Home History The Burial of Joseph F. Rutherford

The Burial of Joseph F. Rutherford

The Burial of Joseph F. Rutherford

Joseph F Rutherford, the second president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, died January 8 1942. His simple request prior to his death was that he be buried in San Diego, California. This simple request didn’t prove as simple as the Watch Tower Society would have liked.

The following article is taken directly from the Watch Tower Society’s magazine Consolation, dated May 27th, 1942, p.3-16. It has been divided up into 18 separate parts for easy reading.

The article relates to the burial of Watchtower President Joseph F Rutherford at Beth-Sarim in San Diego, California. What’s most interesting is how this article describes Beth-Sarim. The description is in direct conflict with how Beth-Sarim is described in the Watchtower publication, Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, p.76.

“Judge Rutherford … Taught Intolerance”

BEFORE his death Judge Rutherford made the simple request that his remains be buried somewhere on the hundred-acre estate at San Diego, California, held in trust for the New Earth’s Princes. The house built thereon he named “Beth-Sarim”; it was deeded to those princes. On March 14, more than two months after he passed to his reward on January 8, the San Diego County Planning Commission handed down the decision that nowhere upon this land could his bones repose.


This was their second denial of a permit for burial, claiming to act under a county ordinance which expressly provides for cemeteries in this area but requires that a conditional permit from the Planning Commission be first obtained. This the commission refused as to two different sites. The action of the Planning Commission was contrary to the county ordinance, allowing cemeteries in this district.

Just how a man’s bones, buried without monument or even conspicuous marker, in the center of 100 acres of land, a half mile from the closest outside house, could disturb anyone is left for the commission to explain. The V.F.V., who petitioned against the granting of the permit, prejudicially explained it this way: “Judge Rutherford, during his lifetime, taught intolerance,” and, ‘therefore, as a manifestation of our “tolerance”, we do not wish him buried.’

During the nine weeks from the day of Judge Rutherford’s death until the denial of the second petition by the Planning Commission, the WATCHTOWER and its legal agents, who were charged both by the judge’s request and by statute to bury his body, made exhaustive efforts to discharge their responsibility, and were blocked at every turn by officials both of the county and of the state, including the state director of public health, the state attorney-general, and even the office of the governor. The record of this whole affair is so outrageous that it is brought to public attention as disclosing the depth of meanness resorted to by religionists to satisfy their vindictiveness even on lifeless bones. It also furnishes a perfect example of those ensnared by religion. They have foolishly thrown away all worthiness of life merely for the brief satisfaction of spite.

Several years ago, Judge Rutherford assigned to the WATCHTOWER the right for the burial of his remains. In early 1940, and just before the Detroit convention in July, he was attacked by severe illness, and afterward recovered sufficiently to continue through that convention, and to make five surpassing speeches to the marvelous St. Louis convention of August, 1941. By November, 1941, the illness had gained ground, and he was compelled to have an operation, in Elkhart, Indiana. It was then that he expressed the desire to get back to California, and he was subsequently brought to Beth-Sarim by train and ambulance.

For some time it had been apparent to all, even the best medical experts, that he could not recover. The judge had yearned to see the ancient witnesses (mentioned in the 11th chapter of Hebrews) return to earth at Beth-Sarim, which place (held by the WATCHTOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY for these men) by name means, in Hebrew, “House of the Princes.” As he thought he might die before that event, he wanted his bones left on the property. These facts are brought out more fully in the statement to the County Planning Commission on January 24, hereinafter set forth.

In order to comply with the law, a cemetery corporation was formed of members of the Beth-Sarim family, and a plot of ground was deeded to this family corporation, about three hundred feet from the residence and so far down the canyon slope as to be invisible from every house on the heights. The corporation was known as Beth~Sarim’s Rest, and this small plot bore the same name. This was completed in December, and approximately three weeks later the judge passed on to his higher work. While it had been expected, to those near him and aware of his serious condition, his death was none the less a terrible shock to those who had worked with and loved him for many years.

One, suffering from this great loss, on the very day of the death, had the death certificate filled out, and, with the mortician, requested the burial permit. It was then that the county officials delivered their first wallop to an afflicted and bereaved family. No permit would be granted for burial on Beth-Sarim’s Rest, even though it was a legal corporation and the death certificate was in order, unless Beth-Sarim’s Rest were granted a conditional permit to operate a cemetery in this part of the county.

The district attorney advised that in 1940 an ordinance restricting this area was passed, but allowing cemeteries on conditional permit from · the Board of Supervisors. Naturally this information disturbed a family already shaken by death; but due application was made to the Planning Commission, and, after forcing the family to leave the remains in the mortuary for two weeks, the Commission deigned to consider the matter and refused the permit.

Meanwhile the two weeks were an awful nightmare. Judge Rutherford was much hated by the religionists; and when his death was known, the press dug up every lie invented by the clergy for the past twenty years, and smeared their pages with lying malice. As a result a continuous stream of cars thronged the road and sidewalk which dead~ends just beyond the house, and great congestion resulted. The grave had been dug and the cemetery premises were entered by trespassers, and so much damage done that the police and sheriff’s office had to be notified, still without abatement of this disturbing nuisance.

