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Truth or Opinion - Which is it when the Governing Body Speak?

Which is it when the Governing Body Speak?

When and Why did the Governing Body suddenly appear?

Prior to the 1970’s, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, for all practical purposes, did not exist as it does today. That was until a dangerous crisis+ had developed at the headquarters of the Watch Tower’s religion. Did you know that?

Historically, the founder of the Watch Tower corporate empire was a men’s clothing entrepreneur named C.T. Russell. This man published and distributed his personal opinions purported to be accurate interpretation of the Bible in 6 volumes. These volumes were known as Studies in the Scriptures. Russell’s failing as a religious leader is now obvious. He had a fatal attraction to Pyramidology and Chronology which led to overconfidence in his wrong dates.

If God was leading him, then it must be said that God was leading him astray.

So charismatic was Russell’s persona, many Bible Students began looking at him as more than just a man. These people characterized him as the last prophetic messenger. Russell tended to shudder at such an idea. It took him years to warm to the possibility.


In 1909, discussing the viewpoint of his friends and others, Russell stated:

Our friends reply that they are in no danger of worshiping the Society or anybody else; that their experience in man-worship and sect-worship are things of the past. They declare that they were led out of those forms of idolatry and into the proper reverence and worship of God and his Word by the Society’s publications and no others, and that they have never heard of any teachings which, in so clear and unmistakable language, guard the Lord’s people against every form of man-worship, sect-worship, etc., and that no others so fully and thoroughly set forth the rights and liberties of the Lord’s people as against the enslaving tendencies of the great Adversary and bishops, ministers and elders. 

– The Watch Tower, October 1, 1909, page 292

Russell found the idea of a religious Organization distasteful.  as shown here:

“On one occasion I was called upon by a minister of the Reformed Church. He wanted to know how I managed my church. I said to him, “Brother __________ I have no church.” He said, “You know what I mean.” I answered, “I want you to know what I mean too. We claim that there is only one Church. If you belong to that Church, you belong to our Church.” He looked at me in surprise. Then he said, “You have an organization; how many members are there?” I replied, “I cannot tell; we do not keep any membership rolls.” “You do not keep any list of the membership?” “No. We do not keep any list; their names are written in Heaven.” He asked, “How do you have your election?” I said, “We announce an election; and any or all of God’s people, who are consecrated and are accustomed to meet with this company, or congregation, may have the privilege of expressing their judgment of who would be the Lord’s preference for elders and deacons of the congregation.” “Well,” he said, “that is simplicity itself.” I then added, “We pay no salaries; there is nothing to make people quarrel. We never take up a collection.” “How do you get the money?” he asked. I replied, “Now, Dr. __________, if I tell you what is the simplest truth you will hardly be able to believe it. When people get interested in this way, they find no basket placed under their nose. But they see there are expenses. They say to themselves, ‘This hall costs something, and I see that free lunch is served between meetings, for those living at some distance. How can I get a little money into this thing, anyway?” He looked at me as if he thought, “What do you take me for –a greenhorn?” I said, “Now, Dr. __________, I am telling you the plain truth. They 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?” 

— The Watch Tower, July 15, 1915, pages 218, 219.

The Watchtower was a business from the start. It had been incorporated as such and vested with a Board of Directors. All of whom followed exactly what Russell advised by rubber stamping and voting in accord with his sole direction.

Just before Russell died, Russell had the following printed in The Watch Tower, August 15, 1916, page 248:

Let it be borne in mind that the Society exercises no authority, makes no criticism, but merely gives advice; and that in the interest of the Lord’s Cause and the Lord’s people.

By the time of his death , Charles Taze Russell had traveled more than a million miles and preached more than 30,000 sermons. He had authored works totaling some 50,000 printed pages, and nearly 20,000,000 copies of his books and booklets had been sold.

Russell was the Director of policy, prophecy and administration in the Watch Tower Society.

In Pastor Russell’s Last Will and Testament, he clearly recorded his directives which did not include additional writings or teachings by anybody else, but only reprints of the old ones.

Would Russell’s successor (Judge J.F. Rutherford) continue that policy? In a word, “No!”

