The History of Leadership



Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) was the original founder and first president of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society upon its incorporation.  Russell served as the teacher and guide for the organization and was responsible for all editorial content within the publications printed and distributed, thereby defining the religion through his writings which included Masonic and Occultist beliefs and symbolisms.  His work was so prolific that by the time of his death Russell had traveled more than a million miles and preached more than 30,000 sermons.  He had authored works totaling some 50,000 printed pages and nearly 20,000,000 copies of his books and booklets had been sold. 

As stated earlier, Russell believed that Christ had secretly arrived in the year 1874 and that he would establish the Kingdom of God on Earth in October of 1914.  He based this prophecy on a bewildering number of dates and data, which he recovered from his studies of the Bible and the Great Pyramids in Egypt.  He believed that God himself (minus any human construction efforts) placed these Pyramids on Earth as his “second witness” next to the bible. 

With this twist in his religious exploration, Russell introduced occultism into the JW by teaching that the pyramids in Egypt are divine omens and that they contained prophetic secrets known only to him.  So convinced was Russell of their mystic power, and his exclusive knowledge of their secrets, he and his followers spent a small fortune trekking to Egypt to observe them.

According to Russell, only by reading his books could one understand the bible or the pyramid mysteries and how they fit into the “Divine Plan.”  He stated that reading the bible alone would only lead one into “spiritual darkness.” 

One of the strangest “revelations” from the pyramids was his calculated date of 1914. The date was based on his measurements of the overall exterior of the Pyramids and certain interior passageways within the Pyramids. He said that 1914 would be the end of the world and God had revealed it to him exclusively.  Russell’s belief became a key teaching of the JW and from late in the 19th century, they taught that the “battle of the Great Day of God Almighty” (Armageddon) would happen in that year.  Russell’s movement expanded rapidly in the years leading up to 1914.

It is important to note that the ONLY writing contributor to the publications which were the basis of this religion were those of Russell and in 1912, Russell began to back-peddle somewhat when he wrote that, “while the prophecy remains valid, the power of the Gentiles (non-JW) could end either in October 1914 or October 1915.” 

In November of 1914, immediately after Russell’s prophecy had failed, he wrote that the period of transition could run a “good many years.”  The Watchtower magazine suggested that the destruction would happen “shortly after 1914 with the utter destruction” of other Christian denominations and the inauguration of Christ’s millennial reign. He first predicted that this would happen in 1915. Drawing a parallel with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Army in 70 CE, the 1915 Edition of “The Time Is At Hand” Russell wrote:

“The Gentile Times prove that the present governments must all be overthrown about the close of A.D. 1915; and parallelism above shows that this period corresponds exactly with the year A.D. 70, which witnessed the completion of the downfall of the Jewish polity.”

The key biblical component to the calculation was derived from the book of Daniel, Chapter 4 that refers to “seven times.  He interpreted each “time” as equal to 360 days, giving a total of 2,520 days and further interpreted this as representing exactly 2,520 years, measured from the starting date of 607 Before the Common Era (BCE), the date that Russell believed Jerusalem was destroyed.  Additionally, Pyramid calculations were printed in 1897 where he stated: “this measurement is 3416 inches, symbolizing 3416 years. This calculation shows A.D. 1874 as marking the beginning of the period of trouble.”  This cross-reference firmly established in Russell’s mind that October 1914 was the date for the Millennium.  When his 1914 date for the end of the world failed, he tried to cover his tracks.

There is an early diagram, currently held under lock and key within the historical archives of the JW, which reveal those calculations using his Pyramid measurements and multipliers from those scriptural passages combined with Masonic teachings.  As this diagram had been widely distributed to believers, Russell felt compelled shortly before his death to revisit the diagram and in the 1916 edition it was changed to read: “We find it to be 3457 inches, symbolizing 3457 years.  This calculation shows that the close of 1955 will be the beginning of the time of trouble.”  Amazingly, Russell’s pyramid actually grew 41 inches in 19 years!

As the year 1914 came and passed without the visible appearance of Christ or the massive genocide and the establishment of the new “Kingdom of God,” the one saving grace of the prophecy was the fact that the JW regarded the start of the World War I as confirmation that the process had started leading to “The End of The World as We Know It” and to Christ’s return.  Russell’s new teaching declared that 1914 was the year that Jesus invisibly began his rule from heaven.  It is interesting to note that one of the hypothetical observations in Russell’s theory was that Christ had returned to Earth in secret in 1874, but nowhere in this rhetoric is there any statement about how Christ returned to heaven to begin his rule.

In His Personal Life

On March 13, 1879, Russell married Maria Frances Ackley (1850-1938) after a few months’ acquaintance.  After 1900 Russell encountered agonizing problems in his personal life.  His wife left him in 1897, after 18 years of childless marriage, amid tension over her role as associate editor of the Watch Tower. 

In 1903 she sued for divorce with a scandalous case involving salacious accusations of alleged affairs between Russell and women who were attending Bethel as working volunteers.  In her suit for divorce, she claimed mental cruelty as a result of their marriage agreement of perpetual celibacy, hence the lack of children.  The case was publically dragged through the courts for years and her most damning testimony during the trial occurred when she alleged sexual misconduct between Charles and a then 16-year-old Watch Tower stenographer whom the Russells had cared for as a foster child.  In 1908, the judge granted a divorce from “bed and board” with alimony. 

In 1909 Russell moved his headquarters to Brooklyn, New York City and in 1911 the Brooklyn Eagle charged the “Pastor” with profiteering in the church’s sale of “miracle wheat” to members, who were told it would produce fantastic yields.  Russell traveled widely to visit his many congregations and while in Texas on Oct. 31, 1916, died of a heart attack while traveling on a train.  His last request, to die in a toga, was adhered to by using the sheets from his Pullman car.

Maria Russell paid her respects at Russell’s funeral by placing lilies of the valley, his favorite flower, on his casket, with a ribbon attached that said “To My Beloved Husband”. After Russell’s death in 1916, he was buried in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania under a large pyramid, 8 foot by 8 foot at the base and adorned with Freemason, cross and crown and other religious symbolisms which are in complete conflict with current JW teachings.

Maria Russell died at the age of 88 in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 12, 1938 from complications related to Hodgkin’s disease.


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