The more you know

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Michael Haanpaa is an elder in the Gardnerville Jehovah’s Witness congregation. He’s been a baptized JW since 1975, and he makes a living making technology work for businesses and homes.

Michael Haanpaa is an elder in the Gardnerville Jehovah’s Witness congregation. He’s been a baptized JW since 1975, and he makes a living making technology work for businesses and homes.

Photo By D. Brian Burghart

I was raised by parents who searched many religions before I was born and became Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was quite young. By the time I reached my early teens, I’d seen that my family’s beliefs were different from the kids I went to school with, as well as the majority of people in our community. I decided to look deeper into our beliefs because I had started to learn about other religions and was disillusioned with the hypocrisy that seemed to be a major part of most religious people’s lives. I couldn’t see something as pervasive in my life as the faith I practiced being something I would allow someone else to decide for me.

So I wanted to learn: What made Jehovah’s Witnesses different?

I certainly didn’t figure it all out as a 13-year-old, but I learned enough in my teens to make what had been my parents’ faith mine, and have added to and reinforced these basic ideas through a thorough study of the Bible. And really, that’s the basis for everything that makes us different. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God, and instead of adhering to a creed based on human tradition, we hold to the Bible as the standard for all our beliefs. Our study of the Scriptures and accepting only beliefs completely supported by the Bible makes it so we cannot accept many doctrines widely accepted as basic to Christianity because they are simply not supported by the Bible.

Some examples: We believe there is only one true God, and his name is Jehovah. We believe he wants us to have a personal relationship with him, so he gave us his name and a very detailed record of his past activities, his purpose for mankind, and how to not only please him but also live the best life possible by obeying his standards found in the Bible.

We believe Jesus is not the Almighty God, or part of a Trinity that defies logic, but is the Son of God, the primary one who carries out God’s purpose, and the one through whom salvation is possible because of the love he has for mankind, which was shown by his giving his human life as a ransom for all. He has been ruling as King since 1914 in the heavens and will soon extend the benefits of the Kingdom promised in the scriptures to the whole Earth.

We believe that God’s Kingdom is the only hope for mankind, that it is a real government, that it will soon destroy the present wicked system of things, including all human governments, and that it will produce a new system in which righteousness will prevail. Jehovah’s Witnesses are already living as subjects of that Kingdom, so following the pattern of first century Christians, it would be inappropriate to participate in war or do anything that would compromise our neutrality with regard to the politics of any country we live in. This allows us to be fully integrated, with no ethnic, racial, social or class divisions. It also allows global unity; I know I can go to any congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, anywhere in the world and find people who believe exactly as I do.

We believe the Bible’s teachings about death. The dead are conscious of nothing, they cease to exist, so they can’t be tormented eternally in hell, but instead are in God’s memory awaiting a resurrection to a paradise Earth.

We don’t have a clergy class. Everyone in the congregation, young and old, male and female, follows Jesus’ command to preach “the good news of the kingdom,” from door to door and by any other means that works in our area.

Our elders, teachers and missionaries collect no salaries, so no tithing or collections are needed, and voluntary donations cover our expenses.

This is not a complete list by any means of the differences between Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religions, but these were enough to convince me as a young man. The more I learn and experience continues to reaffirm my belief that we are practicing the same form of Christianity Jesus’ apostles did in the first century.