The White Lie!

By Walter T. Rea

Chapter 7: New Light from the White

The Acts of the Apostles

The groundwork for the Adventist reinterpretation of ancient history and doctrine was laid in Patriarchs and Prophets (1890), which thus became the cornerstone of Adventist theology and geology. Then The Desire of Ages (1898) was to become the keystone in the arch of Adventist New Testament Christology. Then the greatest shell game of now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t was played with another book, The Acts of the Apostles (1911), the by-product of Sketches from the Life of Paul (1883) and earlier The Spirit of Prophecy (volume three, 1878), was to stand as a monument to the Adventist folly of the white lie.

Many Adventists have heard somewhat about the conflict over Sketches from the Life of Paul. It had been published in 1883 and was represented to the church and public as the greatest source of inspired information on the life of Paul since the Book of Acts was recorded by St. Luke. The preface set the tone:

The writer of this book, having received especial help from the Spirit of God, is able to throw light upon the teachings of Paul and their application to our own time, as no other authors are prepared to do. She has not suffered herself to be drawn aside to discuss theories, or to indulge in speculation. No extraneous matter is introduced. Consequently much that is contained in other books, which is interesting to the curious, and has a certain value, but which is after all little more than theory, finds no place in this work.1

Clearly, this fast trip through Paul’s sixty or so filled years was going to miss the shoals of human speculation that had stranded other writers before Ellen. In later years it was to be argued that she did not write the preface of her books and often not the introductions—which may be, but if so that destroys the argument that she was always in control and always supervised the finished product. Either Ellen endorsed that statement or she did not; but whatever the case, the statement is helpful in examining what happened after publication.

The book ran into trouble almost at once from both within and without the church. Francis D. Nichol, Ellen’s later apologist, does his best to quiet any past ill rumors and to forestall any new criticism of the prophet.2 To give him the credit he deserves, perhaps he was trying to save something that could not be saved. He had trouble with his task almost from the first. Some scholars consider the defense inadequate and inaccurate.3 Indeed, some have suggested that Arthur White’s name should have been included as collaborator. Nichol’s Ellen G. White and Her Critics was written to continue the flight from reality with the legend of Saint Ellen by rearranging the facts so as to deny that Ellen was always anything but ethical in her manner of writing. One observer has said that

Nichol did not release all the vital documents in his possession. He knew of the devastating evidence in Mrs. White’s letter to Bates in 1847 [concerning the closed door], but he said nothing about it.4

If this information is true, then what objectivity could Nichols bring to the ideas he advanced as to Sketches from the Life of Paul? Whether there was a threatened lawsuit or not, the book was withdrawn, each side of the debate giving different reasons for the demise. It was not available again until a facsimile reproduction was published ninety-one years afterward.

The big flap over the little book can be told simply. The method of writing followed the pattern already set, and there is no question that the material was Filched from other sources. There were complaints that Sketches sounded a good deal like The Life and Epistles of St. Paul by W. J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson. Although the similarities were denied at the time, a later examination showed the criticism to have basis. Percentage comparison was used to try to minimize the fact of dependence.

A study done by H. O. Olson5 in the early 1940s was the basis for the material in Nichol’s book defending Ellen. Olson produced pages and pages of comparisons, but reported only direct quotes or similar words. The truth is that Ellen had used the other author’s material from beginning to end with little let-up. More recent comparisons indicate that paraphrasing of Conybeare and Howson’s book is evident in structure, words, paragraphs, and even pages of material — almost without giving God a chance, in many cases, to get a word in edgewise.6 Even Ellen’s local color and vocabulary are limited in some chapters.

Despite the hanky-panky in making the book, the known criticism, the ninety-year lapse, the facsimile reprint was done without change or confession in 1974. The Trustees of the White Estate were still hailing the merits of the book in the new preface of the facsimile edition as though no lesson had been learned in the past hundred years:

One reader early noted that in its thirty-two chapters there were “many points not mentioned in the New Testament’’ — more than 750 of them. George I. Butler, president of the General Conference, after reading the book, wrote feelingly in the Review and Herald:
There are passages in it which touched our hearts most deeply, and brought the tears to our eyes. We finished its pages with an increased admiration for the character and life of this devoted apostle, and with a clear sense of the power of the religion of our Lord and Saviour to help and ennoble weak, fallen humanity.—Review and Herald, July 24, 18837

For a church that had always told the public that nothing should be added to the Canon, give or take a few thoughts, 750 new additions would be impressive for one book by Ellen.

H. O. Olson’s earlier admission of her copy work was understandable. But as one of the insiders, he had further inside information that Nichol did not use in his book. Olson had also done a study on another author that Ellen and her group found helpful — but, as always, had not acknowledged. The paper was given the top heavy title of “Comparisons of ‘The Life and Works of Paul’ by Farrar and ‘Sketches from the Life of Paul’ by Mrs. E. G. White, To Ascertain If the Latter is Dependent on the Former.” The study showed real promise. The comparisons were circulated to the church field on request, with the first page usually missing. That page said:

No careful reading and comparison of “The Life and Works of Paul” by Farrar and “Sketches from the Life of Paul,” by Mrs. E. G. White, as in the case of the latter and “Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul” by Conybeare and Howson, has been made; but a day was spent in an endeavor to ascertain if any part of Mrs. White’s book is based on Farrar’s book. I especially compared the sections of “Sketches from the Life of Paul” which had no quotations from the “Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul.”8

Regardless of all the lessons of the past, and as if to follow a pattern not to see, Olson continued to restrict himself, as did others who came after. No one seemed to want to recognize the stolen goods in Ellen’s pawnshop, for future researchers seem to have echoed Olson when he said on the first page of his paper:

In the chapter in Volume I of Farrar’s work dealing with the work in Corinth, I found two passages from which possibly three and five words, respectively, had been quoted, and in the section in Volume II, treating on Nero, I found four passages with a total of one hundred and five words that were the same as the words found in the corresponding section in Mrs. White’s book. [Italics added.]9

Time and again, those included in the church’s Clan Plan, rushed to judgment to save Ellen— blinding themselves to paraphrase or loose usage in here adaptations of others’ material. Thus they contributed to keeping alive the white lie.

