The Rules. Here's What Jehovah's Witnesses Believe.
Right or wrong, Jehovah's Witnesses are expected to obey all the rules. They are required to believe the Watchtower is 'God's organization' and 'channel of communication. Disrespect, disregard, and contempt for 'divine standards' is treated as 'wrong doing'.
When Jehovah's Witnesses have serious doubts and when they can't be loyal to the Watchtower any more, they are routinely disfellowshipped (excommunicated) for 'apostasy'.
There is no honorable way to leave. Family members and friends are not allowed to associate with former members. If they do, they can be disfellowshipped as well. Jehovah's Witnesses can't even greet a disfellowshipped JW with a simple 'Hi. How are you?'. Most will walk right by without making eye contact.
This means that since 1952, the Watchtower's shunning requirement for members who leave has destroyed millions of families and close relationships.
This list of rules is not an official organizational document. It was compiled by former members based on experience and information in Watchtower publications.
141 Rules. Things Jehovah's Witnesses Can't Do.
Belong to another organization or club for the purpose of socializing with nonbelievers. See Religion First
Attend social functions sponsored by their employer unless attendance is required. (The Watchtower says, 'there is a clear difference between being friendly toward a workmate and being that one’s close companion. Here is where another Scriptural principle enters the picture. The apostle Paul warned Christians: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.”, WT, May 1, 2007, Article: 'Let God’s Word Guide Your Steps', par 9)
Associate with coworkers after business hours in a social settings is not encouraged (See #4)
Run for leadership in their organization. (JW's are 'appointed' and invited to be leaders.)
Run for leadership in any religious or political organization
Take a stand for any political issue inside their organization
Take a stand on any political or 'worldly' issue outside of their organization
Campaign for a political candidate
Hold political office
Be a union steward or shop steward.(WT Feb 15, 1961, 'Questions From Readers')
Actively be involved in a union strike (See #20)
Use a gun for protection against humans (WT July 15, 1983, 'Seek Peace and Pursue It')
Become a police officer if a gun is required (See #22)
Wear military uniforms or clothing associated with war ('In time, the government ordered me and a number of other young Witnesses to report for military service. We went to the military base as ordered, but we respectfully refused to put on the uniform. The officials held us in custody, and soon afterward a court sentenced us to six months in prison. We were also incarcerated for the eight months required for military service. So we spent a total of 14 months in prison because of our neutral stand.' WT, Apr 1, 2006, Article: 'Life Story
Determined to Serve Jehovah, Subtitle: 'My Determination Grows', 4th par)
Read 'worldly' books, magazines, publications, and literature that might weaken their faith ('Why should we be distracted by worldly wisdom or that which is “falsely called ‘knowledge’”?' WT, Sept 15, 2003, Article: '“The Law of the Wise One”—A Source of Life', Subtitle: 'Rejoice in the “Light” ' par 2; 'compared with Jehovah’s Word, the endless volumes of this world contain mere human reasoning. Much of this thinking reflects the mind of Satan the Devil. ... Excessive attention to other books or sources of instruction can wear us out. Especially when such writings are the product of worldly reasoning that conflicts with godly wisdom are they unwholesome and destructive of faith in God.' WT, Nov 15, 1999, Article: 'Are You Fulfilling Your Whole Obligation to God?' par 14)
Buying anything from a church store would mean financially supporting a 'false' religion
Buy something at a church garage sale (See #32)
Donate items to a church run store so they can sell it and make money (See #32)
Shop at the Salvation Army (JW's do not support 'false' religions. See Watchtower Mar 1, 1970, Article: 'Why They Left Their Church')
Work for the Salvation Army. (JW's do not want to be affiliated with the Salvation Army. WT, Sept 1, 1962, Article: 'Do You Know the Salvation Army?'
