Ellen G. White -- the Myth and the Truth

by Å. Kaspersen


14 -Keen for own cause

It is an undisputable fact that Ellen G. White was very keen regarding herself and her work. She could not tolerate that someone should ask questions about her visions and writings. There are many examples of persons who became subjects of "heavenly wrath" through scatching testimonies and visions because they had "ventured on forbidden ground".

Fannie Bolton, Charles Lee, Uriah Smith, J.H. Kellogg, A.T. Jones, A.F. Ballenger and others became subjects of the wrath of the prophetess after posing some questions about her authority and inspiration..

Lofty self-esteem

Ellen White was not quite modest when she described her own role. She claimed to be just a "messenger", and not a prophet. But in fact she claims to be more than a prophet.

"Others have called me a prophetess, but I have never assumed that title. I have not felt that it was my duty thus to designate myself. Those who boldly assume that they are prophets in this our day are often a reproach to the cause of Christ. . . . My work includes much more than this name signifies. I regard myself as a messenger, entrusted by the Lord with messages for His people. . . .My commission embraces the work of a prophet, but it does not end there. It embraces much more than the minds of those who have been sowing the seeds of unbelief can comprehend." (Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 36. Emphasis supplied.)

She does not say she is a prophet(ess), and she says she has never called herself by that title. She says she is a messenger, and that her work embraces far more than the work of a prophet. She then places herself on a level with John the Baptist.

"And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? . . .But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." (Matt 11,7.9.10.)

Ellen White also places her writings an par with the Bible.

"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." (Testimonies, vol. 4, pp. 147-148. Emphasis supplied.)

In other words, before 1844 God spoke to men through His Word - the New and the Old Testament. In this days - after 1844 - he does not do that, but speaks to men through the testimonies of Ellen White. Or he does not do just that, but also speaks to men through her testimonies. It cannot be stated more plainly that the Bible is no longer sufficient, but that the testimonies of Ellen White - "the Spirit of Prophecy", according to Adventists, must be placed on a level with the Bible, and is just as necessary. But then she comes into conflict with herself in other statements where she plainly says that God will have a people who maintains the Bible and the Bible only.

We have seen in a previous chapter how substantial parts of her writings and testimonies came into being. To place these writings on a level with Scripture is no less than presumptuous. More than once she praises her own plagiarized writings and makes them "heavenly revelations".

When the Steam Press at Battle Creek was in the progress of publishing the 1888-edition of The Great Controversy, the leading brethren wanted to give priority to Bible Readings for the Homeinstead of Ellen White's plagiarized book. The prophetess then heaped her wrath upon their heads. She allegedly stated, among other things, that "His Majesty Satan was in charge of the publishing house". (I have not been able to document this statement, so please take it with a pinch of salt.) To defer the sale of Great Controversy, which largely consists of "borrowed" material, would of course reduce her income. But what was this? Ellen White's book was a product of literary kleptomania, while Bible Readings consisted of studies from the Word of God. In spite of this, Ellen White would give her plagiarized book priority before the Bible studies. She placed "her own" book before the Bible. There is some reason to believe that money was the underlying factor for this - the royalties from the sale of Great Controversy would amount to several thousand dollars.

Uriah Smith

We have previously seen how Fannie Bolton, Alonzo T. Jones, John H. Kellogg and Albion F. Ballenger were being treated by Ellen White because they had discovered something about her. Uriah Smith was another well known Adventist pioneer who had been unjustly treated by the Adventist prophet.. In a testimony, The Testimonies Rejected from 1882, a tirade of condemnations streamed forth against the man. Like the testimonies against A.T. Jones and others, with false accusations, the testimony against Uriah Smith was replete with accusations and condemnations. First of all, Ellen White sent a testimony to Smith (Important Testimony, March 23, 1882), with accusations which most probably were grossly exaggerated. Smith was asked to read this testimony before the congregation at Battle Creek, which he for understandable reasons refused to do.

This refusal ignited the wrath of the prophetess. He was promptly being accused of rejecting the Testimonies, etc. Most probably Smith, among others, was getting his eyes opened as to how the Testimonies came into shape, and had asked some pertinent questions about them. Uriah Smith wrote several letters to D.M. Canright, where he discussed these things.

"Dear Brother Canright:... I was interested in your queries to Uncle George [George I. Butler] on the omissions in 'Early Writings.' We have the Marion paper in exchange, and I had noticed the article. Under the circumstances I think it must come down on him something like an avalanche; and I have a curiosity to know how he has answered it, as he put a note on the margin that he had answered it. I have no doubt the quotations are correct. I remember coming across the tract,'Word to Little Flock' when we were in Rochester, but I have not seen a copy since, & did not know but Experience & Views contained the full text of the early visions. It seems to me that the testimonies, practically, have come into that shape, that it is not of any use to try to defend theenormous claims that are now put forth for them. At least, after the unjust treatment I received the past year, I feel no burden in that direction." (Letter, Uriah Smith to D.M. Canright, March 22, 1883. Emphasis added.)

