Ellen G. White
The White Lie!
Chapter 6: Sources from Which She Drew
(More or Less)
The Desire of Ages
by Walter Rea
Order Walter Rea's book: "The White Lie"
If Patriarchs and Prophets was the cornerstone of Adventist theology The Desire of Ages was the keystone in the arch of Adventist thinking and Christological views. In the preface of volume two (1877) of its forerunner, The Spirit of Prophecy, it was said:
When the Publishers issued the first volume of this work, they felt that it supplied a want long realized by the Christian world, in illuminating a subject which is of great interest to the Christian mind, the relation of the son of God to the Father, and his position in Heaven, together with the fall of man and the Mediatorship of Christ between him and his Great or.
In this second volume the author continues with renewed interest the subject of the mission of Christ, as manifested by his Miracles and Teachings. The reader will find that this book furnishes invaluable aid in studying the lessons of Christ set forth in the Gospels. The author, as a religious writer and speaker, has labored for the public during more than twenty Years. Being aided in the study of the Scriptures, and her work as a religious teacher, by the special enlightenment of the Spirit of God, she is peculiarly qualified to present the facts of the Life and Ministry of Christ, in connection with the divine plan of human redemption, and to practically apply the lessons of Jesus to the simple duties of life [italics added].
One of the most pleasing features of this book is the plain and simple language with which the author clothes thoughts that glow with truth and beauty. 1
A lot of trouble and embarrassment would have been avoided in years to come if a few others than the "Spirit of God" had gotten some credit. Although the Scriptures do make it plain that every good and perfect gift comes from God, some of Ellen's gifts of writing were found to have come through quite a few human sources. In the late 1970s Robert W. Olson, for the White Estate (which is always pushed to keep its readers and the church members up to date on such things), issued a rather late concession that Ellen had indeed been peeking at the work of other authors when she wrote The Desire of Ages:
Ellen White's indebtedness to other authors has long been acknowledged by Seventh-day Adventists....
The exact extent of Ellen White's borrowings in The Great Controversy is not known....
Studies by Raymond Cottrell and Walter Specht have shown that Ellen White borrowed about 2.6 percent of her words in The Desire Of Ages from William Hanna's Life of Christ .... However, W. C. White and Marian Davis both mention other books on Christ's life which Ellen White used. It is also evident that she borrowed from some works not named by W. C. White or Miss Davis, such as John Harris's The Great Teacher....
Ellen White's literary borrowing was not limited to the three books discussed above....
Ellen White can hardly be called a "copyist" since she almost invariably rewrites, rephrases, and improves on the original author when she does use another's material....
Concerning the writing of The Desire of Ages in particular, W. C. White states
"Previous to her work of writing on the Life of Christ and during the time of her writing to some extent, she read from the works of Hanna, Fleetwood, Farrar, and Geikie. I never knew of her reading Edersheim. She occasionally referred to Andrews."-W. C. White to L. E. Froom, January
Comparison of The Desire of Ages with the various lives of Christ available in her day show that she drew, more or less [italics supplied] not only from the authors mentioned above by W. C. White, but from March, Harris, and others as well. 2
Olson's article, which may be one of the most revealing concessions to date by the White Estate, deserves detailed study. Had it been circulated, or even leaked, to the general public and the church at large (which it hasn't as I write), this book might not have been written. Often only the "insider" gleaning socalled "top secret" information knows where to send for what-if he is privileged to know that such information exists at all.
To write or say that "Ellen White's indebtedness to other authors has long been acknowledged by Seventhday Adventists" is only an extension of the white lie. Although it is technically true that, as far back as the 1880s, the church has been righting a rear guard action concerning the use of others' material in the name of God and Ellen, the declarations have always been made with defensiveness and quick justification.
William S. Peterson's article in a Spectrum issue of 1971, for example, was to bring down upon him a chorus of spiritual invectives that, in the language of the truck driver or stevedore, would curl the paint on any container at thirty paces. That Ellen had borrowed just was not so, it was said From that autumn issue until the 1980s the journal has carried continuing charges and counter charges, denials and counter denials that try to refute any suggestion that she would have incorporated anyone's vocabulary or been influenced in any of her writing. 3
Not until Neal C. Wilson, president of the General Conference, wrote the eighteen members of the special Glendale Committee set up to review the amount of certain findings about Ellen's "borrowing" were the readers of the Adventist Review to learn that she had used the works of others for "descriptive, biographical, historical, spiritual, and scientific information." 4 As one member of the committee was to point out to Wilson, "That hardly seems to leave much except direct revelation. Is that the issue the panel is to decide?" 5 Surely the personnel of the White Estate must have known all along that most of the church has been uniformed about the amount and extent of her "borrowing."
