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Chapter 9:    The Sabbath and Sanctuary Conferences
                 and Development of Doctrines  ( 1848 )
  Following Rocky Hill, other conferences were held in a number of places, but not all have been pinpointed by name. Of several, James or Ellen White, or both, have written. Two were held in western New York State. After describing the conference held at Rocky Hill in the "unfinished chamber" in the Belden home, Ellen White wrote: "Soon after this we were invited to attend a conference at Volney, New York, in August, 1848. Two years before this I had been shown that we should visit New York at some future time."--1LS, p. 245. Hiram Edson, who extended the invitation, stated that the believers in his area were generally poor and could help but little with travel expenses. James and Ellen White had no means to travel with, so James was glad to find an opportunity to earn some money cutting hay on nearby farms. To Stockbridge Howland at Topsham he wrote on July 2:  {1BIO 139.1}
I mow five days for unbelievers and Sunday for believers and rest on the seventh day, therefore I have but very little time to write. My health is good, God gives me strength to labor hard all day. I have mowed eight days right off and felt hardly a pain. Brother Holt, Brother John Belden, and I have taken 100 acres of grass to mow at 87 1/2 cents per acre and board ourselves. Praise the Lord. I hope to get a few dollars here to use in the cause of God. -- JW to S. Howland, July 2, 1848.  {1BIO 139.2}
As Ellen White wrote of the experience, she gave some insights into the source of her husband's strength:  {1BIO 139.3}
My husband was suffering with dyspepsia. His diet was very spare. But the way opened for him to go into the field to mow grass. It seemed then that we must live by faith. When we arose in the morning we bowed beside our bed, and asked God to give strength to labor through the day. We would not be satisfied unless we had the assurance that the Lord heard us pray.  {1BIO 140.1}
He then went forth to his labor, not in his own strength, but in the strength of the Lord, to swing the scythe. At night when he came home, we would again plead with God for strength to earn means to spread His truth. We were often greatly blessed. -- 2SG, p. 94.  {1BIO 140.2}
That summer James White earned $40 in the hayfield. Part of the money he used to buy needed clothing for the family and part in traveling to western New York State. They reluctantly left Henry in Middletown in the care of Clarissa Bonfoey. With E.L.H. Chamberlain accompanying them, they took the steamboat for New York City en route to Volney, where the conference was to be held in David Arnold's barn.  {1BIO 140.3}
 The  Volney  Conference
The conference was called to begin on Friday, August 18. Leading workers present were Bates, Chamberlain, Gurney, Edson, and James and Ellen White. A few days later James White reported to their friends:  {1BIO 140.4}
Friday p.m. the brethren came in to our meeting in Volney. There were thirty or forty who met with us. Brother Bates preached the Sabbath to them with strong argument, much     boldness and power. My principal message was on Matthew 25:1-11 [the parable of the ten virgins]. The brethren are strong on the Sabbath and the shut door. Almost all confessed that they had gained much strength from the meeting. Ellen had two visions at that meeting. She spoke to them with power to their comfort. -- JW to Leonard and Elvira Hastings, Aug. 26, 1848.  {1BIO 140.5}
This important conference was reported by Ellen White in some detail:  {1BIO 140.6}
Our first conference was at Volney in Brother Arnold's barn. There were about thirty-five present, all that could be collected in that part of the State. There were hardly two agreed. Each was strenuous for his views, declaring that they were according to the Bible.  {1BIO 140.7}
All were anxious for an opportunity to advance their sentiments, or to preach to us. They were told that we had not come so great a distance to hear them, but had come to teach them the truth.  {1BIO 141.1}
Brother Arnold held that the thousand years of Revelation 20 were in the past; and that the 144,000 were those raised at Christ's resurrection. And as we had the emblem of our dying      Lord before us, and were about to commemorate His sufferings, Brother A. arose and said he had no faith in what we were about to do, that the Sacrament was a continuation of the Passover, to be observed but once a year.--2SG, p. 97.  {1BIO 141.2}
Some of these points of view were in conflict with what had been previously shown to Ellen White in vision. She wrote of her reactions and of subsequent happenings.  {1BIO 141.3}
These strange differences of opinion rolled a heavy weight upon me, especially as Brother A. spoke of the thousand years being in the past. I knew that he was in error, and great grief pressed my spirits, for it seemed to me that God was dishonored. I fainted under the burden. Brethren Bates, Chamberlain, Gurney, Edson, and my husband prayed for me. . . . I was soon lost to earthly things.  {1BIO 141.4}
