He had a smile on his face as he sat in his wheelchair, handing out magazines to busy students on their way to class.
For five years, Richard Snedecor has been coming to BYU to distribute “The Watchtower,” a Jehovah’s Witness magazine, to passing students and staff on their way to campus. At least two days a week, Snedecor can be seen at various locations surrounding the campus, greeting people with a “good morning” and a magazine.
“The main reason we bring (the magazines) up there is because of what the Bible says,” Snedecor said. “We go to every college around the world. BYU is one of the few ones that we don’t actually go inside of.”
Snedecor and his wife, Launa, are Jehovah’s Witnesses who have dedicated their lives to the work of the ministry. Snedecor volunteers at least 70 hours a month to full-time church service and part of this is coming to BYU to encourage others to read and study the Bible.
“We minister for a lifetime because that’s what the apostles did — they did it for a lifetime,” Snedecor said.
Launa, who also dedicates much of her time to the ministry, agreed the work is no temporary commitment.
“There is no retirement,” Launa said. “To be a Jehovah’s Witness, you have to witness. It comes with the territory.”
There are 7.5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in the world and they are all required to put time into the ministry every month. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible to be the word of God and they support all of their beliefs with scriptural passages.
Snedecor highlighted a few beliefs Jehovah’s Witnesses have and listed their scriptural references. Some of these beliefs are that God’s name is Jehovah, earth will never be destroyed or depopulated, the human soul will cease to exist at death until resurrection, only 144,000 will go to heaven and rule with Christ and a disbelief in blood transfusions.
“We have a scriptural reason for everything that we do,” Snedecor said. “We never just go off of one scripture, we always use more than one.”
Snedecor grew up in Los Angeles, Calif., and was raised in an array of different religions before becoming a Jehovah’s Witness in 1979. When he was nine years old, a brutal disease took him from walking to lying flat on his back in two days. Still to this day, neither he nor any doctor knows what caused the transformation although they are fairly confident it is in the muscular dystrophy family. Through this difficult time, Snedecor said he attributes the strength he regained to his father.
“My father was kind of my savior at that time,” he said. “He taught me how to swim. He built a house with a pool inside of it and he made me swim three times a day. Then he would exercise my legs every night. That’s what got me back and I was walking on crutches until I was 52. After that I didn’t want to get more hurt, so we decided it was time for the chair.”
Tim Fox, a friend and fellow Jehovah’s Witness to Snedecor, made it clear that Snedecor’s disability doesn’t slow him down.
“He is tenacious,” Fox said. “There is nothing that he can’t do if he sets his mind to it. He sort of feels like, ‘I’m going to be in pain no matter what I’m doing, so I might as well do what I want to do.'”
Fox shared an experience Snedecor relayed to him about a time his wheelchair got stuck in the mud early one morning on campus.
“He had to get out of the chair and get it out of the mud and then get back in his wheelchair,” he said. “He doesn’t give up.”
Snedecor usually comes to BYU on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and he said that students are usually kind to him.
“There are always students who want to stop and talk to me about the Bible,” he said. “And even if one gets a little nasty with me at one point, maybe if they are having a bad day or something, they’ll usually look me up and apologize.”
Snedecor is a man driven by his beliefs, and he said anyone is welcome to come talk to him about the Bible or his beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness.
“This might not be the place for a sermon,” Fox said, “but Richard has got one for them any day of the week.”