Ellen G. White

by Jefferson David Tant

Although there have been other proponents of observing the Sabbath day in modern times, Ellen G. White is the most prominent, as she is considered to be the founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. A full examination of her work would be the subject of another writing, but there are a few pertinent facts that we should note here.

Ellen White (1827-1915) was a prolific writer. She wrote more than 5,000 articles and 40 books. Seventh-day Adventists believe she was more than a gifted writer; they believe she was appointed by God as a special messenger and prophetess to help prepare people for Christ's second coming. During her life, they believe God gave her approximately 2,000 visions and dreams. As a teenager, she and her family accepted the views presented by William Miller and his associates, who predicted the return of Christ to earth October 22, 1844. This failed prophecy was called the Great Disappointment.

White's writing, traveling and teaching reached a climax in the organization of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in May, 1863. Her most prominent writing was The Great Controversy, first published in 1888. In recent years, a problem has risen concerning this, as it has been well documented that this book was not her own, but large portions were copied from J. N. Andrews. Steve Rudd says of this: "The Great Controversy contains the pillars and foundation of Adventist theology. White copied this key doctrine in the Great Controversy from books written by James White. James White copied his books from books written by J. N. Andrews. Thus the ultimate source of Seventh-day Adventist theology is not God inspiring new truths to White, but plagiarizing (copying) J. N. Andrews." [From Rudd's website Bible.ca]

Numerous quotes from White and Andrews, when placed side by side, show evidence of copying that cannot be disputed. This is called plagiarism, and is, in fact against the law, as well as against moral ethics.

There is an effort today to downplay the claim that she was an inspired prophet of God, but a look at the SDA Creed shows the official position of the church:

#17 "The gift of Prophecy: One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord's messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. Support is found in these Bible passages: Joel 2:28,29; Acts 2:14-21; Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10.

With respect to her teaching on observing the Sabbath, we give the following quotes. In Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, an Adventist publication, they relate her "vision" of the Sabbath day.

"Elder Bates was resting upon Saturday, the seventh day of the week, and he urged it upon our attention as the true Sabbath. I did not feel its importance, and thought that he erred in dwelling upon the fourth commandment more than upon the other nine. But the Lord gave me a view of the heavenly sanctuary. The temple of God was opened in heaven, and I was shown the ark of God covered with the mercy seat. Two angels stood one at either end of the ark with their wings spread over the mercy seat and their faces turned toward it. This, my accompanying angel informed me, represented all the heavenly hosts looking with reverential awe toward the law of God, which had been written by the finger of God. Jesus raised the cover of the ark, and I beheld the tables of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written. I was amazed as I saw the fourth commandment in the very center of the ten precepts with a soft halo of light encircling it. Said the angel, 'It is the only one of the ten which defines the living God who created the heavens and the earth and all things that are therein."' [Pages 95-96].

From another source, we have:

"In the ark was the golden pot of manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of stone, which folded together like a book. Jesus opened them, and I saw the Ten Commandments written on them with the finger of God. On one table were Four and on the other six. The four on the first table shone brighter than the other six. But the fourth, the Sabbath commandment, shone above them all; for the Sabbath was set apart to be kept in honor of God's holy name. The holy Sabbath looked glorious, a halo of glory was all around it. I saw that the Sabbath commandment was not nailed to the cross. If it was, the other nine commandments were; and we are at liberty to break them all as well as to break the fourth. I saw that God had not changed the Sabbath, for he never changes. But the pope had changed it from the seventh day to the first day of the week; for he was to change times and laws." [Early Writings of Ellen G. White, page 33].

Again on page 65 of the same book Mrs. White says, "The pope has changed the day of rest from the seventy to the first day."

There are four problems with Mrs. White's "visions" and work.

  1. She was regarded as a pastor/evangelist. The Bible teaches that pastors (also referred to as elders and bishops) were to be men. "Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife…" (I Timothy 3:1-2).
  2. As to being an evangelist, and thus one who does public speaking before mixed audiences, the Word of God forbids women to occupy this position. "But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness" (I Timothy 2:12).
  3. As to her claim to receive visions or prophecies, the Bible teaches that the age of such has passed. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered; and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land" (Zechariah 13:1-2). This is a prophecy of the coming of Christ and the ushering in of a new age. When that time comes, the Word says prophets will cease.

    In the chapter on love, Paul deals with spiritual gifts. "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away" (I Corinthians 13:8-10). The miraculous gifts of prophecy, tongues (which were not known to the speaker) and knowledge (knowledge miraculously imparted from God) would cease when the "perfect" came. What is the perfect? It refers to the completed revelation — the New Testament. In fact, the New Testament is called "the perfect law" in James 1:25. Until the New Testament was completed, the spiritual gifts were aids to help spread the gospel. But when the revelation was completed, that which was "in part" ceased.

