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


Elder A. T. Jones

At the age of 23 Alonzo T. Jones, an officer in the United States Army, became a Seventh-day Adventist. An earnest, studious, self-made man, he qualified himself for the ministry, which he entered in 1885. He soon distinguished himself as an associate editor of the Signs of the Times. Soon he was joined by a physician-turned-minister, Dr. Ellet J. Waggoner. At the General Conference of 1888, the two led out in the presentation on righteousness by faith. They carried the strong support of Ellen White as advocate of this precious truth. When she could, she traveled and worked with them for two years following the session, carrying the message to churches, ministerial institutes, institutions, and camp meetings. 5BIO 414.4

Elders Jones and Waggoner were catapulted into the position of the leading Bible expositors in the ranks of Seventh-day Adventists, a role they held through much of the 1890s. Jones attended all General Conference sessions, and it was not uncommon for each of the two men to lead out in ten to twenty or more consecutive Bible studies. Jones spent much time in Battle Creek and stood as a prominent leader, holding several important positions. 5BIO 415.1

But Elders Jones and Waggoner, so highly honored of God because of their wide influence for good, became the special point of attack of the great adversary. The Ellen G. White communications to both men through a fifteen-year period following 1888 reveal that each had weaknesses in his experience, each was confronted with dangers, and each made mistakes. This, however, did not disqualify them to do God's service. 5BIO 415.2

Ellen White had occasion in April, 1893, to caution Elder Jones regarding his extreme views in his presentation of the relation of faith and works (see Selected Messages 1:377-380). Again the following year she reproved him for giving wholehearted support to Anna Rice Phillips, who claimed the gift of prophecy (see Ibid., 2:85-95). From time to time Ellen White counseled him to exercise caution in his manner of speaking and writing so as to avoid giving offense. 5BIO 415.3

In February, 1897, Jones was elected as one of the thirteen members of the General Conference Committee, and eight months later was installed as the editor of the Review and Herald, a position he held for four years. With this arrangement it was stated that “instead of speaking to comparatively few of our people in annual gatherings, he will address all of them every week.”—The Review and Herald, October 5, 1897. Through a portion of this time he was chairman of the board of the Review and Herald Publishing Association. 5BIO 415.4

In a most unusual fashion, while still editor of the Review, Jones, offended when mildly reproved by the president of the General Conference for treating his fellow workers harshly, resigned as a member of the General Conference Committee. A testimony to him had referred to “‘an evil spirit to cast drops of gall into his words’”(quoted in A. V. Olson, Through Crisis to Victory, p. 305). 5BIO 415.5

Jones took a prominent place at the 1901 session of the General Conference, and urged that in the reorganization of the General Conference there be “no kings.” He was influential in developing a constitution that did not provide for the election of leading General Conference officers by the delegates, but left this responsibility to the Executive committee of twenty-five. As noted earlier, this proved to be a serious weakness, and was corrected in 1903. 5BIO 416.1

Reappointed to the new General Conference Committee in 1901, Jones was assigned to general work that took him to the summer camp meetings in the West. After persuading local conferences in the Northwest to follow the lead of the General Conference and elect no presidents, he himself accepted the presidency of the California Conference. This conference, except for Michigan, was the largest and strongest local conference in the world. 5BIO 416.2

His harsh domineering spirit soon cost him the confidence of those with whom he worked. Ellen White labored with him diligently, and he promised reform, and with her encouragement was in 1902 elected to a second term. 5BIO 416.3

In the summer of 1903, at a time when affairs in the California Conference were most uncomfortable, he had an interview with Ellen White at Elmshaven, in which he told her that at the request of Dr. J. H. Kellogg he was planning to go to Battle Creek to teach Bible in the American Medical Missionary College. He hoped to be able to help Dr. Kellogg. She counseled him not to go. He promised her that he would be guarded. She had been warned in vision that such a move on his part would lead to his downfall. She wrote of it thus: 5BIO 416.4

In vision I had seen him A. T. Jones under the influence of Dr. Kellogg. Fine threads were being woven around him, till he was being bound hand and foot, and his mind and his senses were becoming captivated.—Letter 116, 1906. 5BIO 416.5

Ellen White reported this to Brother Jones just before he went to Battle Creek; she could see “that his perceptions were becoming confused, and that he did not believe the warning given. “She said, “The enemy works in a strange, wonderful way to influence human minds.”—Ibid. But Jones, a man with a great deal of self-confidence, was sure that he would not fall by the way. 5BIO 416.6

Ellen White watched the inevitable results and agonized for his spiritual welfare. His plan to stay in Battle Creek only one year was soon forgotten as he became more and more entrenched there. 5BIO 417.1