Chapter 11

The Prolific Writer

[Return to the Table of Contents]
[Return to the Homepage]

Editorial Assistants
A 19th Century Accent
Wide Reading Habits
Writing for the General Public
Personal Experiences Enriched Her Writing
Variety of Personal Letters
How Categories of Literary Production Were Developed
Marian Davis “My Bookmaker”
Why Revisions Were Necessary
Opposition to Revisions
Revision Experience Teaches Lessons
Endnotes
Study Questions


“My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I write my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Ps. 45:1).

Ellen White is thought to be the third most translated author in history and the most translated American author, male or female. So far as we know, she wrote and published more books, and in more languages, which circulate to a greater extent than the written works of any other woman in history. By the close of her seventy-year ministry, her literary productions totaled approximately 100,000 pages, or the equivalent of 25 million words, including letters, diaries, periodical articles, pamphlets, and books.1

At the time of Mrs. White’s death (1915), twenty-four books were currently in print and two more were at the publishers awaiting publication. In the 1990s, 128 titles were in print bearing Ellen White’s name, including books that are compilations of her thoughts on various subjects.2

How did it all begin? Not a brilliant student, college-trained! Not a skilled and published writer! It would be difficult to say that Ellen White’s remarkable literary production was merely a product of human genius and invention. Her contemporaries, knowing her background and minimal education, also knew that more than human wisdom was responsible for her incisive, commanding eloquence in print as well as in the pulpit.

In late spring 1845, Ellen Harmon’s hand, trembling in weakness, was unable to write. But in a vision she was told to write what she saw. For the first time, her “hand became steady.” Many years later she recalled this experience: “The Lord has said, ‘Write out the things which I shall give you.’ And I commenced when very young to do this work. My hand that was feeble and trembling because of infirmities became steady as soon as I took the pen in my hand, and since those first writings I have been able to write. God has given me the ability to write. . . . The right hand scarcely ever has a disagreeable sensation. It never wearies. It seldom ever trembles (1900).”3

Ellen White wrote on note paper, large sheets, and in bound, ruled copybooks, almost always with a pen. Her assistants copied her manuscripts on the typewriter after the mid-1880s.4

She wrote at all times, day and night, and under circumstances that would intimidate others. Her son, W. C. White, recalled a typical schedule when the Whites were at home in Battle Creek: “With but little variation, the daily program of the White family was something like this: At six o’clock all were up. Often Mother had been writing for two or three hours, and the cook had been busy in the kitchen since five o’clock. By six-thirty breakfast was ready. Mother would frequently mention at the breakfast table that she had written six, eight, or more pages, and sometimes she would relate to the family some interesting portions of what she had written.

“Father would sometimes tell us of the work in which he was engaged, or relate interesting incidents regarding the progress of the cause, east and west. At seven o’clock all assembled in the parlor for morning worship. . .

“After Father had left the house, Mother enjoyed spending half an hour in her flower garden during those portions of the year when flowers could be cultivated. In this her children were encouraged to work with her. Then she would devote three or four hours to her writing. Her afternoons were usually occupied with a variety of activities, sewing, mending, knitting, darning, and working in her flower garden, with occasional shopping trips to town or visits to the sick.”5

Often she would be writing while traveling. In her August 18, 1859, diary entry, she noted: “Awoke a little past two A.M. Take cars [train] at four. Feel very miserable. Write all day. . . . Our journey on the cars ended at six P.M.”6

On that same trip, in her diary entry for October 10, she spoke of her crowded schedule while staying at the home of a church member: “The house is full of company. . . . Had no time to visit. Shut myself in the chamber to write.”7

After a three-month tour of the eastern states in 1891, just prior to leaving for Australia, she wrote that she had “spoken fifty-five times, and have written three hundred pages. . . . The Lord it is who has strengthened and blessed me and upheld me by His Spirit.”8

Insight into how her assistants helped her is found in a letter Ellen White wrote to G. W. Amadon in 1906: “The evening after the Sabbath I retired, and rested well without ache or pain until half past ten. I was unable to sleep. I had received instruction [by heavenly Guide], and I seldom lie in bed after such instruction comes. There was a company assembled in ____, and instruction was given by One in our midst that I was to repeat and repeat with pen and voice. I left my bed, and wrote for five hours as fast as my pen could trace the lines. Then I rested on the bed for an hour, and slept part of the time.

“I placed the matter in the hands of my copyist, and on Monday morning it was waiting for me, placed inside my office door on Sunday evening. There were four articles ready for me to read over and make any corrections needed. The matter is now prepared, and some of it will go in the mail today.

“This is the line of work that I am carrying on. I do most of my writing while the other members of the family are asleep. I build my fire, and then write uninterruptedly, sometimes for hours.”9


Editorial Assistants

[Top of Document]

In order to keep up with the incessant demand for articles and books, Ellen White eventually developed an efficient organization of paid and unpaid editorial assistants. In the early years, James was her keen and ready helper in preparing material for publication.10

The very idea of a prophet’s needing editorial “assistance” has come as a new thought to some in recent years. But those who were Ellen White’s contemporaries knew how necessary literary helpers were, considering the volume of writing to which she was committed.11

Often those who are troubled by a prophet’s use of assistants have a faulty understanding of how God speaks to human beings. They believe that inspired persons, including Mrs. White, mechanically wrote out exactly what God had spoken or revealed word for word.12 Some expect inerrancy from Ellen White, even as they do from the Bible writers. Mrs. White’s own understanding of how revelation/inspiration works will be discussed on page 421.

Ellen White employed literary assistants for the same reasons that Biblical writers did. She recognized her own limitations of time and literary skills. In 1873, she wrote in her diary: “My mind is coming to strange conclusions. I am thinking I must lay aside my writing I have taken so much pleasure in, and see if I cannot become a scholar. I am not a grammarian. I will try, if the Lord will help me, at forty-five years old to become a scholar in the science. God will help me. I believe He will.”13

She was often interrupted while writing and this left tangled copy. Commenting on this need for editorial assistance, she wrote: “Doing as much writing as I do, it is not surprising if there are many sentences left unfinished.”14

In a letter to G. A. Irwin, General Conference president, Willie White noted that his mother sought literary assistance because she recognized the varying quality in her writings: “Sometimes when Mother’s mind is rested, and free, the thoughts are presented in language that is not only clear and strong, but beautiful and correct; and at times when she is weary and oppressed with heavy burdens of anxiety, or when the subject is difficult to portray, there are repetitions and ungrammatical sentences.”

