planned change

You will remember Daniells’ relief when he received Ellen White’s letter at the 1903 Autumn Council warning him against the sentiments in ‘Living Temple’. As General Conference president, he praised God that the church had been saved from disaster.

Not long after being elected president in 1901, Daniells called Dr John Edwin Froom to be secretary of the newly formed Medical Department of the General Conference.  Movement of Destiny p396.

At the time of their move to Washington D.C., Leroy Froom was in his early teens. As a neighbour, Daniells built a good rapport with young Leroy.

After being relieved of his 20-year presidency in 1922, Daniells began to work through Ministerial Institutes, and in 1923, 1924, and 1925, moved across the country taking workers’ meetings. 

His emphasis was on true godliness and Righteousness by Faith in Christ in “all the fullness of the Godhead”. Many were greatly moved by the messages. Movement of Destiny p395. 

As you will remember, the early Adventist Church believed Christ to be divine even though He was begotten at some point in eternity.  His Father could say of Him, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever...” Psalm 45:6. Hebrews 1:8. This did not make the Son co-eternal, but it showed Him to have the same divine attributes and power as His Father.

Gradually the meaning of the word ‘divine’ changed, until it meant not fully divine.  We do not know how it changed, but Trinitarians were using the term ‘deity’, instead of ‘divine’.  (Once divine and deity meant the same)

When Froom used the words, “all the fullness of the Godhead”, he was making two statements -- * an Arian or Semi-Arian belief is not true Christianity, and * the Trinity has a Saviour with full deity.

During the years of 1923-1925, Daniells had a profound influence on thirty three-year-old Leroy Froom, who said of his ministry, “The unfolding theme in Daniells’ quest was Righteousness by Faith, centred in and radiating out from Christ, in all the ‘fullness’ of His transcendent Deity.” Movement of Destiny p399.

At the Nashville Institute, Froom listened to the older man with great interest, coming to the realisation personally that he had trusted in a message rather than a Person.

Seeing the young man deeply moved, Daniells invited him to be his junior associate at the General Conference. He was anxious to have literature produced that could be spread abroad, and Leroy would be the one to do it.

In 1926, Froom began personal studies on the Holy Spirit, and Daniells asked him to give a presentation at the Milwaukee General Conference session. This led to an invitation to present a series of studies on the same theme at the North American Union Ministerial Institutes of 1928.

In preparing for these meetings, Froom consulted the Spirit of Prophecy and pioneers writings.

He was rather shocked, he said. “Aside from priceless leads found in the Spirit of Prophecy, there was practically nothing in our literature setting forth a sound Biblical exposition in this tremendous field of study. There were no previous pathfinding books on the question in our literature.” Ibid p322. 

Determined to have sufficient materials for the Institute meetings, he turned to non-Adventist sources, saying, “I was compelled to search out a score of valuable books written by men outside our faith… 

… for initial clues and suggestions, and to open up beckoning vistas to intensive personal study. Having these, I went on from there.” Ibid.

He listed many of the men from whom he drew information for his studies, saying he could have easily listed fifty; Dwight L. Moody, founder of Moody Bible College and Joseph A. Seiss, a Lutheran, were just two of them. 

Why was there nothing in our literature?

Simply because the Holy Spirit believed by the pioneers was different to that which Froom believed.

After the Institute meetings he said, “You cannot imagine how I was pummeled by some of the old timers because I pressed on the personality of the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Godhead.” Letter from Leroy Froom to Dr Otto H. Christenson. Oct 27. 1960. (Ellen White also used the term ‘third person of the Godhead’, but with very different connotations)

Following on from the Institute, Froom put his studies in a book called ‘The Coming of the Comforter’, printed that same year.  He said this was “an urgent request of hundreds of ministers” who had heard him at the meetings. Coming of the Comforter p9.

In the book he emphasised very strongly the personality of the Holy Spirit as a separate being from the Father and Son. It was clearly a Trinitarian understanding.

He wrote, “We are under the direct, personal guidance of the third person of the Godhead, as truly as the disciples were under the direct leadership of the second person of the Godhead.” The Coming of the Comforter. p23.

The book contains many quotations from the Spirit of Prophecy, but the interpretation placed upon them was totally different from the teaching of the pioneer church. 

Knowing others did not believe the Holy Spirit as he did, Froom wrote, “No, the Holy Spirit is not a thin, shadowy effluence emanating from the Father. He is not an impersonal something to be vaguely recognized, just an invisible principle of life.  

