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


Chapter 26—The Other Side of 1911

Writing and book preparation was Ellen White's principal work in 1911, and it was undertaken with a sense of time running out. But as in other years, Ellen White's 1911 ministry was somewhat mixed. From time to time, writing was laid aside for important interviews, occasional speaking in nearby churches, trips to Loma Linda, and in a camp meeting ministry. 6BIO 350.1

Then more general phases of her work were marked by the issuance of two pamphlets, Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 17, published late in July, and Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 17a, issued near the close of the year. The first was a warning on “The Unwise Use of Money and the Spirit of Speculation.” The other was an encouragement to Seventh-day Adventists to step forward and aid in securing land at Loma Linda that would, in time, be needed by the institution. The story behind this comprised a portion of the preceding chapter. 6BIO 350.2

Now here is the story behind the other pamphlet, a story involving an official of Mariposa County in California, Stonewall Jackson Harris. Mr. Harris was the county surveyor and a U.S. deputy mineral surveyor; he was also involved in a number of business enterprises, some of them highly speculative. He was a Seventh-day Adventist and was developing several investment ventures, designed to interest his fellow church members. These, he felt, promised large returns to the cause of God. 6BIO 350.3

Early Monday morning, May 29, 1911, Mr. Harris called at the home of W. C. White and expressed a desire to see Ellen White, so that he might lay before her his plans of work and receive advice. When he was told that Mrs. White did not willingly enter into such matters as he had to present, he returned to San Francisco. However, Mrs. Harris and a friend remained, and a little later in the morning, arrangements were made for her to have a brief interview with Ellen White. This was held in the living room at Elmshaven. 6BIO 350.4

Present for this interview were Mrs. White, W. C. White, Mrs. Harris, her friend Miss Gossard, Sara McEnterfer, Mary Steward, and Helen Graham, who made a stenographic report of what was said. 6BIO 351.1

A letter Mrs. Harris had written earlier in the day addressed to Ellen White setting forth the situation was read by way of introduction. It stated: 6BIO 351.2

My husband is very anxious to advance the cause of present truth, and is devoting 60 percent of the proceeds of his business to this purpose. He wants the direction of the Lord in everything he does, and decides his business affairs and all matters pertaining to his daily life by casting lots. His method is to toss up a coin. 6BIO 351.3

I feel that it will lead him into serious error if he continues this course, and have tried to lead him to see that it is not wise, that we cannot be sure that the Lord answers him in this way; but he feels that he is right. 6BIO 351.4

He has made successful land deals, and has been able to turn thousands of dollars into the work. In these deals he has sometimes been guided by the method above mentioned. His business affairs are assuming larger proportions, and greater sums of money are being involved. If he continues to depend upon this method of guidance, I feel that his affairs may end disastrously at any time. 6BIO 351.5

The advice of his friends has no influence with him, for he is sure that he is led by the Lord. I know that in the past when the course of individuals has been detrimental to the work of the Lord, He has given light. 6BIO 351.6

This morning my husband acknowledged that if he should receive a testimony condemning the course he is pursuing, he would stop his present method. So I lay the matter before you, earnestly praying that the Lord may send us some word of counsel. 6BIO 351.7

To this Ellen White replied: 6BIO 352.1

Here is a course of action that if it appears at all successful, will call in the talents of our people. The enemy of souls is very anxious to hinder the completion of the special work for this time by bringing in some erroneous transaction. He will bring it in under the garb of great liberality, and if those pursuing this course have apparent success for a time, others will follow. And the very truths that are testing our people for this time, and which, if clearly understood, would cut off such a course of action, lose their force.

Some will strike out into flattering speculative money-making schemes, and others will quickly catch the spirit of speculation. It is just what they want, and they will engage in lines of speculation that take the mind off from the sacred preparation that is essential for their souls in order for them to be prepared to meet the trials which will come in these last days. 6BIO 352.2

W. C. White raised the question about deciding business and other matters by asking the Lord to answer Yes or No as a card was dropped to the floor. Ellen White's mind turned to experiences in the early days following the 1844 disappointment, and she cited similar instances in which people sought divine directions. Later as she looked over the transcript of the report of the interview, she added a more specific answer: 6BIO 352.3

It is a haphazard method, which God does not approve. To men who have suggested such tests, I have said, “No, no.” The sacred things which concern the cause of God must not be dealt with by such methods. God does not instruct us that we are to learn His will by any such way. 6BIO 352.4

But W. C. White persisted: 6BIO 352.5

Suppose it comes to a business transaction. I see a property that looks good to me. I ask the Lord to tell me whether to buy it or not. Then I adopt the manner of tossing up a piece of money, and if it comes one side up, I buy it; and if the other side comes up, I will not buy it.

To this, Ellen White replied: 6BIO 352.6

God has given me the message that no such thing is to come into the work of His cause. It would lower it into the dust. This is how it was presented to me. It would divert the mind from God and His power and His grace, to commonplace things. 6BIO 353.1

To be doubly sure, W. C. White stated that Brother Harris always prayed before he tossed up his coin. Would not that make some difference? 6BIO 353.2

“Not a whit of difference,” Ellen White replied. She cited several instances of supposed guidance in the early days. Following certain “signs,” some men were led to exchange wives, others to put their hands on hot stoves. In one case a dead child was left unburied, for a “sign” had been given that it would be raised from the dead. 6BIO 353.3

When asked whether she wanted to send any word to Mr. Harris, she responded: 6BIO 353.4

I should say, Now, my brother, I have seen just the very same thing as your moving a piece of silver and its falling so and so, and I have seen how it ended with those who accepted this as indicating the mind of God. It is the Bible plan for a group of people to pray together and study His Word together for light, rather than that an individual shall follow his fancies supported by such methods. 6BIO 353.5

If the Lord is working for us, He does it in His own order. He does not step out of His order to adopt methods of such an earthly character.... 6BIO 353.6

I would say to Brother Harris, Let your movements be guarded. God does not place His approval on any such movement as this.... I shall never consent to anything of this kind coming in among our people. It must not be permitted.—Manuscript 3, 1911. (see also Sp. T, Series B, No. 17). 6BIO 353.7

The historical record indicates that Harris found devious reasons for not heeding the counsel given in the interview. In a subsequent letter, written June 7, Ellen White declared: 6BIO 353.8

I am instructed to say to you that God is not leading you in your large plans and speculations.... That which you suppose to be light from the Lord is a device of the enemy.—Letter 28, 1911. 6BIO 353.9

On June 22, 1911, Harris published full-page advertisements in the San Francisco Call and the San Francisco Evening Bulletin. This led the California Conference to publish a repudiation of any claims he had made that would tie the church to his financial ventures, from a railroad that would not run trains on the Sabbath, to the development of a town inhabited only by Sabbathkeepers, to most promising oil-well and gold-mine schemes (DF 258). 6BIO 354.1

The experience provided the basis of a line of warning needed by Seventh-day Adventists. There were others in central California who were intrigued with large and attractive investment schemes in real estate and mining. Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 17, the pamphlet published to meet these financial threats, contained Ellen White's counsel to Harris, the heart of which is found in Selected Messages 2:325 to 328. Stonewall Jackson Harris soon dropped from prominence. 6BIO 354.2