Does the 2014 JW book "God's Kingdom Rules!" provide an accurate historical deptiction of Bible Students and the historical progression to todays Jehovah's Wintesses?

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75% of the Original Bible Students left the Watchtower by 1931

During the struggle between Judge Rutherford and the Bible Students, William Schnell was in the upper echelon of the Watch Tower and made very insightful observations. At the time he finally wrote his book, THIRTY YEARS A WATCHTOWER SLAVE, he was neither a Jehovah’s Witness nor a Bible Student.
Schnell noted that further doctrinal changes and aggressive promotions by Judge Rutherford resulted in a large increase in new members faithful to Judge Rutherford. But this generated opposition from Pastor Russell’s Bible Students who still remained in the Watch Tower endeavoring to reverse Judge Rutherford’s revisionism of doctrine and practice. Judge Rutherford’s reaction is described by Schnell as follows: (ii)

“Between 1925 and 1931 Rutherford embarked on a campaign to purge Russell’s followers. By 1931 over three-fourths of those formerly associated with the Bible Student movement in Pastor Russell’s day remained faithful to his teachings by completely separating from Rutherford.”

Regarding those who left, Schnell remarked, “That is precisely what the new Watch Tower Society wanted and what they had hoped to accomplish.” (iii) Speaking of the new converts Schnell said: (iv) These, of course, were in the majority after the bloodletting of three-fourths of the Bible Students had been so adroitly accomplished.

Memorial attendance figures give interesting insight as to how Watchtower membership changed in the early years.

The following numbers are from the book “Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose” printed by the Society in 1959 which has several scattered references to Memorial attendance records during the 1920s.  The numbers given are as follows:

1917 – 21,274
1918 – no reports gathered
1919 – 17,961
1920 – no reports gathered
1921 – no reports gathered
1922 – 32,661
1923 – 42,000
1924 – 62,696
1925 – 90,434
1926 – 89,278
1928  17,380
1927 to 1934 – reports gathered but never printed
1935 – 27,006

Alan Rogerson quotes from “Jehovah” (1934), p. 277, “Of the great multitude that left the world to follow Jesus Christ only a few are now in God’s organization.”  That seems to go a long way towards confirming Memorial attendance figures like about 90,434 in 1925 vs. a bit over 19,000 in 1928.
If you take the 1917 attendance of 21,274 and subtract it from the peak attendance in 1925 which was 90,434 you get almost 76.5% drop.  But it must be remembered when looking at those numbers that the “Millions” campaign was responsible for gathering many newly interested ones.  The “Millions” campaign (Millions Now Living Will Never Die) started in 1918 and declared that the church would be complete by 1921 and the Kingdom established in 1925.  When the year came and went without anything of significance taking place scores left but many of them were new converts.  Those who were faithful to the Russell’s teachings were leaving as early as 1917 and the numbers continued to dwindle through the end of the 1920s, a gradual but steady decline in the original membership.

Even more telling is the following quote taken from Judge Rutherford himself in the November 15th, 1930 Watch Tower:  “The total number of those who have withdrawn from the Society and now oppose its work is comparatively large, when such are taken altogether.  These are now divided into many companies, all claiming to be followers of Christ and claiming to be God’s little flock, while at the same time they speak evil things concerning those who are faithfully endeavoring to serve God.  They denounce the Society and its work.”

So he clearly recognized that when you compare the number of those who stayed with the Society with the number of those who left they were the ones representing the larger number.  These would have included the Layman’s, the Dawn, the PBI and various other little groups (which is why he said “when such are taken altogether”).

Other researchers have tried to produce accurate statistics and their work generally confirms that it was approximately three-quarters of the original membership in the Pastor’s day that had left the Watch Tower Society by 1931.

Not only did approximately 75% of the original Bible Students from Brother Russell’s day leave the Watchtower by 1931, but a large number of new converts from the failed “Millions” campaign had left by 1928.  After this, J. F. Rutherford changed the name of His group to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, to distinguish it from the various Bible Student groups formed.  With new marketing and organizational strategies, the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization grew dramatically in the multimillion member organization of today.

Rutherford stated that those who had left the Society were in number larger than those who stayed.

“During the past fifty years God has been causing his light to shine with increasing power upon his Word.  He has not given his people new truths, but illuminated the truths already given.  During that short period of time many have separated themselves from all organized systems of religion and have tried to walk in the way that Jesus and the apostles walked.  For a time they made progress; and then many became tired and weary in well doing or thought more highly of themselves than they should think or became lawless, while others became offended.  These turned away, so that today the larger percent of those who withdrew from so-called organized Christianity have turned aside and again gone back into the world.”The Watchtower December 1, 1927 pg 355 col 1 par 4