He further described the guidelines that his mother set for her literary assistants: “Mother’s copyists are entrusted with the work of correcting grammatical errors, of eliminating unnecessary repetitions, and of grouping paragraphs and sections in their best order. . . . Mother’s workers of experience, such as Sisters Davis, Burnham, Bolton, Peck, and Hare, who are very familiar with her writings, are authorized to take a sentence, paragraph, or section from one manuscript and incorporate it with another manuscript where the same thought was expressed but not so clearly. But none of Mother’s workers are authorized to add to the manuscripts by introducing thoughts of their own.”15

By 1881 Willie served as the editorial coordinator for his mother’s literary assistants.16 Because Ellen White was either traveling or writing new material most of the time, she chose not to be involved in editorial details. She knew that she would review all documents before they would be published unless she gave, on occasion, specific permission to a periodical editor to abridge to fit space. The record shows that they made few changes.

A “hierarchy of responsibility” developed. For example, for minor editorial work, Marian Davis was authorized to decide matters herself; larger questions were to be submitted to W. C. White. Ellen White would make the final decisions as to editorial changes after both William and Marian had done their work.17

Marian Davis had occasions to describe her work as she saw it: “I have tried to begin both chapters and paragraphs with short sentences, and indeed to simplify wherever possible, to drop out every needless word, and to make the work, as I have said, more compact and vigorous.”18

The publishers hoped to keep Ellen White on their schedule, which was not easy during her heavy duties in Australia. Marian wrote to Willie: “Sister White is constantly harassed with the thought that the manuscript should be sent to the printers at once. . . . Sister White seems inclined to write, and I have no doubt she will bring out many precious things. I hope it will be possible to get them into the book. There is one thing, however, that not even the most competent editor could do—that is prepare a manuscript before it is written.”19

At times Ellen White reached out beyond her immediate helpers for assistance. She explained this procedure to W. H. Littlejohn in 1894: “I have all my publications closely examined. I desire that nothing shall appear in print without careful investigation. Of course I would not want men who have not a Christian experience or are lacking in ability to appreciate literary merit to be placed as judges of what is essential to come before the people, as pure provender thoroughly winnowed from the chaff. I laid out all my manuscript on Patriarchs and Prophets and on [Spirit of Prophecy] Vol. IV before the book committee for examination and criticism. I also placed these manuscripts in the hands of some of our ministers for examination. The more criticism of them the better for the work.”20

When she wrote of medical matters, her office helpers asked medical specialists to review the manuscripts with care: “I wish that in all your reading you would note those places where the thought is expressed in a way to be especially criticized by medical men and kindly give us the benefit of your knowledge as to how to express the same thought in a more accurate way.”21

Regardless of wherever she received editorial help, Ellen White read everything in final form: “I find under my door in the morning several copied articles from Sister Peck, Maggie Hare, and Minnie Hawkins. All must be read critically by me . . . . Every article I prepare to be edited by my workers, I always have to read myself before it is sent for publication.”22


A 19th Century Accent

[Top of Document]

Like the prophets who wrote the Bible, Ellen White wrote from within the literary, historical, social, and religious context of her time. She not only wrote with a human accent, she wrote with the accent and the thought-forms of the 19th century.

As with the prophets of old, contemporary issues often determined the emphasis and frequency of what she wrote about. For example, she saw profound implications for understanding last-day events as she noted Sunday-law activity.23 Both Biblical prophets and Ellen White, though speaking to contemporary issues in their day, provided us with ageless principles that apply to us today.


Wide Reading Habits

[Top of Document]

Ellen White’s wide reading habits helped to fill in her broad conceptual framework with historical background and fresh ways to state her insightful perceptions.

When the White children were young, their mother read broadly in religious magazines looking for stories with moral lessons that would be suitable especially for Sabbath reading. She clipped the desirable articles and pasted them in scrapbooks.24

In the 1870s many of these articles were sorted out into books for different age groups. The first of these collections, Sabbath Readings, Moral and Religious Lessons for Youth and Children, contained 154 individually-paged stories.25 Later, Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle, a four-volume set of stories, appeared in numerous editions.26 At the turn of the century, Golden Grains, a series of ten pamphlets, each containing 72 pages, was published by the Pacific Press Publishing Association.27 An undated collection of children’s stories, Sunshine Series, was also published; the first had ten pamphlets of 16 pages, and the second had 20 pamphlets of 16 pages each.28

Early in 1900, while in Australia, Ellen White wrote to her son, Edson, asking him to send certain books from her library: “I have sent for four or five large volumes of Barnes’ notes on the Bible. I think they are in Battle Creek in my house now sold, somewhere with my books. I hope you will see that my property, if I have any, is cared for and not scattered as common property everywhere. I may never visit America again, and my best books should come to me when it is convenient.”29

In 1920, E. E. Andross, president of the North American Division, made a plea for clarification on Mrs. White’s use of materials found in her reading. W. C. White responded: “In the early days of her work, Mother was promised wisdom in the selection from the writings of others, that would enable her to select the gems of truth from the rubbish of error. We have all seen this fulfilled, and yet when she told me of this, she admonished me not to tell it to others. Why thus restricted I never knew, but now am inclined to believe that she saw how this might lead some of her brethren to claim too much for her writings as a standard with which to correct historians.”30

W. C. White wrote to the Publication Committee of the Pacific Press in 1911: “It is generally admitted that in Sister White’s discourses, spoken to the people, she uses great freedom and wisdom in the selection of proofs and illustrations, to make plain and forcible her presentation of the truths revealed to her in vision. Also, that she selects such facts and arguments as are adapted to the audience to which she is speaking. This is essential to the attainment of the best results from her discourses. And she has always felt and taught that it was her duty to use the same wisdom in the selection of matter for her books, that she does in the selection of matter for her discourses.”31

With her mind and heart overflowing with the love of God, Ellen White had been given the big picture of God’s plan for resolving the sin problem; it was her duty to find the best way to convey this picture to others. In the introduction to The Great Teacher (a volume Ellen White valued highly), John Harris wrote: “Suppose, for example, an inspired prophet were now to appear in the church, to add a supplement to the canonical books—what a Babel of opinions would he find existing on almost every theological subject! And how highly probable it is that his ministry would consist, or seem to consist, in a mere selection and ratification of such of these opinions as accorded with the mind of God. Absolute originality would seem to be almost impossible. The inventive mind of man has already bodied forth speculative opinions in almost every conceivable form, forestalling and robbing the future of its fair proportion of novelties and leaving little more, even to a divine messenger, than the office of taking some of these opinions and impressing them with the seal of heaven.”32

These words could be applied to Ellen White. Her ability to read voluminously and to select carefully provided her with the tools that her prophetic mission required. Mentally armed with the inspired outline of truth, her extensive reading frequently helped her to fill in the details with pertinent historical background and with literary adaptations that make her writings forceful, delightful, and creative.


