The Great Controversy
(A statement made by W. C. White before the General Conference Council, October 30, 1911)
Addressing the council, Elder W. C. White said:
"It is with pleasure that I present to you a statement regarding the latest English edition of The Great Controversy.
"About two years ago we were told that the electrotype plates for this book, in use at the Pacific Press, the Review and Herald, and the International Tract Society (London), were so worn that the book must be reset and new plates made. This work has been done at the Pacific Press. Four sets of plates were made--one for each of our offices in Washington, Mountain View, Nashville, and Watford.
"In a letter sent to the managers of our publishing houses, I wrote as follows, on July 24, 1911: [This same letter was addressed to "Our General Missionary Agents."]
"`After taking counsel with ministers, canvassers, and other friends of the book, we thought best to reset the text so that the new edition would correspond as nearly as possible with the old. And although we could not use exactly the same type, the matter runs nearly page for page. Every chapter in the new edition begins and ends on the same pages as does the corresponding chapter in the old edition.
"`The most noticeable change in the new edition is the improvement in the illustrations. Each of the 42 chapters, together with the Preface, Introduction, Contents, and list of illustrations, has a beautiful pictorial heading; and ten new full-page illustrations have been introduced, to take the place of those which were least attractive.
"`The 13 Appendix notes of the old edition, occupying 13 pages, have been replaced by 31 notes occupying 12 pages. These are nearly all reference notes, intended to help the studious reader in finding historical proofs of the statements made in the book.'
"`The Biographical Notes have been omitted, and the general index has been enlarged from 12 to 22 pages, thus greatly facilitating the finding of desired passages.
"`In the body of the book, the most noticeable improvement is the introduction of historical references. In the old edition, over 700 biblical references were given, but in only a few instances were there any historical references to the authorities quoted or referred to. In the new edition the reader will find more than 400 references to 88 authors and authorities.
"`When we presented to Mother the request of some of our canvassers, that there should be given in the new edition not only scripture references, but also references to the historians quoted, she instructed us to hunt up and insert the historical references. She also instructed us to verify the quotations, and to correct any inaccuracies found; and where quotations were made from passages that were rendered differently by different translators, to use that translation which was found to be most correct and authentic.
"`The finding of the various passages quoted from historians has been a laborious task, and the verification of the passages quoted has led to some changes in the wording of the text. This is especially noticeable in the quotations from the History of the Reformation, by J. Merle D'Aubigne. It was found that there were six or more English translations, American and British, which varied much in wording, although almost identical in thought; and in the old edition of The Great Controversy three of these had been used, according to the clearness and beauty of the language. But we learned that only one of these many translations had the approval of the author; that is the one used by the American Tract Society in its later editions.
Therefore, the quotations from D'Aubigne in this edition of The Great Controversy have been made to conform in the main to this approved translation.
"`In a few instances, new quotations from historians, preachers, and present-day writers, have been used in the place of the old, because they are more forceful, or because we have been unable to find the old ones. In each case where there has been such a change, Mother has given faithful attention to the proposed substitution, and has approved of the change.
"`You will find that changes of this character have been made on pages 273, 277, 306-308, 334, 335, 387, 547, 580, and 581.
"`There are still some score or more quotations in the book whose authority we have so far been unable to trace. Fortunately, these relate to matters regarding which there is not a probability of there being any serious contention.
"`In spelling, punctuation, and capitalization, changes have been made to bring this book into uniformity of style with the other volumes of this series.
"`In eight or ten places, time references have been changed because of the lapse of time since the book was first published.
"`In several places, forms of expression have been changed to avoid giving unnecessary offense. An example of this will be found in the change of the word "Romish" to "Roman" or "Roman Catholic." In two places the phrase "divinity of Christ" is changed to "deity of Christ." And the words "religious toleration" have been changed to "religious liberty."
"`The statements made on pages 285-287, regarding the action of the Assembly in its blasphemous decrees against religion and the Bible, have been so worded as to show that the Assembly set aside, and afterward restored, not only the Bible, but also God and His worship.
"`In the new edition, the rise of the papacy in 538, and its fall in 1798, are spoken of as its "supremacy" and "downfall," instead of its "establishment" and "abolition," as in the old edition.
"`In each of these places the more accurate form of expression has been duly considered and approved by the author of the book.
"`On pages 50, 563, 564, 580, 581, and in a few other places where there were statements regarding the papacy which are strongly disputed by Roman Catholics, and which are difficult to prove from accessible histories, the wording in the new edition has been so changed that the statement falls easily within the range of evidence that is readily obtainable.
"`Regarding these and similar passages which might stir up bitter and unprofitable controversies, Mother has often said, "What I have written regarding the arrogance and the assumptions of the papacy, is true. Much historical evidence regarding these matters has been designedly destroyed; nevertheless, that the book may be of the greatest benefit to Catholics and others, and that needless controversies may be avoided, it is better to have all statements regarding the assumptions of the pope and the claims of the papacy stated so moderately as to be easily and clearly proved from accepted histories that are within the reach of our ministers and students."
"`If you hear reports that some of the work done on this latest edition was done contrary to Mother's wish, or without her knowledge, you can be sure that such reports are false, and unworthy of consideration.'"
Passages from the old and the new editions were read and compared to illustrate the statement read from the speaker's letter of July 24. Then Brother White said:
"Since the printing of this new edition, Mother has taken great pleasure in looking over and rereading the book. Day after day, as I visited her in the morning, she spoke of it, saying that she enjoyed reading it again, and that she was glad that the work we have done to make this edition as perfect as possible, was completed while she was living and could direct in what was done.
"Mother has never claimed to be authority on history. The things which she has written out are descriptions of flashlight pictures and other representations given her regarding the actions of men, with views of past, present, and future history in its revelation of this work. In connection with the writing out of these views, she has made use of good and clear historical statements to help make plain to the reader the things which she is endeavoring to present. When I was a mere boy, I heard her read D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation to my father. She read to him a large part, if not the whole, of the five volumes. She has read other histories of the Reformation. This has helped her to locate and describe many of the events and the movements presented to her in vision. This is somewhat similar to the way in which the study of the Bible helps her to locate and describe the many figurative representations given to her regarding the development of the great controversy in our day between truth and error.
"Mother has never laid claim to verbal inspiration (see Introduction to The Great Controversy, pp. 11 and 12), and I do not find that my father, or Elder 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."
"The first edition of this book was published in California in 1884. When Spirit of Prophecy, Volume III, was printed, there was some matter left over. A portion of
this was printed in pamphlet form, and circulated; and it was expected that Mother would proceed immediately to add to this matter and bring out Volume IV. Before Father's death he had advertised the book Spirit of Prophecy, Volume IV.
"When Mother brought out Volume IV, she and those who had to do with its publication had in mind the fulfillment of Father's plan. We also had in mind that it was written for the Adventist people of the United States. Therefore, with much difficulty the matter was compressed so as to bring this volume into about the same size as the other volumes of the series.
"Later on, when it was found that book could be sold to all people, the publishers took the plates and printed an edition on larger paper. Illustrations were inserted, and an experiment [was] made in selling it as a subscription book at $1.50.
"In 1885 Mother and I were sent to Europe, and there the question came up regarding its translation into German, French, Danish, and Swedish. As Mother considered this proposition, she decided to make additions to the matter.
"Mother's contact with European people had brought to her mind scores of things that had been presented to her in vision during past years, some of them two or three times, and other scenes many times. Her seeing of historic places and her contact with the people refreshed her memory with reference to these things, and so she desired to add much material to the book. This was done, and the manuscripts were prepared for translation.
"After our return to America, a new edition was brought out much enlarged. In this edition some of the matter used in the first English edition was left out. The reason for these changes was found in the fact that the new edition was intended for world-wide circulation.
"In her public ministry, Mother has shown an ability to select from the storehouse of truth matter that is well adapted to the needs of the congregation before her; and she has always thought that in the selection of matter for publication in her books the best judgment should be shown in selecting that which is best suited to the needs of those who will read the book.
"Therefore, when the new edition of The Great Controversy was brought out in 1888, there were left out about 20 pages of matter--four or five pages in a place--which were very instructive to the Adventists of America, but which were not appropriate for readers in other parts of the world.
"Much of the research for historical statements used in the new European and American editions of The Great Controversy was done in Basel, where we had access to Elder Andrews's large library, and where the translators had access to the university libraries.
"When we came to go over this matter for the purpose of giving historical references, there were some quotations which we could not find. In some cases there were found other statements making the same point, from other historians. These were in books accessible in many public libraries. When we brought to Mother's attention a quotation that we could not find, and showed her that there was another quotation that we had found, which made the same point, she said, `Use the one you can give reference to, so that the reader of the book, if he wishes to go to the source and find it, can do so.' In that way some historical data have been substituted.
"Now, with reference to the statement that the people at Washington, or the General Conference Committee men, have been doing this or that, right or wrong, in connection with this book, it is important that you should have a clear statement of facts regarding the matter.
"Our brethren at Washington and at Mountain View have done only that which we requested them to do. As stated in the beginning, 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.
"When it was pointed out that some of the historical data were questioned and challenged, we asked them to give us a written statement that would help us in our research. They did as we requested and nothing more. All decisions as to what should be changed, and what should be printed word-for-word as in the old edition, were made in Mother's office, by persons in her employ and working under her direction. Therefore, there is no occasion for anyone to say a word against the General Conference Committee men or the literary men at Washington, or against the book, because of anything done by the brethren in Washington or elsewhere in connection with this work.
"We are very thankful to our brethren in Washington, and to many others, for kind and faithful painstaking labors in looking up those passages that were likely to be challenged by the Catholics and other critics. We are also profoundly thankful to our brethren in England and on the Continent, and also to brethren in Boston, New York, and Chicago, for helping to find in the great libraries, and verify, those quotations that were difficult to locate. They have done this work at our request, and to help us in what we thought ought to be done. The uses made of the results of this research, are seen in the historical references at the foot of the page and in the Appendix.
"The Appendix in the old book, as you remember, was partly explanatory, partly argumentative, and partly apologetic; but such notes seemed to us to be no longer necessary, and the 31 notes in the new edition are chiefly references to historical statements showing the correctness of the statements made in the book. We felt that
it would be of value to the studious reader to have these definite references to the statements of well-known historians."--W. C. White, July 24, 1911.