Seventh-day Adventists…This group is known for its Sabbath observance, the expectation of Christ, and emphasis on physical health.……
What is Seventh-day Adventism (SDA) and what do Seventh-day Adventists believe?”
There seem to be different “degrees” of Seventh-day Adventism. Some Seventh-day Adventists believe identically to orthodox Christians, other than believing that worship should be held on Saturday and that the Saturday Sabbath should still be observed. If these are the only differences, then yes, a person could be a Seventh-day Adventist and still be a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
However, some Seventh-day Adventists believe in much more than a Saturday Sabbath/worship day. Seventh-day Adventists have been known to believe in: the annihilation of the wicked instead of an eternal hell, that believers who die enter a state of soul sleep, and that a person must observe the Saturday Sabbath in order to be saved.
Other problems with some Seventh-day Adventists are: belief in Ellen G. White, the founder of Seventh-day Adventism, as a true prophet of God even though many of her “prophecies” failed to come true – and – that Jesus entered the second phase of His redemptive work on October 22, 1844, as “prophesied” by Hiram Edson.
So, What is Seventh-day Adventism and what do Seventh-day Adventists believe? Should a Christian attend a Seventh-day Adventist church? Due to the potential doctrinal issues mentioned above, I would strongly encourage believers to not get involved in Seventh-day Adventism. Yes, a person can be an advocate of Seventh-day Adventism and still be a believer. At the same time, there are enough potential issues to make attending a Seventh-day Adventist church questionable at best.
Ellen G. White: A Brief Biography
Who was Ellen G. White, and why do millions consider her writings of special value and significance?
There are many books available about the Life and Work of Ellen G. White.
In brief, she was a woman of remarkable spiritual gifts who lived most of her life during the nineteenth century (1827-1915), yet through her writings, she is still making a revolutionary impact on millions of people around the world. During her lifetime she wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles and 40 books; but today, including compilations from her 50,000 pages of manuscript, more than 100 titles are available in English. She is the most translated woman writer in the entire history of literature and the most translated American author of either gender. Her writings cover a broad range of subjects, including religion, education, social relationships, evangelism, prophecy, publishing, nutrition, and management. Her life-changing masterpiece on successful Christian living, Steps to Christ, has been published in more than 140 languages. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Mrs White was more than a gifted writer; they believe she was appointed by God as a special messenger to draw the world’s attention to the Holy Scriptures and help prepare people for Christ’s second advent. From the time she was 17 years old until she died 70 years later, God gave her approximately 2,000 visions and dreams. The visions varied in length from less than a minute to nearly four hours. The knowledge and counsel received through these revelations she wrote out to be shared with others. Thus her special writings are accepted by Seventh-day Adventists as inspired, and their exceptional quality is recognised even by casual readers. As stated in Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . , “The writings of Ellen White are not a substitute for Scripture. They cannot be placed on the same level. The Holy Scriptures stand alone, the unique standard by which she and all other writings must be judged and to which they must be subject” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . , Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Washington D.C., 1988, p. 227). Yet, as Ellen White herself noted, “The fact that God has revealed His will to men through His Word, has not rendered needless the continued presence and guiding of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the Spirit was promised by our Saviour to open the Word to His servants, to illuminate and apply its teachings” (The Great Controversy, p. vii). The following is a more detailed account of the life and work of this remarkable woman who, meeting all the tests of a true prophet as set forth in the Holy Scriptures, helped found the Seventh-day Adventist church.
The Early Years
Ellen, with her twin sister Elizabeth, was born November 26, 1827, to Robert and Eunice Harmon. With eight children in the family, home was an interesting and busy place. The family lived on a small farm near the village of Gorham, Maine, in the northeastern part of the United States. However, a few years after the birth of the twins, Robert Harmon gave up farming, and, with his family, moved into the city of Portland, about twelve miles east.
During her childhood, Ellen assisted about the home and helped her father in the manufacture of hats. At the age of nine, while returning home from school one afternoon, she was severely injured in the face by a stone thrown by a classmate. For three weeks she was unconscious, and in the years that followed she suffered greatly as a result of the serious injury to her nose. Ellen’s formal education ended abruptly, and it seemed to all that the formerly promising little girl could not live long. In the year 1840, Ellen, with her parents, attended a Methodist camp meeting at Buxton, Maine, and there, at the age of 12, she gave her heart to God. On June 26, 1842, at her request, she was baptised by immersion in Casco Bay, Portland. That same day she was received as a member of the Methodist Church.
