The New York Review of Magazines

The Most Widely Read Magazine in the World

By Joel Meares

It’s the first Saturday of March and a perfect day for Jehovah’s Witnessing. The sky is clear, the air is crisp and a fresh copy of The Watchtower, stamped March 1, 2010, is ready to be distributed.

At least, I assume it’s a good day for Witnessing; this is my first time. Frank and Lydia Tavolacci — from a Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Glendale, Queens — have invited me along for a morning of door-knocking in their mostly residential neighborhood. A longtime recipient of the Witnesses’ famous “good news” wakeup calls, I jumped at the chance to see what it’s like on the other side of the door.

The day begins at the small, red-brick Kingdom Hall on Glendale’s Myrtle Avenue, where about 40 Witnesses gather in couples and families. Some thank Jehovah for the blessed day, others thank him for the coffee that got them here by 9 a.m. A few quick hellos in the Hall — a trapezoidal room with churchlike rows of chairs, a churchlike stage but no churchlike iconography — and the Witnesses head downstairs to arm themselves.

Their ammunition is The Watchtower and its companion magazine Awake!, each sitting in piles on a bench in the beige basement-level hallway. At first glance there’s not much difference between the two — both are flimsy, pamphlet-like 31-page monthlies, each colorfully adorned with photos of smiling faces and illustrations of Biblical happenings. But while Awake! is an attempt at a general interest magazine — travel and science stories, with a Witness twist — The Watchtower is strictly Biblical, its contents a doctrinal guide to Witness beliefs. March’s cover boy — a bearded scribe writing at a desk awash with golden light — sits over the cover line: “The Bible, Is It Really God’s Inspired Word?” Inside, a table of contents provides the answer. Page 4: “The Bible Really Is God’s Inspired Word.” Page 8: “Why You Can Trust the Biblical Gospels.”

Frank takes six copies of the English-language Watchtower, while others select from of piles of Romanian, Italian and Polish editions. Every month, nearly 40 million copies of The Watchtower are printed in more than 180 languages and sent to 236 countries. There are no subscriptions and you won’t find it on newsstands, but it’s still hard to miss. Thanks to the efforts of Witnesses like the Tavolaccis, The Watchtower is the most widely distributed magazine in the world, with a circulation of more than 25 million. Last year, the world’s 7.3 million-strong Jehovah’s Witnesses spent 1.5 billion hours knocking on doors and “street Witnessing” — stopping folks in parks and on streets — to preach the “good news” with a copy of The Watchtower. Its closest competitors are AARP The Magazine (circulation 24.3 million) and Better Homes and Gardens (7.6 million). It doesn’t hurt that The Watchtower has been free since 1990, with the option of a small donation.

Armed with their copies, Frank and the other Witnesses at the Glendale Kingdom Hall head back upstairs for a pep talk. “Elder” John Juels leads the 10-minute session from the stage, offering tips on how the congregation might keep doors open this morning. Frank Tavolacci calls it “a little bit of rah rah rah.”

“Raise a topic of interest,” suggests Juels, a short, bespectacled man in a bright orange tie. He invites a young blonde, “Sister Rachel,” up from the crowd to the stage for a role play. After a quick knock-knock and some polite doorfront introductions, Juels says the government is a hot topic right now, so Witnesses might raise the spectre of Governor Paterson to keep their bleary-eyed targets listening. “The government of Jesus Christ is coming,” he tells his mock door-opener. “Certainly God would do a better job than some of the people we have today.”

After a prayer, the group divides into pairs to tackle a block of Queens for the morning. I join the Tavolaccis to cover the block directly next to the Kingdom Hall. The two Glendale locals have dressed for what they call “the best volunteer work there is.” Frank’s wearing a checkered beret, gray suit and orange tie, and Lydia has wrapped herself in a chic, ankle-length black coat, her long blond hair tucked under a black woolen cap. Both are 40, gregarious and equally endowed with the kind of thick “Noo Yawk” accents you might expect to hear heckling the umpire at a Yankees game.

Their first door belongs to a large, two-story brick home on the wide and leafy Union Turnpike. Stepping up to the door, Lydia switches off her BlackBerry and tells Frank to get Psalm 104 ready in his black leatherbound Bible. Hers is a little tatty from use. Passages are highlighted, verse numbers circled and dozens of bright orange and pink sticky notes peek out from pages. Lydia is out on “field service” for at least two hours every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Ringing the bell, she asks Frank to hold The Watchtower so it is visible to whomever should open the door. Nobody does.

After three minutes, she rings again. She always rings twice. Again, nobody answers. On a piece of yellow paper called a “House Call Card,” a Witness couple working in tandem with the Tavolaccis notes the address and writes “NH” next to it, for “not home.” Other codes include “CA” for people who ask Witnesses to call again, “B” for busy and “C” for when a child answers the door.

And so it goes. NH, NH, NH. “It’s not a chore,” Lydia insists, as they move on to a woman who dismisses them with a curt “I’m Catholic.” “I mean, it’s not something you want to do, but it’s an important thing to do and it’s something you can do for God. You’re saving people’s lives.”

Frank and Lydia get their chance at the second-to-last house on the block. Amanda, a teenager with pulled-back frizzy brown hair opens the door wearing pajama pants decorated with pictures of milkshakes and the words “Shake it baby!” She is in the mood to talk. “Do you believe the Bible is inspired by God or just written by man?” asks Lydia in a sweet, slow elementary school teacher’s voice. “Inspired,” answers Amanda, after taking a moment to think.

They talk for five minutes before Lydia returns to the sidewalk and takes a purple-covered diary from her bag. On the top leaf of a pad of heart-shaped sticky notes inside, she writes down the scripture they discussed and which Watchtower edition she left behind. She promises to return next Saturday.

“I want to come back with a good question,” she says, clearly excited by Amanda. “Like, ‘Do you think we’re living in the last days?’”

While some magazines have religious followings, few have actually started religions. The Watchtower did just that. Back then, it was Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, so named by its founder, the writer and preacher Charles T. Russell. A former assistant editor of the Second Adventist magazine The Herald of the Morning, Russell released the first edition of Zion’s Watch Tower on July 1, 1879. It looked much like a newspaper of the time, with two columns, simple headlines and no images. Inside, readers learned that “we are living in ‘the last days,’ ‘the days of the Lord.’”

Russell, a charismatic Pennsylvania preacher with a big graying beard and an even bigger bank account, amassed followers in the years leading up to 1879 through public speaking tours and writings in newspaper columns and the Adventist magazine. He began questioning Adventist doctrine when the world failed to end, as it had predicted, in 1878. Russell used the monthly Zion’s Watch Tower to expound a new brand of Christianity to small congregations of Bible Students, as Witnesses were then known, mostly in the Northeast.

The new brand, familiar to many today from television exposés and house calls, taught that Christ would return to Earth in 1914 to govern the world, destroy nonbelievers and leave Witnesses to transform the planet into Paradise. It was revised in the 1930s, when the religion adopted the name Jehovah’s Witnesses, to teach that Christ did return in 1914 — he was just invisible — and that within a generation Armageddon would finally arrive. Witnesses now take a less specific approach to the end of the world.

Today, The Watchtower is the flagship publication produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The magazine and other literature is published by their not-for-profit corporation, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania; Witnesses also use another not-for-profit corporation in the United States, named the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., which is responsible for printing and distributing the magazine. The Tract Society’s catalogue includes the two magazines, a ballooning collection of books and brochures and The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the religion’s official Bible. As of this year, 165 million New World Translations have been printed since it was first published in 1961.

The mammoth operation is funded by donations, mainly from Witnesses leaving anonymous contributions in boxes titled “Worldwide Work” at the back of Kingdom Halls. The money is funneled to the U.S. world headquarters to fund the publishing empire, as well as disaster relief. Just how much moolah makes that journey is unknown — as a religious organization, the Tract Society does not have to file an annual return with the IRS — but in 2001, Newsday listed the Tract Society as one of New York City’s 40 richest corporations, with revenues of $951 million. Last year, a report stated that the Society had pulled in $125 million for the fiscal year ending in August.

Manhattanites might recognize the Tract Society’s headquarters from the skyline to their east — a pair of stout beige towers nudging the base of the Brooklyn Bridge and the shore of the East River in Brooklyn Heights; squint and you can see the word “Watchtower” stamped across their peaks. The Brooklyn Bethel, as the faithful call it, also functions as the religion’s world headquarters. Here, the nine-member governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses pulls the sect’s doctrinal strings and steers its publishing enterprise. All members of the governing body claim to come from the “little flock,” an anointed class of 144,000 Witnesses who will ascend to heaven upon Armageddon; other Witnesses will have to be satisfied with paradise on Earth.

