The Books Ellen Wrote in Texas
By Mary Ann Hadley
Published: March 28, 2011
It is well known that Ellen White was a prolific writer, having written, in longhand, enough words to fill 39 Bibles. At the time of her death in 1915, having served the church for some 70 years, Ellen had written the popular five-volume Conflict of the Ages series — "Patriarchs and Prophets" (from Creation to David), "Prophets and Kings" (from David to the end of the Old Testament), "Desire of Ages" (life of Christ), "Acts of the Apostles" (early Christianity) and the "Great Controversy" (70 A.D. to the end of the Millennium). Complementing "Desire of Ages," she had also written "Christ's Object Lessons," "Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing," and "Steps to Christ."
She had also written a nine-volume set entitled "Testimonies for the Church," several biographical books and a number of volumes of instruction in the Christian life — "Education," "Evangelism," "Ministry of Healing" and other titles.
Her writing did not consist of sitting down to a table with pen in hand, beginning with page one and writing to the final page of a volume. Rather, she wrote individual articles and letters while in her 20s, and then as she aged into her 30s and 40s, she began to compile her various writings into small books.
Enlarging on the themes of her youthful years, she included increasingly more detail. The five-volume "Conflict of the Ages" series grew out of an earlier, four small-volume set called "Spirit of Prophecy." That, in turn, was developed from portions of two tiny volumes entitled "Spiritual Gifts."
Although Ellen's first "testimony" was published in 1855, the bound volumes that Adventists are familiar with today did not begin to appear for another 30 years, except first as individual pamphlets and then as thin collections of individual letters of counsel. She felt strongly that the work of the church should begin correctly, and many of those early letters of counsel were written as guidance to the few church leaders and pastors who were at risk of misleading their congregations. Her emphasis was often on the subject of personal piety — walking the walk in addition to talking the talk.
The seven decades of her writing also reflect her growing Christian experience. As we peruse her writings in the order that she wrote them, we begin to see trends. As she matures, she speaks much more of the love of God and of His desire to restore mankind to its original vitality and happiness, from the ravages of sin and disease and death.
During the six months Ellen lived in Texas, she worked, particularly in December, 1878, to complete "Testimony No. 28." The information in that book is found today in "Testimonies for the Church," Volume 4, pages 271-383. It includes a letter to Elder R.M. Kilgore, another letter to the Rust family, and several other letters to individuals in Texas and/or written while in Texas. Other Texas letters apparently were not judged to be appropriate for publication. Those have been lost.
Interestingly, the original letter to R.M. Kilgore is currently in Southwestern's Ellen G. White Adventist Heritage Center. It was donated by Elder G. Tom Carter, attorney, retired General Conference trust services director, now residing near Atlanta, Ga. Carter's parents, Glenmore and Sarah Carter, were residents in Keene within the memory of many Keenites.
Of the letters Ellen wrote from Texas, about 48 have survived. These are also available to researchers at Southwestern's Heritage Center. Ellen White's daughter-in-law, Mary, in Battle Creek, Mich., was recipient of many of the letters. Sons Willie, in Battle Creek, and Edson, in California, received letters also. Portions of 27 of the 48 letters have been quoted in devotionals or other books compiled since Ellen's death in 1915.
During the first half (prior to Texas) of her ministry, there were few books, but major visions. At the time she resided in Texas, her only publications were: "Christian Experience and Views," (1851); "Spiritual Gifts," volumes one (1858) and two (1860); "Spirit of Prophecy," volumes one (1870), two (1877) and three (1878); a total of 28 thin, paperback volumes of Testimonies (1855-1878) and numerous articles printed on broadsides and in magazines. The books that grew through compilation (through the coordinated efforts of her copyists) and amplification (by her pen), were primarily based on her visions in the 1850s and 1860s. Through her decades, the number of visions seems to have diminished, while she increasingly wrote from the maturity and perspective of her lengthy life.
Today, the compilations and devotionals often contain "new" material, gems gleaned from ordinary letters to family and friends — letters that begin with day-to-day common experiences, and often ending with some tidbit of motherly advice, some word of encouragement calculated to strengthen the faith of her son or other relative, or fellow laborer in the cause. So . . . do Adventist really think Ellen's writings were inspired? Read on for a look at an interesting Texas connection.
About this Article Series
The complete story of the Whites' Texas sojourn had never before been published before this series of articles appeared in the Keene Star newspaper (Dec 2003-Apr 2004). The series touches on the highlights, and presents little known facts about the Whites' stay in Texas.