Dr. Bob’s Wife Anne Smith, Early AAs, and Subsequent 12 Step Language
By Dick B.
© 2011 Anonymous. All rights reserved
A few contemporary writers, biographers, and historians have done their best to distance A.A., AAs, and the fellowship newcomers from the Bible, God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Some Christian critics load their writings with verses from the Bible and dire warnings to AAs and others never to darken the doors of an A.A. room.. But seldom have they taken the time to learn, and rarely to quote, the clear-cut beliefs of the early AAs in the Creator, His Son Jesus Christ, the Bible, and even the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it is sad to see how quickly and emphatically the critics claim that the early A.A. pioneers did not believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that they didn’t emphasize Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and that they did not emphasize a relationship with Jesus Christ.
There are many pieces of evidence which prove how wrong they are.
We have written two previous articles on the Anne Smith influence on A.A. And in that respect, we documented how frequently Anne mentioned and taught about the Holy Spirit and mentioned and taught about Jesus Christ. We know very specifically what she mentioned and taught because it is set forth in her journal which we covered in detail in Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939 (www.dickb.com/annesm.shtml). We provided the pages so that you could find them too.
And what do we know about when and where Anne shared from the Bible and from her journal?
First, Akron A.A. old-timer John Reese specifically stated to A.A. historian Dennis Cassidy and also put in writing this statement which was provided to me in a telephone conversation I had with Dennis on September 5, 1992. John specifically said to Dennis:
Before one of these meetings [in Dr. Bob’s Home], Anne used to pull out a little book [the spiritual journal she kept and taught from during the period 1933-193] and quote from it. We would discuss it. Then we would see what Anne would suggest from it for our discussion [Anne Smith’s Journal, 110]
Second, Anne’s children, Robert R. Smith and Sue Smith Windows, had even more to say in their autobiography, Children of the Healer: The Story of Dr. Bob’s Kids (Center City, MN: Hazelden, 1992). Anne’s daughter Sue said:
I’ve still got Mom’s notebook from the Oxford Group meetings. I typed up a lot of it myself for my typing practice. If you read it, you’d see why Bill W. called her “the Mother of A.A.,” and what I mean about mom being the founder of Al-Anon. It’s all there—share with people, don’t preach, don’t argue, don’t talk up or down to people, share in terms of your own experience, be willing to live a day at a time, an hour at a time, surrender, pray for guidance, and have a daily meditation time. She was a very intelligent person, and she knew what she was putting down in her notes. Lois and Bill took this notebook with them one time after they read it [p. 29]
[When Bill stayed with the Smiths at their home in the Summer of 1935] There wasn’t any program then. The restitution idea was one of the things he got from the Oxford Group. Mom’s notebook shows how much of A.A. came from there—restitution, surrendering, and so forth. Later on, they did the surrendering, for the new ones, right upstairs in Dad’s room where it would be more private. And this was way before the Twelve Steps were ever written down [p. 41]
Bill was the writer, so he’s been remembered. But I think the only thing Bill brought to Akron that Dad hadn’t already thought of was the service part of the program. That was the part Dad was missing. It took both of them to do it, and that’s being forgotten [p. 83]
And I have chosen in this third article to address the contention of some critics that AAs just got their Big Book material from spiritualism, from freemasonry, from Emmet Fox and the New Thought movement, as well as from a lay therapist who died drunk. But the key to the roots comes from two very clear facts: (1) Dr. Bob said that he didn’t write the Steps or have anything to do with the writing of them, but that he believed the basic ideas came from their studies and effort in the Bible. (2) Bill frequently mentioned how Anne would read the Bible and other matter to Bob and Bill during the summer of 1935.
I have found and read substantial evidence that some of the critics never researched Akron A.A., never mentioned the role of Dr. Bob’s wife Anne Ripley Smith in the founding of A.A., and never reviewed the strong evidence of what AAs did in the early Akron A.A. “Christian fellowship” led primarily by Dr. Bob and his wife Anne Ripley Smith. We may go into much of the other evidence in future articles. But we felt it important to start with a woman whom A.A. cofounder Bill W. called the “Mother of A.A.”—Anne Smith, who was teacher, evangelist, nurse, housekeeper, counselor, and Bible reader for the early Akron AAs. And, though we don’t know all that Anne shared with early AAs and their families about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, Oxford Group ideas, and language in her spiritual journal, we do know what she wrote down in, and taught from, her own personal journal. Particularly about what became 12 Step ideas when Bill wrote the Big Book.
