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Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose


Setting the Pattern of Future Theocratic Assemblies

TOM: John, when you were here last you promised to tell us when you came again about some of the great conventions of Jehovah's witnesses of modern times.

JOHN: The conventions of the ancient Israelites were a pattern for us. They were commanded to assemble three times annually to keep feasts. Jehovah's witnesses for over a half century now have followed this pattern. We have held conventions, national and international, in the United States and elsewhere all over the world. Let me begin with the 1946 convention. We met at Cleveland, Ohio. It was the first large assembly held after World War II and, more than that, it was the first truly large international assembly of Jehovah's witnesses.

TOM: But what about that question I mentioned to you on the telephone? Lois' minister said last Sunday that Jehovah's witnesses were draft dodgers during the war. Is this true?

JOHN: One of the things that made the Cleveland convention in 1946 exceptional was that it dealt with this question. A resolution was unanimously adopted petitioning the President of the United States to pardon some 4,300 of Jehovah's witnesses because they had been illegally denied their rights by the draft boards and by the federal courts throughout the United States from 1940 to 1946. This petition was presented to President Truman by a committee composed of the Society's general counsel, another lawyer and one of Jehovah's witnesses who served as an ammunition officer with President Truman in World War I.a

LOIS: How unusual that you were able to reach the President of the United States in person. What resulted from the petition?

JOHN: It was accepted. After that, President Truman appointed his Amnesty Board. They held hearings and reviewed thousands of court records of convictions and draft board files. Then the Amnesty Board recommended pardons for some. Acting on such recommendation, the President of the United States pardoned, on December 23, 1947, only a mere handful of Jehovah's witnesses. Less than 150 of Jehovah's witnesses were granted pardons. The total of the pardons granted was 1,523. The other religious groups, which had only 1,000 men imprisoned all together compared with 4,300 of Jehovah's witnesses,


got the lion's share of the pardons. Jehovah's witnesses were thus discriminated against, the same as by the draft boards and the federal courts. Here is what Professor Cushman, Advisory Editor of the Cornell Studies in Civil Liberties, said about it:

Six thousand conscientious objectors were sent to prison during World War II (more than two-thirds were Jehovah's Witnesses), thereby becoming felons . . . Efforts to secure a general presidential amnesty for this group have failed. b

TOM: You say the courts also discriminated? I thought the courts were set up to do justice. Is it true that there was a miscarriage of justice?

JOHN: Yes, not only in the draft boards but also in the federal courts. This fact is stated in many legal publications. c

LOIS: Tell us more about that.

JOHN: After the draft law was passed in 1940 the Director of Selective Service called for someone from Jehovah's witnesses to present their case to National Headquarters before he made the nationwide policy. Legal counsel for the Witnesses appeared before a committee composed of the Director of Selective Service and army officers. He presented the full claim, that all of Jehovah's witnesses who regularly and customarily teach and preach the gospel are ministers. That was the term used to describe those exempted from service under the draft act.d Then, on June 12, 1941, General Hershey, Acting Director of Selective Service, issued an opinion relating to Jehovah's witnesses to all other draft officials in the country. The important part of the opinion (as later amended) reads as follows:

FACTS: Jehovah's Witnesses claim exemption from training and service and classification in Class IV-D as duly ordained ministers of religion under section 5 (d), Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 . . .

Section 5 (d): "Regular or duly ordained ministers of religion . . . shall be exempt from training and service (but not from registration) under this Act." . . .

Question.—May Jehovah's Witnesses be placed in Class IV-D as regular or duly ordained ministers of religion exempt from training and service?

Answer: 1. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc., is incorporated under the laws of the State of New York for charitable, religious, and scientific purposes. The unincorporated body of persons known as Jehovah's Witnesses hold in common certain religious tenets and beliefs and recognize as their terrestrial governing organization the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc. By their adherence to the organization of this religious corporation, the unincorporated body of Jehovah's Witnesses are considered to constitute a recognized religious sect. e

On April 3, 1943, General Hershey made his second report to the president, which stated, in part, with respect to the definition given by National Headquarters to the vocation of ministers of religion:

The principle was extended to persons who were not, in any strict sense, ministers or priests in any sacerdotal sense. It included Christian Brothers, who are religious, who live in communities apart from the world and devote themselves exclusively to religious teaching; Lutheran lay teachers, who also dedicate themselves to teaching, including religion; to the Jehovah's Witnesses, who sell their religious books, and thus extend the Word. It includes lay brothers in Catholic religious orders, and many other groups who dedicate their lives to the spread of their religion. f

TOM: Well, that certainly should have cleared up matters. How did it happen that 4,300 of Jehovah's witnesses went to prison, in view of this?

JOHN: Your comment suggests the answer. Matters were not cleared up by those administrative expressions. Only a few were actually given the ministerial exemp-


tion. They were members of the Bethel family in Brooklyn and a limited number of certain specified pioneers who devoted all their time to the ministry and had no secular work. In spite of the plea and over the protest of Society's counsel, General Hershey did not make his statements broad enough to give adequate protection to Jehovah's witnesses. They contained standards of orthodoxy and required a clergy-laity distinction, which pushed outside the protection of the law a vast group of ministers of Jehovah's witnesses who fairly were exempted by the act and regulations. The parts of the opinions favorable to Jehovah's witnesses were watered down and made useless. Very few, if any, of the presiding ministers (congregation servants) who were not pioneers were exempted. Most of the Witnesses who were of draft age (which was finally fixed during the war from 18 to 45) were arbitrarily denied the exemption by their local boards. g The district appeal boards rendered very little relief. The presidential appeal board in Washington reviewed so few cases, comparatively speaking, that only a handful of cases were decided in favor of Jehovah's witnesses. Thousands of Witnesses regularly and customarily engaged in preaching the gospel were ordered to do military service or civilian work as conscientious objectors, while youthful clergy, theological students and pre-theological students of other denominations were permitted to remain at home. h The Witnesses refused to comply with the draft board orders because of their Scriptural position of absolute neutrality.

