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

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    Chapter 18—The 1903 General Conference Session

    At Two-Thirty Friday afternoon, March 27, Elder A. G. Daniells called the thirty-fifth General Conference session to order (Ibid., 1903, 1). Although only eighty-eight delegates were present that Friday afternoon, the session opened in normal fashion. The union conferences for which provision had been made two years before were taken into the conference, and also twenty-three local conferences around the world.5BIO 243.1

    The meetings on Sabbath and Sunday were devoted to the three angels’ messages and the finishing of the work of God in the world. Ellen White spoke on Sabbath morning. Her sermon was followed in the afternoon by Elder G. A. Irwin's address on “The Song of Victory.” Elder Daniells spoke in the evening on “Our Time, Our Work, and Opening Providences.” Thus the session was off to a wholesome start.5BIO 243.2

    The business of the conference proper began Monday morning at nine-thirty. After a roll call of the delegates, the chairman, Elder Daniells, gave his address. In his opening remarks he spoke of the efficient functioning of the union conferences and observed, “Scores of men are now getting the experience of burden-bearing that was previously confined to comparatively few.”—Ibid., 18.5BIO 243.3

    He then introduced the very difficult financial situation in which he found the denomination, and the security of its institutions. Speaking of God's leadings through the Spirit of Prophecy, he stated that “another phase of reform to which this people were called was to arise and roll away the reproach of debt that rested so heavily upon them.”—Ibid. The General Conference had been operating on a cash basis, reported Daniells, and had reduced the debts of the denomination by $250,000 (Ibid., 19). World membership at the end of 1902 stood at 67,000 (Ibid., 120).5BIO 243.4

    The first motion placed before the General Conference was significant and far-reaching:5BIO 244.1

    That Elder A. G. Daniells, chairman of the General Conference Committee, be, and is hereby, instructed to appoint a committee of five to examine into the financial standing of all our various institutions, and to investigate their relationship to the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, and to devise and recommend some plan to this conference whereby all institutions, as far as possible under existing corporation laws, be placed under direct ownership, control, and management of our people.—Ibid., 21.5BIO 244.2

    It was right to the point and highlighted important work to be taken up at the session. It was referred to the Plans Committee, to be brought to the session in proper fashion. But another issue that threatened the cause lurked in the shadows—pantheism, propagated by Dr. Kellogg and his associates.5BIO 244.3

    In her address on Sabbath morning, Ellen White had brought lessons from the sending out of the twelve spies and the experience of Israel. She dealt with the fruits of unbelief and pointed to the importance of trust and obedience. At this meeting she said:5BIO 244.4

    Brethren and Sisters, from the light given me, I know that if the people of God had preserved a living connection with Him, if they had obeyed His Word, they would today be in the heavenly Canaan.—Ibid., 9,5BIO 244.5

    She spoke of the work before the church: 5BIO 244.6

    God wants to work for His people and for His institutions—for every sanitarium, every publishing house, and every school, but He wants no more mammoth buildings erected, for they are a snare. For years He has told His people this.—Ibid., 10,.

    That night in vision she was shown what she should bring to the session. This led her to request the privilege of addressing the delegates on Monday afternoon. In place of the regular business meeting she presented a sermon on Josiah's reign. She spoke of the investigation that was made by the king and of the punishment for apostasy. She declared:5BIO 244.7

    Today God is watching His people. We should seek to find out what He means when He sweeps away our sanitarium and our publishing house. Let us not move along as if there were nothing wrong. King Josiah rent his robe and rent his heart. He wept and mourned because he had not had the book of the law, and knew not of the punishments that it threatened.5BIO 245.1

    God wants us to come to our senses. He wants us to seek for the meaning of the calamities that have overtaken us, that we may not tread in the footsteps of Israel, and say, “The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord are we,” when we are not this at all.—Ibid., 31,.5BIO 245.2

    Then she called most earnestly for a change: 5BIO 245.3

    In every institution among us there needs to be a reformation. This is the message that at the last General Conference I bore as the word of the Lord. At that meeting I carried a very heavy burden, and I have carried it ever since.

    We did not gain the victory that we might have gained at that meeting. Why? Because there were so few who followed the course of Josiah. There were those at that meeting who did not see the work that needed to be done. If they had confessed their sins, if they had made a break, if they had taken their stand on vantage ground, the power of God would have gone through the meeting, and we should have had a Pentecostal season.—Ibid.5BIO 245.4

    She related the vision of what “might have been.” She called for teachers and leaders of church institutions to be sound in the faith, and to be faithful to the principles of the third angel's message. She pointed out that God wants His people to know that they have the message as He gave it in 1843 and 1844. “We knew then what the message meant, and we call upon our people today to obey the word, ‘Bind up the law among My disciples.’”—Ibid., 32,.5BIO 245.5

    As she closed her remarks, G. A. Irwin, chairman of the meeting, commented:5BIO 245.6

    We have been told before it was announced from this platform today of the possibilities of the last General Conference. We have been told what God wanted to do at that conference; we have been told what He was graciously waiting to do; but that we failed to do the part we ought to have done, and so failed of receiving the blessing He desired to bestow upon us. And the saddest thought of it all is that the cause of God is years behind as the result of our failure at that meeting.—Ibid., 33,.5BIO 246.1

    He asked: 5BIO 246.2

    Shall we simply listen to the stirring appeal that has been made in our hearing through the servant of the Lord, indited by the Spirit of God, and then dismiss this meeting, and go away to our several cares and responsibilities?—Ibid.

    This did not seem to be the will of the congregation; and they moved into a testimony meeting in which many heartfelt confessions were made.5BIO 246.3

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