Ellen White's Contradictory Behavior on Depression

By Dirk Anderson, July, 2021

Ellen White expressed in no uncertain terms that Chrisitans should not be despressed:

Christians will not be mournful, depressed, and despairing.1

The Christian pilgrim cannot be sour, gloomy, depressed. It is a misrepresentation of the Christian faith to be surly, unreasonable, or sour in spirit.2

We are not to allow ourselves to be depressed...3

How can you as Christians go mourning and depressed if you are taking hold upon Jesus?4

In view of the encouragements that are found all through the word of God, we have no right to be gloomy or despondent.5

We are not to be depressed by any trials that may come.6

We are not to be depressed or discouraged...7

You must not be depressed. It is the depressing discouragements that are sapping your life forces.8

Let not depression and discouragement mar your representation of Christ.9

...by going [about] depressed, covering ourselves with garments of heaviness and mourning, we make a very bad representation of Christ. We virtually say [that] our Lord is a hard, tyrannical Master. This is lying against the precious Saviour...10

Mrs. White is clear that Christians have no right to be depressed, and if one is depressed, their behavior misrepresents Christ. She assures her followers that Satan is pleased by their depression:

Do not utter one despondent word: for such words please Satan.11

The enemy is well pleased to have souls complaining and stumbling. He is pleased to see them depressed, downcast, and mourning; but God designs that the mind shall take no low level.12

Not only does she teach that is Satan pleased when people are depressed, she also claims his plans are more successful against depressed individuals:

Satan's craft is most successfully used against those who are depressed.13

Satan's craft is most successful against those who are depressed by difficulties...14

It is apparent from these quotes that Ellen White believed depression to be a state of mind that no Christian should ever engage in. According to her, it misrepresents Christ, saps the life forces, is pleasing to Satan, and makes Satan's work more effective.

Uninspired Counsel

The quotes above are sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Ellen White's writings are not inspired by God. The last thing a depressed person needs to hear is that their condition misrepresents Christ and pleases Satan. These people are already depressed enough without having to bear the added guilt and shame of somehow not being good enough for God!

Most people have little or no control over their depression. Depression often has a physical cause in the biology of the brain. Christians are not told they are being unChristlike when they get the flu. Neither should they be told such words when they have depression. A depressed person can no more will themselves free of depression than a person with Diabetes can will themselves free of that illness. Illness, whether mental or physical, affects all humans. In fact, many Biblical heroes were challenged with depressive episodes. For example:

  • David admitted to being "overwhelmed" and "downcast" (Psalm 38:4, 42:11)
  • At one low point Elijah asked God to take his life (1 Kings 19:4)
  • Jonah once said, "I am angry enough to die" (Jonah 4:9)
  • Job was so discouraged he loathed his "very life" (Job 10:1)
  • Jeremiah cursed the day he was born (Jerermiah 20:14)
  • Even Jesus was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3)

The Bible does not condemn any of these people for being unChristlike.

A number of Christians have been candid enough to admit their battles with depression. Mother Teresa and Charles Spurgeon both faced episodes of depression, and yet their lives testify to their Christlikeness. There are many in the church who suffer from depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health: "Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States," with over 17 million adults in the United States having "at least one major depressive episode" in 2017.15 This number represents one out of every twelve Americans, and it does not even consider minor episodes of depression.

Rather than condemning all these people and making them feel like they are a failure and a disappointment to God, true believers will show concern for those with a mental disorder.

Mrs. White's Depressed Behavior Contradicts her Testimonies

Mrs. White should never be criticized, condemned, or judged for struggling with lifelong depression. She is deserving of empathy and understanding. However, for the sake of truth, it must be pointed out that while she chided and shamed other depressed church members for being unChristlike, she was acting in the same manner. The following evidence reveals that she was in a state of depression for most of her life.

  • 1844: "I really coveted death as a release from the responsibilities that were crowding upon me. At length the sweet peace I had so long enjoyed left me, and my soul was plunged in despair. ...my mind had become depressed..."16
  • 1845: "My sorrow was so great that I felt too depressed to speak that night..."17
  • 1849: "The next morning I was greatly depressed in spirits."18
  • 1855: "My spirits were constantly depressed."19
  • 1856: "For some months past my spirit has been much depressed...my sufferings of mind have been intense."20
  • 1857: "After the conference my mind was very much depressed. Discouragement pressed heavily upon me. ... At our prayer season my discouragement was so great it seemed to me I could not pray."21
  • 1859: "My spirits are depressed."22
  • 1859: "Oh why am I so depressed, why so cast down and homesick?"23
  • 1859: "Am much depressed in spirit."24
  • 1859: "My spirits are depressed."25
  • 1859: "My mind was particularly depressed. A horror of great darkness settled upon me."26
  • 1859: "Miserable in health and depressed in spirits."27
  • 1859: "I have no health and my mind is completely depressed."28
  • 1859: "My mind was particularly depressed. A horror of great darkness settled upon me."29
  • 1861: "All day upon the Sabbath, I felt much depressed."30
  • 1862: "I have been sick in body and depressed in mind for about two weeks."31
  • 1867: "My pillow was wet with tears, and a sad depression of spirits was upon me."32
  • 1868: "Arose languid and depressed."33
  • 1868: "Arose sick in body and depressed in mind."34
  • 1868: "...on the 15th day of April, 1868, feeling rather depressed in spirit."35
  • 1868: "I felt all day much depressed in spirit."36
  • 1871: "On the night of April 30, 1871, I retired to rest much depressed in spirits. For three months I had been in a state of great discouragement. I had frequently prayed in anguish of spirit for relief. I had implored help and strength from God, that I might rise above the heavy discouragements that were paralyzing my faith and hope, and unfitting me for usefulness."37
  • 1873: "My heart today is unusually depressed."38
  • 1873: "My mind was much depressed..."39
  • 1876: "I have had a very depressed state of feelings today, unaccountably sad. I could not explain why I felt so exceedingly sad."40
  • 1880: "This difficulty of the heart makes me depressed in spirits much of the time."41
  • 1887: "I have been depressed in spirit since leaving St. Helena."42
  • 1889: "At times I was greatly depressed in spirit..."43
  • 1892: "At times I have been afflicted in body and depressed in spirits..."44
  • 1893: "Before speaking I was depressed..."45
  • 1894: "While I was depressed in mind, and distressed almost beyond measure..."46
  • 1898: "Some way I am much depressed, and I feel as I imagine a person must feel who is lost in the woods."47
  • 1898: "My heart is very much depressed."48
  • 1899: "...my soul is sick and sad and depressed. I am not able to close my eyes in sleep, and a heavy weight is upon me that I cannot throw off."49
  • 1900: "I am depressed..."50
  • 1903: "At times I do feel depressed..."51
  • 1904: "My mind would not work, and I felt much depressed."52
  • 1906: "Often I have felt depressed..."53
  • 1908: "For weeks I had been depressed."54
  • 1912: "Last night after I had retired to rest a strange depression came over me..."55


