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by Jennifer G.

In the year 2004 262,416 people in 235 lands were baptized as Jehovah's Witnesses (Statistics: 2004 Report of Jehovah's Witnesses Worldwide). Baptism is done on three occasions: the Special Assembly Day, Circuit Assembly, or District Convention (Siler). When a person is publicly baptized they are symbolizing their dedication to Jehovah and identifying themselves as one of Jehovah's Witnesses (What does the Bible Teach 181-182).
A Brief History
John the Baptist is considered to be the first human with God's approval to perform baptism by water. The angel Gabriel foretold that John would be a representative of God. The baptisms that John performed were public and a symbol of a person's repentance for their sins and a change in their ways. During the baptism a person was fully submerged in water.
Jesus was baptized by John; however, he had no sins to repent for. Jesus was baptized to present himself to his father, Jehovah to carry out Jehovah's divine plan. After Jesus was baptized approval was given for his followers to make disciples and baptize them "in the name of the Father and of the son and of the holy spirit" (Insight 248 - 250).
In order to get baptized these early Christians had to have a genuine understanding of God's word and make an educated decision to serve God. A person wanting to be baptized had to put faith in Jesus and also had to go out and teach others about the word of God (Insight 250). Baptism in the Jehovah's Witness congregation is much the same today as that of the early Christians.
The Road To Baptism
In The Watchtower Society and Baptism Keith and Lorrie MacGregor reflect on Jehovah's Witness baptism in a negative light, calling it a tedious process. They disagree with the all the steps one must take in order to be baptized as a Jehovah's Witness and feel that it is a "long, drawn-out ordeal." The MacGregors feel that a person should be able to be baptized just because one feels repentant. To a Jehovah's Witnesses baptism is about so much more than being repentant. Baptism is a serious dedication to God that should not be taken lightly. A person should be sure that they are willing to commit themselves to God and accept the responsibility of living a righteous life.
A person seeking to get baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses must show they are ready in a variety of ways. The first thing that a person must do in order to get baptized is to take in knowledge of God by studying the Bible daily and attending regular congregation meetings at the Kingdom Hall (the Jehovah's Witness place of worship) (What Does the Bible Teach 176). A person must have a clear understanding of the word of God and embrace the word as their own. It is not enough to learn, one must put faith in the things that they have learned (Your Decision to Serve God). Jehovah's Witnesses baptize those of a "responsible age" (Hayes). They do not baptize infants, as an infant cannot hear the word of God, believe in the word of God, and make a decision to dedicate itself to God (Insight 251).
Learning about Jehovah and having faith in Him is not enough. As a person learns more about Jehovah and His purposes, they should be moved to teach others about the things they are learning (What Does the Bible Teach 177). In order to be baptized a person must do as the early Christians and go out to make disciples. A person at this stage would want to become an unbaptized publisher, and go door to door with other members of the congregation, teaching others about the word of God. Before one can become an unbaptized publisher they need to make necessary changes in their lives to ensure they are living by God's standards. Unbaptized publishers should be free from sexual immorality, smoking, drug abuse, drunkenness and other serious sins (What Does the Bible Teach 178).
The third step along the road to baptism is repentance. Repentance is genuine remorse for a person's sins. Even if a person has had a relatively clean life they must repent because we are all born sinners. There is more to repentance than remorse. One must turn their life around and be determined to walk a righteous path (What Does The Bible Teach 178).
There is another step along the road to baptism that may very well be the most important step. A person must dedicate oneself to God. In order to dedicate oneself to Jehovah one must pray to Jehovah and commit oneself to him exclusively for the rest of ones life. One must do so willingly and out of love for God. Anne Michelle Siler says that when you dedicate yourself to Jehovah you "disown yourself" so to speak and give complete obedience to Jehovah. According to the book What Does the Bible Teach in order to get baptized, a person's main purpose in life is to do God's will.
Once a person has gone through all of these steps they should notify the presiding overseer (the head of the congregation) that they wish to be baptized. The presiding overseer will arrange for elders (leaders in the congregation) to go over review questions with one desiring to be baptized. These questions are designed to ensure that one desiring to be baptized has basic knowledge of Bible teachings and understands what it means to be baptized. If it is agreed a person qualifies for baptism, that person can be baptized at the next assembly or convention mentioned in the opening paragraph (What Does the Bible Really Teach 182).
Field Information
On October 5, 2005 I interviewed Anne Michelle Siler of the Largo South Congregation in Largo, Florida. Anne Michelle has been one of Jehovah's Witnesses for thirty-four years and has been baptized for twenty-five years. Anne Michelle and her husband recently moved to Florida after living and working at the World Headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses in Brooklyn Heights, New York for twelve years.
The Plant City Assembly Hall of Jehovah's Witness is located at 1904 N Frontage Rd, Plant City, 33563. I attended a Circuit Assembly. Circuit Assemblies are two days in length; however I only attended Sunday, October 9, 2005, as that is the day that baptisms are conducted. Eight people were baptized this day.
The assembly hall is a large brick building. There are no windows or religious iconography. There is a large auditorium with seating for several hundred people. Throughout the day there are a variety of subjects talks by different speaks. The last talk before lunch is a talk reviewing the meaning of baptism. Next the baptismal candidates (Siler) are invited to stand and answer two questions: "On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?" and "Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization?" (MacGregor). The candidates answered yes to both questions.
After a prayer, everyone sang a song about baptism from the Jehovah's Witness songbook. The candidates left the auditorium single file to change into their modest bathing suits. Part of the floor of the stage was lifted to reveal a pool. One by one the candidates were fully immersed in water publicly showing their dedication to Jehovah.
Conclusion
I found this subject somewhat difficult to research. There are almost no objective sources on Jehovah's Witnesses. Most sources are either official Watchtower Society publications or else they are by strong opposers of the Witness religion. Jehovah's Witnesses aim to live their lives according to Bible standards. I work with Anne Michelle and religion isn't just for Sundays. To Jehovah's Witnesses their religion is a way of life. I think that the rest of Christianity should be a little stricter in their baptism guidelines. I was baptized Catholic as a baby, and I feel that the practice of baptizing infants is wrong. As a baby I didn't know what a Catholic was, and as an adult I don't want to be one. Even if I don't agree with the Jehovah's Witness religion as a whole, I feel that they have the right ideas on baptism.
Bibliography
q Siler, Anne Michelle. Personal interview. 5 October 2005
q Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennylvania. Insight On The Scriptures
Volume 1: Aaron - Jehoshua. 1st ed. Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract
Society of New York, Inc, 1988.
q Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennylvania. What Does The Bible Really
Teach. 1st ed. Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc,
2005.
q "Your Decision to Serve God." Watchtower Official Site of Jehovah's Witnesses.
1996. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. 10 Oct. 2005
.
q Hayes, Holly. "Practices of Jehovah's Witnesses." ReligionFacts.com. 2004. 14
Oct. 2005
.
q "Statistics: 2004 Report of Jehovah's Witnesses Worldwide." Watchtower Official
Site of Jehovah's Witnesses. 2005. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of
New York, Inc. 16 Oct. 2005
.
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Shared on May 9, 2013 2:25 am by Kurtan1
Edited last by Kurtan1 on May 9, 2013 2:25 am
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