Prior to the great disappointment in 1844, the believers in Christ's soon coming frequently met for earnest seasons of prayer. At one such meeting held in the home of a Brother Jordan, where about forty were present, an Elder H. led out in prayer. James White (1821-1881) became rather astonished and somewhat embarrassed as he listened to the following petition:
"O Lord, have mercy on Brother White. He is proud, and will be damned unless he gets rid of his pride. Have mercy upon him, O Lord, and save him from pride. . . . Break him down, Lord, and make him humble. Have mercy upon him. Have mercy." The prayer went on for quite a while.
When Elder H. finally ended, all there were in stunned silence for some time. James White finally said, "Brother H., I fear you have told the Lord a wrong story. You say I'm proud. This I think is not true. But why tell this to the Lord? . . . Now, sir, if I am proud, so much so that you are able to give the Lord information on the subject, you can tell before these present in what I am proud. Is it in my general appearance, or my manner of speaking, praying, or singing? . . . Please look me over. Is it my patched boots? My rusty coat? This nearly worn-out vest? These soiled pants? Or that old hat I wear?" (Life Incidents, p. 115-116)
Elder H. assured James that it was none of those things. Rather, he said that Brother White's symbol of pride was the starched linen collar he was wearing. James quickly explained that his own shirt had been dirty and a good sister had offered to wash it for him. In the meantime she lent him one of her husband's shirts, which had a starched linen collar. In fact, James said that he did not even personally own a starched collar.
Immediately Elder H. again dropped upon his knees and prayed, "O Lord, I have prayed for Brother White, and he is displeased with me for it. Have mercy upon him! Have mercy! Mercy! Mercy!" (Life Incidents, p. 117)
When Elder H. finished, James White assured him that he was not offended with him. But James did tell him, "I pity you. You are suffering from unsanctified feelings arising from an unfortunate application of false ideas. Your prayers are no more to me than the howling of the winds." (Life Incidents, p. 117)
This was James White's first meeting with fanatics, though unfortunately it was not to be his last. Writing about the incident years later, he commented:
"To see a coarse, hard-hearted man, possessing in his very nature but little more tenderness than a crocodile, and nearly as destitute of moral and religious training as a hyena, shedding hypocritical tears for effect, is enough to stir the mirthfulness of the gravest saint." (Life Incidents, p. 116)
--Adapted from Virgil Robinson, James White, p. 306 and Life Incidents, p. 115-117.