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Pilgrimage: David Trim Episode Video + Transcript

Updated: Jun 26, 2023



The video of Dr Michael Campbell + Greg Howell's interview with David Trim is now available. You can watch it above.


The transcript is also available below. (Note: the text has been lightly edited for clarity. And it's always possible that minor imperfections exist.)

 

Greg Howell:

Hey everybody. Welcome to the Adventist Pilgrimage Podcast. I'm coming back here this month, kind of excited to be back with everybody ‘cause, you know, I always miss out. I miss out when I'm not able to make certain meetings.


And of course, the last podcast episode was, all together or down in the South. I was still stuck up here at the big ASDAH meetings, so missed out on that one. And missed out on the podcast. It's okay. It's okay. I appreciate being able to hear it and see everybody. It was a great episode so anyway, this month we've got a pretty, a pretty cool guest here that I am excited to talk to because the book that just came out, is a pretty great book, but I'm not gonna give it all away. Michael, who do we have here with us today?


Michael Campbell:

Well, I'm delighted to introduce David Trim, who's the director of Archive Statistics and Research at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist and he is an eminent historian of Seventh-day Adventist history. And he also comes with a really rich background, trained as a historian. He comes with a background in military history, actually kind of a, historians have different periods of time. I think you would consider yourself an early modernist, wouldn't you David?


David Trim:

An early modernist Yes. Originally.


Michael Campbell:

So I'm married to an early modernist, so this is becoming a more familiar terrain for me. And what's really cool is not only is he a great historian and administrator, but I also consider him a wonderful friend. And so I always look forward to opportunities to get together. Something really cool I didn't know about until recently, I was googling and I early moderrevidiscovered our guest today, Dr. David Trim, has his own Wikipedia page. And if you wanted like the skinny, quite a lengthy list of professional publications, books and articles ranging from military history to Adventist history. Now, he taught for 10 years at Newbold College and was the Walter Utt chair in history at Pacific Union College before he took on his role, his current role, I believe in 2011. So, welcome David to the Adventist Pilgrimage Podcast.


David Trim:

Thank you. It's very good to be with you. Thank you for having me on.


Michael Campbell:

And we're excited today specifically for our listeners. We are talking about a new book. I was sitting in spring meetings for the church, and they were announcing this really cool initiative. I kind of knew it was coming down the pipeline, but heard about it more, a little bit more officially. In fact David was announcing that as part of this broader initiative of 160 years, since the general conference was organized, we'll hear a little bit more about that. And they passed out copies, and I already had one that I had gone down and was fortunate to, in fact, even get David to sign it. Hearts of Faith: How We Became Seventh-day Adventists..


So anytime we have a new book in Adventist history, we like to highlight that and it's a great privilege to be able to talk with you, David, about the book. So I wanna just kind of begin a little bit, we've interviewed you once before with Dragoslava Santrac about the encyclopedia of Adventism. But for our listeners who might not be as familiar, obviously you've done a lot of work in history, but tell us how you became interested in history and specifically in Adventist history. What gives you a fire, I should say, to wanna write a book like this? Cause no book just happens by accident, y’know there has to be a story behind the story. So tell us your story, David.



David Trim:

Sure, so I've always been interested in history as long as I can remember since I was a very small child. Since I was around the age of 12, I was especially interested in early modern Britain and Europe.


Looking back with hindsight, you know, this may owe something to the fact that there was a period when on for Friday night worship, my father would read a chapter from The Great Controversy, which of course has a great deal of history in it. And indeed especially about the history of the post-Reformation era has a particular significance in that book.


Also we had two historical novels when I was growing up, written by Walter C. Utt who was a longtime professor of history at Pacific Union College about the Huguenots, early modern French Protestants, a minority living in a Catholic state who faced persecution, went through wars of religion, had a period of official toleration, and then the official toleration was ended.


They suffered great prosecution and many of them apostatized, but many others fled and went all around the world, including to North America. So I think, you know, looking back those may be some of the roots, but you know, it's as I say, I've just always been interested in history. Around the age of 12, I read books on the English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell and sort of became hooked.


