The exhortation of Jesus, "Take heed what ye hear," might well be repeated in these times, for there are among our workers and laity some who are creating and perpetuating a Spirit of prophecy apocrypha. There is always something very intriguing about a hearsay report. It gives one a feeling of importance to relate something that not everyone has access to or knows about, especially some statement attributed to Mrs. White, which "for some reason" did not get into her books. Sometimes there is a malicious motive back of the circulation of such reports; more often it is done innocently. But in neither case should Seventh-day Adventists, and especially workers, accept as of Spirit of prophecy authority, alleged quotations which are questionable.
From the very beginning days of the work of the church there have been apocryphal Spirit of prophecy writings. Mrs. White tells of an early attempt to amplify her writings and to broaden their meaning:
"In 1845 a man by the name of Curtis . . . presented a false doctrine, and wove into his theories sentences and selections from the 'Testimonies,' and published his theories in the Day Star, and in sheet form. For years these productions bore their baleful fruit, and brought reproach upon the 'Testimonies,' that, as a whole, in no way supported his work. My husband wrote to him, and asked him what he meant by presenting the 'Testimonies' interwoven with his own words, in support of that which we were opposed to, and requested him to correct the impression that his work had given. He flatly refused to do so, saying that his theories were truth, and that the visions ought to have corroborated his views, and that they virtually did support them, but that I had forgotten to write out the matters that made his theories plain."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 57.
Six types of apocryphal testimonies are known to us. There are (I) testimonies dependent entirely upon memory, (2) testimonies which have their foundation in an association of ideas, (3) testimonies in the form of brief excerpts removed from their setting, (4) testimonies not written by Ellen G. White but actually written by others and mistakenly attributed to her, (5) testimonies which are pure fiction, and (6) testimonies deliberately forged.
1. Testimonies Dependent Upon Memory
Most Seventh-day Adventist workers are very careful not to quote as Spirit of prophecy writings that for which they do not have a satisfactory source credit, such as an Ellen G. White book or an Ellen G. White periodical article, with the date of publication. There have been a few, however, who have placed full confidence in the memory of some loyal and faithful Seventh-day Adventist worker who has related an interesting or valuable point upon which Mrs. White is supposed to have given information or counsel. It is not our purpose in this article to disparage any worker or to cast reflection upon the good name of any of the servants of the cross. Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that the memory, even of godly people, may not be entirely reliable.
For many years there have come to us for verification a number of statements based purely upon memory. We will mention but two. One of these has to do with the identity of Melchisedec. In a committee meeting held in Australia, Mrs. White is supposed to have stated just who 1VIelchisedec was. Such information would certainly be very helpful if we could rely upon it. In an endeavor to check the accuracy of this memory statement, our office, some years ago, reached the principal party named in the interview, and he denied that Mrs. White had said that which the other worker asserted she did.
Inasmuch as the discussion concerned something this brother had written, it stands to reason that his memory of what was said would be more likely to be true. So there it stands. One godly man gives us from his memory Mrs. White's statement, identifying Melchisedec; another man present at the same interview says she did not say that. In all her writings, published and unpublished, there is nothing to corroberate the report. Our counsel is that such statements should not be used as representing Mrs. White's teachings, and we would refer all to the published utterance on this point as it is found in a Review article, in which she informs us:
"It was Christ that spoke through Melchisedec, the priest of the most high God. Melchisedec was not Christ, but he was the voice of God in the world, tIN representative of the Father."—Review and Herald, Feb. 18, 1890.
Another statement which we have often been called upon to verify has to do with the experience of the saints as they shall ascend to the city of God at the second coming of Christ. A detailed, although somewhat fanciful, description is .given in this alleged Ellen G. White statement as to the prospective entertainment of the redeemed on some planet, which in some copies of the report is even identified. More recently the statement has been circulated as a stenographic report of what Mrs. White said. Not only is this untrue, but the statement when it first came into circulation more than twenty-five years ago, was based entirely upon the memory of a certain much respected worker as something which was reported to him by another, who had stated that he heard Mrs. White make the statement.
