How the Seventh-day Adventist 'Spirit of Prophecy' was Born

Walter T. Rea

During the mid seventies, I along with many others, was doing work concerning the writings of Ellen G. White, the Seventh-day Adventist prophet. What we were all finding was disturbing, to say the least. It was not that others before us had not known about the copy work from other authors, that was done in the writings of the materials under Ellen's name. It was not even the amount. If we who were doing the research have made any contribution to Adventist thinking and scholarship, it was the extent of copy work that was not known before by the members of the Church as a whole, which we all uncovered. That amount was so overwhelming that it prompted the 1980 Glendale Committee called to review the evidence to state that



Because others within the Church had from the earliest beginnings of Adventism discovered that Mrs. White had plagiarized and had said so, the fact of her doing so was never seriously challenged by the Church authorities.

How much was plagiarized?

The defense for her actions that was used up until our time was that the amount was the important issue and that that amount varied from 8% to 10%, depending upon which apologist one read or wanted to believe. It was not until the Church hired Dr. Fred Veltman to study the book Desire of Ages that the figure was raised to 30% or more depending upon the chapters chosen in the book one was using. After great expense and almost eight years, Veltman confirmed what other studies showed, that depending upon the material used from Ellen White’s writing, the copy work could be as much as 90%. In fact, Dr. Don McAdams, an Adventist scholar, had stated in the 1980 Glendale meeting that "If every paragraph in the book Great Controversy, written by Ellen White, was properly footnoted, then every paragraph would have to be footnoted." That statement has never been seriously challenged by any member of the Church.

It is clear to any reasonable scholar that the Church has not dealt with the real issues that the many studies have raised, nor have they followed through with their first commitment that they would keep in touch with me and inform the Church as a whole what the real issues are. Instead, they have continued to cloud the issues of copying and plagiarizing with other less important issues, such as what is the proper interpretation of inspiration? The interpretation or even the thought of inspiration is a word and concept that theologians have argued and debated and even killed each other over for almost two thousand years. Administrators or scholars of the Adventist Church still have not answered their own hired scholar, Dr. Fred Veltman, when after finishing his study, he asked, why did Ellen G. White deny that she ever copied? Another false issue that is often raised is that she only did what all the Bible writers did. To raise this reasoning is hardly worth refuting, in as much as Adventists have always made it clear to the general public, if not the membership at large that they did not consider Ellen White equal to, or similar to the Bible writers and their works.

The real issue, of course, is one that the Church will not or date not debate or discuss in public debate with me or any scholar who has studied her writings. But that real issue is greatly discussed and debated by scholars of the Church and honest thinkers and lay members who want to know the truth concerning the Church and its writings and its ‘Spirit of Prophecy.’ The real issue is, of course, how much was the copy work in all of her writings of human function and origin and how much of it, if any, was of divine origin or a supernatural gift from God? How reliable is the information contained in the books under Ellen White's name? A related issue, depending upon how one answers the first issue, is what kind of a God does the Seventh-day Adventist Church worship? Is it one who is above deceit and lying and one who does not need the words of others to deliver ideas and thoughts in the mouth or mind of another who has been copied, or is He a God who would play tricks and clever games on His creation?

"I was shown..." statements copied from other authors

This study, which I call HOW THE THOUGHTS AND SUPPOSITIONS OF OTHERS WRITERS BECAME GOD’S ABSOLUTES THROUGH ELLEN G. WHITE, will show that each time Ellen White said ‘I was shown’ to give the impression that God was speaking through her, she was in reality copying other people's thoughts and impressions, often word for word, without giving credit to her human sources. The study will also show that as she copied, starting at the very beginning of her writings to the very end, that even in her most serious, and some think ‘sacred’ ‘testimonies’, she was turning the suppositions and fantasies of those writers she was copying into her absolutes from God, as if she was getting her ‘insights’ and ‘inspiration’ from a higher source.

No reasonable person after checking the references given and the copy work presented could seriously argue in public or private that ‘God’ had anything to do with such deception. If any other group or denomination on earth presented such information and writings and they were exposed as the study shows, Seventh—day Adventists would be the first to condemn the material as false and seriously flawed as far as having anything to do with a reasonable God. Indeed, they have done just that in the book The Great Controversy, supposedly communicated by God to the world through Ellen White. The book attacks almost every religious system in the civilized world but yet makes it clear that God only approves of those Adventists who believe, live and practice what Ellen White, their prophet, has said God told them to believe. If Adventist would confess that they have been in error in their assessment of Mrs. White and her writings, they could then go on to a more sensible approach by using what she wrote as instruction for her time, by men and woman of their time, reaching as they and all of us are, for a better understanding of God and how he instructs men and woman of our time. This is what I hope this study will accomplish for those that read it without anger or prejudice.

