(Investigator 217,  2024 July)

The Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses was issued annually from 1927 until 2017, initially only in English but by 2000 CE in 31 languages. (Yearbook 2001, p. 17) They were hardcover until 1997, and then paperback with many coloured  photos. 

The yearbooks replaced the "Annual Report" that used to be published in the December 15 Watch Tower, the purpose of which was:  "…encouragement to all who love the Lord and who delight to know the prosperity of the truth."

Until the early 1960s the yearbooks included a list of so-called "Ordained Ministers". These were missionaries, travelling representatives, and live-in workers at headquarters.

From 1948 a chart in each edition listed how many JWs were active in every country,  the attendance at the annual "Memorial", and the number of baptisms.

The presidents of JWs, J.F. Rutherford until 1941, then N.H. Knorr until the 1970s, edited the yearbooks.

Indoctrination by repetition

Until 1971 the yearbooks contained a brief report or anecdote from every country in which JWs preached.

From 1972 the yearbooks presented histories of JWs in particular countries, usually several countries in every edition, under the general heading "Acts of Jehovah's Witnesses in Modern Times".

This approach allowed for regular repetitions that JWs in the 1920s and earlier, when known as Russellites, taught "God's revealed truths",  "the light of truth", "Christian truth", and preached "the real kingdom", and defectors were the "evil slave class" of Matthew 24:48-51.

Here is an extract from the 1994 Yearbook, about JWs in Poland:

The Light of Truth Reaches Emigrants

As Poland came under the domination of other countries, conditions were at times very hard for the people. Many Poles, either willingly or unwillingly, moved abroad—some to the United States...

As an example, in a letter to the Watch Tower Society in 1891, C. Antos-zewski (then living in Chicago, U.S.A.) explained that though he grew up in the Russian sector of partitioned Poland and was reared by Catholic parents, he had been searching for the truth. When he came into possession of some of the Watch Tower literature, he became convinced that he had found what he was seeking. Almost every evening, he translated information from the books for another man from Poland who had also been hungering for spiritual truth. As Jesus advised, they did not 'hide this spiritual light under a basket.' Together they began to visit other Polish families to share the good news with them.—Matt. 5:3, 14-16.

Among the Polish immigrants were those who not only accepted precious Bible truths readily but also shared these with their family and friends in the Old Country. Some of them returned to the land of their birth in order to publicize the news of Christ’s presence. Under the heading "Progress of the Work Abroad," Zion’s Watch Tower of June 15, 1895, reported: "Brother Oleszynski, a Polander who received the truth into a good and honest heart some three years ago, has gone to his native land to search out consecrated ones to preach to them the grand gospel of ransom, restitution and the high calling."

At first they had to use whatever literature was available in English and German. But the work of sharing Bible truth with fellow Poles was greatly helped in 1909 when the Watch Tower Society published Polish tracts for free distribution...

Seeds of Truth Begin to Sprout

In the fall of 1905, the management of a Warsaw lace factory was taken over by a new director from Switzerland, a Bible Student named Mr. Bente... Soon they were holding regular discussions, considering current events in the light of God’s Word and with the help of Bible literature...

Yet, the light of Bible truth scarcely penetrated the darkness and went largely unnoticed except by close relatives and acquaintances of people already interested in the Bible. Nonetheless, the light did seep out beyond Warsaw.
(pp 175-176)

Who would recognize from such repeated "truth" statements that thousands of teachings and interpretations, including predictions for 1910, 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920 and 1925 were wrong and progressively discarded?  No one.

An example of the phrase "God's revealed truths" occurs in the same Yearbook when describing disputes in Belgium around 1914: "Pamphlets, putting more emphasis on personal opinions than on God’s revealed truths, started to circulate among the small groups." (p.44)

"God's revealed truths" implies infallibility, here emphasized by contrast with "personal opinions".

By means of the yearbooks the JWs leaders regularly indoctrinated their followers afresh into believing that the old interpretations were accurate and Christian churches spiritually blind for rejecting them.

From the yearbooks' repetitious descriptions of the old preaching as "light of truth" readers would conclude that Russellism and current JWs "truth" are identical. Therefore JWs who study the old writings such as The Finished Mystery (1917) often succumb to horror and lose faith.

Daily Texts

Until 1985 the yearbooks included "Daily Texts" which recapitulate points published in The Watchtower the previous year. After 1985 the Daily Texts were published as a separate book (in 114 languages in 2000 CE) titled Examining the Scriptures Daily.

When yearbook production stopped after 2017 a yearly chart of country by country statistics continued to be published on the official website.