Through late June and into July 1881, James and Ellen continued their ministry in Battle CreekóJames through his editorials and back-page notes in the Review, Ellen with her writing; the two united in efforts in the Battle Creek Tabernacle church. Often they repaired to the grove near their home for seasons of prayer. One particular occasion Ellen especially remembered:
While walking to the usual place for prayer, he [James] stopped abruptly; his face was very pale, and he said, "A deep solemnity is upon my spirit. I am not discouraged, but I feel that some change is about to take place in affairs that concern myself and you. What if you should not live? Oh, this cannot be! God has a work for you to do. . . . It continues so long that I feel much anxiety as to the result. I feel a sense of danger, and with it comes an unutterable longing for the special blessing of God, an assurance that all my sins are washed away by the blood of Christ.
Both James and Ellen had an overwhelming burden for the Battle Creek church.
Continuing, with tears in his eyes, James expressed his anxiety for the institutions in Battle Creek. He said:
My life has been given to the upbuilding of these institutions. It seems like death to leave them. They are as my children, and I cannot separate my interest from them. These institutions are the Lord's instrumentalities to do a specific work. Satan seeks to hinder and defeat every means by which the Lord is working for the salvation of men. If the great adversary can mold these institutions according to the world's standard, his object is gained. It is my greatest anxiety to have the right men in the right place. If those who stand in responsible positions are weak in moral power, and vacillating in principle, inclined to lead toward the world, there are enough who will be led. Evil influences must not prevail. I would rather die than live to see these institutions mismanaged, or turned aside from the purpose for which they were brought into existence (In Memoriam, p. 45).
Uriah Smith, resident editor of the Review and Herald and James's closest associate in the work of the church, had labored at his side for nearly three decades. Smith was well aware of the bruising conflicts; indeed, they had been out in the open for a year or two. He viewed the situation in the light of White's total dedication to the cause of God. Understandingly he declared:
Some have thought that he was deficient in social qualities, and sometimes rigid, harsh, and unjust, even toward his best friends. But these feelings, we are persuaded, come from a failure to comprehend one of the strongest traits in his character, which was his preeminent love for the cause in which he was engaged. To that he subordinated all else; for that he was willing to renounce home and friends.
No man would have been more glad than he to enjoy continuously the pleasures of domestic and social life, and the intercourse of friends, had he not thought that integrity to the cause called him to take a different course (ibid., pp. 34, 35).