Drop its teaching on Paradise Earth.
The primary issue facing the Watchtower results from it's teaching that members will never die, but live forever on this earth in paradise. This teaching is cause of most of the doctrinal failures, and will be its eventual demise.
The promise of never dying is one of the foremost motivations for people that join the religion, and the message of living forever in paradise is compelling. However, it is also the Watchtower's Achilles heel, as it forces false predictions of the nearness of the end. These failed predictions show the religion teaches falsehoods. For over 100 years, the Watchtower has predicted the end will be "soon", even incorrectly identifying specific years for the end; such as, 1914, 1925, 1975, within the 20th century or within one generation. This proves (to most sane people) that it is based on false teachings.
The Watchtower must provide such short term promises, as otherwise they remove the most obvious incentive to join the religion. If the Watchtower were to position paradise in the far distant future, few would subject themselves to the burden of being a Witness, when they know all will enjoy a future resurrection. Hence, pushing Armageddon as just around the corner is key to recruiting new members and motivating followers.
More importantly, who wants to be in a religion that says the soul is not immortal, unless they also promise death will never come? It is hardly a joyful prospect to be told you will die and rot in the ground for who-knows-how-long, when most of the competition are saying your life never ends. Traditional religion promise that your loved ones are in heaven looking after you, and you will join them as soon as this mortal coil passes away, a far more comforting hope for anyone not believing this system will end any day now.
A Witness soul is not immortal, but dies, and the resurrection promise for a Jehovah's Witness that has died is not pleasant to think about deeply. An impersonal spirit goes back to God, and the substance of your physical body disintegrates back to earth. What is resurrected is a replica, a photocopy, not the same person. If God can replicate you by combining different atoms and with a different spirit, then he could equally resurrect you whilst you are still alive, or resurrect multiple clones of you in the new system; a horror version of Multiplicity.
The urgency of Armageddon exacerbates the religion's high control, due to the consequences of that teaching. It leads on to the following:
- Anti-education policy, since Armageddon is about to occur
- No career focus, but devote yourself to growing the religion in these final minutes of the last day
- Shunning, since you need to remain pure to get through Armageddon,
- Shunning, as discipline is required to help the evil man amend their ways
- Keep away from the world, so you don't miss out on salvation
- Don't question the leaders, as you are dependant on them for survival
Not to overlook is the increasing number of those claiming to be Anointed since the mid 2000's. The doctrine of there only being 144,000 in heaven defies logic and Scripture. This too is becoming a weak point for the Watchtower, as they need to justify how there is still room for people to be added to such a small and finite number. Yet they will continue to need new ones joining the ranks of the Anointed, since the basis of the religion rests around a two class system, where only the Anointed can speak for God and lead.
If nothing changes, then the religion will disappear, gracing only the pages of history books and their discussion of failed doomsday cults. We are on the cusp of the 100 year anniversary of 1914, which strains the credibility of that year being the start of the Last Days. How much more irrelevant will that year sound after 200 years, or 300 years?
The main message of the Watchtower is that of the kingdom, which encompasses paradise earth and surviving Armageddon. It may seem a religious death wish to change that core message. However, if nothing changes, there will continue to be ongoing failed pronouncements regarding the imminence of Armageddon, and endless doctrinal changes, such as who the generation are, the literalness of the number 144,000, and when the Last Days start.
For Jehovah's Witnesses to be more than just a flash in the pan, they need to shed their apocalyptic label. Such a change will no doubt affect growth, particularly initially, but in the long term it will be the better, even only, option.
Jehovah's Witnesses would adamantly disagree with this as ever being an option, but it is necessary and the wheels are already in motion. In 2007, it was stated that the heavenly calling did not close in 1935, paving the way for change regarding the heavenly resurrection. There is little Biblical support for people living forever on earth, or an earthly resurrection, and the doctrines of the Great Crowd, and other Sheep are plainly wrong, which is easy for a Jehovah's Witness to stumble across on the internet. It is better to admit these doctrine are wrong than to have followers find out for themselves.
The Governing Body are priming members for change, with an ever increasing shrill about how vital it is to accept their authority, doctrinal interpretations and change. Further, new members of the Governing Body have proven insubordinate to the old doctrine. When Geoffrey Jackson chose to be Anointed in his late thirties, he went against well established culture that only older ones replace fallen Anointed that relinquish their positions. He also severed a strong emotional tie of an everlasting future with his dear wife, who continued to maintain an earthly hope.
Changing its core doctrine of soul sleep, taken from its Second Adventist origins, may seem to relegate them to dissolving back into mainstream Protestantism. However, they still have one Ace up their sleeves. The Watchtower could retain its sense of individuality after dropping Armageddon and paradise earth, by focusing on Jehovah as God, rather than a Trinitarian God. The Arian based view of God is a simple concept that is easy for people to understand and relate to. Focus on Jehovah would allow Jehovah's Witnesses to retain a unique selling point to promote as reason to join the religion.