OGDEN – Jehovah’s Witnesses came from Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada to the Dee Events Center for an annual convention held Friday through Sunday.
The “Imitate Jesus!” conference was a three-day event for members of the Jehovah’s Witness faith. This year’s meetings focused on encouraging people to imitate the life of service Jesus led.
The religion has a 30-year relationship with Weber State University. The group has been to the Dee Events Center many times in past years for conventions and other gatherings. Ogden is a central location for the members coming from neighboring states.
More than 5,200 members attended the meetings. The convention included keynote speakers, symposium lessons, congregational hymns and dramas or pre-recorded video presentations.
Al Williams, the convention committee coordinator, offered the keynote address Friday. “For most people in the world, Jesus is the stranger beyond the manger,” he said.
Williams encouraged members to know Christ an the principles he taught and to see the world correctly.
“We don’t go with our gut feeling, we go with Bible principles,” Williams said.
He explained that principles are never-changing truths that guide laws.
Gregg Smith, a circuit overseer for Northern Utah, discussed how the members can imitate Jesus and why it is important. A circuit is a geographical organization in the Jehovah’s Witness church. The state of Utah has two circuits.
Smith encouraged members to continue emulating Christ despite persecutions.
“People will ridicule us and pick on us, but if they keep watching us, they will notice something about us,” he said.
He concluded by stating that the purpose of the “Imitate Jesus!” convention is to get a close, personal look at Jesus.
Jehovah’s Witness members live around the world. The faith reports nearly 8 million publishers, or members involved in missionary work, worldwide in 2014. The 2015 yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses also recorded a memorial attendance of almost 20 million individuals in 239 countries. The United States alone accounts for more than 2.5 million members.
The Leonard family came from Ammon, Idaho, to attend the convention. They feel the convention serves as an excellent reminder just how to follow Christ. The family noted that the convention encourages stronger families through Bible study.
“By having strong families, we build strong communities,” Mary Leonard said.
The family has also seen many people misunderstand their faith in Jesus.
“A lot of people think we don’t believe in Jesus,” Mary Leonard said, “just because of our name or because we don’t celebrate Christmas.”
However, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus Christ to be Jehovah’s (God’s) greatest witness as well as his son, she said.
Jeffrey Tackett, media relations manager for the convention, named the faith’s core belief as “an absolute belief that Jehovah is God, our creator, and He cares about us.” He also said they believe their lives are best used in working to build the kingdom of God here on Earth and that Jesus will be the king of that kingdom.
The Bible is central to the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many members in attendance had their own copy of the New World Translation of the bible, favored by the faith. They believe their authority comes from the Bible. They also believe in creating the same church Christ established when he was on Earth.
The religion is also known for missionary service among members. The church’s main website, www.jw.org, defines missionaries, or pioneers, as “full-time evangelizers” or “publishers of the good news.” The church organizes pioneers into three categories: regular, special, and auxiliary. A regular pioneer spends 70 hours a month preaching door to door. A special pioneer will work 130 hours or more each month. An auxiliary pioneer works between 30 and 50 hours each month.
Pioneers distribute church sponsored magazines such as Awake! and the Watchtower. All members, leaders and pioneers donate their time and money to the church at their own discretion. There is no tithing requirement or any stipulation on the amount an individual can or should donate.
The church does not pay its ecclesiastical leaders for any services. Pioneers use their own funds and means to “publish the good news” as well. Many of the magazines the member distribute focus on looking at world events in light of biblical prophecy.
The next “Imitate Jesus!” convention will be held next month in St. George.