Supplement No. 3: A Short (Documented) History of Adventism

A Short1 History of Adventism

Angus McPhee, © January 2023

This paper is not about the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s contributions to the world of health, education and welfare through its hospitals, health food manufacturing plants, its dissemination of information and advice on diet and a healthy life style, its schools, colleges, universities, and its international disaster and relief agency.

Rather, this paper is about important doctrines of the Church, certain teachings that make it unique among Protestantism in that they have their dependence on, if not their source in, visions. That being the case, if the Seventh-day Adventist Church is to maintain credibility as a Bible-based movement it is faced with a decision which, eventually, it cannot avoid.

Ellen G. White is spoken of at length because her experience, her visions, her understanding of Scripture and salvation are intertwined with the history, doctrine and direction of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is the opinion of the writer that while she has been a paramount and, in many cases, a positive influence, she should have been always considered as just one among many.

The writer has attempted to be as factual as possible, providing documentary evidence in the form of endnotes. In the two main sources of information2, Ellen White and church leaders speak for themselves. So, while the author has drawn his own conclusions, readers have the freedom and opportunity to draw their own. All his sources, except two, are Seventh-day Adventist publications which are readily available, some even on the internet.

Readers may even recall many more relevant examples.


The Seventh-day Adventist Church had its beginnings following the failure of the Millerite prediction that Christ would return on October 22, 1844.

The day after that day of great disappointment Hiram Edson, a Millerite, felt that Christ, instead of coming to Earth to cleanse it, had actually moved from the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, where he had been ministering since his ascension, to the Most Holy Place.

Those Adventists, encouraged in this doctrine by a young lady in their group who began to receive visions, were the nucleus of what has become the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The visions of Ellen Harmon, later married to James White, were understood by her colleagues as confirmation of their interpretation of the relevant Bible passages. Edson’s opinion, basically, was Biblically correct. Ellen White was a prophet. Her presence, words and works were confirmation that this church was indeed the remnant church of Bible prophecy. The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes and teaches that the Bible is the only source of faith and doctrine. Consequently, it is continuing the Protestant Reformation.

Be that as it may, further Bible study, based on the rule that the Bible explains itself (not by proof-texting), has revealed problems with the interpretations of the Bible texts relevant to these doctrines, the doctrine of the cleansing of the sanctuary by an investigative judgment (Daniel 8:14, et al.) and that of the “spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 12:17; 19:10, et al.).

The Seventh-day Adventist Church must inevitably come to grips with the problem, truly apply the Reformation principles of sola scriptura and sola gratia, and reassign the role of Ellen White to one of a “lesser light,” but not ignored.

William Miller’s maths

Today, Adventists have their roots mainly in the preaching of a William Miller (1782-1849) of New York state. His preaching of the imminent return of Christ in his day created a belief system popularly known as Millerism whose followers were called Millerites. The failure of his predictions to materialize on Tuesday, October 22, 1844 became known as “The Great Disappointment.” Miller, basing some of his understanding of the words in Daniel 8:14 (KJV), “Unto 2,300 days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed,” taught that the “sanctuary” spoken of there is this Earth. The two thousand three hundred days were to be understood as 2,300 years. So 2,300 years from a certain starting point (457 B.C.) Christ would return and Earth would be cleansed by fire.

Hiram Edson’s hunch3

Wednesday, October 23, 1844 saw some disappointed Millerites walking to a barn for some time together. One, Hiram Edson (1806–1882), in a later recollection of the incident wrote,

“We started, and while passing through a large field I was stopped about midway of the field. Heaven seemed opened to my view, and I saw distinctly and clearly that instead of our High Priest coming out of the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary to come to this earth on the tenth day of the seventh month, at the end of the 2300 days, He for the first time entered on that day the second apartment of that sanctuary; and that He had a work to perform in the Most Holy Place before coming to the earth.”

So, Edson “saw” wherein Miller was incorrect; the “sanctuary” was not the Earth but the “heavenly sanctuary.” This view was further developed by his protégé, O. R. L. Crosier, and published in the Day Dawn and the Day Star in 1846. It was to become the standard view among Seventh-day Adventists.

Christ had now, on the day of the disappointment, begun a new role which involved him in an investigation of the heavenly records to determine who had taken advantage of his sacrifice. Sins of the penitent would be blotted out, and names of the impenitent likewise. The sanctuary in heaven would thus be cleansed. The cleaning up of those records, either by the blotting out of the record of forgiven sins or the blotting out of the names of those who had not sought forgiveness, was what was intended by the phrase “then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” This was later believed to have been foreshadowed in the ritual of the Old Testament’s Day of Atonement which occurred annually on the tenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish religious year. Once done, Christ would then return to Earth.

While some grasped this idea, others, including William Miller, did not. From those who did, a new denomination, namely Seventh-day Adventism4, developed. Seventh-day? Because this group came to believe in reverting to the recognition of the seventh day of the week (Saturday) as the Biblical Sabbath or weekly day of rest.

Ellen Harmon (1827-1915)

This young lady was born November 26, 1827 in Gorham, Maine. While still 18 years of age she was married to James Springer White, seven years her senior.

Because Ellen White (née Harmon) played a very important role in Seventh-day Adventism, a little of her background, some in her own words, is appropriate at this juncture. Her autobiography, Life Sketches, [page numbers in square brackets] from which the following excerpts are taken, was first published in 1915, the year of her death. However the earlier chapters were first published in her “My Christian Experience, etc” of 1860.

Her early life and injury in her own words

While I was but a child, my parents removed from Gorham to Portland, Maine. Here, at the age of nine years, an accident happened to me which was to affect my whole life. In company with my twin sister and one of our schoolmates, I was crossing a common in the city of Portland, when a girl about thirteen years of age, becoming angry at some trifle, threw a stone that hit me on the nose. I was stunned by the blow, and fell senseless to the ground.

When consciousness returned, I found myself in a merchant’s store. A kind stranger offered to take me home in his carriage, but I, not realizing my weakness, told him that I preferred to walk. Those present were not aware that my injury was so serious, and allowed me to go; but after walking only a few rods5, I grew faint and dizzy. My twin sister and my schoolmate carried me home.

I have no recollection of anything further for some time after the accident. My mother said that I noticed nothing, but lay in a stupor for three weeks. No one but herself thought it possible for me to recover, but for some reason she felt that I would live.When I again aroused to consciousness, it seemed to me that I had been asleep. I did not remember the accident, and was ignorant of the cause of my illness. A great cradle had been made for me, and in it I lay for many weeks. I was reduced almost to a skeleton.

My teachers advised me to leave school, and not pursue my studies further till my health should improve. It was the hardest struggle of my young life to yield to my feebleness, and decide that I must leave my studies, and give up the hope of gaining an education. [LS17-19]

This misfortune, which for a time seemed so bitter and was so hard to bear, has proved to be a blessing in disguise. The cruel blow which blighted the joys of earth, was the means of turning my eyes to heaven. I might never had known Jesus Christ, had not the sorrow that clouded my early years led me to seek comfort in him.6

The Harmon family’s involvement with both the Millerite movement and Methodism

In Life Sketches Ellen White recalls her family’s involvement with William Miller’s movement and the effect it had on them while they were still Methodists.

In March, 1840, William Miller visited Portland, Maine, and gave a course of lectures on the second coming of Christ. These lectures produced a great sensation, and the Christian church on Casco Street, where the discourses were given, was crowded day and night. No wild excitement attended the meetings, but a deep solemnity pervaded the minds of those who heard. [LS20]

In company with my friends, I attended these meetings. Mr. Miller traced down the prophecies with an exactness that struck conviction to the hearts of his hearers. He dwelt upon the prophetic periods, and brought many proofs to strengthen his position. [LS20]

This had such a profound effect that special meetings were established across her home town to prepare people to meet the Lord.

