Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses
How thankful Jehovah’s people are that it was the divine will for his witnesses to come together July 27 to August 3, 1958, in New York city for a monumental witness to his name—the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses!
Was there ever before an assembly of Christians like this one, an assembly of such magnitude and far-reaching impact? The teeming throngs of delegates from 123 lands that filled New York city’s two largest baseball stadiums—Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds—truly felt that this assembly was incomparably blessed in so many ways!
Right from the first day the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses set an attendance record! Filling Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds and spilling over into overflow tents erected near the stadiums, a crowd of 180,291 persons attended the first day’s afternoon session. When this vast audience heard the attendance figure they were thrillingly surprised. And no wonder! For this attendance greatly exceeded the highest attendance figure for the previous international assembly Jehovah’s witnesses held in Yankee Stadium in 1953.
When the conventioners thronged to Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds on opening day, they were delighted to receive a copy of the thirty-two-page, attractively covered program, listing the program for both stadiums. The program was put on twice, the same speakers appearing in both stadiums, with few exceptions. As the conventioners eagerly leafed through the pages of this intensely interesting program, they noticed that each day was given a theme, such as “Faithfulness Day,” the theme for opening day, July 27. What a fitting theme!
Sunday morning at 9:15 the convention opened with music and song and comments on the day’s text. The address of welcome is always joyfully awaited and the convention was inspired by assembly chairman M. G. Henschel’s words of welcome. “Because the greatest assembly of true Christians ever held is opening this day,” he declared, “we are certain that Jehovah is with us and that we are here by divine will.”
Came 1:20 p.m. and the afternoon session began with music and song. President Knorr greatly stirred the audience by drawing attention to the 1,461 graduates of Gilead’s previous thirty classes who were assembled on Yankee Stadium’s dirt track. What an example of faithfulness!
And what a colorful sight it was to behold the graduating class seated in front of the platform! Attired in their colorful native costumes, the 103 graduates from sixty-four different lands listened intently along with the other conventioners to encouraging talks given by the faculty of Gilead School. Then followed a talk by the school’s vice-president. Talking on “Missionaries of God’s Kingdom That Rules,” F. W. Franz explained what a true Christian missionary is: “The Christian missionary’s errand is not an economic aid program to various backward countries or handicapped lands,” declared Franz. “Ours is the more vital religious aid program.”
Climaxing the graduation was the talk “Stay by These Things,” together with the diploma presentation to students, by the school’s president N. H. Knorr. At this largest of Gilead graduations Knorr aptly stressed the theme of faithfulness. “Doing the divine will and sticking to it is the only worthwhile work,” he declared.
Sticking to the preaching work has brought great increases in many lands, Knorr showed. Thunderous applause came when Knorr explained what country now has the third-largest number of Jehovah’s witnesses. Why, it is Communist Poland! And the prolonged applause showed what intense admiration the conventioners had for their brothers in Poland.
Rain had now begun to fall. But with umbrellas, the graduates walked up to the beautiful stage to receive their diplomas. Knorr increased the delight of the conventioners by telling the audience where each student was assigned, when he was dedicated and what worldly religion he had before learning God’s truth. Though the graduation session had closed with rain, the downpour of spiritual blessings had far outweighed the shower of rain.
EXCLUSIVE DEVOTION DAY
The theme of exclusive devotion was carried throughout Monday. From 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. talks were given in twenty languages, besides English, on four days. Many shared in field service. In the afternoon the assembly heard “What Exclusive Devotion Has Accomplished in North and Central America” from brothers representing eleven different nations. Also five half-hour discourses were given on this day. Brother H. L. Brissett, district servant, spoke on “Wholeheartedness Toward New World Interests.”
To follow him was our dear Brother Macmillan. In his talk “Faithfulness in Small Things” he pointed out that faithfulness in small things includes reading and pondering on the daily text and comments, commenting at meetings and keeping a house-to-house record. His remarks were repeatedly interrupted by warm applause.
In the afternoon, to 151,003 in attendance, N. H. Knorr gave the keynote speech on “Signs and Wonders in the Time of the End.” It was based upon the manner in which Jehovah God used the prophet Isaiah as a sign and a wonder to the nation of Israel.
The fact that the good news of the Kingdom is being preached everywhere by the remnant and their associates is a sign, Knorr said, that “God’s kingdom has been set up as the capital of the universe. It is a sign that portends that the nations of this world now face their end and will meet it just as soon as our preaching is finished according to the divine will.”