Writing for the General Public

[Top of Document]

When her books were to be published later for non-Adventists, she authorized revisions that would eliminate possible misunderstandings. More than merely authorized, she actively encouraged such revisions.

For example, her chapter on “Proper Education,” now found in Testimonies, volume 3, pages 131-138, was also submitted to the Health Reformer, September, 1872; however, certain differences in wording appear in the Health Reformer because it was prepared especially for the general public.

Sarah Peck, an education specialist, joined Ellen White’s staff at the turn of the century. One of her assignments was to assemble Mrs. White’s writings on the principles of education. Miss Peck soon saw that these materials divided themselves into two groups. Those most appropriate for the church now appear in certain sections of the Testimonies, volume 6 (1900) and Counsels to Parents and Teachers (1913); those suitable for the general public are in Education (1903).

While helping his mother prepare the 1911 edition of The Great Controversy, W. C. White wrote to the Publication Committee: “In Great Controversy, Volume IV, published in 1885, in the chapter ‘Snares of Satan,’ there are three pages or more of matter that were not used in the later editions, which were prepared to be sold to the multitudes by our canvassers. It is most excellent and interesting reading for Sabbathkeepers, as it points out the work that Satan will do in persuading popular ministers and church members to elevate the Sunday sabbath, and to persecute Sabbathkeepers.33

“It was not left out because it was less true in 1888 than in 1885, but because Mother thought it was not wisdom to say these things to the multitudes to whom the book would be sold in future years. . . .

“With reference to this, and to other passages in her writings which have been omitted in later editions, she has often said: ‘These statements are true, and they are useful to our people; but to the general public, for whom this book is now being prepared, they are out of place. Christ said, even to His disciples, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” And Christ taught His disciples to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”’ Therefore, as it is probable that more souls will be won to Christ by the book without this passage than with it, let it be omitted.

“Regarding changes in forms of expression, Mother has often said: ‘Essential truths must be plainly told; but so far as possible they should be told in language that will win, rather than offend.’”34

Ellen White’s sermons were often published as articles in the Signs of the Times or the Review and Herald. However, preparing them for the Review was much easier than preparing articles for the Signs. Why? Because readers of the Review were mainly Seventh-day Adventists, and those of the Signs, primarily the general public.


Personal Experiences Enriched Her Writing

[Top of Document]

Creative preachers have a “homiletical bias,” that is, in whatever they read, in whatever their personal experiences, they “pick up” information for sermons to come. Such experiences enrich their sacred subjects, enhancing the interest for their hearers. No one at any time begins to think with a blank mind. On the minds of creative thinkers is the sum total of all that they have ever read, all that they have ever experienced.

In addition to all that Ellen White was reading, her many travel experiences added to the wealth of her thought. For instance, after spending a day on a sailboat in San Francisco Bay (1876), she was writing on the life of Christ. Her subject that day was Christ walking on the Sea of Galilee, and in her mind she saw the disciples toiling through the stormy night. She continued in her letter to her husband: “Can you wonder that I was silent and happy with these grand themes of contemplation? I am glad I went upon the water. I can write better than before.”35

In 1886 while holding meetings in Valence, France, she visited the Cathedral of Saint Apollinaire where she observed the impressiveness of a Catholic worship service. The priests officiated with their white robes, overlaid with a black velvet surplice trimmed with gold braid. This kind of experience helped her when later, in The Great Controversy, she described the grandeur of Catholic worship.36

While in Zurich, Switzerland, she visited the Gross Munster, the church where Zwingli preached during the Protestant Reformation. She was intensely interested in viewing Zwingli’s Bible, and his life-size statue where “one hand rests upon the handle of his sword, while in the other hand he clasps a Bible.”37

In view of the fact that she was then enlarging The Great Controversy, especially the part dealing with the Protestant Reformation era, Ellen White’s comments on this city tour are understandable: “We gathered many items of interest which we will use.”38


Variety of Personal Letters

[Top of Document]

Ellen White never expected that her private letters would be made public, except for those portions that she later used in developing a periodical article or for those letters that she thought would be of general interest. How would people today feel about having their private correspondence suddenly become public property? Especially correspondence written forty years before? Especially confidential letters to family members? Or letters of reproof to leading church leaders or to their wives?

But today we must face reality. Much of Ellen White’s private, confidential correspondence (letters she never published) has become public. How has this happened? Let us note several ways.

Because of her unique standing within the church, her letters became treasured correspondence by recipients. Older members passed them on to their children or to trusted pastors or students. Soon they took on a life of their own, usually without the background of time, place, or circumstance that would have provided the context for each letter’s meaning and purpose.

This lack of context, of course, did not matter to those who believed in some form of verbal inspiration!39 For many, each word of these letters often became the “final word” on any question. The appeal to “Sister White says . . . ,” on the basis of these many private letters, frequently closed further thought, bringing in unnecessary perplexity in church discussions. In the chapters on “Hermeneutics” (32-34) we will discuss the problems that arise when Ellen White’s writings, especially her letters, are misused.

Another way her letters have become published is by the White Estate releasing them to researchers. After researchers have used these letters, the White Estate has made most of them available in the 21 Manuscript Releases volumes. Other complete letters are available in the four volumes of the 1888 Materials. All of these letters are available on CD-ROM.

Many of Ellen White’s letters were sent to her own family members, including close associates. Affectionate letters to James and her sons are numerous. As noted earlier,40 some of these letters may appear abrupt and defensive. Considering time, place, and circumstance, the reader today can easily empathize with a busy, intensely committed, and sometimes tired, wife and mother. The real test of an occasional family letter that seems stiff and insensitive today is the response of her sons and her husband to these letters through the years. The sons loved their mother dearly and profited by her counsel. James adored his wife, even during his dark days of sickness and depression.41

In 1876 James White was preparing a biography of his wife. Because her letters were seen as the most “fruitful source” for tracing her unique ministry, he noted on the back page of the February 10 issue of the Signs that her friends should “forward all letters that remain in their hands.”