When sinners were invited forward to the anxious seat7 [in one such meeting] … I … pressed through the crowd and took my place with the seekers. But there was in my heart a feeling that I could never become worthy to be called a child of God. [LS21]

The following summer my parents went to the Methodist camp meeting at Buxton, Maine, taking me with them. I was fully resolved to seek the Lord in earnest there, and obtain, if possible, the pardon of my sins. There was a great longing in my heart for the Christian’s hope and the peace that comes of believing. [22]

I was much encouraged while listening to a discourse from the words, “I will go in unto the king, … and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16. … The speaker … counseled [all] … surrender … to God, and [to] venture upon His mercy without delay. … [LS22]

Those who were waiting to make themselves more worthy of divine favor before they ventured to claim the promises of God, were making a fatal mistake. Jesus alone cleanses from sin; He only can forgive our transgressions. He has pledged Himself to listen to the petition and grant the prayer of those who come to Him in faith. Many have a vague idea that they must make some wonderful effort in order to gain the favor of God. But all self-dependence is vain. It is only by connecting with Jesus through faith that the sinner becomes a hopeful, believing child of God. [LS22] … These words comforted me, and gave me a view of what I must do to be saved. … But my mind was often in great distress, because I did not experience the spiritual ecstasy that I considered would be the evidence of my acceptance with God, and I dared not believe myself converted without it. How much I needed instruction concerning the simplicity of faith! [LS23]

I knelt [with others at the altar] and prayed, [and] suddenly my burden left me, and my heart was light. … Jesus seemed very near to me; I felt able to come to Him with all my griefs, misfortunes, and trials, even as the needy ones came to Him for relief when He was upon earth. There was a surety in my heart that He understood my peculiar trials, and sympathized with me. I can never forget this precious assurance of the pitying tenderness of Jesus toward one so unworthy of His notice. I learned more of the divine character of Christ in that short period, when bowed among the praying ones, than ever before. [LS23]

Soon after our return from the camp meeting, I, with several others, was taken into the church on probation. My mind was very much exercised on the subject of baptism. Young as I was, I could see but one mode of baptism authorized by the Scriptures, and that was immersion. Some of my Methodist sisters tried in vain to convince me that sprinkling was Bible baptism. The Methodist minister consented to immerse the candidates if they conscientiously preferred that method, although he intimated that sprinkling would be equally acceptable with God. [LS25]

Finally the time was appointed for us to receive this solemn ordinance. It was a windy day when we, twelve in number, went down into the sea to be baptized. The waves ran high and dashed upon the shore, but as I took up this heavy cross, my peace was like a river. When I arose from the water, my strength was nearly gone, for the power of the Lord rested upon me. I felt that henceforth I was not of this world, but had risen from the watery grave into a newness of life. [LS25]

The same day in the afternoon I was received into the church in full membership. [LS25]

How Ellen understood justification, sanctification and salvation

Looking back, she confessed that in those early days, despite her conversion and baptism, she did not understand justification, sanctification and salvation. It was only in later life that she says she understood. Even so, it is worth noting that it was not justification but sanctification, which she explains, which took priority. Why? She had a deep desire to live a holy life.

I … believed that Jesus was soon to come in the clouds of heaven; but my great anxiety was to be ready to meet Him. My mind constantly dwelt upon the subject of holiness of heart. [LS27]

My ideas concerning justification and sanctification were confused. These two states were presented to my mind as separate and distinct from each other; yet I failed to comprehend the difference or understand the meaning of the terms, and all the explanations of the preachers increased my difficulties. I was unable to claim the blessing for myself, and wondered if it was to be found only among the Methodists, and if, in attending the advent meetings, I was not shutting myself away from that which I desired above all else, — the sanctifying Spirit of God. [LS28]

I felt that I could claim only what they called justification. In the word of God I read that without holiness no man should see God. Then there was some higher attainment that I must reach before I could be sure of eternal life. I studied over the subject continually; for I believed that Christ was soon to come, and feared He would find me unprepared to meet Him. Words of condemnation rang in my ears day and night, and my constant cry to God was, “What shall I do to be saved?” [LS29]

I thought that the fate of the condemned sinner would be mine,—to endure the flames of hell forever, even as long as God Himself existed. Almost total darkness settled upon me, and there seemed no way out of the shadows. Could the truth have been presented to me as I now understand it, much perplexity and sorrow would have been spared me. If the love of God had been dwelt upon more, and His stern justice less, the beauty and glory of His character would have inspired me with a deep and earnest love for my Creator. [Emphasis mine] [LS31]

Later in her autobiography she explained:

  • Christ is the perfect revelation of God. … To those who receive Him and believe on Him, He gives power to become the sons of God. [LS94]
  • … sanctification … is nothing less than a daily dying to self and daily conformity to the will of God. [LS237]

Ellen Harmon’s desire for a holy life has been passed on to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Of course she trusted her life to the Savior but she never seemed to realize that her debt had been paid. Thus an emphasis on “the perfecting of the saints” through effort of some kind rather than by grace, a righteousness that is imparted rather than imputed, is reflected in her lengthy exposition of the details and importance of the investigative judgment in The Great Controversy. If anywhere else she ever wrote differently, she never altered, corrected or retracted what was published in chapter 28, “The Investigative Judgment,” in The Great Controversy which is circulated to both world and church to this day.

Salvation by grace alone was crucial to the Protestant Reformation. It was this that Martin Luther discovered and promoted and was the result of the Scriptures alone becoming the only source of faith and practice. In fact, it is for this reason that the Christian Church exists. If any denomination is to carry on the legacy of the Protestant Reformers it must understand and preach this truth.8

Her family’s expulsion from the Methodist Church [LS43-53]

The Millerite meetings about the soon-coming of Jesus meant that “my father’s family … occasionally attended the Methodist church.” On the other hand, speaking of the Millerites, she wrote, “the Adventists held meetings at this time in Beethoven Hall [and] my father, with his family, attended them quite regularly.”

Not long after, we were notified to be present at a meeting to be held in the vestry of the church. … The single charge preferred was that we had walked contrary to their rules [namely, that] we had attended other meetings, and had neglected to meet regularly with our class.

The next Sunday, at the commencement of the love feast, the presiding elder read off our names … as discontinued from the church.

That was in 1843 the year of Ellen’s 16th birthday. She may well have been still only 15 years of age at the time of this incident.

The disappointment of 1843-44 and the reason why

Mr. Miller and those who were in union with him supposed that the cleansing of the sanctuary spoken of in Daniel 8:14 meant the purifying of the earth by fire prior to its becoming the abode of the saints. This was to take place at the second advent of Christ; therefore we looked for that event at the end of the 2300 days, or years. But after our disappointment the Scriptures were carefully searched, with prayer and earnest thought; and after a period of suspense, light poured in upon our darkness; doubt and uncertainty were swept away. [Emphasis mine] [LS63]

Instead of the prophecy of Daniel 8:14 referring to the purifying of the earth, it was now plain that it pointed to the closing work of our High Priest in heaven, the finishing of the atonement, and the preparing of the people to abide the day of His coming. [LS63]

Adventism’s evolving self-understanding

It was not long after “the passing of the time” in 1844, as Ellen White recorded, that she received her first vision. It was a week after that that she received her second vision. [LS64, 69] So, with the presence in the group of a person experiencing visions, its members eventually came to believe that they were the “remnant church of Bible prophecy.”9

Because the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible was in common usage in those days, it was natural for them to depend on its translation and expression without question. The texts in question were these.

  • And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17).
  • And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10).

What is the “testimony of Jesus” spoken of in verse 17? The answer is found in chapter 19:10: “the spirit of prophecy.”

So, coupling the first with the second, it was believed that the visionary experiences of Ellen White, eventually called “the spirit of prophecy” and contemporary with the rise of the Advent Movement, were evidence that the members of that movement were indeed that of which the text spoke, “the remnant,” indeed the final church of all before the return of Jesus.

Obedience to the fourth commandment of the Ten Commandments (along with the other nine, of course) met the other requirement, that of keeping the commandments of God.

Strengthened in this conviction the group, first a movement, then organized as a church May 21, 1863, saw its responsibility to bring the message of a soon-coming Savior to the whole world. As William Miller had done before them, it identified with the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12.

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, [7] Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. [8] And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. [9] And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, [10] The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: [11] And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. [12] Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

“Babylon” in the first place was understood to be the Roman Catholic Church and in the second place Protestantism in general and in doctrinal confusion. The word “Babylon” was understood to have its origin in the word “Babel.” The KJV explains, “Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth (Genesis 11:9).” (See Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pages 375-390).


  • the doctrine of an eternally burning hell in favor of a quick destruction of the wicked by a God of love
  • Sunday as God’s holy day in favor the seventh day of the week in harmony with the Ten Commandments
  • tradition as the basis for doctrine in favor of the Bible and the Bible only
  • the idea that Christ’s return might be remote in favor of its imminence, and


  • that the cleansing of the sanctuary Daniel 8:14 was not the destruction of the world by fire but an investigative judgment conducted in the sanctuary in heaven and that it began on October 22, 1844
  • that the Second Advent will follow that judgment
  • that the Millennium of Revelation 20 will follow the Second Advent
  • that the destruction of the wicked will occur at the end of that Millennium
  • that the New Earth will be realized afterwards
  • that the original diet for mankind did not include animal flesh
  • that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the “remnant church” of Bible prophecy

the Seventh-day Adventist Church became a worldwide and growing but, even to this day, little-known movement with a mission that it saw as a divine commission.

The supremacy of the Scriptures in theory

One of the strengths of the Church is found in this tenet: “The Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of [God’s] will. They are the … definitive revealer of doctrines.” In this respect the Church sees itself as continuing the Protestant Reformation principle of “Sola Scriptura.”

Ellen White devoted a significant portion of The Great Controversy to the history of the Reformation and focused, in chapters 5-14, on various Protestant Reformers in Europe and their insistence on the Bible as the foundation for Christian doctrine.

Luther, in his defense at the Diet of Worms, said, “Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by the clearest reasoning, unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted, and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me. Amen.” [GC160]

We are not placed where our fathers were; consequently our duties and responsibilities are not the same as theirs. We shall not be approved of God in looking to the example of our fathers to determine our duty instead of searching the word of truth for ourselves. Our responsibility is greater than was that of our ancestors. We are accountable for the light which they received, and which was handed down as an inheritance for us, and we are accountable also for the additional light which is now shining upon us from the word of God. [GC164]

Regarding the protest of the princes, Ellen White wrote:

A solemn declaration was … drawn up [by the princes] and presented to the Diet … [It read in part] “We protest by these presents, before God, our only Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, and Saviour, and who will one day be our Judge, as well as before all men and all creatures, that we, for us and for our people, neither consent nor adhere in any manner whatsoever to the proposed decree, in anything that is contrary to God, to His holy word, to our right conscience, to the salvation of our souls.”

“There is no sure doctrine but such as is conformable to the word of God. … The Lord forbids the teaching of any other doctrine. … The Holy Scriptures ought to be explained by other and clearer texts; … this Holy Book is, in all things necessary for the Christian, easy of understanding, and calculated to scatter the darkness. We are resolved, with the grace of God, to maintain the pure and exclusive preaching of His only word, such as it is contained in the biblical books of the Old and New Testaments, without adding anything thereto that may be contrary to it. This word is the only truth; it is the sure rule of all doctrine and of all life, and can never fail or deceive us.” [GC202-203]

Ellen White added:

In our time there is a wide departure from their doctrines and precepts, and there is need of a return to the great Protestant principle — the Bible, and the Bible only, as the rule of faith and duty. … The same unswerving adherence to the word of God manifested at that crisis of the Reformation is the only hope of reform today. [GC202-204]

Today, at the time of writing, the Seventh-day Adventist Church asserts in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs that “The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, … are … the definitive revealer of doctrines.”

The place of the Scriptures in practice

While the Seventh-day Adventist Church officially recognizes the supremacy of Scripture, throughout its history there has been a trend toward promoting the writings of Ellen White as an authoritative guide to the understanding of Scripture, an inspired commentator and corrector so that the denomination does not wander into heresies and strange interpretations.

This began in appreciation for her minor role and developed into her work being recognized as an essential role, in fact sine qua non.

A precedent was set at the second Sabbath Conference, held in David Arnold’s barn at Volney, New York, the weekend of August 18-20, 1848, illustrates the point. Ellen White provides an account of what took place.

Our first conference was at Volney in Bro. Arnold’s barn. There were about thirty-five present, all that could be collected in that part of the State. There were hardly two agreed. Each was strenuous for his views, declaring that they were according to the Bible. All were anxious for an opportunity to advance their sentiments, or to preach to us. They were told that we had not come so great a distance to hear them, but had come to teach them the truth. Bro. Arnold held that the 1000 years of Revelation 20 were in the past; and that the 144,000 were those raised at Christ’s resurrection. And as we had the emblem of our dying Lord before us, and was about to commemorate his sufferings, Bro. A. arose and said he had no faith in what we were about to do; that the Sacrament was a continuation of the Passover, to be observed but once a year.

These strange differences of opinion rolled a heavy weight upon me, especially as Bro. A. spoke of the 1000 years being in the past. I knew that he was in error, and great grief pressed my spirits; for it seemed to me that God was dishonored. I fainted under the burden. Brethren Bates, Chamberlain, Gurney, Edson, and my husband, prayed for me. Some feared I was dying. But the Lord heard the prayers of his servants, and I revived. The light of Heaven rested upon me. I was soon lost to earthly things. My accompanying angel presented before me some of the errors of those present, and also the truth in contrast with their errors. That these discordant views, which they claimed to be according to the Bible, were only according to their opinion of the Bible, and that their errors must be yielded, and they unite upon the third angel’s message. Our meeting ended victoriously. Truth gained the victory. [LS110-111]

In none of her references to this incident did Ellen White record the Scriptures concerned; views changed because of the vision and not as a result of further study. To this day, Seventh-day Adventist theology is expected, if not required, to conform to the writings of Ellen White.

Today, appreciation for Ellen White’s contribution is expressed in the Seventh-day Adventist hymn “O Shepherd Divine.”

Ellen White’s own view of the relationship of her writings to the Bible

In Life Sketches Ellen White wrote

In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history. [Emphasis mine] [LS196]

Elsewhere there are these warnings against altering or removing the doctrines.

We are to be established in the faith, in the light of the truth given us in the early experience.At that time one error after another pressed in upon us; ministers and doctors brought in new doctrines. We would search the Scriptures with much prayer, and the Holy Spirit would bring the truth to our minds. Sometimes whole nights would be devoted to searching the Scriptures, and earnestly asking God for guidance. Companies of devoted men and women assembled for this purpose. The power of God would come upon me, and I was enabled clearly to define what is truth and what is error.

As the points of our faith were thus established, our feet were placed upon a solid foundation. We accepted the truth point by point, under the demonstration of the Holy Spirit. I would be taken off in vision, and explanations would be given me. I was given illustrations of heavenly things, and of the sanctuary, so that we were placed where light was shining on us in clear, distinct rays.

I know that the sanctuary question stands in righteousness and truth, just as we have held it for so many years. It is the enemy that leads minds off on sidetracks. He is pleased when those who know the truth become engrossed in collecting scriptures to pile around erroneous theories, which have no foundation in truth. The scriptures thus used are misapplied; they were not given to substantiate error, but to strengthen truth. [GW302, 303]

After the passing of the time in 1844 we searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with the brethren, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word. Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their study where they said, “We can do nothing more,” the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me. I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, his mission, and his priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me.

