Section 12

Spiritual Gifts


Seventh-day Adventists believe that God designed to bestow "spiritual gifts" on the church for its edification in the last days. The "gift of prophecy" has been claimed for the ministry of Ellen G. White. In one sense, then, the Adventist movement is a "charismatic" movement, although only one Seventh-day Adventist has ever been acknowledged to possess "the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10).

Anyone examining the Christian ministry of Mrs. White will recognize that it was truly a phenomenon. She was one of the most remarkable women in the nineteenth century. She led in many practical reforms and demonstrated their value to the Christian community.

Adventists today, however, are in a serious struggle over the relation of Ellen G. White to the Bible. This vital issue has never been settled. Most English-speaking Adventists unquestionably regard Mrs. White as having an inspiration and authority equal with the Bible. In some respects she exercises even greater authority than the Bible. It is often said that her writings are an inspired commentary or interpretation of the Bible. Others think there is danger in giving Mrs. White such power over the Word of God. They are uneasy with the tendency to make Mrs. White's writings a de facto addition to the canon.

Are the writings of Mrs. White inerrant in all matters? Are they to be regarded as an infallible interpretation of the Bible? Or are they to be tested by the Bible?

Generally, an Adventist will tell a non-Adventist that he believes in testing Ellen G. White by the Bible.1 But when he encounters another Adventist, he will probably admonish his brother to accept the teachings of the Bible as interpreted by "the Spirit of Prophecy."

Although the Adventist community has long had this ambivalent attitude toward Mrs. White, current efforts are being made in an apparent attempt to resolve this question. This material is submitted as a contribution to this "revelation-and-inspiration" dialogue. It is not intended as a "balanced" presentation which gives proper emphasis to all aspects of the subject. We simply want to emphasize certain aspects of the question which are sometimes overlooked:

1. The evidence indicates that the attitude of the pioneers toward Ellen G. White was quite different from the attitude generally held today. If the pioneers were still alive, they would reject the way many Adventists now treat her writings.

2. The human element in the ministry of Ellen G. White has been greatly subordinated to the supernatural. As a result, a legend has been created. The best way to undo a good thing is to overdo it. This has happened to Mrs. White, and it has created a dangerous situation. When people who impute to spiritual gifts a wider purpose than the Holy Spirit intended discover that the legend does not correspond with the facts, they may react by rejecting the benefit of spiritual gifts altogether. With mounting pressure to have all the facts, strenuous efforts are now being made to preserve the legend of Ellen G. White. In the long run—and the evidence indicates that we are near the end of the long run—fanatical Ellen G. White apologetics will do more harm to Mrs. White than the efforts of all the critics combined.

The Influence of the Visions in the Formative Period of Seventh-day Adventism 

Careful reading of the literature from the formative period of Seventh-day Adventism will show that Ellen G. White's influence in developing the doctrines of Adventism is sometimes exaggerated. The claims made by M. L. Andreasen, for example, are wildly inaccurate.2

The evidence indicates that each distinctive doctrine was argued, canvassed and taught by the little religious community before Mrs. White ever had a vision on the matter. Careful review of the visions in the formative years of Adventism shows that the distinctive ideas in the visions were not novel but reflected positions already arrived at through the study of the Bible. It would be correct to say that the visions brought some clarification, but their real contribution was confirmation. The visions served to stabilize the group on the views already reached through study of the Scriptures.

James White emphatically supports this observation. He wrote:

It should be here understood that all these views as held by the body of Sabbath-keepers, were brought out from the Scriptures before Mrs. W. had any view in regard to them. These sentiments are founded upon the Scriptures as their only basis.3
Mrs. White made a far greater contribution in preserving the "catholic" (common) faith among Seventh-day Adventists than in forming the distinctive doctrines of Adventism. The early Adventists were so inexperienced in theology and so preoccupied with apocalyptics and "distinctive truths" that they were in real danger of losing "the common faith" (Titus 1:4). Many of the pioneers brought serious theological heresies into the Advent Movement from their past religious background. It it had not been for Mrs. White, Adventism would probably have been anti-Trinitarian and Arian. Although her exposition of the gospel before 1888 was immature and not nearly as clear as her post-1888 writings, she stood, virtually alone for forty years in preaching the gospel within her community.

James White's View of Spiritual Gifts

In one of his first publications, James White wrote regarding his wife's visions:
The bible is a perfect, and complete revelation. It is our only rule of faith and practice. But this is no reason, why God may not show the past, present, and future fulfillment of his word, in these last days, by dreams and visions; according to Peter's testimony. True visions are given to lead us to God, and his written word; but those that are given for a new rule of faith and practice, separate from the bible, cannot be from God, and should be rejected.4
On June 9, 1853, James White wrote a long article on spiritual gifts.5 Although he presented general principles, everyone who read his article knew he was referring to his wife in particular. James White was astonishingly frank. After showing that spiritual gifts have been promised in the Word, he spoke of their danger. He made two main points:

1. Spiritual gifts are dangerous to those receiving them because they may be led to think that all their impressions are the direct promptings of the Spirit. They are in such danger of falling by being exalted that God must afflict them through trial and suffering.

2. Spiritual gifts are a danger to the religious community because they are often misused and tend to engender pride rather than humility.

It may be significant that this article was written during what some have suggested were "the silent years of Ellen G. White."6 Apparently, James White was trying to keep his wife's gifts more in the background. There is also evidence of occasional tension between these two strong-minded leaders of Adventism. James White's article makes us wonder whether he thought there was a danger that his wife and her "gift of prophecy" were "getting out of hand." James White eventually found that his wife was irrepressible. His power and influence in Adventism waned; hers grew. But his article on "Gifts of the Gospel Church" is a classic on the subject. He said:

Whenever the church has become worldly, proud, destitute of the Spirit, and blind, they have not been able to discern the things of the Spirit, and have looked upon the operations of the Holy Spirit with suspicion. And in many cases the cry of "mesmerism" and "fanaticism" has been raised. The most heaven-daring and fatal example of this, was in calling the gracious work of the Spirit in the Midnight Cry, in 1844, mesmerism and fanaticism.

But it is a lamentable fact that a great portion of those who have had any of the gifts of the Spirit of God bestowed upon them, have soon become exalted, and have fallen. Such is the weakness of human nature that God has to bring his people through the furnace of affliction in order to save them. He often withholds his rich blessings from his people, lest they make a wrong use of them and perish. It was necessary that the Apostle Paul should have a "thorn in the flesh," lest "through the abundance of the revelations" he "should be exalted." It has too often been the case that when the Lord has bestowed any great spiritual blessing, or gift upon his children, that the church, instead of carefully watching over them to see that they still kept humble, has heaped upon them compliments and flatteries, which in most cases has exalted and ruined the brightest lights set in the church.

If the Apostle had not had such an abundance of "visions and revelations of the Lord," he would not have needed a "thorn in the flesh." This proves that those on whom Heaven bestows the greatest blessings are in the most danger of being "exalted," and of falling, therefore, they need to be exhorted to be humble, and watched over carefully. But how often have such been looked upon as almost infallible, and they themselves have been too apt to drink in the extremely dangerous idea that all their impressions were the direct promptings of the Spirit of the Lord. And how often has it been the case that such have become self-righteous, puffed up, denunciatory, and finally gross fanatics, and the most efficient agents of the Devil to scatter wild-fire, and to divide the flock of God. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Prov. xvi, 18.

We think it is a fact that many of the greatest fanatics in the land, have once shared largely in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but by not having good instruction, they have fallen through pride. This has had a tendency to cause the skeptical and prudent to doubt all the operations of the Spirit of God. And in this last hour of Satan's triumph, when he calls to his aid mesmerism, mysterious knockings, &c. to deceive the people, if God manifests his power, and employs any of the gifts of the Spirit, we may expect that a multitude of voices will be raised pronouncing it fanaticism, or anything save the work of the Spirit. But shall we sink in this mire of unbelief, and prize lightly the gifts of God's Spirit because some have made a bad use of them? God forbid. Men in their blindness and folly have dishonored every precious truth in the Bible, yet we shall not do well to think less of the Scriptures, or any portion of them, because many have made a bad use of them. Rather let the servants of the Lord preach the whole truth as revealed in the Word.

