Fable: Over 100 Personal Visits From Jesus Christ
By Frederick G. Hoyt, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of History
La Sierra University, Riverside, CA 92515
A presentation at the San Diego Adventist Forum, November 8, 2003
Editor's Note: I view this to be one of the most shocking statements by Ellen G. White (EGW). She claimed Jesus Christ "personally" visited her over 100 times. Compare the EGW claim with the great Apostle Paul who only had one recorded visit from Christ. What we did not realize till now was that Christ made over a hundred "personal" mini-visits to Ellen White before his Second Coming.
I give thanks to Dr. Fredrick Hoyt for his permission to publish "WRESTLING WITH VENERABLE MANUSCRIPTS". This is an addendum to "THE MENACE OF MESMERISM IN MAINE, which shows comparisons of Ellen G. White and Mary Baker Eddy and their encounters with mesmerism. And also to Dr. Jim Kaatz, President of the San Diego Adventist Forum for promptly sending me the articles and tapes from this meeting. At the close of the article below, you will find how you too can receive the tapes and the full article of "The Menace of Mesmerism in Maine." Also, I thank Stanley R. Ermshar for bringing this meeting and material to my attention. —Robert K. Sanders
WRESTLING WITH VENERABLE MANUSCRIPTS
Arthur White lists a document labeled Ms 43 source for a statement the Christ had personally appeared more than one hundred times to his Grandmother Ellen. This was an aside, a parenthetical remark by Ellen White to a group of invited "representative brethren" in the library at Battle Creek College which met at 2:30 P.M. on the first of April 1901 behind shut doors.
This select group of "representative brethren," which apparently had no other woman besides Sister White, included A.G. Daniells, S.N. Haskell, M.C. Wilcox (who gave the opening prayer), Dr. J.H. Kellogg, and Willie White (his mother's principal aide) since they were mentioned in the official minutes of this important meeting. Probably two other men, elders Irwin and Olsen, would have been there as they were in the small group that had met with Ellen White the day before when they had decided to ask her to address this meeting.
Who else may have attended cannot be certainly determined because no official list of attendees was compiled for this ad hoc meeting. It is reasonable to assume that it constituted what now would be termed the General Conference Committee. Daniells, who presided, simply remarked that at a "small meeting" the previous evening it had been decided to invite Sister White to speak to the group, "and place before us any fight that she might have for us." It was also decided to enlarge the group by inviting "others who are bearing responsibilities."
Arthur White has nicely described this group:
Quite a wide, representative group met in the college library that Monday afternoon. It included the General Conference Committee, the Foreign Mission Board, conference presidents, and institutional leaders. The room was packed. Elder Daniells took along a secretary, Clarence C. Crisler; and Dr. Kellogg took his private secretary to report the meeting. The records of the meeting include the reports as transcribed by both men.[sic], with some understandable slight variations in wording. (Early Elmshaven Years, 75.)
I would prefer not to speak to-day," Mrs. White began deferentially, "but still not because I have not anything to say, because I have." Then following this typical double negative, she launched into a lengthy, convoluted, complex, and discursive discourse that must have lasted well over an hour, with no questions or interruptions except three brief comments meant to be helpful.
Apparently she did not have a prepared script (at least none has survived and no one has ever referred to such a document). And the rambling nature of her talk indicates that she probably did not have even a simple topical outline. Sufficient for our purposes will be a listing of her principal topics. Essentially, she stated and reiterated that the structure of the church was seriously flawed with excessive power dangerously concentrated at the top in a few persons. Frequently she used the image of an autocratic monarchy: "a kingly, ruling power" (page 2); "there is [sic] to be no kings here ruling at all; (11); and God "does not want two or three minds to sit as kings." (19) Unfortunately, she gave no specific recommendations on how to achieve a more democratic and efficient structure for the small, struggling, infant church.
