2009 SDA Sabbath School Quarterly
Prophetic Gift
Lesson 12

An Alternative Viewpoint by Dirk Anderson


As we get near the end of the Quarterly, the author seems to be grasping to find reasons for us to believe in Ellen White. In Sunday's lesson he says Ellen White's messages in the 1870s prompted the SDA Church to decide to send missionaries out to the world. One would think that a Church commissioned with taking the "three angels' messages" to "all the world" would have figured out after 26 years that they could not just sit at home and expect the world to come to them! Why was a prophet's prompting needed to tell the SDA Church something so blatantly obvious?

The 19th century was the century of foreign missions. Many Christian denominations sent out missionaries to the heathen lands of Africa and Asia. None of those churches required a prophet to tell them what to do. It was no doubt Jesus, the true head of the church, who moved upon those churches to take the gospel message into all the world. So why did it take a prophet of God in order to convince Adventists to send out missionaries? It is a sad statement on the spiritual condition of the SDA Church if they could not realize on their own that it was their duty to send out missionaries.

Establishing an Educational System

In Monday's lesson we are told of the prophet's guidance in establishing SDA schools. It is wonderful that Mrs. White was pro-education, but once again, why did it require a prophet of God to tell the church to start its own schools? The Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, the Orthodox Church, and a host of other churches all have educational systems, many of which were started before the SDA system. None of these churches required a prophet to tell them to start an educational system, so why did Adventists?

Besides all this, Sister White gave a host of instructions about education that Adventists now routinely ignore. For example, she said no child should be inside a classroom before the age of 8 to 10.1 What SDA primary school follows that instruction? She had a host of other restrictions, ranging from forbidding sports to outlawing dating2, that Adventist schools completely ignore. Perhaps these instructions are part of the "inspired writings" that SDA corporate executives have decided are "mere opinion" rather than "authoritative".

Health Reform

In Tuesday's lesson Pfandl credits Mrs. White for bringing health reform to the SDA Church:

In a vision in 1848, Ellen G. White was shown that tobacco, tea, and coffee are harmful, but it took several years to convince the membership.
There is no written record of the 1848 vision, just a statement made by James White that was published in the Nov. 8, 1870 edition of the Review and Herald. In 1848, the Whites were still close associates with Joseph Bates, who was a health reformer of sorts. By 1824 Bates had given up tobacco, tea, coffee, and alcohol. He did not give up eating meat until 1843.3 It appears Mrs. White's 1848 vision merely reiterated what Joseph Bates was already advocating about health reform.

Next we read an amazing statement. Of all the statements presented in the Quarterly, the following is the most patently false:

Recent research into Ellen G. White’s health message has revealed that there is a vast difference in quality between Ellen G. White’s principles of health and those advocated by other health reformers in her time. “Modern medical science has verified a high percentage of her health principles . . . while the sources from which she supposedly copied had a low percentage of health principles that have been verified. This difference indicates that Mrs. White had health information that could not have come from any human source available anywhere at the time she lived.”—Leonard Brand and Don S. McMahon, The Prophet and Her Critics (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press® Publishing Association, 2005), pp. 87, 88.
The truth is that every health reform adopted by Mrs. White was practiced and advocated by other prominent health reformers such as Sylvester Graham, James Jackson, and L.B. Coles. In fact, Ellen White plagiarized so heavily from Coles that it is difficult to identify any point where she differs substantially from Coles. Notice all the points of congruence between Coles' health reforms (published in 1851, 12 years before Mrs. White's health reform vision) and Mrs. White's reforms:
  1. Electricity in nerves
  2. Cancer inside meat transferred to humans
  3. Sleeping rooms should be ventilated
  4. Sleep is better before midnight
  5. Regular bathing is beneficial
  6. Bathing should be used to open pores
  7. Food should be thoroughly chewed
  8. Meals to be eaten at regular intervals
  9. Late suppers disturb sleep
  10. Sedentary workers should eat less
  11. Stressed importance of morning exercise
  12. Stressed benefit of exercising lightly after meals
  13. Exercise is better in the open air
  14. Avoid use of condiments
  15. Avoid rich, sweet desserts
  16. Prepare simple, palatable food
  17. Never drink alcohol
  18. Coffee and Tea give a "sallow" complexion
  19. Tobacco is a "poison"
  20. Child's moral character is affected by habits of the parents prior to the child's birth
  21. Masturbation destroys health and mind
  22. The mind influences the health of the body
  23. Violating health laws is a violation of God's laws
  24. Gospel ministers should preach health reform
  25. Tight lacing of dresses is harmful
  26. Avoid drugs in treating disease
  27. Over-eating diminishes the intellect
  28. Eating meat makes humans more like animals
  29. Eating meat increases animal passions in the human
  30. Bread is the "staff of life" but should not be eaten while hot
For further study, all the parallels between Ellen White and L.B. Coles are discussed in the book, More than a Profit, Less than a Prophet.

