To fully understand and comprehend "Who really are Jehovah's Witnesses?", or "What kind of persons are Jehovah's Witnesses?", one must first have a basic understanding of the relatively short history of the WatchTower Society. Simply take a few minutes to read this brief history summary, and you will understand exactly "who is" that Jehovah's Witness with whom you are interacting.
Jehovah's Witnesses originated in the 1870s -- in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jehovah's Witnesses are an offshoot sect from the "Second Adventist" religious movement -- which itself had originated in the 1830s. In the mid 1830s, a Baptist minister in Vermont, named William Miller, began proclaiming that he had figured out through study of Bible prophecy exactly when would occur the centuries awaited "Second Advent of Jesus Christ". William Miller prophesied that the "Second Advent" would occur between Passover 1843 and Passover 1844. Over the following decade, hundreds of traveling lecturers from differing Christian backgrounds (most were Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Disciples/Christians, etc) joined together with William Miller in his "Millerite Movement", in order to "save" as many people as was possible. By 1843, as many as 150,000 Americans (most from northern states) publicly professed belief that soon would occur the "Second Advent of Jesus Christ".
When the "Second Advent" had not occurred by Passover 1844, a little known Millerite named Samuel Snow thereafter proclaimed that he had figured out the EXACT DATE of the "Second Advent" -- October 22, 1844. William Miller refused to endorse such right up until the first week of October 1844, when he did so only due to the acceptance of Snow's prophesy by nearly the entire Millerite community -- which was mainly due to the promotion of that EXACT DATE by a Millerite lecturer named George Storrs. George Storrs was not liked by William Miller, because George Storrs not only was preaching the soon to be "Second Advent", but Storrs also was promoting amongst the Millerites his own heretical teachings of "soul sleep" and "conditional immortality". Today's Jehovah's Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Advent Christian Church all received their "soul sleep" and "conditional immortality" doctrines from George Storrs.
As if prophesying the EXACT DAY of the "Second Advent of Jesus Christ" was not sufficient, about a week prior to October 22, 1844, George Storrs attempted to promote nationwide the belief that the "Second Advent of Jesus Christ" would occur EXACTLY at 3:00 A.M. on October 22, 1844 (originated by one of George Storrs' fellow Philadelphia area Millerites). George Storrs proclaimed that all "true believers" should flee outside of every city and town before 3:00 A.M. on October 22, 1844, because at 3:00 A.M. GOD was going to destroy every city and town across the planet just as GOD once had done to Sodom and Gomorrah. Decades later, in the early 1870s, elderly George Storrs became a mentor to young Charles Taze Russell -- the founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
After these multiple failures to predict the exact year, the exact day, and the exact hour of the "Second Advent of Jesus Christ" through the study of Bible prophesies, the vast majority of Millerites returned to their local churches -- where was taught that only GOD knew the exact day, hour, and year of the "Second Advent".
However, the more hard-core Millerites continued to believe that the timing of the "Second Advent" could be discovered through even closer study of Bible prophecy. After 1844, those hardcore Millerites began to segregate themselves into separate "Second Adventist" subgroups based on their other/ancillary religious beliefs. (The labels "Adventist" and "Second Adventist" were applied not only to "Millerites", but also other persons and religious groups across the planet who attempt to predict the timing of the "Second Advent of Jesus Christ".) The largest subgroup of former Millerites became the separate denomination known as the "Seventh Day Adventists", which required members to believe and practice that Saturday was the true Sabbath. The second largest subgroup of former Millerites was the "Advent Christian Association", which did not believe in the Trinity, Hellfire, nor Immortal Soul doctrines. Initially, in an attempt to compete with the larger SDA church, the "Advent Christian Association" was a loose confederation of "Second Adventists" with varying ancillary religious beliefs solidified by a core of "Second Adventists" whom once had been members of the "Christian Connection". Over time, the fringe elements of the ACA were ran off, with the resulting "Advent Christian Church" eventually becoming smaller and smaller. A third subgroup of former Millerites were those whom returned to their local churches, including William Miller himself. They became known as "Evangelical Adventists". This subgroup quickly disappeared because their "Second Adventist" time beliefs were not welcomed in the orthodox churches. "Evangelical Adventists" either shut up, or left and rejoined one of the other "Second Adventist" subgroups. A fourth very small category of former Millerites were several small "Church of God" subgroups *** -- from one of which Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God developed in the early 1900s.
Various "prophets" from these multiple "Second Adventist" offshoot sects continued to predict the "Second Advent of Jesus Christ" to occur for various dates in the latter 1840s, in the 1850s, in the 1860s, and in the 1870s. In the 1860s, there was a large spike of "Second Adventist" Prophets -- especially from England -- who set different dates for the "Second Advent of Jesus Christ" to occur from 1864 to 1868. After the failure of that latest flurry of "Second Adventist" predictions, and the negative public backlash from such, most "Second Adventist" leaders swore off the SETTING OF DATES, and simply preached that the "Second Advent" was "imminent", and would occur sometime in the very near future.
