Ellen White's Unfulfilled Prophecies about Labor Unions

By Brother Anderson

In the early 1900s, Mrs. White wrote dire prophecies about the rising power of labor unions. She claimed they would bring a time of trouble upon the earth worse than any since the world began:

And the trades unions will be one of the agencies that will bring upon this earth a time of trouble such as has not been since the world began.1

She also prophesied:

The time is fast coming when the controlling power of the labor unions will be very oppressive.2

She prophesied the unions would make it very difficult for Adventists to do business in cities like Los Angeles:

Because of these unions and confederacies, it will soon be very difficult for our institutions to carry on their work in the cities. My warning is: Keep out of the cities. Build no sanitariums in the cities. ... When the question arose in regard to the establishment of a sanitarium in Los Angeles, I felt that I must oppose this move. I carried a very heavy burden in regard to the matter, and I could not keep silent. It is time, brethren, that we heeded the testimonies sent us in mercy and love from the God of heaven.3

Interestingly enough, the SDA Corporation ignored these "testimonies" that were supposedly sent by God himself, and opened White Memorial Medical Center, a 59-bed hospital in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1913.4


A Failed Prophecy?

Unions caused sporadic problems in the early 1900s, but there is no evidence they caused a "time of trouble" worse than any since the world began! There is no evidence labor unions hindered SDA Hospitals from carrying on work in cities, which they continue to do all over the world to this day.5

Some may insist these dire prophecies are yet future, but it appears increasingly far-fetched. Union membership in the United States peaked between the years of 1930-1950, at around 30% of the work force, but has since been on a steady decline.

In 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act put restrictions on unions. The changing composition of the labor force, competition from other countries, scandals, and the rise of robotic authomation have all combined to weaken labor unions. These are forces Ellen White could not possibly have known about when she made her ill-fated "prophecies." By 2019, union membership in the United States had dropped to 10.3%, which is about a third of what it was at its peak.6 Similar drops occurred in most other leading industrialized nations from 1980 to 2017:7

  • Japan: 32% to 18%
  • Germany: 34% to 18%
  • Canada: 34% to 30%
  • Italy: 49% to 36%
  • Britain: 50% to 23%
  • France: 23% to 9%
  • Australia: 50% to 15%

In the early 1900s, at a time of great strife in the labor unions, these "prophecies" may have seemed feasible. After 120 years, it is now evident they were misguided. SDA corporate leaders wisely ignored this "inspired" counsel, building hospitals in major cities throughout the world. This demonstrates how little confidence SDA corporate leaders have in their own prophetess.

See also


1. Ellen White, Letter 200, 1903, para. 9. Later reprinted in Selected Messages, Book 2, 142.

2. Ellen White, Letter 5, 1904. Later reprinted in Selected Messages, Book 2, 141.

3. Manuscript 20, 1903, para. 33.

4. In August of 1901, Mrs. White had a vision on this matter. In Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 85, Mrs. White wrote out the vision: "By some it was urged that this sanitarium should be built in the city of Los Angeles... There was among us One who presented this matter very clearly and with the utmost simplicity. He told us that it would be a mistake to establish a sanitarium within the city limits." The brethren demonstrated how little faith they had in her "visions" by ignoring her counsel and opening a sanitarium in Los Angeles anyway. It has since expanded greatly, and is still in service today (2020). Ironically, they named the institution after the Whites--the same woman who told them not to build it!

5. In 2020, Seventh-day Adventists operated hospitals in Los Angeles, Portland, Denver, Tampa, Orlando, and many other cities in the United States. Worldwide they operate in Kingston, Jamaica, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Lima, Peru, Quito, Ecuador, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Bangkok, Thailand, Karachi, Pakistan, Hong Kong, China, Seoul, South Korea, Taipei, Taiwan, Tokyo, Japan, Nairobi, Kenya, Berlin, Germany, and Sydney, Australia.

6. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

7. OECD.

Category: Visions Examined
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