Last year saw the publishing of a bizarre “Seven Shepherds, Eight Dukes” Watchtower article in which Jehovah’s Witnesses were told not to expect any justification for the commands passed down by their leaders.
The study magazine urged Witnesses to “obey any instructions” from “Jehovah’s organization… whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.”
But despite setting alarm bells ringing for those already concerned that Watchtower is sliding deeper and deeper into cultish fundamentalism, there was at least some distinction made in that article between “Jehovah” and his ‘organization’.
Now it seems that distinction, already so tenuous, is vanishing completely.
The latest October 15th Watchtower has this advice for Witnesses…
“Faithful servants of Jehovah have always been eager to submit to theocratic direction. (Read Hebrews 13:7, 17.) We may initially lack full understanding of the reasons for carrying out our assigned work in a particular way. Nevertheless, we are fully aware of the benefits of cooperating with Jehovah in any adjustments he sees fit to make.” -w14 10/15 pp.24-25
The same “obey without question” rhetoric is carried through from nearly a year ago, but with a troubling new twist. Direction or adjustments passed on to Jehovah’s Witnesses are to be considered, not as coming from “Jehovah’s organization,” but from Jehovah himself.
To drive this point home, the article gives the example of the recent spate of branch closures (or “mergers” as they are referred to in this article). How are bethelites uprooted from their homes and asked to relocate to a bethel in a foreign country to respond to this direction?
“Grethel says: ‘I accepted the invitation because it was my way of showing Jehovah that my love for him went beyond a country, a building, or a certain privilege.’ Dayska says: ‘When I remembered that the invitation came from Jehovah, I accepted it gladly.'” – w14 10/15 pp.25-26
The tinkering in rhetoric between the two articles, published less than a year apart, is subtle yet profound. If you can get Witnesses to think of Watchtower and Jehovah as one and the same, you bypass any need to justify how or why the organization deserves its authority.
1914 and 1919 become less relevant in explaining how Watchtower’s leaders received their divine mandate if Witnesses can mentally cut out the middle-man by considering themselves as obeying, not an organization, but God directly.
It will be intriguing to see how this mental cup and ball trick plays out in future organizational developments. Don’t be surprised if the name “Watchtower” gets dispensed with entirely as it grows increasingly obsolete in the minds of both Witnesses and those who rule over them.