About the writings of Ellen G. White - As It Reads (2023)

“…Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.”

As It Reads regards the writings of Ellen G. White to be inspired of God, in harmony with the Scriptures as the direct Testimony of Jesus Christ Himself-the Spirit of Prophecy (Revelation 19:10) and therefore carries with it no less divine authority than the writings of the Bible prophets. As It Reads use the writings of Ellen G. White, not to replace the Scriptures but only to affirm what is already revealed in the Scriptures and also to defend against those who use her writings falsely.

“The Spirit was not given – nor can it ever be bestowed – to supercede the Bible; for the Scriptures exclusively state that the word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested….Isaiah declares, ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ Isaiah 8:20.” — Great Controversy, “Introduction” p. 7.

“In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days He speaks to them by the testimonies of His Spirit. There was never a time when God instructed His people more earnestly than He instructs them now concerning His will and the course that He would have them pursue…” — 4T 147.4

“The Holy Ghost is the Author of the Scriptures and of the spirit of prophecy…” — Lt92-1900.12

“I speak the words of the Lord, with the authority that He gives me, and then I leave the matter in His hands, knowing that I have done my duty. This I must do, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear. But I am not to speak words of my own, lest I weaken the testimony God gives me”—Letter 145, 1902.

I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision–the precious rays of light shining from the throne.–Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 67.

As soon as I take my pen in hand I am not in darkness as to what to write. It is as plain and clear as a voice speaking to me, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go.” “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct [make plain] thy paths.”–Manuscript 89, 1900.

I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing the vision as in having the vision. It is impossible for me to call up things which have been shown me unless the Lord brings them before me at the time that He is pleased to have me relate or write them.–Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, pp. 292, 293.

I cannot at my own impulse take up a work and launch out into it. I have to be impressed by the Spirit of God. I cannot write unless the Holy Spirit helps me. Sometimes I cannot write at all. Then again I am aroused at eleven, twelve, and one o’clock; and I can write as fast as my hand can move over the paper.–Letter 11, 1903.

In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me.–Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 67.

When writing these precious books, if I hesitated, the very word I wanted to express the idea was given me.–Letter 265, 1907.

Many times in my experience I have been called upon to meet the attitude of a certain class, who acknowledged that the testimonies were from God, but took the position that this matter and that matter were Sister White’s opinion and judgment. This suits those who do not love reproof and correction, and who, if their ideas are crossed, have occasion to explain the difference between the human and the divine”– Manuscript 16, 1889.

You have talked over matters as you viewed them, that the communications from Sister White are not all from the Lord, but a portion is her own mind, her own judgment, which is no better than anybody else’s judgment and ideas. This is one of Satan’s hooks to hang your doubts upon to deceive your soul and the souls of others who will dare to draw the line in this matter and say, this portion which pleases me is from God, but that portion which points out and condemns my course of conduct is from Sister White alone, and bears not the holy signet. You have in this way virtually rejected the whole of the messages, which God in His tender, pitying love has sent to you to save you from moral ruin–Letter 16, 1888.

I saw that in striking against the visions they did not strike against the worm—the feeble instrument that God spake through—but against the Holy Ghost. I saw it was a small thing to speak against the instrument, but it was dangerous to slight the words of God. I saw if they were in error and God chose to show them their errors through visions, and they disregarded the teachings of God through visions, they would be left to take their own way, and run in the way of error, and think they were right, until they would find it out too late—Selected Messages 1:40.

“Sister White is not the originator of these books. They contain the instruction that during her life-work God has been giving her. They contain the precious, comforting light that God has graciously given his servant to be given to the world…” — RH January 20, 1903, Art. B, par. 8

“These messages were thus given to substantiate the faith of all, that in these last days we might have confidence in the spirit of prophecy. I thank God that he has preserved my voice, which in my early youth physicians and friends declared would be silent within three months. The God of heaven saw that I needed to pass through a trying experience in order to be prepared for the work he had for me to do. For the past half century my faith in the ultimate triumph of the third angel’s message and everything connected with it, has been substantiated by the wonderful experiences through which I have passed. This is why I am anxious to have my books published and circulated in many languages. I know that the light contained in these books is the light of heaven.” {Review and Herald – RH, June 14, 1906 par. 20}

“I am instructed that I am the Lord’s messenger; that he called me in my youth to be his messenger, to receive his word, and to give a clear and decided message in the name of the Lord Jesus.” — Review and Herald, July 26, 1906

