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At the 1903 General Conference
There was a nervous tension on as the time of the General Conference session came in the Spring of 1903. It was held in Oakland, California. The matter of the disputed teachings and questions of administration were in the background of many minds. No one knew how things would turn in the conference.
For one thing, the General Conference delegation emphatically settled it that the conference in session should elect the leadership. The 1901 Constitution provided for the election of the large representative General Conference Committee, but the committee was to elect its own chairman. On this basis, a movement had been started at the 1902 Autumn Council to change the chairman. It was proposed by those friendly to the new teaching that Elder Daniells give himself to mission interests and that A. T. Jones be the chairman. The delegation at Oakland in 1903 changed the constitution providing again for a president of the General Conference, so that choice of leadership should rest with the general body in session.
The messages from the Spirit of Prophecy to the session were earnest appeals for putting away differences, for unity, for clearing away suspicion and criticism. And there was call to a reformatory work in all the institutions, and to loyalty to the message:
Especially kind and commendatory words were spoken by Mrs. White concerning the work of the medical leader. His position was not to be made difficult, but all were to stand by the good work he was doing. The medical leader, referring to the new building plans at Battle Creek, said:
As though in answer to this proposition, Mrs. White, in a later message said:
It was a startling message, as viewed in the light of the new-old teaching that was seeking entrance. As the conference progressed, Mrs. White told the officers of scenes that had passed before her regarding these dangers. She said she must come before the conference and open up the whole issue, so that all might understand. That was good news. We had held still, waiting for such a time. But Sister White came in and spoke on a general theme. Again she said she must open up the whole question; but again she spoke on other themes. Then, on the last Sabbath afternoon or evening, when the Conference was to close the next day, she told the executives that she must take up these matters Sunday morning.
I recall with what expectancy I sat that morning, leaving editing work on the "Bulletin" to go. Now we would surely hear the issues set forth. But again Sister White came in, spoke on a theme of unity and courage and faith, and hurried immediately away to her home in St. Helena.
The conference was to end with the real issues as to erroneous teaching still untouched. Friends of the teaching learned of the situation. It was talked about that three times, under human influence, Mrs. White had proposed to take her stand against the teaching, an the Lord had restrained her.
But to the officers came a message from Mrs. White, saying:
The time to meet the issue had not come, evidently, and when we saw later how Providence was all along preparing the situation for the time when the issue had to be met, we saw the clear guidance of the Lord in the waiting. The friends of the teaching, growing stronger, predicted freely that the course of the general brethren in quietly resisting the teaching and the plans associated with it, was sure to "split the denomination." But the split never came, sad as it was to see some lose the way.
There was no longer waiting for counsel about publishing the book. The Living Temple was brought out and put on sale. It was urged upon the tract societies. The delicate situation involved is indicated by a letter dated Battle Creek, July 23, 1903, sent by the officers to conference presidents:
The book was taken to some of the camp meetings by it s friends, who read from the writing of the Spirit of Prophecy (and the Bible, of course), interpreting Scripture and phrases and sentences of the Spirit of Prophecy as teaching the same as this book. It was promoted in some of the schools. It was a perplexing situation, but we seemed unable to act. The waiting commission was the order of the day.
Some friend of the aggressive propaganda were saying that the Spirit of Prophecy would not yet "roll the general men in the dust." But we know that the Lord could never set His seal upon a system that said things one way in private
only to talk another way in public. That sort of thing could never stand, regardless of our human fallibility and the possibility that we might err in pronouncing on an item of teaching.
Meanwhile the locating committee had found a place for the new headquarters for the General Conference and the Review and Herald office. The Spirit of prophecy had directed to Washington. As plans were under way for moving there was talk among leaders of the new philosophy that it was absurd to talk of moving the headquarters of the denomination. It was said to be like the mayor and a few aldermen of Battle Creek leaving the city and saying they had moved the city of Battle Creek. Why, it was said, the Sanitarium remained the Tabernacle remained, the church remained, and Elder A. T. J. and Elder E. J. W., and others were with them; and we think the headquarters will still be here, it was said.
But it was very soon apparent that as the pillar of cloud of God's providence rose and led forward, the hosts of Israel moved with it, in their hearts. The cause of the living Advent Movement could not be led away into paths unknown and uncharted. In the unions, and conferences and churches the work was being pressed forward; and among workers and believers the removal to the East was seen as a command to go forward.
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