As I write this on January 6, 2017, I thought of how difficult it is for us to imagine just what the Watch Tower Society was like 100 years ago. Disappointment and anticipation simultaneously ran very high among the Bible Students, especially since October 1914. World War 1 was engaging more and more Americans. Charles Taze Russell had just died at a relatively young age. And just a few months earlier, J. F. Rutherford was not considered to be the most likely successor to C. T. Russell.
Yet, on January 6, 1917, Rutherford was elected President of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the Watchtower Society of New York (then known as Peoples Pulpit Association), and the International Bible Students Association of London.
The Bible Students were still in a daze, and a bit confused about the death of Russell, just 2 months and 7 days earlier. Rutherford was not the expected successor. It seemed to some that Rutherford had moved ruthlessly, and “truthlessly” to wrest the management of the Watch Tower Society away from some of those who were apparently already seen as a better fit to replace the character and manner of Russell. Everyone including Rutherford himself would admit that Rutherford was nothing like Russell.
The goal of this new section is to add regular updates about what was going on inside and outside the Watch Tower Society during the time of Rutherford’s presidency. Watch for updates that we will also announce through Twitter and Facebook, for those who prefer to follow updates that way.
In the next few weeks we’ll try to give a much better sense of what it must have felt like just inside and just outside the Watch Tower Society. We’ll answer questions about:
- How did Watchtower readers and Bible Students react to Rutherford’s presidency?
- What were the first actions Rutherford took as president?
- Who were the people he trusted most, and what were they like?
- What did Rutherford think was the most important change to make?
- What was the first major doctrine that Rutherford changed?
- What was the first thing Rutherford got wrong according to his own admission?
- Is there evidence that the Watch Tower Society has not been completely honest about the transition?
- What was the effect of Rutherford’s leadership on chronology doctrines, like 1914?
I think most Jehovah’s Witnesses will be surprised by the answers to some of these questions based on evidence that most JWs have never seen before.