Assemblies That Truly Exalt the Divine Name
“AT THE [Riverfront] stadium, they will set up a little city, ruled by Jehovah,” was the way a feature writer for the Enquirer described the “Divine Name” District Assembly then in preparation in Cincinnati.
This forecast also proved to be true of all the thirty-four assemblies held in the United States and the eleven in Canada from late June through August.
Indeed, from advance preparation right through the five-day program, it was evident that the assembled witnesses of Jehovah enjoyed the smile of their God and Creator, whom they recognize as controlling their activities. The dominant spirit of the assembly was exalting the Divine Name, as well as the making of a good name with God. Outstanding stress was placed on spirituality, the need of obtaining it, how to guard it, and the building up of others spiritually.
This attitude so permeated the gatherings that a writer in the Atlanta Constitution was moved to say: “They come seeking spiritual sustenance and refreshment, help with their problems or help with helping somebody they love—and they love everybody.”
It is no small undertaking to arrange and prepare for such assemblies, at which an aggregate attendance of hundreds of thousands of persons is expected. Well over a year beforehand, sometimes years ahead, work is begun to provide the new Bible literature that will be released. Also, convention sites are selected and contracted for. Months ahead, the printing plant of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society begins its typesetting and printing. Bound books keep the plant’s bookbinding department busy right down to convention time. The assembly’s printed releases, on top of the normal demand for the Society’s Bibles, Bible books and magazines, put an extra strain on facilities and usually call for working extra time.
In addition, the program must be prepared, with a view to the needs of Christians in today’s world situation. Some of the primary talks are printed in manuscript form; others are outlined, so that the same spiritual food is received regardless of which assembly a person attends. Bible dramas are recorded and sent to the assembly sites in time for performers to learn the script and pantomime the words coming over the public-address system. Other dramas are thoroughly prepared, rehearsed and presented “live.”
Besides all this, there are thousands of man-hours spent organizing each local assembly, so that there are a cafeteria, refreshment stands, attendants to handle the crowds, a large cleaning crew, public-address equipment, parking arrangements and attendants, rooming accommodations, volunteer service assignment organization and a host of other things all set up by the opening day.
CITIES WELCOME THE ASSEMBLIES
In times past, opposition from religions of Christendom created much trouble for Jehovah’s witnesses in obtaining assembly sites. Also, because of clergy influence on local citizens, rooming accommodations were sometimes difficult to get. Even city officials and businessmen were affected by the misrepresentation of the Witnesses’ motives and reliability. But today this is rarely the case.
A reporter for the Montreal Star, observing so many gathered together (22,692 attended in a race grounds), remarked: “The Bible has drawn more here than the races. Jehovah’s Witnesses just never give up. The people who were fighting you are not around anymore, but Jehovah’s Witnesses are still here.”
Typical of the attitude of officials, auditorium managers and businessmen are the following examples.
On the second day of the Memphis assembly the Commercial Appeal editorialized:
“FIFTEEN THOUSAND strong, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have entered Memphis for a five-day meeting and Memphis is glad to welcome them.
“The Witnesses are a diligent group. They have been to Memphis in the past, and their conduct has always been exemplary. The sect is an evangelical one whose members work as volunteers. Their convention is trying to keep costs down for their hard-pressed workers, and the impromptu cafeteria they have put together is an example of their careful planning.
“Such industriousness on their part makes them welcome guests. We hope they find the city hospitable.”
And the Memphis Press-Scimitar noted that the crowd, being a “family affair,” was too big for the city’s largest convention hall, then remarked: “By the time the Witnesses schedule their next assembly in Memphis the city’s new Everett Cook Convention Center on North Main will be ready for them. The Witnesses are always a welcome group. They maintain high standards of conduct and civility and they take care of their own problems.”
Such was the reception in virtually all the assembly cities. Only in a few remote cases was there a question when auditorium managers or officials were approached. But when they were directed to call other managers and officials with whom the Witnesses had previously dealt, their doubts were allayed. The director of Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia remarked to news reporters that he had talked to some other stadium officials before renting the stadium. He added: “They are a prime catch to get in. They attract a lot of people but do a tremendous job cleaning up and taking care of their own needs.”
Similar cooperation by police, city authorities and businessmen was a feature of every assembly in the United States and Canada. So marked was the success of the rooming accommodations activity that it prompted comment in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, News: “[It] almost makes one feel Somebody Important is taking a personal interest in matters.”
