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Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose


Ending the Fourth, Beginning the Fifth Decade of Kingdom Operation

L01S: You know, John, in the last three months or so you have told us some rather remarkable things. I'll have to admit that that first stormy night you and Maria called I was skeptical. Oh, I have known that world conditions are not improving and I have realized that times have changed considerably even since I was a girl, but I have never thought seriously enough about it to pinpoint actual causes and effects. Now you have certainly stimulated my thinking.

JOHN: That's good, Lois, because tonight, with our account of the modern history of Jehovah's witnesses centering on the years 1954 and 1955, our thoughts are drawn again to the greatest event in modern history, the birth of God's kingdom. You see, the "kingdom of the heavens" with Jesus Christ in power as King at his Father's right hand ended its fortieth year of rule amid its enemies in 1954, about October 1. It began ruling amid World War I in 1914; it ended its fortieth year amid the "cold war" between the East and West blocs of Kingdom enemies that followed World War II. Jehovah's witnesses, knowing well the times and seasons of God's purposes, approached and entered the Kingdom's fortieth year without joining in the dire predictions that some religionists were making about 1954 on the basis of their ideas of parallel time-periods in historical events. They entered 1954 planning and arranging to do still greater works in Kingdom service. That year's Yearbook said:

Now that we have come into this fortieth year of Jehovah's kingdom, can we let up? No; rather, recall that over 1900 years ago Jesus was impaled; he was tortured, put to death by conspiring religionists and politicians. That certainly must have been a blow to those early followers of Jesus. It was A.D. 33 when these startling things happened. Things looked dark then for Jesus' disciples whom he had sent to preach; but later, from Pentecost on, they had to continue to go from house to house without letup. Now today, we who have, for many years, been preaching the good news during the very last days of this system of things, are we going to let up? Slow down? Go into retirement? We cannot. Today we see the Kingdom more clearly than we did back there in 1914 or 1918 or 1931 or any previous time. We feel its power; we see its activity. So just like Jesus' apostles, we have to continue without letup declaring and teaching the good news of this glorious kingdom of Jehovah God. Great work is yet before us, and the New World society will do it. a

The exploding of two new models of hydrogen bombs in the Pacific Ocean by America in March, 1954, did not fill Jehovah's witnesses with dread forebodings of the future. Undisturbed, they went on to


give a still greater witness to God's established kingdom by putting more preaching ministers in the field. In that March in America a new high number of 154,367 ministers reported time spent in preaching, b followed by a still higher peak of 169,015 in April. c In other nations, too, the increase was going on. So by the end of August, the close of the 1954 service year, a new world-wide peak of 580,498 preachers was attained, a jump of 60,516 over the preceding year. d


As evidences mounted throughout the world that only God's kingdom under Christ could usher in an era of lasting peace, the most desirable ones of all nations were flocking to the New World society for a place in the divine purpose. It was faith in Jehovah God and his promises that led them to this choice, faith that was lacking in the "wise men" of this world's system of things. Many of such "wise" ones could see the sign, but failed to note its significance. In an article entitled "The 'Time of the End,'" The Watchtower of December 1, 1954, points out:

It is interesting to note that many of the "intellectuals" of the world—the philosophers, the scientists, the sages and the historians— are quick to admit that since 1914 there has been a striking change. Bertrand Russell, the philosopher, not long ago declared: "Ever since 1914 the world has been reeling drunkenly toward disaster." An editorial in the Washington Times-Herald for March 13, 1945, stated: "The last completely 'normal' year in history was 1913, the year before World War I began." Dr. Harold C. Urey, one of the world's leading creators of the atom bomb, said: "We have not had a peaceful world since 1914." (Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 9, 1951) Declared an editorial writer in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegram, August 1, 1954: "Forty years ago the world overnight goose-stepped from the 'golden age' into a volcanic epoch marked by bloody wars."

An editorial in the Edmonton Journal of Alberta, Canada, dated August 7, 1954, explains further: "It seems likely that when the history of the twentieth century is written, August 4, 1914, the day hostilities became general in Europe, will loom larger than even the date of the outbreak of the Second World War or the dropping of the first atomic bomb. That August day, we are beginning to realize, marked a dividing line in history. An era of peace, progress and security ended, and an age of war and revolution began." This same observation was made by an associate professor of history at Columbia University's Barnard College, who wrote in The Scientific Monthly of July, 1951: "It is indeed the year 1914 rather than that of Hiroshima which marks the turning point in our time, for by now we can see that, whatever the future may hold in store, it was the first world war that ushered in the era of confused transition in the midst of which we are floundering."