The Advent Message
In 1840 and 1842 Ellen, with other members of the family, attended Adventist meetings in Portland, accepted the views presented by William Miller and his associates, and confidently looked for Christ’s imminent return. Ellen was an earnest missionary worker, seeking to win her youthful friends and doing her part in heralding the Advent message.
The keenness of the Great Disappointment that Jesus did not return to earth on October 22, 1844, was not lessened by Ellen’s youth, and she, with others, studied the Bible and prayed earnestly for light and guidance in the succeeding days of perplexity. When many were wavering or were abandoning their Adventist experience, Ellen Harmon, one morning late in December, joined four other women in family worship at the home of a fellow believer in South Portland. Heaven seemed near to the praying group, and as the power of God rested on Ellen she witnessed in vision the travels of the Advent people to the city of God. (Early Writings, pp. 13-20.) As the 17-year-old girl reluctantly and tremblingly related this vision to the Adventist group in Portland, they accepted it as light from God. In response to a later vision, Ellen travelled with friends and relatives from place to place to relate to the scattered companies of Adventists that which had been revealed to her in the first and in succeeding revelations. Those were not easy days for the Adventists who had been disappointed. Not only did they meet scoffing and ridicule from the world at large, but among themselves, they were not united, and fanaticism of every sort arose in their ranks. But God, through revelation, opened up to Ellen Harmon the outcome of some of these fanatical moves, and she was charged with the responsibility of reproving wrong and pointing out error. This work she found difficult to perform.
Marriage of James White and Ellen Harmon
On a trip to Orrington, Maine, Ellen met a young Adventist preacher, James White, then 23 years of age. As their labours occasionally brought the two together, there sprang up an affection that led to their being united in marriage late in August 1846.
During the first few weeks following their marriage, James and Ellen gave earnest study to a 46-page tract published by Joseph Bates, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The tract, entitled Seventh-day Sabbath, set forth the Biblical evidence for the sacredness of the seventh day. Convinced that the views set forth were scriptural, they began to keep Saturday as the Sabbath. Some six months later, on April 3, 1847, Ellen White was shown in vision the law of God in the heavenly sanctuary, with a halo of light around the fourth commandment. This view brought a clearer understanding of the importance of the Sabbath doctrine and confirmed the confidence of the Adventists in it. (Early Writings, pp. 32-35.) The early days of James and Ellen White’s married life were filled with poverty and sometimes distress. Workers in the Advent movement had no one but themselves to depend upon for financial support, so James White divided his time between preaching and earning a living in the forest, on the railroad, or in the hayfield. A son, Henry, was born to the Whites on August 26, 1847. His presence brought joy and comfort to the young mother, but Ellen White soon found she must leave her child with trusted friends and continue her work in travelling and bearing the messages God had entrusted to her. The next few years she wrote extensively, travelled widely to visit the “scattered flock,” and attended conferences.
Beginning to Publish
While at Rocky Hill, Connecticut, in the summer of 1849, James White began publication of The Present Truth, an eight-page semimonthly paper. The later numbers carried articles from Ellen White’s pen setting forth prophetic views of the future of the church and sounding notes of warning and counsel.
The year 1851 marked the appearance of Mrs White’s first book, a paper-covered work of 64 pages entitled, A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White. This early document and its Supplement (1854) are now found on pages 11-127 of the book Early Writings. The days of the beginning of the Review and Herald in 1850 and the Youth’s Instructor in 1852, the securing of a hand press, then the publishing of the papers in Rochester, New York, during the years 1852-1855, were strenuous and trying. Money was scarce. Sickness and bereavement played their part in bringing distress and discouragement. But there were brighter days ahead, and when in 1855 the Advent believers in Michigan invited the Whites to Battle Creek and promised to build a little printing house, the tide seemed to turn for the better.
The Move to Battle Creek
In November 1855, the Review and Herald Publishing Association, with the hand press and other printing equipment, was moved from rented quarters in Rochester, New York, to the newly erected building in Battle Creek, Michigan, so liberally provided by the Advent believers.
