One of the great mysteries in Seventh-day Adventist history is A.T. Jones’ and E.J. Waggoner’s later failure. The usual understanding of such failure is that the basic tendencies toward it existed in character from the beginning of one’s church connection. Such is the thought expressed by the apostle John:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us (1 John 2:19).

This principle seems to have applied in the case of D. M. Canright. Long before he left us, he was, spiritually speaking, “not of us.” He repressed his buried doubts from time to time with abject confessions, but the doubts were never eradicated. The graphic story is told in the Testimonies (Vol. 5, pp. 516-520, 571-573, 621-628).

A serious question prevails to-day concerning Jones and Waggoner. Were they genuine Christians even at Minneapolis? How could they have been true at that time and afterward lose their way? The Fruitage of Spiritual Gifts expresses the popular view that they were radical, extreme, in error even at Minneapolis, waiting only for a chance to jump the track:

[At the time of the Minneapolis session] some were strongly inclined to take radical positions, as though it were a sign of strength to be extreme. Mrs. White … even seemed to have a feeling that the two men who were so prominent at that time might later on be carried away by their extreme views (p. 232).

However, an inspired judgment declares they were straight and true at the time of the Minneapolis meeting:

The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. … God gave to His messengers just what the people needed (TM 91, 95).

God is presenting to the minds of men divinely appointed precious gems of truth, appropriate for our time (Ms. 8a, 1888; Olson, p. 279).

God had sent these young men to bear a special message (Ms. S24, 1892).

How could such words be written about men who were “radical” or “extreme”?

The fact that Jones and Waggoner eventually faltered does not mean “they were not of us.” But their later failures are unwisely interpreted to cast a subtle, implied aspersion on the message which they brought in 1888, as though the message carried them away.

This is the main reason why some say they are afraid to study that message. Thus to this day the opposition at Minneapolis is subtly justified, and the Heaven-sent message and messengers are subtly disparaged. Such was the dangerous idea Ellen White said would develop among us if they should later lose their way.

A Mysterious Providence

We are faced here with a unique problem. Two phenomena are evident: (a) A master mind of evil rejoices in this apparently conclusive rejection of the message. (b) The Lord Himself mysteriously permits this tragedy to be a stumbling-block to all who want some reason for rejecting the reality of the latter rain message. The especially difficult question is why should God choose as special messengers those who would later become unsound in the faith? Why should He permit the bearers of His sharply contested message to go astray when their apostasy would only confirm the opposition to that message? Something profoundly significant is involved in this perplexing history. God’s footsteps may be mysterious, but that is no reason why we should carelessly misunderstand this strange providence.

To suppose that the Lord made a strategic mistake in choosing Jones and Waggoner is unthinkable, for He never errs in counsel. To suppose that He made the wrath of men to praise Him against their own will is also unthinkable, for it is evident that both were sincere, earnest, humbleminded Christians when they were used by the Lord. They neither “ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward,” loving “the wages of unrighteousness” (Jude 11; 2 Peter 2:15), nor was there a trace of dishonesty evident in their ministry.

Inspired evidence suggests an answer to our questions, and indicates that:

  1. Jones and Waggoner were not “carried away” by any “extreme views” regarding the righteousness of Christ, but they were driven away by the persistent and unreasoning opposition of the brethren whom God sent them to enlighten.

  2. Ellen White recognized the seriousness of the opposition to them personally and to their message, and fixed the ultimate blame for their later failure “to a great degree” upon the opposing brethren.

  3. The Lord permitted the sad event to take place as a test to the opposing brethren; and the failures of the 1888 messengers have had the effect of confirming “us” in a state of virtual unbelief. It was an example of what Paul calls a “working of error” which God “sent” (permitted), “that they all might be condemned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12, mg).

It seems that the Lord is such a Gentleman that He apparently goes out of His way to provide hooks for us to hang our doubts on if we want them. He does not want any of us to receive the latter rain unless we are fully heart-committed to Him and to His truth. Somehow His character of jealousy is involved here. Anyone who will back away from the blessing for the slightest excuse is given ample opportunity to do so. But, oh, how that can be a severe kindness!

  1. The practical results of the investigative judgment will require that the remnant church, before the time of final victory, come to see the truth of the message and its history and recognize Jones’ and Waggoner’s work from 1888-96 for its true value, the “beginning” of the latter rain and the loud cry.

The Deep-Seated Nature of the Opposition

Criticizing the messengers imposed on them a burden that was heavier to carry than normal opposition:

Whatever course the messenger may pursue, it will be objectionable to the opposers of truth; and they will make capital of every defect in the manners, customs, or character of its advocate (RH, Oct. 18, 1892).

Some of our brethren … full of jealousy and evil surmising, … are ever ready to show in just what way they differ with Elder Jones or Waggoner (Letter S24, 1892).

The two men spoke positively and strongly. Keen perceptions of truth often lead those who are “only men” to speak that way. But that was offensive to human nature which was looking for an excuse to reject the message :

Let no soul complain of the servants of God who have come to them with a heaven-sent message. Do not any longer pick flaws in them, saying, “They are too positive; they talk too strongly.” They may talk strongly; but is it not needed? …

Ministers, do not dishonor your God and grieve His Holy Spirit, by casting reflections on the ways and manners of the men He would choose … He sees the temperament of the men He has chosen. He knows that none but earnest, firm, determined, strong-feeling men will view this work in its vital importance, and will put such firmness and decision into their testimonies that they will make a break against the barriers of Satan (TM 410-413).

The Lord Himself had clothed His personal messengers with evidences of authority, “heavenly credentials.” They had lost sight of self in their love for Christ and His special message. The still-uncrucified self in others was piqued:

If the rays of light which shone at Minneapolis were permitted to excert their convincing power upon those who took their stand against light, … they would have received the richest blessings, disappointed the enemy, and stood as faithful men, true to their convictions. They would have had a rich experience; but self said, No. Self was not to be refused; self struggled for the mastery (Letter O 19, 1892).

Thus the principle underlying this rejection of truth is that which the Jew’s demonstrated in their rejection of Christ. Caiaphas regarded Christ as his rival; he felt personal jealousy of Him (DA 704). Interwoven with that jealousy of Him who appeared to be a mere man, Caiaphas was expressing the enmity of the natural heart against God and His righteousness. Likewise, at Minneapolis, the personality of Jones and Waggoner became the visible, conscious stumbling-block for the invisible, unconscious rejection of Christ the Word. This is evident, as follows:

Men professing godliness have despised Christ in the person of His messengers. Like the Jews, they reject God’s message. The Jews asked regarding Christ, “Who is this? Is not this Joseph’s son?” He was not the Christ that the Jews had looked for. So to-day the agencies that God sends are not what men have looked for (FE 472).

The Personal Burden Which Jones and Waggoner Bore

Few have appreciated the effect which the opposition inevitably had on the young messengers. They knew that the message of Christ’s righteousness was of God. They knew that they had been reined up by the Spirit of God to speak boldly in its defence. And they could not be blind to the obvious fact that a most determined resistance to that message was the reaction of the leadership of the one true remnant church which must eventually triumph.

They knew that the message was the beginning of the loud cry, which was to go as “fire in the stubble.” They knew the time had come for the finishing of the work, when heavenly intelligences were watching with deep interest the unfolding of the drama. They further knew they were living in the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary when, of all times, the past unbelief and failures of old Jerusalem must not be repeated. Never had there been a like crisis; never had heaven granted greater evidences in vindication of a special message.

But, to their astonishment, never had history recorded a more shameful human failure to improve heaven-sent opportunity. It seemed to the young messengers to be the final, complete failure of God’s people to believe and to enter into His rest. What could possibly lie beyond?

Luther had it easy compared to them. When persecuted by Rome, all he had to do was read the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation and recognize the papacy as the little horn and the beast. That made him feel good, even to the point of providing courage to burn the Pope’s bull. But Jones and Waggoner could find no such heart comfort. Prophecy indicated no eighth church to succeed Laodicea. The possibility of God’s people delaying His program for a century or longer seemed beyond their comprehension.

