A letter to the Watchtower
Editor’s Note: This is a copy of “AA’s” letter to the Watchtower. He wrote this when he had just started his intensive research into their beliefs and history. He never received a reply back from anyone at headquarters (he says it might have been because he didn’t include “Attn: Writing Committee” when he addressed it). He was hoping for and expected some kind of answer back from them – in spite of its somewhat aggressive tone. He also admits that he was bit scared asking the questions in this letter, so he’d like to know what you think. Feel free to share your comments at the end of the article. His original version (with commentary) can be found by clicking on this link to Jehovahs-Witness.net.
I am writing this letter concerning some questions that I have acquired over time; although most have arisen from my own study, many have come from witnessing to others and discussions with my non-Witness wife. I have found adequate answers on most through deeper study, but still have a few that I think you would be better suited to address. Throughout the following paragraphs I will try to convey my questions in the fullest and most accurate way possible. With that being said, please remember that while I have these concerns I do not intend to question the authority of the Organization in any way, it is only that I have not been able to reconcile everything I have studied and have concluded that I wont be able to on my own. As 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.”
One major confusion for me has been dates. The more I study the more there seem to be, and although some are still held to be true, others have been entirely discarded or the significance has changed. The two most important dates in modern times seem to be 1914 and 1919, the former involving the invisible return of Christ, and the latter his selection of Jehovah’s Witnesses as his chosen representatives. Concerning 1919, I have not been able to discern why it is this year is important prophetically. I do know the Organization recognizes that until this date the Bible Students were still a part of Christendom’s false religion, as the May 1, 1989 Watchtower explains on pages 3 and 4. Interestingly it brings out “without any Biblical basis, they were observing birthdays and Christmas. The cross was still prominent in their thinking” as just a few reasons for not being acceptable to Christ. Paradoxically further research reveals that the cross appeared on the front cover of every issue of the Watch Tower up to October 15, 1931 and Christmas was still celebrated at Bethel until around 1925. If the Bible Students were not acceptable to Jesus before 1919 because of these practices, then how did they become accepted after while still involved in these apostate activities?
Taking for granted the importance of 1919 means Jehovah is in full control of the Organization, as the November 1, 1956 Watchtower clearly asserts on page 666:
“Who controls the organization, who directs it? Who is at the head? A man? A group of men? A clergy class? A pope? A hierarchy? A council? No, none of these. How is that possible? In any organization is it not necessary that there be a directing head or policy-making part that controls or guides the organization? Yes. Is the living God, Jehovah, the Director of the theocratic Christian organization? Yes!”
In addition, the Watchtower of September 1, 1979 on page 29 says, “For nearly 60 years now the Jeremiah class have faithfully spoken forth Jehovah’s Word” regarding the Faithful and Discreet Slave. The earliest I have found the current understanding of 1914 to be accepted, however, is 1943. Until then the belief that was taught and preached throughout the world by Jehovah’s Witnesses was “1874 C.E. as the date of return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the beginning of his invisible presence…This presence was to continue until the end of the Gentile Times in 1914, when the Gentile nations would be destroyed and the remnant of the ‘7 chaste virgins’ class would be glorified with their bridegroom in heaven by death and resurrection to life in the spirit.” (God’s Kingdom Has Approached, 1973 p186-188 & 209-210) I am having trouble balancing the fact that Jehovah has been directing the organization since 1919 while these incredibly wrong views were still purveyed, despite the 1979 Watchtower quoted earlier, and as Matthew 12:37 clearly states: “For by your words you will be declared righteous, and by your words you will be condemned.”
