You can read safely, a sample for the lurkers, on one of the main chapters inside Rays book, found here:
1975: 'THE APPROPRIATE TIME FOR GOD TO ACT' Jan Haugland
Raymond Franz: “Crisis of Conscience” Commentary Press: Atlanta, 1983.
Chapter 9, pages 198-222. This page is created with kind permission from the author.
“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”
–Acts 1:7, New International Version.
URING the second half of Rutherford's presidency most of the older time prophecies so strenuously argued for in the first half, were gradually dropped or relocated.
The start of the “last days” was moved up from 1799 to 1914.
The 1874 presence of Christ was also moved up to 1914 (as had already been done in 1922 with the 1878 official start of Christ's active Kingdom rule).
The beginning of the resurrection was moved from 1878 to 1918.
For a time it was even claimed that 1914 had indeed brought the “end of the world” in the sense that God had `legally' terminated the worldly nations' lease of power on the earth. This, too, was dropped and the “end,” or “conclusion of the system of things” (as rendered in the New World Translation) is now held to be future.
All of the things claimed being invisible, the acceptance of them obviously depended entirely upon one's faith in the interpretations offered.. After one session in which these time prophecies and changes came up for discussion, Governing Body member Bill Jackson smilingly said to me, “We used to say, you just take the date from this shoulder and put it on the other shoulder.”
It was not until after Rutherford's death in 1942 that a change was made regarding the year 606 B.C.E. as the starting point for the 2,520 years. Strangely, the fact that 2520 years from 606 B.C.E. actually leads to 1915 C.E., and not 1914 C.E., was not acknowledged or dealt with for over 60 years.
Then, quietly, the starting point was moved back one year to 607 B.C.E., allowing for the retention of the year 1914 C.E. as the ending point for the 2,520 years. No historical evidence had come forward to indicate that the destruction of Jerusalem had occurred a year earlier than believed. The organization's desire to retain 1914 as a marked date pointed to by them for so many years (something they had not done with 1915) dictated moving Jerusalem's destruction back one year, a simple thing to do – on paper.
By the mid-1940's it had been decided that the chronology used during Russell's and Rutherford's presidencies was off some 100 years as regards the count of time back to Adam's creation. In 1966, the organisation said that, instead of coming in 1874 as previously taught, the end of six thousand years of human history would arrive in 1975.
This was published in the summer of 1966 in a book written by Fred Franz, titled Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God. In its first chapter, the book drew upon the Jubilee arrangement, which had also featured prominently in the predictions relating to 1925, and it argued (as had also been done back then) in favor of belief in six “days” of a thousand years each, during which mankind was to experience imperfection, to be followed by a seventh “day” of a thousand years in which perfection would be restored in a grand Jubilee of liberation from slavery to sin, sickness and death. The book said on pages 28 and 29:
41 Since the time of Ussher intensive study of Bible chronology has been carried on. In this twentieth century an independent study has been carried on that does not blindly follow some traditional chronological calculations of Christendom, and the published timetable resulting from this independent study gives the date of man's creation as 4026 B.C.E. According to this trustworthy Bible chronology six thousand years from man's creation will end in 1975, and the seventh period of a thousand years of human history will begin in the fall of 1975 C.E.
42 So six thousand years of man's existence on earth will soon be up, yes, within this generation. Jehovah God is timeless, as it is written in Psalm 90:1, 2: “O Jehovah, you yourself have proved to be a real dwelling for us during generation after generation. Before the mountains themselves were born, or you proceeded to bring forth as with labor pains the earth and the productive land, even from time indefinite to time indefinite you are God.” So from the standpoint of Jehovah God these passing six thousand years of man's existence are but as six days of twenty-four hours, for this same psalm (verses 3, 4) goes on to say: “You make mortal man go back to crushed matter, and you say: `Go back, you sons of men.' For a thousand years are in your eyes but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch during the night.” So in not many years within our own generation we are reaching what Jehovah God could view as the seventh day of man's existence.
What would be the significance of this? The book goes on to make is application of the points developed:
30 LIFE EVERLASTING – IN FREEDOM OF THE SONS OF GOD
43 How appropriate it would be for Jehovah God to make of this coming seventh period of a thousand years a sabbath period of rest and release, a great Jubilee sabbath for the proclaiming of liberty throughout the earth to all its inhabitants! This would be most timely for mankind. It would also be most fitting on God's part, for, remember, mankind has yet ahead of it what the last book of the Holy Bible speaks of as the reign of Jesus Christ over earth for a thousand years, the millennial reign of Christ. Prophetically Jesus Christ, when on earth nineteen centuries ago, said concerning himself: “For Lord of the sabbath is what the Son of man is.” (Matthew 12: 8) It would not be by mere chance or accident but would be according to the loving purpose of Jehovah God for the reign of Jesus Christ, the “Lord of the sabbath,” to run parallel with the seventh millennium of man's existence.
Had the organisation said `flat out' that 1975 would mark the start of the millennium? No. But the above paragraph was the climax to which all of the involved , carefully constructed argumentation of that chapter had been building. No outright, unqualified prediction was made about 1975. But the writer had been willing to declare it to be “appropriate” and “most fitting on God's part” if God would start the millennium at that particular time. It would reasonable that for an imperfect man to say what is or what is not “fitting” for the Almighty God to do would call for quite a measure of certainty, surely not the mere 'expression of an opinion.' Discretion would require, rather, would demand that. Even stronger is the subsequent statement that “it would be according to the loving purpose of Jehovah God for the reign of Jesus Christ, the `Lord of the sabbath,' to run parallel with the seventh millennium of man's existence,” which seventh millennium had already been stated as due to begin in 1975.
