My Personal Testimony
I was born into the Seventh day Adventist belief. It could be said that Adventism was responsible for the conception from which I evolved. To explain this as a fact, it is necessary to set the stage for this very unlikely conception.
My father was 56 years old when I was born. My father and his family immigrated from England when he was fourteen years old, and settled in the Peoria, Illinois area. He was a coal miner and a good one. He married a woman approximately twenty years of age when he was in his early thirties. This is most likely his only marriage that was motivated by love alone. To this happy union a male infant was born in 1899. A happy home environment continued until 1909 when his wife died after a serious illness of several months. George, their only child was 9 years of age at the time.
My father continued to support himself and George as before but George had to have missed the instructions and support of any family member during the days when his father was working in the mines.
After a few years, (approx. 1916) my father to be, became aware of a neighbor widow in her late twenties or early thirties and who had a five or six year old daughter. This lady was dying of a case of pulmonary Tuberculosis. Her family had abandoned her in the fear of developing her disease, and she and her daughter were in desperate straits. My father for all his life was always compassionate to anyone in need, and if he had anything worth sharing he would share it. He would take a basket of groceries to her and her daughter and had some coal delivered to her home so they could keep warm. The neighbors couldn't fathom anyone doing these kind deeds if he was not doing it for his own benefit. My father was horrified that this unfounded gossip was impugning the characters of this young woman and himself. She was obviously dying and still needed the assistance, so he told her that if she wanted to put a stop to this malicious slander, he would be willing to marry her as he had no marital attachment and wasn't looking for any. They married and he was able to care for her and her daughter and pay off all her medical bills which she had accumulated. She continued the struggle for two years before succumbing to the relentless ravaging of the disease. She said that these were the happiest two years of her life, so you can imagine what the other years were like.
One person who did not look approvingly on this arrangement was George, who was about seventeen years of age and wanted no part of this infringement on his daytime hours. He asked his father to give him permission to join the navy as he was underage, but if his father refused, then he would run away and lie about his age. On that basis his father consented and George, to lessen the problem of enlisting, lied about his age and told them that he was twenty four years old. This enlistment was in the first days of 1917.
When George was discharged from the Navy in August of 1923 he was unable to cope with the return to civilian life due to his state of shell shock from the many naval battles he and his comrades sustained on the naval destroyer that he was assigned to. This plus the disease he contracted from being tatooed with an unsterile needle, a disease for which there was then no successful treatment. He was committed to a mental ward in the Army Hospital at Jacksonville, Illinois, where he died in his twenties from these joint causes.
Now I would like to switch to the situation that my mother to be was undergoing. She had married at seventeen to her childhood sweetheart. He became a school teacher and a good provider and father to their five children and the sixth one knocking at the door. In 1918, after twelve years of happy family life her husband contracted typhoid fever. His younger brother contracted the same. There was no effective treatment for this disease in those days so over a period of several months both her husband and his brother died from this disease. Her husband died on Christmas eve of 1918 at which time his wife was three weeks from term with their last child who was born January 21st of the following year.
Here at one cruel blow all her security, love from her best friend (her husband) was swept away and she had no way of providing for her six children. Her husband's family told her that they would like to have her youngest daughter who would be about seven years of age, but that she would have to give up the others to the orphanage because she really couldn't provide for them, and they couldn't see their way clear to give any assistance.
About five years prior to her husband's demise, a travelling book salesman from the SDA Church had sold her husband some SDA books, and over a period of several months they had read themselves into the SDA church. That soured their relationship with their relatives on both sides of the family. His relatives were all committed Baptists and hers were staunch Methodists.
My future mother refused to give them her daughter they wanted or the others to the orphanage. The problem of providing for them was a specter that hovered over them and she could only look forward with trepidation and asking God daily for His care and keeping.
Now, let us return to my future father in Orchard Mines, Ill. News in the Adventist Church travels by the grapevine rather rapidly and he heard some of the church officials talking about the tragic circumstances of the Adventist widow and her six children in Southern Illinois (Carbondale -- about 300 miles south).
