Ellen G. White -- the Myth and the Truth

by Å. Kaspersen


8 -Contradictions

It is a matter of fact that several statements by Ellen G. White are self-contradictory. We are going to take a look at some of these statements.

Deity did/did not sink

"The Deity did not sink under the agonizing torture of Calvary, yet it is nonetheless true that 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'" (EGW in SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1129. Emphasis supplied.)

"The man Jesus Christ was not the Lord God Almighty, yet Christ and the Father are one. The Diety did not sink under the agonizing torture of Calvary, yet it is nonetheless true that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (Manuscript 140, 1903. Emphasis supplied)

God loves/does not love dishonest children

"God loves honest-hearted, truthful children, but cannot love those who are dishonest. . . . When you feel tempted to speak impatient and fretful, remember the Lord sees you, and will not love you if you do wrong." (An Appeal to the Youth, pp. 42,62. Letter to W.C. White. Willie was six years old at this time. Emphasis supplied)

"Do not teach your children that God does not love them when they do wrong; teach them that he loves them so that it grieves his tender Spirit to see them in transgression." (Signs of the Times, Feb. 15, 1892. Emphasis supplied.)

The plan of salvation was laid before/after the fall of man

"Sorrow filled heaven as it was realized that man was lost and that the world which God had created was to be filled with mortals doomed to misery, sickness, and death, and that there was no way of escape for the offender. The whole family of Adam must die. I then saw the lovely Jesus and beheld an expression of sympathy and sorrow upon His countenance. Soon I saw Him approach the exceeding bright light which enshrouded the Father. Said my accompanying angel, 'He is in close converse with His Father.' The anxiety of the angels seemed to be intense while Jesus was communing with His Father. Three times He was shut in by the glorious light about the Father, and the third time He came from the Father we could see His person. His countenance was calm, free from all perplexity and trouble, and shone with a loveliness which words cannot describe. He then made known to the angelic choir that a way of escape had been made for lost man; that He had been pleading with His Father, and had obtained permission to give His own life as a ransom for the race, to bear their sins, and take the sentence of death upon Himself, thus opening a way whereby they might, through the merits of His blood, find pardon for past transgressions, and by obedience be brought back to the garden from which they were driven." (Early Writings, p. 126. Emphasis supplied.)

According to the above statement, the plan of salvation was laid after the fall of man.

"Before the foundations of the world were laid, Christ, the Only Begotten of God, pledged Himself to become the Redeemer of the human race, should Adam sin." (Selected Messages, vol 1. p. 226. Emphasis supplied.)

According to this statement, the plan of salvation was laid before before the creation of this world.

"While Moses was shut in the mount with God, the plan of salvation, dating from the fall of Adam, was revealed to him in a most forcible manner." (Ibid, pp. 231-232. Emphasis supplied.)

According to this statement, the plan of redemption was laid after the fall of man.

"The words, "Mine hour is not yet come," point to the fact that every act of Christ's life on earth was in fulfillment of the plan that had existed from the days of eternity." (Desire of Ages, p. 147. Emphasis supplied.)

According to this statement, the plan of redemption was laid from the days of eternity. All these statements are confusing, to say the least.

Proper position during prayer

"I have received letters questioning me in regard to the proper attitude to be taken by a person offering prayer to the Sovereign of the universe. Where have our brethren obtained the idea that they should stand upon their feet when praying to God? One who has been educated for about five years in Battle Creek was asked to lead in prayer before Sister White should speak to the people. But as I beheld him standing upright upon his feet while his lips were about to open in prayer to God, my soul was stirred within me to give him an open rebuke. Calling him by name, I said, "Get down upon your knees." This is the proper position always." (Selected Messages, vol 2, p. 311. Emphasis supplied.)

"I have been present repeatedly at camp meetings and general conference sessions in whichSister White herself has offered prayer with the congregation standing, and she herself standing." (D. E. Robinson letter, March 4, 1934.) At this time, Dores E. Robinson belonged to the staff in the White Estate.

The Testimonies

"And when obliged to declare the messages, I would often soften them down, and make them appear as favorable for the individual as I could. . . .It was hard to relate the plain, cutting testimonies given me of God." (Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 73. Emphasis supplied.)

"I take back nothing. I soften nothing to suit their ideas or to excuse their defects of character." (Testimonies, vol 5, p. 19. Emphasis supplied.)


