D. M. Canright on Ellen White

Click to go to Ellen White Defense League Home Page

There are two observations that will give a quick insight into Dudley M. Canright's character. The first is that he told SDA church officials that he wanted to become a sunday-keeping pastor because he thought he was a great speaker and he would have larger audiences if he was a pastor of a larger and less controversial church. Many current SDA ministers have expressed the very same sentiment. What does this demonstrate? Surely, this shows a lack of integrity and a lack of interest in standing for the right and principle even though it be unpopular. Also, it shows narcism and pride. Surely, it does not bespeak of integrity in any degree. The second factor which demonstrates Canright's great lack of integrity is the fact that Walter Martin relates how Canright plagiarized after accusing Ellen White of plagiarism. Please notice:

"Now to be perfectly fair, especially since Canright has popularized this charge [of plagiarism against Ellen White], let us look at the other side of the coin! In a book published in 1878, entitled, The Bible From Heaven (written while he was still a Seventh-day Adventist minister and high official), Canright himself plagiarized not only some of the content but even the title of a book written in 1863 by Moses Hull, also an Adventist and a predecessor of Canright in the ministry.
Recalling the scathing denunciation by Canright of Mrs. White's plagiarism, it can be seen that Canright's displeasure with Mrs. White and Adventism led him to condemn a practice of which he himself was guilty. Let not those who revere the memory of D. M. Canright dismiss such a charge as baseless or an Adventist trick to smear him. I have reproduced below some of Canright's own plagiarism's and I have maintained that, as in the case of Mrs. White's plagiarism, they do not dangerously affect her over-all work as a writer, or her testimony as a Christian, so I maintain that Canright's plagiarism's do not markedly lessen his position. Careful students should weigh thoroughly the writings of both Mrs. White and Canright in order to appreciate their respective worth as leaders and contributors to the saga of Advent history in the United States.....
D. M Canright's plagiarism does not, of course, excuse Mrs. White's. Far from it! But it is an interesting parallel, especially since Canright is the wellspring of the charge of plagiarism which is still raised against Mrs. White." Walter Martin, The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism, 103, 104.

Omega Ministry Commentary

We have explained in the section on Ellen White and plagiarism, that Ellen White did not plagiarize if she saw the substance of her subject from God first, and then used some of the words of others to describe an event. Everyone's writing style and choice of words etc., is affected and conditioned by the materials one reads and the writers and authors one patronizes. Just as a painter's style is often affected by the way his/her teacher paints. Similarly, if a painter got the very same idea shown to him directly of God, as some other painter had, who could accuse the painter of plagiarism? On the other hand, Canright did not see the very thing in vision first, and then be led of God to words of other prophetic writers to describe the event. Remember, religious topics by religious prophets, or representatives of God, are considered non-copyrightable. Whether or not a person claims to be a prophet, if he claims to be a representative of God, he is a prophet by that definition of the word and technically, prophetic material is not copyrighted legally.
Another factor we must remember about Canright is that according to Isaiah 8:20, there is no light in what he says, because he became a willful, open-sinning breaker of God's Holy Law, and Isaiah 8:20, states that such persons have no light that we can go by. This is the case with all of Ellen White's critics. They do not speak according to the law and the testimony of Jesus Christ, which is the Spirit of Prophecy, Revelation 19:10


The following account is written by the very man who later wrote such hateful things about Ellen White


"As to the Christian character of Sr. White, I beg leave to say that I think I know something about it. I have been acquainted with Sr. White for eighteen years, more than half the history of our people. I have been in their family time and again, sometimes weeks at a time. They have been in our house and family many time. I have traveled with them almost everywhere; have been with them in private and in public, in meeting and out of meeting, . .
. I know Sr. White to be an unassuming, modest, kind-hearted, noble woman. These traits in her character are not simply put on and cultivated, but they spring gracefully and easily from her natural disposition. She is not self-conceited, self-righteous, and self-important, as fanatics always are. . . .
I have found Sr. White the revers of all this. Any one, the pooorest and the humblest, can go to her freely for advice and comfort without being repulsed. She is ever looking after the needy, the destitute, and the suffering, providing for them, and pleading their case. I have never formed an acquaintance with any persons who so constantly have the fear of God before them. Nothing is undertaken without earnest prayer to God. . .
I have read all her testimonies through and through, . . .I have never been able to find one immoral sentence in the whole of them, or anything that is not strictly pure and Christian: nothing that leads away from the Bible, or from Christ; but there I find the most earnest appeals to obey God, ot love Jesus, to believe the Scriptures and to search them constantly. . . .Dudley Canright April 26, 1877 Review and Herald.