During this whole time I could not understand the reasoning of the brethren. My mind was locked, as it were, and I could not comprehend the meaning of the Scriptures we were studying. This was one of the greatest sorrows of my life. I was in this condition of mind until all the principal points of our faith were made clear to our minds, in harmony with the word of God. The brethren knew that when not in vision, I could not understand these matters, and they accepted as light direct from heaven the revelations given. [RH May 25, 1905]

I saw a company who stood well guarded and firm, giving no countenance to those who would unsettle the established faith of the body. God looked upon them with approbation. I was shown three steps,—the first, second, and third angels’ messages. Said my accompanying angel, “Woe to him who shall move a block or stir a pin of these messages. The true understanding of these messages is of vital importance. The destiny of souls hangs upon the manner in which they are received.” I was again brought down through these messages, and saw how dearly the people of God had purchased their experience. It had been obtained through much suffering and severe conflict. God had led them along step by step, until He had placed them upon a solid, immovable platform. [EW258-259]

As a people we are to stand firm on the platform of eternal truth that has withstood test and trial. We are to hold to the sure pillars of our faith. The principles of truth that God has revealed to us are our only true foundation. They have made us what we are. The lapse of time had not lessened their value. [CW52]

Messages of every order and kind have been urged upon Seventh-day Adventists, to take the place of the truth which, point by point, has been sought out by prayerful study, and testified to by the miracle-working power of the Lord. But the waymarks which have made us what we are, are to be preserved, and they will be preserved, as God has signified through His word and the testimony of His Spirit. He calls upon us to hold firmly, with the grip of faith, to the fundamental principles that are based upon unquestionable authority. [CW52]

On the other hand Ellen White has also written this:

If you had made God’s word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies. [LS197]

Go to the Scriptures for yourselves, search the inspired word with humble hearts, lay aside your preconceived opinions; for you will obtain no benefit unless you come as children to the word of God. [RH March 25, 1890]

We do not claim that in the doctrines sought out by those who have studied the word of truth, there may not be some error, for no man that lives is infallible; [RH March 25, 1890]

The Lord has sent his people much instruction, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little. Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light. O, how much good would be accomplished if the books containing this light were read with a determination to carry out the principles they contain! [RH Jan 20, 1903]

When a brother receives new light upon the Scriptures, he should frankly explain his position, and every minister should search the Scriptures with the spirit of candor, to see if the points presented can be substantiated by the Inspired Word. … Every soul must look to God with contrition and humility, that He may guide and lead and bless. We must not trust to others to search the Scriptures for us. [GW303]

We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. …

Disappointment may prove to be the greatest of blessings to us. We must learn that others have rights as well as we have, and when any of our brethren receive new light upon the Scriptures, he should frankly explain his position, and every minister should search the Scriptures with the spirit of candor to see if the points presented on a new subject can be substantiated by the inspired word. “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” Every soul must look to God with contrition and humility, that God may guide and lead and bless. We must not trust to others to search the Scriptures for us. Some of our leading brethren have frequently taken positions on the wrong side, and if God would send a message and wait for these older brethren to open the way for its advance, it would never reach the people. [Ellen G. White: “Search the Scriptures,” The Review and Herald, July 26, 1892]

The problem

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has accepted certain rules for the purpose of Biblical exegesis, (the critical explanation or interpretation of a text). That the Bible is its own interpreter was made clear by Dr. Gerhard Hasel.10 At the Australasian Division Bible Conference in 1978, he quoted the following statements from the writings of Ellen White. “Scripture, its own interpreter” involves the recognition that the Bible must be interpreted from within itself.

  • The Bible is its own expositor (Ed190)
  • Scripture is its own interpreter (GC521)
  • Scripture interprets scripture, one passage [is] … the key to other passages. (Ev581)
  • Make the Bible its own expositor (CG511)
  • Concerning U. Zwingli it is stated that “he saw that it [the Bible as the word of God, the only sufficient, infallible rule] must be its own interpreter.” (GC173)
  • Seventh-day Adventists are to be “a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms.” (GC595)
  • “The interpreter,” Hasel wrote, “has to silence his personal wishes with regard to the outcome of the interpretation.”

When Bible study results in an interpretation different from the interpretation provided by Ellen White the Seventh-day Adventist Church throughout its history has preferred the latter. This is evident in the interpretation of Daniel 8 regarding the “cleansing of the sanctuary.”

Although Gabriel, the heaven-sent interpreter, provided the explanation recorded in verses 20-25 the Seventh-day Adventist Church explains it as follows:

  • The 2300 days are symbols for 2300 years which began in 457 B.C. and ended in A.D. 1844
  • The sanctuary is that in heaven
  • The cleansing is the one typified by that performed on the annual Day of Atonement
  • The Old Testament Day of Atonement was a day of judgment
  • The judgment is one of investigation.
  • When that investigation ends and the cleansing has been completed, Christ will leave the heavenly sanctuary, where he has been overseeing the investigation, and will return to Earth.

There are several problems with this interpretation.

  • The context, Daniel 8:1-27, does not yield this interpretation.
  • The sanctuary is the focus of the attention of a human power.
  • The “cleansing of the sanctuary” is the reversal of the “damage” done by the little horn power.
  • The Hebrew word translated “cleansed” occurs only once in Scripture. It is here and it is not the Hebrew word that is used in Leviticus 16, the chapter about the Day of Atonement.
  • Verses 14 (in the vision) and 26 (in the interpretation by Gabriel) speak not of days but specifically of “evenings-mornings” or “dusk+dawn” of which the KJV margin reminds us.
  • While this interpretation might explain the reason for Christ not returning to Earth on October 22, 1844, it does not explain the apparent protraction of the process and the delay in His return which the early Adventists believed would occur when the investigation was completed.

The question could be asked, “Is the ‘delay’ because God’s people have not completed the special work of purification, of putting away of sin (GC425)? Is it because “angels are not vastly superior to human beings (Ps. 8:5; Heb. 2:7)?” “Perhaps … [they] need considerable time to do their assigned tasks in the judgment. (And after they have done their work, is it possible that there are review boards or “superior courts” in heaven to make sure that each case has been dealt with fairly?).”11 After all, Ellen White said, “When the investigative judgment closes, Christ will come, and His reward will be with Him to give to every man has his work shall be (GC485).”

Yet, on the basis of the KJV marginal reading of 2 Peter 3:12, Ellen White also said, “By giving the gospel to the world it is in our power to hasten our Lord’s return. We are not only to look for but to hasten the coming of the day of God (DA633).”

Jesus Himself had said,

  • “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my father only (Matthew 24:36).”
  • “Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man coming (Matthew 24:44).”
  • “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority (Acts 1:7)”

Paul wrote,

  • “Now, brothers and sisters … you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:1, 2).”

Nowhere does the Bible hint of an hour or a day, a century or a millennium in which Christ will return, but it does say that His return will follow the preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom to all the world (Matthew 24:14). Disappointment over a “delay” is the product of time‑setting, whether done innocently or deliberately.

Conclusion: Where to from here?

The question which must be asked, and satisfactorily answered, is this.

In the light of proper Biblical exegesis, in harmony with the rule that the Bible should interpret itself, should the Seventh-day Adventist Church

  • continue to ignore rules of Biblical interpretation which it both espouses and promotes
  • accept that Ellen White, while encouraging Bible study, was not an authority in Biblical interpretation and made mistakes which appear hard for her to admit?

Besides, the research by Dr Fred Veltman into Ellen White’s sources for The Desire of Ages, authorized by Neal C. Wilson, General Conference President from 1979-1990, revealed that some of her sources were fiction. In MINISTRY (October and December 1990) Veltman answered these two questions.

“From what writers did Ellen White borrow? What kinds of books were they writing?

“Space does not permit us to survey all 23 here. But there is no need to cover the entire lot, since many fall under the literary category of ‘Victorian lives of Christ.’ The books in this category were never intended to be biographies. Today they would probably be classified as historical fiction.

“One obviously fictional account is Ingraham’s The Prince of the House of David, a work that Albert Schweitzer referred to as one of the “ ‘edifying’ romances on the life of Jesus intended for family reading.” Ingraham cast his work as a collection of letters written by an eyewitness in Palestine to her father in Egypt.”

