Please see my more recent post, Ellen White: The Unoriginal Prophet.
Number 18 of the 28 Seventh-day Adventist church’s fundamental beliefs states that prophecy is a gift of the Holy Spirit and that “this gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White.”
Ellen White was instrumental in founding the Seventh-day Adventist church. Seventh-day Adventist theology is largely influenced by her writings, and her teachings are highly regarded in the church. But her views were often blatantly wrong or lacking in evidential support.
As mentioned on the Ellen G. White Estate’s official website, she was hit in the head by a rock when she was nine. She ended up in a coma for three weeks. Visual and auditory hallucinations are often experienced by people who sustain injuries to certain parts of the brain. So, put two and two together…
The Ellen G. White Estate has a section on their website where they attempt to explain away a list of absurdities in Ellen White’s writings. These explanations are good enough for most Seventh-day Adventists; I’ve had a pastor direct me to that website when I pointed out a few absurdities to him. Under close scrutiny, these explanations fall short—way short. The purpose of the webpage backfires, as it ends up serving as a convenient list of some of Ellen White’s more embarrassing writings. It’s worth reading through this list just to see how the Ellen G. White Estate tries to explain away some absurdities. I’ll take some of my examples directly from this list.
I invite you to read along. I’ve provided links to her actual writings so you can look for yourself and see that I’m not taking these quotes out of context. I’ll also provide some examples of Adventists attempting to explain away the absurdities, in cases where I’ve found them.
Hypocritical and Potentially Fatal Advice
Ellen White’s advice, if taken seriously, can be potentially fatal. In To Those who are Receiving the Seal of the Living God, January 31, 1849 she writes:
If any among us are sick, let us not dishonor God by applying to earthly physicians, but apply to the God of Israel. If we follow his directions (James 5:14,15) the sick will be healed. God’s promise cannot fail. Have faith in God, and trust wholly in him, that when Christ who is our life shall appear we may appear with him in glory.
Don’t go to the doctor if you are sick. Pray instead. Hypocritically, Ellen White visited doctors several times in her life.
Believe it or not, I’ve actually seen one of my Seventh-day Adventist Facebook friends post a status stating that prayer is the best vaccine for H1N1—and he has little children. Am I the only one appalled by this? Don’t let your religious beliefs expose your children to unnecessary health risks.
Failed Prophecy about Jesus’ Return
Everyone knows that humans are fallible. Prophets are humans, so they’re fallible. But, assuming that the Seventh-day Adventist God exists, prophetic visions directly from him should definitely be infallible. Let’s take a look at one of Ellen White’s more well-known failed prophecies. This one is addressed, though insufficiently (in my opinion), on the Ellen G. White Estate’s webpage. From Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1, p. 131-132, she writes:
I was shown the company present at the conference. Said the angel, “Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be transplated at the coming of Jesus.”
The angel in this “God-given” vision is referring to a conference in 1856; the angel declares that some of the conference attendees will be alive when Jesus returns. Needless to say, all attendees are now dead. Prophecy failed. The Ellen G. White Estate tries to explain this away by asserting that it was a ‘conditional prophecy.’ Conditional on what? Apparently the conditions were not met in order for God to see this prediction through. God said, “Oops, my bad. Unspecified conditions not met.” Note that there are no conditions spelled out or understood at the time of the prophecy. What good is a prophecy if it can just be rendered ‘conditional’ if it fails—especially when no conditions are mentioned? The Ellen G. White Estate goes to great lengths trying to explain why this is a conditional prophecy that should be acceptable.
The “conditional prophecy” explanation ends up rendering prophecies useless. If they are fulfilled, then they are true, divine prophecies. If they fail, they are conditional prophecies, but divine prophecies nonetheless. The deck is stacked. This conveniently renders it impossible for Ellen White to deliver any kind of false prophecy.
If God is all-knowing (and presumably knows the future), he probably should have refrained from giving Ellen White any visions containing predictions that wouldn’t come true.
Failed Pestilence Prophecy
In 1849, a local pestilence broke out in the region she was in.
What we have seen and heard of the pestilence, is but the beginning of what we shall see and hear. Soon the dead and dying will be all around us.
Shortly after she published this, the pestilence ended. Prophecy failed.
Check out this Seventh-day Adventist’s attempt to explain this away (you guessed it; he resorts to calling it a ‘conditional prophecy’): "Pestilence Prophecy" by Jud Lake. Also, note the original text of the Present Truth article is in Section 3 of his response. Part of the original Present Truth article was republished in 1882 in Early Writings, p. 46. Notice that the section of the original article that discusses pestilence, containing the failed prophecy, was removed before republishing. I wonder why.
Failed Prophecy about England Attacking the USA during the Civil War
In Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1, p. 259, Ellen White predicts that England would attack the USA during the civil war, causing the USA to be “humbled into dust”:
Said the angel: “Hear, O heavens, the cry of the oppressed, and reward the oppressors double according to their deeds.” This nation will yet be humbled into the dust. England is studying whether it is best to take advantage of the present weak condition of our nation, and venture to make war upon her. She is weighing the matter, and trying to sound other nations. She fears, if she should commence war abroad, that she would be weak at home, and that other nations would take advantage of her weakness. Other nations are making quiet yet active preparations for war, and are hoping that England will make war with our nation, for then they would improve the opportunity to be revenged on her for the advantage she has taken of them in the past and the injustice done them. A portion of the queen’s subjects are waiting a favorable opportunity to break their yoke; but if England thinks it will pay, she will not hesitate a moment to improve her opportunities to exercise her power and humble our nation. When England does declare war, all nations will have an interest of their own to serve, and there will be general war, general confusion.