Although no names were used, Sister White was also very seriously concerned about the character of some of the leaders. Among these concerns were selfishness (8), "sharpness ... exercised toward outsiders" (8), a lack of "Christlike principles" (specifically, nobility, generosity, tenderness, and compassion)(6), and "narrowness ... conceited ideas, and ... planning and grasping and thinking ... to gain something." (8)
She also counseled that other positive changes should be made in addition to fundamental structural reforms. Prime among these, and clearly related to structure, was the critical need for unification: "Let us, for Christ's sake, unify." (18) But this essential move had to be preceded by a personal reformation among the leaders: "God says we must love one another. God says we must deal gently and justly and righteously with one another." (18)
About midway in her address, Sister White seemingly digressed from her subject quite abruptly and with evident passion. "I do not ask you to take my word," she forcefully declared, "I do not ask you to do it [take her word]; lay Sister White right to one side; you lay her right to one side." The subject that so gravely concerned her is not at all evident; but the weightiness of her burden is unmistakable. "Do you not [sic]—never quote my words again as long as you live, until you can obey the Bible ... then you will know better how to receive some counsel from God [obviously a reference to a "testimony" from her]." Then she returned to her severe command mode: " . . . do not go and repeat any more what Sister White said—'Sister White said this,' and 'Sister White said that'; and Sister White said the other thing; [but] you say, 'What saith the Lord God of Israel? and then you do just what the Lord God of Israel does and what He says. " (10)
The background for this stem diatribe is lacking—yet it may well have been entirely clear to her select audience in the library of Battle Creek College on that April afternoon more than one hundred years ago. Perhaps her spoken words had been twisted and distorted to serve some now unknown nefarious purpose. At any rate, an indignant Messenger of the Lord returned to this subject at the end of her remarks. "But don't you never quote Sister White"--once again that double negative that came so easily to her lips. "I do not want you to ever quote Sister White until you get upon vantage ground where you can know what you are about [sic]. Go quote the Bible." (21) Again, the correct and full explication of this text is maddeningly elusive.
A related issue that pained her even more—"O, my soul, how it has hurt me to have the blocks [sic] thrown in the way in regard to myself'—related to what she termed "health reform." "They will tell," she explained, "'Sister White said this, ''Sister White ate cheese and therefore are all at liberty to eat cheese."' (12‑13) (Was cheese eating actually a test of fellowship for the early church?) Then, "Another says: 'Sister White drinks tea, and you can drink, tea."' (13) But she quickly took the ball away from her traducers: "Sister White has not had meat in her house or any dead flesh [sic] for years and years. " Again, any reasonable explication would be clouded by time. (13)
These words were spoken with strong conviction and a commanding sense of urgency. "Why, I feel intensely," she declared. "I did not want to talk so [sic], but I dare not hold my peace." (6) "God calls for a change" (4) she declared early in the speech. Then this theme was varied to "God wants a change," and to "God is going to have a change." (6)
Ellen White also wanted it clearly understood that what she spoke and wrote were not her own words or ideas, but that she was simply the mouthpiece for God. In just her fourth sentence, she plainly declared that her counsel came from "the light that I have had for some time." (2) Then she quickly qualified this statement by explaining that this "light" was presented to me in figures, "that is, her enlightenment came in symbols or figures rather than in words. Thus it was not "verbal inspiration" such as Harriet Beecher Stowe claimed when God dictated "Uncle Tom's Cabin" to her in Brunswick, Maine.
The phrase "the light that God has given me" was soon repeated by her (4), with the added explanation that these "messages" had been coming from God "for quite a number of years. (5) Yet the dramatic climax to Ellen White's claims that her words had a divine source came near the end of the long session when she revealed that Christ Himself had appeared to her personally and privately like he had to Moses at the Burning Bush and to Paul on the Damascus Road. She described the impressive scene:
Well, while I was praying and was sending petition, there was, as has been a hundred times or more, a soft light circling around in the room, and a fragrance like the fragrance of a beautiful scent of flowers, and then the voice seemed to speak gently ....
The impressive climax to this most dramatic scene came when she uttered those quite startling few words, almost as an aside: "as has been a hundred times or more." (17)
Surely we would not have been surprised if Crisler had made this notation within parentheses: "gasps," or "cries."
This informal, spontaneous presentation behind closed doors provides an invaluable insight into the character and personality of Ellen White through the medium of a carefully preserved record of her words as recorded by Elder Clarence C. Crisler, Elder Daniells' secretary. It is obvious that he was meticulous in noting every word she uttered. When he was uncertain of a specific word this is indicated within brackets, as college student would have been taught to do (he had attended Battle Creek College two years).
A few examples will suffice to illustrate this careful work by Crisler. "Nowhere is the way the matter [is] represented," appears on page 10. Apparently he was uncertain that he heard "is" so it is given this way. On the next page this appears: "Did they [you] create the means?" And on the following page there is this: " . . . and this world is to be converted and educated just as far [fast] as they will yield to the truth, but the seed of the truth must be sown. " These instances actually occur very infrequently; and they almost certainly are a careful attempt by Crisler to provide an absolutely accurate and complete record of Ellen White's words rather than an attempt to correct her English.
