THE PRESCOTT LETTER TO W. C.
April 6, 1915
A review of circumstances surrounding a letter written by W.
W. Prescott to W. C. White
regarding Ellen White’s book production.
A Statement Prepared by Arthur L. White
The W.C. White
Letter Throws Some Light on the Situation
The Prescott Letter of April 6, 1915
Perils Pointed Out
W. W. Prescott from Review Editor to City
to Daniells and Prescott
A Desire to
Correct Denominational Books
Two Points in the Prescott
Prescott and Daniells React
Differently to Spirit of Prophecy Counsel
W. W. Prescott's Major Problem--the
Production of the E.G. White Books
*Prescott's Point Involving the Spirit of
A Work That Spoke for
Were People Left in
Ignorance of Supposed Facts?
Circumstances That Throw Light on the
W. C. White
and the 1919 Bible Conference
The W. C. White Response--May 7,
Prescott After 1915
APPENDIX A - THE PRESCOTT LETTER TO W.C. WHITE
APPENDIX B - THE W. C. WHITE LETTER TO ELDER
A letter written in confidence by Elder W. W. Prescott is now being circulated quite widely, and is being used entirely isolated from its setting. Its expressions of distress concerning some phases of denominational history and the Spirit of Prophecy are interpreted as revealing a serious coverup in the handling of the Ellen G. White writings. We think that certain circumstances and situations must be understood if the letter is to be evaluated correctly. Briefly they are as follows:
Ancestry and Experience: W. W. Prescott was born in 1855 of Adventist parents, was reared in New England, and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1877. The next eight years were divided between teaching and publishing. (See SDA Encyclopedia, Article, “W. W. Prescott,” pp. 1148, 1149.) In 1885 Prescott was called to the presidency of Battle Creek College where he served until 1894. When Union College was opened in 1891, he was asked to assume its presidency while still serving in Battle Creek, and the next year when Walla Walla College opened he was called to serve as its president also. In 1891 he organized the first teachers' institute, which met for six weeks.
At the close of his service as college president in 1894, he was, because of his reputation as a Biblical scholar, sent on a world tour to hold Bible insti-
tutes. He terminated this trip with a ten-month stay in Australia where he aided in getting the Avondale school under way. While in Australia he did some evangelistic preaching which was well received. Then Prescott was called to England where he worked somewhat in association with E. J. Waggoner. He espoused some of Waggoner's views on sanctification. At the 1901 General Conference session he was called to serve as a vice-president, a position he held until 1905, when he was 50 years of age. In early 1902 he was invited to join the editorial staff of the Review and Herald, and on Uriah Smith's death in 1903 he was appointed editor, a position he held until a few weeks after the 1909 General Conference session. At that time, in response to Ellen White's counsel, and in harmony with the advice of his brethren, he was released from editorial work to give his full time to city evangelism. He found it difficult to rise fully to the challenge.
From 1909 to 1915 he edited the Protestant Magazine, a quarterly journal published by the Review and Herald. In 1915, at the age of sixty, Prescott, in the depths of disappointment and depression, wrote with a troubled heart to W. C. White, a lifetime acquaintance one year his senior.
The W.C. White Letter Throws Some Light on the Situation
The Prescott letter of April 6, 1915, was called forth by one written to him by W. C. White on March 12. (Both letters appear in full in the Appendix). White wrote of his mother's accident which terminated her literary work; of the accomplishments in book production now being brought to a close; of his recent visit to Washington and his conversation with Prescott and of their discussion of the “perplexities which” added to his “burden of sadness.” He wrote of his “mother’s love and tenderness” manifested toward him, and of the high esteem in which she held him.
Ellen White's regard for Prescott was revealed clearly by an incident that occurred in the early 1890s. In 1892 there appeared in the church in America one Anna Philipps who claimed to be especially led by God in visions and conveyed her messages to church members and church leaders in “testimonies.” Both A. T. Jones and W. W. Prescott became involved in supporting her and in bringing her messages before some of our large churches. When word came from Ellen White in Australia that Miss Phillips' work was not sound and had been endorsed without clear evidence and testing, both Jones and Prescott were greatly embarrassed. They were placed in an awkward position, and could have been severely criticized by their brethren. But Ellen White wrote from Australia on June 1, 1894:
“I have the most tender feelings toward our brethren who have made this mistake. . . . Brethren Jones and Prescott are the Lord’s chosen messengers, beloved of God. They have cooperated with God in the work for this time. While I cannot endorse their mistakes, I am in sympathy and union with them in their general work.
“The Lord sees that they need to walk in meekness and lowliness of mind before Him, and to learn lessons which will make them more careful in every word they utter and in every step they take. These brethren are God's ambassadors. They have been quick to catch the bright beams of the Sun of righteousness, and have responded by imparting the heavenly light to others.”--Letter 27, 1894.
On March 12, 1915, as W. C. White finished the personal part of his letter to Elder Prescott, he wrote:
“I truly wish that there was something that I could say or do to cheer your heart, and help you take that hopeful, and trustful, and joyous view of your life work, and of God's leadership with which your brethren have regarded it.”
The implications are interesting and enlightening. Prescott was in the trough of disappointment and despondency. W. C. White was endeavoring to bring courage to his heart.
The Prescott Letter of April 6, 1915
In his response to W. C. White, Elder Prescott expressed concern in four areas: (l) His personal disappointment that he and his associates might not live to witness the consummation of the work; (2) Concern over the failure to correct errors in our books; (3) The personal shock of his experiences during the previous six or eight years; (4) The Ellen G. White writings and the way they were handled.
Before considering these concerns in a specific way, we do well to observe Ellen White's seeming uneasiness regarding Prescott's relationship to some things taking place in the denomination. She seemed pleased with his presidency of Battle Creek College, but disappointed in his advocacy of the visions of Anna Phillips. She was pleased with his work in Australia, and particularly the effectiveness of the evangelistic meetings he held.
But in 1901 she received light regarding his perils in imbibing some of the E. J. Waggoner teachings on sanctification, and some other points, and sounded a warning.
In July, 1902, she advised that Elder Prescott was not to give his entire time to editorial work or to teaching, but to public ministry, particularly at camp meetings, and he should be left free to engage in such work (Ms 104, 1902). Was there a hint in this that Ellen White in her tactful way was endeavoring to guide Elder Prescott into positive, outgoing work in soul saving, which would barricade his own soul? Later statements seem to imply this.
In 1905, in vision she saw Elder Prescott with some others in a meeting where discouraging aspects of the work were dwelt upon and “possibilities of a discouraging nature were presented” (Ms 115, 1905). A heavenly messenger stood before those present and admonished, “You are to serve God more perfectly. I have not found thy ways perfect before God. There is need of trustful, unwavering faith and joy in the Lord” (Ibid.).
About this time, or a little later, Ellen White wrote of a scene in which Elders Prescott and Daniells were conversing with Dr. Kellogg, listening to subtle reasoning prompted by evil angels close by. Both Prescott and Daniells seemed confused concerning Ellen White's work, considering it a mystery. She described what to her seemed a life-and-death struggle on the part of the two men. Kellogg, in subtle reasoning, almost overwhelmed them.
