Remembering the Grand Creator in Young Manhood
As Told By Ralph Leffler
“REMEMBER, now, your grand Creator in the days of your young manhood, before the calamitous days proceed to come, or the years have arrived when you will say: ‘I have no delight in them,’” admonishes the Bible at Ecclesiastes 12:1.
How thankful I am that in early life I learned to do just that, to remember the Grand Creator, Jehovah God! This came about as a result of Christian influences in my home and also by reading the writings of Charles T. Russell as published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
I was born in 1890 and reared to young manhood on my father’s farm in the American state of Ohio. My parents were hardworking, God-fearing folk. From her youth onward my mother was well versed in the Scriptures, and these she repeatedly inculcated in the minds of her children.
Beginning during my school years and continuing on into my young manhood, I was also greatly benefited by the many traveling representatives of the Watch Tower Society who were sent to my hometown, Tiffin, to give lectures on the Bible. They did much to establish in my young mind the wisdom of remembering the Creator.
During the years from 1896 to 1900 a great change came about in the religious convictions of my parents. Although they had been devout Lutherans, they were not satisfied with the doctrines taught by that church. At this time they obtained copies of books such as The Divine Plan of the Ages, The Time Is at Hand, and Thy Kingdom Come, along with many Bible tracts, published by the Watch Tower Society. They read and reread these publications, at the same time listening to the Bible lectures given by the traveling representatives of the Watch Tower Society. Soon my parents were convinced that here was the truth of the Bible. Information they had received was sensible, reasonable, soul-satisfying. No more for them the false doctrines of everlasting fire of hell for the wicked, immortality of the human soul and the three-in-one myth of the trinity! Instead, they learned that Jehovah God the Creator has wonderful blessings in store for all people who come to an accurate knowledge of the truth of the Bible and obey it. Of course, they at once forsook the Lutheran Church.
Both parents, mother in particular, could not keep these wonderful truths to themselves. They told them to everyone who would listen. But their first concern was to teach their children these grand truths. This they did. As a result of their teaching, our reading the Watchtower magazine and similar publications, and our listening to Bible lectures, in the course of time two of my three brothers, all four sisters and I dedicated our lives to serve God. Each of us was baptized in water.
Remembering the Grand Creator, Jehovah God, in the days of my youth was greatly enhanced by associating with people of like precious faith. In Tiffin during those early years a small group of about fifteen of us met regularly, twice each Sunday and one evening during the week. My parents, or some of my brothers or sisters and I, many, many times drove our two-horse carriage or one-horse buggy from the farm the ten-mile round trip summer and winter to attend those meetings.
During the few years before the turn of the century and many years afterward, our three principal ways of witnessing were by handing out Bible tracts in front of church doors on Sunday morning, by full-time preaching (called colporteuring in those days), and by public Bible addresses in hired halls. Accompanied by older members of our congregation, I first began to hand out tracts in front of churches in Tiffin. Occasionally a clergyman would be angered by this bold procedure, and we would say: “We are searching for the wheat only.”—Matt. 13:24-30.
Faith strengthening to me were those traveling evangelists of the Watch Tower Society assigned to visit Tiffin, some of whom we invited to our home. I particularly well remember visits by J. F. Rutherford, W. E. Van Amburgh, A. H. Macmillan and H. H. Riemer. Colporteurs, too, visited our home. One in particular was very helpful, assisting me with my schoolwork, telling me Bible stories, and helping make firm my faith.
HECTIC WORLD WAR I YEARS
The winter of 1913-1914 saw me engaged in the colporteur work in Washington, D.C. On New Year’s Eve the Washington congregation held a meeting. Songs were sung and speeches given. The long-awaited year 1914 had arrived. Expectation and wonderment were in all our minds as to what the year would bring forth, as the year was definitely marked by Bible chronology as a turning point in world history. The last normal year was 1913, since which year things on earth would not be the same, according to inspired prophecies of the Bible.
Just as expected from Jesus’ prophecy at Matthew chapter 24, war broke out, first on a small scale but soon the whole world was ablaze. The first world war in mankind’s history was raging. So it was that in 1914 the “times of the Gentiles” or nations ended and the “time of the end” for this old system of things began!
The year 1917 saw the United States caught in the maelstrom of this war. Then came the military draft and the call to arms. Now a serious problem arose for solution: What course of action should I take toward the call to arms? There were three possibilities: obey the call and bear arms; ignore the call and suffer the consequences; or refuse to bear arms but accept noncombatant work.
At the time of having to make the decision I did not clearly see the Christian principle of strict neutrality as to conflicts between worldly nations as I see it now forty-eight years later. Years before, however, I had resolved in my heart never to take up arms against my fellowman, war or no war. God’s law on this point is clear: “Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed.” (Gen. 9:6) And again the positive command: “You must not murder.” (Deut. 5:17) No, I could not and would not bear arms in violation of God’s laws.
