Chapter 39

Understanding How the Books Were Written

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The Making of “Steps to Christ”
Background of “Steps to Christ”
Ellen White’s Core Theme—the Title of One of Her Best-Known Books
The 1884 Edition of “The Great Controversy”
The 1888 Edition of “The Great Controversy”
Why Some Materials Were Deleted
The 1911 Edition of “The Great Controversy”
How “The Desire of Ages” Was Created
Not a Scrapbook
Endnotes
Study Questions


“My words seem inadequate. I despair of clothing the truth God has made known concerning His great redemption, which engrossed to itself His undivided attention in the only-begotten Son of the Infinite One. The truths that are to last through time and through eternity, the great plan of redemption, which cost so much for the salvation of the human race, presenting before them a life that measures with the life of God—these truths are too full, deep, and holy for human words or human pen to adequately express.”1

Ellen White’s literary output totals approximately 25 million words or 10,000 printed pages—including letters, diaries, periodical articles, and books.2

Her writing habits, beginning with her teen-age years, were discussed on pages 108-120. She used editorial assistants, a practice employed by Biblical writers,3 and, like Biblical prophets, wrote within the historical, social, and religious context of her time. She wrote with a nineteenth century accent, not that of modern times.4

Her wide reading habits helped her to flesh out the broad conceptual principles that she believed God wanted conveyed.5 By the time of her death in 1915, her personal and office staff library consisted of approximately 1,400 volumes, which included more than 500 titles sold to her by one of her workers in 1913.6

Ellen White maintained a steady flow of letters, sermons, periodical articles, and books, especially after 1881. These materials were often reused in new formats. Sermons became periodical articles, and these articles, when reorganized and supplemented with new material, provided source material for books.

By reviewing the development of Steps to Christ, The Desire of Ages, and The Great Controversy, we will observe a pattern of how Ellen G. White books usually were created.


The Making of “Steps to Christ”

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Usually printed in the 128-page edition, this 1892 volume was first produced by a nondenominational publisher7 with the hope that it could be widely sold in America’s bookstores. It was an instant success. Within six weeks of its initial printing, a third reprint had been issued, and within the first year, seven reprints.8 Soon after the initial printing, the publisher printed the following advertisement: “It is not often that a publisher has the opportunity of announcing a third edition of a new work within six weeks of the first issue. This, however, is the encouraging fact in connection with Mrs. E. G. White’s eminently helpful and practical work, Steps to Christ. If you will read this work, it will ensure your becoming deeply interested in extending its circulation. Steps to Christ is a work to guide the inquirer, to inspire the young Christian, and to comfort and encourage the mature believer. The book is unique in its helpfulness.”9

Today, this religious classic has been published in more than 135 languages and circulated worldwide by the tens of millions.


Background of “Steps to Christ”

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In the summer of 1890, Patriarchs and Prophets, the first volume in what would finally be called the Conflict of the Ages set, was released. Two years before, the revised and enlarged edition of The Great Controversy (eventually the fifth and last volume of the Conflict set) had been published. Work had begun on “The Life of Christ,” which became The Desire of Ages (the third in the Conflict set). In addition, week after week Ellen White and her assistants prepared articles for the Review and Herald, Signs of the Times, and Youth’s Instructor.

Then came a request for smaller books that could be sold in book stores or distributed by evangelists in their public meetings. Literature on the subject of conversion was especially needed.10 Ellen White knew that this was the time for presenting in book form one of her favorite topics. She had spoken and written often, in simple, clear terms, about the steps sinners must take in finding their way to Christ. Now Marian Davis (“my bookmaker”11) was assigned the work of gathering from Mrs. White’s diaries, manuscripts (published and unpublished), periodical articles, and previous books those materials that would make up the proposed chapters. With the materials before her, Mrs. White would often recognize that more was needed to fill out each chapter’s thought. To meet this need and to provide necessary transitions, she would compose additional copy.

Marian Davis gathered materials and organized them (no small task) but did no writing. Ellen White did the writing and supervised the arrangement of her books. The work went slowly because of all her other writing and speaking commitments. In 1891 the manuscript was presented to a convention of ministers and teachers at Harbor Heights, Michigan, where it was read with great enthusiasm. At this meeting it was decided that the book should be called Steps to Christ. Further, it was strongly suggested that it be published by a nondenominational publishing house for wider circulation in the popular book stores—a proposal that Fleming H. Revell accepted gladly.

In 1896 the Review and Herald Publishing Association bought the copyright from Revell. After the copyright was transferred to Ellen White in 1908, she immediately assigned to the General Conference all rights in all languages other than English. Except for the Bible, Steps probably has been translated and printed in more languages and in greater number than any other book in history.

