Until recently, if you wanted to obtain information from Watchtower publications going back to the 1950’s through the 1990’s, you either had to have the printed publications, access to the Watchtower Library CD-ROM, or worse, scans of the publications. This made the situation quite difficult for non-JW’s and their interactions with JW’s. Here’s why:
- A non-JW like me shouldn’t have a Watchtower Library CD-ROM to begin with. If a JW knew I had it, the conversation would end because I was considered either an apostate or dishonest (since the CD is for JW’s only).
- Most of the time, JW’s would refuse to even look (literally) at a scan of a publication. Often, they were concerned that it was somehow edited by apostates.
- It was easy for JW’s to dismiss old publications as “old light.” Since these old publications weren’t really studied anymore, JW’s often didn’t care to discuss it. That is, if it wasn’t on JW.org or a physical publication (not a scan) from the last 10-15 years, it wasn’t really up for discussion.
Finally, when JW.org added in their online library (which basically replicated the CD-ROM function), the conversation changed. Now there would be more accountability for the JW to own up to what the organization was teaching. For example, you can’t really accuse apostates for editing quotes or scans when you can simply pull the quote up on JW.org. This changed everything. Previous to the addition to the online library, I would tactically ask the JW I was studying with to bring me quotes from their CD-ROM in order to prove a point I was trying to make (e.g. the changes on “this generation” or blood transfusion policies). Remember, if I were to bring these quotes in, the study conductor would wonder how I got my hands on these (i.e. maybe Mike has been talking to apostates). This is why at one point I phased all my conversations to Bible only and ignored the publications altogether when trying to prove a theological point. Once the JW.org online library was added, the conversation would go something like this:
Mike: Since our discussion last week, I was able to do some research on the JW.org online library. I found this to be a very helpful tool in learning more about what JW’s believe. Can we discuss some of the things I researched?
JW: Yes, i’d be happy to. What did you find that you’d like to discuss?
Mike: the leaders in your organization make some very bold claims about themselves and some dates that I can’t find justification for in the Bible. Here’s a few things I pulled up that i’d like for you to explain to me…
While the online library only went back 20 years or so, it was still immensely helpful and kept the previously mentioned obstacles out of the way. However, I did wonder why the Watchtower didn’t also upload the older publications to the online library? Until now, I reasoned that the Watchtower would never upload their older publications. It would be too embarrassing for them. I must admit that I was wrong. We could all speculate as to why the Watchtower made this decision, but one thing is for certain: they aren’t afraid of this level of transparency. And apparently they aren’t overly worried about younger JW’s finding the articles about 1975 and other doctrines now rejected by the Governing Body (e.g. organ transplants), or non-JW’s studying to become JW’s (or, those looking for ammo to refute the JW’s) finding this information out.
With that said, I wonder if they’ll ever upload the pre-1950’s material? While I highly doubt it, I can no longer be sure. But what I can say is that making the 1950’s-1990’s material public and easily searchable may make matters difficult for the Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses. As to how difficult will be determined in time.