The gifts of the Spirit should all have their proper places. The Bible is an everlasting rock. It is our rule of faith and practice. In it the man of God is "thoroughly furnished unto all good works." If every member of the church of Christ was holy, harmless, and separate from sinners, and searched the Holy Scriptures diligently and with much prayer for duty, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, we think, they would be able to learn their whole duty in "all good works." Thus "the man of God may be perfect." But as the reverse exists, and ever has existed, God in much mercy has pitied the weakness of his people, and has set the gifts in the gospel church to correct our errors, and to lead us to his Living Word. Paul says that they are for the "perfecting of the saints," "till we all come in the unity of the faith." The extreme necessity of the church in its imperfect state is God's opportunity to manifest the gifts of the Spirit.

Every Christian is therefore in duty bound to take the Bible as a perfect rule of faith and duty. He should pray fervently to be aided by the Holy Spirit in searching for the whole truth, and for his duty. He is not at liberty to turn from them to learn his duty through any of the gifts. We say that the very moment he does, he places the gifts in a wrong place and takes an extremely dangerous position. The Word should be in front, and the eye of the church should be placed upon it, as the rule to walk by, and the fountain of wisdom, from which to learn duty in "all good works." But if a portion of the church err from the truths of the Bible, and become weak and sickly, and the flock become scattered, so that it seems necessary for God to employ the gifts of the Spirit to correct, revive and heal the erring, we should let him work. Yea more, we should pray for him to work, and plead earnestly that he would work by the Spirit's power, and bring the scattered sheep to his fold. Praise the Lord, he will work. Amen.

When the seventy returned, and told Jesus that the devils were subject unto them through his name he said to them, "Rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." See Luke x, 17-20. Jesus saw their danger, and gave them this caution to save them from exaltation. 0, what an instructive lesson is contained in these few words from our Lord. By this we may learn that to possess the gifts of the gospel church is not so much a matter of rejoicing, but rather a cause of humiliation before God, and fear and trembling, lest a wrong use be made of them. But to have our names written in heaven, to know that God owns us as his, is a sufficient cause for any child of God to rejoice.7
The most significant article on spiritual gifts was written by James White on October 16, 1855, under the title, "A Test."8 In this he emphatically declared that Seventh-day Adventist doctrines are drawn from the Bible and not from the visions of Ellen G. White. The Bible must be the only rule of faith and duty. He further declared that belief in visions is not a test of religious faith among Seventh-day Adventists. His entire presentation follows.

There is a class of persons who are determined to have it that the REVIEW and its conductors make the views of Mrs. White a Test of doctrine and christian fellowship. It may be duty to notice these persons on account of the part they are acting, which is calculated to deceive some.

What has the REVIEW to do with Mrs. W.'s views? The sentiments published in its columns are all drawn from the Holy Scriptures. No writer of the REVIEW has ever referred to them as authority on any point. The REVIEW for five years has not published one of them. Its motto has been "The Bible, and the Bible alone, the only rule of faith and duty." Then why should these men charge the REVIEW with being a supporter of Mrs. W.'s views?

Again, How has the Editor of the REVIEW regarded Visions, and the gifts of the Gospel Church for more than eight years past? His uniform statements in print on this subject will satisfactorily [sic] answer this question. The following is from a Tract he published in

"The Bible is a perfect and complete revelation. It is our only rule of faith and practice. But this is no reason why God may not show the past, present, and future fulfillment of his word, in these last days, by dreams and visions, according to Peter's testimony. True visions are given to lead us to God, and to his written word; but those that are given for a new rule of faith and practice, separate from the Bible, cannot be from God, and should be rejected."

Again, four years since, he wrote on the Gifts of the Gospel Church, re-published in the REVIEW for Oct. 3d, 1854, from which is taken the following:

"Every Christian is therefore in duty bound to take the Bible as a perfect rule of faith and duty. He should pray fervently to be aided by the Holy Spirit in searching the Scriptures for the whole truth, and for his whole duty. He is not at liberty to turn from them to learn his duty through any of the gifts. We say that the very moment he does, he places the gifts in a wrong place, and takes an extremely dangerous position."

Now if these paragraphs were not in print, his enemies might accuse him of changing his position; but as one was printed eight years since, and the other four, and re-printed one year since, they are nails driven in right places. Slanderous reports must fall powerless before facts of this character.

Again, in the REVIEW Extra, published March, 1855, is the following statement from the Church that had been personally acquainted with the facts in the case for three years:

This certifies that we have been acquainted with Bro. and Sr. White, and their teachings, and labors in church trials, and have never known them to urge the visions on any one as a portion of religious faith, or make them a test of fellowship.

In behalf of the Church,


The Publishing Committee have also spoken upon this subject, yet these persons will have it that the Visions are made a test. This same story was repeated over and over by the Harbinger, to raise prejudice against the Sabbath. These men have now taken it up, if possible, in a meaner style. They have relieved Eld. Marsh in this department, and some of them far out-strip him in zeal and malice.

But what deserves especial attention here, is the unrighteous use some are making of the Visions. They take the advantage of the common prejudices against Visions, misrepresent them, and those who are not ready to join them in anathematizing them as the work of Satan, then brand any view held by the body of Sabbath-keepers as the "Vision view," and not the Bible view of the subject. In this way an unhallowed prejudice can be excited in the minds of some against any view, and even all the views held by that body of Christians called Advent Sabbath-keepers. This course has been, and is being pursued on the subjects of the Two-horned beast, Sanctuary, Time to commence the Sabbath and period of the establishment of the kingdom of God on the earth. It should be here understood that all these views as held by the body of Sabbath-keepers, were brought out from the Scriptures before Mrs. W. had any view in regard to them. These sentiments are founded upon the Scriptures as their only basis.

E. R. Pinney held as early as 1844, that the Kingdom of God would not be established on the earth till the close of the seventh millennium. The Editor of the REVIEW has taught the same since 1845, five years before Mrs. W. had a view of this subject—that the saints would go to heaven at Christ's second advent, [John vii, 33; xiii, 33, 36; xiv, 1-3, 28; 1 Pet. i, 3-8; Rev. v, 10,1 that the 1000 years' reign of the saints in judgment [Rev. xx, 4; Matt. xix, 28] would be in the "Father's house" above—New Jerusalem—which Jesus has gone to prepare for his followers, while the earth remained desolate, [Jer. iv, 19-26; xxv, 15-33; Isa. xxviii, 21, 22; Zeph. i, 2-18; iii, 6-8; Isa. xiii, 9-11; xxiv, 1-6; 2 Thess. i, 7-9; ii, 8-12,] and that at the end of the 1000 years, Jesus would return to the earth with his SAINTS, [Zech. xiv, 5; Jude 14, 15,] to execute judgment upon ALL, from Cain to the latest ungodly sinner, which cannot be until the second resurrection, when all ungodly sinners will be raised.

Now, Mrs. W.'s view of this subject was not till 1850, yet the view of this subject held by the body of Sabbath-keepers before and since 1850 is now branded as the "Vision view," and those who hold it are represented as forsaking the Bible and taking another rule of faith. A brother writing from the West to a brother in N. Y., on this subject, says: "God will as certainly reject James White if he rejects his word as he has rejected Himes and Marsh." Now it has come to this, that in order to be sure to avoid the charges of infidelity and heresy from these men, it is necessary to renounce every point of religious faith with which Mrs. W.'s views are in harmony. Every friend of truth and right should protest against so unrighteous a course. Brethren, be on your guard against this crafty mode of action to divide the Church of God. Let the Visions stand upon their own merits. It is our duty to teach, and to hold up the hands of those who teach the word of God; also to mark those who cause divisions.

But these men are not willing to leave the Visions on their own merits, and let people alone who believe them, who take the Bible as their only rule of faith and duty. No, some among them pursue them with deception, and slander. The publishing and preaching of such is an issue of bitterness against the Visions, and those who will not join them in their work of death. They make the Visions a test. Their principal theme, even before an ungodly rabble, is opposition to, and ridicule of, the Visions, and their highest ambition and glory is to disaffect persons and divide Churches and families. Of this they boast from place to place, and in their sheet of scandal. All persons may now see who it is that make Mrs. W.'s views a test. While we take the Bible, and the Bible alone as our rule of faith and duty, and are rigidly devoted to teaching the word, these persons, as they go out from us, seem to become at once enraged against the Visions, and imbued with bitterness against their former brethren, (R. Hicks is a good example,) and engage with a rash zeal to divide Churches, and separate the nearest and dearest friends. What is their test in this work?—The Visions!

