Abuse in Adventism: Ellen G. White Was (and Is) No Friend of Abuse Victims
Ellen G. White has been affirmed by the Seventh-Day Adventists as recently as 2010 as being inspired by God. Here it is straight from the SDA’s official website:
Resolution on the Spirit of Prophecy
We, the delegates to the 2010 General Conference Session in Atlanta, Georgia, acknowledge with gratitude the continuing contribution to the Seventh-day Adventist Church found in the writings and ministry of Ellen G White. We are witnesses to how the Church has been blessed and guided by God through the inspired counsel of His messenger. Her counsels exalt the Bible as the Word of God, lift up Jesus as Creator and Redeemer of the world, and encourage a life of service and sacrifice. Her ministry has directly aided in the preservation of unity in the Church and its expanding global outreach.
The gift of prophecy, like the other spiritual gifts, is to bring about unity, equip God’s people for the work of ministry, build up the body of Christ, protect it from being deceived by false doctrine, and foster individual and collective spiritual growth (Ephesians 4:11-15). We recognize in Ellen G White the gift of prophecy, and affirm that as this gift is valued and its instruction heeded, the Church prospers.
Consequently, we express our gratitude to God for His gracious gift in the prophetic ministry of Ellen G White. We call upon Seventh-day Adventists everywhere to prayerfully study her messages and benefit from the inspiration and instruction found there. We encourage the teachers and administrators of our educational institutions and the leaders of our health-care facilities and publishing houses to review her counsels for their areas of service. We urge pastors to make use of these writings in their sermon preparation and in their planning with the members for the mission of their churches. We appeal to Church administrators at every level to exert their influence in affirming the importance of these writings for the Church and to continue efforts to make these writings available to church members at affordable cost. And we affirm our commitment to “believe His prophets” (2 Chronicles 20:20), that we may prosper in fulfilling our mission to the world and thus hasten the coming of Jesus. [This statement was approved and Resolution was voted by the General Conference Session of the Seventh-day Adventists Church in Atlanta, Georgia, June 24-July 3, 2010].
White’s writings reveal that Adventism is precisely the type of system that Paul warned the Colossians about:
(Col 2:18-23 ESV) Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)– according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Many Bible believing Christians are aware of the peculiar doctrines, and many would even say heresies, in Seventh Day Adventist teachings. Certainly Ellen White was going on in detail about visions, and the SDA church tell their followers to submit to regulations [Saturday worship] – “Do not handle, Do not taste, [don't eat meat, don't drink caffeine] Do not touch [work is forbidden on the Sabbath, so all food preparation and wood chopping must be done the day before].
However, not so many Christians are aware of statements Ellen White made in connection with suffering wives. We can probably find other such statements in her writings, but just from the quotes below, we can see that White was no friend of an abuse victim. To the degree that the SDA’s cling to White as a prophet pronouncing God’s Word, abusers will find their system quite a fertile place to practice their evils:
Home Trials for Jesus’ Ear Only. Do not shirk your responsibilities. Be a daily home missionary. Not only teach your children from their babyhood, but train them. Keep a steady, firm hold upon your children. You must not only tell them what to do, but, to the very best of your ability, make their surroundings favorable and sow your precious seed in the love and spirit of Jesus. Because Satan uses the father of your children to counteract your work, do not be discouraged; do not give up the conflict. Do as you wish them to do. Treat your husband with kindness at all times and on all occasions, and bind your children to your heart with the cords of love. This is your work; this is the burden you have to bear. Talk not your home trials to anyone but Jesus; pour them into His ear. Jesus “came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:11-13].
White, Ellen G. (2010-12-05). Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce (Kindle Locations 568-577). Copyright © 2010, Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
“For Jesus’ ear only.” Why, Ellen? Where did you come up that piece of “prophecy”? Cover up sin? Enable wickedness? Submit to evil and hide it? Pardon me, but I don’t recall a single verse that supports any of these ideas. Oh, and this “home trials” business. Would that mean the “trial” of getting the stuffing beat out of oneself at the hands of a tyrant? Home trial? Would that be in the same category as the children having colds and the stove not working right? Just “trials.” It is difficult to be patient with this kind of talk when we come to realize what words like this mean for abuse victims.
The words of a prophet? No, don’t think so. Here are other abuser-friendly citations, all taken from the same book, Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce:
Cheerfulness Better Than Complaining.
Have you felt your lot was hard, and complained and murmured? Then as you received no help in this line, begin another course of action. Speak kindly; be cheerful. Because you have Jesus as your helper, break forth in songs of praise. When tempted, when reviled, revile not again; and labor with your children while there is one out of Christ. Sow the seed, the living seed, deep into the soil of the heart. Let your words be wisely chosen. Consider yourself as God’s appointed missionary, to be the light of your home. (Kindle Locations 594-598).
My sister, our Saviour is a present help in every time of need.
Do not distrust Him. Do not take your troubles to human beings; take them to the Lord. You may think that others should sympathize with you in your downcast feelings, but you will sometimes be disappointed. Jesus never disappoints one who comes to Him for help. (Kindle Locations 637-639).
