Melvin L. Venden was a widely known Seventh-day Adventist pastor, evangelist, and singer who worked with his brother Daniel for several years during the early part of his career and then with his sons, Louis and Morris, later in his life.
Melvin was born in Trout Lake, Washington, on August 15, 1901, to Nels Olson Venden (1866-1911), an immigrant from Norway, and Christine Knutson Hovrud Venden (1867-1937). Melvin was the sixth of their seven children who survived infancy.1 Following his father’s death in 1911, when Melvin was nine, his mother moved so that her children could be educated in Adventist schools.2 He attended Columbia and Laurelwood academies and Walla Walla College, now University. While in college in the 1920s, he and his brother Daniel were prominent participants in the music program, both singing as soloists and in the Male Glee Club.3
Melvin married Ivy Ruth Blackenburg, a nursing graduate from Loma Linda Medical College, on August 20, 1925,4 and then taught for a year in Salem, Oregon, before returning to WWC to complete his ministerial training.5 He served as president of the Associated Students in his senior year and graduated in 1929.6 Melvin and Ivy would have two sons, Louis and Morris.7
In 1930 the Oregon Conference invited Melvin and his brother Dan to serve as an evangelistic team, initially called “The Venden Brothers, Gospel Singers, Bible Prophecy Lecturers and Evangelists” and later “The Venden Brothers, Gospel Singers and Evangelists.” They held meetings in Oregon, New York City, Philadelphia, and in some of Michigan’s larger cities, moving every year with their families from one city to another, giving a six-month series of meetings, usually in an auditorium, five nights a week, along with weekend church services and radio broadcasts. They took turns speaking and leading the music on alternate nights.8
The Venden brothers were well known in Adventist circles for their success in evangelism as well as their singing. They were chosen as a team to serve as two of the choristers at the 1936 General Conference Session in San Francisco.9 See the ESDA article on Daniel Elvin Venden for more on the Venden brothers’ evangelistic achievements.10
The brothers continued as a team until 1943, when Daniel became pastor of the College View Church in Lincoln, Nebraska, and then president of the Nebraska Conference. They again teamed up for evangelistic work in the late 1940s and from 1950 to 1955 held meetings in California and Arizona, until the time that Daniel became president of the Central California Conference and Melvin became a pastor in California.11
An example of Melvin Venden’s clarity in evangelistic presentations is found in an article by him published in a 1959 Australian Signs of the Times titled “What Would Peter Preach?” Through use of a series of questions, after dealing with the primary one, “Peter, are you the rock on which Christ built His church?” he then proceeded to use verses in I and II Peter to answer several additional questions related to basic doctrinal teachings of Seventh-day Adventists.12
Melvin pastored the Grass Valley, California, church and did evangelistic work with his two sons, Louis and Morris, before retiring in 1968. After several years of being apart the two brothers and their wives lived a block apart in St. Helena, California, until Dan died in 1973. Melvin died 15 years later, on May 12, 1988, at age 86.13 Ivy Ruth remained in St. Helena where she died the following year on December 18, 1989, at age 91.14
“Christine Hovrud Venden obituary.” North Pacific Union Gleaner, September 7, 1937.
“Daniel E. Venden obituary.” ARH, October 25, 1973.
“Elder Melvin Louis Venden.” Napa Valley Register, May 13, 1988.
Ernston, N. C. “Married.” North Pacific Union Gleaner, September 17, 1925.
“Ivy Venden obituary.” Napa Valley Register, December 20, 1989.
“Melvin Louis Venden.” FamilySearch. Accessed April 12, 2022, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/9N9B-ZZT.
“Melvin Louis Venden obituary.” ARH, October 27, 1988.
Simmons, Marion S. “To Ponder . . . .” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1971.
Venden, Melvin L. “What Would Peter Preach?” Signs of the Times (Australian), March 9, 1959.
The Venden Story. Unpublished manuscript in author’s possession, 1975.
“Melvin Louis Venden,” FamilySearch, accessed April 12, 2022, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/9N9B-ZZT.↩
Marion S. Simmons, “To Ponder . . . ,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, April 1971, 3; “Christine Hovrud Venden obituary,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, September 7, 1937, 7.↩
1922 Mountain Ash yearbook; “WWU Archives Digital Photo Collection,” accessed April 12, 2022, https://library.wallawalla.edu/imlib/photos.php?RollID=Bl&FrameID=8873.↩
N.C. Ernston, “Married,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, September 17, 1925, 6.↩
“Venden Papers,” from The Venden Story, unpublished manuscript in author’s possession, 1975, 8.↩
“Walla Walla College,” North Pacific Union Gleaner, October 16, 1928, 4; “Melvin Louis Venden obituary.”↩
“Melvin Louis Venden obituary.”↩
Ibid; “Daniel E. Venden obituary, ARH, October 25, 1973, 23; “Venden Papers,” 8.↩
Carlyle B. Haynes, “Just This and That at the Conference,” ARH, June 8, 1936, 204-205.↩
“Daniel E. Venden obituary.”↩
Melvin L. Venden, “What Would Peter Preach?,” Signs of the Times (Australian), March 9, 1959, 1-2.↩
“Venden Papers,” 8; “Melvin Louis Venden obituary;” “Elder Melvin Louis Venden,” Napa Valley Register, May 13, 1988, 8.↩
“Ivy Venden obituary,” Napa Valley Register, December 20, 1989. 16.↩