Originally published in
ADVENTIST REVIEW, JUNE 25, 1981
Ellen White's Last Four Books--Part 3
The story of Prophets and Kings
By ARTHUR L. WHITE
During the last two years of her life Ellen White gave her strength to book preparation.
A General Conference was to Ellen White a very important occasion. She had missed few sessions through the 70 years of her active ministry. As the time neared for the thirty-eighth such meeting, to be held in Washington, D. C., in May, 1913, she wished she might attend. Instead, she sent two formal messages to be read to the delegates and asked her son to present orally her words of greeting. He had an opportunity to do so, as A. G. Daniells, after a brief address at the opening meeting, gave an opportunity for words of gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving. As he arose to bear his testimony, W. C. White conveyed the message his mother had given him: "Tell our brethren to be of good cheer. Tell them to have faith in God and expect great things, to undertake great things, and in His strength to go forward. Tell them not to fear or to look back. My prayers will be with them.
"Tell our brethren I feel perfectly clear that it is God's will that I shall remain at home and reserve what strength I have to help in the work of bringing my writings into book form, so that they can be published for the people."--General Conference Bulletin, May 16, 1913, pp. 5, 6.
Then in giving a report on her state of health and welfare, he stated: "Mother is eighty-five years old. She feels the infirmities of age, but she is not suffering with sickness. She is comfortably well. Almost every pleasant day she rides out for an hour or two. Usually she devotes an hour or two to reading and writing, from day to day.
"Very frequently, as I visit her in the morning, I find the Review in her hands and she says, `What a wonderful paper! What an interesting report of our work!@ And in connection with various reports in the Review, she often comments on the progress of the work in many lands.
"Mother's courage is good. She has no fear of the future. She expects to rest in the grave a little while before the Lord comes, but she has no dread. Her only anxiety is to use day by day what strength God gives her in a way most acceptable to her Master."--Ibid.
During the Conference session, W. C. White read one of the messages his mother had addressed to the delegates, and a little later A. G. Daniells read the other. The messages brought courage to the workers assembled.
A few weeks after the Conference closed, but before W. C. White was back at Elmshaven, Sara McEnterfer, Ellen White's private secretary, traveling companion, and nurse, informed him of Ellen White's state of health: "Mother's health has been more than we dared to hope for during your absence. She sings in the night and she sings in the day (even while in the bathtub taking her treatment). She seems to enjoy her food very much, and I believe it is doing her good. We get her out to ride twice nearly every day." Steady, but sometimes seemingly slow, progress was made in the tasks of preparing "Old Testament History" and Gospel Workers, and in meeting the incessant demand for E. G. White articles for the Review and Signs of the Times.
On August 28, Ellen White herself reported concerning the progress of her literary work: "The past few months I have not done much letter writing; for I have wished to keep my strength for the reading of important matter in my book work. I have with me an excellent company of workers, men and women who are as true as steel to principle, and whose entire interests are bound up with this work. My faith has increased as I have tried to do my best to complete my writings."--Letter 11, 1913.
Through December, she was still much employed in book production. She wrote of this on December 4, 1913: "I am fairly well health wise, not suffering much pain, but I realize that old age is reminding me that I am mortal. My book work is still taking my time, and I am trying to finish my work with joy and not with grief. I have not lost my courage."--Letter 13, 1913.
Praying that her life may be prolonged
Two weeks later, W. C. White, in writing to the S. N. Haskells, was happy to report: "December 19: Mother kept quite well last summer and through the fall. Just now she is not so strong, but we are praying that her life may be prolonged, and her strength sustained that she may direct us in the work of preparing her manuscripts for the printers."--WCW to SNH, December 19, 1913.
Then on the last day of the year, he wrote to Elder Daniells: "December 31: Some lines of our work are moving forward well. Sister Bree is making steady progress in the preparation of copy for Gospel Workers. Mother is reading this article by article, and enjoys it very much."--WCW to AGD, December 31, 1913.
