Declaring the Good News Without Letup (1942-1975)
“TO ALL LOVERS OF THE THEOCRACY:
On January 8, 1942, our beloved brother, J. F. Rutherford, faithfully finished his earthly course . . . To him it was a joy and comfort to see and know that all the witnesses of the Lord are following, not any man, but the King Christ Jesus as their Leader, and that they will move on in the work in complete unity of action.”—A letter announcing the death of Brother Rutherford.a
NEWS of Brother Rutherford’s death came as a momentary shock to Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world. Many knew that he had been ill, but they did not expect him to die so soon. They were saddened over the loss of their dear brother but were determined to “move on in the work”—the work of proclaiming God’s Kingdom. They did not view J. F. Rutherford as their leader. Charles E. Wagner, who had worked in Brother Rutherford’s office, observed: “The brothers everywhere had developed a strong conviction that Jehovah’s work did not depend on any man.” Still, someone was needed to shoulder the responsibilities that Brother Rutherford had carried as president of the Watch Tower Society.
“Determined to Keep Close to the Lord”
It was Brother Rutherford’s heartfelt wish that Jehovah’s Witnesses declare the good news without letup. So in mid-December 1941, several weeks before his death, he called together four directors of the two principal legal corporations used by Jehovah’s Witnesses and suggested that as soon after his death as possible, all the members of the two boards be called in joint session and a president and a vice president be elected.
On the afternoon of January 13, 1942, just five days after Rutherford’s death, all the board members of the two corporations met jointly at Brooklyn Bethel. Several days earlier, the Society’s vice president, 36-year-old Nathan H. Knorr, had suggested that they earnestly seek divine wisdom by prayer and meditation. The board members recognized that while the brother elected president would administer the legal affairs of the Watch Tower Society, he would also serve as a principal overseer of the organization. Who had the needed spiritual qualifications for this weighty responsibility in caring for Jehovah’s work? The joint meeting was opened with prayer, and after careful consideration, Brother Knorr was unanimously elected president of the two corporations and 30-year-old Hayden C. Covington, the Society’s lawyer, vice president.b
Later that day, W. E. Van Amburgh, the Society’s secretary-treasurer, announced to the Bethel family the results of the election. R. E. Abrahamson, who was present on that occasion, recalled that Van Amburgh said: ‘I can remember when C. T. Russell died and was replaced by J. F. Rutherford. The Lord continued to direct and prosper His work. Now, I fully expect the work to move ahead with Nathan H. Knorr as president, because this is the Lord’s work, not man’s.’
How did the Bethel family members in Brooklyn feel about the results of the election? A touching letter from them dated January 14, 1942, the day after the election, answers: “His [Rutherford’s] change shall not slow us up in the performance of the task the Lord has assigned to us. We are determined to keep close to the Lord and to one another, firmly pushing the battle to the gate, fighting shoulder to shoulder. . . . Our intimate association with Brother Knorr for approximately twenty years . . . enables us to appreciate the Lord’s direction in the choice of Brother Knorr as president and thereby the loving watch-care of the Lord over His people.” Letters and cablegrams of support soon poured into headquarters from around the world.
There was no feeling of uncertainty as to what to do. A special article was prepared for the February 1, 1942, Watchtower, the very same issue that announced the death of J. F. Rutherford. “The final gathering by the Lord is on,” it declared. “Let nothing for one instant interrupt the onward push of his covenant-people in His service. . . . Now to hold fast our integrity toward the Almighty God is the ALL-IMPORTANT thing.” Jehovah’s Witnesses were urged to continue declaring the good news with zeal.
But ‘holding fast their integrity’ was a real challenge in the early 1940’s. The world was still at war. Wartime restrictions in many parts of the earth made it difficult for Jehovah’s Witnesses to preach. Arrests and mob action against the Witnesses continued unabated. Hayden Covington, as the Society’s legal counsel, directed the legal fight, sometimes from his office at Brooklyn headquarters and sometimes from trains as he traveled caring for legal cases. Working with local lawyers, such as Victor Schmidt, Grover Powell, and Victor Blackwell, Brother Covington fought hard to establish the constitutional rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses to preach from house to house and to distribute Bible literature without restraint from local officials.c
Sounding the “Go Ahead” Signal
Despite wartime rationing of food and gasoline, early in March 1942, plans were announced for the New World Theocratic Assembly, to be held September 18-20. To facilitate travel, 52 convention cities were selected across the United States, many of them tied in by telephone to Cleveland, Ohio, the key city. About the same time, Jehovah’s Witnesses convened in 33 other cities throughout the earth. What was the objective of this assembly?
