"Ellen White's Contradictions on Jewelry"
Why was Ella wearing that necklace of shells (Ministry, Oct. 1989, p. 10) that particular day? We don't have a clue. But back in 1991 we were discussing our concerns about this picture with Esther Dubosque, who happened to be the wife of a Seventh-day Adventist evangelist. Lo and behold to our surprise, Esther stated emphatically, "That was my grandmother, and she did not wear jewelry."
What could we say? Esther certainly knew her grandmother better than we did, since we never met the lady.
Esther added, "She lived at the end of her life at Eden Valley Institute." When it comes to upholding standards of dress and modesty, Eden Valley is one of those places that would make Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Charles Finney, and Ellen White proud. It would be highly unlikely that Ella would have been wearing necklaces there, even ones made of shell.
But why did the White Estate remove the necklace from the picture? Good question. We don't know. Obviously, their purpose, unlike that of Dirk's picture's editor, was not to slander. And it's hard to condemn them too harshly when photography studios routinely remove moles, scars, and wrinkles from portraits everyday. But it would have been wiser if they had left it alone, given the number of critics out there just waiting to make the most out of any discrepancy they can find.
As quoted previously, Dirk Anderson's web page states, "The alteration [in that 1913 photograph] is necessary in order to perpetuate the myth that early SDA's did not wear jewelry." Guess we hadn't heard of that myth before.
As we look through Sydney's Cleveland's book, we find another picture of Ella Robinson, this time wearing a pocket watch around her neck. Judging from the similarity in shade to her light collar, we'd say it was probably silver in color, not gold. Her husband Dora is also wearing a pocket watch and chain. Then there's a picture of Mrs. Hettie Haskell wearing a pocket watch suspended around her neck and tucked into her garment near her waist. Cleveland's caption says that Hettie's watch was gold, but we can't verify that from the black and white picture.
Regardless, neither Ellen White nor the Adventist church has ever taken a stand against wearing watches. Perhaps an outrageously expensive or gaudy one, yes, but not all watches. Watches serve a utilitarian, non-ornamental purpose.
The rest of Cleveland's evidence consists of a total of five other pictures of four people from three families, and they are definitely wearing something, though what they were wearing is hard to tell. If we assume that in each case they are indeed wearing ornamental jewelry, even then, the paucity of evidence that Cleveland gives us does not rule out the possibility that most early Adventists did indeed practice what they preached on the subject of jewelry.
While we can't tell for sure that Ellen White was wearing a decorative brooch in the photo in question, unless one wants to argue that all brooches are decorative, she definitely was wearing a brooch. What did she use brooches for, anyway? Describing her appearance at a meeting, her grandson had this to say:
It sounds to us like the "simple brooch" of yesteryear was used like the average, simple belt buckle, and thus had a utilitarian purpose. It was a way to fasten a lady's collar together. We are unaware of any instances where Ellen White, Spurgeon, Wesley, or Finney ever condemned the use of simple belt buckles or brooches or pocket watches. If any of our readers know of such instances, please forward them to us without delay.
Charles Finney: Presbyterian & Congregational Revivalist; President of Oberlin College
Okay, let's look at what this renowned revivalist of yesteryear had to say on the topic of jewelry:
Charles Spurgeon: Baptist Evangelist
Notice how Spurgeon waxes elegant on this topic, expressing his definite concern:
So, Brother Spurgeon, how should we dress? What sort of adornments may we wear?
John Wesley: Founder of Methodism
And from the founder of the church Ellen White grew up in:
The Apostles Peter and Paul
So where did Ellen White, Spurgeon, Finney, and Wesley get these ideas from?
Other parts of the Bible also discuss the subject, but we'll stop with these.
Give Us Your Opinion #2
We're almost done, but we still need to talk about the $10 pin that Dirk criticizes Ellen White for wearing. And wait till you read in Ellen White's own words about her gold watch. It's quite remarkable. But before we go on, we want to give you an opportunity to comment on these quotes we've just looked at: