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“I Have Heard the Angel’s Sing”

March 20, 2010

Hymn singing was of great importance to the early Adventists. James White recalled that at the first official Millerite camp-meeting held in Exeter, Maine in 1842, “the singing of Second-Advent melodies possessed a power such as I had never before witnessed in sacred songs”. (James White, Life Incidents, Steam Press of the SDA Publishing Association, 1868, p73.)

Such hymn singing produced wide ranging responses from the “almost breathless silence” of nearly a thousand listeners that James White experienced when he commenced a service in Litchfield Maine, by singing “You Will See Your Lord a-Coming”; to the “animated singing” and “shouting aloud for joy” that Joseph Bates experienced at a camp-meeting in Taunton, Massachusetts in 1842. (Joseph Bates, The Autobiography of Elder Joseph Bates, Steam Press of the SDA Publishing Association, 1868, p265.)

For these early Adventists, hymn singing was an integral part of their daily life—Joseph Bates recorded that following an 1842 camp-meeting in Salem, Massachusetts, a two-hour delay at the railway station resulted in the waiting Adventists “singing Advent hymns” and becoming “so animated and deeply engaged that they people in the city came out in crowds, and seemed to listen with breathless attention”. (“Incidents in My past Life. No. 45.” Youth’s Instructor September 1862, p66.)

Singing was also an important part of home and family life for Adventists. Willie White recorded that “the singing of advent hymns in those days invariably constituted a part of the social intercourse of devoted Adventist families”. After news had been exchanged with visitors, it was typical that “they all joined in song.” (“Sketches and Memories of James and Ellen G. White XXX” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, February 13, 1936, p7.) White also noted the part hymn singing played in the White family worships: “At seven o’clock all assembled in the parlor for morning worship. Father would read an appropriate scripture, with comments and then lead in the morning song of praise or supplication, in which all joined.” (“Sketches and Memories of James and Ellen G. White XXX” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, February 13, 1936, p7.)

There was great diversity in the singing of early Adventists. Joshua Himes addressed some of the issues in 1843 in his “Preface” to The Millennial Harp—the second Millerite hymnal published,
“We are aware of the difficulty of suiting the taste of all classes in musical and devotional compositions; the greatest possible diversity for this purpose, which is consistent with the nature of the work in which we are engaged, must therefore be allowed. Some of our hymns, which might be objected to by the more grave and intellectual, and to which we ourselves have never felt any great partiality, have been the means of reaching, for good, the hearts of those who, probably, would not otherwise have been affected; and, as our object, like that of the Apostle, is to save men, we should not hesitate to use all means lawful, that may promise to ‘save some.’ (Joshua Himes, Millennial Harp, Boston, 1843, p 2.)

Furthermore, there was some degree of controversy over not only the styles of Adventist hymn singing, but over the presence of musical instruments. As C. Warren Becker points out, “During the early years of the Seventh-day Adventist church, no musical instruments of any kind were used in its worship services.” (“‘Such as Handle the Harp and Organ:’ Organs and their Masters in the Seventh-day Adventist Church”, Adventist Heritage 14:1, 1991, p5-11.) It was not until 1877 at a Californian camp-meeting, that an organ was used to accompany Adventist singing. At the first morning meeting, J. N. Loughborough read from Psalm 150 in an ultimately successful effort to convince the congregation of the propriety of organ accompaniment.

By 1900, Ellen White is herself actively promoting the use of instrumental music—and using a similar argument to that used by J. N. Loughborough: “In our camp-meeting services there should be singing and instrumental music. Musical instruments were used in religious services in ancient times. The worshipers praise God upon the harp and cymbal, and music should have its place in our services.” (Testimonies Vol. 6 p63.)

The earliest Adventist hymnals did not include music and one Adventist described some of the resultant problems “alas! When we sang; one prolonged a quarter note, until it consumed the time of a whole note, with a hold and swell besides. Some were singing one verse, until others had progressed pretty well into the next; and the ending word of each verse echoed and reechoed, each according to the different notions of propriety”. (J. Clark, “Music”, The Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald November 10, 1859, p200.)

One way of addressing this issue was to set new hymns to well known popular tunes, and early Adventist hymnals display several examples of this practice. “Land of Light” was written by Uriah Smith and first published in 1856. Smith’s hymn focused on heaven and was set to the popular secular tune “Old Folks at Home” by Stephen Foster. Smith also penned “O Brother Be Faithful” and set it to the popular tune, “Be Kind to the Loved Ones at home” by Isaac Baker Woodbury.