A few days after Elder and Mrs White, and those associated with them in the publishing work, arrived at Battle Creek, a conference was held to consider plans for spreading the Advent message. At the close of this general meeting, a number of matters of importance to the church at large were revealed to Ellen White. These she wrote out and read to the Battle Creek church. The church members recognised that this message would benefit all the groups of believers, so they voted that it should be published. In due time there came from the re-established press a 16-page tract bearing the title, Testimony for the Church (Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 113-126), the first of a series of writings that in 55 years totalled nearly 5,000 pages, as published in the nine volumes of Testimonies for the Church. The record of the next few years shows Elder and Mrs White establishing the publishing work and church organisation and travelling here and there by train, waggon, and sleigh. It is a record of suffering from severe cold on long trips through sparsely settled country, and of God’s special protection from many dangers. It is a record with discouraging features as attacks were directed against the work, and also one of great encouragement as the power of God brought victory into the lives of the Sabbath keepers and success to the work of those who were leading out in advancing the Advent cause.
The “Great Controversy” Vision
At an Ohio funeral service held on a Sunday afternoon in March 1858, in the Lovett’s Grove (now Bowling Green) public school, a vision of the ages-long conflict between Christ and His angels and Satan and his angels was given to Mrs White. Two days later Satan attempted to take her life, that she might not present to others what had been revealed to her. Sustained, however, by God in doing the work entrusted to her, she wrote out a description of the scenes that had been presented to her, and the 219-page book Spiritual Gifts, volume 1, The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels, was published in the summer of 1858. The volume was well received and highly prized because of its clear picture of the contending forces in the great conflict, touching high points of the struggle but dealing more fully with the closing scenes of this earth’s history. (See Early Writings, pp. 133-295.
The Home in Battle Creek
Ellen White’s diaries for the late 1850s reveal that not all her time was devoted to writing and public work. Household duties, friendly contacts with neighbours, especially those in need, claimed her attention, and occasionally she helped to fold and stitch papers and pamphlets when there was a rush of work at the Review office.
By the fall of 1860, the White family numbered six, with four boys ranging from a few weeks to 13 years of age. The youngest child, Herbert, however, lived only a few months, his death bringing the first break in the family circle. The culminating efforts to establish church and conference organisations, with the demands for much writing, travelling, and personal labour, occupied the early years of the 1860s. The climax was reached in the organisation of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in May 1863.
The Health Reform Vision
Two weeks after this, James and Ellen White visited Otsego, Michigan, over the weekend, to encourage the evangelistic workers there. As the group bowed in prayer at the beginning of the Sabbath, Ellen White was given a vision of the relation of physical health to spirituality, of the importance of following right principles in diet and in the care of the body, and of the benefits of nature’s remedies–clean air, sunshine, exercise, and pure water.
Previous to this vision, little thought or time had been given to health matters, and several of the overtaxed ministers had been forced to become inactive because of sickness. This revelation on June 6, 1863, impressed upon the leaders in the newly organised church the importance of health reform. In the months that followed, as the health message was seen to be a part of the message of Seventh-day Adventists, a health educational program was inaugurated. An introductory step in this effort was the publishing of six pamphlets of 64 pages each, entitled, Health, or How to Live, compiled by James and Ellen White. An article from Mrs White was included in each of the pamphlets. The importance of health reform was greatly impressed upon the early leaders of the church through the untimely death of Henry White at the age of 16, the severe illness of Elder James White, which forced him to cease work for three years, and through the sufferings of several other ministers. Early in 1866, responding to the instruction given to Ellen White on Christmas Day, 1865 (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 489), that Seventh-day Adventists should establish a health institute for the care of the sick and the imparting of health instruction, plans were laid for the Western Health Reform Institute, which opened in September 1866. While the Whites were in and out of Battle Creek from 1865 to 1868, Elder White’s poor physical condition led them to move to a small farm near Greenville, Michigan. Away from the pressing duties of church headquarters, Ellen White had the opportunity to write, and she undertook the presentation of the conflict story as it had been shown to her more fully in further revelations. In 1870, The Spirit of Prophecy, volume 1, was published, carrying the story from the fall of Lucifer in heaven to Solomon’s time. Work with this series was broken off, and it was seven years before the next volume was issued.
The Work Expands
The success of Seventh-day Adventist camp meetings held in Wisconsin and Michigan in the late 1860s led to broader plans for such endeavours in succeeding years. James White took an active part not only in laying plans for these meetings but also in attending as many as his pressing administrative duties and failing health would permit. The long periods of overwork during the struggling beginning days of the church, the taxing strain of editorial duties, together with responsibilities as president of the General Conference and chairman of several institutional boards, took their toll on his health. Ellen White accompanied her husband on his journeys, doing her full share of preaching and personal work, and, as time permitted, pushed forward with her writing.