The first editions did not contain the present first chapter, “God’s Love for Man.” But after writing Manuscript 41, 1892, Ellen White quickly agreed that it would provide an appropriate beginning for the already best-seller.

A quick survey of the book reveals that it contains portions of earlier published materials from Patriarchs and Prophets, several volumes of the Testimonies, the Review and Herald, and the Signs of the Times.12 In her broad reading, Ellen White had discovered insights and phraseologies from other authors that helped her to explain better the keen thoughts that she wanted conveyed. Obviously she felt that including certain expressions from these writers would strengthen her book.13

Over the years, some critics have put forth the claim that Fannie Bolton (one of Ellen White’s editorial assistants for a few years14) had written Steps to Christ “in toto.”15 This allegation has been kept alive through various channels.16 Obviously, it was impossible for the materials penned by Ellen White before 1890 to have been written by Miss Bolton, but the critics through the years have overlooked this basic fact.


Ellen White’s Core Theme—the Title of One of Her Best-Known Books

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Mrs. White’s two-hour vision at Lovett’s Grove, Ohio, in mid-March 1858, became known as the “Great Controversy vision.”17 In 1860 she stated that this vision repeated and amplified what she had been shown ten years earlier and that she was instructed to write out the vision in full.18

The broad outline of this vision became the first volume of Spiritual Gifts (1858).19 Although others have written on the general subject of the “controversy” between good and evil, no other writer has unfolded the cosmic dimensions and the eternal consequences of the conflict between Christ and Satan as Ellen White has done.20 The Great Controversy Theme presents a unique philosophy of history as well as a distinctive theological framework for Christian doctrine.21

In addition to the vision’s panorama, Ellen White was given a warning that “Satan would make strong efforts to hinder me, but angels of God would not leave me in the conflict.”22 She soon learned what that warning meant. Before the Whites reached their Battle Creek home she experienced paralysis of her left arm and leg and was unable to speak. For weeks she could not feel any sensation in her hand, and not even cold water poured on her head. When trying to walk, she often fell. In this condition she began to write out the vision that ultimately became the book we know as The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan.23

Three months later she learned in a vision what was behind this violent physical attack: “Satan designed to take my life to hinder the work I was about to write; but angels of God were sent to my rescue. . . . I saw, among other things, that I should be blessed with better health than before the attack at Jackson.”24

During a general gathering of church members from May 21 to 24, 1858, Ellen White related some of the events she had seen in that vision and was now writing out. One day the group of 400 were enthralled with the “startling facts and vivid descriptions.” When she reviewed the humiliation and suffering of Jesus, the audience was visibly moved, even audibly sobbing. She continued in the evening until ten o’clock! The audience then responded with a spontaneous testimony meeting.25

In September of 1858, this first of several revisions and expansions of the vision was published under the title, The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels, And Satan and His Angels. By 1864 the first expansion of this theme appeared as “Important Facts of Faith in Connection With the History of Holy Men of Old” in Spiritual Gifts, volume 3, and the first half of Spiritual Gifts, volume 4. This printing unfolded events from Creation to Christ’s ascension.


The 1884 Edition of “The Great Controversy”

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The 1884 edition became the first Ellen White colporteur book in 1885. As the years passed and visions imparted further light on these great scenes, Ellen White believed that it was time to expand her earlier presentations of the great controversy. In the 1870s and 1880s she sketched out a four-volume series under the general title, Spirit of Prophecy, and the subtitle, The Great Controversy, with a further subtitle for each of the four books.26 Volume 1 was expanded to become Patriarchs and Prophets (1890); Volume 2, the first 62 chapters of The Desire of Ages; Volume 3, the last part of The Desire of Ages (1898) and The Acts of the Apostles (1911); Volume 4, The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan (1888).

The fourth volume of Spirit of Prophecy, published in 1884, introduced a new phase into Ellen White’s writing ministry. Beginning with the destruction of Jerusalem, she continued the historical period through to the 1800s and into the future, ending with the establishment of the new earth after the destruction of evil. W. C. White noted that his mother’s contribution to the 1884 revision of The Great Controversy was not only in the work of revision. He recalled, “Several times we thought that the manuscript of the book was all ready for the printer, and then a vision of some important feature of the controversy would be repeated, and Mother would again write upon the subject, bringing out the description more fully and clearly. Thus the publishing was delayed, and the book grew in size.”27

Mrs. White wrote history, but not as a historian. She said in her introduction to the 1888 edition of The Great Controversy that she endeavored “to select and group together events in the history of the church in such a manner as to trace the unfolding of the great testing truths that at different periods have been given to the world.”

