Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 3 (1876 - 1882)


Lt 3a, 1881

White, J. E.

Battle Creek, Michigan

April 22, 1881

Portions of this letter are published in 3Bio 157.

Dear son Edson:

I felt sad when I went into your room and saw the improvements you are making. No one would be better pleased to see you have all these advantages than your mother. But for several reasons was I sad, because you have had a very discouraging and defective experience. The Lord has noticed your defects and mercifully warned you and counseled you. In failing to see the wrong of this course and to what it would lead, you failed to heed the decided warnings given you. 3LtMs, Lt 3a, 1881, par. 1

It is very difficult, when once you have started in with a plan, to be diverted from it or headed off. The last experience you had in California was a very severe one. To save you mortification and trial we managed to have you come to Battle Creek. We thought after this severe lesson you would certainly see and realize your dangers—your tendencies to lay out means, trusting hopefully to large returns. I did try to help you all I could, for one purpose—that you would get into a position to go out and labor. If you do not economize, you will certainly be unable to labor at all without high wages to support you in your ideas of living. 3LtMs, Lt 3a, 1881, par. 2

Now, Edson, will you please read over the cautions given you of the Lord. Do not think your mother deceived and too cautious, exaggerating matters. I know your dangers; I know the power of habit upon you. You commence to make things as you want them, convenient and pleasant, but all the time it is borrowed capital you are using; for every dollar expended that you could get along without and not suffer is somebody’s money who may call for it. 3LtMs, Lt 3a, 1881, par. 3

I thought your first anxiety would be to get out of debt. Have you paid one dollar to lessen the principal and stop the interest since you purchased that house? And yet you see places for improvements, and as soon as one thing is done the passion grows by indulgence and there seems to be the strongest temptation to do still more in improving. When you own the house you live in, then it will be time enough to invest money, if you can get it without borrowing, to lay out in improvements. 3LtMs, Lt 3a, 1881, par. 4

For a poor man who knows not whether he can ever pay for the house he lives in, I consider the improvements you are now making a piece of extravagant folly. I would rather have lost one hundred dollars than have anyone who knew your financial standing see these improvements. It seems as though you had an abundance of means you knew not how to use up. This is the temptation of Satan to ruin you and to leave you without influence, as far as your wisdom and wise management of means is concerned. Some improvements it was necessary for you to make. But if you would stop with only a few that are really necessary! I beg of you to dismiss Spicer. Live in the house as it is till you have a surplus of means that you can safely make improvements, and then venture to make your surroundings. 3LtMs, Lt 3a, 1881, par. 5

To have you thrown up in my face continually as an extravagant, unwise young man is continual grief to me. 3LtMs, Lt 3a, 1881, par. 6

Now, my son, consider the warnings given you of God. Are these to be set aside and wholly disregarded? Can you not see your failure and mistakes of the past that have imperiled everything you have touched because you have not restrained and overcome this disposition to lay out means, flattering yourself that plenty was coming in? I thought, if you could do a small business, without depending much on hired help, it would be well; but you soon began to branch out. And I am so involved in this matter; and you have those at Battle Creek who are acquainted with your past failures look on and see that you have made no reformation in these things. Your two carriages and these things are against you. Of all places in the world, Battle Creek is the place where this propensity of yours should be held in firmly with bit and bridle. 3LtMs, Lt 3a, 1881, par. 7

Do not, I beg you, go any further on borrowed capital. You may sell your furniture to make changes, but you will buy again. Our books will not lie piled up on the floor in a heap in the corner. Your room was light and pleasant with two large front windows, and you could have had a large one where the small one was and it would have been all-sufficient. You are a poor young man who needed every dollar you have paid to Spicer to use in your organ business. If you sell furniture, put that into your business, for it is a money value. Where this mania will end I cannot say. But what can I say, and how can I feel in regard to these expenditures of means, to those who have heard me plead for means to be raised and loaned to you? 3LtMs, Lt 3a, 1881, par. 8

I beg of you, for your mother’s reputation, for your wife’s sake, and for Christ’s sake, to develop more caution and economy of character. I have felt bad to see the testimonies of caution and reproof have so little weight with you. Your failures in the past were in consequence of indulging your own ideas and plans, just as you are doing now, without moving safely and surely. Your desire to accomplish your object has led to greater evils. Now the only safe course for you is to restrain this propensity. You will never have anything you will call your own till you do this. 3LtMs, Lt 3a, 1881, par. 9

God is bringing you over the ground again, testing, proving you. Will you withstand temptation and, as tried gold, endure the test? You have already earned the name of being incapable of doing business—justly, too. You had better put up with inconvenience and have things unhandy and even uncomfortable, rather than live under the shadow of debt. Your religious interest is gone. Your mind has become absorbed in other things and the Sabbath of the Lord is not devoted to religious service. This is the very same course for which H. W. Kellogg and Dr. [J. H.] Kellogg were reproved. You are neglecting religion for your business. 3LtMs, Lt 3a, 1881, par. 10

What kind of influence are you exerting in Battle Creek? Absent from the discourses on the Sabbath, absent from the conference meetings, absent from the prayer meetings. Is it not as essential for you to exercise yourself in religious things in order to grow spiritually as for any one else? You are drifting away from the right. Stop, I pray you, stop where you are and consider. A word to the wise is sufficient. 3LtMs, Lt 3a, 1881, par. 11