Ellen G. White: The Person
The Human-Interest Story
(Revised by Denis Fortin)
1. There are at least two equal-but opposite-dangers in the manner in
which many SDAs tend to view Ellen White today:
a. Some place her too high:
(1) They overly-idealize-even idolize--her.
(2) Some even make of her the equivalent of a "vegetarian Virgin-Mary."
b. Others place her too low:
(1) She was just another "ordinary" Christian woman of piety.
(2) She wrote a lot of good things on various religious topics/issues.
(3) Reading them may well be a good thing to do, and may even reward such reader with spiritual blessing.
(4) But I am at liberty freely to agree or disagree with her ideas, to pick-and-choose that which I wish to accept or reject, with impunity.
2. Both positions are wrong-but for different reasons!
3. The purpose of this presentation is to focus upon the humanity of the "real" EGW, to examine this woman as a person, not only in prophetic roles, but also in non-prophetic roles, as daughter, sister, mother, neighbor, friend.
a. We will look for those traits/qualities that thoroughly marked her
as an authentic-if fallible--human beings.
(1) One who could savor her triumphs/successes.
(2) And one who would also mourn her shortcomings/failures.
4. Part One will deal, generally, with the family and daily relationships
of a prophet. Part Two will focus upon the wit and wisdom of the prophet,
noting in particular both her own well-developed sense of humor, and also
her counsels concerning its use in the pulpit-for some may find a paradox
I. As a Member of the Harmon Family
1. Parents: of British ancestry, sturdy New England Stock.
a. Father: Robert F. Harmon, Sr. [Feb. 28, 1786-1866]--a farmer, hat-maker.
b. Mother: Eunice Gould Harmon [1787-1863]--a housewife, homemaker.
c. Members of the Portland, ME Chestnut St. Methodist Church )Robert, a deacon); disfellowshipped (with other family members) in Sept., 1843, in reaction to their accepting Millerite theological positions.
d. Became Sabbath-keeping Adventists in 1851 or 1852--some seven or eight years after Ellen's first vision--but totally supportive of the genuineness of her gift from the first.
e. Claims raised regarding her possible African-American ancestry. In 1999,
Charles E. Dudley published a book on the genealogy of Ellen White (The
genealogy of Ellen Gould Harmon White: the prophetess of the Seventh-day Adventist
Church, and the story of the growth and development of the Seventh-day Adventist
denomination as it relates to African-Americans [Nashville, TN: Dudley
Publishing Services, 1999]). In this book, Dudley claimed that Ellen White was
of African-American ancestry through her mother Eunice Gould. The book created
a lot of interest, some acclaimed it, others received it with skepticism. In
response to the claims raised by Dr. Dudley, the Ellen G. White Estate hired
a professional genealogist to further research this claim. After many months
of investigation, Craig Newborn, director of the Ellen G. White Research Center
at Oakwood College concluded, in his report, that "The White Estate maintains
that since no documented evidence to the contrary has been found and until such
time as genealogical evidence to the contrary is found, it can arrive at no
other conclusion than that Ellen Gould Harmon-White was of Anglo-Saxon origin,
that her ancestors came directly from England to New England in 1635."
(For further details on the extensive research done by the Ellen G. White Estate
on Ellen White's ancestry, see the forthcoming article "Ancestry of Ellen
G. White" by Craig Newborn in the Ellen G. White Encyclopedia
[Review and Herald, 2005].)
2. Siblings: Five sisters (including a twin); two brothers.
a. Caroline Harmon-Clough (Apr. 9, 1812-Mar.29, 1883, Paola, KS)--wife of a Methodist clergyman.
(1) Niece: Mary Clough--a writer of some aptitude, and a non SDA literary assistant to Aunt Ellen (1876-77) in the early development of the "Life of Christ"-project (Desire of Ages):
(a) Ellen had two goals in creating this relationship:
(i) The conversion of her niece, Mary.
(ii) Through her, the conversion of her sister, Caroline.
(b) This experiment did not succeed, and Mary was released from service because her non SDA lifestyle (which she refused to change) created conflicts/controversies within the EGW extended family.
(c) EGW still continued to maintain contact with her niece, in an effort to win her soul for Christ. Her 1877 letter to Mary is illuminating in several ways:
I have no wish to control you, no wish to urge our faith upon you, or to force you to believe. No man or woman will have eternal life unless they choose it, . . . With all the self-denial and cross-bearing that is involved in the Christian life. . . . God will test every one of us. He will give privileges and opportunities to all and a sufficient amount of evidence to balance the mind in the right direction, if they choose the truth. . . .
"God will work for you and make you an able instrument if you will yield your will and affections to His will and if you will become a child of obedience. But if you remain in resistance to the truth, God will remove His light from you and you will be left to take your own course and meet the result at last. I hope you will not say as your mother said to me in regard to breaking the Sabbath, she 'would risk it.' God forbid that you should dare to risk it and pursue a course of disobedience. You have tenfold more light in reference to the truth than your mother. I still have faith that she will accept the truth if you do not hedge up her way. I have written in love and have written because I dare not do otherwise."- (Letter 6, 1877, cited in Arthur L. White, Messenger to the Remnant, p. 119.)
b. Harriet Harmon-McCann (1814-d. before 1883)--wife of a clergyman in KS.
c. John B. Harmon (Dec. 29, 1915-Mar. 6, 1883)--a businessman in IL.
d. Mary Plummer Harmon-Foss (1823-May 22, 1912)-Married Hazen
Foss' brother, Samuel, July 5, 1842.
(1) In an Adventist chapel (private home?) On Megquier's Hill, near Poland, ME (about 30 miles from Portland), Ellen related her first vision for the first time outside of Portland, in late Jan., 1845.
(2) Hazen was present, but sitting in an adjoining room, with door ajar.
(3) Met Ellen at sister Mary's home (in Poland) next day:
(a) Confessed his own failed Christian experience.
(b) Declared her vision identical to one he had received, but failed to present to the public as God had commanded.
(c) Urged her to faithfulness, "and the crown I might have had, you will receive. . . . I am a lost man" (Letter 37, Dec. 22, 1890, to sister Mary; cited in T. Housel Jemison, A Prophet Among You, P. 489; cf. 1 Bio 65-67.
e. Sarah Harmon-Belden (Feb. 13, 1822-Nov. 25, 1868):
(1) Married Stephen T. Belden, Aug., 1851 (he was 22; she, 28). He worked at Review & Herald publishing house.
(2) Two children: Franklin E. (1858) and Lillian:
(a) Franklin also worked at RH, became prolific gospel-song writer (est. 600-800).
(b) Warned by Aunt Ellen not to become one of "Noah's carpenter's."
