Was Ellen G. White A Plagiarist?

Question of inspiration not addressed

For the editors of the Review, previous or contemporary efforts to label Mrs. White as a plagiarist or copyright infringer have never seemed impressive. Most have grown out of a false or inadequate understanding of the revelation-inspiration process. It is important in this connection to recognize that Mr. Ramik’s study does not address the question of Mrs. White’s inspiration. Though we may consider settled the question as to whether Mrs. White was a plagiarist or copyright infringer, we still must determine for ourselves whether we believe she was fully inspired of God as were the ancient prophets and apostles. Was she inspired? We answer Yes, based on the weight of evidence. EGWPlag 7.9

1. We have applied the various Biblical tests of a genuine prophet to Ellen White and we feel that she meets them more than adequately. EGWPlag 8.1

2. We have individually and collectively proved the worth of her counsels in our respective ministries on many continents around the world. We have tried them and they work. Mrs. White and her writings pass the test of pragmatism. EGWPlag 8.2

3. Her writings feed our own souls as do no others save Scripture itself. EGWPlag 8.3

In addition, her writings agree with the Bible; they lift up Jesus Christ as our Saviour, our substitute and example; they are accompanied by a supernatural power to change lives; they contain a self-authenticating quality; and they have been overwhelmingly accepted throughout the decades by the Seventh-day Adventist community. EGWPlag 8.4

In our view there is no way a person can take a neutral position in regard to Mrs. White and her writings. Either one accepts her as being sent of God or he rejects her as being an emissary of Satan. Mrs. White herself took this view. For example, she wrote: “If you are thoroughly convinced that God has not spoken by us, why not act in accordance with your faith and have no more to do with a people who are under so great a deception as this people are? If you have been moving according to the dictates of the Spirit of God you are right and we are wrong. God is either teaching His church, reproving their wrongs and strengthening their faith, or He is not. This work is of God, or it is not. God does nothing in partnership with Satan. My work for the past thirty years bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy. There is no halfway work in the matter.”—Testimonies for the Church 4:230. EGWPlag 8.5

In writing to “Brother G,” Mrs. White said: “If we surrender to God we shall choose the light and reject the darkness. If we desire to maintain the independence of the natural heart, and refuse the correction of God, we shall, as did the Jews, stubbornly carry out our purposes and our ideas in the face of the plainest evidence, and shall be in danger of as great deception as came upon them; and in our blind infatuation we may go to as great lengths as they did, and yet flatter ourselves that we are doing work for God. EGWPlag 8.6

“Brother G, you will not long stand where you now are. The path you have started upon is diverging from the true path and separating you from the people whom God is testing in order to purify them for the final victory. You will either come into union with this body, and labor earnestly to answer the prayer of Christ, or you will become more and more unbelieving. You will question point after point of the established faith of the body, become more self-willed in your opinion, and grow darker and darker in regard to the work of God for this time, until you set light for darkness and darkness for light.”—Testimonies for the Church 4:231. EGWPlag 8.7

In the days of Jesus people rejected God’s own dear Son primarily because they stifled the convictions brought to them by the Holy Spirit and looked around to see what the leaders thought of Him. When the Temple policemen were sent to arrest Jesus they returned empty-handed, explaining their failure by saying, “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). They felt deeply convicted that He was no ordinary person. But when the ecclesiastical leaders scornfully asked, “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?” (verse 48) they rejected the evidence of reason and their own senses. The test they applied was simply that of source credibility. They seemed to take the position that if a matter is true it will be accepted by the majority, or, at least, by leading people—rulers, priests, scholars, or others. But Mrs. White offers this trenchant observation: EGWPlag 8.8

“Those to whom the message of truth is spoken seldom ask, ‘Is it true?’ but, ‘By whom is it advocated?’ Multitudes estimate it by the numbers who accept it; and the question is still asked, ‘Have any of the learned men or religious leaders believed?’ ... It is not an argument against the truth, that large numbers are not ready to accept it, or that it is not received by the world’s great men, or even by the religious leaders.”—The Desire of Ages, 459, 460.

We think again of the personal testimony of Attorney Ramik, a Roman Catholic layman, who declared that he felt the problem of the critics of Ellen White is that they focus upon the writings while missing or neglecting the message of Ellen White. Liberal scholars have long been more concerned with the text of the Bible, the methodology of the prophets, historical and cultural backgrounds, and other factors associated with God’s communication to mankind than they have with approaching the Word with awe, listening for God’s voice in His Word, and then obeying His commands. Apparently many critics of Ellen White are following this same well-beaten path that has led multitudes ultimately to become skeptics. EGWPlag 8.9

The fact that the chief counsel of the General Conference Office of General Counsel asked the firm of Diller, Ramik & Wight to research the legal question as to whether Mrs. White was a plagiarist or a copyright infringer provides further evidence that the church wants truth and will continue to seek it whatever the risks. But let us never forget that faith always will be an essential element for the Christian, whether dealing with the writings of the Bible or those of Ellen White. As Attorney Johns said, “For those who choose to believe, no proof is necessary; and for those who choose to disbelieve, no proof is possible.” And how one relates to God’s attempt to reach his soul through God’s modern messenger may well determine his eternal destiny. K. H. W. EGWPlag 8.10

© 1981 by the Review and Herald Publishing Association
Printed in U.S.A.