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"Ellen White's Contradictions on Jewelry"
Further Analysis, Cont.
That Odd Picture of Ellen and Her Twin Sister Elizabeth
Here's something Dirk, Cleveland, and Sanders didn't notice about that 1878 picture.
Ellen was standing and her sister Elizabeth was sitting. Elizabeth was holding a book. That's odd and here is why:
In Victorian photographs, the head of the family or the most accomplished or
the most literate would be the one sitting and holding the book. Others might be standing or sitting and holding
nothing. Accordingly, an 1865 family portrait has both James and Ellen White sitting and holding books while one
son is standing and the other is sitting, neither holding books.
By 1878 Ellen White had already authored not a few books and articles, and claimed to have had visions
besides. By worldly standards she should have had the seat of honor in that picture, but she chose instead for her
much-loved twin sister to have that place of honor. This gives us a little insight into Ellen White's character
A $10 Pin
On Ellen White's way to serve as a missionary in Australia in 1891, her ship stopped in Honolulu.
Because she would turn 64 "a few days after leaving Honolulu," her friends there felt
constrained to give her some presents before she left (Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, p. 43).
Regarding one of those presents, Cleveland,
Dirk, and Sanders take great exception. We quote from Dirk's web site:
Sister White Acknowledges Wearing Expensive Jewelry
Notice the following quote where Mrs. White acknowledges
receiving a costly piece of jewelry and wearing it on many occasions:
[Sister Kerr] . . . also gave me a silk scarf, and a ten dollar pin, composed of white stones, very plain and
serviceable. I thought I could not accept this, but she looked so sorry,
that I finally did take it, and have worn it ever since, for it is handy and
becoming, while it is not showy at all.4
Note: A "ten dollar pin" in 1891 is equivalent to a $205
pin in 2005.5 This could hardly be considered a cheap
piece of jewelry.
Dirk and Cleveland claim that Ellen White wore this pin "on many occasions," which certainly appears to be
the case, until one notices the date of the letter from which this quote comes from. According to their
footnote 4, the letter was written on December 7, 1891. But her birthday a few days after receiving the gift
was on November 26 that same year. If we assume that she left Honolulu on November 24, a few days before the 26th,
then we know she wore it from November 24 to December 7, a period of about two weeks.
For a number of years, the references on Dirk's web page appeared within the text, but sometime
in 2004 or 2005 the references were moved into footnotes, including the date of the letter. This makes it
more difficult to notice that "worn it ever since" and "on many occasions" means but two weeks.
So was the $10 pin just a brooch? Probably. Since she said it was "serviceable," it must have had
some sort of utilitarian function. Additionally, since she said it was "very plain," and since it didn't
cost her one cent, it appears that it wasn't contrary to her principles
(or to Finney's or Wesley's or Spurgeon's principles) to wear such an item.
How much longer than two weeks did she wear the pin? Whatever became of it? Who knows, but perhaps the
fate of her gold watch (see below) gives us an indication.
That Gold Watch
Whether Ellen White was wearing a gold watch in Dirk's picture we cannot say, since
the picture is black and white. But in an 1885 talk at Basle, Switzerland,
Ellen White admitted to wearing a gold watch for a time, and thus it is possible that
she was wearing that very watch in that 1878 picture.
Her 1885 comments on the subject of dress at Basle are quite revealing:
Let each one study the plain teachings of the Scriptures as to simplicity and
plainness of dress and by faithful obedience to those teachings strive to set
a worthy example to the world and to those new in the faith. God does not
want any one person to be conscience for another. Talk of the love and
humility of Jesus; but do not encourage the brethren and sisters to engage in
picking flaws in the dress or appearance of one another.—Historical Sketches, p. 122.
Hmm. So though she believed in simplicity of dress and abstaining from jewelry, she didn't think
we should be critical and judgmental.