The idea that there is a "vast difference" between Ellen White's reforms and the reforms of other health reformers of her era is absolute nonsense. While Ellen White did not adopt every health reform of the era, she adopted the principal reforms that the majority of health refomers were advocating. For further verification of this, see the following:

Some Adventists claim that Mrs. White was given divine guidance in selecting which health reforms Adventists were to adopt and which to discard. Again, such a claim is without factual evidence. On the contrary, Mrs. White adopted a number of "health reforms" which have since proven to be mistaken. To research these false teachings, click on the links below:

Publishing Work

Wednesday's lesson is much improved over Tuesday's debacle. There is no denying that Mrs. White's vision regarding the publishing work extending out to the world did indeed come to pass as predicted. To be fair, the early Adventists were already busy publishing all sorts of papers, and James had already been involved in publishing and sending out publications around the Northeastern United States. Nevertheless, it was prudent of Ellen to recognize the opportunity to send her writings out to the world, and she showed foresight in encouraging her husband to engage in this work. Whether or not this vision was actually a divine event, or merely the byproduct of discussions James and Ellen previously held on this topic we cannot say for certain. Regardless, it was a wise move, and Mrs. White deserves some credit for this success.

A Theological Guide?

In Thursday's lesson Pfandl writes:

All through biblical history, God has used the prophetic gift to protect His people from theological errors. It was no different with the ministry of Ellen White. In the early days of our church she had to combat fanaticism of various kinds. Some people claimed to be perfect, others stated that no more work should be done, and some kept on setting times for Christ’s return. During the Kellogg crisis at the turn of the century, her counsel saved the church from pantheism. At the same time, almost single-handedly she led the church from a semi- Arian (a belief that Jesus was not God) to a Trinitarian position. When A. F. Ballenger tried to change the sanctuary teaching, she took a strong stand against it. Ellen White also had a strong role in keeping the church of her day from falling deep into legalism; along with A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, she was a great proponent of salvation by faith in Christ alone, without the deeds of the law.
We are going to discuss each of these topic individually.

1. Combatting Fanaticism
While Mrs. White did oppose numerous fanatics throughout her career, to paint a complete picture, I must point out that she was personally involved with setting dates for Christ's return. In her early days she was also involved with the fanatical Israel Dammon.

2. Saved the church from Pantheism
Was the SDA Church ever truly in danger of being converted to Pantheism? That is extremely unlikely. The facts is, Dr. Kellogg was involved in a power struggle with certain SDA leaders, and the pantheism charge was used to smear his reputation. A.T. Jones describes what happened:

At Berrien Springs, Michigan, in the time of the Lake Union Conference in 1904, speaking of the book "Living Temple," you said publicly to the congregation in the assembly hall:
"I never read the book; but Willie sat down by my side and read to me some of the most objectionable passages. And I said to him, 'Willie, that is just what was back there in New England,' etc., ect.,"
Now, Sister White, I said then, and I say now, and I shall say forever, that I have not a particle of confidence in Willie's inspiration to select and read to you "the most objectionable passages" of that book, or any other writing, as a basis for your denouncing the book or writing a Testimony on the subject. I know that John Huss and Jerome were burned at the stake, and Wickliffe and Luther were pursued and persecuted to their graves, solely upon "some of the most objectionable passages" of their writings selected and read by opposing and prejudiced people.
I know that Willie presented to me some of these "most objectionable passages" of his selection. And I know that the objectionable meaning which he put into the passages to make them "objectionable passages" was directly contrary to the meaning that stands in plain passages in the plain printed words.4
To examine this issue in greater detail, see Asmund Kaspersen's Pantheism and the Alpha of Apostasy.

3. Led Church to a Trinitarian Viewpoint
Many early SDA leaders were anti-Trinitarian, including the Whites. It was W.W. Prescott, not Ellen White, who actually spear-headed the push towards Trinitarianism in 1896. An article written by Ellen White in 1897 and the book Desire of Ages, published in 1898, both contain strong Trinitarian statements and no doubt helped push the church in that direction. However, there are other statements made during the subsequent seven years that raise questions about her understanding of the Trinity. For a more an depth study, see the article Did Ellen White teach ‘A Different God’?.

4. Sanctuary message
This topic has already been covered in lesson #10

5. A great proponent of salvation by faith?
Mrs. White may have become a great proponent of salvation by faith after she adopted the teachings of A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner, but her writings prior to 1888 tended towards legalism. For example:

...The terms of salvation for every son and daughter of Adam are here outlined. It is plainly stated that the condition of gaining eternal life is obedience to the commandments of God.
To obey the commandments of God is the only way to obtain His favor.
He [man] must be reconciled to God through obedience to His law.2
Mrs. White deserves some credit for having the insight to endorse Jones and Waggoner, despite some opposition from other leading brethren. However, it should be made abundantly clear that the message was given through Jones and Waggoner, not Ellen White. Mrs. White adopted their teaching, and subsequently placed more of an emphasis on righteousness by faith in her later writings.

Creation in six literal days?

