The fervor of the Millerite movement ended in 1844 when Jesus did not come as expected, but a small group remained committed. Times were challenging because their unique and unpopular beliefs invited ridicule. They believed in a new interpretation of the cleansing of the sanctuary; that the seventh-day Sabbath is the right day of worship; and in the visions of a young woman in her late teens.
November 1848 was a pivotal moment for the “little flock.” Ellen White had another vision in which she received divine instruction to be shared with her husband, James. “I have a message for you. You must begin to print a little paper and send it out to the people. Let it be small at first; but as the people read, they will send you means with which to print, and it will be a success from the first. From this small beginning it was shown to me to be like streams of light that went clear round the world.”1
This would be the beginning not only of a magazine but a denomination, which emerged through prayerful study and debate. Long-serving Review editor F. D. Nichol described the magazine in 1949 (100 years later) as the “church paper of the Advent Movement”; the story of the paper as well as the church “will quicken your pulse, stir your loyalties, and renew your conviction that God is with us.”2
In 1999 editor William G. Johnsson put it this way: “The Review is the leading edge of the church. The Review seeks to represent the church, to advance the church, and to articulate the church. And as Adventists still seek to be open to ‘present truth,’ the Review challenges the church to the vision splendid, the light on the hill that the Lord of the church holds out for the church. . . . The Review is the paper for the entire church, a place where readers learn, interact, have their say, and help shape our feisty fellowship.”3
It has been 175 years since that vision and the heavenly directive to start a “little paper.” The Review staff has not faltered in fulfilling its God-given task. “A human network of dozens of editors, translators, designers, and proofreaders now circles the globe, supported by hundreds of press personnel in eight publishing houses from Indonesia to Korea to the United States to Germany,” wrote recent editor Bill Knott in 2010. “Except when Sabbath makes its welcome visit in each time zone, someone is working on Adventist Review or Adventist World every hour of every day of every week all year long.”4
This month I also celebrate my 22-year anniversary working for the Adventist Review. I’ve worked directly with three editors, and knew a fourth well. When you realize there have been only 12 editors in its history, that’s a bit of a feat.
For years three paintings by Harry Anderson hung in the Review office. The first was of the 1848 vision of Ellen White, with the earth encircled by “streams of light” in the top right corner. The second depicted James White, head resting on his hand, as he contemplated what to write for the first edition while his wife, Ellen, stood by his side, encouraging his efforts. The last again showed James White, this time walking from the printer carrying a carpetbag stuffed with the first edition of The Present Truth (the forerunner of the Review, which would go through multiple name changes over the years). Through the years as I looked at those paintings and saw the streams of light encircling the globe, I recognized that I and my colleagues were somewhere within those swirls of energy foretold 175 years ago. We are still committed to fulfilling the vision and the mission. It no longer is simply a “little paper” printed in English, but now exists in multiple languages, editions, websites, and audio and visual media. We are God-directed. God-sustained. Living the dream, caught in the stream.
1 Ellen G. White, The Publishing Ministry (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1983), p. 16.
2 F. D. Nichol, in Review and Herald, May 5, 1949, p. 3.
3 William G. Johnsson, in Adventist Review, July 29, 1999, p. 3.
4 Bill Knott, in Adventist Review, Oct. 28, 2010, p. 6.