There are few of my brethren and sisters who maintain plainness of dress
as I do. My writings are pointed on this subject; but I do not carry it in
the front. It is not to be made of greater importance than the solemn,
testing truths for this time.—Ibid., p. 123.
Sounds reasonable. Though she believed that following Peter and Paul's counsel on jewelry was important,
she didn't think it the most important truth out there, and didn't go around making a big deal about it.
When the subject of dress is dwelt upon explicitly, there are some who
feel all the burden over it that they ought to feel for a soul balancing
between life and death. I once attended a meeting where this spirit existed.
There was the most solemn interest that I ever saw. Seventy-five were
baptized before the meeting closed. After speaking to the crowd in public, I
labored for the youth privately, talking and praying with them as they came
to my tent. Many were greatly blessed; but there was a company on the ground
who had no burden. I could hear their idle conversation, their trifling
laugh, while agonizing prayer was being offered for the unconverted. In the
height of the interest, one of this number came to me and said that some were
in trial because Sister White wore gold.—Ibid.
So Dirk, Cleveland, and Sanders' concern over dress is nothing new. But what was the grounds
for their concern back then?
Some time before, I had received a present of a little open-faced, gold watch. It was very ancient in
appearance, and certainly never would have been worn for its beauty. I
carried it because it was a good timekeeper.—Ibid.
Though Peter, Paul, Wesley, Spurgeon, and Finney all counselled against the wearing of jewelry,
they might not have had a problem with this little, not-so-pretty, watch. Especially is this so since
Ellen White had not squandered a bunch of money on it that could have been given to the poor
or missions instead.
So what happened to the watch?
But in order to avoid all occasion for any to stumble, I sold the watch, and I would recommend that
others follow a similar course. This is in harmony with the teaching of the
apostle Paul, who says: "Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will
eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."—Ibid.
Really? She sold her watch just to avoid being a stumbling block? Our guess is that the $10 pin met the same
All the religion many have is to pick flaws. I once knew a lady whose
religion was of just this character, and in her family she was so overbearing
that they could hardly live with her. A tent-meeting was held near the place
where she lived, but instead of taking hold to help those who were laboring
very hard in the meetings, or to receive help herself, this woman stood back
to criticise. On returning to the house one day, I found her searching my
trunk to see if there was not some article of clothing in it that she could
What? The audacity!
We shall ever have just such people to deal with in this world. But
if we do not enter too much into particulars, they will have no excuse for
indulging their natural disposition. It is a marvel to me what patience the
Lord has with such crooked material.—Ibid.
Ellen White stands accused of contradicting her position on jewelry by wearing watches and pinning her collar
together with brooches, though she never condemned the wearing of simple watches or brooches.
If for the sake of discussion we assume that she is guilty as charged and that she is consequently a
false prophet, we have a problem.
Our perpetual concern is that we never prove Ellen White to be a false prophet with arguments that could
undermine our confidence in Scripture. Sometimes the Bible writers, being fallible human beings, made mistakes
or were a little inconsistent. For example, Moses constantly preached that Israel must obey God, but he himself
disobeyed the Lord when he smote the rock instead of speaking to it (Num. 20:8-12). For that he was punished by not
being able to take Israel into Canaan.
King David once committed adultery and murder. We hesitate to condemn him as a false prophet in consequence.
Jesus said that we could discern true prophets from false prophets by their fruits (Mat. 7:15-20).
But by this we doubt that Jesus meant occasional mistakes or inconsistencies, as in when Peter had to be rebuked
(Gal. 2:11-14), or when Paul caused a riot (Acts 23:6-10; 24:20, 21).
We know that some of our readers feel that the Bible is a myth, and thus have no problem with this, but we
definitely do have a problem with such conclusions. We feel that this whole discussion regarding Ellen
White's use of watches and brooches is based on a premise that undermines faith in the Bible.
Give Us Your Opinion #3
|Did Ellen White contradict herself on jewelry by wearing a watch?
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