There were those of her contemporaries, however, who saw what was going on when Ellen and her group were burning the midnight oil far into the morning hours.10 Arthur G. Daniells (General Conference president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church 1901-22), when called on to explain those northern lights that often lit up others’ material, gave some justification of the problem at the 1919 Bible Conference at which efforts were made to come to grips with Ellen’s writings. Like so many of the clan members who still wanted to work for the system, he took the high road in his explanation:

Yes; and now take that “Life of Paul,”—I suppose you all know' about it and knew what claims were put up against her, charges made of plagiarism, even by the authors of the book, Conybeare and Howson, and were liable to make the denomination trouble because there was so much of their book put into “The Life of Paul” without any credit or quotation marks. Some people of strict logic might fly the track on that ground, but I am not built that way. I found it out, and I read it with Brother Palmer when he found it, and we got Conybeare and Howson, and we got Wylie’s “History of the Reformation,” and we read word for word,page after page, and no quotations, no credit, and really I did not know the difference until I began to compare them. I supposed it was Sister White’s own work. The poor sister said, “Why, I didn’t know about quotations and credits. My secretary should have looked after that, and the publishing house should have looked after it.” [Italics added.]11

Ellen must have learned her lesson well from Eve, who laid on the serpent all the blame for her fall. It is hard to believe, as late as 1883, in her plan or rewriting history and theology from other authors, that Ellen did not know the moral or ethical difference in such delicate areas —when, according to her, God was at her side all the time when she was doing what she was doing. If, as Ellen claimed, God was giving her continuing peekaboo information about the dirty linen of the church members, surely he must have had inside information on the niceties of giving credit when taking others’ material.

Most of Ellen’s later books and material came after she had been informed as to the problem with Sketches from the Life of Paul and after the aforementioned confession of ignorance. It is astounding that never, not even once, did she or her helpers or her church give a smidgen of credit to anyone until the 1888 edition of The Great Controversy. Even then, it was done in an offhand way so that it had to be improved in the 1911 edition.

Daniells did not like what he saw. But being a good politician, he had learned to say nothing well. In 1919 he honestly expressed the following conviction:

There I saw the manifestation of the human in these writings. Of course I could have said this, and I did say it, that I wished a different course had been taken in the compilation of the books. If proper care had been exercised, it would have saved a lot of people from being thrown off the track. [Italics added.]12

But proper care was not exercised. In fact, the claims for Ellen and her writings became even more widespread and extreme, and people to this day are still being “thrown off the track.”

But it was more than Sketches from the Life of Paul that Daniells was having trouble with. In the same 1919 Bible Conference he was to tell those present (most of whom revealed tortured minds over the view of Ellen’s infallibility and plagiarism) that he had seen other problems in other books:

In Australia I saw “The Desire of Ages” being made up, and I saw the re-writing of chapters, some of them written over and over and over again. I saw that, and when I talked with Sister Davis about it, I tell you I had to square up this thing and begin to settle things about the spirit of prophecy. If these false positions had never been taken, the thing would be much plainer than it is today. What was charged as plagiarism would all have been simplified, and I believe men would have been saved to the cause if from the start we had understood this thing as it should have been. With those, false views held, we face difficulties in straightening up. We will not meet those difficulties by resorting to a false claim. [Italics added.]13

Daniells was not talking about “verbal inspiration,” as some would have people believe. He knew, as others before him had known, how some of those around Ellen had been using editorial privilege and taking license to incorporate some of their own thoughts. Ellen was not in control all the way. He had seen her drop the reins and have less control as time went on. He relates his concern:

I visited her once over this matter of the “daily,” and I took along with me that old chart. . .and laid it on her lap, and I took “Early Writings” and read it to her, and then I told her of the controversy. I spent a long time with her. It was one of her days when she was feeling cheery and rested, and so I explained it to her quite fully. I said. “Now here you say that you were shown that the view of the ‘daily’ that the brethren held was correct. Now,” I said, “there are two parts here in this ‘daily’ that you quote. One is this period of time, the 2300 years, and the other is what the ‘daily’ itself was.”

I went over that with her, and every time, as quick as I could come to that time, she would say, “Why, I know what was shown me, that that period of days was fixed, and that there would be no definite time after that. The brethren were right when they reached that 1844 date.”

Then I would leave that, and I would go on about this “daily.” “Why,” she said, “Brother Daniells, I do not know what that ‘daily’ is, whether it is paganism or Christ’s ministry. That was not the thing that was shown me.” And she would go into that twilight zone right away.14

There are those who believe that Daniells got himself in hot water by trying to slow the legend of Ellen and that he was removed from office by the true believers in 1922 in part because of the rumors of his lack of faith in Ellen and her writings.15 This may or may not be a correct interpretation of events. Nevertheless, one by one, those who knew Ellen best, and were the closest to her in the real world, were often disciplined when they could not follow her writings into the unreal world, where her fiction was regarded as fact and her fantasy as truth. Ellen did not demand that all see what she saw, but it was necessary that they believe that she saw what she said she saw.

But the immensely important part of the finger playing was that no one should come to see where she saw what she said she saw. The real trick was to convince one and all that the merchandise she was selling was mostly new and firsthand. With Ellen’s help, the church sold this white lie to themselves and all others who would buy — and has continued to sell down to today. With new material being released at an alarming rate, showing that the merchandise was and is substantially secondhand or even thirdhand, Ellen is in the position of being in a large degree a compiler of others’ material rather than an author or an entrepreneur of new or divine goods.

In the light of the 1919 Bible Conference material, which was released only in recent years—not in good faith by the White Estate, but by private parties—it would be foolhardy to argue as some do that no one knew what was going on in the Ellen closet of writings; for if they had known, they would have told others about it.

