Adventist Voices: Don McAdams on Ellen White

lol…i think you’ll need to read more than just the 1st paragraph to understand what the paragraph you’re citing means…

here’s Ramik’s concluding sentence:


“Based upon our review of the facts and legal precedents, we conclude that Ellen G. White was not a plagiarist and her works did not constitute copyright infringement/piracy.”

it also deals with plagiarism…here Ramik gives egw and the GC an out because egw didn’t plagiarize…

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she herself said several times that she wasn’t infallible, and that only God was infallible…she had nothing to do with the verbal inspiration the Church by and large attached to her writings…

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Precisely, the report focused on potential statutory breaches. Long before the statutes were in place, she and the church were operating outside common law convention. The statute was enacted for the very behaviour EGW was doing.


Thanks for clearing that up, @robelle.

The report does exactly what the GC paid for and what lawyers always do.

It says what the GC wanted them to say.

It doesn’t say EGW didn’t steal other people’s stuff.

It simply says she couldn’t be convicted of plagiarism because the laws against stealing intellectual property had not been enacted, at that time.

This was probably due to the fact that everyone alive “back in the day” knew it was wrong to do so and didn’t think a law to that effect was necessary.

Obviously, EGW proved them wrong!!!

I wonder if @vandieman would be so forgiving of this behavior if he penned an aria and then heard it incorporated without acknowledgment into another composer’s opera?!?!


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is it your view that “the statute” was enacted because egw was singularly doing what she was doing, or because the entire writing profession at the time needed reform…think what you want, but you can’t have it both ways…either egw didn’t plagiarize, as the Ramik Report concludes, or statutes were enacted to correct a general practice of which egw was merely one example…which is it…that both Great Britain and America decided to enact legislation in order to correct what egw, and only egw, was doing is a bit grandiose, and over the top, in my view…

in fact the Ramik Report highlights the uncertainty caused by Britain’s Statute of Anne (1710), granting legal protection for 14 yrs from the commencement of the statute, and 21 yrs for any book already in print, because chancery courts were applying what was deemed to be the common law’s unlimited protection, while the House of Lords was insisting that the Statute of Anne and its limitations was the law of the land, this being settled, apparently, in favour of the House of Lords only in 1899…this is the backdrop over which Ramik draws a lengthy list of numerous ensuing statutes highlighting not only what was eligible for copyright protection, but what, precisely, constituted infringement…

your view is evidently simplistic…it isn’t factoring the changing nature of law or general practice of the time…even today, the subject of copyright and plagiarism is subject to a demonstration of intent, and hardly a slam dunk conclusion in the event of prosecution (we have the further complication now of AI, or artificial intelligence, and what this even means for the domain of originality)…

what you need to be able to prove is that egw was shrewdly, and singularly, positioning herself exactly one step ahead of the law that was evolving rapidly during her writing career; that she had a clear intent to deceive; and that all her assistants were facilitators and enablers in on the scheme (in fact that egw was a veritable Donald Trump before the world heard of Donald Trump)…i think a more likely interpretation is that she wasn’t thinking or cognizant of developing law, but may have been applying Wesley’s maxim (d. 1791) that citations were distracting, and that they served to draw attention away from her point, which was the view she all but spells out in her 1911 intro to Great Controversy (remember, egw was a Methodist before she was an adventist)…

you and i may find all of this objectionable on one level or another, but the bottom line is we can’t extract egw from her time and common understanding and apply conventions we think are more ethical…her time, with its general practice, is what it is…the Ramik Report hints at all of this in its conclusion - the only reasonable conclusion possible - that egw wasn’t a plagiarist, and that her writings didn’t infringe copyright protection…

meanwhile a steady procession of adventist scholars in the 70’s, particularly, and ending with Ford, in my view, thought they stumbled onto something significant when they saw similar words or phrases in egw and texts known to be in her library…granted that all of this came before the Ramik Report, it is notable none the less that none of these scholars sought to do their homework, as Ramik evidently did, and determine what this meant in the context of egw’s time and place…in retrospect it’s all completely pathetic and laughable…

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Just because everybody speeds on the highway doesn’t make it right.

The law may have changed but the practice of EGW using other authors work didn’t. Neither was, not has there been an attempt to retrofit any form of acknowledgement of the practice with any of her books. Unless you count the the attempt in the preface of Great Controversy in 1911.

Actually, I don’t need to prove anything of the sort. The publisher’s of her books are the ones who should be clarifying what was original (inspired or imagined), and what was borrowed (innocent or otherwise). They have the resources. It appears they lack the will.

By the time that was written she had been an Adventist a lot longer than she was a Methodist, or a Millerite.

A possible conclusion. In most legal issues, unless it is clear cut, the verdict can go either way. They chose to go a particular way. The evidence they based it on had a confirmation bias. There is other evidence. The end result - EGW got off on a technicality. The worse kind of result. Neither proven innocent or guilty. And the doubt remains.

Two things here. Firstly, it hasn’t ended. That is why we are having this discussion. Secondly, what is your issue with Des Ford? When you think there is an attack on EGW you haul Ford’s name into it. I suggest you search out SDAQ&A series 2. There are over 80 interviews about GV by people who were part of it, affected by it or looking back at the affect it had on the church. Ford’s thing was the sanctuary.

