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SDA Pioneers


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John Nevins Andrews (1829-1883). Author, minister, missionary, and scholar. Born in Poland, Maine, in 1829, Andrews converted in February 1843 and began to observe the seventh-day Sabbath in 1845. He met James and Ellen White in September 1849. In 1850 he began itinerant pastoral ministry and was ordained in 1853.
Andrews was a significant contributor in the development of Seventh-day Adventist theology. Among his more memorable achievements was applying the identity of the two-horned beast of Revelation to the United States of America. In 1859 he wrote the first edition of his most famous book, The History of the Sabbath and the First Day of the Week (Battle Creek, MI: Battle Creek Steam Press, 1859).
On Oct. 29, 1856, Andrews married Angeline Stevens (1824-1872) in Waukon, Iowa, where the Andrews and Stevens families had recently moved. In 1859 a conference in Battle Creek voted that Andrews should assist J. N. Loughborough with tent evangelism in Michigan. He returned the follow year (1860) to Iowa. During this second period in Iowa his two children were born: Charles (b. 1857) and Mary (b. 1861). In June 1862 John left Waukon to conduct evangelistic meetings in New York where he helped to found the New York Conference. In February 1863 Angeline and their two children joined them in New York, and while there they had two more children both of whom died from tuberculosis.
In 1864 Andrews was chosen as the denominational representative to the Provost Marshall General in Washington, D.C., to secure recognition for the denomination as noncombatants. On May 14, 1867, Andrews was elected the third president of the General Conference (until May 18, 1869) after which he became editor of the Review and Herald (1869-1870). In 1872 Angeline died from a stroke after which John moved with his two children to South Lancaster, Massachusetts, where his children could stay with the Harris family.
Two years later he left with his two children, John and Mary, as the first official Seventh-day Adventist missionaries to Europe. They assisted in founding a publishing house in Switzerland and an Adventist periodical in French, Les Signes des Temps (1876). In 1878 Mary caught tuberculosis and died soon after receiving treatment at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Andrews died on Oct. 21, 1883 and is buried next to J. H. Waggoner in Basel, Switzerland. In 1960 Andrews University was named in his honor.
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Joseph Bates (1792-1872). Born July 8, 1792 in Rochester, Massachusetts, raised in Fairhaven, the eastern portion of New Bedford, whaling capital of the United States. He became a cabin boy at age 14 on a merchant ship, was forced into the British Navy in 1810, and was a British prisoner of war for two-and-a-half years during the War of 1812. He later became part owner of a sailing ship that he also captained. He was a reformer, willing to follow new light. He was converted to Christianity during his years at sea, and helped found the Fairhaven Christian Church. He gave up tobacco and alcohol in the early 1820s, later quitting tea and coffee, and eventually flesh foods. He retired from the sea in 1827 with a small fortune.
After his retirement at age 35, Bates became associated with several reforms, including temperance and antislavery. His religious interests led him that same year to be baptized into the Christian Connexion, and to accept the advent teaching of William Miller in 1839, becoming an active and successful Millerite preacher. He eventually invested all of his money in the advent movement. Bates experienced the 1844 disappointment without losing his faith.
After reading the writings of T. M. Preble on the Sabbath, and traveling to Washington, New Hampshire to meet with Sabbathkeepers and to study for himself, Bates in 1845 accepted the seventh-day Sabbath. In August 1846 he wrote a book entitled The Seventh Day Sabbath, A Perpetual Sign, which James and Ellen White read later that same year, leading them to accept the Sabbath.
That same year he became convinced that Ellen had the prophetic gift after observing her in vision relating information on astronomy that he thought she could not have known on her own. Early in 1847 he connected information on the heavenly sanctuary to the Sabbath, and outlined the great controversy theme drawn from Revelation 12 to 14. In April Ellen White had her great controversy vision. James White published A Word to the “Little Flock” in May, containing works by the Whites and Bates, including his affirmation of the spiritual gift Ellen White had received. “I can now confidently speak for myself that I believe the work is of God.”— A Word to the “Little Flock,” p. 21.