My accompanying angel presented before me some of the errors of those present, and also the truth in contrast with their errors. That these discordant views, which they claimed to be according to the Bible, were only according to their opinion of the Bible, and that their errors must be yielded, and they unite upon the third angel's message.--Ibid., pp. 98, 99.  {1BIO 141.5}
Ellen White summed up the outcome in two sentences: "Our meeting ended victoriously. Truth gained the victory." -- Ibid., p. 99.  {1BIO 141.6}
But there was more to it than that. To these people with divergent views-- people who had not seen Ellen White before --the Lord gave very convincing evidences beyond the fact that she was shown by the angel "the truth in contrast with their errors." Just a few years later, J. N. Loughborough visited with David Arnold and some others who were present at the conference in 1848, and some interesting sidelights emerged. Loughborough wrote:  {1BIO 141.7}
As the circumstance was related to me, Sister White, while in vision, arose to her feet and took the family Bible upon her left arm, the book being an ordinary-sized one. While holding it thus, her eyes looking upward and in an opposite direction from the Bible, with her right hand she would turn from text to text, placing her finger on the text, and would repeat the same.  {1BIO 142.1}
Brother Ross looked at many of the texts to see if she was repeating the one to which she pointed. He or some of the company looked at them all. In every case she not only repeated the texts to which she pointed, but she did so while her eyes were fastened upward and in an opposite direction from the Bible. It was these scriptures quoted in this wonderful manner which overthrew the false theories of the Sabbathkeepers assembled at Volney, in August, 1848, and caused them to unite upon the truth.-- JNL, in RH, March 3, 1885.  {1BIO 142.2}
He commented:      The tendency of the visions is to accomplish just what Paul said would be the effect of true manifestations of the Spirit of God; viz., to bring the church "in the unity of the faith." Eph. 4: 12-15. The reason these persons gave up their differences was   not simply because Sister White said they must give them up, but because in the same vision they were pointed to plain statements of Scripture that refuted their false theories, and had presented before them in contrast a straight and harmonious track of Bible truth. . . .  {1BIO 142.3}
This company of Sabbathkeepers in Oswego County after their errors had been thus corrected, and they had become united upon the truth, went forth from that meeting to spread the light to others.-- Ibid.  {1BIO 142.4}
The Conference at Port Gibson, New York
While at Volney, the leaders thought it best to have another conference at Port Gibson, some sixty miles further west, on Sunday and Monday, August 27 and 28. This would be held in Hiram Edson's barn. On their way they made a stopover in Hannibal, where there were eight or ten believers. The Snow family entertained Bates, Hiram Edson and his wife, and Brother Simmons. The records do not indicate where the Whites stayed. Before they continued their journey in the morning, they held a meeting in the Snow home. In his August 26 letter James White wrote of the interesting occasion:  {1BIO 142.5}
In the morning Ellen was taken off in vision and while she was in vision, all the brethren came in. It was a powerful time.  . . . Ellen rose up in vision, took the large Bible, held it up before the Lord, talked from it, then carried it to this humble brother who was not on the Sabbath and put it in his arms. He took it while tears were rolling down his bosom. Then Ellen came and sat down by me. She was in vision one and a half hours, in which time she did not breathe at all. It was an affecting time. All wept much for joy. -- JW to Leonard and Elvira Hastings, Aug. 26, 1848.  {1BIO 143.1}
The rather meager information concerning the conference held at Port Gibson comes from Ellen White:  {1BIO 143.2}
From Volney we went to Port Gibson. The meeting there was held in Brother Edson's barn. There were those present who loved the truth, and those who were listening to and cherishing error, and were opposed to the truth. But the Lord wrought for us in power before the close of that meeting. I was again shown in vision the importance of brethren in western New York laying their differences aside, and uniting upon Bible truth.--2SG, p. 99.  {1BIO 143.3}
Wrote James White to Brother and Sister Hastings: Our visit to New York was attended all the way by the goodness and power of God. . . . On our return we stated in conversation among ourselves that we found the cause in New York twofold better than we expected and that three times as much was accomplished in our visit as we expected. Praise the Lord. We came home with light hearts. Ellen's health while journeying was much better than it has been for years.-- JW to Leonard and Elvira Hastings, Oct. 2, 1848.  {1BIO 143.4}
More conferences followed in this year of development, clarifying and binding together the basic doctrines held by Seventh-day Adventists. The early records speak of meetings at Rocky Hill; Topsham, Maine; and Dorchester, Massachusetts, in November. The basic team of workers from conference to conference was much the same: James and Ellen White, Joseph Bates, H. S. Gurney. At times, Hiram Edson, E.L.H. Chamberlain, and Otis Nichols joined forces with the basic group.  {1BIO 144.1}