The winter of 1872-1873 found the pair in California in the interests of strengthening church projects on the Pacific Coast. This was the first of several extended western sojourns during the next seven years. An important vision was given to Ellen White on April 1, 1874, while in the West, at which time there was opened up to her the marvellous way in which the denomination’s work was to broaden and develop not only in the western States but overseas. A few weeks later, tent meetings were opened in Oakland, California, and in connection with this public effort Elder White began the magazine Signs of the Times.
Battle Creek College
In the fall of 1874, the Whites were back in Michigan, assisting with the Biblical Institute, leading out in Sabbath services, and taking a prominent part in the dedication of Battle Creek College on January 4, 1875. As Ellen White stood before the group who had gathered from a number of states to dedicate this, the denomination’s first educational institution, she related what had been shown to her the day before in a vision. The picture she presented of the international work that must be accomplished by Seventh-day Adventists impressed the assembled workers and believers with the importance and need of the college. Among other things, she told of having been shown printing presses operating in other lands, and a well-organized work developing in vast world territories that Seventh-day Adventists up to that time had never thought of entering.
Writing and Travelling
During the next few years, much of Mrs White’s time was occupied in writing that part of the conflict story dealing with the life of Christ and the work of the apostles. This appeared in volumes 2 and 3 of The Spirit of Prophecy, in 1877 and 1878. Elder White was busily engaged in establishing the Pacific Press in Oakland, California, and in rasing money to enlarge the Battle Creek Sanitarium and to build the Tabernacle in Battle Creek.
When the Whites visited the new health institution near St. Helena, California, early in 1878, Ellen White exclaimed that she had seen those buildings and surroundings in the vision shown her of the broadening work on the West Coast. This was the third Pacific Coast enterprise she had seen in the 1874 vision, the others being the Signs of the Times and the Pacific Press. During the camp meeting season of the late 1870s, Ellen White addressed many large audiences, the largest being the Sunday afternoon congregation at Groveland, Massachusetts, late in August 1877, at which time 20,000 people heard her speak on the broad aspect of Christian temperance. Her travels and labours during this period took her east and west and into the Pacific Northwest. She wrote incessantly, attended General Conference sessions, filled speaking appointments at camp meetings and in churches, appeared before temperance groups, and even filled appointments in town squares and state prisons. Elder White’s failing health led to a trip to Texas for the winter of 1878-1879. It was here that Arthur Daniells, who in later years served as president of the General Conference, and his wife, Mary, joined the White family, the youthful Arthur as Elder White’s companion and nurse, and Mary as cook and housekeeper.
Death of James White
There were periods during the next two years when Elder White was in reasonable health and able to continue with his work. But his long years of mental and physical overwork had diminished his life forces, and he died in Battle Creek on August 6, 1881. Standing at the side of her husband’s casket at the funeral service, Ellen White pledged herself to press on in the work that had been entrusted to her.
Soon Ellen White was again on the Pacific Coast, feeling keenly the loss of her companion, but earnestly engaged in writing the fourth and last volume of the Spirit of Prophecy series. The conflicting story from the destruction of Jerusalem to the close of time was presented in this long-awaited volume. When it came from the press in 1884, the book was well received. An illustrated edition for house-to-house sale was published, carrying the title The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels, and within three years 50,000 copies were sold.
Ellen White Visits Europe
For some time the General Conference had been asking Mrs White and her son, W. C. White, to visit the European missions. As she prepared for the journey, it seemed to those close to her that her physical condition would make the trip impossible. Obedient, however, to what seemed duty, she embarked on the journey, was given the necessary health, and spent the time from the fall of 1885 to the summer of 1887 in the European countries.
From Basel, Switzerland, then the headquarters of the church’s European work, Mrs White made trips to England, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Of particular interest to her were two trips to the Waldensian valleys in Italy, where she visited places she had seen in vision in connection with the Dark Ages and the Reformation. Both in Basel, Switzerland, and Christiana (now Oslo), Norway, Ellen White recognised the printing presses as those shown her in the vision of January 3, 1875, when she saw many presses operating in lands outside North America. The counsel given by Ellen White to European church workers meant much in the establishment of right policies and plans.