Then, through the agency of a heavenly messenger, the thought came to the men to “review the past experience of the people of God; review the history of the work from the first,” and the question was asked, “Has this work been what it has been represented to you to be?” Then the heavenly messenger caused to pass before them “scene after scene” until they saw truth bearing the signature of heaven in the past, then the present, and still more decidedly in the future ( Letter 100, 1911). (Likely written earlier, but copied and filed in 1911.)
On May 22, 1908, while Prescott was still editor of the Review and Herald, Ellen White addressed him, sounding a warning:
“At times, Elder Prescott, you have come very near making shipwreck of your faith. Only the grace of God and the confidence
you have had in the messages He has sent through the Spirit of Prophecy have held you back. I was shown that although you have had many years of experience in the cause of God, you are still in danger of making grave mistakes.
“You are inclined to catch hold of some minor matter which you consider important, and place great weight upon it. At such times Satan is waiting and watching for an opportunity to influence your mind, and through you to work upon many other minds, leading them to questioning and doubt. The Lord has not called you to such a work as this. Upon some questions silence will reveal a spirit of wisdom and discretion.”--Letter 166, 1908.
And then Ellen White warned and counseled:
“Satan is working with all his ingenuity to sidetrack souls. What shall we do? Let us believe that the Lord is willing to raise up and strengthen the weak.
“You will find your greatest strength in dwelling upon that which is spiritual. Let sanctification of the truth of the Word of God be revealed in your life. Let this agency refine and ennoble the soul. The Lord would have His ministering servants walk humbly before Him. ?Take My yoke upon you,’ He invites, ?and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.’”--Ibid.
A few days later she addressed another message to Elder Prescott in which she mentioned his involvement in pressing his views on the question of the “daily” of Daniel 8. She cautioned:
“You have many times escaped from the snare of the enemy. But you are not beyond the danger of making mistakes. You sometimes allow your mind to center upon a certain train of thought, and you are in danger of making a mountain out of a molehill. Brother Prescott, there has been a serious weakness in your work of ministry. . . . I write this to caution you.”-- Letter 224, 1908.
It must be said for Elder Prescott that he had a high regard for Ellen White and her messages to him. These messages, some of which offer insights into his personal experience, are cited, not to disparage him, but since wide publicity
has been given to his 1915 letter, to aid in a search for what may have constituted the basis of his discouragement as revealed in that letter.
W. W. Prescott from Review Editor to City Evangelism
At the General Conference session of 1909 Ellen White was carrying a heavy burden for the spiritual experience and growth of men in leading positions, and particularly Elder Prescott, the editor of the Review and Herald. She wrote on June 3, first in general terms, and then more specifically:
“The Lord is not pleased with the spiritual advancement that Elder Prescott has made. He is not where the Lord would have him be. He would be the recipient of much greater spiritual strength if he were much of the time out in the field seeking to lead souls to the light of truth.
“Brother Prescott, your ministerial ability is needed in the work that God requires shall be done in our cities. . . . I am instructed to say to you that you are needed in the fields that are opening for evangelistic work. When you make the Lord your trust, and give to the people the message of truth, wonderful reformation will be seen.”--Ms 41, 1909.
It is clear that Ellen White's message had a double thrust--Elder Prescott's spiritual welfare, and then the demands of city evangelism. It was in a somewhat similar way, in an effort to save Elder A. T. Jones, a member of the General Conference Committee who was under Dr. Kellogg's influence, that Ellen White in early 1905 urged that he be called away from Battle Creek to evangelism in the city of Washington. In working to save others, he would be saved.
A few days after the close of the General Conference session, Ellen White, meeting with the General Conference Committee, urged that Elder Prescott should not remain in Washington to do a work another man could do. “He can stand before the people,” she declared, “and give the reasons of our faith in an accept-
able manner. I know this, because I have been associated with him [in Australia] in labor” (Ms 53 1909).
Again there surfaces one of the basic reasons for saying what she did--Elder Prescott’s eternal welfare:
“His gift is not to be used longer as it is now; for if he continues to labor here, his health and strength will be used up. But if he will go out into the public ministry, strength will come to him.”--Ibid.
Elder G. A. Irwin, General Conference vice-president, asked:
“In all that you have said concerning the work of Elder Prescott, do you mean that he is to continue as editor of the paper, and also to go out and preach in the cities occasionally?”
Ellen White's answer sent a shiver through the committee. It was firm and spoken under conviction and based on light God had given her:
“No, no. He must give himself up to the work of the ministry. His strength should not be divided. He is to give himself to the evangelistic work, for the very talent that he would otherwise use in helping to carry on the work at this Washington center, is needed where there is no talent at the present time.”--Ibid.
A few days later she wrote:
“Some did not take willingly to the idea of losing Brother Prescott, but I spoke plainly to them.”--Letter 98, 1909.
Nor was this welcome news to the editor of the Review, who had more of a liking for scholarly search for theological truth than for active evangelism. He was promptly released from his editorial work that he might enter city evangelism in New York. Prescott, seemingly missing a fundamental reason which we can see as we look at the documentation, undertook his new assignment with only a half-hearted dedication and the results were only modestly successful. He returned to Washington and applied his mind to other interests.
In a testimony written June 15, 1910, to Elders Daniells and Prescott, Ellen White called for the daily conversion of the men carrying leadership responsibilities, declaring that neither Prescott nor Daniells were prepared to direct the work of the General Conference, and stating that if the president of the General Conference had been thoroughly aroused he might have seen the situation, but he had not understood the message that God had given a year earlier at the time of the General Conference. (Letter 58, 1910.)
A Desire to Correct Denominational Books
Then in August, 1910, another communication in which Prescott was named was addressed to the president of the General Conference which read in part:
“For several months I have been instructed of the Lord that a decided change must be made from this time onward in the carrying forward of our work. Message after message has come to me from the Lord concerning the dangers surrounding you and Elder Prescott. I have seen that Satan would have been greatly pleased to see Elders Prescott and Daniells undertake the work of a general overhauling of our books that have done a good work in the field for years. But neither of you is called of God to that work. . . .
“Elder Prescott and others united with you have been inclined to search out things to be criticized or condemned in our printed publications. Were encouragement given you, changes and revisions would be made in accordance with the ideas that you have in mind.
“But you must never forget that Satan, disguised as an angel of light, is always ready to encourage anything that would lead to a loss of confidence in our denominational literature. . . .
“It is not safe to set some minds running in such channels of thought, as this would lead to a harvest of doubt and unbelief. I know whereof I speak; for the Lord has opened this matter before me.”--Letter 70, 1910.
In this same letter, Ellen White advised that the two men not work together. She wrote:
“In some respects, you and Brother Prescott have done a strange work. It is not for the best interests that either one of you be
associated together so closely as heretofore. . . . You both need the sanctification of the Holy Spirit of God.”--Ibid.
Before bringing the letter to a close the messenger of the Lord added:
“The enemy of truth, through the ministry of fallen angels, would be pleased to introduce uncertainty in the minds of many in regard to the doctrines that have been established by the sanction of the Holy Spirit. Disguised as one who has a deep understanding of truth, Satan will seek to point out supposed errors in that which needs no revision, and it will take much time and patient labor to restore confidence in those whose minds are unsettled by unnecessary changes. God forbids His servants to alter that which needs no change.”--Ibid.
