What is in a name?
Members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church have two answers:
The "second advent" — or second coming of Christ — is believed to be near at hand.
The Sabbath day is to be observed on Saturdays, or the "Seventh Day."
While the first statement is commonly shared by most Christian denominations, the second sets the Seventh-day Adventists apart from mainstream Christianity. But, Adventists see the chasm as relatively small.
"We are a mainstream evangelical church who, while attempting to obey the mandate of our Lord, we also seek to meet the needs of all people in our community," said Rowland Nwosu, pastor of the Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in Salt Lake City.
"We are committed to the preaching of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to the commandments of God through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit."
He believes the 11 million Seventh-day Adventists worldwide are like other Christians, except for their adherence to a Saturday Sabbath, a practice they believe is firmly rooted in the Bible.
Adventists believe the Saturday Sabbath is a memorial to God's creation of the Earth and redemption of its inhabitants. God created the Earth in six days and rested on the seventh day and commanded all humans to observe that day of worship. They point out that Jesus Christ observed the seventh-day Sabbath while on Earth, and Adventists believe they are following his example.
That belief provides a challenge to members as they work with employers to accommodate a Saturday Sabbath in a predominantly Sunday Sabbath world.
"It does cause hardship to worship on Saturday," Pastor Nwosu said. "But when we consider the eternal blessings that attain those who obey God, then the benefits and advantages of such obedience is invaluable.
"People need to be allowed to worship God," Pastor Nwosu said. "Everyone has the right to worship the way they please, whether their worship is in harmony with Biblical command or not. . . . That's religious freedom."
Adventists also share some common beliefs with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah's predominant religion, he said.
Adventists, like their LDS counterparts, teach and preach abstinence from alcoholic beverages, tobacco and the irresponsible use of drugs and narcotics.
"We are firm believers in a healthy lifestyle. This belief is also firmly grounded on scripture," Pastor Nwosu said.
Adventists also seek to maintain a high standard for marriage and for family life, including abstinence from sexual relations outside of marriage. The church has strict views on divorce and remarriage. Until recently, only adultery was recognized as grounds for divorce. At its Toronto 2000 General Conference, delegates voted to include acts of abuse, incest, child sexual abuse and homosexual practices as grounds for divorce. Also, the church strongly opposes gambling, whether it be for entertainment or for raising revenue. They believe in baptism by immersion and believe the Bible represents the essential truth about God.
The church is very active in community relations and service. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency helps people around the world. That group was particularly active in Salt Lake City during the aftermath of the 1999 tornado.
The choir of the Central Adventist Church visits homeless shelters, youth detention centers and participates in functions at other churches to share the gospel in song.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is one of the fastest-growing protestant Christian churches, and the Central Church in Salt Lake helps by its involvement in foreign mission work. Recently, Pastor Nwosu led a hope, health and healing team from the church to Poland to deliver medical supplies.
Adventists believe there is one God: Father, Son and the Holy Spirt — a unity of three co-eternal people. They believe Christians are godly people who should think, feel and act in harmony with the principles of heaven. Amusement and entertainment should be of the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty. Dress should be simple, modest and neat.
They believe in tithes and offerings and have a combination paid and lay clergy.
Church members also believe in the "Second Advent," when Jesus Christ will return to the Earth as prophesied. They believe the dead sleep because Jesus identified those who died as sleeping. At the Second Advent, the righteous will be resurrected, the living glorified and both taken to heaven. The unrighteous will die and the second resurrection — that of the unrighteous — will take place 1,000 years later.
The Millennium will be a 1,000-year reign by Christ with Saints in heaven between the two resurrections. The Earth will be desolate and unoccupied during this time. At the close of the Millennium, Christ and the Saints will descend and the unrighteous will be resurrected. Satan and his angels will appear, but fire from God will consume them, forever cleansing the Earth and universe from sin and sinners and creating a new Earth where God will provide an eternal home for the redeemed free from death, suffering and sin.
Seventh-day Adventist origins are traced to the interfaith Millerite movement of the 1840s. The church's name was chosen in 1860 at Battle Creek, Mich., but the denomination was not officially organized until 1863 with 125 congregations and 3,500 members.
William Miller, a Baptist preacher, launched the "great second advent awakening" in the 1840s, based on the prophecy of Daniel 8:14. Miller calculated Jesus would return to the earth on Oct. 22, 1844. When Jesus failed to appear, most of the thousands who had followed the movement left in disillusionment.
A few followers reviewed Miller's prediction and concluded that Miller had the correct date, but the wrong event. The date was for the start of a special ministry in heaven by Christ's followers.
James and Ellen G. White and Joseph Bates were among this nucleus of original Adventists. Its membership remained largely North American until 1874 when active missionary work began. The church entered non-Christian countries starting in 1894.
The publication and distribution of literature were major factors in the church's growth in its early years. It also began a worldwide network of schools in 1872.
Today the church operates one of the largest educational systems in the world. One of its universities, Loma Linda University Medical Center, is at the forefront of cancer research and treatment. Adventists seek to improve humanity through educational and vocational training.