Russell, Rutherford and the Governing Body


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On October 31 1916, Charles Taze Russell died. Russell had founded a religious sect known as the International Bible Students, which would later become known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like the followers of many other charismatic leaders, Russell’s followers experienced a traumatic time upon and after his death. In fact, sects often disappear altogether when their founders die. As we know, this sect not only survived the ordeal following its founder’s death, it thrived and grew. At the time of Russell’s death, it had about 10,000 followers. Today the movement has about 6 million active and zealous members worldwide. The person who laid the foundation for this impressive growth was Russell’s successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford. He became the 2nd President of the Watch Tower Society (hereafter: WTS) in 1917, and shortly thereafter he was the supreme leader of the movement. At Russell’s death, it is no exaggeration to say that the sect was focused primarily on his person. It took determined effort from Rutherford and many confrontations to secure the loyalty of the community. When Rutherford died in 1942, the organization had no problematic successor problem. The members of the sect had at that time loyalty more towards the whole organization than a single individual. The major objective of this thesis is to investigate some factors in Rutherford’s presidency that caused this change. A religious community founded primarily on loyalty to a single individual will naturally experience a crisis when this individual passes away. A religion that exists for a long time does so because its followers have loyalty towards the movement itself. Since religions are often founded by charismatic religious leaders –and Russell surely was one of them — what we can call the ‘successor problem’ may well be a general one. This thesis will describe the specific solution that Rutherford’s presidency proved to become.

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12 Responses to Russell, Rutherford and the Governing Body

  1. jacqueline says:

    I think I have had enough for tonight I am going to check out the news then grab Netflix and look at this documentary to see if I can glean anything from it. Goodnight all.

    NetFlix The Family.

  2. jacqueline says:

    Christopher, tell her I said hello. It is so refreshing to see you have not settled in and is still using your brain to question and not accept “Long-Held Beliefs”. I heard the cry at a couple of conventions to not allow the questioning of these old beliefs.
    Daniel was told 12:4 “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” In other words, we would have more to help us understand and we should use it including our brains and not listen to those that say 1 man or 9 men words only. The source of both is Russell

    Ephesians 3:17-19 sort of addresses what you are saying about Jesus have way more to him than just being an even match to Adam. This scripture shows us there are 4 dimensions mentioned here. For Jesus to walk on water might demonstrate that there are other dimensions that we are not aware of how to use them.

    17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

    Matt. 17:20 might be a hint that a perfect man could actually move huge rocks, stone henge, and other huge Rock formations movement may have been a lost art. But we can’t really read with Holy Spirit igniting your brain if you have to stay within the bounds of a deceased person from another couple of centuries ago. Not saying what this is saying but at least I can look intently at the word of God now. And glad to see you are doing it as well Christopher.

    Matt. 17:20“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. ”

    Christopher people get so caught up into putting themselves in heaven of “making their calling and election sure” for how they feel it should be done (Religion and doctrines, Creeds) that they lose the fear of God. The vow scares me to death to poke in HIS face, like see I won’t even be in an enclosed room with a woman. It was not God that came after Russell, it was his wife and the court systems and Rose Ball’s confession and him saying he is like a “butterfly that goes from flower” to flower” so why you stick the “shoot” under God’s nose?. The Fear of Jehovah is being dumbed down. No wonder he said about the Laodicean Church, “16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:14-22)

    Jeremiah 4:22-27 referring to Israel being foolish but verse 23-26 shows we better fear God!
    22 “For my people are foolish;
    they know me not;
    they are stupid children;
    they have no understanding.
    They are ‘wise’—in doing evil!
    But how to do good they know not.”

