The Salamanca Experience: Confirmation of Ellen White's Prophetic Powers?

by Calvin Edwards, Adventist Currents, Sept, 1986

Introduction, by Doug Hackleman

Over the past half century many Adventists have written letters to Arthur White inquiring about some particular aspect of his grandmother's life and work. On 9 August 1982 I joined that group by requesting from him documentation regarding his version of the widely published Salamanca vision story. It is one of many stories in which God is supposed to have revealed an event to Ellen White before it took place, so that through these precognitions she could spare the cause from various disasters.

When I first read the Salamanca vision story as told by Arthur White in his "Notes and Papers" (published as an appendix to T. Housel Jemison's "A Prophet Among You"), I noticed something unusual: This story of foreknowledge, unlike so many of the others, apparently could be documented (White cited a particular date in his grandmother's diary, four months preceding the event, that seemed capable of establishing her prescience).

At the time I wrote to Arthur White, I had no reputation with the White Estate as a gadfly - Adventist Currents was little more than a daydream. The diary entry cited by White as coinciding with the vision was 3 November 1890, and the event allegedly foreseen took place four months later on 8 March 1891. Further, he had written that "in the days that followed [3 Nov 1890] she recorded in her journal" what she was shown in Salamanca, New York, on that date. I asked White if he would send a photocopy of Mrs. White's handwritten diary (covering the dates from 3 November 1890 to 8 March 1891) to the Loma Linda University Library Heritage Room for deposit with the Ellen White source materials there.

I never heard from brother White, but soon discovered that the letter had triggered considerable activity at the White Estate. At the time of this unanswered request I was planning a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the first national congress of the Association of Adventist Forums. Knowing that I would be in Takoma Park, I booked my flight a day early, reserving a few hours to visit the White Estate offices and, I hoped, to examine the Salamanca vision portion of the Ellen White diary.

Not wanting to be presumptuous or to leave too much to chance, I phoned the White Estate offices a few days before my flight to make certain that there would not be a problem in being a patron of the Estate on the day I planned to arrive. Was I naive!

Tim Poirer, then the most recent addition to the White Estate staff, took my call; and when I described for him my plans he said that the diary might not be there when I arrived. I expressed bafflement, and he explained that some of the men were examining the diary and might have taken it home. Intending a question, I said that surely they would remove from the building only a photocopy, not an original autograph. But he indicated reluctantly that I might be mistaken.

Despite Poirer's discouraging news, I took a chance and flew to Washington a day early and walked into the White Estate on Thursday, 2 September 1982. I was met by Ronald Graybill, then an assistant secretary, who immediately informed me that I would not be allowed to look at the diary. He explained that he had just completed a nineteen-page paper on the subject of the Salamanca vision problem, that the brethren were editing it, and that in a few weeks it would appear in the Adventist Review.

Graybill could not be moved by my reminding him that when audiences around the country ask him and Robert Olson whether there is anything that they would not be allowed to see at the White Estate, they unfailingly answer that church members can come in and read anything - even the "Z" file.

We discussed the Salamanca vision document problems. Graybill said that at first he had believed there were very serious problems; but that after close scrutiny it appeared to be an embarrassment primarily to Arthur White, because, Graybill explained, unlike Arthur, Ellen White had never tried to use the vision to prove her foreknowledge.

At that point I had to disagree with Graybill and quoted to him from manuscript 59, 1905. There Mrs. White, after retelling the Salamanca vision story herself, concluded with the assertion that "on this occasion the excuse could not possibly be used, 'Somebody has told her'."

Graybill responded saying, "Well, she doesn't say, 'if you don't believe me come look at my diary'." But Graybill knew that she wouldn't really have wanted anyone to do that, because he had seen the diary.

Since this incident, a few individuals outside of the White Estate have examined the Salamanca vision portion of the Ellen White diary, but, to my knowledge, only in photocopy form. The individual who has made the most extensive scrutiny of the available materials is former Andrews University Seminary graduate student and one-time Good News Unlimited president Calvin W. Edwards, who now serves as director of publications at Walk Thru the Bible Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Edwards effort to acquire a thorough understanding of the Salamanca vision documentation problems took him back to Andrews University, to White Estate headquarters in Washington, D.C., and to the Loma Linda University Library Heritage Room. Publication of Edwards' findings became necessary when the Adventist Review did not publish Graybill's study of the problem. And publication became particularly urgent when the 15 May 1986 Review emerged with its cover story by Roland Hegstad about the Salamanca vision, "Liberty Learns a Lesson," indicating that Hegstad had not learned the lessons taught through the past decade of Ellen White scholarship.

Currents appreciation to Calvin Edwards for the time and astute effort involved in preparing the following analysis will become understandable as readers tackle his intricate and penetrating exegesis.

The Salamanca Experience

Prophets do not need to have foreknowledge; but it certainly helps. Ellen White's writings are far from filled with predictive elements, and when they do occur - such as in the closing chapters of The Great Controversy - they are not so directly predictive as interpretations of biblical prophecies she views as yet unfulfilled. But occasionally she ventures a prediction, or claims to have knowledge of an event prior to its occurrence. These merit our special attention since, if accurate and verifiable, they constitute impressive evidence of unique prophetic powers that go beyond the talents, insights, and intuitions of other church members.

The Salamanca experience is just such a case.1 Briefly, the story goes like this: while at Salamanca, New York, on Monday evening, November 3, 1890, Ellen White had an experience of physical and spiritual renewal which, she claimed, included a revelation from God. She could not relate the substance of the "vision" though, according to Arthur White (who cites A.T. Robinson), she tried to recount it on several occasions. Early on Sunday morning, March 8, 1891, she was awakened by an angel and instructed to write out the things revealed at Salamanca back in November 1890. She did this, and turned up at the early morning General Conference meeting to present her revelation, only to discover that what she had received four months earlier was a precise description of a meeting held during the night just past!

The story certainly is impressive and deserves our careful attention. It has provided significant apologetic value, first to Ellen White herself, and later to those concerned to preserve her stature and credibility in the church. Arthur White's recent biography of Ellen White emphasizes this point in connection with his retelling of the story: "The experience provided unimpeachable evidence to not a few who, during the past two years, had entertained serious questions concerning the reliability and integrity of the Spirit of Prophecy [Ellen White]. Coming as it did at the very opening of the conference session, it stabilized the work and put to rest those questioning elements that can be so devastating."2

But, if Ellen White apologists are to continue using this story to bolster the conviction that Ellen White possessed unique prophetic powers, several basic claims regarding this episode must be demonstrated - or at least they must be subject to a reasonable level of verification. These claims include the following:

  1. Ellen White had a revelation from God on November 3, 1890, in Salamanca, New York

  2. This revelation depicted a meeting which had not yet occurred but which would take place on March 7, 1891.

  3. The Lord, or an angelic visitor on His behalf, brought the information of the "vision" of November 3 to her mind early on the morning of March 8, 1891. Since all witnesses to these events are deceased and we are therefore dependent upon written accounts, diaries, recollections, etc., a fourth claim is critical to the validity of the story:

  4. The primary (and, one hopes, secondary) documents providing the facts of these incidents are trustworthy and reliable.

If any of these basic components in the story is untrue, or subject to a reasonable level of doubt, the usefulness of the story to verify Ellen White's prophetic powers is greatly diminished. Other items in the story, such as her supposed attempts to recount the "vision" on at least five occasions,3 are not central and one may assume or not assume these to be true with little consequence. However, the heart of the story must be demonstrably true for the episode to be persuasive.

Of course, the frustrating thing about the Salamanca incident is that Ellen White did not in fact come forward with the story of the meeting *before* it occurred. She came forward *after* it occurred claiming she knew of it before it occurred. However, the apologetic value of the story is largely preserved if there is documentary evidence in her diary or some other manuscript that she knew of the meeting before its occurrence. The major portion of this article addresses the integrity of the documentation.

The March 8, 1891, Disclosure

We shall review the events of March 7 and 8, 1891, more closely, and then turn to the documents that provide historical support for various components of the story, scrutinizing particularly the event of November 3, 1890, which supposedly revealed to the prophetess the meeting of March 7, 1891.

On the first Sabbath evening of the General Conference session, March 7, 1891, an important closed-door meeting was held in the chapel at the office of the Review and Herald Publishing Association in Battle Creek, Michigan. For the thirty or forty persons in attendance the subject of discussion was the editorial policy of The American Sentinel, the denomination's religious liberty periodical. Dan T. Jones, president of the National Religious Liberty Association, chaired the meeting. A participant in the meeting later reflected:

"He [Dan Jones] stated in a strong way that the Association could not continue to use the American Sentinel as the organ of the Association, unless it would modify its attitude toward some of what was termed the more objectionable features of our denominational views. Eld.
A.T. Jones, editor of the sentinel as strongly stated that as long as he had anything to do with the editorship of the paper, there would be no such change as suggested. The meeting assumed the form of very warm discussion between those who took opposite sides of the question."4

Albion F. Ballenger joined with Dan Jones, Captain Eldridge, and undoubtedly others, in stressing the need to downplay the unique doctrines of Adventism in the Sentinel.5 Probably the largest area of debate was over whether the Sabbath should be referred to explicitly in the magazine.

Earlier that afternoon, after addressing a very large meeting of the General Conference, Ellen White had assured Elder O. A. Olsen, President of the General Conference, that she would not attend the 5:30am meeting for ministers on Sunday morning. However, on Sunday, March 8, just after Elder Olsen had opened the meeting in the south vestry of the Battle Creek Tabernacle, Mrs. White, accompanied by her son Willie, entered the room. When asked whether she wished to address the assembled ministers she stated that she did.

She then proceeded to explain that she had been awakened during the night by an angelic visitor who instructed her to "write out the vision given her"6 at Salamanca, New York, some four months earlier. She then read from a manuscript she had brought to the meeting stating that at Salamanca she had been shown a harsh, unchristian meeting where the Sentinel was being discussed. She explained that she had seen one man hold up the paper and point out certain articles which were unsuitable, in his thinking, because the magazine was going to members of Congress, lawyers, and persons in high positions.

Her discourse lasted almost an hour. When she sat down there was stunned silence. Albion F. Ballenger was one of the first to rise to his feet. He stated something to the effect that "Sister White has described a meeting that some of [us] attended, as accurately as could anyone who was present...I was the one who held up a copy of the Sentinel, and pointed out the articles that should be left out. The meeting was held in the Review office chapel last evening."7 As he did this he took a copy of the most recent Sentinel from his pocket, unfolded it, held it up, and pointed to an article in the middle of the front page. He affirmed that that particular article on the Sabbath had been pointed out by him the previous evening as being unsuitable for some readers because it would prejudice them.8 He declared: "I am sorry to say that I was on the wrong side; but I take this opportunity to place myself on the right side."9 Others followed with similar confessions.

The decision of the night before, that the National Religious Liberty Association would terminate its use of the Sentinel unless its editorial policy changed, was reversed later that morning. The testimony of Ellen White propelled the church forward with its distinctive doctrines prominently featured in its religious liberty paper.10

It reads like a true success story of God's miraculous intervention to prevent a wrong course of action, intervention through His chosen messenger who courageously bears an unpopular testimony and an unlikely story - yet who is graciously received, believed, and obeyed for the betterment of the church and to the glory of God.

