Chapter 4 - Jehovah's Witness Culture


  • Sean N. Bennett, RN, MSN - Assistant Professor - Utah Valley University - Orem, Utah
  • Marisa V. Villicana, SN - Student Nurse - Utah Valley University- Orem, Utah
  • Amy Allen, RN, BSN - Utah



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The modern day culture of Jehovah’s Witnesses has continued to evolve for over a hundred years. What began as a small bible study group, has grown into a worldwide religious organization with over 7 million members, spanning a total of 239 nations. Only “active” members of the congregation are included in these numbers. Active members are those who regularly engage in door-to-door witnessing, averaging 10 hours a month. Including active and non-active members there are more than 16 million. As a result, their congregations are made up of people from hundreds of different cultures, ethnicities, and linguistic backgrounds united in one common goal, to honor the “God of the Bible and Creator of all things”, Jehovah. In addition, they preparing themselves for the battle of Armageddon and the beginning of the Millennium. Originally it was thought to begin while the generation of 1914 was a live but as that generation slowly faded away the church changed their stance and now it is believed that the year 1914 commenced the beginning of the last days and that any generation after the year of 1914 may be a part of the battle of Armageddon and the Millennium. Jehovah’s Witnesses engage in intensive bible study, which they believe to be inspired by God. In order to study and learn the principles outlined in the Bible, they gather in a place of worship known as Kingdom Hall. They meet at least twice a week, totaling their hours of worship to 3.5 hours a week. Every active member, or “publisher”, feels they have a responsibility to follow in the example of first-century Christians to share with people of all nations the Truth about God and his plan to restore earth to the beautified paradise it was always intended to be. Their principles and religious customs are guided by their literal interpretation of the Bible. Inactive members are those who do not participate in door-to-door witnessing. They are considered to be disfellowshiped and are shunned until “repentance”. Children who are not baptized are treated the same. They have often stirred up controversy for their unique beliefs about rejecting blood transfusions, not celebrating national or religious holidays such as Christmas and birthdays, plus their unwillingness to fight wars, salute the flag, and vote in elections. They strongly believe in living their lives according to the laws of God, and for this reason they do not participate in watching rated R movies and avoid song lyrics with sexual implications and are not allowed to dance provocatively. They believe in monogamy and that sex should be between husband and wife. If there are marital problems the couple is justified in a divorce only if adultery has occurred, otherwise the couple is to remain married. If a member engages in such activities they are also considered to be disfellowshiped, a long with any member who teaches dissenting theological views or who fraternizes with dissenters. The reason for this is not to condemn but rather to keep themselves pure in order to be prepared for the Millennium. They believe that by being obedient you can qualify yourself for eternal life. That is the purpose for all that they do, that through good deeds and righteous action, they can be provided to live in the kingdom of God for all eternity ( ).

Values and Norms


Members in the Jehovah’s Witness community are encouraged to be clean, not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually as well. Members cultivate their virtue through intense meditation on the Word of God. They believe that by meditating their gratitude for Jehovah increases as well as their desire to apply scriptural principles into their daily lives. A long with meditation they keep themselves clean by not participating in the practices that they believe God hates. Sexual sins are considered to be among the most grievous of sins one can commit and in order to remain pure one must not have sex before marriage nor commit adultery. They also do not support homosexuality, bestiality, incest or pornography. In order to avoid becoming greedy the Jehovah’s Witness must not gamble. They are allowed to drink beer and wine, but overdrinking or becoming drunk is considered a sin. They also condemn abortion as they believe that every human life is precious to Jehovah and thereby should not be taken. A long those same lines they are not to participate in war. Jehovah’s Witnesses will only participate in war when conducted by Jehovah himself during the war of Armageddon.

In order to protect themselves from participating in practices that would be displeasing to God, Jehovah’s witnesses are encouraged to avoid those who do not follow these requirements. Only once a person has completely forsaken their sin are they allowed to freely socialize within the community. If a person has questions regarding the social norms or how to help a loved one better live them they are able to refer to the church magazine, the Watchtower.

