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Sunday, February 12, 2012

My issues with EGW's plagiarism

One of the things that convinced me that EGW wasn't speaking for God was that she repeatedly said "I was shown" or that the messages were from God or that she didn't use other people's work compared to the FACT (which even the SDA church admits) that she "borrowed" from other authors. The "borrowing" (aka - plagerism) isn't that big of a deal in and of itself. To me the issue was that she claimed she received it from God through vision (or was "shown" it).

Forget the legal part of literary "borrowing" - she still claimed she was shown these things. It's not even really debated anymore whether or not she "borrowed" from others. So in claiming she was shown things in vision that it's proven she got from another book/author, either she was lying or she was delusional. I don't see a possibility for a middle ground.

I was raised Adventist and was 4th generation on both sides. Believe me, it would be much easier to just accept her writings from God. It's nice having an "inside scoop" and it would certainly be more comfortable considering almost everyone I know believes her to be a prophet. But I could not get past this point (there are others as well, but I'm only bringing up this one for now).

I've read a few things defending her from the SDA perspective. They seem to give partial answers that make sense to Adventists but don't answer the real questions/issues. And dodging around the issue seems to occur many times as well. For example, while most won't come out and say, "Yes, Ellen White copied or 'borrowed' from other writers," many people will bring up the Veltman study in which he concluded that EGW was not guilty of legal wrongdoing (even though Veltman himself questioned the ethical implications of her "borrowing"). They will use that to explain what she did. But then if you point out that she claimed to have been shown certain things in vision (which are shown to be "borrowed" from other books) they will change course and say that God might have given the same vision to multiple people. I have yet to see an explanation for the ethical dilemma you face when you see that the things she claimed to be from God were in fact taken from human source (even while she claimed not to do such a thing).


I don't really see an accurate comparison between what Ellen White did and what the writers of the Bible did. The biggest difference to me is what she claimed of her own writings. I haven't seen Paul or John make claims such as, "I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision." Or, "These books contain clear, straight, unalterable truth and they should certainly be appreciated. The instruction they contain is not of human production."

Or, "At times I am carried far ahead into the future and shown what is to take place. Then again I am shown things as they have occurred in the past. After I come out of vision I do not at once remember all that I have seen, and the matter is not so clear before me until I write, then the scene rises before me as was presented in vision, and I can write with freedom. Sometimes the things which I have seen are hid from me after I come out of vision, and I cannot call them to mind until I am brought before a company where that vision applies, then the things which I have seen come to my mind with force. I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a 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."

Or, "The question is asked, How does Sister White know in regard to the matters of which she speaks so decidedly, as if she had authority to say these things? I speak thus because they flash upon my mind when in perplexity like lightning out of a dark cloud in the fury of a storm. Some scenes presented before me years ago have not been retained in my memory, but when the instruction then given is needed, sometimes even when I am standing before the people, the remembrance comes sharp and clear, like a flash of lightning, bringing to mind distinctly that particular instruction. At such times I cannot refrain from saying the things that flash into my mind, not because I have had a new vision, but because that which was presented to me, perhaps years in the past, has been recalled to my mind forcibly."

Or, "My views were written independent of books or of the opinions of others." Or, "And here I would state that although I am dependent upon the Spirit 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." Or, "I have not been in the habit of reading any doctrinal articles in the paper, that my mind should not have any understanding of anyone's ideas and views, and that not a mold of any man's theories should have any connection with that which I write."

She specifically denies getting her ideas from other people (or reading other material on the subject) and presents it as though she received it directly from God. How do you explain this ethically?

Her own husband, James White, said this - "If Mrs. White has gathered the facts from a human mind in a single case she has in thousands of cases, and God has not shown her these things which she has written in these personal testimonies."

I have compiled pages of similar statements made by EGW in my studies and I'll try to post those later.

Dr. Fred Veltman who was hired by the SDA church to conduct the study to determine Ellen White's plagerism concluded that she wasn't legally breaking any laws, but he did take issue with the ethical implications. He said, “I must admit at the start that in my judgment this [her denials regarding her use of sources] is the most serious problem to be faced in connection with Ellen White's literary dependence. It strikes at the heart of her honesty, her integrity, and therefore her trustworthiness. As of now I do not have—nor, to my knowledge, does anyone else have—a satisfactory answer to this important question.”

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