(An interview with E. H. J. Steed, director, General Conference Temperance Department, regarding Temperance Year 1979.)
MINISTRY: With all that Ellen White wrote about temperance, why is 1979 the first time the church has ever set aside a special year for temperance emphasis?
Steed: I've wondered about that my self. Possibly one can point more to cur rent methods of church emphasis than to any indication of neglect. Nevertheless, I feel the church has not given enough attention to the positive presentation of temperance.
MINISTRY: Do you mean giving a new look to temperance, such as with jogging or right eating?
Steed: No, not really, though this aspect is commendable. It seems unfortunate that many equate temperance with intemperance. Although we have ex tended the list of intemperate practices beyond use of alcohol, tobacco, and harmful drugs to overuse of sugar, salt, et cetera, we have only presented a broader concept of intemperance.
What I'm thinking about is the necessity to recognize temperance first as a positive spiritual quality dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Man cannot control himself—the meaning of temperance is self-control—without the imparted power of Jesus. This means that though abstaining from drinking, smoking, and taking drugs is important, even more important is recognizing one's total dependence upon Jesus Christ.
MINISTRY: Of course we see alcohol, tobacco, and drugs as false props, but why do people continue to take these things when so much is said today about their harmful nature?
Steed: There is a growing appreciation for avoiding cancer, heart disease, and obesity by making nutritional changes and by jogging, but there is also a tend ency to minimize the mushrooming problems emanating from alcohol, tobacco, and drug use. Information is necessary, and more is needed, but the problem lies deeper.
So many are insecure, without hope or assurance, with limited significant relationships. Despite the abundance of material things, many don't understand life's real purpose. We must recognize the importance not only of giving adequate data about the problem but also of clearly presenting the availability of real life. The Holy Spirit can give right direction and understanding of the purpose for living.
To make it appear that life is established largely on physical well being, and to neglect to focus on the supremacy of Christ in the life, is to give only half the answer.
MINISTRY: You say a spiritual revival or experience is basic to temperance. How, then, is this significant to a born-again Christian who has stopped drinking, smoking, or taking drugs and who is following the laws of health?
Steed: Ellen White says, "Temperance alone is the foundation of all the graces that come from God, the foundation of all victories to be gained." —Temperance, p. 201. Temperance is the power provided through the Holy Spirit for one to continue overcoming, to maintain self-control, to detect the path of victory, and to reveal it to others faithfully in word and deed. Temperance is the practical application of the gospel on a daily basis—for "unless they practice temperance, they will not, cannot, be sanctified through the truth." —Ibid., p. 252.
I see the words temperance, sanctification, holiness, and purity as identical in basic concept and as essential for continuing Christian growth.
MINISTRY: Are there programs during Temperance Year 1979 in which individual church members can participate?
Steed: Our conference temperance leaders have, by Annual Council vote, been urged to plan a Layman's Temperance Convention to outline these pro grams. Briefly, they consist of a church study with a guide to the book Temperance; a presentation on filmstrip or slides of The Story of Our Temperance Message; organization of a temperance committee or society in every church; assisting in public programs such as the Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking (our aim is more than 100 a week worldwide); the holding of one-day Leisure Time Seminars for church members and the public; sponsoring Listen magazine; showing temperance films; giving out temperance leaflets; participating in the Home Help Visitation Plan; and letting the media know of our concern for prevention of intemperance and of our solutions.
MINISTRY: Aren't you also having a World Congress on the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency? Steed: Yes. This will be the Third World Congress and will be at the Princess Hotel, Acapulco, Mexico, August 26 to 31, 1979. We expect delegates from at least fifty countries. We have authoritative lecturers coming, and there will be workshops and time for fellowship at a wonderfully relaxing place at minimum prices. I hope many Adventists will register.
MINISTRY: One last question. What are some of the benefits you expect from Temperance Year 1979?
Steed: First, a clearer concept by our church members about temperance and intemperance and a new zeal to study and speak out for temperance. Second, I hope all will realize that the church's most subtle enemy intemperance is a roaring lion at the door of every home. It must be met in the strength of the Lord if a people are to reflect the image of Christ and be prepared for His soon return.