If she rambled on without a pause indicating the end of a paragraph, then he preserved that structure in the record. Thus the paragraph which begins on page 10 runs on without a break to the bottom of page 13—a horrendous total of some 100 typed lines in one staggering paragraph of more than a thousand words.
If her grammar was faulty, it was not corrected. Thus, "there is [sic] to be no kings here ruling at all. " (11) Or, as we have seen, her frequent use of double negatives was not corrected. And if her diction was poor, Crisler let it stand. "Now God wants every soul here should sharpen up," she declared. "He wants every soul here shall have his converting power. You need not refer not once to what Sister White has seen." (14)
Fortunately for us, Crisler preserved unchanged some fascinating elements of her down‑east Yankee heritage that speak to her provincial upbringing and her limited formal education. She used that colorful old Anglo-Saxon phrase "dill-dallying" to good effect: 11we are just about [sic] as much dilly‑dallying, and it is time that we arise and shine. " (4) Also from the same linguistic roots she utilized an old English small coin to symbolize the utter worthlessness of faulty logic: "I would not care a farthing for anything like that." (13) And Crisler allowed to stand her graphic references to physical problems that plagued her life. In traveling to Battle Creek from California she suffered from "that terrible disorder, the bloody flux [diarrhea]—could not sit up at all hardly—had to lie all the time. " And while in Texas the cold weather "nearly melted my kidneys . . . . " (16)
Certainly she could paint a dramatic scene with words which Crisler wisely recorded verbatim. "I was--the whole family was melted and broken down," she recalled concerning a recent experience at Elmshaven. "There they were all weeping, all broken, and the blessing of God was flowing right through our room like a tidal wave." (18) Her figures of speech could also be strikingly graphic. "Do not pick flaws any more," she warned. And then this warning was dramatically depicted: "O, I see enough buzzards, and I see enough vultures that are trying and watching for dead bodies; but we do not want nothing of that [sic]." (21)
Having grown up in Portland, Maine, a major seaport, it is not surprising that she had absorbed maritime imagery such as the essential compass for navigating through dangerous seas. "We must have responsible men, and we want men that shall stand just as true as the compass to the pole," (6) she warned in words that would be refined into perhaps one of her best loved statements by using the more apt term "needle."
Yet the most startling figure of speech that Ellen White used twice in this address was a colloquial expression that sounds so modem, so contemporary, that we can hardly accept the fact that it is really quite old. "We want no picking and picking and picking of flaws in others," she cautioned. "Attend to Number One, and you have got all that you have got to do." Then she immediately used it again, this time without the harsh "gots": "If you attend to Number One, and if you will purify your souls by obeying the truth, you will have something to impart, you will have a power to give to others." (21) If she had only made this more concise it would have served admirably as a striking motto for framing in early Adventist homes.
Crisler's meticulous transcript indicates that Ellen White's very long monologue was interrupted briefly by three different people all with the best of intentions of helping a woman in distress. The first break came early when she mistakenly attributed the famous "You have lost your first love" text to Daniel. S. N. Haskell simply said, "It was John." She gave no recognition of this prompting, but in continuing she quickly cited John. (7)
Later, when she questioned whether or not Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was actually present in the meeting, Elder Arthur G. Daniells responded simply, "Yes, he is here." Ellen explained that she could not see faces without her "congregational glasses." (14) Yet near the end of the meeting she again mentioned Kellogg with the aside, "if he is here." (20) No one commented then.
The third assist came from her son Willie who helped her get back on track after her thoughts had wandered astray. "You started to tell about your prayer Saturday night," he prompted. "O, yes," she exclaimed and immediately picked up the dramatic story about Christ's return to earth recently at Elmshaven. (17)
A comparison of Crisler's official transcript of this important meeting with another document labeled I. copy made by Mrs. White'--secretary 'MH"' (Maggie Hare) which is designated as
"Ms--43b----1901," an eighteen-and-a-half page double-spaced document, is both instructive and disturbing. A comparison of the two documents reveals that Maggie made extensive revisions to the official, carefully compiled, record produced by Crisler for the General Conference. Maggie's copy for Sister White, her boss, is considerably shorter (only about 65% as long), there is extensive rearrangement, rewriting, and revising, and many sections have simply been deleted. It is assumed that in this Maggie was following instructions from either Ellen White or her son Willie, her principal assistant and adviser. Yet whatever reasons there were, she was at least guilty of complicity in corrupting an official document always a serious matter. In this instance her actions went well beyond the usual manipulations of public relations people to put a better "spin" on important events or materials.
