A new book is being released at the 2014 “Keep Seeking First God’s Kingdom” series of conventions. Entitled “God’s Kingdom Rules!,” it marks the centenary of 1914 with a heavily sanitized version of Jehovah’s Witness history over the past 100 years or more.
Prior to this release, “Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom” was Watchtower’s primary authorized history book. Despite presenting a similarly white-washed perspective of Witness history, at least somewhere in its 750-pages there were hints at some of the skeletons from Watchtower’s past.
For example, page 76 featured a grey box on Beth Sarim, the “House of the Princes.” The fact that it was principally earmarked by Rutherford as a residence for the likes of Abraham, Joseph and David on their resurrection was relegated to a mere footnote – but at least something was there in print.
Every bit as wacky as Rutherford’s notions of bible characters suddenly emerging in suburban San Diego was Russell’s insistence that the Great Pyramid of Gizeh was “God’s Stone Witness.” So convinced was he that every inch in the internal chambers corresponded to years of bible history that he dedicated books, charts and magazine articles to this bizarre theory, which remained official Watchtower dogma until 1928.
The Proclaimers book didn’t explore the pyramid teaching at length, but it at least allowed it a grudging mention on page 201 – enough to provide a basis for further research for those so inclined.
The new God’s Kingdom Rules! book, on the other hand, dispenses with Beth Sarim entirely. And any clue that Russell once indulged in elaborate pyramid fantasies must now be deciphered from a sepia photo of a horsedrawn cart on page 19 with the “divine plan” chart discernible on its side.
Modern Witnesses are thus left with no hint of just how ludicrous the teachings of their prized organization’s former leaders actually were.
With this in mind, consider the following words of David Splane in his concluding talk at the 2014 East Rutherford International Convention in New Jersey…
As Splane acknowledged, there are many countries deprived of any reasonable grasp of Watchtower history because the Proclaimers book is only available in a limited number of languages.
Apparently Christ’s words at Matthew 19:26, “with God all things are possible,” do not stretch to translating a 750-page book into the tongues of all God’s people. Conveniently, the Governing Body would rather throw in the towel and instead release an entirely new, slimmer volume that just so happens to omit almost all unsavory aspects of the organization’s history.
This may not seem like such a big deal if you are reading this article from an English-speaking country. However, I happen to live in one of those countries where the Proclaimers book isn’t available in the local language – which in my case is Croatian.
I have experienced firsthand the frustration of trying to reason with indoctrinated relatives on basic flaws in Watchtower history to which they are completely oblivious because they have never been able to read the Proclaimers book.
Now my plight is made even worse, because my relatives will assume they know everything about Watchtower history thanks to this new book. In truth, they will know only what Watchtower has allowed them to know – with a dash of spin, trickery and willful omission thrown into the mix.
But all is not lost. An elder friend from the United States has gone to quite some expense to mail me my own personal copy of the God’s Kingdom Rules! book so that I can dissect it for myself. After going through it, I have found a number of areas that clearly demonstrate the flawed logic behind Watchtower theology and its omission or white-washing of historical details.
This article will attempt to summarize my findings as succinctly as possible. (Edit: and with a final word-count of over 6,000 words will clearly fail! My apologies!)
“Attractive publications” or style over substance?
As is increasingly becoming customary for Watchtower books, a letter from the Governing Body adorns the introductory pages.
Noteworthy in this latest letter is a paragraph that begins with the words: “With Jehovah’s blessing on the work, we are now able to publish our attractive Bible literature in more than 670 languages and to offer it to everyone without charge.” (page 3)
Firstly, as Splane admitted in the above video, not ALL Watchtower publications are available in 670 languages. It seems Jehovah’s organization will, to quote Splane, “never have the resources” to make certain books available in every tongue. Apparently spiritual food from the faithful slave doesn’t have a passport for certain language borders. So the writers have barely begun their 240-page ramble before foisting a clear exaggeration on the reader.
