The Great Controversy Over Plagiary: The Last Interview of Walter Rea (Part Two)

(Steve Mga) #25

I still believe that Semantics is the Huge Problem within SDAism.
Had we continued to designate Ellen as a “Messenger” there would be little problem, I believe.
BUT we ELEVATED Ellen to “Prophet” [mostly because we wanted to be harmony with Revelation].
So being a Prophet, everything she wrote was considered Holy Words, Holy Writings, equal in
authority with the Canon Writers.
And as we look around us, anytime someone wants to know what a Bible Text means, we quote Ellen.
If we would place her back to “Messenger Status” there would be fewer problems with her Words.

(Frankmer7) #28

Your comments just reveal a total denial about the extent and nature of the problem surrounding EGW. What she engaged in cannot be compared to the practice of biblical authors, who lived in an oral culture, with no concept of private intellectual property as in the modern West.

The fact that this nearly created legal problems for the church, via her volume on the life of Paul, indicates that plagiarism was a very real issue, even in the 19th century. Daniell’s meeting in 1907 with church members in Battle Creek, over the issue of her plagiarism, shows that it was a running and known problem, even back then.

Thirdly, the deeper issue isn’t simply her plagiarism. It was her blatant denial of any dependence on the writings of others. She claimed direct divine revelation for her literary output. The forward to the Great Controversy seems to be the exception rather than the rule concerning her practice. This strikes at the heart of her sense of honesty and ethics, and by extension, her claims as a messenger of the Lord…even if one can acknowledge that there can be positives to glean from her writings.

The whole line of explanation about how God directed her in her borrowing/plagiarism, seems little more than an attempted cover for, or diversion from, the depth and nature of the real issues. It is another mechanism of denial and saving face put forth by the church organization after the fact.



Btw, Pago…

Six bars of copied music is enough to be considered plagiarism. Lawsuits can be, and have been filed.


(Carolyn Wesner) #30

"Veltman found the closer one is able to move back through the textual tradition to White’s own hand, the greater is the degree of literary dependency."
This is the part which has always concerned me the most about “Ellen White’s” writings. Her early handwritten writings, described by those who have seen them, are consistent with a person of limited education and skill. Later on, when the stable of writers joined her publishing enterprise, things improved greatly. And yet none of these (positively identified) writers are ever listed as editors, contributors, “as told to”, etc, not anything. You can walk into the ABC, buy the Desire of Ages, and nowhere in it is there an Acknowledgements page thanking “Ms. So and So for her careful editing and creative writing suggestions which made the words in this book come to life!” Or, “Mrs. White wishes to express her appreciation to her bookmaker, Mr Whoever, who carefully compiled my previous writing on this subject, and researched other authors’ contributions to this topic.”. This information is available today, and would it be so VERY hard for the White Estate to finally get this right? Her writing staff sometimes felt the sting of being left out so completely, knowing how great their own contributions had been, but complainers were soon off the payroll or their reputations tarnished, as being maladjusted glory-seeking individuals.

(Aage Rendalen) #31

Before Rea, there was Don McAdams, who in 1976 published his study of EGW’s handwritten chapter on Huss in Great Controversy. In it he showed that the only thing retained by her editor was what she had borrowed. Her original material was so poorly written that it was simply excised.

The problem that any prophet faces is that once you have acquired a group of followers, there is no turning back. Once Joseph Smith had published the Book of Mormon, the die was cast. What followed was Smith living out the expectations of his followers (and his own inclinations, which got him killed). It was the same with the Fox sisters. Once they had convinced their mother and the neighborhood that the rapping was not generated by them, it was too late to turn around. Before they knew it, there were more than 20 million Spiritists communicating with the departed in the the US and Europe. And this was also EGW’s dillemma.

I have no doubt that EGW initially believed that God communicated with her. In the overheated apocalyptic and charismatic atmosphere she grew up in, where people would go catatonic at the drop of a hat and start jerking and barking and crawling on the floor, the idea that God communicated directly with humans must not have been hard to believe. Whatever spiritual experiences EGW underwent, she interpreted them as supernatural manifestations.

