Chapter 38

Hermeneutics/7

1919 Bible Conference/History Teachers Council

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The Locked-up Manuscript
The Fruit of Ellen White’s Ministry
The Core Issue
Dark Cloud of Verbal Inspiration
What Should We Learn From the 1919 Conference/Council?
W. C. White Not Present
Downside of Verbal Inspiration
Endnotes
Study Questions


“The ‘pioneer position’ urged that the writings could not be divided into ‘inspired’ and ‘uninspired’ sections, but seemed to have no real means of dealing with apparent discrepancies. The ‘new view position,’ with its emphasis upon context, offered a means of explaining those apparent discrepancies. Each side seemed to have additional concepts that could have been useful to the other. Sufficient opportunity for a dialogue seemed to be present.”1

In 1919 a Bible Conference was held July 1-19, and a Teachers Council July 20-August 1. About sixty-five people attended these two meetings, not all present for both. About twenty-eight teachers are listed in attendance at the Council, representing fourteen colleges (2- and 4-year).2

Stenographers transcribed not only the lectures but also much of the ensuing discussions—a massive record of 2,494 pages. However, nearly half of these pages are duplicates, with the first copy totaling 1,308 pages. Of the 1,308 pages, about 1,100 are from the Bible Conference, the remainder from the Council.3

This material lay unnoticed in the General Conference archives until a year after the establishment of the General Conference Archives in 1983. Why were these records placed in the archives? The answer lies in the record itself. Many delegates talked freely, often in strong disagreement. Some would make comments that they would moderate after discussion. The judgment of many suggested that no possible good could come from publicizing the disagreements among leading Adventist thinkers over such colorful topics as “the Eastern question.” Some believed that it would be “a rather hazardous thing to throw this out all over.” Others wanted the material reduced about fifty percent and provided to the delegates only. Some wanted a synopsis sent to all church members, and others wanted nothing sent out.

After listening to the discussion, A. G. Daniells, president of the General Conference and chairman of the Bible Conference, said: “I sometimes think it would be just as well to lock this manuscript up in a vault, and have anyone who wishes to do so come there for personal study and research.”4


The Locked-up Manuscript

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It is more than interesting that the president’s suggestion (which was eventually followed) was made subsequent to a spirited discussion regarding such subjects as the Eastern question and the Arian-Trinity controversy.5 Unfortunately, some have used Daniells’ statement to include the discussion on the authority and inspiration of Ellen White, a discussion that took place on July 30 and August 1, two weeks after Daniells’s suggestion “to lock up this manuscript.”

The two-day discussion in the Teachers Council on the role and function of Ellen White illuminated how Christians through the centuries, especially since the Reformation, have been in disagreement as to how God speaks through His prophets. One of the Adventist advantages is that Adventists lived very closely to Ellen White throughout her seventy-year ministry. They saw all aspects of her life and work. But even then, some Adventists strongly advocated the verbal inspiration position while others, more keenly aware of the process of revelation/inspiration, maintained the thought-inspiration position. This fundamental contention lay at the bottom of the discussion in 1919.

With W. E. Howell as chair of the Council, Daniells was asked to make the opening statement. He referred to his confidence in Ellen White even though he “had perplexities through the forty years” of his ministry, “but time has helped me to understand; and I have concluded that we do not see from the Lord’s standpoint.”

One of his concerns was the charge that he himself was a “doubter of the Testimonies” because he did not believe that they were verbally inspired.6 He appealed to the teachers: “Oh, I would feel terribly to have this denomination lose its true, genuine, proper faith in this gift that God gave to this church in these messages that have come to us. I want that we shall stay by this clear through to the end.”7


The Fruit of Ellen White’s Ministry

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Daniells declared that the “strongest proof” for the genuineness of the prophetic gift in Ellen White was its “fruits , . . . not in physical and outward demonstrations.”8 He went on to suggest how this “gift” should be taught to others. He would “begin with the beginning of this movement. At that time here was a gift to that individual, at the same time came this movement of the three-fold message. They came right together in the same year. That gift was exercised steadily and powerfully in the development of this movement. The two were inseparably connected, and there was instruction given regarding this movement in all its phases through this gift, clear through for seventy years.”

