I can envision it now; my poor, polite Mom, and the well dressed older ladies with the satchels, making their way up our stairs with stoic determination: unassumingly bearing their message of the upcoming apocalypse. My Mom is from the Prairies where her programming told her never to be rude or turn away a guest on your doorstep. The idea of answering the door and telling these ladies to go away; that she is not interested, goes against every fibre of her being. One time I can remember her answering the door, letting them, and politely listening to their pitch to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was around 7 or 8 at the time. I was given an orange, hard covered book of Bible stories; and as a voracious reader, read and reread those stories. Although, she was not going to be joining Kingdom Hall, she allowed those ladies to make their pitch.
Fast Forward to my adulthood. I have children of my own. My husband at the time, a dedicated Atheist and fierce debater, welcomed this generation’s well dressed, older ladies with open arms. Bring on the pitch! He would listen to what they had to say, the message being pretty much the same, but challenge their beliefs with open ended, thought provoking questions that kept them coming to the door time after time. It took them a few visits before they understood that his interest in what they were trying to sell was scientific only. He was never going to become a Jehovah’s Witness. Not ever.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were not the only visitors preaching the holy gospel on our doorstep. In Courtenay, a small town on the West Coast of Canada, we get lots of visitors from Utah on a mission – literally and figuratively. These visitors, come to our doors, with similar intent, dressed in a different costume – white dress shirt, dress pants, or a dress skirt and a black, well recognized name tag – the Church of the Latter Day Saints or, in plain speak, the Mormons; they were mostly young men, in their early 20’s, still a little wet behind the ears; coming to preach the message of Joseph Smith, a man who translated a message from god, inscribed on buried golden plates.
Although these religions share similarities; they are both under the umbrella of Christianity, they both follow the Holy Bible, they are both proseletyzing faiths; meaning that members must actively try to recruit new members, and they were both founded in the Eastern United States in the 1800’s, they are quite different in their philosophies.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that “god” has a name and he/she/it should be addressed by that name: Jehovah. They believe that referring to the supreme being as “God” is kind of like referring to all house cats as “cat” rather than “Fluffy” or “Muffin”. They believe that Armageddon is coming and only those who follow their “Truth” will be saved. If they don’t make it into Heaven, that is ok, because those who accept the “Truth” according to Kingdom Hall (specifically, the building that JW’s worship in, but generally, the governing body of the Jehovah’s Witness faith) will be resurrected to live in a paradise Earth – not as great as Heaven, but still pretty amazing. Famous for their rejections of most popular North American Holidays; birthdays, Christmas, and Halloween, Witnesses did not start out rejecting these holidays, but they became more conservative or strict over time with their rules. They are against military service, political activity, saluting the flag, singing national anthems, or any other activity that is seen to worship anything not related to Jehovah. The governing body for the Jehovah’s Witness faith is a counsel of Elders headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. Furthermore, Witnesses believe that Satan and his minions were cast out of Heaven in 1914, and sent to Earth, sparking the beginning of the “End Times” and that Armageddon is imminent and was supposed to have happened within the generation of those Elders alive in 1914. This has obviously not happened, and the Elders were force to retract and update their proclamation to redefine what “generation” means. There is obviously a lot more to the doctrine, but I wanted to provide a brief overview of Jehovah’s Witness’ beliefs.
Mormons or members of the LDS (Latter Day Saints) church, as they preferred to be called believe that Jesus Christ’s atonement for Man’s sins and his establishment of the original church. They follow 4 books: The Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. The LDS church was established in the 1830’s by Joseph Smith who, it is believed, found some lost passages passages from the bible written on gold plates by a lost tribe of Israelites. He was able to translate the scriptures into the Book of Mormon. LDS members believe Jesus Christ communicates directly to their president; whom they consider to be a modern day prophet. Unlike JW’s, LDS members are encouraged to be politically active, voting in elections and up on current affairs. Although both faiths operate on donations, the LDS church members are tithed 10% of their earnings; which goes to many international relief projects. Of particular note is the their belief in their reunification with God in the afterlife as part of him – sort of like a lesser version of Jesus Christ. Another interesting tenet of this faith is demonstrated in a “Sealing” ceremony; which is performed by an authorized church official. This ceremony, performed on married couples and nuclear families, binds them together for eternity so that they can continue to be a family or couple in the afterlife. In everyday life, they are told to abstain from alcohol, coffee, tea and tobacco. Unlike JW’s, Mormons believe there will be a second coming (or end of the current world) but don’t know when. They do believe it will be preceded by increases in natural disasters and wars, but it isn’t as big of a focus as it is for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
So there you have it; a somewhat superficial overview of the differences between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.