Part 3—United States of America
VIOLENCE ERUPTS AT LITCHFIELD
About the same time that Kingdom Farm had been the object of threatened assault and arson, trouble flared up against Jehovah’s witnesses in Litchfield, Illinois. “In some way the troublemakers in Litchfield got wind of our plans so that when we did go in to work the town they were ready for us,” recalls Clarence S. Huzzey. “The local priest rang the church bells as a signal and they began rounding up the brothers—taking them to the local jail. Some of the brothers were badly beaten and the mob even threatened to burn down the jail. Some of the mobsters located the cars of the brothers and began demolishing them—reducing them to rubble.”
Walter R. Wissman says: “After being beaten by the mob the brothers were herded into the local jail by the state highway patrol for their own protection. One brother, Charles Cervenka, was knocked to the ground when he refused to salute the flag, the flag was pushed into his face, and he was severely kicked and beaten about his head and body. He was the most severely injured of the brothers and he never quite recovered from the beating. He died a few years later. He said later that as he was being beaten he thought to himself that he was so glad this happened to him and not to one of the newer brothers because he knew that he could take it, while perhaps a newer one would have weakened and compromised.”
“The town of Litchfield was very proud of its accomplishment,” Brother Wissman recalls. “In fact, a number of years later, along in the 1950’s, Litchfield had a centennial celebration with floats depicting the outstanding events in the city’s hundred-year history. One of these floats was in commemoration of the mobbing of Jehovah’s witnesses in 1940. The town officials considered that this was a memorable event in their history. May Jehovah reward them!”
So serious and numerous were the violent attacks upon Jehovah’s witnesses that United States Solicitor General Francis Biddle and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt) made public appeals for the discontinuance of such actions. In fact, on June 16, 1940, the very day of the Litchfield incident, during a coast-to-coast radio broadcast over the network of the National Broadcasting Company, Biddle stated:
“Jehovah’s witnesses have been repeatedly set upon and beaten. They had committed no crime; but the mob adjudged they had, and meted out mob punishment. The Attorney General has ordered an immediate investigation to these outrages.
“The people must be alert and watchful, and above all cool and sane. Since mob violence will make the government’s task infinitely more difficult, it will not be tolerated. We shall not defeat the Nazi evil by emulating its methods.”
But such pleas did not stem the tide of hostility against Jehovah’s witnesses.
CHRISTIAN GATHERINGS DISRUPTED
During those turbulent years, Christians in the United States sometimes were assaulted while gathered peacefully for Bible instruction. That happened, for example, in Saco, Maine, during 1940. While Jehovah’s witnesses were in their second-floor Kingdom Hall there preparing to present a recorded Bible lecture on one occasion, a mob of 1,500 to 1,700 formed, according to Harold B. Duncan. He clearly recalls that a priest was with them, sitting in a car in front of the hall. “The fellow in the [adjacent] radio repair shop turned on every radio he could to full volume so as to drown out the talk,” says Brother Duncan, adding: “Then the mob started stoning the windows. The police in plain clothes with flashlights pointed the light beams on the windows to stone out. The police station was only a block and a half away. I went there twice and informed them of what was happening. They said, ‘When you people salute the American flag, we’ll give you help!’ The mob stoned 70 [small windowpanes] out of the hall and a stone as large as my fist just missed Sister Gertrude Bob’s head and took a corner of the plastered wall out.”
Mob violence also erupted during the 1942 assembly in Klamath Falls, Oregon. According to Don Milford, mobsters cut the telephone wires bringing a discourse from another convention city, but a brother having a copy of the talk immediately took over and the program went on. Finally, the mob broke into the hall. The Witnesses defended themselves and when the door was closed again, one attacker—“a large powerful man”—lay unconscious inside the building. He was a police officer and his picture was taken with his badge alongside his face. “We called the Red Cross,” says Brother Milford, “and they sent in two women with a stretcher and took him out. He was later heard to say, ‘I didn’t think they would fight.’” The police refused to aid the Witnesses, and it was over four hours before the mob was dispersed by the state militia.
ASSAULTS DURING MAGAZINE STREET WORK
While policemen in some localities failed to protect Jehovah’s witnesses, that certainly was not invariably true. For instance, as he did magazine street work in Tulsa, Oklahoma, years ago, L. I. Payne noticed that a policeman always was within sight. “So,” says Brother Payne, “one day I asked him why he was always so close by. His remark was to the effect that even though he had a large territory to cover, he would be in that vicinity because he was not going to let anyone run me off or beat me up. He had read how the little towns were treating the Witnesses and could not see why anyone would want to hinder this work.”
As it is, Jehovah’s servants often were assaulted by violent mobs as they engaged in witnessing on the streets with The Watchtower and Consolation. For example, George L. McKee says that week after week in one Oklahoma community mobs ranging from 100 to well over 1,000 infuriated men assailed Witnesses engaged in magazine street work. The mayor, chief of police and other officials would provide no protection. According to Brother McKee, generally the mobsters were led by a prominent physician and leader of the American Legion, a cousin of Belle Starr, notorious woman bandit. First, drunken henchmen started a disturbance. Then came the mob, armed with pool sticks, clubs, knives, meat cleavers and guns. Their object? To run the Witnesses out of town. But each Saturday, Kingdom proclaimers determined in advance how long they were going to engage in street work and, though the mob would gather quickly, they were successful in completing the allotted time. Many magazines were placed with shoppers.
One Saturday about fifteen Witnesses were accosted. “We realized we would have to rely upon Jehovah God and good judgment to escape with our very lives,” says Brother McKee, continuing: “Without as much as a warning, they began to attack three of us brothers with their knives and clubs. . . . With our broken arms, cracked skulls and other injuries, we went to four different doctors in the community, but all refused to give the treatment we needed. We had to travel to a community fifty miles away for the services of a sympathetic doctor. Bruises and feelings soon healed and we were back on the street corner on the following Saturday with the good news of the Kingdom. This spirit prevailed throughout all the troublesome times we had in the heat of persecution.”
FURY AT CONNERSVILLE
Notable among acts of mob violence were incidents that occurred in 1940 at Connersville, Indiana. Certain Christian women on trial there were falsely charged with “riotous conspiracy.” As Brother Rainbow, a zone servant, and Victor and Mildred Schmidt left the courthouse on the trial’s first day, about twenty men lunged at their car, threatened them with death and tried to overturn the vehicle.
On the trial’s final day, the prosecuting attorney used his arguing time more for inciting to riot, sometimes speaking directly to armed men in the building. About 9:00 p.m. the verdict came—“Guilty.” Then a storm of violence broke loose. Sister Schmidt says that she and her husband Victor, who was one of the lawyers handling the case, along with two other brothers, were cut off from the other Witnesses and were accosted by a mob of from two to three hundred. She tells us:
“Almost immediately, a barrage of all kinds of fruit, vegetables and eggs began bombarding us. We were told later that the mobsters had unloaded a whole truckload of these items on us.
“We tried to run to our car, but were headed off and pushed to the highway leading out of the city. Then the mob rushed at us, striking the brothers and hitting me in the back, causing a whiplash effect. By now, a storm had broken in all its fury. The rain was coming in torrents and the wind was lashing furiously. However, the fury of the elements was insignificant in comparison with the fury of this demon-crazed mob. Because of the storm, many took to their cars and drove alongside of us, yelling and cursing us and always including Jehovah’s name in their cursings. Oh, how that pierced our hearts!
“But in spite of the storm, it seemed as though there were at least a hundred men on foot pressing down on us. Once a carload of friends driven by Sister Jacoby (now Sister Crain) from Springfield, Ohio, tried to rescue us, but the mob nearly upset the car and kicked it and tore at its doors. This brought more blows upon us as the mobsters pulled us away from the car. The friends were forced to drive on without us. As we were driven on and the storm continued unabated, the mobsters kept yelling and chanting: ‘Throw them in the river! Throw them in the river!’ This unceasing chant struck terror into my heart and as we approached the bridge to cross the river the chant suddenly stopped. Soon we were actually across the bridge. It was as though Jehovah’s angels had blinded the mob as to where we were! I thought, ‘Oh, Jehovah, thank you!’
“Then the big burly mobsters began striking the brothers again. How hard it was to see someone you love being struck! Each time they struck Victor, he staggered, but never fell. These blows were blows of horror to me . . .
“Time after time they approached me from the back and would give me that quick whiplashing push. Finally, we were separated from the two brothers and as we walked locked arm in arm, Victor said: ‘We haven’t suffered as much as Paul. We haven’t resisted unto the shedding of blood.’ [Compare Hebrews 12:4.]
“It was very dark and getting late (I learned later, about 11:00 p.m.). We were beyond the city limits and near exhaustion when suddenly a car stopped very close to us. A familiar voice said: ‘Quick! Get in!’ Oh, here was that fine young pioneer lad, Ray Franz, rescuing us from this violent mob! . . .
“Here again, we all felt that Jehovah’s angels had blinded the enemy from seeing us enter the car. Here in the car safe from the mob were dear Brother Rainbow and his wife and three others. Somehow, that little car made room for all eight of us. We all felt that Jehovah’s angels had prevented the enemy from seeing us enter the car. The mob was still violently incensed against us, with no indication of releasing us. It seemed as though Jehovah with his loving arms had reached down and rescued us! We later learned that after the two brothers were cut off from us they had found refuge in a haystack until some brothers found them early in the morning. One of the brothers had been severely hurt by an object thrown at him.
“We arrived home about 2:00 a.m. drenched and cold, as the storm had ended a heat wave and ushered in cold air. Our brothers and sisters ministered unto us, even closing five open wounds on Victor’s face. How thankful we were to be in the loving care of our dear brothers!”
Despite such severe experiences, however, Jehovah upholds and strengthens his servants. “So,” remarks Sister Schmidt, “here we had undergone another kind of trial which Jehovah had mercifully helped us to bear and to ‘let endurance have its work complete.’”—Jas. 1:4.
OTHER ACTS OF MOB BRUTALITY
Many were the acts of mob violence having Jehovah’s witnesses as their targets. In December 1942 at Winnsboro, Texas, a number of Jehovah’s witnesses were accosted by a mob while doing magazine street work. Among the Witnesses was O. L. Pillars, servant to the brethren (circuit overseer). As the mobsters approached, the Witnesses concluded that street work could not be done under such circumstances. So they began walking toward their car. “In the middle of the main street, in his sound car, was the Baptist preacher, C. C. Phillips,” recalls Brother Pillars. “He had been preaching about Christ and his being crucified, but as soon as he saw us he changed his sermon. He started ranting and raving about how Jehovah’s witnesses would not salute the flag. He told how he would be happy to die for Old Glory and that anyone not saluting the flag should be run out of town. As we passed his truck, we looked ahead to see another mob coming toward us. Soon they closed in on us and held us until the city marshal appeared and arrested us.”
Later, the mob entered the office of the marshal, who made no attempt to protect the Witnesses. They were seized by the mobsters. In the street, Brother Pillars, for one, was being pummeled with fists. “At this time,” says Brother Pillars, “I experienced the most unusual help. I was taking a terrible beating. Blood was gushing from my nose, face and mouth, but I felt little or no pain. Even at that time I marveled at this fact and felt it to be a manifestation of angelic help. . . . To me it explained how our German brothers had faithfully endured the heat of Nazi persecution without wavering.”
Brother Pillars was repeatedly beaten into unconsciousness, then revived and beaten again. Finally, unable to bring him to, the mobsters soaked him with cold water and tried to make him salute a two- by four-inch flag, according to him, “the only flag these great ‘patriots’ could find.” As they held it up, they would also hold up his arm, but he let his hand droop down, showing he would not salute. Soon they had a rope around his neck, jerked him to the ground and dragged him to the jail. Dimly he heard them say: “Let’s go ahead and hang him. Then we’ll be rid of those Witnesses forever.” Not long thereafter, they tried just that. Brother Pillars writes: “They put the new one-half-inch hemp rope around my neck, tying the hangman’s noose behind the ear, and dragged me into the street. Next the rope was thrown over a pipe that extended from the building. Four or five mobsters began pulling on the rope. As I was lifted off the ground, the rope tightened and I lost consciousness.”
The next thing Brother Pillars knew, he was back in the unheated jail. A doctor examined him and said: “If you want this boy to live, you had better get him to the hospital, as he has lost a lot of blood and his eyes have dilated.” To this the marshal retorted: “He’s the most stubborn devil I have ever seen.” “How those words encouraged me,” remarks Brother Pillars, “for they assured me I had not compromised!”
After the doctor left, the mobsters filed through the cold, unlit jail. They struck matches to see Brother Pillars’ face, and he heard them ask: “Is he dead yet?“ Someone replied: “No, but he’s going to die.” Chilled to the bone and soaking wet, Brother Pillars tried to keep from shivering, hoping they would think he had died. Finally, they left and all was quiet. Eventually the door opened, the Texas State Police entered and Brother Pillars was taken by ambulance to the Pittsburg, Texas, hospital. He had been at the mob’s mercy for six hours. But what had happened when they hung him? Why was he still alive? “I found out those answers late the next day,” remarks Brother Pillars, adding:
“Into my prison ward at the Pittsburg hospital where I was recuperating came Brother Tom Williams. He was a local attorney from Sulphur Springs and a real fighter for righteousness. He had endeavored to locate me with no success until he threatened to sue the town. Then they revealed I was in the hospital. How very good it was to see a brother’s face! He then told me that it was all over town—I had been hung but the rope broke!
“Later, when the F.B.I. made an official investigation and this led to a grand jury inquiry, a group of Pentecostal men were willing to testify. They said: ‘Today it is Jehovah’s witnesses. Tomorrow it will be us!’ When they described the hanging, they said: “We saw him dangling on the rope. Then it broke. When we saw the rope break, we knew it was the Lord that broke it.’”
The marshal and other officials fled across the state line. Hence, they never were put on trial. Brother Pillars recuperated and returned to his work as servant to the brethren in that area.
ENDURING BRUTAL PERSECUTION
“I could never endure such brutal persecution!” you may exclaim. No, not in your own strength. But Jehovah can make you strong if you avail yourself of his provisions for spiritual upbuilding now. The paramount reason for the persecution is connected with the issue of universal sovereignty. In effect, Satan challenged God, claiming that no human would remain faithful to Jehovah under test by the Devil. What a privilege it is to maintain integrity to God, thus proving Satan a liar and supporting Jehovah’s side of the issue!—Job 1:1–2:10; Prov. 27:11.
In the years since those turbulent days of many mob attacks upon Jehovah’s witnesses in the United States, God’s people have become increasingly aware of their need to depend fully upon Jehovah. While they will defend themselves and their loved ones in harmony with Christian principles, they do not arm themselves with deadly weapons in anticipation of attack. (Matt. 26:51, 52; 2 Tim. 2:24) Rather, they recognize that ‘the weapons of their warfare are not fleshly.’—2 Cor. 10:4; see The Watchtower, June 1, 1968, pages 345-350.
THEOCRATIC ASSEMBLY IN SAINT LOUIS
Humanity was in the throes of World War II and persecution was raging against God’s people. But ‘Jehovah of armies was with them.’ (Ps. 46:1, 7) He saw to it that they were amply provided with good things in a spiritual way. Very noteworthy along these lines was the Theocratic Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses at Saint Louis, Missouri, August 6-10, 1941.
Jehovah’s servants were eager to be present for that assembly. So, many of them were on the road, bound for Saint Louis. “We soon learned,” says Sister A. L. McCreery, “that all the Witnesses put a magazine [The Watchtower or Consolation] in the car window to identify themselves; so we did too. The whole trip was one of waving to total strangers that passed us by, but we knew they were our brothers by their smiles and waves.”
Despite pressure from Catholic Action and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the management of The Arena refused to cancel the contract for its use by Jehovah’s witnesses. However, the Catholic churches circulated propaganda that caused many householders to cancel rooms they were going to rent to God’s people. “Nuns went from door to door telling people not to rent their rooms to Jehovah’s witnesses,” says Robert E. Rainer. Hence, upon arrival in Saint Louis, “so many Witnesses were without rooming accommodations that it was necessary to have mattresses made and stuffed so they could sleep there on the Arena grounds,” according to Margaret J. Rogers.
Concerning the problem of rooming accommodations, Brother and Sister G. J. Janssen state: “During the convention a picture appeared in the newspaper of a Witness mother and her child sleeping at night on the lawn at the convention grounds. That did it. The local residents, more soft-hearted than their false teachers, began to call the rooming department to say that their extra rooms were available to the Witnesses.” Before long, rooms were being offered by telegrams, telephone calls, letters, personal calls and other means. Kingdom publishers were even stopped on the streets by people who offered them accommodations.
Some Witnesses, on arriving, headed for the Theocratic Trailer City. It grew until the site was teeming with 677 trailers, 1,824 tents, 100 cars with sleepers, 99 trucks and 3 buses—and a population of 15,526. “It was immense,” remarks Edna Gorra, who also says: “Streets were named and there were washing facilities, proper bathroom facilities, and so forth. It was a wonderful sight to behold—people from different states living in their trailers, tents and buses, all in one accord.”
SOME PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
Spiritually rewarding indeed was the convention program. For instance, Hazel Burford, now a missionary in Panama, remarks: “There we thrilled to have clarified for us the issue of the universal domination of Jehovah as Supreme Sovereign and how that involved the integrity of Jehovah’s servants. . . . We realized more clearly than ever before why Jehovah was permitting such intense persecution of his people world wide.” In his talk entitled “Integrity,” Brother Rutherford pointed out that the question Satan raised in Job’s day was, “Can Jehovah put men on earth who, under the most severe test, will prove faithful and true to God?“ Yet, it was shown, the primary issue was that of universal domination. Among other things, the speaker urged his listeners to be wholly and unreservedly devoted to The Theocratic Government by Christ Jesus, knowing that it shall vindicate Jehovah’s name and bring deliverance to all who love righteousness and serve Jehovah.
There was a convention feature that especially touched the hearts of assembly delegates. Sunday, August 10, 1941, was “Children’s Day” at the Saint Louis convention. Early that morning a baptismal discourse was given and 3,903 persons were immersed, among them 1,357 children. But for children—and adults too—that day was very special. “All children of consecrated parents between the ages of 5 and 18 and having reserved seat tickets will assemble in the main arena directly in front of platform,” said the printed program. Brother Rutherford’s discourse “Children of the King” was scheduled for 11:00 a.m.
By then the convention audience had become a tremendous throng of 115,000. Directly in front of the speaker’s platform and in the box seats all around it was an extraordinary audience—all children between five and eighteen years of age. As Brother Rutherford stepped on the platform, the youngsters cheered and clapped. He waved his handkerchief and thousands of young hands waved back. Soon he strode to the front of the platform, literally beaming at the sight.
