The involvement of young people in the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not a new by-product of young adult gatherings at recent General Conference sessions, or of rallies and symposia around the world. This church, as a burgeoning movement, saw its early message heralded in corners far and wide by a small army of twentysomethings (and sometimes teens). Spurred by their deep consecration to God and the Advent message, these young adults preached, wrote, sang, traveled, and sacrificed much in service to their Creator. The following piece is excerpted from Story of the Advent Message, by Matilda Erickson Andross, chapter 7, “The Lengthening Honor Roll” (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1926).
T WAS EARLY IN THE SUMMER OF 1922 THAT Mr. Andross and I were ushered into the bright, sunny room of J. N. Loughborough. The little bent man of 90 began to explain to us a certain manuscript he had invited us to see. As I observed with what avidity he read it, I felt as if we had stepped back across the widening gulf that lies between us and those pioneer days when the foundations of this movement were being laid.
John Norton Loughborough was born January 26, 1832, and was only a lad of 12 when the Great Disappointment came to the Adventist believers. He developed into a devout young man, and when the Sabbath truth found him, in September 1852, he was a preacher in the First-day Adventist Church. The very next month he began to preach the third angel’s message, and labored extensively in the Central and Middle Western states till 1868, when he went to California, and for some time pioneered our work on the Pacific Coast. As early as we can ascertain, J. N. Loughborough and M. E. Cornell, another pioneer minister, were the first laborers to be sent out at the expense of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
THE FIRST GENERAL CONFERENCE PRESIDENT
John Byington became the first president of the General Conference. He was born in Hinesburg, Vermont, October 9, 1798. When the third angel’s message reached him, he was prominent in the Methodist Church.
In 1857 he and his family moved to southern Michigan. Here his time was devoted to soul-winning work, and in 1863, he was chosen as the first president of the General Conference, an office he held for two years.
IN SERVICE TO HER SAVIOR
Uriah Smith and his sister Annie, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other pioneers in the early days of our denominational work. Their mother was a devoted woman, and she and her children looked for the Lord to come in 1844. Uriah Smith was an ambitious lad, and was bent on obtaining a good education. After spending three years in an academy, he tried to earn money enough to complete his college course. But circumstances compelled him to abandon his plans. Annie, the sister who shared her brother’s love of learning, almost finished a course in a young women’s seminary.
But God had other plans for these young people. Their mother, who had recently accepted the “present truth,” feared that her children were drifting toward the world. She opened her heart to Joseph Bates, and they made Sister Smith’s children a special subject of prayer. Joseph Bates went to preach in the place where Miss Smith was attending school, and her mother wrote her, requesting that she go to his meeting. It was held on Sabbath, and as there was no school, Annie said, “Just to please mother, I’ll go.” On Friday night, she and Joseph Bates both dreamed about the meeting to be held.
At the close of the meeting, Joseph Bates stepped up to Miss Smith and said, “I believe this is Sister Smith’s daughter, of West Wilton. I never saw you before, but your countenance looks familiar. I dreamed of seeing you last night.” Then she told her dream. Suffice it to say, the meeting proved to be a turning point in this young woman’s life. She went away fully resolved to obey all God’s commandments.
After a few years Annie Smith served the cause she came to love so dearly. She did efficient, faithful work as a proofreader, and her fertile pen produced poems that have comforted thousands. Several of these were set to music.
A DEFENDER OF THE FAITH
Uriah Smith was born May 2, 1832, and first heard the third angel’s message in the fall of 1852. Like his sister, he entered the publishing work. From 1853 until his death in 1903, he was almost constantly connected with the Review and Herald
, as sole editor for much of this time.
Uriah Smith’s surrender to God made him a power for good. At the beginning of his ministry as editor of the Review, he said: “I do not enter upon this position for ease, comfort, or worldly profit; for I have seen by my connection with the Review thus far, that none of these is to be found there. But there are burdens to be borne, there are sacrifices to be made, and it becomes us each in the light of present truth willingly and cheerfully, to do what we can in the cause of God.”
THE BOY PRESIDENT
About 1855 it became evident that God was calling upon some earnest Scandinavians in Wisconsin to obey His truth. Among these was a family by the name of Olsen, who had come from Norway in 1850. They were Bible students, and through reading they began to keep the Sabbath.
As the years went by, several of the children in the Olsen family became successful workers in the cause; and Ole, later known as O. A. Olsen, is rightly regarded as one of our pioneers. He was born July 28, 1845, and had very few school privileges. When he was 19 years old, he spent one winter in the Seventh-day Baptist College at Milton, Wisconsin, and later took further training at Battle Creek College. At 20 he was asked to take charge of the work in Wisconsin. “The boy president,” as James White called him, did so well that he was chosen to serve again when his first term had expired.
A STRONG EXECUTIVE
George Ide Butler was born in Vermont on November 12, 1834. His father was a strong Baptist, and his grandfather, of the same religious persuasion, was for more than 50 years one of the leading men in Vermont. His father and mother became Adventists in 1843. A short time before this they had become Sabbathkeepers, but not so their son George. Though he had read the Bible through two or three times, he regarded it only as a good book of instruction.
The Spirit of the Lord was following this young man, who seemed to be hungering for adventure and change. In 1856, while stopping at Rock Island, Illinois, en route to Kansas City, Philippians 4:8 came forcibly to his mind. As he walked up and down the streets of the city, a voice seemed to say: “There are so many good things in the Bible, why not believe that part anyway?” “I’ll do it, Lord,” he said, looking up toward heaven. Going back to his cabin on the boat, he fell on his knees and gave his heart to God.
AN ABLE DEBATER
Merritt E. Cornell was born in New York State in 1827. While a young man he became interested in the Advent doctrines, and in 1852, when Joseph Bates visited Jackson, Michigan, he heard and accepted the third angel’s message. Soon he was preaching it to others. In 1854, 27-year-old Cornell helped conduct the first Seventh-day Adventist tent meeting ever held in Battle Creek, Michigan.
The list of early leaders could be greatly lengthened, but lack of space and information forbid. One thing is certain, however; if we are faithful, when the redeemed are gathered home, we shall meet every successful hero of the cross whose unselfish life in prominent places or in obscure nooks has helped others to find the way of life.