He then reviewed how the fruit of Ellen White’s writings had made the difference in the church’s attitude toward the Bible and its study; in the church’s commitment to evangelism, in this country and the world over; in the Adventist habit of unselfish support of this worldwide outreach; in its community help work; in its health and medical missionary programs, and in its “wholesome” educational philosophy. He concluded his talk with this challenge: “If that [recital of her impact on all areas of Adventist life] is not evidence of the source of this gift among us, then I do not know what would be evidence.”

In reference to a question regarding Ellen White’s relationship to the Bible, Daniells made it clear that it would be wrong to say that the “Spirit of prophecy [meaning Ellen White’s writings] is the only safe interpreter of the Bible.” After all, he said, what then would we do with people who become Adventists in other lands, “who have not seen a book on the Spirit of prophecy?”

Daniells spoke of his talks to ministerial meetings where he urged workers to study the Bible first and then to use “the Spirit of prophecy to enlarge our view. . . . The earnest study of the Bible is the security, the safety of a man.”

On that point, W. W. Prescott and W. E. Howell added to Daniells’s illustration as to how Ellen White’s writings opened the deeper meaning of certain questions and texts that had troubled them.

Prescott then asked Daniells how Ellen White should be used to “settle historical questions.” Daniells gave the proper answer: “Sister White never claimed to be an authority on history, and never claimed to be a dogmatic teacher on theology. She never outlined a course of theology. . . . She just gave out fragmentary statements, but left the pastors and evangelists and preachers to work out all these problems of scripture and of theology and of history.”

Recalling the 1911 revision of The Great Controversy, he said that such work did not shake his faith but “there are men who have been greatly hurt by it, and I think it is because they claimed too much for these writings.”

Regarding the conflicts between the King James Version and the appearance of more modern translations, Daniells responded that he did not “think Sister White meant at all to establish the certainty of a translation. . . . She used whichever version helps to bring out the thought she has most clearly.”

The question relating to verbal inspiration arose again, to which he said: “I cannot camouflage in a thing like this. I have stood through it about forty years unshaken, and I think it is a safe position; but if I were to take the position that some do on the Testimonies, I would be shaken. I would not know where to stand.”

Questions arose regarding Ellen White’s counsel on health reform. Daniells’s answer reflected the principles that Ellen White taught: “It is well known from the writings themselves and from personal contact with Sister White, and from common sense, that in traveling and in knowledge of different parts of the world, that the instruction was never intended to be one great wholesale blanket regulation for peoples’ eating and drinking, and it applies to various individuals according to their physical condition and according to the situation in which they find themselves.”

He went on to remind the group that “Sister White was never a fanatic, she was never an extremist. She was a level-headed woman. She was well-balanced. I found that so during a period of forty years of association with her.”

W. E. Howell observed that those who use two positions of inspiration, one for the Bible and one for the writings of Ellen White, are in danger of making “extreme and radical positions.” Yet, he also observed that the verbal-inspiration position seemed to be more prevalent among church members and many ministers, and that to correct this misunderstanding would take much wisdom.

C. L. Benson noted that letters had already arrived from members at home, wondering about the positions of the leaders of the General Conference. Benson voiced his fear that church members, being influenced by their local leaders would consider that those representing thought inspiration were “liberal.” If history and Bible teachers taught what they had been hearing at the Council, “our schools are going to be at variance entirely with the field.”

J. N. Anderson put the question clearly: “Can we hold something in the back of our head that we are absolutely sure about, and that most of the brethren stand with us on?—can we hold those things back and be true to ourselves? And furthermore, are we safe in doing it? Is it well to let our people in general go on holding to the verbal inspiration of the Testimonies? When we do that, aren’t we preparing for a crisis that will be very serious some day? It seems to me that the best thing for us to do is to cautiously and very carefully educate our people to see just where we really should stand to be consistent Protestants, to be consistent with the Testimonies themselves, and to be consistent with what we know we must do, as intelligent men, as we have decided in these meetings.”