At least a great many church scholars who have tried to pry loose White Estate historical material that would help in making comparisons with others' writings know they have received very little help and encouragement from those guarding the sacrosanct vault of the Estate. The policy of "selective revelation" (that is, the Estate selects what may be revealed) has had such a hold that only when members of the Clan pass from the scene may the church expect access to information that may reveal the truth. Time and again the men from that office, while riding the national circuit-which they do rather often to help quiet the restless natives-have had to meet the question of why the vault cannot be open to all researchers and information made available to friend and foe alike, and why picking and choosing is always left to the Clan Plan.
The 1980 "Adventist Review" article:
Even those who might have had their own key to the vault (so to speak) found It fascinating that the shut door might have a possibility of being opened even a little. Donald R. McAdams, himself a competent researcher on Ellen and her writings, sounded a hopeful note over just such prospects in an article in Spectrum in 1980:
In the March 20 1980, Adventist Review in an article entitled "This I Believe About Ellen G. White " Neal Wilson informed the church about the Rea [Glendale] Committee. The initial report indicates that "in her writing Ellen White used sources more extensively than we have heretofore been aware of or recognized...." [italics added.]
The statement is a most significant article to appear in the Review in this century. The president of the General Conference is openly and honestly acknowledging the facts about Ellen White's use of sources and pointing the church toward a definition of inspiration that will be new to most Adventists an threatening to some. A full response to Walter Rea must wait until he as presented his evidence to the church in definitive written form. 6
Inevitably McAdams would react as he did, because he is an honest historian who himself spent much time in 197273 examining a chapter of The Great Controversy, comparing a chapter of it with half a chapter of historian James A. Wylie, and finding irrefutable evidence of dependence. The interesting and significant part of this story, as he tells It, is that the White Estate would not allow this church historian to release his work or conclusions to the church or the world. 7
McAdams had another reason to be concerned about what was taking place. He was one of the members of the special Glendale Committee to whom Wilson wrote. He had seen some of the evidence, had heard the January 2829, 1980, presentation, and had himself stated to his colleagues that the evidence was indeed "startling. He had even suggested that "if every paragraph in The Great Controversy were footnoted in accordance with proper procedure, almost every paragraph would be footnoted." It is of interest that those committee members present from the White Estate did not challenge him. 9
How could they? They were sitting there with privileged information. Ronald D. Graybill, assistant secretary of the White Estate was present at the meeting. He too had been working in the files and had completed in May 1977 a comparison of Ellen White and her close paraphrasing of another historian, Merle d'Aubigne. As he continued his study, what should appear to his wondering eyes-not d Aubigne at all, but a popularized version of d'Aubigne prepared by the Reverend Charles Adams for young readers, and this material had been published first, not in The Great Controversy, but in the October 11,1883, Signs of the Times article entitled "Luther in the Wartburg. The conclusions of this rather simple cloakanddagger story were, as McAdams quotes Graybill:
There does not appear to be any objective historical fact in Mrs. White's account that she could not have gained from the literary sources on which she was drawing, except in one detail: ... The over all impression gained from this study by this researcher is that it sustains McAdams' main point- that the objective and mundane historical narrative was based on the work of historians, not on visions.
So why didn't we say so in the first place? The nearest that we had ever come to that type of acknowledgment was from son Willie White
(letter of 4 November 1912):
When writing out the chapters for Great Controversy, she sometimes gave a partial description of an important historical event, and when her copyist who was preparing the manuscripts for the printer, made inquiry regarding time and place, Mother would say that those things are recorded by conscientious historians. Let the dates used by those historians be inserted. At other times in writing out what had been presented to her, Mother found such perfect descriptions of events and presentations of facts and doctrines written out in our denominational books, that she copied the words of these authorities. 12
Willie's statements would be modified in a 1969 statement by his son Arthur: "Mrs. White ever sought to avoid being influenced by others." 13
There was another member of the White Estate group who likewise sat quietly through that January 1980 meeting without tipping his hand. He was Robert W. Olson, appointed to head the White Estate on the retirement of Arthur L. White in 1978. Olson, more than perhaps anyone else in the room except W. Richard Lesher (the head of the Adventist Biblical Research Institute) knew where some of the bodies were buried, because some of those bodies were being resurrected faster than the burying services could be performed.