J. F. Rutherford had much to say to all those youngsters and the thousands of others in that vast audience. For instance, Dorothy Wilkes states: “The hope of paradise conditions on the earth became very real to us as Brother Rutherford remarked, in effect, that ‘the estates you saw along the way to the assembly were nothing compared to what you are going to have!’” And Neal L. Callaway, who was one of the youngsters in the audience that day, once wrote: “. . . after concluding his talk, the Society’s president said: ‘I have a question to propound to each of you. All of you who have agreed to do the will of God and have taken your stand on the side of the Theocratic Government Christ Jesus, and who have agreed to obey God and His King, please STAND UP!’
“We arose as one body. ‘Behold,’ exclaimed the Society’s president, ‘more than 15,000 new witnesses to the Kingdom!’ After long applause he said: ‘All of you who will do what you can to tell others about God’s kingdom and its attending blessings please say Aye!’ Then came a thunder of ‘Aye’ from 15,000 children on their feet.
“And then the Society’s president said: ‘If you had an instrument in your hands that you could use to the honor of Jehovah’s name, would you be diligent to use it?’ We answered ‘Yes!’ ‘Then be seated, and I will tell you about that instrument. The Lord has made possible the preparation of this book as a message for you. The title of this book is “Children.”’ What tremendous applause followed!” A free copy of the new book Children, written by Brother Rutherford, was given to each child seated in the special sections of The Arena and the trailer camp.
Many who were present for that grand occasion as mere children continued to progress, observes George D. Caron. “They became pioneers, entered Gilead School and took up missionary assignments, went to Bethel, and otherwise advanced with the organization. Today they are the backbone and strength in many congregations throughout the world.”
On Sunday afternoon, August 10, 1941, ailing J. F. Rutherford spoke to the convention audience for the last time. He did so extemporaneously, without notes, for about forty-five minutes.
He made some very significant remarks about leadership of Jehovah’s people, saying: “I want to let any strangers here know what you think about a man being your leader, so they won’t be forgetting. Every time something rises up and starts to grow, they say there is some man, a leader who has a great following. If there is any person in this audience who thinks that I, this man standing here, is the leader of Jehovah’s witnesses, say Yes. [Unanimous NO]
“If you who are here believe that I am just one of the servants of the Lord, and we are working shoulder to shoulder in unity, serving God and serving Christ, say Yes. [Unanimous YES]
“Well, you don’t have to have me as an earthly leader to get a crowd like that to work; that kind of a class of people would fight the Devil with a Missouri elm club, and they are fighting with the sword of the spirit, which is more effective.”
Repeatedly during this final talk, Brother Rutherford urged his listeners to carry forward the work of preaching the Kingdom message.
CLOSING DAYS AT BETH-SARIM
By November Brother Rutherford’s critical illness had gained ground and he was compelled to have an operation at Elkhart, Indiana. Thereafter he expressed a desire to go to California. So he was taken to a San Diego residence known as “Beth-Sarim.” For some time it was apparent to his associates and the best medical experts that he could not recover.
Briefly it may be said that Brother Rutherford had a severe case of pneumonia after his release from unjust imprisonment during 1918-1919 because of his faithfulness to Jehovah. Thereafter he had only one good lung. It was virtually impossible for him to remain in Brooklyn, New York, during the winter and still carry out his duties as the Society’s president. In the 1920’s he went to San Diego under a doctor’s treatment. The climate there was exceptionally good and the doctor urged him to spend as much time as possible in San Diego. That is what Rutherford did ultimately.
In time, a direct contribution was made for the purpose of constructing a house in San Diego for Brother Rutherford’s use. It was not built at the expense of the Watch Tower Society. Concerning this property, the 1939 book Salvation stated: “At San Diego, California, there is a small piece of land, on which, in the year 1929, there was built a house, which is called and known as Beth-Sarim.”
Sister Hazel Burford was one of the nurses who cared for Brother Rutherford during his final illness at Beth-Sarim, where he was taken in November 1941. She tells us: “We had the interesting times, for he got to where he would sleep all day and then all night long he was busy with the Society’s business and kept us on the move.” One morning about the middle of December three brothers, including Brother Knorr, arrived from Brooklyn. Sister Burford recalls: “They spent several days with him going over the annual report for the Yearbook and other organizational matters. After their departure, Brother Rutherford continued to weaken and, about three weeks later, on Thursday, January 8, 1942, he faithfully finished his earthly course and graduated into fuller service privileges in the courts of his heavenly Father.” Later that day the news was sent to the Brooklyn headquarters by long-distance telephone at 5:15 p.m.
How was news of J. F. Rutherford’s death received at Brooklyn Bethel? “I will never forget the day we learned of Brother Rutherford’s passing,” comments William A. Elrod. “The announcement was brief. There were no speeches.”
A SMOOTH TRANSITION
Thursday, January 8, 1942, marked the end of the earthly life of seventy-two-year-old Joseph Franklin Rutherford. For twenty-five years he had been president of the Watch Tower Society. When the Society’s first president, Charles Taze Russell, died in 1916, the Bible Students were shocked and many wondered how they could carry on in God’s service. Furthermore, selfish men sought control of the Society and this posed problems for some time, though their opposition and schemes were completely overcome through divine aid. The death of J. F. Rutherford did not have such effects, however. Of course, foes of God’s people thought that the work of Jehovah’s witnesses would grind to a stop, but they were mistaken. “The theocratic organization proceeded without a halt or a stumble,” remarks Grant Suiter.
On January 13, 1942, all board members of the Pennsylvania and New York corporations used by God’s people met jointly at Brooklyn Bethel. Several days earlier, the Society’s vice-president, Nathan H. Knorr, had asked that they earnestly seek divine wisdom by prayer and meditation, and this they did. Their joint meeting was opened by prayer for Jehovah’s guidance, and after careful consideration Brother Knorr was nominated and unanimously elected president of the Society. “No one that I knew about even questioned the appointment of Brother Knorr,” says C. W. Barber, “and everyone was determined to stand shoulder to shoulder supporting him and proving our devotion to Jehovah’s organization. There was complete unity also among all the directors of the Society.” Many telegrams and letters were received showing that Jehovah’s servants world wide were unified and determined to carry on with the preaching work.
Nathan Homer Knorr was born at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1905, of American-born parents. When he was sixteen years old, he became associated with the Allentown congregation of Bible Students, and in 1922 attended the Cedar Point convention, where he made up his mind to resign from membership in the Reformed Church. An opportunity to be immersed in water to symbolize the dedication of his life to Jehovah God came on July 4, 1923, while Frederick W. Franz, from Brooklyn Bethel, was visiting the Allentown congregation. Brother Fred Franz delivered the baptismal discourse, and eighteen-year-old Nathan H. Knorr was among the individuals baptized that day in the Little Lehigh River. This has always been a joyful day to remember, and what a pleasure it has been for Brother Knorr to be privileged to work side by side with Brother Fred Franz for over fifty-one years now!
About two months later, on September 6, 1923, Brother Knorr became a member of the Brooklyn Bethel family. C. W. Barber recalls: “The noontime that he arrived, upon coming home for lunch, we saw a young brother busy putting his clothes and things into one of the dressers in room A-9. Not knowing that a change had been made and that he was taking the place of a brother that had been moved to WBBR on Staten Island, a few words of remonstration followed. ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘We’ve got enough in this room already and it’s too crowded.’ We figured one more in the room was too much, but things calmed down, and the young brother turned out to be none other than Brother N. H. Knorr. Not exactly a suitable welcome, but we often enjoyed talking about this situation years later and laughed heartily. Right from the start it was evident that he had not come to Bethel to do anything else but apply himself to the work at hand. He applied himself vigorously in the shipping department and made rapid progress in handling responsibilities and doing whatever he was asked to do.”
Later he served on the dispatch desk at the Society’s printing plant and on February 8, 1928, he was appointed by Brother Rutherford to be a copartner in the publishing of the Golden Age magazine. Clayton J. Woodworth was editor; Robert J. Martin, business manager, and Nathan H. Knorr, secretary and treasurer. When factory manager Robert J. Martin died on September 23, 1932, J. F. Rutherford appointed N. H. Knorr to serve in that capacity. On January 11, 1934, Brother Knorr was elected as a director of the Peoples Pulpit Association (now Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.). He was made the Association’s vice-president on January 10, 1935, following the death of E. J. Coward. On June 10, 1940, Brother Knorr became a director and was chosen as vice-president of the Pennsylvania corporation, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. His election to the presidency of both societies came about on January 13, 1942. He was also made president of the International Bible Students Association. As to Brother Knorr’s attitude toward the work, J. L. Cantwell recalls: “In 1940, when there was so much persecution going on, branches were being closed down and mob action was taking place. One night we were working overtime at the factory. A ‘fire drill’ was called and, among other things, Brother Knorr, who presided at the resulting meeting, said: ‘I know that things look bad for the work. But something all of us here will want to remember is: If Armageddon comes tomorrow, we want to have run the factory all night tonight.’”
EDUCATING PEOPLE FOR LIFE
Jehovah’s people had been using the testimony card and the phonograph in their field service. However, they should have the ability to express themselves Scripturally. They should be able to give reasons for their hope. That was the view of the Society’s new president, N. H. Knorr. As C. James Woodworth reflects on the past, he says: “Whereas in Brother Rutherford’s day the emphasis was on ‘Religion Is a Snare and a Racket,’ now the era of global expansion was dawning, and education—Biblical and organizational—commenced on a scale heretofore not known by Jehovah’s people.”
In succeeding years the emphasis on Bible education was to become even more pronounced. Jehovah’s witnesses had indeed entered an era of education for life.
COURSE IN THEOCRATIC MINISTRY
“Just a few days more than one month after Brother Knorr became president of the Society,” says Henry A. Cantwell, “arrangements were made for what was then called an Advanced Course in Theocratic Ministry.” And, what was that? A school, inaugurated at Brooklyn Bethel in February 1942.
C. W. Barber explains: “All the male members of the Brooklyn Bethel family were invited to enroll . . . The course consisted first of a lecture delivered to the entire school. The sisters were invited to attend, but they were not at that time enrolled in the school. After the lecture we adjourned to smaller rooms where all enrolled would present student talks under the tutorship of trained counselors.” L. E. Reusch adds: “Each month we had a review prepared by our school instructor, Brother T. J. Sullivan.”
Does that sound familiar? If you are one of Jehovah’s witnesses, you know what started over three decades ago at Brooklyn Bethel—the Theocratic Ministry School. Soon other praisers of Jehovah were benefiting from this education too. At their “Call to Action” Assembly, held in 247 cities throughout the United States on April 17 and 18, 1943, the “Course in Theocratic Ministry” was announced and demonstrated. A surprise printed release bearing the same name was a 96-page booklet that told how to conduct the new school in each congregation and also furnished information for weekly instruction talks. The appointed school instructor was to act as chairman and offer constructive counsel on six-minute student talks, delivered on various Biblical topics by male enrollees.
If you are enrolled in today’s Theocratic Ministry School, likely you were apprehensive about your first student talk. But suppose the entire school was new, as it was back in the early 1940’s. Then what? A brother’s first talk in the school could be quite an experience. “My knees were knocking together, my hands were shaking and my teeth were chattering,” admits Julio S. Ramu. “I did not last six minutes because I gave the entire talk in three minutes. That was my first experience in platform speaking, but I did not quit.” “The King of Eternity” was the title of Angelo Catanzaro’s first student talk. “I’ll never forget that,” he says. “My mother said that I gave that talk every night for several nights in my sleep.” But prayer and reliance upon Jehovah played a vital part. “They were willing and tried,” comments Louisa A. Warrington, “and it was marvelous to see how Jehovah’s spirit aided them . . . to become proficient and confident speakers.”
From the start of 1959, sisters in the congregations of God’s people were privileged to enroll in the Theocratic Ministry School. Demonstrating how to give six-minute sermons to people at their homes presented quite a challenge for them. Now it was their turn to get nervous! Grace A. Estep had a sermon on the first evening that sisters gave presentations in the congregational Theocratic Ministry School. “Oh, was I scared!” she admits. “But it was an easy subject and very familiar, and somehow I got through it. Although it was such a difficult thing to do, how pleased I was afterward for this added blessing from Jehovah!” Is that how you feel?
Yes, it all started at Brooklyn Bethel back in February 1942. Today, however, the Theocratic Ministry School is a regular feature of Christian training provided in the 34,576 congregations of Jehovah’s people earth-wide. Since its inception, the Theocratic Ministry School has done much for Jehovah’s people. Fine, improved speaking ability became noticeable at an early date. Thus, after 1944, the decade-long use of the phonograph was replaced by oral witnessing by theocratic preachers at the doors and in the homes of the people.
A noteworthy feature of the Theocratic Ministry School is the reading of God’s Word. This has been a regular part of the program. One of the early publications designed for use in the Theocratic Ministry School was “Equipped for Every Good Work,” published in 1946. Mabel P. M. Philbrick will tell you that this book “made it possible to have a better understanding of the writing and preservation of the Bible, as well as how the addition of the Apocrypha came to be. I learned for the first time what the Talmud was, the Masoretic text and many other features. Best of all was the analysis of every book of the Bible.”
Various publications of succeeding years were prepared with the Theocratic Ministry School in mind. Among these was the Watchtower-size book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” of 1963. Doubtless expressing the thoughts of many others, Alice Babcock appropriately calls it “a veritable storehouse of spiritual treasures.” Here was another publication that thoroughly discussed each of the sixty-six books of the Bible, with special emphasis on the ways in which each Bible book is beneficial for Christians today.
Currently used in the Theocratic Ministry School, and for personal research, is a work that represents six years of research. Some two hundred and fifty brothers in more than ninety lands contributed to it, and then a special staff worked on the material at the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn. The result was a 1700-page volume covering Scriptural topics from “Aaron” to “Zuzim.” Its title? Aid to Bible Understanding, completed in 1970. Truly it has been a provision from Jehovah.
A PUBLIC SPEAKING CAMPAIGN
Back in the 1940’s the Theocratic Ministry School soon produced many qualified brothers who could give public talks. Thus in January 1945 a worldwide public speaking campaign was inaugurated. Each speaker prepared his own discourse, but the Watch Tower Society ensured uniformity of presentation by selecting the subjects and furnishing one-page outlines for these hour talks. This public meeting campaign began with a series of eight talks, the first entitled “Will Man Succeed as a World-Builder?”
Besides the speaker, other Kingdom proclaimers had part in the campaign. How? By advertising the discourse through handbill distribution on the streets and from house to house. At times distribution of printed invitations was coupled with the wearing of placards advertising the talk. Frequently the discourse was delivered at the Kingdom Hall, but a lecture series might be scheduled in rented facilities or elsewhere in some outlying area of the congregation’s territory. If you attend Christian meetings regularly, then you are benefiting from such public meetings to this very day.
In those earlier days, of course, delivering a public talk was quite a challenge. It was something new. Says W. L. Pelle: “For many, many years, on the night before I was scheduled to give a public talk I would kneel down at my bedside and pray to Jehovah to give me the ability and strength to deliver the discourse in a way pleasing to him. I advise young brothers in the Theocratic Ministry School to do likewise because Jehovah has always heard my petition and he will hear theirs also.”—Ps. 65:2.
JEHOVAH PROVIDES FOR A WORLDWIDE WITNESS
Some three decades ago mankind was in the throes of World War II. To some it may have seemed impractical then to plan for international expansion of Kingdom-preaching activities. But Jehovah’s spirit strengthened his servants to move forward. Providing education for life was vitally important.
In September of 1942, Brother Knorr and the other directors of the Watch Tower Society unanimously approved the establishment of a school designed to train missionaries for ministerial activity in countries throughout the earth. Where would it function? On the Society’s property in the Finger Lakes area of upper New York state—Kingdom Farm, near South Lansing.
Situated there was a large three-story brick building completed by the Watchtower Society in 1941. It had been constructed as a refuge for members of the Brooklyn Bethel family, should intense persecution require their transfer to that location. But it had never served that purpose. It seems that Jehovah perhaps directed matters all along, with a unique purpose for this structure. Now plans were made for a new theocratic educational institution. The school itself would be named the Watchtower Bible College of Gilead. Later it was called the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead.
There was a flurry of activity. Beginning in October of 1942, A. D. Schroeder, Maxwell G. Friend and Eduardo F. Keller prepared the courses outlined by the governing body, working up lectures, acquiring textbooks and gathering a library. At the same time, adjustments were made in the existing buildings at Kingdom Farm in order to provide a library, an auditorium, classrooms, sleeping quarters and other facilities. Those were thrilling months!
Imagine the surprise of certain pioneers when they received applications for the new school. The greater thrill came when those applications were accepted. “We felt extremely inadequate, but grateful for the privilege,” remarked Brother and Sister Charles Eisenhower. “Our applications were accepted. We sold our car and trailer and headed for school. That was Gilead’s first class. The school was new, the classes were new, the instructors and students were new.”
The keenly anticipated opening day arrived—Monday, February 1, 1943. Snow covered the fields of Kingdom Farm. It was a cold and wintry day. Yet, inside the administration building forty-nine men and fifty-one women—some married, some single—gathered with great delight. Joining them for the school’s dedication exercises were directors of the Society, members of the faculty, friends and relatives—161 persons in all.
Talks were given by F. W. Franz and W. E. Van Amburgh, as well as others. Brother Knorr himself delivered the address of welcome and dedication. Doubtless all those present agreed fully with his comments: “Jehovah God has provided this land and building named ‘Gilead’ for His purpose. To Him we give all thanks and praise.” No question about it! This school’s establishment was a major theocratic development.
Bible Research, Theocratic Field Ministry, Public Bible Speaking, Supreme Law, Bible Themes—these were some of the subjects to which industrious students gave their attention during the five-month course. Included was instruction in a foreign language—Spanish for the first class. Truly, there were many things to learn. But Gilead students also spent some time each school day performing certain farm and domestic duties. For one thing, this helped to relieve nervous tension. Weekday evenings were for personal study. Weekends provided fine occasions for the lifesaving work of Kingdom-preaching. Students and instructors alike engaged in the field service.
World War II was still raging when the earliest classes of Gilead School graduated. Since it then was virtually impossible to send missionaries to Europe and westward to the islands of the sea, as well as Asia, they were sent first to Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Canada and Alaska. Since then they have gone to the very ends of the earth to declare the good news of the Kingdom “for a witness.”—Matt. 24:14.
