Youth Movement

Christ’s Last Legion



YOU had a large attendance at your meeting last night?”
“Yes, and everyone seemed much interested.”
“I don’t know; I guess they had a curiosity to hear
a boy preach.”

This was a minister’s greeting to young John Loughbor-
ough in 1849, when at the age of seventeen he assayed to
begin preaching the message of Christ’s coming.1 Three quar-
ters of a century were to be filled with his service before the
close of his life.

His fellow workers were mostly young. James White was
twenty-one when he started out to preach the Second Advent;
Ellen Harmon White was seventeen when she began her min-
istry. John Andrews was writing and speaking for the move-
ment when he was twenty years old. Annie Smith gave her
dewy youth to the cause, and her brother Uriah was but
twenty when he joined the company at Rochester.

There was place for older men, too, men fitted by years
and experience to counsel and lead. Joseph Bates was fifty-
four when he was joined by the younger workers, and J. H.
Waggoner was in his prime. Hiram Edson was of middle age,
and so were Frederick Wheeler and R. F. Cottrell and Wash-
ington Morse. They gave weight and balance to the work;
but with all due tribute to their powers and service, it was
consecrated youth, mostly, who supplied the vision and the
drive which, under the blessing of God, expanded and pressed
forward the cause.

They came—the youth—after the first entrants, one by
one, then group by group, and companies of volunteers: Cor-
nell, Bourdeau, Kellogg, Bell, Kilgore, Lane; Adelia Patten,
Kate Lindsay, Maria Huntley, Mary Kelsey, Louisa Morton,
Nell Rankin. And after them the children of the pioneers took


Christ’s Last Legion

their places in the ranks: the sons of James and Ellen White,
of Joseph Waggoner, of Ezra Butler, of William and Cyrus
Famsworth, of Andrew Olsen, o£ Ambrose Spicer. Youth
filled the schools, youth took its place in the ranks, youth
caught and lifted up the standards falling from the relaxing
hands of the aged.

“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” 2
That was written by a man who had taken up his burden in
his childhood (“Ah, Lord God! … I am a child”)3 and who
now, in his old age, an exile in Egypt, seeing his mission ap-
parently a failure, could yet calmly “hope and quietly wait
lor the salvation of the Lord.” And beyond his knowledge, he
had built a kingdom in the lives of youth; for out of Jerusa-
lem in the days of its decadence, out of the ranks of its rec-
reant princes, came the fruit of Jeremiah’s teaching and liv-
ing, in those magnificent sons of Israel—Daniel, Hananiah,
Mishael, and Azariah, to witness in the courts of Babylon, and
Ezekiel, the seer of the captivity. -There never has lacked, and
there never will lack, recrviits from the nobility of youth to
hold up on earth the banner of Almighty God.

The need of enlisting and teaching the children and youth
was not hidden to the more clear-sighted o£ the Adventist
pioneers. James White early began their instruction, estab-
lishing the paper the Youth’s Instructor and founding the
Sabbath school. Ellen G. White sought their conversion and
welfare, winning youthful champions for the cause, teaching
her own sons and counseling and instructing parents in the
education of their children. J. N. Loughborough and J. N.
Andrews, S. N. Haskell and E. W. Famsworth, G. H. Bell and
J. H. Kellogg, themselves beginning in their youth, gathered
around them and taught and inspired young men and women,
many of whom took up the work in evangelistic, educational,
and medical lines.

The Sabbath school was made a mighty instrument for
Biblical education; the Tract and Missionary Society was the
Christian training ground in service of hundreds of the chil-

The Youth Movement I 19

clren and youth: the developing educational system called into
the colleges and the academies and finally into the elementary
church schools a great proportion o£ the young in the denom-
ination. But there was yet to come a movement and an organ-
ization which would reach into every church and home, bring
the children and youth to a more vivid consciousness of their
part in the cause, furnish them with appealing objectives and
essential training, and give them an esprit de corps as the or-
ganized and purposeful and irresistible Young Guard of the
Advent Movement.

