"My Soul Is on the Wing for Glory"
Voices of Early Adventist Women
Beverly Beem, Distinguished Faculty Lecture
November 13, 2005
When I was a child, I would sit with my parents and look through the pages of the family album, seeing faces from years past. Much to my delight, I saw pictures of myself when I was a baby, and though it strained my credulity, I saw pictures of my parents when they were babies. Going further back, I saw pictures of my grandmother, not as the elderly woman I knew, but as a young woman with a face I could hardly recognize, and behind her were pictures of her parents, people dressed for the 19th-century, as if they were going to a historical pageant. “Who is this?” I would ask my parents. I learned that who they were determined much about who I am and that their influences shaped my life. What a heritage they left, these men and women who walked the earth before me.
Recently, I have been thumbing through another family album, asking many of the same questions. My colleague, Ginger Hanks Harwood from LaSierra University, and I began to turn the early pages in the Adventist family album, the Review and Herald. We wanted to see what we could find about our spiritual heritage, particularly as Adventist women. Our original question was, “what role did women play in the early Advent movement?” How did their influences help shape our church? What heritage did they leave us as Adventist women? Even as my family album had grandpas and grandmas, mothers and fathers, we wanted to learn about both sides of our religious heritage.
We chose as our primary source the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, the official journal and voice of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As we thumbed through the pages of the Review, we looked for anything written by or about women.1 Though a key word search might have been more efficient, we were going the old-fashioned way, page by turning page into the early days of the Adventist Church. There we met some of the men and women who established our spiritual heritage. As we heard their voices, we found more than we ever anticipated about the influence that women had in shaping the dialog of the early Adventist church.
As we read, we became interested in the nature of the Review itself. We saw how it became a character in the story of the founding of the Adventist Church, holding the voices of those who wrote letters, many of them women, telling the story of their conversion and of their lives in the young Advent Movement as the journal spread the Advent message. These people who left their church homes to become one of the scattered flock looking for the coming of the Lord are the root of our own spirituality. Their language describes, explains, and defines the nature of the early Adventist experience. In seeking to understand their experiences, we learned more about their world, their purposes for speaking, and the response of the men and women who heard them and read their words.
Tonight I invite you to enter into the days of the early Advent movement and to hear the voices of these early Adventist women and men who helped define the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a pilgrim people and a remnant people. I will look first at the role of the Review in giving women a public voice, and then focus on the women who wrote, describing the landscape of the pilgrim road, and the men who wrote about these outspoken women as evidence that the Advent people were indeed the remnant people.
THE ROLE OF THE REVIEW
In 1850, James White established the Review to encourage the handful of Millerites who still believed that God was behind the preaching of the Second Advent. These few people still believed Christ was indeed coming soon, that the things of earth would soon pass away, and that the faithful ones would be going home to be forever with the Lord. How could one let go of that blessed hope! Such a faith demanded perseverance. Imagine the experience of these early believers, still reeling from the Great Disappointment of 1844 and separated from their own church communities, a scattered flock united by a journal. The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald would come to their homes week-by-week bearing scriptural exegesis, testimonies of faith, and news of the work. It would publish letters from believers to others in the scattered flock who grew to see in the Review, their meeting place.
For many, the Review became a substitute for the congregations the flock had left behind. The weekly journal allowed believers to participate in dialog with a scattered community of saints, a community only in the spiritual and literary sense. As the paper united distant voices, it created a “we” among persons who would never meet face to face, and it gave voice to many who had been voiceless in public religious discourse. In the Review, men and women could speak equally within the community. For many women, this new access to a public forum was a distinguishing characteristic of the Advent movement.
