SDARM, Voting & Government

When Good Men and Women Do Nothing

The Reformists of the SDARM generally BELIEVE and TEACH:
- Prohibit voting in government elections.
The Reformists are WRONG because:
- Ellen White was concerned with partisan politics; however, she recognised it was good to vote on important issues, as long as: ‘keep your voting to yourself. Do not feel it your duty to urge everyone to do as you do.’
- Ellen White later called those who adopt the SDARM view, of telling others that they can’t vote like the Quakers (i.e. the major denomination in her day who adopted the non-voting position), a work of Satan.
- Way back in 1885, the SDA General Conference resolved: ‘That in our judgment, the act of voting when exercised in behalf of justice, humanity and right, is in itself blameless, and may be at some times highly proper.’  Ellen White did not oppose this resolution.
- On the issue of prohibition, Ellen White explicitly stated Adventists should vote: ‘I dressed and found I was to speak to the point of whether our people should vote for prohibition. I told them "Yes," and spoke twenty minutes.’
­- And on another occasion Ellen White discussed the virtues of voting in a democracy like the USA: ‘In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue?’
- The SDA Church has never promoted any particular party from the pulpit as an organization, but has always tried to rightly see voting as a serious personal liberty issue. 
- The SDARM position throws the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. In doing so, the Reformists arguably are tools of Satan, as all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men and women to stay silent and do nothing!

Without Support: The SDARM Position from Scripture against Voting and Participation in Government
The SDARM argument

As outlined in the SDARM official statement of belief, “Our Attitude to Earthly Government”:
‘It is the duty of every Christian to obey the laws of the land as long as they do not conflict with the law of God. Romans 13:1-7
…Christians will respect the authorities (Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13, 14, 17), will pay their taxes faithfully (Matthew 22:17-21; Romans 13:7), and will pray for the men in the government, so that God may bless the country with justice, order, peace, and religious liberty. 1 Timothy 2:1-3.
The Word of God does not allow us to take part in political plans, partisan activities, riots, bloodshed, or war. Luke 9:56; John 18:36; Matthew 26:51, 52; Exodus 20:13; Romans 12:18-21. However, we are prepared to contribute to the welfare of society as conscientious objectors, performing work of national importance under civilian direction, in a manner which is not inconsistent with our beliefs.
It is the will of God that impartial justice be rendered to all, so that the religious conscience of each citizen may be respected. In case we are requested to act contrary to a "Thus saith the Lord," we must follow the example of the servants of God in the past—to obey God rather than man. Daniel 3:14-18; Acts 4:18-20; 5:29.’ (emphasis added)
Most Christians, including most Seventh-day Adventists, would agree with much if not all of the above statement.  The major aspect where the SDARM differs is on the issue of voting in government elections, and other civic participation.  As noted by Paul Godfrey in “Ambassadors for Christ – Should a Christian Vote”, from the SDARM publication Sabbath Sermons:
‘Should a Christian vote? Should a Christian have anything to do with politics? Should we fight gay marriage/abortion or any of these controversial topics?
…Ellen White says in the article above not to vote. Its the voice of Jesus.’
So the question remains, should Seventh-day Adventists vote in elections or have other participations with government?
Problems with the SDAM argument
As observed in the official statement Declaration of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Church-State Relations, published by the General Conference of the mainstream SDA Church:
‘When Adventists become leaders or exert influence in their wider society, this should be done in a manner consistent with the golden rule. We should therefore work to establish robust religious liberty for all and should not use our influence with political and civil leaders to either advance our faith or inhibit the faith of others. Adventists should take civic responsibilities seriously. We should participate in the voting process available to us when it is possible to do so in good conscience and should share the responsibility of building our communities. Adventists should not, however, become preoccupied with politics, or utilize the pulpit or our publications to advance political theories.’
Moreover, the mainstream SDA positions notes both Daniel and Joseph (and Esther as well) where high-level officials in the governments of their day, and used that influence for the cause of God’s people, including religious liberty.
‘The Seventh-day Adventist Church is mindful of the long history of the involvement of the people of God in civil affairs. Joseph wielded civil power in Egypt.  Similarly, Daniel rose to the heights of civil power in Babylon and the nation was benefited as a result.
Furthermore, in our own history, Adventists have united with other religious and secular organisations to influence government:
‘In our own church history, Adventists have joined with other religious and secular organizations to exert influence over civil authorities to cease slavery and to advance the cause of religious freedom. Religious influence has not always resulted in the betterment of society, however. Religious persecution, religious wars, and the numerous examples of social and political suppression perpetrated at the behest of religious people, confirms the dangers that exist when the means of the state are used to advance religious objectives.’
Thus, the Bible does not preach total separation from government.  Joseph, Daniel and Esther were all heavily involved in influencing the highest level of government power.  As a result, the more strict and absolute view of the SDARM is noted supported by scripture.

