"THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WHITE LIE" REFUTED
"The Truth about the White Lie" is a document that was prepared by the staff of the Ellen G. White Estate in cooperation with the Biblical Research Institute and the Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Conference Adventists. It was first published in August of 1982, and revised in January 1999. This page is an in-depth examination of that document by Max Chugg, who has gathered information from various sources, including this web site, to refute this document. Sections of the document are quoted verbatim, and Max's comments in red have been inserted at various points through-out the document. Much thanks to Max for providing this thought-provoking commentary.
Late in 1980, a professional survey was conducted which enabled researchers to discover, among other things, the differences between the Christian attitudes and behaviors of Seventh-day Adventists who regularly read Ellen G. White's books and those who do not. The results were very revealing. Eighty-five percent of those who read Mrs. White's books indicated that they had an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, while only 59 percent of the non-readers did.
Eighty-two percent of the readers had the assurance that they were "right with God," while only 59 percent of the nonreaders did. Daily personal Bible study was a habit with 82 percent of those who read Ellen White's writings regularly, while only 47 percent of those who did not read Ellen White studied their Bible regularly.
And so it went, in category after category. Those who regularly spent time reading from Mrs. White's writings felt better prepared for Christian witnessing, engaged in witnessing more often, felt more at home with their fellow church members, prayed more, gave more to support local soul winning, were more willing to help their neighbors with personal problems, and had family worship more regularly. In short, their religious experience was stronger, more active, and more positive.
Now take a look at the other side of this argument. The list of pioneers and others who left the church as a result of the influence of Mrs. White is so long that her claim to fame could well be that she was responsible for more people leaving the church than any other person was. Even after her death, her influence continues to cause very large numbers to leave. Consider:
"God's Physician", pioneer Dr. J. H. Kellogg, whose doom was sealed after he had shown a testimony he received from Mrs. White to be false, and compounded that problem by destroying Mrs. White's second testimony which was meant to undo the damage from the first. In addition, he wrote a better medical book than Mrs. White. Despite extensive consultation with her and other denominational leaders prior to publication, his book was condemned as pantheism.
The fact that Dr. Kellogg found it necessary to hire a stenographer to record everything said at his final discussions with "the brethren" just before being disfellowshipped without a trial, shows how much trust Kellogg put in these people with whom he was intimately acquainted. This enlightened move is almost certainly why Nichols has surprisingly little to say about the loss of Dr. Kellogg to the church.
Another victim was pioneer A. T. Jones. His story is repeated further down.
Pioneer B.F. Snook and family received praise from Mrs. White after they had provided her with accommodation. But when he objected to the writings of Mrs. White being placed on the same level as scripture, she condemned him. This former respected friend had fallen so much that she claimed that "His heart was not right with God; he lacked principle, he was not a truly converted man."
In later times, examples of Mrs. White's victims are Walter Rea and Desmond Ford, not to mention the hundreds who lost their jobs after refusing to declare allegiance to Saint Ellen. Mrs. White apologist Dr. Arthur Patrick claims that in the South Pacific Division alone, 150 people lost their jobs, and, presumably, their membership of the SDA Church. Add to this the enormous amount of anti-Mrs. White material which is available on the internet to gain a realistic appreciation of the amount of damage that Mrs. White has done to the church of which she was a founder.
These actual survey results present a far different picture from that set forth by Walter Rea in his recent book, The White Lie. On the dust jacket of the hard-back edition, the author likens the Seventh-day Adventist regard for Ellen White's prophetic gift to the tragic fascination of Jonestown's inhabitants for their demonic leader, Jim Jones. The book sets out to describe what it calls "the depths of that cult's [Adventism's] far reaching ramifications over the past 140 years and the millions of souls it has affected." Indeed, the book claims to be "every whit as shocking in its expose as the horrendous Jonestown tragedy wherein only a few hundred were involved and died." Like this one, many of the author's claims are either so lacking in substance or so harsh and sarcastic that they fall of their own weight.
Ellen White is not the only object of attack in The White Lie. Ministers of all faiths are repeatedly characterized as "supersalesmen" or "salesmen of the psychic." The theme pervades the book:
All supersalesmen sell the advantages of their particular name brands. In the cults and sects, it's the brand of their saint and what is required by that saint to be saved. In the larger and longer established forms of religion, it's the Clan Plan, mother's religion, the faith of the fathers, the true light.
Christian beliefs are ridiculed:
Who tagged all of us with sin? Was it God, or that snake in the grass that came in when Adam was down on the south forty? Or do we get it from our ancestors of past eons? Or is the Devil, like Santa Claus, our dad?
Heaven is scoffed at:
Not very often, if ever, is one dealing with pure truth, either small or large, in religion. One is dealing with truth as filtered, expanded, diminished, bounded, or defined by the I-saws of all the Ellens of Christendom with a lot of help from the divines. What does emerge from all the froth is that the map for this life and the one to come, if indeed it does come, is drawn by the clan--and thus becomes the Clan Plan. Heaven becomes the main gate to isolation, where all the bad as we conceive of it (which in humanity's case means other people) is snuffed out, and only us good guys go marching through. Thus we make our own ghetto.
Religion is deemed little more than a word game:
In most libraries, the religion department is under the subject heading of philosophy--and that is what it is, the defining and redefining of terms and ideas that have defied defining for centuries.
The ways God has dealt with His people are scorned:
Freethinkers have always gotten into trouble. In the time of Moses, if anyone started a fire on his own to enjoy a cup of hot herb tea on Sabbath, he was stoned, and not in the modern sense of the word either. If he wandered around in the local swapmeet on Sabbath in the days of Nehemiah he might run the risk of having his beard pulled or his toupee disrupted.
Even in the New Testament times, if Ananias kept out a few shekels from the tithe to pay the rent, he was told by the local divine to drop dead--which he did.
Nevertheless, in spite of the book's emotion-laden attacks on Ellen White, on the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and on Christian beliefs in general, it does provide an opportunity to illuminate some interesting corners of Seventh-day Adventist history. Because the Seventh-day Adventist Church is growing so rapidly, there are always many new members who may not be well acquainted with Ellen White's life. They will appreciate having positive answers to some of the questions raised by the book. Then too, since the volume has received attention in the popular press in the United States, our fellow Christians in other denominations deserve a calm and candid evaluation of the book.
Those who know Ellen White from wide reading in her works will generally not need more than a taste of the bitterness of The White Lie to realize how foreign it is to the spirit of Christ which so permeates Mrs. White's writings. And yet they too may profit from further background information concerning her life and work.
It is not our purpose here to defend present-day church leaders, even though many have been maligned in the book. As for defending Ellen White, we suggest that her own writings offer the best defense. But we take this occasion to discuss the more important issues raised by The White Lie, and report the fruits of research in many fields which bear on those issues.
To begin with, there is more logic than emotion in Rea's attacks - and it would be stretching a point to try to deny that these paragraphs are not themselves an emotional attack on Rea. It should not be forgotten that at the early stages, when Rea was trying to work in co-operation with the church, Raymond Cottrell saw fit to remind the executives that Rea was a friend and not their enemy. Had the denomination been honest in their dealings with Rea, this book would almost certainly not have been written. Look at it from his point of view and consider what he has to say in the Prologue to his book:
Although he had been very pro-Mrs. White, Rea became aware of Mrs. White's use of other people's work. He did a considerable amount of research comparing what she had written with the work of other authors. Rea complied with Olson's request to keep him in the picture with regard to Rea's findings. Rea also agreed not to publish anything until Olson and the White Estate staff had had time to survey the material. But in January 1979 Rea was at a meeting where Olson was asked about Mrs. White's copying from published sources and heard Olson reply that there was nothing in these rumours.
After being double crossed by Olson, Rea was eventually fired after 36 years of service because another person, John Dart, released some of his material to the Los Angeles Times. So, after being doublecrossed and then unfairly dismissed after 36 years of loyal service, Rea's reaction to his former employer, a church, is hardly surprising.
Sadly, Rea is not an isolated case. Another of many possible examples of what happens to employees who ask awkward questions is Dr. Desmond Ford. Ford tried to follow the official line that if "You have new light, you present it through the proper channels and it will be duly considered" (and ignored, of course). Ford followed this procedure, stuck to his principles, and, like Rea, was fired when he would not accept as truth something he knew to be wrong.
The cause of the problem that became manifest by the conflict with Rea, Ford, and others, is made apparent by Mrs. White apologist, Dr Arthur Patrick of La Sierra University. His comments may be found on the net at:
Dr Patrick comments that "because we failed to observe the warnings which were implicit in such studies as those by Burgeson and Cottrell, we were not prepared for the more extensive revelations which Rea broadcast in the 1970's and '80's". He says that the first response of the church was to claim that "the new research and discussion" were evil,that they raised questions that should not be asked, and thus such discussions should be prevented or discontinued.
Patrick also says "an unprecedented quantity of fresh data about the life and writings of Ellen G. White and the history and thought of the Seventh-day Adventist Church emerged between 1970 and 1982. He says that information which became available to the first International Prophetic Guidance Workshop for 1970 - 1982 "was not shared effectively with the church at large." A good question at this point might be "Exactly how did this fresh data come to light"?
Here stupidity becomes breathtaking. Within the church there was a group with a great amount of knowledge about Mrs. White, but constrained by loyalty and probably security of employment to keep this information to themselves. But when these people were required to provide declarations of loyalty that they could not honestly give, their employment was terminated. Arthur Patrick says that over 150 lost their jobs in the South Pacific Division alone.
The end result was that the church has created an army of people, well informed about Mrs. White, with all constraints removed from them and now free to publish what they know. To massively compound the problem, all this happened just as the internet became available, and once closely guarded secrets are now instantly available to anyone anywhere, by way of the Internet.
One of the participants at the 1919 conference said "Is it well to let our people in general go on holding to the verbal inspiration of the Testimonies? When we do that, aren't we preparing for a crisis that will be very serious some day?"
THE USE OF LITERARY SOURCES
A glance at The White Lie reveals many pages of similarities between Mrs. White's writings and the writings of others. How much did Ellen White borrow from other sources?
In 1982 when The White Lie was published, there were more than 70 Ellen G. White books in print, an aggregate of more than 35,000 pages. Although there is some repetition in the books, there are also some 50,000 typewritten pages of letters, sermons, diaries, and manuscripts on file in the White Estate and at eight research centers around the world. Thus, when compared to the total volume of Ellen White's writings, the amount she borrowed still appears to be quite small.
On the other hand, representatives of the church have stated that the amount of borrowing was greater than they had previously known. In the Ellen G. White Estate, systematic research is going forward on this topic, and from time to time, further parallels are discovered. The Seventh-day Adventist journal for ministers, Ministry, recently devoted a special issue to a broad and candid summary of the subject of Ellen White's use of sources.
Now, a comment from Fred Veltman Ph.D., Chairman of Religion Department of Pacific Union College after competing an official in-depth study of The Desire of Ages.
"By the time you are reading Ellen White, the material has been through Marian Davis' hands, and it's been edited, so that you don't have Ellen White at that stage….There is no question that Ellen White has used sources more than we have understood her to use. Ellen is not only dependent - by the way that is not new: Walter Rea said that - but Ellen White also has followed the development of thought where a writer has developed a thought" Adventist Currents, June, 1985.
He reported to Ministry Magazine in December, 1990, that: Most of the content of "The Desire of Ages" was borrowed; it did not originate with Ellen White. Ellen used a minimum of 23 sources of various types of literature, including fiction, in her writings on the life of Christ. Many of the source books utilized today would be classified as "literary fiction". White's literary assistants, particularly Marian Davis, are responsible for the published form of "The Desire of Ages".
In Adventist Review, Feb. 23, 1984, Robert Olson admitted that 50% or more of The Great Controversy was drawn from other sources. Other estimates go as high as 90%.
Dr Arthur Patrick writes of Mrs. White's "copious and often creative use of Adventist and non-Adventist authors."
The amount of borrowing is not the most important question however. An instructive parallel is found in the relationship of the Gospels. More than 90 percent of the Gospel of Mark is paralleled by passages in Matthew and Luke. Even so, contemporary critical Biblical scholars are coming more and more to the conclusion that although Matthew, Mark, and Luke used common materials, each was a distinct author in his own right. Thus even "higher critics" have a more analytical approach to the study of literary sources than does The White Lie.
How can anyone argue that the amount of borrowing does not matter? When material is stolen from another author and presented as information supplied to Mrs White through the Holy Spirit, it matters! It is a lie. Mrs. White once commented that her work is either from God or the Devil. As it is based on lies, and, remembering the identity of the "father of lies", perhaps that indicates the true source of her pronouncements.
The common material that the Gospel writers used was personal experience. And they did not pretend that their writings were given to them in vision by angels and by repeated use of the expression "I was shown". Because they shared a common background, it is not surprising that they had similar language. As much of what was written was a recording of history, it is also reasonable that sequence and description of events could be very similar without implications of plagiarism. Probably even more importantly, the fact that their writings were not sold for profit could reasonably be seen as a reason why they wrote so much less than Mrs. White.
Another major difference between the apostles and Mrs. White is that their work has stood the test of time. It is as relevant today as it was when written. In less than a century, Mrs. White's writings have become totally irrelevant and in some instances, downright ridiculous.
At one time in the infancy of "source criticism" the Gospel writers were thought by higher critics to be little more than "scissors and paste" plagiarizers. Now critical scholars realize that literary studies are not complete until they move beyond cataloging parallel passages to the more significant question of how the borrowed material was used by each author to make his own unique statement.
It is our hope that the study of Ellen White's literary borrowing will move beyond the mere noting of literary parallels and discussing how much literary borrowing was acceptable, to the more interesting question of the unique uses to which Mrs. White, under the Spirit's guidance, put the materials she adapted.
The first paragraph wants us to buy the argument that "Everyone's doing it, so it's OK". The residents of Sodom and Gomorrah discovered, to their sorrow, what God thinks of that argument. Anyway, who are these "critical Scholars"? Seventh-day Adventists in fear of losing their employment, perhaps?
A further argument against the proposition that everyone was doing is found in the Bible: "I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me."Jer. 23: 30,32
Would people in the nineteenth century have agreed with The White Lie's judgment that Mrs. White's literary borrowing constituted "wholesale" stealing?
Some would have, especially critics. For instance, in 1889, the Protestant pastors of Healdsburg, California, invited D. M. Canright, a recently apostatized Adventist minister, to come from Michigan and lecture against the Adventists and Ellen White. In those lectures, Canright raised the charge of plagiarism against Ellen White, and Adventist pastors William Healey and J. N. Loughborough responded, showing where Canright had overstated his case.
When the debate was over, the opposing pastors published their parting shot in the local newspaper, accusing Ellen White of plagiarism. But these pastors were hardly unbiased judges. For centuries, the charge of plagiarism has been a favorite weapon used against religious leaders--John Bunyan and John Wesley were both vigorously accused.
Here is the same old hypocrisy again! Both Mrs. White and the "Record" expected to receive acknowledgment when their material was used by others, but how can it be wrong for others to do that which for Mrs. White was common practice?
Did Canright overstate his case? He is another outstanding example of the vilification of a church member who dares to question. It is clear that the Whites were divided about him. Mrs. White wrote to him on October 15, 1880, asking him to keep his doubts to himself and to keep away from church members. But on May 24, 1881, James White wrote to Canright expressing concern that the influence of Haskell and Butler over his wife have nearly ruined her. He concludes by expressing a hope that one day both he (White) and Canright will be on the Board of the General Conference. James died shortly after writing this, so this view prevailed for the remainder of his life.
In the nineteenth century, plagiarism was known and condemned, but uncredited paraphrasing was widely practiced. American humorist Mark Twain once wondered if there was "anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism!" Edgar Allen Poe was not so relaxed on the subject. He caused a considerable uproar when he accused Longfellow of plagiarism. Ironically, modern scholars find that Poe himself plagiarized. Literary borrowing is much more easily defined and condemned in the abstract than it is avoided in actual practice.
There is a major problem with this argument. The people mentioned above had not claimed divine inspiration for their copied work, with statements such as:
"In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days He speaks to them by the testimonies of His spirit" - Testimonies, Vol. 4, pp 147, 148.
"These books contain clear, straight, unalterable truth and they should certainly be appreciated. The instruction they contain is not of human origin." Letter H-339, Dec 26, 1904.
