How many JW's left after the 1925 debacle?

by middleman 32 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • middleman

    I'm very interested to se e how many left because the "Proclaimers" book said it was very few. It's my understanding that there were over a third that left but I'm not sure of this figure. If anyone has this info it would be much appreciated-hopefully with a source for verification. Take care now.....

  • slimboyfat

    The vast majority of them left to join other Bible Student groups or none at all. Leolaia has the figures. So many left that they called the ones the stayed the 'loyal remnant' - that's how the term got useage.

  • sir82

    I don't have the stats, but I seem to recall that as many as 75% left between 1925 and 1928. Of course, the group was much smaller then than now, so in raw numbers, it was just a few 10's of thousands.

  • shopaholic

    What was the 1925 debacle?

  • sir82
    What was the 1925 debacle?

    Beginning in 1919, the Bible Students began predicting Armageddon to begin in 1925. One famous quote says something like "the date 1925 is even more firmly fixed from the scriptures than 1914".

    Remember that talk "Millions now living will never die"? That talk was given prior to 1925. The Bible Students had a "gentler" view of Armageddon back then - the "millions who would never die" were non-Bible Students who were good-hearted and who would survive Armageddon in 1925.

    1925 came and went, and no Armageddon. 2 massive, colossal failures in 11 years was too much for the majority of Bible Students.

  • TheOldHippie

    There are spreadsheets giving the number of partakers at the Memorial before and after, and not THAT many left, i don't have the exact figures here right now, though. In some areas, 70-80-90 % left, but on a whole somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 perhaps. I'll check it up, but because of the night/day difference between the old world and the new world, I guess someone else will have done it in the meantime ......


  • Leolaia

    Funny, I was just looking into the post-1925 figures the other day. Here is what I have on memorial attendance, as reported in Watchtower sources:

    17,961 1919
    32,661 1922
    42,900 1923
    65,105 1924
    90,434 1925
    84,777 1926
    82,409 1927
    17,380 1928
    32,795 1935
    35,551 1936
    69,345 1938
    77,164 1939
    96,613 1940

    The totals for 1923-1927 were reported in the The Watch Tower for those years, whereas the totals for 1919 and 1922-1925 were reported in the 1958 Your Will Be Done book (pp. 334, 337). There were also detailed reports of memorial attendance published in The Watch Tower between 1919 and 1927, but early on they did not tally up the numbers into totals (although I suppose this could be done with a calculator). The figures for 1935 onward were reported in the Yearbooks, and the data for 1928 was published in the 1958 Yearbook (p. 284).

    The Society had been very fastidious publishing detailed memorial attendance data for each city up to 1927 and then suddenly they stopped in 1928, even though the magazine twice had notices that year on submitting attendance data to Brooklyn (as they did every year). And not only that, but they didn't report any attendance data for all the years thenceforth up to 1935 (when the issue of partakers versus attenders became a matter of significance). That suggests that the attendance was so low in 1928 and in the years following that it didn't serve the organization's purposes to release the data. The 1958 Yearbook released the figures for 1928 in a table intended to show the dramatic increase of Jehovah's Witnesses over the years. They start with 1928, evidently because it was the lowest point; the attendance in 1925, 1926, and even 1927 rivalled that as late as the latter half of the 1930s.

    There are problems with this data; not all congregations reported the data in time to make it to the totals (thus 61,911 was originally reported for the attendance in 1924, but this figure was later revised to 65,105, evidently counting those congregations whose reports were not included by the July publication date). The other problem is that all these early figures count ONLY those cities that had attendance above 30 or 20 persons (the later figures lower the limit to 20). Thus none of these figures are complete, as they omit all the smaller gatherings. This probably accounts for the discrepency in the reported figures for the 1935 Memorial. The Yearbook originally reported an attendance of 32,795 but more recently (since the writing of the Proclaimers book) the Society has cited a total of 63,146. My guess is that in the research for the Proclaimers book they recounted the figures using ALL the attendance reports on file -- incorporating all those that had gatherings smaller than the cut-off point for the older published figures. The 1958 Yearbook that gave the 17,380 figure for 1928 also repeated the 32,795 figure for 1935, so the 17,380 figure (as are all the other older totals) underestimated the actual number. But since ALL these figures were computed roughly the same way, they are roughly comparable at least insofar as they show general trends of increase and decrease. We can see that it wasn't just the 1928 figure that shows the lingering post-1925 decreases, but also the figures reported in the 1930s; it took a while for the numbers to climb again to the levels they were in 1925. As far as the effect of the shift in cut-off from 30 to 20 persons is concerned, that would have mitigated against the reported decrease rather than enhanced it (as the lower cut-off is more inclusive). Possibly the shift to the lower cut-off had the motive of shoring up the 1926 and 1927 figures.

