The Mystery of 1888 - Chapter 8

CAN “WE SEE” BETTER THAN THE SEER?

Within the Seventh-Day Adventist Church today, there is not a person alive who was in attendance at the notable 1888 Minneapolis Conference. This means that everything known of this era must be obtained from the written record, the history that was made then and which cannot be changed now no matter what interpretation may be put on that history. Stated another way, for good or ill the record must be taken now by faith for just what it says.

There is an increasing number of young ministers in training at the Seminary, or out in the field with a few years service, including young ordained men, (as well as many older ones) who see in 1888 a great tragedy and they are beginning to voice their convictions in public from the pulpit. This is a result of study and seeing the matter in its historical significance and spiritual implications. A check of the Seminary library card catalog will indicate that more and more research is being done on the 1888 era of “our” history. The research is sincere and prompted by a desire for correct understanding and is not based upon who is for whom, or where a certain party may stand, or was the “doctrine” accepted or rejected. Much more is involved. A principle is at stake and this is becoming evident. If the “gray heads” now involved in most serious dialogue continue to contest the matter over “few,” “some,” or “many,” and do not see through to the heart of the problem, the enormous spiritual implications, then the generation now coming forward and soon to take over will move into places of responsibility and have no inhibitions about exposing all. They will go back to the sources and separate all that man has said or added or taken away from “thus saith the Lord.”

No matter how fondly any one of “us” may cherish “our” ideas, “we” will sooner or later be laid to rest — unless “we” as a generation are willing to die to our own concepts and take at face value, by faith, all that the Lord has said about 1888. To continue to rationalize is “our” doom!

It is entirely possible that messages from the Lord which “we” have long applied to the world, may in the final analysis prove to have been terrible prophecies of “our” failings. A minister who has sacrificed truth or even compromised to gain the favor of men and brethren, will as a false watchman be the first to fall, for destruction begins among those who have professed to be the spiritual guardians of the people. A very solemn and vivid picture of such a situation is given in The Great Controversy, beginning on page 654. This can well be read and studied for it may have in it much more than has been considered to date.

If there is any truth, any relevance in these observations, it means that E. G. White information now held in reserve because of personal acquaintance with workers of former years, or because of family relationships, or any number of other personal implications, will all in the future be made plain and open. This is as certain as history and may be witnessed in the Biblical portrayal of the whole life — all the secrets without repress — of any number of characters in sacred history. In due time no personal inhibitions will repress “our” true history of that decisive ‘88 Conference. With this approach, there remains a further most solemn consideration. The title of this chapter sets the premise before “us,” can “we see” better than the seer? The “seer” in this case is Ellen G. White. The specific consideration is:

ELLEN G. WHITE VERSUS ELLEN G. WHITE ESTATE

The magnitude of this inference dare not be underrated. Its seriousness is enormous — but so in the final atonement which is pending and which “we” face. The matter must be pursued.

  1. In the 1962 edition of Testimonies to Ministers, there is found on page xxxvi of the Historical Foreword, the following statement: “It is not the work of the custodians of the Ellen G. White writings to explain or interpret the counsels which have been given.” This is most reasonable and would seem to be correct in every way. Indeed, with all the thousands of pages that have been directed to the church by Ellen G. White, there is precious little that is not very clear and forthright leaving no place for interpretation or rationalization as to the intent of what she said or the meaning thereof. Notwithstanding this, the latest edition of Testimonies to Ministers has the most extended explanatory foreword of perhaps any E. G. White book ever published. To add to this, there is a lengthy Appendix such as none of her other books have. In all the Historical Foreword and the Appendix have a total of 36 pages. When it is considered that the previous edition of this book published in 1944 does not have a single page of Historical Foreword or one page or even one entry in an Appendix, it would seem strange that the 1962 edition should require 36 pages of special notes.

When an analysis is made of this material, a pattern emerges that is singular and most serious. It would be extremely difficult to read all of this without getting a very pronounced concept that the writings are being both “explained” and “interpreted.” In fact, the Preface to this Third Edition printed in 1962, states specifically on page xi: “The notes will aid the reader in ascertaining correctly the intent of the author in the messages here presented.”

  1. What are the messages presented and what do the notes say? Perhaps no compilation from the pen of Ellen White contains such a sustained tone of warning and entreaty and fearful accusations against men in responsible positions and the ministry in general, as does Testimonies to Ministers. Not only are reproofs and warnings given, but the terrible charge is made that all too often these have been evaded and interpreted and made void by the devices of men. This book contains perhaps more specific and direct reference to 1888 than any other published volume. It is in this area that the Historical Foreword and the Appendix play a prominent part. Of the forty-odd entries made in the Appendix, the largest group of references is to 1888. Some of the inspired statements to which they refer are dramatically impressive and very forthright! Here are some examples. The asterisk in each case is in the original and refers to the footnote which states, “See Appendix.”

