Criticism of Ellen White

Criticism of Ellen White

A number of groups and persons have voiced doubts as to the reliability of Ellen G. White as a true prophet and the authenticity of her visions, a few of which are summarized here.


Mental Illness

Critics argue that Ellen White's childhood injury caused traumatic brain injury, was cataleptic and hysterical and some neurologists have commented that this may have caused partial complex seizures and hallucinations. They suggest that her visions were actually hallucinations and delusions during non-motor seizures which that led her to believe that she had visions of God.
*RESPONSE: However, while Partial Complex Seizures could account for some of the physical manifestations observed of Ellen White while in vision, this explanation does not account for the information obtained while in vision. A thorough examination of Ellen White's complete history when compared to actual patient's with Partial Complex Seizures demonstrates a striking dissimilarity which is inconsistent with Ellen White having a seizure disorder. [Gregory Holmes and Delbert Hodder(1981).Ellen G.White and the Seventh Day Adventist Church:Visions or Partial Complex Seizures?Journal of Neurology,31(4):160-161.] [E.L.Altshuler(2002).Did Ezekiel have temporal lobe epilepsy.Archinves of General Psychiatry,.] [A. W. Beard. (1963). The schizophrenia-like psychosis of epilepsy: Physical aspects. The Journal of Psychiatry, 109:113-129.] [R.Dewhust and A. Beard. (2003). Sudden religions conversions in temporal lobe epilepsy.Epilepsy and Behavior. 4(1):78-87.] [B. K. Puri.(2001). SPECT neuroimaging in schizophrenia with religious delusions.International Journal of Psychophysiology, 40(2):143-148] [J.Wuerfel.(2004) Religion is associated with hippocampal but not amygdala volumes in patients with refractory epilepsy.Journal of Neurology, Neuropsychiatry, and Neurosurgery, 75(4):640-642.]
* Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE): Professor Gregory Holmes of Dartmouth Medical School has noted that many of the self-described changes in Ellen White's behavior, including changes in facial expression, frequent episodes of staring upward, unawareness of her environment, as well as episodes of Automatism, all point to Temporal Lobe Epilepsy as a possible explanation for her high degree of religiosity and belief that she was receiving messages from God. He also points out that the fact that Ms. White's visions followed her head injury is more than coincidental, since the bones behind the eyes are weak and the brain tissue behind the eyes (Temporal Lobes) is particularly susceptible to injury. These textbook symptoms have Holmes conclude that there can be only one diagnosis for Ellen White's condition - Temporal Lobe Epilepsy.
**RESPONSE: Unfortunately, Dr. Holmes assessment is incomplete and fails to include the totality of Ellen White's symptoms and experiences thus professor Holmes conclusions are incomplete. For instance, while hyergraphia (extensive writing) is a symptom of TLE hypergraphia associated with TLE are disorganized, incoherent, simplistic and non-sensical pages of writing, whereas Ellen Whites 50,000 pages of writings are well organized, thoughtful, complex, insightful and often revolutionaryFact|article|date=November 2007. []
* Plagiarism: Many critics have also accused Ellen White of extensive plagiarism. One such was Walter T. Rea, who argued against the "original" nature of her supposed revelations in his book "The White Lie." An examination of the plagiarism charges with a specific focus on White's teachings on health reform can be found in Ronald Numbers' "Ellen White: Prophetess of Health" (originally published in 1976). [cite book
title = Prophetess of Health: Ellen G. White and the Origins of Seventh-Day Adventist Health Reform
author = Ronald Numbers
year = 1992
publisher = University of Tennessee Press
] In this text Numbers argues that her understanding of health reform was simply plagiarized from other health reformers and therefore did not come from divine revelation. Also, there are parallels between her descriptions of heavenly visions and experiences with those described by Joseph Smith, Jr, who died in 1844 prior tho White's first theophany, as well as the presumption of having prophetic authority, as Smith have done.

False prophecy

Ellen G. White is believed to have made a number of failed prophecies. [ [ "Prophecy Blunders of Ellen G. White"] ]

Consumption of "Unclean" Foods

Ellen White's health message is one of the mainstays of adventist doctrine. Many critics have pointed out, however, that she did not seem to follow her own teachings. In a personal letter to her daughter Mary White, dated May 5, 1882 it appears that she is still eating oysters:

"Mary, if you can get me a good box of herrings - fresh ones - please do so. These last ones that Willie got are bitter and old. If you can buy cans, say half dozen cans of good tomatoes, please do so. We shall need them. If you can get a few cans of good oysters, get them."

In her previous writings she had denounced such food as unclean. Even today, Seventh-day Adventist church doctrine forbids eating oysters [ [ "Fundimental Beliefs"] ] .

