A research paper on the history of the trinity doctrine within the early Christian Church and within Seventh-day Adventism
‘Daniel and the Revelation’ - a once prized standard work
We have noted previously, although we have not discussed it in detail, that to accommodate the up and coming trinitarianism within Seventh-day Adventism, its most well established and famous book needed to be edited. This was to remove from its pages its non-trinitarianism. We shall be looking at how this editing was accomplished in later sections but for now we need to see how it was regarded by the General Conference prior to its editing. This book of course is Uriah Smith’s ‘Daniel and the Revelation’
A matter of principle
There is more to the editing of Uriah Smith’s ‘Daniel and the Revelation’ than just the changing of its wording. There is also a very important principle at stake.
I say this because why make massive changes to any book (whatever the book is and whoever wrote it) and then re-issue it as the original thoughts of its original author? We must ask here, is this morally correct? The other side of the coin is that when a passage is quoted from the edited (1944) version of this book today, it is usually accompanied with the words “Uriah Smith said” when in reality he may not have said it at all. We must ask again, is this morally correct to lead someone to do this - whether they do it unwittingly or not?
From cover to cover, Smith’s book was extensively edited. Passage after passage was either rewritten or completely expunged from its pages. Even entire pages were omitted whilst other pages (obviously not written by Smith because he had died almost 40 years earlier) were added to it. Such was the ‘extreme editing’ of this much-loved book, making it anything but the work of Uriah Smith.
This ‘tampering’ did not seem to
bother certain of the leadership of the
This ‘Forward’ says
“In offering this book to the public, the publishers believe they are doing a great service to its readers.” (‘Forward’ to the edited 1944 version of ‘Daniel and the Revelation’)
It also says concerning Uriah Smith
“The author of this book lived and wrote a generation ago, and in the literary and polemic style of those times. His interpretation of prophecy, however, and the doctrines of truth he established through intensive study of the Scriptures, have borne the test of time and of diligent scrutiny by Bible students.” (Ibid)
Smith’s “interpretation of prophecy” is one thing but what exactly are the “doctrines of truth” that are referred to here? Certainly they were not Smith’s beliefs concerning God and Christ! We know this because all of these beliefs (at least its non-trinitarian theology) were completely removed from its pages.
The publishers continue concerning Smith’s beliefs
“Indeed, they have borne the test so well that they are the more worthy of being perpetuated in a revised edition, and in the new setting of our times, which it is our great pleasure to offer in this present attractive form.” (Ibid)
In this ‘Forward’, no attempt is made to explain the details or the extent of the actual editing that was done to Smith’s work. Nowhere in the book is this done. Certainly there is no mention of the removal from its pages of its original non-trinitarian content.
So it was that ‘Daniel and the Revelation’, such a classic in the time of the pioneers, was re-issued to Seventh-day Adventists without it either reflecting the past non-trinitarianism of Seventh-day Adventism or explaining the real reason why this book was edited. We shall also see later that when it was republished in 1944, there was an extensive campaign (even selling the book cheaply), to get as many Seventh-day Adventists as possible to purchase it.
Questions of vital importance must be asked here.
Wouldn’t it have been more ‘open’ and ‘more up front’ to explain just what had been done to Smith’s book instead of just re-issuing it without a truthful and detailed explanation being offered? The obvious answer is ‘yes but as it was, this book was just re-issued in 1944 as being the work of Uriah Smith when in reality it was not. The question must be asked therefore, “Why didn’t the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in the ‘Forward’ to this book, take the opportunity to explain to its readers why this editing was carried out? Surely this is a question that demands an answer.
Uriah Smith (1832-1903) devoted his entire working life to the publishing work of Seventh-day Adventists.
In 1919, in a special 70th anniversary edition of the Review and Herald, it was then said of him (this was 16 years after his death)
“The person above all others, however, who bore heavy editorial, responsibility, and who did more than any other man to develop a strong church paper, was Uriah Smith. Clearly he was a man of God's own choosing to carry forward this responsible work. He was connected with the REVIEW for half a century, and nearly all that time he was editor-in-chief or one of the associate editors.” (Lyman W. Graham, Review and Herald, July 31st 1919, ‘Historical Sketch of the “Review”’)
Here Smith is referred to as “a man of God’s own choosing”. This is quite an accolade. Note the date well. It was 1919. This means that it was 21 years after the release of ‘The Desire of Ages’, 16 years after the death of Uriah Smith and 4 years after the death of Ellen White. It was also the year of the ‘secret’ Bible council that we spoke of in section thirty-five and section thirty-six.
For something like 35 years (not continuous) over a period of almost 50 years (1855–1903), Uriah Smith had been editor of the Review and Herald. It is only reasonable to believe therefore that his personal beliefs, especially those of major importance, were in harmony with those of the main body of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. After all, as editor of this publication, he wrote many editorials that were published in it, also as its editor he answered many questions on doctrine that were sent in by its readers. Such was the continuing confidence that our church had in this totally devoted man.
Interesting to note here is that Smith became a Sabbath-keeper in 1852, joined the Review as a worker in 1853 and at the age of 23 in 1855 became its editor.
I believe it is only reasonable to conclude therefore that if Uriah Smith had not been in harmony with the major teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, then he would not have maintained his position as editor between the years of 1855 and 1903, the latter year being the year of his death (he died from a stroke on his way to the Review and Herald office).
It is also only reasonable to conclude that if Smith’s beliefs had been seriously out of harmony with the spirit of prophecy or with the church at large, then Ellen White would have told him so. At least she would have counselled the church to do something about him being editor of the Review and Herald for all those years. Certainly if she thought his book ‘Daniel and the Revelation’ contained serious error then she would not have given it the approbation that she gave it, also she would not have allowed it to continue as a ‘standard publication’ for 40 years, at least not without saying something about it. (see section thirty-eight).
As we noted in that latter section, Ellen White did say that Smith’s book should be read by everyone, meaning Seventh-day Adventists and non Seventh-day Adventists alike. If you also remember we noted that even though it depicted a non-trinitarian view of God and Christ, she also said it contained the truth that all should read. We also noted that much of this approbation came from her pen following the publication of her ‘The Desire of Ages’ (1898), the latter of which is said to be the book that led Seventh-day Adventists to become trinitarian. This should be quite a significant realisation.
As far as unfulfilled Bible prophecy is concerned, we all know that it is ever unfolding but when it comes to non-trinitarianism and trinitarianism there is, in principle, a very marked difference.
I say this because as we noted in section ten, neither of these teachings (non-trinitarianism or trinitarianism) can ever develop (change) into the other. This is because the principles that determine each of these beliefs (meaning what makes trinitarianism as opposed to what is entailed in non-trinitarianism) are diametrically opposed to each other. Thus it was that in his ‘Daniel and the Revelation’, the beliefs of Uriah Smith (its non-trinitarianism) reflected what was then, during the lifetime of both Uriah Smith and Ellen White, the accepted standard beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. Needless to say, during the 1940’s it was fast becoming the ‘old theology’.
In complete contrast to the ‘embarrassment’ that this book caused when Seventh-day Adventists adopted trinitarianism, we shall now take a look at the admiration that Seventh-day Adventists once had, especially those at General Conference level, for Uriah Smith’s book. This will also show us how we once regarded the non-trinitarianism (semi-Arianism) that permeated its pages. This is a very long read but well worth the effort.
A most established book (as seen by the General Conference)
From its very beginnings, Uriah Smith’s ‘Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation’ had been a resounding success (in section thirty-eight we noted it was originally written as two separate books). Certainly within Seventh-day Adventism it eventually became ‘a classic’. By taking a look at what was said about it at General Conference Committee meetings also at General Conference Sessions, this will be clearly seen in this section. We shall also see, as they went about their work of spreading the message by selling our books and other publications to the general public, how it was regarded by our colporteurs. In the main, these quotes speak much for themselves therefore very little comment will accompany them.
At a General Conference session in 1881 it was noted
“WHEREAS, An edition of the volume entitled, Thoughts on the Books of Daniel and Revelation has been prepared in such a way as to render it quite attractive, in order to adapt it to the wants of those who wish to engage in the work of canvassing; therefore‑‑
RESOLVED, That in our judgment proper persons should immediately be employed in the different parts of the field in the work of canvassing for this publication, and others which are in process of preparation.” (General Conference Bulletin, December 12th 1881)
In 1883 it was resolved at the General Conference session
“That we recommend that the work, Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation, be issued in the German, Danish, and Swedish languages.” (General Conference Bulletin, November 12th 1883)
Four years later it was decided
“RESOLVED, That this Conference earnestly recommend the extensive circulation of that important book, Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation; …” (General Conference Bulletin, December 6th 1885)
The minutes then record the reasons for the “extensive circulation” of this publication described as “that important book”.
“ … first, because it covers a large field in the great system of present truth, introducing many important doctrines in a clear and interesting manner, well calculated to favorably impress the reader; secondly, because there is in the public mind a desire more or less strong to understand the meaning of these prophetic books, which are supposed to be so mysterious, of which desire we should take advantage to bring before them the great truths of the message; thirdly, because we have no book better calculated to reach intelligent, influential, business men, who cannot find time to attend courses of lectures and long series of meetings, but who would purchase such a book and read it at home; fourthly, because such a book, bound in an attractive manner, presenting the truth in a permanent form, retaining its place on the center tables and in the libraries till the Lord comes, will command the attention of many persons in the aggregate, and has some advantages which the presentation of the truth in periodicals, tracts, and pamphlets does not possess; and finally, because our past experience has demonstrated beyond all dispute the usefulness of the canvass on Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation, and that we cannot afford to neglect it.” (Ibid)
First of all notice that it says here that Smith’s book “covers a large field in the great system of present truth, introducing many important doctrines”. Whilst it does not detail these doctrines, we do know that Smith’s book was replete with views on the Godhead (non-trinitarianism), the state of the dead, creation and the Sabbath etc. It was also replete where applicable with views on the love of God for fallen humanity, salvation through faith in Christ, the sanctuary, the investigative judgement, the second coming of Jesus and other of our major doctrines.
Notice too the emphasis here on Smith’s book containing “present truth”, “the great truths” and “the truth” etc, noting also that it was said that at that time (1885), our church had no other book “better calculated to reach intelligent, influential, business men”.
It would be very difficult to give this book a higher acclamation than was done here. Obvious to relate, there was nothing in it that was then seen to detract from what was then the ‘faith’ of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As we know today though, this ‘all changed’ when our denomination espoused trinitarianism.
Concerning the canvassing work in 1888 (this was the year of the famous Minneapolis conference) it was reported at a General Conference Committee meeting
"The canvassing work among the West Indies Islands is proving a great success in selling Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation. We have shipped to this field within the past few months some six or eight hundred copies of that book. I have no recent report from the canvassers in Australia and New Zealand, but if I am to judge by the number of books ordered by the Pacific Press, I should say they are doing a good business.” (C. Eldridge, General Conference Committee Minutes, 15th March 1888)
Regarding the work in Australia the same report said
“Prosperity has attended the work in this field the past year. Three laborers have been employed, two of whom have labored largely in Tasmania. A company of thirty embraced the truth in Hobart, the capital of that colony, and about seventy in other parts of Australia. Two canvassers have been in that field who have sold a great many books. Three hundred copies of Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation were sold in one town alone.” (Ibid)
In 1888, our church was very keen to promote Smith’s book. Such at that time was one of the ways that the non-trinitarianism of Seventh-day Adventism (an integral part of the ‘faith’ of Seventh-day Adventists), as well as the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, was circulated amongst the peoples of this world. This was the year of the famous Minneapolis General Conference.