Actually, there were people who did tell. But those who did, have not been rewarded for their efforts: Stewart, Sadler, the Kelloggs, Ballinger, Canright, Colcord, Smith, and Daniells, among them. Later Ellen’s assistants— Fannie Bolton, niece Mary Clough, and even her staunchest and longest editorial worker, Marian Davis — would be revealed as concerned and nervous over their involvements in Ellen’s copy work. Still later we would learn that the concerns of Lacy, Prescott, and others were also ignored and their questions left to puzzle and tempt the inquiring minds of today.

One by one, each was brought into line by a “rebuke,” a “testimony,” counsel, confrontation, and their witness minimized.16 As Uriah Smith had found out before them, it did not pay to rummage around too much in Ellen’s pawnshop and look at the labels on her merchandise to see if they were firsthand or second. Some who did were silenced, shifted from place to place, or rejected as unfit for God or his work. Ellen and her “true believers,” the keepers of the keys, having invented the closed door idea in 1844, were determined to keep it closed to all but those who would swear that they believed that Ellen and Ellen alone had seen what she had seen, and no one, but no one, had ever seen before. She would affirm that she had neither seen nor read Milton’s Paradise Lost.17

I know the light I received came from God, it was not taught me by man.18

I did not read any works upon health until I had written Spiritual Gifts.19

My views were written independent of books or the opinions of others.20

Never did Ellen bring herself to acknowledge human influences in her writings. Never were those who saw things differently allowed their admission of what they knew or saw — the basis of all change for the better. The legend had to be maintained that God and Ellen were so close that nothing could ever come in between. And Ellen White helped to foster and maintain that legend. Those who voiced concern about what they saw were considered “soft” on Ellen and dealt with accordingly. The list of those who received word of God’s displeasure through Ellen’s pen is long.21

Even today, effort is being made to keep teachers and leaders of local churches, by oath, from expressing reservation concerning Ellen and her writings. An example of that type of oath sent out to church members October 3, 1980, follows:

This letter was recommended by the board of elders of the Aurora church to be sent each member. Please read carefully.

Dear Members:

The Aurora church is a member of the sisterhood of churches of the Colorado Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. It was organized to preach the gospel and uphold the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist church. The church is warned in Scripture to "take heed” concerning individuals or teachings that might come in that would disrupt the unity or draw members away from the beliefs of the church.

The Seventh-day Adventist church does not have a creed, but it does have a statement of beliefs that have been adopted as the basis for their existence. The statement of beliefs was reaffirmed at the recent General Conference [1980]. More recently, the leaders and scholars adopted a consensus statement which gave strong support to the official church position on teachings regarding the sanctuary and the prophetic ministry of Ellen G. White.

To preserve unity and to maintain order, the Aurora church must ask that those in positions of leadership and teaching ministry subscribe to the fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. If a teacher or leader cannot conscientiously do this at this time, we ask that they voluntarily resign from their office. We ask this in a spirit of love, believing that this would be the Christian response on the part of a person finding themselves out of harmony with church teachings.

We recognize that God has given certain gifts to individuals and we are trying to make use of these gifts to God’s glory. We hope that each or our leaders and teachers will acknowledge their loyalty to the church and its teachings and would continue in their duties.

17. The Gift of Prophecy
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord’s messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth and provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. [Italics added.]22

This letter perhaps more than any other single document, shows how necessary it has been and continues to be that the church use force and pressure to maintain Ellen’s position in the church. It also makes clear that the Adventist heaven is an Ellen G. White heaven and that those going will have to buy their ticket from the church’s holy concessions sold at Ellen’s pawnshop.

Yet never once, even in the interest of fairness or honesty, was anyone credited with input concerning the writings the church now promotes as “the spirit of prophecy.” The mechanics were sometimes mentioned, but outside influence was always denied.23 The only statement of any substance that the church has ever pointed to was the one that was put in the introduction of the revised edition of The Great Controversy in 1888 and later in the 191 1 edition. John Harvey Kellogg seemed to have the real answer for that act when he said:

They went right on selling it, but they changed the preface in the next edition [1888] so as to give a little bit of the loophole to crawl out of, giving a little bit of a hint in it, in a very mild and rather in a hidden way that the author had also profited by information obtained from various sources as well as from divine inspiration. That is my recollection. I remember I saw the correction and I didn’t like it. I said, “That is only a crawl out, that is simply something put in so that the ordinary reader won’t discover it at all but will see the larger statements there of special inspiration; so they will be fooled by that thing.24

As the story unfolds year after year, and decade after decade, more and more church leaders, personal friends, assistants, and others caught on to the fencing game Ellen and her group were playing, but when they stepped forward to witness for what they saw, or ask questions about what they did not understand, they were shot down.

Fannie Bolton, one of Ellen’s editorial assistants was one case. She was employed for her recognized talent. But several times, conscience-stricken over what she saw and was being asked to do, she went to persons of substance to tell her story and try to get some answers to what she felt was not appropriate. One such person to whom she went was Merritt G. Kellogg, and he wrote about the experience:

Said Fanny, “Dr. Kellogg, I am in great distress of mind. I come to you for advice for I do not know what to do. I have told Elder Starr [Geo. B.] what I am going to tell you, but he gives me no satisfactory advice.” “You know,” said Fanny, “that I am writing all the time for Sister White. Most of what I write is published in the Review and Herald as having come from the pen of Sister White, and is sent out as having been written by Sister White under inspiration of God. I want to tell you that I am greatly distressed over this matter for I feel that I am acting a deceptive part. The people are being deceived about the inspiration of what I write. I feel that it is a great wrong that anything which I write should go out as under Sister White’s name as an article specially inspired of God. What I write should go out over my own signature, then credit would be given where credit belongs.” I gave Miss Bolton the best advice I could, and then soon after asked Sister White to explain the situation to me. I told her just what Fanny had told me. Mrs. White asked me if Fanny told me what I had repeated to her, and my affirming that she did she said, “Elder Starr says she came to him with the same thing.” “Now,” said Sister White with some warmth, “Fanny Bolton shall never write another line for me. She can hurt me as no other person can.” A few days later Miss Bolton was sent back to America. From that day to this my eyes have been open. M. G. Kellogg.25

