Outline (keep this entire article to 5 pages or less, break up with some pix and charts and subtitles.)
- Intro to JWs and factual connections to Russell, Bible Students, Watchtower, etc.
- Compare JW with SDA and LDS, plus disclaimer and chart.
- The disclaimer here could include the idea of not sect, sect, not special, special, generic, Christendom, nominal, separation, Babylon, early ideas. Idea is enough for own article.
- The Burned-Over District
- Initially most active sites of revivals and Miller’s 1844 activism, affecting area from 1839 to 1844
- Also the place where Mormons started, but not just LDS, also primary place for spiritism, activism with less socially redeeming activism such as prohibition, slavery, abolition, feminism.
- Due to Second Adventism’s hold in the area, the JWs have a connection to the Burned-over district. Russell and his contributors, plus his wa oto et
In 1879, CTR began publishing and writing for the magazine now known as The Watchtower. From an initial printing of only 6,000 issues of Zion’s Watch Tower it has grown to at least 46,000,000 copies of each issue.
The religion that was formed through the work of Russell and his associates was initially known simply as “Bible Students” and since 1931 it has been known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. From those few thousand readers in 1879 the religion has grown to over 7 million active members. (Officially, JWs only count active members who participate regularly in their preaching activities. An additional 13 million, approximately, attend a special meeting referred to as “The Memorial” commemorating Jesus’ death.)
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses would reject any similarities, they are often compared with the Mormons (LDS) and the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA). Later, we will cover some of the reasons Jehovah’s Witnesses object to such comparisons. Considering the somewhat later start, however, JW’s would compare quite favorably.
|Approx Year Established||Number Congs (Churches)||Active Membership||Languages||Nations|
|Jehovah’s Witnesses (initially Bible Students)||1869-1879*||24,000||7,500,000**||300||210/240|
|Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints)||1830-1844||29,000||15,000,000||177||N/A|
|Seventh Day Adventists||1863***||75,184||17,994,120||914||216/238|
The numbers are taken from current published information from each organization in the last few years. “Start dates” may be open to interpretation. For example, Charles Russell may have participated in a Bible Study group as early as 186x, and began publishing some of his own articles as early as 187x, before regularly publishing both as a contributor and editor to Zion’s Watch Tower in 1879. The first corporation was established in 1881.
Similarly, 1863 is the formal start of Seventh Day Adventists although direct personal ties to Second Adventism reached back even to even a few years before 1844. Russell himself was only indirectly tied to 1844 Second Adventism through the contemporary Barbour and his associates. (see The Great Disappointment).
Note, too, that Mormons (LDS), although they nearly double the membership of JWs, have had at least a 30-year head start,
The Second Adventists and LDS, coincidentally, can trace some of their initial success to the same place and time. their start to almost the same place and time. can trace their start to American religions that had their start in the mid 1800’s such as Mormons (Latter Day Saints) and Seventh Day Adventists.
JWs may point out that any comparison with other religions is invalid due to the unique nature of their religion. The claim is that ALL other religions are either part of Babylon the Great, or if they claim to be Christian, they are part of “Christendom,” a pejorative term which is always used to connote to the false, hypocritical nature of all religion outside the JWs that claims to be Christian. Russell initially called this “nominal Christianity” or the “nominal Church.”
….. or write with following tie-in method and skip most of above…
they reject any direct comparison, but nevertheless oftenare often compared with two other religions that, coincidentally, can trace their precursors to a similar place and time in American history. The place was the “Burned-Over” District of Western New York, named for the numerous religious revivals that peaked between 1830 and 1844 in the area.
The Mormon leader, Joseph Smith published the book of Mormon about from Palmyra, NY (25 miles from Rochester, NY) in 1830 and was killed in 1844 after moving further west.
William Miller (the man the Watchtower referred to as “Father Miller”) lived at the other end of upstate New York, but found his most active followers in the “Burned-Over District, ” especially as 1844 approached. His newspaper articles, tracts, and pamphlets, pointed to Christ’s return in 1844.
Many of the Adventists closest to Miller himself (Joshua Himes, James and Ellen G White) went on to form the Seventh Day Adventists.
Those most active followers of Second Adventism who remained convinced that the chronology must have been essentially correct, even after the “Great Disappointment” of 1844, included Nelson Barbour (Rochester, NY) who had found a way to “save” the same system of chronology that produced 1844 and extend it to 1874 (and later to 1914). Russell, who lived in Allegheny, PA (approx lower left corner of the map above), was over 125 miles from the Burned Out District, so he traveled up to see Barbour in Rochester, who convinced him of the continued efficacy of Miller’s chronology. In fact, Russell felt motivated to co-partner with him to publish Barbour’s “Three World’s” pamphlet and also write for Barbour’s magazine, “Herald of the Morning.”
When Russell and Barbour split their partnership in 1879, Russell was able to leverage many of Barbour’s contributors and even many on the subscriber list for the Herald. Additionally, he had made an arrangement to leverage the complete subscriber list to Paton’s (or ???’s) xxxx xxxx magazine, as Paton would now work for the Watch Tower as of 1879 and his own magazine would. These early partners were all Second Adventists.