Why do they continually miss the point that Mrs. White has two problems - literary theft and then passing off the stolen material as work she has produced under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? The end result is that material written by a fallible human is passed off as the word of God.
Even closer to Ellen White was Uriah Smith, who condemned the plagiarizing of his sister Annie's poem, while in his own writings on prophecy he made free use of the paraphrased words of George Storrs and Josiah Litch. In this, Smith was not hypocritical. He, like other nineteenth-century writers, simply drew the line between plagiarism and legitimate borrowing at a different point than many would today.
Now, the full story. The following editorial appeared in the Review of 1864:
This is a word that is used to signify 'literary theft', or taking the productions of another and passing them off as one's own." The article goes on to complain about Luthera Weaver using two unacknowledged lines from a poem written by Annie Smith.
So, by the "Record's" own definition, Mrs. White's "borrowing" is theft. How can it possibly be wrong for Luthera Weaver to use two unacknowledged lines from Annie Smith's poem, and yet it is right for Mrs. White to produce a book which consists of at least 50% of material prepared by other people? You don't expect a prophet's standards to be lower than normal humans, You expect them, like Caesar's wife, to be above reproach.
It is also interesting that the church condemns anything that Fannie Bolton had to say about Mrs. White because she vacillated so much, yet Uriah Smith, who vacillated to a much greater extent than Fannie, is presented as a reliable and acceptable witness.
It has been rumored that Ellen White was threatened with a lawsuit for her literary borrowing from Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul. What are the facts?
In spite of A. G. Daniells' faulty memory in this regard, Mrs. White was never accused of plagiarism by the British authors Conybeare and Howson, nor was she threatened with a lawsuit, nor was her book withdrawn because of criticisms of its use of sources. In the 1890's there was a letter of inquiry about Sketches From the Life of Paul addressed to the Review and Herald Publishing Association by one of the several American publishers of Conybeare and Howson, the T. Y. Crowell Co. of New York. Large quantities of Conybeare and Howson's book had earlier been purchased from the Crowell Co. to give away as prizes to those who would secure subscriptions to the Signs of the Times. W. C. White, the only source of information about this letter, "indicates that it was written in a kindly spirit" and contained "no threats of prosecution, nor any complaints as to plagiarism." (emphasis and underline added)
When the Crowell company was quizzed about the matter some thirty years later, they replied:
We publish Conybeare's Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul, but this is not a copyrighted book and we would have no legal grounds for action against your book and we do not think that we have ever raised any objection or made any claim such as you speak of.
Like many of Ellen White's books, "Sketches From the Life of Paul" was out of print for some time while Mrs. White worked toward enlarging it into The Acts of the Apostles, but aside from scurrilous speculation and faulty memories, there is no evidence that this had anything to do with any alleged criticism of Ellen White's use of Conybeare and Howson.
A.G. Daniells was the President of the General Conference and when he made his comments about this book, he was speaking as Moderator at the 1919 Bible conference. Are we asked to believe that this man would be asked to chair such a meeting if he was prone to memory failure? And even if he was, he gave ample opportunity to those prominent Adventists at the meeting to disagree with him.
His remarks were:
Yes: and now take that "Life of Paul," - I suppose you know all about it and knew that claims were put up against her, charges made of plagiarism, even by the authors of the book, Conybeare and Howson, and were liable to make the denomination trouble because there was so much of their book put into "The Life of Paul" without any credit or quotation marks………………..I found it out and I read it with Brother Palmer when he found it, and we got Coneybeare and Howson, and we got Wylie's "History of the Reformation", and we read word for word, page after page, and no quotations, no credit, and really I did not know the difference until I began to compare them. I supposed it was Sister White's own work. The poor sister said, "Why, I didn't know about quotations and credits. My Secretary should have looked after that, and the publishing house should have looked after it".
Interestingly, Mrs. White's "pass the buck" response suggests that she did not draw the material she was copying from the books herself - this was almost certainly done by her secretaries. This conclusion is inescapable because many of the authors used by Mrs. White were very conscientious in giving credit when another person's work was being quoted, and if she had been reading their books herself, Mrs. White could not have failed to notice.
Like F.D. Nichol, the author of this article places a lot of weight in the argument that Willie White wrote to one of Coneybeare and Howson's publishers and obtained assurances that these people had no knowledge of ever taking action against Mrs. White for plagiarism. The problem with this argument is that it is known that there were several publishers, so unless Willie wrote to all the publishers and received a similar reply from each of them, he has proved nothing. It gets worse. Daniells specifically said that the authors made the complaint. This means that after eliminating the publishers as objectors, Willie then had to eliminate the authors in the same way.
On the question of the legality of literary borrowing, Attorney Vincent Ramik, who is not a Seventh-day Adventist, investigated Ellen White's use of sources according to the copyright laws and cases in the nineteenth century. He concluded that her use did not constitute literary piracy even if all the books from which she drew had been legally copyrighted.
So their Roman Catholic lawyer told them what they wanted to hear. If this were contested in court, an opposing lawyer would use the same evidence and give a very different opinion. If her habit of wholesale, unacknowledged copying and publishing of other people's work under her name is not plagiarism, then there is no such thing!
What about the structure and chapter titles of Ellen White's Patriarchs and Prophets--Are they similar to Alfred Edersheim's Old Testament Bible History?
It is easy to create a false impression by looking at superficial similarities. Close examination shows that of the 73 chapter titles in Patriarchs and Prophets, only nine of the titles are either identical to those in Edersheim's book, or differ only by the inclusion or deletion of the article "the." Furthermore, these nine include such common titles as "The Creation," "The Flood," "Destruction of Sodom," "The Marriage of Isaac," and "The Death of Saul."
The misleading nature of the comparison is even more obvious when one discovers that in Edersheim's book there are no chapter titles as such. Rather, there are up to half a dozen or more summary phrases indicating the subject matter of each chapter. It is from these summary phrases that the allegedly parallel "titles" have been drawn. Furthermore, the order of the chapters is really established by the order in which the stories appear in the Old Testament.
This argument is valid to a point. But there is so much other evidence of Mrs. White's copying of Edersheim that the logical question is "Why should Patriarchs and Prophets be any different from Mrs. White's other books?" Rea not only finds that the arrangement of chapters, and therefore subject material, is practically identical in the works of Mrs. White and Edersheim, he also lists over nine pages of similarities between Mrs. White and Daniel March. Again, it is interesting that this article takes the easy course and defends Mrs. White against charges of copying Edersheim, but completely overlooks the greater evidence of copying March.
What about the illustrations from Wylie's History of Protestantism which the Pacific Press published without credit to the Cassell Company?
Here is a case where The White Lie recycles a charge made in the 1930's by former Adventist E. S. Ballenger in his paper, The Gathering Call. At that time the charge was laid to rest by pointing out that W. C. White carried on extensive correspondence with the Cassell, Petter and Galpin Company of Great Britain, in order to purchase the rights to the illustrations in question.
Typical of Elder White's care in this matter is a letter written to Henry Scott on April 7, 1886. He advised Scott, who was publishing Adventist literature in Australia, to become acquainted with the Cassell Company agent in Melbourne, in order to purchase the rights to the cuts owned by that company. "When we will credit the work from which the cut is taken, as is now being done in Present Truth [the British Adventist paper], they make a 40 percent discount." However, Elder White went on, "I do not like the idea of promising to credit each picture." It is clear then, that he favored purchasing the rights to the illustrations outright.
Although any records of the Pacific Press's negotiations with the publishers were destroyed in the 1906 fire, they certainly were within their rights if they followed W. C. White's preferences in this matter. No conclusions can be drawn from the fact that the artists' initials appear on some cuts used in Wylie's book and not in The Great Controversy because we do not know in what form the Pacific Press received the engravings from the Cassell Company. It is perfectly possible that the initials were removed by the Cassell Company because of some arrangement with the artist prior to their sending the materials to the Pacific Press.
Willie demonstrates the White aversion to giving just credit to others with his telling remark "I do not like the idea of promising credit to each picture". So he removes the name of the artist, inserts "Pacific Press" and gives the impression that they produced the material. It is bad enough to delete the name of the original artist, it is infinitely worse to replace that name with "Pacific Press".
What about the use James and Ellen White made of the writings of J. N. Andrews and Uriah Smith? W. C. White has aptly summarized the pioneers' view on this subject:
All felt that the truths to be presented were common property and wherever one could help another or get help from another in the expression of Biblical truths, it was considered right to do so. Consequently there were many excellent statements of present truth copied by one writer from another. And no man said that aught which he wrote was exclusively his own.
This leaves us with the same problem as before. The works of other men are published under the name of Ellen White and this transforms them into information that Mrs. White "was shown". Adventists then accept this material, from a common source, as an infallible message from heaven.
Ellen White explained her own use of other Adventist writers in the introduction to The Great Controversy where she says that "in narrating the experience and views of those carrying forward the work of reform in our own time" she had made use of their writings in a way similar to the use she made of the language of historians. Thus James White used Uriah Smith just as Ellen White used James White. Outside Adventist circles, the popular historical writer Charles Adams used historian Merle D'Aubigne just as Ellen White used Charles Adams.
And still the objection remains. The "I saw" inserted before the quotation from Uriah Smith turns it into a message from Heaven. As we shall see, the vacillating Uriah Smith is very poorly qualified to draft such messages.
Did Mrs. White make any attempt to conceal from Adventists her literary borrowing? No, she even urged that they read some of the very books from which she borrowed most freely:
The Life of St. Paul by Conybeare and Howson, I regard as a book of great merit, and one of rare usefulness to the earnest student of the New Testament History.
On another occasion, she wrote:
Provide something to be read during these long winter evenings. For those who can procure it, D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation will be both interesting and profitable.
Clearly, Mrs. White was not trying to hide anything or she would not have recommended the very books from which she was at the time choosing material.
Now, try to reconcile this statement with another from son Willie White in the Adventist Review of February 23, 1984. He wrote "In the early days of her work, Mother was promised wisdom in the selections from the writings of others, that would enable her to select the gems of truth from the rubbish of error. We have all seen this fulfilled, and yet, when she told me of this, she admonished me not to tell it to others". Not trying to conceal anything?
Her copying landed her in endless trouble because the advancement of knowledge has shown so much of what she copied to be erroneous. A few examples of these errors are:
Jupiter has four moons instead of sixteen, Saturn has seven instead of eighteen, Uranus has six instead of fifteen.
Wasp waists caused by overly tight lacing, are passed from mother to daughter, and wigs will cause brain damage.
Enoch, who lived in the period from 622 until 987 years after the birth of Adam, first received instruction from Noah, who was born 1056 years after the birth of Adam. This is according to Mrs. White in Review & Herald of April 29, 1875.
Her "amalgamation" statement claimed that there had been a "base crime of amalgamation of man and beast' which defaced the image of God". This "may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men." She was supported in this claim by Uriah Smith who wrote that the Bushmen of Africa, some tribes of Hottentots, and perhaps Digger Indians were the product of interbreeding between men and animals.
As we now know that men cannot interbreed with animals, and also because of political correctness, the White Estate now claims that she was speaking of interbreeding between races of men. This creates an even bigger mess because it raises the question "How can the image of God be defaced if there is interbreeding between black and white people when both races are created in the image of God? Also, Mrs. White used to sell Smith's book. Surely she would not have done this if she disagreed with his statements.
F D Nichol wrote 17 pages on this subject in "Ellen G White and Her Critics", but failed to clear up the mess. He must have known that the original understanding of the amalgamation statement was correct. A reason for this is that he would have known of Mrs. White's attitude to negros because she wrote that inter racial marriage is forbidden and coloured people should not be placed on an equality with white people - Testimonies Vol. 9 p 214.
The excuse for the astronomical errors (no pun intended) is that she was trying to impress Captain Bates, and had she given the correct number of moons, he would not have believed her. This is to really dig the hole much deeper! Had she said that she saw a planet with sixteen moons, which current knowledge only believed to have four she would probably not have lost Bates and history would have shown her to be correct. It is pointless to argue that the Holy Spirit would employ a lie - even a White one - to convert Captain Bates. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that she lied when she claimed to not have read anything about astronomy. How else could she have repeated current, erroneous views?
On the other hand, she did not generally draw particular attention to her use of other authors, except in the Health Reformer in the 1870's, where, as she wrote her monthly column and selected material for republication for the non-Adventist public, she regularly quoted from other writers, gave credit to them, and even recommended that her readers secure their books.
How interesting. When writing for non-Adventists she gave credit when she used the works of others. Could this be because she knew that she could not get away with as much from people outside of the church as she did with church members?
How do you reconcile the fact that when writing for non-Adventists she knew to give credit to other authors, yet she told Elder Daniells that she did not know that this should be done? Another White lie?
Did Mrs. White feel that it was permissible for her to paraphrase the language of others? Yes, in fact, in a letter to her secretary, Fannie Bolton, she once gave an enlightening illustration of her concept of the ownership of truth. Fannie, from time to time, felt that Mrs. White had not given her proper credit for the work she had done in editing Mrs. White's material in the process of preparing it for publication.
In vision, Ellen White "was shown Fannie gathering the fruit, some ripe, the best, some unripe. She put it in her apron and said, 'This is mine. It is mine.' I said, 'Fannie, you are certainly claiming that which is not yours. That fruit belongs to that tree. Anyone may pluck and enjoy it, but it belongs to that tree.' This concept of the tree of truth suggests that God is the author and owner of all truth, just as the tree is the author and owner of its fruit. God provides truth unstintingly to all who will receive it and use it.
Mrs. White explained Christ's use of familiar concepts in much the same way:
He was the originator of all the ancient gems of truth. Through the work of the enemy, these truths had been displaced. . . . Christ rescued them from the rubbish of error, gave them a new, vital force, and commanded them to shine as jewels, and stand fast forever. Christ Himself could use any of these old truths without borrowing the smallest particle, for He had originated them all.
Despite her many clashes with her "boss", Fannie gives the impression that she was a dedicated Christian with outstanding abilities. For example, she wrote words and music to "Not I but Christ" which has appeared in every SDA Hymnal since it became available.
Fannie's main complaint was that she wrote articles which then appeared in the "Record" under the name of Mrs. White. Because of this, people saw material written by Fannie as being "inspired". Not surprisingly, this worried her greatly.
Fannie got into extremely hot water when she claimed that she was the author of "Steps to Christ". The claim that she created this book by compiling the words of Mrs. White in the same way that Mrs. White produced her other books is supported by circumstantial evidence. E.S. Ballenger made a sworn statement to say that Fannie Bolton told him that she had written this book.
Fannie seems to have talked too much. Although she was originally described by Mrs. White as a "treasure", she appears to have lost her value fairly rapidly. She did such things as letting the cat out of the bag after she had found Mrs. White eating oysters and talking about how Willie brought in a "thick piece of bloody beefsteak" for Sarah McEnterfer to cook, presumably for Mrs. White.
W. W. Prescott was involved in the revision of "The Great Controversy" and was concerned that his work went out under Mrs. White's name. He said that in his mind there was "a difference between the works she largely prepared herself and what was prepared by others for sale to the public. (Note the use of the word "largely" implies that she prepared very little on her own, and work for sale to the public was prepared by "others").
In the later years of her life, when she became aware that questions were being raised about whether her copying from other writers was an infringement on their rights, she asked "Who has been injured?" Significantly, this question was the very one asked by the courts of her day to determine whether borrowing was proper. If she were writing today, her approach might be different, but she must be judged by the concepts of literary property and legality current in her own day.
Why, then, was there so much offense taken when two lines of a poem written by Annie Smith were used by another author? If other authors were not injured by Mrs. White's massive copying of their work, how could Annie Smith have been injured by the use of just two lines of her work by someone else?
The White Estate claims that Willie demanded that credit be given when Mrs. White's work was used by others to prevent misquoting. It requires little thought to expose this argument for the nonsense that it is - if an unacknowledged quote of Mrs. White is used and turns out to be wrong, the blame falls on the author of the book, not Mrs. White. The truth, of course, is that this is yet another example of double standards.
Also, what a silly question for a prophet to raise. Suppose a few people in a group would each like a copy of the White Estate's CD ROM containing all the writings of Mrs. White. Would the White Estate accept "Who has been injured" as a defense if one of the group borrows a CD and burns copies for himself and all of his friends?
