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

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Chapter 19—The Threat of Distracting Doctrinal Controversy

During the General Conference session in Washington in 1909, there surfaced signals of potential doctrinal controversy in which the “daily” of Daniel 8 largely figured. The Bulletin carries no reference to this, but it was in the back of the minds of not a few present at the session. Ellen White was fully aware of this and saw it as a threat to the long-overdue drive for city evangelism. Leading workers who expended their time and energies in doctrinal disputes could not throw themselves wholeheartedly into the evangelistic thrust. The story takes us back before the session, and then moves forward to some months after the session. This background aids in a better understanding of Ellen White's repeated and almost desperate calls for work in the cities. 6BIO 246.1

Soon after becoming leader of the church in 1901, Elder Daniells was brought into close association with W. W. Prescott, former president of Battle Creek College. As editor of the Review and Herald and vice-president of the General Conference during the period of 1901 to 1909, Prescott worked closely with Daniells. Early in their association, Prescott brought to Daniells’ attention what was termed the “new view” of the “daily” of Daniel 8. His own study and association with workers in Europe had led Prescott to question the presentation in the widely read Uriah Smith book Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation, which came to be known as the “old view.” At the time, and in succeeding months Daniells counseled that “nothing be said, that the matter should not be agitated or discussed,” for fear that something wrong might be brought in, and “for fear that the question of heresy might be raised, and people get unsettled, and controversy be set on foot” (DF 200, AGD, in interview at Elmshaven, January 26, 1908). 6BIO 246.2

The question of the meaning of the daily was not a new one in Adventist history. William Miller had taught that it referred to paganism, but even before the Disappointment, that view was questioned. The classic 1843 chart produced by Fitch, and used by all the Advent preachers, omitted reference to the meaning of the daily. 6BIO 247.1

In 1847 O. R. L. Crosier had expressed the view that the daily refers to the high-priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. Uriah Smith in 1854 briefly expounded this position (The Review and Herald, March 28, 1854). But Smith, rising to prominence shortly afterward, in his Thoughts on the Book of Daniel (1873 ed.,p. 163), went back to the view of William Miller. Smith's became the accepted position until the turn of the century, and thus was known as the “old view.” Prescott's position was similar to Crosier's, but nevertheless acquired the less-than-accurate designation as the “new view.” 6BIO 247.2

Ellen White had made no mention of the daily in The Great Controversy, her volume dealing with prophecy. Her only use of the term is found in Early Writings, 74, 75, where she reports a vision given to her on September 23, 1850, and this in connection with the subject of time setting. 6BIO 247.3

The Review and Herald, April 4, 1907, carried an article from the pen of pioneer worker J. N. Loughborough, entitled “The Thirteen Hundred and Thirty-five Days,” which, while not making reference to it as such, upheld the old view. As the months passed, Review editor W. W. Prescott found it difficult to refrain from introducing the new view of the daily, which to him carried great light. He was aware that while still in Australia, Ellen White had received a letter from L. R. Conradi, leader of the church's work in Europe, stating that he could not harmonize his views on the question with Smith's and that if she had any light on the subject, he would appreciate receiving it. If she had no light, he intended to publish his view—the new view. The fact that Ellen White did not reply to Conradi's letter left the impression that she had no light on the point (DF 201a, WCW to J. E. White, June 1, 1910). 6BIO 247.4

The matter simmered, Daniells unwilling to make it an issue since he had his hands more than full in the reorganization of the work of the church and the struggle with Battle Creek problems. The matter was discussed now and again at General Conference Committee meetings, with both viewpoints being considered, but no conclusion was reached (DF 200). 6BIO 247.5

As careful students took time to examine all the evidence, many were led to accept the new view—A. G. Daniells and W. C. White among them—and polarization began to develop. After the close of the Pacific Union Conference session at St. Helena in late January, 1908, some of the workers lingered on to spend a little time at Elmshaven studying the question. They met in the Elmshaven office—Daniells, Prescott, Loughborough, Haskell and his wife, W. C. White, C. C. Crisler, and D. E. Robinson (Ibid.). 6BIO 248.1

The meeting, in place of bringing some solutions to the problem, served only to harden positions. On January 27, 1908, the day after the meeting, S. N. Haskell wrote to A. G. Daniells, stating that “since the interview yesterday morning I have less confidence in the position taken by Elder Prescott than before.”—DF 201. 6BIO 248.2