The Great Crisis
In Great Britain
the United States
do not know how many conscientious objectors there were in Great
Britain when World War I broke out. But there were some. One earnest
Adventist, when called to take up his gun, stated that he could
fight!" said the officer. "What do you mean by that?"
The soldier explained his position in a few brief words.
it means death to refuse service in the face of the enemy!"
said the commanding officer.
expected that it would," said the reservist.
you will be shot," said the officer. "I can do nothing
else than order you shot."
said the young man, "I know that is your military duty. I
expected as much when I came. But as I see Christ as my example,
I cannot bear arms."
officer hesitated for a moment while the battle was raging. Then
he made arrangements for the young brother to serve as a noncombatant,
according to his religious conscience. We are only narrating what
happened. Of course, not everything he did was according to our
stand as a Movement.
one year or more, the young man was sent back for reassignment.
Being assigned to drive the ammunition trucks, once more his conscience
brought him into difficulty when he stated to his commanding officer
that he could not do that.
drive the ammunition to the front! What do you mean?"
soldier again explained his convictions.
you will be court-martialed at once."
he replied, "but I cannot do that kind of work."
after he had shown unflinching courage to stand for his conviction
and take the consequences was he given an alternative duty. (Condensed
from the book Providences of the Great War.)
young man told his experience as follows:
was alone among some 900 desperate men on the docks, with armed
guards on every hand. During the morning the governor appeared
on his rounds and sent for me.
are to work with this party till 6 p.m., he said, with
none of this Sabbath nonsense we had from you last week.
me, sir, I said, but I must follow my convictions,
though I have no desire to be troublesome.
the officer barked out, Look here! If these men see you
refusing to work at sunset and they mutiny, you will be held responsible,
and you will be liable to be shot. . . . Youll be taught
not to mutiny today. Back to work."
the midst of his desperate struggle, when that soldier began to
falter inwardly, he felt encouraged at the thought that he was
not going through those trials alone. He knew that eleven other
Adventist brethren were in the same furnace of affliction. Constant
prayer was his main source of strength.
the black and lonely Friday was coming to a close, he said to
a senior guard, "Im sorry, but I can work no longer
today." Instantly several guards grabbed him and dragged
him behind some sacks of oats out of sight of the other prisoners,
where they mistreated him. Then they chained him and thrust him
into a small cell.
officer came to me," he continued, "and said in a somewhat
companions have all come to their senses and are quietly working
now. Im sorry you are so misguided as to bring this punishment
on yourself. Why not change your mind, and give up this impracticable
Sabbath idea, as your friends have done?
cannot be untrue to my beliefs, even if the others have been,
the guards steps died away, I began to think in the silence
of the solitude: surely all my companions could not have failed.
Yet I ought to have heard them, I thought, had they been in the
adjoining cells. After a few minutes, I whistled softly two bars
of the hymn, The Lord is my light, my joy, and my song.
No answer. Gloom began to settle on me. But I whistled the bars
again, and a little louder. Suddenly came the next bar from the
adjoining cell. The song of the angels could hardly have been
sweeter to the shepherds than was that whistled hymn which told
me my companions had by Gods grace endured another Sabbath
test, and were all still rejoicing in Jesus." (Condensed
from the book Seventh-day Adventists in Time of War.)
brethren who also got a very grueling treatment in prison told
their experiences as follows:
they refused to work on the Sabbath, they were driven like wild
beasts to the cells amid much cursing and the cracking of whips.
There they were immediately handcuffed and, as the manacles were
too small, they consequently tore the flesh on the backs of their
hands. And then the sergeants made sport of them and punched all
over their bodies.
young men were also subjected to what was called "number
one field punishment" or "shot drill." This torment
consisted in having heavy weights placed upon their backs and
chests, with which they were made to run from place to place for
of those soldiers was declared to be the ringleader and was handled
with so much cruelty and violence that he collapsed and foamed
at the mouth. He did not die, as it was feared he would, but he
was ill for some time.
morning, they were all lined up before the sergeant major, who
asked what they had decided concerning the Sabbath which was before
them. As they said that it was their duty to obey God rather than
men, keeping the Lords day holy, they were sent back to
their cells quietly. The punishment they received was solitary
confinement with bread and water only, together with one hours
shot drill daily, for seven days.
next Sabbath, as those Adventist soldiers refused to break the
law of God, they received the same type of punishment as before,
which was extended for two weeks. It seemed to them that it was
only a matter of time and they would all die in prison. They prayed
to the Lord continually that He would give them strength to bear
a Friday, at the end of the fourteen-day period, a prison official
was sent to talk to them separately. He said to each one that
all others had given in, "so you might just as well do the
same." This was the severest test that came upon them at
a time when
they were physically very weak through starvation and exhaustion.
But God inspired each one of them with sufficient valor to reply:
"Even if I am alone, I will continue obeying God rather than
men. I will keep also His holy Sabbath." Then one or two
of the group began to whistle a hymn, and soon they were all whistling,
assuring one another that they were all loyal to God. In answer
to prayer, their strength was renewed day by day. (Condensed and
adapted from the book Seventh-day Adventists in Time of War.)
the United States
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:
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.
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
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.
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. 397399.
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.
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 Christs
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.