to talk with the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
may be no religious organisation that engages in proportionately
more publishing than does the Watch Tower Bible and
Tract Society — proportionate to its membership, that
month Jehovah's Witnesses distribute millions of books,
magazines, and pamphlets, in dozens of languages. Most
of these are intended for non-Witnesses, as aids in conversion,
but some are intended for Witnesses themselves. One of
the handbooks used by missionaries in the field is titled
Reasoning from the Scriptures. The first printing of
the English edition, which came out in 1985, consisted
of two million copies, enough, at the time, so that each
Witness in America could receive three copies of the book.
The handbook covers 76 topics, ranging from abortion and
ancestor worship through paradise and philosophy to women
and the world. To each topic are devoted a few pages
and several questions.
of the topics clearly have been selected because they
concern beliefs peculiar to Jehovah's Witnesses. Others
have been included because they are held by those of other
faiths. This is especially true of Catholic doctrines.
Some of the peculiarly Catholic doctrines discussed
are apostolic succession, baptism as a sin-eradicating
sacrament rather than a mere ordinance; confession; holidays
and holy days, such as Christmas, Easter, and St. Valentine's
Day; the use of images; Marian doctrines; the Mass; and
purgatory. These alone constitute more than a tenth of
the book, an indication that the Witnesses see the Catholic
Church as a main target.
from the Scriptures begins with two how-to chapters, "Introductions
for Use in the Field Ministry" and "How You
Might Respond to Potential Conversation Stoppers."
The first of these gives suggested opening lines. "If
the introductions you are now using seldom open the way
for conversations, try some of these suggestions. When
you do so, you will no doubt want to put them in your
openings are given under the heading "Bible/God."
The first reads this way: "Hello. I'm making just
a brief call to share an important message with you.
Please note what it says here in the Bible. (Read Scripture,
such as Rev. 21:3, 4.) What do you think about that?
Does it sound good to you?"
the hook: "an important message." Everyone
likes a bit of gossip, right? Then come the Bible verses,
followed by questions. The missionaries don't tell their
listener what to think — at least not at this point.
Instead, they elicit his views. Once he gives them, it's
awkward for him to back out of the conversation. They
can toss out a few more questions, then make their point.
Another opening line under this section is this one: "We're
encouraging folks to read their Bible. The answers that
it gives to important questions often surprise people.
For example: ... (Ps. 104:5; or Dan. 2:44; or some other)."
Again, here the listener is told he'll be let in on a
secret. He reads the passages, is asked his opinion,
and then the Witnesses steer the conversation their way.
The leads given under the heading "Employment/Housing"
are more down-to-earth. "We've been talking with
your neighbours about what can be done to assure that
there will be employment and housing for everyone. Do
you believe that it is reasonable to expect that human
governments will accomplish this? But there is someone
who knows how to solve these problems; that is mankind's
Creator (Isa. 65:21-23)."
Good Government Ploy
bad, eh? How about this one: "We are sharing with
our neighbours a thought about good government. Most
people would like to have the kind of government that
is free from corruption, one that provides employment
and good housing for everyone. What kind of government
do you think can do all of that? ... (Ps. 97:1, 2; Isa.
introductions are grouped under headings such as "Crime/Safety,"
"Current Events," "Family/Children,"
"Love/Kindness." At the end of these introductions
are what might be called introduction continuers, lines
to use when missionaries are about to have a door slammed
in their faces. When many people in the area say, "I
have my own religion," it is recommended the missionaries
use this opening: "Good morning. We are visiting
all the families on your block (or, in this area), and
we find that most of them have their own religion. No
doubt you do too... But, regardless of our religion,
we are affected by many of the same problems — high cost
of living, crime, illness — is that not so? ... Do you
feel that there is any real solution to these things?
... (2 Pet. 3:13; etc.)."
many people say, "I'm busy," this opening is
used: "Hello. We're visiting everyone in this neighbourhood
with an important message. No doubt you are a busy person,
so I'll be brief." If the missionaries find themselves
in a territory that is often worked, they begin this way:
"I'm glad to find you at home. We're making our
weekly visit in the neighbourhood, and we have something
more to share with you about the wonderful things that
God's Kingdom will do for mankind." The second chapter
of Reasoning from the Scriptures instructs missionaries
in how to "respond to potential conversation stoppers."
The reader is told that "not everyone is willing
to listen, and we do not try to force them. But with
discernment it is often possible to turn potential conversation
stoppers into opportunities for further discussion. Here
are examples of what some experienced Witnesses have used
in their efforts to search out deserving ones (Matt. 10:
11)." Missionaries should not memorise these lines,
but should master them and put them in their own words.
The key is sincerity.
the person who answers the door says, "I'm not interested,"
follow up with this: "May I ask, Do you mean that
you are not interested in the Bible, or is it religion
in general that does not interest you? I ask that because
we have met many who at one time were religious but no
longer go to church because they see much hypocrisy in
the churches (or, they feel that religion is just another
money-making business; or, they do not approve of religion's
involvement in politics; etc.). The Bible does not approve
of such practices either and it provides the only basis
on which we can look to the future with confidence."
other responses to the "I'm not interested"
line are given.
Interested in Witnesses"
the person at the door is more specific and says, "I'm
not interested in religion," the missionaries should
urge him on by asking, "Have you always felt that
way? ..How do you feel about the future?" If the
person is more specific still and says, "I'm not
interested in the Jehovah's Witnesses," the missionaries
give this kind of response: "Many folks tell us that.
Have you ever wondered why people like me volunteer to
make these calls even though we know that the majority
of house-holders may not welcome us? (Give the gist of
Matt. 25:31-33, explaining that a separating of people
of all nations is taking place and that their response
to the Kingdom message is an important factor in this.
Or state the gist of Ezekiel 9:1-ll, explaining that,
on the basis of people's reaction to the Kingdom message,
everyone is being 'marked' either for preservation through
the great tribulation or for destruction by God.)"
Here you see peeping out one of the Witnesses' peculiar
doctrines — they don't believe in hell. They think the
un-saved are annihilated, simply cease to exist. Only
the saved will exist eternally. If the person at the
door says, "I have my own religion," he should
be asked, "Would you mind telling me, Does your religion
teach that the time will come when people who love what
is right will live on earth forever? That is an appealing
thought, isn't it? ... It is right here in the Bible
(Ps. 37:29; Matt. 5:5; Rev. 21:4)."
is another doctrine peculiar to the Witnesses. They think
the saved will live forever on a regenerated Earth. But
the "hook" they use is not peculiar to them.
who disagree with the Jehovah's Witnesses on many points,
use a similar technique. The Witnesses argue to the truth
of their position by asking, "That is an appealing
thought, isn't it?" Many people will conclude, "Yes,
it is, and therefore it must be true" — illogical,
perhaps, but that's how many people think.
will ask, "Wouldn't you like an absolute assurance
of salvation?" "Who wouldn't?" is the
reply, and, having given that reply, many people will
find themselves accepting the fundamentalists' notion
that one can have an absolute assurance of salvation (a
doctrine that arises from their belief that all one needs
to do to be saved is to "accept" Jesus as one's
"personal Lord and Saviour").
the person answering the door says, "I am already
well acquainted with your work" (a polite way of
saying, "Get lost"), the missionaries should
say: "I am very glad to hear that. Do you have a
close relative or friend that is a Witness? ... May I
ask, Do you believe what we teach from the Bible, namely,
that we are living in 'the last days,' that soon God is
going to destroy the wicked, and that this earth will
become a paradise in which people can live forever in
perfect health among neighbours who really love one another?"
as far as this section goes. The missionaries are not
told what to say when the person answers, "That's