However, there remained one lone "Second Adventist" preacher, named Nelson Barbour, who refused to give up on SETTING OF DATES. Nelson Barbour proclaimed 1873-74 as the newest and latest date for the "Second Advent of Jesus Christ". Nelson Barbour's DATE-SETTING "Second Adventist" movement attracted roughly 15-20,000 bored "Second Adventists" who were unable to kick the "Date Prediction Addiction". One of Barbour's leading supporters was a "Second Adventist" preacher named Jonas Wendell, who pastored the Advent Christian Church in Allegheny (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania. It was around 1869 that a Pittsburgh teenager named Charles Taze Russell first went to hear Jonas Wendell preach that the "Second Advent of Jesus Christ" would occur in 1873-74.
Despite Charles Taze Russell's years-later "claimed" rejection of Jonas Wendell and "Second Adventism", between 1869 and 1875, the Russells and the Conleys (see below) apparently immersed themselves in the study of Second Adventism -- particularly Nelson Barbour's 1873-74 predictions. Russell also was tutored by Jonas Wendell's associate and friend, George Stetson, who also was an Advent Christian Church Evangelist and Pastor. Later, in 1879, George Stetson even chose fellow Second Adventist Charles Taze Russell to preach his funeral, which was attended by 1200 prominent Second Adventists from across the country. During the mid-1870s, Russell also was tutored by George Storrs, who was by then a forced "independent" Second Adventist due to a lifetime of failed beliefs and failed Second Adventist affiliations.
After Nelson Barbour's predictions for 1873-74 failed, Barbour attempted to retain his followers (and more importantly -- their financial support) by claiming that Jesus Christ had in fact already "returned" to the "vicinity of the earth" in October 1874, and that Christ was "present", but "invisible". Barbour claimed that the "Second Advent" was actually a 40 year long process, during which Christ was making necessary preparations for His "visible" return in October 1914. Since most "Second Adventists" were by then worn out from having been disappointed multiple times before, most "Second Adventists" left Nelson Barbour to his delusions.
Despite Charles Taze Russell's years-later insinuation that he was unaware of Nelson Barbour, Barbour's teachings, and Barbour's publications, until around January 1876, it literally would have been impossible for Russell to have followed Barbour's 1873-74 Movement without knowing all about Nelson Barbour. As of yet, we don't know how much the Russells and the Conleys bought into the 1873-74 predictions, but we do know that as soon as Nelson Barbour began revamping his teachings after the 1874 failure that Charles Taze Russell quickly became a follower. January 1876 was NOT the date that Charles Taze Russell first began to consider Barbour's teachings. Rather, 1876 saw the finalizing of Russell's investigation of Nelson Barbour, which ended with Russell's belief that Nelson Barbour was a prophet from God. Charles Taze Russell financially backed Nelson Barbour's stalled ministry, and became Assistant Editor of Nelson Barbour's "Second Adventist" magazine. To reinvigorate their Second Adventist base, Barbour and Russell began preaching that the RAPTURE of the remaining living 144,000 heavenly co-rulers would occur on Passover 1878. After that latest date prediction failure, Russell and Barbour started squabbling over some other doctrinal interpretations.
In 1879, Charles Taze Russell split from Nelson Barbour and started publishing his own "Second Adventist" magazine, called ZION'S WATCH TOWER and HERALD OF CHRIST'S PRESENCE to publish "The Truth" that Jesus Christ had already returned "invisibly", back in 1874, and would return "visibly" in October 1914. (Interestingly, since 1872, another one of George Storrs' proteges had already been publishing his own monthly, then-existing religious magazine named THE WATCHTOWER. George Storrs, himself, had earlier published a book entitled The Watch Tower, in 1858.) Having stolen both Nelson Barbour's teachings and Barbour's mailing list, Charles Taze Russell gradually attracted hundreds of his own Second Adventist "Date Prediction Addicts".
In 1881, Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was legally formed with William Henry Conley as its First President. Henry Conley was a well-to-do prominent Pittsburgh steel industry businessman, who along with his wife, Sarah Conley, and the Russell family -- Joseph (father), Charles, and Margaret (Charles' sister) were the "***Five Original Bible Students" -- sometimes vaguely referenced by today's WatchTower Society -- who gave rise to today's worldwide WatchTower Empire of over 7,500,000 followers. The Conley family and the Russell family had been meeting and worshiping together since around 1870. Despite the two family's decade-long fellowship, in latter 1882, Henry and Sarah Conley disassociated themselves from the Russell family and the WatchTower Society after Charles Taze Russell once again COPIED some fellow "Second Adventists" who had started denying the Deity of Jesus Christ. (***There has been at least one instance when the WatchTower Society has stated that there were SIX original Bible Students. So be it. The Conleys adopted a relative's daughter in the mid-1870s. PS: Any researcher who fails to note that William Henry Conley went by "Henry" has not done their homework.)
