Originally published in
ADVENTIST REVIEW, JUNE 18, 1981
Ellen White's Last Four Books--Part 2
More than "one more book"
By ARTHUR L. WHITE
Ellen White felt that her waning time and strength should be devoted to producing her books as they would speak to large congregations over and over again.
When the year 1912 dawned, Ellen White was in her eighty-fifth year. The marvel to acquaintances, church leaders, and her family, was her ability to continue to produce. In early January she wrote: "There will be one more book--that dealing with the Old Testament history from the time of David to the time of Christ. The material for this book is written, and is on file, but is not yet put into shape. When this book is completed, I shall feel that my work is finished. Yet I can hold my pen as firmly today as I have done in years past."--Letter 4, 1912.
Book production was pressed hard because she and her associates knew well that her years were running out. That her physical strength was declining was clear to those about her, but she kept steadily at her book work. W. C. White wrote to her other son, James Edson White, on May 13, 1912: "Mother's health is quite changeable. Some days she reads a little too much, then does not sleep at night and the next day is very feeble. Perhaps the next night she will rest well and feel of good courage and ambitious the next day." . . . "Instead of writing several letters a day as in the olden time, Mother writes only two or three a month nowadays."
But the next day he could write to A. G. Daniells, the president of the General Conference: "We are making excellent progress with the work on Mother's book .... We hope that the heaviest pan of this work will be completed in July."--WCW to AGD, May 14, 1912.
A few weeks later, she herself wrote to her old friends the S. N. Haskells: "I must write you a short letter today. I have begun several letters to you, but have not succeeded in finishing any. I hope you will not cease to write to me, even though I do not write often. I am always interested in your work, and always glad to hear from you.
"We are all very busy, doing our best to prepare the new book for publication. I want the light of truth to go to every place, that it may enlighten those who are now ignorant of the reasons for our faith. "--Letter 28, June 11, 1911.
A potential of more books
On Sabbath, June 15, 1912, W. C. White found his mother rested. Instead of attending church, he spent much of the morning and a part of the afternoon telling her of the progress of the work, particularly at Loma Linda. In the visit Sabbath afternoon they discussed her often expressed intention to visit Portland, Maine, once more. She had been eager to do this, to bear her testimony again in the city that was her girlhood home. He pointed out to her the loss that could come to the cause by her leaving her book work just then and enumerated some of the enterprises they hoped to undertake as soon as the manuscript for the Old Testament history was completed.
He mentioned to her that among the books being called for was a revision of Christian Education. (This should not be confused with the book Education, published in 1903, but was a 250-page volume drawn from E. G. White manuscripts and issued ten years earlier.) Gospel Workers, published in 1892, was to be revised and enlarged. W. C. White then mentioned "a compilation from the Testimonies for translation into foreign languages. Experience and Views revised (Life Sketches of Ellen G. White), Story of the Health Reform Movement, Story of Labors in Europe, Story of Labors in Australia, Bible Sanctification revised," and so on. It was quite an array of work looming before them.
Ellen White's response surprised and greatly pleased her son. She said that for about two weeks she had felt no burden to go to Portland in the coming summer, and then she declared: "'I am not able to make such a journey in my present state of health . . . . I feel that my time and strength must be devoted to my books. They will speak to large congregations over and over again after my voice is silent.
"'Remaining here, I can attend nearby meetings, and if we consent to break our work for anything, it will be in time of necessity to help the work at Loma Linda.'"--WCW to AGD, June 16, 1912.
But the main thrust through 1912, especially the summer and fall months, was in book preparation. In May, Ellen White wrote: "Just now, what strength I have is given mostly to bringing out in book form what I have written in past years on the Old Testament history from the time of Solomon to the time of Christ. Last year The Acts of the Apostles was put in print, and is being widely circulated; and now we are making good progress with this Old Testament history. We are advancing as fast as possible.
"I have faithful and conscientious helpers, who are gathering together what I have written for the Review, Signs and Watchman, and in manuscripts and letters, and arranging it in chapters for the book. Sometimes I examine several chapters in a day, and at other times I can read but little because my eyes become weary, and I am dizzy. The chapters that I have been reading recently are very precious."--Letter 20, 1912.
At about the same time, W. C. White, writing of the excellent progress being made with the book, reported that she had read 25 or 30 chapters. There were 60 when the book Prophets and Kings was finished.
It was the hope of the office staff, as mentioned earlier, that the book could be ready for sale by the time of the forthcoming General Conference session, to be held in the spring of 1913. In November, W. C. White wrote of the work: "During the summer much time has been devoted by Brother C. C. Crisler, Sister Minnie Hawkins and Sister Maggie Hare-Bree in diligently searching through Mother's writings and gathering together what she has written on different phases of Old Testament history from the time of Solomon to Malachi. We have all felt that this long-neglected work ought to he carried forward as rapidly as possible now while Mother is able to supervise the work.
"Mother is writing very little new matter on the Old Testament history, but as we place before her what she has written in past years and she reads it chapter by chapter, her suggestions regarding matter yet to he sought for lead us to go again to the manuscripts and find that which had been overlooked."--WCW to Dear Friend. November 5, 1912.
