G. White -- the Myth and the Truth
by Å. Kaspersen
volume ten of the voluminous SDA Bible Commentary, there is a statement on how
Ellen White's writings came into final shape,
"Carefully devised rules to safeguard the authenticity of the materials
they handled, as well as a final careful reading by Mr. White, ensured
a finished product that was truly the author's." (SDA Bible Commentary,
Vol. 10: Encyclopedia, p. 1592. Emphasis supplied.)
According to what we know today, which is based on solid documentation, the
above statement can be said to be quite inaccurate.
It is an undisputable fact that large parts of Ellen G. White's books contain
"borrowed" material. In addition, her manuscripts and articles make use of such
"borrowed" material. Quite often articles appeared in Signs of the Times, under
the name of Ellen G. White - and therefore a "thus saith the Lord" - consisting
of entire paragraphs taken verbatim from Wylie's History of the Reformation,
and from other authors. The same applies to the Review and other magazines.
All this is well-documented, and beyond doubt.
Ellen White's own statements on how her books came into shape, are thus to be
weighed against documented facts.
"Sister White is not the originator of these books. They contain
the instruction that during her life-work God has been giving her. They contain
the precious, comforting light that God has graciously given his servant to
be given to the world." (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Jan. 20, 1903. Emphasis
This is not quite true, at least not the way she depicts it. The cold, bare
facts stand against her as witnesses. However, it can be said to be a true statement
if we see it this way: Sister White is not the originator of these books
because most of them consist of plagiarized material from other authors.
But that was of course not what she intended to say in the above statement!
We are going to analyze some of her most well-known books, also less known writings,
to determine to which extent Ellen and her literary assistants practised their
literary stealing behind closed curtains.
The Great Controversy
The book The Great Controversy contains the entire Adventist
system of faith, and is one of the most frequently quoted of Ellen White's books.
But few people who love to quote this book know how it came into shape. The
Great Controversy went through three editions (1884, 1888 and 1911) - and every
new edition contained still more pages and changes.
In his book The White Lie, Walter T. Rea gives us this information,
"One of the unwritten stories in Adventist history is the influence that James
White had in forming the ideas and sentences that came out under Ellen's name
and pen. Although not noted as a literary writer or as a theologian, James did
produce four published books. Two of these wereLife Incidents in Connection
with the Great Advent Movement, as Illustrated by the Three Angels of Revelation
XIV, published in 1868, and in 1875 Sketches of the Christian Life and Public
Labors of William Miller: Gathered from his Memoirs by the Late Sylvester Bliss,
and from Other Sources. Both books were almost totally copied from others. The
one on William Miller was taken from Sylvester Bliss (who in 1853 had written
Memoirs of William Miller). The theology of Life Incidents was copied substantially
from Uriah Smith and J. N. Andrews. Neither of these books was ever printed
again under the name of James White as far as is known.
"But they were indeed reprinted under another name, that of Ellen G. White,
his wife, a few years after his death in 1881-but under the title The Great
Controversy (1884). And this production was sold to the believers and the world
as the work of Ellen and the angels. Although it had been doctored and padded
with other material in the usual manner, clearly it was material that had been
published earlier under the name of James. What the people were not told was
that the heart of this new revelation had been printed sixteen years before,
and that the theme and thesis had been over literally and liberally into Ellen's
new Great Controversy.
"One reason is now clear why much of the information in the 1884 edition of
The Great Controversy could not have been included in the earlier works of Ellen
on the same subject (Spiritual Gifts, published 1858¡64). James had not yet
gotten around to copying it from J. N Andrews; so it was not available to Ellen
at the time. The 1888 and 1911 editions of The Great Controversy went back to
James White's compilation of doctrines and events and picked up even more of
his findings and ideas. . . .
"So striking was the copying done under the name of Ellen - and so sensitive
is the information that the heart of Adventist theology and eschatology came,
not from the visions of or revelations to Ellen, but from the pen of James sixteen
years before Ellen wrote them out - that time should be spent examining the
evidence in Life Incidents.
"Here it should be recalled that the four small volumes of Ellen's Spiritual
Gifts (1858¡64) were amplified to the four volumes of Ellen's The Spirit of
Prophecy (1870¡84) and then expanded to Ellen's The Great Controversy (1888
ea.) of the five volume Conflict of the Ages Series. Inasmuch as the earlier
eight volumes are now again available in facsimile editions, anyone can examine
all the books and note the progressive copy work through the years. Meanwhile,
during those same years, the legend grew and grew and was 'sold' and accepted
that God had given Ellen exclusive and firsthand knowledge of his plans for
the future events of the church and the world. Comparison shows that words,
sentences, quotations, thoughts, ideas, structures, paragraphs, and even total
pages were taken from James White's book to Ellen's book under a new title-with
no blush of shame, no mention of her husband, no thanks to Uriah Smith and J.N.
Andrews, for the hard work and theological insights of anyone. . . .
"Much of his material in Life Incidents was taken primarily from J. N. Andrews,
whose book published in 1860, interestingly enough, was entitled The Three Messages
of Revelation XIV, 6¡12, and particularly The Third Angel's Message and The
Two-Horned Beast. James, unlike his wife Ellen, did not even bother to paraphrase-he
just took the material from Andrews wholesale into his work.
"Examination reveals that the 1860 book of J. N. Andrews was an exact replay
of his own 1851¡55 articles in the Review. Thus James and Ellen had available
for their perusal and use after 1855 the content and form of Andrew's work for
incorporation in their own work: Spiritual Gifts(1858¡64); Life Incidents (1868);
The Spirit of Prophecy (1870¡84); Sketches of. . . William Miller (1875); The
Great Controversy (1888)." (Walter T. Rea, The White Lie, pp. 222-224. (1982.)
Emphasis supplied. M & R Publications, Box 2056, Turlock, CA 95381.)
In the 1850's the First-Day Adventist H.L. Hastings published a book entitled
"The Great Controversy Between God and Man, Its Origin, Progress and End". On
March 14, 1858, Ellen White had her so-called Lovett's Grove vision about "The
Great Controversy". Four days later James White wrote an enthusiastic review
of Hastings' book The Great Controversy. This was just four days after the Lovett's
Grove vision. It is quite obvious that James had been reading Hastings' book
before he reviewed it. In other words, James and Ellen had this book in their
home before she had her Lovett's Grove vision about "The Great
Controversy". This gives us some thoughts. Six months later, Ellen published
her own "The Great Controversy", (in Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1) purportedly based
on her vision.
SDA historian Donald McAdams (Ellen G. White and the Protestant Historians,
1974) points out that Hastings' book "The Great Controversy" and Ellen White's
book "The Great Controversy"are remarkably similar. Both books
are about the same length, both have the same title, are on the same topic,
have the same beginning and end, and interpret Bible the same way.
