Jehovah’s Witnesses Denomination

Profile of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Watchtower Society

Jehovah's Witness Baptism
Bettmann GettyImages

Jehovah's Witnesses, also known as the Watchtower Society, is one of the most controversial Christian denominations. The church is best known for its door-to-door evangelism and its belief that only 144,000 people will go to heaven and the rest of saved humanity will live forever on a restored earth.

Jehovah's Witnesses: Background

Jehovah's Witnesses was founded in 1879 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) was one of the prominent founders. Jehovah's Witnesses number 7.3 million worldwide, with the largest concentration, 1.2 million, in the United States. The religion has more than 105,000 congregations with a presence in 236 countries. The church's text includes the New World Translation of the Bible, The Watchtower magazine and Awake! Magazine.

The Governing Body, a group of experienced elders, oversees the church's activities from world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. In addition, more than 100 branch offices around the world print and ship Bible literature and also direct the organizing of the preaching work. About 20 congregations form a circuit; 10 circuits form a district.

Notable members of the church include Don A. Adams, current president of the Watchtower Society, Venus and Serena Williams, Prince, Naomi Campbell, Ja Rule, Selena, Michael Jackson, Wayans brothers and sisters, Mickey Spillane.

Jehovah's Witnesses Beliefs and Practices

Jehovah's Witnesses hold services on Sunday and twice during the week, in a Kingdom Hall, an unadorned building. Worship services begin and end with prayer and may include singing. While all members are considered ministers, an elder or overseer conducts services and usually gives a sermon on a Bible topic.

Congregations usually number fewer than 200 people. Baptism by immersion is practiced.

Witnesses also gather once a year for a two-day circuit assembly and annually for a three or four-day district assembly. About once every five years, members from around the world get together in a major city for an international convention.

Jehovah's Witnesses reject the Trinity and believe that hell does not exist. They believe all condemned souls are annihilated. They hold that only 144,000 people will go to heaven, while the rest of saved humanity will live on a restored earth.

Jehovah's Witnesses do not receive blood transfusions. They are conscientious objectors as far as military service and do not participate in politics. They do not celebrate any non-Witness holidays. They reject the cross as a pagan symbol. Each Kingdom Hall is assigned a territory for evangelization, and meticulous records are kept noting contacts, tracts distributed, and discussions held.

Sources: Jehovah's Witnesses Official Website, ReligionFacts.com, and Religions in America, edited by Leo Rosten.