Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 3 (1876 - 1882)


Lt 32, 1878

White, J. S.

Salem, Oregon

June 24, 1878

Portions of this letter are published in UL 189; 3Bio 85, 88; 5MR 180-181; 10MR 38.

Dear Husband:

I received one card and a letter from you wherein you speak of the fair ground, but nothing since. In regard to that purchase, I have nothing to say. I expect to occupy our house in Healdsburg this winter and complete my writing there. This will be better for us both. I think the bracing winter East would really be an advantage to you, and you are among your friends who will do all in their power to make you happy. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 1

I am feeling more and more deeply that I must accomplish my work. I feel a preciousness, a nearness to God; and although I miss you very, very much, and love you, yet I feel at present I belong to God to wait for and do His will. I tell you freely it is a great sacrifice to my feelings to have you separated from me as you are, and yet it seems to be that it is as God would have it, and I must be reconciled. It has been hard, so hard. I wept and prayed and pondered and wept again, and the steady conviction forces itself upon me that it is right as it is. God’s work is great. It demands our first attention. Separated as we are, we shall not be influenced by each other, but we shall look to God separately and do our work in His fear and to His glory. I feel like looking to God constantly. My life is a life of prayer. I am praying for you every day, and my heart is very tender, broken before God. I know the Lord will lead me when I trust in Him so fully, so implicitly. Our heavenly Father will tenderly watch over you and will give you health and strength and grace to work for Him. If it please Him that we should again be set to work together, we will in the fear of God do His will; if not, we will in humility do His work to His glory, not pleasing ourselves. I am feeling confidence and trust in God as I used to do. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 2

Last Sabbath [June 22] I spoke to our people in their convenient, rented meetinghouse. Nearly one hundred were present; most were Sabbathkeepers. I had great freedom in speaking, and the word was gladly received. There were about twenty unbelievers present. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 3

Yesterday by invitation I spoke to the prisoners. Sister Jordan, a very amiable woman in the faith, took me in her carriage. Brother and Sister Carter also accompanied us. Sister Carter labors with the prisoners much of the time. I was surprised to see so fine a company of intelligent men. Oh, so sad! So many young men, younger than our own dear boys, so bright and looking as though they might fill any position in society. You would not dream that they were prisoners, only as you looked upon their strange dress. And this was so neat and clean; there was nothing repulsive in their appearance. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 4

The superintendent first ushered us in, and then at the sound of the bell the heavy iron bolts were drawn back with a loud noise, and there swarmed from their cells one hundred and fifty prisoners. Then we were locked in with them—the warden, superintendent’s wife—a Southern lady—Brother and Sister Carter, Sister Jordan, and myself. The prisoners sang, led by Brother Carter. There was an organ. The performer was a young man, an excellent musician, a man of promise—yet oh, how sad, a convict! I engaged in prayer, and every brow bowed. They sang again, and then I addressed them. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 5

They listened with the most profound attention as I spoke from these words: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” [1 John 3:1.] I then presented before them Adam’s sin, his fall, and the gift of God to redeem Adam’s failure; the love here manifested to save man from sin and ruin. I dwelt upon the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, the victory gained in behalf of the race, and how man may overcome the seductive snares of Satan by making Christ his trust. In His name and through His merits the vilest sinner might have pardon and gain heaven through a life of obedience. I dwelt a few moments upon the nature of sin, that sin was the transgression of the law, and how through repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ the sinner might be saved with a full and free salvation. But he is not saved by the merits of the blood of Christ while he continues to transgress the Father’s law. Christ did not die to make it possible for the sinner to be saved while continuing to transgress; Christ died to evidence to the sinner that there was no hope for him while he continued in sin. Through obedience to all God’s requirements is his only hope for pardon through the blood of Christ. I dwelt largely upon the great reward to be given the final overcomer—the crown of life that fadeth not away to be placed upon his brow. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 6

The people listened with the most solemn mien, and the tearful eye and quivering lip showed that their hearts, although calloused with sin, felt the words spoken. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 7

Again the heavy bolts were withdrawn, and the prisoners went slowly back to their cells. After all had gone, I was let out. I was introduced to the president and wife. She grasped my hand cordially. Said she: “I would not have lost this opportunity to hear what I have heard for anything. It was all so clear, so simple, and yet so elevating. Women can do far more than men in speaking to these convicts. They can come straight to their hearts.” She thanked me for coming and invited me to come again. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 8

I was asked if I wished to view the prison cells, and I answered, No. Were my husband with me I would talk with some of the prisoners and visit the cells, but as I was without my husband I did not wish to do so. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 9

I tried to imagine the youth around me as my boys, and to talk with them from a mother’s heart of love and sympathy, with no thought of lowering the standard to meet them in their sinful, lawless state, but to exalt the law and hold the standard of the cross of Christ high, and then show them the path of virtue and obedience to attain to this happy position, redeem the past, and secure eternal life. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 10

Sunday evening [June 23] I spoke in the Methodist church upon the subject of Christian temperance. We had a good audience. The choir sang a most appropriate song upon the subject of temperance. The organist was a most accomplished performer. I had freedom in speaking, and all gave the deepest attention. After I ceased speaking, the choir sang again, “The Song of the Reapers.” The voices and the organ blended, rich and clear, in perfect harmony. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 11

At the close of the meeting the Methodist minister shook hands and said: “I thank you for the words you have spoken tonight. They have deeply interested me and I hope will do great good.” I thanked him in return for the privilege of the house in which to speak words for the Master. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 12

I rested well last night, and I am going to keep myself in working order by taking the very best care of myself. I hope God will help me, for I can do nothing without His help. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 13

The church in Salem are begging of me to stay with them and labor at least one month. This is an important place. There are many interests here. But I answer them, “No. I have work to do elsewhere.” My testimony is gladly received, and many hearts are warmly knit with mine. Already I have decided to stay two weeks longer and go to Walla Walla. I shall have an appointment at Portland and on my way to Walla Walla at The Dalles, I think it is. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 14

There is work enough to do, and let us hide in God and seek to obtain purity of heart, meekness, and lowliness of spirit, and to be refined and sanctified, fit for the Master’s use here, and the heavenly home of the blest and holy hereafter. I will not live for self. I will not lose sight of the self-denying, self-sacrificing Redeemer. He pleased not Himself. I shall be glad to hear from you any time and will write as often as I can. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 15

Much love to yourself and all our dear friends. 3LtMs, Lt 32, 1878, par. 16

Your Ellen.