The Holy Spirit has in the minds of multitudes been separated from personality, made intangible, unreal, hidden in mists and shrouded with unreality. 

But the greatest unseen reality in the world today is the Holy Spirit. He is a holy personality… to supply His (Jesus)place. No one but a person could take the place of that wondrous Person. No mere influence would ever suffice.” Ibid p37.

The words “shadowy effluence”, an “impersonal something”, “hidden in mists shrouded with unreality” are grossly exaggerated. There is no question the nature of the Spirit is a mystery, but these descriptions are designed to influence the reader against what was gradually becoming ‘the old view’ of the Spirit of God.

Two years after ‘The Coming of the Comforter’ was published, Froom had a proposition put to him. “Back in the spring of 1930 Arthur G. Daniells… told me he believed that, at a later time, I should undertake a thorough survey of the entire plan of redemption – its principles, provision, and divine Personalities – as they unfolded to our view as a Movement from 1844 onward, with special emphasis upon the developments of ‘1888’, and its sequel.” Movement of Destiny p17.

Now forty years of age, Froom saw the enormity of the project. He was awed by its magnitude and far-reaching character. 

He suggested that someone else should do it, but Daniells said he “felt it was for me to do – for I had gotten a vision of it, and had a background and burden for it.” Ibid. 

Daniells told Froom he “was a connecting link between past leaders and the present. But, he said, it is to be later – not yet, not yet.” Ibid. Both men understood the serious problems involved in printing a book on this subject, for it would contain sentiments not acceptable to those who had been close to the early beginnings of the church.

Daniells “knew that time would be required for certain theological wounds to heal, and for attitudes to modify on the part of some. Possibly it would be necessary to wait until certain individuals had dropped out of action, before the needed portrayal could wisely be brought forth.” Ibid.

Dear Reader -- Are you listening to these words?

You cannot afford to skip over them.

The book was not to be printed until our early brothers and sisters had either passed to their rest, or drifted away from doctrines given to the pioneers. 

Something was very wrong!

Froom accepted the assignment, and although he worked on many other very big projects over the years, this was to be his most important work.

Then came 1931, which according to Froom “stands out as a really momentous yet little-heralded transition point, essential to the destined final advance, when Christ in all His ‘fullness’… is to forge to the front in the great consummation phase of the Movement.” Movement of Destiny p409.

What happened that was so important?

In 1872, a “synopsis of our faith” had been printed in the denominational Yearbook. It was revised and expanded for the 1889 Yearbook, to be inserted again in 1905, where it continued until 1914. In 1931, church leaders in Africa requested a ‘statement’ that would “assist in a better understanding of our work.” 27 Fundamentals Introduction.

In answer to the request, a suitable Statement of Faith would be placed in the 1931 annual Yearbook. 

“It was a delicate assignment – after 87 years of differing views on the intrinsic nature of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Trinity…. The divergent views as to whether Christ was eternal, or had a beginning. 

And whether His life was ‘original, unborrowed, underived’ -- or derived, conferred, and dependent.” Movement of Destiny p411.

There had been many articles and books printed during the 1860s and 1870s on the pioneer, non-trinitarian view, of which Froom said had denied the eternal pre-existence and complete Deity of Christ, making the Holy Spirit merely an impersonal power or influence. 

“Hence no Trinity”, said Froom. Ibid p412.

He also said that by 1931, periodicals, tracts and books had been published “on the ‘Three Persons’ of the Godhead, the eternal pre-existence and complete Deity of Christ, and the personality of the Holy Spirit”. Ibid p418.

There is no record of a vast amount of such material, unless it was that written by Froom himself under Daniells’ authority.  

During these early years, a few articles using the word Trinity were printed in the ‘Review’ and ‘Signs’, but the messages were non-Trinitarian. In 1889, Samuel Spear, a Presbyterian minister had written an article entitled ‘The Subordination of Christ’, printed in a non-Adventist magazine ‘The New York Independent’. Two years later it was printed by our church leaders in two issues of the ‘Signs of the Times’.  The following year it was published as a tract for the Bible Students’ Library with its name changed to ‘The Bible Doctrine of the Trinity’, and fourteen words omitted. The tract uses terms not generally used by Adventists, but it is generally non-Trinitarian in content. http://

Subtle changes were taking place. 