There is nothing in Mrs. White's published or unpublished writings which gives support to this memory statement. Neither W. C. White nor any of Mrs. White's secretaries, who were available when this report first reached our office, have any memory of ever hearing Mrs. White give any such description of the experience of the ascending saints beyond that of the simple expression found in the account of her first vision : "We all entered the cloud together, and were seven days ascending to the sea of glass."—Early Writings, p. 16. This is all that is available from Mrs. White's pen on this subject. No other statements attributed to her regarding the experience of the ascending saints have their foundation in accepted authentic sources.
2. An Association of Ideas
Among workers and laity alike there are in quite common use reports that sometimes pass as testimonies which have their basis in an association of ideas. Sometimes, perhaps years before, some individual has read and made a definite application of a certain statement, and then as time passed he thought of this particular application as a part of the statement. We can cite several illustrations of this.
During the past sixteen years our office has received many requests for the exact location of the statement to the effect that the United States Congress or the national administration which repealed the prohibition amendment would be the same as that which would enact the national Sundaw laws. There are several variations of this. Many of our people are of the opinion that there is some such statement somewhere, though they cannot find it. Actually, there is no statement in the Ellen G. White writings, published or unpublished, which supports such a report. It is based entirely upon an association of ideas, the individual having read sometime or other the following which appears in one of the Conflict of the Ages Series :
"Behold the well-nigh universal disregard of the Sabbath commandment. Behold also the daring impiety of those who, while enacting laws to safeguard the supposed sanctity of the first day of the week, at the same time are making laws legalizing the liquor traffic. Wise above that which is written, they attempt to coerce the consciences of men, while lending their sanction to an evil that brutalizes and destroys the beings created in the image of God."—Prophets and Kings, p. 186.
A careful reading of the previous statement will show that Mrs. White is setting forth a deplorable situation which is sometimes found among legislators. No statement is made that these who are so inconsistent in their work are holding State or national responsibilities or are even within the United States. Although Mrs. White wrote in favor of prohibition, she made no prediction concerning the enactment or the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. Both took place after her death.
Another illustration of this point is one which will come as a surprise to many readers of this article. It is commonly accepted among many Seventh-day Adventist workers and laity that somewhere Mrs. White has stated that when the Lord comes, our young people who are in school preparing for the work will be accounted as though they were actually engaged in in service for the Master. We in this office have never been able to find a clear-cut Spirit of prophecy statement on this point, nor have we ever been able to find a Seventh-day Adventist worker who can tell us where the statement is found, although he is "very sure" that there is such "somewhere in Sister White's writings." It is my opinion that this report is based upon an association of ideas which has developed from reading some suth passage as the following:
"He [Jesus] was doing God's service just as much when laboring at the carpenter's bench as when working miracles for the multitude. And every youth who follows Christ's example of faithfulness and obedience in His lowly home, may claim those words spoken of Him by the Father through the Holy Spirit, 'Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth.' "—The Desire of Ages, P. 74.
From the foregoing it is clear that the principle which the report embodies is sound, but we know of no such direct statement from Sister White as has been quite commonly quoted.
A third illustration of this point is found in the varying reports of statements Mrs. White is supposed to have made concerning the impending destruction of certain specific cities by fire, earthquake, or tidal wave, and also concerning certain areas of safety in the time of trouble. It is true that when proposals were made that our institutions be established in congested centers of population, Mrs. White spoke of the destruction of large cities and recounted views of falling buildings and loss of life. She ever discouraged the erection of sanitariums, schools, or publishing houses in these congested areas. Her burden was to encourage a rural location for our institutions and for residences of our people.
Basing their conclusions upon such reports. some have endeavored to find out just which cities will suffer or which side of a certain street will be involved. In so doing they have overlooked the great principles set forth in the Ellen G. White writings calling for the right environment for our institutions and the homes of our people. Also overlooked have been the statements concerning the destruction which will come to great cities in proportion to their wickedness. Meeting several wild rumors of this kind, Mrs. White wrote as follows:
"'Some have reported that while in Los Angeles, I claimed that I had predicted the San Francisco earthquake and fire, and that Los Angeles would be the next city to suffer. This is not true. The morning after the earthquake, I said no more than that "the earthquakes will come ; the floods will come ;" and that the Lord's message to us is that we shall "not establish ourselves in the wicked cities...
