At the moment I am preparing a book that highlights stories in the nine volumes of Testimonies for the Church. The first part is going to be an analysis of the major themes and how to go about reading the Testimonies. The second part is going to feature specific case studies. Of the ones I am featuring none of them have been written about before–most of what I have to share is not even in The Ellen White Encyclopedia due out some time in the next month.
One of the more interesting discoveries is a testimony titled “The Cause in Iowa” in 4T 430-449. It is a severe testimony that goes in a series of counsels about Battle Creek College. Apparently, there were some significant challenges!
From the series of counsels the difficulties began when a student snuck off campus with several other students. While it is not clear what happened, since Ellen G. White admonishes against billiard halls it seems reasonable that this may have been where this group of students snuck off to. Obviously we can’t know for sure, but the students soon returned home. Apparently some even graduated who were now serving as ministers–hence prompting the “testimony.” In a nutshell Ellen G. White does not mince her words: these students had lied about what they did and then fabricated more falsehoods to paint Battle Creek College in the worst possible light.
The main thrust of the “testimony” is to a “Brother B” who from an earlier version of the pamhlet (that actually lists the letter of the person as a “Brother N”). This appears to correspond with L. T. Nicola, a young minister who attended Battle Creek College but was delayed from graduating due to the urgent need for ministers in the field. This part “fits” the historical context perfectly.
While it is unclear who all of the other individuals are: there does appear to be another “match” beginning on 4T 437. Ellen G. White admonishes “Brethren F and G” (which should correspond to “Brethren K and W”) who supported this rebellious spirit from Battle Creek. She says that these two men supported the “prevailing skepticism” in regard to the “Testimonies of the Spirit of God; and these youth encourage questionings and doubts instead of removing them, because they are ignorant of the spirit and power and force of the Testimonies.” She counseled that they needed “experimental knowledge of vital godliness”, or in simpler language, they needed to be converted and make it real in their lives.
Yet I want to hone in on “Brother G” (“Brother W”) at the bottom of 4T 437:
“Brother G [W] might have united his efforts with those of the physicians at the sanitarium, but he could not harmonize with them. He was too self-sufficient to be a learner. He was puffed up and egotistical. He had just as good a prospect as other young men; but while they were willing to receive instruction and to occupy any position where they could be of the greatest service, he would not adapt himself to the situation. He thought he knew too much to occupy a secondary position. He did not commend himself to the patients. He was so overbearing and dictatorial that his influence could not be tolerated at the sanitarium” (4T 437-438).
Some times there are direct as well as indirect clues that help to support the identification. In this case she states that he “felt embarassed because of his diminutive stature. This cannot be remedied, but it is within his power to remedy his defective character if he will” (4T 438). She further admonishes that he needs to meditate about his own temperament and recognize that “tendencies of character are transmitted from parents to children.” He would therefore have “yourself to conquer, which will be the hardest battle of all.” He considered himself to be a leader but instead needed to qualify himself first.
So far the indirect clues line up. But what about the direct clues? Do they relate to historical fact?
E. J. Waggoner graduated from Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, in 1878. He spent the next year in ministry in Iowa. And he is the only minister in 1879 (the year this testimony would have been written) who had the last name “W”, too. There just are not any other options for identificaiton if it is not E. J. Waggoner!
Thus both the internal as well as external evidence support the identification of E. J. Waggoner as the “Brother G” in 4T 437-439. This identification presents an interesting vignette into the early life of E. J. Waggoner–very little is known about as Dr. Woodrow Whidden notes in his biography.
So why is this significant? There are several reasons:
(1) It helps to explain why E. J. Waggoner, as a young physician, did not actually practice medicine. Apparently he did not work well as a young physician at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Instead, he decided to go into the ministry.
(2) Ellen White identifies some serious character flaws that appear to have run in the family. While in this blog post I don’t have time to highlight all the drama, it is sufficient to say that E. J. Waggoner’s father was the recipient of a significant number of testimonies. The young E. J. Waggoner is described as not only being young (and short!) but had a proclivity toward skepticism and doubt. He also has a temper was a headstrong leader who first needed to learn how to be a follower.
(3) While most historiographical accounts link E. J. Waggoner and Ellen G. White together during his time in California during the early 1880s, this testimony indicates that very early on she reproved him. He appears to have at least at first heeded those reproofs, which could be why he left Iowa to go to California after this testimony. He needed a fresh start. It also gives new insight into Ellen G. White who later supported E. J. Waggoner (and A. T. Jones) during the 1888 saga. Despite his flaws and mistakes, she believed in giving young ministers another chance. It could also be another contributing factor as to why G. I. Butler (who was president of the Iowa Conference before he became General Conference president) was skeptical about a young “whipper snapper” minister–he obviously knew him and was aware of some of the personal challenges he faced.
(4) Ellen G. White in the rest of the testimony (to a collective group of young ministers) made a clarion call for revival and reformation. As a group these ministers were more ready to argue than to pray (4T 447-448). She appealed for these ministers to look to Jesus. They needed to search the Scriptures for light. Until they they were converted and had a living experience with God their preaching would be merely “dry theory” that was “unable to move souls.” While Waggoner would later have a conversion experience during a camp meeting in California (1882), it seems likely that this appeal was the backdrop for his later conversion. Thus this testimony could have been the catalyst for the whole 1888 saga that would occur a decade later.