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Arthur Grosvenor Daniells.

Photo courtesy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives.

Daniells, Arthur Grosvenor (1858–1936)

By Benjamin McArthur


Benjamin McArthur (1951-2017) taught American history at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, from 1979 to 2017, except for a three-year period from 2009 to 2012 during which he served as academic dean of Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas. He was both a highly-respected teacher and an accomplished scholar whose publications included The Man Who Was Rip Van Winkle: Joseph Jefferson and Nineteenth-Century American Theatre (Yale University Press, 2007) and A.G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth-Century Adventism (Pacific Press, 2015).

First Published: January 29, 2020

Arthur Grosvenor Daniells, the longest-serving president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, made a profound and lasting impact on the church through his energetic leadership.

Early Life

A. G. Daniells was born September 28, 1858, in West Union, Iowa, to Thomas Grosvenor Daniells (1805–1863), a native of Vermont, and Mary McQuillan Daniells (1835–1921), who came to Iowa from Illinois. Although Arthur reported his father to be a physician, the U.S. Census in 1860 credited him as a stonemason.1 It is possible that a man skilled with cutting tools could also have served as a frontier surgeon. Thomas Daniells was part of a unique unit in the Union army during the Civil War. The Graybeards were an Iowa regiment composed of men over forty-five years of age. Unfortunately, Thomas fell victim to one of the wasting diseases so common in camp life.2 His death threw the family into straitened circumstances, to the point where Mary had to place Arthur and his younger twin siblings, Jesse and Charles, in an orphanage. Mary’s marriage to local farmer Rememberence Lippincott in 1867 returned the children to a home setting, though Arthur never fully warmed to his hard-driving stepfather.3

Mary came to Adventism through the efforts of lay evangelist Dan Shireman around the time of Thomas’s death. Arthur was baptized at age ten by Iowa Conference president George I. Butler. He seems to have embraced Adventism with a fervor from the start, recalling decades later his first camp meeting and the attendance of James and Ellen White.4 But early small-town Adventism, apart from camp meetings and quarterly meetings, was a generally isolated endeavor, where church members rarely had a local pastor to nurture their spiritual growth.

At age sixteen Arthur left home to see the broader world of northeastern Iowa. Rooming with a local physician, he attended a normal school in preparation for a career in teaching. But the next fall he took the more ambitious step of traveling to Battle Creek, Michigan, where the denomination had recently opened its first college. The young school still struggled with its finances and educational identity. Nonetheless, Daniells threw himself into his studies with typical energy. As it turned out, this would be his only year of college. While doing farm work back in Iowa the next summer he suffered a heat stroke. His return to Battle Creek the next fall was short-lived. Illness caused him to return home, and his formal education ended.5

If his schooling ended prematurely, Daniells had nurtured one friendship that endured for the rest of his life. Mary Ellen Hoyt (1854–1944), Canadian born but now also from West Union, cut short her education to attend to her ailing beau. They decided to marry in 1876. Arthur was eighteen; Mary twenty-two. His tender age at marriage was unusual for that day, but he was unusually serious-minded and mature for his age. They set up housekeeping in Iowa, where Arthur sold Adventist books while Mary taught grade school. He soon joined his wife as a teacher.6

Daniells might have settled into a career in education had not his wife encouraged him toward the ministry. He seems also to have had a “Damascus Road” experience while walking to school one day, which persuaded him that evangelism was the path for him.7 That path would prove winding, however, for his persistent stammer caused church leaders to doubt his fitness. Daniells got a chance to prove himself in Texas in 1878 as tent master for evangelist R. M. Kilgore. Small-town evangelism in the Texas summer was an ordeal, especially keeping the big tent in repair as relentless winds belabored it. His efforts at public speaking remained painful, but both Mary and Kilgore tutored him. Daniells would ultimately become a serviceable if not outstanding preacher.8

During the Daniells’s short sojourn in Texas they also had a notable interaction with James and Ellen White. They were tasked in the fall with assisting the Whites: Mary served as cook while Arthur aided the ailing James in whatever he needed (which included, famously, rounding up James’s mules that had escaped from their corral). The friendship struck up here between Ellen and the Daniellses would grow during their Australia years and even later proved essential to Arthur’s work as General Conference president.9

The Daniellses returned to Iowa upon the invitation of George I. Butler, now to enter the ministry in a state whose booming growth was matched by a thriving Adventist membership. To be a minister in that age meant evangelism more than pastoral work. Arthur mounted multi-week efforts across the state. In Correctionville, Iowa, for example, he and Mary “preached forty-seven sermons, sold $15.27 worth of books, and obtained one yearly and fifty monthly subscriptions for the Signs.”10 They labored successfully, and apparently could have been content in the America field. But in 1886 they received a call to cross the Pacific and take up the recently opened New Zealand Adventist work. After prayerful consideration they accepted. His departure to the mission field set Daniells on a course that would lead him both to the General Conference presidency and to a powerful commitment to foreign missions.

Years Abroad

Adventism had been brought to New Zealand by Stephen Haskell in 1885. When the Daniellses arrived in mid-fall 1886, they found their way to the first family of New Zealand Adventism, the Hares. Father and sons, Joseph, Edward, and Robert proved a great help to Daniells and the church’s work generally. Arthur wasted no time in mounting evangelistic meetings under a tent. Auckland, Napier, Kaeo, Wellington–all on the North Island–witnessed efforts. Work on the South Island was slower and more difficult. As was true with most early Adventist overseas mission efforts, work went first to the colonial Europeans before being presented to the indigenous people. Daniells presented a mix of Bible doctrine and prophetic interpretation. But he showed himself willing to interject cutting-edge findings on health, evidence of the influence John Harvey Kellogg was beginning to exert on the church. He also showed a willingness to engage in doctrinal debate with local clergymen.

The Daniellses spent four and a half years in New Zealand. Not all went smoothly. People seemed easier to baptize than to retain (an effect of the denomination’s failure to yet understand the importance of congregational nurture). And near the end of their stay Mary alienated some of the new members by her unpleasantness toward some young women. But when they headed to Australia in 1891 they left behind a New Zealand Adventist church that was well established.11

In Australia the couple encountered a colony not only larger but further down the path toward urbanization and national independence (within the British Commonwealth). But the Adventist church numbered only five hundred, and Sydney’s church a modest thirty. Per his custom, Daniells immediately mounted a tent series. But he quickly learned Australians didn’t take to tent meetings. “The people are too English,” he later concluded.12 But he persevered, with more meetings in Ballarat, then settling in at Melbourne, the conference headquarters. The Australian church received a boost later in 1891 when Ellen White (now widowed) and son Willie arrived in Sydney. She immediately delivered a pointed testimony to conference leaders calling for revival. At the same session Daniells found himself elected conference president. His promotion came at the urging of Ellen White, who was not endorsing him as an administrative genius but simply as the best choice among few good options.13

Thus began A. G. Daniells’s apprenticeship in administration. If talented, he was still rough around the edges and easily discouraged. He complained to Ellen White that members “can’t truly repent of sin. They do not die to self.”14 White sought to lift his spirits—and make him less judgmental. “Let there be no reason for complaint that you are severe, and thus discouraging souls.”15 His outlook brightened when his long-standing facial pain was found to be caused by two bad teeth, the extraction of which brought great relief.16

The administrative matters he handled were similar to what he would face upon assuming General Conference leadership in 1901. Adventist Church growth rested on the twin pillars of literature and public-meeting evangelism. The Echo Publishing Company was the thriving Australian equivalent of Battle Creek’s Review and Herald. It faced the same issues as the Review: how to limit secular printing work while still paying the bills; and how to minimize reliance on non-church-member pressmen. Daniells championed religious liberty efforts that paralleled those led by A. T. Jones in America. There was also the dispiriting impact of the worldwide economic depression in 1893 on already tight church finances. More heartening were the camp meetings—an effort to organize, but gratifying in terms resulting in membership growth.17

The capstone of Daniells’s organizational adeptness was the founding of the Avondale School for Christian Workers. The Whites had come to Australia in part to help found a school. But such an undertaking strapped both the church’s financial and human resources. Ellen White was influential in siting the school, and William Warren Prescott, newly arrived from America in 1896, helped with the educational vision. Thus, in April 1897 the school opened.18

Three friendships cemented in Australia would prove crucial to Daniells’s future career. Prescott became a theological mentor and advisor when they were back in the United States. Willie White likewise became a confidant and an intermediary with his mother. And Ellen White became Arthur’s counselor, prod, and champion. Their respective sojourns in Australia overlapped nearly completely. When Daniells (having been away from America for fourteen years) left Australia in the spring of 1900, the Whites departed just a few months later. Mary Daniells and their four-year-old adopted son Grosvenor traveled east across the Pacific. Arthur went the opposite direction. He left assuming they would return to Australia after a much-needed furlough at home and attendance at the 1901 General Conference session. He did not realize how much his administrative competence had been noticed by others, and how, when denominational leaders cast about for a new president, favorable eyes would fall on him.

