The 175th Great Disappointment Anniversary Weekend at William Miller Farm

The day began cold and rainy. The beautiful New England fall colors were muted by the heavy cloud cover as the 175th Anniversary of the Great Disappointment began in a long white tent that stood just behind the William Miller home. Ascension Rock sat in the wet darkness just a few hundred feet away. My Doc Martens splashed in the standing water in the main aisle as I walked into the long tent, and took my seat behind the sound board. Despite the boots, my feet were soaking wet from working all day in the wet weather with the other volunteers in preparation for the event. Volunteers and participants traveled to this event, right on the border between New York and Vermont, from Maryland, Tennessee, Mississippi, and other locations across the country.

The evening program was led by Jim Nix, director of the Ellen G. White Estate, and Dr. Merlin Burt, director of the Center for Adventist Research, who alternated in regaling us with stories about old advent hymns, after each of which they led the meager assembly who had come out in the bad weather in singing them, with Rachel Kenny accompanying on the piano. I learned from Nix that the song "Heavenly Music" doesn’t just contain a message in the words, but also in the music! Each verse, ending with the words "Resounding through the air!," doesn't end on a resolving note. Instead, the way the song ends points toward a future finale with Jesus in Heaven.

By Friday morning, the sun had come out and the road back the William Miller Farm from my hotel looked completely different than it had the previous day. The reds and golds of the trees were now visible. That is, where the storm had not blown the leaves from the trees. Participants could go on a bus tour of early Adventist sites, including the Miller Graveyard, the West Haven Baptist Church, the Fair Haven Baptist Church, a Congregational Church, and the Horace Greeley House; participate in Communion in William Miller's chapel, on the property; or attend seminars on Miller and early Adventism by Dr. Burt or Dr. Jud Lake, professor of homiletics and Adventist studies and director of the Institute for the Study of Ellen White and Adventist Heritage at Southern Adventist University.

Dr. Lake spent some of the time in his seminar going through the main critics of Adventism and the Sanctuary doctrine, listing their books, and then showing the books that best defend this unique Adventist doctrine. He said that the best book on the Sanctuary is A Song for the Sanctuary by Richard M. Davidson, the J. N. Andrews Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University. At one point during the first half of his presentation, Dr. Lake leaned heavily on the pulpit and it nearly tipped forward. Catching himself, he remarked "Woah, that was Ellen White's pulpit, I almost knocked it over." It was indeed Ellen White's pulpit. Later in her life it traveled with her, and it was brought specially to this event.

Dr. Burt talked about how the Three Angels’ Messages should always be used to present the gospel and how the Sabbath has Eschatological (End Time) importance. He went on to say that "The Sabbath itself is not the Seal of God, the Holy Spirit is the Seal of God."

On Friday night, Nix and Burt again presented early Adventist hymns and the stories behind them. Dan Jackson, North American Division President, gave the homily. Since I was working sound, I placed a microphone in the audience so that the recording wouldn't just be them singing solos, but the people saw me placing the mic, and those around it just wouldn't sing! Finally, in frustration, I took the microphone back to the sound desk and sang involuntary duets with Nix and Burt so that in the recording it wouldn't sound like they were just singing solos by themselves! When I got back to my hotel room, I found myself sharing an elevator with General Conference President Ted Wilson and his wife, Nancy. As soon as I got back to my room I quickly changed into my swimsuit and rushed to the pool before it closed. In a hotel full of Adventists on a Friday night, I had the pool all to myself!

Sabbath morning began very cold. I waited until we had to leave to finish getting dressed, as I knew I would be sweltering in my long johns under my dress clothes if I wasn't able to get outside right away. Even though it was only October, I was outside on a Sabbath morning at 7:30 a.m. scraping off the rental car's windshield with a room key so that I could arrive in time to do all the necessary setup at the Miller Farm.

Sabbath school was led by Gerald Klingbeil, associate editor of Adventist Review, and his wife Chantal Klingbeil, an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate. They each told stories about the Lord leading in their lives that went along perfectly with the sermon by Dwain Esmond, former Insight Magazine editor and an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate. Esmond told a story to the packed tent about how a house he was trying to sell was taken over by squatters who trashed it. But miraculously, once they were out, he was able to rent it at twice his mortgage payment! His main point: "When God disappoints, it is always in the service of something great!"