That same year, the October 8, 1966, issue of Awake!, the companion magazine to the Watchtower, cameo an article titled “How Much Longer Will It Be?” and under the subheading “6,000 Years Completed in 1975,” it too reasoned that the millennium would be the last 1,000 years of a 7,000-year rest day of God. It went on to say (pages 19, 20):
Hence, the fact that we are nearing the end of the first 6,000 years of man's existence is of great significance.
Does Gods rest day parallel the time man has been on earth since his creation? Apparently so. From the most reliable investigations of Bible chronology, harmonizing with many accepted dates of secular history, we find that Adam was created in the autumn of the year 4026 B.C.E. Sometime in that same year Eve could well have been created, directly after which God's rest day commenced. In what year, then, would the first 6,000 years of man's existence and also the first 6,000 years of God's rest day come to an end? The year 1975. This is worthy of notice, particularly in view of the fact that the “last days” began in 1914, and that the physical facts of our day in fulfillment of prophecy mark this as the last generation of this wicked world. So we can expect the immediate future to be filled with thrilling events for those who rest their faith in God and his promises. It means that within relatively few years we will witness fulfillment of the remaining prophecies that have to do with the “time of the end.”
The May 1, 1968, Watchtower continued this stimulation of anticipation. Using much the same argument as the article last mentioned, it then said (page 272):
"The immediate future is certain to be filled with climactic events, for this old system is nearing its complete end. Within a few years at most the final parts of Bible prophecy relative to these “last days” will undergo fulfillment, resulting in the liberation of surviving mankind into Christ's glorious 1,000-year reign. What difficult days, but, at the same time, what grand days are just ahead!" [italics mine]
Today, more than a quarter of a century later, one may ask, What does the phrase “the immediate future” mean? How many years are “a few years at most”?
In an article titled “What Will the 1970s Bring?” the October 8, 1968, Awake! again emphasized the shortness of the remaining time, saying at the start (page 13):
“The fact that fifty-four years of the period called the `last days' have already gone by is highly significant. It means that only a few years, at most, remain before the corrupt system of things dominating the earth is destroyed by God.”
Later, drawing on the year 1975 as the close of six thousand years of human history, the article said (page 14):
“There is another way that helps confirm the fact that we are living in the final few years of this `time of the end.' (Dan. 12:9) The Bible shows that we are nearing the end of a full 6,000 years of human history.”
Again and again the Watch Tower publications quoted statements made by people of prominence or “experts” in any field who made some reference to 1975, for example, the statement made in 1960 by former U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, who said:
“I know enough of what is going on to assure you that, in 15 years from today [hence, by 1975], this world is going to be too dangerous to live in.”
The book Famine – 1975!, by two food experts, was quoted repeatedly, particularly these statements:
“By 1975 a disaster of unprecedented magnitude will face the world. Famines, greater than any in history, will ravage the undeveloped nations.”
“I forecast a specific date, 1975, when the new crisis will be upon us in all its awesome importance”
“By 1975 civil disorder, anarchy, military dictatorships, runaway inflation, transportation breakdowns and chaotic unrest will be the order of the day in many of the hungry nations.”
Three years after the original focusing on 1975 in the book Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, the author, Fred Franz, wrote another publication titled The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years.  If anything, the language in it was even more definite and specific than in the previous publication. Released in 1969, it contained these statements on pages 25, 26:
More recently earnest researchers of the Holy Bible have made a recheck of its chronology. According to their calculations the six millenniums of mankind's life on earth would end in the mid-seventies. Thus the seventh millennium from man's creation by Jehovah God would begin within less than ten years.
In order for the Lord Jesus Christ to be “Lord even of the sabbath day,” his thousand-year reign would have to be the seventh in a series of thousand-year periods or millenniums. (Matthew 12:S, AV} Thus it would be a sabbatic reign.
The argumentation here is quite clear and direct: As the sabbath was the seventh period following six periods of toil, so the thousand-year reign of Christ will be a sabbatical seventh millenium following those six milleniums of toil and suffering. The presentation is in no sense indefinite or ambiguous. As page 26 states:
“In order for the Lord Jesus Christ to be `Lord even of the sabbath day,' his thousand-year reign would have to be the seventh in a series of thousand-year periods of milleniums.”
Even as it had been determined what would be “appropriate” and “fitting” for God to do, so also a requirement is now set out for Jesus Christ. For him to be what he says he will be, `Lord of the sabbath day,' then his reign “would have to be” the seventh millennium in a series of millenniums. Human reasoning imposes this requirement upon God's Son. Six thousand years would end in 1975; Christ's rule, according to the argument, “would have to be the seventh” thousand years following. The “faithful and discreet slave” had, in effect, outlined the program he expected his Master to adhere to if he was to be true to his own word.
Though the writing is more polished, the expressions more refined, this material in essence is remarkably like that set forth in Judge Rutherford's booklet Millions Now Living Will Never Die, in which he admittedly made asinine claims. Aside from the date being publicized, it was as if the clock had now been turned back about a half a century to the pre-1925 days. The difference was that the things said then were now being said of 1975. 
When the 1970's arrived, the buildup of expectation kept on. The October 8, 1971, Awake!, spoke yet again of six periods of toil and labor followed by a seventh (sabbath) period of rest and said:
“So, as we draw close to the completion of six thousand years of human existence during this decade, there is the thrilling hope that a grand Sabbath of rest and relief is indeed at hand.”