Interestingly, Charles Taze Russell's sister, Margaret Land, also eventually disassociated herself from the WatchTower Society after the death of her brother. Thus, three out of the "Five Original Bible Students" whom founded the WatchTower Society eventually rejected it -- a fact that the WatchTower Society conveniently forgets to mention in its publications. Additionally, Charles Taze Russell's wife, Maria F. Russell, the couple's "foster daughter", Rose Ball, and Rosa's husband, Ernest C. Henninges, all three of whom were once Directors and/or Officers of the Watch Tower Society, all THREE disassociated themselves from the WatchTower Society while Charles Taze Russell was still alive. And, YES, there have been THREE*** female members of the "Governing Body". Click here to read additional historical information found in our CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL DIVORCE WEBPAGE.) Of Charles Taze Russell's three nieces and one nephew, one niece rejected the WatchTower Society during Russell's lifetime, and the remaining three relatives did so after Russell's death.
Henry Conley, the First President of the WatchTower Society, eventually rejoined the Presbyterian Church, and also eventually became a Patron and National Board Member of the then inter-denominational Christian and Missionary Alliance, all while Henry Conley continued to believe in and preach the imminent"Second Advent of Jesus Christ" -- while also embracing the CMA's "Faith Cure" teachings.In fact, the CMA, which was a precursor of the Pentecostal Movement of the early 1900s, was also embraced by many other disillusioned "Second Adventists", many of whom later switched back to the DATE SETTING "Second Adventist" WatchTower Society after Charles Taze Russell's October 1914 Prediction started to pick up steam in the early 1900s.
After the WatchTower Society's First President William Henry Conley rejected the WatchTower Society in latter 1882, it only puttered around up until the turn of the century. Despite the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of books and magazines SOLD by Charles Taze Russell since the mid-1870s, only around 2600 followers of Russell attended local Memorial celebrations in 1899. (10% of those lived in the greater Pittsburgh area, and 30% lived within 300 miles of Pittsburgh. CTR even acknowledged that the vast majority of his "groups" actually were individuals or couples, and their children or other relatives.) However, with Charles Taze Russell's prediction that Jesus Christ would "visibly" return in October 1914 nearing the foreseeable future Charles Taze Russell's by-then own personal religious movement took on new momentum in the early 1900s. By 1914, there were roughly 15-25,000 "International Bible Students", with varying degrees of interest and loyalty affiliated with the Watch Tower Society. When Charles Taze Russell's predictions for October 1914 failed, he simply repeated what his "Second Adventist" predecessors had done decades earlier. C. T. Russell reset the date for Jesus Christ's "visible" return for October 1915. However, even before October 1915 arrived, Charles Taze Russell had already started losing what eventually amounted to half or more of his personal followers -- including losing their financial support.
Charles Taze Russell died a dejected man in October 1916 -- interestingly on Halloween (and probably a drug addict given multiple historical "hints" that Russell had been addicted to painkillers his entire adult life). More interestingly, Russell suddenly and unexpectedly died on the return train trip back to Brooklyn from California, where Russell had traveled to conduct unknown business activities at his unsuccessful "Secret Gold Mine". [Charles Taze Russell was a longtime speculator in drilling and mining of coal, oil, and natural gas. In a 1898 court decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court even labeled Charles Taze Russell "an experienced oil operator". Click here to go to our separate FINANCIAL BIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL.] Given the recent failure of C. T. Russell's trademark prophecy in October 1914, which was quickly followed by the failure of C. T. Russell's revised prophecy in October 1915, both of which were then followed by two failed mining seasons at C. T. Russell's SECRET GOLD MINE, which C. T. Russell thought he had been led to by GOD to refinance his nearly "bankrupt" religious empire, it is a reasonable speculation that Charles Taze Russell may have committed suicide -- either by overdosing on the painkillers that Russell always kept with him, or by Russell simply refusing to seek obviously needed medical care. (Read Menta Sturgeon's highly propagandized and highly contradictory account of the trip -- which failed to identify their visit to Russell's Secret Gold Mine on Friday night through Saturday night -- and ask yourself why the supposedly practically-dead Russell and Sturgeon stayed at a Los Angeles Hotel all day long Sunday, conducted a meeting Sunday night, and afterwards boarded a train for a grueling cross-country train ride, rather than staying put in Los Angeles and seeking professional medical care. Russell's trip-long conduct and "symptoms" were as much consistent with that of a heroin-morphine-cocaine abuser as that of a cystitis sufferer.)
"For fifty years [Charles Taze Russell] suffered constantly with sick headaches, due to a fall in his youth, and for twenty-five years had such distressing hemorrhoids that it was impossible for him to rest in the easiest chair; ... ." -- THE FINISHED MYSTERY, page 57. (Tylenol and Advil did not exist in the 1800s. For those readers who do not get the significance of a 19th century religious "guru" being in constant pain -- FOR DECADES -- we suggest reading the book, In the Arms of Morpheus: The Tragic History of Morphine, Laudanum and Patent Medicines. That book will provide the reader with all the info the reader needs to figure out where Charles Taze Russell found his "inspiration".)