The next year (1889) at a General Conference Committee session it was noted concerning foreign missions
“A native of Honolulu has translated Thoughts on Daniel. Another native of one of the Sandwich Islands had translated Thoughts on Revelation. Brother Burgess is planning to have these translations printed. It was thought best to advise him not to go to the expense of printing these large works in the native language until it is certain that a good translation is made, but to print some of the smaller tracts at present.” (General Conference Committee Minutes, July 10th`1889)
The latter was also referred to at the General Conference session that year (October 1889) where it was also noted concerning the work in Sydney Australia that
“Lately a brother of some influence has embraced the truth there and the interest to hear the 'truth is becoming very general, and the calls are urgent. About one thousand copies of "Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation'" have been sold in Queensland, and many people there are now desiring to hear more of the truth” (General Conference Bulletin, October 23rd 1889)
It was also reported
“When the two books "Thoughts on Daniel" and "Thoughts on the Revelation" were published, no one thought of them as subscription books or that they would circulate anywhere but among our own people. Brother King suggested that the two volumes be bound together and sold by subscription; another original idea. His plan was adopted, and that admirable book has reached a sale of many thousands, with a continually increasing sale, bringing more people into the truth than any other subscription book published.” (Ibid October 31st 1889)
The report also went on to say
“Brother Arnold made a canvassing trip to the West Indies, and during an absence of nine months sold 1,260 copies of "Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation,” proving that our publications can be sold in the isles of the sea” (Ibid)
The next year (1890) it was also noted at a General Conference meeting
"We need not call your attention to the fact that a few years ago we had neither canvassers nor books suitable for circulation by means of canvassers. Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation was the first subscription book placed in the field.” (General Conference Committee Minutes, July 24, 1890)
Note the reference to Uriah Smith’s book being the “first subscription book placed in the field” (we spoke of this in section thirty-eight).
In 1891 in a General Conference bulletin it was duly noted
In South Africa more has been done. One native brother has canvassed extensively in the Transvaal, and sold a copy of "Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation" to the president of the Republic.” (General Conference Bulletin, March 10th 1891)
It was also recorded in 1895
“There is a call for new books, but the Third Angels message is all brought out in the publications we now have as far as it is developed, such as "Great Controversy," "Patriarchs and Prophets" "Bible Readings" "Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation” and "Two Republics." (General Conference Bulletin, February 13th 1895)
This is very important.
If you remember (see section fifteen in particular), 1895 was the year that Ellen White made her ‘begotten’ and ‘made’ statements. This was in keeping with what was believed then by Seventh-day Adventists. Her book ‘The Desire of Ages’ was then in its latter stages of completion.
Note it says here that there was at that time a call for “new books” but as the report so clearly stated, in Smith’s book, along with the other books mentioned, “the Third Angels message” (as far as it was then developed) “is all brought out”. Notice here also how Smith’s book was ‘highly rated’ alongside those written by Ellen White. We shall see that this was repeatedly the case. Note the reference to ‘Bible Readings’. This was another book that was edited to suit the new theology.
Six years later it was noted (this was 3 years after the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’ in 1898)
“Some of our leading books are translated into the Dutch language. These include "Bible readings," "Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation," "Patriarchs and Prophets," "Great Controversy," "Steps to Christ," "Christ Our Saviour," and many smaller publications. All of these have been sold extensively to the Dutch speaking people.” (General Conference Bulletin, April 15th 1901)
In 1901, Smith’s ‘Daniel and the Revelation’ was still rated, complete with all of its non-trinitarianism, as one of Seventh-day Adventism’s “leading books”. Note that all of the aforementioned books had been translated into the Dutch language but ‘The Desire of Ages’ published 3 years earlier in 1898, is not mentioned.
Three years later (1904), the continuing value of Smith’s book can be clearly seen. This was when under the heading of “Missionary campaign supplies” it was agreed by the General Conference Committee
“We suggest the following books as being particularly appropriate in this movement as they may be used anywhere and at any time without consultation with the canvassing agent: "Object Lessons," "Story of Joseph," "Education," "Mount of Blessing," "Things Foretold," "Cobblestones," "Thoughts on Daniel" (paper), "Thoughts on the Revelation" (paper), "Great Nations to Today," "Little Folks' Bible Nature," "Sunshine at Home," in foreign languages, "Steps to Christ," and "Power for Witnessing." (General Conference Committee Minutes, September 19th 1904)
Note that this was 6 years after the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’ and the Seventh-day Adventist Church was still promoting Uriah Smith’s non-trinitarian book. Note well the first sentence. It says that these books were “particularly appropriate” to Seventh-day Adventists and that they could be “used anywhere and at any time without consultation with the canvassing agent”. Note too that again, ‘The Desire of Ages’ is not mentioned here in this bulletin.
The next year (1905), in ‘The Missionary Worker’ (an English publication) under the heading “The mission of our large books” it said
“Our large books, "The Desire of Ages," "Great Controversy," "Patriarchs and Prophets," "Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation," "Bible Readings" etc., are the pillars of our denominational literature.” (E. R. Palmer, The Missionary Worker, January 18th 1905)
Uriah Smith’s ‘Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation’, along with Ellen White’s ‘The Desire of Ages’, was rated in 1905 as making up the “pillars” of Seventh-day Adventist “denominational literature.” Note that this was now 7 years after the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’.