Typical of hundreds of encouraging letters is the one Ellen White sent to two young families, the Robinsons and Boyds, when they left the Fifth European Council at Moss, Norway, in June, 1887, to open mission work in South Africa. During this meeting, Mrs. White had preached evangelistic sermons to the general public, pastoral sermons to church members, provided counsel in business meetings, and shared pioneer experiences with other workers. But when Sabbath afternoon came, she knew her work was not yet finished. She and Mrs. Ings walked into the forest, spread a blanket, and instead of resting, she wrote a ten-page letter of counsel and encouragement to the young, mission-field-bound workers. That letter, now known as Letter 14, 1887, has been quoted and published often; its rich insights have guided many workers throughout the years.42

At times, Ellen White talked lucidly and candidly in confidential letters to her sons as well as co-workers. Her private letters to son Edson appear frank, even sharp, especially if the historical context is ignored. Not until Edson was forty-four years of age did he emerge as a committed preacher and educator. In later years, he pioneered Adventist work in the post-Civil-War American South. But in his younger years he was reluctant to assume responsibility for financial decisions as well as for his conduct.43

When Edson was considering marriage at the age of twenty, his mother wrote one of her frank letters. She noted his intellectual brilliance, “capable of filling a position as a physician or business man,” but he was a “spendthrift.” He lacked self-control. “Father weeps over your case. But we are both at a loss to know what to say or do in your case. We view it just alike. You are at present not fitted to have a family, for in judgment you are a child—in self-control a child. You have no strength to resist temptation although by yielding you would disgrace us and yourself and dishonor God. You would not bear the yoke in your youth. You love ease and to be free from care.”44

During Edson’s youth, he clashed with his father. Mother Ellen often tried to keep the peace, which may not have been fully appreciated by either. James believed that his wife favored Edson during breakdowns in communication. If so, perhaps it was because she understood best the special circumstances surrounding Edson during his early life, such as her own stressful pregnancy with him and unfavorable pre-natal influences; his extreme ill health as a baby; and the early and frequent separation from parents while they traveled from state to state uniting early Seventh-day Adventists. These circumstances she (now 50) referred to when she wrote to William in 1878: “The circumstances of his birth [in 1849] were altogether different than yours. His mother knows, but everyone does not.”45

During her children’s formative years, Ellen White believed that she and James had “failed” to restrain their children from following “their own inclinations and desires,” but at the same time had censured them and found fault “with them in a spirit which will only injure and discourage them instead of helping them.”46 James and Ellen White were experiencing the “growing pains” that most serious and committed parents make in their high goal of being responsible under God. Further, she had been given divine enlightenment regarding the curse that came upon Eli and his sons because of the father’s indulgence of their sins—and she did not want to make a similar mistake.47

With this background, one can better understand her letters to Edson like the following (which was marked “Read this alone, Private”): “My dear Son Edson [at 15]: When we went to Monterey last summer, for instance, you went into the river four times and not only disobeyed us yourself but led Willie to disobedience. A thorn has been planted in my heart from that time, when I became convinced that you could not be trusted. . . . A gloom which I cannot express shrouds our minds in regard to your influence upon Willie. You lead him into habits of disobedience and concealment and prevarication. This influence, we have seen, has affected our noble-hearted, truthful Willie. . . . You reason and talk and make things appear all smooth to him, when he cannot see through the matter. He adopts your view of it and he is in danger of losing his candor, his frankness. . . . You had so little sense of the true value of character. You seemed as much pleased in the society of Marcus Ashley as with your own innocent brother Willie. You never prized him as he deserved to be prized. He is a treasure, beloved of God, but I fear your influence will ruin him.”48

In this letter we have the typical candor of the mother who prized candor in her children. In her attempt to awaken the conscience of Edson and ease him into fulfilling parental expectations, she used young Willie (five years younger) as Edson’s model. Years later she was able to see that this kind of comparison among siblings was not the best approach, even though both children had abundant evidence of their mother’s love. She had their eternal interests in mind at all times, and simply did not want her love confused with indulgence.


How Categories of Literary Production Were Developed

[Top of Document]

During her most productive years, especially after 1881, Ellen White maintained a steady stream of letters, sermons, periodical articles, and books. These materials were further processed by her literary assistants into other forms for publication. Sermons became periodical articles, and letters, sermons, and articles were often reassembled into book form. The output was prodigious as the pages of the Review and Signs attest, plus the books that came forth from her pen during the last thirty-five years of her life.

Diaries. The White Estate has some 60 diary/journals belonging to Ellen White that trace back to 1859. Some record daily events, much as we would think of a diary today, while others are simply ruled blank books that she used for writing letters or manuscripts of a general nature. It is not uncommon to find a range of several years’ writing in a single journal, years that might overlap with writing in other journals. This is due to the fact that she regularly passed these books to her secretaries for copying. Thus several books might be in use at the same time, some being in the copyists’ hands, while she continued her writing in another available journal.

Letters. Editing Ellen White’s letters before mailing involved more than typing her handwritten manuscripts. W. C. White noted the process in a letter to his mother after receiving a long one from her to A. C. Bourdeau (4,000 words). He said that Mary, his wife, “will try to fix it as she has strength.”49 “Fix it” meant that grammatical corrections were expected. This kind of editorial assistance can easily be seen when one compares hastily written hand copies with the typewritten edited copies.

Sermons and Periodical Articles. Many of Ellen White’s sermons were stenographically recorded. Mary K. White and Mary Clough, as well as others, often prepared sermons for publication. Both church papers sought these articles on a regular basis. This schedule was not easy to maintain because of travel interruptions and other pressing writing goals. To make it easier for all concerned, especially for her hard-pressed assistants, Ellen White gave permission to the editors of the Review and Signs to take the typewritten manuscripts and prepare them for their particular needs. In doing so, they were to “drop out the personal matter and make it general, and put it to whatever use you may think best for the interests of the cause of God.”50

Although the editors had earned this trust, they changed the fewest possible words and sentences to fit their needs. This accounts for the slight differences between the periodical article and the same material used later in a book.

Books (other than the Testimonies). During the 1890s, several books were in process simultaneously, including Gospel Workers, Steps to Christ,51 and The Desire of Ages52—the first, a complete compilation, and the last two, largely compilations and rearrangements of previously written material.


Marian Davis “My Bookmaker”

[Top of Document]

In a 1900 letter to G. A. Irwin, Ellen White called Marian Davis “my bookmaker.” In that same letter, she described how Marian did her work: “She takes my articles which are published in the papers, and pastes them in blank books. She also has a copy of all the letters I write. In preparing a chapter for a book, Marian remembers that I have written something on that special point, which may make the matter more forcible. She begins to search for this, and if when she finds it, she sees that it will make the chapter more clear, she adds it.

