Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 3 (1876 - 1882)

74/473

Lt 66, 1876

Hall, Lucinda

Oakland, California

May 16, 1876

The letter is published in entirety in DG 268-270.

Dear Lucinda:

A letter received from my husband last night shows me that he is prepared to dictate to me and take positions more trying than ever before. I have decided to attend no camp meetings this season. I shall remain and write. My husband can labor alone best. I am sure I can. 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 1

He writes [that] Walling wants me to bring the children over the plains to attend the Centennial. But they have crossed the plains for the last time, to pay out fifty dollars. If he wants them, he can come and get them. [The following sentences were written in the margin of the first page of the letter: “This arrangement of Walling’s to have his family go to the Centennial, May does not like. She does not want to see Walling, and is opposed to going east. I shall not go east. I am decided. I get no light to go anywhere. EGW.”] I could send them by Brother Jones, but it would be to have them no more under my charge. I have too much care to prepare these children even for a journey. James did not express his mind in the matter. He takes exceptions to the sketches of life in Signs. Shall stop just here. He only mentions one thing, the putting in of [Israel] Dammon’s name. I think he would be satisfied if he had the entire control of me, soul and body, but this he cannot have. I sometimes think he is not really a sane man, but I don’t know. May God teach and lead and guide. His last letter has fully decided me to remain this side of the mountains. 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 2

He has in his letters to me written harshly in regard to Edson, and then told me that he did not write to call me out. He did not want me to make any references to Edson. I wrote thus—I give you the words, for he has returned the letter: “Will you, please, if you are happy, to be thankful and not agitate disagreeable matters which you feel called upon to write me, to make no reference to them. Please take the same cautions yourself. When you wish to make these statements in reference to your own son, please lay down your pen and stop just there. I think God would be better pleased, and it would do no harm to your own soul. Leave me to be guided by the Lord in reference to Edson, for I still trust in His guiding hand and have confidence He will lead me. The same guiding hand is my trust.” 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 3

He has felt called upon to press upon me the danger of being drawn in by Edson and deceived by him. He has felt called upon to write in regard to my danger of being deceived by Sister Willis, in regard to my being called to Petaluma, et cetera. I hope [that] when my husband left he did not take God with him and leave us to walk by the light of our own eyes and the wisdom of our own hearts. 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 4

In his last [letter] he repeats [that] he does not want me to make any references to what he writes till “You see things differently. And be assured of this, that none of these things sink me down a hair. I shall be happy to meet you and Mary at the Kansas camp meeting provided that, with the exception of a direct revelation from God, you put me on a level with yourself. I will gladly come to that position and labor with you, but while entrusted with the supervision of the whole work I think it wrong to be second to the private opinions of anyone. The moment I come to this I can be turned by the will of others’ infallibility. When I cannot take this position I can gracefully cast off responsibilities. I shall have no more controversies with my dear wife. She may call it a ‘mouse or a bat’ and have her own way. If she doesn’t like my position in reference to Edson or other matters, will she please [keep] her opinion to herself and let me enjoy mine? Your remarks called me out. And now that you cannot endure my speaking as plainly as you do, I have done. 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 5

“As to your coming to Kansas, I am not the least anxious. Judging from what I can gather from that last page, I think we can better labor apart than together until you can lay down your continual efforts to hold me in condemnation. When you have a message from the Lord for me, I hope I shall be where I shall tremble at His word. But aside from that, you must let me be an equal, or we had better work alone. 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 6

“Don’t be anxious about my dwelling on disagreeables any more. I have them in my heart. But while on the stage of action I shall use the good old head God gave me until He reveals that I am wrong. Your head won’t fit my shoulders. Keep it where it belongs, and I will try to honor God in using my own. I shall be glad to hear from you, but don’t waste your precious time and strength lecturing me on matters of mere opinions.” 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 7

There is considerable more of the same kind. 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 8

Now, Lucinda, my course is clear. I shall not cross the plains this summer. I would be glad to bear my testimony in the meetings, but this cannot be without worse results than we could gain. 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 9

Will you not write me something in reference to these things? Why do you keep so silent? How is James’ health? I had a dream that troubled me in reference to James. 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 10

What is your mind in reference to the children? 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 11

In haste. 3LtMs, Lt 66, 1876, par. 12

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 66, 1876, par. 13

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 66, 1876, par. 14

“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 66, 1876, par. 15

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 66, 1876, par. 16

“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 66, 1876, par. 17

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 66, 1876, par. 18

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 66, 1876, par. 19

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 66, 1876, par. 20

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 66, 1876, par. 21

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 66, 1876, par. 22

“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 66, 1876, par. 23

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 66, 1876, par. 24

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 66, 1876, par. 25

“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 66, 1876, par. 26

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 66, 1876, par. 27

“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 66, 1876, par. 28

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 66, 1876, par. 29

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 66, 1876, par. 30

“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 66, 1876, par. 31

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 66, 1876, par. 32

“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 66, 1876, par. 33

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 66, 1876, par. 34

Ellen G. White Estate

August 6, 1987.]