And, when making a comparison of the two world wars, the New York Times Magazine of August 1, 1954, came to this conclusion: "The first war marked a far greater change in history. It closed a long era of general peace and began a new age of violence in which the second war is simply an episode. Since 1914 the world has had a new character: a character of international anarchy. . . . Thus the first World War marks a turning point in modern history." e

The article then comments meaningfully:

Such terms as "a turning point in modern history," an "age of violence," "an age of war and revolution" and "a volcanic epoch," used by leading authorities, ought to jar scoffers into some sensible thinking! For, of a certainty, things are not continuing exactly as from creation's beginning. The "time of the end" has come. The sign of the "last days" is visible evidence. Never before in history, prior to 1914, have all these things occurred at once upon one generation. f


In full recognition of their responsibility before God and their fellow men, Jehovah's witnesses therefore rounded out four decades of Kingdom service and confidently entered a fifth, determined to assist even greater numbers to hasten their flight to safety before Armageddon should catch them unawares.


This meant closer personal organization and development for the field ministry. So, to that end, the Society strengthened and streamlined to even greater efficiency its visitation program for the congregations through its circuit and district servants. Already preparation had been made at the New World Society Assembly, and a far-reaching program began on September 1, 1953. Commenting on this new provision for ministerial improvement of every Kingdom publisher, the convention Report said:

N. H. Knorr electrified the assembly Wednesday morning with the first announcement of a great house-to-house training program. Circuit and district servants, figuring prominently in this campaign, sat in the front-center section as Knorr outlined the "Principal Work of All Servants"—that every servant strive to help every publisher be a regular house-to-house minister.

"Everyone," he said, "should be able to preach the good news from house to house." This being the primary objective, from now on all circuit servants will give special attention to house-to-house training.

Several changes were made to effect greater efficiency in the organization. Circuit servants are now to have a regular schedule to follow, which calls for them to spend a minimum of 100 hours a month in house-to-house work, including back-call and study activity. During the week the circuit servant will direct the training program by selecting a mature house-to-house publisher to work with the new and unexperienced ones.

District servants, he announced, will now accompany circuit servants for a period of two weeks, thus being able to observe their effectiveness and offer any necessary counsel. g

As the year 1954 progressed, further details of this training program were outlined through the Informant and subsequently adopted in all Branch organizations. h All the congregations were thereby brought into accord with the training program, and qualified, experienced ministers were specifically assigned to give personal training to irregular ones or less successful ones or to newly interested persons in the most effective ways of preaching in the field.

Door-to-door sermons from the Bible of three to eight minutes' length were now specially recommended and became an integral part of the improved preaching arrangement. i As abilities developed in this basic and fundamental feature of Kingdom ministry, then more and more emphasis was placed on the back-call work and the use of ten- to fifteen-minute sermons in making return visits upon interested persons. j

At this same time the work that had begun in February of 1940 of distributing individual copies of The Watchtower and Awake! in street and house-to-house work k was revitalized and the publishers were encouraged to put out magazines at every opportunity. As a result, demands for the magazines increased by leaps and bounds so that in June, 1954, at the Boston, Massachusetts, assembly the Watchtower Society's president announced plans to build a new thirteen-story printing plant across the street from its existing nine-story factory in Brooklyn. The new building was to be devoted primarily to magazine production and mailing.

The need that had arisen for this can be seen by the steady and rapid growth in production of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines over a twenty-year period in just the Brooklyn printing plant. In 1934 the Society was required to produce 3,738,545 copies to meet the demand. By 1944 this had grown to 17,897,998 copies and by 1954 the amazing total of 57,396,810 copies! The increase in just the one year from 1953 to 1954 amounted to 8,410,000 magazines! l By the spring of 1955 excava-


tion for the new plant had begun and in late summer the foundation was laid. m

TOM: Did you have a national assembly in Boston in 1954?

