach about God's "Kingdom". ["Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom" - chap. 20 p. 319 "When James Harrub asked what Brother Rutherford was going to call the building, he replied: “Don’t you think we should call it ‘Kingdom Hall,’ since that is what we are doing, preaching the good news of the Kingdom?”"] The Witnesses emphasize the gathering or "congregation" of people, rather than the physical location itself, as is often implied by the term church, (see ). In general, the buildings are functional in character, and do not contain religious symbols.

The majority of meeting places used by Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as the Watchtower Society's headquarters and branch office facilities around the world, have been constructed by the Witnesses volunteers. Funding comes from voluntary contributions made by Jehovah's Witness members. There is a Witness fund - the "Kingdom Hall Fund" in each congregation. The Governing Body pools these funds to help congregations in economically depressed areas to build suitable halls. ["The Watchtower " 11/1/02 Watchtower © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | p. 11 par. 8 “Maintain Your Conduct Fine Among the Nations” |] ["Our Kingdom Ministry" 9/02 | pp. 3-4 par. 3 “Kingdom Hall Construction Program Moves Ahead”,]


Congregations generally meet three times a week. (This will change in 2009, when the meeting structure will be rearranged.) To the extent possible, all congregations worldwide study the same material each week. ["Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom" –1993, © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | chap. 26 pp. 597-598 “Producing Bible Literature for Use in the Ministry” | “The Governing Body realized that if Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide could study the same material in their meetings week by week and distribute the same literature in the field ministry, this would have a powerful unifying effect.”] ["Look! I Am Making All Things New" pp. 28-29 par. 55 “Look! I Am Making All Things New” , © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania 1986 | “... ... because of simultaneous printing in many languages, at their weekly meetings most of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the world study the same Scriptural subjects within a few hours of one another.”] Meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses open and close with prayer. 'Kingdom songs' are sung at most meetings, as well as at assemblies and conventions. Dress for meetings is local formal attire. For instance, in most Western countries, this would consist of a suit and tie for males, and conservative dresses/skirts for females. ["The Watchtower" | p. 672 Questions From Readers | ] Meetings are free to attend, and are open to the public.

The Theocratic Ministry School

The 'Theocratic Ministry School' is a 45-minute meeting commonly held on a weekday evening. It is designed to train publishers (members officially authorized to preach) to be more effective in their ministry. The students enrolled are trained to use the Bible to teach others from door to door, informally, and in the congregation. Over the course of a few years, the entire Bible is discussed. A portion is read aloud each week, and members are encouraged to read the rest personally. Practical training is given on how to give a short Bible talk, doing Bible research, and presenting material to people one might meet in the public ministry. Enrolment is voluntary and open to all who regularly associate and who are in good standing, whether baptized or not. Students in the school receive assignments on a rotating basis. At each meeting, there are six assigned parts. Three are teaching parts assigned to an elder or qualified ministerial servant. Then three "student parts" are given either in the main auditorium or an 'auxiliary school' classroom (used to accommodate more students}. They are as follows: ["Our Kingdom Ministry" 10/07 p. 3 "Theocratic Ministry School Schedule for 2008"]

:Assignment #2: Bible reading: A 4 minute reading of a section of the weekly bible reading assignment. Usually 16-24 verses. Given by a brother.

:Assignment #3: A 5 minute part that is set aside for 2 sisters, respectively the 'teacher' and the 'householder'. It is based on an assigned theme. This is developed using either preassigned source material, or research on the theme topic by the student herself. They must use a predetermined practical setting, typically a scenario that one may encounter in the ministry. If 2 sisters cannot be present a brother may handle this part.

:Assignment #4: A 5 minute part given by either 2 sisters or a brother. The source material may or may not be supplied. When handled by a brother, it is given as a talk or speech to the congregation. Certain material is designated to be handled by a brother only. When assigned to a sister, it follows the format of the #3 assignment. Often, each week alternates between 2 sisters and a brother.

The elder assigned as Theocratic Ministry School Overseer offers positive observations on specific points of the student's delivery. Additional constructive counsel is given privately, and the student is graded based on the school's grading system. The Theocratic Ministry School is followed immediately by a transitional song introducing the Service Meeting.

The Service Meeting

The Theocratic Ministry School is followed by the 'Service Meeting', a training program for the preaching and teaching work. This forty-five minute meeting gives the publishers practical instructions that will help them to become more efficient in carrying on their ministry. The program provides a variety of methods for instructing and teaching. There are talks, demonstrations, question-and-answer parts, interviews, and discussions between two or more persons. "Our Kingdom Ministry", a monthly newsletter of Jehovah's Witnesses, outlines the material to be covered during the Service Meeting.

The Public Talk

Weekly, a qualified elder or ministerial servant delivers a discourse on a Bible-based subject. The subject matter is generally directed toward interested members of the public who are not Jehovah's Witnesses. The speaker may be from the local congregation or from another congregation, usually nearby. This Public Meeting is generally held on Sundays, but can be on another day if that is more convenient for the congregation (usually when more than 4 congregations share a Kingdom Hall). This meeting is 30 minutes in length (as of January, 2008), and is usually followed immediately by a transitional song which introduces the Watchtower Study.

=The "Watchtower" Study= Following the Public Talk, after a Kingdom Song, is the Watchtower Study. The Bible is studied with the aid of an article in the "Watchtower" magazine. As of the week commencing February 11, 2008, this meeting uses the study edition of the Watchtower (dated the 15th of each month) developed mainly for Witnesses and not distributed in the public ministry. The public is invited to participate in this meeting. ["The Watchtower", 1/15/08 page 3, footnote] An experienced elder (the Watchtower Study Conductor) leads the discussion from the platform. Each paragraph is read by an exemplary brother assigned by the conductor each week. Questions included in the article for that paragraph are then posed to the audience. After calling on one or more in attendance to answer that question, the conductor may ask follow-up questions or offer comments himself before moving to the next paragraph. ["Our Kingdom Ministry" 12/98 p. 8 par. 4 Overseers Taking the Lead—The Watchtower Study Conductor| "4 The Watchtower Study conductor progressively strives to improve his own teaching ability. "He does not comment excessively" but encourages us to comment"] ["Our Kingdom Ministry" 7/72 p. 4 Question Box | “The “Watchtower” study conductor … can keep his own comments brief.] ["The Watchtower" 9/1 2003 . pp. 21-22 | “Praise Jehovah “in the Middle of the Congregation” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “On the other hand, how encouraging it is when comments contribute to further discussion of a significant point. ‘How can we apply this in our congregation?’ or, ‘Which scripture in the paragraph supports what was just said?’ are the kind of questions that encourage positive comments, which make a valuable contribution.”] Some of the numerous scriptures cited in the study article are specifically marked "read" and are to be read aloud by someone designated by the conductor. ["The Watchtower" 1/15/08 pg 3] Three to five review questions are typically asked at the end of an article. The Public Talk and Watchtower Study together now usually last 1 hour 45 minutes from opening prayer to closing prayer.