Children and their religious parents indulged in jeering epithets as they passed the house, in a manner hitherto unheard of toward a grief-stricken family. It was horrifying indeed to hear shouted to the household from the street: “How long are you going to keep the old boy on ice?” Could anything but the hate of religionists have inspired such conduct? Since this whole affair brought into focus Beth-Sarim, the “House of ‘the Princes”, it would be of interest to here consider its erection and purpose.


The “princes” above referred to are the faithful and true servants of Jehovah, to whom Jehovah gave His promise that they should be the visible governors upon earth, after the King, Christ Jesus, has ousted and destroyed the enemy. “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.” (Isaiah 32: 1) The book Salvation contains a discussion of these princes (pages 307-310), and a picture and consideration of the history and ·purpose of Beth-Sarim (pages 311-313). The above pages were read to the court in the first hearing on the petition for writ of mandamus.

These princes will be the visible representatives of the invisible capital organization of Jehovah, which is known as the Kingdom, or THE THEOCRACY. They will no longer be known as the”fathers”, but since their life, as well as the .life of all others who shall live on earth, proceeds from the King, Christ Jesus, they will henceforth be called “children”. “Instead of thy fathers [many were the physical ancestors of Jesus] shall be thy children, whom thou [Christ Jesus] mayest make princes in all the earth.”-Psalm 45: 16.

The Watchtower magazine, under the title “Demon Rule Ending”, in consideration of the 11th chapter of Daniel, plainly demonstrates that the time for the return of these princes is near. The fact that Daniel’s prophecy IS now unfolded concerning the identity of “the king of the north” and “the king of the south”, which could be understood only at the “time of the end”, when Daniel would ‘stand in his lot’ as one of the earthly governors under The THEOCRATIC GOVERNMENT, indicates that Daniel and the others will be here “any time now”. “I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” Here is reference to the happy people that will have these ancient witnesses, resurrected in human perfection, as their visible governors, and THE THEOCRACY, or “kingdom of heaven”, over all.

Beth-Sarim, therefore, in 1929, was built as a tangible proof of faith in these prophecies. The Scriptures indicate that there will be a present-day modern meeting between the last of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah with these resurrected princes who were the pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah. Judge Rutherford, for the Society, accepted the house from one who loved the Lord and who awaited the early return of the princes, to be held in trust for them. The house was not built with Society’s funds, but by the giver of the property. The deed from this man to Judge Rutherford for the Society was widely publicized by the public press and scoffed at and ridiculed by them.

It is recalled in passing that for many years Noah was scoffed at while he laboriously constructed the ark at the commandment of the Most High. The conditions then pictured the present era of scoffers. The last jeer then was cut off by the icy waters of the Flood, picturing the impending battle of Armageddon, which will sweep away all laughter and life itself from those who have mocked God’s purposes.

Judge Rutherford’s Winter Workshop

For twelve winters Judge Rutherford and his office force occupied Beth-Sarim. It was not a place of ease or vacationing, but was used as a winter workshop; the books from Vindication, Book One, down to and including Children were written there, as well as many Watchtower articles and booklets. The executive instructions for branches all over the earth also were transmitted from Beth-Sarim during the judge’s presence there. It was indeed a “workhouse”, as all can testify who watched him pour out his life in faithful devotion to the commission from Jehovah.-Revelation 2: 10.

At Beth-Sarim, Judge Rutherford completed the 1942 Yearbook material as his last work before his death. He dictated this material from his dying bed. For more than forty years he had left a nation-wide political career with the Democratic party and devoted his life to the Lord as a Christian.

For just two days over a quarter of a century he had served as president of the WATCHTOWER. During that time he suffered imprisonment, vilification and personal abuse such as has been heaped upon few since the days of the apostles. On the other hand, he had the unspeakable privilege of putting nearly 400,000,000 books and booklets in the hands of the people, feeding them on the Lord’s Word, the Bible. Compare,

“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things ; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”-John 21: 17.

Certainly Judge Rutherford received the crown of life as a spirit creature; for Jehovah is “the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy”. (Deuteronomy 7: 9, text in the 1942 Yearbook for January 8, the day of his death) “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”-1 Corinthians 15:.51, 52; Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:8.

Judge Rutherford was familiar with the fact that those men of old, Jacob and Joseph, asked for their burial at the place of the interment of Abraham. (Genesis 50: 13) The body of Joseph was embalmed and remained in Egypt for many years and, because he had commanded it before his death, the Israelites carried his bones with them when Moses led them from Egypt, and buried them in Shechem, more than a hundred years later. (Exodus 13: 19; Joshua 24: 32) Moses’ successor, Joshua, was buried “in the border of his inheritance”. (Joshua 24: 30) “Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father.” (Judges 8: 32) The Scriptures abound with other burial requests which were respected.-Ruth 1:17; 2Sam.19:’37; 2 Chron.16: 14.

Judge Rutherford looked for the early triumph of “the King of the East”, Christ Jesus, now leading the host of heaven, and he desired to be buried at dawn facing the rising sun, in an isolated part of the ground which would be administered by the princes, who should return from their graves. Even his burial request was a token of faith.

First Location Denied by Commission

Between the time of his death and the first public hearing before the Planning Commission sixteen days later, the enemy had busied themselves to get 259 property owners, a few of them neighbors to Beth-Sarim, to sign a petition opposing the burial of the judge’s body on the site selected. The location first plotted for the small cemetery, which cemetery, it was claimed by the enemy, the law required even for a single burial, was on a knoll about three hundred feet from the house, almost a hundred feet below in the canyon, and entirely invisible from every house in Kensington Heights.