Few non-Witnesses are allowed inside the Bethel headquarters and you’d be forgiven for conjuring fantastical reasons as to why — the anti-Witness publishing industry rivals The Tract Society’s in size and includes among its titles The Orwellian World of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and 30 Years a Watchtower Slave. But the day I visit, Brooklyn Bethel is less Airstrip One than Pan Am corporate headquarters circa 1965. In the lobby, a dull-painted plaster globe — the size of a boulder Indiana Jones might have to outrun — spins forlornly. Along maroon-carpeted corridors, cheery men in snug dark suits apologize for being too rushed to stop and chat. Everywhere, everyone asks you to stay for lunch.

Despite the absence of a masthead and bylines, The Watchtower is no immaculate conception. Each edition’s journey to your door begins a year ahead of publication at a meeting of the nine-member Writing Committee in the Writing Committee Conference Room, a boardroom dominated by a long polished wooden desk and two mammoth Sony flat screens on the wall; more Vogue Living than Mother Jones.

James Pellechia is one of the magazine’s writers and a member of the Writing Committee. Dapper in a dark gray suit, dark gray vest and even darker gray tie — all under wispy gray hair — 66-year-old Pellechia is a third-generation Witness. His grandparents converted in 1908 after migrating from Italy to Roseto, Pa., and he came to Bethel in 1982 to join the Writing Department. He and his fellow committee members choose the theme of each Watchtower issue and the articles it will feature. “It’s for Witnesses but also for the public,” Pellechia says of The Watchtower. “For people who would be interested in what the Bible would say about subjects like child-rearing and how to keep marriages united.” The magazine might focus on infidelity in May, homosexuality in June and earthquakes in July. Articles might answer questions like “Should you be honest at all times?” and “Has God left us?” (Yes, and no, in case you were wondering.) Each article is littered with scriptural references, which function like hyperlinks, directing readers to Bible pages for further reading. The committee also decides questions and answers for the special “study” editions of The Watchtower produced specifically for Witnesses already in the flock to study at Kingdom Halls every week. The number of study editions printed is undisclosed.

The Watchtower then comes together like most magazines, Pellechia explains. A writer is chosen as a “Compiler,” functioning like a magazine editor, and an assignment editor distributes briefs to writers — there are about 20 on staff. Copy is fact-checked, copy-edited and rewritten as it moves through the 70-person Writing Department. Illustrators and photographers, at a Witness training campus in Patterson, N.Y., provide the images.

Writers live with about 1500 other Bethel workers, including cooks, secretaries, cleaners and committee members, in five buildings throughout Brooklyn Heights. Meals, accommodation and an allowance are provided to keep the focus on God’s work. One Witness-occupied residential tower on Wilson Street might be the best deal in New York, housing 500 Witnesses, a library, a medical center and a dining room. Witnesses call it the “Towers Hotel.”

Despite rumors to the contrary, women can write for The Watchtower, but not on scriptural matters. “That’s what the Bible indicates according to our concept of it,” says assignment editor John Wischuck. “If they wanted to write something about dressmaking, a sister could do that. It might be in another case that she interviews another woman and writes up her life story. That would go through an editor or a rewrite.”

Before the magazine is sent to a facility known as Watchtower Farms, in Wallkill, N.Y., and to 16 other production centers across to the world — to be printed, bound and packaged for distribution — the Writing Committee takes a final look. “All nine of us read it,” says Pellechia. “Each one sees the previous writing committee member’s marks and either adds to it, reinforces it, or, once in a while, may change it. We need to ensure it is in agreement with our doctrine, scripturally.”

Of course, the magazine does not always agree with itself — or past versions of itself — on these matters. Early in its history, for example, The Watchtower told followers that the mischievous men of Sodom and Gomorrah would be resurrected. In 1988, an article in The Watchtower reversed this position. “Our publications are not infallible,” Pellechia says. “Certain Bible texts, certain doctrine, may need adjustment as more information is researched and understanding grows.”

David A. Reed, a critic and former high-ranking Witness, wrote in his book, Jehovah’s Witness Literature, that “much like a collection of White House news releases written during successive Democratic and Republican administrations, the Watchtower Society’s books and magazines reflect the sect’s changing leadership over the years.”

In an e-mail to me, Reed wrote that he stopped reading the magazine in 1999, a year before Don Alden Adams became the religion’s leader. In general, Reed says, today’s Watchtower and the religion behind it are far different from their earliest incarnations. “In terms of internal organizational politics, or religious positions, they are more conservative now than in the days of founder C.T. Russell. The Witnesses are now a tightly controlled, disciplined group, which they were not under Russell.”

The most tightly controlled aspect of the Witnesses’ publishing arm may be the names of Watchtower authors. No Tract Society publication has carried bylines since the early 1940s, because, according to assignment editor Wischuck, the “glory should go to God.” Pellechia expands on that: “There were about 40 writers of the Bible and for the most part, people who read the sacred texts may or may not have known who wrote that information. The material should stand on its own merits and attention should be focused back on the word of God rather than the individual.”

This sort of fifth-person approach to writing means The Watchtower can read like a textbook rendering of the Bible; big on plague and pestilance but short on the simple, beatific prose that marks its source. Former Witness Kyria Abrahams describes the magazine she read growing up in a Kingdom Hall in Pawtucket, R.I., as “extremely boring.” “They were pretty much all on the same theme,” she says today. “‘Why does God allow blah blah blah?’ ‘Is blank okay?’ And you know that it isn’t. For the most part, it was written at a fifth grade level.”

Abrahams, now 36 and living as a writer in New York City, parted with the Witnesses 11 years ago. She courted her own “disfellowshipping” by cheating on the husband she had married at 18. “I wanted out of the marriage so bad that I ended up just having an affair,” she says. “I was so entrenched in the idea of the religion that it was like I was somehow playing by their rules in order to leave.”

Abrahams has not spoken to her father since she left the religion, and has not heard from her mother in three years. She probably won’t hear from either ever again after the release of her acerbically funny account of her life as a Witness, I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed, last year. In the first chapter of the book, she reveals that her Jewish grandmother became a Witness after discovering a copy of The Watchtower on top of a trash can. In the third chapter, she describes her own experience with the books and magazines produced at Bethel. “My children’s books alternated between Dr. Seuss rhymes and tales of how sinners would scream and gnash their teeth at Armageddon,” she writes.

Like the Tavolaccis, Abrahams did her duty, door-knocking three times a week in her teens with a close friend named Kathy. She would do anything to get out of it — only pretending to ring the bell, encouraging Kathy to take long coffee breaks — and remembers many slamming doors. But it was a man who played along that stings her memory most sorely. After Abrahams told him she’d be happy to accept a small donation, he looked at her disdainfully and said, “I bet you would,” before handing her some change. “He saw right through me,” says Abrahams, who was 14 at the time. “I was totally aware that I was just this really annoying, weird person at the door, and I didn’t even know what I was talking about.”

Today, she sometimes sees The Watchtower in the back of a cab or in a doctor’s office. “I will pick it up and look at it for nostalgia,” she says. “It’s still the same as it was when I was a kid — nothing shocking, nothing weird. I would think that I’m going to get a big laugh out of it, but I just end up being sad and put it away.” No Witnesses have knocked on her door since she left her religion, husband and family behind.

But there are those who look forward to the familiar ring of the doorbell on a weekend. I joined Frank and Lydia Tavolacci on their fifth return call to 81-year-old Dominic Bonura’s small one-bedroom walkup in Glendale. The couple makes several of these return visits to people they’ve met while door-knocking every week. “What took you so long?” Bonura asks cheerily, opening the door.

Bonura’s wife died 12 years ago. “She was the most gorgeous thing you ever saw,” he says as we take our seats in a small living room cluttered with portraits of grinning grandchildren. A former butcher and sometime boxer, Bonura’s thin-skinned hands have been knotted by carpal tunnel syndrome. Resting on his knees, they look like large, crushed spiders.

He is dressed as if he were expecting us — polished shoes, pressed pants, a navy button-down all buttoned up — and he has a lot to say. He cuts Frank short before he can discuss the last readings he left. “This carpal tunnel is killing me, Franky,” he says huskily, stretching his arms and fingers out in angry defiance. “I tried to lift a two-pound weight the other day and it hurt so bad I wanted to go somewhere and croak. I’ve been disgusted with people in the world and with myself. I’m not going to lie to you Franky, I didn’t read a scripture, a Watchtower or an Awake!.”