    Timothy White in his book tried to gauge the decrease another way, through the published figures of the number of Watch Towers printed. These show a more steady and less precipitous decrease, but one that continued until about 1932. I also recall a number of letters in the Watch Tower about the lack of activity in the late 1920s, as well as the tract Where are the Nine? printed in 1928 that addressed the problem. To avoid the counting issues involved in the memorial attendance data, I looked at the totals for specific cities that would have certainly passed the threshold, to see what kind of changes in attendance were attested. Of course, the data only continues to 1927; there is no data of any kind released for the years following. But up to 1927, there was a lot of variability. In some cities (such as London), the numbers continued to increase to 1927. In others, like New York City, they held constant with zero increase. The decrease was pretty slight in many other cities (such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and St. Louis), whereas in others the drop was huge. Here is the decrease in Los Angeles, the city that year after year had the fourth largest memorial attendance in the movement:

    620 1919
    568 1920
    728 1921
    785 1922
    850 1923
    1134 1924
    1073 1925
    917 1926
    788 1927

    I would love to see what figures were reported in 1928 and 1929.

  • Leolaia

    It is worth noting also that Rutherford himself in his writings described the decreases as very large, even involving the majority of those who had earlier been in the movement. The huge decreases that were occurring formed the basis of Rutheford's doctrine of the anointed remnant -- a notion that in altered form still persists today.

    *** w27 9/15 pp. 279-281 Jehovah Alone Be Thy Fear ***

    This company will be small. The Lord refers to it as a remnant, which means the faithful ones left after the less faithful have withdrawn.... There are several ecclesias in the land wherein brethren who are acting as elders are opposing the service work. Whether they will ever get their eyes open sufficiently to see their mistake the Lord knows. There are some members in the ecclesias that are being misled by these blind leaders that may get their eyes opened at a time when they will greatly regret that they followed men or feared men...[A]lthough a less number partook of the memorial in 1927 than heretofore the reports show that there is a far greater number today actually in the field service work than ever before. It is a healthy sign.

    *** w27 12/1 p. 355-358 "A People For a Purpose" ***

    The work in Holland has been greatly retarded, doubtless due to the machinations of the adversary. Some brethren who apparently were deeply interested fell away....A year ago there was much disturbance amongst the brethren in Switzerland, due to the work of the adversary in turning the heads of some who had been entrusted with the kingdom interests. Some of these became offended and withdrew. A goodly number of those who withdrew are drifting back into the world, while the honest-heared ones, devoted to the Lord, are returning to his service....During the past fifty years God has been causing his light to shine with increasing power upon his Word. He has not given his people new truths, but illuminated the truths already given. During that short period of time many have separated themselves from all organized systems of religion and have tried to walk in the way that Jesus and the apostles walked. For a time they made progress; and then many became tired and weary in well doing or thought more highly of themselves than they should think or became lawless, while others became offended. These turned away, so that today the larger percent of those who withdrew from so-called organized Christianity have turned aside and again gone back into the world.

    *** Government [1928] pp. 206-212 Proclamation ***

    Are all who were anointed obeying the command to give this witness? They are not; and therefore they are to that extent in opposition to the righteous government of Jehovah. Many of such who were once in line for membership in the royal family refuse to obey the Lord's commandment and therefore show a lack of love for God, for Christ, and for his kingdom. Jesus said that at the end of the world, and necessarily at the time of coming to his temple, he would cause a separation between all of the consecrated by gathering out the lawless.... Instead of God's trying to get men into heaven, he is shaking out every one that can be shaken, in order that the approved ones might be made manifest.--Heb. 12:27.

    During the past fifty years a goodly number have been brought to a knowledge of "present truth" and have made a consecration to do God's will and, having been accepted as his sons, have received the call to a place in the kingdom....Jehovah foreknew and foretold that there would be but a small number. The Lord God caused the natural Israelites to foreshadow the experiences of those who are of spiritual Israel. Amongst the Israelites there were a few faithful, but the mass of them did not appreciate God's favor. God gave to Isaiah his prophet a vision, and in that vision the Israelites were likened unto an olive tree with practically all the olives shaken down; and unto a vineyard with the grapes all gathered excepted a few to glean. (Isa. 17:6; 24:13) That foreshadowed that when the final test should come as to who would engage in the great and wonderful work of God on earth there would be but a small number who would avail themselves of that happy privilege.... The important point is that the experiences of Israel developed a remnant which foreshadowed that there would be a small remnant who would joyfully engage in the Lord's work. (Isa. 1:9) Corroborative of this Paul wrote concerning the Jews: "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace." (Rom. 11:5) What came to pass upon natural Israel foreshadowed what would come to pass at the end of the world upon the professed followers of Christ and clearly shows that there would be a remnant at this time. A remnant is that which remains after the larger number has been taken away. That means that, after the shaking takes place and after the gathering out from the kingdom, mentioned by the Lord Jesus, a few would remain true and faithful unto God and would delight to do his will and such would be moved wholly by an unselfish devotion to him. That class constitutes the remnant.

