3. Difficult Days and Victory
NO ONE knew Dudley Canright better than Elder George I. Butler, who labored closely with
him in his early ministry, and in later years as president of the General Conference
played a major part in directing his work. The two had traveled together, had put up
tents and taken them down together, had eaten together, and preached in the same general
meetings. Such experiences draw men close to each other, and Elder Butler, a kindly,
patient, and understanding man, not only labored diligently to help Brother Canright but
also frequently hastened to his defense in times of difficulty.
Writing some years later Elder Butler gives us a glimpse behind the scenes in
Elder Canright's life:
"He was never noted for patience, forbearance, or special
regard for the opinions of others. He was a person who formed his conclusions
remarkably quick, and was inclined to be rash; and though in the main a genial, pleasant,
frank companion, yet his desire to have his own way sometimes got him into trouble.
"He never could bear reproof with patience, or feel composed when his way
was crossed. When he came to mingle in important matters with brethren in prominent
positions, these and other traits naturally got him into trouble. . . Elder C. had little
respect for any one's opinion unless it coincided with his own. The reader can
readily see that very naturally there would be friction. He always hated reproof,
hence bore it like a fractious child. So he had some unpleasant experiences, as we
"On such occasions the Elder was immediately greatly troubled with
doubts. When everything went pleasantly, he could usually see things with
clearness. When he was 'abused,' as he always thought he was when things did not go
to suit him, the evidences of our faith began immediately to grow dim. Dark clouds
of unbelief floated over his mental sky, and he felt that everything was going by the
board. Here was the Elder's special weakness. He is a strong man in certain
directions when all goes smoothly, but very weak in adversity. He failed to 'endure
hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.'"Review and Herald Extra,
These qualities in Elder Canright's experience showed up in rather a marked way
in the summer of 1873 when he was involved in an experience to which in later years he
attributed some of the problems he had in his relationship with Elder James White, with
Ellen G. White and testimonies from her pen.
James White was recovering from a stroke. His wife was worn from much
speaking, writing, and traveling. With Mrs. Lucinda Hall, a valued helper, and their
son, Willie, the Whites retired to Colorado for a summer of rest and recuperation.
They stayed near Black Hawk, in a house owned by Fred Walling, Mrs. White's nephew, who
was engaged in the lumbering business.
In a letter to his brother, Edson, Willie described their mountain home:
Black Hawk, Colorado
July 3, 1873
We are here at Walling's old mill, two miles from where he is now
operating. It is a good house which he lets us have the use of. There are a
parlor, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms, and a sort of underground room, which serves
as butt[e]ry and cellar below, and two bedrooms above.
We are nearly settled. Walling lends us nearly all the furniture we
need. Day before yesterday we awoke in the morning to find an inch of snow on the
ground and the thermometer two degrees above freezing. How is that for the first of
July? . . .
Father is quite well and cheerful. He is tinkering up shelves, bedsteads,
etc., and keeps busy most all the time . . .
July 4 Father and I have been mending fence today. Expect
Walling will lend us a horse as soon as the pasture fence is mended. . . .
Wish I could see you. Am lonesome enough sometimes. Guess I shall plant some
garden next week. . . .
Would like to write more but am so tired and sleepy I can not think of anything to
say. Hoping to hear from you soon,
The Canrights, worn by their labors, were invited to share this mountain retreat
with the Whites. They accepted. Canright had been suffering from a throat
difficulty, caused by much travel and many speaking appointments during the severe
Minnesota winter. Lucretia had never been strong, and Baby Genevieve was only
fifteen months old. Eighteen-year-old Willie White drove to Black Hawk, met the
travelers, and brought them to the old mill. His parents welcomed them, and Mrs.
White wrote, "They have a very interesting little girl."Ellen G. White
manuscript 9, 1873.
For several weeks the group enjoyed an idyllic summer holiday. They picked
strawberries; they went for long walks and sometimes enjoyed horseback rides. They
wrote and read. Ellen White described how, early one July morning, she, her husband,
and Dudley Canright "walked out in the valley and we had a very precious season of
Ellen White was watching for a favorable opportunity to present to Elder Canright
what had been revealed to her in vision concerning some weaknesses in his character and
his work. Somehow the right opportunity did not seem to present itself.