What about the statements where Mrs. White appears to claim an exclusive divine source for what she wrote? The question is a pertinent and important one. In 1867 Mrs. White wrote: "My views were written independent of books or of the opinions of others." But when the statement is put in proper context, as it can be found in the Review and Herald of Oct. 8, 1867, one discovers she was speaking of her earliest health writings. After her initial writing on health, she tells us in this very same article that she read the books of various reformers and then proceeded to publish excerpts from them in Health: or, How to Live. Why? She says it was to show how the things shown her in vision had also been brought out by other able writers on the subject.
It was also in the context of those early health writings that she said:
Although I am as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in writing my views as I am in receiving them, yet the words I employ in describing what I have seen are my own.
Here she is clearly drawing a distinction between words she has to provide and divinely dictated words. Since she described her vision of the proper length for women's dresses in different language on different occasions, some women questioned her vision. She had to explain that except in rare instances, the visions did not provide the exact words in which to describe what she was seeing.
Again, tell the full story.
First she condemned the reform dress in Testimonies Vol. 1, pp. 421,422. In 1863, claiming God as her authority, she said that dresses should "clear the filth of the streets by an inch or two", and "Christians should not take pains to make themselves a gazing stock by dressing differently from the world".
In 1864 she found that God had changed his mind and would now have his people adopt the reform dress, "not only to distinguish them from the world, but because a reform dress is essential to physical and mental health".
Mrs. White's prescribed dress was similar to one worn by Dr. Harriet Austin from Dr Jackson's clinic. Instead of the previously prescribed "inch or two", the hem was nine inches from the floor. It was extremely unpopular with those condemned to wear it because people stopped, stared, and mocked. One woman spoke of hiding in shops to avoid the troops of boys who followed her. Even F. D. Nichol admits that those who wore the dress were subjected to ridicule. But protests to Mrs. White brought back the reply that "I have done my duty, I have borne my testimony, and those who have heard me and read what I have written, must bear the responsibility of receiving or rejecting the light given. If they choose to venture to be forgetful hearers, and not doers of the work, they run their own risk, and will be accountable to God." Testimonies Vol. 1, page 523.
Eight years later God again changed his mind, and Mrs. White wrote in 1875 "As our sisters would not generally accept the reform dress as it should be worn, another less objectionable style is now presented" Testimonies Vol. IV, p 640. This raises the obvious question, why did God demand that an objectionable dress should be worn? After all, God's "prophet" specifically stated that people should not make themselves a gazing stock. But if you go out in public, wearing clothing of objectionable appearance, you automatically become a gazing stock, as those unfortunate women who took their prophet's counsel quickly discovered.
Because the prominent critic of this dress was Canright, Nichol tries to argue that the descriptions of the dress are probably wrong, and that Canright must be dogmatic with his descriptions or his argument would collapse. Sadly for Nichols, a photo of Harriet Austin in her ridiculous dress has been found. It agrees exactly with Canright's description.
Elsewhere, Mrs. White wrote:
I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision--the precious rays of light shining from the throne.
This statement was made in a long article responding to charges from Battle Creek that her reproofs of the church there were merely her own opinions based on gossip she had heard. This charge Mrs. White honestly and forthrightly denied. She affirmed her deep conviction that the messages she bore were messages from heaven. This would not rule out the fact that they might occasionally contain concepts or words gleaned from her reading; but even in such cases it was the Holy Spirit that convicted her of the truth and value of what she was reading.
You just can't win! We have just been told that only on very rare occasions was she provided with the exact words in which to describe what she was shown, now we are told that she does not write one word expressing merely her own ideas, she is telling what God has shown her in vision. She also wrote:
"I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision as in having a vision" Spiritual Gifts Vol. 2, p 293. Unless you accept that the Spirit of the Lord will allow Mrs. White to commit error when she is recording an important message to the church, you have to agree that the only possible interpretation of this statement is that it is a claim to verbal inspiration.
There is no opportunity for argument with her because "When the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth. No after suppositions contrary to the light God has given are to be entertained." Counsels to Writers & Educators, P 31.
To reinforce the idea that all her writings were inspired, her first publication uses "I saw" sixteen times. The next article uses the same expression thirteen times. The next article uses it thirty five times and the trend continues to a point where nearly every sentence begins with these words. In an 1849 "Present Truth" article the expression appears eleven times in thirteen sentences. "I saw" indicates that what follows comes from Heaven - nobody would want to argue with information from that source.
What happens if a reader of Mrs. White takes something in her writings at face value to be true, and then discovers later that it has been proven to be untrue? The reader will probably be told that "he misinterpreted" her writings. A good example is the statement made at the 1856 conference that some in attendance would be alive at the Second Advent. When the prophecy failed it became conditional and the failure was the fault of the readers, not the prophet. Another example is produced by Nichols who argues that an Mrs. White statement "When England does declare war.." should be read "If England declares war.."
On yet another occasion, Mrs. White wrote:
I have not been in the habit of reading any doctrinal articles in the paper, that my mind should not have any understanding of anyone's ideas and views, and that not a mold of any man's theories should have any connection with that which I write.
Once again, the context is essential to understanding. This letter was written at a time when G. I. Butler and E. J. Waggoner were locked in heated debate over the meaning of the "law" in Galatians. At this crucial juncture, when she had to counsel both men, she avoided reading doctrinal articles in the paper [The Signs of the Times] in order that her counsel would not bear the mold of either Waggoner's or Butler's theories.
Mrs. White's statements about the source of her writings refer consistently to the ultimate authority by which she spoke, not to the "divers manners" in which the Lord communicated to her, nor to the aid she received in expressing God's truth. Why did she not say more about her use of sources? Perhaps because she had seen how prone people were to see the human elements in her writings as proof that they were merely her own opinion, not divine messages.
The White Lie is eloquent testimony to the continuing difficulty many people have in recognizing a union of both human and divine elements in inspired writings.
The argument is also standard issue. She used the same argument when people asked if her health message was copied from Dr Jackson. The trouble is, the answer, on that occasion, has been shown to be false. The same argument was used again, but with greater skill, when J. N. Andrews noted similarities between her work and "Paradise Lost".
"The White Lie" and all of the critics have difficulty in recognizing a union of both human and divine elements in Mrs. White's writings because her writings are full of contradictions and false prophecies.
How could it happen that Mrs. White, in describing what she was shown in a vision, employs the words of other authors? Most likely there were times when Mrs. White read an impressive passage in a book and later the Lord called her attention to the same truth while in vision, applying that truth to a specific need in her own life or the life of the church. In such cases, she could easily express a part of what she was shown in language paraphrased from another author. We know of a half dozen or so cases where this appears to have happened.
The problem is that Mrs. White was questioned about whether she had based her "health message" on the work of Dr Jackson, and later other work on "Paradise Lost". She was adamant that she had neither read Dr. Jackson's work nor that of Milton before she produced her works? So, paragraph 2, like most of the argument in this defense, is inadequate.
An occasional instance of such an occurrence would be acceptable. But half a book, as admitted by someone as pro-Mrs. White as Robert Olson is stretching credibility a little too far. Worse yet, current indications are that Olson was ultra conservative and the plagiarism figure could be as high as 90%. But worse, much of what she chose was wrong.
Arthur Patrick cites the case of a prominent editor called in to offset Rea's claims about Mrs. White's copying. This editor claimed that only 0.002% of her work was copied material. Patrick says that Veltman's work shows the true figure was 150 times what was claimed. He concludes that it is "a harsh reality that Adventists have been subjected repeatedly to apologetic writings which denied, or failed to admit, facts which are now beyond dispute."
A similar experience occurred in connection with the "Iceberg" vision. Mrs. White read an incident about a ship meeting an iceberg. Then, several days later, during a vision, a ship became a symbol of the church, and the iceberg became the symbol of the opposition and heresies of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his faction. Just as in the cases where Mrs. White used the words of other authors to describe, in part, what she had seen in vision, here a dramatic event about which she had read offered the Lord a symbolic vehicle in which to convey truth to her.
Poor old Dr. Kellogg! Although a close acquaintance, if not personal friend, he had endless difficulties with Mrs. White, even though she had once dubbed him "God's Physician". He caused her acute embarrassment when he showed a testimony she had sent him to be totally wrong, and based on an incorrect newspaper report she had read rather than received by vision. When she tried to cover her tracks with a second false testimony, she only compounded the original problem. Is the correction of lies with truth heresy?
Kellogg wrote a book about health and gave Mrs. White ample opportunity to criticize it, but she did nothing. He also asked prominent Adventists, such as W.W. Prescott, to go through the book and underscore anything they considered to be wrong, and agreed to remove anything so marked. About a year later, when no objections had been received the book went onto the market and immediately received a negative article from the Review.
Kellogg withdrew the book and wrote to the Whites, accepting their criticisms of his book. Although the Whites knew Kellogg's views exactly, his book was falsely condemned (he was labeled a pantheist) to the extent that Mrs. White had a vision in which she saw an angel holding the book and saying "This book must not be published." Critics argue that the real objection to the book was that it would outsell Mrs. White's works on the same subject, this being the real reason for her objections.
As the saying goes, "With the Whites for friends, you don't need any enemies!"
Is the comparison between the use of literary sources in the Bible and Ellen White's literary borrowing really valid? Yes, if one recognizes what issue is involved. Borrowing by Biblical authors has no direct bearing on the ethical propriety of literary borrowing in the nineteenth century, for concepts of literary property were different in biblical times. However, literary borrowing in the Bible speaks to the question of inspiration. In other words, if the question is whether genuinely inspired writers can employ uninspired literary sources, then we can look to the Bible for an answer to that question. When we do, we discover that Biblical writers used sources while writing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The White Lie argues invalidly that if the Gospel writers had borrowed as much as Ellen White did they would have had to borrow every verse. This argument is based on the fact that the reader will find "more than four hundred references to eighty-eight authors in The Great Controversy." When W. C. White gave these statistics, he was discussing the 1911 revision of The Great Controversy.
Again, not true. The argument is clearly based on a statement made by Donald McAdams in January 1980, when he was a member of the Glendale Committee. He said that "If every paragraph in "The Great Controversy" were footnoted in accordance with proper procedure, almost every paragraph would be footnoted."
At that time, Ellen White instructed her literary assistants to go through the book and supply specific references for the quotations. In doing so, the literary assistants did not attempt to specify where Ellen White originally found the quotation, but where the modern reader could most readily find it.
In fact, Mrs. White drew from far fewer authors than the number of references would seem to suggest, for, in many cases, a single author from whom she originally drew quoted from several prior sources himself.
Once again, there can be no valid comparison between the copying of the Gospel writers and that of Mrs White. It is possible that the Gospel writers did not copy at all, because they "spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost". As the words they used all came from the one source, similarities are probably inevitable. They had verbal inspiration, something that Mrs. White was at pains to claim for herself.
It matters not how many authors she stole from. One stolen quotation posing as information provided by the Holy Spirit is too many.
THE PIONEERS AND THE PROPHET
What authority did Ellen White have for the pioneers of the Adventist Church? Did they believe in her inspiration? Truly, the pioneers should be allowed to speak for themselves. Of the 16 "witnesses" brought forward in The White Lie two are represented by statements made by other individuals (Andrews and Clough), one had no direct knowledge of what he was talking about (House), and several in no way express or imply disbelief in the inspiration of her writings (Starr, Lacey, and James and Ellen White). One was simply wrong (Colcord), and the Healdsburg Ministerial Association spokesmen were hostile opponents from the beginning.
Fannie Bolton made numerous conflicting statements, and A. G. Daniells and Uriah Smith are misrepresented because their "witness" consists of only isolated comments.
Contrary to The White Lie's claim that these individuals were "in most cases" separated from the church after they made these statements, not more than three of the 16 were disfellowshiped for causes relating to their beliefs.
The "witnesses" are cited by Rea in response to the proposition that Mrs. White knew what was being done with her work, had a part in it, and encouraged others who worked for her to do the same and say nothing about it.
J N Andrews. Shortly after March 14,1858 he commented that what Mrs. White was saying about her vision, which led to the Great Controversy, sounded like Milton's "Paradise Lost" He asked her if she had read this book and she said that she had not, so Andrews sent her a copy. She claimed that she placed the book on a high shelf and left it there until she had written up her vision. This explanation is a repeat of what happened when James ordered Dr Jackson's books just as his wife was having her health visions.
Mrs. White claimed that she did not know Dr Jackson when she was writing her health vision in June 1863. But Dr. Jackson treated her boys for diptheria in January 1863, and in June 1863, James ordered Dr Jackson's books. Mrs. White received her health vision in the same month. She claimed that those books remained in their wrappers were placed on a high shelf until she had written her message. She also claimed to have been surprised when she found that her ideas were identical with those of Dr Jackson.
But James had reprinted an article of Dr Jackson's on February 17,1863. In October 1863 James published another of Jackson's articles, and in December he mailed a copy of some of this work to a friend. Mrs White's articles were not published until June 1864.
Mary Clough was Mrs. White's niece and worked for her for a while prior to being dismissed. Her name is mentioned because she knew of Mrs. White's vision in which an angel told her "Fannie Bolton is your adversary."
Benjamin House "had no direct knowledge of what he was talking about." (at the 1919 Conference). He had to be a very prominent person to be at the conference, and anything he said was instantly subjected to the peer review of 24 others, many of whom knew Mrs. White personally. House was distinctly pro-Mrs. White and he was asking a question in attempt to clear up a problem about verbal inspiration and the way Mrs. White's books were written. His answer from A. G. Daniells was "We did not create that difficulty, did we? We General conference men did not create it, for we did not make the revision. We did not take any part in it. We had nothing whatever to do with it. It was all done under her supervision. If there is a difficulty there, she created it, did she not?" Why was Daniells so jumpy, and quick to blame Mrs. White if he could have shown that House's concerns were unfounded?
George Starr. Is quoted because he knew that Mrs. White had a problem with Fannie Bolton. George Starr was the man who converted Fannie.
Lacey. There is no suggestion that he had unbelief in Mrs White. What is said, and correctly, is that he was involved in the production of "Desire of Ages" because of a request from Marian Davis. He also suggests that others were similarly involved in work that went out under the name of Mrs. White.
Willard Colcord. Minister, editor, religious liberty secretary of the General Conference. Merely discussed the fact that Mrs. White's use of the works of others, without giving credit, has caused considerable trouble. Time has demonstrated that the concerns he voiced were correct.
Healdsburg Ministerial Association. March 20, 1889. Studied the works of Mrs. White and concluded that there was substantial copying. Although dismissed as "hostile" their views concur with those of Robert Olson and others a century later. The use of this term is a reminder that the executives of the church were reminded by one of their own that Rea was a friend of the church, and not an enemy. The label "hostile" is too easily attached to someone who dares to differ, and then used as an excuse for ignoring him.
Fannie Bolton. Was hired by Mrs. White four times as an assistant. She has already been discussed.
A.G. Daniells. Once again, the statement about the plagiarism problem arising from "The Life of St Paul" made by Daniells at the 1919 Conference, was subjected to instant peer review which would ensure that what he had to say would be reliable. He clearly knew beyond dispute that there had been serious problems as a result of that book.
John and Merritt Kellogg. If these two brothers ever believed in the infallibility of Mrs. White, their belief must have been destroyed when, despite a warning that her information (a newspaper cutting) was incorrect, she sent a testimony to John Kellogg, reproving him for something he had not done. Then, when she discovered that she had been wrong, she claimed that her testimony arrived just in time to prevent this wrong act. These people could certainly reject Mrs. White on the authority of Deuteronomy 18:22.
Neither the pioneers nor anyone else has ever claimed that every line Ellen White penned was inspired. She herself said that the "sacred" and the "common" must be distinguished, and that there were times when she had to write on everyday matters and business affairs. Consistent with Mrs. White's statement that she was writing from memory in her autobiographical sketch, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, it has been noted that Mrs. White "did not lay claim to divine aid as she attempted to reconstruct the story of her life or in recounting the happenings at home or in her travels."
How do you reconcile that statement with the one made at the 1919 Conference: "Is it well to let our people go on holding to the verbal inspiration of the Testimonies"? Also M.E. Kern's comment "Many think that every word she has ever said or written is from the Lord." Or Wakeham's "They..believe that every identical word that Sister White has written was to be received as infallible truth." Worst of all, for the argument above, is Thompson who says "They are not verbally inspired, - we know that - and what is the use of teaching that they are?"
