Where Did the Jehovah Witness Church Come From?

The Jehovah's Witnesses were founded in 1872 by Charles Taze Russell (1852 - 1916).  There is no record of their religion before this time, contrary to claims Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) often make.  The JWs are simply one of the many religions that sprang up in the United States during the 1800s, a time of rugged individualism and experimentation in religion.  It is helpful to know the three main sources of JW doctrine.

1. Protestantism

Since Charles Russell came from a Protestant background (Congregationalism), it is not surprising that a great many JW beliefs are Protestant.  For example, they reject the Eucharist, purgatory, confession, and the intercession of the saints.  The early Christian Church was Catholic and accepted all these doctrines.  These beliefs were not rejected until the Protestant Reformation.  JWs continue these Protestant errors.  Ask JWs to read a good book on the early Church Fathers, like William Jurgens' The Faith of the Early Fathers (1), to show them their beliefs are not those of the Church that Christ founded.


The Faith of the Early Church Fathers three book set is also available on the San Juan Catholic Seminars' website.  Click on the link (book name) to take you to the product on their website.  There are numerous places you can order/purchase these books and the price is all within dollars of each other through my research of them when I purchased them.


2. Adventism

Adventism refers to a religious movement, very strong in the 1800s, that was preoccupied with the date of the Second Coming.  The Mormons (founded in 1830), the Seventh Day Adventists (founded in 1831), and the JWs all began as Adventist religions.  The founders of these three religions each claimed to know the exact date of the Second Coming.  All three religions were discredited when their prophecies failed to come true.

The early Mormon Church denied that the Holy Spirit is a person (Doctrines and Covenants, 1835 edition).  The JWs borrowed this teaching unchanged.  The early Mormon Church also taught that Michael the Archangel was actually Adam (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses).  The JWs put a slightly different spin on this teaching and said that Michael was Jesus, the Second Adam.

The Seventh Day Adventists taught the following two doctrines: (a) man does not have a soul, he is a soul, and at death the soul goes into a "sleep" until the Second Coming; (b) hell is not eternal: at the Second Coming all the wicked will be annihilated.  The JWs borrowed these two beliefs with very few changes.  They did change "soul sleep" to soul disappearance after death.  The JWs are the latest of the three best known Adventist religions and obviously borrowed a great deal from the mormons and Seventh Day Adventists.

3. Arianism

The early Church taught very clearly that Jesus is God.  The writings of the early Church Fathers confirm this (see page 8).  The first major heresy to reject the divinity of Christ started in AD 318, when a proud and rebellious Catholic priest named Arius began teaching that Jesus was not God.  Like the JWs, Arius praised Jesus with all kinds of high sounding titles while denying His divinity.

However, the early Church leaders were not fooled.  They called a general council in Nicea (The Council of Nicea, AD 325) and condemned this heresy.  The Arian heresy continued to plague the Church for about 100 years before it finally fizzled.  It was not seen after that on a major scale until the religious free-for-all that hit this country in the 1800s.

JWs claim that the early Church did not believe Jesus was God.  This is absurd.  Not only did every early Church Father teach that Jesus is God, even pagan historians living at the time of the Apostles recognized that Christianity was noted for its belief in the divinity of Christ.  For example, Pliny the Younger (born in AD 62), one of the best known of the ancient pagan historians, wrote that the divinity of Christ was an essential doctrine of Christianity.

Like Protestants, JWs reject many Catholic beliefs: the Eucharist, the authority of the popes, and the seven deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament (OT).  Therefore, try to keep the discussion on these doctrines and defend them using our first handbook, Beginning Apologetics 1 (2).  Focus your attention on the early Fathers and the canon of the Bible.  Only deal with distinctively JW doctrines (such as the refusal of blood transfusions) when you must to keep the dialogue going.

Unlike Catholic and Protestant Bible translations, which are faithful to the original manuscripts, the JWs have deliberately mistranslated many parts of the Bible to fit their own doctrines.  It should be obvious that if the JW Bible, the New World Translation (NWT), differs substantially from all the best translations of our time, something is wrong with it.  No Catholic should ever use this Bible for devotional reading or study.

However, for apologetics purposes, it is important to be able to show JWs from their own badly translated Bible that many of their doctrines are unscriptural.  Many times they will not be convinced if you make a point based on a verse in your own Bible that the NWT translates very differently.  For this reason, in the following articles JW doctrines are refuted by suing their Bible.  All Scripture quotations in the following JW articles are taken from the 1984 edition of the NWT.


(1) (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970).  This three-volume paperback set is available from most Catholic bookstores.  Volume one covers the period from the Apostles until the last fourth century, and is especially useful for showing that the original Christian Church was unmistakably Catholic.

(2) To get Beginning Apologetics 1: How to Explain and Defend the Catholic Faith, please shop your local Catholic bookstore or use the above link (or the following link) that will take you to the San Juan Catholic Seminars website.



Included in this booklet about the Jehovah's Witnesses:


Where Did the Mormon Church Come From?

Joseph Smith, Jr. founded the Mormon Church in AD 1830.  Its official name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  They are often simply called the LDS Church.

Joseph Smith (1805 - 1844) claimed that he established the Mormon Church based on revelations he received in 1820, from two persons who came from heaven.  They told him that all Christian religions then in existence were totally corrupt.  Joseph Smith's mission was to restore the true religion that had been established by Jesus Christ, but which had become completely corrupt soon after the death of the last Apostle.

In order to fulfill his mission, Joseph Smith claimed that God had made him both a prophet and an apostle.  He was to be an inspired prophet who could communicate Divine revelation and write Sacred Scripture.  In fact, Smith wrote three books which the Mormons claim are part of Scripture: Book of mormon, Doctrines and Covenants, and  Pearl of Great Price.  Mormons believe that all LDS church presidents who have succeeded Joseph Smith are also inspired prophets.

The following are the major sources from which Joseph Smith borrowed in founding the Mormon religion.

1. Protestantism

Remember, Joseph Smith, like Charles Taze Russell (the founder of the JWs) came from a Protestant ackground.  He carried over many Protestant errors into Mormonism: the rejection of the Eucharist, the Papacy, the Marian doctrines, and the seven deuterocanonical books.  It is important to remember how much the Mormons have in common with  Protestantism.  This will be helpful when you discuss religious issues with them.

2. Adventism

We discussed this movement in the introduction to the Jehovah's Witnesses (see page 3).  Joseph Smith was caught up in the fervor of the Adventist movement.  Smith even predicted that the world would end in 1890.  But focusing on the end of the world has not been as important in the Mormon religion as it has been in the two other great Adventist religions: the Seventh-Day Adventists and the JWs.  However, Joseph Smith seems to have absorbed the unrestrained free-thinking mentality in religious matters that was typical of the many Adventist groups of his time.

3. Freemasonry

Joseph Smith entered the Masons in 1842 and quickly introduced versions of the Masonic ceremonies into Mormonism.  A study of Mormon rituals reveals many similarities to the rituals of the Masonic order.  It is difficult to believe these similarities are coincidental in the light of Joseph Smith's Masonic background.

4. Miscellaneous Sources

To read about the miscellaneous sources/continuation of the Introduction to the Mormons, as well as the other topics of this booklet, please look at your local Catholic bookstore or order this and all other apologetics books by Father Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham at San Juan Catholic Seminars Website.

Included in this booklet about the Mormons:



Father Frank Chacon, and Jim Burnham. Beginning Apologetics 2: How to Answer Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. Farmington, NM: San Juan Catholic Seminars, 1996-2014. Print.

To order one or more of the Beginning Apologetics books by Father Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham, see San Juan Catholic Seminars' website.