Secondly, my eyebrows were raised by the term “attractive literature” being coined by the Governing Body. Surely whether literature is visually appealing or not is irrelevant compared to whether it is truthful and informative. To my mind, this Freudian slip speaks volumes about Watchtower’s “style over substance” approach, where aesthetics are paramount and producing factual, honest information falls lower down the pecking order.
“Ample proof,” or ample exaggeration?
Of further interest is the certainty and frequency with which unsupportable claims are made throughout the publication.
Page 11 announces: “We have ample proof that Jesus’ prophecy [at Matthew 24 and 25] has been undergoing fulfillment since 1914.”
“Without question,” we are told on page 77, “the King has blessed the methods we have used to advertize the Kingdom.”
“Our legal victories prove that we walk in the sight of God and in company with Christ,” is the conclusion on page 145.
“All these theocratic schools are powerful proof that our King has fully equipped his followers to accomplish their ministry,” page 185 insists.
Page 208 asserts that the “scores of branch office buildings, hundreds of Assembly Halls, and tens of thousands of Kingdom Halls around the world provide tangible proof that God’s Kingdom is real and is now ruling.”
And page 235, in the final chapter, declares: “Each chapter of this book contains powerful evidence that Christ has brought his followers into a genuine spiritual paradise in this time of the end.”
When invoked for such ludicrous claims, words like “proof” and “evidence” quickly lose all meaning. If ministerial training programs, legal victories or an abundance of buildings are evidence that Jesus Christ is involved in the Watchtower organization, then the same must be said of Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, the Church of England, or almost any significant Christian denomination.
The propensity for exaggeration and outlandish claims in this publication knows almost no limits, and led to my reading it with an almost-constant smirk or face-palm. No opportunity for self-congratulation is bypassed.
Take for example page 78 where a footnote declares: “In the past decade alone, Jehovah’s people have produced more than 20 billion Bible-based publications. In addition, our Web site, jw.org, is now available to the more than 2.7 billion people worldwide who access the internet.”
And so, in the scramble for impressive stats, the web’s audience of 2.7 billion is annexed by Watchtower without hesitation for the purpose of “bigging up” its achievements. The fact that the likes of JWfacts.com, AAWA.co, JWstruggle.com and indeed this website could make exactly the same claim regarding the internet’s audience is an afterthought.
Then on page 83 a graph is shown in which Watchtower compares the publishing figures for its various publications with those of ‘the world’.
I let out an audible giggle when I glanced at the heading “other books” in which the Bible Teach book’s publication figure of over 201 million is held up against the more than 1 billion copies of Chairman Mao’s “little red book” (or “Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-tung”).
The irony appears to be completely lost on Watchtower that it has now sunk to measuring its success in propaganda distribution against that of a communist dictator.
New light, and the Governing Body’s “humility”
When reading this book you also can’t help but notice the way key “new light” interpretations are rammed home for emphasis at every opportunity.
Page 12 gets the ball rolling with an image showing the “overlapping generations” teaching, which has been met with considerable derision by thinking Witnesses since its introduction in 2010.
As you may be aware, the “generation” that “will not pass away” referred to by Jesus at Matthew 24:3 has been conveniently sliced into two different groups, one of which lives on into our time. Why? Because the generation that witnessed the events of 1914 has, well, passed away.
What about evidence that Jesus had two groups in mind when speaking to his disciples? Apparently none is needed. Simply switch off your critical thinking faculties and embrace the notion that the “two groups form one generation because their lives as anointed Christians overlapped for a time.”
The latest interpretation of the “faithful slave” teaching is similarly aired in this book, although far more frequently. Page 23 reminds us that, in 1919, Jesus “appointed the ‘faithful and discreet slave’, a small group of anointed men who would take the lead among his people.”
“Especially from that time onward,” we are assured on pages 61 and 62, “that slave began dispensing spiritual food – by means of convention discourses and printed publications – that repeatedly emphasized the responsibility of all Christians to have a personal share in preaching.”
A brief disclaimer regarding the false pronouncements and doctrinal U-turns made by this “slave” features on page 37, but like many things in this book it is heavily spun to make the organization appear saint-like.