The Book Study

At a separate time during the week the 'Congregation Book Study' is held, for which Witnesses meet in small groups of about 10 to 15, usually in the private homes of members, lasting an hour. These meetings are based on the Bible and a publication prepared by Jehovah's Witnesses. ["Jehovah’s Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe?" –2000 | p. 15 | “Meetings for Inciting to Love and Fine Works” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “Another meeting is a weekly study held in smaller groups, usually in private homes throughout the congregation’s territory. The study is "based on the Bible" and a recent book published by the Society.”] The material usually has some questions prepared, and a discussion is encouraged starting with these questions. The Q&A format and conductor-reader arrangement is similar to the Watchtower study. The elder who serves as conductor for a book study group is responsible for 'shepherding' those publishers who attend it and for organizing field service meetings and arrangements for them. If there are not enough elders, ministerial servants may be assigned as conductors for book study groups. ["The Watchtower" 3/15/96 p. 27 How Christian Shepherds Serve You | “In preparing for and making certain shepherding calls, an elder may be joined by a ministerial servant who is reaching out for the “fine work” of an overseer” ] In some lands exercising where activity of Jehovah's Witnesses is banned, book study groups function as clandestine "mini-congregations" that meet separately for all meetings as necessary.

In 2009, the Book Study arrangement in privates homes of members will be discontinued. This meeting will then be held in Kingdom Halls with the Theocratic Ministry School and Service Meeting and will be called the Congregation Bible Study.

Memorial of Christ's death

Jehovah's Witnesses commemorate Christ's death as a ransom or propitiatory sacrifice by observing The Lord's Evening Meal, or Memorial. They celebrate it once each year, noting that it was instituted on the Passover, which is annual. ["Reasoning From The Scriptures" p. 265 par. 3] They observe it on Nisan 14 according to the ancient Jewish lunisolar calendar. ["Insight On The Scriptures" –1988, | p. 392 “Calendar” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania] Jehovah's Witnesses believe that this is the only celebration commanded for Christians in the Bible. In support, they often cite Jesus' words found at [ 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25] , NWT, "'Keep doing this in remembrance of me.'"

Of those who attend the Memorial, a small minority worldwide will partake of the unleavened bread and wine. This is because Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the majority of the faithful have an earthly hope. Only those with a heavenly hope, the 144.000, or the "anointed," are commanded to partake of the bread and wine. ["What Does The Bible Really Teach?" | p. 207 par. 4 “The Lord’s Evening Meal—An Observance That Honors God” | “Who should partake of these Memorial emblems? Logically, only those in the new covenant—that is, those who have the hope of going to heaven—should partake of the bread and the wine. God’s holy spirit convinces such ones that they have been selected to be heavenly kings. (Romans 8:16) They are also in the Kingdom covenant with Jesus.—Luke 22:29.” |] Thus, for instance, in 2007, the number of persons who actually partook worldwide was 9,105, whereas, the number who attended was 17,672,443 [ Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses 2008 p. 31 “2007 Grand Totals” © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania ] , though Jehovah's Witnesses believe that some of the 9,105 may be in error about their claim, such as those ignorant of Jehovah's Witness belief. ["The Watchtower" 8/15, 1996, p. 31. | “Questions From Readers” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania “Over the years some, even ones newly baptized, have suddenly begun to partake. In a number of cases, after a while they acknowledged that this was an error. Some have recognized that they partook as an emotional response to perhaps physical or mental strain. But they came to see that they really were not called to heavenly life.”] In the last few years, the number of partakers has been rising. ["The Watchtower" 5/1, 2007, p. 30-31 | "Questions from Readers" | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania “How should a person be viewed who has determined in his heart that he is now anointed and begins to partake of the emblems at the Memorial? He should not be judged. The matter is between him and Jehovah."]

In advance of the Memorial, Jehovah's Witnesses launch a worldwide campaign to distribute Memorial invitations to all communities. ["Our Kingdom Ministry" 2/07 p. 3 par. 2 Declare Abroad the Excellencies of Jehovah "2 Special Campaign to Advertise the Memorial: … A special invitation to this important event will be distributed earth wide ...] They also are encouraged to specially invite all friends or relatives, or any acquaintance that may be interested to attend. A suitable meeting place, for example a Kingdom Hall, is prepared for the occasion. The Memorial begins with a song and a prayer after sunset. The prayer is followed by a discourse on the meaning of the celebration. A table is set with unadulterated red wine and unleavened bread. Jehovah's Witnesses believe the bread stands for Jesus Christ's body which he gave on behalf of mankind, and that the wine stands for his blood which redeems from sin. They do not believe in transubstantiation or consubstantiation. ["What Does The Bible Really Teach?" p. 207 par. 1 “The Lord’s Evening Meal—An Observance That Honors God” | “Some believe that Jesus turned the bread into his literal flesh and the wine into his blood. However, Jesus’ fleshly body was still intact when he offered this bread.” |] Rather, they believe that the wine and the bread are merely symbols (referred to as "emblems") with a very deep meaning. A prayer is offered and the bread is circulated among the audience. Then another prayer is offered, and the wine is circulated in the same manner. After that, the event concludes with a final song and prayer. ["The Watchtower" 2/15/90 p. 16 par. 4 “‘Discerning What We Are’—At Memorial Time” ” © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “What will the meeting be like? There will be a Biblical talk. Then, following prayer, the loaf will be passed. Another prayer introduces the passing of the cup.” | ] Because many congregations have no members who claim to be anointed, it is common for the bread and wine to be passed and have no partakers.

Assemblies and Conventions

Each year, Jehovah's Witnesses hold a "Special Assembly Day" and a two-day "Circuit Assembly", held in each 'circuit' worldwide. Each circuit comprises several congregations in a geographical area. These are held either in "Assembly Halls" owned by Jehovah's Witnesses, or in borrowed or rented facilities suitable for the purpose, such as public auditoriums.

Once a year, Jehovah's Witnesses come together at larger assemblies called "District Conventions" which are usually three days long. Every fifth year, "International Conventions" are held in selected cities, usually lasting three to four days, with visiting delegates from a number of foreign countries. The attendance of some "International Conventions" number into the hundreds of thousands with the largest-ever gathering held in New York in 1958 at the Yankee Stadium and Polo Grounds with a peak attendance exceeding 250,000.


As their name implies, Jehovah's Witnesses are well known for their intensive witnessing, or, proselytizing, efforts. Witnesses generally refer to their evangelizing activities by terms such as: "preaching," "disciple-making", "service," "the ministry," and, more formally, but less frequently, "evangelizing". All members (known as "publishers") who are healthy enough are strongly encouraged to go from door to door, participating in this activity to the extent that their circumstances allow, every week if possible. Even children are encouraged to participate, accompanied by their parents. A publisher who fails to participate for a month is known as an "irregular publisher"; publishers who have not compiled and turned in a field service report for six consecutive months are known as "inactive publishers". Witnesses who can spend at least 840 hours of witnessing during a year (an average of 70 hours per month) can apply for the status of "regular pioneers", or full-time evangelizers. ["Our Kingdom Ministry" –4/06, p. 7 | | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania] Witnesses who wish to spend 50 hours in a month can apply to be an "auxiliary pioneer" and can serve in this capacity either a month at a time or consecutively.

