The 1911 Edition of The Great Controversy

By Arthur L. White

From The Later Elmshaven Years, pp. 302-321

[Return to the Homepage]
[Return to the Issues and Answers page]

The Need for a New Printing
Considerations Initiated by Plans for a New Edition
Finding Sources for the Quotations
E. G. White Settles the Question of the D'Aubigne Quotations
"The Bible and the French Revolution"
E.G. White Reads and Approves Changes

The Need for a New Printing

[Top of Document]

A matter of importance to Ellen White and her staff reached back to early January, 1910. This was the development of a new edition of her book The Great Controversy. From the early summer of 1888, when the enlarged book with 678 pages of text was introduced, printing after printing had come from the presses of Pacific Press in the West and the Review and Herald in the East, and then in time from the presses of Southern Publishing Association in Nashville, Tennessee. The book, issued by the thousands, served the growing church and was a standby work, one sold widely by literature evangelists. Through the early years of the new century the printing plates gave increasing evidence of wear. In 1907, repairs were made to the most badly worn plates, some improvements in illustrations were made, a subject index was added, and the book was dressed up generally.

As C. H. Jones, manager of Pacific Press in early January, 1910, was preparing for the annual constituency meeting to be held later in the month, he took stock of the accomplishments in 1909, the work in hand, and some things to which attention needed to be given in 1910. On January 5 he wrote to his close friend and long associate in the work of the church, W. C. White, listing things he felt needed consideration. Among these, under the heading "Great Controversy, English," he wrote:

It will be necessary to print another edition of this book on or before July, 1910. You are aware that the plates are worn out. New plates ought to be made before printing another edition.

Plans were set in motion for a discussion of The Great Controversy matter when W. C. White would be in Mountain View attending the constituency meeting later in the month. But even before this meeting was held, word came from the Review and Herald that they, too, needed new plates for the book (C. H. Jones to WCW, Jan. 12, 1910). Ellen White owned the printing plates for her books; whatever would be done with The Great Controversy would be done under her direction and at her expense. In these matters, W. C. White served as her business agent.

The procedures seemed routine and uncomplicated. Not waiting till he would be in Mountain View later in the month, White wrote to Jones on January 14 of what he thought would be a workable plan for the resetting of "Great Controversy, English":

Arrange for the Southern Publishing Association to keep and continue to use the set of plates which they have and on which they have done considerable repairing.

Inform Curtiss [in Washington] that we will reset the book immediately, and send the Review and Herald a set of plates, and advise him if they run short of books to buy a few in sheets from the Southern Publishing Association

Instruct Mary Steward to read carefully one of the last editions of the book and to mark anything that needs consideration in resetting.

Then instruct Pacific Press to reset at its earliest convenience, finishing up two sets of electrotype plates, one for Review and Herald and one for Pacific Press.

Hold the [linotype] slugs till we learn what can be done about providing a set of plates for the London office and a set of plates for the Southern Publishing Association. It seems to me that we ought to go forward with the work, but we do not wish to make unnecessary expense in finishing up sets of plates before they are needed.

From this it is clear that the work that eventually was done in what has come to be known as the 1911 "revision"--a term too strong for what actually took place--was not contemplated in the initial plans. In other words, no need was seen for changes in the book at the time that plans were initiated for resetting the type, nor were any alterations in the E. G. White text contemplated, beyond technical corrections as might be suggested by Miss Mary Steward, a proofreader of long experience and now a member of Ellen White's staff. Work on the book was undertaken in a routine fashion and according to plan. Miss Steward reviewed the book, checking spelling, capitalization, punctuation, et cetera. She finished her work on this in late February. By mid-March, Pacific Press had copy for resetting the first five chapters and a portion of the sixth. On March 22, Jones reported to White:

We have received corrected copy for about 100 pages of Great Controversy, and have already begun typesetting. We found the ten-point linotype matrices which we have been using on the Signs were so badly worn that they would hardly do for book work, so we sent for a new set of matrices, and they arrived last night. This will give us a good, clear-cut face. We want this new edition to be just as near correct and just as good as possible. Miss Steward is here, and I understand that she is to take the responsibility of reading the final page proofs, but she wants our proofreaders to read galley proofs, etc.

