Ellen G. White: The Later Elmshaven Years: 1905-1915 (vol. 6)


The Receiving and the Acceptance of Personal Testimonies

To depict this phase of her work, we must, in the interests of clarity, use names. We do this not to disparage men but only to show the interplay of communication and the resulting heart-searching that led the conference president to triumphant victory. As he opens his soul to Ellen White in response to the pointed testimonies involving his very heart experience, we are led to witness the successful work of the Holy Spirit in the experience of one of God's valued workmen. 6BIO 146.4

The fact that Elder G. W. Reaser on several occasions acknowledged his mistakes, confessing his shortcomings in situations with which many were familiar, leads us to feel that in relating this experience no disservice is done to him or his family and that only good can result. 6BIO 146.5

In 1905, Ellen White spoke of Elder Reaser, newly elected president of the Southern California Conference, as “an excellent man” but one who had “not had experience in dealing with minds” (Letter 237, 1905). 6BIO 147.1

In her message written August 19, 1906, during the Los Angeles camp meeting, addressed to Elders Reaser and Burden and the executive committee of the Southern California Conference, she not only made a strong appeal for money to open the school at Loma Linda but came to grips with the matter of relationships. Her letter opened: 6BIO 147.2

Dear Brethren: I am very anxious that Brethren Reaser and Burden, and their associates, shall see all things clearly. God has given every man a certain work to do, and He will give to each the wisdom necessary to perform his own appointed work. 6BIO 147.3

To Brethren Reaser and Burden I would say, In all your counsels together, be careful to show kindness and courtesy toward each other. Guard against anything that has the semblance of a domineering spirit. 6BIO 147.4

Then coming directly to her subject, she wrote: 6BIO 147.5

Be very careful not to do anything that would restrict the work at Loma Linda. It is in the order of God that this property has been secured, and He has given instruction that a school should be connected with the Sanitarium....

The work at Loma Linda demands immediate consideration.... There are times when certain sanitariums will have to pass through a close, severe struggle for means in order to do a special work which the Lord has particularly designated should be done. In such emergencies, they are to be free to receive gifts and donations from our churches. 6BIO 147.6

In closing this communication she wrote: 6BIO 147.7

As the president and executive committee of the Southern California Conference unite with Brother Burden and his associates in planning for the thorough accomplishment of the sanitarium and school work at Loma Linda, they will find strength and blessing. Brother Burden is not to be bound about in his work.—Letter 274, 1906.

Although the president went along with the message calling for the development of the educational work at Loma Linda, his soul was vexed, and he dragged his feet. Some of those who had pledged money for Loma Linda were, by his attitude and sometimes his remarks, influenced to withhold their support, and the work of Elder Burden was made difficult. For twelve months the conflict between Elder Burden and Elder Reaser and the conference committee simmered. By the time of camp meeting, in August, 1907, the difficulties were acute. The date for that convocation had been set for Thursday, August 15, to Monday, September 2. 6BIO 148.1

Two weeks before the meeting, Ellen White wrote: 6BIO 148.2

The conditions that have existed in southern California this past year are not such as God can approve. To those who have clear discernment it is not hard to see the results of placing men in positions where they are mind and judgment for their brethren.—Letter 246, 1907.

“I dare not venture to attend the meeting that will be held in Los Angeles,” she stated, “but I will send some manuscripts to be read at that meeting.” 6BIO 148.3

It was unusual for a camp meeting to last for nineteen days, but that was the plan, with three Sabbaths and three Sundays in place of the usual two. The location selected, the west side of Vermont Avenue, two blocks south of Santa Barbara Avenue, was uncrowded. A thousand people were camping in 260 family tents on the grounds. Hundreds residing in the city came to the camp during the day. 6BIO 148.4

Elder W. C. White came onto the grounds on Sunday morning, the 18th. He carried with him several documents written by his mother to be presented, some to the conference and some to the workers. Others were received from his mother through the mail. He let it be known that these were in his hands to be read at appropriate times. Opportunities came on Monday for him to read three of the more general messages. Tuesday was designated as Sanitarium Day, and Elder Burden led out in bringing to the people a number of messages from Ellen White regarding the medical work in southern California that had been sent to the conference committee. “After the meeting, scores expressed themselves as greatly surprised to know that such remarkable things had been written, and said they were thankful to have the information which had thus been given.”—34 WCW, pp. 153, 154. 6BIO 148.5

