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He identified the religious movement as "Bible Students," and more formally as the International Bible Students Association.In January 1917, the Watch Tower Society's legal representative, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, was elected as its next president.They consider the use of God's name vital for proper worship.

In 1932, Rutherford eliminated the system of locally elected elders and in 1938, introduced what he called a "theocratic" (literally, God-ruled) organizational system, under which appointments in congregations worldwide were made from the Brooklyn headquarters.

From 1932, it was taught that the "little flock" of 144,000 would not be the only people to survive Armageddon.

His election was disputed, and members of the Board of Directors accused him of acting in an autocratic and secretive manner.

In June 1917, he released The Finished Mystery as a seventh volume of Russell's Studies in the Scriptures series.

Membership declined during the late 1970s after expectations for 1975 were proved wrong. It was announced that, starting in September 2014, appointments would be made by traveling overseers.

In a major organizational overhaul in 1976, the power of the Watch Tower Society president was diminished, with authority for doctrinal and organizational decisions passed to the Governing Body.

The book, published as the posthumous work of Russell, was a compilation of his commentaries on the Bible books of Ezekiel and Revelation, plus numerous additions by Bible Students Clayton Woodworth and George Fisher.

As a result, Watch Tower Society directors were jailed for sedition under the Espionage Act in 1918 and members were subjected to mob violence; the directors were released in March 1919 and charges against them were dropped in 1920.

The number of baptisms increased significantly, from about 59,000 in 1966 to more than 297,000 in 1974.

By 1975, the number of active members exceeded two million.

Rutherford centralized organizational control of the Watch Tower Society.