Her problem was that her visionary experiences apparently had no content. From the beginning, she hunted around for texts that would give substance to her experience, texts by Joseph Turner, the Apocrypha, her husband. And from the very beginning she felt that acknowledging reality would undermine her divine ministry. When her visions were written out, often long time after she had had them, they frequently had a tendency of bearing a strong resemblance to unread magazine articles and books on her bookshelf.

A prophet is like the proverbial dog that catches the bus. What on earth can you do to sustain your myth? Even when you believe in it, it is not easy. John Harvey Kellogg, in his 1907 exit interview, recalls EGW moaning to him about this. There are times when I doubt my own gift, he remembers her telling him. Early on, she faced two painful choices: either to continue playing the role of prophet, which had gotten her so much attention (and later in life an upper class lifestyle) at the Faustian price of having to make love on the side with dishonesty–or laying bare her soul to the church and lose her elevated status. She decided to go all in and make out with her dark lover in the deeper recesses of her mind.

(Vandell Park) #32

I am so sadden by the response of so many people who despite the empirical evidence presented on Mrs. White’s use of other people materials, they continue to defend the church’s position of not acknowledging to its members that E.G. White erred in using other people’s work and did not give them credit for it. In fact, the Church needs to inform its membership that Ellen White used other writers and editors to compiled her writings and thoughts.

Look folks, I firmly believe that Ellen White may have asked forgiveness of God and made her calling an election sure before her death. I sure cannot pronounce a judgment on her faith in God. I am also aware that God is using the writings that are ascribed to her to point men and women to his kingdom, the same way he used Balaam in Bible times to bring glory to him despite his disobedience.
The onus is now on us to ensure the truth is being told to those whom we come in contact with. It is our duty to tell the world about Jesus and his love and to share the falseness of the Church’s claim about Ellen White being the last day prophet- a false teaching that the scriptures clearly speaks against in Romans 12: 4-8; Ephesians 4: 7- 13; and 1 Cor 12: 4-31; Ch 14.

What we need to focus on also is the presentation of truth with regards to the correct interpretation of scripture. We need to let people know that the church is not being truthful with regards to the doctrine of Satan being the scapegoat as mentioned in Leviticus 16: 10- 22; Satan has no role in the salvation of man, therefore he cannot be the scapegoat mentioned in this passage. Jesus is the only bearer of sins as mentioned in Isaiah 53: 4-6; and Hebrews 9: 28;

The other misinterpretation of scripture by the church is the explanation of the earthly sanctuary pattern God give to Moses being a representation of the literal sanctuary in heaven. If that is the case, why was Christ killed on earth, a portion of the sanctuary service typified by the slaying of the lamb in the outer court of the earthly sanctuary?

Let us ask God to help us to teach truth as it is in scripture and not as we perceived them to be as taught by the founding fathers of the SDA Church including Mrs. E. G. White. Remember, when this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world then the end will come. Let us be a part of the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus, so that the world may know of him.

(Sirje) #34

I’m more concerned about the SDA members than I am about the church (as an organization) or Ellen White. Ellen isn’t the problem - what she has produced is - and that can be placed at the SDA management’s door.

The SDA “church” was spawned from a 19th century “perfect storm”, wrapped in emotional upheaval. Religion and faith (not the same thing), are closely tied to our emotions. Either, it’s a family “thing” we gravitate back to in our later years; or, a refuge of some kind. Few, I would suggest, walk off the street to embrace a religious ideology purely through intellectual or academic reflection. The origin of the SDA church is based solely on emotional desperation. The “great disappointment” sits at the base of Adventism, still celebrated (for some reason) even today. I guess it’s felt that this disappointment gave birth to the unique faith that supersedes all others, and we should be thankful (and proud).

What else was created through disappointment was a schizoid kind of experience among its congregation as a whole. We have “old timers” who show up out of a life-long habit; we have young people who have caught a spiritual vision and are trying to keep it attached to a diminishing ideology; we have true intellectuals who are tied to the church for various reasons, trying to combine their intellectually growing scepticism with their heritage and/or lifestyle. And then there’s me - what to do with it all - a grandmother of three trying to instil faith to the fledglings - trying to maintain faith for myself.

