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STARTING ON THE THIRD DECISION 1896-1897
FINDING THE lifework to which the Lord had called him took Andreasen longer than had either his conversion or his courtship. Many elements contributed, he realized, when reminiscing years later.
I had improved my time by going to school—a quarter at a time—and had managed to finish high school and a little more. Meanwhile, the Council Bluffs church had grown so that the conference had sent a young man to pastor us for a few months. He had one good sermon with a few big words in it, and that was about all. He was not interested in preaching anyway; he wanted to be a doctor. There was a medical school in Omaha in connection with the university, and the only entrance requirement in those days was a high school education. If you did not have that, you could make it up later. Our young minister did not have this requirement, but he was enrolled anyway, and eventually he became a doctor. I talked with Dr. Kress once at a nurses' graduation, and told him the story. "Why, yes," he said, "that was all the education required at that time. These nurses that are graduating today know more than the doctors did when they graduated then."
Our future doctor very much wanted to have me enroll in the medical course with him. But my wife objected; she wanted me to become a minister. And so I tried that. I got a little room in a vacant house, got some chairs, and announced to the world in
general that I was going to speak on the subject of having on the whole armor of God, a sermon that I had heard another minister give. I cannot say that the people streamed in to hear the wonderful sermon I had prepared. Five came, one of them my young lady. The discourse had one virtue—it was short, not more than fifteen minutes. At my next lecture one came—my young lady. There was no meeting. The series closed. Evidently I would have been better off to become a doctor.
My wife did not give up. But I held no more meetings. And about this time we moved to Missouri Valley, Iowa. I cannot give the reason why we moved there. It may have been an attempt to hide my shame at the failure I had made as a preacher. We stayed there a year. There my firstborn came upon the scene in a little house I have visited several times since. Then we moved back to Council Bluffs, where I was elected a kind of church leader and often spoke on Sabbath. It gave me valuable practice.
The Council Bluffs church was growing, so the members decided they should have a new sanctuary. M. L. made a large pledge, and the members wondered how he would be able to meet it. He had his plan. He went to various tailor shops, took large orders for vests—the articles he could make the quickest and that paid the best—and soon the pledge was paid. This was not the last time he used his skill in vest-making to give financial aid to some project dear to his heart.
We return to M. L.'s autobiography:
I decided that what I needed was more education. So I went up to College View, where Union College had just started. There I met a young man, M. E. Kern, who was also beginning his work. But I made no impression on him, nor he on me. I saw Elder J. G. Matteson, who was teaching there at the time, and told him what I wanted to do. He was
sitting out on the lawn, not being very well. I told him I wanted to go to school, that I wanted to finish college in two years and then go to work. The world was soon coming to an end, and two years was all the time I could afford.
"Do you mean you want to get your degree in two years?"
"Yes, that is all the time I can afford. The Lord is coming soon."
Then he asked what work I had done that would enable me to finish in two years. We talked matters over, and he gave his ultimatum. Three years was the best I could do to get a degree, and that would be wry hard work indeed. I left. I could not afford to go to school three years with the world coming to an end. Union College lost a good student, I thought, but they seemed to survive. And that was too bad.
I had one interesting experience during the two half days I was at the college. Professor M. W. Newton was out on the front lawn with some of his technical students, surveying the grounds. There were no sewers on the property, and open cesspools were used. The professor lost an instrument in one of the pools, and the problem arose of how to recover it. They fished with bent wire, but the instrument eluded them. There seemed to be no other way than for someone to go into the pool and find it. It was a nasty job, for all the toilets in the building emptied there. Some of the students volunteered to go, but Professor Newton quietly announced, "I have made it a rule of life never to ask anyone to do anything I would not do myself, if I can do it. I am going down." And down he went.
All through the years I have remembered that incident, and I decided that I would make a like resolution: Never ask any man to do what you would not do under like circumstances. You may not need to do it, but you must be willing. Never use a man.
And so I left Union College with the conviction that there was a man there—a real man.
With the establishment of Union College and also the Nebraska Sanitarium at College View, the place became a kind of center for various activities, and a convenient location for ministers to have their meetings and councils. It was only a matter of eight years since the famous 1888 Conference in Minneapolis, and the conference was frequently the subject of discussion.
Old Elder J. H. Morrison, father of Prof. H. A. Mormon, lived in Lincoln. He had taken a prominent role in the discussions at Minneapolis and had written a book on the subject. He was a sterling character of the old school, uncompromisingly orthodox after the light he had. Though not always on the right side, he was on the side he thought was right. He loved to discuss and I loved to listen to him. I pitied those who were not on his side, for he could "lay them out," and enjoyed doing so. I should add, however, that there was never anything unseemly going on. The bitterness of the early discussions was gone, and all met and parted as good friends.
It was largely through the kindness of old Brother Morrison that I was permitted to attend the discussions. Of course, I was there to listen and not to talk. And I did not talk. But I learned much. In fact, it was a wonderful school. I only wish that I had notes.
In retrospect, I doubt that the meetings I attended when the older ministers met were the best for a young convert hardly an Adventist yet. I would call it rather strong meat. They paid little attention to me, but plunged right into a subject of which I knew nothing. But I soon caught on, and was astonished at the freedom with which they discussed personalities. Most of the older men who had known Elder White were not endeared to him, it appeared. In their
opinion, he was too strongheaded to work well with others.*
Sister White's position was not an easy one. As the wife of the president of the denomination, she gave support to him in his work. But at times word would come from the Lord that made it necessary for her to bear messages of reproof to him. And Elder White sometimes questioned in his own mind if she spoke to him as from the Lord. On some occasions this brought on tension.
This was at times the case when it became her duty to counsel others. While many to whom testimonies were written accepted them with gratitude, others turned against her. No wonder that she said that if she had her choice of having a vision or dying, she would choose the grave.
When, because of ill health. Elder White had to withdraw from his many activities, others were brought in to serve as leaders. There were times that Sister White would receive messages for them, messages which were usually well received. But there were times when it appeared to them as being mixed with her personal opinions. Her own state of health would not permit her to take on too many responsibilities, and she oftentimes felt that she would like to be relieved of her many burdens.
A few of the leaders were waiting for the day when there would be a change in the way the church
was run. They thought that at the Minneapolis meeting such a change might be made.
I have heard, many versions of what took place at Minneapolis. Someday, if I ever get time, I would like to tell the story as I heard it recounted at the meetings held in College View by the men who were the leaders in opposition to Sister White. They did not consider the message of Jones and Waggoner to be the real issue. The real issue, according to my informers, was whether Sister White was to be permitted to overrule the men who carried the responsibility of the work. It was an attempt to overthrow the position of the Spirit of Prophecy. And it seemed the men in opposition carried the day. Eventually she left for Australia, where she stayed nine years. It was there that a plan of organization which called for union conferences was tried that received her blessing and that in 1901 was implemented on the General Conference level. As interpreted by some, the Minneapolis conference was a revolt against Sister White. If that is so, it throws some light on the omega apostasy.
Thus while Andreasen was not as yet getting much formal education, he was gathering information and forming concepts that were to help shape his future thinking.
* James White was a man of strong, positive characteristics whom God used in many ways to build up the fledgling Adventist Church. It needs to be remembered that a strong person is liable to occasion strong feelings in others who also are strong.
It should also be noted that the conditions referred to here pertain to situations arising, for the most part, after James White had had several strokes. It is symptomatic of that malady that its victims tend to be somewhat irascible. For further background, the reader is referred to the chapter "Family Heartaches" in the book James White, published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association.