The Husband’s Wishes Regarding Food.
The day we visited you we appreciated much the bountiful repast prepared for us. But you need to study how to prepare nutritious food in the most simple way. Your husband’s wishes regarding the preparation of food should be respected, and still you may study to prepare appetizing dishes in as simple and healthful a way as possible, so that the fine nerves of the brain will not become weakened and paralyzed, making you excitable, nervous, and easily provoked…. My dear sister, you stand in a responsible position in your home. Hold the reins of government with a wise, even hand. Do not allow the members of your family to lose their love and respect for you. Bind them to your heart with the silken cords of love. This you can do if you live close to Jesus. By beholding Him you will be changed into His image, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. God loves you; He loves your husband, and He is seeking to draw him to Himself. He desires to take his attention off mere earthly enterprises, and fix them on the eternal riches.—Letter 145, 1900. (Kindle Locations 693-694).
Well, I could go on, but I think anyone knowledgeable of the nature, tactics, and effects of abuse will understand how these kinds of “inspired” instructions will do horrific damage to an abuse victim. If indeed the SDA organization were faithfully following White as prophet, as they say they do in their denominational statement quoted above, then this suggests that abuse would be likely to be widespread in that denomination because abusers would be enabled and empowered by the teachings of White. Some might think that 1888 was a long time ago and White’s supposedly prophetic words are not so highly venerated these days. But remember, in 2010 the SDA officially affirmed: “We recognize in Ellen G White the gift of prophecy, and affirm that as this gift is valued and its instruction heeded, the Church prospers.”
Did you notice the instruction of White to the lady whose home she apparently visited for a meal? She started telling this lady who had been her hostess about the deficiencies in her meal-making for her husband! White’s writings are full of this sort of thing which parades as the Word of God and which is intended to bind the consciences of people. If anything, the New Testament tells us that we are free to eat anything and that in fact (Colossians 2 again) we are not to yield to people who tell us that God dictates our diet. This in itself is abuse. Don’t be taken in by it.
As to White’s view on divorce:
January 11, 1888. I had a long talk with Sister C, showing her that the marriage vow is binding and could not release its claims upon any of the parties who entered into it, save from the cause of adultery, the violation of the marriage bed. We had much profitable talk upon this subject.—Ms 22, 1888. Is an Oath Nothing?
One final note. This is also in White’s writings. If anyone doubts that White was hard on abuse victims, check this rather bizarre “counseling case” she conducted. Here is the background:
When he was still a young man Walter C carried out the action that he felt was suggested in Matthew 19:12, and made himself a eunuch. According to Walter, Laura married him with full knowledge of his condition. However, she eventually divorced him and married someone else. After her remarriage, Walter also married again. The letters in this section reveal Ellen White’s earnest endeavor to protect the sanctity of the marriage commitment even in the face of extremely difficult circumstances. (Kindle Locations 696-700).
Okay, now here is what White told Laura (yes, we are tempted to wonder at Laura marrying a guy who had self-neutralized himself according to his interpretation of Scripture. That would be what we call a red-flag. But, maybe the eunuch Walter was pretty smooth). Anyway:
June 8, 1888. I wish to present before you [Laura] some few points. Why do you not regard facts as they are? You two registered an oath that has been recorded upon the record books of heaven by the recording angel, that you would love one another until death does you part. Why do you not remember this? Do you so lightly put aside your vows? Should you yield to evil counsel your honor, your oath, your duty? If evil thoughts have come in upon you, if you have had evil advice suggesting your estrangement, is that a reason you should lightly cast aside your oath? Is an oath nothing? Are your own whims everything? You may say you do not love your husband. Is that a reason you should not try to do so? Is this life so long and of such value to you that you will choose to have your own way and set aside God’s law? I see no possible grounds for you to obtain a divorce. If your husband deceived you, even so, there is your oath. If he told you, as he says he did do, and denies that he deceived you, then you married him, how can you obtain a divorce? I wish you would pursue a course in accordance with the advice I gave you, for I cannot give you any other counsel. Imperfection No Reason for Dissolving a Marriage. My heart is sick when I see the loose way that the marriage vows are held. We are nearing the judgment. I ask you to consider carefully, candidly, your position. There is, perhaps, upon more thorough acquaintance, a dislike of your husband’s ways and manners. Will not many people find the same, after the marriage novelty has passed? But when you made your vow before God and holy angels, you knew you were not perfect and your husband was not perfect; but this is no excuse for breaking your marriage vow. There is a need of training your mind and heart that you shall bear with one another, to be kind to one another, and not to allow distrust and hatred to come in. (Kindle Locations 703-720).
Alas, these kinds of conscience-binding, spiritually abusive church cultures are not confined to the writings of Ellen White, the SDA prophet. You can find the very same kinds of bondage in many churches that claim their only authority is the Bible.
It’s also somewhat odd, given their affirmation of White’s writings as prophetic inspired counsel, that in recent years the SDA church has (apparently) taken a proactive stand against domestic abuse, providing resources to address the issue ( see sdaabuseresponse.org ) – which is more than can be said for many other denominations.