‘We are not here gathered to meditate on the past or what individuals have done,’ stated the chairman, Brother Covington, in his introductory words for the opening session. Then, he introduced the keynote speech, “The Only Light,” based on Isaiah chapters 59 and 60, which was delivered by Brother Franz. Referring to Jehovah’s prophetic command recorded by Isaiah, the speaker rousingly declared: “Here, then, is the ‘Go ahead’ signal from the Highest Authority to keep going on in his [work] of witness no matter what happens before Armageddon comes.” (Isa. 6:1-12) It was no time to slack the hand and relax.
“There is further work to be done; much work!” declared N. H. Knorr in the next talk on the program. To aid his listeners in their response to the “Go ahead” signal, Brother Knorr announced the release of an edition of the King James version of the Bible, printed on the Society’s own presses and complete with a concordance specially designed for use by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their field ministry. That release reflected Brother Knorr’s keen interest in printing and distributing the Bible. In fact, after he had become president of the Society earlier that year, Brother Knorr had moved quickly to secure the printing rights for this translation and to coordinate the preparation of the concordance and other features. Within months this special edition of the King James Version was ready for release at the convention.
On the final day of the assembly, Brother Knorr delivered the discourse “Peace—Can It Last?” In it he set out powerful evidence from Revelation 17:8 that World War II, which was then raging, would not lead into Armageddon, as some thought, but that the war would end and a period of peace would set in. There was still work to be done in proclaiming God’s Kingdom. The conventioners were told that in order to help care for the anticipated growth in the organization, starting the next month the Society would send “servants to the brethren” to work with the congregations. Each congregation would be visited every six months.
“That New World Theocratic Assembly welded Jehovah’s organization together solidly for the work ahead,” says Marie Gibbard, who attended in Dallas, Texas, with her parents. And there was much work to do. Jehovah’s Witnesses looked ahead to the period of peace to come. They were determined to plow right on through opposition and persecution, declaring the good news without letup!
An Era of Increased Education
They had been using the testimony card and the phonograph in their house-to-house preaching, but could each witness of Jehovah improve in his ability to explain from the Scriptures the reasons for his hope? The Society’s third president, N. H. Knorr, thought so. C. James Woodworth, whose father was for years the editor of The Golden Age and Consolation, put it this way: “Whereas in Brother Rutherford’s day the emphasis was on ‘Religion Is a Snare and a Racket,’ now the era of global expansion was dawning, and education—Biblical and organizational—commenced on a scale heretofore not known by Jehovah’s people.”
The era of education got under way almost immediately. On February 9, 1942, about a month after N. H. Knorr was elected president of the Society, a far-reaching announcement was made at Brooklyn Bethel. Arrangements were made at Bethel for an Advanced Course in Theocratic Ministry—a school that featured Bible research and public speaking.
By the following year, the groundwork was laid for a similar school to be conducted in the local congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the “Call to Action” Assembly held throughout the United States on April 17 and 18, 1943, the booklet Course in Theocratic Ministry was released. Each congregation was urged to start the new school, and the Society appointed instructors to act as chairmen and to offer constructive counsel on student talks delivered by male enrollees. As quickly as possible, the course was translated and put into operation in other lands.
As a result, qualified speakers trained in this ministry school began to share in a worldwide public speaking campaign to proclaim the Kingdom message. Many of these were later able to put their training to good use as convention speakers and in caring for heavy organizational responsibilities.
Among them was Angelo C. Manera, Jr., a traveling overseer for some 40 years. He was one of the first enrollees in the school in his congregation, and he observed: “Those of us who attended the meetings and went out in field service for many years without this provision have come to look upon it as a great step in our personal and organizational progress.”
Regarding his training in the school inaugurated at Brooklyn Bethel in 1942, George Gangas, a Greek translator at the time, later noted: “I recall the time I gave my first six-minute talk. I was not confident in myself so I wrote it down. But when I got up to give it, audience fear gripped me and I stuttered and muttered, losing my thoughts. Then I resorted to reading from the manuscript. But my hands were trembling so much that the lines were jumping up and down!” Yet, he did not quit. In time, he was giving talks before large convention audiences and even serving as a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A School Founded on Faith
On September 24, 1942, a further stride was taken in the era of increased education. At a joint meeting of the boards of directors of the two legal corporations, Brother Knorr suggested that the Society establish another school, using a building that had been constructed at Kingdom Farm, at South Lansing, New York, 255 miles [410 km] northwest of New York City. The purpose of this school would be to train missionaries for service in foreign countries where there was a great need for Kingdom proclaimers. The suggestion was unanimously approved.