Jones, in his letter, discussed the number of sets of printing plates that would be wanted and expressed the hope he could have a visit with W. C. White before White had to leave to attend the Spring Meeting of the General Conference Committee in Washington, D.C.

It is evident that all concerned expected that the work called for would be pushed through in a matter of weeks.

In the meantime, as a corollary to the resetting of the type for The Great Controversy, thoughts began to develop both in the minds of Ellen White and the members of her staff regarding certain features of the new reset book. These related not only to the physical features of the book--type face, illustrations, et cetera--but also to the text itself. Ellen White wrote of this to F. M. Wilcox, chairman of the Review and Herald board:

When I learned that 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.

These and other considerations led W. C. White to reach out for helpful suggestions. He reported:

We took counsel with the men of the Publishing Department, with State canvassing agents, and with members of the publishing committees, not only in Washington, but in California, and I asked them to kindly call our attention to any passages that needed to be considered in connection with the resetting of the book.--WCW to "Our General Missionary Agents," July 24, 1911 (see also 3SM, pp. 439, 440).

As suggestions began to come in, he called a halt in typesetting and the making of printing plates. At this point 120 pages had been sent to the type foundry for platemaking, and the type was set for 100 more pages.

Considerations Initiated by Plans for a New Edition

[Top of Document]

The Great Controversy was Ellen White's most important book. She regarded it as a volume designed to win readers to an understanding and acceptance of the light of present truth.

This lifted the matter of a new edition somewhat above the mechanical production of a volume for literature evangelists to introduce to the people of the world, to the excellence of the text itself, depicting the great controversy story in an accurate and winning way.

So, relatively early in 1910, there loomed before Ellen White, her staff, and the publishers a perfecting of the text to reflect a precision of expression, and the employment of words acceptable to both Catholic and Protestant readers. The steps to accomplish this were grasped somewhat progressively. While Ellen White, with a full sense of this implication, carried the responsibility for many changes in the text, she delegated the details of the work to several members of her experienced and trusted office staff. But she held herself as the ultimate judge, and she would from time to time consider specific points and finally review the text of the manuscript.

It should be stated here that neither Ellen White nor her staff considered what was done as an actual "revision," and all studiously avoided the use of the term, for it was entirely too broad in its connotation.

Here were the involvements that developed as the work was entered upon.

1. First and foremost, giving the full reference in connection with each quotation drawn from histories, commentaries, and other theological works. While these stood in quotation marks, only a very few carried source references. Each item was to be verified to ensure its accuracy, and reference to the original source was to be given. This was a point that had been raised in preceding years from time to time, especially by those engaged in book distribution.

2. Rewording time references, such as "forty years ago," "a century ago," et cetera--putting the book in a position of correctness regardless of when it would be read.

3. In a few instances, selecting words more precise in their meaning than those first employed by the author, to set forth facts and truths more correctly and accurately.

4. Having the Catholic reader in mind, to employ words that in expressing truth would do so kindly and win rather than repel.

5. Presenting, in cases where facts might be challenged (especially in reviewing the history of the conflict in Reformation days), only that which could be supported by available reference works of ready access.

6. Including appendix notes, supportive of the text of the book.

It was agreed that upon early that the new book should be held as nearly as possible, page for page, to the 1888 printing so widely circulated. At the outset, work on the illustrations for the new book had been undertaken. This was a point of importance in a volume to be sold by colporteurs.

The typesetting that had begun was now being held in abeyance. W. C. White at first thought that the delay would be not much more than a week or two, allowing, as he said in his letter to Jones on May 17, 1910, for "careful study of suggestions . . .recently received from brethren connected with the Review and Herald." White continued:

You may be sure we will do all we can to minimize the changes, not only in the pages molded and in the pages set, but in the whole book. We feel, however, that now is the time to give faithful consideration to the suggestions that have been made to us.