Frank moves over to Bonura, crouches beside him and asks him to read from a Bible page stamped with extra-large print. Bonura pulls a pair of glasses from his pocket and loudly and clearly reads from the book of Isaiah. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” He lowers the Bible.

“When a father is holding a little boy’s hand, how does that little boy feel?” asks Frank.

“He feels safe and protected,” answers Bonura, his face softening. Reflecting on his recent tough times, he says, “Satan might have grabbed me by the shirt, but he doesn’t have me by the heart.”

From here, Frank talks with Bonura about his wife, his daughter and the stresses of staying cooped up in his apartment. Frank explains that “All scripture is inspired, not half, and not a quarter. God’s word can help us with any principle of life.” This is the message of the month’s Watchtower cover story.

Before we leave, Bonura stops Frank. “I was just thinking about that little guy in the street, Franky, holding his father’s hand. If he let go, it wouldn’t take a second for a car to sweep him away.” He pauses. “He can’t let go.”

“And he hasn’t let you go,” says Lydia from the couch. “Dom, we’re here.”

Bonura then turns to me and tells me to write this down, word perfect, with an exclamation mark. “There’s nothing like the truth, nothing!” he says. “These people, this organization, are beautiful. You can trust these people with your life.” He looks at Lydia. “You keep coming back like a song.”

“You know who encourages us to come back,” asks Lydia. “Jehovah.”

The Tavolaccis make tentative plans to return next Saturday before heading downstairs, leaving Bonura alone with his thoughts and a copy of The Watchtower.

202 Responses to “The Most Widely Read Magazine in the World”

  1. Leslie Scott says:

    Nice article. Witty, direct, and seemingly unbiased. I’ve been a Watchtower and Awake reader for 39 years. I like the variety they put in the articles and the fact they put Scriptures in it so I can look up the information in my own time. And I have yet to find a typo in their articles!

  2. Randy says:

    Hi Rose,

    You said this: “Oh, and btw, unless a publication is totally against our beliefs, like those on the occult, we are free to exercise our own brains and conscience in deciding whether to read them. So no one ’strongly discourages’ us from reading non-Witness literature.”

    Yet note what the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses say about material critical of their beliefs:

    “Well, if we would act so decisively to protect our children from exposure to pornography, should we not expect that our loving heavenly Father would similarly warn us and protect us from spiritual fornication, including apostasy? He says, Keep away from it! (The Watchtower March 15, 1986 p 10-15)”

    Statements like this really do tend to discourage, even strongly so, reading well written truthful material such as Raymond Franz books. This tendency is not unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Consider what this LDS (Mormon) author (Elder Packer) said:

    “‘They leave the Church but they can’t leave it alone’ (Utah State University baccalaureate address). They publish theological pornography that is damaging to the spirit. None of it is worth casting an eye upon. Do not read the anti-Mormon materials. (Vaughn J. Featherstone, member of the First Quorum of the Seventy)”

    These are just words of course, but when one believes the author is being used by God to direct his people it most definitely can have chilling effect. If that hasn’t been the case with you, I’m happy for you.

    Cheers,
    -Randy

  3. linda pruitt says:

    all that i can say to make it short and sweet and truthful and powerful is the very first scripture i learned when i learned what the bible teaches, —-pslms 83-18————-THAT PEOPLE MAY KNOW, THAT YOU, WHOSE NAME IS JEHOVAH–YOU ALONE ARE MOST HIGH OVER ALL THE EARTH!!! IS THAT NOT AN AWESOME STATEMENT!!!? i just love Jehovah a hobunch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Peter says:

    Wow someone noticed that Jehovah’s Witnesses do at least one good thing with their lives.
    It is always good to give commendation because if there is only criticism it indicates a hatred,guilt or just plain ignorance. Now I wonder who was victim of such conduct – I know- Yes God’s only begotten Jesus.From religious leaders who were exposed as servants of the other side!

    Sobering thought isn’t it.

    By the way – there is no dispute amongst historians about the date of the fall of Babylon 539 BCE. The Jews were released in 537 and if you count back 70 years as the true prophet Daniel did you come to 607 BCE.
    Most people would rather believe in Ptolemy’s dating rather than the eyewitness who Jehovah’s angel called him (Daniel)a most desirable man!

    Daniels prophecy accurately predicted the first appearance of the messiah in Chapter nine-and in chapter four his presence as a glorified king in heaven-and guess what you cannot see him because he is a spirit!

  5. linda pruitt says:

    simply put–read psalms 83:18 That people may know that you, whose name is JEHOVAH, you ALONE are the MOST HIGH over all the earth

  6. [...] by the Jehovah Witnesses (a pseudo-Christian cult). Here’s part of what Joel Meares writes in The New York Review of Magazines today. Every month, nearly 40 million copies of The Watchtower are printed in more than 180 [...]

  7. Jeffrey Needle says:

    Entertaining article, but the portion on the history of the Witnesses is so flawed, botched, that it really needs to be restudied. So many errors. Sheesh.

  8. Contrary to some publicity made concerning “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Pastor Charles Taze Russell is not the founder of this religious group. He was never associated with them, nor did he ever claim the name. Pastor Russell died in 1916, while the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” did not come into existence until 1931. Linking Pastor Russell with “Jehovah’s Witnesses” leaves the decidedly mistaken view that their teachings and beliefs are alike. Such is not the case.

    Pastor Russell founded what has been called “The Bible Student’s Association.” This movement had its beginning in the 1860’s in Allegheny, Pa. when earnest Christians formed a Bible class for advanced Bible study to meet the then rising wave of infidelity. In 1879, Zion’s Watch Tower Society was formed, later knows as The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. This Society did not become the central authority for the Bible Students, for all cooperating congregations of Bible Students held strictly to congregational self-government. The Society only served to coordinate the activities of the various congregations.

    After the death of Pastor Russell in 1916 the purpose of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society changed completely. The teachings of the six volumes of “Studies In The Scriptures” were discarded. The congregations in harmony with the Society relinquished congregational rule. The Society became the central head and authority over all congregations willing to yield their sovereignty. Basic doctrines of the Society seriously digressed from the teachings of Pastor Russell, and before long Judge Rutherford declared that those associated with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society were “Jehovah’s Witnesses” on this earth. Here is where the name emerged — certainly not in Pastor Russell’s time.

    After Pastor Russell’s death, The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society began to rise as a hierarchy over the once independent congregations. Many refused to surrender their Christian liberty and here started the work of separation. As early as 1917 this exodus from the Society began, and those who appreciated the wonderful harmony of the Bible as taught by Pastor Russell are today known as “Associated Bible Students.”

    The following doctrines are an example as to how Bible Students still retain the basic teachings of Pastor Russell in contrast with “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” who do not.

    BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell was led to believe in a future probation because millions have died and continue to die without hearing the Gospel. Of those that do hear, uncertainty and confusion exists in their minds because Christianity of today is burdened with contradictory beliefs and teachings.

    JW’S: “Jehovah’s Witnesses” see no further probation for any of the present generation who do not subscribe to their teachings – which means that a large percentage of the world’s population is to perish eternally in Armageddon. In this respect their views are less generous than most established Churches. They not only see no hope for those who live today, who do not subscribe to their teachings, but they entertain no hope for a large percentage of the millions who have gone into the grave since the creation of man. For example, JW’S believe that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. have perished eternally, with no hope for a resurrection.

    BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell pointed to the Scriptures, such as Ezek. 16:55, where it declares that these are all going to return to their “former estate.” And our Lord, in Matt. 10:15, confirms this thought when he said, “It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city”- (speaking of the Jews). Thus our Lord pointed forward to a day of judgment for those people who died centuries ago. And again it says, in Acts 17:31 that, “He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.”

    JW’S: “Jehovah’s Witnesses” deny that Adam will ever have a resurrection, while the Scriptures plainly state that Jesus Christ tasted death “for every man.” Heb. 2:9; 1 Tim. 2:5,6.

    BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell pointed to these scriptures and many others such as 1 Cor. 15:22 – “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Also Hosea 13:14 – “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be they plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”

    Pastor Russell taught, according to the Scriptures, that now is “the day of salvation” for those who are to be the Bride of Christ, the Little Flock; and that another day – a day of salvation is awaiting mankind in general, in the Millennial Age – “the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

    One of the main teachings of Pastor Russell was that all would be enlightened with a knowledge of God’s Truth before they are placed on trial and judged for their final destiny. For the majority of mankind this would be when they are raised from the dead at the time of the general resurrection. Their final judgment would be based on their conduct while enlightened, not while in ignorance. This teaching separated Bible Students from all other religious groups. Now it separates them from “Jehovah’s Witnesses” as well. This view broke with the concept of salvation current in his day. At that time nearly all evangelists taught a literal hell of torment for those who did not accept Christ in this life. They felt hell-fire threats were necessary to restrain evil and, if need be, to bring salvation by fear. Many theologians have since broadened their concept of salvation beyond this life, but “Jehovah’s Witnesses” hold strongly to the position that those who reject their message are rejecting salvation.

