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The Watchtower Testifies About False Prophecy

The Walsh Trial


In 1954 in Scotland the Jehovah's Witnesses sued the Ministries of Labour and National Services. This was a test case brought by the Society to set a precedent for future Witnesses.

The complete record of this trial is available to anyone for the price of the microfilm (details at the end of this article). It is the invaluable testimony given by the leaders of the Society. They make admissions in court that they have not made anywhere else

Those who testified for the Society were Fred Franz, the Vice-President; H.C.Covington, the head legal counsel of the Society at that time; Grant Suiter, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Society; A.R.Hughes, the British Branch Servant; and D. Walsh, the Congregation Servant who brought the suit. Just a few quotations appear in this article, those covering interesting statements.  They speak for themselves.

During the trial Fred Franz, Vice-President of the Society, gave the following answers:
    Q. Who is responsible for the interpretation in case of doubt, or in general, of scriptural writings for the guidance of Jehovah's Witnesses?

    A. We believe that Jehovah God who is author and inspirer of the Bible is he one who makes the interpretations. he is his own interpreter. He does this by the use of his invisible active force, the Holy Spirit acting upon the mind of his witnesses upon this earth, and he causes events to come to pass in the earth which are in fulfillment of his prophetic word and which, therefore, throw light upon the true significance of his word.

    Q. That is very helpful, but it does not quite meet the point I was making. What I want you to tell me was whether you can say how the Biblical texts are authoritatively interpreted: who is the interpreter?

    A. Jehovah God is the interpreter, but he guides his people upon this earth, and in this case the editorial committee of the Society, they study the Scriptures continually, and they examine and re-examine the evidence as it appears, and under this Divine guidance with the help of the Holy Spirit they arrive at an understanding of the Scripture.

Grant Suiter testified:
    Q. Indeed can any person...have an understanding of the Scriptures apart from the publications of Jehovah's Witnesses?

    A. No.

    Q. Only by the publications can he have a right understanding of the Scriptures?

    A. That is right.

    Q. Is that not arrogance?

    A. No.

Mr. H.C.Covington, the head legal counsel of the Society at that time, gave the following testimony:

Q. Is it not vital to speak the truth on religious matters?

A. It certainly is.

Q. Is there in your view room in a religion for a change of interpretation of Holy Writ from time to time?

A. There is every reason for a change in interpretation as we view it, of the Bible. Our view becomes more clear as we see the prophesy fulfilled by time.

Q. You have promulgated -- forgive the word -- false prophesy?

A. We have -- I do not think we have promulgated false prophesy, there have been statements that were erroneous, that is the way I put it, and mistaken.

Q. Is it a most vital consideration in the present situation of the world to know if the prophesy can be interpreted into terms of fact, when Christ's Second Coming was?

A. That is true, and we have always striven to see that we have the truth before we utter it. We go on the very best information we have but we cannot wait until we get perfect, because if we wait until we get perfect we would never be able to speak.

Q. Let us follow that up just a little. It was promulgated as a matter which must be believed by all members of Jehovah's Witnesses that the Lord's Second Coming took place in 1874?

A. I am not familiar with that. You are speaking on a matter that I know nothing of.

Q. You heard Mr. Franz's evidence?

A. I heard Mr. Franz testify, but I am not familiar with what he said on that, I mean the subject matter of what he was talking about, so I cannot answer any more than you can, having heard what he said.

Q. Leave me out of it?

A. That is the source of my information, what I have heard in court.

Q. You have studied the literature of your movement?

A. Yes, but not all of it. I have not studied the seven volumes of "Studies in the Scriptures," and I have not studied this matter that you are mentioning now of 1874. I am not at all familiar with that.

Q. Assume from me that it was promulgated as authoritative by the Society that Christ's Second Coming was in 1874?

A. Taking that assumption as a fact, it is a hypothetical statement.

Q. That was the publication of false prophesy?

A. That was the publication of a false prophesy, it was a false statement or an erronious statement in fulfilment of a prophesy that was false or erroneous.

Q. And that had to be believed by the whole of Jehovah's Witnesses?

A. Yes, because you must understand we must have unity, we cannot have disunity with a lot of people going every way, an army is supposed to march in step.

Q. You do not believe in the worldly armies, do you?

A. We believe in the Christian Army of God.

Q. Do you believe in the worldly armies?

A. We have nothing to say about that, we do not preach against them, we merely say that the worldly armies, like the nations of the world today, are a part of Satan's Organization, and we do not take part in them, but we do not say the nations cannot have their armies, we do not preach against warfare, we are merely claiming our exemption from it, that is all.

Q. Back to the point now. A false prophesy was promulgated?

A. I agree that.

Q. It had to be accepted by Jehovah's Witnesses?

A. That is correct.

Q. If a member of Jehovah's Witnesses took the view himself that that prophesy was wrong and said so he would be disfellowshipped?

A.Yes, if he said so and kept persisting in creating trouble, because if the whole organisation believes one thing, even though it be erronious and somebody else starts on his own trying to put his ideas across then there is disunity and trouble, there cannot be harmony, there cannot be marching. When a change comes it should come from the proper source, the head of the organisation, the governing body, not from the bottom upwards, because everybody would have ideas, and the organisation would disintegrate and go in a thousand different directions. Our purpose is to have unity.

Q. Unity at all costs?

A. Unity at all costs, because we believe and are sure that Jehovah God is using our organisation, the governing body of our organisation to direct it, even though mistakes are made from time to time.

Q. And unity based upon an enforced acceptance of false prophecy?

A. That is conceded to be true

Q. And the person who expressed his view, as you say, that it was wrong, and was disfellowshipped, would be in breach of the Covenant, if he was baptized?

A. That is correct.

Q. And as you said yesterday expressly, would be worthy of death?

A. I think - - -

Q. Would you say yes or no?

A. I will answer yes, unhesitatingly.

Q. Do you call that religion?

A. It certainly is.

Q. Do you call it Christianity?

A. I certainly do.

Mr. Fred Franz also gave the following testimony:
    Q. Where on that particular point does the adherent to the Society find any enlightenment?

    A. In the publication that he reads.

    Q. Must he read them all to arrive at the fact that upon this one point Judge Rutherford was in error?

    A. It isn't necessary for him to read that Judge Rutherford is in error on that point. What he is interested in is the present truth. The up-to-date truth.

    Q.Yesterday's errors cease to be published today, do they?

    A. Yes, we correct ourselves.

    Q. But not always expressly?

    A. We correct ourselves as it becomes due to make a correction, and if anything is under study we make no statement of it until we are certain.

    Q. But one may not assume that Judge Rutherford did not publish until he also was certain?

    A. He published only when convinced, and he withheld publication until he was convinced he was correct.

    Q. So that what is published as the truth today by the Society may have to be admitted to be wrong in a few years?

    A. We have to wait and see.

If you are interested in a copy of the complete trial it can be obtained from - The Scottish Record Office, H.M. General Register House, Edinburgh, Scotland. Ask for the Pursuer's Proof of Douglas Walsh vs. The Right Honourable James Latham Clyde, M.P. P.C., as representing the Ministry of Labour and National Service.