“Word of Truth” Assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses
DURING this past summer more than half a million persons gathered at the “Word of Truth” assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses in Europe and North America. There they heard convincing evidence that God’s Word of Truth, the Holy Bible, contains the answers to the problems facing mankind. The smooth operation of these assemblies, accompanied by a prevailing spirit of love and peace, was powerful testimony that the application of Bible principles can indeed produce marvelous results.
In Edinburgh, Scotland, and Dublin, Eire, where the series of assemblies opened simultaneously June 9 to 13, public officials and visitors were simply amazed at what they observed: “If only people on the outside could see you in action,” noted one Edinburgh reporter, “a lot of prejudice they have against you would disappear.” And over in Dublin the director of the soccer grounds where the assembly was held said: “I have never seen anything so well organized. . . . You have everything under control.”
The love and peace among the delegates made a real impression on visitors. One of them attending the Edinburgh assembly confessed: “I have been a minister since the 1920’s and have been to many religious conventions in all parts of the British Isles, but never before have I found a spirit of joy and brotherhood such as can be noted here.” A family from Finnish Lapland who were told about this spirit of brotherly love made a 530-mile trip to the Helsinki, Finland, assembly to see for themselves. One of them explained: “We decided to find out whether true love really exists among Jehovah’s witnesses, since this was so important to us as it is the distinguishing mark mentioned by Jesus. Now we really know it does exist and we will continue with the study in order to be able to defend the word of truth with you people.”
During the “Word of Truth” Assembly in Sacramento, California, the Sacramento Union admitted, in effect, that the Bible does contain the answer to present-day difficulties. In a July 9 editorial entitled “Witnesses of Godliness,” the paper said of Jehovah’s witnesses: “In all their beliefs they are down-to-earth, completely sincere, fully wedded to belief in the Old Testament as well as the New, . . . Suffice it to say that if all the world lived by the [Bible] creed of the Jehovah Witnesses there would be an end of bloodshed and hatred, and love would reign as king.” Could there be any greater recommendation for the Bible?
The keynote address delivered on the first day of each assembly struck right at the assembly’s theme. The subject, “Answering the Question, ‘What Is Truth?’” dealt with this very question asked by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate of Jesus Christ.—John 18:38.
The assembly speaker, who at many of the assemblies was either the Watch Tower Society’s president or vice-president, established that “under the circumstances under which the question was raised, the Bible’s answer must be: The ‘truth’ is God’s kingdom with Jesus Christ the ‘Son of David’ serving as King-Priest in the throne.” And then, tying in to the assembly’s theme, he continued: “Since the Holy Bible supplies us fully the details about this kingdom, the Holy Bible is rightly spoken of as ‘the word of truth.’”—2 Tim. 2:15; John 17:17.
Another principal address of each assembly that highlighted the truthfulness of the Bible was entitled “Let God Be Found True.” In it the speaker emphasized that, despite the waywardness of men, “God will always carry out what he says in his Word.” “Therefore,” the assembly speaker concluded emphatically, “we declare unequivocally that our position is the same as that taken by the Christian apostle Paul when he wrote: ‘Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.’” (Rom. 3:4) At the conclusion of this address the beautifully illustrated new book “Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie” was released.
For added proof of the Bible’s truthfulness, evidence from secular sources was presented on the assembly program. Speaking to an attentive audience of 35,210 persons assembled in New York’s famed Yankee Stadium, one of the Society’s directors, Grant Suiter, furnished abundant archaeological testimony in support of the authenticity of various Bible accounts. Another assembly address, “The Book of Truthful Historical Dates,” demonstrated the accuracy of Bible chronology.
So with good reason assembly speakers pointed to God’s Word as the only reliable guide by which to live. In the speech, “The Bible’s Place in the Modern Home,” the sixty-year-old German-born speaker at the Vienna, Austria, assembly urged: “Let the Bible hold an honored position in our home, . . . Let us not only have family Bibles but let us be Bible families! Let us make Bible talk a habit, a relaxing joy, a pleasure.” And on the Saturday afternoon program a symposium of three talks emphasized the absolute necessity in this age of gross immorality for Christians to live closely by the righteous principles found in God’s Word. In Edinburgh, a good portion of this sound Bible counsel was reported on the front page of the following morning’s Scottish Sunday Express.