Prescott deserves a paragraph to himself. At that conference he commented that you may not believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible and still be in good standing, but if you do not believe in the verbal inspiration of the "Testimonies" you are discredited right away! He rightly concluded that this puts the spirit of prophecy above the Bible.
As previously noted, Mrs. White claimed to be "just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision as in having a vision" and claiming that "when the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth. No after suppositions contrary to the light God has given are to be entertained."
Add to these statements the "I saws" and "I was showns" that she uses so frequently and you are left with no opportunity to question anything. Clearly these comments from Mrs. White combined with those quoted above from people at the 1919 Conference demonstrate that even if the hierarchy did not believe in total verbal inspiration, they must have taught it. If not, how could it be that most Adventists believed in it?
Finally, a little further down, we are told that Daniells was in trouble with some at the 1922 Conference who believed that Daniels did not support their belief that Ellen White's inspiration was "both verbal and inerrant, even in the smallest detail."
Did Uriah Smith have some periods of doubt concerning Ellen White's prophetic gift? Yes, he did. One of those is reflected in his letter to D. M. Canright. But although Smith had some struggles when he was reproved, he took the reproof to heart and soon stood firmly on the integrity and value of the Mrs. White's writings. On one occasion he explained to Adventists everywhere how he almost slipped but didn't:
Considerable handle, I understand, has been made in some directions of the fact that the editor of the Review has been troubled over the question of the visions, has been unsound on that question, and at one time came very near giving them up. It strikes me that this is quite a small amount of capital to work up much of a trade on--"came very near giving them up";--but didn't! I also, at one time came very near getting run over by the cars, and rolled into jelly; but I didn't, and so continue to this day. Some have met just such a catastrophe. The difference between them and myself is that they did, and I didn't. Some have given up the visions. The difference between them and myself is the same--they did, and I didn't.
Smith acknowledged that there were times when "circumstances seemed very perplexing" but the weight of evidence in his mind had never "balanced on the side of surrender," and he affirmed his position of trust and confidence.
Smith recounts how, just like many others, he has been placed in "no win" situations by Mrs. White. He agrees that Mrs. White has been shown things in vision and this is a manifestation of Spiritual Gifts. However, he comments that "they should manifest more of that charity which the apostle sets forth as more desirable than all gifts, and without which even the best gifts are as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal." His last letter concludes, "Sister W is certainly doing a work which no other person seems fitted for doing, and which is of great value to this cause. So I will get along with my private trials (context indicates that these are from Mrs. White) and hold them in abeyance for the general good."
Because of the haste with which this author dismisses the opinions of people he labels prejudiced, it should be noted that Smith was also prejudiced. He was a church employee and could have lost his employment if he said too much. His credibility is damaged because he claimed that "The visions have never taught the end of probation in the past, or the close of the day of salvation for sinners, called by our opponents the shut-door doctrine." That statement was untrue and he must have known it.
J. N. Andrews is said to have doubted Ellen White's prophetic gift because he saw similarities between Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, and Ellen White's writings. Did Mrs. White borrow from Paradise Lost and did J. N. Andrews question the gift?
In 1858, after hearing Ellen White give an account of her vision of the great controversy, J. N. Andrews asked her if she had read Milton's epic. She assured him she had not, so he brought a copy to her home. This was not at all unusual. On several occasions the studious Andrews made gifts of books to the Whites. Interestingly, although The White Lie alleges again and again that Ellen White borrowed from Milton, the book provides no evidence to substantiate the claim. Scholarly studies have noted some similar thoughts, but no literary dependence.
By this time Mrs. White had probably benefited by her experience when she was copying Dr Jackson and covered up more skillfully. But it is significant that when Andrews heard about the visions he recognized a remarkable similarity to what Milton had written in his work of fiction, "Paradise Lost". This induced him to give Mrs. White a copy of the book that she claimed, like Dr Jackson's book, went on the top shelf until she had written down her views.
In pages 33 - 34 of "The White Lie" Rea gives seven examples of cases where the visions of Mrs. White correspond in great detail with the fictional work of Milton. He then raises the legitimate point: "These likenesses in the narrative on points where the Scriptures are silent intensify the question: Why are these two authors, living two hundred years apart, so much in agreement on major facts."
As for J. N. Andrews, early in his experience he found that his parents and in-laws were critical of James and Ellen White, and in a moving confession, said:
My influence against the visions has not been from a multiplicity of words against them. . . . But I confess I have not stood up for them and borne testimony in their favor.
Later, after he had spent time in the Whites' home and seen the anguish and tears which accompanied the writing of counsels and reproof, he wrote:
My convictions that the testimonies of Sister White are from Heaven, have been greatly strengthened by the opportunity which I have had to observe the life, and experience, and labors of these servants of Christ.
Shortly afterward, he wrote of the important contribution made by the testimonies:
Their work is to unite the people of God in the same mind and in the same judgment upon the meaning of the Scriptures. Mere human judgment, with no direct instruction from heaven, can never search out hidden iniquity, nor adjust dark and complicated church difficulties, nor prevent different and conflicting interpretations of the Scriptures. It would be sad indeed if God could not still converse with His people.
And how was this loyalty repaid? After the death of his wife, Andrews, with his two children, established the Adventist work in Switzerland. Three years later, in poor health himself, he buried his daughter and his brother. His poor health then prevented his return to Switzerland for 12 months.
Four years later Mrs. White wrote to his assistant and stated that Andrews had "given the impression of suffering when he has endured no more than ordinary laborers in their first experience of this work". She regarded him as having a "diseased mind". She thought he would probably die, and "could not pray for his life, for I consider he has held up and is still holding up the work in Switzerland." She went on to tell of the sin of dwelling on himself, and on mourning for his wife and daughter as he had done. Yet Mrs. White has much to say about her own suffering, and would not have taken kindly to adverse comment about this habit of hers.
Andrews wrote back, saying "I humble myself before God to receive from His hand the severe rebuke which He has given you for me………….I beg you to believe me as ever, one who sincerely desires to follow the right." Adventist Currents, Feb. 1985. (Remember Smith's comment that they lacked charity)
Andrews died a few months later.
Like all of us, the pioneers were people who in their human weakness sometimes struggled with pride and doubt even as we do today, but, with a very few exceptions, those who knew Ellen White best came to believe firmly in her inspiration.
Apparently A. G. Daniells was criticized in his own time for not being a sufficiently strong supporter of Ellen G. White's ministry. What was his attitude?
Elder Daniells's faith and confidence were unimpaired to the very hours of his death. At the 1922 General Conference he was indeed criticized by some who believed that Ellen White's inspiration was both verbal and inerrant, even in the smallest detail. Daniells did not hold this rigid view. He was deeply hurt by what he considered to be false and unfounded criticisms of his position regarding Ellen G. White.(highlighting and underlining added)
Shortly before his death in 1935, he recalled his experience of March, 1903, a day or two before the opening of the General Conference session in Oakland, California. He referred to the Battle Creek crisis and of his agony of soul as he reached out to God for evidence of His support in "the awful battle that was before us." He told how he wrestled through the hours of the night:
Finally, there fell upon me these words, "If you will stand by My servant until her sun sets in a bright sky, I will stand by you to the last hour of the conflict. . . ." I fell on my side, and I couldn't talk any more with God. I was overcome. And although I have made mistakes, God has stood by me, and I have never repudiated that woman, nor questioned her loyalty, to my knowledge, from that night to this. O, that was a happy experience to me. And it bound me up with the greatest character that has lived in this dispensation. That is all I can say.
Daniells' memory is giving trouble again. Context indicates that his "vision" took place in 1903. If you test his statement that "he never repudiated that woman…………..from that night to this with his comments at the 1919 Conference meeting, a major discrepancy emerges. Also ask why was he attacked at the 1922 GC meeting on the basis that he did not believe that Mrs. White's inspiration was both verbal and inerrant. This article says that he was deeply hurt by these unfounded criticisms, but were they unfounded? He told J.N. Anderson that "infallible interpreter" was "not our position". (Source: Don Hawley, chapter 6) He asked "if her writings were verbally inspired, why should we revise them?" This lead on to discussion about discrepancies within her works, and Daniells replied "We did not create that difficulty did we?…..It was all done under her supervision. If there is a difficulty there, she created it, did she not?"
What was H. Camden Lacey's role in the preparation of The Desire of Ages? Lacey at one point claimed he was the first Adventist to urge the idea that the Holy Spirit was a person, and that it was because of his influence that Ellen White first referred to the Holy Spirit as "He" instead of "it." Lacey was wrong in this, since Mrs. White used the personal pronoun "He" to refer to the Holy Spirit in the very first edition of Steps to Christ, published in 1892 while Lacey was still a college student in Battle Creek, and well before Mrs. White or her literary assistants became acquainted with him.
At the time The Desire of Ages was being prepared he was 25 years old; he was at the Avondale School teaching, not Bible, but mathematics, natural science, and elocution. Lacey himself, in response to an inquiry, wrote that his only contribution to the preparation of The Desire of Ages was to help in the arrangement of the sentences, or paragraphs, or the choice of a more suitable word in the first two or three chapters:
Never at any time, was there an alteration of the thought, or the insertion of an idea that was not already expressed in the original text. The resultant copy was always submitted to Sister White herself for final approval. The entire Desire of Ages as it is now printed is, therefore, the product of Sister White's mind and heart, guided by the good Spirit of God. And the "editing" was merely technical.
Elsewhere in the letter he makes clear his understanding of the book:
I gladly and with all my heart accept the Desire of Ages as an inspired book; indeed, I regard it as the most spiritual life of Christ, outside the Gospels, ever given to His church. . . . I have scores of extracts taken from this wonderful book, and from other writings of Sister White. I value them as products of the same "Spirit of Prophecy" as indicated in the Scriptures. And thousands of my hearers in church and classroom will bear witness to that.
Camden Lacy was a Professor of Bible and biblical language at five Adventist colleges, and was also a good friend of the Whites. He claimed that Marian Davis was entrusted with the preparation of "Desire of Ages" and he did what he could to help her find material for the first chapter. He also believed that others helped her, such as Professor Prescott.
At the 1919 Conference Prescott said, "Here's my difficulty. I have gone over this (The Great Controversy) and suggested changes that ought to be made to correct statements. These changes have been accepted. My personal difficulty will be to retain faith on those things that I cannot deal with on that basis………………If we correct it here and correct it there, how are we going to stand with it in other places?"
Prescott also wrote to Willie "It seems to me that your mother's writings have been handled and the false impressions concerning them, which is still fostered amongst the people, have brought great trial and perplexity to me. It seems to me that what amounts to deception, though probably not intentional, has been practiced in making some of her books, and that no serious effort has been made to disabuse the minds of the people of what was known to be their wrong view concerning her writings."
Cynics continue to ask, "If Mrs. White's words are divinely inspired, why do they need revision, why so much help from the Prescotts, the Laceys, and all the others?" Another who asked "But if her writings were verbally inspired, why should she revise them?" was General Conference President A.G. Daniells, again at the 1919 Conference. Little wonder the notes were hidden and their existence denied. What a disaster when they escaped to the Internet!
Was a failure to grasp the true nature of inspiration one reason why some persons in the past questioned the propriety of Ellen White's use of literary sources and her reworking of her writings?
Conservative Christians have held two general views with regard to the nature of inspiration. The commonly held view--sometimes called verbal inspiration--holds to the belief that the Holy Spirit inspires the exact words of a Heaven-sent message. For many this would mean that a truly inspired writer would have no recourse to uninspired sources nor would he ever need to rephrase a message, since, in their thinking, a Spirit-indited message would be in the exact form preferred by God.
Other Christians believe the Biblical data indicates that the Holy Spirit inspires the person, and only occasionally specifies the words he is to use. The Holy Spirit imbues his mind with the thoughts or messages that He would have him convey (2 Pet. 1:21). This view is sometimes described as thought inspiration.
Under the continued guidance of the Spirit the prophet speaks or writes in his own words, according to his ability, what he has been instructed (cf. 1 Sam. 3:11-18) or shown (cf. Rev. 1:10, 11). Thus, he may be led to draw upon the writings of others to frame more effectively the intent of the message (cf. Titus 1:12, 13). On occasion he may rewrite or rephrase an earlier message to make it clearer and more forceful (cf. Jer. 36:32).
This latter view of the revelation-inspiration process was held by the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. However, a failure to grasp the implications of this position led some later workers to misunderstand the procedures employed by Ellen White in producing her writings. A broader view of the Biblical doctrine of inspiration would have prevented the perplexity then, even as it will now for the membership of the church. Statements by W. C. White, who assisted his mother in her publishing work, set forth both Ellen White's position, and that of the church, on inspiration:
Mother has never laid claim to verbal inspiration, and I do not find that my father, or Elder Bates, Andrews, Smith, or Waggoner, put forth this claim. If there were verbal inspiration in writing her manuscripts, why should there be on her part the work of addition or adaptation? It is a fact that Mother often takes one of her manuscripts, and goes over it thoughtfully, making additions that develop the thought still further. You refer to the little statement which I sent you regarding verbal inspiration. This statement was made by the General Conference of 1883 was in perfect harmony with the beliefs and positions of the pioneers in this cause, and it was, I think, the only position taken by any of our ministers and teachers until Prof. [W. W.] Prescott, president of Battle Creek College [1885-1894], presented in a very forceful way another view--the view held and presented by Professor Gausen. [Probably Louis Gaussen, a Swiss clergyman (1790-1863), who maintained that the Bible was verbally inspired.] The acceptance of that view by the students in the Battle Creek College and many others, including Elder Haskell, has resulted in bringing into our work questions and perplexities without end, and always increasing. Sister White never accepted the Gausen theory regarding verbal inspiration, either as applied to her own work or as applied to the Bible.
We have already seen from the notes of the 1919 Conference that there was a divergence of opinion about the nature of inspiration and whether or not Mrs. White was verbally inspired. It was quite evident that many did not believe that Mrs. White was verbally inspired, yet most of the church membership was taught to believe in verbal inspiration. By 1922 the attitude that Mrs. White had verbal inspiration had strengthened.
The following quotes indicate that, despite what was claimed, Mrs. White believed that her words were inspired and infallible.
"Those who are reproved by the Spirit of God should not rise up against the humble instrument. It is God, and not an erring mortal, who has spoken." Testimonies Vol. 3, p 257.
"I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating a vision as in having a vision" Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, p. 293
"When the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth. No after suppositions contrary to the light God has given are to be entertained." Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 31.
The ban on "after suppositions" would seem to outlaw the rewriting of Mrs. White's work. Or is this yet another example of Mrs. White laying down rules that are strictly applicable to everyone but herself?
Although the Bible says that the gospel writers "Spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit", and were therefore divinely inspired, Mrs. White argued that to quote them when they disagreed with her was wrong. (See statement above from "Counsels to Writers and Editors"). But proof of their inspiration comes with the knowledge that their 2000 year old work has not required any revision. A large number of her statements have been demonstrated to be largely ridiculous in less than a century.
Where can one read a good sample of the pioneers' views on Ellen White's prophetic gift? Adventist Book Centers are now able to supply the book The Witness of the Pioneers Concerning the Spirit of Prophecy, a facsimile reprint of periodical and pamphlet articles written by the contemporaries of Ellen G. White.
Question: The pioneers included Doctors Charles Stewart, John Harvey and Merritt Kellogg, Owen Crosier, A T Jones, E J Waggoner, D M Canright, Owen Crosier, A F Ballenger, B F Snook, Israel Dammon, and hymn writer and Mrs. White relative, F E Belden. Will their views also be included in this book?
ELLEN WHITE AND THE BIBLE
Do Seventh-day Adventists make Ellen White the final, infallible standard of all Adventist faith and practice? Has the church changed its position on this topic in recent years?
The church has not changed its position, in spite of the imprecision of some individuals in attempting to explain the church's position. The church today holds the same position that the pioneers held. At the General Conference Session in Dallas in 1980, a Statement of Fundamental Beliefs was adopted which stated in part:
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord's messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.
The above statement clearly places the Bible as the standard and rule of Adventist faith and practice. The writings of Ellen White must be judged by that standard.
And yet they have made a slight alteration in the 27 fundamental beliefs. At this very session the word "only" was removed from the previous "The Holy Scriptures are the only infallible revelation of His will", leaving an opening for other revelations to take equal footing.
