Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 3 (1876 - 1882)

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Lt 64, 1876

Hall, Lucinda

Oakland, California

May 10, 1876

The letter is published in entirety in DG 266-268.

Dear Sister Lucinda:

We received your letter last evening. We also received one from James. Lucinda, I have no idea now of exchanging a certainty for an uncertainty. I can write more, and am free. Should I come east, James’ happiness might suddenly change to complaining and fretting. I am thoroughly disgusted with this state of things, and do not mean to place myself where there is the least liability of its occurring. The more I think of the matter the more settled and determined I am, unless God gives me light, to remain where I am. I can never have an opportunity such as God has favored me with at the present. I must work as God should direct. I plead and entreat for light. If it is my duty to attend the camp meetings, I shall know it. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 1

Mary is now secured. I may lose her if I should go east. Satan has hindered me for long years from doing my writing, and now I must not be drawn off. I can but dread the liability of James’ changeable moods, his strong feelings, his censures, his viewing me in the light he does, and has felt free to tell me his ideas of my being led by a wrong spirit, my restricting his liberty, et cetera. All this is not easy to jump over and place myself voluntarily in a position where he will stand in my way and I in his. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 2

No, Lucinda, no camp meetings shall I attend this season. God in His providence has given us each our work, and we will do it separately, independently. He is happy; I am happy; but the happiness might be all changed should we meet, I fear. Your judgment I prize, but I must be left free to do my work. I cannot endure the thought of marring the work and cause of God by such depression as I have experienced all unnecessarily. My work is at Oakland. I shall not move east one step unless the Lord says “Go.” Then, without one murmur, I will cheerfully go, not before. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 3

A great share of my life’s usefulness has been lost. If James had made retraction, it would be different. He has said we must not seek to control each other. I do not own to doing it, but he has, and much more. I never felt as I do now in this matter. I cannot have confidence in James’ judgment in reference to my duty. He seems to want to dictate to me as though I was a child—tells me not to go here, I must come east for fear of Sister Willis’s influence, or fearing that I should go to Petaluma, et cetera. I hope God has not left me to receive my duty through my husband. He will teach me if I trust in Him. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 4

I am cheerful and happy. My nerves are getting calm. My sleep is sweet. My health is good. I hope I have not written anything wrong, but these are just my feelings, and no one but you knows anything about it. May the Lord help me to do and feel just right. If things had been different, I might feel [it was my] duty to go to camp meetings. As they are, I have no duty. God blesses me in doing my work. If I can get light in [a] dream or in any way, I will cheerfully follow the light. God lives and reigns. I shall answer to His claims, and seek to do His will. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 5

In love. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 6

To the Readers of Letters 64, 65, 66, 67, 1876 (Written May 10, 12, 16, 17, 1876)

[In 1973, a collection of approximately 2,000 letters, written between 1860 and 1889, was acquired by the Ellen G. White Estate. Originally addressed to Lucinda Hall, one of Ellen White’s closest friends, the letters were written by such well-known Adventists as James and Ellen White, Kellogg, Loughborough, Amadon, and Haskell. The story of how the collection came to the White Estate was told by Elder Arthur White in the The Review and Herald, August 16, 1973. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 7

Among the collection were 48 previously unknown Ellen White letters. Most are the newsy-type letters that one friend would write to another. But Ellen considered Lucinda more than just a casual friend. On July 14, 1875, she wrote: 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 8

“I wish I could see you, Lucinda. ... How I have missed you on this journey. Not but that I have friends, but you are nearest and dearest, next to my own family, and I feel no differences than that you belonged to me and my blood flowed in your veins.”—Lt 48, 1875 Manuscript Releases, 781. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 9

Because of her special closeness to Lucinda, Ellen White poured out her heart to her friend about some family matters in a series of four letters written between May 10 and 17, 1876. Considering the circumstances she was trying to cope with at the time, that was a very human thing for Ellen White to do. But only a day after writing the third letter, she had second thoughts about what she had done. In the last of the series, dated May 17, 1876, Ellen White began by saying: 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 10

“I am sorry I wrote you the letters I have. Whatever may have been my feelings, I need not have troubled you with them. Burn all my letters, and I will relate no matters that perplex me to you. ... I will not be guilty of uttering a word again, whatever may be the circumstances. Silence in all things of a disagreeable or perplexing character has ever been a blessing to me. When I have departed from this, I have regretted it so much.”—Lt 67, 1876. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 11