In 1977 and 1978 Olson received a number of letters that were opening new avenues of information on the relationship of Ellen to her book Patriarchs and Prophets. To Olson, the research had taken a nasty turn as it began to get close to The Desire of Ages. When he was asked about the persistent rumor that Ellen had received some rather human help in the preparation of Desire, he didn't seem to recall the letters or materials that he was getting except to express that the report of help was overdrawn and there was no reason to believe that The Desire of Ages was anything but the work of Ellen White. 14
He knew well that the trail to Ellen's "borrowing" was getting warm, for he had written a remarkable letter concerning it to the Estate staff on November 29, 1978, just two years before the meeting where he was now denying that any problem existed. The letter was a sensitive one and was not for public notice. To ensure fairness, I include the entire letter in the appendix section of this chapter. Portions are given here:
About eight or ten months ago Elder Rea sent me a copy of some of his research which in his opinion showed that Ellen White was highly dependent upon Edersheim for some of the things she had written in Desire of Ages, as well as for the very organization of the book itself, and the use of many chapter titles.
I wrote to Elder Rea at the time and asked him not to move forward with any plans for publishing his findings until I had a chance to talk to him personally at the Southern California Conference Camp Meeting to be held late in July 1978. To this suggestion Elder Rea readily agreed. When I attended the camp meeting near Palmdale, California, last July, I spent several hours talking with Elder Rea and obtained his consent to withhold the advertising of his work on any kind of a broad scale until we had had opportunity ourselves to look at it first.... Elder Rea has agreed to give us What ever time we need before he takes any further steps on his own....
Through Jim Nix at Loma Linda and Ed Turner at Andrews University, I have learned of someone in the Loma Linda area who is making comparisons between the Desire of Ages, and Hanna's book on "The Life of Christ." Jim Nix told me that he saw Hanna's book and that it is heavily underlined m both red and blue and that this is supposed to be the very copy of the book which was used in the White Estate office when Mrs. White was preparing her book The Desire of Ages. Jim Nix has Xeroxed a copy of this book and sent it to us, so we have it here in our office.... [Italics added.]
Ed also told me about a professional man, a dentist as I recall, who lived m the Victorville area....This professional man recently had access to Hanna's "Life of Christ," and after reading it, told Ed that it practically "blew his mind" to see the close resemblance that he discovered between Hanna and Ellen White. 15
The solution suggested by this man of God, sworn to disseminate truth and light, was as follows:
The only alternative [of four outlined] which seems sensible to me is the last one. It will cost the White Estate nothing for Jim's [Cox] time, and I do believe that we can stay close enough to him so that the conclusions he arrives at would be essentially the same as the conclusions we would come to were we doing the work ourselves. We could ask Jim to make a report every two or three weeks to a committee. 16
Later it was explained at the Glendale Committee meeting that the letter was only a poor selection of words and their meaning could be misconstrued. 17 There was no misconstruing Arthur White's words, however, when he wrote at the same time on the same subject to the same group:
Keep in mind that the training in the universities to accept and believe only that which can be proved to the satisfaction of the researcher can easily lead to a skeptical approach which does not take into account that there may be disturbing features in inspired writings, resulting in the need of faith as made clear by Ellen White as she discussed investigations of the Bible and her writings...
"All who look for hooks to hang their doubts upon will find them...."
"Distrust of God is the natural outgrowth of the unrenewed heart...."
"Satan has ability to suggest doubts and devise objections to the pointed testimony that God sends.
From The Great Controversy, p. 527; Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 675. 18
One can close his eyes and hear that door clanging shut again still tighter, while the lost riders of fear and guilt go charging through the sky. It did not sound like an opendoor policy when he continued:
If participated in by Andrews University-are the scholars trained in methods of research by universities known to have demolished faith in the Bible and its dependability of Biblical accounts, capable of passing proper judgment in areas where absolute honesty in the acceptance of records and faith based on evidence are important factors? In making decisions when multiple choices are before the researcher will faith in Ellen White's inspiration fail? 19
It would be difficult to conclude from these two confidential missives that the people of the Adventist Church are encouraged to know all the truth about Ellen-including her skill in using others' material minus credit lines for her own works.
One further bit of information needs to be added to the picture to make it complete. Robert Olson was sitting through the meetings of the Glendale Committee with an ancient but haunting document virtually on his lap. It had been "discovered" only a few weeks before in the hall of the Estate offices by Desmond Ford in his search for truth. It was so revealing that had Olson read it or used it in the meeting the session might have been shortened by half a day or more. It came from the pen of W. W. Prescott (an earlier longtime leader and former General Conference vice president of the Adventist Church) who turned over some rocks himself. The letter was dated April 6 1915 and was written to Ellen's son Willie with whom Prescott from the contents of the letter had worked long end hard:
It seems to me that a large responsibility rests u on those of us who know that there are serious errors m 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 lifework but this seems to be the best adjustment that I am able to make. 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 through 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. 20
Evidence related later shows why Prescott was even more concerned than his letter indicates. He himself with the blessing of other officers had helped write some of the very books he was complaining about. How could he in good conscience (we have no evidence that he was not a man of good conscience) let the church go on believing that what he and others had helped to write in the name of devotional material was now to be received as the final authoritative voice of God and to become the basis of Adventist worldwide Christology (itself a subject that was of special interest to Prescott).
