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LIFE'S TWO GREAT DECISIONS 1894-1896
STARTING DOWN from Canada, M. L. gradually worked his way to Omaha, Nebraska. Not finding any work there, he went across the river to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he readily found employment. Soon he was working for two tailors, and quickly learned the trade. The pockets on vests fascinated him, and before long he was turning out vests in record time. He was especially proud of the button holes he made—by hand, of course.
It was in Council Bluffs that M. L. made his two greatest decisions—who should be the Lord of his life, and who should be the lady of his heart.
I found a place to room and board at 618 Eighth Avenue. It was here that I first came in contact with Seventh-day Adventists and where I accepted the truth. There were several other young men living at the same place, and I immediately began my usual discussion about religion. It did not take me long to "bowl over" these men, for they did not have much religion and had less theology. My own Ingersoll ideas they had never heard of, and I made quite an impression on them.
One evening I was sitting downstairs reading when one of the men invited me to meet a young fellow who had just arrived and wanted a place to stay. They thought he was a preacher. So I went upstairs and saw immediately that they were right—he was a preacher. What kind I did not know. His name was Anderson.
We were soon in a lively conversation about religion, and I quickly found out that he knew more about the Bible than any other man I had met. He answered my "wise" questions rather cautiously, and I became aware that unless I was careful I might be floored.
He had been sent to Council Bluffs to hold cottage meetings and gain adherents for the Adventist Church. I soon discovered that although he knew the doctrines of his church, he did not know much else, and that if I kept out of his particular faith I could hold my own. Of literature in general he did not know much, nor of history outside of his particular interest. On the other hand, I found out that I knew nothing whatever of prophetic history. Here was where he took over and I became the student. I learned much in just a few lessons.
I attended his lectures, which were held in private homes. After the meetings we went to our rooming place, discussing all the way, and at times far into the night. I had been much impressed by his learning in fields of which I knew nothing. But when I discovered the field he covered was very narrow, I recovered my balance. On the whole we got along well.
I was much impressed by his lectures, though I thought that some of what he said was clear nonsense. After a lecture I would criticize what he had said and ridicule it. I remember that one night he spoke on the subject "The earth waxeth old as a garment." I made fun of his talk. Sure, the earth gets old every fall and winter, but when spring comes it is renewed.
After a while he ended his meetings. He felt he had not accomplished much, and that was probably true. But he sold me a Daniel and Revelation, and that did the work. I began reading it from the very beginning, faithfully marking what I believed, and
also what I did not believe. When I was done, I had more plus marks than minus. The book evidently was worthwhile.
Several months later the preacher came back. Though there were things I did not believe yet, I was far enough advanced that when he asked me how I was getting on with the book I could say that I was in favor of most of what I had read. What about the Sabbath? Unhesitatingly, I answered that I believed the seventh day was the Sabbath. "What are you going to do about it?"
Somehow that question had never crossed my mind. The seventh day was the Sabbath of the Lord. It had never occurred to me that I needed to do anything about it. But when I thought it over that night, it came to me for the first time that there was something that ought to be done. Having settled that, I saw clearly what it was. I had to keep the Sabbath. That meant that I had to become a Seventh-day Adventist, and I had settled long ago I would never be that. I had been up to the church one time just to see what was going on. It was a little church of only one room. The windows were set so that standing a little on the side I could see what was going on inside without being observed. I could see about a dozen people there and a man speaking, though I could not hear what he was saying. It did not look to me like a church, and I decided that such was not for me. If ever I should someday become an Adventist, I would never belong to the church.
Having come to the realization that the seventh day is the "sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work," I decided that when the next Sabbath came around I must keep it. And so when Saturday came, I began my Sabbathkeeping.
But what should I do on the Sabbath? Determined not to become an Adventist, I had to keep the Sabbath by myself. So I didn't go to work, but took a
book and sat out in the yard, reading. Soon that became somewhat tiresome. Deciding to make myself as comfortable as possible, I went downtown and bought a small tent in which to keep Sabbath. It never occurred to me that buying a tent on the Sabbath was any transgression of the commandment. It took some weeks before I arrived at that conclusion. It was not long after I had set up my tent that the sun went down and I had kept my first Sabbath.