Daniells returned stateside via South Africa. He was to advise Adventist leaders there on their struggling finances, and he sought to salvage for the Australian church the financial support of Adventism’s first philanthropic family, the Wesselses. Diamonds had been discovered on Johannes Wessels’s farm, and sale to the De Beers company made the family wealthy. Grandson John Wessels moved for a time to Australia, where he became a benefactor of the church. But he sailed home to South Africa with Daniells, concerned that his investment in the struggling Claremont Sanitarium in Cape Town was endangered. Daniells used the two-week sail across the Indian Ocean to attempt to persuade Wessels to maintain his support of the Australian efforts. It would be to no effect.19 Daniells would learn, as did later leaders, that wealthy benefactors frequently gave support on their own terms.

General Conference Leader

From South Africa it was on to Europe, where Daniells made a tour of Adventist administrative meetings and institutions in Germany, Scandinavia, and England. Daniells, whose administrative stock was clearly on the rise, served as a consultant to European leaders. Not until late September 1900 did he finally board a ship to cross the North Atlantic. He arrived in New York City and, with bags unpacked, attended a contentious session of the Atlantic Conference. In the following months, before the spring 1901 General Conference session convened, he traveled the country, taking the pulse of the American Adventist church. He also shared with Ellen White his impressions of what needed to be accomplished administratively. Daniells had seemingly returned to America marked for leadership. This contributed to rumors that swirled about even before the fateful General Conference session that Daniells would replace George Irwin as president.20

The denomination at the turn of the century was experiencing both significant growth, though still a movement of just 78,000, and administrative and financial disarray. An array of quasi-independent organizational entities had multiplied to promote publishing, literature distribution, health, religious liberty, education, and foreign missions. Overlap and waste abounded. The sense that the church was at a crossroads of needed reform was widespread. For it to continue its rate of growth, internationally as well as in America, a more coherent structure and forceful leadership would be needed. Thus, when the fateful 1901 General Conference session convened on April 2 in Battle Creek, virtually all delegates shared a sense that something important was in store.

The auspiciousness of the occasion was enhanced by Ellen White, who had come east for the session. The night before meetings officially convened, she addressed a group of church notables in the college library, telling them the time for change was long overdue. Not just structures, but leaders themselves needed replacing. Primed by the prophet, the 216 delegates accepted Daniells’s motion to suspend normal rules and appoint an ad hoc committee to draft a new church organization. Unsurprisingly, Daniells was also named as chair for this group.

Reform took two primary forms. First (borrowing from the Australian organizational example), union conferences would be formed, intermediate between the General Conference and local conferences. These would serve to decentralize authority and presumably make decision making more responsive to local needs. Second (and somewhat contrarily), most of the independent associations overseeing temperance, religious liberty, tract work, and Sabbath schools would be abolished and made departments of the General Conference and of local conferences. An enlarged General Conference Committee would wield more oversight than before. Thus, there was both a decentralizing and a centralizing thrust to the famous reorganization of 1901.21

Daniells clearly benefited from Ellen White’s endorsement and from a more general sense that reform was in the air. But his contribution to the change cannot be minimized. He orchestrated the complex array of committee reports and met consequent objections with the legerdemain that marked him as an exceptional leader. And when it came time to choose the new church leader (technically the chair of the General Conference Committee, since the office of president had been abolished), there was little question about who that would be. With an irony that would soon become apparent, John Harvey Kellogg moved Daniells’s name, seconded by Alonzo T. Jones.22

The streamlined organizational form and the choice of a leader who epitomized rationalized approaches to decision making signified a shift in the Adventist Church from the culture of its founders—and ultimately—from reliance on the charismatic presence of Ellen White. The General Conference of 1901 established an organizational structure that, with modifications, has endured and served the church well for more than a century.

Arthur G. Daniells assumed leadership in full stride. Scarcely were the full session meetings over before he undertook a year of unrelieved travel and meetings. Organizational reform remained theoretical until implemented. Daniells had to travel the country to explain and help implement the changes in local conference meetings and at camp meetings (the two often overlapped). The endless travel served to re-familiarize Daniells with the American church, and conversely, to acquaint church members with their new leader. Daniells suffered some disillusionment with the caliber of people he encountered in the ministry and in conference leadership. The seeds were planted for his later initiatives in ministerial professional development. He also identified his coterie of confidantes. In addition to Willie White and Prescott (close since Australian days), he added William A. Spicer, who, as General Conference secretary, was frequently at Daniells’s side. He also had to deal with the acute and intransigent problem of church finances. Not only did the General Conference lack the funds to cover workers’ salaries, but also a number of its educational and medical institutions were burdened by debt. An indefatigable worker, Daniells strove to meet every obligation. He continued the already begun relief of the schools” campaign, in which Ellen White donated proceeds from her Christ’s Object Lessons to reducing institutional indebtedness.23

Troubles in Battle Creek

Daniells did not have to venture outside Battle Creek to find challenges. Early in his leadership he faced difficulties with the church’s oldest publishing house, the Review and Herald. This had become a large endeavor, indeed one of the largest printing establishments in the state of Michigan. In the nineteenth century, publishing rather than medicine was the right arm of the Adventist gospel. And yet sales had flattened in the late 1890s—far below what they had been. With economic good times having returned to the nation, Daniells saw no reason why sales should not pick up. To energize the book sales work he turned to Edwin R. Palmer, another of his former Australian colleagues. Palmer, a major figure in the history of Adventist literature work, energized the state tract societies, beginning in Michigan. More vexing was the culture of religious apathy that seemed to permeate the printing establishment itself. Many non-Adventist printers had been hired, and significant commercial work was done to keep the presses busy. Daniells addressed this problem directly, seeking spiritual revival with prayer meetings for the workers, but also making personnel changes in management.24

Daniells also had to mediate aggressive trade practices between the Review and Herald and its West coast competitor, Pacific Press. Although in theory the two presses divided up the national market in a cartel arrangement, both looked for competitive advantages. Handling these issues was complicated by Ellen White’s strong interest in the publishing work and her clear preference for Pacific Press. When controversial decisions on publishing came up, Daniells (as well as other church leaders) sought to get the prophet on their side. Perhaps the most vexing publishing issue Daniells confronted concerned the young and still struggling Southern Publishing house. Daniells and other General Conference leaders thought the press was bleeding too much red ink, draining church finances. But decisive action was impeded by the press’s being operated by Edson White, son of the prophet. Ellen White’s concern for Southern Publishing’s survival was clear and so, understandably though unstated, was her support for her sometimes wayward son’s ventures for the church’s southern work. In the fall of 1902 Daniells led a contingent of leaders to St. Helena to present the matter to Ellen White. She reluctantly agreed to the press’s closure. Daniells was ecstatic. But then, several days later, she contacted Daniells and told him she had erred in agreeing to the closure. The Lord had instructed otherwise. Daniells was distressed but compliant. Southern Publishing remained opened and would soon thrive. For Daniells, the incident was instructive. God’s ways could be mysterious, but confidence in his prophet’s admonitions ultimately proved the best.25