Phrenology was a "science", developed by the Austrian physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828.) It claimed that the human brain was organized into the same number of "organs" as there were propensities, emotions and abilities - which all were different from each other. According to Gall, this would be reflected in the shape of the cranium (head), and this in turn would give an impression of the relative development of the "organs" of the brain. The phrenologist would then be able to appraise the person's abilities, propensities etc., by touching and feeling the head and its "bumps" and "dumps".

This pseudo-science was very popular in the United States in the middle of the past century. One person who wrote about phrenology, but in a negative sense, was Ellen G. White,

"I have been shown that we must be guarded on every side and perseveringly resist theinsinuations and devices of Satan. . . .The sciences of phrenology, psychology, and mesmerism are the channel through which he comes more directly to this generation and works with that power which is to characterize his efforts near the close of probation. . . .Satan has come unperceived through these sciences and has poisoned the minds of thousands and led them to infidelity. . . .He works cures, and is worshiped by deceived mortals as a benefactor of our race.Phrenology and mesmerism are very much exalted. They are good in their place, but they are seized upon by Satan as his most powerful agents to deceive and destroy souls. . . .The world which is supposed to be benefited so much by phrenology and animal magnetism, never was so corrupt. Satan uses these very things to destroy virtue and lay the foundation of spiritualism. . . .Thousands, I was shown, have been spoiled through the philosophy of phrenology and animal magnetism, and have been driven into infidelity. If the mind commences to run in this channel, it is almost sure to lose its balance and be controlled by a demon." (Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 290,296-297 (1862). Emphasis supplied.) This was written in 1862.

The same admonishment was repeated two years later (Spiritual Gifts, vol 4, p. 80-87 (1864).)

This same year (1864) Ellen White warned against venturing on forbidden ground, in particular the children,

"As Satan sees that he is losing control over the minds of your children, he will strongly tempt them, and seek to bind them to continue to practice this bewitching vice. But with a firm purpose they must resist Satan's temptations to indulge the animal passions, because it is sin against God.They should not venture on forbidden ground, where Satan can claim control over them." (Appeal to Mothers, p. 22. Emphasis supplied.)

According to Ellen G. White's warnings from 1862, phrenology was one of Satan's most effective methods to destroy souls.

However, this did not hinder Ellen White in taking her two sons to be examined by a phrenologist in 1864 - just two years after her strong statements on phrenology, and the same year she wrote that children should not venture on forbidden ground. In other words, she herself had been venturing on forbidden ground with her two children, thus violating her own counsel. She herself had placed her children under "the science of Satan" - "the channel through which he comes more directly to this generation", the method which "lay the foundation of spiritualism." Here is the story:

In the autumn of 1864, James and Ellen White spent three weeks at Dr. James Caleb Jackson's institute "Our Home". After a few days their two sons Edson and Willie also arrived at the place. At that time they were 15 and 10 years old.

"Fascinating to Ellen White was the 'science' of phrenology, which Dr. Jackson practiced at five dollars a reading. Soon after the arrival of Edson and Willie she took them to the doctor for evaluations of their 'constitutional organization, functional activity, temperament, predisposition to disease, natural aptitudes for business, fitness for corintibial and maternal conditions, etc., etc.' Writing to friends, she could scarcely conceal her elation with Jackson's flattering analysis: 'I think Dr. Jackson gave an accurate account of the disposition and organization of our children. He pronounced Willie's head to be one of the best that has ever come under his observation. He gave a good description of Edson's character and peculiarities. I think this examination will be worth everything to Edson.' Presumably she was not so pleased with the doctor's diagnosis of her condition as hysteria." (Ronald L. Numbers, Prophetess of Health, pp. 90-91. Emphasis supplied.)

"Her flirtation with phrenology seems to have begun during that first, critical visit to Dansville in1864 when she took her two sons to Dr. Jackson for head readings and physical examinations. Only two years earlier she had denounced phrenology, along with psychology and mesmerism, as a tool of Satan. Although 'good in their place,' these sciences became in Satan's hands 'his most powerful agents to deceive and destroy souls.' In the years following her contacts with Dansville, however, phrenological allusions began appearing frequently in her writings. During her husband's extended illness, for instance, she complained that his 'large and active' bumps of 'cautiousness, conscientiousness, and benevolence,' all assets in time of health, were in sickness 'painfully excitable, and a hindrance to his recovery.' And in an 1869 testimony regarding a brother's inordinate love of money, she attributed his problem to satanic excitation of 'his organ of acquisitiveness.' (Ibid, pp. 148-149. Emphasis supplied.)

