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Chapter 2: Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses


IN THIS CHAPTER, you will discover:

• The personality and character of Joseph Smith.

• The history of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham.

• Mormonism’s central doctrines.

• The changing character of Mormon doctrine.

• Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine and practice.

AS A RESULT, you will be able to:

• Understand the origins of Mormon beliefs.

• Recognize the errors in Mormon scripture.

• Differentiate between Mormon and Christian doctrine.

• View Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine in historical perspective.

• Dialogue with Jehovah’s Witnesses confidently.

Joseph Smith and the Founding of Mormonism

Reading: Another Gospel, pp. 49-54, 61-68.

Key Scripture: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned” (Gal. 1:8).

Key Words: Money Digging, Peep Stone, Polygamy.

Mormonism is a unique and fascinating religion. Its complex doctrines are difficult to fathom, even for Mormons themselves. We can understand the origins of many of these doctrines by studying the concerns of early nineteenth-century American settlers. But the central key to understanding Mormonism is the personality and character of its controversial founder, Joseph Smith.

Born in 1805, Smith was raised in Palmyra, New York. This region was called the “burned-over district” because the fires of revivalism had swept it repeatedly. Dispute about which church should be considered the “true church” was common among the settlers there. They were also a superstitious group, given to the practice of folk magic and divination. Because of the hundreds of Indian burial mounds scattered throughout the territory, the quest for buried treasure was a popular pastime. Curiosity about the origin of the Indians and the nature of their ancient civilization inspired much writing and discussion.

Joseph Smith became preoccupied with these questions while quite young. His charisma and fertile imagination were apparent from an early age, as was his fondness for money digging with the aid of a peep stone. Smith claimed to have received his first vision from God at the age of fourteen. This vision settled the question of which Christian sect was the true church. According to the divine “Personage” who addressed him, “they were all wrong . . . all their creeds were an abomination in his sight” and their adherents “were all corrupt” (p. 51). Smith had a second vision three years later that led him to the discovery of a set of golden plates. Upon translating these plates with the help of his peep stone, Smith discovered a history of the American Indians. According to Smith, the Indians had originally been Hebrews who had emigrated to America in 600 b.c. and acquired a dark skin after being cursed by God.

Scholars have noted that there are serious conflicts in the written versions of Smith’s visions, and that the opinions expressed by the figures in his visions closely resemble those of Smith’s father and grandfather. Still, bolstered by the authority of his newly written “bible” and an endless stream of self-serving “revelations,” Smith quickly gathered a following. He claimed to have been baptized by John the Baptist and to have been designated by God as “a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ,” whose word was to be accepted as God’s own (p. 57).

Like his imagination, Joseph Smith’s egotism knew no bounds. Not satisfied to be merely an apostle, prophet, and seer, he sought to exercise military power and even to become president. He eventually had his followers ordain him king of the earth. To indulge his libertine sexual desires, he received revelations restoring the practice of polygamy. Smith may have had as many as eighty-four wives. His excesses led to his “martyrdom” at the hands of an angry mob in 1844.

Key Concepts:

1. Smith’s grandfather and father both ______________ organized religion. [50]

2. Young Joseph used a peep stone for his _____________________ , an activity popular with nineteenth-century settlers. [51]

3. The Book of Mormon was allegedly translated from a set of _____________________ dug up by Smith. [51]

4. Smith’s visionary “Personage” declared that all existing Christian creeds were an ______________________ and their adherents all _____________. [51]

5. Joseph Smith dictated the Book of Mormon for hours at a time with his face buried in a hat that contained a) the Urim and Thummim; b) gold plates; c) a peep stone. [52-53]

6. In light of Smith’s vision of 1820, it is odd that he joined the ______________ church in 1828. [54]

7. Smith’s followers were forced to leave Kirkland, Ohio and go to the land of Zion because of a) numerous embittered former Mormons; b) suspicion of sexual misconduct by Smith; c) the printing of counterfeit banknotes by Smith; d) all of the above. [60-62]

8. Smith led a military excursion to the state of ___________________ , which he called “Zion.” [63]

9. Smith responded to his wife’s objection to polygamy by receiving a revelation that said she would be ___________________ if she failed to obey. [66]

10. In 1844 Joseph Smith ran for president of the United States and set up the kingdom of God, proclaiming himself _________ on earth. [67]

Life Application: List the biblical guidelines for judging a true prophet. In what ways did Joseph Smith fail these criteria? How might the history of Mormonism have been different if these guidelines had been used? Why do you think Smith was able to exercise such unquestioned authority over those around him?