Lest it be concluded that Ellen White opposed changes where changes should be made, we quote here what she had written a few days before the letter cited above was written to Eider Daniells. In a letter calling a halt to the unprofitable discussion of the “daily,” she counseled:
“In some of our important books that have been in print for years, and which have brought many to a knowledge of the truth, there may be found matters of minor importance that call for careful study and correction. Let such matters be considered by those regularly appointed to have the oversight of our publications. Let not these brethren, nor our canvassers, nor our ministers magnify these matters in such a way as to lessen the influence of these good soul-saving books. Should we take up the work of discrediting our literature, we would place weapons in the hands of those who have departed from the faith and confuse the minds of those who have newly embraced the message. The less that is done unnecessarily to change our publications, the better it will be.”--Ms 11, 1910; lSM p. 165.
This furnishes the background for two points introduced early by Elder Prescott in his letter of April 6, 1915. He mentions what he calls “serious errors in our authorized books” which we make no special effort to correct. It is, perhaps, easy for us to understand his feelings in the light of the experience of 1910 when counsel was given that he was in danger of wanting to make
changes in our books, and that Satan was close to suggest what these changes should be. Apparently it was not easy to accept such warning messages.
The second point in his letter relates to his finding it difficult to get over the shock which had come to him through the events of “the last six or eight years.” This would be 1908 to 1915 with the most important event being a change in the editorship of the Review and the call for him to enter evangelistic work, followed by his being passed over when men were selected for elective leadership positions.
Prescott and Daniells React Differently to Spirit of Prophecy Counsel
Careful observation will reveal that in communications from which we have quoted, whether addressed to Elders Prescott and Daniells, or only to Elder Daniells, the prime burden is Elder Prescott and his perils. But Elder Daniells was not without fault and was in need of reproof. The manner in which each of the men responded, and the aftermath, is significant.
Reference has already been made to Elder Prescott's reluctance to move in the direction counseled, and he failed in gaining the blessing promised to him personally if he had cheerfully carried out the steps called for.
Words written to and concerning Elder Daniells, the president of the General Conference, severe and cutting as they were, words calling for his reconversion, et cetera, were not taken lightly. On occasion Eider Daniells spoke freely of this. He was a man who knew that his security and strength, and the prosperity of the cause, lay in heeding God's counsels given through His special messenger. It brought a crisis in his experience. He sought the counsel of his brethren in leadership, and of his longtime friend and fellow worker, W. C. White.
For a time he placed the responsibilities of the leadership of the church on the shoulders of others and went into New York City and conducted a successful evangelistic effort. In doing so he gained a vision of what was needed and what could be done in city evangelism. Now he was ready to respond to some of Ellen White's intimations that perhaps the time had come for a change in the leadership of the church. He thought he would like to give up administrative work and devote the rest of his life to active work in spreading the message in the world field.
But Ellen White said, “No.” Now that he had gained a new vision, now that he was in line with the Spirit of Prophecy counsels, he should remain at the helm and use his dedication and experience to lead the church into greater evangelistic efforts. And he went on. Ellen White demonstrated her confidence in him a year or two later by appointing him as one of the five trustees who were to take charge of her writings on her death. On his deathbed, he declared that whatever success may have resulted from his years of work as an administrator could be attributed to his accepting and following the counsels of the messenger of the Lord. (White Estate D. F. #312c. Excerpts quoted in May Cole Kuhn's, Leader of Men).
W. W. Prescott's Major Problem--the Production of the E.G. White Books
The major problem expressed in Elder Prescott's 1915 letter related to the E. G. White writings and the manner in which they were handled. This problem might very well have been an outgrowth of Prescott's own concept of inspiration. In a W. C. White letter to L. E. Froom, associate secretary of the Ministerial Association, written in January, 1928, Prescott's name appears in connection with a rather significant statement. At that time very little study was being given to the nature of inspiration and there were many who, not having thought
the matter through, held to a concept of what we in denominational circles have termed “verbal inspiration.” W. C. White had written and spoken of this in 1911 in a document bearing Ellen White's endorsement:
“Mother has never laid claim to verbal inspiration, and I do not find that my father, or Elders Bates, Andrews, Smith, or Waggoner, put forth this claim. If there were verbal inspiration in writing her manuscripts, why should there be on her part the work of addition or adaptation? It is a fact that Mother often takes one of her manuscripts, and goes over it thoughtfully, making additions that develop the thought still further.”--W. C. White in an address to the General Conference Council, Oct. 30, 1911; 3SM p. 437.
Also, at the General Conference session of 1883, a formal action had been taken putting the General Conference on record on the question of inspiration. It reads:
“We believe the light given by God to His servants is by the enlightenment of the mind, thus imparting the thoughts, and not (except in rare cases) the very words in which the ideas should be expressed.”--Review and Herald, Nov. 27, 1883.
Now for the W.C. White statement written to L. E. Froom in which Elder Prescott is named:
“You refer to the little statement which I sent you regarding verbal inspiration. This statement [just quoted above] made by the General Conference of 1883 was in perfect harmony with the beliefs and positions of the pioneers in this cause, and it was, I think, the only position taken by any of our ministers and teachers until Professor [W. W.] Prescott, president of Battle Creek College presented in a very foreceful way another view--the view held and presented by Professor Gaussen. The acceptance of that view by the students in Battle Creek College and many others, including Elder Haskell, has resulted in bringing into our work questions and perplexities without end, and always increasing.
“Sister White never accepted the Gaussen theory regarding verbal inspiration, either as applied to her own work or as applied to the Bible.”--W. C. White to L. E. Froom, Jan. 8, 1928; 3SM pp. 454, 455.
Correspondence between W. C. White and S. N. Haskell gives strong support to White's statement that Haskell's having accepted this theory did bring perplexities and questions. There is one W. C. White letter in particular on which Ellen White noted with her pen, “I approve of the remarks made in this letter. Ellen G. White.” This is what she had just read:
“I believe, Brother Haskell, that there is danger of our injuring Mother's work by claiming for it more than she claims for it, more than Elders Andrews, Waggoner, or Smith ever claimed for it. I cannot see consistency in our putting forth a claim of verbal inspiration when Mother does not make any such claim.”--W. C. White to S. N. Haskell, Oct. 31, 1912.
Just what place the views on inspiration held by Prescott at one time or another may have had as related to his 1915 letter, cannot be clearly determined. It is a fact that at the 1919 Bible and History Teachers' Meeting Elder Prescott disavowed holding to a rigid verbal inspiration concept when it comes to the E. G. White writings, but he did not disclose his position as a whole.
And there may have been another factor--his relationship to the 1911 edtion of The Great Controversy. In early 1910, C. H. Jones of Pacific Press called the attention of W. C. White and the staff working at Elmshaven to the fact that the printing plates for The Great Controversy were worn out and the type for the book had to be reset. Work was begun in a routine way, with the hope that in July there could be a printing of the book from new plates. But as they got into the project, it soon became apparent that more than a simple resetting of the type was involved. In looking back after the new printing was out, Ellen White wrote of her relation to the project:
“When I learned that The Great Controversy must be reset, I determined that we would have everything closely examined, to see if the truths it contained were stated in the very best manner, to convince those not of our faith that the Lord had guided and sustained me in the writing of its pages.”--Letter 56 1911.