“The messages that God has given me have been communicated to His people both by word of mouth and in printed form. Thus my work has been made doubly sure. I am instructed that the Lord, by His infinite power, has preserved the right hand of His messenger for more than half a century, in order that the truth may be written out as He bids me write it for publication, in periodicals and books. Why?—BECAUSE IF IT WERE NOT THUS WRITTEN OUT, WHEN THE PIONEERS IN THE FAITH SHALL DIE, THERE WOULD BE MANY NEW IN THE FAITH WHO WOULD SOMETIMES ACCEPT AS MESSAGES OF TRUTH TEACHINGS THAT CONTAIN ERRONEOUS SENTIMENTS AND DANGEROUS FALLACIES…” — Lt136-1906.8

Although I am as dependent upon the Spi
rit of the Lord in writing my views as I am in receiving them, yet the words I employ in describing what I have seen are my own
, unless they be those spoken to me by an angel, which I always enclose in marks of quotation.” — Selected Messages, book 1, p. 37.

“There are some, who upon accepting erroneous theories, strive to establish them by collecting from my writings statements of truth, which they use, separated from their proper connection and perverted by association with error.” — Letter 136, April 27, 1906, to Brethren Butler, Daniels, and Irwin

“EVERY ARTICLE I prepare to be edited by my workers, I ALWAYS HAVE TO READ MYSELF BEFORE IT IS SENT FOR PUBLICATION… — Lt84-1898.18

“I READ OVER ALL THAT IS COPIED, TO SEE THAT EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE. I READ ALL THE BOOK MANUSCRIPT BEFORE IT IS SENT TO THE PRINTER. So you can see that my time must be fully occupied. Besides writing, I am called upon to speak to the different churches, and to attend important meetings. I could not do this work unless the Lord helped me. — Lt133-1902.4


This is why she could say, with absolute confidence, that if anyone back then wanted to know her views then they should read her public works instead of heeding hearsay.

“And now to all who have a desire for truth I would say: Do not give credence to unauthenticated reports as to what Sister White has done or said or written. If you desire to know what the Lord has revealed through her, read her published works. Are there any points of interest concerning which she has not written, do not eagerly catch up and report rumors as to what she has said. — 5T 696.1

Note: Some people’s use of Ellen White commenting on her published works is wrested from its context: Ellen White was not juxtaposing or contrasting her unpublished writings to her published writings. No, she was comparing “unauthenticated” hearsay with what she had published. In referencing her unpublished manuscripts, she once said:

“I am now looking over my DIARIES and COPIES OF LETTERS written for several years back, commencing before I went to Europe, before you were born. I have the most precious matter to reproduce and place before the people in testimony form. While I am able to do this work, the people must have these things to revive past history, that they may see that THERE IS ONE STRAIGHT CHAIN OF TRUTH, WITHOUT ONE HERETICAL SENTENCE, in that which I have written. This, I am instructed, is to be a living letter to all in regard to my faith.” — Lt329a-1905

“And now, brethren, I entreat you not to interpose between me and the people, and turn away the light which God would have come to them. Do not by your criticisms take out all the force, all the point and power, from the Testimonies. DO NOT FEEL THAT YOU CAN DISSECT THEM TO SUIT YOUR OWN IDEAS, CLAIMING THAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU ABILITY TO DISCERN WHAT IS LIGHT FROM HEAVEN AND WHAT IS THE EXPRESSION OF MERE HUMAN WISDOM. IF THE TESTIMONIES SPEAK NOT ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF GOD, REJECT THEM. CHRIST AND BELIAL CANNOT BE UNITED. For Christ’s sake do not confuse the minds of the people with human sophistry and skepticism, and make of none effect the work that the Lord would do. Do not, by your lack of spiritual discernment, make of this agency of God a rock of offense whereby many shall be caused to stumble and fall, “and be snared, and be taken.” — 5T 691.2

“I have my work to do, to meet the misconceptions of those who suppose themselves able to say what is testimony from God and what is human production. If those who have done this work continue in this course, satanic agencies will choose for them.” — Lt28-1906

“The very last deception of Satan will be TO MAKE OF NONE EFFECT THE TESTIMONY OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Satan will work ingeniously, in different ways and through different agencies, TO UNSETTLE THE CONFIDENCE OF GOD’S REMNANT PEOPLE IN THE TRUE TESTIMONY. He will bring in spurious visions to mislead, and will mingle the false with the true, and so disgust people that they will regard everything that bears the name of visions as a species of fanaticism; but honest souls, by contrasting false and true, will be enabled to distinguish between them…” — 2SM 78.2

Let’s consider what she had said about her own writings being a lesser light…

“Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light” — Lt196-1902.5 (Also published on RH January 20, 1903, Art. B, par. 9 and 3SM, pg. 30.4)

Unfortunately, many people take this statement above and think that this means that she had a lesser degree of inspiration than a canonical author. That is a common error.