Most of those who signed the :petition of protest against the burial were Induced to do so by the falsehood that a cemetery for thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses was proposed. Many of these regretted signing and admitted being misled-and all the immediate neighbors either signed a second petition favoring the burial or refused to further aid the opposition.

Even at this first hearing a petition was presented on which the Board of Supervisors gave the official count of 1,070 names of persons favoring. During this entire affair Jehovah’s witnesses got petitions bearing the names of 14,693 people of good-will in the county of San Diego and officials of the County Commission and Board of Supervisors, and other officials, received more than 3,500 letters favoring the application for burial.

During the various hearings (in all there were three appearances before the Planning Commission and three before the Board of Supervisors) the malicious attacks upon the memory of a dead man, and upon the living Jehovah’s witnesses, disclosed a religious prejudice which could emanate from only one institution on earth, i.e., the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. The assaults fell heavy upon those who felt keenly the ignominy of being unable to bury their dead.

Be it said to their credit that both the San Diego Tribune-Sun of January 24 and the San Diego Union of the 25th gave unbiased reports of this hearing. The report of the Union is quoted in full:


“But the Lord counts as done unto himself anything done against His servants, or even the bones of His servants … “

With that admonition ringing in their ears, San Diego county planning commissioners yesterday denied the dying wish of a servant of Jehovah, and recommended against granting a permit to bury Judge Joseph Franklin Rutherford on a lemon-and-orange-tree-studded knoll adjacent to his Kensington Heights residence.

World leader of Jehovah’s witnesses, the 72-year old judge died Jan. 8 in Beth-Sarim, the 4440 Braeburn rd. residence he maintained for the men who died faithful to Jehovah in Israel’s days, and who he believed would return.

Against the admonition, voiced by W. P. Heath jr., vice president of Beth-Sarim’s Rest, a corporation organized to operate a non-profit cemetery association, the commission weighed the written and verbal protests of individuals and organizations who fought the permit application.

“I move we deny the request,” said William L. Baskerville, commission secretary.

‘Second the motion,~’ said Commissioner 0. B. Wetzell, of El Cajon. The vote was unanimous and will be conveyed to the county supervisors, who must take the final action, in the form of a recommendation.

Heath indicated he will plead his case before that body, and will argue, as yesterday, that:

1-He and his associates want a permit to bury only one person-Judge Rutherford-and that no monument, no structure, no mausoleum would be placed or erected, and that the only grave marker would be a stone beneath an oak tree surrounded by orange and lemon trees.

2-That the hillside plot, isolated and inaccessible, never would have appearance of a cemetery.

3-That neither individuals nor the values of their property could be affected adversely by granting the permit.

“I believe in religious freedom and I also believe in the laws of my country,” said James C. Henderson, of 4373 Middlesex dr., one of the most outspoken of the protestants.

“But this organization refuses to salute our flag,” he shouted. “Its members won’t fight against totalitarianism. They won’t fight for liberty. When dealing with an organization like that, how can we feel we can trust them when they say they will bury only one person there? They have beliefs which go beyond our Constitution; beyond our flag.”


For 90 minutes the commission listened to the arguments, heard soft-spoken Heath, who lost his composure only once when he was overcome with emotion while reading his argument, faltered, and was forced to stop for several moments.

“The house called Beth-Sarim was built by Judge Rutherford as a monument of his faith in The Theocracy,” he explained. “The Theocracy is another name for the Kingdom of God, for which all Christians have been taught to pray.

“After its completion, Beth-Sarim was held in trust for the visible representatives of The Theocracy. These men will shortly be resurrected and made the official governors or princes of the earth.

“They are specifically mentioned in the 11th chapter of Hebrews. Among them are included Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joshua and Gideon, all of whom died faithful to Jehovah in the days of ancient Israel.


“It is remarked in passing that many of these men requested that their bones be buried in specific places, and the Lord respected their requests … “

Heath explained, too, that Rutherford’s desire to be buried at sunrise “was for the reason that Christ Jesus, the Theocratic King, is spoken of as the King of the East, and the Chief King of the Sunrising. Many Scriptures show that the glory of Jehovah is symbolized by the sun and sunrising. One day the sun rose for the last time on a faithful servant of Jehovah . . .

“Judge Rutherford can never be hurt again, but the Lord counts as done unto himself anything done against his servants, or even their bones. 


“The matter is squarely up to this board. Will they grant a request that can hurt no one, or will they block, at the instance of misinformed individuals, the last wish of the servant of Jehovah? That responsibility is upon you, and as one of the Jehovah’s witnesses I have discharged mine before you.”

Byron Gilchrist, Kensington-Talmadge Men’s Club president, summarized the opposition’s arguments in the following letter:

“This club, composed of property owners and residents of the Kensington-Talmadge area, desires to go on record with your honorable body as being strenuously opposed to the granting of a permit to any or all individuals, organizations or associations who seek or may seek to create a cemetery zone or a burial ground, either private or public, in the Kensington-Talmadge area.


“It is felt that a cemetery or burial ground so close to that fine residential district of beautiful homes would decrease property values, retard sales and have a depressing effect on present residents of the area.