The Core Issue

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M. E. Kern probably got to the heart of the discussion more quickly than others. He asked how a man, in the same talk, could say “that we cannot depend on this historical data that was given in the Spirit of prophecy, and then assert his absolute confidence in the Spirit of prophecy and in the Testimonies.” Then his central question: “What is the nature of inspiration? How can we feel and believe and know that there is an inconsistency there—something that is not right—and yet believe that the Spirit of prophecy is inspired?”

Kern, an educator, knew how difficult it would be to explain all this to young people: “We may have confidence ourselves, but it is hard to make others believe it if we express this more liberal view [thought inspiration without a positive basis for confidence]. I can see how some might take advantage of this liberal view and go out and eat meat every meal, and say that part of the Testimonies is not reliable.”

Kern pressed on: “Can we, either in the Bible or the Testimonies, play upon a word and lay down the law and bind a man’s conscience on a word instead of the general views of the whole scope of interpretation? I do not believe a man can believe in the general inspiration of the Spirit of prophecy and still not believe that vegetarianism is the thing for mankind. I can understand how that testimony was written for individuals, and there are exceptions to it, and how Sister White in her human weakness could make a mistake in stating a truth, and still not destroy the inspiration of the Spirit of prophecy; but the question is how to present these matters to the people.”

A few minutes later he said: “I wish we could get down to bedrock. I do not think we are there yet.” He was seeking for the principle behind the way God deals with human prophets. He was asking that we should be looking at the message rather than the messenger, the content rather than the container. He believed that the consistency and coherence of the message is the basis for its integrity, not the human elements associated with certain details of the message.

G. B. Thompson seemed to be aiming at Kern’s concern: “My thought is this, that the evidence of the inspiration of the Testimonies is not in their verbal inspiration, but in their influence and power in the denomination.” He then related a remarkable incident. A year earlier, Ellen White had written a letter to him and A. G. Daniells, but had not mailed it until a few days prior to the Conference. When they received it, the letter described a meeting held in the church the night before! Daniells read the testimony at the Conference, and the audience of 3,000 was gripped with awe. Thompson spoke for many: “I was convinced that there was more than ordinary power in that document. . . . It carried the power of the Spirit of God with it.”

But Kern felt that more needed to be said: “This question of verbal inspiration does not settle the difficulty. . . . She was an author and not merely a pen.”


Dark Cloud of Verbal Inspiration

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The Council participants were finding it difficult to see through the dark cloud of verbal inspiration that had enveloped many (perhaps most) of the church’s ministers and teachers in 1919. The end result was a church membership, for the most part, that accepted Ellen White’s writings without understanding the hermeneutical principles that Mrs. White herself had penned. As elsewhere in Christendom, verbal inspiration led to a sense of infallibility, either in the words of the Bible or in Ellen White’s writings. Nothing seems to be more unnerving (to the verbal inspirationist) than to be told that Ellen White’s words (or certain Biblical words or details) need to be understood in terms of “time, place, and circumstances.” To speak in this way awakens insecurity and the cry of “liberalism.”

Further complicating the 1919 event was the fact that W. W. Prescott had been given a major role in presenting many subjects. A brilliant scholar, an experienced administrator, a clear thinker in placing Christ at the center of Adventist theology—yet, it was Prescott who helped to promote the theory of verbal inspiration while he was president of Battle Creek College in 1893. Referring to that era, W. C. White wrote that Prescott’s “forceful” position on the subject of inspiration led to “questions and perplexities without end, and always increasing.”9 Now, in 1919, White’s observations became fulfilled prophecy —the anguish of loyal believers in the ministry of Ellen White locked in divisive camps, calling each other “liberals” and “conservatives.” The tone of discussion revealed deeply committed men and women all of whom thought they were protecting the messenger of the Lord—yet, in unhappy combat. White’s prediction that the “perplexities” were “always increasing” extends to this day.