Graduation of Gilead School’s thirty-fifth class took place at Kingdom Farm on July 24, 1960. The thirty-sixth class opened in facilities of the Watch Tower Society at 107 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York, on Monday, February 6, 1961. How beneficial it is to have this school at the Society’s headquarters! Students are now privileged to hear discourses by more brothers associated with the Society’s staff, including members of the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses.
Three decades have passed since the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead had its start. To date more than 5,500 students have attended this institution of theocratic education. Of this number, over 2,500 are still active in full-time service, preaching the good news of the Kingdom around the world.
KINGDOM MINISTRY SCHOOL
The emphasis on theocratic education for life has continued through the years. In 1958 work began on a course of study for a new school. This one was for overseers. Called the Kingdom Ministry School, originally its course consisted of twenty-four school days, ninety-six classroom sessions and twenty instruction talks or lectures. Subjects included Kingdom Teachings, Field Ministry, Speaking and Overseers. The first group to attend the Kingdom Ministry School consisted of twenty-five students, United States circuit servants (overseers) and their wives who were not graduates of Gilead School. That first course ran from March 9 to April 3, 1959, in the Society’s facilities near South Lansing, New York. The school was transferred to the headquarters in Brooklyn on April 9, 1967.
With the passing of time, there have been adjustments in the Kingdom Ministry School, such as implementation of a two-week study course. Kingdom Ministry Schools have been held in many countries throughout the earth, to the great benefit of Jehovah’s people. In a number of lands the instructors travel from place to place, using local Kingdom Halls so that more elders can benefit from having the school at a location more convenient to them. How thankful Jehovah’s people can be that this fine training has been provided! The Kingdom Ministry School has done much to equip Christian overseers for their responsibilities and privileges.
There is an interesting side of theocratic education for life that is not to be ignored. Through the years some who have sought Scriptural knowledge have been illiterate, but their problem has not been pushed aside. In many lands the organization of God’s people has provided for literacy classes; some have been highly commended by government officials. Men and women have learned to read and write and many among them have gone on to enjoy rich privileges of service to Jehovah’s honor and glory.
A “GO AHEAD” SIGNAL IS SOUNDED
Back in 1942 Brother Knorr and his administrative associates realized that there was much work ahead. In fact, at the New World Theocratic Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses on September 18-20, 1942, a “Go ahead” signal was sounded. Cleveland, Ohio, was the key city, with fifty-one others tied in throughout the United States.
The convention’s keynote speech was delivered by F. W. Franz on Friday evening, September 18, 1942. Entitled “The Only Light,” it was based on Isaiah, chapters 49 and 60. In that discourse, the “Go ahead” signal rang clearly. Julia Wilcox writes: “At the conclusion of the keynote speech, ‘The Only Light,’ I don’t think anyone in the audience thought the time had come to slack the hand and relax. No, it was time to ‘arise and shine,’ so that God’s people might continue to reflect the only light in the darkness of this old world.”
Brother Knorr followed F. W. Franz on the program, speaking on the subject “Presenting ‘the Sword of the Spirit.’” He opened his discourse with the significant words: “There is further work to be done; much work!”
Further indicating that there was work ahead were statements made during the public discourse on Sunday afternoon, September 20. The subject? A strange one, indeed, since the nations were then enmeshed in World War II. The topic was “Peace—Can It Last?”
That would be a very important speech, Brother Knorr realized. With Jehovah’s aid he was determined to give it ‘all he had.’ “Months before,” says L. E. Reusch, “I could hear him practicing out loud, going over his public talk ‘Peace—Can it Last?’ literally dozens of times. My Bethel room was on the floor directly under the president’s quarters. So, I know personally how long and hard he practiced on delivery.”
During that fast-moving hour-long talk, the League of Nations was boldly identified with the scarlet-colored political creature of Revelation chapter 17. It was pointed out that the League, then in the abyss of inaction, ‘was not,’ but it would not remain in the pit. (Rev. 17:8) It would rise again. “But mark this,” Knorr declared, “the prophecy shows that when the ‘beast’ comes out of the abyss at the end of this total war it comes out with the woman ‘Babylon’ on its back, or she climbs upon its back as soon as it gets out.” Yet, neither the man-made peace nor the scarlet-colored beast would last. Soon the beast itself would be utterly destroyed.
Recalling that discourse, Marie Gibbard comments: “How accurately the prophecy of Revelation 17 has unfolded, as it was shown that the League would come out of the abyss to an uneasy peace that would not last! What a marvelous protection for us not to be swayed by the world events to follow—the jubilation that came to this country when V-E and V-J Days arrived and then, in 1945, when the United Nations was hailed as the answer to future peace! This talk really made lasting impressions for practical application.” The inference also was clear. Jehovah’s servants had work to do and there would be some time remaining in which to do it.
VISITING SHEPHERDS OF THE FLOCK
At that 1942 assembly it was announced that representatives of the Watch Tower Society would regularly visit congregations of God’s people. (Zone servants had previously done such work, but their activities, and those of regional servants, as well as the holding of zone assemblies, had been discontinued as of December 1, 1941.) The sending out of the Society’s traveling representatives was to be resumed on October 1, 1942. These brothers were known as “servants to the brethren,” comparable to circuit overseers of today. “They would examine records of the congregations and assist the brothers in advancing the Kingdom interests,” says Sister J. Norris. “All of this made us conscious of Jehovah’s care for his people through his organization.”
From October 15, 1946, onward some new features were to be introduced in connection with this work. The field would be divided into circuits, each of about twenty companies (congregations). These would be served for one week by the traveling overseers, primarily concerned with assisting the Witnesses in their house-to-house preaching. Twice a year all the congregations in a circuit would assemble at one point for a three-day circuit assembly, over which a “district servant” would preside. In succeeding years there have been adjustments in this arrangement, and you are benefiting from it now if you are one of Jehovah’s witnesses. Yet, what was it like some years ago?
Let us take the district work of the 1940’s as an example of the efforts put forth by these willing shepherds of God’s flock. Look back to the late 1940’s, for instance, when Nicholas Kovalak, Jr., was one of the few brothers engaging in the district work in the United States. Referring to October 1949, he says, “I traveled 4,020 miles by car that month!” He also says: “I had five circuit assemblies on the weekends, besides serving several congregations in between. So I traveled, talked, witnessed, checked the records, ate, studied, read and had a little time for sleep!“ One week he traveled close to 2,000 miles serving two congregations and, on the weekend, a circuit assembly. Of course, not all his trips by automobile were that long. “Now with more congregations it makes it easier,” Brother Kovalak admits. “Jehovah is good to us and sustains us.”
Circuit and district overseers of today are keenly interested in their fellow worshipers of Jehovah. They seek to aid them in the field service and to upbuild them spiritually. Circuit assemblies also play a vital role in advancing Kingdom interests. Did you know that during the past service year, twenty circuit assemblies, on the average, were held each week in the United States, with an average attendance of 1,605? Summing that all up for the entire year, there were 1,064 circuit assemblies, with 1,708,143 in attendance.
CHRISTIAN NEUTRALS TAKE THEIR STAND
As the Watch Tower Society’s new administration got under way in the early 1940’s, World War II was in progress and a number of Christian men were undergoing a test of their integrity to Jehovah. In the year 1940 the Selective Training and Service Act went into effect in the United States, which was still at peace. It authorized the conscription for military service of young men over eighteen years of age, but provided for the exemption of “regular or duly ordained ministers of religion,” in class IV-D. In the majority of cases, Jehovah’s witnesses were denied classification as ministers. They were neither seditious, nor would they interfere with military or other pursuits of human governments. However, the Witnesses themselves were determined to maintain strict neutrality as Christians. (John 17:16) Furthermore, they had ‘beaten their swords into plowshares.’—Isa. 2:2-4.
In thousands of cases, the government’s attorneys argued that the Witnesses had to go into the armed forces before they could seek relief in the federal courts. So from the federal district courts integrity-keepers were sent to prison, a number receiving the maximum sentence of five years’ incarceration and a fine of ten thousand dollars. Interestingly, when Eugene R. Brandt and six other Witnesses were sentenced, the judge pointed to a flag hanging on the wall behind his bench and said, as Brother Brandt recalls: “Do you see that flag? Well, I can see the face of my god in that flag and so I have no objection to worshiping it, and you should feel the same way.”
MAKING GOOD USE OF TIME IN PRISON
That first night behind bars was quite an experience. Pioneer Daniel Sydlik (who now serves at Brooklyn Bethel) was jailed because of his Christian neutrality in 1944. He remembers lying atop his bunk and listening as the steel gates, “like rumbling thunder, rolled to a close.” One by one the sound of those gates came closer until his cell gate quivered, then rolled slowly shut. He says: “Suddenly, an overwhelmingly sickening sensation swept over me, which made me feel trapped, without a way out. Then just as quickly followed another sensation equally overwhelming, which made me feel great peace and joy, the kind of peace that the Bible speaks about—‘the peace of God that excels all thought.’”—Phil. 4:7.
Brother Sydlik, like so many others, eventually found himself in a federal prison. What did Christian neutrals do there? They made good use of their time. When not busy at prison duties, they often were allowed to hold meetings for study of the Bible and publications of the Watch Tower Society. Also, they improved their general education, as by studying foreign languages such as Spanish and Greek. Concerning Christians imprisoned at Mill Point, West Virginia, Rudolph J. Sunal says: “We had our congregation book study . . . Each dormitory group of brothers had its Service Meeting and Theocratic Ministry School. . . . Sunday we had our Watchtower study in the library. . . . Another provision that we were able to arrange for was the privilege of miniature assemblies. . . . One summer we used the ball field and had the piano and other instruments for music and a most instructive program.”
Recalling the Christian educational program in prison during those days, F. Jerry Molohan remarks: “Our study meetings of all kinds were exceptionally well attended and it was so educational we humorously called the Leavenworth Prison Honor Farm ‘Stonewall College.’”
The Watch Tower Society was concerned about the spiritual welfare of these young men. Hence, arrangements were made for certain brothers, such as A. H. Macmillan and T. J. Sullivan, to visit them regularly. Why? To provide Scriptural counsel and encouragement.
Whether free or imprisoned, Jehovah’s witnesses seek ways of carrying out their commission to make disciples. (Matt. 28:19, 20) True, the opportunities open to these Christian neutrals were now limited. But that did not still their lips entirely. Brother Molohan comments: “I made the most of one opportunity, a good-hearted man serving a life term, Frank Ryden, becoming my first ‘letter of recommendation’ and being baptized in the mule trough.”—2 Cor. 3:1-3.
PETITION FOR PARDON
On August 10, 1946, a significant resolution was unanimously adopted by upward of 60,000 delegates at the Glad Nations Theocratic Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cleveland, Ohio. It petitioned the president of the United States to grant full pardon to over 4,000 wrongfully convicted and imprisoned Witnesses. Such clemency would restore the civil rights of these Christian neutrals who illegally were denied their rights by draft boards and federal courts from 1940 to 1946.
“To my surprise,” says Edgar C. Kennedy, “the chairman announced that the resolution, asking for full pardon for all these men, would be personally presented to the president of the United States by a representative from the Society. Since Harry Truman, the former army officer with whom I served during World War I, was the president, I thought it would be well for me to mention this fact to the chairman’s office, which I did.” As matters turned out, at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, September 6, 1946, the Society’s general counsel, another lawyer and Brother Kennedy, a pioneer, met with the president for some forty minutes. According to Brother Kennedy, Truman listened intently as the Society’s lawyer developed the features of the resolution to the point where executive clemency was requested. Then, he recalls, “Truman broke in with a flare of emotion and said: ‘I don’t have any use for a S—O—B that won’t fight for his country. Besides, I don’t like the disrespect you people show for the flag.’” Brother Kennedy continues:
“Now I knew that it was my turn to speak. I identified myself as a former fellow army officer and said that I had been responsible for supplying his battery with all the ammunition that it had fired during the war. I took a picture of the regimental officers from my briefcase and laid it on his desk. He looked at it and said that he had the same picture hanging over his desk in his library. I then told him that it is harder fighting for Christian principles than it was fighting in the war. I briefly explained the reason why Jehovah’s witnesses do not salute the flag. He listened and then said, ‘I see I was mistaken.’”
According to Brother Kennedy, the president thereafter gave his attention to the Society’s attorney “as he concluded the request for the release of Jehovah’s witnesses being held in prison under the Selective Service Act. Truman then said that he would discuss it with the Attorney General.”
In time, President Truman appointed his Amnesty Board. They reviewed thousands of court records and draft board files, recommending some pardons. But on December 23, 1947, Truman pardoned only 136 Witnesses, whereas 1,523 pardons were granted. Other religious groups, having only 1,000 men imprisoned all together, compared with 4,300 Witnesses, got the lion’s share. Consequently, the vast majority of these Christian neutrals were discriminated against only because they had been resolute in their determination to maintain integrity to Jehovah God.
THE LEGAL FIGHT CONTINUES
In the Smith and Estep cases, the United States Supreme Court ruled, on February 4, 1946, that the lower federal courts had been wrong in denying the Witnesses the right to a fair hearing and in maintaining that they had to enter the armed forces before they could defend themselves in court. On December 23, 1946, in the Gibson and Dodez cases, the Court extended the law so as to permit defense in court by Jehovah’s witnesses who had been charged with failing to report to a conscientious objector camp or to remain in such a camp after reporting.
The government’s attorneys argued that full-time pioneers were not entitled to exemption from military service and training because they did not have fixed congregations. Furthermore, the government’s lawyers contended that company servants (presiding overseers) were not entitled to exemption because they did not have congregations consisting of laymen, but presided over those made up of Jehovah’s witnesses. Those arguments were defeated in the Dickinson case, decided in favor of Jehovah’s witnesses by the United States Supreme Court on November 30, 1953. This set the precedent for all the federal courts to follow.
FIRM IN FAITH DESPITE IMPRISONMENT
Looking back some three decades to the days when so many Christian neutrals were imprisoned for their integrity-keeping, a person may wonder what he would do under similar circumstances. It does not really matter what excuse the enemy uses to incarcerate God’s people. With Jehovah’s help integrity can be maintained, even as it was by those hundreds of Christian neutrals some years ago. In 1965, after seven years in Red China’s prisons, Stanley Ernest Jones spoke to over 34,700 persons at Yankee Stadium in New York city. While imprisoned, he had meditated on the Scriptures, resorted to prayer and kept himself spiritually strong with the aid of Jehovah’s spirit. But one thing that he mentioned was: “We’re only going to have tribulation ‘ten days.’ In other words, there is going to be an end to it. Everything comes to an end in its own time. Therefore we just endure; God will bring us through.”—Rev. 2:10.
A fellow missionary, Harold King, spent nearly five years in a Red Chinese prison. He, too, had remained spiritually strong. Did you know that, while imprisoned, he even composed music based on Scriptural thoughts? Yes, the songbook used by Jehovah’s witnesses today—“Singing and Accompanying Yourselves with Music in Your Hearts”—contains a melody that Brother King originated in prison. It is song No. 10, entitled “From House to House.” So, do not fear the future. Jehovah can uphold you as he did incarcerated Christian neutrals in the United States as well as many other integrity-keepers, including Brothers Jones and King, who had the hard experience of incarceration in a Communist Chinese prison.
HELPING HANDS REACH OUT
September 2, 1945, brought the end of World War II. The Watch Tower Society’s branch offices were soon reopened in many lands. Congregations were reestablished and spiritual food again became available in ever-increasing amounts. Yet, Christians in war-ravaged nations needed material things too. Hence, in a display of Christian love for their needy fellow believers, Jehovah’s people launched what proved to be a two-and-half-year worldwide relief campaign. (John 13:34, 35) Witnesses in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden and elsewhere contributed clothing and money to buy food to help Christians in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippine Republic, Poland and Romania.
“At the close of World War II,” recall Hazelle and Helen Krull, “our brothers returned from the prison camps, many sick and permanently stripped of their material possessions, some of them separated from their families, not knowing if they were still alive in the flesh or not. But with all of this they were amazingly strong spiritually. They were welcomed back by their brothers all over the world. Their first interest was to reorganize for Kingdom work, declare the same good news for which they had been imprisoned and recoup their spiritual knowledge. Their compelling desire, following such great and extended hardships, was an inspiration to us and we were happy for the privilege of helping to supply, in a small way, their material needs. Clothing, shoes and other needs were collected and sorted at the Kingdom Halls, then picked up by trucks for shipment to our brothers. Tons and tons were thus lovingly supplied.”
Total shipments of clothing amounted to 1,056,247 pounds. Food shipments totaled 718,873 pounds. Additionally, 124,110 pairs of shoes were sent to needy Christians during this relief campaign. Monetarily the value of all this came to $1,322,406.90. And these kind gifts were appreciated. Commenting on one expression of gratitude, Esther Allen says: “The letter of thanks that came back brought tears of joy to the eyes.” So it was that in one direction flowed material things, and in the other, great appreciation and an encouraging record of integrity.
Through the years, Jehovah’s witnesses in the United States have had various opportunities to help their fellow believers, both at home and abroad, in material ways. Consider the 1970 earthquake in Peru. Congregations in Lima gathered together clothing, food and money and promptly took about seven tons of supplies to the stricken area. Jehovah’s witnesses in New York city donated well over ten tons of clothing. This was, in fact, far more clothing than was needed. Also, the Watch Tower Society provided $20,000 for its branch office to use in obtaining whatever was required by the brothers in the stricken area. Similarly, aid was provided when an earthquake destroyed Managua, Nicaragua, in 1972. Such displays of Christian love are reminiscent of the good-hearted liberality of first-century Christians.—2 Cor. 9:1-14.
Yet, the aid given to fellow worshipers of Jehovah does not always consist of material things. Did you know that in the year 1961 Jehovah’s servants in the United States and other lands wrote thousands of letters to the authorities in Spain requesting that God’s people there be granted freedom of worship? And in the year 1968 they wrote to the authorities of Malawi protesting the ill treatment of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses there. They have genuine loving concern for their brothers everywhere.
HISTORIC CONVENTIONS TRULY HONOR JEHOVAH
Large gatherings of God’s people, both ancient and modern, have been occasions of great spiritual benefit. Often they have also been times of great rejoicing. (Deut. 31:10-13; Neh. 8:8, 12) This was certainly true of the Glad Nations Theocratic Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cleveland, Ohio, held in the first postwar year, on August 4-11, 1946. That convention was different. Multicity assemblies had been linked by radio-telephone facilities in various lands during previous years, with large combined audiences. But for the first time at the Glad Nations Theocratic Assembly, God’s people had an international convention of such proportions that it brought together in one city delegates from all parts of the earth.