I always had an interest in 20th century military history as well. And that's still my hobby,I read that for fun and relaxation. But professionally I was more and more drawn to the early modern period. Then when I went as a student in Newbold College in England, my tutor there and mentor, Dr. Harry Leonard, was an historian of the 16th and 17th century, so that really just helped to shape it further. This was the period in which I was most interested though really. I had probably already decided that the 16th and 17th centuries was what particularly interested me.


And so the first part of my career for 15 years, if you include my PhD research time. I was an early modern military and religious historian, and there was in the late nineties when I would tell people that I was an historian of war and religion. People would sort of look at me strangely as though how can you combine those two? Then after 9/11, people just took for granted that that made sense.


But at the time I started, it didn't. So my publications up until 2010 were entirely on early modern history. Well, some late, late medieval and early modern history. A mix, as I say, of military and religious history, sometimes both of them in the same essay or the same book. Then I always had the interest in the Adventist history because I'm an Adventist.


Michael Campbell:

Sure.


David Trim:

I couldn't not be, I can remember reading George Knight's book about A. T. Jones back in 1988, at the time of the bicentenary of the Minneapolis GC session. At Newbold I occasionally was asked to teach Adventist history because as you know, in a small, Michael's done this in a small college, you end up teaching all kinds of things.


Michael Campbell:

By the way, I just wanna interrupt for just a second. Harry Leonard, for our listeners, our last episode was at ASDAH and David, you gave a very nice tribute in remembering him. So I was impressed of what an incredible professor and what impact he made.


David Trim:

He wasn't at ASDAH, but we honored him at ASDAH because he passed away last year.


Michael Campbell:

And that's what I meant. Is he?


David Trim:

Yeah.


Michael Campbell:

You honored him at ASDAH?


David Trim:

Yes.


Michael Campbell:

And others that, that have passed away in the last - -


David Trim:

Yeah, and there were a number of people at ASDAH who had also been students of Harry Leonard and who'd had their lives touched by him. In 1999, it was the 125th anniversary of J. N. Andrews, and it's strange to me to think that we're on the verge of the 150th anniversary next year that, you know, where have the years gone.


But that's, there you are. They have gone, it's nearly 25 years and I organized a conference at Newbold, to mark the 125th anniversary of Andrews now, in order to make it a big conference and have a really major event, we didn't just look at Andrews in the mission to Europe.


We looked at it in the broader context of the history of religious minorities in Europe, and it was called from Persecution to Pluralism. We actually had nearly a hundred scholars come, of whom at least a third were non-Adventists. We had papers on the Waldenses, on the Huguenots, on modern religious minorities in Europe.


We also had papers on Adventists. Three volumes of proceedings came out of that. Two were on early modern Europe, but one was on Adventism. So in 2010, I actually had my first publication on Adventist history, a book, co-edited with Daniel Heinz who is just retiring now from Friedensau Adventist University in Germany.


So that marked the shift towards becoming an Adventist historian. And in 2010, by coincidence, I was asked to become director of Archive Statistics and Research, for the General Conference. So that book, which had taken 11 years to come out because it, you know, there were all kinds of delays with it.


Those who aren't used to the world of academic publishing will think that's an astonishing long time. And it probably is, but it's, it's not as rare in the world of academic publishing as people might think. Eventually it came and so just by chance it came up that year, the same year that I transitioned to my current job from having previously taught at Adventist colleges.


Thereafter was focused on Adventist history. I've still published on early modern history. Periodically, I've published an article or a book chapter and a scholarly collection of essays. So I haven't abandoned early modern history, but overwhelmingly since 2011, my work has been focused on Adventist history.


I think you asked how I came to, to write the book - -


Michael Campbell:

Was just about to nudge you in that direction. Like, tell me the story of the book.


David Trim:

2013 was the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church with the establishment of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist in May 1863.


In 2012, the GC. Maybe late 2011 or 2012, the GC became aware of this and decided to try to commemorate it. And so I was tasked with a lot of the work of helping to do that commemoration. And so we began to put together resources to put on the website about how the church got united and so we had a series of short articles on various aspects of early Adventist history. So I had all these that I'd written. And then I also got asked to speak at camp meetings in 2013, including the Wisconsin Conference because it was the 150th anniversary of their conference as well as of the General Conference.


So I had to put together PowerPoint presentations and talks on Adventist history. At some point, I forget when I put all of these together into chronological order and found that I had the makings of a narrative. And so I've worked on that since off and on, more often than not, up until 2021.