The evening after the Sabbath, August 9, Elder White became so ill that he could not
sleep until after midnight. The next day was rainy. There were too many people
in a small space, one of them ill, another a whining toddler. This created tensions
that developed into irritability and bitterness. Referring to the experience later,
Canright declared: "I told the elder my mind freely. That brought us into an
open rupture. Mrs. White heard it all but said nothing." (Seventh-day
Adventism Renounced, p. 42) Mrs. White described in her diary how, on that
Monday and Tuesday, she and her husband talked with the Canrights, but "they both
rose up and resisted everything we said. I feel so sorry."
On the night of the twelfth Elder
White was again quite sick; his wife was up with him for hours. That
same night the Canrights moved to the home of friends, Brother and Sister Tucker.
(Ellen G. White manuscript 10, 1873.)
The outburst brought clearly to the surface Canright's weaknesses, and this
provided an appropriate opportunity for Ellen White to present to him what had been
revealed to her in vision and to counsel the young couple. A letter was written
bearing date of August 12, 1873, directed to Brother and Sister Canright. Ellen
White's message opened with these words:
For some months I have felt that it was time to write to you some things which the Lord
was pleased to show me in regard to you several years ago. Your cases were shown me
in connection with those of others who had a work to do for themselves in order to be
fitted for the work of presenting the truth.
The full communication appears under the title "To a Young Minister and His
Wife" and may be found in Testimonies for the Church, volume 3, pp. 304-329.
Dudley and Lucretia Canright were not the first to whom messages of guidance and
correction had been given through Ellen G. White. Usually such reproofs and counsels
were received with humility and with full recognition that the chastening of the Lord
"yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness." But, as already noted,
Canright, as described by Elder Butler, who knew him so well, "never could bear
reproof with patience, or feel composed when his way was crossed."
Consequently, when he read the message from Ellen G. White he felt very much grieved.
Elder and Mrs. White labored diligently to help the Canrights. Daily diary
entries speak of prayer in their behalf, and of letters written to them. Dudley and
Lucretia returned for a short time, but they "seem[ed] unfeeling, as unimpressible as
stone," states Ellen White's diary. (Ellen G. White manuscript 10, 1873.)
Finally, on August 26, they left for Golden City, some 15 miles to the east.
But James White had been deeply wounded. He highly esteemed the
energetic young minister. "It seemed to him so cruel to be pressed and burdened
in his feeble health with the
case of Elder Canright."Ibid. Husband and wife, in their mountain retreat, pleaded with God for relief, and relief was granted them.
Dudley Canright soon afterward took his family to California, where he came very
near "giving up everything." After "working at farming about two
months" (Review and Herald, January 27, 1874) he started preaching
again. Letters passed between the two families. The Canrights pondered the
long testimony of counsel and rebuke Mrs. White had written them. A letter dated
November 8, 1873, in Lucretia's handwriting with her husband's editing, shows their
attitude toward Elder James White and the testimony.
In part it read:
As I told you in my previous letter, I am well satisfied now
that I did not treat you with due respect and reverence; that I was out of my place in
talking and writing to you as I did; that I did not endeavor to please you as I ought, but
was too unyielding in carrying out my own ways; that we put an extreme meaning on what you
said and were too sensitive over it; that in view of the kindness and interest which you
had heretofore shown for me, I did not show you proper gratitude. I regret this and
would do differently another time. . . .
Your words and spirit are very tender, humble, and forgiving and they have greatly
softened and warmed my feelings toward you. It is becoming quite plain to me that I
have not realized the burdens and sorrows which you have had to bear.
Then I was surprised at the readiness you now manifest in your letter to us to forgive
the past and still trust us. All these things satisfy me that you have a better
spirit than I had allowed.
For weeks now these things have been constantly upon my mind and I have turned
them over and over in my thoughts, endeavoring to look at them from every side. With
the knowledge I have, I can see no light in any other direction. The doctrine seems
plain, sound, and harmonious. It is purifying and elevating in its effects and I
cannot doubt that those who live it out will be saved. I know our people to be a
sincere and earnest people, free from deception. I have never seen any sins or
faults in the character and life of Sister White. . . .
Now Brother White, this in short is how we feel and view things at present.
If you have any advice or instructions to give us, do it freely and we will try to profit
by it. Probably the experience you have had of late in advising us is not very
encouraging in that line; but we think we are better prepared to receive admonition than
we were at that time.
We feel that if ever we do get out of this all right, it must be final, whatever may
come up. I am satisfied that the time had come in my life when
it was important that I should make a radical change in several important points This I am
now fully determined to do at all events. If this trial was the only way it could be
effected, I am not sorry it has come.