Ellen White's Version

[The setting for this manuscript was the trial of Albion Fox Ballenger. Ballenger had been sent to the 1905 General Conference session by the British Union because of his heretical view that Christ entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary following His resurrection and ascension. Ellen White did not attend his trial, but she wrote the following manuscript which presumably guided the church leaders in their decision.]

Takoma Park, Maryland, Sabbath, May 20, 1905

I am not able to sleep past one o'clock. I was aroused to write out some things that have been impressed on my mind. Not long ago I met Elder Ballenger in the hall of the building in which we have rooms. As I spoke to him, it came vividly to my mind that this was the man whom I had seen in an assembly bringing before those present certain subjects, and placing upon passages in the Word of God a construction that could not be maintained as truth. He was gathering together a mass of scriptures such as would confuse minds because of his assertions and his misapplication of these scriptures, for the application was misleading and had not the bearing upon the subject at all which he claimed justified his position. Anyone can do this, and will follow his example to testify to a false position; but it was his own.

I said to him, You are the one whom the Lord presented before me in Salamanca, as standing with a party who were urging that if the Sabbath truth were left out of the Sentinel, the circulation of that paper would be largely increased. You were the one that wept and confessed your mistakes, and we had the power of the Holy Spirit in that early morning meeting.

I had been very sick [at Salamanca] and yet tried to speak to the people, and the Lord had strengthened me greatly, I had no knowledge of my words. The Lord spoke indeed through me. After I had given my last talk, my sufferings were so severe as to become almost unendurable.

A list of appointments had been sent out for me to fill on my way from Salamanca to Battle Creek. It seemed impossible for me to fill these appointments. I went to my room and bowed in prayer. I had not been able to utter a word of prayer before the room was lighted up with the glory of God and scenes passed before me. I saw an assembly in a room in Battle Creek, and one standing up held up the Sentinel and said, "The Sabbath question must be cut out of this paper; then the circulation will be largely increased and the truth will come before thousands."

One of authority came forward and said solemnly, "Bind up the testimony and seal the law among my disciples." Then came the reproof, decided, firm, and cutting: "The Sabbath truth is to be proclaimed. It is the truth for these last days." The words found in Exodus 31:12-18 were repeated with great solemnity.

I cannot now repeat all the things connected with the meeting, but I know that the steps which had been anticipated were not taken. The working of the Spirit of God was in that meeting.

That night was a most solemn one for me. There came to my mind the truth that we have been proclaiming since the passing of the time in 1844, when the message came to us regarding the mistake we were making in keeping the first day of the week. We had Bible evidence and the testimony of the Spirit of the Lord that we were keeping a day that bore no sanctity, and that in so doing we were transgressing the law of God. This message we have borne ever since; and I solemnly asked, Are our people not to cut out the Sabbath message from the Sentinel and heed the advice and counsel of worldly men, keeping the Sentinel from carrying this most important truth to the world?

I could not sleep much that night. The next morning we started for Washington. I was taken very ill, and it was thought best for Sara and me to return to Battle Creek and not attend the meetings that were laid out for me on my journey.

When I arrived at Battle Creek, I learned that our leading brethren had asked the Lord in prayer to send me direct to Battle Creek. Meetings were being held in the various rooms of the Tabernacle. One morning I was awakened before daylight. It was if a voice spoke to me, Attend the morning meeting.

I arose and dressed, and walked across the road to the meeting. As I went into the room, the brethren were in prayer. I united my prayer with those of the rest, praying with great earnestness. The Spirit of the Lord was in the meeting and my soul was deeply stirred. After the season of prayer, I arose to speak and bore a decided testimony with the Spirit and power of God, relating my experience in Salamanca and telling them what the Lord had revealed to me in the vision of the night.

After I had borne a decided testimony, Brother Ballenger arose, all broken-hearted and weeping, and said, "I receive this testimony as from the Lord. I was in the meeting last night, and I was on the wrong side."

What was my surprise to learn that the light I had in Salamanca was given me some time before this meeting was held. The Lord had prepared the way for me to return to Battle Creek and bear my message in the early morning meeting, directly after the evening meeting. I had been shown that steps would be taken to have the Sentinel no longer speak boldly upon the question of the true Sabbath of the Lord. The circumstances were such that on this occasion the excuse could not possible be used, "Somebody has told her." No one had an opportunity to see me or speak with me between the evening meeting and the morning meeting that I attended.*

I bore the message that the Lord gave me, and some made confession with broken hearts and contrite spirits. - Ms. 59, 1905, pp. 1-4.


* Ellen White's position is very clear. She believed that God supernaturally led in this experience because the details of the secret midnight meeting were revealed to her before it took place, and because she was able to relate that information publicly before anyone had opportunity to tell her about it. She made no point of the time when she recorded these details in her diary. [Editorial note by Robert W. Olson, from "The Salamanca Vision and the 1890 Diary;" compiled by Robert W. Olson, Ellen G. White Estate, Washington, D.C., 1983.]

White's Pre-Disclosure References

Let us now examine the primary documents in which Ellen White refers to the Salamanca experience, to ascertain the validity of the fundamental facts of the story.

Robert Olson, Secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate, Washington, D.C., has done a masterful job of compiling sixteen possible references in Ellen White's own writings (see Tables 1, 2, and 3). His work is thorough and mostly very objective. He also provides extensive transcripts of adjacent diary entries, plus photocopies of the handwritten originals of many of the pertinent documents (a true rarity for the White Estate!). These are reviewed here in chronological sequence; and for the reader's convenience, footnotes provide original references and the location in Olson's compilation (available from the White Estate).

  1. Ellen White kept a daily diary in which she recorded the events of the day, comments on her health, attendance at meetings, the state of her accommodations, etc., and some occasional reflections and spiritual lessons she had gleaned in the course of the day. The entry for November 3, 1890, mentions nothing of a vision or revelation from the Lord. However, the November 4, 1890, entry makes an oblique reference to an event the previous evening. The entry probably was made en route from Salamanca to Sands (Stanley), Virginia, and reads: "We [Ellen White, Willie White, and Sara McEnterfer, Ellen's secretary and traveling companion] were at last seated in the cars and were thankful to be moving. Oh, praise the Lord, I longed to be where I could write out the things that were opened to me the past night. It was the Lord." 11 The entry comes to an abrupt end and is followed by another headed by "Sands, Virginea [sic]."

  2. On Sabbath, November 8, 1890, Ellen White addressed an 8:30am meeting at Sands, Virginia. Her diary entry for that day makes a very brief reference to the Salamanca experience: "I sought to revive their [those attending the morning meeting] faith by relating my experience in Salamanca. Hearts seemed to be touched." 12 No details of the nature of the "experience" are recorded; it may refer to her "vision," or possibly only to the renewal of strength she realized in the midst of sickness at Salamanca.13

  3. Around November 14, 1890, Ellen White wrote a letter to Albert Harris from Brooklyn, New York, briefly describing her travel thus far. For the first time she provides a little insight into the nature of what actually happened on the evening of November 3, 1890. "Here [Salamanca] I spoke three times to the people, my head still afflicted. When almost discouraged thinking I must give up my future appointments, when as I knelt to pray, suddenly the glory of the Lord shone around about me. The whole room seemed to be filled with the presence of God. I was happy, so happy, I did not sleep scarcely any of that night because of gladness of heart and peace and comfort from the Lord which passeth knowledge. I said nothing more about returning home [to Battle Creek], but went to the depot in a snow storm [to continue on to Sands, Virginia]." 14 Again, there is no indication of propositional revelation occurring at Salamanca, and certainly no hint of the content of any such revelation.

  4. The fourth reference listed by Olson as a "possible" one makes no reference to Salamanca whatsoever. It is the diary entry for November 25, 1890, from Brooklyn, New York, and is introduced with: "During the night I have been in communion with God." 15 She goes on to complain of the politics, vanity, and selfishness of leaders in the councils at Battle Creek and to warn of the perils that will follow if these men are not sanctified. She does claim that "the past, present, and future, were plainly revealed to me";16 but her insights seem to be gleaned in the night of November 24-25, not November 3 at Salamanca. Olson gives no explanation for why he lists this as a potential reference to Salamanca (see Item 12).

  5. The next "possible" reference also does not mention Salamanca. The portion that closely parallels Ellen White's later description of what she claimed to see at Salamanca reads as follows:
    "The people of the world will try to induce us to soften our message, to suppress one of its more distinctive features. They say: "Why do you in your teaching make the seventh-day Sabbath so prominent? This seems to be always thrust before us; we should harmonize with you if you would not say so much on this point; keep the seventh-day Sabbath out of the Sentinel, and we will give it our influence and support." And there has been a disposition on the part of some of our workers to adopt this policy. "I am bidden to warn you that deceptive sentiments are entertained, a false modesty and caution, a disposition to withhold the profession of our faith. In the night season, matters have been presented before me that have greatly troubled my mind. I have seemed to be in meetings for counsel where these subjects were discussed, and written documents were presented, advocating concession. Brethren, shall we permit the world to shape the message that God has given us to bear to them? So then as well might the patient prescribe the remedies that are to be used for his cure.
    "Shall we, for the sake of policy, betray a sacred trust? If the world is in error and delusion, breaking the law of God, is it not our duty to show them their sin and danger? We must proclaim the third angel's message."17

    This passage cannot be viewed as evidence that a divine revelation was provided at Salamanca to Ellen White to give her knowledge of a meeting that had not yet occurred.

    Olson's inclusion of this document in his list of "possible" references to Salamanca is based on its similarity to her *later* references to Salamanca.18 There is no intrinsic, internal evidence to link it to Salamanca at all. This is what has come to be known as Manuscript 16, 1890, written from Lynn, Massachusetts, and is dated to approximately December 4, 1890. This writer is not aware of how this date is established. The question arises: If this manuscript was written on or around December 4, 1890, how might this knowledge of a desire to downplay the Sabbath in the Sentinel have come to Ellen White?

    Her claim is that matters were presented to her in the night season. Of course this may well be true, but it is not verifiable. Nor does she explain who presented the matters to her. There was ample possibility for communication between Battle Creek and the itinerant prophetess. Willie had left for battle Creek on November 12 and had rejoined his mother by November 24. He had been recalled urgently by Elder Olson, the General Conference president.19 Also, Brother Chadwick from Battle Creek, was with Ellen White on her journey until November 24.20 And Ellen White wrote and received many letters during her travels. A variety of church leaders were lobbying with both Ellen White and her son by letter and in person. It is perfectly reasonable to suppose that the presentation she received in the night seasons was not unrelated to material she was receiving directly from Battle Creek by human sources. This is especially true because the Sentinel editors, the Religious Liberty Association, and the Sentinel's publishers at the Pacific Press, had been quarreling over the matter for some time.

  6. On January 9, 1891, Ellen White wrote a manuscript after returning to Battle Creek, reflecting on her nearly three months of travels and preaching. She recalls the successes and the fact that she spoke fifty-five times, and then comments:
    "On one occasion I was much perplexed to know and to understand my duty. I had painful gatherings in my ear that with severe colds made it hard for me. At Salamanca, New York, I was severely afflicted and thought I must return home. I went to my chamber and bowed before God, and before I had even asked, the Lord heard, and revealed Himself; the room seemed to be full of the light and presence of God. I was lifted out of all my discouragements, and was made free and happy. I could not sleep but I praised God with heart and voice. This blessing was just what I needed. Courage and faith and hope were again in lively exercise, and I went on my way rejoicing." 21

    There is no recollection of propositional revelation, or insights relating to a meeting, the Sentinel, editorial policy, etc. In this description as with Item 3 above, the experience seems one of physical and spiritual healing.