So, the Review became the heart of the early Adventist experience. Its letters frequently alluded to the role that it played in the believers’ spiritual lives, giving us glimpses of what life was like during the embryonic stage of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. These comments reflected the early Adventists’ hunger for truth, the longing for a deeper understanding of the will of God, especially in the light of the Great Disappointment. Rather than abandoning their hope, this scattered band of Millerites dug deeply into Scripture to find their place in history. These disappointed ones set their feet on the pilgrim’s road, the journey towards God and union with him, whatever God’s timetable would be.2
This mysterious timetable led to rich metaphorical speech. Sister Elizabeth Degarmo personified the Review as an itinerant “teacher” and “a welcome visitor,” when she said, “The Review has not been an idle servant here. It has traversed this region round about, and has been like the leaven of the scriptures.”3 Sister Mary Fairbanks wrote of the spiritual sustenance the Review brought to the pilgrim when she said, “I feel I should almost faint by the way, were it not for the Review and Herald which comes weekly bringing the blessed tidings of the kingdom and the prosperity of the cause.”4 Sister Morinda G. Bartlett talked of feeding a spiritual hunger when she said of the Review, “I thank my heavenly Father that there are servants who are giving meat to those who are hungry and thirsty, and to those who have fed on husks long enough.”5
The metaphorical term “scattered flock” appeared repeatedly through these letters. It pictured clearly the challenge to develop a group identity for these early Adventist believers. Without a name to call themselves, they referred to fellow believers as “those of like precious faith,” “scattered sheep,” “the dear brethren and sisters scattered abroad,” “the scattered saints,” and “that peculiar people whom Jesus will present without spot or wrinkle or any such thing to his Father.” The names were descriptive of the loneliness of the pilgrim road.
They were in new terrain: “The patient waiting time.” In the aftermath of the Great Disappointment, the faithful had to incorporate the delay into a comprehensible part of their continuing spiritual pilgrimage. They described life as a pilgrim people and recorded the lived Christian faith of these disciples and the meaning they found in “the waiting time.” Mary Frohlich, in a recent article on the methods of studying Christian spirituality, described this “lived spirituality” as “an ongoing dynamic activity in which individuals and groups create and recreate meaning, joy, and shared life from whatever materials are at hand.”6 The individual stories and testimonies published in the Review reflected this process and stood in the Christian tradition of spiritual autobiography. The writers testified to the work of God in their lives, publicly committed themselves to faithfulness in the journey, and encouraged others “on the road.”
By publishing their letters, the Review stressed the importance of developing a spiritual voice and speaking publicly to the community. All believers were called on to be exhorters.7 Emphasis on the discipleship of all believers created possibilities for women in an era when they were largely excluded from public theological discussion. The Review provided a place for women to speak, and numerous women used its pages as their access to public religious discourse. Sister A. C. Mackey referred to both the opportunity and the responsibility to do so when she wrote,
I have for a long time felt it duty to write to you through the Review, but I have excused myself because my talent is so small. But will God excuse the one that has but one talent sooner than the one that has ten? I think not.8
In the Review, the women of the Advent Movement found their voice and developed the maturity to testify to their own spiritual experiences and to exhort their brothers and sisters. Through their testimonies, women developed the imagery to describe and define the Adventist experience and to shape the language Adventists used and continue to use.
THE SPIRITUAL LANDSCAPE OF PILGRIMAGE
Let’s look at a few of these letters. As we listen to their voices, remember that these women appeared in the family album in sepia tones with stern faces and 19th-century dress. Their language, too, was the language of the 19th century, sometimes florid with emotion, rich in biblical allusion, and earnest in its appeal to the reader to join them on the pilgrim road. It was the language of a testimony meeting, and whether the writer was male or female, the voice was personal and confessional. Stressing connection with a community and communion with God, the letters described the spiritual landscape of the early Adventist experience. Many of the themes and motifs of the Adventist pilgrimage can be found in the letter of Lucinda Dawson from Rockford, Iowa, written in 1858. She wrote:
Permit a lonely one in the far West to speak through the columns of the Review to the scattered flock, as I have no other way of communicating with them. It has been nearly six years since I embraced the Sabbath and other truths connected therewith, and I have never felt to regret that I did so; but have often felt to mourn because I did not live always at the feet of my heavenly Master; yet, my christian friends, I mean to be an overcomer.
