Ellen G. White® Estate
Sharing the Vision
I hold in my left hand one little book containing 219 pages.
In this little volume we find a brief sketch of "The Great Controversy Between
Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels." This was the first attempt of
Ellen G. White to portray this conflict as worked out in the lives of the
patriarchs, the life of Christ and His apostles, and the heroes of the
Christian Church, as well as its development in the final acts of the conflict.
This book was issued in 1858, just seventy-seven years ago.
I hold in my right hand four larger volumes, covering the
same subject, and with most of the history greatly enlarged upon. The cover
title of this series is "Spirit of Prophecy." The inside title is, "The Great
Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels." Volume One
was printed in 1870, Volume Two in 1877, Volume Three in 1878, and Volume Four
in 1884. There were 1750 pages in these four volumes.
There lies before me on the desk the third and final series
containing Mrs. White's last and more full portrayal of the revelations given
her regarding this wonderful conflict. The five volumes of the "Conflict of the
Ages Series," with Steps to
Christ, Christ's Object
Lessons, and Thoughts From the
Mount of Blessing comprise nearly 4500 pages.
Many who have read these books and found in them timely
instruction and help in their Christian Experience desire to know what we can
tell them about the way in which they were written. We shall first describe the
mechanical features of the work, and later speak of its spiritual character.
Volume Two of Spiritual Gifts was published in 1860.
This was a biographical sketch of her Christian Experience, Views and Labors
in Connection With the Rise and Progress of the Third Angel's Message.
After the publication of Volume Two, she wrote twenty-one
chapters on Old Testament history from creation to Exodus and the giving of the
Law of God at Sinai. This was published in Volume Three. She also wrote sixteen
chapters in 120 pages on the experiences of the Israelities from Sinai to David
and Solomon. This, with an article on health and a reprint on
Testimonies Nos. 1-10, constituted Volume Four of Spiritual
Gifts. Much of the writing was done in 1865 before making the Eastern trip
which occupied the last five months of the year. The two volumes were printed
Regarding the story of the writing and publication of the
very first Ellen G. White books issued, it is our intention to relate the
incidents connected with their production quite fully in our series of articles
appearing in the Review. Therefore in what we present to you today we
shall begin at about the time where my memory touches the work.
Most of the writing of these four books [Spiritual
Gifts, Vols. I-IV] was done in Battle Creek in the little cottage on Wood
Street, facing the west end of Champion Street. This cottage the White family
occupied from 1857 till 1863. At first Mother wrote in the "parlor-bedroom,"
which was the northwest corner of the ground floor, a room about 10 by 12, with
one window to the north. Later when additions were made to the house, she did
her writing upstairs in the east chamber, which had two windows to the east.
The larger room with its two windows admitting the morning
sunlight was a joy to her, a benefit to her health, and a blessing to her work.
she could be alone, and out of reach of sounds from the
dining room and kitchen. She seldom used an ordinary table or desk, but wrote
sitting in a low, heavy rocking chair, with a swinging board bolted to the
right arm, which served as a writing table.
On coming home from the Review and Herald offices, James
White was frequently greeted by his wife with the statement, "James, I want you
to hear what I have been writing." Then he would lie down on the sofa in the
sitting room, and Mother would read to him what she had written during the
forenoon. I can never forget the joy which they shared together as she brought
out from time to time precious instruction for the church, and interesting
historical articles regarding leading characters in the patriarchal and
Sometimes, she would say, "James, here is an article that
ought to be printed. It is a testimony on Christian experience, and I want you
to listen to it and help me prepare it for the printer." She was an unusually
good reader, speaking slowly and distinctly. If her husband discovered
weaknesses in the composition, such as faulty tenses of verbs, or disagreement
between subject, noun, and verb, he would suggest grammatical corrections.
These she would write into her manuscript and then read on.
I remember a year or two later when she was writing on the
lines of the early patriarchs, Elder J. N. Andrews was visiting at our home.
After dinner was over, Mother would propose to read to him and Father what she
had been writing. Both Elder White and Elder Andrews were attentive listeners
and one day after two or three chapters had been read to them, Elder Andrews
said, "Sister White, have you ever read Milton's Paradise Lost?"
"No," she replied.
"Have you ever read any of his writings?
Again she replied, "No."
A few weeks later he brought a copy of Paradise Lost,
and read to Father and Mother some of Milton's descriptions of the experiences
of Lucifer in his great rebellion. Later on he brought a new copy which he had
purchased and gave it to Mother.
She thanked him for it, and looked at it a few minutes
without opening it, put it on a high shelf in a cupboard built in back of the
stove and under the chimney support. There the book lay many days and several
In view of the fact that a careless statement has been made
by one of our much loved teachers that Milton's Paradise Lost was a
favorite book of Sister White's, and that she read it often, I think it is
worthwhile to make this clear and full statement, and to add to the above, that
I never saw Milton's poem in her hand, and never saw her reading it. I never
heard her refer to the book, except on one or two occasions, when she stated to
visitors what I have related above, and said that she felt that she ought not
to study what anyone else had written regarding the rebellion in heaven until
she had written out very fully what had been revealed to her.
She preferred to be alone when she wrote, but in the winter
and spring of 1862 and 1863, while she was writing Spiritual Gifts,
Volume Three, and at the same time caring for me, I was allowed to play quietly
in her room. I remember very well its scanty furnishings. Her big writing chair
was the most prominent piece of furniture in the room. There was a little old
bureau in which she kept her writings, some ordinary straight-back chairs, and
a small set of book shelves in which were kept her Bible, Concordance, Bible
Dictionary and a few other books.
Mother did most of her writing in the forenoon. Sometimes
she wrote before breakfast, and usually she spent most of the afternoon sewing,
knitting, or working in her flower garden. Sometimes she went shopping.
Sometimes after Mother had read to her husband an important
personal testimony, the question would arise, "What shall we do with it? First
of all, it must be sent to the person to whom the testimony is borne, and then
because the instruction it contains which will be of service to many others, it
must go to them. How shall we get it before them?" Often Mother would say, "I
have done my part in writing out what God has revealed to me. You and your
associates who are bearing the burden of labor for our people at large, must
decide what use shall be made of it."
