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


Our Institutions: Denominational or Undenominational?

Before the issue had been openly joined over the question of teaching, there had been no little counsel from the Spirit of prophecy about the matter of the organization of our oldest health institution under a law that provided the institution could not expend any of its funds outside the State of Michigan. While in Australia, in the nineties, Mrs. White had called earnestly on the old institution to help in planting the first sanitarium in Australia. As the issue was developing, in the Autumn of 1902, one complaint against the Spirit of prophecy was over this insistent call that had come for the old bas to help in establishing new plants, whereas the law under which the institution was incorporated forbade such sending out of funds.

Messages such as the following had been sent from Australia to the General Conference of 1899, held at South Lancaster, Massachusetts, appealing for help for Australia:

"The Battle Creek Sanitarium has received thousands of dollars in donations which should be passed over to institutions in other countries, which are struggling for an existence. And more than this, the profits of the sanitarium should be largely used in helping similar institutions in needy circumstances.—"Bulletin," 1899, p. 131.

Along with the appeal for help for new fields from the old institution, the same message repeated the counsels against the tendency among our institutions to keep on with increasing enlargements in old centers:

"The Lord has presented to us that the enemy is still seeking with all his power to center the work the work in Battle Creek, contrary to the word of God. A movement to erect more buildings there, and to gather in more people, will bring results for evil that are not now foreseen.

"Not all the institutions now at Battle Creek should have been there. Our people have found excuse after excuse for establishing new enterprises and erecting more buildings."—"Bulletin," 1899, p. 131.

In the meantime, Mrs. White had returned from Australia. The burning of 


the old institution in early 1902 had raised the question of finance for rebuilding, and Mrs. White had repeated the plea of not so much building in one place.

Before the issue of teaching had involved the medical management and the General Conference in serious discussion of these things—while most of the leaders were in Europe—Mrs. White spoke at length on the question of older institutions helping new plants. It was the chapel of the St. Helena (California) Sanitarium, adjoining her home. The attorney of the Battle Creek institution, Judge _________, was present. He was a member of our church then. The meeting was held June 22, 1902 (while the old institution was rebuilding). The report of the meeting was sent to headquarters in those days, and I venture to quote a few paragraphs from it, as it introduces the matter of denominational institutions.

Speaking of the restriction preventing giving aid to new enterprises, Mrs. White said a view had been given her:

"One of authority stood before the company, and spoke words....he said that these restrictions were not inspired by God, but were of human devising. The means coming to the sanitarium were brought by people from all parts of the world, and should not be used in one state only."

"In the providence of God, my husband and I were largely responsible in founding the Battle Creek Sanitarium first called the Health Reform Institute. The Lord instructed us to establish this institution. ...We were led to encourage the people to believe that after they had helped to establish the Battle Creek Sanitarium it would in time repay them by assisting them to establish similar institutions in different parts of the country. Time and again we have stood before congregations and made this promise, pleading with them to help us firmly establish this institution, and assuring them that in turn it would help them when they were ready to establish institutions in other places."

Thus speaking of the founding days, it was explained why the calls were so insistent when Australia needed help—help being called for, not from individuals but from the institution.

Then Mrs. White's son called her attention to the provisions of the law, under which the institution was later organized, forbidding the sending of money beyond the state.

In reply Mrs. White said: "Did God devise these restrictions?... The 


Lord is not pleased to have His people bound by any such yokes."

Then the attorney for the institution, Judge __________, remarked:

"I do not think the brethren understood, when they incorporated the Association, that the Act under which it was done provided that its means should not be used outside the State."

Mrs. White: "Is not that a yoke?"

Judge __________: "I think __________ now recognizes the fact that it ought to be reorganized. I am strongly in favor of reorganizing it.... I recognize the evil , and I think we ought to try to remedy it.... In times past I have had several talks with __________ on the advisability of such reorganization, so that it might be free from some of these restrictions. Until recently he has not been able to see the necessity for doing so.... I am sure he has begun to realize the necessity of such reorganization."

Mrs. White: "I hope it will be reorganized, because it does not now stand right in the sight of God."

Judge __________: "I am satisfied myself that you are right."


Denominational or Undenominational?