If we only had this sentence to conclude its meaning we would look at the meaning and synonyms of the word lesser: lower in quality, lower in esteem, not as great in amount or degree, less important, less significant; and the word greater: better, superior, larger, bigger. In comparing Ellen White’s writings to Jesus, these words certainly make sense. But in comparing one prophet’s writings to the writings of other prophets, it is less clear. In the case of the sentence under question, the context provide the key to its understanding. The paragraph before this inquired sentence says this:

Sister White is not the originator of these books. They contain the instruction that during her life-work God has been giving her. They contain the precious, comforting light that God has graciously given his servant to be given to the world. From their pages this light is to shine into the hearts of men and women, leading them to the Saviour. The Lord has declared that these books are to be scattered throughout the world. There is in them truth which to the receiver is a savor of life unto life. They are silent witnesses for God. In the past they have been the means in his hands of convicting and converting many souls. Many have read them with eager expectation, and, by reading them, have been led to see the efficacy of Christ’s atonement, and to trust in its power. They have been led to commit the keeping of their souls to their Creator, waiting and hoping for the coming of the Saviour to take his loved ones to their eternal home. In the future, these books are to make the gospel plain to many others, revealing to them the way of salvation.” — Lt196-1902.4

And then follows noted paragraph:

“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! There would be a thousand- fold greater vigilance, a thousandfold more self-denial and resolute effort. And many more would now be rejoicing in the light of present truth.” — Lt196-1902.5

Here Ellen White has stated that she is not the originator of her writings but it came from God which She was inspired and instructed to write.She said, “They contain the precious, comforting light that God has graciously given his servant to be given to the world”and that the the Lord Himself “has declared that these books are to be scattered throughout the world.” She is essentially affirming that these books are inspired by God and that they are to be used to lead men and women to Jesus.

There are a number of other passages in which Ellen White uses the expressions “the lesser light” and “the greater light.” In solving this statement these should be very helpful. Couple of passages from her writings below reveals that, while John was called “one of the greatest prophets” whom “God had sent as a messenger to the church”, and yet he was also called the “lesser light” to the greater light that would follow. Please note carefully for her explanation as she describes the work of John the Baptist:

“The life of one of the greatest prophets [Luke 7:28] that God had sent as a messenger to the earth, was in the balance, and this company of great men pronounced sentence of death after the intellect and manhood had been sacrificed to sensual indulgence.” — RH April 8, 1873, par. 6 (bracket supplied)

“The prophet John was the connecting link between two dispensations. He was the lesser light which was to be followed by a greater. He was to shake the confidence of the people in their traditions, call their sins to their remembrance, and lead them to repentance; that they might be prepared to appreciate the work of Christ. God communicated to John by inspiration, illuminating the understanding of the prophet, that he might remove the superstition and darkness from the minds of the honest Jews, which had, through false teachings, been gathering upon them for generations. But the least disciple who followed Christ, witnessing His miracles, and receiving His divine lessons of instruction and the comforting words that fell from his lips, was more privileged than John the Baptist. No light has even shone or ever will shine so clearly upon the mind of fallen man, as that which emanated from the teachings and example of Jesus. Christ and his mission had been but dimly understood and typified in the shadowy sacrifice….Although not one of the prophets had a higher mission or greater work to perform than had John, yet he was not to see even the result of his own labors. He was not privileged to be with Christ and witness the divine power attending the greater light.” — Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 2, p. 83, 84. (also published on RH April 8, 1873, par. 15, 16)

Note: Now did you notice those last words, “the divine power attending the greater light”?This sentence definitely reveals the “great light” to be Christ. And who did she name as the “lesser light”? – The prophet John. In this passage she has defined both of these two terms in unmistakable language.

Passing on to Desire of Ages p. 220:

“The prophet John was the connecting link between two dispensations. As God’s representative he stood forth to show the relation of the law and the prophets to the Christian dispensation. He was the lesser light, which was to be followed by a greater. The mind of John was illuminated by the Holy Spirit, that he might shed light upon his people; [and now notice these words that follow] but no other light has ever shone or ever will shine so clearly upon fallen man as that which emanated from the teaching and example of Jesus.” (bracket added)

Note: From this we can but come to one conclusion. John, being the lesser light, was to show the relation of the law and the prophets of the Old Testament to Christ, the greater light, who followed him. John’s message was in no way lesser in degree of importance nor was it inferior in terms of its authority but nevertheless, when compared to “that which emanated from the teaching and example of Jesus”, it was considered a lesser light.

