reprint of the Jul/Aug 1992 Bethel Ministries Newsletter
Does Time Heal All in the Watchtower?
by Randall Watters
In the classic novel 1984, George Orwell portrays a Society brainwashed by political ideals to the point where they are intolerant of any other mindset. For an absolute system to really work, Orwell argues, all of its subjects must not only believe in it, but be enthusiastic about it. Yet even in Communist Russia, which once almost paralleled Orwell's world, it was impossible to win all the people over to their mindset. True thought control, however, has been achieved in some modern religious circles in a way that would make a dictator envious.
Thought control is readily observable in religious cults. It often begins by the members of the group feeling that they are part of an elite group of reformers, ready to change a reluctant and backsliding world. Though starting out with many noble ideals, they soon experience persecution for their narrow-minded views, separate themselves from others either physically or psychologically, and exercise total control over those in their inner circle, in order to maintain unity of thought and purpose.
Belief in their ideals soon becomes essential to salvation (does it sound like the Watchtower already?). To be a True Believer brings the reward of life in the New System, whereas to doubt or fail to obey means death at Armageddon (Judgment Day). If fear of death isn't enough, the fear that you will lose your friends and family (and perhaps suffer verbal and physical abuse as well) will provide the needed motivation to get you to conform. The treatment served by a cult amounts to psychological, emotional, and perhaps (as in the case of Jonestown) even physical murder.
The novel 1984 is a testimony to how this principle works in a political setting. Yet many religions like Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Worldwide Church of God, etc. are simply a 'spiritualized' form of government, and condone a significant amount of internal politics. I have therefore chosen to use some excerpts from 1984 to demonstrate certain similarities between the Watchtower and Orwell's fictitious world. On the following pages, you will notice such excerpts inset in smaller type.
Orwell's book begins by pointing a picture of a major world power that dabbles with their historical records in order to make themselves look as if they have always been right. Oceana is the world power, and Eurasia is its rival. You will notice mention of "Big Brother," or the "Society." Think about the similarities of such a political system with the "Mother organization" of Jehovah's Witnesses, also commonly referred to as the "Society" (a term also used by the Communist party to conceal the fact that the real rulership is centered in a handful of men). Using the words "Society" and "Mother organization" similarly, we find statements such as this from The Watchtower of May 1957, p.274: If we are to walk in the light of truth we must recognize not only Jehovah God as our father but his organization as our mother." The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses knows that in order to maintain control over the future of the Watchtower organization, they must hove control over their past. How? In basically three ways: (1) By preventing the average JW from accessing their older literature, (2) by dismissing previous failures and false prophecies, or (3) by actually changing their history, and reprinting their books with slight corrections! Let's consider these three areas of control over their future.
(1) Limited Access to the Past
Looking back to 1972 when I first starting studying with Jehovah's Witnesses, l was delighted to be part of the only organization on earth that taught the truths of God. It seemed logical that there would be many valuable articles in older Watchtower magazines as well, especially in the writings of the founder of the WT, C.T. Russell. Having been the editor and writer of most of the articles in the magazine up until his death in 1916, he was a charismatic figure (several sects of the WT still follow him as their departed spiritual leader) and the articles he wrote were much more interesting than the ones being published today. l knew an elder and his wife that had all the older publications, and I spent hours poring over the early magazines. It soon became clear, however, that the "truth" in 1892 held little resemblance to the truth in 1972, for Russell warned against forming an organization, freely celebrated Christmas and birthdays, allowed the visitation of other churches, and spoke extensively of a relationship with Christ and being part of his bride, all of which would be strangely foreign to the modern Watchtower magazine.
I was distinctly told by the elders not to spend time going over older literature, as it was "old light," having been replaced by newer truths. Later, when I went to Bethel (WT headquarters) in 1974, I remember a campaign underway to send any old literature to the Watchtower in order to "stock Kingdom Hall libraries of the newer congregations," and yet several brothers at the Watchtower Farms told me that most of the books were secretly burned to prevent Witnesses from being confused by them.
