Jehovah’s Witnesses serve by sharing God
They preach door-to-door, by telephone and to anyone who will take time to listen.
They are members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and despite numerous misconceptions about their beliefs, their religious views rest entirely on faith.
Shasta O’Neal, Murray State administrative secretary for media services, said the religious beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses focus on a selected group of believers who are destined to serve God.
She said only a special 144,000 people will be chosen to be the servants of Jehovah in heaven.
“We believe that there’s a group going to heaven and a group staying on earth,” O’Neal said.
As for the afterlife, O’Neal said Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t recognize the existence of a hell. Instead, O’Neal said they believe in the common grave, or a return of the deceased to the earth. O’Neal said not every member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses will be accepted into heaven because there are only 144,000 destined servants of God.
But O’Neal said each follower must have faith in God’s plan.
“That person knows,” O’Neal said. “You just know you’re one of the 144,000. And our main goal in life is to follow Jesus’ footsteps as close as possible. Basically, to be balanced.”
Aside from the religion’s base beliefs, O’Neal said prayer plays a dominant role in the daily lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Prayer is something we do regularly everyday,” O’Neal said. “We meet together (as a congregation) three times a week.”
Because of the large number of church members, O’Neal said the congregation divides into two groups to allow everyone to worship and take part in theocratic ministry school, a program to help church members learn how to spread the word of Jehovah.
“We call, we go door-to-door, we write letters,” O’Neal said. “Whenever we get the guts up to (preach), we do it.”
Dustin Spears, sophomore from Murray, was baptized into Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2000. He said he chose to join the church after much of scriptural study and personal reflection.
“Growing up as a kid, I wasn’t actually a Jehovah’s Witness,” Spears said. “I listened to what (church members) said and it made a lot of sense to me. As a witness, you actually have to study up and know what you’re talking about.”
After this period of preparation, Spears said he also met with church elders to determine if he was ready to become a member. Spears said this method also allows incoming members to verify that becoming a part of the church is their own decision.
“Nothing is force-fed,” Spears said. “You take it pretty seriously.”
Since becoming a Jehovah’s Witness, Spears said he has encountered a mix of acceptance and opposition.
“A lot of people have different beliefs,” Spears said.
Of this opposition, he said there are a lot of negative misconceptions about his religious beliefs.
“I’ve been told I don’t believe in Jesus,” Spears said. “Some people believe we’re kind of a cult. Some people will take that preconceived notion as fact.”
Still, Spears said the teachings of Jehovah emphasize understanding.
“It’s all about if you don’t agree, let’s look it up in the bible,” he said. “We’re more than happy to say what we believe.”