The White Estate likes to tell that there is proof available that indicates that Fannie was emotionally unstable. Why wouldn’t she be, considering the influences and pressures on her? Some of them show up later in her “confession.” Under Ellen’s system of employer-employee relationship, one was not fired outright without God being active on the labor board. Elder Starr tells how such separations came about:

I then retired to my room and earnestly prayed over the matter, asking for further light from the Lord, and direction as to how to reach the real root of the difficulty. On leaving my room I passed Sister White’s doorway, and door being ajar, she saw me and called me into her room, saying, “I am in trouble, Brother Starr, and would like to talk with you.”

I asked her what was the nature of her trouble, and she replied, “My writings, Fanny Bolton” — just four words. I then asked her what the trouble was with Fanny Bolton and her writings. She said, “I want to tell you of a vision I had about 2:00 o’clock this morning. I was as wide awake as am now, and there appeared a chariot of gold ana horses of silver above me, and Jesus, in royal majesty, was seated in the chariot. I was greatly impressed with the glory of this vision, and asked my attending angel not to permit the vision to pass away until I had awakened up the entire family. He said, ‘Do not call the family. They do not see what you see. Listen for a message.’ Then there came the words rolling down over the clouds from the chariot from the lips of Jesus, ‘Fanny Bolton is your adversary! Fanny Bolton is your adversary!’ repeated three times. Now,” said Sister White, “I had this same vision about seven years ago, when my niece, Mary Clough, was on my writings. [She said,] ‘Aunt Ellen gives me the writings in the rough and I put the polish on, but get no recognition for it. It all goes out signed Ellen G. White:”26

No modern striker had less of a chance with God doing the negotiating on that labor board. (Evidently, these were such high-level negotiations that they couldn’t even be entrusted to one of the subordinate angels.) In any case, in those days it was the same as now: when the umpire says you’re out—you're out!

One of the interesting asides of this affair seems to be that of Mary Clough, Ellen’s niece. She had often been praised for her work when she was with Ellen. It was recorded by Ellen of her:

Mary is a good help. I appreciate her....27 She does well with my copy....28 I prize Mary more and more everyday....29 Mary is hard after me. She gets so enthusiastic over some subjects, she brings in the manuscript after she has copied it, to read to me. She showed me today quite a heavy pile of manuscripts she had prepared. She viewed it quite proudly....30

But like Fannie, Mary too had fallen from grace and been sacked — again by God. It just goes to show that, (even in those days) when you’re hot you’re hot, but when you’ve cooled down (that is, you’ve seen too much of what Ellen was seeing and where she was seeing it), you’re out.

Even with all the observations about Ellen’s copying coming in to Washington, D.C., on the hotline, the official position was, and is, that even if it were found that Ellen had copied everything from Conybeare and Howson, she had not been influenced by what she reconstructed in her own words with God’s help. As late as 1959, in a series of articles, grandson Arthur was still renewing the pledge for Grandmother:

As the years advanced, the charge shifted to that of Mrs. White’s being influenced in the messages she bore. Some suggested that the messages reflected the opinions and views of her associates. It would not be strange, they said, if some of Mrs. White’s messages reflected the opinions of others, inasmuch as she was surrounded by strong leaders. Some who received messages of reproof asked in their hearts or openly, “Who has been talking with Sister White?”31

It is hard to believe that grandson Arthur did not know who was “talking with Sister White.” As the keeper of the keys of the vault, he must have known what evidence was available to help give the answer. But he went on to tell why he dare not:

If the messages borne by Ellen G. White had their origin in surrounding minds or influences; if the messages on organization can be traced to the ideas of James White or George I. Butler; if the counsels on health had their origin in the minds of Drs. Jackson, Trail or Kellogg; if the instruction on education was based upon ideas of G. H. Bell or W. W. Prescott; if the high standards upheld in the Ellen G. White articles and books were inspired by the strong men of the cause — then the Spirit of Prophecy counsels can mean no more to us than some very good ideas and helpful advice!32

How true. It is interesting to speculate on why Arthur chose the names that he did, for the Adventist grapevine had been buzzing for some time with names of contributors to Ellen’s writings, including the names he gave. H. Camden Lacey had written:

And why do we not more generally speak of Him [the Holy Spirit] in that way, as does our Authorized translation, and the Early Writings of Sr. White, until she came under the influence of her husband and other of the pioneers?33

Again, it must be remembered that leaders in the church knew that Lacey had inside information concerning the forming of some of the books; and in his letters to Leroy E. Froom, he had written in 1945:

But he [W. W. Prescott] insisted on his interpretation, Sr. Marian Davis seemed to fall for it, and lo and behold, when the “Desire of Ages” came out, there appeared that identical teaching on pages 24 and 25, which, I think, can be looked for in vain in any of Sr. White’s published works prior to that time!34

There are those who would question the accuracy of Lacey’s memory on such matters, but in the end his memory must stand up against the memory of Grandson Arthur, or any other member of the White Estate. They were not there when the event took place. Even though Arthur was not trained in modern psychology nor prepared as a deep theologian, he did know that he had been given the task of guarding those concessions of his grandmother’s and he had no desire to lose that heavenly franchise, for himself or his church. He was not alone in his protection of that heavenly image. In the second part of his articles, he quotes Grandmother Ellen as saying:

I have not been in the habit of reading any doctrinal articles in the paper, that my mind should not have any understanding of anyone’s ideas and views, and that not a mold of any man’s theories should have any connection with that which I write.35

A reasonable person with average intelligence and a modest education can see that something has to give. An independent comparison of Sketches from the Life of Paul with the authors that Ellen White used would give enough evidence for even her staunchest supporters to conclude that things equal to the same thing are equal to each other, including theology.36 But Arthur is not a mathematician. So without that discipline’s restriction he could write:

