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


Last-Minute Warnings

On July 8, 1901, Ellen White wrote to the manager of the Review and Herald: 5BIO 232.5

Unjust, unholy actions have brought the frown of God upon the Review and Herald office. Evil work has brought the cause of God into disrepute, and has kept the backslider from obeying His holy law.—Letter 74, 1901. 5BIO 232.6

Conditions worsened during 1901, in spite of the many messages of warning counsel. Frank Belden charged that the foreman was “brutal,” and that he sometimes required employees to clean his bicycle on office time. One man still living in 1970 recalled his days in the Review pressroom where he began work at the age of 14, in 1896. He was still working there when the fire struck, and he left the building just minutes before the flames swept through it. He recalled a book on witchcraft being printed there, and a pressman printing copies of Bible Readings while spitting tobacco juice onto the press. This young man was ridiculed by other workers when he decided to be baptized. The terror engendered by the harsh manner of his superiors led him to wish that the next day would never come. There were young women workers who read proof on books that were filled with skepticism about religion and who then brought this skepticism into their talk around the office. 5BIO 232.7

“We have no permission from the Lord,” wrote Ellen White, “to engage either in the printing or in the sale of such publications, for they are the means of destroying many souls. I know of what I am writing, for this matter has been opened before me. Let not those who believe the message for this time engage in such work, thinking to make money.”—Testimonies for the Church 7:166. About this time she made a most interesting observation, one that shows an insight God gave to her: 5BIO 233.1

Even the men who are endeavoring to exalt their own sentiments as wonderful science are astonished that men in positions of responsibility in our office of publication—a printing office set for the defense of the truth of God—have consented to print their books.—Manuscript 124, 1901. 5BIO 233.2

In her distress and in a desperate attempt to halt the satanic work, Ellen White called for a virtual boycott on the part of the employees in the publishing house. After depicting the demoralizing effects of the literature being printed on the Review and Herald presses—including love stories and books setting forth crimes, atrocities, and licentious practices—Ellen White pointed out that the position taken by the managers (that they carried no responsibility for the type of books coming from their presses and that the employees had no responsibility in the choice of the nature of the materials that passed through the publishing house) was wrong. She declared: 5BIO 233.3

In these matters a responsibility rests not only upon the managers but upon the employees.... Let typesetters refuse to set a sentence of such matter. Let proofreaders refuse to read, pressmen to print, and binders to bind it.—Ibid., 7:167, 168. 5BIO 233.4

In delineating the personal responsibility, she added: 5BIO 234.1

You are responsible—responsible for the use of your eyes, your hands, your mind. These are entrusted to you by God to be used for Him, not for the service of Satan.—Ibid., 168. 5BIO 234.2

The blight of commercial work was not confined to the Review and Herald. The Pacific Press, although not involved in as many ways in the problems that have been depicted as sapping the vitality of the Review and Herald, was in its commercial work going beyond the bounds of that which was acceptable for a denominational publishing house. In October of 1901 Ellen White wrote: 5BIO 234.3

In the Pacific Press an objectionable class of work has been taken in—novels and storybooks, which absorb the minds of those who handle them, diverting their attention from the Word of God.... The introduction of this class of matter destroys the spirituality of the office.—Letter 140, 1901. 5BIO 234.4

Somehow those who managed the work had become hardened against the messages that God sent. Now on Wednesday morning, December 31, 1902, all of the great Review and Herald publishing plant, except for the West Building book depository, was warm embers, collapsed brick walls, and twisted machinery. There was nothing left of any value. 5BIO 234.5