[345]

CHAPTER 24

Did Mrs. White Break a Promise?

[Return to the Table of Contents]
[Back to Online Books Menu]
[Return to the Homepage]

Section Titles
True Meaning of Her Letter
What Are the Historical Facts?
Further Evidence of Her Answering Questions



Charge: “About 1904, Dr. J. H. Kellogg and his [Battle Creek] Sanitarium associates, it was learned, were not accepting as from God all of Mrs. White's writings. They found numerous contradictions in them, and believed that many of them were inspired by the officials, and were calling attention to some of these things.

“Mrs. White thereupon wrote them a ‘testimony,’ asking that they write out their difficulties regarding her writings, and send them to her. In this communication, dated March 30, 1905 [correct date, 1906], she not only promised to clear up these difficulties, but said that God would help her to do this. She said:

“‘Recently in the visions of the night I stood in a large company of people…. I was directed by the Lord to request them, and any others who have perplexities and grievous things in the minds regarding the testimonies that I have borne, to specify what their objections and criticisms are. The Lord will help me to answer these objections, and make plain that which seems to be intricate…. Let it all be written out, and submitted to those who desire to remove the perplexities…. They should certainly do this, if they are loyal to the directions God has given.’

“Dr. ——*, one of the Battle Creek Sanitarium physicians, took her at her word, and wrote out a large number of ‘perplexities’ which he and others had found in her writings, and sent them to her.

“What did Mrs. White do? Instead of fulfilling her promise and attempting an explanation, she had another ‘vision,’ in which she was instructed by ‘a messenger from heaven’ not to do so. Here are her words, written under date of June 3, 1906:

“‘I had a vision, in which I was speaking before a large company, where many questions were asked concerning my work and writings. I was directed by a messenger from heaven not to take the burden of picking up and answering all the sayings and doubts that are being put in many minds.’ …

“She could not clear up these difficulties, nor answer these objections…. She had made a promise which she could not fulfill.”

We have reproduced as much of the quotations from Mrs.


* The doctor's name is not necessary to the argument and its deletion keeps the discussion, as far as possible, above the level of personalities.


[346]

White as the critic gives. Her words of March 30, 1906, as here quoted, convey the impression that she is promising, in advance, to answer any and every kind of question that might be raised. We shall quote more fully from the letter, beginning immediately after the sentence: “The Lord will help me to answer these objections, and to make plain that which seems to be intricate.”

“Let those who are troubled now place upon paper a statement of the difficulties that perplex their minds, and let us see if we can not throw some light upon the matter that will relieve their perplexities. The time has come for the leaders to state to us the perplexities of which they have spoken to the nurses and to their associate physicians. Let us now have their reasons for talking with the students in a way that would destroy their faith in the messages that God sends His people. Let it all be written out, and submitted to those who desire to remove the perplexities.

“If statements have been made that there are contradictions in the testimonies, should I not be acquainted with the charges and accusations? Should I not know the reasons of this sowing tares of unbelief? …

“I am praying for you all, and praying for our youth. It is time that we understood who is on the Lord's side. I ask that the leaders in the medical work at Battle Creek, and those who have been associated with them in gathering together criticisms and objections to the testimonies that I have borne, shall open to me the things that they have been opening to others. They should certainly do this, if they are loyal to the directions God has given. We should also have a clear statement of facts from those with whom physicians and ministers have been at work, to undermine their confidence in the Bible, the Messages, and the Testimonies. If there is in your minds the thought that Sister White's work can no longer be trusted, we would be glad to know when and why you came to this decision. It may be that some matters that seem to you very objectionable can be explained. This will be better than to leave these matters until the great future investigation, when every man's work will appear as it is, with the reasons that underlie their course of action….

“I present this before you all. I am still praying for the physicians, the ministers, and the church in Battle Creek. If any are framing excuses that have deceived their own minds, I plead with them to put these excuses away before the final judgment.”—Letter 120, 1906.

True Meaning of Her Letter

[Top of Document]

In this larger context the major burden of her letter stands revealed as an appeal to the critical brethren to put themselves on record in writing, to be as frank in speaking to her as they were


[347]

in speaking to “nurses” and others at the sanitarium. Her statement that the Lord would help her “answer these objections,” should be read in the light of her statement in the next sentence: “Let us see if we can not throw some light upon the matter.” Also with her further statement: “It may be that some matters that seem to you very objectionable can be explained.” Then, too, we should note carefully her words: “If any are framing excuses that have deceived their own minds, I plead with them to put these excuses away before the final judgment.”