The details of her predicament bothered my future father to the extent he had trouble sleeping nights. He asked the Lord how he could help her. My father was an avid fisherman as his hobby. He dreamed one night that as he pulled his net out of the water that instead of a catch of fish there was only a woman and six children. The dream was so vivid that he felt this must be God asking him to help this poor widow. Here he was in his mid fifties and she was over twenty years younger, and with six children. After praying to God to take charge of his letter to serve His purposes, he wrote a letter to the widow. He explained that he was much older than her and all of his circumstances. He felt that he could probably be depended on to support a family such as hers for about fifteen years. He was careful not to over promote himself because he realized the unlikeliness of the offer being taken, and other than a strong feeling of empathy, he didn't look forward to the job.
I have always thought of what my mother must have thought when she received his letter. She was firmly locked between a rock and a hard place. She probably did something that ordinarily her nature would have strongly rebelled against. Agreeing to a meeting with this unknown man to whom she had given a tentative yes answer to his tentative proposal.
They were married early in the first part of 1921 and I was born approx. one year later in early 1922. I was the product of this "unlikely" conception. My father lived up to his promise and worked hard and faithfully to support his large and growing family and lived on for 28 years before his death in 1950. During these 28 years, from my first remembrances of him to my last, shortly before his death, I saw only continuing empathy for any needy neighbor and love for his family. I believe that is the reason I personally accepted the SDA scenario as from God because he felt so strongly that it was and I respected him so much.
The age difference made my parents marriage seem the most unlikely combination to last through the difficult years of the depression and the usual difficulties of welding half brothers and half sisters together in one happy family, but I can't imagine any other couple who could have brought it off better than they did. I believe it was their Christ-like lives and love for their children rather than the church they belonged to that was the welding material which made this possible.
Following my entrance into this family, four more arrived with the last two being a boy and girl set of twins. All the children, from our oldest sister at 93 to the youngest (twins) at 73, are alive and reasonably well except for our second oldest sister who would be 92 years old -- she was killed in an auto accident 28 years ago. My oldest sister has Alzheimer's but at 93 that is about as common as not having it.
I believe this scenario of my life to this stage reveals the reasons for Adventism to be so thoroughly engrained in the fabric of my belief.
I remember in 1967 when I decided to fulfill my long desire to become a surgeon, after fifteen years of family practice, I applied and was accepted to an excellent institution for my four year residency. I wrote the surgeon who headed the surgical program and informed him that I was an SDA and would not be able to participate in routine teaching chores not related to patient care on Saturdays which was my Sabbath. I wanted this to be understood so they would know what they would be getting with their selection. I had other programs that had accepted me but they were my first choice. After a meeting to decide on my terms they wrote me a very nice letter and said they felt this should not present any major problem. I then let my other accepting institutions know of my final choice.
All went well in my residency and by the time of my fourth and final year my previous Chief of Surgery had moved on to another institution and the previous assistent chief surgeon was in charge. Dr. Rhorer liked me as a resident, I was sure, and I had great respect for him. One day he called me to his office beaming with anticipation in regards to a program in our teaching of junior residents and interns that he had been working on. He said: "Jack, I am quite excited about this program and I believe you are just the right man to do it." I was quite excited about the prospects and after he filled me in on more of the details which would require several hours to implement once a week. I asked him where we could work it into our schedule. He responded that he had thought it over very carefully and decided it would have to be Saturday mornings as that was the only time we could make room for it. I said, "Dr. Rhorer, I can't participate in that as that is my Sabbath and I do only emergency-type patient care on that day."
Suddenly, his countenance changed from light ruddy to almost crimson. After his initial explosion I told him calmly -- "Dr. Rhorer, this is the reason I sent that letter after being accepted, to prevent such an incident as this from happening." He collected his composure somewhat and his crimson complexion dropped a shade or so. He said, "I recall your letter now that you mention it, so I was out of line in losing my composure." But then his countenance and color increased somewhat as he pointed his finger at me and said: "I want you to know that as long as I have anything to do with any residency program, I will not vote to admit any SDA for that very reason." He said, "I'm glad I don't have any hang-ups like that."
Our relationship after this explosion returned to our usual pleasant association and we remained good friends until the completion of my residency training. I have always considered him one of my best teachers. His knowledge of all aspects concerning general surgery was encyclopedic.
