Larger font
Smaller font
Inspiration/Revelation: What It Is and How It Works - Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font

    C. Major Matters of Substance

    On occasion the prophets, ancient and modern, did make major mistakes that needed the immediate correction of the Holy Spirit. Probably the most prominent example in Scripture is the incident recorded in both 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17. 46Incidentally, these two chapters, which were written by two different biblical authors, are almost word-for-word accounts of the same event; yet neither indicates the source of his data—an interesting situation in the light of the current controversy over a modern prophet’s “copying” from other sources!IRWHW 67.7

    One day King David called in Nathan, a literary but noncanonical prophet, to tell him of his concern over the lack of a suitable building to house the ark of the covenant and other liturgical furniture of the Jewish ceremonial ritual, which dated back to Sinai and the Mosaic tabernacle tent.IRWHW 67.8

    In what was probably an expansive mood, David suggests that an appropriate building be constructed, especially since the king himself now lives in a luxurious palace. Perhaps he indicated that this building, worthy of the worship of Jehovah, be on such a scale of magnificence that any Gentile traveling within a hundred miles of Jerusalem would detour just to see this wonder of the ancient world.IRWHW 67.9

    Nathan, perhaps thinking of the tremendous cost of such an edifice, and possibly having some misgivings about the prospect that he might be asked to lead out in a fund-raising campaign, displayed some reticence. And quite possibly David, sensing that reticence, suggested further that he, the king, would pay the entire cost out of his royal treasury.IRWHW 67.10

    At any rate, Nathan now becomes as enthusiastic as the monarch; and gives his wholehearted approval of the project.IRWHW 67.11

    That night, when Nathan was back in his home, God came to him and told him, in effect, that he had not properly represented Jehovah’s will when he gave the prophet’s cachet to the king’s proposal. Nathan should have checked with “headquarters” first before endorsing the project.IRWHW 67.12

    Nathan was instructed to go back to the king the next day and tell the monarch that God appreciated the generosity which prompted such a magnificent plan, but that it was not God’s will for the temple to be built by David. Instead, it would be Solomon’s temple, for David had been a man of war, a man of bloodshed. David could draw the blueprints and specifications, he could hire the contractors and artisans, and he could even provide the money to pay for it. But it would be Solomon’s temple, not David’s.IRWHW 67.13

    Nathan, probably somewhat abashed, manfully returned to the king the next day to tell him of the heavenly amendments to the royal plan. And David, “a man after his [God’s] own heart,” concurred and said, “so be it.” And so it was.IRWHW 67.14

    In more modern times, God’s most recent prophet of record, Ellen White, had several experiences in which she took positions contrary to the will of God, and the situation was sufficiently serious for God to intervene to correct the matter, again working through the prophet to accomplish that end.IRWHW 67.15

    One such incident was the resolution of the question of the correct time to begin observance of the Sabbath. 47The chronological events of this experience are told in Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: Messenger to the Remnant (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1969), pp. 34-36. Seventh-day Adventists originally learned of the seventh-day Sabbath through the labors of Seventh Day Baptist adherents, who observed the day from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. Some Seventh-day Adventists followed the example of the Seventh Day Baptists in this sunset-to-sunset observance.IRWHW 67.16

    Three other positions were also taken by Seventh-day Adventists: (1) Some in Maine advocated a sunrise Saturday to sunrise Sunday observance, based upon a misunderstanding of Matthew 28:1 (“In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week”). (2) Some “legalists” held out for “legal” time—midnight to midnight. (3) And a third group held for “equatorial time.” On the equator the sun daily rises at 6:00 a.m. and sets at 6:00 p.m. Captain Joseph Bates was the leader of this group, and he had strong support from both James and Ellen White for his position.IRWHW 67.17

    The sunrise group was taken care of comparatively early, for in vision on one occasion Ellen White heard the angel quote from Leviticus 23:32, “From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.” Most Seventh-day Adventists, however, continued to follow equatorial time.IRWHW 68.1

    In the summer of 1855 James White requested John Nevins Andrews, one of our earliest scholars, to research the subject. His conclusions were presented to the General Conference session in Battle Creek in November of that year. On the basis of nine Old Testament texts and two New Testament texts, Andrews demonstrated that, for the purpose of the immediate discussion, “even” and “evening” were synonymous with sunset.IRWHW 68.2

    Nearly all attending the conference accepted the Andrews conclusion. But the redoubtable Captain Bates held fast to his equatorial time theory. And Ellen White (who first learned of the Sabbath from Bates) sided with her mentor. The conference was thus left divided and in confusion.IRWHW 68.3

    God moved quickly. As this General Conference session drew toward its close, those present united in a season of earnest prayer for the prosperity of the cause, and during this prayer meeting Ellen White was taken off in vision and shown that sunset was the correct time to begin the observance of the Sabbath. Nearly everyone accepted the light from heaven, and the spiritual gift of prophecy again produced its fruit of unity.IRWHW 68.4