Albert D. Schroeder, who was then 31 years of age, was designated registrar and served as chairman of the committee to get the new school organized. “My, did our hearts leap for joy at this amazing new assignment!” he says. The instructors got busy right away; they had just four months to develop the courses, work up the lectures, and gather a library. “The course of advanced Christian education covered 20 weeks, the Bible being the major textbook,” explains Brother Schroeder, who now serves as a member of the Governing Body.
On Monday, February 1, 1943, a cold winter day in upstate New York, the first class, with 100 students, commenced. Here was a school truly founded on faith. In the midst of World War II, there were only a few areas of the world to which missionaries could be sent. Yet, with full confidence that there would be a period of peace during which they could be used, prospective missionaries were trained.
In May 1945 the hostilities of World War II in Europe came to an end. Four months later, in September, the fighting ceased in the Pacific. World War II was over. On October 24, 1945, a little over three years after the Society’s president delivered the talk “Peace—Can It Last?” the Charter of the United Nations went into effect.
Reports about the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses had already begun trickling out of Europe. To an extent that amazed their brothers and sisters around the world, the Kingdom proclamation work had forged ahead in European countries in spite of the war. The Watchtower of July 15, 1945, reported: “In 1940 France had 400 publishers; now there are 1,100 that talk the Kingdom. . . . In 1940 Holland had 800 publishers. Four hundred of them were whisked off to concentration camps in Germany. Those left behind talked the Kingdom. The result? In that land there are now 2,000 Kingdom publishers.” The open door of freedom now presented opportunities of further declaring the good news, not just in Europe but around the world. First, though, much reconstruction and reorganization were needed.
Anxious to survey the needs of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the war-ravaged countries, the Society’s president, along with his secretary, Milton G. Henschel, set out on a tour of Britain, France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia in November 1945 to encourage the brothers and to inspect the branch offices of the Society.d Their objective was postwar reorganization. Arrangements were made for literature supplies as well as food and clothing to be shipped to the brothers in need. Branch offices were reestablished.
Brother Knorr well realized that good branch organization was needed to keep pace with the forward movement of the preaching work. His natural abilities in organizing were fully used in expanding the Society’s branch facilities worldwide. In 1942, when he became president, there were 25 branch offices. By 1946, despite the bans and hindrances of World War II, there were branches in 57 lands. Over the next 30 years, down to 1976, the number of branches increased to 97.
Equipped to Be Teachers
From his international travels shortly after the war, the Society’s president determined that Jehovah’s Witnesses needed to be better equipped to be teachers of God’s Word. Further Bible education was necessary as well as suitable instruments for use in the field ministry. Those needs were met early in the postwar period.
At the Glad Nations Theocratic Assembly, held in Cleveland, Ohio, August 4-11, 1946, Brother Knorr delivered the talk “Equipped for Every Good Work.” The entire audience was intrigued as he posed such questions as: “Would it not be of tremendous aid to have information on each one of the sixty-six books of the Bible? Would it not aid in understanding the Scriptures if we knew who wrote each book of the Bible? when each book was written? where it was written?” Expectancy ran high as he then declared: “Brethren, you have all that information and much more in the new book entitled ‘Equipped for Every Good Work’!” A burst of applause followed that announcement. The new publication would serve as a textbook for the ministry school held in the congregations.
Not only were Jehovah’s Witnesses equipped with a publication to deepen their knowledge of the Scriptures but they were also given some excellent aids for use in the field. The 1946 convention will long be remembered for the release of the first issue of Awake! This new magazine replaced Consolation (formerly known as The Golden Age). Also released was the book “Let God Be True.”e Henry A. Cantwell, who later served as a traveling overseer, explains: “For some time we had very much needed a book that could be used effectively in conducting Bible studies with newly interested persons, one that would cover the basic Bible doctrines and truths. Now with the release of ‘Let God Be True,’ we had just what was needed.”
Equipped with such valuable teaching aids, Jehovah’s Witnesses expected further rapid expansion. Addressing the convention on the subject “The Problems of Reconstruction and Expansion,” Brother Knorr explained that during the years of global war, no standstill had occurred in efforts at witnessing. From 1939 to 1946, the number of Kingdom proclaimers had increased by over 110,000. To meet the growing worldwide demand for Bible literature, the Society planned to expand the factory and the Bethel Home in Brooklyn.
The anticipated period of world peace had set in. The era of global expansion and Bible education was well under way. Jehovah’s Witnesses returned home from the Glad Nations Theocratic Assembly better equipped to be teachers of the good news.