EXPANDING OUR MINISTRY DAY
Early Tuesday afternoon the crowds poured into the stadiums to receive the blessings of “Expanding Our Ministry Day.” And what news of expansion they heard! Reports from twelve South American countries showed how the Kingdom work in South America has expanded 100 percent in five years. Brazil, for example, exceeded 100 percent by having an increase of 106 percent, and Colombia went beyond that to the amazing high of 150 percent.
Then came the release of a new aid to expansion. N. H. Knorr’s subject was “A Reading Aid for Spanish-speaking People.” The Spanish booklet Learn to Read and Write was enthusiastically received by the thousands who were there. Zone servant F. S. Hoffmann of the European zone spoke on “How Is Your Spiritual Appetite?” In a vigorous, appealing way he showed that just as regular eating habits are essential to good physical health, so regular spiritual feeding is essential.
The high point of this day was a talk by the vice-president of the Watch Tower Society, F. W. Franz. He spoke on “Divine Loving-Kindness and the Kingdom.” Franz electrified his audience of 147,135 persons as he called out in an arresting way the words of Isaiah 55:1-4: “Hey there, all you thirsty ones! Come to the water. And the ones that have no money! Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk even without money and without price.” He continued to quote the remaining three verses, and then he explained how this “was Jehovah God calling, inviting the thirsty and hungry ones. What was there to thirst and hunger for? A righteous king, a good government, in fulfillment of the covenant that Jehovah God concluded with King David.” His stirring talk centered around that covenant for the kingdom.
Tuesday evening’s program stimulated all to expand their ministry. Zone servant H. W. Arnott spoke on the need to be filled with spiritual discernment to make right decisions. Speaking on “Exert Yourself Vigorously as God’s Workman,” D. Sydlik of Brooklyn Bethel told how every minister of God is a workman who must take interest in the quality of his work. “If we do inferior work,” he said, “we are weakening people’s chances for salvation.” D. L. Steele, branch servant of Korea, speaking on “What Prevents Me from Getting Baptized?” declared: “If you know you should dedicate and be baptized and do not, the responsibility before Jehovah is the same as if you did.” Then G. R. Phillips, branch servant of South Africa, spoke on “Maturity, a Goal for All Ministers.” “How does maturity manifest itself?” Phillips asked. By being regular in the Kingdom ministry, he showed.
TASTING DIVINE GOODNESS DAY
Thousands of immersion candidates were seated before J. H. Eneroth Wednesday morning to hear “Baptism According to the Divine Will.” The exact number of this great crowd could not at once be told. It was not until the immersion candidates were asked to stand that one could see their great number stretching from one side of Yankee Stadium to the other. This was a most stirring sight. As this great multitude rose, rejoicing broke out in a ring of sustained applause. Tears of joy flowed from the eyes of many to see their children, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and friends take their stand for Jehovah. After prayer, the immersion candidates left the stadium in an orderly manner to the sixty buses waiting to transport them to Orchard Beach, where they were immersed. As they were leaving, those in the stadiums sang “Take Sides with Jehovah!” This thrilling occasion seemed redoubled when it was learned that 7,136 were baptized, twice the number of those that were baptized in one day at Pentecost and 2,496 more than were baptized at the 1953 international assembly! What joy filled their hearts! Truly the assembly was tasting Jehovah’s goodness.
The afternoon talk by N. H. Knorr, “Down with the Old—Up with the New!” focused on the fact that the prophet Jeremiah prefigured the remnant of Christ’s anointed followers today who are preaching the end of the present world and the beginning of a new world of God’s making.
At the close of this stirring discourse N. H. Knorr released to the 150,282 persons in attendance Volume IV of the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, containing the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations.
That evening Knorr spoke again, this time on the subject of “Shepherding the Sheep with Skillfulness.” In this talk he stressed the responsibility of overseers in a congregation to care properly for the spiritual needs of the Lord’s sheep. A talk was also given by F. W. Franz on “Keeping Strict Watch on How We Walk.” “We must walk always,” Franz said, “as in the presence of God, for his eyes are in every place, keeping watch upon the bad ones and the good ones.”
FULLNESS OF SERVICE DAY
Befitting the theme of Thursday—”Fullness of Service Day”—thousands of conventioners met at the various contact points for field service. New York city received another tremendous witness with placards and handbills and by door-to-door witnessing. Conventioners engaged in field service reported many instances of persons of good will asking for studies or more information.
After returning from field service, the conventioners poured into the stadiums with great anticipation. The program for this day promised some great blessings. On this day the convention heard such talks as “Serving Where the Need Is Great Overseas,” “Filling the Need in Our Own Country,” “Can I Pursue Pioneer Privileges?” and “Staying Where the Need Is Great.” This theme of serving God was further highlighted by representatives from many of the world’s islands who related service experiences.