    Contrary to our Lord’s Word, every “Jehovah’s Witness” becomes a missionary of life or death, using the fear of eternal destruction or second death as their final appeal.

    The Jewish People: Israel, and the Jewish people, present another major difference between Pastor Russell and the JW’s. After applying the Scripture, “Ye are my witnesses saith Jehovah” (Isa. 43:12) to themselves, “Jehovah’s Witnesses” declare that the Jewish people have no special role in the Divine Plan since the death of Jesus. On the contrary, Pastor Russell taught that the Jewish people and nation have a leading role in the Divine Plan for man, and accordingly during the year 1910 he spoke to vast Jewish audiences, comforting them according to the Scripture, Isa. 40:2 – “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” He encouraged them not to join the various churches of today but to wait for the fulfillment of the many Old Testament promises that they would be blessed as a nation.

    While they were yet a scattered and dispersed people, he said, upon the basis of these promises, that they would be regathered to Palestine and established as an independent nation. Time has proven this to be so. Although denied by “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Bible Students today teach that the new state of Israel emerged in Divine Providence and is a precursor to the fulfillment of God’s promise to that nation that, – “Lo the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.” (Jer. 30:3)

    And again, Jer.24:6, 7, says, – “I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them and not pull them down; and I will plant them and not pluck them up. And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.”

    And a further promise in Jer. 31:27-34 was that, – “Like as I have watched over them to pluck up, and to destroy and to afflict; so will I watch over them to build and to plant, saith the Lord… and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in that day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they break… but this shall be the covenant that I will make… I will put my Law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts… and they shall be my people… I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.”

    From these facts it can be seen that Pastor Charles T. Russell was neither in principle nor in spirit, the founder of “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

  9. Brother Hannah says:

    Rolando seems very educated in the teachings of both the Russelites as well as the teachings of Jehovah Witnesses. There is a grave mistake that he has mentioned in the above statements though. Jehovah’s Witnesses was indeed derived from the early “Bible Students” taught by Pastor Russell. Brother Russell built the first Bible House in 1889 at 56-60 Arch Street, Allegheny PA. This was later renumbered 610-614 Arch St. His thoughts are quoted here on his thought process of his once early thinkings and then how they changed once his spriritual thinking was enhanced or grew: When questioned on his change of view regarding selection of elders in the various groups of the Lord’s people, C. T. Russell replied:
    “First of all I hasten to assure you that I have never laid claim to infallibility. . . . We do not deny growing in knowledge, and that we now see in a slightly different light the will of the Lord respecting Elders or leaders in the various little groups of his people. Our error in judgment was in expecting too much of the dear brethren who, coming early into the Truth, became the natural leaders of these little companies. The ideal view of them which we fondly entertained was, that the knowledge of the Truth would have upon them a very humbling effect, causing them to appreciate their own insignificance, and that whatever they knew and were able to present to others was as mouthpieces of God and because used of him. Our ideal hopes were that these would in every sense of the word be examples to the flock; and that should the Lord’s providence bring into the little company one or more equally competent, or more competent, to present the Truth, that the spirit of love would lead them in honor to prefer one another, and thus to help and urge one another to participation in the service of the Church, the body of Christ.
    “With this thought in mind we concluded that the larger measures of grace and truth now due and appreciated by the Lord’s consecrated people would make it unnecessary for them to follow the course outlined by the apostles in the early Church. Our mistake was in failing to realize that the arrangements outlined by the apostles under divine supervision are superior to anything that others could formulate, and that the Church as a whole will need to have the regulations instituted by the apostles until, by our change in the resurrection, we shall all be made complete and perfect and be directly in association with the Master.
    “Our mistake gradually dawned upon us as we beheld amongst dear brethren to some extent the spirit of rivalry, and on the part of many a desire to hold the leadership of meetings as an office instead of as a service, and to exclude and hinder from developing as leaders other brethren of equal ability naturally and of equal knowledge of the Truth and competency in wielding the sword of the Spirit.”—“Zion’s Watch Tower,” March 15, 1906, p. 90.

  10. Sharon Davis says:

    As far back as 1972,I remember anxiously waiting for the Watch Tower and Awake to be delivered to my home every two weeks. Living in proverty and raising two sons as a single mother was a gruelling lifestyle. The people that brought these magazines, the scriptual knowledge I gained, and the Bible’s positive hope for the future swayed me from attempting suicide several times.

    I hope that the Watch Tower and Awake will always remain the most-widely read magazine in the world! They are a glimmer of light in a world that marches in darkness.

  11. J Brett says:

    A somewhat romanticised view through rose-tinted glasses, of what is a dangerous and chilling cult. I have seen from the inside the damage that religion does to people. I now live in Singapore, where the religion is banned thankfully. Peaceful Saturday mornings and a respite from scare mongering

  12. Robert Angle says:

    Nice article. Some nasty comments down here though.

    If you do not understand why The Watchtower is the most read magazine in the world, try picking up a copy and reading it for yourself. With those statistics, obviously the journal stands on it’s own merits.

    Since it’s the most widely read magazine in the world, if you are not reading it, you’re missing out :-)

    - Bob

  13. Spencer says:

    YES! despite ridicule and opposition Jehovah’s people continue to preach God’s word throughout the ENTIRE earth. what other religion who claim to follow Christ Jesus can say that? NONE! something to think about! “Christianity” has adopted the fish as a symbol based on the scripture Matthew 4:19 ‘And he (Jesus)said to them: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” but how can they say that when they do not preach? Jehovah’s people are hard at work making sure this most important work gets done. And we know that we have Jehovah God’s backing in this work because there’s no way we could do it on our own! I am so grateful that my eyes have been opened and I’m now a part of such a wonderful organization. I am no longer in spiritual darkness because of the determination of my fellow Brothers and Sisters! And I thank Jehovah every day for the blessings I’ve received for turning my life around in order to please him.

    Keep it up fellow worshipers of Jehovah! Continue to “Fight the fine fight of the faith,..” 1Timothy 6:12 Firm and determined in this time of the end!
    “… Happy are the people whose God is Jehovah!” Psalms 144:15

    :)

  14. João Luiz says:

    Eu gosto de ler as revistas da Torre de Vigia por que elas falam a verdade sobre Deus,verdades que as outras religiões têm escondido das pessoas.

    João Luiz – Brasil

  15. Grant says:

    I think this article explains very well of who Witnessess are and what they do as a main focus of their lives. Anyone can be in any other religions, but not everyone can be a Witness. Nice job Joel!

  16. Patricia says:

    Statistics show the Watchtower is the most widely read and widely distributed magazine in the world. Available in more languages and countries than most of us can name.

    Based on the Bible it stands on it’s own merits. I highly recommend that
    everyone examines a copy in light of the Bible and see for yourself as I have.

    Patricia

  17. Ra'ed says:

    Happy are the people whose God is Jehovah!” Psalms 144:15

  18. Ra'ed says:

    The article added:
    “Every month, nearly 40 million copies of The Watchtower are printed in more than 180 languages and sent to 236 countries. There are no subscriptions and you won’t find it on newsstands, but it’s still hard to miss. Thanks to the efforts of Witnesses like the Tavolaccis, The Watchtower is the most widely distributed magazine in the world, with a circulation of more than 25 million. Last year, the world’s 7.3 million-strong Jehovah’s Witnesses spent 1.5 billion hours knocking on doors and “street Witnessing” — stopping folks in parks and on streets — to preach the “good news” with a copy of The Watchtower”.
    The question is:
    ” Are these statistics the result of the efforts of mankind ?

  19. Brother Tom says:

    Isolation of it’s members. Indoctrination of phobias about ever leaving the group. Control of information to members about the history of the group. Demonizing of anyone outside the group. Teach that salvation can only be acheived within the group. Convince the followers that the leaders of the organization are the only people on the planet who speak for God. Remind the followers that questioning the teachings of the leaders is equal to questioning God. Encourage the members to police themselves and report any dissenting opinions to the elders. Only uplifting comments about the leadership is allowed. Remind the members that there is no honorable way to leave the group. Inform the members that if they attempt to leave they will be treated as if the are dead by their family and “friends” still trapped within the group. Use constant fear tactics in the propaganda that is distributed to the members. Convince the members that working for free for the organization by recruiting new members is “life-saving” work. Warn the members that the “end of the world” is right around the corner. Does this sound like warning signs of a dangerous doomsday cult that destroys families? Well everything I said is exactly how the Jehovah’s Witnesses operate. Do your homework people. We can’t allow these dangerous extremist groups to go unnoticed by the public.