Kingdom Proclamation Surges Ahead
With a view to worldwide expansion, on February 6, 1947, the Society’s president and his secretary, Milton G. Henschel, embarked on a 47,795-mile [76,916 km] world service tour. The trip took them to islands of the Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, the Mediterranean area, Central and Western Europe, Scandinavia, England, and Newfoundland. It was the first time since 1933 that representatives of the Society’s headquarters staff in Brooklyn had been able to visit their brothers in Germany. Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world followed the two travelers as reports of the trip were published in issues of The Watchtower throughout 1947.f
“It was the first opportunity for us to get acquainted with the brothers in Asia and other places and to see what the needs were,” explains Brother Henschel, now a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “We had in mind sending out missionaries, so we had to know what they were getting into and what they would need.” Following the tour, a steady stream of Gilead-trained missionaries reached foreign soil to spearhead the work of Kingdom proclamation. And the results were impressive. Over the next five years (1947-52), the number of Kingdom preachers worldwide more than doubled, from 207,552 to 456,265.
On June 25, 1950, military forces from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea invaded the Republic of Korea to the south. Eventually, troops were sent in from 16 other lands. But as the war pitted major nations against one another, Jehovah’s Witnesses prepared to gather for an international convention that would demonstrate not only their worldwide unity but also that Jehovah was blessing them with increase.—Isa. 60:22.
The Theocracy’s Increase Assembly was scheduled for July 30 through August 6, 1950. This was to be by far the biggest convention ever held up to that time by Jehovah’s Witnesses at one site. Some 10,000 foreign delegates from Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, islands of the Pacific—altogether 67 different lands—converged on Yankee Stadium in New York City. The peak attendance of over 123,000 for the public lecture—compared with the peak of 80,000 who attended the Glad Nations Theocratic Assembly just four years earlier—was itself impressive evidence of increase.
A significant factor in the increase experienced by Jehovah’s Witnesses has been the printing and distribution of God’s Word. A milestone in this regard was reached on August 2, 1950, when Brother Knorr announced the release of the modern-language New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in English. The conventioners were thrilled to learn that this new translation restored the divine name Jehovah 237 times in the main text from Matthew to Revelation! In concluding his discourse, the speaker made this stirring appeal: “Take this translation. Read it through. Study it, for it will help you to better your understanding of God’s Word. Put it in the hands of others.” Other installments would follow over the next decade, so that eventually Jehovah’s Witnesses would have an accurate, easy-to-read translation of the entire Bible that they could enthusiastically offer to others.
Before leaving the convention city, the delegates were invited to tour the new Bethel headquarters at 124 Columbia Heights and the greatly expanded printing factory at 117 Adams Street. Constructed with the financial support of Witnesses from around the world, the new facilities completed the vast expansion program announced and enthusiastically approved at the 1946 Cleveland convention. Little did Jehovah’s Witnesses then realize how much expansion there would yet be, not just in Brooklyn, but worldwide. More and larger printeries would be needed to care for the constantly increasing ranks of Kingdom publishers.
Intensified Training in House-to-House Ministry
At the New World Society Assembly, held in New York City, July 19-26, 1953, new publications were provided for Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves and for use especially in the house-to-house proclamation of the Kingdom. For example, the release of “Make Sure of All Things” brought forth thunderous applause from the 125,040 present on Monday, July 20. A handy field service tool, the 416-page pocket-size book assembled more than 4,500 scriptures under 70 main themes. Jehovah’s Witnesses now had at their fingertips the Scriptural answers to questions raised in their house-to-house preaching.
On Wednesday morning during the talk “Principal Work of All Servants,” Brother Knorr announced a further step in the ongoing education of Jehovah’s Witnesses—an extensive house-to-house training program to be put into operation in all congregations. More experienced publishers were asked to help less experienced ones to become regular, effective house-to-house proclaimers of the Kingdom. This far-reaching program began September 1, 1953. Jesse L. Cantwell, a traveling overseer who took part in the training work, observed: “This program really helped the publishers to become more efficient.”
In the months following July 1953, extension conventions were held on all five continents, with locally adapted forms of the same program. The intensified training in the house-to-house ministry was thus initiated in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world. That same year the number of Kingdom proclaimers peaked at 519,982.
Meeting the Needs of Global Expansion
In the mid-1950’s, further arrangements were made to care for the rapid growth in the organization. For more than a decade, N. H. Knorr had traveled the globe to inspect the operation of the branches. These trips did much to ensure proper supervision of the work in each country and to strengthen the worldwide unity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Brother Knorr had a deep love for the missionaries and those serving in the branches around the world. Wherever he went, he took time to talk with them about their problems and needs and to encourage them in their ministry. But in 1955, there were 77 branch offices of the Watch Tower Society and 1,814 Gilead-trained missionaries serving in 100 different lands. Realizing that it was more than he could handle alone, Brother Knorr took steps to include others in this important work of visiting the branches and the missionary homes.