That being the case, and because The Desire of Ages is the third volume in the set which came to be known as “The Conflict of the Ages Series” and of which The Great Controversy is the fifth, one is justified in asking, “How much fiction has been incorporated into the other volumes?”12

One might counter with the fact that there is some fiction in Scripture. And that is true. To employ fiction as, for example, Jesus did, to make a point is one thing but to involve it to “fill out” the Bible story is another. For example “We Have Seen His Star”, chapter 6 of The Desire of Ages, is clearly an embellishment of the Biblical narrative. Here, the “wise men” are called philosophers. Scripture testifies to their being astrologers. Despite the testimony of Scripture, Ellen White’s narrative throughout “The Conflict of the Ages Series” is often quoted as historical fact.

If the Church understands the problem, it must decide where to go from here.

  • Should members who might be inclined to leave be encouraged to remain?
  • Should all members be encouraged to engage in intelligent discussion and study of the Bible as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11)?
  • Might the Church officially and seriously embrace that ancient and longstanding confession of Christian faith known as the Apostles’ Creed as its statement of fundamental teachings?
  • Might the Church even compile a set of teachings which more accurately reflect the focus of the Protestant reformers on the Gospel, i.e., salvation by grace, as well as on the Bible as the only source of faith and doctrine?

Thus could be born a Seventh-day Adventist Church that is

  • devoid of a dependence on the convictions of any one individual and of dogmatism,
  • devoted to Christ, still,
  • the product of educated and ongoing study of the Bible and
  • a church with a view to its strength, health, growth and mission.

The Apostle Paul advised: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).”

Or, to quote Ellen White: “The same unswerving adherence to the word of God manifested at that crisis of the Reformation is the only hope of reform today.” [GC202-204]


1. Comparatively.

2. Life Sketches and Witness of the Pioneers.

3. Emma Howell Cooper in The Great Second Advent Movement, called it a conviction (page 29).

Robert M. Johnston, in “A Search for Truth” in Adventist Review’s ADVENTIST HISTORY ISSUE (September 15, 1983), wrote “While crossing a cornfield that morning, Edson was impressed that Christ had just gone into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary.” (Emphasis mine.)

George R. Knight in Millennial Fever called the experience a “vision” [the inverted commas are Knight’s] (pp. 305-306).

R.W. Schwarz in Lightbearers to the Remnant called it a “reverie” (p. 62).

It was A.W. Spalding in his Captains of the Host who used the term “Vision in the Cornfield.”

4. The addition of the suffix “ism” to a noun, far from implying contempt, simply indicates a belief system or the center of attention of a set of beliefs.

5. A rod is a little more than 5 metres.

6. This particular reflection was recorded by her in 1884, in the “Review and Herald” of November 25.

7. A bench to the front of the congregation to which worshipers could go to experience the New Birth or entire sanctification. The practice was introduced by Charles Wesley.

8. To understand Martin Luther, the reader is urged to read his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. It was hearing the reading of Luther’s Preface to this book that “strangely warmed” the heart of John Wesley and gave him the assurance that Christ had indeed taken away his sins and saved him from the law of sin and death.

9. Like Harriet Tubman, the former slave who also suffered a head injury as a youngster, Ellen Harmon-White had visions. Instead of acting on the advice of the Apostle Paul to “prove all things” by testing them against Scripture, her colleagues considered her visions to be beyond critique. They were accepted as either explicit or implicit heavenly confirmation of the doctrinal positions being taken.

10. Gerhard F. Hasel on page 8 of his “Biblical Interpretation: General Principles” in Australasian Division Bible Conference 1978 Notebook.

11. Kenneth H. Wood, “The Message for Today” in EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT, AR March 19, 1981

12. The other three: Patriarchs and Prophets, Prophets and Kings, Acts of the Apostles.


Exhibit A

Ellen White’s Visions and Dreams recorded in her autobiography

Source: Life Sketches, Ellen G. White’s autobiography

  1. The advent people on a straight [sic see Matthew 7:13, 14] and narrow path. The living saints, 144,000 in number are told the day and hour of Jesus’ coming. They witness the resurrection and ascend to the Holy City. [1844] (LS64)
  2. A view of forthcoming trials and her commission to share the visions. [1844] (LS69)
  3. A vision in which she was struck dumb for 24 hours for doubting the power of God. (LS89)
  4. A vision in which Jesus looked at her with a frown and an angel warned her of the dire consequences of neglecting to share with others “what the Lord has revealed to [her.]”. (LS90)
  5. The heavenly sanctuary, the ark, the ten commandments with the Sabbath commandment highlighted. [This vision confirmed that Joseph Bates’ Sabbath-keeping was right.] [1846] (LS95)
  6. God’s glory and a view of other planets resulting in Joseph Bates’ conviction that “the work is of God, and is given to comfort and strengthen His ‘scattered, torn and peeled people,’ since the closing up of our work for the world in October, 1844.” [November 1846] (LS97)
  7. In the Holy City she entered the holy place of the temple and then in the holy of holies she saw the ark, angels, Jesus with a smoking censer, the ten commandments written on two tables with the Sabbath commandment as encircled with a halo of glory. “I saw that God had not changed the Sabbath … but the pope had changed it from the seventh to the first day of the week; for he was to change times and laws. … I saw that the holy Sabbath is, and will be, the separating wall between the true Israel of God and unbelievers.” This was followed by a view of the time of trouble, the flight from the cities, the pursuit by the wicked, God’s blessing on those who had honored Him by keeping His Sabbath holy, the return of Jesus, the resurrection, the ascent to the Holy City in a cloudy chariot, the welcome “for we had kept ‘the commandments of God,’ and had a ‘right to the tree of life.’ Rev. 14:12;22:14.” [April 3,1847] (LS100)
  8. “Strange differences of opinion [regarding the Millennium, the 144,000 and the Lord’s Supper that were expressed in our first general meeting] rolled a heavy weight upon me. … The light of heaven then rested upon me, and I was soon lost to earthly things. My accompanying angel presented before me some of the errors of those present, and also the truth in contrast with their errors. These discordant views, which they claimed were in harmony with the Scriptures, were only according to their opinion of Bible teaching; and I was bidden to tell them that they should yield their errors, and unite upon the truths of the third angel’s message. Our meeting closed triumphantly. Truth gained the victory. Our brethren renounced their errors and united upon the third angel’s message …” [Volney, New York, August 18, 1848] (LS110-111)
  9. She saw Jesus as high priest in the most holy place. Only after his ministry there could the seven last plagues be poured out. The time of trouble. A group of people who had abandoned Sabbath-keeping now in agony. They were found to be weighed in the balance and found wanting. [Friday evening, January 5, 1849] (LS116 and footnote)
  10. An angel, commissioned by Jesus, flies to four angels who were withholding the four winds and cries, “Hold! hold! hold! hold! until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads.” [Sabbath afternoon, January 6, 1849] (LS118)
  11. A vision in which she saw that the faith of one of the brethren in Paris, Maine, was wavering. This led her to visit that person. [Sabbath, March 24, 1849] (LS123)
  12. Two visions, while in Paris, Maine, “much to the comfort and strength of the brethren and sisters while there. Brother Stowell was established in all the present truth he had doubted.” [See no. 11]
  13. A vision in which she “had been given a view of the proclamation of the sealing message, and of the duty of the brethren to publish the light that was shining upon our pathway.” [November 1848] (LS125)
  14. A vision in which she “saw that the Lord has blessed and strengthened my husband to labor in the field one year before and that the Lord had another work for him to do … that he must write, write, write, and walk out by faith.” [summer of 1849, Connecticut] (LS125)
  15. “I was shown the little company of believers in Camden, New York,” among whom was a woman of professed piety but a hypocrite. [early 1850] (LS129)
  16. On the Sabbath she had another vision of the same woman whom she was able to confront. This resulted in the woman confessing her wrongs and apparently repenting. “As a result of this experience, our brethren and sisters in Camden, and their neighbors, were fully established in the belief that God had revealed to me the things which I had spoken.” [early 1850] (LS130)
  17. A vision in which she saw that her husband must not give up the [new] paper [The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald].” [November 1850] (LS140)
  18. “Return to me and I will return to you and heal all thy backslidings. Tear down the rubbish from the door of thy heart, and open the door, and I will come in and sup with thee.” [December, 1856] (LS160)
  19. “Most of the matter which I had seen 10 years before concerning the great controversy was repeated and I was instructed to write it out.” [Lovett’s Grove, Ohio, March 14, 1858] (LS161)
  20. A vision showing that in a recent medical incident “Satan intended to take my life.” [Battle Creek, Michigan, June, 1858] (LS163)
  21. A vine supported by trees fell to the ground when a wind weakened its support. An angel said to the vine, “Let thy tendrils entwine about God. Thou art shaken from human support” and to Ellen White, “Thou art the vine. … God will be to thee a present help in time of trouble.” [Rochester, New York, December 25, 1865] (LS175)
  22. The journey on the narrow way and, by holding on to cords, across the chasm to a beautiful field [Battle Creek, August 1868] (LS190)
  23. In her dream she spoke to a group about the value of the Testimonies for the Church. In the dream, she said, “There are not many of you that really know what is contained in the Testimonies. You are not familiar with the Scriptures. If you had made God’s word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies. … Additional truth is not brought out; but God has through the Testimonies simplified the great truths already given …” In this dream, James White stood up and said, “This is the wonderful power of God. He has made the Testimonies a powerful means of reaching souls, and He will work yet more mightily through them than He has hitherto done. Who will be on the Lord’s side?” Quite a number instantly sprang to their feet. “One stood by my side and said, ‘God has raised you up. … God has given you your testimony to set before the backslider and the sinner his true condition, and the immense loss he is sustaining by continuing a life of sin. … God has impressed this upon you by opening it before your vision as He has to no other one now living. …” [a dream, April 30, 1871] (LS197)
  24. “You are to sow beside all waters: Oregon, Europe, Australia, Oakland, San Francisco, Woodland, and the large cities of the United States, all nations, tongues, and peoples.” [a dream in California, 1874] (LS208)
  25. “A vision of God’s glory and many things.” [Battle Creek, October 9, 1878] (LS238)
  26. Ellen White saw scenes in the coming judgment including a Person of majestic appearance, books called the “Ledger of Heaven,” the record of the sins of those who profess the truth. … “Upon one page of the ledger, under the head of ‘Fidelity,’ was the name of my husband. … A very few items which impressed me, I will mention. I was shown that God had qualified my husband for a specific work, and in His providence had united us to carry forward this work. Through the Testimonies of His Spirit, He had imparted to him great light.” What follows is a record of James White’s strengths: “unbending integrity, noble courage, firmness, decision, bold, fearless. … [While] self has at times been mingled with the work, when the Holy Spirit has controlled his mind, he has been a most successful instrument in the hands of God for the upbuilding of His cause. … The earnest efforts of my husband to build up the institutions in our midst I also saw registered in the Ledger of Heaven.” Ellen White further wrote that “others must come to bear burdens in connection with the cause.” [October 23, 1879] (LS241)
  27. The Jets of Light Vision about which she spoke at the European Missionary Council, Great Grimsby, England. In vision she saw multitudes, to whom is sent the warning message that Christ is soon coming, as enveloped in darkness … Then she saw little jets of light, their light growing brighter, and their number increasing as each light kindled other lights eventually illuminating the whole world. In conclusion, she said: “This is a picture of the work you are to do. ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ Matthew 5:14. Your work is to hold up the light to those around you. Do your very best, and God will bless your efforts.” [Sep. 27 – Oct. 4, 1886] (LS295)
  28. In this vision which occurred 5 months before it was related to a meeting for ministers at the General Conference session in Battle Creek, Michigan, she was ushered into a council meeting where men were advocating their views and plans with great zeal and earnestness, but not according to knowledge. One brother stood before the council with a paper in his hand and criticized the character of its contents. The paper was the American Sentinel. Pointing to certain articles, he said: “This must come out, and that must be changed. If the Sentinel did not contain such articles as these, we could use it.” The articles pointed out as objectionable, were about the Sabbath and the second coming of Christ. [Salamanca, New York, November 3, 1890] (See LS309-318)