In Prescott’s many remarks, he did his best to reveal his latest thinking after he had navigated out from underneath the verbal-inspiration cloud. No doubt some delegates at the Council were not prepared to accept readily his counsel, though now correct, in view of his previous positions on inspiration, his earlier “flirtation” with pantheism, and other matters.10

Near the end of the Council, Prescott bared his soul in relating his own experience in acknowledging that prophets did not write inerrantly, being dictated to by God. He said: “I did not throw up [out] the Spirit of prophecy, and have not yet; but I have had to adjust my view of things. I will say to you, as a matter of fact, that the relation of those writings to this movement and to our work, is clearer and more consistent in my mind than it was then. But still you know what I am charged with [that he was a “liberal” who was diminishing Ellen White’s authority]. I have gone through the personal experience myself over that very thing that you speak of. If we correct it here and correct it there, how are we going to stand with it in the other places?”

Prescott recounted his experience with a General Conference leader who was reproved by Ellen White during the 1888 crisis and several times afterwards for his policies and attitudes. The leader wanted Prescott to help him “draw the line between what was authoritative and what was not.” Prescott replied: “I will not attempt to do it, and I advise you not to do it. There is an authority in that gift here, and we must recognize it.”

When Prescott was asked whether his “own findings must be your authority for believing and not believing,” he replied, “You can upset everything by applying that as a general principle.” Further questions were asked because he seemed to be equivocal regarding what he felt needed to be changed in Ellen White’s writings [in the 1911 refinement of The Great Controversy] and his ringing endorsement of her authority. He responded: “I did not attack the Spirit of prophecy. My attitude has been to avoid anything like opposition to the gift in this church, but I avoid such a misuse of it as to set aside the Bible. I do not want anybody to think for a moment that I set up my judgment against the Spirit of prophecy.”

A. G. Daniells summarized the two-day deliberations, defending his colleagues in the General Conference and suggesting a basis for common agreement: “I know that my associates have confidence right down on the solid platform of this whole question; and I know that if many of you had gone at this thing and experienced what we have, you would have passed through an experience that would have given you solid ground. You would have shaken a bit, and you are beginning to shake now, and some of you do not know where you are going to land. These questions show it. But that is not to say there is not a foundation. It is to say that you have not gone through the toils yet and got your feet on solid ground.

“I want to make this suggestion, because with all these questions we cannot follow one line of thought logically. We must use good sense in dealing with this whole question, brethren. Do not be careless with your words. Do not be careless in reporting or representing men’s views.”11


What Should We Learn From the 1919 Conference/Council?

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· Some wonder why W. C. White was not present at the 1919 meetings. As a member of the General Conference Committee, he was automatically a delegate and did receive the mimeographed invitation. Perhaps, after looking over the agenda, which included nothing on the work and relevance of Ellen White, he felt his time would be better spent in the Elmshaven office.12 Working alone after his mother’s staff had dispersed in 1915 (no budget allotted by the Trustees, not even provision for a letterhead), White felt pressure to finish compiling Counsels on Health to satisfy the requests from medical leaders. If anyone had been able to predict that two long days of discussion (that arose spontaneously) would have been devoted to his mother’s prophetic role, “he doubtless would have made a greater effort to attend.”13


W. C. White Not Present

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W. C. White, the most valuable source person available, could have answered some of the questions more accurately, more constructively, than anyone else.14 Perhaps, with his experience and communicative skills, he could have helped to focus more clearly the issues that were seriously dividing church leaders and laypeople at that time, and for years to come. That focus would have led to a careful, forthright examination of the facts regarding the work of a prophet in modern times. Cutting away mistaken ideas would have been painful for some, but the healing would have been quicker and longer lasting than the widening gap of confidence that followed the Conference/Council.

