The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has provided direction to all branches regarding religious activities during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. This direction has been provided as a series of letters.
In turn, the branches have disseminated these letters to bodies of elders around the world. The elders, likewise, have disseminated the contents of these letters to their congregants as appropriate.
What have the letters to say about Coronavirus and its impact on the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ religious activities?
COVID-19 and Cleanliness
In a letter dated February 28, 2020 to Spanish congregations, they make the following statement: “If the local government recommends precautions or implements restrictions, it is best to obey these “superior authorities”. It is curious that they must direct their members to obey secular law.
Additionally, they feel the need to provide the same precautionary measures as secular sources: Frequently clean hands, avoid touching your face, cover your mouth and nose when sneezing, avoid close contact with those who have a fever or cough and so on. This would indicate that there are some Jehovah’s Witnesses who need the religious leaders to tell them what to do, how to behave, and how to react.
COVID-19: Fulfillment of Bible Prophecy?
In another letter, dated March 2, 2020, the Governing Body had the Spanish branch issue a letter to congregation elders marked as URGENT. In it, they say that they “are all pleased to see the fulfillment of Bible prophecies in these last days”. (See Proverbs 17:5) While the rest of the world are concerned about the impact this pandemic has on themselves and their neighbours, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are pleased it is fulfilling their interpretation of bible prophecy.
However, the letter does go on to say that it is sad that wars, earthquakes and pestilences are affecting thousands of brothers and sisters. In our view, it is sad that these events are also affecting millions of people worldwide. But sadly, those people mean nothing to Jehovah’s Witnesses unless they are studying to be Jehovah’s Witnesses. In their mind, they deserve to die as part of bible prophecy. Is it any wonder when Governing Body member, Anthony Morris III makes the statement “Cheer up, it’s going to get worse … it doesn’t bother me; we’ve been waiting for this” during the 148th Gilead Graduation?
COVID-19 & Memorial Invitations
In a letter to members in the US dated March 9, 2020, they were still directing their members to conduct a campaign to distribute memorial invitations to the public. Caution was given to wide distribution of invitations if the elders deemed the public would react adversely to it. According to one reddit user, a current elder, this vague direction has caused some confusion and consternation in some congregations in the US.
On March 12, 2020, almost 2 weeks after the letter was issued to congregations in Spain, they issued a similar letter to bodies of elders in the UK and Ireland. In it, the elders were directed to inform their congregation members that bethel tours, circuit assemblies, bethel speaking assignments are cancelled until further notice. The Governing Body were still unsure how to handle the memorial. Jehovah had not yet given them direction on that point. We’re sure they were looking to the secular authorities for direction, rather than getting a response from God.
Also in the letter to the British, they included comments about basic hygiene and curiously, fist-bumping.
What’s very interesting is that the Governing Body sent a very different letter to elders in the United States. In it, they were still directing elders to hold the memorial at kingdom halls, if not restricted from doing so by the secular authorities.
Incidentally, at the outset of the letter, the Governing Body was claiming they were “deeply concerned about the brotherhood in connection with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic”. Surely, such deep concern would have moved them to cancel the memorial without requiring secular authorities to make that decision for them. Where was Jehovah with his direction? Clearly, these men are moved not by God but by secular decisions.
COVID-19 Suspends the Public Preaching Work
In yet another letter sent to bodies of elders dated March 13 2020, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses directed that the door-to-door and public preaching work was to be suspended immediately. Furthermore, pioneers were not placed under pressure to meet the hour goals that were instituted by Jesus when he came up out of the waters of Galilee in 29 CE. I jest. Jesus didn’t count his time preaching; only Jehovah’s Witnesses do that.
After much thought, the Governing Body realized that if meetings are not continued, the indoctrination of the masses would wear off. Therefore, on March 16, 2020, they issued another letter. This time, they directed elders to continue to hold congregation meetings with kingdom halls being the preferred location if not restricted by the secular authorities. Again one must ask if they are truly “deeply concerned about the brotherhood in connection with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic”. It seems they are more concerned with having bums on seats, wherever possible. Another curious statement made in this letter is this sentence:
Elders should keep in mind that local publishers will have to make decisions regarding meeting attendance based on their personal circumstances
This is a machiavellian way of saying, “Do your utmost to ensure the members are attending meetings, in some way or another”.
A Word of Caution
Meanwhile, on their authorized website, they recognize that this pandemic is yet another evidence that we are living deep in the last days. They quote Luke 21:7-13 and Revelation 6:8, neither of which use the term “deep in the last days”. Notice that Luke 21:8 does caution readers not to be misled by those who say ‘The due time is near.’ We echo what Luke says.