In July 1918 I was off to Camp Jackson, South Carolina. At the camp the big question in my mind was, Will they recognize my refusal to bear arms and instead grant me noncombatant work? Soon I learned the answer. I was put in solitary confinement in a small cell. Occasionally the camp chaplain would come into my cell to try to persuade me to change my mind. When I tried to use my Bible to refute his arguments, he would not let me use it. His pet argument was that the Bible relates many wars and therefore I should take up arms also. True, but God directed those wars of ancient Israel. They were not man’s wars, like the present conflict. In proof I asked him to notice that men among the Germans and their allied armies wore inscriptions reading “Gott mit uns” (God with us), and soldiers of the opposing armies carried coins bearing the inscription “In God we trust.” Is God divided? Is God warring against himself? ‘No, clearly this is man’s war and not God’s; I will not bear arms,’ I said.
By October 1918 they saw my sincerity in the stand I was taking and I was given noncombatant work. At October’s end I was on the way to France, landing there one day before the signing of the armistice on November 11. The next day at noon I was delighted to hear some Frenchmen shout: “Finie la guerre” (The war has ended).
A period of waiting followed. To keep the men occupied while marking time before sailing for home, schools were set up in camp. I was assigned to teach a class of men radio theory and fundamental principles of electricity. This experience I found to be quite helpful in later years in connection with the preaching work.
May 1919 found me on the way to America and home. What a delight it was to be working and associating with the Tiffin congregation once more!
KINGDOM ADVERTISING BY RADIO
A few years later, in 1923, while I was employed by the Alliance, Ohio, high school to teach radio theory to a class of senior students, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from the Watch Tower Society president’s office at Brooklyn, N.Y. Hurriedly I opened it. What could this mean? I wondered. The letter stated in part: “Noting that you are a teacher of radio . . . would you consider devoting all your time in the Lord’s service in this behalf? “ Clearly to me Jehovah’s hand was in this. Could I refuse to accept this opportunity? Never! By mid-October I arrived at Brooklyn Bethel. There the first job given me was washing dishes. Had I not had enough of washing dishes in the army? thought I. Then I remembered the scripture: “The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut. 13:3, AV) Yes, this is another test, I concluded.
After a month of dishwashing I finally got started on radio work. The Society already had obtained a site and erected buildings on Staten Island in New York City for the location of a radio broadcasting station. A 500-watt composite radio transmitter was located in the city and purchased for the station. This I quickly installed and all was ready for the first broadcast on Sunday evening, February 24, 1924. WBBR were its call letters. This was the beginning of thirty-three years of continuously broadcasting a noncommercial program, without cessation.
One day J. F. Rutherford, the Watch Tower Society’s president, came into my room carrying a map of the United States. Laying the map on a table, he pointed with his finger and said: “I have in mind locating broadcasting stations here and here and here. Would you be willing to engineer the construction of these stations?” “I’d be happy to do so,” I replied.
When November 1924 arrived I was on the way to Chicago to work on the construction of another Society-owned broadcasting station. A site was found near Batavia, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. All construction was done on weekends by volunteer workers from nearby congregations. On some weekends as many as fifty men were at work, carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians, all working zealously, early and late, like so many beavers. I installed a 5,000-watt transmitter, and by early summer of 1925 the station was on the air with the Kingdom message. WORD were its call letters—very appropriate!
After five years of operating WORD I was sent to other radio stations to install transmitters. These stations were not directly owned by the Society, but were managed by its representatives. At Cleveland, Ohio, for station WHK I installed a 5,000-watt transmitter; and a 1,000-watt transmitter at each of three other stations: WAIU, Columbus, Ohio; KROW, Oakland, California, and CKCX, Toronto, Canada. In Canada, congregations at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and Edmonton, Alberta, were operating radio stations to broadcast the good news of God’s kingdom. To those places I was sent to assist in whatever way I could; then back to WBBR in 1935 where I remained twenty-two years as radio engineer until the station was discontinued in 1957.
My radio work concluded, the Watch Tower president, N. H. Knorr, called me to Bethel at Brooklyn to work in the Society’s printing plant to continue to have some part in publishing the everlasting good news earth-wide. Here may be seen some 800 other dedicated ministers, men and women, young and old, white and black, all working together harmoniously, and zealously advertising throughout the earth the name and purpose of the Grand Creator, Jehovah God. Though my physical sight is failing and I am on leave of absence from Bethel at present, the most important thing in my life continues to be my service to Jehovah God.
Looking back over the years from my boyhood days to the present, I have never regretted for one moment my decision in my youth to shun the vain baubles of this old world and instead to remember the Grand Creator, Jehovah. Years of peace, contentment and happiness they have been. Never have I been in want of life’s necessities, but Jehovah has abundantly supplied all my needs. Of course, all was not a bed of roses. At times there were trials, difficulties, perplexities and problems. But accepting the wise counsel of God’s Word at Proverbs 3:5, 6, I found that these all gradually faded away one by one: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”
But the end is not yet. “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved,” said Jesus. (Matt. 24:13) What experience the future holds time will tell. This much is certain, we are living in the last days of this old system of things and soon now it will suffer violent destruction in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty.” Immediately following that destruction God’s kingdom will rule in righteousness over a cleansed earth with blessings untold for Armageddon survivors and their offspring and, later, for the resurrected millions now sleeping in the memorial tombs.
How glad I am that I came to know all these marvelous truths from my young manhood on and have had some share in dispensing them to others for the past sixty-five years! Surely I have been greatly blessed because I remembered the Grand Creator in the days of my young manhood!