TABLE 1 [Probably written before March 8, 1891]
Item No. Date Source Reference to Salamanca
 1 Nov. 4, 1890 Diary 16, p.290 Things were opened to her.
 2 Nov. 8, 1890 Diary 16, p.294 She told the experience to an audience in Sands, Virginia.
 3 Nov. 14, 1890 Circa, Letter 72a, 1890 Encouragement, peace, and comfort brought as the glory of the Lord filled her room.
 4 Nov. 25, 1890 Diary 16, pp. 336-338 None.
 5 Nov. 4, 1890 Circa, MS 16, 1890 None.
 6 Jan. 8, 1891 MS 2, 1891 She was lifted from her discouragement and made free, happy, and hopeful as the Lord filled her room with his presence.

This concludes our survey of the references to the Salamanca experiences, which were probably written before the March 8, 1891, presentation by Ellen White to the Sunday morning General Conference ministers' meeting. Table 1 summarizes our findings. What stands out is that there is no clear evidence that up until her March 8, 1891, presentation, Ellen White ever associated her Salamanca experience with the revelation of information about a March 7, 1891, meeting, the Sentinel, editorial policy, or de-emphasizing Adventist distinctives. In fact it is not by any means clear that God revealed anything to her at Salamanca. If he did in fact do so, she certainly never hinted, at this point, at what was revealed.

White's References of Indeterminable Date

The next four references to Salamanca are impossible to date precisely. They are typically dated prior to her March 8, 1891, presentation. If the dating could be proven, it would help establish the case for her prophetic powers.

7. This item is located in Diary 16, 1890, on page 289. It follows the entry for November 3, 1890, but precedes the November 4 entry (see Item 1). However, the language and context indicate that it does not belong with either of these entries but it is a later insertion back into this section of her diary. It reads:

"Weary in body and in much discomfort and pain, I went to my chamber, my sleeping room. I had painful feelings and thought I would be compelled to return to Battle Creek. The season of the year was unfavorable, the weather changeable, and the [rail] cars uncomfortably heated. This prepared us to contract colds, and it seemed presumptuous to attempt to journey from state to state.
"I knelt by my chair to pray, feeling disheartened in reference to my journeying. Many appointments were before me. I had not uttered a word when the whole room seemed filled with a soft, silvery light, and my pain and disappointment and discouragement were removed. I was filled with comfort and hope and the peace of Christ. "My peace will I give unto you." I knew it was upon me. The presence of Jesus was in the room.
Genesis 28:12-15. I could better understand the meaning of these words:
"And Jacob...said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but [sic] the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
And he was in a desolate wilderness.
"Indeed heaven seemed very near to me, and my heart was filled with joy and gladness. I had no inclination to sleep. I wanted to feast upon the heavenly manna, that bread of life that if we eat thereof we shall live forever. What a night that was to my soul! Every breath was prayer mingled with praise to God." 22

There is a sudden jump in thought from the November 3 entry which described the predicament of Sister Bowen whose husband burned every religious book or paper in her possession,23 to this description of the refreshing Salamanca experience.24 And there is an equally sudden jump at the end of this page to the entry for November 4.25 Olson rightly points out that the statement, "The season of the year was unfavorable," points back to a substantially earlier period.26 If the season at the time of writing was significantly better than early November, it may well have been written some time after March 8, 1891. But this is only conjecture. The entire passage is written in the past tense and nothing in it suggest the events described had just occurred. She says, "I had no inclination to sleep," a phrase which would have been written in the present tense if this description were an immediate response written late in the evening of November 3 as the diary itself suggests. Likewise, her reflection, "What a night that was to my soul!" could hardly have been written on either November 3 or 4. In a refreshing moment of candor and insight for the White Estate, Olson admits that, "from internal evidence it appears that the lines quoted here were probably written some weeks or even months later [than the Salamanca experience].27

The bottom of this diary page has a note saying, "Look at the last part of the book headed Salamanca important matter." Pages 450-517 present a long account of what has been believed to be the Salamanca experience, though the passage does not carry the title "Salamanca" (see Items 9 and 10 below). It would be helpful if it could be determined whether this note, which is in her hand, was written at the same time as the rest of this passage following the November 3 diary entry. For if it were, it would date this passage at a date equal to or later than that of pages 450-517. An analysis of the original ink might throw light on this inquiry.

This undatable reference is similar to Items 3 and 6 above, and contains no mention of a meeting, the Sentinel, editorial policy, or de-emphasizing Adventist distinctives.

8. There is yet another passage written on the lower portion of diary entries for other days. This one occurs below entries for November 20, 21, and 22, 1890, and spans six pages (Ellen White often allowed two pages for each day's entry). Clearly it was not written on these dates because in the passage she refers to "the facilities here in Battle Creek";28 and she was in Brooklyn, New York, from November 13-25. She did not return to Battle Creek until December 30, 1890; so undoubtedly the entry beneath these days (if made at one time) was made after that date. There is no way to identify or suggest a definitive date for this passage. Olson notes these facts but Arthur White, with less attention to the text of the passage, simple suggests it was written at Brooklyn, New York, in the days immediately following her visit to Salamanca.29

Despite the fact that the entry is introduced with the words, "Nov 21 During the night season,"30 its date of authorship must be later. Olson, who has access to the original diary, advises us that there is a change in ink color following this phrase and suggests that after penning these words she left the rest of the page blank to be filled in at a later time. This she apparently did after her return to Battle Creek on December 30, 1890. Olson also correctly points out that there appear to be descriptions of two divine nocturnal teaching sessions, not one - so possibly each of these occurred at a different time.

The writing on these six pages falls into six portions, which we can represent as follows:

  • SECTION A: "Brooklyn, N. York City, N.Y., Nov. 20, Thursday. I spoke in the evening at five o'clock and the Lord gave me great freedom before the people. I felt my weakness and I am pleading with God for him to restore me and I believe that he will do it. I am reaching out for stronger faith" (p. 321 of diary). 31

  • SECTION B: Beginning, "Nov. 21, during the night seasons I have had special exercises of the Spirit of the Lord..." (p. 321). This section is an admonition to Ellen White herself by her "Guide" who instructs her to bear the messages that God gives to her despite the reluctance of those who receive them to accept her testimonies. Despite the adverse circumstances, she is to do her part and leave the rest to God.

  • SECTION C: "November 21, Friday 1890. I think not [sic] best to attend morning meetings. I am urged by the Spirit of the Lord to write important matters in reference to the work of God for this time and the necessity of the churches reaching a higher standard" (p. 323).

  • SECTION D: Beginning, "God will have the pure Gospel preached to his people. Selfishness will appear in many ways..." (p. 323). This section describes the lack of dependence upon God in the management of the publishing house at Battle Creek. Prayer and self-sacrifice are missing as excessive expenditures are made. There is a danger lest the lack of piety and the worldly policies that have been adopted lead the institution into secularity.

  • SECTION E: "November 22, Sabbath, 1890. This morning I have been pleading most earnestly with the Lord for his presence, for the enlightenment which he alone can give me. I wrestled for some time in prayer and I have placed myself decidedly in the Lords [sic] side to believe every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. I will not take myself out of his hands. Infirmities press me at times and my faith is tested severely. Oh that I may never lose sight of Jesus my hope and consolation" (p. 325).

  • SECTION F: Beginning, "These things have gone just as far as they should without protesting in plain words against them..." (p. 325). The writer goes on to explain that during the night she perceived herself to be present in several councils where she heard influential men saying that the American Sentinel could gain greatly in popularity and influence if it were to refrain from mentioning the Sabbath and omit the words "Seventh-day Adventist" from its pages. Her guide warns against such a practice.

Four facts confirm that passages B, D, and F were written at a different time from the diary entries they append: the change in ink, a scrawled line beneath sections C and E, thus separating them from what follows; the observable difference in calligraphy, the regular diary entries being larger and freer in style; and the thought sequence essentially flows through sections B, D and F (though F may be separate) and is disjoint from sections A, C and E which constitute routine, mundane diary entries.

Why Ellen White created the impression that this material was written on November 21, 1890, is not known. Even if she put the date in on November 21 and then returned later to fill out the details, she had the opportunity to correct the date. It appears that she desired to create the impression that this material originated at that time.

The portion that supposedly relates to the Salamanca experience is Section F, clearly written after November 22, 1890 and reads as follows:

"In the night season I was present in several councils, and there I heard words repeated by influential men to the effect that if the American Sentinel would drop the words "seventh-day Adventist" from its columns, and would say nothing about the Sabbath, the great men of the world would patronize it. It would become popular and do a larger work. This looked very pleasing. These men could not see why we could not affiliate with unbelievers and non-professors to make the American Sentinel a great success. I saw their countenances brighten, and they began to work on a policy to make the Sentinel a popular success.
"This policy is the first step in a succession of wrong steps. The principles which have been advocated in the American Sentinel are the very sum and substance of the advocacy of the Sabbath, and when men begin to talk of changing these principles, they are doing a work which it does not belong to them. Like Uzzah, they are attempting to steady the ark which belongs to God and is under His special supervision. Said my guide to those in these councils, "Who of the men among you have felt the burden of the cause from the first, and have accepted responsibilities under trying circumstances? Who has carried the burden of the work during the years of its existence? Who has practiced self-denial and self-sacrifice? The Lord made a place for His staunch servants, whose voices have been heard in warning. He carried forward His work before any of you put your hands to it, and He can and will find a place for the truth you would suppress. In the American Sentinel has been published the truth for this time. Take heed what you do. 'Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.'"32

Apart from the inability to date this pericope, and the wrong date penned by Ellen White, there is another problem in identifying this as a reference to the Salamanca experience - there is no reference to Salamanca, explicit or implied. The only way this can be related to Salamanca (like Item 5 above) is by comparing it to Ellen White's later claims that at Salamanca she was shown a divine perspective on the editorial policy of the American Sentinel. There is no internal evidence to suggest that this passage records information communicated by God or a heavenly adviser at Salamanca.

One may be inclined to suggest that if Ellen White did not receive this information back on November 21, 1890, in New York, or some other time, she did at least gain this insight from the Lord, somewhere, sometime. Possibly, but we are left with the dilemma that she claimed to have received it at Salamanca. Also, the matters on which she wrote may well have been the subject of ongoing communications to her by a variety of persons who tool strong stands on the Sentinel's editorial policy. The nature of this text does not permit us to view it as evidence that Ellen White had a revelation from God on November 3, 1890, in Salamanca, New York; or that this revelation depicted a meeting which had not yet occurred but would take place on March 7, 1891.

9. Another problematic passage is that found in Diary 16, pp. 450-452. This is possibly the one referred to at the bottom of page 289 in the material inserted under the November 3, 1890, entry. There a note scribbled in the margin that reads, "Look at the last part of the book headed Salamanca important matter" 33 (see Item 7). The entry for December 31, 1890, occupies pages 447-449. So this passage was evidently written on or after December 31, 1890. The relevant section reads:

"I had a very marked experience which I hope never to forget. Through the night season I was in communion with God. I was taken out of and away from myself, and was in different states and assemblies, bearing a decided testimony of reproof and warning.
"I was in Battle Creek, and in a council assembled there were ministers and responsible men from the Review Office. There were sentiments advanced and with no very gentle spirit urged to be adopted, which filled me with surprise and apprehension and distress. Years before I had been called to pass over similar ground, and the Lord had revealed to me many things of importance and given me warnings to be given to His people decidedly. I was commanded to hold the same before them perseveringly and not to fail or be discouraged in this work, for the men who ought to live so close to Jesus Christ that they could discern His voice, receive His counsel, and keep His way, would become exalted and would walk in the sparks of their own kindling. They were not spiritual, could not discern the devices of Satan, and were ignorant of his workings in a large degree. They would adopt plans which appeared wise, but Satan was the instigator of these measures. If these men had the molding of the work, God would be dishonored....
"Again and again since 1845 the dangers of the people of God have been laid open before me, showing what would be the perils of the people of God in the last remnant of time. These perils have been shown me down to the present time, and on the night of November 3 there was spread out before me some things I could not comprehend. At the same time assurance was given me that the Lord would not allow His people to be enveloped in the fog of worldly skepticism and infidelity, for Christ would lead all who would follow His voice and be obedient to His commands up from the fog of worldly malaria to the summit above the fog of questioning unbelief, where they might breathe the atmosphere of security and might triumph, standing on the solid Rock, a foundation sure and steadfast."34

While this passage does refer to the Salamanca experience ("on the night of November 3"), it does not refer to the more specific matters that have historically been attributed to the revelation of that evening - the editorial policy of the American Sentinel, the de-emphasizing of Adventist distinctives, and the whole course of a particular meeting on March 7, 1891. None of this is mentioned; her theme is that she was encouraged to carry on her work of conviction and providing direction, despite the unpopularity of her views. Though she was in the minority, she was right and God would vindicate her and her viewpoint.

As Robert Olson says, "We do not know when this account was written."35 He suggests it was written in early 1891 but gives no reasons for this selection except that it was after December 31, 1890, since it follows the entry for that day. The references to the General Conference Session in March, later in the diary, tend to confirm a date in the first three months on 1891 (see Item 10).

One of the puzzling aspects of this passage is that it is preceded by the words, "A letter written from Salamanca, Nov. 3, 1890." 36 It seems that an attempt is made to make a passage written on a specific and strategic date at least two months earlier. Olson lets Ellen White off the hook gently by suggesting, "The words 'A letter written from' appear to have been added at a later date when it may actually have slipped Ellen White's mind as to exactly where she was when she penned these lines. The Nov. 3 date doubtless refers to the subject under discussion, and not the date of writing."37

Her diary entry for November 4, 1890, suggests she was not able to write out anything of the Salamanca experience. By this time she had left Salamanca and she still awaited the opportunity to write what she had seen the previous night. If this is true, the passage on pages 450-452 could not have been written on November 3 at Salamanca. And it is virtually inconceivable that having undergone this frustration about not being able to write her thoughts out, that she would later accidentally state that she did write them out at that time. It is difficult to conceive of this as a "slip of the mind."

One final point of interest on this pericope. Ellen White claimed to have had a view of "men from the Review Office." The American Sentinel was published by the Pacific Press, not the Review and Herald.

10. More information regarding the Salamanca experience follows in the long section from pages 450 to 517 of her 1890 Diary (Diary 16). It is possibly this entire undated section that is referred to in the note at the foot of page 289 (see Item 7). One relevant portion commences on page 457:

"At Salamanca November 3, 1890, while bowed in earnest prayer, I seemed to be lost to everything around me, and I was bearing a message to an assembly which seemed to be the General Conference. I was moved by the Spirit of God to say many things, to make most earnest appeals, for the truth was urged upon me that greater danger lay before those at the heart of the work.
"I had been, and was still, bowed down with distress of body and of mind. It seemed to me that I must bear a message to our people at Battle Creek. The words were to be in earnest. "Speak the words that I shall give thee, to prevent their doing things which would separate God from the publishing house [the Review and Herald] and sacrifice pure and holy principles which must be maintained."38

At least this is how Olson presents it. A glance at the handwritten manuscript suggest a different text - as in fact it frequently does. It clearly reads, "Salamanica [sic] Nov. 3, 1890 (copied) While bowed in...."39 The copy starts with "While..." with the place and date functioning as a heading to the copy that follows. Again we have an attempt to date the passage back to Salamanca on November 3, 1890 - notwithstanding Ellen White's earlier statement that she could not write it out on November 4.

The other relevant reference in this sixty-eight page passage to what is considered to be the Salamanca experience is on pages 506-507:

"I was present in one of your councils. One arose, and in a very earnest, decided manner, held up a paper. I could read the heading plainly - American Sentinel. There were criticisms made upon the articles published therein. It was declared that this must be cut out, and that must be changed. Strong words were uttered and a strong unChristlike spirit prevailed. My guide gave me words to speak to the ones who were present who were not slow to make their accusations.
"In substance I will state the reproof given: That there was a spirit of strife in the midst of the council. The Lord had not presided in their councils and their minds and hearts were not under the controlling influence of the Spirit of God. Let the adversaries of our faith be the ones to instigate and develop the plans which are being formed. While not all the plans are objectionable, principles are being brought in which will dishonor God...."40

This portion comes some fifty pages after the last reference to Salamanca, but is generally held to be an authentic recollection of what was perceived at Salamanca and related on March 8, 1891, - an insight into the March 7, 1891 meeting some four months prior to its occurrence. Olson suggest that the words after page 510 of the diary "may have been written early Sunday morning, March 8, 1891,"41 and seems to imply that previous portions such as the one above from page 507 would have been written earlier as a genuine anticipation of the meeting which had not yet occurred. Back on page 500 the author refers to the year 1891, which is not surprising since the 1890 daily diary entries finish with December 31 on page 449. On page 510 she refers to "this body assembled in this house in General Conference," almost certainly referring to the General Conference Session which commenced on March 5, 1891, and lasted three weeks. So the best we can date this piece is between December 31, 1890, and March 26, 1891. Whether it was written before or after the March 7 meeting, or Ellen White's account on March 8, cannot determined.

TABLE 2 [Cannot be dated with any certainty]
Item No. Date/Location Source Reference to Salamanca
 7 Between diary entries for Nov. 3 & 4 Diary 16, p.289 1890; but written considerably later. Description of discomfort and discouragement, which, after the room was filled with a soft, silvery light, was transformed to feelings of comfort, hope, and gladness, and a sensation of the presence of Jesus and heaven.
 8 Below diary entries for Nov. 20, 21 & 22 Diary 16, pp. 321-326 1890; but probably written after Dec. 30, 1890. No reference to Salamanca, but a description of her recollection of "several councils" she attended "in the night season" - influential men claimed that the American Sentinel would be better received without the words "Seventh-day Adventist" - and her commentary and that of her "guide" on the danger of such a course.
 9 December 31, 1890 entry; written Dec. 31, 1890, or later Commences on page after conclusion of Diary 16, pp. 450-452 Relates a "marked experience" where she saw herself bringing reproof and warning to various assemblies; a meeting in Battle Creek with leaders from the Review Office caused her much distress; she was encouraged to oppose their course which was inspired by Satan; on the night of November 3, 1890 (i.e. at Salamanca), she saw things she could not comprehend, but she was reassured that God would continue to lead his people.
 10a Written between Dec. 31 and March 26, 1891. In section following Dec. 31, 1890, entry; Diary 16, p. 457* A description of her distress on November 3, 1890, followed by her perception of herself addressing the General Conference with earnest appeals; she was instructed to speak words that would be provided to prevent actions which would separate God from the Review and Herald publishing house.
 10b Written between Dec. 31 and March 26, 1891. In section following Dec. 31, 1890, entry; Diary 16, pp. 506-507* No reference to Salamanca but a description of her observations and reproof as she "attended" (presumably "in vision")a council where the American Sentinel was criticized.

We have just reviewed the four references to the Salamanca experience which cannot be dated with any certainty. Table 2 summarizes our findings.

There are two facts that stand out from this survey. One, all of these diary entries which in truth cannot be dated with any precision, appear under dates that would normally be considered the date of authorship. It is most disconcerting, and certainly baffling for the student of this subject, to encounter this repeated attempt to misdate writings on the Salamanca experience and the March 7, 1891, meeting. It may be unkind to project motives here, but it would be equally unwise to overlook the consistency with which this phenomenon occurs.

Two, the references to Salamanca (or the evening of November 3) never refer to the American Sentinel, the Sabbath, editorial policy, or the matters that appear to have been the key matters discussed at the famed meeting in the Review building in the evening on March 7, 1891. Items 9 and 10a link Salamanca and administrative problems at the Review and Herald in Battle Creek but do not refer to the Sentinel, which was published by the Pacific Press in New York. Curiously, it seems that the White Estate selects out references to the Sentinel and a meeting where its editorial policy was discussed, and claim these as deriving from the Salamanca experience (Items 8 and 10b). Ellen White, however, doesn't quite seem to do this (at least to this point, but see Item 11) though Item 10b does appear in a connected sequence to a reference to Salamanca some fifty pages earlier (Item 10a). This act on the part of the modern White Estate seems to be in the same tradition as the acts of Ellen White herself, who misdated four passages to consistently indicate her access to information at a date earlier than the actual time of writing.

For those who are dedicated to the integrity of Ellen White and her heritage, these facts are alarming and disappointing.

White's Post Disclosure References

Olson lists another six references to the Salamanca experience, all dated after the March 7 and 8, 1891, meetings. Since these are less critical to our purpose of ascertaining the usefulness of this story in verifying Ellen White's prophetic powers, we shall treat them briefly.

11. In her diary entry for March 11, 1891, Ellen White narrates what happened on the morning of March 8, 1891. The after-the-fact account in the first in which she links Salamanca and the conflict over the Sentinel. The passage reads:

"I awakened in the morning with the decided impression that I should go into the minister's meeting, and bear the message which the Lord had given me at Salamanca, New York, in our three month's tour. I went into the meeting and bore the testimony given of God in the demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. I told them the Lord had opened before me many things.
"In the night season my Guide said, "Follow Me." I was taken to a council of men, where a zeal and an earnestness were manifest, but not according to knowledge. One held up the Sentinel, and then made remarks entirely contrary to the principles of our faith. The particulars of this are given in my diary of 1890. The message given made a deep impression on all those present.
"Brother Ballenger, deeply affected, arose and said, "I was in that council meeting which was held last night until a late hour, and Sister White has described it accurately. The very words she says she heard spoken were spoken last night. I was on the wrong side of the question, and now take my position on the right side." His testimony was well wet down with tears and humble confession.
"I was greatly astonished. I thought that this meeting had been held at the time it was presented to me.
"My soul is exceeding troubled. The publishing institutions are receiving a mold that is not after the similitude of God." 42

As has been belabored above, though Ellen White dated four items in 1890, and though she here refers to her "diary of 1890," nevertheless the "particulars" of which she writes here were outlined in 1891 (Item 10).

Unfortunately, this passage also provides the appearance of foreknowledge when there is no evidence to support it.

