The Ellen White Project, Portland Maine, October 22-25

Randall Stephens

Along with 75 religious studies scholars, historians, and others, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a conference on Ellen White, chief founder of Seventh-day Adventism. We’re meeting this weekend in Portland, Maine. Participants are hashing out White’s life, theology, views about sexuality and food, and her work as it relates to Adventism. The organizers of the conference plan a book project, which they describe succinctly: “Ellen Gould Harmon White (1827-1915), cofounder of the Seventh-day Adventist church, is a significant figure in American religion. To date there has not been a systematic scholarly examination of the full range and scope of her place in American history. A group of scholars is planning a working conference, bringing together for the first time specialists in Ellen White studies and specialists in her wider contexts.”

“The book," claim its editors, "is designed to be a valuable asset to the study of nineteenth-century American religion, and we also will include the interested general reader in our target audience. We hope the quality of our book manuscript and the marketing skills of Oxford University Press will gain wide readership for our book, but we do not anticipate royalty-generating mass market sales.”

I know so little about White and Adventism—something I found on further investigation that I share with other participants Spencer Fluhman, Peggy Bendroth, and some others—that I hesitated to take part at first. But the organizers hoped that those outside the field would ask broad questions about research and writing.
I rushed to my library to read Ron Numbers’s bio Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G. White. Yet, I only had time to crack the book. So, into the breach. The papers/chapters have been fascinating. I never knew how much White, and her contemporary Adventists, was wrapped up in sex reform, visionary mysticism, the shouting Methodist tradition, hydrotherapy, vegetarianism, creationism . . . and on and on. Panels have been asking about the 19th-century context of Adventism, the legacy and influence of White, and the role of emotion in religious experience.

So . . . for a little more on the this topic I sat down with Ron Numbers to ask some questions about White and the movement. (See the youtube clip embedded here.) For the uninitiated (meaning, almost everyone), Numbers offers some great insight.


Randall said…
Thought I'd also add some Seventh-day Adventist resources in full on Google Books:

The Seventh-Day Adventist hymn and tune book: for use in divine worship (1893)

Rise and progress of the Seventh-day Adventists: with tokens of God's hand ... (1892)

American state papers bearing on Sunday legislation (1891)

"Adevntists, Seventh-day" in Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events (1893)

Francis David Nichol, Reasons for our faith: a discussion of questions vital to the proper ...(1947)

Ellen Gould Harmon White, The spirit of prophecy, Volume 3‎ (1878)

Ellen Gould Harmon White, The ministry of healing‎ (1909)

James White, Ellen Gould Harmon White, Life sketches: Ancestry, early life, Christian experience, and extensive ...‎ (1880)
David Hamstra said…
The published writings of Ellen White, including her autobiography, are available in full text search here. (Only works with IE or Safari.)
David's link also works with Google chrome
Randall said…
Gary Land, conference organizer and professor of history at Andrews University, adds this:

I agree with Ron Numbers that Adventists tend to be conservative politically, but would add that because of their church state concerns and generally ambiguous views of abortion (probably arising from their view that humans have no separate soul), Adventists do not usually align with the religious right. Roger L. Dudley and Edwin I. Hernandez, CITIZENS OF TWO WORLDS: RELIGION AND POLITICS AMONG AMERICAN SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1992) is a good study but somewhat dated now. More recently they have published an article in SPECTRUM: JOURNAL OF THE ASSOCIATION OF ADVENTIST FORUMS, but I don’t have the specific reference on hand. That there is a variety of political viewpoints among Adventists is exemplified by the two Adventist representatives in Congress: Dewey Bartlett is among the most conservative members while Sheila Jackson Lee is among most liberal.
Gary said…
I mistakenly identified Congressman Bartlett as "Dewey" Bartlett, Actually, his name is Roscoe Bartlett. Sorry for the mistake.

Gary Land
Anonymous said…
Gary, you've meant Roger L. Dudley and Edwin I. Hernandez, "Where Church and State Meet: Spectrum Surveys the Adventist Vote," Spectrum 32:4 (2004), I think.
Yaroslav Paliy
Anonymous said…
Gary, I think you've meant Roger L. Dudley and Edwin I. Hernandez, "Where Church and State Meet: Spectrum Surveys the Adventist Vote," Spectrum 32:4 (2004).

Yaroslav Paliy
djconklin said…
For a current analysis of the plagiarism claim see:

Analyzing Alleged Plagiarism in Nineteenth-Century Literature: A Case Study of Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages

David J. Conklin, Jerry Moon, and Kevin Morgan

Plagiary 2008 3(5): 1-29 (25 July 2008)


This paper proposes a method of determining whether the literary practice of a nineteenth-century author exceeded the generally accepted norms of literary borrowing for that same period of writing. The method takes as its case study one chapter from Ellen G. White’s Desire of Ages which, of all her works, has received the most extensive investigation regarding alleged plagiarism, and compares it to the corresponding chapters of 47 other works of the same genre and century, using the computerized literary tool WCopyfind to locate parallel phrases between the various works. These parallels are then evaluated for strength and frequency. Study results indicate that un-attributed borrowing of phraseology was rather common, and even considered to be more acceptable among the nineteenth-century authors of this genre than would be acceptable in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The minimal borrowing by Ellen G. White in this chapter was within the acceptable standards of that era.
This was a very tasteful write up about Ellen White and early Adventism. I really appreciated this blog post!

The resource on the plagiarism was priceless