After 1914 passed and Armageddon failed to occur, the Society moved the date to 1925. The widely circulated booklet Millions Now Living Will Never Die summed up the claim in these words:
“Based upon the argument heretofore set forth, then, that the old order of things, the old world, is ending, and is therefore passing away, and that the new order is coming in, and that 1925 shall mark the resurrection of the faithful worthies of old and the beginning of reconstruction, it is reasonable to conclude that millions of people now on the earth will be still on the earth in 1925. Then, based upon the promises set forth in the divine Word, we must reach the positive and indisputable conclusion that millions now living will never die.” (pg 97)
Notably this booklet was published in 1920, the very next year after the Bible Students were found acceptable to Christ Jesus. Now, before I go further, I should mention I am familiar with the “old light, new light” explanation with the basic meaning of darkness gradually giving way to light, or clearer understanding. What I do not understand is how that would apply to being blatantly wrong about views held to be unquestionable truth and maintaining those views till proved wrong, then just replacing them with other equally wrong ones. In my research the closest I have found to a concession of error is the October 1, 1984 Watchtower’s mentioning of what Rutherford said: “Regarding his misguided statements as to what we could expect in 1925, he once confessed to us at Bethel, ‘I made an ass of myself.'” (pg 24) Does this mean that only Rutherford supplied the mistaken “light” of 1925? Regardless, it was presented to Jehovah’s Witnesses as theocratically provided “light” by the Society.
“Jehovah has considerately raised up his ‘prophet to the nations.’ Jehovah has done this during this ‘time of the end,’ since World War I ended on November 11, 1918.” (Watchtower, October 1, 1982, pg 26) The failed predictions of 1914 and 1925 notwithstanding, in the late ’60s the Organization began pointing toward 1975 as the beginning of Armageddon. As the May 1, 1967 Watchtower points out on page 262: “The autumn of the year 1975 marks the end of 6,000 years of human experience” and the November 15, 1969 edition explains what that means for humans saying, “In order for the Lord Jesus Christ to be Lord even of the Sabbath day, his thousand-year reign would have to be the seventh in a series of thousand-year periods or millenniums…Would not, then, the end of six millenniums of mankind’s laborious enslavement under Satan the Devil be the fitting time for Jehovah God to usher in a Sabbath millennium for all his human creatures? Yes, indeed! And his King Jesus Christ will be Lord of that Sabbath.” (pg 622, 623) In response to this “new light,” many adjusted their whole lives (from draining retirement funds, to quitting jobs, to mortgaging their houses, to putting off needed medical treatment and more, all to have a fuller share in the ministry during the “short time ahead”) based on the belief that this system would end in 1975.
Luke 21:8 warns, “Look out that YOU are not misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The due time has approached.’ Do not go after them.” Nothing happened in 1975. Faithful Witnesses were left encouraged only with the understanding that “Shortly, within our twentieth century, the ‘battle in the day of Jehovah’ will begin against the modern antitype of Jerusalem, Christendom.” (The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah, pg 216) This, of course, was not true either. Would Jehovah really allow His Organization, under Jesus’ control, to spread such false teachings? “Disappointments can weaken faith,” the April 15, 1990 Watchtower observes on page 27, “Adult Christians too can be disappointed, and this has in some cases led to spiritual disaster. Some set their hope on a date when they were sure Armageddon would come. When nothing happened on that day, they felt let down.” But all of the “disappointments” for 1914, 1925, and 1975 are the direct result of the Societies teachings! Would Jehovah really allow His Witnesses to lead others to “spiritual disaster”? Matthew 7:18-20 says, “A good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire. Really, then, by their fruits YOU will recognize those [men].” Is the Watchtower a rotten tree or a good tree? Are these false predictions not rotten fruit?
The last date I am curious about is not so much a failed prophecy as an abandoned significance, like 1874. The Proclaimers book, concerning the great crowd, mentions: “For years, even down till 1935, they were not understood to be the same as the sheep in Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats. As already noted, it was thought that they were a secondary heavenly class-secondary because they had been negligent about obeying God.” (pg 166) So 1935 marks the change to the current “light” involving the great crowd (the “old light” was spread by Witnesses for the first 16 years of Jesus directing the Society), but the February 15, 1995 Watchtower on page 19 adds a deeper meaning: “Logically, the calling of the little flock would draw to a close when the number was nearing completion, and the evidence is that the general gathering of these specially blessed ones ended in 1935.” This view was held from 1935 until 2007 when the May 1st edition brought “new light” stating: “Thus it appears that we can not set a specific date for when the calling of Christians to the heavenly hope ends.” I do not understand where Bible chronology pointed to 1935 in the first place though. Where did that date come from? Did it have no proof at all from the start? If so why did it take 72 years to abandon it? And would that not be the definition of dogmatic?
