Does Mrs. White Pass the Biblical Tests of a Prophet?
By Dirk Anderson
The importance of testing prophets
In the year 2020, over one 1.8 billion people follow a false prophet.1 Islam is the second-largest religion on the planet, and is fastest growing in terms of numbers of new adherents. The religion is based upon the writings of prophet Muhammad. By "writings," it must be understood that Muhammad was illiterate. He depended upon literary assistants to do his writing for him. If you decide to follow Muhammad, it will impact every aspect of your life:
If you follow a prophet, not only will your whole life will be impacted, but also the lives of those closest to you will be impacted. If what that prophet tells you is false, that wrong teaching could have far-reaching effects upon almost every aspect of your life. It could impact your health, your relationships with others, even your relationship with God. That is why the Word of God says:
I hate every false way (Psalm 119:104)
Consider the situation where a man finds a Book of Mormon in his hotel room and reads it. He heart is warmed by the stories of courage and love for God. He says, "Whoever penned such beautiful, encouraging words must be a prophet of God." He ends up joining the "Latter Day Saints" without ever studying whether or not Joseph Smith passed the tests of a prophet. Before long, Mormonism has transformed his life in many ways:
Others are born into a church with a prophet. They grow up accepting it and never challenge the idea during their entire life. Many do not realize that following a prophet's teachings can have a tremendously powerful impact on every area of their life. They devote little time to researching the prophet. They never test the prophet to find out if their claims are true. How many Moslems, Mormons, or Seventh-day Adventists have really taken the time to sit down and study out whether or not their prophet is everything they claimed to be? With so much on the line, isn't it worth a little investigating?
One of the duties of a Christian is to test the prophets. It is commanded in the Bible, and failure to do so is disobedience to God's Word:
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
The reason given that we are to test the prophets is because there are "many" false ones in the world. Jesus recognized this problem would face His people in the future. "Beware of false prophets", he warned, "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many." (Matt. 7:15, 24:11) He went on to warn that even good Christians, intelligent people--"the very elect"--could be deceived:
For there shall arise...false prophets...insomuch that if were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matt. 24:24)
These warnings by Jesus should be enough to emphasize the importance of validating the claims put forth by a prophet or by the followers of a prophet. Jesus would not have bothered to make such strong statements unless He believed His followers would face a significant threat from "false prophets" in the future.
With so many prophets out there in the world today, how can we determine which ones are true and which ones are false prophets? Have you ever listened to the reasons people say they believe a prophet?
If you are a Seventh-day Adventist, those answers will sound familiar to you. Reasons similar to these are frequently cited in favor of Ellen White. Interestingly enough, none of these reasons is a Biblical test of a prophet. "But wait," you say, "doesn't making a predication that comes true prove a person to be a prophet?" Not according to the Bible! You see, anyone can predict a future event, and by luck or chance, that future event may actually take place. Predicting a future event does not prove someone to be a prophet; however, if a prophet makes a prediction of a future event, and that event does not take place, then the Bible tells us that prophet is not a true prophet. That is the first of seven Biblical tests of a prophet.
We cannot trust our feelings or our emotions. We must have an objective set of criteria--specific, measurable rules--that can be applied to every person claiming to be a prophet; otherwise, anyone could rightly claim to be a prophet! That criteria exists as the seven Biblical tests outlined below. When one candidly examines all the evidence presented below, one will find sufficient evidence to make an educated decision regarding the prophetic calling of Ellen White. Using these seven tests we can easily distinguish the true prophets from the false ones.
TEST #1: Prophecies must be fulfilled
When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; thou shalt not be afraid of him. (Deut. 18:22)
A prophet does not have to make predictions in order to be a prophet. The Encarta Dictionary defines a prophet as "somebody who interprets or passes on the will of a deity." Typically, however, Biblical prophets do make predictions about future events. These predictions help to establish the claims and validity of a prophet because knowledge of future events surpasses human ability and resides in the domain of omnipotent power. Jeremiah writes that… ...when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the LORD hath truly sent him. (Jer. 28:9)
When a prophet arises, he may not be believed by the people at first, but when his predictions start coming to pass, then people begin to have faith and confidence in that prophet. However, any "prophet" can get lucky and make a guess about the future which, by chance, comes to pass. Therefore, the Bible places a much more stringent test upon the prophet. Moses told the people to keep a score card. If the prophet's predictions come to pass, then keep on eye on him. If the prophet ever fails, even once, then ignore him. He is not a true prophet. Why? Because anyone can make a lucky guess but only God can get the future right every single time. This is what differentiates God's prophets from all the other false prophets in the world. God's true prophets are correct about the future 100 percent of the time.
In examining some of the predictions made by Ellen White, it is evident she badly failed this test. Most of Mrs. White's specific predictions were made early in her career, and virtually every single one of them failed to come to pass. The further she progressed in life, the less predictions she made, and if she did make a prediction, it was usually something vague and ambiguous, such as "crime will worsen," "cities will be more polluted," or "the earth will become more and more corrupt." It appears that Mrs. White learned from her early failures, and was more careful in later predictions to make them obscure and ambiguous enough so that she could not be accused by her detractors of making false predictions.
Below are some of the predictions she made. Remember to keep score because a true prophet of God will never make a false prediction, not even one.
