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How the Spirit of Prophecy Met a Crisis:
Memories and Notes of the "Living Temple" Controversy
by W. A. Spicer


Reorganization and a Basis for Closer Cooperation

( A review of a situation preceding the development of a crisis.)

The 1901 General Conference session saw quite a reorganization in our plans of work. A much larger and more representative General Conference Committee was elected; the union conference plan, which had been worked out in Australasia, was introduced to take many administrative burdens from the central committee; and a better working arrangement between medical and evangelistic departments promised a basis for cooperation. All this holds with us still, and time has shown that right moves were made.

Early in the Conference Mrs. White had said: "Brethren, before we have finished, we shall know whether or not God is handling this Conference."— "Bulletin," 1901, P. 24.

When it was over, she wrote:

"During the General Conference the Lord wrought mightily for His people. Every time I think of the meeting, a sweet solemnity comes over me and sends a glow of gratitude to my soul."—"Review and Herald," Nov. 26, 1901.

A basis laid down in the reorganization for the growing work to hold closely together—medical, evangelistic, publishing, educational and all the rest. In actions and in counsels special attention was given that the medical missionary interests might be drawn closer as a very part of the organization in all fields. Nothing was to be working apart, but all interest were to be joined in one harmonious effort to get the message to the world.

For two or three years before the Conference, messages had come through the Spirit of prophecy especially counseling against centralization, and expansion in the larger institutions at headquarters. The growth of the sanitarium work was not to lead to larger and larger equipment. The Lord's plan was to be diffusion—the prosperity given in older centers to be turned to increasing plants 


in other parts. There was caution against over-expansion of the medical arm, which was not to be made body of the work. And further with the judgment hour message to give to all nations, it was not desirable to swing efforts and means so largely toward relief work for the poor and depressed in city missions. There was a bit of tenseness over these issues as the 1901 session was approaching. Mrs. White had but recently returned from Australia. She told the brethren that she had been perplexed as to just where to stop in Battle Creek during the session, not wishing any one to have occasion to say she was being influenced in her counsels by her associations. The veteran leader in our medical work had placed quarters in his home at the disposal of herself and her helpers. While she was hesitating and paying for guidance, she told the conference,—

"A voice said to me, 'Respect the courtesy of Dr.______________________.  I have appointed him as my physician, and I will be his helper if he will trust wholly in me. You can encourage him.'—"Bulletin," 1901, p. 204

Thus the Lord wrought to bring all interests close together on a basis to encourage mutual trust and cooperation. The medical leadership of the time was given prestige before the workers, and the reorganization was started off with nothing of past differences to hinder full cooperation. The newly elected general officers were counseled emphatically to stand by the medical work and to uphold the hands of its leaders.

Of the general fitting together of all parts of the work for a new order of efficiency and harmony, Mrs. White wrote after the Conference:

"I was never more astonished in my life than at the turn things have taken at this meeting. This is not our work. God has brought it about. Instruction regarding this was presented to me, but until the sum was worked out at this meeting, I could not comprehend this instruction."—"Review and Herald," May 7, 1902.

So, off to the task for another two year term, the workers went forth at home and abroad. In February, 1902, came the burning of our large sanitarium and hospital buildings at Battle Creek. Then, in December of the same year, the Review and Herald printing plant was laid in ashes. Nine years before, we had heard the reading of the message from Australia telling us that if the 


gathering of believers to the old headquarters continued, the Lord would allow some of our institutions to be laid in ruins. We had seen the work fulfilled. An following the loss of the publishing house many felt a conviction that these events meant that our general headquarters should be moved elsewhere. The Spirit of Prophecy gave that counsel definitely. So the removal of the General Conference and the Review and Herald from West to East came about in 1903. Out of theses apparent great losses, we saw the providence of God work great gains to the cause. The work was given a new impetus. Institutional plants increased. We saw again "that all things work together for good to them that love God."

Immediately following the loss of the sanitarium, in early 1902, counsels were held between the board of that institution and the available members of the General Conference Committee looking toward plans for rebuilding. To help in rebuilding, it was agreed that a medical book should be written, on popular lines to be sold by our people for the benefit of sanitarium work, as Mrs. White's book, "Christ's Object Lessons," had been sold for the benefit of our schools.

It was agreed that the leader of the medical forces should write the health book. It was out of the teaching of this book that a crisis developed that touched many phases of the work, raising issues not only about teaching, but about church organization and unity of the advent movement, and the integrity of the Spirit of Prophecy which had been a counselor in the movement and a guide since the days of 1844.

Nothing that developed in the crisis affected the fact that a good platform had been laid down in the 1901 General Conference session, and a basis for cooperation in every department of the work, including the health phase of the message. It was this interfusing of all phases that set the health and medical work on vantage ground; so that even though the crisis developed out of this department, the health movement stood unmoved from its original foundations, and swept on in its good work with increasing power. So, though the perplexing issues developed so soon after 1901, no observer could question the happy note about that Conference that was sounded by Mrs. White at the time:


"During the General Conference the Lord wrought mightily for His people. Every time I think of the meeting , a sweet solemnity comes over me and sends a glow of gratitude to my soul."

Out of this comforting assurance that the Lord had led onward for strong advance in all the world, the brethren found themselves facing a real crisis.

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