Advertise the King and the Kingdom! (1919-1941)
“Do you believe that the King of glory has begun his reign? Then back to the field, O ye sons of the most high God! Gird on your armor! Be sober, be vigilant, be active, be brave. Be faithful and true witnesses for the Lord. Go forward in the fight until every vestige of Babylon lies desolate. Herald the message far and wide. The world must know that Jehovah is God and that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. This is the day of all days. Behold, the King reigns! You are his publicity agents. Therefore advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.”
THAT dramatic call to action delivered by J. F. Rutherford at the international convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1922, had a profound influence on those in attendance. The Bible Students left that convention with a burning desire to advertise the Kingdom. But just a few short years earlier, the prospect of serving as publicity agents of the Kingdom seemed bleak indeed. J. F. Rutherford and seven of his associates were in prison, and their future role within the organization seemed uncertain. How were these difficulties overcome?
“I Know Something About the Law of the Loyal”
A convention was scheduled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 2-5, 1919, during the time that Brother Rutherford and his associates were in prison. But this was no ordinary convention—it was combined with the annual meeting of the Watch Tower Society, on Saturday, January 4, 1919. Brother Rutherford was well aware of the significance of this meeting. That Saturday afternoon he searched for Brother Macmillan and found him at the prison tennis court. According to Macmillan, this is what happened:
“Rutherford said, ‘Mac, I want to talk to you.’
“‘What do you want to talk to me about?’
“‘I want to talk to you about what’s going on at Pittsburgh.’
“‘I’d like to play this tournament out here.’
“‘Aren’t you interested in what’s going on? Don’t you know it’s the election of officers today? You might be ignored and dropped and we’ll stay here forever.’
“‘Brother Rutherford,’ I said, ‘let me tell you something perhaps you haven’t thought of. This is the first time since the Society was incorporated that it can become clearly evident whom Jehovah God would like to have as president.’
“‘What do you mean by that?’
“‘I mean that Brother Russell had a controlling vote and he appointed the different officers. Now with us seemingly out of commission the matter’s different. But, if we got out in time to go up to that assembly to that business meeting, we would come in there and would be accepted to take Brother Russell’s place with the same honor he received. It might look then like man’s work, not God’s.’
“Rutherford just looked thoughtful and walked away.”
That day a tense meeting was in progress back at Pittsburgh. “Confusion, dissension, and arguments reigned for a while,” recalled Sara C. Kaelin, who was raised in the Pittsburgh area. “Some wanted to postpone the meeting for six months; others questioned the legality of electing officers who were in prison; others suggested all new officers.”
After a lengthy discussion, W. F. Hudgings, a director of the Peoples Pulpit Association,a read to the audience a letter from Brother Rutherford. In it he sent love and greetings to those assembled. “Satan’s chief weapons are PRIDE, AMBITION and FEAR,” he warned. Showing a desire to submit to Jehovah’s will, he even humbly suggested suitable men in the event that the shareholders should decide to elect new officers for the Society.
Discussion continued for a while longer, and then E. D. Sexton, who had been appointed chairman of a nominating committee, spoke up, saying:
“I just arrived. My train was forty-eight hours late, having been snowbound. I have something to say and for my own comfort I better say it now. My dear brethren, I have come here, as the balance of you have, with certain ideas in mind—pro and con. . . . There is no legal obstacle in the way. If we desire to re-elect our brethren in the South to any office they can hold, I cannot see, or find from any [legal] advice I have received, how this will, in any shape or form, interfere with the aspect of their case before the Federal Court or before the public.
“I believe that the greatest compliment we can pay to our dear brother Rutherford would be to re-elect him as president of the W[atch] T[ower] B[ible] & T[ract] Society. I do not think there is any question in the mind of the public as to where we stand on the proposition. If our brethren in any way technically violated a law they did not understand, we know their motives are good. And before Almighty [God] they have neither violated any law of God or of man. We could manifest the greatest confidence if we re-elected Brother Rutherford as president of the Association.
“I am not a lawyer, but when it comes to the legality of the situation I know something about the law of the loyal. Loyalty is what God demands. I cannot imagine any greater confidence we could manifest than to have an election AND RE-ELECT BROTHER RUTHERFORD AS PRESIDENT.”
Well, Brother Sexton evidently expressed the sentiments of most of those in attendance. There were nominations; a vote was taken; and J. F. Rutherford was elected president, C. A. Wise vice president, and W. E. Van Amburgh secretary-treasurer.
The next day Brother Rutherford knocked on Macmillan’s cell wall and said: “Poke your hand out.” He then handed Macmillan a telegram saying that Rutherford had been reelected president. “He was very happy,” Macmillan later recalled, “to see this display of assurance that Jehovah was running the Society.”
