Ellen G. White: The Later Elmshaven Years: 1905-1915 (vol. 6)


The Chapter on “Sunday Labor”

The short section on religious liberty interests contained a chapter on “Sunday Labor,” written August 17, 1902. In this Ellen White counseled that rather than to defy civil authorities where there were Sunday laws, Seventh-day Adventists could well use the day in various lines of missionary endeavors (see pp. 232, 233). This was to cause considerable discussion in the months to come. 6BIO 263.5

There were those who asserted that the chapter actually represented a major switch in Ellen White's teaching and that it advocated Sunday sacredness. A. T. Jones claimed this in an antagonistic leaflet (AGD to WCW, July 4, 1910). Some suggested that a person other than Ellen White may have written the chapter, or perhaps it was material not intended for general reading. In midsummer of 1910, Ellen White wrote positively in dealing with the questions: 6BIO 263.6

I wish to write words that shall remove from the minds of any of my brethren the impression that I did not, before their publication, read the pages in Testimony for the Church, volume 9, relating to Sunday labor. 6BIO 264.1

I read this matter before it went to the printer, and have read it several times from the book, and I can see nothing in it to give anyone reason to say that Sundaykeeping is there taught. Neither does the counsel there given contradict the Bible nor former Testimonies. 6BIO 264.2

I have given not one word to sustain Sundaykeeping. In my writings will be found the most positive statements concerning the Lord's requirements to observe the holy Sabbath, because that on the seventh day Jehovah rested. He sanctified that day and set it apart, and gave it to man to be observed most sacredly.—Letter 94, 1910. 6BIO 264.3

The president of the General Conference at about the same time made a clearcut statement in a letter to a young minister who was troubled about the question, and gave his understanding of the part played by Ellen White's assistants in preparing matter for publication. Said Daniells: 6BIO 264.4

1. Sister White certainly wrote volume 9 of the Testimonies. Volume 9 was prepared the same as other volumes. 6BIO 264.5

2. The testimony to which you refer concerning Sunday laws was written to the leaders of the work in Australasia at a time when they very much needed counsel on the question involved. The same question had come up in Europe, and you are perhaps aware that our brethren in the Basel publishing house took a very firm, unrelenting stand on the question of running the publishing house on Sunday. They defied the authorities, and the authorities closed up the house, sold the furniture and facilities to pay the fines, and lodged Elder Holser in jail for forty days.... [As we look] back upon that experience, it seems that our brethren took an extreme view of their duty, and that the work of God was hindered thereby. 6BIO 264.6

We reached a time in Australia when we needed counsel on this same point, and the testimony above referred to came at the right time, and was followed in a reasonable way. Knowing that our people were needing the same counsel in many parts of the world, Sister White decided to publish that testimony in volume 9. The brethren in Australia did not go to extremes in either direction in this matter. 6BIO 265.1

Then Daniells explained his understanding of how the work was done not only on volume 9 but also in the preparation of the other Testimony volumes: 6BIO 265.2

3 .... Now I will tell you briefly how the work is done. Assisted by one or two literary workers who keep her files and are in close touch with her work, she makes a collection of the most important testimonies she has received, which she feels impressed should be published for the benefit of all the people. There are many which apply locally and are never published; but those which contain important principles which all the people ought to know, she selects to publish in the Testimonies. This plan was followed in preparing volume 9 the same as all other numbers. 6BIO 265.3

The person selected to assist her in her literary work makes corrections and changes and adjustments in the language which will make the Testimonies read more smoothly and clearly, but every such correction or change is submitted to Sister White. 6BIO 265.4

Every night when the secretary has completed his work, the copy with the corrections is placed where Sister White can find it early the next morning. She often rises between one and three o'clock in the morning and does her best work while it is quiet. During the early hours she goes carefully over such matter, to make certain that the thought has not in any way been changed. Thus every line that goes out over her signature goes with her approval. 6BIO 265.5

Coming back to the immediate question, Daniells pointed out that God gives advanced light according to the experience and need of the church: 6BIO 265.6

I do not believe that the testimonies in volume 9 contradict any former testimonies with regard to Sunday labor or any other points. We should bear in mind that Christian experience is progressive, and that the Testimonies have taught advanced principles year by year as the work has progressed and as the people have been prepared to receive new light. 6BIO 266.1

If you examine the first volumes of the Testimonies, you will find that only the ABCs of many principles and truths were at first presented. These have been developed from time to time since. One who is hunting for technicalities and trying to find a basis for doubts will have opportunity to find apparent discrepancies in the Testimonies. This might also be said of the Scriptures. 6BIO 266.2

The Lord has seen fit to present the truth in such a way that those who are inclined to doubt can always find a peg on which to hang their doubts. It is my conviction, however, that there is beautiful harmony running through all the Testimonies from the first to the last, and that these harmonize with the Scriptures.—AGD to W. Duce, June 23, 1910. 6BIO 266.3