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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nathan H. Knorr (1905-1977)

Thursday, January 8, 1942, marked the end of the earthly life of seventy-two-year-old Joseph Franklin Rutherford. For twenty-five years he had been president of the Watch Tower Society. When the Society’s first president, Charles Taze Russell, died in 1916, the Bible Students were shocked and many wondered how they could carry on in God’s service. Furthermore, selfish men sought control of the Society and this posed problems for some time, though their opposition and schemes were completely overcome through divine aid. The death of J. F. Rutherford did not have such effects, however. Of course, foes of God’s people thought that the work of Jehovah’s witnesses would grind to a stop, but they were mistaken. “The theocratic organization proceeded without a halt or a stumble,” remarks Grant Suiter.

On January 13, 1942, all board members of the Pennsylvania and New York corporations used by God’s people met jointly at Brooklyn Bethel. Several days earlier, the Society’s vice-president, Nathan H. Knorr, had asked that they earnestly seek divine wisdom by prayer and meditation, and this they did. Their joint meeting was opened by prayer for Jehovah’s guidance, and after careful consideration Brother Knorr was nominated and unanimously elected president of the Society. “No one that I knew about even questioned the appointment of Brother Knorr,” says C. W. Barber, “and everyone was determined to stand shoulder to shoulder supporting him and proving our devotion to Jehovah’s organization. There was complete unity also among all the directors of the Society.” Many telegrams and letters were received showing that Jehovah’s servants world wide were unified and determined to carry on with the preaching work.

Nathan Homer Knorr was born at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1905, of American-born parents. When he was sixteen years old, he became associated with the Allentown congregation of Bible Students, and in 1922 attended the Cedar Point convention, where he made up his mind to resign from membership in the Reformed Church. An opportunity to be immersed in water to symbolize the dedication of his life to Jehovah God came on July 4, 1923, while Frederick W. Franz, from Brooklyn Bethel, was visiting the Allentown congregation. Brother Fred Franz delivered the baptismal discourse, and eighteen-year-old Nathan H. Knorr was among the individuals baptized that day in the Little Lehigh River. This has always been a joyful day to remember, and what a pleasure it has been for Brother Knorr to be privileged to work side by side with Brother Fred Franz for over fifty-one years now!

About two months later, on September 6, 1923, Brother Knorr became a member of the Brooklyn Bethel family. C. W. Barber recalls: “The noontime that he arrived, upon coming home for lunch, we saw a young brother busy putting his clothes and things into one of the dressers in room A-9. Not knowing that a change had been made and that he was taking the place of a brother that had been moved to WBBR on Staten Island, a few words of remonstration followed. ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘We’ve got enough in this room already and it’s too crowded.’ We figured one more in the room was too much, but things calmed down, and the young brother turned out to be none other than Brother N. H. Knorr. Not exactly a suitable welcome, but we often enjoyed talking about this situation years later and laughed heartily. Right from the start it was evident that he had not come to Bethel to do anything else but apply himself to the work at hand. He applied himself vigorously in the shipping department and made rapid progress in handling responsibilities and doing whatever he was asked to do.”

Later he served on the dispatch desk at the Society’s printing plant and on February 8, 1928, he was appointed by Brother Rutherford to be a copartner in the publishing of the Golden Age magazine. Clayton J. Woodworth was editor; Robert J. Martin, business manager, and Nathan H. Knorr, secretary and treasurer. When factory manager Robert J. Martin died on September 23, 1932, J. F. Rutherford appointed N. H. Knorr to serve in that capacity. On January 11, 1934, Brother Knorr was elected as a director of the Peoples Pulpit Association (now Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.). He was made the Association’s vice-president on January 10, 1935, following the death of E. J. Coward. On June 10, 1940, Brother Knorr became a director and was chosen as vice-president of the Pennsylvania corporation, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. His election to the presidency of both societies came about on January 13, 1942. He was also made president of the International Bible Students Association. As to Brother Knorr’s attitude toward the work, J. L. Cantwell recalls: “In 1940, when there was so much persecution going on, branches were being closed down and mob action was taking place. One night we were working overtime at the factory. A ‘fire drill’ was called and, among other things, Brother Knorr, who presided at the resulting meeting, said: ‘I know that things look bad for the work. But something all of us here will want to remember is: If Armageddon comes tomorrow, we want to have run the factory all night tonight.’”

- 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, WTB&TS

EVEN BEFORE World War II came to an end, in fact while the work was closing down on all sides, N. H. Knorr turned his attention to providing even further strength to the organization with the thought of expansion. He began with the individual minister. Knorr knew that the organization could be no stronger than the individuals who compose it. He knew the New World society could accomplish no more than its associated ministers were qualified to do. He knew that if each one of Jehovah's witnesses were to fulfill his own personal vow of dedication to Jehovah he must individually be trained and equipped. (See Luke 12 47.) After he became president he wasted no time in setting in motion what has probably become one of the most extensive educational campaigns ever conducted. This is the way it came about.

