Messenger of the Lord


James White’s So-called “Cover-up”

James White is sometimes accused of a cover-up because of the following statement in the 1880 edition of Life Sketches: “Does unbelief suggest that what she writes in her personal testimonies has been learned from others? We inquire, what time has she had to learn all these facts? ... And where is the person of superior natural and acquired abilities who could listen to the description of one, two, or three thousand cases, all differing, and then write them out without getting them confused, laying the whole work liable to a thousand contradictions? If Mrs. W. has gathered the facts from a human mind in a single case, she has in thousands of cases, and God has not shown her these things which she has written in these personal testimonies. MOL 478.4

“In her published works there are many things set forth which cannot be found in other books, and yet they are so clear and beautiful that the unprejudiced mind grasps them at once as truth.... If commentators and theological writers generally had seen these gems of thought which strike the mind so forcibly, and had they been brought out in print, all the ministers in the land could have read them.... And if they are not to be found in print, and are not brought out in sermons from the pulpit, where did Mrs. W. find them? ... She could not have learned them from books, from the fact that they do not contain such thoughts.... It evidently requires a hundred times the credulity to believe that Mrs. W. has learned these things of others, and has palmed them off as visions from God, than it does to believe that the Spirit of God has revealed them to her.” 3 MOL 478.5

In 1880 when James White’s statement was printed, only a small fraction of his wife’s works had been produced. 4 Examples of literary borrowing in her writings prior to 1880 are very few. To use James’s statement today as if he were writing in 1915 (the year his wife died) regarding Ellen White’s literary borrowings, is manifestly unfair. MOL 479.1

After James’s death, certain issues arose in Battle Creek wherein Ellen White acknowledged that she had letters from those distressed with the operation of the college. Further, she compared her situation to Paul’s when he responded to circumstances in Corinth after receiving letters from some of its members. When Paul, “an inspired apostle,” wrote his counsel, he responded on the basis of “the light which he had previously received.... The Lord had not given him a new revelation for that special time.” 5 MOL 479.2

When James White referred to “her published works,” he said “there are many things set forth which cannot be found in other books.... They are new to the most intelligent readers and hearers.” He did not claim originality for all her writings (that would be more than could be claimed for anyone, even Biblical writers! 6). He simply drew attention to those writings that were original, to those “gems of thought” that were “beautiful and harmonious which cannot be found in the writings of others.” James White was neither ignorant nor dishonest. 7 MOL 479.3