The election was over, but Brother Rutherford and the seven others were still in prison.
“A Country-Wide Agitation” in Behalf of the Prisoners
“During the past few weeks a country-wide agitation has been started in behalf of these brethren,” stated The Watch Tower of April 1, 1919. Certain newspapers were calling for the release of J. F. Rutherford and his associates. The Bible Students in all parts of the United States indicated their support by writing letters to newspaper editors, congressmen, senators, and governors, urging them to take action in behalf of the eight prisoners. Clearly, the Bible Students would not rest until their eight brothers were free.
By March 1919, Bible Students in the United States were circulating a petition in which they asked President Woodrow Wilson to use his influence to accomplish one of the following in behalf of the imprisoned brothers:
“FIRST: A complete pardon, if that now be possible, OR
“SECOND: That you direct the Department of Justice to dismiss the prosecution against them, and that they be fully released, OR
“THIRD: That they be immediately admitted to bail pending a final decision of their case by the higher courts.”
Within two weeks the Bible Students obtained 700,000 signatures. The petition, though, was never presented to the president or the government. Why not? Because before that could be done, the eight men were released on bail. What, then, did the petition work accomplish? The Watch Tower of July 1, 1919, stated: “The evidence is overwhelming that the Lord desired this work to be done, not so much to get the brethren out of prison, as for the purpose of a witness to the truth.”
“Welcome Home, Brethren”
On Tuesday, March 25, the eight brothers left Atlanta for Brooklyn. News of their release spread quickly. It was truly a touching scene—Bible Students gathering at train stations along the route with the hope of seeing them and expressing joy at their release. Others rushed to the Bethel Home in Brooklyn, which had been closed down, to arrange for a welcome-home banquet. Back in Brooklyn, on March 26, the brothers were admitted to bail of $10,000 each, and they were released.
“Immediately they were accompanied by a number of friends to the Bethel Home, where between five and six hundred friends had assembled to welcome them,” reported The Watch Tower of April 15, 1919. In the dining room, there was a large banner that said, “Welcome Home, Brethren.” Nearly 50 years later, Mabel Haslett, who was present for that banquet, recalled: “I remember making a hundred doughnuts, which the brothers seemed to enjoy after nine months of prison fare. I can still see Brother Rutherford reaching out for them. It was an unforgettable occasion as he and the others related their experiences. I also remember short-statured Brother DeCecca standing on a chair so that all could see and hear him.”
On Tuesday morning, April 1, Brother Rutherford arrived in Pittsburgh, where the headquarters offices were now located. Here, too, the brothers, learning that he was due to arrive, scheduled a banquet, which was held that evening at the Hotel Chatham. The conditions in prison, though, had taken their toll on Brother Rutherford. He had developed a weakened lung condition, and as a result, after his release he contracted a severe case of pneumonia. So, shortly afterward his ill health made it necessary for him to go to California, where he had some relatives.
The Test in Los Angeles
Now that Brother Rutherford and the others were free, the question arose, What about the work of proclaiming God’s Kingdom? During the time that these brothers were in prison, organizational oversight of the witnessing work had largely been shut down. The Brooklyn Tabernacle had been sold and the Bethel Home closed. The headquarters offices in Pittsburgh were small, and funds were limited. Besides, how much interest really was there in the Kingdom message? From California, Brother Rutherford decided to arrange for a test.
A meeting was arranged at Clune’s Auditorium in Los Angeles, on Sunday, May 4, 1919. “The Hope for Distressed Humanity” was the title of the lecture to which the public was invited. But the talk was to be given by J. F. Rutherford—a man who had just got out of prison. Through extensive newspaper advertising, Rutherford promised a candid presentation of the facts, including an explanation of the reasons for the illegal convictions of the Society’s officers. Would anyone be interested enough to attend?
The response was overwhelming. In fact, 3,500 turned out to hear the lecture, and about 600 others had to be turned away. Brother Rutherford was thrilled! He agreed to speak to the overflow crowd on Monday night, and 1,500 showed up. He was so ill, though, that he could not finish that lecture. After an hour he had to be replaced by an associate. Nevertheless, the test in Los Angeles was a success. Brother Rutherford was convinced that there was considerable interest in the Kingdom message, and he was determined to see it proclaimed.
On With the Work!
By July 1919, Brother Rutherford was back on the job at the headquarters in Pittsburgh. Things happened quickly during the next few months. Arrangements were made for a convention of the Bible Students to be held at Cedar Point, Ohio, September 1-8, 1919. The Society’s offices were moved back to Brooklyn and were operating there by October 1.
