Was Ellen White a True Prophet?

Ellen White (1827-1915) was a writer and co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist church, who shared messages she claimed were from God. Over the years, people have responded to her work in many ways. Some have viewed her with ambivalence. Others have rejected her outright. Many have put her on a pedestal, essentially making her writings equal to the Bible—an idea and attitude she firmly rejected. White saw her role as pointing people to God and the Bible, but not in any way replacing scripture or keeping people from thinking and studying the Bible for themselves.

Many people imagine prophets as perfect people. Even a quick read through the Bible reveals that prophets are as imperfect as any of us. After the prophet Elijah called fire down from heaven in a great display of God’s power, he gave into fear and ran away from Queen Jezebel, sulking that he was the only one left in Israel who followed God (1 Kings 19:10). Jeremiah questioned his calling (Jer. 1:6). Moses impetuously murdered a man (Exod. 2:11-12) and still struggled with his hot-headedness late in life (Num. 20:7-12). John the Baptist baptized Jesus, but then doubted Him (Luke 7:20)—yet Jesus said John was the greatest prophet of them all (Luke 7:28).

Ellen White openly admitted, “In regard to infallibility, I never claimed it; God alone is infallible” (Selected Messages, volume 1, p. 37). Like everyone, Ellen White needed Jesus and His empowering grace to help her follow His will.

The second major misconception of prophets is that most of their work is predicting the future. Though some prophets, such as Daniel and Jonah, are best known for their predictions, the basic definition of “prophet,” according to the term used in scripture, is “messenger”—one who speaks on behalf of another. A prophet’s main role usually involves calling God’s people back to things they already know, but have ignored. Amos pointed out that Israel did not love people like they should (Amos 2:6-8), Nathan told a story that helped David face the fact that he’d committed adultery and murder (2 Sam. 12:1-4), and Malachi reminded people not to steal from God by withholding their tithes and offerings (Mal. 3:8).

Unfortunately, sin makes us forgetful—or willfully disobedient--towards what we know is right. Throughout history, people have needed messengers to call them back to Him, so God sends prophets. Ellen White described her ministry as “a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light” of the Bible (Evangelism, p. 257). Millions of people have found inspiration in her writings, that has helped them to better understand God’s Word. Research confirms that she passed the tests of agreeing with God’s Word (Isa. 8:20), speaking truth (Jer. 28:9), acknowledging Jesus (1 John 4:2), and “bearing good fruit” (Matt. 7:20).

Finally, a prophet’s presence shouldn’t surprise us. Joel 2:28 predicts that in the last days, God will pour out His Spirit, and men and women will prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14 notes that prophecy is an important gift of the Spirit in the church.

For a deeper understanding of the issue involved, we suggest people go to the following link: https://www.adventist.org/en/information/official-statements/documents/article/go/-/resolution-on-the-spirit-of-prophecy/