Minister, editor, author. He was born in Ohio. At the age of 20 he enlisted in the Army and for three years served his country. While most of his comrades spent their free time finding various pleasures he was in the barracks poring over his books-large historical works, Seventh-day Adventist publications that had fallen into his hands, and the Bible. Thus he was laying a strong foundation of knowledge for his later work as a preacher and a writer. After his discharge in 1873, he was baptized and began preaching on the West Coast for the SDAs. In May 1885 he became assistant editor of the Signs of the Times, and a few months later he and E. J. Waggoner became editors. This position he held until 1889.
These two men in 1888 stirred the General Conference session in Minneapolis with their preaching on righteousness by faith, and for several years afterward were sent by the General Conference Committee to preach on that subject from coast to coast at camp meetings and other large gatherings, in workers’ meetings, in ministerial institutes, and in SDA institutions. Ellen White accompanied them to many of these places until she left for Australia in December 1891. Also for a number of years the two were principal speakers at the biennial sessions of the General Conference.
In 1897 Jones became a member of the General Conference Committee. From 1897 to 1901 he was editor in chief of the Review and Herald, with Uriah Smith as associate editor.
In 1889 Jones, with J. O. Corliss, spoke before a committee in Washington to oppose the Breckinridge Bill, intended to compel Sunday observance in the District of Columbia. The bill was defeated, and Jones soon became recognized as the denomination’s most prominent speaker for religious freedom. At the time he was serving as editor of the American Sentinel (see Sentinel of Christian Liberty), the forerunner of Liberty. He also wrote voluminously for other Seventh-day Adventist papers and authored a number of books.
Feeling out of harmony with certain administrative policies, he resigned late in 1899 as a member of the General Conference Committee, but at the 1901 session he accepted membership again. While president of the California Conference (1901–1903), he accepted an invitation from Dr. J. H. Kellogg, who was then actively seeking to separate the Battle Creek Sanitarium from denominational control, to join his staff. Against the counsel of Ellen White he accepted the invitation.
Shortly after the removal of the General Conference headquarters from Battle Creek to Washington, D.C., in August 1903, Jones was invited to join the General Conference staff to work in the area of religious liberty and in other areas for which he was fitted. He accepted, but soon returned to Battle Creek, apparently for the purpose of helping Dr. Kellogg see the error of his way. However, he became sympathetic with the doctor in his warfare against the General Conference. This resulted in separation from denominational employment and, finally, in loss of church membership.
At the 1909 General Conference session, a supreme effort was made to bring him back. Three afternoons in succession he met with a large committee of leaders. At the last of the meetings, after an extended appeal for reconciliation, A. G. Daniells, the president of the General Conference, reaching his hand across the table, pleaded with Jones, saying, “Come, Brother Jones, come.” Evidently moved, Jones arose, slowly extended his hand toward the outstretched one, then suddenly pulled it back and declared, “No, never,” as he sat down.
Jones remained a Sabbath observer and was loyal to most of the other fundamental doctrines of the church. He died without a following.