The Great Controversy and Patriarchs and Prophets
Because The Spirit of Prophecy, volume 4, was called for in the European languages, Ellen White felt she must write out more fully the controversy scenes involving places in Europe. The result was the book known today as The Great Controversy, first published in 1888.
Back again in the United States, Ellen White made her home at Healdsburg, California, but attended the General Conference session of 1888 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the following months, she travelled and preached, seeking to unify the church on the doctrine of righteousness by faith. During this same period, she worked on Patriarchs and Prophets, which appeared in the year 1890.
Called to Australia
At the General Conference session of 1891, Mrs White was presented with an urgent call to visit Australia to give counsel and assist in church work in that pioneer region. Responding to this appeal, she reached Australia in December 1891, accompanied by her son, Elder W. C. White, and several of her assistants. Her presence in Australia was much appreciated by the new believers, and her messages of counsel regarding the developing work contributed much to firmly establishing denominational interests in this southern continent. Here again, on her visit to the church’s publishing house, Mrs White recognised printing presses as among those shown her in vision in January 1875.
Not long after her arrival Ellen White saw clearly the urgent need for an institution of learning in Australia, that Seventh-day Adventist youth might be educated in a Christian environment, and thus workers are trained for service at home and in the island fields. In response to her many strong appeals, a Bible school was opened in the city of Melbourne, Australia, in 1892. The school operated in rented quarters for two years, but during this time earnest written and oral appeals from Mrs White pointed out that God’s plan called for the school to be located in a rural environment.
The Avondale School
When God clearly indicated His approval of the property, the Avondale Estate was secured. Then, to give encouragement to those in this pioneer enterprise, Mrs White purchased a good-sized lot nearby and made her home near the new school. This school, God indicated, was to be a pattern of what Adventist educational work should be.
In order that the developing work in Australia might be properly administered, in 1894 the territory was organised into a union conference, the first union conference in Seventh-day Adventist history. One who had a part in the administrative work in the newly organised union conference was Elder A. G. Daniells, who, with his wife, had been sent to New Zealand in 1886 as a missionary. His association with Mrs White, and his adherence to her counsels as he met the growing administrative problems of the field helped to prepare him for the greater work entrusted to him when, after the General Conference session of 1901, he was chosen as president of the General Conference.
Medical Work Begun
As soon as the educational work was well begun at Avondale, appeals were made for establishing a medical missionary program. To this Ellen White not only gave strong moral support but contributed liberally of her limited means to help make a sanitarium possible. In fact, almost every church built and every line of endeavour inaugurated during the nine years of Mrs White’s residence in Australia benefited from her financial encouragement.
In addition to her many interests in the local work of this pioneer field, Mrs White found time to write thousands of pages of timely counsel that crossed the seas and guided denominational leaders. She also furnished articles weekly for the Review, Signs, and Instructor. This heavy program greatly delayed her book work, and it was not until 1898 that The Desire of Ages was brought to completion and made its appearance. Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing preceded it by two years, and Christ’s Object Lessons and Testimonies for the Church, volume 6, followed in 1900.
In 1891 Ellen White appealed to church leaders to begin educational and evangelistic work on behalf of the Black race in America’s South. Three years later, one of her sons, James Edson White, built a Mississippi River steamboat and used it for about a decade as a floating mission for Blacks in Mississippi and Tennessee. In 1895 and 1896 she wrote articles in the “Review and Herald” continuing to urge that efforts be made for Blacks in the South, and from time to time she sent messages of counsel and encouragement to workers in that field. She gave strong support to the establishment of Oakwood College, in Huntsville, Alabama, which was founded for the purpose of educating young African-Americans. In 1904 she gave a speech to its students and teachers, declaring, “It was God’s purpose that the school should be placed here.” Throughout the remaining years of her life, she maintained a deep interest and concern for the church work among Blacks in the southern States.
Return to the United States
One day in 1900 Ellen White surprised her family and associate workers by telling them that divine instruction had come to her during the night and that she must return to America. From the standpoint of the work in Australia it seemed a most inopportune time for her leave, but One whose eye watches His church enterprise as a whole and looks into the future knew well the need of her presence in the United States during the crisis that would fill the early years of the new century.
Making her home at Elmshaven, a few miles from the rural town of St. Helena in northern California, Ellen White spent the 15 remaining years of her life in book preparation, writing, personal labour, and travel. No sooner was she well settled at St. Helena than she received a call to attend the General Conference session of 1901 in Battle Creek, Michigan.