It must be said to their credit that Jones and Waggoner did not renounce faith in the God of Israel. They never became infidels or agnostics or atheists. They never gave up the Sabbath or their lifelong devotion to Christ. In today’s climate of church fellowship they would still be members in good and regular standing. Their sin was that they lost faith in the corporate body of the church and its leadership. They were not confident of denominational repentance. They came to doubt human nature; hence Jones’ bitterness and the failings of their own human nature. The enemy will press us sorely to repeat their failure. But we need not give in!

The little shrubs in the valley, bending beneath the zephyr winds that occasionally stir their quiet calm, would do well to refrain from critical comment when the mighty oaks on the mountain top go down in the crushing fury of the tempest. Let God speak when He says truly there was no excuse for Jones’ and Waggoner’s faltering; let us be slow to speak, when we realize that “we” were largely the cause of it.

C. S. Lewis knew nothing of our 1888 episode, but he made an insightful comment in his Reflections on the Psalms:

Just as the natural result of throwing a lighted match into a pile of shavings is to produce a fire, … so the natural result of cheating a man, or “keeping him down” or neglecting him, is to arouse resentment; that is, to impose upon him the temptation of becoming what the Psalmists were when they wrote the vindictive passages. He may succeed in resisting the temptation; or he may not. … If that sin utterly corrupts him, I have in a sense debauched or seduced him. I was the tempter (p. 24).

Ellen White keenly felt the burden they carried. In 1892 she wrote to the General Conference president concerning them:

I wish that all would see that the very same spirit which refused to accept Christ, the light that would dispel the moral darkness, is far from being extinct in this age. …

Some may say, “I do not hate my brother; I am not so bad as that.” But how little they understand their own hearts. They may think they have a zeal for God in their feelings against their brother if his ideas seem in any way to conflict with theirs; feelings are brought to the surface that have no kinship with love. … They would as leave be at swords point with their brother as not, and yet he may be bearing a message from God to the people. …

They … [believe] they are right in their bitterness of feeling against their brethren. Will the Lord’s messenger bear the pressure brought against him? If so, it is because God bids him stand in His strength, and vindicate the truth that he is sent of God. …

Should the Lord’s messengers, after standing manfully for the truth for a time, fall under temptation, and dishonor Him who has given them their work, will that be proof that the message is not true? No. … Sin on the part of the messenger of God would cause Satan to rejoice, and those who have rejected the message and the messenger would triumph; but it would not at all clear the men who are guilty of rejecting the message of God. …

I have deep sorrow of heart because I have seen how readily a word or action of Elder Jones or Elder Waggoner is criticized. How readily many minds overlook all the good that has been done by them in the few years past, and see no evidence that God is working through these instrumentalities. They hunt for something to condemn, and their attitude toward these brethren who are zealously engaged in doing a good work, shows that feelings of enmity and bitterness are in the heart (Letter O19, 1892).

At about the same time she wrote to Uriah Smith intimating that they might not be strong enough to bear the strain and pressure brought against them:

It is quite possible that Elder Jones or Waggoner may be overthrown by the temptations of the enemy; but if they should be, this would not prove that they had had no message from God, or that the work that they had done was all a mistake. But should this happen, how many would take this position and enter into a fatal delusion because they are not under the control of the Spirit of God. … This is the very position many would take if either of these men were to fall, and I pray that these men upon whom God has laid the burden of a solemn work, may be able to give the trumpet a certain sound, and honor God at every step, and that their path at every step may grow brighter and brighter until the close of time (Letter S24, 1892; emphasis added).