“As Chapters 4 and 5 of this book will show, over the past 100 years, God’s people have had to adjust their understanding on a number of occasions. Does that fact mean that they do not have Jehovah’s backing? On the contrary! He supports them. Why? Because those who fear Jehovah have displayed two qualities that he loves – faith and humility. (Heb. 11:6; Jas. 4:6) Jehovah’s servants have faith that all the promises in God’s Word will come true. They show humility when they admit that they misunderstood exactly how those promises would be fulfilled.” – God’s Kingdom Rules, page 37.
“Humility” is an attribute notably absent in the Governing Body’s brutal policy of disfellowshipping any who voice disagreement with their transient “understandings” of scripture, and severing such ones from their families.
If the Governing Body were to publish their “understandings” on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, that would be one thing. The above professions of humility might then hold some water.
But the simple truth is that a person who stands up and voices an understanding of scripture that does not accord with their contemporary teachings is punished in the worst possible means – by family estrangement, including demonization as a “mentally-diseased” apostate.
To illustrate just how crazy this policy is: a publisher could have insisted in 2011 that the Governing Body alone are the “faithful slave,” and not the broader 144,000 spirit-anointed ones, and he would need to be disfellowshipped by his elders on grounds of apostasy. Refuse to make the exact same acknowledgement when pressed on the matter only two years later, and another person meets the same fate.
Such willingness on the part of the Governing Body to mete out punishments for refusing to yield to their latest doctrinal whims renders any professions of humility not only laughable but deeply insulting to those like myself who are victims of their delusional arrogance.
It also renders entirely hypocritical the accounts related on pages 147 and 153 where Watchtower boasts of successfully appealing to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for the “freedom of thought, conscience, and religion” of its affiliates.
Anyone familiar with Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights will note that, in addition to guaranteeing freedom of religious observance, it also protects the “freedom of thought, conscience, and religion” of anyone who decides to “change his religion or belief” – something you are not allowed to do as a Witness without facing the prospect of permanent family ostracism. (For more information, see this video.)
But as objectionable as Watchtower’s claims regarding new light are, there are some notable areas in this new book where the teaching is demonstrably ludicrous. Hopefully an overview of these may be of use to those seeking ways of reasoning with indoctrinated relatives.
Organizational refinements – finite or indefinite?
One confusing element of the ‘new light’ surrounding the faithful slave is the notion that Christ visited Earth in 1914 and oversaw a cleansing of the early Bible Students over the period to 1919. This teaching is spelled out on page 100…
“From 1914 to early 1919, the Refiner, Jehovah, allowed his people to go through various trials and hardships that served to refine and cleanse them. Happily, those anointed ones emerged from the fiery tests in a cleaner condition, eager to show their support for the Messianic King!” – God’s Kingdom Rules!, page 100
With such a specific period, and with five years for God and Christ to work with, you would assume all the required cleaning would be complete by the 1919 passed. But that is not what we see in the very next paragraph.
“Was that the end of the refining and cleaning for God’s people? No. Throughout the last days, Jehovah by means of the Messianic King has continued to help his followers be clean so that they might remain in the spiritual temple.” – God’s Kingdom Rules!, page 101
It shouldn’t be too hard to see the problem here. If God’s people were indeed cleansed between 1914 and 1919, why have they required decades upon decades of cleansing since that period? Is the cleansing period finite, or indefinite? The Governing Body doesn’t seem to want to make up its mind, and won’t even recognize the need to.
Allow me to illustrate how ludicrous this teaching is.
Last month my wife and I hired a local laborer to install drywall in our bathroom. The laborer told us the job would be done in 2 to 3 days. He turned up with some colleagues and, sure enough, after 2 to 3 days the work was done to our satisfaction and we paid him. He did not cover only one or two walls with drywall and then say, “You can pay me now and I will do the remaining walls progressively over the next few years.” Had he told us that, we would have refused to pay until the work was finished.
For some reason, Watchtower refuses to explain why Christ’s cleansing work is both for a 5-year period and ongoing, or why an Almighty God requires a century or more to whip his one true religion into shape.
