Studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses

A local Jehova’s Witness has put me in his “finding pool.” Oh, I know he probably wouldn’t call it that. But the truth of the matter is unmistakable. Sporadic morning visits have evolved into regularized bi-monthly drop-bys, and I’m handed a bright new copy of the Watchtower and other assorted literature each time. This Witness is paired with a different “companion” on each visit. Sometimes he’s the “senior companion,” clearly showing his greenie the ropes. Occasionally, he’s the “junior companion”, accompanied by an obviously senior leader, who I imagine gives him pointers after our brief conversation ends and the door closes.

I suspect in this Witness’s mind I am a “golden contact”. I answer his questions semi-thoughtfully, and in a way I know is helpful to the flow of his sales pitch. The truth is, I can’t help but be nice to these guys. They remind me so much of a 19-year-old me. Yes, many of our theological assumptions and conclusions couldn’t be more different. But our door-knocking approaches are oddly similar, both in the leading questions asked, and in the slight awkwardness of bearing and conversation that inevitably characterizes our forced chatter. I find myself wondering, “Do they hate this as much as I did back in the day?” “Do they really think the questions they’re asking me are as religiously pivotal as their script would have me believe?” The whole experience is like a trip down memory lane, yet I must confess I’m kind of glad when it ends.

My previous experiences with the Witnesses are few, but fairly memorable. (I exclude the almost daily sightings of J-Dubs knocking doors on my mission, sometimes on the very streets I was tracting). When I was 10 years old, my mother studied with the Witnesses in our home, and I would often listen on the floor in an adjacent room with my Bible open to the passages they were reading. These sessions lasted for a few weeks, until our visitors had the misfortune of being greeted at the door by my grandmother, who contemptuously ordered them off the property, and insisted if they’d just “pray about the Book of Mormon“, they’d finally feel the Spirit for the first time. As a missionary, I taught an investigator who was simultaneously studying with the Witnesses. Each successive visit was met with more pointed Bible questions, and less satisfaction with the Mormon answers (the Witnesses eventually won that round). I also once lived in an apartment with 5 other elders that just happened to be on the same floor as a group of young Jehova’s Witnesses. Inadvertent meetings on the stairs some mornings — everyone with scriptures and pamphlets in tow — were always a bit awkward. Not long after my mission had ended, a caravan of Witnesses was tracting my mother’s housing development while I was on a jog. I was approached by a young, scholarly-looking fellow who seemed to be leading the group. For the first time in my life, I chose to broach foundational scriptural questions with a Witness, and was pleasantly surprised to hear him admit that certain of his assumptions couldn’t be justified by an appeal to the Bible itself. In more recent years, I’ve had Latino Witnesses knock on my door, giving me the opportunity to floor them with the sight of a pasty white boy speaking fluent Spanish, and to brag (truthfully) that I’d actually read El Hombre en Busca de Dios as a Mormon missionary, cover to cover.

So I’ve had a good number of interactions with the Witnesses over the years, but nothing that lasted more than a couple minutes. But now, for the first time in my life, I’m seriously tempted to invite them in. Or at least to set up an appointment. I know enough about Jehova’s Witness theology — and in particular about their scriptural hermeneutic — to know that their doctrine would have no appeal to me. Yet part of me feels like studying with the Witnesses is one of those life experiences everyone should have at least once, like sky-diving or an Alaska cruise.

Yet I worry. On the one hand, I could play a role with them that would generate lots of repeat visits, which would potentially be fascinating to me, but would also raise a thorny problem: How will it end? Won’t the final “discussion” inevitably be awkward? And the longer I go, the more comfortable we’re likely to become with each other, so the harder it will be to end the relationship when our religious conversations inevitably run their course. On the other hand, I could do what part of me really wants to do, and push back hard against their scriptural assumptions, so as to make them see that their theology only gets off the ground after they make certain Biblical assumptions which are not — indeed, cannot be — anything but extra-Biblical themselves. Yet this would probably sabotage the potential for continued scripture study before it begins. In which case, why should I bother?

Each time my visiting Witness walks away, I also think back on my own mission and wonder: How many of my doorknockees were asking these same questions about me? And how many of them would have indulged a study with the Mormons if they weren’t convinced (rightly) that they would be met with aggressive invites and commitments, or a refusal to actually, you know, converse about religion, rather than be preached to?

Have any BCC readers ever studied with the Jehova’s Witnesses? What was your experience like? And do I wait for them to initiate it, or do I do it myself?

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Comments

  1. I was also, quite comfortably actually, in a local finding pool. Twice a month Mr. James Allen would come by for a genial and always informative visit. The visits would likely still be taking place if he hadn’t been replaced in his responsibilities. Great, great guy.

  2. Interesting experience Aaron.

    “Each successive visit was met with more pointed Bible questions, and less satisfaction with the Mormon answers (the Witnesses eventually won that round). ” Indeed, I think one of their strengths is that they embody the Protestant principle of sola scriptura, just an idiosyncratic version. For a seeker looking for something well-grounded in the Bible (or at least an interpretation of the Bible), they can be quite attractive.

    Whether sola scriptura makes any sense is, as you understand, another issue entirely.

    Are you thinking of going undercover? Or being upfront with your ideas of where this is going with them?

  3. Sounds like you’re an “eternal investigator.” I wonder if those get “dropped” as often as ours were (and then re-visited when we had slow days or weeks).