Bates traveled to many places, preaching and winning converts to Sabbatarian Adventism. He was often the chairman at the “Sabbath conferences” of 1848-1850. He became more closely associated with the Whites at that time, the three partnering in presenting “the third angel’s message” especially to ex-Millerites. By 1850 a group of Sabbatarian Adventists began to form. His trips took him to Battle Creek, Michigan, where he won the first convert there. After initially opposing it, he was convinced of the need for a formal organization by James and Ellen’s writings on “gospel order” in 1853 and 1854. He actually chaired the meetings in the early 1860s that led to the establishing the Seventh-day Adventist Church. With this history the Whites and Bates are considered co-founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Ellen White’s visions in 1863 and December 1865 on the importance of health reform opened the door for him to join her and James in promoting it as part of the third angel’s message that would help prepare for translation. He remained active in church work into his old age, preaching at least 100 times the last year of his life. Joseph Bates died March 19, 1872, at the age of 79, at the Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, and is buried at Monterey, Michigan.
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Daniells, Arthur Grosvenor (1858-1935). Minister and administrator. Daniells became a Seventh-day Adventist at the age of 10. He did some training at Battle Creek College, taught in public school, and later worked with R. M. Kilgore in Texas. He worked as secretary to James and Ellen White for part of a year, remaining from then on close to W. C. White and Ellen White. G. I. Butler called him to preach in Iowa in 1880, where he was later ordained. From 1886 to 1901 he worked in New Zealand and Australia, which involved him with more close work with Ellen White and her son William after their arrival in 1891.
He was able to bring his experience with new administrative structures “down under” to the General Conference when he was elected president in 1901, and similar changes were made in the overall organization of the church to bring it to financial and functional health. In addition to structural changes, he was challenged by many crises during his presidency, from the Kellogg schism, the move of the church headquarters and publishing house from Battle Creek to Takoma Park, to the problems caused by the loss of key workers such as A. F. Ballenger and A. T. Jones.
He was a strong administrator, and had Ellen White’s support, though she frequently wrote him testimonies of correction and instruction. He promoted city and overseas missions. He served as General Conference secretary from 1922 to 1926, and then as director of the ministerial association until his death. He promoted righteousness by faith, writing in 1926 Christ Our Righteousness to recall the important and neglected teachings from the Minneapolis era. He worked to the end of his life supporting the prophetic gift of Ellen White, though accused of not believing in it by those with rigid views of how inspiration worked. He wrote his final book on this topic, The Abiding Gift of Prophecy.
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Haskell, Stephen Nelson (1833-1922). Evangelist, administrator, missionary. In 1853, as a self-supporting preacher, he and his wife Mary accepted the Sabbath. He was ordained as an SDA minister in 1868, and in 1870 was the first president of the New England Conference. He and his wife established the Tract and Missionary Society, which he helped organize throughout the church from 1870 to 1889. He was president also of the California, Maine, and New England conferences. He founded South Lancaster Academy (later Atlantic Union College). From 1889-1891 he was sent on a trip around the globe to evaluate mission opportunities.
At Ellen White’s direction he moved from preaching to teaching, promoting the question-and-answer method of sharing Bible truth through the Bible Training School and Bible Handbook. Mary died in 1894, and Stephen served as a missionary in Africa and Australia from that time until 1899, marrying Hetty Hurd in 1897. The couple did city evangelism from 1901-1912 in New York; Nashville; San Bernardino and Oakland, California; and Portland, Maine. In New York they had a team of twenty nurses, Bible instructors, cooking school instructors, and young canvassers. Sale of his books Daniel the Prophet (1901) and Seer of Patmos (1905) and periodicals (Bible Training School) were used to help support the evangelism. He also published The Cross and Its Shadow and Bible Handbook. Toward the end of his life he and his wife worked to raise $60,000 to fund the building of the Ellen G. White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles.