It is now evident-from the information that the White Estate possesses and from materials being leaked from other sources-that the church is in trouble in the matter of Ellen and her shoplifting. Too much is being identified from the places where she had shopped. As McAdams wrote in his Spectrum article:
About the time the White Estate was responding to the evidence that Ellen White had borrowed extensively from the Protestant historians m the preparation of The Great Controversy, another researcher was bringing to their attention evidence that she also borrowed from secular authors for other books in the Conflict of the Ages series especially Prophets and Kings and The Desire of Ages. Walter Rea pastor of the Long Beach California Church asserted on the basis of inconclusive evidence presented m several unpublished papers that the major source for Prophets and Kings was Bible History: Old Testament by Alfred Edersheim originally published in seven volumes between 1876 and 1877 and that Edersheim s The Life and Times of Jesus, the Messiah, first published in 1883 was a major source for The Desire of ages....
Now the growing awareness in Adventist circles of Walter Rea's research and the studies of The Great Controversy called for another response in the Review.
Judging from the samples used by Arthur White to illustrate Ellen White's relationship with Hanna in articles 4 6 and 7 he must have already had available to him the very thorough and careful study by Walter Specht. Desiring to know the truth about Ellen White's sources for The Desire of Ages and not wishing to be caught unprepared by the research of Walter Rea or someone else, the White Estate commissioned two eminent Adventist scholars to study thoroughly the relationship of The Desire of Ages to William Hanna's The Life of Our Lord. Raymond F. Cottrell longtime book editor at the Review and Herald Publishing Association took the first 45 chapters; and Walter F. Specht professor of New Testament at Loma Linda Umversity took chapters 46 to 86. 21
With the assigning of Cottrell and Specht to the task of Ellen's The Desire of Ages, the church was throwing the heavies into the breach. It was thoroughly understood in high places that if the flood tide of facts and information washed away the foundation of The Desire of Ages, then the keystone in Saint Ellen's arch would be seriously jeopardized and the white lie exposed. Not everywhere was this understood but many leaders were well aware and very apprehensive.
It was a calculated risk, therefore, when the Adventists summoned two of their finest from retirement back to the war. The credentials of the two were impeccable. Cottrell, a thirdgeneration Adventist, had served the church in various highlevel capacities, including that of book editor at the Review and Herald, most of his life. Specht had been known as a scholar, department chairman, and dean at some of the church's finest institutions. Both men would be expected to bring to the task not only their lifetime of experience but their integrity as well.
The report issued at the end of six months of study was a shocker- not so much for what it said as for what it revealed by what it did not emphasize. The very fact that such highlevel input was used showed that the church as a whole had not known about the white lie and that the leaders were determined to see that the church received only information that was acceptable to those leaders.
Both men would take the high road in the report. Specht, while conceding that Hanna had been used by Ellen throughout both the early edition of The Spirit of Prophecy (volumes two and three) and the later edition of The Desire of Ages, concluded that he still liked Ellen's paraphrasing of Hanna better than Hanna's own work. 22 Although he had found that the copying from Hanna had begun at the beginning and ended at the ending, he felt that the matter was not as serious as some had made it.
Cottrell, less cautious, calculated that 2.6 percent of Hanna had been taken by Ellen. 23 To obtain these incredible figures, he showed the kind of "creative bookkeeping" he had used.
Attention was given to the possibility that Ellen White may have relied to some extent on Hanna for t e passages of Scripture she quotes, and/or for the order in which she sometimes introduces them. Two considerations, however, preclude the possibility of any firm conclusion with respect to any relatedness in the Scriptures quoted....
Furthermore, White and Hanna both used the King James Version of the Bible...probably m editions with marginal references.... Also, both probably used the same concordance. . . to locate related Bible passages. Thus even if neither writer ever saw what the other wrote, they would both be likely to refer to other passages of Scripture in approximately the same order Beyond this, two persons equally familiar with the Bible would find much the same related passages of Scripture coming to mind, and introduce them in approximately the order suggested by the Gospel narrative....