This information throws much light on the Jones and Waggoner tragedy:

  1. They suffered definite brotherly hatred. Brethren were eagerly criticizing “a word or action,” hunting for things to condemn. There was a subjective attitude of enmity, bitterness and suspicion as late as 1892, after the confessions had been made.
  2. The opposing brethren naively thought this attitude was a zeal for God, yet it was “the very same spirit which refused to accept Christ.
  3. The opposition became a very difficult and overmastering temptation to the young messengers.
  4. The tragic result confirmed the opposing brethren in disparaging the message .
  5. For the messengers to lose their way was a “triumph” for the opposing brethren, and, sad to say, for Satan. This development therefore became conclusive evidence that the opposing brethren had not truly repented of the Minneapolis sin. Their “triumph” would constitute their “fatal delusion.

Thus the failure of the messengers would tend to confirm the on-going Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership, pastoral, administrative, and academic, in impenitence. To this day the messengers’ eventual failure is frequently cited as evidence that the 1888 message must be somehow dangerous. This was precisely Satan’s purpose, and it fulfills Ellen White’s prediction to the letter.

  1. The success of Ellen White’s prayers that the two brethren would endure the test would be dependent on the attitude the opposing brethren would take from late 1892 on.

A few months later, she wrote to the General Conference delegates in session about the true cause of the messengers’ possible failure:

It is not the inspiration from heaven that leads one to be suspicious, watching for a chance and greedily seizing upon it to prove that those brethren who differ from us in some interpretations of Scripture are not sound in the faith. There is danger that this course of action will produce the very result assumed; and to a great degree the guilt will rest upon those who are watching for evil. …

The opposition in our own ranks has imposed upon the Lord’s messengers a laborious and soul trying task; for they have had to meet difficulties and obstacles which need not have existed. … Love and confidence constitute a moral force that would have united our churches, and insured harmony of action; but coldness and distrust have brought disunion that has shorn us of our strength (Letter, Jan. 6, 1893; GCB 1893, pp. 419-421).

It was that “laborious and soul trying task,” “suspicion,” “hunting for something to condemn,”“dullness of some and opposition of others,” seizing upon atoms to prove that they were “unsound in the faith,” which produced the “very result” anticipated—their failure. The proper, honest, inspired word for the opposition was “persecution:”

We should be the last people on the earth to indulge in the slightest degree the spirit of persecution against those who are bearing the message of God to the world. This is the most terrible feature of unchristlikeness that has manifested itself among us since the Minneapolis meeting (GCB 1893, p. 184).

However, suffering persecution was no excuse for Jones and Waggoner to lose their way.

What Was A. T. Jones’ Problem?

One lone letter from Ellen White to Jones in 1893 is often cited as evidence that his message was extreme. Taken out of its context, this letter leaves on some minds the impression that his righteousness-by-faith message was unbalanced. But the letter must be read in context.

Ellen White never published the letter during her lifetime. If she had believed that Jones’ message was extreme or unbalanced, she would not have hesitated to publish it in her Testimonies.

Writing from far-away Australia, she tells Jones that she heard something in her “dream.” She had not read it in any publication. Jones had a tendency when bearing up under persistent opposition to overstate his case, and her letter nipped the tendency in the bud. He profited by her advice, which he accepted in humility. The letter states that his views of righteousness by faith were correct, for “you look in reality upon these subjects as I do,” and she cited his views as “our position:”

In my dream you were presenting the subject of faith and the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith. You repeated several times that works amounted to nothing, that there were no conditions. The matter was presented in that light that I knew minds would be confused. … You state this matter too strongly. … I know your meaning, but you leave a wrong impression upon many minds. …

You look in reality upon these subjects as I do, yet you make these subjects, through your expressions, confusing to minds. … These strong assertions in regard to works never make our position any stronger. The expressions weaken our position, for there are many who will consider you an extremist, and will lose the rich lessons you have for them upon the very subjects they need to know. … Do not lay one pebble for a soul that is weak in the faith to stumble over, in overwrought presentations or expressions. … Remember that there are some whose eyes are intently fixed upon you, expecting that you will overreach the mark, and stumble, and fall (Letter 44, 1893, April 9; 1 SM 377-79).