JOHN: No, it was one of a series of district assemblies. During the summer, beginning with the assembly in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 24, 1954, four-day district and national assemblies were held around the globe, including assemblies even in such places as Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, besides other places on six continents and the islands of the seas. n

Quite appropriately in 1954, the seventieth year from when the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania was incorporated December 13, 1884, the Society completed construction of an outstanding building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to house its registered offices. This building was located at 4100 Bigelow Boulevard and Parkman Avenue. o

On September 4, 1954, the building was dedicated by officers of the Society, and on Friday, October 1, 1954, the first annual business meeting of the Society was held there with its president as chairman. An attendance of 820 overflowed from the main auditorium, which seats 500, to the auxiliary auditorium in the basement of the building. This brief description of the body of 484 members comprising the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society at that time is of interest:

The corporate membership is truly representative of the world-wide New World society. Twenty-nine different nationalities are represented, serving in all forty-eight states of the United States and the District of Columbia and in a total of sixty-nine different countries. They are mature and two thirds of them are of the remnant. Their average age is nearly sixty years and all but twelve have been in Kingdom service prior to 1940, and the majority for more than twenty-five years. Of course, being so widely scattered, most of them voted by proxy. p


The year 1955 opened the fifth decade for God's established kingdom to rule amid its enemies. Confidently, under Jehovah's direction, his witnesses moved ahead. For the general guidance of all Kingdom publishers in their field activities and to unify the world-wide preaching work still further, the new service booklet of sixty-four pages on Preaching Together in Unity was released on January 1, 1955.

It is a pleasure for the Society to announce the release of Preaching Together in Unity. This new booklet is to replace Counsel on Theocratic Organization for Jehovah's Witnesses. It will enable all Jehovah's people to work together in closer unity and to understand with greater clarity their relationship to one another as Jehovah continues to expand his New World society.

Preaching and working together in unity is the theme emphasized throughout the booklet. It is earth-wide in scope. It applies to all Jehovah's dedicated people in all lands, whether in congregations or as isolated individuals, for all are obligated to work unitedly in aiding people of good will to come to a clearer understanding of Jehovah's purposes. It will bring all Jehovah's witnesses up to date in all features of Kingdom work and enable all to see eye to eye as they work diligently to 'thoroughly accomplish the ministry.' q

The early part of the year 1955 was marked by outstanding legal decisions. On January 1, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Lord Judge of the Court of Sessions handed down the decision in the case of Walsh v. The Lord Advocate that Jehovah's witnesses are a religious denomination but their pioneer publishers and congregation servants are not "regular ministers" of religion within the meaning of the 1948 National Service Act of Britain. The adverse part of this decision was appealed to a three-judge High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, only to have an unfavorable


decision rendered by all three judges July 21, 1955. r On this an appeal was made to the House of Lords, London, England, the final court of appeal for the British Empire. July 19, 1956, this court rendered its decision.

During the year the Walsh appeal was heard by the House of Lords. The entire court of five judges held that since Jehovah's witnesses have no clergy-laity distinction to give any of them a spiritual status superior to the others, they have no "regular ministers." Thus, a pioneer who makes the ministry his vocation in life is denied the privileges in law that are given to clergymen. And so is a presiding minister of a congregation of Jehovah's witnesses. Far from discouraging the brothers, the decision has served as a stimulating challenge to Jehovah's ministers in this land to prove that Jehovah has not "adequately qualified" them in vain. s

Early in the year 1955 one of the most extensive special distribution campaigns yet conducted by the Society was launched on a global scale. As a judgment against the entire system of worldly religion came the challenging message under the title "Christendom or Christianity—Which One Is 'the Light of the World'?" This message exploded upon the world Sunday, April 3, 1955, by the simultaneous delivery of a uniform public address on that subject by speakers in thirty languages the world over. At the close of the address the release of the new thirty-two-page booklet on the same subject was announced; copies of it were given free to all in attendance. Throughout the earth well over a half million attended this powerful lecture. According to the president's letter of February 10, 1955, it had been expected to publish ten million copies of the booklet in ten languages. But the Society's Branches were so eager for the message that it was published in thirty languages and more than 21,000,000 copies were printed. t

Distribution of the booklet to the outside public followed at once upon the heels of the public lecture. Thousands of newly interested persons took a hand in the distribution for the first time. This produced a new peak of Kingdom publishers of 625,256 during the month of April. Thoroughly aroused, the friendlily disposed people turned out in unprecedented numbers the following Thursday night, April 7, to celebrate the Lord's evening meal, to run up a total attendance of 878,303, of whom, however, only 16,815 partook as the remnant of the heavenly Kingdom class. u