Mormon Scriptures

Reading: Another Gospel, pp. 54-61.

Key Scripture: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind” (Num. 23:19).

Key Word: Plagiarize.

Joseph Smith stated that the Book of Mormon was “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by it than by any other book.” Mormons affirm that they “believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (p. 390). By this they mean that they believe the Bible to be the word of God insofar as it accords with the Book of Mormon and the other Mormon “standard works” – the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.

It has been suggested that Christians also can affirm the Book of Mormon to be the word of God insofar as it correctly plagiarizes the Bible. For, in fact, the Book of Mormon contains over 25,000 words plagiarized from the King James Version. These include verbatim quotations of long passages, parallel story lines, and well-known texts such as the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. If you are dialoguing with a Mormon friend, ask them to compare 3 Nephi 13:1-18 with Matthew 6:1-23; Moroni 10 with 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; or Mosiah 14 with Isaiah 53.

The Book of Mormon allegedly contains the history of two ancient civilizations who migrated to America from Babel (2000 b.c.) and Jerusalem (600 b.c.). The latter group split into two warring factions, the righteous Nephites and the wicked Lamanites. The savage Lamanites prevailed over the Nephites in a.d. 421, but were cursed by God with a dark skin because of their sin. Their descendants became the American Indians. The history of these events, including a post-resurrection visit by Christ to the Nephites in America, was supposedly recorded on golden plates by the prophets Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni, the son of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon is filled with historical, archaeological, linguistic, and theological difficulties. Mormon missionaries formerly claimed that non-Mormon archaeologists used the Book of Mormon as a guide for field research. That rumor was refuted in a letter published by the Smithsonian Institution, which states that the history contained in the Book of Mormon is not verified by any scientific evidence. The letter also points out that the physical type of the American Indian is Mongoloid, not Semitic. Thus, Indians could not be recent descendants of Hebrew ancestors. Not surprisingly, over two thousand changes have been made in “the most correct of any book on earth” since it was originally published in 1830.

Another Mormon scripture that has failed to withstand scientific scrutiny is the Book of Abraham, part of the Pearl of Great Price. When Joseph Smith claimed that Egyptian papyri he bought in 1835 were written by Abraham, he knew no one could contradict him. The science of Egyptology was in its infancy then, and Egyptian hieroglyphics were still largely unreadable. Smith claimed his ability to establish an Egyptian alphabet and grammar came directly by inspiration from heaven.

In 1967 the papyri were rediscovered in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum in New York and presented to the Mormon church. They were conclusively identified as the papyri from which Joseph Smith “translated” the Book of Abraham through comparison with Smith’s original handwritten transcription and translation of the papyri. After a century of scholarship, modern Egyptologists–including Mormon Egyptologists–translated the papyri with ease. They all agree papyri contained ordinary Egyptian funerary spells that bore no relation to the contents of the Book of Abraham. Indeed, the main figure in the papyri was not Abraham, but the Egyptian god Osiris.

Key Concepts:

1. True or False. Cowdery, Whitmer, and Harris, the “Three Witnesses” named in the Book of Mormon’s preface, actually saw Smith’s golden plates. [54]

2. According to the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites were cursed with dark skin and became the ancestors of the American ___________ . [55-57]

3. __________ appeared to the Nephites, commissioned twelve apostles, and repeated the Sermon on the Mount. [55]

4. The Book of Mormon contains over 25,000 words plagiarized from the _____________________ Version of the Bible. [See above]

5. According to Joseph Smith’s _______________ , Smith as a child gave imaginative recitations of ancient civilizations. [57]

6. According to Smith, some revelations are of God, some are of man, and some are of the _________. [58]

7. Emma Smith’s annoyance at the vulgar habits of some of her houseguests apparently prompted the “ __________________________ ” revelation. [59]

8. Smith angrily defended the bad grammar in his revelations, saying they had been dictated by ______________________ . [59]

9. The Book of Commandments has since become known as the ______________________________ and contains 135 of Smith’s revelations and pronouncements. [60]

10. In 1967 the __________________________ was discovered to be a common Egyptian funerary document. [61]

Life Application: Unlike Mormons, Christians need not worry that archaeology or science will topple their faith. How would you respond to questions about the historical or scientific accuracy of the Bible? What does it mean to you to have “great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) from a God whose “word is truth” (John 17:17)?