  4. This is what I think of when I think about Jehovah’s witnesses, which is probably not the point of your post at all: My sister-in-law, Vickie, my first husband’s sister, became a JW and became a little weirder than she was and what’s more, she became very good friends with my first husband’s old girlfriend, to this day and it annoys me. Well, last year, when I was separated from Bill, we went to our grandson’s high school graduation together. I’d lost tons of weight because of the separation, my sister’s death, and a really bad case of the flu (it was my size 6 phase) and looked so cute.

    So we were sitting by Bill’s daughter and this lady came and sat down. She looked older than I and dowdy, not attractive, but I didn’t pay her much attention. They all started chatting and Joy introduced us and I asked her where she was from. Then suddenly a light went on! It was her—-my first husband’s old girlfriend, the Jehovah’s Witness! It was one of those glorious moments where I looked really cute and skinny and she didn’t and boy oh boy.

    That’s what I think about when I think of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  5. Our endless conversations about Bible meaning eventually led me to say something like the following:

    “James, if you’re trying to convince me that Witnesses better interpret the Bible than Mormons, you’re on a fool’s errand. Not because I think the Mormon version is better—quite frankly, I find standard Mormon readings of the Bible to be just as idiosyncratic and dissatisfying as Witness readings. I think that, for the most part, we Mormons do a rather terrible job of reading/interpreting the Bible. But that’s not the issue. The issue is that even if you were able to clearly demonstrate that Witnesses better understand the Bible than we do, that would mean nothing in terms of where and how I choose to worship. My commitment to Mormonism has absolutely nothing to do with how convincing or compelling typical and/or ‘official’ Mormon interpretations of the Bible are. Nothing whatsoever. Sorry.”

  6. A few years ago I let them in. It was really interesting. The companionship paring was much like you described. I don’t recall the senior companion’s name, but he was a really nice fellow. Sometimes he’d bring his wife, sometimes someone else.

    On my mission, we were teaching someone who was dating a JW girl. After getting over the initial awkwardness, we all became good friends. We even went to their church services for quite a while (we were counseled that if we didn’t have any investigators at church, then we should go to the church of the investigator, so we did). It was really interesting. So, I had a pretty good idea what to expect from them doctrinally.

    From the very start, I let him know my religious background. I also let him know that I was just interested in learning what they believe and that he could keep coming as long as he wanted to.

    We got into their discussions and I’d let them lead the discussion. My goal was to simply point out all of the common beliefs that we had together. I had my scriptures with me (a quad) and every time they would explain a point of doctrine, I would find something in the scriptures that would back it up or show how similar our beliefs were. I never referenced the book, chapter, and verse. I would simply say something like “I believe that too! In my scriptures it says …”

    I usually tried to recite something from the B of M, POGP, or D&C and just read it as if it were in the bible. This went on for quite a while and eventually at one of the visits, the wife asked for a specific reference to one of the scriptures read and I mentioned it was in the Book of Mormon.

    Eventually, it really disturbed them that so much of what they believe was supported by the Book of Mormon. They would never touch the book, nor would they accept a copy of it from me, but I always referred to it in our discussions.

    Their main goal seemed to be to get me to come to their version of the sacrament meeting. I was lead to believe that they only have the Lord’s supper once a year. I wanted to go but my schedule just didn’t work out.

    Eventually, we hit on some of their doctrine that was both unsupported by their scriptures and my standard works. Any call for a reference was always met with a scholarly opinion from one of the main elders in the church. Either that, or what they had in their bible was so different from the KJV that I just didn’t accept it. Those differences were also based on opinion from their elders. I just didn’t buy it.

    Eventually, those roadblocks lead them to want to stop meeting with me. I guess it just wasn’t worth their time anymore. In all, we met once or twice a week for about six weeks. Very interesting experience and in the end, I think they learned a lot about the Mormons and how much of what they believe is also found in the Book of Mormon.

  7. I was a Bible student on my mission. They tracted into me (allowing, as you said, a pasty white boy to floor them with fluent Spanish — even better because I served in the US, Spanish speaking) and were very pleasant. They shared the Watchtower with me, a Bible verse, a question about the verse to which I responded appropriately, and that was that. I thought we were done.

    Until they came the next week to follow up on my reading. I had done it, and we talked about it a little. Then they asked if they could come in (they couldn’t; I was a missionary, and besides, our apartment was a pig-sty). So our visits continued on a weekly basis for the six months I was in the area.

    It became quite an adventure. They would bring literature. I would read it, so I guess I was progressing. We would talk about it. I was always firm but respectful about my beliefs and thoughts, and he was the same. I was quite disappointed because I thought I could have been friends with the guy had I not been a missionary. I guess we were friends, but it’s just not the same. It was always the same guy but every time with a different, always junior companion in tow, including a 12 year old kid once. We started talking about a lot of things not quite related to their Bible push, and by the end of my last transfer I was teaching him a lesson every week.

    When I left I bought him a copy of Bushman’s Introduction to Mormonism. I was transferred and that was the end. I feel no regrets and even happiness that I allowed myself to be engaged like that, even as a missionary.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    When I lived in the Quad Cities I had a three-hour conversation with a JW who was out tracting. It was a pleasant day and we talked outside, so there was no issue of me having to let him in my apt. I don’t recall what we talked about specifically, but at the end it was clear neither had convinced the other and we went our separate ways. I kind of think of that conversation as exempting me from any further involvement in such discussions.