Guidance and direction
As W. C. White, on January 1, 1913, wrote to Elder Haskell, conveying his mother's greetings for the New Year, he commented: "It is . . . perfectly plain that the Lord is working through her in a remarkable manner to give guidance and direction to the work that is being done now in the gathering of her writings and the preparation of them for publication."--WCW to S. N. Haskell.
Ellen White celebrated the New Year by sending a sizable package of dried fruit to her old friends George and Martha Amadon in Battle Creek. Prunes, peaches, pears, figs, and raisins were included (WCW to George Amadon. Jan. 13, 1913).
Writing of her situation, she stated: "During the past four years I have written comparatively few letters. What strength I have had has been given mostly to the completion of important book work.
"Occasionally I have attended meetings, and have visited institutions in California, but the greater portion of the time since the last General Conference has been spent in manuscript work at my country home, 'Elmshaven,' near St. Helena.
"I am thankful that the Lord is sparing my life to work a little longer on my books. O that I had strength to do all that I see ought to be done! I pray that He may impart to me wisdom, that the truths our people so much need may be presented clearly and acceptably. I am encouraged to believe that God will enable me to do this."--Manuscript 4, 1913.
But for one who all through her life had been out among the churches, the literary work at Elmshaven did, at times, seem confining. She wrote: "I long to be personally engaged in earnest work in the field, and I should most assuredly be engaged in more public labor did I not believe that at my age it is not wise to presume on one's physical strength. I have a work to do in communicating to the church and to the world the light that has been entrusted to me from time to time all through the years during which the third angel's message has been proclaimed."--Ibid.
So it was book preparation in earnest, Ellen White working closely with her trusted literary helpers. Work on the Old Testament history, pushed so hard in 1912, seems to have slowed down, awaiting Clarence Crisler's attention.
Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students
As the year 1913 opened, the book they then called Christian Education (which we know today as Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students) was receiving first attention. In a letter written to O. A. Olsen on January 2, W. C. White described in some detail the procedures in preparing the manuscript: "First of all. Professor Salisbury [secretary of the General Conference Department of Education] sat down with Mother's secretaries and spent two or three hours in pointing out those articles in the old book [Christian Education, 1893] which he regarded as essential; also those articles in Special Testimonies on Education [ 1897] which he thought should be used in the new edition.
"Then Sisters Minnie Hawkins, Maggie Bree, and Mary Steward gave the matter which he has designated a very careful reading, and made notes as to its contents. Then they went to Mother's files to see what new matter they could find and they made note of its contents.
"Then we made a list of departments which we thought ought to be considered in the compilation, and with these subjects before them, they made a thorough study of printed matter and manuscripts. As they collected matter, the departments developed from ten to fourteen."--WCW to O. A. Olsen, Jan. 2, 1913.
When the manuscript had been pulled together in its preliminary form and each chapter read by Ellen White, it was submitted to several leading educators for critical reading. To them W. C. White wrote: "If you find anything in the manuscript to criticize, if you know of important material which should be added, or if you have any suggestions regarding arrangement, please send them along, and we will give your suggestions consideration."--WCW to M. E. Kern, Jan. 15. 1913.
The procedures in handling this manuscript were quite different from those followed in the preparation of Prophets and Kings. In the case of the Old Testament history there was a natural sequence which must be followed. In the case of the book on education some judgment could be exercised in the selection of materials and the most helpful sequence in which these should appear. Quite naturally, dedicated educators, who by nature of their work had given diligent study to the Spirit of Prophecy counsels which had a bearing on their work, would be in the best position to point out any important counsels that might have been overlooked, and to suggest the most effective arrangement of articles.
As work on the manuscript neared completion early in 1913, Ellen White's attention was called to the fact that it contained no counsel giving clear-cut guidance to school administrators, particularly in our colleges, concerning the association of students in our schools. She had written on the subject as the Avondale school was getting under way and had dealt with general principles in counsels to Battle Creek and Healdsburg colleges. To meet the need in filling out the manuscript on this point, she dictated a statement, and when it was worked into the manuscript, she read and reread it in its context to be certain it conveyed her intent adequately and correctly. The statement is found on page 101.
With the book Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students in the hands of the publishers, work on the manuscript for Gospel Workers took a prominent place in the program at Elmshaven. On February 18, 1913, W. C. White reported to Elder Daniells: "Mother is quite well these days, but not at all strong. Our work in the office is progressing nicely. Minnie and Maggie are at work collecting material for Gospel Workers."
On March 31, he wrote to Mrs. N. H. Druillard, an old friend of the family: "Mother . . . keeps quite cheerful, rides out almost every pleasant day, reads all the manuscripts that we are preparing for the printer, gives us much valuable counsel about the work."
And Ellen White herself reported on May 7: "I have a company of faithful workers, who are helping to prepare matter for the press. They are of good courage, and look on the bright side. We are doing our best to gather together the precious instruction that the people need."--Letter 9, 1913.