Ellen G. White and Her Critics


Chapter 31—Did Mrs. White’s Secretaries Write Her Books?

Charge: “No prophet of God ever made stronger claims than did Mrs. White. In Spiritual Gifts 2:293, she says: ‘I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision as in having a vision.’ Here she claims that the very words in which her visions are recorded are of divine inspiration. But ...: EGWC 468.1

“1. She often changed what she had written, and wrote it very differently. I have seen her scratch out a line, a sentence, and even a whole page, and write it over differently.... EGWC 468.2

“2. I have seen her sit with pen in hand and read her manuscript to her husband, while he suggested changes, which she made. She would scratch out her own words and put in his.... EGWC 468.3

“3. As she was ignorant of grammar, she employed accomplished writers to take her manuscript and correct it, improve its wording, polish it up, and put it in popular style, so her books would sell better.... EGWC 468.4

“4. One of her employees worked for over eight years preparing her largest book. After completing it, she said: ‘I got a little here, and a little there, and a little somewhere else, and wove it all together.’ The manager of one of their largest publishing-houses, who was intimately acquainted with her work, said that he did not suppose that Mrs. White ever prepared a whole chapter for one of her popular subscription books.” EGWC 468.5

“Just recently we received the best of evidence that Fannie Bolton wrote ‘Steps to Christ’ without any dictation or assistance from Mrs. White whatever. It was her product in toto, but was published as Mrs. White’s production.” EGWC 468.6

We believe that the chapters on the question of plagiarism have provided at least a partial answer to the charge before us. Except for the part that relates to the writing of Steps to Christ, this charge rests on the following reasoning: Mrs. White claimed that she wrote the very words of her visions by direct dictation of the Spirit. It is evident that her husband and literary assistants did make corrections, at least of grammar and construction. Therefore her claim is fraudulent. EGWC 468.7

As a foundation for the charge the following words are quoted from her pen: “I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision, as in having the vision.” These words, standing alone, might support the doctrine known as verbal inspiration; namely, that a prophet, in recording his message, writes exactly and only those words dictated to him by God. But let us put this quoted sentence in its context: EGWC 469.1

“After I come out of vision I do not at once remember all that I have seen, and the matter is not so clear before me until I write, then the scene rises before me as was presented in vision, and I can write with freedom. Sometimes the things which I have seen are hid from me after I come out of vision, and I cannot call them to mind until I am brought before a company where that vision applies, then the things which I have seen come to my mind with force. I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the LORD in relating or writing a vision, as in having the vision. It is impossible for me to call up things which have been shown me unless the LORD brings them before me at the time that He is pleased to have me relate or write them.”—Spiritual Gifts 2:293 (1860). EGWC 469.2