In the January 1, 2013 Watchtower, on page 8, there is a box entitled “Have Jehovah’s Witnesses Given Incorrect Dates for the End?” In excusing our wrong predictions we state: “We agree with the sentiment of longtime Witness A. H. Macmillan, who said: “I learned that we should admit our mistakes and continue searching God’s Word for more enlightenment.”
A fine sentiment. Couldn’t agree more. Of course, what is implied by this is that we have done just that very thing—admitted our mistakes. Only, we haven’t really. Well, kinda…sometimes…in a roundabout way, but not always—and we never apologize.
For example, where is the admission in our publications that we misled people regarding 1975? Many made life altering decisions on the basis of that teaching (my parents included) and suffered hardships as a result. Of course, Jehovah lovingly provides and he did, but the fact that he covered for them, doesn’t excuse the error of men. So where was the admission of guilt, or at least of error, and where was the apology for the part they played?
You might say, but why should they apologize? They were just doing the best they could. We all make mistakes. It could be argued that we should have known better and that we are individually responsible. After all, the Bible clearly says no man knows the day or hour. Quite true. So how can we blame them? We should have rejected this teaching out of hand knowing that it conflicted with God’s inspired word.
Yes, it could be argued that way, except for a couple of little things.
1) This is what we were told about Jesus warning:
(w68 8/15 pp. 500-501 pars. 35-36 Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975?)
35 One thing is absolutely certain, Bible chronology reinforced with fulfilled Bible prophecy shows that six thousand years of man’s existence will soon be up, yes, within this generation! (Matt. 24:34) This is, therefore, no time to be indifferent and complacent. This is not the time to be toying with the words of Jesus that “concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matt. 24:36) To the contrary, it is a time when one should be keenly aware that the end of this system of things is rapidly coming to its violent end. Make no mistake, it is sufficient that the Father himself knows both the “day and hour”!
36 Even if one cannot see beyond 1975, is this any reason to be less active? The apostles could not see even this far; they knew nothing about 1975.
2) We are told we should consider the words handed down in our publications to be on a par with God’s word because they come from “Jehovah’s Appointed Channel of Communication”. See Are We Nearing a Tipping Point?
Apparently, some brothers in 1968 were raising a hand of caution in the face of all this 1975 talk by pointing to Jesus words about no one knowing the day and hour and they were being chided for “toying with God’s word”. Given that and given that we are expected to believe what we are taught if we do not want to be testing Jehovah in our heart, it is hard to ridicule such ones for jumping on board the organizational bandwagon.
There was significant pressure to conform. Many did. We were wrong and now we are being told that whenever we have been wrong in the past, we have freely admitted it. Except, we haven’t. Not really. And we never, ever, apologize.
Have we changed our modus operandi with this latest Governing Body? Do we freely admit our mistakes now? Let’s be clear. We’re not talking about a tacit admission of error framed with a buck-passing phrase like “some have thought…” (as if the mistake wasn’t made by the Governing Body at all, but some unnamed group) or with the dismissive passive tense like “at one time it was believed that…”. Another tactic is to blame the publications themselves. “This understanding differs from what was previously printed in this publication.”
No, we’re talking about a simple, plain admission that we were wrong about our previous understanding. Do we now do that as the January 1, 2013 Watchtower implies?
Not really. The most recent tactic is to simply state a new understanding as if there were nothing that had preceded it. For example, the latest “new truth” about the “ten toes” of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the immense image is the fourth “new truth” on the subject. Since we’ve reversed ourselves on this three times, we must have been wrong the first and third time—assuming we are correct this time.
I’m sure most of us would agree that we don’t really care that much if this understanding of the “ten toes” is right or wrong. It doesn’t really affect us one way or the other. And we can understand the Governing Body’s reticence in admitting that they’ve flip-flopped on this interpretation a total of four times. No one likes to admit they’ve been wrong before. Fair enough.
To put this clearly, we don’t mind that the Governing Body has made mistakes. That’s inevitable, especially for imperfect humans. We do mind that they don’t admit to them, but even that is understandable. What human likes to admit he’s been wrong. So let’s not make an issue of that.
What we are taking issue with is the public statement that the Governing Body has ‘learned that it should admit its mistakes’. That is misleading and dare we say it, dishonest.
If you take exception with that statement, then please use the comment section of this site to list the publication references where there is evidence to back up their assertion. We would consider it an honor to be corrected on this matter.