In 1914 W. C. White was at home more of the time working with the staff during the first part of the year. Since Clarence Crisler was not reporting to him almost daily, there is a paucity of detailed records of the kind that has made this series of Review articles possible. Work on the books was pushed forward earnestly.
In May, 1914, James Edson White went west to visit his mother and spent about a month at Elmshaven. Mother and son had an enjoyable time. Then she had an experience which W. C. White later explained to his brother Edson: "Shortly after your visit, she had trouble with her right hand for two weeks, and with her right foot for a week, and with her whole right side for a day or two. We called Dr. Klingerman, and he gave her a very faithful examination. He said she had had a very light stroke, and that its effect would be only temporary. Then he told May Walling and Sara what to add to the regular treatment, and said he thought he need not call again.
"After four or five days, Mother was riding out every day as before, but it was nearly four weeks before she cared to read the Review or anything in the books and manuscripts with which she is surrounded. When we had manuscripts that needed her attention, we waited until she was feeling well, and of good courage."--WCW to JEW, December 15, 1914.
Ellen White commented that she sensed
continually the uplifting presence of the
Spirit of God.
Allowing a few weeks for recovery, Ellen White was able again to give attention to the book work. As chapters were brought to her, her son reported that she read some, or asked others to read them to her, and she would comment on them. Her principal contribution to literary work in this her eighty-seventh year was toward her books as she read and approved chapters and at times added a bit here or there. Through June it seemed to those about her that she was somewhat less steady on her feet, and her endurance was waning.
Though she did have lapses of memory and at times lost her orientation, members of her office staff noted one remarkable phenomenon--her grasp of spiritual subjects never faltered. On October 4, W. C. White left home for an extended trip to the South and the East. While his absence slowed the work in the office and left considerable loneliness, it had its benefits in the frequent reports by letter from Crisler. His almost daily reports furnish a very detailed account of Ellen White's activities and state of health. On Thursday evening, October 8, Crisler, who was working in his office not far from the Elmshaven home, wrote: "I can hear Sister White praying as I write. She is holding evening worship with the girls. She seems of good cheer today."--CCC to WCW, October 8. 1914. Later in the month, Crisler reported that as he called at the home, he found Ellen White had been reading in The Great Controversy, and she rejoiced over the "plain revelations" of truth set forth in the book. Her mind was remarkably clear--a blessing which caused her to rejoice (CCC to WCW, October 28, 1914).
Through the earlier months of 1914, there had been hastening of the work on the Old Testament history, fearful that if there was delay the manuscript could not receive Ellen White's careful attention and her counsel and approval. Now the task was well along, and Clarence Crisler went back to some of the chapters that came short in richness of the standard set by the rest of the manuscript. With Ellen White's counsel and help, he was rounding out some of these chapters. This is why the manuscript that earlier had been spoken of as about completed was still in preparation. Crisler wrote: "As we find new material from the file and add to the chapters that have already been prepared and passed upon, and reread these amplified portions to her, she seems to enjoy going over them anew. This perfecting of the manuscript is slow work, but very interesting; and we are hopeful of the outcome." --CCC to WCW, January 1, 1915.
On Sunday, November 1, she and C.C. Crisler went over eight pages of manuscript on Old Testament history. He was struggling with the task of finding adequate material to fill out the six remaining chapters. They talked about the forthcoming book and discussed some of Jeremiah=s prophecies. The chapter they had gone over was one of six still unfinished. It was Crisler=s hope that the next evening she would be able to hear and approve another chapter on Jeremiah. That would leave only four to be completed--"one more on Jeremiah, one on the Restoration, one on Malachi, and one of Messianic prophecy."
And so it went from day to day. On Friday, November 20, Crisler read to Mrs. White a few pages of manuscript for the Old Testament book, then again on Sunday he read a half dozen pages (CCC to WCW, November 22, 1914). He wrote to W. C. White of what never ceased to amaze him as well as others close to Ellen White: "When we touch spiritual topics, the mind seems to be lifted above confusion. When a Scripture is partially quoted, she very often finishes it. I have tried this over and over again, especially when repeating the promises. And the Jeremiah and other Old Testament Scriptures seem very familiar to her, and she catches them up and comments on them, and goes forward with the quotations, as of old. I regard this as a special providence in our favor just now." -Ibid.
