Ellen G. White® Estate
Sharing the Vision
"The very last deception of Satan will be to make of none
effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. 'Where there is no vision, the
people perish' (Prov. 29:18). Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways
and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God's
remnant people in the true testimony."--Letter 12, 1890 (1SM 48). (Emphasis
The two marked phrases above clearly predict that the last
deception will be to challenge the authority of Ellen White. Two further
points: (1) The opposition will be Satan-inspired, and (2) it will occur among
God's remnant people.
This study will consider the authority of Ellen White, with
special emphasis on her role in the development of doctrine among Seventh-day
"A right to command or to act; power exercised by a person in
virtue of his office of trust."--Webster.
"That right or power to command action or compliance, or to
determine belief or custom, expecting obedience from those under authority, and
in turn, giving responsible account for the claim or right to power."--Bernard
Ramm, The Pattern of Religious Authority, p. 10.
1. Imperial: "That power possessed by persons or
ruling bodies by reason of superior position such as that of a king, the
general of an army, the president of a firm, or the principal of a
school."--Ramm, p. 10.
Such authority may be gotten by inheritance, election,
force, or custom. God supersedes all human imperial authority because He
is Creator and Sustainer of all.
2. Delegated: "The authority of act, to compel, to
have access to, in virtue of right granted by imperial authority."--Ramm, p.
Such authority must prove its origin from imperial
authority. This might be a document, credentials, signature, etc. The prophet
was such. The Bible offers tests by which we are to determine whether one
claiming to be a genuine prophet is really authentic.
3. Veracious: "Authority possessed by men, books, or
principles which either possess truth or aid in the determination of
truth."--Ramm, p. 12.
A book may be authoritative because it is recognized as
containing reliable or truthful information. A genuine prophet must meet
criteria. The Bible substantiates its claim to be veracious
How does authority become such? There must be a recognition
Martyrs died because they refused to recognize in traditions
what they perceived as false authority.
The wicked will finally perish for not recognizing God and
His message as true and authoritative.
"If the Scriptures are the truth of God, they are
authoritative whether they are personally accepted or not, but the Scriptures
function as an authority only to the believer."--Ramm, p. 14.
Sacred history, especially, provides a long record of
resistance and opposition to authority, beginning with Lucifer in heaven. It
was such an important consideration there that he was cast out of heaven as a
rebel with his angels. Similar opposition to authority has been carried on by
sinners on earth. Prophets were opposed. So was Jesus. his disciples, too.
Ellen White has been under the same attacks. These include claims that the
messages or work are of the devil, only human, or part human and part
In the Old Testament, Jeremiah perhaps best illustrates such
authority. Repeatedly he states that his message is "the word of the Lord." He
speaks, by contrast, of false prophets as giving "a vision of their own hearts,
and not out of the mouth of the Lord" (Jer. 23:16).
The prophet's attitude may be stated thus: He is modest
about himself, but not his message.
(1) Himself (1 Cor. 9:16; 15:9; 2 Cor. 12:7; 1 Tim. 1:15).
(2) His message (Acts 26:29; 1 Cor. 2:4; Gal. 1:1).
(1) Herself: "I have no special wisdom in myself; I am only
an instrument in the Lord's hands to do the work He has set for me to do."--3SM
46. (See also pp. 48, 49.)
(2) Her message: "Others have called me a prophetess, but I
have never assumed that title. . . . My work includes much more than this name
signifies. I regard myself as a messenger, entrusted by the Lord with messages
from His people."--1SM 36. (See also 5T 661.)
In vision she was told: "In all your communications, speak
as one to whom the Lord has spoken. He is your authority."--Letter 186, 1902.
"The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative,
infallible revelation of His [God's] will. They are the standard of character,
the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience. . . . Yet the fact that
God has revealed His will to men through His Word, has not rendered needless
the continued presence and guiding of the Holy Spirit."--p. ix.
"During the ages while the Scriptures of both the Old and the New
Testament were being given, the Holy Spirit did not cease to communicate light
to individual minds, apart from the revelations to be embodied in the Sacred
"Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the scenes of the
long-continued conflict between good and evil have been opened to the writer of
these pages."--p. xii.
"People often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great
moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing
we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus
said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a
level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil
of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of
God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you
can pit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call
Him Lord and God. but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His
being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend
to."--Mere Christianity, p. 56.
"This work is of God, or it is not. God does nothing in partnership
with Satan. My work . . . bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy.
There is no halfway work in the matter. The Testimonies are of the
Spirit of God, or of the devil."--4T p. 230.
This role might be illustrated in several areas. It was not
the same in all of them. Sometimes she took a leading part, while at other
times she was supporting, confirming, or corrective. We will focus primarily on
doctrinal development, with only a brief summary of three other major roles
Ellen White was very active in church development and in
organization, definitely taking a leading role from the beginning. Her counsels
led directly to church order and discipline, a publishing business, health care
institutions, a complete educational system, including a
fully recognized medical training school, and a world-wide mission program.
