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Seventh-Day Adventists/Ellen White quotation on Infallibility


#2 on the days after the jones/waggoner bombshell at the 1888 GC, did ellen white make the statement, I have never said my writings infallible. If there seems to be an error, then the matter needs to be prayerfully searched out, and if necessary, we need to make a change in my writings. (i read this statement years ago, but cannot find it. Am I in error, or was this a statement she made in her daily talks. I know she never claimed infallibility. But did she say that it was possible that a change could be made in her writings? Now I realize she may have backed off that statement later because of the possible ramifications after her death.

Thanks for your question!

In her two statements about infallibility (other than cautions about men and ecclesiastical powers claiming it), she refers to herself--not to her writings. Her statements about "prayerfully searching" always refer to study of the Scriptures. Here is her statement after 1888 about infallibility, referring to herself:

"In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible. His word is true, and in Him is no variableness, or shadow of turning."--Letter 10, 1895, in 1SM 37.4.

This letter was written to her nephew, F. E. Beldon, in 1895. (For the context see The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials , p. 1392, par. 1-1393, par. 3.)

Thinking about her corrections to her writings, you may have in mind what her son, W. C. White, said about revising the 1888 Great Controversy :

She instructed us to verify the quotations, and to correct any inaccuracies found; and where quotations were made from passages that were rendered differently by different translators, to use that translation which was found to be most correct and authentic. --"The 1911 Edition of 'The Great Controversy': An Explanation of the Involvements of the 1911 Revision" (March 1962; retyped March 1989), p. 2.

Notice that the issue of correcting inaccuracies was in the context of verifying quotations. The wearing out of the plates provided an opportunity to make changes to the book, including the addition of the attribution of sources and the tightening of language. Of the 105 changes that W. W. Prescott suggested for the new edition of the book, about half were accepted. These fell into five basic categories: (1) standardization of translations of Protestant authorities; (2) substitution of sources for attribution when the original sources could not be found; (3) changes in language when considered prejudicial, such as "Roman Catholic" for "Romish"; (4) the elimination of inconsequential historical details in dispute, as with the substitution of "a bell" for "the great bell of the palace" as the signal for the St. Bartholomew massacre (GC 272.1); and (5) refinement of descriptions to make all claims as accurate as possible, as in the rewording of the statement regarding Josiah Litch's prediction concerning the Ottoman empire (GC88 334.4; GC 334.4). The reason for the changes was that nothing was to distract from communicating the great spiritual truths of the book.

There is one earlier statement in which she disavowed infallibility. It was written to her husband in 1876.

"It grieves me that I have said or written anything to grieve you. Forgive me and I will be cautious not to start any subject to annoy and distress you. We are living in a most solemn time and we cannot afford to have in our old age [54 and 48] differences to separate our feelings. I may not view all things as you do, but I do not think it would be my place or duty to try to make you see as I see and feel as I feel. Wherein I have done this, I am sorry. {7MR 284.3}

"I want an humble heart, a meek and quiet spirit. Wherein my feelings have been permitted to arise in any instance, it was wrong. Jesus has said, 'Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.' (Matthew 11:29). {7MR 284.4}

"I wish that self should be hid in Jesus. I wish self to be crucified. I do not claim infallibility, or even perfection of Christian character. I am not free from mistakes and errors in my life. Had I followed my Saviour more closely, I should not have to mourn so much my unlikeness to His dear image."--Letter 27, 1876, to James White.

Back in 1883 a question related to yours came in to the Review & Herald:

Do Seventh-day Adventists believe that Mrs. E. G. White is infallible? J. P.

Ans. No. Neither do they believe that Peter or Paul was infallible. They believe that the Holy Spirit which inspired Peter and Paul was infallible. They believe also that Mrs. White has from time to time received revelations from the Spirit of God, and that revelations made to her by the Spirit of God are just as reliable as revelations made by the same Spirit to other persons.

Mrs. White, when giving her judgment in regard to matters concerning which she has received no special light from Heaven, is just as liable to err as any other person whose intellectual capacity is the same as her own. --W. H. Littlejohn, Review and Herald , December 11, 1883.

Sometimes memories are the conflation of two separate ideas that seem to make sense to us.

I hope that helps.

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Kevin L. Morgan


Questions regarding Seventh-day Adventist doctrine and history, especially pertaining to Ellen G. White.


26 years pastoral experience; edited two books on Seventh-day Adventist history; published articles on theology; published one book on Adventist doctrines and one on Ellen G. White

Pastor Warrensville Seventh-day Adventist Church

Ministry magazine

BA Theology, with minor in Biblical languages MA homiletics

Awards and Honors
Graduated magna cum laude Distinguished preaching award

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