How the E.G. White Books were Written—4

This statement, describing the process used in writing The Ministry of Healing, is the major part of a letter written by W. C. White on May 22, 1934, to a former member of Ellen White's staff. ——EDITORS.

Arthur L. White is a lifetime member of the Board of Trustees of the E. G. White Estate, and is currently working on a biography of his grandmother.
A few days ago I received a letter from one of the leading physicians in the Hinsdale Sanitarium, asking me to give him the back ground of The Ministry of Healing. . . .

I shall endeavor to give him quite a full statement regarding the genesis of this wonderful book, and this statement will be of service to me in my series of sketches being written for the Review ["Sketches and Memories of James and Ellen White"],* in which I shall endeavor to give a picture of the circumstances and the ways in which Sister White's larger books were prepared for publication. In presenting this matter, I shall take it up somewhat as follows.

For many years before The Ministry of Healing was published, Sister White received repeated calls from different parts of the American field and from Germany and from other distant fields, asking for a book on temperance.

Just before she left America for her visit to Australia, she prepared copy for the book Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene. This, she hoped, would have a wide circulation, but it was brought out in such a way as to make its cost rather heavy, and there were printed and circulated, if I remember correctly, two editions, making, I suppose, about six or seven thousand copies.

After this book was issued, the call continued to come in for a book on temperance, and from time to time Sister White discussed the matter of laying aside other work and bringing out such a book, but for many years other work seemed more important.

As regarding material for the making of a book on temperance and hygiene, there was an abundance of it in her writings. All through the years her favorite theme, and the one on which she wrote most fully, was the ministry and the teaching of Jesus. In the writing of her books on the great controversy, this was the central theme. In her writing articles for the Review and Herald, for the Signs of the Times and the Youth's Instructor, the life and teachings of Jesus were her principal theme.

In her writing on the ministry and teachings of Jesus, His life of self-denial and service were the outstanding features. Therefore, in almost every article that she wrote there was something bearing upon the subject of self-denial and temperance, of health and holiness.

This being the case, it was known to all her helpers that there was very much in her writings that could be used in making up a book on Christian temperance, showing the relationship between health and holiness. We all knew that in her periodical articles there were many passages illuminated by pictures of the work of Christ as a Healer of disease and a Teacher of the principles of self-denial and holiness.

Material preserved for anticipated books

An important factor in the matter of having material for service was the fact that for many years there had been preserved copies of the articles which were published in our periodicals, carefully kept by her secretaries, also copies of many, many articles and personal letters which were not published that contained vigorously written paragraphs relating to this subject of Christian temperance. Many of these articles had been marked by Sister Marian Davis shortly after they were written.

For years it was our practice to place in her hands a copy of every article sent off for publication and of all principal letters and testimonies. These she had read with avidity, and had marked those passages that she considered especially useful for the making of chapters for books which she had in contemplation.

Consequently, when the time came that Sister White had a sufficient corps of helpers so that articles for the Review, and the Signs of the Times, and the Youth's Instructor and the Bible Echo and our health papers could be furnished without absorbing the time and energy of Sister Davis, and it was decided that she should give first attention to the searching out and bringing together of articles on the health and temperance question, it was found that there were thousands of pages of manuscripts from which she could draw suitable material.

Sister Davis had a wonderful memory, and this was of great service in her work of searching for and grouping together the choicest things that Sister White had written regarding Christ in His ministry as a Healer, in regard to Christ as an example of medical missionaries and medical evangelists, regarding Christ and His teaching to men, women, and children of all classes relative to their duty to their fellow men.

Sister Davis entered upon this work with excellent courage and with great determination that, of the wonderful things which Sister White had written, there should be gathered together that which was most forceful, most enlightening, and most encouraging. Her associates in secretarial work were requested to help her, and this they did as time permitted.

Chapters in preparation read to Ellen White

When a goodly number of extracts had been gathered and grouped together as possible material for chapters, they were read to Sister White. This revived her memory of the wonderful scenes presented to her, and she entered enthusiastically into the work of rewriting many chapters, giving them a fresh touch and greater vigor, also adapting the various passages and presentations of the subject more fully to the people who would read this book.

For example, an article would often be found containing wondrous truth and so presented as to inspire the readers to action that had been addressed especially to the Seventh-day Adventist people. This Sister White would study and consider how she would present the same subject to an audience of non-Adventists.

Then she would rewrite portions so as to adapt the truths to the audience which the book was expected to have. Then her secretaries, of whom Sister Davis was chief, would prayerfully study to find the very best arrangement of thoughts and paragraphs, and after an arrangement had been made, the matter would be read again to Sister White for her approval or for her improvement.

