What You Might Learn from Assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses
THIS past summer Jehovah’s witnesses in all of the United States held ninety-eight “Divine Sovereignty” District Assemblies. All together, 990,256 persons attended.
Another twenty-one of these assemblies in Canada and the British Isles had a total attendance of 226,514. And hundreds of thousands more persons will be attending the same four-day assembly program in scores of other lands.
Were you in attendance at one of these assemblies? Whether you were able to attend one or not, what can you learn from looking at all the assemblies? For instance, why were millions of persons drawn to these gatherings? What attracted them? You can learn the answers, and much more, by considering an overall description of what occurred. Let us, then, reflect on what was seen, heard and felt at these assemblies. And note, please, whether these things relate to your life and happiness.
No doubt you prefer to live and associate with well-mannered, happy people, with persons you can trust and who have real regard for one another. When the Witnesses gathered in a convention city, did they demonstrate that they are this kind of people?
For example, over 50,000 Witnesses in Ohio and adjoining states met for the assembly in Cleveland. The Cleveland Press quoted one woman: “I never saw so many well-mannered, nicely dressed people with well-behaved children as I saw downtown Friday.” According to the paper, a local Episcopalian added: “We could use more people like them.”—June 30, 1975.
But why are they like this? The Witnesses do not take the credit for themselves. As they freely acknowledge, it is application of the teachings of the Bible that has made them what they are.
In Asheville, North Carolina, over 6,000 Witnesses gathered at the Civic Center. Policewoman Betty Bryson, assigned to the parking detail, exclaimed: “I have not yet seen a group of people like this before! It’s just amazing! I haven’t seen a frown . . . all smiling faces. Families are together, even with babies in their arms.”
If you were among such throngs of Jehovah’s witnesses, you, too, would note the difference. And if you stayed and listened you would soon realize that what really makes the difference is that these people sincerely believe and endeavor to live by the Bible. The Richmond and Twickenham Times said regarding the assembly of more than 25,000 Witnesses in London, England: “There could hardly be a greater contrast than that between Twickenham Rugby Ground’s usual crowds, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”—August 1, 1975.
This contrast was particularly noticeable to Karen Bateman, who became blind at three years of age. Of her efforts to get around among the more than 7,000 Witnesses at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, assembly, she said:
“When you’re blind you rely on feel and sound, and crowds present problems. When I am in worldly crowds I am extremely afraid and uncomfortable. But the crowds here are so kind and considerate, that I feel confident, unafraid. I don’t seem to lose direction and know that if I did, anyone would help me.” She had reason for such confidence, because the Bible teaches people to be loving and kind.
Is that what you would have expected at such large gatherings? Some visitors, hesitant at first about attending, were impressed in a most favorable way. A black person, who had opposed his wife’s studying the Bible with the Witnesses, finally agreed to accompany her on Sunday to the Columbia, South Carolina, assembly. Between sessions, he saw, in the milling crowd, a crying black child. When a white Witness went over, picked up the child and began consoling it, he turned to his wife and said: “Isn’t that something!” So impressed was he that his attitude changed completely, and he, too, wanted to study the Bible with the Witnesses.
Cooperative, Willing Workers
There is much involved in putting on a large Witness assembly, and if you attended one you may have been impressed by how smoothly everything operated. Many persons were. The Citizen of Prince George, British Columbia, took note of “the impeccable organization of the convention.” And an assignments editor of a Memphis, Tennessee, television station said: “There’s something about you people—the way you work together.”
An especially involved operation is the buying, preparing and serving of food to feed the assembly delegates. Often several thousand meals are served in the cafeteria in less than an hour! On this matter, Victor H. Mata, writing in the San Antonio Light, commented: “For those who want to know how to feed 10,000 people, and do it efficiently, ask the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
In Los Angeles, Leo A. Robin, Senior Public Health Sanitarian of the Central Health Center, said that when it comes to feeding large crowds the Witnesses “are the model for all other organizations.” “It used to be the army, years ago,” he said, “but in recent years it is Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Why is this so?
Observers soon notice that all the work is done voluntarily by members of the faith—none receive any pay. Harry DeFeo of the DeFeo Fruit Company in Kansas City was impressed by how all cooperated together. “What amazes me,” he told the assembly purchasing overseer, “is that everyone displays a genuine interest in others.” So observers learn that the results that they see are far more than the effect of experience in organization; love such as is taught in the Bible makes the real difference.