One would think Ellen White would have some emphathy for depressed inviduals since she was depressed most of her life. Instead, she ridiculed them as a "very bad representation of Christ." This no doubt caused them great shame and humiliation over a condition they had little or no control over. Like the Pharisees who "tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders," she saddled depressed people with the burden of condemnation (Matt. 23:4 ESV). The worst part is that people believed her words were inspiried, thus implying to them that God also condemned them for their depression. What a cruel burden to bear through life!

Since Ellen White was depressed most of her life, was she a "very bad representation of Christ?" Or, were her writings on depression falsehoods? You decide.


1. Ellen White, Child Guidance, 146. Also, Review and Herald, Apr. 15, 1884.

2. White, Signs of the Times, June 3, 1903. Also, Bible Training School, February 1, 1910, par. 6.

3. White, Manuscript 141, 1908, par. 5, (23LtMs).

4. White, Letter 5, 1888.

5. White, Pacific Union Recorder, December 26, 1912, par. 3.

6. White, Medical Ministry 326.

7. White, Review and Herald, October 13, 1904, par. 10.

8. White, Letter 22, 1886, par. 2 (4LtMs).

9. White, Signs of the Times, September 29, 1898, par. 11.

10. White, Letter 41, 1893. Note: It is contradictory that Mrs. White said depression makes a person a "very bad representation of Christ" when 15 years earlier she wrote: "They [the disciples] had frequently seen him [Jesus] depressed, but never before so utterly sad and silent (Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 94). How could depression be a "very bad representation of Christ" when she admits that Christ himself was "frequently...depressed?" It seems that if a Chrisitan was frequently depressed as she says Christ was, then that would, in fact, be a good representation of Christ. Perhaps Marian Davis noticed this discrepency, because when this statement was republished in Desire of Ages in 1898, the part about depression was missing: "Never before had they seen Him so utterly sad and silent" (Desire of Ages, 685).

11. White, Review and Herald, April 7, 1904, par. 19.

12. White, Signs of the Times, September 29, 1898, par. 10. Also, Manuscript 70, November 6, 1897, "Diary."

13. White, Acts of the Apostles, 363.

14. White, Desire of Ages, 662.

15. "Major Depression," NIMH, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression, extracted July 4, 2021.

16. White, Life Sketches, 195.

17. Ibid., 198.

18. Ibid., 273.

19. Ibid., 305.

20. White, Review and Herald, January 10, 1856, par. 1.

21. White, Letter 5, 1857, (1EGWLM 545).

22. White, Diary, Jan. 12, 1859.

23. White, Diary, Jan. 16, 1859.

24. White, Diary, January 22, 1859.

25. White, Diary, March 8, 1859.

26. White, Diary, April 2, 1859.

27. White, Diary, May 19, 1859.

28. White, Diary, June 3, 1859.

29. White, Manuscript 6, 1859 (2MR 347).

30. White, Letter 1, 1861.

31. White, Letter 21, 1862.

32. White, Testimonies, vol. 1, 578.

33. White, Diary, February 10, 1868.

34. White, Diary, February 21, 1868.

35. White, Testimonies for the Church, No. 15, 8.

36. White, Diary, April 30, 1868.

37. White, Life Sketches, 197.

38. White, Diary, June 13, 1873.

39. White, Diary, Aug. 14, 1873.

40. White, Letter 7, 1876 (7MR 278).

41. White, Letter 13, 1880.

42. White, Letter 51, 1887.

43. White, Review and Herald, July 23, 1889, par. 7.

44. White, Bible Echo, January 1, 1892, par. 13. Also, Review and Herald, Feb. 16, 1892.

45. White, Letter 8, 1893.

46. White, Letter 88, 1894 (MR926 29).

47. White, Diary, Manuscript 180, 1898, par. 12 (13LtMs).

48. White, Diary, January 17, 1898.

49. White, Letter 96, 1899, par. 3 (14LtMs).

50. White, Letter 205, 1900.

51. White, Manuscript 14, 1903, par. 42.

52. White, Letter 139, 1904.

53. White, Letter 232, 1906.

54. White, Letter 334, 1908.

55. White, Australasian Union Conference Record, September 30, 1912.

Category: Contradictions
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