"Dear Bro. Canright: Yours of March 24, was duly received. . . .I do not take the disconsolate view of our position that you seem to; for if the visions should drop out entirely, it would not affect my faith on our Biblical theories at all. . . .The idea has been studiously instilled in the minds of the people that to question the visions in the least is to become at once, a hopeless apostate and rebel; and too many, I am sorry to say, have not strength of character enough to shake off such a conception; hence the moment anything is done to shake them on the visions, they lose faith in everything & go to destruction." (Letter, Uriah Smith to D.M. Canright, April 6, 1883. Emphasis supplied.)

"Dear Bro. Canright: Yours of July 28 is at hand. I have shown it to Bro. Gage as you request. It is true G.I.B. (Geo. I. Butler) has asked me to write something for the proposed Supplement, and in the presence of Brn. Littlejohn and Fargo, has urged it hard; or rather they three together have urged me to it. But I have not yet made up my mind to say anything, because I do not know what I can say that will be of any particular help to them. I told these brethren so plainly. And my reason is that Sr. W. has herself shut my mouth. In the 'Special Testimony to the B. C. church,'quoted in the 'Sab. Advocate Extra,' (both of which I suppose you have seen) she has published me as having rejected not only that testimony; but all the testimonies. Now if I say that I haven't rejected them, I thereby show that I have, for I contradict this one. But if I say that I have, that will not do them any good that I can see, but will be saying that which I have not supposed to be true. Her attack on me seems to me most uncalled for and unjust. I told the brethren that I did not understand why she seemed so anxious and in such haste to publish me to the world as a disbeliever in the testimonies. She has forced me without cause, into a very embarrassing position, because if I say nothing, of course it will be taken as a virtual acknowledgment of the correctness of the charges. But if I do say anything, I must speak my convictions,which will not be at all satisfactory to them." (Letter, Uriah Smith to D.M. Canright, July 31, 1883. Emphasis supplied.)

Here Uriah Smith was asking some testing questions about a testimony he felt was both unjust and unfair. Because he did so, he was accused of rejecting all the Testimonies. A similar incident happened when Dr. John Harvey Kellogg asked some testing questions about a false testimony (the Chicago affair), and consequently he was accused of rejecting all the Testimonies. This was an attitude Ellen White manifested constantly against people who asked some questions about dubious testimonies. They were on the spot accused of rejecting all the Testimonies, the "Spirit of Prophecy". For her, it was all or nothing.

Fannie Bolton

Fannie Bolton voiced her concern about Ellen White's plagiarism, and that Ellen published articles by others under her own name. When Ellen White learned that Fannie had discovered her working-methods, she "saw" in a "vision" Jesus coming down from heaven in a golden chariot pulled by horses of silver, while he shouted, "Fannie Bolton is your adversary! Fannie Bolton is your adversary! Fannie Bolton is your adversary!" This was of course a false vision - every sensible person will have no trouble understanding that. However, Ellen White could not tolerate that other people pointed their finger at something related to her own person or the work she was doing - in particular not the suspicious part of it. In such cases she commanded "heavenly" curses upon the "offender". This is not quite the spirit of Jesus,

". . .And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." (Luke 9:52-55.)

No sensible, normal person would believe that Jesus came down from heaven in a golden chariot pulled by silver-horses to take care of Fannie Bolton, who had confided to M.G. Kellogg her concern about Ellen's literary kleptomania. The Bible plainly says that we are to try the spirits, whether they are of God or not, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1.)

A.T. Jones and Dr. J.H. Kellogg

Ellen White pursued A.T. Jones with false visions and testimonies because he had charged her for lies and false visions.

She pursued Dr. John H. Kellogg with false visions and testimonies against his "pantheism" and other things he was not guilty of. Much of this persecution happened due to a false vision about Dr. Kellogg's work in Chicago - something which placed her in an embarassing situation. Her credibility was at stake.

The shut door

Ellen White strongly denied having had visions to the effect that the door of mercy was closed after 1844, in spite of having numerous witnesses against her. Her own, suppressed visions from that time which plainly teached the shut door, confirm the credibility of the witnesses.

Ellen White pursued Uriah Smith with false visions and testimonies because he had asked pertinent questions about them, and refused to read them publicly before the congregation because he regarded them as false.

