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THE LIFE OF M. L. ANDREASEN - by Virginia Steinweg


WASHINGTON 1922-1924


IN 1918 M. L. left Hutchinson for Union College.

At the camp meeting in Minnesota in 1918 Prof. H. A. Morrison, the president of Union College, seemed to be somewhat interested in me. He circled me several times and sized me up from all angles. At last he approached me and asked whether I would be interested in coming to Union College to teach [Bible and history], I was, but I had no degree. However, in looking over my credits it was found that I had more than I needed for a degree. Perhaps they could give me a degree outright, a little out of the ordinary. I did not want this, but suggested that I go down to the university [of Nebraska, in Lincoln] and see what they would do. They would do nothing. In fact they took the heart out of me as they rejected most of my credits and left me with only a year and a half of acceptable credits, which meant that I had two and one-half years to make up to get my B.A. I didn't feel so good, but having put my hand to the plow, I enrolled then and there. The work was easy for me, for I had already done it in other places. In fact I had taught much of what I was now going over again. So in less than two years I finished the requirements, graduated, and received my B.A., all the time teaching full classes at Union College.

Years later a colleague explained what M. L. was facing in his teaching:

"As head of the Bible department at Union, Andreasen succeeded Camden Lacey. Elder Lacey was


an Englishman. He was a good student of the Bible, and had quite a command of English. For Andreasen to succeed him with his Scandinavian accent and rather unconventional way of approaching the Bible was quite an undertaking. A number of the faculty expressed surprise that he was able to command the respect of the students, following Elder Lacey as he did."

A student of those days recalls, "The first time I saw him was at the Kansas camp meeting, at the time he came to Union. I was sitting in the tent during the young people's meeting one afternoon when the ministers went on the platform, with them this man dressed in a wrinkled, light-gray suit. He had a very distinct walk—he called it a waddle. I mistook him for a new convert in our home church. 'Oh, my, how did he happen to wander up there with the ministers?' I worried about it until he got up to speak. Then I promptly forgot all about his suit, and how he walked. He really had a marvelous message.

"Later I took Bible Doctrines from him. I'm sure I got more from that Bible class than any other, because he was a master teacher and knew his Bible.

"He took a personal interest in his students. One day I got a message that a friend of mine had died. I was pretty downcast. When class was dismissed, he said, 'I'd like to see you for a moment. Something's bothering you. Is there anything I can do to help you?' I really appreciated that.

"He invited as many of the class as wanted to, to come to his home to see his library. He had a number of early books, first editions. He had several autographed by Mrs. White."

M. L. took an interest in the welfare of all the students. As the head of a committee, he went before the college board to request a gymnasium and swimming pool. The board proceeded to work out financial arrangements, and the students launched a


campaign to raise their quota. Soon the college's team of horses began to plow and scrape out the hole for the swimming pool. The boys pledged three thousand hours of free labor. One teacher surveyed the project, and M. L. took charge of the construction. Students and teachers donned working clothes and worked as though in a race against time.

Once a big crew of boys worked all night mixing concrete for the walls of the pool. At midnight the matron and a group of girls served sandwiches and hot cocoa. When the structure was well along, the girls donned carpenter's aprons and nailed the rough flooring. The building was opened for use in the early part of the 1920-1921 school year.1

For exercise, M. L. showed a decided preference for handball, a very strenuous game that separates the men from the boys. Two men bat a ball against three walls, providing much more of a workout than volleyball. M. L. used to go to the YMCA to play. One year he almost won against the Nebraska State champion.

When he went to play handball, M. L. would take along a clean pair of socks to put on after he took his shower. Once he went from handball to prayer meeting. During the service he put his hand into his pocket to take out a handkerchief. It turned out to be a sock.

M. L. needed this vigorous exercise to compensate for the heavy study program he carried in addition to his teaching load. But what about the reaction to his studying?

I am sure President Morrison knew what I was doing. But officially he knew nothing. But Washington knew. I was a lawbreaker. Against the plain law I had gone to the university. What could be done? The crisis came when I continued work on my M.A.


degree. I had not asked permission of the college president to go to school, for I knew he would have to forbid me. But Washington had suspicions and sent Professor Howell to find out what was going on. I had nothing to hide, so I told him the whole story and he faithfully reported to Washington. Then Elder Daniells himself came out. He arrived at College View at an inconvenient time. I had a class at the university half an hour after chapel was dismissed at Union. If I could get away from chapel in time to catch the half-hour car, I would make my class in time. It was close connections, but most of the time I made it. The day Elder Daniells arrived, I was just running to catch the car. I did not see him before he called me. I answered that I had to make a class at the university, but that I would see him later. I can still see him standing on the street helpless, while I was on the steps of the car rushing away. I don't think he loved me very much at that particular time. The car had gone several blocks before it dawned on me what an unkind and discourteous thing I had done. Should I get off and run back? But it would be a long way, and he would be gone by that time. So I stayed on the car. But I did not get much good out of my class that day.