These statements made by Mrs. White herself and those close to her are forthright, positive, and unequivocal, and should forever remove any questions as to whether or not the E. G. White writings may have been influenced by her secretaries. Mrs. White was not influenced by those about her nor were her writings tampered with. Her messages were not based on the ideas of those close to her, nor upon information others may have given her.37

Those incredible statements should have removed forever all questions— but they didn’t. More were to come and in faster sequence. The position of the Adventist Church changed in the 1970s. To save itself from the effects of the mounting evidence that Ellen did indeed copy, did indeed cover up that fact, and did indeed have others influencing her, the church now said, in effect — so what? Copying was nothing new. Like Ellen after them, most of the Bible writers also copied others and were influenced by others. It is clear from that line of reasoning that the church and grandson Arthur had established in their thinking that Ellen had long ago become first among equals.

The audience to which Arthur was appealing in the Review was a captive audience. They were not aware, when they read about Sketches from, the Life of Paul, that previous to Sketches Ellen had already drawn freely from other authors in her earlier version of the life of Paul (volume three of The Spirit, of Prophecy).38 In the preface of the reprint of 1974, the wary might have stumbled across a little jewel of a statement hidden there, but not too many were wary in the 1870s, inasmuch as that acknowledgment was to come ninety-one years after the fact.

A high degree of scholarship is not needed to detect Ellen’s formula for using other authors in the forerunner of Sketches from the Life of Paul. A degree of something else is demanded, though, to understand how —after hobnobbing, so to speak, with writers such as Conybeare and Howson, Farrar, March, Harris, McDuff, and who knows how many others — she could maintain with a straight face that she was not influenced by them, when their padding was sticking out all over. Whether or not she was influenced is now secondary, the primary matter being that the church and all its members were certainly influenced by those she copied from (and were misled as to the facts of the matter). And the church at large continues to be thus influenced through the ideas, words, sentences, paragraphs, and even pages of the material that is not as it has been represented.

Even H. O. Olson, who had the task of deflecting criticism coming from those who knew how Ellen had gathered from others for her Life of Paul, admitted:

Even though one can find considerable paralleling in the two books, it is evident that their objectives are not the same.39

Who said their objectives were supposed to be the same? Somehow the housekeepers of the White Estate had “misplaced” that front page of Olson’s research on part of the book, and didn’t surface publicly until the January 1980 Glendale Committee met to study comparisons with sources — and an Olson of another generation informed the group that his uncle was the one who did the earlier study.40 Whatever shortcomings that study had, it was the study used by Nichol in his defense of Ellen, a book that had started the church down the winding road of percentages.

On the missing front page that few had ever heard of, much less seen, H. O. Olson had said:

No careful reading and comparison of “The Life and Work of Paul” by Farrar and “Sketches from the Life of Paul,” by Mrs. E. G. White, as in the case of the latter and “Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul,” by Conybeare and Howson, has been made; but a day was spent in an endeavor to ascertain if any part of Mrs. White’s book is based on Farrar’s book.41

Perhaps if H. O. Olson had not been so frank and open, his paper would have had wider circulation. He conceded the limitations of his study. As many would do from his day to the present, he was looking for words and direct quotations—not paraphrasing or thought adaptation. That paper, which might have been done on a leisurely Sunday afternoon, for fun and games, was taken as a solid defense in the wall of the white lie that would fence out challenges for another forty years.

The sequel of the story, however, is more remarkable than its beginning. With the temporary demise of Sketches from the Life of Paul and the expansion of The Spirit of Prophecy series to the larger Conflict Series, it was necessary to resurrect Paul from his burial in Sketches. Ellen herself expressed this desire in 1903 when she wrote:

I think that a new edition of the Life of Paul should be published. I shall make some additions to this book, however, before it is republished.42

She was now in her seventies and Nature had begun to bank the coals of the fires of her life. In fact, by the time The Acts of the Apostles appeared in 1911, she was about eight-four.43

It may have been a new edition that was born, but the padding was the same. By now, however, Ellen had been promoted to a supervisory capacity and was only acting as God’s overseer. The Estate makes an interesting admission in Life Sketches of Ellen G. White:

By the close of 1910 Mrs. White had given full consideration to all the problems connected with the reset edition of “Great Controversy.” That task having been completed, she found time to supervise the revision of “Sketches from the Life of Paul,” and add several chapters on the life work and the writings of the apostles of the early Christian church. This matter was published in 1911, under the title, “The Acts of the Apostles.” [Italics added.]44

There really wasn’t much to oversee. In some cases the original material was rearranged, a few more authors were added, and some of the more obvious copying was toned down with more Bible texts.

But a new dimension had been added. The experts were called in to do a cosmetic job on the old figures. Thus it would be difficult thereafter to link The Acts of the Apostles with its forerunner, Sketches from the Life of Paul or its predecessor, volume three of The Spirit of Prophecy. Careful study and comparison of the three books in the order of their production shows a great deal of imagination and creative evolution — all of it capable of being done by man, not God. Volume three of The Spirit of Prophecy showed little original theology. Sketches from the Life of Paul added material from more authors but had no more originality — and no acknowledgment of increased dependence on other writers.45

The final edition of The Acts of the Apostles was an interweaving of materials by a “consortium” of conspirators. Bible texts were substituted for some of the matter previously copied. Obvious details of paraphrasing were diluted and limited. But a new master entered the arena of inspiration. To the life of Paul had been added the life of Peter. This outside the family of Conybeare and Howson, Farrar, March, and McDuff introduced additional chapters that showed help from John Harris, who in 1836 had published a series of five essays in a book entitled The Great Teacher, which had great promise and sold well.46

