Messenger of the Lord

Clear Response to Dissidents

Case and Russell. In 1853 H. S. Case and C. P. Russell, the first dissenters to arise from the emerging Seventh-day Adventist Church (seven years before the first local conference was organized in Michigan, 1861), made two charges against the Whites: (1) that they were getting rich off the church paper, and (2) that Ellen White was being placed above the Bible. Offended at Mrs. White’s counsel directed at them, they launched a new paper, Messenger of Truth, in 1854, to supplant the Review and Herald. In that paper they printed their allegations against Mrs. White’s reliability. They also charged James with using donations for private enterprises and for profiting on church members because he sold Bibles at a higher price than he had paid for them (after buying them wholesale and having them shipped from New York City!). Case and Russell were soon joined by other critical church members. MOL 230.4

In June of 1855, Ellen White had a public vision in Oswego, New York. She told members at the meeting that they should no longer be distracted by the Messenger party, that soon the dissidents would be fighting among themselves, and that in a short while our own membership would double. 11 MOL 230.5

Stephenson and Hall. Concurrent with the Messenger party in Michigan, another dissident group was developing in Wisconsin under the leadership of J. M. Stephenson and D. P. Hall, former ministers of the Millerite Movement. These two men had revived a doctrinal position held by some Millerites that Christ, at His second advent, would reign for a thousand years on earth, during which time probation would continue while the Jews played a leading role in the conversion of the nations. MOL 230.6

Because James White would not print their views in the church paper, Stephenson and Hall allied themselves with the Michigan-based Messenger party in October, 1854—a great disappointment for James because he thought he had their confidence. In November 1855, at the first conference held in Battle Creek, Michigan after the move from Rochester, New York, Mrs. White had a vision that encouraged those who were troubled by the Age-to-Come group led by Stephenson and Hall. In that vision she revealed how these two men had earlier been convinced of the integrity of her visions, but on further examination they discovered that their Age-to-Come theology did not agree with certain visions. She saw behind their “smooth” words and their deception. Her advice to the growing church: “The church of God should move straight along, as though there were not such a people in the world.” 12 MOL 230.7

What happened to these dissenters? By 1858, after internal arguments, all had gone their separate ways. Stephenson adopted further strange doctrines, involved himself in “an unsavory divorce,” and ended up in the “poorhouse,” an imbecile at death. Hall went into real estate investments and eventual bankruptcy that terminated in insanity. 13 MOL 230.8

Moses Hull. The tragic case of Moses Hull reveals how kindly warnings given by Ellen White can be disregarded only to one’s hurt. Hull joined the church in 1858, and soon became an influential Adventist preacher, often appearing in the general councils of the church. But within a few weeks after preaching an evangelistic sermon on September 20, 1863, he joined the Spiritualists. What happened? MOL 231.1

For two years prior to his defection, Ellen White had been warning him regarding his selfishness, covetousness, lack of management skills, and overweening trust in his own abilities. 14 In 1862 he had been debating publicly with Spiritualists, enjoying his success as he turned some of his hearers into espousing Christianity. But on one occasion, with no Adventists to accompany him, he debated in Paw Paw, Michigan, a strong Spiritualist center. Overconfident of his own ability, he soon found (in his own words) his “tongue ... seemingly as thick as my hand, and what I had often used before as an argument seemed to me like nonsense. I was defeated.” 15 MOL 231.2

Two weeks later, November 5, 1862, Hull sensed his problem and asked for the Whites and M. E. Cornell to come to his Battle Creek home to pray for him. During the prayer session, Ellen White was given a vision. Of it she wrote: “I was shown the condition of Bro. Hull. He was in an alarming state. His lack of consecration and vital piety left him subject to Satan’s suggestions.... He is asleep to his own danger.... He was presented to me as standing upon the brink of an awful gulf, ready to leap. If he takes the leap, it will be final; his eternal destiny will be fixed.... Never should one man be sent forth alone to combat with a Spiritualist.” 16 MOL 231.3

The Whites then took Hull with them on a preaching circuit in Michigan, hoping that close companionship would help him throw off his bondage. MOL 231.4

On June 6, 1863, Ellen White sent another message to Moses Hull. She analyzed part of his problem: “When you should be studying your own heart, you are engaged in reading books. When you should by faith be drawing near to Christ, you are studying books. I saw that all your study will be useless unless you faithfully study yourself.... You lack sobriety and gravity out of the pulpit....When treating upon the most solemn subjects, you often bring in something comical to create a smile, and this frequently destroys the force of your whole discourse.... Be not flattered by remarks which unwise and foolish brethren may make concerning your efforts. If they praise your preaching, let it not elate you.” 17 MOL 231.5

But three months later, Hull did leap into that “awful gulf.” He became a lecturer and writer for the Spiritualists. 18 MOL 231.6

Stanton in Montana. While Ellen White was in Australia, A. W. Stanton, a worried Montana layman, published a compilation of Mrs. White’s statements that seemed to support his position that the Adventist Church had apostatized and become Babylon. He concluded that it was time to stop supporting the organized church financially and to “come out of her.” 19 MOL 231.7

Further, Stanton had sent an intermediary to Ellen White in Australia, hoping to enlist her support. He could have saved his money, because she had already written her comments to Stanton on March 23, 1893. Her review of the Biblical teaching regarding what John the Revelator meant by “Babylon” was simple and cogent. Forthrightly, she wrote: “If you are teaching that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is Babylon, you are wrong. God has not given you any such message to bear.... I presume that some may be deceived by your message, because they are full of curiosity and desire for some new thing.” 20 MOL 231.8

In addition, she wrote four articles for the Review entitled, “The Remnant Church Not Babylon.” These were later republished in Testimonies to Ministers. 21 MOL 231.9

In this series of articles Mrs. White made clear her distress with those who took selections from her writings, making them appear to endorse the particular position of the compiler. She wrote: “Through making unwarrantable liberties, they have presented to the people a theory that is of a character to deceive and destroy. In times past many others have done this same thing, and have made it appear that the Testimonies sustained positions that were untenable and false.” (See hermeneutical principles, pp. 389-391.) MOL 232.1

Then she reminded her fellow church members: “There are matters in the Testimonies that are written, not for the world at large, but for the believing children of God.” (See pp. 176, 177.) MOL 232.2

She agreed that evils exist in the church and will continue until the end, yet “the church in these last days is to be the light of the world that is polluted and demoralized by sin. The church, enfeebled and defective, needing to be reproved, warned, and counseled, is the only object upon earth upon which Christ bestows His supreme regard.” 22 MOL 232.3

Ellen White’s published counsel stopped the movement about as fast as it had developed. Earlier, in the late 1880s, she had analyzed the anatomy of apostasy and Satan’s strategies: MOL 232.4

“He works upon minds to excite jealousy and dissatisfaction toward those at the head of the work, MOL 232.5

“The gifts are next questioned; then, of course, they have but little weight, and instruction given through vision is disregarded, MOL 232.6

“Next follows skepticism in regard to the vital points of our faith, the pillars of our position, MOL 232.7

“Then doubt as to the Holy Scriptures, and MOL 232.8

“Then the downward march to perdition.” MOL 232.9

Mrs. White continued her probe: “When the Testimonies which were once believed, are doubted and given up, Satan knows the deceived ones will not stop at this; and he redoubles his efforts till he launches them into open rebellion, which becomes incurable, and ends in destruction.” 23 MOL 232.10