By Bible Speaks
PRESS ARTICLE DEDICATED TO A CONGREGATION OF THE UNITED STATES.
THE ARTICLE SAYS:
The congregation gets up and joins in a song. They take turns sharing thoughts and answering questions from "The Watchtower". They enthusiastically help visitors by helping them find the Scriptures, songs and passages of their journals.
Members of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Utah County are few, but they live their faith devoutly. In fact, the congregation is small, but the Witnesses still spend time trying to spread their beliefs. The American Fork congregation is one of four listed by denomination in Utah County. Others are found in Provo, Orem and Spanish Fork.
Jehovah's Witnesses honor Jehovah, whom they believe is the God of the Bible and the creator of all things. Because they "testify" or talk about Jehovah God and his Kingdom, they are known as Jehovah's Witnesses, according to the faith website.
Of course, there is a need for help in the ministry, so church leaders send volunteers to American Fork to help the church grow. Peggy Wilkerson and her husband, Tom, are two of those volunteers.
"At American Fork, we have a large territory and it continues to grow," said Peggy Wilkerson. "Then, we need help."
According to Peggy Wilkerson, the Witnesses send time sheets from their ministry to their headquarters in Warwick, New York. Church leaders can see if they cover their area well enough or if they need more people to help.
These people come from areas with larger concentrations of Jehovah's Witnesses, such as Colorado and California. The Wilkersons come from Wyoming.
Before the Wilkersons came to Utah, they served in Mexico for a couple of years. Like all volunteers, they had to make the trip and stay on their own. Then, the Wilkersons made a big decision when Tom retired after years of working for the oil and natural gas industry.
When I retired at the age of 62 and a half, I sold (our house), I packed everything we had and went to Mexico where the need was great, "he said.
Unlike the Wilkersons, Tirzah Fellows has lived in Utah most of her life, but her father moved to Spanish Fork from Kansas before she was born. Before that, he was serving as an elder in Kansas and moved to Utah to help the church grow, like the Wilkersons.
Fellows is used to the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after all their years in Utah. She was the only Witness at her school in Utah, but she has appreciated it.
"There is nothing that would change," said Fellows. "Just because of how I grew up and how I raise my daughter."
Still, there are certain misconceptions that Fellows and other Witnesses should explain to their neighbors, schoolmates and co-workers. They do not celebrate parties, or salute the flag, or serve in the army or vote.
"Tessa (daughter of Fellows) knows why we do not celebrate the holidays, she knows why we do not wave at the flag," Fellows said. "It's not just because I told her, there's a reasoning behind this."
The fellows said their daughter is very proud to defend her faith in school and elsewhere. Fellows is the same way and refers to the Bible to explain why Jehovah's Witnesses do and do not do certain things.
Costco Pharmacy, where Fellows works, is one of the places where you have the opportunity to explain your beliefs to your co-workers from time to time. She feels that she has a good understanding of the beliefs of Latter-day Saints, which has helped her choose her words wisely with LDS partners.
She does not always bring out what is in the Bible to Latter-day Saints, but she loves when they ask questions.
"It strengthens my faith by talking about that," said Fellows.
However, he has realized that people ask less questions than in recent years about their beliefs.
"The ergent used to be fascinated (about my faith)," Fellows said. "They would say, 'You're not a Mormon ?! Well, what does that mean?'"
Despite all this, Fellows and Witnesses in American Fork continue to preach to their neighbors. It does not matter if it is one hour a week or 100, if you are doing your best.
"We know that Jehovah sees what we do," said Peggy Wilkerson. "(The ministry) is not for our glory."
According to Tom Wilkerson, Jehovah's Witnesses grow nationwide by some 250,000 people a year. There are currently 8.3 million members worldwide, and these members are counted only if they are active in their ministry. If they are not active for six months, then they are not counted as Jehovah's Witnesses.
For Jehovah's Witnesses in Utah, a growth of up to 1 percent is a great victory. It is difficult to find people who are interested in joining, but as long as they find people interested in having a discussion (not in a discussion), they believe they are doing their part in the growth of their congregation.
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By Jack Ryan
A woman is suing a Jehovah's Witnesses church in Weber County after, she says, one of its instructors repeatedly raped her when she was a minor and the organization's leadership forced her to listen to an audio recording of one of the assaults.
The woman filed the lawsuit Wednesday in 2nd District Court, accusing the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses church in Roy — as well as naming the alleged perpetrator, several church leaders and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the religion's headquarters located in New York) — of knowingly allowing the "unfit" instructor to rise to a position of authority without warning members of his "dangerous propensities" and past sexual transgressions.
No representative of the Roy church, 1950 W. 4400 South, responded to a voicemail from The Salt Lake Tribune requesting comment Thursday.
The Tribune generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault. Because the man accused of assaulting the woman in this case has not been charged with a crime, The Tribune is not identifying him. It is not clear whether she reported the alleged incident to police, but members of the faith are encouraged to bring problems to elders in the church, rather than to outside authorities.
The girl's interactions with the instructor began in summer 2007, the lawsuit states, when she attended a movie with him. When driving her home from the theater, the instructor took her phone and told her she had to kiss him on the cheek to get it back. When she refused, he kicked her out of the car and drove off, returning a short while later to pick her up.
The purported assaults escalated from there, according to court documents, as the man three times bound the girl's wrists and ankles with duck tape, placed a sock in her mouth and covered her head with a pillowcase, leaving her alone in the backseat of his car for one to two hours each time.
Beginning in December 2007, the lawsuit states, the man took the girl to a parking lot several times and "aggressively" kissed her and touched her despite her protests. After that, she says, he raped her and forced her to perform oral sex, with at least three such encounters in or about January 2008.
He allegedly lured her out of her home by threatening to harm her family if she did not comply. It is unclear how old the man was during the purported assaults, but she was a minor.
In April 2008, the Roy church formed a judicial committee to investigate whether the girl engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior — "a serious sin" in the religion. During the meeting that included her mother and stepfather, the lawsuit states, church leaders played a recording of one of the purported rapes, obtained from the instructor, for four to five hours "repeatedly stopping and starting the audio tape ... suggesting that she consented to the sexual behavior."
The church, the woman says, acted irresponsibly by knowingly allowing the instructor to serve in a position of authority overseeing underage members. She believes the organization did not do enough to warn adherents of the man's "dangerous and exploitative propensities" and instead promoted him as being "in good standing and trustworthy."
A leader from the congregation apparently warned the girl's parents in November 2006 that the instructor — who previously attended church sessions in Ogden and Oregon — was a "bad kid" who had "engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a female member of the Clearfield congregation." The plaintiff says that warning wasn't enough.
The girl suffered physically and emotionally after the nonconsensual sexual encounters, the civil suit states, especially having to relive them through the audio recordings.
She is suing over intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and failure to warn.
She's asking for a jury trial, as well as damages to exceed $300,000 to cover medical care, lawyer fees and general damages.
The girl was a member of various Jehovah's Witnesses congregations until shortly after the assaults. Her case was dismissed in November 2015 for failure to serve the defendants in a timely manner. She was able to refile because the dismissal was not based on the lawsuit's merits.
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