LOIS: Then what happened?

JOHN: They were prosecuted—indicted in the federal courts—and from all the federal district courts of the country they were sent to prison bearing the stigma of felons. Many received the maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. Of all the thousands of draft prosecutions of religious objectors more than two thirds or nearly three quarters were Jehovah's witnesses. i One organization put it this way:

This surprising number of prisoners is composed almost two thirds of Jehovah's Witnesses, practically all of whom demanded recognition as ministers of the gospel and were denied it by their draft boards. j

LOIS: isn't there something the Society could do about this? Didn't the Society's lawyer take any action?

JOHN: The Society's policy was to have its general counsel personally fight cases of pioneer ministers and congregation servants and also to direct the defense by many other lawyers throughout the United States from 1941 to 1946 in hundreds of cases.

TOM: What was the result in that great number of cases handled and directed?

JOHN: When the Witnesses entered the federal courts and their lawyers made their defense they were confronted with a brick wall of opposition. The government's lawyers argued that Jehovah's witnesses were not entitled to make any defense. They had been duly ordered by their draft boards to report for and submit to service in the army or in work camps for conscientious objectors and they refused. They contended it was necessary for Jehovah's witnesses to go into the army, put on a uniform first and then come to the federal courts for relief. Then, and then only, the government lawyers in


these thousands of cases told the courts, could the federal judges pass on the question. You can see that this put the Witnesses in a predicament, a vicious dilemma: they had either to break faith with Jehovah, compromise and lose their lives in order to get a fair hearing in the courts, or maintain their absolute neutrality and go to prison. One legal writer said about this rule, that it was—

... a most harsh one, as it prevented a conscientious objector from obtaining judicial review unless he is willing to submit himself to the army, where he would face ignominy and contempt by military men and court martial, which may result in unlimited imprisonment or even a sentence of death.k

LOIS: what an extraordinary argument for the government's attorneys to make! Did the judges go along with such preposterous denial of the right to make a defense?

JOHN: Yes, they did. The federal judges amazingly held just that. Society's counsel contended they were entitled to maintain their neutrality and still make a defense. He insisted it was the draft boards (by illegally classifying Jehovah's witnesses) who had violated the law, instead of Jehovah's witnesses (by refusing to obey the draft boards' illegal orders). The Constitution of the United States, it was argued in these many cases from 1941 to 1946, guaranteed a man the right to defend himself where he was challenged. Since the government had challenged Jehovah's witnesses by indictments, it was argued again and again, under the law they could not contend that the indictments were valid if the draft board orders supporting them were void because of illegal classifications. The procedure practiced against Jehovah's witnesses (denying them the right to their defense), Society's counsel argued, was analogous to the ancient trial by ordeal, bill of attainder or star chamber proceedings.l At least it was a denial of fundamental principles of fair play in American courts and nothing less than a denial of due process of law guaranteed by the Constitution, he said. m

LOIS: That sounds right to me. If the federal judges did not agree with this argument, what happened then? What did the appellate courts do? Especially, what did the Supreme Court do?

JOHN: Ten of the federal courts of appeals steered into the same rut made by the district courts. They refused to allow a defense, holding that it was necessary for the Witnesses first to comply with the orders, thus violating their integrity in order to get a hearing in court. n In the Falbo case the issue reached a climax when the Supreme Court (January 3, 1944) threw its great weight onto the avalanche and denied relief to Jehovah's witnesses. o Justice Murphy was the lone dissenter in favor of the argument of counsel for Jehovah's witnesses.

TOM: And what did Justice Murphy say?

JOHN: Let me read you some of the things he wrote in his dissent:

Common sense and justice dictate that a citizen accused of a crime should have the fullest hearing possible, plus the opportunity to present every reasonable defense. Only an unenlightened jurisprudence condemns an individual without according him those rights. Such a denial is especially oppressive where a full hearing might disclose that the administrative action underlying the prosecution is the product of excess wartime emotions. Experience demonstrates that in time of war individual liberties cannot always be entrusted safely


to uncontrolled administrative discretion . . .

Finally, the effective prosecution of the war in no way demands that petitioner be denied a full hearing in this case. . . .

That an individual should languish in prison for five years without being accorded the opportunity of proving that the prosecution was based upon arbitrary and illegal administrative action is not in keeping with the high standards of our judicial system. . . . The law knows no finer hour than when it cuts through formal concepts and transitory emotions to protect unpopular citizens against discrimination and persecution. I can perceive no other course for the law to take in this case.p

Eight other justices refused to agree with Justice Murphy and ruled that Jehovah's witnesses were not entitled to make a defense in cases similar to Falbo's, and the parade of convictions continued. Great spectacles occurred in many federal courts. Listen to what these authors said about the mass trials of Jehovah's witnesses:

. . . Indeed, as the war became more and more bitter and all-embracing and the number of Selective Service cases mounted, many judges found it convenient to allow the numerous hearings involving conscientious objectors, particularly Jehovah's Witnesses, to accumulate. When the number became sufficiently large, the judge would hold mass hearings and settle the cases in batches of thirty and forty at a time. q

TOM: Did Jehovah's witnesses and the Society give up the fight after this deadly blow against the right to a fair hearing in court?