The Great Teacher was unlike anything Ellen and her group had used before. Most of the former writers had followed rather closely the Scripture narrative. This had helped the Estate in arguing against criticism of Ellen’s copying. The line was that even if some similarities did seep through from the authors used, those similarities were only coincidence, inasmuch as both the material copied and the person copying were following the Bible narrative, and perhaps the same marginal references, and perhaps the same Bible dictionary, and perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.47

But this Harris was no perhaps! A comparison of the introduction of The Great Teacher with volume six of Testimonies for the Church is shown:

Ellen G. White John Harris
They must study Christ’s lessons and the character of His teaching. They must see its freedom from formalism and tradition, and appreciate the originality, the authority, the spirituality, the tenderness, the benevolence, and the practicability of His teaching.48 The book contains five Essays of considerable length and on the following important topics: — I. The Authority of our Lord’s Teaching. II. The Originality of our Lord’s Teaching.... 111. Spirituality our Lord’s Teaching. IV. The Tenderness and Benevolence of our Lord's Teaching. V. The Practicalness of our Lord’s Teaching.49

Harris and The Great Teacher had appear ed in Ellen’s works before, but, as in other cases, without credit or recognition. Material from his book had been found very useful in the rewriting of The Desire of Ages in 1898. Scores and scores of times Harris and his essays leave their mark on The Acts and The Desire and Ellen and her church. Some of the sweet sayings that ring the Adventist bell were chiming for Harris, not Ellen. Without such statements from Harris as

He designed the church to he his own peculium; it is the only fortress which he holds in a revolted world; and he intended, therefore, that no authority should be known in it, no laws acknowledged, but his own.50

the introductions of The Acts and The Desire would have been as flat as they were in their respective forerunners, where such introductions were missing altogether — which showed what God could do with a little help.

But the use of Harris and The Great Teacher did not stop with just the introductions of these two books of Ellen. Later, Fundamentals of Christian Education, Counsels to Teachers, and Education would feature Ellen all the way — and few people would know that Harris was really the show-stopper.51 If the statements of Harris were abstracted from any of the five books and placed in another location of another book, the continuity of the thoughts would not be disrupted in any case. The statements have no relevance or value in their context or setting except as they are given some sort of value by the reader. Inasmuch as they do not follow' any Bible narrative or set order, they can be used as they are often used — anywhere, at anytime, by anybody, to say anything to establish any point.

It has been suggested that W. W. Prescott, the educational genius of Adventism,52 had a great interest in Ellen and her material and writing. Harris is much more his style of reading and thinking than it is Ellen’s, for Harris is unlike anyone else on her extensive list.53 In later years the White Estate made an interesting admission as to Prescott’s involvement in the production of The Desire of Ages. A paper released by Robert Olson and later articles by Arthur White in the Review stated that Prescott did have something to do with the “correction” of grammar in The Desire of Ages.54 Those statements plus the Lacey letter, fairly well link Harris and Prescott with the chain of events.

One further note of interest is that when Professor Prescott’s college textbook, The Doctrine of Christ, is compared with Harris and his material (copied from the first few chapters of The Desire of Ages), all three show remarkable similarity, with Harris coming out a fast first, Ellen a distinct second, and Prescott’s textbook a slow third, but still in the running.55 Such a close finish might explain why the professor was so concerned that the material lifted from Harris and handed to the “fences” of the church was to show up later in Ellen’s pawnshop and sold as God’s merchandise.56

To anyone standing off at a distance, it is obvious that the “borrowing” was all done with mirrors — but not focused to reflect Harris, or March, or Conybeare and Howson—or even to reflect God. The final work was hung in the Adventist hall of fame to reflect Ellen’s work and authority as given to the Adventist church by its leaders and theologians. The final five books of the Conflict Series were to stand as Ellen’s (and thus God’s) and Adventism’s lasting and authoritative contribution to geology, theology, Christology, and eschatology. Adventists believe and teach, whether officially or unofficially, that Ellen’s “inspiration” (or genius) and the ability to reassign the facts of history and to predict the events of the future, is of unquestionable authority. The 1980 General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the defrocking of Desmond Ford in Colorado later that summer, the steady denial of the facts of present-day research of Ellen White’s copy program throughout her lifetime, the insistence that what fault may be found with her life and method can be equaled in the experiences of Bible writers—all indicate that she is the final, infallible interpreter of all Adventist faith and practice.

However, there have been cracks in the Adventist mirror. The strong stand of the Adventist administration has not caught on in the world at large. It has not even been accepted by the church at large. Ellenology is an American phenomenon. Most of the body of believers in Adventism are outside the United States and have not had her writings in total or do not care to use them, or at least interpret them somewhat different from the way the American adherent does. Even those true believers who leave the shores of America tend to adapt themselves to a non- Ellen influence in the affairs of the church and their personal lifestyle, only to change back again when they return to Ellen land. Often the sign of this shift is the wedding ring, forbidden by Ellen’s instruction in the United States for both clergy and members alike. Ellen had made the absence of a ring the mark Adventism in America when she wrote:

Some have had a burden in regard to the wearing of a marriage ring, feeling that the wives of our ministers should conform to this custom. All this is unnecessary. Let the minister’s wives have the golden link which binds their souls to Jesus Christ, a pure and holy character, the true love and meekness and godliness that are the fruit borne upon the Christian tree, and their influence will be secure anywhere. The fact that a disregard of the custom occasions remark, is no good reason for adopting it. Americans can make their position understood by plainly stating that the custom is not regarded as obligatory in our country. We need not wear the sign, for we are not untrue to our marriage vow, and the wearing of the ring would he no evidence that we were true. I feel deeply over this leavening process which seems to be going on among us, in the conformity to custom and fashion. Not one penny should be spent for a circlet of gold to testify that we are married.57

The discussion of this prohibition has caused more heat than light in the deliberating bodies of the church for decades, with God losing out if he was the author, for most of the churches have loosened the ban to permit the band to be worn. Otherwise much of the talent of the church would be outside the pale of grace and the use of the church. It is still difficult for the church pastors and evangelists to baptize members with the ring on, and often a piece of tape is used to hide the fact. It would appear that there are even ways to circumvent Ellen and her God.