Careful search of Jones’ voluminous writings and sermons fails to yield even one example of his saying that “works amount to nothing,” or anything of a similar extreme nature on the subject. We would expect to find some instance of an unwise statement on faith and works in his twenty-four sermons at the 1893 session which closed just before she wrote this letter; but we find just the opposite—strong expressions giving a proper balance of faith and works, upholding works was not only necessary but as the fruit of genuine faith in Christ.

At the close of the 1893 session Jones was led astray by Prescott’s influence into the fanatical assumption that the loud cry could not be hindered. This prepared the way for the Anna Rice Phillips fanaticism.

Ellen White’s letter came in time to encourage him to be careful, and he was careful. Her most enthusiastic endorsements of his ministry are written after this April 9, 1893 letter, because he humbly repented of his temporary slip.1

No Sin is Ever Excusable

It was a sin of impatience of mind or ill temper of heart which finally ended Waggoner’s and Jones’ ministry. But Moses’ experience on the borders of Canaan illustrates what happened to them. His sin was likewise inexcusable and he had to die for it, a sin of impatience with Israel. Passionately and impatiently he called them “rebels,” which fact was true while his spirit was not:

Thus the people were given occasion to question whether his past course of action had been under the direction of God, and to excuse their own sins. Moses, as well as they, had offended God. His course, they said, had from the first been open to criticism and censure. They had now found the pretext which they desired for rejecting all the reproofs that God had sent them through His servant (PP 417).

Had Jones and Waggoner not covered their names with disgrace, we of a later generation would likely accord them almost idolatrous respect. “Many who had been unwilling to heed the counsels of Moses while he was with them, would have been in danger of committing idolatry over his dead body, had they known the place of his burial” (ibid., pp. 477, 478). The truth and logic of Jones’ and Waggoner’s position were so overwhelming that not long after 1888 many began to realize it. But the latter rain had to be postponed until a future generation. Now the messengers must be “buried” secretly—that is, all occasion for idolatry must be removed on the part of those unborn generations that must yet come. What better method of “burial” than to allow the messengers to lose their way in disgrace?

It is frequently said that their numerous speaking appointments after 1888 indicate official acceptance of their message. But this is an erroneous deduction. Several factors must be noted: (1) lay members and local elders (who welcomed the message) had more voice in arranging speakers’ appointments than they do now; (2) Ellen White’s influence virtually demanded for them the hearing they received at General Conference sessions; (3) their speaking appointments when their message was unwelcome to many leaders imposed on them a heavy emotional burden. An example of this is the prevailing attitude at the 1893 session as evidenced in the Bulletin.

Nevertheless, many who had spurned their message when they were right eagerly followed them when they were unsettled in the faith. This made matters worse. In 1912 a former General Conference president wrote about them:

When the message of justification by faith began to be preached in this denomination, 2 the enemy was deeply stirred, and made a strong effort to stop its spread. Failing in this, he changed his plan of opposition to a method that promised greater success. This plan was so to fasten the minds of the people upon the instruments that the Lord had called to promulgate the message, that these men would come to be regarded as the oracles of God, and the people’s faith would become centered in them rather than upon Jesus Christ, the author of the message. It was reckoned by the enemy that the praise and flattery of the people would so inflate these men that they would come to feel that their opinions and judgment must prevail in all matters pertaining both to the Scriptures and to the management of the Lord’s work on the earth (G.A. Irwin, RH July 4, 1912).

Ellen White insisted that the unchristlike persecution they suffered was the primary cause of their failure. It separated them from the love and confidence of their brethren, which they needed. The havoc wrought by unwise adulation became secondary.

Considering the nature of the message they bore, this two-fold cause could only derange their spiritual faculties. If they could have received greater light so as to endure until victory came, they would have faced the world in the strength that those must possess who finally finish God’s work on earth. But further light and power had to be shut off after the rejection of the message. Waggoner had been exiled to England, and both had to labor without Ellen White’s help. They knew only the “beginning” of the loud cry light, and that was not sufficient to perfect sanctification, even in honest hearts. (Neither is it sufficient for us today!)

