Is Ellen. G. White a Prophet?
In 1919, Dudley M. Canright wrote, “Mrs. E. G. White, the prophetess, leader, and chief founder of the Seventh-day Adventists Church, claimed to be divinely inspired by God the same as were the prophets of the Bible. Defining her position, she says, ‘In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days he speaks to them by the testimonies of his Spirit.’ 1 that is, by her through her writings. (cf. Heb 1: 1-2).
Every line she wrote, whether in articles, letters, testimonies or books, she claimed was dictated to her by the Holy Ghost, and hence must be infallible.” 2, 3
In the 19th century, the Adventists claimed, “Our position on the Testimonies is like the keystone to the arch. Take that out, and there is no logical stopping place till all the special truths of the message are gone… Nothing is surer than this, that the message and the visions [of Mrs. White] belong together, and stand or fall together.” 4
The view of the modern Adventist Church(es) is perhaps a little milder, as they say her writings are, “a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light.” Belief in her inspiration, however, is part of the 1980 Dallas statement of beliefs. Her writings are still considered to be the “spirit of prophecy” of Revelation 19: 10. For this reason, Mark Martin states, “Adventism is the reflection of Ellen White. She shaped it, and with the guidance of her writings, made the church what it is today.” 5
As Ellen White was not the only one to take on the role of a prophet in the 18th and 19th centuries - consider for instance the following church-founders: Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science), Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Charles T. Russell (Jehovah’s Witnesses), as well as Emanuel Swedenborg, Anne Lee and Joanna Southcott, whose movements did not do so well - it is important to examine her claims in the light of her life and the Bible.
First of all it should be stated, that one reason why the leaders of these movements succeeded in attracting so many followers, was that the operation of prophecy under the new covenant was not understood by the 19th century church. Because of the experiences and Bible teachings of the Pentecostal movement, which came into being at the beginning of the 20th century, and the Charismatic renewal beginning in the 50s, Christianity at the threshold of the 21st century has a much greater chance of spotting the wrong usage of the spiritual and ministry gifts.
In connection with this, several important principles may be noted:
1. Under the new covenant, prophecy exists as one of the spiritual gifts. “Now to each one, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good… to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy…” (1 Cor 12: 7, 10).
2. The Holy Spirit may give any Christian a prophecy from time to time. “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” (1 Cor 12: 11); “For you can all prophecy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” (1 Cor 14: 31).
3. The prophetic ministry also exists. This is one of the ministry gifts which Jesus gave to the church. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…” (Eph 4: 11). It may be seen, that there will be a number of these in the church, not just one. “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers…” (Acts 13: 1).
4. A new covenant prophet is not infallible, as what he says must be judged. “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” (1 Cor 14: 29). “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test everything, hold on to the good.” (1 Thess 5: 19-21).
5. It should also be noted, that under the new covenant, prophecy is principally given for encouraging, upbuilding and comforting. “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their edification, encouragement and comfort.” (1 Cor 14: 3).
6. Prophecy is therefore not for teaching doctrine, nor is it for rebuke. For these, we have the word of God. “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3: 16-17).
7. The Bible warns us that there will also be false prophets, “Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Mat 24: 11).
From this it can be concluded that there will be both true and false prophets in the church, and that even the true prophets are not infallible, and therefore it is important to know how to examine them, so that no-one is led astray. The Bible offers help in this matter:
A. A true prophet does not teach falsehood.
“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer…” (Deut 13: 1-3).
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” (1 John 4: 1-3).
From this can be seen that a false prophet will lead people in a wrong direction. The defence against this, is to realise that the Spirit of God was the chief author of the Bible (2 Tim 3: 16-17), and even in modern times, He will not contradict himself. If any prophecy or teaching contradicts the truth previously revealed by God in his Word, this thing is not from God.
B. If a true prophet predicts something, it will happen.
“If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” (Deut 18: 22).
As we are now living in the age of grace and not the law, and a new covenant prophet is not infallible, if someone prophesies in sincerity, but makes a mistake, he does not have to die! If nothing he predicts ever happens, however, it would seems he is presumptuous, and it would be better for him to keep quiet!
C. A true prophet will have a Christ-like character.
As even a false prophet can predict the future correctly on occasion (Deut 13: 1-3), or even perform miracles (Mat 24: 24), it is important to observe the person’s fruit, rather than his gifts.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them.” (Mat 7: 15-16).
A Christ-like character corresponds to the fruit of the Holy Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal 5: 22-23), and includes an attitude of humility, “Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient…” (Philippians 2: 5-8).
I know that no-one is perfect, but it is important that a prophet:
i) Should live a consistently holy life, and should develop a good character;
ii) Should not preach one thing and practise another;
iii) Should be humble enough to allow others to judge his revelations;
iv) Should acknowledge his mistakes;
v) Should not abuse the use of his gift or people’s respect, in order to dominate or manipulate others;
vi) Should be decisive enough not to allow others to manipulate or influence him, and thus abuse the use of his gift.