Amazingly though, when our church began to adopt trinitarianism, Smith’s book was said to stand in opposition to ‘The Desire of Ages’. This is why, in the 1940’s, it underwent such a violent editing.
The article then said of these same books
“But it remains for the large books to lay out before the world the broad, beautiful system of truth in the Third Angel's Message. They were not prepared in haste. They are the best ripened fruit of many years of toil and prayer. A half century of earnest labour by Sister White reached its best results in "Great Controversy" and "The Desire of Ages." (Ibid)
It then said about Smith’s book
"Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation" was the fruit of one of the best and choicest gifts God has given to this people.” (Ibid)
Note that this was 1905 and Uriah Smith’s book was rated with Ellen White’s ‘The Desire of Ages’ as “the best ripened fruit of many years of toil and prayer”. What greater accolade could it have possibly been given? This was when it still depicted the non-trinitarian faith of Seventh-day Adventists and whilst Ellen White was still alive. Does it sound here as though our church believed that Smith’s book, replete with its non-trinitarianism, conflicted with what Ellen White had written in ‘The Desire of Ages’? Obviously not!
Again in 1905 it was said of the canvassing work
“First, if the larger books, containing the specific Message for this generation (as for instance, "Great Controversy," and "Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation"), were sold in place of the smaller books not containing the specific Message (as for instance, "Christ Our Saviour "), the end would be hastened, and the work of God would be finished much more quickly because of the spread of this special literature. (A. Rodd, ‘The Missionary Worker’, September 27th 1905 ‘Our large books’, An address given at the Canvassers Convention at Birmingham on August 9th 1905)
Uriah Smith’s book was considered here as “special literature” that would hasten the return of Jesus.
Under the heading of “Patriarchs and Prophets, Daniel and the Revelation, and Great Controversy” on the publisher’s page in the Review and Herald of June 1st 1905 (recording the General Conference Bulletin), Ellen White’s testimony of that same year is quoted in support of these same books.
The bulletin recorded
“As to the present importance of these three books we quote the following written by Mrs. E. G. White, Jan. 16, 1905 : --
"Instruction has been given me that the important books containing the light that God has given regarding Satan's apostasy in heaven, should be given wide circulation just now; for through them the truth will reach many minds. 'Patriarchs and Prophets,' 'Daniel and the Revelation' and 'Great Controversy' are needed now as never before.” (General Conference Bulletin, Review and Herald, June 1st 1905 ‘Three books designated’)
Ellen White described Smith’s book as one of “the important books” that explains “Satan's apostasy in heaven”.
She then said (as it is written in the original statement in the Review and Herald just over three months earlier)
“They should be widely circulated because the truths they emphasize will open many blind eyes. Many of our people have been blind to the importance of the very books that were most needed. Had tact and skill been shown in the sale of these books, the Sunday law would not be where it is to-day." (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, 16th February 1905, ‘A call for active work’)
Notice that this testimony of Ellen White is not just with reference to Bible prophecy but also with respect to how the controversy between Christ and Satan first began in heaven. This shows us that Ellen White regarded Smith’s book as being decidedly doctrinal as well as dealing with Bible prophecy.
If you remember in section thirty-eight we noted that E. F. Durand, when speaking of Smith’s book said
“The year before , Ellen White had urged our publishing houses in Oakland and Battle Creek to utilize house-to-house canvassers in selling doctrinal books to the public. (E. F. Durand, Review and Herald Oct 28th 1982 ‘One hundred years of "hot cakes"’)
We also noted that in the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopaedia it says
“At the 1881 General Conference session, king urged those assembled to carry out the council given by Mrs. White in 1879 that SDA books should be sold widely among the public, and forcefully argued that two small books written by Uriah Smith, Thoughts on Daniel and Thoughts on the Revelation, could be published together in an attractive form for sale by canvassers to the public” (Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopaedia, Volume 10, page 660, King, George Albert (1847-1906)
Notice in the previous Ellen White statement that she said that the books she mentioned ('Patriarchs and Prophets,' 'Daniel and the Revelation' and 'Great Controversy') were needed then, in 1905, “as never before” and that “the truths they emphasize will open many blind eyes”. She also said that many Seventh-day Adventists had been blind to the importance of these books. Note that Ellen White did not mention here ‘The Desire of Ages’ as doing this work.
Following this there was a summary ‘write up’ of each of these publications. It was also recorded in the Publication Committee report for the previous year (1903-1904) that ‘paper’ editions of ‘Thoughts on Daniel’ and ‘Thoughts on Revelation’ were available.
Regarding what was said at the 1905 General Conference with respect to the book work at Union College, it was noted in the Review and Herald
“We have made "Great Controversy," "Daniel and the Revelation," and "Patriarchs and Prophets," our leading books; and the way the Lord has blessed our feeble efforts is wonderful.”(Review and Herald, June 15th 1905, ‘Book work at Union College’)
Obviously, in 1905, our church still regarded Smith’s book as a blessing from God. It was said to be one of “our leading books”. Again no mention is made of ‘The Desire of Ages’, even though it was now 7 years after its publication (1898).
As we noted in section twenty-nine, it was at this same conference (1905) by stressing that God and Christ were separate personalities that Ellen White openly gave her support to the non-trinitarian ‘faith’ of Seventh-day Adventists. It was also at this conference where she clearly warned that wrong views concerning God and Christ would make their way into Seventh-day Adventism.
Concerning ‘Daniel and the Revelation’, there was an interesting observation made 4 years later at the General Conference Committee meeting of February 10, 1909 (11 years after the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’).