There was a lad in a little church in Michigan, in 1879..
who burned with the desire to marshal his youthful com-
panions in service for Christ. His name was Luther Warren,
his age was fourteen, and his church was Hazelton,4 serving a
country community between Flint and Lansing. His closest
friend was Harry Fenner, seventeen. One day as the two boys
were walking along the country road they talked earnestly of
the part they should play in the promotion of the last gospel
message. At last said Luther, “Harry, let’s go over the fence and
pray about it.” So they climbed the rail fence, and found a
corner where the bushes were thick; there they prayed to-
gether and consecrated themselves, and as the aftermath
planned to invite their young friends in the church to join

There were nine of them only, but they were as earnest
in their Christian purpose as the Haystack students of Wil-
liamstown, who started on its way the American chariot of
foreign missions. Luther Warren’s little band of boys met
every week, prayed together, went out on errands of help to
the sick and needy, raised a little money and paid for a club
of Signs of the Times and some tracts—”Elihu on the Sab-
bath,” “The Two Laws,” “The Signs of Christ’s Coming.”
They gave these out, mailed them to selected addresses, and
carried on youthful missionary correspondence with interested
persons. They answered to the temperance campaign just then
beginning in the denomination, and joyfully signed the pledge

120 Christ’s Last Legion

against the use of alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, and pork.
There was not a feature of the message that they neglected.

It was not long until the girls of the church asked to join
the society. After some discussion the boys assented to this;
and thereafter their meetings, which had been by themselVes,
were held in the parlors of homes or in the church, with one
or more older persons in attendance. So they went forward, as
they advanced in years, to varied service in the cause.5

Twelve years later another boy, then sixteen years old,
took the initiative in starting such a society. Meade MacGuire
was one of a considerable number of youth in the Antigo,
Wisconsin, church. He had never heard of a Seventh-day Ad-
ventist young people’s society, but his school friends had their
Christian Endeavor Society and their Epworth League, and
he felt that Seventh-day Adventist youth ought to be equally
favored. But when he ventured to suggest it one day, instead
of smiles he met frowns. “No, Meade,” said the older people,
“that would never do. Why should you run off by yourselves?
Young people alone will fall into disorder. Stick to the church
and the Missionary Society with the older people, and don’t
try to be independent.”

But Brother Conner, the elder of the church, a saintly old
man, placed his hand on Meade’s shoulder, and said, “My
boy, you go right ahead. You may have the church for your
meeting, and I’ll stand by you.” So the meetings were started,
and with thirty members. They sang, they studied the Scrip-
tures, they prayed, and they “gave their testimonies,” scarcely
one ever failing to speak. The critical older members, like,
critics of a long-ago time, “could find none occasion nor fault;
inasmuch as [they] were faithful, neither was there any error
nor fault found in” them. Said MacGuire in his afteryears,
“We had not the slightest disorder. I believe God restrained
the enemy because He wanted this work to go forward, and
the people were not sufficiently in favor of it to stand by us
if mistakes were made.” 6 It may be observed, however, that
God works with those who give Him undivided allegiance,

The Youth Movement 121

who have no other thought than that of serving Him and serv-
ing with Him; and when God is present disorder goes out the

Messages from Mrs. White were frequently calling, not
only upon parents and leaders to provide for the conversion
and training of the young, but upon youth themselves to take
up the weapons of God and wage the vigorous warfare against
sin and evil which their forebears had waged. In December,
1892, she wrote:

” ‘We have an army of youth to-day who can do much if
they are properly directed and encouraged. . . . We want them
to act a part in well organized plans for helping other
youth.’ ” “Young men and young women, cannot you form
companies, and, as soldiers of Christ, enlist in the work, put-
ting all your tact and skill and talent into the Master’s service,
that you may save souls from ruin? Let there be companies or-
ganized, in every church to do this work. . . . Will the young-
men and young women who really love Jesus organize them-
selves as workers, not only for those who profess to be Sab-
bath keepers, but for those who are not of our faith?””

And again: “Let there be a company formed somewhat
after the plan of the Christian Endeavor order, and see what
can be done by each accountable human agent in watching
for and improving opportunities to do work for the Master.” s

The next year there appeared this instruction:

“Let young men, and women, and children .go to work in
the name of Jesus. Let them unite together upon some plan
and order of action. Cannot you form a band of workers, and
have set times to pray together and ask the Lord to give you
His grace, and put forth united action? You should consult
with men who love and fear God, and who have experience
in the work, that under the movings of the Spirit of God, you
may form plans and develop methods by which you may work
in earnest and for certain results.” 9

Her appeals began to bear fruit. In far Australia, where
she was then living, her first testimony on the subject was

122 Christ’s Last Legion

promptly acted upon by A. G. Daniells, president of the Aus-
tralian Conference, who organized a young people’s society in
Adelaide. He and other workers followed this up in .various
places in the land “down under.” Their activities coincided
with the appeals of Mrs. White for worldwide action.

