Selected Messages Book 3

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W. C. White letter to L. E. Froom

January 8, 1928

Dear Brother Froom,

Since sending away a letter to you yesterday I have found yours of December 22. In it you tell me that for two full years you have been encouraging Elder Daniells to prepare a book on the Spirit of Prophecy, but you failed to tell me what response he gives to these requests. 3SM 453.4

Referring to the statements that have been published by Elder Loughborough, you speak of the stress placed upon him by the physical manifestations and intimate that these do not appeal to you. 3SM 454.1

I fully agree with you that the great proof of the divine hand in the gift to the remnant church is in the internal evidence of the writings themselves. Nevertheless, I must believe that in the physical manifestations which have accompanied the bestowal of light and revelation, there is some real value; otherwise God would not have given them. Furthermore I am brought in contact with a great many people, earnest, sincere, and precious in the sight of the Lord, who do regard these physical manifestations as a matter of serious importance, and they testify that their faith has been greatly strengthened by a clear knowledge of the methods adopted by our heavenly father for the confirmation of the receivers in the light He has given them. 3SM 454.2

You refer to the little statement which I sent you regarding verbal inspiration. 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. [Probably Francois Gaussen, a Swiss clergyman (1790-1863), who maintained that the Bible was verbally inspired.] 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. 3SM 454.3

Sister White never accepted the Gausen theory regarding verbal inspiration, either as applied to her own work or as applied to the Bible. 3SM 454.4

You say that in your endeavor to have a loyal and rational understanding of the background of this marvelous gift, you have been seeking to gain information concerning the various persons who helped Sister White in the literary phase of the work. 3SM 455.1

It is my conviction, Brother Froom, that you will never get light regarding the background of the gift of the Spirit of Prophecy by studying the characteristics and qualifications of the faithful copyist and the copy editors, whom Sister White called to her assistance in preparing for publication articles for our periodical and chapters for her books. 3SM 455.2

The foundation by which to fix faith in the messages which God has sent to His people, will be more readily found in the study of His dealings with His prophets in past ages. It seems to me that the study of the life and labors and writings of Saint Paul are more helpful and illuminating than any other line of study we might suggest, and I do not think we shall be greatly helped in establishing confidence in the writings of Paul by searching to make a list of his helpers and by study into their history and their experience. It is easy for me to believe that Jeremiah was directed of God in his selection of Baruch as a copyist; also that Paul had heavenly wisdom in selecting those who should act as his amanuensis from time to time according to his needs. 3SM 455.3

It is my belief that Sister Ellen G. White had heavenly guidance in choosing the persons who should act as copyists and those who should help to prepare articles for our periodicals and chapters for our books. 3SM 455.4

I am well acquainted with the circumstances which led her to select some of these workers and of the direct encouragements given her regarding their qualifications and trustworthiness for the work. I also know of instances where she was directed to instruct, to caution, and sometimes to dismiss from her employ those whose lack of spirituality disqualified them for satisfactory service. Regarding this, Elder Starr could give you an interesting chapter regarding Sister White's experience with Miss Fannie Bolton, and I could tell you of a circumstance under which she was separated from her own niece, Mary Clough, whom she greatly loved. 3SM 455.5

In the early ‘60's, Sister White was unaided, except by her husband, who would listen to her as she read chapters of manuscript and would suggest grammatical corrections as they occurred to his mind. As a little boy I remember witnessing circumstances like this—Elder White in his weariness would be lying on the sofa and sister White would bring in a chapter written for Spiritual Gifts and would read to him and he would suggest, as stated above, grammatical corrections. Articles for the Testimonies were treated in a similar way. 3SM 456.1

Beside the few testimonies which were printed, many personal testimonies were sent to individuals and oftentimes Sister White would write saying, “I have no one to copy this testimony. Please make a copy for yourself and send the original back to me.” As a result of this method of work, we have in our manuscript vault many of the early testimonies in Sister White's handwriting. 3SM 456.2