To me. . . these facts. . .suggest that any similarity between the passages of Scripture cited, or the order in which they occur, is at least largely, if not entirely coincidental and completely useless for determining whether, or to what extent, Ellen White made use of Hanna...
Only where both writers use identical or unusual words in such a sequence could literary relatedness be established beyond a doubt.[italics added.] 24
Cottrell had fallen into the trap from which Francis D. Nichol had never extricated himself-using the study to prove that Ellen had not directly "quoted" from others as much as had been said. He seemed to overlook the fact that paraphrasing is the most subtle and potentially deceptive form of copying. Even McAdams said in his Spectrum article:
Indeed, there are some closely paraphrased paragraphs and other paragraphs where, although Ellen White's words are different, It is clear she is following the ideas presented by Hanna. [Italics added.] 25
After endeavoring to diminish the influence of other authors on the writing of The Desire of Ages, Cottrell did concede:
Nevertheless, there are numerous instances of clear literary correlation which prove conclusively that Ellen White made use of some of the words, phrases, ideas and thought sequence. 26
In answer to his statement that "in no instance did either Dr. Specht or I find even one sentence in DA identical with LC, or even substantially so," 27 I suggest that the reader see the exhibit section for this chapter. 28 Better yet, one should obtain a copy of Hanna from a library and enlighten himself in person.
Although the text of the report as a whole was not given wide circulation; the 2.6 percent figure was quoted and repeated everywhere. Adventists grabbed onto it like a drowning man would clutch a lifejacket and head for shore shouting he was saved. In reality, the study was so limited in scope that some of the most serious matters remain to be dealt with. For example:
a. The church as a whole has indeed not known the extent of the white lie-and "the brethren" are not anxious to have the members know.
b. At least as early as the 1870s, and as late as the early 1900s, Ellen and her helpers were deeply and widely involved in drawing material from the writings of others.
c. If even Cottrell's percentage (however accurate it might be) were to be extended to the evergrowing list of authors identified as having been used by Ellen and her helpers, the church and their prophet would be seen to be in enormous trouble and something would beam unraveling.
d. Ellen's use of Hanna, and other sources as well, was not "selected revelation," with God's permission, to fill in a scene here and there to help a fading prophet's memory, but was a running commentary and paraphrase of each passage or chapter selected-often with pauses for a personal homily, but likewise often expanding that homily to be strikingly similar to the devotional material of the author copied. 29
e. Perhaps the most damaging evidence emerging is that whatever help Ellen had, human or divine, she had uncanny ability to go back and pick up new material each time the return was made. Sometimes the thoughts, words, and sentences that had been taken from one author in the early stages (187084) were deleted in the later product (The Desire of Ages). Sometimes an amplification of the same author's material was substituted. But sometimes (especially when the early copying had been extensive) material would be drawn from other sources or other authors in such a way that the color of the new threads did not clash with the ultimate pattern of the fabric being woven through the years. Clearly, the human planners knew well the maps they were using for all the trips of all those years.30
However, by nature and practice an honest scholar, Cottrell later allowed his integrity to overcome his Adventist heritage and prejudice. His silence was broken on September 19, 1981, when the Los Angeles Times, in an article by John Dart, religious editor, quoted from an upcoming missive by Cottrell:
The combination of Ford's and Rea's research and treatment of the two men by church administrators presents a crisis "with the very real threat of schism in the church we love,' according to a leading Adventist biblical scholar, Raymond F. Cottrell. Cottrell, book editor for more than 30 years for the Adventist Review, blamed church administrators for the "FordRea crisis" in an article for an upcoming issue of the independent journal Spectrum, published by the reformminded Adventist Forums.
Ford and Rea "are both friends of the church, not enemies, despite the fact that, in both cases, the wisdom of some of their tactics may be open to question," Cottrell wrote. To future historians, Cottrell continued, "the FordRea crisis will appear as the logical, perhaps inevitable, climax to nearly a century of burying the issues to which they have recently called attention, under the denominational rug." 31
Cottrell's preliminary draft itself ("Our Present Crisis: Reaction to a Decade of Obscurantism") was even more specific and devastating for Its finger pointing, as it went on to say:
The only new elements are Ford's extended application of the apotelesmatic principle, which everyone in the church follows to some extent, and Rea's demonstration of the extent of Ellen White's literary dependence. There is documentary evidence of the fact that our Bible scholars were well aware of all the exegetical problems our traditional interpretation of Daniel and
Hebrews conjures up, at least twentyfive years ago, and also of Ellen White's literary dependence. But repeated, positively motivated attempts during the intervening years (ninety and seventyfive years respectively)' often by competent Bible scholars whose loyalty to the church cannot be questioned, the church has consistently, officially, and more or less effectively buried, and in some instances the people who presumed to ask the questions, as well. 32
And finally he laid the blame on specific administrators:
The decade 1969 to 1979 provides the immediate historical background of our present dilemma. Prior to this decade our Bible scholars were quietly at work on these problems, individually and in scholarly circles, fully aware of the fact that the church was approaching a crisis concerning which it was at best but dimly aware. In my personal tales, accumulated over the years, ~s extensive contemporary documentation of what was being done, and of official General Conference measures to stifle this scholarly investigation. This record of wellintentioned obfuscation is vital to an understanding of our present dilemma because it was this more than any other single factor that led Ford and Rea, and especially Ford, to "go public" with their questions. Their present course of action is a response to obfuscation, not a gratuitous attempt to embarrass the church. The church itself is basically responsible for the crisis, not Ford or Real
Most of the following incidents during the decade 1969 to 1979 can be documented from my personal files. For the few items not covered in my personal files documentary evidence is available elsewhere, and/or other persons can verify the facts.