With her husband, she promoted organization in general
terms, as well as specific, even participating in choosing our church name.
Later reorganization in 1901 was effected as her personal counsel was followed.
Systematic giving, a developing tithing system, and even retirement provision
for ministers can be traced to her counsel.
The Scriptures provide basis principles of reform, but Ellen
White was asked by God to institute last-day reforms in a broad spectrum
including diet, dress, recreation, health habits, education, and many other
areas. These reforms, especially in diet and health habits, have made
Seventh-day Adventists a people ahead of their time. Confirmation for this
counsel continues to come in regularly from secular sources even today.
In hundreds of letters, by public presentation, and in
face-to-face contact, Ellen White gave counsel directly from vision and based
on a vast store of experience as a messenger of the Lord. Scores of testimonies
from those thus counseled have verified the authenticity and accuracy of the
counsel thus received.
We will place our major emphasis on her role in this area.
The Scriptures often speak of the significance of doctrine. These statements
clearly show it to be important what we believe. (See Eph. 4:4; Heb. 13:9; 2
Tim. 4:3, 4; 1 Tim. 4:1; Acts 20:29, 30.)
Especially in the earliest years of the Advent Movement, the
Lord called upon Ellen White to issue cautions and correctives that helped
believers to avoid extremes and fanaticism. But in later years as well, she
opposed such teachings as pantheism from Doctor J. H. Kellogg, and heresies
regarding the sanctuary advanced by A. F. Ballenger.
Before church organization the pioneers met, especially in
1847 and 1848, to study doctrine. The Whites were present. In these meetings,
however, Ellen White was not an active participant, at least at their
beginnings. She spoke of a "locked" mind. She could not understand their
discussions. The meetings would continue sometimes for many days.
Then, when the group had done all they could from Bible
study, Ellen would be given vision to confirm, correct, or help in the study in
which they had been engaged. The visions were accepted as from God. The
Adventist pioneers knew that when not in vision she was largely a bystander to
their study. She has written several accounts of these meetings. (See 2SG
47-49; 1T 75-87; Ms 135, 1903; 1SM 206, 207; Ms 46, 1904; TM 24-26,
As with many other doctrines, understanding of the sanctuary
was gradual. William Miller had preached that the earth was the sanctuary, and
that it was to be cleansed by fire at Christ's second advent in fulfillment of
The day after the expected advent, Hiram Edson was given
understanding that Christ has begun a new phase of His ministry in heaven's
sanctuary on October 22, 1844. With two friends he went back to the Bible for
study. One of the friends, O. R. L. Crosier, wrote two articles to explain this
study--one was published in the Day Dawn in 1845, and the other in The
Day-Star in February, 1846. Ellen White endorsed Crosier's presentation
as correct (see A Word to the Little Flock, p. 12).
The sanctuary was further explained in the writings of Uriah
Smith, J. N. Andrews, and James White through the pages of the church paper and
in books growing out of these articles.
What was Ellen White's role? The pioneer presentations were
all based on Scripture, not on her writings. Her role was a supportive one,
pointing also to the Scripture for proof. A series of visions in which she was
privileged to visit heaven's sanctuary further reinforced the Bible foundation
for it. She also led in opposition to heretical teachings on it throughout her
lifetime. And, of course, she wrote in some detail in articles and books
supporting this doctrine as scriptural.
The Sabbath first came to the attention of Adventists in
Washington, New Hampshire, through Rachel Oakes, a Seventh-day Baptist.
Frederick Wheeler, the pastor, and two brothers, Cyrus and William Farnsworth,
accepted it early. Others later joined them.
Joseph Bates in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, heard of
Sabbathkeeping in Washington and traveled there in 1845 to examine it for
himself. He returned home a Sabbathkeeper. He became the apostle of the
Sabbath, writing articles and tracts. At the time of their marriage in August,
1846, the Whites accepted the Sabbath from one of Bates's tracts.
Bates's presentation, however, had a flaw. He believed that
the Sabbath began at 6:00 p.m. on Friday. Some Adventists believe that it began
at sunrise, midnight, or sunset. This variety of practice continued for about
In 1855, James White asked J. N. Andrews to study the
subject and to present his finding to the others. His conclusion from Bible
study was that the Sabbath begins at sunset. Bates and Ellen White still
doubted. A vision was then given to Ellen White supporting the sunset
time. Unity resulted among Adventists. (See 1T p. 116.)
Writing a few years later about this experience, James White
stated: "It does not appear to be the desire of the Lord to teach His people by
the gifts of the Spirit on Bible questions until His servants have diligently
searched the Word."--Editorial, RH Feb. 25, 1868. (See Appendix, 1T pp. 713,
714 for the more complete statement.)