Some changes may have seemed dictated by propriety to that proper young lady from New Zealand. For example, Ellen White's striking sentence, "Sister White has not had meat in her house or any dead flesh for years and years," was reduced by Maggie to this "dead" prose: I have not had meat in my house for years." (Note here that Maggie changed Mrs. White's usual form of referring to herself in the third person--as Queen Victoria always did--to the first person, the proper style for commoners.)
Then there are those vulgar double negatives which the New Zealand maid from the most properly English of all Britain's colonies obviously found repellent. Ellen White had forcefully commanded, "But don't you never quote Sister White." (21) Maggie transformed this into the lifeless, "But do not quote Sister White. . . . " (19) And Ellen White's opening sentence ("I would prefer not to speak to-day, but still not because I have not anything to say, because, I have") Maggie compulsively revised to a proper but debilitated opening for this key address: I would prefer not to speak today, not because I have nothing to say. I have something to say." (1) (In defense of Mrs. White it should be stated that other languages, such as Spanish, effectively use double negatives to add impressive force to important statements. Perhaps this was also in her Maine Yankee tradition.)
Again Ellen White's forceful statements, "You need not refer not once to what Sister White has seen [sic]. I do not want you to do it," (14) were reduced to very weak tea by her misguided assistant: "Do not refer to what Sister White has said [sic]. I do not ask you to do this." (14) (Note again that she always referred to herself in the third person. Did anyone ever call her "Ellen" as we hear so commonly now?) And at the conclusion of her discourse, she strongly commanded, in reference to picking out flaws in others... we do not want nothing of that." (21) Maggie quickly jumped on that crude construction, turning it into, "Do not any longer pick flaws in your brethren." (18)
For some problem areas Maggie was apparently unable to find a proper solution so excision was mandated. Thus that common, so very colloquial, expression "dill-dallying" simply had to be cut out. (4) Mrs. White's extensive medical-psychological report to the brethren was clearly more than Maggie could "stomach." So her long and detailed account of continual sickness, apparently a reoccurrence of malaria acquired in Australia, with its attendant "bloody flux" (diarrhea) and "melted" kidneys (no appropriate alternative phrase is evident) was simply deleted entirely,
Ellen White's striking attack against fault finding among church members ("O, I see enough buzzards, and I see enough vultures that are trying and watching for dead bodies; but we do not want nothing [sic] of that") (21) was emasculated by fastidious Maggie into a colorless, devitalized few words: "I see enough vultures watching for dead bodies." (18)
In consideration of public delicacy, Maggie may have had an occasional reasonable point with some of her changes. But her attack on that beautiful Yankee figure of speech, "Number One" (2 1), is simply unacceptable. If that is a proscribed vulgar American colloquialism, so be it. We will not have our forceful language debilitated by effete immigrants!
But the major scholarly crime committed by Maggie Hare was what she did to Ellen White's account of Christ's visitation to her at Elmshaven. "As I was praying a soft light filled the room, bringing with it a fragrance as of beautiful flowers, "Maggie wrote. "Then a voice seemed to say, 'Accept the invitation of my servant John Kellogg . . . .(15) Why did she leave out the fact, clearly stated by Crisler, that the light was "circling around in the room"? But, most seriously, why did she omit these words recorded precisely by Crisler, as been a hundred times or more"? (17)
Every evaluation should be balanced, so what positive acts can be credited to Ms. Hare? For the treatment of that monstrous paragraph that seized pages 10 to 13, Maggie mercifully performed radical surgery, cutting it into several much shorter paragraphs (however, the content often bears little resemblance to the original).
Then there is that delightful compass metaphor. Maggie apparently finished up the metaphor like we have come to know it in Education. "We need men who will stand as true to principle as the needle to the pole." (5) (Was she actually the author of the finished and expanded statement? When a writing enterprise employs literary assistants--"ghost writers"--to the extent that Ellen White did, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the real author of any particular article or book, or any part of them. So a business enterprise can quickly become charged with ethical problems.)
