Predicted the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906?

By Brother Anderson

If as some say, God spanked the town
For being overly frisky,
Why did He burn the churches down
And save Hotaling's Whiskey?

(Charles K. Field)

One common myth that has circulated within Adventism for many years is that Mrs. White predicted the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The prediction originated from an unpublished manuscript written by Mrs. White in 1903:

"San Francisco and Oakland are becoming as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Lord will visit them. Not far hence they will suffer under His judgments."1

Mrs. White was 50% correct on this prediction, because San Francisco was hit by an earthquake three years later. However, Oakland was not seriously damaged. Despite living in the general vicinity of San Francisco, Mrs. White never made any attempt to go and warn the city of its impending doom. In fact, her manuscript was not even published until after the earthquake.

While Mrs. White predicted a judgment of God upon San Francisco and Oakland, some have insisted that Mrs. White predicted an earthquake, but the facts do not support that. On April 16, 1906, two days before the San Francisco earthquake, Mrs. White claimed to have received a vision of an earthquake:

"While at Loma Linda, California, April 16, 1906, there passed before me a most wonderful representation. During a vision of the night, I stood on an eminence, from which I could see houses shaken like a reed in the wind. Buildings, great and small, were falling to the ground. Pleasure resorts, theaters, hotels, and the homes of the wealthy were shaken and shattered. Many lives were blotted out of existence, and the air was filled with the shrieks of the injured and the terrified.

"The destroying angels of God were at work. One touch, and buildings, so thoroughly constructed that men regarded them as secure against every danger, quickly became heaps of rubbish. There was no assurance of safety in any place. I did not feel in any special peril, but the awfulness of the scenes that passed before me I cannot find words to describe. It seemed that the forbearance of God was exhausted and that the Judgment day had come."2

Two days later, on April 18, 1906, a devastating earthquake struck San Francisco. On the surface, this appears to have been a wonderful opportunity for Mrs. White to show off her prophetic foreknowledge. Unfortunately for Mrs. White, she did not write out her "vision" until weeks after the earthquake, casting doubt on its veracity.

Even Mrs. White indicates that she did not predict the earthquake:

"Since the San Francisco earthquake, many rumors have been current regarding statements I have made. Some have reported that while in Los Angeles, I claimed that I had predicted the San Francisco earthquake and fire, and that Los Angeles would be the next city to suffer. This is not true. The morning after the earthquake, I said no more than that 'the earthquakes will come; the floods will come;' and that the Lord's message to us is that we shall 'not establish ourselves in the wicked cities.'"3


1. Ellen White, Manuscript 30, 1903.

2. Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol. 9, pp. 92-93.

3. Ellen White, Life Sketches, p. 411.

Category: Myths
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