Ever since the beginning of the annual camp meetings it was generally recognized by the leaders in the church, and by James and Ellen in particular, that there was a direct relationship between the growth of the church and the presence of James and Ellen White at these gatherings.
Two compelling personalities; two soul-stirring speakers; two staunch pillars of faith. Undoubtedly disappointment was great if either of them failed to attend. But year after year the strain was greater and the demands on their time and energy more exhausting.
To complicate the problem, each of them had personal goals they were committed to achieving. Since James had assumed the responsibilities of being president of the General Conference and also carried many other positions of leadership, to continue their usual rigorous program of attending camp meetings brought up questions of priorities. And Ellen was at this time earnestly engaged in finishing the writing of the book that would become The Spirit of Prophecy, volume 2, on the life of Christ, later to be incorporated into The Desire of Ages.
To James she wrote:
The precious subjects open to my mind well. I trust in God and He helps me to write. I am some twenty-four pages ahead of Mary [Clough]. She does well with my copy. It will take a clear sense of duty to call me from this work to camp meetings. I mean to finish my writings on one book at any rate, before I go anywhere. I see no light in my attending camp meetings. You and I decided this before you left. . . .
I have no will of mine own; I want to do God's will. At present His will is to tarry in California and make the most of my time in writing. I shall be doing more for the cause in this than in going across the plains to attend camp meetings (letter 4, 1876).
She shunned all outside responsibilities. She told James in a letter:
I want time to have my mind calm and composed. I want to have time to meditate and pray while engaged in this work. I do not want to be wearied myself or be closely connected with our people who will divert my mind. This is a great work, and I feel like crying to God every day for His Spirit to help me to do this work all right. . . . I must do thiswork to the acceptance of God (letter 59, 1876).