Miss Steward, on completing her work of correcting spelling, capitalization, punctuation, et cetera, joined Clarence Crisler in checking historical and other quotations employed in the book. With other tasks pressing on Miss Steward, Dores Robinson was soon also drawn in to work at Crisler's side. The publisher and artists were at work on some new full-page illustrations, perfecting others, and making new engravings.

Other suggestions from publishing men and publication committees were now coming in. These fell within the guidelines noted above. W. C. White, while attending the Spring Meeting of the General Conference Committee in Washington, D.C., in mid-April, 1910, had conferred with W. W. Prescott, editor of The Protestant Magazine, published by the Review and Herald, urging him to respond to the invitation to send in suggestions aimed at meeting Ellen White's expressed determination to have the book as perfect as possible. Considering his responsibilities, it was appropriate that word from him should be sought. On April 26, 1910, Prescott rendered his report in a thirty-nine-page double-spaced letter to W. C. White. His suggestions ranged all the way from a date given and a precision in wording and the correcting of minor historical inaccuracies to the proposal of changes that would reflect his privately held views on some points, such as the dating of the 1260 years of prophecy.

Each item sent in was reviewed on May 23 by a group consisting of W. C. White, C. C. Crisler, D. E. Robinson, A. G. Daniells, and Professor Homer Salisbury, a trusted scholar and president of Washington Missionary College who was traveling with Daniells. Most of the suggestions were obviously reasonable, and, in principle, approved. Others were rejected as being inappropriate or out of harmony with positions held by Ellen White. Each item, both in the initial review and in further careful probing, was given careful study. Of the Prescott suggestions, the larger number might be considered helpful but of minor significance. Some, if adopted, would have changed the teachings of the book. All such were rejected. His suggestions included some mentioned by others. In all, about one half of his suggestions were accepted, and about one half rejected.

[See W.W. Prescott and The 1911 Edition of The Great Controversy]

The respective identities of the individuals who submitted suggestions in response to Ellen White's request were soon lost sight of as the contribution of committees and individuals were blended into one overall group of points calling for study, first by the staff and eventually by Ellen White herself. Prescott's name finds no place in the records, except his letter to W. C. White.

Finding Sources for the Quotations

[Top of Document]

The most demanding of the tasks connected with readying the book for resetting was the tracking down of all the quotations employed in the book--417 in all, drawn from seventy-five authors, ten periodicals, and three encyclopedias. It was while Ellen White was in Europe and had access to the library left by J. N. Andrews at the denomination's publishing house in Basel, Switzerland, that the manuscript for the 1888 edition was largely prepared. At Elmshaven, Clarence Crisler was now in charge of seeking out the sources and verifying the quotations.

Crisler was soon off to the libraries of the University of California in Berkeley, the State library at Sacramento, another in San Francisco, and to the Stanford University library at Palo Alto. His investigations met with reasonably moderate success, but it was soon seen that they must reach out much farther. To accomplish this, ministers of experience and educators living near other important libraries in Chicago, New York, and Washington were drawn into the search, with requests to help in finding specific items. Then the search led to libraries in Europe--Great Britain, France, and Germany.

What was at first thought of as being accomplished in two or three weeks stretched into four months. Crisler did not leave California; from the Elmshaven office he directed research, sometimes far afield but yielding significant and satisfying results. By mid-October they had located almost all the quotations.

Ultimately it was seen that substitute quotations approved by Ellen White could be used for most of the few that seemed impossible to locate. A minimum of quoted materials was left in quotation marks but without references.

One area that seemed the most difficult to handle was in finding the original source of several of the quotations used in connection with the chapter on "The Bible and the French Revolution." The search led to Elder Uriah Smith's Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation, and it soon was discovered that Ellen White had depended on sources Smith employed. Most were traced to their original location, but in the case of a few, Crisler and his associates failed at first to track them down.