(c) Fought his aunt at 1888 Minneapolis GC Session; disenchanted with her prophetic gift; gave aid-and-comfort to the enemy, became bitter against the church, apostatized, disfellowshipped c. 1907; (SDA Encyclopedia : 142).
(d) Died, 1945, shortly after strenuously resisting efforts of Clarlyle B. Haynes and Kenneth H. Wood (Cleveland, OH) to re-establish church relationship.
(3) Sarah died of "consumption" (tuberculosis) at age 45; only sister of Ellen's to become SDA.
f. Robert F. Harmom, Jr. (July 13, 1825-Feb. 5, 1853:
(1) Only brother of Ellen to become SDA.
(2) Died of "consumption" at age 27.
g. Elizabeth ("Lizzie") N. Harmon-Bagns (Nov. 26, 1827-Dec. 21,
(1) Ellen's fraternal twin.
(2) Married Reuben Bangs, a Portland, ME grocer.
(3) Never accepted Ellen's gift; never became an SDA; ALW said EGW did not expect to meet "Lizzie" in heaven, as she never made any pretext of religion.
(a) Adelaide, died Jan. 31, 1854, age 6 weeks; EGW wrote poignant letter to "Lizzie," with reference to infants in resurrection winging their way to their mother's (or angel's) arms (YI, April, 1858; cited in 2SM 259, 260).
(b) Clarence, died 1915.
(c) Bertha, died after 1920.
II. "My Misfortune" (2SG 9-12).
A. The Accident
1. At age nine, Ellen Harmon suffered a tragic accident, which, she
later wrote, "was to affect my whole life" (LS 17:2).
a. She was struck on the nose by a stone, hurled by a classmate angry at some childish trifle.
b. She was in a coma three weeks, continued to lay in a "great cradle," constructed especially for her, "many additional weeks."
(1) "I was reduced almost to a skeleton" (LS 18:1, 2).
c. Her personal physician, and family, did not expect her to survive.
2. A Physical Problem: "My nervous system was prostrated." Her
hand trembled so much that handwriting was virtually impossible: "I . .
. could get no farther than the simple copies in a coarse hand":
a. Study became impossible: "the letters in the page would run together."
b. "Great drops of perspiration would stand upon my brow."
c. "A faintness and dizziness would seize me."
d. "I had a bad cough, and my whole system was debilitated" (LS 19:1).
3. A Psychological Problem: Ellen was also physically disfigured
for the rest of her life.
a. Corrective plastic surgery would not be available until shortly after her death (post-World War I).
b. When, out of curiosity, she first looked into a mirror, he was shocked and revolted by what she saw:
(1) "Every feature of my face seemed changed. The sight was more than I could bear. The bone of my nose proved to be broken. The idea of carrying my misfortune through life was insupportable. I could see no pleasure in my life. I did not wish to live, and I dared not die, for I was not prepared" (2 SG 9).
c. Reflecting upon rejection by playmates because of her disfigurement, she later wrote:
(1) "How vain and empty the pleasures of earth looked to me. How changeable the friendship of my young companions. A pretty face, dress, or good looks, are thought much of. But let misfortune take some of these away, and the friendship is broken" (2 SG 10, 11).
(2) "As I became able to join in play with my young friends, I was forced to learn the bitter lesson that our personal appearance often makes a difference in the treatment we received from our companions" (LS 18:4)
4. Recuperation: "I gained strength very slowly" (LS 18:4).
a. Because she was unable to read or write, Ellen's teachers advised her to discontinue school until her health should improve.
(1) "It was the hardest struggle of my young life to yield to my feebleness, and decide that I must leave my studies, and give up the hope of gaining an education" (LS 19:2).
B. The Aftermath
1. Ellen was never again to be able to resume formal schooling.
a. After a later divine healing, she subsequently learned to read without difficulty.
b. And she amassed a personal library of 800-1,200 volumes during her lifetime.
2. Second only to her call to prophethood at age 17, in 1844, her "misfortune" appears to have been her single most defining experience, and it continued to affect her profoundly throughout the remainder of her life, physiologically and psychologically.
3. In our time two SDA physicians--a pediatrician and a dermatologist, both sever critics of EGW, have endeavored to account for her visions on the basis of "partial-complex or psychomotor seizures" (Delbert H. Hodder, M.D.) Or "temporal lobe epilepsy" (Molleurus Couperus, M.D.), as a residual effect of her accident.
a. But even if we grant that her physical condition in the vision state were thus caused (and I, among others, refuse vigorously even to concede this assertion as medically plausible), the content of those visions, nevertheless, could not yet be accounted for by means of this absurd hypothesis.
b. Interestingly, neither critic is a specialist in neurology; and both
have been totally refuted by Donald I. Peterson, M.D.'s Visions or Seizures:
Was Ellen White the Victim of Epilepsy? (Pacific Press, 1988, 31 pp.;
reproduced in Anthology, I:88/119-25).
(1) Himself a board-certified neurologist, Dr. Peterson, now retired:
(a) Taught neurology (and pharmacology) at the Loma Linda University's School of Medicine for 35 years.
(b) Served as Chief of Neurology at Riverside (CA) General Hospital for 23 years.
(c) Severed on the Medical Advisory Board of the California Epilepsy Society for more than 20 years.
(d) Authored two medical books and 67 scientific journal articles in neurology.
(e) Appeared in American courts in 40 cases to give legal testimony as an expert witness, participated in an additional 40 arbitrations, and made some 50 legal depositions in still other cases.
(2) And Dr. Peterson declares that there is absolutely no medical basis upon which to explain away Mrs, White's physical condition during her visions (or their content)!
4. Some 50 years after the accident, EGW returned to Portland, ME, to
visit the site of her "misfortune." Reflectively, she wrote that that "which
for a time seemed so bitter and was so hard to bear, have proved to be
a blessing in disguise. The cruel blow which blighted the joys of earth,
was the means of turning my eyes to heaven. I might never have known Jesus,
had not the sorrow that clouded my early years led me to seek comfort in
Him" (RH, Nov. 25, 1884; cited in 1 Bio 30, 31).
5. The traumatic results of this accident, however, were to continue,
medically, to affect adversely EGW's health periodically until the time
of her death in 1915.
a. Frequently the Lord would temporarily heal her, in order for her to be able to continue functioning physically in her calling as a prophet.
III. As the Wife of James Springer White
1. Lineage: JW was born Aug. 4, 1821, at Palmyra, NY, the 5th
of nine children.
a. Father came from pioneer New England stock (though was not descended from a Pilgrim family who landed at Plymouth Rock, Dec., 1620, as earlier biographers--including James himself-had believed).
b. Mother was a granddaughter of Dr. Samuel Shepherd, a prominent New England Baptist clergyman.