It was Robert H. Pierson's announced policy as president of the General Conference that administrators, and not Bible scholars or theologians, were to make theological decisions for the church. Over these years he reiterated this policy to individuals and to General Conference committees, and implemented it in his appointment of nonscholars (particularly Willis Hackett and Gordon Hyde) to ride herd on the Adventist scholarly community, to govern the Biblical Research Committee and the Geoscience Advisory Committee, and in his restructuring of these committees in a way designed to assure effective administrative control over them. 33
Cottrell was only one of the many runners with more bad news for the church in its crisis. Fred Veltman, according to theA~lventist Review in the fall of 1980, was the man upon whose shoulders the mantle of truth was to rest. Because of the disturbance of the Rea study, reported the Review:
After careful examination of the data, it [the January 2829, 1980, Glendale Committee] concluded that Ellen White's use of sources had been more extensive than we had realized and recommended that a scholar framed m literary analysis undertake a thoroughgoing study of The Desire of Ages. This suggestion was adopted by the General Conference. Already Dr. Fred Veltman, a New Testament scholar on the faculty of Pacific Union College, is engaged full time in the project, which is expected to take about two years. 34
After surveying the material on the Ellen G. White controversy available to him, Veltman had written a detailed critique for the Presidents Executive Advisory Committee in Washington. In that report he quoted that same Raymond Cottrell as saying:
Walter Rea's evidence and his conclusions will be and are most damaging to the faith of our membership in EGW.
To say that "I saw" and similar expressions refer to cognizance and not to heavenly origins of the content of the visions is asking people to disbelieve what they have been taught all their lives. The obvious reading of the expression in its context would have you understand a heavenly source for the vision. This explanation forces the people to conclude that EGW's integrity cannot be assumed. 35
Edward Heppenstall, a longtime Adventist theologian, is likewise quoted by Veltman:
Walter's material will have a shattering effect upon the church membership Many of the answers now being offered are not really satifying to those who have looked at the data. 36
Even Desmond Ford, the Australian theologian, gives a devastating summary as reported in Veltman's words:
Des does not believe that EGW intended to deceive. At the same time he cannot agree to the positions being taken or already held in the church that EGW writings are an extension of the canon, are authoritative for church doctrine, and are inerrant.
Des views Walter Rea as being reluctant to publish and desiring to go with the brethren if they will only take the issue and the evidence seriously. 37
Veltman himself concludes:
The answers which the church spokesman give as Walter raises the questions are for the most part not a equate. In addition, the credibility of the church leaders drops with each new release. The church is continually taken by surprise and on the defensive. And each point the church admits is a "score" for Walter. The church should be on the front lines doing the study and informing the church when the data has been carefully evaluated. What IS so hard to understand is why the church is unwilling to work with Walter when he is willing to work with the church
Walter is dedicated to get to the bottom of the problem and to let the church know. He does not want another generation to go through his personal agony of disillusionment. This for Walter is a nonnegotiable and it is hard to fault him on his conviction in view of the evidence and the history of this problem in the church.
The question over the "I was showns" is probably the hardest one to answer. 38
The leaders of the church indeed found it hard to face reality, but it was obvious that something must be done, and done quickly. So, as always, the tired old men from PREXAD (the President's Executive Advisory Committee) and the White Estate, turned to the source they so often deny their members-the law. It seemed to be their last hope of quelling the storm which would not go away and for which they were unprepared.