For months now we have been bombarded by "horror" stories on Mrs. White. A great deal of the stuff we hear comes from two books written by this very same Dudley Canright: "Seventh- day Adventism Renounced" printed in 1889 and the second published after the authors death "The Life of Mrs. E.G. White" printed in 1919. These have been and are presently used to dissuade interested inquirers from accepting Adventist. It may be of interest to find out who this man was who devoted his energies to destroying Adventism.

Mr. Canright was a Seventh-day Adventist for 28 years. He was a powerful preacher - especially skilled in debate. He could back anyone into a corner when defending Adventist doctrine! In fact debating was something he thoroughly enjoyed. Canright was also a very successful evangelist for the Adventist church and filled executive and other positions as well.

No one knew Dudley Canright better than Elder George Butler who worked closely with him . They often traveled together, did evangelism together and spent considerable time together. Writing some years later Elder Butler says:

"He was never noted for patience, forbearance, or special regard for the opinions of others. He was a person who formed his conclusions remarkably quick, and was inclined to be rash; and though in the main genial, pleasant, frank companion, yet his desire to have his own way sometimes got him into trouble. He never could bear reproof with patience, or feel composed when his way was crossed. When he came to mingle in important matters with brethren in prominent positions, these and other traits naturally got him into trouble. . . Elder Canright had little respect for anyone's opinion except as it coincided with his own. He always hated reproof, hence bore it like a fractious child. On such occasions the Elder was immediately greatly troubled with doubts. When everything went pleasantly, he could usually see things with clearness. When he was "abused," as he always thought he was when things did not go to suit him, the evidences of our faith began immediately to grow dim. Dark clouds of unbelief floated over his mental sky, and he felt that everything was going by the board. Here was his special weakness. He is a strong man in certain directions when all goes smoothly, but very weak in adversity. He failed to "endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" R&H Extra, Dec. 1887.

All through his ministry he swung like a yo-yo from heights of success in the work of the church to depths of doubt and resentment against other leaders. He wrote an article in 1885 entitled "To Those in Doubting Castle," where he builds on John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" and recounts his own experience and gives counsel. He wrote:

"I wish to give a few of the reasons why I still think that the work is all right, that the Lord is in it, and that these doubts are not well founded. . I firmly believe that the truth of our message can be just as clearly proved --- They (doubters) let a few light objections on one side outweigh a mountain of truth on the other. . .The real trouble lies close at home, in a proud, unconverted heart, a lack of real humility, an unwillingness to submit to god's way of finding the truth."

Canright, himself was rather a plagiarist according to present day interpretations. His book "The Bible From Heaven, was largely a revision and enlargement of a volume originally published by Moses Hull - yet it carried his name. However, his biggest problem was pride. Elder E.R. Potter, a minister in Michigan reports:

"I will tell you one thing. Just before he left the denomination Eld. Canright came to the 1886 Mich. Camp meeting with his team and I took care of his horses. On that occasion my cousin said, "If I am not elected president of the Conference at this meeting I am not going to preach for them any more."

George Butler, not Canright, was elected president of the Michigan Conference:

Canright left the SDA church and joined the Baptist Church for thirty two years. He worked as a pastor of 15 months in one church and two and half years in another, yet the Baptists never did trust him with any real responsibilities.
From this time forth - he no longer ministered, his only recognition and applause came when he tore down the church which had nurtured him.

Canright's life reveals the life of a tormented soul. - a dual personality - a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The chief mourner at Ellen White's funeral was Dudley Canright himself. It was July 24, 1915 when the woman who had counseled, prayed, and worked with D. Canright was buried. Canright with his brother Jasper, attended. G.B. Thompson, who served as honor guard at the funeral told of Mr. Canright's uncontrollable grief, which marked him to people who did not know him as the chief mourner at the bier.

Canright made two trips to view Ellen in her casket. With tears rolling down his cheeks he said brokenly, "There is a noble Christian woman gone."