Today, few Kingdom Halls have libraries that go back farther than 1960, and if they do, they are often not accessible to the general congregation, and certainly not accessible to outsiders (non-Witnesses). Most older publications cannot be obtained from the headquarters earlier than 1960, and they refuse to make photocopies of older publications, despite having complete libraries in several locations at the Brooklyn headquarters. Since most of today's Witnesses have been in the organization less than 10 years, they have no idea what the Watchtower taught 40, 60 or 100 years ago, and therefore are not aware of any inconsistencies. This is exactly the way the Watchtower wants it.
(2) Dismissing Previous Failures
J. F. Rutherford, the second president of the WT, admitted that they had made false prophecies in his book, Vindication (Book 1, p. l 46) but apparently felt that a few false prophecies were not so bad. F.W. Franz, the fourth WT President, was forced under oath to admit to enforcing belief in prophecies that may later prove to be false, even under threat of disfellowshiping. (Douglas Walsh versus James Lathan Clyde, Scotland, l 954, p. 343) Franz said that such actions were necessary to maintain unity. Here is an excerpt from the trial proceedings (Franz provides the Answers):
Q.- Unity at all costs? A. Unity at all costs, because we believe and are sure that Jehovah God is using our organization, the governing body of our organization to direct it, even though mistakes are made from time to time. Q.- And unity based upon an enforced acceptance of false prophecy? A.- That is conceded to be true. (ibid.)
Though the WT has never commented on the aforementioned statement of Rutherford or the Douglas Walsh case to my knowledge, they were forced to comment on the failure of 1975 to bring the end of the world, as was predicted. At first they tried to blame the failure on the Witnesses themselves, who were said to have read into the literature something which was not there, [1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, p. 146] but were later pressured into accepting part of the blame themselves (though they were entirely at faultI personally heard an address by F.W. Franz given in March 1975 before 2000 members of the headquarters staff, stating that Armageddon was only weeks or perhaps months away). [WT 3/15/80, p. 17, 181
The latest excuse given by the Society for their prophetic failures (if admitted at all) is that it is better to be over-anxious and wrong than not prepared for the Kingdom! Notice the clever phraseology they use in a Watchtower article in 1986:
"Yes, Jehovah's people have had to revise expectations from time to time. Because of our eagerness, we have hoped for the new system earlier than Jehovah's timetable has called for it... Moreover, the need to revise our understanding somewhat does not make us false prophets... (WT, 3/1 5/86, p. 1 9)
To the Governing Body, reality is whatever they are teaching as current light. Whatever they taught in the past is not to even be considered any longer; indeed, it would amount to apostasy to go back to believing former views (which they refer to as "old light").
This means that you must gain a series of 'victories' over your memory; what was taught ten years ago is not to be remembered now, for it would confuse the understanding of present truth. If it be necessary to explain the past teachings to someone who has discovered them, you can use complicated explanations as to how truth is only relative to the progression of the organization. A JW must be ready to deny the past, yet subconsciously acknowledge it and compensate for it in his thinking; all the while being careful not to be conscious of fooling himself. Just as in Orwell's world,
...His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies... to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the some process to the process itselfthat was the ultimate subtlety. (1984, p. 32 33)
To know, for instance, that the Watchtower Society actually did lead their people to believe that the end of the world was coming in 1975; yet to deny that and actually believe your denial of it to be truthful; to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies... to forget that the WT had predicted the end of the world in 1914... to forget this when it was necessary to forget, then when cornered to draw it back into memory and call it a mistake; only to later deny it to a different personthat is the ultimate subtlety! And then, to point to other religious groups who do the same thing and accuse them of being false prophets is using two ways of thinking, hence the comparison to Doublethink. For example: "True, there have been those in times past who predicted an 'end to the world,' even announcing a specific date...The 'end' did not come. They were guilty of false prophesying. Why? What was missing? Missing was the full measure of evidence required in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Missing from such people were God's truths and the evidence that he was guiding and using them." (AWAKE!, Oct. 8, 1968 p.23)
How can the Governing Body make a statement like this in view of their own record of false predictions? It is easily documented that they predicted an end to the world several times. It is as Orwell says, "...to forget whatever it is necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again and then to forget it again... and to apply the same process to the process itself (to be unaware of this whole facade, in other words}, that was the ultimate subtlety. Doublethink is indeed an appropriate word for it.