Although nearly "broke" financially, the Bureaucracy of the WatchTower Society remained, as did several thousand diehard followers, who then began to teach that Charles Taze Russell was still running the WatchTower Society -- now, from heaven. Charles Taze Russell's lawyer and confidante, the falsely publicized "Judge" Joseph Franklin Rutherford (JUDGE RUTHERFORD FINANCIAL BIOGRAPHY WEBPAGE), emerged from an internal power struggle to succeed Charles Taze Russell as the THIRD President of the Watch Tower Society, and leader of its scattered followers. Joseph F. Rutherford needed to both fire up the troops and fill the coffers, so he quickly had a new book published in 1917 which did just that, entitled THE FINISHED MYSTERY. Labeling it Charles Taze Russell's posthumous work, "Judge Rutherford" set a series of new dates in which he predicted the destruction of the world's religious organizations in 1918; the disintegration of all governments and organized society into chaos from 1919-21; followed by the beginning of Christ's millennial reign on earth. Given the ongoing war in Europe, and the United States being gradually drawn into such, THE FINISHED MYSTERY sold like hotcakes.
By the time the United States entered the war in mid 1917, the Watch Tower Society had also moved beyond the bounds of a "neutral" position on the war, and had began actively impeding the war effort. Joseph F. Rutherford and seven other Watch Tower leaders were convicted and imprisoned by a JURY for violating the Espionage Act of 1917. During the UNITED STATES v. RUTHERFORD ET AL trial, WatchTower Society Corporate Secretary William F. Hudgings PERJURED himself and was also sent to prison. That scenario gave rise to the HISTORIC very first and only SCOTUS decision which involved a WatchTower Society Officer. The Great War ended in 1918, and like many other radicals convicted and imprisoned under that same law, the WatchTower Society's leaders were released from prison in 1919 after the very Judge Howe who presided over their jury trial publicly advocated their being "forgiven", and released from prison -- a fact that the WatchTower Society has repeatedly failed to disclose in its multiple "assassinations" of Judge Howe's character over the decades. ("Character Assassination" has long been one of the "specializations" of the WatchTower Society and its local followers the Jehovah's Witnesses. In fact, they are so good at it that they have convinced the general public that they are the supreme victims of character assassination, when in fact, "character assassination" was perfected under Charles Taze Russell, and thereafter mastered through decades of use by Russell's successors.)
Despite the fact that none of Joseph F. Rutherford's predictions for 1918, or 1919, or any other year had or were coming true, Rutherford rallied the troops, and again continued to fill the coffers by publishing revised predictions for 1920-5. "Judge" Rutherford's MILLIONS NOW LIVING WILL NEVER DIE prophesied that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be resurrected by 1925 to rule over the earth from the city of Jerusalem. As had always occurred previously, new prophesies brought new followers and new money. By the start of 1922, around 32,000 "Date Prediction Addicts" were again attending WatchTower meetings. By 1925, that number had skyrocketed to nearly 100,000. However, as had repeatedly occurred in the past, the failed 1925 prediction resulted in the loss of followers, and more importantly, their money. Less than 20,000 WatchTower Society followers attended the annual Memorial in 1928.
After 1925, Joseph F. Rutherford strung his remaining followers along by preaching "any day now". However, some of the remaining older diehard "bible students" who were still loyal to founder Charles Taze Russell were becoming displeased with the radical "Judge Rutherford". Eventually, a nasty guerrilla war for the control of the religion broke out between J. F. Rutherford and the "Russellites". The Russellites were no match for "Judge Rutherford", who was a sneaky, ruthless lawyer who had been caught multiple times in Boonville, Missouri committing THEFT and/or FRAUD for both his clients and himself, and who would now get his way within the WatchTower Society by hook or by crook. As a result, most of the older, longtime sincere"Bible Students" gradually left or were proactively kicked out during the 1930s.
After Joseph Franklin Rutherford came to work for self-styled "Pastor" Charles Taze Russell, in 1907, to serve as Russell's private Attorney, WatchTower Society Corporate Counsel, and WatchTower Society Traveling Lecturer, Joseph F. Rutherford was deceptively publicized as "Judge" Rutherford to the general public, so as to add prestige, credibility, and even intimidation, to each of "Judge" Rutherford's various activities. Thereafter, whenever reporters and others inquired about "Judge" J. F. Rutherford's background, they were told that"Judge" Rutherford had "practiced law" in Boonville, Missouri since 1889, and that "Judge" Rutherford also had been the "Public Prosecutor at/for Boonville, Missouri" for four years. There is no doubt but that the impression purposefully given reporters was that Rutherford had been THE publicly elected "Public Prosecutor" in Boonville, Missouri, as evidenced by newspaper articles expressing such as "fact".
In fact, "Joe" Rutherford, as he was known by Missouri locals, had begun "practicing law" as an Attorney in 1892, not 1889. In fact, there was no such position as "Public Prosecutor at/for Boonville, Missouri". In reality, from 1899 to 1902, "Joe" Rutherford had occasionally worked "when needed" as an "Assistant" to the actual"Prosecuting Attorney of Cooper County" -- Ernest Chambers -- who was Joe Rutherford's law firm partner at Draffen & Company.