  9. My suggestion would be to keep us up to date on all your visits and make sure there is a dramatic climax in there somewhere where you actually consider joining JWs, (hopefully done before the big reveal that you were just stringing us along and it all a hoax/art).

  10. I was involved with the conversion and retention of the JW family on my mission. My comp and I tracted into them. Great exp.

  11. I used to live in a small town that had a lot of JWs. Not many Mormons. I was always nice to them when they knocked. One fellow asked if I’d be interested in them coming over for a scripture study visit, I said sure, as long as I could include the Book of Mormon in it. He said OK and when he came back, had a sweet little old lady in tow…who just happened to be their top notch Mormon basher. She had an unholy light in her eye when she talked about Joseph Smith, it was interesting.

    At one point my 2 year old son took a BoM off a bookshelf and gave it to the man. I thought my son’s action was inspired and realized they’d never be able to see that. So I told them it wasn’t working out and they left.

  12. I had a similar experience and similar feelings about being an RM on the other side of the conversation. One pair tracted me out and I spent several minutes at our front gate talking with them. A week later another pair arrived and we did the same. Then a week later I met their Zone Leader, a middle aged man in a suit, who stopped by regularly.

  13. My only vivid memory of JWs from my mission was tracting on one floor of an apartment complex in Santa Ana, CA. Two JWs were tracting on the floor above us; they couldn’t see us. Suddenly one of the pair suddenly belted out (he had a really good singing voice) “Baby Come Back” (70s hit single by Player). Then he noticed me and was embarrassed. That could have been us, but I don’t have a great voice.

  14. Go for it! I invited the JWs in several years, and was very upfront about my beliefs, and that I mostly was academically interested in religion and faith, and wanted to hear more about them. We met for several months before I moved. I might have just been lucky, but this particular guy was very open about just discussing topics. Neither of us were trying to preach to each other. It was a great experience, and as long as you are honest, I think you should do it.

  15. You guys have a lot of time on your hands. I admire/envy you that. I think when you have time it’s great to be kind to and genuinely interested in people with a strong stake in another religious tradition.

  16. I guess I studied casually with the Jehovah’s Witnesses for at least a couple years–mostly on my front porch, but a couple times I invited them in when the weather was very cold. They came regularly, they read me scriptures, asked me questions, explained the scriptures to me, etc. I felt a little like I was leading them on, but there was never any pressure from them to do anything but listen politely. It was always the same woman, and her companion varied. They brought me a gift when my youngest child was born. Eventually they just stopped coming. It’s possible that the one lady just moved, and the others didn’t feel I was worth the effort. I always enjoyed visiting with them, though.

  17. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    I had a visit from a friendly JW young man recently with a message on the importance of families. He quoted some scriptures on how a husband should honor his wife and it was like a brief devotional in a day of doing chores. I wanted to ask him how his religion viewed relationships and marriages of the same gender. I think I know what his answer would have been, but would have been interested in the delivery of it.

  18. Antonio Parr says:

    I wonder if Jehova Witness’ door-to-door efforts are any more successful than they are for us. Based on my limited experience, the LDS Missionaries’ door-to-door proselytizing efforts leads to very disappointing results.

  19. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    All of the visits I’ve had in the last 4 years are very non-confrontational. They simply give you a printed flier that is announcing some event and describe it as an invitation to a meeting. They ask nothing about my religious views and begin to retreat back to their car almost instantly, as if their main goal is putting the fliers into the hands. I was surprised when the one gent actually shared a brief scripture with me.

  20. TaterTot says:

    The JW stopped by our house about 6 months ago and dropped off a pamphlet. My husband had heard that their interlinear bible was pretty good, so he asked if he could have one. They came back another day with the bible. They have been to our house about once a month since. It’s funny, because if I answer the door, or meet them in the driveway, they don’t even want to talk to me. They always just ask for my husband. I must be scary, or just not JW material. :)

  21. I am tempted at times to talk to the sweet old Dominican ladies who sit on the benches near the local playground and market their Watchtower. But I figure our cultural and language differences would not make for a very strong conversation. On my mission, one JW totally schooled me near the start of my mission. I vowed to never let that happen, and a few months later, I Bible Bashed with another JW, making her cry. Those are all my JW encounters.

  22. My JW’s come by about twice a month. They know that I am an atheist and they know that I always read the literature that they leave for me. I think they may be taking advantage of that last fact though as they seem to be leaving more and more pamphlets every time. I have spoken to them at length over the last year that they’ve been coming- I wouldn’t call them “discussions” in the same way the elders do it, more like awkward exchanges of mutually defeating information. I have become a little more terse in these last months eg:
    [JW] “I know that you will find this fascinating if you will read it.” [cwc] “I always read them and no, I don’t believe I will find it fascinating. It is more likely to depress and annoy me but of course I will read it.” [JW] “This one you will enjoy because you are very smart.” [cwc] “That is very kind of you to say, if I enjoy it I will let you know.” [JW] (large smile) “I just know you will!”
    I honestly don’t know why I continue these conversations. Maybe a misplaced idea of fairness.
    I read this book recently: Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk http://www.amazon.com/Tony-DuShane/e/B002W44BKC/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

    and I love, love,love annegb.

  23. Stephanie says:

    Ha ha annegb. I love your story.

  24. In the 20 years since I joined the church, I’ve only met one other person who converted from JW to LDS.

    I’m a little surprised. Even though the doctrines are fairly different, the meeting structure and a bit of the organizational structure are really similar.