Failure #1: Jesus will return in June, 1845
Lucinda Burdick and Ellen Harmon [White] were close friends during the mid-1840s. Mrs. Burdick, the wife of a pastor, had many opportunities to hear Mrs. White's prophecies. The following is Mrs. Burdick's eyewitness testimony of a prophecy Mrs. White made:
"During the year 1845 I met Miss Ellen G. Harmon several times at my uncle's house in South Windham, Me. The first of these meetings was in the month of May, when I heard her declare that God had revealed to her that Jesus Christ would return to this earth in June, the next month."2
Ellen Harmon said "God revealed to her" that Jesus would come in June of 1845. This is a failed prophecy.
Failure #2: Jesus will return in September, 1845
Mrs. Burdick again testifies:
"During the haying season I again met her in company with James White at the same place, and heard my uncle ask her about the failure of the Lord to appear in June according to her visions. She replied that she had been told in the language of Canaan which she did not understand; but that she had since come to understand that Christ would return in September, at the second growth of grass instead of the first."2
Did Christ return in September of 1845? Obviously not.
Failure #3: Whites to be thrown in prison in 1846
Mrs. Burdick again testifies of statements made by Ellen White in 1846:
"Once, when on their way to the eastern part of Maine, she saw that they would have great trouble with the wicked, be put in prison, etc. This they told in the churches as they passed through. When they came back, they said they had a glorious time. Friends asked if they had seen any trouble with the wicked, or prisons? They replied, 'None at all.' People in all the churches soon began to get their eyes open, and came out decidedly against her visions."3
Ellen's followers understood her to be describing an imminent imprisonment that would occur on their trip to the east. That is obvious from the facts that 1) the people specifically asked the Whites about the imprisonment when they got back, and 2) when they found out there was no imprisonment, they came out decidedly against her visions. This failed prophecy was enough to convince the people in the Maine churches she was a false prophet, and it should be enough to convince us today!
We could stop here, knowing that according to Deut. 18:22, we have nothing to fear from this prophet. She has proven to be wrong, thus indicating she does not speak for God. But let us be careful. The Bible warns us not to accept anything on the voice of just one eyewitness. Can Mrs. Burdick's story be corroborated in any way? The answer is, yes. Mrs. White made several statements about the imminent return of Christ in the 1840s and 1850s which corroborate Mrs. Burdick's statements. It appears that in the early days of her career Mrs. White had a bad habit of predicting the return of Christ. Below is the supporting evidence from Sister White's own writings.
Failure #4: The "great pestilence" that never came
In 1849, Mrs. White penned these terrifying words:
"What we have seen and heard of the pestilence [of 1849], is but the beginning of what we shall see and hear. Soon the dead and dying will be all around us."5
The "pestilence" was a cholera epidemic that struck nations throughout the world in 1849, resulting in the death of over 37,000 Americans.6 Because of improvements in sanitation, this outbreak of cholera was milder than the 1832 outbreak which killed over 100,000 Americans. Many Christians regarded both outbreaks as judgments from God. There have been many worse epidemics since then. For example, the typhoid fever epidemic of 1861-65 killed 80,000 in the United States.7 The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed about 675,000 in the United States.8 The 1849 epidemic was not the "beginning of sorrows" or the last days as predicted by Jesus (Matt. 24:7-8). Rather, it was a relatively minor epidemic in a long list of epidemics that have plagued the world since the fall of man. Not long after this prophecy was penned the epidemic subsided and the United States entered a period of peace and prosperity that lasted over a decade. She said "soon the dead and dying will be all around us." What does soon mean? It has been over years! Furthermore, she said the dead would be around "us," indicating her belief it would happen within her lifetime. Another prophetic failure.
Failure #5: Jesus to come in "months"
In 1850, Sister White writes out what her angel told her:
"My accompanying angel said, 'Time is almost finished. Get ready, get ready, get ready.' . . . now time is almost finished. . . and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months."9
The context of this statement is undeniable. New converts will have to learn SDA doctrines in a "few months" because "now time is almost finished." The reduction in learning time is not because new converts are smarter than the older ones, nor is it because the Adventists developed an accelerated learning course. The context clearly states the reason they will have to learn quickly: "time is almost finished."
What is a reasonable definition of the phrase "a few months?" Three? Five? Webster's Dictionary says a few is "amounting to only a small number." If your friend called you up and said, "I'll be coming out to visit in a few months," when would you expect him? Three or four months, perhaps six at the most? It has now been months since Mrs. White said only a "few months" remained! She was certainly saying there were not "years" or "decades" left, because she said the doctrines earlier converts had learned in "years," recent converts would have to learn in "months."
Failure #6: Some at 1856 conference to see Jesus return
Mrs. White made this statement at a church conference in 1856, and it received notoriety because it was published in her "Testimonies to the Church" and many church members read it:
"I was shown the company present at the Conference. Said the angel: 'Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.'"10
Everyone at this conference passed away generations ago. Not a single one was "alive" and "upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus." After this prophecy utterly failed the sect's leaders were in quandary as to what to do with this statement. They finally decided to declare this to be a "conditional prophecy" even though there were no conditions stated or implied in the prophecy!
Failure #7: Earth to be depopulated soon
Mrs. White continued her unbroken string of failed predictions in 1864:
"The human family was presented before me, enfeebled. Every generation has been growing weaker, and disease of every form visits the human race.... Satan's power upon the human family increases. If the Lord should not soon come and destroy his power, the earth would soon be depopulated."11
In 1864, Mrs. White said the earth would "soon" be depopulated. Did that happen soon after 1864? At that time there were approximately 1.29 billion people on earth. By 1900, the earth's population had soared to 1.65 billion people.12 Today there are around 8 billion. By 2050, there may be 25 billion people on the planet. Because of better nutrition, advances in medicine, and improved living conditions, each generation is living longer, healthier, stronger, and taller. Diseases which once ravaged mankind have been eliminated or rendered harmless by powerful medications. Sadly, all that Mrs. White could foresee in the future was darkness, disease, and death. Had she truly had divine foresight she would never have made this false prophecy.
