Rev. Elias Willits Shortridge

Rev Elias Willits Shortridge (1826-1890) is mentioned frequently throughout Lot Abraham’s diaries as he was regularly in the pulpit in Mt. Pleasant and surrounding communities during 1859-1861. Lot captures what appears to have been a controversial theological dispute introduced by Shortridge — that being his conviction that the Sabbath should be on Saturday rather than Sunday which was not readily accepted by many members of the church in Lot’s community [see Sunday, 4 November 1860 in Lot’s Diary]. Another source states that Shortridge was “expelled” from the Mt. Pleasant ministry for preaching “soul-sleep” which caused a division in the church there. Soul sleep is the belief held by Seventh-day Adventists that when a person dies, his soul “sleeps” until the time of the future resurrection. We know that by 1864, Shortridge was one of five ministers preaching in Keithsburg, Illinois at a small branch of the Disciples of Christ that he organized there. [Nathaniel S. Haynes, History of the Disciples of Christ in Illinois- 1819-1914 (1915) at 329.]

It is interesting to learn from Shortridge’s funeral eulogy that he was an “acquaintance with Abraham Lincoln, which had a powerful influence upon his character. He was in the convention that nominated him for the Presidency, and worked through that memorable campaign which finally resulted in his election.” [San Jose Daily Mercury, Nov. 9, p.5,(1890)] Shortridge’s daughter, Clara Foltz, claimed that her father stumped enthusiastically for Lincoln in both his first and second canvasses for the presidency. We learn from Lot Abraham’s diary, however, that on Sunday, 21 July 1861 (the very day of the Battle of Bull Run), Rev. Shortridge expressed his gloom and confessed to the congregation at Liberty, Iowa, he was sorry he voted for Lincoln and had little hope for his country — a sentiment rejected by Lot and apparently others as they made no overtures for him to remain in the community.

Ellen G. & James White

Ellen G. & James White

In a letter written to Rev. Shortridge in August 1862, Mrs. Ellen Gould (Harmon) White (1827-1915) — a controversial figure in her own right — addressed what she perceived as serious flaws in Shortridge’s Christian character. In part she wrote: “I was shown that there was much chaff introduced into your preaching that God had nothing to do with, and which grieved his Holy Spirit…I saw that your labors, your life and conversation have not taken that elevated character which is in keeping with the message you bear…Many of your expressions, figures and gestures, are not dignified in the sight of heaven, of angels, or of Christ’s devoted followers. With some you excite mirthfulness, and disgust with others…I was shown that while you could present some points of truth clearly, you lack personal piety and humility. Your former associations and labors have led you to rely upon your own sufficiency instead of depending at all times upon God for strength…You have been at fault in being too familiar with females; and if your past life in this respect is to be a sample of your future course, you will not be the least benefit in this great work. Your past course has lacked in many respects, and evil reports have followed you…May God help you to see these things as they are, that you may be a skillful workman that needeth not to be ashamed.”

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