One formidable pre-convention task was the locating of rooming accommodations for the delegates. This was accomplished by extensive house-to-house work. However, many delegates were accommodated at the Witnesses’ trailer camp. There, in time, a community of 20,000 lived conveniently and inexpensively. Naturally, the delegates required physical food, and significant indeed was the cafeteria arrangement at the assembly location. There, between 15,000 and 20,000 persons could be fed in an hour’s time.
Spiritual food was of utmost importance, however, and it was furnished in abundance. For instance, F. W. Franz spoke on “The Harvest, The End of the World,” an absorbing exposition of Jesus Christ’s illustration of the wheat and the weeds or tares. (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) And it was at this same assembly that L. A. Swingle discussed the subject “Awake!” He described the twentieth-century world as a synthetic, atom-smashing, jet-propelled, radar-controlled, electronic world headed for the ditch of destruction for failure to be awake to the real issues confronting mankind. Brother Knorr spoke on “An Answer to the Rousing Call,” urging his listeners ‘to be awake, to stay awake and to read Awake!’ Yes, the new magazine Awake! was to replace Consolation, formerly known as The Golden Age. Many years later Henry A. Cantwell was able to say: “Without doubt, Awake! has lived up to its name in helping many to awake from the sleep of lethargy and to turn to true worship.”
Others will remember this thrilling assembly for the excellent primary Bible study aid there received—the book “Let God Be True.” More than 10,500,000 copies of the first edition were published within about six years. Revised as of April 1, 1952, the book’s distribution continued, and by early 1971 a total of 19,246,710 copies had been published in 54 languages. “Let God Be True” then stood in fourth place on one list of the world’s best-selling nonfiction books of the twentieth century.
Thursday, August 8, was especially notable at that 1946 assembly. Brother Knorr spoke on the subject “The Problems of Reconstruction and Expansion.” Recapturing the event, Edgar Clay of the British Isles later wrote: “I had the privilege of being behind him on the platform that evening, and as he outlined the work and then told about the plans for enlarging the Brooklyn Bethel home and factory, the applause from the vast audience surged in renewed outbursts. While one could see no distinct face from the platform, it was easy to sense their joy.”
A LOOK AT THE WORLD SCENE
There must be theocratic reconstruction and expansion. That was evident. So, on February 6, 1947, about six months after the Glad Nations Theocratic Assembly, the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, and his secretary, M. G. Henschel, embarked on a globe-encircling service tour. From personal observation during that 47,795-mile journey it was possible to determine what steps were required to strengthen and unify the worldwide organization.
That journey accomplished much. Among other things, following the tour Gilead missionaries were sent to certain Asiatic lands and islands of the Pacific. Kingdom interests were being advanced. The Theocracy was surging ahead!
Jehovah can ‘make the little one become a thousand and the small one a mighty nation.’ (Isa. 60:22) He did that upon restoring Israelite exiles from Babylon to their homeland centuries ago. Similarly, God has delivered spiritual Israelites from bondage to Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. Moreover, he has blessed them with increase. In 1938 there was a peak of 59,047 Kingdom proclaimers world wide. Then came years of war, persecution of Christians and thereafter organizational reconstruction among God’s people. With what result? Why, by 1949 Jehovah’s Christian witnesses numbered 317,877! Theocracy’s increase was evident!
How appropriate it was, therefore, that God’s people should gather for the Theocracy’s Increase Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses! By automobile, bus, train, ship and plane they came in throngs to New York city’s famed Yankee Stadium, for the eight-day international convention on July 30 to August 6, 1950. The influx of some 10,000 foreigners alarmed the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, which brought discriminatory indignities upon these visitors. Later, such actions were protested vigorously by the assembled convention delegates.
As at the 1946 international convention in Cleveland, Ohio, an extensive cafeteria arrangement was set up to feed the many thousands. How impressive it was! The New York Times quoted a Health Department inspector as saying: “I’m fascinated. I’ve never seen anything run as smoothly as this before.”
Many delegates were accommodated in private homes and hotels. However, over 13,000 eventually camped at the Witnesses’ trailer camp in New Jersey, forty miles from New York city. Marie M. Greetham recalls: “The brothers from all over New York and New Jersey worked for many weeks putting in water pipes, gas and electric power and toilet and bathing facilities. . . . This city was connected by wire to the convention in New York, so every presentation at the New York City assembly could be heard in the trailer camp.”
As Wednesday, August 2, 1950, dawned, Jehovah’s people in general had no idea of the marvelous blessing in store for them on that “‘Preach the Word’ Day.” That afternoon Brother Knorr spoke on the subject “Turning to the Peoples A Pure Language.” (Zeph. 3:9) Among other things, he mentioned that in 1902 the Watch Tower Society came into possession of a translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures known as The Emphatic Diaglott, first printed on its own presses on December 21, 1926. The Society thereafter undertook other very notable Bible-printing activities.
But that 1950 assembly session brought to light something especially thrilling. On that memorable occasion, Brother Knorr had the great pleasure of releasing the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in English. An amazed, highly delighted audience of 82,075 at the stadium and the trailer camp received it with the greatest of enthusiasm, sustained applause and deep appreciation. Tens of thousands of copies were eagerly obtained by convention delegates. What a thrill for all those assembled!
THE “PRINCES” ARE HERE
For years, Jehovah’s people thought that faithful men of old times, such as Abraham, Joseph and David, would be resurrected before the end of this wicked system of things. Those past servants of God were called “ancient worthies,” “faithful men of old” and “the princes.” The psalmist had declared: “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” (Ps. 45:16, King James Version) So, when Jehovah’s people went to a convention years ago, there was a degree of expectation. Perhaps that gathering would be marked by the appearance of one or more of those resurrected princes or men of old!
With that in mind, mentally join the 82,601 conventioners as they listened intently to F. W. Franz on Saturday evening, August 5, 1950. At a climactic point in his absorbing Scriptural talk he asked: “Would this international assembly be happy to know that HERE, TONIGHT, in our midst, there are a number of prospective PRINCES OF THE NEW EARTH?”
What reactions there were to that query! Here are some vivid recollections: “I recall the gasp of amazement that swept the assembly, and we began looking around us expectantly . . . was David here, or Abraham, or Daniel, or Job? Many of us sisters had tears in our eyes!” (Grace A. Estep) “I was so excited I sat on the edge of my seat with my eyes glued on the dugout. I was certain that one or more of these men of old would emerge at any moment.” (Sister Dwight T. Kenyon) “People in the corridors rushed to the stadium entrances to view the speaker’s stand, perhaps expecting to see Abraham, David or maybe Moses. The audience stood up—the atmosphere was charged. I am sure that if someone with a long beard had walked to the platform there would have been no containing the crowd.”—L. E. Reusch.
A profound silence next settled over the audience. Every ear seemed strained to lose none of the speaker’s words. He discussed the real meaning of the Hebrew word translated ‘prince.” He pointed out that today’s “other sheep” have suffered just as much for their faith as did Jehovah’s witnesses of old. Hence, nothing argues against Christ’s making these “other sheep” “princes in all the earth” as required. (Ps. 45:16; John 10:16) Then, concluding his discourse, Brother Franz said: “With the transporting prospects so close before us, oh! let us keep Theocratic organization and let God continue improving it as a New World society. Never may we look back to this modern Sodom, which is reserved for destruction, but we are determined to keep faces forward in full faith. Onward, then, steadily, all of us together, as a New World society!”
EVIDENCE OF THEOCRACY’S INCREASE
Sunday afternoon, August 6, was a thrilling day for those conventioners. Yankee Stadium was filled with 87,195 persons. An additional 25,215 were on the sidewalks and in nearby tents. Another 11,297 were present at the trailer camp.
So it was that a total of 123,707 attended Brother Knorr’s absorbing, widely advertised public talk “Can You Live Forever in Happiness on Earth?” That logical, moving discourse gave ample Scriptural proof that there are persons who can live forever in happiness on earth.
ASSEMBLING AS A NEW WORLD SOCIETY
Another milestone in theocratic history was reached in 1953. July 19-26 were days awaited anxiously by Jehovah’s people. From ninety-six lands outside the United States they came, until thousands filled New York city’s Yankee Stadium. That eight-day-long New World Society Assembly furnished the world marvelous evidence of the international unity among Jehovah’s Christian witnesses.
Again, rooming accommodations in private homes were obtained for thousands of convention delegates. Others stayed in hotels and another 45,000 lived at New World Society Trailer City, forty miles from the stadium, near New Market, New Jersey. Incidentally, Trailer City’s market gave a local supplier a silent witness about Christian honesty. (Heb. 13:18) Since many Witnesses left for volunteer work at the stadium before opening time and returned after these facilities were closed for the day, they helped themselves to needed items and left money in payment on unguarded trays. R. D. Cantwell says: “This gentleman [the supplier] was amazed to observe this and finally stated: ‘Mr. Cantwell, I can tell you this: You couldn’t do that in my church because you can’t trust them.’”
That convention’s international aspect was highlighted by ninety colorful banners strung around the fronts of the stadium’s upper tier and mezzanine. Delegates were greeted with phrases like these: “Salaams from Land of Cedars, Lebanon,” and “Christian Aloha from Hawaii.” Each day also followed a territorial theme, such as “North America Day” and “Islands of the Atlantic Day.”
In keeping with the assembly theme, on July 20 Brother Knorr gave the timely discourse “Living Now as a New World Society.” Recalling that afternoon, C. W. Barber writes: “As the scores of thousands were thus gathered together as a ‘New World society,’ the golden opportunity presented itself to obtain expression of this great crowd as to its solidarity and oneness.” How so? By adopting a resolution crystallizing the realization of Jehovah’s witnesses that they constitute one united New World society. The resolution was unanimously adopted by the 125,040 present at the stadium, in the overflow tents and at Trailer City.
AN ALARM IS SOUNDED
This grand assembly was sure to be remembered for a convention feature that Webster L. Roe calls “a thriller!” Concerning that particular discourse, Roger Morgan writes: “The talk that most impressed me at the 1953 assembly in Yankee Stadium was Brother Franz’ lecture ‘New World Society Attacked from the Far North.’”
Truly, an alarm was sounded on that Thursday evening, July 23, 1953. The Society’s vice-president, F. W. Franz, painted a graphic picture of the coming attack upon Jehovah’s people by Gog of Magog and his hordes. Gog, the prophecy’s principal character, was identified as Satan. And, Franz showed, the land of Magog is the location of the wicked spirit forces in a limited spiritual realm near earth’s vicinity following their expulsion from heaven by 1918 (C.E.). (Rev. 12:7-9) The speaker showed that the present prosperity, unity and security of Jehovah’s people would cause Gog and his forces to attack. But through all this terrific storm Jehovah would preserve the New World society. How much the 112,700 listeners appreciated this warning and the admonition to keep trusting in Jehovah and proclaiming the good news of his kingdom by Christ!
THE ASSEMBLY’S MOVING CONCLUSION
Delegates were in for a particularly moving experience on Sunday afternoon, July 26. For N. H. Knorr’s public discourse “After Armageddon—God’s New World” 165,829 persons assembled inside Yankee Stadium, in overflow tents and at Trailer City. There were 91,562 persons in the stadium itself. Not long before the public talk, gates were opened and thousands filed in to sit on the grass of the playing field. Additional thousands heard the speech over the Society’s radio station WBBR.
That absorbing hour passed quickly and soon the public talk was over. A cool breeze refreshed the thousands who remained for the assembly’s closing session. Basing his remarks on Psalm 145, Brother Knorr gave an hour-long talk stressing the need to praise Jehovah, exalt him as God, advertise him as Universal Sovereign and make known his kingship. With the lyrics the song “Sing Triumphal Praise!” and a closing prayer, the greatest Christian assembly to that time came to a happy ending.
DIVINE WILL INTERNATIONAL ASSEMBLY
“When the year 1958 is mentioned even now,” wrote Angelo C. Manera, Jr., “there is one big event that comes into the minds of Jehovah’s witnesses—the ‘great convention,’ the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What a convention!” This notable gathering brought together delegates from at least 123 countries and island groups. At a time of strain in international relations, with the threat of war looming, in the Middle East, Jehovah’s people met in peace and unity at New York city’s Yankee Stadium and nearby Polo Grounds on July 27 to August 3, 1958.
For nearly two weeks before the convention Brother Knorr met with over eighty of the Society’s branch overseers and their assistants. They discussed the new book he had prepared on branch office procedure after personally inspecting the largest branch, in Brooklyn, the one for the United States. Other profitable meetings were held with these men, as well as missionaries, special pioneers and circuit and district overseers during the convention itself.
Something happened on Wednesday, July 30, that moved Ernest Jansma to remark: “I am certain its magnitude will live long in the annals of theocratic history.” Indeed, nothing like it had happened since Pentecost of 33 C.E., in Jerusalem, when about 3,000 new followers of Jesus Christ were baptized on one day. (Acts 2:41) Shortly after hearing the talk “Baptism According to the Divine Will,” 7,136 persons (2,937 men and 4,199 women) were immersed at Orchard Beach, some miles away, thus symbolizing their dedication to Jehovah God. This was the largest mass baptism at one location in modern times.
At this grand gathering the earthly paradise, the spiritual paradise and the heavenly paradise—all three were considered in the discourse “Maintaining Our Spiritual Paradise,” given by Brother Knorr. After this absorbing talk, the speaker related that missionaries in Thailand had once asked whether the Society would produce a study publication, not refuting falsehood, but setting forth just the true Biblical teaching. To meet their need and that of Christians everywhere, he said, the Society had produced the new book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. Written in simple language and profusely illustrated, the Paradise book has been a delight to young and old alike. “A whole generation of children has grown up, fingering the Paradise book,” says Grace A. Estep, “carrying it to meetings with them, sharing it with their little playmates, being able to relate, long before they were old enough to read, a whole series of Bible stories just from the pictures.”
Saturday, August 2, was “Your Will Come to Pass” Day. That afternoon the Society’s president gave the stirring discourse “Let Your Will Come to Pass,” after which he thrilled his audience of 175,441 by announcing release of the new book “Your Will Be Done on Earth.” How the delegates yearned to probe its explanation of prophecies, especially those in the book of Daniel!
“WHAT A WITNESS TO JEHOVAH!”
How might one describe what took place at the Divine Will International Assembly on Sunday, August 3? A printed convention report said of it: “What a witness to Jehovah!” That it was indeed. “Sunday was a day that no one who was at the assembly could ever forget,” says Edgar C. Kennedy. “The gathering for the public talk at Yankee Stadium was a sight to behold. From where we sat we could see the continuous stream of people coming into the stadium, filling the stands and overflowing onto the field, being seated on the grass in orderly sections. To all watching, it was an overwhelming exhibition of the ‘great crowd’ coming to the side of Jehovah’s anointed remnant to join them in praising his name, doing his ‘Divine Will.’ We thank God that we could be a part of that crowd. As the stadium was being filled to capacity, the same thing was happening at the Polo Grounds. At 3:00 p.m. there was a hushed silence among the more than a quarter of a million people present as the chairman rose to introduce the speaker, N. H. Knorr, president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and to announce the subject of his talk, ‘God’s Kingdom Rules—Is the World’s End Near?’”
That vast crowd numbered 253,922! Judging from Friday’s large audience, there must have been some 60,000 of the public present. During that hour multitudes heard convincing Scriptural proof that God’s kingdom had been ruling since 1914 C.E. and that the world’s end is near.
MAKING GOD’S WORD AVAILABLE
To educate people for life and to advance the earthly interests of God’s kingdom, it was imperative that the very Book having the Kingdom theme be made readily available to the people. For years Brother Knorr had felt that way. In fact, while working at the Society’s factory he long had in his desk certain material that could be used to print a complete Bible, but circumstances had not developed in such a way as to make it possible to go ahead with this idea. After becoming the Society’s president, however, Brother Knorr lost no time in making this thought a reality. Important, too, was the producing of low-cost Bibles, so that people in general could obtain and read copies of God’s Word.
When N. H. Knorr spoke on the subject “Presenting ‘the Sword of the Spirit,’” back in 1942 at the New World Theocratic Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cleveland, Ohio, he identified the Bible as the greatest offensive weapon, the “sword of the spirit.” (Eph. 6:17) In essence, he expressed the thoughts of Jehovah’s servants in general: ‘If we could only find the text we want, we could hold off our opponents, we could comfort those that mourn, we could make simple to others, with abundance of proof, the things so clear to us. If we only had a Bible with helps wherein we could find quickly what we need!’
There was such a provision made at this assembly—the new Watch Tower edition of the King James Version, the first complete Bible ever printed on the Society’s own presses. Months of study by more than 150 collaborating servants of Jehovah had resulted in compiling, as part of this publication, a concordance specially designed for use by God’s people in their preaching work. As James W. Filson says, this Bible “filled a real need.” “We needed it ourselves; we needed it also to place with the people in our territories. . . . It was fine to have a good, inexpensive Bible to place with them for only $1.00. To this day it is the only Bible in many homes of people not in the truth.”
Brother Knorr had another basic thought in mind. That was the preserving of Jehovah’s name in all languages. There was a translation of the Bible that used the divine name in the Hebrew Scriptures. It was the American Standard Version. The Society purchased the use of plates to print this Bible, and the greatly appreciated Watch Tower edition became available to delighted conventioners at the United Announcers’ Theocratic Assembly of 1944. “We used this Bible extensively on our return visits and Bible studies,” remarks Edgar C. Kennedy.
A NEW BIBLE TRANSLATION
Particularly since 1946 had the Society’s president sought a modern-speech translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures that would furnish the basis for gaining yet further truth by faithfully presenting the sense of the original writings. When Brother Knorr spoke to an audience of 82,075 during the international Theocracy’s Increase Assembly on August 2, 1950, he reported that at Brooklyn Bethel on September 3, 1949, there had been a joint meeting of the boards of directors of the Pennsylvania and New York corporations, only one director being absent, at which time he announced the existence of a “New World Bible Translation Committee.” It had completed and turned over to the possession and control of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Pennsylvania corporation, a translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. The factory force began working on the first of the manuscript on September 29, 1949.
That afternoon, August 2, 1950, Brother Knorr had the delight of releasing to very thrilled conventioners the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in English. It was no revision of some earlier Bible translation. It was brand new! The New World Bible Translation Committee had used the noted master Greek text by scholars Westcott and Hort, while also consulting Greek Bible texts prepared by others. Archaic words like “thee” and “thou” had not been used. This Bible was in modern speech, readily understood by present-day English readers.