Periodically, as I got asked to do other camp meetings, for example, one at Minnesota in 2019 where Michael, you were also a speaker.


Michael Campbell:

That's right.


David Trim:

So I would continue to elaborate on it. I would do more. I realized in 2021 that I had the makings of a short book. I'd always had in mind to turn these into a book. But it was kind of like, is this long enough for a book? In 2019, I published a book with Pacific Press called The Living Sacrifice: Unsung Heroes of Adventist Missions. The Story of missionaries who had given their lives for the Church's mission program. That was only around 30,000 words and so I realized that I didn't have to wait until I had 50 or 60, much less a hundred thousand words. I could publish a short book. So I pitched it to Pacific Press as a book on how we got from 1844 to 1863. They were interested. So in late 2021 and early 2022, I set to work and actually smoothed it all out because, of course, these were different things, have been composed at different times. So you have to blend them all together. You have to fill in the gaps because inevitably gaps had arisen.


Michael Campbell:

Yeah.


David Trim:

I did more research on the - - especially the late 1850s and early 1860s. I'd done quite a lot of research on the late, the mid to late 1850s, how the church began to organize.


But I did more on the early 1860s, how you get from the decision to call ourselves Seventh-day Adventist to actually forming a General Conference. So that's where Hearts of Faith comes from.


Michael Campbell:

Love it! Is this going to be a series, David? I mean - -


Greg Howell:

There is a natural stopping point, but there's so much more left.


Michael Campbell:

You have The Living Sacrifice, which is probably one of my, I think it's my favorite thing I've read from you. I haven't read all of your stuff, but that's, I love those mission stories and it seems like you have the makings of kind of a broader series. I don't know.


David Trim:

Well, actually I'm working on a book now for the 150th anniversary of the Church's missionary program.


Michael Campbell:

Mm-hmm.


David Trim:

That's next year because 1874 was when Andrews went to Europe. So 2024 is the 150th anniversary. I'm literally almost finished a book on Adventist mission to 1915. And it's 1915 because of course that's when Ellen White dies. But it's not just a convenient hook on which to hang one's coat, so to speak.


It's also, the case that Ellen White was crucial in pushing the Seventh-day Adventist Church to foreign mission. There's a focus on Ellen White. So that would make a trilogy, if you like. There's the mission stories from the bottom up told from the perspective of individuals, and then mission told from the top down and in between Hearts of Faith, which explains how we got to the stage of needing to send out missionaries in the first place. So that would be my Adventist history trilogy, Michael.


Michael Campbell:

I love it. I like trilogies!


Greg Howell:

I'm looking at titles here. Hearts of Faith. Hearts of Service and a third one of some kind. I mean, you could really blend things together there. Hey, I'm hearing it, the book kind of grows out of this camp meeting motif, you know, you're working with churches and local groups and I'm curious because I'm always wanting to get our history out to the wider church audience.


What were some, what are some of the glaring holes that you have noticed the typical Adventist lay people have in viewing their own church history, because I hear it, you know, in local settings, but you've had more chances to kind of see the broader landscape. What kind of things do most people just not realize about their church?


David Trim:

I think there's masses of things actually. I think most Adventists aren't really well versed in their history. They're aware of the broad outlines, you know, 1844, and then the church gets organized. Most wouldn't even know that 1863, that the church was necessarily founded in that year and this year's the 160th anniversary and the GC is doing a little bit of commemoration of that.


But really looking forward more to the 150th Anniversary of Mission next year. So the people are aware of 1844, they know that sometime in the early 1860s we got organized. They know that, I think many would know that J. N. Andrews was the first missionary got that got sent out. They know Ellen White dies at some point in the early 20th century.


Apart from that, there's a lot of holes really in people's historical knowledge. And I think Michael will have found this as well, talking about Adventist history to groups of lay people, whether at camp meetings or just regional days. At a local church, people are often fascinated because they don't know their own history.


Our history actually is interesting.


Michael Campbell:

It is, it really is.


David Trim:

So It's easy to get people interested simply by going through things with them. One of the camp meetings I spoke at was the Northern California Conference camp meeting in 2014, and I'm gonna boast a little bit here - -


Greg Howell:

That's, that's my home conference, so I know who you're talking about.


