The 1868-1869 Testimony of Ellen G. White to the Monterey and Allegan Michigan Seventh-day Adventist Churches
Merlin D. Burt, April 16, 2011 – Western Michigan Seminary Tour
The Monterey Church was built in the 1850s. It was torn down in 1944 and nothing remains of the foundation. The first annual session of the Michigan conference was held in this church October 4-6, 1862. Joseph Bates presided. So many crowded into the church on Sabbath when James White, J. N. Loughborough, and Moses Hull spoke that the foundation gave way and the floor settle eight inches.
At the beginning of May 1868, James and Ellen White came to Monterey from the Wright, Michigan, church. He described the church thus: “As in many of our churches there had been a want of tender care for the erring, and the wandering.” James White spoke on Luke 15:1-7 and the parable of the lost sheep. It moved the congregation. In the evening Ellen White spoke. James White described the effect: “We felt triumphant in spirit, and praised God for the freedom, and now we felt that brighter days were before this people.” Visits were made to those who were no longer attending. Especially mentioned was George T. Lay who had a long history with the church. He took a “noble stand” after some members confessed to him and he to them. Ellen White described that they first met the congregations of Monterey and Allegan and then returned to Battle Creek for a one-day appointment. After this they continued at Monterey with fifty coming forward for prayers who “confessed their coldness and indifference, and took a good stand. Fourteen were baptized. The work moved on with solemnity, confessions, and much weeping, carrying all before it.”
But the revival was short-lived. “A state of backsliding came upon a large portion of the church.” Ellen White received a specific vision about individuals. This testimony was published in a tract and distributed in the region. There were many Seventh-day Adventists in the area. It was titled: Testimony for the Churches at Allegan & Monterey. It named names and gave specific rebuke for the hard spirit that some held. She wrote about the effect of the May 1868 revival:
“Some opened the door slightly and permitted a little light from his presence to enter, but did not welcome the heavenly Visitor. There was not room for Jesus. The place which should have been reserved for him was occupied with other things.”
She then mentioned George T. Lay who had made a movement to come back to the church.
“Some of the church had no special anxiety to have Bro. Lay return. They cared not enough to unbend from their dignity and pride to make special efforts to help him to the light. They stood back in their dignity, and said, ‘We will not go after him; let him come to us.’ It was impossible for him to do this as he viewed the feelings of his brethren toward him. Had they regarded the lesson taught by Christ, they would have been willing to yield their dignity and pride, and go after the wandering ones. They would have wept over them, prayed for them, implored them to be faithful to God, and the truth, and abide with the church. But the feeling of many was: If he want to go, let him go.”
She went on to describe that when Lay came back that they blamed him for leaving. She wrote: “You felt that the sheep had done a great wrong in leaving the fold, and instead of rejoicing that he had returned, you were anxious to make him feel that he should be very sorry for leaving, and should come back just according to your ideas.”
She then wrote of specific individuals including the Bucks, John Day, and Bro. Gregory. These were shown their own sinfulness even while they had judged George Lay. Particularly mentioned was Harvey Kenyon. He was engaged to be remarried to a woman who was not a Seventh-day Adventist and thus distracted from spiritual things. Ellen White wrote two things regarding the marriage. “You have now made your religious progress tenfold more difficult than when you stood alone. It is true you were lonely; for you had lost a precious jewel.” His new wife was not a Sabbath keepers. But she then wrote: It is now your duty to do all you can to make your wife happy, and not sacrifice the principles of truth. You should exercise forbearance, patience, and true courteousness. By thus doing, you can show the power of true grace, and the influence of the truth.”
Ironically, this testimony led to a major public scandal. The Allegan Democrat published and other papers copied that Mrs. Laura Kenyon and her sister Mrs. Sarah Strong had been made insane by efforts to convert them to the Adventist faith and by Ellen White’s testimony to Harvey Kenyon. The church through the tract mentioned above denied trying to bring her to the Adventist faith.
