A Prophet Among You


Chapter 18—Custody Of The Ellen G. White Writings

During the years since the death of Ellen White in 1915, twenty-four books, compiled from her writings, have been published in harmony with the provision she made for the custody and circulation of her works. Mrs. White recognized during her later years that it would not be possible for her to see to the publication of all the portions of her writings that should be brought before the church. She knew that if she did not plan carefully, there was a possibility that those into whose hands the writings should come would not know what their responsibility was, or how they should handle the materials. There was danger that some things might be lost sight of if no one was assigned the care of the product of her pen. APAY 351.1

Consequently, in her will, dated February 9, 1912, Mrs. White gave specific instruction as to the disposition that should be made of her books, manuscripts, and other property. Note the provisions for the care and use of her writings, as they were stated in the will. Only those portions of the will pertaining to the subject at hand are quoted. APAY 351.2

“I hereby give, devise, and bequeath to William C. White, Clarence C. Crisler, Charles H. Jones, Arthur G. Daniells, and Frank M. Wilcox” [then appears a list of the items of her property] “all of my right, title, and interest in the copyrights and book plates in all languages, of the following publications” [here follows a list of her current books]; “also, my general manuscript file and all indexes pertaining thereto; also my office furniture and office library. APAY 351.3

“Together with all and singular, the tenements, hereditaments, and appurtenances thereunto belonging, or in anywise appertaining in trust nevertheless for the uses and purposes hereinafter contained. APAY 351.4

“TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, the said real and personal property unto said trustees, and their successors, upon the trust to enter into and upon and take possession of the said real estate and said personal property. APAY 352.1

“Administering, preserving, and protecting the said real property and of handling said personal property, and publishing and selling said books and manuscripts and conducting the business thereof.” APAY 352.2

Certain financial provisions are made, then follows further instruction concerning the work of the trustees. APAY 352.3

“Then my said trustees shall use the overplus for the improvement of the books and manuscripts held in trust by them, and herein provided; for the securing and printing of new translations thereof; for the printing of compilations from my manuscripts.”—Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant, page 73. APAY 352.4

Thus the trustees were assigned three primary responsibilities: (1) to care for and promote the circulation of the Ellen White books in the English language; (2) to provide for their translation and circulation in foreign languages; (3) to publish compilations from the materials in articles and in the manuscript files. APAY 352.5

Placed under their charge for the purposes indicated were approximately 45,000 typewritten manuscript pages of Ellen White writings, about 1,000 handwritten letters and manuscripts, files of periodicals containing about 4,500 articles by Mrs. White, and rights to her books in English and foreign languages. These materials, along with many thousands of pages of correspondence and manuscripts pertaining to the development of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, were cared for, until 1937, in the office building at Mrs. White’s home, “Elmshaven,” near Saint Helena, California. At that time the work was transferred to offices provided in the headquarters building of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Washington, D.C. For more than twenty years from the time of the death of Ellen White, the work of the trustees was carried on under the business name of “The Ellen G. White Estate,” but since the move to Washington the name has been changed to “The Ellen G. White Publications.” APAY 352.6

The original group of trustees remained intact for about eighteen years. Then, one by one the men died, and were replaced according to the plan provided in the will that had brought them into being as a Board of Trustees. “If a vacancy shall occur for any reason among said trustees, or their successors, a majority of the surviving or remaining trustees are hereby empowered and directed to fill such vacancy by the appointment of some fit person.” Ibid., p. 74. Because of the growing needs for the services of the office of the White Publications with the expansion of the advent movement into all the world, the Board of Trustees was enlarged, in 1950, to seven members. The group works closely with the officers of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in giving study to the needs of the field and in providing instruction from the writings to meet those needs. All royalties from Ellen White books go into the General Conference treasury, and the General Conference appropriates funds for the work of the trustees. APAY 353.1

Not only did Mrs. White give instruction in her will regarding the printing of compilations from her writings by the trustees, but on different occasions she had suggested something of the type of matter that might be included. “The articles that from week to week are printed in our papers are soon forgotten.... These articles are to be gathered together, reprinted in book form, and placed before believers and unbelievers.” Ellen G. White Letter 73, 1903. APAY 353.2

In addition to the thousands of articles from which selections might be made for reprinting, many hundreds of personal testimonies, addressed to workers and leaders in the denomination, contained counsel, gave encouragement, and pointed out dangers. It was shown to Ellen White that the same messages would be of help to later workers and to many of the members of the churches. In a vision “One of authority stood up and said, ‘Everything that has been given to ministers, to men in responsible positions, to teachers, to managers, to the different conferences is to be repeated and repeated.... We must work earnestly to bring this instruction before the people.’”—Ellen G. White Manuscript 101, 1905. For these reasons, the trustees have felt that in order to discharge their responsibility properly, they must publish all the instruction that is pertinent in view of today’s circumstances and needs. The value of the writings will continue to the end. Ellen White had written these words on October 23, 1907: “Abundant light has been given to our people in these last days. Whether or not my life is spared, my writings will constantly speak, and their work will go forward as long as time shall last. My writings are kept on file in the office, and even though I should not live, these words that have been given to me by the Lord will still have life and will speak to the people.” Ellen G. White, “The Writing and Sending Out of the Testimonies,” pages 13, 14. APAY 353.3

Through the years of her ministry, Mrs. White published many of the testimonies that she sent to individuals. She gave her reason for doing so in language which is repeated in different words in several places: “Since the warning and instruction given in testimony for individual cases applied with equal force to many others who had not been specially pointed out in this manner, it seemed to be my duty to publish the personal testimonies for the benefit of the church.... ‘Perhaps there is no more direct and forcible way of presenting what the Lord has shown me.’” Testimonies for the Church 5:658, 659. “I am endeavoring by the help of God to write letters that will be a help, not merely to those to whom they are addressed, but to many others who need them.” Ellen G. White Letter 79, 1905. APAY 354.1

There was much of general value in some of the diaries, journals, and other manuscripts. “The many diaries and manuscript books which have been kept, containing the instruction which the Lord has given me, will lighten my labors in the work of preparing new books.” Ellen G. White Manuscript 59, 1912. “I have much written in the diary I have kept in all my journeys that should come before the people if essential, even if I did not write another line. I want that which is deemed worthy to appear, for the Lord has given me much light that I want the people to have; for there is instruction that the Lord has given me for His people. It is light that they should have, line upon line, and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” Ellen G. White Letter 117, 1910. APAY 355.1