“People who were alive in 1914, and who are now well along in years, will not all pass off the scene before the thrilling events marking the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty come to pass.” (Survival Into A New Earth, pg 184) Another important topic that ceaselessly confuses me is the Society’s definition of the prophetic “Generation.” This was actually the matter that finally spurred me into action and ultimately to write this letter. From my research I have found that the understanding of who composes this generation has changed no less than 6 times. In fact, the above posted quote is from the ’80s and the definition was changed in 1995, and again around 2008, and again this year, but until I read the Watchtower this year I still thought that the correct view was that expressed in the quote! I hadn’t realized I had missed two developments in “new light” until I read the third.
With this newest and brightest “light” though I have two questions. The first is how exactly does two generations of people overlapping equal one? Am I, by that reasoning, part of my grandfather’s generation? I really am having a hard time grasping how it makes sense. Furthermore, I can not even find that definition in any dictionary! My second question is how is it that the changing of the generation understanding so many times correlates with “old light” and “new light”? The definition has gone back and forth between involving the anointed and worldly ones, so would that be the “light getting brighter” or just the “light” blinking on and off? Was it under Jehovah’s direction to hold these views as the “Truth” as they were when they first came about or was it solely man’s doing? Does this happen frequently?
“In order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error,” says Ephesians chapter 4 verse 14, but the Watchtower declares: “Approved association with Jehovah’s Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses.” (April 1, 1986, pg 31) If one were as near perfect a Witness as one could be but did not accept one of the teachings of “old light” as true while it was being promoted as “new light” would they be disfellowshipped? When said teaching is eventually abandoned as false, would the disfellowshipped one be pardoned? From my research I know the answer to both questions is a definite no, but my concern is why not? They did not do anything wrong did they? The Bible commands, “That YOU may make sure of the more important things, so that YOU may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:10) As admitted earlier, the Watchtower’s disappointments have led to “spiritual disaster;” would this not be in direct conflict with Jehovah’s command at Philippians?
There are other examples besides failed time prophecies and the changing generation teaching concerning flickering “light,” but I will consider just one. Will the Sodomites be resurrected to judgment? From my research I have found this: Watchtower 6/1/52 pg 338 “NO;” Watchtower 3/1/65 pg 139 “YES;” Watchtower 6/1/88 pg 31 “NO;” Live Forever pg 179 “NO;” Insight, vol. 2, pg 985 “YES;” Revelation Grand Climax, pg 273 “NO.” Interestingly, while it seems that the current understanding is that Sodom will not be resurrected, the Insight book still says it will. That is important because most people go there first when doing research. Even though the “light” has changed the answer to “no,” are people still being mislead by “old light” when they study? The Revelation book and the Insight were both published in 1988, so could two Witnesses have opposing views that year and both be equally acceptable to the Organization, the “Truth”? “Brothers, do not become young children in powers of understanding, but be babes as to badness; yet become full-grown in powers of understanding,” directs 1 Corinthians 14:20. Do all of these changes in “light” not unduly hinder Jehovah’s servants?
Another practice that has changed that I am not in full understanding of is the way in which one is baptized. The July 1, 1955 Watchtower mentions on page 411: “A Christian, therefore, cannot be baptized in the name of the one actually doing the immersing or in the name of any man, nor in the name of any organization, but in the name of the Father, the Son and the holy spirit.” The baptismal questions for candidates at that time were:
(1) Have you recognized yourself before Jehovah God as a sinner who needs salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from him the Father through his Son Jesus Christ?
(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightenment of the holy spirit?
Followed by the statement:
All of you who answered “Yes” to these questions should be baptized without hesitation or delay. You have sufficient knowledge and understanding of what you are doing and God holds you responsible to carry out his will by being baptized in water.
(Watchtower, July 1, 1956, pg 407)
However, after decades of baptizing in this way the method was changed. In the June 1, 1985 Watchtower on page 30 the questions were changed to:
(1) On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?