Now we shall go right along believing and teaching the word of the Lord. This is our business. And if we choose to believe Mrs. W.'s views which harmonize with the Word, this is our business, and nobody 's else. But if we should leave the word, and look for a rule of faith and duty by some new revelation, then it would be the business of the Church to silence me as a religious teacher.

We have exposed some of the false statements of these men, and supposed this was sufficient. We care not a straw for their slanderous falsehoods on our own part; but if those who are prepared to show up their falsehoods, think the cause demands their exposure, let them forward their testimonies to the Office, and we will thoroughly expose them. This may be best.

J. W.9

Uriah Smith's View of Spiritual Gifts

Although Uriah Smith was not one of the original pioneers, he was an early convert to the Sabbatarian Adventists and from the 1850's was long and intimately connected with the work. He also believed in spiritual gifts, and he often defended the ministry of Ellen G. White. But Smith had some reservations about the growing authority of spiritual gifts. He was concerned over the tendency to treat Mrs. White as an absolute and infallible authority like the Bible.

For a time there was real tension between Uriah Smith and the White's. He even left Battle Creek and the Review and Herald and went to work as a wood engraver for six months. 10 There was a reconciliation, but Smith retained his convictions about keeping "the gifts" within proper bounds. He feared the development of a fanatical and dogmatic attitude toward the authority of the "Testimonies." But realizing that sentiment in the church was against him and for the sake of peace, he remained silent.

In summary, Uriah Smith believed in spiritual gifts just as James White did. He believed they should not be exalted to canonical authority but must stand under the judgment of the Word. And he also believed that spiritual gifts must always be exercised in love. He gave more than a hint, from personal experience, that they were not always exercised that way.

Perhaps it should be pointed out that Smith was Arian to the day he died; Mrs. White was not. Smith said that the atonement was not made at the cross; Mrs. White said it was. Smith never changed his mind on the law in Galatians; Mrs. White did. Thus, it could be argued that Uriah Smith did not have enough faith in Mrs. White. After all, on one occasion she severely chastised him in public for not believing the Testimonies. But that is not the real issue here. The issue is Smith's consistent view on the proper place of spiritual gifts. His faith, was grounded on what he believed the Bible taught and not on the visions of Ellen G. White.

Since Uriah Smith kept his private opinions from public exposure, we must depend on some of his private correspondence for information in this area. In the early 1880's he corresponded with D. M. Canright on some of the problems the church was facing. Soon after this, Canright left the church and became its bitter opponent. Smith probably regretted having written these letters. But he was not the only one who corresponded with Canright. James White also corresponded with Canright about the same time, and White was even more startlingly frank than Smith.11 Before his defection, Canright was a prominent leader in the cause. But one of his big problems was Mrs. White. It appears that he was pressed to take an all-or-nothing attitude toward the authority of the Testimonies—and for some time he wavered between "all" and "nothing."12 Finally it was "nothing" with Canright, and he left Adventism.

Meanwhile, on March 22, 1883, Smith wrote to Canright that "it is not of any use to try to defend the erroneous claims that are now put forth for them [the Testimonies]."13 By way of background to Smith's comment, the Marion party had arisen to attack Seventh-day Adventism in general and Mrs. White in particular. They drew attention to "deletions" in her visions republished in Early Writings, and they charged the Whites with "suppression." George Butler had claimed that Early Writings contained a complete reproduction of the original visions. He was embarrassed to find that they were not complete. Even Smith had not known that there were "deletions." In response to the charges made by the Marion party, some felt that everything depended on defending Mrs. White's ministry as if it were as inerrant as the Bible. This is why Smith was critical of erroneous claims made for the Testimonies. He went on to say:

Theoretically, the doctrine of Spiritual Gifts is clear enough, and I think all our people stand together on that. Bro. Littlejohn has preached on the subject here, treating it mostly from a theoretical standpoint. But that does not touch the question at issue among us at all. I presume you noticed in the Review of March 13 Bro. Waggoner's extinguisher of the Mormon Gifts. But if the same reasoning will not apply somewhat to our own experience, I cannot see straight. The cases of Fuller, Cornell and Smith Sharp are stunners to me. If all the brethren were willing to investigate this matter candidly and broadly, I believe some consistent, common ground for all to stand upon, could be found. But some, of the rule or ruin spirit, are so dogmatic and stubborn that I suppose that any effort in that direction would only lead to a rupture of the body.14
In his next letter of April 6 Smith said:
I do not take the disconsolate view of our experiences that you seem to; for if the visions should drop out entirely, it would not affect my faith on our Biblical theories at all; hence I should not consider my experience worthless, nor my life thrown away; for I am rooted and grounded in our doctrines. I believe the system of prophetic interpretation we present is sound, and that so far as we have been instrumental in presenting it to the world, we have done a good work. I did not learn any of these things from the visions, and they don't stand on their authority. You ask if there is any way out. I do not know, or rather, while there must be some way through present difficulties (for God will carry on, and bring through, His own work) I do not now see what that way is. The idea has been studiously instilled into the minds of the people that to question the visions in the least is to become at once, a hopeless apostate and rebel; and too many, I am sorry to say, have not strength of character enough to shake off such a conception, hence the moment anything is done to shake them on the visions they lose faith in everything and go to destruction. I believe this state of things never would have occurred, had the position of our people on this manifestation of the gifts been correct. If our people would come together and calmly, candidly, kindly, and freely deliberate upon this matter, I believe, as I have said to you and others, that a consistent position could be found, which would free the subject from difficulties, meet and satisfy the scoutings of an intelligent public, and not rob the gift of a whit of the good it was intended to do. But there are many too doggedly bigoted and stubborn to offer any very flattering outlook in this direction. If the matter could be got along with without any violent disruption anywhere, it would be better. This is what I dislike.15
Then on August 7 Smith wrote:
I still hold that Sr. W. has been shown things in vision, and that this is a manifestation of Spiritual gifts; but they do not stand on a level with the Scriptures, and should not be made a test of fellowship. I close by saying that they should manifest 'more of that charity which the apostle sets forth as more desirable than all gifts and without which even the best gifts are but as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal'.16
At this time Smith was experiencing considerable tension in his relationship with Mrs. White. But by October, 1883, there had been at least a partial reconciliation. Smith was in a difficult position. On one hand, he could not support those who rejected spiritual gifts. In fact, he saw danger in encouraging anyone in that direction. On the other hand, he deplored a dogmatic and fanatical belief in Mrs. White's inerrancy. But there seemed to be no middle ground in this all-or-nothing contest. Smith decided it was better to go along with those taking a radical view of Ellen G. White's authority. So he wrote:
We had in some respects a most powerful meeting. A. N. Seymour and wife were present, Sabbath and Sunday, and even he acknowledged to Bro. Dodge that it seemed like 1844. Wish you could have been here. Both myself and Harriet, have had a talk with Sr. W., and in many things wherein my mind was most severely perplexed, it has been relieved, which of course makes me feel quite differently. Then again, I have had opportunity to learn that quite a good many are disposed to be affected by my course in their relation to this cause. I am very vulnerable on the point of standing in another's way. I would rather do almost anything than that. Of course I would not think it would make so much difference, if others would go no farther than I go. But they do not stop there. Right or wrong, they have got the idea fast in their minds that the testimonies and the messages stand or fall together; and if they give up the former they give up the latter also. Now I would much rather a person would be radical on the testimonies, even if they are not all what they claim to be, than give up the present truth; for this latter I believe to be vital to our future well being. So the best light I see for myself is to cast my influence in so far as it will go, with the body, and wait further developments.

Sr. W. is certainly doing a work which no other person seems fitted for doing, and which is of great value to this cause. So I will get along with my private trials and hold them in abeyance for the general good.17

The Growing Authority of Ellen G. White

The authority of Ellen G. White within the Adventist community significantly increased after the death of her husband in 1881. A number of factors contributed to this.

1. Mrs. White matured spiritually and theologically. Like her peers, she emphasized the Adventist distinctives. But she was able to present the Adventist message in the setting of the common faith. Mrs. White was more orthodox than James White, J. H. Waggoner or Uriah Smith. They were wrong on many vital points of "the common faith," and she was right. When the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith was revived at the 1888 conference, most of the leaders opposed it. But, with Waggoner and Jones, she championed justification by faith and declared it to be the heart of the Adventist message. When Waggoner and Jones faltered, Mrs. White carried on. For years she wrote an astonishing number of books and articles superior to anything produced by any other Adventist.