On the short drive to lunch, I spotted the back of a lone robe-wearing protester at the edge of the property holding two large poster "tablets." After having a boxed lunch in the Apple Barn with the rest of the video production crew from Network 7 Media Productions, with student volunteers from Heritage Academy in Monterey Tennessee, I headed back to the main tent, to do a third sound check with Zariah Wilbur, Ambrosee Piresson, and the rest of the musical group. They lead music and provided special music for Friday night and Sabbath services. Zariah Wilbur works at the Pulse Cafe in Hadley, Massachusetts, a 100% plant-based restaurant that took over their location from a restaurant that served fresh Buffalo meat! Everyone in the group sings, but all the members also play instruments: violin, viola, and piano. While this was happening, I unfortunately missed a talk that Ted Wilson gave at Ascension Rock, without amplification.

The afternoon program featured the charismatic Kyle Allen from Adventist World Radio. He talked about projects around the world, including a mass baptism of nearly 18,000 people at one time, and about a doctor in India that can do 30 cataract surgeries per hour! He also told a heart-wrenching story about Kim, a woman who died for her faith in North Korea, and about another woman who liked to listen to Adventist World Radio while gardening. A bar was located right next to her garden, in which the bar-goers could not help but listen to the radio broadcasts loudly coming from her garden. After some time, the bar customers decided that they wanted to hear the sermons and other programming better, so they bought their own radio and listened to it in the bar! After further listening, the bar-goers decided that they needed to stop drinking, so then the bar was just for listening to Adventist World Radio, and was later simply converted into a Church! The program also highlighted many mission projects that people could become involved in.

In addition, leaders of some Adventist Heritage sites spoke in the afternoon, talking about how interest in Adventist Heritage is a great opportunity to witness.

After only a very short break, the final program of the day began, with the headline event, an inspirational sermon by GC President Ted Wilson who spoke without notes for just over an hour during which he reminded us that "everyone has talents that God intends to use." Elder Wilson lamented the need for this anniversary, saying that "I hope we don't have anymore anniversaries at the William Miller Farm!" He wrapped up by asking everyone to "join me in praying for the latter rain of the Holy Spirit" to finish the work that began with the 1844 message.

Participants left excited and encouraged, returning to their homes as far away as Austria and Tasmania. The volunteer food crew very kindly saved plates of food for us that we finally were able to eat after the three hours we spent tearing down the equipment and stage. Video recordings were made of all the programs in the main tent and should be available soon. For more information, contact Christy at Network 7 Media Productions via email at admin@n7mc.org or call 423-855-4877.

Lonny Byrd, a graduate of Southern Adventist University, lives in East Tennessee with his lovely wife and three children. When he is not working as a volunteer Audio Engineer or Musician, he does freelance Software Development.

Image: William Miller Chapel, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9968
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When I first read the title of this article, I immediately had the instinct to laugh. I cannot understand the wish for such a nostalgic event at all. But after reading, I realized that it must have been an important event for the participants, and more, it gave them hope, and encouragement for their spiritual life. Who am I to judge and to laugh? I want to respect that kind of spirituality, the way of my brethren in spite of not identifying with it, in spite of not sharing much of its theology. I want to live out what we Spectrumites always say: unity in diversity. Thank you, Lonny, for sharing your thoughts. It is much appreciated. May God continue to guide you on your further walk!

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I visited the William Miller farm about 10-15 years ago. It was a fascinating throw-back to an earlier time, back during the “second great awakening”. As this disappointment event fades into the background, and the so-called “last days” beginning in 1844 become centuries, Adventists will have to reinvent the meaning of 1844, just as the early church had to reinvent the meaning of “behold I come quickly” as centuries and centuries passed between the ascension and the second coming.

