In this country, conscientious objectors were generally, but not always, accorded exemption rights by the military authorities. When the United States entered into World War I, a number of Adventist soldiers were subjected to severe trials because of their stand as conscientious objectors. We quote:
"There were times when the very existence of our work was threatened by those who were in military authority, concerning the misunderstandings and false reports sent to government headquarters. The federal department of justice received over ten thousand complaints against us, our published literature, and our work, during the first six months of war.
"Many of our boys had to suffer terrible abuses at the hands of military officers and private soldiers for their loyalty to religious principles. . . . The Sabbath was the greatest test of all for our young men in the army. More than one hundred of our young men were court-martialed for refusing to do military duty on the Sabbath day. Over thirty were sentenced to Fort Leavenworth, as military prisoners, whose sentences ranged from ten to fifty years of imprisonment at hard work.
"Their troubles had just begun when they were sent to Leavenworth. The military prison officials endeavored to compel our young men to work on the Sabbath at ordinary labor crushing stones. Of course, they could no more do this kind of labor in prison than they could do it out of prison in the military camps.
"The prison officials endeavored to coerce them by meting dire punishments upon them. For refusing to work on the Sabbath, they were deprived of their daily rations and given only a few slices of bread and water, and the amount of stone they were to crush was greatly increased per day, and at night they were confined to underground dungeons and strapped on bare hardwood planks for their beds, and exposed to the dampness and the cold. This punishment lasted for two weeks. If they refused to work the second time upon the Sabbath day, they were put upon still smaller rations, and their hands were handcuffed behind their backs around the prison bars of their cells on a level almost with their shoulders, and in this awkward standing position without any relief they were compelled to stand for nine hours each day. Others were confined in dirty dark cells for months where they were unable to stand upright or lie down without being cramped for room." –F. C. Gilbert, Divine Predictions Fulfilled, pp. 397—399.
Appeals were made to Senator W. G. Harding, who later became the 29th President of the United States and, through his assistance, those Adventist military prisoners were released from that inhuman form of punishment and were exempted from Sabbath labor in prison. They were finally released from prison parole.
It is encouraging to know that some faithful Christians, following their personal convictions, decided to obey God rather than men and that they were prepared to suffer even martyrdom for Christ’s sake, if necessary. We have no controversy with these conscientious believers, although we may not agree with them on every point. However, according to evidence included in this book, the reader will see that the official position adopted by the Adventist Church as a church is completely different from the independent stand taken by those serious-minded Adventists as individuals.