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Jones, Alonzo Trevier (1850-1923). Editor, author, preacher. Jones became an SDA in 1874 while in the Army at Fort Walla Walla. He soon became involved in evangelism in the Northwest. He was called in 1885 to assist with periodical editorial work at the Pacific Press, where Ellet J. Waggoner was also working as editor. Jones’ knowledge of history enabled him quickly to become the church’s expert on the fulfillment of prophecy in the realm of religious liberty. With Waggoner, he pushed the frontiers of understanding the righteousness of Christ in relation to liberty and salvation. May of 1888 Senator Blair brought a national Sunday bill to the U. S. Senate, with Jones appearing later that year before a Senate committee to oppose that legislation on behalf of the church, the first of many testimonies he would give in those settings.
The 1888 General Conference Session brought to a head the differences between the church leadership (G. I. Butler and Uriah Smith in particular) and Jones and Waggoner. The issues were prophecy and salvation. Ellen White endorsed the urgency of the crisis in relation to religious liberty and prophecy highlighted by Jones. She observed that the 1888 session was “the hardest and most incomprehensible tug of war we have ever had among our people” (1888 182.2). She later would call the salvation message Jones and Waggoner were presenting “most precious” and prophesied against those who called them “fanatics, extremists, and enthusiasts” (1888 1336.2 & 1341.2). During the 1890s both Jones and W. W. Prescott erred by supporting the prophetic claims of Anna Rice, but quickly repented on reproof from Ellen White. Jones continued his speaking and writing, publishing at least six major historical works during the next 10 years. In 1897 he became editor of the Review and Herald for a few years.
Ellen White repeatedly, at least through 1899, spoke of Jones as a messenger of God with a special work to do (1888 1455.2), and warned of the “fatal delusion” of rejecting the message, especially if either Waggoner or Jones were to lose their way (1888 1455.2). As the church entered into the period when it would “remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years” (Lt 184, 1901), and Kellogg began his definite move away from the church, Jones lost his confidence in Ellen White, went to work at Battle Creek against her counsel, and ended up feeling that individuality in religion was the proper expression of religious liberty, over loyalty to faulty church organization. He remained active in publishing the last 20 years of his life, but showed the imbalance of independent action. He was dropped from church membership in 1909, but kept the Sabbath until his death in 1923.
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Josiah Litch (1809-1886). Miller preacher. A Methodist minister, Litch read William Miller’s Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ in 1838 and accepted that Christ would return about the year 1843. Soon afterward he wrote a synopsis of Miller’s views entitled The Midnight Cry. Later in 1838 Litch wrote The Probability of the Second Coming of Christ About A.D. 1843 in which he not only accepted the 1843 date but also predicted that the Ottoman Empire would collapse in August 1840. Turkey’s response to an ultimatum from European powers on August 11, 1840, was subsequently regarded by Millerites as a fulfillment of the prophecy and evidence of the truth of their interpretative system.
In 1841 Litch took a leave of absence from the Methodist ministry to preach the second coming of Christ full time. It was about this time that he influenced Charles Fitch to accept the Millerite message. He also argued in Address to the Clergy (1841) that a judgment would take place before the second advent, a view that Sabbatarian Adventists would develop into their understanding of the investigative judgment. The following year Litch organized the first Millerite camp meeting at Stanstead in eastern Canada in June 1842. In 1842 and 1843 he worked in Philadelphia and the surrounding area establishing a paper entitled The Philadelphia Alarm. While there Litch opposed the conditionalist views of George Storrs, publishing The Anti-Annihilationist briefly in 1844. Litch also strongly objected to the seventh-month movement that emphasized the return of Christ on Oct. 22, 1844. By October he had changed his mind and was the last major Millerite leader to accept the date.