A statement by Harvey Kenyon on June 15, 1869, indicted that they were married in July 1868. Their first child was born in April 1869. She began to manifest symptoms about a week after the birth. The family doctor William H. Stanton, testified that her “perpetual insanity” was due to nursing problem and her temperament. Mrs. Strong cared for her sister for a few weeks and herself became insane.
It seems that the insanity was delusional thinking. Mrs. Kenyon at least believed her husband was trying to poison her. Harvey testified that his wife had not once mentioned Ellen White or her testimony. Before the insanity, Mrs. Strong, was an “earnest opposer” of Adventists. At first it was Mrs. Strong that spread the idea that her sister’s insanity was caused by Adventists.
Those we testified to the truthfulness of the statement included:
L. M. Jones, Joseph and Prudence Bates, H. G. Buck, J. S. Day, R. D. Day, L. Ross, John Russ, J. C. Russ, , Sarah A. Jones, Charles A Russell, and George T. Lay.
LESSON FOR MINISTRY
Sometimes the result of our work as ministers is less hoped for. I remember reading of H. M. S. Richards Sr. and his first and second evangelistic meetings. At the first in Holyoke, Colorado, their tent leaked like a sieve. They tried to do repairs and advertised that the tent was now leak-proof. At the next meeting it leaked colander. Thankfully the rain only lasted a few minutes, but then a rabid dog came up the middle isle leaped into the air and died right there before the podium. They baptized one person from those meetings. At the second meeting in Woodland Park, they had more hopes. The wife and children of the shopkeeper, the wealthiest family in town, attended. Not long into the meetings the woman drowned herself in lake. Her footprints showed that she had first gone down by the shore then waked back up to the pavilion where they were holding the meetings. She pinned a note to the pulpit and jumped into deep water from the pavilion. The note asked the young evangelist to speak at her funeral.
We cannot get discouraged when our efforts seem to be a failure. As long as we are preaching the truth, walking with God, and doing our best, we must leave the results with God.
Other Testimonies to Monterey
The testimony by Ellen White from 1869 was not her first to the Monterey Church. She also had testimony she gave in 1857 which appears in Testimony for the Church, vol. 1, 154-161. It is to the young people of the church. Other unpublished testimonies were given in 1857, 1861, and 1863. The 1861 testimony was not published but survives as a manuscript. The testimony was read January 6, 1861 in the Monterey Church. The minutes of the church record each response by members addressed.
The 1863 testimony was written on June 5, 1863, from the home of Aaron Hilliard in Oswego, Michigan. Victory Jones seems to have been an alcoholic. He kept from drinking for a few years but with a smoking habit, he took up drinking again. His wife Sarah Jones divorced him over this. He tried to change and convince her not to leave him. Then it seems that George T. Lay engaged in inappropriate attention to her. During 1864 a committee of three is formed to address the issue. They include, J. N. Loughborough, Geo. W. Amadon, and James White. This committee determined that Lay burned the testimony from Ellen White, resisted to earnest efforts of the elders to help him, was judgmental of the church, some church members went too far in trying to confess to Lay for their “offenses,” that the church was right in “setting him aside” [removing from membership], and that in the future with situation this complicated, it would be better to have a committee of ministers and elders or deacons from other congregations decide the correct course.
This is the background for some of what happened in 1869.
James White, Review and Herald, October 14, 1862; Mervyn Maxwell Tour Notes.
James White, “Report from Bro. White,” Review and Herald, May 12, 1868, 344.
Ellen G. White, Life Sketches (1915), 188, 189.
The Cases of Insanity at Monterey, Mich. (n.p., circ. 1869), 2.
Ellen G. White, Testimony for the Churches at Allegan & Monterey (Battle Creek, MI: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing, 1869).
Ibid., 17, 18.
Cases of Insanity, 4-5.
Virginia Cason, Man Alive! (Freedom House, 1974), not paginated.
Ellen G. White, “Testimony for Monterey,” Manuscript 4, 1860, Ellen G. White Estate, Silver Spring, MD; “Monthly Meeting,” Monterey Seventh-day Adventist Church Record Book, 7, Center for Adventist Research, Andrews University.