Plan B: The SDARM Position from SOP against Voting and Participation in Government
As typical of the SDARM, in the absence of sufficient scriptural support, they must turn to SOP for their position. The following quotes from Ellen White are cited by the SDARM in its formal statement of belief on “Our Attitude to Earthly Government”.  However, it is best if we review the SDARM’s best and most used quotations:
‘The Lord would have His people bury political questions. On these themes silence is eloquence. Christ calls upon His followers to come into unity on the pure gospel principles which are plainly revealed in the word of God. We cannot with safety vote for political parties; for we do not know whom we are voting for. We cannot with safety take part in any political schemes. We cannot labor to please men who will use their influence to repress religious liberty, and to set in operation oppressive measures to lead or compel their fellow men to keep Sunday as the Sabbath. The first day of the week is not a day to be reverenced. It is a spurious sabbath, and the members of the Lord’s family cannot participate with the men who exalt this day, and violate the law of God by trampling upon His Sabbath. The people of God are not to vote to place such men in office; for when they do this, they are partakers with them of the sins which they commit while in office.’ {FE 475.2} (emphasis added)
To say we should not be involved in political parties is not quite the same as saying we should not vote at all.  Many non-Christians share Ellen White’s sentiments, so they ensure their vote goes to an independent or local member whom they judge on a personal as opposed to party political basis.   Moreover, it should be remembered Ellen White is addressing a particular political system (US Republican democracy) in a particular country (USA) at a particular time (19th Century); thus, some caution must be exercised in applying these statements without in a cultural vacuum, without ascertaining her underlying principle. 
‘The Lord has been greatly dishonoured by his peoples catching up in the issues that arise in this time of test and trial. …His people are to keep free from politics. They are to stand a separate and peculiar people, the name of God our ruler is to be in there foreheads, showing to all that he is their sovereign’ MS, 1, 1897, P. 7 (emphasis added)
To say God’s people should keep clear from politics is not quite the same as saying they should not vote.
‘Men of intemperance have been in the office today in a flattering manner expressing their approbation of the course of the Sabbathkeepers not voting and expressed hopes that they will stick to their course and, like the Quakers, not cast their vote. Satan and his evil angels are busy at this time, and he has workers upon the earth. May Satan be disappointed, is my prayer’–E. G. White diary, Sunday, March 6, 1859. {2SM 337.3} (emphasis added)
Finally and most importantly, this quote shows Ellen White in fact actually promoted voting, and saw not casting one’s vote, as the Quakers do, as the conduct of Satan!  Thus, SOP does not prohibiting voting – it actually admonishes Adventists to go out and vote.

Divided Opinion: The SDA Pioneers

The fact remains early SDA Pioneers were divided on the issue of voting, as Ellen White herself observed in her diary (quoted in The right to vote – shall I exercise it? published by the Ellen White Estate).  It appears some, like Uriah Smith, Lyons and Kellogg were against voting, whilst others such as James White, Andrews and Hewett were in favour of it:
‘Attended meeting in the eve. Had quite a free, interesting meeting. After it was time to close, the subject of voting was considered and dwelt upon. James first talked, then Brother Andrews talked, and it was thought by them best to give their influence in favor of right and against wrong. They think it right to vote in favor of temperance men being in office in our city instead of by their silence running the risk of having intemperance men put in office. Brother Hewett tells his experience of a few days [since] and is settled that [it] is right to cast his vote. Brother Hart talks well. Brother Lyon opposes. No others object to voting, but Brother Kellogg begins to feel that it is right. Pleasant feelings exist among all the brethren. O that they may all act in the fear of God.’ (emphasis added)
What Ellen White may have been primarily concerned with is the mixing of official Church status and activities with politics – as is found in many other denominations.  For example, in many Churches, the minister actively promotes a party or electoral candidate from the pulpit.  Such behaviour has traditionally been discouraged in the SDA Church, given our strong stance on the separation of Church and State.  For these reasons, SOP went on to say:
keep your voting to yourself. Do not feel it your duty to urge everyone to do as you do.’ Selected Messages, book 2, p. 337. (emphasis added)
James White went on to note that a number of Adventists (including probably himself) voted for Abraham Lincoln:
‘Those of our people who voted at all at the last Presidential election, to a man voted for Abraham Lincoln. We know of not one man among Seventh-day Adventists who has the least sympathy for secession.’ Ibid., Aug. 12, 1862
Thus, the above passages demonstrate the myths of the so-called Adventist golden era.  The SDA Pioneers were not all in agreement on the issue, and Ellen White herself never made any explicit statement condemning voting.  Rather, the issue of voting demonstrates what an innovative and tolerant attitude the SDA Pioneers had to new and divergent ideas – quite different from the very narrow straightjacket of the SDARM.

