On Record Outsiders Reflection on Ellen G. White
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Summary: What thought-leaders who are not Seventh-day Adventists have said about the Spirit of Prophecy.
 
 

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Revelation 12:17, 19:10

One of the distinguishing features of the remnant church is that it has the “testimony of Jesus Christ” which is “the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). God bestowed the spirit of prophecy upon Ellen G. White and has guided His remnant people through the visions and dreams He gave her.

Just like other prophets, Ellen White faced mixed reviews from the people she was called to minister to. Those mixed reviews continue to this day. Some love her and cherish her counsel. These apply to Ellen White such endearing epithets as “Sister White,” “Spirit of Prophecy,” “the Pen of Inspiration,” and “the Servant of the Lord,” to name just a few.

Others claim to love her but misuse her writings, wielding her words as weapons against those who differ with them on various matters, spiritual or otherwise. Ellen White felt troubled by such a use of her words and wrote, “They say it is for the good of the cause of God that they desire my counsel, not that they have any personal trial themselves, but they use my words frequently to give strength to their own personal feelings, to sustain their own ideas, and to vindicate themselves as being in the right and others in the wrong” (6LtMs, Ms 24, 1889, par. 14).

Still others, both within and outside the church, openly express unbelief and criticism. Ellen White has been accused of hypocrisy, lying, plagiarism, and of being a false prophet. Her third-grade education has been derided. Her authority to expound the Scriptures has been disparaged. Her counsels have been relegated to the trash can of dusty, outdated notions, or pushed into a corner like faded, old family pictures stored in the attic – irrelevant to us today.  Her books end up in garage sales, second-hand stores, and used books stores. Some have even taken fiendish delight in burning her books.

None of this should disturb us, however, since Jesus said His followers should expect these things.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:11-12

No, the criticism Ellen White has received by church members and non-Adventists alike is not surprising. It’s simply the lot of being a servant of God because the “dragon was wroth with the woman (God’s church)” (Revelation 12:17) and is waging war against the church. Satan has always especially targeted the prophets of God.

What may come as a surprise, though, is the esteem garnered by Ellen White from many reputable people outside the church. Unprejudiced professionals, experts in the fields of health and nutrition, education, journalism, and archaeology recognized extraordinary wisdom and ability in Ellen White. Here is a sampling of some of the acclaim that is on record.

Health

Ellen White’s first vision on health came to her in 1848 on the dangers of using tobacco, tea, and coffee. [1] In the mid-1800s, about half of American Seventh-day Adventists died before they reached 30 years of age.[2] At a time when physicians were using cocaine as an anesthetic for eye surgery and tooth pain, when Bayer launched an advertising campaign marketing heroine as a cold medicine for children, and smoking was considered a treatment for cough, God sent Ellen White with messages that would protect His people from the quagmire of harmful information in circulation at the time.

Going against a tide of misinformation on health, Ellen White’s first health messages spoke out against the use of drugs and tobacco. “Drug medication, as it is generally practiced, is a curse,” [3] she wrote and “Tobacco is a slow, insidious, but most malignant poison.”[4] This is common knowledge today, but it wasn’t when she wrote it.

Clive McCay[TB1]  (1898-1967)

National Research Council Fellow, Yale University (1925-1927)

Professor of Nutrition, Cornell University (1927-1963)

Member of the National Institutes of Health, Gerontology Study Section (1946-1950)

Clive McCay who taught a course in History of Nutrition at Cornell University in the 1950s understood the milieu of muddled half-truths, erroneous theories, and outright deceitful advice on health that existed in the 19 th century. McCay had been given a copy of Counsels on Diet and Foods by his graduate student Helen Chen. McCay was amazed that an uneducated woman would have nutrition knowledge so far in advance of her times. His introduction to her writings piqued a deep interest in Ellen White. So much so, that in 1958 he presented a lecture to members of his Unitarian Church’s men’s club on Ellen White’s life and teachings.