Uriah Smith said that his faith could stand on the Bible apart from Ellen G. White. But Smith's theology could not have supported a Christian church, nor could the theology of the other Adventist leaders. It is a fact that many Seventh-day Adventists are so satiated with Ellen G. White that they scarcely ever study the Bible. But though immature, they are viable Christians. No one, however, could nourish spiritual life by the exclusive reading of Mrs. White's Adventist contemporaries. Thus, Mrs. White largely merited her stature in Adventism. She became the religion of Adventism. There were no great scholars in the movement, no one of theological stature.

2. The popular current tended to give Mrs. White's words absolute authority. James White had resisted this trend. But Uriah Smith, as we have noted, reluctantly went along with the current. At times even Mrs. White became tired of hearing people repeat "She says, she says."18

Perhaps it was the great Kellogg struggle of the early 1900's which finally made absolute faith in inerrant Testimonies a test of orthodoxy within the Adventist community. We tend to agree with recent historians who have pointed out that the real story of the Kellogg struggle has never been told. Pantheism was only "the tip of the iceberg." Some of the men foremost in opposing Kellogg were as guilty of pantheism as he was. Besides, Kellogg was willing to remove the pantheistic sentiments from his book, Living Temple, and actually did so in a later edition. The crisis involved a massive power struggle for the control of Adventist institutions and perhaps of the church itself. At the time, Kellogg employed most of the denominational workers. Daniells, Prescott and W. C. White were fearful of a Kellogg "takeover"—and for good reason. Kellogg, Jones and others felt that the "triumvirate," as Daniells, Prescott and White were called, used the Testimonies as a "fire hose" against them. Mrs. White was caught in the middle of a nasty struggle. Her fears were aroused that Kellogg and his group were against the Testimonies. Daniells effectively used this issue to mount a denominational campaign against Kellogg and his supporters. The chief issue was faith in the Testimonies.19 Kellogg and Jones thought that Mrs. White was being influenced and, to some extent, used by the "triumvirate." But they said they did not repudiate Mrs. White's spiritual gifts. Nevertheless, all-or-nothing faith in the Testimonies was pressed as the issue of the day. Daniells won the conflict. Mrs. White was too old to fight further battles and largely retired from active involvement in denominational affairs. The denomination was saved from a Kellogg "takeover," which would probably have destroyed its theological heritage. But the struggle left its mark on the Adventist community. The "bones" of Kellogg and Jones witness to the fate of anyone who dares question the absolute authority of the Adventist prophetess.20

In the early 1900's it became quite common for Adventists to appeal to the writings of Ellen G. White to settle historical questions, since she had written on many historical matters. People clung to her actual words as if they were verbally inspired. In 1912 her son W. C. White, who had been her editorial assistant and publishing manager for a number of years, wrote of his concern:

Regarding Mother's writings and their use as authority on points of history and chronology, Mother has never wished our brethren to treat them as authority regarding the details of history or historical dates.21

Although Mrs. White had used the best historians available to her for much of her writing, W. C. White suggested that her writings might contain some errors in historical detail.22 At the same time, he wrote to S. N. Haskell of his concern that some were making extravagant claims for Mrs. White's writings:

I believe, Bro. Haskell, that there is a possibility of our injuring Mother's work by claiming for it more than she claims for it, more than Father ever claimed for it, more than Elders Andrews, Waggoner or Smith ever claimed for it. I cannot see consistency in our putting forth a claim of verbal inspiration when Mother does not make any such claim, and I certainly think we will make a great mistake if we lay aside historical research, and endeavor to settle historical questions by the use of Mother's books as an authority when she herself does not wish them to be used in any such way.23

Daniells' "Last-Ditch" Stand

It is ironic that A. G. Daniells, President of the General Conference,24 should be involved in an effort to keep the authority of Ellen G. White within reasonable bounds. In 1922, while still in his prime, he lost the leadership to W. A. Spicer. Rumors that Daniells had "lost faith in the Testimonies" apparently helped undermine his leadership.25

The recently discovered transcript of a 1919 Bible Conference now reveals some of the background to the campaign against Daniells. Daniells was the main speaker at a post-conference session on "The Use of the Spirit of Prophecy in Our Teaching of Bible and History." 26 His remarks were wholeheartedly supported by W. W. Prescott and F. M. Wilcox. The major points in this discussion were as follows:
A. G. Daniells:... But there are men who just hold me right up as a doubter of the Testimonies because I take the position that the Testimonies are not verbally inspired, and that they have been worked up by the secretaries and put in proper grammatical shape. A few years ago a man came on to the nominating committee and wanted me kept out of the presidency because I did not believe the Testimonies were verbally inspired. That was because I differed with him on theory and interpretation....

We know that that [Bible] should be our authority without a creed and without the higher criticism. This is the Book. The position we hold today is the right position, we believe,—to magnify this Book, to get our instruction from this Book, and to preach this Book. The whole plan of redemption, everything that is necessary to salvation, is in this Book, and we do not have to go to anything outside of the Book to be saved. That has been the attitude of the spirit of prophecy toward this book from the beginning, hasn't it? [Voices: Yes.]...

I think this, that we are to get our interpretation from this Book, primarily. I think that the Book explains itself, and I think we can understand the Book, fundamentally, through the Book, without resorting to the Testimonies to prove up on it. .

Yes, but I have heard ministers say that the spirit of prophecy is the interpreter of the Bible. I heard it preached at the General Conference some years ago, when it was said that the only way we could understand the Bible was through the writings of the spirit. of prophecy.

J. N. Andrews : And he also said "infallible interpreter."

C. M. Sorenson: That expression has been canceled. That is not our position.

A. G. Daniells: It is not our position, and it is not right that the spirit of prophecy is the only safe interpreter of the Bible. That is a false doctrine, a false view. It will not stand. Why, my friends what would all the people have done from John's day down to the present if there were no way to understand the Bible except through the writings of the spirit of prophecy! It is a terrible position to take! That is false, it is error. It is positively dangerous! . . . That is heathenish! ...

It pains me to hear the way some people talk, that the spirit of prophecy led out and gave all the instruction, all the doctrines, to the pioneers, and they accepted them right along....

I would not, in my class work,27 give out the idea at all to students that they can not understand this book only through the writings of Sister White. I would hold out to students, as I do to preachers, and in ministerial meetings, the necessity of getting our understanding of the Bible from the Bible itself, and using the spirit of prophecy to enlarge our view. I tell them not to be lazy about studying the Book, and not to rummage around first for something that has been written on a point that they can just swallow without study. I think that would be a very dangerous thing for our ministers to get into that habit. And there are some, I must confess, who will hunt around to find a statement in the Testimonies and spend no time in deep study of the Book. They do not have a taste for it, and if they can look around and find something that is already made out, they are glad to pick that up and go along without studying the Bible. The earnest study of the Bible is the security, the safety of a man. He must come to the book itself and get it by careful study, and then whatever he finds in the spirit of prophecy or any other writings that will help him and throw light and clarify his vision on it,—that is alright.
F. M. Wilcox supported Daniells by reading James White's great statement from the Review and Herald on "Gifts of the Gospel Church."28 It is probably the finest statement ever published on spiritual gifts in the history of the movement. Prescott then said:
W. W. Prescott: How should we use the writings of the spirit of prophecy as an authority by which to settle historical questions?

A. G. Daniells: Well, now, as I understand it, Sister White never claimed to be an authority on history, and never claimed to be a dogmatic teacher on theology. She never outlined a course of theology, like Mrs. Eddy's book on teaching. She just gave out fragmentary statements, but left the pastors and evangelists and preachers to work out all these problems of scripture and of theology and of history. She never claimed to be an authority on history; and as I have understood it, where the history that related to the interpretation of prophecy was clear and expressive, she wove it into her writings; but I have always understood that, as far as she was concerned, she was ready to correct in revision such statements as she thought should be corrected. I have never gone to her writings, and taken the history that I found in her writings, as the positive statement of history regarding the fulfillment of prophecy. I do not know how others may view that, but I have felt that I should deal with history in the same way that I am exhorted to deal with the Bible,—prove it all carefully and thoroughly, and then let her go on and make such revisions from time to time as seem best.