12. The next reference occurs in a letter to Dr. W.P. Burke at the St. Helena Health Retreat, and is thought to be dated in October 1891. It reads:

"While at Salamanca, New York, in November 1890, I had a very remarkable experience. I had been greatly afflicted and discouraged in consequence of physical suffering. The pain in my head and ears was almost unbearable, yet I filled my appointments. The last time I spoke, because of the gatherings in my head I told my son I must return home at once, although important meetings were before me in Brooklyn, New York, and Washington, D.C. I could scarcely hear my own voice and was so weak I staggered as I walked. I went to my chamber and knelt to pray when the whole room was lighted up with the presence of Jesus. I was lifted above all discouragement and was made all light in the Lord and praised Him aloud. This night many things were opened before me in regard to our institutions. The condition of conferences and churches was shown me and I immediately wrote out many things in my diary." 43

Here the panorama of concern is broader than previously. No longer is the problem the situation at the Review in Battle Creek, but the condition of "institutions....conferences and churches."

Her statement that she "immediately" wrote out many things is perplexing in light of her November 4 entry expressing frustration for not being able to write out what she perceived the previous night. The question naturally arises, If she wrote these things out immediately in her diary, where in her diary are they to be found? Clearly there is NO "immediate" record. Olson suggests that the November 25, 1890, diary entry (pp. 335-342) may qualify44 [see Item 4]. This seems reasonable except, the passage begins with, "During the night I have been in communion with God,"45 suggesting that what follows were divine revelations of that evening, not back in Salamanca some three weeks earlier. The November 25 diary entry has another strange idiosyncrasy. It is a diary entry made in Brooklyn, New York, and yet she can write "many come here" and "in this place," referring to Battle Creek! This kind of thing leaves the reader bewildered. Was she also subject to transportation during her nocturnal illumination sessions? Maybe this passage under November 25 was written after December 31, 1890, when she was back in Battle Creek, just as the entries below November 20-22 were written at later times [see Item 8]. The mystery remains - where did she "immediately" write the "many things" seen at Salamanca?

13. In 1892 a fourteen-page pamphlet, "Danger in Adopting Worldly Policy in the Work of God," was published. It drew primarily upon the material in Diary 16, pp. 450-517 [see Items 9 and 10]. It is now largely reproduced in Life Sketches, pp. 319-330, and Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 460-471. A glance at the pamphlet indicated significant editing, which is hardly surprising considering the draft nature of the diary entries - they were surely not written as publication-ready copy!

14. More than two years after the Salamanca experience, it was still vivid in Ellen White's mind. While in Melbourne, Australia, on January 9, 1893, a similar event occurred. When describing it to Captain C. Eldrdge in Battle Creek she likened it to her November 3, 1890, experience:

"During the night I...passed through an experience similar to that which I had a Salamanca, New York, two years ago. When I awoke from my first short sleep, light seemed to be all around me, the room seemed to be full of heavenly angels. The Spirit of God was upon me, and my heart was full to overflowing. Oh, what love was burning in my heart!"46

15. Again from Australia, on May 16, 1898, she recalls the Salamanca experience when relating her concern for the condition of the whole Michigan Conference. Leaders have "trusted in man and made flesh their arm" but must "turn to the Lord with all the heart."

"The present existing state of things was made to pass before me while I was at Salamanca, and I then gave testimony before those assembled in the tabernacle. I did not speak my own words, but the words of the Lord. The power of God was upon me. Cautions, warnings, and reproof have been given to the men in responsible positions."47

Here the scope of the Salamanca experience is the whole Michigan Conference. At other times it has been various states and assemblies, councils, the church at Battle Creek, the General Conference, the Review Office, churches, institutions, and responsible brethren. What is not clear is what was NOT included in the Salamanca vision. Possibly the common thread is that of dependence upon human wisdom rather than divine. This appears as a fairly consistent motif when she refers to the warnings she perceived at Salamanca.

This may be an appropriate juncture to mention a point observable in the previous items but illustrated graphically in the last two [14 and 15]. Sometimes her references to Salamanca are to the sense of joy and peace she experienced when discouraged. Others are to a revelation regarding the condition of the church or its institutions. With this there is sometimes admonition for her to proceed with her heaven-granted assignment of reproof. These two vastly different perspectives on Salamanca seem to this writer to be incompatible, though, in the visionary world of the prophet, perhaps all things are possible.

16. The final post-incident reference is Ellen White's most extensive. This is the second time she links the Salamanca experience and the matter of the Sentinel [see also Item 11]; and in this case, now fourteen years after the incident, she connects them explicitly and repeatedly. Her dual purposes were to bring conviction to Albion F. Ballenger who was on trial for his heretical views of Christ's entry into the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, and to validate her prophetic authority.

After retelling the Salamanca vision story and its effect on her astonished General Conference listeners on the morning of March 8, 1891, she stressed: "The circumstances were such that on this occasion the excuse could not possibly be used, 'Somebody has told her.' No one had an opportunity to see me or speak with me between the evening meeting [March 7, 1891] and the morning meeting that I attended [March 8]."48 Olson, obviously a little sensitive about the misdated diary entries, correctly states:

"Ellen White's position is very clear. She believed that God supernaturally led in this experience because the details of the secret midnight meeting were revealed to her before it took place, and because she was able to relate that information publicly before anyone had opportunity to tell her about it. She made no point of the time when she recorded these details in her dairy."49

On this later point Olson has admitted that at least some details of the meeting could not be recalled until right around the time the meeting actually convened, and that she possibly wrote some of her ensuing commentary AFTER it occurred, early on the morning of March 8, 1891.50

The entire relevant portion of this manuscript is cited earlier in Box 1 and need not be repeated here.

TABLE 3 [Written after the event (March 8, 1891)]
Item No. Date/Location Source Reference to Salamanca
 11 Mar. 11, 1891 Diary 17, pp. 111-112 Description of the events on the morning of March 8, 1891, including the impression that she was to relate what she had received at Salamanca the previous year; claims that what she saw at Salamanca was a meeting where the Sentinel was discussed; narrates the successful impact of her presentation, and her astonishment.
 12 October, 1891 Letter 48, 1891
Description of her physical ailments while at Salamanca, and the encouragement from the presence of Jesus in the evening experience; claims to have had revelations concerning institutions, conferences, and churches, and to have written these immediately.
 13 1892 "Danger in Adopting Worldly Policy in the Work of God," a 14-page pamphlet. A published, edited version of the material in Diary 16, pp. 450-517. See items 9 and 10 above.
 14 Jan. 9, 1893 Letter 20a, 1893 She likens a present experience to what happened at Salamanca - surrounded in light, a seeming presence of angels, the Spirit's presence, and a full heart. No suggestion of revelation.
 15 May 16, 1898 Letter 41, 1898 A brief mention of both her experience at Salamanca and her discourse to the General Conference on March 8, 1891. Emphasizes that God provided the words of reproof she spoke.
 16 May 20, 1905 MS 59, 1905 In the context of narrating a discussion with Albion F. Ballenger, she describes a conversation with him as well as the Salamanca story. She claims to have seen Ballenger in vision at Salamanca opposing references to the Sabbath in the Sentinel. Describes her physical condition and regained strength at Salamanca, and the revelation she received regarding the Sentinel and historical Adventist doctrine. Then she tells the story of being awakened prior to the General Conference morning meeting, attending and telling her Salamanca experience, her surprise that the meeting had occurred the previous night, and the confession and reversal of policy that followed.
Our findings in these final six primary references by Ellen White to her Salamanca experience, written after the event she claimed to have seen in advance, are summarized in Table 3.

The Salamanca Scorecard

These sixteen references exhaust our primary sources for information about the November 3, 1890, and March 8, 1891, events. So the question must now be asked: Is there evidence here to conclude that this story constitutes a verification of Ellen White's prophetic powers? Earlier we suggested four essential claims that should be confirmed for this episode to have such apologetic value. We now examine these.

1. Ellen White had a revelation from God on November 3, 1890, in Salamanca, New York.

There is no reason to question the fact that Ellen White had an extra-ordinary experience on the evening of November 3, 1890, in Salamanca, New York. After that date she clearly refers to it on twelve occasions.51 However, there IS reason to question whether this involved a revelation from God.

The first eight items do not relate anything that God revealed to her at Salamanca. In fact only the first one suggests that anything was revealed at all. It is not until AFTER March 8, 1891, that we have a definitively dated statement revealing the supposed content of the revelation at Salamanca. The fact that she can often refer to the Salamanca experience, and not mention any revelation, makes one doubt whether any substantial revelation did in fact occur. And further, when we do hear of revelation, it is AFTER the incident that was supposedly revealed previously, thus providing a clear motive and method for such a claim to be made. The references with uncertain dates of composition [Items 9 and 10a] hardly help because they too may have been written on or after March 8, 1891.

Regretfully, what we do not have is a clear, early statement: "I received a revelation from God at Salamanca. And this is what he told me...." Instead, we have many statements about a healing, renewing experience; and several months later, the idea of revelation is added. Further, there is no clear, precise pattern to the statements of what was revealed.

So we are left with the question unsettled as to whether she did or did not hear a word from God on November 3, 1890.

2. This revelation depicted a meeting which had not yet occurred but would take place on March 7, 1891.

No references that with any confidence can be dated prior to March 7, 1891, make mention of the meeting. Thus, there is no verification of the claim that she knew of the meeting prior to its occurrence. Once again, there are statements connecting the Salamanca experience and the March 7 and 8, 1891, meetings; but they are either of an unknown date or dated after the meetings in question. Consequently there may be a claim to foreknowledge but NO EVIDENCE EXISTS to support the claim.

3. The Lord, or an angelic visitor on his behalf, brought the information of the "vision" of November 3, 1890, to her mind early in the morning of March 8, 1891.

This is her claim at the March 8 meeting as reported by herself [Items 11 and 16] and by a number of individuals who heard her relate the experience. Clearly, this cannot be verified. We can hardly presume to know precisely what happened in Ellen White's bedroom on a given morning. However, we can hear her claim and test its likelihood. This we shall do.

4. The primary (and, one hopes, secondary) documents providing the facts of these incidents are trustworthy and reliable.

Sadly, on this point we seem to be faced with a series of serious problems. Frankly, the degree of internal consistency is not at all impressive. The following is a sampling of the problems of conflicting evidence confronting the meticulous student of this topic.

  • What was she doing when the experience at Salamanca occurred? She was bowed in prayer [Items 3, 6, 7, 10, and 16], or awakening from sleep [Item 14].
  • What meeting did she see? The March 7, 1891, meeting from which she was absent [Items 9, 10b, 11, and 16], or the March 8, 1891, meeting where she addressed the General Conference [Item 10a].
  • Did she write out the revelation immediately? Yes she did [Item 12], or perhaps she wished to but could not [Item 1].
  • What actually constituted the Salamanca experience? A renewed physical strength and courage to continue her preaching itinerary despite difficulties [Items 3, 6, 7, and 14], or a revelation from God concerning the state of the church or a particular meeting [Items 9, 10a, 11, and 16].
  • What was the scope of the revelation? Different states and assemblies [Items 9]; a meeting in Battle Creek at the Review Office [Item 9]; the General Conference [Item 10]; the publishing house [Item 10]; the Michigan Conference [Item 10]; or institutions, conferences, and churches [Item 12].