As a result of that presentation, Clive McCay was invited to write a series of articles about Ellen White’s health messages in the Review and Herald. His articles were published in 1959. He wrote that modern science had confirmed her ideas on diet and health. Learning of allegations that she had “borrowed” her ideas from others only deepened McCay’s admiration for her. He countered that if she had used others’ work in her own writings, “She would have had to be a most amazing person with knowledge beyond her times”[5] to do even this since she would have had to choose from a “bewildering array of theories and health teachings current in the nineteenth century.” [6]

McCay also expressed respect for Mrs. White’s leadership in influencing so many people to improve their diets and wondered how to make her teachings more widely known so that more could benefit from the health-saving information. He wrote, “In spite of the fact that the works of Mrs. White were written long before the advent of modern scientific nutrition, no better over-all guide is available today.”[7]

Professor McCay would have been pleased to know that much of Ellen White’s health counsels were verified by a student of his, T. Colin Campbell, a biochemist who participated in the 20-year China-Cornell-Oxford Project. Expanding on the research findings, Campbell co-authored a worldwide bestselling book, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health. The book looks at the connection between the consumption of animal products and chronic illnesses. It recommends exposure to sunshine and eating a predominantly vegan diet low in processed and refined foods. This same Thomas Colin Campbell later appeared in the documentary Forks Over Knives, promoting a whole foods plant-based diet.

Nathan Pritikin (1915-1985)

Bestselling author on nutrition

Engineer and inventor

Chemical and electrical products patent developer

Before T. Colin Campbell became a household name, a layman had made a name for himself in the 1970s promoting lifestyle changes to fight cardiovascular disease. Not discouraged by his doctor’s claim that it was impossible to lower his cholesterol without drugs, Nathan Pritikin had cured his own heart disease by implementing lifestyle changes that included adopting a vegetarian diet and exercise program. He wrote a book and gathered a large following, fueled by reports of the “miracle cure” experienced by those who adopted his lifestyle.

In 1978, Seventh-day Adventist pathologist, Dr. Ethel Nelson, interviewed Nathan Pritikin for Ministry Magazine. When Pritikin was asked if he was “aware of the Adventist health writings, many of which are more than a century old,” he replied, “You mean the writings of Ellen G. White? I have read all her books dealing with health topics.” He added, “I feel that if you Adventists had followed the teachings in these books, you would be a much healthier group. I think that the Adventist dietary plan is really very close to our nutritional recommendations. It was marvelous that this woman was able to write all that she did without any real scientific background.” When Dr. Nelson stated, “We believe that she was inspired” Pritikin responded, “She had to have been inspired.”[8]

Other non-Adventist experts who have been positively influenced by Ellen White’s health message include Dr. Joel Fuhrman who frequently cites the Adventist Health Study; Paul Wenner, who’d read Ellen White as a teen and later created the Gardenburger; and health and juicing guru, Jack LaLanne, whose mother was a Seventh-day Adventist.

Journalism

Paul Harvey (1918-2009)

American radio broadcaster (1945-2009)

Host of the popular The Rest of the Story radio program

Paul Harvey was a popular radio personality who spoke to as many as 24 million listeners each week. Although he was not a baptized Seventh-day Adventist, he and his wife, Angel, regularly attended an Adventist church for the last 20 years of his life.

On September 25, 1997, Harvey featured a story about Ellen White on his radio show. He said, “Women have been honored on American postage stamps for more than 100 years. . . . But I can name an American woman author who has never been honored thus, though her writings have been translated into 148 languages. More than Marx or Tolstoy, more than Agatha Christie, more than William Shakespeare. Only now is the world coming to appreciate her recommended prescription for optimum spiritual and physical health."[9]

In a newspaper column about Ellen White’s health message, Paul Harvey wrote,

It has tended to reaffirm the faith of the faithful to discover that the most advanced scientific findings support what was written and taught by this amazing little lady, Ellen White, more than a century ago. If future scientific findings continue to support hers, let’s see what tomorrow’s doctors will be prescribing:

Ellen White advised against overeating. Also against crash dieting. (‘Do not go to extremes.’) Minimal sweets. (She said that sugar is not good for the stomach.)

She recommended grains, vegetables, fruits—especially apples. (‘Apples are superior to any fruit.’)