What Anne recorded in her journal and shared with early AAs, their wives, and families. And the striking resemblance between Anne’s words and phrases and the later ideas Bill Wilson incorporated into the Twelve Steps in the First Edition of the Big Book in 1939.
The references following the quotes below are to the pages in Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal 1933-1939: A.A.’s Principles of Success, 3rd ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 1998):
[Step One Language—our lives had become unmanageable]: Anne wrote: “What do you do when you pray? O Lord manage me, for I cannot manage myself. . . . Surrender is a simple act of will. What do we surrender? Our life. When? At a certain definite moment. How? Oh God, manage me because I cannot manage my self” [p. 20]
[Step Two Language—a power greater than ourselves]: Anne wrote: “Paul speaks of a wish toward good, but power to carry it out is lacking. A stronger power than his was needed. God provided that power through Christ” [p. 21]
[Step Three Language—decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him]: Anne wrote: “Try to bring a person to a decision to ‘surrender as much of himself as he knows to as much of God as he knows. . . . Surrender is a complete handing over of our wills to God, a reckless abandon of ourselves, all that we have, all that we think that we are, everything we hold dear, to God to do what he likes with. . . . putting God’s will ahead of everything” [pp. 25-29]
[Step Four Language—made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. . . . searched out the flaws in our makeup. . . . where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, dishonest. . . . where were we to blame?. . . Whom had we hurt? . . . Where were we at fault?]: Anne wrote: “Why are people so afraid to face their deepest problems? Because they think there is no answer. When they learn there is one, they will believe it can work out for them, and they will really be honest about themselves. . . . It is absolutely necessary to face people with the moral test. Seeing one’s self as God sees one, brings hatred out of sin. It’s not self-examination but God’s examination. . . . Something wrong in me. Unless I can crystallize the criticism. I had better look for mote in my eye. . . . Check your thoughts by the four standards of Christ. Make the moral test. Am I ready to write them down and willing? . . . Resentments to be faced and set right. Restitution to be made. . . . Absolute honesty demands that we no longer wear a mask. . . . Fears—of inefficiency, incompetence, failing powers of application and success. . . of infection, of serious illness, or a helpless and hopeless old age, and of your secret self . . . Telling a lie. . . . Share dishonesty” [pp. 29-36]
[Step Five Language—admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs] :Anne wrote: “Confess your faults one to another. Sharing is having your life at God’s disposal. . . keep free of mental reservation. . . . you do not tell everybody everything every time but you are ready to tell anybody anything at any time under guidance. There is nothing in our lives that we are not willing to share. . . Share specifically, uncomfortably so. . . . I must share to be honest with God, myself & others. . . Inadequate sharing. We have not fully shared with someone else. Egoism or pride is one of the greatest of our enemies” [pp. 36-40]
[Step Six Language—were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character] Anne wrote: “Obedience is one of the key-words of the Christian life. Refusal to obey blocks the channel, and prevents further word from God. Barriers to a full surrender. Is there anything I won’t give up? Is there any apology I won’t make? Be willing to ask God where I am failing and to admit to sin. The next step is the Cross. Get them to the place where they appropriate it. Get them to face up to the thing that is their cross in life. . . . It is not enough to surrender sin, but we must also claim the victory of the resurrection life. It is God that does it. Nothing you can do is of any use. Is there anything in us which blocks God’s work, it matters to God” [pp. 42-44]
[Step Seven Language—Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings] Anne Wrote: “Conversion. This is the turning to God, the decision, the surrender. . . . A maximum experience of Jesus Christ leads to a radical change in personal life, bringing about a selfless relationship to people about one. . . . God is willing to take my past spiritual experience and weld it in a new spiritual experience. . . . Christ only can remove them and replace with a new quality of life. . . . I’m wrong Father. You know better than I, you have more wisdom, show me the way” [pp. 45-47]