Denial of the Trinity

Some critics, as well as some non-Trinitarian Adventists, have asserted that in some of her early writings Ellen White denied the Trinity and affirmed a form of Arianism, the view that Jesus is a lesser being than God the Father (a position later adopted officially by the Jehovah's Witnesses). Orthodox Adventists, for their part, credit her with bringing the Seventh-day Adventist church into a progressive awareness of the Trinity during the 1890s. Some critics have characterized her descriptions of the Godhead as Tritheistic. Such anti-trinitarian teaching was common among early Adventist leaders, including White's husband James, Joseph Bates, Uriah Smith, J. N. Loughborough and E. J. Waggoner. [cite web
url =
title = Part 1: Historical Overview

Writings on Masturbation

Many critics cite Ellen White's views on masturbation, which she called "self-indulgence" or "a solitary vice" as proof that she is a false prophet. In her book "A Solemn Appeal" she writes:

"If the practice [self-indulgence] is continued from the age of fifteen and upward, nature will protest against the abuse she has suffered, and continues to suffer, and will make them pay the penalty for the transgression of her laws, especially from the ages of thirty to forty-five, by numerous pains in the system, and various diseases, such as affection of the liver and lungs, neuralgia, rheumatism, affection of the spine, diseased kidneys, and cancerous humors. Some of nature's fine machinery gives way, leaving a heavier task for the remaining to perform, which disorders nature's fine arrangement, and there is often a sudden breaking down of the constitution; and death is the result."cite book
title = Solemn Appeal, A
author = Ellen G. White
year = 1870
publisher = The Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association

Females possess less vital force than the other sex, and are deprived very much of the bracing, invigorating air, by their in-door life. The result of self-abuse in them is seen in various diseases, such as catarrh, dropsy, headache, loss of memory and sight, great weakness in the back and loins, affections of the spine, and frequently, inward decay of the head. Cancerous humor, which would lie dormant in the system their lifetime, is inflamed, and commences its eating, destructive work. The mind is often utterly ruined, and insanity supervenes."
Critics cite modern studies which seem to show that not only is masturbation normal and healthy, it even helps protect against certain diseases such as prostate cancer [cite journal
last = Giles
first = G.G.
coauthors =G. Severi, D.R. English, M.R.E. McCredie, R. Borland, P. Boyle, J.L. Hopper
title = Sexual factors and prostate cancer
journal = BJU International
volume = 92
issue = 3
pages = 211-216
publisher =
location =
date= August 2003
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2008-29-04
] and heart disease. [cite journal
last = Smith
first = George Davey
coauthors =Frankel, Stephen and Yarnell, John.
title = Sex and death: are they related? Findings from the Caerphilly cohort study
journal = British Medical Journal
volume = 315
issue = 7123
pages = 1641-1644
publisher =
location =
date= December 1997
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2008-29-04

Writings on Novels/Fiction

Critics also like to point out statements that she wrote which seem to be hyperboles, such as her views on novels.

"That mind is ruined which is allowed to be absorbed in story-reading. The imagination becomes diseased, sentimentalism takes possession of the mind, and there is a vague unrest, a strange appetite for unwholesome mental food, which is constantly unbalancing the mind. Thousands are today in the insane asylum whose minds became unbalanced by novel reading, which results in air-castle building and love-sick sentimentalism."

This statement is part of an article published in "The Signs of the Times" on February 10, 1881.


Many critics believe that Ellen White also wrote extremely racist statements in her book "Spiritual Gifts."

"Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men." [cite book
title = Spirutal Gifts, Volume 4
author = Ellen G. White
year = 1860
publisher = The Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association
This criticism is compounded by a defense published 8 years later by church leader and personal friend of Ellen White, Uriah Smith, infering that this "amalgamation" produced certain lesser races which are difficult to differentiate from animals:
" Now we have ever supposed that anybody that was called a man, was considered a human being. The vision speaks of all these classes as races of men; yet in the face of this plain declaration, they foolishly assert that the visions teach that some men are not human beings! But does any one deny the general statement contained in the extract given above? They do not. If they did, they could easily be silenced by a reference to such cases as the wild Bushmen of Africa, some tribes of the Hottentots, and perhaps the Digger Indians of our own country.. Moreover, naturalists affirm that the line of demarkation between the human and animal races is lost in confusion. It is impossible, as they affirm, to tell just where the human ends and the animal begins. [cite book
title = The Visions of Mrs. E. G. White, A Manifestation of Spiritual gifts According to the Scripture
author = Uriah Smith
year = 1868
publisher = Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association

Response to Criticism

Seventh-day Adventists have long responded to critics with arguments and assertions of their own. Typical responses to these criticisms include:

