Ellen G. White. Photo Courtesy of Center for Adventist Research and the Adventist Digital Library.

September 28, 2022

Bearing witness to the Greater Light

I heard a story many years ago while touring church history sites in Battle Creek, Michigan. The story goes that late in her life, Ellen White would sometimes receive gifts from people who had been blessed by her ministry.

One day her secretary presented her with a package that had arrived from one of these admirers. On opening the package, Mrs. White discovered that it contained a hand-knitted sweater. With the help of her assistant, she tried it on and they discovered together that it was several sizes too small. To this, Mrs. White quickly quipped, “This just goes to show that there is more to Ellen White than many people realize.”

I love this story because it portrays her as a real human being that could find a moment of humor with a friend. There are many different perspectives on who Mrs. White was as a person. Some have read much of her sternest rebukes and have concluded that she was a straight-laced killjoy. Others have focused almost completely on her writings that deal with prophecy and end times, and accuse her of sensationalism.

The truth may be that most of our members have experienced Ellen White’s writings mainly secondhand as they hear quotes inserted into the pastor’s sermons or feel the sting of someone quoting her out of context to support their ideas.

Almost two decades ago, when I was serving in the Illinois Conference, we promoted a program among our church members to read through the Conflict of the Ages Series (Patriarchs and Prophets, Prophets and Kings, The Desire of Ages, The Acts of the Apostles, and The Great Controversy) systematically in a year. As the year went by, I heard over and over from church members who told how blessed they had been by this program. Usually, they also confessed that they had never read much of what she had written and, now that they had this taste, they were going to continue.

Ellen White referred to her writings as a “lesser light” leading people to “the greater light” of the Bible. She never suggested that her words should replace “the Word” of God. But what a blessing and encouragement her writings have been to those who take the time to read them. I encourage you to pick up one of her books and see for yourself that “there is more to Ellen White than many people realize.”


Ken Denslow is president of the Lake Union Conference.