(See also W. C. White letter to W. W. Eastman, November 4, 1912, published in Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 445-450.)
[Handwritten note by Ellen G. White: "I approve of the remarks made in this letter."]
Regarding Mother's writings, she has never wished our brethren to treat them as authority on history. When Great Controversy was first written, she often times gave a partial description of some scene presented to her, and when Sister Davis made inquiry regarding time and place, Mother referred her to what was already written in the books of Elder Smith and in secular histories.
When Controversy was written, Mother never thought that the readers would take it as an authority on historical dates and use it to settle controversies, and she does not now feel that it ought to be used in that way. Mother regards with the greatest respect those faithful historians who have given their [lives] to the study of the working out in this world's history of God's great plan, and who have found in this study a correspondence of the history with prophecy.
Whenever proof has been found that the writers of our Adventist literature had come short of finding the exact truth regarding some detail, she has always taken her position in favor of correcting those things that were clearly found to be errors, and when consulted about the efforts that were being made to revise and correct the good book Daniel and Revelation [by Uriah Smith], she has always opposed making unnecessary changes and has always favored correcting those things that were plainly shown to be inaccurate.
It seems to me that there is danger of placing altogether too much stress upon chronology. If it had been essential to the salvation of man that he should have a clear and harmonious understanding of the chronology of the world, the Lord would not have permitted the disagreements and discrepancies which we find in the writings of the Bible historians, and it seems to me that in these last days there ought not to be so much controversy regarding dates.
For myself I will say this, that the more I study the experience the experience of the Adventist people, the more I feel to honor and praise and magnify the wisdom of the God of heaven who gave to a plain man like William Miller an understanding of the great truths of the prophecies. It is evident to anyone who will study his explanation of prophecy that while he had the truth regarding the principal features, that he adopted at first many inaccurate and incorrect interpretations regarding details. At first these were accepted by his associates; but God raised up scholarly men who had enjoyed broader opportunities for study than Miller, and these men by their study of the prophecies and history found the truth regarding many points in which Miller's exposition was incorrect.
One who studies this experience from the standpoint of faith in that great Advent movement, as presented in Daniel and Revelation, and in Great Controversy, cannot fail to rejoice in the goodness of God as they see how He brought in truth and light through the study of many men and it seems to me that we who love the work that was built upon that foundation ought to treat very kindly, very considerately, very reverently the work which God helped Miller to do.
It seems to me that there is nothing any one can do at the present time that would more effectually destroy confidence of the people in Miller's work and the work of his associates than to speak and write about the matter in the tone and the spirit used by Brother _____. It seems to me that nothing could be done more effectually to destroy the confidence of the people in that good and glorious movement than to claim perfection for that which we know was not perfect, and thus challenge the criticism of thinking men.
I need not quote Brother ______'s words. I think you are familiar with them. It may be that you helped him to adopt the views which he expressed so unfortunately in his tract. But wherever he got his untimely assurance, I wish to say regarding it again that I think there is nothing that can so effectually destroy the respect and confidence that our people ought to maintain in the 1844 movement than for men to make such inconsiderate assertions as were made by Brother _____ in his tract and in his correspondence.
I believe, Brother Haskell, that there is danger in injuring Mother's work by claiming for it more that she claims for it, more than Father ever claimed for it, more than Elder Andrews, Waggoner, or Smith ever claimed for it. I cannot see consistency in our putting forth a claim of verbal inspiration when Mother does not make any such claim, and I certainly think we will make a great mistake if we lay aside historical research and endeavor to settle historical questions by the use of Mother's books as an authority when she herself does not wish them to be used in any such way.