As W. W. Prescott was editor of the Protestant Magazine, it was logical that he, with others, should be asked to participate in such an examination of this book, which had a good deal to say about the Catholic Church. W. C. White presented the matter to Prescott in early April, 1910, in a personal visit when he was in Washington. On April 26, Prescott sent in his report. (The Prescott suggestions, conveyed in his letter of April 26, 1910, together with a notation of their reception and documentation of the resulting input in the 1911 edition of The Great Controversy, is available in a 38-page document from the White Estate. Ask for “W. W. Prescott and the 1911 Edition of Great Controversy.”) About half of his suggestions might be classified as minor, such as having to do with a precision of wording, or calling for a supporting reference. The other half were more significant, some challenging prophetic dates--such as the dating of the 1260 years--and calling into question the autumn termination of the 2300-day prophecy. His suggestions, which called for a change in teachings in the book, were not accepted (e.g., the relation of Revelation 9 to Josiah Litch's prediction of August 11, 1840, and Revelation 11, having to do with the two witnesses and the French Revolution). These were carefully reviewed for soundness of position and buttressed with reliable documentation.
One point that Prescott considered particularly significant had to do with the statement on pages 382 and 383 concerning the apostate Protestant churches,
in which case the word “alone” was added to bring the immediate E. G. White statement into harmony with the chapter and the book as a whole. Ellen White and the staff at Elmshaven saw the insertion of the word “alone” as a very natural step and one of no great significance. Prescott saw it as a major change in Ellen White's teaching and in later years used the incident to indicate that the teachings of The Great Controversy were changed at his suggestion.
As to the Prescott suggestions as a whole, about half were considered acceptable as doing for the book what Ellen White called for when the work was begun, as noted above. The book was not revised. There were some refinements.
Prescott's Point Involving the Spirit of Prophecy
Elder Prescott's last point, having to do with his concern over the handling of the E. G. White writings, is almost too vague to be understood clearly. While W. C. White, because of his conversations with Prescott, may have been conversant as to just what he meant, to us without that background, or without a clearer statement by Prescott, the reference is obscure. Here is what he wrote:
“The way your mother's writings have been handled and the false impression concerning them which is still fostered among the people have brought great perplexity and trial to me. It seems to me that what amounts to deception, though probably not intentional, has been practiced in making some of her books, and that no serious effort has been made to disabuse the minds of people of what was known to be their wrong view concerning her writings.
“But it is of no use to go into these matters. I have talked with you for years about them, but it brings no change. I think, however, that we are drifting toward a crisis which will come sooner or later and perhaps sooner. A very strong feeling of reaction has already set in.”
Just what is he alluding to? He does not say. That leaves the person who has now been made aware of this confidential correspondence to reach his own conclusion, and that conclusion may be far from accurate.
But let us look closely at the two paragraphs in an endeavor to discover what Elder Prescott has in mind. The opening sentence immediately suggests something not above board and possibly dishonest, or at least something that, if known, would change attitudes toward the E. G. White writings. Note Prescott's words. He writes that “great perplexity and trial” had come to him because of:
l. “The way your mother's writings have been handled” and
2. “The false impression concerning them which is still fostered”
3. “It seems to me that what amounts to deception . . . has been practiced in making some of her books,” and
4. “That no serious effort has been made to disabuse the minds of the people of what has been a wrong view concerning her writings”
Then, laying the responsibility on the shoulders of W. C. White, he writes:
5. “I have talked with you for years about them, but it brings no change”
6. “I think . . . that we are drifting toward a crisis which will come sooner or later, and perhaps sooner”
What does he mean when he speaks of “deception . . . practiced in making some of her books”? Is he referring to the manner in which her books were prepared in the 1890s, when in getting the manuscripts ready for books such as Steps to Christ, Desire of Age, Christ's Object Lessons, and Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, Ellen White, pressed hard with many lines of work, instead of sitting down and writing a book straight through from beginning to end, enlisted the aid of literary assistants? It is true that she drew in trusted literary
assistants, who, under her direction, searched her periodical articles, manuscripts, letters, and early pamphlets for appropriate materials, which they brought together in logical sequence to form a book. In these circumstances the assistants did none of the writing. Their work was to correct grammar, eliminate repetition, and at times supply an appropriate synonym for words used too frequently.
Then, of course, Ellen White went over the materials that had been compiled, editing, filling in here and there, and adding sentences or paragraphs. Working in this way made it possible to utilize to the maximum the full literary resources, making the materials available in permanent book form. There was no secrecy or attempt to withhold information as to this process. In 1900 Ellen White referred to her trusted assistant for twenty-five years, Marian Davis, as her “bookmaker.” From Australia she wrote to the president of the General Cofnerence, explaining the making of her books and Marian Davis' work:
“How are my books made? . . . She takes my articles which are published in the papers, and pastes them in blank books. She also has a copy of all the letters I write. In preparing a chapter for a book, Marian remembers that I have written something on that special point, which may make the matter more forcible. She begins to search for this, and if when she finds it, she sees that it will make the chapter more clear, she adds it.
“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, 1900; 3SM p. 91.
A few years later, in commenting on the close manner in which she and Marian had worked in the preparation of books, Ellen White wrote:
“We have stood side by side in the work, and in perfect harmony in that work. And when she would be gathering up the precious jots and
tittles that had come in papers and books and present it to me, ?Now,’ she would say, ?there is something wanted [needed]. I cannot supply it.’ I would look it over, and in one moment I could trace the line right out. We worked together, just worked together in perfect harmony all the time.”--Ms 95, 1904; 3SM p. 93.
Prescott had assembled E. G. White materials which comprised Christian Education, published in 1892. He was in Australia for ten months in the mid-1890s and was at Cooranbong, where Ellen White resided, much of that time. Perhaps it was here that he learned more of the procedures “practiced in making some of the books.”
While his counsel may have been sought in the arrangement of some of the materials inDesire of Age, he did none of the writing. While his counsel was sought in identifying some of the royal characters brought to the front in articles prepared in 1907 on Ezra and the return of the Jews, this was no different from her usual procedure, as set forth in her introduction to The Great Controversyand referred to by W. C. White in his statements that Ellen White did not claim to be an authority on the details of history and that she valued highly the work of careful historians.
Or could it have been largely earlier than this, the manner in which Ellen White found the writings of certain historians and commentators helpful as she coped with the tremendous task of writing the Conflict of the Ages books, particularly The Great Controversy, which came out in its enlarged and popular form in 1888? But in the author's introduction to that book, written in May 1888, she acknowledged the use of the writings of others, not “citing that writer as authority,” which would have implied the writings of historians and commentators to be a basic source rather than the visions, but “because his statement affords
a ready and forcible presentation of the subject” (GC p. xii). At another time W. C. White wrote of this matter:
“Not withstanding all the power that God had given her to present scenes in the lives of Christ and His apostles and His prophets and His reformers in a stronger and more telling way than other historians, yet she always felt most keenly the results of her lack of school education. She admired the language in which other writers had presented to their readers the scenes which God had presented to her in vision, and she found it both a pleasure, and a convenience and an economy of time to use their language fully or in part in presenting those things which she knew through revelation, and which she wished to pass on to her readers.”--W. C. White to L. E. Froom, Jan. 8, 1928; 3SM p. 460.