Missionary service is another opportunity members have to reach persons in other lands. Those invited to share in such work are usually given specialized training at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. These individuals, on an average dedicate over 120 hours a month to their work. As of 1998 there were 2,390 Witnesses having missionary status serving in 148 lands. [Determined to Follow God’s Way of Life "The Watchtower" January 15 1999 p. 6]

Witnesses have, in the past, used a wide variety of methods to spread their faith, including information marches, where members wore sign boards and handed out leaflets, to sound cars, and syndicated newspaper columns and radio spots devoted to sermons. Between 1924 and 1957, the organization operated a radio station, WBBR, from New York. They discarded this medium largely due to the prevalence of televangelist radio programs to minimize identification with other religious groups. In recent decades, additional methods have included preaching by telephone, at bus stops, places of business and in the street. Specialized territories of residential and commercial areas are made up within a congregation's boundaries and distributed to publishers who are personally responsible for preaching thoroughly in them.

Currently, door-to-door evangelizing for the Witnesses involves endeavouring to engage individuals in discussion of Bible topics ["The Watchtower" 8/15 1984 . p22 | “Effective Ministry Leading to More Disciples” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “What Is the Basis? And the Message? |"6 On what must the Christian message be based? On human wisdom and philosophy? Paul’s letter to Timothy gives a clear answer: “You, however, continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe, knowing . . . that from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching.” Clearly, the Bible, the Word of God, has to be the cornerstone of our ministry.—2 Timothy 3:14-17.7 In this respect Christ Jesus set the lead—he constantly quoted the Scriptures; the apostle Paul did likewise..." ] ["The Watchtower" 8/15 2002 . p17 par. 9 | “Follow Me Continually” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “9 When people ask us questions about our beliefs, we have a choice opportunity to show that we love God’s Word. Following Jesus’ example, we do not simply base our answers on our own ideas. (Proverbs 3:5, 6) Rather, we make use of the Bible in replying. Do you fear that someone might ask you a question that you will not be able to answer? Consider two positive steps you can take."] and offering literature about their faith, with the goal of starting a Bible study with anyone who shows an interest. The production of literature is supported by donations. Publishers carry forms known as "House to House Records" to keep track of those homes that need revisiting at another time, either to follow up a fruitful conversation, or because its occupants were not at home.

Publishing efforts

Jehovah's Witnesses make vigorous efforts to spread their beliefs throughout the world in a variety of ways, with particular emphasis on the written word. Their literature is published in many languages (with a small selection available in 410 languages) through a wide variety of books, magazines and other publications. Their publications make extensive use of secular references and quotations from the Bible.

Both "The Watchtower" and "Awake!" are published simultaneously in hundreds of languages [] . In addition to the formats mentioned above, both magazines are available in various audio and electronic formats and some of the articles from these magazines are available online. At the end of each year, the issues are collected and re-released in a printed annual edition, commonly referred to as a bound volume. In addition to this, the "Watchtower Library" computer program contains several decades worth of articles for both magazines, as well as many books, booklets, brochures, and other publications of the Witnesses. It is updated on an annual basis (until 2003, this was only done biennially.)

New books, brochures, and other items are released from time to time, major releases being announced at their annual conventions. Additionally, a number of audio cassettes, videocassettes, and DVDs have been produced featuring various aspects of the group's beliefs, practices, organization, and history. Some of these also provide dramas based on various Biblical accounts. Recent years have seen a proliferation of material available on their website.

The sale of their religious magazines, and all Jehovah's Witnesses' literature, continued around the world until the early 1990s. The Watchtower is now distributed free of charge, with a request for donations. These donations have made the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of NY, Inc. one of the top 40 companies (by turnover) in New York, reporting an annual revenue of about $951 million USD [] free of taxation as they are registered as a non-profit corporation. Their yearly report is different from a Wall Street company as the company's employees are volunteers who live and work in the Brooklyn complex.


Formal discipline is administered by congregation Elders. In the event that an accusation of serious sin is made concerning a baptized member, if there is sufficient evidence, a tribunal or judicial committee is formed to determine guilt, administer help and possibly apply sanctions.

"Disfellowshipping" is the most severe form of discipline administered. Before taking this step, the judicial committee must determine that the individual has committed a "serious sin", and that there is no evidence of true repentance. ["The Watchtower" 9/15/87 p. 13 par. 13 “And this does not include the even higher number reproved for immorality but not disfellowshipped because they were sincerely repentant.—Proverbs 28:13.”] To judge that repentance is genuine, members of the judicial committee ask questions and review the actions of the accused member. ["The Watchtower" 1/1/95 p. 30 par. 3] Baptized members who openly reject doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses can be disfellowshipped for apostasy. ["Reasoning From The Scriptures" p. 34 Apostasy "Others claim to believe the Bible but reject Jehovah’s organization."] ["The Watchtower" 4/1/86 p. 31 "Of course, if a person just has doubts or is uninformed on a point, qualified ministers will lovingly assist him. This accords with the counsel: “Continue showing mercy to some that have doubts; save them by snatching them out of the fire.” (Jude 22, 23)”] Once the decision to disfellowship has been made, a person has seven days to appeal. After the seven days, if the person has not appealed, the disfellowshipping will be announced to the congregation; disfellowshipping does not take effect until the announcement is made to the congregation. ["Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock" - pgs. 121-122] After a person is disfellowshipped, the person is shunned by all baptized members. ["The Watchtower" April 15, 1988.] Exceptions to this would include cases where a member was forced to have commercial dealings with a member who is disfellowshipped, or if the disfellowshipped member is living with family members who are baptized. In these cases, the Witness are not permitted to speak about matters pertaining to the religion, except in the case of parents conducting a bible study with a disfellowshipped minor. ["Awake!" 11/15, 1988, p. 20. par 24 | “Helping Minors to Worship God” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania ] The extent to which disfellowshipped or disassociated relatives living in the same household is included in family life is left to the discretion of the family. ["Thus, it would be left to members of the family to decide on the extent to which the disfellowshipped family member would be included when eating or engaging in other household activities. And yet, they would not want to give brothers with whom they associate the impression that everything is the same as it was before the disfellowshipping occurred." Display Christian Loyalty When a Relative Is Disfellowshipped, p 4. Scan available at [] accessed January 27, 2006.] Family members living outside the home who are disfellowshipped have minimal contact. ["It might be possible to have almost no contact at all with the relative. Even if there were some family matters requiring contact, this certainly would be kept to a minimum." Disfellowshiping-How to View It, "The Watchtower" September 15, 1981, p. 26.] [Discipline That Can Yield Peaceable Fruit, "The Watchtower" April 15, 1988, p. 26.]

