Seventh-Day Adventists/1888 controversy


What was the 1888 controversy about and what relevance does it have to us now?

The Battle Creek SDA’s fell into a great debate about the law and the Gospel during the late 19th century.  As a result of this unresolved conflict, the church collapsed, as a great schism took place that almost ruined the Denomination.  Few understand how close the SDA’s came to bankruptcy and total shutdown.

Things were so tense and inhospitable in Battle Creek, that the leaders barely escaped to Takoma Park, where they determined to re-start the collapsing 3rd Angels Message, which featured obedience to the 7th day.  

However, because they were so traumatized by the near collapse of Adventism in Battle Creek, the leaders decided to cover-up what happened in 1888, and spin it into a more positive account.  This debilitating history would become off limits to everyone, and thus the White Estate was developed into a fortress of vaults where Ellen White’s history of 1888 would be hidden from view.

To be fair, the leaders made plans to explain this history and make it public sometime in the future.  Except that day never came, and the church has been promoting a very false history of what happened in Battle Creek ever since.  

Hidden Documents

The White Estate

In fact, when the truth about 1888 was discovered hidden in the SDA Archives and in the White Estate in 1979, the leaders still refused to inform the church about what had taken place and why.  Even though they promised Tom Norris that they would make this amazing discovery public.  They refused to explain that the church had been covering up and misrepresenting the 1888 debate, and they refused to correct the record or make any real changes.

Bill Johnson, the past Review Editor is a very dishonest man.  He too helped suppress the discovery of these 1888 documents, even as he is the one that shut down the AToday Forum that where Tom Norris was telling the truth about 1888 and Glacier View.  

Site History

This means that the SDA’s have been part of a massive publishing fraud for many decades, where they claim to be telling the truth about Ellen White and church history, when in fact that are doing the opposite.   Book after book rolls off the SDA presses, but yet, they are full of myth, propaganda, and deliberate error.  

The SDA’s have not told the truth about 1888, and whenever they get the opportunity to come clean, they never do.  They like living a lie and pretending all is well, when the church is self-destructing much like it did in the late 19th century.

Moreover, Glacier View, in 1980, was a replay of the 1888 debate.  Sadly, it ended the same way, with the leaders dismissing Dr. Ford for daring to tell the truth about the doctrinal development of the church and the IJ.  Just as Waggoner and Ellen White were exiled far away from Battle Creek, so too was Dr. Ford, who was slandered and dismissed for telling the Gospel truth.

Today, the SDA’s are very confused and wrong about most everything, including how they view their own history and that of the Reformation.  They have become experts at error, double-talk, and propaganda, even as they have become arrogant and corrupt, refusing to allow free speech or honest discussion.

Unless and until the Denomination confesses what they have done, and repents for hiding the 1888 debate, and correcting the record for all to see, the SDA’s are doomed.  They will continue to self-destruct.  No amount of Public Relations or propaganda will stop the downward spiral of the SDA’s who are perhaps the most dishonest religious organization around.

As for the meaning of the 1888 debate, here are a few points:

1.  This 19th century period of SDA history explains where the SDA’s went wrong and why.  It also explains why they came to Takoma Park at the turn of the 20th century.  They were retreating from Battle Creek, where their legalistic theology was rejected by most of their members.

2.  By covering up this Gospel debate, future Adventists could not learn from their past mistakes.  Thus they went on to repeat the same tragic errors in 1980 with Dr. Ford and Glacier View, starting another great schism, which is still in progress today.

3.  Ellen White claimed that the 1888 debate was a time when new doctrine would move the church forward to the 4th Angel message.  However, because Uriah Smith and most all the leaders rejected these new Gospel insights, there was no forward progress.  Only debate, division, and schism, as the Denomination went backwards, not forward.

4.  The 1888 period was also a time when the SDA leaders rejected Ellen Whites views and refused her counsel.  As a result, Ellen White threatened to start a new SDA church, even as she contemplated renting out a meeting hall in downtown Battle Creek to hold services to refute Uriah Smiths standard SDA theology.  