Meanwhile, the work proceeded at Elmshaven and at Pacific Press. The longer the delay, the more opportunity there seemed to be for imaginings and rumors in the field. In a letter to A. G. Daniells written on June 20, 1910, W. C. White reported:

Shortly after we sent word to the Pacific Press to delay electrotyping making the printing plates, one of the workers in the type foundry visited the school [Pacific Union College], and soon questions and reports were as plentiful on the hillside and in the valley as quails in August.

He commented:

Questions and suppositions and remarks come to Mother from all quarters, and she will continue to be perplexed by them until the work is done.

This letter to the president of the General Conference was actually a progress report. Continued White:

During the last two weeks, we have been busily engaged in studying those matters which demanded consideration in connection with the bringing out of the new edition of Great Controversy. When I presented to Mother questions as to what we should do regarding the quotations from historians and the references to these historians, she was prompt and clear in her opinion that we ought to give proper credit wherever we can. This has called for a good deal of searching of histories.

Brethren Crisler and Robinson have taken much pains to look up the very best English authorities for the bulls and decrees and Letters quoted and referred to, and they have been successful beyond my fondest hopes.

And then White wrote of the involvements in the preparation of this new edition of the book:

Further than this there will be very few changes made. In a few places where ambiguous or misleading terms have been used, Mother has authorized a changed reading, but she protests against any change in the argument or subject matter of the book, and indeed, we find, as we study into the matter, a clear and satisfactory defense for those passages to which our critics might take exception.

There are a few historical matters which we are still searching for. The most perplexing one is that regarding the three and a half days when the dead bodies of the two witnesses lay unburied, as referred to in Revelation 11:9-11.

White then alluded to the question of the influence of General Conference leaders on the project. He wrote:

A number of questions have arisen over here as to what we are doing and why. Some have asked if you and Brother Prescott have been criticizing Great Controversy, and have asked to have it changed so that it will agree with the new light on the "daily."

Our answer is, No; that you have neither of you expressed any wish of this sort; that the "daily" is not mentioned or referred to in Great Controversy, that it is wholly ignored in that book, as are many other points of prophetic interpretation which, as published in Elder Smith's Daniel and Revelation, are being criticized.

I have maintained that as far as I can discern, you and Brother Salisbury and Elder Wilcox are in hearty sympathy with us and are doing what you can to help us to find clear and substantial evidence for the positions taken in Great Controversy.

As he wrote of the work and reports that were being circulated, some of which came to the attention of Ellen White, he declared:

I shall be wonderfully glad when we get a little further along with the work, so that we can show her [E. G. White] the proof pages of the new edition with a good, clear red mark in every place where the wording has been changed in harmony with her general instruction regarding historical quotations.

Aside from this, where we are working under a general order, we shall show her every change of wording that is proposed, and if it does not meet her approval, it will not be followed.--DF 83b.

E. G. White Settles the Question of the D'Aubigne Quotations

[Top of Document]

Ten days after this report was made by W. C. White to A. G. Daniells, a question arose, sparked by the checking of all quoted materials in the book. It was found that the most frequently quoted historian was D'Aubigne, whose History of the Reformation, written in French, had been published in five translations in England and the United States. Three of the translations were represented in The Great Controversy, but it was discovered that only one had the wholehearted approval of the author. The question now was "Should all the matter quoted from this author be from just the one which had the author's approval?" To do so would call for a good many changes in The Great Controversy text, and in some cases, provide a less desirable wording. Work on the pages involved was held up until this matter could be settled by Ellen White herself. And this was delayed considerably because of some long absences of W. C. White from Elmshaven, a number of them in behalf of the new medical school. No attempt would be made in the matter until W. C. White could be home and present the question to his mother. Crisler, on July 22, wrote to him at Loma Linda:

We are hoping that you will be sure to run up to St. Helena immediately after the close of the Loma Linda council, so that we may consider finally the D'Aubigne matters, et cetera.

In the meantime, Ellen White, possibly with some intimation of the question that had to be settled, made a clear-cut statement to Mary Steward that Mary carefully wrote out, dated, and signed on July 31. Here it is:

Whenever any of my workers find quotations in my writings, I want those quotations to be exactly like the book they are taken from. Sometimes they have thought they might change a few words to make it a little better; but it must not be done; it is not fair. When we quote a thing, we must put it just as it is.--DF 83b.