“Rutherford soon set about concentrating all organizational authority in his own hands. A skilled lawyer who had served as Russell’s chief legal advisor, he combined legal prowess with what opponents undoubtedly saw as a Machiavellian approach to internal corporate politics. Thus he used a loophole in their appointment to unseat the majority of the Watch Tower directors without calling a membership vote. And he even had a subordinate summon the police into the Society’s Brooklyn headquarters offices to break up their board meeting and evict them from the premises.”

– Faith on the March by A. H. Macmillan, pp. 78-80)

“After securing the headquarters complex and the sect’s corporate entities, Rutherford turned his attention to the rest of the organization. By gradually replacing locally elected elders with his own appointees, he managed to transform a loose collection of semi-autonomous democratically-run congregations into a tight-knit organizational machine run from his office.”

– Worse Than Waco: Jehovah’s Witnesses Hide a Tragedy

Rutherford left no doubt that he was running the show. He may have left the names of the Directors in The Watch Tower magazine, but for all intents and purposes, he had fired them from any advisory capacity or voting power.

Rutherford let the Watchtower magazine stand for his own voice and made no mention of Organization as a personified proxy.

“It should be expected that the Lord would have a means of communication to his people on the earth, and he has clearly shown that the magazine called The Watchtower is used for that purpose,”

– 1939 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 85.

Vice President Nathan Homer Knorr inherited the presidency upon Rutherford’s death in 1942 but left doctrinal matters largely in the hands of Frederick W. Franz, who joined the sect under Russell and had been serving at Brooklyn headquarters since 1920.

Rutherford wanted attorney Hayden C. Covington and Fred Franz to succeed him. Franz and Knorr were cohorts and the two forced out Covington. With the Judge gone, for all intents and purposes the workload was divided between the two of them. Knorr would run the organized end and Franz would run with editorial abandon into crackpot chronology and prophecy and nobody was allowed to hinder him!

In time, Knorr’s leadership blurred into a personified idea of the Society as something more than one man in charge. Lacking the personal magnetism and charisma of Russell and Rutherford, Knorr focused followers’ devotion on the ‘Mother’ organization rather than on himself. Readers were directed to “show our respect for Jehovah’s organization, for she is our mother and the beloved wife of our heavenly Father, Jehovah God.”

– The Watchtower, May 1, 1957, p. 285

Note: As the anointed Bride of Christ AND wife of Jehovah, this was an awkward metaphor, indeed. Father and son shared the same beloved wife!

Steadily through the 1950’s and 1960’s, the idea of a Theocracy and Organization were welded into a rulership on Earth. This rulership required absolute authority and the obedience of all.

“Make haste to identify the visible theocratic organization of God that represents his king, Jesus Christ. It is essential for life. Doing so, be complete in accepting its every aspect,”

– The Watchtower, October 1, 1967, p. 591.

“We cannot claim to love God, yet deny his word and channel of communication,”

– The Watchtower, October 1, 1967, p. 591.

A Dangerous Crisis

Fred Franz worked behind the scenes to restore faith in the sect’s chronological calculations, a subject largely ignored following Rutherford’s prophetic failure in 1925. The revised chronology established Christ’s invisible return as having taken place in 1914 rather than 1874, and, during the 1960’s, the Society’s publications began pointing to the year 1975 as the likely time for Armageddon and the end of the world.

When the publication, Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God was released in 1966, the crisis erupted. And nobody had prepared for it! Nobody was keeping an eye on Freddie Franz! He was ramping up a bellwether for another great disappointment!
Allowing for a small margin of error, a lengthy discussion in 1968 concludes with this thought:

“Are we to assume from this study that the battle of Armageddon will be all over by the autumn of 1975, and the long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ will begin by then? Possibly, but we wait to see how closely the seventh thousand-year period of man’s existence coincides with the sabbath like thousand-year reign of Christ. . . . It may involve only a difference of weeks or months, not years.”

– The Watchtower of August 15, 1968, p. 499 (pp. 494-501 for full discussion entitled “Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975?”).

Here is where a panicked meeting of the governing body was about to turn into a Governing Body. (Lower case gb into Capital GB)

“This new Governing Body was displayed as further evidence of the sect’s being the one true church, but in actuality Nathan Knorr continued to rule Jehovah’s Witnesses much as Russell and Rutherford had done before him. That is, until 1975, when Governing Body members began insisting on exercising the powers granted to them in theory but that had never really been theirs in practice. Over the objections of Fred Franz the Body that he had been instrumental in creating actually began governing, so that when Nathan Knorr passed away in 1977 Franz inherited an emasculated presidency.