Note the list of regular contributors that Russell, as editor, published in the Watch Tower. (The following example is from October 1880:
C. T. RUSSELL, Editor and Publisher.
J. H. PATON, . . . . ALMONT, MICH.
W. I. MANN, . . . . SWISSVALE, PA.
B. W. KEITH, . . . DANSVILLE, N.Y.
A. D. JONES, . . . PITTSBURGH, PA.
L. A. ALLEN, . . . . HONEOYE, N.Y.
The same issue, included a brief announcement that stated: “In answer to a number of requests, we had purposed visiting several places in New York state, where little bands of subscribers reside, among others, Brockport, Honeoye, Dansville, etc., but will defer so doing until the early part of November.” (Brockport, NY, also in the District, is just west of Rochester where Russell first published with Nelson Barbour.)
It was therefore the Second Adventists who had remained “faithful” to Miller’s chronology, who provided nearly all the initial support to help launch Russell’s new magazine in 1879. So it’s not surprising that many of these early supporters and contributors were, like Barbour himself, also closely tied to the “Burned-Over District.” B W Keith, for example, from (Dansville, NY) the near center of the “District” was credited by Russell for having discovered evidence that Jesus “presence” could be invisible. L. A. Allen also from the near center of the District (Honeoye, NY) was a propoenent of the ….. in most of the articles he contributed.
Russell let’s us know the importance of this discovery in the ….. watchtower….
Note that this was at the time he was writing for Barbour’s Herald. B W Keith, like Paton, also left the Herald to contribute to Russell’s Watch Tower.
Although it was necessary
In fact, to draw attention to this difference, and their unique standing with respect to religions, JWs never explicitly claimed to be a religion, and in fact explicitly distanced themselves from the term, saying that religion was a “snare and a racket” from Satan. This was a common theme in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Note the rather generic, simple term by which they described themselves: Bible Students. In fact, even in 1931, when they began to be called “Jehovah’s witnesses,” they were always careful never to capitalize the “w” in “witnesses.” This served as a reminder of a teaching that has been repeated often since 1931. (The teaching that Jehovah’s witnesses is not so much a name of a religion, but a designation that describes God’s people going back as far as Adam’s son, Abel.) Since 1972 the practice has changed; the “W” in “Jehovah’s Witnesses” is now capitalized although the teaching and even again in 2014, that the name Jehovah’s witnesses is a description of God’s people since the first witness of Jehovah, Adam’s son Abel. (See explanation.)
When presenting JW history in their own (can do this as our and ours rather than their and theirs) official publications there it is clear to many readers that the specific role of CTR himself, and the usual timeframe of “the 1870’s is not as much of a focus in the last couple decades (as it had been earlier). In fact a recent doctrinal change in 2012 was made more explicit in 2013 where the clarification was made that a most important designation once thought to belong solely to CTR and then made more general, now no longer applies at all to CTR.
The issues of self-identification as a religion, or a sect have had an important role in how JWs see themselves and their special ministry. It may surprise some JWs that as late as
At a time when dozens of American religions were springing up in the 1800’s the problem of self-identificaiton as a separate and distinct religion often became an issue among several of these new religions (see examples). There was a kind of tension between the two ideas both found in the Bible. One was the idea of both true and false Christianity growing together until the harvest based on the analogy or parable of the wheat and tares (wheat and the weeds, NWT). This could mean that true Christians were not identified by the name of the Church group they attended. Jesus and the angels could identify true Christians among Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Congregationalists, and others. It was a spiritual connection by which Christians recognized their shepherd’s voice, and he knew his flock, not because they worshipped on a certain mountain or in a certain temple, but true worshippers worshipped in Spirit and Truth (John …).
But this might have been seen as a contradiction with Revelation 18:4 which said: Get out of her my people if you do not want to share with her in her sins.
This tension would not find easy and consistent resolution.
. The name Bible Students seemed generic, but would soon become expanded organizationally to International Bible Students Association or IBSA.
The name Jehovah’s witnesses was used a religious name, and a very distinctive one, even though Rutherford was adamant that it was not, and of course, in 1972, the capitalization capitulated.
The idea that the associates of Russell were clearly not a sect, as was stated in 1882 was changed less than a year later to the statement that “We are a sect” in Nov of 1883. This remained for 10 years before being changed back again to “We are not a sect.”
The attempt to dissociate the group from “religion” was explicit for many ears. Rutherford stating that we were in no wise a religion, but this was changed to … so that the 1950 Watchtower, easily avaialble to JWs through the Watchtower CD, states: “it is OK to call ourselves a religion, so the Defending … booklet is correct in calling us one”
But why does it matter. It matters because by defining ourselves as not a religion, it hides an important factor in the history of JWs. It makes it appear as if we were beholden to no one in gives a false sense of identity. We just kind of popped up. Raised up a prophet out of nowhere. Russell was given this kind of special identity. As a man who studied so well that he just started out with ideas that were some right and some wrong, but began a trend of removing the wrong and adding right until he was at a point where.
The special purpose of JWs, we geta sense that he was
Initially, the associates of Charles Taze Russell made it clear that they were not a sect