This same willing cooperation was also evident in the many other assembly operations, such as the cleaning. The Greensboro, North Carolina, Daily News reported: “‘You can hardly believe it unless you see it,’ said members of the coliseum’s staff as they watched young people clean each seat in the coliseum, then scrub its floors and walls spotlessly clean.”
This is how the Springfield, Massachusetts, Union described this operation: “Like a white tornado, 160 Jehovah’s Witnesses swept through the Springfield Civic Center Wednesday. Armed with buckets, brooms and bottles of cleanser, they scrubbed the arena from floor to ceiling and from window to seat.” And noted the Cleveland Press: “The Stadium is probably cleaner this week than it has ever been before.”
Because the Witnesses themselves have learned from the Bible, by attending these assemblies you likely could also learn about cooperating together and really getting work accomplished. Explained a man who attended the Binghamton, New York, assembly: “When I saw the enthusiasm and respect the Witnesses had for hard work, I began to respect them. I began to think of them as one big hardworking family.” He even expressed a desire to be a part of this family. Would you?
People Who Love Others
There is no one who can teach us more about love than the Creator himself. His love is impartial, reaching out to persons of all kinds. So anyone attending assemblies where His example is imitated can learn much about showing genuine love to others, regardless of their race, nationality or social background. For example, there was the newspaper reporter who at random interviewed young people at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, assembly. He asked them why they were at the assembly rather than attending Summerfest, an annual city festival featuring entertainment, food and drink.
One young man answered: “I am here because for the first time I have found people who are really interested in me. . . . Jehovah’s witnesses must have the only true religion.” An eighteen-year-old girl, whose response appeared in the Milwaukee Sentinel, explained: “This is the most fun for me. This is a place where the most love is shown. I’ll tell you that.”—July 5, 1975.
At the Columbia, South Carolina, assembly a very old man, who had spent many years as a Baptist preacher, said that what greatly impressed him was the love between the black and the white Witnesses. He had recently attended a local circuit assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses, and commented:
“While eating at that assembly, I noticed beside me a white Witness whom I had known since her childhood. I was reared on her ancestral estate. She recognized me and was thrilled to know that I was studying with Jehovah’s witnesses. I learned that she attended another Kingdom Hall in the area. She invited me to her home for dinner. This was just too much for me. When I worked on her father’s farm, I had to go to the back door and no farther than the steps. Never did I dream that one day I would be eating in her dining room with her family!”
Yet, not only does this love manifested by Jehovah’s witnesses unite people of different races, but it is also observed to help reconstruct peoples’ lives in marvelous ways. If you had attended the Oakland, California, assembly, there is a possibility that you might have seen a short man with deformed spine and with one leg two inches shorter than the other. It will warm your heart to learn how his life has been transformed by his recent association with Jehovah’s witnesses. He explains:
“I was deformed from birth. I never knew my own father, and when my mother arranged to get married, her husband told her that she must get rid of me. So I was sent to live with my grandmother. There was kept isolated. I was never permitted to go outside the house, and, consequently, never talked to anyone except my mother and grandmother. My mother, in time, had several other children—my half brothers and sisters but—they have never seen me and probably do not even know that I exist. Whenever they or anyone else would come to the house, I was always locked in a room and told to be quiet until they left the house.
“When I was eighteen years old I went to live at a board-and-care home until I was twenty-four. For the past thirteen years I have been living at the old folks’ home in Berkeley. While working in the workshop for handicapped people, a young lady there told me about Jehovah’s witnesses and arranged for a Witness to call on me.
“I was not accustomed to communicating with people, so it was very difficult for me. But Jehovah’s witnesses had the patience to teach me to read and understand the Bible. When I would want to quit trying, they were very loving and encouraging. This was a new experience. No one had ever wanted me. Now, I felt wanted. When I was not feeling well, Witnesses from the Kingdom Hall would visit me and bring me fruit and other gifts.