It is imperative for members to submit to these requirements because they are able to gain eternal life only if they are willing to adhere to all of them. As they stay true to what they are taught they are able to have hope for salvation.

Traditions, Beliefs and Attitudes


The beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are based purely on what is taught in the bible. They do not interpret it in order to suit themselves and they do not interpret everything to be taken literally. They believe that certain references in the bible are symbolic, such as the 7 days of creation, which symbolized an extended period of time.

From the bible they learn that the personal name of God is Jehovah and that he should be referred to as such. Witnesses do not believe in the Trinity, but that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore inferior to Him. Before Jesus came down to the earth he lived as a spirit known as Michael the Archangel and only became the Messiah after his baptism. The witnesses also believe that the Holy Spirit is only the force of Jehovah and do not recognize it as a separate entity.

Witnesses believe that the earth will endure forever and is currently being prepared to become the Kingdom of Heaven where Jesus will reign. This kingdom will come once the wicked have been expelled from off of the earth and 144,000 of the righteous will become co-rulers on the earth with Jesus. These 144,000 are the only ones who will be saved and allowed to live in Heaven.

In order to give everyone the chance to become one of the 144,000, Witnesses believe it is their duty to share this “good news” and consider it an honor to participate in this life-saving work. That is why each member who is baptized must agree to serve God as one of his witnesses. They are baptized by total immersion and are made clean to minister. Everyone is considered a minister and it is not required to take any type of clergy class. Witnesses also do not discriminate against any race or gender and welcome all to become a witness and a minister.



Jehovah’s Witness was founded by a man named Charles Taze Russell. He was born in 1852 near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to a Presbyterian family. During his youth it was a time of intense commotion among the different religions in America. At one point Charles found himself trying to convert an atheist and in turn began to question God and became Agnostic. It wasn’t until he stumbled upon an Adventist meeting that his curiosity about Christ and Christianity was renewed.

This renewed curiosity led Russell to begin an intense study of the bible. Through his studies, Russell redefined his beliefs in Christianity and started a bible study group. He had no intention of starting his own religion and never proclaimed to have received any “special revelation” or divine inspiration. He merely started the group in order to discuss the things of God. As the group continued to meet Russell began to write pamphlets and tracts in order to make public the group’s biblical findings. In 1879 Russell launched, Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, which today is known as the Watch Tower magazine.

As the group continued to study the bible they decided that some traditional Christian beliefs such as the Trinity, hellfire and infant baptism, were not valid and the group began to preach against these teachings. Russell also began to believe that William Miller’s chronological ideas had merit and through study predicted that the year 1914 would be the year that would change the course of mankind.

In 1910 Russell established the faint outlines of a religious community by creating an International Bible Students Association (IBSA). Upon his death in 1916 a man named Joseph F. Rutherford succeeded him as the President of the Watch Tower Society publishing company and the head of IBSA. Under the direction of Rutherford the group took on the name of Jehovah’s Witness and now has grown to over seven million members.

Sense of Self and Space


Jehovah’s Witnesses believe we are physical creatures, and not a spirit living in a body of flesh. We are the soul and the soul is us, with all our physical and mental qualities. They believe that when a person dies they go into a state of unconsciousness and nonexistence. They believe the Bible teaches that when Adam disobeyed God he was sentenced to return to dust, and simply cease to exist. Adam was never meant to die, but his sin brought death to the earth. Since there is no existence after death, God doesn’t punish those who sinned by sending them to suffer in hell, because when the soul dies the sin dies with it as well. They believe that when Judgement Day comes, the dead will be resurrected and along with the living, will be given the opportunity to prove their loyalty to God. People will see their dead loved ones again, and will be able to enjoy living in paradise here on earth for all eternity.

Although many Christian religions don’t consider Jehovah’s Witnesses to be Christians, they identify themselves as such. They defend their identity by pointing out they try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, and imitate him as much as they can. They are baptized into the religion by complete water immersion, and offer their prayers to God, in the name of Jesus Christ. They believe Jesus is the key to their salvation, and the one appointed by God to have authority over all mankind. They feel they are true Christians because they preach about the Kingdom of God, just as Jesus and his apostles did. However, they differ from other Christian denominations in that they don’t believe in the trinity, the immortality of the soul, hellfire, and clergy-laity division. Also, all of their preaching and teaching is shared amongst baptized members, who are all ordained ministers with equal rank.

