By the Editor
The Watchtower Study has changed a bit over the years.
The early Bible Students did not study the Watchtower magazine, but gathered in small groups to study the Bible and C.T. Russell’s six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures. The “Watchtower Study,” in the general format we know it today, did not begin until the late 1930s. It became, and still is, the companion “meeting” to the public talk.
The usual format will have the public talk starting promptly and lasting about thirty minutes. Then comes the Watchtower Study. There is no official “break” between meetings, but the congregation spends ten to fifteen minutes standing and singing Kingdom songs and for bowing their heads for the opening prayer. It’s during this time that the audience gets to stand and stretch, maybe make a run to the restrooms, and get settled for the study meeting. The Watchtower Study lasts about an hour, but often runs over if needed to cover all the assigned paragraphs.
Until the 1970s, the Watchtower Study Conductor would ask the questions first, and then moderate as members of the audience would answer. Another brother would then read the paragraph. Many in attendance didn’t study or even read the articles beforehand, and weren’t ready to answer. Others would be reading ahead of the group trying to prepare an answer for an upcoming paragraph.
Since the 1970s, the reader presents the paragraph first, and then the conductor asks the audience the questions related to the text.
Since the 1980s, both the meetings and the articles have been getting shorter. Study articles only appear in the “private [study] version” of the Watchtower and many are only 15-20 paragraphs long.
Referenced scriptures in the text are rarely quoted. This allows the Watchtower writers to apply whatever meaning they want to those Bible verses. This raises a question: If the brothers and sisters actually looked up all of those scriptures and read them in context with the verses around them, how many would they find that were either irrelevant – or even contradictory? The WT writers know they can take liberties with Bible quotes because the typical JW would not dare question anything presented by the “faithful and discreet slave.” To do so would be considered “questioning Jehovah’s organization on earth.”
The Watchtower also strongly discourages study conductors from adding their own commentary to the magazine text. A few years back they were counseled against “enhancing” the information, so now the meeting is pretty much along the lines of a “lather, rinse and repeat” presentation of the Watchtower study article.
By de-emphasizing the public talk, the Society is making the point that the Watchtower Study is the real reason for JWs to attend the Sunday meeting. They’ve all heard the same basic material covered in the public talks, and few (if any) of the public ever wander through the Kingdom Hall doors to listen to what amounts to a JW “sermonette.” The study edition of the Watchtower is designed for use by baptized Witnesses, their families, and unbaptized “interested persons,” at least those who seem to be progressing toward baptism.
Until a few years ago there was also a 15-minute break between the talk and the Watchtower Study. The Watchtower eliminated that welcome pause because so many JWs would sneak away between meetings. Likewise, many would also use the break to sneak in if they were late – or simply did not want to sit through another boring talk.
Brother K. Hall produced this great little video some time back that very clearly describes the reality of sitting through a Watchtower Study. Enjoy and feel free to comment. Those who have spent years going to these Kingdom Hall meetings will recognize most of the people portrayed in this humorous “documentary.”
Going to the Watchtower Study
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles about congregation meetings. This is also our second presentation of a video by “Brother K. Hall” a ‘born-in’ former JW who lives in Australia. He says his videos are about a child going to various meetings, “…with the idea that [they] would seem incredibly stupid, and yet be very realistic. [They don’t] contain any judgements, just depictions…” We’ll continue to present more of his videos as time and space allow. His current collection can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/user/KingdomHallOfJws.