Knorr's close association with Rutherford in his last days enabled him to know precisely what he had in his mind concerning the operation of the organization. Of course, he had thoughts too where the work could be expanded; so when the theocratic organization began to operate in 1938, even before he became president, Knorr saw the need of training those in the organization to handle their work efficiently, and to coordinate all efforts for expansion of the work. He encouraged and succeeded in setting in motion an arrangement whereby all countries would be divided into zones, each zone composed of twenty congregations. A zone servant was appointed to visit the congregations in his zone. In addition assemblies were arranged for all the congregations in a zone. Rutherford recognized the benefits such an arrangement could bring, and on October 1, 1938, set it in operation. Within three years the number of active ministers in the field had more than doubled. However, Rutherford felt the work had accomplished its purpose by that time, and it was discontinued December 1 1941 In a special letter issued to all congregations he encouraged all of Jehovah's witnesses to stand on their own feet and maintain their ministry, come what may. This certainly seemed like needed counsel because, within a few days after his letter was circulated throughout the United States, this country was involved in World War II, and only a little more than a month later Rutherford himself was dead. Knorr realized much work lay ahead and that many more people were yet to see the need to dedicate their lives to Jehovah God and serve him before the full end was to come at Armageddon. Because of the severe trials coming on Jehovah's witnesses, they would need further counsel and training, especially new ones associating with the work. So in the fall of 1942, his first year as president, he reorganized the zones into circuits and set in motion a revised arrangement of the work. Four years later, he further revised the work and again arranged for assemblies to be held twice a year in each circuit. Again expansion came rapidly.

- Faith on the March, by A.H. Macmillan

On June 8, 1977, after an illness of some months, Nathan H. Knorr, president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania since January 13, 1942, succumbed at Watchtower Farms, Wallkill, New York. Frederick W. Franz has succeeded him as president of this legal agency used by Jehovah’s Witnesses for administrative and publishing purposes. Interestingly, in a front-page article, Georgia’s Columbus Times commented: “Wednesday night, June 8th, a great man died. His greatness was not due to being a powerful politician nor a commercial giant, for upon his death he had few worldly goods.” It was observed that few persons even recognize his name, “although his life work has had a profound effect upon all nations and has touched the lives of most of their citizens.” Mentioning how this was so, the newspaper said that Mr. Knorr had spoken at hundreds of assemblies held by Jehovah’s Witnesses world wide, including “the world’s largest religious assembly” in New York city (in 1958), a gathering “attended by over 250,000, filling simultaneously the Polo Grounds and Yank[ee] Stadium.” The Columbus Times also referred to his role in instituting congregational schools and one for foreign missionaries (the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead). “So,” remarked the newspaper, “every time one of Jehovah’s Witnesses knocks on your door and offers you a free home Bible study you personally are benefiting from this extension of Mr. Knorr’s Bible training program for Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The number of Witnesses has risen from 115,240 in 1942 to 2,248,390 in 1976. However, the Times pointed out that, like the apostle Paul and Apollos, “Mr. Knorr has only ‘planted and watered, but God has made it grow,’ and Mr. Knorr has never claimed credit for himself for this phenomenal increase in the numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”—1 Cor. 3:5-8.

- 1977 Awake, published by the WTB&TS

Nathan Homer Knorr (April 23, 1905 - June 8, 1977) was the third president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, becoming so on January 13, 1942, replacing Joseph Franklin Rutherford, who had served in the position since 1916.

Nathan Knorr was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He began to show interest in the International Bible Students at age 16. He left the Reformed Church in 1922 and was baptized on July 4, 1923 as a Bible Student following a baptism talk by Frederick W. Franz, with whom Knorr became close friends. Knorr became a volunteer at the Watch Tower headquarters in Brooklyn on September 6, 1923, and became its factory manager in September 1932. On January 11, 1934, at age 28, Knorr was elected director of the Peoples Pulpit Association (now Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.), and was made its vice president the following year. In January 1942, Knorr became president of International Bible Students Association and the corporations now known as Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. Knorr was married to Audrey Mock in 1953. He died from a cerebral tumor June 8, 1977 while receiving hospice care at an extension of world headquarters, quieter Watchtower Farms in Wallkill, New York.

Knorr contributed significantly to Jehovah's Witnesses, with an intense educational focus. Within a month of his taking office, arrangements were made for an Advanced Course in Theocratic Ministry, a school that featured Bible research and public speaking. On September 24, 1942, Knorr suggested that the Society establish another school to train missionaries for service in foreign countries. The suggestion was unanimously approved by the board of directors. The first class of the Gilead School - the name given to this missionary school - commenced February 1, 1943. Knorr arranged for the creation of new branch offices in many countries. In 1942, when he became president, there were 25 branch offices worldwide. By 1946, despite the events of World War II, the number of branch offices increased to 57. Over the next 30 years, the number of branch offices increased to 97. The doctrine of not accepting blood transfusions was also introduced during Knorr's leadership.

From October 1, 1972, adjustments began in the oversight of the congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses. The writing of Aid to Bible Understanding led to a new understanding of the Bible's mention of elders and "older men" and seems to have been the catalyst for the religion to adjust its organizational structure. A revision to the Watchtower Society's organizational manual in 1972 explains, "it is noteworthy that the Bible does not say that there was only one 'older man', one overseer, in each congregation. Rather, it indicates that there were a number of such." There would no longer be one congregation servant, or overseer, but a body of elders and ministerial servants. One elder would be designated chairman, but all the elders would have equal authority and share the responsibility for making decisions. Later, the chairmanship of the Governing Body would also be affected, rotating in alphabetical order. In December 1975, leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses passed from the president of the Watch Tower Society to the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. Beginning January 1, 1976 the Governing Body formed several committees to oversee publishing, writing, teaching, service and personnel. Knorr worked with the new arrangement until illness shortly before his death forced his move from the world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. Following Knorr's death in June 1977, Frederick W. Franz succeeded him as corporation president.

- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 12/15/2010