All these statements are clearly designed to foment and build up hope, anticipation. They are not designed to calm or defuse a spins of excited expectation. True, most were accompanied by some qualifying statement to the effect that `we are not saying positively' or are not `pointing to a specific date,' and that `we do not know the day and the hour.' But it must be remembered that the organisation was not a novice in this field. Its whole history from its very inception was one of building up people's hope in certain dates only to have those dates pass with the hope unrealized. In past cases the publications of the Society subsequently sought to place the responsibility for any disillusionment on the receivers, not the givers, of the information, as inclined to expect too much. Surely, then, the responsible men of the organization should have realized the danger, realized what human nature is, realized how easily great hopes can be excited.
Yet, while carefully avoiding any explicit prediction that a specific date would see the start of the millennium, those responsible men approved the use of the phrases, “within relatively few years,” “the immediate future,” “within a few years at most,” “only a few years, at most” “the final few years” all used in the Watchtower and Awake! magazines with reference to the beginning of the millennial reign and all in a context that included the date 1975. Do such words mean anything? Or were they used loosely, carelessly? Are people's hopes and plans and feelings something to be toyed with? Yet the Watchtower of August 15, 1968, even implied that one should be careful about putting too much weight on Jesus Christ's own cautionary words.
35 One thing is absolutely certain, Bible chronology reinforced with fulfilled Bible prophecy shows that six thousand years of man's existence will soon be up, yes, within this generation! (Matt. 24:341. This is, therefore, no time to be indifferent and complacent. This is not the time to be toying with the words of Jesus that “concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matt. 24:36) To the contrary, it is a time when one should be keenly aware that the end of this system of things is rapidly coming to its violent end. Make no mistake, it is sufficient that the Father himself knows both the “day and hour”!
How could a “faithful and discreet slave” possibly say this in effect, say that, “True, my master said thus and so, but don't make too much of that; to the contrary, realize that what I am telling you should be the guiding force in your life”?
Some of the most direct statements came from the international headquarters' Service Department, which produces a monthly paper called “Kingdom Ministry,” a paper which goes only to Witnesses and not to the public. The March, 1968, issue urged getting into full-time preaching activity (“pioneer service”) saying:
In view of the short period of time left, Are want to do this as often as circumstances permit. Just think, brothers, there are only about ninety months left before 6,000 years of man's existence on earth is completed.
The May, 1974, issue of Kingdom Ministry, having referred to the “short time left,” said:
Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their day s in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world's end. 1 John 2 :17.
Quite a number of Witnesses did just that. Some sold their businesses, gave up jobs, sold homes, farms and moved with their wives and children to other areas to `serve where the need was greater,' counting on having sufficient funds to carry them through 1975.
Others, including some older persons, cashed in insurance policies or other valuable certificates. Some put off surgical operations in the hope that the millennium's entrance would eliminate the need for these.
When 1975 passed and their funds ran out or their health worsened seriously, they now had to try to cope with the hard realities and rebuild as best they could.
What was the thinking within the Governing Body during this time?
Some of the older men on the Body had personally experienced the failed expectations of 1914, 1925, as well as the hopes excited in the early 1940's. The majority, from my observation, took a `wait and see' attitude. They were reluctant to call for restraint. Big increases were taking place. Consider the record of baptisms for the period from 1960 on up to 1975:
|Year||Number Baptized||.||Year||Number Baptized|
From 1960 up until 1966, the rate of increase had diminished to a near standstill. But following 1966, when 1975 was highlighted, there came a phenomenal period of growth, as the chart reveals.
During the years 1971 to 1974 while I was serving on the Governing Body I do not recall hearing any strong expressions of concern from Body members about the excited expectations that had been generated. I would not pretend that I did not initially feel stirred myself in 1966 when the book Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God came out with its glowing picture of the nearness of a millennial jubilee. Nor would I claim to have had no part whatsoever in the early part of the campaign to focus attention on the target date of 1975. But each passing year from 1966 on made the idea seem more and more unreal. The more I read the Scriptures the more the whole concept seemed out of line; it did not square with the statements of Jesus Christ himself, statements such as:
“Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” “On this account you too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of Man is coming.” “Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is.” “It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.” 
As part of a headquarters organization that was flushed with joy because of riding a crest of remarkable growth, there was not much that could be done, however. Some articles on the subject that came to me for editing I tried to moderate but that was about all. In my personal activity I did try to draw attention to the scriptures just mentioned, both in private conversations and in public talks.
One Sunday evening in 1974, after my wife and I had returned from a speaking engagement in another part of the country, my uncle, then vice president, came over to our room. (His eyesight being extremely poor, we usually read the Watchtower study material out loud to him each week.) My wife mentioned to him that in my talk that weekend I had cautioned the brothers about becoming unduly excited over 1975. His quick response was, “And why shouldn't they get excited? It's something to be excited about.”
There is no question in my mind that, of all the Governing Body members, the vice president was most convinced of the rightness of what he had written, and on which writing others had built. On another evening in the summer of 1975, an elderly Greek brother named Peterson (originally Papagyropoulos) joined in our reading, as was his custom. After the reading, my uncle said to Peterson, “You know, it was very much like this in 1914. Right up into the summer months everything was quiet. Then all of a sudden things began to happen and the war broke out.”
Earlier, toward the start of 1975, President Knorr had made a trip around the world, taking Vice President Franz with him. The vice president's speeches in all countries visited centered on 1975. Upon their return, the other members of the Governing Body, having heard reports from many countries of the stirring effect of the vice president's talk, asked to hear a tape recording of it, made in Australia. 
In his talk, the vice president spoke of 1975 as a “year of great possibilities, tremendous probabilities.” He told his audience that, according to the Hebrew calendar, they were “already in the fifth lunar month of 1975,” with less than seven lunar months remaining. He emphasized several times that the Hebrew year would close with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year on September 5, 1975.
