Prince practiced door-to-door evangelism

While fans and peers continue to mourn Prince, and questions remain surrounding his untimely death, much has been said of his strong religious beliefs. A contradiction, perhaps, for a man who wasn't afraid to push boundaries in his music and performances.

Though raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, Prince joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2001, after two years of spiritual conversations with friend and former bass player Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian denomination with beliefs demonstrably different from those of most mainstream Protestants.  

When he became a Jehovah's Witness, some were skeptical that an artist with a career as entrenched in candid expressions of sexuality could truly model his lifestyle after such a conservative Christian sect. But naysayers were proved wrong in 2003 when an Eden Prairie, Minn., woman reported to Minneapolis-St. Paul newspaper the Star Tribune that Prince and Graham had come knocking on her door as part of the fundamental evangelism of their faith.

“I said, ‘You know what? You’ve walked into a Jewish household, and this is not something I’m interested in.’ He says, ‘Can I just finish?’ Then the other guy, Larry Graham, gets out his little Bible and starts reading scriptures about being Jewish and the land of Israel,” the woman recalled.

Prince’s door-to-door evangelism continued through the years, according to Dudley Brooks, who served as director of photography for Ebony magazine and spent the day at Paisley Park with the artist in 2010.  

According to Brooks, Prince used disguises to deflect attention from himself, and those he tried to proselytize “never called him out on it. They listened to his message and respected his opinion.”

In an interview with The Times, Diane Winston, professor of religion and journalism at USC, said Jehovah’s Witnesses are known to go door to door to share their faith because they believe that the second coming is going to happen any minute now.

There has also been speculation that Prince may have refused medical attention because of his religion. Last week, the singer was reportedly hospitalized with the flu after an illness forced his plane to make an emergency landing in Moline, Ill.

Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in transfusions because they believe that blood is sacred, Winston said. She added: "They believe the Bible prohibits taking blood, particularly from someone who is not a Jehovah’s Witness." 

Authorities have given no indication that religion played any part in Prince's medical care. The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office said it could take days or weeks to process autopsy results and come to a conclusion for a cause of death.

Regardless of what happened in the days preceeding the death of a legend, it’s clear that his spirituality played an essential role in his life.

“It was really interesting to me how religious his music was and how committed he was to his faith,” remarked Winston. “We think of Prince as a very flamboyant, sexually explicit performer, but he saw sex as a gift from God and something to celebrate.

"It does make sense. It makes me want to go back and listen to him more."

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