Let not men feel that it is their prerogative to give to the world what they suppose to be truth, and refuse that anything should be given contrary to their ideas. This is not their work. Many things will appear distinctly as truth which will not be acceptable to those who think their own interpretations of the Scripture always right. Most decided changes will have to be made in regard to ideas which some have accepted as without a flaw. These men give evidence of fallibility in very many ways; they work upon principles which the word of God condemns. … That men should keep alive the spirit which ran riot at Minneapolis is an offense to God.” (P. 76.) (Note: This was written May 30, 1896, over seven years after the session and well beyond the time when “some” were to have made confessions.)

Men who are entrusted with weighty responsibilities, but who have no living connection with God, have been and are doing despite to His Holy Spirit. They are indulging the very same spirit as did Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and as did the Jews in the days of Christ. … ‘Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city.’ This prophecy was literally fulfilled by the Jews in their treatment of Christ and of the messengers whom God sent to them. Will men in these last days follow the example of those whom Christ condemned? These terrible predictions they have not as yet carried out to the full; but if God spares their lives, and they nourish the same spirit that marked their course of action both before and after the Minneapolis meeting,” they will fill up to the full the deeds of those whom Christ condemned when He was upon the earth.” (Pp. 78, 79.) (Note: Written May 1, 1895.)

I inquire of those in responsible positions in Battle Creek, What are you doing? You have turned your back, and not your face, to the Lord. … What is the message to be given at this time? It is the third angel’s message. But that light which is to fill the whole earth with its glory has been despised by some who claim to believe the present truth.” (P. 89.) (Note: Written in 1896.)

The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.” (P. 91.) (Note: Written in 1895.)

I would speak in warning to those who have stood for years resisting light and cherishing the spirit of opposition. How long will you hate and despise the messengers of God’s righteousness? God has given them His message. … If you reject Christ’s delegated messengers, you reject Christ.” (Pp. 96, 97.) (Note: Written in 1895.)

The prejudices and opinions that prevailed at Minneapolis are not dead by any means; the seeds sown there in some hearts are ready to spring into life and bear a like harvest. The tops have been cut down, but the roots have never been eradicated, and they still bear their unholy fruit to poison the judgment, pervert the perceptions, and blind the understanding of those with whom you connect, in regard to the message and the messengers. … There has been a departure from God among us. … Infidelity has been making its inroads into our ranks; for it is the fashion to depart from Christ, and give place to skepticism. With many the cry of the heart has been, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ Baal, Baal, is the choice. The religion of many among us will be the religion of apostate Israel, because they love their own way, and forsake the way of the Lord. The true religion, the only religion of the Bible, that teaches forgiveness only through the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour, that advocates righteousness by the faith of the Son of God, has been slighted, spoken against, ridiculed, and rejected.” (Pp. 467, 468.) (Note: Written Nov. 1890.)

A careful reading of the notes gives the definite impression that explanation and interpretation of the Ellen G. White statements have been attempted. The date this edition was published, in 1962, is relevant and lends weight to this fact. The two previous editions had no such comment. Why was there need in 1962 to interpret and supply notes that seem intended to give the impression that ultimately the ‘88 session came out not too badly? For example, consider Appendix, page 533, item for page 468:

Page 468. Slighted, spoken against, ridiculed, and rejected: Reference is here made to the attitude which some took in resistance to the emphasis given to the message of righteousness by faith at and following the General Conference session of 1888. See Historical Foreword for a fuller statement indicating that while some took the attitude here referred to there were many who received the message and gained a great blessing in their own personal experience.”

This Appendix comment cannot be supported in the context to which it refers and which is quoted above from pages 467 and 468. There is no way to construe this passage to infer “there were many who received the message.” Furthermore, it must be noted that this was written two years after the session and as the above quotations indicate the same train of thought continues from the Lord’s messenger for seven to eight years after the session without a change of sentiment.

Currently there has been the suggestion put forward that there was animosity against Ellen White writings prior to and at the ‘88 session, and that this was the root problem. It is very certain there was animosity. But if “we” at this late date rationalize and try to justify history to “our” liking and in the end refuse to accept all that the Lord’s messenger has said about what happened then, is not “our” condition and weakness exactly the same? Rebellion, rejection and insubordination is the same in any decade by whomever may participate.

  1. In a previous chapter of this study (Chapter six) reference was made to the stance taken by Olson and Froom regarding “no vote” being taken at the ’88 session, hence the rejection of truth could not have taken place. The fallacy of this premise has already been considered. The unique thing is to discover that the seed of this idea was planted by the Ellen G. White Estate in the Historical Foreword of the book under consideration. On page xxiv of this 1962 edition, the following statement is made: “No action was taken on the Biblical questions discussed.”

In 1966 this same idea was picked up and promoted by Olson: “No action whatever was taken by vote of the delegates to accept it or to reject it.” (P. 36.) His work was published posthumously under the sponsorship of the Ellen G. White Estate. (Cf. Olson, p. 8.)

A few years later, in 1971, the same idea was promoted and published by Froom and in no less than three places the premise is advocated. He says: “No vote on Righteousness by Faith was taken.” (P. 233.) “No vote was taken by the delegate leadership, at Minneapolis, rejecting the teaching of Righteousness by Faith. Indeed, no Conference vote of any kind was taken on the issue.” (P. 370.) “It is also to be noted that no subsequent vote — that is, following 1888 — was ever taken by any Conference, or responsible committee or institute, against the truth of Righteousness by Faith.”
(P. 373.)