Before examining the activities of Ellen White in the light of the above, a couple more points should be made. Ellen White herself claims that her visions and prophecies can only have two sources, “This work is of God, or it is not. God does nothing in partnership with Satan. My work… bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy. There is no half-way work in the matter. The testimonies are of the Spirit of God or of the Devil.” 6
In reality, however, the situation is not so simple. The Bible speaks of another possibility, “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD,” (Jer 23: 16), “Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: “Hear the word of the LORD! This is what the sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!”” (Ezekiel 13: 2-3).
So if someone “receives” something, it can come from one of three sources:
ii) The devil,
iii) His own mind.
I will be so bold as to say, that if someone is called to a prophetic ministry under the new covenant, or if he receives a prophecy as a spiritual gift, even if the devil does not interfere in the matter, what he says still has to be judged, as the person’s own thoughts may become mixed in with the Lord’s message.
I am not taking about deceivers, and there will naturally also be such as these who also have to be filtered out by testing, but rather about sincere believers, who make mistakes in certain details.
Derek Prince’s teaching on mixtures is very wise, “I have noticed that mixtures cause two things: first confusion, then division. For instance, we have a message which is partly true and partly false. People react in one of two ways: some see and concentrate on the good, and so they accept the bad too. Others concentrate on the bad, and reject the good too. In neither case are God’s purposes fulfilled.” 7
When a Christian denomination, movement or any teaching is examined then, it should not necessarily be either accepted or rejected as a whole, but every single detail must be examined, as there is very often mixture.
So we are not faced here with the choice, “Ellen White was inspired either by God or the devil,” or “Ellen White was either a true prophet or a deceiver.”
In a letter written about Ellen by her husband’s cousin in 1847, this interesting opinion is found, “I cannot endorse Sister Ellen’s visions as of Divine Inspiration, as you and she think them to be; yet I do not suspect the least shade of dishonesty in either of you in this matter… I think that what you and she regard as visions from the Lord are only religious reveries in which her imagination runs without control on themes in which she is most deeply interested… I do not by any means think that her visions are from the devil.” 8
It is not this author’s intention by this study to carry out an ad hominem attack in order to destroy the reputation of a Christian leader. However, if the Adventist churches regard Ellen White as an infallible prophet 9 and they use her writings as an inspired commentary on the Bible 10, then they cannot complain if these claims are subjected to severe examination.
Let us now examine the facts, using the points listed above, with a few examples taken from the huge amount of well-documented material available. For more details, the reader is referred to the bibliography.
In the case of quotations from Ellen G. White’s writings, the source is indicated immediately following.
A. A true prophet does not teach falsehood.
1. Ellen White adds to the Bible in many cases.
Satan was offered a pardon in heaven:
“God in His great mercy bore long with Lucifer. He was not immediately degraded from his exalted station when he first indulged the spirit of discontent, nor even when he began to present his false claims before the loyal angels. Long was he retained in heaven. Again and again he was offered pardon on condition of repentance and submission.” The Great Controversy, pp. 495-496.
After man’s fall, a council was held to decide what to do:
“The news of man’s fall spread through Heaven - every harp was hushed. The angels cast their crowns from their heads in sorrow… A council was held to decide what must be done with the guilty pair.” Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, p. 44.
Angels have golden pass cards to get into heaven:
“There is perfect order and harmony in the Holy City. All the angels that are commissioned to visit the earth hold a golden card, which they present to the angels at the gates of the city as they pass in and out.” Early Writings, p. 39.
All right, if she was a prophet, maybe she knew things that we common morals do not. But the situation gets more serious.
2. Ellen White contradicts the Bible
The tower of Babel was built before the flood:
“The Lord first established the system of sacrificial offerings with Adam after his fall, which he taught to his descendants. This system was corrupted before the flood by those who separated themselves from the faithful followers of God, and engaged in the building of the tower of Babel.” Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, p. 301, 1864 edition.
cf. Gen 6-11.
Believers should never claim to be saved:
“Those who accept the Saviour, however sincere their conversion; should never be taught to say or feel that they are saved. This is misleading.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 155 (1900 edition).
cf. 1 John 5: 13; Rom 10: 9-11.
“Every case had been decided for life or death. While Jesus had been ministering in the sanctuary, the judgement had been going on for the righteous dead, and then for the righteous living.” Early Writings, p. 280.
cf. John 3: 18; 5: 24; Rom 8: 1.
“Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator.” The Great Controversy, p. 425.
cf. Heb 7: 25; Mat 28: 20; Heb 13: 5.
The plan of salvation dates from the fall:
“While Moses was shut in the mount with God, the plan of salvation, dating from the fall of Adam, was revealed to him in a most forcible manner.” Selected Messages, Bk. 1, pp. 231-232.
Cf. Eph 1: 4; Rev 13: 8.
Those who are not vegetarians when Jesus comes back will not be raptured:
“Whoever eats the flesh of dead animals, will not be translated.” Testimonies, 1:187.
Marriage and bearing children is against God’s will:
At a camp meeting in East Portland in 1885, Ellen White called all the workers in the denomination together and presented to them a testimony, which was later suppressed.
The essence of this was, that the coming of the Lord was so close that no marriages should be made in the denomination and those members who were married should live as “chaste virgins,” so as to give all their time to spreading the message.
The testimony was read to the gathering, but was thought to be destroyed after it met with so much resistance, and the only proof of its previous existence could be had from those who heard it read or were eye witnesses to the consternation it caused.