In some instances the options are not mutually exclusive. However, these types of fundamental variations as the story is narrated have a seriously detrimental impact upon its credibility.

Perhaps more serious is the apparent recklessness with the dating of some of the key documents. It is disturbing that no less than four of the sixteen documents Olson presents are in fact undated. Even more serious is the fact that all of these bear apparent dates which suggest authorship earlier than the ACTUAL date of composition. Ellen White's habit of going back and writing additional information under previous diary entries is most peculiar. In a regular book manuscript this would be anticipated, but hardly in a day-by-day diary - and especially when the subject matter inserted at a later date corresponds to what is claimed to be a prior revelation right around the date under which the entry is made. The appearance of evil is then strong. The evidently false dating of these is a serious business that should become the basis for a more extensive study of White Estate manuscripts to ascertain the extent of this practice. In light of these facts, the trustworthiness and reliability of the primary documents would have to be questioned by the objective analyst.

Clearly then, we do NOT have adequate evidence here to treat this anecdote as a verification of Ellen White's prophetic powers. We have a clarion claim to such, but insufficient evidence available to the historical researcher to make the claim anywhere near credible. Those who view it as proof positive of foreknowledge and divine insight are arbitrarily positioning their faith in a manner designed to arrive at a predetermined, desirable outcome. In doing so they overlook or underrate certain key facts within the historical records. Of course, for some it is much simpler: "Mrs. White said it proved her true, so I believe it does." The frightening consequences of such mindless submission are not difficult to imagine.

How Did She Know?

But of course, one crucial question remains. Since Ellen White did in fact address the General Conference on the morning of March 8, 1891, how DID she know of the meeting the previous evening which she evidently described so accurately just hours after it concluded? The only statements we have from Ellen White on this subject insist that she "saw" it months earlier at Salamanca. "I awakened in the morning with a decided impression that I should go to the ministers' meeting, and bear the message which the Lord had given me at Salamanca, New York, in our three months' tour. I went into the meeting and bore the testimony given of God in the demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. I told them the Lord had opened before me many things."52 If knowledge via a divine revelation cannot be proven, is there evidence for another source of information that enabled this remarkable feat? This brings us to sources originating with witnesses to her March 8, 1891, presentation and their accounts of the meeting on the evening of March 7, 1891, and the events early in the morning of March 8, 1891.53

The Conclusion of the Evening Meeting, and Ellen White's Arising

Accounts of when the Saturday evening meeting in the Review office concluded, March 7, 1891, differ significantly. A.T. Robinson puts it "after midnight";54 in his other manuscript he suggests it was about 1:00 a.m.;55 O.A. Johnson et al.56 and 'Life Sketches'57 put it after 1:00 a.m. But O.A. Olsen, 58 Edna Kilbourne Steele,59 and Arthur White60- none of whom were present - all place the terminus around 3:00 a.m. It is impossible to be dogmatic about this matter; but if one is to give priority to the witness of those who were present, Robinson's 1:00 a.m. conclusion would be the most probable.

Accounts also vary somewhat when Ellen White was awakened. Her diary for March 8, 1891, gives no time for her awakening.61 Robinson says she was awakened after midnight and writing since 1:00 a.m. - the same time he gives for the conclusion of the meeting in the Review office.62 Johnson,63 F.F. Wilcox,64 Arthur White,65 and Olsen66 all put her rising around 3:00 a.m. Olsen's manuscript originally gave the rising time as 4:00 a.m., but later manuscripts have been editorially altered to read 3:00 a.m. Steele does not give an exact time but says Ellen White had been writing for some time prior to 5:00 a.m.67

Not only do the times for Ellen White's awakening vary, but there is also a discrepancy in the account of the manner in which she awoke. She claimed that the Lord awoke her in the night and instructed her to bear a testimony to the ministers at the Tabernacle on Sunday morning. But at about 5:00 a.m. she told her secretary, Sara McEnterfer, that she was not planning to attend the meeting that morning!68 Arthur White implies that Ellen White made this statement the previous day; this contradicts all the documentary evidence.69

O.A. Olsen's testimony has been altered at this point. His original statement went as follows: " 4 o'clock she was awakened, someone taking hold of her arm waking her up; and she then arose immediately, got ready, and gathered up her matter, and came to the meeting." The carbon-copy manuscript of this on file in the Ellen G. White Research Center at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, has original red pencil alterations on it. It is the altered version that has usually been duplicated and distributed by the White Estate. The editorially altered version reads: " 3 o'clock she had been awakened, had arisen immediately, and after gathered [sic] up what she had written, had come to the meeting."70 The time is changed and the portion about being taken by the arm and awakened has been omitted.

Accounts of what Ellen White did between her arising and arrival at the early morning meeting also differ. According to L.A. Hoopes her mind was exercised about her Salamanca experience, and she was bidden to write what she saw in that vision. This she proceeded to do.71 Wilcox declares that an angel "told her to write out the instruction given her in Salamanca several months previously;" she did this and read from the manuscript at the meeting.72 Likewise, Johnson73 states that she wrote out what was shown her at Salamanca, as does Robinson.74

But the accounts of Steele, Olsen, and Arthur White vary significantly. Steele, who was staying in the room beside Ellen White and ate breakfast with her immediately after the morning meeting, states: "After she [Ellen White] had told Sara [McEnterfer] to go back to bed [just before 5:00 a.m.75], she was suddenly and strongly impressed to dress quickly and to take that manuscript she had written so many months before, and to go to that early ministers' meeting".76 Steele also agrees that Ellen White had been up before this time writing.77 So, according to Steele, Ellen White, after she arose, wrote, but not on the topic of the Salamanca vision, and then around 5:30 a.m. gathered up a manuscript written months earlier and took it to the meeting with her.

Olsen's statement is open to interpretation: she "gathered up what she had written."78 It is not clear from this whether he believed her to have done the writing that morning or at an earlier time. Arthur White's view is that "she dressed, went to her bureau, took from it the journal in which she had made the record of what had been shown to her at Salamanca. As the scene came clearly to her mind, she wrote more to go with it."79

All maintain that she did write something. All except Steele maintain that what she wrote drew upon the Salamanca vision. Arthur White had the added touch that her writing was by way of addition to earlier writing she had done on the topic. Ellen White's diary for March 8, 1891 (written after her presentation to the brethren), makes no reference to her writing in the morning.

Some of the above accounts may appear to imply that the Salamanca vision had not been written out until the morning of March 8, 1891. Three testify that this is not the case. Olsen says that the Salamanca vision was "then and there written," and at Battle Creek she was simply impressed to relate it.80 Arthur White declares: "In the days that followed [the Salamanca experience] she recorded in her journal that which she was not allowed to tell the men in Salamanca."81 What White goes on to cite from ("the handwritten record in our vault") is from pages 325-326 of her 1890 diary [Item 8, Section F] - the portion whose dates and occasion of authorship are indeterminable. If he has special knowledge relating this writing to the Salamanca experience, he should make public the reasoning behind his conclusion. Steele wrote regarding Salamanca: "While fresh in her mind she had written what had been presented to her in a little black, clothbound book which was a dummy for "B.D. & S." (It was a dummy for Edson White's Cook Book which he published under the title, 'Breakfast, Dinner and Supper.')"82

Steel wrote to Arthur White, August 11, 1946, disagreeing with Wilcox on exactly this point. She said: "In Elder Wilcox's article in the Bulletin he states that she aroused at 3 a.m. that same night and wrote out what she had seen. But as I remember it was already written some six [actually, four] months before while at Salamanca, N.Y., as I remember also it was written in an old B., D. & S. dummy....She had written it all out in such complete detail so many months before."83 Steele believed that Ellen White wrote in the early hours of the morning, but not on the topic of the Salamanca vision.

Though Arthur White gives no rationale for his position that Ellen White wrote out the Salamanca vision soon after it was received and then added to it in the early hours of the morning on March 8, 1891, this would tend to reconcile the varying testimonies. If the portion about the Sentinel below the November 22 diary entry is the original portion written concerning her revelation at Salamanca [and there is no evidence to support this, see Item 8], then the question remains, what and where is the portion written in the small hours of the morning of March 8? Could the portion about the Sentinel from the back of her handwritten journal for 1890 [around pages 506-507, see Item 10] be what was added? Robert Olson suggests that it was the portion about the General Conference (page 510); he evidently prefers to leave the portion about the Sentinel dated earlier rather than having it written after the meeting it is supposed to predict.84

Arthur White's positions on this story seem quite ambiguous. According to him, Ellen White could not relate the vision on the morning of November 4, 1890, when she tried twice to relate it to Robinson and Willie White.85 Nor could she tell it as she tried on three occasions on Saturday afternoon, March 7, 1891.86 But he asserts that she had in fact written it out, at which time she obviously could recall it and at least relate it in writing, and where she could review it as she pleased.87 His position seems to be that she could recall the "vision" but not relate it to others.88

Mother and Son Visit

Another problem presents itself regarding what happened in the early hours of March 8 up in Ellen White's bedroom. Edna Kilbourne Steele was a secretary to both Ellen and Willie White. She lived in Ellen White's Battle Creek home, sharing a room next to Ellen's with Sara McEnterfer. In her two accounts of what occurred, Steele points out that Sara rose before 5:00 a.m. to see whether Ellen White wanted to attend the early meeting (notwithstanding Arthur White's implied view that Sara checked with Ellen White regarding her morning attendance prior to going to bed the previous evening.) 89 Sara was assured that Ellen did not intend to attend the Tabernacle that morning. Evidently Ellen was up, not yet dressed for the meeting, and was either writing or showed signs that she had been writing. Sara's return to the room and a warm bed made a vivid impression on Steele's mind. She said: "I have never known what flowed from her [Ellen White's] pen during the early hours of that morning; but I do know it was not the text of the Salamanca vision. If, earlier in the night, Sister White had been instructed to write out the Salamanca story, and to read it to the ministers in their early morning meeting, she would not have told Sara a few minutes before five o'clock that she was not going to the meeting, and for her [Sara] to go back to bed."90 Clearly, Ellen White did not want Sara in her room at that time.

This conflicts head-on with the bulk of the testimonies as to what Ellen White actually said at the meeting, namely that the Lord had bidden her to rise and relate the experience at Salamanca concerning the Sentinel at the ministers' meeting.

When the story is retold in her diary fourteen years later (May 20, 1905), Ellen White concludes with a curious defense of the veracity of her account:

"The circumstances were such that on this occasion the excuse could not possibly be used, 'SOMEONE HAS TOLD HER.' No one had an opportunity to see me or speak with me between the evening meeting and the morning meeting that I attended."91

Contradicting this, the account in Life Sketches states:

"Sunday morning, about 5:20 [a.m.] Brethren A.T. Robinson, W.C. White, and Ellery Robinson were passing Mrs. White's residence on their way to the early meeting. They saw a light in her room and her son ran up to inquire about her health.
"He found her busily engaged in writing. She then told him that an angel of God had awakened her about three o'clock, and had bidden her to go to the ministers' meeting and relate some things shown her at Salamanca. She said that she arose quickly, and had been writing for about two hours."92

Robinson's testimony also states that Willie visited his mother, 93 as does one of Steele's.94

Arthur White also admits that Willie visited his mother prior to the meeting, but his version has her "dressed and putting on her bonnet" as he entered the room.95 In saying this he makes it appear that the time mother and son spent together must have been short. No other accounts contain this feature.

