Messenger of the Lord


Chapter 11—The Prolific Writer

“My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I write my composition concerning the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalm 45:1). MOL 108.1

Ellen White is thought to be the third most translated author in history and the most translated American author, male or female MOL 108.2

So far as we know, she wrote and published more books, and in more languages, which circulate to a greater extent than the written works of any other woman in history. By the close of her seventy-year ministry, her literary productions totaled approximately 100,000 pages, or the equivalent of 25 million words, including letters, diaries, periodical articles, pamphlets, and books. 1 MOL 108.3

At the time of Mrs. White’s death (1915), twenty-four books were currently in print and two more were at the publishers awaiting publication. In the 1990s, 128 titles were in print bearing Ellen White’s name, including books that are compilations of her thoughts on various subjects. 2 MOL 108.4

How did it all begin? Not a brilliant student, college-trained! Not a skilled and published writer! It would be difficult to say that Ellen White’s remarkable literary production was merely a product of human genius and invention. Her contemporaries, knowing her background and minimal education, also knew that more than human wisdom was responsible for her incisive, commanding eloquence in print as well as in the pulpit. MOL 108.5

In late spring 1845, Ellen Harmon’s hand, trembling in weakness, was unable to write. But in a vision she was told to write what she saw. For the first time, her “hand became steady.” Many years later she recalled this experience: “The Lord has said, ‘Write out the things which I shall give you.’ And I commenced when very young to do this work. My hand that was feeble and trembling because of infirmities became steady as soon as I took the pen in my hand, and since those first writings I have been able to write. God has given me the ability to write.... The right hand scarcely ever has a disagreeable sensation. It never wearies. It seldom ever trembles (1900).” 3 MOL 108.6

Ellen White wrote on note paper, large sheets, and in bound, ruled copybooks, almost always with a pen. Her assistants copied her manuscripts on the typewriter after the mid-1880s. 4 MOL 108.7

She wrote at all times, day and night, and under circumstances that would intimidate others. Her son, W. C. White, recalled a typical schedule when the Whites were at home in Battle Creek: “With but little variation, the daily program of the White family was something like this: At six o’clock all were up. Often Mother had been writing for two or three hours, and the cook had been busy in the kitchen since five o’clock. By six-thirty breakfast was ready. Mother would frequently mention at the breakfast table that she had written six, eight, or more pages, and sometimes she would relate to the family some interesting portions of what she had written. MOL 108.8

“Father would sometimes tell us of the work in which he was engaged, or relate interesting incidents regarding the progress of the cause, east and west. At seven o’clock all assembled in the parlor for morning worship... MOL 109.1

“After Father had left the house, Mother enjoyed spending half an hour in her flower garden during those portions of the year when flowers could be cultivated. In this her children were encouraged to work with her. Then she would devote three or four hours to her writing. Her afternoons were usually occupied with a variety of activities, sewing, mending, knitting, darning, and working in her flower garden, with occasional shopping trips to town or visits to the sick.” 5 MOL 109.2

Often she would be writing while traveling. In her August 18, 1859, diary entry, she noted: “Awoke a little past two A.M. Take cars [train] at four. Feel very miserable. Write all day.... Our journey on the cars ended at six P.M.” 6 MOL 109.3

On that same trip, in her diary entry for October 10, she spoke of her crowded schedule while staying at the home of a church member: “The house is full of company.... Had no time to visit. Shut myself in the chamber to write.” 7 MOL 109.4

After a three-month tour of the eastern states in 1891, just prior to leaving for Australia, she wrote that she had “spoken fifty-five times, and have written three hundred pages.... The Lord it is who has strengthened and blessed me and upheld me by His Spirit.” 8 MOL 109.5

Insight into how her assistants helped her is found in a letter Ellen White wrote to G. W. Amadon in 1906: “The evening after the Sabbath I retired, and rested well without ache or pain until half past ten. I was unable to sleep. I had received instruction [by heavenly Guide], and I seldom lie in bed after such instruction comes. There was a company assembled in _________, and instruction was given by One in our midst that I was to repeat and repeat with pen and voice. I left my bed, and wrote for five hours as fast as my pen could trace the lines. Then I rested on the bed for an hour, and slept part of the time. MOL 109.6

“I placed the matter in the hands of my copyist, and on Monday morning it was waiting for me, placed inside my office door on Sunday evening. There were four articles ready for me to read over and make any corrections needed. The matter is now prepared, and some of it will go in the mail today. MOL 109.7

“This is the line of work that I am carrying on. I do most of my writing while the other members of the family are asleep. I build my fire, and then write uninterruptedly, sometimes for hours.” 9 MOL 109.8