Posted by: adventlife | February 16, 2012

Adventist Pioneers & their Views, by Nic Samojluk

Out of the ashes of the Great Disappointment experienced by the members of the Millerite Movement, who eagerly awaited with great expectation the return of Jesus Christ to this earth back in 1844; a new religious denomination arose and slowly spread, first to Europe, and eventually to many nations of the world; building in the process monuments to its advance translated into church buildings, printing presses, educational institutions, health-food factories, and medical institutions. This was a Reform Movement which adopted the name Seventh-day Adventists [SDA], emphasizing among others, the following beliefs:[1]

  • The Soon Return of Jesus Christ. The early pioneers who spearheaded this new religious organization were convinced that the second coming of the Lord  to this earth in order to put an end to the great controversy between good and evil would take place within their lifetime.
  • The Ten Commandments. They had no doubt that their small group of      believers represented the “Remnant Church”[2] of God depicted in the book of Revelation, “which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus,”[3] and proclaim the “last message of mercy for a fallen world.”[4]
  • The Sabbath. They believed that the correct day of worship was Saturday, enshrined in the Decalogue as the fourth commandment. They proclaimed that keeping it holy was a sure sign of their allegiance to the Creator who rested on the seventh-day of creation week.
  • Religious freedom. They adhered to the democratic principle advocating a separation between church and state, which provided for freedom of conscience and the right of every individual to adopt the religious persuasion of their choice; and they eventually founded the “Liberty” magazine dedicated to the propagation of these principles designed to protect the religious freedom granted by the U.S. Constitution.
  • The Importance of Health. Quite early in the development of this new      religious organization, at the instigation of Ellen G. White, its spiritual mentor, the movement placed a heavy emphasis on health principles, which prompted the creation of a growing number of medical institutions around the world.
  • The Role of Education. The early pioneers recognized the important role      education would play in the development and eventual growth of the      movement. This conviction prompted them to provide for the creation of      educational institutions, from kindergarten through institutions of higher      learning; as well as the establishment of printing presses dedicated to the dissemination of denominational literature.
  • Non Combatancy. The strong emphasis on the Ten Commandments      induced the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination to encourage      young army draftees to adopt a non-combatancy position, which was      recognized by the government thanks to the heroic conduct of Desmond Doss, who was granted the Medal of Honor by the president of theUnited States of America.
  • The Prophetic Role of Ellen G. White. The early Adventist pioneers accepted the claim of a frail woman, Ellen G. White, who supposedly experienced extraterrestrial visions and dreams of divine origin designed to provide spiritual guidance to the growing number of Adventist converts. This      acceptance of her prophetic role led SDA’s to the publication of a large      number of books which bore her name, and which were held by many as the      latest revelation from above for God’s “RemnantChurch” on earth.
  • The Abortion Issue. In spite of the fact that abortion was illegal at the time, and that such practice was not widespread as it is nowadays; the early Adventist pioneers denounced the practice of abortion in the strongest terms; James White, the founder of the Adventist publishing work, edited and published a book which included a clear and unambiguous condemnation of abortion; other SDA pioneers did the same, and Ellen G. White, who played a prominent role in the development and growth of Adventism, described the husbands’ neglect of a pregnant wife’s health as bordering with the murder of the unborn baby. From this statement by Mrs. White, we can safely conclude that she had no sympathy toward the killing of the unborn.

Assumptions Derived From the SDA Historical Background

In view of all these fundamental beliefs adhered to by the pioneers of the Adventist movement, it would be logical to conclude that today’s Seventh-day Adventists would be counted among the most ardent defenders of the sanctity of human life, and also
committed to the defense of prenatal life from the moment of conception. What else can anyone expect from those who affirm that they represent a prophetic movement possessing the last message of hope for a fallen world and announcing that they are God’s Remnant church on earth, keeping God’s commandments, one of which solemnly declares: “You shall not commit murder”?[5]

Adventists are very particular about the protection of holy time—the Sabbath. Is it unreasonable to expect from them even more zeal in the protection of human life? Did not Jesus Christ state that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,”[6] thus implying that human life takes priority over the sacredness of God’s holy time?

Seventh-day Adventists have actually produced several statements recently designed to emphasize the sacredness of human life, as well as the need to protect prenatal life. One of them reads: “Prenatal life is a magnificent gift of God. God’s ideal for human beings affirms the sanctity of human life, in God’s image, and requires respect for prenatal life.” It is found in the Guidelines on Abortion, a document that was approved by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Executive Committee at the Annual Council session inSilver Spring,Maryland, on October 1992.

