By Paul Chung
Some (primarily coming from non-trinitarian Seventh-day Adventist community) suspect that there has been a deliberate and sinister plot, perpetrated by the White Estate to alter the writings of Ellen White, in an attempt to make her writings appear more inline with the church’s current theology, namely, the Trinitarian belief. It is true that you may discover a few changes here and there in the later published articles or books compared to the earlier materials of the same or that there are some discrepancies from the original manuscript source compared to the published book but I don’t necessarily agree that these changes were made to intentionally deceive or give false impressions of the original writings.
It has been my observation that most accusations, at least the ones I’ve personally came across, are without any substantive evidence to suggest that there was some underhanded intent behind any changes to the original manuscript. This is not to say that there are no biased opinions when it comes to Ellen White’s writings. It’s a known fact that many have tried and will continue to falsely wrest Ellen White’s writings to support their theology and unfortunately some entirely reject it if it does not line up with their beliefs.
One thing to keep in mind is that all the originals are easily accessible now and are available for comparison.
The following is just one example.
“He” vs. “it”
I have come across various websites claiming that the following letter, written by Ellen White to Elder S. N. Haskell, dated May 30, 1896 was altered by the White Estate. They claim that the reference from the 1888 Materials has been directly altered by removing the term “it” for the Spirit and replacing it with “Him” and “He.” First, notice purported altered statement followed by how it was originally phrased:
Altered Version - Date released 1990:
”The Spirit is freely given us of God if we will appreciate and accept Him. And what is He?—the representative of Jesus Christ. He is to be our constant helper. It is through the Spirit that Christ fulfills the promise, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47). (The bell is sounding for morning worship. I must stop here.)—Letter 38, 1896, pp. 1-4. (Ellen White, Letter 38, 1896, pp. 1-4, (To S. N. Haskell, May 30, 1896) 11 MR pg. 35, (doc. ID 199154)
Original - Date released 1987:
"The Spirit is freely given us of God if we will appreciate and accept it And what is it? The representative of Jesus Christ. It is to be our constant helper. It is through the Spirit that Christ fulfills the promise, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life”. (The bell is sounding for morning worship, I must stop here). (The 1888 Materials, p. 1538) [End Quote]
Now, as this comparison purportedly reveals, it is being claimed that the way the quote was given in the 1888 materials is different from how it was given in the Manuscript Release. Yet what isn't mentioned here is WHEN these quotes were released. The 1888 materials actually came out 3 years before the manuscript release!
Some things to consider, if the White Estate was trying to accomplish some conspiracy theory here then why would they have ever released the quote with "it" back in 1987? Why would they have shared it how it originally reads but then turn around release it with "Him" and "He" in 1990? They would clearly be shooting themselves in the foot! Why would you ever do that? You would be giving people the very evidence they need to expose your conspiracy and you would be working at cross purposes with yourself by ever releasing the quote that says "it."
In 1987 the White Estate released this letter for the first time in the 1888 Materials. This was done because of the upcoming 100 year mark since 1888. Now this quote, as released at that time, used the pronoun "it."
All we know is that in 1987, when the White Estate released this letter for the first time, it used the pronoun "it."
As things stand right now all 3 releases of this quote available online, the 1888 Materials, 11MR and the actual letter, Letter 38-1896.7, all use the pronoun "it." Moreover, the hard-copy of Volume 11, Manuscript Release from 1990 also did not use the pronouns "He" and "His” but says “it.” (see attached pic; click to enlarge). Therefore, I’m not even certain where you can even find the purported altered statement.
Again, the salient point is if the White Estate was trying to accomplish a conspiracy of changing the word "it' to "He" with this quote then why would they have released the quote, for the first time, using the pronoun "it"? And why all 3 releases of this quote available online show “it” rather than “Him” or “He?” This was an unreleased letter. The general public had not seen it before. That is completely the opposite of what you would do if you were actually trying to secretly alter things and cause people to think that Mrs. White had originally written "He." Do you not understand this?
Thus the evidence does not match the conspiracy theory but if you choose to believe "without question" whatever someone else might tell you and not check their facts and logic then you may very well end up being like the blind person led by the blind person - both of you will end up in a ditch.
A few things to consider having looked at the noted statements above. While much efforts have been put forth within Adventism to establish the personhood of the Holy Spirit and while the Holy Spirit is described as having various personal attributes, and is primarily described using the personal pronouns, what most aren’t aware is the fact that both the Scriptures (Romans 8:16, 26) and volumes of Ellen White’s writings also refers to the Holy Spirit as an “it”. Keep in mind that God the Father and Jesus are never referred to as an “it” either in Scripture or by Ellen White. As noted above, the statements under consideration does refer the Holy Spirit as an “it” and not He or Him. Thus if we are to obtain a balanced view of this subject then not only Ellen White’s “person” statements must be taken into consideration but also where she refers to the Holy Spirit as an ‘it’. Click HERE for a compilation of Ellen White’s statements where she refers to the Holy Spirit as an “it".”
Desire of Ages — “third person of the Godhead” vs “Third Person of the Godhead”
In the book Desire of Ages, prior to 1940 the phrase, “third person of the Godhead” was with the lowercase “t” and “p” but was change to “Third Person of the Godhead.” Some claim that the changing of the lower case t and p to uppercase T and P were made to make the title of the Holy Spirit to appear more inline with the SDA church’s present understanding of the personhood of the Holy Spirit. Click HERE to learn more about the “Third Person of the Godhead.”