An early example of this problem - the authority and infallibility of Mrs. White - arose in 1860 in Marion, Iowa. A church was raised with a covenant stating "..whose covenant obligation is briefly expressed in keeping the commandments of God and faith of Jesus, taking the Bible, and the Bible alone as the rule of our faith and discipline."
Eighteen months later the church broke up when it was "…held, publicly, some other volumes by the side of the Bible, of a recent date, and averred that these recent publications were of equal authority, and binding forever with the Bible"
This Mrs. White pronouncement settles this argument totally: "While the Scriptures are God's word, and are to be respected, the application of them, if such application moves one pillar from the foundation God has sustained these fifty years, is a great mistake." Selected Messages, Book 1, pages 161-162. Even the Scriptures cannot be used against Mrs. White.
Finally, consider W.W. Prescott at the 1919 Conference: "If a man does not believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible, he is still in good standing; but if he says he does not believe in the verbal inspiration of the "Testimonies" he is discredited right away. I think it is an unhealthful situation. It puts the spirit of prophecy above the Bible."
Do Adventists consider Ellen White "canonical"? No. The "canon" is the collection of books that make up the Bible. Seventh-day Adventists believe the canon was closed with the last book of the New Testament. Ellen White expressed herself very clearly on the issue:
1. During the first twenty-five hundred years of human history, there was no written revelation.
2. The preparation of the written word began in the time of Moses.
3. This work continued during the long period of sixteen hundred years.
4. This work continued . . . to John, the recorder of the most sublime truths of the gospel.
5. The completion of the Old and New Testaments marks the close of the canon of Scripture. In connection with the above statements, Ellen White also noted how the Spirit speaks apart from the Sacred Canon:
During the ages while the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament were being given, the Holy Spirit did not cease to communicate light to individual minds, apart from the revelations to be embodied in the Sacred Canon. The Bible itself relates how, through the Holy Spirit, men received warning, reproof, counsel, and instruction, in matters in no way relating to the giving of the Scriptures. And mention is made of prophets in different ages, of whose utterances nothing is recorded. In like manner, after the close of the canon of the Scripture, the Holy Spirit was still to continue its work, to enlighten, warn, and comfort the children of God.
We can say unequivocally that the church has never considered Ellen White's writings canonical and does not believe so today. We do affirm, on the other hand, that she spoke by the same inspiration of the Holy Spirit as Bible writers did. The pioneers spoke to this point repeatedly:
James White: The Bible is a perfect, and complete revelation. It is our only rule of faith and practice. But this is no reason why God may not show the past, present, and future fulfillment of His word in these last days by dreams and visions, according to Peter's testimony. True visions are given to lead us to God, and His written Word.
Uriah Smith: The Protestant principle of "the Bible and the Bible alone," is of itself good and true; and we stand upon it as firmly as anyone can; but when reiterated in connection with outspoken denunciations of the visions, it has specious appearance for evil. So used, it contains a covert insinuation, most effectually calculated to warp the judgment of the unguarded, that to believe the visions is to leave the Bible, and to cling to the Bible, is to discard the visions. . . . When we claim to stand on the Bible and the Bible alone, we bind ourselves to receive, unequivocally and fully, all that the Bible teaches.(highlighting added)
So the principle of the "Bible and the Bible alone" is O.K. so long as it doesn't get in the way of Mrs. White.
In 1981, writing for Neal Wilson, Arthur Delafield wrote a long letter that included this comment about Mrs. White: "she was canonical insofar as doctrinal interpretation authority is concerned."
Is Ellen White's inspiration equal to that of the Bible? Her inspiration is equal in quality to the inspiration of the Bible, but the function and purpose of Ellen White's inspiration is different from that of the Bible. A parallel is found in Scripture. The prophet Nathan was as fully inspired as King David, but Nathan's inspiration had a different function from David's. David's inspired writings became a part of the canon of Scripture. Nathan's inspiration did not result in any canonical writings.
One cannot make differences in the quality of inspiration because inspiration is either present or absent, so that various manifestations of it cannot be distinguished by degrees. The Holy Spirit was just as careful in the superintendence of Nathan's inspired messages as in David's writings, although, in harmony with the divine purpose, only the latter were incorporated into the canon.
Ellen White's writings do not function as a standard or rule for doctrine. The Bible does function in this manner. In this sense Ellen White does not have equal doctrinal authority with the Bible.
Now, try to reconcile this with "While the Scriptures are God's word, and are to be respected, the application of them, if such application moves one pillar from the foundation God has sustained these fifty years, is a great mistake." Selected Messages, Book 1, pages 161-162. This places her writings above scripture, and church history records the fate of many once prominent Adventists who fell from grace because they raised objections when they found conflict between Mrs. White and the scriptures. These people were not heard, they were condemned.
Patrick admits that there have been continuous changes in SDA teachings. He speaks of a "paradigm shift being observable in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Even more telling, he comments that "The summary of what a loyal Adventist might be expected to believe and teach before 1970 is no longer viable for any well informed person who tells the truth.
It is evident that most of these changes took place during the lifetime of a so-called prophet who was supposedly canonical insofar as doctrinal interpretation authority is concerned. Had Mrs. White been writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, as she claimed, it is simply not possible that this situation could have arisen. So this demonstrably true statement of Patrick's leaves only one possible conclusion, and that is that Mrs. White was a false prophet.
THE QUESTION OF INFALLIBILITY
Ellen White is said to have made a number of errors. Do we claim she was infallible? No, and neither did Ellen White claim "infallibility." For example, when she was criticized for stating the wrong number of rooms in a sanitarium--40 instead of 38--she said:
There has never been revealed to me the exact number of rooms in any of our sanitariums; and the knowledge I have obtained of such things I have gained of those who were supposed to know. In my words, when speaking upon these common subjects, there is nothing to lead minds to believe that I receive my knowledge in a vision from the Lord and am stating it as such.
Ellen White also recognized that she was not infallible in her personal behavior. She once wrote her husband:
I wish that self should be hid in Jesus. I wish self to be crucified. I do Not claim infallibility, or even perfection of Christian character. I am not free from mistakes and errors in my life. Had I followed my Saviour more closely, I should not have to mourn so much my unlikeness to His dear image.
In this connection, there is a Bible experience worth noting in Acts 21. The Apostle Paul was especially called to preach to the Gentiles. Because he did not include the Jewish ceremonial law in his preaching there were certain Jewish Christians that looked upon him with suspicion. Upon returning to Jerusalem from a successful missionary journey among the Gentiles, he was persuaded to lend his influence to the observance of certain ceremonial rites that were no longer required, in order to conciliate his critics. Ellen White makes the following significant comment, which she would doubtless apply to herself as well:
He was not authorized of God to concede so much as they had asked. This concession was not in harmony with his teachings, nor with the firm integrity of his character. His advisors were not infallible. Though some of these men wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, yet when not under its direct influence they sometimes erred.
Note the implication - she is more reliable than Paul, who sometimes erred, and, surprisingly, his errors were recorded in the Bible. Never consider the alternative that perhaps she was wrong and Paul right. Where did they get the idea in the 1922 Conference that her "inspiration" was both verbal and inerrant, even in the smallest detail?
As previously mentioned, the "I saws" and the "I was showns" tend to stifle disagreement. Even loyal Adventists agree that an "Ellen White says..." will end any argument. Additionally an apologist like Devon Gray says "If we had not sainted Ellen White…" He also complains about their right to be involved in such a massive coverup as has taken place in the church's dealings with Mrs. White. Remember, this is not an outside critic, this is an apologist for Mrs. White.
W. C. White did not claim infallibility for his mother with regard to historical dates and details:
In some of the historical matters such as are brought out in Patriarchs and Prophets and in Acts of the Apostles, and in Great Controversy, the main outlines were made very clear and plain to her, and when she began to develop these topics, she was left to study the Bible and history to get dates and geographical relations and to perfect her description of details.
Her numerous mistakes have discredited these works to the point where even Adventist institutions reject her work as historically unreliable. Hardly what you would expect from a prophet, who might reasonably be expected to foresee the consequences of the type of error she was making, if, as she claimed, she worked under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
W. C. White also wrote:
Regarding Mother's writings and their use as authority on points of history and chronology, Mother has never wished our brethren to treat them as authority regarding the details of history or historical dates.
But did she make this clear? Adventists accepted her information as correct because of their belief in verbal inspiration, even though most of this information was inserted in her books by her assistants. A prophet should have foreseen that her incorrect statements were leading people into difficulty, and should have made public then what is known now. The problem was admitted only when it could no longer be denied.
In summary, Ellen White did not claim to be above errors in writing on common and business matters which did not involve counsels and messages from the Lord. She recognized that she was not infallible in her personal life, and her son did not feel she should be used as an authority on incidental details in her historical writing. It is true, of course, that she never used the term "infallible" to refer to herself or her writings in any context, but she did claim that the messages she gave were those given her by the Lord.
If she claimed that her messages were from the Lord, that is tantamount to claiming infallibility. Would the Lord send a lie?
She certainly could not claim personal infallibility, because even Uriah Smith complains about her lack of charity. You could add to this her hypocrisy with regard to vegetarianism, family photos, phrenology, her will, jewellery etc.
What about the errors she is said to have made, not only in history, but in science, health, theology, and exegesis? We can hardly appreciate what times were like more than one hundred years ago when Ellen White wrote in the areas of health, science, and nutrition. When she spoke of malignancy in connection with tobacco in 1864, a few health reformers agreed with her, but some physicians were prescribing smoking cigars for lung ailments. How did she know which position to take? When she spoke about the profound effects of prenatal influence in terms closely paralleling the pronouncements of science today, science knew little if anything about the subject. While she was emphasizing exercise and fresh air for invalids, many physicians were prescribing closed rooms and prolonged bedrest. Her counsels regarding air pollution, effect of diet on blood circulation, the use of salt, alcohol, mind-body relationship, and other topics, have been vindicated by modern research. All such statements were considered by some critics as errors when she first wrote them.
Her historical errors are massive to such an extent that she is no longer acceptable in Adventist institutions as a reliable historian.
All of her ideas on health had already been previously recorded by people such as Sylvester Graham, Doctor Jackson and Doctor Cole.
She is now known to have been wrong about tea, and argues that cancer is spread by germs, which is rubbish. Ronald Numbers has accused her of causing the deaths of a large number of Adventist missionaries by her opposition to the use of quinine.
If she was as inspired as we are asked to believe, why did she not tell us that mosquitoes spread malaria and yellow fever? This would have saved millions of lives. It would also have clearly demonstrated to the world her prophetic ability
Because of difficulties and discrepancies, there are those who oppose the modern prophetic voice. And there also are those who look for "mistakes" in the Bible.
Ellen White found a valuable gem of truth on this topic in a sermon by Henry Melvill. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, she reset that gem and preserved it for us:
All the mistakes will not cause trouble to one soul, or cause any feet to stumble, that would not manufacture difficulties from the plainest revealed truth.
To attempt to prove that all the alleged "errors" in Ellen White's writings are not actually errors, is not a profitable exercise. If a critic charges her with ten errors, and those ten are proven not to be errors, the critic will be ready with fifteen further allegations. Each individual must decide for himself whether the weight of evidence supports or discredits Ellen White's claim to the prophetic gift.
In studying difficult passages either in the Bible or in other writings which the Holy Spirit inspired, it is well to ask the following questions: Do I really understand the context, meaning and importance of the inspired writer's statement? Do I understand fully the evidence that is in apparent conflict with the inspired statement? Can the two sets of data be harmonized?
May I reasonably expect a better understanding to be forthcoming from further study, experiment, or divine illumination? Can the issue be left unresolved? To those who listen, the Holy Spirit speaks clearly through inspired writings, regardless of occasional difficulties that may seem to appear.
There may be an element of truth in this response because the list of her errors is enormous and continues to grow as more information comes to light.
How many errors should you expect from a prophet? Deuteronomy 18:22 provides an answer. The statements of Patrick previously quoted indicated that Mrs. White was preaching error for the whole of her "ministry". Under these circumstances, in the case of Mrs. White, the word "alleged" should not be used when discussing her errors.
The White Organization is much kinder to their prophet when she makes an error than is the book of Deuteronomy, which says that a "prophet" who makes prophesies that fail is no prophet of God, and provides a nasty, but effective cure for such people. More important, the hearers of these people have scriptural authority to ignore them.
Mrs. White suffered a head injury as a child and bouts with ill-health throughout her life. Could her visions have been related to her injuries or illness? Could they have been caused by hypnosis, mesmerism, or epilepsy?
The attempt to discredit the work of the Holy Spirit by attributing it to natural causes is as old as the Bible itself. After all, the miracles of
Pentecost were attributed to drunkenness. Once one rejects belief in a divine
source of the visions, it is to be expected that natural explanations will be
Early in her experience Ellen White's visions were thought by some to be the result of mesmerism, an early form of hypnotism. She was just beginning her
work as the Lord's messenger, and the next time she felt the power of God
come upon her, she began to doubt and resist the vision. She was reproved and
struck dumb for twenty-four hours. In the following vision she was shown her
"sin in doubting the power of God," and was told that this was the reason for being struck dumb. "After that," she said, "I dared not doubt, or for a
moment resist the power of God, however others might think of me."
Some who questioned her visions, beginning with D. M. Canright in 1887, attributed them to epileptic seizures, noting that there were similarities between the two. As the visions began, she lost her strength; later during the vision she regained it, sometimes exhibiting superhuman strength. During the visions she did not breathe. Her eyes were open, yet she did not recognize others in the vicinity. Because these physical experiences remotely resemble seizures, it has been suggested by critics that her visions were not visions at all.
F. D. Nichol, in his book, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, asks the question:
"How should a prophet act in vision?" He notes that because prophets are people, they have physical and nervous systems, and as a vision is not a normal state, it should be expected that certain non-normal experiences would take place.
Daniel experienced a loss of strength, then extra strength. He was struck dumb and there was no breath in him (Daniel 10). Balaam fell into a "trance," "having his eyes open" (Numbers 24). The effect on John was that he "fell as dead" (Revelation 1:17). When Saul of Tarsus had his first vision "he fell to the earth," "trembling" (Acts 9). After a vision Zecharias, father of John the Baptist, was "speechless" (Luke 1).
At times critics of the Bible have tried to explain visions as being the result of mental illness, too. One characteristic familiar to continuing seizures is what is called "diminished mental capacity." Simply stated, the mind is weakened with repeated occurrences.
It is estimated that Ellen White had about 200 open visions and some 1800 prophetic dreams. The open visions in the earlier years were accompanied by physical phenomena. If these were not visions, but epileptic seizures, we would expect mental deterioration through the years. We find no such evidence. On the contrary, there was observable development of her capabilities. She speaks of better health in later years than in her younger years. Thousands of pages of handwritten material from her pen do not contain any evidence of a progressive decline in her ability.
Furthermore, where is a single example of anyone whose frequent seizures enabled him to guide a church so wisely and counsel a people so helpfully? What is most important, after all, is the message conveyed by the visions, not the specific way in which God conveys that message.
F D Nichol has devoted 17 pages to disprove claims that Mrs. White's visions were due to some form of illness and failed miserably. He is, in 1951, in conflict with qualified doctors who saw Mrs. White at the time and in attempting to discredit them, he has only succeeded in discrediting himself. He is also in conflict with current experts who agree that it is extremely probable that the severe brain injury she received left her with temporal lobe epilepsy. Symptoms quoted for this illness agree so closely with Mrs. White's symptoms that there is little room for doubt that she suffered from this problem.
One prominent specialist who makes it quite clear that Mrs. White suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy is Dr. Molleurus Couperus, a retired SDA physician.
Dr. Arthur Patrick comments that Nichol's "spirited defense" of Mrs. White in the 1950's reads as "embarrassingly inadequate in the 1990's." It could also be fairly added to Patrick's comment about Nichol that this "Truth About the White Lie" is no more credible than Nichol.
What was the relationship of Ellen White's earliest visions to those of William Foy and Hazen Foss?
William Ellis Foy (1818-1893) and Hazen Little Foss (1819-1893) both received visions prior to the Disappointment of 1844. Both men lived to hear Ellen White relate her early visions and acknowledged that what she described, they had seen, too.
