Messenger of the Lord



Some charge that Mrs. White’s statements regarding the cause of volcanoes reflected the myths and fanciful thinking of age-old theories. Her writings contain eight relevant concepts 46 that have been debated since they first appeared in 1864. 47 MOL 492.4

This list includes: (1) Formation of coal beds is linked to the Flood; (2) Coal produces oil; (3) Subterranean fires are fueled by the burning of both coal and oil; (4) Water added to the subterranean fires produces explosions, thus earthquakes; (5) Earthquake and volcanic action are linked together as products of these underground fires; (6) Both limestone and iron ore are connected with the burning coal beds and oil deposits; (7) Air is involved in the super heat; (8) Deposits of coal and oil are found after the subterranean fires have died out. 48 MOL 492.5

Though similarities exist between Mrs. White’s writings and John Wesley’s famous sermon, “The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes” (1750), there are striking differences. Contrary to earlier authors, one finds no trace in Ellen White’s writings of “eroding streams and violent winds; no vaulted cavities that collapsed and thus caused the Flood; no hollow caverns echoing with subterranean thunder; no fires fueled by underground stores of sulfur, naphtha, or niter. Viewed as a unit, her concept of subterranean fires is unique, and we search in vain to find it lent to her by a single human source.” 49 MOL 492.6

The next question, of course, is whether one can find scientific confirmation for her “unique” views regarding these violent natural phenomena. Many theories abound as to the causes of volcanoes and earthquakes, and the formation of oil and coal. Most earth scientists base their ideas on the plate-tectonic theory. Nothing in Ellen White’s comments rules out that theory. Further, nothing in her writings states that all volcanoes are the product of burning coal fields or that all earthquakes are caused by subterranean fires. When she links earthquakes and volcanoes together, one immediately thinks of the Pacific Ocean “ring of fire” and its high potential for disasters from both. MOL 492.7

However, notable scientists have confirmed Ellen White’s observations. Otto Stutzer’s Geology of Coal documented that “subterranean fires in coal beds are ignited through spontaneous combustion, resulting in the melting of nearby rocks that are classed as pseudo volcanic deposits.” 50 Stutzer listed several examples of such activity, including “a burning mountain,” an outcrop that “lasted over 150 years,” and “the heat from one burning coal bed [that] was used for heating greenhouses in that area from 1837 to 1868.” 51 Modern confirmation exists for the igniting of coal and oil with its sulfur constituent “seen around the eruptions of hot springs, geysers, and volcanic fumaroles.” 52 MOL 492.8

References to rocks “which overlie the coal have suffered considerable alteration because of the fires, being sintered and partly melted,” correlate with Ellen White’s statement that “rocks are heated, limestone is burned, and iron ore melted.” 53 Further research in the western United States has produced conclusions and language very similar to Mrs. White’s writings of a century earlier: “The melted rock resembles common furnace clinker or volcanic lava.” 54 MOL 493.1

One last charge has been that melted iron ore is not found in connection with burning coal and oil deposits. However, a United States Geological Survey paper records the discovery of hematite (an iron ore) that had been “formed in some way through the agency of the burning coal.” 55 MOL 493.2

The suggestion that Ellen White was indebted to existing sources for her scientific information is without merit, because some of this verification only became known many years after her death. Further, “It is much more unlikely that she resorted to the published ideas of contemporary Creationists on the subject, since their views were relics of wild cosmological speculations.” 56 MOL 493.3