What were they to do now? Their mission was clearly emphasized at the Cedar Point convention. On Tuesday, September 2, Brother Rutherford explained: “A Christian’s mission on earth . . . is to proclaim the message of the Lord’s kingdom of righteousness, which will bring blessings to the whole groaning creation.” Three days later, on Friday, September 5, which was called Co-Laborers’ Day, Brother Rutherford further stated: “In sober moments a Christian naturally asks himself, Why am I on the earth? And the answer of necessity must be, The Lord has graciously made me his ambassador to bear the divine message of reconciliation to the world, and my privilege and duty is to announce that message.”
Yes, it was time to get on with the work of proclaiming God’s Kingdom! And to assist in carrying out this commission, Brother Rutherford announced: “Under the Lord’s providence we have arranged for the publication of a new magazine under the name and title THE GOLDEN AGE.” Little did the conventioners know what a courageous journal The Golden Age would prove to be.
“That first post-World War I convention was a great boost for all of us,” recalled Herman L. Philbrick, who traveled to the convention from his home in Boston, Massachusetts. Truly, that Cedar Point convention stirred the Bible Students to action. They were ready to get on with the work of proclaiming the good news. It was as though they had come back to life from the dead.—Compare Ezekiel 37:1-14; Revelation 11:11, 12.
Meanwhile, significant things were happening on the world scene. The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, and went into effect on January 10, 1920. Officially ending military actions against Germany in World War I, the treaty also provided for the formation of the League of Nations—an international association created to keep peace in the world.
‘Advertise the King and the Kingdom’
In 1922 the Bible Students returned to Cedar Point for a nine-day program, from September 5 to 13. Excitement ran high as the delegates arrived for this international convention. The climax of the convention was reached on Friday, September 8, when Brother Rutherford delivered the talk “The Kingdom.”
Thomas J. Sullivan later recalled: “Those who were privileged to attend that meeting can even yet visualize Brother Rutherford’s earnestness when he told the few restless people that were walking around because of the intense heat to ‘SIT DOWN’ and ‘LISTEN’ to the talk at any cost.” Those who did were not disappointed, for that was the historic discourse in which Brother Rutherford urged his listeners to ‘advertise the King and the Kingdom.’
The audience responded with great enthusiasm. The Watch Tower reported: “Each one present was thoroughly impressed with the fact that the obligation is laid upon every one of the consecrated from this time forward to act as a publicity agent for the King and the kingdom.” The Bible Students came away from that convention with a burning zeal for the preaching work. As Sister Ethel Bennecoff, a colporteur then in her late 20’s, said, “we were aroused to ‘advertise, advertise, advertise the King and his kingdom’—Yes, with more zeal and love in our hearts than ever before.”
As the spiritual light of understanding grew brighter, the Bible Students began to perceive some thrilling Bible truths. (Prov. 4:18) The understanding of these precious truths gave a powerful impetus to their work of proclaiming God’s Kingdom. At the same time, they had to adjust their thinking—and for some this was a real test.
“Unrealized Hopes Are Not Unique to Our Day”
“We may confidently expect,” stated the booklet Millions Now Living Will Never Die, back in 1920, “that 1925 will mark the return [from the dead] of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old . . . to the condition of human perfection.” Not only was the resurrection of faithful men of old expected in 1925 but some hoped that anointed Christians might receive their heavenly reward in that year.b
The year 1925 came and went. Some abandoned their hope. But the vast majority of the Bible Students remained faithful. “Our family,” explained Herald Toutjian, whose grandparents had become Bible Students about the turn of the century, “came to appreciate that unrealized hopes are not unique to our day. The apostles themselves had similar misplaced expectations. . . . Jehovah is worthy of loyal service and praise with or without the ultimate reward.”—Compare Acts 1:6, 7.
Which Organization—Jehovah’s or Satan’s?
“Birth of the Nation”—that was the title of a dramatic article appearing in the March 1, 1925, issue of The Watch Tower. It presented an enlightened understanding of Revelation chapter 12 that some found difficult to accept.
The symbolic characters mentioned in this chapter of Revelation were identified as follows: the “woman” that gives birth (vss. 1, 2) as “God’s [heavenly] organization”; the “dragon” (vs. 3) as “the devil’s organization”; and the “man child” (vs. 5, KJ) as “the new kingdom, or new government.” On the basis of this, something was clearly explained for the first time: There are two distinct and opposing organizations—Jehovah’s and Satan’s. And following the “war in heaven” (vs. 7, KJ), Satan and his demon supporters were cast out of heaven and hurled down to the earth.