It seemed kind of silly of God to ask me to stop work on Saturday and do nothing but sit around, but if that was His idea, I was willing to try it. Several Sabbaths later I thought I would go around to the little Adventist church and find out what they were doing. When I got there, I did not go in but watched from the outside. As I had seen before, the people were sitting on ordinary chairs, and a man was standing in front gesticulating as if he were a real preacher and saying something important. To me it looked so ridiculous that I went away disgusted. I probably should keep the Sabbath and do no work on that day, but it did not appeal to me as good sense.
It was clear to me that I was not getting anywhere with my Sabbathkeeping. Yet the commandment was clear, "In it thou shalt not do any work." So again, on Sabbath, I went up to see how the Adventists were doing in their church—and they were doing as usual.
But then something happened. As I stood by the window outside, the door opened and out came a woman, who introduced herself as Mrs. Shilling, with one of her little girls. "Would you like to come inside?" Without answering, I went in, hoping it would appear that this was what I came to do. And so I found myself in the Sabbath school class for the first time, not knowing a thing about the lesson. But the people were so very kind, and Mr. Shilling and a Mr. Ferron took such interest in me, that I felt reasonably at ease. I went home with the Shillings
for dinner and promptly fell in love with the whole family, all nine of them, for there were seven children.
In two weeks I was elected organist and picked out the hymns that were easy to play. I also took my turn keeping the church clean. Being alone in the empty church on those occasions, I began preaching sermons to the chairs, all of which remained perfectly still until I was finished, which was not long. They probably did not get much good out of my sermons, but I did.
All this was done before I was baptized. A minister did not come very often, and this time stayed away so long that we arranged for the local elder to baptize me. And so Brother Corbaley performed his first baptism in a font that had not been used for years and had no stairs—they had rotted away.
However, not all was easy for young M. L. Whereas it was not too difficult to get along without the beer he had been accustomed to drinking since before his days in the YMCA in Copenhagen, tobacco was something different. One of his earliest memories was of his mother putting a lighted pipe of tobacco in his hand, and assigning him the task of fumigating the house plants by drawing on the pipe, then directing the smoke onto the leaves. Thus, from the age of 3 he had been smoking—for agricultural purposes, of course. Now that he had decided to become a Seventh-day Adventist, M. L. had to discard the pipe he had smoked for many years. Nonetheless, the victory was only partial. He never smoked, to be sure. But again and again, for years, he would dream that he would go to the window where his pipe used to lie, light it, and start out around the corner, only to meet some Adventist. Then he would wake up, and thank the Lord it was only a dream. He did not smoke, but neither did he hate it. Finally, one day, he realized that tobacco smoke had become
disagreeable to him. How he rejoiced! At last, in answer to his prayer that he might hate sin. God had given him complete victory over smoking.
Early in his experience in the Adventist Church M. L. became acquainted with the writings of Ellen G. White. He tells how he related to them:
I found the books most instructive and helpful in every way, but I had my doubts that they had been written by a person with as little education as Mrs. White was said to possess. But, despite this doubt, I set great store by them. I took them as setting forth the doctrine of the church, and I felt that they were to be believed like the Bible itself. This opinion was confirmed in my mind by the custom in the church for one of the members to lead the meeting, as we had no minister, simply by reading a section from one of her many books. As I read those books during the week, and heard them read in church on Sabbath, I early got a somewhat comprehensive view of her writings and, I had to confess, it was good stuff. But, of course, I was also sure that she had not written the books she had been given credit for.
From my experience with Sabbathkeeping, I took it that doctrines were not merely to be believed but to be translated into life. I also took quite literally what I read, both in the Bible and the Testimonies. So when I read that Christ told His disciples not to take extra clothing with them when they were traveling, nor extra shoes, I took that quite literally. I had three suits, so I disposed of two. I had several pairs of shoes, so I disposed of the extra ones.
