Manuscript Releases, vol. 20 [Nos. 1420-1500]

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MR No. 1471—The Fallacy of Thinking Human Ideas and Positions Are Infallible and Unchangeable

(Written circa 1910 or 1911 to H. W. Cottrell.)

I have words to write to you, Elder Cottrell. As my eyes pain me I can scarcely tell your dangers as fully as I would be glad to do. Your idea that the positions you assert are infallible is very dangerous. Your fallibility is shown in claiming that position. The word of God is Yea and Amen. 20MR 224.1

My brother, you did stand commended of God in a position when you were chosen, so willing to encourage and help Elder Haskell, and the Lord sustained you in doing your duty at a time when your help was especially a great encouragement to him. There were some who were jealous of Elder Haskell and his wife. I will not write the names. The Lord had presented the persons to me. The decided experience of Elder Haskell in connection with Elder James White and myself made the two safe generals in the work. But neither of these men claimed infallibility. 20MR 224.2

This infallibility is a new experience to come into our work. Their trust was in God, and Elder Haskell, from his earliest labors in connection with Elder James White, in the place of losing confidence in Elder White had his confidence increased in him as a man led and taught of God. Elder James White was received and trusted. He never claimed infallibility. The light given him was always received and always believed because the Holy Spirit accompanied the message of the testimonies entrusted to give to God's people. They had been proved. But there was a class that refused the testimonies and went into fanaticism. 20MR 224.3

Elder Haskell was rooted and grounded in the light given, coming from the Lord's messenger. I had an experience that I must cherish because it came from God, and the evidence was so very strong that the light was given of God. But fanatical ideas came up and were brought in by men claiming to have light from the Lord. The Lord presented to me the position taken by some as unreliable and unsafe, and this brought about truth in contrast with dangerous error. There were those who refused to see the light and chose their own ways and ideas. The light God had given was refused. It revealed that their own characters were unsafe to be trusted. The truth was pointed out in clear, distinct lines in the light given of God. There were men of great self- confidence who refused the light God had given, and declared their position to be infallible. Notwithstanding [the fact that] the evidence was sufficient, they refused to receive the light given in the testimonies. 20MR 224.4

Elder Maxson was a man determined to have his own way. When this light was given, some would accept and some would close their minds and hearts to all the evidence given of the Lord. They followed their own way, and two parties were created, not agreeing among themselves. Those who had taken their stand upon the light given held firmly to the position that the Lord was leading His people through genuine experience; but some who wanted to have their own way in the sanitarium acted out their own disposition, refused all correction of their errors that the Lord had graciously given, and talked their unbelief. Thus two parties have been formed. 20MR 225.1

Elder Maxson set up a warfare against the light, determined to oppose; and they have continued to do this. Evidence was sufficient, but the ones who opposed the light gave evidence they were not led of the Lord. This has been a great evil and has hindered the advancement of the work of the Lord in reflecting His light to the world. There were the two parties, and when we returned from doing the work in foreign countries, a state of things existed that had to be righted up; and notwithstanding all the evidence given of the correct work to be done, some men determined to carry things their own way, which made the work exceedingly hard. 20MR 225.2

Elder Cottrell was one who stood in many respects on right ground. But a very strange thing came into our ranks in some of our leading men, that a position that some had, when once taken, was to be held under all events as never to be changed—infallibility. This has proved itself to be a great error. There is reformation to be made in churches. When the light of truth shall come to them, this would create harmonious sentiments, else the ones who now persist in their assumed infallibility would go out from us, as some have done. But some are found to take a position in opposition, which creates disunion, not particularly with the faith received, but in the expression of the faith; and that all that they may do is infallible, when no such things are to be accepted. 20MR 225.3

If one differs from his brethren and insists he is infallible, he is a dangerous element; if he never yields that he has anything to correct, he is in a dangerous position. 20MR 225.4

It is a great fallacy in a man [to claim] that because he has accepted certain theories, his ideas are infallible. If others cannot see these things in the same way another sees them, what then? Because he has expressed his faith in that sentiment, has he immortalized that idea in his mind as unchangeable? There are some who express ideas as the truth, but is that man's mind immortalized? Is his view of matters unchangeable? We need good, sound, common sense. If we have certain ideas of things and another views these things in a different light, and expresses them thus, what shall be done? Withdraw fellowship from him? No, but these objectionable things, if expressed, cause dissension and strife. 20MR 225.5

I will now refer to some things. The Lord gave me special testimony that such a state of things existed at Healdsburg, that our efforts should not be made to continue it as an important educating center. But a certain brother expresses in his mind sentiments counter to this. Then shall that man's human judgment be expressed as the command of God? This one instance I mention. Shall that brother build up a counterworking? No. Let him keep his impressions to himself; his ideas upon subjects may be incorrect and fallible. 20MR 226.1

Should he express his individual judgment and exalt that human judgment and immortalize the same as unchangeable? I had been instructed that all such infallibility claimed for any man—that he must not change but hold to as infallibility—is the great mistake of his life. The Lord presented to me that for the college to be at Healdsburg would be a mistake. The moral and religious influence would not be refined, purified, sanctified. 20MR 226.2

Now I have not been able to sleep after twelve o'clock for two nights because the case of Elder Cottrell has been presented to me. The Lord will use Elder Cottrell if he will give up the idea that plans he may suggest are infallible, never to be revoked. This understanding is an erroneous idea. God does not endorse it. This is the position that Lucifer took. He was next to Christ in the heavenly courts, but decided that he was entitled to a higher position. Read and understand Ezekiel 28:11-18. This matter has been opened to me. When the Lord sought to correct him, he would not be corrected; and when any man in all our ranks shall not be willing to yield up his own way, but will persistently choose to follow his own judgment, carrying the idea that his judgment is unchangeable, he claims infallibility. The Lord has no more any use for him unless he changes his ideas. 20MR 226.3

There is help for such if they will be helped. They need reconversion. There are men and women in our churches who need reconversion. If they accept an opinion, they first need to search the Word to know from the pure, clean statements of the Word of God if that position is infallible. They are not to take a certain position on important subjects hastily. 20MR 226.4

I have a very pitiful feeling for those who suppose their position upon some ideas, if once expressed, is not to be changed. If they have, in their human judgment, decided the course that should be taken, circumstances may arise that make necessary a change in their decision. 20MR 227.1

This is the case at Mountain View, where the work and cause of God demand a change in the position of some, else the Lord cannot use them. Obedience to the way of the Lord will improve their manner of laboring. That an opinion once expressed is infallible is a most dangerous idea as it relates to the working out of the Lord's plans. While in counsel, all present may have laid out certain plans to follow, but as others are informed, intelligent reasons are presented why these plans should be changed. [Remainder missing.]—Letter 156c, 1910. 20MR 227.2

Ellen G. White Estate

Silver Spring, Maryland,

September 14, 1989.

Entire Letter.