The 1888 History Story of What Really Happened

Very simply told, the main details are these:

(1) The Lord raised up two young men whom Ellen White said were His "delegated messengers," "whom God has commissioned," and gave them a clearer understanding of the gospel in the third angel's message than others had; then He sent them with this "most precious message" to the General Conference delegates gathered at Minneapolis in 1888.

(2) A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner presented a concept of Christ's righteousness which she later identified as the "beginning" of the loud cry of Revelation 18:1-4. And since the loud cry can't come until first the latter rain is received, it was also the beginning of that.

(3) At Minneapolis and for a decade following, Ellen White endorsed their message over 370 times, using the most enthusiastic language she could find. Nothing in her long lifetime ever made her so happy. Unless we give due regard to her testimony, we may accept counterfeit messages and cast ourselves adrift at sea without an anchor.

(4) The two delegates' manner of presenting their message was simple, clear, and even at times beautiful. She said they gave evidence that God gave them "heavenly credentials," and they conducted themselves in the face of opposition as "a Christian gentleman” should. She said they presented their message "with beauty and loveliness," and "with grace, and power." This does not mean that they were perfect or that they made no mistakes; but the overwhelming impact of their presentations was on the positive side—Christlike, she often said.

(5) According to her testimony, the great majority of the delegates reacted negatively to the message. Her eyewitness accounts say: "The spirit and influence of the ministers generally who have come to this meeting is to discard light." "Our ministering brethren ... are here only to shut out the Spirit of God from the people." "Opposition rather than investigation is the order of the day." Two other eyewitnesses report:

In 1888 I was sent as a delegate from the Kansas Conference to the General Conference held that year in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that notable conference long to be remembered by many.... I am sorry for anyone who was at the Conference in Minneapolis in 1888 who does not recognize that there was opposition and rejection of the message that the Lord sent to His people at that time.

The writer of this tract, then a young man, was present at that [1888] conference meeting, and saw and heard many of the various things that were done and said in opposition to the message then presented.... When Christ was lifted up as the only hope of the church and of all men, the speakers met a united opposition from nearly all the senior ministers. They tried to put a stop to this teaching by Elders Waggoner and Jones.

Thirteen years later, a prominent speaker at the 1901 session reported:

There are many in this audience who can remember ... when, thirteen years ago at Minneapolis, God sent a message to his people.... For the past thirteen years this light has been rejected and turned against by many, and they are rejecting it and turning from it today.

A former General Conference president, not present at the 1888 conference but close to the issues, adds: "The message has never been received, nor proclaimed, nor given free course as it should have been in order to convey to the church the measureless blessings that were wrapped within it."

A. W. Spalding reports, "There was personal pique at the messengers," and "a tumult of clerical passions was let loose."

A speaker at the 1893 General Conference session openly declared that "the brethren in that fearful position in which they stood ... at Minneapolis... rejected the latter rain—the loud cry—of the third angel's message." Those present very well knew he was telling the truth; no one challenged him.

(6) A few other delegates, notably Ellen White, S. N. Haskell and Willie White, were favorable. The rejection was not total, but our “long journey" and spiritual famine of more than a century stem from this experience. Heaven was forced to withdraw for” many more years” the blessings of the latter rain and the loud cry.

In spite of the fact that the two messengers spoke at camp meetings and General Conference sessions, constant leadership rejection nullified or at least neutralized their best efforts. The brethren's persistent attitude as late as 1896 kept the message “from our people, in a great measure,” and "in a great degree ... from the world." Ellen White explains how this process operated:

The very men who need this work ... have themselves barred the way that it shall not come.... When the leaders get out of the way, the work will be progressive in Battle Creek.... The position taken at Battle Creek has been the pulse-beating of many churches.... The Lord God of Israel has opened the windows of heaven to send the earth rich floods of light, but in many cases there was no place made to receive it or give it room.... [By] ministers, pastors, and those who stand in responsible positions ... barriers have been thrown up, and the streams of salvation turned aside into another channel.