This testimony came to light in the vaults of the Ellen White estate in 1934. The archive number is DF97- C.
Cf. Rom 14: 1-2; 1 Cor 7: 4-5, 36; 1 Tim 4: 1-4.
3. Ellen White contradicts herself:
Deity did and did not sink and die:
“Men need to understand that Deity suffered and sank under the agonies of Calvary.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 907.
“The Deity did not sink under the agonising torture of Calvary” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p. 1129.
The dead are conscious and not conscious:
“In a moment we were winging our way upwards; and, entering in (to heaven), here we saw good old father Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Daniel and many like them.” A Word to the Little Flock, p. 14, 1847.
“Upon the fundamental error of natural immortality rests the doctrine of consciousness in death - a doctrine, like eternal torment, opposed to the teachings of the Scriptures, to the dictates of reason, and to our feelings of humanity.” The Great Controversy, p. 545.
The Atonement is finished and not finished:
“The sacrifice in behalf of man was full and complete. The condition of the atonement had been fulfilled.” Acts of the Apostles, p. 29.
“Now while our great High Priest is making the final atonement for us, we should seek to become perfect in Christ.” The Great Controversy, p. 623.
After the Great Disappointment of 1844, the Adventists taught that the door of salvation was shut and no more sinners could be converted. Ellen White had visions to confirm this, “I was shown that the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, relating to the shut door, could not be separated… Some appeared to have been really converted, so as to deceive God’s people; but if their hearts could be seen, they would appear as black as ever… the time for their salvation was past.” Present Truth, No. 3, August, 1849, pp. 21, 22.
The years passed and Jesus did not come, so they opened the door, but only for Adventists, who knew that Jesus had moved. In the case of others, “They have no other knowledge of the move made in heaven, or the way into the Most Holy, and they cannot be benefited by the intercession of Jesus there… they offer up their useless prayers to the apartment which Jesus has left.” Early Writings, edition 1907, page 261.
Later still, Ellen denies she ever had a vision confirming the shut door, “With my brethren and sisters, after the time passed in forty-four I did believe no more sinners would be converted. But I never had a vision that no more sinners would be converted. And am clear and free to state no one has ever heard me say or has read from my pen statements which will justify them in the charges they have made against me upon this point.” Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 74.
In 1858, Mrs. White thinks that not all men will be resurrected: “God cannot take the slave to heaven, who has been kept in ignorance and degradation, knowing nothing of God, or the Bible, fearing nothing but his master’s lash, and not holding so elevated a position as his master’s brute beasts. But He does the best thing for him that a compassionate God can do. He lets him be as though he had not been.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 193.
By 1889, she seems to have changed her mind: “There will be a reappearance of every human being that has gone into the grave. The aged who sank under the hand of death with the burden of years upon them, manhood in its prime, youth in the early bloom of life, and the little child, all shall awake, and shake off the fetters of the tomb. But not all shall awake to everlasting life. ‘Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.’” Bible Echo, 15/1/1889.
4. Ellen White contradicts scientific fact:
Ellen White lived in the 19th century. Many of her teachings are in line with the prevailing ideas of the day, which have since been refuted by more advanced scientific research. These notions were not revealed by the Spirit of God. The Bible, in contrast to this, although its purpose is not to teach science, does not conflict with modern scientific fact.
There are species which result from amalgamation of man and animals:
“Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood, there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men.” Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 4, p. 75.
The wearing of wigs causes madness:
“The artificial hair and pads covering the
base of the brain, heat and excite the spinal nerves centring in the brain. The
head should ever be kept cool. The heat caused by these artificials induces the
blood to the brain. The action of the blood upon the lower or animal organs of
the brain, causes unnatural activity, tends to recklessness in morals, and the
mind and heart is in danger of being corrupted. As the animal organs are excited
and strengthened, the moral are enfeebled. The moral and intellectual powers of
the mind become servants to the animal… Many have lost their reason, and become
hopelessly insane, by following this deforming fashion.”
The Health Reformer, October 1,
Article Title: Words to Christian Mothers on the Subject of Life, Health, and Happiness.
These notions come from the Victorian idea that the brain is made up of several organs, and that the one controlling animal instincts is situated at the base of the brain.
Furthermore, Ellen White’s ideas on diet are not so much based on the Mosaic law, as she adds a great many more rules to this, (e.g. no meat at all, no dairy products, no tea and coffee, no alcohol) but were originally designed to control these animal passions. Let’s see:
Eating meat promotes animal tendencies:
“A meat diet changes the disposition and strengthens animalism. We are composed of what we eat, and eating much flesh will diminish intellectual activity. Students would accomplish much more in their studies if they never tasted meat. When the animal part of the human agent is strengthened by meat eating, the intellectual powers diminish proportionately. A religious life can be more successfully gained and maintained if meat is discarded, for this diet stimulates into intense activity lustful propensities, and enfeebles the moral and spiritual stature.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 389.
Taking a final logical step back, we see that the real reason these animal instincts have to be suppressed is because:
Masturbation is the basic root cause of physical and mental illness:
These quotations are taken from Ellen White’s book, “An Appeal to Mothers: The Great Cause of the Physical, Mental, and Moral Ruin of Children of Our Time,” published in 1864.