Had she forgotten all "I was shown" warnings from 1862?

When Dr. Ronald Numbers asked the White Estate for copies of letters to be used as documentation for his book Prophetess of Health, there were two letters Arthur White would not release. One of these letters dated from 1873, and described a vacation trip in the Rocky Mountains, where Ellen White and her family dined on deer-broth and wild ducks. In the other letter, Ellen White wrote about a phrenological examinations of her two sons, Edson and William. These letters (an perhaps scores of others), were somewhat embarassing for the madonna-image the Adventist denomination had been erecting through the years. The truth that the prophetess quite often went against her own counsels, visions and testimonies were to be kept secret from the SDA people.

Influenced by others

It has been claimed that Ellen White by no means was influenced by other persons. The truth is however, that she quite often was influenced by others to get convenient "visions" they needed to collect money, to start certain projects or to blackmail certain unwanted persons. A striking example of this kind of influence is the Kellogg-case and "pantheism". We have covered this case in a previous chapter. Ellen White allowed herself from time to time to be governed by other strong leaders - in particular her youngest son William Clarence, "Willie".

Ellen's husband James complained from time to time that his wife was being influenced by strong leaders, as the following letters tell,

"Elder Butler and Haskell have had an influence over her that I hope to see broken. It has nearly ruined her." (Letter, James White to D.M. Canright, May 24, 1881.)

"Brother Canright, you are right in doing all you can to help me and others. I see my errors more and more, and shall do all I can to help matters and things. The pressure has been terribly hard upon my poor wife. She has been impressed very much by Elders Butler and Haskell." (Letter, James White to D.M. Canright, July 13, 1881.) At that time, George Ide Butler was the president of the General Conference.

Testimonies on demand

In the booklet "The Claims of Mrs. Ellen G. White", published by the Norwich SDA-church, Conn. in 1890, it says that when Testimony No. 11 was to be published, and Ellen White was working on No. 12, she received a letter from the publishing house, informing her that the publishing of No. 11 would be postponed till she could make a testimony to "influence" the brethren - a testimony which could be inserted in No. 11. The leaders at Battle Creek were in need of money, and the brethren were somewhat sluggish to donate. She complied with their wishes, and the necessary "testimony" came. A "testimony" from "the Spirit of Prophecy" had been ordered in advance to "influence" the brethren to give money!

Ellen White's testimony and article in the Review during "the panteheistic crisis" is another example of questionable testimonies made up to suit the needs of crooked brethren - and there are other examples. Ellen White was indeed being influenced to quite an extent by strong brethren to write testimonies when there was a need, sometimes to "influence" brethren to support various projects with money; other times to condemn this or that.Of course she denied this when she learned of such charges.

In 1867 plans were laid to erect a sanitarium at Battle Creek, "The Health Reform Institute". J.N. Loughborough and other pioneers commenced this planning while James White was absent due to illness. But they needed money, so they went to Ellen White and ordered a "testimony" to "influence" the brethren to donate money to the project. The "testimony" was delivered in due time with several "I saw",

"Here, I was shown, was a worthy enterprise for God's people to engage in." (Testimonies, vol 1, p. 492. Emphasis supplied.)

The money came, and the first floor was on place when James White returned. He became exasperated because he hadn't been consulted, and he saw to that everything was teared down and rebuilt after his own plans - with a financial loss of some 11,000 dollars.

Then a problem arose. Ellen White had received a "testimony" in the first place, with a number of "I saw", and what happened next, put her in an embarassing position. James demanded a new "testimony" to be sent out, in which she claimed that the first testimony was somewhat "wrong", and that the next "testimony", which was written according to the demand of James, was right.

"All along Mrs. White was influenced in this way by her sons and by leading men in the denomination to write testimonies to individuals and churches. Both she and they tried to conceal the fact that her testimonies originated in this way. In later years, some, like Elder A.G. Daniells, president of their General Conference since 1901, when desiring a testimony from her against some one, would write to her son, W.C. White, and he would read their communications to his mother. Then, when asked if they had written to Mrs. White about the individuals concerned, they would deny it, which was technically true, but false altogether in fact and effect, for they had written to her through her son. To such unworthy subterfuges both she and they resorted to shield her in her work and defend her testimonies." (D.M. Canright, The Life of Mrs. Ellen G. White.

Who told her?