Mormon Doctrine

Reading: Another Gospel, pp. 74-84, 389-90.

Key Scripture: “Before me no God was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior” (Isa. 43:10-11).

Key Words: Exaltation, Eternal Progression, Celestial Marriage, Baptism for the Dead.

Two obstacles must be overcome in understanding Mormon doctrine. The first is historical. Because of changes brought about through ongoing revelation, Mormon doctrine is inconsistent and even self-contradictory. The 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon initially remained doctrinally close to orthodoxy. It declared God to be one, to be spirit, and to be unchangeable in his decrees. Christ was presented as a divine being who is one with the Father. It declared polygamy abominable and commended monogamy as the rule for marriage. Salvation was said to consist of repentance, baptism, remission of sins, and the reception of the Spirit. The unsaved were thought to have no second chance for salvation after death. Yet within a few years, Joseph Smith changed his mind about each of these doctrines. Subsequent Mormon seers and revelators have made additional changes.

The second obstacle in understanding Mormonism is language. Mormons radically redefine traditional Christian terminology to fit their altered doctrine. It is extremely important to bear this in mind when talking with a Mormon. The God of Mormonism is not the God of Christianity, but a finite, resurrected man with a physical body who lives on the planet Kolob. The Christ of Mormonism is not the Christ of Christianity, but the literal spiritual and physical son of God. Mormons call Christ their elder brother believing that, like themselves, his spirit was begotten celestially by God through intercourse with a heavenly mother. They believe Christ’s incarnation resulted from God having sexual intercourse with Mary.

When Mormons speak of being born again, they do not mean spiritual regeneration but baptism into the Mormon church. Salvation is not redemption from sin or spiritual death but the overcoming of physical death. According to Mormon theology, the atonement wrought by Christ merely reversed the penalty of physical death caused by Adam’s fall. Salvation, in the form of resurrection and immortality, is thereby guaranteed for all.

Mormons do not ultimately seek salvation but exaltation. If exalted, a male Mormon becomes a god in no way inferior to God the Father. Incredible as it might seem, Mormon doctrine teaches that God the Father was himself originally a Mormon on another planet who worked hard, achieved exaltation, and received the earth as a reward. The central premise of Mormonism is the doctrine of eternal progression: “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” Baptism, tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, celestial marriage, and proxy baptism for the dead -– the principal elements of the “restored” gospel of Mormonism – are the steps by which godhood is attained.

Celestial marriage is an especially crucial step in the process of exaltation. Only Mormons whose marriages are sealed in the temple can become gods (male) or wives of gods (female). Why? Because only they will be capable of begetting spirit children in heaven and populating a world. When Mormons speak of eternal life, they mean, in part, the activity of celestial reproduction that is the main occupation of each god and his many wives. Mormons who have civil marriages may, at best, become the eternal servants of those who have temple marriages.

Mormonism, with its scheme of eternal progression and its countless gods, is fundamentally different not only from Christianity but also from Judaism and Islam. The latter three are monotheistic religions, believing in one transcendent God. Mormonism, on the other hand, is polytheistic and asserts a plurality of gods. The Mormon trinity is composed of three distinct Gods: The Father (Elohim–the God of this world), Jesus Christ (his exalted spirit-child), and the Holy Ghost (a nondescript personage of spirit). Mormon theology envisions reality as an infinite series of exalted men, progressing endlessly toward perfection in their godhood.

Since there is no transcendent Creator in Mormon theology, it is unclear how the cosmos and its string of exalted Mormon god-men began. In fact, Mormonism knows no unchanging source of truth and grace. In his first vision Joseph Smith portrays God as condemning those who “teach for doctrines the commandments of men.” (p. 51). But it is hard to avoid the suspicion that, in substituting a universe of finite gods for one infinite God, Smith himself is guilty of “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (p. 51; cf. 2 Tim. 3:5).