At this important meeting, she boldly called for a reorganisation of the work of the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference, that the expanding interests of the church might be fully provided for. The delegates responded to her call, developing and implementing a plan of reorganisation, opening the way for the wide distribution of the growing responsibilities which, up to that time, only a few men had carried. They adopted the plan of union conferences to be intermediate organisations between the General Conference and local conferences and arranged for General Conference departments. These steps opened the way for great expansion and development of the work of the denomination.
Two years later the offices of the General Conference and the work of the Review and Herald Publishing Association were moved from Battle Creek, and in harmony with Mrs White’s counsel that they should be near the East Coast, they were established at Takoma Park, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D. C. At this juncture Mrs White left her California home and moved to Takoma Park. For about five months she carried on her work there. Mrs White’s presence at the denominational headquarters helped establish confidence in the decision to move east.
Busy Closing Years
Late in 1905 The Ministry of Healing, a book dealing with the healing of body, mind, and soul, came from the press. Education had been published in 1903, and two volumes of the Testimonies for the Church, volumes 7 and 8, were issued in 1902 and 1904, respectively
During her stay in Washington, Mrs White encouraged church workers in southern California to secure property for a sanitarium in Loma Linda, and she called for the opening of medical missionary educational work on the Pacific Coast. During the next few years, Ellen White frequently interrupted her book work for trips to Loma Linda to encourage the workers there, and to the Paradise Valley Sanitarium near San Diego, which she had helped to establish in 1903.
At the age of 81, Mrs. White travelled again to Washington, attending the General Conference session in 1909. At the conference, she spoke a number of times in a clear, firm voice. After this meeting, in fulfilment of a long-felt desire in her heart, she visited her old home city of Portland, Maine. There she again bore her testimony in that historic place where her work had had its beginning 65 years earlier. This was her last trip to the eastern states, and it made a lasting and vivid impression on the many Seventh-day Adventists who heard her speak or who met her at the General Conference session.
Realising that her remaining days were few when Ellen White returned to Elmshaven she intensified her efforts to bring out a number of books presenting essential instruction to the church. Testimonies for the Church, volume 9, was published in 1909. In 1911 The Acts of the Apostles appeared. In 1913 Counsels to Parents and Teachers was issued, and in 1914 the manuscript for Gospel Workers was finished and sent to the press. The closing active months of Mrs White’s life were devoted to the book Prophets and Kings.
On the morning of February 13, 1915, as Ellen White was entering her comfortable study room at Elmshaven, she tripped and fell, and was unable to rise. Help was summoned, and it soon became clear that the accident was serious. An X-ray examination disclosed a break in the left hip, and for five months Mrs White was confined to her bed or wheelchair.
Her words to friends and relatives during the closing weeks of her life indicated a feeling of cheerfulness, a sense of having faithfully performed the work God had entrusted to her, and confidence that the cause of truth would finally triumph.
The life of Ellen White ended July 16, 1915, at the age of 87 years. She was laid to rest at the side of her husband in Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Michigan.
Ellen White lived to see the Advent movement grow from a handful of believers to a worldwide membership of 136,879 that, by 2000, had exceeded 11 million.
Books available for purchase online on the Life and Work of Ellen G. White.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church (abbreviated SDA) is a denomination that grew out of the prophetic Millerite movement in the United States during the middle part of the 19th century. It considers itself a branch of Protestant Christianity, though differences in doctrine and practice have led some mainstream Christians to dispute that designation.Seventh-day Adventists
Is a group known for its Sabbath observance, expectation of Christ, and emphasis on physical health.
What is Seventh-day Adventism?
…Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The name of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination indicates its two main distinctive characteristics: Sabbath observance on the seventh day (i.e., Saturday) and an expectation that the end of the world is drawing near. …Other distinguishing characteristics include adherence to the teachings of Ellen G. White (who is regarded as a prophet), and various dietary observances rooted in Jewish law. …As of 2005, the Seventh-day Adventist Church had 12 million baptised members and about 25 million total members and adherents worldwide. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is one of the world’s fastest-growing organisations, primarily due to increases in Third World membership. It now operates in 203 out of 228 countries recognised by the United Nations.…History of Seventh-day Adventism
William Miller (1782-1849)
……Ellen White and her husband James White.