Long ago (almost right out of the baptismal tank) I though I glimpsed a chasm between my faith and my religion. The religion offered community and even warmth - over time, the faith began to juxtapose it, and finally has separated from it. Ellen White belongs to my religion - not my faith. I think religion is supposed to feed faith - what happens when it doesn’t?

(I guess you become one of “The Dusty Ones”).

(John Borton) #35


For now, I still think my argument stands in entirety.

Daniel Livingston, you seem convinced that since each of us use words, it’s impossible for any of us to use ‘words of our own’. It’s as if you think that since words have been previously used, nothing can be determined to be ‘original’.

Here, (from your comments in part 1 of this series) you give an example of previously used words you have put together in a sentence and then you comment.

I agree that unless that combination of words (or very close to it) exists from another author, you would not be obligated to give credit any source that had previously used those words (or short combos of words) in a sentence.

Compared however to things found in EGWs writings (and found in her original sources), you haven’t even scratched the surface – thus your example and argument fails. Creating and using an example unrepresentative of the actual evidence and then claiming your argument is valid is a claim flawed from the start.

Here, let’s look at this EGW example compared with the Wylie example:

If you compare your own example and such examples as this from EGW, you may come to understand why people really aren’t paying much attention to your argument. Most find they can’t look at an example such as the above and even using the most liberal interpretation of “the words are my own” find these words to be her own.


(Dawn kleinhuizen) #39

Courious, where did you find that Ellen White ate oysters? I am wondering actually where many of the claims have come from? …

(Amy Johnson) #41

There is an interesting but brief example, and some explanation, of Ellen White and oysters at the link: 16 - I found all of it interesting but page 19 was most useful for my understanding.

(Bruce Clements) #43

Are the dishonest church leaders false shepherds, Chuck? Or is your statement an example of
"Psychological projection…in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others." (From Wikipedia)
In others word, is it you who is misleading SDA’s in your efforts to convince them that no matter all of their denominations deceptions and spiritual missteps, there is still something basically salvageable and inherently good in their intentions?
To my mind this debate about EGW’s and The KJV’s “inspiration” was settled several decades ago when it occurred to me that the “babbling on” that my creator wanted me to come out of was Adventism, specifically, and organized religion, in general.

(jeremy) #44

to me, the crux of the problem in interpreting egw’s unattributed borrowing is the impossibility of reading her mind…my understanding of her position is that she was constantly being educated by heaven through visions, dreams, strong impressions, etc., and that when she borrowed from someone, it was because she recognized that that piece of writing was in harmony with what she had been taught, and that it was expressed in language that she felt was appealing…this is distinctly different than having an empty mind that for the first time encountered concepts in the writings of others, which she then pretended originated with her…the point is that these diametrically opposed interpretations are both equally supportable from the known facts of her unattributed borrowing…we have no way to rule out her claim, which essentially amounts to the use of the words of others, not to learn or steal new concepts, but to convey her intentions in a way she admired…

there is also the consideration that egw apparently operated within a belief system in which everything that was true originated with christ, and belonged to him, and that she, as his messenger, was free to help herself to the words of others when they expressed her intentions…this would be the meaning of the reply of marian davis, egw’s stellar assistant, to fannie bolton, who was troubled by egw’s free use of others’ material, not to mention the lack of recognition given to her contribution, when she, marian, said: “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof”, Ps 24:1, Edward S. Ballenger, ed., The Gathering Call, February 1932, pp. 16-22…more importantly, this would also be the meaning of the vision egw related to fannie about the tree with the fruit which fannie was hoarding for herself, claiming it was hers because she picked them, when according to egw they belonged to the tree, and was available for the free use of anyone who reached out for them, Lt 7, 1894…

now of course one can posit that this viewpoint is invalid, and represents nothing less than an infraction of the ninth commandment…but the point is that if one did view things in this way, one’s actions wouldn’t amount to a deliberate infraction of the ninth commandment, especially since the ninth commandment requires an infliction of known injury to an outside party…this would explain egw’s cryptic statement, when confronted with her free use of others’ material towards the end of her ministry, “Who has been injured”, Brief Statements, p.8