    It was clear to everyone at the conference that God was speaking and leading, for Ellen White was not now merely repeating her personal, previously held views. And the function of the Spirit of prophecy in the life and work of the church again was illustrated in this experience. For the gift of prophecy was never given to initiate, but rather to confirm and corroborate whether the church members were headed in the right direction on the basis of their Bible study, or to correct and redirect, if they had gone as far as they could and were headed in the wrong direction.IRWHW 68.5

    Another incident in which Ellen White had to reverse an earlier position had to do with the proposed closing of Southern Publishing Association in 1902. 48Arthur Grosvenor Daniells, The Abiding Gift of Prophecy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1936), pp. 322-329.IRWHW 68.6

    Ellen White returned from nine years’ service in Australia in 1900 and located in the Napa Valley at an estate called “Elmshaven” near St. Helena, California. In 1901 she left early to attend the General Conference session, which would open April 2 at Battle Creek, traveling by way of Nashville, Tennessee, where her son Edson had begun a new private publishing enterprise. A shoestring operation, the printshop was first housed in a chicken house/barn, and was subsequently relocated in town in March 1900.IRWHW 68.7

    On the day the GC session opened, Ellen White penned “An Appeal for the Southern Work.” She spoke of the need for schools, sanitariums, and a publishing house where books could be produced for use by denominational workers in the south. She spoke of Edson’s limited operation, and urged the brethren to take it over since a larger building was necessary for the kind of program she envisioned.IRWHW 68.8

    This counsel to establish and equip a large publishing house was one of the first perplexities to confront Arthur G. Daniells, newly elected president of the General Conference. The church already had two publishing ventures, one in Battle Creek and one in Oakland, California. Both were in a state of “marked depression,” there being little demand for our literature at this time (there were only a few colporteurs in the field, and these were experiencing only average success). In fact, both publishing houses were taking in a substantial volume of commercial printing in order to maintain solvency.IRWHW 68.9

    The GC Committee felt the time was not opportune to take on a third house when the other two were barely functioning on half-time, and that such a move would serve only to drive all three houses further into commercial work.IRWHW 68.10

    But Daniells had complete confidence in Ellen White’s vision, for he had worked with her in Australia during the 1890s, and he persuaded the committee to ratify Heaven’s plan.IRWHW 68.11

    Then Mrs. White further complicated the situation for church leadership by urging the discontinuance of all commercial work at all of our publishing houses. This would mean closing half of the presses and dismissing half of the employees, and some members on the committee began to wonder out loud if the prophet (now 74 years of age) might not be suffering from senility. Some even felt the messages on the publishing work were not really inspired of God.IRWHW 68.12

    At the end of the year Daniells went to Nashville for the first annual meeting of the board of Southern Publishing Association, only to discover that during the first year of operation the house had lost $12,000, equivalent to the original capital invested in the venture! He was assured that they had now turned the corner; but at the end of the second year, and at the end of the third, the plant regularly continued to lose $1,000 a month.IRWHW 68.13

    An investigative commission was appointed. It visited Nashville, and returned with the recommendation that the printing equipment be sold to a junk dealer (the machinery was secondhand and “broken-down” when purchased, and they feared the boiler would explode at any moment) and that the “publishing” house be downgraded to a depository where books printed at the other two plants could temporarily be stored until needed by colporteurs.IRWHW 68.14

    The GC Committee still deferred to its prophet, and sent a small delegation to Elmshaven to present the hard facts to Mrs. White and receive (they hoped) her approval of their stop-gap plan to salvage the new publishing house.IRWHW 68.15

    Meeting with Daniells and Ellen White were: W. T. Knox, president of the newly-organized Pacific Union Conference (in 1909 he would be elected treasurer of the General Conference); W. C. White, the prophet’s son, traveling companion, and confidant; A. T. Jones, president of the California Conference (he would later defect and join John Harvey Kellogg in Battle Creek against Ellen White’s counsel); J. O. Corliss, a minister in California at the time who had pioneered the work in Australia with both the prophet and Daniells; E. R. Palmer, secretary of the General Conference; and Clarence Crisler, formerly Daniells’ private secretary and now stenographer to Ellen White.IRWHW 68.16

    Ellen White listened in silence to the tragic litany of failure reported by the brethren. She was deeply grieved and perplexed, undoubtedly in part because it was her son who had started the program, and because she had given her personal backing to the denomination’s taking it over in an expansion program.IRWHW 69.1

    Perhaps the committee members reminded her of her recently published counsel:IRWHW 69.2

    As church schools are established, the people of God will ... learn how to conduct the school on a basis of financial success. If this cannot be done, close the school until, with the help of God, plans can be devised to carry it on without the blot of debt upon it.... We should shun debt as we should shun the leprosy. 49Testimonies for the Church 6:217.