Three Years In: The SDA GC Resolved to Support Voting in 1865
Not only did Ellen White not outright condemn voting but she was present at the third annual General Conference meeting in 1885.  As observed in The right to vote – shall I exercise it? the GC resolved the following:
‘Resolved, That in our judgment, the act of voting when exercised in behalf of justice, humanity and right, is in itself blameless, and may be at some times highly proper; but that the casting of any vote that shall strengthen the cause of such crimes as intemperance, insurrection, and slavery, we regard as highly criminal in the sight of Heaven. But we would deprecate any participation in the spirit of party strife.’ Ibid., May 23, 1865.
Did you read that?  The SDA Pioneers resolved to support voting, noting it was not only blameless but at times highly proper. However, the SDA pioneers were rightly concerned with voting for intemperate persons, and the spirit of partisanship.  Thus, the SDA Pioneers were not against voting – just bad voting and party politics.
It should also be remembered that the SDA Church was only 3 years old – having been incorporated in 1863; thus, even the SDARM cannot claim the mainstream Church was somehow apostate at this time.  Moreover, Ellen White was present at this vote, did not oppose it, and we have already seen that her husband James already supported Adventists voting in elections.

Case Example #1: Ellen White Urges Adventists to Vote for Prohibition
Not only did Ellen White not condemn voting – she actively advocated it!  She even used her own status and standing to convince Adventists to vote for prohibition (government laws banning alcohol):
‘I dressed and found I was to speak to the point of whether our people should vote for prohibition. I told them "Yes," and spoke twenty minutes.’ Temperance, p. 255. (emphasis added)
She later confirmed that position in 1914, near the end of her life:
‘ There is a cause for the moral paralysis upon society. Our laws sustain an evil which is sapping their very foundations. Many deplore the wrongs which they know exist, but consider themselves free from all responsibility in the matter. This cannot be. Every individual exerts an influence in society. In our favored land, every voter has some voice in determining what laws shall control the nation. Should not that influence and that vote be cast on the side of temperance and virtue?" Review and Herald, Oct. 15, 1914. (emphasis added)

Case Example #2: The SDA Pioneers and Religious Liberty in Australia
As a second case example, many Adventists are not aware of the SDA Churches lobbying of government in the cause of religious liberty.  At the constitutional conventions of the 19th Century leading to the Federation of Australia, Adventist leaders helped enshrine freedom of religion in section 116 of the Commonwealth Constitution:
‘The proposed inclusion of Section 116 in the Constitution was the subject of some dissent in the 1897 Melbourne Convention and the final convention in 1898. Protestant churches in New South Wales argued that the Constitution should state that divine providence is the "ultimate source of law", while convention delegates John Quick and Patrick Glynn moved to have God explicitly recognised in the Constitution. The Seventh-day Adventist Church campaigned for a strict separation of church and state, being concerned that the Commonwealth might prohibit its members from working on Sundays.’

Conclusion: Baby Out with the Bathwater
In conclusion, one can see the SDARM have once again, as they often do, thrown the proverbial bay out with the bathwater.  Whereas Adventists should be cautious of partisan politics, the SDARM’s total prohibition against voting allows the very thing Ellen White and many SDA Pioneers were afraid of – evil triumphing because good men and women did nothing. Imagine what would have happened to the Children of Israel is Joseph, Daniel or Esther had adopted that attitude?


  1. paul godfrey is not reform he was IMS he has since left and Sabbath sermons is not a sda reform publication its a internet site run by a john theil follower that broke from the IMS

    1. Do you suggest Paul Godfrey is not reflecting SDAM views when he suggests we not vote? Do SDAM members vote as mainstream Adventists do?

  2. Whatever happened to Paul Godfrey? Is he still preaching, and if so, where?


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