Acknowledging that much would have to happen in that short time if the final windup was to come by then' he went on to talk about the possibility of a year or so difference due to some lapse of time between Adam's creation and Eve's creation. He made reference to the failure of expectations in 1914 and 1925 and quoted Rutherford's remark, “I made an ass of myself.” He said that the organisation had learned not to make “very bold, extreme predictions.” Toward the close, he urged his listeners not to take an improper view, however, and assume that the coming destruction could be “years away,” and focus their attention on other matters, such as getting married and raising families, building up a fine business venture or spending years at college in some engineering course.
After hearing the tape, a few of the Governing Body members expressed concern that if indeed no “very bold, extreme predictions” were being made, some subtle predictions were, and the effect was palpably evident in the excitement generated.
This was the first time that concern was expressed in the Governing Body discussions. But no action was taken, no policy decided upon.
The vice president repeated many of the points of the same tale on March 2, 1975, at the following Gilead School graduation. 
1975 passed – as had 1881, 1914, 1915, 1920, 1925 and the 1940's. Much publicity was given by others as to the failure of the organization's expectations surrounding 1975. There was considerable talk among Jehovah's Witnesses themselves. In my own mind, most of what was said did not touch upon the major point of the matter.
I felt that the real issue went far beyond that of some individual's accuracy or inaccuracy or even an organization's reliability or untrustworthiness or its members' sensibleness or gullibility. It seemed to me that the really important factor is how such predictions ultimately reflect on God and on his Word. When men make such forecasts and say that they are doing it on the basis of the Bible, build up arguments for these from the Bible, assert that they are God's "channel" of communication what is the effect when their forecasts prove false? Does it honor God or build up faith in Him and in the reliability of his Word? Or is the opposite the result? Does it not give arced inducement for some to feel justified in placing little importance upon the Bible's message and teachings? Those Witnesses who made major changes in their lives in most cases could, and aid, pick up the pieces and go on living in spite of being disillusioned. Not all could. Whatever the case, however, serious damage had been done in more ways than one.
In 1976, a year after the passing of that widely publicized date, a few members of the Governing Body began urging that some statement should be made acknowledging that the organisation had been in error, had stimulated false expectations. Others said they aid not think we should, that it would “just give ammunition to opposers.” Milton Henschel recommended that the wise course would be simply not to bring the matter up and that in time the brothers would stop talking about it. There was clearly not enough support for a motion majoring a statement to carry. That year, an article in the July 15 Watchtower did refer to the failed expectations but the article had to conform to the prevailing sentiment within the Governing Body and no clear acknowledgment of the organization's responsibility was possible.
In 1977, the subject again surfaced in a session. Though the same objections were raised, a motion passed that a statement should be included in a convention talk that Lloyd Barry was assigned to prepare. I understand that afterward Governing Body members Ted Jaracz and Milton Henschel talked with Lloyd about their feelings on the matter. Whatever the case, when the talk was prepared, no mention of 1975 was included. I recall asking Lloyd about this and his reply was that he had just not been able to make it fit in with his subject. Almost two years went by and then in 1979 the Governing Body again considered the matter. By then everything indicated that 1975 had produced a serious “credibility gap.”
A number of members of the headquarters staff expressed themselves in that vein. One described 1975 as an “albatross” hanging around our necks. Robert Wallen, a Governing Body secretary, wrote as follows:
“I have been associated as a baptized Witness well over 39 years and with Jehovah's help I will continue to be a loyal servant. But to say I am not disappointed would be untruthful, for, when I know my feelings regarding 1975 were fostered because of what I read in various publications, and then I am told in effect that I reached false conclusions on my own, that, I feel, is not being fair or honest. Knowing that we are not working with infallibility, to me it is but proper that when errors are made by imperfect, but God-fearing men, then corrections will be made when errors are found.”
Raymond Richardson of the Writing Department said:
“Are not persons drawn to humility, and more willing to place confidence where there is candor? The Bible itself is the greatest example of candor. This is one of the most outstanding reasons why we believe it to be truthful.”
Fred Rusk, also of the Writing Department, wrote:
“Despite any qualifying statements that might have been made along the way to admonish the brothers not to say that Armageddon would come in 1975, the fact is there were a number of articles in the magazines and other publications that more than hinted that the old system would be replaced by Jehovah's new system in the mid-1970's.”
Merton Campbell of the Service Department wrote:
“A sister called the other day on the phone from Massachusetts. She was at work. Both the sister and her husband are working to pay up bills that have accumulated because of sickness. She expressed herself as feeling so confident that 1975 would bring the end that they both were having trouble facing up to the burdens of this system. This example is typical of many of the brothers we meet.”
Harold Jackson, also of the Service Department, said:
“What is needed now is not a statement to the effect that we were wrong about 1975 but rather a statement as to why the whole matter has been ignored so long in view of the fact that so many lives have been affected. Now it is a credibility gap we are faced with and that can prove to be disastrous. If we are going to say something at all, let us speak straightforwardly and be open and honest with the brothers.”
Howard Zenke, of the same department, wrote:
“We certainly do not want the brothers to read something or listen to something and then say in their own mind that the approach that we have taken amounts to a `Watergate.'”
Others made similar comments. Ironically, some who now spoke the strongest criticism had themselves been among the most vocal before 1975 in stressing that d ate and the extreme "urgency" it called for, had even written some of the articles earlier quoted, had approved of the Kingdom Ministry statement commending those who were selling homes and property as 1975 drew near. Many of the most dogmatic statements about 1975 were made by traveling representatives (Circuit and District Overseers) all of whom were under the direct supervision of the Service Department.
In the March 6, 1979, session of the Governing Body, the same arguments against publishing anything were advanced that it would lay the organisation open to further criticism from opposers, that at this late d ate there was no need to make an apology, that nothing really would be accomplished by it. However, even those so arguing were less adamant than in previous sessions. This was because of one factor in particular: the woridwide figures had registered serious drops for two years.