PURPOSE OF THE ASSEMBLIES
The assemblies might be described as having a twofold purpose: (1) to exalt the Divine Name Jehovah in the minds and hearts of Jehovah’s witnesses and of all others whom they can reach (Matt. 6:9); and (2) to provide education for themselves, their children and others in obedience to the divine principles for which that Name stands.
The assembly’s keynote talk, delivered on the opening day, was entitled “Whose Name Do You Respect More—Your Own or God’s?” It was shown clearly that the clergy of Christendom put themselves ahead of God, preferring their own ideas instead of God’s Word. In contrast, a major feature of this assembly was the emphasis on use of the Bible. Daily Bible reading was encouraged for each family. And, for real depth of understanding and proper application, the need of considering the background and events surrounding the Bible books, also the context of the portion being read, was demonstrated.
The need of giving heed to the sovereignty of God and the vindication of the Divine Name was highlighted in the public talk “When All Nations Collide, Head On, with God.” This climactic talk on the assembly’s final day was the occasion of the peak attendance, which soared up to 678,359, in the United States and Canada.
The assemblies actually constitute major steps in preparation for life in a new order where justice, orderliness, peace, real love and concern for one another will prevail. Jehovah’s witnesses are trying to live that way now.
The Witnesses really believe the “Lord’s Prayer,” which requests of God: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:10) They follow Jesus’ counsel: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness.” And it has truly made them happy.—Matt. 6:33.
Some persons like Jehovah’s witnesses but do not want to listen to what they believe from God’s Word. But were it not for God’s Word and the application of its principles in their lives their conduct would not be exemplary and they would not be able to hold such fine assemblies. Some people recognize this. One woman in Portland, Oregon, said to two of Jehovah’s witnesses who spoke to her about providing rooming accommodations in her home for visiting delegates: “You are so warm, kind and good. It must be your religion that makes you that way.”
A columnist in the Buffalo Evening News wrote: “Witnesses just regard consideration of other people’s property as Christian conduct.” She reported an experience of a householder in Tonawanda, New York, who at first had hesitated to list rooms for delegates, but afterward said: “If all people were like them, I’d like to rent my rooms out every week. If it was a rainy day, they even took their shoes off before they came in the house, so they wouldn’t dirty the carpets. They were among the most polite people I’ve ever met.”
The assembly program laid heavy stress on teaching. Communication on the family level must be kept open, the conventioners were told. To aid parents to avoid a ‘generation gap,’ children must be taught in very early years. Before the speaker announced the release of the 192-page book Listening to the Great Teacher he said, addressing parents: “Do not think that your children will naturally become disciples just because you are. They will not be followers of Jesus Christ unless you teach them that way.”
Parents received the book as a real boon in helping them to set up an organized teaching program, to get across to the children deep Bible truths and principles of Christian conduct in plain, simple words and illustrations. Children attending the assembly also showed that they were eager to receive such Bible teaching, as they were seen on the convention grounds in hundreds, clutching tightly the book that was ‘for them,’ or deeply engrossed in reading it themselves.
Prior to the publication of this book a series of similar articles had appeared in The Watchtower. Some persons had been cutting out the articles and making a book. One parent remarked: “My children check on me every week to be sure I don’t miss an article. We make a game of reading these articles. The children answer every question the article asks. In fact, we have to insist that they hold up their hands first, to keep all from talking at once. These articles prompt the children to think and to participate mentally.” Another said: “I was struck by the point that a child learns so quickly, even difficult concepts.”
Such careful parental teaching brings rich rewards. In this world of family disintegration the family unity among true Christians is notable, as a Lansing, Michigan, reporter observed in the State Journal: “The sea of old and young faces in the auditorium, the corridors and overflowing in the exhibition hall downstairs is a show of family solidarity—a keystone of the religion’s practice. This bond extends to the whole body of adherents.” (Italics added.)
‘The teaching program does not stop with the young ones,’ said one convention speaker. ‘We are all in a school in which there are no graduations. All of us must continue to learn from the inexhaustible storehouse of God. The Divine Name shines with greater and greater brilliance as we learn more about Jehovah’s ways.’ He then released to those assembled the Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook, to be used in the ministry school held weekly in each congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses for both young and old.
For more advanced Bible knowledge, a 1,700-page book, Aid to Bible Understanding, was released. This book, similar in style to a Bible dictionary, represented seven years of research.
