Jehovah’s Witness and Mormon, both are orthodox Christian denominations driven by common ideology of restorationism or primitivism Christianity. The founders of the denominations subscribed to the view that Christianity and the affairs of Church should be restored along the line of early period apostolic church in order to re-establish the pure and ancient form of the religion. Both the denominations look at the primitive church as the normative model to fix the faults and deficiencies in the application of Christianity. In spite of the common ideological commitment, the two denominations have a number of differences between them. This article focuses on some of the distinct differences between the two denominations.
Difference as to origin & evolution
Jehovah’s Witnesses: In 1870s, Christian Restorationist minister (church appointed preacher and overseer of religious and social ceremonies) Charles Taze Russell (1852 – 1916) founded the denomination in US. The concept was crystallized by the Bible Student Movement which was spearheaded by the followers of Russell. During 1880 to 1900 the movement was spread in England by the missionaries of Bible Student Movement. Within a span of fifteen years the movement spread to Canada, Germany, Australia, France, and other European countries. Russell used The Watch Tower magazine under his editorship and his own legal & publishing corporation namely The Watch tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania to spread the messages of Christianity in general and that of Jehovah’s Witness in particular.
After the death of Russell, the reign of the movement passed into the hands of Joseph Judge Rutherford. Rutherford introduced a number of doctrinal changes in the movement and alienated the organization from the influence of Russell’s followers. During 1930s the movement grew rapidly and the name Jehovah’s Witness was adopted in place of Bible Student Movement. Russell introduced absolute centralized control of the movement and made some striking amendments in the charter of Watch Tower which seemed controversial in the eyes of mainstream followers of Christianity. The sect was banned in Canada during WW I and during WW II the denomination members were barred from practicing the religion in Germany, Canada, Australia, and Soviet Union. The members of Jehovah’s Witness were persecuted in US, Canada, Russia and other countries. After Rutherford’s death in 1942, Nathan Homer Knorr, more democratic in thinking, became the President of The Jehovah’s Witnesses. Knorr transformed the centralized individual leadership to corporate leadership. In 1976, the leadership structure of Jehovah’s Witnesses underwent further change with the power or presidency passing to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Till 2014 there have been changes in doctrine as well as organizational structure of the denomination. The successive presidents of the society after the death of knorr were Frederick William Franz (1893-1992) and Milton George Henschel (1920-2003) and the present incumbent is Don A. Adams. As on August 2014, there were about 8.2 million Jehovah’s Witnesses all over the world.
Mormons: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more popular as Mormon Church is an orthodox Christian sect that was founded by Joseph Smith in 1830 CE in New York. Joseph Smith was a self proclaimed messenger of God, who claimed to have been instructed by God to restore the Church that Jesus Christ established but the tradition was lost after the death of the apostles. According to Joseph, messengers of God visited him and conferred upon him the holy authority to baptize Christians. Joseph strongly recommended polygamy as a part of restoration process of medieval Christian practices in the modern day Christian practices. Joseph also claimed that angels from heaven directed to a location underneath the ground where he found the book of Mormon, and which he translated from a very ancient language. The book contained description of pre-Christ primitive people who believed in Christ, before Christ was born.
During the period 1830 to 1840, the Mormons were hunted and persecuted by non-Mormons and followers of mainstream Christianity. After Joseph Smith was murdered by some non-Mormon Christians, the baton of leadership passed on to Brigham Young, who by his organizational prudence navigated the sect to the security of West America. Under the leadership of Young, the Church vehemently propagated polygamy by devoted Christians. This bizarre practice was the bone of contention with US Congress and also Catholics and Protestants. Throughout the 19th century, this single practice of plural marriage remained signature characteristic of the sect. However, in 1860 in the face of stiff resistance from within the Christian society, the then President of the Church Welford Woodruff announced the end of the plural marriage doctrine. After this several smaller groups within Mormon broke free from the LDS umbrella and formed denominations with Mormon fundamentalism. During 1880s Mormons were subject to state discrimination and even jailed and in some areas their voting rights got forfeited. After WW II, Mormon Church started to register international growth, mainly in South America, South Africa and erstwhile Soviet Union. In 1995, Gordon B. Hinckley became the president and prophet of the Mormon Church. Membership of Mormons surpassed 13,000,000 and by 2000 there were more than 100 Mormon temples were built in China, Japan, Philippines, America, Africa and all over Europe.
Difference as to Identity of God
Neither of the groups believed in the mainstream Christianity concept of trinity (God, Father, and Holy Spirit). But their ideas about God, Jesus and Holy Spirit are different from one another. Mormons consider worship God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as separate persons and worship all of them. Mormons believe that all humans are God’s children like Jesus Christ whom they know as Jehovah in the Old Testament.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Only God is Jehovah who’s only son is Jesus and Jehovah created all human beings. They consider Jesus as less than God. Unlike Mormons, they don’t believe Holy Spirit as a person but the power of God.
Difference as to Concept of Afterlife
Mormons believe that with death body and soul are separated and the soul continues to live to be resurrected or re-united with the body and that all people are resurrected by Jesus Christ and assigned to a kingdom of heaven.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that after death the spirit goes to sleep. As Jesus Christ comes back to earth, the sleeping souls of righteous Jehovah’s Witnesses will be resurrected, but only 144,000 people will be resurrected to the heaven and the rest will live in earth peacefully forever.
Difference as to Concept of End of the World
Both the denominations believe that after a massive turmoil on earth, Jesus would come back and reign as a king for 1000 years. But the two sects differ in their beliefs as to how Jesus will come back and what will happen after that. Mormons believe that Jesus will make a glorious come back, and everybody will come to know about it. The wicked people will be destroyed and only people with good deeds, both Mormons and non-Mormons will live on earth. During the 1000 year rule of Christ, Mormons would be doing God’s service, and after a final battle with the evil, the earth will be transformed into a celestial kingdom.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus has already come back in 1914 and will be visible at some time when all non-Jehovah’s Witnesses would be killed and earth will become perfect. The Jehovah’s Witnesses would take care of the earth for eternity as Adam & Eve did in the Garden of Eden.
Difference as Regards Scriptures
Mormons consider the King James Version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price as their scriptures, whereas Jehovah’s Witnesses consider the New World Translation of the Bible as their Scripture.
As regards medical practice Mormons have no reservations, whereas Jehovah’s Witnesses do not permit blood transfusions.
Mormons encourage active participation in politics, government and military, whereas Jehovah’s Witnesses abstain from participating in politics or military services.
Mormons celebrate religious holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions, but Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate any such occasions including Jesus’ birthday.
Mormons mandate all members to donate one tenth of income to the Church. No such mandate exists in case of Jehovah’s Witnesses and all donations are voluntary and the donors are anonymous.