  20. em_llo says:

    Absolutely wonderful! You’ve been able to capture the truth about our organization and the impact our work has on those who truly appreciate TRUTH! Very nicely written.

  21. David says:

    Very interesting article. Some of the comments posted after the article are encouraging, others not so much.
    It’s interesting that those who deal with the elderly all say that in a lot of situations, the Witnesses are the only contact they have during the week. Many of these older ones in our community don’t see their own family members as regularly as they see the Witnesses.
    As for Singapore banning the Witness, well, so did the Nazis … so do many other countries around the world … just like the Nazis … so enough said on that subject.
    Very informative article & I did read it with interest … now where’s that Watchtower that was left with me when they last called … ?

  22. Thanks for the information. You have done a wonderful job communicating your message. Keep up the good writing.

  23. estelle says:

    The apostle Paul wrote to the congregations- make sure of the more important things/carefully examine the scriptures to CHECK and to IGNORE things that furnish questions for debate. Common sense then….
    All Pauls letters to the congregations reveal that 1st century Christians didn’t have everything right even then – what chance have we?
    I hope I am one of Jehovah’s people and believe that when He steps in to relieve this sorry planet EVERYONE on it past and present will get their chance to choose Him or not as the case may be.
    I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses not a cult victim – neither am I a pseudo – Christian either- I exercised my free will to study the Bible MYSELF and so can you.

  24. Lynn R. May says:

    I’m one of JW’s, and I even know a couple brothers here who have posted….JW’s truely are a worldwide organization, and soon the vital message coming from the Watchtower, and Jehovah’s organization will give us new direction as to world change, and soon only Jehovah’s people will be remaining on the earth to enjoy everlasting life without end, so yes the hope from Gods word the Bible is really life saving…Will you be apart of it? This is JW’s message.

  25. Ann B says:

    All religions can be easily called a cult by those who belong to a different, perhaps, “rival” religion. But isn’t it logical to find out the truth about a person or group firsthand and not just blindly listen to anyone who likes the sound of their own voice or who perhaps has an agenda or even a grudge? Thank you Joel and thanks to the couple who decided to take you along so that you could make an informed decision about who the witnesses really are and what they really do.

    Witnesses make no assumptions about how their literature being from the mouth of God. They do however attempt, through much research utilizing secular sources, to make the Bible more understandable. They always direct all credit to the Bible alone. And organizational arrangements of the organization itself and the congregation’s make-up are also backed up by scripture. Both being without tradition ‘mudding the waters’, so to speak. That goes for the doctrine as well. This makes them markedly different than other religions. And yes, a religion made up of many imperfect people will have mistakes made by individuals from time to time. It’s refreshing that no one in the organization will let on that they are infallible. Much effort however is put forth to do everything they way that God would like them to.

    Thanks for a unbiased and informative article.

  26. Victor says:

    Brother Tom,

    I was raised with Jehovahs Witness beliefs and but I am what you call non-practicing. In other words I am not a member.

    So it doesn’t benefit mE one bit to sit here a respond to your comments item by iteM. But I will do so as it would be a shame for someone to not learn “the truth” based on your “opinions.” (So please see my comments In CAPITALS)

    Brother Tom says:
    June 19, 2010 at 4:04 am.

    Isolation of it’s members.
    NOT SO, THE REASONING BEHIND THE ACT OF DISFELLLOWSHIPPING IS SO THAT THE SINNER WILL SEE THE ERROR OF HIS WAYS AND DO WHAT IS RIGHT IN GOD’S EYES AND REPENT FOR HIS SINS. IT IS A LOVING DISCIPLINE BASED ON BIBLE DOCTRINE. IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THIS, THEN YOU DISAGREE WITH THE NEW TESTAMENT. AS THIS WAS PREACHED BY THE APOSTLES AND PRACTICED BY THE EARLY CHRISTIANS.

    Indoctrination of phobias about ever leaving the group.
    EVERYOEN IS FREE TO LEAVE.ITS NOT A MAFIA. THERES NO SUCH THING AS BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT. ITS FOOLISH TO THINK OTHERWISE. SIMPLY STATED, YES, WITNESS BELIEVE THIS IS THE TRUTH AND THAT IT LEADS TO SALVATION, ETERNAL SALVATION. SO ITS ONLY OBVIOUS THEY WOULD THINK LEAVING THE GROUP WOULD BE VERY BAD AS THIS WOULD MEAN SUCH A PERSON WOULD BE LEAVING JEHOVAH GOD, GOD HIMSLEF.

    Control of information to members about the history of the group. THERES A FEW BOOKS AND VIDEOS ABOUT THEIR HISTORY PUBLISHED BY THE WATCHTOWER SOCIETY. MAYBE YOU SHOULD ORDER THEM NEXT TIME THEY COME A KNOCKING. ;)

    Demonizing of anyone outside the group.
    Teach that salvation can only be acheived within the group.
    WITNESSES RESPECT ALL RELIGIONS BUT ITS OBVIOUS THAT THEY BELIEVE THEIR OWN IS THE ONLY WAY TO SALVATION. WHY ELSE WOULD THEY GO TO THEIR CHURCH IN THE 1ST PLACE. BESIDES IT CLEARLY STATES IN EPHISIANS 4:5-6 “ONE LORD,ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, ONE GOD ETC..”
    SO YOU CANT REALLY ARGUE THAT. THATS EXACTLY WHY THEY PREACH TO EVERYONE. “SO THAT ALL THAT HEAR THE WORD CAN BE SAVED.” NO DEMONIZING HERE.

    Teach that salvation can only be acheived within the group.
    THE BIBLE SPEAKS FOR GOD. WITNESSES ONLY PREACH THE GOOD WORD AS COMMANDED BY JESUS.

    Convince the followers that the leaders of the organization are the only people on the planet who speak for God.
    Remind the followers that questioning the teachings of the leaders is equal to questioning God.
    WITNESS DO NOT CLAIM TO BE PROPHETS. SIMPLY PUT WITNESSES STRICTLY ADHERE TO BIBLE TEACHINGS AND PRINCIPLES. THEY ARE NOT “FOLLOWERS OF MAN BUT RATHER OF GOD”

    Encourage the members to police themselves and report any dissenting opinions to the elders.
    THERE ARE ALMOST ALWAYS 3+ ELDERS IN THE KINGDOM HALL “CHURCH”. SO IF THERE IS EVER AN ISSUE WITH ONE YOU CAN ALWAYS SPEAK WITH ANOTHER. AND ELDERS ARE NOT PERFECT, AND IF ONE ACTS IN A MANNER THAT IS NOT IN AGREEMENT WITH BIBLE PRINCIPLES OR IF HE IS NOT FIT TO LEAD AS AN ELDER, HE IS REMOVED. WHERE ELSE DO YOU SEE THAT?? ALMOST NEVER.

    Only uplifting comments about the leadership is allowed.
    WITNESSES ARENT ROBOTS. EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO THEIR OWN OPINION. WHAT ISNT ALLOWED IS SLANDER. EITHER OF AN ELDER OR ANOTHER MEMBER OF THE CONGREGATION AS THIS IS CONDEMNED, ONCE AGAIN ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE. AS IS SAYS IN THE BIBLE “IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH YOUR BROTHER GO TO YOU BROTHER” ETC…AND “THOU SHALL NOT SLANDER”

    Remind the members that there is no honorable way to leave the group.
    YOU OBVIOUSLY NEVER HAD A REAL UNDERSTANDING OF THEIR FAITH. WITNESSES BELIEVE WITHOUT ANY DOUBT THAT JEHOVAH IS THE ONLY AND TRUE GOD. WHEN YOU BELIEVE THAT AND SOMEONE LEAVES HIS ORGANIZATION HOW ELSE DO YOU EXPECT IT TO LOOK? I MEAN, YOU CAN LEAVE, BUT MOST WILL THINK ITS SAD. AND THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS, ITS A LIFE OR DEATH ISSUE. WHEN SOMEONE LEAVES ITS NOT SEEN A SOMETHING THATS DISHONARABLE RATHER IT IS SEEN AS SOMETHING SAD. THAT IS WHY IN THE BIBLE ITS SAYS WHEN SOMEONE RETURNS TO GODS ORGANZATION “THE ANGELS THEMSELVES REJOICE”

    Inform the members that if they attempt to leave they will be treated as if the are dead by their family and “friends” still trapped within the group.
    ONCE AGAIN NOONE IS FORCED TO STAY. GRANTED YOUR FAMILY MAY FEEL YOU ARE DEAD AS THEY KNOW THAT IF YOU DO NOT RETURN BEFORE JEHOVAHS DAY OF JUDGEMENT YES, YOU’LL BE D.E.A.D. BUT THEN ALL RELIGIONS BELIEVE THAT IF YOU DONT ACCEPT GOD YOU WILL BE DESTROYED. THIS IS A COMMON THEM OF THE BIBLE.