Failure #8: Slavery to revive in the South
Here is another infamous prediction made by Mrs. White:
"Slavery will again be revived in the Southern States; for the spirit of slavery still lives. Therefore it will not do for those who labor among the colored people to preach the truth as boldly and openly as they would be free to do in other places. Even Christ clothed His lessons in figures and parables to avoid the opposition of the Pharisees."13
Was slavery ever revived "in the Southern United States"? Of course not! After the Civil War ended in 1865, it has been a federal crime to engage in slavery. Slavery was permanently abolished and it will never be revived again in the United States. It is slander against the United States to claim slavery would be revived in the South. By 1981, every nation on earth had outlawed slavery. This prophecy was an outrageous debacle.
Failure #9: Slave masters to suffer seven last plagues
Mrs. White predicts that slave masters will experience the seven last plagues described in the book of Revelation:
"I saw that the slave master will have to answer for the soul of his slave whom he has kept in ignorance...the master must endure the seven last plagues and then come up in the second resurrection and suffer the second, most awful death."14
This "prophecy" was given in the context of the slavery then existing in the United States. The oldest slave masters in the United States died in the early 1900s, over 100 years ago. Even if Ellen White had another country in mind, the United Nations banned slavery on planet earth in 1948. Mauritania was the last country to abolish slavery in its territory in 1981. Therefore, slavery is outlawed in every country on earth.
Failure #10: Sick man to recover
In 1873, the editor of the Swedish edition of Advent Herald, Mr. C. Carlstedt, became seriously ill with Typhoid fever. Mrs. White and others were called to his bedside to pray for Carlstedt. On their way home from the prayer meeting, Mrs. White remarked that the Lord was...
"present with his restoring power, to raise Carlstedt, whose sickness was not unto death, but to the glory of the Son of God."15
Charles Lee, who at that time was a Seventh-day Adventist minister, was at the prayer meeting and was a witness to Mrs. White's prediction. Sadly, Mrs. White was dead wrong. Lee reported that Carlstedt was dead within one week of her statement. A horrific failed prediction.
Failure #11: Rappings will increase
Mrs. White claimed she saw in a vision from God that the rappings of the Fox Sisters and others would increase:
"I saw that soon it would be considered blasphemy to speak against the rapping, and that it would spread more and more, that Satan's power would increase and some of his devoted followers would have power to work miracles and even to bring down fire from heaven in the sight of men."16
This prophecy was a marked failure. Even though Spiritualism increased in popularity for a short period during the mid-1800s, it eventually died down. The movement was already on the decline prior to the Fox sisters' admission, in 1888, that the rapping was faked. After their deaths in the 1890s, it continued to decline. Today, if you were to ask almost anyone about "rapping" they would think you were talking about a form of music, not a form of communicating with the dead. Rapping has completely vanished from the public awareness. There is no evidence it was ever considered "blasphemy to speak against the rapping." The Spiritualist movement fizzled out in the 1920s after popular magician Harry Houdini exposed numerous popular mediums as fakes and frauds.
Did any of her predictions come true?
Mrs. White made some vague predictions about crime worsening and cities becoming more polluted. These types of predictions are difficult to judge, because many other people of her day were saying the same thing. The problem is that if we considered everyone who made such generalized predictions to be prophets, then we would literally have thousands of prophets. General predictions about worsening crime and pollution simply do not substantiate a prophet's claims. A prophet must be measured on specific predictions and specific results.
Some have suggested that predictions in the Great Controversy, such as the United States in prophecy and enforced Sunday observance, appear to be coming to pass, and this proves Mrs. White to be a prophet. The truth is that the United States is moving away from a National Sunday Law, which would seem to indicate another failed prophecy. What about the predictions of the papacy uniting with Apostate Protestantism? Mrs. White warned of this, but many other non-Adventist Christians were sounding the same alarm during that time period. Does that mean these other people are prophets also? Some claim Mrs. White predicted the San Francisco earthquake and the 9/11 attack in New York City, but those are more myth than fact.
Test #1 - Pass or Fail?
Eleven instances of failed prophecies have been documented in this article. More could be presented. However, it only takes one failure to disqualify a prophet. In Bible times, if a prophet spoke anything God did not command, he risked losing his life (Deuteronomy 18:20). Given that, it is unlikely Mrs. White would have dared to proclaim herself the "spirit of prophecy" back in Bible times.
TEST #2: Cannot have falsehoods in their visions
Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD. (Jer. 23:32)
There are some instances in the life of Ellen White where she prophesied falsehoods that caused her "people to err." The most significant of these were the shut door visions.
