Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses both are active religious groups within the United States and across the globe. Because both groups make heavy use of missionary work, especially going door-to-door to discuss their religions, people can confuse them. However, despite having some similarities due to their common roots in Christianity, they constitute wholly separate religious movements with different beliefs and practices.
Joseph Smith founded the Mormons in the 1820s in the United States. After his death in 1844, a man named Brigham Young led many of Joseph Smith's original followers west to what is now modern-day Utah. This group became known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and most contemporary Mormons belong to this organization today. However, small groups of Mormons have split from the Church of Jesus Christ throughout its history. Mormons consider the Book of Mormon, which chronicles Christian belief among Native Americans before the coming of Europeans, to be a religious authority equally important as the Bible. Mormons consider themselves Christian, and the worship of Jesus Christ is a central tenant of their belief, although their practice and theology have become different enough from mainstream Christian groups that some do not consider Mormons to be Christian.
Charles Taze Russell founded the movement of Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States in the 1870s. Initially called Bible Students, they adopted the name Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931. Jehovah's Witnesses believe God inspired the Bible, and they interpret it literally. Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Second Coming of Christ is imminent and could happen very soon. They use a specific translation of the Bible called the New World translation. Jehovah's Witnesses consider themselves Christian but they consider mainstream Christian groups such as Catholics and Protestants incorrect in their beliefs. Likewise, many mainstream Christian groups do not consider Jehovah's Witnesses to be Christian.
Both Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses belong to religious groups founded in America in the 19th century. Both consider themselves Christian and use a form of the Bible. Neither group believes in the Trinity in the same way that mainstream Christians do, with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit equal and of the same being. Both consider evangelism and missionary work essential to their belief. Both consider mainstream Christian groups to be incorrect and see themselves as returning to original Christian beliefs. Some mainstream groups do not consider either group Christian.
Because the groups have always been separate, they have many differences; here are a few examples. Mormons follow the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and the Book of Mormon in addition to the King James Bible. Jehovah's Witnesses follow the New World Translation of the Bible. Neither group uses the other's teachings. Most Mormons organize under the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; Jehovah's Witnesses organize under a Governing Body. Mormons believe the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are separate but equal gods that form a "Godhead," but Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jesus is inferior to God the Father and that the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of God the Father's power. Jehovah's Witnesses believe the second coming of Jesus is very near but Mormons do not.
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images