As Adventism matured, some of the more vibrant aspects of Adventist worship were replaced with a focus on order and discipline. Ellen White emphasized this when she wrote, “Singing is a part of the worship of God, but in the bungling manner in which it is often conducted, it is no credit to the truth, and no honor to God. There should be order and system in this as well as in every other part of the Lord’s work”. (“Co-operation with Ministers” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald July 24, 1883, p466.)

While promoting order and discipline, Ellen White championed singing with enthusiasm. Once when a congregation sang listlessly and without feeling she stopped them and remarked, “I have heard the angels sing. They do not sing as you are singing tonight. They sing with reverence. Their heart is in their expressions of song. They sing with meaning. Now let’s try again and see if we can’t put our hearts into the singing of this song.” (Recounted in Arthur L. White, The Lonely Years 1876-1891, Review and Herald, 1984, p384.)

Following the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844, as new doctrines were formulated: the Sabbath, the state of the dead etc.; new hymns on those themes were added to the Adventist repertoire. “Lo! An Angel Loud Proclaiming” was first published in 1848 and represents the first hymn written by a Sabbath-keeping Adventist. It was written by Herman Gurney who was known as the “singing blacksmith” because of his habit of singing while he worked at the anvil; and outlines the new Sabbatarian Adventist understanding of the Third Angel’s Message and the eschatological role of the Sabbath doctrine.

“He sleeps in Jesus” was written by Annie R. Smith and was first published in 1853 as a poem honoring Ellen White’s older brother Robert F. Harmon who died of tuberculosis at the age of 27. It effectively outlines the relatively new Adventist doctrine on the state of the dead, and was then published with music as a hymn in 1855. Smith was one of early Adventism’s most prolific hymn-writers with three of her hymns occurring in the current Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.

Perhaps one of the strangest inclusions in any Adventist hymnal is the anonymously authored “Smoking and Chewing Song” found in Temperance and Gospel Songs for the Use of Temperance Clubs and Gospel Temperance Meetings edited by Edson White and published in 1880. With the chorus: “Chewing! Smoking! Spitting! Choking! Sending clouds whirling in everybody’s face. Chewing in the parlor, Spitting on the floor, Is there such enslavement? Is there such a bore?”; it is perhaps not surprising that the song was never republished in an Adventist hymnal. (Reproduced in James R. Nix, Early Advent Singing, Review and Herald, p190-191.)

For Adventists, the singing of hymns served many functions – from the teaching of doctrine to the building of community. Despite ongoing struggles over music styles and lyrics; Adventists continue to sing of the soon return of  Jesus Christ.


“A Third Rate Lot”: A Brief History of the SDA Ministry

April 1, 2008

Most Millerite preachers who were ordained ministers, received ordination from their own denominations. Typical of this is James White who was ordained in 1843:
“In a few days I returned to Palmyra, where I received ordination to the work of the ministry from the hands of ministers of the Christian denomination, of which I was a member.” (Life Incidents, 1868, 104.)

washington-morse.jpgSabbatarian Adventists, having clearly separated from their parent groups, began to ordain ministers in 1853. The first appears to have been Washington Morse:
“In the winter of 1852, I received a prophetic chart from Eld. White, accompanied with the advice that I engage in public labors in spreading the message. I soon started out, my first effort being at East Randolph, Vt. Here I met Almond Arnold and family, with whom we had been acquainted in the first message, and who had been active in it. This family soon embraced the Sabbath truth. There was also quite a company at East Bethel who took their stand on the Sabbath, and regular Sabbath meetings were soon established at the latter place. The following summer, I was duly ordained to the ministry, and received the most unmistakable evidences of the approbation of God.” (Washington Morse, “Items of Advent Experience During the Past Fifty Years—No. 4”, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, October 16, 1888, 643.)

Ordinations to the gospel ministry continued:
“We then had a meeting of two hours, in which time the wants of the cause were considered. And it was decided that there were those present that should be ordained to the work of the Gospel ministry, and that there were those (not present) who profess to teach the present truth who were not worthy of the confidence of the church, as teachers. At 1 o’clock at night we adjourned to 8 o’clock in the morning, when the subject of ordination was again taken up. And it was the unanimous expression of all present that our dear Bro. J. N. Andrews, A. S. Hutchins and C. W. Sperry should be set apart to the work of the ministry (that they might feel free to administer the ordinances of the church of God) by prayer and the laying on of hands. And as Bro. Joseph Baker and the writer performed the solemn duty, the Holy Ghost came down upon us. There, bowed before God, we wept together, also rejoice.”
It was then decided that the cause in Vermont required that other brethren in different parts of the State, who labor more or less publicly, should also be set apart by the laying on off hands, that they might administer the ordinances of the gospel. It was the unanimous expression of all present, that Br. B. P. Butler of Waterbury, Elon Everts of New Haven, and Josiah Hart of Northfield, should thus be set apart. And while engaged in this most solemn duty, the presence of the Lord was indeed manifested. We never witnessed a more melting, precious season,— The very atmosphere around us seemed sweet as heaven. How cheering to the Christian to know that his honest endeavors to do his duty are owned and blest of Heaven!
(“The Eastern Tour”, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, November 15, 1853, 148.)