Falsehood #1: Shut door of salvation
When Christ failed to return as predicted in 1844, there was great confusion among the followers of William Miller. Most of the Millerites returned to their churches, but others were too ashamed to admit their error or felt too humiliated to return. It was among these people that the "shut door" teaching developed. The teaching is based upon the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25. These people firmly believed that they had given the "midnight cry" (Matt. 25:6) and that Jesus, the Bridegroom, came to the "marriage supper" on October 22, 1844:
And while they [foolish virgins] went to buy, the Bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with Him to the marriage; and the door was shut. (Matt. 25:10)
They taught that on October 22, 1844, Christ got up and moved from the Holy Place into the Most Holy Place. In so doing, Christ shut the door of salvation to all except those Advent believers who had joined Miller's 1844 movement. They believed that Jesus was "shut in" with His special people, preparing them to receive His kingdom. They believed that since October 22, 1844, Christ was ministering only to the "little flock" (Adventists). They taught they were now in a seven-year period where Christ was testing His remnant on certain points of truth, particularly the Sabbath. They believed their work for the lost was finished, and they must now concentrate all their evangelistic efforts on convincing Adventists to accept the Sabbath teaching.
Ellen White had visions supporting this "shut door" doctrine, and James White's paper--Present Truth--trumpeted the shut door teaching up until late 1850. Most Adventists, including William Miller and most of the leaders in the Millerite movement, rejected the doctrine. It was accepted by only a small number of followers of Joseph Bates and the Whites.
By 1851, the seven-year period had passed and the teaching had fallen out of favor. Thus, the Whites modified their teaching on the "shut door." James White scuttled the Present Truth magazine and started a new magazine, the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. He reprinted his wife's visions in 1851, but was careful to delete those parts referencing the erroneous "shut door" doctrine. The doctrine disappeared from the writings of the leaders and most of the new converts into the church never heard of it nor had any idea that their prophet had seen a "shut door" of salvation in her visions.
In the period of 1844-1850, a time when Mrs. White was receiving frequent public visions, she claimed on a number of occasions to have seen in vision that the door of salvation was shut and that Adventists no longer needed to work for the salvation of the world. Otis Nichols, a fervent believer in Ellen White, wrote thus to William Miller:
"Her message was...that our work was done for the nominal church and the world, and what remained to be done was for the household of faith."18
Adventist minister Isaac Wellcome testified:
"I was often in meeting with Ellen G. Harmon and James White in 1844 and '45. I several times caught her while falling to the floor, --at times when she swooned away for a vision. I have heard her relate her visions of these dates. Several were published on sheets, to the effect that all were lost who did not endorse the '44 move, that Christ had left the throne of mercy, and all were sealed that ever would be, and no others could repent."19
Although she later denied having visions supporting a shut door of salvation, there is ample evidence from eyewitnesses and from her own pen that she taught a shut door on the basis of her visions. In one of her earliest visions she describes how impossible it is for the rejected world to get onto the path leading to heaven:
"Others rashly denied the light behind them, and said that it was not God that had led them out so far. The light behind them went out leaving their feet in perfect darkness, and they stumbled and got their eyes off the mark and lost sight of Jesus, and fell off the path down in the dark and wicked world below. It was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected."20
In 1849, she wrote about the condition of those in other chuches:
"My accompanying angel bade me look for the travail of soul for sinners as used to be. I looked, but could not see it; for the time for their salvation is past."21
To illustrate how Mrs. White's visions about the "shut door" of salvation led people to err, consider her vision in Exeter, Maine. Here is a specific example of how Ellen White saw a falsehood in vision (the shut door of salvation), and then related that vision to other people who then accepted the false teaching:
"While in Exeter, Maine, in meeting with Israel Dammon, James, and many others, many of them did not believe in a shut door. I suffered much at the commencement of the meeting. Unbelief seemed to be on every hand. There was one sister there that was called very spiritual. She had traveled and been a powerful preacher the most of the time for twenty years. She had been truly a mother in Israel. But a division had risen in the band on the shut door. She had great sympathy, and could not believe the door was shut. (I had known nothing of their differences.) Sister Durben got up to talk. I felt very, very sad. At length my soul seemed to be in an agony, and while she was talking I fell from my chair to the floor. It was then I had a view of Jesus rising from His mediatorial throne and going to the Holiest as Bridegroom to receive His kingdom. They were all deeply interested in the view. They all said it was entirely new to them. The Lord worked in mighty power setting the truth home to their hearts. ... When I came out of vision, my ears were saluted with Sister Durben's singing and shouting with a loud voice. Most of them received the vision, and were settled upon the shut door."22
Notice, prior to the vision, Sister Durben "could not believe" the door of salvation was shut. Mrs. White says Sister Durben had "great sympathy." Sympathy for whom? For those upon whom the door of salvation had been shut! Her common sense told her it was impossible a loving God would abandon non-Adventists to eternal death. After the vision, Sister Durben accepted the shut door. Therefore, the vision of Ellen White convinced Sister Durben to accept and believe a falsehood. After the vision, Sister Durben accepted the same false doctrine that James and Ellen would later largely discard! This vision could not possibly come from God who does not lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2).
Falsehood #2: Sealing time visions
In 1849, Mrs. White saw "in vision" that the people of God were in the midst of the sealing time, when the seal of God would be applied to the Adventists who kept the Sabbath.23 Once again, after 1851 arrived and the Adventists abandoned the shut door falsehood, they were also forced to abandon the idea that they were in the midst of the sealing. In 1911, when she published her epic book Great Controversy, she taught the sealing time was yet future, after the arrival of the Sunday Law.24
Mrs. White's visions indicating the sealing had begun were false because the sealing had not begun. Many Adventists are not aware of the false sealing teaching because, according to pioneer Adventist historian Isaac Wellcome, Elder White suppressed the earlier visions:
"Eld. White had published several of Ellen's visions on small sheets for general distribution; but as time passed on the theology of her later visions was materially different from former ones, and they were suppressed... but these visions as published now are greatly in conflict with those which acquaintances and witnesses in New England were accustomed to hear from her lips, after recovering from her clairvoyant state, or to read on sheets as published at first, by Eld. White."25
Mrs. White's visions of the "sealing time" provide unequivocal evidence that she failed the tests of a prophet.