Joseph F. Rutherford's background as a "Judge" in Cooper County Circuit Court was even weaker. J. F. Rutherford NEVER, EVER served as the "Circuit Judge" of Cooper County. Joseph F. Rutherford actually had run for the office of "Circuit Judge" of Cooper County in 1900, but he had been EASILY DEFEATED in the Democratic Primary. Joe Rutherford also had run for "State Representative" in 1896, but he had been DEFEATED in the Democratic Primary. Cooper county voters KNEW what kind of man was Joe Rutherford, and most did NOT like him. Missouri Law then provided that whenever a "Circuit Judge" could not make a scheduled court date that the local members of the Bar could elect one of their own to handle some of the Circuit Judge's routine duties for that day, as well as hear minor, routine cases. That generally meant that whichever local Attorney had no business before the court that day got to be "Special Judge" for an hour or so. In reality, practically every Attorney in rural Missouri got to be a "Special Judge" for a few days during their career. None of them would have ever dared to have assumed the title "Judge" for having done so, otherwise they would have been the laughing stock of their community. In the case of "Judge" Rutherford, he had served a grand total of four times as a "Special Judge" -- 2/17/1897, 6/3/1899, 3/15/1905, and 3/29/1905. Only two of those four times included hearing of minor, routine cases.
During this tumultuous time period, from the latter 1920s until his death in 1942, Joseph F. Rutherford dropped or changed many of Charles Taze Russell's last teachings. Many new teachings were added. Teachings dropped included those related to Zionism, pyramidology, and phrenology. The date of Jesus Christ's "invisible presence" was moved from 1874 to 1914. The start of the "last days" was moved from 1799 to 1914. The heavenly resurrection of Christ's co-rulers was moved from 1878 (originally 1874) to 1918. Etc. Etc. Joseph F. Rutherford also began to institute multiple measures intended to eliminate local autonomy of congregations and install absolute control from Brooklyn HQ.
By 1931, Joseph F. Rutherford needed to adopt a new name for his group of followers to distinguish them from the many other groups of "Bible Students" scattered throughout the United States and internationally who had split off from the WatchTower Society, yet retained Charles Taze Russell's teachings. Insinuated as an epiphany inspired by "Jehovah", Joseph F. Rutherford informed his followers that from henceforth, they would be called "Jehovah's witnesses". In actuality, this was nothing more than just the latest THEFT and FRAUD perpetrated by JOE RUTHERFORD, and the latest SCAM foisted on the mostly ignorant followers of the WatchTower Society.
Charles Taze Russell set the pattern by stealing Nelson Barbour's teachings and mailing list, and thereafter stole the name of his first magazine from another George Storrs' protege who already was publishing a magazine named THE WATCHTOWER, and even later stole the names PEOPLES PULPIT ASSOCIATION and LAYMENS HOME MISSIONARY MOVEMENT.
WatchTower President J. F. Rutherford followed Russell's pattern -- undoubtedly via his religious oracle and doctrinal interpreter, Frederic Franz -- by STEALING the biblical label "Jehovah's witnesses" from its rightful owner -- the Jewish people. As quietly acknowledged by the WatchTower Society itself, prior to their co-opting that "public use" label, "Jehovah's witnesses" had been used by early 20th century Christian Evangelist, Henry Allen Ironside, in his multiple Biblical commentaries and published sermons at least as early as 1911, or earlier, including the hand-written "Jehovah's witnesses" notation next to Isaiah 43:10 in Ironsides' own personal Bible. "Judge" Rutherford didn't even have sufficient imagination to at least capitalize the "w" in "witnesses", but instead even plagiarized the use of the lower case "w" in "witnesses", just as H. A. Ironside and other Christian and Jewish theologians had been doing for centuries.
Thereafter, "Judge" J. F. Rutherford stopped his own "Jehovah's witnesses" followers from celebrating both Christian and secular holidays. Joseph F. Rutherford also became radically "anti-government", and forbid all expressions of patriotism or other support for the government and the military. Joseph F. Rutherford also became radically "anti-Christianity". Previously, the WatchTower Society had viewed other denominations as simply deluded by Satan and needing the correction of the WatchTower Society, but now other denominations became "Satan's henchmen", and the arch-enemies of "Jehovah" and Jehovah's "chosen people" -- the WatchTower Society, and its loyal followers. (Interestingly, while cult founder Charles Taze Russell had attracted self-professed "bible students" as his grassroots followers, Rutherford and Knorr attracted grassroots social, political, and economic misfits and malcontents.) Click HERE to read about a Pentecostal Cult which Rutherford undoubtedly learned about during his incarceration in Atlanta in 1918-19 -- a strikingly similar Cult which likely "influenced" several of Rutherford's "changes" during the 1920s and 1930s.
During the emotionally unsettling times leading up to America's entry into World War II, "Judge" Joseph F. Rutherford ordered "Jehovah's witnesses" to picket and distribute anti-church literature outside of churches on Sunday mornings and evenings. Anti-government literature was distributed house-to-house and paraded on the sidewalks of Main Street America during shopping hours. Not surprisingly, Jehovah's witnesses were often verbally assaulted, and less often were physically assaulted. Joseph F. Rutherford was delighted with such negative reactions, and he routinely ordered out-of-state WatchTower "organizers" into such known "hot spots" to pursue public confrontations. This was a pre-planned intentional strategy to get "Judge" Rutherford's latest "WatchTower Gospel" in the newspapers and on the radio. Many small-town mayors unwittingly fell into "Judge" Rutherford's trap when they used local police and local ordinances to stop out-of-town and out-of-state WatchTower Society "organizers" from intentionally antagonizing and provoking the local citizenry.