“We sat down and studied it all night until I could understand it very well,” wrote Earl E. Newell, who later served as a traveling representative of the Watch Tower Society. “We went to an assembly in Portland, Oregon, and there we found the friends all upset and some of them were ready to discard The Watch Tower because of this article.” Why was this explanation of Revelation chapter 12 so difficult for some to accept?
For one thing, it was a striking departure from what had been published in The Finished Mystery, which was largely a posthumous compilation of Brother Russell’s writings.c Walter J. Thorn, who served as a traveling pilgrim, explained: “The article on ‘The Birth of the Nation’ was . . . difficult to take hold of because of a previous interpretation by dear Brother Russell, which we believed to be the final word on Revelation.” Little wonder, then, that some stumbled over the explanation. “Unquestionably this interpretation may prove a sifting medium,” noted J. A. Bohnet, another pilgrim, “but the really earnest and sincere ones of the faith will stand firm and rejoice.”
Indeed, the really earnest and sincere ones did rejoice over the new explanation. It was now so clear to them: everyone belongs either to Jehovah’s organization or to Satan’s. “Remember,” the article “Birth of the Nation” explained, “it will be our privilege . . . to valiantly fight for the cause of our King by proclaiming his message, which he has given us to proclaim.”
As the 1920’s and then the 1930’s progressed, more flashes of Bible understanding followed. Worldly celebrations and holidays, such as Christmas, were put away. Other practices and beliefs were also discarded when it was seen that they had God-dishonoring roots.d More than abandoning wrong practices and beliefs, though, the Bible Students continued to look to Jehovah for progressive revelations of truth.
“You Are My Witnesses”
“‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I am God.’” (Isa. 43:12) Starting in the 1920’s, the Bible Students became increasingly aware of the deep significance of these words of the prophet Isaiah. Through the pages of The Watch Tower, attention was repeatedly drawn to our responsibility to bear witness to Jehovah’s name and his Kingdom. A milestone, though, was reached at a convention held in Columbus, Ohio, in 1931.
On Sunday, July 26, at noon, Brother Rutherford delivered the public discourse “The Kingdom, the Hope of the World,” which was broadcast over a vast radio hookup, with more than 300 additional stations later rebroadcasting the message. At the end of the discourse, Brother Rutherford served notice on Christendom by reading a stinging resolution entitled “Warning From Jehovah,” which was addressed “To the Rulers and to the People.” To his invitation that they adopt the resolution, the entire visible audience stood and shouted, “Aye!” Telegrams later received indicated that many of those listening on the radio likewise raised their voices in agreement.
From one o’clock, when the public discourse was finished, until four o’clock, when Brother Rutherford reentered the auditorium, the atmosphere was charged with excitement. Brother Rutherford had specially requested that everyone who was really interested in the noonday warning to Christendom be in his seat at four o’clock.
Promptly at four, Brother Rutherford began by stating that he regarded what he was about to say as of vital importance to everyone who could hear his voice. His listeners were keenly interested. During his discourse he presented another resolution, this one entitled “A New Name,” which was climaxed by the declaration: “We desire to be known as and called by the name, to wit, Jehovah’s witnesses.” The thrilled conventioners again jumped to their feet with the ringing shout “Aye!” They would henceforth be known as Jehovah’s Witnesses!
“Jehovah’s Spirit Made Us Fearless”
During 1927, Jehovah’s people were encouraged to spend a portion of every Sunday in group witnessing. Immediate legal opposition was raised. Within a few years, arrests began to mount—268 in the United States alone in 1933, 340 in 1934, 478 in 1935, and 1,149 in 1936. On what charge? Actually, on various charges, including selling without a license, disturbing the peace, and violating Sunday sabbath laws. The local groups of Witnesses were not versed in how to deal with police officials and courts. Getting legal help locally was either too expensive or not possible because of prejudice. So the Watch Tower Society wisely established a legal department in Brooklyn to render counsel.
A strong legal defense, though, was not enough. These sincere Witnesses of Jehovah were determined to live up to the name they had embraced. So, early in the 1930’s, they struck back by going on the offensive. How? By means of special preaching missions known as divisional campaigns. Thousands of volunteers throughout the United States were organized into divisions. When Witnesses were arrested in one town for house-to-house preaching, a division of volunteers from other areas soon arrived and “besieged” the town, giving a thorough witness.e
Those divisional campaigns did much to strengthen the local Witnesses. In each division, there were qualified brothers who had been trained to deal with the authorities. It was a great encouragement to the brothers living in a trouble area, perhaps in a small town, to know that they were not alone in proclaiming God’s Kingdom.