2. Educational Background:
a. As a child, JW suffered from physical disabilities, especially from weak eyesight.
(1) As a consequence, did not attend school until age 19.
b. At St. Albans Academy, he received a Teacher's Certificate, after completing a 12-week course of study (by studying 18 hours a day), and was thus certified to teach the "common branches" of learning.
c. The next winter he taught school.
d. Later he would attend school for another 17-week term, thus bringing his formal education to a total of 29 weeks.
3. Religious Experience:
a. At 15, JW was baptized into the "Christian Connection" denomination.
b. He was profoundly moved by the preaching of William Miller and Joshua V. Himes (Miller's director of publications), in eastern ME, Sept., 1842.
c. Convicted of the truth of their message, he acquired a prophetic chart, borrowed a horse (with patched-up bridle and saddle), and thus ventured forth to preach on his own.
d. He was eminently successful: in the winter of 1842-43, he led more than 1,000 converts to Christ.
e. In April, 1843, he returned to Palmyra, and was ordained to the gospel ministry of his "Christian Connection."
4. Courtship of Ellen Harmon:
a. JW met EH prior to Oct. 22, 1844, at Portland, ME. Very impressed, he watched her carefully.
b. He became acquainted with her on a trip to Orrington, ME, where they both went to combat fanaticism.
c. A courtship developed, but was allowed to mature only after both had assured themselves that the relationship has god's approval.
5. Marriage to Ellen Harmon:
a. The ceremony was performed by a justice of the peace, in Portland, ME, Aug. 30, 1846.
b. At this time he was 25 years, 1 month, of age; she was 18 years., 9 months old.
(1) Some 34 years later (1870), she wrote: "A youth not out of his teens is a poor judge of the fitness of a person as young as himself to be his companion for life" (MYP 452:2).
(2) Does this contradict her own experience? Not necessarily:
(a) The information may have come to her by divine revelation after her own marriage.
(b) The observation may have come from later, mature reflection upon her own past experience.
(c) The principles involved are basically true; James and Ellen may have been exceptionally mature at that time (and she later made it clear that god always makes allowances for individual differences in young people-CT 101).
(SDA Encyclopedia - : 1598-1604; cf. Virgil Robinson, James White [RH, 1976], 316 pp.)
IV. The Humanity of the Prophet
A. A. Problem With Timidity
1. Her timidity may have been, at least in part, a residual effect from
her accident (which physically scarred her for life).
a. At age 15: "I had never prayed in public, and had only spoken a few timid words in prayer meeting" (LS32:1).
2. At age 17, in her 2nd vision (Dec., 1844), she was commissioned
to a public ministry:
a. The Lord revealed three things to her:
(1) The "great opposition" which she would have to face.
(2) That (from this, and other causes) "my heart would be rent with anguish."
(3) But "the grace of God would be sufficient to sustain me through [it] all" (LS 69:1).
b. Her reaction: "I was exceedingly troubled. . . . My heart shrank in terror from the thought" (LS 69, 70). Reasons why:
(1) Poor health: "I was in constant bodily suffering, and to all appearances had but a short time to live."
(2) "I was only seventeen years of age, small and frail, unused to society, and naturally so timid and retiring that it was painful for me to meet strangers."
(a) "My brother Robert, but two years older than myself, could not accompany me, for he was feeble in health, and his timidity was greater than mine." (LS 69, 70).
(3) "I was young and timid, and felt great sadness in regard to visiting the field where fanaticism had reigned" (Letter 2, Aug. 24, 1874, in 8 MR 233).
c. To her anguished plea to be released from this call, God instructed her:
(1) Her "faith would be tested," her "courage and obedience tried; but, nevertheless, "I must go."
(2) "God would give me words to speak at the right time."
(3) "If I should wait upon Him, and have faith in His promises, I should escape both imprisonment and abuse, for He would restrain those who would do me harm."
(a) "If I would look to God with humble confidence and faith, no man's hand should be laid upon me to do me harm."
(4) "An angel of heaven would be by my side and direct me when and where to go" (8 MR 233).
(5) And god helped her to cope with timidity: "Though I took the stand as a speaker timidly at first, yet as the providence of God opened the way before me, I had confidence to stand before large audiences" (1T 104:3).
B. Distress From Family Embarrassment--Meeting Malicious Slander.
1. During the first two years of her public ministry, Ellen Harmon was
single; and in that age unmarried women of good character did not travel
unaccompanied without chaperon, lest personal character come under question
a. Her early travel companions included:
(1) Her elder sister, Sarah (later Mrs. Stephen Belden).
(2) Her twin sister, Elizabeth.
(3) Louisa Foss, a sister-in-law and sister to Hazen and Samuel Foss (Ellen's older sister Mary was Mrs. Samuel Foss).
(4) James White, her soon-to-be husband (though the two never traveled alone before marriage).
(5) An Elder and Mrs. Files.
(6) A Brother Haskins (Letter 2, Aug. 24, 1874, p. 2; cited in 8 MR 230, 231).
2. Even with adequate chaperonage, however, enemies sullied her name
and slandered her character.
a. And, in increasing embarrassment, her family urged her, on one trip, to return home forthwith:
When in my youth God opened the Scriptures to my mind, giving me light upon the truths of his word, I went forth to proclaim to others the precious news of salvation. My brother wrote to me, and said, "I beg of you do not disgrace the family. I will do anything for you if you will not go out as a preacher." "Disgrace the family!" I replied, "can it disgrace the family for me to preach Christ and him crucified! If you would give me all the gold your house could hold, I would not cease giving my testimony for God. I have respect unto the recompense of the reward. I will not keep silent, for when God imparts his light to me he means that I shall diffuse it to others, according to my ability." (ST, June 24, 1889:9, p.370)
3. Writing to J. N. Loughborough in 1874, EGW reflected upon her early
a. "I rejoice in God that not a spot or blemish can be fastened upon my name or character. We have in all our deportment, before and since our marriage, tried to abstain from even the appearance of evil. But the very ones God has called me to reprove and warn because of their loose morals and for outbreaking sins, have judged me and have been embittered against me because I have exposed their sins, which were covered up. They have sought to make my testimony of no account by their misrepresentations and malicious falsehoods. But I have gone forward trusting in God to vindicate my cause and to sustain me" (Letter 2, Aug., 12, 1874, in 8 MR 231).
C. Distress From Personal Sensitivity to Feelings of Those Called to Be Rebuked
1. When the Lord first gave me messages to deliver to His people, it was hard for me to declare them, and I often softened them down and made them as mild as possible for fear of grieving some. It was a great trial to declare the messages as the Lord gave them to me. I did not realize that I was so unfaithful and did not see the sin and danger of such a course until in vision I was taken into the presence of Jesus. He looked upon me with a frown and turned His face from me. It is not possible to describe the terror and agony I then felt" (EW 76:2).