The Sabbatarian Adventists made some attempts at a theology of ordination to ministry:
“From this [I Timothy 4:11-16] we learn that the order of the gospel is that men who are called of God to teach and baptize, should be ordained, or set apart to the work of the ministry by the laying on of hands. Not that the church has power to call men into the ministry, or that ordination makes them ministers of Jesus Christ; but it is the order of the gospel that those who are called to the ministry should be ordained, for important objects.”

One of those objects was order and unity:
“To produce and secure union in the church. The laying on of hands should be done, we think in behalf of the church. A united expression of the church in this thing would certainly have a tendency to unite the people of God. Some have taken it upon themselves to baptize who profess no calling to teach. Others have gone out to teach the word whose lives were not correct at home. Both have injured the cause. We will not stop to dwell upon painful particulars. To save the flock from imposition of this kind, the gospel plan is sufficient. Let those who are called of God to teach and baptize, be ordained according to the Word, and known abroad as those in whom the body have confidence. By this course the greatest cause of evils that has existed among us as a people, will be removed.” (James White, “Gospel Order”, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, December 20, 1853, 189.)

dt-bourdeau.jpgThe newly formed Seventh-day Adventist Church ordained its first minister in 1861. In a letter dated June 11, A. S. Hutchins recorded:
“At a business meeting on First-day morning, it was the unanimous voice of the church that Bro. D. T. Bourdeau, should be set apart to the work of the gospel ministry, by ordination…. At the close of this meeting, Bro. D. T. Bourdeau was ordained by prayer and the laying on of the hands of preaching brethren present. The Holy Spirit fell sweetly and powerfully upon us, manifestly approving of the solemn and important step. After a discourse in the forenoon…we repaired to the water side, where in accordance with the example of the Son of God, ten were by Bro. D. T. Bourdeau, buried in baptism.” (The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, June 25, 1861, 189.)

The Michigan Conference in the session of Oct. 6, 1861, decided that its ministers should carry papers of recognition, consisting of a certificate of ordination, and credentials signed by the chairman and secretary of the conference, which credentials should be renewed annually.” (J. N. Loughborough, The Church its Organization, Order and Discipline, 1907, 100.)

It was at this session too, that ministers were for the first time, paid a wage:
“Let every preacher have a certain sum per week for his labor, and be required to report to the Conference each week’s labor during the year, and present his account of all he has received during the year, and if his receipts fall short of the sum necessary to his support, let the amount be made up from the State treasury. ‘The laborer is worthy of his hire.’ If this good rule be suffered to work both ways, then the hire is worthy of its labor. And, further, let all our preachers by mutual consent, and the counsel of the brotherhood, find their fields of labor for the Conference year as far as possible.” (The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, September 30, 1862, 140.)

Such an understanding was not however universal:
“Brn. Sanborn and Snook then gave a report of their labors, receipts and expenditures in connection with their mission to Minn. Reports accepted. By the advice of Brn. Sanborn and Snook it was decided that those who have been laboring in Minn., as preachers should, for the present, support themselves by laboring with their hands. Adjourned till evening.” (“Doings of the Minnesota State Conference, July 19th, 1863.” The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, August 4, 1863, 75.)

By 1862, ordination in aprevious denomination was no longer sufficient. In answering the following question: “Shall preachers from other denominations embracing the message, preach and baptize among us, on the strength of their former ordination and standing as ministers?”, The Michigan Conference session passed the following resolution: “Resolved, That ministers of other denominations, embracing present truth, should give proof of being called to preach the message, and be ordained among us, before administering the ordinances.” (The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, October 14, 1862, 157.)

By 1872, the GC had decided that a post-secondary school to train ministers was needed. At the 1873 GC Session, an action was taken to found such a school and the GC Committee raised funds, purchased land, and erected buildings. On January 3, 1875, Battle Creek College opened (though classes had started in 1874).