Several of Ellen White's testimonies were being written to individuals - often far away - in which she "discovers" and reproves their "sins and "mistakes". "Well", we may think, "how could Ellen White know of these things she had been writing about if God had not shown them to her?" Says Ellen White,

"God has been pleased to open to me the secrets of the inner life and the hidden sins of His people. The unpleasant duty has been laid upon me to reprove wrongs and to reveal hidden sins." (Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 314. Emphasis supplied.)

How could she know of the sins of others if God had not revealed them to her? Possibly the adventist pioneer H.E. Carver has something to say to that effect. He was associated with James and Ellen White in the 1860's and in his testimony he describes no less than four distinct cases where Ellen White wrote testimonies to individuals, based on information both he and others had provided her.

"At this point Eld. Cornell appeared amongst us, and attempted to settle the agitation produced by Bro. Everett's efforts against the visions. In prosecuting the case against Bro. E., Eld. Cornell manifested a most unkind, hasty, and unchristian spirit, which was a source of grief to the entire church, and which I took upon myself to communicate to Mrs. White. After having received this information from me, she published in the next 'Testimony' that she had been shown that Eld. Cornell had acted hastily in Bro. Everett's case." (H.E. Carver, Mrs. E.G. White's Claims to Divine Inspiration Examined. Emphasis supplied.)

"Such was my state of mind at the time of the organization of the church at Pilot Grove, Iowa, at which I was present and desired to become a member. But as I could not express a full belief in the inspiration of the visions of Mrs. White, it was thought best that I should not become a member at that time. . . .

"Deeply interested in the prosperity of the cause I had espoused, I communicated all the facts in the case to Eld. White and wife, and expected from them instructions or advice as to my case; but nothing was received until the next vision was published, wherein she says she saw that a wrong use was being made of her visions in Iowa. Here, then, were two instances in which she claimed to see in vision things that I had communicated to her myself." (Ibid., Emphasis supplied.)

"During a visit to our church, Eld. White and wife spent a portion of their time in the family of a brother with whom I was intimately connected, and there witnessed some of his peculiarities of demeanor, and which she afterwards wrote to him as having seen them in vision, but which in fact were apparent to any one who happened to spend a few hours in the household, and of which we" were all aware from our own observation." (Ibid., Emphasis supplied.)

"The fourth and last case concerning individuals which has come under my personal observation or knowledge, and which involves the inspiration of a vision, is that of two members of the Pilot Grove church, the nature of which it is not necessary to mention. This case produced a great commotion and trial in the church, which was not quieted until a vision was received from Mrs. White, in which she saw that the brother involved in the case, and who had been dismissed from the church, should resume his place in it. This brother, in kindly attempting afterwards to win me back to my allegiance to Eld. and Mrs. White, referred to his own case as a remarkable and indisputable evidence of the divine inspiration of the visions; for, said he, "she saw my case in vision." I told him I thought Mrs. White knew of the case before she had the vision. This he denied. I then told him that the other party implicated with him had positively asserted in the presence of my family that Mrs. White did know all about it, for the entire case had been written out and sent to her." (Ibid., Emphasis supplied.)

Ellen White got information from others. That should be perfectly clear. On the basis of this information, she wrote personal "testimonies" in which she claimed to have seen his/her case in a "vision." Most problably these were not the only cases when Ellen White was being informed in advance about individuals. Such information served as basis for reproving "I saw"-testimonies. What she saw, however, was not what God had shown her in "visions", but rather what other people had informed her.

Of course, Ellen White denied this,

"In some cases it has been represented that in giving a testimony for churches or individuals I have been influenced to write as I did by letters received from members of the church. There have been those who claimed that testimonies purporting to be given by the Spirit of God were merely the expression of my own judgment, based upon information gathered from human sources. This statement is utterly false." (Testimonies, vol 5, p. 683. Emphasis supplied.)

The following quote is a bit stronger,

"Some are ready to inquire: Who told Sister White these things? They have even put the question to me: Did anyone tell you these things? I could answer them: Yes; yes, the angel of God has spoken to me. . . .For the future, I shall not belittle the testimonies that God has given me, to make explanations to try to satisfy such narrow minds, but shall treat all such questions as an insult to the Spirit of God." (Testimonies, vol. 3, pp. 314-315. Emphasis supplied.)

These are very strong words. According to Ellen White, those who ask, "Who told you these things," insult the Spirit of God!

