Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Joseph Franklin Rutherford
Joseph Franklin Rutherford (November 8, 1869- January 8 1942), is best known as the second president of the Watch Tower Society, the legal organization used by Jehovah's Witnesses. He was preceded by Charles Taze Russell, and followed by Nathan H. Knorr.
Rutherford was born to a farm family in Morgan County, Missouri, his parents being Baptists. His father opposed his interests in law studies, but allowed him in the end to go to college. After completing his education, he worked as a court reporter and was admitted to the bar at Boonville, Missouri. Still later he became a special - or substitute - judge in the same Fourteenth Judicial District of Missouri. Because of this background in law, he was often referred to as "Judge Rutherford".
He became interested in the teachings of The Bible Students in 1894, after he and his wife had seen three of the books of Russell's work Millennial Dawn. He was baptized as a Bible Student in 1906, and in 1907 he became their juridical councelor. He served as a travelling overseer in the following years. He was elected President of the Watch Tower Society in 1916, after Russell's death.
The seventh volume of the Millenial Dawn series included strong criticism of Christendom's clergy which prompted clergy pressure for government censure and eventually a wave of persecution in North America and Europe. Finally, in 1918 he served a year's imprisonment together with seven associates in Atlanta, Georgia, for allegedly opposing Selective Draft Act and the Espionage Law. These charges were later dismissed.
After the release he was seriously ill and never fully recovered. He were in a cell that had no circulation of air. There was something wrong with the fan and, not getting enough oxygen, their systems became filled with poisons. Due to his weakened condition he had contracted pneumonia. Thereafter, he went to California. He spent much time at that place in the following years.
The period that followed 1919 brought changes in the thinking and activity of the Bible Students. The period was a time of constant change and development. During the upcoming decades they quit celebrating christmas and birthdays, as well as they quit using the cross as a symbol.
At San Diego, California, there was built a house in 1929, which was known as Beth Sarim. The Hebrew words Beth Sarim mean 'House of the Princes'; and the purpose of acquiring that property and building the house was that there were those on earth today who fully trusted in God and Christ Jesus and the Kingdom, believing that the faithful men of old would soon be resurrected by the Lord, be back on earth, and take charge of the visible affairs of earth. The house was sold in the 1940's and these teachings were rejected.
Rutherford's presidency is noteworthy for increasing the drive to "advertise the King and His Kingdom" found in Jesus's model prayer. The advertising work has become the prime hallmark for which Jehovah's Witnesses are recognized today. At the same time, Jehovah's Witnesses also made a concious effort to avoid following any human leader as some had tended to do with Pastor Russell. In 1931 at a convention in Columbus, Ohio, Rutherford delivered a talk proposing the adoption of a new name for the group, up till then only known as International Bible Students or Bible Students. They unanimously adopted the new name of "Jehovah's Witnesses" there.
J.F. Rutherford served as President of the Watch Tower Society until his death in 1942 in San Diego.
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