Arrangements were made to divide the earth into ten zones, each zone embracing a number of the Society’s branches. Qualified brothers from the office in Brooklyn and experienced branch overseers were appointed to be zone servants (now called zone overseers) and were trained for this work by Brother Knorr. On January 1, 1956, the first of these zone servants inaugurated this new service of visiting branches. As of 1992, upwards of 30 brothers, including members of the Governing Body, were serving as zone overseers.
Education in the Divine Will
In the summer of 1958, the threat of war loomed in the Middle East. Despite the strain in international relations, Jehovah’s Witnesses prepared to gather for an international convention that would further educate them in the divine will. It would also prove to be their largest convention in any one city.
A peak of 253,922 delegates from 123 lands flooded New York City’s Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds for the Divine Will International Assembly, July 27 through August 3. “Jehovah’s Witnesses Pour in by the Stadiumful,” said New York’s Daily News of July 26, 1958. “Eight special trains, 500 chartered buses and 18,000 auto pools are bringing the members, besides the two chartered ships and 65 chartered planes.”
Gilead-trained missionaries had made known to the Society’s headquarters the challenge they faced in teaching Bible truth to those not acquainted with the beliefs and doctrines of Christendom’s churches. If only they could have a publication that would set forth just the true Biblical teachings, yet would be easy to read and understand! To the delight of the 145,488 delegates present on Thursday afternoon, July 31, Brother Knorr announced the release of the new book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained.
Brother Knorr urged all to use the new book in their field ministry. He also suggested that parents would find it helpful in teaching their children Bible truth. Many parents took the suggestion to heart. Grace A. Estep, a schoolteacher who was raised in a small town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, noted: “A whole generation of children have grown up fingering the Paradise book, carrying it to meetings with them, sharing it with their little playmates, being able to relate, long before they were old enough to read, a whole series of Bible stories just from the pictures.”
Meaty material for advanced students of God’s Word was also provided. At the conclusion of his stirring discourse “Let Your Will Come to Pass,” Brother Knorr thrilled the audience when he announced the release of a new book entitled “Your Will Be Done on Earth.” This new publication, containing an extensive study of the book of Daniel, educated its readers in how the divine will has been done and is now being done. “You are going to enjoy tremendously this book!” declared the speaker. By thunderous applause the vast audience of 175,441 expressed their delight at receiving this new instrument to deepen their appreciation of the divine will!
In his closing remarks, Brother Knorr announced further special educational programs that would benefit the worldwide organization. “The educational work is not on the decline,” Knorr declared, “but rather it is on the move forward.” He outlined plans for providing a ten-month training course in Brooklyn for overseers from the Society’s branches all over the world. Also, in many countries around the world, there would be training courses of one month for traveling overseers and those having oversight in the congregations. Why all this education? “We want to move to higher levels of understanding,” he explained, “so that we can get deeper into the thoughts of Jehovah as he has expressed them in his Word.”
Work began immediately on the courses of study for these training programs. Seven months later, on March 9, 1959, the first class of a new school, the Kingdom Ministry School, began at South Lansing, New York, home of the Gilead School. What started there soon reached out around the world as the new school was used to train those having oversight in the congregations.
Fortified to “Stand Firm in the Faith”
During the 1960’s, human society was engulfed by a tidal wave of religious and social changes. Clergymen labeled portions of the Bible as mythical or outmoded. The “God is dead” ideology became increasingly popular. Human society sank deeper and deeper into the morass of sexual immorality. Through The Watchtower and other publications as well as convention programs, Jehovah’s people were fortified to “stand firm in the faith” during that turbulent decade.—1 Cor. 16:13.
At a series of conventions held around the world in 1963, the talk “The Book of ‘Everlasting Good News’ Is Beneficial” defended the Bible against the onslaught of critics. “Critics of the Bible do not need to point out that mere men wrote this book,” explained the speaker. “The Bible itself honestly informs us of that fact. But what makes this book different from any other book written by men is that the Holy Bible is ‘inspired of God.’” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) This stirring talk led up to the release of the book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial.” The new publication included a discussion of each book of the Bible, giving the background of the book, such as who wrote it, when and where it was written, and evidence of its authenticity. Then came a summary of the Bible book, followed by a section called “Why Beneficial,” which showed how this particular Bible book is of great value to the reader. A valuable instrument in the continuing Bible education of Jehovah’s Witnesses, this publication is still featured as a textbook in the Theocratic Ministry School some 30 years after its release!g
Jehovah’s Witnesses were not unaffected by the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. In fact, several thousand—a small percentage of their total number—had to be disfellowshipped each year, the majority for sexual immorality. With good reason, then, Jehovah’s people were given direct counsel at a series of district conventions held in 1964. Lyle Reusch, a traveling overseer originally from Saskatchewan, Canada, recalls the talk “Keeping the Organization of Public Servants Pure, Chaste.” Said Reusch: “Frank, straight language on morals spelled things out in plain talk.”