In later years she spoke of these counsels with her brethren
"In the early days of this cause, if some of the leading brethren
were present when messages from the Lord were given, we would consult with them
as to the best manner of bringing the instruction before the people. Sometimes
it was decided that certain portions would better not be read before a
congregation. Sometimes those whose course was reproved would request that the
matters pointing out their wrongs and dangers should be read before others,
that they too, might be benefited." Writing and Sending Out of the Testimonies,
In the Autumn of 1863, Elder James White sold his home on
Wood Street and bought an unfinished house and about an acre and a quarter of
land on the northeast corner of Washington and Champion Steets. This house he
occupied for many years. It had large rooms with good high ceilings, and
Mother, who always felt the need of much fresh air and sunlight, was
exceedingly thankful that she could live and work in a room 15 by 15 feet with
a 10-foot ceiling.
As the years passed, and the number of believers increased,
there was need of more books. The brethren called for the republication of the
little books Spiritual Gifts that they had learned to love. But Sister
White could not consent to this. Since their publication she had received
subsequent visions in which the views were repeatedly given, with more details.
Some of the additional revelations had been written out and published in
articles in the Review, and in the Testimonies for the Church,
Nos. 11-16, also some of the chapters used later in Spirit of Prophecy,
Volumes One, Two, and Three.
The manner of the writing of the Ellen G. White books will
be best understood if we relate somewhat in detail the manner in which the work
on The Great
Controversy and The Desire of Ages
When the third volume of the Spirit of Prophecy was
published in 1878, it was the hope and expectation of James and Ellen White
that Volume Four would be printed the following year. But the calls to attend
meetings and Elder White's feeble health frustrated this plan.
Not until the autumn of 1882, one year after the death of my
father, was the work of arranging the chapters already written, and filling in
the gaps, begun in real earnest. It was my privilege to be much at Mother's
home in Healdsburg, and witness her earnest endeavor. At first it had been her
plan to resume the story of the Acts of the Apostles where Volume Three ceased.
But she was instructed in night visions to adopt the plan now seen in the book
The Great Controversy.
It was revealed to her that she should present an outline of
the controversy between Christ and Satan as it developed in the first centuries
the Christian era, and in the great Reformation of the
sixteenth century, in such a way as to prepare the mind of the reader to
understand clearly the controversy as it is going on in our day.
While Mother was writing this book, many of the scenes were
presented to her over and over again in visions of the night. The vision of the
deliverance of God's people, as given in Chapter 40, was repeated three times;
and on two occasions, once at her home in Healdsburg, and once at the St.
Helena Sanitarium, members of her family, sleeping in nearby rooms, were
awakened from sleep by her clear, musical cry, "They come! They come!" (See
Controversy, p. 636.)
We can now see that the divine instruction regarding the
plan of the book has made it useful to the general public. However, Mother
regarded it like all her former writings, as a message chiefly to the church
and she used some matter that was especially useful to Seventh-day
A detailed consideration of just how the work was carried
on from day to day revives in my memory the various steps that were taken:
1. The laying aside of the articles relating to the Acts of
the Apostles that she had intended to use.
2. The gathering together of those manuscripts describing
the destruction of Jerusalem and the apostasy of the Christian church.
3. These she would read from her manuscripts day-by-day for
two or three hours at a time, to me and Sister Davis.
4. The reading was interspersed with discussion regarding
strength of description, the length of the chapter, the presence of repetition,
and the absence of some features of the story.
5. To Sister Davis was committed the work of selecting the
best presentation, where there were two or three manuscripts on the subject,
also the work of eliminating needless repetition, and the arrangement of
paragraphs so as to make the presentation of the subject connected and
6. Mother took the burden of writing in those essential
parts of the history that had not yet been presented. Prayerful meditation
would often bring to her mind clearly the views given years before.
Then as she strove to perfect the chapters by filling in the
gaps, the Lord gave her in night visions new views, or renewal of former
During this time I was many weeks in Healdsburg, living in
her home while working part time for the Healdsburg College, and part time for
Mother. Therefore, I know how the work was done.
Having spent the early morning and the forenoon in writing,
Mother usually relaxed in the afternoon. With her span of little lazy black
ponies, she would find recreation in a country drive.
After Sister Davis had arranged the matter for a chapter,
she would read it to Sister White, who often then discerned that she had
something to add. And, also, when Sister White had written a new section she
would usually read it to Sister Davis, and to others of the family if they
could take time to listen.
Twice a day the whole family gathered in the sitting room
for worship. These were very precious seasons. Sometimes during the first year
of this work, when Brother and Sister Ransom Lockwood were her steward and
housekeeper; together with Sister J. L. Ings, her faithful copyist; Marian
Davis, her secretary; Addie and May Walling, her nieces; and Edith Donaldson,
schoolgirl boarder, Mother would relate to us some story of
her early experiences, that was much appreciated. Later on, as she became more
fully absorbed in her writing, the story telling ceased.
Sister White was not a mere mechanical writer. The deep
impressions made upon the reader by portions of her published works are due
largely to her own intensity of feeling while she wrote. Occasionally she
referred to her emotional depth of feeling, as she penned the solemn messages
from heaven to a perishing world. This she wrote in a letter to Elder Smith,
February 19, 1884:
"I write from fifteen to twenty pages each day. It is now 11:00
o'clock and I have written fourteen pages of manuscript for Vol. IV. . . .
"As I write upon my book I feel intensely moved. I want to get it
out as soon as possible, for our people need it so much. I shall complete it
next month if the Lord gives me health as He has done. I have been unable to
sleep nights, for thinking of the important things to take place. Three hours
and sometimes five is the most of sleep I get. My mind is stirred so deeply I
cannot rest. Write, write, write, I feel I must and not delay.
"Great things are before us, and we want to call the people from
their indifference to get ready. Things that are eternal crowd upon my vision
day and night. The things that are temporal fade from my sight." Undated Letter 7, 1884.
She usually wrote upon the subject she was handling very
fully. And there was sometimes a difference of opinion between her and the
publishers regarding the quantity of matter that should be used. Sister White
was best pleased when a subject was presented very fully, and the publishers
often brought pressure to bear to have the matter condensed or abbreviated so
that the books would not be too large. Consequently there were times when
important chapters were prepared and sent to the printer, a
new presentation of the subject would be given and she would then write
additional matter and insist upon its being incorporated. This experience
applied chiefly to The
Great Controversy, Volume IV.
In the fall of 1884, the book was ready for distribution.