“Secret indulgence (masturbation) is, in many cases, the only real cause of the numerous complaints of the young. This vice is laying waste the vital forces, and debilitating the system.” (p. 13)
A fascinating vision follows, “The state of the world was presented before me, and my attention was especially called to the youth of our time. Everywhere I looked, I saw imbecility, dwarfed forms, crippled limbs, misshapen heads and deformity of every description… Corrupt habits are wasting their energies, and bringing upon them loathsome and complicated diseases. Unsuspecting parents will try the skill of physicians, one after another, who prescribe drugs, when they generally know the real cause of the failing health… Children who practice self indulgence … must pay the penalty.” (p. 14)
“There is hardly an end to these diseases caused by solitary vice; dyspepsia, spinal complaint, headache, epilepsy, impaired eye sight, palpitations of the heart, pain in the side, bleeding at the lungs, spasms of the heart and lungs, diabetes, or incontinence of the urine, fluor alblis, whites, inflammation of the urinary organs ... Besides rheumatism, affected perspiration, consumption, asthma, catarrh, polypus of the heart, affections of the bones, fevers, priapism, strangury, polypus uteri, blood discharges, etc…”
“By unchastity, especially by solitary vice, the mind suffers permanent debility ... great debility of the memory, great prostration and foolish imbecility of the mind. Perception is made dull and obtuse, the reasoning powers are blunted ... From debility the mind often sinks into idiocy ... I saw a young woman in a town of Massachusetts who made herself an idiot by masturbation.” (p. 2 & 3)
Ellen White wrote a great deal more about masturbation, but based on the above, I would say:
1) She was a person of her age;
2) This is the real reason behind her health reform teaching;
3) I would not want to learn theology from this woman.
Ellen was once taken in vision to another inhabited planet: “Then I was taken to a world which had seven moons. There I saw good old Enoch, who had been translated.” Early Writings, p. 940.
On another occasion, she had a vision of several planets. I quote Hunt, “Joseph Bates was a sea captain and an astronomer, obviously he was very impressed by this vision. When Ellen White said, ‘I see four moons,’ Joseph Bates excitedly said, ‘She is viewing Jupiter.’ It has long been known that Jupiter has many more moons than four but in those days it was believed that Jupiter did have four moons. Certainly God hasn’t added extra moons since that time.” 11
She also described other planets, and got the number of moons right according to Victorian beliefs, but wrong according to modern knowledge. This vision succeeded in convincing Bates that she was a true prophet and he joined them. Bates is important, as he introduced the teaching on the seventh-day Sabbath to the Adventists, having learnt it from the Seventh-day Baptists.
Could Ellen have been manipulating him?
B. If a true prophet predicts something, it will happen.
Ellen White did not make many prophecies of the future, particularly in her later years, but of the ones she did make, none of them ever came true. Here are some examples:
Jerusalem will never be built up:
“I also saw that Old Jerusalem never would be built up; and that Satan was doing his utmost to lead the minds of the children of the Lord (astray)” Early Writings, p. 75.
Since the foundation of the state of Israel, Old Jerusalem has been built up.
Jesus would return in a few months:
Here is a vision dating from 27 June, 1850: “My accompanying angel said, ‘Time is almost finished. Get ready, get ready, get ready.’ … Some of us have had time to get the truth, and to advance step by step, and every step we have taken has given us strength to take the next. But now time is almost finished… and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months.” Early Writings, pp. 64-67.
Jesus did not return in a few months.
Adventists living in 1856 will be alive to see Jesus return:
In May of 1856 - Mrs. White made a gripping prophecy during a meeting in Battle Creek, Michigan. She declared that some of those who were in that meeting would die, and become “food for worms,” and that some of them would live on and become “subjects of the seven last plagues,” while still others would “remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1, p. 131-132.
Almost a century and a half have passed since, and Jesus has still not returned.
England will attack and conquer the USA:
In 1862 she predicted, “when England does declare war [against the North during the Civil War], all nations will have an interest of their own to serve, and there will be general war, general confusion.” The result will be that “this nation [the United States] will . . . be humbled into the dust.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1, p. 259.
England did not enter the American Civil War.
C. A true prophet will have a Christ-like character.
i) A prophet should live a consistently holy life, and should develop a good character.
She plagiarised constantly but claimed all her material came directly from God:
“The Great Controversy” is one of Mrs. White’s most popular books. Her adherents believe that every line is original and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Careful examination has revealed that among others, she had used as sources the following books, without any acknowledgement:
Andrews, History of the Sabbath.
Wylie, History of the Waldeneses.
D’Aubigne, History of the Reformation
James White, Life of William Miller (which he himself plagiarised from Sylvester Bliss).
James White, Life Incidents (originally from Andrews and Smith).
Walter Rea claims that according to his research, less than 20 % of the “Great Controversy” is Mrs. White’s own work, and the same of true of all her books, on any subject. 12 Even some of her visions are descriptions of illustrations found in books.
Mrs. White published a book in 1883 with the title, “Sketches from the Life of Paul.” This book was so similar to a book published in 1855 entitled “Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul,” by Connybeare and Howson, that the publishers threatened prosecution. Mrs. White’s book had to be withdrawn and is no longer easily available. In the preface, it is claimed that it was written by special help of the Spirit of God.