Daniells’s first two years in office presented even more consequential challenges. On February 18, 1902, a fire swept through the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Ten months later, the Review and Herald publishing building also burnt to the ground. Immediately the question arose among devout Adventists: Were these providential signs from God for an exodus from Battle Creek? John Harvey Kellogg thought not; he would rebuild larger than ever on the site. But Daniells, who was away from Battle Creek during the sanitarium fire, took his cue from Ellen White, who strongly counseled for a move. In truth, booming but parochial Battle Creek seemed no longer suitable for a world church. A more auspicious headquarters address was desired. Thus Daniells headed a search for a new denominational home. New York City was the early favorite, but Washington, D.C., soon took center stage. Attractive property at a reasonable price was found at Takoma Park on the northeast border of the District. Daniells was ultimately persuaded that the city offered his church the prestige that only the nation’s capital could provide. But the exit from Battle Creek was complicated by difficulties in closing down the Review and Herald Association. Certain stockholders effectively held the proceedings hostage until Daniells agreed to a large payout. Unhappy that the cash-strapped General Conference was forced into this corner, the pragmatic Daniells did what had to be done to get a new Review organized. Hardly less daunting to Daniells was having to appear before a gathering at the Dime Tabernacle in Battle Creek and tell local Adventists that the time had come for an institutional move. He was gratified that most of his hearers accepted leadership’s judgment.26

The actual move to Washington occurred in August 1903. But that spring Daniells presided over his first General Conference session. Held at Oakland, California, it proved to be a contentious one. Two matters stirred controversy. One was a proposal to reinstate the office of president of the General Conference. The other regarded church leaders’ determination to rein in the church’s medical establishment under the direction of John Harvey Kellogg.

Technically, A. G. Daniells was simply chair of the General Conference Executive Committee after the 1901 reorganization. Yet in all but name he served as a president, even signing legal documents as such. So who would object to what might be seen a minor adjustment in the church constitution? A clutch of Adventist eminences did: Alonzo T. Jones, Ellet J. Waggoner, Percy T. Magan, and David Paulson. Jones advocated a congregational church polity. Waggoner believed in a New Testament model of equality of all believers; church hierarchy was to be avoided. But Willie White and Daniells countered with pragmatic arguments for reviving the office of president. Ellen White, though present at the GC session and a frequent critic of “kingly” presidential power, refused to support either position. By a comfortable margin, delegates approved the change. The denomination’s march toward bureaucratization continued.27

Even more contentious that April in Oakland—and more significant for the future of the Adventist church—was Daniells’s confrontation with John Harvey Kellogg. Problems actually arose in 1902 following the Battle Creek Sanitarium fire. Where to rebuild and on what scale provoked immediate and conflicting responses. Given the mountain of debt the denomination was then chipping away at, Daniells would not countenance new indebtedness for Kellogg’s ambitious plans. Further, Kellogg had his eye on land in England for a new sanitarium, to be financed, of course, by the church. Heated arguments between the two men started in the summer of 1902. They would continue for two years. The disputes were institutional but also personal. In a sociological sense, Adventism’s emerging medical establishment was chafing against efforts by church officials to limit their autonomy or growth. But those disputes might have been managed had not their leader been one so visionary, so adamant in pursuing his vision, so manipulative, and so willing to be dismissive of those who stood in his way. Daniells, neither as brilliant nor as charismatic as Kellogg, made up for this disadvantage through hard work, effective mobilization of support, and utter belief in the rightness of his “no debt” position.28

Theology came into play as well. Kellogg’s initial plan for helping finance sanitarium rebuilding involved his new manuscript, The Living Temple. With the weight of the church’s revived literature evangelism forces behind it, thousands of copies could be sold. At the same time, his gospel of health would be promoted. But his manuscript’s language was redolent with the sort of loose, “God in nature, God in all of us” allusions so common in religious writings of the time. Scholars disagree over the extent to which The Living Temple is properly characterized as pantheistic. In any event, W. W. Prescott persuaded Daniells that the manuscript needed revision. The troubled publication history of the volume was underway.29

Battle lines became clearly drawn at the Fall Council meetings of 1902. Kellogg complained to whomever would listen that his plans for expansion of the medical work were severely constrained by Daniells’s no-debt policy. Daniells sought to be conciliatory. But he stood firm on the proposition that building must proceed on a cash basis. He was emboldened in his policy by the seemingly iron-clad endorsement of Ellen White. Daniells displayed his administrator’s skill in building a coalition of church leaders against Kellogg. “The time has come for members of the General Conference Committee to take a definite stand,” he wrote to a colleague.30 But as the spring 1903 General Conference session approached, Daniells was distressed that Ellen White seemed to be changing sides. Following Kellogg’s appeal, she now wrote Daniells that a sanitarium in Britain was a priority. There was talk that the “medical party” was set to remove Daniells from leadership. Of course that would not happen—indeed, he was elected to the restored office of the presidency. But what would become of the Battle Creek Sanitarium and the International Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association (IMMBA), which had survived the 1901 reorganization as a stand-alone entity? Another round or recriminations followed at Oakland. Kellogg spared no sarcasm in characterizing church leadership’s efforts to assume control of the medical work as a form of populist radicalism. Why should ministers who know nothing of the profession be in charge of the work? Daniells sought to reassure him that control would stay in the hands of the medical experts. But Kellogg would have none of it, understanding that ownership would ultimately mean control.31

A pattern began to emerge in late 1902. Hard positions were taken, followed by contentious debate. Kellogg would profess contrition and promise changes in The Living Temple, only to continue his belligerent march weeks later. Ellen White would initially support church administration in the struggle, only to temper her position when appealed to by Kellogg. Her chief desire was church unity, but she was frustrated in that desire by having both sides utilize her words as clubs on their behalf. This exhausting pattern continued at the 1903 Oakland meetings and on into 1904. The Daniells-Kellogg altercation was the bitterest leadership dispute the Adventist Church has known. It ended with the dissolution of the IMMBA. Although Kellogg kept his Battle Creek Sanitarium, he would soon leave Adventism.32 Kellogg may have left, but prominent figures in the Kellogg camp remained (notably David Paulson and Percy Magan). Further, Daniells’s commitment to medical ministry remained strong. In a few years, Loma Linda’s medical school would be founded.

Negotiating the Color Line

Most of Daniells’s early challenges came in Battle Creek. But he soon discovered that other parts of America presented their own challenges if the Adventist message were to go forward. Notably, he had to face the impermeable color line that then bisected America. Daniells, a child of the nineteenth-century American Midwest, had few experiences with people of color. During his time in Australia and New Zealand he moved primarily among people of British ancestry. But in 1901 he began taking the measure of “the colored work” during a swing through the South. Work in that part of the country proceeded on a segregated basis, this on the advice of Edson White and others directly laboring in the region. Daniells quickly came to the same conclusion. In 1896, the same year as the Supreme Court issued its “separate but equal” ruling, the Adventist church founded in Huntsville, Alabama, a training school for black students that would in time become Oakwood University. Daniells was pleased by what he saw of the school and pledged ongoing General Conference support for the financially struggling school.33

Outside the South, early efforts among African-Americans centered on Washington, D.C. Washington was home to a large and educated black population. But in 1901, when attendance at Adventist evangelistic meetings was racially mixed, the shadow of prejudice loomed. Daniells’s desire to establish a strong Adventist presence in the nation’s capital trumped any inclination to challenge the nation’s color line. As he advocated in an important policy statement in 1902, “colored people [should be] working for their race, and the white ministers and people working for their race, and of having separate meetings wherever it seemed best.”34

The man Daniells chose to head up the black work in Washington was Lewis C. Sheafe, one of the most charismatic and controversial figures in Adventist history.35 Sheafe hailed from the North and came to Adventism from a Baptist background. Energetic, independent, and already a pastor (albeit from another denomination), he appeared to possess the qualities Daniells desired. After the 1901 General Conference, Sheafe continued evangelizing in the South, but soon the president of the newly formed Southern Union Conference asked his reassignment elsewhere. The early twentieth century was not a time when strong-willed black leaders would find welcome in the South. Daniells accepted this verdict. “The time in which we live, and the message we have to give demand that we shall not waste our time in squabbles over the color question.”36 Daniells’s views reflected a denomination whose commitment to social reform was thin—and certainly would not override its priority on evangelism.