In the earlier ‘60's, Sister Lucinda M. Hall acted as sister White's housekeeper, secretary, and sometimes traveling companion. She was both timid and conscientious, and only the plainest grammatical errors were corrected by her. About 1862, Sister Adelia Patten connected with the White family and did some copying for Sister White. Later on she connected with the Review and Herald. 3SM 456.3

In the Autumn of 1872 Sister White visited Colorado and became acquainted with her niece Mary C. Clough, and in ‘74, ‘75 and ‘76 Miss Clough assisted in preparing copy for Spirit of Prophecy, Volumes II and III. She also accompanied Elder and Mrs. White in their camp-meeting labors and acted as reporter for the public press. In so doing, she was the first publicity agent regularly employed by the denomination and may be looked up to as the grandmother of our publicity department. 3SM 456.4

Her experience as a newspaper reporter, the confidence that she thus gained and the praise that was heaped upon her work, unfitted her for the delicate and sacred work of being copy editor for Review articles and the chapters for the Great Controversy. In a vision it was presented to Sister White that she and Mary were looking at some wondrous developments in the sky. They meant much to Sister White, but to Mary they seemed to mean nothing; and the angel said, “Spiritual things are spiritually discerned,” and then instructed Sister White that she should no longer employ her niece as her book editor. 3SM 457.1

During ‘68, ‘69, and ‘70, various ones were employed by Sister White to copy her testimonies. Among them were miss Emma Sturgess, afterward the wife of Amos Prescott; Miss Anna Hale, afterward the wife of Irwin Royce; and others, whose names I do not now remember. 3SM 457.2

After the death of Elder [James] White in 1881, Sister White employed Sister Marian Davis. She had been for some years a proofreader in the Review and Herald, and Sister White received assurance through revelation that Sister Davis would be a conscientious and faithful helper. Later on Sister Eliza Burnham was employed by Sister White, and at one time Mrs. B. L. Whitney and Fannie Bolton were employed at Battle Creek as helpers when there was much work to do. Sister Davis was with Sister White in Europe in 1886 and 1887. She was also Sister White's principal helper in Australia. 3SM 457.3

As the work in Australia grew, Sister Burnham was called to assist in the book editing, and Maggie Hare and Minnie Hawkins were employed as copyists. 3SM 457.4

I had forgotten to mention that during the years when Sister White was in Healdsburg, Sister J. I. Ings did much copying of testimonies and of manuscripts. 3SM 457.5

At one time, while we were in Australia, it was proposed that the Special Testimonies to Ministers (I.E., Special Testimonies, Series A) published and sent out by Elder [O. A.] Olsen [General Conference president.] in the early ‘90's should be reprinted—the matter to be grouped according to subjects. While this was under consideration, it happened that Elder W. A. Colcord, who had once been secretary of the General Conference and for many years a leading writer on religious liberty topics, was out of employment, and at my solicitations Sister White employed him to take the special testimonies and group the matter according to subjects for republication. He spent several weeks on this work and was paid by Sister White; but the work was never used. If I remember correctly, this was the extent of his connection with her literary work. 3SM 457.6

The last work done by Sister Davis was the selection and arrangement of the matter used in Ministry of Healing. 3SM 458.1

Elder C. C. Crisler assisted Sister White in selecting and arranging the matter appearing in Acts of the Apostles and Prophets and Kings. 3SM 458.2

This sketch of the work and the workers does not claim to be complete. It was never considered by me or by any of Sister White's helpers that the personnel of her working force was of any primary interest to the readers of her books. She wrote the matter. She wrote very fully. There was always a controversy between her and the publishers regarding the quantity of matter that should be used. Sister White was best pleased when a subject was presented very fully, and the publishers were always bringing pressure to bear to have the matter condensed or abbreviated so that the book would not be too large. Consequently, after important chapters were prepared for the printer, and sometimes after they were sent to the printer, a new presentation of the subject would be given Sister White, and she would write additional matter and insist upon its being incorporated. This experience applied chiefly to the Great Controversy, Vol. IV. 3SM 458.3