In the talk on “Serving Where the Need Is Great Overseas,” it was pointed out that there are “eleven countries with only one publisher for every ten thousand to one hundred thousand persons. There are nineteen countries with only one publisher for a population of between one hundred thousand and one million. There are three countries that have only one publisher for every million or more persons and there are fourteen countries with over a million population where no work was done last year.” What an impression these talks made! How seriously each family group talked about serving where the need is great!
Thursday afternoon the conventioners waited with intense interest to hear Brother Knorr speak on “Maintaining Our Spiritual Paradise.” Knorr told the vast audience of 145,488 persons that when the holy spirit was poured out on Christ’s disciples at Pentecost, making them spiritual sons of God, “a spiritual paradise had then been established.” But this paradise did not continue after the death of the apostles. Knorr pointed out that after their death “Satan the Devil brought about the loss of the Christians’ spiritual paradise.”
It was from 1919 onward that spiritual paradise was restored, when Jehovah’s witnesses were freed from Babylonish captivity and began bringing forth the fruits of the spirit. They must maintain this spiritual paradise.
The anticipation of the conventioners mounted as Knorr mentioned that missionaries in Thailand had at one time asked whether the Society would produce a study publication setting forth just the true Biblical teachings. To meet their need and the need of brothers in many parts of the world Knorr then announced the release of a new book—From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained.
What a thunder of applause greeted this announcement! For here was something that was needed and the Society filled the need! What acclamations of joy and exultance were heard throughout the stadiums! After the close of the afternoon session, delegates swarmed to the attendants to get copies; some delegates carried off an armful of the new bright-orange-covered books! For hours after the close of the session everyone seemed to be talking about the benefits of this new book.
FEARLESS MINISTRY DAY
The theme of fearless ministry was highlighted on Friday by a Resolution. It was preceded by a talk by F. W. Franz on “Why This Convention Should Resolve.” Because so many races and nations were represented at the assembly he called it “a Christian human family assembly.” He said: “We being together in such huge numbers, from so many locations around the globe, it becomes most appropriate for us as one company to join in making some expression to give force to the fact that we have the one spirit of God, that we have been ‘taught by Jehovah’ to a oneness of knowledge and understanding and that we have been made strong and fortified in our decision to do the one divine will as a united theocratic organization.” He rebuked the clergy of Christendom for holding forth the United Nations as mankind’s hope for peace instead of advocating God’s kingdom as that hope.
This talk by F. W. Franz was followed by a remarkable Resolution that was presented by N. H. Knorr to the 194,418 persons in attendance. It deplored the fact that the clergy have caused people to ignore God’s Word. It acknowledged that God has chosen his own government for the earth. It declared that this government is now reigning from the heavens. The resolution also stated that, figuratively speaking, Jehovah’s witnesses have beaten their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears and, although of so many nationalities, “we will not lift up sword against one another because we are Christian brothers and members of the one family of God, neither will we learn to war against one another any more”; that we have separated ourselves from this world and its hateful conflicts and have dedicated ourselves to our one God. The resolution was moved and seconded and enthusiastically adopted by the assembled throngs.
In the evening the theme of fearless ministry was stressed by the Society’s legal counsel, H. C. Covington, in his talk “Compromise Leads to Loss of Integrity.” He declared that “fear is our greatest enemy. Be afraid of men and be ensnared.” He also said: “This custom of compromising by abandoning things that are right is prohibited in the great court of Jehovah.”
On this same evening N. H. Knorr spoke on “Theocratic School for Fearless Ministers.” The good news is probably being preached today by more sisters than by men, Knorr said. To the delight of 173,079 persons in the audience Knorr proceeded to explain how sisters will be trained in the ministry school beginning January, 1959. He explained that sisters will give six-minute sermons in demonstration fashion. Irrepressible applause followed almost every point of explanation, showing that the sisters in the audience were indeed fearless ministers. This evening, like the others, teeming throngs were reluctant to go to their lodging places, for they found keen delight in remaining on the convention grounds, visiting with friends and talking about the blessings of “Fearless Ministry Day.”
“YOUR WILL COME TO PASS” DAY
Early Saturday morning crowds streamed into the stadiums. “‘Your Will Come to Pass’ Day” promised many interesting things. Of all reports given at the assembly one of the most enthusiastically received was the one delivered by A. Rutimann of Switzerland. He brought with him the love and greetings of over a hundred thousand brothers in seven Iron Curtain countries. Warm applause echoed throughout the stadiums as he spoke of the brothers’ faithfulness and expansion of the work in Romania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. But what about our brothers inside Russia? Despite the most vicious persecution, there are more of Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia now than ever before, Rutimann said! To the thrilling delight of all, Rutimann produced a tape recording that had been brought out of Russia containing greetings from our Russian brothers. The recording opened with the singing by the Russian brothers of two verses of “Praise the King of Eternity,” after which came a short message of faith and determination to stand firm. It was also a message of hope and warm Christian love and greetings. This heart-warming report brought tears of joy and a thunderous applause.