I think of another experience I had during my residency that shows what my religion meant to me. We had a small SDA church not far from the hospital that my wife and I and our children attended faithfully. We didn't have an assigned pastor, but those in charge obtained one from the local conference or wherever. One day I was contacted and asked if I would be willing to present the message for the following Sabbath. I protested my lack of qualifications etc. to no avail. The fact was that getting up before a crowd always frightened me. At last I agreed and asked what topic they wanted me to talk about. They said whatever you decide will be acceptible. With all this freedom of choice I gave it considerable contemplation and finally decided what was undoubtedly closest to my heart. My topic was "The Spirit of Prophecy." How fortunate we were that we belonged to the church that was based on teachings of the Spirit of Prophecy. It was the "wonderful truth" of God being revealed to us through His messenger, Ellen White. It makes me ashamed now to wonder why I couldn't be overwhelmed by the obvious topic which should have been: What Christ has done for me and how fortunate we are that from His word we know Him. It is how God was revealed to us through Christ. It makes me ashamed now even to admit that I would do such a thing.
It is hard for me to remember the stage when my SDA experience ran into stormy weather, but just before this storm began I remember making my way to church one Sabbath morning after making early rounds at the hospital checking on the progress of my post-operative patients. I remember looking up and mentally saying to God that it was such a comfort to know that if Jesus was in our town that week, he would be coming to the same place that I was going for worship, because I knew this was the only church on earth on which He bestows His supreme regard.
Ellen had so many of these precious quotations which strengthened my faith and resolve to faithfully toe the mark. I knew this quotation from Ellen White was from God because she had left me no basis to doubt this, if I believed in her, and I truly did. Note this quote from Ellen White:
With many such quotes as these impressed into my brain since childhood, I was not prepared to even contemplate that any of her words were other than inspired because she so stated. That's why a conversation with a very good friend of mine, a fellow surgeon and fellow Adventist, failed to make his point when he said: "Jack, you have to realize that there were times when Ellen White wrote messages from God -- no question about it. But there are other times when she makes outrageous statements that can only represent her own views for which God has no part."
My answer was that I couldn't accept that. If she claimed it all was given her from God and we could be sure some of it wasn't -- then how could we know which part to keep and which to discard? We would end up keeping what we agreed with and trashing that which was contrary to what we wanted her to say. I said and fully believed that one had to believe it all or reject it all, and I would continue to believe it all until I should be convicted that my friend was right at which time I would have to reject it all. I felt sure the need for that decision change would never happen.
Following my retirement in Oct. 1990, which was a year or so after the above conversation with my long time close friend, I took my free time to become more active in my local church. Our pastor divided up our church into parishes with 15-20 members in each parish. Because our home has a large comfortable play room, the head elder, who my wife and I were assigned to his parish, asked if we would allow his parish to use our home for their weekly meetings? We agreed and all members of his parish purchased, at his suggestion, Counsels for the Church. This book is a compilation from the writings of Ellen White and copyright 1991. It must have been hot off the press as this is about the time we began our parish meetings.
There was one semi-commandment by Ellen White that I never was one hundred percent in compliance with, and did not feel guilty for not so doing; but still felt that because of it, I was probably a second rate Adventist nevertheless. That was the matter of occasionally eating a little meat. We never ate or fixed meat at home, but on our monthly hospital staff meetings, the hospital would prepare a wonderful steak dinner par excellance and which I enjoyed.
I vividly remember that at our parish meetings we would take turns sequentially reading from this book. We would read a section then discuss the topic and how essential it was to heed its instructions. I remember our discussing the topic of meat eating. This was probably initiated by a quote from this book under the topic entitled: "The effects of a flesh diet on the mind and soul." (p. 231)
The intellectual, the moral, and the physical powers are depreciated by the habitual use of flesh meats. Meat eating deranges the system, beclouds the intellect, and blunts the moral sensibilities. We say to you, dear brother and sister, your safest course is to let meat alone.
I remember the wife of our head elder ask, "I wonder how many of our Adventist ministers eat meat?" After several had expressed their opinion that it was probably higher than we would expect etc., I remember me asking the question, "Is that the litmus test to check on the spirituality of the minister?" This stopped the discussion in its tracks, and all eyes were turned on me as if to wonder how I got into this meeting. I had to follow it up and say, you know that Jesus was obviously a meat-eater when He was here. Everyone was scratching for a rebuttal but none to be found. Finally some one said, "But this is present truth -- meat is more diseased now than it was then." I said, "But that is not the reason we have been given to not eat it."