Work for another church (WT, Apr 15, 1999, 'Questions From Readers')
Play competitive sports on a school team (WT Feb 12, 2005, Article: 'Do You Measure Yourself Against Others')
Play competitive sports professionally (See #38)
Run for class president is looked down upon probably because it's political in nature. JW's are politically neutral
Becoming a cheerleader is something most JW's would not do (immodesty, association with non-believers, encouraging competitive sports, it can 'stumble' others, etc)
Go to the school prom or school dance. (Awake! Magazine, Mar 8, 1993, Article: 'Should I Go to the Prom')
Attend class reunions. JW's are 'separate from the world' and prefer friendships within their religion (See #4)
Be hypnotized (Awake! Magazine, July 8, 2003, Article: 'The Bible's Viewpoint Is Hypnotism for Christians?)
Accept Jesus as their mediator, 1 Timothy 2:5. See Mediator
Join the Boy Scouts (Awake! Magazine, Feb 22, 1973, Article: 'Watching the World', Subtitle: 'Boy Scouts and Firearms')
Join the Girl Guides (The worldly viewpoints of the Girl Scouts conflicts with the beliefs of JW's)
Get married in another church (Baptized JW's are expected to marry only within their religion. See Elder's manual, Shepherd the Flock of God)
Dating non believers is discouraged because dating is expected to lead to marriage within their faith (Elder's manual. Shepherd the Flock of God, p 125-126)
Casual dating is discouraged because it can lead to hurt feelings and sexual temptation. Dating is only for those seeking marriage. (Awake! Magazine, January 2007, Article: 'When Can I Start Dating?', Subtitle:, 'What Are Your Intentions?')
Dating someone without the intent of getting married. (See #56)
Having sex before marriage. ('Said one Christian sister, “It is only at home and at the Kingdom Hall that my children learn that homosexuality and sex outside of marriage are bad in God’s eyes.” ', WT, April 15, 2008, Article: 'Young People, Remember Your Grand Creator Now.', par 8)
Breaking an engagement 'would not necessarily call for removal from an exemplary position or a restriction of congregational privileges. Whether there are valid reasons or not for terminating the engagement will always be a determining factor.' (WT, June 15, 1975, 'Questions From Readers', 'If a Christian unilaterally breaks his (or her) engagement to marry, what effect would this have on such a one’s being used in an exemplary way in the congregation?')
Marriage to non believers is not recommended and not approved of (See Elder's manual, Shepherd the Flock of God, p 126)
Homosexuality is not allowed. (Awake! Magazine, Feb 2007, Article: 'Young People Ask . . .
Homosexuality—How Can I Avoid It?) Also see quote from the Watchtower magazine in rule #58.
Throw rice at a wedding (WT, May 15, 1961, 'Questions From Readers')
Get remarried unless the reason is adultery (WT, Apr 15, 2008, Article: 'Marriage and Parenthood in This Time of the End')
Can't remarry unless their ex commits fornication first (See supporting evidence in #63)
Toast drinks (WT, Feb 15, 2007, 'Question From Readers', 'The Bible does not mention toasting, so why do Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid sharing in toasts?')
Buy a raffle ticket because it's gambling (WT Oct 15, 1997, Article: 'Discerning the Principle Reflects Maturity, Subtitle: 'Look Behind the Law', 5th par).
Play bingo (WT, Nov 15, 2006, Article: 'An Issue That Involves You', Subtitle: 'Pleasing God in Other Areas of Life', 3rd par)
Gambling is greed, competitive, addictive, etc. (WT, Nov 1, 2002, 'Questions From Readers', 'Is it wrong to bet if only small amounts of money are involved?'
Sing any holiday songs. Celebrating false religious and political songs is not allowed.