Two weeks later, Crisler reported that Ellen White's mind seemed quite clear, and they worked together on Old Testament history chapters from day to day. On Wednesday, she became reminiscent--something which was now quite unusual. Crisler reported: "She tried to recall the name of some brother of long ago who expressed discouragement over the prospect of a very large work that would need to be done before the world had been warned; and she says another brother, one of large faith, turned to him, and his face went white, and with strong emotion, he said, 'My brother, would you permit such a prospect to bring discouragement? Do you not know that God would have us press the battle to the gate! Do you not know He would have us labor on, and on, and on, knowing that victory lies ahead!"--CCC to WCW, December, 1914.
Then she commented on the fact that she sensed continually the uplifting presence of the Spirit of God. He added: "She said she would not speak discouragingly, and yet she would not wish to convey the impression that no disappointments come to her. We are to expect the enemy to bring us disappointments, but these need never bring discouragement. When disappointed, we are to labor on until triumph comes; and this is working by faith."--Ibid.
It was a good week for book preparation, and the two were spending some time each day working together. She made frequent comments and some helpful suggestions (CCC to WCW, November 30 and December 2, 1914).
On December 3 Crisler went over another chapter for the Old Testament history, and in connection with this Ellen White told him of a recent experience. Here is how he reported it: "Sister White says that during the night session she hears voices saying, 'Advance! Advance! Advance! Press the battle to the gate!"--CCC to WCW, December 3, 1914.
Crisler commented, "She seems to apply this to the completion of the work of the Lord in all parts of the earth, also to the completion of important book work . . . . I believe the Lord would have us all take courage, and press forward steadily."--Ibid. A few days later, he wrote that the word spoken by Sister White kept ringing in his ears, "Advance! Advance! Advance!" This was true also of others who learned of the experience (CCC to WCW, December 4, 1914).
On Monday, December 14, Crisler reported that Ellen White's day-to-day condition remained about the same, and he said he tried to visit her "as often as she is able to consider matters with zest," which was, as a rule, sometimes once, sometimes twice, daily. While he had skipped days, he said such was exceptional. On this particular day and the day before, he went over the Daniel portion anew with Sister White, and she seemed to enjoy rehearsing the story. Hearing it read revived old memories on her part. Her comments during the visit gave Crisler an opportunity to do additional work on the manuscript (CCC to WCW, December 14 and 17, 1914).
Mid-December was marked by an encouraging rallying point in Ellen White's physical condition. For several weeks she was able to give more attention than usual to the literary tasks.
Clarence Crisler wrote to Elder S. N. Haskell on Thursday, December 24, and had something to say on the subject in which so many were interested--Ellen White's state of health. "On some days," he said, "she is stronger than on others: but she is not so strong now as when you were last with us." She gives consideration, he said, "to a few questions connected with the advancement of the general work," and goes "over with us manuscripts being prepared from her writings or for publication." He observed: "She is more often brain-weary, and when weary, she is forgetful . . . [and] forgets details." Nevertheless she was in possession of remarkably clear concepts of religious and spiritual matters: "Her mind seems to keep unusually clear on scriptural subjects and especially on the precious promises of the Word; and so her meditations are sweet, and she has comfort and joy through the consolation the Bible affords every Christian."-CCC to SNH, December, 1914.
"At other times," Crisler went on to say, "she has much to say of former times, and becomes reminiscent concerning her associates of years gone by; and then she seems much as when you were with us." He added: "There are many times, too, when her mind is fruitful on Bible themes; and we are endeavoring to take advantage of such times, and to present before her for her careful consideration that which must receive her personal attention prior to publication in book or article form.