I have not seen any of like precious faith (with the exception of my father) for the last eighteen months. I think I know in a measure how to sympathize with the lonely ones that are scattered upon the mountains, weary and without a shepherd; and yet we are not alone, for God is with us by his Holy Spirit. I feel as if we were resting too much on the theory of the truth while it is not having that sanctifying influence upon our lives that it should have; for we must be pure and without fault before the throne of God. Is it not time for us to arise and put on the whole armor of God, and prepare for the loud cry of the Third Angel’s Message? O for more faith to overcome the world, the flesh, and the Devil with all of his works, that we may have a right to the tree of life and enter through the gates into the city. Who of us that profess the truth now, will have these glorious privileges? and who will be shaken out? O let us prepare for the coming crisis.9
Do you recognize the allusions? Do you hear the cadence? Her letter is rich in the language of the Third Angel’s Message: scattered flock, overcomer, like precious faith, the lonely ones scattered upon the mountains, the loud cry, the shaking, the coming crisis. Note how in this letter Sister Dawson speaks also her autobiographical experience, and in language rich with biblical allusion, she actively engages in the rhetoric of a church community. She exhorts her brothers and sisters to be faithful. She mourns the lack of faithfulness in her own life and resolves to be an overcomer. She warns against a theoretical faith only that does not have the sanctifying influence on the life. In the lyrical language of longing, she cries out, “O for more faith.” She sympathizes with all in her position who seek to be faithful without the support of a church community, and she points to the glorious heritage of the overcomer.
Her letter also reflects the reality of a pilgrim journey. A pilgrimage is not a sightseeing trip or an excursion. It is a long and difficult journey taken for an exalted purpose. It requires sacrifice. Only the essentials can be taken. It takes discernment to outfit oneself with the necessities of travel and abandon anything that would impede the journey. It requires perseverance, courage, and stamina. One cannot turn back once the pilgrimage has begun. For these pilgrims the goal was the most exalted purpose imaginable, drawing near to God.10
Of the seventeen hymns included in the “Early Advent” section of the Adventist hymnal (No’s 438-454), twelve contain some aspect of the pilgrimage motif.11 Mary S. B. Dana captured the urgency of the journey in her refrain, “I’m a pilgrim, and I’m a stranger; / I can tarry, I can tarry but a night” (No. 444). The hymns of Annie Smith, whose poetry appeared frequently in the early Review, capture the eagerness of the pilgrim and the longing for home that transcend the weariness and hardship of the road. “How far from home?” the wanderer asks and receives the watchman’s assurance that “The long, dark night is almost gone / The morning soon will break.” Impelled by hope, the travelers watch for the morning star that guides them to “the realms of light, / In everlasting day.” The only response to such encouragement is to “weep no more, but speed thy flight.” The goal is the land where there will be no more sorrow nor crying, but with “joys complete, / Safe in our Father’s home.” The imagery of light contrasts with the night of the earthly journey, the struggle of the Christian’s warfare with the victory won, and the loneliness of the road with the community of the Father’s house (No. 439).
While traveling through “this dark vale of sin and gloom,” the pilgrims are “still looking for the promised day.” The Advent pilgrim is personified in Annie Smith’s hymn “I saw one weary, sad, and torn, / With eager steps press on the way.” No sacrifice is too great for the “everlasting crown” that awaits them. Whether the pilgrims fight “with sword and shield” or travel in loneliness, having left behind “the cherished friends of early years,” their hope sustains them “Till our returning King shall come.” The speaker conducts a dialog with the pilgrim in the triumphant refrain, “I asked what buoyed his spirits up, ‘O this!’ said he—‘the blessed hope.’” (No. 441).