The Development of the Doctrines
  Concerning what was accomplished at the conferences held in those early years, and particularly the Sabbath and Sanctuary Conferences of 1848, Ellen White later wrote:  {1BIO 144.2}
Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, [A TERM USED IN RESPECT AND LOVE.] Elder Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word.  {1BIO 144.3}
Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in    their study where they said, "We can do nothing more," the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me. -- MS 46, 1904 (see also 1SM, pp. 206, 207).  {1BIO 144.4}
She referred to this experience on several occasions, and each time introduced some significant points. In 1903 she wrote:  {1BIO 145.1}
 The leading points of our faith as we hold them today were firmly established. Point after point was clearly defined, and all the brethren came into harmony. The whole company of believers were united in the truth. There were those who came in with strange doctrines, but we were never afraid to meet them. Our experience was wonderfully established by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.-- MS 135, 1903.  {1BIO 145.2}
In a Review article published in 1906 she traced the establishment of doctrines, declaring:  {1BIO 145.3}
These experiences were repeated over and over and over again. Thus many truths of the third angel's message were established, point by point. -- RH, June 14, 1906.  {1BIO 145.4}
 Ellen White's Mind Locked for a Few Years 
But this is not the full story. The Lord manifested Himself in a manner that made it forever clear that what took place was beyond human manipulation. Ellen White explained:  {1BIO 145.5}
During this whole time I could not understand the reasoning of the brethren. My mind was locked, as it were, and I could not comprehend the meaning of the scriptures we were studying. This was one of the greatest sorrows of my life. I was in this condition of mind until all the principal points of our faith were made clear to our minds, in harmony with the Word of God. The brethren knew that when not in vision, I could not understand these matters, and they accepted as light direct from heaven the revelations given. -- MS 46, 1904 (see also 1SM, p. 207).  {1BIO 145.6}
In 1906 she recounted it this way: In the early days of the message, when our numbers were few, we studied diligently to understand the meaning of many scriptures. At times it seemed as if no explanation could be given. My mind seemed to be locked to an understanding of the Word; but when our brethren who had assembled for study came to a point where they could go no farther, and had recourse to earnest prayer, the Spirit of God would rest upon me, and I would be taken off in vision, and be instructed in regard to the  relation of scripture to scripture. -- RH, June 14, 1906.  {1BIO 145.7}
In a statement penned in 1903 she told of the opening of her mind to an understanding of the Scriptures:  {1BIO 146.1}
 For two or three years my mind continued to be locked to the Scriptures. . . . It was some time after my second son was born [July, 1849] that we were in great perplexity regarding certain points of doctrine. I was asking the Lord to unlock my mind, that I might understand His Word. Suddenly I seemed to be enshrouded in clear, beautiful light, and ever since, the Scriptures have been an open book to me.-- MS 135, 1903.  {1BIO 146.2}
Ellen White related that soon after James White had started to publish the Review and Herald in Paris, Maine, in December, 1850, the father of J. N. Andrews was very sick with inflammatory rheumatism. The brethren prayed for his healing. Ellen White laid her hands on his head and declared: "Father Andrews, the Lord Jesus maketh thee whole." He was instantly healed. It was at that time, as Ellen White stated, that "light seemed to shine all through the house, and an angel's hand was laid upon my head. From that time to this, I have been enabled to understand the Word of God." -- Ibid.  {1BIO 146.3}
In the experience of Seventh-day Adventists the visions were not given to take the place of Bible study. They were, however, a definite aid in Bible study, correcting erroneous interpretations and pointing to what was truth. "He [God] wants us to go to the Bible," she wrote in 1888, "and get the Scripture evidence."-- MS 9, 1888.  {1BIO 146.4}
This was easily done with the first angel's message of Revelation 14, the second angel's message, and with the Sabbath truth as seen in the fourth commandment. But with the third angel's message, the process was a little more involved; time was needed to grasp it all. Ellen White wrote of this some years later:  {1BIO 146.5}
When we began to present the light on the Sabbath question,  we had no clearly defined idea of the third angel's message of Revelation 14:9-12. The burden of our testimony as we came before the people was that the great Second Advent movement was of God, that the first and second messages had gone forth, and that the third was to be given. We saw that the third message closed with the words: "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." And we as clearly saw as we now see that these prophetic words suggested a Sabbath reform; but as to what the worship of the beast mentioned in the message was, or what the image and mark of the beast were, we had no defined position.  {1BIO 146.6}