In America some earnest workers were stirred to gather the
young into working companies. These youth had not been
wholly ignored before. The Tract and Missionary Society in
nearly all the local churches brought the children and young
people into their activities, and veterans today remember with
a glow of pleasure the gatherings in which as children they
look their part, in programs of the society, but more especially
in the social exercise that followed, around the long tables,
wrapping and addressing missionary literature, and at times
going out to help the needy with baskets of food and clothing.

But the messages from Mrs. White in the church’s papers
called for a special and integrated movement for and by the
young people, and various workers responded. In College
View, Nebraska, a suburb of Lincoln, in 1893, a “Young Peo-
ple’s Society of Christian Service” was organized under Prof.
M. E. Kern. On June 11, 1894, Luther Warren, grown into a
preacher, working in the North Central Stales, formed at
Alexandria, North Dakota, a young people’s society which
they called the Sunshine Band.10 This organization spread
throughout the conference, and on August 30, 1896, a conven-
tion of all the bands in the State was called at Bridgewater.
Such little nuclei were destined to become a live, galvanic
brotherhood and sisterhood ringing the world, sometimes for.
counsel and inspiration gathering in congresses of thousands
of youth, in Europe, in America, in Australia, in the Near
East and the Far East, and in the love of Christ giving their
willing and robust service to humanity and to God.

During the next seven years the movement spread, and
youth societies were formed in many conferences. The Ohio
Conference was the first to form a general organization of A ri-
ven list youth. After local initiative had instituted several so-

The Youth Movement



Harry Fenner and Luther Warren. Photo Taken Several Years After They Formed First Young People’s Society

cieties, in 1899, at a conference meeting in April and a camp
meeting in August, a State-wide organization of Christian Vol-
unteers was formed, and officers were elected.” When the 1901
General Conference met there had developed so strong a sen-
timent in favor of youth’s societies that this action was taken:

“We approve the movement to organize young people’s
societies for more effectual missionary service; and we recom-
mend that a committee of nine or more representative per-
sons be appointed to form a plan of organization, and report
it to this Conference for consideration.”12

The committee consisted of Luther Warren, S. M. Butler,
H. H. Burkholder, M. E. Cady, M. C. Wilcox, Mrs. S. N. Has-
kell, Mrs. L. Flora Plummer, and Estella Houser. They
brought in a report, which was accepted, that the work of the
young people be such as they had known in the Missionary
Society, that leaders especially adapted to work for the youth
he commissioned to it. that for the time the work he connected

124 Christ’s Last Legion

with the Sabbath School Department, and that a column for
young people’s work be opened in the Youth’s.Instructor.™

The Sabbath School Department, with Mrs. Plummer as
the secretary, took hold with earnestness to develop this aux-
iliary work. The Sabbath school secretary in each conference
was charged with the responsibility of fostering it. Luther
Warren was added to the department to give direction to
the youth’s work. Eloquent and consecrated, he retained
throughout his life the affection and esteem of the young
people. He was, however, more the evangelist than the ad-

But the work spread around the world. Already, in the
beginning, it had taken root in Australia. Germany had a
society as early as 1903, and England in 1905. The islands, east
and west, caught the inspiration, Jamaica being the first over-
seas country to send in a report. The European Latin field
responded, and Africa. Always the work was expanding.