The next day, W. C. White was back home and hastened to place the D'Aubigne matter before his mother for a decision. Her decision was to use the translation approved by the author. On August 2, he wrote to Clarence Crisler, who was working at Pacific Press:

I undertook yesterday morning to present to Mother in detail the changes called for in our effort to correct the quotations from D'Aubigne. Mother examined a few of these and approved of them, but then told me plainly that she wished us to go forward with the whole lot, without asking her to examine them one by one.

Three days later, Elder White wrote to the manager of Pacific Press, reporting on Ellen White's decision and the work that followed in carrying it out:

I see that this week has slipped by without our putting the Luther chapters into the hands of the printers. I think these will come on all right next week.

Mother refuses to go over the D'Aubigne quotations item by item. She has examined enough to be satisfied that the work we are doing is right, and she has given full and unqualified instruction for us to go ahead.

The work in progress in Mountain View called for the close attention of Mary Steward and frequently for the presence of Clarence Crisler. While this was in progress, W. C. White continued to be away from the office, a great deal, serving the general interests of the church. Crisler knew that Ellen White, now 83 years old, might well be, under these circumstances, lonely and somewhat concerned. He made it a point to write to her from time to time from Mountain View. One such letter he typed out on Monday, August 1.

The historical work connected with the resetting of Great Controversy is nearly finished. We are finding nearly all the quoted matter, and proper references are being given in the margins at the foot of the pages. The quotations are all being verified. When we learn from you what translation of D'Aubigne should be followed in the quotations taken from his History of the Reformation, we will act accordingly.

Great Controversy will bear the severest tests. When it was prepared years ago, thorough work was done. This is more and more evident, the more the book is examined.

It would have been better, of course, if the historical references had been given in the first editions; but this is a minor matter that can easily be adjusted at the present time, when new plates are being made. We are copying out historical extracts to file away with our various publishing houses who are publishing Great Controversy, so that if anyone should ever question statements that you have made in Great Controversy, our brethren at these publishing houses will have matter to place before others, demonstrating that the positions you have taken in Great Controversy and the historical statements you have made are in harmony with the best historical records.

Great Controversy has already had a great sale; and our bookmen who have much to do with pushing its sale into new fields feel as if the new edition, giving proper credits to the historical extracts that are quoted in the book, will be all the better and stronger, and will meet with the full approval of all concerned. They rejoice to learn that the historical statements you have made in the book are in harmony with the best histories, and can be fully vindicated.

On September 20, Crisler wrote to Prof. H. C. Lacey, a teacher at the Adventist College at Stanborough Park, near London, England, who was helping to track down elusive quotations:

We have endeavored to have all quoted matter in the book carefully verified, and references to proper sources inserted at the foot of each page where the extracts occur, throughout the book. Of course, no revision of the text has been attempted; and the paging of the reset plates will remain practically the same as in the former subscription editions, all chapters beginning and ending on the same pages as hitherto. (Italics supplied.)

"The Bible and the French Revolution"

[Top of Document]

On August 1, the very day Ellen White gave study to and settled the question of the D'Aubigne quotations, Clarence Crisler, working in Mountain View, wrote to W. C. White:

I wish very soon to look up items connected with the French Revolution. This has been left, as you know, to the very last. Most of the other items have been cleared up.

On August 11, Crisler was rummaging through secondhand bookstores in San Francisco, looking for works that might help. He was pleased to find a single volume of the big set Historians' History of the World--the volume covering the entire period of the French Revolution. He felt it was well worth the dollar he paid for it. A few days before, he was working at the Stanford University library, reading up on French history. Of this, he reported:

Examined a good many works. Some works haven't a thing in them that is of any special value to us. There is one work, however, which will help a lot in establishing the soundness of the present philosophy of the French Revolutionary period, as outlined by Sister White, and that is Buckle's History of Civilization in England.

