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Sunday, February 12, 2012

My journey so far

I was born into an Adventist family and was raised fairly conservatively. I remember playing with Bible felts at home during Friday night worship while my parents read Maxwell's Bible Stories to us. There were certain things we could do on Sabbath, but the rules could be manipulated a bit, which we quickly learned. We could go on Sabbath walks and wade in the water but we weren't allowed to swim. An “accidental” fall into the water was ok, though, and we frequently joked about the logic behind that growing up. In academy I remember a rumor going around that the Sunday law was just around the corner. I didn't expect to graduate from high school and contemplated dropping out so I could help spread the gospel before it was too late.

I was a 4th generation SDA so nearly all my relatives were Adventist as well. I was home-schooled or attended Adventist schools all of my life. I had very little contact with non-Adventists and generally viewed other Christians with a slight feeling of superiority because I thought we had all the true beliefs and they were wrong.

About 9 years ago (when I was 19), I began studying the Bible with a non-SDA friend of mine. His sister had recently converted to Adventism and she encouraged our friendship because she thought he might listen to me. I honestly thought that anyone who took the time to read the Bible with an open heart would be convicted of the Sabbath and other Adventist “truths”. To me it was crystal clear. I was sure that my friend would "see the truth" in our studies and I would help convert him (he was Christian, mind you – just not an Adventist). I never imagined it would be the other way around!

He sent me a link to a website that had an intensive study on the Sabbath, the law, and the covenants. I was shocked that I had never even heard of the covenants before when they were clearly such a large theme throughout the Bible. I found the material so convincing that I shared it with someone close to me. Long story short, that person believed it too, but when they shared it with other people we were both pressured to give up our studies and just accept "the truth". So we both stopped. I remember clearly that people close to me sent me a "Sabbath package" with flowers and special dishes that week (I was away at college) because they were so happy I hadn't been led astray and given up the Sabbath.

I found it ironic and disturbing, even at the time, that people were concerned about my salvation when I was spending hours studying the Bible, but they didn't worry at all once I stopped studying. And yet the more I studied, the more I was led away from Adventism.

Life got it the way after that. All my friends/relatives were SDA, so I was comfortable with it. Shortly after I stopped studying, I ended up falling in love and eventually marrying a guy I had gone to academy with. Last year, after we had one baby and another on the way, the individual I had previously studied with mentioned to me that they had started studying again. It renewed my interest, so I joined them.

I read a couple books by Dale Ratzlaff as well as SDA books. I read many online studies put out by both Adventists and former/non-Adventists. I wanted to be balanced in my studies, so I tried to read both sides on the issues. I re-read my previous notes, and read through my markings in my Bible on the law/covenants/Sabbath. It was as if I hadn't stopped studying. Everything came back to me, and it was crystal clear again.

I read Hebrews and learned that Jesus moved to the Most Holy Place at the time of His ascension - not in 1844 like Adventists claim. Paul talks about it in several passages, and a study into the Day of Atonement makes it clear as well that Jesus was already in the Most Holy Place long before the Adventist church puts Him there. 1844 is such a huge date for Adventists - doctrines are based on it as well as the very birth of the SDA church. The 15 "proof methods" that William Miller used in coming up with 1844 are bizzare and Adventists reject 14 but keep 1. When God didn't return in 1844 like the Millerites believed, they came up with another explanation - which contradicts Hebrews.

I also studied extensively into Ellen White. Again, I looked at both sides of the issue and spent a lot of time verifying material on the official EGW Estate website. I was surprised to learn that a person I had believed to be speaking for God for so many years had blatantly copied huge portions of her material from previous books written around the same time. Even material she presented as being shown to her by God had been plagerized. The church admits it, but doesn't have a problem with it. She had many predictions that failed to come true and made some bizzare and erroneous claims. The most alarming thing I found was that she contradicts the simple message of the gospel. To me that was the most dangerous thing of all. She presents a faith + works gospel and puts so much emphasis on our works as humans. Plus, she downright contradicts the Bible in some places.

I met with an Adventist pastor in the area and asked him some questions about Ellen White, the Investigative Judgment, the law/covenants, etc. I was surprised by some of the things he admitted - that only about 30% of SDA pastors in the United States believe Ellen White was God's messenger (and yet it's a church doctrine!), most SDA pastors believe Adventists are PART of the the remnant but not THE remnant (another church doctrine), he doesn't believe the Sabbath will be the "final test", the 1844 message was just plain wrong, etc. I was disappointed when it came to the covenants, though. He told me that he doesn't really understand them and just gets lost by them. That surprised me, because to me they are very clear. I guess it's the SDA version of them that is so complicated and hard to understand!

I ended up removing my name from the SDA membership in the Fall of 2009 - about 8 years after my journey started. I didn't want to claim to be an Adventist when I clearly disagreed with many of their key doctrines (Ellen White, the Sabbath, the role of the 10 Commandments, 1844 & the Sanctuary, the Investigative Judgement, etc.).

It's been a hard journey at times. I openly wrote about my experience online and shared it with my family and friends. Some have responded positively, but most have avoided the subject or reacted defensively. I have had my motives and sanity questioned. At times different people have insinuated I'm not praying or being led by the Holy Spirit in my studies, I'm being “led astray”, I'm taking things out of context, I'm not thinking clearly because of hormones (I was pregnant during part of my study), and I'm risking my “eternal future” as well as that of my kids because of my studies. It's frustrating that most people won't even bother listening to my side of the story. They just see that I don't believe the same as they do anymore so they shut down.

Interestingly enough, I've received the most support and encouragement from a few of my atheist/agnostic friends. I suppose they could relate to me because of my studies and questioning, but in many ways they were more “Christian” toward me than some claiming to be Christian.

I understand the reactions of my friends and family toward me. I once believed the same way so I know what's going on in their minds. They believe I'm lost for rejecting “the truth” (Adventism, the Sabbath, Ellen White) - never mind that I am studying the Bible or following where I believe God is leading me. I know they are concerned about my salvation, and I appreciate that, but I wish they would try to understand where I'm coming from instead of making broad assumptions about anyone who leaves the SDA Church (they just don't want to follow God's laws, they want to live immoral lives, they must have had a bad experience in the church).

Anyway, that's my story so far. Praise God, He's not through with me yet! I'm excited to see what the future holds for me. It's so refreshing to read the Bible and not have to make passages “fit” a certain belief, or have someone else (EGW) translating it for me. I'm constantly amazed by the things I've been finding. I have been reading versions other than the KJV (in my experience, that's the translation of choice for most Adventists) and it has really made the Gospel come to life. Everything is so much clearer now! I completely relate to the line from Amazing Grace - “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

(Update - as of Feb. 2011, I think we have found a new church. It's a non-denomination community church that some of our friends invited us to a few weeks ago. It's been such a blessing and I am so excited!)

The website that got this started for me:

I have some good books that I can lend out if anyone is interested. I also have websites to recommend showing both sides of the issue so you can make an informed decision.

As a side note, since this is my personal journey, please don't critique it. We each are responsible directly to God and not to each other. I do not judge your walk - please don't judge mine. If you want to discuss beliefs I would be happy to do so, but I don't want to get into a debate on this note since it's my story. Thank you for respecting my beliefs! :)

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