The only hint of an explanation is offered on page 108, where we are told that continual refinement is needed because “Satan never stops trying to draw [Christ’s followers] back into the mire of immorality.” But morals are one thing, organizational refinements are another. Take, for example, the elder arrangement.
Going backwards to go forwards
Page 119 discusses organizational refinements regarding elders by referring to Isaiah 60:17: “Instead of the copper I will bring in gold, and instead of the iron I will bring in silver, instead of the wood, copper, and instead of the stones, iron; and I will appoint peace as your overseers and righteousness as your task assigners.”
Notice the very next paragraph after this scripture is quoted (bold is mine)…
“Isaiah’s prophecy states that one material would be replaced by another. But note that the replacements are changes, not from bad to good, but from good to better. Replacing copper with gold is an improvement, and the same is true of the other materials here mentioned. Thus, with this word picture, Jehovah foretold that the condition of his people would improve step-by-step.” – God’s Kingdom Rules, page 119
The message here couldn’t be clearer. Organizational adjustments only go in one direction, and that is forwards – not backwards.
With this in mind, consider what the same chapter reveals regarding the elder arrangement in the preceding paragraphs…
“[The November 15, 1895 Watch Tower] announced a far reaching change. It directed that starting immediately, “in every company, elders be chosen” to ‘take the oversight of the flock’.”- God’s Kingdom Rules, pp.118-119
And so, under Russell’s direction, an arrangement was brought in whereby there would be bodies of elders rather than a single leader for each “company,” or congregation.
But Rutherford was to have other ideas, as revealed by Ray Franz in his book Crisis of Conscience (bold is mine)…
“The Scriptural arrangement of bodies of elders had been summarily ended in 1932 by Judge Rutherford due to a lack of cooperation on the part of some elders with the Society’s programs and policies. His position as President gave Rutherford the necessary authority to take such a stand and all congregations were invited to vote for the disbanding of bodies of elders and their replacement by a Society-appointed ‘Service Director.’ For the next forty years there were no bodies of elders in the congregations. That is why the New World Translation of the Bible published by the Society in the 1950s regularly used the rendering ‘older men’ rather than ‘elders,’ a then officially discredited term.” – Crisis of Conscience by Raymond Franz, pp.26-27
This version of events corresponds precisely with the narrative presented in the new God’s Kingdom Rules! book, where it says…
“From 1932 to 1972, congregation oversight had been carried out mainly by one brother. Until 1936, such an appointed brother was called the service director. Thereafter, the name was changed to company servant, then to congregation servant, and finally to congregation overseer. Those appointed brothers cared zealously for the spiritual welfare of the flock. The congregation overseer usually made decisions for the congregation without consulting other servants in the congregation.” – God’s Kingdom Rules, pp.122
Hopefully by now you have spotted the problem, which is as-good-as admitted in this new book. The organization went from having a ‘theocratic’ elder arrangement under Russell, to a non-theocratic “congregation servant” arrangement under Rutherford, and then back to the original elder arrangement under Knorr.
How, precisely, does this clear flip-flop show organizational refinements only going “from good to better” as page 119 explained?
Related to this issue is the way Watchtower seems perfectly content to re-write its history in such a way as to claim for itself the contributions made by a man it ousted and condemned as an “apostate.”
In Crisis of Conscience, Ray Franz explains meticulously how he was asked by Nathan Knorr, not by any “Governing Body” (for the Governing Body arrangement only formally began in 1971) to do research on a new book Aid to Bible Understanding under the supervision of Karl Adams, who was neither a Governing Body member nor, indeed, of the anointed.
Two of the subjects assigned to Franz were “older man [elder]” and “overseer.” It was his research that would prompt the changes to the elder arrangement that were previously mentioned.