It can be seen that reference to the books of other reliable authors provided an aid to Ellen White in her writing, not a basic source. Since Prescott declared that for years he had been perplexed--he had talked with W. C. White about what perplexed him--what we have just presented may have been at the heart of his concerns.
To Ellen White, W. C. White, and Ellen White's literary staff, there was no dishonesty, no deceiving of the people in the manner in which her work was done, no occasion for concern. She had no ghost writers. She was responsible for all that appeared under her name.
She held the highest standards of integrity, knowing that she was called by God to a very special task, and she threw herself wholeheartedly into the thankless work, painful, demanding, and all absorbing as it was, and ever subject to criticism by those she was commissioned to help. She employed the best methods within her reach to accomplish that work. She was instructed through vision as to whom she could trust and whom she could not trust to assist her. She was instructed in vision, but long kept it in confidence, that God had placed His Spirit upon her son, W. C. White, and had especially qualified him to assist her
in getting the messages before the people. Indeed, she was shown that he was born to be her helper.
Back of all of her work were the many visions given her, some long before the work on a particular book was undertaken, and many while in the process of preparing a particular book manuscript. It was the task of her assistants to pull her materials together in their logical order, to see that in form they were in harmony with the rules of grammar and employed words that were winning and would appeal. Only a defective concept of inspiration could make this seem dishonest and no significance should be attached to the fact that not everyone was aware of this procedure.
What is more, the work spoke for itself, messages reaching hearts, guiding in the work of the church, bringing comfort, light, and instruction to those who read what she wrote and denominational publishers printed. Every phase of her life and work was closely scrutinized. What the people saw and knew inspired confidence. Most did not concern themselves with the intricacies of the process of inspiration/revelation.
As long as the finished book was the product of the writer whose mind was illuminated by many visions, and one who worked under the superintendence of the Spirit of God in preparing the materials to reach the public, what occasion could there be for perplexity and questioning? Those close to Ellen White were very conscious of the fact that she was responsible for all that appeared in the E. G. White books. Even during the last four years of her life, when such books as Acts of the Apostles, Prophets and Kings, Counsels to Parents, Students and Teachers, and Gospel Workers were being hastened into print, her staff could
move no faster than the material at hand allowed and Ellen White's critical reading and her filling in of needed material would permit. (Documentation on the above appears in the Adventist Review of June 11, 18 and 25, 1981.) This was often spoken of in conversation and correspondence with leading denominational workers.
Were People Left in Ignorance of Supposed Facts?
One of the concerns of Elder Prescott in his 1915 letter was that “no serious effort has been made to disabuse the minds of the people of what has been a wrong view concerning her writings.” Actually, with some ministers and teachers holding to verbal inspiration, it was increasingly difficult to keep correct views before Seventh-day Adventists. W. C. White alluded to this in his January 8, 1928, letter to Elder Froom as refered to on page 14.
Another point worthy of observation is that neither W. C. White nor members of the staff were much engaged in general public work. On a few occasions he dealt with the various phases of his mother's work and the handling of her writings as he did before the General Conference Committee in his 1911 explanation of the work done in preparing the 1911 edition of The Great Controversywhich appears as Appendix A of Selected Messages, book 3, and in his two presentations at the General Conference of 1913, published in the General Conference Bulletin of 1913, pp. 218-221 and 233-235. In the early 1930s a definitive explanation was made in a leaflet titled, The Story of Steps to Christ.
In 1933, W. C. White and D. E. Robinson, for a number of years a member of the staff at the Elmshaven office, jointly authored a 27-page document they entitled Brief Statements Regarding the Writings of Ellen G. White. It is
comprehensive in its subject coverage, dealing with most of the points currently being discussed relative to Mrs. White's work. As an insert in The Adventist Review of June 4, 1981, it has been given wide distribution.
In 1936 the W. C. White addresses at the Advanced Bible School, the forerunner of the Seminary, contained a good deal of helpful information on how the books were made.
Then, from time to time his correspondence with leading men was informative. One such letter in 1928 to L. E. Froom, associate secretary of the Ministerial Association, closed with words which indicate he rather expected a general use would be made of the information set forth. He wrote:
“Please read this statement to Elder Daniells, and if you observe that in my haste I have left matter so that it can be easily misunderstood, please point this out to me and give me an opportunity to strengthen the matter before it is placed by you before others of your brethren.”--W. C. White to L. E. Froom, Jan. 8, 1928.
The disclosures W. C. White did make seemed neither to arouse a special interest nor evoke serious question. If there were questions, they did not surface. There is no evidence of general concern or anxiety.
Circumstances That Throw Light on the Matter
“But why,” asked a reader of the first draft of the statement in your hands, and a seminary-trained layman, “if W. C. White and the White Estate were aware of the circumstances, and the problem of misconceptions in regard to inspiration, and were in a position to give information which would have helped to remedy it, didn't they do something? In the light of the facts, weren't they remiss in their failure to do no more than they did?”
To answer these questions brings us to an array of facts not generally well known, the knowledge of which may help to answer some questions now being
pressed. These facts are such that a biased mind or unscrupulous or highly critical researcher can seriously misconstrue and misuse. What follows is written reluctantly but with the hope, the prayer, and the earnest request that the information be employed fairly and judiciously.
Why do I present it reluctantly? Because good men of unquestioned integrity were involved; trusted, dedicated men in high positions of church leadership, men who deserve to be remembered with honor and admiration, and, most of all, because what took place was done inadvertently and unwittingly. We are not discussing a coverup but rather an accident in which some were badly hurt. Here are the facts which may lead to a more tempered approach to what appears to many today to be a careless neglect in keeping the church informed and leading it to sound concepts of inspiration.
Reference was made earlier in this document to the fact that after Ellen White's death W. C. White was not engaged much in public speaking or in going from place to place in promotion of the Spirit of Prophecy. He would occasionally take a Sabbath morning service in one of the nearby churches. Up to the time of his mother's death, as is clearly brought out in the volume of the biography now in process of publication at the Review and Herald, he was a much-sought-after counselor to executives, particularly the president of the General Conference. His closeness to his mother's work, his knowledge of her messages of counsel, and his long connection with the cause, led to his serving as a valued member, not only of the General Conference Committee, but on the Board of the College of Medical Evangelists and boards of other leading institutions in the west, and for a time even on the board of the Washington Sanitarium.
The death of Ellen White brought about some sudden and traumatic changes, unintentional, but understandable and very real.
Ellen White had been closely linked with the work of the church from its very beginning. When she passed to her rest, the church and its leaders were faced with a situation which had not before existed--the conduct of the work in her absence. Ellen White was gone; her contribution down through the years was held in high esteem. The books she had published filled a place of great service in the church. But now, with her death, leading workers were faced with a question of their relationship to the materials and operations at the Elmshaven office. In fact, there was a question of just what the function of that office was, and what was the usefulness of the materials not published before her death. Some took a rather strong position that her work was done, and since her books were available, the door of the vault at the Elmshaven office could be closed and sealed.