The price was made uniform for the entire series, $1 per volume. In just a
short time it was found that the book could be sold to all people, so the
publishers took the plates and printed an edition on larger paper.
Illustrations were inserted and an experiment made in selling it as a
subscription book at $1.50. During the first four years after its publication
ten editions were printed and sold.
In 1885 Mother and I were sent to Europe, and there the
question came up regarding the translation of this wonderful book into German,
French, Danish and Swedish. As Mother considered this proposition, she decided
to make additions to the matter.
Mother's contact with European people had brought to her
mind scores of things that had been presented to her in vision during past
years, some of them two or three times, and other scenes many times. Her seeing
of historic places and her contact with the people refreshed her memory and
enabled her to write more graphically regarding many things, and so she desired
to add much material to the book. This was done, and the manuscripts were
prepared for translation.
Much of the research for historical statements used in the
new European and American editions of The Great Controversy was done in
Basel, where we had access to Elder Andrews' large library, and where the
translators had access to the university libraries.
Twenty-five years later in 1911, when we came to go over
this matter for the purpose of inserting references to historical quotations,
there were some quotations which we could not locate. In some cases we found
statements making the same point from other historians. These were in books
accessible in many public libraries. When we brought this to Mother's
attention, she said, "Use the one you can give reference to, so that the reader
of the book, if he wishes to go to the source and find it, can do so."
Her interest in what she saw in Europe, and its relation to
her writings, especially regarding the Reformation, is expressed in a diary
entry written from Basel on May 15, 1887:
"We have just returned from visiting Zurich. It is a much prettier
city than Basel. The old part of the city contains many historical places of
interest. We visited a Cathedral. . . . This building was put up by
Charlemagne. We gathered many items of interest which we will use. Zwingle
preached in this church in 1518. . . .
"We visited an old building which had been a church where Zwingle
had preached. Here was a life-size statue of Zwingle clad as he was chaplain of
the army when he was killed. He had his Bible in his hand, and his hand leaning
on his sword. He has on the dress or coat reaching to his feet, which was worn
by the clergy in those days. This monument is above his tomb. We entered the
building and there we found it was used for a library of ancient books in Latin
and in Greek and dead languages. We saw here the veritable Bible Zwingle used
and letters written by his own hand.
"We had just been writing upon the reformers--Wycliffe, Jerome, John
Huss, Zwingle, and other reformers, so I was much interested in all that I
saw." Ms 29, 1887.
In her public ministry, Mother had always shown an ability
to select from the storehouse of truth, matter well adapted to the needs of the
congregation before her; and she always thought that, in the choice of matter
for publication in her books, sound judgment should be shown in selecting that
which is best suited to the needs of those who will read the book.
Therefore, when the new edition of The Great Controversy was brought out
in 1888, intended for world-wide circulation, there were left out about twenty
pages of matter--four or five pages in one place--which was very instructive to
the Adventists of America, but which was not appropriate for readers in other
parts of the world. Examples of this may be found in the chapter entitled, "The
Snares of Satan," pages 518-530, in the 1911 edition.
In her writings regarding the events of ancient and modern
history, and especially the history of the great reformation of the sixteenth
century, she made many quotations from historians. These were usually enclosed
in quotation marks, but without giving specific credit to the historians from
which they were taken. Where the historian stated what she desired to present,
but in language too extended for her use, she would paraphrase the statement,
using some of the words of the book and some of her own words. In this way she
was able to present forceful and comprehensive statements in a brief way.
Regarding this use of matter which she copied from reliable authors, she said:
"The great events which have marked the progress of reform in past
ages, are matters of history, well known and universally acknowledged by the
Protestant world; they are facts which none can gainsay. This history I have
presented briefly, in accordance with the scope of the book, and the brevity
which must necessarily be observed, the facts have been condensed into as
little space as seemed consistent with a proper understanding of their
application. In some cases where a historian has so grouped together events as
to afford, in brief, a comprehensive view of the subject, or has summarized
details in a convenient manner, his words have been quoted; but except in a few
instances no specific credit has been given, since they are not quoted for the
purpose ofciting that writer as authority, but because his statement affords a
ready and forcible presentation of the subject. In narrating the experience and
views of those carrying forward the work of reform in our own time, similar use
has occasionally been made of their published works." Introduction to The Great Controversy, pp. 11, 12
(printed in 1888).
Mrs. White never claimed to be an authority on the details
of history. She never wrote to correct historians. She never wrote history
merely for the entertainment of her readers. She regarded a knowledge of
history as helpful to a proper understanding of the great conflict going on in
heaven and earth over the eternal destinies of men. She regarded the records of
the conflicts and victories of men in past ages, as intended for our
instruction upon whom the ends of the world have come.
She recognized that there were differences of opinion among
historians regarding some historical events, and was not surprised or perturbed
when she was told that in some detailed description she had used statements
from the pen of some writers which were disputed by other historians.
The question may be asked, "Can the descriptions of scenes
and events copied from other writers, find a proper place in the inspired
writings of a messenger of God?"
We find that writers of the Bible not only copied from
historical chronicles, but they sometimes used the exact language of other
Bible writers, without giving credit. And, likewise, if in the writings of one
today, who gives abundant evidence of being a chosen messenger of God, we find
phrases or statements from other writers, why should this be an occasion for
question more than the same circumstances when found in the Scriptures?
When in the early days inquiries came to Mrs. White
regarding the passages in her books that she had copied from historians, they
were presented as questions regarding the authenticity of the satements. Then
the inquiry was, "Are these passages that have been shown you in vision, or are
they what you have learned by the reading of histories?"
She dismissed these questions with few words, stating that
what she had presented in her books was a delineation of that which had been
presented to her in vision, and that her occasional copying from historians was
a matter of convenience rather than a matter of necessity.
In later years, when Mrs. White became aware that some of
the readers of her books were perplexed over the question as to whether her
copying from other writers was an infringement on somebody's rights, the
inquiry was raised, "Who has been injured?" No injustice or injury was, or
could be named. Nevertheless, she gave instruction that, lest anyone should be
offended or led to stumble over the fact that passages from historians had been
used without credit, in future editions of her book, The Great Controversy, a faithful
effort should be made to search out those passages that had been copied from
historians, which had not been enclosed in quotation marks, and that quotation
marks should be inserted wherever they should be used. This instruction was
All through the years it was Sister White's desire to deal
very fully in her writings with the mission of Christ, His ministry, His
teachings, and His sacrifice for us. She wrote much on this phase of the
conflict in the '70's, which was published in Volumes Two and Three of the
Spirit of Prophecy, but this did not satisfy her. So when work on Patriarchs and Prophets was finished
and had gone to the publisher, she turned her thoughts to the preparation of a
more comprehensive treatise on the life of Christ. For this work she carried a
great burden, and we find many references in her letters to her hopes of soon
being able to get the book under way.
