Adventist Voices: Don McAdams on Ellen White

Don McAdams, PhD, discusses his legendary embargoed paper documenting Ellen White’s literary and narrative dependence on Protestant historians. After 50 years it has been published as part of a book titled Ellen White and the Historians: A Neglected Problem and a Forgotten Answer (2022). McAdams discusses how he discovered this issue in the 1970s, how the Ellen White Estate reacted, and why it is finally time for the Adventist Church to openly confront its “founding myth—not the inspiration of Ellen White, but her authority in all matters.”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

The Spotify link is incorrect.

It goes to The Top Stories Whiteness Tells Itself instead of Don McAdams on Ellen White.

Based on their URLs, the other links are also incorrect.

As I’m listening, two analogies come to mind -

a) With respect to EW’s writings being a combination of being historic truth and error - there is a public service spot that comes on cable TV encouraging people to use the kits for self-administered colon cancer detection in place of an actual colonoscopy; but at the end of the ad, and as PS, they state that “wrong positives and negatives may occur”.

b) Why would so many people want to dedicate so much time and energy to cleaning up the messes EW’s mis-management is causing the church, when the church continually ignores them… and then, I remember as a child, I wondered how my mom was able to clean up all the disgusting messes we have happen - like clogged drains, and pet accidents on the carpet; and now finding myself having to do the same thing, I’m thinking “it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it”. Thank you.


I listened to this today. First thing, my interest is piqued to read the book now. I glad it is finally available. Secondly, in the age of the internet when so much information is so readily available, the SDA Church cannot deal with these issues the same way they have in the past. A new approach, preferably one that involves transparency and integrity needs to be taken. An openness to the fallibility of the “infallible” is required. Ignoring, dismissing or outright bluster will not make it go away. The GC might as well hang a sign up at Silver Springs - Welcome to the Cult.


the subject of egw and plagiarism is actually a gigantic nothing burger at this point…the GC has already commissioned a copyright specialist - more than 40 yrs ago - who determined that egw didn’t plagiarize or infringe copyrights in her writing, given standards of her time:

i can’t imagine the GC spending any more resources on this issue…people who’ve wanted to understand it have done so long ago…it’s really only egw detractors who discuss this issue now…it’s a bit like Republicans who are forever discussing “woke”…Democrats never do…

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That is precisely the attitude that causes the issue to persist. The GC thinks it has quelled “the revolt” but it keeps coming back. If they don’t deal with it openly, transparently and with integrity it will never go away.


the point is it isn’t rank and file adventists who are coming back again and again, and again, to this issue…it’s people with a tenuous relation to the Church and its teachings on one level or another…i don’t see the GC responding to this crowd…

Maybe they should, instead of burying their heads in the sand.

A very telling point made by Don McAdams in the podcast…all/most of those raising the issues surrounding EGW have an association with AU in the 70’s. People educated or teaching there the last time the GC attempted a “purge” of the faculty. As the GC sets up to do this again, they are probably about to create the next generation of "dissidents.


but why would, or should, they…

i would say if they didn’t hire an independent copyright expert to look exhaustively into this issue, and if they didn’t publish this expert’s findings in numerous formats several decades ago now, then they could be seen to be hiding their heads in the sand…but they did, and so they can’t…

at this point, information is out there for people to access…if these people choose to ignore this information, i don’t think the GC can be faulted…

these are all people looking to make a name for themselves before the exhaustive Ramik Report came out…nobody’s harping on this issue now because they’ve read the Ramik Report…

well, maybe there are a few special individuals, like Steve Daily… :smirk:

remember, Andrews is a GC entity…i think we can expect periodic purges when things get out of hand, as a matter of course…perhaps the Taylor appointment is the beginning of the next purge…

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When has the GC/SDA church dealt with issues "transparently and with integrity? If they ever did, in regards to EGW, the whole thing would collapse. Can’t have that happening. They only deal with problems when forced to, and it’s not done with transparency, integrity or honesty.


While EGW contributed absolutely nothing essential to anyone’s salvation, she is absolutely essential to the existence of Adventism.


