|"We Discovered Ellen White Failed the Biblical Tests of a Prophet"|
for Real People
Mrs. White claimed that the words she wrote came from God and were not to be changed:
"The word given me is, 'You are faithfully to reprove those who would mar the faith of the people of God. Write out the things which I shall give you, that they may stand as a witness to the truth till the end of time.' I said, 'If any of the citizens of Battle Creek wish to know what Mrs. White believes and teaches, let them read her published books. My labors would be naught should I preach another gospel. That which I have written is what the Lord has bidden me write. I have not been instructed to change that which I have sent out.'"1If Mrs. White was not instructed to change what she sent out, then who gave the instructions? Who approved the alterations to her writings? Mrs. White said, "I am not to retract one word of the message I have borne."2 Despite this, a number of her words have been retracted and removed from later publications:
James White played a key role in the development of his wife's writings. Being more educated and skilled as a writer, James assisted Ellen in editing and reviewing her writings. His most infamous editing episode was his publication of the pamphlet entitled Experiences and Views in 1851. In that pamphlet, James republished his wife's earlier visions, but deleted out 19% of the text--primarily those parts dealing with the shut door of salvation. The deletion of the material created such an uproar among the brethren, the fledgling church was almost split.
James insisted that his wife's writings be "polished" before they were published by the "last touches of the old gentleman's pencil."3 Just how much of the "old gentleman's" penciling became part of the "inspired" testimonies is impossible to determine.
In 1992, the Review revealed the practice of the staff of the White Estate in revising and altering the writings of Ellen White. Paul A. Gordon, then secretary of the White Estate, writes:
"Is it legitimate to change, abridge, or simplify Ellen White's writings? The answer is yes. We can change, abridge, or simplify the words, but we do not have license to change the intended message. Here's why: Seventh-day Adventists do not hold to verbal inspiration. That means we do not believe that God dictated the words for Ellen White to use. ... In the years since Mrs. White's death in 1915, more than 50 new compilations or editions of Ellen White's books have been prepared by the E.G. White Estate. In every case--including editions that have been abridged, condensed, or simplified--the intended message has never been lost, only the wording has been changed."4Apparently the process of altering and changing Mrs. White's writings is a longstanding practice. In 1883 a resolution was passed by the General Conference creating a committee to oversee revisions in her writings:
"33.WHEREAS, Many of these testimonies were written under the most unfavorable circumstances, the writer being too heavily pressed with anxiety and labor to devote critical thought to the grammatical perfection of the writings, and they were printed in such haste as to allow these imperfections to pass uncorrected; and, WHEREAS, we believe the light given by God to His servants is by the enlightenment of the mind, thus imparting the thoughts, and not (except in rare cases) the very words in which the ideas should be expressed; therefore, Resolved, That in the republication of these volumes, such verbal changes be made as to remove the above-named imperfections, as far as possible, without in any measure changing the thought; and further,Mrs. White's secretaries had a large role in preparing her works for publication. One of her secretaries, Fannie Bolton, once asked if it was proper for Mrs. White to get credit for her writings since they had to be "almost entirely changed" from their original form.6 In the 1919 conference on Ellen White, SDA college president W.W. Prescott mentions the changes he was involved in and how it left him with doubts regarding the inspiration of Mrs. White's writings:
"Here's my difficulty. I have gone over this (The Great Controversy) and suggested changes that ought to be made in order to correct statements. These changes have been accepted. My personal difficulty will be to retain faith on those things that I cannot deal with on that basis. ... If we correct it here and correct it there, how are we going to stand with it in the other places?"7This was not the first time W.W. Prescott raised the alarm over the problems in Mrs. White's books. In 1915 he wrote in a letter to W.C. White:
"The way your mother's writings have been handled and the false impressions concerning them, which is still fostered among the people, have brought great perplexity and trial to me. It seems to me that what amounts to deception, though probably not intentional, has been practiced in making some of her books, and that no serious effort has been made to disabuse the minds of the people of what was known to be their wrong view concerning her writings."8Great Controversy was not the only book that Prescott assisted with. According to C.C. Crisler, long-time secretary of the White Estate, Prescott's help was needed in preparing the book Prophets and Kings. Crisler wrote to Prescott asking for help:
"In the preparation of this series [Prophets and Kings], we felt the need of counsel, and often wished that we could have the help of those who were familiar with the period of the Exile and the Restoration from Babylon . . . We greatly desire that you shall read the remaining articles, and eliminate any portions that you fear may do more harm than good. As you will note, some points have been safe-guarded, others have been omitted, and, in some instances positions have been taken... We realize very keenly our inability to see many points that should be closely scrutinized; and hence we feel the need of critical help."9
Like Prescott, General Conference president A.G. Daniells had an eye-opening experience as he witnessed the "spirit of prophecy" being "made up":
"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."10
1. Ellen White, Review and Herald, Jan. 26, 1905.
2. Ibid., Apr. 19, 1906.
3. James White letter to Willie White, May 7, 1876.
4. Paul A. Gordon, Adventist Review, Nov. 19, 1992, pp. 8-9.
5. Review and Herald, Nov. 27, 1883.
6. Ellen White, Letter 59, 1894.
7. W.W. Prescott as quoted in the transcript of the 1919 Bible Conference on the Spirit of Prophecy.
8. W.W. Prescott letter to W.C. White, Apr. 6, 1915.
9. C.C. Crisler letter to W.W. Prescott, Dec. 27, 1907.
10. A.G. Daniells, as quoted in the transcript of the 1919 Bible Conference on the Spirit of Prophecy (pp. 50-51).
11. Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers & Gospel Workers, p. 15.
12. Ellen White, Review & Herald, December 11, 1888.
13. Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 14, 1882.
14. Ellen White, Word to the Little Flock, p. 14, 1847.
15. Ellen White, Selected Messages, Vol. 2, p. 450.
16. Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3-4, p.133.
17. Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p.48 [50-51].
18. Ellen White, Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, p. 53.
19. Ellen White, Letter 38, 1896, pp. 1-4, (To S. N. Haskell, May 30, 1896) 11 MR pg. 35, (doc. ID 199154).
20. Ellen White, 1888 Materials, p. 1538. [References the Holy Spirit as "it" fifteen more times in the next two pages.]
21. Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 39.
22. Ellen White, Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 1, p. 29; Spiritual Gifts vol. 1, p. 18.
23. Ellen White, Great Controversy (1911) p. 383.
24. Ellen White, Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 232.
25. Ellen White, Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 67, 1948 ed.
26. Ellen White, PH117-Testimony for the Battle Creek Church - 1882.
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