Pfandl tells us that Adventists can thank Ellen White for her guidance in instructing Adventists that the earth was created in six literal days:

And though Ellen White has been dead for almost a century, here, too, her words give us a strong affirmation of this great Bible truth: “I was then carried back to the creation and was shown that the first week, in which God performed the work of creation in six days and rested on the seventh day, was just like every other week.”—SpiritualGifts, vol. 3, p. 90.
Whether or not the days were literal is a matter of great theological and scientific debate that will not be solved here. Many Christians, including some Adventists, question how all the events on the sixth day of creation could have taken place in a single solar day. Are they any less Christian because of this? John Ankerberg explains:
It would also appear that the sixth “day” of creation was considerably longer than a solar day. Consider everything that happened during this one “day.”
First, God created all the many hundreds (or thousands) of land animals (Gen. 1:24-25).
Second, God “formed” man of the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7). This Hebrew word (yatsar) means “to mold” or “form,” which implies time. Yatsar is used specifically of the work of a potter (cf. Jer. 18:2f.).
Third, God said, “I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18, emphasis added). This indicates a time subsequent to the time of the announcement.
Fourth, Adam observed and named this whole multitude of animals (Gen. 2:19). As Robert Newman noted, “If every one of the approximately 15,000 living species of such animals (not to mention those now extinct) were brought to Adam to be named, it would have taken ten hours if he spent only two second on each.” This is hardly enough time for Adam to study each animal and determine an appropriate name for it. Assuming a minimum of only two minutes each, the process would have taken six hundred hours (or twenty-five days).
Fifth, Adam searched for a helpmate for himself, apparently among all the creatures God had made. “But for Adam no suitable helper was found” (implying a time of searching) (Gen. 2:20, emphasis added).
Sixth, God put Adam to sleep and operated on him, taking out one of his ribs and healing the flesh (Gen. 2:21). This too involved additional time.
Seventh, Eve was brought to Adam, who observed her, accepted her, and was joined to her (Gen. 2:22-25).
In conclusion, it seems highly unlikely that all of these events–especially the fourth one–were compressed within a twenty-four-hour period or, more precisely, within the approximately twelve hours of light each day afforded.6

What about salt?

On Friday's lesson Pfandl once again returns to health, and tells us the "instructions she received from God" helped her to avoid the "extreme" of discarding salt.

Many of the principles of healthful living found in the writings of Ellen White already were taught in a limited way by other health reformers of her day. But in their teaching we find many errors and extremes that Ellen White avoided because of the instructions she received from God. For example, Sylvester Graham and James Jackson, two prominent health reformers in Ellen White’s day, both taught, “Don’t eat salt.” Ellen G. White, however, wrote, “I use some salt, and always have, because salt, instead of being deleterious, is actually essential for the blood.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 162.
First, the truth is that the principles of healthful living found in the writings of Ellen White were taught in exactly the same way by other health reformers.

Second, Mrs. White took a moderate position on salt, similar to that taken by another health reformer she borrowed from, Dr. Dio Lewis. It is true that Mrs. White refused to give up salt entirely, but was it really because God told her it was good for her blood? Dr. Ronald Numbers explains what really happened:

A private letter written in 1891, however, tells a different story:
Many years ago, while at Dr. Jackson's, I undertook to leave it [salt] off entirely, because he advocated this in his lectures. But he came to me and said, "I request you not to come into the dining hall to eat. A moderate use of salt is necessary to you; without it you will become a dyspeptic. I will send your meals to your room." After a while, however, I again tried the saltless food, but was again reduced in strength and fainted from weakness. Although every effort was made to counteract the effect of the six-weeks' trial, I was all summer in so feeble a condition that my life was despaired of. I was healed in answer to prayer, else I should not have been alive today.(7)
In this account the oft-maligned Dansville physician emerges as the source of inspiration for Mrs. White's tolerance of salt.8

Special Insight to Avoid Extremes?

Did Mrs. White receive special insight to avoid extremes in health reform? Pfandl writes:

Other errors that were taught by health reformers in the nineteenth century and that Ellen G. White avoided included: Do not cut your hair; do not drink water—get your liquids from fruit only; when eating meat, eat mostly the fat; overweight people are healthy people; do not use soap, etc.
The radical reforms listed above were advocated by few health reformers. The truth is that Mrs. White adopted nearly all the generally accepted health reform teachings of her time, including some that bordered on the absurd (such as senseless restrictions on sexual activity). She also advocated restricting various items from the diet which science has since proven are beneficial to good health.9 Therefore, there is simply no evidence that she utilized anything other than human judgment in deciding which reforms to adopt.


1. Ellen White, Home and Church School Manual (1900), page 15.

2. Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 514; Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 65; Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 228, 229; Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 109.

3. Joseph Bates, The Autobiography of Elder Joseph Bates, pp. 168, 234.

4. A.T. Jones' Letter to Mrs. E.G. White, April 26,1909.

5. Ellen White, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Oct. 26, 1897. Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 28; 294-295.

6. John Ankerberg, "DOES SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE TODAY SHOW THAT GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH? AND WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT WHEN HE CREATED?", http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/science/creation.htm, extracted Nov. 1, 2008.

7. Ellen White, Manuscript Releases Volume Five (1990), page 403.

8. Ronald Numbers, Prophetess of Health, third edition, (2008) p. 225.

9. See More than a Profit, Less than a Prophet by Dirk Anderson for a list of substances that Mrs. White banned that are actually beneficial to health.

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