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The Seventh-day Adventist™ Church

Its history and present status

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History:

The origin of the Seventh-day Adventist church can be traced to the Millerite Movement of the 19th Century. This movement was largely responsible for what has been called the Great second advent awakening.

William Miller (1782-1849) was a farmer who settled in upstate New York after the war of 1812. He was originally a Deist (a person who believes that God created the universe but has not been actively involved since). After two years of private Bible study, Miller converted to Christianity and became a Baptist lay leader. He was convinced that the Bible contained coded information about the end of the world and the Second Coming of Jesus. He also felt an obligation to teach his findings to others. In 1831, he started to preach; the next year, he wrote articles about his findings. In 1833, he published a pamphlet on end-time prophecy. In 1836, his book Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843 was published.

One of the key texts that he interpreted was in the Book of Daniel: Daniel heard two angels talking; one asked how long it will take until the destruction of the Temple is avenged and it is restored to its rightful state. The other replied in Daniel 8:14

"And he said onto me, unto 2,300 days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."

Miller believed that the 2,300 days were each of one year duration and that the interval started in 457 BCE. He concluded that the cleansing of the temple (i.e. the Second Coming) would occur sometime between two spring equinoxes: 1843-MAR-21 to 1844-MAR-21. He found other methods of calculating the end time which also seemed to point to the year 1843 CE.

In common with all other predictions of the Second Coming, before and since, the end didn't happen on cue. Samuel Snow, a follower of Miller, then interpreted the "tarrying time" referred to in Habakkuk 2:3 as equal to 7 months and 10 days, delaying the end time to 1844-OCT-22. That prophecy also did not come to pass. Many believers left the movement in what has become known as The Great Disappointment. Miller himself gradually withdrew from the leadership of the group and died in 1849. His followers called themselves Adventists; the group was often referred to as Millerites by others.

Ellen Harmon (later known by her married name Ellen White) joined with other Adventists, including Joseph Bates, and her husband James White to form a small group of Baptist, Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian believers in Washington NH. The church was formally organized as the Seventh-day Adventist Church on 1863-MAY-21. She believed that the 1844 prediction was correct, but that it referred to the start of an Investigative Judgment. This is a time when Christ will judge the dead and the living on earth for righteousness. She predicted that this would soon be followed by the second coming of Jesus. Late in her career, the church voted her the credentials of an ordained minister. However, she was never actually ordained.

Victor Houteff joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church church in 1919. His beliefs deviated from main-line church doctrine. This became obvious when he wrote his book The Shepherd's Rod in which he outlined errors that he found within the church. He left the church and formed a new sect in 1929 called the Davidian Seventh-day Adventists. This group split further and eventually led to the organization of the the Students of the Seven Seals, popularly known as the Branch Davidians. In 1993, after a violent altercation and a long standoff with the FBI, the Branch Davidian's compound burned down with major loss of life.

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The Seventh-day Adventist Church now:

The church has always taken a special interest in health concerns. They have played a major role in health research into the dangers of smoking and of diets rich in cholesterol and fats. Dr. John Kellog, founder of "Kellogg's" and a major supplier of breakfast cereals was a well known member of the church.

The church promotes plans to help people quit smoking and consuming alcohol. They sponsor cooking classes, heart disease teams, narcotics education outreaches, and disaster teams. There are 155 Seventh-day Adventist hospitals and 276 clinics, dispensaries, etc. in the world. Many congregations have a Dorcas Society which provide food and supplies to the needy.

They currently operate 92 post-secondary institutions, almost 1000 secondary schools and over 4000 elementary schools and kindergartens.

The Seventh-day Adventist church is a strong supporter of the principle of separation of church and state. They also promote religious liberty, and publish a periodical called Liberty devoted to this topic. 1

As of mid-2000, the Church had about 11 million baptized members, worldwide, who are "of age" and on the "official" roles. The total number of members and adherents is perhaps double that. They have a growth rate of about 11% per year. "Adventists can now be found in 205 of the 229 countries and areas of the world recognized by the United Nations, with 91.6% of membership living outside of North America." 2

By the middle of 2004, the total world church membership reached 13,663,497. The Adventist News Network reported that:

"Six of the church's 13 world regions -- Inter-America, South America, East-Central Africa, Southern Africa-Indian Ocean, Southern Asia Pacific and North America -- have memberships of more than 1 million each. The church regions with the largest membership are: Inter-America, with 2.5 million; South America, with 2.3 million; and East-Central Africa with, 2.1 million." 3

By 2007, the church had grown to 15.4 million members. Almost 3,000 people join the church daily. There is about one Seventh-day Adventist for each 429 people worldwide. 4

In 2008-JUL, BiggyTV introduced SDALink, a trust social networking site for the Global Seventh-day Adventist community.

During 2008-JUL-12 and 13, the Seventh-day Adventist sponsored the first Festival of Religious Liberty to be held in the United States. Representatives from more than a dozen religious communities gathered in Honolulu, HI. Mufi Hanneman, the mayor of Honolulu, greeted attendees on JUL-13 and expressed appreciation of the work of the Seventh-day Adventist church in encouraging peace and understanding among people of different faiths. PARL, the Seventh-day Adventist's Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department organizes similar festivals in countries around the world. 5

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. A one year subscription of six issues of Liberty magazine can be purcased for US $7.95 at: https://www.reviewandherald.com/
  2. "Adventist Church growing at record pace," Adventist News Network. 2000-JUL.
  3. Mark A. Kellner, "Annual Council: 13.6 Million Are Adventist Members; 2,756 Baptized Daily," Adventist News Network, 2004-OCT, at: http://news.adventist.org/ This may be a temporary listing.
  4. Elizabeth Lechleeitner, "Church reports largest membership growth rate since 2002 audit," Adventist News Network', 2007-OCT-14, at: http://news.adventist.org/
  5.  Megan Brauner, "Religious liberty celebrated in Honolulu Hawaii hosts first religious freedom festival in United States," Adventist News Network, 2008-JUL-24, at: http://news.adventist.org/

Copyright © 1997 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-OCT-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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