Communication Style and Language


Jehovah’s Witnesses are known around the globe for their ministry efforts, publication, and distribution of various magazines, brochures, and books. They believe in order to spread the Word of God they must use all of the technological means available to them. Their publications are translated exclusively by members into hundreds of different languages. Through their official website,, they’ve expanded the number of people they can reach. Anyone who wishes to answer any questions they may have about the organization, and their beliefs, can visit the site and find the answers they’re looking for, and download any of the publications that are available.

Food and Feeding Habits


A passage in the book of Proverbs reads: “Do not come to me among heavy drinkers of wine, among those who are gluttonous eaters of flesh”. Witnesses believe drinking alcohol in excess and gluttony is wrong, as this would harm the body. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe blood is sacred in God’s eyes because it represents life. Eating blood is wrong and should not be done. Eating meat from an animal is acceptable as long as the animal has been killed and bled properly. If the animal died in a trap or was killed by strangulation, they will not eat it. If the animal was speared or shot, it should be bled quickly or else it should not be eaten.

Time Consciousness


Jehovah’s Witnesses believe we are nearing the “end of the present system of things” as evidenced by all the wars, natural disasters, famines, and suffering that has dramatically increased since the start of WWI in 1914. They believe current events indicate the time for God to free us from all suffering is drawing nearer with every day that passes. They feel mankind needs to prepare themselves by learning the Word of God from the Bible, which will teach mankind how live and enjoy better lives now, and prepare them for the everlasting life they will enjoy on this earth in the future. They believe it’s of vital importance to share these “good news” with everyone through their doorstep ministry and open invitations to attend their worship meetings. Their purpose is not to push anyone to convert to their faith. They simply wish to follow in the example of Jesus Christ, and his apostles by sharing their “good news” with those who wish to hear it.

Relationships and Social Organization


Maintaining a happy family life pleases God, and is therefore very important to Jehovah’s Witnesses. A husband should love his wife and children, provide for all their needs, and treat them as Jesus treats his followers. A wife complements her husband, and should assist in the raising of their children. Together they should teach their children to obey them, and follow the principles the Bible teaches. Parents should care for their children and and always treat them with love. They should never use harsh or cruel methods to discipline their children. Parents must also care for the spiritual and emotional needs of their children by spending quality time with them, and engaging in frequent Bible study.

Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain close relationships with fellow members of their faith. They treat and refer to each other as “brother" and “sister”. Their organization is made up a Governing Body of experienced male elders, who recognize Jesus as the Head. The Governing Body oversees the translation, print, and worldwide distribution of their Bible study materials, and provides direction to the more than 100,000 congregations in over 230 countries. The congregations hold meetings two or three times a week in a place called a Kingdom Hall. These meetings are led by men who serve as elders or “overseers”. These elders do not hold elevated tittles, they dress the same as everyone else, and willingly provide for the spiritual and emotional needs of the congregation, without monetary compensation. All of their work is financed by the voluntary donations of members. They do not tithe, and instead place contribution boxes in their meeting places so that anyone who wishes to make a donation can do so anonymously. Jehovah’s Witnesses feel they are the happiest family on earth because they please God by helping others.

Education and Learning


Acquiring higher education is not discouraged, as long as it doesn't interfere with pleasing God. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they should refrain from pursuing higher education to gain riches and prestige in the world. It is best to only pursue the education they will need to meet their basic needs, so they can focus most of their time to serving God.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe studying the Bible pleases God. They organize their lives around their Bible study and doorstep ministry. After the 45-minute public Bible talk, which is usually held on Sundays at a Kingdom Hall, they will engage in a “Watchtower Study” for an additional hour to discuss the “study articles” featured at the end of every Watchtower magazine. The purpose of studying these articles is to help clarify important Bible principles. The congregation meets again at a Kingdom Hall on a different day that same week to study and associate with each other. Two back-to-back meetings are held that day. One is called the “Theocratic Ministry School” and the other the “Service Meeting”. During these meetings a few people are chosen to perform a speech to be critiqued and evaluated by the rest of the congregation. They also learn how to improve their missionary skills by practicing on each other. On another day a one-hour meeting called the “Congregation Book Study”, made up of smaller groups, will be held at a Kingdom Hall or at the home of a member. During this meeting they will again study the material featured in the recent Watchtower publication. Apart from these study sessions, Jehovah’s Witnesses also engage in private Bible study because they believe it brings them closer to God.