In point of health, we are all quite well. Shall be glad to learn of your plans, etc.
Your brother in hope,
(Signed) D. M. Canright
Forgiveness, as requested in this letter, was freely granted by Elder and Mrs.
In February, 1874, Elder J. N. Loughborough, one of the first Seventh-day
Adventist ministers to work in California, visited and worked with Elder Canright in
Watsonville for nearly two weeks. He had not seen Canright for six years and was
cheered to find him of good courage, and full of enthusiasm, with improved health.
("Review and Herald," Feb. 24, 1874.)
James and Ellen White also had left Colorado in late 1873 and traveled to
California. The two men who had differed so seriously in Colorado, met again in
Santa Rosa. There, in a manzanita thicket, Canright "broke his heart before
God'" and confessed in a season of prayer "that he was all wrong." (Ellen
G. White letter 18, 1874.) He and James White walked arm in arm down the road,
talking. Suddenly "they stopped in the road and cried upon the necks of each
other like two children." (Ibid.)
Elder White reported in the "Review and Herald," April 7, 1874:
"The coming of Bro. Canright to the State [of California] seems to have been
providential. . . . His success at Watsonville in bringing out a small church, and his
discourses at the late quarterly meeting at Santa Rosa, have given him a large place in
the hearts of our people here. . . . Elds. Loughborough and Canright will probably labor
together at present in this State with the tent."
It was while Elder Canright was in Watsonville that a crisis concerning Miles
Grant arose in Napa. This man, a Sundaykeeping Adventist, was preaching strange
doctrines intended to confuse the church. He called in question the integrity of
James and Ellen White. Writing to her son, Mrs. White reported:
He struck for discussion. He said if his proposition for discussion was not
accepted he should commence opposition meetings, preaching against the Sabbath.
Elder Loughborough prayed over the matter and felt that it was best to accept his
challenge. Elder Canright was telegraphed at Watsonville and came immediately to
Napa. Grant had held a few meetings with no apparent success. Monday night the
discussion commenced. Your father was present. He was highly pleased with
Elder Canright's deportment in his speeches. He made good and telling points. . . .
Last night . . . Brother Canright spoke calmly, with clearness, making good
points. Elder Grant did not make good a single point. He sought to lead
Canright into the covenants and keep him wandering around in a tangle of words, leaving
the vital question. But Brother Canright would not be caught. He gave him
enough to handle aside from the covenants. He just touched on the covenants and then
poured in all the truth he could possibly crowd into three speeches of twenty minutes
Grant's last speech was a decided failure. He had nothing to say. He
is tied up. We are all praying that he may be confounded. He is a proud, bold
defier of God's commandment-keeping people. His self-important manners are perfectly
disgusting to those who are not fascinated with his smooth, soft surface talk of
sanctification. It is very evident he knows nothing of sanctification of the
heart. He is a wicked man, I believe.
The church of Sabbath keepers in this place are only confirmed in the faith by
this opposition. Infidels and many unbelievers say that the evidence is all on one
side, that Grant brought forth nothing to prove his position.
We humbly pray that God will give the victory to the truth, and we have some
precious evidences that we shall come forth from this contest with a triumph for the
truth.Ellen G. White letter 18, 1874.
Napa, Watsonville, San Francisco, Oakland, Petaluma, Woodland, San Josein all
those places and many othersmeeting were held, baptisms conducted, churches organized.
While Miles Grant was hurling slanders, Canright wrote an able defense of Elder
and Mrs. White. He declared:
I have traveled and preached three years in Maine; have labored where Sister White was
born and had her first visions; also where Eld. White was raised; and have traveled and
lectured where he lectured at the time referred to by Eld. Grant; have conversed with many
who know Bro. and Sister White, and were familiar with their early lives and labors, and I
found these reports to be malicious slanders without the least foundation in truth.
Furthermore, for most of the time during the twenty-five years past Elder White
has been the editor of our paper, the ADVENT REVIEW AND HERALD OF THE
SABBATH, now having a circulation of over thirteen thousand copies; is the editor of our health journal, The Health Reformer, one of the highest toned health journals in
America; is president of our
Publishing Association located at Battle Creek, Michigan, with a capital of about $100,000,
running three steam presses, and employing some fifty hands daily; is one of the directors
of the Health Institute, Battle Creek, Michigan, which has a capital of some $50,000, and
is treating from forty to eighty patients continually.