The loneliness of the journey was a recurring motif in the letters. The scattered flock felt keenly their isolation. One of the great joys of the destination was to find a place where there would be no parting. Letters would frequently close with some reference to meeting the saints in the kingdom where they would never part again. Imagine the loneliness and longing of Sister M. A. E. Townsend who wrote,
I am as it were almost alone here in reference to keeping the seventh-day Sabbath; . . . I have never had the privilege of hearing one of our faith preach. O, that some might be directed this way, that we may be taught more perfectly in the way of life.
I pray daily for the prosperity of Zion, that the little flock may hold out faithful to the end, that although I may not see any of them on earth, I may meet them in heaven.12
This destination, expressed in the language of homeland, embodied all the longings of the human heart, but most of all, this home was the place of God, and the ultimate purpose of the journey was to be with him. One anonymous author wrote, “By drawing near to God, we are made to feel that he is love. It is not difficult to form some conceptions of the power, wisdom and justice of God. We can do all this while we remain at a distance from him. But to know the meaning of the expression, God is love, we must draw near to him.”13
Drawing near to God and experiencing his love meant also knowing his will and following it completely. Like Christian of Pilgrim’s Progress they were citizens of another land and faithful to another king. A higher authority replaced old authorities and rules. This called for radical obedience to revealed light, and for those in the Advent Movement this obedience was expressed in the Sabbath. Just as they had studied their way into an understanding of the second coming and when the disappointment came, they continued to search the Scriptures to understand God’s will, so again, many of the letters testified to the process of finding the Sabbath through a study of the Bible.
As believers in the Advent Near, the Millerites had made a radical commitment to follow God in ways that took them beyond the boundaries of accepted religious belief. They could almost see God’s angels gathering the redeemed of the earth when they found themselves in the valley of despair. The loneliness deepened when their own companions abandoned their hopes and returned home or settled in the valley. To be a Sabbatarian Adventist was to take a further step outside this rarefied religious terrain. They no longer shared worship space; now, they no longer shared worship time. Instead, they explored the new spiritual terrain offered by the Sabbath.
In the Sabbath, the early Adventists saw both the essential test of their commitment to the journey, “walking in obedience,” and a symbol of the meaning of the journey. Far from being a legalistic earning of salvation, keeping the seventh day Sabbath stood as part of the experience of uniting with a holy God. As a time of communion with God it provided a foretaste of the journey’s end. While in the Review the major articles developed the theology of the Sabbath, the letters spoke to the joy of its discovery. Betsy Sage captured the familiar theme of “walking in obedience” when she wrote, “I praise the Lord that there are a few in this place that are endeavoring to keep God’s holy Sabbath, and walk in obedience to all the commandments.”14 Sally A. Yuker expressed the meaning of the Sabbath as a foretaste of heaven when she wrote:
I had been praying for three weeks that the Lord would teach me, and when he showed me his covenant I fell down before him, promising to keep the Sabbath day holy. I was unspeakably blest. I felt much as I did when I first found the Saviour precious to my soul. Indeed the truth had made me free. I was happy as long as I hallowed the Sabbath with my whole heart. The Lord is gracious to me. I sometimes long for that eternal rest which shall never be interrupted.
I want not only to keep the Sabbath, but to keep myself unspotted from the world. I want on the whole armor, for I am looking for that day when the marriage supper of the Lamb will come. I want to be there; for all that are there will share in the glorious inheritance prepared for those that love God.15
A REMNANT PEOPLE
The belief that “the night cometh” and they were living in the last days led them to identify themselves not only as a pilgrim people but also as a remnant people. As a pilgrim people they were to draw near to God and persevere to the end; as a remnant people they were to warn the world so soon to come to judgment. As a pilgrim people, they spoke to encourage fellow pilgrims on the road. As a remnant people they were to speak the loud cry: “Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” In the imagery of the parable of the Ten Virgins, they thought of themselves in the tarrying time, waiting for the bridegroom. “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come and will not tarry.”16 In this task no voice can be silent.