It took a great deal of courage to share in the divisional campaigns of the 1930’s. In the midst of the Great Depression period, jobs were scarce. Yet, Nicholas Kovalak, Jr., a traveling overseer for some 40 years, recalls: “When the call came to cover a trouble spot, the ‘service director’ would ask for volunteers. Individuals were told not to volunteer if they were afraid of losing their jobs. . . . But we were always happy to see 100% affirmative response!” Observed John Dulchinos, an overseer from Springfield, Massachusetts: “Indeed, those were thrilling years and their memories are precious. Jehovah’s spirit made us fearless.”
Meanwhile, a flash of Bible understanding was developing that would have a tremendous impact on the work.
What About the Jonadabs?
In 1932 it was explained that Jehonadab (Jonadab), King Jehu’s associate, prefigured a class of persons who would enjoy everlasting life on earth.f (2 Ki. 10:15-28) The Jonadabs, as they came to be known, counted it a privilege to be associated with Jehovah’s anointed servants and to have some share with them in advertising the Kingdom. But at that time, there was no special effort to gather and organize these individuals with an earthly hope.
However, real encouragement was given to the Jonadabs in The Watchtower of August 15, 1934. The article “His Kindness” stated: “Should a Jonadab consecrate himself to the Lord and be baptized? Answer: Most assuredly it is proper for a Jonadab to consecrate himself to do the will of God. No one will ever get life without doing that. Water immersion is merely a symbol of having made a consecration [or, as we would now say, dedication] to do God’s will, and that would not be out of order.” The Jonadabs were thrilled!
Yet, even greater joy was near for them. The following spring, several issues of The Watchtower, beginning with the April 1, 1935, issue, carried this announcement: “Again The Watchtower reminds its readers that a convention of Jehovah’s witnesses and Jonadabsg will be held at Washington, D.C., beginning May 30 and ending June 3, 1935.” The Jonadabs eagerly awaited the convention.
The “great multitude,” foretold in Revelation 7:9-17 (KJ), was the subject of a talk Brother Rutherford delivered on the second afternoon of the convention. In that discourse he explained that the great multitude was made up of the modern-day Jonadabs and that these Jonadabs had to show the same degree of faithfulness to Jehovah as the anointed. Well, the audience was excited! At the speaker’s request, the Jonadabs arose. “There was at first a hush,” recalled Mildred Cobb, who had been baptized in the summer of 1908, “then a gladsome cry, and the cheering was loud and long.”
This flash of Bible understanding had a profound effect upon the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “With enthusiasm running high,” remarked Sadie Carpenter, a full-time preacher for over 60 years, “we went back to our territories to search for these sheeplike people who were yet to be gathered.” Later the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses for 1936 reported: “This revelation stirred the brethren and stimulated them to renewed activities, and everywhere throughout the earth come the reports exhibiting joy in the fact that the remnant now have the privilege of carrying the message to the great multitude, and these together working to the honor of the Lord’s name.” To help them in this work, the book Riches, published in 1936, contained an extensive discussion of the prospects held out in the Scriptures for the great multitude.
At last, the dedicated, baptized members of the great multitude were finding their proper place alongside the anointed in advertising God’s Kingdom!
‘Tanning the Old Lady’s Hide’
In the 1930’s, the message these zealous Witnesses proclaimed included a stinging exposé of false religion. A helpful tool in this regard was released at the general convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, September 15-20, 1937, in Columbus, Ohio.
On Saturday, September 18, following his morning discourse, Brother Rutherford released the tan-colored book Enemies. It denounced false religion as “a great enemy, always working injury to mankind.” False religionists were identified as “agents of the Devil, whether they are aware of that fact or not.” When presenting the book to the audience, Brother Rutherford said: “You will notice that its cover is tan, and we will tan the old lady’sh hide with it.” To this the audience gave loud and enthusiastic approval.
For some years the phonograph had played a part in ‘tanning the old lady.’ But in connection with the phonograph work, there was a surprise at the 1937 convention. “At this assembly the work using the portable phonograph on the doorstep was introduced,” recalls Elwood Lunstrum, who was just 12 years old at the time. “Formerly we had been carrying the phonograph with us in the service, but we had only played it when invited inside. . . . An organization of ‘Special Pioneers’ was outlined at the Columbus convention to spearhead the use of the doorstep setup with the phonograph and the follow-up work with interested persons (first then called ‘back-calls’) and Bible studies with an arrangement called ‘model study.’”
Jehovah’s people left that convention well equipped for the work of proclaiming God’s Kingdom. They certainly needed all the encouragement they could get. The rising tide of nationalism in the 1930’s brought opposition, in some cases mob violence, from individuals who were determined to stop Jehovah’s Witnesses from meeting together and from preaching.