Willie White stayed with his mother and accompanied her to the meeting. "After the meeting was opened Elder W.C. White came in, accompanied by his mother, who had quite a lot of manuscript on her arm."96

Ellen White's arrival at the meeting with her son was sometime after its commencement. According to Olsen it was after a period of singing and during the season of prayer.97 Others say: after the meeting began98; during the prayer season99; or after 5:30100. Hoopes puts her arrival as late as "about 6:00 a.m."101

A conservative estimate would put the amount of time that Willie White spent with his mother at about fifteen minutes (assuming that Arthur's affirmation of her fitting her bonnet does not necessitate us concluding she went directly to the meeting within minutes) and a more generous allocation could grant them close to half an hour together. The question naturally arises: Could Willie White have informed his mother of the events in the Review office just hours earlier? The answer is a clear, Yes. According to A.T. Robinson, who was staying in the home of Willie White, White was in attendance at the late night meeting the previous evening. 102 Robinson and White were walking to the Tabernacle together when Willie left Robinson to go upstairs and see his mother.103 Thus, there is no question that Willie White could well have supplied information about the previous night's meeting to his mother.

So here, as with the primary sources, we do not have a clear-cut, consistent, verifiable story. Unfortunately, we are left with a confusing array of variations which do not leave any strong support for Ellen White's claim that the Lord awakened her and told her to narrate information He had provided earlier.104 What does emerge from a careful study of these secondary documents is a clear source for how Ellen White may have known of the March 7, 1891, meeting. She was visited by her son who was present at the meeting that concluded just hours earlier in the Review office. Her claim that no one could say "Someone had told her" is bluntly contradicted by no less an authority than Life Sketches, not to mention her own grandson and de facto protector, Arthur White. Which family member should we trust on this point?

A Brief Historical Reconstruction

To conclude, I shall propose yet another hypothesis as to what really happened. It should be pointed out that the secondary accounts upon which I have been drawing are really hypotheses of what actually occurred, based, not upon verifiable facts, but upon the reports of persons, and convictions held by the reporters. I too wish to engage in this process, and surely this is the stuff of which much of history is made. It also needs to be pointed out that some seem to approach the interpretation of events such as the Salamanca experience with a presupposition that the more supernatural the account is, or the more pious it appears, the more likely it is to be true. Though a firm believer in the supernatural, this does not seem to this writer to be a sound way of doing history. In the following brief scenario I have simply committed myself to the facts. They seem to suggest a story something like this:

On the night of November 3, in Salamanca, New York, Ellen White had an experience where she sensed a renewal of strength and courage. Possibly she also had some general insights regarding the church, particularly what was happening in Battle Creek. This may be what she wrote about and mailed away on subsequent days (her diary records several such mailings). Her views on this occasion did not include insights into the meeting which convened four months later on March 7, 1891.

In following weeks, resulting from information coming to her from persons she met, including Brother Chadwick who had recently come from the Review, she wrote on a number of occasions concerning the publishing work at Battle Creek. Her concerns were particularly with respect to what she termed "worldly policy" which was determining the management style of the Review. The passage under the November 21 diary entry [Item 8, Section D] is an example of this writing, as is the passage under the November 25 entry [Item 4]. The date of Item 8, Section D is indeterminable though it is written in the diary below the entry for November 21, 1890. Possibly persons such as C.H. Jones, manager of the Pacific Press where the Sentinel was published, and his associate, D.T. Jones (both of whom attended the March 7, 1891, meeting), had been briefing Ellen White both by mail and in person at the General Conference and preceding meetings. It is unlikely that she was not already quite familiar with the debate.

On March 8, 1891, she awoke around 3:00 a.m. and rose to work on a manuscript which became the basis for her talk later that morning. This was possibly closely related to her talk on the Sabbath afternoon preceding. Several individuals pointed out the similarity between her talk then and the beginning of her talk on Sunday morning. Before she left for the early meeting, Willie White visited her with information from the meeting in the Review office. He described to her some of its memorable details, including the way Ballenger stood to his feet and pointed out what he wished omitted from the Sentinel - undoubtedly a dramatic scene. This correlated with the information she had obtained over the preceding months from various lobbyists.

In addition to the visit from Willie White, another who was returning from the meeting after its conclusion could have called upon Ellen White. If in fact this meeting did go until 3:00 a.m., it is possible that persons returning home saw Ellen White's light on and took the opportunity to inform her of the character of the meeting. Willie White may have been the third nocturnal visitor. Perhaps Robinson visited her at the conclusion of the meeting, for he stated that she had been at work since the same hour the meeting concluded. Or did Olsen take her by the arm and awaken her? Sara visited around 5:00 a.m., and finally Willie a little before 5:30 a.m.

Upon acquiring information about the meeting, she related it in her mind to the "visions" she had received concerning the publishing work and to her sermon the previous day which had focused on standing up for the distinctives of the Adventist message. She now incorporated all three ideas (which certainly were capable of relation) into a message that formed the basis for her presentation at the early morning ministers' meeting.

She may have also gone back to her 1890 diary, which Arthur White assures us was present in her bureau, and written in some details about the previous night's meeting. They were not put with the Salamanca entry for November 22, 1891 (Item 8, Section F]. Arthur White reminds us that in the early hours of the morning she did in fact add material to what she had written earlier. He has not stated what the added material was; it may have been the information about the Sentinel entered under the November 22 diary entry, and probably at least parts of the lengthy section at the back of the 1890 diary, pages 457-517, particularly pages 506-507 about the Sentinel.

Ellen White told Sara just before 5:00 a.m. that she did not intend to go to the meeting, for at that time she did not intend to go. She felt the Lord had urged things upon her mind and she had been writing those things out. She may have known about the Review office meeting that finished just a few hours earlier from one such as Robinson, but it was when Willie brought his information that she decided that she must immediately attend the meeting in the Tabernacle. There she presented an amalgamation of the previous day's speech, her ongoing concern for the state of affairs at the Review, her insights into the editorial policy of the Sentinel, and specifics of the previous night's meeting, claiming to have received all such information four months earlier at Salamanca.

The decision of the National Religious Liberty Association to drop its use of the Sentinel was reversed. Thus her intent was accomplished. Whether the will of the Lord was thereby performed is not, and cannot, be known.

Ellen White's Credibility

Some will be concerned with the implication that Ellen White lied - something of which any of us would find difficult to accuse a religious leader. However, this is not a dilemma that this writer has concocted.

The problem faced us once Life Sketches was published in 1915 with its admission that Willie White did in fact visit his mother prior to the March 8, 1891, meeting - contradicting her claim in 1905 that no one could possibly suggest she had been informed.

The fact is that the historical reports do not align, and one must choose whom one believes to be inaccurate. The preceding account, documenting her inaccuracies, contradictions, later insertions, undated manuscripts, and her variety of recollections of what actually occurred at Salamanca, hardly establishes compelling cause to commit ourselves to Ellen White's own view. The scenario I have suggested above is more closely aligned with the preponderance of historical facts, and indeed is more moderate and credible than her own story.

How then is it that a "prophetess" should distort the truth in this way? The answer is simply that she was human and subject to sin as all of us are. Also, at the time of writing the incriminating "no one could have told her" statement, she was 76 years of age, in poor health, and her memory may have been failing. Perhaps most importantly, she had a vested interest in winning the day on March 8, 1891. From her perspective, a fatal error had been made the previous evening, a drastic decision not to use the Sentinel because of its editorial stance. She needed to reverse the decision. She felt it was God's will to correct the erroneous position just adopted. Indeed, her will was but an expression of God's will. An opportunity presented itself. There was a "vision" that had occurred on November 3, 1890, in Salamanca - a "vision" whose content had not been delineated clearly or exhaustively. What she said of it was general in nature and was related to the publishing work. (The fact that it related to the publishing work in Battle Creek, while the Sentinel was published in New York, seemed to be overlooked!) So now she took the vision and inserted a definite message from God into it to serve the purpose at hand. The Salamanca experience became, in her mind, a foresight into the March 7,1890, meeting - just what she needed for the occasion! This surely would have the power necessary to reverse the decision forged amid much emotion the previous night.

And as we know, it worked. It seems that even a prophetess is not beyond a little pragmatic opportunism to aid in carrying out what she believes to be God's work.

Some may argue that an even more generous approach may also be permitted. That in the zeal to do that which she believed was right for the church (which, almost certainly was equated by her to God's will for the church), she innocently and unwittingly conflated various pieces of information. By the time she addressed the ministers on Sunday morning, March 8, 1891, she may actually have come to believe she had "seen" the March 7, 1891, meeting on November 3, 1890. This conjecture, that she innocently realigned information, has the implication that one never knows just when to trust her word in a literal and exact sense, and when to take only its intent, viewing the accompanying historical data with a degree of tentativeness. Most people want more certainty from their prophet than this permits.

Historians, not apologists, will no doubt continue to struggle with what model best accounts for the Ellen White phenomena. Certainly it is a complex matter that deserves earnest attention in the Adventist church. Various positions have been advanced so far: the White Estate has the "prophet" model; Walter Rea has responded with his "supersalesman of the psychic" view expressed forthrightly in The White Lie; Robert Brinsmead, now silent on the issue, has proposed an "erring, sinning prophet" view; Desmond Ford has suggested a prophet whose usefulness has been tarnished by the White Estate's eagerness to establish the supernatural source of her writings; while Molleurus Couperus proposed she is best accounted for when seen as a victim of temporal lobe epilepsy.

It seems to this writer that, as helpful as these suggestions are, in general, these positions tend to focus on a 'part' (be it a large part) of the Ellen White data. As studies continue to emerge, perhaps a consensus that incorporates the full spectrum of data will emerge. The question then remains, Will the church adopt a position which represents, as fully as possible, the wide range of data regarding Ellen White?

For my part, here I have simply sought to present an illustration of the type of careful study that should be repeated until a full picture of the "prophetess" may be gained.

It is much too much to claim that a meticulous study of the Salamanca experience invalidates Ellen White's claim to possessing prophetic powers. On the other hand, it is equally reckless to use such an incident as a verification of her predictive abilities, or as an assumption that God in fact provided the insights she narrates. This simply cannot be demonstrated. Those who want to believe such may do so. But they may not believe with integrity that such a belief has a basis in fact. Its basis resides in the realm of faith and in the prior assumption that Ellen White's word is to be trusted despite and facts to the contrary. Such faith may be comforting to some, but it is not rational to most.