"'How comes the word that I have declared that New York is to be swept away by a tidal wave? This I have never said. I have said, as I looked at the great buildings going up there, story after story: "What terrible scenes will take place when the Lord shall arise to shake terribly the earth!" '"—Life Sketches, pp. 411, 412.
As to particular places of safety in the time of trouble, there is no record of counsel known to the custodians of the Ellen G. White writings naming any specific area as a safe place of refuge in that trying time. If any such places were designated by her, it must have been in oral conversation, and there is no evidence of this.
3. Excerpts Taken Out of Their Setting
Not infrequently individuals base their understanding of the Ellen G. White teachings upon a fragment of a sentence or upon an isolated statement entirely removed from its setting. A typical illustration of this is found in an expression appearing in Testimonies, volume 2, page 400: "Eggs should not be placed upon your table." Overlooking entirely the context, overlooking the fact that the statement appears in an article entitled "Sensuality in the Young," overlooking that this article is addressed specifically to a "Brother and Sister E," and relates to the deplorable conditions in their home, and overlooking that this specific counsel relates first to this particular family and then to other families which might be in similar circumstances, some would urge this as general counsel to all, and assert that Sister White thus ;taught the absolute nonuse of eggs. Such reasoning is not, of course, sound. This counsel would have an application only in families where the circumstances were similar.
Finding that there were some who were lifting this sentence from its setting and using it as general counsel for everyone, Mrs. White in a statement appearing in volume 7, page 135 wrote: "Milk, eggs, and butter should not be classed with flesh-meat. In some cases the use of eggs is beneficial." Further counsel was also given in other of her books. In 1909 she uttered these words:
"While warnings have been given regarding the dangers of disease through butter, and the evil of the free use of eggs by small children, yet we should not consider it a violation of principle to use eggs from hens that are well cared for and suitably fed. Eggs contain properties that are remedial agencies in counteracting certain poisons."—/bid., vol. 9, p. 162.
Thus we see that it may not be possible to reach a sound conclusion as to the Spirit of prophecy teachings on the subject of the use of eggs if we are to base our conclusions upon one isolated sentence. We must study the full range of counsel. In the application of certain lines of instruction, the circumstances under which the statements were made are important factors. "That which can be said of men under certain circumstances cannot be said of them under other circumstances."—Ibid., vol. 3, p. 470.
We might continue at length giving illustrations where Mrs. White's teachings have been distorted by citing an isolated sentence or even half a sentence, but this seems unnecessary. Writing of certain individuals who made a misuse of her writings, she declared: "They quote half a sentence, leaving out the other half, which, if quoted, would show their reasoning to be false."—MS. 22, 1890. Just as in the days of the apostles some wrested the Scriptures, so in our day some wrest the Spirit of prophecy.
4. Writings Falsely Attributed
Through the years our workers and people have copied and kept many choice paragraphs supposedly drawn from the Ellen G. White articles as they have been published in our journals. Some have also copied choice statements written by others without noting the authorship. At some later time these choice excerpts have been mistakenly attributed to Ellen G. White. One such statement, which is quite contrary to the Spirit of prophecy teachings, has been disseminated • quite widely and has been read from some pulpits. In this case there is considerable hazard because of the nature of the wording. As it has been copied and passed from hand to hand, the credit has been erroneously given to Ellen G. White in the Review and Herald of 1884. Some copies give the month of June, but no specific day. In this respect it has a semblance of authenticity. The report is to the effect that God's people will be given certain evidence concerning the close of probation in the form of a literal darkness which will enshroud the earth when Christ leaves the heavenly sanctuary. This is read and reread even though it is in direct contradition to the long-published depiction in The Great Controversy, which reads : "When the irrevocable decision of the sanctuary has been pronounced, and the destiny of the world has been forever fixed, the inhabitants of the earth will know it not."—Page 615.