    I think they enjoyed bringing me along (as the junior companion?) because I was a really good reader for my age. The only bad experience I’ve ever had was when they came to my door while I was in between religions and told me I was going to hell because I wanted to study business in college. “You are doing the Devil’s work!” I kind of wish I had responded back, “You don’t believe in Hell!”

  25. Struwelpeter says:

    Never studied with them myself, but my mom had regular visits when I was a little boy and I would sit on the landing and listen. My perception was that they didn’t think we were Christian, so I would sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” to myself as a counter. Little did I know how offensive that probably was to them, with their pacifist doctrines. I’m sure they thought my Mom was an awful parent for having indoctrinated me with war anthems at such a young age.

  26. By The Rules says:

    One of my early girlfriends was from a rabid JW family. They all but forced their daughter on me. It was great! Until of course they figured out that I wasn’t going to convert….

  27. living in zion says:

    My parents are JW. They have been trying to convert me and my family for years. At first I was polite and explained that I had converted to Mormonism and was going to stay one.
    Then they decided they couldn’t do anything about my husband and I, but they could save the grandchildren.
    Over the years they have given the kids boxes of JW literature. We just stuck them in the basement. The kids are grown now and none converted to JW.
    I haven’t yet had the heart to tell my parents the truth: My family will NEVER convert to JW because we are party people. We like birthdays, Christmas and every other unholy and impure holiday.
    Just this week my mom invited my husband and I to their regional convention meetings which will be happening in August. She needed to know if we want to come so she can order tickets. SIGH.

  28. We saw a lot of them in Finland and talked with them pretty regularly–either JW’s or people studying with them. We actually had their HQ for Scandinavia in our area at one point. Went to use the bathroom there once.

    Great people, but it only ever took about 10 minutes to get to a point in the discussion where they just couldn’t explain themselves logically and it got boring. One young couple had a full set of their version of the Journal of Discourses, so they could look up the real answers, but they still didn’t hold much water. It was depressing.

    Us: “You believe in the Bilble. Why?”
    Them: “Because it’s true.”
    Us: “How do you know.”
    Them: “Because it says it is.”
    Us: “So you believe anything that says it’s true?”
    Them: “No, just the Bible.”
    Us: “Why?”
    Them: “Because it’s the Bible.”
    Us: “Ummm…”

    -or-

    Us: “So who can baptize in your church?”
    Them: “Anyone who is baptized.”
    Us: “So who was baptized first?”
    Them: “Some dude about a hundred and fifty years ago.”
    Us: “Who baptized him?”
    Them: “Some other dude.”
    Us: “Who baptized him?”
    Them: “The same dude.”
    Us: “Ummm…”

  29. So, I can’t say I would ever bother talking to them again other than to be polite and offer them a glass of lemonade on a hot day.

  30. Aaron, I had several friends at work who were Witnesses. I enjoyed discussing theology with them. One guy was actually quite brilliant and working through some of the Biblical issues and hearing him explain how the Witnesses came to the conclusions they came to was fascinating.

    I live right next to a Kingdom Hall now and we get Witnesses who come by all the time. I am polite to them but the moment they hear I am LDS they quickly take their leave.

  31. I went to their meetings a couple of times on my mission. The similarities with ours were uncanny — except they’re much better at greeting visitors than we are. I was always jealous of that as a missionary.

    Once I saw what would have been their equivalent of a high councilor speak. You could have given the same talk verbatim in our sacrament meeting — except for the blood transfusion stuff… although even that might not matter since everyone would be asleep.

  32. #28: Um, didn’t Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery baptize each other? Just sayin’. ;)

  33. JWs knock on my door a couple times a year, and I always let them read their scripture to me and hand me their flyer or magazine. They’re often surprised that I’ve heard of the verse or the book they’re reading from (I guess not many people they encounter have read Ezekial). But I always preemptively cut off any invitation for future visits by telling them that I’ve talked to plenty of their collegues [on my mission] and that I don’t share their literalistic view of the Bible — I accept that most of the books are essentially pseudoepigraphic and were sometimes written centuries after the purported events happened, so the JWs’ prooftexting won’t do much to persuade me of anything.

    But I have to admire the JWs, because at least they take their literalist stance pretty seriously. The approach just doesn’t appeal to me.

  34. “a caravan of Witnesses was tracting my mother’s housing development while I was on a jog”

    Aaron – no need to pepper a other wise great post with an out right lie. A jog?

  35. Aaron B says:

    Admittedly, it’s the only jog I’ve taken since about 1988, but yes, Ryan, it was a “jog.” Perhaps the Holy Spirit was prompting me to meet this JW in the street, and our encounter was pre-ordained, before the foundation of the world, so that I could persuade this gentleman to abandon his faith and chart a new life course. Who knows? I like to think I’m an instrument in God’s hands.

    By the way, if I’m right, God hasn’t had any new tasks for me since then, other than sitting on the couch, eating bon-bons and watching Oprah.

  36. I met a nice family of former JWs on my mission. They were always very polite to missionaries and had struck up quite a friendship with a previous elder in my area, but they were very firm about not believing in any church anymore. I can’t remember now if they were atheists or agnostics, but a few years before I knocked on their door they had left their church. Somehow or other they had decided that the Jehovah Witness church wasn’t true after years of active service in it.