Take on a leadership role in school (This would be considered 'worldly' and political in nature. JW's are separate from the world)
JW's 'Avoid Sexual Misconduct' (The Watchtower says, 'Love for fellow humans will deter you from engaging in sexual misconduct.' WT, Nov 15, 2006, Article: 'Keep Yourself In God's Love!' Subtitle: 'Display True Love for Others', par 11; Also see, WT, Nov 15, 2006, Article: 'An Issue That Involves You', Subtitle: 'Avoid Sexual Misconduct) See Jehovah's High Moral Standards
Do suggestive and immodest dancing in a public place. This could put the organization in a bad light. Sexual misconduct is not allowed (WT, Aug 15, 1987, Article: 'Youths—Are You Spiritually Progressive?' Subtitle: 'Evidenced by Conduct', 1st par)
Attend a class, workshop, or seminar, sponsored by another church (This would be financially supporting a 'false' religion)
Attend social events or fund raisers sponsored by another church. JW's cannot support 'false religions'
Use of bad language (curse words) if it is a habit or reflects badly upon the organization
Wear blue jeans, shorts, and overly casual clothing at the Kingdom Hall. See Dress Code
Wear pants at a Kingdom Hall if you're a woman. This is probably because according to the WT, men should be masculine and women should be feminine. God created women to be submissive to men. (WT, June 15, 1997, Article: “Male and Female He Created Them”)
Wear revealing clothes or skirts that are too short. The Watchtower says, 'you would certainly not want to invite undue attention by flirting or by being immodest in your dress and grooming.' (WT, Sept 15, 2006, Article: “Rejoice With the Wife of Your Youth”, par 8)
Wear long hair or facial hair if you're a man (depends on the local customs of the country you live in. JW's are concerned about stumbling non believers who may be interested in the JW religion.)
Body piercing (Awake! Magazine, Mar 22, 2000, Article: 'Young People Ask . . .
What About Body Piercing?'
Tattoos might indicate a rebellious nature and disrespect for authority. (Similar to 'Body Piercing')
Study tarot cards, get a reading or give a reading (Awake! Magazine, July 2008, Article: 'The Bible’s Viewpoint
Why You Should Beware of Spiritism')
Study numerology or get a reading ('Numerology is devoid of scientific basis, and it fares badly when examined under the light of reason. More important, because it is a form of divination, numerology conflicts with Bible teachings. In view of that, numerology is not a beneficial means of regulating your life or planning your future.' Awake! Magazine, Sept 8, 2002, Article: 'Should You Look to Numbers for Guidance?', last par)
Dabble in ESP (extrasensory perception), dowsing, or divination (See #119)
Use a tool such as a pendulum to access information from the spiritual realm (WT Nov 15, 1962, Article: 'Protecting Yourself from “Wicked Spirit Forces”)
Read their horoscope ('True Christians must keep the dark practices of superstition out of their life' WT, Aug 1, 2002, Article: 'Do Superstitions Control Your Life?', last par)
Study astrology or zodiac signs ('Although astrology and witchcraft are still popular today, the Bible warns against their use.' WT, Dec 1, 2009, Article: 'Our Readers Ask
Did Three Wise Men Really Visit Baby Jesus?'
2nd last par)
Combat training, boxing, or martial arts (WT July 1, 1981, 'Questions From Readers')
Go to heaven unless they are part of the 144,000 ( 144000 )
Idolize any celebrity or love and admire them to excess (Awake! Jan 8, 2003, 'Watching the World', Subtitle: 'Celebrity Worship')
Women can't be Elders
Women can't be ministerial servants (assistants to the Elders)
Divulge secret information to enemies and those not entitled to know. See Theocratic Warfare
Greet or talk with disfellowshipped persons (with some exceptions. See Elder's Manual, Shepherd the Flock of God)
Associate with friends and family members who leave the Watchtower, except for immediate family living in the same house. See the Watchtower's secret rule book, Shepherd the Flock of God and video from the 2013 convention of Jehovah's Witnesses, - Shun Your Family
Keep secrets from the organization. Jehovah's Witnesses report friends and family members breaking the rules ('You should speak to the wrongdoer, urging him to seek the help of the elders. (James 5:13-18) If he does not do this within a reasonable period of time, concern for the cleanness of the congregation should move you to report the matter to the elders.' WT, Oct 15, 1989, Article: 'Guard Against Harmful Gossip!' par 21)
More Rules and Things Jehovah's Witnesses Can't Do. Part 2.
