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I have heard that within the JW faith, there are additional teachings that converts do not learn until after some time has passed since their inclusion into that group or the convert achieves some level of merit within their organization.

Do the Jehovah's Witnesses keep some of their teachings secret from the general public and from new converts to their faith?

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All the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses are publicly available on their Jehovah’s Witnesses' Official Website and made known in their public ministry and literature. There are no secrets that take time or merit to unlock.

I have been a Witness my entire life (42+ years), and the things I study and learn now are the same things I studied in my teenage years before I was baptized.

The only thing that might be considered "secret" is the guidebook that elders receive upon their appointment, which is kept confidential and not distributed to other congregation members or the public. There is nothing in there related to teachings, however, it is merely procedural guidelines for handling congregation matters. Much of what is written there is sourced from other publicly available Witness literature.

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    There is also the matter of teachings of the past that have been refined or even admittedly wrong. – Kris Jul 28 '16 at 22:53
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    @Kris That's true. The Online Library doesn't contain a lot of the outdated or very old articles. There is the Watchtower Library which is available only on CD for accessing older articles, but in my experience the older articles don't add any significant information to what modern ones say. It was useful maybe one time when I was doing research on dinosaurs. – 4castle Dec 22 '16 at 5:06
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You could say there is a level of ambiguity in some of their teachings. Most, if not all, teachings are available on their website. However some of their teachings need to be read between the lines.

For instance, this page on Babylon the Great Harlot, though only hinting at it, it is actually aimed toward the Catholic and Protestant Churches though it doesn't openly say so.

So while their teachings are public, for the most part, you may not get a 100% explanation from them without analyzing or reading between the lines. As far as I'm aware they don't hold secretive teachings like LDS do (i.e. handshakes). Though if there are secrets only a member would truly know, which I'm not.

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  • Babylon the great is considered to be all false religion in the world Christian and non Christian. Your final sentence get us to a non answer as I stated in comment on question : This question is really not answerable if someone says yes and gives examples they would by the fact that they were found not be secret. If they say no well of course that is because the secrets are secret. – Kris Jul 29 '16 at 13:24
  • Also an answer that tells us to read between the lines is hardly a well sourced answer. – Kris Jul 29 '16 at 13:33
  • 1 - Anything in book of Revelation is often up for debate behind meaning and context. 2 - Ambiguity can equate to secrecy 3 - The Mormons have 'secret handshakes' which is known by those outside the church but that is still considered a 'secret' teaching, same goes for Free Masons and their practices. – Whirlwind991 Aug 1 '16 at 0:50
  • Don't lose focus on the op question your post does not answer it – Kris Aug 1 '16 at 17:51
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    A propos "For instance, this page on Babylon the Great Harlot, though only hinting at it, it is actually aimed toward the Catholic and Protestant Churches though it doesn't openly say so."...eh so since the page does not say what you claim then what is the source for your claim? Some evidence of what you are saying would need to be included, otherwise anyone can just claim anything here. – user100487 Jun 20 '17 at 3:51
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I have answered this once before, with:

One of their secret teachings is that men must not have a beard! Strange, but I think its true. Its not explicit in any of their manuals, but if you want to get ahead in the Kingdom of Jehovah then shave it off immediately!! ..... or anything resembling facial hair above the lip... its gotta go. Sideburns too... forget 'um.

To which it was requested that I provide evidence; the trouble is that secret teachings are secret, and getting evidence for secret teachings is... kinda tricky.

Anyway we move on. Those who are not interested in the trivia of beards might like to read from the emboldened heading "Secret truths - needles in the haystack" where an example is given of one of these needles from the JW archive itself.

NO BEARDS (in the USA)

My first Answer was very kindly commented on thus by 4castle from official JW literature:-

This depends on the culture of where you are in the world. wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2016684#h=27:0-27:752

I guess I must change my secret teaching to apply to JWs in the USA and maybe some other Western cultures.

The link to JW literature leads to a kind of catechism (question and answer booklet, similar in style to the, say, Westminster Shorter Catechism) probably for new/propective JWs, which I put in full here relating to clothing and wearing beards. (The highlight/ emboldening is mine):

USE YOUR FREE WILL WISELY

  1. What should guide our personal choice as to our dress?

15 God’s Word provides practical guidance that can help us to make wise choices that will bring glory to God. Still, what we wear involves some personal preference. Our individual tastes vary, as do our financial resources. But our clothes should always be neat, clean, modest, appropriate to the occasion, and acceptable locally.