I won’t be around to see what will happen to the SdA church or even Christianity as a whole by the year 2200. I hope to see 2044 (I have better than even chances of living that long), and my children might have a chance at seeing 2094 (they’ll be in their 80s). What will the church do on the 200th or 250th anniversary of the Great Disappointment? At what point will the church admit that nothing happened in 1844? What will the church do to its teachings when this realization is accepted? Will the institution change and adapt, or will members not accepting this teaching simply vote with their feet?

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I don’t know that the church will ever admit that nothing happened. It opens up a big can of worms that would most likely undo the whole thing. I think if anything of substance ever changes, it will be too late, because by then so many people will have voted with their feet, and it won’t matter. Thousands have already done that in the NAD. If a true accounting were done in NA, I think the numbers would be very sobering.

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Almost seems like they’re trying to reinvent history? Ironic that their website continues with a date error.

3 weeks later but still applies…

https://conversation.spectrummagazine.org/t/lounge-open-thread/11538/6817?u=paul62

https://www.adventistheritage.org/ahm-sites/william-miller-farm/175th-anniversary-weekend-program

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It’s all a very strange brew!

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Celebrating a disappointment appears a little bit strange to a Psychologist… I know that a Psychiatrist like our par excellence Dr Cupano* @elmer_cupino would be very worried with the chemical (in)balance in the brain of people presenting with such a behavior, and more, being also so excited about a disappointment. And believing that it is still a source of hope as well? This is disconcerting!

*Elmer, remember that MD many moons ago that insisted in renaming you?.. :rofl: Of course he disappeared quickly; he was leaving on a trip and promised to come back here to continue the discussion. But, of course, we never saw him again. Just another adventurer… :roll_eyes:

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I like what a well-known academic, a Dane, said to me once. 1844 was our Exodus. As the Exodus saw the beginning of the nation Israel, so 1844 saw the beginning of a denomination. Not as grand an event, but certainly something. They just need to work out the true message and not focus on the sentimental trappings.

Gillian, this is interesting. What is, according to your view, the “true message” of this “certainly something”? Not just a mere historical beginning of a denomination, but a prophetic something with a message? I would really appreciate your thoughts.

Well, simply put a focus on the cross of Christ and on the article of righteousness by faith, which transforms the way we interpret prophecy, because Christ is given his right place at the centre of prophecy and history. See Acts 1:7:

6 So when they came together, they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”…

Verse 7 is a rebuke to all date-setting. We made the denomination and ourselves the focus of the end of the world. Pretty heady stuff to be part of the finale. All about us and relatively little about Jesus. We are in charge of world history, and we think that God follows what WE think. I think God goes elsewhere and finds people who listen to HIM.

We were meant to put law in the right place as a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ, and teach its third use in sanctification, a guide exemplified in Christ that is meant to teach us how to live as Christians. The judgment we seek for the future has been ratified at the Cross for those who accept Christ and his doing and dying on our behalf. The pre-advent judgment demonstrates that we have saving faith, but we never achieve absolute perfection in this life, except as we have depend on Christ. The behaviour of our leaders and our own behaviour should be enough to show us this. You cannot understand the gospel unless you see the depths of the law.

Adventists were called to teach the error of future progress and that world would not get better and better, but worse and worse. We brought an emphasis back on law and judgment, the Sabbath, the Second Coming, Also the important of the body temple. And no predestination or hell. But we put Jesus on a back-burner and pushed legalism. And we have a hierarchy like the Roman Catholic Church with fiats coming from the top and threats to excommunicate if people don’t comply. Why doesn’t the main leadership see HOW WRONG THAT IS?

EGW loved Jesus. She focussed more and more on him as she matured. That’s the mark of true Christians surely.

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Your thoughts are interesting: Nothing, not a denomination or something else in Jesus’ kingdom, is about a specific date or should use prophecy for stating a specific date or time period and referring to oneself, but our denomination is nonetheless called by God with a theological focus, just different than the official SDA religion thinks.

I for myself don’t need a special denominational calling of our denomination. I know God is with all Jesus’ followers, denominational, non-denominational, including us. At this moment in my life, this is more than enough for me. He is with us, yay, not because we got something right, but because we profess him that loved us first.