It was her hope when she went to Australia that much time
could be devoted to this work. During the years 1892 to 1898 she was led to
spend considerable time in the preparation of chapters for this book.
In the preparation of this book on the life of Christ, as in
the preparation of other later publications, she did not sit down and write the
book straight through, chapter by chapter, in the order in which we find them
today. She had those who were employed as her helpers, gather together what she
had written in former years on the subject. This material was found in her
published books, in articles that had appeared in periodicals, and in her
letters and manuscripts.
With this material in hand, she wrote many additional
articles, as the experiences of Christ were opened anew to her. Then when these
passages, with what she had written in former years were grouped in their
natural order, she worked with energy to write in the connecting history.
Altogether her writings on the life and teachings of our
Saviour were found to be so voluminous that they could not all be contained in
volume. So Thoughts
From the Mount of Blessing, Christ's Object Lessons, and a
portion of Ministry of Healing,
were made up of the overflow material, which could not be included in the
already voluminous book on the life of Christ.
We get a glimpse of the intensity under which Sister White
wrote while preparing copy for this wonderful book, in a letter written in 1892
which she addressed to Elder Olsen, president of the General Conference:
"I walk with trembling before God. I know not how to speak or trace with pen
the large subject of the atoning sacrifice. I know not how to present subjects
in the living power in which they stand before me. I tremble for fear lest I
shall belittle the great plan of salvation by cheap words. I bow my soul in awe
and reverence before God and say, 'Who is sufficient for these things?'"
Letter 40, 1892.
Many letters written by Sister White during these years
express her disappointment at being so pressed with other duties that she could
make but slow progress with the work on the book. In 1894 she wrote:
"Now after I have been in this country nearly three years, there is
still much to be done before the book will be ready for publication. Many
branches of work have demanded my attention. I am pressed beyond measure with
the work of writing out testimonies, caring for the poor, and traveling with my
own conveyance, 8, 11, and 13 miles to meet with the churches."
Pressed with these burdens and cares, she did much of her
writing when others were asleep. "My time for writing usually commences at
three o'clock in the morning," she says, "when all in the house are asleep.
Often I am awakened at half past twelve, one or two o'clock." Letter 114, 1896.
One such morning, before resuming her writing on the book,
she penned the following in her diary:
"I awaken at half past two, and offer up my prayer to God in the
name of Jesus. I am weak in physical strength; my head is not free from pain;
my left eye troubles me. In writing upon the life of Christ, I am deeply
wrought upon. I forget to breathe as I should. I cannot endure the intensity of
feeling that comes over me as I think of what Christ suffered in our world. He
was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; He was wounded for our
transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our
peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed, if we receive Him by
faith as our personal Saviour." Ms 70, 1897.
The statement that in the preparation of her writings for
publication, Mrs. White had the help of one or more efficient workers who
assisted in gathering the material and in helping to prepare it, does not mean
that the books or articles were in any part the product of their pens. They
The matters revealed to Mrs. White while in vision were not
usually a word-for-word narrataion of events with their lessons. They were
generally in the nature of flashlight or great panoramic views of various
scenes in the experience of men, sometimes in the past, sometimes in the
future, together with the spoken instruction connected with these experiences.
At times, the actions and conversations of men in groups, of churches, of
conferences, and of multitudes were revealed to her, with a clear perception of
their purposes, aims, and motives. Often verbal instruction was given regarding
what was thus revealed.
When the time came to write out these revelations, Mrs.
White would endeavor to trace in human language that which had been opened
before her in these heavenly views. No supernatural force mechanically took
control of her hand, and guided in the words which she wrote, and very rarely
were the exact words which she should use dictated by the heavenly messenger by
her side. Mrs. White speaks of her own choice of language in writing out her
views as follows:
"Although I am as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in writing
my views as I am in receiving them, yet the words I employ in describing what I
have seen are my own, unless they be those spoken to me by an angel, which I
always enclose in marks of quotation." Review and Herald,
October 8, 1867.
It was ever a source of regret to Mrs. White that her school
education had been very brief, and her knowledge of the technical rules of
writing therefore limited. I clearly remember in the earlier years of her work
in Battle Creek, when James White on coming home from the Review and Herald
office, would be asked to listen to what Mother had written and to help her in
preparing it for publication. Then, as she read to him what she had written, he
would comment on the matter, rejoicing in the power of the message, and would
point out weaknesses in compositon and faulty grammar.
Regarding such experiences, she made a statement in 1906 as
"While my husband lived, he acted as a helper and counselor in the
sending out of the messages that were given to me. We traveled extensively.
Sometimes light would be given to me in the night season, sometimes in the
daytime before large congregations. The instruction I received in vision was
faithfully written out by me, as I had time and strength for the work.
Afterward we examined the matter together, my husband correcting grammatical
errors, and eliminating needless repetition. Then it was carefully copied for
the persons addressed, or for the printer." The Writing and
Sending Out of the Testimonies to the Church, p. 4.
As time went on the making of copies of numerous individual
testimonies made it necessary to employ a copyist, and as Elder White could not
give time to the correction of all her writings, the burden of making
grammatical corrections was often laid upon the copyist. Many individuals were
employed in the years that followed, as literary assistants who copied the
testimonies, and prepared articles for the periodicals, and chapters for her
books. Conscientious Christians only were chosen as literary assistants, and in
their work they adhered strictly to the instruction which was given them
regarding their part of the work.
It was well understood by the secretaries that only Mrs.
White's thoughts were to be used, and also her own words as far as
grammatically consistent in expressing those thoughts. In no case was the
editor allowed to introduce thoughts not found in Mrs.