Just one more thought: Now you know something about that little book, "The Life of Paul." You know the difficulty we got into about that. We could never claim inspiration in the whole thought and makeup of the book, because it has been thrown aside because it was badly put together. Credits were not given to the proper authorities, and some of that crept into "The Great Controversy,"— the lack of credits; and in the revision of that book those things were carefully run down and made right. Personally that has never shaken my faith, but there are men who have been greatly hurt by it, and I think it is because they claimed too much for these writings. Just as Brother White says, there is a danger in going away from the Book, and claiming too much. Let it have its full weight, just as God has fixed it, and then I think we will stand without being shaken when some of these things do appear that we cannot harmonize with our theory.

W. W. Prescott: There is another experience that you know of that applies to what Brother Taylor has brought up. Some of the brethren here remember very well a serious controversy over the interpretation of the 8th chapter of Daniel, and there were some of the brethren who ranged themselves against what was called the new view, and they took her writings to uphold their position. She wrote to those brethren and instructed them not to use her writings to settle that controversy. I think that ought to be remembered as being her own counsel when brethren that did claim to believe the Bible and the spirit of prophecy were divided over an interpretation, and it was a matter of public controversy.

A. G. Daniells:... What I want to know is this, brethren: Does my position appear to be of such a character that you would be led to think I am shaky? [VOICES: No!] If you think it, just say it right out! I do not want to do that, but I have to be honest,—I can not camouflage in a thing like this. I have stood through it about forty years unshaken, and I think it is a safe position; but if I were driven to take the position that some do on the Testimonies, I would be shaken. [VOICE: That's right!] I would not know where to stand, for I can not say that white is black and black is white.

H. C. Lacey: To us there is no doubt that you believe the Testimonies, but will you mind my adding another personal note to it?

A. G. Daniells: No.

H. C. Lacey: It is this: Those who have not heard you, as we have here, and are taking the other side of the question,—some of them are deliberately saying that neither you nor Professor Prescott believe the Testimonies. For instance, I went out to Mt. Vernon and I met the graduating class there, and when the exercises were over, I had a private talk with three or four of those young people, and they told me that they certainly understood that our General Conference men down there—they did not mean me or Brother Sorenson—did not believe the Testimonies.

W. W. Prescott: You are not telling us news....

C. L. Benson: I think it would be a splendid thing if our brethren were a little conservative on these things. We had a man come to our Union and spend an hour and a half on the evidences of the spirit of prophecy through Sister White. The impression was conveyed that practically every word that she spoke, and every letter she wrote, whether personal or otherwise, was a divine inspiration. Those things make it awfully hard for our teachers and ministers.

W. G. Wirth: I want to second what Professor Lacey has brought out. I wish you general men would get out something for us, because we are the ones that suffer.

W. W. Prescott: To my certain knowledge, a most earnest appeal was made for that from her office to issue such a statement, and they would not do it.

C. P. Boliman: It wasn't made to her, though.

W. W. Prescott: No, but it was made to those who were handling her manuscripts.

A. G. Daniells: Some of those statements like what Brother Wilcox read here this morning have been up a number of times, and Brother White always took a good sensible position....

F. M. Wilcox: Do you believe that a man who doesn't believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible believes the Bible?

W. W. Prescott: I do not have any trouble over it at all. I have a different view myself. If a man does not believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible, he is still in good standing; but if he says he does not believe in the verbal inspiration of the Testimonies, he is discounted right away. I think it is an unhealthful situation. It puts the spirit of prophecy above the Bible.

W. G. Wirth: Really, that is my biggest problem. I shall certainly be discredited if I go back and give this view. I would like to see some published statement given out by those who lead this work so that if that thing should come up there would be some authority back of it, because I am in for a lot of trouble on that thing. I would like to see something done, because that education is going right on, and our students are being sent out with the idea that the Testimonies are verbally inspired, and woe be to the man out where I am that does not line up to that.
The discussion then moved to the rigid attitude being taken on diet as though Ellen G. White were a rule book. Daniells related that he found people in his travels who had greatly impaired their health and vigor because they were trying to follow what they thought was "the Spirit of Prophecy" counsel. Some were in circumstances which required a meat diet but could not eat it with a good conscience because of the Testimonies. Daniells then said, "When I got back to this country I talked with Sister White about it and she said, 'Why don't the people use common sense?'" Daniells went on to say, "I do not think proper caution was used in putting out some of these things [Ellen G. White's Testimonies] and I have told Sister White so."
Mrs. Williams: You mean in publishing them?

A. G. Daniells: Yes, when they were written. I told Sister White that it seems to me that if conditions in the arctic regions and in the heart of China and other places had been taken into account, some of those things would have been modified. "Why," she said, "yes, if the people are not going to use their judgment, then of course we will have to fix it for them." It seemed so sensible to me. Sister White was never a fanatic, she was never an extremist. She was a levelheaded woman. She was well-balanced. I found that so during a period of 40 years of association with her. When we were down in Texas, and old Brother White was breaking down, that woman just got the most beautiful venison every day to eat, and my wife cooked it; and he would sit down and eat some of that and say, "O, Ellen, that is just the thing!" She did not hold him up and make him live on a diet of starch! I always found her well-balanced. There are some people who are extremists, who are fanatical; but I do not think we should allow those people to fix the platform and guide this denomination....

That is the way a lot of things got into the Testimonies. They were many of them written for individuals in various states of health, and then they were hurried into the Testimonies without proper modification.
A second discussion took place on Friday, August 1, 1919, also chaired by W. E. Howell. Daniells again was the main speaker. F. M. Wilcox said that while he agreed with Daniells, he was afraid of the effect the remarks would have in the field if they were published. "There is great danger of a reaction, and I do feel concerned," he said, and then added, "I believe there are a great many questions that we should hold back, and not discuss." Wilcox was afraid of anything which might lessen faith in the Testimonies. C. L. Benson and Waldorf shared Wilcox's concern. While they largely agreed with Daniells, they questioned whether the facts should be given to the people. J. N. Anderson, however, asked, "Are we safe to tell that to our students [that Ellen G. White's writings are not a final authority on historical questions]? Or shall we hold it in abeyance?" Then Anderson suggested that if the people were not told the truth, it would bring a very serious crisis some day. Quite a prophecy!
A. G. Daniells:... I am sure there has been advocated an idea of infallibility in Sister White and verbal inspiration in the Testimonies that has led people to expect too much and to make too great claims, and so we have gotten into difficulty....

In Australia I saw "The Desire of Ages" being made up, and I saw the rewriting of chapters, some of them written over and over and over again. I saw that, and when I talked with Sister Davis about it, I tell you I had to square up to this thing and begin to settle things about the spirit of prophecy. If these false positions had never been taken, the thing would be much plainer than it is today. What was charged as plagiarism would all have been simplified, and I believe men would have been saved to the cause if from the start we had understood this thing as it should have been. With those false views held, we face difficulties in straightening up. We will not meet those difficulties by resorting to a false claim.

Yes; and now take that "Life of Paul,"—I suppose you all knew about it and knew what claims were put up against her, charges made of plagiarism, even by the authors of the book, Conybeare and Howson, and were liable to make the denomination trouble because there was so much of their book put into "The Life of Paul" without any credit or quotation marks. Some people of strict logic might fly the track on that ground, but I am not built that way. I found it out, and I read it with Brother Palmer when he found it, and we got Conybeare and Howson, and we got Wylie's "History of the Reformation," and we read word for word, page after page, and no quotations, no credit, and really I did not know the difference until I began to compare them. I supposed it was Sister White's own work. The poor sister said, "Why, I didn't know about quotations and credits. My secretary should have looked after that, and the publishing house should have looked after it."

She did not claim that that was all revealed to her and written word for word under the inspiration of the Lord. There I saw the manifestation of the human in these writings. Of course I could have said this, and I did say it, that I wished a different course had been taken in the compilation of the books. If proper care had been exercised, it would have saved a lot of people from being thrown off the track.

Mrs. Williams: The secretary would know that she ought not to quote a thing without using quotation marks.

