Butler, George Ide (1834-1918)

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GeorgeIdeButler

Minister, administrator, and author. Originally from Vermont, Butler’s parents were closely involved in the beginnings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. George during his youth expressed leanings toward infidelity. In 1853 his family moved to Iowa where he was converted at age 22 and baptized by J. N. Andrews. He then settled on a farm and taught school during the winter months. On March 10, 1859 he married Lentha Lockwood (1826-1901). After their marriage they settled near Waukon, Iowa, where George resumed teaching.

In 1865 after the defection of Snook and Brinkerhoff, Butler was elected Iowa Conference president. In June 1867 Butler was given a ministerial license, and in October of that year he was ordained. He worked indefatigably as an evangelist bringing unity in the previously fragmented conference. As a result of his rebuttals to the Marion party, which focused their dissent upon the ministry of Ellen White, Butler became one of her foremost apologists in the church during the 1860s and 1870s. James White’s declining health was the cause of Butler’s election as president of the General Conference (1872). Butler was particularly active raising funds to start Battle Creek College and to establish Pacific Press.

In 1874 Butler resigned as president. James White, now sufficiently recovered, took back the reins of leadership. Butler returned to Iowa where at the next Iowa-Nebraska Conference meeting he was elected president (1876-1877). He started a vigorous evangelistic program. When James White’s health began to fail a second time, Butler was once again elected General Conference president (1880-1888). In 1882 he also became president of the SDA Publishing Association. In 1886 Butler became involved in a interpretative disagreement with E. J. Waggoner over the identity of the law in the book of Galatians, and whether that law was the ceremonial or moral law. He also confronted the apostasy of D. M. Canright. By the time of the famous 1888 General Conference session, Butler’s health had collapsed, but from his sick bed he still called for those who were more sympathetic to him to “stand by the old landmarks” or not to give up traditional theological positions. He wrote Ellen White a 41-page letter blaming her, W. C. White, and E. J. Waggoner for his illness. This called forth a strong rebuke from Ellen White.

Soon after the 1888 General Conference session, the Butlers moved to Florida and purchased a rural farm, called “Twin Magnolias,” on which they raised citrus fruit. The following year, Lentha suffered a debilitating stroke. It was during these years of solitude that Butler repented for the wrong course he had followed in the events surrounding the 1888 General Conference session. In 1901 Lentha died after which George was elected the first president of the Florida Conference. The following year he was elected president of the Southern Union Conference and the Southern Publishing Association, assisting in the development of the work in the American south, with Ellen White’s encouragement. In 1907 Butler married Elizabeth Work Grainger, whose husband had died in the mission field, and the next year he retired a second time. In his last years he worked to uphold the Spirit of Prophecy, helping to keep the young Loma Linda institution open when others worked to close it.

Books:

The Change of the Sabbath

The Law in the Book of Galatians

Replies to Elder Canright’s Attacks on Seventh-day Adventists

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