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Chapter 18

CUSTODY OF THE ELLEN G. WHITE WRITINGS

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Section Titles
Preparation of a New Book*
SUMMARY
FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION
SELECTED REFERENCES


During the years since the death of Ellen White in 1915, twenty-four books, compiled from her writings, have been published in harmony with the provision she made for the custody and circulation of her works. Mrs. White recognized during her later years that it would not be possible for her to see to the publication of all the portions of her writings that should be brought before the church. She knew that if she did not plan carefully, there was a possibility that those into whose hands the writings should come would not know what their responsibility was, or how they should handle the materials. There was danger that some things might be lost sight of if no one was assigned the care of the product of her pen.

Consequently, in her will, dated February 9, 1912, Mrs. White gave specific instruction as to the disposition that should be made of her books, manuscripts, and other property. Note the provisions for the care and use of her writings, as they were stated in the will. Only those portions of the will pertaining to the subject at hand are quoted.

“I hereby give, devise, and bequeath to William C. White, Clarence C. Crisler, Charles H. Jones, Arthur G. Daniells, and Frank M. Wilcox” [then appears a list of the items of her property] “all of my right, title, and interest in the copyrights and book plates in all languages, of the following publications” [here follows a list of her current books]; “also, my general manuscript file and all indexes pertaining thereto; also my office furniture and office library.

”Together with all and singular, the tenements, hereditaments,


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and appurtenances thereunto belonging, or in anywise appertaining in trust nevertheless for the uses and purposes hereinafter contained.

“TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, the said real and personal property unto said trustees, and their successors, upon the trust to enter into and upon and take possession of the said real estate and said personal property.

“Administering, preserving, and protecting the said real property and of handling said personal property, and publishing and selling said books and manuscripts and conducting the business thereof.”

Certain financial provisions are made, then follows further instruction concerning the work of the trustees.

“Then my said trustees shall use the overplus for the improvement of the books and manuscripts held in trust by them, and herein provided; for the securing and printing of new translations thereof; for the printing of compilations from my manuscripts.”—Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant, page 73.

Thus the trustees were assigned three primary responsibilities: (1) to care for and promote the circulation of the Ellen White books in the English language; (2) to provide for their translation and circulation in foreign languages; (3) to publish compilations from the materials in articles and in the manuscript files.

Placed under their charge for the purposes indicated were approximately 45,000 typewritten manuscript pages of Ellen White writings, about 1,000 handwritten letters and manuscripts, files of periodicals containing about 4,500 articles by Mrs. White, and rights to her books in English and foreign languages. These materials, along with many thousands of pages of correspondence and manuscripts pertaining to the development of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, were cared for, until 1937, in the office building at Mrs. White's home, “Elmshaven,” near Saint Helena, California. At that time the


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work was transferred to offices provided in the headquarters building of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Washington, D.C. For more than twenty years from the time of the death of Ellen White, the work of the trustees was carried on under the business name of “The Ellen G. White Estate,” but since the move to Washington the name has been changed to “The Ellen G. White Publications.”

The original group of trustees remained intact for about eighteen years. Then, one by one the men died, and were replaced according to the plan provided in the will that had brought them into being as a Board of Trustees. “If a vacancy shall occur for any reason among said trustees, or their successors, a majority of the surviving or remaining trustees are hereby empowered and directed to fill such vacancy by the appointment of some fit person.”—Ibid., p. 74. Because of the growing needs for the services of the office of the White Publications with the expansion of the advent movement into all the world, the Board of Trustees was enlarged, in 1950, to seven members. The group works closely with the officers of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in giving study to the needs of the field and in providing instruction from the writings to meet those needs. All royalties from Ellen White books go into the General Conference treasury, and the General Conference appropriates funds for the work of the trustees.