Ellen often copied whole pages almost word for word from her sources. Below are two samples of her copying (found in Canright’s book): 2
Great Controversy, Mrs. E.G. White
The bull invited all Catholics to take up the cross against heretics. In order to stimulate them in this cruel work, it absolved them from all ecclesiastical pains and penalties; it released all who joined the crusade from any oaths they might have taken; it legalised their title to any property which they might have illegally acquired, and promised remission of all their sins to such as should kill any heretic. It annulled all contracts made in favour of the Vaudois, ordered their domestics to abandon them, forbade all persons to give them any aid whatever, and empowered all persons to take possession of their property. (p. 83)
History of the Waldenses, J. A. Wylie
The bull invited all Catholics to take up the cross against heretics, and to stimulate them in this pious work, it absolved them from all ecclesiastical pains and penalties, general and particular; it released all who joined the crusade from any oaths they might have taken; it legitimatised their title to any property they might have illegally acquired, and promised remission of all their sins to such as should kill any heretic. It annulled all contracts made in favour of the Vaudois, ordered their domestics to abandon them, forbade all persons to give them any aid whatever, and empowered all persons to take possession of their property. (p. 28)
Great Controversy, Mrs. E.G. White
In the gloom of his dungeon, John Huss had foreseen the triumph of true faith. Returning in his dreams to the humble parish where he had preached the gospel, he saw the pope and his bishops effacing the pictures of Christ which he had painted on the walls of his chapel. The sight caused him great distress; but the next day he was filled with joy as he beheld many artists busily engaged in replacing the figures in great numbers and brighter colours. When their work was completed, the painters exclaimed to the immense crowds surrounding them, 'Now let the popes and bishops come! They shall never efface them more!' Said the reformer as he related his dream, 'I am certain that the image of Christ will never be effaced. They have wished to destroy it, but it shall be painted in all hearts by much better preachers than myself'. (pp. 91, 92)
D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation.
One night the holy martyr saw, in imagination, from the depths of his dungeon, the pictures of Christ that he had painted on the walls of his oratory, effaced by the popes and his bishops. The vision distressed him; but on the next day he saw many painters occupied in restoring these figures in greater numbers and in brighter colours. As soon as their task was ended, the painters, who were surrounded by an immense crowd, exclaimed, 'Now let the popes and bishops come! They shall never efface them more!' . . . 'I am no dreamer,' replied Huss, 'but I maintain this for certain: That the image of Christ will never be effaced. They have wished to destroy it, but it shall be painted afresh in all hearts by much better preachers than myself'. (p. 3)
In the introduction to Mrs. White’s book is the following claim: “As the Spirit of God has opened to my mind the great truths of His word, and the scenes of the past and the future, I have been bidden to make known to others that which has thus been revealed…” The Great Controversy, p. xi.
A short Bible quotation is appropriate here, “‘Therefore,” declares the LORD, ‘I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me.’” (Jeremiah 23: 30). If the ten commandments are supposed to be God’s eternal law, what about the eighth?
ii) A prophet should not preach one thing and practise another.
Ellen White and meat:
Ellen White began to teach on health reform in the 1860s, apparently after a significant revelation from heaven. In 1869, she writes: “I have not changed my course a particle since I adopted the health reform. I have not taken one step back since the light from heaven upon this subject first shone upon my pathway. I broke away from everything at once, from meat and butter, and from three meals. ....I left off those things from principle. I took my stand on health reform from principle.” Testimonies, Vol. 2, pp. 371-372.
She often severely rebuked others for not following this teaching: “Let not any of our ministers set an evil example in the eating of flesh-meat. Let them and their families live up to the light of health reform. Let not our ministers animalise their own nature and the nature of their children.” Spalding and Magan, p. 211.
According to her own writings and the testimony of eye-witnesses: in 1873, she was eating duck and deer. In 1880, she had chicken broth. In 1883, she asked her daughter-in-law to buy herrings and oysters for her. When she returned from Europe in 1887, she celebrated by having baked fish. During the next few years, she often had meat, usually fried chicken. In 1894, she claimed to have finally given up meat at the insistence of a Catholic woman, who felt sorry for the poor animals.
Ellen condemned the wearing of jewellery in this testimony: “To dress plainly, abstaining from display of jewellery and ornaments of every kind, is in keeping with our faith.” Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 366. A photograph taken fifteen years after this was written, shows her wearing a brooch and a gold chain.
In 1905, a publisher from Chicago asked Mrs. White’s permission to use quotations from her works in his magazine. She informed him that he could do so, provided he gave her proper credit. This request did not exactly reflect her own practice.
It is not claimed by this author that eating meat or wearing jewellery is a sin. Mrs. White taught this however, and forced these opinions on her followers, but was incapable of keeping her own rules. This amounts to lying and hypocrisy.
iii) A prophet should be humble enough to allow others to judge his revelations.
As we have already seen, Ellen White claimed that everything she wrote was inspired by God. Of her own words she says: “It is God, and not an erring mortal, that has spoken.” Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 257. “Those. . . who would break down our testimony, I saw, are not fighting against us, but against God.” ibid., p. 260.