Such views were contrary to Ellen White's expectations and her understanding that her writings, published and unpublished, as outlined in several statements and in her will, would continue to serve and speak. The restricted views expressed after her death were in direct conflict with the understanding of those close to the work of the Ellen G. White office--W. C. White, Clarence Crisler, and D. E. Robinson.
As the Board of Trustees undertook their responsibilities in 1915, they saw their work as settling the estate, fostering the circulation of the E. G. White books, and as far as book work was concerned, the abridging of some of the large volumes for newly opening work of the denomination in other countries. There
was no vision or clearly defined policy as to the other phases of the work that had been carried on at Elmshaven, particularly as it related to the custody and use of the Ellen G. White letters and manuscripts.
In this milieu, W. C. White and the contribution he might continue to make was largely overlooked. Ellen White was gone, and when there were elections to fill out the boards of the denomination, except for the General Conference Committee, which met in Washington, and boards of the two nearby institutions--Pacific Union College and the St. Helena Sanitarium--he was overlooked. His name did not appear in their membership lists. What is more, within a few months after Ellen White's death, the staff at Elmshaven was reduced to W. C. White, working alone, mostly in preparing E. G. White books for publication overseas. Only occasionally did he have the part-time help of a secretary. It was thought best that the office have no letterhead. For a time most of his correspondence was carried on in longhand. Correspondence from A. G. Daniells, president of the General Conference, who wrote twenty-two letters to him in 1912, dwindled to seven rather short communications in 1919. No calls came for him to write or to enter the field in public work.
Members of the Board of Trustees were widely separated geographically and in an understanding of the work that should be done. F. M. Wilcox and A. G. Daniells resided in Washington, D. C. Clarence Crisler was in China, and serving so far away he soon lost his earlier concept of the work. This left W. C. White and C. H. Jones, of the Pacific Press, somewhat isolated on the Pacific Coast, and W. C. White was reaching out to ascertain just what his work was. The Board of the White Estate Trustees met once or twice a year, usually in connection with some larger meeting when an hour might be given to the agenda.
And Elmshaven, which had been the hub of busy activity before Ellen White's death, was now reduced to the point where the work was carried on in a single office, the library room next to the manuscript vault. Elmshaven was off the beaten track and almost forgotten! W. C. White wrote to I. H. Evans on September 18, 1919:
“We get very few letters now from the men bearing heavy burdens who used to write often when they desired to keep Mother informed as to what was going on in the world.”
These were the sad conditions which prevailed from 1916 to 1921, when no one except W. C. White seemed to have had a concept of the potentials of what should, or could, be done. He worked without support. However, he, unlike Prescott, suffered no impairment of confidence or faith in his brethren or in the triumph of the cause of God.
It was during this time that the 1919 Bible Conference was held across the continent, July 1 to 21, followed by an informal meeting of Bible and history teachers. W. C. White received an invitation to attend the Bible Conference, but not the meeting of Bible and history teachers. (In the first draft of this statement, dated January 18, 1981, the writer stated mistakenly that “W. C. White, working on the west coast and not a Bible teacher, was not invited to attend.”--ALW.) W. E. Howell, secretary of the General Conference Department of Education, not A. G. Daniells, president of the General Conference, or W. A. Spicer, secretary of the General Conference, sent out the invitation to attend. That White should receive an invitation was
somewhat of a formality, as he was a member of the General Conference Committee.
The authorizing action which Howell enclosed with his mimeographed invitation presented the authorization for the meeting taken at the Spring Council:
“We recommend that a Bible Conference of representative workers be held for a period of three weeks, July 1 to 21.
“That this conference be attended by the following persons:
“Such members of the General Conference Committee in the United States and Canada as can arrange to attend.
“Editors: F. M. Wilcox, A. O. Tait, A. W. Spalding, M. C. Wilcox, C. P. Bollman, D. E. Robinson.
“Teachers: The Bible and history teachers from our colleges, junior colleges, and seminaries. . . .
“That the following list of topics for prayer and study be adopted:
Person of Christ
Meditorial Work of Christ
Nature and Work of the Holy Spirit
Principles of Prophetic Interpretations
Beast Power in Revelation
United States in Prophecy
“That at the conclusion of this conference the Bible and history teachers remain together another three weeks to work on constructive teaching plans.”--Action on Bible Conference adopted by Spring Council, attached to W. E. Howell letter to “Dear Brother,” May 13, 1919. (1)
We repeat, Elder W. C. White, working on the West Coast, and not a Bible teacher, was, as a member of the General Conference Committee, authorized to attend the Bible Conference but not the informal meeting which followed and at which meeting the two days' discussion of Ellen White and her work was spontaneously introduced as reported in the minutes that have now been published.
As W. C. White read the agenda and the arrangements for the Bible Conference, he felt he would like to attend the meeting, even though he saw no compelling reason to go. It was clearly a meeting of educators. When White expressed to Howell that he would take pleasure in attending, Howell took the matter to the president and the treasurer of the General Conference and then wrote to White that, “they both favor your coming” (W. E. Howell to W. C. White, May 28, 1919). There was authorization for him to attend as a member of the General Conference Committee, but his brethren put no special pressure on him to be there. To A. G. Daniells, he wrote on June 6, 1919:
“When I first read about the convention for Bible teachers, I felt a great desire to attend. . . . I can clearly see now though, that if I meet the expectations of my brethren in the matter of gathering materials for this Health Reform book [Counsels on Health], I shall need all the time I have, therefore I think I will give up the thought of going to the convention.”
He was being pressed by men “bearing heavy burdens in the medical work” who were “asking that a book be compiled from his mother's writings containing counsels to medical workers” (W. C. White to I. H. Evans, Sept. 18, 1919).
D. E. Robinson, a member of the editorial staff of the Southern Publishing Association, did attend the Bible Conference as authorized, but not the informal meeting of Bible and history teachers which followed. Had either Robinson or
White, or both, been present they would have made a valuable contribution to the discussion of Ellen White's work. Had they been present they could have brought forth a good deal of useful information and countered a number of misleading, and in some cases ridiculous, statements made in the informal discussion. It is certain that had Daniells anticipated the two-day discussion on Ellen White and her work, he would have insisted that they be there.
During the 1920s there were some improvements in understanding and relationships, but conditions were bettered only a little. Elmshaven was still isolated, and W. C. White was largely forgotten. Under these circumstances how could he, or the White Estate, make a meaningful contribution and impart useful information on inspiration and the work of Ellen White? The situation probably would have been quite different had the office been in Washington, with W. C. White rubbing shoulders with leading men engaged in various lines of administrative work. Circumstances are to be blamed, not men.
While the men attending the Bible and history teachers' meeting in 1919 raised certain questions and there were some interesting discussions, it is doubtful that W. C. White, in his isolation, was even made aware of what took place. So far I have failed to find any such evidence. I was called to work with my father, W. C. White, at Elmshaven in 1929, and following his death in 1937 was asked to take his place on the Board of Trustees. I was asked to move the files and work to Washington. I worked alone at first, but was given secretarial help, and then in order to help carry certain tasks to completion Elder D. E. Robinson was called to Washington to assist in the work of the White Estate.