Confession, the beginning of beginnings, is an unnatural act — an admission of guilt, of wrongdoing, and of human design out of harmony with man’s ethics or God’s moral laws. When confession comes from the mind, it is helpful for external purposes. When it comes from the heart, or soul, it is helpful for inner purposes. Whatever the case, it can have either short-term or lasting effect, depending on the circumstances. It is always wasted, however, when it is too late and when it is forced or extracted long after there is widespread knowledge of the facts that cause the need for confession. Such seems to be the case in the matter of Arthur White and his January 18, 1981, paper, “The Prescott Letter to W. C. White.”

True to the methodology of the White Estate staff, Arthur seeks in his paper to belittle, or subtly smear, Prescott, mainly because of Prescott’s letter to W. C. White, his connections with Grandmother Ellen, and the acknowledged help that he gave her writings. The charge of pantheistic leanings is made against Prescott the same as it was against Waggoner and Kellogg. Perhaps because of lack of proof, Arthur does not spell out the details of his charges but uses such expressions as “a hint in this,” “later statements seem to imply this,” “seemed confused,” “with only a half-hearted dedication,” and the “results were only modestly successful.”58

It is in his apology for what the White Estate, with him as its head, did not do to correct misconceptions about Ellen’s writings that Arthur White lets down his guard and opens the door enough so that a little light comes through. As though fearful that those who know, or may hear about, might gain true insights, he says:

These facts are such that a biased mind or unscrupulous or highly critical researcher can seriously misconstrue and misuse. What follows is written with the hope, and prayer, and the earnest request that the information be employed fairly ana judiciously.

And why presented reluctantly? Because good men of unquestioned integrity were involved; trusted, dedicated men in high positions of church leadership, men who deserve to be remembered with honor and admiration, and most of all, because what took place was done inadvertently and unwittingly. We are not discussing a cover-up, but rather an accident in which some were badly hurt. [Italics added].59

Then comes the confession:

But it was not until three or four years ago, when the minutes of the meetings of the Bible and history teachers in 1919 were uncovered and made public, that I was aware of the 1919 meeting.60

And again, further on:

Now it is true that the intensive work in a study of the relationship between portions of certain E. G. White books and the writings of commentators and historians has disclosed a wider use. by Ellen White of other writings, than either the White Estate or present church leaders were aware of. The staff down through the years has been much too small and too busy in meeting the demands upon it to give time to probing for answers to questions now being asked.61

Where had poor Arthur been all these years when those “probing” questions were being asked over and over again?

His paper could suggest that, if he was indeed unaware of the probing of the 1919 Bible Conference (which some consider to have been one of the most important and revealing meetings of Adventism) and unaware of Ellen’s extensive copy work in the making of her books, then perhaps he might be ignorant of a lot more facts concerning Grandmother Ellen.

Despite these inconsistencies and problems of ethics, it cannot be denied that Ellen had made it to the top, and made it big, with her writings. In the Adventist system, she had redesigned the past, glossed over the present, and added exotic colors to the future. That future, as detailed in Adventist eschatology, is found in Ellen’s book The Great Controversy — itself the greatest controversy of all her writings.

References and Notes

1. Ellen G. White, Sketches from the Life of Paul (Washington: RHPA, 1883; facsimile reproduction, 1974), preface, pp. 7-8.

2 . Francis D. Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics (Washington: RHPA, 1951), chaps. 28 and 29.

3. Glendale Committee, “Ellen G. White Sources,” tapes (28-29 January 1980). Donald R. McAdams and others have been aware that the work of Nichol is inadequate. See also Ronald D. Graybill’s paper presented at the Northern California Conference Workers’ Meeting, March 1981.

4. Robert D. Brinsmead, Judged by the Gospel (Fallbrook, CA: Verdict Publications, 1980), p. 158.

5. H. O. Olson, “Comparison of The Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul, by Conybeare and Howson, and Sketches from the Life of Paul, by Ellen G. White” (Washington: EGW Estate).

6. See Appendix, Chapter 7 Comparison Exhibits.

7. EGW, Sketches from the Life of Paul, preface of the 1974 facsimile edition.

8. H. O. Olson, “Comparison of The Life and Work of St. Paul, by Farrar, and Sketches from the Life of Paul, by Mrs. E. G. White, to Ascertain If the Latter Is Dependent on the Former” (Washington: EGW Estate).

9. Ibid.

10. Many statements appear throughout her lifetime as to when, during a twenty-four-hour day, Ellen White worked at her writing. In 1882 she wrote a lengthy epistle (published later in volume five of the Testimonies, pp. 62-84, and also, in part, in Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 27) in which are such statements: “I have been aroused from my sleep. . .and I have written, at midnight I arose at three o’clock in the morning to write to you.” These ana other such statements commonly used by her leave no doubt that she did a good deal of writing at night.

11. [Bible Conference], “The Bible Conference of 1919,” Spectrum 10, no. 1 (May 1979): 23-57.

12. Ibid., p. 52.

13 . Ibid., p. 51.

14. Ibid., p. 35.

15. Bert Haloviak, “In the Shadow of the ‘Daily’: Background and Aftermath of the 1919 Bible and History Teachers’ Conference,” paper presented at the meeting of Seventh-day Adventist Biblical Scholars, New York City, 14 November 1979.

16. Ingemar Linden, The Last Trump, p. 203. Linden’s footnote 78 (with reference to the controversy between Uriah Smith and the Whites) states: “In 1870 J.W. [James White] had a thorough ‘purging’ of the headquarters church. The aim of the reorganization was to give the Whites a better control over the church. One of the old timers, G. W. Amadon (1832-1913), has given the historian much valuable information in his diaries,” Amadon Diary 1870-73, Andrews University Library, Heritage Collection.