Sheafe’s setback in the South, however, opened the door for his move to Washington. Daniells envisioned that Sheafe would oversee the colored work in the District, and communicated this to the preacher in no uncertain terms. But a complicating factor existed in that the Adventist church in Washington (the only one at that time) was bi-racial. Could segregation be effected peacefully? As it turned out, no. The Washington church hosted an unusually educated congregation, both black and white, one which sought to forward the march of integration. A portion of the white membership left to form a new church (the Memorial church), but a mixed-race group remained, and under Sheafe’s dynamic leadership even thrived. These difficult matters were occurring right at the time the decision was being made to move church headquarters to Washington. The General Conference offered financial support to a new white church in the District, a fact that upset Sheafe’s congregation (the racially integrated First church) when no support came its way.

A schism was in the making, and the break came a few years later when it became clear that the new medical and educational institutions in Washington were to be segregated. Members at Sheafe’s new, predominantly black congregation, the People’s Church, petitioned to have the doors open to them—and threatened withholding tithes if changes were not forthcoming. Daniells came to the church to appeal for unity. But failing either to match the financial aid given the white Memorial church or to promise an end to segregation in local Adventist health and education, he had little to offer beyond exhortation. By early 1907 Sheafe turned in his credentials and his People’s Church left denominational affiliation (though not Adventist doctrine).

Two things about this outcome particularly concerned Daniells, beyond the loss of a highly talented preacher. Would the split augur an early decline to black evangelism generally? And would this apparent victory for congregationalism inspire more movements in that direction? The answer to the first quickly proved to be no. New black preachers were identified and proved loyal. And at the 1909 General Conference a North American Negro Department was organized to facilitate evangelism. The second issue, incipient congregationalism, was likewise quelled but not without concerted effort. Jones and Waggoner were, in the early years of the century, propounding an anti-organization variety of congregationalism, which found some resonance among Adventists unhappy with trends in the church. Various disaffected leaders advocated a less centralized church polity. Finally, in 1907, Daniells addressed the challenge head-on with a fifteen-part series entitled “Organization” that ran from January 31 through May 16 in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. In it he recounted the essential role of organization throughout the denomination’s history. Unity prevailed, and Daniells never again (at least not in North America) had to face this particular heterodoxy.

The difficult and seemingly unending procession of administrative challenges wearied Daniells. But he never tired of what he viewed as his central task: promoting the Seventh-day Adventist message around the world. Adventist world missions dated back to the 1870s, and many nations had already been entered by 1901. But without question A. G. Daniells presided over one of the great ages of foreign missions in church history. The average number of missionaries leaving the United States for posts abroad increased five-fold between 1901 and 1920. The following year, 1921, the number of Adventists living outside America for the first time exceeded the home country. Daniells’s administrative team shared his mission enthusiasm, particularly William A. Spicer, his General Conference secretary.37

Into All the World

Arthur G. Daniells, of course, had extensive mission experience. He also had made extended stops in South Africa, England, and continental Europe on his return to the United States in 1900. But now he had to become familiar with an even wider-ranging world field. He did this in part through extensive correspondence with missionaries around the world. Issues came to him that constituted a cultural education. What, for example, should be the African churches’ position on polygamous marriage? He also familiarized himself through a routine of overseas travel—overwhelmingly to Europe in his early years of office. His first trans-Atlantic journey came in 1902, where at the London Conference he huddled with the largest group of European workers yet assembled. He then, after a visit to Ireland, made a broad swath across western and central Europe, meeting with leaders, members, and inspecting the meager sprinkling of Adventist institutions. Daniells had confidence in the European leader, Louis R. Conradi, and enjoyed a long working relationship with him. But Daniells’s relationship with less developed parts of the world field remained second-hand until well into his tenure, relying on correspondence with missionaries. Among them was Dr. Harry Miller, who entered China in 1903, and with whom Daniells maintained active epistolary relationship.

Daniells’s enthusiasm for missions led him to decry the financial and human resources being used in America. “I have a great horror of having the work in America occupy the whole attention and resources” of the church, Daniells wrote Conradi, who had implored him for more help with the European work.38 Daniells asked local conferences to both encourage young people to consider mission service and devote a larger portion of their tithe income to the overseas field. He was convinced that a prospering America meant that church members could afford a more generous tithe. Daniells made these appeals at the 1905 General Conference session in Takoma Park, where world-wide missions were on display. He also determined to send General Conference officials around the world to help organize the work.39 Results were seen, particularly in South America and the Caribbean, where organized Adventist mission work began in the first decade of the twentieth century.40 In sum, Daniells oversaw the most ambitious and successful mission effort in Adventist history to that point.

Seeking Growth in North America

But challenges in the homeland were always waiting. In the closing years of the first decade of the century, issues of sluggish membership growth, doctrinal controversy, and—more happily—a resurgent commitment to health reform and medical education occupied Daniells’s attention.

A census of denominational well-being in 1910 would have found a world church growing nicely but a North American membership with disturbingly modest increases. Despite that, the number of church workers grew by some 1,400 during the decade. A stagnant membership found itself having to support a booming ministerial and administrative force. A sect was becoming a denomination. A. G. Daniells presided over a bureaucratization of the church. He understood that increasing administrative overhead required either membership growth or increased giving. He wanted both. He attempted the latter by hectoring members to be more faithful in tithes and generous in offerings. But how to stimulate growth?

Ellen White believed the answer was increased emphasis on urban evangelism. From 1905 forward she had been urging Daniells to lead more intensive evangelistic efforts in the cities. Daniells did not disagree, but other priorities always kept him from taking up the charge. And turn-of-the-century cities posed challenges of multi-ethnic immigration. The church had to identify and prepare workers from the diversity of the melting-pot. New York City held a special place in White’s affections, symbolizing as it did the new urban order. As the years passed, White grew increasingly impatient with what she saw as dithering on Daniells’s part. Finally, in June 1910, working through son Willie, she sent a message to Daniells that got his attention. “If Eld. Daniells is not so changed that he can recognize clearly the special movings of the Spirit of God, let him step aside and let another take the responsibility who will be impressed with the spiritual necessities of the church.”41

“At first I felt almost overwhelmed with perplexity and discouragement,” a shaken Daniells responded.42 Nonetheless, after counseling with colleagues at headquarters, he decided to suspend his administrative duties and oversee evangelistic efforts in New York. The experience, though lacking dramatic baptismal results, transformed him. From that point forward Daniells gave more attention to ways to reach America’s cities.43 And his relationship with Ellen White healed, never to be breached again.

Early twentieth-century growth in church workers was matched—indeed spurred—by institutional proliferation. Union conferences, local conferences, and missions sprang up, and all needed administrators. Also opening in that era were schools on all grade levels, publishing houses, and health institutions of various kinds. Given Daniells’s unhappy experience with Kellogg’s medical establishment, one might expect that he was chary of ambitious institution building in that domain. It is true that he moved cautiously through the decade because of the acute financial distress in his early years. But in the big picture, he whole-heartedly supported the medical work, including the founding of a new medical school. In part this enthusiasm followed Ellen White’s renewed emphasis on the health message. But it also stemmed from his recognition that the medical work opens doors in the mission field in special ways. Daniells seemed to enjoy few things more than helping place physicians in faraway fields. He also basked in the local prominence of the new Washington Sanitarium. And he saw promise in a fledgling sanitarium in Orlando, Florida.44

Founding a New Medical School

But the question persisted: With the denomination’s reluctance to send students to Kellogg’s American Medical Missionary College, how would new physicians be trained? One possibility was to sponsor individuals at existing state or private medical schools, as done briefly at George Washington University. But a more satisfactory answer was sought. Thus, with Ellen White’s endorsement and A. G. Daniells serving as point man, the General Conference Committee in 1908 set up a committee to study the surest route to medical education. The following year, with Loma Linda Sanitarium chosen as the preferred site, an application was made to the state of California for a charter. The issue of financial support was difficult and crucial; Daniells made it known that the General Conference could not foot the bill. Ultimately, a unique formula of union conference and General Conference support was devised to solve the problem. By the fall of 1910, medical instruction began at the College of Medical Evangelists (later Loma Linda University).