“A Bunch of Hijackers”
A strong force of opposition came from certain Catholic Action groups. On October 2, 1938, Brother Rutherford was straightforward in delivering the lecture “Fascism or Freedom,” which later appeared in booklet form and was distributed by the millions. Brother Rutherford in this speech detailed a number of incidents of unlawful acts to demonstrate collusion between certain public officials and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church.
After presenting the facts, Rutherford noted: “When the people are told the facts about a crowd that is operating under a religious cloak to steal their rights, the Hierarchy howls and says: ‘Lies! Put a gag in the mouths of those and do not permit them to speak.’” Then he asked: “Is it wrong to publish the truth concerning a bunch of hijackers that are robbing the people? No! . . . Shall honest men be gagged and compelled to remain silent while this bunch of hijackers destroy the liberties of the people? Above all, shall the people be denied their God-given privileges of peaceable assembly and freedom of worship of Almighty God, and freedom of speech concerning his kingdom and those who oppose it?”
Following this stinging rebuke, opposition continued from Catholic Action groups across the United States. Jehovah’s Witnesses waged legal battles for freedom of worship and their right to proclaim God’s Kingdom. But the situation only worsened as the world went to war. Legal restrictions and imprisonment also came upon Jehovah’s Witnesses in country after country in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
“Everyone Wanted to Go to St. Louis”
“In 1941,” recalls Norman Larson, who had recently entered the full-time ministry, “we all felt we were in for some critical days ahead with the war now going on in Europe. So everyone wanted to go to St. Louis.” For what? Why, for the Theocratic Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in St. Louis, Missouri, August 6-10, 1941! And “everyone” came. The convention facilities were filled to overflowing. According to a police estimate, a peak of 115,000 persons attended.
From the first day, the convention program provided timely encouragement. Brother Rutherford’s opening discourse, “Integrity,” sounded the keynote of the convention. “We realized more clearly than ever before why Jehovah was permitting such intense persecution of his people world wide,” recalled Hazel Burford, who served as a missionary for nearly 40 years, until her death in 1983. Reporting on the convention, the 1942 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses added: “All could see clearly that there lay ahead of them a great work of witnessing to be done, and that by so doing they would maintain their integrity, though they be hated of all men and worldly organizations.”
A touching scene at the convention came on Sunday, August 10, which was “Children’s Day.” When the morning session opened, 15,000 children—between 5 and 18 years of age—were assembled in the main arena directly in front of the platform and in a place similarly set aside at a trailer city where an overflow crowd listened. As Brother Rutherford, then in his early 70’s, stepped onto the platform, the children cheered and applauded. He waved his handkerchief, and the children waved back. Then, in a clear, kind voice, he addressed the entire audience on the theme “Children of the King.” After talking for over an hour to the audience in general, he directed his remarks to the children seated in the reserved sections.
“All of you . . . children,” he said, fixing his attention on the young beaming faces before him, “who have agreed to do the will of God and have taken your stand on the side of his Theocratic Government by Christ Jesus and who have agreed to obey God and his King, please stand up.” The children rose as one body. “Behold,” exclaimed the enthusiastic speaker, “more than 15,000 new witnesses to the Kingdom!” There was a burst of applause. “All of you who will do what you can to tell others about God’s kingdom and its attending blessings, please say Aye.” A thunderous cry, “Aye!”
To climax it all, Brother Rutherford announced the release of the new book Children, which was received with shouts of joy and tremendous applause. Afterward, the speaker, a tall man, shared in distributing free copies of the book as a long line of children walked up on the platform and filed past him. Many wept at the sight.
In the audience that Sunday morning were many children who lived up to their shout of “Aye!” LaVonne Krebs, Merton Campbell, and Eugene and Camilla Rosam were among the young ones who received a Children book on that occasion. Still serving at the Society’s headquarters in 1992, they have devoted 51, 49, 49, and 48 years respectively to the full-time ministry. Some of the children went on to serve in foreign missionary assignments, including Eldon Deane (Bolivia), Richard and Peggy Kelsey (Germany), Ramon Templeton (Germany), and Jennie Klukowski (Brazil). Indeed, that Sunday morning program in St. Louis made a lasting impression on many young hearts!
On Sunday afternoon Brother Rutherford had some parting words for the conventioners. He encouraged them to carry forward the work of proclaiming God’s Kingdom. “I feel absolutely certain,” he told them, “that from henceforth . . . those who will form the great multitude will grow by leaps and bounds.” He urged them to return to their respective parts of the land and “put on more steam . . . put in all the time you can.” Then came his final words to the audience: “Well, my dear brethren, the Lord bless you. Now I won’t say Good-bye, because I expect to see you at some time again.”