“The books are not Marian’s productions, but my own, gathered from all my writings. Marian has a large field from which to draw, and her ability to arrange the matter is of great value to me. It saves my poring over a mass of matter, which I have no time to do.”53

Marian wrote to Willie reflecting the weight of her work: “Perhaps you can imagine the difficulty of trying to bring together points relating to any subject, when these must be gleaned from thirty scrapbooks, a half-dozen bound [E. G. White] volumes, and fifty manuscripts, all covering thousands of pages.”54

But Marian did none of the writing. When Marian died in 1904, Ellen White looked back over their close association with great appreciation: “We have stood side by side in the work, and in perfect harmony in that work. And when she would be gathering up the precious jots and tittles that had come in papers and books and present it to me, ‘Now,’ she would say, ‘there is something wanted [needed]. I cannot supply it.’ I would look it over, and in one moment I could trace the line right out. We worked together, just worked together in perfect harmony all the time.”55 Others, including Mary White, J. H. Waggoner, W. W. Prescott, and J. H. Kellogg, also helped W. C. White and Marian Davis in book production.

Dr. Kellogg helped in the publication of Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene. He wrote the introduction in which he noted how the book was developed: “This book is not a new presentation . . . but is simply a compilation, and in some sense an abstract, of the various writings of Mrs. White upon this subject, to which have been added several articles by Elder James White, elucidating the same principles, and the personal experience of Elders J. N. Andrews and Joseph Bates, two of the pioneers in the health movement among Seventh-day Adventists. The work of compilation has been done under the supervision of Mrs. White, by a committee appointed by her for the purpose, and the manuscript has been carefully examined by her.”56

Testimonies. “Testimonies” early became a term well known among Seventh-day Adventists for three reasons: (1) Adventists who formerly were Methodists were familiar with the “social” meetings, or “testimony” meetings, wherein members would share personal experiences and their faith commitments; (2) communications from Ellen White to others, either oral or written, became known as “testimonies”; (3) the published compilations of letters, manuscripts, and previously published periodical articles were eventually assembled into nine volumes known as Testimonies for the Church.

These “testimonies” were written whenever Ellen White had the time and occasion to write out the revelations given to her, either through night dreams or day visions. One interesting occasion took place at Adams Center, New York, in early November, 1863. Nearly a whole Seventh Day Baptist church had been converted to the Adventist message. James and Ellen White spoke several times, as did J. N. Andrews.

On Sunday afternoon, Andrews preached while Mrs. White wrote six pages during the sermon, writing only four feet away from the pulpit, using her Bible as a writing prop. When the sermon ended, she arose and addressed the congregation. One church member reported in the Review that “her words were enough to melt a heart of stone.” Her ability to concentrate is well illustrated by her reaction that same day when someone asked her what she thought of Andrews as a speaker. She replied that “she could not say, as it had been so long since she had heard him.”57

Many of the original, personal communications from Ellen White were later recognized to be of value for others as well. In response to requests, the Whites arranged to have them printed in brochure form. The first ten of these Testimonies, between 1855-1864, contained from 16 to 240 pages each in pocket-size pamphlets. In 1874 the first ten were reprinted in book form. (No doubt after ten years the originals, not in permanent form, were not easily available.)

However, the 1881-1883 revision of the previously published Testimonies, 1-28, became a major project. The fact that a messenger’s public writings could or should be “revised” brought new focus on how God worked through His messenger. For many people, it appeared to be a fresh insight.

The 1878 General Conference voted that all previous Testimonies should be reprinted in permanent form. Reprinting involved a complete resetting of type, creating a new page format and providing consecutive paging.

Ellen White and her close assistants (W. C. and Mary White, Marian Davis, Eliza Burnham, and J. H. Waggoner) saw this request as an opportunity to improve imperfect grammar and clarity of expression. Her aim continued to be to present truth in the clearest manner possible.


Why Revisions Were Necessary

[Top of Document]

The 1883 General Conference resolution endorsed the 1878 vote, noting the circumstances under which the Testimonies had been written: “Many of these testimonies were written under the most unfavorable circumstances, the writer being too heavily pressed with anxiety and labor to devote critical thought to the grammatical perfection of the writings, and they were printed in such haste as to allow these imperfections to pass uncorrected; etc.”58

The editors took this task of revision seriously. Mary wrote to her husband, W. C. White: “With regard to changes, we will try to profit by your suggestions. The fear that we may make too many changes or in some way change the sense haunts me day and night.”59

But not everyone was enthusiastic about the revision of the published Testimonies. Dark fears arose at the heart of church leadership. W. C. White wrote to his wife Mary from the General Conference session in 1882, alerting her to the resistance: “Butler and Haskell do not find serious fault with Testimony proofs, but say they see no good in about one-third of the changes. They wish you could go with them into meetings and see such men as Mooney [an anti-Adventist polemicist] bring forward one edition and then another and show changes and try to make a point of it. I argue that there is no salvation in bad grammar, etc. A thought grammatically expressed is just as good to reach the hard and sinful heart as if badly expressed.”60

Fears came from two directions: Leaders knew (1) that critics of the denomination would jump at the opportunity to show that the Adventist “prophet” was unreliable, that she was manipulated by circumstances and other people; (2) that changes in published writings would unsettle some Adventists, causing them to feel they had been misled and that Ellen White was not a safe guide.

Were these fears justified? Yes and No. Fears were justified when leaders observed that many people, both Adventists and non-Adventists, held an inadequate view of how God speaks to His human messengers; they believed that God dictated the exact words that prophets used in revealing divine messages. However, fears were unnecessary whenever people understood that God inspired the messenger with thoughts, not words.

The 1883 General Conference resolution did its best to clarify the truth about the nature of revelation/inspiration: “We believe the light given by God to His servants is by the enlightenment of the mind, thus imparting the thoughts, and not (except in rare cases) the very words in which the ideas should be expressed; therefore—

Resolved, That in the republication of these volumes such verbal changes be made as to remove the above-named imperfections, as far as possible, without in any measure changing the thought.”61

This General Conference resolution became a benchmark for the Adventist understanding of revelation/inspiration.62


Opposition to Revisions

[Top of Document]

However, the fears did not abate. Uriah Smith, editor of the church paper, as well as many others, opposed the revision—even after the resolution was passed. Three months after the Conference, Ellen White wrote to Smith, defending the revision project that was nearing completion: “Information has been received from Battle Creek that the work upon the Testimonies is not accepted. I wish to state some matters, which you can do what you please with. These statements you have heard me make before—that I was shown years ago that we should not delay publishing the important light given me because I could not prepare the matter perfectly. My husband was at times very sick, unable to give me the help that I should have had and that he could have given me had he been in health. On this account I delayed putting before the people that which has been given me in vision.

“But I was shown that I should present before the people in the best manner possible the light received; then as I received greater light, and as I used the talent God had given me, I should have increased ability to use in writing and in speaking. I was to improve everything, as far as possible bringing it to perfection, that it might be accepted by intelligent minds.

“As far as possible every defect should be removed from all our publications. As the truth should unfold and become widespread, every care should be exercised to perfect the works published.