A number of other people received the same treatment, if we are to believe what Merritt G. Kellogg and A.T. Jones had to say - and there is no reason to believe that these men were not telling the truth.

J.N. Andrews

At times, Ellen White manifested very little compassion towards people who did not belong to her own circle, or had questioned her credibility. One SDA pioneer who experienced this lack of compassion, was John N. Andrews - probably because there were bad relations between the White family and the Andrews and Stevens-families.

"J.N. Andrews once complained that the visions of Ellen White concerning him were 'such a source of terror and distress' to him that he could not 'make that use of them that is such a blessing to others.' (p. 18).

"Extremely harsh statements against these co-workers were plainly stated in a pamphlet published for the church in 1860. The hardest blow was directed against the denominations first overseas missionary, J.N. Andrews. In March of 1872, his beloved wife Angeline died. Nearly three years later, Andrews and his two children, ages 12 and 17, sailed for Europe to establish the Adventist work on the continent in Switzerland.

"Andrews returned to America, and in 1878 buried both his daughter, Mary, and his brother, William. Since he was in poor health, he did not return to Europe until the next year. In 1883 Ellen wrote to Andrew's assistant, B.L. Whitney, stating that Andrews had 'given the impression of suffering when he has endured no more than ordinary laborers in their first experience in this work.' She regarded him as having 'a diseased mind.' She also thought he would probably die, and said she 'could not pray for his life, for I consider he has held and is still holding [up] the work in Switzerland.' She went on to tell of his sin of dwelling on himself, and of mourning for his wife and daughter as he had done.

"I don't know how well I could have handled such scathing rebukes, but Andrews wrote back to 'Sister White' saying,

"'I humble myself before God to receive from His hand the severe rebuke which He has given you for me . . . I beg you to believe me as ever, one who sincerely desires to follow the right.'Adventist Currents, Feb., 1985. When he wrote this Andrews was a dying man, and he passed away a few months later." (Don Hawley, Ellen G. White, Chap. 6. (www.sabbath.com/donhawley). Emphasis supplied.)

This lack of compassion towards a broken, dying man - she even called him "insane", and would not pray for him - has nothing to do with the Spirit of Christ.

A.F. Ballenger

Albion F. Ballenger received the same treatment from the prophetess. He had just been doing what all faithful SDA-Bereans should do - study Scripture to see if Ellen White's words were in harmony with Bible. When he discovered that they did not harmonize, he wrote a kind letter to her, pleading her to help him with his problem. This was a kind letter, written in a true, christian spirit. For more on this, see the chapter on Ballenger. But afterwards, she pursued him with false visions and testimonies from "heaven" because he had performed a solid Bible study and pointed out that parts of her book The Great Controversy were not in harmony with Scripture. Ellen White did not produce a single verse from the Bible to her defense, but claimed to have had "visions" and "revelations", condemning him to perdition as a man possessed by the devil and spiritistic agencies.

Where in the Bible do we read that Paul treated the noble Bereans this way because they would not automatically accept his teachings? But "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Acts 17:11.)

Did Paul condemn them as spiritualists and satanic agencies because they choose to try his words with Scripture? Did he reject them, refusing to have more to do with them? To the contrary, he praised them for their attitude and told them that they were "more noble". It is very evident that Paul was "more noble" than Ellen White in such matters.

Ballenger's daughter told later on how merciless the Adventist denomination treated her father because of Ellen White's false accusations against him. But what had he been doing but to follow Paul's admonitions? However, Ellen White could not tolerate that someone should point out unscriptural statements in her books. Ballenger's daughter told that the denomination fired him, and that he did not receive sustentation of any kind. This brought himself and his family into problems. She told further that Ellen White refused to have anything more to do with him. This is in harmony with Ellen White's own statements about Ballenger, but certainly not in harmony with a true, christian spirit.

Is this merciless treatment of persons who are in distress, or who want to follow the Word of God, a mark of a true prophet of God?

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1.)

This does not testify in behalf of Ellen White. Her credibility does not become strenghtened by her lack of compassion toward people who did'nt do other wrong than asking some questions about her visions and testimonies, or persons who did not belong to her favourite group.


Few, if any persons had and still exerts such authority in the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination as Ellen G. White. Some have stated, and rightly so, that the denomination stands and falls with its prophet.

There were quite a number of "prophetesses" in the early 1800's, and we may ask, why have all these visionaries been completely forgotten today? After "the great disappointment" in 1844, Ellen Harmon and James White participated in fanaticism, as the Atkinson-incident tells us. There were other young women attending these fanatical meetings, some of them claimed to have "visions", among them Dorinda Baker. One of the witnesses in the case against Israel Dammon stated that they believed Miss Baker's and Miss Harmon's visions were from God. Later they rejected Ellen's visions.

