Well, I'd always hoped there would be active JWs on this board. Instead, it appears most everyone is critical.
The largest problem the JW have is that if tiny numbers of true Christians always had existed, they would have all had to believe as the current JW leadership believes. At the time the Bible students got together, I'm not aware of anyone believing what the current Watchtower people teach. Jesus being Michael the Archangel, for example. Very peculiar belief and there's no traditional support for that doctrine, so if the "few" Christians were holding to it, they were keeping it close to the vest.
The most intriging thing is the assumption of power and authority. It seems that the roots of the church go back to Joseph F. Rutherford (whom I had heard was a judge). Recent references to him seem to drop it. He is said to have changed many of the teachings of Charles T. Russell and really developed the church along the lines of his own theology and (apparently) with no divine appointment. I've visited the Witnesses' website and though they have an entire section on the future, there is no "Church History" section. The Wikipedia article on the church states that in 1925, Rutherford "dismissed the Watch Tower's Editorial Committee, giving him full control of the organisation and of material published in the magazine." Then, in 1938, "he introduced a "theocratic" or "God-ruled" organisational system, under which, all appointments in congregations worldwide are made from the Brooklyn headquarters." The notion that God would manifest himself through a publishing company is interesting in and of itself, but how can God rule any organization without divine decree? Had Rutherford claimed to be a prophet, we wouldn't be having this discussion because I would fully understand his claims, just as I understand Muhammad, Joseph Smith, William Foy, Ellen White and Herbert W. Armstrong (who I used to loved watching, even though I didn't believe what he taught). I always thought he had integrity. (He'd hold up a pamphlet and say, "You can't buy this pamphlet! You don't have enough money...but we're going to give it to you!" A preacher who didn't ask for money? That was a swtich!)
So back to Rutherford, how can one have a theocracy without having a pipeline between the Almighty and the governing body? Rutherford claimed no revelation (and recall that inspiration is revelation!) He never healed the sick as far as I know, never caused the blind to see, never raised the dead. There were no "signs" that followed him. Yet just weeks ago a JW stood on my door and talked to me briefly about the evils of "manmade" religions. Then she handed me a Watchtower.
Yet, correct me if I'm wrong, no one within the church ever seems to see the rub. If God appointed the leadership of the church, how, exactly, did he do that? And when the leaders of the church tell you you shouldn't criticize them because they're God's servants...er...slaves...whatever, how is one supposed to arrive at this bizarre conclusion? I find it utterly fascinating. The only answer I've ever heard from them is that the authority of their church is reflected in their perfect doctrine. No other church has such flawless doctrine. Well, all churches think they have good doctrine. I don't know of any who believe they have false doctrines, though I'm sure there might be some.
Since I'm not familiar with the organization today, I don't know anything about it. Does it have any well known (among the church) apologists, famous writers, beloved authors or the such? Are the leaders revered by name? In other words, if someone was going to stand up in church and quote a church authority living today, whom would that person quote? And are there any websites where believers hang out?