"Reproof" involves sins that could lead to disfellowshipping. Ones considered 'truly repentant' are reproved rather than disfellowshipped. ["The Watchtower" 1/1/1983 pp. 30-31 | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania |“Questions From Readers”|“He may already have realized the wrongness of his course, repented in his heart and begun to produce “works that befit repentance.” (Acts 26:20) ... Since he is repentant, he need not be expelled or viewed as disfellowshipped by his family or others.—1 Timothy 5:20; Hebrews 12:13; James 5:14-16.” |] Reproof is given "before all onlookers." If the sin is private in nature, the reproof would involve just the individual(s) involved. If the sin is known generally by the entire congregation or the community, an announcement is made informing the congregation that the person has been reproved. Later, without disclosing names or private details, one of the Elders gives a separate talk ensuring that the congregation understood the sin, its dangers, and how to avoid it. ["The Watchtower" 9/1/81 p. 27 par. 30 “Repentance Leading Back to God” © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania] Certain restrictions on congregation privileges will apply to the reproved one, until the Elders have determined that the member has regained "spiritual strength." ["Our Kingdom Ministry" 3/75 p. 4 "Are repentant wrongdoers “placed” or “put on” public or private reproof as if placed on probation? - No. A reproof is a congregational expression of disapproval occasioned by a serious wrongdoing that could have led to the disfellowshiping of one of its baptized members if he had been unrepentant. (1 Tim. 5:20: Titus 1:10-13) … a person who is spiritually weak may be relieved of certain responsibilities in the congregation until there is evidence of his regaining spiritual strength. The restrictions are to a large extent intended to help the repentant wrongdoer recover from spiritual weakness and to impress upon him the importance of respecting God’s holiness.—Gal. 6:7-9.”] ["Our Kingdom Ministry" 5/73 p. 8 “Question Box” | “No, neither one privately reproved by the judicial committee nor one publicly reproved is given certain terms to comply with (as "if he were on a form of “probation”")”] ['Reproofs Are the Way of Life' "The Watchtower" November 15, 1977 p. 691.] Restrictions may include not sharing in meeting parts, not commenting at meeting parts and not praying for a group. The length of the restricted period is dependent upon the elders. One cannot 'pioneer' or 'auxiliary pioneer' for at least one year after reproof is given. ["Our Kingdom Ministry" March 1983, p. 3.]

"Marking" is practiced if a person's course of action is regarded as a violation of Bible principles, reflecting badly on the congregation, but is not a disfellowshipping offense. ["The Watchtower" 7/15/99 p. 30 "Still they persisted in a course that reflected badly on the congregation and that could spread to other Christians. So the Christian elder Paul, without naming the individuals, publicly called attention to their disorderliness, exposing their erroneous course"] The person is strongly counseled. If, after repeated counsel sessions, the person still pursues the disturbing course, he might be 'marked', which involves an announcement stating that the actions in question are wrong, without naming the individual involved. Congregation members limit social contact with that person. The purpose of this is to shame the person into correcting their actions. ["The Watchtower" 4/15/85 p. 31 Questions From Readers "] They do not completely shun the 'marked' individual, but social contact is minimised. ["The Watchtower" 4/15/84 p. 31 Questions From Readers]

Family life

The family structure is patriarchal. Husbands are considered the final authority of family decisions. He is the head of his family. He must only have one wife. Wives should be submissive to their husbands and husbands are to have deep respect and love for their wives. ["The Bible's Viewpoint" What Does It Mean to Be the Head of the House?, "Awake!" 2004b, July 8, 2004, p. 26.] Husbands are instructed to treat their wives as Jesus treated his followers. He should not hurt or mistreat his family in any way. The father should be hard-working in providing necessities to his family. He must also provide for them in a spiritual capacity. This includes religious instruction for the family, and taking the lead in preaching activities.

Parental discipline for children should not be in a harsh, cruel way. Children are instructed to obey their parents.

Married couples are encouraged to speak with local elders if they are having problems. Married couples can separate in the case of physical abuse and neglect, or if one partner attempts to hinder the other from being a Jehovah's Witness. ["The Secret of Family Happiness" | chap. 13 pp. 160-161 par. 19 “If Marriage Is at the Breaking Point” | “19 Such legal action may also be considered if a spouse is extremely violent toward the partner, perhaps repeatedly beating that one to the extent that health and even life are in danger. Additionally, if a spouse constantly tries to force a marriage mate to break God’s commands in some way, the threatened mate may also consider separation, especially if matters reach the point where spiritual life is endangered. The partner at risk may conclude that the only way to “obey God as ruler rather than men” is to obtain a legal separation.—Acts 5:29.”] Divorce (with the ability to remarry) is permissible only on the grounds of adultery, based on their understanding of Jesus' words at Matthew 5:32: "But I say to you that whoever shall put away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever shall marry her who is put away commits adultery," and Matthew 19:9: "I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery."


Jehovah's Witnesses' views of sexual behavior reflects conservative Christian views. Abortion is considered murder. ["Why Living a Godly Life Brings Happiness", "Knowledge that Leads to Everlasting Life", 1995, p. 118.] Homosexuality, premarital, and extramarital sex are considered sins. [Young People Ask... What's Wrong With Premarital Sex?, "Awake!" July 22, 2004, p. 12.] Smoking, use of addictive drugs, and drunkenness are considered sins. ["Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom" | chap. 13 p. 180 “Recognized by Our Conduct” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania 1993 | “The Bible does not mention tobacco, nor does it name the many other drugs that are abused in our day. But it does provide guidelines that have helped Jehovah’s Witnesses to determine what course of conduct would be pleasing to God. Thus, as far back as 1895, when the Watch Tower commented on use of tobacco, it directed attention to 2 Corinthians 7:1, which says: “Therefore, since we have these promises, beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.””] ["The Watchtower" 2/15/76 p. 123 par. 16 “You Must Be Holy Because Jehovah Is Holy” | “16 More recently, Jehovah has brought to the attention of his “holy” people the need to disfellowship those dedicated, baptized Christians who refuse to break and give up the drug and tobacco habits. The idea that tobacco was a defilement of the “flesh and spirit” was not new. Down through the years in hundreds of different references in the Watch Tower Society’s publications it has been brought to the attention of God’s people how contrary to the teachings of the Sacred Scriptures smoking is. It was therefore time for God to remove those who refused to see the need of cleansing themselves of every defilement of the flesh and spirit. As of May 1974, in the United States alone, more than 2,000 had been disfellowshipped for not quitting this unclean practice. They were not “perfecting holiness in God’s fear,” as Paul had encouraged.—2 Cor. 7:1.”] Modesty is heavily encouraged in dress and grooming. During worship, standards of dress are formal, varying by country and regional custom. In the U.S., Europe, and most of Asia, this typically consists of formal western business attire. Entertainment promoting immoral, 'demonic', or violent themes are discouraged. Though they are nonconformists in some ways, they seek not to appear to be "counter-cultural." They avoid appearing unkempt or unprofessional according to local norms. Therefore, in certain areas, personal grooming such as beards, long hair or earrings for men, along with any dress or grooming that is deemed to be rebellious or immodest is discouraged in everyday settings. ["Awake!" 4/22 1979 . pp. 27-28 | “When Another’s Conscience Is Involved” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania|“The same counsel applies when it comes to wearing beards or certain articles of clothing. In some locations people still view beards as identifying rebellious elements in society. Similarly, in certain areas some types of clothing may be viewed by the general population as unacceptable for men and women claiming to represent God. In this respect it will be helpful to consider some additional counsel of the apostle Paul. Though dealing once again with eating certain foods, Paul’s counsel can be applied to any area of life where the consciences of others might be offended.”] A person violating these guidelines would not have any action taken against them, but neither would they be allowed to serve with special privileges in the congregation. This includes, but is not limited to:
*giving public talks
*giving talks in the Theocratic Ministry School
*handling the microphones used for audience participation in meetings
*operating the sound system (if available)
*public prayer


