Part 2: How Does the Society Deal With Its Own Past History?
Posted by Seeker on June 11, 1997 at 08:27:50
Have you ever noticed how the Society quotes publications, including their own, without giving a complete reference? In other words, they say this quote comes from 'such-and-such' a publication, but gives no date, no page number, and so forth. Not always, of course, with the Creation book being an obvious exception [and one that will be covered under the next heading]. Even when they quote from the Watchtower, they are sometimes vague when making their quotes. Why is that, I wondered? So I began to check. And what I found was disturbing, for I found cases of seeming dishonesty and deception in what they were doing.
That's a serious charge; can I back it up? Here's an example of this. In From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained it says on page 170:
The point being made here is a familiar one, namely that the Society predicted, decades in advance, that the year 1914 would be the year God's Kingdom would be established in the heavens. Sounds familiar, right? We all know they said this, and this excerpt from the book confirms it by quoting from the Watch Tower of 1880. So what's the problem? Well, did you know that this is an incomplete quotation? That the complete quotation gives an entirely different viewpoint? Here's the complete quotation, and this time you can note that it is on page two of the March, 1880 Watchtower in case you want to check for yourself, as I did. [The Kingdom Hall library has all of the old volumes, so feel free to check these references to prove to yourself that I am not lying.]:
Notice the difference? The entire quotation shows that 1914 was expected to be the year that the kingdom of God would be set up in the earth, not heaven. The quotation from the book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained says the partial quote shows that they expected 1914 to be the year God's kingdom would be 'fully set up in heaven'. The full quote is really talking about how that meant it would be extended to the earth in that year.
Now, you're probably thinking 'Well, that quote isn't the clearest, so I guess this is all blowing stuff out of proportion'. But the problem is that Brother Russell could not have been talking about the kingdom of God being set up in heaven in 1914. Why not? Because he believed that the kingdom was already set up in heaven in the 1870s, as will be clearly shown below.
So, if Russell believed that the kingdom was established in the heavens before he wrote that article in the 1880 Watch Tower, what was he saying? That the kingdom would be set up in heaven in 1914? Clearly not. That it would be 'fully set up in heaven' in 1914? Yes, that is what the Paradise book says. So what does that mean, to be fully set up? That it would extend its rule to the earth that year. That is what Russell believed back then.
Just to take a few examples to prove this point, note the following:
Volume II of Studies in the Scriptures, entitled The Time Is At Hand, originally published in 1889, said concerning the Times of the Gentiles, on pages 76-77:
On page 99 The Time Is At Hand further said:
On page 101 The Time Is At Hand said:
On pp. 206, 209, God's Kingdom Of a Thousand Years Has Approached said:
So, the Paradise book uses that quote to show that the Society believed, decades in advance, that the kingdom would be fully set up in the heavens in 1914. What's deceptive about that quote, what they are not telling you, is that Russell really believed that the kingdom was already set up in the heavens by then and that it would extend its rule to the earth in 1914. Both ideas, of course, proved to be wrong. So by selectively quoted the 1880 Watchtower, the Society made it seem they had successfully predicted one thing, when the actual quote clearly shows they unsuccessfully predicted two other things entirely.
Is this earthshaking? Nope, not a bit. But it is a pattern and one that repeats itself on many occasions. The Society in this case made it look as if they got more right than they really did in the past. They selectively chose the parts that seemed to make themselves look good, and ignored the part that made them look bad. Ask yourself, if you believe this is trivial, did you know that the Society taught for some sixty years that the kingdom was established in the 1870s? If not, why not? Do you only recall some vague references to wrong ideas that were quickly corrected? The Society is always publishing its own history, so how could something that central to the Truth be ignored, such that almost no one knows it even happened today?
Here is another example of what I feel is deceptive quoting:
Again, a familiar thought, that the Society taught, decades in advance, that Christ's second presence would begin in 1914. However, what if you wanted to check this reference? Where in the 1879 Watchtower would you go? Which issue? What page number? Isn't it funny that they never tell you where to check this reference? Not just here, but in any publication, you won't find a specific reference to look up to prove the above quoted assertion. Why not?
Sad to say, it's because you won't find anything in the 1879 Watchtower that would support the above quote. Not surprisingly, really, because in 1879 Brother Russell firmly believed that Christ's second presence had already begun, so it would have been silly to say it would begin in 1914! What will you find in the 1879 Watch Tower or in years near then? That the Gentile Times would end in 1914. That is there, but the idea of Christ's second presence, or the kingdom being established, in 1914 was never mentioned. Interestingly, if you look at the above quote carefully, you will see that is says two things:
1) The Bible indicates Christ's second presence and kingdom rule began in 1914; and
2) The date 1914 was published as early as 1879.
See the point? They don't come out and say that in 1879 they wrote that in 1914 Christ's second presence would being, merely that the date 1914 was published (for some unmentioned reason) then. It is the juxtaposition of the two thoughts that makes it sound as if the 1879 Watchtower predicted more than it really did, and that is what makes the above quote deceptive.
Consider another quote:
'Consistently'? Only if you consider since 1943 to be consistent. For the previous sixty years or so the Watchtower consistently presented evidence that Jesus' presence in heavenly kingdom power began in the 1870s. That doesn't sound consistent at all, which makes the above recent quote deceptive.
Now, could it be that the authors of these incomplete or deceptive quotes just didn't know what the earlier Watchtowers said? Hardly. How can you get one part of a quotation and completely miss the very next part? And wouldn't the Writing Committee be aware of what the Society itself taught about Christ's presence? Even if the actual author of the 1993 Watchtower article quoted above was unaware of the history, wouldn't the proofreaders catch that? Or the Governing Body members who approve each article, all of whom were alive back when the Society taught that Christ's presence began in the 1870s? No, this has to be a deliberately selective approach to history. Here's another example: The 1922 Cedar Point, Ohio, convention is regularly referred to in Watchtower publications as a major milestone in the organization's history. Today the Society sometimes quotes a small portion of the keynote address in support of 1914. It ignores the fact that 1799 and 1874 figured with equal strength in the argument advanced and in the conclusion the audience was called upon to reach. The November 1, 1922 Watchtower reproduced the talk:
Interesting how this speech is referred to so often today, yet the 1874 date that is a key part of that speech is completely ignored! Yes, in 1922 "the King reigns", but they believed he had been reigning since 1874! I never knew that until I saw the full context of the usual short quote.
Consider just a few more quotes, dealing with the Society's own history around 1914:
The Society has said this sort of thing on several occasions. The idea being that it really is the friend's fault for being overzealous in their expectations. But was Brother Russell really 'encouraging his readers to keep an open mind, especially as regards the time element'?
That doesn't sound like encouragement to keep an open mind, does it? Did the actual year matter all that much? Yes:
Of course, as things turned out differently than expected, the Society's viewpoint changed accordingly:
So in 1907, the Watchtower said it would prove a great disappointment, would work irreparable harm to all their calculations. In 1916, however, suddenly they were not disappointed at all.
Finally, note how the 'time element' shifted:
Is this so serious? I think it is. Consider the many times the Society publishes information showing how they have made mistakes in the past and have moved on to brighter and brighter light. Wouldn't it be more honest, and more openly candid, to admit the full extent of their mistakes, instead of glossing over the more serious ones? Wouldn't that be more like Moses, recording his worst failings, or the apostles recording their endless mistakes? Wouldn't that give us more confidence in the honesty and candor of the Society? Isn't that the example set for us in the Scriptures? What does the Bible say about the one "covering over a matter"?
In summary, these are only a few examples out of many where the Society has selectively picked from their past history to make themselves look more accurate than they really were.