In other words, we think that the reasonable interpretation of her whole letter—we have given virtually all of it—is that she was making a heaven-directed last appeal to this critical group to lay their grievances squarely before her.* She wanted everything to come out into the open, and she wanted to show a measure of good faith in advance by presuming that their questions would warrant an answer. Hence her words: “The Lord will help me to answer these objections.” But her following on to say, twice, by implication, that she might not be able to answer some questions to their satisfaction reveals that she was not sure that all these men were of a mood to consider valid the answers she might be prepared to give. After all, if people are “framing excuses that have deceived their own minds,” they may be impervious to any attempt to clear up their questions and grievances.

The charge before us implies that as soon as someone wrote out his “perplexities” and sent them to her she immediately was panic stricken, nonplused, and “had another ‘vision’” in which she reversed herself, and refused to answer any questions.

What Are the Historical Facts?

[Top of Document]

Now what are the facts? Before us lie copies of a sheaf of letters written by Mrs. White to various ones of this Battle Creek group in which she seeks to clarify their misunderstandings of her testimonies and of her work. Some of these letters were written before June 3, 1906—the time of her alleged reversal of attitude—but


* The complete break with most of them came shortly afterward.


[348]

a number of them bear dates after that. In her letter to one doctor, dated June 15, 1906, are found these words:

“If I can present to the people the facts in the case as they exist it may save some from making shipwreck of faith. I have been sent some of the most frivolous questions in regard to the testimonies given me by the Lord.”—Letter 180, 1906.

Now look again at the June 3, 1906, vision. Does she say that “she was instructed by ‘a messenger from heaven’ not to” answer any questions? In fact, what warrant is there for presuming that the June 3 vision is intended as a reversal of her letter of March 30? What she wrote on March 30 was in the form of a letter to certain men. What she wrote on June 3 was a statement addressed to no particular person, and entitled “Hold Fast the Beginning of Your Confidence.” While it is true that this statement deals with certain of the views that were troubling the minds of many at Battle Creek, she is not discussing her letter of March 30. Nothing in her June 3 statement requires the conclusion that she was reversing her request to certain named men to present the questions that troubled their minds regarding her testimonies. We quote in full the two opening paragraphs of the June 3 statement:

“For many months I have been troubled as I have seen that some of our brethren whom God has used in his cause are now perplexed over the scientific theology which has come in to lead men away from a true faith in God.* Sabbath night, a week ago, after I had been prayerfully studying over these things, I had a vision, in which I was speaking before a large company, where many questions were asked concerning my work and writings.

“I was directed by a messenger from heaven not to take the burden of picking up and answering all the sayings and doubts that are being put into many minds. ‘Stand as the messenger of God anywhere, in any place,’ I was bidden, ‘and bear the testimony I shall give you. Be free. Bear the testimonies that the Lord has for you to bear in reproof, in rebuke, in the work of encouraging and lifting up the soul; “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”’”—MS. 61, 1906.


* She is here referring to certain pantheistic and philosophical teachings that were being promoted by leaders at the Battle Creek Sanitarium.


[349]

Further Evidence of Her Answering Questions

[Top of Document]

One of those she requested, by name, in the March 30 letter, to write to her their questions, did so on April 26. We give the opening paragraphs of her reply, dated July 6:

“I greatly desire that you shall understand all things clearly. I had hoped to answer your letter of April 26 long before this, but I have had many important matters on my mind, which required first attention.

“To some of the questions asked in your letter, answers have been given me. For an answer to some of your questions, I am instructed to refer you to statements already published.”—Letter 224, 1906.

Much more might be quoted from her numerous letters during this particular time to show that she made a sincere endeavor to answer what she believed were questions worthy of answer. That she declined to be drawn into a discussion of some questions does not require us to believe that she broke her promise of March 30, but only that she considered some questions as “frivolous,” others as mere personal attacks, and still others as “excuses,” none of which called for a reply from her.* Thus the reader can judge for himself whether or not she broke her promise of March 30. We think he will agree that if she had not made a distinction between the kinds of questions asked, she would have failed to show that measure of spiritual discernment which we may rightly expect of one in whom is revealed the gift of the Spirit of prophecy.


* W. C. White, her son, wrote on June 9, 1907, to one of those who had prepared a long document that consisted largely of questions that impugned her integrity: “That portion of the document addressed to her, which takes the form of an attack upon her integrity and her work, she will refer to the brethren to answer, because for many years she has been instructed that it is not any part of her legitimate work to answer the numerous and violent attacks which have been made upon her by her critics and the enemies of the work.”

At the time and in those places where the attacks created any confusion, oral answers were generally provided by Adventist ministers. Most of the objections and quibbles presented in response to Mrs. White's March 30, 1906, letter have now lost their force and interest, so that present-day critics rarely allude to them. Objections on such main subjects as plagiarism and the apparently contradictory counsel on dairy products have continued down to the present. They are answered rather fully in this book.



[Top of Document]
[Return to Homepage]
[Return to Online Books Menu]