An early crisis struck when the American Medical Association implemented its new ratings for medical schools. CME’s “C” rating threatened a quick death unless facilities could be improved. At White’s urging, the portentous and costly decision was made to spend what it might take to make the institution fully accredited. Despite concerns by some church leaders that the school was becoming a money pit, Daniells stood firm in his determination to support needed upgrades. He was more convinced than ever that medical missions was a key to the spread of the gospel. His convictions were called upon in 1913 and again in 1915, both occasions when matters of accreditation and finances brought jeopardy. Daniells again found himself facing pushback from other church leaders about the medical school. Might it not, some asked at the 1913 General Conference session, simply provide the first two years of medical training, enough for mission work, after which those who desired could transfer to a full-fledged medical institution? Preserving the larger vision required Daniells to display his gifts of forceful leadership. He had in his pocket Ellen White’s statement that CME was to be “of the highest order.”45 But he did not leave it at that, organizing a line of supporters to testify.

Then in 1915, when the situation was perhaps the most dire, Autumn Council was held at Loma Linda. Daniells had called upon old nemesis Percy Magan to move west and help lead the medical school. Magan made an appeal to church leaders. But Daniells, who by Magan’s testimony carried the day, delivered an impassioned address. “If I do not say my mind I will be a coward and unworthy of your confidence. . . . We can build up this school. We can do anything God wants us to do.”46 Leadership went all in. CME would get the financial support it needed and the highest accreditation would be pursued (an “A” rating acquired in 1922). Further, a full clinical hospital would be built in Los Angeles, with funds to be raised from private sources. The medical school never looked back.

Passing of the Prophet

This triumph for Daniells and medical work within Adventism also owed something to a melancholy occurrence. On July 16, 1915, Ellen White died. The Fall Council, convening just a few months later, could have pulled the plug on her final institutional contribution only with great difficulty. And the decision to name the new hospital the Ellen G. White Memorial Hospital spurred fund-raising efforts. But her death of course had ramifications far beyond Loma Linda. The Adventist Church had never been without a prophet, nor had Daniells been without a counselor and a prod. Daniells’s immediate task was to reassure the people that all would be well. At the Battle Creek Church memorial service (there had been two previous ones on the west coast) he stressed how all of White’s teachings were biblically grounded; there was nothing cultish about Adventism. Further, she had advocated “broad, progressive views” on health and education. The occasion of White’s funeral, for Daniells (and to the entire church through the pages of the Review), was to remind members of the continued meaning of Adventism.47

Would a prophet arise to lead the church? Church leaders could not rule out the possibility. The book of Joel promised such things in the last days. And closer to home, the Latter-Day Saints denomination had its unending procession of prophets (though Adventists would not countenance their validity). Daniells heard from two women who claimed the gift of prophecy following White’s death. An Austrian pretender, Clara Resch, could be easily dismissed. But in 1916, Margaret Rowen, from Los Angeles, proved to be a formidable aspirant to the prophetic mantle. Her prophecies and purported healings won the loyalty of some southern California members. Her claim was serious enough that Daniells met with her. But odd details of personal life, quirky predictions, and some unorthodox theological positions raised flags. Daniells commissioned what was probably the most thorough investigation of an individual ever done by the church. The Margaret Rowen story became even more bizarre with attempts at document forgery. In the end, Daniells had an easy call; Rowen was not the new prophet.48 Nor would one arise through the remainder of the twentieth century. Daniells and the rest of the church would have to rely on White’s writings for counsel rather than a living prophet.

But what to do with an extensive body of unpublished writings of Ellen White? Ought these to be made available widely, perhaps in compilations? This was an important matter for Daniells to deal with in the years after her death. He worked closely with Willie White in the establishment of the Ellen G. White Estate.

Visiting the World Church

Although there were always issues aplenty in North America to occupy Arthur Daniells’s attention, he longed to see the world field. Journeys across the Atlantic were almost routine: he made eleven inspections of the church in Europe during his first eleven years in office. Planned trips to the relatively new Latin American field were frustrated by serious illness (indeed, Daniells would not get to South America until after he left the presidency). But he would not be derailed from undertaking an ambitious, nearly year-long trip to Australia and Asia in 1914. On June 3 Mary and Arthur left San Francisco. They went first to Fiji, then New Zealand, for an emotional return to the place where their missionary careers began. From there they went to Australia to visit the church he had labored for throughout the 1890s but had not seen since 1900. They spent three months in the country, visiting friends and charting Adventism’s progress there. But during their stay, war intruded. The Great War (later styled World War I) had immediate impact on Daniells’s itinerary into Asia. His plans to head directly to China were altered by German naval activity in the western Pacific. Instead, the Daniellses sailed to India, encountering British troop transport ships on the way. They traveled the length and width of the subcontinent, evaluating the modest progress Adventism was making. From there they traveled to Burma, where efforts were even more difficult. The next stop was Singapore, where the Daniellses arrived just after a massive mutiny by Indian troops there. At every stop, he held meetings with local church officials. Next came the Philippines, where church growth was considerably greater in the land with its Christian background and increasing levels of literacy. But Japan, experiencing rapid modernization, and Korea, still economically backward and now occupied by Japan, presented more difficulties to evangelism. In the midst of his East Asian tours, he made two excursions into China, first to Hong Kong, Canton, and South China, then in his second tour to the middle regions, with meetings at Hankow.49

At the end of his long tour Daniells expressed a desire to stay abroad in mission work. The human contact of evangelism appealed to him so much more than endless committees. But he realized administration was his lot. Someone had to organize the worldwide mission effort. And, in typical Daniells fashion, during his travels he grew excited over the prospect of organizing a mega-Asiatic division upon returning home. He did get back to Asia a second time in late fall 1916 through spring 1917, this time confining himself to East Asia.50

World War I Evangelism

The second decade of the twentieth century reversed the lagging membership growth trend of the first. There are probably multiple reasons for this, but high among them must certainly be the First World War. Adventism’s prophetic scenario accorded the Ottoman Empire an important place as “King of the North.” The Great War would be the occasion for a mortal blow to the beast. Turkey would lose its European possessions and be forced to move its capital to Jerusalem (anticipating Armageddon). Daniells, always a great student of history, threw himself into this study once he returned from his first Asian tour. He authored a long Review series and several small booklets on the “Eastern Question.”

More important, he undertook in 1916 the most important evangelistic efforts of his career. He began in Portland, Maine—a bow, perhaps, to Ellen White. No one could have anticipated the enthusiasm Portlanders would show. The municipal auditorium was filled with 1,800 people. He returned in February to a reception as he had never known. The local fire marshal had to shut the doors to some. Adventist churches across America pleaded with Daniells to bring his lecture to their town. He could not accept them all, but the first half of 1916 was largely devoted to prophetic evangelism. Medium-sized towns and large cities in the East and upper Midwest received his insights. The Adventist Church enjoyed a boost for its biblical explanation for the war.51 Alas, however, history failed to cooperate. Turkey would not be driven completely out of Europe; nor would it move its capital to Jerusalem (the British occupied it). Daniells displayed only modest concern about the failure of his central contentions. In his final book on the subject, Daniells asserted that “the Turkish capital will eventually be planted in Jerusalem.”52

The Post-War Church

The 1918 General Conference session held in San Francisco saw an important organizational change, which in a sense brought closure to reforms begun in 1901. More specifically, an important organization change in 1913 that established divisional conferences now came under scrutiny. The divisional conference idea had been first promoted by L. R. Conradi. Daniells was skeptical at first, concerned about worldwide church unity under such an arrangement. But the groundswell for the reform, including a new North American division conference, soon won his enthusiastic endorsement. What changed five years later? The very thing Daniells feared. With North America controlling more of its decisions—and funds—the General Conference’s ability to readily dip into the pockets of Adventism’s most prosperous region was compromised. But even more fundamentally, there was concern that division conferences supported by their own constituencies might vote to leave the worldwide church. “It will be recognized by all as retracing our steps a bit,” Daniells admitted, but five years’ experience resulted in “great complications thrown upon us.”53 Divisions would return to being administrative units of the General Conference, with North America held even more closely than the others. The Adventist Church now had the structure that would carry it through the remainder of the century. For Daniells, the sine qua non of any administrative structure must be its ability to maintain the unity of the worldwide church.