"Were it not for the special interposition of God in her behalf. I doubt not but that she would find difficulty in keeping up this line of work; but with Heaven's blessing we have found it possible to advance slowly yet surely. Every advance step taken in the finishing of manuscript work, brings to her real delight; and she rejoices in the privilege of being permitted still to use her talents in binding about the edges, as she says, and in rounding out her work in proper form, that the 'well done' may be spoken of her when she rests from her labors."--Ibid.
The final months
January l, 1915, Crisler wrote of work on the chapters linking the Solomon story with that of Elijah because they were "not bright enough and hopeful enough to suit" Ellen White (CCC to WCW, January 4, 1915). So, following "her counsel in making them more nearly right, "scriptures were introduced which she felt were needed. Crisler was pleased that this satisfied her and he himself was glad they could now include matter they "disliked to see left out of the more hastily prepared volume" (CCC to WCW, January 4 and 5, 1915).
As the year 1915 opened, the Review and Herald was setting type for Gospel Workers. As the work progressed, the workers at Elmshaven were reading proofs and double checking. More meticulous care was taken with an Ellen White book than with other works.
On Tuesday, January 5, 1915, Crisler had occasion to write to Edson White, and he reported on his mother's health: "You will be pleased to learn that Sister White is keeping up fairly well, all things considered . . . . She can get about the house unaided and unattended, going freely from room to room and up and down stairs; but her steps are much slower and uncertain than in former years, and even than when you were last with us [May, 1914] . . . .
"Often during the past few months she has spent a good portion of the time downstairs, sitting in the sitting room by the fireplace; and Miss May Walling has endeavored to sit much with her, to keep her company . . . . There is really more home life for your mother than during the years when her activities led her to isolate herself in her office room most of the time."
Two days later he wrote to W. C. White: "I am sending you these few lines to tell you that your mother is about the same, healthwise. She spends part of her time reading the large-print volumes within easy reach, and seems content. Today we went over another long chapter of the Elijah story."--CCC to WCW, January 7, 1915.
On January 12, 1915, the report was: "Your mother . . . seems to be just about the same from day to day. I find her able to consider manuscripts daily, in harmony with the plan outlined in recent letters. She takes pleasures in this work, and gives us real help when we need her help . . . . At times, I find your mother going over the Signs and Review and other papers; but of late I have not found her reading the newspaper."--CCC to WCW, January 12, 1915.
Then on Sunday, January 17, he wrote to W. C. White: "I went to your mother's sitting room to have a visit with her. We read over some of the Amos and Hosea prophecies, and considered matter that will strengthen the chapter dealing with these."
February 10 marks the writing of a letter by D. E. Robinson to S. N. Haskell. He wrote: "You will be glad to know that Sister White's general health is fairly good. She is still able to dress herself and to get around the house. She takes her meals with the family, and when the weather is good goes out for a drive.
"She takes an interest in the matter that is being prepared from her manuscripts for publication. She constantly expresses her gratitude to God for His care over her. The last three days I have been eating at her table, and she thoroughly enjoys her food. Yet we who are associated with her can see that she is constantly growing weaker."
By Friday, February 12, W. C. White was home and by letter informed his friends: "Friday afternoon, February 12, as I was leaving the office for a quick trip to St. Helena, Mother came outdoors, and we spent ten minutes walking about in the bright sunshine and talking about the progress of the message in all the world."--WCW to "Dear Friend," February 15, 1915.
The next day, Sabbath, February 13, 1915, as she entered her writing room Ellen White fell and broke her hip, She lived another five months, but her work was done. Two chapters for the Old Testament history were still not quite finished. Ellen White's death and funeral and the major adjustments made at Elmshaven left the work on the manuscript and the proposition of the publication of the book we know today as Prophets and Kings somewhat in limbo. After seeking counsel the White trustees decided to move forward with the publishing of this book which would fill out the complete five-volume series on "The Conflict of the Ages" story. The unfinished chapters were completed with materials available from the manuscript files, and the manuscript for the book was sent to the Pacific Press for publication. In due time it was ready for the market.