“Those who tremble at God’s Word are the ones who are diligent to keep and obey his commandments.  They have no fight, to be sure, with the opposers, and mention is here made of it, not for the purpose of controversy, but that God’s people may be encouraged in seeing the fulfilment of prophecy, as it is manifested by the will of God they shall be encouraged.  When it is clearly seen that the opposition to God’s work was long ago foretold by his prophet, and that the prophecy is now being fulfilled, such is a great encouragement to the faithful and is an evidence that the Lord is dealing with them and that they are in his favor.  It is therefore clear that it is the will of God that attention of the faithful shall be called to these things at this time.  The total number of those who have withdrawn from the Society and now oppose its work is comparatively large, when such are taken all together.  These are now divided into many companies, all claiming to be followers of Christ and claiming to be God’s little flock, while at the same time they speak evil things concerning those who are faithful endeavoring to serve God.” — The Watchtower November 15, 1930 pg 342 col 1 pars 1-2

Most JWs are unaware that the reason Rutherford proposed the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” was to draw a clear line of distinction from those who had left the Society and those who remained.  It is usually thought that it was strictly due to “new light”, but the resolution adopted at that Columbus Ohio convention in 1931 centers around the need for a new name due to the divisions.  If you need the text of the resolution and the accompanying article let me know and it will be forwarded to you.  Around this time period of 1930-32 Rutherford repeatedly made attacks upon those who had withdrawn from the Society, all printed in the Watchtower, and in The Golden Age rather harsh and sarcastic replies were given to papers written by the early Dawn brethren.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have been told for decades that the difficulties and schisms experienced in the period around 1918 were part of the fulfillment of prophecies in Daniel and Revelation.  The doctrine is that the Lord came to his temple in 1918 and made a judgment as to who were actually his people.  Jesus saw that the Watchtower Society was doing his work and thus they were accepted, but all others rejected – not merely Christendom, but also those who opposed the work of the Society.  The sign that others were rejected were that they were unorganized, had no interest in preaching the gospel message, and were not exhibiting the spirit of the Lord.  But in reality there were two other groups of Bible Students who were active in preaching work, trying to remain faithful to what they understood to be truth, and were astonished by the many strange new ideas that were being promulgated at the time.  The Society’s three official accounts of their history put the primary blame of trouble upon Br. P.S.L. Johnson but what they have not revealed is that there was, essentially, a competition between the three groups (Watchtower; PBI and Johnson).  Articles in the Watchtower would be responded to by Johnson and the PBI, and articles written by Johnson were often rebutted without any acknowledgment being given that Rutherford was actually responding to him.  This three-way debate continued for nearly 20 years, with the greatest activity in the 1920s.  One of the most common practices that all three groups were guilty of is excessive type-making.  The gradual changes being printed in the Watchtower were frequently being tied to Bible prophecy, but so were the views by Johnson and the PBI.  Bottom line: while the Society makes it appear as though they were the only ones engaged in activity, others were just as active if not more so.

93 comments to 75% of the Original Bible Students left the Watchtower by 1931

  • Chris

    Thanks. :) off to bed. Kids to try to teach tomorrow. They said 6/3=.9. Mind you these are 11th graders. I sure hope they don’t do my taxes for a living

  • Isaiah 43:1
    Israel Redeemed
    43 But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
    And He who formed you, O Israel,
    “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name; you are Mine!

    It sounds to me like God called Israel “by name” ISRAEL. Formed by Jacob. Later in verse 10 (your quote) he tells Israel THEY are his witnesses.

    In the Gospels it claims Jesus was a Nazerene. Does this make the Nazerene denomination the true Church of Christ?
    Just because you pick a name/word/phrase out of the Bible and claim it as your “Name” does not really mean much except to the group using the name. “Church of the Good Shepherd”, “Presbyterians” (of which I grew up as a member), “Catholics”, “Baptists” and the list can go on. All these “names” are in Scripture in one way or another.

    It is not wrong in my opinion for the JW’s to use a phrase from Scripture as a name for their denomination. It is the doctrine of Replacement theology that is in question. The whole of Isaiah 43 is about fleshly Israel. So is 42 and 44 and so on. To pick one verse and leave out the verses that chastise Israel out of the picture is doing an injustice to Isaiah’s prophecies.

    I believe this is the subject on which our discussions started out on.

    Any comments?
    In Christ,

  • Chris

    Disfellowshipped thing is not as common as you would think. I had relations with someone of the same gender and was never disfellowshipped. Pedophiles exist in every denomination. Not just JWs. Many who have problems with the doctrines of JW turn to Christendom. It’s not because they are thinking “Hmm maybe the BS are right”. The only difference between BS and JW are who the Great Crowd are, the cross, and even holidays. Disfellowshipping is biblical. But the fact that BS am dint even agree in unison shows they aren’t the true faith. I.e LHMM. You’ve created divisions and sects which Jesus said he doesn’t like. Many are disfellowshipped not for just asking a question but if they spread what they believe to be truth around the congregation which were in the causing divisions. The Governing Body may not have all the answers but they openly allow us to question and even ask them questions. It’s when for exams I believe the Great Pyramid and i try showing proof behind the elder backs and try to confuse people. Not just a simple questioning. Now am I saying this has never happened? No. But it’s not normal.