    Unfortunately, they also decided that NO church was true because as they said, “we spent years proving that every other church was wrong too!” I didn’t think that logically followed, but they really didn’t want to discuss religion anymore. For what it’s worth it appeared to me that the dad’s new religion was becoming a millionaire because he had a ton of projects going. Still, they were very nice and I hope they did/will give us another chance someday.

    I always remembered this as an illustration of why a real spiritual testimony and conversion is necessary. Logic (real or pseudo) is not enough.

  37. I met many JWs in Arkansas on my mission. I liked running into them because they would almost always invite us in, and in the 98 F 90% humidity it would be a most welcome discussion. We called their bible “The Green Dragon” (don’t ask me why) and I think every missionary had a copy. After meeting so many, it was funny, we almost had scripts we would go through, they would say X, we would answer Y; Then they X2, we Y2; and so on. It was a very comfortable pattern. We never converted any. I liked the Watchtower Magazine and would read it cover to cover whenever a copy landed in our hands. I always thought I would make a good candidate for being one of the 144,000, and found that the only tempting thing about their theology.

  38. Steve G. says:

    Wow, I’m amazed at the similarities. I also have a JW hometeacher. He is probably 75 years old and about the nicest man I have ever met. He shows up at least once a month (more often than my mormon HT by the way) and always has a scripture to share with me. He has been diligently visiting for about 3 years now and usually has a junior companion with him. sometimes its his son and granddaughter (about 3 years old) and sometimes its his wife. We usually talk for about 5 minutes. Once after talking about preparedness, I reciprocated his Watchtower with the All is Safely Gathered In pamphlets.

    I keep expecting him to make the first move and offer a study session, but its been 3 years and he hasn’t yet. Perhaps he knows I’m not a likely convert, but just enjoys our chats, I’m not sure. Maybe after visiting with me the rest of his rejections somehow seem worth it and he doesn’t want to mess up a good thing. (that’s how I feel when hometeaching the less active, I just need one friendly family to get me out the door so I can visit the others who wished I’d never darken their doorstep again, but are too polite to just tell me that.)

    On my mission I was teaching a less active member who was also being taught weekly by the JWs. This guy had a very low IQ, and would always go right a long wit what we said, but couldn’t think enough to answer questions for himself. We knew it was probably the same thing during the JW visits. We offered a joint study night, us against the JWs. I was stoked and studied hard for the event. My companion and I had devised a strategy, marked up a JW bible, even and read alll the JW literature we could find. Luckily the event never happened, and I never used my new found knowledge for ill. Eventually I realized how futile it would have been anyway, and knew I would have been in the wrong to use it in the way I imagined.

    I still have the marked up Bible, but I don’t think I could bring myself to use it against such a nice old man. But I really wouldn’t mind a study session with him. I already know their doctrine, but feel I’m missing the why they believe it. What drives them to continuously face the rejection? I handled it for 2 years, but these guys do it their whole life. I want to learn more about what makes a good JW tick. If my JW hometeacher ever offers I’ll gladly accept, but I’m just not comfortable asking for the discussions knowing what I already know. I promise I’d be a gentleman though.

  39. re: 28

    Thank goodness Mormons never engage in circular reasoning like that! :)

  40. esodhiambo says:

    I was quite fascinated by the JWs who last tracted my house. They honestly seemed to be MIMICKING the LDS missionaries: missionary hair, suits, two-by-two, scriptures in hand, etc. They wanted to share a “special message” with me about God’s love–such deja vu, but I was the one answering the door this time (although I never wore a suit). The BIG difference was that LDS missionaries would lead with the name of the church and the JWs absolutely did not tell me the name of their church.

  41. living in zion says:

    I can top everyone. I just got home from dropping my elderly folks off at their mid-week JW evening church service. I take them to church whenever their regular rides fall through. I think I am exceptionally nice about the whole thing.
    Weirdly enough, my folks are fine with the idea of not being one of the 144,000 ‘chosen’ for eternal greatness in the next life. I compare it to our belief in a Celestial Kingdom.

    Unlike my parents, I completely plan to be in the CK. I married a great guy, have 3 kids and put up with all kinds of nonsense from my fellow saints. I deserve the best after dealing with all this crazy earthly crap.

  42. Aaron B says:

    esodhiambo, so how do you really know they were JWs? Maybe they were 2 of the 3 Nephites, ready to call you to be the new fourth wheel in their grunge band, and you blew your chance. Sucks to be you.

    Steve G, I am genuinely uncertain as to how the JWs think about what they’re doing. Do they, like Mormon missionaries, actually care about whether they make progress at the door? Or is the point that the ritual of visiting and proselytizing helps ensure their salvation, regardless of the outcome? I don’t really know.

  43. Lisa Goddard says:

    I did a weekly bible study with the JW for a year when we lived in a pretty scruffy neighborhood just outside of Detroit. I saw them knocking on doors every couple of weeks and just felt really curious about their beliefs. I was surprised at how many of our beliefs were similar. What struck me (then and still today) was how forced and unnatural religious discussions become when you’re trying to convert someone to your way of thinking.

    I changed the way I share the gospel after I met with the JW. I no longer go into a religious conversation thinking about how I can slip in an invite to dinner with the missionaries.

  44. FHL: Baptism isn’t the source of authority for Mormons…John conferred the priesthood on Joseph and Oliver before they baptized each other, after which they ordained each other (don’t quite get that part myself). It’s certainly not the usual order of things nowadays, but baptism hasn’t always been a requirement for receiving priesthood authority. My point was basically just that the JW’s I’ve known didn’t make any attempt to deal with the logical inconsistency. And sure, there are plenty of not completely logical things about LDS doctrine, but basic things like “How do you know it’s true” and “Who’s in charge” are pretty clear-cut.

