The Retirement Years


George I. Butler's Desire to Remarry

[Elder Butler's first wife died November 18, 1901, leaving him a widower at the age of 67. Even though he had Ellen White's approval, opposition from Mrs. Keck and from Hiland Butler, Elder Butler's son, kept him from going forward with his intention to marry Mrs. Keck's sister in 1902. In 1907, at the age of 73, he finally married again.]

May, 1902

Dear Brother and Sister Keck,

My mind has been burdened during the night season. I have learned that Brother Butler has thought of marrying Sister Keck's sister. Some of the brethren, in talking with me about this matter, expressed their disapproval, saying that they thought that such a step would hurt Brother Butler's influence, especially should he marry so soon after his wife's death. At the time I gave the subject scarcely a thought, but in the night season I was talking with one in regard to the matter, and the subject assumed a different aspect. RY 115.1

Then I seemed to be talking with someone else, of whom I was asking the question, “Why do you regard this attachment as so objectionable?” The answer was, “He is so much older than she is.” “But,” I said, “would it be proper or wise for him to marry a woman of his own age? What help could such a woman be to him in his ministry? At his age, Elder Butler should have the care that only a wife can give. If this young woman has a desire to give him this care, why should anyone forbid her? She is, I understand, about thirty-five years old.” RY 115.2

Sister Haskell married Elder Haskell because she was convinced that he needed a helper in his work. The difference in their ages seemed to Elder Haskell to be a barrier against their union. He asked my opinion and advice. I said, “If her mind is drawn out in this direction, do not hesitate. You need the help of a spiritual-minded, intelligent woman, who can sustain and encourage you in your work.” They were married, and the Lord has greatly blessed their union, making their lives doubly useful to His cause and work. RY 116.1

May it not be possible that the hand of the Lord is in this attachment between Elder Butler and Sister Keck's sister? What others may think in regard to this matter is not to find any place in our reckoning. We are to ask, “Is this union the will of the Lord?” May it not be His plan for the increase of the helpfulness and usefulness of each? RY 116.2

For many years, because of his invalid wife, Elder Butler has been shut away from the work, cut off from many privileges, prevented from doing the work he might have done. He has cared faithfully and tenderly for his wife, who was weak in mind and body, hampered by affliction and infirmity. When she died, he buried her in sorrow, yet not as a man who is without hope. RY 116.3

After his wife's death, he began to plan for his sister, who has been living with him for a few years, to visit her friends, as she had desired. But the Lord saw fit to add another sorrow to his life. Very suddenly and unexpectedly Sister Lockwood [Elder Butler's sister] died. RY 116.4

Elder Butler is a man who needs the softening influence of a good, high-principled woman. The companionship of such a woman would indeed be a great blessing to him. Considering his experience for the last fifteen years, is it strange that he desires a younger person than himself to love, to converse with? RY 117.1

You do not reason altogether correctly. Saith the Lord, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways.... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” The Lord surprises us by His manner of dealing. RY 117.2

Elder Butler is strong in physical and spiritual health. The Lord has proved and tested and tried him, as He did Job, and as He did Moses. I see in Elder Butler one who has humbled his soul before God. He has another spirit than the Elder Butler of younger years. He has been learning his lesson at the feet of Jesus. After caring so long for his suffering, afflicted wife, he has come forth from the furnace fire refined and purified. I respect and love my brother as one of God's servants. RY 117.3

I have no more to say, except that if your sister, being a Christian, is led and taught by God, leave her with God. Do not by human wisdom spoil the Lord's plan and hinder His work. Elder Butler needs the help of a strong, kind, intelligent woman, who can cooperate with him in his sphere of usefulness, encouraging him and holding up his hands, aiding him to do a good and acceptable work for the Master. If your sister is that woman, she may feel honored in uniting with Elder Butler. RY 117.4

At first I thought that such a step would hurt Brother Butler's influence. But I have had time to consider the matter, and I now see it in another light. I came to this decision before I had the pleasure of meeting Elder Butler at the time of his visit to my home. RY 118.1

I wish you to understand that I have not had one word of conversation with Elder Butler in regard to this matter. He has not made the slightest reference to it.—Letter 77, 1902. RY 118.2

May 23, 1902

Dear Brother and Sister Keck,

I wish to add a few lines to the letter I have already written you. We had a very profitable visit with Elder Butler. He left us last Wednesday morning for Healdsburg. W. C. White and his wife rode over with him in the carriage.... RY 118.3

My brother and sister, I wish you to take to the Lord the matter of the union of your sister with Elder Butler. Prayerfully consider your objections; and then, in the light of the words I have written, if your sister is disposed to unite with Elder Butler in marriage, see if you cannot give up your objection, for the reason that this union may be the purpose of God. RY 118.4

I see in Elder Butler a man of usefulness, a man of intelligence and Bible study. His ministry would be much more valuable were he united with a woman who could help him in his work. Think of how much more he could accomplish with the help of a discreet, intelligent woman. He should not be left to live alone and to travel alone. The sooner he can find a good wife, the better it will be for his work. A wife could do for him those things that no male companion could do—look after his clothes, see that they are free from dust, and that he is always prepared to appear before large congregations. RY 118.5

Would it not be best for you to withdraw your opposition to this union? It is not best for you in any way to oppose that which the Lord may have ordained. It may be that the Lord sees that by this union your sister and Elder Butler could accomplish more for Him than they otherwise could. What people may say has nothing to do with this matter. If it is the Lord's purpose, let us not be found fighting against Him. - Letter 78, 1902. RY 119.1