The contents of the talk were published in The Watchtower of November 15, 1964. Among other things, it stated: “Girls, do not make yourselves a dirty towel for public use, available to the dirty hands of any whoremonger, any symbolic ‘dog.’”—Compare Revelation 22:15.
Such frank counsel was designed to help Jehovah’s Witnesses as a people to keep in clean moral condition, fit to continue proclaiming the Kingdom message.—Compare Romans 2:21-23.
“Say, What Does This 1975 Mean?”
The Witnesses had long shared the belief that the Thousand Year Reign of Christ would follow after 6,000 years of human history. But when would 6,000 years of human existence end? The book Life Everlasting—In Freedom of the Sons of God, released at a series of district conventions held in 1966, pointed to 1975. Right at the convention, as the brothers examined the contents, the new book triggered much discussion about 1975.
At the convention held in Baltimore, Maryland, F. W. Franz gave the concluding talk. He began by saying: “Just before I got on the platform a young man came to me and said, ‘Say, what does this 1975 mean?’” Brother Franz then referred to the many questions that had arisen as to whether the material in the new book meant that by 1975 Armageddon would be finished, and Satan would be bound. He stated, in essence: ‘It could. But we are not saying. All things are possible with God. But we are not saying. And don’t any of you be specific in saying anything that is going to happen between now and 1975. But the big point of it all is this, dear friends: Time is short. Time is running out, no question about that.’
In the years following 1966, many of Jehovah’s Witnesses acted in harmony with the spirit of that counsel. However, other statements were published on this subject, and some were likely more definite than advisable. This was acknowledged in The Watchtower of March 15, 1980 (page 17). But Jehovah’s Witnesses were also cautioned to concentrate mainly on doing Jehovah’s will and not to be swept up by dates and expectations of an early salvation.h
An Instrument for Speeding Up the Work
In the late 1960’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses were declaring the good news with a feeling of expectancy and urgency. During 1968 the number of Kingdom publishers had increased to 1,221,504 in 203 lands. Still, it was not uncommon for some persons to study the Bible year after year without acting upon the knowledge they gained. Was there a way of speeding up the work of making disciples?
The answer came in 1968 with the release of a new Bible study aid, The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. This 192-page pocket-size book was prepared with newly interested ones in mind. It contained 22 absorbing chapters dealing with such subjects as “Why It Is Wise to Examine Your Religion,” “Why We Grow Old and Die,” “Where Are the Dead?” “Why Has God Permitted Wickedness Until Our Day?” “How to Identify the True Religion,” and “Building a Happy Family Life.” The Truth book was designed to encourage the Bible student to reason on the material being considered and to apply it in his own life.
This new publication was to be used in connection with a six-month Bible study program. The September 1968 issue of the Kingdom Ministry explained how the new program would work: “It would be good to try to study a whole chapter of the ‘Truth’ book each week, though this may not be possible with all householders or with all the chapters in the book. . . . If, at the end of six months of intensive study and conscientious efforts to get them to meetings, they are not yet associating with the congregation, then it may be best to use your time to study with someone else who really wants to learn the truth and make progress. Make it your goal to present the good news on Bible studies in such a way that interested ones will act within six months!”
And act they did! In a short period of time, the six-month Bible study program had astounding success. For the three service years beginning September 1, 1968, and ending August 31, 1971, a total of 434,906 persons were baptized—more than double the number baptized during the previous three service years! Coming as it did at a time when there was a feeling of expectancy and urgency among Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Truth book and the six-month Bible study campaign greatly aided in speeding up the disciple-making work.—Matt. 28:19, 20.
“It Has to Work; It Is From Jehovah”
For many years the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses were organized so that one spiritually qualified man was appointed by the Society to be congregation servant, or “overseer,” and was assisted by other appointed “servants.”i (1 Tim. 3:1-10, 12, 13) These men were to serve the flock, not to rule over it. (1 Pet. 5:1-4) But could the congregations more closely conform to the structure of the first-century Christian congregations?