A similar official statement extracted from a document entitled “Assisted Human Reproduction”[7] which was voted by the Christian View of Human Life Committee at the Pine Spring Ranch, California, on April 10-12, 1994, affirms: “Human life should be treated with respect at all stages of development.” Common sense would dictate that in order to provide protection for prenatal life there is a need to know when human life begins. Both the Catholic Church[8] and the Southern Baptist Convention,[9] for example, have clearly set the beginning of human life at conception, which agrees with what all biology textbooks have stated for centuries. Surprisingly, when pressed for a statement on this issue, Dr. Gerald Winslow, a professor of Biomedical and Clinical Ethics at Loma Linda University in Southern California; who, according to the opinion of some experts, was one of the main architects of the Seventh-day Adventist Guidelines on Abortion, declared the following:

“The church has chosen not to define the precise moment human life begins–a moment science finds difficult to pinpoint. . . . We take every stage of prenatal life very seriously. It should be protected . . . the prenatal life we’re protecting exists once an ‘established pregnancy’ can be ascertained.”[10]

In addition to this, the same Guidelines on Abortion church document cited above includes the following clarification: “God gives humanity the freedom of choice, even if it leads to abuse and tragic consequences. His unwillingness to coerce human obedience necessitated the sacrifice of his Son. He requires us to use His gifts in accordance with His will and will ultimately judge their misuse.”

There is no reference in this document to the right and duty of the government to protect the innocent from either abuse or murder, nor the obligation of the same, granted by heaven, to punish those who deprive other human beings of their right to life. To the above, we should add a statement by John V. Stevens, former Pacific Union Conference public affairs/religious liberty director, taken from the August 20, 1990 Pacific Union Recorder who stated the following: “Christ valued choice over life. . . . The developing baby is not a person.”

This leads the observer to wonder whether the SDA church has experienced a fundamental shift from the original pro-life position manifested by the founders of this religious movement. According to Jan Paulsen, the former president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, this is not the case. On the occasion of the centennial celebration of the SDA work in the Philippinesin 2005, he publicly declared that the Adventist church is definitely pro-life,[11] but this emphasis on “freedom of choice” in the official Guidelines on Abortion seems to indicate otherwise.

Besides, in response to a telephone call to Jan Paulsen’s office by Teresa Beem, who participated in the adoption of said guidelines, the president’s secretary confirmed that the official position of the church is pro-choice, which statement was confirmed by George Reid, also from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist.[12] Given all these confusing statements, the author of the present study decided to search for the facts surrounding the SDA position on abortion and the sanctity of human life.

The Research Question

In light of the above, the author of this study, Nic Samojluk,[13] decided to search for an answer to the research question: Are Seventh-day Adventists pro-life, pro-choice, or pro-abortion? Is it possible that perhaps they have departed from the original strong pro-life position espoused by the early SDA pioneers? Is it consistent for them to declare that every stage of prenatal life should be protected and then refuse to define the precise moment human life begins?

Would it make sense for the president of the United States, or for the U.S. Congress, to declare that the U.S.borders should be protected, but then admit that they actually have no clear idea where those borders lie? Declaring that “Prenatal life is a magnificent gift of God” sounds very much like a pro-life statement, but adding that “God gives humanity the freedom of choice,” coupled with their refusal to identify the limits of human life, tends to indicate that Adventists might in fact be on the pro-choice side of the abortion issue.

In order to elucidate this dilemma, Samojluk has spent countless numbers of hours examining the Seventh-day Adventist literature on the subject with the aim of determining where SDA’s actually stand on the issue. He has worked on the assumption that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”[14] If SDA’s are pro-life, there should be a prolific amount of literature on the subject.

If SDA’s really care about the “sanctity of human life,” this fact should be amply reflected in the sermons they preach, as well as the books and magazine articles they write and print! Samojluk believes that the content and the amount of SDA literature on the subject of abortion should provide a reliable index to the importance SDA’s assign to the protection of prenatal life.

The Research Hypothesis

Based on the preliminary examination of some of the literature dealing with the subject of abortion, Samojluk started this investigation with the following tentative hypothesis: Seventh-day Adventists, in spite of their seemingly strong pro-life statements, have deviated significantly from their initial unambiguous oppositions to abortion as contained in a book published by James White, the founder of their Adventist publishing work, where we find a section dealing directly with abortion; and as confirmed by the writings of J.H. Kellogg, the founder of their medical work; J.N. Andrews, the first SDA missionary; and other SDA early pioneers who were adamantly opposed to the killing of the unborn.

Today Adventists apparently care about the sanctity of human life, but their paranoid fear of loosing their religious freedom and their high involvement in the medical field, coupled with a partial reliance on non-Adventist medical personnel, seems to have led them to compromise on the issue of abortion, fearing a significant loss of revenue if they refused to provide abortion services in their hospitals.

Their preoccupation with eventually becoming the object of religious persecution, as predicted by Ellen G. White in her masterpiece, The Great Controversy;[15] and their involvement in medical research and organ procurement and transplantation programs, might have led them to neglect their duty to speak the way they should about the protection of human life, especially in its early stages of development.