By the mid 1890s, the system of credentials had become quite structured:
“D. W. Reavis: I have wanted to know for some time what is the difference between ministerial credentials and ministerial license. The Chair: Ministerial credentials are granted to ordained ministers in good standing, and engaged in active labor. Ministerial licenses are granted to licentiates, – those who are engaged in preaching, but who have not yet been ordained to the gospel ministry. Missionary credentials are granted to persons engaged in active missionary work, including our Bible workers, house-to-house missionaries, etc.” (GC Daily Bulletin, March 1895, 147.)

According to John W. Fowler, SDAs have “tended to cast all pastoral leadership in the mold of Paul, who was an itinerant evangelist.” (Adventist Pastoral Ministry, 1990, 10-11.)

This view is typified by the words of A. G. Daniells—GC President—who wrote in 1912:
“We have not settled our ministers over churches as pastors to any large extent. In some of the very large churches we have elected pastors but as a rule we have held ourselves ready for field service, evangelical work, and our brethren and sisters have held themselves ready to maintain their church services and carry forward their church work without settled pastors. And I hope this will never cease to be the order of affairs in this denomination, for when we cease our forward movement work and begin to settle over our churches…then our churches will begin to weaken and to lose their life and spirit and be paralysed and fossilised and our work will be on the retreat.”

Daniells continues:
“There is pastoral work to be done and our plan is this; instead of electing our pastors over the churches individually and having a man devote the greater part of his time to the church, we have him devote the larger part of his time to evangelical work and then visit the churches now and then.” (The Church and Ministry, 1912.)

It was not until the 1950s & 1960s, that the current model of pastoral ministry became dominant.

As early as 1892 GC President O. A. Olsen was disturbed over the poor quality of the ministry—he believed that some senior ministers were so defective it was unsafe to send younger ministers to work with them!

A decade later, A. G. Daniells felt the same way—“I do not know of anything that is demanded more urgently today in our denomination than the improvement of our ministry.” He characterized the young ministers as a “third rate lot.”

Colleges had been established to train workers—including ministers, however the reality was most were called into ministry prior to graduation and did not finish the course. Olsen tried to make up for the lack of training with “short courses.” There were debates over how much training ministers needed.

Australia developed a ministerial association in 1920 headed by A. W. Anderson a “veteran educator and minister”—that offered professional reading courses and a small paper The Evangelist to share study and experience. This development was enthusiastically received and adopted by the GC for the global church. It was headed by a new field secretary—A. G. Daniells.

ministry-1928.jpgDaniells wanted a magazine for the clergy but received no support for the idea—it would be too expensive, so he had to resort to mimeographed sheets and articles. These were hard to distribute and there were the specialist demands of evangelists and Bible teachers. Those who had opposed a separate magazine for ministers caved in and the first edition of The Ministry was published in January 1928 with Leroy Froom as the editor.

Daniells wrote in the first issue of Ministry that a pastor’s efficiency was generally judged by:
“Success in winning people to Christ and His Church.
Establishing these converts in the doctrines of the Church.
The ability to get church members actively involved with their time and money in the mission of the Church.”

Daniells believed formal education in all those areas would be “most helpful.”

At the 1919 Bible Conference Daniells shared his vision of what pastors and Bible teachers should be taught—taking for granted a thorough training in basic doctrines and stressing instead the development of character and personality and constant study as a daily regimen along with good personal grooming and decorum in all that they did.

A theological seminary was opened in 1937 in Takoma Park, Maryland—in the old Review and Herald cafeteria. It operated from this location until permanent buildings were established four years later. It had an international student body. During 1950’s one year of seminary training was required as part of the internship program—to the dismay of many conference presidents. With mandatory seminary attendance enrolment doubled. It increased further when extension schools were held in other divisions. These extension schools became an accepted part of the seminary’s effort to serve the world church.

The relationship between pastoral ministry and formal studies has sometimes been difficult. In The Ministry of April 1944, LeRoy E. Froom (Head of the Ministerial Association) wrote:
“How dare a man contemplate, or have the temerity to present, the degree of doctor of divinity, gained in the universities of Babylon, as a credential for teaching or preaching this threefold message, the second stipulation of which is, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen… Come out of her, My people.’ How dare we accept such a Babylonian credential, in lieu of mastery of the truth?….Someone needs to sound an alarm. We need to grip ourselves and halt a growing trend that, if it becomes entrenched, will bring disaster through neutralizing our message.”

The SDA Seminary at Andrews University established two doctoral programs in the 1970’s—a D.Min and a ThD. All seminary degrees were now accredited. This was possible because of the increased recognition of the work of the Seminary faculty in non-Adventist academic circles.