Beginning in the 1930s, if "in-state" JWs first, and "in-region" JWs second, could not get local residents stirred up for a fight, "Judge" Rutherford (probably at the instigation of the ACLU) would send in out-of-region JWs to get the job done. Why was the infamous CANTWELL family, who were a pack of OZARK HILLBILLIES from Arkansas and Missouri, door-knocking Italian and Irish Catholic neighborhoods in New England, while trouble-making Italian and Irish JWs from New England were being sent to southern states to door-knock Baptist neighborhoods?
We recently discovered what probably initiated the eventual multiple harsh confrontations which occurred in central Indiana (a longtime KKK hotspot) during the late 1930s into the early 1940s -- including the running battle in Connersville, Indiana. One of the leading JW troublemakers was a male caucasian, age 32, originally from Connersville, whom had recently married a 55 year-old African-American JW female from Indianapolis. We suspect that this May - December mixed-race marriage had been particularly encouraged so that this white hothead and his much older A-A wife could travel around central Indiana to known KKK hotspots and intentionally antagonize and provoke those small, all-white communities surrounding Indianapolis.
Beginning in the latter 1940s -- again, probably under the direction of the ACLU -- Rutherford's strategy of antagonization and provocation was turned up several notches by President Nathan Knorr . Out-of-state African-American Jehovah's Witnesses -- many if not most being females -- were intentionally sent into northern "hot spots" which had no A-A residents so as to provoke the caucasian locals. Those out-of-state A-A Jehovah's Witnesses routinely carried concealed deadly weapons, and were not opposed to using such. After one such physical confrontation in a small town in rural Illinois, one local non-JW caucasian male had to be treated for three stab wounds to his back. (To read an excerpt from the NAACP magazine, CRISIS, about "negro" Jehovah's Witnesses and the 1950s WatchTower Society, tab down to the bottom of this same webpage.)
The resulting legal contests allowed the Watch Tower Society to take "cherry-picked" incidents and issues all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. Once there, time after time SCOTUS overruled local ordinances and state laws used to stop the Jehovah's witnesses from publicly distributing Rutherford's "gospel". From the latter 1930s through the 1950s, the Watch Tower Society won decision after decision. Civil libertarians hail Jehovah's witnesses as the group most responsible for the broad interpretation which today's courts give the civil rights and liberties found in the Constitution. [Click here to read some rarely publicized 1940s JWs court cases.]
Prior to Joseph Franklin Rutherford's death in January 1942 (due to cancer of the rectum), the WatchTower Society had taught that World War II was the start of events leading into Armageddon, which was to occur prior to the expiration of the 40 year generation of 1914, in 1954. However, just like what had occurred with Charles Taze Russell and Joseph F. Rutherford during World War I, none of the Watchtower Society's "prophesies" came true. However, the following "Cold War" gave the Watch Tower Society everything it needed for their fall-back message of "any day now". By the early 1950s, the new message was that 6000 years of mankind's existence would end in 1972, and that Christ's Millennium (seventh) would have to start sometime prior to such.
In 1966, the end of the 6000 years was revised from 1972 to 1975, and the Watch Tower Society went on a worldwide campaign of "insinuation" that Armageddon would occur in October 1975. The "October 1975" campaign was the most successful Second Adventist "Date Prediction Addicts" recruiting campaign since William Miller had predicted the end of the 6000 years and the Second Advent for 1843-4, and Nelson Barbour had predicted the end of the 6000 years for 1872 and the Second Advent for 1873-4. Although it had taken the Watch Tower Society from the 1870s until the mid-1960s to reach the 1,000,000th member mark, the "October 1975" campaign allowed the WatchTower Society to go from 1,000,000 members to 2,000,000 members in less than a decade.
After the failure of the "October 1975" prediction, some of those one million new "Date Prediction Addicts" were gradually lost, but overall there was a huge gain in membership -- with their financial support. Having had decades of experience at this "game", the WatchTower Society had already prepared its members for alternate dates just in case the "October 1975" prediction failed. Even prior to 1975, there had been insinuations that Armageddon might occur in October 1984 (adding 70 years "generation" to 1914) and October 1994 (adding 80 years "generation" to 1914).
With the advent of the internet and the birth of the "information age" in the 1990s, the past history and track record of the Watch Tower Society has been exposed to the world. Not surprisingly, over the past 20 years, the only notable growth in the number of members has either been in third-world countries, or immigrants from third-world countries. Even more significant is the impact that the internet has had on the next date for "Armageddon", which in past decades has been the "seed" for the next "harvest" of "Date Prediction Addicts".
In the December 1, 2003 WATCHTOWER magazine, the year 2034 was "trial-ran" as the next date for "Armageddon". That date was computed by Watch Tower Society leaders by adding the supposed 120 years that Noah preached until the Flood to the ever important 1914. The "2034 insinuation" evidently received little enthusiasm from the membership, because it has only been hinted at since. That date is simply too far in the future for those susceptible to the "Date Prediction Addiction". However, given human nature, and the fact that history will no doubt repeat itself, there likely will be a "world crisis" sometime in the near future which will allow the Watch Tower Society to fire up a new recruiting campaign grounded in a new date, be it 2034, or a closer date more likely to impact current followers.