However, another aspect must be considered: For many church leaders, at the Conference and in the field, W. C. White was suspect, and had been for twenty years, as being one of the “liberals.”15 Why? Because he had been emphasizing that his mother’s writings should always be understood in context with “time, place, and circumstances” determining their meaning and application. W. C. White, with Daniells, Wilcox, and later Prescott, represented those who were thought-inspirationists, though that term had not been used at that time.

Often at the heart of the controversy with Dr. J. H. Kellogg and A. T. Jones was the issue of how to interpret the statements of Ellen White. These two articulate leaders eventually used Mrs. White’s writings only when they seemed to support their views. Part of Jones’s attack on Daniells was based on Mrs. White’s comments regarding the unreliability of General Conference leadership in 1897, and then charging that the same statements applied in 1906.16 On other occasions, when they found difficulty with her writings, their response was that “someone” had told her wrong information. Often that “someone” was, in their mind, her son W. C. White.17

From 1919 to his death in 1937, W. C. White’s contribution to the facts surrounding the prophetic ministry of his mother was enormously helpful.18

· Beneath the differences of the delegates (and many of the ministers and laypeople in the churches) over such agenda topics as the Eastern question, the Arian-Trinity controversy, the two covenants, the “daily” (Dan. 8:11-13), beginning and ending of the 1260 years, and the king of the north (Daniel 11), was the issue of how to interpret Ellen White. Accusations of disloyalty to her, of unfaithfulness to her authority by picking and choosing her writings as to what was inspired, of unsafe leaders leading the denomination down a fearful path without the guidance that she had given the denomination for seventy years—all such spirited words directed at General Conference officers and those among the teachers in the colleges who supported them did not bring out the best in people, on either side.

The Conference/Council was charged with tension the moment it opened. At stake, each side believed, was the authority of Ellen White. Each side further believed that on this issue would hang the future of the church.19

· Both sides, verbal- and thought-inspirationists, had much of value to hold on to. But neither side saw the heart-truth for which the other was contending. Thus they missed the transcending, healing nature of the ellipse of truth.20 Neither side saw clearly the biggest reason why the ministry of Mrs. White had made such an enormous impact on their lives, though each appealed to their own experience under her guidance as undeniable. Neither side could see clearly that her distinctive message, her coherent, integrating theological principles, were the foundation for her guiding concepts in education, health, mission, and the Adventist theological teachings.

The foundation principles, understood as the Great Controversy Theme,21 were the reasons why the policies these leaders had followed were so effective. They had been living so close to the rapidly developing church and the equally rapid change in national and world conditions that most of them had not stepped back far enough to see the big picture. Both sides saw these undeniably wonderful results (in education, health, and rapid church growth) and they wanted to protect their divinely guided messenger from the use or misuse of her writings. Each side saw the other as the ultimate problem when they perceived what seemed to be a lack of appreciation for the gift of prophecy in their midst.


Downside of Verbal Inspiration

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· But the downside of these two positions was played out in the lives of some of the most eloquent partisans. Many contributing influences affected Dr. John Harvey Kellogg but probably none was more crucial than his understanding of how revelation and inspiration works. The eventual drift of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, spiritual heroes of 1888 and the early 1890s, was largely caused by the same misunderstanding. Kellogg and Jones, especially, held to a rigid concept of virtual verbal inspiration without using the contextual principle for understanding Mrs. White’s statements.22

· But some of those contending for thought inspiration found themselves on the other side of the slippery slope. Though they had a clearer grasp of how God speaks to the minds of prophets, few seemed to possess the inner core of Ellen White’s message that provided the theological structure for her global contributions to theology, education, health, mission, etc.