17. See Chapter One for background.

18. EGW to Bates, 13 July 1847, MS B-3-1847 (Washington: EGW Estate). Arthur L. White quoted by Robert D. Brinsmead in Judged by the Gospel, p. 160.

19. EGW, “Questions and Answers,” Review, 8 October 1867, p. 260.

20. Arthur L. White, “Who Told Sister White?” Review (21 May 1959), p. 7. EGW is quoted from Ms. 7, 1867.

21. Linden, Brinsmead, Winslow, passim. Reference to H. Camden Lacey is made in the tapes of the 28-29 January Glendale Committee.

22. [Seventh-day Adventist minister] in letter to members of Aurora, Colorado, church, 3 October 1980.

23. Arthur L. White, “Who Told Sister White?” Review (14 May 1959).

24. [John Harvey Kellogg], “An Authentic Interview,” pp. 33-34.

25. M[erritt] G. Kellogg, [handwritten] photocopied statement of ca. 1908.

26. [George B. Starr], quoted in “Statement Regarding the Experiences of Fannie Bolton [ca. 1894] in Relation to Her Work for Mrs. Ellen G. White,” (Washington: EGW Estate, DF 445), p. 8.

27. “Ellen G. White’s Writings [letters] on the Life of Christ,” Ms. 683, EGW to JW, 4 April 1876. (Washington: EGW Estate, 22 January 1979.)

28. Ibid., p. 2. (EGW to JW, 7 April 1876).

29. Ibid., p. 3. (EGW to Lucinda Hall, 8 April 1876).

30. Ibid., p. 3. (EGW to JW, 16 April 1876).

31. Arthur L. White, “Who Told Sister White?” Review (14 May 1959), part 1, p. 6.

32. Ibid.

33. H. Camden Lacey to Arthur W. Spalding, 5 June 1947, p. 3.

34. H. Camden Lacey to Leroy E. Froom, 30 August 1945, pp. 1-2.

35. Arthur L. White, “Who Told Sister White?” Review (21 May 1959), pt. 2, pp. 7-8.

36. See Appendix, Chapter 7 Comparison Exhibits.

37. Arthur L. White, “Who Told Sister White?” Review (21 May 1959), pt. 2, pp. 8-9.

38. See Appendix, Chapter 7 Comparison Exhibits on The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3.

39. H. O. Olson, comparisons of EGW’s book on Paul with Farrar’s and with Conybeare and Howson’s books on Paul.

40. Glendale Committee on EGW Sources, 28-29 January 1980, tapes.

41. H. O. Olson’s comparisons of EGW book on Paul with Farrar’s and with Conybeare and Howson’s books on Paul.

42. E.G.W., Sketches from the Life of Paul, facsimile reproduction of the 1883 ed., second page of preface, 1974 edition.

43. [Bible Conference], “The Bible Conference of 1919,” Spectrum 10, no 1 (May 1979), p. 35. Arthur Daniells recounts effort to communicate with EGW, commenting, “And she would go into that twilight zone right away.”

44. EGW, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, p. 434.

45. See Appendix, Chapter 7 Comparison Exhibits.

46. John Harris, The Great Teacher (Amherst: J. S. &: C. Adams, 1836; Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1870).

47. Raymond F. Cottrell and Walter F. Specht, “The Literary Relationship between The Desire of Ages, by Ellen G. White, and The Life of Christ, by William Hanna,” 2 parts, photocopied (Loma Linda University Library, Archives and Special Collections, 1 November 1979), pt. 1, passim, See also my chapter six, “Sources from Which She Drew, More or Less.”

48. EGW, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 160.

49. Harris, The Great Teacher, p. 18.

50. Ibid., pp. 157-58.

51. See Appendix, Chapter 9 Comparison Exhibits.

52. SDA Encyclopedia, Commentary Series, vol. 10, s.v. W. W. Prescott. Prescott was involved in much of Adventist history from 1880 to 1930 (including the John Harvey Kellogg controversy).

53. EGW Estate, “Books in the E. G. White Library in 1915,” (Washington: EGW Estate, n.d.), DF 884. This seventeen-page inventory of books “On Shelves in E. G. White Study and in the Office and Vault” includes nearly four hundred titles, a number of them multi-volume sets. More recently an informative list has been prepared by Ronald D. Graybill and Warren H. Johns, “An Inventory of Ellen G. White’s Private Library, July 29, 1981, draft” (Washington: EGW Estate, 1981).

54. Arthur L. White, “The E. G. White Historical Writings,” a series of seven articles published in the Adventist Review, from 12 July 1979 through 23 August 1979.

55. W[illiam] W[arren] Prescott, The Doctrine of Christ (Washington: RHPA, 1919). See pp. 9-11.

56. H. Camden Lacey to Leroy Froom, 30 August 1945; H. Camden Lacey to Arthur W. Spalding, 5 June 1947.

57. EGW, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers (Mountain View: PPPA, 1923), pp. 180-81.

58. Arthur L. White, “The Prescott Letter to W. C. White [6 April 1915],” photocopied (Washington: EGW Estate, 18 January 1981), pp. 4, 7.

59. Ibid., p. 22.

60. Ibid., p. 26.

61. Ibid., p. 29.

                            Chapter 7/Selected Exhibits

Books Written by Sources from Which She Drew
White, Ellen G.

The Acts of the Apostles
Mountain View, California, Pacific
Press, 1911.

The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3
Battle Creek, SDA Publishing Assn., 1878.

Conybeare, W. J./Howson, J. S.

The Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul,
New York, Crowell, 1852.

Harris, John

The Great Teacher, 2nd ed.,
Amherst, J. S. and C. Adams, 1836

The Great Teacher, 17th ed.,
Boston Gould and Lincoln, 1870.

March, Daniel

From Dark to Dawn,
Philadelphia, J. C. McCurdy & Co., 1878.

Night Scenes in the Bible
Philadelphia, Zeigler, McCurdy, (1868-1870).

Walks and Homes of Jesus
Philadelphia, Presbyterian Pub. Committee, 1856.

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