As the main legal entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania teaches that the Bible prohibits the consumption, storage and transfusion of blood, based on their understanding of scriptures such as Leviticus 17:10, 11: "I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood", and Acts 15:28: "abstain from ... blood". They apply this viewpoint even in cases of emergency. The Watchtower introduced this view in 1945, and it has developed since then. [] Accordingly the organization has established Hospital Information Services [HIS] . HIS is responsible for education on and facilitation of “bloodless surgery.” This service also maintains Hospital Liaison Committees whose function is to provide support to adherents facing surgery and assist in providing information to the medical community on bloodless surgery techniques and alternatives to blood. []

Though accepted by the majority of members, some within the Jehovah's Witness community do not endorse the doctrine. [See: Jehovah's Witnesses and blood transfusions] Historically the doctrine has drawn criticism from members of the medical community. However some professionals worldwide now acknowledge the benefits of avoiding the use of blood during surgery and therefore routinely utilize bloodless surgery techniques on Jehovah's Witnesses and non-believers alike. []


Gambling by making money through the losses of others is viewed as a "form of greed." They cite scriptural references to greed to assert that a Christian cannot be a gambler, or be employed in a gambling establishment. ["Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom" chap. 13 p. 180 "As has been pointed out in their publications, there is no specific commandment in the Bible that says, You must not gamble. But … these magazines have shown that gambling in any form involves attitudes that the Bible warns against. … “The "love of money" is a root of all sorts of injurious things.” (1 Tim. 6:10) … “Neither must you selfishly "crave . . . anything that belongs to your fellowman."” (Deut. 5:21; compare 1 Corinthians 10:24.) Also "greed": “Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is . . . a greedy person.” (1 Cor. 5:11] ["What Does God Require of Us?" lesson 10 p. 20 par. 3” Practices That God Hates” © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania 1996 | “3. Lying, Gambling, Stealing: … Every form of gambling is tainted by greed. So Christians do not take part in any kind of gambling, such as lotteries, horse racing, and bingo. (Ephesians 5:3-5)” | ] [ [ What Is Wrong With Gambling? - Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site ] ] The Watchtower says, "If you wish to please Jehovah, then, you will refrain from any form of gambling, including lotteries, bingo, and betting on horse races." ["The Watchtower" November 15, 2006 p.7 An Issue That Involves You] However, some risks are acceptable, such as buying stocks, shares and bonds. The reasoning is that unlike gambling, these are business transactions involving the buying and selling of real goods. ["Awake!" 6/8/01 p. 30]

They also say that some forms of gambling behavior (e.g. blowing on dice) constitute a form of superstition, linked to spiritism, ["Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom" chap. 13 p. 180 "In addition, the Bible warns against appeals to “Good Luck” as if it were some kind of supernatural force that could bestow favors. (Isa. 65:11)"] ["Awake!" 6/8 1992 . p. 11 "The prophet Isaiah referred to a similar deity, called gadh, worshiped by apostate Israelites. He wrote: “You men are those leaving Jehovah, . . . those setting in order a table for the god of Good Luck [Hebrew, gadh] .” (Isaiah 65:11) On the last day of the year, it was the custom to prepare for the god of Good Luck a table covered with various kinds of food. In this way the ancients hoped to ensure good luck during the coming year."] and that it can become a form of idolatry. ["Awake!" 8/8/94 p. 15 “Is Gambling for Christians?” “Moreover, what they call luck is so important to some gamblers that they become obsessed with it, "making it their god". This is similar to the Bible account about men who were “setting in order a table for the god of Good Luck.” Because of their idolatrous action, they were destined “to the sword.”—Isaiah 65:11, 12.”]

Based on these principles, some gamblers have been disfellowshipped. ["Our Kingdom Ministry" 2/74 p. 3 "Thus, Jehovah’s witnesses have long refused to recognize as approved members of the congregation persons who make their living at gambling, … When one’s work is clearly contrary to Bible standards, it can rightly result in one’s being rejected by the congregation, disfellowshipped."] ["The Watchtower" 9/1/80 p. 30 " Hence, if a person becomes involved in gambling and genuinely shows himself to be inclined toward greediness or the producing of some of the bad fruits associated with gambling, … it might even be necessary to remove him from the congregation, in harmony with the directions in God’s Word, which says, “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”]

Drugs and Alcohol

Jehovah's Witnesses prohibit non-medicinal use of mood altering drugs that are generally accepted as dangerous to the mind and body. ["True Peace and Security—How Can You Find It?" chap. 14 pp. 162-163 "19 Even more common today is the use of tobacco and, in some lands, betel nut and the leaves of the coca plant. Though used by millions around the world, each of these is known to be damaging to the body and, in some cases, the mind. Tobacco has been the object of government warnings of its connection with such diseases as lung cancer, heart ailments, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. …20 One might say that these things are all God’s creation. True, but so are mushrooms, yet some varieties are fatal to man if eaten."] Caffeine [Awake! 4/22 1977 p. 26, 28 “ With most persons caffeine stimulates the heart and kidneys, quickens reaction time and promotes alertness. Caffeine, though, seems to aid some older persons to relax. Also, caffeine is sometimes used to treat headaches, because it affects the blood vessels of the brain. Yes, the drug caffeine produces effects on the human body. … (pg. 28) However, does the Bible condemn eating or drinking things that contain natural substances that may stimulate or relax you?] , alcohol, etc are permitted, reasoning that "moderate" use of them has never been proved consistently dangerous to health. For example, tea and coffee are not generally banned by governments. Alcohol is "specifically allowed" in the Bible. ["The Watchtower" 10/1/72 p. 596 pars. 27-28 "27 Some may object that even such things as tea, coffee and, more particularly, alcoholic drinks, are also accused of being harmful to health. Yet, with regard to alcoholic beverages the Bible clearly and specifically allows for their use in moderation. (Deut. 14:26; John 2:1-10; Prov. 23:29-31; 1 Tim. 3:3, 8; 5:23… 28 As to such beverages as tea and coffee, it might be asked: After all the centuries of their use, what clear evidence of their being consistently dangerous has been produced, or where have governments been moved to issue health warnings against them?"] However, excessive alcohol consumption and drunkenness "are" condemned in scripture. Abuse of alcohol and illegal drugs can result in disfellowshipping for members. ["Awake!" 6/8 2004 . p. 19 par. 3 | “Maintain a Balanced View of the Use of Alcohol” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “3 In ancient Israel, a son who was an unrepentant glutton and a drunkard was to be stoned to death. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) The apostle Paul admonished Christians: “Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.” Clearly, drinking to the point of drunkenness is condemned in the Scriptures.—1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:9, 10.”] The Watchtower has stated that smoking violates the principle in 2 Corinthians 7:1, being a "defilement of the flesh." ["The Watchtower" 2/15/06 p. 30 par. 20] Since 1973, smokers are not eligible for baptism, and Witnesses who persist in the habit are subject to disfellowshipping.

