I ran across an article, of all places, in Spectrum Magazine. It’s my practice, for the most part, to not mention their name when I run across something they write, but this time I make an exception.
One particular quote caught my attention; “Constituents today allowed financial considerations to supercede what Ellen White was shown, perhaps part of the reason President Halverson called the decision courageous.”1.
The question begging answers: What did Ellen White see? …What was she shown?
According to the article, White said, “‘Let the building be converted into a seminary to educate our youth in the place of enlarging the college at Battle Creek. I have been shown that there should…be located, school buildings in Ohio which would give character to the work’ (Ellen G. White letter K35).”2
Another article in the Adventist Review pointed out that, “The oldest Adventist boarding academy decided this week that it must raise $3 million or shut down, making a painful ultimatum that should serve as a wake-up call on the future of these schools in the U.S.,”3. Robert E. Lemon then went on to say, “The world has changed drastically since the school, Mount Vernon Academy in Ohio, opened on Ellen G. White’s advice in 1893, and we need to adapt accordingly.”4 I may address this latter article sometime in a subsequent post, but for now I need to focus on the statements from both articles listed above.
What Did She Really Say?
The best way to approach it is to go to the source. The actual words that Mrs. White wrote are as follows:
I am glad to learn that there is to be an effort made in Battle Creek. I have long pled for this to be done and I hope some kind of provisions will be made for a protracted effort to get the reasons of our faith before many. And let there be men chosen to go into the regions round about Battle Creek among those immersed in the shadow of death, and work as Christ worked to save the lost and perishing.
But I must close as we soon step on the boat. In regard to the Mount Vernon Institution I would, could you hear my voice across the broad Pacific, say, Let the building be converted into a Seminary to educate our youth in the place of enlarging the College at Battle Creek. I have been shown that there should have been a church at Cleveland, Ohio, and that there should be located school buildings in Ohio which would give character to the work.
The Lord bless you and your wife and children.—Letter 35, 1893, pp. 1-3. (To Brother and Sister Kellogg, February 19, 1893)
There are several things that we must look at to figure out what she meant.
- There was already an institution at Mount Vernon. It was the Mount Vernon Sanitarium which closed in 1891.
- She instructed that those buildings “be converted into a Seminary to educate our youth…”
- This was to be done “…in the place of enlarging the College at Battle Creek.”
- The thing Mrs. White was shown was “that there should have been a church at Cleveland, Ohio, and that there should be located school buildings in Ohio which would give character to the work.”
Her yearning and pleading advice, “I would, could you hear my voice across the broad Pacific say..” convert the existing buildings into a seminary. By 1893, enough information from the book Education was around providing a road-map of what that school should look like and how it should function.
The day after this letter was written, J. N. Loughborough submitted a report to the General Conference in session advising the same action. Upon General Conference recommendations, the stockholders of the sanitarium voted to adopt this recommendation and to form a new corporation for the management of the Academy.5
According to the Mount Vernon Academy history page, after twelve years of operation, the school was then converted into a four year college offering various courses. “During the next 11 years, Mount Vernon College offered four-year courses leading to B.S. and B.A. degrees. Secondary work also continued during this time.”6 Washington Foreign Mission Seminary at Washington, D.C opened in 1914 as the official training college for Columbia Union. Thus, with no need for a second college, Mount Vernon reverted back to an academy.
Reading the academy’s own history page, one will discover that Mount Vernon would spend several more decades adapting to current trends [and education requirements] of the time.
The third piece of advice offered was that the conversion be done in the place of expanding Battle Creek college. Sadly, that advice, was ignored. One has only to read the letters she wrote and then read the history of that college to discover the result.
The fourth piece of advice, and the thing she had been shown is that the church was slow to putting in a school and a church. White was shown that there should have already been a church in Cleveland, Ohio, and that school buildings (plural) should be set up in Ohio giving character to the work. If the school, did not give character to the work, then it was not following the advice. If you read the letter in its entirety to Kellogg, then you will know “the work” is to send educated people [following true education] to “…work as Christ worked to save the lost and perishing.”
Improving On God’s Counsel Never Works!
To make a statement that, “Constituents today allowed financial considerations to supercede what Ellen White was shown…” is quite disingenuous. Additionally, Mount Vernon Academy has been adapting, almost, since opening it’s doors. The current issue Mount Vernon is facing is not that the people are being wise now and ignoring what a short old woman said over one hundred years ago. Nor is it about not adapting. But instead, it’s that they, for the most part, have ignored her advice from the very beginning. If education was practiced as she outlined it would have out-shined Madison academy which she considered to follow a blueprint for true education. Hiring people who themselves don’t “give character to the work” is but one issue along with turning from the advice that was truly offered, doomed many of our schools decades ago. Trying to improve on God’s counsel has never worked for anyone.
Please understand, I do not write this to bash anyone, but to simply right a wronged statement. I take this issue seriously and humbly offer these words to encourage thought on the matter. But, I do wonder what that school would have looked like if they followed the four pieces of advice she originally offered in its entirety as well as the counsel on education? Sadly, the world may never know.
- Sprectrum, Mt. Vernon Academy Must Raise $3M by March 10 or Cease Operations, by Jared Wright, [accessed 23 February 2015] [↩]
- ibid [↩]
- Seventh-day Adventist Church, Threatened Closure of Adventist Academy Serves as a Wake-Up Call News commentary: The world has changed drastically over the past century, and Adventist boarding schools need to adapt, By Robert E. Lemon, General Conference treasurer, http://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/threatened-closure-of-adventist-academy-serves-as-a-wake-up-call, accessed [accessed 23 February 2015] [↩]
- ibid [↩]
- Mount Vernon Academy, http://www.mvacademy.org/services-view/school-history/ [accessed 27 February 2014] [↩]
- ibid [↩]