|"We Discovered Ellen White Failed the Biblical Tests of a Prophet"|
for Real People
Confirmation of Ellen White's Prophetic Powers?
|TABLE 1 [Probably written before March 8, 1891]|
|Item No.||Date||Source||Reference to Salamanca|
|1||Nov. 4, 1890||Diary 16, p.290||Things were opened to her.|
|2||Nov. 8, 1890||Diary 16, p.294||She told the experience to an audience in Sands, Virginia.|
|3||Nov. 14, 1890||Circa, Letter 72a, 1890||Encouragement, peace, and comfort brought as the glory of the Lord filled her room.|
|4||Nov. 25, 1890||Diary 16, pp. 336-338||None.|
|5||Nov. 4, 1890||Circa, MS 16, 1890||None.|
|6||Jan. 8, 1891||MS 2, 1891||She was lifted from her discouragement and made free, happy, and hopeful as the Lord filled her room with his presence.|
This concludes our survey of the references to the Salamanca experiences,
which were probably written before the March 8, 1891, presentation
by Ellen White to the Sunday morning General Conference ministers'
meeting. Table 1 summarizes our findings. What stands out is that
there is no clear evidence that up until her March 8, 1891, presentation,
Ellen White ever associated her Salamanca experience with the
revelation of information about a March 7, 1891, meeting, the
Sentinel, editorial policy, or de-emphasizing Adventist distinctives.
In fact it is not by any means clear that God revealed anything
to her at Salamanca. If he did in fact do so, she certainly never
hinted, at this point, at what was revealed.
The next four references to Salamanca are impossible to date precisely.
They are typically dated prior to her March 8, 1891, presentation.
If the dating could be proven, it would help establish the case
for her prophetic powers.
7. This item is located in Diary 16, 1890, on page 289. It follows the entry for November 3, 1890, but precedes the November 4 entry (see Item 1). However, the language and context indicate that it does not belong with either of these entries but it is a later insertion back into this section of her diary. It reads:
"Weary in body and in much discomfort and pain, I went to my chamber, my sleeping room. I had painful feelings and thought I would be compelled to return to Battle Creek. The season of the year was unfavorable, the weather changeable, and the [rail] cars uncomfortably heated. This prepared us to contract colds, and it seemed presumptuous to attempt to journey from state to state.
"I knelt by my chair to pray, feeling disheartened in reference to my journeying. Many appointments were before me. I had not uttered a word when the whole room seemed filled with a soft, silvery light, and my pain and disappointment and discouragement were removed. I was filled with comfort and hope and the peace of Christ. "My peace will I give unto you." I knew it was upon me. The presence of Jesus was in the room.
Genesis 28:12-15. I could better understand the meaning of these words:
"And Jacob...said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but [sic] the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
And he was in a desolate wilderness.
"Indeed heaven seemed very near to me, and my heart was filled with joy and gladness. I had no inclination to sleep. I wanted to feast upon the heavenly manna, that bread of life that if we eat thereof we shall live forever. What a night that was to my soul! Every breath was prayer mingled with praise to God." 22
There is a sudden jump in thought from the November 3 entry which
described the predicament of Sister Bowen whose husband burned
every religious book or paper in her possession,23 to this
description of the refreshing Salamanca experience.24 And there
is an equally sudden jump at the end of this page to the entry
for November 4.25 Olson rightly points out that the statement,
"The season of the year was unfavorable," points back
to a substantially earlier period.26 If the season at the time
of writing was significantly better than early November, it may
well have been written some time after March 8, 1891. But this
is only conjecture. The entire passage is written in the past
tense and nothing in it suggest the events described had just
occurred. She says, "I had no inclination to sleep,"
a phrase which would have been written in the present tense if
this description were an immediate response written late in the
evening of November 3 as the diary itself suggests. Likewise,
her reflection, "What a night that was to my soul!"
could hardly have been written on either November 3 or 4. In a
refreshing moment of candor and insight for the White Estate,
Olson admits that, "from internal evidence it appears that
the lines quoted here were probably written some weeks or even
months later [than the Salamanca experience].27
The bottom of this diary page has a note saying, "Look at
the last part of the book headed Salamanca important matter."
Pages 450-517 present a long account of what has been believed
to be the Salamanca experience, though the passage does not carry
the title "Salamanca" (see Items 9 and 10 below). It
would be helpful if it could be determined whether this note,
which is in her hand, was written at the same time as the rest
of this passage following the November 3 diary entry. For if it
were, it would date this passage at a date equal to or later than
that of pages 450-517. An analysis of the original ink might throw
light on this inquiry.
This undatable reference is similar to Items 3 and 6 above, and
contains no mention of a meeting, the Sentinel, editorial policy,
or de-emphasizing Adventist distinctives.
8. There is yet another passage written on the lower portion of
diary entries for other days. This one occurs below entries for
November 20, 21, and 22, 1890, and spans six pages (Ellen White
often allowed two pages for each day's entry). Clearly it was
not written on these dates because in the passage she refers to
"the facilities here in Battle Creek";28 and she
was in Brooklyn, New York, from November 13-25. She did not return
to Battle Creek until December 30, 1890; so undoubtedly the entry
beneath these days (if made at one time) was made after that date.
There is no way to identify or suggest a definitive date for this
passage. Olson notes these facts but Arthur White, with less attention
to the text of the passage, simple suggests it was written at
Brooklyn, New York, in the days immediately following her visit
Despite the fact that the entry is introduced with the words,
"Nov 21 During the night season,"30 its date of authorship
must be later. Olson, who has access to the original diary, advises
us that there is a change in ink color following this phrase and
suggests that after penning these words she left the rest of the
page blank to be filled in at a later time. This she apparently
did after her return to Battle Creek on December 30, 1890. Olson
also correctly points out that there appear to be descriptions
of two divine nocturnal teaching sessions, not one - so possibly
each of these occurred at a different time.
The writing on these six pages falls into six portions, which
we can represent as follows:
Four facts confirm that passages B, D, and F were written at a
different time from the diary entries they append: the change
in ink, a scrawled line beneath sections C and E, thus separating
them from what follows; the observable difference in calligraphy,
the regular diary entries being larger and freer in style; and
the thought sequence essentially flows through sections B, D and
F (though F may be separate) and is disjoint from sections A,
C and E which constitute routine, mundane diary entries.
Why Ellen White created the impression that this material was
written on November 21, 1890, is not known. Even if she put the
date in on November 21 and then returned later to fill out the
details, she had the opportunity to correct the date. It appears
that she desired to create the impression that this material originated
at that time.
The portion that supposedly relates to the Salamanca experience is Section F, clearly written after November 22, 1890 and reads as follows:
"In the night season I was present in several councils, and there I heard words repeated by influential men to the effect that if the American Sentinel would drop the words "seventh-day Adventist" from its columns, and would say nothing about the Sabbath, the great men of the world would patronize it. It would become popular and do a larger work. This looked very pleasing. These men could not see why we could not affiliate with unbelievers and non-professors to make the American Sentinel a great success. I saw their countenances brighten, and they began to work on a policy to make the Sentinel a popular success.
"This policy is the first step in a succession of wrong steps. The principles which have been advocated in the American Sentinel are the very sum and substance of the advocacy of the Sabbath, and when men begin to talk of changing these principles, they are doing a work which it does not belong to them. Like Uzzah, they are attempting to steady the ark which belongs to God and is under His special supervision. Said my guide to those in these councils, "Who of the men among you have felt the burden of the cause from the first, and have accepted responsibilities under trying circumstances? Who has carried the burden of the work during the years of its existence? Who has practiced self-denial and self-sacrifice? The Lord made a place for His staunch servants, whose voices have been heard in warning. He carried forward His work before any of you put your hands to it, and He can and will find a place for the truth you would suppress. In the American Sentinel has been published the truth for this time. Take heed what you do. 'Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.'"32
Apart from the inability to date this pericope, and the wrong
date penned by Ellen White, there is another problem in identifying
this as a reference to the Salamanca experience - there is no
reference to Salamanca, explicit or implied. The only way this
can be related to Salamanca (like Item 5 above) is by comparing
it to Ellen White's later claims that at Salamanca she was shown
a divine perspective on the editorial policy of the American
Sentinel. There is no internal evidence to suggest that this
passage records information communicated by God or a heavenly
adviser at Salamanca.
One may be inclined to suggest that if Ellen White did not receive
this information back on November 21, 1890, in New York, or some
other time, she did at least gain this insight from the Lord,
somewhere, sometime. Possibly, but we are left with the dilemma
that she claimed to have received it at Salamanca. Also, the matters
on which she wrote may well have been the subject of ongoing communications
to her by a variety of persons who tool strong stands on the Sentinel's
editorial policy. The nature of this text does not permit us to
view it as evidence that Ellen White had a revelation from God
on November 3, 1890, in Salamanca, New York; or that this revelation
depicted a meeting which had not yet occurred but would take place
on March 7, 1891.
9. Another problematic passage is that found in Diary 16, pp. 450-452. This is possibly the one referred to at the bottom of page 289 in the material inserted under the November 3, 1890, entry. There a note scribbled in the margin that reads, "Look at the last part of the book headed Salamanca important matter" 33 (see Item 7). The entry for December 31, 1890, occupies pages 447-449. So this passage was evidently written on or after December 31, 1890. The relevant section reads:
"I had a very marked experience which I hope never to forget. Through the night season I was in communion with God. I was taken out of and away from myself, and was in different states and assemblies, bearing a decided testimony of reproof and warning.
"I was in Battle Creek, and in a council assembled there were ministers and responsible men from the Review Office. There were sentiments advanced and with no very gentle spirit urged to be adopted, which filled me with surprise and apprehension and distress. Years before I had been called to pass over similar ground, and the Lord had revealed to me many things of importance and given me warnings to be given to His people decidedly. I was commanded to hold the same before them perseveringly and not to fail or be discouraged in this work, for the men who ought to live so close to Jesus Christ that they could discern His voice, receive His counsel, and keep His way, would become exalted and would walk in the sparks of their own kindling. They were not spiritual, could not discern the devices of Satan, and were ignorant of his workings in a large degree. They would adopt plans which appeared wise, but Satan was the instigator of these measures. If these men had the molding of the work, God would be dishonored....
"Again and again since 1845 the dangers of the people of God have been laid open before me, showing what would be the perils of the people of God in the last remnant of time. These perils have been shown me down to the present time, and on the night of November 3 there was spread out before me some things I could not comprehend. At the same time assurance was given me that the Lord would not allow His people to be enveloped in the fog of worldly skepticism and infidelity, for Christ would lead all who would follow His voice and be obedient to His commands up from the fog of worldly malaria to the summit above the fog of questioning unbelief, where they might breathe the atmosphere of security and might triumph, standing on the solid Rock, a foundation sure and steadfast."34
While this passage does refer to the Salamanca experience ("on
the night of November 3"), it does not refer to the more
specific matters that have historically been attributed to the
revelation of that evening - the editorial policy of the American
Sentinel, the de-emphasizing of Adventist distinctives, and the
whole course of a particular meeting on March 7, 1891. None of
this is mentioned; her theme is that she was encouraged to carry
on her work of conviction and providing direction, despite the
unpopularity of her views. Though she was in the minority, she
was right and God would vindicate her and her viewpoint.
As Robert Olson says, "We do not know when this account was
written."35 He suggests it was written in early 1891 but
gives no reasons for this selection except that it was after December
31, 1890, since it follows the entry for that day. The references
to the General Conference Session in March, later in the diary,
tend to confirm a date in the first three months on 1891 (see
One of the puzzling aspects of this passage is that it is preceded
by the words, "A letter written from Salamanca, Nov. 3, 1890."
36 It seems that an attempt is made to make a passage written
on a specific and strategic date at least two months earlier.
Olson lets Ellen White off the hook gently by suggesting, "The
words 'A letter written from' appear to have been added at a later
date when it may actually have slipped Ellen White's mind as to
exactly where she was when she penned these lines. The Nov. 3
date doubtless refers to the subject under discussion, and not
the date of writing."37
Her diary entry for November 4, 1890, suggests she was not able
to write out anything of the Salamanca experience. By this time
she had left Salamanca and she still awaited the opportunity to
write what she had seen the previous night. If this is true, the
passage on pages 450-452 could not have been written on November
3 at Salamanca. And it is virtually inconceivable that having
undergone this frustration about not being able to write her thoughts
out, that she would later accidentally state that she did write
them out at that time. It is difficult to conceive of this as
a "slip of the mind."
One final point of interest on this pericope. Ellen White claimed
to have had a view of "men from the Review Office."
The American Sentinel was published by the Pacific Press,
not the Review and Herald.
10. More information regarding the Salamanca experience follows in the long section from pages 450 to 517 of her 1890 Diary (Diary 16). It is possibly this entire undated section that is referred to in the note at the foot of page 289 (see Item 7). One relevant portion commences on page 457:
"At Salamanca November 3, 1890, while bowed in earnest prayer, I seemed to be lost to everything around me, and I was bearing a message to an assembly which seemed to be the General Conference. I was moved by the Spirit of God to say many things, to make most earnest appeals, for the truth was urged upon me that greater danger lay before those at the heart of the work.
"I had been, and was still, bowed down with distress of body and of mind. It seemed to me that I must bear a message to our people at Battle Creek. The words were to be in earnest. "Speak the words that I shall give thee, to prevent their doing things which would separate God from the publishing house [the Review and Herald] and sacrifice pure and holy principles which must be maintained."38
At least this is how Olson presents it. A glance at the handwritten
manuscript suggest a different text - as in fact it frequently
does. It clearly reads, "Salamanica [sic] Nov. 3, 1890 (copied)
While bowed in...."39 The copy starts with "While..."
with the place and date functioning as a heading to the copy that
follows. Again we have an attempt to date the passage back to
Salamanca on November 3, 1890 - notwithstanding Ellen White's
earlier statement that she could not write it out on November
The other relevant reference in this sixty-eight page passage to what is considered to be the Salamanca experience is on pages 506-507:
"I was present in one of your councils. One arose, and in a very earnest, decided manner, held up a paper. I could read the heading plainly - American Sentinel. There were criticisms made upon the articles published therein. It was declared that this must be cut out, and that must be changed. Strong words were uttered and a strong unChristlike spirit prevailed. My guide gave me words to speak to the ones who were present who were not slow to make their accusations.
"In substance I will state the reproof given: That there was a spirit of strife in the midst of the council. The Lord had not presided in their councils and their minds and hearts were not under the controlling influence of the Spirit of God. Let the adversaries of our faith be the ones to instigate and develop the plans which are being formed. While not all the plans are objectionable, principles are being brought in which will dishonor God...."40
This portion comes some fifty pages after the last reference to Salamanca, but is generally held to be an authentic recollection of what was perceived at Salamanca and related on March 8, 1891, - an insight into the March 7, 1891 meeting some four months prior to its occurrence. Olson suggest that the words after page 510 of the diary "may have been written early Sunday morning, March 8, 1891,"41 and seems to imply that previous portions such as the one above from page 507 would have been written earlier as a genuine anticipation of the meeting which had not yet occurred. Back on page 500 the author refers to the year 1891, which is not surprising since the 1890 daily diary entries finish with December 31 on page 449. On page 510 she refers to "this body assembled in this house in General Conference," almost certainly referring to the General Conference Session which commenced on March 5, 1891, and lasted three weeks. So the best we can date this piece is between December 31, 1890, and March 26, 1891. Whether it was written before or after the March 7 meeting, or Ellen White's account on March 8, cannot determined.
|TABLE 2 [Cannot be dated with any certainty]|
|Item No.||Date/Location||Source||Reference to Salamanca|
|7||Between diary entries for Nov. 3 & 4||Diary 16, p.289 1890; but written considerably later.||Description of discomfort and discouragement, which, after the room was filled with a soft, silvery light, was transformed to feelings of comfort, hope, and gladness, and a sensation of the presence of Jesus and heaven.|
|8||Below diary entries for Nov. 20, 21 & 22||Diary 16, pp. 321-326 1890; but probably written after Dec. 30, 1890.||No reference to Salamanca, but a description of her recollection of "several councils" she attended "in the night season" - influential men claimed that the American Sentinel would be better received without the words "Seventh-day Adventist" - and her commentary and that of her "guide" on the danger of such a course.|
|9||December 31, 1890 entry; written Dec. 31, 1890, or later||Commences on page after conclusion of Diary 16, pp. 450-452||Relates a "marked experience" where she saw herself bringing reproof and warning to various assemblies; a meeting in Battle Creek with leaders from the Review Office caused her much distress; she was encouraged to oppose their course which was inspired by Satan; on the night of November 3, 1890 (i.e. at Salamanca), she saw things she could not comprehend, but she was reassured that God would continue to lead his people.|
|10a||Written between Dec. 31 and March 26, 1891.||In section following Dec. 31, 1890, entry; Diary 16, p. 457*||A description of her distress on November 3, 1890, followed by her perception of herself addressing the General Conference with earnest appeals; she was instructed to speak words that would be provided to prevent actions which would separate God from the Review and Herald publishing house.|
|10b||Written between Dec. 31 and March 26, 1891.||In section following Dec. 31, 1890, entry; Diary 16, pp. 506-507*||No reference to Salamanca but a description of her observations and reproof as she "attended" (presumably "in vision")a council where the American Sentinel was criticized.|
We have just reviewed the four references to the Salamanca experience
which cannot be dated with any certainty. Table 2 summarizes our
There are two facts that stand out from this survey. One, all
of these diary entries which in truth cannot be dated with any
precision, appear under dates that would normally be considered
the date of authorship. It is most disconcerting, and certainly
baffling for the student of this subject, to encounter this repeated
attempt to misdate writings on the Salamanca experience and the
March 7, 1891, meeting. It may be unkind to project motives here,
but it would be equally unwise to overlook the consistency with
which this phenomenon occurs.
Two, the references to Salamanca (or the evening of November 3)
never refer to the American Sentinel, the Sabbath, editorial
policy, or the matters that appear to have been the key matters
discussed at the famed meeting in the Review building in the evening
on March 7, 1891. Items 9 and 10a link Salamanca and administrative
problems at the Review and Herald in Battle Creek but do not refer
to the Sentinel, which was published by the Pacific Press
in New York. Curiously, it seems that the White Estate selects
out references to the Sentinel and a meeting where its
editorial policy was discussed, and claim these as deriving from
the Salamanca experience (Items 8 and 10b). Ellen White, however,
doesn't quite seem to do this (at least to this point, but see
Item 11) though Item 10b does appear in a connected sequence to
a reference to Salamanca some fifty pages earlier (Item 10a).
This act on the part of the modern White Estate seems to be in
the same tradition as the acts of Ellen White herself, who misdated
four passages to consistently indicate her access to information
at a date earlier than the actual time of writing.
For those who are dedicated to the integrity of Ellen White and
her heritage, these facts are alarming and disappointing.
Olson lists another six references to the Salamanca experience,
all dated after the March 7 and 8, 1891, meetings. Since these
are less critical to our purpose of ascertaining the usefulness
of this story in verifying Ellen White's prophetic powers, we
shall treat them briefly.
11. In her diary entry for March 11, 1891, Ellen White narrates
what happened on the morning of March 8, 1891. The after-the-fact
account in the first in which she links Salamanca and the conflict
over the Sentinel. The passage reads:
"I awakened in the morning with the decided impression that I should go into the minister's meeting, and bear the message which the Lord had given me at Salamanca, New York, in our three month's tour. I went into the meeting and bore the testimony given of God in the demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. I told them the Lord had opened before me many things.
"In the night season my Guide said, "Follow Me." I was taken to a council of men, where a zeal and an earnestness were manifest, but not according to knowledge. One held up the Sentinel, and then made remarks entirely contrary to the principles of our faith. The particulars of this are given in my diary of 1890. The message given made a deep impression on all those present.
"Brother Ballenger, deeply affected, arose and said, "I was in that council meeting which was held last night until a late hour, and Sister White has described it accurately. The very words she says she heard spoken were spoken last night. I was on the wrong side of the question, and now take my position on the right side." His testimony was well wet down with tears and humble confession.
"I was greatly astonished. I thought that this meeting had been held at the time it was presented to me.
"My soul is exceeding troubled. The publishing institutions are receiving a mold that is not after the similitude of God." 42
As has been belabored above, though Ellen White dated four items
in 1890, and though she here refers to her "diary of 1890,"
nevertheless the "particulars" of which she writes here
were outlined in 1891 (Item 10).
Unfortunately, this passage also provides the appearance of foreknowledge
when there is no evidence to support it.
12. The next reference occurs in a letter to Dr. W.P. Burke at
the St. Helena Health Retreat, and is thought to be dated in October
1891. It reads:
"While at Salamanca, New York, in November 1890, I had a very remarkable experience. I had been greatly afflicted and discouraged in consequence of physical suffering. The pain in my head and ears was almost unbearable, yet I filled my appointments. The last time I spoke, because of the gatherings in my head I told my son I must return home at once, although important meetings were before me in Brooklyn, New York, and Washington, D.C. I could scarcely hear my own voice and was so weak I staggered as I walked. I went to my chamber and knelt to pray when the whole room was lighted up with the presence of Jesus. I was lifted above all discouragement and was made all light in the Lord and praised Him aloud. This night many things were opened before me in regard to our institutions. The condition of conferences and churches was shown me and I immediately wrote out many things in my diary." 43
Here the panorama of concern is broader than previously. No longer
is the problem the situation at the Review in Battle Creek, but
the condition of "institutions....conferences and churches."
Her statement that she "immediately" wrote out many
things is perplexing in light of her November 4 entry expressing
frustration for not being able to write out what she perceived
the previous night. The question naturally arises, If she wrote
these things out immediately in her diary, where in her diary
are they to be found? Clearly there is NO "immediate"
record. Olson suggests that the November 25, 1890, diary entry
(pp. 335-342) may qualify44 [see Item 4]. This seems reasonable
except, the passage begins with, "During the night I have
been in communion with God,"45 suggesting that what follows
were divine revelations of that evening, not back in Salamanca
some three weeks earlier. The November 25 diary entry has another
strange idiosyncrasy. It is a diary entry made in Brooklyn, New
York, and yet she can write "many come here" and "in
this place," referring to Battle Creek! This kind of thing
leaves the reader bewildered. Was she also subject to transportation
during her nocturnal illumination sessions? Maybe this passage
under November 25 was written after December 31, 1890, when she
was back in Battle Creek, just as the entries below November 20-22
were written at later times [see Item 8]. The mystery remains
- where did she "immediately" write the "many things"
seen at Salamanca?
13. In 1892 a fourteen-page pamphlet, "Danger in Adopting
Worldly Policy in the Work of God," was published. It drew
primarily upon the material in Diary 16, pp. 450-517 [see Items
9 and 10]. It is now largely reproduced in Life Sketches,
pp. 319-330, and Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 460-471.
A glance at the pamphlet indicated significant editing, which
is hardly surprising considering the draft nature of the diary
entries - they were surely not written as publication-ready copy!
14. More than two years after the Salamanca experience, it was
still vivid in Ellen White's mind. While in Melbourne, Australia,
on January 9, 1893, a similar event occurred. When describing
it to Captain C. Eldrdge in Battle Creek she likened it to her
November 3, 1890, experience:
"During the night I...passed through an experience similar to that which I had a Salamanca, New York, two years ago. When I awoke from my first short sleep, light seemed to be all around me, the room seemed to be full of heavenly angels. The Spirit of God was upon me, and my heart was full to overflowing. Oh, what love was burning in my heart!"46
15. Again from Australia, on May 16, 1898, she recalls the Salamanca
experience when relating her concern for the condition of the
whole Michigan Conference. Leaders have "trusted in man and
made flesh their arm" but must "turn to the Lord with
all the heart."
"The present existing state of things was made to pass before me while I was at Salamanca, and I then gave testimony before those assembled in the tabernacle. I did not speak my own words, but the words of the Lord. The power of God was upon me. Cautions, warnings, and reproof have been given to the men in responsible positions."47
Here the scope of the Salamanca experience is the whole Michigan
Conference. At other times it has been various states and assemblies,
councils, the church at Battle Creek, the General Conference,
the Review Office, churches, institutions, and responsible brethren.
What is not clear is what was NOT included in the Salamanca vision.
Possibly the common thread is that of dependence upon human wisdom
rather than divine. This appears as a fairly consistent motif
when she refers to the warnings she perceived at Salamanca.
This may be an appropriate juncture to mention a point observable
in the previous items but illustrated graphically in the last
two [14 and 15]. Sometimes her references to Salamanca are to
the sense of joy and peace she experienced when discouraged. Others
are to a revelation regarding the condition of the church or its
institutions. With this there is sometimes admonition for her
to proceed with her heaven-granted assignment of reproof. These
two vastly different perspectives on Salamanca seem to this writer
to be incompatible, though, in the visionary world of the prophet,
perhaps all things are possible.
16. The final post-incident reference is Ellen White's most extensive.
This is the second time she links the Salamanca experience and
the matter of the Sentinel [see also Item 11]; and in this
case, now fourteen years after the incident, she connects them
explicitly and repeatedly. Her dual purposes were to bring conviction
to Albion F. Ballenger who was on trial for his heretical views
of Christ's entry into the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary,
and to validate her prophetic authority.
After retelling the Salamanca vision story and its effect on her
astonished General Conference listeners on the morning of March
8, 1891, she stressed: "The circumstances were such that
on this occasion the excuse could not possibly be used, 'Somebody
has told her.' No one had an opportunity to see me or speak with
me between the evening meeting [March 7, 1891] and the morning
meeting that I attended [March 8]."48 Olson, obviously
a little sensitive about the misdated diary entries, correctly
"Ellen White's position is very clear. She believed that God supernaturally led in this experience because the details of the secret midnight meeting were revealed to her before it took place, and because she was able to relate that information publicly before anyone had opportunity to tell her about it. She made no point of the time when she recorded these details in her dairy."49
On this later point Olson has admitted that at least some details
of the meeting could not be recalled until right around the time
the meeting actually convened, and that she possibly wrote some
of her ensuing commentary AFTER it occurred, early on the morning
of March 8, 1891.50
The entire relevant portion of this manuscript is cited earlier
in Box 1 and need not be repeated here.
|TABLE 3 [Written after the event (March 8, 1891)]|
|Item No.||Date/Location||Source||Reference to Salamanca|
|11||Mar. 11, 1891||Diary 17, pp. 111-112||Description of the events on the morning of March 8, 1891, including the impression that she was to relate what she had received at Salamanca the previous year; claims that what she saw at Salamanca was a meeting where the Sentinel was discussed; narrates the successful impact of her presentation, and her astonishment.|
|12||October, 1891||Letter 48, 1891||Description of her physical ailments while at Salamanca, and the encouragement from the presence of Jesus in the evening experience; claims to have had revelations concerning institutions, conferences, and churches, and to have written these immediately.|
|13||1892||"Danger in Adopting Worldly Policy in the Work of God," a 14-page pamphlet.||A published, edited version of the material in Diary 16, pp. 450-517. See items 9 and 10 above.|
|14||Jan. 9, 1893||Letter 20a, 1893||She likens a present experience to what happened at Salamanca - surrounded in light, a seeming presence of angels, the Spirit's presence, and a full heart. No suggestion of revelation.|
|15||May 16, 1898||Letter 41, 1898||A brief mention of both her experience at Salamanca and her discourse to the General Conference on March 8, 1891. Emphasizes that God provided the words of reproof she spoke.|
|16||May 20, 1905||MS 59, 1905||In the context of narrating a discussion with Albion F. Ballenger, she describes a conversation with him as well as the Salamanca story. She claims to have seen Ballenger in vision at Salamanca opposing references to the Sabbath in the Sentinel. Describes her physical condition and regained strength at Salamanca, and the revelation she received regarding the Sentinel and historical Adventist doctrine. Then she tells the story of being awakened prior to the General Conference morning meeting, attending and telling her Salamanca experience, her surprise that the meeting had occurred the previous night, and the confession and reversal of policy that followed.|
These sixteen references exhaust our primary sources for information
about the November 3, 1890, and March 8, 1891, events. So the
question must now be asked: Is there evidence here to conclude
that this story constitutes a verification of Ellen White's prophetic
powers? Earlier we suggested four essential claims that should
be confirmed for this episode to have such apologetic value. We
now examine these.
1. Ellen White had a revelation from God on November 3, 1890, in Salamanca, New York.
There is no reason to question the fact that Ellen White had an
extra-ordinary experience on the evening of November 3, 1890,
in Salamanca, New York. After that date she clearly refers to
it on twelve occasions.51 However, there IS reason to question
whether this involved a revelation from God.
The first eight items do not relate anything that God revealed
to her at Salamanca. In fact only the first one suggests that
anything was revealed at all. It is not until AFTER March 8, 1891,
that we have a definitively dated statement revealing the supposed
content of the revelation at Salamanca. The fact that she can
often refer to the Salamanca experience, and not mention any revelation,
makes one doubt whether any substantial revelation did in fact
occur. And further, when we do hear of revelation, it is AFTER
the incident that was supposedly revealed previously, thus providing
a clear motive and method for such a claim to be made. The references
with uncertain dates of composition [Items 9 and 10a] hardly help
because they too may have been written on or after March 8, 1891.
Regretfully, what we do not have is a clear, early statement:
"I received a revelation from God at Salamanca. And this
is what he told me...." Instead, we have many statements
about a healing, renewing experience; and several months later,
the idea of revelation is added. Further, there is no clear, precise
pattern to the statements of what was revealed.
So we are left with the question unsettled as to whether she did
or did not hear a word from God on November 3, 1890.
2. This revelation depicted a meeting which had not yet occurred but would take place on March 7, 1891.
No references that with any confidence can be dated prior to March
7, 1891, make mention of the meeting. Thus, there is no verification
of the claim that she knew of the meeting prior to its occurrence.
Once again, there are statements connecting the Salamanca experience
and the March 7 and 8, 1891, meetings; but they are either of
an unknown date or dated after the meetings in question. Consequently
there may be a claim to foreknowledge but NO EVIDENCE EXISTS to
support the claim.
3. The Lord, or an angelic visitor on his behalf, brought the information of the "vision" of November 3, 1890, to her mind early in the morning of March 8, 1891.
This is her claim at the March 8 meeting as reported by herself
[Items 11 and 16] and by a number of individuals who heard her
relate the experience. Clearly, this cannot be verified. We can
hardly presume to know precisely what happened in Ellen White's
bedroom on a given morning. However, we can hear her claim and
test its likelihood. This we shall do.
4. The primary (and, one hopes, secondary) documents providing the facts of these incidents are trustworthy and reliable.
Sadly, on this point we seem to be faced with a series of serious problems. Frankly, the degree of internal consistency is not at all impressive. The following is a sampling of the problems of conflicting evidence confronting the meticulous student of this topic.
In some instances the options are not mutually exclusive. However,
these types of fundamental variations as the story is narrated
have a seriously detrimental impact upon its credibility.
Perhaps more serious is the apparent recklessness with the dating
of some of the key documents. It is disturbing that no less than
four of the sixteen documents Olson presents are in fact undated.
Even more serious is the fact that all of these bear apparent
dates which suggest authorship earlier than the ACTUAL date of
composition. Ellen White's habit of going back and writing additional
information under previous diary entries is most peculiar. In
a regular book manuscript this would be anticipated, but hardly
in a day-by-day diary - and especially when the subject matter
inserted at a later date corresponds to what is claimed to be
a prior revelation right around the date under which the entry
is made. The appearance of evil is then strong. The evidently
false dating of these is a serious business that should become
the basis for a more extensive study of White Estate manuscripts
to ascertain the extent of this practice. In light of these facts,
the trustworthiness and reliability of the primary documents would
have to be questioned by the objective analyst.
Clearly then, we do NOT have adequate evidence here to treat this
anecdote as a verification of Ellen White's prophetic powers.
We have a clarion claim to such, but insufficient evidence available
to the historical researcher to make the claim anywhere near credible.
Those who view it as proof positive of foreknowledge and divine
insight are arbitrarily positioning their faith in a manner designed
to arrive at a predetermined, desirable outcome. In doing so they
overlook or underrate certain key facts within the historical
records. Of course, for some it is much simpler: "Mrs. White
said it proved her true, so I believe it does." The frightening
consequences of such mindless submission are not difficult to
But of course, one crucial question remains. Since Ellen White
did in fact address the General Conference on the morning of March
8, 1891, how DID she know of the meeting the previous evening
which she evidently described so accurately just hours after it
concluded? The only statements we have from Ellen White on this
subject insist that she "saw" it months earlier at Salamanca.
"I awakened in the morning with a decided impression that
I should go to the ministers' meeting, and bear the message which
the Lord had given me at Salamanca, New York, in our three months'
tour. I went into the meeting and bore the testimony given of
God in the demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. I told
them the Lord had opened before me many things."52 If knowledge
via a divine revelation cannot be proven, is there evidence for
another source of information that enabled this remarkable feat?
This brings us to sources originating with witnesses to her March
8, 1891, presentation and their accounts of the meeting on the
evening of March 7, 1891, and the events early in the morning
of March 8, 1891.53
Accounts of when the Saturday evening meeting in the Review office
concluded, March 7, 1891, differ significantly. A.T. Robinson
puts it "after midnight";54 in his other manuscript
he suggests it was about 1:00 a.m.;55 O.A. Johnson et al.56
and 'Life Sketches'57 put it after 1:00 a.m. But O.A. Olsen,
58 Edna Kilbourne Steele,59 and Arthur White60- none of
whom were present - all place the terminus around 3:00 a.m. It
is impossible to be dogmatic about this matter; but if one is
to give priority to the witness of those who were present, Robinson's
1:00 a.m. conclusion would be the most probable.
Accounts also vary somewhat when Ellen White was awakened. Her
diary for March 8, 1891, gives no time for her awakening.61
Robinson says she was awakened after midnight and writing since
1:00 a.m. - the same time he gives for the conclusion of the meeting
in the Review office.62 Johnson,63 F.F. Wilcox,64 Arthur
White,65 and Olsen66 all put her rising around 3:00 a.m.
Olsen's manuscript originally gave the rising time as 4:00 a.m.,
but later manuscripts have been editorially altered to read 3:00
a.m. Steele does not give an exact time but says Ellen White had
been writing for some time prior to 5:00 a.m.67
Not only do the times for Ellen White's awakening vary, but there
is also a discrepancy in the account of the manner in which she
awoke. She claimed that the Lord awoke her in the night and instructed
her to bear a testimony to the ministers at the Tabernacle on
Sunday morning. But at about 5:00 a.m. she told her secretary,
Sara McEnterfer, that she was not planning to attend the meeting
that morning!68 Arthur White implies that Ellen White made
this statement the previous day; this contradicts all the documentary
O.A. Olsen's testimony has been altered at this point. His original
statement went as follows: "...at 4 o'clock she was awakened,
someone taking hold of her arm waking her up; and she then arose
immediately, got ready, and gathered up her matter, and came to
the meeting." The carbon-copy manuscript of this on file
in the Ellen G. White Research Center at Andrews University, Berrien
Springs, Michigan, has original red pencil alterations on it.
It is the altered version that has usually been duplicated and
distributed by the White Estate. The editorially altered version
reads: "...at 3 o'clock she had been awakened, had arisen
immediately, and after gathered [sic] up what she had written,
had come to the meeting."70 The time is changed and the
portion about being taken by the arm and awakened has been omitted.
Accounts of what Ellen White did between her arising and arrival
at the early morning meeting also differ. According to L.A. Hoopes
her mind was exercised about her Salamanca experience, and she
was bidden to write what she saw in that vision. This she proceeded
to do.71 Wilcox declares that an angel "told her to write
out the instruction given her in Salamanca several months previously;"
she did this and read from the manuscript at the meeting.72
Likewise, Johnson73 states that she wrote out what was shown
her at Salamanca, as does Robinson.74
But the accounts of Steele, Olsen, and Arthur White vary significantly.
Steele, who was staying in the room beside Ellen White and ate
breakfast with her immediately after the morning meeting, states:
"After she [Ellen White] had told Sara [McEnterfer] to go
back to bed [just before 5:00 a.m.75], she was suddenly and
strongly impressed to dress quickly and to take that manuscript
she had written so many months before, and to go to that early
ministers' meeting".76 Steele also agrees that Ellen White
had been up before this time writing.77 So, according to Steele,
Ellen White, after she arose, wrote, but not on the topic of the
Salamanca vision, and then around 5:30 a.m. gathered up a manuscript
written months earlier and took it to the meeting with her.
Olsen's statement is open to interpretation: she "gathered
up what she had written."78 It is not clear from this
whether he believed her to have done the writing that morning
or at an earlier time. Arthur White's view is that "she dressed,
went to her bureau, took from it the journal in which she had
made the record of what had been shown to her at Salamanca. As
the scene came clearly to her mind, she wrote more to go with
All maintain that she did write something. All except Steele maintain
that what she wrote drew upon the Salamanca vision. Arthur White
had the added touch that her writing was by way of addition to
earlier writing she had done on the topic. Ellen White's diary
for March 8, 1891 (written after her presentation to the brethren),
makes no reference to her writing in the morning.
Some of the above accounts may appear to imply that the Salamanca
vision had not been written out until the morning of March 8,
1891. Three testify that this is not the case. Olsen says that
the Salamanca vision was "then and there written," and
at Battle Creek she was simply impressed to relate it.80 Arthur
White declares: "In the days that followed [the Salamanca
experience] she recorded in her journal that which she was not
allowed to tell the men in Salamanca."81 What White goes
on to cite from ("the handwritten record in our vault")
is from pages 325-326 of her 1890 diary [Item 8, Section F] -
the portion whose dates and occasion of authorship are indeterminable.
If he has special knowledge relating this writing to the Salamanca
experience, he should make public the reasoning behind his conclusion.
Steele wrote regarding Salamanca: "While fresh in her mind
she had written what had been presented to her in a little black,
clothbound book which was a dummy for "B.D. & S."
(It was a dummy for Edson White's Cook Book which he published
under the title, 'Breakfast, Dinner and Supper.')"82
Steel wrote to Arthur White, August 11, 1946, disagreeing with
Wilcox on exactly this point. She said: "In Elder Wilcox's
article in the Bulletin he states that she aroused at 3 a.m. that
same night and wrote out what she had seen. But as I remember
it was already written some six [actually, four] months before
while at Salamanca, N.Y., as I remember also it was written in
an old B., D. & S. dummy....She had written it all out in
such complete detail so many months before."83 Steele
believed that Ellen White wrote in the early hours of the morning,
but not on the topic of the Salamanca vision.
Though Arthur White gives no rationale for his position that Ellen
White wrote out the Salamanca vision soon after it was received
and then added to it in the early hours of the morning on March
8, 1891, this would tend to reconcile the varying testimonies.
If the portion about the Sentinel below the November 22 diary
entry is the original portion written concerning her revelation
at Salamanca [and there is no evidence to support this, see Item
8], then the question remains, what and where is the portion written
in the small hours of the morning of March 8? Could the portion
about the Sentinel from the back of her handwritten journal
for 1890 [around pages 506-507, see Item 10] be what was added?
Robert Olson suggests that it was the portion about the General
Conference (page 510); he evidently prefers to leave the portion
about the Sentinel dated earlier rather than having it written
after the meeting it is supposed to predict.84
Arthur White's positions on this story seem quite ambiguous. According
to him, Ellen White could not relate the vision on the morning
of November 4, 1890, when she tried twice to relate it to Robinson
and Willie White.85 Nor could she tell it as she tried on three
occasions on Saturday afternoon, March 7, 1891.86 But he asserts
that she had in fact written it out, at which time she obviously
could recall it and at least relate it in writing, and where she
could review it as she pleased.87 His position seems to be
that she could recall the "vision" but not relate it
Another problem presents itself regarding what happened in the
early hours of March 8 up in Ellen White's bedroom. Edna Kilbourne
Steele was a secretary to both Ellen and Willie White. She lived
in Ellen White's Battle Creek home, sharing a room next to Ellen's
with Sara McEnterfer. In her two accounts of what occurred, Steele
points out that Sara rose before 5:00 a.m. to see whether Ellen
White wanted to attend the early meeting (notwithstanding Arthur
White's implied view that Sara checked with Ellen White regarding
her morning attendance prior to going to bed the previous evening.)
89 Sara was assured that Ellen did not intend to attend the
Tabernacle that morning. Evidently Ellen was up, not yet dressed
for the meeting, and was either writing or showed signs that she
had been writing. Sara's return to the room and a warm bed made
a vivid impression on Steele's mind. She said: "I have never
known what flowed from her [Ellen White's] pen during the early
hours of that morning; but I do know it was not the text of the
Salamanca vision. If, earlier in the night, Sister White had been
instructed to write out the Salamanca story, and to read it to
the ministers in their early morning meeting, she would not have
told Sara a few minutes before five o'clock that she was not going
to the meeting, and for her [Sara] to go back to bed."90
Clearly, Ellen White did not want Sara in her room at that time.
This conflicts head-on with the bulk of the testimonies as to
what Ellen White actually said at the meeting, namely that the
Lord had bidden her to rise and relate the experience at Salamanca
concerning the Sentinel at the ministers' meeting.
When the story is retold in her diary fourteen years later (May 20, 1905), Ellen White concludes with a curious defense of the veracity of her account:
"The circumstances were such that on this occasion the excuse could not possibly be used, 'SOMEONE HAS TOLD HER.' No one had an opportunity to see me or speak with me between the evening meeting and the morning meeting that I attended."91
Contradicting this, the account in Life Sketches states:
"Sunday morning, about 5:20 [a.m.] Brethren A.T. Robinson, W.C. White, and Ellery Robinson were passing Mrs. White's residence on their way to the early meeting. They saw a light in her room and her son ran up to inquire about her health.
"He found her busily engaged in writing. She then told him that an angel of God had awakened her about three o'clock, and had bidden her to go to the ministers' meeting and relate some things shown her at Salamanca. She said that she arose quickly, and had been writing for about two hours."92
Robinson's testimony also states that Willie visited his mother,
93 as does one of Steele's.94
Arthur White also admits that Willie visited his mother prior
to the meeting, but his version has her "dressed and putting
on her bonnet" as he entered the room.95 In saying this
he makes it appear that the time mother and son spent together
must have been short. No other accounts contain this feature.
Willie White stayed with his mother and accompanied her to the
meeting. "After the meeting was opened Elder W.C. White came
in, accompanied by his mother, who had quite a lot of manuscript
on her arm."96
Ellen White's arrival at the meeting with her son was sometime
after its commencement. According to Olsen it was after a period
of singing and during the season of prayer.97 Others say: after
the meeting began98; during the prayer season99; or after
5:30100. Hoopes puts her arrival as late as "about 6:00
A conservative estimate would put the amount of time that Willie
White spent with his mother at about fifteen minutes (assuming
that Arthur's affirmation of her fitting her bonnet does not necessitate
us concluding she went directly to the meeting within minutes)
and a more generous allocation could grant them close to half
an hour together. The question naturally arises: Could Willie
White have informed his mother of the events in the Review office
just hours earlier? The answer is a clear, Yes. According to A.T.
Robinson, who was staying in the home of Willie White, White was
in attendance at the late night meeting the previous evening.
102 Robinson and White were walking to the Tabernacle together
when Willie left Robinson to go upstairs and see his mother.103
Thus, there is no question that Willie White could well have supplied
information about the previous night's meeting to his mother.
So here, as with the primary sources, we do not have a clear-cut,
consistent, verifiable story. Unfortunately, we are left with
a confusing array of variations which do not leave any strong
support for Ellen White's claim that the Lord awakened her and
told her to narrate information He had provided earlier.104
What does emerge from a careful study of these secondary documents
is a clear source for how Ellen White may have known of the March
7, 1891, meeting. She was visited by her son who was present at
the meeting that concluded just hours earlier in the Review office.
Her claim that no one could say "Someone had told her"
is bluntly contradicted by no less an authority than Life Sketches,
not to mention her own grandson and de facto protector, Arthur
White. Which family member should we trust on this point?
To conclude, I shall propose yet another hypothesis as to what
really happened. It should be pointed out that the secondary accounts
upon which I have been drawing are really hypotheses of what actually
occurred, based, not upon verifiable facts, but upon the reports
of persons, and convictions held by the reporters. I too wish
to engage in this process, and surely this is the stuff of which
much of history is made. It also needs to be pointed out that
some seem to approach the interpretation of events such as the
Salamanca experience with a presupposition that the more supernatural
the account is, or the more pious it appears, the more likely
it is to be true. Though a firm believer in the supernatural,
this does not seem to this writer to be a sound way of doing history.
In the following brief scenario I have simply committed myself
to the facts. They seem to suggest a story something like this:
On the night of November 3, in Salamanca, New York, Ellen White
had an experience where she sensed a renewal of strength and courage.
Possibly she also had some general insights regarding the church,
particularly what was happening in Battle Creek. This may be what
she wrote about and mailed away on subsequent days (her diary
records several such mailings). Her views on this occasion did
not include insights into the meeting which convened four months
later on March 7, 1891.
In following weeks, resulting from information coming to her from
persons she met, including Brother Chadwick who had recently come
from the Review, she wrote on a number of occasions concerning
the publishing work at Battle Creek. Her concerns were particularly
with respect to what she termed "worldly policy" which
was determining the management style of the Review. The passage
under the November 21 diary entry [Item 8, Section D] is an example
of this writing, as is the passage under the November 25 entry
[Item 4]. The date of Item 8, Section D is indeterminable though
it is written in the diary below the entry for November 21, 1890.
Possibly persons such as C.H. Jones, manager of the Pacific Press
where the Sentinel was published, and his associate, D.T.
Jones (both of whom attended the March 7, 1891, meeting), had
been briefing Ellen White both by mail and in person at the General
Conference and preceding meetings. It is unlikely that she was
not already quite familiar with the debate.
On March 8, 1891, she awoke around 3:00 a.m. and rose to work
on a manuscript which became the basis for her talk later that
morning. This was possibly closely related to her talk on the
Sabbath afternoon preceding. Several individuals pointed out the
similarity between her talk then and the beginning of her talk
on Sunday morning. Before she left for the early meeting, Willie
White visited her with information from the meeting in the Review
office. He described to her some of its memorable details, including
the way Ballenger stood to his feet and pointed out what he wished
omitted from the Sentinel - undoubtedly a dramatic scene.
This correlated with the information she had obtained over the
preceding months from various lobbyists.
In addition to the visit from Willie White, another who was returning
from the meeting after its conclusion could have called upon Ellen
White. If in fact this meeting did go until 3:00 a.m., it is possible
that persons returning home saw Ellen White's light on and took
the opportunity to inform her of the character of the meeting.
Willie White may have been the third nocturnal visitor. Perhaps
Robinson visited her at the conclusion of the meeting, for he
stated that she had been at work since the same hour the meeting
concluded. Or did Olsen take her by the arm and awaken her? Sara
visited around 5:00 a.m., and finally Willie a little before 5:30
Upon acquiring information about the meeting, she related it in
her mind to the "visions" she had received concerning
the publishing work and to her sermon the previous day which had
focused on standing up for the distinctives of the Adventist message.
She now incorporated all three ideas (which certainly were capable
of relation) into a message that formed the basis for her presentation
at the early morning ministers' meeting.
She may have also gone back to her 1890 diary, which Arthur White
assures us was present in her bureau, and written in some details
about the previous night's meeting. They were not put with the
Salamanca entry for November 22, 1891 (Item 8, Section F]. Arthur
White reminds us that in the early hours of the morning she did
in fact add material to what she had written earlier. He has not
stated what the added material was; it may have been the information
about the Sentinel entered under the November 22 diary
entry, and probably at least parts of the lengthy section at the
back of the 1890 diary, pages 457-517, particularly pages 506-507
about the Sentinel.
Ellen White told Sara just before 5:00 a.m. that she did not intend
to go to the meeting, for at that time she did not intend to go.
She felt the Lord had urged things upon her mind and she had been
writing those things out. She may have known about the Review
office meeting that finished just a few hours earlier from one
such as Robinson, but it was when Willie brought his information
that she decided that she must immediately attend the meeting
in the Tabernacle. There she presented an amalgamation of the
previous day's speech, her ongoing concern for the state of affairs
at the Review, her insights into the editorial policy of the Sentinel,
and specifics of the previous night's meeting, claiming to have
received all such information four months earlier at Salamanca.
The decision of the National Religious Liberty Association to
drop its use of the Sentinel was reversed. Thus her intent
was accomplished. Whether the will of the Lord was thereby performed
is not, and cannot, be known.
Some will be concerned with the implication that Ellen White lied - something of which any of us would find difficult to accuse a religious leader. However, this is not a dilemma that this writer has concocted.
The problem faced us once Life Sketches was published in 1915
with its admission that Willie White did in fact visit his mother
prior to the March 8, 1891, meeting - contradicting her claim
in 1905 that no one could possibly suggest she had been informed.
The fact is that the historical reports do not align, and one
must choose whom one believes to be inaccurate. The preceding
account, documenting her inaccuracies, contradictions, later insertions,
undated manuscripts, and her variety of recollections of what
actually occurred at Salamanca, hardly establishes compelling
cause to commit ourselves to Ellen White's own view. The scenario
I have suggested above is more closely aligned with the preponderance
of historical facts, and indeed is more moderate and credible
than her own story.
How then is it that a "prophetess" should distort the
truth in this way? The answer is simply that she was human and
subject to sin as all of us are. Also, at the time of writing
the incriminating "no one could have told her" statement,
she was 76 years of age, in poor health, and her memory may have
been failing. Perhaps most importantly, she had a vested interest
in winning the day on March 8, 1891. From her perspective, a fatal
error had been made the previous evening, a drastic decision not
to use the Sentinel because of its editorial stance. She needed
to reverse the decision. She felt it was God's will to correct
the erroneous position just adopted. Indeed, her will was but
an expression of God's will. An opportunity presented itself.
There was a "vision" that had occurred on November 3,
1890, in Salamanca - a "vision" whose content had not
been delineated clearly or exhaustively. What she said of it was
general in nature and was related to the publishing work. (The
fact that it related to the publishing work in Battle Creek, while
the Sentinel was published in New York, seemed to be overlooked!)
So now she took the vision and inserted a definite message from
God into it to serve the purpose at hand. The Salamanca experience
became, in her mind, a foresight into the March 7,1890, meeting
- just what she needed for the occasion! This surely would have
the power necessary to reverse the decision forged amid much emotion
the previous night.
And as we know, it worked. It seems that even a prophetess is
not beyond a little pragmatic opportunism to aid in carrying out
what she believes to be God's work.
Some may argue that an even more generous approach may also be
permitted. That in the zeal to do that which she believed was
right for the church (which, almost certainly was equated by her
to God's will for the church), she innocently and unwittingly
conflated various pieces of information. By the time she addressed
the ministers on Sunday morning, March 8, 1891, she may actually
have come to believe she had "seen" the March 7, 1891,
meeting on November 3, 1890. This conjecture, that she innocently
realigned information, has the implication that one never knows
just when to trust her word in a literal and exact sense, and
when to take only its intent, viewing the accompanying historical
data with a degree of tentativeness. Most people want more certainty
from their prophet than this permits.
Historians, not apologists, will no doubt continue to struggle
with what model best accounts for the Ellen White phenomena. Certainly
it is a complex matter that deserves earnest attention in the
Adventist church. Various positions have been advanced so far:
the White Estate has the "prophet" model; Walter Rea
has responded with his "supersalesman of the psychic"
view expressed forthrightly in The White Lie; Robert Brinsmead,
now silent on the issue, has proposed an "erring, sinning
prophet" view; Desmond Ford has suggested a prophet whose
usefulness has been tarnished by the White Estate's eagerness
to establish the supernatural source of her writings; while Molleurus
Couperus proposed she is best accounted for when seen as a victim
of temporal lobe epilepsy.
It seems to this writer that, as helpful as these suggestions
are, in general, these positions tend to focus on a 'part' (be
it a large part) of the Ellen White data. As studies continue
to emerge, perhaps a consensus that incorporates the full spectrum
of data will emerge. The question then remains, Will the church
adopt a position which represents, as fully as possible, the wide
range of data regarding Ellen White?
For my part, here I have simply sought to present an illustration
of the type of careful study that should be repeated until a full
picture of the "prophetess" may be gained.
It is much too much to claim that a meticulous study of the Salamanca
experience invalidates Ellen White's claim to possessing prophetic
powers. On the other hand, it is equally reckless to use such
an incident as a verification of her predictive abilities, or
as an assumption that God in fact provided the insights she narrates.
This simply cannot be demonstrated. Those who want to believe
such may do so. But they may not believe with integrity that such
a belief has a basis in fact. Its basis resides in the realm of
faith and in the prior assumption that Ellen White's word is to
be trusted despite and facts to the contrary. Such faith may be
comforting to some, but it is not rational to most.
1. The following account is based on a number of documents testifying to the incident. Because the accounts are very largely repetitive, and the story is quite well known (at least with Ellen White apologists), I have not footnoted every detail. The primary source documents are available in transcripted or facsimile form in Robert Olson's compilation, "The Salamanca Vision and the 1890 Diary," Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, September 12, 1983. The story itself is told in varying degrees of detail, and with variations of fact, in the following sources: Arthur L. White, "The Vision Which Could Not Be Told," n.d.; Arthur L. White, "Story of the Salamanca Vision," n.d.; Edna Kilbourne Steele, "Statement Concerning the Salamanca Vision," n.d.; O.A. Olsen, "The Salamanca Vision," August 19, 1914 (in Olson, pp. 76-78); A.T. Robinson, "The Salamanca Vision," n.d.; O.A. Johnson, et. al., "A Remarkable Vision," May 19, 1922 (in Olson, pp. 85-86); E.E. Gardner to W.C. White, December 3, 1915 (in Olson, pp. 79-80); and an untitled article by H.W. Cottrell dated October 12, 1920 in "The Salamanca Vision," a compilation of statements about the episode (in Olson, p. 81). These are all typewritten manuscripts in Document File 107-b at the Ellen G. White Research Center, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. Further recollections of the event are found in typewritten manuscript form in Document File 107-b at the Ellen G. White Estate, Washington, D.C.: L.A. Hoopes, "The Salamanca Vision," April 25, 1915; [A.T. Robinson], "Personal Experiences Ib[sic] Connection With the Work of Sister White," n.d. (in Olson, pp. 72-75); Edna Kilbourne Steele to Arthur L. White, August 11, 1946 (in Olson, pp. 82-84). Published statements about the experience include: F.M. Wilcox, "The Testimony of Jesus," Review and Herald: General Conference Report, No.3, June 9, 1946, pp. 61-64; A.T. Robinson, "Some Personal Experiences," The Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, January 15, 1914, p. 54; Ellen G. White, et. al., Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1915, pp. 309-318; T.H. Jemison, A Prophet Among You, Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1955, pp. 471-480, and appendix by Arthur L. White; Arthur L. White, The Lonely Years, Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1984, pp. 468-469, 478-483; Roland R. Hegstad, "Liberty Learns a Lesson," Adventist Review, May 15,1986, pp. 8-10.
2. White, "Lonely Years", pp. 482-483
3. Arthur White emphasizes this point, based on the testimony of A.T. Robinson, for the purpose of stressing God's providential timing in recalling the vision AFTER the meeting, for if she had stated her revelation before the Saturday night meeting, "it would have been said that it was not true, for no such meeting had taken place" (in Jemison, p. 479). He does not seem to consider the added impact that such a statement of her revelation would ultimately have had, even if it were not believed immediately!
4. [Robinson], p. 2
5. Ibid., and Olsen, p. 2
6. [Robinson], p. 3, and Wilcox, p. 63
7. [Robinson], p. 3
8. Steele, "Statement," p.2
9. White, "Vision Which Could Not Be Told," p. 6
10. This story has recently been recounted to again affirm the need to make Adventist distinctives prominent, in Hegstad, "Liberty,". 11. Diary 16, 1890, p. 290, in Olson, p. 20; for facsimile see p. 95; also see Manuscript 44, 1890, p. 6. In this quotation, as most others, the transcription is not exact. Minor editorial and spelling changes are evident when the transcription is compared with the handwritten originals. Overall there is an astounding variety in transcriptions of Ellen White's manuscripts. Any published version usually varies not only from the original, but also from other transcriptions and printed versions.
12. Diary 16, p. 294, in Olson, p. 23; see also Manuscript 45, 1890, pp. 3-4
13. See Olson's footnote, p. 23
14. Letter 72a, 1890, in Olson, p. 27
15. Diary 16, p. 336, in Olson, p. 31; see also Manuscript 6, 1890, p. 2
16. Diary 16, p. 338, in Olson, p. 32; see also Manuscript 6, 1890, p. 3
17. Manuscript 16, pp. 17-18, in Olson, p. 37; see also Counsels, pp. 94-95
18. "Her counsels here are similar to her later descriptions of the Salamanca vision, and may be based on what she was shown in that vision," Olson, p. 37
19. Diary 16, p. 313, in Olson, p. 25; see also Manuscript 46, 1890, pp. 2-3
20. Diary 16, p. 334, in Olson, p. 31; see also Manuscript 29a, 1890, p. 10
21. Manuscript 2, 1891, p. 1, in Olson, p. 57
22. Diary 16, p. 289, in Olson, pp. 57-58; see also Manuscript 44, 1890, pp. 5-6
23. Diary 16, pp. 288-289, in Olson, p. 20; see also Manuscript 44, 1890, p. 5
24. Diary 16, p. 289, in Olson, pp. 57-58; see also Manuscript 44, 1890, pp. 5-6
25. Diary 16, p. 290, in Olson, p. 20; see also Manuscript 44, 1890, p. 6
26. Olson, footnote, p. 57
28. Diary 16, p. 323, in Olson, p. 59; see also Manuscript 29, 1890, pp. 3-6
29. White, "Lonely Years", p. 469. The diary entries for November 20-24, 1890, have been transcribed from the original handwriting and titled Manuscript 29, 1890. This document, or parts of it, appears in a confusingly wide array of forms and stages of redactional development. This writer is aware of the following: the original handwritten manuscript with numerous interlineations added to it in Ellen White's handwriting; a typed transcription of the handwritten manuscript with the interlineations (now typed in), containing numerous further editorial alterations; this typed manuscript has further interlineations also in the hand of Ellen White, but there is also a version without the additional interlineations; a document apparently prepared at the White Estate entitled, "E.G. White MS 29, 1890, Showing Editorial Work Done," comparing the handwritten diary and the typed manuscript, but only over the space of a few sentences on pages 5 and 6; "Manuscript Matter Used by A.L. White in Salamanca Vision Story Drawn from Interlined Copy of MS," a document which transcribes a portion of pages 5 and 6 of Manuscript 29, 1890, including the interlineations; "Salamanca Diary," a one page transcription of a portion of the Ellen White handwritten diary entered after the November 22, 1890, entry (but separated by a scrawled line), this transcription includes the interlineations from the original diary entry; the traditional MS 29, 1890 on file for general research in typed form at Ellen White Research Centers; and of course Olson's citation of a portion of these diary entries on pages 58-60 of his compilation. Most of these documents are available in Document File 107-b at the Ellen G. White Estate. Another entire study could be made of the development and editing of the primary sources for the Salamanca experience after they were first penned by Ellen White. For purposes of simplicity and to aid the reader in validating this study, this writer has generally assumed Olson's transcriptions to be reliable and valid. Any exceptions from this are noted either in the text or footnotes.
30. Diary 16, p. 321, in Olson, p. 58; see also Manuscript 29, 1890, p. 1
31. See Olson, pp. 30, 58-60 for a transcription of these passages; also pp. 98-103 for facsimiles of the six diary pages in question. The transcriptions used here are my own.
32. Diary 16, pp. 325-326, in Olson, pp. 59-60; see also Manuscript 29, 1890, pp. 5-6
33. Diary 16, p. 289, in Olson, footnote, p. 57
34. Diary 16, pp. 450-452, in Olson, pp. 60-61; see also Manuscript 44, 1890, pp. 6-8. Curiously, this passage, clearly belonging in 1891, is placed in a manuscript by the White Estate and dated 1890! Such are the hazards awaiting a novice researcher in the White Estate.
35. Olson, footnote, p. 60
38. Diary 16, p. 457, in Olson, pp. 61-62; see also Manuscript 40, 1890, pp. 1-2
39. Diary 16, p. 457, facsimile in Olson, p. 110; parentheses mine.
40. Diary 16, pp. 506-507, in Olson, p. 63; see also Manuscript 40, 1890, pp. 23-30
41. Olson, footnote, p. 63
42. Diary 17, 1891, pp. 111-112, in Olson, pp. 64-65; see also Manuscript 42, 1891, p. 5
43. Letter 48, 1891, pp. 1-2, in Olson, p. 65
44. Olson, footnote, p. 65
45. Diary 16, p. 336, in Olson, p. 31; see also Manuscript 6, 1890, p. 2
46. Letter 20a, 1893, in Olson, p. 67; see also This Day With God, p. 17
47. Letter 41, 1898, pp. 1-2, in Olson, p. 67
48. Manuscript 59, 1905, p. 4 in Olson, p. 70
49. Olson, footnote, p. 70
50. Olson, footnotes, pp. 63,64
51. Of the 16 Items listed, Items 4, 5, and 8 do not refer to Salamanca; and Item 13 is a reprint of Items 9 and 10.
52. Diary 17, p. 111, in Olson, p. 64; see also Manuscript 42, 1891, p. 5
53. For a list of these resources see footnote 1
54. Robinson, "Salamanca Vision," p. 2
55. [Robinson], p. 2, in Olson, p. 74
56. Johnson et. al., p. 1, in Olson, p. 85
57. White et. al., Sketches, p. 314
58. Olsen, p. 3, in Olson, p. 77; Olsen is here quoting Captain Eldridge who was present at both meetings.
59. Steele, "Statement," p.2
60. White, "Vision Which Could Not Be Told," pp. 4,6; and White, "Story," p. 3
61. See Manuscript 42, 1891, p.5
62. Robinson, "Personal Experiences," p. 3, in Olson, p. 74
63. Johnson et. al., p. 1, in Olson, p. 74
64. Wilcox, p. 63
65. White, "Vision Which Could Not Be Told," pp. 3,4; and White, "Story," p. 3
66. Olsen, p. 1, in Olson, p. 76. Robert Olson's transcription states she arose at 4 o'clock, which aligns with the original manuscript. However, this has usually been altered to say 3 o'clock. See below.
67. Steele, "Statement," pp. 1,2
68. Ibid, p. 2
69. White, Lonely Years, pp. 478-479
70. Olsen, p. 1, see Olson, p. 76
71. Hoopes, p. 3
72. Wilcox, p. 63
73. Johnson et. al., p. 1, in Olson, p. 85
74. [Robinson], p. 3, in Olson p. 74
75. Steele, "Statement," p.1
76. Steele to White, p. 1, in Olson, p. 83
77. Steele, "Statement," p.2
78. Olsen, p. 1, see Olson, p. 76, for the edited version of this statement.
79. White, "Vision Which Could Not Be Told," p. 4
80. Olsen, p. 3, in Olson, pp. 77-78
81. White, "Story,", p. 1
82. Steele, "Statement," p.1
83. Steele to White, p. 2, in Olson, p. 84
84. Olson, footnote, p. 63
85. White, "Vision Which Could Not Be Told," p. 2
86. Ibid., p.3
87. Ibid., p.2
88. "Ellen White was not allowed to tell the vision," ibid., p.6. How could Arthur White determine whether she simply could not recall it, or whether she was prevented from relating it? See also, White, "Story," p.1; and White in Jemison, Prophet, pp. 476-480, especially p. 476.
89. White, Lonely Years, pp. 478-479
90. Steele, "Statement," p.2
91. Manuscript 59, 1905, p.3, in Olson, p. 70, emphasis mine.
92. White et. al., Sketches, p. 315
93. [Robinson], p. 2, in Olson p. 74
94. Steele, "Statement," p.1
95. White, "Story,", p. 4
96. [Robinson], p. 3, in Olson p. 74; see also Steele, "Statement," p.1
97. Olsen, p. 1, in Olson, p. 76
98. Robinson, "Salamanca Vision," p. 2
99. Steele, "Statement," p.1
100. Cottrell, p. 1, in Olson, p. 81
101. Hoopes, p. 2
102. Robinson, "Personal Experiences," p. 54
103. [Robinson], in Olson pp. 73-74
104. Olson lists yet other contradictions and inaccuracies, mostly minor in nature, but concludes: "In general, however, the [eyewitness] accounts are remarkably similar, and reflect an overall trustworthiness," Olson, p. 71.
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