JOHN: No, they certainly did not give up. Society's counsel kept hammering at the obstacles in many other cases. In two of those cases Jehovah's witnesses had gone to the end of the line and stood toe to toe with the induction officer at the induction station. Witnesses Smith in South Carolina and Estep in Pennsylvania then refused to submit to induction. They were prosecuted and their convictions that followed were affirmed, as two separate courts of appeals held that no defense was available. The two cases were then taken into the Supreme Court together. But in the meantime the war had ended. The Supreme Court on February 4, 1946, ruled in favor of Jehovah's witnesses. The Court held that all the lower federal courts in the United States had been wrong in denying Jehovah's witnesses the right to a fair hearing and in holding that it was necessary for them to compromise their neutrality and enter the army first before they could defend themselves. The Court held also that the Witnesses could show the invalidity of the draft board orders because of violations of the act and regulations by the draft boards, such as denying the ministerial classification contrary to the facts. r

Later that year (December 23, 1946), the Supreme Court extended the law so as to permit defense in court by Jehovah's witnesses charged with failing to report to a conscientious objector camp or to remain in such camp after reporting. This was in the Gibson and Dodez cases. s

LOIS: After the Supreme Court had cleared up the law in such cases and corrected the lower federal courts that had denied a defense, wasn't something done to rectify the wrongs that had been done to the 4,300 Witnesses imprisoned and fined during the war?

JOHN: As I said a little while ago, the only possible remedy was to appeal to the President of the United States, which was done by the committee representing Jehovah's witnesses, pursuant to the resolution of the great convention at Cleveland in 1946. The President and his Amnesty Board did nothing but gloss the matter over by doling out some 136 pardons to


Jehovah's witnesses, discriminating against all the rest, as I said before. t

LOIS: What happened to those 4,300 men while they were in prison?

JOHN:. There really was a crowd of them in custody, but they presented no great problem to their prison keepers, as their conduct was exemplary. It was necessary, because so many of them were sent to prison, to expand the federal prison facilities, and entirely new institutions were established in a number of instances. While imprisoned, however, the Witnesses did not idle away their spare hours when not busy at prison duties. Instead, they were allowed to have studies in the Bible and other publications of the Society and they also made good use of spare time to improve their general education. At regular intervals they were permitted visits by special ministers sent from the Society's headquarters to serve them spiritually. The integrity of these men is a matter of official record and their courage in standing for their principles of absolute neutrality served to strengthen many of their brothers not involved under the draft law. u

Does that answer your question about what Lois' minister said against Jehovah's witnesses, Tom?

TOM: Partly, John, but I still have something in my mind. Did that put an end to the claim of Jehovah's witnesses to be ministers?

JOHN: Not at all! As it turned out, the long struggle over the ministerial status of Jehovah's witnesses was just beginning. Of course, this battle of several years to establish the right to be heard had to be settled in their favor first. But it was then too late to get ministerial classifications for the 4,300 men sent to prison from 1941 to 1946. The draft boards were finished with them—and so were the courts —but the draft law didn't end, as you might think, with the end of World War II. In 1948 Congress re-enacted the draft law when it passed the Selective Service Act of 1948. Later it was given the name it now bears, Universal Military Training and Service Act, in 1951. There has been a nationwide legal contest from 1948 to date between Jehovah's witnesses on the one side and the draft boards, Selective Service System and Department of Justice on the other side in the federal courts over whether any of Jehovah's witnesses are entitled to the ministerial classification and, if so, who among them are so qualified.

LOIS: I am anxious to hear you tell us about it.

JOHN: At last in a large number of cases Jehovah's witnesses succeeded in having the courts declare them to be ministers entitled to the exemption. But this achievement didn't come easy or all at once.

TOM: Do you mean to say that the Witnesses had to fight this issue in the courts all over the country again, as they had to do to establish the right to be heard?

JOHN: That's true. Counsel for Jehovah's witnesses carried out the Society's policy of defending or directing the defense of full-time pioneer ministers and congregation servants against prosecutions throughout the country on the grounds of their status as ministers and classification by the draft boards contrary to the facts. One former decision backed up this contention. It was in a case that had come before the court of appeals in Chicago. There the court said:

. . . Whatever a draft board or a court, or anybody else for that matter, may think of them is of little consequence. The fact is, they


have been recognized by the Selective Service System as a religious organization and are entitled to the same treatment as the members of any other religious organization. . . .

. . . We have serious doubt that there was any justification for the Board's refusal originally to classify relator in 4-D. Whatever be thought, however, of the Board's original action in this respect, there can be no question but that subsequent proof conclusively demonstrated that he was entitled to such classification. v

TOM: That sounds logical to me. Why didn't the other courts follow it?

JOHN: In every case throughout the United States the government's attorneys argued that, notwithstanding the Hull opinion, full-time pioneer ministers were not entitled to exemption because they did not have fixed congregations. The congregation servants, they contended, were not entitled to exemption because they did not have congregations of laymen but presided over congregations consisting of Jehovah's witnesses. Their arguments were not overcome and defeated until the Dickinson case was decided by the Supreme Court, November 30, 1953. Dickinson was a congregation servant and a pioneer. He devoted five hours weekly to secular work to support himself in his ministry. The Supreme Court held that the ministry was the vocation of Dickinson and it was unnecessary for him to have a fixed congregation of laymen. He was entitled, the Court said further, to the exemption even though most of his time was devoted to preaching from door to door and in the field ministry in the homes of the people, rather than from the pulpit. Nor was he denied the ministerial exemption because he presided over a congregation of ministers. This is one of the more interesting parts of the opinion:

We think Dickinson made out a case which meets the statutory criteria. He was ordained in accordance with the ritual of his sect and, according to the evidence here, he meets the vital test of regularly, as a vocation, teaching and preaching the principles of his sect and conducting public worship in the tradition of his religion. That the ordination, doctrines, or manner of preaching that his sect employs diverge from the orthodox and traditional is no concern of ours; of course the statute does not purport to impose a test of orthodoxy. w

LOIS: So the Supreme Court, after so many years, finally declared one of Jehovah's witnesses to be a minister! That was a great victory, long overdue, wasn't it?