Buckle is one of the greatest of the philosophic historians; and in his work he makes very plain the fact that prior to any attempt whatever to revolt against the social and political situation in France, there was a determined effort, on the part of the thinkers and, in fact, of most of the educated men of France, to break through the long-established tyranny of the church, which stifled all true reform, whether religious, social, or political. Buckle makes very clear the differences between true Christianity and the religion, so-called, revealed in the lives of the French clergy of that period.--CCC to WCW, Aug. 11, 1910.

The twenty-four-page chapter in The Great Controversy on the Bible and the French Revolution was a very important one, in which many lessons were brought out showing the ultimate fruitage of rejection of God and His Word. Ellen White in this chapter introduced the prophecy in Revelation 11, concerning the "two witnesses" and the 1260-year time prophecy of the period that began A.D. 538 and ended in 1798. One scholar who in April was asked to read The Great Controversy carefully and point out places that might need strengthening if the book was to accomplish the most good, took exception to Ellen White's interpretation of the two witnesses and the validity of the dates of the 1260-year period. This intensified the need for a careful study of this chapter.

No occasion was found to turn away from the position taken on the 1260-day (or year) prophecy, but difficulty was experienced in endeavors to document specific actions of the French Assembly in 1793, edicts abolishing the Bible, and then three and a half years later restoring it to favor. Painstaking research failed to disclose such specific legislation, but edicts were found that did so in effect. Crisler found that one of the British lords, in a debate in Parliament as it opened in January, 1794, declared, after reading at length from French documents, that "The Old and New Testament were publicly burnt, as prohibited books." "This," Crisler commented in a letter to W. C. White on October 5, "is quite close to Sister White's declaration, for which we want authentic historical evidence, that 'it was in 1793 that the decree which prohibited the Bible passed the French Assembly."' Crisler continued:

You will note, upon examining Sister White's statement carefully, that the act which passed the assembly "prohibited the Bible." Even if we cannot find in the wording of an act these words or words very similar, we can find acts which prohibited the worship of God, or rather abolished the worship of God; and, as was plainly brought out in the British Parliament a few weeks after these excesses in France, the enactments against the Deity were followed by the burning of religious books, including the Bible.

In one French source, the original French of which we hope to find soon, it was announced that the Popular Society of the Section of the Museum had "executed justice upon all the books of superstition and falsehood; that breviaries, missals, legends, together with the Old and New Testaments, had expiated in the fire, the follies which they had occasioned among mankind."

I wish you might have the privilege of reading the statement which the Rev. Dr. Croly makes concerning this period. It is in his work Croly on the Apocalypse. Dr. Croly takes the position squarely that the enactments of the French Assembly abolishing all respect and worship of God, in fact abolished the Bible; and reasoning thus, he holds to the same exposition of the two witnesses of Revelation 11 that is given in Great Controversy.

His statements are very much to the point; and even if we cannot find an express law against the Bible, or prohibiting the Bible, we can still go far toward defending the position taken in Great Controversy.

In January, 1911, Clarence Crisler reported that there were a few references in the French Revolution chapter that they had not yet found. Two days later he wrote of receiving a report from Brother Vuilleumier, a denominational worker in France, that gave "one good passage on the restoration of the Bible at the close of three and a half years," which was highly prized (DF 84d, CCC to Guy Dail, Jan. 3, 1911).

Crisler also wrote:

Elder Conradi has given, in his Die Offenbarung Jesu, more proof in connection with the prophecy of the two witnesses of Revelation 11 than has any other of our Biblical expositors.--Ibid.

Through January and most of February it was hoped that with research both in Europe and in America there would be found the exact edicts of the French Assembly on the abolition and reinstatement of the Bible. It was not forthcoming, and on February 26, Clarence Crisler wrote to W. A. Colcord:

In the search for the original sources of passages quoted in the chapter on "The Bible and the French Revolution," we were led into a more extended inquiry than we had at first anticipated entering into.

We have not found every quotation given in the chapter, but many of them we have found, and verified.

