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Mormons and Jehovah's Witneses on TV

Dear WXXI:

I am writing with regard to the Independent Lens documentary Knocking, which reviews the contributions to society of Jehovah's Witnesses. I had long supposed it would appear, in time, on WXXI.

Tuesday I watched and enjoyed the excellent film The Mormons, and my memory of Knocking was jarred. But it does not appear that WXXI has scheduled the film, at least not for it's national airing date of May 22. That's too bad.

Jehovah's Witnesses' District Conventions fill the Blue Cross Arena for three or four three-day weekends each summer. JWs are thus an active part of the Greater Rochester community and would like to hear their story told. Among the film's contents, I understand, is a review of 46 Supreme Court appearances by Jehovah's Witnesses over the years which have clarified rights of free speech and assembly with benefit to all. No other group has appeared more often before the Court. Knocking sports a long list of awards, highlighted at it's website

I urge you to schedule the film, if not in time for its national airing, then at least during the rerun season.

Off topic a bit, you may care to know how we used WXXI while raising our kids. Like many parents, we were concerned with the corrosive effects of TV on children. We gave an allowance of  "TV tickets" to the kids. Using them as they saw fit, they could view a maximum of two hours per week of commercial TV. WXXI, however, was unlimited.

Very truly yours,

Mr & Mrs Tom Sheepandgoats


I admit I've long had a soft spot for Mormons. Fundamentally, of course, we're poles apart, Jehovah's Witnesses rely on the Bible; Mormons have a sacred book absolutely unique to them. Jehovah's Witnesses are politically neutral; Mormons are deeply involved in politics....both a Presidential candidate (Mitt Romney) and Senate majority leader (Harry Reid) are Mormons. Jehovah's Witnesses stress living simply; Mormons (I think this is fair to say) stress career advancement. This may account for the fact that half of all Mormons live in the United States, the mecca of career advancement, whereas only one sixth of Jehovah's Witnesses do so.

Yet on a surface level there are many similarities, and they are good similarities. Mormons are upright and honest. They are the only group besides us in which religious affiliation alone is enough to convey trust. Sure, you can find the occasional clunkerin both groups, but they are clearly anomalies. And honest people can be found throughout the world's religions, without question, yet religious affiliation alone does not guarantee it.

Both groups trace modern day roots to the 19th century United States, Both faiths enjoy unity. Neither faith has paid clergy. Both have highly organized and completely volunteer disaster relief functions; both were in New Orleans after Katrina and repaired homes, generally those of their own people, in no time flat, whereas federal and private agencies whose charter purpose is disaster relief are still fumbling around almost two year later.

Both groups have a public ministry. Both will remove individuals who persistently and unrepentantly violate key tenets of the faith. Membership is about the same; Mormons count 12 million worldwide to our 6 million, yet we count as members only those with active public ministries. Our most heavily attended meeting, the Memorial of Christ's death, last year attracted 17 million.

Both groups present their beliefs as the truth. This, in an era where most faiths have learned to offer beliefs al a carte; take them or spit them out according to your own tastes. This saves hassles. People don't accuse you of dogmatism. Instead, they praise you for enlightenment. But, at the same time, doesn't this stand place your beliefs on the level of pop psychology?

Both Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses even had a child superstar of the 1970's! Mormons had Donny Osmond. We had Michael Jackson. Alas, our guy got weirder and weirder, not like Prince, and in time, left the faith. But maybe he'll come back some day. I'd like that. He never really had a childhood. I always thought the child molestation charges against him unlikely. I mean, when you're going to court, you lead off with your most credible witness. The government used a kid whose family had made false allegations in the past, shaking people down for money.

But in Rochester, at least for the present time, those Mormons got "their" documentary on TV, and we didn't get "ours!" PBS affiliates are all independent, I'm told. They pick and choose. Only 75% have scheduled Knocking.