Mental illness

Seventh-day Adventists reject the charge that Ellen White suffered mental illness or that she had seizures. There are several main lines of argument Adventists use to respond to this charge:
** They point out that there is nothing on record of Ellen White ever having a seizure or showing signs of mental illness. They assert instead that these charges were trumped up by critics many years after her first vision as a way of discrediting her.
** The same charges have been made against Biblical prophets. [Did Ezekiel have temporal lobe epilepsy?Archives of General Psychiatry,.] [A. W. Beard. (1963).]
** Many times Ellen White had visions in the company of large groups of people. These visions were sometimes accompanied by unusual physical phenomena that all were able to witness. One such story relates how on several occasions witnesses recorded her holding a large family Bible for extended periods of time (in one case 20-25 minutes) at arms length just above her head while quoting Scriptural passages out loud; she would trace the verses in the Bible with her free hand as she spoke the words, and was apparently unaware of other people in the room. During such incidents, Adventists claim, several skeptics attempted to pull her arm down, as well as double-check the verses she was speaking aloud against the verses she traced with her finger. The story concludes that these unbelievers could not pull her arm down, and the verses were verbatim quotations from the Bible.
** Adventist also point to "the overall ministry of her life" as evidence of her inspiration.


Adventists argue that her use of sources was typical for a 19th-century writer; they generally believe that "she was in control of her sources and that her sources did not control her." Adventists assert that it became increasingly normative to cite sources during her lifetime, and that Ellen G. White subsequently revised her books, changed passages to include quotations from authoritative writers, and at times deleted passages when an author could not be found. When the plagiarism charge ignited a significant debate within the Adventist church during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the General Conference commissioned a major study by Dr. Fred Veltman. The ensuing project became known as the "'Life of Christ' Research Project." The results are available at the General Conference Archives [ [ General Conference Archives] of the Seventh Day Adventist Church] . Dr. Roger W. Coon [ [ "Ellen G. White as a Writer: Part III - The Issue of Literary Borrowing"] ] , David J. Conklin [ [ "An Analysis of the Literary Dependency of Ellen White"] ] , Dr. Denis Fortin [ [ "Ellen G. White as a Writer: Case Studies in the Issue of Literary Borrowing"] ] [ [ "The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia"] ] , among others, undertook the refutation of the accusations of plagiarism.

A Roman Catholic lawyer, Vincent L. Ramik, undertook a study of Ellen G. White's writings during the early 1980s, and concluded that they were "conclusively unplagiaristic." Also appears in "Review" article] Of course, Ramik's study of the charge of plagiarism focused almost solely on the legal question of plagiarism and copyright infringement--not on the moral or theological problems which might be implied in what White did. For opponents, the larger question is how White could claim to have received divine revelations when she had clearly taken some of her material from other (namely, human) sources. At the conclusion of Ramik's report, he states:

"It is impossible to imagine that the intention of Ellen G. White, as reflected in her writings and the unquestionably prodigious efforts involved therein, was anything other than a sincerely motivated and unselfish effort to place the understandings of Biblical truths in a coherent form for all to see and comprehend. Most certainly, the nature and content of her writings had but one hope and intent, namely, the furthering of mankind's understanding of the word of God."

Failed prophecy

Adventists state that some prophecy, including Bible prophecy, can be conditional. Some, for instance, have suggested that a passage in "Testimonies" which refers to the destruction of buildings at the end of time, refers to the terrorist attack on New York City on September 11, 2001. However, the Ellen G. White Estate has rejected this interpretation. Recently a number of apologetic books have been published by the church arguing for the validity of her prophetic gift. Two examples include Don McMahon's book examining the accuracy of Ellen White's medical statements and Graeme Bradford's book "Prophets are Human." Opponents would respond, however, that the Bible clearly states that, if someone claims to be a prophet speaking on behalf of God and that prophet's statements do not come to pass, then the prophecy was not from God (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

Unclean Foods

Ellen G. White didn't have a daughter. She had 4 sons. This proves that the letter to Mary (Her so called daughter) is false. She did have a daughter in law called Mary White though and this is who the letter was addressed to.

Denial of the Trinity

Many Adventists argue that, while she never used the terms "Trinity" or "Triune" in her published writings, Ellen White did use the term "trio" (as in "Evangelism" pp. 613-617) and many Adventists believe that she was, in fact, Trinitarian in her views despite doctrinal affirmations consistent with Arianism (a view held by a number of early Adventist leaders). [ [ The Role of Ellen G. White in The Adventist Trinity Debate] ] [ [ The Quest for a Biblical Trinity: Ellen White’s “Heavenly Trio” Compared to the Traditional Doctrine] by Jerry Moon, published in "Journal of the Adventist Theological Society"]

Notable Critics

*D. M. Canright: Former pastor, evangelist, and member of the Adventist General Conference Executive Committee.
*Walter T. Rea: Author and former Adventist pastor of the Long Beach Church
*Dale Ratzlaff: Former Adventist pastor

See also

* Prophet
* Ellen G. White
* Teachings of Ellen White
* Inspiration of Ellen White
* Criticism of the Seventh-day Adventist Church


External links

* []
* [ ExAdventist Outreach]
* [ Truth or Fables]

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