How Good Men Can Lose Their Way

Our history gives further evidence of how “those who … rejected the message and the messenger would triumph” (Letter O19, 1892). The 1888 General Conference president, G. I. Butler, was one of the principal initial rejectors. He was a good man with a strong macho gift of executive leadership, but the problem he had to handle was unprecedented. No former president had been confronted by the beginning of the latter rain and the loud cry! Ellen White tried to help him:

You refer to your office as President of the General Conference, as if this justified your course of action. … You have no right to wound the feelings of your brethren. You speak of them in a manner which I cannot sanction. … You call brethren Jones and Waggoner fledglings (Letter 21, 1888).

Due to his wife’s illness, Elder Butler retired for some years after 1888 to a lonely farm in Florida. Eventually he confessed his wrong attitudes and returned to positions of high responsibility. The Lord accepted his further labors, as was the case with Uriah Smith. But the golden opportunity of proclaiming the latter rain and loud cry message was conclusively lost to both of them.

A pathetic example of how Butler’s opposition finally “gained the supremacy” (A.T. Jones’ phrase) is found in the 1903 General Conference Bulletin. At that session Jones and Waggoner stood with a minority who felt constrained by their conscience to oppose the revision of the 1901 constitution. In their view the 1903 revision was a step backwards from the reformation principles of 1901. Whether they were right or wrong in that conviction is beyond us to settle at this point, but they were undoubtedly sincere in holding their convictions. As the debate dragged on, “voices” called for “Elder Butler” to speak.

Seven times he went out of his way to say how he “dearly” loved “dear brethren” Jones and Waggoner; but the Bulletin reveals that he proceeded to misrepresent their true position over their interjected verbal protests. Then he held them up to public ridicule (pp. 145-164).

They had said in the session that “God’s people are to be under Him, and Him alone. There is one Shepherd, and He has one flock,” and that primarily “the committee must belong to Jesus Christ, and serve Christ, and let the other man alone, and let him preach the gospel which Christ gives.’‘ Elder Butler misconstrued this as favoring the abolition of all organization, and unjustly compared their position to the fanatical anarchists against whom the pioneers had to contend:

These dear brethren do not know the difficulties that we had before organization. … Now, it does seem to me that if some of these things are carried out the way some of the good brethren have spoken, it would finally bring about, if carried out fully, just about the same state of disorganization that we started in on in the first place. … I do not want to say anything now to hurt Brother Jones feelings, for I love Brother Jones dearly (GCB 1903, pp. 146-163).

In the 1901 session Ellen White had emphatically warned against “kingly power in our ranks to control this or that branch of the work” (GCB 1901, pp. 25, 26). This was the main reason why for years she had been calling for reorganization and reformation. The tendency to restrict laborers had been a notable feature of Elder Butler’s former presidency (cf. TM 297-300). It was especially prominent in his 1886-1888 era. Her rebukes to him are now well known. In 1903 she said, “The kingly power formerly revealed in the General Conference at Battle Creek is not to be perpetuated” (8T 233). Yet Elder Butler publicly contradicts those statements, denying that it was even possible for any “kingly power” to occur in the General Conference presidency:

You will pardon one of the old hands, who has been in the work for so many years, and who has had the presidency of the General Conference for thirteen terms, for saying that he fails to see that anything of a kingly nature can be brought into it. I do not believe there can. … I held it thirteen terms. … I should be very sorry to believe there was any kingly power in it. … Though I held the office for thirteen terms, I was never reproved for any such thing, as I can remember (GCB 1903, p.163).

We humans do have a tendency to forget!

Caught up in the spirit of the discussion, Elder J. N. Loughborough made a speech seconding that of Elder Butler. He also spoke contemptuously of Jones’ and Waggoner’s minority convictions.

They had not in fact opposed the true principles of organization in their position in 1903, although they may have had some inkling of the state to which we have come in our late twentieth century when it is so difficult for men and women on committees to stand alone for Christ against strong peer pressure and fear of demotion.