Another part of the program that caused considerable comment was the practical instruction received in the Sunday morning discussion, “Applying the Word of Truth to the Problems of Life.” An evidence of the fine effect it had was exemplified by what happened in Basel, Switzerland. After the talk one of the delegates came over to the speaker and explained that he had been quite disturbed when a wrongdoer had not been disfellowshiped from the local congregation. But now he could see the Biblical basis for extending mercy to wrongdoers who sincerely repented. He thanked the speaker for helping him to appreciate Jehovah’s loving, merciful way.
Those privileged to attend the New York City assembly were treated to something special. Two full days there were devoted to a demonstration of what goes on in the classes of the Watchtower Society’s Gilead School. Usually the school class periods are an hour and fifty minutes long, but they were condensed to thirty minutes so that the audience could look in on seven different ones. How much everyone learned from just those three and a half hours of “visiting” the Gilead classrooms!
But that was not all. The assembly audience were also privileged to sit in on two of the lectures that are regularly given in conjunction with the school courses. On one day they heard the Society’s vice-president, F. W. Franz, speak on the subject “The Book of Ruth,” and the second day they heard N. H. Knorr, the Society’s president, discuss “Making the Most of Your Opportunities,” after which he released a revised edition of the booklet “This Good News of the Kingdom.” It was also thrilling to listen in on the different language classes, and to see the amazing progress the students have made in learning the languages taught—French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.
Brother Knorr concluded the special two-day program by drawing attention to the marvelous increase realized in the twenty-two years since the Gilead School started operations in February 1943. The year before the school’s opening, he pointed out, there were only 106,000 Kingdom preachers throughout the world, but now there are well over one million proclaiming the good news in 194 countries! Missionaries have had a major part in this increase, and Brother Knorr emphasized the need for more of them.
Of course, the highlight of each of the assemblies was the address that the public was especially invited to hear, “World Government on the Shoulder of the Prince of Peace.” This speech, which quoted exclusively from Catholic editions of the Bible, was prepared especially with the Catholic population of Dublin in mind. It was, therefore, gratifying to see that for the first major assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in that country 3,948 persons were present to listen.
For the series of forty-one assemblies in Europe, North America and the islands of Hawaii and Bermuda announced in the Watchtower magazine earlier this year, the combined public talk attendance totaled 506,950, and 8,595 new ministers were baptized. But already many additional “Word of Truth” assemblies have been held, and many are yet to take place in other parts of the world.
For most of Jehovah’s witnesses, the closing remarks of an assembly are most memorable. In New York City Brother Knorr gave a report on the ten European assemblies that he and Brother Franz had attended. How faith-stimulating it was to hear about the courage and love of the brothers there! In Berlin, for example, only about two hundred were able to get through from the Eastern zone to attend the assembly. All of these were older brothers, and the Eastern authorities did not care whether they returned or not because of their advanced age. However, after the “Word of Truth” Assembly these faithful Witnesses did not want to stay in West Berlin, even to enjoy a short vacation. As one of them expressed it: “We are anxious to get back as quickly as possible and take the things we have learned to our brothers.” What a spirit to have! What love and faith!
NEW BOOK THRILLS DELEGATES
In his concluding remarks Brother Knorr also drew attention again to the new book “Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie,” released at all the “Word of Truth” assemblies. He urged: “Spread it throughout your territories so that people can read it and know that Jehovah’s witnesses stand for the Word of Truth.” This beautiful new book, he said, not only has already been published in English and Spanish, but is now in the process of being translated in over sixty languages, with the goal of having it published in fifteen of the major languages of the world by the end of the year.
This book is just what people need to learn God’s Word of Truth. It has universal appeal; reaching not only the minds of people in Christendom, but also persons of other lands. In its opening chapter it copes with the rising of unbelief by giving powerful proofs of God’s existence. It then acknowledges that different peoples have their own “holy” books, but straightforwardly shows that the Holy Bible is the only one inspired by Almighty God. In chapter three the book has a synopsis of the contents of the entire Bible, thereby providing background to prepare persons for the examination of the basic Bible doctrines that follow. It should truly prove to be a marvelous aid to help people of all kinds to come to a better knowledge of the Word of Truth. No wonder the new book thrilled the many thousands of assembly delegates!
Another Bible-study aid released in English at these assemblies was “Make Sure of All Things; Hold Fast to What Is Fine,” a 512-page book that gathers scriptures together in a logical arrangement on 123 principal subjects. Other Bible-study aids were also released in Danish, German, Finnish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Norwegian and Swedish.
