Editing of the Testimonies
Accusations are made by some in the
independent movement that, in the process of editing and republishing the early
editions of the Testimonies of Ellen G. White, "undue liberties were
taken and alterations made without the knowledge of the author." Many of these
accusations are attributed solely to Uriah Smith. The accusations appear to
focus on the year 1884 when a committee of five at the Review offices
in Battle Creek were preparing the first four Testimonies for
Accusations are made by some in the independent movement that, in the process of editing and republishing the early editions of the Testimonies of Ellen G. White, "undue liberties were taken and alterations made without the knowledge of the author." Many of these accusations are attributed solely to Uriah Smith. The accusations appear to focus on the year 1884 when a committee of five at the Review offices in Battle Creek were preparing the first four Testimonies for republication.
Because of illness as a child, Ellen White had obtained only a third grade education, and as a result "Ellen G. White Desired Language Correctly Used," so states a sub-title about the editing of the Testimonies. (Selected Messages, Bk. 3, page 97). This appropriate subtitle was inserted by the Compilers preceding the following statement:
"Where the language used is not the best, I want it made correct and grammatical," Ellen White commented, "as I believe it should be in every case where it can be without destroying the sense." (ibid., 3SM, p. 97).
As a result Ellen White often sought professional assistance in editing. In 1884 she submitted some of her Testimonies to Battle Creek, the center of the publishing work and the Review offices, for editing in grammar and construction before republication.
Under the subtitle, "Editing the Published Testimonies in 1884," Ellen White wrote: "Dear Brother Smith; I have today mailed you a letter, but information has been received from Battle Creek that the work upon Testimonies is not accepted." (ibid., 3SM, p. 96).
It was not the editing committee or Ellen White who did not accept "the work upon the Testimonies." As we shall see, it was the brethren in the Church at Battle Creek who did not accept the editing work! Immediately following the first sentence in her letter to Uriah Smith, as recorded in Selected Messages, Bk. 3, p. 96, is a Compiler's Note which states:
[* Reference is to the work being done in response to the General Conference Session action of November 16, which reads: "32. Whereas, some of the bound volumes of the Testimonies to the Church, are out of print, so that full sets cannot be obtained at the office; and, "Whereas, there is a constant and urgent call for the reprinting of these volumes; therefore, "Resolved, that we recommend their republication in such a form as to make four volumes of seven or eight hundred pages each. "33. Whereas, Many of these testimonies were written under the most unfavorable circumstances, the writer being too heavily pressed with anxiety and labor to devote critical thought to the grammatical perfection of the writings, and they were printed in such haste as to allow these imperfections to pass uncorrected; and, "Whereas, We believe the light given by God to His servants is by the enlightenment of the mind, thus imparting the thoughts, and not (except in rare cases) the very words in which the ideas should be expressed; Therefore, "Resolved, that in the republication of these Volumes, such verbal changes be made as to remove the above-named imperfections as far as possible, without in any measure changing the thought and further, "34. Resolved, at this body appoint a committee of five to take charge of the republication of these Volumes according to the above preambles and resolutions." -- Review and Herald, Nov. 7, 1883.
"The committee of five to take charge of the republication of the Testimonies provided for in the thirty-fourth resolution was announced as follows, The Chair having been empowered to select four persons besides himself for this purpose: W. C. White, Uriah Smith, J. H. Waggoner, S. N. Haskell, George I. Butler." ibid. The work was submitted to Ellen White and was approved by her. The letter to Elder Smith intimates that she was more ready to accept the improvements than some in Battle Creek. The product was our present Testimonies, Vols. 1-4, Published in 1885.--Compilers.]
Compiler's Note, Selected Messages, Bk. 3, page 96. (emphasis supplied).
Cognizance must here be taken that there were "five" members of the revision and editing committee - "W. C. White, Uriah Smith, J. H. Waggoner [father of E. J. Waggoner], S. N. Haskell, George I. Butler.". Uriah Smith cannot be singled out as the only one responsible for any changes that were made in the Testimonies revision in 1884.
On the next page (3SM, p 97) Ellen White addressed the objection of the brethren at Battle Creek. She stated that, although the brethren at Battle Creek did not accept the revisions, she did accept the changes herself after "more critically" examining the edited Testimonies.
My mind has been exercised upon the question of the Testimonies that have been revised. We have looked them over more critically. I cannot see the matter as my brethren see it. I think the changes will improve the book. If our enemies handle it, let them do so. . . .
Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, Bk. 3, page 97. (emphasis supplied).
Speaking of the brethren at Battle Creek Ellen White stated, "I cannot see the matter as my brethren see it." Notice then her statement in the following sentence, "I think the changes will improve the book." What did she mean by her last statement, "If our enemies handle it, let them do so. . .."? The answer to our question was published in the Review that very year as follows:
The adversary of souls is constantly seeking to divert our minds by bringing in side-issues. Let us not be deceived. Let enemies handle your name and mine as they please. Let them distort, misrepresent our words and deeds. Let them fabricate falsehoods as best pleases them. We cannot afford to allow our minds to be diverted from Jesus and the preparation of soul which we must have in order to meet him in peace.
Ellen G. White, Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, August 28, 1883. (emphasis supplied).
"Side-issues?" Are those who question the editing of Ellen White's Testimonies being diverted from their calling and mission by becoming involved in side-issues?
"The adversary of souls is constantly seeking to divert our minds by bringing in side-issues," Ellen White replies to our question. "Let us not be deceived."
Soon after the republication in 1882 of the three earliest E. G. White books, A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White, A Supplement to Experience and Views, and Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, all three of which today comprise Early Writings, certain questions were raised concerning the completeness of some of the articles and the significance of certain statements appearing here or in still earlier published articles. Mrs. White answered these questions in 1883 in the following statement. Reference is made to the teachings on the "shut door.:" For another reference to the significance of the "shut door" see The Great Controversy, pages 429-432.