A. G. Daniells: You would think so. I do not know who the secretary was. The book was set aside, and I have never learned who had a hand in fixing that up. It may be that some do know....
W. W. Prescott went on to relate that he had been asked to help revise The Great Controversy. He mentioned that he differed with the old edition of The Great Controversy on a point of biblical interpretation. He was somewhat troubled but was convinced that his position was correct. Mrs. White incorporated his suggested revision in 1911. Prescott said that this made him an "orthodox" believer. He further pointed out that not all changes in The Great Controversy were merely historical. Later Prescott said:
W. W. Prescott: If I should speak my mind frankly, I should say that I have felt for years that great mistakes were made in handling her writings for commercial purposes.

C. M. Sorenson: By whom?

W. W. Prescott: I do not want to charge anybody. But I do think great mistakes were made in that way. That is why I have made a distinction as I have. When I talked with W. C. White about it (and I do not know that he is an infallible authority), he told me frankly that when they got out "Great Controversy," if they did not find in her writings anything on certain chapters to make the historical connections, they took other books, like "Daniel and the Revelation," and used portions of them; and sometimes her secretaries, and sometimes she herself, would prepare a chapter that would fill the gap.
A. G. Daniells concluded by saying:
A. O. Danie11s:... I know it is reported around that some of us men here at Washington, in charge of the general administrative work, are very shaky and unbelieving, but I want to tell you that I know better. I know that my associates have confidence right down on the solid platform of this whole question; and I know that if many of you had gone at this thing and experienced what we have, you would have passed through an experience that would have given you solid ground. You would have shaken a bit, and you are beginning to shake now, and some of you do not know where you are going to land. These questions show it. But that is not to say there is not a foundation. It is to say that you have not gone through the toils yet and got your feet on solid ground....
And now some famous last words:
We have made a wonderful change in nineteen years, Brother Prescott. Fifteen years ago we could not have talked what we are talking here today. It would not have been safe.29
The fact is that Daniells was not safe. He was ahead of his time. The rumors against him grew, and he lost his office. The problems he pointed out were not corrected. The legend of Ellen G. White's inerrancy did not abate but grew after Daniells' time.

Those acquainted with the situation know that Mrs. White has been used within Adventism in a way that almost supplants the Bible. Of course, in theory no one says that this should happen. Nevertheless, it has happened in practice. All controversial questions are appealed to Ellen G. White—especially if a committee can provide a compilation of her statements. Some have even suggested that Mrs. White's writings would eventually be included in the canon of Scripture if the prejudice of non-Adventists did not prevent it.

There is a widespread feeling in Adventism that the Bible is a difficult book but that God has given us an infallible interpreter to make it plain. This is a fundamental principle of Catholicism.

To non-Adventists it is confessed, "We test Ellen G. White by the Bible." But to Adventists it is confessed, "Ellen G. White is an inspired interpreter of the Bible." Many have not seen that these positions are mutually exclusive.

In an unpublished manuscript, a leading Adventist scholar has frankly suggested that we should acknowledge that some of our positions cannot be proved from the Bible alone. He therefore says that we should acknowledge Ellen G. White's writings as an inspired reinterpretation of the Bible for our day.

Some Adventists are concerned that the Bible has become a footnote to the Testimonies. While a number would therefore like to bury Ellen G. White, many concerned ones want to honor her by placing her contributions in a proper perspective.

Clearly, Ellen G. White has assumed a role in Adventism contrary to the pioneer position on spiritual gifts.

The Human Element in Ellen G. White

There is no problem discussing the human element in Peter or Paul. But the legend of Ellen G. White is almost sacrosanct. In this area Adventists can be extremely sensitive.

While no Adventist doubts that Mrs. White was human, there is overwhelming evidence that the human element of her ministry has been severely subordinated to the supernatural. Some "bravely" acknowledge that "Mrs. White was human like the rest of us." But does not this statement itself indicate a problem? The same problem exists when someone feels he must say, "The leaders of the church are not infallible." Surely this ought to be so self-evident that it need not be said.

There is the clearest evidence that something has gone wrong when Adventists have to write books telling us that Mrs. White was human. We could easily and passionately eulogize Mrs. White—her devotedness, consecration, unselfishness and hospitality. Her life was truly a phenomenon. She was one of the great saints in the history of the church. Her courage in standing beside her husband's grave and exhorting the mourners to press on is inspiring. She did not write about Christ in a detached theological manner, but with the authority of someone who knew Him and believed He was worth every fiber and muscle and nerve she could give Him.30 As a boy, H. M. S. Richards heard her pray before a large congregation. It was a moving experience. She talked to God as to a Friend who heard her and answered her prayer. The audience of Adventists, "Catholics, Protestants, skeptics" was moved to tears.31

It is not our present purpose to duplicate the tributes given to Mrs. White. Ellen G. White apologetics have already been overdone. F. D. Nichol's book, Ellen G. White and Her Critics,32 may have done more harm to Mrs. White than all the critics he tried to answer. For instance, reviews of this book by non-Adventists show that Nichol has created an uneasiness over the Seventh-day Adventist attitude toward Mrs. White. Their biggest criticism is that Mr. Nichol might have admitted—in a large book in defense of her life, work, deeds and words—that Mrs. White might have made a mistake! Nichol destroyed his case by overkill. To defend Mrs. White from some unjust charges is one thing. To convey the idea that she never erred in anything is to confirm suspicions that Seventh-day Adventists are guilty of "Whitolatry."33

Was Mrs. White never needlessly severe or never indulgent? Was she never sinfully angry or hurt because she was unappreciated? Was she always perfectly candid? Did she ever backslide on her own counsel concerning health reform? Was she always a sweet wife and easy to live with? It is not that a good cause would be served by reciting Mrs. White's faults. Such an undertaking would be as out of taste as the Catholic polemics against Luther of a bygone era. But there is evidence that the Adventist movement has been consistently provided with a carefully laundered hagiography. Ultimately, it would be much safer to educate people with the facts. When people know the real Ellen G. White, they will honor her spiritual gifts more and put them in their proper perspective.

Aspects of Mrs. White's humanness have been hidden lest they should lessen people's faith in the Testimonies. But we suggest that a faith afraid of exposure to the truth is only superstition and will prove worse than useless in the day of trial. Our belief in spiritual gifts must be able to deal with the following evidence:

The Shut-Door Episode of Early Adventist History

Although the pioneers of Seventh-day Adventism did not share the more fanatical shut-door views of Joseph Turner and S. S. Snow, they held very limited views of a gospel ministry for nearly ten years. Ellen G. White shared those immature concepts. Our view of spiritual gifts must square with the facts.

It is true that in those early years Mrs. White did not believe that probation had closed for everyone in the world. It is also true that she and the pioneers taught that the door had closed only to those who had rejected the light of the "midnight cry." But by reading the early literature in context, it is clear that they thought the world and the churches generally had rejected the message. There were only a few "scattered ones" to be reached. Thus, neither Ellen G. White nor the pioneers labored to preach the gospel to the world until the 1850's. Only gradually did the number diminish against whom God (or was it the pioneers?) had shut the door. It slowly dawned on Mrs. White and the others that they had a mission to the multitudes of the world and that it was not correct to think that nearly all had sinned away their day of grace.

While Mrs. White had the best intentions in putting the experiences of the pioneers in the most favorable light, there was a lack of complete candor on the shut-door episode. For this reason it is a "running sore" in Adventism which has never healed and never will heal until brought fully into the light. In fact, we need to ask, Have we ever overcome that shut-door mentality?

The Literary Borrowings of Ellen G. White

Informed Adventists have always known that Ellen G. White's writings reflected information borrowed from other authors. But there has been a reluctance to acknowledge the full extent of this. Recent research by a number of scholars indicates that these borrowings were extensive—in the fields of health, history, the life of Christ and even theology itself.

We may divide Mrs. White's literary borrowings into two categories—Adventist doctrinal distinctives and general material.

1. Adventist Doctrinal Distinctives

It is not hard to demonstrate that the early visions of Ellen G. White did not initiate new teachings. Rather, they reflected and confirmed positions already developed within the pioneer group. As we have already seen, James White was adamant that all the distinctive Adventist doctrines were established through the study of the Bible. An examination of A Word to the "Little Flock" illustrates this point. Ellen G. White's visions repeat and reinforce what James White had set forth from the Bible in the earlier sections of that little booklet. Whereas James White developed the eschatological positions more formally, Mrs. White's presentations were not only inspirational and gripping, but were based on an "I saw" authority. James and Ellen White apparently worked together effectively this way.

