Ellen G. White and Her Critics


Mrs. White Described Briefly

What manner of person was this Mrs. White, who lived from 1827 to 1915, and who early came into a position of leadership though she never held an office in the church? Was she a woman of university tutoring, with influential connections? Did she have amazing vitality, and did she possess that charm and beauty of person that history frequently presents as the explanation of the domination of a kingdom by a woman? EGWC 24.1

She would seem to need all these in order to explain the varied activities and successes that attended her labors. Her books have been the inspiration of countless thousands both without and within the Advent movement. Those who have no interest in, and no knowledge of, Adventists often refer to the spiritual power and beauty of her writings. When she spoke from the platform she often held thousands spellbound. Her tireless traveling, her incessant preaching, her endless writing, often starting at two or three o’clock in the morning, would suggest that she must have had a constitution of iron. Her appeal to the hearts of the church membership, her success in directing the thinking of committees and boards of directors, might easily suggest to the average mind that she was in all probability possessed of a magnetic personality and charm. EGWC 24.2

But what are the facts? Briefly these: Her formal schooling was limited to a few grades. She was not strong, physically; in fact, she was so frail as a girl, because of a grave injury when she was nine years old, that her plans for education had virtually to be abandoned, and her life was often despaired of. She lived to an advanced age but never became robust. Though she was of benevolent countenance, there was nothing particularly prepossessing about her appearance. EGWC 24.3

Here is, indeed, a singular phenomenon, which calls for an explanation. Mrs. White explained it by declaring that God gave to her visions that enlightened her mind as to what the Advent people should do. And in this explanation all Seventh-day Adventists concur. Using the inspired rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them,” we affirm in unison that the visions give clear evidence of a divine origin. And we firmly insist that the pattern and the progress of the Advent movement are largely due to those visions. Note that we do not say that the visions explain the primary possession by Adventists of certain distinctive beliefs. The record is clear that the doctrinal beliefs grew out of extended Bible study on the part of the pioneers—the doctrinal foundation of the Advent movement is the Bible. EGWC 25.1

The two chapters immediately following give a sketch of her life and her visions. It would be much more satisfying to this author to devote the whole book to biography, but two reasons preclude this: (1) Others have written at length on the character and fruitage of Mrs. White’s work, and their writings are currently available. * (2) The real purpose of this book is not to affirm the writer’s belief in Mrs. White, or the belief of the denomination in her gift, but to answer specific charges that have been brought against her. EGWC 25.2

To this task we now address ourselves. And first we shall examine the most basic of all the charges, that Mrs. White’s visions can be explained as simply a display of nervous disorders. EGWC 25.3