My name is Rex Conklin. My wife Dari and I are retired and live in Trout Creek, Montana. Neither of us were raised in the Adventist church, but we got here as quickly as we could. Some of my first experiences in the church take me back to the ‘60s and ‘70s. Even though I was still wet behind the ears, as it were, I knew that I wanted to be part of the gospel commission. My contracting partner and I supported missions in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. In Guatemala my partner had taken an S.D.A. medical doctor to build a mission where there was only a Catholic presence. Today in that area there are thousands of Adventists. Little did I know that there was a mission for my family right here in Montana.
Through the years in the church I also discerned some changes that had driven wedges between believers. Much of it was over the Atonement and nature of Christ. Those issues and others affected us here in Montana.
In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s strange things began to happen in the church I was attending. Morality was at an all time low as married couples began swapping spouses. A male church school teacher turned out to be a pedophile who molested both his female and male students. Untold numbers of children and families were affected as this teacher was moved from school to school in more than one Conference. When the horrible truth emerged the Adventist church lost millions in lawsuits.
What was happening to God’s chosen people? As I look back over the years I realized these were not isolated incidents. We appeared to have a form of Godliness and without knowing it we had denied the power. This, I believe, brought the curse spoken of in the book of Malachi because the heart of the children was no longer turned to the fathers and the heart of the fathers was no longer turned to the children. I do not deny my own lack of wisdom and understanding in the truth of what godliness entails.
As my local church imploded spiritually I felt it was time to move my wife and young family from the area. Through prayer I felt the Heavenly Father leading us to a dark county where there were no other Adventists. A door opened in this corner of Sanders County, Montana and a new mission project was begun.
With the blessing of Providence we soon had a small company here in Trout Creek. At that time my business partner agreed that a church building was needed. You might say that like Paul in 2 Corinthians 11, we “robbed other churches” so that the gospel might be preached here. A lot of the financial responsibility and carpentry skills were left to me, and with my young son Benji we began the work of building in the mid 1970's.
This time was also not within its controversies in the Adventist faith. As I was hammering nails day after day in the church I listened to Desmond Ford tapes people insisted I needed to hear. That was a fallacy I could not agree with, but I needed to hear it so I could study to show myself approved and be able to give a testimony for my faith as it is in Christ Jesus. It has been a blessing to see this little church grow. The beginnig of this past school year we were blessed with our very own church school for the first time in the history of our little church.
So how did I find myself embroiled in this current controversy over the trinity doctrine? It stems from Bible study and discovering what our Adventist church pioneers believed and taught in the era of the Philadelphia church. There was always something there nagging me in the back of my mind about the Father and Son, but was not until 2009 when I took a more intense look at Scripture. My wife and I had heard that our friend Frank Klin had been disfellowshipped from the church over the Trinity. We have known him since he was seven years old. He and his younger brother Benji were the same ages as our daughter Gina and son Benji. We were being told by well meaning people that Frank did not believe in the Holy Spirit. Not wanting to accept that story my wife called him directly. We arranged to meet one Sabbath afternoon and I came prepared with all the literature, Scripture and Spirit of Prophecy I could find. This included things like the book Evengalism and Doug Bachelor's Trinity cartoon book. Even though Frank had been kicked out of the church because he didn't believe in the Trinity it was my intention that Sabbath to set him straight on this issue.
Our friend calmly and quietly shared his story and some of the things he understood from the Bible and our pioneers. When he mentioned the name LeRoy Froom my curiosity was aroused. In my mind he was the person who brought in the error on the atonement and nature of Christ with the book Questions on Doctrine. I did not realize he was connected to the Trinity debate. This was all very overwhelming for my wife especially, but we ended our meeting just as it had begun, as friends and I was anxious to get home and study. Shortly afterwards I received a package of materials from Frank that filled in some missing details related to Froom's chapter in Adventist history.
In the meantime I dug into the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. About two months after our meeting with Frank I called him and said I could not prove the Trinity from those sources. A couple of months after that Frank's living situation changed and my wife and I decided to invite him to live here with us. It was our way of thanking him for sharing the truth with us. He accepted and helps Dari around the house and me outside in the garden and other places. Most importantly it has been good to have someone here to study with and truly discover the Father and Son. It was Frank that encouraged me to write out my studies and he gets to put them together on the computer and send them all over the world. We had the blessing in April of 2011 to meet some of the brothers and sisters at the Amicalola Falls Retreat.I have also tried to share my faith in person where I can and a concerned pastor wrote to me “To deny that the Lord has been patiently leading a Movement in it's understanding of truth; and that we must return to (all) the teachings and understandings of the pioneers in order to be true to Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy - is quite a dangerous leap.” This statement confuses me because it is not something I believe, nor is that thought in any of the materials I have shared with others.
I’m also puzzled at the idea that the pioneers of our faith could, by the study of the Scriptures, be so right on finding truth on the Sabbath, state of the dead, the sanctuary, etc, and then not able to understand exactly who God was until 1898 when the Desire of Ages came out. Did He purposely leave those believers in darkness and allow Sister White to write as a non-trinitarian for over 50 years and then tell her we were in error for accepting the beauty of God as a literal Father with a literal eternal Son who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God? If she was able to change her beliefs in such a short time, why was the Adventist church so slow in accepting her council, taking over 80 years to make the trinity an “official” Fundamental belief in 1980 where God became a unity of 3 co-equal, co-eternal Beings referred to as “He”? My faith is simple and the God I worship is simple.
Jesus wants to live eternally within everyone who will accept Him as their personal Saviour. The 14th and 15th chapters of John convinced me of that. Jesus, by His Spirit, will dwell or co-inhabit in those who keep His commandments. He wants to live His life within us if only we will die to the flesh. I don’t want the old carnal man in me anymore.
I need the heavenly trio of Father, Son and Spirit for a total transformation by the renewing of my mind. I am so thankful for my Saviour Jesus Christ. I pray that He will breathe His influence on me, so that the mighty agency of the third person of the Godhead will do its work of searching my heart and convicting me of sin. I want to turn my heart to the Father so I can receive the adoption of sons and be rid of the curse that has plagued me and those I love. I want to cry Abba Father when He puts the Spirit of His Son within me and then show the fruit of the Spirit so others can see Jesus in me.
I have always strived to uphold the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. I never imagined being at odds with leading brethren. I love our church and the dear brothers and sisters in the faith. I want to be humble before the Almighty Father and ask Him to bring the unity He has promised the faithful.