UNIQUE FEATURES OF VARIOUS ASSEMBLIES
Although the program was essentially the same at each assembly, there were certain features that distinguished one assembly from the others. For example, in Dublin there was the visit to the Chester Beatty Library to see some of the oldest Bible manuscripts in existence. The delegates’ intense interest in God’s Word was evidenced by the fact that more people visited the library during the assembly than normally do in an entire year. After watching hundreds pass through one day, an official of the library exclaimed: “I have never seen such an orderly group of people. One of the [Witness] guides I listened to knew more about the library than I did myself. We would be glad to open the library any time to any of Jehovah’s witnesses who would like to come.”
Over in Oslo the following week people were simply amazed by the sudden transformation of one of the city’s soccer fields. On Wednesday night Norway played a soccer game with Yugoslavia, but by 1:40 p.m. the next afternoon the field was changed into the picturesque scene of an old Norwegian village. Scattered here and there on the field were little old houses with grass growing on their roofs. There were also wooden fences, a big pond and plenty of flowers and big rocks made out of painted canvas. It was a very lovely, realistic setting for the assembly, and it drew a great deal of comment from visitors.
Under the headline “Miracle During the Night—Unbelievable Effort by Jehovah’s Witnesses,” one of the major Oslo papers wrote: “Ecstasy and shouting yesterday, but today: the playing field transformed to the cleanest Sunday idyl. . . ! That’s what it is like when Jehovah’s witnesses take over the premises. It is impossible to understand how something like this could be done in just a few hours, rather than the two to three weeks one would consider reasonable.”
During the next week Helsinki, Finland, experienced what the travel bureaus called the greatest peacetime “invasion” of foreigners the country has ever experienced. Over 6,000 Swedish delegates made the long trip to Helsinki to help swell the attendance to well over twice that ever realized at an assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in Finland before; 17,088 persons attended the public talk. The assembly’s rooming department did a marvelous job of accommodating everyone, finding lodging for more than 11,000 delegates.
Another unique feature of this assembly was the thirteen-car special train that transported over 560 convention delegates from above the Arctic Circle down to Helsinki. Among those aboard were Witnesses from the Soviet Union who had met the train in Finnish Lapland. Most of these northern delegates slept right in the sleeping cars during the assembly; the state railway having provided washing facilities nearby to make this convenient.
A heartwarming feature of the Vienna, Austria, assembly was the welcoming of more than 1,200 Greek-speaking delegates who arrived on a special train from Athens. In Greece, Jehovah’s witnesses are not permitted to hold assemblies as they are able to in countries that permit religious freedom. So a real effort was made by these Greek delegates to make the forty-hour train trip to be present for this spiritual feast in Vienna. For most of them it was the first time to meet freely with their brothers in a large assembly. What a joyous occasion!
The Austrian brothers, too, were delighted. They were glad for the opportunity to be hosts to these faithful Christians, and showed this by arranging for twelve rented buses and over a hundred privately owned automobiles to take them from the station to their accommodations. As the train pulled in, the delegates were given a warm welcome over the train station’s public-address system. What a happy meeting! And what a grand time was enjoyed associating together for the next several days! Many close friendships were cultivated.
It was, therefore, a touching scene when, at five o’clock one morning the following week, the Greek brothers departed for home again. It was moving to see them there at the station exchanging parting embraces with their brothers of like precious faith. Over the public-address system the Greek brothers, now on the train, were assured that they would always hold a dear place in the hearts of their friends in Vienna. When hearing the words “Auf Wiedersehen!”, they leaned out of the coaches and clapped their hands. As long as the train was visible, the brothers at the train station stood there waving their handkerchiefs in a last parting greeting.
At the same time, similar touching scenes were being enacted over in Basel, Switzerland, where delegates from thirty-one nations had congregated, including over 2,000 from Spain and Portugal. However, some Witnesses from these countries on the Iberian Peninsula were not able to come, for officials learned they planned to attend a Christian assembly and denied them passports. But how happy were those who made it! What a joy it was for them to meet openly without the fear of being dragged off to jail for worshiping God! Even here, however, these Christians were careful to use only first names to protect themselves from reprisals from Iberian authorities who might learn they had attended a Christian assembly.
The Basel assembly was also unique in that the sessions were conducted in five different languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German and French. It was truly an international audience of 36,785 that listened to the public talk! Another high point of the assembly was when a resolution drawn up by the Spanish brothers was read to the entire audience. “We appreciate not only what you have done,” it said, “but also have in mind what it has cost you in effort, in time spent, and in love shown.”