    *** w30 11/15 pp. 341-344 Opposing God ***

    The total number of those who have withdrawn from the Society and now oppose its work is comparatively large, when such are taken all together. These are now divided into many companies, all claiming to be followers of Christ and claiming to be God's little flock...It is well known that every company that has withdrawn from the Society, and every person forming a part of any of these companies, has done so of his own volition. Ambitious and selfish leaders in little groups have led this company of opposers out...No man or company of men has put these opposers out of God's organization, nor could they put them out; bu tthe opposers, by persisting in their wrongful course of action, have been gathered out by the Lord. (Matt. 13:41)...

    In 1914 the kingdom was born, as pictured by the man child. Thereafter, to wit, in 1918 and 1919, great travail or trouble came upon the people of God. This of itself should have caused the consecrated to look sharply for the evidence of the beginning of the kingdom; but even after 1925, when the Lord through The Watch Tower brought forth the clear testimony proving that Zion had given birth to the man child, which is the kingdom and which shall rule the world, many of those who had been of the Society refused to accept that truth and began to bitterly oppose The Watch Tower and the work of the Society...It is a well known fact that many stumbled over this very truth concerning the birth of the nation or kingdom and became opposers of the Society. God also showed the beginning of the kingdom by the laying of the chief corner Stone in Zion, and over this the same class stumbled and fell and became opposers of God.

    *** w31 1/1 p. 5 Preservation of the Unselfish ***

    The nation of Israel had the favor of God, but because of selfishness and unfaithfulness, all, with the exception of a few, fell away to the enemy. With the little remnant of Israel the Lord organized his church, and caused his faithful disciples to proclaim the truth to others that they might take their stand on the side of righteousness....Approximately A.D. 1879 Christ Jesus began the work of preparing the way before Jehovah; and that work progressed until 1918, when the Lord suddenly came to his temple. (Mal. 3:1) In that period of time the fundamental truths were gradually restored to the faithful, and these truths were preached by them to others. Many heard the truth and embraced it gladly. The facts now made known, however, show that the major number of those who in that period of time received a mental conception of the truth received it in a selfish manner and not with a pure and unselfish motive....This class the Lord collectively designates in his word as the "evil servant" who 'says in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming.' This class in mind concluded that the Lord had delayed his coming to take them to heaven, and they became sour and began to smite their brethren who were born of the same mother covenant.

  • middleman

    Thank-you so much guys and especially Leolaia!!! This helps me out so much............thank-you thank-you.........

  • Leolaia

    Some references to the decrease in the Yearbooks:

    "There have been engaged in this phase of the work in Canada 17 regular pilgrims and auxiliary pilgrims, a slight decrease [in 1926] compared with 1925, and a corresponding decrease in the attendance at public and class meetings. The attendance at 1,818 public meetings was 151,709, and at 2,116 class meetings, 92,270" (1927 Yearbook, p. 64).

    "During the first part of the year there was considerable disturbance at the headquarters in Berne [Switzerland] because of the activities of the enemy. These things are to be expected because this is the time when the Devil is warring against those who keep the commandments of God. The difficulty has cleared away. A few have gone from the service, but those who remain are all the more active and the work goes on. Quoting from the report of the manager: 'Although there has been a decrease of workers, more actual work has been done with less workers who have manifested all the melee zeal; the cost of production has been decreased also, and the work is now being managed more economically and systematically .... There is every indication that the friends in Switzerland are renewing their strength and that the 'remnant' are fighting all the harder to make up for lost time" (Ibid, p. 70).

    "Reports from all parts of the field, America, Europe, Asia and Africa, show a decided increase [in 1927] over that of 1926. The actual numbers of the workers in the field have been slightly less than in 1926; but the zeal and earnestness manifested have been greater and the blessings, of the Lord greater and the results greater" (1928 Yearbook, p. 46).