Exhibit B

Ellen White to Eli Curtis about the “shut door” and the “cleansing of the sanctuary”

Source: Adventist Review, July 12, 1984

Arthur L. White in “Why Seventh-day Adventists have no creed” wrote,

Ellen White wrote to Ely [sic] Curtis on April 21, 1847:

I have been much interested in your writings in the Dawn, and extra; and fully agree with you on some points, but on others we widely differ. 

Your Extra is now on the stand before me; and I beg leave to state to you, and the scattered flock of God, what I have seen in vision relative to these things on which you have written. I fully agree with you, that there will be two literal resurrections, 1,000 years apart.

I also agree with you, that the new heavens, and the new earth, (Revelation 21:1. Isaiah 65:17. 2 Peter 3:13.) will not appear, till after the wicked dead are raised, and destroyed, at the end of the 1000 years. …

You think, that those who worship before the saint’s feet, (Revelation 3:9), will at last be saved. Here I must differ with you; for God shew [sic] me that this class were professed Adventists, who had fallen away, and “crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” …

You also think, that Michael stood up, and the time of trouble commenced, in the spring of 1844.

The Lord has shown me in vision, that Jesus rose up, and shut the door, and entered the Holy of Holies, at the 7th month 1844; but Michael’s standing up (Daniel 12:1) to deliver his people, is in the future. …

I believe the Sanctuary, to be cleansed at the end of the 2300 days, is the New Jerusalem Temple, of which Christ is a minister. The Lord shew [sic] me in vision, more than one year ago, that Brother Crosier had the true light, on the cleansing of the Sanctuary, &c; and that it was his will, that Brother C. should write out the view which he gave us in the Day-Star, Extra, February 7, 1846. I feel fully authorized by the Lord, to recommend that Extra, to every saint.

I pray that these lines may prove a blessing to you, and all the dear children who may read them.   *  *  E. G. White.

Lack of a creed did not allow individuals to come in with their private interpretations of Bible truth. Yet light might come through careful, united Bible study, and God could give counsel through the prophetic gift as to what was, or was not, truth. While He did not through this means impart new truth, He did endorse truth and reject error.

Exhibit C

The changing attitude by the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the writings of Ellen White

Source: Witness of the Pioneers Concerning The Spirit of Prophecy

April 21, 1851 The Review and Herald

Every Christian … should pray fervently to be aided by the Holy Spirit in searching the Scriptures for the whole truth and for his whole duty. He is not at liberty to turn from them to learn his duty through any of the gifts. (James White)

December 4, 1855, The Review and Herald

Nor do we, as some contend, exalt these gifts or their manifestations above the Bible. On the contrary we test them by the Bible, making it the great rule of judgment in all things; so that whatever is not in accordance with it, in its spirit and its teachings, we unhesitatingly reject. [signed] in behalf of the Conference by Joseph Bates, J.H. Waggoner and M.E. Cornell.