At this point it should be emphasized that the so-called pillars of
Adventism are derived from other Adventist-pioneers, not Ellen White, who only
accepted and adopted their interpretations of Scripture - errors and all - into
her books, especially The Great Controversy. But first of all, much
of the material found its way into James White's books. The Investigative Judgement
comes from J.N. Andrews (possibly even the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith!), the
sanctuary doctrine comes from Owen R.L. Crosier and Uriah Smith, The United
States in Prophecy, the mark of the Beast/image to the Beast comes from Uriah
Smith, the seventh-day Sabbath came from Joseph Bates (although there were other
sabbath-keeping groups at that time). All this theology has been incorporated
into the book The Great Controversy. But the plain fact is that Ellen
White did not form the adventist theology - she adopted the various doctrines
from other pioneers and claimed heavenly visions to give them the heavenly stamp
During an interview two men from the General Conference held with Dr. J.H. Kellogg
in 1907, shortly before he was expelled from the SDA-church, Dr. Kellogg conveyed
"When the Great Controversy came out and the chapters of the history of the
Waldenses, my attention was called to it by somebody right away. I could not
help but know about it because there was the little book, Wiley's [sic] History
of the Waldenses right there on the Review and Herald book counter, and here
was the Great Controversy coming out with extracts from it that were scarcely
disguised, some of them. There was disguise because words were
changed; it would not have been proper to use quotation marks because words
were changed in the paragraph so they were not exact quotations but at the same
time were borrowed." (J.H. Kellogg Interview, 1907. Emphasis added.)
Walter Rea continues,
"The whole interview shows that the good doctor was greatly disturbed over what
he and others knew to be a deception practiced on the people by Ellen, her son
Will and her editors. (Rea, p. 136.)
During the Bible Conference held by the GC in 1919, the following information
"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." (1919-Bible
Conference. Emphasis supplied.)
Here Ellen's youngest son Willie admitted that "they", eg. his mother and her
literary assistants, copied extraneous matter from other autors to "fill the
gap", without even giving credit to the respective authors, and without references.
The chapters in The Great Controversy which came into fashion this way, were,
"The chapter on William Miller ('An American Reformer') in The Great Controversy
(and previously as chapter thirteen in The Spirit of Prophecy, volume four,
was lifted, in many cases word-for-word, from a little book James had printed
in 1875 as Sketches of the Christian Life and Public Labors of William Miller.
(James had acknowledged, both on his title page and by quotation marks in the
text, that he had used Sylvester Bliss's memoirs of William Miller (1853) and
'other sources.') Hence, Ellen's version was not 'selective'revelation.' It
was not retail merchandise. It was wholesale stealing that went as fenced material
incorporated in The Great Controversy."
"By this time Uriah Smith, having been joined to the group, got in on the fun.
His material on the sanctuary (published first as Review articles between 1851
and 1855, and then in book form in 1877) provided material for chapter twenty-three,
What Is the Sanctuary? in The Great Controversy. His word-by-word descriptions
of the Old Testament texts and events were taken over - again not retail, but
wholesale - into the picture of the struggle for victory on this earth as written
by Ellen and her helpers. One of the other early discoverers and explorers was
likewise drafted for the expedition - J.N. Andrews, also a knowledgeable writer.
His writings - including the Prophecy of Daniel, the Four Kingdoms, the Sanctuary,
and the Twenty-three Hundred Days, published from 1860 to 1863 - were put in
the hold as cargo. People of the Adventist Church have been quoting for decades,
as Ellen's infallible words, his material on the three angels' messages!" (Rea,
When the 1911-edition of Great Controversy was printed, the publishers claimed
that "worn out plates" was the main reason for printing the new edition. But
according to W.C. White, there may in addition have been another reason for
"In the body of the book, the most noticeable improvement is the introduction
of historical references. In the old edition, over seven hundred biblical references
were given, but in only a few instances were there any historical references
to the authorities quoted or referred to. In the new edition the reader
will find more than four hundred references to eighty-eight authors and authorities"
(Selected Messages, Vol. 3, Appendix A, p. 434. Emphasis added).
Walter Rea continues,
"Adventist theologians who take the position that a great deal of stealing went
on in the writing of the Canon might want to take note at this point. If one
were to compare the four gospels withThe Great Controversy, this is how it would
work out. Combining the 400 references from other authors and the 700 Bible
texts, and using Willie White's figures, the four writers of the four gospels
(copying to the extent that Ellen did) would have had to copy every single verse
they wrote! What Don McAdams recorded on the tape of the Glendale Committee
meeting about Ellen's Great Controversy is another way of saying the same thing.
He said that if every paragraph in The Great Controversy were footnoted in accordance
with accepted practice, giving credit where credit was due, almost every
paragraph would be footnoted." (Rea, p. 139-140. Emphasis supplied.)
In the 1970's the SDA historian Donald McAdams wanted to do research on one
single chapter inThe Great Controversy. In order to do that, he requested to
borrow the original manuscripts from The White Estate. He struggled for four
years with the prince of the vaults before his request was complied. At last
he was granted permission to borrow the original manuscript to the chapter on
John Huss - on certain terms: that he did not share the material with anybody,
and did not publish his results and conclusions. This, in itself, is an indication
that something was "rotten in Denmark." Why such secrecy about the writings
of a "true prophet of God"? McAdams discovered to his amazement that in this
chapter, consisting of 34 paragraphs, only four paragraphs were original from
EGW, the rest was copied from Wylie's History of Protestantism. But when The
Great Controversy was being published, those four paragraphs had been removed!
But there's more. The historical errors Wylie had been doing, also found
their way into theGreat Controversy. This should be some thought food
to them who claim that "God showed Ellen White what to copy and what to leave
out"! She and her helpers also arranged the sequence of events and their meaning
Donald McAdams continues,
"Ellen White was not just borrowing paragraphs here and there that she
ran across in her reading, but in fact following the historians page after page,
leaving out much material, but using their sequence, some of their ideas, and
often their words. In the examples I have examined I have found no historical
fact in her text that is not in their text. The hand-written' manuscript
on John Huss follows the historian so closely that it does not even seem to
have gone through an intermediary stage, but rather from the historian's printed
page to Mrs. White's manuscript, including historical errors and moral exhortations."
(Donald McAdams, Shifting View of Inspiration. Spectrum, vol. 10, No. 4, March.
1980. Quoted in Rea, p. 164. Emphasis supplied.)
And former secretary of the White Estate, Robert Olson, admitted,
"In following Wylie, Mrs. White appears to have made several erroneous
historical statements [about Huss in the Great Controversy] which are now deemed
to be historically inaccurate. . . .
"I accept the fact that Mrs. White followed Wylie closely - very closely
- from Great Controversy page 97 all the way to page 110. It is difficult for
me to believe that the Lord gave Mrs. White a vision or a series of visions
which, for fourteen pages, coincided in so many details with Wylie." (Robert
Olson, Questions and Problems Pertaining to to Mrs. White's Writings on John
Huss (1975). Quoted in Rea, p. 255. Emphasis supplied.)