Work Habits and Practices


Jehovah’s Witnesses devote a great deal of time to their Bible study, and doorstep ministry. They invite anyone who wants to learn the “Truth", to share in their Bible study sessions and worship God in their Kingdom Halls. They feel these things are more important and valuable than gaining material riches. They believe making a living is needed to provide clothing, food, and shelter for themselves and their families. But by placing God first, they believe they will “draw closer to God”. Prayer and meditation is important and builds a close relationship to God. Bearing “Witness” of their beliefs to others, following the principles outlined in the Bible, and nurturing their faith through prayer and meditation are just some of the ways they feel will lead them to live happy and healthy lives.



Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible encourages the caring and protection of the body. They accept medicine and medical treatments as long as they don’t conflict with Bible principles. For this reason they don’t take part in occult healing practices (faith-healing), and most importantly they don’t accept blood transfusions because they believe the Bible forbids the taking in of blood to sustain the body. This involves the administration of whole blood products, and the storing of their own blood to be transfused back during surgery. Some will accept alternative methods used during surgery that don’t involve the storing of blood. However, the use of blood fractions is a matter of personal choice. To assure their wishes are honored, Witnesses carry an Advanced Medical Directive/Release card stating their refusal of blood transfusions, regardless of the circumstances. Although the Bible forbids the taking in of blood, they don’t believe it forbids the taking in of tissue or bone. While some may choose not to accept an organ transplant or donate their own organs, the matter is a personal decision. They oppose abortion, but if during childbirth both the mother and the child can’t be saved, the ultimate decision is left for the couple involved. . . As a Registered Nurse (RN), it would be important to recognize:

  1. Every patient has the right to refuse any medical treatment they believe goes against their religious convictions, and will cause them undue spiritual harm and distress. The nurse should explain all diagnoses and the medical treatment recommended for treatment, while ultimately respecting the decision of the patient.
  2. Many hospitals have “Hospital Liaison Committees”, which are formed by a body of Elders experienced in consulting with medical staff, and knowledgeable in the various options available to Witnesses who do not wish to take in blood products. They’re also there to offer emotional and spiritual support to the patients and their families.

See Also





External Links







1. Jehovah’s Witness official Website [1]

2. Frequently Asked Questions About Jehovah’s Witnesses. Retrieved from: [2]

3. Book: What Does God Require of Us? Retrieved from: [3]

4. Article: Who Are They? What Do They Believe? Retrieved from: [4]

5. Article: Should You Believe in the Trinity? Retrieved from: [5]

6. Article: What is Judgement Day? Retrieved from:]

7. Article: Who Are They? Retrieved from:]

8. Bible Questions: Get Accurate Answers! Retrieved from:]

9. Article: Temporary Residents in a Wicked World. Retrieved from:]

10. Article: How Can Blood Save your Life? Retrieved from:]

11. Knox, Z. Writing Witness History: the histography of the jehovah’s witnesses and the watch tower bible and tract society of pennsylvania. (2012). The Journal of Religious History. Vol 35 (2). doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9809.2010.01030.x

12. Smith, A. Care of the older person: a jehovah’s witness perspective. (2010). Nursing and Residential care. Vol 12(2).

13. Wah, C., R. An introduction to research and analysis of jehovah’s witnesses: a view from the watchtower. (2001). Review of Religious Research. Vol 43(2).

14. Guidelines For Health Care Providers Interacting With Jehovah’s Witness and Their Families. Retrieved from:]

15. Book: Good News from God. Retrieved from:]

16. Book: What Hope for Dead Loved Ones? Retrieved from:]

17. Jehovah's Witness History retrieved from :