But the thought of committees first of all submitting to Christ and earnestly seeking the Lord’s guidance, and remembering that we are all brethren, seemed for some strange reason to frighten both Butler and Loughborough. Loughborough added:

These brethren say they do not propose to tear down organization. Well, I do not think they mean to, but it seems to me that, after all, you get to where you don’t have any constitution or order at all. “After all,”they said in the early days, “we are all brethren. If we will seek the Lord, He will guide us” (p. 164).

Was this a knife plunged in their back? Jones and Waggoner could be pardoned for feeling that it was. Rather pathetically, Jones arose at this point to make a plea to the delegates. It may mark a wound that never healed:

I would like to make a request now to all the delegation and all the people who read the “Bulletin.” When these speeches come out, please look at Brother Waggoner’s and Brother [P.T.] Magan’s, and then mine; read them over carefully, and if you can find anything in any one of them that strikes at organization in any sense whatever, I hope you will mark it, and send it to us, so that we can repent of it (idem.).

Jones’ challenge stood then and it stands even today. He and Waggoner had made a plea for a submission to Christ and the Holy Spirit, which they thought was in harmony with the 1888 message, a submission that would make possible the leading of the Lord in the finishing of His work in all the world. They did not oppose organization; what they wanted to see was organization submissive to Christ for finishing the gospel commission. They wanted Christ to be recognized as the true Head of the church, in control of its organization.

They were misunderstood and misrepresented. Butler had the last word; he “triumphed,” to use Ellen White’s word. Something drove him and Loughborough to ignore their protests and to ride over their pleas for fairness. What can explain this except a smoldering 15-year resentment?

Jones’ and Waggoner’s humiliating defeat in 1903 was probably the beginning of their eventual human bitterness. “Dear brethren Jones and Waggoner” would be more than human if they did not feel they had suffered the crowning insult after fifteen years of opposition. Could they not feel pain?

Their plea for primary submission to Christ above subservience to human control was in harmony with Ellen White’s frequent appeals and with Scripture, but of course it could be done safely only if the Holy Spirit found a unified welcome among us.

Elder Butler’s continuing heart attitude is revealed in a letter to Dr. Kellogg a year later. He makes it clear that he has never repented of his 1888 blindness. He must still blame Waggoner for ills that beset the cause, and considers his downfall a blessing:

I hold precisely the same opinions that I always have held since I came to be a Bible student. … The later crop that came on to run things after I went out of office [as General Conference president] have remodeled things somewhat. Elder Waggoner was a leading spirit in these changes. He seems to have remodeled himself from a preacher into a doctor. Perhaps it is just as well for him and all concerned. I wish him well in every way (Letter, September 9, 1904).

Coming at just this time, one wonders how such a letter could have helped Dr. Kellogg!

There are those who accuse Jones of coveting the office of General Conference president. That may or may not be true. The books of heaven can record heart motives better than we can with our limited vision of the murky shadows of the past. Doubtless his better judgment convinced him that he was not fitted for administration, or for editing the Review and Herald. His “heavenly credentials” had been for a different work—to herald the gospel of the loud cry to the church and to the world. That was enough for any one man to do. When that mission failed, he lost his hold on the patience of the saints.

The 1888 Spirit and the Kellogg Tragedy

Ellen White tells us that Dr. Kellogg was truly converted at the Minneapolis meeting (GCB 1903, p. 86). Her endorsements of his character and sincere devotion are multitudinous. Here is one of the last ones:

God has given Dr. Kellogg the success that he has had. … God does not endorse the efforts put forth by different ones to make the work of Dr. Kellogg as hard as possible. … Those who rejected [the light on health reform] rejected God. One and another who knew better said that it all came from Dr. Kellogg, and they made war upon him. This had a bad influence on the doctor. He put on the coat of irritation and retaliation (GCB 1903, p. 86).

