Suppression and Innate Immortality

Suppression and Innate Immortality

Our monthly query column considers the question: "If Ellen White was inspired, why have you suppressed many of her teachings?

L.E.F. is editor of the Ministry.

"If Ellen White was inspired, why have you suppressed many of her teachings? In "A Word to the Little Flock," 1847, page 16, she wrote that she saw Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Daniel, and many like them in heaven. You later settled on the theory of soul sleeping; so of course these men, could not be in heaven—hence her vision had to be suppressed."

Passing over, for the moment, the reasons for omission from later printings of certain portions that appeared in early visions, the falsity of the contention is apparent from the vision itself. It would not have been because Mrs. White and her associates had meantime changed their views on the nature of man, as will be noted later. According to the context, Mrs. White had been carried forward in vision —as is also frequently the case with Bible prophets—to view the resurrection and the events following thereafter. The "graves opened," and the saints were "changed" and "caught up." They "entered the cloud to­gether," and "ascended" to heaven.

Mrs. White's clear understanding, at this time, of the sleep of the soul had been specific­ally mentioned in this same vision, only a few lines previously, in these words: "We all went under the tree, and sat down to look at the glory of the place when Brothers Fitch and Stockman, who had preached the gospel of the kingdom, and whom God had laid in the grave to save them, came up to us, and asked us what we had passed through while they were sleep­ing."

Thus the easy implication of a change of view upon Mrs. White's part collapses of its own weight. As a matter of historical se­quence, Mrs. White has recorded the circum­stances that led her to question the theory of the immortality of the soul some years prior to this, in 1843 or 1844. (See "Life Sketches," pp. 48, 49.)

Moreover, the advent leaders had for the most part accepted the doctrine of the uncon­scious state of man in death, promulgated by George Storrs in 1843, during the distinctive Millerite movement prior to 1844. It cannot therefore be justly said that our leaders "later settled on the theory of soul sleeping; so of course these men could not be in heaven"—hence the necessary "suppression."

Many important portions of early visions were later repeated in expanded form. Natu­rally, the accounts of these fuller subsequent revelations would take the place of earlier brief descriptions. The vision in question was first sent in the form of a personal letter to Enoch Jacobs, editor of the Day-Star, and ap­peared in the issue of January 24, 1846. It was reprinted in broadside form in 1846, and again in 1847 in "A Word to the Little Flock." Later, the bulk of it was incorporated in "Ex­periences and Views" for the entire church, in 18p—when copies of "A Word to the Little Flock" were a common possession.

Regarding the reasons for certain omissions, Mrs. White expressly wrote, in the 1851 edition of "Experiences and Views," where they first occurred : "Here I will give the view that was first published in 1846. In this view I saw only a very few of the events of the future. More recent views have been more full. I shall therefore leave out a portion and prevent repe­tition."—"A Sketch of the Christian Experi­ence and Views of Ellen G. White," p. 9.

The omitted portion of the first vision that contained the mention of Mrs. White's seeing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., related to her view of the New Jerusalem temple, where she met these patriarchs. Her description here of the temple is very incomplete. In a vision dated April 7, 1847, Mrs. White was again conducted through the temple in heaven, and in a letter published by Joseph Bates, she relates the vision and describes fully what she was shown. (See "Early Writings," pp. 32-35.) In pub­lishing these visions in her first book, the one followed the other. Had she not deleted the first incomplete description of the temple, there would have been a noticeable repetition of parallel descriptions within three pages of each other. Mrs. White's own statement of the facts will settle this matter for those who accept her veracity :

"In another passage from the book 'A Word to the Little Flock,' I speak of scenes upon the new earth, and state that I there saw holy men of old, 'Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Daniel, and many like them.' Because I speak of having seen these men, our opponents conjecture that I then believed in the immortality of the soul and that having since changed my views upon this point, I found it neces­sary to suppress that passage. They are as near the truth here as in other conjectures.

"In the year 1844 I accepted the doctrine we now hold, concerning the nonimmortality of the soul, as may be seen by reference to 'Life Sketches,' pages 170, 171 [188o ed. See also 1915 ed., P. 49 ; 'Testi­monies,' Vol. I, pp. 39, 40], and I have never, by voice or pen, advocated any other. Had we sup­pressed this passage on account of its teaching the immortality of the soul, we would have found it necessary to suppress other passages.

"In relating my first vision, page 13 of 'Early Writings' [1882 ed.; present ed., p. 17], I speak of having seen brethren who had but a short time previous fallen asleep in Jesus, and on page 14 [present ed., pp. 18, 19] I state that I was shown a great company who had suffered martyrdom for their faith.

"The immortality of the soul is no more taught in the 'suppressed' passage than in the two last cited.

"The fact in the case is, that in these visions I was carried forward to the time when the resurrected saints shall be gathered into the kingdom of God. In the same manner the judgment, the second coin­ing of Christ, the establishment of the saints upon the new earth have been presented before me. Does anyone suppose that these scenes have yet transpired? My adversaries show the spirit by which they are actuated in thus accusing me of deception on the strength of a mere 'conjecture.' " —Ms. 4, 1883, cited in "The Testimony of Jesus" (1934), P. 77.

A view cannot, with justice, be said to have been "suppressed" when through the years it has never been recalled or destroyed, but has been available to whoever had the old printings, and in recent years has been widely accessible to our workers, and is incorporated in the ex­tensive advent-source lectures in college and workers' meetings, meetings in leading church centers, and in the Theological Seminary course based thereon.

Suppression involves an attempt to call in, destroy, prevent circulation of, etc., which is the exact opposite of the case. These early documents, with very small editions, were simply not reprinted, but were followed by larger and fuller writings. Wherever they have been available, unrestricted access to these items has been the policy.                  

L. E. F.

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L.E.F. is editor of the Ministry.

November 1941

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