The death of W. C. White, secretary of the board of trustees of the Ellen G. White Estate, marks the beginning of a new period in the custody of the E. G. White writings. Those who must now carry this sacred trust will not have the benefit of the counsel and experience of one who for long years was privileged to enjoy a very close relationship with Mrs. White and an intimate contact with her work.
It is fitting at this time that we should review with our workers throughout the world field certain facts regarding the activities of the White Estate during the past twenty-two years, and that we should make a statement regarding the provisions made for the future conduct of its work.
Reviewing briefly the establishment of the organization which was to carry the responsibility of the custody of the Ellen G. White writings,* we should first mention the fact that Mrs. White in her will, executed February 9, 1912, created the basis for the Ellen G. White Estate. Five men of long experience were named as a board of trustees, to whom she left the custody of her writings. They were W. C. White, C. C. Crisler, C. H. Jones, A. G. Daniells, and F. M. Wilcox.
Immediately following Mrs. White's death, July 16, 1915, these trustees organized for work and undertook the tasks entrusted to them. Their responsibilities might be enumerated in three general groups: (1) The care and promotion of the E. G. White books in the English language; (2) The preparation of manuscripts for, and the promotion of the translation of, the E. G. White writings into foreign languages, together with their publication. (3) The custody of the manuscript and letter files, and the selection of matter therefrom for general circulation.
Provision for Vacancies
The work embodying these three general lines of activity, has been carried on at the "Elmshaven" office, just at the rear of Mrs, White's St. Helena residence, where irreplaceable documents of great value are housed in fireproof vaults. An office staff of from two to five persons has been required to execute the work outlined and authorized by the board of trustees.
The originally appointed trustees carried the responsibility placed upon them as a united body for the first eighteen years of the trust.
Since that time four of the five men have.been removed by death. In the same document which created the trusteeship and appointed the men, this contingency was provided for, as follows:
"If a vacancy shall occur for any reason among the trustees, or their successors, a majority of the surviving or remaining trustees are hereby empowered and directed to fill such vacancy by the appointment of some other fit person, and in the event that the majority does not agree upon the appointment, then such vacancy shall be filled by the Executive Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference."
In harmony with this provision, as vacancies occurred in the board of trustees, the remaining trustees appointed men to succeed those who died. Thus J. E. Fulton, J. L. Shaw, and M. E. Kern were chosen to fill the vacancies created by the deaths of C. H. Jones, A. G. Daniells, and C. C. Crisler, respectively. Far Reaching Statement of Policy
The present period in our work might have been one of some perplexity as we face the problem of continuing the work of the trust in the absence of so many of the men originally chosen to carry it, were it not for the fact that a far-reaching agreement and statement of policy was outlined by the originally appointed trustees themselves, several years ago before any change had come into their personnel.
On January 27, 1933, the trustees, together with the officers of the General Conference, gave united study to the future of the Ellen G. White Estate. They recognized that due to the advancing age of the trustees there was a possibility that changes would have to be made in the original group of men chosen by Mrs. White. They reviewed the provisions made by Ellen White for the custody of her writings, and gave earnest study to plans and policies for future safeguarding of the precious documents, and the continuing work of the estate. The following general plans and controlling policies were enunciated and placed in contract form, and duly signed by representatives of the Ellen G. White Estate and the General Conference Corporation. For the sake of brevity, the outstanding provisions are here stated without legal terminology.
1. Even though there might be changes in the personnel of the originally appointed board, yet the plan designed by Mrs. White herself—that the custody of her writings be placed in the hands of a group of trustees—should be continued; and in order to strengthen the organization it was recommended that the trustees bind themselves together in a legal corporate body.
2. Ultimately the files and materials in the custody of the trustees should be removed to our denominational headquarters at Takoma Park, Washington, D.C., and the work of the trustees carried on there.
3. In the interim before the removal of the files and also after they were established in Takoma Park, all parties concerned should protect and safeguard the precious materials in their custody for the use of the Seventh-clay Adventist denomination through its properly established organizations.
4. The work of the Ellen G. White Estate as a branch of regular denominational work should be supported financially by annual appropriation as a part of the regular General Conference budget, and the royalty income from the sale of the E. G. White books should be received by the General Conference treasury. Thus the work of the trustees was assured an adequate support regardless of the fluctuations in royalty incomes.
As to the time of removing the files and work of the E. G. White Estate to Takoma Park, it was agreed that this step should be taken at a time when the White Estate trustees and the General Conference Corporation should think best. As the matter was discussed, it seemed unwise to ask W. C. White, the custodian of the writings and secretary of the board for twenty-two years, at his advanced age to engage in the taxing work of closing up the work at "Elmshaven," moving the materials, and reestablishing it in new surroundings. Rather, his brethren felt that his strength and time should be reserved for the work for which his long years of experience in connection with his mother especially fitted him.
No Crisis Cripples Work
When Elder White was called to lay clown his labors, Sept. 1, 1937, no crisis occurred in the work of the Ellen G. White Estate. It was not necessary to make decisions of great moment or to establish new and far-reaching policies. The contingency had been fully provided for by the originally appointed trustees back in 1933. All that now remained to be done was to carry out the plans so carefully outlined in past years.
Two weeks after Elder White's death, the board of trustees met, and after reviewing the plans that had been laid for the estate work, took the following action, which was shortly confirmed by the General Conference Corporation.
Voted, That we recommend to the General Conference Corporation that immediate steps be taken to effect the removal of the properties and work of the Ellen G. White Estate to Takoma Park, Washington, D.C., and that we endeavor to make the transfer as near the first of the year 1938 as possible.
Another action taken by the trustees was to appoint a successor to W. C. White. His son, Arthur White, who for eight years has given full time to the work of the White Estate and for the past five years acted as assistant secretary, was chosen as a member of the board of trustees and as secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate.
Since the White Estate work is being moved to the East coast, two trustees, Elders Shaw and Fulton, who are permanently located on the Pacific Coast, asked to be released from their responsibilities as trustees, in order that the way might be opened for the selection of men who would be available near the estate work. Last October, the resignations from these two men were regretfully accepted, and J. L. McElhany and Steen Rasmussen were chosen in their stead. Thus the trusteeship is today constituted as follows : F. M. Wilcox, J. L. McElhany, M. E. Kern, Steen Rasmussen,. and A. L. White. Elder Wilcox, the only remaining originally appointed trustee, carries: the responsibility of chairman of the board.
________ To be concluded in February,
* For further information regarding the custody of the Ellen G. White writings, and the work which has been carried on at "Elmshaven" since her death, see THE MINISTRY, December, 1935, and subsequent numbers.