Like a skilled author she stated the book’s purpose: “To unfold the scenes of the great controversy between truth and error; to reveal the wiles of Satan, and the means by which he may be successfully resisted; to present a satisfactory solution of the great problem of evil, shedding such a light upon the origin and the final disposition of sin as to make fully manifest the justice and benevolence of God in all His dealings with His creatures; and to show the holy, unchanging nature of His law, is the object of this book.”28

Adventist historian and college administrator Donald R. McAdams, after examining carefully certain sections of the various editions of The Great Controversy, concluded that Ellen White “placed predominant attention on her own day and the events of the future,” and that about forty percent was historical.29 His research reinforced Mrs. White’s purpose for writing The Great Controversy (and the Conflict of the Ages series, generally): that it was “not conceived or developed primarily as a history . . . but rather as a book identifying the spiritual forces at work in history. . . . We must take Great Controversy for what it is and what it was intended to be, not a book simply to inform us about the past, not a book intended to be authoritative on the factual details concerning the activities of the Reformers, but a book written to put the Great Controversy in its proper perspective.”30

Although the four volumes were written primarily for Seventh-day Adventists, church members soon began to lend them to their neighbors; some began to sell them to the general public. The response was remarkable. Published simultaneously in October 1884 by the Pacific Press and the Review and Herald in editions of five thousand copies each, the first printing on the west coast was sold out before the year ended. Fifty thousand copies of volume 4 had been distributed within three years.31

This reception by the general public was a new day for Adventist publications. It also prompted Ellen White and her colleagues to think new thoughts about her books, especially those in the Spirit of Prophecy series. In 1887 C. H. Jones, manager of the Pacific Press, informed Mrs. White and her son, William, while they were in Europe, that after so many printings, new plates were needed.32


The 1888 Edition of “The Great Controversy”

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Now was the time to examine the book in light of its appeal to the general public. Ellen White realized that the 1884 edition of The Great Controversy contained terms and some content that only Adventists in North America would completely understand. Also, while she was in Europe, 1885-1887, her mind had expanded with fresh insights into Reformation history as she visited sites in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, England, and Scandinavia.33

Another aspect that would help in the revision would be to use terms that could be translated easily into other languages. While in Basel, Switzerland, the Whites worked closely with the French and German translators of The Great Controversy. They discovered that many familiar English phrases were difficult to translate. In a letter to C. H. Jones, W. C. White wrote: “Mother has given attention to all of these points, and has thought that the book ought to be so corrected, and enlarged, as to be of the most possible good to the large number of . . . readers to whom it is now being offered. And she has taken hold with a remarkable energy to fill in some parts that are rather too brief.”34

Responding to these requests, especially to one asking for more pages devoted to John Huss and Jerome, Mrs. White hastily prepared a handwritten manuscript of eighty-nine pages devoted to these two noble reformers, drawing heavily on Wylie’s History of Protestantism for historical details. Before leaving for her last visit to Scandinavia, she left the manuscript with Marian Davis for editing.

Speaking later of his mother’s development of those chapters on Reformation events, W. C. White wrote: “When we reached those chapters relating to the Reformation in Germany and France, the translators would comment on the appropriateness of the selection of historical events which Sister White had chosen, and in two instances which I remember, they suggested that there were other events of corresponding importance which she had not mentioned.

“When this was brought to her attention, she requested that the histories be brought to her that she might consider the importance of the events which had been mentioned. The reading of the history refreshed to her mind that which she had seen, after which she wrote a description of the event.”35

Special attention was given to matters that Ellen White thought either should be deleted from the revised edition of The Great Controversy or be reprinted elsewhere. In 1911, reporting to the General Conference Council, W. C. White explained how his mother had always been conscious of selecting and adapting material to fit her various public audiences. When the time came to publish books for the general public, she believed that “the best judgment should be shown in selecting that which is best suited to the needs of those who will read the book.”

Therefore, when the 1884 Great Controversy was being refined to meet the various kinds of people in America and other lands, about twenty pages of material that were “very instructive to the Adventists of America, but . . . not appropriate for readers in other parts of the world,” were deleted.36

One such item was the first part of the chapter, “The Snares of Satan,” wherein Ellen White described her view of Satan holding a council meeting with his angels as to how to mislead God’s people. This material later was placed in Testimonies to Ministers.37


Why Some Materials Were Deleted

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Some references to other churches were left out because Ellen White felt “that ministers of popular churches reading those statements would become angry and would array themselves against the circulation of the book.”38

The frequent references to “I saw,” “I was shown,” etc., were omitted chiefly because the general public, unaware of her divine calling, would be distracted from the message of the book.

