James White's Suppression of Ellen's Shut Door Statements

Compiled by Brother Anderson

"Yet no man has a right to add to, or subtract from, any other book written by inspiration of God." (Ellen White)1

James deletes 19% of original visions

By 1851, James and Ellen White had given up their doctrine that the door of salvation was shut for all except the Millerites. Now they faced a problem. What were they going to do with all of the statements Mrs. White made indicating she saw the door of salvation shut in her visions? James solved this dilemma by reprinting Mrs. White's visions in late 1851, in a pamphlet entitled Experiences and Views. In so doing, he removed all of the damaging portions regarding the Shut Door doctrine, including entire visions.

As could be expected, some of the members of the tiny sect were aghast over the exclusion of whole visions, which they had been led to believe had come directly from God. Mrs. White describes how James defused this crisis situation:

"At one time in the early days of the message, Father Butler and Elder Hart became confused in regard to the testimonies. In great distress they groaned and wept, but for some time they would not give the reasons for their perplexity. However, being pressed to give a reason for their faithless speech and manner, Elder Hart referred to a small pamphlet that had been published as the visions of Sister White, and said that to his certain knowledge, some visions were not included. Before a large audience, these brethren both talked strongly about their losing confidence in the work.

"My husband handed the little pamphlet to Elder Hart, and requested him to read what was printed on the title page. 'A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Mrs. E. G. White,' he read.

"For a moment there was silence, and then my husband explained that we had been very short of means, and were able to print at first only a small pamphlet, and he promised the brethren that when sufficient means was raised, the visions should be published more fully in book form.

"Elder Butler was deeply moved, and after the explanation had been made, he said, 'Let us bow before God.' Prayers, weeping, and confessions followed, such as we have seldom heard. Father Butler said: 'Brother White, forgive me; I was afraid you were concealing from us some of the light we ought to have. Forgive me, Sister White.' Then the power of God came into the meeting in a wonderful manner."2

There is no evidence that James cutting out the controversial parts of Ellen's visions was due to a lack of funds. Nevertheless, Butler accepted James' explanation, and the crisis abated for a while. It would arise again when the book Early Writings was published in 1882, and the publishers discovered it was not really the earliest writings of Ellen White, but James' 1851 revision of those writings.

Did James keep his promise?

Despite James White's greatly improved financial situation during the remaining 30 years of his life, he never kept his promise to elders Butler and Hart. As the years passed and the church moved further away from its earlier shut door stance, its leaders began to even deny that such a view was ever held; and it became evident that the omissions and deletions in the 1851 printing were not coincidental.

Damage control

Ellen White's early visions were so disturbing to many in the sect that in 1851, James White, who was editor of the sect's paper, "decided to suspend printing his wife's visions to avoid arousing further controversy."3 Her "visions" and "testimonies" did not appear again in the paper until a new editor took James' place in 1855. By then the controversy had cooled down, and many of the new members had no idea their prophet had seen a false doctrine in her visions.

See also

Citations

1. Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 137.

2. Ellen White, Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 53.

3. Ann Taves, "Visions," Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet (NY: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 39.

Category: Shut Door
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