Canright states, “After locating in Battle Creek in 1855… Her influence with her people had now become settled and supreme. No one dared question her authority or inspiration.”
Protection against error can only be guaranteed, if prophecies are judged. In the case of Mrs. White, this was never allowed.
iv) A prophet should acknowledge his mistakes.
Ellen White always suppressed or denied her mistakes, or in the worst case, subtly blamed God. See part vi) below on the “shut door” teaching.
She originally believed Miller’s date of 1843, and even after the Great Disappointment (22 Oct. 1844), insisted that this was from God: “The Advent movement of 1840-44 was a glorious manifestation of the power of God.” The Great Controversy, Vol. 4, p. 429.
The first date was a little problematic, until she realised that God was responsible! “I have seen that the 1843 chart was directed by the hand of the Lord, and that it should not be altered; that the figures were as the Lord wanted them; that his hand was over, and hid, a mistake in some of the figures.” Early Writings, p. 64.
Unfortunately, because of Ellen White, and not God, hiding mistakes, the Adventists still do not understand that the whole Millerite movement was based on a wrong interpretation of Biblical prophecy.
If she could not find an explanation, she avoided the matter. See for example, her explanation of why they had to change the Sabbath starting time (section vi).
Around 1904, several of the Battle Creek Sanitarium workers had noticed some contradictions and inconsistencies in Mrs. White’s writings. She wrote them this testimony: “Recently in the visions of the night I stood in a large company of people. . . I was directed by the Lord to request them, and any others who have perplexities and grievous things in their minds regarding the testimonies that I have borne, to specify what their objections and criticisms are. The Lord will help me to answer these objections, and make plain that which seems to be intricate. . . Let it all be written out, and submitted to those who desire to remove the perplexities. . . They should certainly do this, if they are loyal to the directions God has given.” 30 March 1905.
Dr. Charles E. Stewart, therefore, wrote out a large number of “perplexities” which he and others had found in her writings, and sent them to her. Whereupon she had another vision: “I had a vision, in which I was speaking before a large company, where many questions were asked concerning my work and writings. I was directed by a messenger from heaven not to take the burden of picking up and answering all the sayings and doubts that are being put in many minds.” 6 June 1906.
So first the Lord tells her to explain her mistakes with God’s help, then tells her not to bother. Must have turned out to be too difficult for her!
Canright says this about her: “I knew her for nearly thirty years, but I never knew her to make confession of a single sin in all that time, not one.” 2
v) A prophet should not abuse the use of his gift or people’s respect, in order to dominate or manipulate others;
I consider the following extracts from Mrs. White’s revelations to be pretty manipulative.
She encourages those who may be thinking of leaving her movement with this vision: “Then I was shown a company who were howling in agony. On their garments was written in large characters, “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.” I asked who this company were. The angel said, “These are they who have kept the Sabbath and have given it up.”” Early Writings, p. 37.
Those who may have doubts about her revelations are given this: “If you lessen the confidence of God’s people in the testimonies he has sent them, you are rebelling against God as certainly as were Korah, Dathan and Abirum.” Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 66.
Or this: “Yet now when I send you a testimony of warning and reproof, many of you declare it to be merely the opinion of Sister White. You have thereby insulted the Spirit of God.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, p. 661.
Very, very many people who opposed her in any way were given testimonies along the following lines: “Unless you are a thoroughly converted man before you leave this house, I believe the Spirit of God will never make another appeal to you. It is life or death with you. You will surely be stricken down with paralysis, or the devil will drive you to suicide. I have, in the message hitherto borne to you, tried to establish you in the confidence of your brethren. [I have tried] to strengthen and settle you; but if you leave this house with the devil as your counsellor, you are a lost man.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 368.
She told many people they would be lost if they opposed her. And the next day they died? I don’t think so.
vi) A prophet should be decisive enough not to allow others to manipulate or influence him, and thus abuse the use of his gift.
Throughout her life, Ellen White was influenced by those around her. Her husband James used her reputation to advance in the denominational hierarchy, but was angry with others who did the same. Otherwise, he did not take her revelations too seriously, as when Ellen once received a “testimony” in which she rebuked him, he asked for the paper and threw it in the fireplace.
With regard to the peculiar Adventist teachings, Canright informs us, “Neither James White nor his wife ever originated a single doctrine held by the Seventh-day Adventists. The doctrine of the second advent they received from Miller; and all the prophetic dates they accepted from him exactly as he arranged them. The Sabbath they took from Bates, together with his unscriptural 6 p.m. time to begin and end it. Then they followed J. N. Andrews in changing to sunset time. The theory of the sanctuary in heaven they accepted from Elder O. R. L. Crosier, who afterwards repudiated it. Later they accepted from Andrews the theory of the three messages and the two-horned beast, as applied to the United States. The sleep of the dead they got from the First-day Adventists, with whom they soon fell out and had many bitter controversies.” 2
Ellen always had visions which confirmed whatever they were concerned with at the time, and always subsequently. The shut door has already been mentioned, but to summarise briefly, they went through the following stages, and Mrs. White always had a vision to support the latest notion:
1. 22 October 1844: Millerites. The door of mercy was shut (based on the parable of the ten virgins), and from now on, no-one can be saved.
