E.G. White Estate Admits to EGW's
Unethical "Borrowing" of Material
From Webster's Dictionary:

PLAGIARIST/PLAGIARISM -- One that purloins the writings of another and puts them off as his own ... The appropriation or imitation of the language, ideas, and thoughts of another author, and representation of them as one's own original work ... The act of purloining another man's literary works or introducing passages from another man's writings and putting them off as one's own; literary theft.

From the Bible:

Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 23:30-32

In 1864, the following appeared unsigned on the editorial page of the "Review" (Uriah Smith, ed.):


    This is a word that is used to signify "literary theft", or taking the productions of another and passing them off as one's own.

    In the "World's Crisis" of Aug 23, 1864, we find a piece of poetry duly headed, "For the World's Crisis," and signed "Luthera B. Weaver". What was our surprise, therefore to find in this piece our familiar hymn, "Long upon the mountain weary have the scattered flock been torn." This piece was written by Annie R. Smith, and was first published in the Review, vol ii, no. 8, Dec 9, 1851 and has been in our hymn book ever since the first edition thereafter issued.... We are perfectly willing that pieces from the Review, or any of our books should be published to any extent, and all we ask is, that simple justice be done us, by due credit being given.

"Review" 24 (6 September 1864): 120

    "It is true that there is evidence of literary borrowing by different biblical authors. But in such cases they used material that was the heritage and common property of the covenantal community. It was not private property, and there was no pretense of originality. With Mrs. White, however, the circumstances were much different. Without acknowledgment she used the literary product of those outside her own religious community, copyrighted it, and demanded royalties both for herself and her children. Right and wrong are to some extent historically conditioned, but we do not have to surmise the literary ethics demanded in Mrs. White's day. The facts are not ambiguous. She did not conform to acceptable literary practices."

Robert Brinsmead, Adventist Theologian, "Judged by the Gospel", p. 172

The following was written by W.W. Prescott, one of Adventism's great educators; biblical scholar; "Review" editor; founder of two colleges and president of three; former General Conference Vice President. He helped in amending and contributing to Ellen White's book material. Here is a portion of a letter he wrote to W.C. [Willie] White (son of Ellen White):

    "It seems to me that a large responsibility rests upon those of us who know that there are serious errors in our authorized books and yet make no special effort to correct them. The people and our average ministers trust us to furnish them with reliable statements, and they use our books as sufficient authority in their sermons, but we let them go on year after year asserting things which we know to be untrue. It seems to me that we are betraying our trust and deceiving the ministers and people. It appears to me that there is much more anxiety to prevent a possible shock to some trustful people than to correct error.

    Your letter indicates a desire on your part to help me but I fear that it is a little late. The experience of the last six or eight years and especially the things concerning which I talked with you have had their effect on me in several ways. I have had some hard shocks to get over, and after giving the best of my life to this movement I have little peace and satisfaction in connection with it, and I am driven to the conclusion that the only thing for me to do is to do quietly what I can do conscientiously, and leave the others to go on without me. Of course this [is] far from a happy ending to my life-work, but this seems to be the best adjustment that I am able to make. The way your mother's writings have been handled and the false impression concerning them which is still fostered among the people have brought great perplexity and trial to me. It seems to me that what amounts to deception, though probably not intentional, has been practiced in making some of her books, and that no serious effort has been made to disabuse the minds of the people of what was known to be their wrong view concerning her writings. But it is no use to go into these matters. I have talked with you for years about them, but it brings no change. I think however that we are drifting toward a crisis which will come sooner or later and perhaps sooner. A very strong feeling of reaction has already set in."

W.W. Prescott to W.C. White [son of EGW] April 6, 1915

    "The great bulk of her comments deal only with the divine source of her material and tend to deny the influence of human thought and opinion. And, thus, while we have no problem with the fact that Mrs. White did borrow, we do wonder why she appears to have denied her borrowing."

    Ron Graybill, Associate in the White Estate, Nov 1981 speaking to the Adventist Forum Board

    "The accusation that Sister White covered her writings with her apron when a visitor came in, in order to conceal the fact that she was copying something from a book, is truly absurd. IT WAS NO SECRET THAT SHE COPIED CHOICE PASSAGES FROM BOOKS AND PERIODICALS. But when she was writing counsels and reproof to older ministers she sometimes desired that it should not be known by younger workers what and to whom she was writing. This often led her to cover her writings when visitors came."

