"Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, Elder {Hiram} Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly.

Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word.

Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power."  1 Selected Messages p206.

Sister White said, "But of this number there were hardly two who agreed. Some were holding serious errors, and each strenuously urged his own views, declaring that they were according to the Scriptures.  

These strange differences of opinion rolled a heavy weight upon me. I saw that many errors were being presented as truth. It seemed to me that God was dishonored. Great grief pressed upon my spirits, and I fainted under the burden. Some feared that I was dying. Brethren Bates, Chamberlain, Gurney, Edson, and my husband prayed for me. The Lord heard the prayers of His servants, and I revived."  Christian Experiences and Teachings p118.

A little later she wrote, “We had to search and wait the opening of truth, receiving a ray of light here and a ray there, labouring and pleading for God to reveal truth to us.  But now the truth is plain; its rays are brought together.  The blazing light of truth when it is presented as it should be can be now seen and brought to bear upon the heart.”   MS 3. Feb 2. 1854.

This is important, especially when the prophet says many do not realize how firmly our foundation was laid.   Reader, perhaps you did not know? Our pioneers were in earnest;  they fasted and prayed;  they wanted to know the truth.  

We must think below the surface.

When this group of men and young Ellen met together to study all the important Bible subjects, they were from various church backgrounds. Ellen was a Methodist, who believed in the Trinity, Joseph Bates was a Christian Connection, as was James White and Hiram Edson, who did not believe in the Trinity.  We do not know the backgrounds of the other men, but we can be certain the subject was discussed.  How could there be unity otherwise?    See next study for an imaginary discussion.

Ellen said that during this time of study her "mind was locked" and she "could not understand the reasoning of the brethren.  My mind was locked, as it were, and I could not comprehend what we were studying."  This Day with God p317.

​Even though "great power came upon us", Ellen's young mind was kept from understanding any of the subjects.  God had a reason for this dilemma.

She also said, "The enemy of truth, through the ministry of fallen angels, would be pleased to introduce uncertainty in the minds of many in regard to the doctrines that have been established by the sanction of the Holy Spirit... God forbids His servants to alter that which needs no change.   Manuscript Release Vol 10 p337.

How were our doctrines formed?

We do not know where the early Bible studies took place, but later ones were held in the homes of the leading brethren or in barns on their farms.  Between 1845 and 1848, many studies took place, with many differing views.   At one of the early meetings “hardly two agreed, and each was strenuous for his view.” Spiritual Gifts. Vol 11.p97.

In 1848, five Sabbath Conferences were held.   At each the distinctive doctrines were restudied, although opposing views were vigorously presented.

At the first of these conferences, held in Brother David Arnold's barn, Volney, New York, all the friends that could be located in that part of the State came. 

Another statement says it plainly, “We have the truth, we know it.”  Record Book I p54.

In 1855, James White stated that, “The  truth is now made so plain that all can see it and embrace it if they will, but it needed much labor to get it out clear as it is, and such hard labor will never have to be performed again to make the truth clear.” 
MS 2. August 1855,

Brothers and Sisters, let this sink deep down.   After the Sabbath Conferences, every Advent believer was in full harmony regarding  their distinctive beliefs.   Do you think they knew who they worshipped?   Or did some retain the Trinitarian belief of their old churches? 

James White was very vocal in his opinion of the Trinity, calling it“that old Trinitarian absurdity”.  Do you think he would say nothing if brethren began to preach or even speak of the Trinity as if it was truth?  Of course not.

He also made it perfectly clear when he said that the reformers stopped reforming and retained Papal errors, such as “natural immortality, sprinkling, the trinity, and Sunday-keeping…” Review and herald. 03.06.1855.

And remember, our current historians and others who study denominational history, are clear that our pioneers were NOT Trinitarian.  This means that at the end of the Sabbath Conferences no one was a Trinitarian.

It is said today by church leaders that in the light of ‘present truth’, we have matured over the years, especially in our understanding of God, Jesus, and the Spirit.   James White said in 1855  that “the present truth is clear, its evidence by the candid undoubted, and it is easy to work now…”.  He said this was gained by “care, incessant labor and overwhelming anxiety...”  EGW. MS 2. Aug 22. 1855.

Of course, having said this, does not mean that all prophetic interpretations and details were complete, but on the essential doctrines, there was harmony.  And naturally our pioneers did mature in their understanding of all doctrines, but this does not mean they gave up that which had already been revealed. 

However, it does mean that back in 1855, one hundred and sixty one years ago, present truth included a non-Trinitarian stand.

It is true present truth changes.  During Noah’s day it was ‘the flood’; during Jesus’ day it was ‘the Messiah’; during the days of our pioneers it was ‘the judgment has begun’.  What would we say today?   The three angels’ messages, which includes the Law of God, the Sabbath, the investigative judgment,  the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and the return of Jesus in power and glory.  There are brethren who would want to include the Trinity.

This is the reason why our prophet did not understand her brethren.  It was not because she only had a third grade education.   It was not because she was too young to understand, but because God wanted to safeguard anyone in the future saying Ellen White formulated the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Or even that our pioneers did.

No, they were not formulated by humanity, either man or woman; they were revealed through the testimony of the Spirit of prophecy.

God would not give supernatural help until the brethren had studied the Bible for themselves.   This is a principle that still stands.  Once the study had been done, the Spirit of Prophecy was able to clarify the truth, and the brethren went back to their Bibles to review their studies and find out where they had not understood. 

Brothers and Sisters, no matter where you stand, you must realise that our beliefs came from heaven.  This being so, we have no right to question any of our doctrines, let alone change them.

Brethren, there is "nothing to fear for the future, except as we forget the way the Lord led us, and His teaching in our past history."   Christian Experience and Teachings p204.

Doctrinal Formation

Our prophet said of truth:  "When the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth. No after-suppositions contrary to the light God has given are to be entertained. Men will arise with interpretations of Scripture which are to them truth, but which are not truth. The truth for this time, God has given us as a foundation for our faith. He Himself has taught us what is truth. One will arise, and still another, with new light which contradicts the light that God has given under the demonstration of His Holy Spirit."  Counsels to Writers and Editors p31.

The prophetic gift was given a number of times at each conference, and by the end of the fifth Sabbath Conference, there was total agreement on the major doctrines.  These became the distinctive beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The following year after the last conference, Sister wrote, “Our position look very clear;  we know we have the truth.”   Ellen White letter. March 1849. Record Book I p72.

She continued, "As we fasted and prayed, great power came upon us... Then the Spirit of God would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to the position we were to take regarding truth and duty."  This Day with God p317.

She also said, "When they came to the point in their study where they said, 'We can do nothing more', the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively.  Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood."   1 Selected Messages p207.

How can any one of us make a mistake here?   

We either accept the words of the prophet and stand where the pioneers stood, or we ignore her, and believe what we want to believe.

What James White said  --  that it "needed much labor to get it out clear as it is, and such hard labor will never have to be performed again to make the truth clear" -- is no longer true, for now there must be deep searching of the Bible to find a once-believed, but now lost, teaching that is the central pillar of our faith -- who do I worship?