How tragic to even consider the idea that a “vote” could or could not have any spiritual significance in preparing a people for the final atonement! Could a vote possibly send or withhold the Latter Rain? Will a vote usher in the second coming of Christ? The truth is, a vote was taken. Supra, P. 20.

  1. There is another proposition which Froom puts forward and on which much of his case is built. This is his “some” philosophy. Repeatedly, dozens of times, reference is made to the “some” who rejected the message, but only “some,” “not all,” while “some” accepted it, and “some” remained uncertain at first. (Cf. Froom, Pp. 365, 370.) The thrust of the argument is that the “some” who rejected were really insignificant in relation to the other groups.

The root of this idea is found in the Ellen G. White Estate Historical Foreword of Testimonies to Ministers, on page xxv, as follows:

Unfortunately, several among the leaders of our work connected with the General Conference and our institutions at Battle Creek ranked themselves on the negative side and established in the very heart of the work of the church a hard core of resistance. Within the next few years, many of those who had placed themselves in this camp saw their mistake and made heartfelt confessions. But there were some who stubbornly resisted. Some of these, connected with the business interests of the church and our institutions, made their influence felt through the 1890’s. It was of such that Ellen White in 1895 wrote as recorded on page 363: ‘The righteousness of Christ by faith has been ignored by some; for it is contrary to their spirit, and their whole life experience.’

In this volume, from page 76 and onward, frequent reference will be found to Minneapolis and its aftermath, and to the experience of some who were involved.” (Emphasis added.)

This use of this “some” by Ellen G. White, must be read in its context. To make this fit the numerical sense of “some” is to ignore completely the whole chapter in which this sentence is found. If this idea promoted by the Ellen G. White Estate and reiterated time and time again by Froom stems from this source, it means that a terrible misconception is being promoted in the name of Ellen G. White! It is in this chapter (TM pp. 359 - 364) entitled, “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me,” written in 1895 seven years after the session, that Ellen White uses some of the most emphatic language in print about the “center of the work,” about “men in high positions of responsibility.” The “some” to which she refers is none other than the leadership! The chapter must be read carefully to get the full import of the content found in such phrases as:

The General Conference is itself becoming corrupted with wrong sentiments and principles. … I have been shown that the Jewish nation were not brought suddenly into their condition of thought and practice. From generation to generation they were working on false theories, carrying out principles opposed to the truth, and combining with their religion thoughts and plans that were the product of human minds. Human inventions were made supreme. The holy principles that God has given are represented as the sacred fire, but common fire has been used in place of the sacred. Plans contrary to truth and righteousness are introduced in a subtle manner on the plea that this must be done, and that must be done, ‘because it is for the advancement of the cause of God.’ But it is the devising of men that leads to oppression, injustice, and wickedness. … False propositions are assumed as truth and righteousness, and then everything is worked in such a way as to carry out these propositions, which are not in accordance with the will of God, but are a misrepresentation of His character. … The high-handed power that has been developed, as though position has made men gods, makes me afraid, and ought to cause fear. … The people are learning that men in high positions of responsibility cannot be trusted to mold and fashion other men’s minds and characters. … At the time of the first advent of Christ to our world, the men who composed the Sanhedrin exercised their authority in controlling men according to their will. … Those in authority should manifest the spirit of Christ. … A man’s position does not make him one jot or tittle greater in the sight of God. … When men who profess to serve God ignore His parental character and depart from honor and righteousness in dealing with their fellowmen, Satan exults, for he has inspired them with his attributes. They are following in the track of Romanism. (TM Pp. 359 - 364.)

It is in this context, and just four sentences later that Ellen White says: “The righteousness of Christ by faith has been ignored by some. … “ That “some” is the leadership! The “blinded eyes of men” (P. 363) is an age-old disease, so the Lord in His mercy has given “us” a seer — if “we” will but accept His sight and guidance through her.

  1. The quotations in the previous section were written during the time of Elder O. A. Olson’s administration (1888 - 1897). They comprise but a very small fragment of the hundreds of pages of counsel that came to him during his tenure. It is obvious the words are very serious and the meaning cannot be evaded.

Both Olson and Froom extol the leadership of Elder Olson. Olson’s commendation is thus:

Elder Olson was a God-fearing man, and his soul was troubled over what he saw and heard in Battle Creek. … He gladly supported Sister White in her noble and persistent efforts to improve the situation. …” (Olson, P. 116.)