Since at least the latter 1920s, the WatchTower Society has taught that Armageddon would occur on or before the end of the "generation" that was alive in 1914. First, the WatchTower Society added the Bible's 40 year generation to the year 1914, and arrived at October 1954. Then, even during the ongoing October 1975 campaign, they added the Bible's 70 year generation to the year 1914, and arrived at October 1984, and even added the Bible's 80 year generation to the year 1914, and arrived at October 1994.
Clara A.Taylor married a prominent Pittsburgh Russellite when Russell relocated WatchTower HQ to Brooklyn. Clara A. Taylor suffered a premature death. Widower remarried a local IBSA wife. They eventually opposed Rutherford's eventual purge of all things Russell.
Tellingly, only 1/3 of persons who are REARED as "Jehovah's Witnesses" in the United States
continue as "Jehovah's Witnesses" throughout their adulthood.
Numbers. The WatchTower Society typically only publicly reports statistics for "active" members, since it teaches that when Armageddon occurs, any member who is not "active" at that time may be judged by their god as not being a true "Jehovah's Witness", and thus will be destroyed along with all other non-JWs.
"Active" means those Jehovah's Witnesses who both regularly attend all of the weekly meetings, and more importantly, who regularly submit monthly reports documenting that they have performed recruiting activities during that month.
There are approximately 8,000,0000 "active" Jehovah's Witnesses scattered throughout the planet. Of that 8,000,000 worldwide total, only approximately 1,200,000 "active" Jehovah's Witnesses live in the United States.
Actual Exposure. In the United States, in addition to the 1,200,000 "active" Jehovah's Witnesses, there are another 1,500,000 persons who are people who claim to be Jehovah's Witnesses, but only irregularly attend meetings and/or perform recruiting, or are people who are non-members who are attending some WatchTower meetings (and possibly doing some recruiting) in contemplation of officially becoming Jehovah's Witnesses.
In addition to the 2.7 million Jehovah's Witnesses and potential Jehovah's Witnesses described above, there very well may be another 3 - 4 million Americans who once fit into one of the above categories at some point in their past. Many of these people still hold to some of the Jehovah's Witness beliefs and practices, and some may even occasionally identify themselves as "Jehovah's Witnesses". Thus, out of approximately 325 million persons in the United States, there may be 6 to 8 million persons who hold to some or all of the WatchTower Cult's beliefs and practices, and may even publicly profess to be "Jehovah's Witnesses".
For Employers, there tend to be more "Jehovah's Witnesses" percentage-wise living in heavier populated urban areas. Metropolitan employers can roughly estimate that there is one "JW" in any group of 75-100 employees or prospective employees. Employers in mid-size cities can roughly estimate that there is one "JW" in any group of 125-150 employees or prospective employees. Small town employers can probably expect that there is only one "JW" in any group of 300-500 employees or prospective employees.
Racial-Ethnic-Cultural Composition of Jehovah's Witnesses in the UNITED STATES. The Jehovah's Witnesses started out in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the 1870s, as an "Anglo-American" religion, amongst primarily Scottish, Irish, English, and Welsh immigrants, with a few Germans sprinkled in. Nearly the entire membership was of northern European extraction, and living in the United States and Canada.
By the early 1950s, to the consternation of WatchTower Cult leadership, a sociologist who had traveled around the United States studying Jehovah's Witnesses REPORTED FOR THE FIRST TIME that "about one half" of American Jehovah's Witness were "Negroes". In 1956, the NAACP published his findings (edited excerpt):
"Jehovah's Witnesses ... going from house to house with a message of impending ARMAGEDDON ... about half are Negro. ... ... ... ... [Watchtower] doctrines find a particularly fertile soil in the Negro community, ... .
"The Negro press carries a great deal of material about the organization, especially at times of [Jehovah's] Witness conventions. [Jehovah's] Witness doings are important news for these periodicals because the number of Negro [Jehovah's] Witnesses is comparatively large and their devotion and articulateness is unusually high. Their influence, consequently, far exceeds their numbers. ... But the quality -- that is to say the reliability -- of almost all this material is very unsatisfactory. Invariably, the [Jehovah's] Witnesses are falsely pictured to represent a racially integrated group, eager to practice the Christian ideal of racial equality.
The reason why so much wrong information finds its way into the Negro press is twofold: on the one hand, the [Jehovah's] Witnesses are interested in more and more Negro recruits, and they use professional public relations people to create a favorable impression in the Negro community. On the other hand, editors of Negro periodicals too often accept these publicity handouts freely and uncritically. The result is that the [Jehovah's] Witnesses are described to the Negro public, to quote some phrases plucked at random from Negro periodicals, as "God's army on the march" in which "love is the binding tie that holds the organization together", ... .