When I saw Elder Daniells later in the day, I made due apologies. But it was too late. I had committed lese majesty, and I knew it, and the elder was not in a mood to forgive just then. Knowing I was guilty I said nothing and was duly repentant. And I was indeed sorry. It took some years before close friendship was restored.

As it turned out, father and elder daughter both received their M.A. degree on the same day—August 13, 1922.

Meanwhile, difficulties had arisen at Union. M. L. explains obliquely that "there was a situation at the college that made a distinct cleavage between a


large number of the faculty and the board." He told Annie, "I'm on the green carpet. Anything can happen. What shall we do if we are forced to take a stand?"

"Take your stand, and let the consequences be what they may," was her response.

At the end of the school year, some ten faculty members left Union with the unanimous consent of the board. M. L. was one of those who resigned, but an arrangement was made by which most of them, including M. L., transferred to Washington Missionary College, in Takoma Park, Maryland. M. L. stayed there for two years.

Teaching at Washington Missionary College did not afford M. L. the freedom he had enjoyed at Union. He was unhappy in his Bible classes because he felt obliged to "teach it the way they teach it here." He asked for a class in American History, the field in which he had earned his Master's. In that class he could be himself. But the theological bind continued. At the Colorado Springs teachers' convention he called out a colleague and confided, "My conscience won't permit me to teach Bible any longer." Although H. A. Morrison (who was now president of Washington Missionary College) and the students were back of him, Andreasen was determined to leave.

In later years one of his young women students summed up her concept of Andreasen's approach to the study of truth: "That man could think through to the center of issues. He was honest, absolutely honest. And he felt that when you did research, you should not start from any preconceived ideas, that truth never had to be defended from a previous bias. Truth is the truth. If you are able to clear your mind so you can pursue a research project seeing other angles besides those you are looking for, if in this process you find some things that seem to go against


what you thought was truth, just keep hunting some more, and it will come out all right. That was M. L.'s approach."

He used the approach even in informal situations. He liked the students to think things through, to arrive at a conclusion by themselves. Then he would show them how a Bible text or a Spirit of Prophecy quotation had said so all the time.

He loved to sit down with a small group and talk about heaven, what it meant, what it would be like. "Put your mind to the stretch," he would say. The students would talk with their imaginations running riot. Before it was through, M. L. would quote a little verse to clinch it.

"We'll hear the song Paul and Silas sang that shook the jail down. We'll hear the song of Moses, the song of Miriam. But then we'll hear God sing. 'He will joy over thee with singing.' Who will sing a duet with God?" Then he'd go to his files and draw a card that would add to the thought.

M. L. was willing that others should receive credit. Once a friend of his gave a Sabbath school review. When M. L. got up to proceed with the lesson study, he said, "I don't know whether you know it or not, but you just heard something."

While teaching in Washington, M. L. had his appendix removed. In one of the books he tells of his experience upon awakening from the anesthetic:

It was Christmas Eve. I was awakening after an operation. . . . I was conscious for just a moment, and then sank back into unconsciousness again. But in that moment I had heard the angels singing "Silent Night, Holy Night."

These "angels" were the nurses of the institution who were passing through the halls singing this beautiful Christmas carol that has become the favorite in so many lands. Their voices were sweet and soft, and in my half-conscious state I verily thought that I was in heaven.


When I came back to consciousness again—this time for a little longer—I still heard the singing. I was alone in the room; all was peaceful; and the singing came nearer and nearer. Through misty eyes I saw white-clad figures passing in the hall and heard the song of the angels gradually receding. Now I knew that I was in heaven; all my trials were over; all was well with my soul; and in sweet contentment I sank back on the pillow and was again in the land of forgetfulness. Never shall I forget the joy and the peace that pervaded my whole being as I rested in the sweet consciousness of sins forgiven and salvation assured.

The third time I awoke, a nurse was bending over me and quietly asking how I was feeling. Feeling? What had happened to me? Was I not in heaven? She felt of the bandage. The bandage! Did I have a bandage on? I felt it. It was there. I was not in heaven. I was in a hospital. The disappointment is not easily described.2

As head of the Bible department at Union College and of the theology department at Washington Missionary College, Andreasen counted his students by scores. Then one day he was given an opportunity to count his students by thousands. He was asked to prepare a series of lessons for the world's greatest university, the Sabbath school. He thrilled at the challenge. To be sure, he would not be able to see his students, and they would not even know his name, but he could help each of them to think things through as all around the world they studied "The Christian Life." By the time the lessons were in use during the fourth quarter of 1924, M. L. had already begun his work as president of the Minnesota Conference.

1 Everett Dick, Union College, pp. 256, 257.

2 M. L. Andreasen, A Faith to Live By, pp. 126, 127.

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