There are numerous examples which show clearly that someone had been informing Ellen White certain details about individuals and other things - the Kellogg-case, the Salamanca vision, personal testimonies and letters, etc. There were testimonies which were spurious, which had been based on information given to her by others, and not by heavenly revelations. There were numerous people who had been receiving "heavenly" testimonies from Ellen White, reproving them for things they most definitely were not guilty of. In such cases it is quite naturally that the reproved individual asks some pertinent questions about a "heavenly testimony"of that sort - a blatant lie - but in doing this, they insulted the Spirit of God, according to Ellen White. This statement by the adventist prophetess is very precarious, to say the least. Her habit of resorting to lies to save herself out of the embarassing situations such false testimonies had caused, is also very questionable. It is a matter of fact that she was very sensitive when her own reputation as God's true prophet was at stake. In such situations the end justified the means in order to silence individuals, who by their own unpleasant experience with the adventist prophetess were obliged to ask certain testing questions about her "visions and heavenly call".

We have already mentioned that she had been sending Dr. John Harvey Kellogg a false, reproving testimony regarding some buildings in Chicago, buildings which did not exist. This was pure and simple a false vision, based on a sensational newspaper report.

In a long letter to Ellen White, A.T. Jones says that she did often send out testimonies containing false accusations. These false testimonies were often published prior to the individuals in question having received them - and sometimes they never received them at all. The case was unknown to them until they saw their names and the false accusations publicly on print.

There were some grave cases that should have been revealed to Ellen White if she indeed received revelations from heaven, but which were unknown to her until the case became generally known. And then she wrote testimonies with some "explanation" why God did not reveal the case to her. The Nathan Fuller case was a typical example,

"Look at another case - that of Elder Nathan Fuller. Elder Fuller was a man of commanding appearance, large abilities, and was highly esteemed by the Advent people. There was a large church at Niles Hills, Pa. He lived near there, and for years had the oversight of this church. About 1869 or 1870 Elder White and his wife visited this church and stayed at the home of Mr. Fuller. Elder White publicly praised Fuller as a godly man of much ability. Only a few days later, by the confession of a conscience-stricken sister in that church, it came out that for years Fuller had been practicing adultery with five or six of the women in the church. All of them confessed, and Fuller had to own it himself. The community came near mobbing him. The whole denomination felt the shock and shame of it. But it hit Mrs. White the worst of all. She had been right there for days in Fuller's home, in meetings with him, had met all these women, yet knew nothing of all this rottenness. A little later I went there and held meetings for two weeks, met all these people, and learned the whole shameful story. This case exposed the falsity of Mrs. White's claim that God revealed to her the 'hidden sins' of his people. What could she say? As usual, after it was all common knowledge, she had a testimony telling all about it. it is printed in 'Testimonies for the Church,' Vol. II., pp. 449-454. She says: 'The case of N. Fuller has caused me much grief and anguish of spirit.' Yes, well it might, as it so forcibly exposed her own failure. To excuse herself, she says: 'I believe that God designed that this case of hypocrisy and villainy should be brought to light in the manner it has been.'" (D.M. Canright, The Life of Mrs. E.G. White.)

In Canright's book, Uriah Smith mentions several examples of a similar nature. A leading preacher had seduced a number of women in several churches, and Ellen White had attended meetings where this particular preacher was present. In spite of that, she knew nothing about the case until it had been generally known (no one had told her!)

Another leading minister had commited adultery for a longer period of time. Neither in this case Ellen White knew about it until the case had been generally known. And then she wrote a testimony, The Sin of Licentiousness.

Pastor E.P. Daniels once received a sharp testimony from Ellen White. Unfortunately it showed up that she had reproved the wrong man! She had been informed beforehand about the case, but the individual who informed her had mixed up the names. This blunder from the informant caused the wrong man to be reproved, in spite of the "testimony" being "inspired from a heavenly angel". During her ministry, Ellen White's ears were always open to pick up reports about others - reports which could serve as basis for reproving "testimonies", but from time to time things went wrong. E.P. Daniels was shaken by the episode, and nearly left the ministry.

Some years before Ellen White's death, immorality was running rampant at one of the publishing houses to the degree that it began to come into disrepute. After the cases were discovered, some twenty persons were dismissed for adultery, among them several faithful church-goers and tithe-payers. Ellen White didn't know about all this.

Apparently she was quite helpless when no one told her, orally or by letter, about the sins of others. In spite of this, Ellen White denied this to protect her own image in the SDA-church as "God's true Prophet".

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