“You can’t imagine how good it feels for a person with my background to be completely accepted, but I have been by Jehovah’s witnesses. They always pick me up for the meetings, they invite me to their homes, and in every way they make me feel that I am wanted. They listen to my comments at the meetings, and help me share in preaching the Kingdom message to others. And the young lady who introduced me to the Witnesses consented to marry me. Now I have a loving wife, loving Christian brothers and sisters and the marvelous hope of living in God’s new order and seeing this terribly deformed body of mine become sound and strong under the Kingdom rule.”
Certainly there is something to be learned from people who themselves imitate the qualities of mankind’s Creator and who for that reason show love and concern for others.
Responding to Love Shown
Thousands of persons today are responding to this love expressed toward them, and they are dedicating their lives to serve Jehovah God. They are joining with Jehovah’s witnesses in helping yet other persons to learn about and to serve God. At the ninety-eight “Divine Sovereignty” assemblies in all of the United States, 19,356 persons have given public witness to their dedication to Jehovah by undergoing water baptism. At 90 assemblies in other countries, from which reports are now available, 21,309 more persons have been baptized.
If you had talked to persons being baptized, you would have been amazed at their diverse backgrounds. Yet most of them had one thing in common: A desire to know and to please their heavenly Father. For example, there is the young man baptized in July at a Corvallis, Oregon, assembly, who explained:
“My wife and I had two wonderful children and a fine relationship and felt drawn to God. We had so many good things we just had to thank someone.” So when, eight months before the Corvallis assembly, Jehovah’s witnesses called and offered to study the Bible with them, they gladly accepted. The man commented: “Even if a word was not spoken about the Bible, just being around the Witnesses, as at this assembly, would convince anyone that this is the only place to be.” But, of course, it is the Bible that has made the Witnesses that kind of people.
If you had the opportunity to speak with them, many of these newly baptized persons would tell you that they had been praying for help and guidance. A woman baptized at the Columbia, South Carolina, assembly said that due to distressing difficulties, including marital problems, she had contemplated suicide, having even purchased a gun with which to take her life. But first she petitioned God to send someone to help her. The following day one of Jehovah’s witnesses called, and she received the Scriptural guidance that transformed her life.
A young man baptized at the Los Angeles assembly in July told his experience: “I was searching for the true religion. One night I said a prayer, asking for help to find it. The next morning a knock at the door woke me. It was Jehovah’s witnesses. I invited them in, took the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life and read almost all of it that day. I was convinced that this was the truth, and I called the nearest Kingdom Hall and asked the Witnesses to come back.”
Many observers were amazed by the number of young people getting baptized. “I believe that three fourths were in their teens or early 20’s,” noted a man who watched the baptism at the Bismarck, North Dakota, assembly. A check of the 328 baptized at St. Paul, Minnesota, revealed that 75 percent were between eleven and thirty years of age.
Another thing that is astounding is the tremendous change so many made in their lives. They had practiced all forms of moral badness, yet had quit these practices, even as the apostle Paul said first-century Corinthian Christians had done. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) The experience of a girl who was baptized at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, assembly illustrates what has helped many persons to make these big changes in their lives. She explains:
“A little more than two years ago I became involved with worldly friends and the boy I was dating drugged me and then raped me. When I awoke I was embarrassed, thinking that I had fainted. I got up and went home not knowing that I had been raped. When I finally went to a doctor, thinking I had a tumor, I found that I was five months pregnant.
“My mother is one of Jehovah’s witnesses, but I thought they were like any other religion. I realized the seriousness of the situation, and so went to the elders of the congregation. They were so kind and loving, and wanted to help me in any way they could. They never scorned me for what had happened. They helped me to get my life straightened out by showing me from the Bible how I could please our heavenly Father. I knew I wanted to serve Jehovah God, so I made the necessary changes in my life and began to apply Bible principles.”
Yes, persons who truly desire to serve God are receiving loving assistance from Jehovah’s witnesses. Fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, drunkards and other wrongdoers are helped to change, resulting in their enjoying true contentment in life. The Cleveland Plain Dealer observed: “The doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is stern and disheartening to those who are not members of the sect, but its practitioners . . . seem to be happy people.”
It is true, Jehovah’s witnesses do not in any way approve of today’s popular, sex-without-marriage life-style, which even some mothers in public life say they would willingly accept for their teen-age daughters. Yet the fact is, Jehovah’s witnesses do not consider their doctrine “stern and disheartening,” as you could learn from talking to assembly delegates. Rather, they are grateful for “the protection that their teaching affords them, since it helps to spare them from the consequences of so much of today’s unhappiness, including the venereal diseases, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, guilt-stricken consciences, broken marriages, and so forth. They are a truly joyful people.