In this particular case, however, there is an actual bona fide source for this statement in our literature, but not in the E. G. White writings. It may be found in the Review and Herald Supplement of June 21, 1898, in an article written by a much respected worker, now deceased. But it makes much difference to us as Seventh-day Adventists whether this statement of prediction of future events comes to us through the prophetic gift or is the opinion of an uninspired writer. Twice our office has issued published statements in an endeavor to stop the use of this apocryphal document, but it still lives on. Our workers should be especially guarded in their use of quotations having to do with future events.
A second case in point does not involve accredited Seventh-day Adventist workers, but rather a small group of offshoots who publish a statement as from Mrs. White which is from a letter written and signed by one of Mrs. White's secretaries. This apocryphal statement is used as inspired admonition. Twice in published works this statement, which relates to the importance of the study of the question of the 144,000, is presented as of Spirit of prophecy origin, but it stems solely from another pen. Significantly, that part of the letter is not used in which this secretary pointed out that upon that particular subject Sister White has often stated that "silence is eloquence."
We present one more illustration of this kind —one which again involves the Ellen G. White writing on Melchisedec. In this case her words quoted earlier in this article are presented, and linked with these as a part of her statement are a few paragraphs of some other authorship, but the whole is credited to the Ellen G. White Review and Herald source.
5. Pure Fiction, Not True Testimonies
It is strange with what speed that which is purely fictitious can travel from one person to another. Seventh-day Adventists pride themselves in having the truth and loving the truth, but not a few at times are guilty of disseminating that which is not truth. We are told that falsehood will make its way around the world while truth is getting its boots on. How true this is.
Through correspondence and in connection with question-and-answer services held in various parts of the country, I have discovered that during the past fifteen years about one third of the Seventh-day Adventists living within the United States have heard the wild rumor that Mrs. White made prediction identifying the man who would be in office when earth's closing scenes would take place. The story comes in a dozen different forms. One report has it that Mrs. White identified a certain young man she saw in a picture in a family album as being the one who would be the last president. Another report gives just a plain statement using the name. Another lists him as a cripple. Another even gives the political party. But there is absolutely no foundation in fact for this wild rumor.
Another report which is unsustained in fact is an alleged testimony indicating that whole churches and conferences will be lost. Word is passed on from one to another, but no one knows just where this "testimony" is. Actually, Mrs. E. G. White made no such statement.
6. Deliberately Forged Testimonies
Not many have dared to forge testimonies deliberately, but at one time even this was attempted. This was done by Mrs. Margaret Rowen, who shortly after Mrs. White's death thought to become her successor. By applying the Bible tests, the leaders of the church soon realized that she was not called of God to serve as His messenger.
Near the outset of her work, in an attempt to gain influence. Mrs. Rowen wrote a one-page statement to which in ink she affixed the signature "Ellen G. White." This document closed with the words : "I saw that many of the leaders refused to accept the messenger. I saw that the one sent of God was one of limited education, small in stature, and would sign the messages Margaret W. Rowen." Then she arranged for one of her prominent supporters to surreptitiously place the document in the Ellen G. White manuscript files.
The document did not in any way resemble the manuscripts. The signature was a very poor forgery. It bore the date line of Saint Helena, California, August to, 1911, whereas Mrs. White's address was Sanitarium, California, and on the date specified she was in Southern California attending a camp meeting. The paper upon which the statement was written was a different size and kind from the sheets used in the files, and the document bore no characteristic punching, file number, unmistakable Ellen G. White pen marks, copyist initials, et cetera. Later confessions sustained the immediate conclusions and declarations of the appointed custodians of the Ellen G. White writings that the document was a forgery.
So this body of materials of which we have here spoken, but which we have not quoted lest we widen the distribution of sentiments and statements known to be apocryphal, demonstrates the verity of the Saviour's admonition: "Take heed what ye hear." We may well reread the entire chapter "Unfounded Reports" in Testimonies, volume 5, pages 692-696, and ponder the closing words:
"To all who have a desire for truth I would say, Do not give credence to unauthenticated reports as to what Sister White has done or said or written. If you desire to know what the Lord has revealed through her, read her published works. Are there any points of interest concerning which she has not written, do not eagerly catch up and report rumors as to what she has said."