…The Adventist movement has its roots in the 19th-century “Millerite movement,” which centered on the belief that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. William Miller (1782-1849) was a farmer who settled in upstate New York after the war of 1812. He was originally a Deist, but after much private Bible study, Miller converted to Christianity and became a Baptist. He was convinced that the Bible contained coded information about the end of the world and the Second Coming of Jesus.…In 1836, he published the book Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843.…The prediction of the year 1843 was based in large part on Daniel 8:14: “And he said onto me, unto 2,300 days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” Miller believed the “2,300 days” referred to 2,300 years and that the countdown began in 457 BC. He concluded that the “cleansing of the sanctuary” (interpreted as the Second Coming) would occur sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.
When these dates passed, Samuel Snow, a follower of Miller, interpreted the “tarrying time” referred to in Habakkuk 2:3 as equal to 7 months and 10 days, thus delaying the end time to October 22, 1844. When this date also passed uneventfully, many followers left the movement in what is now termed “The Great Disappointment.” Miller himself gradually withdrew from the leadership of the group and died in 1849.
Miller’s followers who remained in the movement called themselves Adventists, and taught that the expectation had been fulfilled in a way that had not previously been understood. Further Bible study led to the belief that Jesus in that year had entered into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, and began an “investigative judgment” of the world: a process through which there is an examination of the heavenly records to “determine who, through repentance of sin and faith in Christ, are entitled to the benefits of His atonement” after which time Jesus will return to earth. According to the church’s teaching, the return of Christ may occur very soon, though nobody knows the exact date of that event (Matthew 24:36).
For about 20 years, the Adventist movement was a rather unorganized group of people who held to this message. Among its greatest supporters were James White, Ellen G. White and Joseph Bates. Later, a formally organized church called the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was established in Battle Creek, Michigan, on May 21, 1863, with a membership of 3,500.
Primarily through the evangelism and inspiration of Ellen G. White, who was regarded as a prophet, the church quickly grew and established a presence beyond North America during the later part of the 1800s. In 1903, the denominational headquarters were moved from Battle Creek to Washington D.C. and the neighboring community of Takoma Park, Maryland.
In 1929, a new sect was formed by Victor Houteff, whose beliefs differed from mainline Adventist teachings. The sect was called the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists. This group further subdivided into other groups that included the Students of the Seven Seals, popularly known as the Branch Davidians. This off-shoot of the Seventh-day Adventist movement, which became widely known due to David Koresh and 1993 Waco, Texas conflagration, held very little in common with the rest of Adventism.
In 1989, the headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was moved to Silver Spring, Maryland.
Seventh-day Adventist Beliefs
……Seventh-day Adventist doctrine is rooted in the Anabaptist Protestant tradition. Adventist doctrine resembles mainstream orthodox trinitarian Protestant theology, with a few exceptions such as the following.
- Adventism. Belief in an imminent, pre-millennial, universally visible second advent, preceded by a time of trouble when the righteous will be persecuted and a false second coming where Satan impersonates the Messiah.
- Ellen G. White. Teaching that the “Spirit of Prophecy,” an identifying mark of the remnant church, was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White, whom Adventists recognize as the Lord’s messenger. Her “writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction.”(28 Fundamental Beliefs) They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teachings and experience must be tested.
- State of the dead. Seventh-day Adventists believe that death is a sleep during which the “dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). This view maintains that the person has no conscious form of existence until the resurrection, either at the second coming of Jesus (in the case of the righteous) or after the millennium of Revelation 20 (in the case of the wicked). Because of this view, Seventh-day Adventists do not believe hell currently exists and believe further that the wicked will be destroyed at the end of time.
Seventh-day Adventists oppose the formulation of credal statements and prefer to view the fundamental beliefs as descriptors rather than prescriptors. However, divergence from the published position is frowned upon.
Seventh-day Adventist Practices
Seventh-day Adventists observe a 24-hour sunset-to-sunset Sabbath commencing Friday evening. Justification for this belief is garnered from the creation account in Genesis in which God rested on the seventh day, an approach later immortalised in the Ten Commandments. Seventh-day Adventists maintain that there is no biblical mandate for the change from the “true Sabbath” to Sunday observance, which is to say that Sunday-keeping is merely a “tradition of men.”
Church services follow an evangelical format, with emphasis placed on the sermon. During the week prayer meetings may be conducted and children often attend Adventist schools.
Seventh-day Adventists practice adult baptism by full immersion in a similar manner to the Baptists. Infants are dedicated rather than baptized, as it is argued that baptism requires consent and moral responsibility.