JOHN: You're right. This is the case that really broke down much of the prejudice against Jehovah's witnesses in the draft boards, Department of Justice and the courts. The lower federal courts began to fall in line, after that, recognizing this decision and extending its principles.

In the Olvera case, Chief Judge Hutcheson of the U. S. Court of Appeals at New Orleans agreed with the argument made by counsel for Jehovah's witnesses and stated—let me read part of it to you:

When all is said and done, what is in question in these and other like cases is that reconciliation of law with liberty, which distinguishes a government of laws from one of men. Therefore, in construing and applying the Selective Training & Service Act in conscientious objector cases, these things must be kept in mind: (1) the statute under construction is a statute of religious liberty; (2) the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church; and (3) liberty and law must go hand in hand, neither must outrun the other. x

TOM: It surprises me that it says the draft law contains a bill of rights for religious objectors.

JOHN: Yes, and a great multitude of other decisions in various parts of the country actually prove it too. Many times the courts have declared that Jehovah's witnesses are entitled to the same treatment as the clergy of the big and popular religious organizations. Here I have a whole


handful of printed copies of such decisions. And here is a list of over thirty opinions of the federal trial and appellate courts favorable to Jehovah's witnesses that I've compiled on this ministry question. They all hold that the full-time pioneer minister cannot be barred from the exemption because he supports himself by part-time secular work.

One court of appeals answered the false charge that Jehovah's witnesses do not have enough formal education to get the benefit of the exemption. It said:

. . . The Act does not impose upon ministers a test of scholarship. Some of the greatest ministers of religion, including the apostles of Jesus Christ, were unlettered men. y

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said that the real trouble with some of the draft boards is that they had—

. . . tried to fit and mold an ordained pioneer minister of Jehovah's Witnesses into the orthodox straitjacket of ministers of an orthodox church, in the face of the fact that it is impossible to fit the garments of orthodoxy on a pioneer minister of Jehovah's Witnesses . . .z

The same court of appeals decided the Wiggins case on November 26, 1958. Wiggins was not a full-time pioneer minister but was a congregation book-study conductor who supported himself by secular work. He was prosecuted and convicted by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama for refusing to perform civilian work he was ordered to do after having been classified as a conscientious objector rather than as a minister. Upon his appeal the court of appeals reversed the conviction because the court felt "constrained to hold that Wiggins made out a prima facie case and that there was no basis in fact for the board to deny him an exemption as a minister." The Solicitor General of the United States filed a petition with the Supreme Court of the United States to review and reverse the decision of the court of appeals, but the Supreme Court denied such petition, leaving the decision that Wiggins is a minister unchanged. aa

LOIS: Your proof, John, shows that Jehovah's witnesses, while different from my clergyman, are entitled to the same rights of exemption that he has under the law.

JOHN: That's it exactly, Lois. And I could go on at much greater length, because there are over 150 decisions of the federal courts exonerating them from charges under the draft law. When you told me you expected me to answer the clergyman who accused Jehovah's witnesses of being draft dodgers I rounded up quite a lot of information. There are plenty of other cases, papers, legal periodicals and other publications I have here proving his assertion untrue. On the contrary, as it was put by Judge Hutcheson in the Olvera decision we read a few moments ago, Jehovah's witnesses have demonstrated that they have the blood of martyrs in them and, what's more, the spirit of Jehovah upon them to enable them to stand firm for so many years against the flood of adverse illegal decisions denying them the right to a fair trial, which, for many, was followed by long prison terms. Finally, they were vindicated by the power of Jehovah, granted the right to have their day in court and now have had many ministers declared exempt in the United States of America.

LOIS: Does that just about finish the report of the cases on the draft law in the U.S.A.?

JOHN: Almost, but on March 14, 1955, three more important cases were favorably


decided by the Supreme Court. In one, the Department of Justice had recommended denial of the conscientious objector claim of one of Jehovah's witnesses because, like all Witnesses, he believed in the theocratic warfare mentioned in the Bible and in self-defense. This recommendation, the Court held, was illegal and the conviction based upon the order resulting from it had to be reversed. bb The other cases decided that day declared invalid long-established regulations of the Selective Service System and the Department of Justice because they denied the right of a fair hearing upon conscientious objector claims. cc As the result, scores and scores of pending prosecutions had to be dismissed. dd

Jehovah's witnesses have been reviled in an inflammatory manner for many years. The very heart of the organization—right here in this country where its international headquarters is—was branded as subversive, and Jehovah's witnesses across the country, during World War II and afterward, as in World War I, got to be stigmatized by the widely publicized convictions under the draft law. Many honest-hearted people thereby had their minds turned away from the message of good news, as the prejudice and discrimination against them became rampant. ee But the Witnesses stanchly maintained their Scriptural position of strict neutrality, the same as did the early Christian church, ff while keeping busy at preaching the good news.

Now the highest courts of America have been impelled by Jehovah to concede that his witnesses were not and are not draft dodgers. They are ministers of God who have been very busy around the earth at proclaiming the incoming new world of righteousness. Many clergymen and other prominent persons have gloated over the trouble endured by them because of the draft law. They have actually poured fuel on the flames of persecution by their draft-dodger name-calling, as Zechariah said about their ancient counterparts. (Zech. 1:15) Because Jehovah's witnesses didn't give up their fight to preach without government prohibition—in spite of the public upbraiding or imputation of disgrace, whether this was by draft boards of their so-called "neighbors," by high-ranking officials or even by presidents, to say nothing of nearly all the highly respected federal judges—the courts themselves have lifted this odious name from them.