Froom uses about three pages in his book to portray “Olson’s Leadership Years.” The following are some descriptions given:

Olson seemed to sense the spiritual bearings of the questions at issue, and gave quiet but effective leadership to their solution. He joined wholeheartedly with Ellen White in revival meetings in the Review and Herald chapel and in the vestry of the Battle Creek Tabernacle, as well as in a continuing succession of camp meetings and ministerial institutes. … a man of piety … gravity. … earnest, dedicated, and balanced. … helped to bind the Church together at this most difficult time, and to advance the Message of Minneapolis. … His was a healing, unifying, and helpful influence. … the years of Olson’s administration saw a real revival and reformation. … Olson’s tenure of office was a time of awakening from Laodicean self-satisfaction and self-reliance, a renewal brought about through the growing acceptance of the message of Righteousness by Faith. … He fostered the study of the Spirit of Prophecy. … (Froom, pp. 361 - 363.)

The anomalies are enormous between this portrayal and that which Ellen White gives during and covering this period. Froom’s appraisal is absolutely opposite from that of the Lord’s messenger as will be seen in due course. In the meantime it must be noted that this amazing anomalous approach was instigated by the Ellen G. White Estate before either Olson or Froom went into print. The Historical Foreword states on page xxvi: “Elder Olson, a man in full sympathy with the emphasis placed on the truth of righteousness by faith, and one who was ever loyal to the Spirit of Prophecy counsels, found it difficult to meet certain of the problems at Battle Creek.”

Where in all the Spirit of Prophecy can support be found for the statement that Elder Olson was “one who was ever loyal to the Spirit of Prophecy counsels”? There is an abundance of evidence that is exactly the opposite. Why should men presume to speak words that so emphatically deny that which the Lord has said through His servant? To make this as clear as sunlight, note the following quotations and the years in which the messages were given.

For years I have carried a consuming burden for the cause of God in Battle Creek. I am now deeply troubled over the shape which matters are taking there, and the influence which is being exerted on the work everywhere. (Letter 53, 1895; Olson, P. 127.)

Elder Olson, the present state of things has continued long enough. Your eyesight has become imperfect. … I now beg of you to arise in the name of the Lord, and He will help you to retrieve the errors of the past, that are leading to serious results. (Letter 55, 1895; Olson, P. 127.)

I am sorry you have not regarded the warnings and instructions which have been given you as of sufficient value to be heeded, but by disregarding them before men who care naught for them, have made them a common matter, not worthy to have weight in your practice. Your practice has been contrary to these warnings, and this has weakened them in the eyes of men who needed correction, who in their life-practice have separated from God, and who have manifested a selfishness and harshness which should have separated them from the work long ago.

Brother Olson, you have lost much from your experience that should have been brought into your character building by failing to stand firmly and faithfully for right, braving all the consequences. (Letter, May 31, 1896.)

O my brother, my brother, watchman upon the walls of Zion, how could you move in such uncertain paths? It seems more than I can explain. How could you consent to propositions which came to you through the same fallen angel that tempted our first parents? (Letter July 5, 1896.)

He has not acted upon the light given. … He has ventured on, directly contrary to the light which the Lord has been giving him. … He does not regard the Testimonies. … Unmistakably Elder Olson has acted as did Aaron, in regard to these men who have been opposed to the work of God ever since the Minneapolis meeting. They have not repented of their course of action in resisting light and evidence. (Letter August 27, 1896.)

Then I wrote to Elder Olson, but while I was expecting to hear from him in regard to the communications I had entrusted to him, and which he was to read to those assembled in councils and board meetings, light came to me from the Lord that Elder Olson had neglected the trust given him, and had failed in doing his duty to read the things that I had given him, to the ones who must have them. … The only thing that I now regret is, that I did not, as I have done in the past, get out a testimony for our own people that they might not be left in darkness in regard to the movements in Battle Creek. The perverting of principles which would disconnect God from those who were handling sacred things. … I regret that in the place of entrusting the light given me with a few men in Battle Creek, I did not issue testimonies which would have come before the leading men throughout our Conferences. I supposed that the men at the heart of the work, when receiving the warnings and cautions given, would in a careful manner use these more private matters to enlighten our people and guard them. I did not suppose that those who claimed to believe the testimonies would lay them away and make no use of them which were to prevent a condition of things that was imperilling the Cause of God.

I had presented before me the dangers of Elder Olson and wrote to him personally in regard to them, and I thought he would take heed to the light given … but as he went directly contrary to the cautions and warnings given him, I was left to try some other way to get the light before the people. … (Letter, November 21, 1897.)

This same letter goes on to use such expressions as: “… men who were not worked by the Holy Spirit of God, but by a power that was from the inspiration of the devil. … there were so few consecrated to God to do His will that whatever I should send would be perverted, misinterpreted, mis-stated, misunderstood. … the very men are inspired by Satan.”

These are words to bring tears and remorse but words with meaning beyond dispute, and more could be quoted. Have these things been overlooked? How could the Estate instigate and then allow Olson and Froom to follow a course of lauding and praise when actually Ellen White says the opposite? How could men talk about “a real revival and reformation” when the Lord says years of “consuming burden” venturing on “directly contrary to the light which the Lord had been giving”? How dare men speak of a “time of awakening from Laodicean self-satisfaction” while the Lord pronounces, “men who were not worked by the Holy Spirit of God … inspired by Satan”? Such a situation presents a terrible mystery — perhaps the very mystery of iniquity. Would it not be better to keep silent rather than try to misinform? But, of course, even silence cannot contain truth forever, it must live and be proclaimed!