The Witnesses also believe that certain mood-altering drugs are connected to spiritism. ["Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom" - chap. 13 pp. 180-181 | “Recognized by Our Conduct “| . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania ] This also applies to cigarette smoking. ["The Watchtower " 6/1/73 pp. 338-339 par. 15 “Keeping God’s Congregation Clean in the Time of His Judgment” © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “As has been explained in other issues of this magazine, the Greek word phar·ma·ki´a used by Bible writers and translated “practice of spiritism” or “spiritistic practices” has the initial meaning of “druggery.” (Gal. 5:20; Rev. 9:21) The term came to refer to spiritistic practices because of the close connection between the use of drugs and spiritism. Tobacco was also used initially by the American Indians in this way. It can properly be placed, therefore, in the category of addictive drugs like those that provided the source for the Greek term phar·ma·ki´a” … (pg. 343 par. 35) Keeping God’s Congregation Clean in the Time of His Judgment 35 Do we want to have Jehovah God be a speedy witness against us as addicts to drugs or other habit-forming injurious weeds, things that expose us to the influence of the spirit demons? Jehovah’s judgment against such addicts during the oncoming “great tribulation” will mean their destruction. (Rev. 21:8)]


The Witnesses respect the law of the land, as long as they don't perceive such laws as interfering with God's laws. They often cite as a precedent the apostles statement at Acts 5:29: "We ought to obey God rather than men."(KJV)Jehovah's Witnesses assert that they respect the flags of all nations, but don't salute or pledge allegiance to them, considering that to be a form of worship. ["Education" pp. 20-23 Moral Values That Merit Respect "They do respect the flag of whatever country they live in, and they show this respect by obedience to the country’s laws … ‘But why, then,’ some may ask, ‘do Jehovah’s Witnesses not honor the flag by saluting it?’ It is because they view the flag salute as an act of worship, and worship belongs to God;"] Similarly, they don't sing national anthems. Witnesses say they recognize the legitimacy of political leaders, believing that they are the "superior authorities" referred to by the Apostle Paul in Romans 13:1 (NWT), and are therefore to be respected. In many places, the Witnesses are commended for their law-abiding stance. [“Salvation Belongs to Jehovah”, "The Watchtower" September 15, 2002, p. 21.] For Jehovah's Witnesses, neutrality is defined as:

In this regard, Jehovah's Witnesses feel that their position is similar to that of the early Christians, who refused to sacrifice a few drops of wine or a few grains of incense to the Roman emperors even when faced with execution. They also feel their stance is similar to Jesus' refusal to allow people to make him king, even though they felt he could help them. ["The Watchtower" 6/1/03 © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania pp. 13-14 par. 6 “Do Not Be Afraid or Be Terrified” | “6… Considering his perfect wisdom and outstanding abilities, he could have made a fine contribution to the human affairs of his day. Yet, he refrained from getting involved politically. At the beginning of his ministry, he flatly rejected Satan’s offer of rulership over all the kingdoms of the world. Later, he decisively avoided a draft for political office.—Matthew 4:8-10; John 6:14, 15.”]

aluting flags

Among the results of this belief in the United States are several cases of Constitutional law regarding the Pledge of Allegiance. The early cases establishing that government schools cannot mandate the Pledge, or the salute to the flag, all involved Witness students punished or threatened for their refusal.

Some courts in other countries have also protected the Witnesses' right to abstain from patriotic ceremonies. For example, in 1986, the Supreme Court of India held that no one can be forced to join in the singing of the national anthem if the person has a genuine, conscientious religious objection.

In a decision handed down on 1 March 1993, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Jehovah's Witnesses in a case involving Witness youths who were expelled from school because they respectfully declined to salute the flag.

Military service

Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to serve in military organizations, citing the principle they call "Christian Neutrality". They understand Jesus' words , "They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world," to mean that they should take a neutral stand concerning political and military controversies. ["They Are No Part of the World" "Worship the Only True God" 2002, p. 159.]

Historically, this refusal to join the military has created serious difficulties for Jehovah's Witnesses, particularly in war time. During World War II, young Witnesses in a number of countries were executed for their conscientious objection to war; even in more-democratic countries they were generally refused exemption from conscription and have often been imprisoned.

Currently, there is less conflict between Witnesses and most governments over this matter, as many countries have abolished conscription, whereas others have recognized the views of conscientious objectors and thus instituted the right to alternative civilian service, which Witnesses generally accept. In certain republics of the former Soviet Union, however, as well as in South Korea, Singapore, and some countries in Africa, young Witness males continue to serve prison terms in connection with this issue. As of December 15th, 2005 there were 1044 Witnesses imprisoned over this issue in South Korea.Fact|date=September 2008

During World War II, Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted by the Allies and the Axis powers for refusing to participate in these powers' respective war efforts. (See Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Nazi Germany).

Jehovah's Witnesses are not pacifists, that is to say, they are not opposed to the use of violence in all circumstances. They believe, for instance, that the wars between the ancient nation of Israel and surrounding nations were legitimate, and point out that passages in both the Old and New Testaments refer to God using warlike methods at times. However, they understand scriptures such as John 18:36 ("Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight...") to indicate that there is no longer an earthly government that we are authorized by Jesus to fight for. ["Reasoning From the Scriptures" –1985, p. 138 | “Neutrality” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania ] Thus they interpret the scriptures to mean that God is not using or supporting nationalistic wars in modern times, and therefore do not participate in wars.

Political activity

Jehovah's Witnesses do not run for any political office, ["The Watchtower" 11/1/90 pp. 20-21 par. 16 The Role of the Superior Authorities | “But since they are separate from the world, they do not join political parties, seek political office, or accept policy-making positions in political organizations.”] ["Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom" chap. 29 p. 673 “Objects of Hatred by All the Nations” ] but they do not seek to prevent or discourage others from doing so. ["Worship of the Only True God" chap. 18 p. 163 par. 11 “They Are No Part of the World” | “However, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not meddle in politics. Nor do they interfere with what others do as to joining a political party, running for political office, or voting in elections. Jesus said that his disciples would be no part of the world, so Jehovah’s Witnesses take no part in politics.”]

