The man tasked with heading the implementation of a new administrative structure of a growing world-wide church and later to lead that church after the death of its prophet. A.G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth Century Adventism by Benjamin McArthur follows the life of the longest-serving General Conference President in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist church which simultaneously corresponded with a rapidly changing world and church in the first two decades of the 20th Century.
McArthur efficiently covers Daniells early life in Iowa and his humble beginning in service of the denomination as a minister in the Iowa Conference and a missionary in Texas before being called to be a missionary in New Zealand. Then beginning with Daniells time in New Zealand and then Australia, McArthur details not only how Daniells time in the Southern Hemisphere made him a strong supporter of world missions but also brought forth his administrative skill as this faraway branch of the growing worldwide church innovated in bureaucracy to compensate for the distance away from world headquarters in the United States. Daniells return to the United States was the precursor to his election at the 1901 General Conference session to be President and the much-needed administrative overhaul of the church using the model Daniells had helped shape while overseas. McArthur’s attention to detail examples how this overhaul not only shaped the overall church, but Daniells presidency which was early dominated with the controversy with John Harvey Kellogg and the medical establishment of the church then the resulting fallout and need to reestablish the medical wing of the denomination. Among the biggest struggles McArthur’s book brought out was the budgetary reform to get the denomination out of debt, which played into the controversy with Kellogg, when building new institutions. But one thing was always in the forefront of McArthur’s analysis of Daniells’ presidency—and before—his relationship to Ellen G. White, whose opinion mattered not only to church officials but regular church members. And it would be his relationship with White and her prophetic gift that would end his presidency due to the rise of fundamentalism that crept into denomination and Daniells perceived lack of belief in her gift. McArthur closes out Daniells life with how he became an advisor to his two successors as well as his authorship of two important Adventist books including defending White’s prophetic gift.
Given the significance of Daniells time as General Conference president, McArthur focused the bulk of his biography on the 21 years he served in that office with extensive scholarship as seen in the citations at the end of each chapter. Though covering many topics over Daniells life, McArthur’s prose was engaging and allowing the reader to understand the interconnectedness of numerous issues Daniells had to deal without overwhelming them. One of the interesting things McArthur did early in the book to give context to Daniells and his time was comparing him important non-denominational figures who had a similar impact in their professions as he did with the General Conference, one of which was Theodore Roosevelt. But the most important facet of the biography was Daniells’ relationship with Ellen White and the gift of prophecy which McArthur’s scholarship is shown at its best.
A.G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth Century Adventism is not only the biography of one man but shows how the Seventh-day Adventist church’s administrative structure was reset to accomplish its mission to the world. Benjamin McArthur’s excellent scholarship and engaging writing gives the reader an insight into how significant this time in the church’s history is important for today and how one individual was able to use his skills to help move the denomination forward.