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Uriah Smith

      Smith, Uriah (May 3, 1832 – March 6, 1903). Editor and author, who gave 50 years of service to the SDA [Seventh-day Adventist] cause. He was born in West Wilton, New Hampshire, and was impressed in childhood by the Advent Movement of 1843-1844. When about 13 years of age, because of an infection, his left leg was amputated above the knee.
      From 1848 to 1851 he attended Phillips Exeter Academy, then declined an attractive invitation to teach in Mount Vernon Academy, New Hampshire. In the hope of earning money to attend college, he worked briefly in a business that soon failed. In 1857 he married Harriet Newall Stevens. About the end of 1852 he became a Sabbathkeeping Adventist. His first contribution to SDA literature was a 35,000 word poem entitled, The Warning Voice of Time and Prophecy. It was being published as a serial in the Review and Herald in 1853 when he joined his sister, Annie, as a worker at the office of The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald in Rochester, New York. He maintained an almost unbroken connection with the institution until the time of his death.
      In 1855 the Review and Herald moved to Battle Creek, Michigan, and that same year, when Smith was 23 years of age, his name appeared for the first time as editor. In the first number printed in Battle Creek he wrote: “I do not enter upon this position for ease, comfort, or worldly profit; for I have seen by my connection with the Review thus far, that neither of these is to be found here.” The primitive equipment in use would have daunted a lesser spirit. In helping prepare the first tracts he used a straight-edge and a pocketknife to trim the edges. “We blistered our hands in the operation, and often the tracts in form were not half so true and square as the doctrines they taught.”
      In the early years severe financial problems faced the youthful editor, but he managed so well that the Review and Herald flourished and grew. Since for a time Smith was editor, proofreader, business manager, and bookkeeper, he found his physical resources taxed to the limit. As a result, in 1869 he was given a year’s leave to recuperate, and J. N. Andrews edited the paper during his absence. The next year James White was elected editor with Smith as associate, but 12 months later Smith was again editor. In 1873, following a disagreement with White over administrative policies, he was relieved of his editorship. He left Battle Creek and worked at his trade as an engraver, but in six months was recalled to his former office, and a cordial relationship
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between the two men was re-established and maintained from then on.
      Smith had considerable mechanical aptitude. Because his artificial leg gave him insufficient freedom of movement, he patented in 1863 an improved model with fully flexible knee and ankle joints. In 1874 he patented a school desk with an improved folding seat. For this he received $3,000, which enabled him to build a new home. He served as treasurer of the General Conference in 1876-1877.
      By 1890, with competent editorial help, he was able to devote more time to writing. He traveled extensively, speaking frequently at camp meetings, in 1894 he visited many European countries and the Near East. Alonzo T. Jones was made editor of the Review and Herald in 1897, with Smith as an associate; but once again Smith returned as editor in 1901.
      In addition to his editorial duties he assumed other responsibilities. He was the first secretary of the General Conference (organized 1863) and held that position on five different occasions. He was also an instructor in Bible at Battle Creek College for many years. It is understandable that during the formative period of the SDA Church a man of Smith’s firm convictions should become involved in some sharp controversies. He taught the semi-Arian view held by Joseph Bates, James White, and certain others, and denied the personality of the Holy Spirit. His views on certain aspects of the law placed him in opposition to E. J. Waggoner, A. T. Jones, and others in 1888. At times his relations with Ellen G. White were strained to the point where he questioned the nature of her visions and made a distinction between her “testimonies” and her “visions.” After 1888, when she supported the new emphasis on righteousness by faith, he even declined to accept some of her counsels to him. Smith opposed the new trend during this period, thinking that the sanctity of the law of God was being imperiled by the place given to faith and grace. In 1891 Smith admitted his wrong attitude, and complete harmony was restored. Never at any time had he considered giving up his beliefs, nor had Mrs. White at any time thought of him as unfit for his office. She always held him and his work in high esteem. It is of interest that while the discussion was in progress, he reported impartially the views of Waggoner, Jones, and Ellen G. White. Some of his editorials, however, were sharply pointed.
      Smith was one of the most fluent writers the denomination has had. In debate his pen could be incisive. His talent for satire often found expression when he dealt with fanaticism, faultfinding, and extremes in health and dress reform. In his later years his writing became more mellow and meditative, with a fine sense of form and words. Although a creative writer, he also borrowed from contemporary and early expositors for his materials, especially in his interpretations of prophecy. He is best remembered for his book generally known by the short title Daniel and the Revelation. It received the warm endorsement of Ellen G. White and had an unrivaled influence on SDA prophetic teaching. Thoughts, Critical and Practical, on the Book of Revelation was published in 1867, and Thoughts, Critical and Practical, on the Book of Daniel, in 1873. These books, combined in one volume, were first sold by George King, thus marking the beginning of the sale of doctrinal subscription books in the colporteur work of the SDA Church. This work, now entitled The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, was revised several times, during Smith’s lifetime and later, and it still has a wide circulation. Among his other works are The United States in Prophecy (later rewritten as Marvel of the Nations), Here and Hereafter, and Looking Unto Jesus.
      Smith strongly urged the separation of church and state, advocated noncombatancy, vigorously opposed slavery, did not approve of SDA’s seeking political office, and campaigned tirelessly against Sunday laws.
      Smith was a handsome man of charming manner, more powerful in pen than in speech. The last words he ever wrote, directed to the General Conference in 1903, epitomize his lifelong purpose: “I am with you in the endeavor to send forth in this generation this gospel of the kingdom, for a witness to all nations. And when this is completed, it will be the signal for the coronation of our coming King.”

(Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, pp. 1355-1356.
Revised Edition. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1976.)

Further Study:
      See Wikipedia —Uriah Smith.
      Download/read Uriah Smith books.

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