Counsels for the Church

The Life and Work of Mrs. E. G. White

Ellen G. Harmon and her twin sister were born November 16, 1827, at Gorham, Maine, in the northeastern part of the United States. When nine years of age, Ellen was involved in an accident in which a stone was thrown by a thoughtless classmate. The severe face injury nearly cost her life and left her in a weakened condition so that she was unable to continue her schooling. CCh 17.3

At the age of eleven she gave her heart to God. When she was fourteen years old, she was baptized by immersion in the sea and was received as a member of the Methodist church. With other members of her family she attended the Adventist meetings in Portland, Maine, accepting fully the views of the nearness of the second advent of Christ, presented by William Miller and his associates. CCh 17.4

One morning in December 1844, while she was praying with four other women, the power of God rested upon her. At first she was lost to earthly things; then in a figurative revelation she witnessed the travels of the advent people to the city of God and the reward of the faithful. With fear and trembling this seventeen-year-old girl related this and succeeding visions to her fellow believers in Portland. Then as opportunity afforded, she recounted the vision to companies of Adventists in Maine and nearby states. In August, 1846, Ellen Harmon was united in marriage with James White, a youthful Adventist minister. Through the next thirty-five years, her life was closely linked with that of her husband in strenuous gospel work until his death, August 6, 1881. They traveled extensively in the United States, preaching and writing, planting and building, organizing and administering. CCh 17.5

Time and test have proved how broad and firm were the foundations James and Ellen White and their associates laid, and how wisely and well they built. They led out among the Sabbathkeeping Adventists in inaugurating the publishing work in 1849 and 1850, and in developing church organization with a sound system of church finance in the late 1850s. This was culminated by the organization of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in 1863. The year 1866 marked the beginning of our medical work, and the great educational work of the denomination had its inception in the early seventies. The plan of holding annual camp meetings was developed in 1868, and in 1874 Seventh-day Adventists sent out their first overseas missionary. CCh 17.6

All of these developments were guided by the many oral and written counsels that God gave this people through Ellen White. CCh 18.1

Most of the early communications were written out in the form of personal letters, or through articles in the Present Truth, our first regular publication. It was not until 1851 that Mrs. White issued her first book of sixty-four pages, entitled A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White. CCh 18.2

Beginning in 1855 a series of numbered pamphlets was published, each bearing the title of Testimony for the Church. These made available messages of instruction and correction which, from time to time, God chose to send his people. To meet the continued demand for this instruction, the first thirty pamphlets were republished in 1885 in the form of four bound books. With the addition of other volumes, which appeared from 1889-1909, these now constitute a set of nine volumes known as Testimonies for the Church. CCh 18.3

Four children were born to the Whites. The eldest boy, Henry, lived to the age of sixteen; the youngest boy, Herbert, died at the age of three months. The two middle boys, Edson and William, lived to maturity. Each engaged actively in the work of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. CCh 18.4

In response to the request of the General Conference, Mrs. White went to Europe in the summer of 1885. There she spent two years in strengthening the newly developed work on the continent. Making her home in Basel, Switzerland, she traveled extensively through Southern, Central, and Northern Europe, attending the general gatherings of the church. CCh 18.5

After four years back in the United States, Mrs. White at the age of sixty-three, in response to the request of the General Conference, sailed to Australia. There she ministered for nine years, aiding in pioneering and developing the work, especially in educational and medical lines. Mrs. White returned in 1900 to make her home in the western part of the United States, at St. Helena, California, where she lived until her death in 1915. CCh 18.6

During Mrs. White's long service of sixty years in America and ten years overseas, she was given approximately 2,000 visions which, through her tireless effort in counsel to individuals, churches, public gatherings, and General Conference sessions, largely shaped the growth of this great movement. The task of presenting to all concerned the messages God gave her was never laid down. CCh 18.7

Her writings aggregate about 100,000 pages. The messages from her pen reached the people through personal communication, week-by-week articles in our denominational journals, and in her many books. The subjects dealt with relate to Bible history, everyday Christian experience, health, education, evangelism, and other practical topics. Many of her books are printed in the leading languages of the world, and millions of copies have been sold. The book Steps to Christ alone from 1892 to 1990 sold an estimated 50,000,000 copies in 127 languages. CCh 18.8

At the age of eighty-one Mrs. White crossed the American continent for the last time to attend the General Conference session of 1909. The remaining six years of her life were spent in completing her literary work. Near the close of her life she penned these words: “whether or not my life is spared, my writings will continually speak, and their work will go forward as long as time shall last.” CCh 19.1

With undaunted courage and in full confidence of her Redeemer, she died at her California home, July 16, 1915, and was laid to rest by the side of her husband and children in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek, Michigan. CCh 19.2

By her fellow workers, the church, and the members of her family, Mrs. White was esteemed and honored as a devoted mother and as an earnest, tireless, religious worker. She never held official church office; by the church and by herself it was known that she was “a messenger” with a message of God for his people. Never did she ask others to look to her, nor did she ever use her gift to build herself up financially or in popularity. Her life and all that she had were dedicated to the cause of God. CCh 19.3

On her death, the editor of a popular weekly magazine, The Independent, in the issue of August 23, 1915, closed his comments on her fruitful life with these words: “she was absolutely honest in her belief in her revelations. Her life was worthy of them. She showed no spiritual pride, and she sought no filthy lucre. She lived the life and did the work of a worthy prophetess.” CCh 19.4

A few years before her death, Mrs. White created a board of trustees, made up of church leaders, to whom she left her writings with the charge that they should be responsible for their care and their continued publication. With offices at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, this board fosters the continued issuance of the E. G. White books in English and encourages their publication in whole or in part in other languages. They have also issued numerous compilations of periodical articles and manuscripts, this being in harmony with Mrs. White's instruction. It is under the authorization of this board that the present volume is issued. CCh 19.5