“It is further thought that the granting of such a permit would establish a precedent which might be of unknown magnitude and that like burial grounds could be created at any point in the county.”

Protests also included a petition signed by 259 Kensington Heights property owners, and a letter from a bank which is trustee for the W. W. Whitney estate, whose beneficiaries include the Associated Charities, Helping Hand Home, Salvation Army, San Diego Children’s Home, San Diego Humane Society, San Diego Museum Association, San Diego Society of Natural History, the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. Virtually all those organizations filed individual protests.


Heath submitted a petition signed by 1000 persons who favored the application, and introduced A. L. Jacobs, who as the next-door neighbor of the judge said, “If he wanted to be buried there, that’s the place to put him.”

“Are you a member of Jehovah’s witnesses?” asked Gilchrist.

“I am not,” was Jacobs’ emphatic reply. “I’m not even in sympathy with it.”

Councilman Ernest Boud and Harry Foster, both residents of the district, also argued against the application. Rutherford’s body is in a San Diego mortuary.

The Board of Supervisors, in total disregard of the urgency of the matter, delayed action until February 2. Meanwhile the representatives of the Society were forced to make an extensive trip to Sacramento and San Francisco to see state officials because of the unreliable information purposely given by the local district attorney’s office. The Board of Supervisors, after nine days’ deliberation, likewise denied the application.

Petition Denied for Second Site

On the same day a request was again made of the local registrar, Dr. Alexander Lesem, for a permit to bury on a spot a half mile from the closest house in the county. There was no health hazard and no law forbidding, but he refused, because the district attorney’s office told him to refuse. It was realized that legal rights had been trampled on, and as the Society’s representatives had no other adequate remedy; a petition for writ of mandate (mandamus) was brought in the County Superior Court, to force Dr. Lesem or Recorder Howe to issue the permit.

This hearing brought out some very interesting points concerning burials and cemeteries in the state of California, including an incredible mix-up of conflicting laws, and ambiguous definitions. Just what the legislators really meant to allow or prohibit is pretty much of a mystery. However, California Supreme Court decisions throw some light on the subject: (1) burials in the county: are legal even when not in cemeteries; (2) the court looks with disfavor on all sorts of zoning restrictions in remote parts of the county; (3) the wishes of the deceased, if such “can be ascertained”, are binding upon those charged to carry out his burial.

Legal counsel for the WATCHTOWER, and who was complimented by the presiding judge for his competent handling of the law and argument, ably represented the interests of the Society, and finished an eloquent plea with these words:

Jesus was the most hated man that ever lived. on earth, but, after He was killed by hanging on a tree, the authorities permitted that His body be buried on private property. (Matthew 27: 60) But Judge Rutherford, whose record as a champion of American liberties and freedom of worship, whose briefs on these subjects, followed in several decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States, place him in the highest rank of lawyers in this land, and who, above all, was a faithful servant of the Most High God, cannot even be buried. I respectfully ask that the petition for writ of mandate be granted so that his bones may be properly buried.

The judge decided to continue the case so that the new site could be brought before the Planning Commission, and application for a cemetery made thereon, thus indicating that the second plot was a proper place for burial and if the application was refused,the petition for writ of mandate could be amended to correct the matter on order of court. The Planning Commission, who deliberated for more than two weeks, investigating the site, was haled before the court, and denied the second application for a cemetery.

Prejudice in its Ugliest Form

Certain of the facts regarding this second application and its denial, March 14, disclose how prejudice in its ugliest form was whipped up against the petitioners. New location for interment was in almost the center of. the property known as Beth-Shan, which is roughly 75 acres of canyon and mesa land, adjoining Beth~Sarim but separated by a half mile width of canyon.

This property, also belonging to WATCHTOWER, has one small and one large dwelling upon it and a few out-houses, and consists of some fruit trees and other cultivated patches in aggregate about seven acres, and about 65 acres of unreclaimed brush, either too steep, or rocky, or inaccessible for development. It offers retreat for all forms of -anim~l life common to this portion of southern California, such as coyotes, bobcats (lynxes), rabbits, Blue Mountain quail, doves, and songsters of many varieties, all of which die and are buried without fuss under the leaves of the cactus and greasewood. Judge Rutherford, in a discussion before his death, had said that as a second choice he wished to be buried somewhere on these wild acres.

In order that all the objections made in regard to the first site near to Kensington Heights might be removed in regard to this new site, it was requested that only a ten-foot-square cemetery be granted. The spot was also inaccessible except by private road a half mile long and closed by a gate. Dr. Alexander Lesem looked at the site himself and declared that there was no health hazard. (He also stated that there was no health hazard in the first site.) However, Jehovah’s witnesses realized all pressure would be exerted by the Hierarchy operating from Rome in an effort to reproach the Lord’s name and strike at even the bones they hated; so a petition was circulated among the people of goodwill, and in less than three weeks 13,623 names were signed. (Adding the first 1,070, this makes 14,693 names of persons petitioning the various county officials to grant the request; all ignored by them.)

Hearts of Flint

The preliminary hearing on this second petition was held on February 28, and it was pointed out to the commission that this change of location had been made to satisfy all reasonable objections of anybody; but if the commission denied the petition because they hated the servant of the Lord, such a course would bring serious and disastrous results on them. It was especially emphasized that the enemies of the Lord should not be lamented nor buried, but should lie as dung upon the ground, and that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.-Jeremiah 25: 33; 2 Kings 9: 37; Hebrews 10: 31.