Another matter is that the pictures in Wylie's work also had being copied straight
into The Great Controversy. The artist's signature below to the left were removed
by retouching, and in its place the Adventist Publishing house, Pacific Press,
Oakland, Ca., appeared.
Adventist theologian Raymond F. Cottrell performed an investigation in 1977,
where he compared material in The Great Controversy with the church historian
Merle d'Aubigne. He discovered that Ellen and her assistants had been paraphrasing
d'Aubigne closely. He discovered to his amazement that the material in fact
was "borrowed" from a popularized version of d'Aubigne's work History of the
Reformation, published for young readers by Charles Adams. In addition, Cottrell
discovered that this material had been published in the first place - not in
Great Controversy - but under Ellen White's name in Signs of the Times, October
11, 1883 ("Luther in Wartburg")! This should tell someone the extent of her
plagiarism, published as a direct pipeline from Heaven!
But what about the rest of the chapters in the book, which have to do with final
events, sunday-laws, the mark of the Beast etc.? Isn't that original with Ellen
White? Did not God "show" her what to copy and what to leave out? Says Walter
"It might be useful, however, to note one of the Adventists dying hope. Adventists
like to believe that the last chapters of The Great Controversy were structured
in their theological favor, that little or no copying was done in the matter
of eschatology. A comparison of some chapters in volume four of The Spirit of
Prophecy (the forerunner of The Great Controversy) shows that this is only wishful
thinking. The later chapters in the enlarged 1911 edition of Controversy show
"As painful as the realization is, the Ford controversy and the Ellen White-comparison-controversy
have made The Great Controversy somewhat suspect. Further, another ongoing investigation
of recent times shows large chunks of historical error. Even
the circuit riders from the White Estate have conceded that the book can no
longer be considered an accurate accounting of the events of nineteenth-century
history but must be used evangelistically." (Walter Rea, The White Lie, p. 142.
Professor in English at Andrews University, William S. Peterson, researched
the chapter on the French Revolution in Great Controversy, and discovered that
her description of this event most probably did not originate from visions,
but from bad historians which she made badly use of. A comparison of this chapter
with the 1884-edition of Uriah Smith's book Daniel and the Revelation, shows
that Ellen White did not quote historians as Scott, Thiers, Gleig or Alison
direct from the original sources, but that she in fact drew these sources from
Smith's book - which in turn had taken them from the above mentioned historians.
Ronald Graybill tells more on this,
"If one compares The Great Controversy, pages 269-270 and 273-276, with the
1873 edition ofThoughts on Daniel, pages 314-325, or the 1884 edition of Daniel
and Revelation, pages 270-279 (either of which Ellen White could have used in
her 1888 revision), one discovers that she used nothing from Scott,
Gleig, Thiers, or Alison that Smith did not have. Every time Smith deleted material,
she deleted the same material, although occasionally she deleted more. She even
used the quotations in exactly the same order on pages 275 and 276. There can
be no doubt that she drew the historical quotations from Smith, not from the
original works." (Ronald Graybill, How Did Ellen White Choose and Use
Historical Sources? The French Revolution Chapter of The Great Controversy.
Spectrum, summer 1972. Emphasis supplied.)
SDA historian Donald McAdams says,
"What we find when when we examine the historical portions of the Great Controversy
(those events from the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. through the French Revolution)
is that entire chapters at a time are simply selective abridgments of
protestant historians. . . . In the samples I have examined there is
not one historical fact in her text that is not in their text." (Donald McAdams,
Ellen G. White and the Protestant Historians. Unpublished Manuscript, p. 16-17.)
We are now being able to draw the following conclusions about the book The Great
Controversyby "Ellen G. White",
1. The book contains the heart of the SDA faith system.2. Very little of the
material in the book is original with Ellen White. Investigation has been showing
that the book is made up by material from at least 88 different authors.3. The
book was published in three editions: 1884, 1888, 1911. The 1884-edition (The
Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4), was simply doctored, new editions of James White's
book Life Incidents andSketches of William Miller. James White in turn had been
borrowing the material for his books from books by J.N. Andrews, Sylvester Bliss,
and others.4. The 1888-edition was augmented with quite a number of pages, consisting
of historical material, and from Uriah Smith - who in turn had been drawing
from various sources. There were no references, and no credit had been given
to the respective authors.5. Entire chapters in the book are from other authors.6.
Historical errors these authors had been doing, were copied straight into The
great Controversy. This should refute the claim some are making, that "God showed
Ellen White what to copy, and what to leave out".7. The theology in the book,
and accordingly the central doctrines of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, like
the 2300 years, 1844, the sanctuary, the Investigative Judgment, USA in the
prophecies, the mark of the Beast etc., had in fact been derived from adventist
pioneers as J.N. Andrews, Uriah Smith, Owen R.L. Crosier etc.
These are cold, bare and undisputable, well documented facts, that places Ellen
White's words on how The Great Controversy came into being in a suspect light,
"While writing the manuscript of The Great Controversy, I was
often conscious of the presence of the angels of God. And many times
the scenes about which I was writing were presented to me anew in visions of
the night, so that they were fresh and vivid in my mind." (Letter 56,
1911; Colporteur Ministry, p. 128. Emphasis supplied.)
In fact, Ellen White had very little to do herself with this book, especially
the 1911-edition, so maybe she refers to the previous edition of 1888 - a book
which largely was put together by her helpers.
The facts are,
"The hand-written' manuscript on John Huss follows the historian so
closely that it does not even seem to have gone through an intermediary stage,
but rather from the historian's printed page to Mrs. White's manuscript, including
historical errors and moral exhortations." (Donald McAdams, Shifting
View of Inspiration. Spectrum, vol. 10, No. 4, March. 1980. Quoted in Rea, p.
164. Emphasis supplied.)
This was also the case with the rest of the book. The material was not presented
to her by "heavenly visions", but was instead plagiarized from other authors
without mentioning their names, and published under Ellen G. White's name as
"revelations directly from heaven". Once more Ellen White does not tell the
truth, but deceives her readers.
Some claim that because she strongly endorsed the 1911-edition, all should be
"A few days ago, I received a copy of the new edition of the book Great Controversy,
recently printed at Mountain View, and also a similar copy printed at Washington.
The book pleases me. I have spent many hours looking through its pages, and
I see that the publishing houses have done good work" (Letter 56, 1911).
Of course she was pleased. She was just as pleased with the 1911-edition as
she was pleased with the 1888-edition and the 1884-edition, as well as James'
plagiarized books. The fact that she was pleased, does not change the matter.
If a bank-robber in jail writes out an endorsement of his robbery, this does
not change the matter. His written endorsement does not change the robbery into
a charitable act.
Ellen White's endorsement of the 1911-edition does not automatically make the
stolen goods a "thus saith the Lord." Here is, however, what the Lord says,
"Thou shalt not steal." Regardless of her endorsement, to this day the book
The Great Controversy is a big piece of stolen goods. The documentation for
this is overwhelming, and should no longer be subject to any discussions. But
unlike the bank-robber, Ellen White practiced her literary stealing in the name
of God, and has thus been making God an accomplice in her transgression against
His law. "Thou shalt not steal."
Desire of Ages
The Desire of Ages is another well known and dear book which
goes under the name of Ellen G. White. This book came into being while Ellen
White was in Australia, and was published in 1898. First of all, we are going
to listen to what a former president of the General Conference had to say,
"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." (The 1919 Bible Conference.
Statement by A.G. Daniells. Emphasis supplied.)
Research has been showing that the great proportion of material in Desire of
Ages was borrowed from other authors, such as William Hanna, Daniel March, John
Harris, and Alfred Edersheim. This has been fully documented. In a letter to
Leroy E. Froom, dated January 8, 1928, W.C. White says that Ellen, at the very
time she was in the progress of "writing" Desire of Ages, was busy reading books
by Hanna, Geikie, Fleetwood and Farrar. She had most certainly been reading
books from other authors as well, because their material to a great extent appeared
inDesire of Ages.
Further investigation reveals that Alfred Edersheim contributed freely from
his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883). John Fleetwood contributed
with material from his bookThe Life of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (1844),
William Hanna from his book The Life of Christ (1863), and John Harris from
his book The Great Teacher (1836). Other authors has been contributing with
material to Desire of Ages as well.
Adventist theologian Walter Specht admitted, after having done some research,
that Ellen White, in her books Desire of Ages and Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 2-3,
had been making freely use of material by William Hanna. He discovered that
this plagiarizing had started with the beginning and ended with the
end. SDA historian Donald McAdams admitted that,
"Indeed, there are some closely paraphrased paragraphs and other paragraphs
where, although Ellen White's words are different, it is clear she is following
the ideas presented by Hanna." (Donald McAdams, Shifting View of Inspiration.
Spectrum, vol. 10, No. 4, autumn 1971. Quoted in Rea, p. 91.)
In 1980, the SDA denomination asked Dr. Fred Veltman, who at that time was head
of the departement of religion at Pacific Union College, to analyze the charges
of plagiarism Walter T. Rea and others had been making against Ellen White.
Dr. Veltman researched the matter for eight years, at an expence of some 500,000
dollars, and the results of his research was published inMinistry magazine (November
1990). The conclusions were amazing!
"It is of first importance to note that Ellen White herself, not her literary
assistants, composed the basic content of the Desire of Ages text. In doing
so she was the one who took literary expressions [copied] from the works of
other authors without giving them credit as her sources[plagiarism].
Second, it should be recognized that Ellen White used the writings of othersconsciously
and intentionally. ... Impicitly or explicitly, Ellen White and others
speaking on her behalf did not admit to and even denied literary dependency
[copying] on her part.
"I must admit at the start that in my judgment this is the most serious problem
to be faced in connection with Ellen White's literary dependence [copying].
It strikes at the heart of her honesty, her integrity, and therefore her trustworthiness.
The content of Ellen White's commentary on the life and ministry of Christ,
The Desire of Ages, is for the most part derived [copied] rather than
original. . . .
"In practical terms, this conclusion declares that one is not able to
recognize in Ellen White's writings on the life of Christ any general category
of content or catalog of ideas that is unique to her." (Fred Veltman,
Ministry, Nov. 1990, pp. 11-12. Emphasis supplied.)
The conclusions are therefore plain as daylight regarding the book Desire of
1. The greater proportion of the book has been copied from books by Edersheim,
Hanna, Fleetwood, Harris and March (and possibly others).2. A former president
of the General Conference, A.G. Daniells, had to adjust his views on a whole
lot of things when he saw how the book was being made.3. In Desire of Ages there
is not a single thought or idea that is unique to Ellen White. This is of course
understandably, since the material had been borrowed from other authors.4. Ellen
White and her literary assistants denied their plagiarism.
All of this strikes - as Veltman said - at the integrity of Ellen White, and
raises some serious questions about her credibility. It has been proved beyond
all shadow of doubt that Ellen White and her helpers did plagiarize,
and that to a great extent. This is an undisputable fact. Those
who still deny this - and there are quite a few who do - simply have no idea
of what they are talking about.
Pastor Henry F. Brown related an incident which happened many years ago, when
he was in a second-hand book store together with Arthur S. Maxwell,
"Then, again, I was in a book store with Elder Maxwell, a very wonderful man
and I greatly appreciated, he was considerably older than I and we were looking
over some books in the second-hand book store. He pulled down from the shelf
a book entitled, "Evening Scenes in The Bible." by Dr., I'll give the
name later. (Daniel March He says), 'This book is a book from
which Mrs. White has secured many of her most beautiful pages in some of her
books.' I was amazed and stunned. I didn't dare buy that in front of
him to let him know I was reading it, but later on I purchased it. Later on
I found that Walter Rea had copied quite a number of quotations from that book."
(H.F. Brown's Personal Testimony, Dec. 5, 1984. Emphasis added.))
In other words, well-informed adventists have been familiar with this fact for
quite a time.
Prophets and Kings
Volume two in the Conflict series, Prophets and Kings, is no
better off than Desire of Ages orGreat Controversy. Comparisons show that much
of the material in the book has been borrowed from Edersheim's Bible History:
Old Testament, Night Scenes in the Bible by Daniel March and other books.
What is worse, is the fact that Ellen White herself had very little to do with
the preparation of this book, which was published in 1916, one year after Ellen's
death. On December 27, 1907, Ellens secretary, Clarence C. Crisler, wrote a
letter to William W. Prescott where he asked Prescott to "assist them" in the
preparation of a book which had to do with ". . .the Old Testament periods not
covered in any of the published writings of Str. White." The book in question
was what eventually became Prophets and Kings.
In the year 1914, the year before Ellen's death, C.C. Crisler had a series of
interviews with her. These interviews are giving us some insight on how the
preparation of the book Prophets and Kings progressed - without much intervention
from her part. In his manuscript Did the Prophet See Kings? Walter T. Rea tells,
"Crisler knew that Ellen was dying, that her book on this Old Testament period
was not . done and that if it were ever to come out under her name it must be
finished quickly. The interview shows clearly how it was being finished and
shows also that merely having Ellen 'review' or 'supervise' the final draft
was absolutely meaningless, but only a mechanical device to help sustain the
white lie of Ellen's and thus God's involvement in the whole process. In the
interview of several days he says:
"Wednesday eve., July 22, 1914. I related to EGW the main points
of the Elisha article on "The Healing of the Waters," also the article on "Deliverance
from Assyria;" and EGW expressed her pleasure in knowing that these
chapters were nearing completion. She also expressed the hope that
she might be strengthened to go over them the final time, so that the work could
be bound off properly. But she added that we must help her in this work of binding
off, and do our part faithfully, and that this would bring encouragement to
all the other workers to do their part.
"Evening of July 27, 1914. Sister White inquired about the
progress of the work, and I told her of the Old Testament Mss. again - how
all was done now but nine chapters. I outlined at length the Isaiah
prophecies we hoped to include in the Visions of Future Glory chapter, and of
some of the matter we hoped to include in the chapter. She expressed pleasure
in our being able to go to the Word for so much of the material for this chapter;
. . . I outlined the plan for dealing with the Jeremiah and the Ezekiel portions,
and mentioned in detail the call of Jeremiah, and also of Ezekiel; . . She expressed
the hope that we would seize upon the most striking features.
"July 31. Told her of my O.T. History work, particularly the
Josiah-Manasseh chapter, and ofhow we were arranging the scriptures
and the materials." (Walter T. Rea, Did the Prophet See Kings?. Emphasis
It therefore becomes crystal clear that Prophets and Kings was not
written by Ellen White personally, but rather compiled from various
sources by her many and industrious assistants.
A closer look at the book shows that a series of chapters (1-5, 9-11, 14, 17-18,
34, 39, 43, 47) has been compiled from material from Ellen White's previous
books: Christ's Object Lessons, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, Fundamentals on Education,
Education, articles from the Review and Herald, Testimonies, vol. 3 and 5, Desire
of Ages, Mount of Blessing, and Ministry of Healing. The last two chapters of
Prophets and Kings were being compiled in their entirety from books asDesire
of Ages and Great Controversy - which in turn had the great proportion of their
material borrowed from other authors!This should tell us something!
Walter Rea goes on,
". . .and so on to the end of the book where the last two chapters were taken
in their entirety fromDesire of Ages and Great Controversy. Along with character
references from Night Scenes From the Bible by March, and some works of Harris
which Prescott had used in his help of Desire of Ages in the first five chapters
never written before, the over 2000 Bible texts helped to weave a tapestry of
deception that was never discovered until this day when it can now be said thatProphets
and Kings became the greatest compilation under the name of Ellen White that
was ever published either during or after her death." (Rea, Ibid.)
An open question is how well Ellen's mental health was in 1914, when the above
quoted interviews took place. According to D.M. Canright, she was somewhat dement
at that time,
"We are informed by her near relatives that during these closing years
of her life, when these important books were being prepared, she often
did not know her nearest friends, nor even some of her attendants whom she saw
almost daily. When she attempted to speak in her home church, she repeated herself
over and over again, and had to be told when to stop. None of these
weaknesses appear in the composition of her works prepared at that time, because,
like most of her earlier work, they were prepared by others." (D.M.
Canright, The Life of Mrs. E.G. White. Emphasis supplied.)
But adventists are not being informed about all this. The lustring picture are
to be preserved at any cost.
Patriarchs and Prophets
The book Patriarchs and Prophets (1890, 1913) comprises the first
volume in the Conflict series, and is heavy laden with plagiarized material.
In particular, material from Edersheim's Bible History: Old Testament, vol.
1-4, has been the cornerstone for Patriarchs and Prophets. In addition, material
and thoughts from John Milton'sParadise Lost (1667) has found its way into Ellen
White's book. It is very striking to glance at the chapter sequence in Edersheims
work and Ellen's book. They are identical, and in the same order. This can hardly
be called accidental.
The story in Patriarchs and Prophets about Satan's fall in heaven etc., shows
striking similarities with John Miltons famous work from 1667, Paradise Lost.
Ellen White received a copy of Milton's book from J.N. Andrews, who commented
on that, but she tells that she "placed it on a high shelf". Maybe she had read
Milton's book after all - before Andrews handed her a copy?
In Patriarchs and Prophets, we also find material by Daniel March, Frederick
W. Farrar, F.W. Krummacher and others. In addition we find material from the
Book of Jasher, a book mentioned in the Bible (Joshua 10:13; 1 Samuel 1:18),
but not part of it. The Book of Jasher had been published in an English translation
in New York, 1840. It has been claimed that there are 18 parallells to the Book
of Jasher in Ellen White's writings.
Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles (1911) comprises the last but one book
(Vol. 4) of the Conflict Series. The story of how this book came into shape,
makes up another dark chapter in the history of Seventh-Day Adventism.
In 1883 the Adventist denomination published a book entitled Sketches from the
Life of Paul, by Ellen G. White. Problems arose almost from the start, when
the striking similarities between Ellen's new book and the book The Life and
Epistles of St. Paul by the British authors W.J. Conybeare and J.S. Howson (1852)
were being discovered. In fact, the similarities were so striking that Conybeare
and Howson threatened the Adventist denomination with lawsuit if the book was
not withdrawn. After several denials, as usual, Sketches was eventually withdrawn.
But in the introduction to Sketches, it says,
"The writer of this book, having received special help from the Spirit
of God, is able to throw light upon the teachings of Paul and their
application to our own time, as no other authors are prepared to do.
She has not suffered herself to be drawn aside to discuss theories,
or to indulge in speculation. No extraneous matter is introduced. Consequently
much that is contained in other books, which is interesting to the curious,
and has a certain value, but which is after all little more than theory, finds
no place in this work." (Life Sketches From the Life of Paul, introduction.
This was quite a statement, but far from any truth.
Of course one could argue that Ellen White did not write the introduction herself.
This could be true. However, it has always been claimed that she had the final
word in the publication of her writings, and that she always read carefully
through the manuscript before it was sent to the publishing house for printing.
On account of that, there is good reason to believe that either she endorsed
the introduction to Sketches, or she did not. Because the book was published
under her name, we will take for granted that she endorsed it.
It is an undisputable fact that great proportions of Sketches had been "borrowed"
from Conybeare and Howson's work, and doctored the usual way by Ellen Whites
"borrowing staff" before going to press. In spite of this, the introduction
claims in plain words that no external material had been used!
"The truth is that Ellen had used the other author's material from beginning
to end with little let-up. More recent comparisons indicate that paraphrasing
of Conybeare and Howson's book is evident in structure, words, paragraphs, and
even pages of material." (Walter Rea, The White Lie, p. 110.)
During the 1919 Bible Conference, Arthur G. Daniells commented on this,
"A. G. Daniells: Yes; and now take that "Life of Paul," - I
suppose you all know 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." (1919 Bible Conference, statement
by A.G. Daniells.)
But obviously she did not learn from this incident. Both she and her assistants
continued as if nothing had happened, in fact they borrowed more heavily than
In the book Sketches From the Life of Paul, the Adventist denomination admits
"By the close of 1910 Mrs. White had given full consideration to all the problems
connected with the reset edition of Great Controversy, That task having been
completed, she found time to supervise the revision of Sketches from the Life
of Paul, and add several chapters on the life work, and the writings of the
apostles of the early Christian church. This matter was published in 1911, under
the title, The Acts of the Apostles. [P. 434, Italics supplied]. There really
wasn't much to oversee. In some cases the original material was rearranged,
a few more authors were added, and some of the more obvious copying was toned
down with more Bible texts." (Rea, ibid. p. 122. Emphasis supplied.)
Among the new authors who found their way into Acts of the Apostles, were, among
others, Farrar, March and McDuff. Another author who Ellen White and her staff
obviously held in high esteem, was John Harris. His book from 1836, The Great
Teacher, became a source to numerous new material for The Acts of the Apostles.
Some EGW-apologists claim that Conybeare and Howson's book was not copyrighted,
therefore all things were OK. But was it OK? Is it honest - copyright or not
- to make use of other people's material the way Ellen White did, without even
giving credit, and publishing it under the name of "the Spirit of Prophecy"?
Of course not. This is dishonest practice, swindle, in the name of God!
The conclusion seems inevitable: The entire Conflict series by "Ellen G. White"
consists of more or less plagiarized material from other authors.
Steps to Christ
Steps to Christ is a wonderful, spiritual book which has been
a great blessing to a great number of people. We are not questioning the spiritual
content of the book, rather the authorship. Because the book has been published
under the name of Ellen G. White, we may think that she must be the inspired
author, but according to what we know at this time about the Conflict series,
and other books published under her name, there is good reason to put in a little
question mark here. Is indeed Ellen White the real author of Steps to Christ?
The book was published initially in 1893, when Ellen White was in Australia.
Strange enough, the first edition was not being published by the Adventist denomination,
but by a secular publishing house, Rand McNally in New York.
The book was selling well, and the Adventist denomination, which had a keen
sense of money-making, tried to take over the copyright, which it eventually
managed to do. When the Adventist denomination published the book, it contained
an entire new first chapter. No one knows who wrote this new chapter, certainly
not Ellen White.
Who is the real author of Steps to Christ? Robert K. Sanders tells,
"I wrote a letter to the White Estate, January 8, 1997 to Mr. Tim Poirier Associate
Director/Archivist asking: "Why did Fanny Bolton claim to have written, "Steps
to Christ"? Would you send me a copy of a page from Steps to Christ hand written
by Ellen G. White?"
"Mr. Poirier responded in a letter dated January 20, 1997, saying; "Fannie Bolton's
claim re Steps to Christ: Fannie Bolton never made that claim, so far as I have
ever seen. It was made by others after her death. Nor did Ellen White
write the book by hand - so I cannot send you a handwritten page.
It was compiled by her editorial assistants from her earlier writings.
I've sent an example for your comparison, showing the source for the paragraphs
on page 83. (Fannie first met Ellen White in 1887.)"
"Facts: Fannie went to work for Mrs. White in 1888. "Steps to Christ" was published
"The comparison sent to me by Mr. Poirier is from Steps to Christ p. 83. "The
humblest and poorest of the disciples of Jesus can be a blessing to others.
They may not know they are doing any special good, but by their unconscious
influence they may start waves of blessings that will widen and deepen, and
the blessed results they may never know until the day of final reward." This
is to be compared with, Testimonies Volume 3, p. 246 published in 1872. "The
humblest and poorest of the disciples of Jesus can be a blessing to others.
They may not realize they are doing any special good, but by their unconscious
influence they may start waves of blessings that will widen and deepen, and
the happy results of their words and consistent deportment they may never know
until the day of final distribution of rewards."
"Because of the similarity of the wording of an earlier statement in 1872 found
in "Testimonies"when compared to "Steps to Christ" 1892, Mr. Poirier would lead
us to believe Fannie could not have written Steps to Christ.
Mr. Poirier, states, "Nor did Ellen White write the book by hand
- so I cannot send you a handwritten page. It was compiled by her editorial
assistants from her earlier writings."These editorial assistants
would have to include Fannie Bolton. We also know Steps to Christwas
not written by hand by Ellen G. White but by her editorial assistants.
"Fannie did claim to have written "Steps to Christ" to Edward S. Ballenger and
witnessed by Charles D. Willis.
"'Riverside, California June 26, 1952To whom it may concern:This is to certify
that I the undersigned, Edward S. Ballenger, was personally aquainted with Miss
Fannie Bolton, a literary assistant of Mrs. E.G. White and to further certify
that during the period 1895-97 I was told in person by Miss Bolton in Battle
Creek that she had written the book Steps to Christ and that Mrs. White had
taken the MSS and had published it under her own name. Signed, (Sign) Edward
S. Ballenger, 4138 Mulberry St.Witness: (Sign) Charles D. Willis.
"Ellen G. White did not write this book admits the White Estate, and
they also admit her assistants compiled it. Where did the material
come from that the assistants used? The White Estate tells us it was from Ellen's
earlier writings. Is this totally true?
"We now know that "Steps to Christ" was plagiarized from uninspired authors
by Ellen's assistants? This was Fannie's habit in writing for Ellen.
"In Fannie's letter to Ballenger she says, "Mrs. White had take the MSS and
had published them under her own name. See Fannies confessions: also Kellogg
"From the evidence we have uncovered, it is easy to understand why Fannie claimed
to have authored "Steps to Christ." (Robert K. Sanders, Truth or Fables. Who
Wrote Steps to Christ? (http://www.truthorfables.com/). Emphasis supplied.
Here we have once more the same procedure: Ellen White's literary assistants
"borrowed" material from other authors, compiled it in a more or less doctored
form into books and published them under the name of Ellen G. White as "The
Spirit of Prophecy". We remember the incident in Australia, when Fannie Bolton
revealed Ellen's working methods and complained about Ellen publishing Fannie's
articles under her own (Ellen's) name. It is not hard to understand that she
may easily have taken Fannie's manuscript and published it as her own. If Fannie
Bolton is the author, there is of course strong reason to suspect that she may
have compiled the book from other authors.
A comparison shows that the material in Steps to Christ has been taken from
Night Scenes in the Bible by Daniel March (1868-70) and God's Will Known by
Almon Underwood (1860). Some of the material had been published in Ellen White's
earlier books, and it is an open question how much of this material is original
Other books and articles
Ellen White's plagiarism started early in her career. In the
very first publication by Seventh-Day Adventists, the pamphlet A Word to the
Little Flock (1847), we discover such "borrowing". This time from the Apocrypha.
Examples of this,
"We all entered the cloud together, and were seven days ascending to the sea
of glass, whenJesus brought along the crowns and with his own right
hand placed them on our heads." (A Word to the Little Flock, p. 15.
"I, Ezra, saw on Mount Zion a great multitude, which I could not number, and
they all were praising the Lord with songs. In their midst was a young
man of great stature, taller than any of the others, and on the head of each
of them he placed a crown, but he was more exalted than they. And I
was held spellbound. Then I asked an angel, 'Who are these, my lord?' He answered
and said to me, 'These are they who have put off mortal clothing and have put
on the immortal, and they have confessed the name of God; now they are being
crowned, and receive palms.' Then I said to the angel, 'Who is that young man
who places crowns on them and puts palms in their hands?' He answered and said
to me, 'He is the Son of God, whom they confessed in the world'"
(2. Esdra, 2:43-47).
"Mount Zion was just before us, and on the Mount sat a glorious temple, and
about it were seven other mountains, on which grew roses and lilies,[2
Esdras, 2:19.] and I saw the little onesclimb, or if they chose, use
their little wings and fly to the top of the mountains, and pluck the never
fading flowers." (Ibid, p. 17. Emphasis supplied.)
"I will send you help, my servants Isaiah and Jeremiah. According to their counsel
I have consecrated and prepared for you twelve trees loaded with various fruits,
and the same number of springs flowing with milk and honey, and seven
mighty mountains on which roses and lilies grow; by these I will fill your children
with joy" (2. Esdra 2:18-19).
There was no secrecy about these similarities with the apocryphical 2. Esdra
(4. Ezra). In the vision, as related in A Word to the Little Flock, James White
did in fact refer to footnotes, which in turn refer to 2. Esdra. We also do
find material from other chapters in 2. Esdra, with references, and from another
apocryphical book, The Wisdom of Solomon - also with reference. When this vision
later was published in Ellen's books Spiritual Gifts and Early Writings, the
footnoting and references had been removed, but the material was still there
- probably to create the impression that all this was derived from Ellen's "heavenly
We are to note that chapter two in 2. Esdra, and chapters 1, 15 and 16, do not
exist neither in the arabic, nor in the ethiopic original manuscripts of the
book. Probably the chapters were inserted later by other authors. Even people
who believe the Apocrypha to be half-canonical, or accept them fully, do not
accept 2. Esdra. But it is quite obvious that Ellen White had been borrowing
elements from this apocryphical book into her vision. It now remains to see
how much she in fact borrowed from the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, when such
documentation eventually emerges.
In addition, there are unmistakable evidences of plagiarism in other of Ellen
White's books, such as Education (1903), where we find material - without giving
credit - from the book Our Father's House by Daniel March. Here is an example,
"The eagle of the Alps is sometimes beaten down by the tempest into the narrow
defiles of the mountains." (March, p. 254.)
"The eagle of the Alps is sometimes beaten down by the tempest into the narrow
defiles of the mountains." (Education, p. 118.)
In the book Education, we find evidences of plagiarism on almost every imaginable
subject. Horace Mann is another author who also found his way into the book.
In addition, the books Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students (1913) has
been compiled the usual way. According to D.M. Canright, Ellen White was somewhat
dement at this time, and therefore unable to write books. But her assistants
were in full work. Once more, John Harris' book from 1836, The Great Teacher,
provided much material to Ellen's book.
The Testimonies for the Church are not exempted from plagiarism. In them we
find considerable amounts of borrowed material, without references, to create
the impression that this was material derived directly from "visions" and "revelations".
Research has proven that a number of authors have found their way into the Testimonies,
among them Larkin Coles, James White, Daniel March, John Harris, Eli Peck Miller,
Henry Melvill, Hannah W. Smith and others. Here is one example,
"Christ sought for men wherever he could find them - in the public streets,
in private houses, in the synagogues, by the seaside. He toiled all day preaching
to the multitudes.( Testimonies, vol 3, p. 322 (1885).)
"He sought for men wherever he could find them - in the public street, in the
private house, in the synagogue or by the seaside. He toiled all day in the
work of healing and instruction." (Daniel March, Night Scenes in the Bible,
p. 334. (1868-1870).)
Here is another,
"I testify to my brethren and sisters that the church of Christ,
enfeebled and defective as it may be, is the only object on earth on which He
bestows His supreme regard." (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 15.)
"But the church of Christ, enfeebled and defective as it may be, is the only
object on earth on which he bestows His supreme regard." (John Harris, The Great
Teacher (1842-edition), pp. 158-160.)
Please note that Ellen White inserted a few words at the beginning of the borrowed
quotation to emphasize that these were "words from the Lord", "I testify
to my brethren and sisters. . . ." We do not deny the truth of this statement.
There is nothing wrong with John Harris' material. We do however question this
kind of borrowing and doctoring to create the impression that the words came
in a direct pipeline from heaven, "The Spirit of Prophecy". This is deception.
It would prove hard to find a single book by Ellen G. White, published before
or after her death, which do not show some kind of plagiarism, without giving
credit, in order to make people believe that the material was original with
Ellen White - and therefore of "heavenly origin".
In the Signs of the Times and the Review and Herald, there are about 4,000 articles
which were published under the name of Ellen G. White. These articles are laden
with plagiarized material. Some times entire articles were copied from other
authors and published under the name of Ellen White as a "thus saith the Lord".
In the article The First Prophecy (Review and Herald, July 18, 1882), by "Ellen
G. White", there is a big amount of plagiarized material, mostly from Henry
Melville's Sermons, Vol. 1 (1843). Even the title of the article has been taken
straight from Melville. This article thus no longer is by Henry Melville, but
has changed its status to "the Spirit of Prophecy", a "thus saith the Lord."
This practice is more than questionable.
Articles published under Ellen White's name in Signs of the Times after the
turn of the century were often copied in their entirety from other authors,
mostly historians like Wylie and d'Aubigne.
There can be no doubt that Ellen White and her assistants were the most prolific,
literary thiefs in history. The "5 million words, 4,000 articles, 70 books"
etc. etc. which allegedly came from the "inspired pen" of Ellen White, as an
constant flow of "visions and revelations" from heaven, is an adventist myth
not based on plain facts.
In 1880 James White penned these words,
"In her published works there are many things set forth which cannot
be found in other books, and yet they are so clear and beautiful that
the unprejudiced mind grasps them at once as truth. ... If commentators and
theological writers generally had seen these gems of thought which strike the
mind so forcibly, and had they been brought out in print, all the ministers
in the land could have read them. These men gather thoughts from books,
and as Mrs. W. has written and spoken a hundred things, as truthful as they
are beautiful and harmonious, which cannot befound in the writings of
others, they are new to the most intelligent readers and hearers. And
if they are not to be found in print, and are not brought out in sermons from
the pulpit, where did Mrs. W. find them? From what source has she received the
new and rich thoughts which are to be found in her writings and oral
addresses? She could not have learned them from books, from the fact that they
do not contain such thoughts. And, certainly, she did not learn them
from those ministers who had not thought of them. The case is a clear
one. It evidently requires a hundred times the credulity to believe
that Mrs. W. has learned these things of others, and has palmed them off as
visions from God, than it does to believe that the Spirit of God has
revealed them to her." (James White in Life Sketches (1880-edition),
pp. 328-329. Quoted in Rea, p. 171. Emphasis supplied.)
This sounds good, but is no more than a myth. James White knew better, therefore
his words are the more deceptive. He himself had been writing four books which
were copied almost in their entirety from others. He was Ellen's literary assistant
during this period, until his death in 1881, and was instrumental in collecting
material from other authors, which he published under his wife's name as "visions
from God". In particular, this was the case with the four volumes ofSpiritual
Gifts (1858-64), which were the forerunners of Spirit of Prophecy and Great
Controversy. However, some of the health related "I saw" material in Spiritual
Gifts vanished into silence, for obvious reasons.
Very often, Ellen White begins a sentence or paragraph with "I saw", "It was
shown me", "My attending angel said", etc. This was calculated to give weight
to the sentence. The words are thus no longer Ellen White's own, but have become
a "thus saith the Lord". As we have seen, closer investigation shows that what
she "saw", was not heavenly visions, but material from other authors. Far more
serious is the fact that what she was "shown" by angels, and even "Jesu own
words" to her during "visions", also was derived from other authors.
Well-informed people knew about her plagiarism, even during her own life-time.
But all the extensive research being carried out in recent times, has brought
to light the fact that most of her literary production has been borowed from
other authors. Accordingly, James White's statement from 1880 will stand as
one of many adventist myths.
During the General Conference session in 1909 - the last GC Ellen White ever
attended, a certain pastor was asked to read before the congregation a collection
of her unpublished testimonies. While he was reading, he discovered to his amazement
that he in fact was reading from a letter he had mailed to Ellen White a number
of years ago. She had extracted large portions of the letter, without mentioning
the source, and created the impression that this was her own "testimony" (see
D.M. Canright, The Life of Mrs. E.G. White).
Miss Marian Davis became one of Ellen White's literary assistants, one of her
"borrowing staff" who was busy preparing books for Ellen.
"Miss Marian Davis, the literary worker who had the most to do of any one in
the preparation of Mrs. White's books, was one day heard moaning in her room.
Going in, another worker inquired the cause of her trouble. Miss Davis replied:
"I wish I could die! I wish I could die!" "Why, what is the matter?" asked the
other. "Oh," Miss Davis said, "this terrible plagiarism!" It is said that before
her death Miss Davis was greatly troubled over the connection she had had with
Mrs. White's plagiarism, for she knew how extensively it had been carried on."
(D.M. Canright, The Life of Mrs. E.G. White.)
There is much evidence to the claim that Ellen G. White was one of the most
prolific, literary kleptomaniacs in history. However, she was very attentive
that others gave her due credit if they would quote her in their own books.
When Dr. David Paulson asked her for permission to make use of some of her material
in his monthly magazine The Life Boat, W.C. White replied,
"Mother instructs me to say to you that you may be free to select from her writings
short articles for The Life-boat. Or you may make extracts from these MSS. and
from similar writings, in your articles, in each case giving the proper credit."
(W.C. White, letter to Dr. David Paulson, Feb. 15, 1905. Emphasis supplied.
Quoted in Canright's book The Life of Mrs. E.G. White.)
Is it ethically wrong to borrow material from others? If we by the phrase "borrowing"
mean to collect material from other authors and publish the more or less doctored
material as one's own literary product, under one's own name, and without giving
credit, or references, and without making use of quotation marks, the answer
must be yes! Of course it is ethically wrong, in fact, it is a deception. One
takes the credit for someone else's work. But it is far worse when such stealing
and deception are being practiced under the cloak of christianity, and the borrower
claims heavenly sanction for the deception! Thus the deceiver makes God implicated
in morally objectionable methods.
Most authors make use of material from others. There is nothing wrong with that,
provided they have permission from the respective authors to do so. But such
material should be enclosed within quotation marks, and references should be
given. Ellen White never did that in her books and articles. The heavy borrowing
was published under her own name as "the Spirit of Prophecy." Thus the impression
was created that the material was "inspired", derived from heaven in "visions,
dreams and revelations". Beacuse the material was borrowed, the whole thing
was a formidable deception, and this deception has been perpetuated to this
The fact that so much documentation about Ellen White's "borrowing" has been
brought to light, makes it clear that she herself, her husband, and later her
assistants, collected material from other authors and weaved it into her writings
to create the impression that the resultant material was "the Spirit of Prophecy",
raises serious questions about James and Ellen White's integrity and credibility.
Ellen White has of course been writing a good deal of material herself. But
did she borrow thoughts and ideas from others, or did she derive them from direct
inspiration - visions, dreams and revelations? This must be an open question
everyone will have to settle for himself after having digested all the information
given in this article, and all documentation about her working methods. In her
works we do find many good things, deep things, spiritual things. However, that
is not the issue under discussion. But due credit for this should be given to
the authors who put their thoughts and ideas on paper. We are not to make exaggerated
claims about Ellen White's writings, such as being done within certain adventist
circles - in particular the zealous, conservative fringe. They have created
an unhealthy "ellenism", which is not based on facts, but on myths. Unfortunately
it is almost impossible to discuss facts with people of that calibre. They look
at all undisputable documentation as a fulfillment of Ellen White's words about
people who would create doubts about her writings - and they become even more
settled in their unhealthy relationship with Ellen White and the myths surrounding
We are to consider some plain facts. There is no person on this planet who could
produce written material - books, articles, letters and manuscripts - in that
pace and in that amounts, that Ellen White allegedly did. It is simple not humanly
possible. Every week a new article under her name appeared in the Review; in
addition, articles appeared in several other papers, books came in quick succession,
large amounts of manuscripts, letters etc. She could not have managed to copy,
or borrow, all this material herself, to the extension it has been done. She
had a professional "borrowing staff" who did much of her work. It is also a
fact that a number of articles were being put into the papers under her name
without her knowledge at all, and without having the opportunity to review the
material before it was published. But obviously she approved of all kind of
stuff appearing under her name.
Let us try all things and keep to what is good, what is in harmony with Scripture.
But we are not to make lofty claims about her writings. We certainly believe
that God is able to inspire other people than Ellen White - and many an author
whose beautiful passages found their way into Ellen White's writings.
Ellen White penned the following words in 1906,
"These books, giving the instruction that the Lord has given me during the
past sixty years, contain light from heaven, and will bear
the test of investigation." (Selected Messages, vol 1, p. 35. Emphasis
We have made the test of investigation, and the conclusion is clear: Ellen White's
claim that her books will pass the test of investigation, does not hold water.
Her books have not passed the biblical test in order to ascertain their allegedly
heavenly origin. The above quote does not tell the truth. This
should by now become clear to every honest soul. Sixty years backwards from
1906 leads us to the year 1846. Ellen White's visions from that time were replete
with errors, particularly the "shut door". This heresy was clearly manifested
in her writings from 1846-1851. Her later writings about health reform were
replete with bizarre myths and superstitions. In addition, there are numerous
theological errors in her books. The conclusion is inevitable: Most, if not
all, of her literary products were not "light from heaven", as she claims, but
borrowed material from other authors.
"Do not borrow the productions of other men's brains and pens, and recite
them as a lesson; but make the most of the talents, the brain power,
that God has given you." (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, April 6, 1886. Emphasis
Ellen White wrote this admonition in 1886, at the very time she and her assistants
were busy borrowing the productions of other's brains and pens to an extent
few, if any, could match. Maybe this statement in itself was borrowed!
"Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that
steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against
the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.
Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith
the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by
their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall
not profit this people at all, saith the LORD." (Jer. 23:30-32.)