Especially noteworthy was the use of the divine name “Jehovah” 237 times in the main text of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. The Translation Committee’s foreword clearly presented the valid grounds for using the Name. Many were the fine features of the New World Translation.
In time, the New World Translation had profound effects upon the speech of Jehovah’s people in general. For instance, instead of “brethren,” it used “brothers,” and so God’s servants began using the modern term. (Rom. 1:13) Also, early in 1953 the word “congregation,” employed in the New World Translation, supplanted “company” as a word used with reference to a congregated group of God’s people.—Compare Acts 20:17; Colossians 4:15, New World Translation.
Through the years, five volumes of the New World Translation to the Hebrew Scriptures were prepared, then released at assemblies of God’s people. During their 1961 United Worshipers District Assemblies, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses were especially overjoyed to receive the complete one-volume edition of the New World Translation to the Holy Scriptures. Incidentally, by this time their numbers had risen to 965,169 Kingdom proclaimers earth wide. Surely, Jehovah had been blessing their efforts. By his holy spirit, God was making things grow.—1 Cor. 3:6, 7.
BIBLE PRODUCTION ROLLS ON!
The abiding desire to get the Word of God in the hands of the people has continued among Jehovah’s servants through the years. Therefore, Bibles of many types have become available. For example, the 1963 “Everlasting Good News” Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses was marked by the release of a pocket-sized edition of the revised 1961 English New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Another English release was the valuable large-print original edition, bound in one volume, complete with cross-references, footnotes and an extensive appendix. But just imagine the delight of Italian, Dutch, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish conventioners as they received the newly released New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in their native languages! “Bravo! Bravissimo!” exclaimed an Italian-speaking delegate. A German conventioner said: “What an opportunity for Jehovah’s witnesses to awaken the interest that the Germans once had in the Bible!” Later, the complete New World Translation became available in the aforementioned languages.
Printed releases of the “Divine Name” District Assemblies of 1971 included the 1971 large-print revised edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in English. And for those desiring to make a scholarly approach to the study of the Scriptures, there is the 1,184-page volume entitled ‘The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures,” published in 1969.
The continuing desire to keep Jehovah’s name before the people has been the motivation behind other Bible-printing activities. Thus in 1972 the Watch Tower Society produced The Bible in Living English, by the late Steven T. Byington. It consistently renders the Hebrew Tetragrammaton as “Jehovah.”
Since 1950 millions of copies of the New World Translation have been distributed throughout the earth, many of them in English. Greatly appreciated, therefore, was the Comprehensive Concordance of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, released in 1973, with some 14,700 word headings and about 333,200 entries. Many members of the Brooklyn Bethel family worked industriously at compiling it, proofreading it, and so forth. Certainly, with this provision much time is being saved in locating desired Bible texts.
Today, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is available in its entirety in seven languages, and the Christian Greek Scriptures in one other tongue. Also, work is under way on the Christian Greek Scriptures in four other languages. In English the regular edition of the New World Translation of the whole Bible is still available for $1.00 a copy, and the equivalent is all that is being received in foreign currencies for this excellent translation of the Bible in other languages. Why such a low cost? So that the Holy Scriptures may reach the hands of the people, that the honest-hearted among them may read and accept it, “not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God.”—1 Thess. 2:13.
More than three decades have passed since one of the Society’s presses rolled off the first copy of the Watch Tower edition of the King James Version. During the intervening years, many dedicated hands have worked diligently to get copies of God’s Word to the people in ever-increasing numbers. Why, from 1942 through the 1974 service year, 28,533,890 copies of the Scriptures, the whole or a part, have been produced at the Society’s Brooklyn printing plant. And it may surprise you to know that during 1974 as many as fifteen rotary presses of the Watchtower Society in Brooklyn were being used full time to print Bibles.
Coupled with this tremendous production of Bibles has been the publishing of millions of Bible study aids. All of them—like “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial” and Aid to Bible Understanding—have helped to make industrious Bible students and competent theocratic proclaimers of the good news out of thousands of persons from many walks of life. And, since some persons have doubted the authenticity of the Scriptures, earnest efforts have been made to prove that these are indeed of divine origin. Notable in this regard is the 192-page book Is the Bible Really the Word of God? with a printing of over 18,768,000 in 27 languages. This 1969 publication of the Society masterfully shows that the Bible’s truthfulness does not depend on evidence uncovered by archaeologists, as though the Scriptures were in a weak position, needing aid from worldly “authorities.” Rather, the book’s weighty points are argued from the standpoint of the Bible’s strength, based on its own powerful testimony, its reasonableness and the fact that it answers questions that otherwise remain unanswered. “It came at a time when the clergy were becoming more outspoken in their efforts to discredit the Bible,” comments Webster L. Roe, “and served to brace up the sagging faith of many to the point of making a sincere study of the Bible.”
‘LIVE OR DIE, WE BELONG TO JEHOVAH!’
Jehovah’s witnesses are not peddlers of God’s Word. (2 Cor. 2:17) They sincerely advocate it and personally believe it. That is why they are firm in their adherence to God’s law on blood. In fact, they have become known the world around for their loyal compliance with God’s decree that blood should not be eaten or taken into one’s system to sustain the body’s vital forces. (Acts 15:28, 29) Even when life seems imperiled, Christians repeatedly have said, in essence, ‘live or die, we belong to Jehovah.’—Rom. 14:7, 8.
The sanctity of blood was highlighted in The Watch Tower of December 15, 1927. Among other things, its article “One Reason for God’s Vengeance” said: “God told Noah that every living creature should be meat unto him; but that he must not eat the blood, because the life is in the blood.” Years later, The Watchtower (December 1, 1944) stated: “Not only as a descendant of Noah, but now also as one bound by God’s law to Israel . . . the stranger was forbidden to eat or drink blood, whether by transfusion or by the mouth. (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:10-14)” In succeeding years, matters became even clearer.
The Watchtower of July 1, 1945, clarified the Christian position on blood. Among other things, it pointed out that, though blood transfusion dates back to the ancient Egyptians, the earliest reported case was a futile attempt to save the life of Pope Innocent VIII in 1492, an operation that cost the lives of three youths. More significantly, this issue of The Watchtower showed that God’s law on blood as given to Noah is binding upon all mankind and that Christians are required to abstain from blood. (Acts 15:28, 29) Summarizing, The Watchtower said:
“Seeing, then, that the Most High and Holy God gave plain instructions as to the disposition of blood, in harmony with his everlasting covenant made with Noah and all his descendants; and seeing that the only use of blood that he authorized in order to furnish life to humankind was the use of it as a propitiation or atonement for sin; and seeing that it was to be done upon his holy altar or at his mercy seat, and not by taking such blood directly into the human body; therefore it behooves all worshipers of Jehovah who seek eternal life in his new world of righteousness to respect the sanctity of blood and to conform themselves to God’s righteous rulings concerning this vital matter.”
The Christian’s stand on blood transfusions had now been clearly defined. Samuel Muscariello was confronted with a test of his integrity on this matter. Blosco Muscariello tells us: “Shortly after getting out of prison [where he was confined for his Christian neutrality], my younger brother, Samuel, contracted the kind of strep throat that results in uremic poisoning. The doctors prescribed an operation—with blood transfusions, of course—giving him two years at the most to live without the operation and the blood. Sam walked out on them. This was in the year 1947. . . . Besides the Watchtower statement [one that they had particularly noted], the words of [visiting] Brother Sullivan at the prison kept ringing in our ears . . . ‘the taking of blood is wrong.’ In exactly two years, Sam was taken back to the hospital, dying. Under pressure, I went to his bedside and said, ‘Sam, they want to give you blood.’ Half drugged, half conscious, he tried to get out of bed [to avoid receiving blood, which never was administered to him] . . . our family, though saddened [by his death], was strengthened by Sam’s clear thinking and integrity to Jehovah even until death.”
In the early 1950’s an issue developed over the refusal of Jehovah’s witnesses to accept blood transfusions. On April 18, 1951, the state went to court in Chicago, Illinois, to take a child away from its parents so that doctors might give it a blood transfusion. Six-day-old Cheryl Labrenz was said to have a rare condition in which her red blood cells were being destroyed. According to the doctors, she would die if she did not receive a blood transfusion. As Christian witnesses of Jehovah, her parents, Darrell and Rhoda Labrenz, correctly viewed blood transfusion as a violation of God’s law and thus opposed it. They were concerned about their baby’s eternal welfare, for everlasting life is the prospect only of those adhering to God’s laws. But by court order blood was administered to Cheryl despite her parents’ protests.
The Labrenz case was but an early chapter in what has become a lengthy narrative. For more than two decades now Jehovah’s witnesses have been in the spotlight because they have shown respect for God’s law on blood. Marie M. Greetham remembers well what happened to her brother, Dan Morgan. A terminal cancer patient, three times he was discharged from a veteran’s hospital in New York city because he staunchly refused to accept blood transfusions. When admitted a fourth time, he still refused to accept blood. Sister Greetham tells us: “This happened in August 1951 and Dan died in October 1951 at the age of fifty-four. Dan was so peaceful and happy. Just four days before he died, he explained to another sister how, very soon, he would close his eyes, but he was happy because he had been faithful and his reward was great, being one of the ‘little flock’ of Christ’s followers.”—Luke 12:32; Rev. 2:10.
But is death inevitable because a person rejects a blood transfusion? Certainly not! Consider the case of Gladys Bolton. She was told by her doctor that she had an aneurysm in the main artery leading to her spleen and that the spleen would have to be removed. She agreed to the operation on the condition that no blood transfusions would be administered to her. Though surprised, the doctor listened to her explanation and noted that she would not object to a ‘blood substitute.’ He agreed to operate without using blood and this was done on May 21, 1959. Before it was possible to remove the spleen, however, the artery ruptured and Sister Bolton lost over 70 percent of her blood. Though doctors and nurses in the operating room were calling for blood, her doctor held to his promise. She was unconscious for two weeks and in an oxygen tent for three, suffering one complication after another, but the doctor was very attentive and gradually Sister Bolton improved. She writes: “One day when we were alone, he said: ‘Mrs. Bolton, don’t ever give up your God Jehovah. From all medical history and records you should be dead right now. No one has ever lost that much blood and lived!’ I replied: ‘Doctor Davis, I have no intentions of giving up Jehovah, but Jehovah’s witnesses don’t teach divine healing today. We appreciate good doctors and nurses, and all of you have worked hard to keep me alive. However, because we obeyed Jehovah’s command concerning blood all of us have been blessed.’ He seemed happy with my reply and thanked me.” Sister Bolton was dismissed from the hospital on July 1, 1959.
Through the years, Jehovah God has graciously made bountiful provision for those who wish to adhere to his law on blood. In this constant flow of spiritual aid must be included the 64-page booklet Blood, Medicine and the Law of God, published in 1961. Have you used it to discuss this vital subject with your doctor?
PROMOTING TRUE WORSHIP
Jehovah’s servants know that if they are to enjoy divine favor they must engage in clean, undefiled worship. (Jas. 1:27) They need to be morally and spiritually clean. (Isa. 52:11; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) Properly, such points have been stressed by means of assembly talks, Watchtower articles, and the like, especially during relatively recent years as the world in general has sunk deeper and deeper into the morass of moral degradation.
In 1951, advocates of true worship learned something significant about the term “religion.” Some of them could well recall 1938 when, at times, they carried the thought-provoking sign “Religion Is a Snare and a Racket.” From their standpoint then, all “religion” was unchristian, from the Devil. But The Watchtower of March 15, 1951, approved of using the adjectives “true” and “false” respecting religion. Furthermore, the absorbing book What Has Religion Done for Mankind? (published in 1951 and released during the “Clean Worship” Assembly at Wembley Stadium, London, England) had this to say: “Taken according to the way it is used, ‘religion’ in its simplest definition means a system of worship, a form of worship, without regard to whether it is true or false worship. This agrees with the meaning of the Hebrew word for it, ’a·boh·dáh, which literally means ‘service’, regardless of to whom it is rendered.” Thereafter, the expressions “false religion” and “true religion” became common among Jehovah’s witnesses.
God’s people were determined to practice true religion and to remain morally and spiritually clean for Jehovah’s service. Particularly was this emphasized in The Watchtower of March 1, 1952, containing the highly significant articles “Keeping the Organization Clean,” “Propriety of Disfellowshipping” and “Sin Making Reinstatement Impossible.” This journal showed that it was proper to expel an unrepentant baptized wrongdoer from the Christian congregation. (1 Cor. 5:1-13) If the sinner later repented, it was pointed out, reinstatement was possible.—2 Cor. 2:6-11.
This was not the first time The Watchtower had mentioned expulsion of unrepentant sinners from the congregation. From 1952 onward, however, the need to maintain the spiritual cleanliness of the Christian congregation was especially stressed. The passing of years also brought increasing awareness that merciful treatment of repentant ones was essential. (Jas. 2:13) Often, therefore, overseers have brought about spiritual restoration of erring ones before matters have deteriorated to the point that expulsion from the congregation was required.—Gal. 6:1.
Christians do not associate with disfellowshipped persons in a spirit of brotherhood. Nor do they tolerate wickedness among themselves. But what if disfellowshipped individuals forsake their wrong course? Highly pertinent to that question are the articles “Divine Mercy Points the Way Back for Erring Ones” and “Maintaining a Balanced Viewpoint Toward Disfellowshipped Ones,” appearing in The Watchtower of August 1, 1974. These show that such disfellowshipped persons can be given real encouragement to get reestablished on the road to life.
Playing no small role in keeping the organization clean have been a number of assembly talks. For instance, L. E. Reusch especially mentions the 1964 assembly discourse “Keeping the Organization of Public Servants Pure, Chaste,” as delivered by F. W. Franz. Says Brother Reusch: “He illustrated a young girl of easy virtue as being like a dirty towel in a public washroom. Frank, straight language on morals spelled things out in plain talk. . . . what marvelous timing—wise counsel in preparation for the avalanche-like decline of morals since then!”
The flow of sound Scriptural counsel has continued unabated through the years. Spiritually speaking, the publications have shown Jehovah’s people the proper way in which to walk.
EXPANDING THE KINGDOM WITNESS
During the 1950’s pronounced efforts were made to expand the work of declaring the Kingdom message. In fact, a very significant step was taken in 1951. Speaking at an assembly in Washington, D.C., in October 1951, Brother Knorr disclosed that nearly 50 percent of the counties in the United States (1,469 out of 3,062) were completely unworked or were receiving only a partial witness. But this would change. Regular publishers and pioneers would be assigned to work in these territories during June, July and August of 1952. This met with an enthusiastic response. Similar work in isolated territories has been carried on up to our present time.
A further notable step in advancing the Kingdom witness marked the 1957 “Life-giving Wisdom” District Assemblies. Writes Marie Gibbard: “At this time we first heard the expression ‘serve where the need is great.’ Families could, in effect, do missionary-like service. This was a new concept in service that opened doors of opportunity to individuals and families who could not take advantage of Gilead School training and enter the formal missionary field.”
Many Christians who have moved to places in the United States or abroad where the need for Kingdom preachers was greater than in their former congregations have been able to encourage and upbuild fellow believers, aid new ones to gain knowledge of God’s truth or even share in the establishment of a congregation.
LEARNING TO BE BETTER PREACHERS OF THE GOOD NEWS
“Everyone should be able to preach the good news from house to house,” declared Brother Knorr, citing that as a primary objective among Christians. He made that remark on July 22, 1953, at the international New World Society Assembly. Jehovah’s witnesses had used phonograph recordings and testimony cards to preach the good news in years past, but that was not being done now. Yet there was a need for more training. As he spoke on the subject “Principal Work of All Servants,” Brother Knorr announced a new house-to-house training program. Circuit and district servants (overseers) would have much to do with it, but all appointed servants in the congregations would render aid so that each Kingdom publisher might become a regular door-to-door proclaimer of the good news. While visiting a congregation, the circuit servant would select experienced house-to-house preachers to work with new and inexperienced ones in the training program. This far-reaching provision for qualifying more Christian witnesses had its start on September 1, 1953, and soon was in full swing.
“The training program . . . was a very fine thing,” says James W. Filson. “Some who were timid were helped to reach out. Some who felt that they could do only one thing, such as magazine work, were helped to try to have a part in other features [of God’s service]. In trying to help others, many improved their own abilities.”
BOLDLY WIELDING THE “SWORD” OF THE SPIRIT”
Christians must be qualified to wield “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.” (Eph. 6:17) In this, the training program was of great aid. With the passing of time, various outlines for suggested three- to eight-minute house-to-house sermons and ten- to fifteen-minute sermons for use on return visits were published by the Watchtower Society in the monthly service instruction bulletin Informant and its successor Kingdom Ministry. Some Witnesses later found it easier or more convenient to use short sermons based on one scripture, such as Isaiah 2:4 or John 17:3.
To Walter R. Wissman the giving of Bible sermons in house-to-house witnessing and on return visits “was a milestone in our theocratic progress.” Increasingly the public identified God’s people with the Bible. R. D. Cantwell remarks: “It wasn’t long until there was heard less and less of the old charge at the door that Jehovah’s witnesses were ‘book salesmen.’”
“What a grand improvement we have made in our house-to-house service!” exclaims Myrtle Strain. “No more is there need of a card to hand the people to read, or a need to play a record, or to go in and spend an hour telling them the whole outline of God’s purpose. Now we have all learned how to give a short sermon at the door, well prepared with a set theme, backed up by two or three pointed scriptures. We can use many short sermons, all based on important, timely scriptures. Moreover, we are anxious to draw the householder out in the conversation.” Whether accepting the message or not, people thus have been given a witness.
EXPOSING A FALSE LIGHT
While Jehovah’s witnesses were becoming more proficient in using the Holy Scriptures at the doors of the people, they had lost none of the fiery enthusiasm that had characterized their activities of past years. Thus, early in 1955, Jehovah’s witnesses fearlessly declared a message that exposed a false spiritual light.
On Sunday, April 3, 1955, a bold proclamation of judgment was delivered against Christendom, and, in fact, the entire system of false religion. This was done by the simultaneous delivery of a public address by Christian speakers in many languages throughout the earth. That powerful lecture entitled “Christendom or Christianity—Which One Is ‘the Light of the World’?” was heard by over a half million persons.
Jehovah’s servants were eager to let the people know that Christendom is a false light. In time, the Watch Tower Society met the great demand for this message in booklet form by publishing 22,000,000 copies in thirty languages. Eager to share in its distribution, thousands of new publishers participated in the field service for the first time during April 1955. That month an all-time peak of 625,256 Kingdom publishers was reached throughout the world. In late July 1955, Jehovah’s witnesses mailed letters and these forceful booklets to clergymen and editors.
