Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)


The Lure of the West

With the thrilling reports of how the message was being received in Iowa, it was difficult for James White to think of nothing less than hastening west to see for himself and to take part in the evangelistic thrust. Leaving the publishing interests in the hands of the able staff in Battle Creek, he and Ellen were off for meetings in Lisbon, Iowa, February 25 and 26, expecting to spend the next ten or twelve weeks in Iowa and Wisconsin. 1BIO 411.4

But just before leaving Battle Creek, James lit a fuse that smoldered for a time and then set off an explosion. With the growth of the church there was an accelerating realization, particularly on the part of White, of the dire necessity of organization of some type. He had strong support from the light given to Ellen during the previous six years calling attention to the vital need of “gospel order.” Church property had to be held in a manner that would be legally secure. Money to advance the publishing work had to be borrowed. While the lenders were quite willing to accept notes signed by James White, considering it loans for which he was personally responsible, he could not be satisfied with that. 1BIO 411.5

On the Review editorial page of February 23, the same issue that carried the notice of their appointments in Iowa, he introduced two items. The first entitled “Bills! Bills!” and the second “Borrowed Money.” The first had to do with money owed for subscriptions to the Review, which amounted to $1,881. This the publishing house could carry, as explained by James White, only as “several warm friends of the cause have lent money to this office, without interest, to the amount of $1,500.”—Ibid., February 23, 1860. He called for relief by prompt payment from the subscribers. He followed this by the item on “borrowed money,” opening with the declaration: 1BIO 411.6

To those who have so kindly and generously lent money to this office, we wish to say, that as an individual, we do not wish to be considered in any way responsible for it. We act simply as publishing agent by the direction of the publishing committee.... There are no reasons why we should be responsible for borrowed money, used for the benefit of this office, which is the property of the church at large. This property is not insured, and therefore, in case of fire, would be a total loss. Those who consider it proper to let their money remain in the office under these circumstances will do so at their own risk.—Ibid. 1BIO 412.1

Then White laid before the church the pressing need for an organization that would safeguard investments and loans: 1BIO 412.2

We hope, however, that the time is not far distant when this people will be in that position necessary to be able to get church property insured, hold their meetinghouses in a proper manner, that those persons making their wills, and wishing to do so, can appropriate a portion to the publishing department. Till this can be brought about, we must do the best we can; but we wish it distinctly understood that we bear no individual responsibility in the matter.—Ibid. 1BIO 412.3

He cited a recent experience as an illustration, making his point crystal-clear: 1BIO 412.4

A sister in Vermont proposed to let the office have the use of $100, without interest, as several others had done. The money was sent, and also a note filled out for us to sign. We refused to write “James White,” but in its place wrote “Advent Review and Sabbath Herald Office,” and sent it back to Vermont. In a few weeks the note was returned and the money called back. This was all done in good feeling. 1BIO 412.5

White turned to the church, appealing for helpful suggestions: 1BIO 413.1

We call on preachers and leading brethren to give this matter their attention. If any object to our suggestions, will they please write out a plan on which we as a people can act.—Ibid.

The swelling discussion carried through the columns of the Review, sparked by this statement, continued for seven months. Some cried that to organize, to choose a name, or to turn to the world in any way for financial security was to plunge into Babylon. In each response James White urged his protesting brethren: “Please write out a plan on which we as a people can act.” 1BIO 413.2