  1. Why is it worth making the effort to be appropriately dressed?

16 We must admit that it is not always easy to make a decision that shows good judgment, that is sensible, and that takes all factors into account. Many stores cater to popular fashions, so it may take more time and effort to find modest skirts, dresses, and blouses or suits and slacks that are not too tight. Yet, fellow believers will likely note and appreciate the results of our sincere efforts to find attractive and appropriate clothing. And the satisfaction we have of bringing glory to our loving heavenly Father more than makes up for any inconveniences that we may face to dress so as to glorify him.

17. What are some factors that may affect whether a brother wears a beard?

17 What about the propriety of brothers wearing a beard? The Mosaic Law required men to wear a beard. However, Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, nor are they obliged to observe it. (Lev. 19:27; 21:5; Gal. 3:24, 25) In some cultures, a neatly trimmed beard may be acceptable and respectable, and it may not detract at all from the Kingdom message. In fact, some appointed brothers have beards. Even so, some brothers might decide not to wear a beard. (1 Cor. 8:9, 13; 10:32) In other cultures or localities, beards are not the custom and are not considered acceptable for Christian ministers. In fact, having one may hinder a brother from bringing glory to God by his dress and grooming and his being irreprehensible.​—Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Tim. 3:2, 7.

18, 19. How does Micah 6:8 help us as we strive to let our style of dress be pleasing to God?

18 How grateful we are that Jehovah does not burden us with detailed lists of regulations about our dress and grooming. Instead, he has permitted us to exercise our free will and make sensible personal decisions, which should be guided by sound Scriptural principles. Thus, even in our dress and grooming, we can show that we want to ‘walk in modesty with our God.’​— Mic. 6:8.

19 Our modesty includes making a humble evaluation of ourselves when compared with Jehovah’s purity and holiness, for we are completely dependent on him for the best guidance. Also, modesty includes showing respect for the feelings and opinions of others. Therefore, we ‘walk in modesty with God’ by conforming our lives to his elevated standards and showing respect for other people’s sensitivities.

  1. What effect should our dress and grooming have on others?

20 Our choice of clothing should not make people conclude anything other than that we are worshippers of Jehovah. Our brothers and sisters as well as people in general should be able to see that we fittingly represent our righteous God. He has high standards, and we happily strive to reflect those standards. Commendation is in order for brothers and sisters whose appearance and fine conduct attract honesthearted people to the Bible’s lifesaving message and bring glory and joy to Jehovah. Making wise decisions about what to wear will surely continue to bring glory to the One who clothes himself “with majesty and splendor.”​ — Ps. 104:1, 2.

[[The organisation wants to attract "honesthearted" people. Does what they mean by this agree with Jeremiah 17:9, Isaiah 64:6 or Romans 3:10-20?]]

Secret truth - needles in the haystack

Not only does the Watchtower keep some things secret from the general public and from new JWs. It effectively keeps them secret from longstanding JWs as well. I refer to the changes of truth from Old Truth to New Truth. Even though articles relating to the OLd Truth may be on the JW archive, the archive contains such vast amounts of literature, and articles are often so very long, that Old Truth is effectively hidden in plain sight so to speak, so that even JWs are not aware of them.

It is true that Old Truth is no longer relevant to today's JW, but surely it is very relevant what is the track record of the Watchtower in its proclamations of New Truth over past years. If you need to trust the Governing Body then you need to know their track record. An investment firm offering a new fund to invest in could hardly complain if you look at their record up to now; would you believe them if they said "O, those funds you are talking about are old funds, we don't sell them any more". Yes, but it was you who promoted them in the past and I need to know how good past recommendations were, and how successful were your past funds!

The confirmation that New Truth overriding the previously held Truth is found here in JW literature on the JW archive:-

"Keeping Up with the Truth - The Watchtower announcing Jehovah's Kingdom - 1956"

“You were running well. Who hindered you from keeping on obeying the truth?”—Gal. 5:7, New World.

  1. Why is a continuous meeting of minds and hearts between God and man necessary, and what has been provided toward that end?

JEHOVAH as man’s loving Creator and Benefactor has made ample provision for his servants to worship him with their whole mind and heart. In fact, the close, warm relationship that Jehovah establishes between himself and his true worshipers requires the building up of the mind and heart. This is best done by keeping up with the truth. When keeping up with the flow of new truth there is a continual meeting of the minds and hearts between God and man."