But for many it was the last time they would see Brother Rutherford.
Closing Days of J. F. Rutherford
Brother Rutherford had developed cancer of the colon and was in poor health at the St. Louis convention. Still, he managed to give five strong discourses. Following the convention, however, his condition worsened, and he was compelled to have a colostomy. Arthur Worsley recalls the day Brother Rutherford said good-bye to the Bethel family. “He confided in us that he was going to undergo a serious operation and that whether he lived through it or not, he was confident that we would keep on proclaiming Jehovah’s name. He . . . concluded by saying, ‘So, if God wills, I will see you again. If not, keep up the fight.’ There was not a dry eye in the family.”
Brother Rutherford, 72 years of age, survived the surgery. Shortly thereafter he was taken to a residence in California he had named Beth-Sarim. It was evident to his loved ones, and to medical experts, that he would not recover. In fact, he required further surgery.
About the middle of December, Nathan H. Knorr, Frederick W. Franz, and Hayden C. Covington arrived from Brooklyn. Hazel Burford, who cared for Brother Rutherford during those sad and trying days, later recalled: “They spent several days with him going over the annual report for the Yearbook and other organizational matters. After their departure, Brother Rutherford continued to weaken and, about three weeks later, on Thursday, January 8, 1942, he faithfully finished his earthly course.”i
How was news of Brother Rutherford’s death received at Bethel? “I will never forget the day we learned of Brother Rutherford’s passing,” recalled William A. Elrod, who had been a member of the Bethel family for nine years. “It was at noontime when the family was assembled for lunch. The announcement was brief. There were no speeches. No one took the day off to mourn. Rather, we went back to the factory and worked harder than ever.”
Those were extremely trying times for Jehovah’s Witnesses. The war had become a global conflict. The fighting spread from Europe to Africa, then to what was known as the Soviet Union. On December 7, 1941, just a month before Brother Rutherford’s death, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor had drawn the United States into the war. In many places the Witnesses were the objects of mob violence and other forms of intense persecution.
What would happen now?
a A New York corporation formed in 1909 in connection with the Society’s moving of its principal offices to Brooklyn, New York.
b See Chapter 28, “Testing and Sifting From Within.”
c According to the interpretation set out in The Finished Mystery, the woman of Revelation chapter 12 was “the early Church,” the dragon was “the Pagan Roman Empire,” and the man child was “the papacy.”
d See Chapter 14, “They Are No Part of the World.”
e See Chapter 30, “Defending and Legally Establishing the Good News.”
f Vindication, Book Three, page 77. See also Chapter 12, “The Great Crowd—To Live in Heaven? or on Earth?”
g At that time the Jonadabs were not considered to be “Jehovah’s witnesses.” (See The Watchtower, August 15, 1934, page 249.) However, a few years later, The Watchtower of July 1, 1942, stated: “These ‘other sheep’ [Jonadabs] become witnesses for Him, on the same wise that the faithful men before Christ’s death, from John the Baptist all the way back to Abel, were the never-quitting witnesses for Jehovah.”
h A reference to “the great harlot,” mentioned in Revelation chapter 17. The book Enemies stated: “All organizations on the earth that are in opposition to God and his kingdom . . . take the name of ‘Babylon’ and ‘harlot’, and those names specifically apply to the leading religious organization, the Roman Catholic church.” (Page 198) Years later it was seen that the harlot actually represents the world empire of all false religion.
i Brother Rutherford was survived by his wife, Mary, and their son, Malcolm. Because Sister Rutherford had poor health and found the winters in New York (where the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters were located) difficult to endure, she and Malcolm had been residing in southern California, where the climate was better for her health. Sister Rutherford died December 17, 1962, at the age of 93. Notice of her death, appearing in the Monrovia, California, Daily News-Post, stated: “Until poor health confined her to her home, she took an active part in the ministerial work of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
[Blurb on page 73]
“Satan’s chief weapons are PRIDE, AMBITION and FEAR”
[Blurb on page 74]
“Assurance that Jehovah was running the Society”
[Blurb on page 75]
‘Out of prison, not so much for themselves, as for the purpose of a witness to the truth’
[Blurb on page 77]
“A Christian’s mission on earth . . . is to proclaim the message of the Lord’s kingdom”
[Blurb on page 78]
‘Advertise the Kingdom with more zeal and love than ever before’
[Blurb on page 82]
“We desire to be known as . . . Jehovah’s witnesses”
[Blurb on page 83]
Yes! Jonadabs should be baptized
[Blurb on page 84]
‘Searching for sheeplike people yet to be gathered’
[Blurb on page 85]
Rutherford was straightforward in rebuking religious opposers
[Blurb on page 86]
15,000 children take their stand on the side of the Kingdom
[Blurb on page 89]
“If God wills, I will see you again. If not, keep up the fight”
[Box/Picture on page 76]
“House of the Princes”
Brother Rutherford had a severe case of pneumonia after his release from unjust imprisonment in 1919. Thereafter, he had only one good lung. In the 1920’s, under a doctor’s treatment, he went to San Diego, California, and the doctor urged him to spend as much time as possible there. From 1929 on, Brother Rutherford spent the winters working at a San Diego residence he had named Beth-Sarim. Beth-Sarim was built with funds that were a direct contribution for that purpose. The deed, which was published in full in “The Golden Age” of March 19, 1930, conveyed this property to J. F. Rutherford and thereafter to the Watch Tower Society.