“Franz also inherited an organization troubled by discontent over the obvious failure of his prophecies of the world’s end in the autumn of 1975. Even at Brooklyn headquarters little groups meeting privately for Bible study were beginning to question not only the 1914-based chronology that produced the 1975 deadline, but also the related teaching that the “heavenly calling” of believers ended in 1935, with new converts after that date consigned to an earthly paradise for their eternal reward.”  

– Worse Than Waco: Jehovah’s Witnesses Hide a Tragedy

The embarrassing silence following the historic failure of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Extreme advertising of a non-event in 1975 stunned the members worldwide. Collectively, Jehovah’s Witnesses were holding their breath.

To his discredit, Franz concocted silly temporary ad-hoc postponement excuses. Meanwhile, the Society – in deathly fear – began tightening its anaconda grip.

In the spring of 1980 they initiated a crackdown on dissidents, breaking up the independent Bible study groups at headquarters. They formed “judicial committees” to have those seen as ringleaders put on trial for “disloyalty” and “apostasy.”

– Worse Than Waco: Jehovah’s Witnesses Hide a Tragedy

The Governing Body (capital letters) was flexing muscles and demanding loyalty publicly now.

1. Only this organization functions for Jehovah’s purpose and to his praise. To it alone God’s Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book,”  

– The Watchtower, July 1, 1973, p. 402).

2. “We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the Scriptural guidance we need outside the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ organization,”  

– The Watchtower, Feb. 15, 1981).

As thousands began leaving the Watch Tower’s religion, the excuses and blame-gaming continued.

“Some opposers claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are false prophets. These opponents say that dates have been set, but nothing has happened. … 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. But we display our faith in God’s Word and its sure promises by declaring its message to others. Moreover, the need to revise our understanding somewhat does not make us false prophets or change the fact that we are living in ‘the last days,’ … How foolish to take the view that expectations needing some adjustment should call into question the whole body of truth! The evidence is clear that Jehovah has used and is continuing to use his one organization.”

– The Watchtower, March 15, 1986, page 19, “Allow No Place for the Devil!”.

Today, of course, we see where all that history has led. The Governing Body are now superstars on TV! These usurpers have reinterpreted historic policy and demoted the anointed all over the world as part of the Faithful and Discreet Slave “class.”

The Governing Body alone rule supreme as Kings and Priests on camera. All the while, these faithful “servants” conveniently ignore the scriptures which point out:

It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.

– Matthew 20:26,27 (New American Standard).

He sat down, and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any man wants to be first, he will be last of all, and servant of all.”

– Mark 9:35.

But it shall not be so among you, but whoever wants to become great among you, will be your servant.

– Mark 10:43.

Whoever of you wants to become first among you, shall be servant of all.

– Mark 10:44

But no, alas! These self-aggrandizing slave masters crack the whip as a juggernaut in the spirit of the raucous Judge Rutherford who created martyrs gleefully. There is pretended humility backed up with the iron fist of fear and tyranny.

When the Governing Body speaks or publishes their mere opinion it is clear to all, a prescribed demonstration of worshipful awe and obedience is what is required in return. This elite group has claimed the Bible entirely for themselves!

“Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible,”

– The Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587).

This elite group has placed themselves in the role of Mediator for all mankind!

Since the year 2000, the Board of Directors no longer automatically constituted the Governing Body. At that time a complete changeover occurred in delegating administration away from the President and Board to outside corporate heads. The President of the Society is no longer a member of the Governing Body. The membership began with seven and has fluctuated to nine, twelve and even eighteen persons over the years.

Today the corporate heads, who are Governing Body members, recommend policies, appointments and changes to suit their needs. Of the six overseeing committees, non-anointed secretaries and assistants may join in the meetings as helpers.

The ship of state is on automatic pilot as the lawyers and corporate advisors occupy themselves with lawsuits, payouts, hush money, destruction of evidence in pedophile hearings, fronting before the camera, cutting back on expenses, rebuilding the empire in their own feckless image.

And what an image it is!

They refer to themselves as Guardians of Doctrine. In case you missed it, that’s G. O. D.

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Jason Wynne is a husband to one wife, father to two children, and writes extensively on the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses having been baptized as a member in 1995.

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