In 1907, midterm of the first quadrennial period, it was
decided, especially for the encouragement of the “European
field, to convene a General Conference Council in Switzer-
land. This was held in May in the town of Gland. At that
council the young people’s work was a main topic. It had
. grown to such proportions that the Sabbath School Depart-
ment felt it should put the child upon its own feet. The coun-
cil, after thoroughly studying the matter, voted to create a new
agency, the Young People’s Department. It elected as chair-
man M. E. Kern, then a teacher of history in Union College,
who had taken a leading part in organizing the young peo-
ple’s work in the Middle West, and who in 1904 had been
made young people’s secretary of the Central Union. As secre-
tary of the new organization, Miss Matilda Erickson was ap-

Only a few weeks after the Gland Council a joint Sabbath
school and young people’s convention was called at Mount
Vernon, Ohio, July 10 to 20, at which the governing princi-
ples, the methods of work, and the outstanding problems of

The Youth Movement 125

this new field of Christian activity were discussed. The council
gathered in the founding fathers of the movement, the newly
appointed leaders, the chief Genera] Conference officers, and
some of the most earnest workers for youth.”

A. G. Daniells stressed the responsibility of young people
to carry the gospel message to the uttermost parts of the earth.
W. A. Spicer brought before the eyes of the members a vivid
picture of the world waiting for the message. Frederick Griggs
recited the increased facilities at the hand of this generation
to finish God’s work. Luther. Warren recounted the early ex-
periences, and sounded, the call to prayer and consecration.
C. C. Lewis held up the perfect pattern for youth in the Lord
Jesus Christ. M. E. Kern dealt with the necessity for training
workers especially for the young people’s cause. Meade Mac-
Guire called attention to the increased strength which the
young people’s organized work was bringing to church and
conference. And O. J. Graf, in a clear, explicit, and illuminat-
ing address, presented the reasons for having a young people’s
organization, the objections some urged against it, and the
overwhelming answers.

The Mount Vernon convention proved, as Elder Daniells
predicted, to be “among the most important meetings in the
history of our cause.” From it dates the clear, keen resolve to
devote al] of youth’s strength, fire, and courage to the finish-
ing of the work of God in the earth.

The devotional and educational features of the work were
here formulated. The blessed Morning Watch has since called
the devout youth to prayer and study every morn. The Stand-
ard of Attainment contains courses in denominational history
and doctrine. The Missionary Volunteer Reading Courses,
which here saw their beginning, have put before the youth the
finest of literature—missionary, scientific, historical, cultural,
travel, and personal, experience. The soul of the movement
finds voice in the Aim, the Motto, and the Pledge.

Aim: “The Advent Message to All the World in This Gen-

126 Christ’s Last Legion

Motto: “The Love oi Christ Constrained! Us.”
Pledge: “Loving the Lord Jesus, I promise to take an active
part in the work of the Young People’s Missionary Volunteer
Society, doing what I can to help others and to finish the work
o[ the gospel in all the world.”

One of the questions settled al the Mount Vernon conven-
tion was the definite name of the department and society. As
in the time of denominational organization, half a century
before, there were presented ideas many and names many,
each with its ardent advocates. In the end a name which it
was felt was most expressive of the purpose and character of
the organization was adopted: Young People’s Missionary Vol-
unteers. It is now usually shortened to either the first or the
last half of the phrase. And then, as riow, the theme of volun-
teering for Christ’s service was put uppermost:

There’s another task to do,
There’s a battle to renew,
And the Captain calls for yon,
Volunteers, Volunteers!

Christ before us, Christ behind,

Christ on every side! –
For the rescue of mankind

On to glory ride,

Volunteers, Volunteers, Volunteers!

The Youlli’s Instructor, then under the editorship of
Fannie Dickerson Chase, was helpful in the promotion of the
young people’s work. For six years, from 1908 on, it contained
a department devoted to the society cause. In 1914 there was
launched the Church Officers’ Gazette, to which was trans-
ferred the Young People’s Department, as also certain other
departments. This journal has since that time been the me-
dium for department instruction, society programs, and so
forth, whereas the Youth’s Instructor has continued to devote
itself to more general matters of spiritual and cultural interest
to youth.

The Youth Movement 127

The staff of the Young People’s Department in those early
years was small and heavily burdened: one chairman or secre-
tary, one assistant secretary, and one stenographer. Miss
Erickson carried most of the office work and did not a little
field work besides. She also wrote books both practical and in-
spirational, which had a great appeal to the youth. Her spir-
itual, self-effacing, earnest spirit made a great impression on
the work. Professor Kern during the first decade of his secre-
taryship was burdened with other duties also. For four years.,
from 1910 to 1914, he was president of the Foreign Mission
-Seminary (Washington Missionary .College), but he spent as
much time in the field as possible, and also did much writing.
During the 1920’s he spent most of his time in other lands—
Australia, South America, China and the Far East, India.
Africa, Europe—as the young people’s work throughout the
world developed.