There is reason to believe that Ellen Harmon/White would have been as forgotten today as Dorinda Baker, had it not been for James White. He was an excellent promoter of Ellen's "visions"; he introduced her to leading brethren of some influence, among them Joseph Bates. Ellen Harmon was young and feeble, and her visions were being regarded as a result of her poor health. After being introduced to Joseph Bates, he shortly after accepted her visions as genuine. This was an excellent opportunity to Ellen and her husband. For this reason, both James and Ellen easily accepted Bates' theories - among them keeping sabbath from six to six, and the seven years for Jesus to stay in the heavenly sanctuary, from October 1844 through October 1851. At that time James White had but little influence among the brethren, but Bates was an influential person it would be of some benefit to keep in good touch with. With support from Joseph Bates, it would be an easier task promoting Ellen and her visions in the early Adventist church.

"After locating in Battle Creek in 1855, for the next twenty-five years Mrs. White traveled and labored, either with her husband or with some efficient help, in many of the states from Maine to California. Her influence with her people had now become settled and supreme. No one daredquestion her authority or inspiration." (D.M. Canright, The Life of Mrs. E.G. White, emphasis supplied.)

Surely they dared not do that, or they would have received testimonies with "heavenly revelations", condemning them as satanic agencies with blood-stains on their clothes. Ellen White was both idol and dreaded scourge.

Neither Dorinda Baker nor other millerittes who claimed to have visions and revelations were fortunate enough to be supported by influential persons, neither did they become part of a growing organizational system which could act as their promoter. After a while, both Dorinda Baker and other "visionaries" ceased to have visions, and they vanished from history. Ellen White, to the contrary, became the center of a growing organization, promoted by clever men and supported by influential persons. Her authority increased until she became both the madonna and pope of adventism.

"While she lived, every one in the denomination was liable to an attack, a cutting reprimand, or to dismissal from office from her if he chanced to be reported or complained of by some one to her. No one was safe from her ever ready and caustic pen. One denunciation from her meant a stigma on one's character and standing in the denomination for life. She was at the same time both the dread and the idolized oracle of the denomination." (Ibid.)

"Like the Pope of Rome in medieval times, her power and influence in the church grew until she became supreme. She made and unmade conference presidents with a word of mouth or a stroke of the pen. She said who was and who was not to fill office. She said where to buy and build, and where not to. If she said, 'Go ahead,' no one in the whole denomination dared say otherwise, even though it meant the loss of thousands and tens of thousands of dollars." (Ibid.)


As mentioned previously, the "prophetess" Joanna Southcott carried on a profitable business with her "testimonies". But the Bible does not tell about prophets of God making money out of the visions God was giving them, and that they made the Spirit of prophecy into a profitable business.

Ellen White however did just that. She was married to a clever and far-sighted businessman, who at one occasion remarked, "There is money in this (the visions), Ellen", and in a letter, dated February 18, 1881, he remarked,

"Our financial matters stand well, and there is wealth yet in our pens." (Letter, James White to E.G. White, Feb. 18, 1881.)

James and Ellen White worked their way from poverty to prosperity. When James died in 1881, he left some 20,000 dollars, which was a substantial sum of money at that time.

"He took advantage of his position to benefit himself and family financially, and she aided him by her revelations. She received a larger salary than was paid most of the ministers of the denomination; received pay for all her articles furnished to the leading papers of the denomination (while others generally contributed theirs gratuitously); besides receiving a large and increasing income from the royalties on all her books. For several years before she dies, because of the 'peculiar position' she occupied in the church, she was paid a higher royalty than was paid other authors in the denomination.

"Take an example of how she used her revelations to make money: In 1868, Elder White had on hand several thousand dollars' worth of old books which were dead property, as they were not selling, and were going out of date. He hit on a plan to raise a 'book fund' for the free distribution of books and tracts. This fund he used to buy out his and his wife's old books. When the money did not come fast enough, she had a revelation about it thus: 'Why do not our brethren send in their pledges on the book and tract fund more liberally?

"'And why do not our ministers take hold of this work in earnest? . . . We shall not hold our peace upon this subject. Our people will come up to the work. The means will come. And we would say to those who are poor and want books, send in your orders. . . We will send you a package containing four volumes of 'Spiritual Gifts,' 'How to Live,' 'Appeal to Youth,' 'Appeal to Mothers,' 'Sabbath Readings,' and two large charts, with key of explanation, . . . and charge the fund four dollars' ('Testimonies,' Vol. I., p. 689).