Concerning Beth-Sarim, the book “Salvation,” published in 1939, explains: “The Hebrew words ‘Beth Sarim’ mean ‘House of the Princes’; and the purpose of acquiring that property and building the house was that there might be some tangible proof that there are those on earth today who fully believe God and Christ Jesus and in His kingdom, and who believe that the faithful men of old will soon be resurrected by the Lord, be back on earth, and take charge of the visible affairs of earth.”
A few years after Brother Rutherford’s death, the board of directors of the Watch Tower Society decided to sell Beth-Sarim. Why? “The Watchtower” of December 15, 1947, explained: “It had fully served its purpose and was now only serving as a monument quite expensive to keep; our faith in the return of the men of old time whom the King Christ Jesus will make princes in ALL the earth (not merely in California) is based, not upon that house Beth-Sarim, but upon God’s Word of promise.” j
j At the time, it was believed that faithful men of old times, such as Abraham, Joseph, and David, would be resurrected before the end of this system of things and would serve as “princes in all the earth,” in fulfillment of Psalm 45:16. This view was adjusted in 1950, when further study of the Scriptures indicated that those earthly forefathers of Jesus Christ would be resurrected after Armageddon.—See “The Watchtower,” November 1, 1950, pages 414-17.
[Box/Pictures on page 80, 81]
Broadcasting the Kingdom Message
Within two years after regular commercial radio broadcasting began, radio was being used to transmit the Kingdom message. Thus on February 26, 1922, Brother Rutherford delivered his first radio broadcast, in California. Two years later, on February 24, 1924, the Watch Tower Society’s own radio station WBBR, on Staten Island, New York, began broadcasting. Eventually, the Society organized worldwide networks to broadcast Bible programs and lectures. By 1933 a peak of 408 stations were carrying the Kingdom message to six continents!
WBBR, in New York, was operated by the Watch Tower Society from 1924 until 1957
WBBR orchestra in 1926
J. F. Rutherford delivering the lecture “Face the Facts,” at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, England, on September 11, 1938; more than 10,000 jammed the auditorium (below), while millions more heard by radio
WBBR opening program
Staff at station 2HD, Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Radio station CHCY in Edmonton, Alberta, was one of several stations the Society owned and operated in Canada
Broadcasting to Finland via a radio station in Estonia
Broadcasting equipment at station WORD, near Chicago, Illinois; owned and operated by the Society
[Box/Pictures on page 87]
Preaching With Phonographs
In 1933, Jehovah’s Witnesses began to employ another innovative method of preaching. A transportable transcription machine with an amplifier and loudspeaker was used to broadcast 33 1/3-rpm recordings of Brother Rutherford’s radio lectures, in halls, parks, and other public places. Sound cars and sound boats also were used to let the Kingdom message ring out.
The effective use of transcription machines led to yet another innovation—preaching from house to house with a lightweight phonograph. In 1934 the Society began producing portable phonographs and a series of 78-rpm discs containing 4 1/2-minute Bible lectures. Eventually, recordings covering 92 different subjects were in use. In all, the Society produced more than 47,000 phonographs to trumpet the Kingdom message. However, in time, greater emphasis was laid on oral presentations of the Kingdom message, so the phonograph work was phased out.
With a sound car on a hilltop, the Kingdom message could be heard miles away (above)
Using the transcription machine in Mexico (right)
A sound boat broadcasting on the River Thames, in London, England (above)
Using a phonograph in field service (left)
Demonstrating how to use a vertical-style phonograph, in 1940 (right)
[Picture on page 79]
J. A. Bohnet
[Picture on page 88]
From 1917, when J. F. Rutherford became president, to 1941, the Watch Tower Society produced a flood of publications, including 24 books, 86 booklets, and annual “Yearbooks,” as well as articles for “The Watch Tower” and “The Golden Age” (later called “Consolation”)