The yearly reports on the total number participating in witnessing activity reveal this:
|Year||Total Number Reporting Activity ||% Increase Over Previous Year|
This drop, more than any other factor, seemed to carry weight with the Governing Body members. There was a vote of 15 to 3 in favor of a statement making at least some acknowledgment of the organization's share in the responsibility for the error. This was published in the March 15, 1980, Watchtower.
It had taken nearly four years for the organization through its administration finally to admit it had been wrong, had, for an entire decade, built up false hopes. Not that a statement so candid, though true, could be made. Whatever was written had to be acceptable to the Body as a whole for publishing. I know, because I was assigned to write the statement and, as in similar cases before, I had to be governed by not what I would have liked to say or even what I thought the brothers needed to hear but by what could be said that would receive approval of two-thirds of the Governing Body when submitted to them.
Today, all the decade-long buildup of hopes centered on 1975 is discounted as being of any particular importance. The essence of Russell's word in 1916 is again expressed by the organisation: It “certainly did have a very stimulating and sanctifying effect upon thousands, all of whom can praise the Lord – even for the mistake.”
1914 AND “THIS GENERATION”
“For the couch has proved too short for stretching oneself on, and the woven sheet itself is too narrow when wrapping oneself up..”–Isaiah 28:20.
The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses feels a fair degree of discomfort as regards what remains as the organization's major time prophecy. The time-frame allotted for its fulfillment is proving quite short and narrow as to covering the things foretold. The passing of each year only serves to accentuate the discomfort felt.
1914, for more than three decades the terminal point for the organization's time prophecies, is now the starting point for the time prophecy that constitutes the major stimulus to “urgency” in the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses. The words of Jesus Christ, “Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur,” are stated to have commenced applying with that year, 1914. Note the statements here underlined.
Jesus was obviously speaking about those who were old enough to witness with understanding what took place when the “last days” began. Jesus was saying that some of those persons who were alive at the appearance of the `sign of the last days' would still be alive when God brought this system to its end.
Even if we presume that youngsters 15 years of age would be perceptive enough realize the import of what happened in 1914, it would still make the Youngest of “this generation” nearly 70 years old today. So the great majority of the generation to which Jesus was referring has already passed away in death. The remaining ones are approaching old age. And remember, Jesus said that the end of this wicked world would come before that generation passed away in death. This, of itself, tells us that the years left before the fortold end comes cannot be many.
When the Awake! magazine of October 8, 1968 (pages 13, 14) discussed this more than a quarter of a century ago in the pre-1975 days the stress was on how soon the generation of 1914 would be running out, how little time was left for that generation's lifespan. For any of Jehovah's Witnesses then to have suggested that things might go on for another twenty or thirty years would have been viewed as manifesting a poor attitude, one not indicative of strong faith.
When 1975 passed , the emphasis changed . Now the effort was made to show that the 1914-generation's span was not as narrow as one might think, that it could stretch for quite a long ways yet.
Thus, the October 1, 1978, Watchtower spoke, not of those witnessing “with understanding what took place” in 1914, but of those who “were able to observe” the events beginning that year. Mere observation is quite different from understanding. This could logically lower the minimum age limit of the ones forming “this generation.”
Continuing this trend, two years later, the Watchtower of October 15, 1980, cited an article in the U. S. News & World Report magazine which suggested that ten years of age could be the point at which events start creating “a lasting impression on a person's memory.” The article said that, if such be true, “then there are today more than 13 million Americans who have a recollection of World War I.”
`Recollecting' also allows for a more tender age than does understanding (suggested as being found among “youngsters 15 years of age” in the 1968 Awake! quoted earlier). Actually, World War I continued up into 1918, with American involvement beginning only in 1917. So the suggested 10-year-old age given in the news magazine quoted does not necessarily apply to 1914.
Though different systems of measuring may gain a year or so here and there, the fact is that the generation of the 1914 period is shrinking with great rapidity, since the death rate is always highest among those of older age. The Governing Body is aware of this, for the matter came up for discussion a number of times.
The issue arose during the June 7, 1978, session of the Body. Earlier factors led to this. Governing Body member Albert Schroeder had distributed among the members a copy of a demographic report for the United States. The data indicated that less than one percent of the population who were out of their teens in 1914 were still alive in 1978. But a more attention-getting factor had to do with statements Schroeder had made while visiting certain countries in Europe.
Reports drifted back to Brooklyn that he was suggesting to others that the expression “this generation” as used by Jesus at Matthew chapter twenty-four, verse 34, applied to the generation of “anointed ones,” and that as long as any of these were still living such “generation” would not have passed away. This was, of course, contrary to the organization's teaching and was unauthorized by the Governing Body.
When the matter was brought up, following Schroeder's return, his suggested interpretation was rejected and it was voted that a “Question from Readers” be run in a forthcoming issue of the Watchtower reaffirming the standard teaching regarding “this generation.”  Interestingly, no rebuke or reproof whatsoever was directed to Governing Body member Schroeder for having advanced his unauthorized, contradictory view while in Europe.
The issue emerged again in both the March 6 and November 14, 1979, sessions. Since attention was being focused on the subject, I made Xerox copies of the first twenty pages of the material sent in by the Swedish elder which detailed the history of chronological speculation and revealed the actual source of the 2,520-year calculation and the 1914 date. Each member of the Body received a copy. Aside from an incidental comment, they did not see fit to discuss the material.
