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.

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

  • 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,

    • Jacqueline

      Chuck I just got a full keyboard and saw your comment. You express what I was trying to say. This site is for those looking for comfort and are still wanting to share spiritual truths. When a diehard, governingbody loving JW comes on it confused me as to what their purpose is. We aren’t trying to convince them to leave not sway them. It is those that have left or searching for othera thoughts on common subjects.
      Within the witnesses they have to report time so, I can only think that is their reasoning for disobeying their heads, or maybe they are waking up themselves and want help to be convinced.
      Bullying is a found heavily within the witnesses world and that is one thing that drives people away. Humans are getting tired of a few men at the top of organizations sanctioning their movements and thoughts. The watchtower Society bullies school systems and hospitals and doctors. So it’s no wonder their members come on sites not meant for them and fight so to speak.
      Also they jam it up to let others know they are watching the sites, and apologists keep it going so others can’t comment. They are doing damage control now rather than going from door to door as much. That is all I hear lately and see on the other Xjw sites. Huge labor force not preaching anymore.
      They really have no power to do anything to any truthseeking witnesses that visits this site, but they think or suppose they do and some sincerely think they are rendering God sacred service. Hopefully we can help them see bullying is not nice.

    • Jacqueline

      Chuck to bring you up to date, we have been spammed by different witnesses from different states working together falsely even pretending to be talking to anonymous who is also one of their team.
      Whenever there are articles that have great thinking substance and truth they get afraid some will see the light so they act with deceit like in Eden and jam up the site.
      As Bible Students you don’t readily see it. I was raised in this. We once overwhelmed the poor country of Malawi by pretending we were companies with legitimate letterhead and millions of the so called Jehovah witnesses wrote letters for weeks to one small country that wanted everyone to carry on them an equivalence of our drivers license. It cost 25 cents but this was a lot to a Malawian and nothing left for donations.
      I spot it when I set down from the road because I was just as deceitful and a liar and hider of who I was like them. I was trained from infancy to bully cause disruptions in school with birthdays, the pledge etc., not just refraining but sitting in hallway. They haven’t changed. Their numbers are used to harass like in the garden. Same tactics.

      • Chuck Maly

        Thank you for the information. The posts had me confused due to the different writing styles and I sort of figured it out. Just not to that degree! And these people claim to be Christlike? It is almost laughable if it weren’t so sad. I can see why those that legitimately come to this site do so. I cannot imagine even considering joining an organization that uses the tactics they do. I am from a very small town and was raised with more morals than that. If you are claiming to be a Christian then act like one.
        In Christ,

        • Jacqueline

          The Malawi incidence. I was asked for a letterhead from my business and hundreds of people would pretend to be writing expressing their upsetness at them asking them to carry this card.
          Slaughter resulted!!!!! The Malawian brothers lost everything they had because of the bully organization in the US.Some lost their lives and lived in refugee camps. Then suddenly the governingbody had light that all drivers license and documents here have the reigning governor or presidents signature on them. They said it is okay, and all the loss of lives and property was for them to get in the newspapers. Russia: we have done writing campaigns to bully but they also refused to buckle under this spamming in numbers. I could tell you stories and I felt bad doing those overloads of small postal systems in other countries.
          Now it is just childish for grown men to behave like this. But witnesses are trained to deceive, they call it theocratic warfare. You can flat out lie to anyone if you seem it necessary. Elders can lie to trick a publisher, all of it is under theocratic warfare. That’s why I don’t trust anything they say.
          Ex. To disfellowshiped GB member Raymond Franz they made a law that anyone eating with a person that disassociates themselves from the org is to be DF at the mouth of 2 or 3 witnesses. Ray worked for such a brother and they had company meetings every Friday morning at a coffee shop. Two elders stood and swore to it and Ray was DF.
          THEN a few months later they said after review we realize this rule is wrong and reversed it. But they had DF Ray. 92% of witnesses didn’t know about getting Ray.
          It is these types of things that makes me run from this organization. Have you ever seen the Awake magazine with the dead children they bragged refused blood transfusions? That is why when a witnesses child comes into a hospital from an accident the courts start rolling to take temporary guardianship to ensure they get the best care if they need a blood transfusion.
          Chuck the poor ones coming here could make you bow down and cry if they all told their stories.

          • Chuck Maly

            Wow. This sounds more like an organization put together by the adversary. The wolf in sheeps clothing. Sort of like the Catholic religious organizations past. Cruel. I know there are wonderful Brothers in that organization except they are blinded. In the Kingdom ALL eyes will be opened. We can take comfort in that for now.