“I was shown that the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, relating to the shut door, could not be separated… Some appeared to have been really converted, so as to deceive God’s people; but if their hearts could be seen, they would appear as black as ever… the time for their salvation was past.” Present Truth, No. 3, August, 1849, pp. 21, 22.
2. 1846: Crosier. In 1844, Jesus crossed over into the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary, and his intercession can only help existing Millerite-Adventist believers.
“The Lord showed me in vision, more than one year ago, that Brother Crosier had the true light on the cleansing of the sanctuary.” A Word to the Little Flock, pp. 11-12, 1847.
3. 1850: Bates. Jesus’ ministry in the heavenly sanctuary would last 7 years, and in 1851 he would return to the earth.
“Some are looking too far off for the coming of the Lord. Time has continued a few years longer than they expected, therefore they think it may continue a few years more. . . I saw that the time for Jesus to be in the Holy Place was nearly finished, and that time cannot last but a little longer.” Vision received in 1850. Early Writings, p. 58, ed. 1907.
“My accompanying angel said, ‘Time is almost finished. Get ready, get ready, get ready.’ … Some of us have had time to get the truth, and to advance step by step, and every step we have taken has given us strength to take the next. But now time is almost finished… and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months.” Vision received in 1850. Early Writings, pp. 64-67.
Then the door begins to open.
4. 1850. The children of Adventists can get saved.
5. 1851. People can get saved, if they know that Jesus has moved in heaven.
Others cannot pray to Jesus, because, “They have no other knowledge of the move made in heaven, or the way into the Most Holy, and they cannot be benefited by the intercession of Jesus there… they offer up their useless prayers to the apartment which Jesus has left.” Early Writings, edition 1907, page 261.
6. 1882. By this time, the Adventists have given up the shut door teaching.
In this year, Mrs. White’s “Early Writings” were published, and it was claimed that, “No portion of the work has been omitted.” This is not true, as all the visions are missing that show she ever taught anything different from what she did at that time. As this would mean she was not a prophet, wouldn’t it?
Ellen herself admits that she accepted the shut door, but claims her visions corrected her, “For a time after the disappointment in 1844, I did hold, in common with the advent body, that the door of mercy was then forever closed to the world. This position was taken before my first vision was given me. It was the light given me of God that corrected our error, and enabled us to see the true position.” Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 63.
I don’t believe it should be necessary to suppress the revelations of a true prophet.
With regard to the Sabbath, Canright again, “Bates accepted Mrs. White’s visions, and she accepted his Sabbath-keeping. She soon accepted all his theories about the Sabbath; that it was the seal of God, the great test of Christianity, and that it must be kept from 6 p.m. to 6 p.m.. Right after this she went to heaven, and Jesus took her into the Most Holy, lifted the lid of the ark, and showed her the tables of stone with the Sabbath shining above all the rest of the Commandments (Early Writings, p. 26).” 2 This happened in 1846.
Nine years later, based on the studies of Elder J. N. Andrews, they changed to the Biblical starting time of sundown. The question arose, that as Mrs. White had had so many visions about the Sabbath, and had spoken to Jesus about it so many times, why had he not told her they were starting at the wrong time?
She asked an angel, and, “I inquired why it had been thus, that at this late day we must change the time of commencing the Sabbath. Said the angel, ‘Ye shall understand, but not yet, not yet.’” Testimonies, Vol. I., p. 116.
As far as I know, still not yet.
Before they accepted the sleep of the dead, in a vision Ellen saw the Old Testament Saints in heaven, “In a moment we were winging our way upwards; and, entering in (to heaven), here we saw good old father Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Daniel and many like them.” A Word to the Little Flock, p. 14, 1847. I can’t imagine why, but this vision is also missing from later publications.
Finally, whenever anyone in the denomination worked out a plan, be it a financial scheme, a building project, missionary strategy, or an order for business meetings, they would present it to Mrs. White, who would have a revelation endorsing it – always subsequently.
A financial scheme: „The plan of Systematic Benevolence is pleasing to God. . . God is leading his people in the plan of Systematic Benevolence.” Testimonies to the Church, Vol. 1, pp. 190, 191. (This scheme failed).
Harvest Ingathering for missionary work: “Shortly after the plan was started, Sister White wrote Brother Wayne of the light God had given her concerning this plan, fully endorsing it as being in harmony with the mind of the Lord.” Article in Lake Union Herald, Nov. 1, 1916. (This was successful).
If this was really the mind of the Lord, all the schemes should have been successful, should they not?
So just to summarise this review of Ellen White’s life and writings: she wrote some very beautiful material, but there is also much error there in which she denies Biblical doctrines, contradicts herself, and talks scientific nonsense. None of her prophecies about the future were fulfilled. She stole a great deal of the material for her books from others, which if she were not too selective could explain some of the contradictions. She did not keep her own rules, never allowed others to examine her so-called inspired utterances, and never admitted her mistakes. Those who doubted her, she beat around the head with revelations of their demise, but she was so easily influenced that others used her for their own ends.
This is not the picture of a prophet chosen by God to lead his people in the last days.
How did she write such beautiful things?