They appeared to listen attentively, heard several of Jehovah’s witnesses and others express themselves in favor, allowed the opposition to let out a few yelps, which were more subdued when it was asked that the chairman put them under oath, then decided to postpone the decision for two weeks while they visited the site. They visited the site, declared the beautification of the grounds to their liking, then denied the petition without further hearing.

This latter denial occurred March 14, as has been stated above. On March 5 there appeared an article in the Tribune-Sun that the San Diego Council of the Veterans of Foreign Wars sent a communication to the Planning Commission which terminated as follows:

“Now therefore San Diego County Council, V. F. W., recommends disapproval of any request to establish a burial plot for Mr. Rutherford other than at a bona fide cemetery.”

“Harold Angier post 383, American Legion, also went on record as being opposed to such burial ‘in other than an established and recognized cemetery’.”

It thus appeared that the American Legion and the V.F.W. are at their old work of serving the Hierarchy, and this time they have the temerity to interfere in the proper burial of the servant of the Most High. It would be a dangerous thing to interfere with anybody’s burial, when Jehovah has said, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3: 19) Only agents of the Hierarchy, whose pope Martin V commanded the remains of the Bible translator John “Wycliffe be dug up, forty-four years after his death, and burned and the ashes thrown into the river Swift, could stoop to anything so despicable.

Earth’s Meanest Organization

About this time evidently the heat and pressure from the Hierarchy got a bit too strong for the Union and the Tribune-Sun, which had handled the matter rather fairly theretofore. When a letter was written to the editor of both papers (the two are combined) stating that the witnesses of Jehovah were in truth and in fact patriotic and concerned in· the welfare of the people of the country, whereas the Legion and the V.F.W. serve the religious power that is allied with America’s enemies, namely, the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, the editor replied that the newspaper was “not interested in any way in the religious phase of the controversy”. No doubt the part of the letter which called attention to the treachery of the priests in the Philippine Islands which assisted their capture by the Japs, and to the pope’s line-up with Catholic Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, was a bit too shocking to his religious susceptibilities. It was also pointed out that Judge Rutherford had disclosed this link between the Axis powers and the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, and, in doing so, had rendered America and England a patriotic service.

The letter in answer to Edward T. Austin, editor-in-chief of the San Diego Union and Tribune-Sun, contains the following paragraph:

Be assured that I wrote that answer to the lying charges [of the V.F.W.] in order to discharge my responsibility before God and before men, that you would have opportunity to right a wrong if you wished to. Since you do not, that is your misfortune. It does not in any way absolve you from responsibility for bearing false witness against the Lord’s servants, nor relieve you of any of the blame for the iniquitous acts of others which may be taken as a result. “A false witness shall perish.” (Proverbs 21: 28) “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.” (Proverbs 17: 15) Respectfully, one of Jehovah’s witnesses, [Signed] W. P. HEATH, Jr.

The Planning Commission convened again, having in the meantime inspected the premises with many flattering comments as to its beauty. Jehovah’s witnesses also were in attendance at the meeting room to the number of about 150. With the utmost lack of courtesy the commission kept this audience waiting for two hours and a half while they dallied with zoning regulations destined to take the living from poor farmers and residents in many parts of the county. After this unnecessary wait, during which half of the people could not even be seated, the august commission announced that nothing more would be heard about this burial site, and in the space of about a minute and a half they called for a vote and denied the application forthwith. Heath then asked for permission to be heard, and this was granted with poor grace. They accepted the additional 4,500 petition signers, but did not turn them over to the Board of Supervisors at all. Asking the further leave to refute the charges made against Jehovah’s witnesses in a recommendation by the V.F.W. above described, this was met with refusal. Major McCauley said these words: “Our patience is at a limit; we cannot spend any time with this; we are too busy with defense work”; although to the personal knowledge of 150 witnesses defense had not been mentioned all day. The audience was dismissed without further ado.

Second Court Hearing

The second application, above described, before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors had been made at the sole suggestion of Judge Mundo, at the conclusion of the first hearing. After the denial of the second site by the commission and the board, they also were named in amended Petition for Writ of Mandate, and commanded to appear before Judge Mundo for final hearing. This petition therefore included the registrar, the recorder, the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, both individually and officially.

Twelve weeks had now elapsed during which Jehovah’s · witnesses had gotten the usual run-around from the buck passing county officials. The case was set to begin April 1. Court opened with restatement of the facts heretofore considered and the purpose of the plaintiff corporation, Knorr, and Heath to obtain relief and their just rights. The second hearing was drawn out eight days, due to the fabrications of the defendants. The facts and motives behind the conduct of the various county officials opposing the burial were soon to have an airing that will interest all.

None of these dignitaries ever appeared in court, however. Their defense was undertaken by the district attorney’s office, with results which will be demonstrated progressively. On the first day of the trial Judge Mundo ruled that the unreasonable action of these boards could not be questioned but only the law itself might be attacked on constitutional grounds. Much evidence regarding the prejudice revealed above was thus kept out of the court record.

Deewall the Expert (??)