So, among other things, it was resolved: “To carry back to the brothers in Spain all the marvelous things learned at this assembly. . . . To also transmit to our brothers there all the love that you have shown. . . . And finally, we resolve to continue putting in first place, together with you, the worship of our God Jehovah, and the vindication of his name and sovereignty.” How moving was this expression from those who were returning to carry on the preaching work underground! What a stimulant to God’s service the “Word of Truth” assemblies were!
EVIDENCE OF JEHOVAH’S SPIRIT
The operation of God’s spirit was apparent at these Christian assemblies in so many ways. For example, when efforts were made to obtain baptismal facilities for the Seattle, Washington, assembly there were absolutely none available. A certain swimming pool was the last known possibility, but the manager said that his swimming pool, too, was booked up for the summer. After the dire need for a baptismal pool was explained to him, he said: “Well, I know we are booked up completely; however, I will make another check to see.” On doing so he found that he had only two hours all summer that were still open. These were from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, July 25, the exact time that had been scheduled for the baptism!
In Dublin, Eire, the guiding hand of Jehovah, too, was clearly seen. In that Catholic stronghold there was a great deal of opposition to Jehovah’s witnesses’ holding an assembly. Efforts to obtain one place after another failed. But finally the way opened and Tolka Park, a local soccer grounds, was obtained despite vehement protests. In time, many fair-minded Catholic people voiced themselves publicly in favor of freedom of worship, and a fine assembly with much good newspaper coverage was held. Certainly an evidence of Jehovah’s direction!
The smooth functioning of these assemblies, made possible by the loving labors of many willing volunteer workers, was also an evidence of the operation of Jehovah’s spirit. Observed the Edinburgh Evening News: “If it is a problem of organization, just take note of how Jehovah’s witnesses go about it. Even the Army would have trouble rivaling their precision.” And in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, the arena manager commented: “The way you are organized you could run the whole city, more than that, you could run the country or even the whole world, and it would be much better for it.”
Divine guidance was also evident from the quietness, orderliness and considerateness of the crowds. How unlike worldly gatherings! In Rotterdam one of the police officers approached the head of the assembly’s attendant department and asked him how they managed to keep the area in front of the stage cleared with just a little rope. He said they always needed a force of twenty policemen to hold back the people. In Luxembourg the manager of the convention hall was dumbfounded. “I don’t know what to say,” he exclaimed. “The children are so quiet. How do you do it?”
The answer, of course, is by applying the principles of God’s Word of Truth. Jehovah’s witnesses believe the Bible, they regularly study it, and they live by it. The “Word of Truth” assemblies furnished another powerful testimony to persons in many lands of the wonderful atmosphere of peace that prevails when it is applied by Christian people.
[Chart on page 639]
ASSEMBLY CITY — PUBLIC MEETING — IMMERSION
Dublin, Eire 3,948 65
Edinburgh, Scotland 31,501 576
Oslo, Norway 12,332 199
Helsinki, Finland 17,088 426
Seattle, Washington 15,575 196
Rotterdam, The Netherlands 21,816 406
Hamilton, Bermuda 286 9
Monterey, California 12,059 103
Victoria, British Columbia 5,654 105
Charleroi, Belgium 11,710 310
Luxembourg, Luxembourg 3,835 80
Sacramento, California 15,802 182
San Diego, California 31,537 356
Vernon, British Columbia 4,865 46
Basel, Switzerland 36,785 1,086
Vienna, Austria 12,266 409
Albuquerque, New Mexico 10,186 165
Regina, Saskatchewan 4,266 40
Sudbury, Ontario 3,788 41
Berlin, Germany 8,916 137
Lubbock, Texas 5,011 88
Peterborough, Ontario 6,740 83
Wailuku, Maui 350 8
Brandon, Manitoba 3,737 46
Chattanooga, Tennessee 10,238 107
Corpus Christi, Texas 4,608 126
Fairbanks, Alaska 593 11
Honolulu, Oahu 2,380 47
Memphis, Tennessee 15,706 280
Odessa, Texas 6,187 70
Kitchener, Ontario 9,348 91
Buffalo, New York 24,044 255
Minneapolis, Minnesota 20,893 268
Nashville, Tennessee 11,547 153
Quebec, Quebec 2,028 60
St. Petersburg, Florida 18,036 270
Calgary, Alberta 7,040 105
Saint John, New Brunswick 3,160 57
New York, New York 74,649 1,361
London, Ontario 14,430 140
Sydney, Nova Scotia 2,010 32
[Picture on page 635]
N. H. Knorr delivers keynote talk in Dublin.