Forty-sixth anniversary message from Peking [Beijing], China, by the founder and editor in chief.
I AM WRITING this 46th anniversary "Personal" from our apartment where Mrs. Armstrong and I are being housed by the government in the guest "State House," in Peking [Beijing], China. It is indeed a gratifying experience to write this "Personal" for the 46th anniversary number at a time when I have been privileged to be the first church leader from the Western world of Christianity to be invited to confer with government leaders, and to speak here as the guest of the government. You will read my personal report of our visit here starting on page 2. It was approximately 53 years ago that the idea of publishing a monthly magazine to be called The Plain Truth was born in my mind. I know now that God inspired it. At the time I was continuing in study and research for God's TRUTH, following an initial intensive almost night-and-day study to prove whether evolution is the true means by which mankind appeared on the earth—to prove also, whether God actually exists! I had disproved the evolutionary theory after careful study through the works of Darwin, Haeckel, Huxley and other defenders of the hypothesis. I had PROVED, and been able to prove to professed atheists, the existence and reality of the living GOD. Further, I had proved conclusively the veracity and divine inspiration of the Holy Bible as God's Word and message to mankind. I had been forced to give up nearly all Christian teachings I had absorbed from attendance at Sunday school and church from infancy until age 18, when I lost interest in religion. Much more, at age 34 my whole life had been changed by this intensive study. My life from that point was given over to Jesus Christ, "If He could use it", for I had learned that He had bought and paid for it with His life's blood. He has used it in changing thousands of lives. I had become excitedly intrigued by the new TRUTHS I was finding revealed in the Bible. I was experienced in writing both advertising copy and magazine articles. Early in 1927 I began writing in article form some of these truths I was discovering in the Bible. It was only natural that God led me then to conceive of publishing a new magazine making PLAIN these marvelous TRUTHS revealed in the Bible. I wanted to get across to a biblically illiterate public an UNDERSTANDING of God's Word! I felt then—and I know now—that God was leading me in this. My reading audience would be the general public—not those who considered themselves Bible students. But how would I publish it? I had no money—in fact my family was actually going hungry—my advertising income had been cut to $75 per month from one client only. And how would I gain subscribers? One thing I settled then and there. Since it would carry God's TRUTH, it could not be sold. God's Word says, "Buy the truth, and sell it not." Yet it must never be given except on request. Undaunted by apparent impossibilities, I nevertheless took the first step. I employed a professional letter artist to design a front cover, with the name "The Plain Truth," and under it, "a magazine of understanding." That was as far as I could go. I had to trust God to open the way to carry it on from there. I am reminded of the experience of the children of Israel migrating out of Egyptian slavery, under Moses. They got as far as the Red Sea, and there they were blocked. Before them was the sea, but no bridge and no boats. Behind them Pharaoh's army was advancing to drive them back. They had to rely on GOD to provide a way of crossing. And God did! And so God provided the way to start the new magazine, The Plain Truth—but He made me wait seven years before He did! But I knew then, as I do today, that the reading general public is not much interested in the things of God. Perhaps most families have a Bible somewhere in the home, since the Bible is the world's No. 1 seller. But the chances were good that it would be covered with dust. The job of my envisioned new magazine would be to induce them to blow the dust off their Bibles and read them! Most of my years in magazines and newspapers were devoted to writing advertising copy. I had learned well a basic principle that would apply also to The Plain Truth. The writer of articles must know what the reader is interested in and his attitude—how he thinks about the subject you are writing about. You must approach the reader from his point of view. In my advertising years I had made numerous surveys to sample public opinion and consumer attitude toward the product or service being advertised. I knew the general reading public was not interested in the things of God. The world does not think spiritually. The worldly mind fills itself with physical and material interests. The reading public, I knew, was interested in news, human experience incidents, sports, games, entertainment. Television program managers today know the public likes to see violence, exciting incidents and sex. My job, in my new magazine, would be to 1) gain attention, 2) arouse interest and 3) create sufficient suspense in the article headlines or first paragraphs to retain the interest in things biblical and spiritual. That meant a magazine much more difficult to produce articles for than the popular magazines of mass circulation. And yet I actually aspired—back in 1927—to produce a magazine of MASS CIRCULATION! But I knew by then I would have to rely on God to make possible this "MISSION IMPOSSIBLE." But this whole Work, which did not get going for seven years—until January, 1934—started literally from NOTHING—except FAITH, that is! And you are holding in your hands now, as you read, the result of that FAITH—the mass-circulation Plain Truth, which has neared THREE MILLION COPIES monthly in five languages, circulated around the world—without subscription-price revenue and without paid advertising! It has taken FAITH, perseverance, courage, hard work. We have endured persecution and momentous opposition. But something REALLY GOOD has been produced in a world filled with evils where there is little GOOD! It is uniquely a FIRST—something never done before! It brings you a gold mine of TRUTH! It makes that truth PLAIN! It gives you UNDERSTANDING of the basic truths of life! So, to you, our wonderful family of readers, I say gratefully—HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!