The Watchtower Society has stated that voting in political elections is a personal conscience decision. In countries in which voting is compulsory, Witnesses may enter a polling booth and what they do within it is "between him and his Creator" ["The Watchtower", November 1, 1999, p. 28 Questions From Readers |“As to whether they will personally vote for someone running in an election, each one of Jehovah’s Witnesses makes a decision based on his Bible-trained conscience and an understanding of his responsibility to God and to the State. (Matthew 22:21; 1 Peter 3:16) In making this personal decision, the Witnesses consider a number of factors.”] , though a Witness who is known to have actually voted, or admits to doing so may face religious sanctions. They do not interfere with the right of non-members to vote. ["The Watchtower" 11/1/99 p. 28 Questions From Readers|“What, though, of voting in political elections? Of course, in some democratic lands, as many as 50 percent of the population do not turn out to vote on election day. As for Jehovah’s Witnesses, they do not interfere with the right of others to vote; neither do they in any way campaign against political elections. They respect and cooperate with the authorities who are duly elected in such elections. (Romans 13:1-7)”]

In harmony with their view of neutrality, however, "The Watchtower" has given five reasons for not voting in political elections. ["The Watchtower", Nov 1, 1999. p.28 - "As to whether they will personally vote for someone running in an election, each one of Jehovah’s Witnesses makes a decision based on his Bible-trained conscience and an understanding of his responsibility to God and to the State. (Matthew 22:21; 1 Peter 3:16) In making this personal decision, the Witnesses consider a number of factors.

First, Jesus Christ said of his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:14) Jehovah’s Witnesses take this principle seriously. Being “no part of the world,” they are neutral in the political affairs of the world.—John 18:36.

Second, the apostle Paul referred to himself as an “ambassador” representing Christ to the people of his day. (Ephesians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:20) Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Christ Jesus is now the enthroned King of God’s heavenly Kingdom, and they, like ambassadors, must announce this to the nations. (Matthew 24:14; Revelation 11:15) Ambassadors are expected to be neutral and not to interfere in the internal affairs of the countries to which they are sent. As representatives of God’s heavenly Kingdom, Jehovah’s Witnesses feel a similar obligation not to interfere in the politics of the countries where they reside.

A third factor to consider is that those who have a part in voting a person into office may become responsible for what he does. (Compare 1 Timothy 5:22, The New English Bible.) Christians have to consider carefully whether they want to shoulder that responsibility.

Fourth, Jehovah’s Witnesses greatly value their Christian unity. (Colossians 3:14) When religions get involved in politics, the result is often division among their members. In imitation of Jesus Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid becoming involved in politics and thus maintain their Christian unity.—Matthew 12:25; John 6:15; 18:36, 37.

Fifth and finally, their keeping out of politics gives Jehovah’s Witnesses freeness of speech to approach people of all political persuasions with the important message of the Kingdom.—Hebrews 10:35.

In view of the Scriptural principles outlined above, in many lands Jehovah’s Witnesses make a personal decision not to vote in political elections, and their freedom to make that decision is supported by the law of the land. What, though, if the law requires citizens to vote? In such a case, each Witness is responsible to make a conscientious, Bible-based decision about how to handle the situation. If someone decides to go to the polling booth, that is his decision. What he does in the polling booth is between him and his Creator."] 1. Being “no part of the world,” they are neutral in the political affairs of the world. [John 17:14] 2. The apostle Paul referred to himself as an “ambassador” representing Christ. Ambassadors are expected to be neutral and not to interfere in the internal affairs of the countries to which they are sent. 3. Those who have a part in voting a person into office may become responsible for what he does. [(Compare 1 Timothy 5:22, NEB)] 4. When religions become involved in politics, the result is often division among their members. 5. They must speak to people of all political persuasions with the important message of the Kingdom.

Nationalism and holidays

Among Jehovah's Witnesses, there is an avoidance of practices considered to have nationalistic or false religious origins. Examples include not singing the national anthem or saluting the flag. This is because of their belief that one should only give allegiance to God and not man-made institutions. ["The Watchtower" 3/15/84 p. 11 par. 14 Where Can We Find Unity in This Strife-Torn World?” © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “14 As citizens of the New Order, Jehovah’s Witnesses in every land give God’s heavenly Kingdom government their first allegiance. Thus, when Jehovah’s Witnesses read the command of Jesus, “Love one another just as I have loved you,” they take that to mean what it says, and they do it on a worldwide scale. (John 15:12) As a result, they have really broken the restraining bands of petty nationalism. They are able to demonstrate true love for all mankind, regardless of a person’s race, tribe or nationality.” | ] The Witnesses believe that nationalism is a form of religion. ["Revelation-It's Grand Climaz at Hand" chap. 28 p. 192 par. 22 Contending With Two Ferocious Beasts "citizens of those nations were pressured to worship the wild beast, to indulge in the religion of nationalism, even to be ready to die for their country"] ["Awake!" 11/8/89 p. 19 "In fact, The Encyclopedia of Religion says that patriotism’s cousin, nationalism, “has become a dominant form of religion in the modern world"] They believe it is dangerous and can cause problems among people, starting with disagreements, dissension, fights, arguments and even lead to wars. ["The Watchtower" 6/1/05 6/1 p. 5 “Where Is the World Heading?” . | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “Nationalism is well described by the psalmist’s expression, “the pestilence causing adversities.” (Psalm 91:3) It has been like a plague on humanity, leading to untold suffering. Nationalism with its resultant hatred of other peoples has existed for centuries. Today, nationalism continues to fan the flames of divisiveness, and human rulers have not been able to stop it. ” | ] ["The Watchtower" 7/1/94 p. 17 © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania | “What Has Happened to Authority?” | “British historian Arnold Toynbee wrote: “The spirit of Nationality is a sour ferment of the new wine of Democracy in the old bottles of Tribalism. . . . This strange compromise between Democracy and Tribalism has been far more potent in the practical politics of our modern Western World than Democracy itself.” Nationalism has not produced a peaceful world. Toynbee said: “The Wars of Religion have been followed, after the briefest respite, by the Wars of Nationality; and in our modern Western World the spirit of religious fanaticism and the spirit of national fanaticism are manifestly one and the same evil passion.”” | ]