    23 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;
    and to the heavens, and they had no light.
    24 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
    and all the hills moved to and fro.
    25 I looked, and behold, there was no man,
    and all the birds of the air had fled.
    26 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert,
    and all its cities were laid in ruins
    before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

    27 For thus says the Lord, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.

  3. Christopher Johns says:

    My moms good. She’s a hot mess but good. 🙂 I don’t know why they do the vow. I can’t stand at every convention opening and closing with prayer, vow, and morning resolve, vote to send love. On online conventions I don’t tune in until 15 mins after it starts. If you notice I don’t do them during the conventions. I for one hate repetition and the vow is for someone else not mine. For example “I will avoid being in the same room with any of the opposite sex alone, unless the door to the room stand wide open.” Why would I ever say that. Opposite sex doesn’t interest me. It’s not for me. I don’t do the vow or morning resolve when they ask at conventions. I usually interject when someone says “well I looked at Brother Russell’s comments.” I said one time “Russell doesn’t know everything.” And “things change.”
    You mentioned one time that the Bible students always have another explanation. I see that sometimes too. Like it seems to me that the scriptures show that Jesus was raised in the same body he died in. Because in the OT it was blood made the atonement not flesh. So he can have the same body without voiding the ransom. But I also see what they are saying in that “the bread I give for the world is my flesh.” That’s why Jesus said flesh and blood can’t inherit the kingdom then said “a spirit has not flesh and BONES as you see me have.” They will say “his appearing through a wall shows that he was a spirit.” But I mean he walked on water so I don’t think laws of
    Physics applies to him on either side of the veil. I understand all of the arguments for and against the trinity. I used to battle with it with other people. But why does it seem that 99% of bible reading Christians believe in the trinity while we have books explaining that it doesn’t exist? I’m
    Not saying I believe in it but it’s something to consider.

  4. jacqueline says:

    Hi Chris, I mean why do the Bible Students say the vow? The reason I ask is when I first heard a brother say it I thought he was humble to openly confess that he had a problem with morality. Then I heard it again, it was only on my third time did I realize it was a repetitious “chant” and I began to always came in after it was said when attending conventions and 4th Sunday. I am not referring to Russell and his marital affairs, I was wondering if you knew why it is done today by Bible Students. I never asked I just felt uncomfortable so I entered afterward.
    The Watchtower society in the 1960s did have articles dealing with vowing and not paying and taking another person vow on yourself as being very serious. That is why I refrained from being present when it was presented as much as possible.
    As far as Russell’s teachings, I didn’t really deal with any error whether perceived or real with the Witnesses. I don’t deal in doctrines, I deal with the Bible and form my thoughts on what the Spirit guides me to believe.
    I have left off association with Both on the issue of worship of their leader or governingbody, not their doctrine. I was presented in writing in two emails that acceptance of Russell as the seventh messenger was a requirement. So I in freedom of religion disconnected myself.
    I don’t find the emails intrusive, I just can’t answer them and really see no need to as I didn’t know the Bible students existed.

    I just thought as a Bible Student that maybe you had found out why they do that at every meeting. Take Care of yourself, Your friend Jacqueline

    BTW: How is your Mom doing?

  5. Chris Johns says:

    Are you referring to the Vow and that it was written because of the accusations of the extra marital affair? Yeah I know. I mean even the prophets in the Bible didn’t have a great track record. Samson and David and Moses. Even as prophets they did bad things. Not that I’m calling Russell a prophet but if even they did things wrongly why not an ordinary man. Even if he did the worst thing the Divine Plan doesn’t hang on him. The LDS church if they found out that he was false then their whole religion fails. If Russell was a false teacher it wouldn’t matter because I believe about 90% of what he said is from the Bible. I don’t deal much in chronology.

  6. jacqueline says:

    Good for you Christopher, I am glad to see you are happy with your class. In fact, a word that was used as a description of persons in your class insulted any decent 21st-century person. So again that is why I went to the source to see how all these people are still in the 17th-18th century. My personal conclusion was they keep reading and going over the same things without changing a word because they believe and Russell accepted that he was ye, olde slave.
    Theology of the Bible is getting clearer every day so I don’t really argue that I can believe what the Holy Spirit helps me see. But I can’t sit and participate in the worship of Russell or the governing body.

    So at least we could discuss this here without repercussions of being disfellowshipped. Also, your class perhaps is one of those that don’t worship Russell and an exception to the rule within the Bible students. You gave a great explanation of your personal convictions. We do have a personal responsibility to God, thank you for allowing a straight forward discussion.