Fighting against the Lord, however, may not be kept secret. “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.” (Luke 12: 2) An insignificant member of the district attorney’s office, whose name escapes our memory at present, who had previously engineered the opposition, represented the county officials at the hearing. He chose to use the Planning Commission engineer, one Deewall, as a witness, who unwittingly gave a rather good cross section of the conduct, prejudice, and mentality of his superiors, the district attorney and his deputy, the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission. During two days’ cross examination he revealed the following information as an expert(??):

According to his opinion there were no cemeteries needed in this sparsely settled area, and in the future, when a cemetery did become necessary because of the increased population in the district, if permitted it would be too close to houses, and would therefore be objectionable. This statement was made in behalf of the Planning Commission in spite of the fact that the ordinance specifically provided for cemeteries in the district.

Should Prominent Men be Massacred?

After it was shown that no monuments would be erected, and that indeed the site would be completely invisible to anyone on the outside, Deewall continued to object that the fact of one grave there would disturb the super-susceptibilities of himself, the Planning Commission, and others, twenty years hence.

He testified further to the fact that the chief requisite of a cemetery was natural barriers; and this location had exactly such barriers, but the difficulty here was that Judge Rutherford, the one to be buried here, was prominent. Conclusion: Prominent men should not be buried. Along about this point Mr. Deewall considered himself in rather hot water. He sought safer territory.

All other objections being eliminated he maintained that view lots across the canyon from the spot, several hundred feet away, would be seriously reduced in value by this invisible grave. When confronted with the known fact that the most valuable lots in the exclusive Kensington Heights area overlooked the Old Spanish Mission in the San Diego river valley, where many graves are in plain view of everybody, in explaining the difference which made those graves unobjectionable, and even raised the value of the property, Dee wall said: “The remains of those buried at the Old Mission were massacred” ; thus holding, in behalf of the Planning Commission, that whether a grave was objectionable or not depended on the manner in which the person met his death.

The moral here seems to be that one has to be massacred in order to be buried without objection from the Planning Commission and their stooges. This remarkable conclusion was reached in spite of the fact that the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission allow, by ordinance, cemeteries and burials without limitation in the adjoining zones in the county, and, as far as we have been able to ascertain, does not insist that the people be massacred, prominently or otherwise.

Mr. Deewall admitted that the defendant Lesem, county health officer, stated that there was no health hazard from the proposed burial, but, nevertheless, insisted that superstitious persons might be affected.

Concealed Grave versus Open Sewer

All zoning laws derive their validity from the police power of the officials to protect the health, morals and general welfare of the people. In this regard Mr. Deewall was never able to explain how this concealed grave would be a detriment to the community while the officials maintained an open sewer within full view of the grave, over the long-standing protest of the plaintiffs, Heath and WATCHTOWER. In other words, the statement of Jesus, “[They] strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23: 24), can be paraphrased to describe properly the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, and Deewall thus: “They strain at a .single grave and swallow a sewer creek.”

Limited space prevents quoting all the “wisdom” of Deewall as handed down from the witness stand. He spent several days of agony on the stand trying: to explain these ridiculous conclusions. He became so accustomed and in the habit of making evasive explanations that the habit continued with him when asked leading questions by his own counsel. The deputy district attorney would reframe his question several times, and each time he would get a different answer from the witness. The court was treated to one of the most farcical
exhibitions in side-stepping and buck-passing by the witness that is seen outside of a football field.

The Board of Supervisors and the County Planning Commission called as their chief support an insignificant city councilman, claiming to reside in Kensington Heights, who based his entire testimony on admitted prejudice against Jehovah’s witnesses and who became so angered at the truth that the judge had to rebuke him for his uncouth language, used in open court.

The San Diego city planning engineer, Mr. Rick, summed up their real position as follows. If it were an ordinary man there could be no objection to this burial.

The undisputed facts showed that plaintiffs Heath, Knorr and WATCHTOWER were entitled to have the permit for the burial of Judge Rutherford issued as requested.

The Board of Supervisors and County Planning Commission questioned the validity of the trust in the deed covering the property where the proposed burial was to take place. The plaintiffs hold the property in trust for the ancient witnesses of Jehovah God described in Hebrews 11, who died in faith of THE THEOCRACY and whom Jehovah has promised to resurrect and bring back to earth as the visible governors of all people under The THEOCRATIC GOVERNMENT. The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors contended that the property could be conveyed and subdivided. Under the law and the deed it cannot. It therefore became necessary to show that the deed contained a reasonable and legal trust.

The plaintiff Wm. P. Heath, Jr., one of the creators of the trust in question, testified as a witness and explained to the court that the trust was for real men and was altogether reasonable and certain of performance. In this connection he told the court, among other things, as follows:

Awaiting New Earth’s Princes

Jesus bought all the obedient of mankind) including those who will be the princes. (Romans 5: 12; 6: 23; 1 Corinthians 15: 22) At present these men, who died long ago, are in “hell”,: which means the grave. Jesus testified to the fact that no one had ascended to heaven before His resurrection and therefore the conclusion is inescapable that these men are resting in death. Explaining their certainty of resurrection Jesus showed that when God told Moses that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob He was not the God of the dead but the God of these men who would receive the promise of life in due time.-Psalm 89: 48; John 3: 13; Acts 2: 34; Matthew 11: 11; 22: 31, 32; Exodus 3: 4-6.