Mrs. White wrote the “Introduction” to the 1888 edition in May 1888, after she returned from Europe in 1887. In it she explained the distinctive purpose of the book and why she quoted from historians and others. She further informed her readers that she also included material from those who “were carrying forward the work of reform in our own time,” no doubt referring especially to J. N. Andrews, Uriah Smith, and her husband James White.39

In developing the 1888 revised edition, she used additional materials from J. H. Merle D’Aubigné, J. A. Wylie, and others in fulfilling her purpose of tracing “the unfolding of the great testing truths” during the Protestant Reformation. In the interest of precision and convenience, some of their materials were quoted exactly, some were paraphrased, and some she summarized in her own words to provide background. At times, this historical background was used without specific credit, although the material was enclosed within quotation marks.

W. C. White recalled how his mother coordinated divine inspiration with historical sources: “The great events occurring in the life of our Lord were presented to her in panoramic scenes as also were the other portions of The Great Controversy. In a few of these scenes chronology and geography were clearly presented, but in the greater part of the revelation the flashlight scenes, which were exceedingly vivid, and the conversations and the controversies, which she heard and was able to narrate, were not marked geographically or chronologically, and she was left to study the Bible and history, and the writings of men who had presented the life of our Lord, to get the chronological and geographical connection.”40

W. C. White stated further that Ellen White made no claim to being a “standard” by which all other historians were to be measured. Her purpose in quoting historians “was not to make a new history, not to correct errors in history, but to use valuable illustrations to make plain important spiritual truths.”41


The 1911 Edition of “The Great Controversy”

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With the hope of appealing to the general public, the 1888 edition included twenty-six full-page illustrations and twenty-six pages devoted to general notes and biographical notes.42

After twenty years of constant reprinting, the plates in both publishing houses were badly worn. Experience in selling the books to the general public suggested that the book should be reillustrated. Further consideration was given to historical quotations and to an appendix of references used.

When Ellen White studied the suggestions, she promptly responded, as she recalled after receiving her copy of the 1911 revised edition: “When I learned that Great Controversy must be reset, I determined that we would have everything closely examined, to see if the truths it contained were stated in the very best manner, to convince those not of our faith that the Lord had guided and sustained me in the writing of its pages.”43

But the idea of “revising” a prophet’s work raised many questions among Seventh-day Adventists, ministers and laypeople. Much of the concern arose because of an unclear understanding of how God communicates through His prophets.44 The fact that Ellen White worked closely with the revisions helped to clarify the issue.45

On July 24, 1911, W. C. White wrote a letter to the managers of the two publishing houses and to the literature evangelism leaders in which he reviewed the refinements of the 1911 edition of The Great Controversy (some of which are noted above).46 Among the alterations were: the improvement in noting historical references, especially in adding more modern historical sources that had even greater force, harmonizing spelling, punctuation, etc., with the other four volumes of the Conflict set, adjusting time references slightly in view of the passing of time, modifying some phrases to avoid giving offense (such as “Romish” to “Roman”), modifying some phrases in the interest of precision (such as “divinity of Christ” to “deity of Christ,” “religious toleration” to “religious liberty,” the rise and fall of the papacy in 538 A.D. and 1798, changed to “supremacy” and “downfall,” instead of its “establishment” and “abolition”), changing slightly some passages that Roman Catholics had strongly disputed, by referring to references that are easily accessible to all.47

Ellen White was pleased with her copy of the 1911 revised edition of Great Controversy. In a letter to F. M. Wilcox, editor of the church paper, she wrote: “While writing the manuscript of ‘Great Controversy,’ I was often conscious of the presence of the angels of God. And many times the scenes about which I was writing were presented to me anew in visions of the night, so that they were fresh and vivid in my mind. . . . These changes I have carefully examined, and approved. I am thankful that my life has been spared, and that I have strength and clearness of mind for this and other literary work.”48

One of the interesting sidelights to these revisions of The Great Controversy focused on its inappropriate use when used as the final authority on historical details. W. C. White wrote in 1912 that in relating to the general public, Adventists should use “references and quotations from those historians which will be accepted by the readers as authority.” In other words, we should not use denominational publications as authority when dealing with people outside the church—it would be “a very poor policy.”49


How “The Desire of Ages” Was Created

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Except for the Bible, and perhaps Steps to Christ, this volume has become the favorite source of spiritual nourishment for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people. Untold numbers have discovered in this book an authenticity that moved them to read other writings of Ellen White. Many thousands have testified that they were led to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ while reading this book. For these reasons, this book has been used extensively in proclaiming the good news of Jesus to youth and unchurched people.