Not only did Mrs. White give instruction in her will regarding the printing of compilations from her writings by the trustees, but on different occasions she had suggested something of the type of matter that might be included. “The articles that from week to week are printed in our papers are soon forgotten…. These articles are to be gathered together, reprinted in book form, and placed before believers and unbelievers.”—Ellen G. White Letter 73, 1903.

In addition to the thousands of articles from which selections might be made for reprinting, many hundreds of personal testimonies, addressed to workers and leaders in the denomination,


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contained counsel, gave encouragement, and pointed out dangers. It was shown to Ellen White that the same messages would be of help to later workers and to many of the members of the churches. In a vision “One of authority stood up and said, ‘Everything that has been given to ministers, to men in responsible positions, to teachers, to managers, to the different conferences is to be repeated and repeated…. We must work earnestly to bring this instruction before the people.’”—Ellen G. White Manuscript 101, 1905. For these reasons, the trustees have felt that in order to discharge their responsibility properly, they must publish all the instruction that is pertinent in view of today's circumstances and needs. The value of the writings will continue to the end. Ellen White had written these words on October 23, 1907: “Abundant light has been given to our people in these last days. Whether or not my life is spared, my writings will constantly speak, and their work will go forward as long as time shall last. My writings are kept on file in the office, and even though I should not live, these words that have been given to me by the Lord will still have life and will speak to the people.”—Ellen G. White, “The Writing and Sending Out of the Testimonies,” pages 13, 14.

Through the years of her ministry, Mrs. White published many of the testimonies that she sent to individuals. She gave her reason for doing so in language which is repeated in different words in several places: “Since the warning and instruction given in testimony for individual cases applied with equal force to many others who had not been specially pointed out in this manner, it seemed to be my duty to publish the personal testimonies for the benefit of the church…. ‘Perhaps there is no more direct and forcible way of presenting what the Lord has shown me.’”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, PP. 658, 659. “I am endeavoring by the help of God to write letters that will be a help, not merely to those to whom they are addressed, but to many others who need them.”—Ellen G. White Letter 79, 1905.


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There was much of general value in some of the diaries, journals, and other manuscripts. “The many diaries and manuscript books which have been kept, containing the instruction which the Lord has given me, will lighten my labors in the work of preparing new books.”—Ellen G. White Manuscript 59, 1912. “I have much written in the diary I have kept in all my journeys that should come before the people if essential, even if I did not write another line. I want that which is deemed worthy to appear, for the Lord has given me much light that I want the people to have; for there is instruction that the Lord has given me for His people. It is light that they should have, line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.”—Ellen G. White Letter 117, 1910.


Preparation of a New Book*

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The procedure followed in the office of the Ellen G. White Publications in the preparation of such compilations from the writings of Mrs. White as Evangelism, Temperance, The Adventist Home, and Child Guidance, has been planned so that readers will receive an accurate and unbiased view of the Ellen White teachings on the subjects covered. In order to set forth the instruction fairly in a compilation, care must be exercised to see that all phases of the subject are presented in a balanced way, and that the arrangement of material and its emphasis is balanced and harmonious with the whole body of the instruction. For these reasons the usual method of preparing a new book cannot be followed: It is not possible to prepare an outline and then search out materials to fit that outline. Although this method would be more economical of both time and money, there would be involved a risk of overlooking some portion of vital instruction that had not been included in the outline. On the other hand, there would be danger of over


* The description of the preparation of the book Evangelism is drawn largely from an article by Arthur L. White in Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant, pages 95, 96.


