Updated: Aug 21
By The AV Booth Guy (Tom)
Should Adventists vote and if so, how should they vote?
Next year the voting for the presidential election will occur and those vying to be president from both major parties are already campaigning.
So this topic needs to be discussed now before the church becomes engulfed in party politics.
Let me start off by saying I’m not going to tell you how to vote or whether you should vote at all. I’ll leave that up to you.
The purpose of this post is to give you the information necessary to make an informed decision as an Adventist.
The Bible tells us to reason together, so I’ve done some of the research for you and I’m going to share that here so that you can make an informed decision. You can even take what I’ve done here and do more research on your own, in fact, I encourage you to do that.
I’m going to give you what the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy (SOP) says on the topic and what some of the pioneers of the church had to say about voting. I’ll also show you some of the history of voting in the Adventist church and a study conducted by the Ellen White Estate.
With this information, you can decide on your own whether to vote (and how to vote if you choose to do so).
Let’s start off by giving the results of a study completed in 1980 by Paul A. Gordon, who served as the undersecretary of the Ellen G. White Estate.
The study looked through all of Ellen White’s writings and the writings of prominent pioneers of the church and came to three conclusions.
These are the three conclusions:
1. We are always to vote "on the side of temperance and virtue."
2. The decision to vote for candidates is a personal decision.
3. We are to stand free from political strife and corruption.
Let’s briefly look at these three points.
If we decide to vote, it should be done on the side of temperance and virtue. What does that mean?
Temperance is putting away all that is bad for us and using moderation in all things that are good for us. Temperance has been pushed by the Adventist church since its inception. Examples include the prohibition of alcohol, which the church supported by their publications, their preaching, and their vote.
“The advocates of temperance fail to do their whole duty unless they exert their influence by precept and example—by voice and pen and vote—in favor of prohibition and total abstinence.” (Ellen G. White, The Review and Herald, November 8, 1881) Here, Ellen White is encouraging church members to vote for temperance issues, particularly when it comes to alcohol.
“Of all who claim to be numbered among the friends of temperance, Seventh-day Adventists should stand in the front ranks.” (Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, page 384.)
“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 men of non-temperance put in office.” (Ellen G. White, Letters and Manuscripts, Volume 1, page 607.2) This is Ellen White describing a discussion by leaders of the Adventist church on voting.
The temperance issue has always been a part of the Adventist church and is important overall in our beliefs and should be reflected in our actions, which includes our voting habits, if we choose to vote.
“The temperance question is to receive decided support from God's people. Intemperance is striving for the mastery; self-indulgence is increasing, and the publications treating on health reform are greatly needed. Literature bearing on this point is the helping hand of the gospel, leading souls to search the Bible for a better understanding of the truth. The note of warning against the great evil of intemperance should be sounded; and that this may be done, every Sabbathkeeper should study and practice the instruction contained in our health periodicals and our health books. And they should do more than this: they should make earnest efforts to circulate these publications among their neighbors.” (Christian Service, page 219.3)
“Present the total abstinence pledge, asking that the money they would otherwise spend for liquor, tobacco, or like indulgences, be devoted to the relief of the sick, poor, or for the training of children and youth for usefulness in the world.” (The Ministry of Healing, page 211)
Voting for temperance was so important, that Ellen White even encouraged voting on the Sabbath if necessary!
“Ellen White went on to make possibly her most direct statement on voting in favor of prohibition. “‘Shall we vote for prohibition?’ she asked. ‘Yes, to a man, everywhere,’ she replied, ‘and perhaps I shall shock some of you if I say, If necessary, vote on the Sabbath day for prohibition if you cannot at any other time.’” (Arthur White, 3BIO 16)
“Men of intemperance have been in the office today in a flattering manner expressing their approbation [approval] 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." (Ellen G. White, Temperance, pages 255-256)
Here, the intemperate politicians in office were glad that some Adventists weren’t voting, because it allowed them to stay in office. But Ellen White was praying that more Adventists would choose to vote for temperance and moral issues to counter the work of Satan.
So what about virtue? It means we should vote issues that deal with morals and biblical principles and not along party lines (if we decide to vote at all).