Throughout the program, morals received strong attention. Young folks were interviewed on the platform, discussing the drug problem as it exists in the schools. A father and mother talked the matter over with their teen-age children, alerting them to the drug danger and giving counsel as to why and how they should avoid drug use. This reasoning, understanding way of approach served as a model for parents, who must know what their children are doing and must arm them against the drug menace if they wish to save them.
On the platform, some were interviewed who had in the past used drugs but who by reason of learning and applying Bible principles had freed themselves from drugs. In several of the convention cities, these youths were later interviewed extensively on radio and TV. After one interview, the news director of an Atlanta radio station concluded: “Your young folks not only have answers about the Bible, but they also have answers concerning the drug problem.”
Many were moved by the drama “Jehovah Blesses the Loyal Ones,” portraying the snare that the ancient Israelites fell into by association with the immoral, idol-worshiping Moabites just as Israel was about to move into the Promised Land. (Numbers chapters 22-25) The fact that loose, sexually filthy conduct of any kind is a sin, just as are fornication and idolatry, was clearly set forth. The drama drove home to all observers the great danger of bad associations in this time when the destruction of this present system of things and the entering of God’s people into his new order of righteousness are so near.
AIMED AT THE HEART
Many were the remarks of appreciation for the fine material presented on the program. But as much appreciated as the information itself was the spirit it engendered, due to the program’s focus on the heart. One conventioner, who has walked in this “way” of truth for nineteen years, expressed such sentiments. He said: “The program was of a very personal nature, motivating one to examine his heart condition and that of his family, and to provide loving Scriptural help as needed. It has made me more aware of my obligation to give more assistance to the congregation.” Another, when asked what he viewed as the overall main point of the program, answered: “A love of God and not of statistics. We want the Divine Name to be vindicated.”
A feature of the program that absorbed the attention of all was entitled “What Is in Your Heart?” The participants in this drama underwent heart-searching situations common to Christians. On the stage giant models of the brain and the heart lighted up as each was “speaking” inside the individual wrestling with a difficult moral decision. The drama “Making Jehovah’s Purpose Your Way of Life,” portraying the devotion of Ruth the Moabitess to the God of Naomi, touched the hearts of all. Ruth’s words, “Where you go I shall go, . . . Your people will be my people, and your God my God,” moved the listeners to search their own hearts to see whether they too are making themselves fully available to serve in promoting the worship of the true God, Jehovah.
The consensus as to the effectiveness of the “drama” method of presentation was echoed by an assembly delegate in Portland, Oregon, who stated: “The talks and dramas have forcefully stressed the need to ‘guard our hearts’ to take prompt action to expel wrong thoughts.” Another, from Washington state, remarked: “The thing that was emphasized at this assembly was love, helping all of us to search our hearts and see the depth of our loyalty and devotion to Jehovah and Christ Jesus.”
Indeed, “Out of [the heart] are the sources of life.” It is as a delegate from the Poughkeepsie, New York, congregation concluded: “The matter of correct motivations—why we do things, not just what we do—seems to be the thread of thought spun by the majority of speakers, since it is the heart Jehovah judges, not just one’s works or what he appears to be outwardly.”—Prov. 4:23; 21:2.
Thus the “Divine Name” assemblies truly exalted the Name of Jehovah before God’s own people. And their orderliness, cleanliness, good manners and happy spirit glorified in the eyes of all beholders the Name of the God Jehovah’s witnesses serve. A staff writer for the Shreveport Journal entitled a feature article on the assembly, “They Witness to a Happy Deity.”
The heartfelt sincerity that worship of the true God Jehovah brings was noted by a writer in the Greensboro, North Carolina, Daily News. Viewing the “higher ratio of ethnic mixture than most other religious groups,” he said, “The business of ‘brother and sister’ is not pretended.”
Jehovah’s witnesses are happy that their activities are resulting in exaltation of the Divine Name. But they realize that they must ‘keep on seeking the kingdom and God’s righteousness’ by making constant improvements in their ministry to God. This broad subject was also considered on the assembly program, and will be discussed in the following article.
[Picture on page 596]
Sign on Milwaukee City Hall welcomes conventioners
[Picture on page 597]
At Los Angeles 62,885 heard the talk “When All Nations Collide, Head On, with God.”
[Picture on page 598]
Speaker at Milwaukee releases complete “Aid to Bible Understanding”
[Picture on page 599]
Young ones enjoy discussing new book “Listening to the Great Teacher”