the third consideration i see is the somewhat primitive development of the concept of plagiarism and copyright infringement in the 19th century…see vincent ramik’s notes on Emerson v. Davies et al., 1845, involving a charge from plaintiff frederick emerson that his arithmetic book for children had been plagiarized by charles davies and alfred barnes, here:

read the original case, along with the remarkable ruling by circuit justice william story, here:

while it is true that there was some sensibility against the practice of plagiarism, i don’t think anyone can argue that the 19th century represented what we expect today…the point here is that egw did come around to seeing the importance of attributing borrowed sources, as her minute instructions preceding the 1911 Great Controversy shows, 3SM:433-440…

i think the evidence leans towards the conclusion that egw’s unattributed borrowing represents a mindset that simply saw nothing wrong in the practice, and that her belief system and environment facilitated that mindset…as she underwent a learning curve, her practice changed…this probably means that were she working in our time, she would do things very differently, which in turn means that because she wasn’t working our time, she cannot be held to expectations deriving from our time…

(reliquum) #48

Seems pretty simple.
Plagiarism is first a lie, and results in theft.
That we continue to lie about the lie, while concurrently benefiting from it-means first we are accomplices with unclean hands, and second, have exchanged integrity for lucre.

I posit that making the “spirit of prophecy” synonymous with the outpouring of the holy spirit, and then giving it to one person upon whom is bestowed license and privilege suggests God is capricious and arbitrary.Such power conferred to a human is an ego enticing apple.
Would the rain (early, latter, interim) not fall on all people? Would not all who heard the Shepherds voice heed it, be inspired by it? Hasn’t the rain been always falling, on the wheat and the tares?


“The position of the Adventist Church changed in the 1970s. To save itself from the effects of the mounting evidence that Ellen did indeed copy, did indeed cover up that fact, and did indeed have others influencing her, the church now said, in effect – so what? Copying was nothing new “…
“A high degree of scholarship is not needed to detect Ellen’s formula for using other authors in the forerunner of Sketches from the Life of Paul. A degree of something else is demanded, though to understand how — after hobnobbing, so to speak, with writers such as Conybeare and Howson, Farrar, March, Harris, McDuff, and who knows how many others — she could maintain a straight face that she was not influenced by them, when their padding was sticking out all over”… Walter Rea, The White Lie, p. 120

(Steve Mga) #54

Charles –
Human betterment.
20 million by ourselves against 8 Billion.
We would do better if we would Team Up with Other Christians and Humanitarians to create a bigger force of man-power and goods.

(T Joe Willey) #55

Several have asked for examples of the denials of literary borrowing on the part of Ellen White. The denials are the real issues facing believers. Ellen White frequently and adamantly asserted that her “views were written independent of books or of the opinions of others” (Manuscript 7, 1867). Here are a few more examples.

“As inquiries are frequently made as to my state in vision, and after I come out, I would say that when the Lord sees fit to give a vision I am taken into the presence of Jesus and angels, and am entirely lost to earthly things.” Selected Messages. Book 1. p. 36.

“The Holy Spirit traced these truths upon my heart and mind as indelibly as the law was traced by the finger of God upon the tables of stone.” Colporteur Ministry. P. 126.

“In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me.” Testimonies. Vol. 1. p. 67.

“While writing the manuscript of Great Controversy I was often conscious of the presence of the angels of God. And many times the scenes about which I was writing were presented to me anew in visions of the night, so that they were fresh and vivid in my mind.” Letter 56, 1911, quoted in The Ellen G. White Writings, p. 117.

“While I am writing out important matter He [the Holy Spirit] is beside me, helping me … and when I am puzzled for a fit word with which to express my thought, He brings it clearly and distinctly to my mind.” Ellen G. White. Letter 127, 1902.