In connection with instruction as to desirability of organizing our institutions so that they might contribute to the work of the denomination wherever help was needed, the question of relation of our oldest medical enterprise to the denomination was raised among us. It began to be urged that the plant was not a denominational institution. Mrs. White, who was at the founding of the first medical institution, wrote:

"If ever a sanitarium was established to be denominational in every sense of the word, this sanitarium was.... In the name of the Lord, we are to identify ourselves as Seventh-day Adventists. If anyone among us is ashamed of our colors, and wishes to stand under another banner, let him do so as a private individual, not as a representative of Seventh-day Adventist medical missionary work."—(Undated statement, of 1902).

Sure enough, however, as our crisis developed it appeared that in the latest organization of the institution it was provided that it should not be denominational. A journalist, the assistant editor of the Pilgrim Magazine, gave us and the public, this information in reporting an interview with our former medical leader. The interviewer wrote:


"One year ago the Sanitarium in this city, generally believed— and by Adventists quite as much as by the public at large— to be a denominational institution, was burned to the ground. It is now nearly rebuilt."

As the journalist sought information, he was told:

"The sanitarium of which I have charge has no more connection with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, as such than you have.'

"Believing that I had not heard correctly I asked the doctor to repeat the expression, which he did, precisely as quoted.

"'Who, then, is it that owns it or runs it, or holds it in charge?' I asked.

"A private association, he replied. . . .

"The doctor continued:

"'I myself drew up the institution's articles of association. I saw to it that it should be absolutely unsectarian. Membership in the association governing it as open to a Catholic as to a Seventh-day Adventist."—Kalamazoo Telegraph, January, 1903.

Groping for an understanding, the interviewer referred to the Review and Herald publishing house, the main building of which had been burned a week before. "That is a church institution?" he said. "It is not," was the reply. "The Review and Herald concern is owned by a private stock company." But the essential difference was that the brethren who held the non-profit yielding stock in the printing house saw to it that when that corporation was reorganized, it was under articles that made the governing constituency altogether denominational. That was the difference.

In later years the original denominational character of our first medical work was minimized in vigorous terms. A highly placed member of the British government, Sir Horace Plunkett, had become a patron of the institution while holding some office in Canada, I believe. He gave an address at the institution. He told how a "little band of altruists" had begun the work in 1866. "The founders were Seventh-day Adventists. But he explained that the sect had no connection with its management now. That was the way in which the average man of the world would want to recognize the founders of a worthy enterprise. But the management, using this address as a publicity document, inserted the following paragraph at this point:


"(The institution was from the start a private enterprise and was never under the control of any denomination or sect, though for some years affiliated with the church of its founders. All such affiliation ceased years ago. The management have no connection with the religious organization referred to and no sympathy with the fanatical beliefs and practices which pertain to it. Neither had the Battle Creek Sanitarium any connection whatever with the numerous small religio-medico-sectarian institutions established by this sect in various parts of the world. The prestige of the Battle Creek Sanitarium System has suffered greatly because of the unauthorized claims of some of these church-controlled concerns. Hence this explanatory note.—Publishers.) —" Battle Creek Idea, " Sept. 15 1913.

Years before this, and before the undenominational issue had ever been thought of by our people, I would say, the messages of the Spirit of prophecy pointed out to our former associate the danger in a possible tendency toward the undenominational position. This appeared in copies of the instruction of years before, placed in hands of General Conference officers after it became apparent that we were in a real crisis over the teaching. From Cooranbong, Australia, February 27, 1900, the message had been sent:

"You may think that you can discard the name of Seventh-day Adventist, and make a name for yourself because of your supposed prosperity. But just as surely as you yield to this temptation, you will understand what the warnings mean that God has been sending you for years....O John, for Christ's sake do not spoil your record."

We think of this admonition now, when we see the institutions built larger and larger, to really mammoth proportions, and standing as a monument to the warning messages sent through the years. These messages indicated the way even of business success. But men rejected the counsel and had their own way. And, as I write, we know that the great institution has passed into the hands of a court, and is directed by the court in the interests of the bond holders.

What the future may hold we do not know, and we point no finger of reproach at former associated; but we must recognize a voice that bore true witness and gave wise counsels all the way along.

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