2. God gave her revelations, as He had given to no other person then alive (2T 607, 608).
3. Much of her work required giving reproof to fellow church members
a. She had to bear plain and pointed testimonies (5T 678).
b. She reproved the secret, private sins of others (1 SM 52; 3T 324; 5T 65, 671:).
(1) It was a distasteful, disagreeable task for her (LS 90, 117; 1T 73, 74, 569, 585; 5T 19, 20, 656, 657, 678, 679).
(2) And she dreaded it (1T 63, 64).
c. It was a work that few would-or could-appreciate (4T 232).
d. To one so reproved, she said, frankly, that she felt she had not spoken or written too plainly; and (because the message was God's, not hers), she did not regret or take back any of her plain pronouncements (5T 19, 6776).
4. But much of her ministry was such a continuing emotionally stressful
situation, that, she wrote to J. N. Loughborough, in the course of correcting
a false report against her:
a. "It is utterly false that I have ever intimated I could have a vision when I pleased. There is not a shade of truth in this. I have never said I could throw myself into visions when I pleased, for this is simply impossible.
"I have felt for years that if I could have my choice and please God
as well, I would rather die than have a vision, for every vision places
me under great responsibility to bear testimonies of reproof and of warning,
which has ever been against my feelings, causing an affliction of soul
which is inexpressible. Never have I coveted my position, and yet I dare
not resist the Spirit of God and seek an easier position" (Letter 2, Aug.
24, 1874, p. 2; cited in 8 MR 238. 239.)
D. Acute Privation in the White Home in Early Days of Marriage
1. In the earliest days there was the necessity of living in the homes
of others--family, and fellow believers-because of obligatory travel, caused
by God directing them first here, and then there, to do their work:
a. The first year of their married life (1846-47) James and Ellen lived in the home of the Harmon in-laws, briefly at Portland, ME, and then at Gorham, ME.
b. Then, in Oct., 1847, they were invited to bring Henry, their few-weeks-old son, to Topsham, ME, to set up housekeeping in the second-floor rooms of the Stockbridge Howland family. (Later the Howlands would keep little Henry with them while James and Ellen engaged in an itinerant ministry.)
(1) They started housekeeping with borrowed furniture, but determined to be financially independent.
(a) JW worked very hard hauling stone for a railroad, but could not collect his pay after the work was done.
(b) He then took his axe into the woods to chop cordwood. Working from sunrise to sunset, "with a continual pain in his side," he earned 50 cents a day (the daily average wage of a common laborer in the USA in the 1840's.
c. In vision Ellen was "shown that the Lord had been trying us for our good, and to prepare us to labor for others; that He had been stirring up our nest, lest we should settle down at ease. Our work was to labor for souls; if we had been prospered, home would be so pleasant that we would be unwilling to leave it; trials had been permitted to come upon us to prepare us for the still greater conflicts that we would meet in our travels" (LS 105, 106).
d. Upon another occasion JW and two others hand-moves 100 acres of hay with a scythe, for 87.5 cents per acre, to meet travel costs; but this would largely bring to an end his efforts to earn funds for travel expense through secular employment (LS 109).
(a) And the Whites would now begin almost non-stop travel for the next several years (SDAE : 1599).
2. Speaking of the privation and poverty of those earliest years of service, EGW wrote:
We entered upon our work penniless, with few friends, and broken in health. My husband had inherited a powerful constitution, but his health and been seriously impaired by close application to study at school, and in lecturing. I had suffered ill-health from a child, as I have related. In this condition, without means, with very few who sympathized with us in our views, without a paper, and without books, we entered upon our work. We had no houses of worship at that time. And the idea of using a tent had not then occurred to us. Most of our meetings were held in private houses. Our congregations were small. It was seldom that any came into our meetings excepting Adventists, unless they were attracted by curiosity to hear a woman speaks.
At first I moved out timidly in the work of public speaking. If I had confidence, it was given me by the Holy Spirit. If I spoke with freedom and power, it was given me of God. Our meetings were usually conducted in such a manner that both of us took part. My husband would give a doctrinal discourse, then I would follow with an exhortation of considerable length, melting my way into the feelings of the congregation. Thus my husband sowed and I watered the seed of truth, and God did give the increase. (1 T 75:2, 3).
3. Even after the move to Rochester, NY, in April, 1852, Ellen told of being "crippled by poverty, and compelled to exercise the most rigid economy and self denial," in a letter written six years later in a letter dated April 16, 1858:
"We are just getting settled in Rochester. We have rented an old house for one hundred and seventy-five dollars a year. We have the press in the house. Were it not for this, we should have to pay fifty dollars a year for office room. You would smile could you look in upon us and see our furniture. We have bought two old bedsteads for twenty-five cents each. My husband brought me home six old chairs, no two of them alike, for which he paid one dollar, and soon he presented me with four more old chairs without any seating, for which he paid sixty-two cents. The frames are strong, and I have been seating them with drilling. Butter is so high that we do not purchase it, neither can we afford potatoes. We use sauce in the place of butter, and turnips for potatoes. Our first meals were taken on a fireboard placed upon two empty flour barrels. We are willing to endure privations if the work of God can be advanced. We believe the Lord's hand was in our coming to this place. There is a large field for labor, and but few laborers. Last Sabbath our meeting was excellent. The Lord refreshed us with His presence." (LS 142:2)
a. Because the daily diet consisted largely of beans and porridge, bachelor-boarder Uriah Smith, after having lived with the family a few weeks, remarked to a comrade that he had no philosophical objection to eating beans 365 times in succession, yet when it came to making them a regular diet, he should protest! (RH, June 13, 1935, p. 10; cited in Eugene F. Durand, Yours in the Blessed Hope, Uriah Smith [RH, 1980]).
4. Things did not improve materially very much, even with the move to Battle Creek in 1855. Wrote Ellen, 12 years later (in a "Sketch of Experience," Dec. 19, 1866-April 25, 1867):
For fifteen months my husband had been so feeble that he had not carried
his watch or purse, or driven his own team when riding out. But with the
present year he had taken his watch and purse, the latter empty in consequence
of our great expenses, and had driven his own team. He had; during his
sickness, refused at different times to accept money from his brethren
tot he amount of nearly one thousand dollars, telling them that when he
was in want he would let them know it. We were at last brought to want.
My husband felt it his duty, before becoming dependent, to first sell what
we could spare. He had some few things at the office, and scattered among
the brethren in Battle Creek, of little value, which he collected and sold.