Ellen White’s interest in writing on the life of Christ began formally after her Lovett’s Grove, Ohio, vision in 1858.50 This “Great Controversy Vision” was first written out in Spiritual Gifts, volume 1, with more than fifty pages devoted to the life of Christ.

In 1876-1877 an enlarged narrative of this core vision was published as part of the four-volume series, Spirit of Prophecy. More than 640 pages were devoted to the life of Christ in volumes 2 and 3.

In the 1890s this material was expanded into three books, The Desire of Ages, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, and Christ’s Object Lessons.

Need for editorial assistance. As discussed on page 109, Ellen White employed editorial help for several reasons: (1) assistants helped her to maintain a rigorous speaking and writing ministry; (2) assistants functioned as her copy editors;51 (3) a chosen few, such as Marian Davis, were entrusted with book-making—the challenge of bringing together what Ellen White had written earlier on all aspects of the life of Christ.52

Need for enrichment of divine insights. Ellen White was a “great reader,”53 a habit that helped to fill in her broad conceptual framework of God’s love and His plan for the salvation of men and women. This enrichment has added to the descriptive force of The Desire of Ages.

In her introduction to The Great Controversy (published ten years prior to The Desire of Ages), she wrote that she employed the thoughts, and sometimes the words, of others because their statements provided “a ready and forcible presentation of the subject.” She forthrightly noted that “specific credit” was not often given because she was not “citing that writer as authority.” In other words, her use of the writings of others was not to focus on those writings as authoritative, as if proving a point. She used them to best convey her main point for writing: “to trace the unfolding of the great testing truths,” past and present, and to cast light on “the conflict before us,” all within the context of “the great controversy” between Christ and Satan.54

This kind of appreciation for the best thoughts of others to convey the fresh intent of the prophet’s mind motivated Biblical writers.55 For instance, John the Revelator borrowed forceful statements from noncanonical writers because they fit his overall purposes. He used them, not as authorities, but because their freshness supported his insights better than his own words could. When we understand Ellen White’s overall purpose in her writings, we can see how her use of other books served her purpose.

When The Desire of Ages passed her final inspection as her best effort to unfold the purpose and manner of Christ’s earthly ministry, the publishing house received a document that was “not a replica of another’s work but rather a customized literary composition which reflects the particular faith and Christian hope she [Ellen White] was called to share with her fellow Adventists and the Christian community at large.”56

An original work. The Desire of Ages is the product of creativity and selectivity, original and derived. Many authors write their books on blank pages, beginning with chapter one and continuing through to the end. As we noted in reviewing how Steps to Christ was written,57 Ellen White and her editorial assistants used a method rarely available to other authors: they compiled from her earlier writings (diaries, manuscripts, articles) materials that would achieve the purpose of the next book. In that sense, The Desire of Ages was “derived,” or produced from her previously written material.

It also was derived when one considers that Ellen White, as a prophet, received instruction from God. Her beloved Bible, especially the four Gospels, became the rich source for her thought framework. And at times from other favorite authors she derived fresh insights that helped her to provide descriptive color in fulfilling her theological purposes.58


Not a Scrapbook

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But The Desire of Ages is not a “scrapbook” of choice devotional thoughts; Mrs. White remained in control of the final product. Not only did she approve all editorial adjustments, she provided the general scheme and the specific topics that unfolded that scheme. She maintained her independence and thus the “sources were her slaves, never her master.”59

As one in control, Ellen White cast the mark of originality over The Desire of Ages.60 One of her main skills, one of her literary “fingerprints,” was her remarkable ability to be selective.61 For example, whenever her sources used hyperboles and literary extravagances, whenever they strayed into curiosities or sideline thoughts, she avoided being diverted, but stayed with her own purpose for using that source.62

Further, using someone else’s words does not imply that that person’s thought is also adopted. Perhaps more biographies have been written about Jesus than any other person. Such authors generally use the same Biblical language. But a comparative study of these biographies quickly reveals that vastly different meanings are expressed with essentially the same words. The reverse is also true—the same meanings can be conveyed through different verbal expressions.63

Even more important than stylistic selectivity was Ellen White’s ability to avoid the doctrinal errors that she perceived in her sources. It did not matter: regardless of her needs at the moment, (whether theological, devotional, narrative, etc.) she used her materials to enhance her theological thought, not to gather material to formulate her theological thought.64

Another “fingerprint” identifying the Ellen White style is “found in the proportion of commentary given to devotional, moral, or Christian appeals or lessons that usually appear at the end of a chapter.65 Mrs. White’s primary reason for writing was to lead her readers to Jesus, especially through making clearer what God is like. While working on The Desire of Ages, she wrote to her son, W. C. White, about the topics that “burden my mind, . . . the subjects of the life of Christ, His character representing the Father, the parables essential for us all to understand and practice the lessons contained in them.”66


Endnotes

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1. Selected Messages, book 3, p. 118.

