By Julie Tivy Boney
Copyright 2007 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Glendale, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised May 21, 2007. Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article examines the Biblical test of a prophet as it relates to Ellen White. I encourage you to invite the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind before you begin to read it. I also encourage you to look up every Bible text that is referenced.
Isaiah 8:20 tells us that a prophet must speak according to God’s word. Ellen White contradicted the Bible many times in her writings. One such example is found in Evangelism p. 598, where she says that Satan deceived Adam. 1Timothy 2:14 says that Adam was not deceived. She also presented a great deal of non-scriptural information in her writings, most of which is accepted by the SDA church because it is believed that this information came from God. Examples of such information include the “shut door” doctrine, the investigative judgment, and Sunday blue laws.
Deuteronomy 18:20-22 says that a prophet’s predictions must come true. You can read about her predictions about the date of Christ’s return and other failed predictions at the following website: http://www.ellenwhite.org.
Jeremiah 23:30 (particularly the NIV) says that a prophet must not steal words from his or her neighbor. Ellen White’s plagiarism is a well-known fact. There is evidence that she stole almost all of the text for the Great Controversy, Desire of Ages, and Steps to Christ, as well as many other works.
On the basis of her failure of these three Biblical tests of a prophet, one should be able to draw a reasonable conclusion as to whether she was God’s messenger, as she claimed.
The SDA church places a lot of emphasis on the writings and teaching of Ellen White. At least one of its doctrines (the investigative judgment) is based entirely on her teachings and has no basis in scripture whatsoever. In fact, a $10,000 reward has been offered to anyone who can find a Biblical basis for the investigative judgment (see http://www.lastdisciple.com). Another site offers $1,000 for this elusive text.
Has anyone ever questioned how SDAs can be so sure that she was a prophet from God? After all, Ellen White wasn’t the only person in her day to claim to receive visions and messages from God. She had counterparts among Christian Scientists, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who also claimed to be prophets and whose teachings also resulted in the forming of new denominations.
As I have researched this subject, I have found that many besides myself have had such questions. Extensive research has been done and much has been written about the validity of her claims. If the stories I have read are true, there is overwhelming evidence that she was not God’s messenger, as she claimed. But because I was not there, I will not relate any of those stories in this article. It is possible that some stories were fabricated or at least embellished to discredit her. The only way I know to answer the question, “Prophet or Not?” is to apply the tests of a prophet given in the Bible. If she passes, she is a prophet. If she fails, she is not a prophet.
Did She Speak According to God’s Word?
In Isaiah 8:20 (NKJV) we read:
To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
A prophet speaking according to God’s word would not contradict the Bible or invent doctrines that are not Biblical. There are numerous inaccuracies and contradictions to the Bible found in Ellen White’s writings. Here are just a few:
A prophet speaking according to God’s word would also not say something at one time and say just the opposite at another time. Here are some examples of Ellen White’s contradiction of her own words:
A prophet, who must speak according to God’s word, would not fabricate a doctrine that not only cannot be found in Scripture, but actually contradicts Scripture. The doctrine of the investigative judgment says that Jesus did not go into the Most Holy Place until 1844. The following Bible texts say that Jesus went into the Most Holy Place and started interceding for us after He ascended to heaven following the resurrection: Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; 1 Pet. 3:21, 22; Heb. 1:3; Heb. 9:12; Heb. 10:12, 19; Heb. 12:2. In addition, just before Stephen was stoned to death, he looked up to heaven and saw Jesus sitting beside the Father in the Most Holy Place. And that was centuries before 1844!
Did All of Her Prophecies Come True?
In Deuteronomy 18:18-22 (NIV), we read:
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.
You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
Besides the predictions of Christ’s return in 1844 and twice in 1845, Ellen White made a number of other predictions that did not come true. One notable one occurred in 1849, when a pestilence broke out. She wrote in the Present Truth (the forerunner of the Adventist Review) that this pestilence would take many lives. She predicted that “soon the dead and dying will be all around us.” Not long after the pestilence began, it ended.
In 1850, Ellen White wrote in the book, Early Writings, about the nearness of Christ’s coming. On page 67, she predicted that the people who accepted Christ at that time would have only a few months to prepare for His coming. This is another example of her attempt at “timesetting.”
In Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 131 and 132, Ellen White said that an angel told her that some of the people present at a particular conference would be “food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.” Well, they all ended up as food for worms. None of them will experience the seven last plagues, nor will any of them be translated.
Did Ellen White Steal from Other Authors?
In Jeremiah 23:30 (NIV), we read:
“Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me.”
You should read from verse 25 to the end of the chapter to get the full warning from the Lord. At the end of the chapter, He warns of the disgrace that will come to false prophets.
Did Ellen White steal words from other authors? The answer to this question is a resounding “Yes.” This fact has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. A number of books have been written on this subject. For Patriarchs and Prophets, she stole text from Edersheim’s Bible History. For Desire of Ages, she stole text from The Life of Christ by William Hanna, The Great Teacher by John Harris, and several other authors. For Steps to Christ, she stole text from Night Scenes in the Bible by Daniel March, God’s Will Known and Done by Almon Underwood, and others. For the Great Controversy, she copied text from Life Incidents by none other than her husband, James White, who also plagiarized. He copied the text of his book from the writings of J. N. Andrews, Uriah Smith, and Sylvester Bliss! It is not known whether James White had permission to use his colleagues’ text or if Ellen White had permission to use James White’s text. What is known is that she proclaimed herself the author and received royalties from it. It has been proven that besides having stolen most of the material for her most well-known books, many of the health remedies that she claimed to have gotten from God had been used for decades before she wrote about them.
A famous quote of Ellen White, found in numerous books of hers, and often used to make people obey the rules of the church, was lifted from The Great Teacher, by John Harris. It says, “Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard.” (See Acts of the Apostles, p. 12.)
Ellen White has failed all of the Biblical tests for a prophet that I know of. Failure of any one of those tests would be enough to discredit her claim to have received her messages from God. There are many stories about her lifestyle, written by her peers, that portray her as a person who did not govern her own life by the principles that she promoted. While these stories make for extremely interesting reading, they are of little significance when you realize that she does not pass the Biblical test for a prophet. She was a woman with a lot of problems, not unlike you and me.
NOTE: Besides the websites that have been mentioned in this article, there are two others that you might want to look at for more in-depth information:
Julie Boney is a retired technical writer and a full-time Mary Kay beauty consultant. The daughter of a Seventh-day Adventist minister, she was educated in SDA schools from grade school through college. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Columbia Union College and a Master of Arts degree in Education from the University of Minnesota. She is married with two grown children and one grandchild.
Before Ms. Boney discovered the assurance of salvation through the merits of Jesus alone, she was very active in the SDA church. After co-authoring “The Truth About Jewelry from a Biblical Perspective” she began to examine other erroneous doctrines she had been taught. The Holy Spirit continues to reveal truths to her through her study of the Bible. She currently attends the Rock Church and World Outreach Center in San Bernardino, California.