In their zeal to defend their freedom, and for the sake of expediency, they may have sacrificed their duty to speak on behalf of the protection of the unborn. Their preoccupation with religious freedom has taken priority over the respect for the sanctity of human life. They say that prenatal life is a magnificent gift of God, and should be protected, but they fail to set the limits of human life, thus rendering said protection meaningless, and thus giving ample evidence that their love of religious freedom has won over their respect of the sanctity of human life.

Method of Analysis

Samojluk started knowing full well that his tentative hypothesis could be proved either right or wrong, and that a careful examination of current Seventh-day Adventist literature could help in finding either the truth or falsity of such an assumption. He worked under the premise that people tend to talk and write about what is important for them, and that the amount and tone of literature being published on the subject would likely provide the necessary evidence to either support this hypothesis or else to negate it.

He was convinced that the number of magazine and Internet articles as well as books published on the topic, and the arguments presented in them, would tend to provide a glimpse of where SDA’s stand in relation to the issue of abortion and the sanctity of human life from womb to tomb.

He carried out this investigation based on a careful and exhaustive search of material dealing with abortion and the sanctity of human life that has been published in Adventist sources, placing an emphasis on official periodicals like Ministry, without excluding independent magazines like Spectrum and Adventist Today; and he ended with a statistical analysis of the material thus obtained.

His plan was to carefully examine what current and former Adventist authors have written in books, magazine articles, and Internet web sites on the subject; to catalogue them as pro-life, pro choice, or pro-abortion; to contrast such statements whenever appropriate with the uncompromising pro-life attitude of the early SDA pioneers;[16] and to statistically analyze the data thus obtained in order to weigh the available evidence as either defending or else condemning the practice of interfering with nature in the development of human life from the moment of its inception and during the nine months of pregnancy.

More:===> If this topic is of interest to you, I suggest you secure a copy of the book I recently published entitled: From Pro-life to Pro-choice: The Dramatic Shift in Seventh-day Adventists’ Attitudes Towards Abortion from the printer. Here is the link: You will need to type my name, Nic Samojluk, in the blank “Search” space to access my book’s web page.

[1] Seventh-day Adventist Church. Fundamental Beliefs (2006). Accessed from on 15 Oct. 2010. These beliefs of the original SDA pioneers were incorporated into the present core of SDA teachings, except the pro-life stand against abortion, which was never included among the others. See also Ministerial Association: General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist, Seventh-day Adventist Believe . . .: A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines (Hagerstown, Maryland: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988), 283 pp.

[2] Ellen G. White. Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1943), 728.

[3] Rev. 12:17 KJV.

[4] Ellen G. White. Testimony Treasures, Volume 2 (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1949), 374.

[5] Ex. 20:13 AB.

[6] Mark 2:27 NIV.

[7] “Considerations on Assisted Human Reproductions” Adventist Beliefs/Seventh-day Adventist Church (26 July 1994). Accessed from on 15 Oct. 2010.

[8] “The Roman Catholic Church’s Official Teaching on Abortion” Beliefnet (2006). Accessed from on 15 Oct. 2010. “2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”

[9] “The Baptist Faith and Message: XVIII. The Family” SBCNET (2006). Accessed from on 15 Oct. 2010. “Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord.”

[10] Bettina Krause. “ANN Feature: Broader Religious Input Needed in Stem Cell Debate, Says Adventist Ethicist” Adventist News network/ Seventh-day Adventist Church (7 Aug. 2001). Accessed from–broaer-religious-iput-eee-i-stem-cell-ebate-says-avetist-ethicist.html on 15 Oct. 2010.

[11] “Adventists laud Pope for concern on world peace, poverty and family Adventist News Dispatch/Southern Asia-Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (11 Mar. 2005). Accessed from on 25 Oct. 2006.

[12] Teresa & Arthur D. Beem “Why we Left: A Letter to Family and Others” Former Adventist Fellowship Online (7 Feb. 2001). Accessed from on 15 Oct. 2010. This information was confirmed to Nic Samojluk by Teresa Been by E-mail in August 2006.

[13] Nic Samojluk is a second-generation SDA, and he has published his views about abortion. A small sample of what he has published on this issue will be included in Chapter XI of this study. In order to avoid the use of the personal pronoun, Samojluk has been advised to refer to himself using the third personal pronoun.

[14] Matt. 12:34 RSV.

[15] Ellen G. White. The Great Controversy (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1939), 635.

[16] Samojluk felt that there was a need to keep this contrast between the pro-life position of the SDA pioneers and any deviation towards a compromise with the defenders of abortion in order to keep in sharp focus the main objective of this research, which was to discover whether the SDA community had in fact deviated in a significant way from the original attitude towards abortion as manifested by the early founders of the Adventist movement. In most cases, Samojluk elected to keep track of such deviations by documenting them in footnotes instead of incorporating them into the text.

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