Ellen White, as a young woman, had heard Foy lecture in Portland, Maine, sometime between 1842 and 1844. Not much is known concerning him, although recent research confirms that he was a black reared near Augusta, Maine. He is often confused with Foss, but unlike Foss, Foy did tell of his visions and published the first two in a pamphlet. He never felt he had grieved the Spirit of God, and he continued to work as a Free-Will Baptist minister for many years.
A brief personal history was published along with the accounts of his first two visions in 1845 in a pamphlet titled The Christian Experience of William E. Foy Together with the Two Visions he received in the months of Jan. and Feb. 1842.
According to J. N. Loughborough, it was a third vision, in 1844, that Foy could not understand, and which he later heard Ellen White relate. So far as is known, that third vision never was published.
Mrs. White was well acquainted with Foy. She used to travel with her parents to Cape Elizabeth to hear him, and he also spoke at Beethoven Hall in Portland, Maine. His visions were published and Mrs. White had copies of them, so his views were well known to her. It is reported that after she had her first vision, Foy came to visit Mrs. White. The next evening Mrs. White was speaking at a meeting and Foy jumped to his feet and said that what was described was what he had seen.
Loughborough claimed that God arranged for Foy to pass the prophetic baton to Hayden Foss. Foss refused to relate the vision and so the task passed to the "weakest of the weak" and Foy sickened and died. In fact Foy lived for many more years and died in 1893 at the age of 75. Foy's visions indicate that the dead are alive in Heaven, so it is extremely unlikely that any Adventist today would accept Foy's message as truth from Heaven.
Hazen Foss similarly received a vision prior to the Disappointment, but he refused to relate it. When told that the vision was taken from him, he feared the consequences and called a meeting at which he tried to recall the vision but could not. He heard Ellen White relate the same vision early in 1845, and testified to her of his experience. Although for many years Foss was thought to be a relative of Ellen White's brother-in-law, it was not until about 1960 that the exact relationship became known through genealogical records. Hazen was the younger brother of Samuel Hoyt Foss, who married Ellen White's older sister, Mary, in 1842.
Both Hazen Foss and William Foy recognized the visions given to Ellen White to be the same as those given them, and since the Lord originally intended that one of these men should be His prophetic messenger to the remnant church, there would, of course, be parallels between their visions and those of Ellen White.
Although a few such similarities can be seen between Foy's published visions of heaven and those of Ellen White, there are so many marked differences that The White Lie's allegation that her visions were "almost a carbon copy" of Foy's is a substantial exaggeration.
Both Foy and Mrs. White have angels carrying cards to allow entry to Heaven. Foy's cards are just cards, Mrs. White's are golden cards.
Foy and Mrs. White both describe angels crying "Holy, holy, holy".
Both give very close descriptions of a tree of gold with fruit of gold and silver.
Both say that those who eat of the tree return to earth no more.
Both have Jesus holding a silver trumpet in his left hand.
Both have a multitude dressed in white, standing in a perfect square, and wearing bright crowns.
Mrs. White says Jesus raised his arm and laid hold of the pearly gate and swung it back on its glittering hinges, allowing the saints to march in. Foss has an angel opening an identical gate.
Unlike Foy, Foss did not publish his visions. Although he was married to Mrs. White's sister, a letter that Mrs. White wrote to her sister in 1890 clearly indicates that Mrs. White had very little memory of Foss.
According to Loughborough, Foss had a third vision in which he was told that he was released and the burden would be laid on the weakest of the weak. Mrs. White's memory was not good enough to collaborate this story, and many wonder about its truthfulness.
It should not be forgotten that Foss was Mrs. White's brother-in-law, as he was married to her sister, Mary. This suggests the probability that Mrs. White was also well acquainted with Foss' ideas well in advance of them being publicly presented.
Did Mrs. White promise to answer the questions of Drs. Stewart, Sadler, and others, and then, after she received the questions, "conveniently" have a vision instructing her not to do so?
On March 30, 1906, Mrs. White wrote a testimony addressed "To Those Who Are Perplexed Regarding The Testimonies Relating To The Medical Missionary Work." In it she spoke of being directed by the Lord to request those with perplexities and objections regarding the testimonies to write them out and submit them to those who desired to remove the perplexities.
On June 3, 1906, Mrs. White wrote concerning a vision she had received a few days before, in which she was speaking before a group of people answering questions about her work and writings. She stated:
I was directed by a messenger from heaven not to take up the burden of picking up and answering all the sayings and doubts that are being put into many minds.
These two statements, written about two months apart, are cited as evidence that Mrs. White's "revelations" could often be quite conveniently arranged so as to protect her interests. An examination of the events of that period, however, sheds considerable light upon the apparent reversal of Mrs. White's invitation for questions.
Upon receipt of Mrs. White's testimony, several individuals acted upon her request and sent their questions to her office. A review of Ellen White's correspondence over the next months gives evidence that she indeed took these questions seriously. Questions ranged from the ridiculous and trivial to those deserving a careful, studied response. In a letter to friends written June 15, 1906, she wrote:
Letters, full of questions, are continually crowding in upon us. . . . If I can present to the people the facts in the case, as they exist, it may save some from making shipwreck of faith. I have been sent some of the most frivolous questions in regard to the Testimonies given me by the Lord.
The White Estate files contain more than 30 letters written by Ellen White between April and October, 1906, dealing with questions raised about various phases of her work. In addition to these, articles were published in the Review and Herald. Some of the letters and statements made are here listed:
Letter 170, 1906, June 13, 1906, regarding the words "I," "we," "us," etc.,
In the testimonies;
Letter 206, 1906, June 14, 1906, re what is inspired (every word? every
Talk (DF #247), June 26, 1906, re the relationship of W. C. White to Ellen
Letter of June 28, 1906, re the title "prophet";
Letter 225, 1906, July 8, 1906, re the writing and sending of the testimonies.
It will be noticed that all of these responses, in fact, 80 percent of those on file, were written after the vision of May 25 in which she was instructed "not to answer all the sayings and doubts." Mrs. White again reviewed the question of the Chicago buildings, even though she had dealt with this matter back in 1903.
Not all questions were answered by Mrs. White. Some were referred to her staff whom she directed to look up past statements on the subjects to meet the criticisms. W. C. White wrote on July 13, 1906:
For several days Brother Crisler has been hunting up what has been written in past years regarding contracts and agreements. I think he will be able to submit to Mother his collection of manuscripts early next week.
This was in full harmony with Mrs. White's original invitation where she asked that "it all be written out, and submitted to those who desire to remove the perplexities."
Two who sent the greatest number of questions were Elder William S. Sadler and Dr. Charles E. Stewart. Dr. Stewart's questions eventually came into published form under the title, A Response to An Urgent Testimony from Mrs. Ellen G. White, later referred to as "The Blue Book." Writing to Dr. Stewart about his set of objections, W. C. White explained the reason why some questions received no personal reply from Mrs. White:
But that portion of the document addressed to her which takes the form of an attack upon her integrity and her work, she will refer to her brethren to answer, because for many years she has been instructed that it is not any part of her legitimate work to answer the numerous and violent attacks which have been made upon her by her critics and the enemies of her work. That had been Mrs. White's consistent attitude since the earliest days of her ministry. One reason that some issues were never answered by Ellen White's Office is that the General Conference Committee had only recently (May, 1906) published a refutation of charges made by A. T. Jones against the Spirit of Prophecy, detailing answers to many of the same questions.
The fact that Mrs. White engaged in taking up objections after receiving the
vision of May 25, indicates that that instruction did not cancel her earlier request. What, then, did that second vision mean? Exactly what it says:
I was directed by a messenger from heaven not to take the burden of picking up and answering all the sayings and doubts that are being put into many
Ellen White was not to feel it her duty to endeavor to answer those endless
questions from doubters who would accept no answers. Referring to the same divine counsel, she wrote on July 17, 1906:
I am now instructed that I am not to be hindered in my work by those who engage in suppositions regarding its nature, whose minds are struggling with so many intricate problems connected with the supposed work of a prophet. My commission embraces the work of a prophet, but it does not end there. It embraces much more than the minds of those who have been sowing the seeds of unbelief can comprehend.
In response to the enemy's work on human minds, I am to sow the good seed.
When questions suggested by Satan arise, I will remove them if I can. But those who are picking at straws had better be educating mind and heart to take hold of the grand and soul-saving truths that God has given through the humble messenger, in the place of becoming channels through whom Satan can communicate doubt and questioning.
To allow images of straw to be created as something to attack, is one of the most unprofitable things that one can engage in. It is possible for one to educate himself to become Satan's agent in passing along his suggestions. As fast as one is cleared away, another will be proffered. I have been instructed to say, "The Lord would not have my mind thus employed."
Ellen White closed her letter with a statement suggesting that the problems
surrounding her work were the result of focusing on the words rather than the message of her writings--the same difficulty regarding the use of inspired writings which is seen in our own day:
More and more I shall present the message to the people in Scripture language. Then if exception be taken by anyone, his contention must be with the Bible.
Mrs. White wrote that while in vision she was in "the company of Dr Kellogg, Elders Jones, Tenny and Taylor, Dr. Paulson, Elder Sadler, Judge Arthur and many of their associates. I was directed by the Lord to request them and any others who have perplexities and grievous things in their minds regarding the testimonies I have borne, to specify what their objections and criticisms are. The Lord will help me to answer these objections, and to make plain that which seems to be intricate."
She went on to say that she was "Charged to request those who are in difficulty in regard to Sister White's work to let their questions appear now, before the day of judgment comes, when every work shall be made to appear with the motive underlying it, when the secrets of all hearts shall be made known, and every thought, word and deed shall be tested by the Judge of the whole world, end each one will receive sentence according as his works have been. I present this before you all."
For those named, to not reply to this would be like someone knowing the facts to remain silent during a bigamous marriage.
A T Jones responded with an extremely verbose complaint about a Testimony Mrs. White had written in which she had subjected him to false criticism. Jones argued that the Bible requires someone who has been offended by another to first go to that person and discuss it with him. If this fails, he is to be told again in the presence of witnesses, then the congregation is told, and finally the public.
Jones' concern about his testimony was that:
- I never received from you, nor in any way by your instructions, any copy of that communication.
- It was a long time before I obtained a copy. And only then did I get a copy from a brother who had never received any copy from you, although he was named in it; and he had obtained his copy from yet another brother to whom you had sent a copy although he was not named in it.
- Before I obtained a copy of it, the word came to me that you had called on certain ones, and me amongst them, to write out what difficulties might be perplexing their minds…etc.
Little wonder that Mrs. White didn't try to answer this one, despite her promise.
Jones claims that Dr Stewarts' letter was intercepted by Willie White and sent to A.G. Daniells who made it public and denounced it as an attack on the testimonies. (Just as Olson treated Rea many years later).
Subsequently, as admitted here, Dr. Stewart then also went public. His letter was enormous and complaints included asking Mrs. White if it was true that she ate unclean meat (oysters). He also wrote "I am informed by a trustworthy person, that you in the preparation of your various works, consulted freely with other authors; and that it was sometimes very difficult to arrange the matter for your books in such a way as to prevent the readers from detecting that many of the ideas had been taken from other authors."
It is impossible to imagine Mrs. White letting that one pass if she could answer.
THE SHUT DOOR
For a time the pioneers believed that the door of mercy was shut in 1844. Was Ellen White specifically shown in vision that this was the case? The shut door era in Adventist history is a fascinating but involved one. To understand it clearly requires a thorough knowledge of the events of 1844 and the years immediately following. The fact that early Adventists at first concluded that probation closed for the world on October 22, 1844, and that Ellen White's first vision seemed to support this view has for more than a hundred years been used against her by people who seek to impair confidence in her work.
Immediately after the passing of the time in 1844, those Adventists who believed prophecy had been fulfilled could only conclude that probation for the world had closed on Oct. 22. The sacrilegious scoffing and sarcasm of worldly people lent credibility to this conclusion. Although the youthful Ellen Harmon at first apparently believed that her visions confirmed the shut door position, she later realized that this was not the case. She did consistently maintain, however, that the door was shut against those individuals who had resisted their honest convictions by rejecting the message of warning. Meanwhile, references in her very first vision to the 144,000 gave a broad hint of a yet future evangelistic thrust.
In 1874, in answering charges made on this point, she declared, "I never had a vision that no more sinners would be converted." Pioneer writers were clear on this as well. For instance, Uriah Smith wrote two years later:
The visions have never taught the end of probation in the past, or the close of the day of salvation for sinners, called by our opponents the shut-door doctrine.
James White contradicts his wife. He says "When she received her first vision, December 1844, she and all the band in Portland, Maine, had given up the midnight-cry, and shut door, as being in the past. It was then that the Lord shew her in vision, the error into which she and the band in Portland had fallen. She then related her vision to the band, and about sixty confessed their error, and acknowledged their 7th month experience to be the work of God" A Word to the Little Flock, 1847, P 22.
The Israel Dammon affair records a meeting of a group of fanatical Adventists. Mrs. White and the church have since tried to justify her presence at this meeting, claiming that she was there to work with the fanatics. This ignores the fact that there is a clear indication from the resultant court records that the fanatics were unwelcoming to outsiders, and Ellen clearly played a prominent part at the meetings she attended. James White also referred to their "fanatical band" and used the language of the fanatics. In Portland Maine, where Mrs. White lived, the normal Adventists met at Beethoven Hall and the fanatics met at private houses.
At the meeting which resulted in the arrest of Israel Dammon, there is no doubt that Mrs. White was involved in telling people that they had to be baptized, or in some cases, rebaptized that night, or "go to hell". A few years later, in 1874, Lucinda Burdick claimed that when she first met the Whites they "were in a wild fanaticism - used to sit on the floor instead of chairs, and creep around the floor like little children" (which was standard behaviour for fanatics).
Probably one of the worst comments ever made about Mrs. White concerned her behavior at these meetings. At that meeting there was a woman lying on the floor who would occasionally arouse and tell a vision. This woman was called 'Imitation of Christ' by those in attendance. James Ayer Jr. identifies this woman with the blasphemous title as Ellen Harmon. Remember Matthew 24:24 which warns "For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets".
Naturally Mrs. White denied everything, but test her credibility by reading her version of the Israel Dammon Affair in "Spiritual Gifts", Vol 2, pages 40 - 42 with the official court record of the trial of Dammon which recently surfaced, to the acute embarrassment of the church. (Click here to read)
In 1846 James White had to take a funeral with "a congregation of hard, ugly Congregationalists and Methodists". He made it plain that he was not going to try to convert them because "it's too late. But it's our duty on some occasions to give a reason for our hope, I think, even to swine."
In 1846 Mrs. White wrote to Bro. Harmon in which she refers to her vision recorded in the "Day Star" which describes the shut door, and adds that "I did not see one ray of light pass from Jesus to the careless multitude after he rose up, and they were left in perfect darkness."
In 1846 Otis Nichols wrote to William Miller and said that Mrs. White had said that their message was that "Our work was done for the nominal churches of the world, and what remains to be done is for the household of faith."
"The Word to the Little Flock" of 1847 quotes Mrs. White "The Lord has shown me in vision that Jesus rose up, and shut the door, and entered the Holy of Holies, at the 7th month, 1844."
Writing to Joseph Bates on 13 July 1847 (Letter B-3-1847) Mrs. White wrote that she was sad because a woman at that meeting, Sister Durban, did not believe in the shut door. After Mrs. White had a vision, most of them, including Sister Durban, "received the vision and were settled upon the shut door".
In 1848, Mrs. White wrote to Bro. & Sister Hastings (Letter 5-1849). In the letter she says she saw Bro. Stowell was wavering and he was "established in the shut door and all the present truth he had doubted".
Present Truth, Aug 1, 1849. "I was shown that the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, relating to the shut door, could not be separated."
Present Truth, March 1, 1850 "the Master of the house rose up in 1844, and shut the door of the first apartment.
On June 29, 1851, in Camden, Mrs. White had a vision in which she saw that we should not pray for the wicked world, whom God has rejected……………………our sympathy must be with Jesus and be withdrawn from the ungodly…………………….I saw that the wicked could not be benefited by our prayers now". Note: The church tries to disown this vision by claiming it is a fake, but Uriah Smith wrote a book in which he defends this vision, and this book was sold by the Whites.
The shut door idea continued until 1851 because the Whites accepted Joseph Bates' teaching that the Day of Atonement would last seven years and end in the Autumn of 1851. After 1851 the shut door theory died very quickly.