In 1971, at a series of conventions held throughout the earth, the talk “Theocratic Organization Amidst Democracies and Communism” was presented. On July 2, F. W. Franz delivered the talk at Yankee Stadium in New York City. In it he pointed out that where enough qualified men were available, first-century congregations had more than one overseer. (Phil. 1:1) “The congregational group of overseers,” he stated, “would compose a ‘body of older men’. . . The members of such a ‘body [or, assembly] of older men’ were all equal, having the same official status, and none of them was the most important, most prominent, most powerful member in the congregation.” (1 Tim. 4:14) That talk really stirred the entire convention. What impact would this information have on the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world?
The answer came two days later, in the concluding talk, given by N. H. Knorr. Beginning October 1, 1972, adjustments in the oversight of the congregations worldwide would become effective. No longer would there be just one congregation servant, or overseer. But during the months leading up to October 1, 1972, responsible, mature men in each congregation would recommend to the Society for appointment the names of those who would serve as a body of elders (and the names of those who would serve as ministerial servants). One elder would be designated chairman,j but all the elders would have equal authority and share the responsibility for making decisions. “These organization adjustments,” explained Brother Knorr, “will help to bring the operation of the congregations into closer conformity with God’s Word, and surely that will result in greater blessings from Jehovah.”
How was this information about organization adjustments received by the assembled delegates? One traveling overseer was moved to say: “It has to work; it is from Jehovah.” Another Witness of long experience added: “It will be an encouragement to all mature men to take hold of responsibility.” Indeed, as many men as were qualified could now ‘reach out’ and be appointed to the “office of overseer.” (1 Tim. 3:1) A greater number of brothers could thus gain valuable experience in shouldering congregation responsibility. Though they did not realize this at first, all of these would be needed to shepherd the great influx of new ones in the years to come.
The material presented at the convention also led to some clarifications and adjustments that involved the Governing Body. On September 6, 1971, it was resolved that the chairmanship of the Governing Body should rotate among its members, doing so alphabetically. Several weeks later, on October 1, 1971, F. W. Franz became the chairman of the Governing Body for one year.
The following year, in September 1972, the first shifting of responsibilities in the congregations began, and by October 1 the rotation in most congregations was completed. During the next three years, Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced impressive growth—over three quarters of a million persons getting baptized. But now they were facing the autumn of 1975. If all the expectations concerning 1975 were not realized, how would this affect their zeal for the global preaching activity as well as their worldwide unity?
Also, for decades Nathan H. Knorr, a man with a dynamic personality and outstanding ability as an organizer, had played a key role in advancing education within the organization and getting the Bible into the hands of people and helping them to understand it. How would the change to closer supervision by the Governing Body affect these objectives?
a The Watchtower, February 1, 1942, p. 45; Consolation, February 4, 1942, p. 17.
b In September 1945, Brother Covington graciously declined to serve further as vice president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (of Pennsylvania), explaining that he wished to comply with what was then understood to be Jehovah’s will for all members of the directorate and officers—that they be spirit-anointed Christians, whereas he professed to be one of the “other sheep.” On October 1, Lyman A. Swingle was elected to the board of directors, and on October 5, Frederick W. Franz was selected as vice president. (See 1946 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, pp. 221-4; The Watchtower, November 1, 1945, pp. 335-6.)
c See Chapter 30, “Defending and Legally Establishing the Good News.”
d Detailed reports of the trip were published in The Watchtower during 1946.—See pages 14-16, 28-31, 45-8, 60-4, 92-5, 110-12, 141-4.
e Within a few years, this Bible study aid became known around the world. Revised as of April 1, 1952, more than 19,000,000 copies were printed in 54 languages.
f See pages 140-4, 171-6, 189-92, 205-8, 219-23, 236-40, 251-6, 267-72, 302-4, 315-20, 333-6, 363-8.
g The book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial” was updated in 1990.
h For example, the following articles were published in The Watchtower: “Making Wise Use of the Remaining Time” (May 1, 1968); “Serve With Eternity in View” (June 15, 1974); “Why We Have Not Been Told ‘That Day and Hour’” and “How Are You Affected by Not Knowing the ‘Day and Hour’?” (May 1, 1975). Earlier, in 1963, the book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial” had stated: “It does no good to use Bible chronology for speculating on dates that are still future in the stream of time.—Matt. 24:36.”
i See Chapter 15, “Development of the Organization Structure.”
j The speaker also explained that beginning October 1, 1972, there would be a yearly rotating of chairmanship within each congregation’s body of elders. This arrangement was adjusted in 1983, when each body of elders was asked to recommend a presiding overseer who, after appointment by the Society, would serve for an indefinite period of time as the chairman of the body of elders.