Though he returned to his bitter work, Elder Canright found that instead of the public following he so craved, people seemed to lose confidence in him. His preaching had grown stale, His evangelistic fire was gone. His financial support uncertain, he died a poor, almost forgotten man.
Now, in our present day, his works are being resurrected by the enemies of Adventism. Yet, we should look a little more at his life and the sad ending, before we share his bitterness with the world.
Again I feel the truth about the man Canright needs to be told, as so many have made his books the authority for the destruction of Adventism. While Elder Canright was serving in the Ohio SDA Conference in executive capacity, he became acquainted with Drury Reavis, a young man just out of Battle Creek College, called to work in that conference.
In his book, "I Remember" Reavis writes:

"I felt highly honored by being selected by Elder Canright to do special Sabbath school work in Ohio. This appointment proved to be the beginning of a very close, mutual, friendly association. .. Elder Canright talked freely with me about everything in which he was interested, about personal difficulties, about his past trials . . .future hopes. . . ."

"I found Elder Canright, who was then regarded as one of our most efficient ministers, to be a most congenial man. . .the power of the message he proclaimed with Heaven-bestowed ability. He was so greatly admired and openly praised by our workers and the laity, that he finally reached the conclusion he had inherent ability and that the message he was proclaiming was hindrance to him rather than the exclusive source of his power."

Canright had a throat problem because of bad habits of speaking so he along with Reavis went to Chicago to study elocution at Hamill's school in 1880 (He was still an SDA leader at this time). Reavis writes:

"I became his critic as he lectured, upon invitation, through the influence of the School of Oratory, in many of the largest popular churches in Chicago. . .In these lectures he applied the oratorical principles taught in the school, and needed a critic versed in these principles. . .he selected the largest and most popular churches. . .
"On Sunday night , in the largest church of the West Side, he spoke on `The Saints inheritance' to more than 3000 people and I took a seat in the gallery directly in front of him, to see every gesture and to hear every tone. . .but that was as far as I got . . .for he so quickly and eloquently launched into this, his favorite theme, that I, with the entire congregation, became entirely absorbed in the Biblical facts he was so convincingly presenting.. . .
"After. . .the many people crowding around him, complimenting and thanking him for his masterly discourse. On all sides I could hear people saying it was the most wonderful sermon they had ever heard. I knew it was not the oratorical manner of the deliver, but the Bible truth clearly and feeelingly presented, that had appealed to the people --the power was in that timely message.. . . I saw that the power was all in the truth, not in the speaker.
"After a long time we were alone, and we went into a beautiful city park. . .sat down to talk the occasion over and for me to deliver my criticisms. I had none for the elder. I frankly confessed that I became so completely carried away with the soul-inspiring Biblical subject I did not think once of the oratorical rules. . . "SUDDENLY THE ELDER (Canright) SPRANG TO HIS FEET and said:

`D.W. (Reeves) I believe I could become a great man were it not for our unpopular message.'
"I was shocked to hear a great preacher make such a statement; . . . Then I got up and stepped in front of the elder and said with much feeling.
`D.M. (Canright) , the message made you all you are, and the day you leave it, you will retrace your steps back to where it found you." But in his mind the die was evidently cast. The decision had doubtless been secretly made in his mind for some time, but had not before been expressed in words."

Reavis also shares his last interview with Canright many years later:

"All those years intervening between the time of our Chicago association in 1880 and 1903, I occasionally corresponded with Elder Canright, . . .I finally prevailed upon him to attend a general meeting of our worker in Battle Creek in 1903. . .All through the meetings he would laugh with his eyes full of tears. The poor man seemed to exist simultaneously in two distinct parts - uncontrollable joy and relentless grief.
"We went back in a dark storeroom alone to have a talk, and we spent a long time there in this last personal, heart-to-heart visit. I reminded him of what I had told him years before in Chicago and he frankly admitted that what I predicted had come to pass, and that he wished the past could be blotted out and that he was back in our work just as he was at the beginning. Before any ruinous thought of himself had entered his heart.
"I tried to get him to say to the workers what he had said to me. . . I never heard any one weep and moan in such deep contrition as that man, once a leading light in our message, did. It was heartbreaking even to hear him. He said he wished he could come back to the fold as I suggested, but after long, heartbreaking moans and weeping, he said: `I would be glad to come back, but I can't! It's too late! I am forever gone! GONE!" As he wept on my shoulder, he thanked me for all I had tried to do to save him from that sad hour. He said,`D.W. (Reeves) WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T FIGHT THE MESSAGE."