Here it was then noted
“The attention of the Committee was called to an error in one of the illustrations in "Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation," concerning which the following action was taken:‑‑ (General Conference Committee Minutes, February 10th 1909)
In one of the illustrations in Smith’s book, someone had ‘picked up’ on what was deemed to be an “error”. Could it have anything to do with the non-trinitarianism that permeated its pages?
The report continued
“WHEREAS, There appears on page 699 of the revised edition of "Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation" a cut which represents the Pope's Tiara; and, ‑‑
WHEREAS, In our judgment no such cut should be used until reliable evidence can be produced of such a tiara containing the inscription "Vicarious Filii Dei;" therefore, ‑‑
VOTED, That we request the publishing houses issuing the edition of this book to discontinue the use of the above‑mentioned cut, and also that the illustration be removed from all unbound signatures and from bound books as far as practicable.” (Ibid)
As can be clearly seen, this ‘error’ had nothing to do with Smith’s views regarding God and Christ (non-trinitarianism) but was all to do with the prophecy in Revelation chapter 13 concerning the number “666”, particularly the way that it was illustrated on what was supposed to be the Pope’s tiara. As many know today, regarding the Pope’s tiara and the number 666, there have been recent (2006) discussions within Seventh-day Adventism.
This tiara though and ‘666’ is not what I wish you to note.
What I wish to point out is that in 1909, which, as a matter of interest was 11 years after the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’ and after Smith’s book had undergone numerous printings, the previous one being (to the best of my knowledge) in 1903 the year that Smith died, there was pointed out an error that the General Conference Committee voted should be removed from future publications. Important to note though is that it had nothing to do with Smith’s views of God and Christ (the book’s non-trinitarianism).
So what does that tell us today?
It tells us that in 1909, whilst Ellen White was still alive, the Seventh-day Adventist Church did not regard as error the non-trinitarianism in Smith’s book. This should help to confirm, even to the most ardent sceptic, that throughout the time of the ministry of Ellen White, this non-trinitarianism was indeed the ‘accepted faith’ of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Obvious to relate, if the non-trinitarianism in Smith’s book had been considered ‘error’, then it would have been pointed out as being such but as it was there was not one comment made about it, not even 11 years after the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’. This latter realization should also tell us something very important. This is that Ellen White’s book (‘The Desire of Ages’) was not regarded as being in conflict with Smith’s book (‘Daniel and the Revelation’). If it had been considered as such then obviously something would have been said and done about it.
A continuing ‘standard work’
We shall now see that through to the 1930’s, Uriah Smith’s ‘Daniel and the Revelation’ continued to be classed amongst Seventh-day Adventists as a standard work.
In the autumn of 1909, the General Conference Committee voted
“That our standard subscription books, such as "Patriarchs and Prophets," "Great Controversy," "Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation," "Home and Health," and "Practical Guide to Health," be issued in three bindings: cloth, marble edges; half leather, marble edges; full leather, marble edges, and that the retail prices throughout the United States and Western Canada be 3, 4, and 5 dollars respectively.” (E. R. Palmer, General Conference Committee Minutes, 8th October 1909, ‘Report on the meeting of publication house managers’)
Late in 1909, which was 11 years after the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’, the General Conference was still promoting Uriah Smith’s book. It was also still regarded, alongside certain books of Ellen White, as a “standard” work. This was before it was edited to remove its non-trinitarianism.
Later that same month (October 1909), the General Conference Committee noted
“Word having come that the brethren in the Philippine Islands had half of "Thoughts on Daniel" translated into the Tagalog, and had figures on printing and promise of some help from Australia, it was‑‑
VOTED, That we encourage the Philippine brethren to go ahead and bring out "Thoughts on Daniel" in the Tagalog, providing satisfactory arrangements can be made to accept Australasia's offer of assistance, and that instruction be given him as to the best method of handling the printing contract, so that if possible pay for the edition may be made as the books are sold.
VOTED, That I. H. Evans, W. W. Prescott, and W. A. Spicer be a committee to make arrangements for the authorization to translate and adapt the book to the needs in the Tagalog.” (General Conference Committee Minutes, October 24th 1909)
Again in 1909 we can see that Uriah Smith’s work was still being translated into various foreign languages (‘tagalog’ is a Malayo-Polynesian language spoken in the Philippines).
In 1911, there was a report given in ‘The Missionary Worker’ regarding an experience in door-to-door work. The canvasser said about one ‘selling’ experience that he had with a lady Methodist
“After a preliminary talk of a few minutes we made known our mission and introduced our book, "Daniel and the Revelation." When we reached the chapter dealing with chapter dealing with the low spiritual condition of the churches, she said: "That is just right. We belong to the Methodist church in Clarksburg. They have done away with the usual series of meetings this winter and are installing a gymnasium in the church building. The minister seems dead spiritually.” (V. Leach from the Columbian Union Visitor, The Missionary Worker, ‘An experience’, July 8th 1911)
In 1913 in a General Conference Bulletin, it said of a number of books including ‘Great Controversy’, ‘Patriarchs and Prophets’, ‘Daniel and the Revelation’ and ‘Desire of Ages’ that a Seventh-day Adventist library would not be complete without them. It also said of the first of these three books (meaning ‘Great Controversy’, ‘Patriarchs and Prophets’ and ‘Daniel and the Revelation’)
“The morocco bindings of the first three books are uniform and make an excellent series.” (General Conference Bulletin, May 23rd 1913)
The report then continues by saying
“Even though you possess a copy of one or more of these books, you can use a complete set to good advantage. There should not only be a copy of each in your own home for reference and study, but you should have extra copies to lend to others. If every Seventh-day Adventist were to keep copies of these valuable books in circulation among friends and acquaintances the amount of good done would be inestimable.” (Ibid)
This was 1913. The General Conference was still pushing Seventh-day Adventists to buy more copies of ‘Daniel and the Revelation’, and ‘The Desire of Ages’ to circulate them amongst their friends. Obvious to relate again, these two books were not seen as conflicting with each other.