Women cannot assume the role of a male and instruct the congregation. See Women Keep Silent
A woman should not pray in the presence of a baptized male JW. Watchtower July 15, 2002, Questions from Readers
JW's can't do things that might 'stumble' other JW's or non believers. i.e. even though they have right to do something doesn't mean that they should. They are mindful that their conduct could be misinterpreted by others. WT, Feb 15, 2009, Article: 'Should You Insist on Your Personal Preferences?' par 2)
JW's avoid flirting (WT, Nov 15, 2006, Article: 'An Issue That Involves You', Subtitle: 'Avoid Sexual Misconduct)
JW's avoid pornography (See 'Avoid Sexual Misconduct', item #7)
JW's avoid sexual fantasizing (See 'Avoid Sexual Misconduct', item #7)
JW's avoid reading accounts of sexual activities (See 'Avoid Sexual Misconduct', item #7)
JW's avoid listening to suggestive lyrics in songs (See 'Avoid Sexual Misconduct', item #7)
JW's avoid 'moral uncleanness', 'fornication', 'sexual appetite', 'hurtful desire', 'covetousness', 'immoral fleshly desires' (WT Feb 15, 2009, Article: 'Let Jesus' Sayings Affect Your Attitude', par 12) See Jehovah's High Moral Standards
JW's can't visit this website or others that will help them break free from Watchtower control. And they cannot comment on what we have to say. [WT, July 15, 2011, Article: "Will You Pay Attention to Jehovah's Clear Warnings?", p 11-16; par 5-13]
JW's can't read any books or watch any TV programs that contradict Watchtower doctrines. [WT, July 15, 2011, Article: "Will You Pay Attention to Jehovah's Clear Warnings?", p 11-16; par 5-13]
JW's can't think like people outside their religion. They must think exactly like Watchtower tells them to think. [WT, July 15, 2011, Article: "Will You Pay Attention to Jehovah's Clear Warnings?", p 11-16; par 5-13] Mind Control
The Watchtower says JW's must not come in contact with former JW's (apostates) because mental disease is contagious and they could die! The Watchtower says, ''Apostates “quietly” bring their ideas into the congregation, like criminals who secretly bring things into a country. ... If we follow them, we will leave the road to everlasting life. ... The warning from the Bible is like a warning from a doctor who tells you to avoid a person who has a disease that may spread to others. The doctor knows that if you get this disease, you will die. The Bible says that apostates are mentally diseased.' [WT, July 15, 2011, Article: "Will You Pay Attention to Jehovah's Clear Warnings?", p 11-16; par 5-13]
Some JW rules cannot be broken without serious consequences. Here are the top five rules. The word 'CAN'T' in this list of 141 rules includes restrictions of the organization and restrictions JW's place upon themselves in an effort to please their God Jehovah.
Many of the 141 rules such watching porn, reading sexual materials, sexual fantasies, etc are hard to enforce if there's no proof. Two or three witnesses are required to prove guilt. Or someone might voluntarily confess. However going to the Elders in hopes of solving their 'problem' is not likely to make them feel better.
All JW's are expected to turn off sexual thoughts or 'deaden' them except for the person they're married to. A person who can't do that might feel broken, defective, hopeless, unloved by God, etc.
To understand the loneliness, guilt, self-imposed judgment, and despair JW's can feel when they have sexual fantasies, read 'Jehovah's High Moral Standards' and the path to mental illness.
Jehovah's Witnesses may object and say they have gotten away with doing some of the things on this list. This is very true. The rules are not quite as important as loyalty to the organization.
Here's what our experience was when we were Jehovah's Witnesses.
If a Jehovah's Witness wants to be loved and accepted by their family and the only friends they are allowed to have, they instinctively know it's best to go above and beyond the minimum requirements of the Watchtower Society.
The last thing a Jehovah's Witness wants to do is get in trouble with the organization or be called in for a 'judicial committee hearing'. In an effort to stay out of trouble, some Jehovah's Witness like to blend in and not be noticed. Others prefer to take the lime light as a leader, doing far more than is required.
The rules were compiled by former Jehovah's Witnesses who were happy to live by these rules when they were active in the organization.
That being said, the rules can be very restrictive for young children who are singled out because they can't do many things fellow students do. Many adult JW's don't have a problem following the rules. The ones that do, are free to leave. However leaving is very difficult.
Some rules could be condensed to make the list shorter and some rules could be expanded to make the list longer.
The rules are not organized in order of importance.