All three intrusions while Ellen White had the floor (by Daniells, Haskell, and Willie) were omitted by Maggie. Since this could not have been an accident, or a simple oversight, her reasoning (or counsel) must have been that she should leave these out in the best interest of her boss, improving the presentation and her image.
The transcript made by Dr. Kellogg's unnamed secretary (marked "II" and "Part of Ms 43b 1901 ") covers twenty double-spaced, typed pages. In general it covers the same ground as Crisler's transcript but in a much less careful and meticulous manner. This secretary also had great difficulty in determining when Sister White's flow of words should have been logically broken off into paragraphs. Thus a massive single paragraph extends from pages 1 to 5, and even more forbiddingly, from pages 6 to 12.
There are minor differences, but grammatical and stylistic matters are generally ignored as well as most of the double negatives. But Kellogg's assistant, or the doctor himself, simply could not tolerate the low level locution "dill-dally," so it was euthanized. However, they did find two "Amens" that others had missed which were placed within parentheses. (3) But the beautiful old colloquialism "Number One" was retained with slight variations: "Attend to No. 1, and you have got all that you can do. If you attend to Number One, and if you purify your souls by obeying the truth, you will have something to impart." (20)
This medical team did add one significant sentence that Ellen White uttered in reference to leaders acting like kings: "Now the Lord wants his spirit to come in. He wants the Holy Ghost king." (7)
This document also added another old Yankee colloquialism that Crisler had missed. In warning her hearers to cease quoting Sister White, she cried out, "And don't you give a rap [sic] any more what Sister White said."' That is, gossip concerning Mrs. White's spoken words was to be ignored because such apocryphal sayings were as worthless as a "rap," an old counterfeit Irish halfpenny. (9)
Relative to Ellen White's claims of many special visitations from Christ, this manuscript simply says: "Well, while I was praying and was sending up my petition there was, as on other times,—I saw a light circling right around in the room, and a fragrance like the fragrance of flowers, and the beautiful scent of flowers, and then the voice seemed [sic] to speak gently. . . ." (16)
Finally, the long, emotionally-charged pre-General Conference meeting behind closed doors in Battle Creek College's library ended without a suitably formal conclusion. It seemingly just stopped by unspoken mutual agreement without even a short benediction. At least the record is silent. And, tragically, there was no time for comments or questions. If this special meeting had been planned by church leaders to resolve troublesome problems, it is difficult from our century-long perspective to give even a tentative evaluation of its success. Perhaps some walked away harboring even more troubling, unanswered questions than they had possessed before. No votes were taken and no resolutions were proposed, discussed, and adopted. And there were no possession interviews or debriefings that are extant.
Perhaps everything was entirely clear to that distinguished and select group, including the many allusions and intimations about personal defects harbored by their colleagues nervously seated among them. Unfortunately our insight today into such matters is sadly clouded and obscured by more than a hundred years of psychic smog. So perhaps we should emulate those who patiently sat in silent respect during the entire lengthy session and then quietly stole away. But just reading the documents they generated simply precludes such an easy solution to our puzzlements.
In the commendable interest of brevity, the lingering problems which this historical exercise has generated will be treated in a severely limited manner. Increasingly puzzling is the official neglect of capital in on Ellen White's stature as the greatest prophet since Saint Paul by reason of the unparalleled visitations she enjoyed from Christ. And why, in light of all the varied complications produced from the vast body of her writings, have not those more than a hundred visitations been compiled by date, and place, and the specific words spoken to her by Jesus. What a golden treasure that would make!
It is startling and disquieting to discover the imperious manner with which important documents have been handled and freely modified in the past. The lack of respect for the integrity of every little jot and tittle in such documents is simply incredible.
This hard question inevitably follows--What modifications and distortions have been committed against other key documents in the archives?
Enough! The potential rewards—and further challenges—await the courageous and self-disciplined. This is the inescapable slogging process by which our perception of truth is furthered incrementally.
How you too can receive the full articles and tapes
The tapes provide more information, specifically the Q/A time which helped focus on some of the points made, but which also record the comments made by Dr. Hoyt as he elaborated on some of the points in his paper.
Those two tapes along with the two papers "THE MENACE OF MESMERISM IN MAINE" and the "New Light" addendum, "WRESTLING WITH VENERABLE MANUSCRIPTS," are available. Email San Diego Adventist Forum for more information.