James White's Suppression of Ellen's Shut Door Statements

Compiled by Brother Anderson

"Yet no man has a right to add to, or subtract from, any other book written by inspiration of God." (Ellen White)1

James deletes 19% of original visions

By 1851, James and Ellen White had given up their doctrine that the door of salvation was shut for all except the Millerites. Now they faced a problem. What were they going to do with all of the statements Mrs. White made indicating she saw the door of salvation shut in her visions? James solved this dilemma by reprinting Mrs. White's visions in late 1851, in a pamphlet entitled Experiences and Views. In so doing, he removed all of the damaging portions regarding the Shut Door doctrine, including entire visions.

As could be expected, some of the members of the tiny sect were aghast over the exclusion of whole visions, which they had been led to believe had come directly from God. Mrs. White describes how James defused this crisis situation:

"At one time in the early days of the message, Father Butler and Elder Hart became confused in regard to the testimonies. In great distress they groaned and wept, but for some time they would not give the reasons for their perplexity. However, being pressed to give a reason for their faithless speech and manner, Elder Hart referred to a small pamphlet that had been published as the visions of Sister White, and said that to his certain knowledge, some visions were not included. Before a large audience, these brethren both talked strongly about their losing confidence in the work.

"My husband handed the little pamphlet to Elder Hart, and requested him to read what was printed on the title page. 'A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Mrs. E. G. White,' he read.

"For a moment there was silence, and then my husband explained that we had been very short of means, and were able to print at first only a small pamphlet, and he promised the brethren that when sufficient means was raised, the visions should be published more fully in book form.

"Elder Butler was deeply moved, and after the explanation had been made, he said, 'Let us bow before God.' Prayers, weeping, and confessions followed, such as we have seldom heard. Father Butler said: 'Brother White, forgive me; I was afraid you were concealing from us some of the light we ought to have. Forgive me, Sister White.' Then the power of God came into the meeting in a wonderful manner."2

There is no evidence that James cutting out the controversial parts of Ellen's visions was due to a lack of funds. Nevertheless, Butler accepted James' explanation, and the crisis abated for a while. It would arise again when the book Early Writings was published in 1882, and the publishers discovered it was not really the earliest writings of Ellen White, but James' 1851 revision of those writings.

Did James keep his promise?

Despite James White's greatly improved financial situation during the remaining 30 years of his life, he never kept his promise to elders Butler and Hart. As the years passed and the church moved further away from its earlier shut door stance, its leaders began to even deny that such a view was ever held; and it became evident that the omissions and deletions in the 1851 printing were not coincidental.

Damage control

Ellen White's early visions were so disturbing to many in the sect that in 1851, James White, who was editor of the sect's paper, "decided to suspend printing his wife's visions to avoid arousing further controversy."3 Her "visions" and "testimonies" did not appear again in the paper until a new editor took James' place in 1855. By then the controversy had cooled down, and many of the new members had no idea their prophet had seen a false doctrine in her visions.

Another method of damage control exercised by James was to attempt to collect some of the writings of Ellen White that were being used against the church. In the 1860s, when former Seventh-day Adventists began publishing embarrassing and damaging testimonies that Mrs. White had written, James was quick to put a stop to it. In an 1867 article he wrote for the Review, he forbid the victims of Ellen's testimonies from keeping them in their possession:

2. Whereas, It has been a common thing for persons in different churches, who have been reproved by the visions, to make bad use of such testimonies to their own injury and the injury of the church; therefore,
Resolved, That it, is the opinion of this church, that persons corrected by the testimonies should not have said testimonies in their possesion, in writing; but they should be deposited with the elder or elders of the church of which they are members; and if they wish to read them, to refresh their memory, they should do it at the house of the elder or elders, and not take a copy of any part whatever of the testimony, in writing, away with them.4

This strange pronouncement raised some eyebrows in the larger Sabbath-keeping community. W.H. Brinkerhoff responded by accusing James of "covering up and suppressing of that which purports to be the word of God," insinuating the Whites were trying to withhold the testimonies from public knowledge, lest they expose his wife's true character.5 In 1867, he wrote in the Hope of Israel:

Are the visions of such weak, puny material that they must now be kept from the commonality? Why not let the poor soul intended to be gulled by them, have the precious treasure in his possession? Ah! the visions may turn and rend its author, as many have already done. ... Yes, he may [make a bad use of it], when his eyes are opened, read through this soul polluting scheme, and use the vision against its author.6

See also


1. Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 137.

2. Ellen White, Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 53.

3. Ann Taves, "Visions," Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet (NY: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 39.

4. James White, Review and Herald vol. 29, Feb. 5, 1867, p. 102.

5. W.H. Brinkerhoff, Hope of Israel vol. 1, no. 19, Feb. 19, 1867, p. 148.

6. Ibid.

Category: Shut Door
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