As leaders took stock of the Adventist Church at the end of World War I, they had to be pleased. Membership had grown impressively, even in war-torn Germany. Prospects continued to look good into 1919. A surge of tithes and offerings promised to enhance mission efforts, though compromised by high inflation. If the apocalyptic meaning of the war failed to materialize, at least the anticipated new Wilsonian age of international harmony could further facilitate spreading the Advent gospel. “Never in its long, eventful history has the church of God stood face to face with a more definite and divinely appointed mission than it does today,” Daniells proclaimed to his church.54

1919 Bible Conference

The palpable sense of new possibilities emboldened Daniells to undertake a project long on his mind, a conference of educators who would examine Adventism’s historical position on prophecy and—though not formally on the agenda—the nature of inspiration. The 1919 Bible Conference was an unusually bold move for a church administrator, and indeed, Daniells would later pay a price. The original idea for such a conference came from Review editor Francis Wilcox in 1913, stimulated no doubt by the debate of “the daily.” Much heat was stimulated in Adventist circles over how to interpret Daniel 8:11–13, a point, ultimately, of little consequence. Prescott revised the traditional view of Uriah Smith, linking it to Christ’s work in the sanctuary. Prescott persuaded Daniells of this interpretation, which the latter championed. This took courage on Daniells’s part, since staunch traditionalists pointed out that the young Ellen White had endorsed Smith’s view and were prepared to die on this hill. The resultant kerfuffle exemplified the tendency for theological issues to ultimately become Ellen White inspiration issues. The matter was never formally resolved (Prescott’s view gradually carried the day). But the incident, along with some resistance to the revision of The Great Controversy in 1911, convinced Daniells that a candid discussion of biblical interpretation was badly needed.

The three-week conference in July 1919 was populated by a carefully chosen collection of publication editors, religion and history faculty, and General Conference Committee members. The closed-door nature of the meetings devoted to discussion of belief inevitably led to suspicions among some laity. The heart of the agenda was consideration of key scriptural prophecies. Prepared papers were read and commented upon. General discussions were held. Time was made available in the afternoon for research in the Washington Missionary College library. Daniells, who felt his lack of formal education but who nonetheless valued the process of scholarship, structured exactly the sort of scholarly endeavor he dreamed of. Nothing on this scale had been seen before in Adventism. The moment had arrived, Daniells believed, for open-minded investigation. “Fifteen years ago we could not have talked what we are talking here today,” he told attendees. “It would not have been safe.”55 A transcribing secretary took verbatim notes of the proceedings, except for those moments when Daniells told him to stop, whether because of heated debate, matters too controversial for recording, or simply to allow for a more frank discussion. Nonetheless, most discussion was preserved and reveals a leadership capable of candid doctrinal self-examination.

Uriah Smith’s interpretations continued to take revisionist hits. Distinctions between what should be taken literally or symbolically in the book of Daniel aroused discussion. Through it all, Daniells was an active participant, insisting on being present when any controversial matter was discussed. He admitted to having held mistaken views and promised a mind open to change.

Most vexing to all participants: what was the authority of Ellen White’s writings in matters of history? Historical errors in The Great Controversy seemed irrefutable, as the 1911 revision conceded. But how to convey this to the public without undermining essential confidence in her?

And how to do so in the face of implacable opposition by Adventist traditionalists? Daniells was caught in a bind. He had witnessed the preparation of The Desire of Ages in Australia and understood the role of her assistant. Early in his only formal presentation on “the Spirit of Prophecy” Daniells asked the stenographer to cease recording, leaving historians tantalized by what he said. But during a post-session with just the religion and history teachers left, his rambling comments were caught. He testified that through his many years of leadership he had heard every charge against White that could be imagined. He came through these trials with his confidence unabated. But he could not condone the notion that her writings were infallible or verbally inspired. Perhaps thinking himself a modern Luther, he proclaimed, “That is not honest and it is not Christian, and so I take my stand there.”56

But how should the Bible conference’s discussions be transmitted to the broader church? A lively discussion among participants came to no conclusion, except that the potential for division existed if transcripts were made readily available. Ultimately, the decision was Daniells’s. For all of his brave talk during the sessions, he faltered. The transcripts were filed away, not to be rediscovered for decades. This was perhaps Daniells’s greatest failure as leader. Rather than leading his church toward a much-needed re-examination of their prophet’s writings, he allowed the church during the 1920s to turn down the path of fundamentalism.

End of Presidency

A. G. Daniells had been re-elected president at every General Conference session since 1901. With the exception of 1903, these were largely routine matters. Occasionally Daniells hinted that the subsequent election would be his last. But he always proved ready for another term. His administrative talents were recognized by all, so keeping him at the head of the table was easy. But as 1922 and the next General Conference in San Francisco approached, it became clear that many church leaders felt the time for change had come. Part of this was unavoidable, the result of a leader who over the years had often to say “no,” whose strong leadership style stepped on some toes. He was confronting the backside of the inevitable trajectory of leadership. But there were specific criticisms Daniells faced as well. These concerned his attitude toward Ellen White. A decade or more of confidential remarks regarding the human aspects of inspiration, his staunch support of Prescott, and his sponsorship of the 1919 Bible Conference kindled suspicions from traditionalists. Accusations at Washington Missionary College in 1919 that history teachers were teaching variant prophetic views, and Daniells’s intervention to save their jobs, fueled further criticism.57 The same year witnessed the death of heretic nonpareil Dudley C. Canright, accompanied by the release of his broadside Life of Mrs. E. G. White. In short, a sense that old landmarks were under attack formed the backdrop to the 1922 session.

It would take a couple of activists, however, to capture the disquiet and focus it directly on the presiding General Conference president. Erstwhile Daniells friends Judson S. Washburn and Claude Holmes were the instigators. Their unswerving commitment to the Adventist prophetic landmarks and to the notion of Ellen White’s infallibility caused them to suspect Daniells. Washburn purported to see the “Startling Omega” (apostasy) in statements of some high officials. Washburn and Holmes shared their suspicions—or rather, accusations—through open letters to church leaders. Daniells sought to conciliate Washburn in late 1921, yet his level of disgust was so great that his long letter inevitably became a scold. The breech remained. Thus, as delegates gathered in San Francisco’s auditorium in May it was apparent to all that Daniells’s reelection was in doubt. Although he had much support from the General Conference Executive Committee, the Nominating Committee displayed a preference for change.

The politicking was open and sometimes contentious. Veterans said they had seen nothing like it. William A. Spicer emerged as the favorite, but he refused to have his name officially put in nomination if it implied a rebuke to his friend Daniells. In the midst of the wrangling Daniells did the honorable thing: he removed his name from consideration. That obstacle gone, Spicer quickly gained election. Daniells was not unceremoniously dumped; he was elected to Spicer’s position of General Conference Secretary.58 Still, the fact remained that he was not allowed to exit on his own terms. Perhaps had Daniells felt himself less essential and given more thought to presidential succession, the unpleasantries of 1922 could have been avoided.