    Vesta Farnsworth to Guy C. Jorgensen, 1 Dec 1921 (emphasis added)

The White Estate would not release the following. It was published independently by "Spectrum" magazine:

    "The historical portions of The Great Controversy that I have examined are selective abridgments and adaptations of historians. Ellen White was not just borrowing paragraphs here and there that she ran across in her reading, but in fact following the historians page after page, leaving out much material, but using their sequence, some of their ideas, and often their words. In the examples I have examined I have found no historical fact in her text that is not in their text. The hand-written manuscript on John Huss follows the historian so closely that it does not even seem to have gone through an intermediary stage, but rather from the historian's printed page to Mrs. White's manuscript, including historical errors and moral exhortations."

    Donald R. McAdams, "Shifting Views of Inspiration", Spectrum (magazine) 10, No. 4 (March 1980) p. 34

From the same article:

    "The overall impression gained from this study by this researcher is that it sustains McAdam's main point - that the objective and mundane historical narrative was based on the work of historians, not on visions."

    Ron Graybill, Associate in the White Estate, in "Shifting Views of Inspiration", Spectrum (magazine) 10, No. 4 (March 1980) p. 34

Again, from the same article:

    "Indeed, there are some closely paraphrased paragraphs and other paragraphs where, although Ellen White's words are different, it is clear she is following the ideas presented by Hanna." [Hanna is the author of "The Life of Christ"]

    Donald R. McAdams, "Shifting Views of Inspiration", Spectrum (magazine) 10, No. 4 (March 1980) p. 37

    "Now it is true that the intensive work in a study of the relationship between portions of certain E.G. White books and the writings of commentators and historians HAS DISCLOSED A WIDER USE BY ELLEN WHITE OF OTHER WRITINGS, THAN EITHER THE WHITE ESTATE OR PRESENT CHURCH LEADERS WERE AWARE OF. The staff down through the ages has been much too small and too busy in meeting the demands upon it to give time to probing for answers to questions now being asked." (emphasis added)

Arthur White, grandson of EGW, head of White Estate, 18 Jan 1981

    "The time has come to be critical of our own method. We as Seventh-day Adventists have felt secure in that we have got the revealed truth; and no matter what others may say against us, we have God on our side and the prophet, Ellen G. White. Now we are discovering that much of what she wrote is "Desire of Ages" and "Great Controversy" was copied from others. How do we really know what we claim to know? We are thus forced to ask questions on matters of interpretation.... It is a historical fact that most of the bright lights that have left our church have left because of the authority assigned to the writings of Ellen White."

    Earl W. Amundson, "Authority and Conflict - Consensus and Unity" (Paper presented at Theological Consultation, Glacier View Ranch, Ward, CO, 15-20 August 1980) pp. 12, 16

These remarks are taken from Robert W. Olson, head if the White Estate, "EGW's Use of Uninspired Sources", (Washington: EGW Estate, 9-Nov-79) pp. 1-4, 7, 8

  • Ellen White's indebtedness to other authors has long been acknowledged by Seventh-day Adventists ...
  • The exact extent of Ellen White's borrowing in The Great Controversy is not known ...
  • Studies by Raymond Cottrell and Walter Specht have shown that Ellen White borrowed 2.6% of her words in The Desire of Ages from William Hanna's "Life of Christ" ... However W.C. White and Marian Davis both mention other books on Christ's life which Ellen White used. It is also evident that she borrowed from some works not named by W.C. White or Miss Davis, such as John Harris's "The Great Teacher" ...
  • Ellen White's literary borrowing was not limited to the three books discussed above ...
  • Ellen White can hardly be called a "copyist" since she almost invariably rewrites, rephrases, and improves on the original author when she does use another's material ...
  • Concerning the writing of The Desire of Ages in particular, W. C. White states:
    • "Previous to her work of writing on the life of Christ and during the time of her writing to some extent, she read from the works of Hanna, Fleetwood, Farrar, and Geikie. I never knew of her reading Edersheim. She occasionally referred to Andrews." W.C. White to L.E. Froom, Jan 8, 1928.

