by O. J. Mills
How a young minister found the truth about the Bible and about Ellen G. White.
I grew up on a farm in the midst of a simple Bible-believing culture. Listening to Bible stories read to me by my mother, I was captured, even as a small child, with the idea that this book was the Word of God and from it we could come to the knowledge of truth.
While our family identified with a church which claimed to have the truth, we were not regular in attendance. From time to time I listened to adult Bible discussions. In these discussions I heard conflicting doctrines being advanced, both sides claiming to be teaching truth, both sides claiming Bible support. As I grew in spiritual knowledge, I prayed for greater wisdom to learn how to recognize genuine Bible truth.
In my search for biblical certainty, I attended a small Bible college and then became a Protestant minister.
In God's providence two other preachers and I enrolled in a radio lab class on the University of Michigan campus. Like three birds, we sat together on the back row. George Vandeman, one of our threesome, was the first Seventh-day Adventist I had ever met.
I had always wanted to meet a Seventh-day Adventist. Everything I had heard about them was positive. Through our cherished moments before and after class, George and I formed a warm fellowship. When he learned of my interest in studying the Bible in a scholarly atmosphere of faith and obedience, he invited me to spend a weekend with him at Emmanuel Missionary College where he was a teacher. (I didn't know it at the time, but he spent his last dime to assist me in coming to see the campus).
I liked what I saw. I was not deterred by the fact that Emmanuel Missionary College was an undergraduate school and unable to provide me with graduate credit. Three months later I was enrolled as a student at E. M. C.
I loved my classes, the professors, the spiritual administration, the warm fellowship with students, and the openness and freedom of discussion. But by and by, I began to discern some things about the Adventists I didn't like. I began to find critical challenges to my theology and doctrine, not the least of which was this "Mary Baker Eddy White woman," as I dubbed her. I did not believe the miraculous gift of prophecy existed beyond the apostolic age and was offended by the claim.
But since I believed the Bible, I could not escape the verses, "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thess 5:19-21, my emphasis).
Grudgingly I began to study the writings of Ellen White. I quickly saw that the Lord spoke to me through these writings directly and forcibly. I could not deny the conviction that I was hearing the actual testimony of Jesus Himself. Before the end of the year I knew I must follow truth and become a Seventh-day Adventist. The many questions that had confused me since childhood were answered. With the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy I discovered at long last how to recognize with certainty genuine Bible truth.
Having long wandered in the fog of uncertainty, exposed to the conflicting gales of doctrine, I now felt sheltered and protected. I could hardly wait for each early morning when on my knees, with my Bible open and some volume of the Spirit of Prophecy before me, I could learn more of God's love for me and receive His gentle directions for my life.
The Spirit of Prophecy was such a blessing to me that I was always amazed and perplexed at how its insights could be taken for granted or be neglected and disregarded by some who had been Adventists for many years.
It was not until some years into the ministry, however, that I gained the greatest help from these inspired writings. While pastoring the Madison College church, I was challenged to read the Testimonies systematically from beginning to end.
Long before daybreak I would take one of the books and a candle and walk to a secluded spot in the woods. Lighting the candle I could pray aloud and read many pages. As I read the instruction to Brother M or Brother A, I was deeply stirred. So often I found myself being described. So often my areas of need were addressed.
My life was changed completely during these hours that sped by with God. There was such a wealth of truth that enriched my ministry. In the Testimonies I found subject matter for prayer, I found biblical material for family worships and church services. I found practical instruction for being a husband, a father, and a pastor. I was encouraged, I was cautioned, I was wounded, I was healed in these wonderful pages. I gained insights into people and institutions from the people and institutions of the past. I found wonderful case studies to share with parishioners in counseling.
Now I'm 83 years old. With Moses I am beginning the ascent of Mt. Pisgah. Unlike Moses, though, my memory is dimming and my muscles are weakening. Yet I find the same heart stirring as I read the inspired writings of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. I find even greater comfort and hope with the passing of time.
As I see the rapid events of today, the deepening of rebellion, I review the map and I see that we are almost home. Jesus is still a very present help. His testimony is as precious and as important to me today as yesterday.
I look back on my experiences and think of friends and parishioners who failed to carefully study and follow the Spirit of Prophecy. How much avoidable sorrow and problems they have experienced! I am thankful my children and grandchildren love these books.
I can testify from my own life, "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall you be established. Believe His prophets, so shall you prosper" (2 Chron 20:20).