Seventh-Day Adventists are heirs of the American Millerite Adventist movement of the 1840s. When Christ failed to come in 1844 as William Miller's followers expected, it was explained that He had had to cleanse the "heavenly sanctuary rather than the earthly one." This idea was confirmed by Ellen White, who then became a founder and a prophet of the Seventh-Day Adventists.
The primary doctrines of the denomination are broadly EVANGELICAL. They include the imminent return (advent) of Christ, the observance of Saturday as the sabbath (seventh day), baptism by single immersion and a fundamentalist-literalist interpretation of the Bible. The immortality of human beings is contingent on their acceptance of Christ as saviour. Many members are vegetarians and all are enjoined to abstain from alcohol and the use of tobacco. Seventh-Day Adventists are noted for high moral standards, a commitment to human rights and the promotion of medical missions in many lands. Canadian membership has increased significantly during the last 2 decades through immigration from oriental lands, especially Korea. But the church has also recently experienced some turmoil among its members over the question of whether White's writings should be treated as the works of a true prophet.
Congregations are administered partly on a PRESBYTERIAN pattern, but ministers are assigned by conferences. Groups of local conferences form union conferences, which in turn are members of the General Conference, the worldwide administrative body of the church. With headquarters in Washington, DC, the SDA has become a worldwide movement with millions of members. Although Seventh-Day Adventists have been in Canada since the establishment of their church about 1860, they are not numerous. In 1991 there were 52 360 Adventists in the country, most of them Seventh-Day Adventists.