  1. The next consideration in this chapter must be given to Ellen G. White Estate Manuscript Release No. 253. This deals with a sermon given by EGW at the Ministerial Institute in Battle Creek, Sunday morning, March 16, 1890. This was well over a year after the ‘88 session. The sermon is nearly three pages in length of single spaced typing and is as forthright, emphatic, and positive regarding the “unbelief,” “darkest unbelief,” “miseries of unbelief,” such as that has been since we were in Minneapolis,” as anyone could expect to be found in a public address. Without reserve, the messenger points out the failure to recognize the Spirit of God; and the unbelief of the Jews in “that day” the same as “this day,” and placing themselves where God has “no reserve power” to reach them; where “every arrow in His quiver is exhausted;” and how “I feel this in every meeting where I have been;” “there is a pressure of unbelief;” a situation where all “the power of brain, and all the power of thought, and all the power of talk, as it has been the case here, to stay the work of God.” “Let me tell you, the testimony will be this: ‘Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida!’ … Now I know what I am talking about. …”

The agony of soul she felt breathes throughout the entire sermon. Eight times Minneapolis is referred to by name. Sixteen times at least, reference is made to the continuing opposition to the message and the position of responsible leadership on the wrong side at the time she was speaking! “I have told our brethren here again and again that God has shown me that he raised up men here to carry the truth to His people, and that this is the truth. Well, what effect did it have on them? They were just the same. …” “It is something beyond anything I have ever seen in all my experience since I first encountered the work. The people of God who have had light and evidence have stood where God would not let His blessing fall upon them.”

This sermon should be required reading for every leader and minister who has any interest in the truth of “our” 1888 history. When Ellen White finally comes to the last page of the sermon, she states as given in the Release No. 253:

Now brethren, we want to have the simplicity of Christ. I know that He has a blessing for us, He had it at Minneapolis, and He had it for us at the time of the General Conference here. But there was no reception.

It is this last sentence to which the Estate takes exception and therefore produced the Release and then adds the footnote:

The wording of this sentence is clearly faulty for, isolated, it is out of harmony with what follows and other of her statements relating to the General Conference of 1889. See Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 361-2. See also chapter, ‘The Ministerial Institutes and Their Fruitage,’ in Through Crisis to Victory, Pp. 66-81.

How could any man, or committee or board presume to add such a contradictory footnote? There is not a single line in the sermon to support such a prejudiced statement. She meant just what she said. Furthermore, the idea of “no reception” or in other words, a rejection, is used many times by the Lord’s messenger in other places and over a period of years. What justification can possibly be given by the Ellen G. White Estate for this contradictory footnote in Release No. 253?

  1. The growing liberty being taken “to explain or interpret the counsels which have been given” is very serious. The Review and Herald of Feb. 18, 1890, contains an item about Elijah that has been somewhat perplexing. This statement is found among many which appeared over a period of many months wherein repeatedly explicit or implicit reference was made to the rebellion at Minneapolis. A portion of the article is found in Testimonies to Ministers, p. 475. The article in full has since been published in 1 SM 406 - 416. The portion of deep interest as taken from the Review, reads as follows:

The Jews had tried to stop the proclamation of the message that had been predicted in the word of God; but prophecy must be fulfilled. The Lord says, ‘Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.’ Somebody is to come in the spirit and power of Elijah, and when he appears, men may say, ‘You are too earnest, you do not interpret the Scriptures in the proper way. Let me tell you how to teach your message.’ (R&H, Feb. 18, 1890.)

The Appendix in TM, P. 534 asserts: “When the article is read in its entirety it become apparent that Ellen White, in this statement made just a little more than a year after the Minneapolis Conference to a group in Battle Creek, was speaking of her own ministry.” It would seem very difficult to make the terminology used by EGW, fit the interpretation given by the Estate. “When he appears” would seem rather unusual wording if it means when “she” appears and does her work.

The Estate closes the Appendix note with: “That she was referring to her own experience is also made clear from the paragraph which follows, in which she declares: ‘I shall tell the truth as God gives it to me. …’ “The sentence in full context reads: “There are many who cannot distinguish between the work of God and that of man. I shall tell the truth as God gives it to me, and I say now, If you continue to find fault, to have a spirit of variance, you will never know the truth.” Further subsequent citations from this article read:

There are many among us who are prejudiced against the doctrines that are now being discussed. They will not come to hear, they will not calmly investigate, but they put forth their objections in the dark. They are perfectly satisfied with their position. (Quotes Rev. 3:17 - 19.) This scripture applies to those who live under the sound of the message, but who will not come to hear it. How do you know but that the Lord is giving fresh evidences of his truth, placing it in a new setting, that the way of the Lord may be prepared? What plans have you been laying that new light may be infused through the ranks of God’s people? What evidence have you that God has not sent light to His children? All self-sufficiency, egotism, and pride of opinion must be put away. … We are in danger of variance, in danger of taking sides on a controversial point; and should we not seek God in earnestness, with humiliation of soul, that we know what is truth? … When a message is presented to God’s people, they should not rise up in opposition to it …”