1. The following account is based on a number of documents testifying to the incident. Because the accounts are very largely repetitive, and the story is quite well known (at least with Ellen White apologists), I have not footnoted every detail. The primary source documents are available in transcripted or facsimile form in Robert Olson's compilation, "The Salamanca Vision and the 1890 Diary," Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, September 12, 1983. The story itself is told in varying degrees of detail, and with variations of fact, in the following sources: Arthur L. White, "The Vision Which Could Not Be Told," n.d.; Arthur L. White, "Story of the Salamanca Vision," n.d.; Edna Kilbourne Steele, "Statement Concerning the Salamanca Vision," n.d.; O.A. Olsen, "The Salamanca Vision," August 19, 1914 (in Olson, pp. 76-78); A.T. Robinson, "The Salamanca Vision," n.d.; O.A. Johnson, et. al., "A Remarkable Vision," May 19, 1922 (in Olson, pp. 85-86); E.E. Gardner to W.C. White, December 3, 1915 (in Olson, pp. 79-80); and an untitled article by H.W. Cottrell dated October 12, 1920 in "The Salamanca Vision," a compilation of statements about the episode (in Olson, p. 81). These are all typewritten manuscripts in Document File 107-b at the Ellen G. White Research Center, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. Further recollections of the event are found in typewritten manuscript form in Document File 107-b at the Ellen G. White Estate, Washington, D.C.: L.A. Hoopes, "The Salamanca Vision," April 25, 1915; [A.T. Robinson], "Personal Experiences Ib[sic] Connection With the Work of Sister White," n.d. (in Olson, pp. 72-75); Edna Kilbourne Steele to Arthur L. White, August 11, 1946 (in Olson, pp. 82-84). Published statements about the experience include: F.M. Wilcox, "The Testimony of Jesus," Review and Herald: General Conference Report, No.3, June 9, 1946, pp. 61-64; A.T. Robinson, "Some Personal Experiences," The Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, January 15, 1914, p. 54; Ellen G. White, et. al., Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1915, pp. 309-318; T.H. Jemison, A Prophet Among You, Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1955, pp. 471-480, and appendix by Arthur L. White; Arthur L. White, The Lonely Years, Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1984, pp. 468-469, 478-483; Roland R. Hegstad, "Liberty Learns a Lesson," Adventist Review, May 15,1986, pp. 8-10.

2. White, "Lonely Years", pp. 482-483

3. Arthur White emphasizes this point, based on the testimony of A.T. Robinson, for the purpose of stressing God's providential timing in recalling the vision AFTER the meeting, for if she had stated her revelation before the Saturday night meeting, "it would have been said that it was not true, for no such meeting had taken place" (in Jemison, p. 479). He does not seem to consider the added impact that such a statement of her revelation would ultimately have had, even if it were not believed immediately!

4. [Robinson], p. 2

5. Ibid., and Olsen, p. 2

6. [Robinson], p. 3, and Wilcox, p. 63

7. [Robinson], p. 3

8. Steele, "Statement," p.2

9. White, "Vision Which Could Not Be Told," p. 6

10. This story has recently been recounted to again affirm the need to make Adventist distinctives prominent, in Hegstad, "Liberty,". 11. Diary 16, 1890, p. 290, in Olson, p. 20; for facsimile see p. 95; also see Manuscript 44, 1890, p. 6. In this quotation, as most others, the transcription is not exact. Minor editorial and spelling changes are evident when the transcription is compared with the handwritten originals. Overall there is an astounding variety in transcriptions of Ellen White's manuscripts. Any published version usually varies not only from the original, but also from other transcriptions and printed versions.

12. Diary 16, p. 294, in Olson, p. 23; see also Manuscript 45, 1890, pp. 3-4

13. See Olson's footnote, p. 23

14. Letter 72a, 1890, in Olson, p. 27

15. Diary 16, p. 336, in Olson, p. 31; see also Manuscript 6, 1890, p. 2

16. Diary 16, p. 338, in Olson, p. 32; see also Manuscript 6, 1890, p. 3

17. Manuscript 16, pp. 17-18, in Olson, p. 37; see also Counsels, pp. 94-95

18. "Her counsels here are similar to her later descriptions of the Salamanca vision, and may be based on what she was shown in that vision," Olson, p. 37

19. Diary 16, p. 313, in Olson, p. 25; see also Manuscript 46, 1890, pp. 2-3

20. Diary 16, p. 334, in Olson, p. 31; see also Manuscript 29a, 1890, p. 10

21. Manuscript 2, 1891, p. 1, in Olson, p. 57

22. Diary 16, p. 289, in Olson, pp. 57-58; see also Manuscript 44, 1890, pp. 5-6

23. Diary 16, pp. 288-289, in Olson, p. 20; see also Manuscript 44, 1890, p. 5

24. Diary 16, p. 289, in Olson, pp. 57-58; see also Manuscript 44, 1890, pp. 5-6

25. Diary 16, p. 290, in Olson, p. 20; see also Manuscript 44, 1890, p. 6

26. Olson, footnote, p. 57

27. Ibid.

28. Diary 16, p. 323, in Olson, p. 59; see also Manuscript 29, 1890, pp. 3-6

29. White, "Lonely Years", p. 469. The diary entries for November 20-24, 1890, have been transcribed from the original handwriting and titled Manuscript 29, 1890. This document, or parts of it, appears in a confusingly wide array of forms and stages of redactional development. This writer is aware of the following: the original handwritten manuscript with numerous interlineations added to it in Ellen White's handwriting; a typed transcription of the handwritten manuscript with the interlineations (now typed in), containing numerous further editorial alterations; this typed manuscript has further interlineations also in the hand of Ellen White, but there is also a version without the additional interlineations; a document apparently prepared at the White Estate entitled, "E.G. White MS 29, 1890, Showing Editorial Work Done," comparing the handwritten diary and the typed manuscript, but only over the space of a few sentences on pages 5 and 6; "Manuscript Matter Used by A.L. White in Salamanca Vision Story Drawn from Interlined Copy of MS," a document which transcribes a portion of pages 5 and 6 of Manuscript 29, 1890, including the interlineations; "Salamanca Diary," a one page transcription of a portion of the Ellen White handwritten diary entered after the November 22, 1890, entry (but separated by a scrawled line), this transcription includes the interlineations from the original diary entry; the traditional MS 29, 1890 on file for general research in typed form at Ellen White Research Centers; and of course Olson's citation of a portion of these diary entries on pages 58-60 of his compilation. Most of these documents are available in Document File 107-b at the Ellen G. White Estate. Another entire study could be made of the development and editing of the primary sources for the Salamanca experience after they were first penned by Ellen White. For purposes of simplicity and to aid the reader in validating this study, this writer has generally assumed Olson's transcriptions to be reliable and valid. Any exceptions from this are noted either in the text or footnotes.

30. Diary 16, p. 321, in Olson, p. 58; see also Manuscript 29, 1890, p. 1

31. See Olson, pp. 30, 58-60 for a transcription of these passages; also pp. 98-103 for facsimiles of the six diary pages in question. The transcriptions used here are my own.

32. Diary 16, pp. 325-326, in Olson, pp. 59-60; see also Manuscript 29, 1890, pp. 5-6

33. Diary 16, p. 289, in Olson, footnote, p. 57

34. Diary 16, pp. 450-452, in Olson, pp. 60-61; see also Manuscript 44, 1890, pp. 6-8. Curiously, this passage, clearly belonging in 1891, is placed in a manuscript by the White Estate and dated 1890! Such are the hazards awaiting a novice researcher in the White Estate.

35. Olson, footnote, p. 60

36. Ibid.

37. Ibid.

38. Diary 16, p. 457, in Olson, pp. 61-62; see also Manuscript 40, 1890, pp. 1-2

39. Diary 16, p. 457, facsimile in Olson, p. 110; parentheses mine.

40. Diary 16, pp. 506-507, in Olson, p. 63; see also Manuscript 40, 1890, pp. 23-30

41. Olson, footnote, p. 63

42. Diary 17, 1891, pp. 111-112, in Olson, pp. 64-65; see also Manuscript 42, 1891, p. 5

43. Letter 48, 1891, pp. 1-2, in Olson, p. 65

44. Olson, footnote, p. 65

45. Diary 16, p. 336, in Olson, p. 31; see also Manuscript 6, 1890, p. 2

46. Letter 20a, 1893, in Olson, p. 67; see also This Day With God, p. 17

47. Letter 41, 1898, pp. 1-2, in Olson, p. 67

48. Manuscript 59, 1905, p. 4 in Olson, p. 70

49. Olson, footnote, p. 70

50. Olson, footnotes, pp. 63,64

51. Of the 16 Items listed, Items 4, 5, and 8 do not refer to Salamanca; and Item 13 is a reprint of Items 9 and 10.

52. Diary 17, p. 111, in Olson, p. 64; see also Manuscript 42, 1891, p. 5

53. For a list of these resources see footnote 1

54. Robinson, "Salamanca Vision," p. 2

55. [Robinson], p. 2, in Olson, p. 74

56. Johnson et. al., p. 1, in Olson, p. 85

57. White et. al., Sketches, p. 314

58. Olsen, p. 3, in Olson, p. 77; Olsen is here quoting Captain Eldridge who was present at both meetings.

59. Steele, "Statement," p.2

60. White, "Vision Which Could Not Be Told," pp. 4,6; and White, "Story," p. 3

61. See Manuscript 42, 1891, p.5

62. Robinson, "Personal Experiences," p. 3, in Olson, p. 74

63. Johnson et. al., p. 1, in Olson, p. 74

64. Wilcox, p. 63

65. White, "Vision Which Could Not Be Told," pp. 3,4; and White, "Story," p. 3

66. Olsen, p. 1, in Olson, p. 76. Robert Olson's transcription states she arose at 4 o'clock, which aligns with the original manuscript. However, this has usually been altered to say 3 o'clock. See below.

67. Steele, "Statement," pp. 1,2

68. Ibid, p. 2

69. White, Lonely Years, pp. 478-479

70. Olsen, p. 1, see Olson, p. 76

71. Hoopes, p. 3

72. Wilcox, p. 63

73. Johnson et. al., p. 1, in Olson, p. 85

74. [Robinson], p. 3, in Olson p. 74

75. Steele, "Statement," p.1

76. Steele to White, p. 1, in Olson, p. 83

77. Steele, "Statement," p.2

78. Olsen, p. 1, see Olson, p. 76, for the edited version of this statement.

79. White, "Vision Which Could Not Be Told," p. 4

80. Olsen, p. 3, in Olson, pp. 77-78

81. White, "Story,", p. 1

82. Steele, "Statement," p.1

83. Steele to White, p. 2, in Olson, p. 84

84. Olson, footnote, p. 63

85. White, "Vision Which Could Not Be Told," p. 2

86. Ibid., p.3

87. Ibid., p.2

88. "Ellen White was not allowed to tell the vision," ibid., p.6. How could Arthur White determine whether she simply could not recall it, or whether she was prevented from relating it? See also, White, "Story," p.1; and White in Jemison, Prophet, pp. 476-480, especially p. 476.

89. White, Lonely Years, pp. 478-479

90. Steele, "Statement," p.2

91. Manuscript 59, 1905, p.3, in Olson, p. 70, emphasis mine.

92. White et. al., Sketches, p. 315

93. [Robinson], p. 2, in Olson p. 74

94. Steele, "Statement," p.1

95. White, "Story,", p. 4

96. [Robinson], p. 3, in Olson p. 74; see also Steele, "Statement," p.1

97. Olsen, p. 1, in Olson, p. 76

98. Robinson, "Salamanca Vision," p. 2

99. Steele, "Statement," p.1

100. Cottrell, p. 1, in Olson, p. 81

101. Hoopes, p. 2

102. Robinson, "Personal Experiences," p. 54

103. [Robinson], in Olson pp. 73-74

104. Olson lists yet other contradictions and inaccuracies, mostly minor in nature, but concludes: "In general, however, the [eyewitness] accounts are remarkably similar, and reflect an overall trustworthiness," Olson, p. 71.

Category: Visions Examined
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