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


No Change in Attitude of the Spirit of Prophecy

As soon as the messages came warning against the erroneous views, it began to be said that Mrs. White had been lead to change her teaching. At one of the schools Mrs. White had spoken to the students saying that it should not be said that God is in tree or leaf or flower; that these things are manifestations of His power and love; that students must not be taught that God is personally in the things of nature. One of the promoters of the new view declared, in effect:

"This, of course, is very different from what she wrote some years ago. W. C. White and others have made her believe we are teaching a pernicious doctrine, so it must be downed."

(In passing, imagine how anyone, persuaded only by influence of some associate, could take up the pen and write these piercing analyses of every feature of the teaching. No one, on such a basis, could possibly have so turned the searchlight of truth upon every winding turn of his philosophy. Such writing could never come from one acting on the suggestions of another. These warning messages could only be penned by one pouring out the deepest conviction of the soul. The influencing of the mind was there, but it was the influence of the Spirit from within. In no other way can one account for such messages as sprang forth at the instant of need.)

But far from having changed, it is on record that from the earliest days the Spirit of prophecy had borne witness against these ideas of Deity. When men misinterpreted her writings, and claimed they could teach "Living Temple" doctrines from her books, Mrs. White felt stirred. True, the modern school of religio-scientific thought in all the world has long been perverting phrases of Scripture to support error. When the Apostle John wrote, "God is light", no doubt the ancient Gnostic perverted it about as the modern Theosophist does. The words convey one idea to the Christian believer, quite another to the Theosophist. 


It has become a current method with Spiritualists and others to pervert Scripture phrases to support their errors. And so among us phrases from the Spirit of prophecy were seized upon to give color to defense of the pantheistic idea. In the pamphlet, "Letters to Physicians and Ministers," issued in 1904, Mrs. White said:

"About the time that 'Living Temple' was published, there passed before me in the night season representation indicating that some danger was approaching, and that I must prepare for it by writing out the things God had revealed to me regarding the foundation principles of our faith.

"A copy of Living Temple" was sent me, but it remained in my library unread. From the light given me by the Lord, I knew that some of the sentiments advocated in the book did not bear the endorsement of God, and that they were a snare that the enemy had prepared for the last days. I thought that this would surely be discerned, and that it would not be necessary for me to say anything about it.

"In the controversy that arose among our brethren regarding the teachings of this book, those in favor of giving it a wide circulation declared: 'It contains the very sentiments that Sister White has been teaching.' This assertion struck right to my heart. I felt heartbroken; for I knew that this representation of the matter was not true.

"Finally my son said to me, 'Mother you ought to read at least some parts of the book, that you may see whether they are in harmony with the light that God has given you.' He sat down beside me, and together we read the preface, and most of the first chapter, and also paragraphs in the other chapters. As we read, I recognized the very sentiments against which I had been bidden to speak in warning during the early days of my public labors. When I first left the state of Maine, it was to go through Vermont and Massachusetts, to bear a testimony against these sentiments. 'Living Temple' contains the alpha of these theories. I knew that the omega would follow in a little while; and I trembled for our people.... The scripture used to substantiate the doctrine there set forth, is scripture misapplied.

"And there may be in my writings many statements which, taken from their connection, and interpreted according to the mind of the writer of 'Living Temple,' would seem to be in harmony with the teachings of this book. This may give apparent support to the assertion that the sentiments in 'Living Temple' are in harmony with my writings. But God forbid that this sentiment should prevail."—pp. 52-54

In the first book of Mrs. White's experience and views, published in 1851 there was a refutation of the teaching that diffused the personality of God in the things of nature. These ideas were all abroad in the years following 1844. The rise and spread of "Transcendentalism" in New England is a well-known feature in history. Mystical ideas of God and of mind and life were all abroad. 


Pantheistic theories were promoted by poets and philosophers; and modern spiritualism was soon adding to the confusion of thought. From the beginning, the Spirit of prophecy was bearing witness for the plain Bible view. In the second vision ever to be put in print, given to Ellen Harmon (White) in February, 1845—but a few weeks after her first vision—she told of a view of the person of Jesus in glory:

"I saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. I gazed on Jesus' countenance and admired His lovely person. The Father's person I could not behold, for a cloud of glorious light covered Him. I asked Jesus if His Father had a form like Himself. He said he had, but I could not behold it, for, said He, if you should once behold the glory of His person, you would cease to exist."—Early Writings p. 45.

This view is in harmony with Bible descriptions. Strike this view from us, and substitute the idea [of] the all-pervasive personality called God by the pantheistic philosophy and we are at once involved in the mazes of the spiritualistic deception. Then Heaven and the throne are wherever God is, and He is everywhere, in tree and plant and creature.

In the first interview I had with the author over the book prepared for us he illustrated his idea that it was idolatry to conceive of God as having form. He gleefully told of pressing one of our ministers into a description of the Father's person. Naming different portions of the human anatomy, he go the unsuspecting minister to say "Yes" as to likeness of man's bodily members, until the picture was crude and irreverent. The reverent view leaves it just where the view given by the Spirit of prophecy left it. The form was there on the throne, as real as the form of Jesus on the throne beside the Father. But a cloud of glory veiled the Father's person. The reverent mind does not seek to penetrate that veil between.

Again, later, in "Early Writings" Mrs. White wrote in warning against the view that diffused the Deity in nature:

"I have often seen the lovely Jesus, that He is a person. I asked Him if His Father was a person and had a form like Himself. 


Said Jesus, 'I am in the express image of My Father's person.'

"I have always seen that the spiritual view took away all the glory of heaven, and that in many minds the throne of David and the lovely person of Jesus have been burned up in the fire of spiritualism."—p.67

The door of heaven is open to the faith of a little child. It is a real place. The throne of God is there, and angels wait to speed between heaven and earth. Enoch and Elijah and Moses, and the saints who were raised with Christ (Matt. 27:52) are going to and fro amid surroundings real and tangible to men in redeemed flesh. Eden, that once was on earth, is there, with its trees that once grew on earth. Jesus, "this same Jesus," "the man Christ Jesus," is by the Father's throne, in the same flesh, glorified, that He bore as our Saviour here, And there is the Father, whose face the angels and the redeemed can see, and whose loving face we, too, shall see if faithful.

Strike out this view of Bible truth and substitute for it the pantheistic conception that makes of Deity a personality present everywhere the same as He is anywhere, and there is no place in the universe for the sinner to come before God. This hopeless Hindu conception is easily recognized in its own heathen surroundings. But clothe it in the language of Christian thought, and in third angel's message phraseology, and it may readily deceive the very elect if they are off guard.

In the very first writings of the Spirit of prophecy —in 1844 and 1845— descriptions of heaven and of the throne, and of the Father and Son were given to lift up a standard against the religio-scientific philosophy of God and nature that was to come in like a flood.

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