Key Concepts:

1. A woman cannot be _____________ or fully saved without a husband. [75]

2. Joseph Smith adapted many secret rituals from ________________ . [78]

3. “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become” is the Mormon doctrine of ___________________________________ . [81]

4. Mormonism is polytheistic, teaching there is more than one ________ . [81]

5. The Mormon trinity has three separate individuals, two of whom have
_________________ bodies. [82]

6. Match the inhabitants with their appropriate realm of afterlife: [83]

____ Righteous non-Mormons A. Hell
____ Unrighteous B. Celestial Kingdom
____ Devil and his angels C. Telestial Kingdom
____ Exalted Mormons D. Terrestial Kingdom

Life Application: How big is your God? Contrast the awesome greatness of the one true God with the many Mormon deities. What divine attributes (e.g., transcendent, eternal, infinite) are missing from the “gods” of Mormonism? How would the loss of these attributes affect your salvation and hope as a Christian? Do you need to enlarge your vision of God, so that your faith can grow?

Mormon Growth and Influence

Reading: Another Gospel, pp. 68-76, 84-91, 375-76.

Key Scripture: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

Key Words: Blood Atonement.

Mormonism is a religion of ongoing revelation in which every doctrine is subject to revision at any time. None of the core elements of modern Mormonism–celestial marriage, eternal progression, polytheism, baptism for the dead, the two priesthoods, the three heavens, God as a glorified physical man, the separateness of the members of the trinity, or Jesus as a “spirit-son” of the Father–existed in the original Book of Mormon. In fact, the Book of Mormon contradicts many of these doctrines. Nevertheless, through subsequent revelations Joseph Smith made a number of drastic theological reversals and doctrinal innovations.

After Brigham Young’s term as prophet, the Mormon hierarchy deliberately began to reshape their theology and public image to appeal to mainstream American thinking. Some of the more offensive or bizarre doctrines taught by the church were ignored, revoked, or superseded by new revelations. Examples of doctrines deleted from Mormon theology are Young’s teaching that Adam was God and the doctrine of polygamy.

The omission of polygamy is particularly interesting because it was once foundational to the Mormon gospel. Brigham Young, Smith’s successor, taught that polygamy was indispensable for exaltation. Indeed, to reject polygamy was to invite certain damnation. Yet in 1887 the Edmunds-Tucker Act forced Mormon President Wilford Woodruff to publish the 1890 Manifesto, which disclaimed polygamy as a Mormon practice. Had God not “changed his mind” about this issue, Utah would have been unable to apply for statehood.

Another doctrine that modern Mormonism de-emphasizes is blood atonement. Young and later Mormon apostles and presidents taught that the blood of Christ was not sufficient to cover all sins. However, by having their blood spilled on the ground, the guilty could make atonement for their own sins and obtain a better salvation at the resurrection. What sort of sins did Young and others consider beyond the reach of Christ’s forgiveness? Various Mormon documents mention murder, adultery, whoredom, stealing, lying, marrying or having sexual intercourse with a Negro, and apostasy.

While polygamy and blood atonement are downplayed in current Mormon theology, hundreds of fundamentalist Mormon sects continue to hold and practice both beliefs. In a recent tragic example, twenty-two members of Ervil LaBaron’s polygamous family, the Church of the Lamb of God, were murdered between June 27, 1988 and October 9, 1989 after apostatizing.

Change will undoubtedly continue to occur in Mormon doctrine as the church deals with pressure from internal dissidents, develops its missionary outreach, and strives to become an acceptable mainstream religion in the twenty-first century. The most significant contemporary reversal of an eternal decree of Mormonism took place in 1979. Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball “persuaded” God to reverse the church’s position prohibiting blacks from holding the priesthood. Coincidentally, Mormonism was facing resistance to its missionary efforts in Nigeria and Brazil at the time.