The content of the article makes it very difficult to support that “he” is “she,” consequently to state that this is “made clear” is to interpret under very strained circumstances. It seems self-evident that an appendix should not contradict that to which it is added, but once even the best of intentions cut loose from a firm “Thus saith the Lord,” there is no end to the inconsistencies which will be made manifest. Whether EGW was the “he” of Elijah in this passage is surely open to question. One thing is certain, Elijah comes at a time when Israel faces a supreme national crisis! There is another thing which is very clear but not mentioned by the Estate, and that is the whole article is under implicit reference to the “prejudice,” “objections,” “self-sufficiency,” “egotism,” “pride of opinion,” “variance” and “opposition” which had their roots in the 1888 Conference.

  1. Footnotes to “explain” and “interpret” are to be found in other publications from the Estate and of fairly recent date, since 1950. In Selected Messages, book 1, published in 1958, there is a note on page 359:

Items drawn from reports on the reception of the message of righteousness by faith as it was presented following the General Conference held at Minneapolis in 1888.”

The footnote uses the word “reception” and clearly the intent is to show that all went well following the ‘88 session. The chapter under reference is entitled, “A Truth Bearing Divine Credentials,” and is made up of a random selection of five articles taken from the Review over a period from Aug. 13, 1889 to Nov. 22, 1892, although not in chronological order. There is an additional item from Manuscript 10, 1889, but the circumstances surrounding the writing of this manuscript are not given nor is the recipient indicated. The disturbing thing is that the footnote is intended to give an impression and the excerpts quoted are intended to support that impression that there was a “reception of the message … following the General Conference held in Minneapolis in 1888.” It must be noted that the articles in context do not support this footnote. Here are some relevant citations listed in chronological order. Immediately following the quotation which closes on page 361 of 1 SM, there is this:

God has raised up men to meet the necessity of this time who will cry aloud and spare not, who will lift up their voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgressions and the House of Jacob their sins. Their work is not only to proclaim the law, but to preach the truth for this time,--the Lord our righteousness. … But there are those who see no necessity for a special work at this time. While God is working to arouse the people, they seek to turn aside the message of warning, reproof, and entreaty. Their influence tends to quiet the fears of the people, and to prevent them from awakening to the solemnity of this time. Those who are doing this, are giving the trumpet no certain sound. (R&H, Aug. 13, 1889; emphasis added.)

The article by EGW two weeks later is very relevant. It is not quoted in 1 SM, but should be noted:

Suppose a brother should come to us, and present some matter to us in a different light from that in which we had ever looked at it before, should we come together with those who agree with us, to make sarcastic remarks, to ridicule his position, and to form a confederacy to misrepresent his arguments and ideas? Should we manifest a bitter spirit toward him, while neglecting to seek wisdom of God in earnest prayer, — while failing to seek counsel of Heaven? Would you think you were keeping the commandments of God while pursuing such a course toward your brother? Would you be in a condition to recognize the bright beams of heaven’s light should it be flashed upon your pathway? Would your heart be ready to receive divine illumination? --No; you would not recognize the light. All this spirit of bigotry and intolerance must be taken away, and the meekness and lowliness of Christ must take its place before the Spirit of God can impress your minds with divine truth. … We should be ready to accept light from God from whatever source it may come, instead of rejecting it because it does not come through the channel from which we expected it. (R&H, Aug. 27, 1889; emphasis added.)

The Review for the next week, Sept. 3, 1889, contains the quotation as found in 1 SM 360, but the very next paragraph gives a different idea from “reception” and is quoted below, plus subsequent serious cautions about the fact “many will reject” the truth and stand in “danger of refusing light.”

The enemy of God and man is not willing that this truth should be clearly presented; for he knows that if the people receive it fully, his power will be broken. If he can control minds so that doubt and unbelief and darkness shall compose the experience of those who claim to be the children of God, he can overcome them with temptation. … It is perilous to the soul to to hesitate, question, and criticize divine light. Satan will present his temptations until the light will appear as darkness, and many wi11 reject the very truth that would have proved the saving of their souls. … The ministers have not presented Christ in His fullness to the people, either in the churches or in new fields, and the people have not an intelligent faith. They have not been instructed as they should have been, that Christ is unto them both salvation and righteousness. … Our present position is interesting and perilous. The danger of refusing light from heaven should make us watchful unto prayer, lest we should any of us have an evil heart of unbelief.” (R&H, Sept. 3, 1889; emphasis added.)

The next quotation in 1 SM is from the Review of Mar. 18, 1890, but before this issue was printed, three previous issues came out with pointed remarks indicating quite the opposite of “reception.” In sequence these messages follow.