As a former minister of the Seventh—day Adventist Church who was relieved of my Church credentials because I allowed the Church and public to know of my findings, what I discovered does not shake my faith in God or His plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. In fact, it was my desire to move Adventism away from many of its fanatical views given through the ‘insights’ of Ellen White. Recognizing the Adventist mind set, there will be those that will call down Heaven's wrath upon me and this study, as has always been the case when some one past or present attempts to change men’s thinking in any age about anything. Perhaps it would be well to quote from a well-known author, M. Scott Peck and his book The Road Less Traveled-. pg.46.

What happens when one has striven long and hard to develop a working view of the world, a seemingly useful, workable map, and then is confronted with new information suggesting that that view is wrong and the map needs to be largely redrawn? The painful effort required seems frightening, almost overwhelming. What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is ignore the new information. Often this act of ignoring is much more than passive. We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it, and even attempt to manipulate the world so as to make it conform to our view of reality. Rather than try to change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality. Sadly, such a person, may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.

What he is suggesting is that it takes more honesty and courage to change than to continue to believe a White lie.

It is very fair to ask the question: Did Ellen G. White, the Seventh-day Adventist prophet, receive her instructions, insights, information and wisdom from human sources or from divine revelation and inspiration as is claimed?

In order to be as objective as possible it is only fair and proper to present what Ellen White herself said in public and in her writings as to her source of material. There are many such statements but only a few are necessary in as much as none of the statements, from the beginning to the end of her life ever changed from the thought that God was behind it all. Hundreds of ‘I was shown’ were used in her early writings, and no doubt was ever left as to who showed her what. It was always an angel of God or of the Spirit of God and not man. Note the following:

“God was speaking through clay. You might say that this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God, to bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. 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…”
(letter to Dr. Paulson; St. Helena, California, June 14, 1906, Selected Messages pp 24—37)

“You have thereby insulted the Spirit of God. You know how the Lord has manifested himself through the Spirit of prophecy. Past, present, and future have passed before me. . . if you seek to turn aside the counsel of God to suit yourselves, if you lessen the confidence of God’s people in the testimonies he has sent them, you are rebelling against God as certainly as were Korah, Dathan and Abiram. . . God was speaking through clay. You might say that this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter but prompted by the Spirit of God. To bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. 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 . . .”
(The Testimonies Slighted; Healdsburg, California June 20, 1882, Testimony for the Church vol. 5: pp 62—70)

And yet, in spite of these absolute, unequivocal statements, what followed in the next paragraph and for several after, was word for word, thought for thought, sentence for sentence, copy work from another author. Without giving any credit to any human source, leaving the impression to anyone reading that it all came by ‘what God has opened before in vision’ or ‘things that had been shown me.’ or ‘prompted by the Spirit of God.’ (read the White Lie by Walter Rea for these comparisons) Certainly this is a different concept of ‘vision or the Spirit of God’ than the Church has been taught in the past.

Night Scenes in the Bible, Daniel Marsh 1868—1870 Testimony for the Church, vol. 5; p. 68, Ellen White. June 20, 1882

We must not defer our obedience till every shadow of uncertainty and every possibility of mistake is removed. The doubt that demands perfect knowledge will never yield to faith, for faith rests upon probability, not demonstration . . .we must obey the voice of duty when there are many other voices crying against it, and it requires earnest heed to distinguish the one which speaks for God. We must cherish the impulse of conscience in the moment when it urges us to action, lest it cease from its promptings and we be left to the blind guidance of appetite and passion.

If you refuse to believe until every shadow of uncertainty and every possibility of doubt is removed you will never believe. The doubt that demands perfect knowledge will never yield to faith. Faith rests upon evidence, not demonstration. The Lord requires us to obey the voice of duty, when there are other voices all around us urging us to pursue an opposite course. It requires earnest attention from us to distinguish the voice which speaks for God. We must resist and conquer inclination, and obey the voice of conscience without parleying or com­promise, lest its prompting cease and will and impulse control.