“THE WORD”—WHO IS HE?
The exposure of Christendom’s false light certainly was not to the liking of many clergymen, but they had not received their last message from Jehovah’s witnesses. Not by any means! Many clerics were denying the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. Others claimed to advocate the Bible, but were teaching God-dishonoring doctrines. The Trinity was among these false teachings. In this regard—whether they liked it or not—clerics got a message from Jehovah’s Christian witnesses late in 1962.
It came in the form of a 64-page booklet entitled “‘The Word’—Who Is He? According to John.” In it the Trinity doctrine was exposed as being false beyond denial. The booklet was scheduled for special distribution during November 1962. Not only did Kingdom proclaimers offer it in their house-to-house work. They mailed each Protestant and Catholic clergyman a copy, along with a covering letter prepared by the Watchtower Society. Thus a tremendous witness was given, identifying the “Word” of John 1:1 as being, not God, but the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in his prehuman existence.
ASSEMBLIES ON THE MOVE
Contributing measurably to the development of needed Christian courage for the preaching work have been the regular assemblies of God’s people. Some of them have been unusual in a particular respect. They have been assemblies on the move, with some delegates traveling from place to place, even around the world. What a unifying effect such gatherings have had! Christians in one land may read of the experiences and activities of their fellow believers in other countries. But to meet them and share their company—even when language barriers exist—is truly a rewarding experience. Though they may be unable to communicate in the same tongue, when God’s people of different national and racial backgrounds meet together they do speak one language, the “pure language” of truth that God has graciously given to all those on earth who love him.—Zeph. 3:9.
Noteworthy among conventions on the move was the “Triumphant Kingdom” Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses during 1955. In but ten weeks thirteen assemblies were held in the United States and abroad, and many delegates journeyed to the various gatherings. One publication said that this was “probably the biggest mass movement of Americans through Europe since the Allied invasion during World War II.”
The Watch Tower Society had chartered forty-two planes and two steamships (the Arosa Kulm and the Arosa Star). These ships actually were floating convention halls because spiritually upbuilding programs were arranged on them daily for the benefit of the passengers.
One of the European assembly locations was the Zeppelinwiese in Nuremberg, where 107,423 persons gathered. “We in America were overjoyed,” says C. James Woodworth, “to learn that in the very place that Hitler had screamed ‘annihilation’ for Jehovah’s witnesses, these Christian people had the largest of all their ‘Triumphant Kingdom’ Assemblies! Where was Hitler?”
For Jehovah’s people, something very significant began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on June 30 and ended on September 8, 1963, in Pasadena, California. This was the “Everlasting Good News” Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses—actually an around-the-world convention held in over twenty-four cities. In all, 583 delegates took a whirlwind tour around the globe. The various travelers, taking slightly different routes, assembled with throngs of fellow believers in such cities as London, Stockholm, Munich, Jerusalem, New Delhi, Rangoon, Bangkok, Singapore, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Manila, Seoul and Honolulu.
Many delegates to the London assembly visited the British Museum. There, among other things, they saw the Nabonidus Chronicle, which helps to date Babylon’s fall in 539 B.C.E. Interesting, too, was a clay liver, used for divination in Babylonian religion.—Compare Ezekiel 21:21.
Conventioners who journeyed to Bible lands visited many sites of Biblical significance. When they saw the famed cedars of Lebanon, the plains of Moab, or the Valley of Hinnom, their appreciation of God’s Word was enhanced.
When traveling conventioners reached the Far East, they saw there, as elsewhere, effects of Babylon’s religious influence. At Wat Po in Bangkok, delegates saw a phallic symbol, before which barren women prayed in hopes of having children. Murals seen in Buddhist Wat Sakhet, also in that city, depicted both Nirvana and a hell of torment. The similarities between Dante’s Inferno and what conventioners saw depicted here made the common origin of the two religious ideas unmistakable.
Observing such features of false worship gave added meaning to the stirring assembly talk “Execution of Divine Judgment upon False Religion.” During that discourse listeners were taken back to ancient Babel (Babylon). When God confused the language of that city’s tower builders, they moved to other lands, carrying their unclean religion with them. It came to be practiced in various languages, and thus a world empire of false religion came into existence. Because of its origin in Babylon, the Bible book of Revelation terms it “Babylon the Great.” (Rev. 18:2) It was in connection with that moving discourse that assembly delegates received the new 704-page English book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules! Actually two volumes in one, its first section considers ancient Babylon’s relationship with Jehovah’s people; Part Two includes a verse-by-verse analysis of Revelation chapters 14-22.
VISUAL AIDS HELP TO MAKE DISCIPLES
In the months following the assembly, a thought-provoking motion picture was completed by the Society. “Powerful!” “Inspiring!” “Revealing!“ “Shocking!” These were typical reactions to this two-hour-long color motion picture “Proclaiming ‘Everlasting Good News’ Around the World.” This film features the globe-encircling 1963 “Everlasting Good News” Assemblies, where a total of 580,509 gathered to hear the outstanding public lecture “When God Is King over All the Earth.” But this movie is no mere travelogue. It shows clearly that a city now in ruins affects the lives of millions today. From that city—ancient Babylon—have sprung symbols and ceremonies that have permeated the way of life of nearly all earth’s inhabitants. Underscored is the urgency of abandoning Babylon the Great. Depicted are the warmth and love of true Christians, as displayed at their assemblies around the world. Viewers can see that there is an organization with which one should associate upon getting out of Babylon the Great. Accordingly, lovers of righteousness are urged to abandon the world empire of false religion and associate with worshipers of Jehovah.—Rev. 18:4, 5.
By 1963 the Watch Tower Society had been using modern-day motion pictures for a decade as visual aids in making disciples. Why, following the 1953 international assembly the Society released the engrossing movie “The New World Society in Action.” It was the first motion picture produced by the Society since the “Photo-Drama,” nearly forty years earlier. This hour-and-twenty-minute film proved to be a mighty instrument in acquainting viewers with the magnitude of God’s earthly organization, the tremendous amount of work turned out by the Bethel family, the activity of Jehovah’s witnesses in general, their large conventions and the smooth and efficient way in which the New World society was functioning. H. A. Cantwell states: “This was a wonderful means of helping newly interested persons to see just how large and extensive the organization is.”
“Happiness of the New World Society” and “Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses” were motion pictures released by the Society following the large conventions of 1955 and 1958. Jehovah’s servants also used the medium of motion pictures to counter the “God is dead” philosophy. In 1966 the Watch Tower Society produced the absorbing color movie “God Cannot Lie.” This faith-building film proved that God is alive and that he is working out his purposes for earth and man. Colorful motion pictures, interspersed with striking color illustrations, helped audiences to visualize principal Bible events and to grasp their significance for our day. “I enjoyed the movie,” said one person, “particularly because it used historical events that were in fulfillment of Bible prophecies as proof that ‘God Cannot Lie.’ For example, the various ruins shown exist for everyone to see that God did not lie. Seeing them made me more assured that God will not lie concerning what He has said will occur now and in the future.”
The motion picture “Heritage,” also produced by the Watch Tower Society in 1966, dealt with the various temptations faced by young persons today. However, Angelo C. Manera, Jr., remarks that it showed “what the youth of the New World society were doing and how they were overcoming these temptations and following a Christian course of action.” Unique in that it had a sound track, unlike other recent movies produced by the Society, it was shown by many television stations. So, thousands viewed it in their homes. “Heritage” also was presented at circuit assemblies and other public gatherings.
During recent years, circuit overseers have presented slide programs at public meetings while visiting congregations of God’s people. The first of these began to be shown in September 1970. Entitled “Visiting the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” it was designed to acquaint persons with God’s organization in a way that would motivate them to take proper action. Another of these slide presentations—“A Close Look at the Churches”—helped audiences to realize that the churches of Christendom are no place for those who love truth and righteousness. Not only would it make them want to disassociate themselves from the world empire of false religion; likely it would also motivate such individuals to share in aiding others to flee from Babylon the Great. These are but examples of slide programs presented by circuit overseers as visual aids toward imparting Scriptural instruction.
SOMETHING NEW AND THRILLING!
“Listen to Daniel’s Words for Our Day.” Do you remember that portion of the 1966 “God’s Sons of Liberty” District Assemblies? As delegates listened to it, a startling thing occurred. Different voices came over the loudspeaker, representing Daniel, the three faithful Hebrews—even angels. There was the sound of music, and the three Hebrews were given a final opportunity to bow to the image of gold set up by Nebuchadnezzar on the Plain of Dura. Firmly, however, they maintained their integrity, refused to bow, and experienced Jehovah’s deliverance.—Dan. chap. 3.
Here was a new and different way to impart Bible instruction. Assembly audiences felt as though they had been transported to ancient Babylon. They received a similar thrill from the presentation entitled “See Jeremiah’s Endurance, Needed in Our Day.” Indeed, the delegates did “see” the endurance of Jeremiah. A Bible drama, with actors in costume depicting the life and times of that Hebrew prophet of ancient Jerusalem, took place before their very eyes. The dramatic impact was heightened by sound effects. All in attendance became much more aware of Jeremiah’s ordeal and of his faithfulness—standing alone with a howling mob demanding his life. How this emphasized the trust that worshipers of Jehovah must place in their God! And how they were impressed with the need to endure in God’s service, even in the face of death!
The year 1966, then, was the beginning of something—a new way to teach at assemblies of God’s people. Through the years since 1966 Bible dramas have been a regular feature of large assemblies held by Jehovah’s people. Often these dramatizations have been presented earlier at graduations of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, the students portraying persons of ancient and modern times.
Considering the blessings and benefits of these dramatizations, James W. Filson remarks: “I feel that the Bible dramas have been an excellent aid in bringing home to us the lessons and counsel of the Bible’s record.” In fact, some have been moved by assembly dramas to confess wrongdoing and seek spiritual assistance.—Prov. 28:13; Jas. 5:13-20.
ADVOCATES OF GOD’S KINGDOM AND NO OTHER GOVERNMENT
Jehovah’s Christian witnesses give their allegiance to God’s kingdom. Repeatedly through the years they have demonstrated this. For instance, go back almost a quarter of a century to Tuesday, August 1, 1950—“Theocratic Devotion Day” at the Theocracy’s Increase Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In his discourse “The Increase of His Government,” Brother Knorr presented a mountain of evidence exposing as entirely false the charge made by religious adversaries that Jehovah’s witnesses support Communism. Not only had various parts of the United States government refused to place the Witnesses on the list of subversives and Communist fellow travelers, but the Watch Tower Society’s own published record since 1879 definitely proved that Jehovah’s servants are against Communism. Plainly, Brother Knorr showed that true Christianity does not pave the way for the rise and growth of atheistic Communism, but hypocritical Christianity does! It was after that message that the Society’s president proposed a declaration and resolution against Communism, which was enthusiastically endorsed by the convention audience of 84,950.
A few years later, during 1956 and early 1957, a petition was unanimously adopted by 462,936 delegates at 199 assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses from June 1956 through February 1957. From each assembly such a petition was directed to Nikolai A. Bulganin, then premier of the U.S.S.R. The petition described the harsh treatment experienced by Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia and Siberia. It asked that imprisoned Witnesses be freed and authorized to organize, and it requested that they be permitted to establish regular relations with their governing body and be allowed to publish and import Bible literature. The petition drew attention to the Kingdom-preaching work done by Jehovah’s witnesses, while disclaiming any political interests or affiliations on their part. Furthermore, the petition proposed a discussion between representatives of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and those of the Russian government. It suggested that a delegation of Witnesses be permitted to proceed to Moscow for this purpose, as well as to visit the various camps where witnesses of Jehovah were interned.
On March 1, 1957, a combined petition was signed and sent to the Russian government by the Watch Tower Society’s seven directors. The Communists never replied or made any acknowledgment of its receipt. Nonetheless, Russian witnesses of Jehovah have continued to speak God’s Word boldly as advocates of God’s kingdom and no other government.
Not only have Jehovah’s witnesses been staunch advocates of God’s kingdom; they have also drawn attention to the failure of Christendom’s clergy in this regard. So it was that a very significant resolution was adopted by God’s people on Friday, August 1, 1958, at the Divine Will International Assembly. Convention delegates had been urged to be present for the afternoon session, and 194,418 were on hand. They listened attentively as F. W. Franz, the Watch Tower Society’s vice-president, spoke on the subject “Why This Convention Should Resolve.” Brother Knorr followed him on the program, forcefully presenting a resolution that exposed Christendom’s clergy as the most reprehensible class on earth today. The document also reaffirmed the theocratic principles of Jehovah’s people, unashamedly proclaimed God’s kingdom by Christ as the sole means of salvation and strongly set forth the determination of Jehovah’s witnesses to preach about this kingdom in love, peace and unity, without letup, until Jehovah brings the witness work to a finale at Armageddon. Brother Knorr made the motion that the resolution be adopted as read, the motion was seconded, and as he put the question to the vast audience, there was a unanimous roar of Aye! in approval.
In time, 72,348,403 tracts containing this resolution were printed for worldwide distribution in fifty-three languages, most of this work being done in December 1958. Extensive circulation of this information also resulted when the resolution and its introductory talk were published in The Watchtower of November 1, 1958.
Was such distribution effective? Indeed it was. For example, Peter D’Mura writes: “In the spring of 1959 I met a young man who was moved by the resolution to learn the truth, become dedicated and later take up pioneering.” And C. James Woodworth comments: “Some who now are actively Jehovah’s dedicated, baptized witnesses right here in the congregations of Cleveland, Ohio, began their march out of Babylon the Great by reading this resolution and accepting the opportunity to study the Bible.”—Rev. 18:4.
Jehovah’s servants had an excellent opportunity to show that they were advocates of God’s kingdom and no other government in the year 1963, during the around-the-world “Everlasting Good News” Assembly. They enthusiastically adopted a resolution whereby they proclaimed their recognition of Jehovah as the Eternal Sovereign of the universe and their refusal to give idolatrous worship to the political image, the United Nations, as had the nations, which are being led by invisible wicked spirits to Armageddon. (Rev. 13:11-18; 16:14, 16) Rather, with the help of the angels under Christ and God’s holy spirit and Word, Jehovah’s witnesses were determined to continue declaring to all peoples the “everlasting good news” concerning God’s Messianic kingdom and his judgments. (Rev. 14:6) After its adoption by 454,977 persons at the “Everlasting Good News” Assembly around the world, this resolution was adopted at national assemblies. Also, it was published in The Watchtower of November 15, 1963, in sixty-six languages, giving it worldwide circulation.
With its introductory talk “Why We Should All Join in a Resolution,” this sweeping document took within its scope all seven plagues of Revelation chapter sixteen. It, therefore, included the judgment messages first declared in seven successive resolutions and related material presented at conventions of God’s people from 1922 through 1928. Hence, by this one comprehensive resolution, hundreds of thousands who had taken no part in adopting those earlier resolutions publicly declared themselves as favoring and supporting the outpouring of the plagues from Jehovah that were prophetically set out in Revelation chapter sixteen. Once again, Jehovah’s servants had also made it very clear that they were advocates of God’s kingdom and no other government or any political arrangement.
At the 1969 “Peace on Earth” Assemblies the sounding of the seven symbolic trumpets referred to in Revelation chapters 8-11 came under consideration in the discourse “Final Woes to Enemies of Peace with God.” That talk was followed by a powerful Declaration, forcefully showing that peace with the Creator would come only by means of his Messianic kingdom. By adopting the Declaration, Jehovah’s people maintained that God’s judgments are against Christendom. They proclaimed their complete neutrality regarding all political controversy and made it abundantly clear that they trust entirely in God’s kingdom and that they will not let up in preaching about it to all the nations until the end comes.
Jehovah’s Christian witnesses again showed that they were advocates of God’s kingdom and no other government during their “Divine Victory” International Assembly, held in various places throughout the earth from late June 1973 to January 1974. Jesus’ intriguing parable of the minas was spotlighted in one of the assembly discourses—“Gaining Wealth for Earth’s New King.” (Luke 19:11-27) Following this talk, the speaker presented a Declaration and Resolution, thereafter adopted by assembly delegates with a resounding Aye! Among other things, it pointed out that the 2,520-year-long Gentile Times began with the desolation of earthly Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. and came to their complete fulfillment upon “heavenly Jerusalem,” where Jesus Christ was installed as Messianic king in 1914 C.E. (Heb. 12:22) It was noted that the world of mankind needs further warning of the impending “great tribulation.” (Matt. 24:21) Jehovah’s Christian witnesses resolved to continue putting faith in the Divine Victory, sounding that warning and proclaiming God’s Messianic kingdom, the cure-all for distressed humanity.
It is, therefore, an established fact that Jehovah’s servants are advocates of God’s kingdom and of no other government. It is the good news of that kingdom that they preach world wide. Repeatedly, they have demonstrated their allegiance to God’s Messianic kingdom and this they continue to do throughout the earth.
SPIRITUAL FOOD AT THE RIGHT TIME
How have Jehovah’s Christian witnesses been able to maintain their strong position as advocates of God’s kingdom? How have they remained “firm in the faith” when others were losing faith? (1 Cor. 16:13) This has been possible because Jehovah God graciously has provided spiritual food at the proper time through the “faithful and discreet slave” class.—Matt. 24:45-47.
Consider the 1960’s as an example. Winds of religious and social change then were blowing throughout the United States. It was becoming increasingly common for many of Christendom’s clergy to view portions of the Bible as mythological. Also, to them its moral code was out of date. Furthermore, some were saying “God is dead.”
As the 1960’s wore on, social, psychological, political and economic factors fostered racial disorder, even violence, in the United States. For instance, what was termed the “long, hot summer” of 1964 witnessed the murder of three civil-rights workers in Mississippi, as well as unrest throughout the South. Northern cities were affected too. Some were rocked by riots. In the Los Angeles riots alone, of August 11-16, 1965, battles, looting and burning by mobs resulted in the death of thirty-five persons and damage estimated at $200,000,000.
Amid such winds of religious and social turbulence, Jehovah’s witnesses in the United States and other lands kept trusting in Jehovah and adhering to his Word. He, in turn, saw that they were properly directed. For example, during the “Courageous Ministers” District Assemblies of 1962, they benefited greatly from talks on “‘Be in Subjection’—to Whom?” “Subjection to ‘Superior Authorities’ Why?” and related topics. Later that year such vital information was published in The Watchtower. (See the issues of November 1 through December 1.)
It was made clear that the “superior authorities” or “higher powers” mentioned in Romans chapter thirteen are secular governmental authorities, permitted by Jehovah to hold their positions of responsibility at this time. All of God’s servants today were urged to be in relative subjection to the governmental superior authorities and not to flout the laws of earthly governments that do not conflict with God’s law.—Rom. 13:1-7; Acts 5:29.
