Ellen G. White: The Progressive Years: 1862-1876 (vol. 2)

Chapter 17—(1868) The First Annual Camp Meetings

At the General Conference session held in mid-May, 1868, two promising ventures were given official status and two new ventures were launched. These were the Tract and Book Fund, the annual Adventist camp meeting, the Seventh-day Adventist Benevolent Association, and the mission to California. Each was enthusiastically received and each contributed to the progress of the church. 2BIO 239.1

The Tract and Book Fund, later known as the Book Fund, was born in Battle Creek, Sunday morning, January 12, 1868. James White declared that he and Ellen had discovered during their two months’ tour in the Eastern States that many members and prospective members had little familiarity with the literature of the church. He mentioned that only one in four of the families of Sabbathkeepers in Maine had read such Spirit of Prophecy books as Spiritual Gifts,, Testimonies for the Church, How to Live, Appeal to Mothers, and Appeal to Youth. He declared, 2BIO 239.2

The work to be done, in which we appeal for help at this time, is to induce all Sabbathkeepers to read these works, and inform themselves as to the things taught in them.—The Review and Herald, January 14, 1868. 2BIO 239.3

“It is much easier,” he stated, “to fortify persons against heresy and rebellion than to reclaim them after they have thus fallen.” He enlarged on the need: 2BIO 239.4

The greatest cause of our spiritual feebleness as a people is the lack of real faith in spiritual gifts. If they all received this kind of testimony in full faith, they would put from them those things which displease God, and would everywhere stand in union and in strength. And three fourths of the ministerial labor now expended to help the churches could then be spared to the work of raising up churches in new fields.— Ibid. 2BIO 239.5

White proposed a program of several parts. Ministers would have on hand literature that they could encourage members to buy; they would receive credit for literature that they gave away judiciously. All members would contribute to a fund to supply free books and pamphlets as might be needed. Proper blanks would be supplied to enable the program to be handled in an orderly and economical fashion. James declared: 2BIO 240.1

In our future labors we design to take with us a full supply of this kind of reading matter, and place in every family interested in our faith and hope full sets of Spiritual Gifts,, and How to Live, and in the hands of every Sabbath school scholar and youth, Appeal to Mothers, Appeal to Youth, and Sabbath Readings.— Ibid. 2BIO 240.2

James White told the audience that “in past times we have had the pleasure of leading off in such enterprises. We can hardly be denied the privilege at this time.” He pledged $40; Ellen joined him with $30. This idea caught the imagination of the audience, and seventy others, in amounts of $1 to $25, quickly pledged $425, making a total of $495 (Ibid.). There was a like response from the field as word reached the readers of the Review. 2BIO 240.3