David Trim:

Yeah the Redwood Camp Meeting.


Greg Howell:

I've been there many years.


David Trim:

Yeah, a great event. I was in one of the, a morning speaker and I started with probably 40 or 50 people, in a tent because Redwood Camp Meeting, as Greg knows, but not everyone will, it really is a camp still. People - - there's no, there's almost no permanent structures.


Everybody's in tents or in caravans or RVs or, you know, motor homes and so forth. So I was in a tent and by the end, it was standing room. There must have been, 110, 120 people. And I'm boasting a little bit, but I think it, a lot of it wasn't to do with me, it was to do with the material, which was just people found fascinating.


And I did a talk at Pacific Union College that autumn, and somebody came up to me and said, people were still talking about that, that series.


Michael Campbell:

They were.


David Trim:

I think that's just because people just didn't know. So they enjoyed being enlightened about our history.


Greg Howell:

Yeah, I came to this conference in 2015 actually, so my first camp meeting was the next year and everybody was still at the next camp meeting talking about, oh, are we gonna get another speaker? Like, Trim? That, that was amazing. Nobody had heard of this stuff. It was a well-known and well-discussed topic.


David Trim:

Oh, thank you, Greg. I didn't know that. That's nice to hear.


Michael Campbell:

So, my question, I'm gonna come to this thing, and this is the historiography side of me now as a historian, there's a lot of of books covering early Adventism, 20th century, not so much, but the Millerites early Adventism. So why this specific book? How do you see this as making a contribution? From, you know, those who've gone before, what you've written.


David Trim:

That's a great question, Michael. And I think actually there's, there's a lot on the Millerites, there's less on Seventh-day Adventist from around 1845 up to 1863.


If you look at the great standard narrative histories, Olsen, Spalding, Maxwell, they cover that era, but there's more of a focus, actually, on Miller. Cause obviously The Great Disappointment’s an incredibly dramatic event, right?


Greg Howell:

Say it's the moment that everything happens, right.


David Trim:

Right.


Michael Campbell:

Or the great anticipation.


David Trim:

Yeah, or, all the buildup to it, you know, it's exciting. This is where our roots are. But those great narrative histories sort of then move forward to once the church begins to - - once the church is organized and begins to expand, there actually isn't that much on the late 1840s,1850s, and very early 1860s.


So I felt there was a historian graphical gap there. I know your audience are all history enthusiasts. That's why they listen. So we can talk in technical terms. I thought there was an historiographical lacuna there.


Michael Campbell:

Yeah, bring it on.


David Trim:

Even those who have covered it have. It's often been a focus on Ellen White. So, you know, I can remember as a boy in Sabbath School hearing the story of Ellen and James White crossing the Mississippi on the ice and so forth. So - -


Michael Campbell:

Yes.


David Trim:

I must have been seven at the time when my Sabbath School teacher told this dramatic story. So, we're kind of familiar with that and some people would be familiar with Ellen White going up into Wisconsin or Minnesota and finding Andrews and Loughborough and telling them you've got to go back to ministry. But, you know, the focus is just on Ellen White. What about the rest of the church? How did we get from October 22nd, 1844 to May 21st, 1863?


Michael Campbell:

Yeah.


David Trim:

So it seemed to me that there actually isn't, wasn't much on that. So I decided that was one reason I decided a book on the subject would be worthwhile. Just on that. The other thing is when Adventist - - this is, I think is a serious weakness of Adventist historiography. Yeah. It's very much a history of doctrines.


Michael Campbell:

Theological history.


David Trim:

It's historical theology. Absolutely.


Michael Campbell:

Yeah.


David Trim:

In fact, if you even talk to anyone who took an Adventist heritage class at an Adventist college, which is -- I don't know if it's required of all Adventist college students, it certainly is of anyone doing a history major. Or a theology or religion major. Other people might take it. And I've had this experience, almost all of them. It's just a history of doctrines. It's not actually a history of the church, it's just a history of how we got to a certain number of doctrines and normally it ends around 1870 and then has a quick dashboard to 1915 for the death of Ellen White.


Michael Campbell:

Yeah.


David Trim:

So I wanted to tell a story that wasn't just about doctrines. There is a chapter there - -


Michael Campbell:

Yeah.


David Trim:

- - on how the doctrines develop, but there's more to the story.