In the bulletin of June 1st that same year, ‘Daniel and the Revelation’ was again referred to as one of the main outreach books.
In one place regarding the bookwork in South Africa it said
“We have used mostly "Daniel and the Revelation," "Great Controversy," and "Patriarchs and Prophets," with "Coming King" and " Christ Our Saviour" as helps. Two thirds of our orders are for the morocco binding. The people prefer this, even at a higher price.” (General Conference Bulletin, June 1st 1913)
No mention is here made of ‘The Desire of Ages’.
This report also said
“Several of our canvassers have been permitted to bring precious souls into the truth, and these in turn have become laborers together with God.” (Ibid)
Four years later in 1917 it was reported in the General Conference Committee minutes
“The representatives of the Publishing Departments respectfully submit the following:‑‑
"1. That the prices on our standard subscription books, such as 'Bible Readings,' 'Daniel and Revelation,' 'Great Controversy,' 'Patriarchs and Prophets,' 'Prophets and Kings,' and 'Practical Guide,' be increased from $3.50, $4.50 and $5.50, to $4.00, $5.00, and $6.00.”
"2. That the prices on 'Desire of Ages' and 'Easy Steps' be fifty cents higher in each binding than the corresponding binding of the standard subscription books; viz., $4.50, $5.50, and $6.50.” (General Conference Minutes, October 30th 1917)
Here we can see that in 1917, Uriah Smith’s ‘Daniel and the Revelation’, along with Ellen White’s ‘The Desire of Ages’ was still considered as “standard” Seventh-day Adventist literature.
said in the Review and Herald in 1917 with regards to the work in
“I wish we had more Zulu books, but we have only three, -- the Bible, "Christ Our Saviour," and "Steps to Christ." I still want to sell some books spread the truth among the Matabeles. I wish Uriah Smith's book, "Daniel and the Revelation," was translated into our language.” (James Mayinza, Review and Herald, May 10th 1917, Selling books among the Matabeles)
The regard for Smith’s book was still the same in 1919. It said in the General Conference Committee minutes of October that year
“WE RECOMMEND 1. That, because of greatly increased cost of manufacture, changes in prices of our leading subscription books, "Bible Readings," "Daniel and Revelation," "Great Controversy," "Patriarchs and Prophets," "Prophets and Kings," "Desire of Ages," "Easy Steps," and "Practical Guide," be made as follows:
Cloth binding, from $4.00 to $4.50
Half‑leather binding, from 5.00 to 5.50
Leather binding, from 6.00 to 7.00” (General Conference Minutes, October 9th 1919)
Notice that this was 1919 and Smith’s ‘Daniel and the Revelation’ was still considered as one “of our leading subscription books”.
This statement was made following the ‘secret’ 1919 Bible Conference. The latter had closed in the summer. This was the conference where by saying that ‘the Son’ was co-eternal and coeval with God the Father that W. W. Prescott had attempted to bring in trinitarian concepts of Christ. Some resisted this move by saying that the Scriptures teach that Christ is begotten of the Father (see section thirty-five and section thirty-six). This had been the ‘faith’ of Seventh-day Adventists whilst Ellen White was alive – hence the objections by some of the delegates to what Prescott was teaching.
In the discussions at this conference, it is obvious that not everyone in this elite gathering of delegates agreed with Prescott. On the second day of the conference, Prescott responded to the objections that Christ was coeternal with the Father by saying
“Not to teach that [that the
Son is co-eternal with the Father] is Arianism. Ought we continue to circulate in a
standard book a statement that the Son is not co-eternal, that the Son is
not co-eval or co-eternal with the Father? (W. W. Prescott. Notes on
the discussions of the 1919 Bible Conference and Teachers Meeting held at
Prescott then added
“That makes him a finite being. Any being whose beginning we can fix is a finite being.”
That Christ’s personality (as a separate individual from God the Father) did have a beginning, was once the teaching of Seventh-day Adventists, at least it was all during Ellen White’s ministry. According to Seventh-day Adventist theology though, this did not make Christ a finite being (as Prescott claims here) but exactly the opposite.
This begotten faith said that Christ was God Himself in the person of His Son. Seventh-day Adventists had always believed and taught that the Son was equal to the Father therefore Prescott was guilty of setting up a straw man and then knocking it down. He obviously realised what our faith had always been.
He continued by saying (note how this confirms the past begotten faith of Seventh-day Adventism)
“We have been circulating for 40 years a standard book which says that the Son is not co-eternal with the Father. That is teaching Arianism. Do we want to go on teaching that?” (Ibid)
This “standard book” that Prescott twice mentioned here was undoubtedly Uriah Smith’s ‘Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation’ (obviously he was trying to make a point). In this book, Smith had presented what was then the denominational faith of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is generally known today as semi-Arianism, meaning that at some point in eternity, the Son was brought forth of the Father. This faith taught that the Son was equal with the Father but a separate personality (individual) from Him. In other words, it was taught, that God and Christ were two separate personalities (two separate individuals), also that Christ was God Himself in the person of His Son.
Prescott was correct in saying that this begotten faith had been circulated for “40 years”. It had been the standard faith of Seventh-day Adventists all the time of Ellen White’s ministry. She made no more an objection to it than she did to Smith’s book; in fact as we have seen previously, she highly promoted it (see section thirty-eight). She also agreed with the begotten faith itself (see section fifteen).