Phrenology–The Adventist Connection

November 30, 2006

Franz Joseph GallAustrian physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) invented a “science”—that he originally called “craniology” and later “organology”—that pioneered the notion that different mental functions are indeed located in different parts of the brain. Between 1800 and 1812 he worked with Johann Christoph Spurzheim who, after they parted company, renamed the discipline “phrenology”—the science of the mind.
Gall, in his noted work, The Anatomy and Physiology of the Nervous System in General, and of the Brain in Particular, formulated four basic principles:
1. Human moral and intellectual faculties are innate;
2. their function depends on organic structures;
3. the brain is the organ of “all faculties, of all tendencies, of all feelings”;
4. “the brain is composed of as many organs as there are faculties, tendencies, and feelings.” (Samuel H. Greenblatt, “Phrenology in the Science and Culture of the 19th Century” Neurosurgery, 37:4 (1995) 790-805.)
Furthermore, Gall proposed also that the relative development of mental faculties in an individual would lead to a growth or larger development in the sub-organs responsible for them—and that the external form of the cranium reflects the internal form of the brain, and that the relative development of its organs caused changes of form in the skull, which could be used to diagnose the particular mental faculties of a given individual by doing a proper analysis.Phrenology Diagram
Gall carried out numerous observations and made many experimental measurements on the skulls of his relatives, friends and students. Gall thought that he was able to correlate certain particular mental faculties to bumps and depressions on the surface of the skull, its exterior forms or relative dimensions. Then, he proposed that these external landmarks were caused by the growth of internal brain structures, and that this growth was related to the development of the associated mental faculty. Thus, he was able to produce a complete and extensive theory to support his work, and to use it for practical applications in the mental sciences, by means of detailed topological maps. The logical and easy-to-learn structure of the phrenological theory quickly captured the imagination of thousands of followers.Phrenology Diagram
Gall and his followers identified 37 mental and moral faculties which they thought were represented in the exterior surface of the skull. Gall’s initial list comprised 27 faculties, to which his main collaborator, Spurzheim, added ten more. These faculties were divided into several spheres: intellectual, perceptiveness, mental energy, moral faculties, love, etc. Most of the faculties dealt with abstract and hard-to-define personality traits, such as firmness, approbativeness, cautiousness, marvelousness, eventuality, spirituality, veneration, amativeness. etc. Other phrenological traits have modern scientific counterparts which can be evaluated with proper psychological tests, such as constructiveness, destructiveness, individuality, self-esteem, idealism, affection, etc.
The main result of Gall’s theory was a kind of chart of the skull, which mapped the regions where the bumps and depressions related to the 37 faculties could be palpated, measured and diagnosed.

So what has this to do with Adventist history? Well phrenology and Adventism intersect at least twice (I’d be interested if anyone knows of others) as follows.

1. Sylvester Bliss’ Memoirs of William Miller records the following incident:
From the 6th to the 9th of March, Mr. Miller lectured in Medford, Mass. While here a friend took him to a phrenologist in Boston, with whom he was himself acquainted, but who had no suspicion whose head he was about to examine. The phrenologist commenced by saying that the person under examination had a large, well-developed, and well-balanced head. While examining the moral and intellectual organs, he said to Mr. Miller’s friend:
“I tell you what it is, Mr. Miller could not easily make a convert of this man to his hair-brained theory. He has too much good sense.”
Thus he proceeded, making comparisons between the head he was examining and the head of Mr. Miller, as he fancied it would be.
“O, how I should like to examine Mr. Miller’s head!” said he; “I would give it one squeezing.”
The phrenologist, knowing that the gentleman was a particular friend of Mr. Miller, spared no pains in going out of the way to make remarks upon him. Putting his hand on the organ of marvellousness, he said: “There! I’ll bet you anything that old Miller has got a bump on his head there as big as my fist;” at the same time doubling up his fist as an illustration.
The others present laughed at the perfection of the joke, and he heartily joined them, supposing they were laughing at his witticisms on Mr. Miller.
“He laughed; ‘t was well. The tale applied
Soon made him laugh on t’ other side.”
He pronounced the head of the gentleman under examination the reverse, in every particular, of what he declared Mr. Miller’s must be. When through, he made out his chart, and politely asked Mr. Miller his name.
Mr. Miller said it was of no consequence about putting his name upon the chart; but the phrenologist insisted.
“Very well,” said Mr. M.; “you may call it Miller, if you choose.”
“Miller, Miller,” said he; “what is your first name?”
“They call me William Miller.”
“What! the gentleman who is lecturing on the prophecies?”
“Yes, sir, the same.”
“At this the phrenologist settled back in his chair, the personation of astonishment and dismay, and spoke not a word while the company remained. His feelings may be more easily imagined than described. (p160-161)