Falsehood #3: Tall people living on Jupiter!
In 1846, Mrs. White had a vision in which she saw a "tall, majestic people" living on either Jupiter or Saturn.26 This may have seemed plausible in 1846, but today scientists know it is impossible. Conditions on both planets are extremely inhospitable to life as we know it:
While this outlandish, false vision about tall people living on Jupiter probably did no harm to the sect members, it does illustrate the fact that God was not the source of her "visions."
Falsehood #4: Satan has a body?
Mrs. White had a vision in which she gives a detailed description of the physical body of Satan.27 The vision was published in Spiritual Gifts in 1858. In 1870, it was republished in Spirit of Prophecy, volume 1. However, when the replacement volume, Patriarchs and Prophets, was published in 1890, the vision had been removed. Perhaps the publishers discovered that Satan is "not...flesh and blood," but a spirit being (Ephesians 6:12). Since this "vision" directly contradicts the Bible, it illustrates that her visions did not originate with God.
Test #2 - Pass or Fail?
Above are four incidents where Mrs. White saw falsehoods in her visions and led her people astray. She taught a shut door of salvation from her visions. She claimed the sealing started in the 1840s when it had not started at all. She taught there were tall people living on other planets in our solar system. She taught Satan had a physical body. More could be mentioned, but these are sufficient to prove that her visions did not come from God.
TEST #3: Cannot steal their writings from others
The Bible identifies false prophets as those who steal their writings from others:
I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. ... Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. (Jer. 23:25,30)
Much has been written on Mrs. White's extensive plagiarism of the writings of others. Prior to the publication of Walter Rea's The White Lie in 1983, Adventists maintained that 8% to 10% of Mrs. White's writings were copied. The sect hired SDA scholar Dr. Fred Veltman to examine the Desire of Ages and he found 30% or more, depending upon the chapter examined. After almost eight years of research, Veltman confirmed what other studies showed, that depending upon the chapter examined, the copy work could be as much as 90%.28 Dr. Veltman noted:
"Implicitly or explicitly, Ellen White and others speaking on her behalf did not admit to and even denied literary dependency on her part... I must admit at the start that in my judgment this is the most serious problem to be faced in connection with Ellen White's literary dependency. It strikes at the heart of her honesty, her integrity, and therefore her trustworthiness."29
Not only was she stealing the words of others, but she repeatedly denied doing so. Jonathan Bulter sums it up:
"Though her inspiration may have benefitted from the perspiration of others, her books were promoted as if the products of God alone."30
The bottom line is she was stealing the words of others, and it was considered unacceptable in her day just as it is in our day. Dr. Don McAdams, an SDA scholar, stated in the 1980 Glendale meeting:
"If every paragraph in the book Great Controversy, written by Ellen White, was properly footnoted, then every paragraph would have to be footnoted."31
The evidence is too extensive to put into this article. Below are links to various other pages which document the plagiarism in much greater detail:
Test #3 - Pass or Fail?
The evidence is overwhelming that she stole her "inspired writings" from her "neighbors." This indicates she failed the third test of a prophet.
TEST #4: Cannot contradict the Word of God
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isa. 8:20)
Mrs. White made many strong endorsements of the Bible throughout her prophetic career. She frequently encouraged her followers to be read the Bible, study it, and memorize Scripture. Given this, many Adventists are surprised to discover that Mrs. White contradicted the Bible a number of times in her writings.
There is insufficient room on this page to detail all of Mrs. White's Bible contradictions. Please click the link below to review the evidence:
Test #4 - Pass or Fail?
While no one would deny that Mrs. White's writings often agree with the Bible, there should also be no denying that there are cases where she clearly contradicted Bible teachings. Not only that, she also adds many rules and regulations to the Bible, omits parts of the Bible that conflict with SDA doctrine, and distorts the meaning of various Bible passages to make them align with SDA teachings. Because of this, it cannot be said she passed this test.
TEST #5: Must bear good fruit
Beware of false prophets... Ye shall know them by their fruits. (Matt. 7:15,16)
This is perhaps the most subjective of the Biblical tests. One person may perceive a fruit to be "good" while another may not. One person may love sour apples, while another prefers sweet apples. If they both pick an apple from the same tree, one may love it while the other may hate it. There is a great controversy regarding the fruits of Mrs. White's ministry.
Good Fruits: There are many positive attributes to Ellen White's ministry. These are good fruits and they should be recognized and applauded as such:
Mixed Fruits: Mrs. White was a guiding force for the Seventh-day Adventist Church during its formative years. How well did she guide the sect?
Bad Fruits: While acknowledging the good fruits of Mrs. White's ministry, the bad cannot be white-washed:
Test #5 - Pass or Fail?
There is no doubt that Mrs. White's ministry has produced some good fruit. Not even the fiercest critic can deny this. There is also little doubt her ministry has produced some bad fruit. Not even the most loyal follower can deny it. Some say that the good outweighs the bad. Others say there is more bad than good. In all fairness to Ellen White, we cannot say she failed this test. However, because of the negative fruits of her ministry noted above, we also cannot say definitively that she passed this test. This one is left as a question mark for the reader to decide. Each person will have to use their God-given judgment and their own personal experience as guides to decide for themselves whether or not Mrs. White's fruits have been good or bad.