And the Bible confirms Ellen White’s definition to be correct. Read in John 1:6-9, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

Continuing on in John 5:35,36 Jesus said, “He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness [greater light]than that of John.” Then in John 9:5 Jesus declared plainly, “I am the light of the world.” If no other light ever had shone or ever will shine so clearly as Christ, surely all the Old as well as the New Testament prophets of the Bible were lesser lights.

Ellen White speaks of the Old Testament era as a lesser light and the New Testament era as the greater light

“With the first advent of Christ there was ushered in an era of great light and glory; but it would indeed be sinful ingratitude to despise and ridicule the lesser light because a fuller and more glorious light had dawned. Those who despise the blessings and glory of the Jewish age are not prepared to be benefited by the preaching of the gospel.” — This Day With God p. 246

“Christ makes no apology when He declares, “I am the light of the world.” He was, in life and teaching, the gospel, the foundation of all pure doctrine. Just as the sun compares with the lesser lights in the heavens, so did Christ, the Source of light, compare with the teachers of His day. He was before them all, and shining with the brightness of the sun, He diffused His penetrating, gladdening rays throughout the world” — TMK, 97

Note: While God, through the Old Testament prophets, had established the lesser light-the glory of the Jewish age and the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah,the realities of Christ’s first Advent ushered in a time of “a fuller and more glorious light” to rightly establish all the ceremonies which ultimately was fulfilled in Christ. Please also note that the Old Testament, being the “lesser light”, does not lessen the degree of its inspiration nor its authority.

Old and the New Writers

It has always been true that most people don’t pay attention to the Bible. The Old Testament had been around for centuries by the time Jesus came to this earth and lived His life.

When Matthew wrote his book, was it not for the purpose of leading men and women to the greater light, Jesus? Imagine if Matthew said, “little
heed has been given to Isaiah and Psalms and the rest of the Old Testament so the Lord has given the world my book as a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light, the Old Testament.” That would not make much sense. What God inspired Matthew to write magnified and made more distinct what was in the Old Testament. The purpose of inspired writings has always been to lead people to Jesus, the greater light. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39

Would Paul say that his letters were a lesser light, a dimmer understanding of the way of salvation as compared to the Old Testament—the Scriptures of his day? The primary purpose of his letters was to lead men and women to a saving relationship with Jesus, the greater light.

Paul’s writings also no doubt led men and women to have a renewed interest in the Scriptures. But he would have never said that the primary purpose of my writings is to lead men and women to the greater light, the Old Testament. He would not have told his readers that what he was writing to them was a lesser degree of inspiration as compared to what Amos or Malachi wrote.

No prophet of God has ever said that the work God has given them to do was in any sense lesser than what God has given prophets to do in the past. John the Revelator would not say, “the book I just wrote, the Book of Revelation, is lesser than the Book of Daniel,” even though Daniel was part of the sacred canon of Scripture at the time John wrote his book.

An Illustration

Mrs. White is one inspired author, you could liken this to a candle. The Bible, on the other hand, is a compilation of approximately 40 different inspired authors so that would be like 40 candles together. Now the inspiration for every candle is the same, that is Jesus, by His Spirit, is the One who provides the spark to make the candle glow with light but the total witness of 40 inspired authors together over 1,500 years is greater than the witness of one inspired author over 70 years. Mrs. White held herself in subjection to the greater witness which was before her but there is actually no difference in terms of the degree of inspiration.


Therefore, “lesser light” does not connote lesser degree of inspiration nor does it mean lesser degree of divine authority. Ellen White was not demeaning her writings as inferior to the Bible when she referred her writings as the “lesser light”, for since the Holy Spirit is the author of her writings and since God, not Ellen White, is the originator of her writings, then we must conclude that her writings carries with it the same authority as the writers of the Bible. In fact, if we were to speak of brightness in comparing inspired writings with inspired writings we might say that New Testament writings were a bit brighter than Old Testament writings and Ellen White’s writings magnifies and makes brighter the story of Jesus even more. Furthermore, all the prophets, including John the Baptist, whom Jesus himself declared to be the greatest prophet, all served as a lesser light to the greater light-our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Also,each writer was a lesser light in and of themselves while they pointed to the greater light-the compilation of entire Bible, made up of 40 inspired writers.

Learn more: Ellen White’s Biography | Inspiration and the Ellen G White writings | Chronology of Ellen White

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