Messenger of the Lord


Speaking Style

Ellen White’s vocal characteristics were considered unusually pleasing and powerful. A minister, reporting on his experience at the 1874 Biblical Institute in Battle Creek, wrote about James and Ellen White: “I venture the assertion that no fine-minded person can listen to either of them and not feel assured that God is with them. Sister White’s style and language is altogether solemn and impressive, and sways a congregation beyond description, and in a direction always heavenward.” 8 MOL 125.3

L. H. Christian heard Ellen White for the first time in Minneapolis in 1888. Of this experience he wrote: “She began to talk in her low, pleasing, melodious voice ... so beautifully natural. One would think she was talking to people within four or five feet of where she was standing. I wondered whether the other folks could hear. Later, at the 1905 conference in Takoma Park, Washington, D.C., after I had entered the ministry, I had a chance to test her voice. She was standing on the large platform in front addressing an audience of five thousand people, some of them in the very back of a large tent. I sat in front, and I said to myself, They never can hear in the rear so as to know what she is saying. Slipping out, I walked outside the tent to the rear, and when I came in and stood behind the great crowd I could hear every word and almost every syllable of every word just as plainly as I could up in the front. MOL 125.4

“With her magnificent gift of speaking and her ability to control an audience and to move them either to solid thinking or to the deepest emotion, she seemed quietly sure of herself as a messenger of God; yet she did nothing to call attention to herself or exalt her authority. She merely stood there as a mouthpiece for the Lord, thinking only of His Word and seeking only to lift up Jesus, so that we might see Him alone.” 9 MOL 125.5

For students of speech and persuasion, Ellen White’s speaking style is a treasure house for sustained examples of clarity, forcefulness, and beauty. “She achieved clearness by choosing uncomplicated words and sentences that were marked with directness and not likely to be misunderstood. She gained force by means of reiteration, repetitive linking, climax, anaphora, challenge, and command. She attained the higher peaks of beauty in her descriptive imagery through tropes and figures that, though familiar and common, were in balance with her themes. There was often a pleasing cadence in her prose rhythm that echoed a familiarity with the language of Scripture.” 10 MOL 125.6

S. P. S. Edwards, a physician, remembered how Ellen White had both a “conversational voice” and a “public speaking voice.” In conversation, she was a “mezzo soprano,” a “sweet tone, not monotonous, but especially noticeable because of the sweet smile and the personal touch she put into what she said.” MOL 125.7