A “prince” is a sovereign ruler appointed by and acting under the direct command of the supreme or higher powers. Jehovah and Christ Jesus are the Higher Powers. (Romans 13: 1) The chief ruler amongst men appointed by Jehovah is a “prince”.-Book Children, pages 180-181; Genesis 32: 28; 1 Kings 14: 7.

The faithful acts of the men who were known as “fathers in Israel” are recounted in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews.-Genesis 12: 1-3; 28 : 13, 14; Acts 7: 2-5.

As previously pointed out these men will receive their life as all other human creatures through the King Christ Jesus; therefore it is written, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” (Psalm 45: 16) “Behold, a king [Christ Jesus] shall reign in righteousness, and princes [Abraham and the others] shall rule in judgment.” (Isaiah 32: 1) The Lord further declares, “I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:11); and, ‘My word shall not return unto me void.’ (Isaiah 55:11) Therefore we have it upon the highest authority, the Word of God, that these men shall be resurrected as princes. We know that they will be.

These men will be the visible representatives of The THEOCRACY, which is the government created and built up by the Almighty God as His capital organization and which shall rule the world. Further proof that these princes will shortly take office upon earth as perfect men is found in the prophecy of Daniel. “But go thou thy way till the end be ; for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.” (Daniel 12: 13) Daniel’s “lot” is that of these princes. Proof is now submitted that we are now living at “the end of the days”, and we may expect to see Daniel and the other mentioned princes any day now!

“The End of the World” Is Now

“The end of the days” is also spoken of in the Bible as “the end of the world”. When Jesus was asked by His disciples He answered that such would come or be evidenced by nation rising against nation, famines and pestilence, such as are now prevalent in Europe and elsewhere. He counseled as follows: “When ye, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place . . . then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains.”-Matthew 24: 15, 16.

Jesus therefore said in cryptic phrase that the end of Satan’s uninterrupted rule of all the nations of the earth today would be marked by wars and calamities and the rising of a “desolating abomination”. This abomination refers to the totalitarian combine bent on destroying the earth and all that dwell therein. Those who saw these conditions were admonished to flee to THE THEOCRACY, pictured by “the mountains”.

It was of this same Theocracy that Daniel wrote, At the Lord’s dictation, ‘And in the days of these totalitarian kings shall the Lord God of heaven set up His kingdom, THE THEOCRACY, which shall consume all these wicked ruling powers, and it shall stand for ever.’ (Daniel 2: 44) This proves beyond any doubt that the Axis powers are doomed to everlasting destruction.-Psalms 92:7.

To those who do not agree with or understand the provision in this deed for the returning princes such may seem ridiculous, but the court is reminded that Noah also was ridiculed for building the ark as a testimony to his faith in the Lord’s promise to destroy wickedness by the Flood. During the years the ark was undergoing construction faithful Noah was constantly jeered at by the religionists. He was not deterred thereby, and he received the Lord’s protection while his tormentors perished.

An exactly parallel condition exists today. Armageddon will sweep away all those who laugh now at the Lord’s purposes and particularly at the provisions contained in these deeds. These events will not occur in the distant future, as some claim, but very shortly. Jesus said, ‘When the totalitarians are destroying the earth, . and conditions like that in Noah’s day exist, it is evidence that the full setting up of THE THEOCRACY is at hand. This event will take place during the lifetime of the generation which now witnesses this fulfillment of prophecy.’ (Luke 21: 31, 32) ‘The Lord owns the earth and the fullness thereof,’ and He provided for the remains of those who died to return to the dust of the ground. (Psalm 104: 29; Genesis,3: 19) It is therefore dangerous to prevent the bones of the Lord’s servant from coming to their proper rest.

Princes Promised Earthly Resurrection

As early as 1920 Judge Rutherford pointed out that the ancient witnesses or princes were promised an earthly resurrection by the Lord. In that year he delivered a public address at Los Angeles, California, entitled “Millions Now Living Will Never Die“, in which he called attention to the expectation of the return of the men above mentioned. All the publications since emphasize the same fact. 

It therefore appears that the return of the princes is a fundamental teaching of the Scriptures. It is as certain as the truth of God’s Word. Judge Rutherford gave much of his life in endeavoring to bring this vital matter to the people’s attention. What, then, could be more fitting and appropriate before God and before men than that his bones should rest on the land held in trust for the men whose coming he was privileged to announce. For this reason a strenuous effort has been made to comply with unreasonable human laws, that the demands of the state be met and the Lord’s servant be granted his last wish.

Reasonable regulations regarding the burial of the dead are necessary in a civilized land, and with such Jehovah’s witnesses have no argument; but where unreasonable; contradictory and absurd regulations are set up for the sole purpose of fighting the Most High, such is a dangerous course for officials to pursue, and public attention is called to the fact for the benefit of all.

In this connection it is worth noting that Joseph died and was embalmed and his remains left in a coffin on the top of the ground in Egypt. Because he had commanded before his death  the Israelites carried these bones with them on their long trek to the Promised Land. More than a hundred years elapsed between Joseph’s death and his burial in Shechem.-Genesis 50: 26; Exodus 13: 19; Joshua 24: 32; Hebrews 11 : 22.