Post-Presidency Contributions

A. G. Daniells lived another thirteen years. These were highly productive years, in terms of organizational contribution, writing, and personal spiritual growth. Although he took Spicer’s position he never actually did Spicer’s laborious chore of keeping up with the world church. The hire of new secretaries reduced the correspondence load at the top. Instead, Daniells became what later would be styled a general field secretary.59 He continued to travel extensively, especially on the west coast of the U.S., visiting congregations and church administrators and taking stock of progress. He and Mary developed a great love of motoring, and their long road trips were apparently therapeutic. They made one more official visit to Australia in 1928, a highly gratifying fourteen months of speaking and consultation. Then in 1930 he finally got to South America. He held a series of workers’ institutes from Brazil to Uruguay and Argentina, on the east to Chile and Peru on the Pacific coast.60

One of Daniells’s greatest burdens throughout his presidency was to improve the caliber of the ministry. To that end various initiatives had been made. But the big step came at the 1922 General Conference when the Ministerial Commission (later Ministerial Association) was created. Under Daniells’s leadership it became an outstanding resource for the Adventist ministry, particularly with the appearance of its journal Ministry in 1928. Daniells was aided in this endeavor by one of the church’s bright young men: LeRoy Froom. Indeed, Froom would become Daniells’s protégé during the last decade of his life. Through the 1920s the Ministerial Association occupied Daniells more than any other endeavor.61 Only on moving to California in 1931 did he lay aside its responsibilities.

Nearly as close to Daniells’s heart was the work of the White Estate. While General Conference president, he had helped to set it up after Ellen White’s death in 1915, and he continued to chair the board for the remainder of his life. Complexities abounded, with several versions of her will and a combination of assets and debt to contend with. But the biggest issue was the philosophical one of whether the large body of unpublished writings should serve as the basis for future compilations. Daniells joined the majority on the board in believing they should not. He understood better than most the nature of the editorial process in preparing books while she lived. Now, to compile works from letters, diary, and other private sources and to do so without benefit of her counsel seemed unwise. The differences between estate director Willie White and Daniells on this matter threatened to cause a rift between them. Through the 1920s only previously published articles were made into compilations. But Willie White’s position eventually prevailed, and Daniells, for reasons not clear, eventually got on board with making the full corpus of her writings available.62

One last institutional duty occupied Daniells after his 1931 move to southern California, where son Grosvenor had settled as a physician. He became chair of the College of Medical Evangelists Board of Trustees. The medical school appreciated the administrative experience he brought to the job, and General Conference leaders liked having one of their own at the center of decision making at the school. The Great Depression was heading toward its nadir, so Daniells’s task was far from routine. Could the school survive the hard times? Under Daniells and Percy Magan’s leadership it both survived and thrived. Ambitious building projects were undertaken at both the Loma Linda and White Memorial Hospital campuses. These included new churches, built on the insistence of Daniells that more be done for the spiritual nurture of the students. Also, an innovative work-study program helped students pay for their education.63

Other than his work with the Ministerial Association, Daniells found his greatest satisfaction after 1922 as an author. He produced two books which became classics of the Adventist library: Christ Our Righteousness (1926) and The Abiding Gift of Prophecy (1935). Their production displayed another, more scholarly side to Daniells, which had necessarily remained subordinated to his administrative duties.

Christ Our Righteousness was a product of Daniells’s own spiritual revival after he left office. He had occasionally fretted that the demands of office came at a cost of attending to his own spiritual needs. With a (marginally) more relaxed life, he could correct this. Moreover, he was concerned that the 1888 righteousness-by-faith message had not had sufficient impact on the church and needed reinforcing. The advisory board of the Ministerial Association commissioned Daniells to compile Ellen White’s writings on righteousness by faith. Much of the volume is composed of these. But Daniells also provided much exposition on the doctrine and the history surrounding the storied 1888 Minneapolis conference. His description of the controversy was admirably candid, especially for an administrator to pen (he had to be persuaded to tone down some language that might be thought too critical of church organization). Daniells occupied the high ground and cast contemporary Adventism squarely on the side of justification by faith. Yet as he surely knew, the tensions within the church over law and gospel would continue for decades.

The Abiding Gift of Prophecy was an even more ambitious and ultimately more controversial project. It originated in Daniells’s request to the General Conference Committee in 1930 that a comprehensive book be prepared on the nature of the Spirit of Prophecy. Consciously or not, this final life project of Daniells’s was certainly driven by his determination to ensure that no one would question his support of Ellen White’s ministry. Church leaders granted his request, freed him from other duties, and sought research help for him. This was to be a work of serious research, the scale of which he had never before attempted, The book’s opening section reviewed the meaning of prophecy in the Old Testament, followed by a short treatment of the Apostolic age. The controversial sections, though, dealt with God’s prophetic activity through the Middle Ages, and then the role of Ellen White in the remnant church. Daniells was making revision on the manuscript until literally the day before his death, March 22, 1935. He died concerned about the preservation of his manuscript as he wrote it.64 He had good reason for concern.

Certain individuals on the General Conference Committee had reservations about aspects of Daniells’s argument. The thesis of The Abiding Gift of Prophecy is that God has provided prophetic guidance for His people in most ages, not excluding the centuries of papal domination. “The evidence supporting this view appears substantial,” he confidently asserted.65 Daniells and his research assistants had scoured secular histories and uncovered many claims to the prophetic gift and recognition of that gift by contemporaries. But some on the reading committee found his criteria for identifying a prophet unsatisfactory. Even more disturbing, Daniells’s claim ran counter to decades of Adventist teaching that God had withdrawn His favor from the Roman Catholic Church. There were also some lesser concerns about the extensive treatment (about one-third of the volume) given to Ellen White’s exhibition of the gift in the Adventist Church. Daniells recounted stories from his experiences with White (which almost certainly became the most popular sections of the book) regarding—to name a few—the founding of Avondale School in Australia, the founding of Loma Linda University, and the confrontation with Kellogg. Daniells’s narrative was filled with admiration for Ellen White’s guidance. No one, he surely felt, could question his devotion to the prophet. And yet there was grumbling that resurrecting the Kellogg fracas could only stir up hard feelings, particularly as many individuals involved were still living.66 Despite serious reservations being raised by influential churchmen, Daniells’s original draft survived remarkably intact. This was in part a testimony to the effective editorial advocacy of LeRoy Froom and in part to the stock of goodwill he had built up among his peers over the decades. In the end, Daniells had produced a book that stands as a classic in Adventist literature.67

Daniells’s passing in 1935 was duly noted with several memorial services, in Takoma Park, Battle Creek, and Glendale, California, where he was interred. He had served his church for nearly fifty-seven years, twenty-one as General Conference president. After fifteen years of mission experience, he entered the presidency as part of the notable reorganization of 1901 and 1903, with continued fine tuning thereafter. Indeed, he implemented that reorganization, bringing to Adventism the structural form it would know for a century. He helped the church make the transition to life without a prophet, and he showed that loss of its charismatic medical figure, John Harvey Kellogg, did not have to mean loss of commitment to medical missionary work. Most notably, perhaps, he put foreign mission outreach at the core of church endeavor. There would be no doubt about Seventh-day Adventism’s becoming a world church. He accomplished these things with much help, of course, but his strong, effective leadership was essential. Daniells never became trapped by the quotidian details of committees, personnel appointments, or budgets. His clear sense of purpose—the spreading of the Adventist understanding of the gospel—guided his every decision.


Campbell, Michael W., “The 1919 Bible Conference and Its Significance for Seventh-day Adventist History and Theology.” PhD diss., Andrews University, 2008.

Daniells, A. G. The Abiding Gift of Prophecy. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1935.

———. Christ Our Righteousness. Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald, 1926.

———. Arthur G. Daniells to Brethren and Sisters. General Conference Archives, May 16, 1904.

———. “My Mother’s Death.” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, February 23, 1922.

———. “The Removal to Washington.” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, August 11 and August 20, 1903.

———. The World War. Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1917.