Immediately following the above story, Bliss gives the following:
The following description of Mr. Miller’s phrenological developments were furnished by a phrenological friend in 1842, and may be of some interest to those acquainted with that science:
ORGANS VERY LARGE. – Amativeness, Adhesiveness, Combativeness, Firmness, Conscientiousness, Benevolence, Constructiveness, Ideality, Calculation, Comparison.
LARGE. – Philoprogenitiveness, Alimentiveness, Acquisitiveness, Self-esteem, Imitation, Mirthfulness, Form, Size, Order, Locality, Eventuality, Time, Language, Causality.
FULL. – Inhabitiveness, Concentrativeness, Caution, Approbation, Wonder, Veneration, Weight, Color, Tune.
MODERATE. – Marvellousness, Secretiveness, Hope, Individuality. (p161)

2. Ellen G. White was influenced by phrenological principles—particularly through her association with Dr James C. Jackson (below) and his health reform institute in Dansville.

Dr James C. JacksonWhite took her two sons Edson & Willie to Dr. Jackson’s health reform institute in Dansville, New York for a phrenology reading—apparently as part of a complete medical examination (for which Dr. Jackson charged five dollars per reading). Following the readings, she wrote to some friends:
“I think Dr. Jackson gave an accurate account of the disposition and organization of our children. He pronounced Willie’s head to be one of the best that has ever come under his observation. He gave a good description of Edson’s character and peculiarities. I think this examination will be worth everything to Edson.” (Ellen White to Bro. and Sister Lockwood, Sep. 14, 1864, L-6-1864, White Estate, as quoted in Ronald Numbers, Prophetess of Health New York: Harper & Row, 1976, 90-91.) Number’s book contains copies of the letter to the Lockwoods and a copy of Jackson’s “medical” report on Willie White.

Similarly, when her husband James was healthy, she had spoken of how “large and active” were his “cautiousness, conscientiousness, and benevolence.” She noted that these had “been special blessings in qualifying him for his business career.” However, during his illness these “special developments, which had been a blessing to him in health, were painfully excitable, and a hindrance to his recovery.” (“Our Late Experience” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald February 27, 1866) Here, she is again clearly utilizing phrenological concepts.
The first reference to phrenology in White’s published writings apparently occurs in an 1862 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald article:
“The sciences of phrenology, psychology, and mesmerism, have been the channel through which Satan has come more directly to this generation, and wrought with that power which was to characterize his work near the close of probation….Phrenology and mesmerism are very much exalted. They are good in their place, but they are seized upon by Satan as his most powerful agents to deceive and destroy souls. The detector, the Bible, is destroyed in the minds of thousands, and Satan uses his arts and devices, which are received as from heaven. And Satan here receives the worship which suits his satanic majesty. Thousands are conversing with and receiving instructions from this demon-god, and acting according to his teachings. The world, which is considered to be benefited so much by phrenology and animal magnetism, never was so corrupt. Satan uses these very things to destroy virtue and lay the foundation of Spiritualism.” (Ellen G. White, “Phrenology, Psychology, Mesmerism, and Spiritualism” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald February 18, 1862, 94-95.

In the above passage White is (in my opinion) clearly saying that phrenology and mesmerism “are good in their place”—that is, they are valuable/useful concepts that have been also used by Satan for evil. As a parallel illustration this is similar to saying that Music is good in its place but has also been used for evil. This interpretation is borne out by the fact that the White’s visit to Dr Jackson takes place two years after her statement in the 1862 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald.
Interestingly, Uriah Smith defends White’s statement along much the same lines. In his 1868 book The visions of Mrs. E. G. White he states:
“I told him the Lord had shown me that mesmerism was from the Devil.” Experience and Views, page 6. “Phrenology and mesmerism are very much exalted. They are good in their place.” Testimony No. 7, page 56. Here the objector stops and claims a contradiction. Mesmerism from the Devil, he says, and yet good! He should have continued his quotation from Testimony No. 7, a little further, thus: “They are good in their place, but they are seized upon by Satan as his most powerful agents to deceive and destroy souls!” It is only by garbling the sentence that the opposer finds his objection; for when it is given in full, it explains the first quotation, and shows in what respect mesmerism is from the Devil, namely, in the use that is made of it. This is all made plain in the work last quoted from. (p115)

White does make a number of other references to phrenology—however it should be noted finally that the subject plays a very minor role in her writings. The exact number of occurrences is difficult to determine because her articles were reprinted multiple times in different magazines & compilations— but it is certainly less than 10 separate occasions. It should also be noted that most references (and all of the positive ones) occur before 1870.
From my perspective this passage where Ellen White writes positively of a now discredited “medical” practice without any scientific or other value, is easy to explain—she was simply reflecting the culture of her time—and the current state of medical/scientific/psychological knowledge. Thus I have no problem with this passage, nor with Ellen White taking her two sons for a phrenology reading.

