Jehovah's Witnesses is a nontrinitarian, millenarian, restorationist Christian denomination. As of 2023, the group reported approximately 8.6 million members involved in evangelism, with around 20.5 million attending the annual Memorial of Christ's death. The denomination is directed by a group of elders known as the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, which establishes all doctrines. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the destruction of the present world system at Armageddon is imminent, and the establishment of God's kingdom over earth is the only solution to all of humanity's problems.
The group emerged in the United States from the Bible Student movement founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell, who also co-founded Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society in 1881 to organize and print the movement's publications. A leadership dispute after Russell's death resulted in several groups breaking away, with Joseph Franklin Rutherford retaining control of the Watch Tower Society and its properties Rutherford made significant organizational and doctrinal changes, including the adoption of the name Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931 to distinguish the group from other Bible Student groups and symbolize a break with the legacy of Russell's traditions.
Jehovah's Witnesses are known for their door-to-door preaching, distributing literature such as “The Watchtower” and “Awake!”, and for refusing military service and blood transfusions. They consider the use of God's name vital for proper worship. They reject Trinitarianism, inherent immortality of the soul, and hellfire, which they consider unscriptural doctrines. They do not observe Christmas, Easter, birthdays, or other holidays and customs they consider to have pagan origins incompatible with Christianity. They prefer to use their own Bible translation, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Witnesses commonly call their body of beliefs "The Truth" and consider themselves to be "in the Truth". They consider human society morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan, and most limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses.
Congregational disciplinary actions include disfellowshipping, their term for formal expulsion, and shunning, a last resort for what they consider serious offenses. Baptized people who formally leave are considered disassociated and are also shunned. Disfellowshipped and disassociated people may eventually be reinstated. Former members may experience significant mental distress because of being shunned, and some seek reinstatement to keep in contact with their friends and family. Expelled individuals may eventually be reinstated to the congregation if deemed repentant by congregation elders, after some time, usually not less than six months. Reinstatement is a long process, which the individual may experience as mentally and emotionally draining.
The group's position on conscientious objection to military service and refusal to salute state symbols (like national anthems and flags) has brought it into conflict with some governments. Some Jehovah's Witnesses have been persecuted, and their activities banned or restricted in some countries. Persistent legal challenges by Jehovah's Witnesses have influenced legislation related to civil rights in several countries.
The organization has been criticized regarding biblical translation, doctrines, and alleged coercion of its members. The Watch Tower Society has made various unfulfilled predictions about major biblical events, such as Christ's Second Coming, the advent of God's kingdom, and Armageddon. Their policies for handling cases of child sexual abuse have been the subject of various formal inquiries.