It's a matter of record that the belated action of the Supreme Court in the Dickinson case gg touched off a chain reaction that resulted in the great number of favorable legal decisions holding that Jehovah's witnesses are exempt as ministers. And among the public in general to a great extent it lifted from the organization this name of disgraceful reproach. Jehovah's New World society of ministers has emerged from this trouble, not as an outlaw or reprobate religious organization, as some would still falsely picture it, but in the same high legal position under the Constitution of the United States as that occupied by the more orthodox religions. Its individual


ministers have been vindicated under the draft law as having the same protected exemption as the orthodox clergymen.

Outside the United States the situation is still different. Many of our dedicated brothers in Europe and other parts of the world have tried to prove their exemption as Christian ministers from military service, but the laws of their countries make no provision for exemption of ministers of religion. Hence they have had to suffer for their refusal to act contrary to their obligations to the Most High God as his ordained ministers. Take Sweden, for example. There one of our ministers who takes his stand for Christian neutrality toward this world must go to jail and serve his term of sentence. When he gets out he resumes his active ministry till he gets another military call. For uncompromisingly insisting again on his Christlike neutrality he is sent back to jail for another term. Out again, he has to face repeating this procedure five, six or seven or more times. All he can do is state and restate his case before the authorities of the land and listen to the judgment handed down against him.

So you see that here in the U.S.A. the law makes provision for those it rules to be ordained ministers, and Jehovah's witnesses here have only been within their right to prove Scripturally and within the purview of the law that they are truly ordained ministers deserving exemption.

TOM: Well, till now I had not appreciated how really hard the Witnesses had it outside the United States on this score—certainly worse than here. It surely has required faith and devotion to God for them to take such a Scriptural stand on this issue to keep their Christian integrity like their Leader Jesus.


Now we'd like to hear more about the 1946 convention. And if I might venture an opinion I'd say that the assemblies Jehovah's witnesses have held have been an outstanding feature in the growth and development of the organization.

JOHN: Quite true. They have supplied a need for wider fellowship, for broadening the organization's and the individuals' view of things, and for spiritual stimulation to greater works of faith and true worship. Before 1918 the yearly conventions were somewhat localized and none involved attendances over 4,000.hh From 1919 to 1937 the largest attendance figure for an assembly held at any one point was 30,000. That was in the United States at Columbus, Ohio, Sunday, September 19, 1937, when the public talk "Safety" was delivered. ii

The international nature of assemblies during this period was limited, since few of the brothers from outside the United States were able to attend. This was also true during the period of World War II from 1938 to 1944, during which time several multicity conventions met together simultaneously, tied together by radio-telephone facilities in English-speaking countries. This arrangement began to bring the Witnesses together internationally as far as the principal talks were concerned, but there was no interchange of communication among the respective delegates attending these individual far-flung gatherings. The largest of these assemblies as to attendance was the fifty-city convention of 1938 with London, England, as the key city. On this occasion the combined attendance at the public meeting was 150,000. jj

Much experience was gained in assembly preparation and planning, especially in 1941 in St. Louis, Missouri, and 1942 in


Cleveland, Ohio, and, with this background in mind, something far more extensive was planned for the period following World War II. A truly international assembly with a gathering of delegates from all parts of the world at one central location was the plan. This assembly was held at Cleveland, Ohio, August 4 to 11, 1946. It was called the "Glad Nations Theocratic Assembly." The city's Municipal Stadium, surrounding grounds and the adjoining City Auditorium were all engaged as the convention site, and delegates came from thirty-two countries outside the United States as well as from every state inside the country. Peak attendance at this assembly came on the final Sunday, when 80,000 packed out the stadium to hear the talk "The Prince of Peace" delivered by the Society's president.

Bringing such a mass of people together for eight days of Christian worship at one point posed many problems. The outstanding problem, of course, was that of accommodations. An effective system had been developing over the years that was given a severe test in Buffalo, New York, in 1944 when all available hotel accommodations were gobbled up by an American Legion convention meeting at the same time as our assembly. The bulk of accommodations obtained had to be found in private homes and that meant a scouring of the city six times over in a house-to-house hunt, taxing the assembly rooming department's organization and efficiency to the limit. The results were gratifying, not only in accommodations obtained but in the interest aroused among those with whom the Witnesses were housed. kk

The system of handling accommodations was developed further in 1946 and proved to be the pattern for all future national and international assemblies. For weeks before the convention scores of pioneers and all other brothers in the local congregation made house-to-house calls and visited hotels to list accommodations.


Another housing provision that was made at this assembly was a site for house trailers and tents. At previous assemblies held in 1937 at Columbus and in 1941 at St. Louis many American and Canadian Witnesses had found such facilities convenient and inexpensive. So at the Cleveland assembly, at the outskirts of the city, large fields were rented for the convention period on which an orderly designed city was laid out with streets and small allotments of sufficient size for the erection of tents or the parking of trailers. Sanitation, water, ten miles of electrical cable and a number of utility buildings were provided for this community of 20,000 Witnesses that sprang up overnight and lasted for the duration of the assembly. Traffic control and administration of this "city" were in the hands of the staff of 550 volunteer Witnesses, who operated the entire project within the governmental health regulations of the county. A public-address system was installed so that all convention sessions could be relayed from the stadium to those of this "trailer camp" who could not get to the stadium.