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“The great God has reared His mighty structures in the granite rocks, in the towering mountains, in clefts, in the gulches, in the gorges, and in the castle rocks, and in the caves of the earth. And with these surroundings—the work of God's power—how thankless the heart who needs images of man to worship. The heathen who worship nature, the works of the divine hand, are idolators. But does not their worship strike the senses as more sensible than the worship of images bearing the mold and impress of finite man? Everything about us teaches us from day to day lessons of our Father's love and of His power, of His laws to govern nature, and that lie at the foundation of all government in heaven and in earth. These rich tokens of God's matchless power, if they will not call the mind to the Creator of heaven and earth, if they will not awaken gratitude in these dull and thankless hearts, will images and shrines of dead men do this? We look upon nature. We see the fields clothed with carpets of living green. We see the variety of His works. In this house God has builded for man, every part of this house, diverse it may be from another, but we trace in unmistakable tokens the handiwork of the great Architect. There is beauty in the valleys, awful grandeur in the solemn masses of cleft rocks, majesty in the towering mountains that look as if they touched the heavens. There is the lofty tree with its delicately formed leaves, the spires of grass, the opening bud and blooming flowers, the forest trees, and everything points the mind to the great and living God.”


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emphasizing some point of minor importance. Using the book Evangelism as an illustration, we shall trace the several steps followed in the preparation of an Ellen White compilation.

1. Authorization and planning. The secretary and associate secretaries of the Ministerial Association of the General Conference, as well as other workers, sensed the need for a single volume that would present the full Ellen White instruction concerning evangelism. In 1944 the Association suggested to the Board of Trustees of the Ellen G. White Publications that such a book be prepared.

The Board of Trustees, after carefully studying the question and making some investigation of available materials, authorized the compilation of a volume of the counsels to evangelists and instruction concerning evangelism. They set up two committees to execute the work. The first was a fostering committee of five, headed by a General Conference vice-president and including representatives from the Board of Trustees and the Ministerial Association, and an evangelist of long experience. It was the duty of this committee to plan for the compilation and to give general guidance to its preparation.

The second committee was a working team of two, comprising the secretary of the Ellen G. White Publications, Arthur L. White, and Miss Louise Kleuser of the Ministerial Association. The task of gathering and arranging the materials was assigned to this team.

2. Gathering the counsels. With this assignment, the working team, under the guidance of the fostering committee, undertook their work. They did not begin with an outline of what they thought should go into the book, but worked so as to allow the materials themselves to determine the outline and the emphasis. They set about to assemble all the Ellen G. White writings that might have a bearing on the subject of evangelism. Every source was drawn from—the current books; early, out-of-print


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books and pamphlets; periodical articles; and the manuscript files. The Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White guided to statements in the current books. The card indexes in the White Publications vault led to other sources. All the materials that might have a bearing on the subject were copied, regardless of repetition, each statement on a separate sheet for convenience in handling.

Finally, several thousand pages were gathered. As the statements were being brought together, the working team found a general outline becoming apparent—an outline determined by the materials themselves and by the Ellen White emphasis. The next step was to set down the general features of this outline. There were twenty general divisions, or sections. As the sorting continued, it was possible to form a more detailed outline for each section. Next, the statements that fell naturally into each general section were grouped according to the topics that would make up that section.

After this classification had been completed, each of the twenty groups of quotations was carefully studied. The most pointed and comprehensive statements, regardless of their source, were selected and arranged in their logical order. Brief paragraph headings were then chosen. Each member of the working team did the initial work on certain sections, and this was thoroughly reviewed by the other member. The body of the material, in this preliminary arrangement, was copied, and a copy furnished to each member of the fostering committee.

The members of the larger committee read the manuscript and made suggestions as to arrangement, headings, the inclusion of items that might have been overlooked, and the deletion of repetitious statements.

With the recommendations of the fostering committee in hand, the working team went through the entire manuscript again, giving closer attention to repetitions. This problem is intensified by the fact that no change can be made in the wording, and that the same general approach to an important point


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is often made with a slightly different treatment and wording. As far as possible, repetitious sentences were deleted, but sufficient of the quotation was given to preserve its proper setting.

3. Approval for publication. This painstaking work called for handling some sections as many as six or eight times. When the working team had completed its revision of the manuscript in the light of the criticisms of the fostering committee, the revised manuscript was mimeographed and submitted to the Board of Trustees of the Ellen G. White Publications, who were responsible for the preparation of the proposed book. Copies were given to the officers of the General Conference for their concurrence in the release of unpublished materials. Because the volume was being considered as a Ministerial Reading Course book, it was also submitted to a reading committee appointed by the Ministerial Association Advisory Council. In the interest of economy of time, the manuscript was submitted to these groups simultaneously.

