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


Chapter 15—Attending the General Conference of 1909

From an early date Ellen White seemed to be rather certain that she would attend the 1909 General Conference session to be held in Washington, D.C. The time appointed was May 13 to June 6. This was very different from her experience in 1901, 1903, and 1905, when in each case she hesitated, sometimes for weeks, not knowing whether she should go. As early as September, 1908, she wrote, “I expect to attend the next General Conference in Washington.”—Letter 274, 1908. In November she was discussing the best route to take. “But,” she told Edson, “I dare not move in any action according to my own judgment.” She added, “We will watch unto prayer, and seek to know the will of the Lord. I will trust myself in His hands, and I know that He will work for me.”—Letter 334, 1908. 6BIO 189.1

In late February, 1909, she wrote to Sister Gotzian that “I am expected to attend the coming conference in Washington.”—Letter 48, 1909. As the time approached she wrote Edson on March 30: 6BIO 189.2

We have decided our family party—Sara McEnterfer, Minnie Hawkins, W.C.W., and your mother—will leave next Monday.... We must go to Los Angeles and direct from there to Paradise Valley, stay a couple of days and then visit Loma Linda, and then on to College View and then to Nashville. I think this is the route. Then to Washington.—Letter 183, 1909. 6BIO 189.3

Instead of dread there was anticipation as the trip was planned. Earlier in the year she had spoken of “relief and success, and joy in many lines of the work” (Letter 16, 1909). “I do not dread the journey,” she told Edson. “My health is quite good. I am thankful that my lame hip is little trouble to me now. I have much to be thankful for that at my age—in my eighty-second year—I can be up.”—Letter 183, 1909. 6BIO 189.4

Perhaps one reason for her buoyancy was the turn things had taken in the California Conference, which included the entire State north of the Tehachapi Mountains. When Elder Haskell was called to the presidency of this conference in early February, 1908, there had been considerable bickering and some mismanagement. Even in this conference where she lived and had her membership, various attitudes were being taken concerning her work as the messenger of the Lord. W. C. White on June 22, 1908, in writing to the General Conference treasurer, I. H. Evans, reported: 6BIO 190.1

In view of the fact that so much has been done to discredit the testimonies in this conference, Elder Haskell conducted a series of studies on the Spirit of Prophecy.—35 WCW, p. 865. 6BIO 190.2

He referred to the Oakland camp meeting attended by Ellen White, where she spoke six times. Then at the conference session held in Oakland in early 1909, the resolutions passed were headed by the following action: 6BIO 190.3

Whereas, the gift of prophecy has been a counselor to this people for more than half a century; and, 6BIO 190.4

Whereas, Prosperity has attended the work of the third angel's message in proportion as the counsels of the gift of prophecy have been heeded; therefore, 6BIO 190.5

Resolved, That we hereby recognize the goodness of God in placing and maintaining this gift in the church, and advise our ministers and our brethren generally, to become personally acquainted with its teachings, and to give heed thereto, that they may profit thereby.—Pacific Union Recorder, February 18, 1909. 6BIO 190.6

As planned, the party from Elmshaven left home Monday morning, April 5, and reached Mountain View in the early afternoon. After resting in Elder Cottrell's home for a few hours, they continued to San Jose to catch the 5:10 P.M. train for Los Angeles, and then it was on to San Diego and Paradise Valley Sanitarium. 6BIO 190.7

Tuesday morning the party was again on its way, this time bound for College View, Nebraska, over the Salt Lake City and Omaha Railroad (37 WCW, p. 953). There she spoke twice Friday morning, first to the students and faculty of Union College and then a few minutes later to the children in the elementary school room nearby (Letter 88, 1909). The topic of the Sabbath-morning sermon in the College View church, where she addressed 2,000 people, was “Individual Cooperation” (Manuscript 31, 1909). Then again on Sunday she delivered her sixth sermon of the trip to those who gathered in the College View church. This was followed by an address to the college faculty on educational principles (Letter 84, 1909) and a tour of the school farm. 6BIO 191.1

Tuesday morning, April 20, the group hastened on to Nashville, where she was entertained at Nashville Sanitarium for nearly a week, slipping out for a visit to the Hillcrest school and the Oakwood school. She also visited Rock City Sanitarium and other institutions operated to serve black people. She wrote warmly of the work being done by O. R. Staines and F. L. Bralliar at the Hillcrest school (MSS 25, 13, 17, 1909). 6BIO 191.2

Though the Southern Publishing Association was nearby, she did not visit it, having been warned of God to avoid the institution, which just at that time was involved in some conflicts. 6BIO 191.3

The working force, however, heard her speak on Sabbath, April 24, in the Nashville Memorial church. The next day she addressed the black people in their church on Winter Street. 6BIO 191.4

She molded her message to meet the special interests of her audience, saying at one point: 6BIO 191.5

I recall how especially one of your race was recognized by God in the time of the apostles, the record of which we find in the book of Acts. The Ethiopian mentioned there was a man of influence, and was doing a great work when he heard the message of the gospel. 6BIO 191.6

She added: 6BIO 191.7

I am glad that the message of Christ's second advent has reached so many of the colored people. I want to say to you, the Lord is no respecter of persons. He makes no difference ... because of the color of your skin. He understands all your circumstances. We have one Saviour for all mankind.—Manuscript 17, 1909.

Sunday afternoon she went out to the Madison school and addressed those attending a teachers’ institute in progress there (Letter 74, 1909; Manuscript 15, 1909). She appealed to the workers not to neglect any field of missionary endeavor, and spoke of their duty to work for the black people, recounting to them her experience in the black church and her visit to the Hillcrest school (Manuscript 15, 1909). She spent a few days at Madison, staying in their “new sanitarium” (Letter 74, 1909). 6BIO 192.1

The journey to Huntsville, Alabama, to visit the school was exhausting. The train made frequent stops in the stifling heat, and she suffered pain in her troublesome left eye (Letter 74, 1909; 37 WCW, p. 959). But she talked to the students the next morning and visited the campus, the buildings, and the farm. That night she rode on the train to Asheville, North Carolina, and on Sabbath morning, May 1, took the service in the Haywood church. 6BIO 192.2

On Sunday afternoon she addressed the congregation in the black church pastored by Elder M. C. Strachen, speaking on John 15. She tarried after the service to shake hands with the members. After dinner, she left on the 2:05 P.M. train for Washington, D.C. By the time she reached Washington, she had spoken fourteen times since leaving home. 6BIO 192.3

In Washington she was entertained near the school grounds where the session was held, at the home of Elder G. A. Irwin, General Conference vice-president (37 WCW, p. 977). There she had two rooms—one for sleeping and the other in which to counsel with those who wished to see her. She quickly arranged for rooms in the nearby D. H. Kress home for Edson and Emma, and urged them to attend the conference at her expense, which they did. 6BIO 192.4