Sister White has stood by her husband and greatly aided him in all this
work. Eld. White and wife have lived in Battle Creek for nineteen years. I
have lived there, and know that no persons are more highly esteemed there than they
are. Any time that Sister White will speak, she can have a crowded house, more than
any other speaker.
At our annual State camp-meetings where thousands attend, the presence and labors
of Bro. and Sister White are always earnestly called for, and nowhere more urgently than
in Maine. No more devoted, pious, believing people can be found than those who have
thus enjoyed the teachings and example of Sister White for the last twenty-seven
years. If she be a medium of Satan to deceive men and women and lead them away from
faith in God, Christ, and the Bible, it is about time such fruits began to appear!! . . .
"By their fruits ye shall know them."Review and Herald Extra,
April 14, 1874.
And his handwritten letters to Elder and Mrs. White breathed a new spirit of cooperation and a desire to work in harmony with his brethren. One datelined "Woodland, California, April 13, 1874," read:
Dear Bro. White: I feel like saying to you this morning that I have felt sweet
peace and much of the blessing of God in my heart since coming here. For this I am
very thankful to God. I have seldom, if ever, felt that faith in God and real
nearness to, and love for, Him that I do now. I feel deeply grateful to God that my
confidence in the work and my courage in God is so good. It is my settled
determination to strive hard to walk near to God so that He may trust me with His blessing
and His work.
My heart is with your heart and my daily prayer is that God may bless you
greatly. So far as I have heretofore failed to understand you and your work and have
discouraged and hindered you, I am heartily sorry. And let me say that, by the help
of God you may count on what little influence I have to stand by you, to help and
encourage you, to cooperate with you in your plans for the advancement of the work of God.
I would like to see a paper on this coast. And whatever plans you may think
best to work upon, I will help you all that I can. . . .
Pray for us and aid us by your counsel. In much love,
(Signed) D. M. Canright
In the fall of 1874, after conducting tent meetings nonstop for five months, Canright
closed his season. But the "season" did not stay closed. In December
he was preaching under canvas in San Francisco. He reported the advantage of a big
city effort: "Ministers generally let us alone" (Review and Herald, Dec. 8, 1874). Early spring found him in Petaluma. "By the advice of Bro. White, I came here," he wrote, "though I desired another field. . . .
"Bro. And Sister White spent a few days here; and Sister White remained twelve
days, speaking a part of the time in each meeting. I was very glad of this
help."Ibid., April 22, 1875.
In August he wrote from Hollister, California:
Dear Sister White, . . .We are always glad to hear from you, and to know that you remember us. We have been thankful to read your good reports from the camp meetings this summer, to
know that you are both sustained physically and spiritually. We are very thankful
that with all these labors, and cares, and sorrows, that you and Brother White especially
feel so cheerful and hopeful. . . .
It seems sad that it should be so, but if trials are necessary, God can carry us through
them. . . Our numbers are so few . . . that we cannot afford to waste our strength by
divisions. It has seemed to be Satan's special effort from the first, to create
disunion among those who ought to be the strong, leading minds, in this work. It is
sad to think how much valuable time and talent has been lost to the work on this account.
We have the utmost confidence that the hand of God is guiding in this work, and that it
will be carried forward to success by some one. If one fails to endure the test . .
. God will raise up those who will. . . .
It did not seem possible for me ever to feel that love for Brother White and sympathy
with him in this work that I had before, but these feelings have entirely passed
away. And as I have become better acquainted with the work of yourself and Brother
White and have come to take a more intelligent view of it, the great difficulties that I
felt are relieved, and I feel the same unbounded confidence in this work that I used
to. What was possible in our case is in others, and we hope it may be realized. . .
Cretia is now with me, and we are all well. We feel very anxious to continue and
follow up our labors in these parts all the fall and winter. . . .
I have felt at times some discouraged at the little we have accomplished this summer,
but still we are hoping for better success all the time. We should not complain at
laboring without any fruit if we only know that it was not on account of failure on our
part. This is what I fear, and what makes me feel sad to think that so much might be
done, where we do actually accomplish so little. I begin to feel very forcibly that
my labors do not amount to a great deal; but the best I know how to do is to keep on
whether I accomplish little or much. Pray for us as we do for you.
Your brother and sister in hope of light and victory.
(Signed) D. M. Canright
L. C. Canright