God by His Holy Spirit let light shine forth upon His servants, and the subject gradually opened to their minds. It required much study and anxious care to search it out, link after link. By care, anxiety, and incessant labor has the work moved on until the great truths of our message, a clear, connected, perfect whole, have been given to the world. -- 1T, pp. 78, 79.  {1BIO 147.1}     
A Glimpse of the Activities at the Conferences
In a retrospective statement Ellen White drew a picture of the spirit in which the foundations of truth were laid in those periods of concerted study and prayer:  {1BIO 147.2}
We would come together burdened in soul, praying that we might be one in faith and doctrine; for we knew that Christ is not divided. One point at a time was made the subject of investigation. The Scriptures were opened with a sense of awe. Often we fasted, that we might be better fitted to understand the truth. After earnest prayer, if any point was not understood it was discussed, and each one expressed his opinion freely; then we would again bow in prayer, and earnest supplications went up to heaven that God would help us to see eye to eye, that we might be one as Christ and the Father are one. Many tears were 
shed.  {1BIO 147.3}
We spent many hours in this way. Sometimes the entire night was spent in solemn investigation of the Scriptures, that we might understand the truth for our time. On some occasions the Spirit of God would come upon me, and difficult portions were made clear through God's appointed way, and then there was perfect harmony. We were all of one mind and one spirit.  {1BIO 147.4}
We sought most earnestly that the Scriptures should not be wrested to suit any man's opinions. We tried to make our differences as slight as possible by not dwelling on points that were of minor importance, upon which there were varying opinions. But the burden of every soul was to bring about a condition among the brethren which would answer the prayer of Christ that His disciples might be one as He and the Father are one. -- TM, pp. 24, 25.  {1BIO 148.1}
But the meetings were not all peaceful, with everyone in harmony. She mentioned what took place when there was a stubborn holding out for cherished personal views:  {1BIO 148.2}
Sometimes one or two of the brethren would stubbornly set themselves against the view presented, and would act out the natural feelings of the heart; but when this disposition appeared, we suspended our investigations and adjourned our meeting, that each one might have an opportunity to go to God in prayer, and, without conversation with others, study the point of difference, seeking light from heaven. With expressions of friendliness we parted, to meet again as soon as possible for further investigation.  {1BIO 148.3}
At times the power of God came upon us in a marked manner, and when clear light revealed the points of truth, we would weep and rejoice together. We loved Jesus; we loved one another. -- Ibid., pp. 25, 26.  {1BIO 148.4}
Established by the Lord God of Heaven 
As Ellen White had occasion to look back to the laying of the foundations of doctrinal positions held by the church, she was led to write:  {1BIO 148.5}
Those who passed over the ground step by step in the past history of our experience, seeing the chain of truth in the prophecies, were prepared to accept and obey every ray of light. They were praying, fasting, searching, digging for the truth as for hidden treasures, and the Holy Spirit, we know, was teaching and guiding us.  {1BIO 148.6}
Many theories were advanced, bearing a semblance of truth, but so mingled with misinterpreted and misapplied scriptures, that they led to dangerous errors. Very well do we know how every point of truth was established, and the seal set upon it by the Holy Spirit of God. And all the time voices were heard, "Here is the truth," "I have the truth; follow me." But the warnings came, "Go not ye after them. I have not sent them, but they ran."  (See Jer. 23:21.)  {1BIO 149.1}
The leadings of the Lord were marked, and most wonderful were His revelations of what is truth. Point after point was established by the Lord God of heaven. That which was truth then, is truth today. -- MS 31, 1896 (see also 2SM, pp. 103, 104).  {1BIO 149.2}
In 1896 she reinforced this concept of God's definite leadings in the establishment of the distinctive truths dug out in those early days:  {1BIO 149.3}
The great waymarks of truth, showing us our bearings in prophetic history, are to be carefully guarded, lest they be torn down, and replaced with theories that would bring confusion rather than genuine light. . . .  {1BIO 149.4}
The burden of the warning now to come to the people of God, nigh and afar off, is the third angel's message. And those who are seeking to understand this message will not be led by the Lord to make an application of the Word that will undermine the foundation and remove the pillars of the faith that has made Seventh-day Adventists what they are today. The truths that have been unfolding in their order, as we have advanced along the line of prophecy revealed in the Word of God, are truth, sacred, eternal truth today.-- Ibid. (see also 2SM, pp. 101-103).  {1BIO 149.5}