(7) What happened at Minneapolis was more serious than mere human judgment could appreciate. The inspired prophet saw beneath the surface:"The spirit which prevailed ... [which] was a controlling power at that meeting ... was cruelty to the Spirit of God." Three years later she repeated this frightful statement,"! know that at the time the Spirit of God was insulted."

(8) Ellen White, Jones, and Waggoner held meetings during the winter of 1888-1889 and even into 1890 where the Lord worked in an unusual manner. The people were ready to accept the message gladly, giving occasion for a superficial judgment prevalent today that claims the message was warmly accepted in the end. But the influence of the leaders at Battle Creek discouraged and hindered the confused but favorable laity. She wrote burning messages of reproof, pleading for the brethren to accept the message and stop hindering its impact on the people. She said in 1890,"For nearly two years we have been urging the people to come up and accept the light and truth concerning the righteousness of Christ, and they do not know whether to come and take hold of this precious truth or not." Her article in the Review and Herald of a week later told the reason:

I have tried to present the message to you as I have understood it, but how long will those at the head of the work keep themselves aloof from the message of God? ... Our young men look to our older brethren, and ... they see that they do not accept the message, but treat it as though it were of no consequence.

(9) So persistent was the opposition that Ellen White's support upset the General Conference leadership. Robert W. Olson of the White Estate declares that she was “publicly defied." She herself said, “Elder Butler presented the matter before me in a letter stating that my attitude at that Conference [1888] just about broke the hearts of some of our ministering brethren at that meeting."

(10) So compelling was the evidence supporting the message that a number of brethren were virtually forced to confess that they had taken a wrong stand at and after Minneapolis. One after another asked for pardon, sometimes with tears. Review editor Uriah Smith and former General Conference president G. I. Butler had influenced many to reject the message and both in time confessed their wrong attitude.

However, these confessions could not undo the evil that the 1888 era rejection had caused. Their resistance of the latter rain and the loud cry, so far as that generation was concerned, was conclusive. The important factor is not the personal salvation of the erstwhile rejectors, but whether the loud cry of Revelation 18 was allowed to go to the world. "In a great degree" it wasn't.

Later on some of the most notable confessors returned to their previous stance of opposition, so that Ellen White was forced to say, "This blind warfare is continued.... They have never seen clearly since [Minneapolis], and they never will." In late 1892, after most of the "confessions" had come in, Ellen White said that "not one" of those who initially rejected the message ever recovered the blessing they had forfeited. History confirms her judgment:

Who of those that acted a part in the meeting at Minneapolis have come to the light and received the rich treasures of truth which the Lord sent them from heaven? Who have kept step with the Leader, Jesus Christ? Who have made full confession of their mistaken zeal, their blindness, their jealousies and evil surmisings, their defiance of truth? Not one.

(11) But on the surface, all appeared to be well in the 1890s. Reports of the progress of "the cause” appeared in the Review week by week as though nothing were wrong. But something was wrong. Speaking at the 1901 session regarding those dark years of the 1890s, Ellen White said:

The brethren assented to the light given, but ... the light that was given was not acted upon. It was assented to but no special change was made to bring about such a condition of things that the power of God could be revealed among His people. Year after year the same acknowledgement was made.... It is a marvel to me that we stand in as much prosperity as we do today.

A little later she added, “Many ... have been more or less out of line since the Minneapolis meeting." She hoped they would come into line.

(12) Even the new General Conference president elected in 1888 failed to stand on the right side, and he lent his influence against the message. He supported it initially, but eight years after Minneapolis Ellen White felt forced to write the following about him:

He is leading other minds to view matters in a perverted light. He has given unmistakable evidence that he does not regard the testimonies which the Lord has seen fit to give His people, as worthy of respect, or as of sufficient weight to influence his course of action.