After the Great Disappointment Litch participated in the Mutual Conference of Adventists that occurred in Albany, New York, in 1845. Although Litch rejected the “shut door” that probation had been closed on Oct. 22, 1844, he continued to remain interested in Bible prophecy. He concluded in 1848 that the Jews would return to Palestine, he gradually moved toward a futurist interpretation of prophecy represented in his later publication A Complete Harmony of Daniel and the Apocalypse (1873). Litch also joined the American Evangelical Adventist Conference in 1848, and later debated the Seventh-day Adventist evangelist Daniel T. Bourdeau in 1880.
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Loughborough, John Norton (1832-1924). Pioneer evangelist and administrator. Loughborough, an Adventist since his conversion at age 11, accepted the Sabbath and sanctuary messages September 1852 after hearing J. N. Andrews give a series of lectures in Rochester, NY. He was called to preach by Ellen White later that year. He traveled extensively with James and Ellen White in the 1850s (Michigan, Maine, and Vermont), and observed Ellen White having visions over 40 times. During that decade he also worked with M. E. Cornell in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, and with Joseph Bates in Ohio. He assisted the Whites with three “rebellions” from 1853 to 1865, the groups that published The Messenger of Truth, The Hope of Israel, and The Advent and Sabbath Advocate.
James and Ellen White consistently showed confidence in his abilities, though he received letters from Ellen of reproof and counsel from time to time. He pioneered the work in California with D. T. Bourdeau in 1868. By 1878 he was told by Ellen White, “You have an experience valuable to the cause of God. It must be made to tell for its full value.” For five years starting in 1878 he worked in Great Britain, then returned for seven more years in California.
In 1890 Ellen White wrote the General Conference president, “I say let Elder Loughborough do a work that is suffering to be done in the churches. . . . Let him go here and there, and everywhere, telling what he has seen, and known and handled in the rise of the third angel’s message.” (1888 716.3) That year he was asked by the GC Committee to write a denominational history, and The Rise and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists was published in 1892, revised in 1905 as The Great Second Advent Movement. He spoke at Ellen White’s Elmshaven funeral, addressing the spiritual value of her ministry and writings. In 1918 he wrote Some Individual Experience in response to charges against him of inaccuracies and deception in The Great Second Advent Movement. He died in 1924 at the age of 92.
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Miller, William (1782-1849). Farmer, preacher, and author. Miller was born at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. His formal schooling consisted of only 18 months, but he became self-taught through his strong habit of reading. He also early began to write, composing poetry and keeping a diary. His reading exposed him to infidel authors who influenced him in the direction of deism. He became a justice of the peace in his late twenties, and fought in the War of 1812. Several experiences during this conflict turned his mind toward a personal God. By 1816 he was converted, and began Bible study in earnest. He wrote, “The Scriptures . . . became my delight, and in Jesus I found a friend.”
By 1818 in his study of the prophecies (Dan. 8:14 and others) he concluded that Jesus would return “about 1843.” In 1831 he began to share his studies in public in small settings, after strong conviction and providential guidance to do so. After meeting J. V. Himes, a prominent editor, in 1839, the way was opened to preach to large groups in major cities. While opposed by many, his preaching, and that of others who caught the Advent message, made a significant impact, with up to 100,000 accepting belief in the soon coming of Christ. Ellen Harmon heard him in Portland, Maine, in March of 1840 when she was 12 years old. She recounted, “Mr. Miller traced down the prophecies with an exactness that struck conviction to the hearts of his hearers. He dwelt upon the prophetic periods, and brought many proofs to strengthen his position. Then his solemn and powerful appeals and admonitions to those who were unprepared, held the crowds as if spellbound” (LS 20.2).
The initial expectation of the Advent believers was disappointed when the spring of 1844 passed without Christ’s return. The seventh-month movement the following summer revived expectation with a focus on October 22 of that year. Miller accepted the validity of that date shortly before it came. But with this “passing of the time” the faith of all was sorely tested. Miller responded, “Although I have been twice disappointed, I am not yet cast down or discouraged. Although surrounded with enemies and scoffers, yet my mind is perfectly calm, and my hope in the coming of Christ is as strong as ever” (Letter, November 10, 1844 [Herald of the Midnight Cry, 107]). He never accepted the sanctuary or Sabbath messages. After losing his sight in 1848, he passed away near the end of 1849, still looking for Christ’s coming. Ellen White wrote of him in 1858 that “angels watch the precious dust of this servant of God, and he will come forth at the sound of the last trump” (EW 258.2).