She recommended against meat. Coffee, and tea. And, sorry, no hot biscuits.

If some of her recommendations sound extreme, imagine how they must have sounded in 1863. Yet modern science continues more and more to say, ‘She was right’! [10]

Education

Florence Stratemeyer (1900-1980)

Faculty, Teachers College, Columbia University (1930-1965)

Professor, Curriculum and Teaching

Developed curriculum based on direct experience

Florence Stratemeyer was a faculty member at Columbia University who developed an innovative approach to training teachers. In turn, her philosophy of education influenced many teacher educators and school of education deans across America. Many well-known leaders in education had been Stratemeyer’s doctoral students.

Stratemeyer was invited once to address a convention of Seventh-day Adventist teachers. She said,

Recently the book Education , by Ellen G. White, has been brought to my attention. Written at the turn of the century, this volume was more than fifty years ahead of its times. And I was surprised to learn that it was written by a woman with but three years of schooling.

The breadth and depth of its philosophy amazed me. Its concepts of balanced education, harmonious development, and of thinking and acting on principle are advanced educational concepts.

I am not surprised that members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church hold the writings of Mrs. White in great respect and make them central in developing the educational program in their schools. [11]

Tsunekichi Mizuno

National Director of Social Education, Japan

Director, Museum of Science, Japan

While studying at the University of Illinois, Tsunekichi Mizuno pulled the book Education by Ellen G. White from a library shelf and studied it. The book made a great and lasting impression on him that influenced education in Japan and reflected positively on the work of Adventist missionaries in Japan.

Dr. Mizuno came to the aid of Seventh-day Adventist educators at Japan Missionary College in 1954 when the school was seeking accreditation for their teacher education program after numerous attempts for accreditation had already failed. During a visit from several high-ranking government officials, it was suggested that the college try to establish affiliation with the elite Tamagawa University in Tokyo. To Raymond Moore, the college’s president at the time, the suggestion seemed an impossibility. They had already failed at establishing affiliation with two other colleges. Affiliation must meet the college’s requirements which included a tight budget, curriculum that adhered to Seventh-day Adventist beliefs, and Sabbaths off. These criteria were simply too restrictive for Japanese colleges.

The UN official who had suggested affiliation with Tamagawa encouraged Moore to try anyway, adding that Tamagawa University’s educational philosophy was similar to that of the Adventist college. So Moore arranged a meeting with Dr. Mizuno, the director of extension and teacher education.

Dr. Mizuno embraced the affiliation proposal. However, when he presented the proposal to the faculty council, he faced strong opposition. Nevertheless, he convinced them by assuring them he would take personal responsibility for the alliance. He faced another hurdle when every one of the college’s students failed Tamagawa’s entrance exam. Dr. Mizuno persuaded university faculty to make an exception for the students, again saying that he would take personal responsibility.

Affiliation with Tamagawa University presented challenges to Japan Missionary College as well. The association with Tamagawa meant that the college’s students were instructed by Missionary College staff while reports and examinations were graded by professors at Tamagawa University. This arrangement placed the college’s staff and students under a great deal of pressure. In addition, the college operated a farm and students were required to work 20 hours per week, a requirement the college felt they could not waive, even in face of the need for extra study time.

In spite of heavy academic and practical work loads, by God’s grace Japan Missionary College’s students excelled. That first quarter, Moore reported, “every one of our students . . . received all A’s in all subjects!”

Influenced by the book Education, and his experience with faculty and students of Japan Missionary College, Dr. Mizuno, a man of renown, held the Adventist college in high regard and seemed to consider the college’s faculty as his colleagues. Moore called him “a really great educator of the world.” [12]

Writing about the book Education, Dr. Mizuno wrote,

Education , written with the inspired pen of Ellen G. White, has for fifty some years been a well-known book which has rendered the greatest possible service and joy to students, teachers, and parents the world over.