Mrs. White likewise had the facility to take material first written by J. N. Andrews, Hiram Edson, Uriah Smith or others and to present it in a succinct, inspirational and more readable way. Many sections of Mrs. White's writings have been taken from the writings of men like Smith and Andrews. We will give just two examples.

Uriah Smith in 1868. A comparison of The Great Controversy, pages 428-431, with the following passage from Uriah Smith will show that Mrs. White largely copied this section of The Great Controversy from Smith.34 She used his arguments and his phraseology.
In the typical sanctuary work of the former dispensation, when the high priest went into the most holy place on the day of atonement, the door of the holy place or first apartment was closed; and the door into the most holy, of course, opened. So in the sanctuary above. When the work in the most holy commenced, in 1844, the work in the outer apartment ceased. A new era, so to speak, was reached in the ministry of our Lord, involving a change in his relation to the world, nearly as great as that which took place when he. entered upon his work in the first apartment of the heavenly temple. A great testing truth, proclaimed among men, signalized upon earth the time of this change in the work in Heaven. Thousands upon thousands rejected this truth, and decided their cases for everlasting destruction; but those who had not thus shut up for themselves the way to life sustained the same relation to God as before; they might still approach to him through Christ, only they must now seek their Lord where he was to be found, and come to God through him in his new position.

We ask the especial attention of the reader to the principle involved in the argnment at this point. It is this: A knowledge of Christ's position and work is necessary to the enjoyment of the benefits of his mediation. We cannot come to Christ for pardon and salvation, unless we understand that he has made these provisions for us. Not to understand his position and work, is of course to be deprived of his presence. When he ascended and commenced his ministration before God in behalf of mankind, it was necessary that the world should be apprised of that fact. Why? Because here was the only way to life. There was none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby they could be saved. The door was shut by the way of types and animal offerings, and the door was opened by way of a crucified Redeemer, then pleading in Heaven. But a general idea of his work was then sufficient to enable men to approach unto God by him. They might not understand the particulars of the sanctuary in Heaven, and just how he ministered as the antitype of the earthly priesthood; but the great fact was recognized that he was there before God, as an intercessor for us, and that was sufficient. But when he changed his position to the most holy place of the sanctuary, to perform the last division of his ministry as our great high priest, that knowledge of his work which had up to that point been sufficient, was no longer sufficient. The suppliant for the Lord's grace must follow him in his change of position, and come to him where he now pleads, before the ark of God's testament in the most holy place. When the apostles were sent forth to proclaim the great fact that Christ had passed into the Heavens, there to appear in the presence of God as an intercessor for us, that fact must be received and believ&d by the people, or they could have no interest in him. So when he changes his ministry, and the light upon it is sent forth, it is equally important that this additional fact be also recognized, that this truth be likewise received and acted upon. A knowledge of this change is further shown to be essential to the people, because the time during which he occupies this position is one of special solemnity, requiring special duties. Look at the type. When the high priest was in the most holy place, all Israel must know it, and must be gathered around the sanctuary, their minds being fixed upon his work, and they meanwhile afflicting their souls, that they might receive the benefits of the atonement, and not be cut off from the congregation of Israel. How much more necessary, in this great antitypical day of atonement, which is the living substance of which the former was but a shadow, t~iat we understand the position and work of our great High Priest, and know the special duties required at our hand during this time.35
J. N. Andrews in 1877.The following comparison illustrates how a line of reasoning in The Great Controversy was adopted from J. N. Andrews.36

J. N. Andrews: The Three Messages of Revelation 14 (1877) Ellen G. White: The Great Controversy (1884)
The Scriptures plainly locate the message of warning respecting the Judgment in a brief space immediately preceding the advent of our Lord....
Thus also the warning respecting the Judgment is alone applicable to that generation which lives in the last days.—pp. 15-16.
This message [of judgment] is a part of the gospel which could be proclaimed only in the last days.—p. 356.
The prophecies which give us the time of the Judgment, and which present the succession of events leading down to that great crisis, were closed up and sealed till the time of the end. We refer particularly to the prophecies of Daniel. —p. 16. The prophesies present succession of events leading down to the opening of the judgment. This is especially true of the book of Daniel. But that part of his prophecy which related to the last day, Daniel was bidden to close up and seal "to the time of the end." —p. 356.
Has the proclamation of the hour of God's Judgment come, been made in any past age? ... The apostles did not make such a proclamation; on the contrary, they plainly inform us that the day of the Lord was not then at hand. Martin Luther did not make this proclamation, for he thought the Judgment about 300 years in the future.—p. 15. No such message has ever been given in past ages. Paul, as we have seen, did not preach it; he pointed his brethren into the then far-distant future for the coming of the Lord. The Reformers did not proclaim it. Martin Luther placed the judgment about three hundred years in the future from his day.—p. 356.
The apostle, therefore, plainly tells them that that day was not at hand.—p. 18. 37 The apostle Paul warned the church not to look for the coming of Christ in his day. —p. 356.38

2. General Material

Mrs. White wrote Sketches from the Life of Paul in 1883.39 It represented her first attempt to write books for the public. After the book was published, it was found that much of it was taken from Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of St. Paul.40 No quotations were indicated, no credit lines inserted, no acknowledgments given. Conybeare and Howson's publisher threatened the denomination with trouble. Mrs. White's book was hastily removed from the market.

Nichol takes great pains to explain that Mrs. White was not guilty of plagiarism. He argues that the demands for acknowledging literary borrowings were much looser then. While that may have been true on a more popular level, it was not true among scholars. They freely acknowledged their literary indebtedness just as we do today.

The remarks of A. G. Daniells at the 1919 Bible Conference show that the leaders of the church privately acknowledged that a serious mistake had been made in publishing Mrs. White's book and that some had been hurt because of this mistake. Mrs. White's secretaries got the blame since Mrs. White was supposedly unfamiliar with quotation marks. This is incredible. Mrs. White may have lacked formal education, but she was now a middle-aged woman with considerable experience and was obviously well read.

In 1884 Mrs. White published her first edition of The Great Controversy. Most contemporary Adventists accepted the book as based on her visions. In connection with the book she said, "Events in the history of the reformers have been presented before me."41 This first edition borrowed extensively from historians without quotation marks or credits. After some protests, quotation marks (but no credits) were inserted in the 1888 edition. In the 1911 edition both quotation marks and credits were registered. But even this does not indicate the full extent of the literary borrowing. In a recent manuscript entitled Ellen G. White and the Protestant Historians: The Evidence from an Unpublished Manuscript on John Huss, Dr. Donald R. McAdams, now president of Southwestern Adventist College, shows that in some of the historical sections of The Great Controversy Mrs. White merely gave a precis of other authors, following them event for event.42 In the chapter on John Huss every event described in The Great Controversy is also in James A. Wylie's The History of Protestantism. But more than this, Mrs. White copied Wylie's order of events, his moral lessons on the history, as well as some of his mistakes in historical detail.

Ellen G. White's health counsels also indicate heavy literary borrowing. There are indications that Dr. J. H. Kellogg believed that there was not a single point in Mrs. White's health counsels not in Dr. L. B. Coles' work.43 While that is probably an exaggeration, it is clear that Mrs. White copied extensively from Coles.

More recent research has revealed Mrs. White's literary borrowings from such authors as Conybeare, Merle D'Aubign~, Edersheim, Farrar, Geikie, Hanna, Harris, Howson, March and Wylie in the production of Patriarchs and Prophets, The Desire of Ages and other of her books. There is nothing wrong in researching other authors. This is generally expected. Mrs. White's Conflict of the Ages Series is heavily indebted to the writings of recognized authors in her day. And Adventists, of course, are heavily indebted to Mrs. White for providing such wonderful reading—free from many errors, easier for ordinary people to grasp by the elimination of scholarly minutiae, and written in such an inspiring way. Having said this, we are left with the problem of explaining her failure to acknowledge extensive literary indebtedness. It is embarrassing to think that many Adventists believe that most of this material was directly imparted from heaven.

Why was Mrs. White so reluctant to acknowledge her sources, especially the ones from whom she borrowed not only the thoughts, but often the identical phraseology? A number of reasons could be given. We refuse to consider any unworthy motive. That is not consistent with the general life and character of Ellen G. White. But we would suggest one explanation.