Here is a statement from Elder F.M. Wilcox, “The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not seek to dictate to its members as to how they shall vote or whether or not they should vote at all. It is left for each one to act on his own judgment in the fear of God. We have been told by the servant of the Lord that we should not link up with political parties, that we should not agitate political questions in our schools or institutions. On the other hand, we have been instructed by the same authority that when certain moral issues, such as prohibition, are involved, the 'advocates of temperance fail to do their whole duty unless they exert their influence by precept and example--by voice and pen and vote--in favor of . . . total abstinence.' This instruction is not mandatory, it is still left for each one to determine for himself what he shall do.”
This was written in the Review & Herald in 1928 and shows that the church still clung to the guidance given by Ellen White even after her death in 1915.
We are not to link with political parties or party strife and if we vote it should be for supporting moral and temperance issues.
The Adventist church officially became a denomination in 1863, right in the middle of the U.S. Civil War which was from 1861 to 1865. Our church right from the beginning stages stood on the side of the anti-slavery movement. Voting to end slavery was promoted in our churches by its leaders and everyone that was able to was encouraged to vote in that manner.
“We would further represent that Seventh-day Adventists are rigidly anti-slavery, loyal to the government, and in sympathy with it against the rebellion.” (Arthur White, WV 91.6)
This statement was written by Arthur White in describing the church’s efforts to get its men declared as non-combatants during the Civil War, which eventually was successful. The church was “rigidly anti-slavery” from its very beginnings and they voted as such.
“Those of our people who voted at all in the last Presidential election, to a man voted for Abraham Lincoln.” (Arthur White, 2BIO 41.3)
The church did not support secession because it did not support war and they voted to end slavery whenever the issue was on the ballot.
The second conclusion of the study was to keep it to yourself.
Whatever you decide to do, the most important thing to remember as an Adventist is to keep it to yourself.
Here are some statements from the SOP that cover the decision to vote.
“Keep your voting to yourself. Do not feel it your duty to urge everyone to do as you do.” (Ellen G. White, 2SM, page 337.1)
“Whatever the opinions you may entertain in regard to casting your vote in political questions, you are not to proclaim it by pen or voice. Our people need to be silent upon questions which have no relation to the third angel's message. If ever a people needed to draw nigh to God, it is Seventh-day Adventists. There have been wonderful devices and plans made. A burning desire has taken hold of men or women to proclaim something, or bind up with something; they do not know what. But the silence of Christ upon many subjects was true eloquence….” (Ellen G. White, 2SM, page 336.1)
We are to focus on proclaiming the third angel's messages and not on worldly political strife.
“My brethren, will you not remember that none of you have any burden laid upon you by the Lord to publish your political preferences in our papers, or to speak of them in the congregation, when the people assemble to hear the Word of the Lord?…” (Ellen G. White, 2SM, page 336.2)
It’s clear that the SOP says that we should not make known whether we vote or how we vote.
In this case, as Ellen White says, silence is eloquence.
If we vote or don’t vote, it is up to us individually, unless it is certain moral issues, such as prohibition or abortion, then we are instructed that it is our duty to vote (if we vote at all).
R&H, Sept. 13, 1928, Elder F. M. Wilcox, “The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not seek to dictate to its members as to how they shall vote or whether or not they should vote at all. It is left for each one to act on his own judgment in the fear of God. We have been told by the servant of the Lord that we should not link up with political parties, that we should not agitate political questions in our schools or institutions. On the other hand, we have been instructed by the same authority that when certain moral issues, such as prohibition, are involved, the 'advocates of temperance fail to do their whole duty unless they exert their influence by precept and example--by voice and pen and vote--in favor of . . . total abstinence.' This instruction is not mandatory, it is still left for each one to determine for himself what he shall do.”
The third and final decision of the study was to stay away from political strife and corruption.
GC Conference, May 17, 1865, “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 [express disapproval of] any participation in the spirit of party strife."
This was published in 1865 by our church’s General Conference leadership, which was the year that the Civil War ended. You can see that the principle of voting moral issues was being encouraged, but participation in party strife was expressly disapproved.
R&H, July 5, 1881, “Resolved, That we express our deep interest in the temperance movement now going forward in this state; and that we instruct all our ministers to use their influence among our churches and with the people at large to induce them to put forth every consistent effort, by personal labor, and at the ballot box, in favor of the prohibitory amendment of the Constitution, which the friends of temperance are seeking to secure." This was a proposed action at a camp meeting of delegates in support of the prohibition of alcohol.
