Today, on the 100th anniversary of the day on which Ellen G. White died, the Ellen G. White Estate released all of White’s unpublished writings. The collection contains approximately 8,300 typed documents. The estimated 50,000 pages of letters and manuscripts date from 1845 to 1915. Some 20,000 of these pages consist of personal family letters bequeathed to her son, William C. White, after her death.
The Ellen G. White Estate Board of Trustees decided on Jan. 4, 2013, to make these unpublished materials available as part of the official centennial commemoration of Ellen White’s life and ministry.
In an interview Elder G. T. Ng, secretary of the General Conference and chairman of the Ellen G. White Estate Board of Trustees, shared how “excited” he was about the release. He noted that “when you refuse to publish something it breeds suspicion.” Now that enough time has passed, “privacy is no longer an issue.” The action demonstrated a commitment by church leaders toward “transparency.”
The unpublished writings of Ellen G. White contain a rich corpus of material that offers insight into the daily life and thought of a prophet. At times these spiritual insights can be quite profound. Yet others can be mundane, such as when Mrs. White had to write a letter on the importance of confidentiality after mailing a “testimony,” or what she described as a letter of admonition, to the wrong individual. At other times she wrote letters weeks in advance that arrived just in time to avert a major crisis within the denomination.
“Ellen G. White left a huge legacy of published and unpublished letters,” commented Alberto R. Timm, associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate. He compared these unpublished writings to the New Testament, which is similarly composed of letters and epistles to both individuals and groups. “It is not the fact that they are unpublished that should disqualify them from being inspired. I think they contain some very significant counsel.”
Timm advised that the study of these unpublished writings needs to be done in a respectful way, but stated that their release marks a “new chapter” for the church in its understanding of Ellen G. White.
Unpublished, But Not Unread
Over the last century numerous researchers have investigated the unpublished writings of Ellen G. White. Specialists do not expect any significant surprises by the massive release of these archival materials.
The first book prepared after Ellen White’s death to make use of these unpublished writings was the 1932 compilation Medical Ministry. Researchers who wished to access White’s unpublished writings had to obtain special permission. In 1983 these policies were relaxed with the goal of annotating the unpublished writings. The first volume in a projected series, The Ellen G. White Letters and Manuscripts (Review and Herald, 2015), became available earlier this year.
“Since there is nothing hidden, I don’t expect the release of the unpublished writings to make much difference from what we already know about her,” noted Ron Carlson, president of the Kansas-Nebraska Conference and delegate to the 60th General Conference session. “I hope that these unpublished writings help us to better understand and appreciate the human dimension of the prophetic gift.”
The newly released writings (along with all of Ellen White’s other works) are accessible online at egwwritings.org.
Read some of Ellen White’s personal letters:
(Top graphic: A portion of the Ellen White Centennial logo)