Mrs. White was a child of her times. She did not move in scholarly circles but sought a more popular appeal. She spoke to the common people. The scholars of her times acknowledged their sources just as they do today. But nineteenth-century America was the age of prophets—prophets who spoke to the "grass roots." By "prophets" we mean those who led social, health and religious crusades. One element seems to bind these prophets together. In order to increase their appeal, they spoke with direct authority. It is a singular fact that nearly all the great health leaders of Mrs. White's time—such as Alcott, Graham, Jackson and Coles—were reluctant to acknowledge their heavy dependence on other authorities. People of that era did not want to listen to something secondhand. They wanted the authority of a "prophet"—someone with a direct connection to the truth. And to some extent these reformers submitted to the demands of their age. Certainly the Adventist community wanted the sure word of a prophet. Ellen G. White never spoke "maybe's." She was authoritative.

Whatever view we hold of Mrs. White's spiritual gifts, therefore, should be consistent with the facts of her progressive development, her emergence from the limited concepts of the shut-door era, the influence of the arguments of the pioneers, her extensive literary borrowings and such mistakes as her failure to give proper credits. Perhaps if other Adventist authors had also borrowed more extensively from the best non-Adventist sources, the movement would have made more progress. That Mrs. White used some of the best Christian literature available in her day for a wide range of subjects is to her credit. At least she was not another Joseph Smith, receiving her theology directly from heaven on gold plates.


1. This is said, for instance, in Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, Prepared by a Representative Group of Seventh-day Adventist Leaders, Bible Teachers, and Editors (Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald Publishing Assn., 1957), p. 90.
2. M. L. Andreasen, Letters to the Churches (Baker, Oreg.: Hudson Printing Co., n.d.).
3. James White, "A Test," Review and Herald, 16 Oct. 1855, pp. 61-2.
4. James White, in A Word to the "Little Flock, "p. 13.
5. James White, "Gifts of the Gospel Church," Review and Herald, 9 June 1853, pp. 13-14.
6. Between 1851 and 1856 Ellen G. White's name hardly ever appeared in the community's literature.
7. White, "Gifts of the Gospel Church," pp. 13-14.
8. White, "Test," pp. 61-2.
9. Ibid.
10. J. Paul Stauffer, "Uriah Smith: Wood Engraver," Adventist Heritage, Summer 1976, pp. 17-21.
11. See Appendix, Exhibit B: White to Canright, 24 May 1881.
12. At that time it was almost impossible to take another course.
13. Smith to Canright, 22 Mar. 1883, cited by Norman F. Douty, The Case of D. M. Canright (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964), pp. 80-81.
14. Ibid.
15. Smith to Canright, 6 Apr. 1883, cited by Douty, Case of D. M. Canright, pp. 81-2.
16. Smith to Canright, 7 Aug. 1883, cited by Douty, Case of D. M. Canright, p. 84. In a previous letter Uriah Smith complained about what he considered unjust treatment at the hands of Ellen G. White. "Her attack on me," he said, "seems to me to be most uncalled for and unjust" (Smith to Canright, 31 July 1883, cited by Douty, Case of D. M. Canright, p. 83).
17. Smith to Canright, 2 Oct. 1883, cited by Douty, Case of D. M Canright, pp. 84-5.
18. Ellen G. White, "Verbatim Report of Remarks by Mrs. E. G. White in Battle Creek College Library During the General Conference of 1901," Manuscript 43-1901, Ellen G. White Estate, Washington, D.C., quoted in Spalding-Magan Collection, p. 167.
19. James White had vehemently rejected the thought that faith in the Testimonies should become a test among Seventh-day Adventists.
20. See Appendix, Exhibit C: Butler and Haskell to Kellogg, 27 May 1904 (quoted in part).
21. White to W. W. Eastman, 4 Nov. 1912, Document File No. 65, Ellen G. White Estate, Washington, D.C.
22. W. C. White merely affirmed, "I believe that God has given her [Ellen G. White] discernment to use that which is correct and in harmony with truth regarding all matters essential to salvation" (ibid.).
23. White to S. N. Haskell, 4 Nov. 1912, Document File No. 65, Ellen G. White Estate, Washington, D.C.
24. Regarded by many as the greatest administrative leader the Seventh-day Adventist Church has ever had.
25. There was some unpleasantness surrounding the dropping of A. G. Daniells, so much so that it broke into the public press.
26. From the transcript of the session on "The Use of the Spirit of Prophecy in Our Teaching of the Bible and History," held on July 30 and August 1, 1919, in connection with the Bible and History Teachers' Council, which followed the 1919 Bible Conference (Takoma Park, Md., July 1-21, 1919). The entire transcript, together with introductory notes, has been published by Dr. Molleurus Couperus in Spectrum, May 1979, pp. 23-57.
27. A. G. Daniells made this point to answer questions from denominational Bible teachers.
28. James White, "Gifts of the Gospel Church," Review and Herald, 9 june 1853, pp 13-14.
29. "1919 Bible Conference," Spectrum, May 1979, pp. 23-57.
30. It has been said that John Calvin had a quality common to most great religious leaders. He was possessed of a terrifying certainty that he was called of God to do what he was doing. The problem was that Calvin opposed those who even demurred on any point of his theology as if they were questioning the authority of the Almighty Himself.
31. "H. M. S. Richards on Prayer," Salt Shaker, May-June 1978, p. 2.
32. Francis D. Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics (Takoma Park: Review & Herald Publishing Assn., 1951).
33. E.g., see Harold Lindsell, "What of Seventh-day Adventism?" part 1, Christianity Today,31 Mar. 1958, pp. 6-8; idem, "What of Seventh-day Adventism?" part 2, ibid., 14 Apr. 1958, pp. 13-15. See also James E. Bear, "The Bible and Modern Religions," Interpretation 10, no. 1 (Jan. 1956): 45-71.
34. See Ellen G. White, chap. 24, "In the Holy of Holies," The Great Controversy (1911 ed.), pp. 428-31.
35. Uriah Smith, The Visions of Mrs. E. G. White, A Manifestation of Spiritual Gifts According to the Scriptures (Battle Creek: Adventist Publishing Assn., 1868), Pp. 23.5.
36. J. N. Andrews' reasoning, like that of the other pioneers, presents several difficulties. It denies the record of the New Testament that the apostles were in the "last days" (Heb. 1:2; cf. 9:26; 1 John 2:18; etc.). The apostles repeatedly declared that the coming of Christ was "near" (Phil. 4:5, NIV; 1 Peter 4:7, NIV; etc.). Andrews was misled by the rendering of 2 Thessalonians 2:2 in the King James Version. While the King James Version has "at hand," most modern translations have "has already come." This is really what the original Greek means. Paul was not denying that the day of the Lord was "near." He simply said that those saying "the day" had already arrived were not to be believed. It should also be pointed out that in failing to grasp the eschatological setting of the New Testament, Andrews reflected standard nineteenth. century Protestant views. The eschatological focus of the New Testament was not acknowledged by scholars until this century.
37. J. N. Andrews, The Three Messages of Revelation XIV, 6.12, Particularly the Third Angel's Message, and Two-Homed Beast, 5th ed., rev. (Battle Creek: Review & Herald Publishing Co., 1892), pp. 15-16.
38. White, Great Controversy (1911 ed.), p. 356.
39. Ellen G. White, Sketches from the Life of Paul (Battle Creek: Review & Herald, 1883).
40. W. J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul (reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Win. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976).
41. Ellen G. White, Letter 48, 1894, cited by Arthur L. White, "Toward a Factual Concept of Inspiration, II: The Role of the visions and the Use of Historical Sources in the 'Great Controversy,"' p. 17.
42. Donald R. McAdams, "Ellen G. White and the Protestant Historians: The Evidence from an Unpublished Manuscript on John Huss," rev. (Andrews University, reproduced privately by the author, 1977), p. 244.
43. [Charles E. Stewart J,] A Response to an Urgent Testimony from Mrs. Ellen G. White Concerning Contradictions, Inconsistencies and Other Errors in Her Writings (n.p., 1907). See also J. H. Kellogg, in "An Authentic Interview between Elder G. W. Amadon, Elder A. C. Bordeau and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg in Battle Creek, Michigan on October 7th, 1907," mimeographed, p. 33.

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