Another major undertaking of the convention staff was the arrangement to feed thousands of conventioners at mealtimes three times a day. Experience at previous assemblies had demonstrated that the cafeteria system was the most practical. At the Cleveland assembly a sectional feeding tray of plastic, similar to those used by the government's armed forces, was found to facilitate the operation immensely. Five mechanical tray-washing machines were utilized to get the equipment back in use immediately. Fast-moving lines of thousands of conventioners were directed


to serving lines where trays were available containing cutlery and servings of prepared dishes placed in the various sections of the tray by volunteer workers. From the serving lines the crowds were directed to other halls where waist-high tables were provided so the diners could eat standing up. This facilitated the rapid turnover of eating equipment. In the cafeteria, as well as throughout the entire assembly, all work was performed by volunteers who served their brothers freely and without any monetary return. At this assembly well over 1,000 were required for all the departments needed to operate the convention.


Each day of the assembly followed a theme, the first day, Sunday, August 4, being "Harvesters' Gladness Day." In the evening, following the official address of welcome by the convention chairman, the Society's vice-president took up the subject "The Harvest, the End of the World." This was a complete exposition of Jesus' illustration of the wheat and tares at Matthew chapter 13. By facts known and seen by all it was proved that since A.D. 1918 this harvest of God's heavenly kingdom class had been under way. However, in these latter years it was complemented by the gathering of the Lord's "other sheep" who have hope of an earthly destiny. The evidence showed up strongly that this "time of the end" during which the harvest takes place is nearing its complete end.

Monday, August 5, "Defense of the Gospel Day," saw the beginning of the foreign-tongue meetings held in various parts of the convention grounds, seventeen in all being held during the assembly. This international feature of the convention was further demonstrated by signs in twenty languages suspended out front at the foot of the upper deck of seats, each with a legend announcing "Be Glad, Ye Nations, with His People—Romans 15:10." This was the year's Bible text. The sign in English in large letters appeared across the curving facade of the bleacher section at the rear of the stadium's field. In the afternoon the Society's lawyer delivered a helpful discourse on "Proper Conduct in Court."

The keynote speech of the assembly was delivered by the Society's president on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 6, "Good Courage Day." The convention report highlights this talk:

It was a courageous, challenging message, and . . . made clear just how the postwar combine of the nations is a world conspiracy against the rightful rule of Jehovah's Theocratic Government by Christ Jesus over earth. It hurled defiance at the international conspiracy by emphasizing Jehovah's warning to his witnesses not to join in the popular trend advocating for such demon-engineered world conspiracy, because the conspiracy will surely be broken in pieces and come to nothing in disgrace. Yes, this bold speech sounded out the keynote for this Assembly, namely: "Good courage" to keep on openly advocating for Jehovah's kingdom by his Christ, all down through the postwar era till the world conspiracy is shattered, for the reason that "God is with us!" This spells triumph for His people. ll

In the evening at the high point of his discourse "An Answer to the Rousing Call," the president released the first issue of Awake!, August 22, 1946, of which 200,000 copies had been brought from the Society's factory in Brooklyn. This magazine was to replace Consolation. mm


"Publishers Equipment Day," Thursday, August 8, proved to be a day of surprises and gave evidence of the truly expanding nature of the work in the postwar period. In his afternoon discourse, to the delight


of all present, the Society's president offered in release a new 384-page book entitled "Equipped for Every Good Work." But this was not all the new equipment destined for use by Jehovah's witnesses from this time forward. That evening in his talk "The Problems of Reconstruction and Expansion" the president showed:

No standstill had occurred in efforts at witnessing during six years of global war. Promptly, after the war's close, reconstruction work, yes, expansion work, had been instituted in Europe in the organic and productive structure of the Watchtower Branches over there. But in the field generally, from October 15 on, something new was to be introduced. The field was to be divided up into circuits including 20 companies each and to be served by circuit servants to the brethren; and every six months there was to be a circuit assembly. What gladness this disclosure awakened! Now the greatest of campaigns of Kingdom publicity is ahead! To meet the world-wide demand for Kingdom literature the Brooklyn factory must be enlarged. A new Bethel home must be built to house the expanded factory and office force. Watchtower radio station, WBBR, must be improved. nn

TOM: Was that arrangement for circuit assemblies the one you mentioned last week in connection with the eight-page amendment to Organisation Instructions?

JOHN: Yes, it was. It was announced at this 1946 assembly. The new factory and Bethel expansion program was received with real enthusiasm also. The president explained in announcing the Society's need that the factory facilities were taxed to the limit and increased production demands were impossible. Whereas 829 tons of paper a year were used when the factory was constructed in 1927, that amount had increased to 2,700 tons a year. The convention report continues:

In view of the fact that it will be necessary in the immediate future to produce Bible literature for foreign export in addition to the American demand, the Board of Directors has concluded that the only course open to the Society would be that of vastly enlarging its present factory premises. To this end the Society has already purchased property surrounding its present factory at 117 Adams Street. Architects have been engaged to make plans to construct a ten-story structure adjoining the present factory which will be of sufficient size to cope with demands of printing for the next several years.

A vastly enlarged factory will require additional volunteer workers which will have to be housed and fed at the Bethel home. Thus the present Bethel home, located at 124 Columbia Heights, will likewise be required to be enlarged. Furthermore, New York City is putting through a super highway to the rear of the present Bethel building and has condemned a fifty-foot-wide portion of the present Bethel building which further limits present accommodations. Meeting this situation, the Board of Directors decided to purchase five properties adjoining the present building at 124 Columbia Heights. oo

Again the following day the international nature of the convention came to the fore.

