Jehovah’s Witness Funerals

Information on Jehovah’s Witness funeral traditions and etiquette

Last updated: 22 August 2017

Jehovah’s Witness funeral beliefs

Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the teachings of the Christian Bible and strongly believe in sharing the message of their faith with others.

Although it is a branch of Christianity, there are some important differences. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that after death the soul is unconscious or non-existent, until the end of the world when God will resurrect the dead to live in an earthly paradise or, for a chosen few, rule in Heaven. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in Hell like other types of Christians.

Planning a Jehovah’s Witness funeral

Jehovah’s Witnesses may work with religious leaders and a local funeral home to plan the funeral of their loved one. However, as Jehovah’s Witness funerals tend to be very simple and discreet, there may be fewer elements to arrange than other types of Christian funeral.

Jehovah’s Witness funeral traditions

Jehovah’s Witnesses may be buried or cremated, depending on the preferences of the person who has died and their family.

Organ donation is a contentious topic for Jehovah’s Witnesses. They believe that blood should never be shared between two people; this is why blood transfusions are forbidden for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Technically organ donation is allowed, as long as all the blood is drained from it beforehand. However, only in very rare cases is this possible and practical, so in practice Jehovah’s Witnesses rarely donate organs.

Jehovah’s Witnesses avoid any traditions or practices linked to the idea that the dead are conscious, can communicate with the living, or influence the living. Therefore, rituals common to other religions, such as offerings for the dead, are strictly forbidden.

You will not see crosses or crucifixes at a Jehovah’s Witness funeral. This is mainly because they consider worshiping symbols to be idolatry, which the Bible condemns.

Jehovah’s Witness funerals

A Jehovah’s Witness funeral service usually takes place either at the funeral home or in Kingdom Hall, their place of worship. The Congregation Elder will conduct the service, which will include Bible readings and prayers. It may or may not be an open-casket service.

Jehovah’s Witness funerals are typically very simple and discreet. They are often shorter than other types of Christian funeral, lasting between 15 minutes and half an hour. The tone will be serious but comforting, with an emphasis on the belief in resurrection.

After a Jehovah’s Witness funeral

It is unusual for a Jehovah’s Witness funeral to have a wake or reception afterwards. This is because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have celebrations to honor the dead.

Jehovah’s Witness funeral etiquette

Mourners of other faiths and beliefs are normally welcome to attend the funeral of a Jehovah’s Witness.

It is acceptable to offer food and flowers to the bereaved, but remember that there will not be a reception.

What to wear to a Jehovah’s Witness funeral

You should dress smartly and modestly in dark colors, much as you would for other types of Christian funeral. Men might wear a suit and tie, women a smart dress and jacket.

For more information on religious funerals, visit our religious funerals page.