But it was not until three or four years ago, when the minutes of the meetings of the Bible and history teachers in 1919 were uncovered and made public that I was aware of the 1919 meeting. Neither my father nor D. E. Robinson ever mentioned it.
So while W. W. Prescott expressed his concern in 1915 and laid the responsibility for what he spoke of as misconceptions, on the shoulders of W. C. White, there was some history related to it. In 1915 Prescott was known to see some things in a way different from the understanding of his brethren, but the atmosphere was not then favorable for W. C. White, concerned with the approaching death of his mother and the closing up of the major operations of the work at Elmshaven, and then soon working alone, to launch out on a crusade to help to better the understanding on inspiration. While certain seeming problems were aired at the 1919 meeting, the one who could have made the most constructive contribution was not in on the discussions and nothing was done following the meeting. The brethren concerned were soon deeply involved in other tasks and did nothing.
In the late 1920s the Ministerial Association was formed, and L. E. Froom, the associate secretary, began to probe W. C. White on some of the questions, as is evidenced by White's letters to him. Some of these are now published in the Appendix of Selected Messages, book 3. As men studied, materials which were unknown, or virtually so, began to come to the front. At Pacific Union College an excellent course on the Spirit of Prophecy was introduced by Dr. Mary McReynolds, but it was years before other colleges provided such courses.
In the early 1930s Elder A. G. Daniells, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the White Estate, was moved to the west coast where he could easily chair the boards of the College of Medical Evangelists and the Pacific Press. This made possible monthly meetings of the White Estate Trustees, with a quorum of three. Daniells, the chairman, gained a new grasp of the work. Better understandings developed. The assistant secretary, Arthur White, was asked by the editor of Ministry to furnish articles on Ellen White, her work, and the work of the White Estate. What appeared in the Ministry was eventually republished in permanent form in the book, Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant. A careful reading of these articles in which a factual concept of inspriation was brought to view, helped to develop a better understanding of inspiration.
In 1936 W. C. White was asked to give a series of lectures to the teachers and students of the Advanced Bible School, the forerunner of our Seminary, held at Pacific Union College. He dealt with many matters relating to Ellen White's work, aimed at creating sound concepts of inspiration. Elder F. M. Wilcox, in the early 1930s, presented a series of editorials in the Review and Herald on Ellen White and her work, one of which was on the question of verbal inspiration. These were soon published in book form.
As the work of the Theological Seminary developed, a course in Prophetic Guidance was introduced as a part of ministerial training, and such a course was presented in many overseas extension schools. The syllabus will reveal that one aim of the course was to establish correct concepts of inspiration, not so much from the theoretical standpoint as the practical--a knowledge of how it worked in the experience of Ellen G. White.
The Prophetic Guidance Correspondence Course was developed and offered by the Voice of Prophecy. Again the approach was more from the practical side than the theoretical. The several papers included in the A. L. White book, The Ellen G. White Writings, yield a good deal of information, as do the more recent articles which have appeared in the Adventist Review and the insert in the June 4 issue.
Now, it is true that the intensive work in a study of the relationship between portions of certain E. G. White books and the writings of commentators and historians has disclosed a wider use by Ellen White of other writings than either the White Estate or present church leaders were aware of. The staff down through the years has been much too small and too busy in meeting the demands upon it to give time to probing for answers to questions not being asked.
There has been no conscious coverup, but those leading out in the work of the White Estate have found the concept of verbal inspiration so embedded in the minds and hearts of our folk that it has been difficult to accomplish that which would be desirable in an educational program. The evidence is that W. C. White also found it so.
But the onlooker of today should be patient and might well ask himself, “Just how would I have accomplished what others failed to do?” If W. W. Prescott were with us today, would he not have written quite differently?
The W. C. White Response--May 7, 1915
Though pressed hard with the many things calling for attention during Ellen White's last few weeks of life, W. C. White took time on May 7 to write a kind letter to Prescott. After an opening paragraph on Ellen White's state of health and welfare, White addressed himself first to Prescott's opening paragraphs in
which he expressed some despondent feelings over the difficulty of “warning the whole world of the impending second advent.” He wrote:
“Referring to your letter: I have often in past years been perplexed over the question as to how our message could reach the people of heathen lands; but when I see the marvelous things that God is doing in Oriental countries, it seems to me that the evidence of His power is as great as in past years. We never have been able to figure out how the work could be closed up; but I continue to believe that with God it is possible, in ways which I do not understand.”--W. C. White to W. W. Prescott, May 7, 1915.
Then coming to the points which form the core of the Prescott letter of April 5, White wrote:
“I sincerely wish, Brother Prescott, that I were an educated man, a student, and that my time could be used in studying with you those historical matters to which you have given such diligent attention, and which, in your estimation, call for decided changes in our books. My work is of a different character, and it is of no use for me to enter into arguments regarding historical dates with which I am not familiar. I am praying that God will bless those who have opportunity to conduct this study, and that they may see light in His light.
“As you know, my experience has been such as to lead me to have great confidence in the Advent Movement of 1844, and to have great confidence that God has led His people in the development of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, and I am hoping and expecting that a further study of history will develop confidence in the work which God has done through revelations given to Mother [and] in correcting those extravagant and fanatical views regarding her work which are injurious to Christian experience and to the advancement of the truth.
“I have felt that it was my duty to be cautious in the matter of making statements that are liable to be misrepresented and misunderstood. My feelings regarding this were considerably confirmed by the experience of the council meeting in Washington in the autumn of 1913.”
And then, referring to Prescott's experience, White wrote understandingly:
“I have no sympathy with those harsh and misguided men who are plowing up and down on your back because you are not doing what they would like to see you do, or saying what they would like to hear you
say. Not until the judgment will it be known how earnestly I have endeavored to persuade these men to drop their burden.”
W. C. White's closing paragraph indicates clearly his longing for unity among brethren:
“Praying that God may save us from error and from misunderstanding, and that He will hasten the time when those who are bearing burdens in this work will see eye to eye, I am,
Yours very truly,
W. C. White.”
We have found no record that Prescott answered this sympathetic letter.
Before leaving W. W. Prescott, it should be said that sometime in 1915 the General Conference appointed him a general field secretary, a position he held until 1937. During this time he was called, in 1922, to serve briefly as president of the Australasian Missionary College. Next he became president of Union College and later head of its Bible Department, serving from 1924 to 1928. After a world tour in 1930 he became the head of the Bible Department of Emmanuel Missionary College until 1934. He died in 1944.
Elder W. C. White wrote kindly and well in 1931 of Prescott and his divergent views in a letter to one who had studied under him and was now raising a question as to his orthodoxy. White wrote:
“I, too, have been greatly blessed by Elder Prescott's teaching and ministry. I always love to hear him speak.
“I am truly sorry that anyone should say that Elder Prescott teaches heresy. I think there are some things which he teaches regarding the prophetic dates that many of our other ministers and teachers do not accept. I and many others that I highly regard, question very seriously that part of his teaching which seems to unsettle a few of the historical dates that our ministers have used heretofore in their expositions of prophecy.
“Elder Prescott is not the only one who is respected, loved, and listened to, that teaches differently than his brethren in some matters of not the greatest importance. I do not think that we should accuse such men of teaching heresy.