As time passed, some of these otherwise able leaders had nothing to hang on to when they began to separate what was inspired from what was not. When they said that Ellen White could not be trusted in historical and medical matters, or even in administrative and theological issues—where would they stop? If Ellen White could not be considered an authority in these matters, how could she be considered authoritative in others?23

We do not know the motivation behind the written or public statements of either verbal- or thought-inspirationists. Generally, however, thought-inspirationists contended for the freedom to interpret Ellen White on the basis of sound hermeneutical principles—such as the application of time, place, and circumstances. Such sought the principle behind the policy. This approach had been best articulated by W. C. White in his remarks regarding the 1911 revision of The Great Controversy.24 F. M. Wilcox, in a general way, at the Council, also asserted this coherent, integrating approach to the writings of Ellen White: “I would like to ask Brother Daniells if it could be accepted as a sort of rule that Sister White might be mistaken in details, but in the general policy and instruction she was an authority.”25

Others who contended against the verbal-inspirationists did not accept, or perhaps did not understand, this larger, more constructive reasoning. The thought would be expressed, for whatever reason, “While I believe [that Ellen White is a prophet of God], I do not believe [that] all she writes and all she says is inspired; in other words, I do not believe in verbal inspiration.”26

That kind of thinking, if not severely modified, is an open door through which many have walked away from the Adventist Church over the years. Such thinking leads to personal judgment as to what a “prophet” means and to personal judgment as to what is inspired and what is not. This is truly a slippery slope if there is not a prevailing, fundamental message to hold on to.

At least verbal-inspirationists knew, in their minds, how to hang on to authority—even if it might not have been for the right reasons. Those of this group (and there were many) who remained in the church as strong leaders in administration and evangelism, believed that they were the only ones left who could save the denomination from apostasy. They could point to many who tried to “reinterpret” Ellen White as examples of where such thinking would lead others—men such as the Ballenger brothers (A. F. and E. S.), J. H. Kellogg, A. T. Jones, W. A. Colcord, E. J. Waggoner, L. R. Conradi, and W. W. Fletcher.

Common to all these highly visible leaders who defected was their decision “that the Spirit of prophecy could be divided into ‘inspired’ and ‘uninspired’ portions. It seems relevant that, in most cases, those who began to make such determinations eventually lost confidence in the Spirit of prophecy.”27

· Evidence that the Conference/Council did not appear to change anyone’s mind is reflected in later comments. On one hand, A. G. Daniells wrote to W. C. White that “we stand together more unitedly and firmly for all the fundamentals than when we began the meeting.”28

· On the other, J. S. Washburn, a highly visible representative of those who opposed Prescott and Daniells on their positions concerning the “daily,” the Eastern question, etc., wrote an open letter to Daniells and the General Conference Committee, expressing the concern of many. In referring to “this so-called Bible Institute” where “teachers were undermining the confidence of our sons and daughters in the very fundamentals of our truth,” he quoted “one of our most faithful workers” who said that the Institute “was the most terrible thing that had ever happened in the history of this denomination.”29

· The issues that surfaced in the 1919 Conference/Council remain today, reflected in at least three of the four positions that divide Christians generally and Adventists specifically: (1) Those who believe that Biblical writers and Ellen White were inspired but were not given propositional truth; (2) Those who hold that Biblical writers and Ellen White received divinely dictated truth and that their messages were given as God wanted the writings to be read or heard: (3) Those who believe that the Bible and the writings of Ellen White are divinely inspired by God impressing thoughts on the prophets’ minds who would then convey the message in the best language and thought frames at their disposal; (4) Those who believe that the Bible and the writings of Ellen White are generally inspired but their value is more pastoral than theological.


Endnotes

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1. Bert Haloviak, “Background and Aftermath of the 1919 Bible and History Teachers Conference,” an unpublished paper, 1979.

2. Robert W. Olson, “The 1919 Bible Conference and Bible and History Teachers Council,” available from the E. G. White Estate.

3. Ibid.

4. Stenographic report of the 1919 Bible Conference and Bible and History Teachers Council, p. 912.

5. The Eastern question refers to the interpretation of the “king of the North” in Daniel 11. Most had been preaching strongly, especially in evangelism, that the “king” was Turkey; others believed that the “king” referred to the activities of the Papacy at the end of time; see Schwarz, Light Bearers, pp. 400-402.

6. See pp. 16, 120, 173, 375, 376, 421 for a discussion of the difference between verbal inspiration and thought inspiration.