Thank you again for your deep thoughts! I will ponder your ideas. Unfortunately, I gotta go. Blessings!

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Lonny’s article and the discussions so far deliver a lot input to ponder. I’m wondering, do denominations just historically “happen” because of different interpretations of texts, or is God the initiator of those different paths once in a while? Does God deal with separations, or does He initiate them at certain points? Maybe this is part of the mystery of God.

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Kate, do you really need to ask such difficult questions? They are embarrassing to me… because I don´t have an answer… :wink: :innocent:

Well, since we are speculating, what if God actually did not interfere in those processes at all? Possible?

Consider how much human power (and mountains of politicking!) is always behind the decisions taken by the so-called leaders of the Church. For example, our most beloved GC President ordered the TOSC. One may believe that he was guided by God to do that, and apparently there was a lot of praying while deciding to install the meetings. Then TOSC started to work, at a final cost over $1Mi, and apparently there was a lot of praying during all those meetings.

Then…, TOSC did not deliver the results that TW wanted, so after a lot of praying again, he decided very quickly to toss TOSC’s results and, after more praying, that infamous question was (poorly) written and submitted during the SA/2015. More praying after it was rejected, because the maneuver actually backfired and the GC could not seize from the Unions the authority over ordinations - as it has prayed for so intensely and with so much fervor. .

Do you think that there was some praying before the famous sentence was pronounced, about “grave consequences” if a certain Union Constituency voted in favor of WO?

Maybe we also should start praying “a lot?” Or not at all?.. :thinking: :sunglasses:

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You mean like this, right? Yea, I think it’s strange, too.

image

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The day the church admitted this, it will cease to exist! However, the founder of the movement, Wm. Miller made a sad and an honest confession:

"I readily confess I was misled in my calculations; not by the word of God, nor by the established principles of interpretation I adopted, but by the authorities which I have followed in history and chronology, and which have been generally considered worthy of the fullest confidence. And I fear many of you have been blinded to your own interest, which may be of eternal consequences to you, by hasty expressions of full confidence in these authors…I confess I have been thus mistaken as to the definite time. (p. 350). “I have no confidence in any of the new theories [ the sanctuary doctrine] that grew out of that movement, that Christ then came as the Bridegroom, that the door of mercy was closed, that there is no salvation for sinners, that the seventh trumpet then sounded, or that it was a fulfilment of prophecy in any way (p. 333)” (Memoirs of William Miller, pp. 350, 333, 1853, Sylvester Bliss (1814-1863).

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Oh man, this is encouraging. Look at how many potential patients to treat. Elmer will certainly be excited too… I will have to go full-time again… :slight_smile:

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Yes, maybe God doesn’t interfere at all. I don’t need a definite answer, and can stand the suspense and mystery. But I will always allow myself to ask questions.
And lol @ you being embarrassed. The day may never come.

Humm. I wonder how many decades it will take Adventists to accept this? AND how did they get the idea that the Sabbath was God’s seal. I wonder who promoted that idea.

They interpreted the 4th commandment of the Ten in the OT as such. A seal states the ownership and the territory. The 4th states “LORD” (owner) and “heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them” (territory).

But they didn’t notice the beginning of the Ten: “I am the LORD (YHWH) your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” LORD (owner) and YOU (Israel, territory) is mentioned here first, not only in the 4th commandment. It’s a headline for all TEN as the old covenant. So, seal = the 4th C. is actually a wrong interpretation even in the old covenant. And this whole seal mysteriously hidden without using the word is kind of weird anyway.

Plus, a new covenant appeared and clearly says, the Spirit is the seal now. Adventism seems to always forget this.

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There’s this…

"The enemies of God’s law, from the ministers down to the least among them, have a new conception of truth and duty. Too late they see that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is the seal of the living God .
This is from GC pg 640.

The seal of the living God is placed upon those who conscientiously keep the Sabbath of the Lord.–7BC 980 (1897). Those who would have the seal of God in their foreheads must keep the Sabbath of the fourth commandment.–7BC 970 (1899). True observance of the Sabbath is the sign of loyalty to God.–7BC 981 (1899).

There’s probably more.

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