    Use constant fear tactics in the propaganda that is distributed to the members.
    FEAR TACTIS?? OK “ACCEPT GOD AND LIVE FOREVER OR DO NOT AND BE DESTROYED IN ARMAGEDDON”. EVERY RELIGION BELIEVES THIS. SO WHATS THE ISSUE HERE?

    Convince the members that working for free for the organization by recruiting new members is “life-saving” work.
    UM, THEY ARE WORKING FOR FREE AND IT IS A LIFESAVING WORK. HELLO!
    MY MOM HAS PREACHED FOR OVER 4O YEARS AND SHE CERTAINLY FEELS SHES SAVING LIVES. AND SHES A PRETTY SMART LADY. BESIDES NOONE IN THE ENTIRE ORGANIZATION GETS PAID. NOONE, NOT THE GOVERNING BODY, ELDERS, MEMBERS ETC…THEY MAY GET THEIR LIVING EXPENSES PAID AT THE SOCIETY LEVEL, BUT IVE NEVER SEEN ANY ELDER OR MEMBER GET A PAY CHECK OR DRIVE A BENZ PAID BY CONGRAGATION DONATIONS. AS A MATTER OF FACT EVERY ELDER I KNOW HAS A FULLTIME JOB AND SOMETIMES 2. ITS VOLUNTEER WORK. AND IT IS THE ONLY CHRISTIAN RELIGION IVE SEEN WHERE NOONE GETS A PAYCHECK. INCLUDING THE MINISTERS (ELDERS).

    Warn the members that the “end of the world” is right around the corner.
    IT IS. HAVENT YOU SEEN THE NEWS LATELY? MATTHEW 24;14 SAYS IT ALL.
    DO YOU THINK THINK ITS GONNA GT BETTER? HUMANS ARE DESTOYING THE EARTH, WE ARE ON THE BRINK OF A GLOBAL DEPRESSION THERE IS A SERIOUS VIOLENT DIVIDE BETWEEN MAJOR RELIGIONS, AND JUST TO BREAK IT DOWN, EVEN IF NATIONS DO REACH “WORLD PEACE” HERES A FEW OTHER PROVE MY POINT:
    There are 1,423 murders per day in the world. So that means there is a murder every 1.64 second

    On the average, 1 person dies every second as a result, either directly or indirectly, of hunger – 4,000 every hour – 100K each day – 36 million each year – 58 % of all deaths

    THOSE 2 STASTICS ABOVE WILL MOST LIKELY NOT BE RESOLVED WITHOUT GOD’S INTERVENTION.

    SO I SAY THE STATMENT ABOVE IS PRETTY ACCURATE.

    Does this sound like warning signs of a dangerous doomsday cult that destroys families?
    IVE NEVER HEARD OF FAMILIES BEING DESTROYED BY BEING WITNESSES. BUT I HAVE SEEN FAMILIES GET DESTROYED BECAUSE THEY TURN AWAY FROM JEHOVAHS LAWS & THE WITNESS ORGANIZATION AND END UP ON DRUGS, OR TURN TO CRIME OR END UP CONTRACTING SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES DUE TO THEIR TURNING AWAY FROM GODS LAWS & MORALS.

    Well everything I said is exactly how the Jehovah’s Witnesses operate. Do your homework people. We can’t allow these dangerous extremist groups to go unnoticed by the public.
    ALL I CAN SAY IS READ YOUR BIBLE. IT SEEMS THAT YOU DON’T SO MUCH HAVE AN ISSUE WITH JEHOVAHS WITNESSES BUT RATHER THE BIBLE ITSELF.

    REMEMBER AS ITS SAY IN REVELATIONS 12:9 “SATAN IS MISLEADING THE ENTIRE INHABITED EARTH…”

    HE DOES SO WITH A MULTITUDE OF WAYS. FOR EXAMPLE, WITH CERTAIN MUSIC, MOVIES AND OR FALSE PROPHETS.

    AND SOMETIMES EVEN BY COMMENTS MADE BY SOME GUY NAMED BROTHER TOM.

    ;) LOL

  27. Lucia Rodriguez says:

    Well, I am glad to hear that the Watchtower is the most read magazine in the world. I think that the information is informative. Something else that I wanted to add. First, it is ignorance to call something “a cult” if you have not attended a meeting or have read and investigated in detail about it. The problem is that people want to live by the standards, doing immorality, lying to everyone, stealing when they can, and then what! If I tell you that, the people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses are all 100% happy I will be lying, but one thing I can tell you, they do try their best to follow all that the Bible teaches and that is something that no one else wants to do. Most people want to attend church but just follow doctrines that are not found in the Bible. That is the reason why there are so many broken families, so many terrible sexual transmitted diseases. If you would tell me that living an immoral life, it is the way to go, then why are not these people happy. Why everyday we hear of famous people who kill themselves. Shouldn’t they be happy being the fact that they have no rules and a great deal of money? I see people every day and most of them look so miserable. They wake up, go to work, work hard for the weekend so that they can go out with friends see if they can find some “adventure” or who they can take to bed that weekend…that is so sad. I am not saying that all people do that, because I know that there are honest hearted people all over the world, but I have to say, from my experience, that it seems that people act like animals or plants: they are born, grow, reproduce and die, and then what… Now, if you are someone that is against religions, it is understandable, in the name of religion so many massacres have been done. Nevertheless, that does not mean that everyone is the same. Also, just because someone was a witness and was disfellowship, that does not mean that they cannot come back. They absolutely can. When I asked a witness why they did this, they read me a scripture that the Apostle Paul wrote where it says that if someone is practicing something like fornication (sleeping with someone without being married) and that person wants to continue doing that, that the person should be removed from the midst of them and that they should not even eat with such person (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) so they are following Bible instructions. Now, those who keep saying that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a sect and that they are a cult, again, if you believe in something, shouldn’t you follow it wholeheartedly? I think you should. That does not mean that the Jehovah’s Witnesses get everything right, they agree that they have made mistakes in the past when it comes to Bible Truths that now that they have more light they can see how it applies differently, but even if you don’t like the religion, I am a very respectful person of all religions, because I do know that there are sincere people out there, but even so, it is wrong to wish bad for people like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They try their best to be good people. Believe me, if you lose your wallet, the best chance that you have to find it back is if a Jehovah’s Witness finds it. Besides, Jehovah’s Witness do not go to your door to force you to be like them, you can choose that option or you can nicely tell them that you do not want them to knock at your door ever again, and to make a note of that in their papers, and they will not call on you again for the next 6 months to a year (in case that you move and the next person wants to listen to them).Condemning someone or destroying their reputation is something of ignorant. If you don’t agree with something, just don’t follow it, but don’t spread things that you think about something and that you are not even sure about. I mean, I rarely here individuals talk about all the ugly things that the pope and fathers do in their churches. Immorality, rapes my God, that is truly disgusting. Again, just live your lives the way you chose to and be happy with it. However, let people like the Jehovah’s Witness live their lives and do what they think they should do as citizens. They feel happy doing that, going out to preach, teaching others. I have never heard of a witness that wants to kill you, or destroy you, and if there is one like that, I am sure that this person is soon to be an ex- Jehovah’s Witness. I find it funny when the witnesses are preaching and someone says: “Get a life” or “You #@##@#@** they just walk away. Let them do what they do, let time pass by anyways at the end we will see who was right and who was wrong, right? So why worry.

  28. Brother Tom says:

    Ann B says, “Witnesses make no assumptions about their literature being from the mouth of God.”

    A quote directly from the Watchtower Sept. 15th 2010 makes it quite clear that they want you to believe something different. Yes you can download these issues in advance off the internet. On page 13, paragraph 8 it says.

    “The Governing Body publishes spiritually encouraging literature in many languages. This spiritual food is based on God’s Word. THUS, WHAT IS TAUGHT IS NOT FROM MEN BUT FROM JEHOVAH.”