Book planning in Ellen White's workroom

Time and time again in Sister White's room was discussed the object and the best plan for the book—(a) whom the book would serve; (b) how much room should be given to each subject; (c) what was the best relationship of the great subjects with which it should deal.

As the result of these counsels, Sister White advised that first of all the book should be helpful to the sick and invalids. The first section of the book should serve to revive hope and to inspire faith in Christ as the Chief Physician—the principal agent in the restoration of health to the suffering.

In presenting these articles, which should show forth Christ as the Source of life, Christ as the Great Healer, Christ as the very present Minister to the sick and suffering today, it must present such narratives of His work of healing as would lead every class of invalids to have hope in His present-day ministry. It must show that there is no sickness out side of the range of His love and His power. Furthermore, it should show forth that Christ's love extended to all—none are left out because of nationality, or class, or because of the character of their transgression.

Following this there should be such chapters written especially for the benefit of the nurse and the physician as to emphasize their fellowship with the Life-giver, that should encourage the use of nature's remedies, that should inspire a determination to follow the methods of Christ in ministry for the sick.

There must also be in the book chapters especially helpful to the medical evangelist—(a) to be read to the sick; (b) to be sold in many homes; (c) to be used as a textbook. There must also be that which would encourage the medical evangelist in the matter of setting an example in ministry and also in giving the wise counsel necessary.

It was also planned that the book must be so constructed as to lend itself most readily to the salesman, who would make the book and the proceeds from its sale of greatest service to our sanitariums and to other medical missionary work.

The plan was somewhat elaborate, and the difficulty of finding material that would serve all these purposes and get ting it arranged in proper order was a stupendous task. The fact that there was a super-abundance of material seemed at times to be a very overwhelming difficulty.

The passages which were desired to be gathered together for this book we found in manuscripts and articles written in relation to other phases of Christian experience, and it was no easy task to select them out and group them together and secure their adaptation to the use desired. Many very precious passages which had been written for the Seventh-day Adventist people needed a rewriting in order to serve the purposes of this book, which has to serve everybody in all the world.

Sister White, in her rewriting, developed much repetition, which the secretaries were instructed to carefully re move. Then the uniting of these portions taken from various sources so as to create the strongest, clearest and most appealing chapters was no small task.

Ellen White gives the final reading

After chapters were thus formed, they were carefully read again by Sister White and then submitted to the printer, and when the type was set, proof sheets were submitted and Sister White and her secretaries again carefully read the proofs.

That the truths presented might have the most telling appeal, illustrations were planned. Copy of the first section was placed in the hands of A. W. Reaser, who had taken a leading part in planning the illustrations for The Desire of Ages. With his experience as an artist, with his intense love for the subject, he did masterly work in designing the illustrations and securing the most appropriate and appealing pictures from eminent artists in New York.

Unfortunately, we were able to place in his hands only the first 200 pages of the copy, and his work, which we had hoped to use in illustrating the whole book, was devoted chiefly to these pas sages. Then Brother C. C. Crisler and myself made a very diligent study of how to illustrate the remainder of the book.

We secured some excellent photo graphs of institutions and of groups. We secured pictures of orchards and vine yards and forests and fields and introduced mottoes appropriate to the text and by unstinted labor were able to present with the text a series of illustrations which help much to impress upon the reader the truths of the articles which they beautify. 

(To be continued.)

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus
Arthur L. White is a lifetime member of the Board of Trustees of the E. G. White Estate, and is currently working on a biography of his grandmother.

December 1979

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

Down the road to a Christian republic

Roland Hegstad takes a look at the Christian Voice, a new evangelical-political movement, and raises questions about its possible place in the scenario described in Revelation 13 and 17.

Prophetic Insight and the Pope's Visit

Comparisons between the Spirit of Prophecy and recent news statements, compiled by A. Leroy Moore.

The sound of certainty

Kenneth H. Wood calls Adventist ministers to be twentieth-century Elijahs, proclaiming our message with authority and calling the world to a decision for truth.

"Arise go over this Jordan"

Only as we immerse ourselves in God's Word, will we find the help we need to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Just wait a minute!

Coke does it. Dial does it. Avis does it. You can do it too!

From the Editor

Business as Usual? An open letter from the editor of MINISTRY to the president of the General Conference.

Health and Religion

Obesity in Children. How does it begin and what can parents do about it?

Science and Religion

Their abrupt appearance, fossil sequence, and condensed fossil beds provide support for the Flood model.

Biblical Archeology

Recently uncovered bullae from Jeremiah's time result in an archeological first.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - SermonView - WideSkyscraper (160x600)