Froom stated that by this time, “most conspicuous champions of the ‘derived’ view of Christ had gone to their rest”, and it was felt there would be little opposition. Movement of Destiny p411.418. 

Russel Holt wrote later, “This period saw the death of most of those pioneers who had championed and held the anti-trinitarian position.  Their places  were  being  taken by men  who were changing their thinking, or had never opposed the doctrine. The trinity began to be published, until by 1931 it had triumphed and become the standard denominational position. Isolated stalwarts remained who refused to yield, but the outcome had been decided.” The doctrine of the Trinity in the Seventh-day Adventist denominational: Its rejection and acceptance”. 1969. Russell Holt.

A committee was selected in 1931 to prepare a Statement of Beliefs for the Yearbook. Those chosen were, M.E. Kern, F.M. Wilcox, E.R. Palmer and C.H. Watson. Only Wilcox, Editor of the Review and Herald, was willing to formulate a statement.

Point No. 2 read: “That the Godhead or Trinity, consists of the Eternal Father, a personal, spiritual Being, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite in wisdom and love; the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, through whom all things were created and through whom the salvation of the redeemed hosts will be accomplished; the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, the great regenerating power in the work of redemption.” Church Manual. 1963 edition. p29.

Wilcox placed the statement in the hands of F.D. Nichol to read. He expressed appreciation and approval of its scope and balance, saying it was “doubtless framed that way in the hope that it might be acceptable to those who had held divergent views, especially over the Godhead.” Movement of Destiny p414. 

He was correct.

Wilcox suggested that the feeling of the small committee was that “no formal or official approval should be sought for the unofficial statement.” Ibid p419.

Thus the Statement of Beliefs was handed to Edson Rogers who was responsible for publishing the Yearbook.  It was added in 1931, not by approval of the General Conference, but “by common consent”, and was “accepted without challenge.” Ibid p414.

According to Froom, a unified statement had become an actuality, and this was the “first public presentation of a united…faith.” Ibid p414.

He also said, “After 85 years of conflicting viewpoints over the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the Personality of the Holy Spirit, a unified position that honoured Bible truth – and was in accord with the Spirit of Prophecy – came to be accepted by both sides.” Movement of Destiny p409. (It was Froom’s view that it was in accord with the Spirit of Prophecy. There were still those who would have disputed it, not to mention the prophet if she had been alive)

In 1933, the Statement of Beliefs appeared in the official Church Manual, also without formal adoption. 

It continued to appear in both the Yearbook and the Church Manual unchallenged, although William White was concerned. 

He wrote, “The statements and the arguments of some of our ministers in their effort to prove that the Holy Spirit was an individual as are God the Father and Christ, the eternal Son, have perplexed me and sometimes they have made me sad.” Letter Willie White. April 30. 1935.

The 1936 Sabbath School lesson for the 4th quarter was an interesting mixture of Trinitarian language and non-Trinitarian belief, showing the struggle that was going on in the minds of many during this period. Section 42.

That same year, Benjamin Wilkinson, who wrote his book ‘Truth Triumphant’, answered a letter from Dr. T.S. Teters saying, “Replying to your letter of October 13 regarding the doctrine of the Trinity.  I will say that Seventh Day Adventists do not, and never have accepted the dark, mysterious, Catholic doctrine of the Trinity.”

Also in 1936, Prescott preached a sermon at the Takoma Park Church, where he said that Scripture “clearly implied the doctrine of the Trinity… there are three persons in the Godhead, but they are  so  mysteriously  and indissolubly related to each other,  that 

the presence of one is equivalent to the presence of the other.” Book: W.W. Prescott. p324. 

The sermon was published as a pamphlet, bringing forth a very strong response by Judson S Washburn. He wrote a letter to the General Conference president, J.L. McElhany in protest. This letter also became a pamphlet. (One pastor immediately had 39 copies printed to distribute among his fellow pastors) 

Washburn wrote, “The doctrine of the Trinity is a cruel heathen monstrosity, removing Jesus from his true position of Divine Savior and Mediator…  It is wholly foreign to all the Bible and teachings of the Spirit of Prophecy…  

This monstrous doctrine transplanted from heathenism into the Roman Papal Church is seeking to intrude its evil presence into the teachings of the Third Angel’s Message... 