That never happened. Prophecy failed. Again, the Ellen G. White Estate pulls the ‘conditional’ card; in an attempt to explain this away they claim that these are ‘conditional statements.’ This nation will yet be humbled. When England does declare war. Doesn’t sound conditional to me.
Corsets and Genetics
In Review and Herald, 1871, “Words to Christian Mothers, No. 3” she writes:
These fashionably dressed women cannot transmit good constitutions to their children. Some women have naturally small waists. But rather than regard such forms as beautiful, they should be viewed as defective. These wasp waists may have been transmitted to them from their mothers, as the result of their indulgence in the sinful practice of tight-lacing, and in consequence of imperfect breathing.
So as a result of wearing corsets, women give birth to skinny daughters who should then be viewed as defective? Wait a minute, that’s genetically impossible. And why should we view them as defective? It’s not their fault what their mothers did. And if they’re beautiful, they’re beautiful. A possible psychological explanation for this is that Ellen White may have had self-image problems, and this was her way of lashing out at skinny women.
Amalgamation of Man and Beast: Legit Reason to Mass Murder Millions
Some things she writes are just weird. In Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, p. 64 she writes:
But if there was one sin above another which called for the destruction of the race by the flood, it was the base crime of amalgamation of man and beast which defaced the image of God, and caused confusion everywhere.
And p. 75:
Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men.
First of all, I don’t care what she means by ‘amalgamation of man and beast,’ although the Ellen G. White Estate goes to great lengths to make it as ambiguous as possible in an attempt to save embarrassment. (Isn’t it obvious what she means?) Whatever she meant, it cannot justify the genocide of the human race as described in the (fictional) Biblical flood that Seventh-day Adventists believe literally happened (despite heaps of evidence to the contrary). She actually believes that ‘amalgamation of man and beast’ makes it okay to drown whole families to death? Hard-working men and women, completely innocent children and babies, and uninvolved animals were massacred directly by God, according to the story. And Ellen White thinks that this is justified by the ‘amalgamation of man and beast,’ whatever she means by that. And which exact ‘races of men’ does she think are products of ‘amalgamation of man and beast’?
Excessive Seeing is a Sin?
Reading cult writings can be tedious. Luckily, much of Ellen White’s writings are just plain silly, so reading them can be fun.
In Counsels on Diet and Food, p. 141 she writes:
Excessive indulgence in eating, drinking, sleeping, or seeing, is sin.
That’s right. Excessive seeing is a sin. No further commentary necessary.
The Bible never said, “Jesus laughed.” Ellen White decided to take this to the next level. In Manuscript Releases, Vol. 6, p. 91 she writes:
You sport and joke and enter into hilarity and glee. Does the Word of God sustain you in this? It does not.
Christ is our example. Do you imitate the great Exemplar? Christ often wept but never was known to laugh. I do not say it is a sin to laugh on any occasion. But we cannot go astray if we imitate the divine, unerring Pattern. We are living in a sad age of this world’s history… .
As we view the world bound in darkness and trammeled by Satan, how can we engage in levity, glee, careless, reckless words, speaking at random, laughing, jesting, and joking? It is in keeping with our faith to be sober, watch unto the end, for the grace to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ… .
Apparently, Jesus wasn’t the laughing type. Let’s try to be like him and refrain from being funny. (Did Ellen White not realize how funny her writings are?)
Ellen White wasn’t a big fan of fun. Throughout her writings, she has condemned playing card games, chess, checkers, tennis, cricket or baseball; reading fiction books, specifically Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Robinson Crusoe; going to theatres, dance halls, billiard halls, ‘bowling saloons’ or circuses; and…masturbating, which takes us to my next example.
Got a Headache? Stop Masturbating
Ellen White is absolutely obsessed with masturbation. She writes about this in several different books. Most notably, she dedicates the book A Solemn Appeal almost entirely to ranting about the evils of masturbation, or, as she calls it, ‘solitary vice’ or ‘self-abuse.’
She attributes “headache, catarrh, dizziness, nervousness, pain in the shoulders and side, loss of appetite, pain in the back and limbs, wakeful, feverish nights, of tired feelings in the morning, and great exhaustion after exercising” to masturbation. She also blames masturbation for loss of memory, cancer and insanity. A Solemn Appeal is so awkwardly funny that it deserves a read.
It seems like masturbation warrants a whole field of medical research in her eyes. This is quite revealing. She obviously had issues understanding her urges. If only she understood evolutionary psychology, she could have saved herself from much embarrassment. But instead, she ends up making a ton of claims that are blatantly untrue.
I could continue with hundreds of examples, but that would just get tedious. It should be quite apparent that Ellen White should not be considered a serious prophet. None of these quotes are taken out of context. I encourage you to look for yourself. I’ve provided links to each book the quotes were taken from. If you’re looking for book-length exposés, you might be interested in White Out by Dirk Anderson (also available from nonsda.org) or The White Lie by Walter Rea. The vast majority of Seventh-day Adventists actually think her writings are legit. Belief in Ellen White as a true prophet is one of their fundamental beliefs (#18). Some Seventh-day Adventists construct elaborate explanations in an attempt to justify her absurd statements. Everything makes much more sense when Ellen White’s true nature is just accepted. She was no more of a prophet than Joseph Smith or Muhammad.