The first misconception that I had about Jehovah’s Witness congregation members is that they were forced to knock on people’s doors and witness to them all of the time. This always gave me the impression that they were very aggressive individuals. I do not mind meeting with people in my home to talk about my religious beliefs. Evangelical groups and Mormon missionaries have often visited me. I don’t know if it is simply a matter of style or what, but the Jehovah’s Witness members that I would meet with always seemed tense and ready to argue. I was told that this is the case because they are required to spend a set quota of time each week knocking on people’s doors, distributing the Watchtower magazine and trying to convert people into Jehovah’s Witnesses. My research into this religion showed me that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not required to knock on doors. They do it out of a motivation to spread the Gospel of Jesus, as they understand it. There are no quotas as to the amount of time a person needs to spend in this type of activity but the Jehovah’s Witnesses do make it clear that witnessing as an expected part of the religion, be it door-to-door or otherwise.
I understand more fully now the doctrine and motivation that inspire Jehovah’s Witnesses to do what they do. The second coming of Jesus is central to their theology. They really believe that they need to get the word our now before it is too late. What I also learned from my research is the fact that when a special conference is planned, Jehovah’s Witnesses from surrounding areas will concentrate their efforts in order to try to convince people in the community to attend the conference (Byrd, 2011). My prior understanding of this religion was altered through this experience in several ways. First of all, I have a greater respect for the adherents of this religion. Through a greater understanding of their doctrine and after having met with several of them, I can see that my biggest misunderstanding was their motivation for door-to-door meetings. My early assumption was that no one would ever choose to do something like that unless they were compelled to do it. I believed in all of the rumors I had heard concerning quotas and that they would lose their chosen spot in heaven if they did not go out to try and sell the Watchtower magazine. My research helped me to see past these misconceptions and to view members of the Jehovah’s Witness church in a new light. Instead of seeing aggressive people that were knocking on my door because church leaders compelled them, I now see dedicated individuals committed to living their religion as best they can. This change has been brought about by thorough independent research and meeting with Jehovah’s Witnesses so I could get to know them. What has not changed as a result of my research, however, is the difficulty I have concerning several specific points of doctrine. The preoccupation with the return of Jesus is something that I understood the Jehovah’s Witnesses had going into the research. Their peculiar beliefs concerning the 144,000 chosen to live with God and the evolution of the Earth into a place like the Garden of Eden do not endear me to their religion. Nor does the fact that predictions have been made in year’s past about the coming of Jesus that have been proven false or have been rationalized by saying that the return was “secret” in some way (What…, 2008). The best way to sum up how this experience has altered my prior understanding of the Jehovah’s Witnesses would be to say that I have a greater respect for them as people and adherents of a faith, but even more questions and reservations