How different this is from just plain and simply telling the truth! How often people get annoyed with Jehovah's Witnesses because they won't say what they really believe about a subject, such as 'who only will be saved at Armageddon,' or, 'who only can understand the Bible.'
(3) Correcting the Records
Orwell's Oceana found it necessary to reprint older newspapers in the archives, changing "history" in order to show that they have always been right:
...The frightening thing was that it might all be true. If the party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happenedthat, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death. (1984, p. 32)
How real is the true reality, or what we perceive as reality? If an organization has the power to actually alter history, what horrors could be perpetrated? The past is recorded in books, but what if the books are changed?
The most classic examples of altering their own history revolves around the expectations during WWI, where they thought they would be raptured any moment, and Christ would destroy the governments of the earth and establish his Kingdom. In the box on the next page, I will demonstrate a few before-and-after sentences that were changed in certain Watchtower books.
Infallibility Without Responsibility
The Watchtower Society rests on the belief that the 'Mother' organization cannot lead you astray. If they are later exposed as having made a mistake or promoting a lie, you were better off walking in the mistake or living the lie than recognizing the truth of the matter on your own. You cannot go wrong if you remain in step with your 'Mother.' Thus she is, in effect, infallible (although denying claim to such}. So within the Watchtower (as with Big Brother) there is an unwearying effort on the part of their writing department to be flexible with "truth," always being ready to find some ridiculous analogy to show how they were really on the right course all along, like using the example of how a ship, in getting from point 'A' to point 'B' must sometimes tack, or zigzag all over, in order to get there (WT, 1 2/1 /81, p.27). Or the explanation might be given that Jehovah God was just 'testing' you by allowing the Mother organization to lead you to believe that the world was going to end at a specific time, yet suspecting that it wasn't going to happen. (see the Feb. 15, 1984 WT p.26, pp.2)
However, if another religion changes its doctrines, the Governing Body will quickly criticize them by using the words of Eph. 4:14:
"We are no longer to be children, tossed by the waves and whirled about by every fresh gust of teaching, dupes of crafty rogues and their deceitful schemes."
Interestingly, the May 15, 1976 WT says on page 298: "It is a serious matter to represent God and Christ in one way, then find that our understanding of the major teachings and fundamental doctrines of the scriptures was in error, and then after that, to go back to the very doctrines that, by years of study, we had thoroughly determined to be in error. Christians cannot be vacillating- 'wishy-washy'- about such fundamental teachings. What confidence can one put in the sincerity or judgment of such persons?" If they could only apply this to themselves! Orwell noted this formula as applied to Oceana:
For the secret of rulership is to combine a belief in one's own infallibility with the power to learn from post mistakes. 1984, p. 177)
This is the ultimate desire of all intelligent cults: to combine absolute authority and infallibility with the power to learn from false prophecies and bad dealings.
The Mother organization wants absolute loyalty at all times. It claims to be a prophet like Ezekiel and Jeremiah (WT, 10/1/82, p.26, 27}. It claims to be a mouthpiece for God, yet refuses to take the responsibility of a prophet. According to their Bible at Deut. 18:20-22, they are false prophets when examined in the light of their own historical record. Sometimes the excuse is given, "We aren't false prophets, because we admit our mistakes." Well, I have news for you! Any false prophet who predicts an end to the world is going to admit their mistake the day after! You can't deny the obviousthe world is still here.
