The Life of Ellen White by D.M. Canright

Chapter 15 - Her Prophecies Fail

Mrs. White and her followers claim that she had the "spirit of prophecy" from December, 1844, to the end of her life, August, 1915 - seventy-one years. During these long years she wrote over twenty volumes. All this time she claimed that the future was being revealed to her, and predicted what would happen. Here her claims can be examined and tested.

God's prophets foretold definite things to occur; named persons and cities, and told what would happen to each, and when. Joseph foretold the seven years of plenty and seven years of famine (Gen. 41); Samuel told Saul that the kingdom would be taken from him and given to another (1 Sam. 15:28); Isaiah named Cyrus two hundred years before he was before (Isa. 44:28); Jeremiah foretold the fall of Babylon (Jer. 51); Daniel prophesied regarding the rise and fall of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome (Dan. 2 and 7); Jesus warned of the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 24); Agabus foretold what would happen to Paul at Jerusalem (Acts 21:10, 11). Scores of such cases could be given.

But where are the fulfilled predictions of Mrs. White during her seventy-one years of prophesying? What definite events did she foretell to occur at definite times and to definite cites? Where are these prophecies? Nowhere in all her numerous volumes.

At first she did venture to foretell a few things definitely, but they all failed. After she invariably put everything in general terms, not venturing to name definitely any persons or cities or places or time. She predicted numerous floods, storms, earthquakes, wars, etc., all in general terms. Anyone could do that safely, without any prophetic gift. If she really had the spirit of prophecy, that should have been the outstanding feature of her books. Instead of this, her "Testimonies" and other books are devoted almost wholly to personal matters, expositions of the Bible, and to practical subjects regarding Christian conduct and duty, the same as any intelligent religious teacher could write.

Once in her early work she did venture to predict the curse of God upon a definite person, Moses Hull. In 1862 he was about to give up his faith in Adventism. Mrs. White wrote him thus: "If you proceed in the way you have started, misery and woe are before you. God's hand will arrest you in a manner that will not suit you. His wrath will not slumber" ("Testimonies for the Church," Vol. I., pp. 430, 431). Mr. Hull lived on many long years to a ripe old age, and nothing of the kind predicted happened. After this she threatened many, but always in general terms.

Predictions About the Civil War

The Civil War of 1861-65 placed Seventh-day Adventists in a trying position. They could not engage in war and keep the Sabbath. The draft threatened them. Now, what? I was one of them, twenty years old - the right age to go to war. So I remember it all distinctly.

Something had to be done. We hoped Mrs. White would have a revelation. And she did have - several of them, covering thirty pages of printed matter in Volume I. Of "Testimonies for the Church." At the time, we read these revelations with great anxiety, hoping for light ahead. We were disappointed. They simply told just what everybody already knew, reflecting the sentiments of those opposed to the Government and the war.

It was a forced attempt to say something when she had nothing to tell. Read in the light of today, it is seen to be mere guess work, mostly wrong. She says, "It was necessary that something be said" ("Testimonies," Vol. I., p. 356). It was all directed to us, a little handful of about ten thousand, half women, none of any influence in the Government or in the war. Bible prophets went directly to the king and told him how to conduct the war, and what the end would be. Our prophet had no such message. She says: "Jan. 4, 1862, I was shown some things in regard to our nation" (p. 253). It is all a bitter denunciation of Lincoln's administration and his management of the war. Every move had been wrong, and only defeat was prophesied. But the verdict of history is that Lincoln was one of the wisest and most successful men who ever led a nation through a crisis. The whole world honors him. With the most tremendous odds against him on the start, he conducted the war to a glorious victory, preserved the union, freed the slaves, and benefited even the South. During the dark hours of that awful struggle, how he needed the encouragement of a prophet of God, if there was one, as Mrs. White claimed to be. But her whole message was one of opposition, faultfinding, condemnation, and a prophecy of defeat and final failure - exactly that of the opponents of Lincoln and his management of the war. Listen to her:

"The rebellion was handled so carefully, so slowly, that many. . . joined the Southern Confederacy who would not, had prompt and thorough measures been carried out by our Government at an early period. . . How little has been gained! Thousands have been induced to enlist with the understanding that this war was to exterminate slavery; but now that they are fixed, they find that they have been deceived; that the object of this war is not to abolish slavery, but to preserve it as it is." "The war is not to do away with slavery, but merely to preserve the Union" (pp. 254, 258).

This was only a few months after the war began. Like her, some unwise hot-heads urged Lincoln to immediately declare slavery abolished. General Fremont had to be removed from his command because he began that very thing in the West. It was premature. The general sentiment of the nation was not ready for it. Lincoln only waited and watched for the proper time. Then it was a success. Now all see the wisdom of his course.

Mrs. White goes on: "They [the soldiers] inquire, 'If we succeed in quelling the rebellion, what has been gained?' They can only answer discouragingly, 'Nothing'" (p. 255). Fine language to encourage Mr. Lincoln, the soldiers and the North in the dark hour of their need!

She continues: "The system of slavery, which has ruined our nation, is left to live and stir up another rebellion" (same page). A plain, false prophecy. No such thing happened, as all now know.

Again: "The prospects before our nation are discouraging" (same page). Yes, as far as humans could see. But she claimed to have divine revelations of the future. Had her claim been true, she would have seen the victory at the end, disproving her words.

