Whether realized or not, it could be argued that his influence across Adventism over the last 60 years has been unsurpassed. After coming across a book by E.J Waggoner in 1939 entitled The Glad Tidings, he fell in love with the gospel and became startled that few within his own community of faith shared his enthusiasm. And he was even more startled to discover that Adventism's own messenger - Ellen White - proclaimed that the message E.J. Waggoner, along with A.T. Jones, was sharing would usher in the latter rain and bring about Christ's Second Coming if embraced by the church. But when he, along with fellow missionary Donald K. Short, called this truth to the attention of church leadership, the news was not received.
And so, for the next 60 years, until his passing, he served as "a voice crying in the wilderness," reacquainting the church with that "most precious message" and encouraging us to repent of rejecting what the Lord wanted to do among us.
It was this latter emphasis that met with the strongest reactions and most resistance. It was this emphasis that many simply could not bear.
I had the privilege of knowing Elder Wieland, either indirectly or directly, for essentially my whole life. He was a family friend and I remember him staying with us on at least one occasion when I was a kid. But not only was he a family friend, he was also a huge spiritual and theological influence. Much of my understanding of the gospel came as a result of reading his books, listening to his sermons, and, to a lesser extent, corresponding with him personally.
The last time I saw Elder Wieland was three years ago - almost to the day. I spent almost five hours with him at his home in Meadow Vista, California. He served me a "simple, simple meal," as he said, and we enjoyed great fellowship. He was alone, having laid to rest his wife just a short time before. As always, his heart was heavy with the burden of that "most precious message" and he reacquainted me with his experience. His grief seeped out as he recounted, not only the challenges he faced personally (threats of disfellowship; the emotional assault on he and his family throughout the years), but the pain that has been brought to His Savior because of His bride's refusal to prepare herself for the wedding.
Of course, he almost couldn't contain his excitement when he would ask me, in response to when I would mention the names of professors and pastors I encountered during my time in the seminary, "Is he with us?" Whenever I would start talking about a person who seemed to be sympathetic to that "most precious message," he would ask this question, with a twinkle in his eye. He was still holding out hope that pastors, professors, and other church leaders would lay hold of the message and proclaim it with power. He was still holding out hope that he could be a part of the group that saw the Lord's return.
And, to be honest, I was convinced that the Lord was preserving Elder Wieland for His Second Coming so that he might be translated, honoring his many years of faithful labor. After all, every time I saw him I was amazed at how his age didn't seem to match his health. He always seemed to look a lot younger than he actually was. But his passing before the Second Coming speaks to the precise point he made for so long: even the Lord's hands are tied when it comes to the timing of His return and whether the bride prepares herself.
Of course, a strong hope in that blessed hope was not realized by Elder Wieland; but his work has not been in vain. The influence of this Adventist Giant has rippled out to the ends of the earth and shall continue to do so, I trust, until the Lord's return.
Until then, Elder Wieland, "having obtained a good testimony through faith," will, like the great faith heroes of Hebrews 11, wait in his grave, not having "receive[d] the promise, God having provided something better for us, that [he and] they should not be made perfect apart from us" (Hebrews 11:39-40).
May we all, by God's grace, be that generation that is made perfect on their behalf - and on the Lord's behalf.
E'en so, Lord Jesus quickly come.
(Update: Elder Wieland's obituary - which I have not yet read - is available here)