But this is precisely the desire of the Governing Body; absolute authority coupled with not having to take responsibility for mistakes.
Of course, some JWs will say that The Watchtower is not inspired. However, they have ignored the very words of their own leaders in making this statement! For example, in the Olin Moyle trials in Scotland in 1943, Fred Franz, the current president, said that Jehovah himself is the editor of the magazine and that it is set forth directly as God's Word, without any qualification whatsoever (Sec. #2596-2597 of transcript)! Speaking of how Jehovah passes down 'truth' to the 'faithful and discreet slave class'' the July 1' 1943 WT says on page 203:
"He (Jehovah) merely uses the 'servant' class to publish the interpretation after the Supreme Court by Christ Jesus reveals it."
In referring to the angelic being of Ezek. 43:6' the book Vindication' written by Joseph Rutherford (their second president) says in volume III, p. 250:
"'The man' was the heavenly messenger, and this pictures the heavenly messengers or angels of the Lord. No doubt they first hear the instruction which the lord issues to his remnant and then these invisible messengers pass such instruction on to the remnant. The facts show that the angels of the Lord with him at his temple have been thus rendering service unto the remnant since 1919."
Another important point in Orwell's discussion is closely related to "doublethink'" namely that in a successful manipulation of the mind the person is no longer saying the opposite of what he thinks, but he thinks the opposite of what is true. For instance, if he has surrendered his independence and his integrity completely, if he views himself as a thing which belongs to the state... he feels free (from responsibility to telling the truth) because there is no longer any awareness of the discrepancy between truth and falsehood. Specifically this applies to ideologies. Just as the medieval Inquisitors who tortured their prisoners believed that they acted in the name of Christian love, the Party "rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist movement originally stood, and it chooses to do this in the name of socialism." Its content is reversed into its opposite, and yet people believe that the ideology means what it says.
This is the most frightening aspect about the deceptions of the Governing Body. By a clever program of mind control, they have succeeded in not only causing four million people to believe that black is white and day is night, but have taught them not to question the matter at all!
To think that I was (and that four million souls still are) so cleverly controlled by an organization which has repudiated almost everything the Christian church has stood for in 2000 years of history, and then to set itself up as the Christian church is frightening to say the least. We cannot sit idly by and allow them to exercise such control over people's lives. They have succeeded in convincing their people that truth is relative to organizational policy. Intellectual suicide! They have rejected everything which the "enemy" (Christendom) claims to be and have claimed to be that themselves.
Let us reach out in love to those who are struggling within this organization. We need to be accessible to those we love within the Watchtower (and other totalitarian religious systems), and let them see by our lives that Jehovah's Witnesses do not represent Christianity and that the Spirit of Christ is found in individuals, not organizations (Col. 1:27). Yes, there is TRUTH outside the Watchtower!
Changing the Past
The following examples of changing their books are taken from Russell's Studies In The Scriptures (in seven volumes):
That the deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914 is manifest... Just how long before 1914 the last living members of the body of Christ will be glorified, we are not directly informed; (Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 3, p. 228)
That the deliverance of the saints must take place very soon after 1914 is manifest... Just how long after 1914 the last living members of the body of Christ will be glorified, we are not directly informed; (ibid., 1923 edition)
This calculation shows A.D. 1874 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble; for 1542 years B.C. plus 1874 years A.D. equals 3416 years. Thus the Pyramid witnesses that the close of 1874 was the chronological beginning of the time of trouble... (Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 3, p. 342, 1889 edition)
This calculation shows A.D. 1915 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble; for 1542 years B.C. plus 1915 years A.D. equals 3457 years. Thus the Pyramid witnesses that the close of 1914 will be the beginning of the time of trouble... (ibid., 1905 edition)
Also, in the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by millions... (The Finished Mystery, 1917 edition)
Also, in the year 1918, when God begins to destroy the churches and the church members by millions... (ibid., 1926 edition)
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