Messenger of the Lord


Not a Scrapbook

But The Desire of Ages is not a “scrapbook” of choice devotional thoughts; Mrs. White remained in control of the final product. Not only did she approve all editorial adjustments, she provided the general scheme and the specific topics that unfolded that scheme. She maintained her independence and thus the “sources were her slaves, never her master.” 59 MOL 451.3

As one in control, Ellen White cast the mark of originality over The Desire of Ages.60 One of her main skills, one of her literary “fingerprints,” was her remarkable ability to be selective. 61 For example, whenever her sources used hyperboles and literary extravagances, whenever they strayed into curiosities or sideline thoughts, she avoided being diverted, but stayed with her own purpose for using that source. 62 MOL 451.4

Further, using someone else’s words does not imply that that person’s thought is also adopted. Perhaps more biographies have been written about Jesus than any other person. Such authors generally use the same Biblical language. But a comparative study of these biographies quickly reveals that vastly different meanings are expressed with essentially the same words. The reverse is also true—the same meanings can be conveyed through different verbal expressions. 63 MOL 451.5

Even more important than stylistic selectivity was Ellen White’s ability to avoid the doctrinal errors that she perceived in her sources. It did not matter: regardless of her needs at the moment, (whether theological, devotional, narrative, etc.) she used her materials to enhance her theological thought, not to gather material to formulate her theological thought. 64 MOL 451.6

Another “fingerprint” identifying the Ellen White style is “found in the proportion of commentary given to devotional, moral, or Christian appeals or lessons that usually appear at the end of a chapter. 65 Mrs. White’s primary reason for writing was to lead her readers to Jesus, especially through making clearer what God is like. While working on The Desire of Ages, she wrote to her son, W. C. White, about the topics that “burden my mind, ... the subjects of the life of Christ, His character representing the Father, the parables essential for us all to understand and practice the lessons contained in them.” 66 MOL 451.7