SDA Church lawyer determines that White was not legally guilty of plagiarism because of the time in which she lived
The September 17, 1981 Review, heralded that their Catholic lawyer had declared that. Ellen White was not legally a plagiarist according to the lawyer's definition, and therefore her works did not constitute copyright infringement. 39 This report-clearly not coming to grips with the moral, spiritual, or theological implications at the heart of the matter-drew very little comfort and brought few sighs of relief from knowledgeable readers.
To add to all the confusion, Arthur Delafield, another tired but willing warrior, was called back to the fray. Delafield, who had been a circuit rider for the White Estate for over twentyfive years, wrote a reply to a letter from a lay member in Australia. In addition to raising questions, this layman had stated a conviction:
I must admit to feeling, at times, somewhat angered and disillusioned. Not with Walter Rea but with the "system." The question is not how to silence or to discredit Waiter Rea (or Forum, or anybody else for that matter), but whether what he says is true. I can live with the truth about Ellen White, but 1 would find it difficult to be enthusiastic about belonging to, let alone supporting and promoting, an organization which relied on falsehoods or intimidation m order to survive.
Delarleld's reply was a thriller. In typical pontifical style he declared:
Your letter of May 27 addressed to the president of the General Conference has arrived in this of fice. Elder Wilson certainly wishes to be remembered to you with warm brotherly feelings. His Administrative Assistant, Arthur Patzer, has asked that I respond since I have spent 25 years in the Ellen G. White Estate offices as one of the secretaries and now made a lifetime trustee of the White Estate board....
Walter [Rea] has spent more time looking for parallels in the writings of Ellen White with noninspired sources than anyone outside of the White Estate. He has placed these parallels side by side and the weight of evidence would seem to indicate that Ellen White was almost a creature of her times - a plagiarizer with enormous capacity for incorporating the writings of others m her own written messages and getting credit for it herself.
I say that the foregoing would seem to be what Walter Rea has proven. The careful researcher, however ... is greatly distressed by Walter Rea's "evidence." I say this not because there is so much, but because he thinks there is so much of it and he is wrong. Dreadfully wrong. He has grossly exaggerated the situation. 41
Finally, his punch line came on page five:
I highly respect many of our Seventhday Adventist theologians. I have sat at their feet and been taught by them. I admire and respect them highly. I would like to remind you, however, that you can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and youwill not find a single text marking out theologians as having the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures indicate, however, that prophets have a gift of the holy Spirit. Ellen White had that gift and she was canonical insofar as doctrinal interpretation authority is concerned [italics added].42
Inasmuch as Delafield, now retired, was writing his reply on official General Conference stationery and invoking the name of the head divine of the church, Neal C. Wilson, as his authority for writing, it would seem that "the church" had finally unofficially rejected their controversial stand taken some twentyfour years before, when under some controversy and duress a "representative group of Seventhday Adventist leaders, Bible teachers and editors" had declared through the official Adventist press:
We would note...
1. That we do not regard the writings of Ellen G the sacred canon of Scripture.
White as an addition to
2. That we do not think of them as of universal application, as is the Bible, but particularly for the Seventhday Adventist Church.
3. That we do not regard them in the same sense as the Holy Scriptures, which stand alone and unique as the standard by which all other writings must bejudged.
Seventhday Adventists uniformly believe that the canon of Scripture closed with the book of Revelation. We hold that all other writings and teachings, from whatever source, are to bejudged by, and are subject to, the Bible, which Is the spring and norm of the Christian faith. We test the writings of Ellen G. White by the Bible, but in no sense to do we test the Bible by her writings....
We have never considered Ellen C. White to be in the same category as the writers of the canon of scripture [emphasis added].43
Despite the best efforts of the 1957 "representative group" who had published the foregoing statements in Questions on Doctrine, now, in the old warrior's 1981 letter the blueprint of the past's extreme and paranoid views had finally come clear. Adventists, through tired old men, were telling the world that despite all the doubletalk of the past and the deceptions of the present, they do indeed cast their lot with Ellen as their final authority, their first among equals. Through him, they, In effect, are proud to tell the world they represent a sect and are not about to become associated with nonmembers of their cult or any of the rest of the Christian community!
Truth has a way of eluding a "true believer" when the church spokesmen seem to be willing to overlook most of the information, most of its friendly critics, and all of the evidence In their endeavor to hide from reality.