A joint country-wide convention of the educational and
the Missionary Volunteer workers was held in Saint Helena.
California, in 1915, and another at Colorado Springs, Colo-
rado, in 1923, conventions fruitful in making clearer and
broader the objectives and in comparing and improving meth-
ods of training and service.

The staff was greatly increased as the years went on. The
first addition was in 1913, when Meade MacGuire was made
field secretary. Ella Iden was added as an assistant in 1915.
Notable in her service was the preparation of the Junior
Manual, in 1918. In 1924 this manual was revised and brought
up to date, including the Progressive Class plan, by Harriet:
Maxson Holt, who was appointed Junior secretary in 1920.
Henry T. Elliott, from successful conduct of the youth work
in the Lake Union, was brought in 1922 to join the General
Conference staff; when M. E. Kern became secretary of the
General Conference in 1930, Elliott was made secretary of
the Missionary Volunteer Department. When he in turn was
taken into the General Conference secretarial department in
1936, his place was filled by Alfred W. Peterson. who had given

128 Christ’s Last Legion

vigorous leadership in the youth work in various parts of the
field. He served until 1946, when he was called to be young
people’s secretary of the Australasian Division. E. W. Dunbar
then became General Missionary Volunteer secretary. Other
workers developing in the union and local conferences, a
number of whom later joined the General Conference force,
were C. A. Russell, C. Lester Bond, D. A. Ochs, F. G. Ash-
baugh, J. T. Porter, A. C. Nelson, T. E. Lucas, and L. A. Skin-
ner. Young women who served with devotion and distinction
in the central office or in the field included Emma Howell,
Julia Leland, Louise Kleuser, Olive Lindberg, and Mrs. Mar-
jorie Marsh.

The later work of the Young People’s Department in the
Senior section, and also the development of the Junior work,
will be recorded in other chapters. The great development of
many forms of service through the Young People’s Missionary
Volunteer organization will appear in the future portrayal of
the history of the church.


1 J. N. Loughborough, Rise and Progress of Seventh-day Adventisls, p. 149.

2 Lamentations 3:27.

3 Jeremiah 1:6.

4 The church was named for the township in which it is located; there
is no village of that name. It has now been renamed the Juddville Church.
Pastor R. K. Krick letter, Nov. 18, 1947.

5 Matilda Erickson (Andross), Missionary Volunteers and Their Work,
p. 10; R. K. Krick, pastor at Juddville (Hazelton), Michigan, letter of Nov.
18, 1947.

6 Erickson, op. cit., pp. 12, .13; Meade MacGuire letter, Oct. 20, 1947.

7 General Conference Bulletin, 1893, p. 24; Signs of the Times, May 29,
1893, p. 455; M. E. Kern letters, Nov. 2, 9, 26, 1947.

8 Ellen G. White letter to Edgar Caro, a college student, Oct. 2, 1893,
quoted in Notebook Leaflets, vol. 1, no. 30, p. 2.

9 Youth’s Instructor, Aug. 9, 1894, p. 249.

10 A. W. Peterson MS., “History of the Young People’s Missionary Volunteers,” p. 3. Luther Warren in Report of the Sabbath School and Toung People’s Convention at Mount Vernon, Ohio, p. 28. Warren here says that the first Sunshine Band was organized at Briagewater, September 15; and he makes the same statement in the paper Sunshine, July, 1899, published at Omaha, Nebraska, and edited by him. However, in his diary, in the midst of the record of his evangelistic meetings at Alexandria, he has this notation on June 11, 1894: “Sunshine Band, First: Dora Alien, May Hunt, May Lohmaier, and Jessie Laidlow.” And on September 15: “Organized a Sunshine Band at Bridgewater.” Diary in possession of Mrs. Luther Warren.

11 Peterson, op. cit., p. 4. Emma E. Howell, The Great Advent Movement,
p. 90.

!2 General Conference Bulletin, 1901, pp. 306, 331, 332.

™lbid., pp. 441, 442.

14 Erickson, op. cit., pp. 9-43; Report of the Sabbath School and Young
People’s Convention at Mount Vernon, Ohio.


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