In closing our study on Mormonism, we must ask the question: How should we witness to Mormons? Most Mormons are unaware of the darker aspects of Mormonism’s history, and do not understand how seriously Mormon doctrines diverge from orthodoxy. It can be productive to share information about these areas gradually with Mormon friends, concentrating, for example, on the differences between the Book of Mormon and later Mormon doctrine. However, Dr. Tucker wisely advises us to focus on Jesus in our communication with Mormons. Let them know what Christ means to you, and how He has changed your life. A “restored” gospel, consisting of unforgiving rituals and endless rules, cannot compare to the “good news” that a personal relationship with God is freely available through Christ.

Key Concepts:

1. _________________________ succeeded Smith as head of the church and in 1847 led the Mormon settlers to the Great Salt Lake in ________. [68-70]

2. Emma Smith and her followers settled in Missouri, the later headquarters for the ________________________ of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. [69]

3. In 1857 at the Mountain Meadows ______________ over one hundred immigrants were butchered by a Mormon militia led by John D. Lee. [70-71]

4. According to Brigham Young, Mormons can gain remittance for certain serious sins only through __________________________________ . [71]

5. Brigham Young promised that any Mormon who denied the doctrine and practice of polygamy would be ___________ . [72]

6. Mormon congregations are known as _________ . [74]

7. All authority in the Mormon Church comes from the ________________ . [74]

8. The Book of Abraham teaches that __________ persons were cursed and thus ineligible to hold the Mormon priesthood. [76]

9. Many Mormon fundamentalists continue to practice _________________ .

10. In 1982 Bruce McConkie criticized students at Brigham Young University for seeking a personal relationship with ____________ . [88]

Life Application: Mormons emphasize family unity through such activities as their “Family Home Evening” when families are encouraged to spend a night together. Do you live up to the biblical pattern of the family by giving your spouse and children adequate attention? Are there work, entertainment, or even church activities that should be cut back to strengthen your family? List some steps you can take to build up your family.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ History

Reading: Another Gospel, pp. 93-98, 117-32.

Key Scripture: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17).

Key Words: Millennialism, Investigative Judgment, Theocratic Government.

Unlike the Mormons who preach a “restored” gospel, the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim no scripture but the Bible. Yet they are as exclusive as Mormonism in their assertion that they are the sole proprietors of scriptural truth. The Watch Tower Society claims to be “the religion, the only pure religion” (p. 138). Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden to belong to political parties, vote in elections, salute flags, or perform military service. But they must render unquestioning, unconditional allegiance to the Watch Tower Society itself. The obligatory nature of this devotion is spelled out in stark terms in the August 1, 1981 edition of the Watchtower: “Your attitude toward the wheatlike anointed ‘brothers’ of Christ . . . will be the determining factor as to whether you go into ‘everlasting cutting-off’ or receive ‘everlasting life.’”

The roots of Jehovah’s Witnesses lie in the expectant millennialism of the late nineteenth century. A notable example of such millennialism was the end-times preaching of William Miller. His unfulfilled prediction that the Lord would return on October 22, 1844 became known as the “Great Disappointment.” According to Hiram Edson, however, Miller’s error was one of geography and not timing. On the morning after October 22, Edson claimed he had a vision in which he saw Christ move from the first to the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. There in the Holy of Holies, Christ began his investigative judgment in which he actually blotted out the sins of believers who had died (see pp. 109-12). Miller’s date-setting and Edson’s invisible “second presence” of Christ are themes that reappear in both Seventh-day Adventism and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, became intrigued with Adventist doctrine in 1869. He began to study the Bible intensely and became convinced that Christ had returned to earth invisibly in 1874. Russell founded the Zion’s Watch Tower and Tract Society in 1884. Although he became embroiled in a scandalous divorce, his six-volume Studies in Scriptures gained him a large following and disseminated his teachings widely. Russell made strong authoritarian claims about Studies, saying that only by reading them could one possibly “have the light of the Scriptures” (p. 123).