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Prescott, William Warren (1855-1944). Writer, scholar, and administrator. Prescott was born in New Hampshire to a Advent family that became Sabbath keepers when he was three years old. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1877, and after some years in public education and private business, he was called in 1885 to be president of Battle Creek College. His commitment to the principles of education reform as outlined in the testimonies of Ellen White challenged him in their practical application. She corresponded at length with him over the years of her ministry, counseling, reproving, and encouraging, being close to him and his family. Prescott caught the message given at Minneapolis and spent much time preaching the concepts and attempting to bring unity of understanding in the midst of conflict and division.
Prescott served as Education Secretary for the General Conference from 1887-1897, and in 1891 organized the Harbor Springs conference on education. He was founding president for Union College (1891) and Walla Walla College (1892). He compiled from Ellen White’s counsels the books Christian Education (1893) and Special Testimonies on Education (1897). He spent 1895-1896 in Australia, assisting with the establishment of Avondale College and with Ellen White’s work on Desire of Ages. He was sent from 1897-1901 to head up the work in Great Britain.
From 1901-1909 Prescott worked with the Review and Herald, becoming editor in 1902 (as well as the first GC Vice President), helping to move the publishing house to Maryland, and writing at length against Kellogg’s pantheistic concepts. Due to his involvement with controversy over the new view of “the daily” (of Daniel 8) 1907-1909, and his help in the 1911 revision to Great Controversy, he lost the confidence of those who questioned both, such as Washburn, Haskell, and Starr. Ellen White counseled him in 1909 to do evangelism. He became Field Secretary for the GC in 1915, a position he held the rest of his life. He spent the last years of his life, not without controversy, involved in education, writing, and research.
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Smith, Uriah (1832-1903). Editor, administrator, preacher, prophetic expositor, professor, poet, inventor, and artist-engraver. Smith was born in New Hampshire, and accepted the message of Sabbatarian Adventism after hearing James and Ellen White in 1852. He joined the Whites in their publishing of The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald after their move to Rochester, NY, becoming editor at age 23 when the periodical moved to Battle Creek, Michigan the fall of 1855. He remained until 1897 in this position with little interruption, assisting James White until his death in 1881, and then taking over full charge. Smith authored 20 books and approximately 4000 editorials, impacting the church over that span of time nearly as much as James and Ellen White. He served 13 years as editor with James White of the Signs of the Times published in California.
Smith’s separate books on Daniel and Revelation were combined in 1882 as Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation, received a strong endorsement by Ellen White, and remain his best-known work. It has gone through several editions, and has been translated in many languages. Smith was also instrumental in conducting many bible institutes for ministers, a form of continuing education for them. He was the charter Bible teacher at Battle Creek College, and as chairman of the board of trustees conflicted with Ellen White’s vision of education whose emphasis would be on the Bible balanced with manual labor, rather than the classical, theoretical curriculum he favored. He also came into significant conflict with her over the message that came in the years surrounding Minneapolis, and her support for A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. He responded to her appeals to cease opposing her work, but never seemed to grasp the concepts and run with them.
Smith’s case provides a classic example of a talented worker who at times needed reproving, but could easily become discouraged over reproof. Ellen White with her long history of working with him from the early years would gently attempt to carry out her work as messenger in giving him wise, encouraging, and clear counsel. In spite of his weaknesses, and in context of the broader issues shaking the foundations of the church toward the end of the 1800s, she specifically stated that it was God’s plan that he remain Review editor to the end of his life. One area of counsel he struggled with, partly due to his artificial leg and partly to his love of writing, was to balance his desk work with physical exercise. Ellen White’s desire to lengthen his productive years was more successful than her effort with her own husband. Smith died of a stroke at age 70 while walking to the Review and Herald Publishing House.