Lyman Swingle, as head of the Writing Department, was already familiar with this material. He directed the Body's attention to some of the dogmatic, insistent statements published in the 1922 Watch Towers, reading portions of these aloud to all the members. He said that he had been too young in 1914 (only about four years old then) to remember much about it, but that he did remember the discussions that took place in his home regarding 1925.  That he also knew what had happened in 1975. He said he personally would not want to be misled regarding another date.
In the course of the session, I pointed out that the Society's 607 B.C.E. starting date had no historical evidence whatsoever for support. As for 1914 and the generation then living, my question was: If the organization's traditional teaching is valid, how can we possibly apply Jesus' accompanying words to the people living in 1914? He said: “When you see all these things, know that he is near at the doors,” and “as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” The publications regularly staled that those words began applying from 1914 onward, to those Christians living in 1914. But if so, then to whom among them could this apply? To those who were then 50 years old? But such ones if still alive would now (that is, in 1979, the time of the discussion) be 115 years old. The 40-year-olds? They would be 105. Even the 30-year-olds would be 95 and those just out of their teens would already be 85 in 1979. (Even these would be nearing 100 if still living today.)
If then those stirring words `lift up your heads because your deliverance is getting near, it's at the doors' indeed applied to people in 1914 and meant that they could hope to see the final windup, reasonably that exciting announcement would need to be qualified by saying: “Yes, you may see it – that is, provided you are now quite young and live a very, very long life.” As an example, I pointed to my father who, born in 189l, was just a young man of twenty-three in 1914. He lived, not just three score years and ten, or four score years, but reached eighty-six years of age. He had now been dead for two years and died without seeing the predicted things.
So I asked the Body how meaningful the application of Jesus' words in Matthew chapter twenty-four, verses 33 and 34, could have been in 1914 if the only ones who could hope to see them fulfilled were children just in their teens or younger? No specific reply was given.
A number of members, however, did voice their support for the organization's existing teaching about “this generation” and the 1914 date. Lloyd Barry expressed dismay that doubts existed within the Body regarding the teaching. Referring to Lyman Swingle's reading of statements from the 1922 Watch Towers, he said that he saw nothing to be concerned about in these, that they were “present truth” for the brothers at that period.  As to the oldness of the 1914 generation, he pointed out that in some parts of the Soviet Union there are regions where people live to be 130 years old. He urged that a united position be expressed to the brothers so that they would maintain their sense of urgency. Others expressed concurring views.
When later recognized by the Chairman, my comment was that it seemed we would need to keep in mind that what is today taught as “present truth” may also in time become “past truth,” and that the “present truth” that replaces such “past truth” may itself become replaced by “future truth.” I felt that the word “truth” used in such a manner became simply meaningless.
A couple of the Body members said that if the current explanation was not the right one, then what was the explanation of Jesus' statements? Since the question seemed aimed at me, my response was that I felt there was an explanation that harmonized with Scripture and fact, but that anything presented should surely not be some “spur-of-the-moment” idea, but something carefully researched and weighed. I said that I thought there were brothers capable of doing that work but that they would need the Governing Body's authorization. Was the Governing Body interested in having this done? There was no response and the question was dropped.
At the discussion's end , with the exception of a few members, the Body members indicated that they felt that 1914 and the teaching about “this generation” tied to it should continue to be stressed. The Writing Committee Coordinator, Lyman Swingle, commented, “All right, if that is what you want to do. But at least you know that as far as 1914 is concerned, Jehovah's Witnesses got the whole thing — lock, stock and barrel — from the Second Adventists.”
Perhaps one of the most disturbing things to me was knowing that, while the organization urged the brothers to maintain unwavering trust in the interpretation, there were men in responsible positions within the organization who had themselves manifested that they aid not have full confidence in the predictions based on the 1914 date.
As a notable example, at the time of the February 19, 1975, session, in which the Governing Body listened to Fred Franz's taped talk on 1975, there followed some discussion about the uncertainty of time prophecies. Nathan Knorr, then the president, spoke up and said:
“There are some things I know I know that Jehovah is God, that Christ Jesus is his son, that he gave his life as a ransom for us, that there is a resurrection. Other things I'm not so certain about. 1914 I don't know. We have talked about 1914 for a long time. We may be right and I hope we are.” 
At that session the date under discussion was 1975, so it came as a surprise that the far more fundamental date of 1914 should be referred to in such context. As stated , the president's words were spoken, not in private conversation, but before the Governing Body in session.
Previous to the major discussion of 1914 (in the November 14, 1979, full Governing Body session), the Bocy's Writing Committee in a committee meeting had discussed the advisability of continuing to stress 1914.  In the committee discussion it was suggested that we might at least refrain from “pushing” the date. As I recall, Karl Klein reminded us of the practice sometimes followed of simply not mentioning a certain teaching for a time, so that if any change came it would not make such a strong impression.
Remarkably, the Writing Committee voted unanimously to follow basically that very policy in the publications with regard to 1914. This position, however, was short-lived, since the November 14, 1979, full session of the Governing Body made clear that the majority favored emphasizing the date as usual.
That questions about this teaching were not limited to Brooklyn was brought home to me by an incident occurring while I was on a trip to West Africa in the fall of 1979. In Nigeria, two members of the Nigerian Branch Committee and a long-time missionary, took me to see a property the Society had purchased for constructing a new Branch headquarters. On the return trip I asked when they expected to be able to move to the new site. The reply was that, with the clearing of the land, obtaining approval of plans and getting necessary permits, and then the actual construction, it might well be in 1983 before the move was made.
Because of this, I asked, “Do you get any questions from the local brothers as to the length of time that has passed since 1914?” There was a momentary silence, and then the Branch Coordinator said, “No, the Nigerian brothers seldom ask questions of that kind – but WE do.” Almost immediately the long-time missionary said, “Brother Franz, could it be that Jesus' reference to `this generation' applied only to persons back there who saw the destruction of Jerusalem? If that were the case, then everything would seem to fit.”
