38. Did Ellen White (whilst alive) have effective control over the SDA Church in the same manner as many so-called ‘prophets’ do over cults today?

No. Ellen White never acted as some authoritarian Pope or President of the SDA Church, never appointed a successor, never had much money and died in debt, was never even officially ordained a Minister of Religion (although she held a Ministerial license), and was actually often ignored – which somewhat ironically largely remains the case today.  This behaviour is more consistent with the Biblical model of a prophet, who is never respected in his or her own village, rather than the cult of personality and authoritarian power one typically finds in most contemporary cults.
Evangelical scholars, including Walter Martin and Kenneth Samples from the Christian Research Institute, deliberately make a distinction between Mrs White and the other modern prophetic claimants of Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, and Charles Russell.


  1. To me, the most interesting thing is that Ellen White never chose a successor, or a person never came forward after her claiming to be her heir, which seems to be a common thing with most modern-day cults (e.g. Mormons and Brigham Young or even RC and the Popes!)

  2. Consider the position of the Uniting Church of Australia (a union of Presbyterean, Methodist and Congregationalist Churches, and the 2nd biggest denomination in Australia). In their statement of beliefs, under belief #10, they actually ascribe doctrinal status to the 44 sermons of John Wesley:


    The Uniting Church continues to learn of the teaching of the Holy Scriptures in the obedience and freedom of faith, and in the power of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, from the witness of the Reformers as expressed in various ways in the Scots Confession of Faith (1560), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), and the Savoy Declaration (1658). In like manner the Uniting Church will listen to the preaching of John Wesley in his Forty-Four Sermons (1793). It will commit its ministers and instructors to study these statements, so that the congregation of Christ's people may again and again be reminded of the grace which justifies them through faith, of the centrality of the person and work of Christ the justifier, and of the need for a constant appeal to Holy Scripture."


    That position is not so different from the SDA Church towards the writings of Ellen White. Nor is it that different from how Roman Catholics view and use the writings of St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and the other early Church Fathers, Lutherans view and use Luther, Reformed groups view John Calvin and John Knox, and Evangelical-Pentecostals use John Darby and Billy Graham.

  3. I note Martin Luther compared himself to OT prophets, claimed he was a messenger from God, and that others might consider himself a prophet, although he was too humble to admit it:

    "Do we not read in the Old Testament that God commonly raised up only one prophet at a time? Moses was alone in the Exodus, Elijah was alone in King Ahab’s day, Elisha, after him, was alone, Isaiah was alone in Jerusalem, Hosea alone in Israel, Jeremiah alone in Judaea, Ezekiel alone in Babylon, and so forth. Even though they had many disciples, called “children of the prophets,” God never allowed more than one man alone to preach and rebuke the people.........

I say not that I am a prophet, but I do say that the more they despise me and esteem themselves, the more reason they have to fear that I may be a prophet . . .

If I am not a prophet, yet for my own self I am certain that the Word of God is with me and not with them, for I have the Scriptures on my side, and they have only their own doctrine. This gives me courage, so that the more they despise and persecute me, the less I fear them."

    -(An Argument in Defense of All the Articles of Dr. Martin Luther Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull, 1521; from: Works of Martin Luther [PE], Vol. III, 12-14; translated by C. M. Jacobs)

    And I note some Reformed people do consider people such as Augustine and John Calvin prophets:


    This seems very similar to the SDA view of Ellen White. She never called herself a prophet either, although others used that term to describe her. She did claim to have a message from God though, expounded in the scriptures.