Prescott’s statement concerning Arianism is extremely misleading. As well as being a term that some apply to those who believe that Christ is a created being, it is also used, more often than not, to denote anything that does not comply with the tenets of trinitarianism. Prescott made it sound as though as a church we had been presenting Christ as having been created. As has been said before, this teaching (Christ a created being) has never been the denominational stand of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, thus Prescott was setting up a ‘straw man’ and then knocking it down.
Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation (1921–1924)
Two years later at the October General Conference Committee session of 1921 it was recommended again that our standard books, including Smith’s ‘Daniel and the Revelation’, should again be subject to a price increase (nothing really changes does it?). This was now 23 years after the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’ and Smith’s book was still considered standard.
In ‘The Missionary Worker’ (a British publication) of February 16th 1921, there is an interesting experience recorded about a family named ‘Howie’ that lived in a farmhouse called ‘Lochgoin’ near Fenwick in Scotland. This is where their ancestors had hidden many Christians from persecution. From these past encounters, the family had accumulated a number of souvenirs.
Of these Robert Haining wrote
“If you should call to see these old
souvenirs, you might find the old lady, now well nigh one hundred years of age,
reading Uriah Smith's book, "Daniel and the Revelation," sold
to her by her great great grandson, James Howie. The latter is a descendant and
namesake of the original James Howie who left
“Does it not make your heart glad to know that that [sic] brother whom God has richly blessed in his efforts to leave a "Daniel and the Revelation" in every farmhouse in Ayrshire, is carrying on the work so nobly begun-by those reformers? (Ibid)
In his biennial report on behalf of the British Union Conference, its president Campbell reported concerning our publications
“Since our last Union session, - the long delayed book "Daniel and the Revelation" has been published and met with instant success. (M. N. Campbell, The Missionary Worker, August 17th 1921, ‘The Battersea Conference’ ‘Our president’s biennial report’)
This was with reference to another printing of ‘Daniel and the Revelation’. This edition was more than likely the 1919 British edition published by the Stanborough Park Press.
Campbell then said of ‘Daniel and the Revelation’
“Probably no book issued from our press has received the hearty welcome which this has. Our field has suffered serious loss in past years in not having this valuable treatise on the books of Daniel and Revelation to place in the hands of the British reading public. No book has brought more people into the Truth than has this one.” (Ibid)
It appears that this “serious loss” was with reference to the lack of recent printings of this book.
The next year, under the title “Press Circulating Department” it said
“If any of our brethren and sisters require a copy of "Daniel and the Revelation" for their own private use we have a few copies slightly damaged, defective, or shop soiled which we will supply for 5/- each, postage extra. This is a good opportunity to possess one of these books. Certainly no S.D.A. home should be without a copy of this denominational bulwark.” (The Missionary Worker, January 26th 1923)
The next month it said in the same publication
“As we have fully decided to make the cities one of our chief objects of attack this year by encouraging our most efficient workers to enter into these practically unworked centres of population, and further as the price of "Daniel and the Revelation" has been greatly reduced as a special inducement to our workers to handle the large books in our cities, it does seem as though immediate and specific steps should be taken to procure this army of new colporteurs to sell this splendid message-filled book.” (E. M. Fishell, The Missionary Worker, February 9th 1923, ‘Three hundred colporteurs wanted’)
This is another wonderful accolade for Smith’s book. Here it is called a “splendid message-filled book”. Note that it says that an “army of new colporteurs” were needed to sell it”. This was now 1923.
The same year it was noted
“Suppose however, that a new book should be printed and the country territory re-canvassed, would that be fair to the cities? As Brother Fishell points out in his article, seventy-five per cent of the population of the British Isles live in the cities, and they have been practically untouched. Is it not time to take "Daniel and the Revelation" to them? And if it is time, that is, God's time, for the work to be done, does not that ensure success? (The Missionary Worker, September 21st 1923, ‘The editor’s page’)
The next month in the same publication it said
“Reader, would you not enjoy being used by the Lord for the advancement of His work as these consecrated brethren are being? It is your privilege. Make up your mind that God wants you to sell "Daniel and the Revelation." Pray for a burden for city work and you will have one of the greatest opportunities of Christian service ever given to man” (E. M. Fishell, The Missionary Worker, November 2nd 1923, ‘Success in the cities’)
The following week this was also noted
“In harmony with these several requests that have come in from various sections of the field, the publishing house has decided to separate the book "Daniel and the Revelation" into two volumes, "The Wonderful Book of Daniel" and "The Revelation Made Plain." As stated in the letter to the colporteurs, these two books comprise about 300 pages each and sell at 4/9 each, a very popular price.” (E. M. Fishell, The Missionary Work, November 6th 1923, ‘The right perspective’)
The next year (1924), Smith’s book was still at the forefront of the action.
It said in ‘The Missionary Worker’
“WORD has already reached each of you regarding the decision to maintain the present price on "Daniel and the Revelation" while present difficult and trying conditions obtain in our field. Now I believe I can count on each one of you to manifest your gratitude in the following manner:- First, by working to the limit of your ability now that the better weather and longer days are ours in which to work. Second, while soliciting orders for "Daniel and the Revelation" (the book used of God to bring a saving knowledge of the truth more people than any other book printed by Seventh-Day Adventists that you put your whole soul into the exhibition of it. And having created the desire that has secured the order let it be in the very best binding the prospect can afford.” (S. Joyce, The Missionary Worker, April 4th 1924 ‘A word to our bookmen’)
Again of Smith’s book it said
“This book is truly worth more than its weight in gold. We cannot speak too highly of its merits. Now for a long and vigorous pull until we get every copy of "Daniel and the Revelation" off the shelves at the Stanborough Press and into our good British homes.” (Ibid)
This confirms that the edition being promoted was the one published by the Stanborough Press. The next year it was noted that there had been a ‘build up’ of ‘Daniel and the Revelation’.