Testimony for the Church, vol. 3; p. 258, 1872—5 Letter to Dr. Paulson, June 14, 1906 Selected Messages vol. 1, pp 27—28

I was shown that God has laid upon on my husband and me a special work. . . and many will defer their obedience to the warning and reproofs given, waiting till every shadow of uncertainty is removed from their minds. The unbelief that demands perfect knowledge will never yield to the evidence that God is pleased to give. He requires of His people faith that rests upon the weight of evidence, not upon perfect knowledge. Those followers of Christ who accept the light that God sends them must obey the voice of God speaking to them when there are many other voices crying out against it. It requires discernment to distinguish the voice of God.

If you refuse to believe until every shadow of uncertainty and every possibility of doubt is removed, you will never believe. The doubt that demands perfect knowledge will never yield to faith. faith rests upon evidence, not demonstration. The Lord requires us to obey the voice of duty, when there are other voices all around us urging us to pursue an opposite course. It requires earnest attention from us to distinguish the voice which speaks from God. We must resist and conquer inclination, and obey the voice of conscience without parleying or compromise, lest its promptings cease and will and impulse control.

In all of these cases, Ellen White is promoting her authority as the voice of God, her instructions as first from God. Yet, in spite of the fact that she is using the words, thoughts, and sentence structure of another, we are suppose to believe that God is speaking what she is saying. He is not.

"Visions" originated with others

The conviction or assumption that God was showing Ellen White all that she said she saw from whatever source she gleaned the information, started very early with Ellen. In a book written by Delbert W. Baker, a black Adventist minister, entitled The Unknown Prophet, Baker produces some interesting information. Foy, who is Baker’s unknown prophet, had his ‘vision’ from 1842—1845. On page 123 Baker states that Mrs. White in 1912 said

“He had all these before I had them. They were written out and published. She indicates that at one time she possessed a copy of them.”

In Dec. 1844, at the age of 17, Ellen had her first vision, which was full of ‘I saw’, or ‘I was shown, or ‘the angel said,’ it was a duplication of Foy’s ‘vision’ and on pages 95 and others of Baker’s book, a list of the similarities are given. The garments, countenance, eyes, legs, feet, crown, arm, hand, voice and some of the scenes are identical, often with Ellen using the same words. Only a few examples need be given of the many to make the point that Ellen’s ‘vision’ was not given by God to Ellen, but was taken from Foy. Wherever he claimed he got it, it is possible that she believed God gave it to her, but others did not always believe as she did.

Christian Experience of W. E. Foy Christian Experience of E.G.W. 1846
“I then see countless millions of shining ones coming with cards held in their hands. These shining ones became our guides. The cards, they bore shone above the brightness of the sun; and they placed them in our hands but the names of them I could not read.

“There were countless millions of bright angels, whose wings were like pure gold, and they sang with loud voices, while their wings cried, holy.

“Behind the angel I beheld countless millions of bright chariots...each chariot had four wings like flaming fire and an angel followed after the chariot, and the wings of the chariot, and the wings of the angel cried as one voice saying, ‘holy.’

The Unknown Prophet, pp 10-11, 18

"All the angels that are commissioned to visit the earth hold a golden card, which they present to the angels at the gates of the city as they pass in and out." Early Writings, p. 39

"On either side of the chariot were wings and beneath it wheels. As the chariot rolled upward, the wheels cried 'holy' and the wings as they moved, cried 'holy'.

"And as the chariot rolled upward the wheels cried, ‘holy’ and the wings as they moved, cried, ‘holy’ and the retinue of holy angels, around the cloud cried, ’holy’ ‘holy’ Lord God Almighty"

Early Writings p. 35; Spiritual Gifts vol. 1, p. 208

In spite of Delbert Baker’s provocative title and his presuppositions about God and the ‘visions’ that William Foy was supposed to have had, there is no evidence given in his book that Foy was a prophet, let alone an unknown one. Nothing that he said he saw or what was later copied by Ellen White has proven to be true or a prophecy. It cannot even be said that the ‘people of God’ of the ‘visions’ had anything to do with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as Ellen White would have people believe, in as much as there was no Seventh-day Adventist church at that time, and none of the rest of the events listed can be examined or proved.

Perhaps one of the greatest shocks to the Adventist myth of Ellen’s ‘divine visions’ came with the publication by Harper's Row of Ronald Numbers book Prophetess of Health in 1976. In the book, Numbers documents dozens of parallels where Ellen White is paraphrasing or even using the same words, thoughts and language of others and insisting that what she was seeing was coming directly from God. But Numbers had only scratched the surface as the following references will show Ellen was copying not just from the doctors of her time, but from many, many others in every field of thought she wrote about, always making sure that the ‘vision’ or ‘scene’ sounded as if she herself was there to ‘see’ or ‘hear’ what was actually taking place.

