In the spring of 1975, Frederick W. Franz, considered since the mid-1920s to be the Watchtower’s “official oracle,” stressed the urgency of the Christian preaching work during his public speeches. Why? Because he believed that 6,000 years of human history would end that next September or soon after.
Franz said the timing coincided with the human species about to starve itself to death as well as being faced with poisoning by pollution and destruction by nuclear weapons. In talks from as far back as the mid-1960s, Franz emphasized that “Time is short. Time is running out, no question about that.” The expectation fostered by Franz was that the battle of Armageddon would happen by the autumn of 1975, and the long-looked-for thousand-year reign of Christ would begin.
One staff worker at headquarters wrote,
“Proclaiming 1975 had helped to generate a tangible excitement about the nearness of Armageddon and had nearly doubled the number of Witnesses. Record numbers were being baptized and we were working day and night at the factory in Brooklyn to supply Witness evangelists with literature to distribute door-to-door. We were riding an emotional high of excitement full of confidence in our prophetic expectations. However, as the 6,000 year chronology became questionable, things began to unravel.
“As the year 1975 progressed with no ‘End’ in sight, suppressed doubts began to surface among many other Witnesses also. Was the End really so imminent? Many of us had said that the exact timing of the End was not important. We had dedicated our lives to Jehovah and we would continue in His organization regardless. Still, we had made life choices based upon the Watchtower Society’s 1975 chronology. Some of us had passed up higher education. Others had missed business opportunities or used up assets because ‘the time left was short.’ Some Witnesses had deferred marriage or having children.”
The nearer September 1975 came, the more backpedaling Franz did as uncertainty grew and this could be seen from articles in Watchtower literature. After 1975 came and went, Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders began to blame the flock for running ahead of Jehovah or accused them of reading more into the 1975 prediction than what was actually stated, much to the dismay of many of the Witnesses.
Nearly two years later, on June 22, 1977, two weeks after the third president of the Watch Tower Society, Nathan H. Knorr, died, 83-year-old Frederick W. Franz was elected to the office of president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Inc.
Reporting on the election, note how Franz was described in the August 1, 1977 Watchtower:
“His outstanding reputation as an eminent Bible scholar and his tireless work in behalf of Kingdom interests has won him the confidence and loyal support of Jehovah’s Witnesses everywhere.”
Really? – “Everywhere”? Not exactly true! Harry Peloyan, the Awake! editor, was furious that “Freddy” was elected president by the other members of the Governing Body as were many other insiders at headquarters. Peloyan went to see Lloyd Barry to tell him of his resentment and that of other important staff members because it was Franz that came up with the 1975 fiasco that resulted in as many as 500,000 Witnesses leaving the faith and the near collapse of the organization.
Donations were down. Subscriptions for the Watchtower and the Awake! magazines were few and far between. To many, electing Franz to the presidency looked as though he was rewarded for the 1975 debacle. Barry tried to defend the choice by saying Franz was next in line for the presidency, but that carried no weight with those who resented the choice that was made for the reasons given here and who believed Franz should have been skipped over and demoted. The sentiment among many at headquarters was that ineptness should not be rewarded.
By the way, a reporter, who worked for Time magazine, interviewed Franz when he became president of the WTB&TS in 1977 (he had been Vice-President of the Watch Tower Society). That interview actually resulted in a story appearing in the July 11, 1977 issue of Time.
Privately, the reporter said that in all his years as a reporter interviewing “important” people, after spending one hour with Fred Franz, he came away with the impression that Freddie was so deranged as to be “certifiably insane.”
Lectures by F. W. Franz regarding 1975 can be found at: http://watchtowerdocuments.org/audio-archives/
53rd Class of Gilead Graduation – ref: 1975/Elder Arrangement Fred Franz (1972)
“What is the Significance of 1975?” Fred Franz (1975)
“Hold Fast Our Faith in God’s Word” – ref: 1975 Fred Franz (1975)
“Time In Which We Are Now Interested” Fred Franz (1975)
“Life Everlasting in God’s Approaching New Order” Raymond Franz (1976)