Similarities Between LDS and JW’s

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I was doing some research this morning on the origins of the Jehovah’s Witness organization, and could not help but notice several striking similarities between the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) and the Church of Jesus of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). Here are just a few of these similarities. I’m sure there are several others. 


1) The founders came out of and were disgruntled with evangelical Christianity. Charles Taze Russell came out of the Presbyterian movement and Joseph Smith’s family attended a Methodist church (both before and after the claimed “First Vision” experience). 


2) After the death of the founder, there was disgruntlement over who should be in authority and splinter groups broke off. Both groups have splinter groups that call themselves “fundamentalists,” claim to follow the original intentions and teachings of the founder, and believe the mainstream organization has gone apostate. 


3) Both groups piggy-backed off of cultural movements of the day within fringe “Christianity.” Russell was caught up in the Adventist movement of William Miller (which also gave rise to the Seventh Day Adventist church). This movement centered heavily around the belief that Jesus came back in an invisible way around the time frame of World War 1 after failed prophecies by William Miller. Smith, and also Sidney Rigdon, were associated with the Restoration movement (which gave rise to the Christian Churches, Church of Christ (instrumental and non-instrumental) as well as the Boston/Los Angeles Church of Christ) started by the Campbell’s. This movement believed that the church needed to be not just reformed, but restored. Another formative factor for Smith were the burial mounds near his home in upstate New York that drew the curiosity of many as to their origin. Smith would later claim that the angel Moroni lead him to one of these mounds to uncover the gold plates which would become the Book of Mormon.


4) Both groups devalue the authority of the Bible. JW’s do this having their own translation of the Bible called the New World Translation, which was not the work of Greek and Hebrew scholars and intentionally removes references to the divinity of Christ. LDS do this by their claim that the New Testament in our possession had “many plain and precious truths” taken out by malicious scribes, along with their other scriptures. Both groups do this by placing a select few with ultimate authority to interpret the text and dictate truth from the top down, which is not to be challenged or questioned. 


5) Both groups devalue Jesus. Jesus for both groups is the first created being and not God or equal with God. Neither group allows the symbol of a cross to be used by their people or in their churches. The LDS take this a step further in their “unofficial doctrine” that God was also once a man and will always be subject to his “Heavenly Father.” 


6) Both groups emphasize the “one true church,” pointing to Ephesians 4 (one faith) and John 10 (one flock) to prove this. They also point to the existence of Christian denominations as a sign of disunity that proves that none of those groups can be the one true church.


7) Both groups have changed their theology dramatically from their origins. The JW’s had to constantly change their theology on the Second Coming after failed prophecy after failed prophecy. LDS have strayed from their original teachings on blacks in the priesthood as well as polygamy as a prerequisite to obtain to the highest level of heaven. Most recently, they have tried to establish themselves as a Christian denomination, which Joseph Smith would have considered an insult and selling out. One can show that Joseph Smith’s own theology evolved over time as his authority and following grew. This is evidenced by the drastic difference between the Book of Mormon’s theology and the theology found in Doctrine and Covenants, which was itself changed from its original version. It is considered valid for current prophets and apostles to change doctrine, even if it contradicts previous scripture.


8) Neither group believes in the doctrine of the Trinity. Both groups will admit on some level that Jesus is “a god,” but is not equal with God the Father. The Holy Spirit is seen as more of an impersonal force by both groups. 


9) Both groups call for absolute obedience to the leadership of the church with the accompanying threat of dis-fellowship or excommunication. The LDS also throw in the threat of apostates being the only people who will be cast into outer darkness, their version of hell.


10) Both groups and founders were influenced by a disgruntlement with the doctrine of hell. Russell was a Presbyterian and rejected Calvin’s interpretation of election. He went the route of teaching that the unbelieving soul is annihilated. Smith took the route that everybody is saved by the resurrection of Jesus and will go to a level of heaven that is determined by the law they successfully live by in this life. 


11) The highest heaven is reserved for an elite class of individuals. The JW’s believe that only 144,000 will actually dwell in heaven. The other believers will inherit the earth. LDS teach that only those who perform all their endowments in the temple, keep all of their covenants and follow all of the commandments to sinless perfection will avail themselves of the grace of God and dwell in the celestial kingdom with God and Jesus, eventually attaining to god-ship themselves. 

12) Apostates are seen as the worst people for both groups, and their motives are to never be trusted, nor their message listened to.


13) Both groups use the same vocabulary as Evangelical Christians, but they subscribe completely different meanings to those words, thereby changing the theology completely. 


14) Both groups teach salvation by works, discussing faith in Jesus’ death as a necessary starting point making salvation available and possible, but actually attaining to salvation is completely up to the individual’s ability to follow all of the standards of the group completely. 


15) Both groups admittedly teach a very different gospel from Evangelical Christianity. LDS have their “plan of salvation,” detailing the destination of each individual depending upon the law they successfully lived their life by. JW’s teach that the gospel, or “good news,” is that Jesus already came back invisibly in 1914. 


16) Both groups teach that there are multiple levels of heaven, only the highest of which believers will dwell with God. LDS have the division between celestial, terrestrial and telestial kingdoms. JW’s teach that only the early church believers and those early JW’s up to the first 144,000 will dwell in heaven while the rest of the JW’s will inherit the earth.


17) Both groups teach that there was a complete apostasy of the church shortly after the death of the original 12 apostles and the true church was restored by the founder. 


18) Both founders used divining methods to formulate their teachings and prophetic messages. Joseph Smith used his “seer stone” from his gold digging days with his father, which he has a criminal record for in New York, to translate the Book of Mormon. Charles Russell had an obsession with the Great Pyramid of Giza, and used it’s measurements in part to calculate the timing, which was wrong several times, of the Second Coming. Mormon apostle Orson Pratt referred to the “prophetic spirit” running through this same pyramid during the 1880 Annual Conference.

 19) Both founders referred to the Old Testament character of Melchizedek as a foundational character. The highest level of priesthood in the LDS church is the Melchizedek Priesthood, which Joseph Smith claimed was given to him by an appearance of the apostles James and John, and it is this same priesthood that they claim disappeared from the early church, and therefore makes all other Christian churches an “abomination” before God according to the first vision and the Church of Satan according to the Book of Mormon. 

In the book “Studies in the Scriptures, volume 3,” published by the Watchtower Society in 1891, it is conjectured that the Great Pyramid of Giza (see 18) was built by Egyptian labor and overseen by Melchizedek.

  20) Both groups believe God has named the star or location in space where He resides. Joseph Smith referred to the star Kolob being the closest to the planet where God resides. In 1920 November 1 edition of Watchtower, it is believed that Pleiades, specifically the brightest star Alcyone, is the residing place of God.

  21) Both groups have had issues with racial discrimination in the past