We are never going to be on the same side of this discussion. I will have my view and you will have yours.


A non lawyer would posit that “Thou shalt not steal” would not exclude “copying without attribution” and/or “plagiarism” regardless of “civil” laws.

Of any century.


by the same token, something can’t be considered wrong when there’s no developed sense that it’s wrong, or that there even exists a right and wrong…this would be why it’s unfair to impugn OT heroes who were steeped in polygamy…the mores and times of a particular subject must guide our judgement and final interpretation…

this being said, i think this plagiarism issue could be handled more proactively…if i were Merlin Burt, and running the White Estate, i’d make it my business to retroactively cite sources evident in egw’s writings…after-all, the gift of prophecy doesn’t belong to egw, it belongs to the Church…we have every right to improve its presentation as we see fit (i welcome language innovations, like Steps to Jesus)…

i’d say egw ran out of time to continue what she started in 1911 (albeit clumsily - way too many citations in the first part of the book, in my view, but it’s the thought that counts)…or do you fault her for dying in 1915, before she could continue the course change she demonstrated in the 1911 Great Controversy, much less clean up any of her previous publishings…

if you want to credibly charge egw with plagiarism, i think you do…her publishers aren’t charging her with plagiarism…therefore there isn’t an onus on them to prove anything…

true enough, but her formative yrs were spent in the Methodist Church…her adventist yrs were purely the result of revelation, and guess what, she received no vision explaining that she needed to be strictly original…

read the Ramik Report…the legal issue in egw’s use of sources is clear cut…there’s no possibility the verdict can go your way…

i think this issue of egw and plagiarism has ended as far as the official Church is concerned…i doubt you’ll see any official representative of the Church broach this subject…

i think Ford is the most important voice using egw’s use of sources to question her inspiration…i don’t think Numbers, Rea, or especially Daily, has had even a fraction of Ford’s impact, although they’ve obviously tried…certainly Ford is the case an entire generation of Church members associate with a dramatic GC intervention that led to a stunning firing…he can be remembered for many things, but he’ll always be associated with that AF challenge to egw’s prophetic authority…it’s his legacy, as far as many are concerned…

we do agree here :slight_smile:…i support Spectrum precisely because it is the one space in the Church where a real plurality of views is tolerated…

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Oh yeah.

EGW didn’t attend school much after her having been stoned by another child in the third grade.

So she didn’t get to the grade level where kids are taught that copying from another student’s work is called “cheating”.

Apparently her estate and the GC also didn’t receive a memo from Jesus on this either so it must be okay!



Kinda like a job interview when HR asks “Have you ever been convicted of a Felony?” and the candidate responds “No, never convicted…”.



Being condescending and baiting commenters doesn’t help the discussion.

The level of thinking you use is like this…
And Jesus told the woman caught in adultery don’t worry you are not sinning unless convicted in a court of law… :wink:


To me, it’s not rocket science, history shows that DM Canright threaten to sue the GC over an early publication of The Great Controversy forcing them to pull that publication - which they did for a year and made some changes.

Then there’s the issue with “sketches from the life of Paul” where the English authors threatened to sue unless the book acknowledged their copying. EGW pulled that book until the copyright ran out and then published her version still without acknowledgement.

Just these two examples show they’re were issues around plagiarism during her lifetime and the 1919 Conference referenced the problem also while taking about her inspiration so denying it now makes no sense.


I’m amused at being lumped in with, and labeled as, an “EGW detractor” as if that’s a bad thing.

I mean among other things, I’m also a staunch Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard and Adolph Hitler “detractor”.

But I consider these just of few of my many positive attributes that go well with my most excellent sense of humor and a deeply profound sense of humility!

IOW, just as I’m a football fan only in the sense that I root for whomever’s playing the Cowboys, I take pride in being a “god takes pleasure in our pleasure” kinda guy and a person who therefore doubts every bit of EGW’s “Christian” negativity.


It’s also funny to hear the old mantra that EGW was a mediocre Methodist before becoming nothing and then, against many objections from people who believed they had just “come out of Babylon”, deciding to start a new sect.

Read “Shouting Methodists” for further details regarding the chaotic denomination she attended with her parents, as a child:

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Where to begin?

My original point.

There was a common law sense of this being wrong.

No. I think she could have started a lot earlier. Like from the very first book. Or, granted the statute was enacted in 1899, how about starting then. Likewise, the publishers and custodians of her writings could have continued after her death.

So, her writing behaviours are the result of 13 years of Methodism but her theology is the work of a lifetime? Even for you that is a stretch.

As I have said several times. The report is focused on statutory breaches. Being cleared by this report is the same as being seen shooting someone but getting off because no one read you your rights when you were arrested.

On this we agree.


Thank you. The links have been fixed.

She constantly shows the beauty and love of God, and that is important to everyone salvation

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That is how the Bible is written

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Not really.

No one needs the Bible in order to hear the voice of god.

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i think you’re bending over backwards in an attempt to implicate egw for something…what you’re implying isn’t credible…you constantly treat this subject as if egw, and only egw, was using sources without attributing them…

the reality is that common as well as developed law was addressing a general phenomenon…egw is a child of her time…it would have been strange and singular had she adopted our norms…

I too am very proud of my humility.