Again, we vote issues, not with political parties.
“The Lord would have His people bury political questions." "We cannot with safety vote for political parties." "Let political questions alone." "It is a mistake for you to link your interests with any political party, to cast your vote with them or for them." (Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, page 391-393)
I think that guidance is very clear, we should not be aligned with any political party and we should not be voting straight down the line for a certain party.
We are not to even wear political badges, what we would call pins today. This would probably translate to bumper stickers, flags, bracelets, yard signs and other political paraphernalia of today. We should stay clear of all of that.
“Those who are Christians indeed will be branches of the true vine, and will bear the same fruit as the vine. They will act in harmony, in Christian fellowship. They will not wear political badges, but the badge of Christ.” (Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, page 475.3)
Our focus should be on the fact that we are pilgrims in this world and citizens of the true kingdom which is in heaven.
Some Christians, especially Adventists, choose not to vote.
There are arguments on both sides of the issue of whether to vote or not to vote.
Some say we are not of this world and shouldn’t be involved in politics. Here is a statement from Pastor Walter Veith.
“We should not vote because we are ambassadors of Christ, therefore, this is not our home. Do ambassadors vote in the US? No.”
Others have decided not to vote because as we get closer to the last movements of this great controversy, if we vote, we will be supporting the creation of the image to the beast.
Here are statements from two pioneers of our church who decided not to vote back in the mid-1800s.
“We declare our neutrality in politics,” Uriah Smith had asserted before the 1856 presidential election, “and refuse to take part in a contest so exciting as the one which is now agitating this nation.” (Ellen G. White, Letters and Manuscripts, Volume 1, page 607.2)
Uriah Smith, R&H, Sept. 11, 1856, “To the question, why we do not with our votes and influence labor against the evil tendency of the times, we reply, that our views of prophecy lead us to the conclusion that things will not be bettered. . . . And we feel it our duty to confine our efforts to preparing ourselves, and others as far as in us lies, for the great and final issue already pressing upon us--the revelation of the Son [of] man from heaven, the destruction of all earthly governments, the establishment of the glorious, universal and eternal kingdom of the King of kings, and the redemption and deliverance of all His subjects."
Roswell F. Cottrell, Pastor, R&H, Sept 11, 1856, “Under these circumstances, if I cast my vote at all," he said, "it will . . . tell for, or against the making of the image. If I vote in favor of the formation of the image, I shall aid in creating an abomination which will persecute the saints of God. . . . On the other hand, if I vote against this work, I shall vote against the fulfillment of the prophecy. . . . Therefore, I cannot vote at all." Also the same person, “I cannot vote for a bad man, for that is against my principles; and, under the present corrupt and corrupting state of politics, I could not wish to elevate a good man to office, for it would ruin him."
Again, these statements are from the mid-1800s, how much worse are things now? I believe we’re closer now to having our country form an image to the beast as outlined in Revelation chapter 13, than back in the mid-1800s. In fact, you can make an argument that the image is already forming and has been for quite some time. Do you want to vote in support of the forming of the image to the beast? If you do decide to vote, at what point will you stop? What will be the sign for you to stop voting? If you haven’t thought of those issues, then I encourage you to do so.
So again, the guidance is clear, if we decide to vote it should be for morals and biblical principles and not for political parties.
Another reason not to vote for individuals (remember it is our duty to vote on moral issues) is that if we put someone in office that then participates in the corruption and sins while in office, then we are just as guilty.
In a statement first published as a tract in 1899, Ellen White said that we are not to vote for men that "use their influence to repress religious liberty," for if we do, we "are partakers with them of the sins which they commit while in office."
This statement was specifically on religious liberty but I propose that this principle applies to other areas of moral and biblical principles as well. For instance, if you vote a person into office that believes in abortion, then you’re just as guilty as the person in office pushing and funding for the killing of unborn babies. All Christians should be against abortion.
If you vote for a politician that while in office is advocating for the legalization of drugs, then you are just as guilty for promoting intemperate issues. Aren’t we as Adventists supposed to be on the side of temperance?
If you vote for a politician that while in office is pushing for Sunday observance (for example, as a day of rest for the planet due to climate change), then isn’t that going against religious liberty? Then you are just as guilty as that politician.