Quite evidently not everything did seem to fit in his mind, the way the existing teaching had it. My reply was simply that I supposed that such was a possibility but that there was not much more that could be said for the idea. I repeated this conversation to the Governing Body after my return, for it gave evidence to me of the questions existing in the minds of men throughout the world, respected men in positions of considerable authority. The comments the men in Nigeria made and the way that they made them indicated clearly that they had discussed the question among themselves before ever my visit took place.
Shortly after my return from Africa, in a Governing Body session on February 17, 1980, Lloyd Barry again voiced his feelings about the importance of the teaching regarding 1914 and “this generation.” Lyman Swingle said that the “Questions from Readers” material published in 1978 had not settled the matter in the brothers' minds. Albert Schroeder reported that in the Gilead School and in Branch Committee seminars, brothers brought up the fact that 1984 was now being talked about as a possible new d ate, 1984 being seventy years from 1914 (the figure seventy evidently being looked upon as having some special import). The Body decided to discuss the matter of 1914 further in the next session. 
The Chairman's Committee, consisting of Albert Schroeder (Chairman), Karl Klein and Grant Suiter, now produced a most unusual document. They supplied a copy to each member of the Governing Body. Briefly put, these three men were suggesting that, rather than applying to people living in 1914, the expression “this generation” would begin applying as of 1957, forty-three years later!
This is the material exactly as these three members of the Governing Body supplied it to us:
To Members of the Governing Body -- On Agenda for Wednesday.5 '80
Question: What is "this generation (genea')?"(Mt. 24:34; Mr. 13:30; Luke 21:32)
TDNT (many Commentaries) say: genea' "mostly denotes the sense
of contemporaries." Vol. 1, p. 663
Most all say genea' differs from genos. genos means offspring,
people, race. See TDNT Vol. l p. 685 (genos at 1 Pet. 2:9)
Answer may be tied to question on Mt. 24:33. What is meant by: "When
you see all these things"?
Lange's Commentary (vol. 8) suggests that "these things" do not
refer to C.E. 70, nor the parousia 1914 but to vss. 29, 30 the
celestial phenomina that He now see began with the space age
1957 onward. In that case it would then be the contemporary
generation of mankind living since 1957.
Lange's Commentary divides Matthew 24th chapter into "three cycles."
His 1st cycle -- Matt. 24:1-14 2nd cycle -- Matt. 24:15-28
3rd cycle -- Matt. 24:29-44 (synteleia or conclusion)
(See Vol. 8 pp 421, 424 and 427)
Based on Matt. 24:3 question in three parts.
The Watchtower and God's kingdom of a Thousand Years (ka)
Have now also divided Matthew 24 into three parts so to speak
(1) Matt. 24:3-22 Has parallel fulfillments in 1st century
and today since 1914. (See w 75 p. 273, ka p. 205)
(2) Matt. 24:23-28 Period into Christ's parousia of 1914 .
(See w 75 p. 275)
(3) Matt. 24:29-44 "Celestial Phenomina" have literal application
since the space age began in 1957 and onward to include
Christ's erkhomenon (coming as the executioner at the
beginning of the "great tribulation.")
(See w 75 p 276 par. 18; ka pp 323 to 328)
"All these things" would have to throw back in the context to the nearest items listed in the composite sign, namely, the celestial phenomina
of verses 29 and 30. *
If this is true: to
Then "this generation" would refer/contemporary mankind living
as knowledgeable ones from 1957 onward.
* Confirmed in thought by C.T.Russell in Berean Commentary, p. 217:
"Genea, people living contemporaneously which witness the signs
just mentioned." Vol. 4 p. 604.
1957 marked the year when the first Russian Sputnik was launched into earth's outer space. Evidently the Chairman's Committee felt that that event could be accepted as marking the start of the fulfillment of these words of Jesus:
“. . . the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.” 
Based on that application, their conclusion would be as they stated:
“Then `this generation' would refer to contemporary mankind living as knowledgeable ones from 1957 onward.”
The three men were not suggesting that 1914 be dropped. It would stay as the “end of the Gentile Times.” But “this generation” would not begin applying until 1957.
In view of the swiftly diminishing numbers of the 1914 generation, this new application of the phrase could undoubtedly prove even more helpful than some person allegedly living to be 130 years old in a certain section of the Soviet Union. As compared win starting in 1914, this new 1957 starting date would give an additional 43 years for the period embraced by the expression “this generation” to reach.
Governing Body standards required that for any Committee to recommend something there should be unanimous agreement among the Committee members (otherwise the divided viewpoint should be presented to the Body for settlement). The presentation of the novel idea regarding 1957 was therefore one upon which the three members of the Chairman's Committee must have agreed.
I would think that, if asked about this presentation today, the response would be, “Oh, that was just a suggestion.” Possibly, but if so it was a suggestion seriously made. And for Albert Schroeder, Karl Klein and Grant Suiter to bring such a suggestion to the Governing Body they must have been willing in their own minds to see the suggested change made. If, inacea, their belief and conviction as to the Society's long-time teaching about “this generation” (as applying from 1914 onward) had been strong, firm, unequivocal, they certainly would never have come forward with the new interpretation they offered..
The Governing Body did not accept the new view proposed by these members. Comments made showed that many considered it fanciful. The fact remains, however, that Governing Body members Schroeder, Klein and Suiter presented their idea as a serious proposition, revealing their own lack of conviction as to the solidity of the existing teaching on the subject.