“How wisely Jehovah directed us in relationship to the political rulers of the world!” exclaims L. E. Reusch, adding: ‘How could we possibly have known that 1964 would see the civil-rights issue ferment and boil over into riots in the streets and civil disobedience, violent and passive? . . . We might have found ourselves stuck with the same reasoning that the clergy have who have involved themselves in marches, protests and social issues of the day. Just right on time, in 1962, at the summer assemblies, we were fed ‘food at the proper time.’ [Matt. 24:45] . . . Clearly relative subjection was spelled out and has safeguarded our position before Jehovah and the political authorities he permits to exist until Christ Jesus’ Kingdom rule removes them.”
Yes, indeed, Jehovah God has supplied spiritual food in abundance. Why, just look at a shelf containing books that have been published by the Watch Tower Society in relatively recent years! There is the 1958 publication “Your Will Be Done on Earth,” dealing with the book of Daniel. A verse-by-verse consideration of the entire book of Revelation appears in the books “Then is Finished the Mystery of God” and “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules! “The Nations Shall Know that I Am Jehovah”—How? published in 1971, considers the prophecy of Ezekiel. And the fulfillment of restoration prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah is viewed from the twentieth-century vantage point in Paradise Restored to Mankind—by Theocracy!
Rich spiritual provisions have been made for old and young alike. Back in 1958, the book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained was published in simple language and profusely illustrated. In 1971 the 192-page book Listening to the Great Teacher further contributed to avoiding a ‘generation gap’! Here is a publication designed for parents to read with their children. And the book’s simple language and fine illustrations make youngsters feel it is ‘for them.’
EMPHASIS ON DISCIPLE-MAKING
Some of the Christian publications available to Jehovah’s people are especially designed to help them to carry out their commission to preach the good news and make disciples. (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20) “Let God Be True” was such a book, originally published in 1946. It was an aid dealing with basic Bible doctrines. Then in 1950 the book “This Means Everlasting Life” provided information on deeper Bible subjects and Christian living. Consider also the 416-page book “Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie,” published in 1965. As a basic Bible study aid, it has proved to be a helpful instrument in the hands of Kingdom proclaimers.
Jehovah’s servants are constantly being provided with things they need for their preaching and disciple-making work. Thinking back to the 1967 district assemblies, C. W. Barber mentions something he terms an “innovation.” He remarks: “Jehovah’s organization is always providing new thrills and joys. This time it was a new kind of campaign book, a small clothbound book entitled ‘Did Man Get Here by Evolution or by Creation?’ . . . this one was to be presented for twenty-five cents. Right from its introduction, it was apparent that it would have tremendous appeal to all thinking people.”
Millions of copies were placed by Kingdom proclaimers in the field service. During May 1968 special efforts were made to get it into the hands of educators, with excellent results. Marie Gibbard states: “A schoolteacher in White Plains, New York, is a baptized Witness today because a twelve-year-old student placed a copy with him and the interest was followed up.”
SOMETHING TO INFLUENCE THE WORK AHEAD!
Another noteworthy innovation came in 1968. When The Watchtower announced the “Good News for All Nations” District Assemblies, it stated: “On Friday something is planned that will not only delight you but also no doubt surprise you, for it will have considerable influence on the work that we will be doing during the years to come.”
Jehovah’s servants were curious. What could this new development be? The answer came after the powerful keynote speech “The ‘Good News’ of a World Without False Religion.” At its conclusion a new 192-page, pocket-size Bible study aid was released. This book, The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, was received with great delight. “Who Is God?” “Where Are the Dead?” “Why Has God Permitted Wickedness Until Our Day?” “The Last Days of This Wicked System of Things,” “Building a Happy Family Life,” “True Worship—a Way of Life”—these were some of the book’s absorbing chapters. The new publication would involve the student at every turn.
But there was something more to the surprise that was in store for assembly delegates. The new Truth book was to be used in a six-month Bible study program. Because of the way this publication involved the student, generally by the time he completed it he would take some action, either for or against the truth. No longer would one of Jehovah’s witnesses conduct Bible studies with an individual year after year without the student’s making definite spiritual progress, acting upon the knowledge gained.
A WELL-TIMED PROVISION
From 1960 to 1965 the annual baptism figure had been in the 60,000 bracket. In 1966, however, the number of those immersed was down to 58,904. Under the circumstances one might well have asked, Is the work slowing down? Time proved that it was not.
During the 1967 service year 74,981 persons were baptized. This was an upswing and it gave renewed reason for optimism. Then came 1968, along with the Truth book and the six-month Bible study program. “In the minds of many,” remarks Edgar C. Kennedy, “it was closely linked with the announcement two years before of the 6,000 years [of man’s existence on earth] ending in 1975.” C. W. Barber similarly cites “the shortness and urgency of the times,” terming 1968 as a “turning point,” and states: “Everywhere the brothers aroused themselves and went at this ‘easier’ method of spreading the good news, with vigor. The number of publishers started to climb again all over the earth. The listeners began to become doers of the work. . . . Truly Jehovah directed the bringing forth of this small but powerful disciple-making instrument.”
The book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life has had an astounding circulation. Did you know that it is now being published in ninety-one languages? Furthermore, in the six years since it was first released, 74,000,000 copies of it have come off the press. This Bible study aid has helped hundreds of thousands of persons to gain accurate knowledge of the Scriptures and to get “a tight grip on the word of life.” (Phil. 2:16) While the Truth book is not the only one used by Jehovah’s witnesses when studying the Bible with the people, doubtless the majority of the 1,351,404 home Bible studies currently being held by Jehovah’s witnesses in the homes of the people world wide are based on the excellent Scriptural material found in this publication.
A FLOOD TIDE OF LITERATURE ANNOUNCING JEHOVAH’S KINGDOM
Today the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom is being preached throughout the earth. And playing no small part in that work is a virtual flood tide of literature announcing Jehovah’s kingdom. Take The Watchtower as an example. Once known as Zion’s Watch Tower, its original edition (that of July 1879) consisted of only about 6,000 copies. Now, by 1975, the average printing of each issue is some 8,700,000 copies in 79 languages.
During the years since 1879 The Watchtower has undergone some changes in name and format. Originally it was known as Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Today its front cover identifies it as The Watchtower, Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom. For years, Watchtower covers were printed in black and white. Then, with the issue of January 1, 1939, a new colored cover was introduced. The journal then had larger, but fewer pages than it now contains. The issue of August 15, 1950, released at the Theocracy’s Increase Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, bore a different cover design, contained colorful illustrations and was increased from sixteen to thirty-two pages. Has The Watchtower contributed to theocracy’s increase? Indeed it has! Doubtless you will be amazed to know that from the 1942 through the 1974 service years alone 2,836,041,443 copies of The Watchtower have been published’.
Awake!, companion magazine to The Watchtower, is the successor of The Golden Age and Consolation. Since its first issue—that of August 22, 1946—Awake! has reflected sure hope for the establishment of God’s righteous new order in this very generation. This journal, too, is part of that great flood tide of literature announcing the Kingdom. Why, from the 1942 through the 1974 service years 2,600,751,501 copies of Awake! (and Consolation) have been printed!
Not to be overlooked is the flood tide of bound books that have announced Jehovah’s kingdom, including the 1973 volume God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached. It may surprise you to know that from 1942 through the 1974 service year the Watchtower Society has printed 352,513,470 bound books at its headquarters and by means of other printeries throughout the earth.
EXPANSION OF PRINTING FACILITIES
This ever-increasing flow of Bible literature has called for continued expansion of the Watch Tower Society’s printing facilities, not only in the United States, but also in various other places throughout the earth. It was back in 1927 that the Society moved into its modern fireproof structure of reinforced concrete at 117 Adams Street in Brooklyn, New York. With 70,000 square feet of floor space, that building seemed very spacious, but the acceleration of the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work has required expansion of the Society’s facilities.
A major step in this regard was disclosed by Brother Knorr on August 8, 1946, at the Glad Nations Theocratic Assembly. He informed his convention audience that there would be expansion of the Society’s printing plant and the Bethel home in Brooklyn. Thus property adjacent to the original plant was purchased, evacuated and then demolished. Excavation for the new factory began on December 6, 1948, and construction commenced in January 1949. When completed, this nine-story concrete addition almost doubled the factory floor space. By 1950 the Society’s printing plant at 117 Adams Street occupied an entire city block.
During 1954 the Watch Tower Society completed construction of a new building at 4100 Bigelow Boulevard, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Grant Suiter says, “This building is not only the Society’s registered office, but the center of the Pennsylvania corporation’s annual meetings, and therein is a Kingdom Hall,” used by certain congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses. One the Kingdom Ministry Schools was also conducted there for a number of years, up till May 4, 1974.
By the mid-1950’s the Kingdom-preaching work was increasing greatly in tempo. Some years earlier, in 1944, the Society had printed 17,897,998 copies of The Watchtower and Consolation (now Awake!). During 1954, however, the total was 57,396,810 copies. Hence, expansion of the Society’s facilities in Brooklyn, New York, was essential. By spring of 1955, therefore, excavation for a new factory began and in 1956 this thirteen-story plant was completed. Situated at 77 Sands Street, “The Watchtower Building,” as it was called, has 192,000 square feet of floor space, more than the factory at 117 Adams Street, to which it is linked by an over-the-street bridge. In 1958 the Society purchased a nine-story factory on an adjoining city block, and this has been used almost exclusively for storage.
The number of Kingdom proclaimers exceeded a million world wide by the mid-1960’s. Again the Society’s Brooklyn factory space was cramped. So in 1966, on a block adjoining its other plants, construction began on another large factory. That eleven-story structure, dedicated on January 31, 1968, added 226,000 square feet of floor space to the Watchtower factory complex. By then the Society’s Brooklyn factory buildings, suitably interconnected by bridges spanning the streets, covered four city blocks.
Late in 1969 the rate of expansion increased dramatically. On November 25, 1969, the huge, ten-building complex of the Squibb pharmaceutical plant in Brooklyn was purchased by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. This acquisition added 632,792 square feet of floor space to the Society’s headquarters facilities. C.W. Barber recalls watching some of the construction of the Squibb complex years ago. Though Jehovah’s organization had tried to get ground in that very location, the Squibb firm succeeded in acquiring it. According to Brother Barber, “Squibb ran into a lot of trouble, too, finding a footing for their buildings, as the ground was so sandy there.” He adds: “They finally erected a fine-looking group of buildings, and I used to think how good it would be if these belonged to the Society. So, lo and behold, it had come to pass!”
EXPANSION OF THE BETHEL HOME KEEPS PACE
As the Watchtower Society’s factory facilities in Brooklyn were expanded there was a corresponding need for expansion of the Bethel home. Hence, in 1950 a twelve-story addition to the home was completed. But the headquarters staff continued to increase. So, on December 8, 1958, there began the demolition of the old buildings on the site of a proposed Bethel annex, a building on Columbia Heights in Brooklyn. Construction on it began in 1959, and before long the twelve-story Bethel addition was completed. Its dedication took place on Monday evening, October 10, 1960, in the new building’s beautiful Kingdom Hall. On hand were members of the Bethel family and brothers who had worked on the structure, making a total of 630 persons. The headquarters staff itself had grown from 355 in 1950 to 607 in 1960.
In 1965 the locale of the Bethel home—the Brooklyn Heights area—was named New York city’s first “Historic District.” Though the Society had desired to erect another twelve-story residential building, it cooperated with the Landmarks Preservation Commission and limited its construction. The fronts of three old structures were allowed to remain and a seven-story home was wrapped around behind these and tied into them. This new building at 119 Columbia Heights was dedicated on May 2, 1969. Next to it is a large apartment house owned by Jehovah’s witnesses, and much of it has been used to accommodate members of the headquarters staff. Incidentally, by the end of the 1970 service year the Bethel family (including regular and temporary workers in Brooklyn and at the Society’s farms) had grown to 1,449 persons. Additionally, seventy students of Gilead School then lived at headquarters, bringing the total to 1,519. To help to accommodate so many people, the Society leased three floors of the nearby Towers Hotel.
Yet, expansion of facilities has not been limited to these developments. “In 1964,” says Grant Suiter, “the Society took steps toward the eventual sale of a portion of the Kingdom Farm property, including the buildings previously utilized by the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead [near South Lansing, New York].” A few years later the sale was completed. So the size of the farm was reduced.
In the meantime the Board of Directors of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., had purchased farm facilities near Pine Bush, New York. The original farm of 811 acres was acquired there in 1963, becoming known as Watchtower Farm. A fine residence building was completed there in 1968, and other construction followed. In time another farm was acquired nearby. Today the two Watchtower Farms cover 1,698 acres.
On the Watchtower Farms, vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy items are produced to feed members of the Society’s headquarters staff. Moreover, among the numerous structures on farm No. 1 are two factories. Factory No. 1 has four rotary presses, each capable of printing 12,500 magazines per hour. In factory No. 2 there is sufficient space for paper storage and fourteen more rotary presses besides much other equipment. Six rotary presses are already in operation there, making a total of ten presses in the two factories. When completed, these plants will provide about 400,000 square feet of floor space. By October 1974, over 460 regular and temporary workers were serving at the Watchtower Farms.
Not only has the Watch Tower Society expanded its printing facilities in the United States. Expansion has been the watchword throughout the earth. Jehovah’s witnesses now have printing plants in Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland. In fact, Jehovah’s people have thirty-seven printeries around the world. And, from 1955 until now they have increased the number of their large rotary presses earth wide from nine to sixty-four. Certainly, printing facilities are available to meet the growing demand for Bible literature.
Why has all this expansion around the globe been undertaken? It is because those shouldering responsibility for such decisions in Jehovah’s organization are interested in helping people to gain knowledge of the Scriptures. Is that your objective too? Doubtless it is, if you are one of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Members of the headquarters staff share such desires. That is why they have been working diligently to produce Bible literature. Their combined efforts during the 1974 service year made it possible to produce, in the United States alone, 268,509,382 copies of The Watchtower and Awake!, as well as 13,874,957 booklets, 45,189,920 books and Bibles, and 261,387,772 tracts.
To whom must the credit go for all this theocratic expansion? This is not the result of mere human planning and earnest effort. The credit must go to Jehovah God, who makes things grow. He is the One who has prospered the efforts of his people in preaching the good news of the Kingdom.—1 Cor. 3:5-7.
MARKING A CENTURY OF DIVINE DIRECTION
By the year 1970 a century had passed since Charles Taze Russell and a few associates began meeting for earnest, prayerful study of the Scriptures. Through all those decades, Jehovah’s servants had enjoyed spiritual enlightenment and divine direction. Octogenarian Edith R. Brenisen has been associated with Jehovah’s organization for a good many of those years. As she attended one of the 1970 “Men of Good Will” District Assemblies, she was deeply moved. Sister Brenisen writes: “When at the 1970 assembly in Boston, and seeing that huge crowd at Fenway Park, I recalled the first one-day convention I went to in 1902 at Park Square, Boston, to hear Brother Russell give a talk. That was truly a mere handful. Incidentally, that is where I first met Brother Macmillan. I cannot describe my feelings as I sat there, in Boston, sixty-eight years later and gazed upon that great crowd of Witnesses surrounding me. As in the earlier days, when so few in number, the same holy spirit, zeal and love for Jehovah filled our hearts.”
At that year’s assembly, the chairman’s opening address was entitled “One Hundred Years of Divine Direction.” Margaret Green recalls that it “made us think back on what we had read about the organization in the 1870’s and its small beginning and the unbelievable growth for the past 100 years.”—Compare Zechariah 4:10.
YIELDING TO DIVINE DIRECTION
Jehovah’s servants were determined to continue yielding to divine direction. They gave clear evidence of this at their five-day “Divine Name” District Assemblies of 1971. These exalted the name Jehovah and provided education regarding obedience to the divine principles for which that name stands. Among other things, information was presented concerning further theocratic alignment of the modern-day Christian congregation.
But before we consider the organizational developments brought to the fore at the 1971 district assemblies, we do well to take a look at the past. Something very notable occurred in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. First, let us go back some three decades.
“THE THEOCRACY IS OF AGE”
September 30 to October 2, 1944, were highly significant days for God’s people. Thousands of them met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Theocratic Convention and the Annual Meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Among the convention’s features were the discourses “Theocratic Organization for Final Work,” by T. J. Sullivan, “Theocratic Organization in Action, by F. W. Franz, and “The Theocratic Alignment Today,” given by N. H. Knorr. The theme of those discourses emphasized the importance of the business to be transacted at the annual meeting that year. Hence, thousands remained in Pittsburgh for the Society’s business meeting on Monday, October 2, 1944.
“Here I met and visited with Brother Van Amburgh for the last time,” says W. L. Pelle. “His first remark when he saw me was, ‘Brother Pelle, the Theocracy is of age.”’ But why would the Society’s aging secretary-treasurer make a remark like that? Because of the developments on that occasion.
Of principal importance was the passing of six resolutions proposing changes in the Watch Tower Society’s charter by amendments. The first amending resolution proposed the enlarging of the Society’s purposes so as to assume properly the great worldwide work ahead. Among other things, it put the divine name “Jehovah” in the charter. The third eliminated entirely the charter’s provision that fixed membership on the basis of monetary contributions made to the Society. Upon its becoming effective, membership would be limited to not more than 500 men, all chosen on the basis of their active service to God. As The Watchtower of November 1, 1944, put it: “This amendment will have the effect of bringing the charter as near to Theocratic arrangements as the law of the land permits.” All six amendment resolutions (involving Articles 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 10) were adopted.
Though Jehovah’s people did not then realize it, what they did organizationally in 1944 evidently had Biblical significance. Daniel’s prophecy had foretold that for 2,300 “evenings and mornings,’ or days, a symbolic ‘small horn’ (the Anglo-American World Power) would trample Jehovah’s theocratic “holy place” as represented by Jesus’ anointed followers on earth. (Dan. 8:9-14) This occurred during World War II.
At the beginning of the foretold 2,300 days the two-part article “Organization” appeared in The Watchtower (June 1 and June 15, 1938). In the first part it was said: “Jehovah’s organization is in no wise democratic. Jehovah is supreme, and his government or organization is strictly theocratic.” Part two presented a resolution that congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses adopted, calling for appointment theocratically of all officiating servants in all congregations, from the top down.