Even another statement that surfaced from no less than W. C. White, Ellen's son, did not change the view that all she said must have come from God. In 1905 he was supposed to have said:
Some of the most precious chapters of Desire of Ages are made up of matter first written in letters to men laboring under trying circumstances, for the purpose of cheering and instructing them regarding their work. Some of these beautiful lessons about Christian experience illustrated m the life of our Saviour, were first written in letters to my brother Edson, when he was struggling with many difficulties in his work in Mississippi. Some were written first to Elder Corliss, when he was holding a discussion with a wily Campbellite in Sydney. Note: Sister White wrote on original copy of this manuscript In her own handwriting the following words: I have read this. It is correct." 44
But is was no use. There would always be those who would say if Ellen touched it, or saw it, or was even aware of it-it had to come from God and was all inspired! Even that statement of oftquoted by the Adventists that some librarian from the hallowed halls of the Library of Congress had designated The Desire of Ages one of the ten most impressive books on the life of Christ was found to have been muttered by some Adventist preacher on the way to work. But knowing this would not shake loose the true believer. Of such things are the white lies of this life made.
References and Notes
1. Ellen C. White, The Spirit of Prophecy (Battle Creek: Review and Herald, 18701884), vol. 2, p. 5.
2. Robert W. Olson, "EGW's Use of Uninspired Sources," photocopied (Washington: EGW Estate, 9 November 1979), pp. 14, 7, 8.
3. William S. Peterson, "Ellen White's Literary Indebtedness," Spectrum 3, no. 4 (Autumn 1971): 7384. Since Peterson's article, others have appeared in Spectrum each year since 1971.
4. Neal C. Wilson to Glendale Committee on EGW Sources, 8 January 1980.
5. Jerry Wiley to Neal C. Wilson, 14 January 1980.
6. Donald R. McAdams, "Shifting views of Inspiration Spectrum 10, no. 4 (March 1980): 38.
7. Ibid., pp. 3435.
8. Glendale Committee, "Ellen G. White and Her Sources," tapes (2829 January 1980), McAdams remarks.
10. McAdams, "Shifting Views, "Spectrum 10, no. 4 (March, 1980): 35.
12. EGW, The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, supplement quoting W. C. White's letter to W. W. Eastman, 12 May 1969, pp. 54546.
13. Ibid., p. 535.
14. Olson, "Ellen C. White and Her Sources," tapes of address to Adventist Forum at Loma Linda, CA (January 1979).
15. Olson to EGW Estate Trustees, 29 November 1978, pp. 12.
16. Ibid., p. 5.
17. Glendale Committee, tapes, 2829 January 1980.
18. Arthur L. White, "(Confidential) Comments on the Proposed Study of 'Desire of Ages,"' photocopied (Washington: EGW Estate, 5 December 1978),
19. Ibid., p. 5.
20. W. W. Prescott to DF 198).
W. C. White, 6 April 1915 (Washington: EGW Estate.
21. McAdams, "Shifting Views," Spectrum 10, no. 4 (Autumn 1971): 3637.
22. Raymond F. Cottrell and Walter S. Specht, "The Literary Relationship between he Desire of Ages, by Ellen G. White, and The Life of Christ, by William Hanna, 2,pts, photocopied (Loma Linda University Library, Archives and Special Collections, I November 1979), pt. 2.
23. Ibid., pt. l.
24. Ibid., pt. l, pp. 34.
25. McAdams, "Shifting Views," Spectrum 10, no. 4 (Autumn 1971): 37.
26. Cottrell and Specht, "The Literary Relationship between EGW and WH," pt. l, p. 5.
28. See Appendix, Chapter 6 Comparison Exhibits showing Ellen G. White and William Hanna similarities.
31. John Dart, "Adventists Cite Legal Opinion To 'Clear' Prophet of Plagiarism, "Los Angeles Times (19 September 1981).
32. Raymond F. Cottrell, "Our Present Grisis: Reaction to a Decade of Obscurantism," photocopied draft.
34. [Unsigned editorial announcement], Adventist Review (27 November 1980).
35 Fred Veltman, "Report to PREXAD on the E. G. White Research Project; photocopied (Angwin, CA Life of Christ Research Project, n.d. [April 1981]), p. 21.
36. Ibid., p. 21.
37. Ibid., p. 22.
38. Ibid., pp. 2425.
39. [Unsigned editorial announcement], "Ellen White's Use of Sources," Adventist Review (17 September 1981), p. 3. Also interviews Wlt attorney Victor L. Remik, pp. 46, and Warren L. Johns, p. 7.
40. Peter C. Drewer to Neal C. Wilson, 27 May 1981, p. 3.
41. D. Arthur Delafield to Peter C. Drewer, 24June 1981, pp. 1, 5.
42. Ibid., p. 5.
43. [Seventhday Adventists], Seventhday Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine (Washington: RHPA, 1957), pp.899u.
44 W. C. White, "The Integrity of the Testimonies," presented at College View; Nebraska, 25 November 1905. EGW Estate DF 10 i, pp. 78, 11.
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