2. See p. 108.

3. See p. 109.

4. See p. 111.

5. See p. 111.

6. Some of the books that Ellen White found helpful included The Great Teacher by John Harris (1870 ed.), Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul by Conybeare and Howson (1851-52), Old Testament Bible History by Alfred Edersheim (1876-87), The Life of Christ by William Hanna (1863), Walks and Homes of Jesus by Daniel March (1866), The Life of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by John Fleetwood (1844), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (1883), Night Scenes in the Bible by Daniel March (1872), and Elijah the Tishbite by F. W. Krummacher (1848). The books in her library when she died are listed in “A Bibliography of Ellen G. White’s Private and Office Libraries,” compiled by Warren H. Johns, Tim Poirier, and Ron Graybill, Ellen G. White Estate, Third Revised Edition, April 1993.

7. Fleming H. Revell and Company, Chicago, Ill. The original edition contained only 12 chapters and 153 pages. See p. 445.

8. Tim Poirier, “A Century of Steps,” Adventist Review, May 14, 1992.

9. Bio., vol. 4, p. 36.

10. Ibid., p. 11.

11. See p. 110.

12. Steps to Christ, pp. 9, 10—RH, Oct. 27, 1885; pp. 29-31—RH, Apr. 1, 1890; pp. 37-41—Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 635-641; p. 49—RH, Nov. 2, 1886; p. 52—RH, Sept. 21, 1886; p. 80—RH, June 7, 1887; pp. 121-123—RH, Feb. 3, 1885.

13. In comparing the books in Ellen White’s library with Steps to Christ, current evaluation has determined that approximately six percent of Steps may indicate literary indebtedness. Writers that she felt helpful include: Arthur, Gold Foil; Bickersteth, A Treatise on Prayer; John Harris, The Great Teacher; Daniel March, Night Scenes; Miller, Silent Times and Week-day Religion; Melvill, Sermons; Hannah Whitall Smith, Christian’s Secret; Underwood, God’s Will Known and Done. Certain words or phrases may have come from Cummings, Sabbath Evening Readings, and Houston, Youthful Devotedness.

14. See pp. 480-482.

15. Bio., vol. 4, p. 250.

16. The Gathering Call, Sept. 1932, pp. 20, 21. For an examination of this charge, see F. D. Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics, pp. 481-485.

17. For a description of the Lovett’s Grove event, see Bio., vol. 1, p. 368.

18. Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 270. See Life Sketches, p. 162. The broad outline of this important vision included (1) Lucifer’s rebellion in heaven; (2) The fall of man and plan of salvation; (3) The ministry and sacrifice of Christ; (4) The early church and work of the apostles; (5) The great apostasy; (6) The reformation of the sixteenth century; (7) The Advent movement; (8) The first, second, and third angels’ messages; (9) A firm platform; (10) The closing of the three messages; (11) Scenes connected with the Second Advent; (12) The Millennium; (13) The final eradication of sin.

19. Reprinted in Early Writings, pp. 145-295.

20. See p. 264, footnote 5 for a reference to H. L. Hastings, The Great Controversy Between God and Man: Its Origin, Progress, and End (1858).

21. See pp. 256-263, 344.

22. Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 270.

23. Ibid., p. 272.

24. Ibid.

25. James White, Review and Herald, May 27, 1858.

26. 1. The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels, and Satan and His Angels (1870); 2. Life, Teachings, and Miracles of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1877); 3. The Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1878); 4. From the Destruction of Jerusalem to the End of the Controversy (1884).

27. Selected Messages, book 3, p. 442.

28. The Great Controversy, pp. xi, xii.

29. “Ellen G. White and the Protestant Historians,” Revised, 1977, (an unpublished paper), p. 30.

30. Ibid., pp. 230, 233.

31. Bio., vol. 3, p. 249. Uriah Smith read the page proofs of volume 4 at a camp meeting with Ellen White in September and was deeply moved by the chapter, “The Time of Trouble,” feeling every sentence was needed. Only a year before, he had taken issue with Mrs. White over events at Battle Creek College, events that ultimately affirmed Mrs. White’s counsel.—Ibid., p. 261.