If counted from June 1, 1938, the 2,300 days extended to October 8, 1944. Or, if reckoned from June 15, 1938, they ended on October 22, 1944. At the end of that period, theocratic organization again was emphasized by the organizational talks and adjustments at the convention and annual meeting of September 30 to October 2, 1944, at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in articles on theocratic organization published in The Watchtower of October 15 (“Organized for Final Work”) and November 1, 1944 (“Theocratic Organization in Action” and “The Theocratic Alignment Today”). Hence, at the end of the trialsome 2,300 days God’s servants showed themselves stronger for Jehovah’s theocratic government by Jesus Christ than they ever had been. As foretold, the “holy place” then was “restored to its rightful state.”—Dan. 8:14, Revised Standard Version; see The Watchtower, December 1, 1971, pages 711-728.
APOSTOLIC CONGREGATION STRUCTURE
Now let us return to the “Divine Name” District Assembly of 1971. Especially important were portions of the program that dealt with the governing arrangement of the early Christian congregation.
Recent studies of the Biblical, apostolic congregation structure had been undertaken by the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses. Brought to light was the need for some modern-day adjustments. Whereas in recent years one mature Christian man had served as congregation servant, or presiding overseer, and was assisted by appointed “servants,” the apostolic method of governing each congregation was by means of a body of elders. (Acts 20:17-28; 1 Tim. 4:14) Also, during the first century C.E. there evidently had been a rotating of chairmanship within a congregation’s body of elders. It was therefore deemed fitting to have a different chairman of the body of elders serve each year where there is more than one elder in a congregation.
CHOOSING ELDERS AND MINISTERIAL SERVANTS
The governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses sent each congregation an instructive letter about selecting the “body of elders,” as well as ministerial servants. According to that letter of December 1, 1971, all baptized men of the congregation twenty years old and upward were considered. (See Ezra 3:8.) Brothers participating in discussions concerning elders and ministerial servants prepared well, considering the articles “Theocratic Organization Amidst Democracies and Communism,” “Appointed Officers in the Theocratic Organization” and “A ‘Body of Elders’ with Rotating Chairmanship,” appearing in The Watchtower of November 15, 1971. Additionally, there was careful study of the January 1, 1972, Watchtower articles entitled “Who Is Wise and Understanding Among You?” and “Appointed Elders to Shepherd the Flock of God.” And, to the extent that time permitted, the brothers had read material in Aid to Bible Understanding under the headings “Older Man,” “Overseer” and “Minister.”
When members of the congregation committee and other qualified brothers met together, prayer was said. Among other things, they read and considered qualifications for elders and ministerial servants as set out in God’s Word at 1 Timothy 3:1-10, 12, 13; Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Peter 5:1-5. “Many for the first time truly faced themselves,” remarks R. D. Cantwell, “and all felt keenly the obligation before Jehovah to be honest in their appraisal of self and others. A few had to disqualify themselves. This arrangement has brought out an honesty and humility that would have been impossible except for this forward step in understanding of Bible principles of organization.” (Even in years prior to this, however, the Bible’s requirements were the basis for determining who would be entrusted with responsibility in the congregation. See Counsel on Theocratic Organization for Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 19; Preaching Together in Unity, p. 26.)
Finally, after an analysis of qualifications possessed by brothers in the congregations, recommendations were submitted to the governing body. After August 1, 1972, the congregations began to receive letters appointing overseers and ministerial servants.
RECOGNITION OF DIVINE RULERSHIP
While Jehovah’s people anxiously awaited full implementation of this congregational arrangement, those in the United States, Canada and the British Isles attended the 1972 “Divine Rulership” District Assemblies, held between the latter part of June and late August. At these gatherings divine rulership commanded paramount attention.
One of the significant assembly releases was the new 192-page book Organization for Kingdom-preaching and Disciple-making. Among other things, it outlined the improvements being made in the structure of the Christian congregation. The Organization book and the assembly program combined well to point out the practical aspects of such reorganization and to demonstrate how these would work out.
Recognition of divine rulership was stressed at these district assemblies, as in the public talk “Divine Rulership—the Only Hope of All Mankind.” Delegates realized that to gain eternal life they must personally recognize Jehovah’s rulership. However, the new Organization book and various assembly program features highlighted the importance of congregational recognition of divine rulership.
GOVERNING BODY SETS THE EXAMPLE
But suppose we now turn the clock back to Monday morning, September 13, 1971. At seven o’clock members of the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters staff are seated at their respective places throughout the various dining rooms of the Brooklyn Bethel home. They are ready for the usual discussion of the day’s Bible text, to be followed by breakfast. It has always been customary for the Society’s president to preside at these discussions when he is at headquarters. Today Brother Knorr is home at Bethel, but he is not at the head of the table. Instead, F. W. Franz, the Society’s vice-president, is presiding over the morning text discussion. Why? Because the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses has instituted the arrangement of rotating its members on a weekly basis with regard to conducting the morning Bible text discussions and the Bethel family’s Monday night Watchtower study.
At Brooklyn Bethel, then, a rotation procedure had its beginning a year before a similar arrangement was put into effect in congregations of God’s people in general. But the arrangement went farther than this. According to a resolution adopted by the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses on September 6, 1971, its chairmanship was to rotate annually by alphabetical arrangement. So it was that F. W. Franz became the chairman of the governing body for one year as of October 1, 1971. Appropriately, the governing body set the example in putting into effect the new organizational arrangement.
“THIS IS GOD’S DOING”
Reflecting on the new congregational arrangement providing for elders and ministerial servants, Roger Morgan was moved to say: “This is God’s doing.” Doubtless others will agree, since they may have considered the resulting benefits. The first shifting of responsibilities began in September 1972, and by October 1 the arrangement of things in most congregations had been adjusted. In many cases, the former assistant congregation servant became the presiding overseer, the previous congregation servant became the Theocratic Ministry School overseer, and so forth. Here was proof that Christians recognize Jehovah’s rulership, his way of doing things in the congregation of his people. Each year the elders in a congregation would rotate to various positions, and they would work together as a body, having in mind the spiritual welfare of the congregation and the need to cooperate with one another in shepherding the flock of God allotted to them.—1 Pet. 5:2.
Many are the benefits of the new congregational arrangement. For instance, Edgar C. Kennedy feels it “could be the means of stronger solidarity in the event a congregation was separated from the governing body for a period of time.” “This is most certainly an unusual advancement in Jehovah’s organization, observes Grace A. Estep, “and shows how well he is preparing his people for the time beyond this system of things.” Not without good reason, in its report on the 1972 district assemblies, The Watchtower remarked: “Truly, Jehovah is bringing his congregated people into an organizational condition in which they will be able to ride out Armageddon into God’s new order under divine rulership.”
“DIVINE VICTORY” INTERNATIONAL ASSEMBLY
Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have given abundant evidence that they yield to divine direction and willingly submit to divine rulership. From late June 1973 to January 1974 they held a globe-encircling international convention that plainly showed that they anxiously await divine victory. Generally five-day gatherings, the numerous conventions of this worldwide event took place in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, Middle and South America, the South Pacific and Africa. Many of God’s people traveled to distant lands, there to share the spiritually upbuilding assembly program with their fellow believers of other countries. Usually, only daytime sessions were held, enabling delegates to return to their lodging places early and eliminating travel after dark in areas where this might be inadvisable. Evening hours were often spent reviewing assembly highlights.
Among this assembly’s many fine features was the absorbing discourse entitled “Keep Close in Mind the Presence of the Day of Jehovah.” How forcefully it showed that Christians should not mentally push off the day of Jehovah! Deteriorating world conditions and theocratic organizational developments, with the arrangement for elders and ministerial servants, as well as the rapid influx of those who will compose the “great crowd,” indicate that Jehovah’s day is near. (2 Pet. 3:11-13; Rev. 7:9) Following this thought-provoking talk came a greatly appreciated printed release—the 192-page book True Peace and Security—From What Source?
The printed assembly releases included the Comprehensive Concordance of the New World Translation the Holy Scriptures and the 416-page book God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached. Heart-cheering, indeed, was the public address “Divine Victory—Its Meaning for Distressed Humanity.” Boldly attention was focused on the universal war of Har–Magedon, in which Jehovah will vindicate himself with divine victory. It was shown that under the driving force of unclean inspired expressions the “kings of the entire inhabited earth” are being gathered to a war against God over rulership of the earth. (Rev. 16:13-16) Hence, one must take a stand on one side of the issue or the other. Only those siding with Jesus Christ, the King of kings, will be spared. They alone will be witnesses of the divine victory and will join in the celebration that follows it.
At the nineteen “Divine Victory” International Assemblies held during June and July 1973 throughout the continental United States, 15,851 symbolized their dedication to Jehovah God by submitting to water baptism. In all, at these gatherings 665,945 met to enjoy the rich spiritual blessings provided by Jehovah for his people. World wide, 140 conventions were held, at which 81,830 persons were baptized and there was a total attendance of 2,594,305. What a cause to express gratitude to the Divine Victor!
SPECIAL WORK SPURS INCREASE
There was, however, another very important feature of the “Divine Victory” International Assemblies. Months in advance The Watchtower had said that the program would focus considerable attention on the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. It added: “A special work will be outlined and demonstrated. All congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses world wide will be sharing in it during specified dates following the assembly.” What was this special work?
The answer came after the convention’s keynote speech, “Victory over the World Without Armed Conflict.” It was followed by the release of a four-page tract, Kingdom News No. 16, entitled “Is Time Running Out for Mankind?” A free packet of eight tracts went to everyone in the audience above the age of twelve years who was interested in distributing them. Ten days—September 21 through 30—would be set aside for distribution of these tracts, the speaker pointed out. They would be handed to the people personally in house-to-house work, copies being left under the doors if no one was at home. The Watch Tower Society would send tracts to every congregation on the basis of 100 for each publisher. It was desired that every dwelling receive a copy; so free distribution of millions was certain. Jehovah’s people were delighted with the prospects of doing this special work in proclaiming the Kingdom.
So it was that during the last ten days of September 1973 Jehovah’s witnesses in the United States, as elsewhere, distributed Kingdom News No. 16 by the millions of copies. On December 22 through 31, 1973, they again engaged in mass distribution of Kingdom News. This time it was No. 17, posing and answering the question “Has Religion Betrayed God and Man?” On May 3 through 12 they went through their territories again, with Kingdom News No. 18, this time featuring the crucial question “Government by God—Are You for It or Against It?”
Many who know the truth of God’s Word have been moved to share the good news with others by engaging in distribution of Kingdom News. Why, during September 1973, in the United States (except Alaska and Hawaii) 512,738 Kingdom publishers participated in this work. And reports indicate that they distributed 43,320,048 copies of Kingdom News No. 16. In December the amazing total of 525,007 shared in distribution of Kingdom News No. 17; that was 103,112 more publishers than had shared in field service just a year earlier. And in May 1974 there were 539,262 workers in the field service!
Experiences show that Kingdom News distribution really has spurred the work of disciple-making. For instance, two publishers left a copy with a gentleman and went their way, only to be hailed by him later. Upon returning to his home, they met his wife, who had found the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life in a trash can. She had not been able to sleep because she realized that things it said were being fulfilled. This led to a Bible study. The woman began attending Christian meetings regularly and progressed to the point that she participated in later Kingdom News distribution and was planning to be baptized.
A copy of Kingdom News kindled the interest of two long-haired fleshly brothers who smoked, took drugs and played in a rock ’n’ roll band. Soon both of them were studying the Bible with the Witness who had placed the tract. They cut their hair, stopped smoking and using narcotics and made rapid spiritual progress. Just three months after receiving a copy of Kingdom News, they were engaging in field service, placing the next issue with others. Both were baptized in December 1973, and shortly thereafter were enjoying temporary pioneer work.
GATHERING A “GREAT CROWD”
The apostle John beheld a “great crowd” from all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues, standing before the throne of God and rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple. (Rev. 7:9, 15) These individuals with earthly hopes heartily have supported the anointed followers of Jesus Christ in their God-given work of proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom. How thrilling it has been, as a result, to observe thousands upon thousands stream to the ‘mountain of Jehovah’s house’!—Isa. 2:2-4.
These who have gathered into the courtyards of ‘Jehovah’s house’ have dedicated themselves to Jehovah God and symbolized this by water immersion. Not long after listening to the talk “Baptism According to the Divine Will,” 7,136 of such individuals were immersed in New York city on July 30, 1958. There had been nothing like it since Pentecost of 33 C.E. (Acts 2:41) Surely that baptism in 1958 was not something the world could ignore, for H. L. Philbrick wrote not long ago: “The press carried fine pictures of the great number who were being baptized . . . All readers of the newspapers had to get the impression that Jehovah’s witnesses were no longer to be viewed as a small ‘sect.’ The truth was on the march!”
Jehovah’s people have not been interested in mere numbers. What is important is that baptismal candidates understand what they are doing. That is why there was great appreciation for a provision made in the book “Your Word Is a Lamp to My Foot,” published in 1967. On pages 7 to 40, it contained eighty Scriptural questions, to be discussed by mature brothers with prospective baptismal candidates. “After they studied the eighty questions with the aid of the congregation committee,” observed Brother and Sister Earl E. Newell, “they realized that their dedication and baptism was one of a lifelong course and the responsibility that went with it was not to be taken lightly.” The more recent book Organization for Kingdom-preaching and Disciple-making (published in 1972) makes a similar provision for discussion of Scriptural questions with those who are considering baptism. As various elders of the congregation conduct these sessions with each individual, those contemplating baptism are afforded an opportunity to express themselves on Biblical matters and weigh their relationship with Jehovah God. Such a provision has helped to make true disciples.
Consider briefly just how the making and baptizing of disciples has increased. In 1968 the number for the year was 82,842. During the years 1969 to 1973, a total of 792,019 individuals were baptized. As enthusiastic efforts to gather the “great crowd” continue, many thousands are being baptized every year. Why, during the 1974 service year alone, 297,872 persons were immersed in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah God! What a thrill it is for God’s people to share in this wonderful ingathering work to Jehovah’s praise! Today there are more than two million Christian witnesses of Jehovah preaching the good news of God’s kingdom.
“KEEP ON THE WATCH”
Jesus Christ emphasized the need for his followers to remain alert and on the watch respecting his coming to execute judgment against the wicked system of things. He did so by likening the disciple to a doorkeeper whom his master commanded to watch for his return from a trip abroad. “Keep on the watch,” was Jesus’ wise admonition.—Mark 13:32-37.
The “Divine Purpose” District Assembly did much to engender a sense of urgency and an attitude of heightened spiritual watchfulness on the part of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. Throughout the United States, Canada and the British Isles upward of eighty-five such assemblies were held from June to August, 1974. These gatherings certainly helped God’s people to recognize just where they are living in the stream of time.
Three moving Bible dramas taught their forceful lessons. The need to guard against lack of faith dramatically was brought to the fore as conventioners focused their attention on the Israelites, freed from Egyptian bondage and wandering in the wilderness. Another dramatization centered attention on 1 Kings chapter 13, and showed the perils linked with not listening to divine authority. And, how moving was the portrayal of the apostle Paul’s life and works as a Christian! It filled viewers with renewed zeal for the worship and service of Jehovah God.
How can one be safeguarded against such things as materialism, demon influence and exploitation by false religion? The answers were there in the moving discourse “Safeguarded by Faith and Hope That Are Fixed on Jehovah.” That assembly talk was followed by the release of a new 192-page book entitled “Is This Life All There Is?” it directs powerful blows against Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, while also giving readers sound reasons for believing that there is much more than this life. This book builds faith in Jehovah’s promise of life in a righteous new order and the grand resurrection hope.
The anointed followers of Jesus Christ and their companions with earthly hopes want to serve the divine purpose. They know that it will not fail, and that conviction was embodied in the title and contents of another printed assembly release—the book God’s “Eternal Purpose” Now Triumphing for Man’s Good. There truly are valid reasons for putting confidence in God’s purpose. Especially were these made clear at the assembly’s climax, when the public talk was delivered on the subject “Human Plans Failing as God’s Purpose Succeeds.” This and other vital information thrilled the hearts of the 891,819 persons attending the 69 “Divine Purpose” District Assemblies in the United States.
Jehovah’s witnesses in the United States, as elsewhere, know that men will make continued efforts to stabilize a tottering world. But no matter how grandiose human plans may seem to be, and how loud men’s assurances that these will succeed, Jehovah’s people know that only God’s purpose will triumph and they thank him for their grand privilege of declaring his Word and Kingdom.
Significantly, Isaiah’s prophecy says that “in the final part of the days” the mountain of Jehovah’s house will be firmly established above the top of the mountains and many peoples will stream to it. (Isa. 2:2-4) We now are in “the final part of the days”! The appearance of increasing throngs of the “great crowd” should impress us with the urgency of the times. This is not the day for Jehovah’s servants anywhere to be complacent, listless, or inactive. They have a work to do!
Just think where we are in the stream of time! Its importance was deeply impressed on our minds back in 1966. God’s people then received the absorbing book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God. It did not take long for most of them to note the chronological chart in it that identified 1975 as the “end of 6th 1,000-year day of man’s existence (in early autumn).”
This certainly raised questions. Does this mean that Babylon the Great will go down by 1975? Will Armageddon be over, with Satan bound, by then? ‘It could’ acknowledged F. W. Franz, the Watch Tower Society’s vice-president, after posing similar questions at the “God’s Sons of Liberty” District Assembly in Baltimore, Maryland. However, he added, in essence: ‘But we are not saying. All things are possible with God. But we are not saying. And don’t any of you be specific in saying anything that is going to happen between now and 1975. But the big point of it all is this, dear friends: Time is short. Time is running out, no question about that.’ Among other things, Brother Franz urged: “Let us make the most of the time and get in all the good hard work to Jehovah while the opportunity affords.”
Some years have passed since then, but this has only heightened the urgency of the preaching work. Jehovah’s servants know that they have not dedicated their lives to God until a certain year. They are his dedicated people forever! Today the entire world of mankind is God’s field of work, and that work is urgent. What a privilege Jehovah’s people enjoy as his fellow workers in that field, making known God’s purposes and provisions for salvation! With deep appreciation for Jehovah God’s undeserved kindness, determinedly these dedicated Christians press on in their activities, “working together with him.”—1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 5:18–6:2.
With the help of God’s holy spirit, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses in the United States will continue to serve their heavenly Father faithfully along with their fellow worshipers earth wide. May all of us demonstrate unwavering loyalty to Jehovah. May we remain alert, active, as the end nears. We must “keep on the watch.” This is not the day for spiritual sleepyheads! It is the time for wakefulness, diligence, faithfulness, in serving the Divine One whose marvelous and incomparable purpose cannot and will not fail.