That worked all right for a while, but one Sabbath it did not. I had gone to young people's meeting Friday night. I was about the only young person there. It was raining, so I got wet on the way to meeting. There was no sidewalk, and the streets were not paved in those days, so I had to walk in the mud. When I got home that night, I was wet and muddy,
which would have been no problem if I had had dry clothing to change to. But I had none, nor any dry shoes. What would I do in the morning when I should go to church? It would not do to stay at home.
Sabbath came, a bright, sunshiny day. But the sun was not shining for me. I made up my mind that there was something wrong with the Bible, or with me. I was wet and soiled, and it was all Cod's fault. Why could I not have an extra suit of clothes? My shoes were wet and dirty. I decided that if God did not want me to shine my shoes on Sabbath, He should furnish sunshine every Friday and Sabbath, and if He did not, I would buy another pair of shoes, or I would shine the ones I had. Cod did not do His part, so I bought another pair of shoes.
The following Sabbath I went home with Brother Shilling for dinner, and in the afternoon he cleared up my difficulty. This was my first lesson in interpreting Scripture. It has stood me in good stead these many years: I must bring good common sense to Bible interpretation.
My coming into the Council Bluffs church seemed to bring new life to it. There were quite a few young people who had grown up in the church but took no interest in religion anymore. Now they began to come back. Before long we had a choir and sang special selections at the church service. The church was waking up. One Sabbath, Elder E. W. Farnsworth visited us and preached on old times. He called our attention to some of the hymns in the old Hymns and Tunes that none of us knew. He mentioned the hymn "How Far From Home?" but no one knew it so he turned to me and said, "Perhaps your music professor will sing it for us." I had never heard of it and could not sing anyway, and was about 18 years old, I suppose. And I, a music professor! I had the good sense not to sing.
At the time of his baptism, Andreasen was still in his teens. Notwithstanding, along with other deep thoughts came some concerning a life partner. His heart and mind turned toward the attractive Bible instructor in Council Bluffs, Annie Nelsen. Annie had been born in Denmark but had emigrated to New England. After arriving there she had learned about the Sabbath and the nearness of the Advent, which doctrines she had accepted. But she was disturbed by the teaching that pork was unacceptable food in God's sight. On the farm back in Denmark, hadn't her father used their potatoes and barley to fatten up the pigs, so that the family could have the best of food? (Not until more than a quarter of a century later, during World War I, would her country learn better. When the Allies' blockade forced the Danes to eat their potatoes and barley themselves, the death rate went down to levels never again equaled, while the people enjoyed optimum health.)
While Annie was struggling with the pork question, she became very ill. She told the Lord that if He would heal her, she would never again have anything to do with pigs or pork. Ever thereafter she was most careful never to eat any pork products—even piecrust that might contain lard.
Following her baptism, Annie began to sell religious books. One day as she canvassed a woman in one home, she noticed that the woman shifted about nervously, and had a peculiar look in her eyes. She happened to glance past the woman through the open door into the bedroom, and saw the bed bouncing up and down as if someone were on it. Then Annie felt invisible fingers around her own throat, trying to choke her. This woman must be a spiritualist, she thought, whom the spirits are determined should learn nothing about the truth. Suffocating, Annie breathed the name of Jesus, and the fingers loosened from her throat. She was most thankful to get back out onto the street.
The year before and the year after the General Conference of 1888, Annie Nelsen's name appeared among the students at Battle Creek College.
Now Annie was in Council Bluffs, and M. L. recognized his opportunity. There were several years' difference in their ages, and Annie had refused a number of men younger than herself, but these facts mattered not one iota to M. L. Somehow he sensed that this was the woman he needed in his life.
Against M. L.'s irresistible conviction, no force could withstand. Annie's sister, with whom she lived, used to get quite provoked with this 19-year-old sitting on the doorstep, as it were, every day. Eventually, Annie herself realized that it was in the plan of God that she should provide the balance wheel for this deep-thinking youth with such potential for service for their Master. She could not foresee that for fifty-two years she would be the great stabilizing influence of his life. They were married early in 1896.