Perhaps the first widely distributed book written by a former Witness about the Watchtower Society is, Thirty Years a Watch Tower Slave by William J. Schnell, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1956. It’s been out of print for several years, and very few libraries still have the book. Schnell was born in 1905, and was part of the Watchtower movement from 1921 to 1954.
In part, the Foreword reads: “By the Lord’s grace I am a Christian. … Early in life I was inveigled to join the Watch Tower Organization, and subsequently became totally enslaved to it. … By the Lord’s grace I came free when He lifted my up from a night of prayer, and when I became so agitated and alive once again spiritually that I made a vow unto the Lord. That night I came free!”
The theme of Schnell’s newly found Christian walk runs throughout the book, and his research cannot be considered scholarly. However, I think this book serves a valuable resource that started exposing some of the Watchtower’s underhandedness to the public in the USA. I found a second edition (November 1956) of the book at a used bookstore, and will share sections of Chapter 4 (“A Look at the Organization in America”). The following are segments from pages 37 to 42:
The Judge Takes Over
No sooner had Charles T. Russell died (1916) than there came into play a behind-the-scene tug of war for his mantel. Russell’s will left instructions for certain men to succeed him. However, the legal counsel, Judge Rutherford, was able to maneuver proxies of the Corporation in such a way that he emerged President of the Watch Tower Society. …
The Judge in his pronouncement of 1919 had accomplished another result favorable to the Society. By seemingly opposing Christendom’s support of the war, he had been successful in separating the Watch Tower Society from all other organizations which lay claim to being Christian. Now it became necessary to build the Watch Tower Society into a powerful organization, which would not only supply Bible Students with literature and Bible helps and arrange conventions for them, but which would focus world attention on this esoteric Watch Tower, in exactly the sense as the first Watch Tower of Babel was elevated over the rank and file of mankind. … The Watch Tower Society of Brooklyn was now beginning to claim that its edifice would be the refuge which would carry millions across the rubicon, so to speak, that is across Armageddon into the Millenium, in which it would emerge as “The New World Society” to last a thousand years.
The Judge Plans Changes
In order to build this New World Society it became necessary to change the Organization’s policy. The Organization had to be given a forward focus, with a goal and an ideal embedded in a Scriptural setting. For the time being, using as a base the books of Charles T. Russell which were accepted everywhere in Bible Student circles, he settled on a theme of "The Kingdom,” using the World War and ensuing climactic conditions as the window dressing for the need of world-wide witnessing campaign. His first feelers in this direction in 1919 had been highly successful. This prompted him to bring about a Convention to be held in September of 1922 at Cedar Point, Ohio, where, as previously related, the assembled delegates of the Convention were prevailed upon to pass enthusiastically a resolution sponsored by him, titled “Advertise, Advertise, Advertise, the King and His Kingdom!”
The Judge knew that it would take more than a motto to put his plans across. Up to that time the Bible Students had been of such rugged individuality type that they claimed they had fled various organizations in order to become and remain free and unencumbered in their quest of Bible studies and living as Christians. … In order to sell such people the idea of a super organization required not only a policy change, but an unusual acumen. The Judge had it!
How was it done? Again by raising an issue outside of the core of Bible Students and outside of the orbit of their thinking. Realizing that Bible Students had left the various church organizations and denominations behind, because these were organized, the Watch Tower Society and its President framed an anti-Christendom or anti-organization policy, … While he drew this red herring across the horizon of the congregations of Bible Students throughout the world, he began to lay the ground for an organization far more absolute and far more rigidly organized than was the Catholic Church which it so bitterly opposes. This organization not only presumes to take the place of the organized Christian Churches which were so vociferously accused and condemned by the Watch Tower Society from 1919 on, but they daub their organization as “God’s Organization,” the churches and all others being the Devil’s organization.
The Society Puts Its House in Order
The next step was taken by the Watch Tower Society with the publishing of an entirely new set of books and booklets, with a new slant, paving the way for total organization. This literature was intended to affect change of thinking on all such matters amidst the Bible Student congregations and gradually to supplant individual thinking with organization mindedness. In order to make such media available cheaply and in large quantities, the Watch Tower Society purchased its own printing plants, and with the book The Harp of God (1922) began its publishing and printing career. Soon it was able to put out larger books for only 35 cents a book, coming down eventually to as low as 25 cents a book; and a flood of these began to flow out into the world.
The use of Watch Tower Society published books, booklets and magazines had a three-fold purpose: (1) to effect mass thinking within the orbit of the Organization on all matters pertaining to the Scriptures; (2) to occupy all Bible Students, if possible, with the selling of these books to all mankind, and in doing so to raise issues for cleavage; (3) to form a financial backlog of funds to support a sustained world-wide increase campaign to come.
… In order then to crystallize matters to the point of a crisis, the Society instituted early in 1925 a rigid method of accounting and reporting to it all time spent in witnessing with its books. …
Having successfully invaded the congregations of the Bible Students, and after forcing about three-fourths of the adherents to leave them, the Society soon had the quorum to operate without opposition among those left behind. Now they were free to ignore individuality. Without opposition they could now establish set minimum monthly time requirements for each Publisher as well as book quotas of minimum numbers of books to be sold per month. …
Thus the Society established a mode of “worship” within the new Organization based on business quotas and quantums, making “merchandise of men,” as had the Jews done in their temple in the days of Jesus (John 2:16). …