Careful note was made of all the suggestions made by this reading group, but very little change was called for. Action was taken approving the manuscript.

A foreword was written, explaining the preparation of the volume, but no recognition was given to those responsible for the detailed work of its compilation. Policies governing this work place the full responsibility in the hands of the Board of Trustees, and no individual receives personal credit for the part he may have had in assembling the contents of a posthumous Ellen G. White book.

The manuscript, now in its final approved form, was passed to the publishers. The usual procedure in the handling of a book manuscript calls for its acceptance by a book committee, but in the case of an Ellen White book, this step is omitted, and the material goes directly from the trustees to the publishing house copy editors. The Board of Trustees carries the full responsibility ordinarily assumed by a book committee.


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Copy editors studied punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and so forth, within limits carefully defined by the Board. From the copy room the manuscript went to the type room, then to the press and bindery; and from there the new book, Evangelism, went to the field,—in every sense a genuine Ellen White book.

The methods followed in compiling one of her books today do not differ greatly from those in the preparation of such books as Testimonies for the Church, volume 9, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, and Prophets and Kings. When Ellen White was living, she consulted with leading workers as to the best manner in which to bring certain lines of instruction before the people. She enlisted the assistance of her office staff in gathering matter she had written through the years. She gave study to the selection of statements for publication, and joined in their preparation for the press. The principal difference in the preparation of a book today lies in the fact that she cannot now give study to the matter selected and cannot improve the text or write in connections uniting several excerpts in one blended statement. None of these can be done now that her pen has been laid aside.

Since Mrs. White's death the books that have appeared have been drawn largely from her periodical articles, to a lesser degree from manuscripts and early pamphlets, and to some extent from her current books. Some compilations representing special lines of instruction contain statements that are already published in current books. While it is planned that as far as possible the republication of available counsel should be avoided, making a compilation that gives complete coverage of the subject treated has advantages that outweigh the objection to a small amount of repetition. No one knows what the demands of the future may be, but it appears to the Trustees that in the Ellen White books now in circulation the full range of instruction and counsel vital to the welfare of the church is available.


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SUMMARY

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1. Ellen White provided in her will that custody of her writings should be taken by a board of trustees, whom she named.

2. The trustees were assigned three primary responsibilities:

  1. To care for and promote the circulation of the Ellen White books in English.
  2. To provide for their translation and circulation into foreign languages.
  3. To publish compilations from materials in articles and in the manuscript files.

3. Books and other compilations issued since Ellen White's death have been prepared as nearly as possible in the way such works were prepared during her lifetime.

4. Preparation of such materials for publication today differs from Ellen White's own preparation in that no changes can be made in the text, no connecting thoughts can be added to join several excerpts. The trustees can deal only with the material at hand.


FOR STUDY AND DISCUSSION

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1. What problems might have arisen if Ellen White had not made provision for a board of trustees to care for her writings ?

2. Ellen White published many testimonies addressed originally to individuals. Are there parallels to this practice to be found in the Bible?

3. Can you find in the Bible material similar to that found in Ellen White's diaries, letters, and manuscripts? Consult one or two of the late compilations for some of these items.

4. Select a topic of interest to you, and gather material on the subject from the Ellen White books in the manner described for the making of a compilation. Can you see how the passages


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almost classify themselves and how clearly an outline is discernible when you gather enough quotations? Can you see how essential it is to get a complete cross section of the instruction before forming opinions as to what is taught?


SELECTED REFERENCES

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Nichol, F. D., Ellen G. White and Her Critics, pp. 674-678 (Mrs. White's will).

White, Arthur L., Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant, pp. 68-87, 92-94.



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