Seventh-day Adventists practice communion four times a year, reflecting their Methodist roots. The communion is an open service (available to members and non-members) and includes a foot-washing ceremony (commonly referred to as the Ordinance of Humility) and consumption of the Lord’s Supper.
Seventh-day Adventists do not eat pork or other unclean meat as identified in the book of Leviticus and many avoid all meat for health reasons (see next section).
Missionary outreach of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is aimed at both unbelievers and other Christian churches.
Seventh-day Adventist Health Code and Dietary Restrictions
Seventh-day Adventists present a health message that recommends vegetarianism and condones abstinence from pork, shellfish, and other foods proscribed as “unclean” in Leviticus. Alcohol and tobacco are also prohibited.
Dr. John Kellogg, founder of the Kellogg’s company and a major supplier of breakfast cereals, was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Sanitarium Health Food Company, owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is one of Australia’s leading manufacturers of health and vegetarian-related products.
Seventh-day Adventists run a large number of hospitals. Their predominant school of medicine in North America is located in Loma Linda, California.
Seventh-day Adventist Ethical Views
The official Seventh-day Adventist position on abortion is that it is permissable only in exceptional circumstances that present serious moral or medical dilemmas, such as significant threats to the pregnant woman’s life, serious jeopardy to her health, severe congenital defects carefully diagnosed in the fetus, and pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. While the general tone toward abortion is negative, the individual Adventist may take any position on the political spectrum. Abortions are performed in Adventist hospitals.
Seventh-day Adventists generally condemn homosexuality. The church does not perform gay marriages or holy unions, and gay men cannot be ordained. Homosexuality of a spouse is given as one of the rare acceptable reasons for divorce. The official statement on sexuality states that sexual acts outside of heterosexual marriage are forbidden. However, individual Adventists may take a much more liberal position.
Seventh-day Adventist Organization and Structure
Seventh-day Adventists have three levels of ordination: deacons, elders, and pastors. In some Adventist churches only men are eligible for ordination but there are many examples of deaconesses and female elders and pastors. Male pastors are allowed to marry and have families.
Organization beyond the local church is as follows:
- The global church is called the General Conference.
- The General Conference is made up of divisions.
- Divisions are comprised of union conferences.
- Union conferences consist of local conferences.
- Local conferences include local church districts. These are generally ministered to by one pastor each.
- Local districts can contain one to many local churches (congregations). In the United States, these numbers tend to be smaller (2-4 churches per district, perhaps), while in most of the worldwide church, the numbers tend to be larger (5+ per district and per pastor, sometimes as many as 15 or more).
Adventist Church governance, is a mixture of episcopal and presbyterian elements. Each of these local churches has its own elected governing body and office. Almost everything is decided by either elected committees, through vote of members, or representatives from the local churches. Each organization holds a general session at certain intervals. This is usually when general decisions get voted on. The president of the General Conference, for instance, is elected at the General Conference Session every five years. The current head of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is General Conference President Jan Paulsen from Norway.
Churches are governed by a church board formed by members of that church, with the pastor of that congregation. Church property is owned by the conference corporation though, and so this differs from congregational polity. Ministers are ordained by ministers as are lay elders and lay deacons (which ispresbyterian rather than congregational or episcopal).
Seventh-day Adventist Education and Institutions
Seventh-day Adventists have had a long interest in education. The Adventist church runs one of the largest education systems in the world. They operate some 5,700 pre-schools, primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges, universities, seminaries and medical schools in about 145 countries worldwide. This education system involves some 66,000 teachers and 1,257,000 students. The Adventist educational program is comprehensive encompassing “mental, physical, social, and spiritual health” with “intellectual growth and service to humanity” its goal.
The Youth Department of the Seventh-day Adventist church runs an organisation for 10-16 year old boys and girls called Pathfinders. For younger children, Adventurer, Eager Beaver, and Little Lambs clubs are available that feed into the Pathfinder program. Pathfinders is similar to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), except that membership is open to both boys and girls.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been active for over 100 years advocating for freedom of religion. In 1893 its leaders founded the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA). They also have been formally active in humanitarian aid for over 50 years (ADRA).
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered individuals who are, or had been, practicing Seventh-day Adventists have formed a social network called SDA Kinship international. SDA Kinship was the subject of a lawsuit by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in an attempt to protect the term “SDA” from use by SDA Kinship. The outcome of the ruling allowed the continued use of the term “SDA Kinship”.