But notice how the God’s Kingdom Rules! book describes the above episode…
“From 1964 to 1971, the governing body supervised an extensive Bible study project that examined, among many other subjects, how the first-century Christian congregation functioned. As to organizational structure, it was learned that the oversight of congregations in the first century was carried out by a body of elders instead of just by one elder, or overseer.” – God’s Kingdom Rules, pp.120
Thus Watchtower not only writes Ray Franz out of history – it also takes the credit for his contribution, which it accepts as an organizational improvement.
Further attempts to rewrite history or gloss over unflattering details can be seen on the following pages…
- Page 14 – It is mentioned that Henry Grew, George Stetson, and George Storrs “had a profound impact on C.T. Russell and his close associates,” but no mention is made of Nelson Barbour, who had a major influence on Russell’s fascination with date-setting, or William Miller (the founder of adventism on which Russell’s teachings were loosely based) who receives at least some mention in the Proclaimers book.
- Pages 22 and 23 – The death of Russell is mentioned, but the leadership coup in which Rutherford swept to power (by effectively tearing up Russell’s will and scuppering what would have been something much closer to a “governing body” arrangement of shared power as early as 1917) receives no acknowledgment. Instead, an “outbreak of apostasy” is blamed on “creature worship” of Russell and a bitter resistance of “efforts to move forward.” (For more information on this period in Watchtower’s history, read this article under the heading “A Questionable Character.”)
- Page 23 – Pre-1914 expectations are characterized thus: “They thought that in 1914, Christ would take his anointed bride class to heaven to rule with him there.” No mention is made of the fact that this ‘rapture’ had also been the expectation for 1878 when Russell and Barbour were working together, or that Russell expected 1914 to mark the END of Armageddon. (For more information, click here) Mention is also made of Rutherford being “unjustly sentenced” in 1918, without any explanation of what prompted his incarceration. Likely his publication of fiercely political anti-war material in pages 247 to 253 of The Finished Mystery would be a little much for the average Witness to stomach.
- Page 62 – The Golden Age magazine (forerunner to the Awake!) is referred to as “directing people to the Kingdom as mankind’s only hope.” Some who are more familiar with actual Golden Age articles may struggle with this premise, particularly after reading that black people were considered a “race of servants,” that the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the “work of Satan” (see here), or that “in the future man will get his food directly from the sun.” (The Golden Age 1927 Oct 5 p.10)
- Page 70 – The Photodrama of Creation is acclaimed as having been shown in “packed auditoriums” during 1914. No mention is made that in one of these auditoriums in New York black audience members were segregated. (see here)
- Page 72 – We are reminded that “an estimated 50,000 people heard [Rutherford’s] talk ‘Millions Now Living Will Never Die'” in 1922. Some would argue that this achievement is rather overshadowed by the sad irony that most if not all of those 50,000 are likely now deceased, as will be a significant remainder of the immortal “millions” alluded to by Rutherford.
Rare honesty and some helpful features
Some rare honesty IS to be found on page 50 regarding pre-1914 expectations of Russell…
“As we saw in Chapter 2 of this book, the Bible Students spent decades pointing out that the year 1914 would be significant in fulfilling Bible prophecy. However, at that time they believed that Christ’s presence had begun in 1874, that he had begun to rule in heaven in 1878, and that the Kingdom would not be fully set up until October 1914. The harvest would extend from 1874 to 1914 and would culminate in the gathering of the anointed to heaven.” – God’s Kingdom Rules, page 50
But like most hiccups in Watchtower’s history this is blamed on ‘increasing light’, with a bizarre choice of scripture used to support the idea of God’s people being “blessed with more and more flashes of spiritual light.”
“Light has flashed up for the righteous and rejoicing for those upright in heart.” – Psalm 97:11, New World Translation
It seems that almost any scripture in the Bible featuring the word “light” can now be used to justify the increased light doctrine.
All that aside, the uncharacteristic honesty on this page regarding pre-1914 expectations is refreshing, and may prove to be a useful tool for those who seek to better inform their indoctrinated relatives about Watchtower’s history.