    Mrs. White finally spoke. She agreed that the publishing house must be put on a sound financial basis. “If it cannot, it had better be closed.” Pressed for a solution she did not have, Mrs. White finally conceded that the publishing house should be turned into a depository.IRWHW 69.3

    Daniells, fortified by Crisler with a transcript of Mrs. White’s written words in his pocket, boarded the train for Battle Creek, greatly relieved. He promptly called the GC Committee into session upon his return, and they as promptly voted the publishing house out of existence as a printer of literature, and then turned their attention to other, more pressing concerns.IRWHW 69.4

    A few days later a bombshell exploded in the form of a follow-up letter from Mrs. White. She now counseled not closing the printing operation at Nashville, but rather recommended that the brethren lay plans to prevent further indebtedness and move forward in faith; if the Lord’s counsel were followed, He would give success. With some embarrassment, undoubtedly, she said that the instruction she had given to the committee of visiting brethren was wrong. The very night after the meeting the Lord had given her a vision, showing her she was wrong, and telling her what course should actually be pursued.IRWHW 69.5

    On October 20, the day after the committee met under the large oak tree on the lawn at Elmshaven, Ellen White wrote A. G. Daniells:IRWHW 69.6

    Last night I seemed to be in the operating room of a large hospital, to which people were being brought, and instruments were being prepared to cut off their limbs in a big hurry. One came in who seemed to have authority, and said to the physicians, “Is it necessary to bring these people into this room?” Looking pityingly at the sufferers, he said, “Never amputate a limb until everything possible has been done to restore it.” Examining the limbs which the physicians had been preparing to cut off, he said, “they may be saved. The first work is to use every available means to restore these limbs. What a fearful mistake it would be to amputate a limb that could be saved by patient care! Your conclusions have been too hastily drawn. Put these patients in the best rooms in the hospital, and give them the very best of care and treatment. Use every means in your power to save them from going through life in a crippled condition, their usefulness damaged for life.”

    The sufferers were removed to a pleasant room, and faithful helpers cared for them under the speaker’s direction; and not a limb had to be sacrificed. 50Letter 162, 1902; cited in Daniells, pp. 326, 327.

    In a letter written several weeks later, addressed to “My Brethren in Positions of Responsibility,” Mrs. White pointed out thatIRWHW 69.7

    During the night following our interview in my house and out on the lawn under the trees, October 19, 1902, in regard to the work in the Southern field, the Lord instructed me that I had taken a wrong position. 51Letter 208, 1902; cited in ibid., p. 327.

    The prophet had erred, and the error was sufficiently serious to warrant the Holy Spirit’s stepping in immediately and correcting it so that there would be no permanent damage.IRWHW 69.8

    We do have a “more sure word of prophecy.” If the prophet in his or her humanity errs, and the error is sufficiently serious to affect the direction of the church, the eternal destiny of a member, or the purity of a doctrine, God moves in immediately through the prophet, to correct the error so that there is no permanent damage!IRWHW 69.9

    One other instance of Ellen White’s reversing herself and her position comes to mind in connection with the premature issuance of her Testimony No. 11. The brethren were trying to raise money to launch Battle Creek Sanitarium, and they knew that Ellen White had had a vision on the subject. They felt, logically, that if they could use her counsels in marshaling their arguments on behalf of the sanitarium, they could more quickly raise the funds they so desperately needed.IRWHW 69.10

    So they pressured Mrs. White to bring out Testimony No. 11 before she was prepared to hand it over to the printer. She acceded reluctantly to their importunings, but later regretted it; and in Testimony No. 12, which followed shortly, she publicly admitted that “under these circumstances I yielded my judgment to that of others and wrote what appeared in No. 11 in regard to the Health Institute, being unable then to give all I had seen. In this I did wrong.” 52Testimonies for the Church 1:563.IRWHW 69.11

    Elaborating, she said, “What appeared in Testimony No. 11 ... should not have been given until I was able to write out all I had seen in regard to it.”IRWHW 69.12

    A comparison of No. 11 and No. 12 shows a slight (but perhaps significant) shift in her theological position with regard to the relationship between health reform and the third angel’s message.IRWHW 69.13

    In No. 11 she wrote: “The health reform, I was shown, is a part of the third angel’s message and is just as closely connected with it as are the arm and hand with the human body.” 53Testimonies for the Church 1:486. In No. 12 she wrote: “The health reform is closely connected with the work of the third message, yet it is not the message.” 54Testimonies for the Church 1:559.IRWHW 69.14

    Concerning this undue pressure from church leaders, Ellen White vowed never again to be forced into an untenable position of writing on any subject before she felt ready:IRWHW 70.1

    I must be allowed to know my own duty better than others can know it for me, especially concerning matters which God has revealed to me. I shall be blamed by some for speaking as I now speak. Others will blame me for not speaking before.... Should I delay longer to speak my views and feelings, I should be blamed the more by both those who think I should have spoken sooner and by those also who may think I should not give any cautions. For the good of those at the head of the work, for the good of the cause and the brethren, and to save myself great trials, I have freely spoken. 55Testimonies for the Church 1:563, 564.

    Larger font
    Smaller font