"... in Southern states, the [Jehovah's] Witnesses practice a very rigid racial segregation there. All Southern states, and most border areas as well, have separate [Jehovah's] Witness companies (local congregations) for Negroes and whites; ... as far north as Asbury Park, N.J., ... All over the South there are separate "circuits" ... for the two races, and in the Southwest there are actually three separate circuits: Negro, white, and Spanish. Until recent years, Negro [Jehovah's] Witnesses were not invited to the national [Watchtower] conventions of the [Watchtower] organization, ... .
"While ... about one half of the membership of the [Jehovah's] Witnesses is Negro, the leadership is almost completely white. When I visited [WatchTower] national headquarters in Brooklyn in 1952, I was told that there were only two Negroes in the headquarters staff of over four hundred, ...
"[WatchTower] periodicals ... reflect the true racial attitudes of the [Jehovah's] Witness leadership much more faithfully than do the press releases designed for public consumption. [AWAKE!] of April 22, 1953, counsels against inter-marriage between Negroes and whites. [THE WATCHTOWER], on April 15, 1953, and again on May 1, 1953, describes practices of African [Jehovah's] Witnesses in which races are kept apart as a matter of course ... . On October 8, 1953, [AWAKE!] carried an article defending the apartheid policy of the South African government, declaring that: '... if the color bar is breached, what new dike can stop a black flood from overflowing and destroying the civilization with which white men have displaced the wilderness?' ... .
"The question that remains, however, is why, with an atmosphere so obviously hostile to Negro integration, Negroes nevertheless find themselves attracted in such considerable numbers to the [Jehovah's] Witness organization. To understand this paradox we must, for a moment, concern ourselves with the nature and social sources of the sect as such. Jehovah's Witnesses constitute a PROTEST ORGANIZATION OF THE SPIRITUALLY DISINHERITED. People belong to it who have a vague and general feeling that the world is no good; for one reason or another, they think of themselves as having been left out of things. [Jehovah's] Witness doctrines make a powerful appeal to this feeling of being excluded. And given a world in which Negroes actually are excluded from many of the benefits of society, it is indeed not surprising to find many of them in this kind of protest organization.
"The protest of the [Jehovah's] Witnesses, of course, is so extreme and so irrational that not much good can possibly come from it. The [Jehovah's] Witnesses reject not only the particular order of things in our present world, but they reject ... the world as a whole, putting their whole trust in a future God-made holocaust which they deduce from their dubious interpretations of the book of Revelation. They have no fundamental interest in anything in this world: things as they are are to them simply irrelevant. That is why THEY PREACHED that it would not make any essential difference whether Hitler or the Allies won [World War II]; that is why they do not see any important difference between democracy and Communism. And that's why, also, their Negro members cannot get excited about injustice to their people, either in the country as a whole or in their own [Watchtower] organization. AFTER ARMAGEDDON, presumably, everything will automatically be straightened out, so why worry about any of the arrangements in the here and now, arrangements that according to [Watchtower] doctrine can only be temporary?
"In effect, the [Jehovah's] Witnesses have given up all hope in the potentialities of the human race. Their vision of [JEHOVAH GOD] is one in which Man is passive and has no say. For those of us who do not share this vision, there remains the task of making a better world through our own efforts. No results of ours, of course, can ever be as spectacular as the ARMAGEDDON of the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' fantasies; ... .
Little had changed by the early 1970s, when the New York Times reported:
"... Yankee Stadium ... 60,000 Jehovah's witnesses from New York and New England began a five day district assembly. ... perhaps half of them black ... . ... Officials said they could expect 30 baptisms for each 1,000 persons in attendance." -- NEW YORK TIMES, 7/01/1971.
Since the failure of the 1975 ARMAGEDDON prediction, the number of Jehovah's Witnesses in North America and Europe has gradually flatlined, with membership growth relegated to third world countries located in Africa, Central America, and South America, and amongst people who have illegally immigrated from those continents to North America and Europe.
By 2016, in the United States, people of northern European extraction no longer constitute the majority of the WatchTower Society's membership. Only 36%, or less, of Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States are "white", and most of these "white" Jehovah's Witnesses live in rural and smaller urban areas. In large urban areas, many non-JWs rarely if ever see a "white" Jehovah's Witness, and some urban non-JWs have even expressed the incorrect belief that "Jehovah's Witnesses" is an "African" religion. Approximately 26-33% (probably under-reported) of Jehovah's Witnesses living in the United States are "African-American", with most living in urban areas.
By 2025, or earlier, the steadily increasing number of "African-American" Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States will likely exceed the steadily decreasing number of "white" Jehovah's Witnesses, thereby pushing "whites" down to the smallest racial group of Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States, other than "Asians/Others".
By 2025, or earlier, due to the FLOOD of illegal immigrants from Mexico and other Hispanic-Latino countries, and the targeting by the WatchTower Cult of these poorly educated persons for recruitment, Hispanics/Latinos will surpass "whites" as the largest racial/ethnic group of Jehovah's Witnesses living in the United States. Currently, 32-35% (also likely under-reported) of Jehovah's Witnesses currently living in the United States are Hispanics/Latinos.
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EMPLOYMENT ISSUES UNIQUE TO JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES