The Life of Ellen White by D.M. Canright

Chapter 16 - Claimed to Reveal Secret Sins

As usual with characters of this kind, extravagant and even superstitious views concerning Mrs. White have quite generally been held by the denomination recognizing her as its prophet and spiritual head. This was encouraged both by her own claims and by the teachings of her devout followers. She claimed to be God's special messenger; to have been given the work of revealing and reproving "secret sins"; and to have been taken in vision from house to house and heard conversations which she was bade not to relate. Many of her followers looked upon her as endowed with supernatural powers, and went to her for counsel and advice as one would go to God himself.

Elder A.G. Daniells, president of their General Conference since 1901, in a statement made Feb. 12, 1914, said: "In my earlier ministry, when I was a young man, I thought Mrs. White knew everything about me; that she could read my thoughts." He had since learned better, and characterized his former views as "superstitious."

About the same time, Elder F.M. Wilcox, editor of the Review and Herald, their leading denominational paper, told how he felt when, while yet a boy, he first saw Mrs. White and heard her speak. He said: "I thought she could look right through me; that she knew everything I had ever done." He likewise characterized this as "superstitious."

Mr. Charles T. Shaffer, for a number of years elder of the first Seventh-day Adventists Church at Washington, D.C., in a statement dated Nov. 10, 1915, said: "I always considered Mrs. White as the prophet of the Lord, and that all things were as open before her eyes and that she saw them as clearly as I can see a house through a glass window." He later learned that this was no so. She got her information from others.

One of Mrs. White's claims was that God had empowered her to know the thoughts and secrets of people without their knowledge, and then to reprove or expose them to save the church from hidden corruption. Hear her: "God has been pleased to open to me the secrets of the inner life and the hidden sins of his people. The unpleasant duty has been laid upon me to reprove wrongs and reveal hidden sins" ("Testimonies," Vol. III., p. 314).

Then she tells how she saw them is their homes, listened to their conversations, was in their councils, and heard all they privately discussed, just the same as God himself sees and hears and knows all this. Nothing could be hidden from her ("Testimonies," Vol. V., p. 68). Thus Elder Uriah Smith, in "Objections to the Visions Answered," edition 1868, page 6, says: "They have exposed hidden iniquity, brought to light concealed wrongs, and laid bare the evil motives of the false-hearted."

There is an abundance of evidence to disprove this claim. Numerous plain facts in her life refute it. Later, Elder Smith himself doubted this claim of Mrs. White's. Under date of March 22, 1883, he wrote me about his unbelief in her testimonies. I quote a few lines: "The cases of C------ and S----- are stunners to me."

No wonder these cases were stunners to Smith, as they were to all of us. I knew both of these ministers well. But their sins were not revealed to Mrs. White, although she was closely associated with both of them.

Look at another case - that of Elder Nathan Fuller. Elder Fuller was a man of commanding appearance, large abilities, and was highly esteemed by the Advent people. There was a large church at Niles Hills, Pa. He lived near there, and for years had the oversight of this church. About 1869 or 1870 Elder White and his wife visited this church and stayed at the home of Mr. Fuller. Elder White publicly praised Fuller as a godly man of much ability. Only a few days later, by the confession of a conscience-stricken sister in that church, it came out that for years Fuller had been practicing adultery with five or six of the women in the church. All of them confessed, and Fuller had to own it himself. The community came near mobbing him. The whole denomination felt the shock and shame of it. But it hit Mrs. White the worst of all. She had been right there for days in Fuller's home, in meetings with him, had met all these women, yet knew nothing of all this rottenness. A little later I went there and held meetings for two weeks, met all these people, and learned the whole shameful story.

This case exposed the falsity of Mrs. White's claim that God revealed to her the "hidden sins" of his people. What could she say? As usual, after it was all common knowledge, she had a testimony telling all about it. it is printed in "Testimonies for the Church," Vol. II., pp. 449-454. She says: "The case of N. Fuller has caused me much grief and anguish of spirit." Yes, well it might, as it so forcibly exposed her own failure. To excuse herself, she says: "I believe that God designed that this case of hypocrisy and villainy should be brought to light in the manner it has been." That is, God hid it from her and let the women expose it! If ever there was a case where her alleged "gift" of revealing "hidden sins" was needed, it was here - a widespread, awful, hidden iniquity, extending over years, and involving a whole church. She had often met Fuller in general meetings, had been in his home, and had also met all these women. Yet she knew nothing about it at all. No wonder Smith was stunned.

The second case Smith mentioned was that of a minister far more prominent than Fuller. I was holding meetings in a church where this minister had shortly before also held meetings. The elder of the church and his wife told me how he had tried to seduce her, the wife, and had tried the same with a young sister, their adopted daughter.. Inquiry revealed the fact that for a long time he had been at the same thing right along in other places. I submitted these facts to the Conference, and he was deposed from the ministry. Mrs. White had been with him in meetings for weeks, and had been in the same church; yet she knew nothing about any of this. She was in total ignorance of it until after it all came out.

Later another case, a very bad one, came to light. A minister who had been one of their most trusted and valuable men, came to Battle Creek one week before the General Conference was to meet there. He was to preach in the Tabernacle on Sabbath afternoon. His wife had long suspected his infidelity. So, searching through his trunk one day, she found hidden a bunch of letters from a woman which revealed their illicit intercourse. She informed the officials, and he was not allowed in the pulpit. At the conference I heard him confess his shame before several hundred in the Tabernacle. Then, as usual, after it was out, Mrs. White had a testimony about it, entitled "The Sin of Licentiousness." I have that testimony now.

These cases show that her claim that God had commissioned her to reveal the "hidden sins" in the church are groundless. In all I believe she wrote me fine personal testimonies during my ministry. I carefully scanned each one to see if there was any reference to anything in my life which none but God knew. There was never a word of such a thing in one of them,. Any one well acquainted with me as she was could have told all she told. Besides, she made several mistakes, supposing things to have happened which had not.

Things like the foregoing narrated events, covering many cases, finally destroyed my confidence in her claims to divine revelations.

Several years before Mrs. White's death so many cases of immorality were discovered in one of their leading publishing houses that the institution was coming into disrepute in the community where it was located. Upon investigation, nearly a score of employees, among them some of the most faithful church-goers and tithe-payers, had to be dismissed for misconduct. Yet Mrs. White, their prophet, knew nothing about all this deplorable condition of things.

These cases, and many more which might be cited, are sufficient to show that her claim that God had commissioned her to reveal the "hidden sins" in the church was groundless. She had no such gift. As a revealer of secret sins she was a complete failure. In this, as in many other things, she mistook her calling, and assumed responsibility which did not belong to her.

Like the prophets of the Delphic Oracle in ancient Greece, she quietly and industriously gathered information from many sources about many things concerning which she was supposed to know little or nothing. Upon this she based many of her testimonies, which were represented as direct revelations from God. But, as with the Delphic prophets, in proportion as the true source of her information came to light, her "gift" fell into disrepute.

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