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Prince shocked some Minnesota residents by knocking on their doors after he converted in the early 2000s.

Some cracked under the weight of a dogma that deliberately cuts followers off from the rest of society, with the promise of being saved when the world comes to an end. Witnesses are taught to sever ties with anyone who strays from the teachings that have been handed down by the governing body, an emotional punishment known as shunning. "Like we were dead." In an uncertain world, people yearn for reassurance. was only a few years removed from the trauma of the Civil War, and large swaths of the country were being remade by the engine of the second industrial revolution.

That's as true now as it was in the early 1870s, when a charismatic young man from Allegheny County named Charles Taze Russell began analyzing the Bible with a group of others who became known as Bible Students. Russell, who owned several clothing stores and briefly lived in Philadelphia, favored first-century Christian teachings, and believed that mankind was entering its final days.

The Jehovah's Witnesses' former world headquarters in Brooklyn was among three large sites that the religion's leaders sold in recent years for more than $1 billion to the development company formerly run by Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law.