White's manuscripts. In cases where paragraphs and sentences lost some of their
power because of faulty arrangement, the secretaries were expected to make
transpositions. They were also instructed to leave out that which was plainly
unnecessary repetition. To these rearrangements and omissions, Mrs. White gave
Regarding the handwritten manuscripts that came from her
pen, her literary secretaries say that there was a marked difference in the
matter of literary perfection. Usually the original manuscripts written when
she was not burdened with travel and preaching or full of anxieties connected
with the conditions of the church, were found to be beautiful, forceful and
elegant in expression and with very few grammatical imperfections. But in some
original manuscripts written when she was perplexed by many cares and burdens
and especially when working very hurriedly, under the feeling that the
manuscript must be completed quickly, there was much repetition and faulty
grammatical construction. At such times she paid little attention to the rules
of punctuation, capitalization and spelling. She expected that these matters
would be corrected by the copyist.
At times some of the early testimonies were put into print
without first receiving the careful work referred to in the above paragraph.
This made necessary some changes in the wording when they were republished in
At the very first of her writing out testimonies to
individuals, she made two copies, one to be kept as a record of what she had
written, and one to be sent to the person for whom the message was given. As
this work became heavy, she sometimes sent the testimony to the person
that the recipient make a copy for himself and return to
her the original. Unwilling to have it made known what Sister White had been
shown, some refused to make a copy or to return to her what she had written.
Thus some testimonies were lost. And when, as sometimes happened,
misrepresentations were made regarding what was in the testimony, she had no
written proof as to what the testimony actually said.
In 1860 she received some help in copying from her
housekeeper, Lucinda Abbey. In 1861, she employed Adelia Patten to be copyist
and to teach her three boys in a home school.
In 1863 Adeline Howe, her cook, found time to do much
copying. In 1867 and 1868, Julia Burgess did considerable copying. In 1869 and
1870, after moving back to Battle Creek from Greenville, when copy of Spirit
of Prophecy, Vol. 1, was being prepared, Miss Emma Sturges, and Miss Annie
Hale were employed as copyists.
In the autumn of 1872, Mother visited Colorado, and became
acquainted with her niece, Mary Clough, and in 1874 and 1875, Miss Clough
assisted in preparing copy for Spirit of Prophecy, Volumes Two and
Three. She also accompanied Elder and Mrs. White in their camp meeting labors
and acted as reporter for the public press. In so doing, she was the first
publicity agent regularly employed by the denomination, and may be looked up to
as the grandmother of our Press Bureau.
Her college education, her experience as a newspaper
reporter, the confidence that she thus gained, and the praise that was heaped
upon her work, unfitted her for the delicate and sacred work of being
copy-editor for Review articles, and the chapters for The Great Controversy, Spirit of
Prophecy, Vol. Four. In a vision of the night it was presented to Mother
that she and Mary were looking at some wondrous development in the sky.
What they saw meant much to Sister White, but to Mary it
seemed to mean nothing. The angel said, "Spiritual things are spiritually
discerned." He then instructed Sister White that she should no longer employ
her niece as her book editor. Similar instruction was given her years later in
regard to Fannie Bolton.
After the death of Elder James White in 1881, Sister White
employed Sister Marian Davis. She had been for some years a proof-reader in the
Review and Herald office, and Sister White received assurance through
revelation that Sister Davis would be a conscientious, faithful and trustworthy
Later on, Sister Eliza Burnham was employed by Mother, and
at one time Mrs. B. L. Whitney and Miss Fannie Bolton were employed at Battle
Creek as helpers when there was much work to do. Sister Davis was with Sister
White in Europe in 1886 and 1887, and was also her principal helper in
Australia, also from 1900 to 1904 at "Elmshaven," St. Helena. The last work
done by Sister Davis was the selection and arrangement of the matter used in
Ministry of Healing.
Miss Sarah Peck was an efficient helper in Australia, and
St. Helena. She bore the chief burden of arranging the matter in Testimonies
for the Church, Volume 6.
Clarence. C. Crisler was a valuable helper, as a reporter of
sermons and interviews, and the copyist of many letters. He also assisted in
the preparation of periodical articles, and in the arrangement of the matter
comprising Acts of the Apostles and
Prophets and Kings.
Several times instruction was given in vision to Sister
White regarding those who should be her helpers in the household and in the
preparation of her writings for publication. Especially were Sisters Lucinda
Abbey Hall and Marian Davis specified as helpers that she needed, and persons
in whom she could implicitly trust.
This sketch of the workers does not claim to be complete. It
was never considered by me or by any of Mother's helpers that the personnel of
her working force was of any primary interest to the readers of her books.
We are not left in uncertainty regarding the manner in which
the book The Desire of Ages was
prepared, for in the memory of those conversant with the work, and in letters
from Mrs. White and Miss Davis written during the period of its preparation, we
find definite information regarding the work. In Mrs. White's letters we find
frequent mention of the fact that she was writing specifically for the book on
the life of Christ, and very definite statements regarding the part that Miss
Davis acted. Thus, in a letter written to Dr. J. H. Kellogg, October 25, 1895,
"Marian is working at the greatest disadvantage. I find but little
time in which to write on the life of Christ. I am continually receiving
letters that demand an answer, and I dare not neglect important matters that
are brought to my notice. Then there are churches to visit, private testimonies
to write, and many other things to be attended to that tax me and consume my
time. Marian greedily grasps every letter I write to others in order to find
sentences that she can use in the Life of Christ. She has been collecting
everything that has a bearing on Christ's lessons to His disciples, from all
possible sources. . . . I have about decided to . . . devote all my time to
writing for the books that ought to be prepared without further delay. I would
like to write on the Life of Christ, on Christian Temperance, and prepare
Testimony Number 34, for it is very much needed. . . .
"You know that my whole theme both in the pulpit and in private, by
voice and pen, is the Life of Christ." Letter 41, 1895.
Some have marveled at the extraordinary beauty of the
language in The Desire of Ages.
The last sentence of the foregoing letter, in suggesting that this was one of
her favorite themes, furnishes an explanation for the beautiful phraseology of
the book. The abundance of material, and the depths of feeling with which she
wrote on this subject, made possible the selection and grouping of the most
beautiful passages to be found in scores of manuscripts and letters.
It is well known that some of the world's masterpieces of
literature, of poetry, and of gospel hymns have been forged on the anvil of
pain. It was thus with much of her writings on the life and ministry of Jesus.
Soon after Mrs. White reached Australia, she began to suffer with rheumatism
and for eleven months was in constant pain. Of this experience she wrote:
"I have been passing through great trial in pain and suffering and
helplessness, but through it all I have obtained a precious experience more
valuable to me than gold." Letter 7, 1892.