Michael Campbell:

I wanna interrupt for just a second ‘cause I think for our listeners and thinking about the development of Adventist historiography in different ways, that would probably be, would it be fair to say, for example, George Knight and, you know, I've enjoyed reading his books. You mentioned them before. Would that be like the biggest difference between, say he's written, a lot on Adventist history too, right? He was more of a theo - - a historical theologian in his approach, if I'm hearing you right.


David Trim:

Yeah, I think that's right. Obviously he has the book on the growth of Adventist organization.


That's part of the story that I tell as well. Also, you know, I have a chapter in there that's really social history. What was it like to be an Adventist in the 1850s? Often very isolated, having little contact. And so it was trying to tell a more rounded story. There's a chapter on the doctrines, but there's also more than one chapter on organization.


But what was it like to be an Adventist? So there's something on the lived history, the lived experience of being an Adventist.


Michael Campbell:

I think this is important because we've had a lot of people that are pastors and theologians that become historians rather than historians that have actual training in history. You know, so that cultural milieu and the social history, those kinds of things are really important aspects of our Adventist story. There's still even more, I mean, you hint at some of those things, you know, and I've heard you hint also in presentations and conversations we've had, such as economic history.


David Trim:

Right, right.


Michael Campbell:

I see those little vignettes where I'm like, okay, David I could see, I know what David's doing here, you know?


David Trim:

Yes. Yeah. I mean, you know the financial history of Adventist. How are we, you know, the image we have is that Adventist, and I haven't written on this. Nobody has , I'd love somebody to - -


Michael Campbell:

Yeah we need - -


David Trim:

- - it inspired. The image we have of early Adventist is that they're very poor because we have, you know, we know this story of Ellen White cooking raccoons or whatever it was for James White, because that's all they can afford.


Greg Howell:

Poor Bates getting money in the mail and yeah.


David Trim:

Right, right. I think what we misunderstand is that the leaders were very poor. And I've listened to your podcasts about the response to the - - response to the podcast that called Adventists a cult. In one of those episodes - -


Michael Campbell:

Oh yeah.


David Trim:

- - in one of those episodes you talk about how James White was very entrepreneurial, but he wasn't necessarily very successful as an entrepreneur.


Michael Campbell:

Yeah. Not consistently - -


David Trim:

No, and of course he's not trying to make the money for himself. He's putting, when he gets money, he's putting it back into the work. So I think Adventist leaders are very poor, but - - we couldn't have sent Andrews to Europe and then other missionaries to Europe as well and sustained them there if there weren't some money in Adventists so I think the idea that Adventists are all very poor is a fundamental misunderstanding based on the nature of the leaders as opposed to, the several thousand members, and my guess would be that actually most Adventists were today, you might call lower middle class. They were property owning farmers, but that meant they were probably farming cash crops, so they had some disposable income.


One of the fascinating documents we have in the archives, and I've discovered it, but never done anything with it, is something from the 1890s where the GC asks all the conferences in North America to send a list of members who are worth over a certain number of thousand dollars. I forget the sum, unfortunately.


And there's the list, there's the list so that the GC can reach out to them and ask them to support funds. We know that Jotham Aldrich, who was the chair of the opening, the founding GC session, was from property and money. We know that John Corliss, one of the first missionaries to Australia, and a pioneer in religious liberty work, had money as well.


I would suspect that these are less isolated examples than we sometimes think. But it remains guesswork ‘cause nobody's worked on that.


Greg Howell:

Yeah. When you're looking at the history, we've got enough institutions and educational growth in these early decades. Somebody had the money to buy the property for it and build the buildings and, you know, put some things up front to it, so - -


David Trim:

Right.


Greg Howell:

- - yeah, it's clearly there. We just don't talk about it as much.


David Trim:

Right. We couldn't have founded the Western Health Reform Institute, which becomes Battle Creek Sanitarium if there weren't some money involved.


Greg Howell:

Exactly. Yeah.


Michael Campbell:

Yeah, and there's examples. I mean I found going through Testimonies for the Church of people like Elon Everts and there's others that Ellen White clearly is referring to. And you go to actually to the census records and see how much property he had, which is, you know, the main way of measuring wealth in the, in agrarian culture, right. Clearly, you know, by today's standards we'd probably consider him to be a multimillionaire. I mean, he was fabulously wealthy. There are those stories, but we haven't done the economic history. And you're right. And so maybe one of our listeners that's listening is an aspiring historian that will, or maybe someone looking for a dissertation type. That would be fabulous if someone would do that.