We disposed of nearly one hundred and fifty dollars worth of furniture.
My husband tried to sell our sofa for the meetinghouse, offering to give
ten dollars of its value, but could not. At this time our only and very
valuable cow died. My husband then for the first time felt that he could
receive help, and addressed a note to a brother, stating that if the church
would esteem it a pleasure to make up the loss of the cow they might do
so. But nothing was done about it only to charge my husband with being
insane on the subject of money. The brethren knew him well enough to know
that he would never ask for help unless driven to it be stern necessity.
And now that he had done it, judge of his feelings and mine when no notice
was taken of the matter only to use it to wound us in our want and deep
affliction. (1T 582, 583)
E. Nursing an Invalid Husband [1865-1867]
1. Never in robust health, James White had serious medical problems
from time to time throughout his lifetime.
a. He was stricken with paralysis on Aug. 16, 1865, probably as a result of overwork; and would be incapacitated for the next 15 months (1T 105).
b. He was hospitalized (Sept. 14-Dec. 7) at "Our Home on the Hillside," a health reform institution operated by Dr. James C. Jackson, at Dansville, NY (J. N. Loughborough, Great Second Advent Movement, p. 380).
(1) Dr. Jackson emphasized the idea of obedience to natural law, opposed tobacco and alcohol, favored natural remedies such as hydrotherapy ("water cure"), and linked healthful living with Christian morality (George W. Reid, A Sound of Trumpets, pp. 81, 82).
(2) Unfortunately, Jackson was also a promoter of some very extreme practices, which EGW was shown in vision to be not only false but dangerous to recovery of health:
(a) Certain amusements were held to be beneficial to the regaining of health: dancing, card-playing, theater-going, etc., and were a part of his regimen for healing.
(b) Salt was viewed a poison, and its use was forbidden totally.
(c) Patients were required to observe total bed rest-complete physical and mental inaction, no exercise whatever (Dores E. Robinson, The Story of Our Health Message, pp. 135-39).
(3) God instructed her to remove her husband from "Our Home," and he was discharged on Dec. 7th.
(a) En route to Battle Creek the Whites spent three weeks at Rochester, NY, 45 miles from Dansville, where many of the believers joined various prayer groups to petition God for JW's recovery.
(1) On Christmas Day, 1865, morning and afternoon services of special prayer were held on his behalf in the local church.
(2) Christmas night EGW received a vision during a prayer session in which she was shown that SDAs had not done enough to promote health reform, and should establish an institution with a twofold task:
(a) To promote proper cures for healing those already ill.
(b) To teach prevention of illness through proper diet and other reforms.
(i) The founding of the Western Health Reform Institute (later renamed the Battle Creek Sanitarium) was a direct result of that vision (SHM, pp. 139-42).
(3) EGW was also shown that "Satan's purpose was to destroy my husband, and bring him down to the grave. Through these earnest prayers his power has been broken. I have been shown that Satan in angry with this company who have continued for three weeks praying earnestly in behalf of this servant of God, and he is now determined to make a powerful attack on them. I was told to say to you, 'Live very near to God, that you may be prepared for what may come upon you.'"
(a) Within a few months of that Christmas evening prophecy, "six of the nine who engaged in that three weeks of prayer were in their graves," one of them (J. T. Orton) a murder victim! (GSAM, pp. 380-82).
(4) Although JW recovered from this stroke, he would experience a total of three strokes before his death 16 years later, in 1881, at the age of 60 (LS 248, 249).
2. To hasten his convalescence from the 1st stroke, the Whites sold their home in Battle Creek, and relocated on a small farm purchased at Greenville, MI, where EGW nursed her husband back to health during 1866-67 (3T 18).
a. During this time they began very limited pulpit work in the summer
of 1867 (1T 592-600, 605, 675; LS 173-75).
b. On week days JW was most reluctant to engage in any exercise, because he had been converted to Dr. Jackson's erroneous theory of total mental and physical inaction in the recovery of health.
(1) In the spring and summer of 1867, Ellen and son Willie planted, hoed, and pruned on their new farm in Greenville; and slowly JW began to show an interest, and join in the activity in a limited way.
c. At haying time JW figured that surely his neighbors would come to assist an invalid; but EGW forestalled this in advance, by privately contacting each one, requesting that each contrive an excuse for non-participation at harvest time.
(1) JW was livid, incredulous, when he learned that none of his neighbors would assist in bringing in their hay!
(2) And EGW cheerfully, but resolutely, said, "We can do it ourselves:
"'Let us show the neighbors that we can attend to the work ourselves. Willie and I will rake the hay and pitch it on the wagon if you will load it and drive the team.' To this he consented, but how could they make the stack? The farm was new, and they had no barn. Mrs. White volunteered to build the stack if her husband would pitch up the hay, while Willie should be raking for another load. Thus the hay was gathered and stacked, and with great pleasure they surveyed the result of their labor."-Life Sketches of Elder James White and Mrs. Ellen G. White (edition of 1888), p. 357. (Cited in SHM, p. 162).
3. Subsequently, EGW would have a lot to say about the importance of
physical exertion in the recovery of health (1T 554-56).
F. Rejection by the Battle Creek Church Members
1. By March, 1867, after an extended absence from Battle Creek, EGW
began to receive letters in Greenville "of a discouraging character" from
some of the members of the BC Church.
a. "For three nights I scarcely slept at all. My thoughts were troubled and perplexed" (1T 576; cf. LS 175).
2. Her prayers "came from a heart wrung with anguish, and . . . were broken and disconnected because of uncontrollable grief. The blood rushed to my brain, frequently causing me to reel and nearly fall. I had the nosebleed often, especially after making an effort to write. I was compelled to lay aside my writing, but could not throw off the burden of anxiety and responsibility upon me, as I realized that I had testimonies for others which I was unable to present" (1T 577).
3. In this emotionally distressed state, JW and EGW returned to Battle
Creek, only to discover that during their past absence of three months
the attitudes of many of the members there had totally turned against them:
a. "My husband was terribly disappointed at the cold reception which he met at Battle Creek, and I also was grieved. . . . I came home to Battle Creek like a weary child who needed comforting words and encouragement. It is painful for me here to state that we were received with great coldness by our brethren, from whom three months before, I had parted in perfect union, excepting on the point of our leaving home" (1T 579).
b. "At Battle Creek we met reports which had been put in circulation to injure us, but which had no foundation in truth . . . . We found a strong accusing spirit against us. . . . We felt homesick. We were so disappointed and distressed . . . I did not feel at home, as we met distrust and positive coldness instead of welcome and encouragement" (1T 680).
c. "Grieved in spirit beyond measure, I remained at home, dreading to
go anywhere among the church for fear of being wounded. Finally, as no
one made an effort to relieve my feelings, I felt it to be my duty to call
together a number of experienced brethren and sisters, and meet the [false]
reports which were circulating in regard to us. Weighed down and depressed,
even to anguish, I met the charges against me. . . ." (1T 580, 581).