A corresponding difficulty regarding the amount of matter prepared for Desire of Ages was overcome in part by the setting apart of portions which were used in Christ's Object Lessons and Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing. 3SM 458.4

Regarding the reading of works of contemporary authors during the time of the preparation of these books, there is very little to be said, because, when Sister White was busily engaged in writing she had very little time to read. Previous to her work of writing on the life of Christ and during the time of her writing, to some extent, she read from the works of Hanna, Fleetwood, Farrar, and Geikie. I never knew of her reading Edersheim. She occasionally referred to Andrews, particularly with reference to chronology. 3SM 459.1

Why did she read any of these books? The great events of the conflict of the ages as brought out in the Great Controversy [i.e., Conflict] Series, were presented to her in part at many different times. In the first presentation a brief outline was given her as represented in the third section of the book now called Early Writings. 3SM 459.2

Later on the great events of the patriarchal age and the experience of the prophets were presented to her as brought out in her articles in Testimonies for the Church, and in her series of articles published in later years in the Review, The Signs of the Times, and the Southern Watchman. These series, you will remember, deal quite fully with the work of Ezra, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, and other of the prophets. 3SM 459.3

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. 3SM 459.4

Another purpose served by the reading of history and the Life of Our Lord [This may refer to William Hanna's Life of Our Lord (1863).] And the Life of St. Paul, was that in so doing there was brought vividly to her mind scenes presented clearly in vision, but which were through the lapse of years and her strenuous ministry, dimmed in her memory. 3SM 460.1

Many times in the reading of Hanna, Farrar, or Fleetwood, she would run on to a description of a scene which had been vividly presented to her, but forgotten, and which she was able to describe more in detail than that which she had read. 3SM 460.2

Notwithstanding all the power that God had given her to present scenes in the lives of Christ and His apostles and His prophets and His reformers in a stronger and more telling way than other historians, yet she always felt most keenly the results of her lack of school education. She admired the language in which other writers had presented to their readers the scenes which God had presented to her in vision, and she found it both a pleasure, and a convenience and an economy of time to use their language fully or in part in presenting those things which she knew through revelation, and which she wished to pass on to her readers. 3SM 460.3

In many of her manuscripts as they come from her hand quotation marks are used. In other cases they were not used; and her habit of using parts of sentences found in the writings of others and filling in a part of her own composition, was not based upon any definite plan nor was it questioned by her copyists and copy writers until about 1885 and onward. 3SM 460.4

When critics pointed out this feature of her work as a reason for questioning the gift which had enabled her to write, she paid little attention to it. Later on, when complaint was made that this was an injustice to other publishers and writers, she made a decided change—a change which you are familiar with. 3SM 460.5

It is my belief, Brother Froom, that I cannot too frequently restate the fact that Sister White's mind was keenly active with reference to the contents of the articles published in our periodicals, and the chapters composing her books, and that she had help from heaven and was remarkably acute in detecting any error made by copyists or by copy editors. This condition prevailed during all her busy years before the death of her husband and after the death of her husband, during her ministry in Europe and Australia and in the greater part of the years spent in America after her return from Australia. 3SM 461.1

In her very last years her supervision was not so comprehensive, but she was marvelously blessed in her intelligence in directing regarding the matter previously written which was being used in her last years and in pointing out those subjects which needed to be emphasized and those subjects which could be spared as we proceeded with the work of abridgment of the larger books in preparing copy for translation into foreign tongues. 3SM 461.2

Please read this statement to Elder Daniells, and if you observe that in my haste I have left matter so that it can be easily misunderstood, please point this out to me and give me an opportunity to strengthen the matter before it is placed by you before others of your brethren. 3SM 461.3

Yours truly,

W. C. White