Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Part 12—An Era of Prophesied Happiness Begins
FROM 1926 forward Jehovah’s witnesses entered an era of great spiritual happiness, blessedness and organizational prosperity. (Dan. 12:12, Ro) Unaware at the time that any of the series of seven international conventions that began in 1922 at Cedar Point, Ohio, had any significance as to the fulfilling of Bible prophecies, the Society made arrangements for the fifth assembly in London, England, May 25 to 31, 1926, at the Alexandra Palace. However, the large Royal Albert Hall was engaged for the Sunday public meeting. This was filled eleven minutes after the doors were opened.* The Society’s president addressed the huge audience on the subject “Why World Powers Are Tottering—The Remedy.” This entire lecture was published the next day in The Daily News of London, which at that time had a regular circulation of 800,000. At its conclusion this lecture carried a resolution entitled “A Testimony,” later published in tract form for world distribution to the number of fifty million copies.* The disintegration and fall of the British Empire was forewarned and the doom of the League of Nations was declared as well. This indictment caused a howl not only in Britain but everywhere. To this day men remind Jehovah’s witnesses that they are the ones who in 1926 said London was the “seat of the beast.” (Rev. 16:10) In that year also a building program to expand the Brooklyn Bethel home and factory quarters was set in motion.*
The sixth great convention in this judgment-proclamation period was held at Toronto, Canada, July 18 to 25, 1927. Eight thousand attended the daily sessions and at the culminating public meeting on the last Sunday 15,000 were in the visible audience. To that audience there was tied in for the first time at a Watch Tower assembly a vast invisible international radio audience, by means of the largest (up to that time) chain of broadcasting stations—fifty-three in number—specially operated for that occasion by the National Broadcasting Company of the United States. The subject of the lecture was “Freedom for the Peoples.”* At the same time the convention adopted a resolution addressed “To the Peoples of ‘Christendom,’” which later was published in a booklet entitled “Freedom for the Peoples” and distributed for five cents during a special campaign conducted the following October.* To serve the peoples of Christendom with this vital notice 1,898,796 booklets were distributed.* For this year of 1927 the number in attendance at the spring Memorial internationally was 88,544, yet of these only some 18,602 were active as house-to-house Kingdom announcers.*
Detroit, Michigan, was the scene for the seventh and final in the series of international conventions, from July 30 to August 6, 1928. Twelve thousand attended this assembly. The high light of the convention was Judge Rutherford’s Sunday public lecture, globally broadcast by a Watchtower telephone hookup of 106 radio stations, on the subject “Ruler for the People.” At the conclusion the audience enthusiastically adopted a resounding resolution, “Declaration Against Satan and for Jehovah.”* This lecture together with the resolution appeared in the booklet The Peoples Friend, distributed subsequently to more than 5,400,000 in the United States and abroad.* At this assembly the book Government was released, which championed Jehovah’s theocratic form of government and exposed the fallacies and doom of the governments of this old world. Phenomenal was the witness in this year of 1928 and great was the reaction on the part of apostate religionists.
Thus Jehovah’s witnesses were vigorous, bold and energetic in their restoration of true worship. Not only did they clean themselves up spiritually and adjust their Biblical thinking to Jehovah’s way of thinking, but also new organization arrangements were in process of development under the leadership of the invisible King Christ Jesus. Early in 1927 they began in America the work of distributing the bound books and booklets on a contribution from house to house on Sundays. (See The Watch Tower, February 15, 1927, page 63, and August 1, 1927, page 233.) While the clergy were somewhat annoyed by energetic activities of Watch Tower Society workers in the period of the early 1900’s, yet now after 1922, with the global distributions of the judgment pronouncements of Jehovah, the clergy were being taken by a storm and a flood that swept on by day and by night in a public and private exposure of their false teachings and gross apostasy. Now Christendom was being adjudged as wanting, cast off by Jehovah and awaiting her destruction. Lovingly Jehovah upheld his little band of loyal witnesses as they passed through the turbulent seas of mankind to fulfill their commission in declaring Jehovah’s written judgments. Valiantly they went on to restore true worship in the earth in the theocratic, apostolic way.
While Jehovah’s people energetically exerted themselves from 1922 to 1928 in performing their God-given commission to declare the “vengeance of our God” and to publish his written judgments against apostate Christendom, in this time Satan and his invisible associates were generating forces that were aimed ultimately to make war on those who ‘keep Jehovah’s commandments’ and, after 1928, if possible, to crush them again. An all-out struggle ensued in which Jehovah’s fighting witnesses emerged as unquestioned champions of freedom of worship. Following the build-up period of the witnesses (during the 1,290 days from 1919 to 1922) Revelation continues to prophesy: “And the serpent [Satan] disgorged water [the Fascists, Nazis and Catholic Action groups such as the American “Christian Front”] like a river from its mouth after the woman [represented by the organized anointed witnesses on earth], to cause her to be carried to her death by the river. But the earth [righteously disposed rulers of the democratic powers] came to the woman’s help [granted protection and legal victories to the witnesses in their way of worship], and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up [in total defeat by the end of World War II at the hand of the democratic powers] the river [Fascism, Nazism and the “Christian Front”] that the dragon disgorged from its mouth.”—Rev. 12:15, 16, NW.