After Russell’s death, Joseph Franklin Rutherford took over the movement, renaming it the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rutherford enlarged upon Russell’s authoritarianism by making the organization into a Theocratic Government, in which the voice of the president and the voice of God were identical. Nathan Homer Knorr succeeded Rutherford as president. Under Knorr, the Jehovah’s Witnesses began a successful missionary outreach program. Internally, the organization instituted severe behavior codes that were enforced through fear tactics and designated informants. Frederick W. Franz became president after Knorr in 1975 and captained the Witnesses through the difficult period following their failed prediction of a 1975 apocalypse. A further controversy involved the disfellowshiping of Franz’s nephew, Raymond. His three decades of faithful service to the movement were voided because he had lunch with a friend who had been “disassociated” from the church.

Key Concepts:

1. Sects that emphasize end-time themes are called ___________________ sects. [117]

2. Nelson Barbour, who taught that the invisible “ ____________________ ” of Christ had begun in 1874, greatly influenced Charles Taze Russell. [119]

3. Russell’s wife identified her husband as the “ _____________________________________ ” of Matthew 24:45-47 during their marriage and as the “ ____________________ ” of Matthew 24:48-51 afterward. [120-21]

4. Russell taught that if a student read the Bible without the help of his Studies in Scripture, “he goes into ________________ .” [123]

5. The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ denial of the deity of Christ is a revival of the fourth-century heresy of ________________ . [123]

6. Russell used the length of the entrance of the Great ______________ of Gizeh to calculate the beginning of the tribulation period. [124]

7. Judge Rutherford used fear tactics to mold the Watch Tower Society into a “ ______________________ Government.” [126]

8. Under the presidency of ____________________ , the Watch Tower Society became the Jehovah’s Witnesses. [128]

9. Under the presidency of _____________________ , a worldwide missionary expansion program was systematically developed. [129]

10. Around 1942 ___________________ were designated to monitor the conversation and behavior of members. [129-30]

Life Application: According to ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, the demands of living under an authoritarian religious system emphasizing works creates anxiety and despair. As a Christian, do you ever experience similar feelings – that you fall short because you have not done enough for God? Perhaps your image of God is one of an unaccepting, divine dictator. How can you change that portrait to one of mercy and grace? Remember that in raising your children, love, obedience, and virtue are never the fruit of coercion or intimidation.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Doctrine

Reading: Another Gospel, pp. 132-48.

Key Scripture: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Col. 2:9).

Key Words: Eschatology, Remnant Class, Annihilationism, Shunning.

The Watch Tower Society calls itself the “discreet slave class,” a way of co-opting Russell’s identification with the faithful and wise servant of Matthew 24. According to Watch Tower doctrine, Christ has been actively ruling the earth and educating true Christians through the Society since His invisible return in 1914. It is His official channel, exercising total control over His earthly interests. And to its governing body at Bethel headquarters, Christ has given ultimate authority.

The Watch Tower Society has been involved in apocalyptic date-setting since the days of Russell. They have predicted that the end would come on these (and other) dates: 1874, 1914, 1918, 1925, and 1975. Their record of failed prophecy is highly significant, considering the divine authority that the Society claims to hold. This claim is impossible to reconcile with its repeated erroneous date-setting. To the degree that the Watch Tower Society is a prophet, it is a false prophet. This conclusion is inescapable from the standards set in Scripture (Deut. 18: 20-22) and from the Society’s writings (p. 128). Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain that the generation born in 1914 “will certainly not pass away” before the visible reign of Christ occurs (Luke 21:32). If Christ does not come within the next decade, the organization will once again be shown to be a false prophet.

Watch Tower eschatology also differs from orthodoxy in other ways. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that only a remnant class of 144,000 will be “born again” (resurrected as spirit creatures) and go to heaven. The remaining Witnesses – the “other sheep” – will live forever on earth, if they are obedient in life and during the millennium. Since Christ returned in 1914 and the first resurrection began in 1918, it is virtually impossible for a new Witness to become part of the 144,000 today.

Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the doctrine of everlasting punishment. Their belief concerning the fate of the wicked is called annihilationism. The wicked dead are not eternally punished but eternally (i.e., completely) destroyed. Humans have no immortal soul and at death cease to exist. God recreates those He chooses at the final resurrection.

For the Jehovah’s Witness, salvation is contingent upon proving one’s faith through acts of obedience, particularly “pioneer work” or witnessing. The purchase price of salvation is open-ended. It remains possible to fall from the required level of commitment and lose one’s salvation up to the very moment of death or, after the resurrection, of Armageddon. No assurance of salvation is ever possible for a Witness.