7. One of Daniells’s most lasting contributions to this church was his book, The Abiding Gift of Prophecy.

8. As an example of such “demonstrations,” Daniells referred to the story of Ellen White holding a “heavy Bible” on her outstretched hand. J. N. Loughborough records this miracle in his Rise and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists (pages 103, 104) and later in The Great Second Advent Movement (pages 236, 237) based on interviews he had with eyewitnesses of the event. Cursory readers of this discussion have mistakenly concluded that Daniells questioned the historicity of the event. They have missed Daniells’s point, which he clarified later in the discussion when specifically asked whether he was discrediting the miracle or stating that he would not use such manifestations as a “proof” of inspiration. He replied, “No, I do not discount them nor disbelieve them; but they are not the kind of evidence I would use with students or with unbelievers. . . . I do not question them, but I do not think they are the best kind of evidence to produce.” (Spectrum, vol. 10, No. 1, p. 37.)

9. Selected Messages, book 3, p. 454.

10. See pp. 120, 121, 204; Schwarz, Light Bearers, pp. 289, 294.

11. “The Use of the Spirit of Prophecy in Our Teaching of Bible and History, July 30, August 1, 1919,” Spectrum, vol. 10, No. 1. pp. 27-57.

12. The list of topics to be discussed were: Person of Christ, Mediatorial Work of Christ, Nature and Work of the Holy Spirit, Two Covenants, Principles of Prophetic Interpretation, Eastern Question, Beast Power in Revelation, 1260 days, United States in Prophecy, Seven Trumpets, Matthew Twenty-four.—Action taken by the Spring Council of the General Conference, 1919. D. E. Robinson, an editor at the Southern Publishing Association, attended the Bible Conference but apparently was not invited to the Teachers Council. Robinson, married to Ella White (Ellen White’s eldest granddaughter), had worked with Mrs. White for about ten years as one of her secretaries and compilers. If anyone had known in advance that a two-day discussion of the ministry of Ellen White would follow, probably he would have been strongly urged to remain. He, along with W. C. White, would have contributed valuable information, countering some of the ill-informed statements made in that informal setting.

13. Bert Haloviak, in an unpublished paper, “In the Shadow of the ‘Daily’: Background and Aftermath of the 1919 Bible and History Teachers Conference,” p. 5; Moon, W. C. White and E. G. White, p. 453.

14. W. W. Prescott’s ambiguity, as sensed by some present, would have been clarified by W. C. White’s presence and counsel.

15. For example, note the accusations by his brother Edson and echoed by followers of Dr. Kellogg in 1906—Bio., vol. 6, pp. 62, 94-101, 155- 157; the harsh attack at the 1913 General Conference and Autumn Council, cited in Moon, W. C. White and E. G. White, pp. 340-342. Stephen Haskell’s unsureness regarding W. C. White’s role as the chief editor of his mother’s writings was reflected in letters to both his mother and to himself in 1909. Haskell referred to “the experience that I have had,” and challenged his younger colleague: “It is the dropping out of some of these things from what has been published in your mother’s writings, and the changing of some things, that has been taken advantage of by the enemies of the truth and today is the cause of some of our best brethren losing confidence in you; because they think you change your mother’s writings and call it ‘editing.’ Now I do not mean by this that you make changes in the thought, but in the wording and the reading of them.”

Later in the letter he recalled an experience “that put me to my stumps.” A woman arose in a meeting where Haskell had announced that he would defend “your mother’s writings from the Bible.” The woman asked, “Can you prove from the Bible that a prophet ever had sons that changed the prophet’s testimony, and called it editing?” Haskell answered in substance “that he could prove from the Bible that prophets had sons that did not always do right, and their not doing right tested the people. She sat down and said no more.”—Moon, W. C. White and E. G. White, p. 361.