Even the "Testimonies" were copied from other writers

Beginning with the first volume of the Testimonies to the Church, covering the period from 1855-1868, to the last volume nine, Ellen used whatever writers she wished to agree with and claimed it all came from God, but always to her first, never giving credit to any other source. Listed below are hundreds of references in her writings where she has taken and used the thoughts, words, and even the suppositions of other uninspired writers and made them inspired by insisting that what she was seeing and saying was coming directly from God. Time and space will not allow side by side comparisons as has been done in the book The White Lie, but anyone wishing to do so can do so if they are able to obtain the books listed, many of which were listed by the E.G. White Estate as being in Ellen’s own library while she was working with her helpers on her writings for the Church. The names of the authors that Ellen used are listed and where the statements that she copied can be found.

  Ellen G. White Authors copied by Ellen White

Testimonies for the Church vol. 1:

p. 371: I was shown pp. 494-5
Marsh p. 90: Our Fathers House
Wiley . pp . 29—33
U. Smith, Prophetess of Health p. 112

vol. 2:


What the Lord has shown me. pp 60—67, 96 Look to Jesus p. 123
I have been shown, p. 347
p. 362, On Health
The Lord has given me a view of some of the corruption pp 391,403
409, 486
Cole, Philosophy of Health p.60-
Marsh, home life, pp. 210,607
Cole, pp. 266,267
Miller, the cause of exhausted vitality pg. 114
Cole, pg. 538
Miller pp. 39, 43, 110, 114, 350
vol. 3:
In the view given me pp. 68—72
pp. 138—142
I was shown that God had laid upon . . . me
pp. 258—259
pp. 273—274, Elijah
pp. 333—4
pp. 368—370
pp. 487,562—5
Cole, The Health Reformer 9—144
Horace Mann, Cole, How to Live, pg. 135
Marsh, Night Scenes pp. 68-70
Marsh, Night Scenes pp. 200,334,339
pp. 49—50 Mirror of the Soul, 1835
Marsh, Night Scenes, pp. 58-62
Cole, pp 79, 104

vol. 4:


p. 60 Biographies
pp 144-148 Obedience
pp.280—2, Spirit of the Lord
p. 374
p. 409
p. 444
p. 480
p. 543
p. 594
Melville, Sermons by Melville ii 3-5
Cole p. 127
Marsh, Night Scenes pp 47—9,203, 60—62, 242, 98, 45—60
Gardener, Ministry of Healing, 1892
Marsh, Walks, pp. 313—4
Melville, pg 95
Marsh, Night Scenes, 98,99, 101
Harris, pp 150—60
Marsh, our fathers house pp 190-1
Melville, last prophecy

vol. 5:

1882— 1889

pp. 68—70 I was told
pp. 118—121
p. 133
pp. 154—156
pp. 204—206
pp. 266—268, 270
p. 314
p. 467
pp. 512—516
p. 686
p. 704
p. 707
pp. 735—736
p. 737
Marsh, Night Scenes, pp. 201—204
Melville, pp. 163—168
Marsh, Night Scenes p 263
Harris, pp. 150—156
Harris, pp. 19,30,45, 48.
Harris, pp. 9,98
Miller, p. 27
Marsh, Walks, p. 133
Marsh, Night Scenes, p. 352 Secrets pp. 68—69
Melville, p. 190
Harris, p. 9
Melville, p. 369
Melville, p. 68, 83
Harris, pp 113—117

vol. 6:


pp. 58—60 He said
p. 91
pp. 185— 186
p. 340
pp. 349—5 1
pp. 363—4
Harris, pp. 17, 20 xiv
Harris, The Great Teacher, pp. 151—160
Melville, Sermons vol; 2, p. 42
Marsh, Our Fathers House, p. 104
Andrews, J. N., History of the Sabbath, 22-pp. 105—108
Harris, pp. 105-108

vol. 7:


p. 16 The Church
p. 148
p. 159
p. 276
Harris, p. 160
Harris, p. 71
Harris, p. 125
Harris, p. 318

vol. 8:


p. 15
p. 21
pp 177-8
p. 201
pp 259-60
pp 309—310
Harris, p. 32
Harris, p. 27
Harris, pp. 107—8
Harris, p. 112
Melville. pp. 42—45
Andrews, J.N., History of the Sabbath
Harris, pp. 51, 278, 294

vol. 9:


pp. 50-51
p. 97
p. 256
Melville, pp. 192—199—200
Harris, p. 64
Marsh, p. 16,134

In this study we have shown examples of how all through the years of writing for the Testimonies for the Church from vol. 1 through 9, from the years 1855 to 1909, Ellen White was using the thoughts, words and structure of other writers for her ‘I was shown’. From the beginning with the ‘vision’ of William Foy to the end of her life she used the ‘inspiration’ of others to promote Adventism and her concept of its life style that was necessary’ to please her God.

