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Ellen G. White: The Early Elmshaven Years: 1900-1905 (vol. 5)

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    Crisis in the South

    Here was the developing situation: James Edson White, after a reconversion in 1893, had unselfishly led out in the development of the work in the South, using the Morning Star, which he built, as a missionary boat. He prepared appropriate literature, such as Gospel Primer, to help finance the enterprise and to supply a teaching aid. With his new dedication and consecration, his labors were greatly blessed by God. As we have already mentioned, he weathered the opposition in the South as he worked for blacks and nobly pioneered in educational work among them. He led out in the formation of the Southern Missionary Society, an organization the General Conference recognized, to carry the burden of a developing work at a time when the church itself was largely underdeveloped in that area and for which finances were limited.5BIO 189.2

    But Edson White had one great weakness. He was not a financier. Again and again he had been warned and counseled by his father and his mother in his younger years. When he served as manager of the Pacific Press in the late 1870s, it came close to financial disaster. As he pioneered the work in the South he was especially warned by his mother of perils of his becoming involved in business ventures. He was a promoter, and to him every interest in which he was engaged gave promise of unfailing success. Others among his close associates did not share his optimism. But he dared to do what others would not attempt. In so doing he brought about a work that was effective in the winning of souls for the kingdom.5BIO 189.3

    A little printing press on the Morning Star made possible the issuance of literature to aid in the developing work. It was but logical that eventually a printing concern should be established at some permanent location in the South. Nashville gave promise of being a good location, so a building was secured and presses, paper cutters, and type were purchased. A dedicated staff launched into the work of a third publishing house in the United States. The overall scheme showed daring and optimism, but it had its weaknesses.5BIO 190.1

    God had opened up to Ellen White the need of publishing in the South, for the South, but also had indicated that its products should not be restricted to the South. At the General Conference of 1901 she spoke favorably of the steps taken. But under Edson White's unsteady financial hand, and with the use of worn-out equipment, losses mounted. And all this was taking place at a time when the attention of the denomination was being called to operating on a debt-free policy. In fact, this was a very strong point with Elder Daniells, the new church leader. He saw disaster ahead if the cause were to plunge into debt and stay there year after year, as it had in the late 1890s.5BIO 190.2

    Ellen White herself was deeply concerned about the mounting debt and urged that operations in all lines of denominational work be carried on a pay-as-you-go basis. She had counseled that debt should be shunned, and personal debt should be shunned as leprosy. As church leaders studied the worsening financial situation developing in Nashville, it seemed they must bring a halt to the losses. It seemed logical to take steps to reduce the newly established publishing concern to that of a book depository and the printing of only some tracts and materials that would be especially useful in the Southern States. From a purely business standpoint, this seemed sound, especially when the church had two well-established publishing houses in North America—one in Battle Creek and another at Oakland. Neither of these had sufficient denominational work to keep its presses active, and both continued to do commercial work. Why could not all of the literature that would be needed in the United States be issued from these two houses?5BIO 190.3

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