After speaking of her feeling of great disappointment
because she was unable to visit among the churches, she said further:
"This unreconciliation was at the beginning of my sufferings and
helplessness, but it was not long until I felt that my affliction was a part of
God's plan. I found that by partly lying and partly sitting I could place
myself in position to use my crippled hands, and although suffering much pain I
could do considerable writing. Since coming to this country I have written
sixteen hundred pages. . . .
"Many nights during the past nine months I was enabled to sleep but
two hours a night, and then at times darkness would gather about me; but I
prayed and realized much sweet comfort in drawing nigh to God. . . . I was all
light in the Lord.
Jesus was sacredly near, and I found the grace given sufficient."
A few months later she said:
"I have tested, and I know whereof I speak. For eleven months I
could not sleep nights. I prayed to be relieved. Relief did not come but I had
light in the Lord by night, and by day. I know wherein my strength lies. I
thought of Christ a great deal in this time." Ms 17,
Thus by affliction, Mrs. White was confined for nearly a
year to her room. Here she was free from the multitude of problems that came to
her when she was traveling and in public work. Here she had opportunity to
think intensely regarding the views that the Lord had given her. She was
enabled to write more freely than at other times. Some of the choicest passages
in The Desire of Ages came from
her pen when she was confined not only to her room, but much of the time to her
bed. The secret of her power to produce this beautiful language is found in
three passages just quoted: "Jesus was sacredly near," "I thought of Christ a
great deal," and "I have written sixteen hundred pages."
Speaking of the work of her helpers, Mrs. White in 1900 made
the following interesting statement about the part taken in her work by Miss
Marian Davis, who assisted her for more than twenty years:
"The books are not Marian's productions, but my own, gathered from
all my writings. Marian has a large field from which to draw, and her ability
to arrange the matter is of great value to me. It saves my poring over a mass
of matter, which I have no time to do." Letter 61a,
Another of her secretaries, at a later time, wrote as follows:
"The editors in no wise change Sister White's expression if it is
grammatically correct, and is an evident expression of the evident thought.
Sister White as human instrumentality has a pronounced style of her own, which
is preserved all through
her books and articles that stamps the matter with her
individuality. Many times her manuscript does not need any editing, often but
slight editing, and again a great deal of literary work; but article or
chapter, whatever has been done upon it, is passed back into her hands by the
editor."--Fannie Bolton in a "Confession Concerning the Testimony of Jesus
Christ," addressed to "Dear Brethren in the Truth," written about the time of
the General Conference of 1901.
In some minds the question lingers if the writings in
passing through the hands of the literary assistants may not have been altered
somewhat in thought, or received additions to the thoughts of the author. This
question is clearly answered by the written statements from several of Mrs.
White's helpers, found in our files.
D. E. Robinson, for many years a literary assistant, in 1933
"In all good conscience I can testify that never was I presumptuous
enough to venture to add any ideas of my own or to do other than follow with
most scrupulous care the thoughts of the author."
W. C. White testified in 1900 that:
"None of Mother's workers are authorized to add to the manuscripts
by introducing thoughts of their own."
Miss Marian Davis in the same year wrote:
"From my own knowledge of the work, as well as from the statements
of Sister White herself, I have the strongest possible ground for disbelieving
that such a thing [the adding of thoughts by the copyist] was done."
Miss Fannie Bolton, in 1894, testified:
"I can say that just as far as it is consistent with grammar and
rhetoric, her expressions are left intact."
These clear assertions are in harmony with Mrs. White's
statement penned in 1906. After speaking of the help given her by her husband
and others, already quoted in this document, she said:
"As the work grew, others assisted me in the preparation of matter
for publication. After my husband's death, faithful
helpers joined me, who labored untiringly in the work of copying
the testimonies, and preparing articles for publication. But the reports that
are circulated, that any of my helpers are permitted to add matter or change
the meaning of the messages I write out, are not true." The
Writing and Sending Out of the Testimonies to the Church, p. 4.
To the question, "How were the later books prepared?" we
might briefly reply: Mrs. White wrote voluminously on many topics. To
supplement what was written specifically for some definite book, the literary
assistant gathered from her writings--published articles, manuscripts, letters,
and reports of discourses--other related gems of thought. Working together,
Mrs. White and her assistants planned the outline of the books and prepared the
matter chapter by chapter. Then in its final form, the manuscripts were read
and given final approval by Mrs. White and then sent to the printer.
The book, Ministry
of Healing, although not issued until the year 1905, has become one of
the most highly prized of the Ellen G. White publications. While this popular
work is perhaps the most well-known E. G. White book treating on health, yet it
was not her first effort in presenting this most important subject for the
A few months after the memorable Health Reform Vision was
given, June 6, 1863, an article entitled "Health" appeared in Spiritual
Gifts, Volume IV, (published in 1864) which constitutes the first record of
the instruction given at that time on the subject of disease and its causes as
well as its treatment and cure by rational methods.
With the light and knowledge which was thus bestowed, the
leaders in the developing work of the Sabbath and Advent Movement were faced
with the duty of carrying on an extensive program in health reform education.
To aid in this effort, "How to Live," in six parts of about 64 pages each, was
published in 1865 and 1866. In each of these six parts, Mrs. White had an
article entitled, "Disease and Its Causes." In these six articles, comprising
72 pages in all, she presented more fully, the great truths revealed to her
regarding health and the duty of engaging in a Health Reform movement. The
third of these articles, under the title of "Drugs and Their Effects," was
reprinted in the Review and Herald, in the issues from August 15 to
September 12, 1899.
In later years Mother wrote still more fully the views given
her in 1863, and in subsequent visions. Some of this was published in the
From the year 1864 to 1914, a period of 50 years, she
carried on her heart a burden of presenting to the Adventist people, and
through them to the world, the great light that God had revealed to her
regarding health, temperance, self-denial and holiness. In addition to the many
articles upon these subjects in the Review and Herald, the Health
Reformer, and the Youth's Instructor, in 1890 she brought out the
book, Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, the first half of which is
made up of selections of articles from her pen, and the last half a compilation
of articles written by James White.