G. Interpersonal Problems With Husband James
1. There were problems between JW and EGW over differences of opinion
concerning the handling of son Edson, who had serious problems in developing
a. James took a very stern, "tough love," attitude, refusing to bail Edson out from the consequences of his spendthrift ways.
b. Ellen, however, took a more tender, lenient, conciliatory attitude, which caused James to explode.
(1) Upon one occasion the manager of the Pacific Press asked JW for a recommendation with regard to filling a vacancy of shop foreman (Edson was then working in the plant). James replied, "Anyone but Edson." Edson learned of this "poor-mouthing" by his father, resented it, and a wedge was driven between them (Robinson, James White, pp. 261-63; Letter 5, 1880).
2. There were, inevitably, problems caused by the deterioration of JW's
condition, because of his three strokes:
a. James (as often happens to victims of stokes) eventually experienced a complete metamorphosis of character and personality:
(1) He became abusive and domineering, trying to tell EGW how to run her life, her church, and her own prophetic ministry.
(2) In a letter to her girl friend, Lucinda Hall, Ellen wrote of James' abusive language toward her:
(a) "I shall use the old head God gave me until He reveals that I am wrong. Your head won't fit on my shoulders. Keep it where it belongs, and I will try to honor God in using my own. I shall be glad to hear from you, but don't waste your precious time and strength in lecturing me on matters of mere opinion" (Lt 66, May 16, 1876; cited in Ron Graybill PhD dissertation, p. 41).
3. Ellen White's response to James was an apology.
4. And the next day she wrote a follow-up letter to Lucinda, requesting
her to burn the letter of May 16th (Lt. 67, May 17, 1876.)
(a) It is a good thing Lucinda did not burn the letter as requested, or we today should have no knowledge of this traumatic experience through which EGW passed five years before her husband's death of another stroke.
5. This letter is significant, also, because it clearly shows (in contrast
with critical allegations) that:
(a) James recognized-and accepted-his wife's inspiration.
(b)Neither was manipulating the other!
(c) As a result, Ellen had, increasingly, physically to distance herself from his presence, one traveling and working in one place for the church, while the other served in another (Letters 5 and 22 in 1876; 5, 28-30, and 33 in 1880; (Robinson, p. 263).
3. And there was her grief at her own personal shortcomings, often pathetically
expressed to her husband in periodic attempts at reconciliation (see pp.
21, 22, below).
H. Her Prophetic Ministry to Her Husband
1. James White was a perfectionistic workaholic-and he held very uncharitable (and unchristian) opinions and attitudes toward his critics within the church.
2. It was inevitable that divine reproof must be given even to one's
husband (especially since he, at times, served as General Conference president,
and held other high leadership roles within the church).
a. It was equally inevitable that some of this counsel would find its way into public print, delineating his "sins" and shortcomings for all to see.
b. And his response-often irascible-was equally predictable. Concludes one biographer:
In his own personal experience there were times when White was reproved
and corrected by the counsels of his wife. He valued highly these messages,
which brought safe guidance. Nevertheless, at times, when he was reproved
for a course of action that to him appeared to be proper and right, he
at first was restive. However, a prayerful approach brought him to accept
the counsel. A knowledge of his allegiance to the counsels instilled confidence
in the hearts of the people. (SDAE : 1604)
I. Widowhood and Aftermath [1881-1915]
1. Ellen's last trip with James-and its heart-breaking aftermath-is touchingly recounted in her autobiography:
"Little did I think, as we traveled on, that this was the last journey we would ever make together. The weather changed suddenly from oppressive heat to chilling cold. My husband took cold, but thought his health so good that he would receive no permanent injury. He labored in the meetings at Charlotte, presenting the truth with great clearness and power. He spoke of the pleasure he felt in addressing a people who manifested so deep an interest in the subjects most dear to him. "The Lord has indeed refreshed my soul," he said, "while I have been breaking to others the bread of life. All over Michigan the people are calling eagerly for help. How I long to comfort, encourage, and strengthen them with the precious truths applicable to this time!"
On our return home, my husband complained of slight indisposition, yet he engaged in his work as usual. Every morning we visited the grove near our home, and united in prayer. We were anxious to know our duty. Letters were continually coming in from different places, urging us to attend the camp meetings. Notwithstanding our determination to devote ourselves to writing, it was hard to refuse to meet with our brethren in these important gatherings. We earnestly pleaded for wisdom to know the right course.
Sabbath morning, as usual, we went to the grove together, and my husband prayed most fervently three times. He seemed reluctant to cease pleading with God for special guidance and blessing. His prayers were heard, and peace and light came to our hearts. He praised the Lord, and said: "Now I give it all up to Jesus. I feel a sweet, heavenly peace, an assurance that the Lord will show us our duty; for we desire to do His will." He accompanied me to the Tabernacle, and opened the services with singing and prayer. It was the last time he was ever to stand by my side in the pulpit. (1T 108, 109)
2. Her initial grief at his passing (on Aug. 6, 1881, at age 60 years,
two days), subsequent loneliness, and indomitable determination to press
on alone to finish her task, are all revealed in starkly pathetic terms
in her subsequent writing:
a. "His sympathy and prayers and tears I have missed so much, so very much. No one can understand this as myself. But my work has to be done" (Ms 227, 1902, cited in 3SM 67).
b. Five weeks after James' death, Ellen sought a little rest and retirement in a cabin they had formerly shared as a retreat in the Rocky Mountains. There she poured out her heart to her son, Willie:
(1) "I miss Father more and more. Especially do I feel his loss while here in the mountains. I find it a very different thing being in the mountains with my husband and in the mountains without him. I am fully of the opinion that my life was so entwined or interwoven with my husband's that it is about impossible for to be of any great account without him" (Letter 17, Sept. 12, 1881; cited in Robinson, p. 260).
c. Extracts from a number of EGW's letters to "The Bereaved" have been gathered together in Chapter 27 (pp. 257-69) of selected Messages, Book Two, and in seeking "to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Cor. 1:4), Ellen repeatedly reveals the depth of her own brokenness in the loss of her husband of more than three decades.
3. Although Ellen's marriage to James extended over 36 calendar years,
in actuality it lacked but 24 days of being a full 35 years-almost exactly
half of her total 70 years of ministry.
a. And the question of remarriage, naturally arose under these circumstances.
(1) Stephen N. Haskell, a trusted friend and close colleague in her ministry (and the one who received more letters from EGW than any other person in the church apart from the immediate members of the White family), was widowed in 1894.