            • Jacqueline

              I came to the same conclusions. My family and other JW that I know are nice decent people. They honestly believe from the bottom of their heart that these businessmen are set over them by Jehovah. They however push aside clearly state scriptures that says Christ holds that position and that elders preside and assist with help of the holy spirit also.
              So I do believe most witnesses are like the Catholics, they like the Pope or in this case the governingbody to make decisions and if they are wrong one elder said God will punish them and not the flock.
              This reasoning always seemed strange to me that I am responsible for my sins before God but in this instance I am not. But true during judgment day off 1,000 yrs, all truth will be revealed.
              Many however are being emotionally blackmailed with loss of their families associations. That’s why we are here to make it easier to know God is pleased when they wake up and are aware of their spiritual needs. We call them the “CONSCIOUS CLASS”.
              So many are standing up like the early Bible Students and saying, NO, we won’t take your cultlike abuse. You are not our Saviour. Many false Christ are out there. In Christ, jacqueline

  • 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,

    • doug

      acts 15:14 Simeon hath declarer how God at the first did visit the gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name??
      acts 15:17 that the residue of men might seek after the Lord ,and all the Gentiles, upon whom my NAME is called, saith the Lord, who does all these things.

      Please explain. The Jewish nation was originally the true witnesses of Jehovah.

      • Jacqueline

        The name JEHOVAH WITNESSES didn’t exist back then when this scripture was written. He wasn’t talking about a name of a religion here. This is a stretch to say that is why the JW chose the name. Would not the description Christians be acceptable? Gentiles didn’t worship the God Jehovah but other gods. Now we have been introduced and grafted in to be with Christ who represents Jehovah.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Jacqueline

    Chris, actually the name was taken from ISA. 43:10-12 when Rutherford felt the Jews were not fulfilling the prophecy of returning physically to their homeland. Had he lived until 1948 when Israel got the right to become a nation with land he might not have stolen their name. The Balfour declaration didn’t really give them as much. Jehovah doesn’t lie. He said they, Israel, were his people and tho their sins be as scarlet he would forgive them in a large way.
    As Christians, we are to be witnesses for Jesus. The Jews are Jehovah’s Witnesses. His dealings with them now and in the past tells us how he behaves. They have had that names for centuries.

  • 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,

  • –“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?

  • Here was Dundee’s quote:

    –“1 Timothy 2:8 “So I desire that in every place the men carry on prayer,lifting up loyal hands,without anger and debates.”

    Nothing in here about being wronged.

  • Dundee

    1 Timothy 2:8 “So I desire that in every place the men carry on prayer,lifting up loyal hands,without anger and debates.”

    • doug

      very good point, why debate and some get upset about it ,(self righteous)we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.

      • Jacqueline

        This article is written because the GB called BS the evil slave class and lied and said they were all dead. When in fact there are just as many real ones as the witnesses. Since you and I know witnesses stay as a family whether they are practicing Christians or not. Bible Students don’t really think or talk about witnesses. The GB has rewrote history because many witnesses have found and began association with the BS.

  • “Thou shalt not celebrate your Saviors birth.” I seem to have missed this commandment. Could you please let me know where I can find that “exact” commandment in our Scriptures. I would like to highlight it so I don’t miss it again.

    All the pomp and ceremony practiced by the world is improper as you have stated. And I know even the date is wrong. But you are telling me that I cannot celebrate my Savior’s birth? Rutherfordites might have to obey this “commandment” but not being a Rutherfordite, I am ALLOWED to disagree. I mean, even the angels celebrated!

    • doug

      Jesus was not born on the 25th of December ,so how can we celebrate his birth if we don’t know when exactly what date Jesus was born ,the 25th of Dec.has to do with the sun god.see http://www.vaticandesignexposed.com

      • Jacqueline

        Doug you don’t have to celebrate his birthday. The point is Jehovah celebrated it when he was born and we have no right to control others if they want to acknowledge his birth. It is only a big deal with witnesses. Most witnesses can’t think pass this control factor.

      • Stanley L.

        You’re correct, Doug, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.

        So why do many Bible Students celebrate it anyway? Russell did address that issue onetime because he and the Bethel family did celebrate it in the usual way at the time he lived. Basically he saw nothing wrong with celebrating it in the sprit of love on a day in which attention is called to our savior’s advent to this earth. He saw nothing wrong with a holiday based on the wishing of goodwill to others from the heart.

        Things are different now with the crass commercialism involved and the emphasis on selfishness for all involved. However, we see nothing wrong with the holiday if done in the right spirit and humble acknowledgment of the message the angels sang out that night (Luke 2:8-14).

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