The Ellen G. White Letters and Manuscripts: Volume 1


PIERCE, Stephen (1804-1883) and Almira (1806-1875)

Minister, conference administrator, and writer, Stephen Pierce and his wife, Almira, were both born in Cavendish, Vermont. They held Millerite convictions in the 1840s but apparently never separated from the Baptist Church until they became Sabbathkeepers in 1852. These facts make it unlikely that Stephen Pierce participated in the formative theological discussions and Sabbath Conferences of the mid- and late 1840s, as some historians have concluded on the basis of Ellen White's recollections in 1903 (Ms 135, 1903 [Nov. 4]). 1EGWLM 878.2

Pierce was a corresponding editor for the Review for several years in the 1850s. With the coming of conference organization in the early 1860s, he served as president of the Vermont Conference (1863-1865) and of the Minnesota Conference (1865-1870). About 1857 Ellen White wrote to Pierce that he had too little confidence in his own success, urging him to “arouse, arouse,” because “your gift is needed.” Pierce's subsequent notable service as minister and administrator suggests that he took this encouragement to heart. 1EGWLM 878.3

In the area of theology the names Stephen Pierce and Ellen White are perhaps most commonly associated with the intense denominational discussions from 1886 to 1888 on whether the “schoolmaster” law of Galatians 3:24 referred to the moral law of the Ten Commandments or the ceremonial law. Uriah Smith and G. I. Butler argued for the traditional ceremonial law position, buttressing their view with the claim that this was the position Ellen White adopted as early as the mid-1850s when she, in turn, had become convinced by the arguments of Stephen Pierce. Whether Pierce held to an exclusive ceremonial law stance in the mid-1850s is, however, open to doubt. An article written by Pierce in 1856 appears to present a broader view, encompassing both the moral and ceremonial laws. 1EGWLM 878.4

See: Obituary: “Stephen Pierce,” Review, Oct. 9, 1883, p. 637; obituary: “Almira Pierce,” Review, Jan. 13, 1876, p. 15; Ellen G. White, Lt 15, 1857 (c. 1857); Stephen Pierce, “From Bro. Pierce,” Review, Jan. 20, 1853, p. 143. On the presumed relationship of the views of Stephen Pierce and Ellen White on the law in Galatians, see, for example, David P. McMahon, Ellet Joseph Waggoner: The Myth and the Man (Fallbrook, Calif.: Verdict Publications, 1979), pp. 51, 53, 86-89; Timothy E. Crosby, “Ellen G. White and the Law in Galatians: A Study in the Dynamics of Present Truth” (term paper, Andrews University, 1979); George R. Knight, From 1888 to Apostasy: The Case of A. T. Jones (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1987), pp. 23-27; S. P. [Stephen Pierce], “Answer to Bro. Merriam's Question Respecting the Law of Gal. iii … ,” Review, Oct. 8, 1857, pp. 180, 181. 1EGWLM 878.5