“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

July 7, 2009

How to Become a Jehovah's Witness

Here they come, walkin' down the street. They get the funniest looks from everyone they meet. Hey, hey, it's the Watchtower, and they're not monkeyin' around. They're too busy preaching to put any body down.

Oh, wait. Come to think of it, Jehovah's Witnesses do put down the Catholic Church pretty darn hard. In fact, their whole theology is grounded upon the notion that the Catholic Church is the spawn of Satan. This former Jehovah's Witness takes you inside the local JW Kingdom haul and explains how the world's most effective door-to-door conversion machine is targeting you.

— By Kenneth Guindon, Envoy Magazine, 1997 —

It's early 1956, and I'm seated in a long, narrow building in Venice, California, that used to be a laundromat. It still looks like one. The walls are bare of decorations, painted some nondescript pastel color. Small windows near the ceiling let in some sunlight, but the main light comes from the rows of fluorescent lights that hum and flicker above my head. A podium is perched front and center on the stage at the far end of the room. It's really just a well-furnished, drab little box of a meeting room, but everyone around me calls it the Kingdom Hall.

That was my first visit to what Jehovah's Witnesses respectfully call "The House of Jehovah." A large banner hung over the stage proclaiming a Scripture text I can no longer remember. Other than that one prop, there was no other evidence that Jehovah had anything to do with the place. Being raised Catholic, I understood "going to church" to mean prayer and worship, so my first visit to the Kingdom Hall was an experience very different from what I was used to. I had been invited to attend the lecture and remain for a "Bible study" using The Watchtower magazine.

The Watchtower, a slickly-produced, full-color magazine, is the official source of the teachings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the official name for the Jehovah's Witness religion). Balancing my Bible, a notepad and a copy of The Watchtower on my knee, I waited expectantly for the meeting to begin.

When we were told to stand for the opening prayer, my ingrained Catholic habits took over. Without thinking, I raised my right hand to my forehead and began making the sign of the Cross. Suddenly, realizing where I was, I sheepishly lowered my arm and looked out the corner of my eye, hoping no one had seen me. A few had, but no one said anything. I kicked myself mentally, reminding myself that I still had a lot of Catholic training to forget.

Compared to the Catholic Mass, my first impression of the meeting at the Kingdom Hall was that it was weird and pretty boring. I was neither expecting, nor comfortable with, the dry question-and-answer-style format. It reminded me too much of school. But in some ways, ironically, it seemed a lot better than the Catholic parish I had attended.

The Traditional Latin Mass I had been raised with was far more outwardly impressive than the stripped-down JW "meeting," but on the negative side, Catholics were aloof. At our Catholic parish, nobody went out of his or her way to greet me, or anyone else for that matter, and why should they have? I was just another kid attending Mass. The Jehovah's Witnesses were anything but aloof. They smothered me with attention and acceptance.

Here I was welcomed by everyone, and I mean everyone. "Mrs. Jones," the lady who brought me to the meeting, introduced me to all her friends and to any young person she spotted. (It seemed odd to hear people call her "sister." She wasn't a nun, just one of the members, but everyone here called each other "brother" or "sister.")

I didn't know it, but Mrs. Jones had already informed most of these folks that I was facing lots of opposition from my parents, who were very antagonistic toward Jehovah's Witnesses. Armed with that knowledge, the congregation overwhelmed me with hearty glad-handing and a very welcoming atmosphere.

I was warmly greeted, politely encouraged, endlessly patted on the back and repeatedly told how very glad everyone was to see me and to hear of my "progress in the truth." JWs constantly use the expressions "in the truth" and "in the world" (cf. John 17:14-19).

The one who is "in the world" or "part of the world" is not "in the truth." One who is in the truth is one who has come out of the world, which means he has become one of Jehovah's Witnesses. At first, the name "Jehovah" was strange to me, but I quickly became accustomed to hearing it and even began using it myself.

Within a short period of time, I wanted very much to become a true worshipper of Jehovah God. In 1956, JWs numbered less than 800,000 worldwide. I was proud and grateful to be part of the faithful few. By becoming a Jehovah's Witness, I had done something very like joining Noah's family just before the Great Flood. I would be among the few survivors of Armageddon. . . .
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  1. Very important piece, I have entertained many a JW on my front porch for fun, but once I let them in and they were getting bothersome, so I suggested we pray. As soon as I lifted my hand to touch my forehead saying "In the Name. . " they bolted out of the house.

  2. As a convert catholic with a wife who is former Jehova Witness, this is a very interesting piece. While we have been visiting different parish's; there has been no resistance from my wife with respect to converting to catholicism. Once my wife began to listen to what I was learning about Jesus, Mary, the new covenant and Mary being the Immaculate Conception and Queen of Heaven, everything has begun to fall into place. My entire family, once protestants, are being led to the catholic family. Thanks for everything you do Patrick and may God continue to pour his blessing out on you.


  3. A great piece. In my many encounters with JW's I didn't realize how far down the path I had already gone. And here I thought I was being a good Catholic. My favorite encounter with a JW group was when they started to argue with me about how (in what position) Jesus was nail to the cross. ( hands out to the side or above his head) and how people who believe it was out to his side were wrong and being fooled or lied to. After about three or four minutes of listening to them I ask, "Does it really matter? He was put to death in an incredibly painful manner no matter how you look at it, does his quantity of pain really mean that much to you?" I am happy to say that this stumped them long enough for me to excuse myself. "I am sorry my family and I were in the middle of a rosary when you interrupted us." I wish I had been clever enough to use that line. Thank you Patrick you are doing a wonderful job.

  4. "How to become a Jehovah's Witness"? Surely you jest!! Seems you would have those you have so deceptively lured to your sight believe . . . OH, wait! What, prey tell, are you "pushing" other than an open wallet? Not to mention that you are hoisting yourself toward the level of Saint.

    When next you look to try some thing new, perhaps you could try 'truth in advertising' for a change.

  5. can i ask sir how many years will someone become a jehovah's witness??!!