From the website

Anderson Cooper, CNN --
"Riveting and illuminating. KNOCKING takes us inside the world of Jehovah's Witnesses in a way that is utterly surprising and moving.

Lynn Schofield Clark, Director, Estlow International Center for Journalism and New Media, University of Denver --
"Throughout the film, viewers are challenged to think about the relationship of religion, government, discrimination, family life, and civil liberties in unconventional and surprisingly human ways. This film will be useful for classes on freedom of expression, civic engagement and religion. Students will be surprised that Jehovah's Witnesses have played such a key role in establishing and guarding many of the civil liberties we enjoy in the U.S. today."

Arthur Caplan, Chair, Department of Medical Ethics, University of Pennsylvania --
"KNOCKING contains a wonderful surprise: It shows how science and religion, with worldviews that rarely overlap, can reach a common goal - the use of less blood in medicine - even if for very different reasons."

KNOCKING was produced by Joel Engardio and Tom Shepard.

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'



Well written. I've felt similar things myself. I find it interesting that when talking about religion, JW's are usually separated out. Normally, I see where beliefs are misrepresented or exaggerated. When a documentary has an accurate portrayal, it seems to miss a lot of the fanfare that inaccuracies receive.

Of course, I am a little biased and am tired, so perhaps my logic is as fuzzy as my beard right now...

tom sheepandgoats

A few days after I mailed the letter, WXXI called to say that they were indeed airing the program. The timeslot is not the greatest, however: Sunday May 27, at midnight. Still, it was nice of them to call.


I liked the ‘Poles’ analogy which I think works on a number of levels. We are magnetically different, but both covered in snow. Folks living in more ‘temperate’ religious claimants have a hard time understanding both of us. Anyway I’d like to talk more, I’ll try to think of something to post about for response. You did mention the Mormon aptitude of a career advance, and believe me that element of corporatism is a big concern to me and others in the Church. Of course we LDS have long had a history of people with Business backgrounds running the Church, for example Heber J. Grant, Church president from 1918 to 1945, was arguably Wall Streets favorite Mormons for decades before his presidency. However it seems we used to have more teachers and creative types in the upper ranks, scientists and others. Today its mostly lawyers and business men, or educational administrators, who bring a distantly different ethos to there ecclesiastical offices. Oh, where have all the Hugh B. Browns gone? Anyway a hot spot for honest discussion about the present state of Mormondom can be found clustered around Sunstone ( and associated blogs. If your interested.


Well, we have a lot of lawyers, too. Not that they're running things, they're not, but this is America, and you don't breathe without lawyers and lots of them.


I was drawn to this older post after reading the comments section on your recent post, “Nominating Mitt Romney.” After noting all the similarities between Mormons and JW’s, have you ever thought that maybe the similarities are too many and too close to be coincidental? Could it be that Satan is mocking Jehovah as a mimic god, with his organization and his “Bible,” in view of what it says at 2 Cor. 11:14. As you like to say, it’s called muddying the waters. Of course, this is just speculation, but something to think about.
Obviously, Mormons might say the same thing about JW’s, but we are the ones who adhere closely to the Bible, as the inspired word of God, without any addendum. We are the ones, who uniquely, identify ourselves with and use the name of God , Jehovah. These are two things that Satan would never promote, but has tried to destroy and obscure. Interestingly, of the several religious groups that came into existence during the 19th century, it’s Seventh Day Adventists who are more closely aligned doctrinally with JW’s and claim over 17 million baptized members. However, they seem to be less controversial or have less notoriety, than JW’s or Mormons, although they are just as unorthodox in their own way.

tom sheepandgoats

Not to mention Christian Scientists, bringing the total of 19th century religions originating in America to four. There was much religious stirrings back then, perhaps coinciding with the 'virgins' awaiting the masters return, set out in Matt 25. If I recall correctly, (I may not) the book "God's Kingdom on 1000 Years has Approached" (1973) dealt with that time period a lot.

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