  45. 39: Give an example, just for fun.

  46. When I was a missionary, some GA presiding at our zone conference asked which of us had ever taught JWs. Most of us raised our hands. He then asked which of us had ever converted one. All our hands went down. He said, “The lesson is: Don’t teach them.”

  47. Out of curiosity, Living in Zion, you’re not from Corvallis, are you? (Making you the other convert I’ve met)

  48. I’ve only spoken with JWs a few times. The first memorable experience was my favorite: it was a warm summer afternoon in Ogden, UT and a JW family consisting of husband, wife and small child knocked on our door. They apologized for bothering us, explaining they were a long way from their transportation and their little boy really needed to use the restroom.

    We let them right in and had a brief but pleasant conversation as the little boy did his business. They left us with some literature, and went their way. In fact, I found the whole experience very gratifying. It was absolutely opposite of everything I’ve ever heard Mormons say about the terrible experiences they have when the Witnesses come around.

    I think we sometimes forget the whole “they are children of God, too” thing and treat anybody who proselytes to our door as the enemy. Whenever someone comes around preaching religion now, I make it a point to let them in and act graciously, so long as they are gracious in return. I’ve had some great discussions, and learned a lot.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having folks over to discuss religion. It’s important to state your intentions up front, I think. Also important not to dust off your old Bible-bashing materials. Just have a discussion. Agree to disagree on things. But be genuinely interested in their point of view, and I think you’ll find how much we really do have in common.

  49. While we do have some stop by the house on occasion, they only real discussion (?) with a member of the Kingdon happened on my mission in Albuquerque, N.M in 1969.

    We had come across a family while tracting and they invited us to come back and teach them, with the understanding that they would actually allow us to inform them of our beliefs. While not appearing to be actual conversion material, they seemed to be sincere in at least wanting to know our beliefs and why.

    My companion and I prepare for the discussion similar to as Steve P in #37 (The term ‘Green Dragon’ goes back to at least the late ’60′s)

    When we started our presentation, basically a variation of the ancient 1st Discussion, it soon became obvious all they wanted to do was interrupt us with questions that interrupted the previous explanation of another question, ad infinitum. This probably went on for about 30 minutes.

    I was in the middle of reading some scripture trying, o so hard, to explain and get back to the lesson, when I was interrupted mid-verse with another question. My patience ended.

    I stopped, slammed whichever volume I was reading from closed, paused, got to my feet, walked to the person who interrupted me while they were sitting a few feet from me and in an extremely loud voice bore testimony as to the truthfulness of the gospel, while my eyes bored a hole through the questioner’s head.

    While I did serve a mission, I did not do much for public relations for those two years.

  50. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 45
    Nope, not going to go there.

  51. MikeInWeHo says:

    Oh what the heck…..

    Non-member: “You believe in the Book of Mormon. Why?”
    LDS: “Because the Holy Ghost gave me a testimony that it’s true.
    Non-member: “How do you know?”
    LDS: “Because the Holy Ghost made me feel that it is.”
    Non-member: “So you believe anything that feels true?”
    LDS: “No, just what the Holy Ghost makes me feel is true.”
    Non-member: “Why?”
    LDS: “Because it’s the Holy Ghost.”
    Non-member: “Ummm…

  52. I recently had JWs knocking my door. Their door approach was pretty lame. I guess so was mine on my mission.
    On my mission the cutest investigator I ever had was a JW. When I looked into her beautiful eyes, I could forget I was a missionary, I could forget she was married – but I couldn’t forget she was JW.

  53. Both are products of Nineteenth Century America along with other groups like Seventh Day Adventists.

  54. Andrea R. says:

    Aaron,
    I had the opposite experience on my mission. We were teaching a man that was simultaneously studying with the JW’s. We were obviously very nervous, but he actually invited his JW missionary to his home at the same time as our discussion and told him that he was joining the Mormon church because he felt the spirit when we were there and he didn’t feel it when he was there. We eventually started studying with the JW missionary and showed him the “How Rare a Possession” — the BofM movie that has the story of Vincenzo di Franchesca (the catholic priest who converts). The JW kept studying and I was transferred. After I returned from my mission, I got a letter from him telling me that he joined the Church, but before he did so, he had to go before a council of elders and defend why he was leaving the JW’s, just like Vincenzo. It still makes me cry to think about it.

  55. living in zion says:

    #47 -

    “Out of curiosity, Living in Zion, you’re not from Corvallis, are you? (Making you the other convert I’ve met)”

    I wish I was from Corvallis! I consider Eugene/Corvallis Oregon to be home. Instead I live in the miserably humid mid-west where if I squint really, really hard I can sort of make myself believe I am back in Oregon.
    Too bad there are no jobs in Oregon. It truly is God’s country.

  56. living in zion says:

    #51 -MikeInWeHo,

    I agree. I am never comfortable making fun of the illogical nature of others religions. All religions, including Mormonism require a spiritual/mystical leap of faith.

    I have no problem doing the scriptural comparisons, but not with intent of proving a doctrinal point. More with the idea of explaining viewpoints. Conversion to a faith comes from the Spirit, not from lists of logic.