While the public ministry of women was unusual in the general church practices of the day, the Adventist community considered the public speaking of women to be a fulfillment of prophecy and a sign that they were indeed the remnant people of God. An examination of the Review during this period reveals the active role women played as disciples during this formative stage of the church. Women’s contributions were as varied as the individual personalities and circumstances themselves and they included speaking in religious meetings and preaching.
Having been enjoined to silence in their pre-Adventist churches, women in the Advent movement found themselves urged to speak publicly in their communities. That women as well as men could testify, preach, and exhort, was a principle and practice that set them apart from their former associations. S. C. Welcome described what he considered to be common practice in their former churches when he said:
Often have I been in meetings where it was contrary to the rules of the church for females to speak; and while the brethren would speak of their enjoyment, some humble sister whose heart would be overflowing with the love of God, would sit bound down by the chains of the church creed, while her flushed cheek and flowing tears told plainly that she was an unwilling slave to the laws of the church.17
Considering Adventist practices, which ran counter to traditional assumptions concerning the proper place of women in the church, it was perhaps inevitable that the official voice of the Advent movement would need to address the issue periodically, particularly for the benefit of new believers. During the formative years of the church, from 1850 to 1863, the Review published eight articles specifically addressing the subject of women’s spiritual leadership in the church, and from 1863, the date of the formal establishment of the Seventh-day Adventist Church until the death of James White in 1881, the Review published an additional seven articles for the same purpose. All these articles directly defended both the right and obligation of women to participate fully in the preaching ministry of the church.18 The early Adventist stand was clear concerning what Uriah Smith called “the right of the sisters” to preach or do “any amount besides in the same direction.”19
One such article creates a dialog with someone identified as “An Admirer of Woman in her proper place.” Answering the Admirer point by point, J. A. Mowatt said, “I will say here that if a woman can effect good in a world like ours, where so much is yet to be done for its reformation, I would think twice before I would discourage her or throw any obstacle in her way.” He then asked a series of rhetorical questions:
Who would object to a woman rescuing his friend from temporal death? No man. Then why object to a woman rescuing men from eternal death? Who would dare say that Grace Darling did wrong to go out in the life-boat and rescue the crew of a sinking vessel? No man. Why then object to a woman pushing out the gospel life-boat to rescue men sinking into perdition? Who would dare say Mrs. Fry did wrong in seeking to rescue men from dismal dungeons? No man. Then why object to woman going to seek and to save those that are pining in the dungeons of sin and iniquity?20
Though many Adventist women did freely exercise their gifts, still it was difficult for some to overcome a lifetime of conditioning to be silent. B. F. Robbins issued an appeal entitled “To the Female Disciples in the Third Angel’s Message,” urging women believers to put away their reluctance to speak in worship services. He said, “seek unweariedly the endowment of the promise of the Father, the power from on high, which is alike the privilege of both the servants and handmaidens of God.” Robbins acknowledged that the women coming into the Advent Movement had been taught to keep silent and might find this new freedom intimidating. “I know,” he noted, “that the most of us have been gathered into the message of the third angel from the sectarian churches where we received our religious training, which we now, in the clear light of God’s truth see was defective, both in doctrine and practice.”
The prime defect Robbins identified in this appeal was the “prejudice against woman’s efforts and labors in the church.” He recognized that this training instilled in women a spirit of “timidity, and discouragement, and the neglect of the use of gifts designed to edify the church and glorify God.” Robbins called on women disciples to overcome “the embarrassing influence of our former associations” and “conformity to the world” and fully exercise their spiritual gifts. Women not willing to utilize whatever gifts God had given them were not being faithful to their responsibilities as disciples and would not hear the commendation of the Master. He then cited the example of Pentecost where the faithful Marys sat with their brethren. He wrote:
Go with me in imagination to the gathering of the few disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost. There with their brethren in humble expectation sat the faithful Marys. . . .
