The Journey of Life (life cycle)
Jehovah’s Witnesses mark a number of important life cycle events, including marriage and death, but not the birth of a baby. Neither are babies or infants baptised in the faith. Children can be baptised, once they have understood and demonstrated their commitment to the faith (see Religious Practices section above). Unlike other Christian denominations, baptism and other life cycle rituals are not considered sacraments, and Jehovah’s Witnesses do not use this term.
Jehovah’s Witnesses recognise marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman for the purpose of companionship and procreation. Homosexual partnerships are prohibited and are a cause for disfellowshipping (see Rules and Ethical Guidelines section). In some countries, Kingdom Halls are recognised as legal places of marriage: in other countries, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a civil registration and then may have the marriage blessed in a Kingdom Hall, though this is not regarded as essential. The marriage service includes a talk by an elder, singing, prayer and the exchange of vows. Divorce is only permitted in cases of adultery.
Jehovah’s Witnesses also hold funeral services at Kingdom Halls. “Funerals are kept short and simple, and are used as opportunities for reminding the congregation of life’s purpose and what lies beyond the grave” (Chryssides 2016: 217). Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in Hell or in eternal souls who are distinct from bodies. The 144,000 will have ‘spiritual bodies’ in Heaven, whilst the ‘great crowd’ will have restored physical bodies. Death is compared to being ‘asleep’, free from pain and suffering but not a conscious state. And like sleep, death is a temporary state, for Jesus will resurrect the dead. The Jehovah’s Witness website states “Those whom Jesus resurrects during his thousand-year reign will have the prospect of living forever—as long as they truly put faith in him.” For this reason, funerals tend not to focus on excessive grief but on the prospect of the family being reunited in the future. The deceased may be buried or cremated according to the family’s preference: there is no prescription on this. The service generally includes singing, prayer and a Bible talk by an elder.