Today, if you enter a Kingdom Hall anywhere on planet earth you will soon discover there is no autonomy among the elders or the congregation members. Free expression is forbidden. There is no honest inquiry. There is no questioning of policy. There is censure and control. IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS. Believe it or not, there was a time in the early days when each bible student group who used the Society's writings could do as they damn well pleased!
You can think of the Pastor Russell period as Free Lance and Local.
Like a coffee salesman, Russell simply "sold" coffee beans which each bible study group would "brew" locally in their own coffee pot. This gave the local congregations full autonomy. They could believe as much or as little of ANYTHING they felt was true. Pastor Russell was just another voice crying in the wilderness. He was competing with every other preacher. But something CHANGED THE SITUATION AND INTERRUPTED THE STATUS QUO: It was Maria Russell who came up with a gimmick that would set her husband apart from the crowd.
Today, this Maria-invented-doctrine is quite different from her original idea. But, ironically, it is the CORE BELIEF that sets Jehovah's Witnesses
apart from other religious groups. SELF-IDENTIFICATION as the channel of communication=The Faithful and Discreet Slave.
Note: Maria identified not just her husband, but, HERSELF as the FDS. (Back then it was the KJV terminology: Faithful and Wise Servant). Maria reasoned that she and her husband were as "one flesh" in the eyes of Jehovah. (Maria's terminology was "The Twain" or the Two.) Russell, however, refused to have marital relations which would LITERALLY confirm that interpretation. He refused to become "one flesh" with his wife. Consequently, by NOT sealing their marriage with sex Russell could maintain the SOLE identity of Faithful/Discreet slave for himself alone. Publicly, Pastor Russell would humbly refuse to apply the Faithful and Discreet Slave interpretation to himself. However, privately, he made certain that understanding was spread widely enough for everyone to identify him as such. Maria's writings, interpretations and contributions to the "cause" ramped up and threatened to intrude on Pastor Russell's fame and celebrity. Russell could plainly recognize the power of an intelligent woman who claimed special connection with the spirit of God by looking at the amazing fame and success of Ellen White among the 7th Day Adventists. Practically single-handedly, Ellen White had rescued the fringe elements of second-adventists from oblivion when prediction after prediction led to disappointment after disappointment. White claimed to receive "visions" directly from the Lord. On the strength of these visions whatever change or move was necessary, whatever doctrine needed to be invented or revision enacted could be invented on the spot.
Maria Russell adapted this idea of "receiving a vision" into a similar idea: faithful and discreet slave or "anointed" mouthpiece.
Maria envisioned herself AND husband Charles as leaders of a competing Adventist-style END TIMES religious ministry. Pastor Russell saw only himself as this male version of Ellen White. The marriage deteriorated into squabbles, accusations and divorce. This infamous scheme of Maria (anointed mouthpiece) was co-opted and eventually blown into a central doctrine status by Russell's successor, Franklin Rutherford. The Governing Body today is simply an evolutionary artefact of Maria Russell's stolen adventist gimmick used by Ellen White. Rutherford co-opted the Maria Russell/Ellen White gimmick into a theological foundation corner stone of Jehovah's Witnesses. Interestingly, the definition of what it meant to be anointed is a slippery slope when it comes to receiving "revealed" information from Jehovah. The anointing is two-tiered! There is the Governing Body and then there are the dumb-as-a-stump Anointed who have to wait and READ what the Governing Body reveals! The anointed have a one-way ticket to heaven. But, the revealtions are strictly limited to GB membership. Under Rutherford it was SOLELY himself who made the calls. However, it was Fred Franz that was thinking up the long range theology. So, you might say Maria Russell's TWAIN was really Rutherford and Franz rather than Mr. and Mrs. C.T.Russell. Isn't history interesting?