Only when the SDA’s repent for what they have done, and truly correct the record, can they ever understand their past so as to correct their present errors.

Only when they understand where they went wrong, and why, can they make the necessary correction to their theology and doctrine of the Three Angels Messages.

Today, the SDA’s are very dishonest, disoriented, and confused.  They do not understand their own doctrinal development correctly, or what Ellen White was really saying about the Law and the Gospel.  But the modern leaders could care less.  They want nothing to do with the 1888 history, or with Glacier View, which was a repeat of the 1888 debacle.   Consequently, they have gone their own way, unable to develop a modern and coherent Gospel message for the 21st century.

Had the Battle Creek SDA’s been open to better understand the Two Covenants and the Gospel, they would have understood that their views about the Sabbath Law and the Gospel were not fully correct and neither were their law based views of eschatology.  

The 1888 Gospel debates hold the key to the recovery and rehabilitation of the SDA’s.  If they continue to refuse to tell the truth about this important history, they are doomed.  Why?  Because this is when they refused to fully embrace the Gospel of Christ.  Unless they repent, correct the record, and embrace the Protestant Gospel, they are doomed, and so too any that support their many errors.

Here are some links about the 1888 Gospel Debates:

1888 General Conference

Jones and Waggoner

Ford and 1888, Jones and Waggoner, etc

Galatians & 1888


Froom on 1888

1888 General Conference

The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials

Ford and 1888, Jones and Waggoner, etc

Galatians & 1888

law and grace

Desmond Ford, SDA Schism

Review and Harold Publishing house fire

What is the correct gospel preached by A T Jones

1888 Message

10 horns in 1888 debate

I trust this answers your questions about 1888.

Tom Norris for All Experts.Com & Adventist Reform

Seventh-Day Adventists

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Tom Norris


I can answer most any question about church history and theology, starting from 1818 when William Miller articulated the 1st Angels Message that became the foundation of the Adventist Movement. While this first prophetic message terminated in the spring of 1844, it was followed by what Adventists refer to as the 2nd Angels Message, which dates from the spring of 1844 until the great disappointment of October 22, 1844. By 1847, the 3rd Angels Message had been developed and this Sabbatarian theology represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Moreover, I can explain the historical and theological development of the SDA denomination from its beginning and on through the great Battle Creek schism that forced the SDA's to retreat to Takoma Park. Here the 20th century church recovered from their internal battles that had erupted at the 1888 General Conference in Minneapolis over the definition of the law and the Gospel. Fearing another repeat of this disaster, President Daniels, determined to hide this debate. However, this policy led to more conflict, especially over the role and authority of Ellen White, a unique and accomplished religious writer that had remarkable spiritual gifts. However, by the decade of the 1970`s, the church once again erupted into debate. The hierarchy settled the turmoil in 1980 with the trial of Dr. Desmond Ford at Glacier View. Here Dr. Ford was exiled because he supposedly disagreed with Ellen White over the Fundamentals. But this controversial action resulted in another major schism that is still in progress today.


Tom Norris was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist in Takoma Park, Md. He attended SDA grade and High schools, moving on to study Adventist theology at Columbia Union College. He also spent significant time conducting independent research in the General Conference Archives and the Ellen G. White Estate. Over the years he has also interviewed a number of prominent Adventist scholars, theologians, and Pastors ranging from the late Arthur White to the exiled Dr. Desmond Ford. In addition, he has amassed a large private library, which includes numerous rare books and manuscripts about Adventist theology and history. He is presently the online editor of Adventist Reform, and can be found at Adventist for Tomorrow answering questions online about SDA theology and history as well as promoting Adventist Reform.

Tom Norris attended SDA grade and High schools, moving on to study Adventist theology at Columbia Union College. He also spent significant time conducting independent research in the General Conference Archives and the Ellen G. White Estate.

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