(2) Two years later he sailed to Australia, spending the rest of that decade "down under," again in close association with EGW. (He would return to the USA in 1899, EGW in 1900.)
(3) In Australia, Stephen reportedly asked Ellen to become his wife. Ellen, ever conscious of her duty to God, and yet keenly sensitive to the inmost feelings of an old family friend, gently declined, reportedly giving two reasons:
(a) I don't want you to have to share and suffer the criticisms and accusations which continue to fall upon me, in my daily ministry to others.
(b) And I have been shown that I must continue to sign my letters: "Ellen G. White."
(4) But, practical woman that she was, she told Haskell that he did, indeed, need a wife; and that she would assist him in picking one out!
(a) And in Feb., 1897, Haskell wed Hetty Hurd, a missionary, and trainer of Bible Instructors in Australia at the time.
b. There was nothing wrong in remarriage, itself, she later explained
(1) "Since twenty-one years ago, when I was deprived of my husband by death, I have not had the slightest idea of ever marrying again. Why? Not because God forbade it. No. But to stand alone was best for me, that no one should suffer with me in carrying forward my work entrusted to me of God. And no one should have a right to influence me in any way in reference to my responsibility and my work in bearing my testimony of encouragement and reproof" (Ms. 227, 1902; cited in 3 SM 66, 67).
V. As the Mother of Four Sons
A. Identity of
1. Ellen's firstborn, Henry (1847-63), died prematurely at 16 years of age, of pneumonia.
2. James Edson (1849-1928), who throughout his lifetime was known by his middle name (to differentiate him from his father), became a minister, printer, and a missionary to former African-American slaves in the southern United States (often at great personal endangerment, from violence at the hands of angry plantation-owners). He sailed his Morning Star up and down the Mississippi River, and upon other southern waterways.
3. William Clarence (1854-1937), known affectionately to all in the church as "Willie," not only became a minister, but after his father's decease he additionally served as counselor, business manger, and traveling companion to his mother, a task to which God had especially called him.
4. John Herbert (1860) died at age two and one-half months, from
erysipelas (also known medically as "St. Anthony's Fire," "an acute febrile
disease associated with a local, intense, reddish inflammation of the skin
and subcutaneous tissue, frequently of the face, cause by a streptococcus"-Webster's
New International Dictionary, 2nd Edition).
B. Leaving Her Children in the Care of Others
1. EGW, in her ministry, spent a great deal of her life in travel-at
the express direction of the Holy Spirit, it should be added.
a. Her's was a unique calling; and, as such, her life was certainly not the pattern upon which to model an ideal family life.
2. She frequently counseled mothers to spend much time with their children,
especially in the early years, a condition contradicted by her own experience
in being obliged to leave her infants in the care of others while she went
about doing the Lord's will and work.
a. And, inevitably, there were those who accused her of hypocrisy at this point.
3. Though required of God to endure extended separation from her small
children, Ellen, nevertheless, did not enjoy this deprivation, and once
a. "Maternal love throbbed just as strongly in my heart as in the heart of any mother than lived, yet I had separated from my nursing children and allowed another to act the part of mother to them" (1T 58:1:1 cf. pp. 101, 102; LS 106, 107, 165. For extracts from letters written to her children during their separation see I'd like to Ask Sister White [RH: 1965, 160 pp.], pp. 85, 93).
C. As a Surrogate Mother
1. Ellen White kept orphans in her own home, from time to time, although
she did not legally adopt any into her family; and she recommended this
practice to the church at large (WM 221, 222; 1SM 34; AH 160; CG 125, 126).
D. Home Life With The Whites
1. Ellen's extended family often numbered 16 persons (1T 102; CD 488).
2. In addition to The Adventist Home and Child Guidance, for
a representative sampling of her counsels on home life:
a. Discipline (1T 102).
b. The importance of the absence of dissention, and words of impatience (Ev 102,103).
c. Methods of amusing children (AH 528).
d. Importance of cultivating a solid reading taste in children (SD 178).
e. Experiences in child-training (CG 249, 253-55; 2SG 212).
3. One SDA historian, studying the relationship between EGW and her
two sons, Edson and Willie, concluded that she favored Willie to the disadvantage
of Edson (Rodald D. Graybill, The Power of Prophecy: Ellen G. White
and the Women Religious Founders of the Nineteenth Century. Chapter
3: "Sons of the Founders." Ph.D. dissertation, John's Hopkins University,
a. Another historian, studying all of the sources available to Graybill, however, came to markedly different conclusions:
(1) William C. Sands provides contextual background of extenuating circumstances which tend somewhat to mitigate the severity of some of the EGW letters of counsel to Edson, and demonstrates other incidents in which she apparently favored Edson over Willie ("Patriarch and Prophetess: A Study of the Interpersonal Relationships Within the James S. White Family," Andrews University, March 20, 1984, 68 pp.).
VI. Was Prophet Ellen White "Perfect"?
1. At the risk of shocking you, let me be totally "up-front," and answer
you, candidly-and honestly: "No!" (And, for that matter, neither were any
of the other prophets throughout the entire history of prophethood!)
a. "In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible," she wrote in 1895 (Letter 10, 1895; cited in 1 SM 37:4).
b. All of the prophets were, after all, human, and, therefore, error-prone.
(1) For "everything that is human is imperfect" (1 SM 20:2).
2. Errors, mistakes, imperfections, inconsistencies, contradictions,
character and personality flaws-defects of all sorts-are the hallmark of
humanity; and all of the prophets were still human, despite their remarkable
gifts, including EGW.
a. And some of these imperfections are evidenced in four categories:
(1) Literary imperfections.
(2) Prophetic mistakes.
(3) Character flaws
(4) Personality defects.
A. Literary Imperfections
1. Technical: The original draft of any Ellen White manuscript
was likely to be filed with errors in spelling, in good grammar, and in
needless repetition, all of which required substantial editing before publication.
a. This is not surprising, in view of the fact that she never completed the first four years of formal elementary school-level training.
b. Thus, over the years of her ministry, she hired salaried literary assistants who aided her in making the necessary corrections.
(1) These were, however, forbidden to:
(a) Change the meaning of anything she wrote.
(b) Write new, original material, (or to add any new ideas not in EGW's original draft).
c. The work of these helpers will be dwelt upon in much greater detail in a subsequent lecture on "EGW's Literary Assistants."
2. Content Details: Minor discrepancies in factual data appeared
in her manuscripts-and, sometimes, even in the final published versions
of her writings (as, also, in the writings of the Biblical prophets).
a. For a more complete elaboration, see RWC's lecture outline on "Infallibility and Inerrancy: Does a True Prophet Ever Make a Mistake?" (based on RWC's continuing education course on that subject, published in the Journal of Adventist Education, Dec. 1981-Jan. 1982, and reproduced in Anthology, I: 81/58-71).