(2) Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?
The April 15, 1987 Watchtower states on page 12 the reason for the change: “The two questions addressed to baptismal candidates were simplified so that candidates could answer with full comprehension of what is involved in coming into intimate relationship with God and his earthly organization.” I find it difficult to discern anything confusing in the original questions and as the ’56 Watchtower clearly stated the candidate had “sufficient knowledge and understanding.” However, what is more troublesome I think is the last question; as the ’55 Watchtower said one should not be baptized “in the name of any organization” and the October 1, 1966 Watchtower specifically says on page 603: “We do not dedicate ourselves to a religion, nor to a man, nor to an organization. No, we dedicate ourselves to the Supreme Sovereign of the Universe, our Creator, Jehovah God himself.” Are the baptismal questions currently in use in conflict with Jehovah’s arrangement of baptism? Or, was the “old light” wrong? Were enough people still confused as to what baptism involved, even after studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses and going through the questions with elders, that a change in wording was really necessary? Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” Is it acceptable to baptize as “Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization” instead?
These questions that I can not answer have definitely left me confused and troubled. To compound matters, reconciling Deuteronomy 18:20-22 with the Organization’s past actions has proved challenging. That text reads: “The prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. And in case you should say in your heart: ‘How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?’ when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak.” The Insight book defines “prophet” as “One through whom divine will and purpose are made known…The Greek pro·phe′tes literally means ‘a speaker out’ [Gr., pro, ‘before’ or ‘in front of,’ and phe·mi′, ‘say’] and thus describes a proclaimer, one who makes known messages attributed to a divine source. (Compare Tit 1:12.) Though this includes the thought of a predictor of the future, the fundamental meaning of the word is not that of prediction.” As Jehovah’s Kingdom Proclaimers are we not His modern day prophets? The Watchtower repeatedly refers to Jehovah’s Witnesses as Jehovah’s “Prophet to the Nations” and the January 15, 1959 Watchtower declares, “Whom has God actually used as his prophet?…Jehovah’s witnesses are deeply grateful today that the plain facts show that God has been pleased to use them…Jehovah thrust out his hand of power and touched their lips and put his words in their mouths.” (pg 40-41)
As Jehovah’s Witnesses, God’s “spirit-directed organization,” and in light of Deuteronomy 18:20-22, what are the implications of the failed time prophecies of 1874, 1914, 1925, 1935, and 1975? All of these dates were erroneously “Witnessed” about at some point post 1919. Additionally, since 1919 the Society has, at one time or another, celebrated Christmas, held faith in the cross, and continually changed core beliefs. As Jehovah slowly reveals more “light” to the Organization. does he also confer false “light”? The Bible holds no record of any true prophets ever providing fallacious information. Since there have been inaccurate teachings published by the Society even until this newest definition of generations overlapping, is there possibly anything incorrect held as Biblical truth today? As Jehovah’s Witnesses have we professed and are we professing anything “that is the word that Jehovah did not speak”? Would it really be right to disfellowship someone for rejecting false “light”?
I would very much appreciate any help you brothers can provide me regarding these concerns. As the January 15, 1983 Watchtower cautions on page 27, I am trying to “Fight against independent thinking,” and observe Proverbs admonition to “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.” (3:5) While I await your qualified, hopefully prompt response, I will “meekly go along with the Lord’s theocratic organization and wait for further clarification.” (February 1, 1952 Watchtower, pg 80)
Thank you again for taking the time to read this and all of your effort. I eagerly anticipate your reply, and I send you my Christian love.
It’s too bad that the Watchtower Society has so far ignored the above letter. I’m sure that all of us would love to read their “official answers” to this writer’s questions. Baptized at 13, “AA” was a Jehovah’s Witness for over fifteen years. He was disfellowshipped for a time, but was later reinstated. Eventually though, he made the choice to disassociate himself. He recently joined the popular online forum at Jehovahs-Witness.net, where he has already become an active participant and poster. I’m pleased that he allowed me to share his outstanding letter with our readers. – Editor