    I’m sorry but this is a huge warning sign of a CULT. The leaders of the group claim divine revelation and teach their followers that to disagree with them equals disagreeing with God. Have you ever met anyone on the Governing Body? Do you think God talks to them all at once, or does he whisper in their ears individually? Does God talk to them before they’re appointed leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses or does he wait until their invited into the Governing Body? Do you even know any of the names of these men who claim to be speaking for God? It’s okay to have doubts about what is being taught by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Something is definitely not right in the organization and many people are realizing this and leaving the group.

    Jwfacts.com is a great place to learn the truth about the Watchtower Society.

  29. Jon says:

    Very nice article! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I myself was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. I have had some doubts about the religion as I grew older, but after a thorough study of god’s inspired word, I have come to see that Jehovah is the Almighty god, creator of the universe. Also living in harmony with his requirements brings TRUE happiness that nothing else in this gross world will bring you. Also, it is my personal choice to live in harmony with bible principles and I suggest that all who want to find the answers to life study the bible with Jehovahs witnesses. May Jehovah continue to be with his people and guide and direct us into that perfect world that he has promised us!

  30. MARTHA says:

    i loved this article. very encouraging. the truth is we really can’t do this work without jehovah. Mt 24:14 says that the truth would be preached worldwide. Mt 28:19 says that we will have jesus helping us to the end. is any other religion preaching all over the world and reaching as many people and of so many languages as we are? the article gives us the answer: NO. so to what conclusion do we arrive… jehovah’s witnesses are known for their work and publications because we have jehovah, his holy spirit, and jesus on our side.

  31. Jer says:

    Once a Lutheran, I was taught to love our neighbor as ourself. My
    brother guarded German prisoners in 1945. They told him they were convinced by their Protestant and Catholic clergy that God was on
    Hitler’s side! THIS is their rebellious belief in EVERY country!
    Jesus said “all will know that you are my disciples IF you have love among yourselves.” For 300 years the early Christians preferred to die obeying Christ, rather than Caesar! PROVE THIS:
    Google: “War, Early Christians.” Isn’t that PROOF that today’s warring churches are rebels against Christ and early Christianity?
    Some 10,000 German Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to disobey Christ by killing Americans, etc. They did their part to win the war,
    not by ADDING soldiers to the Allied Armies, but by SUBTRACTING
    10,000 soldiers from Hitler’s armies!!! If they had copied the
    German clergy, their 10,000 may have killed 1000s of more of OUR relatives! Doesn’t supporting BOTH sides make clergy anti-Christ?

  32. Jer says:

    Once a Lutheran, I was taught to love our neighbor as ourself. My
    brother guarded German prisoners in 1945. They told him they were convinced by their Protestant and Catholic clergy that God was on
    Hitler’s side! THIS is their rebellious belief in EVERY country!
    Jesus said “all will know that you are my disciples IF you have love among yourselves.” For 300 years the early Christians preferred to die obeying Christ, rather than Caesar! PROVE THIS:
    Google: “War, Early Christians.” Isn’t that PROOF that today’s warring churches are rebels against Christ and early Christianity?
    Some 10,000 German Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to disobey Christ by killing Americans, etc. They did their part to win the war,
    not by ADDING soldiers to the Allied Armies, but by SUBTRACTING
    10,000 soldiers from Hitler’s armies!!! If they had copied the
    German clergy, their 10,000 may have killed 1000s of more of OUR relatives! Doesn’t supporting BOTH sides make us anti-Christ?

  33. Charlie Lee says:

    When I am offered these magazines I always ask this question: Which is more important these magazines or the Bible. The answer I am always given is “The Bible”.

    I always reply it can not be to you because if it was more important to you than the magazines you would show me the Bible.

    One day it happened I was offered the magazine by the same two who about two months before had told me that the Bible was more important than the mags. So I asked this question:

    ‘How is it the ‘light’ in the Bible does not change but the ‘Light’ in the Watchtower mag does change?’

    I was told that the ‘Light’ in the Bible is basic ‘light’ and the ‘light’ in the Watchtower mag is superior ‘Light’. – believe that about the Watchtower mag and you believe anything.

    Incidentally they went on to deny that they had said the Bible was more important!

    Very sad, very sad.

  34. dj root says:

    Thank you for publishing article. I had no idea that JW’s magazines were more widely published/read than any other in the world. I would assume that the Bible is more widely published. This was truly a wonderfuly written and informative article and helps everyone who reads it to know the quality of magazines that the Witnesses publish.

  35. Brother Brian says:

    When I read these comments, it really shows that Satan is busy trying to mislead people. I noticed comments from people who commented just to hijack the comments section with negative and false info. This article was about the most distributed magazine, yet some have chosen this as their platform in their failed attempt to discredit Witnesses. I only hope that anyone who has sincere questions about what Witnesses believe, please go to actual Jehovah’s Witness sources, not to those with their own obvious agendas. And verify what witnesses believe, directly from the Bible.

  36. ms beth says:

    I have been reading the Watchtower for many years and find it faith strengthening and upbuilding. We need such a source in these trying times for all. No matter the religion, we all face problems that are sometimes overbearing, and it is good to have people to share their faith and convictions with us as Jehovah’s Witnesses do. You don’t have to join their faith but at least listen to them and read their books because no one else is coming to your door to share anything worthwhile these days. And it is free of charge, it only takes a few minutes of your day.

  37. Joel, your article was very well presented. As a Jehovah’s Witness for about 48 years, there are some minor details that we could quibble about but overall your article was very well written. Thank-you for the work you put into writing your article.

    My comments here are for the benefit of others who may read some of the negative comments made by some who know very little, in fact, about Jehovah’s Witnesses and their organization. Like in many other areas of life, when it comes to voiceing our opinion, it seems that everyone is an expert! For those who think negatively about Jehovah’s Witnesses and our modern day organization, I’d like them to think about some positive factors involving Jehovah’s Witnesses and what they have done for all people, everywhere. For most of those who think and talk negatively about Jehovah’s Witnesses, I can state emphatically that the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their faithful members have done more for those individuals to earn them rights and freedoms they may very well never have enjoyed without Jehovah’s Witnesses funding the cost and putting the time and effort into going to court and winning them those freedoms and rights by methodically and systematically working through the court process from lower courts to the Supreme Courts of Canada and the United States and numerous other lands.

    And Jehovah’s Witnesses have never fired a shot or killed an individual of another race, religion, colour or creed in order to win the rights and freedoms, many of which are now embedded in the Constitutions of the United States and Canada and numerous other countries around the world and guaranteed to all citizens of those respective countries.

    So following are some excerpts from individuals who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, but who recognize and appreciate the valuable service that this modern day organization of faithful worshippers of their God, Jehovah, the true God of the Bible (Psalm 83:18) has provided and is providing to all people throughout the world without bias.

    Many people are unaware that Jehovah’s Witnesses have won more cases in the Supreme Court of the United States, fighting for rights and freedoms, than any other organization or group, with the exception only of the United States Government itself. It is not uncommon that the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses are winning rights and freedoms for people whose rights and freedoms have been or are being trampled upon by the very religious organizations or governments that those people themselves belong to and/or are supporting.

    The Supreme Court of the United States only accepts approximately 1% of the cases presented to them annually for a hearing. So about 1% of approximately 7000 cases presented to them annually for hearing. With that in mind, Jehovah’s Witnesses have WON 48 cases before the Supreme Court! That’s an amazing feat. No other organization or group, religious, military or otherwise, has accomplished that in behalf of their peoples. And of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses give all credit to Jehovah God and his angelic forces for what they are able to accomplish because we realize that it is all related to the sanctification of his name and his sovereignty. It’s not about us.

    Writing in the Toronto “Star” of October 4, 1976, Stuart Shaw states: “Freedom of religion and freedom of expression generally are a good deal safer than they were 25 years ago. And for that all Canadians — whatever they think about their theology — owe the Witnesses a debt of gratitude.”

    During the 1930’s and 1940’s, there were many arrests of Witnesses for doing this work (public preaching), and court cases were fought in the interest of preserving freedom of speech, press, assembly, and worship. In the United States, appeals from lower courts resulted in the Witnesses’ winning 43 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. Similarly, favorable judgments have been obtained from high courts in other lands. Concerning these court victories, Professor C. S. Braden, in his book These Also Believe, said of the Witnesses: “They have performed a signal service to democracy by their fight to preserve their civil rights, for in their struggle they have done much to secure those rights for every minority group in America.”