Everyone is afraid of challenging the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. Even some highly inactive Jehovah's Witnesses who rarely go to meetings, are afraid to speak out against the organization. Secretly they break the rules when no one is watching. But they will not publicly voice their viewpoints or disagree.
Saying anything negative about their religion could result in disfellowshipping and being shunned. If this were to happen, they would lose relationships with family and friends inside the organization.
If caught, some things Jehovah's Witnesses can't do are very serious and can result in disfellowshipping or disassociation. Other things are looked down upon or judged negatively by individuals within the organization. Some things are a matter conscience. Not every rule is given equal weight. In serious matters there needs to be two or more witnesses to the 'wrong doing' unless the accused admits guilt. Matthew 18:15-17
For some items on this list, there are no formal rules that say you must not do these things. No one forbids them from being a cheerleader, buying girl scout cookies, reading literature from other religions, playing competitive sports, etc. ... Jehovah's Witnesses 'can' technically do some of the things on this list, but they don't. Zealous JW's choose to follow stricter guidelines. They don't participate because most are overwhelmed by fear and guilt at the mere thought of displeasing Jehovah.
For example, Jehovah's Witnesses must not celebrate Halloween. Does that mean they can't give out candies when children come to their door? No. However many Jehovah's Witnesses will not participate in giving out candies, because to them it's part of the Halloween celebration. 
Why do Jehovah's Witnesses feel guilty about doing so many things? Because their God Jehovah has many attributes. He is a God of love, but he is also a God of righteousness and judgment. Obedience is required. When angered, Jehovah is capable of wiping out entire nations in a fit of rage. Deut 9:6-8; Zechariah 8:14; 2 Kings 22:13; Isaiah 13:9-16; Nahum 1:2.
Jehovah is a tribal God. He demands sacrifice and obedience to tribal rules and regulations. For ancient tribes, group survival was far more important than individual rights and freedoms. Because strict rules are easy to break, worshipers of Jehovah are never certain of salvation. See Jehovah vs Jesus
Jesus brought with him a new, more accurate understanding in which individuals answer directly to God. They do not worship God by being faithful to a tribe, religion, or visible organization. Their personal relationship with God is symbolized by baptism Followers of Jesus are not saved by keeping rules. Eternal life is a free gift.
Christians are free from strict laws, rules, and regulations. They don't have as much guilt or fear because they have a personal relationship with Jesus. Christians are saved by God's grace. There is nothing they can do to earn salvation. The God of Christians is kind, loving, humble, and gentle. Matthew 11:29; 1 John 4:8-21; Luke 6:27,35; He is forgiving and understanding. Matthew 6:14; Mark 11:25; See Law of the Christ
The Jehovah's Witnesses recognize the teachings of Jesus, but they choose to put Jehovah first. Even though Jesus came to do the will of his Father, there is evidence that Jehovah is a very different God. Of course God has not changed. However our understanding of God has evolved. There is only one Creator. Jesus explained the true nature of God and disagreed with the Pharisees who focused on rules instead of God's love.
Since Jehovah's Witnesses serve Jehovah, they must earn God's love just like the ancient Israelites did. There is guilt because whatever they do for Jehovah, it may not to be enough. Oftentimes Jehovah's Witnesses believe they could have done more, and because they didn't, there is worry that Jehovah may not save them. What if they have angered Jehovah in some way that they are not aware of? What if Jehovah punishes them for not doing enough in these last days before armageddon? What if they could have attended more meetings, spent more time going from door to door, etc. ... ?
Ironically, in their fear of displeasing Jehovah (and the Apostle Paul who was a self-proclaimed Christian Pharisee, Acts 23:6), they have not fully accepted the teachings of Jesus. e.g. See Apostate Jehovah's Witnesses. It's important for Christians to follow Jesus because the Bible says all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. Matthew 28:18.
The 141 rules listed on this page are based on our personal experiences when we were Jehovah's Witnesses. This is the way we thought. We observed fellow Jehovah's Witnesses dealing with guilt, what's right, and what's wrong.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Jehovah's light gets brighter and brighter. That's why there is nothing wrong with changing beliefs as needed. Old understandings of what God requires are quickly forgotten and new doctrines are eagerly adopted as new truths from Jehovah.