In all fairness, I will direct you to the Ellen G. White Estate website which addresses this issue also (though from a slightly different approach):

Other occurrences of phrenology in early Adventist writings include:

A letter from Alvarez Pierce was published in the March 6, 1856 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald: “I once attended for a few evenings a Methodist meeting where they thought they were having a great revival and where their preacher instead of going to the great store-house of eternal truth, undertook to prove his doctrine by magnetism and phrenology. Will God approve of such doctrine as this? We answer, No. Then let us take warning and let our hearts and conversation be in heaven, from whence we look for our Lord Jesus.” (p183)

On January 1, 1861, the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald published an article by R. C. Farrar entitled “Religion Illustrated by Phrenology”. (Note: this is before White makes reference to the subject.) It is an quite positive towards the subject:
“The science of phrenology proves conclusively that the seat of the mind is the brain; and so intimate is the connection between mind and matter, that any derangement of one produces a marked effect upon the other. How plainly the results of the fall can be traced in our feeble and shattered frames, as well as in the natural depravity of our hearts.
My mind is carried back to the creation of man. When he came from the hand of God, how perfect he was, physically, mentally and morally. All the faculties of his mind were blended together in just that proportion necessary to the development of a perfect character. Benevolence, or love to our fellow-men, veneration, or religious reverence for the Deity, firmness, or fixedness of purpose, resolution, fortitude, conscientiousness, or love of justice and right, occupy the most elevated position of the brain, showing that they are to govern and control the rest of the faculties. When Adam partook of the forbidden fruit, he reversed this order of things very materially. Appetite is one of the lower faculties, and occupies a lower position in the brain. So do the domestic organs, love of home, family and friends, the principle of self-defense, love of property, &c. These faculties are all right in their legitimate use, but they are designed to be held in perfect subjection to the moral powers….It is the design of religion to restore back the just balance of the powers of mind, that each may have just that development God designed at the first. We must not discard a faculty altogether, because its excessive development has led us into sin. We must curb and restrain it within just the limits that God prescribes.”

Information on phrenology on the internet can be found here: Some of links are not working, the Internet Archive maintains copies of some of the sites. See especially:

Samuel H. Greenblatt, “Phrenology in the Science and Culture of the 19th Century” Neurosurgery, 37:4 (1995), 790-805.

Ronald Numbers, Prophetess of Health New York: Harper & Row, 1976, 90-91.

Robert E. Riegel, “The Introduction of Phrenology to the United States” The American Historical Review, 39:1 (1933), 73-78.


Online Historical Adventist Photos

November 15, 2006

There are a number of sites with databases of historical photos relating to Adventism currently in existence. The most comprehensive are those based at the Heritage Room of Loma Linda University:

  • The first is focused specifically on Ellen G. White and contains over 1200 photos from the Ellen G. White Estate that focus on White, her family, associates, and events & places associated with her life. (The Ellen G. White Estate itself offers only 7 photos on their website.) Access the database here.
  • The second database contains approximately 2,000 photos (with more being added) on a wide variety of subjects. Access this database here.

A third site is that of the British Union Conference (BUC) Historical Archive. It contains nearly 600 photos and may be accessed here. has pictures scanned in from various SDA publications including: J. N. Loughborough’s Rise and Progress of the Seventh-day Adventists (1892), and M. Ellsworth Olsen’s A History of the Origin and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists (1925) here.

The Center for Adventist Research (CAR) at Andrews University has recently established its own database of historical photos online here. OK, great, the more photos available online for research and teaching purposes the better. HOWEVER, to put it bluntly, the CAR approach sucks. As an example, a search for “africa” lists 21 photos—some of them of great interest to me in my research and teaching—such as a picture of students at the first SDA church school in South Africa in 1893. The problem is the database only offers tiny thumbnail-sized photos—so small in fact, that it is difficult sometimes to make out the content of the photo (the picture at right is exactly what the CAR site gives you!)—with the option to purchase a full-sized photo at higher resolution. Now I certainly believe that any photo used for commercial purposes—such as a published book—should be paid for, but to deny church members (not to mention researchers and teachers) like myself, free and open access to such material is just plain wrong. The fees charged are not inconsiderable when converted to currencies other than USD. C’mon CAR, surely you can do better than that!