She was never satisfied with this brief collection of
articles, yet it was not until fifteen years later, in 1905, that she presented
to the world
the wonderful book, Ministry of Healing. With this brief
background, let us now speak of the preparation of the material for this
For years, Mrs. White and her helpers had been cutting out
of the Review, Health Reformer, and other periodicals, her
articles and parts of articles on Christian Temperance and saving them for
future use. When the time came that she had a sufficient corps of helpers so
that articles for the Review, Signs of the Times, Youth's
Instructor, Bible Echo and our health papers, could be supplied
without absorbing the time and energy of Miss Davis, Mother directed that she
should give first attention to the searching out and bringing together of
articles to compose a book on health and temperance. Then it was found that
there were many hundreds of pages of manuscripts from which she could draw
The Lord had given Sister Marian Davis a wonderful memory,
and this was of great service in her work of searching for and grouping
together the choicest things that Mother had written regarding Christ in His
ministry as a Healer; also as an Example to medical evangelists and medical
missionaries; regarding disease and its true cause; and regarding health and
how to maintain it.
The work was entered upon with excellent courage and with
great determination that of the wonderful things which Sister White had
written, there should be gathered together that which was most forceful, most
enlightening, and most encouraging.
Mother eagerly undertook the work of planning the book. As
Christ was the central theme of all her discourses and writings, His ministry
as the great medical missionary must form the basis of this long-contemplated
lication. That every class of invalids might find hope in
Christ's present-day ministry, it was planned that the first chapters should
show forth Christ as the source of Life, Christ as the Great Healer, Christ as
the very present Minister to the sick and the suffering. It must be shown that
there is no sickness outside of the range of His love and His power.
While the principal aim of the book was to lead the reader
to physical and spiritual life and health, it must also include counsel
especially for the nurse and the physician, pointing out the privilege of their
fellowship with the Life-Giver and an encouragement to follow His methods in
their ministry. Helpful counsel for medical evangelists must also be included.
Time and again while the book was in preparation, Mother and
those associated with her in selecting and arranging the manuscript would
gather in her room and discuss the objects and best plans for the book:
1. Whom the book would serve. 2. How much
room should be given to each subject. 3. What was the best
relationship of the great subjects with which it would deal.
1. Whom the book would serve. 2. How much
room should be given to each subject. 3. What was the best
relationship of the great subjects with which it would deal.
When there had been gathered considerable matter thought to
be suitable for certain chapters, the manuscripts would be grouped and read to
Mother or placed in her hands to read. Oftentimes this revived her memory of
wonderful scenes presented to her, and she entered enthusiastically into the
work of rewriting many passages, giving them a fresh touch and greater vigor.
At times she would find it necessary to adapt an article written with
Seventh-day Adventists in mind, so that the presentations would be appropriate
for those readers also who were not Seventh-day Adventists.
While the work of preparing Ministry of Healing was in full
swing, Mother was called to Washington and Sister Davis was requested to go on
selecting material to be considered by Sister White later. Mother's absence
greatly delayed the work.
The trip east in 1904 occupied more time than was expected,
but immediately on her return to her "Elmshaven" home early in the fall, the
work was resumed by her and the manuscript was quickly brought to completion.
In writing to Mrs. Josephine Gotzian on April 11, 1905, she spoke of the work
on this forthcoming book as follows:
Through my absence last summer, we lost much time on our book work, and for
some time I have been very busy preparing matter for, and reading proofs of
Ministry of Healing. Letter 113, 1905.
In another letter written the same day, she declared, "I
have just finished reading over the proofs of Ministry of Healing" (Letter 109, 1905).
Early in the plans for this book, Mother was led to dedicate
it to a very definite field of usefulness. Speaking of this in a letter to Mr.
H. W. Kellogg on September 20, 1903, she says:
"My next book is to be on temperance and the medical missionary
work. It is my purpose to give the manuscript of this book to our Sanitariums,
to help them to raise the debts resting on them, as I gave Christ's Object Lessons to raise the
debts on our schools. I think that this is the best I can do, and that this
will be a most appropriate book for this purpose. I am preparing other books as
fast as possible, which I wish to bring before the people." Letter 209, 1903.
It was found that the book was admirably planned to lend
itself most readily to the use of the salesman. It was pushed energetically in
the institutional relief campaigns, and this gift instituted by Mother, and
supplemented by the untiring labors of those who joined in making the relief
campaign a success brought great financial benefit to our
medical institutions in America and Europe which were loaded down heavily with
Speaking of the authorship of Ministry of Healing,
two years after its appearance, Mother said in a letter to Elder Burden, "The
Lord gave me His Holy Spirit to enable me to write the manuscript for this
book" (Letter 276, 1907). In urging our people to join heartily in the sale of
this volume as a means of institutional relief, in an article appearing in the
Review of August 13, 1906, she spoke of the content of the book and her
joy in its special use, as follows:
"This book contains the wisdom of the Great Physician. To me it has been a
great privilege to donate my work on these books
Healing and Christ's Object
Lessons] to the cause of God."
Although the outstanding features of the great conflict were
covered in Patriarchs and
Prophets, Desire of Ages, and The Great Controversy, there still remained two wide gaps in the span of history from the fall to the final restoration, one period reaching from the death of David to the birth of Christ, the other covering the first century of the Christian church. When other work permitted, Mrs. White and her literary assistants undertook with enthusiasm the task of gathering and preparing matter for two more volumes to complete the series. As in the case of Desire
of Ages, there were to be found in earlier books and in periodical
articles, hundreds of pages already in print covering portions of the history
of these periods. Also many chapters and portions of chapters could be drawn
from the manu-
script and letter file. Then much new matter was written by
Mrs. White for the work in preparation.
Limited space permits only one brief statement from Mrs.
White relative to the work on these volumes. A letter written October 15, 1911,
gives a picture of the work then in progress:
" My work on the book, The
Acts of the Apostles, is completed. In a few weeks you shall have a
copy. I have had excellent help in preparing this work for the press. There are
other writings that I desire to get before our people, that they may speak when
my voice is silent. The book on Old Testament History [Prophets and Kings] which we hope to
bring out next, will call for earnest effort. I am grateful for the help the
Lord is giving me in the labors of faithful, trained workers, and that these
workers are ready to carry forward this work as fast as it is possible."
Letter 88, 1911.