Crisler then explained that "in order to keep a record of our findings," the staff at Elmshaven had made many notes. Some of these were included in five manuscripts on the French Revolution chapter. Where definite verification could not be found for the crucial statements in The Great Controversy, the wording was modified. The statement as it appeared in the 1888 edition read:

It was in 1793 that the decree which prohibited the Bible passed the French Assembly. Three years and a half later a resolution rescinding the decree, and granting toleration to the Scriptures, was adopted by the same body.--Pages 286, 287.

The wording in the 1911 edition reads:

It was in 1793 that the decrees which abolished the Christian religion and set aside the Bible passed the French Assembly. Three years and a half later a resolution rescinding these decrees, thus granting toleration to the Scriptures, was adopted by the same body.--Page 287.

This brought the crucial statement well within the limits of what could be proved from reliable historical sources. There was actually little change in intent, but rather a more precise wording. Ellen White was anxious for this, that the book might serve unquestioned in the widest possible reading circles. On this point, Crisler, in a letter to Guy Dail in Europe, stated:

In all this historical work, we are eager to have the manuscripts that may be submitted, given the most searching tests. We need never be afraid of historical truth.

And then he made an observation, one based on his painstaking research over a period of half a year:

We would do well to avoid accepting the conclusions of some of the more modern historians who are attempting to rewrite history so as to shape it up in harmony with their philosophical viewpoint. We find it necessary to exercise constant vigilance in this respect; and this leads us to set considerable store by the original sources, or fountainheads, of history.

At this point Crisler offered his own testimony of what he saw of God's guiding hand in the writing of The Great Controversy:

The more closely we examine the use of historical extracts in Controversy, and the historical extracts themselves, the more profoundly are we impressed with the fact that Sister White had special guidance in tracing the story from the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, down through the centuries until the end. No mortal man could have done the work that she has done in shaping up some of those chapters, including, we believe, the chapter on the French Revolution, which is a very remarkable chapter, in more ways than one.

And the more we go into these matters, the more profound is our conviction that the Lord has helped not only Sister White in the presentation of truth, but that He has overruled in the work of other writers, to the praise of His name and the advancement of present truth.

Our brethren in years past have used many quotations, and, as a general rule, the Lord surely must have helped them to avoid making use of many extracts that would have led them astray. Of course there is still a great deal of room for improvement, even in a book like Elder U. Smith's Daniel and Revelation. But not so much needs to be done, as might have had to be done, if the Lord had not given special help to these various writers.--DF 84d, CCC to Guy Dail, Jan. 3, 1911.

One other point calling for careful study, which was mentioned in suggestions received in April, 1910, and surfaced again as final work was done on the book, was the statement found on page 50 of the 1888 edition:

The pope has arrogated the very titles of Deity. He styles himself "Lord God the Pope," assumes infallibility, and demands that all men pay him homage. (Italics supplied.)

It was pointed out to Ellen White's staff that "there is abundant proof to establish the fact that the attributes of the Deity have been ascribed to the pope, but the style of expression in Great Controversy makes it appear that the pope, himself, has taken these titles to himself and that he has also assumed infallibility."--S. N. Curtiss to C. H. Jones, Feb. 14, 1911. There was seemingly full support for the Great Controversy statement in Giustianni's book Papal Rome as It Is. But this source was difficult to find and a bit uncertain as to reliability. Curtiss, manager of the Review and Herald, in his letter to Jones said: "It seems as though we ought to be very careful to eliminate every expression which cannot be backed up by authority. In this, I refer to historical statements, of course. I do not wish to be understood as bringing into question, in any way, the statements based on the authority of the Spirit of Prophecy."--Ibid.

In December, 1910, Crisler wrote of his discovery on the point of the statement "Lord God the Pope."

This is taken direct from a decretal by Pope Gregory the Ninth and I have copied it out in a large Jesuit library here on the Coast.--CCC to Adolf Boettcher, Dec. 2, 1910.