To this day, however, bold, positive, forceful statements regarding 1914 and “this generation” continue to be published as Biblically established fact by the “prophet” organisation and all of Jehovah's Witnesses are urged to put full trust in this and carry the message about it to other people earthwide. In an apparent effort to calm concern about the diminishing ranks of the 1914 generation, the same Watchtower (October 15, 1980, page 31) that implied that the age limit for that generation's members could be lowered to ten years of age, also said:
“And if the wicked system of this world survived until the turn of the century [the year 2000], which is highly improbable in view of world trends and fulfillment of Bible prophecy, there would still be survivors of the World War I generation.”
By the turn of the century, the ten-year-olds of 1914 would be ninety-six years old. Still, there might be a few of them yet around and evidently that was viewed as all that was necessary for Jesus' words to be fulfiIled –depending, of course, on the acceptance of the idea that Jesus was directing his words particularly to ten-year-old children.
Today, no mention is made of “ten-year-olds” but instead the reference is simply to “those living in 1914” or similar. This, of course, allows for newborn babies to be included. But now, in the 1990s, with the third millennium close upon us, even this provides only momentary relief for the problem. Even a newborn in 1914 would be in his or her eighties today.
I have no idea what the future may bring as to the Governing Bocy's position on this matter. By their emphasising 1914 with renewed vigor they have, in effect, “made their bed” and seem to feel compelled to lie in it. But the span of the 1914 generation is proving like a couch that is too short for comfort, and the reasonings used to cover that doctrinal “couch” are like a woven sheet that is too narrow, not able to shut out, in this case, the cold facts of reality.
It is possible, of course, that somewhere down the line they will feel obliged to make some adjustment. As long as the world figures show at least some increase, however, I would doubt that they would do this. It is hard for me to believe that they would take up the 1957 starting date for “this generation” proposed by members Schroeder, Klein and Suiter.
They have other options nonetheless. They could acknowledge the historical evidence placing Jerusalem's destruction twenty years later than the Society's 607 B.C.E. date. This would make the Gentile Times run out (using their 2,520-year interpretation) about 1934. But such enormous importance has been placed on 1914 and, as has been shown, so much of the doctrinal superstructure is linked to it, that this also seems an unlikely step.
Perhaps Albert Schroeder's idea of applying the phrase to the “anointed” class (an idea that has been Boating around the organisation for many, many years) might prove more attractive. There are always additional persons (some fairly young) who each year decide for the first time that they are of the “anointed” class. So this would offer an almost limitless extension of time for the teaching about “this generation.” (See Appendix for further information.)
The one thing I can say with positiveness is that I personally found reasoning employed within the Governing Body to be incredible. I found it tragic that a time prophecy could be proclaimed to the world as something solid upon which people could and should confidently rely, build their hopes, form their life plans when the very ones publishing this knew that within their own collective body there did not exist a unanimity of genuine, firm conviction as to the rightness of that teaching. It may be that when viewed against the whole background of the organization's decades of date-fixing and shifting of dates, their attitude becomes more understandable.
Perhaps more incredible to me is that the Chairman's Committee members, Albert Schroeder, Karl Klein and Grant Suiter, within about two months of their submission of their new idea on “this generation,” listed the teaching about the start of Christ's presence in 1914 as among the decisive teaching for determining whether individuals (including headquarters staff members) were guilty of “apostasy” and therefore merited disfellowshipment. They did this knowing that just months before they themselves had placed in question the corollary, companion doctrine regarding “this generation.” But that is a matter that will be dealt with in the following chapter.
|Raymond Franz: “Crisis of Conscience” Commentary Press: Atlanta. 1983, 1992. |
Chapter 9, pages 198-222. This page is created with kind permission from the author.You can obtain the whole book as well as other valuable publications here:Free Minds IncComments from the FriendsBeaconSee also the pages for Commentary Press. Web-owner says: Crisis of Conscience is the most important book about the Jehovah's Witnesses ever written.
 This same material also appeared in the October 15, 1969, Watchtower. The latest indexes to Watch Tower publications, however, do not list it under the heading "1975," simply ignoring it despite its strong focus on that date.
 It is true that (on page 25) the less specific phrase “the mid-seventies” is used, but the year 1975 had already been presented as a Biblically marked date and that date was now firmly imprinted on the minds of all of Jehovah's Witnesses earthwide.
 Quoted from Matthew 24:36, 42, 44; Mark 13:33; Acts 1:7.
 This was in the session of February 19, 1975.
 See the Watchtower, May 1, 1975.
 See the Watchtower, October 1. 1978.
 Among the Governing Body members at the time discussed, only Fred Franz (now deceased) was out of his teenage years in 1914, being 21 years old then. As to the present members, George Gangas was 18, John Booth 12, Karl Klein and Carey Barber were 9, Lyman Swingle 4, Albert Schroeder 3, Jack Barr 1, and Lloyd Barry, Dan Sydlik, Milton Henschel, Ted Jaracz and Gerrit Loesch had not yet been born, their births coming after 1914.
 The expression “present truth” was popular in the time of Russell and Rutherford and was based on a faulty translation of 2 Peter 1:12. The New World Translation there reads more accurately, “the truth that is present in you.”
 This does not seem to have been just a momentary thought on President Knorr's part, for the same viewpoint was expressed in virtually the same words by one of his closer associates, George Couch. Knowing the two, it seems more likely that Couch acquired the view from Knorr than vice versa.
 The Writing Committee membership was then composed of Lloyd Barry, Fred Franz, Raymond Franz, Karl Klein and Lyman Swingle.
 Contrary to what is alleged by some, the Governing Body itself never gave importance to the date of 1984 and, as I recall, this occasion was the only time that date was even mentioned, and that only in connection with rumors.
 Matthew 24:29