So there we have it. "New truth" flows down to the JW members, and they need to "keep up". The JW believes that the New Truth will be better than the old, that the previous New Truth was true while it was in force, but once the new New Truth comes the old New Truth no longer applies. Still, always, the New Truth is building and refining the old New Truth, not destroying the old New Truth. And the previous New Truth was what was best for the whole duration of the time it was in force.

An example of how this works is found in two articles from the JW archive:-

In 1967 organ transplants were prohibited amongst JWs. This prohibition came into force by this very interesting (and long) article comparing transplants with cannibalism (watchtower 15th Nov 1967). https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/pc/r1/lp-e/1200027946/17/6

The implications were of course life-threatening for JWs. Confirmation of the New Truth was given in the Awake 8th June 1968.

This New Truth was taught until the Watchtower of 15th March 1980 when it was much improved by more New Truth which now said that organ transplants are not necessarily cannibalistic, and that the congregation judicial committee would not take disciplinary action if someone accepted an organ transplant.

https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1980212?q=cannibalistic&p=par

This article meant that JWs could once again have organ transplants. For 13 years JWs had shown their faith in God, and God's Kingdom, by refusing organ transplants.

We do not know how many JWs or their children died, but by 1980 I suppose God had seen their faithfulness and now was letting them have organ transplants again.

It is also interesting the way these articles are written, with such phrases as "some Christians [i.e. JWs] believe"... even the Question and Answer format sounds very casual. Reading the magazine, only a JW would recognise that this particular answer, at the time it came out, would have been a like an exploding bombshell.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Peter Turner Apr 30 at 21:57
  • So is the answer yes JWs do maintain advert teachings? Or is it no they do not maintain secret teachings? Your answer is JWs have said that beards are not cool and then later on they said sometimes beards are cool. Also JW’s have changed their stance on some things over the years like organ transplants. – Kris May 1 at 0:23
  • @Kris - I'm no longer commenting here, but at the link created above "moved to chat". But yes, JWs do maintain covert teachings from those starting to be told about the faith, including withholding info about its past teachings. Someone interested in becoming a JW should have full disclosure of info material to an informed choice early in the process of becoming a JW, which includes past teaching. The rest is in the "moved to chat" section, and with all respect to you (- and to the website controllers -) I will no longer reply to comments made here but in the "chat" section. – Andrew Shanks May 1 at 11:27
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Though the vast majority of WT literature is available openly, there are indeed some things reserved for the privileged. You need to know where to look to find these, and the common JW has never seen them.

An example: The Elders handbook: "SHEPHERD THE FLOCK OF GOD"

As to secret teachings, let me give you this perspective. Take a look at their initial study book, What does the Bible Really Teach?. Read what they teach to the initiate. The chapter on Jesus, for example (ch 4). If you read it, you might conclude their view of Jesus is not so different from a main stream Christian. However, the chapter doesn't go into explaining that the "pre-existant" Jesus, is Michael an archangel. Nor does it explain that after Jesus' human death, Jesus was "re-created" back into the spirit-creature Michael.

I could go on, but your concern is most definitely warranted. In my conversations and studies with them thus far, I would say ALL their doctrines are so complex and labyrinthine that they cannot possibly explain one single doctrine in one document alone. In other words, all their doctrines are kept to some degree from the initiate, the general public, and from new converts.

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  • I wouldn't consider the teachings about Michael to be "hidden" or "secret" at all. The teachings are in plain sight, they just aren't relevant to the main discussion of Jesus' life in chapter 4. Instead, it's discussed in the Appendix of the Bible Teach book. When I conduct Bible studies, it's the article we consider directly after finishing chapter 4. – 4castle Dec 24 '17 at 19:30
  • @Kris Links to material hosted elsewhere potentially without permission are not actually themselves a copyright violation or something this site is culpable for policing. This answer is problematic for other reasons, but the presence of the link itself is not a legal issue. – Caleb Dec 26 '17 at 10:44
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    @Kris Take it up on meta if you have an issue, comments here are not the place to debate this. – Caleb Dec 26 '17 at 14:20
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    Is it your contention that the initial study book should include everything Jws have ever taught about everything? That would be a very big book.:) – Kris Dec 27 '17 at 17:46
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    That elders handbook "SHEPHERD THE FLOCK OF GOD" is a procedure manual (recommendations on what should be done in situation X, Y, Z, and so on). It does not introduce any doctrines and for that reason it is not an example of secret teachings. – coderworks Dec 27 '17 at 21:40

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