Daniells, Mary. “Story of Early Life.” General Conference Archives, n.d.

Dick, Everett. “Arthur G. Daniells, Organizer,” Youth’s Instructor, October 24, 1944.

Goldstone, Ross. “New Zealand,” in Seventh-day Adventists in the South Pacific, 1885-1995. Warburton, Australia: Signs Publishing, n.d.

Griggs, Frederick. “Mary Ellen Daniells obituary.” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, April 20, 1944.

Hook, Milton R. “The Inter-Relationship Between A. G. Daniells and E. G. White During Their Years in Australia,” in Seventh-day Adventists in the South Pacific, 1885-1995. Warburton, Australia: Signs Publishing, n.d.

Kuhn, May Cole. Leader of Men: The Life of Arthur G. Daniells. Takoma Park: Review and Herald, 1946.

Magan, P. T. “Life Sketch of Arthur Grosvenor Daniells,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, April 18, 1935.

McArthur, Benjamin. A. G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth-Century Adventism. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2016.

Moon, Jerry. W. C. White and Ellen G. White: The Relationship Between the Prophet and Her Son. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Seminary Doctoral Dissertation Series, vol. 19, 1993.

Oliver, Barry. SDA Organizational Structure: Past, Present and Future. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1989.

Robertson, John J. A. G. Daniells: The Making of a General Conference President, 1901. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1977.

Schwarz, Richard William. “John Harvey Kellogg: American Health Reformer.” PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1969.

Valentine, Gilbert. “A. G. Daniells as Evangelist and Administrator and the Development of Conference Organization in Australia, 1886-1901.” Paper presented to South Pacific Division Centennial Symposium on Adventist History, Monash University, Melbourne, October 23, 1985.

———. The Prophet and the Presidents. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2011.

———. W. W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2005.

White, Arthur L. Ellen G. White: Vol. 4, The Australian Years 1891-1900. Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1983.


       1. 1960 United States Census, Fayette County, Iowa; A. G. Daniells, “My Mother’s Death,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, February 23, 1922.

       2. Guy E. Logan, Roster and Record of Iowa Soldiers, War of the Rebellion, Vol. 5, IAGenWeb Project,

       3. Everett N. Dick, “Arthur G. Daniells, Organizer,” Youth’s Instructor, October 24, 1944, 4.

       4. Benjamin McArthur, A. G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth-Century Adventism (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2015), 20.

       5. Ibid., 22–23.

       6. Ibid., 24–25.

       7. Mary Daniells, “Story of the Early Life of A. G. Daniells,” n.d., General Conference Archives; May Cole Kuhn, Leader of Men: The Life of Arthur G. Daniells
           (Takoma Park, MD: Review and Herald, 1946), 29–30.

      8. McArthur, A. G. Daniells, 26–27.

      9. Ibid., 28–30.

    10. A. G. Daniells and H. P. Holser, “Iowa,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, September 11, 1883, 588.

    11. McArthur, A. G. Daniells, 41–50.

    12. A. G. Daniells to O. A. Olsen, letter, May 14, 1893, General Conference Archives.

    13. McArthur, A. G. Daniells, 51–52.

    14. A. G. Daniells to E. G. White, letter, December 30, 1892, Center for Adventist Research.

    15. E. G. White to A. G. Daniells, letter, January 30, 1893, Center for Adventist Research.

    16. McArthur, A. G. Daniells, 54–55.

    17. Ibid., 55–50, 66–68.

    18.Ibid., 68–72.

    19. Ibid, 82-83

    20. Gilbert Valentine, The Prophet and the Presidents (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2011), 180–190.

    21. Barry David Oliver, SDA Organizational Structure: Past, Present and Future (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1989), 170–176; George R. Knight,
         Organizing for Mission and Growth (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2006), 108–109.

    22. General Conference Committee Minutes, April 18, 1901, 1.

    23. McArthur, 115–125.

    24. Ibid., 142–146.

    25. Ibid., 146–151.

    26. Ibid., 153–154, 157–162.

    27. Ibid., 174–178, 180–183.

    28. Richard W. Schwarz and Floyd Greenleaf, Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2000), 265–268.

    29. Richard William Schwarz, “John Harvey Kellogg: American Health Reformer” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1969), 386–391; Gilbert Valentine,
          W. W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2005), 171–185.

    30. A. G. Daniells to H. W. Cottrell, letter, August 25, 1902, General Conference Presidential Letterbooks.

    31. General Conference Bulletin, April 6, 1903, 73–81.

    32. Schwarz and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 268–272.

    33. McArthur, A. G. Daniells, 220.

    34. A. G. Daniells to H. W. Cottrell, letter, January 21, 1902, General Conference Archives. See also A. G. Daniells to W. C. White, letter, July 21, 1901, Ellen G. White Estate.

    35. The remainder of this section draws on Douglas Morgan, Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2010).

    36. A. G. Daniells to H. W. Cottrell, letter, January 21, 1902.

    37. Schwarz and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 273, 274.

    38. A. G. Daniells to L. R. Conradi, letter, January 17, 1904, General Conference Archives.

    39. A. G. Daniells, “The President’s Address,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 11, 1905, 8–10.

    40. Schwarz and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 219, 220, 283, 284; Floyd Greenleaf, The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Latin America and the Caribbean
 (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1992), 1:12–13.

    41. W. C. White to A. G. Daniells, letter, June 20, 1910, Ellen G. White Estate incoming correspondence.

    42. A. G. Daniells to W. C. White, letter, July 4, 1910, Ellen G. White Estate incoming correspondence.

    43. McArthur, A. G. Daniells, 326, 327.

    44. Ibid., 312–315.

    45. General Conference Bulletin, May 30, 1913, 195.

    46. Ken McFarland, The Impossible Dream: Railway to the Moon, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda University Medical Center
          (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2005), 38–41; Schwarz and Greenleaf, Light Bearers, 287.

    47. “Life Sketch of Sister E. G. White by Elder A. G. Daniells,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, August 8, 1915, 4–8.

    48. Larry White, “Margaret W. Rowen, Prophetess of Reform and Doom,” Adventist Heritage 6, no. 1 (Summer 1979): 28–40.

    49. McArthur, A. G. Daniells, 346–358.

    50. Ibid., 359, 360.

    51. Ibid., 362–367.

    52. A. G. Daniells, A World in Perplexity (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1918), 98.

    53. General Conference Bulletin, April 3, 1918, 39.

    54. A. G. Daniells, “The Present World Situation and Its Call to the Church of Christ,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, January 2, 1919, 3.

    55. “Report of Bible Conference,” August 1, 1919, 1256, General Conference Archives.

    56. “Report of Bible Conference,” August 1, 1919, 1231–34, 1241..

    57. McArthur, 399–400.

    58. General Conference Bulletin, May 24, 1922, 228; “Adventists in Acrid Debate Change Leader,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 23, 1922, 9.

    59. E. R. Palmer, “Intimate Glimpses of the Conference,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, June 8, 1922, 32.

    60. McArthur, A. G. Daniells, 425–428.

    61. Ibid., 422–425.

    62. Paul McGraw and Gilbert Valentine, “Legacy,” in Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet, ed. Terrie Dopp Aamodt, Gary Land, and Ronald L. Numbers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 305–321.

    63. McArthur, A. G. Daniells, 432–435.

    64. C. H. Watson to A. G. Daniells, letter, March 22, 1935, General Conference Archives.

    65. A. G. Daniells, The Abiding Gift of Prophecy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1935), 175, 176.

    66. A. O. Tait to L. E. Froom, letter, April 15, 1935, General Conference Archives.

    67. McArthur, A. G. Daniells, 445–447.


McArthur, Benjamin. "Daniells, Arthur Grosvenor (1858–1936)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed April 18, 2024.

McArthur, Benjamin. "Daniells, Arthur Grosvenor (1858–1936)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access April 18, 2024,

McArthur, Benjamin (2020, January 29). Daniells, Arthur Grosvenor (1858–1936). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved April 18, 2024,