This conversation put a damper on our discussion leaving us all a little uneasy but apparently no one, including myself, with any uneasiness about our SDA scenario.
It was during this same time period that I decided to make a thorough study of the Bible to enable me to prove to anyone the firm scriptural basis from which our SDA doctrines were derived. I knew exactly where I could find them in Ellen's writings, but my many Baptist friends could not be expected to accept her authority. They could come to that later after they became Adventists. With this in mind I went to the ABC (Adventist Book Center) at Collegedale and bought a couple of study guides for this purpose. Each set had about thirty questions and answers, with a series of texts to bolster each answer. I studied them diligently and memorized 250-300 of the supplied texts and could quote and locate them, but this did not seem to make me any better prepared to see the Biblical support I was looking for to prove my need.
In my frustration I went to my pastor and told him: "Bruce, I'm having a most difficult time in being able to prove our doctrines to be on a biblical foundation. I believe that if 100 of the most intelligent men on this earth, who have absolutely no knowledge of the Bible, and if these were each isolated in an ideal study environment and supplied with Dictionaries, concordances, multiple translations and encyclopedias, but no commentaries; I don't believe one of the hundred would come up with the Adventist Scenario, even if one million dollars was offered to anyone who got it right. I do believe that most all of them would be in general agreement, but we know it would be false. Why has all this information been written so it is almost impossible to prove it from the Bible?" Bruce immediately saw the need to refer this request to another source. He said, "Jack you need to talk to Frank Holbrook." Frank is a retired SDA minister -- theologian, who retired fom heading the Adventist Research Institute and now resides in our town of Dalton.
One of the questions I asked Frank concerned a statement my fellow surgeon friend had presented to me. This was that Ellen White continued to eat oysters for years -- in fact 30 years -- after receiving supposedly words from God that we should give up meat eating of all kinds, but unclean meats were an abomination and totally unacceptible. I said to Frank, "I can't believe that there is any truth in that statement." Frank said, There is a little pamphlet on that put out by the White Estate. I will get you a copy if you would like. There was a period of time after she received this message from the Lord where the brethren and Mrs. White were unsure just which were the clean and unclean meats in certain cases."
In a few days I got the pamphlet that described the use of oysters by Ellen White and the reasons why. This, I would have to say, produced some doubt (not nearly enough) as to the solid basis of Ellen's trustworthiness. Surely with almost daily visions, many of them dealing with diet and health, Jesus would have told her in less than 30 years that she was frequently eating an abomination.
Frank didn't help me much about my complaint of not being able to follow our scenario pertaining to Daniel and Revelation. He suggested I read the two Volume set of Daniel and Revelation by Mervyn Maxwell. I bought the set immediately and read it through several times but it in reality was a spruced up and expanded version of Uriah Smith's book which I was well acquainted.
It was at this time that I was reminded of a book in my study that had been opened about a year earlier but which I had not been able to bring myself to read. I must first mention about the iron curtain that separated my oldest son and myself in matters of religion.
My son, Gary, was probably the most committed member of my children to Adventism. While I was in my residency in surgery -- late 1960's -- Gary was at Pacific Union College taking pre-med. It was in this environment that in one of his classes in a discussion on reading fiction, that he mentioned that Ellen White was very pointed that this was wrong. The professor was amused that anyone could believe that. This and many similar faith shaking experiences caused him to look into his personal beliefs to see how they stood up. After exhausting the library there and at Loma Linda where he studied the following year, he became convinced our doctrines were not Bible based and that Ellen White was not a true prophet of God.
When I heard of this you can imagine my consternation. I was convinced that Gary had become a disciple of the devil. After my son and I had exchanged a fruitless series of letters we went into a protracted stage of silence on the topic. We talked about everything else but never on that topic. It was too painful for both of us -- each for different reasons.