I am distressed beyond any words my pen can trace. Unmistakably Elder Olsen has acted as did Aaron, in regard to these men [A. R. Henry and Harmon Lindsay, General Conference leaders] who have been opposed to the work of God ever since the Minneapolis meeting.

A few months earlier she had written him personally, "I have been shown that the people at large do not know that the heart of the work is being diseased and corrupted at Battle Creek." In an 1897 letter she said, “The President of the General Conference ... went directly contrary to the cautions and warnings given him” concerning the 1888 aftermath.

(13) The writer of the following is one of our most respected historians:

Ellen White presented the sublime beauty of Jesus Christ and then, in stark contrast, the evidence that leadership, laity, institutions, conferences, mission fields, and the church as a whole, were desperately in need of reformation. Over and over she stressed that "not a few, but many" (emphasis hers) have been losing their spiritual zeal and turning away from the light.... Leaders in Battle Creek have turned their backs to the Lord; many church members also have rejected His lordship and chosen Baal's instead. Conference presidents are behaving like medieval bishops, while "whole conferences" and "every institution" are being perverted with the same principles. Some leaders actually "boast" that they will not follow the testimonies. A "strange blindness!" has come upon the General Conference president so that even he is acting contrary to the light. So serious is the situation at the publishing house in Battle Creek that "all heaven is indignant." Indeed, the Lord "has a controversy with His people."

(14) In 1891 the General Conference virtually exiled her to Australia, thus ensuring the final defeat of the "beginning" of the latter rain and the loud cry. She had no light from the Lord that she should go. In 1896 she wrote plaintively to the General Conference president:

The Lord was not in our leaving America. He did not reveal that it was His will that I should leave Battle Creek The Lord did not plan this, but He let you all move after your own imaginings. The Lord would have had [us] ... remain in America. We were needed at the heart of the work, and had your spiritual perception discerned the true situation, you would never have consented to the movement made.... There was so great a willingness to have us leave, that the Lord permitted this thing to take place. Those who were weary of the testimonies borne were left without the persons who bore them. Our separation from Battle Creek was to let men have their own will and way.... Had you stood in the right position the move would not have been made at that time. The Lord would have worked for Australia by other means, and a strong influence would have been held at Battle Creek, the great heart of the work.... It was not the Lord who devised this matter. ... When we left, relief was felt by many, but not so much by yourself, and the Lord was displeased, for He had set us to stand at the wheels of the moving machinery at Battle Creek.

(15) Shortly after she was sent to Australia, E.J. Waggoner was packed off to England. According to Ellen White, there is evidence that this was also in the nature of an exile.

(16) She finally returned to her homeland to attend the 1901 General Conference. She called for reformation, revival, and reorganization. The reorganization took place, and on the surface a reformation and revival seemed to be under way. But she was forced later to declare that the latter was not deep and thorough. On January 5,1903, she wrote her poignant "What Might Have Been," lamenting in "an agony of disappointment" that the spiritual revival/reformation "at the last General Conference" was only a dream, "not a reality."

After the close of the session she wrote to Dr. Kellogg, “What a wonderful work could have been done for the vast company gathered in Battle Creek at the General Conference of 1901 ... but... the leaders closed and bolted the door against the Spirit's entrance."

Whether "the leaders" she had in mind were Kellogg and his cohorts, or the total leadership including the General Conference, has been debated. But she wrote to a friend a few months later, indicating that the problem was indeed with the total leadership. At least it seems difficult to understand her in any other way:

The result of the last General Conference has been the greatest, the most terrible sorrow of my life. No change was made. The spirit that should have been brought into the whole work as the result of that meeting, was not brought in because men did not receive the testimonies of the Spirit of God. As they went to their several fields of labor, they did not walk in the light that the Lord had flashed upon their pathway, but carried into their work the wrong principles that had been prevailing in the work at Battle Creek.

The Lord has marked every movement made by the leading men in our institutions and conferences.

Taken from Robert J. Wieland's book Grace on Trial