When I was studying at the University of Illinois, it was my privilege to read the book in its original language. I was profoundly moved by the book at that time [Professor Mizuno is not a Christian and professes no particular religion], and it has been my desire ever since to recommend it to the educators in Japan. It is my sincere joy to hear that the book has been finally translated into the Japanese language. [13]

Raja R. Radosavlyevish

Minister of Education, Serbia

In 1912, the minister of education for Serbia published a translation of Education under his own name. He had apparently come across the book while studying in Illinois. He must have been exceedingly impressed by it to be willing to run the risk associated with pretending he’d written it himself. In the book’s foreword, he stated his recognition of the need for such a book and said he was pleased to fulfill that need for his country. James and Ellen’s grandson, Arthur L. White, in a letter to Dr. A. N. Nelson in 1961, [14] explained that because the church’s work in Serbia was small and it was good for the Serbian people to have the message contained in the book, they decided to let the matter slide.

Although others may have been guilty of plagiarizing her works, no accusation of plagiarism by Ellen White has ever been tried in the courts, though many allegations have been made. It is unlikely that any would attempt to charge her with plagiarism, especially in light of the legal opinion provided by copyright attorney Vincent Ramik.

Legal

Vincent Ramik

Senior partner of Diller, Ramik & Wight

Patent, trademark, and copyright law

In 1981, Attorney Vincent Ramik, a specialist in patent, trademark, and copyright law, was hired to investigate accusations of plagiarism against Ellen White. Ramik was given all the allegations of plagiarism from the first raised in 1889 to 1981. He examined all the relevant books by Mrs. White. After more than 300 hours of research, he concluded that Ellen White was not guilty of either copyright infringement or literary theft. He stated that if she were alive and had been the subject of litigation, he would volunteer his services to defend her in court, so sure was he of her innocence.[15]

When the findings were published, Ramik was accused of siding with Ellen White because he’d been hired by the church and had received a lot of money. Ramik replied that the fee for his service to investigate Ellen White was one-tenth of one percent of his firm’s earnings for the year. He added, “A lawyer’s job is to protect his client, by presenting the worst possible scenario in every instance.”

Most significantly, Attorney Ramik, a Roman Catholic, was personally affected by the books that were part of his investigation. These included The Great Controversy, which he read in its entirety. In an interview for the Review, Ramik said,

The bottom line is: What really counts is the message of Mrs. White, not merely the mechanical writings—words, clauses, sentences—of Mrs. White. . . . Too many of the critics have missed the boat altogether. And it's too bad, too!

I, personally, have been moved, deeply moved, by those writings. I have been changed by them. I think I am a better man today because of them. And I wish that the critics could discover that! [16]

We have these few testimonies on record to demonstrate the credibility and respect expressed by unbiased non-Adventists who have taken an honest look at Ellen White. Only in heaven will we know the full impact Ellen White has had upon those outside who took the time to investigate her for themselves. It’s time Seventh-day Adventists did the same.


1. Roger Coon, “Ellen G. White and the SDA Health Message,” https://www.andrews.edu/~fortind/EGWHealthMessage.html

2. Ibid.

3. CCh 105.4.

4. MHH 183.3

5. AGOL 45.4

6. WBEGW 58.4

7. WBEGW 59.2

8. Ethel Nelson, “Nutrition and Health: An Interview with Nathan Pritikin,” Ministry: International Journal for Pastors, https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1978/04/nutrition-and-health

9. Paul Harvey, “Someone You Should Know,” The Truth About Ellen G. White, https://www.ellengwhitetruth.com/life-times/someone-you-should-know

10. AGOL 56, https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/652.315#333

11. AGOL 56-57, https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/652.315#333

12. Raymond Moore, “Providence in Japan,” The Journal of True Education (Vol. 16, No. 3, February, 1954) https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Periodicals/JTE/JTE19540201-V16-03.pdf

13. AGOL 57, https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/652.315#343

14. Ellen G. White Estate—Question and Answer File, https://drc.whiteestate.org/files/6533.pdf

15. https://www.andrews.edu/~jmoon/Documents/GSEM_534/Class_outline/05b.pdf

16. Was Ellen G. White a Plagiarist? A reprint of articles published in the Adventist Review, September 17, 1981. “’There Simply is No Case,’” https://adventistbiblicalresearch.org/sites/default/files/pdf/plagiarist.pdf

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