Other parts of the book that might be helpful when reasoning with believing loved ones include…
- Page 63 – A photograph is shown of the landmark 1922 “Advertize, advertize, advertize!” convention at Cedar Point, Ohio. Look carefully and you will notice American flags draped prominently to the left and right of the stage, and hanging either side of the “ADV” on the stage itself. Not only is the nationalism among “God’s people” at that time worthy of note, it is also interesting to compare the scene with how it is depicted in Watchtower’s 2010 DVD “Faith In Action – Part 1.” In the digital re-enactment, the flags either side of the stage are removed and replaced with rectangular wooden boards. (For more information, click here)
- Page 74 – A strange confession is made, namely that Watchtower was forced to retreat from using commercial radio stations to publish its message during the 1930’s due to “opposition” to this method. Precisely what form did this opposition take? Who instigated it? And why wasn’t God’s backing enough to help the organization overcome it? We are not told.
- Page 114 – As this website has already stated, it wasn’t until 1952 that the disfellowshipping procedure was implemented by Watchtower. Only 5 years previously the practice of excommunication, admitted by Watchtower as being equal to disfellowshipping (w96 4/15 p.15 par.18), was blasted in a 1947 Awake! article as being a “weapon” that is “altogether foreign to Bible teachings.” (Awake! scans: Page 1 | Page 2) Page 114 admits to the 1952 date for when the practice was fully introduced – 33 years after Christ supposedly chose the organization. It would not be until 1981 that the rules were further changed to make it impossible to disassociate as a Witness without being punished, but curiously this isn’t mentioned.
- Page 130-131 – A two-page section focuses attention on the Governing Body, who are depicted seated around a large conference table with a map of the world in the background. The photograph has a rather phoney feel about it, because rather than looking directly into the camera the group of men are posing while involved in a discussion. The six Governing Body “committees” are listed, including the Coordinator’s committee, whose remit includes “use of the media when it is necessary to convey an accurate picture of our beliefs.” Precisely how is it possible to “use” the media if the media is under Satan’s control? (w97 4/1 p.17 par.16)
Misrepresenting the present… and future
As you’ve probably surmised by this point, God’s Kingdom Rules! is just as much about the present and future of the Witnesses as it is about their past. And as you might expect, the writers are just as prone to exaggeration and drawing mistaken conclusions when discussing the modern organization.
Here are a few examples…
Though Jehovah’s Witnesses are spread throughout an impressive number of countries, they cannot be truly said to be present “earth wide,” yet this is precisely how page 67 characterizes their preaching work.
As has already been revealed by a bethel representative, there are at least three countries (with a total population of some 65 million people) where Jehovah’s Witnesses are not present at all due to safety fears. (see this video, time marker 03:20) A Somali, Afghan or North Korean would give you a very strange look if you tried to tell him or her that the Witnesses are everywhere in the world.
It is also inadvisable to suggest that numerical increase is evidence of divine favor and blessing, yet the book falls into this trap repeatedly. On page 89 we are told that “Jehovah’s spirit and the power of his Word” are responsible for the “great world-wide harvest.” And on page 96 Keith Gaydon, a circuit overseer from Britain, suggests the increase in his country from 1948 to the present would be “impossible” by human power.
It should go without saying that if you are going to attribute growth in numbers in your own religion to divine backing, you also need to make the same claim regarding the growth and prosperity of other denominations.
In light of the increasing use of credit cards by Watchtower and the recent changes in the way kingdom hall construction is financed, page 100 makes for a humorous read when it reviews Christ’s brusque treatment of the temple money changers. His views on money and worship were made abundantly clear according to the account found in Matthew 21.
94 pages later we are reminded of Charles Taze Russell’s approach to funding his efforts. “I am telling you the plain truth,” Russell reportedly tells a skeptical inquirer, “They [interested ones] do ask me this very question, ‘How can I get a little money into this cause?’ When one gets a blessing and has any means, he wants to use it for the Lord. If he has no means, why should we prod him for it?”
It should go without saying that the recent developments with regards to pledged donations by each congregation, as determined on the basis of “confidential surveys,” bear the distinct feel of “prodding.” No doubt this prodding will intensify if congregations fail to send through to Watchtower the fixed amounts they have been forced to pledge.