Now with their brethren in their assembly they wait the promise of the Father, the endowment of power from on high. And did not the tongue of fire descend alike upon them as upon their brethren? Assuredly it did. And think you that their Spirit-baptized lips were closed in silence in that solemn assembly? No: the servants and the handmaidens prophesied there as the Spirit gave them utterance. . . .
And has the hallowed fire touched your lips? Open them for Jesus, and in testimony everywhere of the truth and faithfulness of our covenant-keeping God.21
In early Adventism, there was the expectancy that the sisters would receive and manifest spiritual gifts just as did the brothers. These teaching, preaching, spirit-filled sisters were sometimes referred to as “the Marys,” linking Adventist women disciples with those recorded in Scripture. “The Marys,” the women who followed Christ, became role models for the women of the Third Angel’s Message. Ellen White, in one of the relatively few articles she published in the Review during this period, made a special appeal to women to accept the call to the preaching ministry. An impassioned plea for gospel workers, the article urged believing women to look beyond their own discomfort with public ministry to the needs of the perishing. Beginning with the reminder that it was a woman, Mary Magdalene, who first preached the resurrection to the disciples, she said, “If there were twenty women where now there is one, who would make this holy mission their cherished work, we should see many more converted to the truth. The refining softening influence of Christian women is needed in the great work of preaching the truth.”22 James White, in speaking to those reluctant to hear a woman preaching the gospel, attributed the problem not to the women preaching but to those “who do not like to hear the Marys preach a risen or coming Saviour.”23
As new converts were attracted to the Advent Movement, they could not help but notice that women evangelized, spoke in church and religious gatherings, exhorted the believers and exercised spiritual leadership. For early Adventists, the most important key to understanding women’s role in public ministry was provided in Joel, “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.”24 In Acts 2, Peter applied this prophecy to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days. That women were prophesying, which they understood as preaching, teaching, exhorting, and edifying the church through an exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, was seen as a fulfillment of God’s promise. The preaching and teaching by women in their midst was evidence to the Advent believers that they were God’s people and that the Day of the Lord was at hand.
Since early Adventists sought to base every doctrine on an examination of Scripture, it is not surprising that they turned to Scripture for their understanding of the role of women in the church. Adventist scholars found Biblical precedents where God used women in a multitude of tasks, providing ample and powerful support for the preaching and public testimony of women in the Third Angel’s Message. Examples of women’s leadership in the Old and New Testaments were often given as evidence that God selects both men and women to serve in a public capacity. Rather than isolating the story of Eve’s fall as the key narrative concerning women and thereby excluding women permanently from leadership as did some groups, Adventist scholars reviewed the entire Scripture for a more complete understanding of women’s roles in the community. They cited the four prophesying daughters of Philip the evangelist in the New Testament as a continuation of the tradition of Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the Old Testament. They saw in Priscilla who “as well as Aquilla, instructed the eloquent Apollos more perfectly in the nature of the gospel dispensation,”25 evidence that women as well as men were called to teach. The pattern was clear: God calls servants, men and women, to perform his tasks. Summarizing his conclusions on the issue of women’s spiritual leadership, S. C. Welcome said,
Seeing that females were admitted to the high office of prophesy under the old dispensation, and in the promise of the more general effusion of this gift, the daughters and handmaidens were equally included with the other sex, that they were among the first messengers of the gospel, and after the churches were formed and settled received particular instruction how to conduct themselves in the church, in the exercise of their gifts, it is strange that the privilege should have ever been called in question. 26
For these early Adventists, the urgency of living in the last days brought together both motifs of the pilgrim people and the remnant people. L. Schellhous wrote in behalf of himself and his wife, referring to her as “my companion,” a term we found frequently when men spoke of their wives. He wrote:
My dear companion is striving with me to overcome and to heed the admonition to buy of him gold tried in the fire that we may be rich towards God, and raiment that we may be clothed, and eye-salve that we may see clearly the way of life. 27
Whether looking to the end of the journey or the end of the world, these early Adventists, these traveling companions, lived as citizens of another land. They sold all they had to buy “the gold tried in the fire.” That was their heritage.
