Would You Become a Seventh-day Adventist Today? Donna Carlson’s Response to Chapter 9 in “Where Are We Headed?” by William G. Johnsson

Would you become an Adventist today if you weren’t already one? Donna Carlson made a presentation to the Roy Branson Legacy Sabbath School (RBLSS) on August 19 about Chapter 9 in Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio by William G. Johnsson which must have caused this question to pop into the minds of quite a few who listened to her.

Listen they did! A doctor and lawyer with an advanced degree in public health who has been one of the class’ most active participants and hostesses of potlucks from the very beginning, she deserved a hearing. She got one and everyone was the better for it.

Her becoming an Adventist was more a matter of choice than chance. For many others of us who would not have been conceived had our parents not met on Adventist campuses, it is the other way around. All Adventists are so because of both choice and chance; however, the relative significance of either in becoming and remaining a member varies from person to person. Although she would not have been an Adventist had she not made this choice, the fact that she encountered Adventists at all was itself very chancy. Or was it?

Her story about how she became an Adventist and, with less emphasis, why she remains one, was the highlight of the morning. Her thinking about these matters differed a bit from some of the things Johnsson said (and did not say) in his chapter, and this made it all the more interesting.

If time as we know it lasts that long, historians of Adventism will note that in our time a number of Adventist leaders emerged who felt called by God to divide and wound the denomination rather than unify and heal it. Most leaders in all kinds of organizations acknowledge the differences among their constituents, compliment them on being persons of intellectual and moral integrity, and invite them nevertheless to work together on behalf of the common cause.

Not them. Almost everywhere they go they choose sides on questions about which we do not have to agree in or to collaborate, and then order all others who see things differently to leave. What a curious way to run things! What management theories say that this is a splendid way to manage internal diversity? How does this fit with biblical analogy of the Church as the body of Christ? How does it relate to the suggestion of Jesus that we go easy on separating the wheat from the weeds lest we kill both? Although these intentionally divisive leaders must have answers to these questions that make sense at least to them, I find it difficult to imagine what they are.

Meanwhile, all over the world millions of Adventists are communicating the Gospel to those who are rich and poor, educated and uneducated, healthy and sick, joyful and despairing, young and old, black and white, male and female, gay and straight, friendless and friend-full. This is why I am an Adventist and this is why I’m not leaving!

It is generous of Adventist Forum to provide RBLSS these opportunities to share some of the good times which we enjoy with old and new friends everywhere. Thank you!

For more information, please visit bransonlegacysabbathschool.com.

WATCH: Donna Carlson on Chapter 9 in "Where Are We Headed" by William G. Johnsson

See also:

William G. Johnsson Explains Why He Wrote Where Are We Headed? Adventism after San Antonio, The Professors Valentine Expand Upon Chapter 1 in "Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio", Laura Alipoon Highlights Adventist Diversity in Chapter 2 of “Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio”, Calvin Thomsen’s Discussion of Chapter 3 in “Where Are We Headed? Adventism after San Antonio” Assails Neo-Calvinism, Carla Gober-Park Expands “the Main Thing” in Chapter 4 of “Where Are We Headed?” by William G. Johnsson, Leo Ranzolin’s Response to Chapter 5 in “Where Are We Headed?” Poses Three Questions and Cites One Poet, Genesis and Geology in Paradox: Ben Clausen’s Response to Chapter 6 in “Where Are We Headed” by William G. Johnsson, Hermeneutical Community and Invisible Remnant? Jerald Whitehouse’s Response to Chapter 7 in “Where Are We Headed?” by William G. Johnsson, and When Should We Use the Bible? Forrest Howe’s Question to Chapter 8 in “Where Are We Headed?” by William G. Johnsson

Dr. David Larson is Professor of Religion at Loma Linda University.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8207

Thank you for making this available. I have relished the entire series and look forward to learning more from the Branson Legacy Class.


Dr. Johnson did us all a favor… Chapter 4 is the heart of his message. Few churches major in in the Main thing. Yes I would worship among Seveth-day Adventists if I lived within 100 miles of LLU. But I live within 140 miles of the Southern Union. Here the final and main thing is “getting ready” as the main thing. Pile it on Little Debbie’s included as the main thing. No Betty and I have found a Pastor akin to Dr. Johnsson schooled in the main thing. We have found it is the message that counts not the day.


I, too, am appreciative of the Adventist experience; and can also list the educational benefits, if only from the classes of a couple of teachers. The more encompassing blessings came from the other students I lived with; and finally, from my husband and his family.

My need at the time was FAMILY, being the only child, and my mom counting down the months, one at a time, before cancer disrupted my cocoon of safety. I couldn’t get enough of the small campus, and the camaraderie it provided in the midst of the rolling hills of New England. But I didn’t sign up for that in the beginning. I was looking for an education, one which my parents never had; but along with that, I was looking for understanding. It wasn’t until I left the campus, that understanding finally crept in. You can never make judgements about yourself staring in the mirror. That’s what Adventism teaches us to do. It takes “examine yourself” to the next degree.

Maybe William Johnsson, having been to the “edge” has a clearer picture than those who dabble in the theoretical. Certitude grows out of fear; and Adventism deals with certitudes. The story that Adventism, itself, deals very much with certitude, - the present TRUTH. Sometimes those truths get tested, up close and personal.

A simple story: My mother-in-law lay in the New England Memorial Hospital (The San) dying, one October. One of her former pastors dropped by and spoke with her, saying things like “Fear not, Jesus is with you.” She, having just come back to consciousness from some “edge”, looked bewildered, and startled everyone by responding, “No He’s not. I saw Him. I thought I died last night.” Adventism is sure this was drug-indiuced confusion - doesn’t fit the Adventist narrative. I’m still looking for understanding. Maybe no church dogma can give me that. Maybe that’s what William Johnson is saying. If that is what we’re looking for, no health messages or water cures can give it to us either. The success of Adventism depends on what one is seeking.


Chapter Four sets the mark for any Christain body. The rest of the book is a lament of how far SA has taken the SDA Church under the leadership of Ted Wilson. The story goes back as far as Ted’s grandfather who lost his bid for the GC presidency. Neal the son said never again. So he set the markers. strong on Ellen White, International experience, be a champion for religious liberty, an aggressive VP. Then the top job. He marked the way for his son. But he did too good a job. Ted took the Reformers path( Without a clue as to the main point --remove the salt shakers should have been hint enough. He is a jot and tittle advocate of Ellen White while assuming dictatorial powers.

The MAin point is left in the dust. How is the time for division leaders to act. Political power still lies in the trenches. Where are we Headed sets the stage for a major correction.


Something that is VERY evident from the panning of the members of the class during discussion time —
The members of this class [not very big in numbers] are very old.
I see no influx of college-age persons, no young adult family age persons.
WHAT will happen to this class as a group when they ALL either die [in the near future], or go to the nursing home?
They are NOT giving ANY Wisdom beyond themselves on these topics and Questions by Pastor Johnson, and probably NOBODY outside of the FEW in that room are even aware of the Book!
No Wonder our SDA under 35 are Ignorant of what is happening in the church.