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



In early October, 1903, the Autumn Council met for the first time in Washington, in the M-Street Church. The brethren were pressing on with general business as usual; but like a cloud over us again was the shadow of the differences about this matter of teaching. It was painful to see how aggressive planning for the world work was hampered by the confused issue. One day in the Council, when it was being represented by one that it was all really a petty struggle to see who was who, the message of deliverance came—the message by the Spirit of prophecy entitled, "Decided Action to be Taken Now."

If ever a message came timed to the hour—timed almost to the minute, one might say—this testimony of deliverance was so timed. We were deadlocked in the council. It seemed as though nothing could be done further, when in from far California came the call to decided action. Mrs. White wrote later how it came about that the messages were sent off just at that time:

"Shortly before I sent out the testimonies regarding the efforts of the enemy to undermine the foundation of our faith through the dissemination of seductive theories, I read an incident about a ship in a fog meeting an iceberg. For several nights I slept but little. I seemed to be bowed down as a cart beneath sheaves. One night a scene was clearly presented before me. A vessel was upon the waters, in a heavy fog. Suddenly the lookout cried, 'Iceberg just ahead! There, towering high above the ship was a gigantic iceberg. An authoritative voice cried out, 'Meet it!'

"There was not a moment's hesitation. It was a time for instant action. The engineer put on full steam, and the man at the wheel steered the ship straight into the iceberg. With a crash she struck the ice. There was a fearful shock, and the iceberg broke into many pieces, falling with a noise like thunder to the deck. The passengers were violently shaken by the force of the collision, but no lives were lost. The vessel was injured, but not beyond repair. She rebounded from the contact, trembling from stem to stern, like a living creature. Then she moved forward on her way.

"Well, I knew the meaning of this representation. I had my orders. I heard the words, like a voice from our captain, 'Meet it!' I knew what my duty was, and that there was not a moment to lose. The time for decided action had come. I must without delay obey the command, 'Meet it!'


"That night I was up at one o'clock, writing as fast as my hand could pass over the paper. "—"Letters to Physicians and Ministers," Series B. No. 2, p. 55.

In the original letter to Elder Daniells, in Washington, she told how, for the next day or two she worked continually on the messages, the copyist worked at the task, preparing copies to send forward as early as possible. When prepared, the matter was taken down to St. Helena by a special messenger and put into the train mail. That is how the messages came to Washington, into that session, when the general brethren were at their wits' end to know how to go on with the business, with this matter of teaching making a cleavage in the council. And think of a document like "Decided Action to be Taken Now," being put on paper from one o'clock at night and onward, the pen moving "as fast as my hand could pass over the paper." As a piece of writing it is a masterly thing—the first document, "Decided Action." And as meeting issue, in phrase and language quite unlike that called for in messages on ordinary topics, it is wonderful piece of work. The writer was far away in California; but not one of the brethren who had been in close contact with this teaching all along could ever have phrased it to so meet the very inwardness of the teaching . The message, "Decided Action," as printed in leaflet form, left out the opening paragraph in order that it should go to the public on the teaching issue alone. That opening paragraph was, as in one of the original copies that I have:

" During the night the Spirit of God has been presenting many things to my mind. The experience that was given us at the General Conference held in Battle Creek, early in 1901, was of God. Had Dr. ____ at that time done thorough work, the terrible experience through which we are now passing would never have been."

Then, as to the teaching of the book:

"God has permitted the presentation of the combination of good and evil in Living Temple to be made to reveal the danger threatening us....

"Men have given to our leading physician allegiance that is due to God alone; and he has been permitted to show what self-exaltation will lead men to do. Scientific, spiritualistic sentiments, representing the Creator as an essence pervading all nature, have been given to our 


people, and have been received even by some who have had a long experience as teachers of the word of God. The results of this insidious devising will break out again and again....

"I am now authorized to say that the time has come to take decided action.... Few can see the meaning of the present apostasy. But the Lord has lifted the curtain, and has shown me its meaning, and the result that it will have if allowed to continue. We must now lift our voice in warning. Will our people acknowledge God as the supreme Ruler, or will they choose the misleading arguments and views that, when fully developed, make Him in the minds of those who accept them, as nothingness?

"These words were spoken to me in the night season. The sentiments in Living Temple regarding the personality of God have been received even by men who have had a long experience in the truth. When such men consent to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we are no longer to regard the subject as a matter to be treated with the greatest delicacy. That those whom we thought sound in the faith should have failed to discern the specious, deadly influence of this science of evil should alarm us as nothing else has alarmed us....

"I heard a voice saying, 'Where are the watchmen that ought to be standing on the walls of Zion? Are they asleep? How can they be silent? This foundation was built by the Mater Worker, and will stand the storm and tempest. Will they permit this man to present doctrines that deny the past experience of the people of God? The time has come to take decided action.' I was instructed to call upon our physicians and ministers to take a firm stand for the truth." And there was a lining up for the truth as the real issue was opened to ministers and physicians. That which had been obscure was brought into the light of day. Our people were to be instructed. In the first Review set up after the Council one of the messages on the issue was printed. Here are two paragraphs:

"I have something to say to our teachers in reference to the new book, The Living Temple. Be careful how you sustain the sentiments of this book regarding the personality of God.... The Speaker held up The Living Temple saying, 'In this book there are statements that the writer himself does not comprehend... and this is not the only production of the kind that will be urged upon the people. Fanciful views will be presented by many minds. What we need to know at this time is, "What is the truth that will enable us to win the salvation of our souls?"

"The sophistries regarding God and nature that are flooding the world with skepticism are the inspiration of the fallen foe, who is himself a Bible student, who knows the truths that it is essential for the people to receive, and whose study it is to divert minds from the great truths relating to what is soon coming upon the world.

Let our teachers beware lest they echo the soothsaying of the enemy of God and man.—Oct. 22, pp. 8, 9.


It was in repeated messages that the first words of specific warning came, and soon the light was carried out by the Review, and believers and workers in every department were put on guard. At the Council all expressed themselves as accepting the messages of instruction, including the author of the book in question, who had just arrived at the Council. In an after meeting he said that he still thought he was right, but would do anything rather than go out alone

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