"Every one of these books was their own. The money came, and they pocketed it all. I was there, and know." (Canright, Ibid.)

Ellen White spared no efforts to promote her own books and get people to buy them,

"'The volume of 'Spirit of Prophecy' and also the 'Testimonies' should be introduced into every Sabbath-keeping family. . . Let them be worn out in being read by all the neighbors. . . Prevail upon them to buy copies. . . Light so precious, coming from the throne of God, is hid under a bushel. God will make his people responsible for this neglect" ('Testimonies,' Vol. IV., pp. 390, 391). See how she lauds her own books! So, of course, her books were pushed and sold in large numbers, and as a result she received large financial returns. Her royalties from only one of their publishing houses (the one located in Washington, D.C.), in 1911, amounted to over $8,000, or more than the net profits of the house itself that year. From one book alone she received over $4,000 royalty, and from all of her books over $100,000. In his book 'Past, Present and Future,' page 367, edition 1909, her son, Edson White, accuses Mrs. Eddy of 'simony' because she took advantage of her system to make money. The charge lays equally against Mrs. White. If one practiced simony, so did the other.

"Mrs. White herself, however, was not a good business manager. She advised the brethren to undertake several business projects which proved great financial failures. June 8, 1905, she wrote Elder W.J. Fitzgerald, president of the East Pennsylvania Conference, to 'go right forward' in the purchase of a certain building in Philadelphia for a sanitarium; 'raise every penny possible.' He did so. The institution proved a failure, was finally closed, and the building sold at a loss of over $60,000 to the denomination.

"About the same time she gave similar instruction regarding the purchase of another building for a sanitarium at Nashville, Tenn. This was likewise a failure, and entailed a loss of $30,000.

"A little later, through her advice, the denomination was plunged into over $400,000 debt at Loma Linda, Cal., although in 1901 she had told her followers to 'shun the incurring of debt as you would shun disease,' and that 'we should shun debt as we would shun leprosy' ('Testimonies,' Vol. VI., pp. 211, 217). Her conflicting instruction threw the leaders into great perplexity." (Canright, Ibid.)

From 1890 and on, she earned from eight to twelve thousand dollars a year in royalties for her plagiarized books. This was quite an amount of money at that time. The real authors she had been borrowing material from, would have envied that. But Ellen White made big money at the expence of others. We are to search in vain to find Biblical prophets in such an enviable position, eg. making big money from their prophetic gifts.

The income from Ellen's "prophetic gift" enabled her to buy a comfortable home where she could spend her old age. There she was surrounded by a staff few persons could show up with.

Her big staff of some fourteen people was of course expensive. Consequently her personal expences were quite heavy. She had her own cook, her own sewess, personal nurse, secretaries ("borrowers") and office assistants, farmhands etc. None of the Biblical prophets could enjoy such leisure. They were stoned, thrown into empty wells, placen on desolate islands and persecuted for their prophetic messages. None of the Biblical prophets made money out of the visions and prophetic messages God gave them. Persecution was the earthly reward for quite a few of them. There are however stories about false prophets trying to make money out of their "prophesying" - Bileam and Simon the Sorcerer, for example.

To Ellen White's honor, it should be added that she often gave money to various projects. She also denied that she was enriching herself,

"Sometimes it has been reported that I am trying to get rich. Some have written to us, inquiring, 'Is not Mrs. White worth millions of dollars?' I am glad that I can say, 'No.' I do not own in this world any place that is free from debt. Why? - Because I see so much missionary work to be done. Under such circumstances, could I hoard money? - No, indeed. I receive royalties from the sale of my books; but nearly all is spent in missionary work." (Manuscript 8, 1904. Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 103.)

According to her own words, she did not own a single, debt-free place on earth. It was however Ellen White who wrote, "We should shun debt as we should shun the leprosy." (Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 217.)

"Debts must not be allowed to accumulate term after term. The very highest kind of education that could be given is to shun the incurring of debt as you would shun disease." (Ibid, p. 211.)

Her will reveals that she gave but little to the denomination. Almost all her earthly possessions went to children, grandchildren etc. But it was Ellen White who wrote the following counsel about wills,

"In disposing of your property by will to your relatives, be sure that you do not forget God's cause. . . . But do not, simply because it is customary, bring into your will a long line of relatives who are not needy." (Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 482.)

"I call upon our brethren to cease their robbery of God. Some are so situated that wills must be made. But in doing this, care should be taken not to give to" sons and daughters means which should flow into the treasury of God." (Ibid, p. 484.)

Ellen White died in 1915 with an accumulated debt of some 90,000 dollars. The adventist denomination took care of this debt and paid it to save the prophetess' honor.

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