The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, and the Jehovah's Witnesses are Christian sects based in the United States. Both religions were founded during the late 19th century in the United States: Joseph Smith established the Mormon Church, while Charles Taze Russel founded the Jehovah's Witnesses. Today, both faiths have a global membership.
Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in the Trinity, a Christian doctrine that states that a unified godhead is composed of three essences: God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit. Mormons believe that, although these three beings work so closely together that they might be considered a single unit, God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are actually three separate persons with different roles. Witnesses believe that God alone is divine; God is also a single being, while the Holy Spirit is his force at work. They do not believe that Jesus Christ is God, nor that he was equal to God. Instead, he was completely man and was God's son.
Although Mormons believe that the Bible is God's holy word, the Book of Mormon is equally revered, and Mormons study it along with the Bible. The Book of Mormon is "another testament of Jesus Christ," and recounts the history of a group of Hebrews who migrated to North America from present-day Israel. Mormons also read the "Doctrine and Covenants" and the "Pearl of Great Price," both of which contain revelations of the church's founder, Joseph Smith. Witnesses believe, like most Christian sects, that the Bible is the sole testament of God. However, they use a version of the Bible translated by the church, referred to as the "New World Translation."
Mormons believe that following death, a person's spirit is separated from the physical body and goes to either the "Spirit World" or "Spirit Prison." Here, spirits wait until the Last Judgment, the time when spirits will be rejoined with their physical bodies and be cast either into one of three levels of heaven -- the Celestial, Terrestrial or Telestial kingdoms -- or hell, which is referred to as the "outer darkness."
Witnesses do not believe in hell; existence stops completely at the time of death. At the time time of resurrection, Witnesses believe only 144,000 people -- the "anointed" -- will go to heaven, while the wicked will be obliterated by death. Others who are resurrected will spend the rest of eternity on earth, which will be transformed into paradise.
Other Social and Religious Customs
Mormon religious customs include "ordinances," or religious rites. Several of them, including the ordinance to be married at a Mormon temple, are necessary to reach "exaltation," or the highest level of heaven. At the time of the temple endowment, when they promise to keep the convenants of the church, Mormons are given special temple garments they must wear underneath their regular clothing at all times, except when they bathe or swim.
Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas or Easter, as they believe that these holidays are not holy and are tainted by other belief systems. They also abstain from celebrating birthdays, and refuse to participate in government-based activities such as military service. Members can be "disfellowshipped" if and when they commit what the church considers serious sins, such as adultery. However, those who are disfellowshipped may eventually be reinstated after they repent.
- BBC: Mormons at a Glance
- BBC: Jehovah's Witnesses at a Glance
- Britannica: Trinity
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: Godhead
- BBC: Scripture -- The Mormon Holy Books
- Britannica: Doctrine and Covenants
- Britannica: Scriptures
- BBC: Beliefs
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: The Postmortal Spirit World
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: The Last Judgment
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