This is a somewhat contemptuous and dismissive stance, and might I say fairly typical of EGW defenders. You are ascribing a motive to people who very much were looking for truth, found errors and were then “stonewalled”, “disparaged” and derided for their efforts. Don McAdams waited how long before publishing? Hardly the actions of someone out to make a name for himself. And the only reason Walter Rea published “The White Lie” was because the GC sat on its hands not doing anything with the information he presented them. Privately (in their committee minutes) they acknowledged the issue. Their response was to to tell Rea “We think it better if we are the ones who make this public.” (Still waiting). Even the study they commissioned from Dr Veltman had its results sat on for some time after it was finished before it was made public.
Of course Jeremy I expect you will have a rationalisation for all of this behaviour. One which only asks us to suspend rational thought for a short time maybe, or perhaps longer…


Just as the US government is now infatuated with the latest “lab leak” theory as it diverts people’s attention from bigger questions about the untoward relationship between Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Government and Big Media, Jeremy and the GC are more than happy to talk about EGW’s plagiarism because it distracts everyone who cares about such things (about 0.007% of the world’s population) from thinking about more elemental flaws in her “mission”.

Ask any SDA why an omnipotent god doesn’t have the power to interact directly with any of his creatures and instead inexplicably selects one in a billion or so individuals to relay HIS messages and you’ll get an answer, of course.

It won’t make sense to approximately 99.9993% of humanity.

But it will be an answer.

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i’m not asking you or anyone to suspend anything…believe what you want…i’m simply saying that the Ramik Report makes clear why egw isn’t a plagiarist, and why her writings don’t infringe copyright protections, given standards of her day…since this report has come out, in 1981, the Church isn’t concerning itself with this question…by and large, the only people agitating it now are people who have a problem with the Church and/or egw…

i do agree that past actions of the Church have been regrettable, but they are what they are…not everyone has understood what egw’s claim to inspiration really means (or what the inspiration of any of the Bible writers means), even though egw’s own explanations are quite extensive…in fact widespread misunderstanding on this point, even among Church leaders, is likely why the Church swept her use of other authors’ words under the carpet, almost as if they were afraid to confront it…i actually think the Ramik Report may have been commissioned precisely because the Ford fiasco in 1979 basically forced it…

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Please don’t judge all of us who have questions and concerns. I’ve considered myself a “rank and file” Adventist since I was 5 years old (Ok, they wouldn’t baptize me until I was 8, after 3 years of pushing on my part). And I come back again and again to this question. Yes, her writings, especially some, are meaningful and helpful. But acknowledging her dependence on other people’s work would go a long way toward encouraging the many of us who don’t understand why they couldn’t have been honest in 1919 instead of punishing those who were honest then and more recently.


I think it’s you who misunderstands inspiration as you repeatedly make this allegation of anyone who doesn’t see it as you do and will only accept EGW’s version of it as valid.

Inspiration can come from an infinite variety of sources all of which are miraculous but none of which is magical, mysterious or supernatural.


Jeremy, I took a bold step and did something some might see as dangerous - I followed your advice. I went and found the Ramik Report and read it (at least the first paragraph). I only got that far as that paragraph seems to point out that EGW, and the GC were both potentially on the wrong side of the law. Many argue that there was no statute in place until 1899, so it was ok to copy indiscriminately and without attribution. In fact, in his book, McAdams points out many of EGW’s early critics were not against her copying others but that she gave no attribution. It was impossible to determine what was “inspired” and what was copied, for the lay person. I digress.
While not statute was in place, common law gave authors the rights to their work. The last part of the passage below is the kicker. This is where the GC is complicit - they printed and sold the books, products of EGW copying, for gain.
“The right of an author, irrespective of statute, to his own productions and to a control of their publication, seems to have been recognized by the common law.”[1] “At common law an author had a property in his manuscript and might have redress against any one who undertook to realize a profit from its publication without authority of the author. Wheaton v. Peters, 33 U.S. (8 Pet.) 591, 659 (1834).”
The Ramik Report focuses on statutory copyright. And as such gives EGW and the GC an out.


No one said that she is infallible, she just tries to point people to Jesus


Ellen White has not caused any messes, just people who use her writings for their own purposes