A good foundation was laid for what would follow during the next few days. The messages W. C. White carried dealt pointedly with the local situation and made it clear that because of the arbitrary power exercised by the conference president a change should be made in conference leadership. When asked to take the early-morning meeting on Wednesday, W. C. White felt it was time to begin bringing in the counsels on the unwise use of power of conference leaders. He read a manuscript written the Thursday before, titled “Jehovah Is Our King” (see Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 477-484). It opened: 6BIO 149.1

God has revealed many things to me which He has bidden me give to His people by pen and voice. Through this message of the Holy Spirit, God's people are given sacred instruction concerning their duty to God and to their fellow men. 6BIO 149.2

A strange thing has come into our churches. Men who are placed in positions of responsibility that they might be wise helpers to their fellow workers have come to suppose that they were set as kings and rulers in the churches, to say to one brother, Do this; to another, Do that; and to another, Be sure to labor in such and such a way. There have been places where the workers have been told that if they did not follow the instruction of these men of responsibility, their pay from the conference would be withheld. 6BIO 149.3

Then she pointed out: 6BIO 149.4

It is right for the workers to counsel together as brethren; but that man who endeavors to lead his fellow workers to seek his individual counsel and advice regarding the details of their work, and to learn their duty from him, is in a dangerous position, and needs to learn what responsibilities are really comprehended in his office. God has appointed no man to be conscience for his fellow man, and it is not wise to lay so much responsibility upon an officer that he will feel that he is forced to become a dictator.

She then referred to several experiences through the years where men were taught to look to men rather than God for wisdom, and declared: 6BIO 150.1

Recently the same message has again been given me, more definite and decisive, because there has been a deeper offense to the Spirit of God. 6BIO 150.2

Near the close of the testimony she stated: 6BIO 150.3

This message is spoken to our churches in every place. In the false experience that has been coming in, a decided influence is at work to exalt human agencies, and to lead some to depend on human judgment, and to follow the control of human minds. This influence is diverting the mind from God, and God forbid that any such experience should deepen and grow in our ranks as Seventh-day Adventists. Our petitions are to reach higher than erring man—to God.—Manuscript 73, 1907.

At the nine-o'clock business meeting the nominating committee report was brought in, but on the suggestion of Elder W. C. White, who said that he had other messages from his mother that seemed to him to have a bearing on the choice of officers, the election was delayed, and he was asked to read them. One was titled “Workers in the Cause,” appropriate material selected from Testimonies, volume 5, pages 721-729. Another was headed “Individual Responsibility,” and a third one along the same line, “God's Wisdom to Be Sought.” The reading brought the issues into the open. 6BIO 150.4

The discussion turned to conference policy relating to institutions. W. C. White reports that the president claimed that “the conference had outlined a policy which had been persistently violated by Elder Burden in his pushing forward with improvements at Loma Linda.” Then, “in response to this, Elder Burden endeavored to show that the conference policy had not been violated in any such degree as represented and that the necessities of the case had forced him to do what had been done.”—34 WCW, p. 155. 6BIO 150.5

It was an earnest and heated discussion in which Burden pointed out that part of the problem “had been created by the conference officers, by their diverting the attention of the people from sanitarium work to the school work and by their spreading such reports regarding the sanitarium work as to discourage our people from paying their pledges.” It was a rather fierce contention, which clearly revealed both issues and attitudes of men. 6BIO 150.6

Somewhere along the line, W. C. White handed to Elder Reaser and other leading men a twenty-two line testimony addressed to “The Laborers in Southern California.” In part it read: 6BIO 151.1

I am deeply convicted on some points. I must speak in regard to the position that Elder Reaser is occupying. I know, from the light God has given me, that if this is allowed to continue, God will be greatly dishonored. 6BIO 151.2

God calls His servants to seek light and understanding and spiritual strength from One who is infinite in wisdom; they are to put their dependence upon One who is able to help in every emergency. 6BIO 151.3

The conditions that have existed in southern California this past year are not such as God can approve. To those who have clear discernment it is not hard to see the results of placing men in positions where they are mind and judgment for their brethren. 6BIO 151.4

Those who accept such a work and authority show that they have not a true and wise understanding of the Scriptures. If these men were close students of the Word of God, they would see that by adopting such a course, they are leading men and women to depend on human wisdom instead of seeking it from God.—Letter 246, 1907. 6BIO 151.5

W. C. White read message after message at the conference. “All were well received,” he wrote his mother, adding, “Some see the importance of the messages, and others cannot understand. But all are studying the matter prayerfully.”—34 WCW, p. 106. 6BIO 151.6