Compilers, Selected Messages, Bk. 1, page 61. (emphasis supplied).
Some of these sheets may still be in existence, and may be brought forward as coming from me, but I am not responsible for them. The articles given in Early Writings did pass under my eye; and as the edition of Experience and Views published in 1851 was the earliest which we possessed, and as we had no knowledge of anything additional in papers or pamphlets of earlier date, I am not responsible for the omissions which are said to exist.
ibid., Ellen G. White, "An Explanation of Early Statements," Selected Messages, Bk. 1, page 61. (emphasis supplied).
[NOTE:- For further study see, Ellen G. White, "An Explanation of Early Statements," Selected Messages, Bk. 1, pages 59-76.].
Suppose some had edited the writings of the apostle Paul while he was alive. Would he not have examined the edited copy? "Preposterous! Inconceivable! Impossible" you reply. Ellen White was alive and well at the time of editing these Testimonies. Are we saying that she was so stupid that she would not examine the edited copy? No, indeed! Always remember, dear reader, angels of the Lord often appeared to guide and counsel Ellen White in her work. We are not alone at this critical time in history! The Scriptures state that there are "Watchers" from heaven who observe every movement for or against our Lord.
"Make ye mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem [Church]," Jeremiah wrote, "that watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah." (Jeremiah 4:16).
"Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients [leadership] of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery?" the Heavenly Being said to Ezekiel, "for they say, `The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth.'" (Ezekiel 8:12, emphasis supplied).
"The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah [God's people] is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city [Church] full of perverseness," the Heavenly Being commented, "for they say, `The Lord hath forsaken the earth, and the Lord seeth not.'" (Ezekiel 9:9, emphasis supplied).
If we believe that there are Heavenly Watchers and the Lord does indeed see all, then would He not send an angel to Ellen White to point out to her that editors were perverting the sacred Testimonies the Lord had given her for His people? This does not mean that we believe the Lord will preserve the nation of Israel, the organized Church - or even His disobedient people. Oh, no! We know of a certainty that God will preserve His sacred Word. Does this mean that we believe in verbal inspiration of the writings of Ellen White? No, indeed not! The message and context of her writings, the messages to God's remnant are inspired. Only the words of the Holy Bible are verbally inspired. In this letter to Uriah Smith and the revising committee Ellen White herself had stated, "Where the language used is not the best, I want it made correct and grammatical, as I believe it should be in every case where it can be without destroying the sense." (ibid., 3SM, p. 97).
"Now, Brother Smith, I have been making a careful, critical examination of the work that has been done on the Testimonies, and I see a few things that I think should be corrected in the matter brought before you and others at the General Conference [November, 1883]," Ellen White continued. "But as I examine the matter more carefully I see less and less that is objectionable." (Letter 11, 1884, pp. 1, 2. (To Elder Uriah Smith, Feb. 19, 1884, emphasis supplied).
Notice that Uriah Smith was not the only one involved in the editing. She spoke of "the matter brought before you and others at the General Conference." If it was not the editing of the text of the manuscripts, what was it that was upsetting Ellen White about the editing and publishing of the manuscripts?
"Where the language used is not the best, I want it made correct and grammatical, as I believe it should be in every case where it can be without destroying the sense," Ellen White continued. "This work is delayed, which does not please me. . . ." (ibid., Letter 11, 1884, pp. 1, 2).
Ah! There is our answer. "This work is delayed, which does not please me." Ellen White was concerned about the length of time it was taking to get the project finished, and the time it was taking to get the Testimonies before the people. She then encouraged the editing committee to go forward with the work, counseling them that what ever changes they made would be "criticized, twisted, turned, and boggled."
"I think that anything that shall go forth will be criticized, twisted, turned, and boggled, but we are to go forward with a clear conscience, doing what we can and leaving the result with God," Ellen White continued. "We must not be long in delaying the work." (ibid., Letter 11, 1884. (Written from Healdsburg, California, Feb. 19, 1884).
Notice that the counsel was "we are to go forward with a clear conscience, doing what we can and leaving the result with God." Further, "We must not be long in delaying the work." So you see, dear reader, that Ellen White's greatest concern was with the delay in publishing. She trusted the committee in their editing to a certain point, and examined "critically and carefully" the edited manuscripts. She approved of the changes and urged them onward with the republication of these Testimonies.
"Now, my brethren, what do you propose to do?" Ellen White urged. "I do not want this work dragging along any longer. I want something done, and done now." (ibid., Letter 11, 1884; Selected Messages, Bk. 3, pages 97, 98).
This statement needs no comment. She could not relay her feelings on the matter any stronger: "I want something done, and done now." Again, Ellen White had already "critically and carefully" examine the edited manuscripts. Did she approve of the editing that had been done by the "five" man committee?
"We have looked them over more critically. . .," Ellen White replies. "I think the changes will improve the book." (ibid., Selected Messages, Bk. 3, page 97, emphasis supplied).
This time Ellen White states that they had examined the manuscripts "more" critically. And what was her opinion of the editing? "I think the changes will improve the book."
Oh dear reader, why make mountains out of mole-hills at this critical hour? By pursuing the premise that Ellen White's writings were tampered with by certain devious Adventist one hundred years ago, without her permission, is to bring reproach, not only upon Ellen White, but also upon faithful pioneer Adventists.. But even more devastating will be to being doubt as to the integrity and accuracy of the Testimonies of Jesus at a time when the remnant need it most!
Neil C. Livingston,
May 26, 2000