  • Comparison of The Desire of Ages with the various lives of Christ available in her day show that she drew, more or less not only from the authors mentioned above by W.C. White, but from March, Harris, and others as well.

    "... in her writings Ellen White used resources more extensively than we have heretofore been aware of or recognized ..."

    Neil Wilson, President of General Conference, in a March 20, 1980 Adventist Review article

This is an unsigned editorial announcement in the Adventist Review, 27-Nov-80:

    "After careful examination of the data, it [the January 28-29, 1980 Glendale Committee] concluded that Ellen White's use of sources had been more extensive than we had realized and recommended that a scholar trained in literary analysis undertake a thoroughgoing study of The Desire of Ages. This suggestion was adopted by the General Conference. Already Dr. Fred Veltman, a New Testament scholar on the faculty of Pacific Union College, is engaged full time in the project, which is expected to take about two years."

    "If every paragraph in The Great Controversy were footnoted in accordance with accepted practice, giving credit where credit was due, almost every paragraph would be footnoted."

    Donald R. McAdams, speaking at the Glendale Committee Mtg., January 28-29, 1980 "Ellen G. White and Her Sources"

Additional to the previous editorial -- After surveying the material on the Ellen G. White controversy available to him, Veltman had written a detailed critique for the President's Executive Advisory Committee in Washington. In that report he quoted Raymond Cottrell as saying:

    "Walter Rea's evidence and his conclusions will be and are most damaging to the faith of our membership in EGW.

    To say that "I saw" and similar expressions refer to cognizance and not to heavenly origins of the content of the visions is asking people to disbelieve what they have been taught all their lives. The obvious reading of the expression in its context would have you understand a heavenly source for the vision. This explanation forces the people to conclude that EGW's integrity cannot be assumed."

    Fred Veltman, "Report to PREXAD on the E.G. White Research Project" April 1981, p. 21

Additional to the previous quote -- Edward Heppenstall, a long-time Adventist theologian, is quoted by Veltman:

    "Walter's material will have a shattering effect upon the church membership. Many of the answers now being offered are not really satisfying to those who have looked at the data."

    Fred Veltman, "Report to PREXAD on the E.G. White Research Project" April 1981, p. 21

Additional to the previous quote -- Desmond Ford, the Australian theologian, gives a devastating summary as reported in Veltman's words:

    "Des does not believe that EGW intended to deceive. At the same time he cannot agree to the positions being taken or already held in the church that the EGW writings are an extension of the canon, are authoritative for church doctrine, and are inerrant. Des views Walter Rea as being reluctant to publish and desiring to go with the brethren if they will only take the issue and the evidence seriously."

    Fred Veltman, "Report to PREXAD on the E.G. White Research Project" April 1981, p. 22

Additional to the previous quote -- Veltman himself concludes:

    "The answers which the church spokesman give as Walter raises the questions are for the most part not adequate. In addition, the credibility of the church leaders drop with each new release. The church is continually taken by surprise and on the defensive. And each point the church admits is a "score" for Walter. The church should be on the front lines doing the study and informing the church when the data has been carefully evaluated. What is so hard to understand is why the church is unwilling to work with Walter when he is willing to work with the church.

    Walter is dedicated to get to the bottom of the problem and to let the church know. He doesn't want another generation to go through his personal agony of disillusionment. This for Walter is a non-negotiable and it is hard to fault him on his conviction in view of the evidence and the history of this problem in the church.

    The question over the "I was showns" is probably the hardest one to answer."

    Fred Veltman, "Report to PREXAD on the E.G. White Research Project" April 1981, p. 24-25

[All of the above quotes were taken from the book "The White Lie" by Walter Rea, M&R Publications, Turlock, CA (1982). I highly recommend that, if you cannot bring yourself to read this book, you at least thumb through it. You must see with your own eyes the many pages of side-by-side comparisons done by the author that show EGW's writings next to the authors she borrowed from. Then you must draw your own conclusions. I pray that God will bless your research.]

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