    So Christopher someone today asked me what is the “Vow unto the Lord” that is said at every meeting and convention?
    I think it would be best for a Bible Student to answer that and maybe print the words. I have an idea but a Bible Student might know for sure. Would you be comfortable doing that?

  7. Christopher Johns says:

    Russell wasn’t a prophet. Unitarians also don’t believe Jesus preexisted and have many other beliefs I don’t agree with. So he had trouble in his marriage. He wasn’t perfect. The creature worship that followed was not of his own beliefs. That’s what they did after he died. I believe most of what is taught by the Bible students. If it was just me and the Bible I’d think there was a trinity based on John 1:1, 8:58 Hebrews 1:8. I’d think there was a hellfire based on Rev where it said “and those whose names aren’t found in the book of life were cast into the lake of fire and will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” I’d never have believed in the restoration of Israel. I’d be in some church thinking Hod was going to kill off everyone that didn’t believe. When I was in the JWs I prayed for God to show me the truth and that’s when the first volumes came into my hands. The big difference between Russell and say Joseph Smith of the LDS church is my beliefs don’t hang on Russell. No matter how much bad Russell did the divine plan doesn’t fall or rest on him. In the LDS religion if Smith was false then the Book of Mormon, temple sealings, priesthood and church all falls apart. The Divine Plan doesn’t rest on Russell. The christadelphians believe much of what we do. But I disagree with than that Satan doesn’t exist or that no one goes to heaven or Jesus didn’t preexist. I believe what the volumes say. I don’t agree with all of the dates and chronology but the divine plan to me is the truth. Many in my ecclesia have had similar issues with the brethren as you have. They don’t let it bother them. They say God called them not man. We see it as a test that in dealing with the brethren. I don’t care what they about me or what they do. They didn’t call me and unless they get the cops I won’t leave a meeting or convention. S

  8. jacqueline says:

    Hi Christopher and thanks for commenting. I do try to go to the source, for instance of how Bible Students could entertain some of their odd thoughts about race since it went across ecclesia, not just one or two. This explained it, They are captives and keep feeding their minds on this stuff: I am not the only ones that have been insulted by them but they are still within the movement so I won’t speak of their experiences. A Chicago class elder gave a biased talk directed to me because of a Facebook discussion where my relatives accused his wife of being a racist from what she was saying. Since it came from the platform it means the elder body feels the way he did. I never attended another 4th Sunday to be attacked for what a relative said.

    It is not true to say Russell is the originator of nontrinitarian fight and beliefs. Look up who died fighting it and got the law changed so you weren’t burned at the stake. UNITARIANS!
    Russell was a great editor and had the printing press and the means to publish his combined knowledge from other Christians.
    To WORSHIP THIS MAN as the Seventh Messenger of Revelation and THE FAITHFUL SLAVE, No! I will not do it! Helet them call him Ye old slave and hold him up as a god!
    “Russell referred quite openly to the assistance in Bible study he had received from others…. C. T. Russell used the Watch Tower and other publications to uphold Bible truths and to refute false religious teachings and human philosophies that contradicted the Bible. He did not, however, claim to discover new truths…..What about other Bible doctrines that were discussed in the Watch Tower and other publications? Did Russell take full credit for uncovering these gems of truth? Explained Russell: “We found that for centuries various sects and parties had split up the Bible doctrines amongst them, blending them with more or less of human speculation and error . . . Then how did Russell perceive the role that he and his associates played in publishing Scriptural truth? He explained: “Our work . . . has been to bring together these long scattered fragments of truth and present them to the Lord’s people—not as new, not as our own, but as the Lord’s. . . . We must disclaim any credit even for the finding and rearrangement of the jewels of truth.” He further stated: “The work in which the Lord has been pleased to use our humble talents has been less a work of origination than of reconstruction, adjustment, harmonization.”
    Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, Watch Tower, p. 45, 48, 49.

