As a former Jehovah's Witness, I now sit back and marvel how well I had been suckered into this religion. And to think that their own worst critic was their own publications.
In 1968 some 43 years had lapsed since their last firm prediction on when Armageddon would occur. They had predicted 1925 would see an end to the worlds suffering and a new world for the true believers, i.e. followers of Judge Rutherford, the Watchtower Society's second president.
Just a few years earlier Rutherford was on his nationwide circuit giving his stirring talk "Millions Now Living Will Never Die." Unlike today where most non-JW's could not name anyone on the current Governing Body or who the president of the Society is, Joseph "Judge" Rutherford was fairly well known in Christian circles of the day.
Rutherford was so adamant that 1925 would usher in the New Order he had this to say in reply to those who questioned it.
"Our thought is, that 1925 is definitely settled by the Scriptures. As to Noah, the Christian now has much more upon which to base his faith then Noah had upon which to base his faith in a coming deluge." Watch Tower 1923 Apr 1 p.106.
That is a pretty bold statement. He says his word is more sound than God supposedly talking directly to Noah.
The following year he said that 1925 even eclipsed the pivotal 1914.
"The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914;…" Watchtower 1924 Jul 15 p.211
It was not a matter of opinion...oh no!. It was definitely and clearly marked in Scriptures. It was a fact and no truly consecrated child of God would question it.
A few years after 1925 passed, it became less and less "clearly marked" until it was not even highlighted. Eventually they would try to apply some "White-Out" to that definite date.
43 years go by and the growth in the organization has been limp at best in the ten years leading up to 1967. They need something to charge up the faithful and there is no better way to do that than to give a new date for "that day." And that date would be 1975.
Now the fact that there have been "those" others who have predicted dates and nothing came of them. Let's see what they had to say about "those" types.
"True, there have been those in times past who predicted an "end to the world," even announcing a specific date. Yet nothing happened. The "end" did not come. They were guilty of false prophesying. Why? What was missing? Missing from such people were God's truths and the evidence that he was guiding and using them." Awake! 1968 Oct 8 p.23
So by their own words they were condemning their prior declarations and stating that Jehovah was not using them, but JW's of the day saw "those" as other folks, now-JW's, who were proclaiming those despicable statements.
What was notable about this period is that the Society was much more loose in what was going to occur in 1975 in speech than what they had to say in print.
Charles Sunutko, a District Overseer in the Sheboygan, Wisconisin area had this to say in the talk "Serving with Everlasting Life in View" that was delivered at the 1967 District Convention.
"Well now, as Jehovah's Witnesses, as runners, even though some of us have become a little weary, it almost seems as though Jehovah has provided meat in due season. Because he's held up before all of us, a new goal. A new year. Something to reach out for and it just seems it has given all of us so much more energy and power in this final burst of speed to the finish line. And that's the year 1975. Well, we don't have to guess what the year 1975 means if we read the Watchtower. And don't wait 'till 1975. The door is going to be shut before then. As one brother put it, "Stay alive to Seventy-Five""
To hear this talk check out the wonderful site "JWFacts.com" which contains much more about JW's and their many false prophecies.
They also had this to say this about that pivotal year.
"Just think, brothers, there are only about ninety months left before 6,000 years of man's existence on earth is completed. Do you remember what we learned at the assemblies last summer? The majority of people living today will probably be alive when Armageddon breaks out, and there are no resurrection hopes for those that are destroyed then." Kingdom Ministry 1968 Mar p.4
Of course 1975 came and went and nothing happened. Nada, Zilch, Zero.
So what do you do? Well you do the most logical thing, blame the rank and file Witnesses.
The 07/15/76 Watchtower, page 441, had this to say about those who looked to 1975 as a special year.
"But it is not advisable for us to set our sights on a certain date, neglecting everyday things we would ordinarily care for as Christians, such as things that we and our families really need. We may be forgetting that, when the “day” comes, it will not change the principle that Christians must at all times take care of all their responsibilities. If anyone has been disappointed through not following this line of thought, he should now concentrate on adjusting his viewpoint, seeing that it was not the word of God that failed or deceived him and brought disappointment, but that his own understanding was based on wrong premises."
This elicited even more anger from the rank and file because they knew that they had not dreamed this up on their own, this had come from those appointed to hand out "meat in due season."
Finally in 1980 they admitted that the ones running the organization were culpable in feeding the frenzy about 1975.
"With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting-in Freedom of the Sons of God, and its comments as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of man's existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. ... Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility ." Watchtower 1980 Mar 15 p.17
Most of today's JW's are either unaware of this example of their "Faithful and Discreet Slave" disseminating this outright false prophecy or they hind behind statement like the following;
"Jehovah's Witnesses, in their eagerness for Jesus' second coming, have suggested dates that turned out to be incorrect. Because of this, some have called them false prophets. Never in these instances, however, did they presume to originate predictions 'in the name of Jehovah.' Never did they say, 'These are the words of Jehovah.'" Awake! 1993 Mar 22 p.4
This same organization earlier had this to say about the dates put forth in their publications.
"We see no reason for changing the figures - nor could we change them if we could. They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours." Zion's Watch Tower 1894 Jul 15 p.226
Well I guess we can surmise from these statements that Jehovah is like an old man who recalls old times but mixes up the time period and when called on it simple declares "You know me, I am terrible with dates."
For those looking for a great podcast that talks about JW's, Mormons or just any old religion, check out DogmaDebate.com with David Smalley.