    All of God’s children seek Him. I respect others choices in religion and don’t mess with someone who is content in their faith. Maybe I’m not the world’s best example of a missionary, but I do enjoy a wide variety of friends from different religions. I choose not to hyperventilate about the afterlife. Any self imposed anxiety about my friends eternal salvation will be resolved in the way that is best for them. Meanwhile, I work on being the best Mormon friend they have ever had.

  57. #51. I totally agree. It freaks me out how many LDS I know who just believe/do anything that feels good. I think that’s the real explanation for e.g. the history of the church with blacks in the twentieth century. I would still argue that there is a fundamental difference though since the believer is at least claiming that the witness of the spirit is miraculous and not just a “feeling” and isn’t self-referential. Still tricky though, I grant you.

    Since I’m playing the meanie here, let me wax McConkie for a moment.Assuming the LDS church’s claims are accurate, if Satan were to construct a countereit for the true church, one meant not to corrupt but just to prevent those inclined to choose good and who revere the bible from receiving the full blessings of the gospel, how would it differ from the JW program?

  58. Martine says:

    As a 19 yr old, I was visiting my mom at her home and some JW’s knocked on her door. I answered and politely told them no thank you, I was Mormon and it was like someone plugged them in – I could practically see the fire in their eyes. I was then subjected to a barrage of accusations and insults; it was so bizarre I just stood there in dumbstruck awe. When they demanded to know how my church explained why God allows bad things to happen, I’d had enough. I shrieked ‘AGENCY!’ and slammed the door. Whew!

  59. One of my areas in my mission was REALLY close to a JDub temple (whatever they call it). So my area was densly populated with JDubs. I was there for almost six months without transfer. I was pretty argumentative back then, and I’ve always been pretty good at arguing (by good at, I mean I can make the other person feel like an idiot. Which really isn’t any good). I was always able to shut them down within an hour to the point that they didn’t want to talk anymore. Probably a wasted opportunity on a number of levels. Especially since most of my doctrinal knowledge gains have been in conjunction with a good discussion with a person from another faith. And I’m sure the light of Christ wasn’t shining through my vicious attack of their beliefs. Yup, I doubt I converted many JDubs from our arguments.

  60. When I was a girl and we didn’t have a lot of reading material on hand, I enjoyed their literature. On a plot level.

  61. MikeInWeHo says:

    “I’m sure the light of Christ wasn’t shining through my vicious attack of their beliefs.”
    One suspects you are correct.

  62. #59,
    Well on the bright side you could have destroyed their faith in any religion to the point where they now thing there is no God and life is just a cruel, short miserable existence. That’s gotta count for something right?

  63. 57, “who just believe anything that feels good. I think that’s the real explanation for e.g. the history of the church with blacks…”

    Oh the irony…

  64. The times I’ve picked up and read J-dub literature, I’ve almost always ended up with a headache.

    I haven’t had too many interactions with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I ran across some in my mission but it never led to anything that lasted or was constructive.

  65. Re: #57 “if Satan were to construct a countereit for the true church, one meant not to corrupt but just to prevent those inclined to choose good and who revere the bible from receiving the full blessings of the gospel, how would it differ from the JW program?”

    Ugh. Just Ugh.

    Owen, the whole “satan’s counterfeit” argument to explain away any goods or positives in someone else’s religion or beliefs is just repugnant, condescending, and unproductive. Even if you are wearing a hypothetical McConkie hat, it’s an ugly hat. Please take it off.

  66. 62
    Hey thanks, do you want to kick my dog while you’re at it?

  67. It was a joke. And I only wrastle dogs. Kicking is unsportsmanlike.

  68. Re: 65,
    “Behold, whatever entices and leads to good and to do good, is of God, and whatever does not is of that wicked one: It is he that fills the hearts of men with evil, to walk in darkness and blaspheme God; and you may learn from henceforth, that his ways are to destruction, but the way of holiness is peace and rest.”

    I thought of this statement. I think it applies as much to the things members say or think as it does to other religions. I think many of us are in danger of drawing near to God with our lips, but far with our hearts (I’d call that a form of blaspheming).

  69. Of course those who denounce, bash, insult, condemn God’s profits, temples, priesthood, etc. are most certainly committed blasphemy, so if JWs have a propensity to do that in their proselyting then it certainly applies there as well. — never talked to or seen them though.

  70. I guess I just have a special place in my heart for the JWs. Most religions I just think of as people trying their best, but with the JWs I can’t get past their logical traps. I’m sure they think the same of us. I just can’t find any way to feel positive about something that when interpreted as they want it to be not only contains mind-bending circular reasoning, but also seems to tell people to unplug from our common struggle as a society to make things better. I dunno, maybe they do all sorts of good I don’t know about. And the blood transfusion thing puts them right up there with global-warming and evolution deniers in my “you gotta be kidding” scale. Although I must say the boycotting Santa Clause is A-OK in my book.

  71. We had an interesting old-timer in my mission. He had studied with the LDS and the JW ages ago. One day he invited both sets of missionaries over. He asked them to give their final arguments. Then he went into another room and prayed. Then he came back and asked the JW’s to leave.

    The really interesting thing to me about this discussion is the stark relief it puts the differences in our faiths into: we’re the wildcat nut-jobs who make ever member a prophet and they’re the conservative Bible-huggers who have every answer written down somewhere. We talk so much in these forums about how standardized and hierarchical the church is, but when it comes down to it, we’re way out in left-field compared to a lot of folks in terms of standardization of believe, since the foundation for belief is so firmly anchored at the individual level. We have to erect fences because we’re constantly encouraging the entire membership of the church to run free spiritually.