But now in late February, the question of authority for the declaration that the pope himself assumed the title having been called up again, it was felt that it could be settled only by Ellen White herself. If any change in wording were to be made, the page would have to be reset and new plates made. W. C. White writing to C. H. Jones in February 28, 1911, declared that:

It will depend upon Mother's decision. We have some questions to submit to her as soon as she is feeling a little better, and willing to consider them.

The question as to what the pope has arrogated to himself is a difficult one. The church has attributed to him all that is claimed in our books, and he has received it and acted upon it, but it is a little difficult to prove from histories within our reach that he has assumed the titles of the Deity and the right to change divine law, and Mother may decide that it is best for us to take a very conservative position in view of the controversies before us.

As soon as she decides this question (I hope she will consider it tomorrow), then we will report to you.

The decision was in favor of wording the statement in such a way that it could be easily supported by documents available. The wording in the 1911 edition reads:

More than this, the pope has been given the very titles of Deity. He has been styled "Lord God the Pope," and has been declared infallible. He demands the homage of all men.--Page 50. (Italics supplied.)

The decision was Ellen White's. While there were days that she, now 83 years of age, found she had to rest her mind, yet she was well able to make important decisions. At one point, while the work on The Great Controversy was in progress, W. C. White wrote of her decision-making ability, an ability that was yet to serve for four more years. He had just returned from a trip to southern California; Elder J. A. Burden was with him, eager to seek counsel on some important Loma Linda matters. Note White's words:

We found Mother quite well, and she entered heartily into a study of the questions which Brother Burden came to present. I was glad indeed to see that she has become sufficiently rested so that she can deal with these important questions in a clear and decided manner.--WCW to C. H. Jones, Dec. 24, 1910.

Another point, much like the one on the assumptions of the pope, related to a somewhat similar statement on page 261. In this case, some quoted material was deleted and the point was covered by words substituted by the author. Crisler explained:

We are simply discontinuing the use of these passages because it would be quite impossible to prove to the world that these passages have in them all the meaning we have hitherto taught that they convey. Even in the passage that we were considering on page 261 of Controversy. ["'the pope can dispense above the law,"' et cetera]. I am not at all sure that the author of Controversy erred in its use in former editions.

However, she herself recognizes the wisdom of making a substitution in this instance, and of avoiding the use of it in future, to prove the point under consideration. Sister White has based her decision on the effort that the Roman Catholic divines have made to show that this passage refers only to the ecclesiastical law, and has no reference whatever to the divine law; and also on the fact that in future our published utterances will be subjected to severe and unfriendly criticism. She feels very clear in continuing to use only such extracts as cannot be gain said by our enemies when we are brought into trying situations in future.

And then Crisler went on to explain the basis of other decisions on Ellen White's part:

On the other hand, Sister White has not felt clear in adopting as the full authoritative teaching of the Roman Catholic Church some of the utterances of their apologists in lands where religious liberty prevails. For this reason, she has felt clear in holding to the wording she adopted years ago for her presentation of the doctrine of indulgences, and her various references to this doctrine also, in the main, her references to withholding the Bible from the common people.

I might refer to still other declarations in Controversy that have not been changed in order to harmonize them with the published works of certain apologists of the Church of Rome.--CCC to W. A. Colcord, April 9, 1911.

E G. White Reads and Approves Changes

[Top of Document]

From time to time as the work on The Great Controversy progressed, important matters were taken to Ellen White for decision, and the staff at Elmshaven worked under general instructions from her. Finally, when the type was set and proof sheets were available from the publishers, a set was marked showing clearly both the old reading and the new, and these were submitted to her for careful reading and approval. An envelope in the White Estate Document File No. 85e carries the notation: "Controversy Proofs Prepared for Mrs. E. G. White's Inspection and Approval." "All approved."

At last the work was done, a work much more demanding than was anticipated when those involved began in January, 1910. By early July, 1911, the book was in the binderies of Pacific Press and the Review and Herald. On Monday, July 17, copies of the newly published Great Controversy--the 1911 edition--were received at Elmshaven. It was a joyous day.


[Return to the Homepage]
[Return to the Issues and Answers page]