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


Ellen G. White Counsels on Courtship

When the work on the book was first outlined, no consideration was given to dealing with the question of courtship in denominational schools. There were differences in policies from college to college; some allowed students of mature age and of good standing to meet in the dormitory parlor by permission of the preceptress. Other college administrators thought no provision should be made for such association, and were certain that their position was in harmony with the testimonies and Ellen White's oral teachings (DF 251, WCW to Elders G. A. Irwin and E. E. Andross, September 7, 1912). 6BIO 382.2

In early September, 1912, W. C. White talked over this matter with his mother. He mentioned to her that administrators who were inclined to some leniency felt “that the strong and unqualified statements in the testimonies regarding this matter refer to and apply chiefly to the schools made up largely of young and immature students” (Ibid.). 6BIO 382.3

Ellen White responded at length, pointing out that the young and the old cannot be treated alike and that “age and character must be taken into account.” She stated that men and women of sound experience and good standing have a right to expect some privileges not granted to the young and immature. 6BIO 382.4

She mentioned also that if administrators are too stringent in this matter, they shall make a serious mistake. If students feel that they are dealt with unjustly and without consideration, there is greater temptation to disregard the rules of the school and the advice of the teachers (Ibid.). 6BIO 382.5

Pacific Union College, nearby, was one of the schools holding to the more conservative position. Its president, C. W. Irwin, had served in the Avondale school, where the school calendar quoted from an E. G. White letter stating: 6BIO 383.1

We have labored hard to keep in check everything in the school like favoritism, attachments, and courting. We have told the students that we would not allow the first thread of this to be interwoven with their schoolwork. On this point we are as firm as a rock.—Letter 145, 1897. 6BIO 383.2

This he had enforced as president of the Avondale school and was currently attempting to enforce as president of Pacific Union College. As W. C. White discussed with him the forthcoming book of counsels on education, Irwin pressed hard for the inclusion of something on courtship, rather expecting that it would be an elaboration of the counsel given to the Avondale school. 6BIO 383.3

However, as noted earlier, the discussion W. C. White had with his mother did not support this, but indicated rather that Ellen White would make a definitive statement for general use. When the new chapter on “Deportment of Students” was prepared, W. C. White sent a copy to A. G. Daniells with a description of the procedure followed in its preparation. 6BIO 383.4

You will observe that this chapter is made up of three parts: first, a broad statement on general principles of deportment. This was drawn from Testimonies for the Church, volume 4. 6BIO 383.5

Following this is a statement regarding what may be permitted in our colleges in the association of men and women who, are mature in age and of good experience. This is followed by a restatement of the instruction Mother has always given in such schools as the Battle Creek College, the Avondale school, and elsewhere.—WCW to AGD, February 7, 1913. 6BIO 383.6

The crucial paragraphs in the chapter allowing for association of mature students, were dictated by Ellen White. She then reviewed them several times, commenting on each principle and expressing her approval of the wording. 6BIO 383.7

When the chapter was submitted to Professor Irwin, he was surprised to find that it did not accord with the instruction given to the Avondale school. He wrote to W. C. White that the instruction was “something entirely new” and that he was “at a loss to know how to make it agree with matter which Sister White has written on other occasions.” He inquired whether some new light had been given to her on this point (DF 251, C. W. Irwin to WCW, February 12, 1913). What Irwin had not taken into account was the different circumstances under which the seemingly divergent counsels had been given. 6BIO 384.1

When she had written in 1897 the larger number of the students were under 16 years of age. The Avondale school at that time was primarily an academy, not a college. The majority of students in the church's colleges were older and more experienced and mature. Ellen White, in providing general counsel for denominational educators, took this into account and wrote accordingly. 6BIO 384.2