It was during this time that I was holding weekly Bible studies to better understand and defend the Adventist Scenario that my daughter, Robin, who also attended the studies, told me one day: "Dad, I have been talking to Gary about the need for you and he to get together and straighten out this religion disagreement. Gary says he will be willing to discuss it but insists that you must read his evidence before the discussion. I still can remember my answer and Robin says she does too. I said, "Why should I have to drink from the sewer in order to prove to anyone that its not safe to drink." But Robin said, "But Dad, its only fair that you should." Robin brought over Gary's Compendium -- a huge loose leaf notebook with his accumulated evidence for the past twenty five years. And there it set on my library shelf, opened but unread for about the previous year.
Then my sister in Washington State called me one day. June was probably the most committed Adventist in our family. She said that an old friend of hers, a retired SDA evangelist, called her and asked if her maiden name was Gent; he seemed to have heard that somewhere. She told him that he had heard correctly. He then asked her if she was acquainted with a Gary Gent? She replied that that would most likely be my brother's son. He stated that another Adventist Minister showed him some material that someone had sent him which was material collected by Gary Gent. He said this material was so devestating that it might cause thousands of dedicated Adventists to loose their confidence in the "spirit of prophecy." He wondered if she would have any influence to get Gary not to go through with publishing this material.
It would be embarassing to know how many prayers I sent up to God, to somehow disable, confuse, or disinterest Gary from being successful in promoting this material. Isn't it a good thing that God doesn't answer all our prayers in the way we want Him to?
My sister's son purchased a copy of Gary's Compendium and was bowled over by it. He too was a good Adventist and encouraged his mother to read a couple of items to start with. Not any outside material but material available from the White Estate Vault; but not for public consumption. She sent the material on to me and I believe she was the only one who could get me to read it. Then I realized that this was the same material that still remained open on my library shelf but unread for the past year. Indeed it was most devastating to the Adventist Scenario as the Adventist evangelist had stated.
These are the events which prepared the soil of my brain to make it possible to more easily see truth when faced with it. This is why at this time when I saw the quote of the church on which God "bestows His supreme regard," He was not speaking of the Adventist "remnant" church.
I testify to my brethren and sisters that the Church of Christ, enfeebled and defective as it may be, is the only object on earth on which He bestows His supreme regard.
Note this quotation 50 years earlier (1842) by a non-SDA writer:
But the church of Christ enfeebled and defective as it may be, is the only object on earth on which He bestows His supreme regard.
Is it any surprise that the copy in 1892 of the original in 1842 was made with no recognition of ownership than her own? No, because this was the pattern of her books, articles etc., for the duration of her writings.
There is so much more evidence but when I look for the hardest evidence for the Adventist apologist to deal with and with which they have no defense is the problem with the shut door. You will have to read my booklet #36 "The Shut Door", as it is too lengthly to incorporate in this testimony. It is very easy to see and understand. Immediately following the great disappointment in 1844 the Millerites for a short period felt that probation had closed for the non-Millerite world and that Christ was still coming any day. They soon decided that they were wrong and so stated and urged all to go back and witness to others and bring sinners to Christ.
Ellen in 1874 -- thirty years after the Great Disappointment -- wrote to Elder Loughborough that she too believed that probation had closed in Oct. 1844, but it was her first vision (Dec. 1844) that brought her out of that understanding and revealed to her the truth that probation had not closed. She and the little band of Adventists associated with her went to the small groups of like believers to straighten them out and to preach the gospel to sinners. Such was her claim. Some of her early Millerite associates had testified that during the seven years following 1844 she continued to have visions substantuating that probation had indeed closed. In reply to these charges she stated:
I hearby testify in the fear of God that the charges of Miles Grant and Mrs Burdick and others, published in the Crisis, are not true. The statements in reference to my course in 1844 are false.
About three years ago I read some of these visions and statements that Ellen and James made and preached during the seven years following the '44 disappointment. I read these to my mother-in-law, who was 96 years old at the time and lived with us until the time of her death a few months ago. At that time and until her death, her mind functioned but was slowed by time. I didn't explain anything but just read the material. After I completed a portion of the evidence in the booklet I read Ellen's letter -- the portion above -- and asked her if she understood what this was saying? Did it make any sense to her? She said, "I believe it does. I believe she is lying and denying what she did." I said to her, "Is that clear to you that she has done that?" She said, "It is very clear." My mother-in-law then went upstairs and gathered her books from Ellen White and brought them downstairs and asked me if I would get rid of them for her. I couldn't get her to keep them until she could be sure this is what she wanted. I urged her not to be persuaded by anything she might have heard me say; but she was adamant.