  72. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 70
    From an outsider’s perspective, it’s ironic to hear a Mormon recoil from the “you’ve gotta be kidding” beliefs of a Jehovah’s Witness. Yikes. People in glass apologetic houses…..

  73. “let me wax McConkie for a moment.Assuming the LDS church’s claims are accurate, if Satan were to construct a countereit for the true church, one meant not to corrupt but just to prevent those inclined to choose good and who revere the bible from receiving the full blessings of the gospel, how would it differ from the JW program?”

    Ohhh, that’s what you mean by “waxing McConkie.” We play that game differently at my house..

  74. MikeInWeHo says:

    LOL, Oh Wow. Crazywomancreek FTW!

  75. Chris H. says:

    cwc,

    Do share.

  76. 75 You’re moving to Wyoming, right? You’ll see. Best. Snacker. Ever.

  77. I have a standing policy: having tracted the better part of 2.5 years, I will listen respectfully to people who tract. I suggested to my wife that she listen to the JWs and she did for about a year. Finally they sent one of the higher-ups and caught me at home.

    Just for the record, the JWs only believe that 144,000 are going to heaven (from Revelations). I pointed that out and asked him where were the rest of the good people going. He said they would be resurrected on earth in our current state and live forever. I pointed out that that was what God specifically did not want Adam and Eve to do, to live forever in this condition, which was why He set the angel to guard the way to the tree of life. I told him I was so sorry for him if that was the eternal life he expected. I contrasted that with the Mormon view of eternal progression.

    He never returned.

    However a nerdy pair just showed up on my doorstep last week and I was nice to them.

    (I hated to tract behind the JWs. People got us confused and the JWs were fire breathers. No one was nice to us.)

  78. I studied with JWs for a while. Stephanie came every week to my home and she would share scriptures from the Bible and when asked my opinion, sometimes, but not all the time, I would share a scripture from the Book of Mormon that fit well with the point she was trying to make.

    Finally after about two months I explained that I enjoyed her coming but truth be told I was very happy being LDS and I was not going to change. She thanked me for being honest and asked if she could stop by in a month just to check up on me. I told her that would be fine and we parted ways.

    Seriously two days later the four-plex I was living caught on fire and half of the building was burned to the ground. I still can’t help but wonder what Stephanie thought as she returned to see the person who had sent her away had her house leveled by a fire.

    True story.

  79. I have had a wide variety of experiences with Jehovah’s Witnesses (ou des Temoins de Jehovah – TJs – en France). I wrote an ethnography paper on them in college that required attending services with them, and ran into them frequently on my mission. My experiences with them ranged from some of the nicest people I have ever met to some of the most down-right mean-spirited people I have ever met. I have mostly tried to defend them whenever someone calls them into derision, remembering how much I hate it when my own beliefs are called into derision and believing firmly in the 11th article of faith.

    That said, some TJs recently dropped by our home and left us with a lovely copy of “What Does the Bible _Really_ Teach?,” replete with the notorious illustrations found in their publications (has the same guy/girl been illustrating their publications for all these years? or have they just standardized it somehow?). I decided to read through it to try to get some better understandng and apprecation of their beliefs. In light of what I undertand to be their epistemology – sola scriptura or “for the Bible tells me so” – I was frankly floored by some of the things I was reading. The authors of the booklet would assert something and back it up by an obscure scripture in Ecclesiastes, but apparently had no problem with ten or more other scriptures that would undercut the claim. Then, I would read something like this:

    “Does your religion agree with what the Bible teaches about the dead [i.e., that they don't exist after death]? Most do not. Why? Because their teachings have been influenced by Satan. He uses false religion to get people to believe that after the body dies, they will continue to live in the spirit realm. This is a lie that Satan combines with other lies to turn people away from Jehovah God.”

    The tone of this really turns me off. To be sure, we have similar language decryng fallen Christianity. However, I think what turns me off about this is the epistemology the assertion is based on – sola scriptura. In my mind, you aren’t allowed to make conclusions like that if you are just going off of your own interpretation of a vast, diverse, and complex group of writings that have been copied and passed down over thousands of years with thousands of textual variations and little understanding, at least from a historical and textual perspective, as to who actually wrote them and when. Even if you did believe that every word in the NWT was just as God designed it to be written, I still don’t think you can make conclusions like that based solely on your interpretation.

    That’s what bugs me, and it’s not unique to the TJ’s (see: most Protestant denominations) Inconsistencies in my own religious arguments and understanding be darned.

  80. When I was in high school, my father volunteered to be in the teaching pool of the local leader of the Unification congregation. We had regular visits, each time he was accompanied by a different Korean girl (his assigned wife had been assigned to a different community) who brought huge quantities of nori rolls wrapped in fried egg, because us kids wouldn’t eat the seaweed. This also involved a summer of me fishing on a Unification tuna boat.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/chi-0604sushi-1-story,0,4666032,full.story

  81. Adam Greenwood says:

    One of the wierdest things I’ve ever done was weekly appointments on my front porch with a heavy-set middle-aged black woman JW one summer when I was 15. Being arrogant even then, I remember being somewhat insulted that she thought I’d be interested in her religion with its fifth-grade reading level simple-minded little tracts.

    I’m pretty sure all the recent changes to the Ensign are God’s grand design to rebuke my pride. Sorrry about that, all.

  82. Steve Evans says:

    Thanks for ruining it for the rest of us!

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