    An illustration would be of the erection of a building. Scaffolding is used to help in the construction, but once the building is completed, the scaffolding (that which is "in part") is taken away. We have those who claim to work miracles today, but none passes the test of what constitutes a miracle in comparison to what Christ and the apostles performed. If miraculous powers exist today, then why doesn't someone raise the dead? Or why not feed the hungry with five loaves and two fish as Christ did? (John 6:9ff).

    Christ told the apostles, "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come" (John 16:1-2). If the Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all the truth, then there is no more truth to be revealed after that first century. If the Spirit did not reveal all the truth, then Christ is a false prophet, and therefore not the Son of God, and we are without hope. There are many passages that proclaim the completeness of God's revelation within the pages of what we know as the Bible, and that we are not to add to it. (See Galatians 1:6-8; Revelation 22:18-19; Jude 3; I Corinthians 4:6; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6).
  4. Many of Mrs. White's prophecies turned out to be false, meaning that she was a false prophet. That Seventh Day Adventists regard her as a prophet is evidenced by many witnesses. Stanley Harris, a SDA pastor is quoted as saying: "...and yet, my dear friends, she did one of the greatest works that I have ever known since John the Revelator. She's to me one of the greatest prophets that have ever lived. Why? Because she had the same gift that Daniel had." [From a cassette tape "Greatest Prophet Since John", from God's Last Call, tape #811].

    That view cannot be dismissed as simply one individual's opinion. This is the official position of the denomination itself. From a statement in 1928: "As Samuel was a prophet of Israel for his day, as Jeremiah was a prophet of Israel in the days of captivity, as John the Baptist came as a special messenger of the Lord to prepare the way for Christ's coming, so we believe that Mrs. White was a prophet to the church of Christ today."

    Numerous other quotations could be cited, but let us look now as just a few of her prophecies.
    1. Mrs. White prophesied the world would end in 1843, 1844, 1845 & 1851: "Now time is almost finished, (1851) and what we have been 6 years in learning they will have to learn in months." [Early Writings, p. 57]. Over a century and half have passed, and the world has not yet come to an end.
    2. Concerning some of her "revelations,'' one author noted: "In one of her visions her accompanying angels told her that the time of salvation for all sinners ended in 1844. She now claims the door of mercy is still open...In another vision she discovered that women should wear short dresses with pants and she and her sister followers dressed this way for eight years. But the ridiculous custom has now been abandoned....'' [Biederwolf, Seventh-Day Adventism, p. 8f].
    3. "(First Vision 12/1844) "It was just as impossible for them (those that gave up their faith in the 1844 movement) to get on the path again and go to the city, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another," (Foregoing now deleted) "until we heard the voice of God like many waters, which gave us the day and hour of Jesus' coming. (emp. mine—JDT) The living saints, 144,000 in number, knew and understood the voice, while the wicked thought it was thunder and an earthquake. When God spake the time, he poured on us the Holy Ghost, and our faces began to light up and shine with the glory of God as Moses' did when he came down from Mount Sinai." [A Word to the Little Flock, 1847 edition, p. 14].

      Then later she claimed she did not know "the day and hour." "I have not the slightest knowledge as to the time spoken by the voice of God. I heard the hour proclaimed, but had no remembrance of that hour after I came out of vision." [Selected Messages, p. 298, 1889].

      Two observations about this "vision." First, Christ said that no one knew the day or hour, not even himself. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah" (Matthew 24:36-37). Second, it is hard to imagine a prophet "forgetting" a revelation from God. No prophet in the whole Bible ever forgot what God had revealed.
    There are countless other statements of Mrs. White that were "prophecies" that did not come to pass, or that contradicted the clear teaching of the Bible. Thus this qualifies her to be labeled a false prophet. God spoke about such in Deuteronomy 18:20-22: "But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' "You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him."

God has warned us repeatedly about false prophets, saying they would come in sheep's clothing to deceive us. "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).

Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about those who would claim to be apostles and servants of Christ, but who truly were deceivers. "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds" (II Corinthians 11:13-15). We do not expect Satan's ministers to be wearing red suits, sporting a pitchfork, tail and horns. No one would believe them. But if they disguise themselves so as to appear godly and righteous, the Bible says they will deceive many. That's why we have John's warning: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1).

One final question: If God intended for the church to observe the Sabbath, why was this not revealed in the New Testament? Why did he wait for over 1,800 years to reveal this vital truth?

(Note: While going through some of my late father's (Fanning Yater Tant, 1908-1997) papers, I came across two pages of notes dealing with the first part of this treatise. From those notes, I have expanded the first portion of this material, and then added other material from research.)