TEST #6: Must Encourage and Build Up Others
He who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. (1 Cor. 14:3 RSV)
Few Seventh-day Adventists have struggled to read through the multitude of testimonies written by Ellen White. They are told that Mrs. White's testimonies were encouraging to her followers, and they never bother to read them for themselves to find out if this is true. There certainly are some instances where Mrs. White built up, encouraged, and consoled others. However, a serious examination of her testimonies reveals that she frequently tore down, discouraged, and grieved others. As we examine some examples, keep in mind that these are not isolated incidents. The general tone of her testimonies was negative, fault-finding, accusatory, and critical. In the remainder of this section we will examine how Ellen White tore down and discouraged her enemies, her church members, her family, her co-workers, and national leaders.
Treatment of Her Enemies
Mrs. White saved her most brutal barbs for her enemies. Mrs. White would tolerate different views on some subjects, but one thing she would absolutely not tolerate under any circumstances was someone who questioned her prophetic gift. According to her former friend, Israel Dammon, those who "took a stand against the visions, she saw them 'doomed, damned, and lost for ever, without hope.'"36 Here is a small sample of the derogatory statements she made of her opponents:
It is apparent that if one disagreed with the prophet, or worse yet, if one dared to question her prophetic calling, Ellen White would vehemently and unmercifully assassinate their character.
In addition, Mrs. White was known for her severity in dealing with church members. In her early years, she was known to harshly reprimand people in the audience from the pulpit. Many of her testimonies use harsh and derogatory language, such as calling various people "worthless".47 At one point she called her son Edson's life "worse than useless".48 It appears her cutting testimonies caused needless pain and grief.
Test #6 - Pass or Fail?
In reading these accounts, particularly the disturbing case of Edson White, one is faced with the stark realization that Ellen White was not fulfilling the prophet's duty to represent the character of God through "upbuilding and encouragement." While some of Mrs. White's counsels and testimonies could truthfully be described as "encouraging", all too often they were vindictive, discouraging, and destructive.
TEST #7: Must Acknowledge Paul's Writings as Commandments
If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 Cor. 14:37)
Mrs. White said that the writings of Christ's apostles were "dictated by the Holy Ghost."49 Therefore, since Mrs. White regarded Paul as an apostle, she should have followed Paul's commandment regarding how women should conduct themselves in the church:
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak [Greek: laleo - "to utter a voice or emit a sound / to speak / to use the tongue or the faculty of speech / to utter articulate sounds / to talk"]...for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 1 Cor. 14:34,35
Elder Benjamin Warfield explains the meaning of these passages:
The [Greek] word [laleo] is in its right place in 1 Corinthians 14:33ff, therefore, and necessarily bears there its simple and natural meaning. If we needed anything to fix its meaning, however, it would be supplied by its frequent use in the preceding part of the chapter, where it refers not only to speaking with tongues, but also to the prophetic speech, which is directly declared to be to edification and exhortation and comforting (verses 3-6). It would be supplied more pungently, however, by its contrasting term here - "let them be silent" (verse 34). Here we have laleo directly defined for us: "Let the women keep silent, for it is not permitted to them to speak." Keep silent - speak: these are the two opposites; and the one defines the other.
Not only did Mrs. White ignore Paul's command to be silent in church, but she also broke his command about prophesying with her head uncovered:
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 1 Cor. 11:5
Test #7 - Pass or Fail?
While one may argue over whether Paul's prohibitions apply to the modern age, it cannot be denied that Mrs. White broke these particular commandments. She was often found in the church pulpit, giving sermons, lectures, and teaching the people. In all the descriptions of her prophesying there is never any indication that she ever bothered to cover her head. Therefore, since it is obvious that Mrs. White disregarded these commandments of Paul's in her life, we can only conclude that Mrs. White failed this test of a prophet.
SDA Tests of a Prophet
Seventh-day Adventists have developed their own unique set of "tests" that they use to prove to others that Mrs. White passed their "tests" of a prophet. When examined, it can be shown that these are not meaningful tests. Lowering the bar with these "tests," virtually anyone could qualify as a prophet of God!
Questionable test #1: Christ came in the flesh
One text frequently quoted in favor of Ellen White is 2 John 1:7:
"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh."
Virtually every modern Christian prophet teaches that Christ came in the flesh, so passing this "test" is a small hurdle indeed. Joseph Smith, Mary Eddy Baker, and countless other "prophets" pass this test. Even Muhammad taught Christ was a real human being. So this "test," while true, is of minor importance to this dicussion because virtually any modern Christian believer could pass this test.
Questionable test #2: Predictions come to pass
Another "test" that is sometimes used is the test of future predictions. If a prophet makes a prediction about the future, and that prediction comes to pass, then supposedly that is evidence that person is a true prophet. However, this is only valid when combined with Deut. 18:22, which says that a prophet cannot make a false prediction. Just making a true prediction about the future does not make one a prophet. Psychics often give vague prophecies about the future, and on rare occasion they get lucky and the event actually does occur as predicted. If a psychic gets lucky on a prediction does that mean he is a prophet?
Consider the case of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. He made these prophecies in 1832, nearly 30 years before the start of the U.S. Civil War:
"1. Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;
These prophecies were fulfilled with stunning accuracy. A Civil War between the northern and southern states did start in the state of South Carolina. Does this prove Joseph Smith to be a prophet? Not unless he also was accurate in all of the other predictions he made. A prophet must be completely accurate according to the Biblical rule.