In November 1884, the General Conference “resolved” that “we hail with great pleasure the publication of volume 4, The Great Controversy; that, while we anxiously looked for it, expecting that it would give important information concerning the closing scenes of this world’s history, we can freely say that it more than meets our most sanguine expectations; and that we earnestly urge all our people to read it carefully and prayerfully, to use all proper means to place it before the world.”—Review and Herald, Nov. 25, 1884, p. 744.

32. Ten printings of five thousand each of volume 4, (The Great Controversy) had come from both the Pacific Press and the Review and Herald in less than four years—late 1884 to early spring, 1887.—Ibid., pp. 434, 435.

33. See pp. 113, 114.

34. Ibid., p. 437.

35. Selected Messages, book 3, p. 465. W. C. White recalled in 1905 a particular Sabbath experience in Basel when he was reading aloud to his mother Wylie’s History, telling about Roman armies attacking much smaller bands of Bohemians—but beating a hasty retreat. Mrs. White interrupted him and told him of many things that were yet in the pages ahead, and about many things not even in the book. She said, “I never read about it, but the scene has been presented to me over and over again. I have seen the papal armies, and sometimes before they had come in sight of the Protestants, the angels of God would give them a representation of large armies, that would make them flee.” W. C. White asked, “Why did not you not put that into your book?” His mother replied, “I did not know where to put it.”— Ibid., p. 439.

36. Ibid., p. 440.

37. Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 472-475.

38. W. C. White, Selected Messages, book 3, p. 453. W. C. White deplored those who tried to find sinister reasons for the deletions and changes when they compared the 1888 edition with that of 1884: “Why will not our brethren study God’s merciful dealings to us by imparting information to us by the Spirit of Prophecy in its beautiful, harmonious, and helpful features, instead of picking and criticizing and dissecting, trying to cut it up into little mechanical concrete blocks such as we buy for our children to play with and then ask somebody else to fit it together so that it will make a pattern that pleases them and leave out the particular parts of the pattern that they do not like?”—Ibid.

“In our conversations with her regarding the truthfulness and the accuracy of what she had quoted from historians, she expressed confidence in the historians from whom she had drawn, but never would consent to the course pursued by a few men who took her writings as a standard and endeavored by the use of them to prove the correctness of one historian as against the correctness of another.”—Letter from W. C. White to L. E. Froom, Feb. 18, 1932. Ellen G. White Estate Correspondence File.

39. Ibid., p. 442.

40. Letter to L. E. Froom, Jan. 8, 1928, cited in Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 459, 460. Donald R. McAdams, in his article, “Shifting Views of Inspiration: Ellen G. White Studies in the 1970s,” summarized Mrs. White’s use of historical sources: “I believed when I wrote ‘Ellen G. White and the Protestant Historians,’ and still do, that the evidence is compatible with Ellen White’s statements claiming inspiration regarding historical events and describing her use of Protestant historians. A belief that God revealed to Ellen White the activities of Christ and His angels and Satan and his angels in the great-controversy struggle, along with occasional flashlight views of historical events with explanations about the spiritual significance of those events, is compatible with the evidence. A belief that God showed Ellen White one historical scene after another making up the continuous historical narrative that appears in The Great Controversy is not.”—Spectrum, March 1980, p. 34.

41. Letter from W. C. White to L. E. Froom, Feb. 18, 1932. Ellen G. White Estate Correspondence File.

42. Ibid.

43. Francis M. Wilcox, The Testimony of Jesus (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1934), pp. 115-117.

44. See pp. 16, 120, 173, 375, 376, 421.

45. The records of the 1911 revision of The Great Controversy rest in the White Estate headquarters office, Silver Spring, Maryland. Among these records is a large manila envelope marked, “Controversy Proofs Prepared for Mrs. E. G. White’s Inspection and Approval.” At the bottom of the envelope are the words, “All Approved.”—Arthur White, The Ellen G. White Writings (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1973), p. 132.

46. Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 433-444.

47. Ibid. “When we presented to Mother the request of some of our canvassers, that there should be given in the new edition not only scripture references but also references to the historians quoted, she instructed us to hunt up and insert the historical references. She also instructed us to verify the quotations, and to correct any inaccuracies found; and where quotations were made from passages that were rendered differently by different translators, to use that translation which was found to be most correct and authentic. . . . In each case where there has been such a change, Mother has given faithful attention to the proposed substitution and has approved of the change. . . . If you hear reports that some of the work done on this latest revision was done contrary to Mother’s wish or without her knowledge, you can be sure that such reports are false, and unworthy of consideration.”—Ibid., pp. 434-436.