16. Haloviak, “In the Shadow of the ‘Daily’. . .”, p. 14. See pages ??

17. See Selected Messages, book 3, p. 63; MR, vol. 13, p. 122.

18. Moon, W. C. White and E. G. White, pp. 451-456.

19. Former General Conference president George I. Butler, in a letter written to A. G. Daniells, had foreseen the developing fissure between these two groups over conflicting interpretations of how to read Ellen White: “It is a terrible, terrible thing! And are we going into the conflict before us . . . the great and closing conflict, with two camps wrangling with each other, Arthur? I do not believe it is possible, unless we get this thing fixed up in some way, and union restored, to go on without being terribly crippled for years, and loss of many souls.”—Haloviak, “In the Shadow of the ‘Daily’ . . .”, p. 13.

20. See p. 260.

21. See pp. 256-263.

22. Kellogg saw no “use of trying to explain what the Lord is doing, what the Lord says. The Lord says it as He wants to say it.” “Report of the Work of the Sanitarium,” Transcript, Dec. 28, 1905, Record Group 17, General Conference Report of the Work of the Archives. On a later occasion Jones told the Battle Creek congregation: “I have not a cent’s worth of respect for any such plea as is made too often and especially of late years on ‘Testimonies up-to-date’; as if a Testimony up-to-date is to take the place of all that ever went before it. Mahomet taught that doctrine as to his revelations—that the last revelation took the place of all that went before it. But God’s revelation is not that way. God’s revelation is truth, and is just as good today as it was a thousand years ago. It never gets out of date; and the last one that comes is not going to contradict, or vitiate, or set aside, or annihilate any that went before it. . . . No sir, the Bible is the Word of God. It is the same today as it was when Isaiah wrote it, when Amos wrote it, when Hosea wrote it, when Paul wrote it, and will be the same after the world is ended and gone. It is so with the Testimonies, too, as certainly as they are the truth of God.”—Sermon at Battle Creek Tabernacle, Jan. 2, 1906, pp. 24, 25, Pamphlet Files. Both references cited in Haloviak, “In the Shadow of the ‘Daily’ . . .”, p. 14.

23. This is where Prescott’s presentations worried some of the 1919 delegates. As a question, probably C. L. Benson focused the issue best: “If there are such uncertainties with reference to our historical position, and if the Testimonies are not to be relied on to throw a great deal of light upon our historical positions, and if the same is true with reference to our theological interpretation of texts, then how can we consistently place implicit confidence in the direction that is given with reference to our educational problems, and our medical school, and even our denominational organization? If there is definite spiritual leadership in these things, then how can we consistently lay aside the Testimonies or partially lay them aside when it comes to the prophetic and historic side of the message? And place these things on the basis of research work?”—Spectrum, vol. 10, No. 1, p. 46.

24. See p. 431; Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 433-440.

25. “Inspiration of the Spirit of Prophecy,” Spectrum, vol. 10, No. 1, p. 53.

26. Letter from G. F. Watson to W. C. White, Dec. 15, 1913, cited in Moon, W. C. White and E. G. White, p. 411.

27. Haloviak, “In the Shadow of the ‘Daily’ . . .”, p. 58.

28. Letter from A. G. Daniells, July 20, 1919, to W. C. White, White Estate correspondence files.

29. “An Open Letter to Elder A. G. Daniells and an Appeal to the General Conference,” 1922, pp. 28, 29, J. S. Washburn Folder, General Conference Archives; both references cited in Haloviak, “In the Shadow of the ‘Daily’ . . .”, p. 1.


Study Questions

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1. What were the subjects at the Bible Conference that prompted A. G. Daniells to suggest that the minutes of the meeting should be “locked up” in the vault? Was the discussion on the writings of Ellen White part of that material?

2. What did Daniells declare to be the “strongest proof” for the genuineness of Ellen White’s prophetic gift?

3. What were the fundamental issues that separated church leaders in 1919?

4. What are some lessons that should be learned from the 1919 Bible Conference/Council?

5. After studying the lessons to be learned from the 1919 Bible Conference, analyze how these lessons could help heal some of the divisions in the church today.

6. Can Ellen White help to resolve doctrinal divisions today?

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