Questionable test #3: Inspirational writings
Sometimes Adventists point to books such as Desire of Ages and Steps to Christ as evidence of Mrs. White's prophetic calling. Even if Ellen White never plagiarized a single word from other authors, and even if Ellen White did not have a staff of talented writers that assisted her, the fact that she produced an inspiring book would never qualify her to be a prophet. If writing an inspiring book proved a person to be a prophet, then we would have untold thousands of prophets, because thousands of inspiring books have been written by Christian authors.
Some point to the fact that Mrs. White suffered a severe head injury when she was in the 3rd grade which forced her to drop out of school. They point to her later writings and proclaim: "How could someone with only a 3rd-grade education write such wonderful books?" Those asking this question are implying that Mrs. White must have received supernatural assistance in writing her books. The truth is Mrs. White had more than a third grade education.
Followers of the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, point to the writings of that illiterate man as evidence of his divine inspiration. They say, "How could an illiterate man write such wonderful works, such as the Quran, without divine assistance?" The truth is that Muhammad had secretaries who assisted him in writing. Likewise, Mrs. White almost always had assistance with her writing. In the beginning it was James White. Later, as their financial situation improved, she hired a professional staff to assist her in writing her books, articles, and even her personal letters. She hired Marian Davis who was a professional writer to assist her with her books. Her secretary Fannie Bolton was also involved in writing for Mrs. White for many years.
As discussed above, Mrs. White copied substantial material from some of the top Christian authors of her time. Whether or not Mrs. White had supernatural assistance in writing her books is impossible to know. However, it is clearly evident that she had plenty of human assistance.
Do her inspirational writings provide evidence of supernatural assistance? What if you were given permission to copy any material you wanted from the top Christian authors in the world and put it into a book? And what if you had a staff of competent editors and writers to assist you in this effort? Do you think you could put together an inspiring book? Of course you could! In this regard, Mrs. White's inspiring books do not prove her to be any more of a prophet than you are!
Questionable test #4: Supernatural feats
Some Adventists point to supposed supernatural events that were reported to have occurred in some of Mrs. White's earlier visions as evidence she was a prophet. For example, there are reports of her not breathing during vision or holding up heavy objects with supernatural strength. Advocates of Ellen White claim that these phenomena are similar to those experienced by the prophet Daniel. Whether or not Mrs. White exhibited the same characteristics as Daniel is a matter of great debate, but General Conference President A.G. Daniells cuts right to the heart of the matter:
"Now with reference to the evidences: I differ with some of the brethren who have put together proofs or evidences of the genuineness of this gift, in this respect, - I believe that the strongest proof is found in the fruits of this gift to the church, not in physical and outward demonstrations. For instance, I have heard some ministers preach, and have seen it in writing, that Sister White once carried a heavy Bible - I believe they said it weighed 40 pounds - on her out-stretched hand, and looking up toward the heavens quoted texts and turned the leaves over and pointed to the texts, with her eyes toward the heavens. I do not know whether that was ever done or not. I am not sure. I did not see it, and I do not know that I ever talked with anybody that did see it. But, brethren, I do not count that sort of thing as a very great proof. I do not think that is the best kind of evidence. If I were a stranger in an audience, and heard a preacher enlarging on that, I would have my doubts. That is, I would want to know if he saw it. He would have to say, No, he never did. Then I would ask, 'Did you ever see the man that did see it?' And he would have to answer, 'No, I never did.'
None of us were present at the visions, so we do not know for sure what happened. However, that is not relevant. With so many magicians and trick artists in the world it would not make any sense to have a "test" based upon a display of "supernatural" powers. Biblical prophets were not judged upon whether they exhibited supernatural feats, but upon their prophetic word and their character.
Questionable test #5: Was years ahead of science
Another claim put forward is that Mrs. White's understanding on health was years ahead of science. Contrary to popular myth, Mrs. White brought few, if any, new health reforms to the world. Other popular health reformers were promoting most, if not all of her teachings on health, before she began teaching them.
Mary Eddy Baker, Joseph Smith, and the prophet Muhammad all proposed health reforms to their followers. Today their followers all claim that these health reforms are now being validated by science and that this is evidence of divine guidance. The truth is that initiating a health reform is no proof of prophethood. Thousands of health reforms have been instigated by various people over the centuries of human history. Are these health reformers thus prophets because they started a successful health reform? Of course not!
Questionable test #6: Maintains unity in the Church
One claim put forward by some Adventists is that the writings of Mrs. White help to keep the church unified by resolving theological differences over Bible passages, helping to maintain the "unity of the brethren." This may work for Bible passages where Mrs. White made clear, non-contradictory statements. However, this elevates the role of Ellen White to chief interpreter of the Bible, a role not too far different from that of the Pope.
In reality, the writings of Ellen White stifle investigation into the true meaning of Scriptures because a "good Adventist" cannot study a Scripture and come to a conclusion that differs from the accepted "Ellen White" position.
While some measure of unity on Biblical interpretation is attained by strictly adhering to the dictates of Ellen White, this does not necessarily translate into unity within the church. Over the years, many people have testified about the lack of unity within the SDA Church. It is very likely that a large part of the disunity seething within the SDA Church is directly related to Ellen White.
Some members question Ellen White's role and authority in the church. These members may not follow all of Sister White's dictates or agree with all her interpretations, and thus they find themselves locked in mortal combat with devotees to Ellen White who believe she was God's mouthpiece for the sect.