Assembly Program Provides Answers
The type of instruction that Jehovah’s witnesses receive and accept is the key to their conduct. Pointing to the source of that instruction, the Cleveland Plain Dealer Magazine, in telling about the coming to town of Jehovah’s witnesses, said: “They will bring their playbook, the Bible, and for them that is the final authority. You could call them people of the book.”
Yes, Jehovah’s witnesses accept God’s Word the Bible—every part of it. Their very lives are ordered by it, and that is why they shun lying, stealing, fornication, adultery, drug abuse, smoking and all forms of immorality and uncleanness. (Gal. 5: 19-21; Eph. 4:28; Rev. 21:8; 2 Cor. 7:1) Also, because of their high regard for God’s Word, they obey its oft-repeated instructions to love and help others. (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 7:12; John 13:34; Eph. 4:31, 32; 1 John 4:20, 21) And this is the key to their success in operating large assemblies; yes, it explains why thousands freely volunteer their services in behalf of the needs of others at these gatherings.
For persons who love righteous principles, and who welcome help to conform to the teachings of God’s Word, these assemblies are most helpful. At Cicero, Illinois, a man came to the racetrack thinking the horse races were on. Discovering that the assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses was in progress, he decided to stay and listen. He enjoyed it so much that he returned for the concluding two days of the program, and a home Bible study was started with him.
In Madison, Wisconsin, an aged rabbi, prominent in the community, attended the assembly. He was amazed by the excellent quality of the speeches, exclaiming: “These are more outstanding speakers than those who go to theological seminaries.”
However, of greater significance is the fact that the Bible-based talks of these speakers really help people to conform their lives to God’s ways. For example, after attending the presentation “Do Not Become Unevenly Yoked with Unbelievers,” a college girl who is studying the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses resolved that she would not marry the man to whom she is engaged unless he too accepts the teachings of God’s Word.
All together, the four-day program, which was the same at every assembly, had twenty-seven principal talks and four Bible dramas. Just the titles of some of these give you an idea of how practical and encouraging they were: “Keeping Your Family United in the Time of the End,” “Pure and Upright Practices—Necessary to a Child’s Life,” “Are You Ready to Help One Another?” “Be Found Conducting Yourself as a ‘Lesser One’” and “Use Every Form of Prayer and Supplication.”
Spare No Efforts to Attend
Jehovah’s witnesses appreciate the value of these assemblies, and it is for this reason that they make every possible effort to attend. Take, for example, a Witness in Gulfport, Mississippi, who was planning to attend the Mobile, Alabama, assembly but was faced with an important decision. The company for which he works urged him, due to an emergency, to cancel his assembly plans and care for some company business in New York. Because he refused to give up his plans to go to the assembly, another person took his place, taking Eastern Airlines flight No. 66 to New York. The plane crashed in its approach to Kennedy Airport, killing practically everyone aboard. But whether that tragedy had occurred or not, the Witness knew he had made the right decision.
Physical infirmities are an obstacle for some who attend. For instance, a Witness in Beaumont, California, stricken by polio seventeen years ago, is confined to an electrically operated rocking bed that helps him to breathe. Yet he is in regular attendance at assemblies and feels greatly rewarded. He says: “They are the highpoint of the year for me.”
Often unusual measures are taken by Witnesses who are determined to be at assemblies. For example, there is the family that raises goats and who were planning this year to attend a Corvallis, Oregon, assembly. However, they could not find anyone to milk the goats while they were away. So they loaded them on a truck and brought them along to the assembly.
In many areas the district assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses are already completed for this year. But smaller assemblies will be held in the months to come. And next year, if it is the Lord’s will, over one hundred district assemblies will convene in North America alone. Why not plan to attend?
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At 98 assemblies in the United States, 990,256 heard the discourse “One World, One Government, Under God’s Sovereignty”
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Among the Witnesses, kindness to others is a normal thing
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All the workers at Witness assemblies are volunteers; none are paid
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Many young people are among those baptized by the Witnesses
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The Bible account about Samuel was dramatized to convey lessons about teaching children