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“But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.”—Acts 28:22


“Just one of the servants of the Lord”?

Who was J. F. Rutherford? He stood firm for what he believed in, yet he was also humble and detested the spirit of following a man. An encyclopedic reference says of him:

Although [Joseph] Rutherford served for 25 years as president of the Watch Tower Society and devoted all his energy to advancing the work of the organization, he was not the leader of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he did not want to be. At a convention in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1941, shortly before his death, he spoke about the matter of leadership, saying: “I want to let any strangers here know what you think about a man being your leader, so they won’t be forgetting. Every time something rises up and starts to grow, they say there is some man a leader who has a great following. If there is any person in this audience who thinks that I, this man standing here, is the leader of Jehovah’s witnesses, say Yes.” The response was an impressive silence, broken only by an emphatic “No” from several in the audience. The speaker continued: “If you who are here believe that I am just one of the servants of the Lord, and we are working shoulder to shoulder in unity, serving God and serving Christ, say Yes.” In unison the assembly roared out a decisive “Yes! The following month an audience in England responded in exactly the same way. (emphasis added) (Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, pp. 220-1)

These are not the words of a tyrant, but that of a humble servant. Plus, all in attendance agreed that he was not their leader or tyrant but a humble servant. Even when he died, it was announced:

On January 8, 1942, our beloved brother, J. F. Rutherford, faithfully finished his earthly course… To him it was a joy and comfort to see and know that all the witnesses of the Lord are following, not any man, but the King Christ Jesus as their Leader, and that they will move on in the work in complete unity of action. (emphasis added.) (The Watchtower, February 1, 1942, p. 45; Consolation, February 4, 1942, p. 17; see also: Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, p. 90.) (For full text, see Appendix below.)

Clearly then, he was not interested in being a leader with a following, but merely a director of the ministry.



January 9, 1942
          On January 8, 1942,ftn1 our beloved brother, J. F. Rutherford, faithfully finished his earthly course as a warrior for The THEOCRATIC GOVERNMENT and a minister of the Word of God. Knowing of your deep concern and of your prayers to God for him ever since his serious illness prior to the Detroit Convention of July, 1940, we hasten to notify you.
          It was Brother Rutherford’s desire to “die fighting with his boots on”; and this he did. The Lord graciously spared him to complete the report of the 1942 Yearbook of Jehovah’s witnesses, therein showing that the greatest witness ever given had been accomplished and that the year’s distribution of books and booklets reached the grand total of 36,030,595 copies. He always had foremost in mind to DO THIS ONE THING, to declare the name of Jehovah and his kingdom, to keep covenant with Him, and to look well to the interests of his brethren.—1 John 3:16.
          To him it was a joy and comfort to see and know that all the witnesses of the Lord are following, not any man, but the King Christ Jesus as their Leader, and that they will move on in the work in complete unity of action, as they unanimously expressed at the Theocratic Assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in St. Louis.
          All those standing steadfast for THE THEOCRACY will now not mourn or be disturbed or fearful, but will rejoice that their faithful fellow servant and brother has maintained his integrity toward the Lord, in sickness and in health, through evil report and through good report, and has now entered a higher field of service forever with the Lord.—2 Tim. 4 :7, 8.
          Brother Rutherford’s consistent faithful activity and unbending devotion to THE THEOCRACY, especially since becoming president of the Society, January 6, 1917, has been and continues to be a true and blessed example to us all as of one who ‘fought a good fight and kept the faith’ and proved worthy of a part in the vindication of Jehovah’s name by Christ Jesus; and for this we give thanks to God.
          With you keeping on working, determined, by the Lord’s grace, to let nothing stop us until the Lord’s “strange work” is finished, we are,

Your brethren and fellow servants,


1. (Added by webmaster.) The date of death above, January 8, 1942, is verified by his death certificate, sections 20-21. Contrary to one report that he had been found dead for several days, the physician saw him alive on January 8, 1942 and recorded the time of death of 1:36 PM and the cause of death (in sections 20-21). A copy of this signed certificate is available here. (back)


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