Weddings, anniversaries, and funerals are typically observed. The Witnesses attempt to avoid incorporating common pagan traditions typically associated with these occasions. [Watchtower 1/15/69 p. 58 Christian Weddings Should Reflect Reasonableness "Of course, some customs are unscriptural and so they are objectionable to Christians. .. Other customs are plainly acts of false worship. So one planning a wedding does well to examine practices common in his area and analyze how people view them locally."] [Watchtower 7/15/98 p. 24 A Christian View of Funeral Customs "Funeral customs do not always conflict with Bible principles. When they do, Christians are determined to act in harmony with the Scriptures."] They use rings in wedding ceremonies, the "Watchtower" stating that the fact they were first used by pagans [Citation
last = Wagner
first = Leopold
year = 1894
title = Manners, Customs, and Observances
publication-place =
publisher = Forgotten Books
page = 61
isbn = 1605067989
url =
accessdate = 2008-08-15
] doesn't "necessarily" rule out their use for Christians. ["The Watchtower" 1/15/72 p. 63 "It is thus seen that the precise origin of the wedding ring is uncertain. Even if it were a fact that pagans first used wedding rings, would that rule such out for Christians? Not necessarily."] Other common celebrations and religious or national holidays such as birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas [] , however, are not celebrated, because they believe that these continue to involve "false religious beliefs or activities." ["Awake!" 7/8/04 p. 30 " Christians refrain from any celebrations or customs that continue to involve false religious beliefs or activities that violate Bible principles. For example, the Bible definitely puts birthday celebrations in a bad light"] [Questions From Readers, "The Watchtower", November 15, 1960, p. 704.] [Questions From Readers, "The Watchtower", October 15, 1998, p. 30.] Watchtower Society publications rule out the celebration of Mother's Day, the modern celebration of which was revived in 1908, because of a claimed link with pagan gods. ["Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom", Chapter 14.] The Society also directs Witnesses to shun May Day, New Year's Day and Valentine's Day celebrations for the same reason. ["What Is the Bible’s View? Are They Harmless Observances?", "Awake!", February 8, 1974, Page 27.]

Their opposition to birthdays is said to be based on how the Bible presents them. Watchtower Society publications note that the only birthday celebrations explicitly mentioned in the Bible are Herod's and Pharaoh's. Both were associated with executions, and neither celebrant was a servant of God. ["The Watchtower" 10/15 1998. pp. 30-31 | “Questions From Readers” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania |“Jesus was not born on December 25, a date linked to pagan religion. The Bible directs us to commemorate the date of Jesus’ death, not the anniversary of his or anyone else’s birth. Doing so accords with Ecclesiastes 7:1 and the fact that how a faithful person’s life turns out is more important than the day of his birth. The Bible has no record that any faithful servant celebrated his birthday. It records birthday celebrations of pagans, linking these occasions with cruel acts.” ] (Though some religions interpret Job 1:4 to indicate birthday feasts of Job's sons, Jehovah's Witnesses interpret them as a circuit of feasts from one house to the next.) [Job 1:4 reads "And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them." (King James version)] The Bible does not show Jesus or his apostles celebrating birthdays and the "Watchtower" claims the absence of any record of the date of the birth of Jesus or his apostles provides a clear implication that "God does not want us to celebrate any of these birthdays". ["The Watchtower" 11/15 1960 . p. 704 “As for birthday celebrations. It is indeed singular, to say the least, that although we have record of birthdays being celebrated as far back as ancient Egypt, we do not know the birthday of Jesus or of any of his apostles. Clearly, the implication is that Jehovah God does not want us to celebrate any of these birthdays, or he would have had them recorded.”]

Witnesses observe wedding anniversaries, with the Watchtower Society noting that wedding anniversaries "apparently" do not stem from pagan origins. ["The Watchtower" 12/1/71 p. 735 "But does the custom of commemorating one’s wedding stem from ancient pagan religion? Apparently not.]

Construction and humanitarian efforts

Jehovah's Witnesses are known in many lands for their building work. International and regional building teams frequently undertake constructions of Kingdom Halls over the course of one or two weekends, referred to as 'quick-builds'. Larger construction projects, including the building of regional Assembly Halls and Bethel offices, factories, residences, warehouses, and farm facilities, are also carried out almost entirely by volunteer members.

Jehovah's Witnesses are also involved in relief work in disaster-stricken areas. One notable example is the relief efforts to both Hutu and Tutsi Witnesses during the genocide in Rwanda as well as to Congo refugees. According to the Jehovah's Witnesses, this humanitarian aid was not given exclusively to Jehovah's Witnesses; others also benefited. For instance, the Witnesses say they distributed medicine and clothing to several primary schools and an orphanage near Goma. ["Since 1994, Jehovah's Witnesses in Europe alone have sent more than 190 tons of food, clothing, medicine, and other relief supplies to the Great Lakes region of Africa." - "Christianity in Action: Amid Turmoil", "The Watchtower", Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (January 15). Web version available at [] , accessed December 4, 2005.] The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses uses "Regional Building Committees" to oversee relief efforts worldwide. This was implemented as soon as Hurricane Katrina struck in Louisiana in 2005. [Awake! 6/06 p19 | “Assessing the Damage and Making Repairs” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania “Assessing the Damage and Making RepairsAs soon as the storm struck, the Witnesses organized assessment teams to go into the ravaged areas and determine how many Witness homes and Kingdom Halls had been damaged or destroyed. How could they tackle such a massive task? The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Brooklyn, New York, gave approval for relief committees to be set up under the direction of the United States Branch Committee. In turn, Regional Building Committees from many parts of the States were invited in to start rebuilding.” ]

Funding of activities

Jehovah's Witnesses fund their activities, such as publishing, constructing and operating facilities, evangelism, and disaster relief via donations. There is no tithing or collection, but all are encouraged to donate to the organization; Witnesses typically provide an opportunity for members of the public to make such donations as they encounter them in their preaching work. Donation boxes labeled for several purposes, are located in Kingdom Halls and other meeting facilities. Generally there is a contribution box for operating expenses locally, a Kingdom Hall fund for helping other Witnesses around the world needing a Kingdom Hall, and a general fund for the "Worldwide Work", which includes the printing of literature, organization of conventions, supporting missionaries and disaster relief, and other operating expenses of the organisation. ["Our Kingdom Ministry" –12/03, p. 7 | “Announcements” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania ] ["Our Kingdom Ministry" –9/83, p. 4-5 | “A New Program for Kingdom Hall Construction” | . © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania ] [ The Watchtower - 5/1/62, p. 278-279. | “How May I Contribute?” | © Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania]

The accounts (including donations) and the financial operation of the local congregation are reviewed monthly with the entire congregation at the Service Meeting. (This meeting is open to the public.) Donations are also accepted via mail, and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society can be named as a beneficiary to an estate, and also accepts donations in the form of life insurance policies, pension plans, bank accounts, certificates of deposit, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, real estate, annuities and trusts.


External links

* [ Reliving Jesus' Last Days on Earth - Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site, concerning the Memorial of Christ's Death]
* [ The Last Days of Jesus' Human Life - Jehovah's Witnesses Official Web Site, concerning the Memorial of Christ's death]
* [ - Recent News about the Jehovah's Witnesses]
* [ - Videos and Audios from Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide]
* [ - Jehovah's Witnesses MP3 Recordings]

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