  • Chris

    I know where we get our name. Remember Rutherford didn’t believe in Zionism so why would he adopted name because he felt another group wasn’t fulfilling their obligations if he didn’t believe the obligation was to be filled in the first place. Rutherford chose this name because we witness for Jehovah God. Our last two articles in the watch Tower for this month are about Isaiah 43;10 and when Jesus said you’ll be witnesses of me. If the name Jehovah’s Witnesses is a problem where is the term Bible Students? Our is based in scripture. Russell wanted a generic name but it has become a denomination. I mean this by you aren’t a BS based on if you study the bible but if you adhere to CT Russell’s teachings. Therefore your name doesn’t even match the reason he chose it. It’s become a denominational title.

  • Chris

    I love to debate. It’s just that the site doesn’t seem to build up but year down. BS are so bitter toward JWs ever since Rutherford. Get over it.

    • Jacqueline

      Chris perhaps other BS sites might fit your desires. As you observed this site is different, it is a place for those that have been abused within the witness organization to come and vent and we will listen so they can heal. We also want to tell them the truth about the distortion of the Bible truths.
      Actually most Bible Students don’t know much about witnesses or even think about or mention them. The doctrines are so different that they see no connection.
      We, ex Jehovah Witnesses came to them as we found them and asked for help. We told them of the many disfellowshippings that take place over disagreement of doctrine. The huge pedophile issues and the governingbody’S attitude towards victims.
      They hardly knew what was going on. They are not bitter, they all run for the upward call and basically consider witnesses as just another part of nominal Christianity.
      We came to them and formed this unique site. We never expected die hard adherents of the Witnesses to disobey the GB and come here, but we are glad because it shows you are thinking for yourself.
      We don’t discourage any to leave the witnesses. This is not a typical Bible Students site. It is for those wounded and looking for comfort.
      Why are there so many sites on the internet that complain about the Witnesses organization , one might ask? Perhaps the governingbody should listen. But they are a money driven corporation and EASILY disfellowships or shoot it’s wounded. Most religions comforts the sick. But organizations are not human and only works in such a way as to preserve itself even after the GB members die a corporate entity can live on with it’s money.

    • Chris,
      I personally had not given the Jehovah’s Witnesses any mind. They came to my door on occasion and the few that did talk with me were really quite nice people. And what they said sounded GREAT!
      After meeting a few exJW’s at Bible Students meetings I STILL liked them. Very nice people! I consider them Brethren/Sisters. (You too by the way!)
      What started to get my goat and make me question is that over the last 5 months I’ve been on this site I have found JW’s that want to do nothing but humiliate, call names and all around bully. Not ALL mind you but it was happening. Now, I don’t like bullying because when I was a small child I was bullied daily in school. Being a pacifist did not help any. The thing was, those doing the bullying didn’t consider/know they were bullies! When someone comes on this site trying to find comfort and sees posts from what looks like JW watchdogs it does nothing to help the problem. They don’t want to be bullied. I don’t blame them. (NO, I do not consider you a bully!)
      Anyway that is where I am coming from.
      In Christ,

  • Chris

    Plus Jaqueline don’t blame all JWs on a fees actions bum sure not all BS are angels.

  • Chris

    And yes Jaqueline I did see it and I responded.

  • Chris

    I wasn’t saying I was wronged only that we should reject debates. Which fits into the quote Dundee used. I love how this site is called friends of Jehovah ‘s Witnesses but every page is sent tearing down their beliefs. Not really friends are you

    • Chris,
      One of the main purposes of this site is to hold debates and try to come to terms with our questions. If you want to avoid debate you are in the wrong place. Pouring forth JW talking points and doctrine is not the purpose here.

      We are friends to those JW’s (ex and current) that are having trouble talking about how they feel about certain doctrines or rules or whatever. It is usually not allowed amongst their fellow JW’s without being called a troublemaker or apostate or something of the like. Even being shunned for it. We are here to give them strength and let them know someone does care and will lend an open ear. Christian Liberty to openly discuss Scriptures as has been done within the Bible Students since the beginning. And will always continue.

      I would rather not argue with you either. Let’s stop.
      In Christ,

  • Chris

    I quoted the bible on debating. You’re the one who said I was saying I was wronged. I quoted a quote that is pertaining to him. You’re the one who said I was viewing myself as wronged.

    • –”24 For a slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle toward all,qualified to teach, showing restraint when wronged,”

      So, in your quote of Scripture, you are not considering yourself as the “slave of the Lord” that shows “restraint when wronged.”?

      • –”23 Further, reject foolish and ignorant debates, knowing that they produce fights.”
        And if debate was your only concern would not verse 23 have stood on its own without adding verse 24?

  • Chris

    And no I’m not a victim. I embrace my Bible Student heritage. BS tear it down by claiming were not new would not exist were it not for CT Russell

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