A few months after the above statement was penned, Acts of the Apostles came from the
press and was given a hearty welcome. Soon the work on Prophets and Kings was undertaken in
earnest, but due to the pressure of other important tasks, was carried forward
As Mrs. White advanced in years, naturally she wrote less
and depended more upon the gathering of matter from the wealth of material
already written. This is especially true of Prophets and Kings which was prepared
during the last three years of her life. She, however, took an active interest
in this work and went over the manuscript chapter by chapter as it was compiled
from her published articles and manuscripts. When chapters could not be
completely rounded out from the already available matter, she gave the help
needed in perfecting and completing the work. In substantiation of these points
we will refer to correspondence between the principal
compiler of the book, Elder C. C. Crisler, and myself, who
was at the time away from home. Brother Crisler's letters not only give
information as to the work on the book, but also little glimpses into the
experiences of Mrs. White during her last active labors. On January 12, 1915,
Brother Crisler wrote to me:
"There is but little of importance to tell you, other than that
your mother is keeping about as usual. She seems to be just about the same from
day to day. I find her able to consider manuscripts daily. . . . She takes
pleasure in this work, and gives real help when we need her help. She also
spends some time in going over her standard books, and in reading large-type
books close by her chair."
On January 22, 1915, he wrote:
"This Friday noon finds us about as usual in all departments. Your
mother is keeping her usual strength--able to get about with a fair degree of
comfort; good appetite most of the time; enjoyment of home life; ability to
spend some hours in reading, and to give consideration to such manuscripts as
are in preparation. For these mercies we continually thank God."
As the work was nearing completion an accident overtook the
author. Then, as Mrs. White was unable to continue her careful study and
approval of new work on the manuscript, the work stopped. This break in the
work, so nearly finished, gave concern to those working on the manuscript and
the prospective publishers of the forthcoming book. A few weeks after the
accident, Brother Crisler wrote to the manager of the Pacific Press regarding
the status of the manuscript as follows:
With the exception of the last two chapters, copy for which we have
abundant material on the file, the manuscript on "The Captivity and Restoration
of Israel," was fully completed prior to Sister White's accident. It is
therefore possible to hope for a finished volume, notwithstanding her present
inability to do any literary work. This may be brought about by the publishers
stating in their preface that the last two chapters were prepared from her
writings, but were not finally gone over by her in person. . . . In view of the
author's inability to consider revisions, it is probable that any further work
manuscript must, of necessity, be in the nature of abridgments
rather than alterations."
The situation is summed up briefly in Life Sketches
from which we will quote a few words:
" At the time of her accident, in February, 1915, all but the last
two chapters had been completed . . . and these final chapters had been
sufficiently blocked out to admit of completion by the inclusion of additonal
matter from her manuscript file." Page 436.
During her last years, as alluded to by Brother Crisler,
Mrs. White frequently took pleasure in re-reading the books she had written
containing the conflict story. In viewing her experience in bringing out these
books, she places the origin of the information and instruction far beyond her
own mind. In 1902, speaking of the source of light presented therein, she said:
"Sister White is not the originator of these books. They contain
the instruction that during her life-work God has been giving her. They contain
the precious, comforting light that God has graciously given His servant to be
given to the world. From their pages this light is to shine into the hearts of
men and women, leading them to the Saviour." Colporteur
Evangelist, p. 36.
The question is asked, "How does Sister White know in regard to the matters
of which she speaks so decidedly, as if she had authority to say these things?"
I speak thus because they flash upon my mind when in perplexity like lightning
out of a dark cloud in the fury of a storm. Some scenes presented before me
years ago have not been retained in my memory, but when the instruction then
given is needed, sometimes even when I am standing before the people, the
remembrance comes sharp and clear, like a flash of lightning, bringing to mind
distinctly that particular instruction. At such times I cannot refrain from
saying the things that flash into my mind, not because I have had a new vision,
but because that which was presented to me, perhaps years in the past, has been
recalled to my mind forcibly. Ms 33, 1911.
In 1890, she wrote as follows regarding the basis of her confidence, and
regarding the attacks that would be made upon her work:
"I testify the things which I have seen, the things which I have
heard, the things which my hands have handled, of the Word of Life. And this
testimony I know to be of the Father and the Son. We have seen and do testify
that the power of the Holy Ghost has accompanied the presentation of the truth,
warning with pen and voice, and giving the messages in their order. To deny
this work would be to deny the Holy Ghost, and would place us in that company
who have departed from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits.
"The enemy will set everything in operation to uproot the confidence
of the believers in the pillars of our faith in the messages of the past, which
have placed us upon the elevated platform of eternal truth, and which have
established and given character to the work. The Lord God of Israel has led out
His people, unfolding to them truth of heavenly origin. His voice has been
heard, and is still heard, saying, 'Go forward from strength to strength, from
grace to grace, from glory to glory. The work is strengthening and broadening,
for the Lord God of Israel is the defense of His people.'" Life Sketches, p. 430.
"Early in my public labors I was bidden by the Lord, 'Write, write,
the things that are revealed to you.' At the time this message came to me, I
could not hold my hand steady. My physical condition made it impossible for me
to write. But again came the word, 'Write the things that are revealed to you.'
I obeyed; and as the result it was not long before I could write page after
page with comparative ease. Who told me what to write? Who steadied my right
hand, and made it possible for me to use a pen? It was the Lord. . . .
"The light that I have received, I have written out, and much of it
is now shining forth from the printed page. There is, throughout my printed
works, a harmony with my present teaching. Some of the instruction found in
these pages was given under circumstances so remarkable as to evidence the
wonder-working power of God in behalf of His truth. Sometimes while I was in
vision, my friends would approach me, and exclaim, 'Why, she does not breathe!'
Placing a mirror before my lips, they found that no moisture gathered on the
glass. It was while there was no sign of any breathing, that I kept talking of
the things that were being presented before me.
"These messages were thus given to substantiate the faith of all,
that in these last days we might have confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy. I
thank God that He has preserved my voice, which in my early youth physicians
and friends declared would be silent within three months.
"The God of heaven saw that I needed to pass through a trying
experience in order to be prepared for the work He had for me to do. For the
past half century my faith in the ultimate triumph of the third angel's message
and everything connected with it, has been substantiated by the wonderful
experiences through which I have passed. This is why I am anxious to have my
books published and circulated in many languages. I know that the light
contained in these books is the light of heaven." RH, June
Thought for the Day
In this age of boasted enlightenment, the Christian church is confronted with a world lying in midnight darkness. - TM 457