When talking about things they can't do or are not allowed to do, there are 'gray' areas. Some things, they 'must' not do. Other things they shouldn't do. Some things are not recommended. And some things are a matter conscience. Faithful Jehovah's Witnesses often feel guilty that they might be doing something to displease God. Some consult with elders or write the Society's headquarters for guidance to make sure they haven't displeased Jehovah.
It is interesting that some people get disfellowshipped for the the smallest of infractions. While others get away with a lot and no one ever says anything. It all depends on how much you're liked in your congregation, how much time you spend going door to door, and how loyal you are to the organization.
If you really want to understand the truth about what Jehovah's Witnesses believe is wrong, search the internet for the secret document for Elders only. This recent 2010 organizational document guides Elders on how they are to enforce the rules. If you're not an Elder, you are not allowed to read this information. Thus ordinary JW's do not totally understand the rules or what will happen to them if they do something wrong.
We certainly love and respect the desire Jehovah's Witnesses have to please God. It is commendable. However in their efforts to be the most righteous and best religion on the planet, they have added rules and regulations that Jesus did not teach. This is unfortunate because the Bible says that Jesus is the path to eternal life. John 6:40-68; Jude 1:21; John 17:2; John 10:25-30; John 3:14-16.
In addition, the Apostle John said, 'Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; ... If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.' 2 John 1: 9 - 11 NIV
Does this mean that the Apostle John supported the doctrine of disfellowshipping. No he did not. See Do Not Say A Greeting and find out what this scripture means.
Jehovah's rules can change at anytime and sometimes there are no clear guidelines. When this happens, Elders decide what to do or they call their corporate headquarters for instructions.
Here is a summary of rules someone sent us. They are based on the 2010 handbook for Elders, called "Shepherd The Flock Of God."
1. Wikipedia says a theocracy is 'a form of government in which a state is governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided.'
2. Mind Control. Jehovah's Witnesses have a unique language that they are proud of. It reinforces their belief that they are the only ones with the truth and living is a spiritual paradise. However no one has told them the true purpose of their unique wordology. Words like 'in the truth', 'God's organization', 'paradise earth', 'doomed system of things', etc, are repeated within the organization over and over again in literature, conversations, and meetings. Powerful words keep Jehovah's witnesses obedient, afraid to question the authority of their religious leaders.
Some JW's try to reclaim their freedom by leaving the organization. However even then most are afraid to say what they really want to say especially if they have family and friends inside the church. Long after a Jehovah Witness leaves their religion, they remain firmly attached to the beliefs of the Watchtower, until they understand how mind control works.
3. Obedience. Jehovah's Witnesses are required to 'speak in agreement' and defend all doctrines even when they have doubts. They are afraid to question Jehovah's wisdom as explained by the Watchtower because they are told they belong to Jehovah's organization. Thus, the good of the organization is thought to be far more important than individual rights, beliefs, and freedom of speech. Are Jehovah's Witnesses A Cult?
Independent thinking is discouraged because unity of beliefs is a requirement. Speaking out against the church's doctrines is thought to be a dangerous path leading to 'apostasy' and termination of one's membership in Jehovah's organization. A JW's salvation as a Christian and making it through armageddon alive depends on their dedication and obedience to Jehovah's spirit guided organization, the WT. See Baptism
4. Equality. Importance of women in the JW religion based on the publication for Elders, "Shepherd The Flock Of God".
5. Halloween. If you want to meet a lot of JW's, without going to a Kingdom Hall service, go to stores, restaurants, and public places after dark on Halloween. They don't want to be home when children go trick or treating. Many of them leave their homes, turn out the lights, and go to out for the evening. Or they stay home in the dark. Whatever, ... It's just a really uncomfortable time of year for Jehovah's Witnesses.
6. Jehovah's Witnesses fear and obey their religious leaders based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:45-51
It is believed that the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses is God's only channel of communication in the world today. Watchtower June 15, 2009 edition, entitled, "The Faithful Steward and It's Governing Body".
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