It said in ‘The Missionary Worker’
“January I, 1922, found the House with just under 25,000 copies of "Daniel and the Revelation" in signatures and bound books. That year the sales hardly reached 4,000 copies. If the same rate of sale should have continued, it would have taken six years to clear away the edition. After having received counsel from the chairman of our Board of Directors, a new policy was outlined--a less expensive binding was prepared which enabled colporteurs to place books in a much greater number of homes. During the year 1923 the sale of "Daniel and the Revelation" increased to 9,500 copies. The first half of I924 saw 5,500 copies sold. This record makes it clear that the Lord helps when His people address themselves to the task in hand.” (G. L. Gulbrandson, The Missionary Worker, September 5th 1924 ‘The Stanborough Press’)
In his report, Gulbrandson told of this experience
“The following tribute to "Daniel and the Revelation" was received recently from "a complete stranger except where Christ is concerned," as the writer introduced himself. "Through the kindness of a friend, I have had the privilege of reading a book by Uriah Smith, entitled 'Daniel and the Revelation'. If the author is alive I tender my sincere thanks to him for the work. I have never read anything that has so enlightened and uplifted me as this book has done. I have read every word and firmly believe the writer's teaching. The reading of this book has been so inspiring and filled me with such fervency that I have taken the liberty to bring some of the truths and warnings to the notice of friends and neighbours, and I believe that the great God of all will crown with success the effort to win souls through its contents. It is like fire to my soul and must break out in some form of expression." (Ibid)
If this was the 1919 British edition then it was not exactly as Smith had written it therefore the words “firmly believe the writer's teaching” may not have application to Uriah Smith. This is obviously the problem of changing the text of a book because it may not reflect the original author’s views.
Into the 1930’s and 1940’s
Eight years later in 1932 (returning our thoughts to America) it was noted at a General Conference Committee meeting
“That in the operation of our field work we courage colporteurs to use as far as consistent, the existing books which have formed the backbone of our work in previous years, such as "Great Controversy, "Patriarchs and Prophets”, " "Desire of Age” " "Bible Readings, " "Daniel and Revelation” and such medium priced books as are now available, or may be issued in harmony with these recommendations.” (General Conference Committee Minutes, October 20th 1932)
Here we can see that along with certain of Ellen White’s books (including ‘The Desire of Ages’), that in 1932, Uriah Smith’s book was still considered as part of the “backbone” of Seventh-day Adventist literature.
Twelve years later in 1944 and relating how the work began and was progressing in Japan, V. T. Armstrong noted in the Review and Herald
“Under the leadership of S. Miyake, A. N. Anderson, and E. J. Kraft, colporteurs were trained and the distribution of literature promoted. Patriarchs and Prophets, Daniel and the Revelation, The Great Controversy, and other books translated into the Japanese language were widely circulated.” (V. T. Armstrong, Review and Herald, August 3rd 1944, ‘The Far Eastern Division’)
Note that Armstrong must have been referring to the original version of Smith’s book and not the edited version issued that year (1944). This was 1944 and Smith’s book was still classed as a standard work.
Two months previous in June 1944, H. M. Blunden wrote about a convention of the representatives of the North American Publishing Department. He said (again this was prior to the publication of the edited version of Smith’s book)
“One decision worthy of special notice was an action which calls for a great revival in the sale of the Spirit of prophecy books and Daniel and the Revelation by Uriah Smith.” (H. M. Blunden, R*H June 15th 1944)
Blunden then went on to say
“By no particular design, but perhaps by our "forgetting" the instruction touching these wonderful volumes, they have slipped into the background in our planning. And we feel confident that to revive their sale and to push them to the forefront in our planning will redound in great blessings upon the cause and in the gathering of many souls.” (Ibid)
In conclusion, we can see that since its beginnings, right through to when our denomination began to take ‘on board’ the trinity doctrine, Uriah Smith’s book was so highly rated that it is almost beyond words to describe it. Obviously, when the Seventh-day Adventist Church did begin to adopt trinitarianism then it did become an embarrassment.
Being the Seventh-day Adventist ‘classic’ it was, certainly it could not be removed from circulation. This would obviously have brought about an inestimable hue and cry. Thus it was that to bring it ‘into line’ with the ‘new theology (trinitarianism) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, it had to be edited.
Even this brought about many objections.
As LeRoy Froom said in his ‘Movement of Destiny’ (this was under the sub-heading of “Revision of Daniel and the Revelation inevitable”)
“Strong reactions of Smith adherents. - “The reaction of the minority who still held personally to the Arian view – and who regarded D&R as virtually inspired and therefore not to be touched or in any way altered – was rather vehement” (LeRoy Froom, Movement of Destiny, ‘1931 opens new epoch of unity and advance – No. 2’, 1971)
Notice who Froom said it was that did the objecting. He said it was those who still held to the “Arian view”. This shows that certain Seventh-day Adventists had realised exactly what had happened in this editing. Its non-trinitarianism had been removed. This is why they objected.
As we shall see in section forty-six and section forty-seven, this so-called minority, although we have no way of estimating the exact percentage of church members, did probably include some of the General Conference Committee. These were the ones who, after the editing of Smith’s book was completed, listened to the report concerning it from Warren Howell the chairman of the editing committee (he was also secretary to the General Conference president). We shall also see in that same section that some obviously believed that via the editing committee, the ‘few’ were making a pronouncement on doctrine, meaning stating what beliefs were held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This was not very acceptable to some.
We now need to move to the next section (41a). This is where we shall be taking a look at the events in transitional times.
Last edited – 31st December 2011
© T. M. Hill 2008 England