Christ has made rich promises in regard to bestowing the Holy Spirit upon his church, and yet how little these promises are appreciated! We are not called to worship and serve God by the use of the means employed in former years. God requires higher service now than ever before. He requires the improvement of the heavenly gifts. He has brought us into a position where we need higher and better things than have ever been needed before. The slumbering Church must be aroused, awakened out of its spiritual lethargy, to a realization of the important duties which have been left undone. The people have not entered into the holy place, where Jesus has gone to make an atonement for his children. We need the Holy Spirit in order to understand the truths for this time; but there is spiritual drought in the churches. … God will not bless men in indolence, nor in zealous, stubborn opposition to the light he gives to his people. … They oppose they know not what, because unfortunately, they are leavened with the spirit of opposition. The loose, lax way in which many regard the law of Jehovah and the gift of His Son, is an insult to God. … Men must advance in the path of duty from light to a greater light, for light unimproved becomes darkness, and a means of treasuring up wrath for themselves against the day of wrath. … My brethren, if we were blind, we would not sin, but we have been privileged to look upon great light. … Many plead that their fathers believed certain things, that they loved God and were favored by Him, and therefore, we shall be favored in taking a like position. But we cannot stand where our fathers stood. We cannot be accepted of God in rendering the same service our fathers rendered. (R&H, Feb. 25, 1890; emphasis added.) (Note: Additional attention must be given to the thought and the marked emphasis on the unique calling to the last church, “higher service than ever before,” and “we cannot stand where our fathers stood.”

The reason men do not understand is because they fasten themselves in a position of questioning and doubt. They do not cultivate faith. If God gives light, you must walk in the light, and follow the light. … It is too late in the day to cry out against men for manifesting too much earnestness in the service of God. … Every line I trace about the condition of the people in the time of Christ, about their attitude toward the Light of the world, in which I see danger that we shall take the same position. … We shall have to meet unbelief in every form in the world, but it is when we meet unbelief in those who should be leaders of the people, that our souls are wounded. (R&H, Mar. 4, 1890; emphasis added.)

We should not be found quibbling, and putting up hooks on which to hang our doubts in regard to the light which God sends us. When a point of doctrine that you do not understand comes to your attention, go to God on your knees, that you may understand what is truth, and not be found, as were the Jews, fighting against God. Light came to them, but they loved darkness rather than light. When warning men to beware, to accept nothing unless it is truth, we should also warn them not to imperil their souls by rejecting messages of light, but to press out the darkness by earnest study of the word of God. Greater caution should be exercised by all, lest we reject that which is truth. … I have done what I could to present the matter. I can speak to the ear, but I cannot speak to the heart. Shall we not arise, and get out of this position of unbelief? (R&H, Mar. 11, 1890; emphasis added.)

These quotations have been long but they represent only a portion of the extremely serious counsel given on the subject. The next issue of the Review is that from which the Estate quotes a very short passage being only the first two sentences of the entire article. The remainder of the article is very clear and cannot be construed to fit the “reception” philosophy. Note in the following citation the terms used: “our brethren,” “older brethren … do not accept the message,” “men who refuse to receive truth,” “those at the head of the work keep themselves aloof from the message of God.”

You have been having light from heaven for the past year and a half, that the Lord would have you bring into your character and weave into your experience. … If our brethren were all laborers together with God, they would not doubt but that the message he has sent us during these last two years is from heaven. Our young men look to our older brethren, and as they see that they do not accept the message, but treat it as though it were of no consequence, it influences those who are ignorant of the Scriptures to reject the light. These men who refuse to receive the truth, interpose themselves between the people and the light. But there is no excuse for any one’s refusing the light, for it has been plainly revealed. … Shall we repeat the history of the Jews in our work? … How long will it be before the word of truth will have weight with you? How long will it before you will believe the testimonies of God’s Spirit? When is the truth for this time to find access to your hearts? Will you wait till Christ comes? How long will God permit the way to be hedged up? … How long will those at the head of the work keep themselves aloof from the message of God? … Suppose that you blot out the testimony that has been going during these last two years proclaiming the righteousness of Christ, who can you point to as bringing out special light for the people? … Where are the builders that care carrying forward the work of restoration? (R&H, Mar. 18, 1980; emphasis added.)

The understanding obtained in this study is not unique even though exactly opposite from the Estate. Elder A. G. Daniells read both the Mar. 11 and Mar. 18 Reviews and obtained precisely the same understanding as noted in this study and thereafter quotes from both these articles and makes summarizing remarks in the same vein. (Cf. Daniells, pp. 51-53.) He likewise quotes from the issues of Aug. 13, 1889; Sept. 3, 1889, and Nov. 22, 1892, and in each case draws a conclusion different from that of the Estate. (Cf. Daniells, pp. 47, 48; 43, 44, 56.) He draws from seven other issues of the Review during this period, and in each case his conclusions conform to this study and are in opposition to the Estate. (Listed chronologically: Mar. 5, 1889; July 23, 1889; Mar. 11, 1890; Apr. 1, 1890; May 27, 1890; Dec. 27, 1890; July 26, 1892.) The last reference is very dramatic and explicit and was given at a date nearly four years after the ‘88 session so that reference needs to be made to it. The portion in parentheses was not quoted by Daniells but is continuous within the quotation and has equal, if not even greater import.