Nine years later, when the sanctuary truth was being undermined through a misapplication of Scripture by a Seventh-day Adventist minister, Ellen White declared:  {1BIO 149.6}
This poor man has been working decidedly against the truth that the Holy Spirit has confirmed. When the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth. -- Letter 329, 1905 (see also 1SM, pp. 160, 161).  {1BIO 149.7}
At the Sabbath Conference held at Topsham at the Howland home over the weekend of October 20-22, 1848, the subject of publishing the truths thus far studied out, particularly the Sabbath message, was prayerfully considered. But the way did not seem clear (GSAM, p. 273).  {1BIO 149.8}    
Commissioned to Print a "Little Paper" 
 A few weeks later, at a conference of rather limited attendance held at the Otis Nichols home in Dorchester, Massachusetts, God made it clear that the time had come to publish. In a pamphlet titled A Seal of the Living God, Bates included his account of the meeting and of a vision given to Ellen on November 18.  {1BIO 150.1}
A small company of brethren and sisters were assembled in a meeting in Dorchester, near Boston, Massachusetts. Before the meeting commenced, some of us were examining some of the points in the sealing message. Some difference of opinion existed about the correctness of the view of the word ascending, et cetera. . . .  {1BIO 150.2}
After some time spent in earnest prayer for light and instruction, God gave Sister White the following in vision.-- DF 323, Joseph Bates, A Seal of the Living God, p. 24.  {1BIO 150.3}
 At times Ellen White, while in vision, spoke in short exclamations of what she was viewing. These gave clues to her companions as to the scenes passing before her. It was so in this case, and Joseph Bates, with pencil and paper in hand, noted the words as she spoke. Here are significant portions of Bates's notes:  {1BIO 150.4}
Where did the light break out? ----- Let thine angel teach us where the light broke out! ----- It commenced from a little, when Thou didst give one light after another. ----- The testimony and commandments are linked together; they cannot be separated. ----- That comes first, the ten commandments by God. . . .  {1BIO 150.5}
He was well pleased when His law began to come up in strength, and the waste places began to be built up. ----- Out of weakness it has become strong from searching His Word. ----- The test upon it has been but a short time. . . . It's the seal! -----  It's coming up! It arises, commencing from the rising of the sun. Like the sun, first cold, grows warmer and sends its rays.  ----- When that truth arose, there was but little light in it, but it has been increasing. ----- O the power of these rays!  {1BIO 150.6}
It grows in strength. ----- The greatest weight and light is on that truth, ----- for it lasts forever, when the Bible is not needed.  ----- It arose there in the east.  {1BIO 151.1}
It began with a small light, but its beams are healing. ----- O how mighty is that truth; ----- it's the highest after they enter the goodly land, ----- but it will increase till they are made immortal. ----- It commenced from the rising of the sun, ----- keeps on its course like the sun, ----- but it never sets."--Ibid., pp. 24, 25.  {1BIO 151.2}
In Europe at this time there was confusion among the nations, and war seemed inevitable. There had been considerable discussion among the early believers as to the significance of the turmoil. With that background, these exclamations were significant:  {1BIO 151.3}
 The angels are holding the four winds. ----- It is God that restrains the powers. ----- The angels have not let go, for the saints are not all sealed. . . . ----- When Michael stands up, this trouble will be all over the earth. Why, ----- they are just ready to blow. ----- There's a check put on because the saints are not sealed.  {1BIO 151.4}
Yea, publish the things thou hast seen and heard, and the blessing of God will attend. ----- Look ye! ----- That rising is in strength and grows brighter and brighter.--Ibid. (Italics supplied.)  {1BIO 151.5}
Ellen White later wrote about the sequel to the vision: After coming out of vision, I said to my husband: "I have a message for you. You must begin to print a little paper and send     it out to the people. Let it be small at first; but as the people read, they will send you means with which to print, and it will be a success from the first. From this small beginning it was shown to me to be like streams of light that went clear round the world." -- 3LS, p. 125.  {1BIO 151.6}
But how could he? From where would he get financial and moral support? Nonetheless, James White pondered the words spoken in the commission. From Dorchester, Massachusetts, he and Ellen returned to the Belden home at Rocky Hill, Connecticut.  {1BIO 151.7}
Continue to Chapter 10 - (1848-1849)   
Heaven-directed Travels and Important Visions

Return to  Table of Contnts - Biography of EGW