B. Character Flaws ?
I. Deviousness: Some would doubtless hold that the incident (see
p. 13) in which EGW went behind her husband's back, to persuade surrounding
farmers not to assist in bringing in the hay of their invalid neighbor
on the White farm, in order to force her husband back into physical manual
labor, for his health's sake, was disingenuous, if not downright devious.
a. Perhaps it was. But so was Abraham's telling an Egyptian Pharaoh that Sarah, his wife, was merely his "sister"-to save his own life (Gen 12:12, 13).
2. Sarcasm: EGW, upon more than one occasion, descended to sarcasm
(which is not a notable characteristic of a true Christian spirit) to "put
down" something she (and the Lord) opposed:
a. In referring to General Conference President George I. Butler's 10-part, six-month series of RH articles advocating "degrees of inspiration," published between January and June of 1884, she wrote:
(1) "The Lord did not inspire the articles on inspiration" (1 SM 12:1).
b. In referring to the false, counterfeit "gift of tongues,"
(1) She characterized this as "unmeaning gibberish which they call the unknown tongue," saying that it is not only "unknown. . . By man, but [it is also unknown] by the Lord and all heaven" as well ( 1 T 412:1).
(2) And, six pages later in the same testimony, she prayed, "May God deliver His people from such gifts" (1 T 418:2).
C. Personality Defects
1. Writing to her husband, James, on May 16, 1876, five years before
his death, Ellen apologized for personal feelings which she herself characterized
a. "It grieves me that I have said or written anything to grieve you. Forgive me and I will be cautions not to start any subject to annoy and distress you. We are living in a most solemn time and we cannot afford to have in our old age differences to separate our feelings."
"I may not view all things as you do, but I do not think it would be my place or duty to try to make you see and feel as I feel. Wherein I have done this, I am sorry. I want a humble heart, a meek and quiet spirit. Wherein my feelings have been permitted to arise in any instance, it was wrong."
"I wish that self should be hid in Jesus. I whish self to be crucified. I do not claim infallibility, or even perfection of Christian character. I am not free from mistakes and errors in my life. Had I followed my Savior more closely, I should not have had to mourn so much my unlikeness to His dear image" (Letter 27, 1876; cited in Graybill Ph.D. dissertation, p. 41.)
2. Writing in her diary on March 31, 1868, eight years earlier, she
a. "I have not felt and spoken as I ought to James. The burden of writing and other extra labors borne for the church have told upon me seriously. I feel that the enemy is getting advantage of me. I acknowledged to my husband I had erred" (Ms. 14, 1868; cited in I'd like to Ask Sister White, p. 45).
3. In a letter to her husband on March 18, 1880, a scant year before
his death, she confessed:
a. "I feel every day like deeply repenting before God for my hardness of heart, and because my life has not been more in accordance with the life of Christ. I weep over my own hardness of heart, my life which has not been a correct example to others. . . . Forgive me for any words of impatience that have escaped my lips, every seeming act of wrong in your sight. I mean to make straight paths for my feet and to have control over my own spirit, to keep my own heart in the love of God, and make sure work for eternity" (Letter 5, 1880; cited in 11 MR 27).
4. And in 1886 she would write an appeal:
a. "May God help us to have a sense of our own shortcomings, and put away the criticism and severity which we have woven into our characters. . . . Oh, how wearied Christ must be with our stupidity, our disobedience, our oft rebellion, and yet He does not give us up" (Letter 19, 1886).
1. The prophet, while supernaturally given information ("revelation")
by God, through a "pipeline" not available to non-prophets, and while experiencing
supernatural physical phenomena in this process of "inspiration," is still
a basic human being, who still functions in most ways just like every other
of his/her peers.
a. He/she makes mistakes, sins, and must seek forgiveness of God, just like other humans.
2. There is some truth in the position held by the school of "historical
conditioning" that the prophet is a "child of his times," and is thus materially
influenced by them.
a. But Evangelicals, however, would deny that the prophet is, therefore, the hapless, helpless, hopeless captive victim of his environmental times.
b. For there is evidence to the contrary, that the prophets are able to transcend and rise above their times in significant ways, through the direct interposition of the Holy Spirit.
3. Arthur L. White relates a very moving story about his grandmother
who steadfastly throughout her life refused to be a criterion for any other
Christian's experience with the Lord:
a. A new housekeeper and nurse had come to the White home. She was a woman in her twenties, and as she crossed the continent to enter Mrs. White's employ, she contemplated, "I am going to the home of the prophet. How will it be?" The evening of the first day Mrs. White and the new housekeeper were thrown together for a time, and after quite a silence, Mrs. White spoke, pausing between each sentence:
"Sister Nelson, you have come into my home. You are to be a member of my family. You may see some things in me that you do not approve of. You may see things in my son Willie you do not approve of. I may make mistakes, and my son Willie may make mistakes. I may be lost at last, and my son Willie may be lost.
"But the dear Lord has a remnant people that will be saved and go through to the Kingdom, and it remains with each of us as individuals whether or not we will be one of that number."-As related to the author in 1939 by Mrs. M. J. Nelson. (Messenger to the Remnant, p. 127)
4. Ellen White may perhaps be best summed up in the words of a high
church leader who knew her and worked closely with her for most of his
a. Wrote Arthur G. Daniells, president of the General Conference (1901-22), who worked with Ellen White both in the United States and in Australia, a within weeks of his own death, in the conclusion of a major work dealing with The Abiding Gift of Prophecy (Pacific Press, 1936):
In this present year of our Lord 1935, Mrs. White has been at rest twenty years, while I have been toiling on. I had had twenty-three years of direct observation of her lifework. Since her death I have now had twenty additional years for throughout reflection and study of that life and its fruits. Now, at an advanced age, with the constraint of expressing only sober, honest truth, I can say that it is my deep conviction that Mrs. White's life far transcends the life of anyone I have ever known or with whom I have been associated. She was uniformly pleasant, cheerful, and courageous. She was never careless, flippant, or in any way cheap in conversation or manner of life. She was the personification of serious earnestness regarding the things of the kingdom. I never once heard her boast of the gracious gift God had bestowed upon her, or of the marvelous results of her endeavors, she did rejoice in the fruitage, but gave all the glory to Him who wrought through her.
I realize that these are grave statements, but they come from the deepest conviction and soundest judgement that I am capable of rendering. They are uttered in the sobering atmosphere of my last illness, as I face the Judge of all the earth, before whose presence I realize that I soon shall stand. (Page 368)