My own walk through the pages of the Review has made me fall in love
with my Adventist heritage all over again. It provides a rich legacy for women and for the church. I wonder if we have not forgotten much of it. If the imagery and language that we found in the nineteenth-century discourse seems a little foreign to us, I wonder what they would think of our church discourse today. How would it differ if we remembered the words of Lucinda Dawson and Betsy Sage? How would it differ if we remembered the words of James White and Uriah Smith? We heard the voices of women participating fully in the dialog of the early Adventist Church. We heard the voices of men urging women to resist cultural conformity and in their own voices to claim the promise of the Father. We heard the companionable voices of women and men blending together in the lived experience of the Advent Movement and together shaping the language and imagery that we continue to use in defining who we are as a church. Their passionate belief in the soon coming of Christ and the Seventh-day Sabbath found deep support in the experiential language of spirituality, rich in biblical imagery that the Advent Movement made its own.
The family album is still growing, generation by generation. It now has many volumes, and new pages are added every year. We need to have our own portraits there. We still have the responsibility to describe our own authentic spirituality so our children can look back and see their heritage in the mature faith of the 21st century. For their sakes we must make sure that even the lonely voices are heard and the scattered ones are included in the album, for often they are very far along on the pilgrim’s road. With them we can join in the words of Sister R. B. Wheeler: “My soul is on the wing for glory. I long to reflect the image of the Lord Jesus . . . . His promises are all yea and amen in Christ Jesus.”28
About the Author
Beverly Beem can’t say precisely where she is from. Her father was a minister, her mother a teacher, and the family moved regularly. She was born in Little Rock, Ark., and moved with her family to Massachusetts when she was just a year old. Seven years later her family moved again to Atlanta, Ga., where she attended Atlanta Junior Academy before graduating from Collegedale Academy, where she discovered a love for English literature and language. She applied this passion at Southern College and later at Union College where she received her bachelor of arts degree in English in 1967. She values the teachers who encouraged her during these years, especially Lynn Sauls, Gordon Madgwick, and Verne Wehtje.
Beem began teaching at Southwestern Adventist College in 1968 while earning a master’s degree in English from Andrews University. She moved to Nebraska in 1971 to teach at her alma mater, Union College. In 1974 she received her doctorate in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a specialty in Renaissance literature. Working with Professor Leslie T. Whipp, she focused her studies on the devotional poetry of George Herbert whose major work, The Temple, is a classic of spiritual literature.
In her professional life, Professor Beem has expanded her scholarship significantly. In her words, “The older it is, the better I like it.” She teaches and publishes in the areas of biblical literature (specifically Old Testament narrative with particular study in the book of Judges), classical literature, medieval literature, the literature of spirituality, and the roles of women in the early Seventh-day Adventist church. She has published in and taught these specialties with colleagues Doug Clark, former WWU professor of Old Testament and archaeology, and Ginger Hanks Harwood, associate professor of religious and theological studies at La Sierra University.
Professor Beem has been at Walla Walla University since 1976, and she has worn all the possible hats in the English Department. She was college writing coordinator for six years and chair of the department for 16 years. During her time as college writing coordinator, she was a fellow at the University of Iowa’s Institute on Writing where she helped design and initiate major revisions in the nation’s college writing programs. Much of what she helped design at the Institute became the foundation for WWC’s writing program. In the years since, Professor Beem has won National Endowment for Humanities fellowships on biblical literature at both Yale University and the University of Indiana and at Brown University’s Institute on Women in the Ancient Near East.