Many are impressed by the beautiful literary style in which Ellen wrote. Hunt remarks on this: “Even I have to admit that some of Ellen White’s writings are beautiful. After reading one of her good books like ‘Desire of Ages’, a very well done book on the life of Christ, it is hard to imagine that she could write the collection of garbage that has been exposed in my book. It is easier to understand however once it is realised that she has copied most of her ‘beautiful’ works. In fact this is what really gives Ellen White away as a false prophet. She could not separate the good works of her contemporaries from the nonsense.”
The source of her visions:
Having examined Ellen White’s visions, it is evident that they could not have been directly from God, as they contain so much error and they were so inconsistent, but it does not seem likely they were directly from Satan either. So where did they come from?
When Ellen White was nine years old, a fellow pupil hit her on the head with a stone, which resulted in her being unconscious for three weeks. When she recovered, she was unable to continue attending school. In 1840, at the age of thirteen, she heard William Miller preach that the end would come in 1843. Soon after this she was converted at a Methodist camp meeting, and saw many “fall under the power” as was common then (just imagine!) She became convinced Miller was right, and was devastated when Jesus did not return as predicted on 22 October 1844. She soon afterwards began to have her visions.
Many of her critics hold that her visions came from a form of epilepsy, resulting from a combination of the blow to the head and the religious fanaticism of the time. There is apparently a known medical condition of women, in which visions generally begin around puberty and cease around the time of the menopause. This was the case with Mrs. White. She had less visions as she grew older, and claimed that in later life, her revelations came in different ways.
If she had not been surrounded by those who believed in her, or wanted to believe in her, or wanted to use her, she may not have been so successful.
Canright says, “The proof is abundant that Mrs. White’s visions were merely the result of her early misfortune, nervous disease, and a complication of hysteria, epilepsy, catalepsy and ecstasy. That she may have honestly believed in them herself does not alter the fact. The writer personally knew four other women, all Seventh-day Adventists, who likewise had visions. All were sincere Christians, and fully believed in their own visions. But all were sickly, nervous and hysterical. Not being encouraged in them, but opposed by their ministers, they finally gave them up.”
It does appear, that in line with the opinion of her husband’s cousin, Mrs. White’s visions came from her own mind.
So was Ellen White an inspired prophet of God, the only error-free interpreter of the Bible, as the Adventists claim? As Canright sarcastically remarks: “Here we have an infallible female pope endorsed as such by that church. They claim for her exactly the same prerogative which the Catholic Church claims for the Pope; namely, that she is the only infallible interpreter of the Bible. No Pope of Rome ever claimed more.”
Or was she an evil con-artist who deliberately led thousands astray for her own ends?
It is also the general view of her critics that Ellen White was a genuine converted Christian who desired to please her Lord, and not a common deceiver. She cannot be placed in the same category as Joseph Smith and Pastor Russell. She was herself deceived in thinking her visions came from God.
As for her books, some of them have a certain literary value as beautifully-written religious-historical novels, but should in no way be regarded as acceptable theology and not at all as an inspired commentary on the Bible.
A final note:
Many high ranking officials in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and those who run the Ellen White Estate are aware of the problems with Ellen White’s writings referred to in this article. Many church members are more than likely not aware of them. As researchers have brought more and more of these things to light, the church has had to work rather hard to maintain the legend of Ellen G. White, but this is now not her fault any more, is it?
1. E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. IV., p. 148; Vol. V., p. 661; No. 88, p. 189.
2. D. M. Canright, Life of Mrs. E. G. White – Her Claims Refuted, 1919, Internet.
3. Consider as an example also this, “When I went to Colorado, I wrote many pages to be read at your camp meeting. . . God was speaking through clay. You might say this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God, to bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, . . . I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision - the precious rays of light shining from the throne,” Ellen G. White, Testimonies,” Vol. V., pp. 63-67.
4. Review and Herald Supplement, Aug. 14, 1883.
5. J. Mark Martin, Seventh-day Adventism and the Writings of Ellen G. White, preface, Internet
6. E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4, p. 230.
7. Derek Prince, Védelem a Hitetéstől, p. 235, Budapesti Autonóm Gyülekezet, 1999.
8. Quoted by White, J., A Word to the Little Flock, 1847, p. 29.
9. “Seventh-day Adventists hold that Ellen G. White performed the work of a true prophet during the seventy years of her public ministry. As Samuel was a prophet, as Jeremiah was a prophet, as John the Baptist, so we believe that Mrs. White was a prophet to the church of Christ today.” The Adventist Review, October 4, 1928.
10. Venden, M. L., “God has given to our church an inspired commentary to settle the disagreements among the uninspired commentaries.” The Pillars, p. 30.
11. Hunt, G. G. P, Beware this cult! Chap. 18, Internet.
12. Walter T. Rea, The White Lie!, Internet
D. M. Canright, Life of Mrs. E. G. White – Her Claims Refuted, 1919, Internet.
Jack Gent, Doctrines of Demons, Internet.
J. Mark Martin, Seventh-day Adventism and the Writings of Ellen G. White, Internet.
W. Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House Publishers, 1997.
Walter T. Rea, The White Lie!, Internet
W. D. Slattery, Are Seventh-day Adventists False Prophets?, P & R Publishing, 1990.