The Judge on Trial: Uncovering the Real J F Rutherford [Part 1]
Enough rhetoric for now, here is my promised first part to my series.
For the benefit of lurkers, I'm using mainly WT publications as my research to show this information isn't 'apostate'.
Part 1: Association with Russell and the Bible Students
I want to ask an honest question. What drew you to Jehovah’s Witnesses? Perhaps it was the nice people that you liked. Or was it specific doctrines that brought you in? Whatever it was, let me ask you another question. What drew Joseph Rutherford to the Bible Students? Remember, when you joined the Organization, you were told that 'this is only the beginning'. Why? Because you were taught to put on something called "the new personality." As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, you may think that this was the same for the early Bible Students. You may reason, "well, it's always been in the Bible so it must have been the same back then!"
Shall we find out?
Joseph Franklin Rutherford was born on a farm to 2 Baptists in Morgan Country, Missouri, USA, on November 8th 1869. He was groomed as a hard worker. Rutherford was described as a 'determined young man', at 16 years of age, who went to college whilst also studying law. Here we have a young farmer's boy, with not much life experience, throwing himself into higher education, something Jehovah’s Witnesses would condemn today. It's likely that his father wanted his son to have an excellent career and be well off to give the family a good name. From the Proclaimers book:
"After completing his academy education, Rutherford spent two years under the tutelage of Judge E.L. Edwards. By the time he was 20, he became the official court reporter for the courts of the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit in Missouri. On May 5, 1892, his licence to practice law in Missouri was granted. Rutherford later served for four years as public prosecutor for Boonville, Missouri. Still later, he served on occasion as a special judge in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri. That is why he came to be known as "Judge" Rutherford.
Stop there. What was the reason why Rutherford came to be known as Judge Rutherford? Simply put, because of his career through higher education. Yes, "Judge" became his calling card, as it were. It was to put fear and distaste in the minds and mouths of generations to come.
How did Rutherford "come into the truth", as you may put it? It was after he had a nearly fatal fall whilst selling encyclopedias door to door in order to pay his way through school. He promised himself that when he became a lawyer, if anyone ever came to his office selling books, he would buy them. Well, in early 1894 he did prove true to his word, accepting 3 books of Millennial Dawn (later called Studies in the Scriptures after Armageddon and the Millennium didn't come as promised. More about that later) from the Bible Students. He wrote a letter of gratitude to the Watch Tower Society. In 1906, he was baptised a Bible Student and the following year became the Society's legal counsel. Despite warning that higher education was of the Devil later on through the Photo Drama years later, Russell did not mind having and keeping someone useful with this background, for the aims of the Society. Russell was by nature a man who was friendly to all men who believed in the Christ and God. This was a weakness in his relationship with J F Rutherford, which made Russell naive to the 'unchristian' personality that Rutherford had. Nowhere in the early Bible Students literature is emphasis put on developing fruits of the spirit. Rather, their main focus was on doctrine, prophecy and later prophetic patterns.
Now this was heavily based on the history book of the Organization. Now we move to interesting information.
After Russell's death on a train on October 31st 1916, the Bible Students were in shock and began grieving Russell. The movement that became a sect was hanging by a thread for 2 months especially by 3 men: Vice-President A I Ritchie, Secretary Treasurer W. E. Van Amburgh, and legal advisor J F Rutherford. ( Ref. Watchtower 1917, page 372 ) The history book of Jehovah's Witnesses admits that tension was existent and it only mounted when the Annual Meeting in January 1917 approached. At this meeting, everyone unanimously elected Rutherford as president, Van Amburgh as Secretary - Treasurer and A N Pierson (a supporter of Rutherford) as Vice - President. What happened to the former Vice-President? I cannot find any more information about him, whether he remained loyal to Rutherford or not remains a mystery.
Four members of the board of directors, which to Jehovah’s Witnesses today would be seen as an early form of a 'governing body', opposed J F Rutherford. They saw a control freak at the helm, who needed to be silenced. When the Finished Mystery was released without their knowledge of its production, they naturally retaliated. Jehovah’s Witnesses today: What would happen if a book was released through the JW Broadcast site under the approval of only half the current governing body? Would the rest who weren't involved naturally want to know why they weren't involved? Would that not be a lack of "unanimous decision" under the "spirit directed", but not inspired, Governing Body? These 4 men had every right to oppose Rutherford. Russell's complacency was evident when it was made known that these men were not legal members of the Society. Rutherford stripped them of their work and replaced them with legal members who agreed with him.
After expectations about 1925 did not come true, Rutherford openly confessed at Bethel that "I made an ass of myself". Examine that statement closely. For years you were taught that you are part of a spirit directed organisation that provided increased, or new light, on doctrine. You were told it was always decided by the Governing Body under the influence of Holy Spirit. Now go back to Rutherford's words. He did not say "we made an ass of ourselves." Actually, he admitted that 1925 was his own doing. Does that frighten you? Am I telling you an 'apostate lie'? Read the footnote in the 1984 Watchtower 10/1, page 24. It's right there.