David Trim:

And you know, to Greg's point also about institutions, I think one of the weaknesses of Adventist historiography is that so much of it is biography with which I would include institutional biography. So it's the story of a life.


Michael Campbell:

Sure, right.


David Trim:

For example, look at Gil Valentine's wonderful book on J. N. Andrews. And it is, it's a superb piece of scholarship. At one point he uses a manuscript collection of J. N. Andrews aunt. But he only uses it for the light it sheds on J. N. Andrews, which is fair enough cause he's writing a biography. But you know there's a diary there. What could that reveal about the lives of early Adventists?


We don't know because he's only looked at it for the light it sheds on this one person who is the subject of his biography, and so that's fair enough. You also have the history of institutions. You don't have so much synthetic history, which is a synthesis across individuals and institutions and Hearts of Faith, in a modest way? It's a popularization, you know, of my work. It's intended to be read by anyone, so it's at the sort of popular level. So it's, I wouldn't say that it's deep scholarship, but I am proud of it in that it fills this historiographical blank spot as we've talked about. But also I think it also is interesting in being a synthesis as opposed to just the study of one individual or one institution.


Michael Campbell:

Yeah. And I want to compliment you by the way, one of the things that, you know, you can always tell the range and work and scope of someone's work by their sources, their footnotes or end notes, right? Versus just something very popular if someone's kind of listening to this and not as familiar with, but you wanna be able to. Obviously can't document every possible little thing, but you want enough that you can see, okay, where is the person getting their ideas? And what I think is one of your great contributions, in addition to having that broad cultural, you know, social milieu and being sensitive and writing that narrative more broadly.


I love how you intersperse little bits and details from the archives. I guess this should be no surprise since you're a director of archives, right. But I love on page 35, where you're talking about the second advent enthusiasm, right? And you're providing some context that you know, one of the challenges was it - - and I'm referring to this on the page before, the excitable, extreme fringes of American Christianity, right? So there's this element of the fringe or scandalous that is plaguing both the Millerites and remains kind of problematic, right? For the early Sabbatarians. But I love, and this is the point I'm trying to get to, is, for example, you quote the Journal of John Emerson, who I had never heard of before.


Looks like you found that on online, somebody, that's now in private hands. You mentioned that in your footnote and then later on, another manuscript collection, I didn't even know you had at the GC archives that, and I love that appeal not only to, you know, various historical sources that people have used, but just going back to the primary sources.


And so David, I just want to compliment you on that, ‘cause - - that just kind of, that's what one of the things that just made it a really fun and an enjoyable read for me.


David Trim:

Oh, great. Thank you very much, Michael. And I will say, you know, it's, both these add some texture and this is always the case with manuscript sources.Which is why as professional historians we would gravitate towards them. Overprinted sources for Early Adventist history, inevitably, one relies a lot on the pages of the Review & Herald, which, I have done. But these - -


Michael Campbell:

Of course.


David Trim:

- - these early manuscripts just add some texture because they're firsthand accounts and so I was pleased to be able to discover these.


Greg Howell:

Yeah, the other texture that stood out to me honestly was the amount of photographs that you included throughout here. I've always loved seeing pictures of old folks, especially in our early years.


Michael Campbell:

Yeah. Yeah. That's the fun part.


Greg Howell:

Tin types and you can just see the progress of photography even over the decades as it kind of comes through. But, names and people that I don't usually see pictures of, uh, Joseph Frisbie, Otis Nichols. You've got some stuff in there. I know for some of our listeners how they may be wondering how we actually get these pictures. Does the archive usually keep a huge collection or are we still finding this stuff? How do we get some of these lesser known figures?


David Trim:

So we do have a very large photograph collection at the GC archives, but also the Ellen G. White estate has a huge photograph collection. And the center, pardon me, the Center for Adventist Research at Andrews University.


It's partly the General Conference archives, but most of our photographs are from a little bit later. So, for Early Adventist photographs, the Ellen White Estate is really a treasure trove. As is the Center for Adventist Research at Andrews.