My little booklet, The Shut Door, contains the evidence -- and it's not my words, or evidence, but hers. Then read her denial to Loughborough and see if you agree with my mother-in-law. If not be prepared to tell God why you feel comfortable with her denial. I believe He just might put that question to you some day.
When I first became aware of the obvious, that Adventism was coming into a storm, I am now reminded of Clifford Goldstein in his book, 1844 Made Simple. As a new convert to SDAism, approx. twenty years ago, he became aware of the widespread belief in church members that 1844 was not a spiritually important event in general and to Adventists in particular -- from the scholars to the members in the trenches. Doubts began to take hold of him and the importance of 1844 to the Adventist's structure became clear to his astute reasoning. But listen to his own words:
But if 1844 is not biblical, our message is false -- we are a false church teaching a false message and leading people down a false path. Either 1844 is true and we have truth, or its false and we have inherited and pedaled lies.
If 1844 is not biblical, Ellen White belonged in the same class as Mary Baker Eddy and Joseph Smith ... I questioned the idea of Adventism as the remnant Church. If 1844 wasn't biblical, the church wasn't either. I began to wonder about just how important the law particularly the Sabbath was. I started to question -- even the mark of the beast!
Then after carefully studying the material of the church appointed "Daniel Committee," his faith resurged. Note his words:
Instantly, all the doubt about Ellen White vanished. I thought, "Surely, that old woman knew exactly what she was talking about!" Since that time, I have never questioned Ellen White as a prophet; instead my confidence in the 1844 truth has allowed me to see her as one of the greatest prophets of them all.
I couldn't agree with him more -- Ellen White and the 1844 "truth" are inseparately united, and if one is false the other must have the same label. It's difficult to decide which of these two is the easier to disprove. My testimony is slanted toward my relationship to Ellen White because it was my rock-solid belief in her that held me in this unscriptural doctrine, among many others. I believe that in my personal testimony I have presented sufficient evidence to validate her label as a false prophet. If anyone is still unconvinced and wants further evidence, I am happy to furnish it. The additional evidence is no less convincing, and the amount is astronomical.
Now that I am convinced of the sand that Adventism is built on, what day do I keep? Have I joined a Sunday keeping church? etc.etc. These and many similar questions are asked of me.
No, I don't keep Sunday, but neither do I keep Saturday. I can find no post-calvary instructions to do so. I would like to attend our Adventist church locally because I had so many friends there, but my presence in the Sabbath school class would be disturbing if I were asked a question that my answer might offend them. And in the church service, repeated quotes from Ellen White to validate a statement that is often unbiblical, would offend my senses.
I have attended a local non-denominational protestant church a few Sundays. I felt at home each time the minister preached because every sermon I heard there was a Christ centered message. I noted that a few members from the Adventist Church -- good solid members when I went there pre-seven-years-ago -- are now members of this Sunday-keeping church. I wondered if other Sunday-keeping churches were having the same success.
Was I worried about getting the mark of the beast if I kept attending this church? No, my main problem was with the speaker system which made it very difficult to hear well. This was aided in no small degree to what the ravages of time has done to my hearing. This is a large group, expanding rapidly, and the building is new. They are putting in a new speaker system, due to the complaints of many, and perhaps I will attend on a more frequent basis when this is corrected.
As for the mark of the beast, I believe there is absolutely no biblical evidence that worshiping on Saturdays will be of any prevention to receiving this mark. The same goes for Sundays. What prevents us from getting it is to remain loyal and committed to Christ. This committment gets us the death sentence from the beast. This is the time where every Christian is tested as to his committment to Christ. This is the time where our reliance on God for our safety, whether through martyrdom or safely out of the reach of the serpent, we will trust Him completely. It is my prayer that each of us will maintain our belief and solid committment to Christ regardless of the consequences. Leave the consequences in the hands of God which will be our only safe place.
Please SHARE this using the social media icons below