Ellen White

Copied from…

Saul of Tarsus, ... bore a leading part in the discussions which here took place. .this is evident from the fact that he was appointed to an important ecclesiastical and political office immediately afterwards.

E. G. White. pp. 38—72

Saul was also present, and took a leading part against Stephen . . . after the death of Stephen, he was elected a member of the Sanhedrim council, in consideration of the part he had acted on that occasion. Conybeare & Howson pp 9-20

An overruling providence permitted the apostle to be delayed.

E.G.W. 194—206

It was doubtless overruled for good that it should be so,

C. & H. 585—619

Thrilling were the memories that they recalled of the days when the light which shone upon the face of Stephen upturned to heaven as he suffered martyrdom.

E.G.W. p. 204

There must have flourished up in their minds many a touching reminiscence of the days when the light of heaven, which had once shone on the face of Stephen upturned to heaven in the agony of martyrdom.

Farrar, pp. 519-20

The memory of that scene, and of his own efforts, to secure the condemnation of the servant of Christ, came vividly before his mind.

E.G.W. pp. 214—234

That moment could hardly be forgotten by him, but he looked steadily at his inquisitors.

Conybeare & Howson pp. 621—652

These words were not an outburst of passion. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit Paul uttered a prophetic denunciation similar to that which Christ had uttered in rebuking the hypocrisy of the Jews. The judgment pronounced by the apostle was terribly fulfilled when the iniquitous and hypocritical high priest was murdered by assassins in the Jewish war. But the bystanders regarded the words of Paul as profane, and exclaimed with horror...

Ellen G. White. pp. 214—234

If we consider these words as an out­burst of natural indignation, we cannot severely blame them... If we regard them as a prophetic denunciation they were terribly fulfilled when this hypocritical president of the Sanhedrin was murdered by the assassins in the Jewish war.

Conybeare & Howson pp. 621—652

Here Julius, the centurion who had listened to the apostle’s address before Agrippa.

Ellen G. White pp. 262—271

And Julius who can hardly have been absent from the brilliant throng who had listened to Paul’s address before Agrippa.

Farrar pp. 562—573


Thus over and over again, hundreds of times in all her writings she took the speculations, assumptions, and even the fantasies of other writers she was copying and made them absolutes, and in some cases, by her own testimony, the words of the holy Spirit. It seems a deliberate attempt to use the works and words and ideas of others to make those that read her believe that Ellen was carried back in time and was able to read the mind and thoughts and intents of each situation and then interpret for God the times and events of those events she was describing. She does not, as some have tried to argue, follow the thoughts of scripture narrative, but is totally projecting the speculations of others as the thoughts of God.

There are hundreds of other pages that could be given, each with its copy work from other authors, never giving credit to anyone but God and I was shown. An interesting aside can be found in vol. 2 of the Testimonies, p. 116, where Ellen said of her thoughts from a ‘vision’ ‘I was deeply impressed’. And again in the same volume p. 565, ‘Yesterday I had some time for reflection and now have a few thoughts that I wish to present to you.’ Had words such as these been given in the place of I was shown, Ellen White would not have reached the statue of infallibility that her writings did, nor would she have been canonized as we have done! Every sincere priest, every honest prophet, every devout pastor, when they have spoken or written, have believed homiletically, they were delivering God’s message, through them by all their 'I was shown' no matter how or where they got their ‘inspiration.’ Most congregations recognize that a person was speaking in the name of God, not God speaking in the name of a person. What a difference it could have made in Adventism, if we had accepted the same wisdom.

A careful or even casual observation of history will convince any honest researcher that it is made up of the records of people, nations, tribes, or families that have ‘borrowed’ or ‘stole’ without returning or giving credit, someone else's, ideas, words, possessions or goods and land, and then they have claimed throughout all future time that they didn’t do it and have died defending their lies. But only a few have been able to survive, some with great respect and following, by claiming that God either helped them do what they did or at least told them how and where to do it. And why is this done in humanity? The reason is also very clear. We want to possess or control those around us and what better way to do this than to make God our partner and ally. Thus, we have the history of politics and religion since the beginning of time.

Category: Plagiarism
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