A letter to Elder Butler, the 1888 General Conference president, indicates that Kellogg’s eventual apostasy was “in a large measure” our responsibility. For sure, it was not God’s will:

It will be seen sometime that our brethren and sisters have not been inspired by the spirit of Christ in their manner of dealing with Dr. Kellogg. I know that your views of the doctor are not correct. Your attitude toward him will not bear the approval of God. … You can pursue a course that will so weaken his confidence in his brethren that they cannot help him when and where he needs to be helped. …

Dr. Kellogg has done a work that no man I know of among us has had qualifications to do. He has needed the sympathy and confidence of his brethren. … They should have pursued a course that would have gained and retained his confidence. … But there has been instead, a spirit of suspicion and criticism.

If the doctor fails in doing his duty and being an overcomer at last, those brethren who have failed in their want of wisdom and discernment to help the man when and where he needed their help, will be in a large measure responsible. … His brethren do at times really feel that God is using the doctor to do a work that no other one is fitted to do. But then they meet so strong a current of reports to his detriment, they are perplexed. They partially accept them, and decide that Dr. Kellogg must really be hypocritical and dishonest. … How must the doctor feel to be ever regarded with suspicion? … Must it ever be thus? … Christ paid the redemption price for his soul and the devil will do his utmost to ruin his soul. Let none of us help him in his work (Letter B21, 1888).

Those at the very heart of the work indulged their own wishes in a way that dishonored God. … Dr. Kellogg was not sustained in the health reform work. … [He] took up the work they did not do. The spirit of criticism shown to his work from the first has been very unjust, and had made his work hard. … It is a fact that our ministers are very slow to become health reformers. … This has caused Dr. Kellogg to lose confidence in them (Ms. 13, 1901, Diary, January 1898).

The “manna” of 1888 had been rejected, and now it began to do what the ancient manna in Israel did when it was not eaten fresh. It spoiled. Highly nutritious food spoils more quickly than devitalized food. “We” lost three outstanding, gifted men who at one time gave evidence of being truly heaven-ordained. The spoiled manna became unpleasant to deal with, and the story is sad.


The last words which Waggoner wrote before his sudden death on May 28, 1916 are these closing sentences of a letter to M.C. Wilcox: “I do not question, but freely acknowledge, the superior goodness of the brethren in the denomination. I should be recreant to God if I did not recognize the light that He has given me; I could never understand why it was given to me, except on the ground that His gifts are bestowed, not according to deserts, but according to need.”

Whether he will be saved or lost at last is not for us to speculate. But if those were his last thoughts, and God in His infinite wisdom and mercy finds some way to save him, certain it is that Waggoner will plead himself unworthy. Will any of us who are saved plead otherwise?

One of the last letters we have from Jones before his death reveals a humble spirit of complete confidence in the Seventh-day Adventist message and in the ministry of Ellen White (May 12, 1921). The nurse who took care of him at Battle Creek in his last illness told us personally that he is certain that Jones died a genuine Christian.

A proper, authoritative reprint of their messages during the time of their faithfulness, issued with wholehearted endorsement, would provide for this generation a refreshing view of the pure gospel. And after we have gathered up the fragments that remain that nothing be lost, then could we with confidence press our petition to the throne of grace to give us this day bread convenient for us, meat in due season.

As surely as there is a living God, the prayer would not be unanswered.


1 In a letter to S. N. Haskell one year later she declares that she has more confidence in Jones now than she had before he erred in endorsing Anna Phillips. The letter says that Jones is the Lord’s chosen messenger, beloved of God, His ambassador. This mistake would not have happened if Uriah Smith and G.I. Butler had united with Jones and Waggoner as they should have; Jones and Waggoner hear the voice of the Lord and the people recognize in their interpretations of the word of God marvelous things from the living oracles and their hearts bum within them as they listen; they have fed the people with bread from heaven; the Lord has the very men He wanted; they have carried forward the work with faithfulness, and have been the mouthpiece for God; they know the voice of counsel and obeyed it; they have drawn draughts from the well of Bethlehem; these chosen agents of God would have rejoiced to link up with Smith and others, including Butler; if union had existed, mistakes would not have been (Letter H-27, 1894). [return to text]

2 Note the failure to recognize the message as the “beginning” of the latter rain and the loud cry. [return to text]