Hear her again in the same gloomy tone: "As this war was shown to me, it looked like the most singular and uncertain that has ever occurred. . . It seems impossible to have the war conducted successfully" (p. 256). Yes, to her it was uncertain, impossible to succeed. But was that all God knew about? All he could tell her? Remember, she is writing by God's inspiration; writing the words he tells her! Everything she writes, whether in a private letter or newspaper article, she says, is inspired. Thus: "God was speaking through clay. . . In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, 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" ("Testimonies," Vol. V., p. 67). There you have it, Simon-pure - every word she writes is a ray of light from the throne of God! So, to God it was an uncertain war, impossible to succeed! So the Lord must have been greatly surprised when it did really succeed!

Mr. Lincoln, in his need, asked the prayers of all Christians, and appointed days of fasting and prayer. Of these Mrs. White said: "I saw that these national fasts were an insult to Jehovah. . . A national fast is proclaimed! Oh, what an insult to Jehovah!" ("Testimonies," Vol. I., p. 257). That was the way she sympathized with Mr. Lincoln and the nation in the hour of need.

A day before the awful battle of Gettysburg, on which the destiny of the nation would turn, Mr. Lincoln spent the night in agonizing prayer to almighty God. So his biographer testifies. But neither Mrs. White nor any of her followers offered a single prayer for him or the nation. I was with her - and with them - and know. During the entire twenty-eight years I was an Adventist I never offered one prayer for the President, for Congress, for a Governor, or any one in authority. I never heard Mrs. White, Elder White, or any one of them, do it. I have often attended their large meetings since then, but never heard a prayer offered for any Government official. Yet one of the plainest commands of the gospel is that we should pray for kings, rulers and all in authority (1 Tim. 2:1, 2). Since Mrs. White died, Adventists have begun to pray for Government officials.

Again Mrs. White said: "This nation will yet be humbled into the dust. . . When England does declare war, all nations will have an interest of their own to serve, and there will be general war" (p. 259). For awhile this is what seemed probable, and what was feared; but it never came. Here, again, her prophecy was a complete failure. Our nation was not humbled into the dust. England did not declare war. All along it is clear that Mrs. White simply saw things just as circumstances at the time seemed to indicate, and wrote as those around her talked. If it had been true, as she claimed, that she was not writing any of this out of her own mind, but was simply recording what God told her, would he have told her that way? Did not the Lord know that England would not declare war? Surely. If her predictions were not reliable then, they are not now. If she was not God's prophet then, she never was at any time.

Here is another blunder: "Had our nation remained united, it would have had strength; but divided, it must fall" (p. 260). No such thing happened. It was not divided, nor did it fall. Did not the Lord know better than that? Yes. But she did not.

Mrs. White interpreted the Civil War as a sign of the end of the world, just as Adventists have been interpreting the European war. She says: "The scenes of earth's history are fast closing" (p. 260). Under the heading, "The Rebellion," she says: "The one all-important inquiry which should now engross the mind of every one is, Am I prepared for the day of God? Time will last a little longer" (p. 363).

Since then a generation has gone. Mrs. White, Elder White, and nearly all who then preached and heard that warning, are laid away. They needed no such warning, for they did not live to see that day, as she then predicted. Failure, failure, failure is marked by ineradicable letters against all her predictions.

Notice now how she forbade her followers taking any part in sustaining the Government in the struggle to save the Union and free the slaves. "I was shown [that is, the Lord showed her] that God's people, who are his peculiar treasure, can not engage in this perplexing war, for it is opposed to every principle of their faith" (p. 361). Hence not a single Seventh-day Adventist took any part in the effort to save the Union and free the slaves - not so much as to go as nurses. Had all the people done that way, the nation would have been divided, and slavery would be with us now.

During those dark days of the Civil War, Mrs. White privately warned our married people not to have any more children. Time was so short, and the seven last plagues were so soon to fall, that children born then would be liable to perish. But children born since then are now grandparents!

The horrors of the great Civil War, she, in her vivid imagination, interpreted as proof that the end of the world was right at hand, as already stated. In the same manner she interpreted the great war and revolution in Europe in 1848. It will be remembered that in that year there was quite a general war in Europe, in which several nations were engaged. In January, 1849, Elder Bates published a pamphlet entitled "Seal of the Living God." He interpreted that was as the beginning of Daniel's time of trouble (Dan. 12:1), and as fulfilling Rev. 11:18: "The nations were angry, and they wrath is come." On page 48 of his pamphlet he says: "The time of trouble, such as never was (Dan. 12:1), has begun." In proof of this he names several of the powers at war, thus: "Prussia, Hanover, Sardinia, Sicily, Naples, Venice, Lombardy, Tuscany, Rome, Austria," etc. On page 15 he says: "And now the trouble has begun, what is our duty?" On pages 24 and 26 he relates how, while he and others were discussing this question, Mrs. White had a vision in which she saw the same thing! She said: "The time of trouble has commenced, it is begun. The trouble will never end until the earth is rid of the wicked."

Elder Bates then says: "The above was copied word for word as she spoke in vision, therefore it is unadulterated."

Notice here, again, how she is influenced by Bates to see in vision just what he was arguing in her presence. Both were wrong.

Aug. 3, 1861, Mrs. White had a vision in which she was shown the Civil War, then just fairly begun. She says:

"I was shown the inhabitants of earth in the utmost confusion. War, bloodshed, privation, want, famine and pestilence were abroad in the land" (Testimonies, Vol. I., p. 268)

This was exactly what all faultfinders at that date predicted - famine and pestilence. But nothing of this kind happened. There was no famine, no pestilence. Her predictions utterly failed. Where, then, did she get that "vision"? not from God, surely, but from the ideas of those around her, the same as she got all her "visions." The event proved this.

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