Greg Howell:

Nice.


David Trim:

And if people wanted to Google the Adventist Digital Library, more and more of those photographs are being made available on the Adventist Digital Library.


Greg Howell:

It's one of my favorite spots on the website, honestly, I always browse through - -


Michael Campbell:

I can't imagine you going there, Greg. You know - -


Greg Howell:

- - photography's always kinda - -


Michael Campbell:

- - dissertating, dissertation. Yeah, indeed. David, who's your favorite character? Just personal, you know, just throw it out there instant response. You've written all these early Adventist pioneers. Is there one you see an affinity to that you really like?


David Trim:

I don't know that I see - -


Michael Campbell:

Resonate with?


David Trim:

I don’t know that I see an affinity to him personally, but, I was really - -


Michael Campbell:

Or her.


David Trim:

- - I was really drawn to James White.


Michael Campbell:

And what makes you excited about James White?


David Trim:

Well, partly, he has a difficult personality. That's why I don't necessarily say I see an affinity to him.


Michael Campbell:

All right, all right. Fair enough. But I mean, who do you like, you know?


David Trim:

James White, I think is a fascinating person, can be very difficult to get on with, and later in life becomes even more difficult to get on with by the late 1860s. In the late 1860s, 1870s, the church is in danger of splitting because he and Uriah Smith and J. N. Andrews and a couple of others just can't get on. And one of the major roles of Ellen White actually is that she's the one person who can tell James White when he's being pigheaded or foolish or, you know, you need to reign yourself in.


Because he is such a powerful character and he has this wonderfully acerbic, sarcastic writing style, which I quote several times in the book. You know you can just almost laugh out loud reading it, especially if like me, you appreciate sarcasm. It's sort of a British thing maybe not all American readers would.


Michael Campbell:

That's, that's okay. We'll - -


David Trim:

I don't quote it in the book, but there is one point actually where somebody writes a letter to the Review and says, you know, I think Brother White has been too harsh about this person. And so we know that it can give offense. And yet, in 1860 at the, what they call a General Conference, not in the way we mean it today, but the General Conference at which a conference that is general at which they choose the name Seventh-day Adventist to be their distinguishing title. The minutes which are in the Review. The first, you know, it must have been 10 minutes, was spent in procedural jousting, backwards and forwards about, you know, what's the correct way to go. And then finally they get to the business and James White begins and says, Brother Chairman, I hope I may call, and he is talking about Joseph Bates, who's chairing, you know, I hope I may call him brother, because mister is so cold.


So I myself discovered when I had never encountered it, but I discovered it. The GC people use the term Brother Chairman as opposed to Mr. Chairman. I love that and at first I found it strange, but then I discovered that it, it where the history was and that it has this long history. So I often use it myself, and there's an example, James White may have this truculent style and seem not to get on and yet, He can say of Joseph Bates, you know, I want to call you Brother Chairman because mister is so cold. And in 1863, of course, he actually in a sense, is the first person elected GC president because the minutes actually say he is elected. They don't say he's nominated, they say he's elected, but he refuses to serve.


Greg Howell:

Interesting.


David Trim:

The minutes actually describe how there's some minutes spent while they are with the brethren trying to prevail upon him not to prevail upon him to serve and him giving reasons why he shouldn't serve. And of course, the reason is he doesn't want it said that he has spent the last 10 years campaigning for more organizations simply so he can become king of this little kingdom.


Greg Howell:

Yeah. Yeah.


David Trim:

And so I, you know, I think there's something really noble about that. And that he actually, you have a period of time in which everybody is trying to persuade him to serve. And he's arguing, no, you can't have me serve. It needs to be somebody else. So there's just something compelling about the character of James White, I think.


Greg Howell:

He doesn't fit the stereotypes of leadership, hungry power. Yeah. It's just not, he's a different guy than you've come across personality-wise.


David Trim:

Yes, and if you just read his writing style, you think you know how difficult he must be to get on with. And as I say, he becomes more so as he gets older and as he suffers strokes.


Greg Howell:

Yeah.


David Trim:

Which he does from an early age because he is a massive overworker.


Greg Howell:

Yeah.


David Trim:

You know, if you look at photographs of him when he dies, he's only in his sixties and he looks as though he is in his eighties.