“I saw in regard to Brother Andrews’ History of the Sabbath, that he delayed the work too long. Other erroneous works were taking the field and blocking the way, so that minds would be prejudiced by the opposing elements. I saw that thus much would be lost. After the first edition was exhausted, then he could make improvements; but he was seeking too hard to arrive at perfection. This delay was not as God would have it.

“Now, Brother Smith, I have been making a careful, critical examination of the work that has been done on the Testimonies, and I see a few things that I think should be corrected in the matter brought before you and others at the General Conference [November, 1883]. But as I examine the matter more carefully I see less and less that is objectionable. Where the language used is not the best, I want it made correct and grammatical, as I believe it should be in every case where it can be without destroying the sense. This work is delayed, which does not please me. . . .

“My mind has been exercised upon the question of the Testimonies that have been revised. We have looked them over more critically. I cannot see the matter as my brethren see it. I think the changes will improve the book. If our enemies handle it, let them do so. . . .

“I think that anything that shall go forth will be criticized, twisted, turned, and boggled, but we are to go forward with a clear conscience, doing what we can and leaving the result with God. We must not be long in delaying the work.

“Now, my brethren, what do you propose to do? I do not want this work dragging any longer. I want something done, and done now.”63

But Ellen White’s letter to Uriah Smith was not strong enough. Fears prevailed that the changes would undermine confidence in her writings. “Uriah Smith ran into a hailstorm of opposition from believers in Battle Creek. Nobody was going to touch their Testimonies!64 But Mrs. White, with her good judgment and common sense, conceded to leadership fears, and had her assistants “re-revise” the project so that only the most glaring imperfections were changed. William explained all this to O. A. Olsen: “We have reset many pages of that which was criticized at Battle Creek, and have made hundreds of changes in the plates so as to bring the phraseology of the new edition as nearly as possible to that of the old without making the statements awkward and the grammar positively incorrect.”65

The first four volumes of the Testimonies, as we have them today, retain the corrections of the 1885 printing.


Revision Experience Teaches Lessons

[Top of Document]

What do we learn from this revision experience? (1) We have an “official” understanding of what Adventists believe about revelation/inspiration. Adventists are thought inspirationists, not verbal inspirationists.

(2) We have an example of the problems created when people have a wrong concept of the revelation/inspiration process. Misunderstanding how God’s thoughts become the words of an inspired messenger directly affects how a person reads the Bible as well as the writings of Ellen White. Misunderstanding this subject creates problems in understanding truth, and eventually could destroy confidence in both the Bible and the writings of Mrs. White when imperfections of language are discovered.

(3) Publication of the Testimonies as revised in 1885 was used by Adventist critics to attack the inspiration of Ellen White. Because many critics believe that genuine prophetic messages are verbally inspired, they are greatly disturbed when those words are changed or challenged. Thus, for them, changes in the writings of Mrs. White are clear evidence that those writings were not inspired by God.

In her letter to Uriah Smith, Ellen White wrote that she knew that “enemies” would use the revision to mock Adventists, but she said, “Let them do so.” She would not mute the truth just to avoid unfair, unprincipled attacks based on a mistaken understanding of how inspiration works.

Not much time passed before D. M. Canright did “handle” it! In 1889 this former Adventist preacher, who had been in and out of the ministry at least four times, wrote in his scathing book, Seventh-day Adventism Renounced: “In 1885 all her ‘testimonies’ were republished in four volumes, under the eye of her own son and a critical editor. Opening haphazard to four different pages in Vol. 1, I read and compared them with the original publication which I have. I found on an average twenty-four changes of the words on each page! Her words were thrown out and other words put in and other changes made, in some cases so many that it was difficult to read the two together. At the same rate in the four volumes, there would be 63,720 changes.

“Taking, then, the words which were put in by her husband, by her copyist, by her son, by her editors, and those copied from other authors, probably they comprise from one-tenth to one quarter of all her books. Fine inspiration that is!”66

Canright greatly exaggerated the revisions made, but he was not alone in his distress over revisions of Ellen White’s published works. Leaders such as W. W. Prescott, S. N. Haskell, and Milton Wilcox (editor, Signs of the Times) maintained some form of verbal inspiration that, in turn, affected their attitudes on certain doctrinal issues to come. Prescott, especially, seems to have been influenced by Louis Gaussen’s widely circulated Theopneustia (1841) which was a clear defense for Biblical inerrancy.67

Gaussen and, later, Prescott, lived in a time of great theological upheaval. English rationalists, German mystics, and budding American liberals combined higher critical methods in their frontal assault on the integrity of the Bible. Gaussen and others were leaders in upholding basic Christian fundamentals, but much of this defense was behind the moat of Biblical inerrancy, which, for them, meant some form of verbal inspiration. They believed that it was an either/or warfare: either higher criticism or verbal inspiration. For the sake of defending the high view of Scripture, they employed an indefensible view of inspiration. Gaussen, for example, believed that the prophet’s words were inspired, not the prophet: “If the words of the book are dictated by God, of what consequence to me are the thoughts of the writer?”68

Through the years Prescott’s earlier confusion, along with that of other leaders, contributed to unnecessary and unachievable expectations regarding the writings of Ellen White. This confusion erupted from time to time, especially in the 1919 Bible Conference, and, later, in the 1970s.69

Many ministers and laymen, because they had not been clearly instructed, continued to feel more secure with some form of verbal inspiration. Careful leadership instruction, such as that which W. C. White tried to convey, generally fell on deaf ears.70


Endnotes

[Top of Document]

1. Roger Coon’s research (as of 1983) at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., revealed the following top ten most-translated modern authors: “1. Vladimir I. Lenin, Russian communist leader—222 languages; 2. Georges Simenon, Franco-Belgian detective-story writer—143; 3. Leo Tolstoy, Russian novelist—122; 4. Ellen G. White, American cofounder of SDA—117 [more than 140, as of 1996, possibly making Ellen White the second most translated author of all time]; 5. Karl Marx, German socialist philosopher—114; 6. William Shakespeare, English playwright—111; 7. Agatha Christie, English mystery writer—99; 8. Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, German fairy-tale collaborators—97; 9. Ian Fleming, British creator of James Bond thrillers—95; 10. Ernest Hemingway, American novelist—91.”—A Gift of Light (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1983), pp. 30, 31. Of course, Biblical writers have been translated more than any other writers in history.

2. A complete list of all published Ellen G. White books and pamphlets may be obtained from the Ellen G. White Estate, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Maryland 20904-6600, USA.