But Lucinda did not destroy the letters as requested. Thus they came into the possession of the White Estate in 1973. The Estate, being uncertain as to how to deal with these four letters, laid them aside, and did not place them in the regular file. Since then, some have suggested that the White Estate should have burned the letters, in harmony with Ellen White’s original request. But others have felt that the letters should be preserved, for two reasons: (1) The situation confronting the White Estate is different from that which faced Lucinda Hall. Lucinda was the one who was asked to burn the letters. Since she did not, the White Estate Board must consider the request in the light of its own situation. Critics might accuse the Estate of destroying not merely these letters, but other correspondence and manuscripts; (2) The account of how Ellen White related to an extremely difficult time in her life could be of help to individuals facing similar circumstances today. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 12

Because many are aware of the situation in the White family that Ellen White was wrestling with at the time, and with the hope that others facing similar circumstances today may find encouragement from them, the letters, with adequate background to help understand them, are herewith being made available. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 13

The Setting of the Letters

Anyone who has dealt with stroke victims can identify with Ellen White when she wrote, “I have not lost my love for my husband, but I cannot explain things.”—Lt 67, 1876. A week earlier she had written, “I can but dread the liability of James’ changeable moods.”—Lt 64, 1876. The change in personality exhibited by James White in the years after 1865, during which he experienced several strokes, was very difficult for his wife and associates to understand. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 14

Before his illness, James White was a dynamic and forceful leader. But after his strokes, he experienced serious personality changes. From time to time he seemed much like his former self, but often he was suspicious and demanding. Such was the situation Ellen White was facing at the time she wrote these four letters to Lucinda. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 15

Never one to mince words, James White frequently expressed himself forcefully. In his autobiography he wrote about a man who had criticized him: 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 16

“To see a coarse, hard-hearted man, possessing in his very nature but little more tenderness than a crocodile, and nearly as destitute of moral religious training as a hyena, shedding hypocritical tears for effect, is enough to stir the mirthfulness of the gravest saint.”—Life Incidents (1868), pp. 115, 116. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 17

The force of James White’s personality was an invaluable asset during the formative years of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. With his wife’s visions constantly challenging him, Elder White started publications, built institutions, promoted church organization, and spiritually fed the flock. In addition, for 10 years he served as president of the General Conference. (His life story is told by Virgil Robinson in a biography entitled James White, published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association in 1976.) 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 18

But when that strong personality, altered by a series of strokes, was turned on his family and associates—including his wife—Ellen found her strength and patience stretched nearly to their limits. If one reads only these four letters, he will certainly obtain a distorted picture of the relationship between James and Ellen White. One must keep in mind statements such as the following, written by James about Ellen: 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 19

“Marriage marks an important era in the lives of men. ‘Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord,’ is the language of wisdom. Proverbs 18:22. ... We were married August 30, 1846, and from that hour unto the present she has been my crown of rejoicing.”—Life Sketches of James and Ellen White (1880), pp. 125, 126. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 20

Even in his illness, James realized at times that his actions were not in harmony with his good intentions. In 1879 he wrote his children: 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 21

“I wish now to call your attention to a subject of graver importance. Probably, dear children, I may have erred in some sharp things I have written relative to the mistakes of younger heads. It is my nature to retaliate when pressed beyond measure. I wish I was a better man.”—James White to Willie and Mary, February 27, 1879. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 22

We do not know all that happened after the fourth letter was written, but in less than 10 days Ellen was by her husband’s side at the Kansas camp meeting. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 23

On May 16, the same day on which the third of the four letters was written to Lucinda, Ellen wrote, in part, to her husband: 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 24

“It grieves me that I have said or written anything to grieve you. Forgive me and I will be cautious not to start any subject to annoy and distress you.”—Lt 27, 1876. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 25

Unfortunately, James never completely recovered from his illness. He had some good days, but these were intermixed with periods of depression. A comment made by the president of the General Conference two years after James White’s death indicates the charitable interpretation that his close associates placed on his illness-induced actions: 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 26

“Our dear Brother White thought we were his enemies because we did not see things as he did. I have never laid up anything against that man of God, that noble pioneer who labored so hard for this cause. I attributed it all to disease and infirmity.”—Letter of G. I. Butler to J. N. Andrews, May 25, 1883. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 27

This overview of the circumstances under which Ellen White wrote the four letters to Lucinda Hall (May 10-17, 1876) is brief, but we believe it provides a needed perspective for readers who examine the only letters that Ellen White requested to be burned. 3LtMs, Lt 64, 1876, par. 28

Ellen G. White Estate

August 6, 1987.]