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Waggoner, Joseph Harvey (1820-1889). Editor, author and evangelist. Waggoner was a self-taught man, a printer with a Baptist background who first heard and accepted the Sabbatarian Adventist message in 1851. He became associated with the other leaders in the young church in the 1850s, doing evangelistic work and authoring books while still working at his trade. His book The Law of God: An Examination of the Testimony of Both Testaments in 1854 became the forerunner of the controversy over the law and the gospel that would erupt some 30 years later (Manuscripts and Memories of Minneapolis, pp. 152.5; 304.2; 305.3). He moved to California in 1878 to manage Signs of the Times which he later edited.
Ellen White’s counsel to Waggoner frequently addressed the dynamics of his marriage and his temperament. His wife’s influence was unsanctified and he often was harsh and critical. Ellen White’s greatest challenge as a messenger of the Lord to him was addressing in 1886 the affinity he developed in California to a married woman. He left California for Battle Creek, but geographical change did not equate with heart change. Ellen White continued to work for his deep and full repentance in counsel with the GC president (21MR 380). Apparently the church leaders felt confident of his standing, and sent him that year to Europe to be editor of our German and French publication. He served in this capacity until his death three years later.
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White, James Springer (1821-1881). Preacher, author, editor, publisher, administrator. White was born in Maine to descendents of Mayflower passengers. He suffered health and learning problems as a child. His formal education of less than 12 months did not prevent him from obtaining a teaching certificate and teaching elementary school for a short time. The family belonged to the Christian Connexion, the first indigenous American religious movement. White was baptized at age 16 and in 1843 was ordained as a minister. Mostly due to his mother’s influence White seriously evaluated and accepted the Millerite message of Christ’s soon return, and became a Millerite preacher, leading some 1000 persons to conversion.
The passing of the time in October 1844 sorely tested White’s faith, be he remained an Adventist. Some time after Ellen Harmon’s vision in December showing God’s leading the Advent Movement, James became associated with her and another lady traveling to relate Ellen’s visions. Propriety indicated that he should not travel with a single woman, and being impressed with her piety and convinced of her prophetic gift, he decided God wished them to marry, which they did August 1846. That fall they began keeping the Sabbath that Joseph Bates had shared with them earlier in the year. They were very poor with no home of their own, but continued to travel and speak, James supporting her prophetic mission, printing her messages, and doing manual labor to earn a little to support them. The first publication, To the Remnant Scattered Abroad, was printed the year they married.
In 1848 conferences were held that gathered Sabbatarian Adventist to explore and develop a unity of belief. In response to a vision of Ellen at one of these conferences, James began regular publishing in 1849 of a periodical which became the Review and Herald. After using the services of various printers, the believers voted in 1852 to purchase a printing press, which was set up at Rochester, New York, moving in 1855 to Battle Creek, Michigan. This publishing work flourished, and led to the first formal organization among the Sabbatarian Adventists, the Advent Review Publishing Association in 1860. Publishing would be James’ major focus the rest of his life. The organization of local churches into conferences, and conferences into the General Conference followed quickly.
James White served a total of 10 years as president of the GC at various times. His vision and executive abilities would drive him to overwork, and in 1865 he suffered the first of several strokes that would affect his health and effectiveness the rest of his life. He and Ellen traveled to California not long after the rail link was completed, and in the 1870s he established the Pacific Press to publish on the West Coast. He was active in the establishment of Battle Creek College in the 1870s as well. He invested tens of thousands of his own money in building up the church’s institutions. Ellen frequently urged him to find others to lighten his work load, but he found it hard to delegate and to find men who could do the job. Shortly before his death August 1881 he seemed to foresee the turbulence and needs of the coming decade when he stated, “I feel assured there is a crisis before us. We should preserve our physical and mental powers for future service. The glorious subject of Redemption should long ago have been more fully presented to the people…” (PH168 54.2).