Saturday afternoon brought a great moment. Speaking on “Let Your Will Come to Pass,” Brother Knorr electrified the assembly with announcement of the release of a second new book—“Your Will Be Done on Earth”! What tremendous applause followed! What joy there was when Knorr said: “It is all new!” To the happy audience of 175,441 persons Knorr added: “You are going to enjoy tremendously this book!” And no wonder! It contains an extensive study of the book of Daniel. When the conventioners obtained copies from the attendants, they were overjoyed. What a grand aid to understanding the divine will in this time of the end!
The highlight of Saturday evening was a talk by F. W. Franz on “When Jehovah Rises Up to His Unusual Work.” He stated that God will perform his unusual work to the point of wiping out Christendom’s adherents and destroying her religious temples, just as with Jerusalem.
GOD’S KINGDOM DAY
This was the climactic day, the day the delegates had so often talked about. And now it was here. The delegates arrived at the stadiums early, prepared for a blessed day. The morning program, which included talks by L. A. Swingle, G. Suiter and J. O. Groh of Brooklyn Bethel, was climaxed by Bible questions and answers by F. W. Franz. Now the afternoon came and the time was at hand for the public lecture that had been advertised by 5,000,000 handbills, 22,000 subway and bus signs, 26,000 placards and window signs and 53,000 bumper signs—“God’s Kingdom Rules—Is the World’s End Near?”
Hours before the time for the talk, streams of people poured forth from the subways to fill the stadiums. Every seat in Yankee Stadium was occupied. What a thrill it was when the stadium’s gates were opened, allowing throngs on the outside to flow in onto the playing field! The applause that followed showed how heart-deep was the joy of the audience. The time arrived and Knorr began his talk: “Only the best government in the universe is good enough for this earth. That is the way that the earth’s Creator feels about it. For this, all men of good will can be glad.”
Knorr answered the question, “Is the World’s End Near?” with an emphatic, Yes! The talk was enthusiastically received by the throngs that filled the two stadiums and overflow tents, as well as the New Rockland Palace, a nearby auditorium. At least twenty-five times the audience applauded the gladsome message. “Oh, let all men of good will turn now to God for earth’s government!” concluded Knorr. “All hail to God’s kingdom that now rules!”
At the close of the talk Knorr announced that free copies of what he said would be distributed to the thousands of people who had gathered to hear this momentous subject. When Knorr told the attendance figure, a roar of voices and clapping filled the air. The attendance? Why, it had exceeded expectations! Yes, the record crowd that assembled to hear this vital public lecture numbered no less than 253,922 persons!
Rejoicing over this record attendance figure was still under way when more blessings began to flow to the assembly as Knorr delivered the “Closing Remarks by the President.”
Was there another talk like this during the whole convention? The audience’s answer was made clear by the incredible number of more than fifty bursts of applause! What thrilling words Knorr spoke! What news of expansion he related! He introduced the news by having the ushers pass out to the 210,778 persons in attendance copies of a colored post card. Here was vivid evidence of expansion, for the card was a picture of the present Brooklyn Bethel home together with the beautiful, striking picture of the proposed new Bethel addition. What vigorous applause! And more followed as Knorr related news of a new training program—district, circuit and congregation servants would be brought to Bethel to receive a special training course.
“The organization is expanding,” said Knorr. “It needs more ministers to supervise the work in all the lands of the earth.” Gilead will continue, but the program of education is to be expanded. Branch homes in various lands will also be used to train certain individuals. “The educational work is not on the decline,” Knorr assured the delighted audience, “but rather it is on the move forward. This you have seen through this convention.”
What a fitting climax to the assembly, this expansion news! And the instruments received at the assembly will aid greatly in the expansion of the Kingdom work world-wide. Indeed, ninety-one items were released in fifty-four different languages! Truly the conventioners felt that the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses had equipped them “with every good thing to do his will.”—Heb. 13:21.
As this greatest assembly of Christians in history closed with song and prayer by Brother Knorr, the delegates prepared for the homeward journey thrilled to be Jehovah’s witnesses.
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Platform in Yankee Stadium
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7,136 were baptized to symbolize their dedication to Jehovah God
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Aerial view of Yankee Stadium during assembly
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Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, New York City, July 27–August 3, 1958. Attendance, 253,922