I believe this would also apply to any effort to get a politician into office, through your monetary donations, canvassing, handing out political flyers, prayer groups, time, effort and including your vote. If you support a politician in any way that supports an unbiblical and intemperate issue, then you are just as guilty!
“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 scheme.” (Ellen G. White, Counsels for the Church, page 316.2)
We are to be like Christ.
“The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses,—extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men individually, and must regenerate the heart.” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, page 509.3)
On the other hand, does not partaking in voting allow Satan and evil people to determine the course of government policies which will eventually affect religious liberty and lead to persecution? More than likely, the answer is yes.
That is why we are encouraged to vote on moral issues and not for political parties.
“We should vote issues of justice, humanity and right. Therefore we should not vote for intemperance, insurrection, and slavery.” (General Conference)
As Adventists, it is our duty to vote for moral issues even on the Sabbath (if we can’t vote on another day).
What about corruption in government?
Uriah Smith also believed the most corrupt party would usually “win” an election, even back in the late 1800s. How much more corrupt is the government now compared to back then!
"Fraud, dishonesty, usurpation, lying, cheating, and stealing, will largely determine the count; and the party which can do most of this work will probably win." (Uriah Smith, Review and Herald, July 15, 1884)
Although Uriah Smith makes a great point, we are not to completely disregard government as totally corrupt.
I’m sure God has a few (and I mean a few) people in government that still obeys Him.
The Bible shows us that there were godly men who were in government, like Daniel, Joseph, David, Nehemiah, and Mordecai. But of course, they were always part of a very, very small minority. The majority of those in politics are corrupt or will soon be corrupt once they get to Washington (my opinion). But others have felt the same way.
"I cannot vote for a bad man, for that is against my principles; and, under the present corrupt and corrupting state of politics, I could not wish to elevate a good man to office, for it would ruin him." (Roswell F. Cottrell, Pastor, Oct. 30, 1856)
Pastor Doug Batchelor teaches that there are four principles for voting.
1. Christians are primarily citizens of another kingdom.
John 18:36, “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”
2. It is not necessarily wrong to feel some patriotism.
Psalm 137:4-6, “How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”
Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
Jacob and Joseph both wanted to be buried back home and not in Egypt.
I love my country (the way the founding fathers intended the country to be under the Constitution and Bill of Rights), but I also know what the Bible says about this country forming an image to the beast. Although I'm a patriot, as a Christian, my focus is on the heavenly kingdom and not on an earthly kingdom.
3. The concept of voting or choosing leaders is biblical.
Definition of vote: A formal expression of opinion or choice made by an individual or body of individuals, especially in an election. The means by which such expression is made, as a ballot, ticket, or show of hands.
We vote in churches through a nominating committee or at church board meetings or at business meetings. We vote new members into the church or out of the church, etc.
Acts 1:23, 26, “And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias……And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”
Acts 6:3, “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”
One of the deacons eventually went bad, but that wasn’t the elders’ fault for choosing him.
Make decisions based on the knowledge and information that you have at that time or moment. If someone goes bad after that, it is on them (unless you knew of their bad trait or lifestyle).
4. Christians should not allow political parties to divide them.
1 Corinthians 3:3-4, “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?”
Romans 14:3-4, “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”
Based on the information I’ve shown here from the Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy and from other sources like the pioneers of the church, current pastors and the study done by the Ellen G. White Estate, you can now make up your own mind on whether you’ll vote in the future.
Remember, if you decide to vote, keep it to yourself, vote for morals and principles and don’t get involved in political parties or strife.
Let’s all try to keep certain politics out of the church, unless it’s dealing with a moral issue where the church needs to take a stand such as for religious liberty, liberty of conscience and temperance issues.
We should always take a stand for what is right, with the Bible and thus saith the Lord as our standard.
We should always stand up for our right to worship who we want, when we want, how we want and where we want and not for government involvement or enforcement.
Let us all be united on the truth and not be divided on earthly matters. Let us love one another as God has commanded us to do.
Study by the Ellen G. White Estate, https://whiteestate.org/legacy/issues-voting-html/?hl=voting%20study%20paul%20gordon.
Bible verses are from the King James Version.
Ellen White quotes are taken from the Ellen G. White Database, but can also be accessed here, https://egwwritings.org.