The Protestant position is that the Bible is the only rule
of faith and practice. Adventists from the beginning have been challenged that
they are not true Protestants because of their acceptance of a modern prophetic
messenger. Following are several statements from the early leaders giving their
reasons for belief.
"The Protestant principle of 'the Bible and the Bible alone,' is
of itself good and true; and we stand upon it as firmly as anyone can; but when
reiterated in connection with outspoken denunciations of the visions, it has
specious appearance for evil. So used it contains a covert insinuation, most
effectually calculated to warp the judgment of the unguarded, that to believe
the visions is to leave the Bible, and to cling to the Bible is to discard the
visions. . . .
"When we claim to stand on the Bible and the Bible alone, we bind
ourselves to receive, unequivocally and fully, all that the Bible
teaches."--"Do We Discard the Bible by Endorsing the Visions?" RH Jan. 13,
"The work of the Holy Spirit may be divided into two parts: First,
that which is designed simply to convert and to sanctify the persons affected
by it. Second, that which is for the purpose of opening the truth of God, and
of correcting error, and of reproving and rebuking secret sins. This part of
the work is wrought by what the Scriptures term spiritual gifts. . . .
"Now it is plain that those who reject the work of the Spirit of
God under the plea that the Scriptures are sufficient, do deny and reject all
that part of the Bible which reveals the office and work of the Holy
Spirit."--"Our Use of the Visions of Sister White," RH Feb. 15, 1870.
"If all Scripture is profitable, we suppose those portions are
which teach the perpetuity of spiritual gifts, and that tell us they will be in
the church in the last days, and tell us how to distinguish between the false
and the genuine. These prove the visions under consideration to be of the right
stamp."--"Visions and Prophecy--Have They Been Manifested Among Seventh-day
Adventists?" RH June 9, 1874.
"We exhort you to shun the counsel of those who profess to take
the Bible as the rule of faith and practice, but slight or reject that part
of it which teaches us to seek and expect the power and gifts of
the Spirit."--"Conference Address," RH July 24, 1856.
"The Bible is a perfect and complete revelation. It is our only
rule of faith and practice, and future fulfillment of His Word, in these last
days, by dreams and visions; according to Peter's testimony. True visions are
given to lead us to God and His written word; but those that are given for a
new rule of faith and practice, separate from the Bible, cannot be from God and
should be rejected."--A Word to the Little Flock, p. 13.
"I recommend to you, dear reader, the Word of God as the rule of
our faith and practice. By that Word we are to be judged. God has, in that
Word, promised to give visions in the 'last days;' not for a new rule of faith,
but for the comfort of His people, and to correct those who err from Bible
truth."--EW p. 78.
Doing what is right is fundamental to Christian living. How
to determine such does not come naturally. The answer is directly related to
authority. As sinners, we cannot save ourselves, nor can we solely trust our
own judgment. As Israel traveled to the promised land, they were instructed
that if they "did what was right in God's sight" they would prosper. (See
Exodus 15:26.) They did not always do this. Later, during the time of the
judges, the Bible record says "every man did what was right in his own eyes."
(See Judges 17:6; 21:25.) This was one of the lowest points in their history.
How did this happen? Earlier in the time of the judges we
find an answer. While Joshua and the early elders lived, the record says, "The
people served the Lord." But when those died who “had seen all the great
works of the Lord," the people "forsook the Lord God" (Judges 2:7, 10-12).
Modern spiritual Israel faces the same kind of situation.
The pioneers are dead. If we forget our past, we can predict our future in that
of ancient Israel. But their experience does not need to be ours. From the pen
of Ellen White we have the following encouraging word:
"In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of
advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord
has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as
Leader. We have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the
way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history."--LS p. 196.
3. "Time for Commencing the Sabbath," RH Dec. 4, 1855. 4. "Visions
and Prophecy--Have They Been Manifested Among Seventh-day Adventists?" RH June
9, 1874. 5.1 "The Sanctuary," Day Dawn, 1845. 2. "The Law
of Moses," The Day-Star, Feb. 7, 1846. 6. "The Inspiration and
Authority of the Ellen G. White Writings," A Statement of Present
Understanding, The Ministry, Feb., 1983. 7. Mere
Christianity 8. The Pattern of Religious Authority 9. "Do We
Discard the Bible by Endorsing the Visions?" RH Jan. 13, 1863. 10. 1
Early Writings 2 The Great Controversy Introduction 3
Life Sketches 4 Testimonies to Ministers 5 Manuscript
135, 1903 6 Manuscript 46, 1904 7 Selected Messages, book 1
8 Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2 9 Testimonies for the Church,
vols. 1, 4
11. "Conference Address," RH July 24, 1856. Editorial, RH Feb. 25, 1868. A
Word to the Little Flock
Thought for the Day
Supreme love for God and unselfish love for one another - this is the best gift that our heavenly Father can bestow. - AA 551