For the one day of Friday, August 9, the Glad Nations Assembly became specifically an all-nations assembly. This was due to the theme of the day and the program outlined in harmony therewith, namely, "All Nations Day". First there was a discourse on water baptism and the subsequent immersing of more than 2,600 newly consecrated witnesses of Jehovah. The numbers were drawn from many nations. The morning, afternoon and evening sessions of the day kept the "All Nations" theme prominent before the conventioners inasmuch as they were in the nature of continued sessions. Starting with Alaska in the morning and ending up the evening session with the United States, representatives from 31 nations regaled the conventioners with reports from these various countries. But "All Nations Day" kept perfect step with the assembly's name "Glad Nations", because all these reports discussed the gladness of the nations who were representatively rejoicing with Jehovah's people. In fact, the entire convention can well be cited as an illustration of peoples from "all nations, kindreds and tongues" rejoicing with God's people and working in unity. The nations futilely strive to break down national barriers and draw humanity into one world whereby self-destruction may be averted in this atomic age, but all of their efforts wind up in disappointing failure. However, by the operation of Jehovah's spirit, those of his visible organization from


many different nations are unified and national and racial barriers vanish.pp

Another feature of this day was the release of a new 288-page Spanish Bible concordance, enthusiastically received by all the Spanish-speaking Witnesses in attendance.

Saturday, August 10, "God's Truthfulness Day," followed. In his afternoon discourse to the 67,009 in attendance the Society's president established the doctrinal position of Jehovah's witnesses in the challenging discussion "Let God Prove to Be True." At the close of this talk the 67,009 enthusiastic conventioners adopted with a resounding Aye! a resolution that declared the determination of Jehovah's witnesses to obey God's command at Isaiah 8:9, 10

to refuse to join in with the people of Christendom in recommending a world conspiracy to quiet the fear and dread of men and recommending that thus a rule of human creatures be put in world control as a substitute for His kingdom by Christ since A.D. 1914

and a further resolve to

continue to point the people to the law and testimony and all the Word of God, by means of the work of Bible education 'publicly, and from house to house'.—Isa. 8:20; Acts 20:20. qq

Then the new book "Let God Be True" was presented to the enraptured throng assembled.

Climax of the assembly came Sunday, August 11, with "Universal Peace Day." In the afternoon to the 80,000 assembled on the convention grounds and at the trailer camp the Society's president spoke on his widely advertised subject "The Prince of Peace." A summary appeared in the Watchtower report of the convention. rr

The full text of this speech was printed in The Messenger and 200,000 copies were quickly taken up by those in attendance. In his closing words to the assembly that evening the president announced national conventions in Australia and the Orient, which he hoped to attend, and a 1947 convention to be held on the Pacific Coast in California.

Following the assembly many Branch servants and others assigned to foreign Branch work departed for the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and a three-day conference with the president of the Society relative to the Kingdom interests in the various countries. Many features of the work were discussed, including the work of the circuit servants to the brethren, the district servant work, office arrangements, pioneer work, missionary homes, and general expansion. There were fifty-four brothers who attended these sessions, many of whom stayed over to attend the eighth class of Gilead, which convened shortly after the assembly. ss


World-wide expansion was now the order of the day. It was in 1947 that the Society's president with his secretary companion undertook a 47,795-mile world service tour. This trip around the globe by these representatives of the Society brought the headquarters organization into direct touch with the far-flung activity of Jehovah's witnesses. By personal observation the needs of the field were soon determined and immediate steps taken to strengthen and unify the world-wide organization in theocratic activity. This was the first opportunity since full restoration of theocratic structure to accomplish such a unifying program and, with Gilead missionaries trained to assist the brothers in actual field ministry, a close co-operation of all parts of the organization now became a reality. Coming out from the bonds of restraint that had been experienced by these brothers in so many parts of the


world, they were overjoyed to receive the president and his companion and more than willing to do all they possibly could to reestablish an intensified Kingdom ministry program. tt

Africa, too, became a field of expansion following the war. Preaching had been going on since the early 1900's when the Watch Tower Society began to have associates in South Africa and a Branch was established there. Then in the 1920's the educational work began to move northward into the interior. Also in the 1920's some beginnings were made in British West Africa, where soon a Branch office was established, and the work was pushed inland from this point.

In the early 1930's work began in Egypt and spread slowly across the top of Africa. Through this three-pronged move, by 1942 some 10,070 Witnesses were found in eleven African lands. In 1947 Gilead missionaries began to be sent into Africa— twenty in that one year. Following his round-the-world tour the Society's president visited almost all the Branches in Africa during December, 1947, and January, 1948, talking with the African Witnesses and studying their preaching problems. uu

Up to the time Gilead opened, the vast continent of Asia was practically untouched by Jehovah's witnesses. In the year 1942 there were 406 ministers active in six lands, mostly in or near India. In Japan the work was banned during the war years. Then on his world tour the Society's president, together with his secretary, made an extensive tour through the Far, Middle and Near East, visiting Witnesses in Asiatic lands and arranging to open missionary centers in all these countries visited. vv Following this tour, seventeen missionaries were sent to this part of the world in 1947.

The islands of the Pacific and Australia also came in for their share of attention during this period. In Australia, as you recall, the Society had opened a Branch office in 1903 and in course of time had expanded from there to New Zealand and other islands in the vicinity. Though the Pacific war was still at its height in 1942, nevertheless, three lands reported 4,275 ministers. Following the president's tour in 1947, thirteen Gilead missionaries reached some of these islands to commence their educational work. ww

A serious condition had developed in Australia during World War II. Many of the brothers, including those prominent in the Society's work, failed to maintain their neutral stand, but rather engaged in enterprises giving aid to the nation's war effort and designed to provide material gain for the organization and some prominent individuals there in Australia. Uncovering this situation, the Society's president immediately presented to the brothers the Scriptural view of the matter. Realizing their error, the brothers repented and set about at once to clean up the organization. xx


LOIS: Was the convention for 1947 on the Pacific Coast that you mentioned a while ago another international assembly?