Many like myself see Watchtower’s increasing eagerness to solicit funds as indicative that all is not well with the organization’s finances – but this is not something they seem likely to admit any time soon. 130 years after Russell claimed Watchtower would “never beg nor petition men for support,” the writers of this new book bullishly insist the organization is “still going strong.” (pages 195, 196)
For those unfortunate enough to feel compelled to ease the financial worries that Watchtower apparently does not have, a chart is prepared on page 200 entitled “Where Do Our Donations Go?” Needless to say, child abuse lawsuit settlements and other legal expenses connected with the organization’s defense of its out-dated and grossly negligent policies in that area are notable by their absence.
Considering the growing media attention surrounding Jehovah’s Witnesses and child abuse, you would assume that the matter was worthy of at least some mention in a book that sets out to cover Watchtower’s past and present. Instead we get a short paragraph on page 117 that says the following…
“Jesus also wants children to be protected from harm. As this morally degraded world has sunk deeper into depravity, the plague of child abuse has become more prevalent. Therefore, clear and direct material has been published to help parents keep their children safe from this vicious practice.” – God’s Kingdom Rules!, page 117
It is not enough for a religious organization with millions of members to simply “publish material.” It must enact policies that treat child abuse as the heinous crime that it is, and urge the deferring of all reported instances to the police accordingly. Instead, Watchtower orders elders to dabble in these complex matters and insists on all reported cases being managed by the branch office.
This has resulted in the organization defending itself in lawsuits where the authorities have been kept out of the picture altogether, with the abuse covered up. Unsurprisingly, none of this gets even the slightest mention in this new book.
As examples of the “clear and direct material” published by the organization, the children’s book Learn From the Great Teacher and the October 2007 Awake! are listed in a footnote. Both offer only preventative advice to parents and children. Certainly neither urge parents to go to the police whenever abuse is uncovered.
When will Watchtower realize that teaching children to say, “Stop that! I’m going to tell on you!” isn’t enough to keep them out of harm’s way?
Worthy of a mention on page 128 is a box entitled “Fruitful Weekly Visits.” It tells of how elders in a US congregation have made a concerted effort to visit the 30 inactive ones in their territory. Inactive ones are told of how “the congregation has not forgotten the fine work the person did in behalf of Jehovah’s Kingdom.”
The elders in question, and indeed the organization, seem oblivious to the fact that becoming inactive is now the only option available to Witnesses who wish to leave their religion while keeping family ties. Far from being “lost sheep” as they are here characterized, many inactive ones are simply victims of a cruel cult who have awakened from their indoctrination and want their personal beliefs to be respected.
Pages 161 to 164 offer three experiences from Japan, Argentina and Canada of Witnesses who have legally defended their right to refuse blood. Conveniently, two of these experiences have “recovered fully” or are in “good health.” The third person mentioned died a month after appearing in court in an ultimately successful attempt to sue her doctor and hospital for a forced transfusion.
Predictably, no mention is made of the exact number of Witnesses, including children, who have died out of mistaken allegiance to Watchtower’s obscene and immoral blood teaching. Neither is any credit given to the various doctors and judges who have intervened to save countless children whose lives have been imperiled by their indoctrinated Witness parents.
As with defenses over blood treatment, pages 164 to 166 provide examples of Witness parents who have successfully defeated unbelieving former spouses in legal battles over child custody.
“Some allege that being raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is harmful,” the reader is told with an air of disbelief. We are then regaled with some resounding victories against parents who tried to argue that 24/7 indoctrination and refusal of certain medical treatments might not be in their child’s best interests.
What the book neglects to point out is that Watchtower issues a special pack to assist lawyers in getting custody for Witness clients. Among its advice can be found the following…
Likely the above material didn’t make the final cut for the God’s Kingdom Rules! book because most Witnesses won’t want to see evidence of “God’s organization” encouraging young people to knowingly misrepresent their beliefs and aspirations.
