Ellen G. White: The Early Elmshaven Years: 1900-1905 (vol. 5)


Disturbing Development in Battle Creek

But pervading her mind that Wednesday at Elmshaven was the agony of soul she had suffered during the preceding decade, which reached an almost unbearable level during the weeks before the fire. Managers had lost their sense of justice and responsibility, employees had lost much of their unselfish dedication and consecration. Boards had lost their power to control in right lines. It was a gradual process that was frowned upon by Heaven, and warning after warning had been sounded by God's messenger. But these were for the most part ignored or scorned. 5BIO 227.3

A few months before she left for Australia in 1891 she was concerned about “a certain kind of loud, boisterous talking and unsanctified zeal in [the institution's] council meetings” (Manuscript 23, 1891). Ellen White recorded in her diary: 5BIO 227.4

Religion and business are becoming divorced. Worldly, selfish plans are coming in.... Many who know not what spirit they are of are ready to reach out their hands to grasp and gather in that which they have not earned. Many are under condemnation because of the grave sin of selfishness which is leavening the institution. One confederates with another. “You stand by me, and I will stand by you,” they say to each other. Thus they lead others into false paths, bringing in the strange fire that God has positively forbidden to be used in His work.—Ibid. 5BIO 227.5

Messages of warning were sounded again and again as she appealed for changes on the basis of God's instructions to her. In her distress she wrote: 5BIO 228.1

The men in leading positions in the office of publication do not respect either the messenger or the messages graciously given them of God.... It is not safe for men who have so little of the spirit of Christ, so little divine enlightenment, to hold positions where they themselves, through temptation, may become tempters to lead into false paths those with whom they are associated.—Ibid. 5BIO 228.2

Two years later, from New Zealand, in a letter addressed to the president of the General Conference, she told of how she “could not sleep after two o'clock last night.” She wrote of the injustice that was being done in the Review and Herald office. 5BIO 228.3

She was referring primarily to two situations: (1) injustice to authors by the instigation of policies that would deny them their just rewards for their literary work, and (2) inequity in dealing with publishing-house personnel. Managers argued that it was because of the skill and ability of those in management that the work prospered, so the men in positions of responsibility should receive double the pay of the skilled workmen in the plant. 5BIO 228.4

Added to this were the pressures being brought by men in the publishing house to put the Review office in control of all publishing work in North America. The Pacific Press in Oakland, California, would be but a branch of the Review and Herald, with all decisions made in Battle Creek. Steps that virtually would bring about the consolidation of the publishing work were introduced as early as 1889 at the General Conference session and developed in 1891. In fact, propositions along this line had been made before James White's death in 1881. 5BIO 228.5

From Australia, Ellen White wrote in 1896: 5BIO 228.6

The Lord has presented matters before me that cause me to tremble for the institutions at Battle Creek.... 5BIO 229.1

The scheme for consolidation is detrimental to the cause of present truth. Battle Creek has all the power she should have. Some in that place have advanced selfish plans, and if any branch of the work promised a measure of success, they have not exercised the spirit which lets well enough alone, but have made an effort to attach these interests to the great whole. They have striven to embrace altogether too much, and yet they are eager to get more.... 5BIO 229.2

Twenty years ago, I was surprised at the cautions and warnings given me in reference to the publishing house on the Pacific Coast—that it was ever to remain independent of all other institutions; that it was to be controlled by no other institution, but was to do the Lord's work under His guidance and protection.... 5BIO 229.3

It must not be merged into any other institution. The hand of power and control at Battle Creek must not reach across the continent to manage it. 5BIO 229.4

At a later date, just prior to my husband's death, the minds of some were agitated in regard to placing these institutions under one presiding power. Again the Holy Spirit brought to my mind what had been stated to me by the Lord. I told my husband to say in answer to this proposition that the Lord had not planned any such action. He who knows the end from the beginning understands these matters better than erring man.... 5BIO 229.5

The Lord presented before me that branches of this work would be planted in other places, and carried on under the supervision of the Pacific Press, but that if this proved a success, jealousy, evil surmisings, and covetousness would arise. Efforts would be made to change the order of things, and embrace the work among other interests at Battle Creek. Men are very zealous to change the order of things, but the Lord forbids such a consolidation.—Letter 81, 1896. 5BIO 229.6

Most distressing of all was the general deterioration of the spiritual experience of the Review management and workers and the eroding of a sense of right, which allowed for the commercial work to bring demoralizing publications into the manufacturing plant. Taking the stance that they were printers and not censors, management authorized the printing of publications that came far short of Adventist moral standards. There were no restraints established that regulated the type of literature that would be published. Presses poured forth fiction, Wild West stories, books promulgating Roman Catholic doctrines, sex literature, and books on hypnosis. The managers looked upon the publishing house as a commercial enterprise whose first obligation was to make money. 5BIO 229.7