Earlier in this "Truth" about "the White Lie" a Mrs. White quote of 1874 appears :
"I never had a vision that no more sinners would be converted." The quotes just given explode that argument, and the White Estate must be familiar with these quotes, and therefore must know that their arguments on this subject are totally false, yet they persist with them.
One final point. Mrs. White is supposed to be the infallible interpreter of scripture. Why was it that she not only failed to have visions which would put her and her group on the right path as far as the shut door was concerned, but had visions which confirmed the error they were all making?
The dawning of the light, in early 1845, on the transfer of the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary which occurred in 1844 ultimately provided a solution to the problem. The pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, seeking light, saw a door that closed and another which was opened as Christ took up His ministry in the Most Holy Place in the sanctuary in heaven. This unfolding truth enabled our forefathers to maintain their confidence in God's leadings in their past experience, even as they grasped the concept of a great mission yet before them. Ellen White, who passed through the experience, explains this transition of understanding in her 1884 book, The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, in the chapter titled "An Open and a Shut Door" and in The Great Controversy, published a few years later, in a chapter titled "In the Holy of Holies."
Reading the setting of the experience in chapter 22, "Prophecies Fulfilled," and chapter 23, "What Is the Sanctuary?" provides an illuminating background. Ellen White also gave helpful explanations in 1883 in a document reproduced in Selected Messages, book 1, chapter 5, "An Explanation of Early statements."
This is written as though it is a fact that the Adventist attitude to 1844 is correct. There is not another denomination in Christianity that believes that 1844 had any significance. Former Adventist Pastor Dr. Desmond Ford has lost his job because he produced substantial, convincing information that totally discredits this argument.
THE LITERARY ASSISTANTS
With more than a thousand books in her library at the time of her death, how could Mrs. White have read and borrowed from them all? Didn't her literary assistants do some of the borrowing for her?
The fact is that at this point in research on this project, there are fewer than one hundred books from which there is solid evidence of literary borrowing. In many cases that evidence involves only a single brief passage. The White Lie provides or alleges parallels to only about 35 specific sources. Nevertheless, there is simply no reason to assume Ellen White was incapable of reading all the books from which she is alleged to have borrowed. True, she was often very busybut she made good use of her time. What is more to the point, there is no evidence that the literary assistants were responsible for bringing material from other authors into Ellen White's writings. "There is one thing that even the most competent editor cannot do," Marian Davis wrote, "and that is to prepare a manuscript before it is written."
So she only stole from 35 authors. To steal from one would destroy her credibility as a prophet - remember Jer. 23: 30, 32?
Does it matter whether the literary assistants brought to her the material to be copied, or whether she found it herself? Willie admits that Mrs. White was promised wisdom in the selection from the writings of others, and a common defense for her is "How did she know what material to use and what to reject?"
Because she did not personally locate and copy passages of the works of others that were to be used in her books, Mrs. White was able to claim that she did not know that credit should be given when such work was used. Had she been personally reading the works of the authors she stole from, she could not have failed to notice that they gave credit.
A.G. Daniells understood that Mrs. White allowed her secretaries to gather the best historical statements they could find and then submit them to her, and she approved of them. The minutes of the 1919 Conference make this perfectly clear.
In letter 64-a written 1889, Mrs. White tells her sister how Marian is annoying Willie by coming to him for "some little matters that it seems she could settle for herself". "Every little change of a word she wants us to see. I am about tired of this business". So was "The Desire of Ages" compiled by the assistants under the supervision of Willie, then published under the name of Mrs. White? Did she really retain full control over her output?.
It is true that a few sentences from James Wylie appear in the Huss chapter of The Great Controversy which are not found in the handwritten rough draft.Ellen White drew extensively from Wylie in that handwritten draft, but we do not know what further stages of writing she might have done on the chapter. Furthermore, the edited manuscript was sent immediately to Ellen White for her approval.
She drew "extensively" from Wylie? The White Estate says only 2% of her work was copied.
Ellen White died before Prophets and Kings was completed. Would not that book be an example of where literary assistants borrowed for her? Not at all. In his article, "The Story of Prophets and Kings," Arthur L. White quotes extensively from the correspondence of Clarence Crisler, who provided literary assistance to Ellen White for Prophets and Kings. These letters, written at the very time the work was going forward, indicate that on these spiritual matters, Mrs. White's mind remained keen to the end. The last two chapters, which were not quite finished at the time of her death, were filled out, not from other authors, but from manuscripts Mrs. White herself had written earlier and left on file.
Just like all of her other productions!
Did some of Ellen White's literary assistants turn against her and criticize her? The one literary assistant to criticize Ellen White was Fannie Bolton. All of the known documents and letters relating to her experience with Ellen White are now published as The Fannie Bolton Story: A Collection of Source Documents.
Ellen White was concerned about Miss Bolton's spiritual immaturity from the first time she employed her. In the course of her employment, her experience was very unstable. Fannie criticized Mrs. White, then, on more than a dozen occasions, wrote out "confessions" of her wrong course. Yet, through all this, Mrs. White's patience was so great that she continued to employ Fannie through many of these cycles of criticism and confession, and on the occasions when she did dismiss her from employment, she hired her again. In the end, Fannie left Mrs. White's employment by her own choice.
The allegation that Mrs. White was also criticized by Mary Clough, another of her literary assistants, has no foundation in contemporary documents, but is based only on a memory statement of G. B. Starr recorded many years later.
Mary Clough was a niece of Ellen White, but she was not a Seventh-day Adventist. She was separated from Ellen White's work not because of any criticism, but because she chose not to abide by the standards of the home in Sabbath observance.
Marian Davis was one of Mrs. White's most important literary assistants. How did she view these matters? Marian at one point heard that Fannie Bolton had said that she had been given instruction to "fill out the points" in an Ellen White testimony so that the testimony was virtually Miss Bolton's. Marian responded:
I cannot think that anyone who has been connected with Sr. White's work could make such a statement as this. I cannot think that anyone who is acquainted with Sr. White's manner of writing could possibly believe it.
The burden she feels when the case of an individual is presented before her, the intenpressure under which she works, often rising at midnight to write out the warnings given her, and often for days, weeks, or even months, writing again and again concerning it, as if she could not free herself from the feeling of responsibility for that soul,--no one who has known anything of these experiences, could believe that she would entrust to another the writing of a testimony. For more than twenty years I have been connected with Sister White's work. During this time I have never been asked either to write out a testimony from oral instruction, or to fill out the points in matter already written.
What was the work of the literary assistants? Did they merely correct spelling and punctuation? W. C. White answered the question in a letter from a woman who wondered if the thoughts and expressions she read in Ellen White's published works were really from Mrs. White:
The secretaries and copyists who prepare Mother's writings for the printer remove repetitions so that the matter may be brought into the allotted space. They correct bad grammar and they fit the matter for publication. They sometimes carry her best expressions of thought from one paragraph to another but do not introduce their own thoughts into the matter. The thoughts and expressions which you mention are Mother's own thoughts and expressions.
Mrs. White once referred to Marian Davis as "my bookmaker," and then explained:
She does her work in this way: She takes my articles which are published in the papers, and pastes them in blank books. She also has a copy of all the letters I write. In preparing a chapter for a book, Marian remembers that I have written something on that special point, which may make the matter more forcible. She begins to search for this, and if when she finds it, she sees that it will make the chapter more clear, she adds it. The books are not Marian's productions, but my own, gathered from all my writings.
Contrary to The White Lie, Mrs. White was in control of her writings and of what was published in her name. She says:
I read over all that is copied [from her handwritten drafts], to see that everything is as it should be. I read all the book manuscript before it is sent to the printer.
The many personal letters exchanged between the literary assistants, W. C. White, and Ellen White leave no doubt that this was indeed the way Mrs. White's works were prepared for publication.
James got himself into considerable trouble when he reprinted the visions in a pamphlet called "Experiences and Views" in which he removed anything embarrassing from the visions, particularly material relating to the shut door. To silence objection he promised to reproduce all of the writings later, when adequate funds were available. The promise was never kept.
Additionally, James himself complained about the amount of influence that some of the hierarchy in the General Conference had over his wife.
A.G. Daniells admitted at the 1919 Conference that James "took Sister White's testimonies and helped to write them out and make them clear and grammatically plain..." and he knew that the secretaries they employed took them and put them into grammatical condition, transposed sentences, completed sentences, and used words that Sister White did not use herself in her original copy. We have seen that Mrs. White admitted that Willie was involved in producing her works when she complained about Marian. Now we have Daniells admitting that James was involved. Prescott admits his involvement, so does Fannie Bolton. Marian Davis obviously played a major role because Mrs. White referred to her as her "bookmaker", but this objection will be answered by claiming that Marian only used Mrs. White's work. There is no point in raising Canright's claim that he found Marian in considerable distress over all the plagiarism, because he will be dismissed as an enemy. Willard Colcord also had a small finger in the pie.
Add to this W.W. Prescott, who expressed concern about the way the books were produced. He said "In my mind there is a difference between the works she largely prepared herself and what was prepared by others for sale to the public. When I talked to W. C. White about it (and I do not know that he is an infallible authority), he told me frankly that when they got out "The Great Controversy" if she did not find in her writings anything on certain chapters to make the historical connections, they took other books, like "Daniel and the Revelation" and used portions of them; and sometimes her secretaries, and sometimes she herself, would prepare a chapter that would fill the gap".
WHITE ESTATE RESEARCH POLICIES
The White Lie is replete with criticism of the restrictive research policies of the Ellen White Estate. What is the White Estate doing to facilitate research, and what restrictions are imposed?
In 1982, at the time The White Lie was published, research in Ellen White's unpublished materials was guided by the "manuscript release" policy. This policy accomplished three purposes:
It acquainted church leaders with materials going into general circulation. It made sure that the letter or portion of a letter which was requested for release was accompanied by enough context to make its meaning clear. It protected the privacy of pioneer workers and church members whose mistakes or sins may be revealed in the confidential messages the Lord gave to His messenger to be passed on to them.
Operating under this policy, research in Ellen White's letters and manuscripts was pursued by hundreds of students each year. Every month the White Estate Board of Trustees approved "manuscript releases" at the request of seminary students and others from around the world. Six Ellen G. White-S.D.A. Research Centers were in operation in various parts of the world, encouraging study in Ellen White's unpublished materials.
All through the years since the 1930s when graduate studies were first taken up by Seventh-day Adventist educators, the White Estate staff has encouraged and assisted in research by those developing their master's theses and doctoral dissertations. Recognition of this may be found in the introductory pages of scores of such documents.
In the years since 1982, six more Ellen G. White-S.D.A. Research Centers have been established in various parts of the world and a third branch office has opened at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. (The Research Center at Loma Linda University became a branch office in 1985.) To further facilitate research in the unpublished materials, the White Estate is in the process of placing all of Ellen G. White's letters and manuscripts on CD-ROM, as it has done with all of her published works.
The problem with this argument is that Rea was writing from personal experience and this article has done nothing to refute his claims. However, the story of the notes of the 1919 Conference meeting gives him credibility, as does the story of how Skip Baker defeated the system and obtained a copy of Mrs. White's letter to Joseph Bates of July 13, 1847. They most certainly didn't want that one to get loose because it exposes Mrs. White's lie when she claimed that "I never had a vision that no more sinners would be converted".
Many older Adventists will remember hearing about the 1919 Conference meeting and being told that the story was only rumor. This would have happened about the same time that Rea endured hearing Olson lie to a group of church members by telling them that there was nothing in the rumors about Mrs. White's copying other people's material. Clearly Patrick knew what he was talking about when he said that the policy of the administration was that they "denied or failed to admit facts that are now beyond dispute."
Patrick gave another neat summary of the truth about the history of the SDA church: "Past orthodoxy can constitute today's heresy. It would be easy to append a hundred examples of this fact."
A classic example of the restrictive policies of the White Estate has been Why hasn't Donald McAdams' study of the Huss manuscript been released? What about Ron Graybill's similar study of material Mrs. White wrote on Martin Luther?
Ron Graybill's Analysis of E. G. White's Luther Manuscript was advertised in the White Estate's catalogue of Documents Available and was published for general distribution well before The White Lie was published. Dr. McAdams's study of the Huss chapter in The Great Controversy is likewise available.
What has not been released for publication are a number of the pages of Ellen White's handwritten draft of the Huss manuscript as transcribed by Dr. McAdams. This material was sent to all E. G. White Research Centers where it might be examined by any responsible researcher.
The reason it has not been published is that it was hastily prepared by Ellen White at a time when she was not at all well. The handwritten draft is perhaps the poorest sample of her handwritten documents available. If published, it could give a distorted picture of the quality of her work. Her work on the Luther manuscript is more representative and thus has been published both in facsimile and typed transcript in the Graybill study.
Rea pointed out that Donald McAdams did an official study in which he compared "The Great Controversy" with Wylie, and found irrefutable evidence of copying. The White Estate would not allow his views or conclusions to be published.
Graybill found that "the objective and mundane historical narrative was based on the work of historians, not visions." Did they really publish that?
It is alleged that the White Estate and the church have been trying to "cover up" Mrs. White's literary borrowing. Just what has been known in the past about this topic, and what has been shared with the church?
In 1933, W. C. White and D. E. Robinson of the White Estate prepared "Brief Statements Regarding the Writings of Ellen G. White" which spoke quite candidly about Ellen White's use of sources insofar as those sources were known at that time. At the Advanced Bible School in 1935, W. C. White again discussed the topic, mentioning a number of sources. Interestingly, a survey was conducted among the ministers and teachers attending that 1935 session. They were asked which points of criticism then being leveled at Mrs. White seemed most important. Nearly all of them wanted answers to the charge that some of her early writings had been "suppressed," and just as many were concerned about the 1856 prediction that some then living would be translated. Only half of the group thought it would be important to answer the plagiarism charge. If these attitudes were typical, they indicate that the issue of Ellen White's literary borrowing was not as high a priority question in the church as it is now.
And yet, in the next paragraph, we are told that the extent of Mrs. White's literary theft was not realized until very recently. Of course the literary "borrowing" would not be a great issue if students believed, as apparently they did in 1933, that this amounted to only one or two percent. Perhaps their views might change when they discovered that the 2% of copied material used were really somewhere between 50 and 90 percent.
The 1856 prediction is another example of the duplicity of the White Estate. They claim that this prophecy was conditional upon the church members being faithful in carrying out their allotted tasks. They misuse 2 Peter 3:12 and argue that Peter spoke of hastening the day of the Lord, and then argue that this implies that we can also delay it. They must be aware that "Saint Ellen" wrote in Testimonies Vol. 7, p. 298 that "The power of man cannot hasten the work……though all the workmen now bearing the heaviest burdens should be laid aside, God's work would be carried forward".
They would also know that in the "Camden Vision", which they unconvincingly label as fraudulent, Mrs. White, by claiming to have been told the day and hour of Christ's coming, clearly indicated that she believed that a day and hour are set. How, then, could the prophecy be conditional?
In his article "In Defense of Ellen G. White", Devon Gray says "The big problem lies with the White Estate. They have known all this (her errors and non verbal inspiration) for years but never admitted any of it……I do not believe in the right of the SDA church to concoct such a tremendous cover-up"
REF LINK: http://www.biblerevelations.org/books/in_defense_of_ellen_white.htm
Hundreds of ministers attending the A. L. White classes on Prophetic Guidance in the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and its extension schools between 1956 and 1971 and by Paul Gordon since that time have heard the subject discussed in the classroom.
More recently the 1933 pamphlet, "Brief Statements," was widely distributed as a supplement to the Adventist Review and is currently available from the Ellen G. White Estate, as are W. C. White's lectures at the Advanced Bible School.
Three voluminous chapters on "Literary Borrowings" were published in 1951 in the F. D. Nichol book, Ellen G. White and Her Critics. Until recently, however, the extent of literary borrowing was not known by those in the Ellen White Estate. Although the topic was not stressed, from time to time what was known was communicated to the church, and new information will continue to be made available.
However, Nichol's comments were just as definite and supported to the same standard and tactics as those of this article. Yet he was wrong, just as this article is wrong. It is futile to argue that information was made available to the church. Raymond Cottrell is credited with the comment that policy has been used to bury questions, and, if necessary, the questioner also. It is unlikely that Rea, Ford and many others would disagree with this assessment.