It is well known among this community that Russell and Rutherford differed on the Great Pyramid teaching. Russell felt that the Pyramid of Giza was "inspired of God". 12 years after Russell's death, Rutherford changed the doctrine. He named the Pyramid "Satan's Bible". (Ref. The Watchtower, November 15, 1928, p.344 )
Why did Rutherford change the doctrine? It was because it became an embarrassment to the Bible Students. But why 3 years after the 1925 teaching, which was not influenced by the Pyramid doctrine? The answer remains a mystery through speculation.
Rutherford, though claiming to continue the work Russell left, created a cult from a small sect. From 1917 to 1931, Rutherford wrote at least 20 books and many booklets. He released a magazine "The Golden Age", despite Russell stating in his will that the Watchtower was the only magazine to be produced by the Society. The trick was that Rutherford produced it under a different coorperation, dodging the legal issue involved. What did they all do? They shaped the minds of Bible Students to view religion as something satanic. Rutherford taught the movement that they had "true worship based on the Bible". Religion was viewed as a different word, and description for moneymaking religious coorperations. The publications also touched a lot on politics. Less emphasis was put on reading scriptures and reasoning on them. Instead, Rutherford's "Rainbow Collection" were merely novels of an ex public prosecutor who turned religious. More will come about these books and what you may not realise are contained in them at a later date. The fact that most things written for the Bible Students was from Rutherford alone indicates that the man had an obsession for control, and he got it.
Before 1918, the Bible Students did not experience "persecution" as such. Once J F Rutherford came along to use the Bible Students to declare "Religion is a snare and a racket", the clergy became furious and used their adherants to verbally and physically attack the Bible Students, trying to influence politicians and police to take their side. While it was a childish reaction from a bunch of people who believed in the same fairy tales, such a thing would not have happened had Rutherford been like Russell. Rutherford only intensified attacks on the Bible Students by beginning a tract series called Kingdom News. The first pamphlet was called "Religious Intolerance - Pastor Russell's Followers Persecuted Because They Tell People The Truth". First, he mistakenly admitted that the Bible Students were not Jesus' followers, but Pastor Russell's. Second, inserting 'because they tell people the truth' was the most dangerous statement to make, playing with fire.
All the talks Rutherford gave were given in a manner that commanded attention. He captivated the audience, but nowhere do you hear him invite you to read a scripture in your own Bible, which is common to today's Jehovah’s Witness organisation. He commanded loyalty and obedience to God through a society, ultimately him as top of the Society. As a result, it was easy for him to enforce the evangelical work of the Bible Students. Using his prior experience of selling encyclopedias door to door, he reinterpreted the Bible text about going "from house to house" to support selling his books from door to door. Rutherford used advertising techniques through sandwich board marches, sound cars and phonographs to sell his publications. The money that he received in return gave him a comfortable life for himself. More to come about that soon.
What is clear about all this information? Rutherford only joined the Society because his experience through higher education was essential for protecting the Society and its members. Rutherford assumed responsibility for nearly everything, something Russell never did. Rutherford made the Bible Students more public and controversial, totally against what Russell envisioned for these people. He groomed them to hate other religions and to be courageous in doing so. He was a man of deceit, using his power to benefit himself. Rutherford did not show any feelings of indebtedness to Russell. He also did not have any humility to accept correction from fellow Bible Students. Darker days began, as a cult was about to grow into a religion we know today and be plunged into a life or death situation the followers of Russell never anticipated...
to be continued in Part 2: The birth of a new religion and opposition to Nazi Germany.
That 'ass of myself quote' is one of my favorites. A real gem for showing to JWs, seeing as it's in JW Library.
I think it’s important to note that Rutherford wasn’t persecuted by religions for calling religion a snare and a racket. He was thrown in to prison for sedition for encouraging men not to join the war effort as noted in his book The Finish Mystery.
Back in the early 1970's we had a old brother named Harry Campbell. He use to talk about Rutherford all the time. He knew him very will. He claims he help develop the soundcars. He would talk about driving these soundcars all over the place. He would laugh about waking people up in the morning with the loud sounds coming out of the speakers. Harry was in his mid 80's when I knew him and this experience was the highlight of his life. He never said anything bad about Rutherford except he did not like the ending of using soundcars.
Back in the 70's I knew a lot of the old timers that Russell and Rutherford real well. Most were positive about Russell but very negative about Rutherford. Still Totally ADD
Thank you promo6780, going back to the roots is useful.
Rutherford has hijacked what Russel has started, changing direction not only in doctrine but also in the way the 'flock' were being treated, bringing persecution upon them. And looking further into the later history of the WTBTS this process kept repeating itself, with the 'wise guys' bringing in new and newer light and pure disregard of the flock by separating families through the practise of shunning. Feel sorry for the people still inside
Always good to review the basics of the organization. Good to that you've toned down the claims about your contribution. Many of the worthy questions you raise about Rutherford have been raised by many others.
Thank you. The best approach for lurkers is bringing all the facts together in a non judgmental way. I've seen some speculation about things Rutherford did, which I've avoided mentioning as I currently have no sufficient evidence.
Still Totally ADD,
Thank you for your contribution to this topic. It's good to read a genuine experience!
The link below is to an article from the 1918 Brooklyn Daily Eagle that some might find interesting. It paints a much different picture of the early years of the movement, than what we were presented with.
You have to scroll forward to follow the article as it continues on other pages through the newspaper.
Thank you. Although on personal examination, I'll decline to accept all the information it presents.