3. Bio., vol. 1, pp. 91, 92.

4.“We used the calligraph [typewriter] with good effect.”—Manuscript 16a, 1885, cited in Bio., vol. 3, p. 291. The typewriter, though invented in 1843, received numerous improvements until 1883, when Remington sold 3,000 machines with the upper/lower case shift capability. In 1894, Underwood produced a typewriter that enabled the typist to see what was being typed.—James Trager, The People’s Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992), pp. 435, 548, 566, 612.

5. William C. White, “Sketches and Memories of James and Ellen White,” Review and Herald, Feb. 13, 1936.

6. Cited in Arthur White, Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant, (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Publications, 1954), p. 109.

7. Ibid.

8. Manuscript 4, 1891, cited in Ibid.

9. Letter 28, 1906, cited in Ibid.

10. “While my husband lived, he acted as a helper and counselor in the sending out of the messages that were given to me. We traveled extensively. Sometimes light would be given to me in the night season, sometimes in the daytime before large congregations. The instruction I received in vision was faithfully written out by me, as I had time and strength for the work. Afterward we examined the matter together, my husband correcting grammatical errors and eliminating needless repetition. Then it was carefully copied for the persons addressed, or for the printer. As the work grew, others assisted me in the preparation of matter for publication. After my husband’s death, faithful helpers joined me, who labored untiringly in the work of copying the testimonies and preparing articles for publication. But the reports that are circulated, that any of my helpers are permitted to add matter or change the meaning of the messages I write out, are not true.”—Selected Messages, book 3, p. 89.

11. Pages 14-16 discuss the literary helpers of Biblical writers.

12. Pages 16, 120, 173, 375, 376, 421 discuss the difference between verbal inspiration and thought inspiration.

13. Selected Messages, book 3, p. 90.

14. Letter 103, 1895, to Marian Davis, cited in “The Fannie Bolton Story” (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1982), p. 49.

15. W. C. White to G. A. Irwin, May 7, 1900. Poerion cited in Moon, W. C. White and Ellen G. White, p. 115. Tim Poirier describes “two levels” of editing between Ellen White’s original, handwritten documents and their present forms, as referred to in the May 7, 1900, letter to G. A. Irwin. Level One refers to “correcting grammatical errors, of eliminating unnecessary repetitions, etc.” More experienced assistants in Level Two move beyond the level of presenting the material in the desired grammatical form; they rearrange, assemble, and compile the Level One typewritten material into a new literary document (“incorporate it with another manuscript”), such as a periodical article or a book (e.g., Steps to Christ, or The Desire of Ages). Photocopies of how these two levels developed in various stages of Ellen White materials are in Tim Poirier’s “Exhibits Regarding the Work of Ellen White’s Literary Assistants,” 1990, available at Ellen G. White-SDA Research Centers.

16. At first, Mary K. White and Marian Davis were the chief assistants. “Among those who helped Ellen White in preparing her writings for publication over the years were James White, Mary Kelsey-White, Lucinda Abbey-Hall, Adelia Patten-Van Horn, Anna Driscol-Loughborough, Addie Howe-Cogshall, Annie Hale-Royce, Emma Sturgess-Prescott, Mary Clough-Watson, Mrs. J. I. Ings, Mrs. B. L. Whitney, Eliza Burnham, Fannie Bolton, Marian Davis, C. C. Crisler, Minnie Hawkins-Crisler, Maggie Hare, Sarah Peck, and D. E. Robinson.”—Robert W. Olson, One Hundred and One Questions (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1981), p. 87.

17. Moon, W. C. White and Ellen G. White, p. 114.

18. Letter from Marian Davis to W. C. White, April 11, 1897. In a letter from Marian Davis to G. A. Irwin: “For more than 20 years I have been connected with Sister White’s work. During this time I have never been asked either to write out a testimony from oral instruction, or to fill out the points in matters already written.”— Enclosed with Ellen White’s Letter 61a, 1900, to G. A. Irwin.

19. Marian Davis to W. C. White, Aug. 9, 1897, cited in Robert W. Olson, “How The Desire of Ages Was Written,” p. 34.

20. MR, vol. 10, p. 12. While James White remained on the West Coast launching the first issues of Signs of the Times (1874), his wife wrote from Battle Creek: “We have just finished ‘Sufferings of Christ.’ Willie has helped me, and now we take it to the office for Uriah [Smith] to criticize it. It will, I think, make a thirty-two page tract.”—Letters, July 11 and 17, 1874.

21. W. C. White to David Paulson, concerning the manuscript for The Ministry of Healing, Feb. 15, 1905. (WEDF 140-a.)

22. Letter 84, 1898; “I read over all that is copied, to see that everything is as it should be. I read all the book manuscript before it is sent to the printer. So you can see that my time must be fully occupied.”—Letter 133, 1902, cited in Selected Messages, book 3, p. 90. “I wish to write words that shall remove from the minds of any of my brethren the impression that I did not, before their publication, read the pages in Testimony for the Church, volume 9, relating to Sunday labor. I read the matter before it went to the printer, and have read it several times from the book, and I can see nothing in it to give one reason to say that Sunday-keeping is there taught. Neither does the counsel there given contradict the Bible, nor former testimonies.”—Letter 94, 1910, cited in MR, vol. 8, p. 21.

23. Last Day Events, pp. 123-142.

24. These scrapbooks are on display at the E. G. White Estate office, Silver Spring, Maryland.

25. Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1863.

26. Oakland, CA: The Pacific Press, 1877, 1877, 1878, 1881; Nashville, TN: M. A. Vroman, publisher, 1905.

27. Unknown date.

28. In 1881, James White wrote: “Mrs. White has ever been a great reader, and in our extensive travels she has gathered juvenile books and papers in great quantities, from which she selected moral and religious lessons to read to her own dear children. This work commenced about thirty years since. We purchased every series of books for children and youth printed in America and in Europe in the English language, which came to our notice, and bought, borrowed, and begged miscellaneous books of this class, almost without number. . . . And there we published the Sunshine Series of little books for the little ones, from 5 to 10 years old, the series of Golden Grains, for children from 10 to 15 years, and the volumes for the Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle for still more advanced readers. . . . Precious books! The compilers have spent years in reading and rejecting, ninety-nine parts, and accepted one. Precious books, indeed, for the precious youth.”—Review and Herald, June 21, 1881.

29. Letter 189, 1900, cited in Bio., vol. 4, p. 448.

30. White Estate Correspondence File, cited by Robert W. Olson, “Ellen G. White’s Use of Historical Sources in The Great Controversy,” Adventist Review, Feb. 23, 1984.