It has been intriguing to observe the reduction in the number of Watchtower branches over the past few years, resulting in a huge decrease in the organization’s global footprint. Coupled with the slashing of printing operations, it would seem to represent clear evidence of Watchtower’s financial woes, especially since the organization used to pride itself in the opening up of branches in new territories.
It certainly seems inconceivable that a Watchtower organization flushed with money would be closing branches down rather than setting up new ones.
In their attempts to downplay the “consolidation,” Watchtower has previously offered the rather fanciful retort that the branch reductions are “proof” that Jesus is “breaking down human barriers.” (w12 12/15 p.28 par.18)
Sticking with a slightly more down-to-earth explanation, the new book broaches the subject in a box on page 205 by suggesting that the downsizing has been caused by “improvements in communications and printing technology.”
What the future holds
Not content with spinning and misrepresenting the organization’s past and present, the future of Jehovah’s Witnesses is also made the subject of the writer’s overactive imagination.
A very sombre-looking chart on pages 224 and 225 confidently predicts events leading up to Armageddon, including an attack on religion by the United Nations, Watchtower’s former bosom buddy. The chain of events climaxes with Armageddon, when “Jehovah sends his King to defend all loyal ones.”
To drive home the ‘reality’ of this future development, a rather psychedelic image appears on page 229 showing a giant Jesus (with a striking resemblance to Kenny Rogers) descending from the heavens, bow in hand, ready to do some unspeakable things to a group of flailing soldiers.
A similar image is shown earlier on in the book on page 20 when giant Jesus is shown appearing invisibly (if that makes any sense) in 1914. But that was 100 years ago, and on page 229 it seems he has unfinished business to attend to.
Once the utter annihilation of all non-Witnesses is complete, the stage is set for the numerous promises surrounding the paradise to come to fruition. These promises are neatly detailed for us in the final chapter.
In reference to one such promise, the resurrection, page 221 has this to say…
“You pluck a luscious apple from the branch. You take in its aroma before adding it to the growing mound in the basket. You have been working for hours, but you feel fine and ready for a bit of work. Your mother is at a tree nearby, happily working and chatting with other family members and friends who are helping with the harvest. She looks so young – the way you remember her when you were just a child all those years ago. It is hard to believe that you saw her grow old in the world that is now long gone. You saw her waste away with illness, you held her hand as she breathed her last, and you wept at her graveside. Yet, here she is, along with so many others, alive and healthy again! Such days will come; we know it.” – God’s Kingdom Rules!, page 221
As someone who DID see his mother “waste away with illness” and DID hold her hand “as she breathed her last” but has since woken up from his indoctrination, I can now look upon the above words and see them for what they are: utterly distasteful and abhorrent propaganda aimed at hijacking the grieving process, and the memory of dead loved ones, for the furtherance of a cruel cult.
Clinging to 1914
Without question the most notable feature of this book is the way it stubbornly clings to 1914 throughout, even though the passage of time has unmistakeably revealed this relic of a doctrine to be deeply flawed.
In pinning everything on this increasingly discredited teaching, the God’s Kingdom Rules! book commits the same mistake as the latest “Silver Sword” edition of the New World Translation – it gives itself a very brief shelf-life.
Banging on about 1914 may seem prudent to most Witnesses on the centenary of that year. But as more decades roll by, this book (along with all other books that point to 1914) will become just as embarrassing to Watchtower as the dusty old works of Russell that tout years like 1874 and 1878 as having biblical significance.
The Governing Body desperately needs to divorce itself from this teaching before they are exposed as fools in their own lifetimes (especially in the case of the relatively young Sanderson), but their inability to do so indicates to my mind that they are just as delusional as most of their followers.
It is not that they lack creativity, this they have clearly demonstrated in some of their outrageous teachings and policy changes in recent years. It is simply that they are dyed-in-the-wool Witnesses, and 1914 is in their DNA.
How the fact that they are so chained to such an obviously flawed date will play out in the decades to come remains to be seen, but don’t expect any radical deviations in understanding any time soon. Not if this book is anything to go by.