February 28 1856, The Review and Herald

The revival of any, or all of the gifts, will never supersede the necessity of searching the word to learn the truth. … Every Christian should pray fervently to be guided by the Holy Spirit in searching the Scriptures for the whole truth, and for his whole duty. He is not at liberty to turn from them to learn his duty through any of the gifts. (James White)

July 24, 1856, The Review and Herald

We exhort you to shun the counsel of those who profess to take the Bible as the rule of faith and practice, but slight or reject that part of it which teaches us to seek and expect the power and gifts of the spirit. (J.H. Waggoner)

February 25, 1858, The Review and Herald

The remnant of the gospel church will have the gifts. War will be waged against them because they keep the Commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12:17. In Revelation 19:10 the Testimony of Jesus is defined to be the spirit of prophecy. Said the angel I am of thy fellow servant and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus. In chapter 22:9 he repeats the same substance, as follows: “I am thy fellow servant and of the prophets.” From the comparison we see the force of the expression the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. But the testimony of Jesus includes all the gifts of that one spirit.… 

The course of those who have rejected the gifts of the spirit should be a warning to all others who are disposed to them. It will be better to follow Paul’s directions: “Quench not the spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast there which is good. (R.F. Cottrell)

June 12, 1866, The Review and Herald

[The visions] agree with the word of God and with themselves. … They lead us to the Bible. They set forth that book as the inspired unalterable word of God. They exhort us to take that word is the man of their counsel, and the rule of our faith in practice. And with compelling power, they entreat us to study long and diligently its pages, and become familiar with its teaching, for it is the judge us in the last day. …

The Bible is able to make us wise and salvation, and thoroughly furnish us us onto all good works. Do the visions propose to invade this field, and erect a new standard, and give us another rule of faith and practice? Nothing of the kind. On the contrary, they are ever in harmony with the word, and ever refer to that as the test and standard. To the law and the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Uriah Smith)

February 15, 1870, The Review and Herald

The object of spiritual gifts is to maintain the living work of God in the church. They enable the Spirit of God to speak in the correction of wrongs, and in the exposure of iniquity. They are the means whereby God teaches his people when they are in danger of taking wrong steps. They are the means by which the Spirit of God sheds light upon church difficulties, when otherwise their adjustment would be impossible. They also constitute the means whereby God preserves his people from confusion by pointing out errors, by correcting false interpretations of the Scriptures, and causing light to shine out upon that which is in danger of being wrongly understood, and therefore of being the cause of evil and division to the people.of God. (J.N. Andrews)

January 25, 1878, The Review and Herald

And when that people should rise in the last generation of men, who should be observing all ten of the precepts of God’s holy law, and should recognize the revival of the spirit of prophecy, they might expect to feel the bitterness from their opponents, which can arise only from the direct inspiration of Satan. (James White)

June 9, 1874, The Review and Herald

We fully believe we have reached the last church, that the great Day of God is soon to burst upon the world, and that the spirit of prophecy exists among his servants, as God has declared it would. To the question proposed at the head of this article, “Do visions and prophecy exist among S.D. Adventists? we therefore answer, Yes.” (George I Butler)

June 9, 1946, The Review and Herald

The writings of Ellen G White constitute a great commentary on the Scriptures. Should they be regarded in the same light as other Bible commentaries in current use today? Assuredly not. The writings of the Spirit of prophecy do not belong to this classification. They are commentaries – there is much in common – but they are inspired commentaries, motivated by the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and this places them in a separate and distinct class, far above all other commentaries. (F.M. Wilcox)

Exhibit D

The relationship of the Spirit of Prophecy, and its value, to the Seventh-day Adventist Church by Ted N. C. Wilson, President of the General Conference, in his Sabbath sermon of July 3, 2010

Source: Adventist Review, July 13, 2010

  • My brothers and sisters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Lord has given us one of the greatest gifts possible in the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. Just as the Bible is not outdated or irrelevant, neither is the testimony of God’s end-time messenger. God used Ellen G White as a humble servant to provide inspired insight about Scripture, prophecy, health, education, relationships, mission, families, and so many more topics. Let us read the Spirit of Prophecy, follow the Spirit of Prophecy and share the Spirit of Prophecy. There are so many wonderful books to share including the one book Ellen White indicated she wished distributed more than any other, The Great Controversy. Thank the Lord for the religious freedom in this and other countries that allows us to share truth. The Spirit of Prophecy is one of the identifying marks of God’s last-day remnant people and is just as applicable today as ever before because it was given to us by heaven itself. As God’s faithful remnant, may we never make of none effect the precious light given us in the writings of Ellen G. White.

Exhibit E

O Shepherd Divine | words and music by Herbert Work (1904-1982)

Source: Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, Hymn 192

  • O Shepherd divine, I know Thou art mine; Thy search in the night was for me.
  • This bleak world is cold, but warm is Thy fold; My Shepherd, I follow Thee.
  • Thy beautiful lamp shineth bright o’er my way, Thy glorious light unto Thy perfect day.
  • Thro’ pastures serene, Thro’ valleys of green, My Shepherd, I follow Thee.
  • O Shepherd divine, I know Thou art mine; Thy great heart was broken for me.
  • Thy grace and Thy law I picture in awe; They kissed upon Calvary.
  • Ah! Life that was given to ransom my soul, Ah! Heart that was broken to make sinners whole,
  • This world is but loss In view of Thy cross, My Shepherd, I follow Thee.
  • O Shepherd divine, I know Thou art mine; I hear Thee say, “Follow thou Me.”
  • Thy message today illumines my way; The Spirit of Prophecy.
  • I thrill at Thy marvelous love to Thy sheep, The way Thou dost lead to the still waters deep,
  • One staff and one rod, One fold and one God; My Shepherd, I follow Thee.

Exhibit F

A repudiation of the investigative judgment doctrine is also a repudiation of Ellen White

Source: 101 Questions on The Sanctuary and on Ellen White



What two doctrinal areas are included in the questions Adventists are discussing in the 1980’s?

At the General Conference Session in Dallas, Texas, in April, 1980, the Seventh-day Adventist Church formally reaffirmed the doctrinal positions that Adventists have held for more then [sic] one hundred years. Two of these doctrines are now being challenged. They are: (1) The belief that Christ began a special ministry in the sanctuary in heaven on October 22, 1844, which included a work of judgment, and (2) the authority of Ellen G. White as an inspired messenger of God.


Why are these two doctrines important to Seventh-day Adventists?

The doctrine of the sanctuary, including the teaching of the investigative judgment and the belief that Ellen White was divinely inspired, are unique to Seventh-day Adventists. If Christ did not begin an investigative judgment ministry in heaven in 1844, and if Ellen White was not God’s chosen messenger, the Seventh-day Adventist Church would lose two teachings that identify it as a prophetic movement, raised up by God to prepare the way for Christ’s second advent.

Actually, Ellen White’s credibility is closely intertwined with the Adventist interpretation of the heavenly sanctuary and its cleansing, which includes the doctrine of the investigative judgment.

In his Sabbath morning sermon at the General Conference of 1891, Uriah Smith, editor of the Review and Herald, emphasized the inseparability of the sanctuary doctrine and the Spirit of Prophecy. He stated:

“Within a few weeks after that disappointment, and while the honest in heart were waiting in patience to see what God’s good providence would do for them, light came forth on the great subject of the sanctuary. This opened before us a vast new field of light and truth; and the spirit of prophecy began its work also right there and then to warn the church against giving up the truth of the past. And so light on the gift of the spirit of prophecy, hand in hand, came forth to lead this people forward into a large field of further light and knowledge and truth, to prepare for the coming of the Son of man.”—General Conference Bulletin, March 18, 1891, Witness of the Pioneers, p. 63.

Ellen White maintained, in 1906, that “the sanctuary question stands in righteousness and truth just as we have held it for so many years,” and that this truth “was revealed to us by the Holy Spirit” (Letter 50, 1906; Manuscript Release #760, Page 23). In the light of these and similar statements, a repudiation of the investigative judgment doctrine is also a repudiation of Ellen White.