If we should go back to the immortality of the soul, purgatory, eternal torment and the Sunday Sabbath, would that be anything less than apostasy? If, however, we leap over all these minor, secondary doctrines and accept and teach the very central root doctrine of Romanism, the Trinity, and teach that the Son of God did not die, even though our words seem to be spiritual, is this anything else or anything less than apostasy, and the very Omega of apostasy?”  Judson S. Washburn. The Trinity. Letter to General Conference president in 1940.

No doubt his letter brought a reaction, but nothing changed the onward march of the Trinity doctrine.

In 1941, the General Conference Committee voted the Statement of Beliefs be made available in leaflet form and officially released as our accepted Statement of Faith. The committee also approved a uniform ‘Baptismal Covenant’ or ‘Vow’ in certificate form, based on the now generally accepted ‘Fundamental Beliefs’ declaration of 1931.  General Conference session. 1941. San Francisco.

Froom said this baptismal certificate “completed and implemented the  ‘Fundamental  Beliefs’  profession of faith, making their declarations obligatory upon all candidates for admission to the church through baptism. Before long this would, of course, automatically embrace all members aside from the old-timers.” Movement of Destiny p415.

Another brother speaking out during these years was Charles Longacre.  In 1947, he wrote a paper called ‘The Deity of Christ’, submitting it to the Bible Research Fellowship for discussion.  

He wrote, “The Son of God was not created like other creatures are brought into existence.  He is not a created, but a begotten Being, enjoying all the attributes of His Father… God ‘only hath immortality.’ He alone is the only self-existent God. But He gave His Son when He was begotten the same life he had in Himself... 

If there is one truth that the Bible teaches, it is that there is only one absolute God and none beside Him who is an absolute God. In the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul teaches this doctrine, so there can be no doubt as to Christ's subordination and submission to the Father. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 quoted…

Here Paul clearly teaches that God is not subject to Christ, but that Christ is subject to the Father, who gave all authority to Him. Whatever Christ is, whatever authority He has, whatever attributes He possesses, all have been imparted and bestowed upon Him by the Father, that the Father may be all in all and above all.”  The Deity of Christ. p4.5.  Charles Longacre. (34 page booklet)

Ray Cottrell said that “when C.S.Longacre died, its (Arianism’s) primary exponent died also.” Robert Olson. Interview with Merlin Burt. Loma Linda University. Oct 4. 1996. 

In 1950, the General Conference Session voted that no change could be made to the ‘Fundamental Beliefs’ statement, except by action of the General Conference in session. Autumn Council Actions 1948 p19 to be presented at the General Conference session, 1950. Gen. Conf. Bulletin 1950. p230.

Once the Statement of Faith and Baptismal Certificate were printed, 

Froom said, “We were now ready… to go to all the world with the Everlasting Gospel message in a clearer and more compelling way... The culminating events of the decade 1931 and 1941 consequently marked the end of an old epoch, and the beginning of a new day in unification and auspicious witness for us as a Movement. It was definitely another major turning point in denominational history.”  Movement of Destiny p421.422.

God moves in mysterious ways. 

The book Leroy Froom was asked to write at the request of Arthur G. Daniells  is the very book  from which we learn the details of the change in our denomination’s teachings on the doctrine of God. Little did he realise that God would use his own material to trace the change from truth to error.

Did Daniells and Froom deliberately foist something they knew to be evil upon the church?

Probably not. 

Both men had come to believe in the Trinity, and this affected everything they did. Froom believed he had eradicated from the church the Arian heresy, which he did not believe was Christian.

But how did God see it?

When Dr Kellogg was instructing his co-workers to remove the pillars that supported the platform upon which our church stood, Ellen White was asked in vision --  “Where are the watchmen that ought to be standing on the walls of Zion? Are they asleep?...” 1 Selected Messages p204.

The counsel given in the days of Kellogg applies to Froom as well.  

“What influence is it that would lead men at this stage of our history to work in an underhand, powerful way to tear down the foundation of our faith – the foundation that was laid at the beginning of our work by prayerful study of the Word and by revelation? Upon this foundation we have been building for the past fifty years. 

Do you wonder that when I see the beginning of a work that would remove some of the pillars of our faith, I have something to say?” 1 Selected Messages p207.208.

The work of the two men parallel each other in many ways.

Leroy Froom continued the work of Dr Kellogg in loosening the pillars upholding the platform of our faith. In fact, his plan was to completely remove the central pillar, the capstone of the structure. 

If he was successful, the foundation would be resting upon sand, and in time “storm and tempest would sweep away the structure.” 1 Selected Messages p205.