48. Wilcox, The Testimony of Jesus, pp. 115, 116.

49. W. C. White to W. W. Eastman, Nov. 4, 1912, cited in Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 445-450.

50. See Bio., vol. 1, p. 366.

51. “My heart is inexpressibly sad. . . . I am not a scholar. . . . I am not a grammarian.”—Selected Messages, book 3, p. 90. “The rich current of thought takes possession of my whole being, and I lay down my pen, and say, O Lord, I am finite, I am weak, and simple and ignorant; Thy grand and holy revelations I can never find language to express.”—Ibid., p. 118.

52. See p. 110. After portions of the manuscript were ready for review, Ellen White would, at times, ask others outside of her editorial circle for their comments. In an 1876 letter to her husband, she wrote: “How will it do to read my manuscript to Elders [J. H.] Waggoner and [J. N.] Loughborough? If there is any wording of doctrinal points not so clear as might be, he might discern it (W., I mean).”—Selected Messages, book 3, p. 104.

53. James White, Review and Herald, June 21, 1881. See p. 111.

54. The Great Controversy, pp. x-xii.

55. See pp. 378-380.

56. Fred Veltman, “The E. G. White Research Project,” p. 948.

57. See pp. 444. 445.

58. Current evaluation of Mrs. White’s literary sources in The Desire of Ages suggests that at least twenty-three works were consulted. Ibid., p. 934. For a list of these works and their usages in fifteen chapters selected at random, see the Veltman “Project.”

59. Fred Veltman, “The Desire of Ages Project: the Conclusions,” Ministry, Dec. 1990, p. 13.

60. “Ellen White could write. She obviously had the ability to express her thoughts clearly. She was not slavishly dependent upon her sources, and the way she incorporated their content clearly shows that she recognized the better literary constructions. She knew how to separate the wheat from the chaff.”—Ibid., p. 12.

61. See p. 112 for a discussion of a prophet’s gift of selectivity in using source materials.

62. In concluding his research on The Great Controversy, Donald R. McAdams wrote: “One point remains. Does the acknowledgment of such borrowing deny the originality of Ellen White? Not at all. . . . Any honest critic must come away from a reading of Great Controversy impressed with the power of its message. I have not attempted to show the creative originality of Great Controversy in this study because it is a point that does not need to be proven, and because my purposes were necessarily quite different. But as one who has studied Great Controversy carefully I can testify to the originality of the book. . . . Ellen White, guided by the Holy Spirit, has created a book, which in its entirety cannot be missed [sic] for anything else but a work of unique power. . . . All that Great Controversy did for the early Advent believers it can still do for us. We must read it according to the purpose for which it was written and not damage its effectiveness by making claims for it that can only result in destroying the faith of many who might otherwise respond to its message.”—McAdams, “E. G. White and the Protestant Historians,” pp. 231-234.

63. Veltman, “Project,” p. 907.

64. “The sections of the narrative where the work of God, of the angels, or of Satan and his angels, are described; where the great controversy motif is discussed; and passages of moralizing or devotional appeals occur; are more likely to contain Ellen White’s independent comment than the narrative, historical, or Biblical portions of the text.”—Veltman, “Project,” p. 931. “Sources seem to be employed more often to provide background and descriptive comment than for devotional and evangelical content . . . . One is more apt to find Ellen White’s independent comment in the moralizing or theologizing commentary.”—Ibid., p. 900. Dr. J. H. Kellogg, in his preface to Mrs. White’s Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene (1890), noted: “The guidance of infinite wisdom is as much needed in the discerning between truth and error as in the evolution of new truths.”—p. iv.

65. Veltman, “The Desire of Ages Project,” p. 13. “It is among her devotional commentary and throughout her presentation of what I have called ‘spiritual realities’ that we are more likely to find her independent hand at work.” Veltman did caution that his “research did not survey” all the possible sources in the nineteenth century and thus he could not “establish whether her apparent independence is owing to her originality or to the limits of our investigation.”—Ibid.

66. Selected Messages, book 3, p. 116.


Study Questions

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1. Why was Steps to Christ originally produced by a non-Adventist publisher?

2. What is the special significance of Ellen White’s “Introduction” to The Great Controversy, especially in relationship to the issue of using secular sources?

3. How would you categorize the refinements made in the 1911 edition of The Great Controversy?

4. How do we know that the charge that Fannie Bolton wrote Steps to Christ is false?

5. Why did Ellen White employ editorial assistants?

6. Discuss how Marian Davis assisted Ellen White in the development of The Desire of Ages.

7. Trace the development of the Great Controversy story in various publications that unfolded out of the 1858 Lovett’s Grove vision.

8. Why did opposition arise when it became known that the 1888 edition of The Great Controversy was to be refined in some respects in 1911?

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