[Blurb on page 92]
Preaching despite arrests and mob action
[Blurb on page 94]
‘Global expansion and education on a scale not previously known’
[Blurb on page 103]
Defending the Bible against the onslaught of critics
[Blurb on page 104]
‘The big point of it all is this, dear friends: Time is short’
[Blurb on page 106]
“An encouragement to all mature men to take hold of responsibility”
[Box on page 91]
Background of N. H. Knorr
Nathan Homer Knorr was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., on April 23, 1905. When he was 16 years old, he became associated with the Allentown Congregation of Bible Students. In 1922 he attended the convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, where he made up his mind to resign from the Reformed Church. The following year, on July 4, 1923, after Frederick W. Franz, from Brooklyn Bethel, delivered a baptism talk, 18-year-old Nathan was among those who were baptized in the Little Lehigh River, in Eastern Pennsylvania. On September 6, 1923, Brother Knorr became a member of the Bethel family in Brooklyn.
Brother Knorr applied himself diligently in the Shipping Department, and before long his natural abilities in organizing were recognized. When the Society’s factory manager, Robert J. Martin, died on September 23, 1932, Brother Knorr was appointed to replace him. On January 11, 1934, Brother Knorr was elected to be a director of the Peoples Pulpit Association (now Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.), and the following year he was made the Association’s vice president. On June 10, 1940, he became the vice president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (Pennsylvania corporation). His election to the presidency of both societies and of the British corporation, International Bible Students Association, came in January 1942.
In the years that followed, one of Brother Knorr’s closest associates and trusted counselors was Frederick W. Franz, a man older in years than he was and one whose knowledge of languages and whose background as a Bible scholar had already proved to be of great value to the organization.
[Box on page 93]
An Encouraging Look Ahead
Delegates to the New World Theocratic Assembly in Cleveland, Ohio, in September 1942, were delighted when the aged secretary-treasurer of the Society, W. E. Van Amburgh, addressed the convention. Brother Van Amburgh recalled that the first convention he attended was in Chicago in 1900, and it was a “big” one—there were about 250 in attendance. After enumerating other “big” conventions over the years, he concluded with this encouraging look ahead: “This conventionk looks large to us now, but as this convention is large in comparison with the ones that I have attended in the past, so I anticipate this convention will be a very small one in comparison to those just in the future when the Lord begins to assemble his people from all corners of the globe.”
k A peak of 26,000 attended in Cleveland, with a total attendance of 129,699 for the 52 convention cities scattered across the United States.
[Box/Maps on page 96]
N. H. Knorr’s Service Tours, 1945-56
1945-46: Central America, South America, North America, Europe, the Caribbean
1947-48: North America, Pacific islands, the Orient, the Middle East, Europe, Africa
1949-50: North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean
1951-52: North America, Pacific islands, the Orient, Europe, the Middle East, Africa
1953-54: South America, the Caribbean, North America, Central America
1955-56: Europe, Pacific islands, the Orient, North America, the Middle East, North Africa
[Box on page 105]
“Today I Started Thinking Again”
Released in 1968, the book “The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life” was widely used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in studying the Bible with interested persons. This timely provision helped hundreds of thousands of thinking persons to gain an accurate knowledge of the Scriptures. A letter of appreciation received in 1973 from a reader in the United States said: “A very nice lady came to my door today and gave me a book called ‘The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life.’ I just finished it. The first time I’ve read 190 pages of anything in one day of my life. On June 29, 1967, I stopped believing in God. Today I started thinking again.”
[Picture on page 95]
Gilead School at South Lansing, New York
[Picture on page 97]
Brother Knorr, shown here visiting Cuba, traveled the world many times over
[Pictures on page 98]
Brother Knorr felt that every Witness should be able to preach from house to house
[Picture on page 99]
As president of the Society, Brother Knorr worked closely with Brother Franz for over 35 years
[Picture on page 100]
Board of directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, in mid-1950’s. (From left to right) Lyman A. Swingle, Thomas J. Sullivan, Grant Suiter, Hugo H. Riemer, Nathan H. Knorr, Frederick W. Franz, Milton G. Henschel
[Pictures on page 102]
In 1958, delegates from 123 lands converged on Yankee Stadium for the Divine Will International Assembly
[Picture on page 107]
Publications for training Jehovah’s Witnesses for the ministry
[Picture on page 107]
Some of the publications for use in the field ministry
[Picture on page 107]
Books that provided solid food to strengthen Jehovah’s people spiritually
[Picture on page 107]
Research and study aids