“My mind has been deeply stirred over many things. It seems to me that light from heaven flashes upon me, and the Holy Spirit brings many things to my remembrance. Important views are clear to my mind’s eye, as though I was looking upon the scene as I wrote.”–Letter 27, 1895. [Referring to Desire of Ages]

“Mrs. White’s copying from others was not a necessity, but was done chiefly to conserve time and in the interests of brevity and forcefulness. She acted without knowledge of the literary standards that would count a moderate use of others’ writings as unfair or worthy of condemnation.” W. C. White and D. E. Robinson. Brief Statements Regarding the Writings of Ellen G. White. p. 11.

There are many more, especially implied or implicit separation from other sources in the narratives written by the prophetess. Some scholars find closely parallel to Turner’s papers (denying that she had “read a word in it” going back as far as 1847. (See Paul A. Gordon. Sources or Aids–Why Did Ellen G. White Borrow? Ellen White Estates. 1947. Also, Douglas Hackleman. Ellen White’s Habit. Adventist Currents)

Best wishes,

(k_Lutz) #56

So is ‘W.C.’ D.E.Robinson’s father-in-law or brother-in-law? He, D.E. is my grandmother’s brother.

(Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13) #58

(@webEd, my comment on this thread was deleted although I’d posted only the one and it complied with the commenting guidelines. Here it is again since it seems that its removal was a mistake or a system glitch.)

In 1864 the church made clear that it understood plagiarism with the same integrity concerns we do today:

" a word that is used to signify 'literary theft,' or the taking the productions of another and passing them off as one’s own.... We are perfectly willing that pieces from the Review, or any of our books should be published to any extent, and all we ask is, that simple justice be done us, by due credit being given." R&H, September 6, 1864


A Plagiarism Scandal Just Took Down a Trump Appointee:

Read the article: “A Plagiarism Scandal Just Took Down a Trump Appointee”

(T Joe Willey) #60

Notice to Hopeful.…In The Youth’s Instructor, May 2, 1895 (p. 144) you can also find a small piece devoted to the warning concerning, “Plagiarism.” “A plagiarist is one who pretends to have written, an original article, but who has borrowed it–perhaps stolen would be a more appropriate word–from another person.” Ministry Magazine, as well, devoted several articles encouraging pastors to give proper credit in their sermons.

As Richard A. Posner points out in his The Little Book of Plagiarism, “Obviously, not all copying is plagiarism–not even all unlawful copying, that is, copyright infringement. There is considerable overlap between plagiarism and copyright infringement, but not all plagiarism is copyright infringement and not all copyright infringement is plagiarism.” It is possible for a person to not be guilty of infringing copyright–but still be a plagiarist because they conceal the copying.

Best wishes,


(Website Editor) #61

This comment was shared with us by former Adventist Review Editor William G. Johnsson. He asked us to post it on his behalf. -Ed.

I was interested to read Joe Wiley’s interview with Walter Rea, especially the report of the Glendale meeting in 1980, in which I participated. The account is accurate but omits any mention of an exchange that I thought was the most revealing of the entire meeting. Perhaps Rea preferred not to share the incident in the interview.

Rea was given the floor for the entire first day to present his findings. The extent of Ellen White’s borrowings came as a surprise to me and to the other members of the committee. On the second day Rea was asked to sit back while members discussed what he had presented. Fred Veltman and I had earned doctoral degrees in New Testament studies and had been exposed to the problems presented by the Synoptic Gospels ( only a small number of verses in Mark’s Gospel aren’t found in Matthew and/ or Luke), so we were not unduly troubled by Rea’s evidence . When we pointed this out to Rea, he became visibly agitated, retorting something like: “Do you want to destroy the Bible in order to save Ellen White?”

I thought the committee’s report reflected an honest appraisal of Rea’s findings. Unfortunately, the response to the Glendale committee was mixed, with some leaders opting for a defensive posture. As was the case after 1919, the Adventist church continues to struggle to be honest about Ellen’s writings, which in my judgment are part of a rich heritage.

Back of the issue of White’s writings lies the larger and more important one of inspiration and how we should adjudicate it: Will we come to the text with pre- conceived views of how inspiration must work, or will we be open to what the text reveals of itself?

William Johnsson.