Teaching people how to overcome lawlessness, terrorism and violence and restoring world justice is the purpose of this year's Jehovah's Witnesses District Conference.
More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the annual event, which runs through Sunday at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah. The conference is titled "Divine Justice" and involves members from Utah, Las Vegas and parts of Idaho. A second conference will be held in Utah June 30-July 3 and will be identical to the first."Some of the speeches are from manuscripts, others are developed. The topics are adapted from current needs and attitudes. It's really a family gathering," said Robert Lee, a circuit supervisor. Lee will give a public address, "Justice For All By God's Appointed Judge," Sunday afternoon.
Lee said many of the speeches are mandatory, uniform statements and will be heard at Jehovah's Witness conferences in 120 other district summer conventions around the world. Conferences are being held in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean and sign language.
Lee said his speech will focus on the "corrupt and incomptetent justice system." Injustice prevails because of a person's skin color, ethnic background, language, sex or religion. Such conditions have caused many to question the existence of a God, he said.
The convention will also include speeches and Bible talks from well-known ministers, with topics such as "The infamous 'Harlot' --Her Fall and Destruction," and "Disciplining with Righteousness within the Family Circle." Friday morning, members of the local Jehovah's Witness congregation will participate in a dramatic biblical presentation, "Marked for Survival."
Jehovah's Witnesses preach for two reasons-- to familiarize people with their message and gain new members. There are approximately 3.4 million members in 210 countries --about 1,000 of those in Salt Lake City.
Lee said the majority of people who attend the conferences are already active Witnesses, but every year a baptism is held for new members. This year's baptisms will take place in Wever State College's swimming pool.
Each witness is ordained a minister at the time of his baptism, which is accompanied by a formal ceremony. "Last year we baptized about 13,000 new members worldwide," Lee said.
The Witnesses annual conference has been held in Utah several times. Although Utah has one dominant religion, Lee said the Witnesses are always well-received.
They believe the world is nearing its end and mankind must be warned of the impending Armageddon. They believe Christ's government will soon rule over the earth in righteousness, therefore, they are neutral toward all governments.
"The key is future justice for all. People get the idea that we are against all governments. That is not the case. We cooperate with all of them, but ideally we look beyond them," Lee said.
Witnesses therefore consider themselves separate from the world and its controversies and refuse to bear arms, salute the flag or receive blood transfusions. The religion is organized into 54,911 congregations, whcih operate under the direction of a central governing body with headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y.