31. Selected Messages, book 3, p. 441.

32. Pages xxxiii, xxxiv.

33. These pages are in Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 472-475.

34. Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 443, 444. In a statement made by W. C. White to the General Conference Council, October 30, 1911, he said (in reference to the changes made in the 1911 edition of The Great Controversy): “In several places, forms of expression have been changed to avoid giving unnecessary offense. An example of this will be found in the change of the word ‘Romish’ to ‘Roman’ or ‘Roman Catholic.’ In two places the phrase ‘divinity of Christ’ is changed to ‘deity of Christ.’ And the words ‘religious toleration’ have been changed to ‘religious liberty.’. . . Mother’s contact with European people had brought to her mind scores of things that had been presented to her in vision during past years, some of them two or three times, and other scenes many times. Her seeing of historic places and her contact with the people refreshed her memory with reference to these things, and so she desired to add much material to the book. . . . After our return to America, a new edition was brought out much enlarged. In this edition some of the matter used in the first English edition was left out. The reason for these changes was found in the fact that the new edition was intended for worldwide circulation.”—Ibid., pp. 435-438.

35. Letter 5, 1876, cited in Bio., vol. 3, p. 27.

36. Ibid., pp. 566, 567.

37. Manuscript 29, 1887, cited in Delafield, Ellen G. White in Europe, p. 273.

38. Manuscript 29, 1887, cited in Bio., vol. 3, p. 363. Note W. C. White’s comment regarding his mother’s Basel visit: “During her two years’ residence in Basel, she visited many places where events of special importance occurred in the Reformation days. This refreshed her memory as to what she had been shown and this led to important enlargement in those portions of the book dealing with Reformation days.”—Selected Messages, book 3, p. 465.

39. See pp. 16, 20, 173, 375, 376, 421.

40. See p. 54

41. When Mrs. White was still recovering from the birth of her fourth son, John Herbert, September 20, 1860, James had to be away for about six weeks. He wrote a note to her that closed with these words: “I do not ask you to weary yourself with long letters. Your care for me is great. May God help you and the children.”—Cited in Bio., vol. 1, p. 429. Later, a few months before James died, he sensed that the time had come to lay off the heavy burdens of church leadership—but it was hard. A few days before he was stricken, he wrote to son Willie: “Where I have erred, help me to be right. I see my mistakes and am trying to rally. I need the help of yourself, Mother, and Haskell.”—Ibid., vol. 3, p. 145.

42. See Evangelism, pp. 89-91, 94, 97, 132, 142, 248, 553.

43. For general background on Edson White, see Alta Robinson, “James Edson White: Innovator,” in Early Adventist Educators, ed. George R. Knight (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University, 1983), pp. 137-158; Virgil Robinson, James White (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association, 1959), pp. 135-44; Jerry Allen Moon, W. C. White and Ellen G. White (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1993) pp. 42-54.

44. Letter 6, 1869.

45. Letter 12, 1878. In 1899, when Edson was fifty years of age, Ellen White wrote to W. C.: “I . . . am more sympathetic for Edson than for you because before his birth circumstances were particularly unfavorable in regard to his stamp of character. My association while carrying him, the peculiar experience I was forced to have, was most objectionable and severely trying. After his birth it was no less so for years. It was altogether different in your case.”—E. G. White to W. C. White, Letter 12, 1899. This letter to Willie was as candid and forthright as any letter she sent to Edson.

46. Manuscript 8, 1862.

47. Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 118-120, 216-220.

48. Letter 4, 1865, from E. G. White to Edson.

49. W. C. White to E. G. White, Nov. 22, 1886, cited in Moon, W. C. White and Ellen G. White, p. 116.

50. E. G. White to Uriah Smith, Sept. 19, 1892, cited in Moon, ibid., p. 118.

51. See pp. 444, 445.

52. See p. 450.

53. Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 91, 92. “I feel very thankful for the help of Sister Marian Davis in getting out my books. She gathers materials from my diaries, from my letters, and from the articles published in the papers. I greatly prize her faithful service. She has been with me for twenty-five years, and has constantly been gaining increasing ability for the work of classifying and grouping my writings.”—Ibid., p. 93.

54. Marian Davis to W. C. White, March 29, 1893, cited in Bio., vol. 4, p. 383.

55. Manuscript 95, 1904, cited in Ibid.

56. Bio., vol. 3, pp. 446-447. See J. H. Kellogg, preface to Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, by E. G. White and James White (Battle Creek, MI: Good Health, 1890), p. iv.

57. Bio., vol. 2, pp. 68, 69.

58. Review and Herald, Nov. 27, 1883, Resolution #33, 741.

59. Bio., vol. 3, p. 218.

60. W. C. White to M. K. White, Dec. 31, 1882, cited in Moon, W. C. White and Ellen G. White, p. 124.

61. Bio., vol. 3, p. 219.

62. This statement on revelation/inspiration was not breaking new ground for Seventh-day Adventists. In a letter to L. E. Froom, W. C. White wrote: “This statement made by the General Conference of 1883 was in perfect harmony with the beliefs and positions of the pioneers in this cause, and it was, I think, the only position taken by any of our ministers and teachers until Prof. [W. W.] Prescott, president of Battle Creek College, presented in a very forceful way another view—the view held and presented by Professor Gausen [Gaussen]. The acceptance of that view by the students in the Battle Creek College and many others, including Elder Haskell, has resulted in bringing into our work questions and perplexities without end, and always increasing.”—Selected Messages, book 3, p. 454.

63. Letter 11, 1884, cited in Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 96-98.

64. Alden Thompson, “Improving the Testimonies, Through Revisions,” Adventist Review, Sept. 12, 1985, p. 14.

65. July 11, 1885, cited in Moon, W. C. White and Ellen G. White, p. 128.

66. D. M. Canright, Seventh-day Adventism Renounced (New York, N. Y.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1889), p. 141. W. H. Branson wrote a 395-page reply to Canright, In Defense of the Faith (Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald, 1933).

67. Francois Samuel Louis Gaussen (1790-1863), a Swiss Reformed pastor, was the author of many Calvinistic works but best known for Theopneustia.—J. D. Douglas, editor, The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974), p. 402.

68. F. S. L. Gaussen, The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures (London: Samuel Bagster, English translation, 1841), p. 304.

69. See pp. 439, 440.

70.See Alden Thompson’s four-part series on “Adventists and Inspiration,” Adventist Review, Sept. 5, 12, 19, 26, 1985.


Study Questions

[Top of Document]

1. What was the difference between Marian Davis’s responsibility and that of Ellen White’s other editorial assistants?

2. What is meant by writing with “a human accent”?

3. Why do you think a prophet would read widely?

4. Why did Ellen White write differently to the general public than she did to Adventists? Give examples.

5. What underlying problem caused controversy in the 1880s when the earlier Testimonies were to be edited?

[Top of Document]
[Return to the Homepage]