“Sister White highly regarded her ministering brethren and it was her wish that their influence should be carefully guarded by us all.”--W. C. White to Miss Hulda Gunther, Feb. 20, 1931.
Should this not be our objective today? Should not confidence be maintained in men and women who laid the foundations of the work of the church and carried it forward nobly through the years, in spite of the fact that they were human and made mistakes and did not always know how to cope with certain problems?
Let us all strive to fulfill the prayer of Christ, “That they all may be one” (John 17:21).
June 15, 1981
1) It must be kept in mind that there were two meetings. The 1919 Bible Conference was held from July 1 to July 21, attended by fifty or more “editors, Bible and history teachers and members of the General Conference Committee.” (See Review and Herald, Aug. 21, 1919, pp. 3, 4.) This was followed by a meeting of Bible and history teachers, “beginning July 22, and continuing until August l.” This was attended by twenty-eight or more (Review and Herald, Aug. 14, 1919) from various of our seminaries and colleges, with others coming in for the especially interesting meetings on July 31 and August 1. It was at this informal get-together of teachers that two days were given to a discussion of the Spirit of Prophecy, the minutes of which have now been published.
THE PRESCOTT LETTER TO W.C. WHITE
Takoma Park, D.C., April 6, 1915.
Elder W. C. White
Sanitarium, Napa County, California
Dear Brother White:
I appreciated your letter of March 12 [Appendix B] and I thank you for your message of sympathy concerning my father’s death.
I have noted what you have said about your mother’s condition, although you neglected to enclose the statement which you mentioned. When I see these early believers, like your mother, my father, and Elder Olsen passing away so rapidly, and then think of how little has really been accomplished in seriously warning the whole world of the impending second advent, I am led to wonder whether any of us now connected with this movement will, after all, live to see the consummation. It is a serious question.
It seems to me that a large responsibility rests upon those of us who know that there are serious errors in our authorized books and yet make no special effort to correct them. The people and our average ministers trust us to furnish them with reliable statements, and they use our books as sufficient authority in their sermons, but we let them go on year after year asserting things which we know to be untrue. I cannot feel that this is right. It seems to me that we are betraying our trust and deceiving the ministers and people. It appears to me that there is much more anxiety to prevent a possible shock to some trustful people than to correct error.
Your letter indicates a desire on your part to help me, but I fear that it is a little late. The experience of the last six or eight years, and especially the things concerning which I talked with you, have had their effect on me in several ways. I have had some hard shocks to get over, and after giving the best of my life to this movement, I have little peace and satisfaction in connection with it, and I am driven to the conclusion that
the only thing for me to do is to do quietly what I can do conscientiously and leave the others to go on without me. Of course this [is] far from a happy ending to my life-work, but this seams to be the best adjustment that I am able to make. The way your mother’s writings have been handled and the false impressions concerning them, which is still fostered among the people, have brought great perplexity and trial to me. It seems to me that what amounts to deception, though probably not intentional, has been practiced in making some of her books, and that no serious effort has been made to disabuse the minds of the people of what was known to be their wrong view concerning her writings.
But it is no use to go into these matters. I have talked with you for years about them but it brings no change. I think, however, that we are drifting toward a crisis which will come sooner or later and perhaps sooner. A very strong feeling of reaction has already set in.
It has been very quiet here for a few weeks, as many of the brethren are in the field. The weather has been quite cold and we had about five inches of snow last Sabbath, but it is more like spring today.
My mother is quite feeble, although she bears up full better than I really expected. She misses Father very much. They lived together more than 67 years.
The work of the office seems to be prospering, and we are all very busy trying to meet the demands upon us.
I should be glad to hear from you at any time. If you can properly do so, I would be glad to have you express to your mother my sympathies for her in her affliction.
W. W. Prescott
THE W. C. WHITE LETTER TO ELDER PRESCOTT
March 12, 1915
Elder W. W. Prescott
Washington, D. C.
Dear Brother Prescott:
I will not longer delay writing to you, although at the present time it will be quite impossible for me to express any opinions regarding the manuscripts which you handed me while in Washington.
When I reached home I found all of our workers here heavily loaded with urgent work, and although I have shown them these manuscripts, neither Brothers Crisler nor Robinson have found time to enter into their study. This they hope to do before many weeks have passed.
You have heard through the Review and the Union Conference papers regarding the sad accident which befell Mother February 13. With this I shall send to you a statement she made last Sunday, expressing the thought that her work was done, and that she would soon be resting. As we try to think of the future, it seems that without her we will be lost. All our plans, all our thoughts, all our labors for so many years have been centered in her work.
Mother rejoices that so much has been accomplished in the last few years in preparing her writings for publication and for a wide circulation. The manuscripts for Gospel Workers were all examined by her expect one or two chapters made up wholly of selections from her published writings.
The Old Testament history from Solomon to Malachi is almost ready to submit to the printer. The manuscript on organization is completed
and is in the hands of the General Conference Committee. The work of making selections from her writings for publication in the Orient was well begun last year when she could take an active interest in the plan, and could also give some attention to the manuscripts. We are profoundly thankful that the Lord prolonged her life to take a part in so much of this work.
When I was last in Washington, I had a short visit with your father and mother. They requested me to bear to Mother their message of love and sympathy. But before I reached home and could convey this message to Mother, your father had closed his life work. Our people east and west honored and loved him, and they express for you and your mother and your brothers and sisters kindest sympathy.
Brother Prescott, I never found an opportunity to unfold to Mother the perplexities which have added so much to your burden and sadness, but it is my privilege to tell you that her references to you and your work during the last few years have manifested a mother’s love and tenderness. Mother always had a very high regard for you and Sister Prescott, and she was always pained when she knew you were in perplexity.
Sometimes I tried to talk with Mother about the things which have been such a burden on your heart, but she could not understand me, and so I put the matter off, thinking the time would come when her mind would be led out upon this matter. I truly wish that there was something that I could say or do to cheer your heart, and help you take that hopeful, and trustful, and joyous view of your life work, and of God’s leadership, with which your brethren have regarded it.
Today Brother Robinson and I were reading some selections made for one of the closing chapters in Gospel Workers, and there was a passage which I will here incorporate, believing that it is for you especially:
“In this life, our work for God often seems to be almost fruitless. Our efforts to do good may be earnest and persevering, yet we may not be permitted to witness their results. To us the effort may seem to be lost. But the Saviour assures us that our work is noted in heaven and that the recompense cannot fail. The apostle Paul writing by the Holy Spirit says, ?Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.’ And in the words of the psalmist we read, ?He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.’ . . .
“While much of the fruit of their labor is not apparent in this life, God’s workers have His sure promise of ultimate success. As the world’s Redeemer, Christ was constantly confronted with apparent failure. He seemed to do little of the work which He longed to do in uplifting and serving. Satanic agencies were constantly work to obstruct His way. But He would not be discouraged. Ever before Him He saw the result of His mission. He knew that truth would finally triumph in the contest with evil, and to His disciples He said, ?These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ The life of Christ’s disciples is to be like His, a series of uninterrupted victories--not seen to be such here but recognized as such in the great hereafter.”
“With kindest regards, I am
ours very truly,
W. C. White.”