    “Through almost constant litigation [Jehovah’s Witnesses have] made possible an ever-increasing list of precedents concerning the application of the Fourteenth Amendment to freedom of speech and religion . . . And so, a body of precedent crystallizing rules regarding the limits of encroachments by the States has been developing. To this development Jehovah’s Witnesses have contributed the most, both in quantity and in significance.”—Bill of Rights Review, The American Bar Association, 1942

    “It is plain that present constitutional guarantees of personal liberty, as authoritatively interpreted by the United States Supreme Court, are far broader than they were before the spring of 1938; and that most of this enlargement is to be found in the thirty-one Jehovah’s Witnesses cases (sixteen deciding opinions) of which Lovell v. City of Griffin was the first.”—Judge E. F. Waite, Minnesota Law Review, 1944

    Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar and director of education programs at the First Amendment Center, wrote the above words on the Freedom Forum Web site, under the title “The Freedom of Faith.” Haynes continued: “Last week [the Witnesses] chalked up their 48th Supreme Court victory—an extraordinary line of cases that have significantly expanded First Amendment protections for all Americans.” He cautioned: “Remember this: If the government can restrict the freedom of one faith, it has the power to restrict the freedom of any faith—or all faiths. . . . Of course, people have a right not to listen—and to close the door. But the government shouldn’t have the authority to decide who gets to knock on the door. So two cheers for the Supreme Court.”

    Haynes concludes: “We all owe the Jehovah’s Witnesses a debt of gratitude. No matter how many times they’re insulted, run out of town, or even physically attacked, they keep on fighting for their (and thus our) freedom of religion. And when they win, we all win.”

    In a life of knocking on doors as Jehovah’s Witnesses, [the Witnesses] always believed they had God behind them. Now they have the U.S. Supreme Court, as well.”—Chicago Sun-Times, June 18, 2002

    The next time some Jehovah’s Witnesses interrupt your dinner, you might consider thanking them. In gritty dedication to their religious principles, this out-of-the-mainstream denomination of scarcely 1 million members [in the United States, appr. 7.5 million worldwide] has probably done more than any other institution to secure freedom of speech for individual Americans. . . .

    “For the Witnesses, going to the high court is a familiar routine. In more than two dozen cases (actually about 48 cases)over (73) years, they’ve effectively fought against the tyranny of the majority.”—USA TODAY, June 18, 2002.

    So with all due respect to the folks who sniff at Jehovah’s Witnesses as though they were some kind of pariah, realize that you owe them a debt of gratitude for what they have done for you and your family and friends and at no cost or obligation to you. And they have done that and are continuing to do that for citizens all over the world without fighting and killing as an excuse for winning and preserving rights and freedoms and regardless of your religious affiliation or your ethnic background. Of course, it is our aim to protect our fundamental rights and freedoms, but in the course of doing that we cannot protect our rights with protecting yours also. So you’re welcome!

    If you would like another source of information about who Jehovah’s Witnesses really are and the quality of individuals that make up our organization, please feel free to research the website ushmm.org. That is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It will give you a whole new level of respect for Jehovah’s Witnesses and the fact that they stood their ground in opposing the likes of Adolph Hitler, while even the largest religious organization in Christendom cowered and relented to Hitler’s demands to be hailed as the saviour of mankind, thereby replacing the real appointed Saviour, Christ Jesus and his God, Jehovah.

    For those who have commented on this forum who may be ill informed about Jehovah’s Witnesses or who have otherwise formed some erroneous opinions I would at least urge you to inform yourself properly by talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses when they call at your door and get the facts from the people who know. If you want to know what’s going on at Sears, would you go to Zellers for the answers? Ask the people who know, not people who have a gripe because our organization doesn’t bend to the whims and fancies of every Tom, Dick and Harry who thinks we should think like the world under Satan’s control.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  38. Very nice article for me. I live in Greece. The article says the facts. I thank you for your independent journalism. Keep up the good writing.

  39. Diane says:

    Hey “Br. Tom”—sounds like you are a disgruntled ex-Jehovah’s Witness who frankly, and if you were completely honest with yourself, could not live up to the moral fiber as the Bible so aptly encourages. You have spent a lot of your time and energy on your hate tactics now and I guess reading this article touting the values of the Watchtower was the perfect venue for your venom. That’s sad. We’re not here to argue with you, Tom, and if we met you at the door and you if you had the same opinions and viewpoints, well, we would do as Jesus admonished, “Shake the dust off your feet, and go”…you have the right to your views, but it sounds like you would like to start a nice-apostate organization so you can spread your hate…we don’t spread hate…sorry…you’re wrong on so many levels…the bible speaks to those with good heart conditions, and I am not a judge of the heart condition by no means, but it sounds like yours is not a good one…

  40. [...] New York Review of Magazine ha pubblicato una lunga inchiesta sulla Torre di guardia, intervistando redattori, direttori e [...]

  41. MC says:

    “The Governing Body publishes spiritually encouraging literature in many languages. This spiritual food is based on God’s Word. THUS, WHAT IS TAUGHT IS NOT FROM MEN BUT FROM JEHOVAH.”

    Did you not read this? It said the magazines are BASED on the bible not taking its place. The governing body does not claim to speak to Jehovah. Just that the articles they right are entirely based on the bible.
    By the way the European Union just past judgement saying that the witnesses and their literature were not extremist. And how can a religion be isolationists when they have regular jobs and are regularly offering to teach others their beliefs in the bible? You will see more withnesses then any other religions, because no other religion would approach you. So where is the isolationism?
    The following is a definition of a cult. Witnesses use no idols at all either.

    particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies.
    2.
    an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult.
    3.
    the object of such devotion.
    4.
    a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc.
    5.
    Sociology . a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols.
    6.
    a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
    7.
    the members of such a religion or sect.
    8.
    any system for treating human sickness that originated by a person usually claiming to have sole insight into the nature of disease, and that

  42. zach says:

    I have not been in service for three months but this article makes me miss it.

  43. lois says:

    I am not a witness but my family is. I will speak my peace and leave it at that. If you consider Witnesses as a cult, try looking up the word!!!! If you realize that a cult is a small group or fan on something… HELLO PEOPLE! There’s more than 7 million Witnesses around the world!!!!! and theres only about 7-8 billion people. come on now!
    As for the peron who wrote to look up jwfacts.com…. that is furtherest from the facts!!! Jehovah’s witnesses do not believe they are the only ones who are going to be saved. So get your facts right and maybe look up watchtower.org.
    Although i’m not a practicer of this religion, i do and will speak up for them!!!! It truly is blessed by Jehovah God(who is God) and if you ever run into one I suggest you take the time to hear them out and ask them any questions! They will answer them straight from the bible. And if they do not know it, they are humble enough to tell you and will find out and let you know!

  44. Mister D. says:

    You’re article hit Italy too, dude. Thanks for the nice information. Being on other side of the door isnt something that you can try every day. Seems nice, tho…

  45. Cindy says:

    I too am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and would like to thank you for an honest and enjoyable article. Many do not have good things to say about us because they won’t take the time necessary to get to know us. We are not a cult, we are not psuedo-christians we are some of the most loving and caring people you will ever meet. I pray one day you experience for yourselves what millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses do daily.

  46. BJ says:

    Fellow Brothers and Sisters, please do not give a response to those clearly entrenched in Apostasy. It’s obvious they have know better hope or answer for what we have come to love. The TRUTH. The fact this article was written says it all.

    BJ

  47. [...] alte Wachturm. Hand hoch, wer hätte das jetzt gewusst? Natürlich vor dem Lesen der entsprechenden Review bei The New York Review of Magazines (ging vor ‘ner Weile rum, via ist mir verloren [...]

  48. Demetrio Constantiny says:

    Since I was little, my father used to take us to different religions. However, once we(my sisters and I)took Bible classes with a Jehova Witness we discover the truth.

    After 30 yrs of knowing the truth, I am finally contemplating Baustism since that date I truly start to serve Jesus and God.

    Like someone said above, You can be in any other religion, but to be a Jehova Witness you must be clean in all aspects, if not you will be thrown out.

  49. Sister says:

    Forgive “brother Tom” for he knows not what he is talking about…… If anyone is in doubt don’t listen to just anyone, rather go and read, study and see for yourself. What you don’t know about Jehovah’s witnesses you can just ask them yourself instead of listening just anyone. The truth is the truth no matter what you say brother Tom. If anyone is misleading anyone I would say that would be you.

  50. Robert says:

    Very nice and neutral article. Always wanted to know why they are preaching so much. Enjoy the little insight you gave here.

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