THE BASIC ISSUES
How should a person decide whether to believe The White Lie or to accept Ellen G. White as a genuine recipient of the prophetic gift? When the Majesty of the Universe created men and women, He endowed them with the power of choice. What is at stake is, how do they make that choice? The choice should be based, not on a passing display of rhetoric, but on the weight of evidence. In the matter being considered we face, on the one hand, some facts intermingled with many unsupported assertions and accusations. On the other hand, we have the well-documented picture of the development of a church founded on the Word of God and nurtured, guided, and protected by the Holy Spirit through the gift of prophecy manifested in the work of Ellen G. White, one of its founders and pioneers.
Admit what you cannot deny, and agree that Rea's book does contain some facts. Then go on to assert that there are many unsupported assertions and accusations. Sadly, the facts are not identified, nor are the "unsupported assertions and allegations." Why is this so? It is because this statement is yet another White lie.
The facts indicate that we have anything but the documented picture of a church which is influenced by the Holy Spirit.
Every Seventh-day Adventist, past and present, has at some time had to come to grips with the issue: Did Ellen White really speak for God as she and the church claim? Accepting this claim is not always easy. After all, there are precepts and counsels in the Ellen White books which call for a change in one's way of living and thinking. There are guidelines to good health. There are counsels on how to develop a character that will rightly represent the Christ who has saved us and promised us the transforming power of His Holy Spirit. Sin is pointed out and reproved. It is not easy or pleasant to change our way of life. But have not God's prophets, in communicating His messages, always reproved sin and called His people to a higher standard of living?
As with the Bible, there are things in Ellen White's writings which are "hard to be understood!" But the evidence of Ellen White's inspiration shines through everywhere.
What evidence is there of Ellen White's inspiration? The Word of God calls for us to examine the claims of one who professes to speak for God, and it sets forth several tests. Among the foremost is, "Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16). As we look at the fruitage of Ellen White's ministry, what do we see in her life and in the lives of those who have taken her claims seriously? What is the fruit?
The fruit of her ministry is the disillusionment of those who really study the life and behavior of Mrs. White. The Internet provides masses of information about the way that early pioneers left the church in the hundreds because of the treatment they received when they differed with the dictatorial Ellen White in the slightest degree. Close friends would be seen in vision wearing crowns and white robes. Then, after a minor disagreement, they would be seen in a second vision wearing spotted robes. Conflict was inevitable as people witnessed the way in which the Whites flouted the counsel that they gave to others.
The method of delivering her testimonies brought conflict. A.T. Jones complained that he was accused of things he had not done, and numerous people knew of what he had been accused before he knew. He claimed that Mrs. White had thereby specifically disobeyed the biblical instructions on how to deal with such a situation. Walter Rea is another example of this. A dedicated Adventist pastor and believer in Mrs. White, like others before and since, he discovers problems with Mrs. White, communicates his problems to the hierarchy, and immediately finds himself stonewalled and finally driven out of the church.
Desmond Ford is another example of someone who lost his job because he dared to differ from Mrs. White. The fact that his arguments are infinitely better than hers did not matter.
The total list of Mrs. White's victims is enormous - it invariably consists of people who were once prominent Adventists, but came into conflict with Mrs. White. The case of A T Jones detailed above is a classic example.
The reason for this is Mrs. White's conviction of her own divine calling, combined with her need to quickly put down anyone who dared to question her, because to question her was to question the God who spoke through her. The worst example of this was almost certainly her false testimonies and the extremely unfair way in which they were delivered. Then there were the errors, deceptions and lies, such as the time of the Second Coming, the denials about shut door statements and the deletion of references to this teaching from later versions of her books. Another example is the sending of several false testimonies to Dr. Kellogg - complaints stated to have been received in vision when the information came from a newspaper clipping subsequently found to be wrong.
Hypocrisy is another fruit. Although she wrote that she did not advocate one thing and do another, she advocated a vegetarian diet for many years when she was a conspicuous consumer of meat of all kinds including unclean meat (oysters). She finally accepted her own counsel on vegetarianism when begged to do so by a Catholic woman. She claimed that family photos were idolatory but had plenty of her own, she denounced the wearing of jewellery, but allowed a photo of herself and her sister to be retouched, removing their jewelry before being published in the "Record."
An outstanding example of her hypocrisy was in writing to her sister and describing her fifteenth train journey and admitting to her sister in Letter 6a, 1880 that she had partaken liberally of chicken, which she clearly enjoyed. When the letter appeared in the "Review and Herald" the reference to Mrs. White's diet was deleted but the following advice was added for SDA's contemplating this trip: "Take your lunch baskets with you, well filled with fruits and plainly cooked bread."
Most would agree that a vital test for a prophet is whether or not the prophecy comes true is Deuteronomy 18:18 and 18:22 where God says that he will put his words into the mouths of the prophets. If the prophecies of a prophet fail, this indicates that God has not spoken through that prophet, and that prophet is to be ignored. The text in Matthew is protection against people who may meet the requirements of Deuteronomy but are still not prophets of God. These are just like the magicians at the time of Aaron's rod.
We see a people in the early experience of the church given assurance, being stabilized and unified in their understanding of fulfilling prophecy and in doctrinal positions--positions based on the Word of God, but attested to by the Spirit. Through visions the Lord clarified what was truth and pointed out error.
We see a people led to understand the great conflict of the ages between Christ and Satan and to see their place in its closing scenes, and rewarded for their faith in and allegiance to Christ. We see a church emerging with unified teachings and organization throughout the world, and an accelerating sense of responsibility in publishing, medical, and educational activities, climaxed with a clear-cut vision of responsibility in the outreach of the gospel and unparalleled financial commitments to carry it out. We see a people happy in their mature knowledge of the plan of salvation, confident of their acceptance in Christ, and aware of the significance of our Lord and Saviour's ministry in our behalf in the heavenly sanctuary.
Read the stories of many of the early pioneers and documentation such as the 1919 Conference, and then try to argue that Mrs. White has brought stability and unity. These are the very things she has destroyed.
Has she really had any fulfilled prophecy? She was wrong in much of her health message, wrong about people alive in 1856 still being alive at the second coming, wrong about her prediction that Britain would declare war on America during the Civil War, wrong about the shut door, and recent research also strongly suggests that she was wrong about the ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. This list could be extremely long, but the point has already been made.
And are people really happy and confident in their acceptance of Christ and in final personal salvation when their prophet has told them that they must never think or say that they are saved? Also, how secure is their knowledge. Dr. Patrick says that "past orthodoxy can constitute present heresy". Does this leave a feeling of confidence in the teachings of the church if they are so transient?
What motivated Ellen White to serve as God's messenger? Was it wealth or fame? No. She lived a self-sacrificing life. While she supported herself and her work on the salary of a minister and from modest royalties on her writings, she did not consider her income to be her own. Whatever was not required for necessities, she put into the cause she served. At her death, she left no great estate. She even mortgaged the potential income from her literary productions in the sum of nearly one hundred thousand dollars to have means to publish her last books and advance the cause of God. Of her experience in finance, at one time she wrote: "The Lord saw that He could trust us with His means. . . . He kept pouring it in and we kept letting it out."
Did she really have only a modest income? Her home was luxurious and she traveled frequently and in style. She also retained a very large staff. World travel, an unaffordable luxury for the majority of the people of the world, was commonplace to her.
Someone has commented that Dr. Kellogg's book had potential earnings of $5000 per year when a working man earned $200 per year. How much, then, did she earn from royalties, which were in addition to her minister's salary. Her home still exists and information obtained from valuers indicated that her estate would have been worth in excess of $1,000,000 at the end of the 20th century.
On 24 March,1876 Mrs. White wrote to James and discusses a negative of a photo of him that the photographer will sell for $500, which is 2 1/2 years wages for a working man. Despite her comments that family photos are idolatory, later correspondence suggests that the purchase was made. Even if it was not, at the time of her death Mrs. White had so many "idolatrous" family photos that they are mentioned in her will.
Was it notoriety or fame she sought? No. She found public life difficult. Burdened with the responsibility of presenting personal testimonies of warning and reproof, she declared at one time: "It has been hard for me to give the messages that God has given me for those I love." At another point in her ministry she declared that if given the choice of another vision or the grave, she would choose the grave. She tasted the experience spoken of by the Master that "a prophet is not without honor, save in His own country" (Matthew 13:57).
What then was her motivation? It was to follow the bidding of the Lord in serving as His messenger, regardless of costs or rewards, ever eager for the saving of souls to God's kingdom. It was to hear at last the words, "Well done."
She tasted something that she thought she would never experience after being hit with that stone - power and success. But modern medical specialists who have examined her history from a medical viewpoint are satisfied that the major factor was temporal lobe epilepsy, which accounts for practically all of her unique behavior.
What of Ellen White's literary productions, their quality and fruitage? They stand on the highest plane. On this point Uriah Smith, an editor and fellow worker, declared:
1. They tend to the purest morality. They discountenance every vice, and exhort to the practice of every virtue.
2. They lead to Christ. Like the Bible, they set Him forth as the only hope and Saviour of mankind.
3. They lead us to the Bible. They set forth that Book as the inspired and unalterable Word of God.
4. They have brought comfort and consolation to many hearts. They have strengthened the weak, encouraged the feeble, raised up the despondent. They have brought order out of confusion, made crooked places straight, and thrown light on what was dark and obscure.
Point 1 is wishful thinking. The much quoted Uriah Smith said that they were lacking in charity. Mrs. White lied about the shut door, lied about her testimonies to Dr Kellogg, lied about the Israel Dammon incident, lied about her vegetarianism. Is this morality?
With regard to 2, who should really take the credit given here? Does it really belong to Mrs. White, or to the people who were the originators of the work she copied?
Point 3 says her works lead us to the Bible. We have seen that B.F. Snook left the church because her works were placed on an equal footing with the Bible. The church has recently removed the word "only" to allow the works of Mrs. White to be put on even footing with the Bible, and even pro-Mrs. White W.W. Prescott complained that they were placed above the Bible. Both Mrs. White and Uriah Smith indicated that her works take precedence over the Bible, and this article suggests that her literary output is superior to that of Paul.
How is it that thousands have been led to the Saviour through reading The Desire of Ages, Steps to Christ, and The Great Controversy? How is it that The Ministry of Healing, published in 1905, has never had to be revised while medical books survive but a decade or two?
The question is repeated in a different form, but the answer remains the same. If thousands have been led to the Savior through reading the books quoted, and somewhere between 60% and 90% of these books is material stolen from other authors, how much credit belongs to Mrs. White, and how much to those who prepared the original material?
Is the "Ministry of Healing" really up to the claims made for it here? After all, this 95-year-old, unrevised book of Mrs. White's is not exactly well known in the medical profession outside of the SDA church. Once again, Mrs. White apologist, Dr Patrick is quoted. He said that in the 1970's the White Estate claimed that no important ideas in Mrs. White's health writings need revision. But, in 1982, at the International Prophetic Guidance Workshop, the White Estate wants to separate health from works deemed to be authoritative.
On Ellen White's death, the staid weekly journal, The Independent, published in New York City, traced the high points of Ellen White's experience in an article titled "An American Prophetess." Then speaking of the fruits of her ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist church, the journal stated:
These teachings were based on the strictest doctrine of inspiration of the Scriptures. Seventh-day Adventism could be got in no other way. And the gift of prophecy was to be expected as promised to the "remnant church" who had held fast to the truth. This faith gave great purity of life and incessant zeal. No body of Christians excels them in moral character and religious earnestness.
Perhaps if that paper had access to the internet and the damaging articles which now appear in super abundance, they might feel constrained to review the opinion that is quoted. It is possible that the article they printed came from information provided by an employee of the SDA organization, so a high degree of bias is probable.
What of Ellen White's public ministry? The records show she was a much-sought-after public speaker, both within and without Adventist ranks. She was often the Sabbath morning speaker at General Conference Sessions, addressing thousands as she stood before them without notes, and she was a favorite camp meeting speaker season after season.
At evangelistic meetings in America and overseas she could hold her audiences, often largely non-Adventists, spellbound for an hour or an hour and a half, almost always speaking without notes. In 1876, before the day of electronic public address systems, she addressed some twenty thousand people who gathered at a camp meeting in Groveland, Mass., and made her audience hear. At the close of the meeting, she was invited to go into a nearby city the next evening to address a large temperance gathering in a public hall.
O.K. so she was a good speaker. So was Adolf Hitler.
What of Ellen White as a much-sought-after counselor?
Church executives from the local conference president and institutional managers to the General Conference president, either by letter or in personal contact, came to her for counsel and guidance in meeting their responsibilities, and in making important decisions. She had no answer book to turn to. The fields of discussion ranged widely. Never were they disappointed in the results of following the counsel they received from her pen or lips.
After recounting one experience of prosperity which came to the work as the counsels of the Lord given through Ellen White were followed, A. G. Daniells, for many years president of the General Conference, exclaimed:
In all this we see the great value of the Spirit of Prophecy to the people and the cause of God. It gives light and understanding far beyond the comprehension of men. It leads us on to great undertakings from which we would shrink because we do not see the future nor the full importance of what we are called to do.
Elder Daniells, near the close of his life, bore this solemn testimony:
In this present year of our Lord, 1935, Mrs. White has been at rest twenty years, while I have been toiling on. I had twenty-three years of direct observation of her life work. Since her death I have had twenty additional years for thoughtful reflection and study of that life and its fruits.
Now, at an advanced age, with the constraint of expressing only sober, honest truth, I can say that it is my deep conviction that Mrs. White's life far transcends the life of anyone I have ever known or with whom I have been associated. She was uniformly pleasant, cheerful, and courageous. She was never careless, flippant, or in any way cheap in conversation or manner of life. She was the personification of serious earnestness regarding the things of the kingdom. I never once heard her boast of the gracious gift God had bestowed upon her, or of the marvelous results of her endeavors. She did rejoice in the fruitage, but gave all the glory to Him who wrought through her.
Are Elder Daniells' recollections worth anything? After all, his memory was so bad that he is claimed to have given out wrong information at the 1919 Conference.
As for employees of the church coming to her for counsel, this was probably a very prudent move, because to offend her could have extremely serious repercussions. Also, when did she become an effective counselor? It is difficult to imagine her being successful in that role when her husband and others, such as Israel Dammon were referring, without reproof from her, to non Adventists as swine, whoremasters, murderers, hogs, devils, etc. In later years no improvement is noted, as evidenced by what she had to say about J.N. Andrews, Fannie Bolton, D.M. Canright and others.
THE CHOICE IS OURS
And so, granted by God the power of choice, and with the evidences before us, we as Seventh-day Adventists must make our decision. The Lord gives sufficient evidence for all who desire to know the truth, but He will never compel anyone to believe. We should carefully ponder the words:
God does not propose to remove all occasion for unbelief. He gives evidence, which must be carefully investigated with a humble mind and a teachable spirit, and all should decide from the weight of evidence. God gives sufficient evidence for the candid mind to believe; but he who turns from the weight of evidence because there are a few things which he cannot make plain to his finite understanding will be left in the cold, chilling atmosphere of unbelief and questioning doubts, and will make shipwreck of faith.
Rea supports his assertions with an abundance of evidence. This evidence is capable of being cross-checked against the writings of others and always emerges unscathed from this process. By contrast, this SDA-based article ignores facts, is riddled with contradictions and errors and disregards facts presented by some people simply because these people are now unpopular with the administration.
It is notable that the organization consistently refuses to take up the challenge of another former Mrs. White devotee named Dirk Anderson, and debate him on his website. Their refusal to do this clearly indicates that they know what the weight of evidence would decide.
George I. Butler summed up the positive influence of Ellen White's visions on the church:
They have always been held in high esteem by the most zealous and humble among our people. They have exerted a leading influence among us from the start. They have first called attention to every important move we have made in advance. Our publishing work, the health and temperance movement, the College, and the cause of advanced education, the missionary enterprise, and many other important points, have owed their efficiency largely to this influence. We have found in a long, varied, and in some instances, sad experience the value of their counsel. When we have heeded them, we have prospered; when we have slighted them, we have suffered a great loss.
An immediate response is to ask for one credible example of these positive claims.
Negative examples are easily found. One of them is this: When offered the Kellogg organization for free, acting on the advice of their "prophet", the church rejected the offer. Later, no doubt at considerable expense, they went into the same business anyway, but, thanks to the efforts of their "prophet", the business they could have owned is now their major competitor.