Dr. Beem’s interests in biblical literature and spirituality have complemented her work in the University Church where she has served as an elder since 1978, including nine years as head elder. She is also certified as a spiritual director and has conducted journaling workshops and spiritual retreats.
She enjoys travel and photography and has co-directed Walla Walla University study tours to England and the European continent to teach Renaissance and Reformation literature in their contexts. She has also traveled to study the literature of classical Greece and Renaissance Italy, and to research the settings of biblical stories in Israel and Jordan.
No matter where she travels, however, Beverly Beem always comes back to Walla Walla. You may not get a precise answer when asking her where she’s from, but you will always get a clear-cut answer when asking her where home is. “When I came to Walla Walla College, I recognized that it was a very special place. I am able to grow here. It has been a place where I have never bumped my head on the ceiling.”
1 Much of this material is available online at the General Conference Archives established and administered by Bert Haloviak.
2 I owe much of my understanding of the historical background of the Review to Ginger Hanks Harwood. For additional information on the role of the Review in the development of Adventist spirituality, see our forthcoming article “`My Soul is on the Wing for Glory’: Adventist Spirituality, 1850-1863” to be published in Andrews University Seminary Studies.
3 “From Sister Degarmo,” Review and Herald, August 22, 1854, 15.
4 “From Sister Fairbanks,” Review and Herald, March 25, 1858, 150.
5 “From Sister Bartlett,” Review and Herald, April 4, 1854, 87.
6"Spiritual Discipline, Discipline of Spirituality: Revisiting Questions of Definition and Method,” Spritus: Journal of Christian Spirituality 1 (Spring 2001): 71.
7M. E. Cornell and R. J. Lawrence, “Tent Meetings in Lapeer, Mich. Closed,” Review and Herald, September 9, 1857, 133.
8"From Sister Mackey,” Review and Herald, October 8, 1861, 151.
9"From Sister Dawson,” Review and Herald, July 8, 1858, 62.
10For a fuller treatment of the pilgrimage motif in the Advent Movement, see Beverly Beem and Ginger Hanks Harwood, “Pilgrims and Strangers: Adventist Spirituality, 1850-1863,” Spectrum 31 (Fall 2003): 67-75. Some of the material in this section has been adapted from this article.
11The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald, 1985).
12"From Sr. Townsend,” Review and Herald, September 13, 1853, 78.
13"Drawing Near to God,” Review and Herald, October 15, 1857, 195.
14 “From Sister Sage,” Review and Herald, January 20, 1853, 143.
15"From Sister Yuker,” Review and Herald, July 4, 1854, 176.
16Tryphena N. Elliot, “From Sister Elliot,” Review and Herald, July 22, 1858, 79.
17"Shall the Women Keep Silence in the Churches?” Review and Herald, February 23, 1860, 109-110.
18For a fuller treatment of the remnant motif in the Advent Movement, see Beverly Beem and Ginger Hanks Harwood, “`Your Daughters Shall Prophesy’: James White, Uriah Smith, and the ‘Triumphant Vindication of the Right of the Sisters’ to Preach,” Andrews University Seminary Studies, 43 (Spring 2005): 41-58. Some of the material in this section has been adapted from this article.
19Introduction to J. A. Mowatt, “Women as Preachers and Lecturers,” Review and Herald, July 30, 1861, 65-66. Extracted from the Portadown News, Ireland, of March 2, 1861.
21Review and Herald, December 8, 1859, 21-22.
22"Address and Appeal, Setting Forth The Importance of Missionary Work,” Review and Herald, January 2, 1879, 1-2.
23“Paul Says So,” Review and Herald, September 10, 1857, 152.
25Welcome, “Shall the Women Keep Silence in the Churches?” 110.
26“Shall the Women Keep Silence in the Churches?” 109-110.
27“From Bro. Schellhous,” Review and Herald, July 22, 1858, 79.
28“From Sister Wheeler,” Review and Herald, August 4, 1853, 47.