I have emailed CAR at: and will report back on any reply received.

Just out of interest, a search for “Africa” on each of the above sites reveals:

Loma Linda 1 (EGW): 5 results.

Loma Linda 2 (General SDA): 3 results.

BUC Archive: 18 results. (no search capability): c10 results.

CAR: 21 results (with Moslem/Muslim spelled as Mosleum twice).



October 13, 2006

Recently I came across information on a Pennsylvanian Millerite named Peter E. Armstrong. Unlike the majority of Millerites, following the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844, Armstrong’s faith remained unshaken.

Peter ArmstrongArmstrong took literally Isaiah’s command, “in the wilderness prepare ye the way of the Lord” and preached that such preparation must include:

  • a divine communism of believers united in their faith;
  • a perfect theocracy on earth where God’s rule was ultimate;
  • and, construction of a physical temple.

Armstrong believed his vocation was to undertake and lead such preparation by establishing a new city, pure from past sins, a sacred place where true believers could “join themselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant”, live according to divine law under the direction of an inspired leader, build a Temple, and enter into eternal life without seeing death.

In 1850, Armstrong and a small group of followers established a community outside the town of Laporte in the Endless Mountains of Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. In honor of the great heavenly event that he predicted would occur on that very site, Armstrong called this place Celestia. A town plan was laid out in squares with lots measuring 20 by 100 feet, and it was reported that over 300 of these lots had been sold at $10 apiece by 1853. By 1860, the Christian utopia of Celestia was spread over 600 acres. The small but thriving village included a machine shop, a meeting house, sawmill, and store, which members owned communally. Celestia was primarily a self-sufficient farming community with some income derived from sales of wool and maple products, sales of lots, profits from the store, and contributions from nonresident believers. By 1860, the community was established—if not flourishing.

To make their purpose plain to all, Armstrong deeded four square miles of Celestia to “Almighty God and to his heirs in Jesus Messiah for their proper use and…forever.” Then they waited for signs of Christ’s return to earth.

They didn’t have to wait long. To the residents of Celestia and other millennialist Christians across the nation, the opening guns of the Civil War in 1860 were a sure sign of Christ’s Second Coming. Armstrong forbade the young men of the community from registering for the draft and the residents of Celestia continued their private mission of devotion, prayer, and watchful waiting, but still Christ did not appear. After one of the believers received a draft notice to report to the Union Army, President Lincoln was persuaded to exempt all members of the community from military service. Armstrong also petitioned the State House of Representatives for official recognition that those in Celestia who remained faithful were “peaceable aliens and wilderness exiles from the rest of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania”.

“Believers should not waste their time and efforts fixing dates,” Armstrong wrote in The Day Star of Zion, a newspaper he published in Celestia, “Rather, Christ’s command was to prepare him a house and watch in readiness for His return.”

By deeding the land to God, Peter Armstrong assumed it would be considered sacred land and not subject to property taxes. This view was not shared by the County authorities, and around 1876 payment of back taxes was demanded. When Armstrong’s followers were unable to come up with the funds the land was sold. Armstrong’s son purchased the property, but the spirit and faith of the community began to dissipate. Celestia had also been disturbed by the arrival of families whose interests were less spiritual than secular. Some apparently sought draft exemption, or an escape from normal society, or to live fairly easily at community expense. In order to protect believers at Celestia from such newcomers, Armstrong had established a village called Glen Sharon one mile south of Sonestown in 1872. Here aspiring Celestians could resolve any doubts and show themselves fully fit to be citizens of the sacred city. despite this, Celestia seems to have declined in numbers and faith. There was a brief revival of enthusiasm at Celestia in 1880, but this energy soon dissipated. Armstrong himself spent increasingly less time there and was clearly unable to transform his original vision into reality. When Peter Armstrong died at Celestia on June 20, 1887, aged 69, the community had already disintegrated, though a few believers lingered for several years.Celestia Historical Marker

Abandoned and forgotten, it became a ghost town. Over the years, homes collapsed and fields returned to forest as nature quietly reclaimed the celestial city.

Sullivan County Historical Society Article

Museumnet Article

Celestia Historical Marker Information

Philadelphia Newspaper Article