Michael Campbell:

This is part of the messiness of history, right. The complexity, right. It's not all good or bad, you know, but we can admire those good aspects of his life and yet acknowledge those challenges, you know, and shortcomings as well. You know, that's one of the things that gets me really excited about where I see Adventist historiography is, is I feel like, it's okay to be able to write that kind of history, here you are working in the General Conference and you can write a very candid history of the church. And do so in a way, but that is also faith affirming. It's not apologetic, but in a way it's with that nuance and acknowledges that complexity of history.


David Trim:

Yeah, the complexity of history is a great point, Michael, and I do think whenever I've met with Adventist historians, there's kind of an assumption that you can't do Adventist history.


You either have to do it - - you can't do it while working for the church because you're going to end up just doing apologetics and that Adventist history has to, if it's to be good, has to be harshly critical. I think it's possible to be truthful and historically accurate and acknowledge failings and shortcomings and yet at the same time be faith affirming. I don't think those are either/or options that you have to be one or the other. I think it's possible to be both, and I try to do both.


Michael Campbell:

A kind of a happy medium or a via media. You know, where you don't have to go to either extreme. I think this is where some of the most fruitful work is happening in, in Adventist studies, in Adventist historiography right now that I'm really excited about.


So again, I thank you for this contribution. For our listeners', Hearts of Faith: How We Became Seventh-day Adventist by David Trim, and this is available through Pacific Press, which means that if you have an Adventist Book Center near you, whatever that may look like, you can purchase it there, of course.


I was recently in Southern California last weekend and people I was hanging out with are like, yeah, but we don't have one near us anymore. And so if that is the case, you can buy this book on Amazon. I think it may not do the next day delivery, but you can get it fairly efficiently. And there's also a Kindle version, so it is available electronically.


David Trim:

There is a Kindle version, or you can go to adventistbookcenter.com - -


Michael Campbell:

Oh, there you go.


David Trim:

- - is the website, Pacific Press sells its books through, but it is available on Amazon, including as a Kindle. So thank you for mentioning that.


Greg Howell:

That's great. Hey, I always like to have a last question. So, David, what keeps you up at night as a historian, in terms of Adventist historiography? What kind of stuff is just either really on your heart as a real burden or you're just, you have some nervous energy attached to it - -


David Trim:

So, you know that's really the history of the church's mission. I have published, talked about an Adventist trilogy, but actually the General Conference archives has its own book series, The General Conference Archives Monographs, and with two of my colleagues, I co-wrote a history of the church's missionary enterprise that came out in 2021. That's available on Amazon as well. If you go to Amazon and search for my name, that would bring that up. And the book I'm working on at the moment for the 150th anniversary of mission is about mission - - but you know, there's so much more that could be said, of course. So the trilogy is really a trilogy of books with Pacific Press.


I've got other books on Adventist history. Different aspects and, indeed, a book that came out October last year is a short overview history of, Adventist Mission in China in Historical Perspective.


Michael Campbell:

Well done. I might add that it's a very nice intro.


David Trim:

Yeah. It's a brief, but it's an overview, it gives you the broad contours of Adventist history in concise format, including a lot of charts that show the statistical development. So, you know, I've written quite a lot on Adventist mission, but there's really so much more that could be said. And while A Living Sacrifice is, as I mentioned earlier, a sort of bottom-up recounting telling from the point of view of the missionaries, there's a whole lot more that could be done with that.


The Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, the ESDA, has many of these stories. But there's a need for more synthesis again, rather than just individual biographies, which the encyclopedia has many of, and they're just inspiring and humbling to read, but there's so much more that could be said about Adventist mission as it goes around the world.


And so that's what excites me.


Michael Campbell:

I love it. Well thank you for joining us, David. We've been listening to Dr. David Trim, director of Archive Statistics and Research at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. His new book, Hearts of Faith: How We Became Seventh-day Adventists. If you're listening to this podcast, we encourage you to get a copy of that, read it. You will be delighted. It's a great overview and thank you for that contribution, David.


And we're just glad to have you on this episode of Adventist Pilgrimage Podcast. Thanks for joining in and if you love Adventist history, probing and exploring the Adventist past, that's what we're about every month as we seek to better understand our Adventist past.


So thanks for listening to another episode of Adventist Pilgrimage Podcast.



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