Revisionism About the Governing Body
Posted by Tom on January 23, 1999 at 22:09:37
However this and similar claims that have been made in the last few years are not true. They are pure revisionism. The concept of direction through a collective body was an idea entirely alien to the organization for almost its first ninety years. To prove this, first note what C. T. Russell himself, in the April 25, 1894 issue of Zion's Watch Tower had said:
Since in Russell's own words, the utility of the Directors would come to the fore only in the event of his death, it can clearly be seen that Russell did not view them as a governing body along with himself. Russell was a man in complete control of the corporations.
In support of this fact, the March 1, 1923 issue of The Watch Tower said on page 68:
Since one person who directs "without regard to any other person on earth" cannot be an equal voice in a collective body, the facts show that contrary to what the February Watchtower states, there was not even a semblance of a governing body at least up to 1916. (The year of Russell's death.) For better or for worse, the organization was completely controlled by one individual.
Following Russell's death, Joseph F. Rutherford was elected president at the annual corporation meeting in January of 1917. Early in his presidency, a power struggle erupted over how the organization would be run. This involved Rutherford and four of the seven Directors whom Russell had appointed (A. I. Ritchie, R. H. Hirsh, I. F. Hoskins, and J. D. Wright). Alexander H. Macmillan, who was an eyewitness to these events, summarized the attitude of these four directors like this:
Rutherford could have (if he had believed in the concept of a "Governing Body") acknowledged the objections of the majority of the Board and sought to make amends, because in point of fact, he had not recognized the Board of Directors and worked with it as a body. Instead, he had unilaterally taken actions, made decisions, allocated funds, assigned projects, and informed the board only afterwards of what he had done. As Marley Cole clearly put it:
For example, Rutherford decided to publish a book entitled The Finished Mystery and present it as the posthumous work of Russell. Not only had he not consulted with the Directors about the writing of this book, they did not even know it was being published until the same day that Rutherford released it to the Bethel family on July 17, 1917. Further, after having previously consulted with, in Macmillan's words, "a prominent corporation lawyer in Philadelphia," Rutherford by presidential fiat had dismissed these four directors on that same day, replacing them with men who were more agreeable to his views (A. H. Macmillan, W. E. Spill, J. A. Bohnet, and G. H. Fisher). In the pamphlet war that ensued following their dismissal, Rutherford's claim was that he was exercising rights granted to him under the People's Pulpit Association charter which gave the president "the general supervision and control and management of the business and affairs of said corporation." (Harvest Siftings, part I, p. 20)
The 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses on pages 91 and 92 gives what has become the standard explanation for Rutherford's action:
It can be seen therefore that the entire concept of a collective Governing Body was completely rejected during the Rutherford presidency. Rutherford, like Russell before him, was a man in complete control over the organization and in point of fact, the corporate charter made it this way by allowing the President virtually unrestricted freedom. Further, the idea presented in the 1975 Yearbook, that fellow members of a Christian Governing Body can be dismissed based upon the legality of their status as Directors of a corporation that ostensibly is simply a legal instrument at the disposal of this body is absurd unless one truly believes that it is American corporate law and not the Bible that defines the makeup and procedure of such a body.
In 1942 J. F. Rutherford died and was replaced by Nathan H. Knorr. Rutherford's final days are described in the 1961 book Let Your Name Be Sanctified on pages 335, 336:
This description of the passing on of the "mantle of authority" from the dying Rutherford with terms and prophetic parallels like these seems almost humorous in light of more recent claims that existence of a governing body extended through the Rutherford presidency clear back to Russell's time. Commenting on the fact that N. H. Knorr, the new president of the Society, continued to exercise virtually unrestricted freedom Marley Cole states:
As proof of this, Cole went on to quote the September 15, 1950 issue of The Watchtower, pages 315 and 316, which recount the presentation of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures to the Directors:
With the exception of the Photo Drama of Creation, The New World Translation was quite probably the largest project the organization had yet undertaken, yet as this excerpt from The Watchtower shows, Knorr, like Rutherford before him, had 'let the board know what he was doing only after it was done'. The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, like The Finished Mystery, had been completed and was ready for printing by the time the board was informed of it. The Governing Body, as the idea is understood today, did not exist until the corporate reorganization of 1976, this in spite of the fact that the concept itself was being taught for a few of years prior to this. Up until this point, control over the corporations translated into control over the Society itself and administrative control over the corporations had rested exclusively with the president. Therefore, the organization for almost its first ninety years has been a monarchical arrangement. There was no "Governing Body". Claims to the contrary are simply untrue and dishonest.