The quote that begins the August 2014 Our Kingdom Ministry is well known to most JWs. It is very often repeated, and is one of the historical highlights in the most recent DVD that purports to cover the early history of Russell, Rutherford, and the Watch Tower Society, the Bible Students, Rutherford, etc. (Pt 1:”Out of Darkness”).
However, if you take a look at a fuller version of the quote around that place in the speech, it becomes obvious why certain portions are repeated so often, and so much is left out. Here is more of the context from the November 1, 1922 Watchtower (from the talk given at Cedar Point, Ohio just two months earlier):
“… Since 1914 the King of glory has taken his power and reigns. He has cleansed the lips of the temple class and sends them forth with the message. The importance of the message of the kingdom cannot be overstated. It is the message of all messages. It is the message of the hour. It is incumbent upon those who are the Lord’s to declare it. The kingdom of heaven is at hand; the King reigns; Satan’s empire is falling; millions now living will never die.
“Do you believe it? Do you believe that the King of glory is present, and has been since 1874? Do you believe that during that time he has conducted his harvest work? Do you believe that he has had during that time a faithful and wise servant through whom he directed his work and the feeding of the household of faith? Do you believe that the Lord is now in his temple, judging the nations of earth? Do you believe that the King of glory has begun his reign?
“Then back to the field, O ye sons of the most high God! Gird on your armor! Be sober, be vigilant, be active, be brave. Be faithful and true witnesses for the Lord. Go forward in the fight until every vestige of Babylon lies desolate. Herald the message far and wide. The world must know that Jehovah is God and that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. This is the day of all days. Behold, the King reigns! You are his publicity agents. Therefore advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.” – Watchtower, November 1, 1922, p. 337.
Clearly there was plenty of reason to change the 1874, 1878 and 1881 dates, after all of the expectations for 1914 didn’t come to pass. And it seems that Rutherford must have already been thinking that he should move away from the older 1874 and 1878 and 1881 dates. Something had to be done, because it had all gone wrong. 1914 would be the easiest to salvage because it was the most recent, and pivoting on that date gave him the most flexibility. But we don’t really know what he was thinking.
The original belief under Russell, of course, was that Jesus was present since 1874 and that doesn’t change here. But there is a hint that Rutherford is already thinking of moving the 1878 date. Officially, it’s still the date on which Jesus was supposed to have taken his kingly power and begun to rule. However, Rutherford here appears to be careful, as if sending up a trial balloon to judge the direction of the wind. If the Bible Students could appear to accept such a change, this speech could be said to have initiated it. If they didn’t accept, well he hadn’t actually said it, at least not outright.
He seems to have been thinking like a lawyer. You can say that Jesus has been reigning since 1914, which puts a new focus on 1914, without denying 1878. After all if he was reigning since 1878 then he was also reigning since 1914. But there is even a hint that he might try to simplify the system to just having Jesus presence and rulership start at the same time: but in 1874. Note his phrase: “the King of glory is present, and has been since 1874.”
It’s a reminder of what Rutherford did when he finally decided to change the date of Christ’s presence from 1874 to 1914. He actually had it printed in 1930, but he didn’t have to take a hit in a major organ, The Watchtower. Instead, he chose to publish it in a 1930 Golden Age, by saying little more than just: “Jesus has been present since 1914.” (Again there is potential deniability, since Jesus could also have been present since 1874.) After that point, he didn’t mention the specific date again for the start of Jesus’ presence until 1943. (He did, but was also somewhat ambiguous as he is here.) And by then, 1914 had settled in, as the default. (Is this what Karl Kline had in mind when he mentioned not mentioning something for a while until the publisher’s kind of forget about it? – see Crisis of Conscience)
The Watchtower admits that 1874 wasn’t formally removed until 1943. It’s hard to believe it took them until 1943 to make it official. But we also know now that there were some contradictions to work out and apparently Rutherford was having Fred Franz work on them. But it wasn’t so much a matter of solving the contradictions as figuring out what could stay and what could be “smoothed over” even though the contradictions never really went away. Which solution had the least visible contradictions.
One major contradiction was the one year variation that had to be covered up with a “sleight of hand” between 1943 and 1944. Not until that was “resolved” would the Watch Tower claim to have an official date policy, so that they could formally change 1874 to 1914. Alan Feuerbacher discusses this in an article here: http://corior.blogspot.com/2006/02/evolution-of-606-to-607-bce-in.html
Of course, the Watch Tower can’t be blamed specifically for leaving out portions of a quote, because inclusion can imply that the belief hadn’t changed (unless otherwise noted in the context). But this brings up another question: For how long did the Watchtower continue implying that dates and events from the late 1800’s still had some Biblical fulfillment? The picture of the Cedar Point assembly above is from the Watch Tower’s 1959 release “Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose” Note the fuller quote here from the same talk, with no corrections in the context, that implies some remaining beliefs in the interpretations offered both 1874 and 1878.
We’re including some additional parts of the 1922 re-quotation as they appeared in 1959 because it’s one of the last times the speech was nearly quoted in it’s entirety (but with key obsolete points still skipped). This was evidently because the Watch Tower leaders still felt a need to give some meaning to the fact that, at this time, the 1874-1881 dates had been accepted for 70 years of the Society’s history, and only 16 years had passed since their “full and formal” replacement. They were still in recent memory, and some of these un-ellipsed points still may have still been considered valid regarding 1874 and 1878, even as late as this 1959 book:
Why has the King come? To set up [God’s] kingdom and reign as King. But he had a work to do before his reign began, and that is a preparatory work. Since there are to be associated with him in his reign his body members, these must be gathered together and prepared for the beginning of the reign. . . .
The Lord foreknew, of course, that Satan would not peaceably yield the kingdoms of earth. He knew that there would be a great conflict, and hence he must prepare for that conflict. . . . The gentile times ended . . . 1914, and immediately followed the World War; and since that day there has been upon earth distress of nations, with perplexity. It has been a day of increasing darkness and blackness and suffering. The physical facts, then, clearly show that the day of preparation was from 1874 forward; . . . that the day of preparation ended in 1914; and that in 1918, or thereabouts, the Lord came to his temple. This coming to the temple was for judgment, because judgment must first begin at the house of God. (1 Peter 4:17) The judgment would be upon the true church and also the nominal system. . . .
Prior to 1878 the nominal church had grown mighty in the earth. In 1878 God’s favor was withdrawn from the nominal systems. From that time on Brother Russell and the brethren who supported him went throughout the land . . . …(ellipses ours)…
Do you believe it? Do you believe that the King of glory is present, and has been since 1874? Do you believe that during that time he has conducted his harvest work? Do you believe that he has had during that time a faithful and wise servant through whom he directed his work and the feeding of the household of faith? Do you believe that the Lord is now in his temple, judging the nations of earth? Do you believe that the King of glory has begun his reign?
Then back to the field, O ye sons of the most high God! Gird on your armor! Be sober, be vigilant, be active, be brave. Be faithful and true witnesses for the Lord. Go forward in the fight until every vestige of Babylon lies desolate. Herald the message far and wide. The world must know that Jehovah is God and that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. This is the day of all days. Behold, the King reigns! You are his publicity agents. Therefore advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.
At any rate, what was eerie was how no one could really “Cedar Point” for so many years. They didn’t have a lot of solid ground to stand on. Today, Cedar Point, on a skinny little strip of land jutting out into Lake Erie, is best known for an amusement park. Erie coincidence!