I've been wondering if there is any official doctrine held by Jehovahs Witnesses that would restrict them from talking about their faith in their own words?

I have noticed in my interactions with them (through everything from talking to door to door missionaries to hanging out with the families of some of my friends to reading their postings on this site) that instead it is very typical for them to use the exact phrases and constructs found in officially sanctioned publications, often preferring to quote these sources (Watchtower, etc.) wholesale rather than writing or otherwise articulating their views in their own words.

As a Reformed Protestant, I believe there is great value in using words and constructs whose meanings have become well defined and have been tested through time. In particular, I will even direct people to re-frame their own questions in the words Scripture uses for given topics rather than their own because I think this will help bring clarity to the issues they face. At the same time I see great value in meeting people where they are at -- in speaking the same language -- and articulating eternal truths in ways that people relate to and that specifically match the important issues. However much some Theologian may have said something better than I and I might quote them, still I do share the Gospel and articulate my faith to people using my own words.

This seems fundamentally different from the interactions I see from JWs. When you ask them a question, they will seem reticent to stray from a specific track and try to find the closest matching stock answer from their repertoire. Or so it seems. My question is, is that an official stance?

Is there a specific teaching or doctrine that binds them to operate this way? Or perhaps a more general doctrine that leads people to that conclusion even if it isn't a requirement?

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    I'll try to put together an answer to this. There's certainly no official doctrine against putting things in your own words: in fact, it's probably encouraged. But there is a strong teaching against "independent thinking". Also, their language is non-standard.
    – TRiG
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 13:02
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    I'm a JW, and this question has made me reconsider how I write answers here. If I ever use some kind of "typical" answer in order to respond to a subject, it's probably because I've spent a lot of time in the ministry talking to people (my whole life actually), and I've had to research just about every popular subject people ask about. In that time researching and discussing, I've learned what points are effective, and so when I talk about those subjects, it's usually something I've rehearsed already.
    – user32540
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 4:58

3 Answers 3


Q. Are JWs restricted from expressing things in their own words?

A. No.

We who are members of the worldwide unified Christian congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses both can and do express ourselves / our Bible based beliefs in our own words, however, we would much rather and prefer to express ourselves / our Bible based beliefs in the way in which our Leader, King and Exemplar (Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of Jehovah God) expressed himself / his Bible based beliefs... and I quote King Christ:

"Jesus, in turn, answered them and said: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me. 17 If anyone desires to do His will, he will know concerning the teaching whether it is from God or I speak of my own originality. 18 He that speaks of his own originality is seeking his own glory; but he that seeks the glory of him that sent him, this one is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him. " ~ John 7:16-17

"because I have not spoken out of my own impulse, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to tell and what to speak. 50 Also, I know that his commandment means everlasting life. Therefore the things I speak, just as the Father has told me [them], so I speak [them].”" ~ John 12:49, 50

Again, Christ is our PERFECT example whom we strive to the very best of our imperfect ability to imitate (1 Peter 2:21). Was Jesus Christ restricted from expressing things in his own words? We pattern our way of life and the way we teach on him.

~ NOTE: I am a dedicated and baptized member of the worldwide unified Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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    Yay @Myro0708! For a long time, we've been wanting a JW who can answer from a JW perspective in his or her own words. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! If you could get in the habit of clarifying that it is a JW perspective, that would be helpful. (And to clarify, this answer does that skillfully and gracefully) But thank you!!! Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 17:17
  • Also, I don't think you're a black sheep... Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 17:18
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    Thank you "Affable Geek", however, being that I am of African American mixture as well as Sicilian Italian and Black Foot Native American, combined with my being one of The Master's (Jesus Christ) sheep... I 'm a happy member of the Lord's "black sheep". Baaaa-baaaa-baaaa LOL! ;-)
    – Myro0708
    Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 18:48
  • Is there any specific reason that you use the phrase "worldwide unified Christian congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses"? To me it suggests you go by that name, as apposed to just "a Jehovah's Witness".
    – user32540
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 6:59

While the Bible is a reference used in our worship it is far from our most prominently used publication. Of the approximately four hours per week of group worship engage in at our local places of worship (Kingdom Halls), routinely the Bible, by itself, is only discussed for 10 min. The remaining 230 min. of weekly instruction is culled entirely from Jehovah’s Witnesses publications with their own unique concepts and phraseology. Peppered throughout these publications are many scriptural citations but the bulk of the text is from writers originating at the world headquarters in New York.

In fact Jehovah’s Witness publications refer to this unique way of speaking as ‘the pure language’ stating principally that “The pure language is the truth about Jehovah God and his purposes as found in his Word, the Bible.” (Watchtower August 15, 2008) Secondarily, the article goes on to parallel learning an actual spoken language and this ‘language of concepts’ saying, “Imitate fluent speakers. Students of a new language are encouraged not only to listen carefully but also to try to imitate, or mimic, the pronunciation and speech patterns of fluent speakers. This helps the students to avoid developing a heavy accent that may later hinder their efforts to communicate. In a comparable way, we should learn from those who have mastered the “art of teaching” the new language.” (Reference: http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2008604)

This ‘imitation’ is I believe what the original questioner was getting at. Those who are the main speakers in the congregation and at our larger conventions use phraseology that is unique to the religion and those who aspire to someday be in their position imitate this speech. The lay members of the congregation adopt the speech because this is what they are hearing from those speaking and what they are reading in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ publications. Phrases such as ‘field service,’ ‘theocracy,’ ‘remnant,’ ‘governing body’ are products of our religious beliefs but certainly not concepts or terms Jesus Christ used.

