The Adventist Catechism
Uriah Smith takes a Stab at creating an Adventist Catechism
Plenty of Christian communions use a catechism to teach new believers the basics of the faith. I grew up reading the Catholic catechism, with is distinctive and simply question-and-answer approach to teaching. It didn't take with me and, becoming Adventist, I left both the Catholic faith and its traditional method of doctrinal instruction behind.
Or so I thought.
Most Adventists don't know that Uriah Smith, in the early days of his editorship of the Adventist Review, published several columns which form an attempt at an Adventist catechism. It doesn't appear to be a serious attempt at forming a comprehensive manual of Adventist doctrine, but it does suggest that at least some Adventist leaders were open to the idea of a catechism for teaching Adventist doctrine.
In 1857, Smith published a three-and-a-half page "Catechism For the Deist." The text was likely taken from a pamphlet first published in 1829 (without giving credit, of course), but it's fair to say that it wouldn't have been printed in the Review if Smith hadn't seen it as useful.
In 1859-1860, Smith ran a three-part "Sabbatical Catechism" (Part 1, 2, 3) without an explanation as to its origin or purpose. It's likely that this series was an Adventist creation, as "proving" the legitimacy of the Sabbath was a point of emphasis in the Review during its first decade.
Most of the time Adventist authors reference a catechism it was to point out the incorrectness of another church's position (especially Catholics) on the Sabbath. Nevertheless, the word "catechism" clearly wasn't a bad word for Adventists, given the two examples above. (These are two examples of early Adventist attempts at "catechesis." It by no means represents anything more than a quick study.) Even into the 1890s, A.T. Jones' printed lectures on the Blair Sunday-rest Bill were described as "a thorough catechism upon the subject of Church and State."
Taking the idea of a Q-and-A style catechism one step further, an author in The Youth's Instructor reminded young Adventists that "in God's great catechism the answers are not written out; you make them up yourself." That is, all Adventists are writing their own catechisms as they figure out their reasons for believing. The author concluded with a sober reminder: "The Judge of all the earth sits with open catechism."
Why didn't Uriah Smith take the idea of an Adventist catechism further? We can only guess. But given that early Adventism was so implacably opposed to creeds as unyielding statements of faith, it seems unlikely that an Adventist catechism would have been viable. Nineteenth century Adventism was not ready to make official statements of doctrine. Now that Adventists have all of these fundamental beliefs, is the way open for an Adventist catechism?