Right on time Satan, accompanied by great propaganda, produced these new forces that rapidly gained power to threaten the democratic world, Christendom. In 1919 Benito Mussolini founded his Fascist party, which grew swiftly to the point where he was able to lead the march on Rome in 1922 to establish his Fascist dictatorship over all Italy. In 1929 the Lateran Treaty was signed between the Roman Catholic Church and Mussolini’s regime, which completed the co-operative program of action for the Vatican and the new totalitarian government.* Also in 1919 Adolf Hitler founded his National Socialist Party in Germany, making an unsuccessful attempt to gain political power in his “Beer-Hall Putsch” of 1923 at Munich. However, by means of German Catholic intrigue and maneuvering, Hitler finally became Germany’s chancellor January 30, 1933. Immediately in that same year a concordat was negotiated by Cardinal Pacelli (who six years later was crowned as Pope Pius XII) and was promptly signed for Hitler’s government and for the Vatican.*
Back in the early 1920’s, too, Catholic Action movements, comprising numerous semireligious groups, were boldly organized and pushed in various countries to influence with Roman Catholic ideas the social and political trends. Several of such movements became active in the United States after 1921. One, a Fascist-like movement known as the “Christian Front,” in the 1930’s was led by a Detroit (Michigan) priest, “Father” Coughlin, developing a following of some 15,000,000.* All those world-scattered Vatican-inspired movements framed mischief by law, mobbing and imprisoning Jehovah’s witnesses because the witnesses, immovable like Daniel of old, refused to compromise on their freedom to worship the living God in obedience to his written commands.—Dan. 6:16-18.
Now by 1928 the congregational service organizations of Jehovah’s people had developed to the point where they accepted Sunday as the most suitable day to participate in the house-to-house preaching of Jehovah’s kingdom.* In years past Sunday volunteer service had been regularly undertaken for free delivery of “Bible Students tracts” Sunday mornings under doors of homes and in front of church entrances. But regular Sunday preaching verbally at the doors of the people had not been a practice. Immediately legal opposition was raised to this enlarged Sunday work when, in 1928, the first arrests were made in South Amboy, New Jersey, of preaching- on-Sunday witnesses of Jehovah. That opened the decade-long ‘battle of New Jersey,’ which soon spread to Connecticut, Pennsylvania and other states where Catholic Action groups tried to frame mischief by every legal means possible to put a stop to the growing public witness work of the Watch Tower Society. Timely was the new light of truth on the subject of the “higher powers” published in The Watch Tower for June 1 and June 15, 1929, showing clearly that Jehovah God and Christ Jesus are the true “superior authorities” that must be obeyed.* (Rom. 13:1, NW) This new understanding put fire into the witnesses to stand their ground against the onslaught of court battles involving their freedom of worship.
In the fight that was brewing for the 1930’s the Society’s extensive use of radio broadcasting figured in prominently. Modern radio communication had appeared in 1920. Like the early Christian witnesses of the first century, who quickly embraced the invention of the codex style of bookmaking to spread Jehovah’s written word, so the modern witnesses soon saw in radio a marvelous means to spread oral proclamation of Jehovah’s written judgments in all the earth. The Society’s first broadcast from a public platform was headline news and was so reported in the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) Record of April 17, 1922:
Radio Tells the World Millennium Is Coming. Judge Rutherford’s Lecture Broadcasted from Metropolitan Opera House. Talks into Transmitter. Message Is Carried Over Miles of Bell Telephone Wires to Howlett’s Station [WGL].*
Shortly thereafter, toward the end of 1922, the Society purchased a tract of land on New York city’s Staten Island, where construction of its first radio station was begun. It being finally completed and licensed by the government as station WBBR with a power of 500 watts, the first official broadcast was made Sunday evening, February 24, 1924, Judge Rutherford delivering the inaugural address, “Radio and Divine Prophecy.”* For now more than three decades this noncommercial, educational station has continuously kept on broadcasting the Kingdom message, reaching multitudes of appreciative listeners. Its present studios are in the Bethel building at 124 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York.* Its modern steel-tower directional antenna and 5,000-watt transmitter are at the station’s original site on Staten Island, at “Watchtower.”
(To be continued)
Watch Tower, 1926, pp. 211-217.
1927 Yearbook, p. 44; The Golden Age, July 28, 1926, pp. 691-695.
W 1926, p. 290.
W 1927, pp. 291-297; The Messenger, July 25, 1927.
W 1927, p. 281.
1928 Yearbook, p. 31.
W 1927, p. 302; 1929 Yearbook, p. 55.
W 1928, pp. 275-286; The Messenger, Aug. 6, 1928; W 1949, p. 310.
1929 Yearbook, p. 65.
Columbia Encyclopedia, 1942, pp. 608, 1227; W 1941, p. 280.
The Vatican in World Politics, Manhattan, 1949, pp. 165-170; Columbia Encyclopedia, p. 1240.
Rome Stoops to Conquer, 1935, Barrett, p. 16; The Vatican in World Politics, Manhattan, 1949, pp. 383-385.
1929 Yearbook, p. 58.
W 1943, p. 298; W 1946, p. 40.
W 1922, p. 180.
W 1924, pp. 82, 358; W 1950, p. 268.
W 1948, pp. 204-208.
[Picture on page 365]
Radio Station WBBR—1924