To the Witness, human government is an expression of Satan’s ambition to overthrow God’s rule or theocracy. For this reason, faithful Witnesses do not serve in the military, salute the flag, or observe civil holidays. Witnesses who do not maintain their standing within the Society are disfellowshiped. They become non-persons and must be shunned by all loyal Society members, even their own families.

Since one who violates God’s laws has no hope of resurrection, Witnesses strive to obey every Society commandment, no matter how uncharitable or unreasonable. One of the most tragic examples of misguided obedience is their refusal to allow blood transfusions. Many children have died because the Society mistakenly equates a transfusion with eating blood, a practice forbidden in Scripture.

The most objectionable doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is their denial of the trinity of God and the deity of Christ. The error is sustained in their New World Translation of the Bible, which mistranslates the Greek text in several key passages. It is this doctrine that lies theologically at the root of their salvation-by-works mentality. Dr. Tucker devotes several pages to this important subject (pp. 138-139, 146-147). Study them closely to learn what the Bible reveals about this important doctrine.

Key Concepts:

1. For Jehovah’s Witnesses supreme authority is to be found in a) the Bible; b) the works of prophet-founder C. T. Russell; c) the governing body at Bethel headquarters; d) lay leadership. [135-36]

2. Local congregations meet in buildings called _____________________ . [137]

3. Assurance of ______________ is impossible for a Jehovah’s Witness. [141]

4. According to the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the unrighteous do not suffer in hell but are _________________________ . [141]

5. The official Watchtower Bible is called the ________________________ Translation. [141]

6. An active Jehovah’s Witness must go house-to-house _______ hours a month; to be in good standing requires working _____ hours a month. [143]

7. What are the three important beliefs that orthodox Christians share with Jehovah’s Witnesses? [144-45]

8. What three myths about Jehovah’s Witnesses should be discarded? [145-46]

9. In what three doctrinal areas should Jehovah’s Witnesses be challenged? [146-147]

10. Name two areas of vulnerability to remember when encountering a Jehovah’s Witness. [147-48]

Life Application: An elder who left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and converted to Christianity relates: “My wife and I called on thousands of Christian homes. Not once did anyone share their testimony with us.” If they had called at your house, what would you have said? What part of your testimony would have the greatest effect on a Jehovah’s Witness. Why?

Take the quiz

Quiz Instructions

Review Questions

1. ____________________ is the largest of America’s alternative religions.



2. Joseph Smith adapted many secret rituals from ____________________.



3. Smith joined the ____________________ church in 1828 after his first vision.



4. The Book of Mormon contains approximately 25,000 words plagiarized from the ____________________________ Version of the Bible.

New Living Translation

King James

5. According to Joseph Smith, “some revelations are of God, some are of man, and some are of the _________.”



6. Although Smith claimed to have translated the ________________________ from Egyptian papyri, his translation was shown to be a fraud in 1967.

Book of Proverbs

Book of Abraham

7. The central premise of Mormonism, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become,” is known as the doctrine of ______________.

Eternal Progression


8. To produce Jesus, _______ had physical intercourse with Mary.



9. Mormonism teaches that “ ____________ Marriage” is necessary to produce spirit children in the afterlife and attain full salvation.



10. Young taught that Mormons can gain remittance for certain serious sins only through ___________________ .

Blood Atonement


11. Men can become ____________ and rule their own planets.



12. Brigham Young promised that Mormons denying polygamy would be __________________ .



13. President Wilford Woodruff’s 1890 Manifesto banned _________________ .



14. In 1982 Bruce McConkie criticized students at Brigham Young University for seeking a personal relationship with ___________ .



15. Nelson Barbour, who taught that the invisible ______________ of Christ had begun in 1874, greatly influenced C. T. Russell.


Second Presence

16. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that only a remnant group of ____________ will go to heaven.



17. Jehovah’s Witnesses’ revived the fourth century heresy of ________________ .



18. Assurance of _____________________ is impossible for a Jehovah’s Witness.



19. The unrighteous do not suffer in hell but are ______________________ .



20. The generation born in ________________ “will certainly not pass away” before Christ begins His visible reign.



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