How seriously this is taken by the Church was illustrated by a plaque mounted in the Seventh-day Adventist church, Gawler, South Australia, in the early 1980s. It was inscribed as follows:

  • The Ten Pillars of the Seventh Day [sic] Adventist Faith.
  • Remove One. The Rest Will Fall.
  • 1st. The Commandments of God  John 14:15; Rev. 14:15.
  • 2nd. The second advent  Acts 1:11. Heb. 9:18; Rev. 22:20.
  • 3rd. Life only in Christ  John 3:36; 1 John 5:11,12.
  • 4th. Righteousness by faith  Gal. 2:20,21; Heb. 11
  • 5th. health reform. food & clothing  Dan 1:8,12; Gen 1:29
  • 6th. the three angel’s [sic] messages  Rev. 14:6-12
  • 7th. systematic giving  Lev. 27:30; 2 Chron. 31:5; 1 Cor. 16:1
  • 8th. the spirit of prophecy  1 Cor. 12:28; Rev 12:17; 19:10
  • 9th. the state of the dead  Job 14:12; Psa. 115:17; Ecc. 3:19;9:5
  • 10th. the sanctuary  Exod. 25:8,9; Heb. 8:1,2;9:1,11,24
  • God save these pillars of our faith

Some understand the following to be the five pillars of the Seventh-day Adventist faith:

  • Sabbath
  • Sanctuary
  • Second Coming
  • Spirit of Prophecy
  • State of the Dead

Exhibit G

The best presentation of the investigative judgment in current Seventh-day Adventist literature

Source: Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, art. “Investigative Judgment”

The best presentation of the investigative judgment in current Seventh-day Adventist literature is found in the chapter entitled ‘The Investigative Judgment,’ in The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White from which the following summarizing sentences are taken:

  • “The work of the investigative judgment and the blotting out of sins is to be accomplished before the second advent of the Lord” (p. 485).
  • “He comes to the Ancient of days in heaven . . . at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844. . . . Our great High Priest enters the Holy of Holies, and there appears in the presence of God, to engage in the last acts of His ministration in behalf of man-to perform the work of investigative judgment” (p. 480).
  • “Jesus will appear as their [His people’s] advocate, to plead in their behalf before God” (p. 482).
  • “The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross” (p. 489).
  • “In the great day of final atonement and investigative judgment, the only cases considered are those of the professed people of God” (p. 480).
  • “Beginning with those who first lived upon the earth, our Advocate presents the cases of each successive generation, and closes with the living” (p. 483).
  • “Every man’s work passes in review before God, and is registered for faithfulness or unfaithfulness” (p. 482).
  • “The books of record in heaven, in which the names and the deeds of men are registered, are to determine the decisions of the judgment” (p. 480).
  • “The law of God is the standard by which the characters and the lives of men will be tested in the judgment” (p. 482).
  • “All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven; as they have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and their characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God, their sins will be blotted out, and they themselves will be accounted worthy of eternal life” (p. 483).
  • “When any have sins remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book of God’s remembrance” (p. 483).
  • “When the work of the investigative judgment closes, the destiny of all will have been decided for life or death” (p. 490).
  • “When the investigative judgment closes, Christ will come, and His reward will be with Him to give to every man as his work shall be” (p. 485).

Exhibit H

“Open the Heart to Light” Morning talk at Battle Creek, Feb 6, 1890 by Mrs E. G. White

Source: Review and Herald, March 25, 1890

● One of the great troubles with us has been that we have looked upon men as infallible. But no matter how high a position a man may hold, it is no reason that he should be looked upon as incapable of making mistakes.

● We must not think, “Well, we have all the truth, we understand the main pillars of our faith, and we may rest on this knowledge.”The truth is an advancing truth, and we must walk in the increasing light. A brother asked, “Sister White, do you think we must understand the truth for ourselves? Why can we not take the truths that others have gathered together, and believe them because they have investigated the subjects, and then we shall be free to go on without the taxing of the powers of the mind in the investigation of all these subjects? Do you not think that these men who have brought out the truth in the past were inspired of God?”I dare not say they were not led of God, for Christ leads into all truth; but when it comes to inspiration in the fullest sense of the word, I answer, No.

● Do not trust to the wisdom of any man, or to the investigations of any man. Go to the Scriptures for yourselves, search the inspired word with humble hearts, lay aside your preconceived opinions; for you will obtain no benefit unless you come as children to the word of God.

● We do not claim that in the doctrines sought out by those who have studied the word of truth, there may not be some error, for no man that lives is infallible;

● Our brethren should be willing to investigate in a candid way every point of controversy. If a brother is teaching error, those who are in responsible positions ought to know it; and if he is teaching truth, they ought to take their stand at his side. We should all know what is being taught among us, for if it is truth, we need to know it. The Sabbath-school teacher needs to know it, and every Sabbath-school scholar ought to understand it.

  • No matter by whom light is sent, we should open our hearts to receive it in the meekness of Christ. But many do not do this. When a controverted point is presented, they pour in question after question without acknowledging, without admitting a point when it is well sustained. O may we act as men who want light!

Exhibit I

Why should we still study the Protestant Reformation?

Source: Felipe Lemos, Adventist News Network, November 7, 2020

The Protestant Reformation, with one of the milestones on October 31, 1517, still has important echoes today in the way of reading and interpreting the Holy Bible.

Seventh-day Adventists consider themselves heirs to the Protestant Reformation. Although they are separate religious movements for nearly 350 years, the Protestant ethos runs through Adventist “veins”. We are a movement that strives to exalt the Bible as the only article of faith and to restore biblical truths that have been lost over the centuries. Like the reformers, we have a very keen prophetic sense, allowing us to understand the solemnity of the times in which we are living.

These characteristics shape our understanding of the “present truth”, motivating us to always present it in an updated way to the times in which we live and based on prophetic revelation.

Exhibit J

Daniel 8

In the interpretation given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel and recorded in verses 20-26 we learn that

  • the scenario begins with the conquest of Media-Persia by Greece,
  • out of a dominant Greece rises a king who “takes his stand against the Prince of princes” and that
  • the end of this individual shall be “without hand.”

So, according to Gabriel, the cleansing of the sanctuary is a correction, the reversal of all that was done by the king that “takes his stand against the Prince of princes.”

The Hebrew word for “cleansed” is not the one that is employed in Leviticus 16:19 regarding the Day of Atonement. This is not about the Day of Atonement.

Daniel overheard the question, “How long?” Then he heard the answer, “Unto two thousand and three hundred ‘days’.”

The two Hebrew words linked together in verse 14 and translated “days” in the KJV means “evening+morning” (see the KJV margin) or “dusk+dawn” which Gabriel repeated in verse 26. Briefly, and simply, there is no suggestion here of 2,300 years.

For the complete Seventh-day Adventist explanation of this chapter see the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary on Daniel 8. While other books by Seventh-day Adventist authors may refer to this chapter, rarely do they cover the details from beginning to end, but rather focus on what is meant by the “cleansing,” the 2,300 “days,” and the like. This is done by proof-texting, a method in which words, terms and texts are explained out of their context and by their usage elsewhere in the Bible.

Strictly, readers are left to decide between a problematic doctrine produced by a discredited method and the explanation already given by Gabriel and recorded by Daniel. While the second may appear to be historically problematic, those problems have been shown, elsewhere, to be not insurmountable.


Beach, Walter Raymond, The Creed That Changed The World (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1971) [about the Apostles’ Creed]

Cooper, Emma Howell, The Great Second Advent Movement (Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1935)

Damsteegt, P. Gerard, Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977)

Ellen G. White Estate, Witness of the Pioneers Concerning The Spirit of Prophecy: a facsimile reprint of periodical and pamphlet articles by the contemporaries of Ellen G. White (Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington, D.C., 1981)

Knight, George R., Millennial Fever (Boise, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1993)

Kostyal, K.M. in Exploring History (National Geographic Society, © 2014) [about Harriet Tubman]

Lemos, Felipe, “Why should we still study the Protestant Reformation?” <

Luther, Martin, Commentary on Romans, translated by J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1976)

Neufeld, Don F., ed., Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1976)

Nichol, Francis D., ed., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1957, 1980)

Olson, Robert W., 101 Questions on The Sanctuary and on Ellen White (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, March, 1981)

Schwarz, R.W., Lightbearers to the Remnant (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1979)

___________, Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1985)

Spalding, Arthur Whitefield, Captains of the Host (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1949)

Trustees of the Ellen G. White Publications, A Word to the “Little Flock” FACSIMILE REPRODUCTION of the original issued May 1847 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, n.d.)

White, Ellen G., Life Sketches, The Great Controversy, et al., as in the abbreviations


AR = Adventist Review (See RH)

CG = Child Guidance

CW = Counsels to Writers and Editors

Ed = Education

Ev = Evangelism

EW = Early Writings

GC = The Great Controversy

GW = Gospel Workers

LS = Life Sketches

RH = Review and Herald (originally Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald) (See AR)