The young Ellen forbid seeing doctors. The older Ellen visited doctors herself. The young Ellen wrote long and prolifically against solitary vice as if it was a matter of great import. The older Ellen wrote not a single word about it the last 40 years of her life. The young Ellen stressed the law. The older Ellen stressed grace. Many more could be mentioned. Add to that the fact she wrote over 100,000 pages--about 100 times more writings than is found in the Bible--and there are plenty of contradictions to be found on almost any subject by anyone who takes the time to look.
These contradictory and confusing statements are a continual source of irritation between various factions within the church. There are controversies raging over the nature of Christ, last day events, dress and entertainment, sports, diet, the Investigative Judgment, jewelry, marital excess, education, and countless other issues. If anything, the disunity in the SDA Church is magnified by the presence of such a large body of "authoritative writings" that contain so many seemingly irreconcilable contradictions.
Sooner or later, every child grows up and realizes that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are myths. It is not our fault we believed those silly stories. We were told by the ones we trusted to believe in them. As a child, whenever I lost a tooth, I put the tooth under my pillow and went to sleep believing the Tooth Fairy would take my tooth away and deposit a coin in its place. And sure enough, every time I woke up in the morning I would find a bright shiny quarter.
One day, however, the tooth fairy stopped coming. Why? I had grown up. My knowledge increased. I was no longer so gullible to believe in such silly stories.
When you started reading this page, you may have been a believer in Ellen White. You believed what you were told by those whom you trusted. You believed something because you had only been told half the story--the half that made it appear she was a prophet. Now you know the full story. You have grown up. The time has come to walk away from the fairy tales of childhood. They served you well, for a time, but when the truth comes, the fairy tales lose their luster. You are no longer satisfied with fairy tales. You want the truth.
You may be upset. You may be disappointed. You may be asking yourself, "How could I be so gullible to believe such stories?" Remember, it is not your fault. You were doing the best you could do based upon the incomplete information you were given. You cannot change the past. But you can change the future. You can share with others the truth you have learned on this page. You can continue studying to find out how many more of your beliefs are based upon myths. Jesus promised,
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)
5. Ellen White, Present Truth, Sept. 1849.
6. Donald A. Hustlar, "'God's Scourge': The Cholera Years in Ohio," Ohio History Journal, Vol. 105/Summer-Autumn 1996, p. 181, https://resources.ohiohistory.org/ohj/browse/displaypages.php?display=0105&display=174&display=191.
8. "1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus)," https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html.
9. Ellen White, Early Writings, pp. 64-67.
10. Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 131.
11. Testimony #8, p. 94, in Spiritual Gifts III-IV.
12. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/07/populations-around-world-changed-over-the-years, chart #2.
13. Ellen White, Spalding & Magan Collection, p. 21 and 2 MR #153, p. 300.
14. Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 276.
15. Charles Lee, Three Important Questions for Seventh-Day Adventists to Consider.
16. Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 59.
17. Ellen White, Manuscript 30, 1903.
18. DF 105, Otis Nichols to William Miller, April 20, 1846.
19. Miles Grant, An Examination of Mrs. Ellen White's Visions (Boston: Advent Christian Publication Society, 1877).
20. Ellen White, A Word to the Little Flock (1847), p. 14.
21. Ellen White, Present Truth, August, 1849.
22. Ellen White, Manuscript Releases vol. 5, p. 97.
23. Ellen White, Present Truth, August 1, 1849; "To Those who are Receiving the Seal of the Living God," January 31, 1849; Letter 10, 1850, (2SM 263).
24. Ellen White, Great Controversy, p. 605.
25. Isaac Wellcome, History of the Second Advent Message, p. 407.
26. Mrs. Truesdail Letter, Jan 27, 1891.
27. Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts (1858), vol. 1, p. 27. Also appears in Spirit of Prophecy (1870), vol. 1, p. 48.
28. Walter T. Rea, "How the Seventh-day Adventist 'Spirit of Prophecy' was Born", p. 1.
29. Fred Veltman, Ministry, Dec. 1990, p. 11,14.
30. Jonathan Butler, "A Portrait," Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet (NY: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 18.
31. Rea, "How the SDA 'Spirit of Prophecy' was Born."
32. Walter T. Rea, "The Paraphrasing Prophet," 2005.
33. Ellen White, Life Sketches, (1915), p. 125. This "vision" did not appear in earlier versions of Life Sketches.
34. Ellen White Letter 194, 1897, and Letter 243, 1899.
35. Ronald Numbers, "Science and Medicine," Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet (NY: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 204.
36. Grant, An Examination.
37. Ellen White, Letter 1, 1880 to D.M. Canright.
38. Ellen White, Kress Collection, p. 33.
39. Ellen White, Manuscript Release #760, p. 4.
40. Ellen White, Letter 2, 1881.
41. Ellen White, Present Truth, Aug. 1, 1849.
42. Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 233.
43. Ellen White, Manuscript 11, 1850.
44. Ellen White, Letter 133, 1893.
45. Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, p. 87.
46. Ellen White, Manuscript 62, 1886.
47. For example, see 2T 351, 2T 529, 3T 141, 4T 429, TM 441, MS2 1875.
48. Ellen White, Letter 14, 1869.
49. Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 176.
50. Benjamin B. Warfield, "Paul on Women Speaking in Church", The Presbyterian, October 30, 1919.
51. 1919 Conference on the Spirit of Prophecy.
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