During April and the following month of May the new booklet moved out into eighty-eight lands, to reach a phenomenal circulation in just two months' time, even in lands where Jehovah's witnesses were banned, such as the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Spain, Portugal and Eastern Germany. The clergy of Christendom came in for direct attention later. v

Along with this "blitz" distribution Jehovah's witnesses wound up their special January-to-April campaign for new Watchtower subscriptions by obtaining 562,228 new magazine subscriptions by the close of April, and that in forty languages. This was the seventeenth annual Watchtower subscription campaign, the first being carried on for five months in 1939, during which 93,000 new subscriptions were obtained in the United States. w The first subscription campaign with Consolation was conducted in 1938, and in three months 73,006 new subscriptions were obtained in the United States. x


The year 1955, beginning the fifth decade of Kingdom operation, was outstanding too for the greatest convention ever


arranged for the New World society. It started Wednesday, June 22, and progressed successfully to its ending thousands of miles away on Sunday, August 28.

TOM: That sounds like a traveling convention. Was it patterned along the lines of the 1951 Clean Worship Assemblies?

JOHN: Yes, though on a much expanded scale. Thirteen assemblies in ten weeks' time brought together 403,682 persons to hear the public address, with 13,016 of those at the assemblies symbolizing their dedication by immersion. The outstanding releases were Volume II of the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Qualified to Be Ministers and You May Survive Armageddon into God's New World. The Yearbook account relates:

Just as summer began in the Northern Hemisphere, Jehovah's witnesses assembled at Chicago, Illinois. Five days of beautiful, clear weather started the "Triumphant Kingdom" Assemblies with a peak attendance of 42,116 gathered in the huge Comiskey Park Sunday afternoon (June 26) to hear the lecture "World Conquest Soon—by God's Kingdom."

Week after week great crowds gathered in different parts of the earth. The second thrilling convention was at Vancouver, British Columbia; then Los Angeles, California, which proved to be the third-largest convention in the United States; then on to Dallas, Texas; and then New York city, which closed the series for the North American continent. In the Western Hemisphere the peak attendance for any one place was 55,009, at the world-famous New York Yankee Stadium. This was the third time that Jehovah's witnesses had used this fine assembly place. y

Eastward then to Europe in what was called "Probably the biggest mass movement of Americans through Europe since the Allied invasion during World War II." z

Forty-two planes were scheduled by the Watch Tower Society, as well as two chartered steamships, the Arosa Kulm and the Arosa Star. The ships became in fact floating convention halls with specially arranged programs for the upbuilding of all passengers on board.


The largest gathering of all was held at Nuremberg, Germany, on the immense Zeppelinwiese. For the third time since World War II the Witnesses were making use of it. Hitler had built it for holding his week-long rallies and making displays of Nazi might and solidarity. aa

What a victory for these German witnesses of Jehovah who had been mercilessly hounded and persecuted by Hitler's Third Reich in an effort to annihilate them and what a triumph for the Kingdom message in the fortieth year since the Kingdom's establishment to see 107,423 persons assembled at this particular place on Sunday, August 14, to hear the stirring public lecture "World Conquest Soon—by God's Kingdom." The words of one editorial writer concerning "the assembling of a gentle multitude [of Jehovah's witnesses] in brotherhood and good will" on another occasion might very well apply to the Nuremberg assembly in the Zeppelinwiese:

This is no doubt the world's most dangerous age, but those who come quietly and unarmed have been a part of every dangerous age in history; an apparently lesser part it would seem, because the destroyers always occupy history's spotlight. . . .

But then again, perhaps not. There may be a deceptive power concealed somewhere in the guileless pattern of the seemingly defenseless. After all—how many of the bloody thunderers, the Atillas and the Hitlers, have done very well? In all cases, their monuments have been constructed from the stuff of their own infamies while the "helpless" march over their graves to new meeting places.

So it may be that the meek are not in the danger they appear to be. Perhaps attempting to deprive them of their promised heritage is the most dangerous gamble of all. bb

Certainly Jehovah's witnesses were in no fear of dangers that might lie ahead. The Yearbook concludes the matter of the assemblies:


This grand "Triumphant Kingdom" Assembly brought the service year of Jehovah's witnesses to a close and there was no question in the mind of anyone that Jehovah had poured out a blessing greater than we could contain, and that set his organization off for greater advancement in the 1956 service year. The "great crowd" from all nations, kindreds and tongues was still coming to Jehovah's temple for worship; and the New World society was anxious to receive them, to teach them and to help them render exclusive devotion to the Sovereign Ruler. cc