Objections Were All Eliminated

While on the witness stand Mr. Heath also testified that he desired to eliminate any possible objection to a burial in the district; he said no markers and no monuments would be erected, and there would be no pilgrimages ; he desired only to bury the bones as his friend wished done.

During the delivery of Heath’s testimony, Judge Mundo interrupted to ask two questions. The first was :

The WATCHTOWER maintains several homes. How will these governors know how to go to San Diego, instead of to Brooklyn, or somewhere else?

To this the judge was answered:

The Almighty God, who made the heavens and the earth, who has power of life and death, and who can resurrect by recreating at any spot on earth, biking note of the faith of His servants · in dedicating these places to their return, we are assured He would send them to the place prepared for them. Furthermore, if He desired to resurrect them at some other place He would have the power to direct them or transport them there. He has almighty power and His hand is not shortened.

Then the judge asked :

Suppose the Japs were to level that property off during an air raid, what would happen then?

The answer:

We submit, your honor, that … we trust in the Lord for protection.

There are many instances in the Bible where His servants, the Israelites, were powerless to meet the foe and the Lord fought their battles in their behalf; such as the cases of Barak, and Deborah, against Sisera (Judges 4 : 15) ; Moses at the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red sea (Exodus 14, 15) ; Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20); Gideon (Judges 7); and Joshua (Joshua 6 : 27) ; and time would fail me to mention them all.

It appears that the enemy attempted to cast reproach’ upon the Lord and His servant by preventing his proper burial. Let the commission and the supervisors consider and compare their action with what God’s Word foretells concerning the treatment of Jehovah’s witnesses by His enemies, to wit: “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall NOT SUFFER THEIR DEAD BODIES TO BE PUT IN GRAVES. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another : because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.”-Revelation 11:8-10.

The Devil’s Poor Care of His Own

The Devil is therefore using these various officials and commissions and boards, whether they realize it or not, and in this they have been entrapped. This burial, therefore, gives occasion for further separating of the “sheep” from the “goats”. Many were the good people who saw and continue to see the viciousness of officials who would not permit the proper burial of the dead, and the hand of the Hierarchy behind the whole matter was freely discussed on the streets. On the other hand, others made their decisions on the side of the entrenched religionists and their portion is with the Devil. So, in reality, while these agencies were desperately striving to thwart a burial, it was not the fate of the bones which they decided, but their own destiny.

Nor is their blood on anyone else’s head, because they were told three times that to fight against God, or to tamper with His servant’s bones even, would bring upon them the condemnation of the Lord. They ignored such warnings and acted wickedly when a proper course would not have affected them in the least, “because it is in the power of their hand.”-Micah 2:1.

So their responsibility is fixed, and they followed the course of Satan, who strove for the body of Moses and tried to stop the resurrection of Jesus. (Jude 9; Matthew 27: 62-64) How great is that burden may be gathered from the words which on one occasion were called to their attention: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.”-Deut. 32: 39.

Among other things counsel for plaintiffs, Knorr, Heath and WATCHTOWER SOCIETY, fitly described the un-American and Fascist action of the defendants, officials, thus:

The officials have admitted that they would permit an ordinary man to be buried on this site or plot and that the burial would not disturb anyone, but they contend that because Judge Rutherford was not an ordinary man he cannot be buried as requested in California. The only thing that distinguished Judge Rutherford from the ordinary man was that he was a faithful servant and witness of Almighty God. If the time has come when a man cannot be buried in this state because he was a servant of the Lord, then it is high time for the courts to take some action to protect those who dare to worship Jehovah God. The action of the defendants outrages the community and is a disgrace to the entire state. This court should protect the Planning Board and Board of Supervisors from the snare in which they find themselves, to wit, fighting against Jehovah God in this matter, which brings everlasting death. We are entitled to the writ of mandate.

Judge Rutherford’s Final Witness

At the conclusion of the hearing Judge Mundo did not decide the matter promptly, but stated that he would take two weeks to render his decision. He denied the writ of mandamus and refused to make the county officials do their duty under the law. The ruling of the judge approving the illegal conduct of the aforesaid county officials was contrary to a score or more Supreme Court of California decisions providing that burials were allowable in the county. He also ruled contrary to the Supreme Court of the United States and overruled the rights of those charged with the burial, contrary to the U. S. Constitution.

Very few persons give heed to the Word of the Lord, but rather, most persons follow their own counsel.

“Be wise now therefore, 0 ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled put a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.“-Psalm 2: 10-12.

After the judge’s decision those handling the matter of burial decided that there was no use to appeal to higher courts of California, which would delay the burial one year. They decided to proceed with the burial immediately. The remains of J. F. Rutherford, accompanied by the mortician, Mr. Lewis, were then sent east, for interment at Watchtower, radio station WBBR, Staten Island, New York. Adjoining the Society’s property there is a burial plot, and the remains of Judge Rutherford were interred alongside others of his brethren with whom he had fought a good fight against the Devil’s organization for many years. Burial was made in the Society’s plot at sunrise, Saturday, April 25, 1942.

This faithful servant of the Lord gave a grand witness to the honor of Jehovah’s name and poured out his life in the interests of God’s THEOCRATIC GOVERNMENT. All who knew him rejoiced in his zeal and their privilege of associating with a faithful servant of the Most High God, Jehovah. With his burial ends his last earthly witness to the praise of the Almighty God, Jehovah.

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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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