(“Some of our leading brethren have frequently taken positions on the wrong side, and if God would send a message and wait for these older brethren to open the way for its advance, it would never reach the people. These brethren will be found in this position until they become partakers of the divine nature to a greater extent than ever they have been in the past.) There is sadness in heaven over the spiritual blindness of many of our brethren. (Our younger ministers who fill less important positions must make decided efforts to come to the light, to sink the shaft deeper and still deeper into the mine of truth.

The rebuke of the Lord will be upon those who would be guardians of the doctrine, who would bar the way that greater light shall not come to the people. A great work is to be done, and God sees that our leading men have need of greater light, that they may unite with the messengers whom he shall send harmoniously to accomplish the work that he designs they should.) The Lord has raised up messengers and endued them with His Spirit. … (R&H, July 26, 1892; Cf. Daniells, p. 52. Emphasis added.)

It is abundantly clear that these references from the pen of Ellen G. White do not give the idea of “reception” promoted by the Estate, indeed, they give the very opposite.

  1. It is self-evident that certain principles are basic in any historical research study. Notwithstanding the inherited and cultivated tendencies of the researcher to lay aside objectivity, ethics and honesty must prevail from a Christian standpoint. The weight of evidence to make truth known will overrule. The greater the attempt to sustain a promise that historically is false, the greater the ultimate confusion and horrible defeat.

Froom perceived and discussed this principle at length, pp. 364, 365. In part he says:

Regrettable Ploy of Reconstructed History — History has sometimes been reconstructed by attempted selectivity — that is, by using out of context or intent such citations as suit an objective — in an attempt to sustain a particular assumption or theory. But such a practice is neither ethical nor honest. … As men of integrity, we must have no part in such manipulation of historical episodes. Servants of the God of truth must ever use quotations, evidence, and lines or arguments in such a way as to honor Truth and its Author. (Froom, Pp. 364, 365.)

The principle here enunciated is right and proper and must be accepted and followed. It is in this context that the next point must be considered.

In chapter thirty-nine of his work, Froom proceeds on the premise that “there has been a steady growing emphasis on Righteousness by Faith in recent decades.” (P. 604.) Various authors are referred to in support of this idea, among them E. G. White. He states: “She rejoiced in the growing acceptance of Righteousness by Faith. Hers was an assuring, steadying, rallying voice. She ever identified herself with the Church and its triumphs. She was an Adventist optimist, yet realist.” (Pp. 604, 606.) In support of this unique idea that she rejoiced in “the growing acceptance of Righteousness by Faith,” a certain letter is quoted. It is a letter which the Ellen G. White Estate approves as upholding the postulation Froom makes, for the same letter was quoted in Appraisal in 1958, and in support of the same idea. Written in Sept. 1893, the one line quotation reads as follows: “We stood on the field of battle for nearly three years, but at that time decided changes took place among our people, and through the grace of God we gained decided victories.” (Froom, P. 606; Appraisal, p. 44.)

Does this one sentence really support Froom’s contention and likewise uphold the Estate as quoted in Appraisal? The entire letter should be released, so that it can become evident to all that there is in its context no burden of discussion of the growing acceptance or rejection of the message of Christ’s righteousness. The letter deals with health reform. Reference is made to it in Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 369, where an excerpt is identified as “Letter 40, 1893.” The extract deals with cheese being sold at a certain camp meeting and the attitude Dr. Kellogg took towards this and apparently with the support of Ellen White. The point must be pressed for release of this letter in full. Only then will it be known by all whether there has been a “manipulation of historical episodes.”

Seventh-Day Adventist history has been written and no effort in all the universe can change it nor can any apology alter a single facet of it. But it is possible that an attempt is being made now to interpret and cover-up certain episodes in that history in order to make it fit a public stance that has been taken by the church and published abroad? The amount of official material published since 1950 is considerable, totaling over 1,200 pages in three books. The more that is published, the greater the problem becomes. The confusion and anomalies developing are on the increase. There is a very sad credibility gap emerging. The last two publications, by Olson and Froom, are serious misfortunes and present apologies which will not bear analysis. To have the Ellen G. White Estate approve and condone these publications is tragic enough. But to go even further and seek to interpret, and to expound the “intent” of what Ellen G. White has said, presents a most solemn predicament. This is not to condemn any man or group of men. It only brings into focus a situation “we” face as a people! Pride is a terrible sin, as sacred history proves. Rebellion grows out of it.

For decades “we” have stood amazed at the way the world seeks every possible means to lawfully disregard the fourth commandment. The untenable, though sometimes plausible, excuses put forward are legion. The attempt to ignore and cover-up are distressing and ignoble.

The published positions “we” have accepted in recent years and the Historical Foreword as found in Testimonies to Ministers, and similar attitudes taken and promoted by the Ellen G. White Estate seem to be in the same vein.

Is it possible that “we” have fallen into some sort of benign cover-up conspiracy which “we” consider is justified for the sake of the dead and the preservation of denominational pride and reputation, but which in reality is a tragic fall into a kind of denominational Watergate?


Table of Contents of The Mystery of 1888  |  Chapter 7  |  Chapter 9
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