After the close of the assembly in each country, according to a partial report, 257,124 copies of the unprecedentedly distributed booklet Christendom or Christianity—Which One Is "the Light of the World"? were mailed world-wide by individual Witnesses to each of the religious clergymen and editors of principal publications in their territory. What acknowledgments of receipt of the booklet were received varied from vicious or deploring to qualifiedly agreeing or kindly. dd

By 1955, ten years after World War II, twenty-five semiannual student groups had been registered for the prescribed course of study at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. In those twelve and a half years from the beginning of Gilead in 1943 up to the summer of 1955, there were 2,721 students that had enrolled for study from fifty-nine countries. Of that number 2,631 completed the prescribed course of study, ninety having dropped out because of poor health, poor grades or for other reasons. Diplomas were awarded for meritorious study to 2,487 graduates, while the other 144 did not receive diplomas, as their scholastic marks were below the minimum standard that had been set for this award. Of the number completing the course, 1,136 were ministers from fifty-eight countries outside the United States and 1,495 were American nationals. Of interest too, 833 were single men, 796 were single women and 1,002 were married persons. Now, by 1955, where were these missionaries, and what were they doing?

A look at the records shows 663 Gilead


graduates working in twelve North American lands. Another 144 missionaries were operating in thirty-eight different political "lands" on islands of the Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean, while 340 were assigned in South America. Europe, too, had received its share, with 278 preaching there. In Africa 108 missionaries of the Society served in thirty-four lands; in Asia, 186 were scattered throughout eighteen lands; and in the islands of the Pacific, eighty-five were busy in theocratic assignments.

Not all the expansion in these lands where the missionaries worked was due to their energetic activity, but their advanced theocratic training and their long hard hours of zealous preaching in the homes of the people certainly enabled them to take the lead and set an example. By 1955 in North America there was one minister of Jehovah's witnesses for every 922 inhabitants, a total of 236,124 publishers, to compare with 75,589 in 1942, the year before Gilead was established. On the islands of the Atlantic, Caribbean and Mediterranean there was one Witness for every 971 islanders, or a total of 19,615 Witnesses, whereas in 1942 there were only 1,297. In South America the ratio was not so high, there being only one Witness for every 6,435 of the population, all together 18,800 ministers. Still that was a tremendous increase over the 807 in 1942! Europe averaged one Witness per 1,746 of the population, or 227,374 Witnesses, a growth from 22,796 in 1942. In Africa, one publisher to every 2,068 persons on the continent brought the total to 98,146 in 1955, to compare with 10,070 in 1942. Asia could be called the "dark" continent, for in 1955 there was only one Witness to every 280,000, with a total of only 4,541. But in 1942 there were only 406. The islands of the Pacific averaged one to every 2,800 islanders, with 38,325 publishers preaching all together in 1955, to compare with only 4,275 in 1942.

Truly the influx of the great multitude was in evidence. And while the increase was remarkable during the second world war, especially in Europe, the growth in world totals could be marked more particularly from 1945 onward. Let's use the United States field to illustrate it. The 1956 Yearbook comments:

Jehovah's witnesses in the United States rejoice in the privilege they had during the service year of 1955, reaching an all-time peak of 187,120 publishers preaching the good news. It is interesting to look back over the years and to observe that in 1940 there were 58,000 publishers. For seven years there were between 58,000 and 66,000 publishers up to and including the year 1946. From then on a steady increase was noticed of about 12,000 new publishers every year, sometimes more and sometimes less. ee

Have in mind, then, that in 1942 there were 115,240 of Jehovah's witnesses preaching world-wide and in 1945 there were 141,606. The 1956 Yearbook then comments:

When we take a fleeting glimpse back over ten years we can see how Jehovah God through his visible organization has fed and gathered together one-half million people of good will, all of whom have taken their stand and proved themselves to be qualified ministers of Jehovah God. A half million is the growth of the New World society in but ten years' time. ff

So, as Jehovah's witnesses entered the fifth decade of Kingdom operation they numbered 642,929 strong. But, though further expansion was certain, they still faced increasing opposition too. In Poland, according to reports by news dispatches and radio, five witnesses of Jehovah were arrested on the false charge of being spies for political America and were sentenced in March, 1955, to years of imprisonment. Mark 13:9 and Luke 21:12 were still being fulfilled upon Jehovah's witnesses in this "time of the end."

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