[Steps Eight and Nine Language—(8) made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all (9) made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others]. Anne wrote: “Any restitution I won’t make? . . . Resentments to be faced and made right. . . . Restitution to be made. . . . Help them make a list of things. . . . God can make me willing in the day of His power. Joy comes in being committed right to the very end. Attempt great things of God, and see the daily victories of the living God” [p. 48]
[Step Ten Language—Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it] Anne wrote: Cotinuance. Stay with the newly surrendered person until he grows up. . . . Is there some relationship I am content to leave where it is? . . . Be willing to ask God where I am failing and to admit sin. . . . Willingness to maintain an antiseptic attitude with regard to personal situations while in the process of redemption. . . . Let your waking thought be surrender a 100% daily surrender. . . . One of the weaknesses of what may be termed the “Old Evangelism” of the mass type was the lack of continuance. It seemed to be taken for granted that a surrendered person would naturally be able to continue what he had begun and would henceforth know of himself what the steps of strengthening should be” [pp.49-53]
Step Eleven Language—Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out] Anne wrote: “1. Prayer. Why not answered? Until we are ready to fulfill the conditions, the deepest wishes of our heart cannot be realized. . . Intercessory prayer—pray that the Spirit may tell you what to pray for. . . . A way to find God’s will not to change it. . . Conceive God as Father and it is not unnatural to lay before Him our hopes and needs—interest—fears. . . Petitionary prayers. . . These we submit not because we distrust His goodness or desire to bend His will but because He is our Friend. . . Prayer for others to hold them before God. . . Correct me—direct—praise—adoration and thanksgiving. 2. Guidance. Guidance is the principle of the Bible. . . . The Sons of God are those who are guided by the Spirit of God. 3. Listening. Your job is to be a good signal man and know the difference between red and green lights. 4. Bible study and reading. 5. Quiet Time. Attentive prayer and being willng to act immediately. Stillness and surrender of all known sins. . . . The Devil fighting to keep you for his own. The answer to this feeling is prayer and a new surrender. Lean on Christ, not on yourself” [pp. 53-63]
Step Twelve Language—Having had a spiritual experience [later changed by Bill to “awakening”] as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs]. Anne wrote: [Experience] “A general experience of God is the first essential, the beginning. We can’t give away what we haven’t got. We must have a genuine contact with God in our present experience. The only effort we need to put forth is that of daily surrender and daily contact with Christ. We find release not by our own efforts but by what Christ does for us and in us when we open every area of our lives to him. . . Christianity is an “obtainment” not an attainment and the more we obtain, the more we see there is to obtain. When Paul gave up trying to be good and surrendered his life fully to the Lord, then came peace, power and joy. [Carrying the Message] Get to a point of contact. Diagnose the person’s real difficulty. Adapt the truth to the hearer’s need. Bring the person face to face with Christ. Show the way out of the special difficulty. Bring the person finally to the point of decision and action. [Practice these principles] Faith without works is dead. . . . Jesus continually puts the emphasis on faith. . . . If you have given your life to God, trust Him and go ahead with that. . . . We must keep before us the maximum perspective of our task as Christians. . . . You must be willing to lay down alongside another’s [life] perhaps for years. . . . How can we do the maximum job that God will have us do? Christ’s basic principle, which he expressed in saying that we must love even the very least of them, did not arise from his teaching, neither did it come from his practice. It grew out of the fact that he had entered into the consciousness of God. . . Do we condemn, condone, or construct? Claim from God humility, patience, courage, faith and love. . . . Never let your zeal flag: maintain the spiritual glow [64-79]
And as the standard for all these points, Anne spoke of the Bible. She wrote:
“Let all your reading be guided. . . . Of course the Bible ought to be the main Source Book of all. No day ought to pass without reading it. . . . Rather have a “Quiet Time” if possible before meeting them [occasions which lead one into temptation] and go with a prayer in your heart. Lean on God and not on yourself. [pp. 60-61]