JOHN: No, in 1947 a change was made in the convention arrangements. This was done so the brothers all over the world could benefit to the greatest extent from the visit of the Society's president. A report gives some of the details:

Instead of seeing one great international convention, 1947 saw national assemblies throughout the world, most of which had the pleasure


of hearing the president of the Society. The first of these was held in February, in Hawaii, closely followed by one in New Zealand. Next came six conventions in Australia, for a total attendance of 4,626.

Soon thereafter the Philippines had their convention at Manila, where 4,200 attended and 151 were baptized.

Then, among others, came assemblies at Bankok, Bombay, Milan, Zurich (Switzerland), Germany (suburb of Stuttgart), Brno (Czechoslovakia), Vienna, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo, four in France, two in Belgium.

Largest on continental Europe was held at Amsterdam, capital of tiny Netherlands, where 7,650 heard the public lecture and 324 were immersed. And, finally, as regards Europe, the great convention of our British brethren at the mammoth auditorium, Earl's Court, London, England, July 3-6. There 17,782 heard the public lecture and 420 were baptized.

That year two conventions were held in the United States; the first at Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, Calif., the All Nations Expansion Assembly, which featured reports by the president of the Society and other world travelers and which had a peak attendance of 45,729; and, the second, the Song of Praise Assembly, held at Philadelphia, Pa., at which the truth regarding Jehovah's servants having no flags nor banners but that Christ Jesus is their one and only Signal was revealed and where more than 28,000 heard the public discourse by the president. yy

In 1948 still another arrangement was made for the assembling of Jehovah's witnesses. First, though, I should mention that in 1947 an important new building was completed on the campus of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. The Yearbook comments on it:

A report on the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead would not be complete without mentioning the school's new library building. The students of the seventh, eighth and ninth classes assisted other brethren called in to construct this library. It is a two-story reinforced concrete-brick structure of beautiful design. The entire first floor comprises one grand hall, with fir wood paneled walls, an accoustically treated ceiling, and red rubber tiled floor. It is altogether a very lovely building, richly and most modernly equipped and furnished. The school's library of five thousand volumes is well classified and shelved at one end of the hall. The books in the library deal mainly with Bible subjects and are Bible reference books. At the opposite end of this beautiful hall is a modernly equipped classroom. The name given to the library building is Shiloah, which means "sending forth". Surely the Lord has blessed Gilead in sending forth such a heap of witness, even unto the ends of the earth. zz

I might digress a little further and say that in 1948 another important decision for Jehovah's witnesses in the U. S. Supreme Court held invalid an ordinance of Lockport, New York, that required a permit before a sound device could be used in the city. The Court held that the right of freedom of speech and assembly had been violated, and ruled:

Loud-speakers are today indispensable instruments of effective public speech. The sound truck has become an accepted method of political campaigning. It is the way people are reached. . . . Annoyance at ideas can be cloaked in annoyance at sound. The power of censorship inherent in this type of ordinance reveals its vice. aaa


Then, as announced by the president at the Los Angeles, California, assembly the preceding August, the year 1948 was to see neither national conventions nor an international one. Instead, district assemblies were to be held in every land where Jehovah's witnesses were organized for service. The first of these in the United States was at Atlanta, Georgia, March 12-14, and by the time the sixth and last was held, at Providence, Rhode Island, September 17-19, 66,000 had attended the six assemblies. bbb

Four district assemblies were held in Canada, for a total attendance of 17,917, four also in Great Britain, for a peak of 18,200. Six were held in Australia, three in both Switzerland and Norway, two in Poland and in Germany, in which latter country the peak attendance was 39,150.


District assemblies were held in Mexico, Sweden, Austria, Chile, British West Indies, and other lands. ccc

A continuation and expansion of the district assemblies was seen in 1949. Like all other previous assemblies, these were marked by the giving of much valuable instruction, service activity, a baptismal service and a public lecture, the title of which was "It Is Later than You Think!" At the five assemblies held in Canada upward of 23,000 heard that public discourse, ddd and in the United States, 85,441, at fourteen assemblies held from Portland, Oregon, to Jacksonville, Florida. eee

The Communists in Eastern Germany did all they could to keep the Witnesses from attending the district assembly held in West Berlin, but in spite of their efforts 17,232 Witnesses enjoyed the assembly and 33,657 heard the public discourse. At this assembly a resolution was passed calling attention to the persecution of Jehovah's witnesses in the Eastern Zone and serving notice on the Communists that Jehovah's witnesses were no more afraid of them than they were of the Nazis. All together, there were four assemblies held in Germany, for a total attendance of some 40,000 Witnesses, with 63,401 at the public talks, and 2,486 immersed. fff

District assemblies were also held in every other land where Jehovah's witnesses are organized for service, in other European countries, in Australia, Africa, Asia, and in the Western Hemisphere. Time fails us to give all the extremely interesting details.

Conventions are among the high lights and steppingstones of the ministerial careers of Jehovah's witnesses. Their conviction that they have the truth is made stronger, their hope in the Kingdom is made brighter as they listen to Scriptural and logical presentations and revel for a few days in a New World atmosphere far away from the noise of battle—assembled at the watering places to rehearse the righteous acts of Jehovah and to co-operate with one another.

Now, with the 1949 assemblies a matter of history, everyone looked forward with keen anticipation to 1950. As early as 1948 it had been announced that another international assembly would be held that year and the brothers from all over the world were eagerly making plans to attend. It proved to be a memorable event.

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