    "The number of pilgrims engaged in the work [in Canada] was five, and auxiliary pilgrims seven, while the attendance at 836 public meetings numbered 121,394, being a decrease of 22,184 as compared with 1926. And at 1,197 class meetings the attendance numbered 75,803, a decrease of 16,467" (Ibid, p. 71).

    "Although the number of friends has decreased [in Finland], yet the number of workers has increased from 356 to 621, and so the sold books have increased from 73,470 to 121,879, or about sixty-five percent" (Ibid, p. 91).

    "It manifests that the Lord has come to his temple, and that in the test now upon the church only a remnant will remain. Many of those who were active in the work [in Germany] in the last year were not firm in the test; but the wonderful result is that beside of this fact and beside of the fact that less public lectures were held, the distribution of literature has increased in great measure. The reason is that only the true and faithful ones remain on the Lord’s side, and they go on with strength and joy to do what is needed. The fact is that indifferent Christians not only themselves do nothing, but are a hindrance to what could be done; and therefore it is better that they go away....Although the number of class workers is less than in the last year, yet from statistics based on the registration forms it can be seen that while twenty percent of the brethren who purposed to go in the field were hindered by whatever was said, twenty percent more are ready to have a part in the work" (Ibid, p. 95).

    "Switzerland shows an increase above the activity of last year, even though the number of class workers is a little less. A few of the fanatical ones who were driven by Brother Weber into a fanatical service have left the ranks, but in spite of this more actual work has been done" (Ibid, p. 127)

    "At the same time it will be seen that [in 1928] there is a decrease in the production of The Watch Tower....It proves that the Lord will do his work by the zealous ones and with the small number, even as he did in Gideon's time" (1929 Yearbook, p. 49).

    "Some who have not felt any joy in this way of proclaiming the kingdom have dropped out of our ranks [in Denmark], but others come to appreciate it more and more and are sometimes able to relate inspiring incidents met with in connection with their efforts" (Ibid, p. 110)

    "The decrease in The Watch Tower and The Golden Age [in 1929] is manifestly due to the fact that some have grown weary or cold and have turned aside. The work, however, has increased, due to the greater zeal of the faithful anointed ones" (1930 Yearbook, p. 43).

    "The 1928 report shows 400 more field workers in the service [in the week of August 25-September 2] than in the same period of time in 1929, but with the reduced number of workers the number of calls, and of books placed in the homes of the people, was very materially increased. The Lord will accomplish his purpose whether there be few or many engaged in his service" (Ibid, p. 55).

    "The number of the brethren [in Northern Europe] grows smaller, but the remnant do more work" (Ibid, p. 99).

    "The Lord’s anointed in Germany are zealous and joyful. Some have fallen away; and while there are fewer who claim to be in the truth today than in 1928, and the number of workers is less, the result of the work shows an increase of approximately 300 percent" (p. 107).

    "Although the number engaged in the work during the year [in Jamaica] is less than that of the previous year, the work accomplished is greater. This proves that the Lord can carry on his work with even a few who are wholly devoted to his cause" (Ibid, p. 117)

    "Although a division was made among the friends [in Japan], and about half of them went out of the present truth, the result of the witnessing work was far better than of the previous year." (Ibid, p. 118)

    "During the year now passed we have had the joy of seeing the friends taking part in the service work [in Sweden] with a determination and zeal as perhaps never before, and more of them out, too, in spite of the fact that our number at the Memorial is decreasing" (Ibid, p. 130)

    "The average subscription list during the year [of 1930] has increased somewhat, and there have been a number of cancellations by those who have lost interest in the truth; but the net result is a few less than were subscribers for The Watch Tower in 1929. This is exactly as we should expect it. The Lord is shaking out everything that can be shaken; but those that remain, because they cannot be shaken, are appreciating more the provision the Lord has made, and are getting much better results in the work that they are doing" (1931 Yearbook, p. 57).

    "The campaign of education in Canada has not decreased, but there has been an increase; fewer workers in the field, but greater effort has been put forth, and the results are better" (Ibid, p. 111).

    "I am happy to report that even here in far-away little Denmark there is a small band, a faithful remnant, who just love to fight for him and his Christ against Satan’s evil and hideous organization. We have never been many, and now we are even fewer, but the work goes on grandly.... While we regret that one in line for the kingdom should withdraw and afterwards begin to assemble others around him, yet we have neither time nor inclination to weep. We must press the battle to the gate. Some very foolishly thought that that would be the end of the Society’s work in Denmark. They did not realize that the work is the Lord’s. In several of the small ecclesias some have been gathered out of the kingdom, but with the effect that the faithful remnant have seen their privileges more clearly and have gone forward with increased vigor and zeal" (Ibid, pp. 149-150).

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