Another Jehovah’s Witnesses publication entitled Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook acknowledges this quite clearly, stating on page 112: “Our study of the Scriptures and the Watch Tower Society’s publications has given us a vocabulary of terms quite strange to those unacquainted with our work. If we were to explain the truths of the Bible to some audiences, using such terms as these, either much of what we say would be lost or our speech would be entirely unintelligible.” (Reference: https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101971070#h=20)

In response to @4castles comment: It is disingenous to overstate the impact the Bible has on the Jehovah’s Witnesses vernacular versus the impact of Jehovah’s Witnesses publications. As mentioned earlier in this post, yes, the publications are peppered with scriptures, however they are re-framed in the JW vernacular.

In other words JW publications often cite a scripture, then translate the ideas of that scripture into vocabulary that Jehovah’s Witness have become accustom to. Again, with the exception of approximately 4 minutes of Bible reading all of the scriptural discussion for both meetings are facilitated via workbooks, outlines, prepared videos and publications. Generally the content of the workbook and outlines are expected to be adhered to closely.

This is the case for those presenting at Jehovah’s Witnesses annual conventions as well. The material originates from world headquarters and is heavily scripted. From experience, these outlines (scripts) are expected to be adhered to closely. I think it’s safe to say that we make the statements: “The Society (meaning the group of individuals responsible for writing the various publications) says” or “The Watchtower (the magazine) says” or “The publications (books writen by the JW oranization) say” just as often as we state “The Bible says.”

Specific portions of our services are set aside for demonstrating and practicing what we will say when preaching in the local neighborhoods. While encouraged to make these discussion our own, chatting extemporaneously with a stranger is not easy for most. Naturally most JWs fall back on a rehearsed sermon — that is exactly what the OP is hearing when talking to JWs.

  • 1
    Nice answer. I hope you stick around (registering an account offers a number of benefits) and contribute more in the future.
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 17:27
  • Thanks @Nathaniel and @ThaddeusB! I actually did register but never received the confirmation email. Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 17:47
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    @CrossReference: Perhaps you could try again? We'd like to have you stick around... Commented Sep 2, 2015 at 19:40
  • "While the Bible is a reference used in our worship it is far from our most prominently used publication." As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I disagree with this statement. It's the only publication that permeates every talk of the meetings. You also seem to miss counting the time spent in the public talk, which exclusively references scripture.
    – user32540
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 7:06

I do not have access to the materials that the elders use to train people in public ministry, but I suspect that you've encountered Jehovah's Witnesses that were uncomfortable speaking in their own words. The Watchtower website indicates that Jehovah's Witnesses are allowed to express things in their own words:


As faith grows in your heart, you will find it hard to keep what you have learned to yourself. (Jeremiah 20:9) You will be strongly motivated to speak to others about God and his purposes.—2 Corinthians 4:13.

You might begin to share Bible truth with others by tactfully speaking about it to your relatives, friends, neighbors, and workmates. In time, you will want to share in the organized preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At that point, feel free to talk things over with the Witness who is teaching you the Bible. If it appears that you qualify for the public ministry, arrangements will be made for you and your teacher to meet with two of the congregation elders.

This will enable you to get better acquainted with some Christian elders, who shepherd the flock of God. (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2, 3) If these elders see that you understand and believe basic Bible teachings, are living in harmony with God’s principles, and truly want to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they will let you know that you qualify to share in the public ministry as an unbaptized publisher of the good news.

On the other hand, you may need to make some changes in your life-style and habits in order to qualify for the public ministry. This may include stopping some practices that have been kept secret from others. Hence, before you ask about becoming an unbaptized publisher, you need to be free of serious sins, such as sexual immorality, drunkenness, and drug abuse.—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Galatians 5:19-21.

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    Thanks for answering. This material makes it sound like the answer might be "no". However your surmising that the people I have talked to were just uncomfortable is probably unwarranted since some of them are long term JW missionaries in cross-cultural settings. That also doesn't explain the general trend on this site where all kind of people who don't know their own beliefs well are comfortable spouting off their own opinions, whereas JW's almost universally prefer to wholesale quote an official article. What is the source of this cultural difference between faiths?
    – Caleb
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 12:50
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    @Caleb: I can only guess at the source of the cultural difference. A Jehovah's Witness is probably so immersed in the culture that he or she would be hard pressed to explain any differences. My guess is the level of commitment required to be baptized as a Jehovah's Witness, compared to the relative casualness of other Protestant denominations. Commented May 29, 2012 at 13:21

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