    Charles Taze Russell left a legacy of prophetic speculation, pseudoreligious theology, and pseudoscientific, pseudomedical quackery that persists in the present-day Watch Tower organization with continued change and adaptation (a hallmark of Watch Tower policy). His life was plagued by lawsuits, controversy, a disintigrated marriage, and the failure of all his prophecies. In his lifetime he played many roles, some of which were ascribed to him by his followers – businessman, orator, writer, teacher, Bible exegete, scholar, historian, medical advisor, and, above all, prophet of God.
    Leonard & Marjorie Chretien (1988), Witnesses of Jehovah: A Shocking Exposé of What Jehovah’s Witnesses Really Believe, Harvest House Publishers, p. 38.

    Christopher this is an informational website to just write the truth and help those coming out to see how this craziness started so they can somehow get back on a spiritual footing to go to God thru Christ and not a man.
    You were a witness briefly and are not aware that Witnesses know a lot about Russell. You are reading the biased version put out by the Bible Students. This man is dead and what others say is just as valid as the Bible Students say.
    You say the Laymen worship Russell. From that “Vow unto the Lord” utterance to their unnatural reverence to Russell I concluded the Bible Student association worship, Charles Taze Russell. Now does this mean every man woman and child within it? No, for they are just like their counterparts, the Witnesses, they keep it in for fear of shunning.
    BTW: You are not privy to the personal emails sent by an elder representing the Bible students that proves I have the right thoughts. Some others on here were actually within earshot and connected to phone conversations where it was felt only I was being threatened with “We don’t disfellowship like the witnesses but”.
    In fact, I was likened to Onesimus the runaway slave on several occasions, although brothers tried to deal with it and ask that reference not be used! But reading and regurgitating this stuff causes problems. The Bible is enough.

    Slave bible
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    The title page of an excerpted bible printed for reading to slaves, London 1807. Passages such as the Book of Exodus are removed.
    A slave bible is a bible specifically edited to serve for enslaved Christians. They were produced in England in the early 19th century for use in the British West Indies, when they were colonies of the British Empire. Such bibles had all “references to freedom and escape from slavery” excised, while passages encouraging obedience and submission were emphasized.[1]

    The Museum of the Bible, during a 2018 exhibition called “The Slave Bible: Let the Story Be Told”, exhibited an example from 1807, called Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands. British missionaries used that bible in the education and conversion of the enslaved population. The editors removed 90 percent of the Old Testament and half of the New Testament. Among the excluded passages are Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”, which was thought to possibly incite rebellion. Passages like Ephesians 6:5, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ,” were kept.[2] This bible was one of three copies of this version, and is owned by Fisk University. It was printed by Law and Gilbert of London, for the Society for the Conversion of Negro Slaves.[3]

  9. jacqueline says:

    Our Masonic friends have it down very fine. I do not know where they got it so well. I have often wondered where they found out so many of the secrets of our High and Accepted Order of Masonry.
    Read more at:

  10. Christopher Johns says:

    I generally don’t blame Russell for what the followers do. I don’t think he ever called for the worship of him. After reading the Laymen’s stuff they basically worship him. A brother said Russell sits at Christ’s right hand. Um no. We don’t agree with everything Russell wrote but without him and just reading the Bible I would not even know of the earthly paradise, I would think Jesus is God because of the trinitarian bibles and even believe in hellfire. I thank God for the volumes. But I’m also not a Russellite. I don’t believe everything he wrote. As much as I disagree with the JWs they at least knew Russell was wrong on things and even changed things. Some for the good and some not. Even the LHMM won’t change anything and will just try to stay within the confines of what’s Russell wrote. I usually ask people like that “If Russell has died in 1906 then we would still believe that we are under the New Covenant. So if he was alive today wouldn’t he make adjustments on what we teach today?”

  11. jacqueline says:

    Warren these are excellent videos for those coming out and need to know what the problems are. This pulls it together nicely. Thank you.

  12. Warren says:

    This is a youtube channel that examines some of the issues that caused many witnesses harm and distress. #131 and #432.

    Scroll down to the bottom of the page column 1 to click on this video.

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