Original Sources for Selections from Steps to Christ
The charge has been made that Fannie Bolton plagiarized other Christian writings when working on
pages 96 and 97 of Steps to Christ. (See "Top 7 Myths: #2: Wrote Steps to Christ.")
Our research found that the two selections in question appeared in Mrs. White's
own works (Signs articles and Testimonies, vol. 3), written as long as 15 years
before Fannie joined Mrs. White's staff as an editor.
While Robert Sanders gives two selections from Walter Rea, Dirk Anderson gives only this one,
but it appears that this should have been the one he omitted of the two.
Although it is quite long, we have quoted the entire paragraph from Almon Underwood from which the eight identical
words and one Bible verse are allegedly drawn. That way you, the reader, can better judge for yourself
the extent of the literary borrowing.
The words that are in all three documents, Underwood, the Signs articles, and Steps to Christ,
are in bold. The words from Steps to Christ that are drawn from Mrs. White's
Signs articles are highlighted.
Steps to Christ
"For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro through the whole earth, to show himself strong towards
those whose hearts are perfect before him." Another requisite
of prevailing prayer, is faith. He
that cometh unto God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently
seek him. Having already shown the necessity of faith as a condition of knowing the will of God,
it will not be necessary to discuss the subject here. There is one idea included in faith which more
appropriately deserves a notice in this place; and that is an expectation of an answer. The real
prayer of faith always expects an answer, just as sure as it is made. We cannot have faith in one,
without expecting the very thing promised. Elijah expected to see the clouds gathering, and the
heavens lowering, when he prayed for rain. The early Christians expected the fulfilment of the
promise of the Father, while they tarried at Jerusalem in that upper room. Where there is real
faith, there must be an expectation of the thing asked. What, ask for wisdom, for the knowledge
of his will, and not expect it! You must not only believe the thing possible, but you must expect
to receive it yourself. You are not to expect it to come in a particular way, nor necessarily at just
such a time. In these respects, God often disappoints people. As we have already intimated, it is
necessary to crucify self in the manner of granting the blessing. Where people have their minds
made up how the blessing must come, they often think more of the mode than the thing expected,
and more than they do of the giver. It is necessary for them to be disappointed, that they may not
put confidence in the flesh. The answer comes through a series of trials and sufferings; and self-
crucifixion, never dreamed of when the blessing was so earnestly and fervently asked. In asking
for wisdom from above, we must let God impart it to us as he thinks best. If he should do it in
our way, there might be no wisdom in it for us the advantage of anything often depends very
much upon the manner in which it is conveyed to us. So in respect to time, it is important, while
we expect the blessing sought, without fail, we should let God take his own time. He knows best
when to bring it about. The interests of many others are to be consulted. For instance, when God
fulfilled the promise of the Father to his disciples, he chose Pentecostal week, when a vast
number from different nations were gathered together at Jerusalem. He saw this would be the
most favorable moment for granting the blessing. Just so in our own cases; we may be very bad
judges in respect to time. How desirable that God should have the disposal of this matter, before
whose eye everything is naked and open. (God's Will Known and Done, pp. 290-293)
Another element of prevailing prayer is faith. "He that cometh to God
must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Jesus said to his disciples, "All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
"What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
Jesus said to the man who brought to him his son that was grievously afflicted with an evil spirit,
"If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."' Christ commands and encourages
the prayer of faith; do we take him at his word? (Signs of the Times, Aug. 21, 1884)
Another element of prevailing prayer is faith. "He that cometh to
God must believe that He is, and
that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6. Jesus said to His disciples,
"What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
Mark 11:24. Do we take Him at His word?
The assurance is broad and unlimited, and He is faithful who has promised. When we do not receive
the very things we asked for, at the time we ask, we are still to believe that the Lord hears and
that He will answer our prayers. We are so erring and short-sighted that we sometimes ask for things
that would not be a blessing to us, and our heavenly Father in love answers our prayers by giving
us that which will be for our highest good—that which we ourselves would desire if with vision
divinely enlightened we could see all things as they really are. When our prayers seem not to be
answered, we are to cling to the promise; for the time of answering will surely come, and we shall
receive the blessing we need most. But to claim that prayer
will always be answered in the very
way and for the particular thing that we desire, is presumption. God is too wise to err, and too
good to withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly. Then do not fear to trust Him, even
though you do not see the immediate answer to your prayers. Rely upon His sure promise, "Ask,
and it shall be given you." (Steps to Christ, p. 96)
|Every petition that is offered to God in faith, and with a true heart, will
Such prayer is never lost; but to claim that it will always
be answered in the very way and for the particular
thing that we desire, is presumption. God is too wise to err, and too good to withhold any good thing from
them that walk uprightly. Then do not fear to trust him even though you do not see the immediate answer
to your prayers. Rely upon his sure promise, "Ask, and ye shall receive." (Signs of the Times, Nov. 18, 1886)
How likely is it that six words and a Bible verse would be considered plagiarism by modern standards,
much less by nineteenth century standards? Experts on plagiarism do point out that any
two writers writing on the same topic are bound to use
some of the same words. For this reason, a small percentage of similar words is considered permissible.
The phrase "prevailing prayer" constitutes a third of the similar words used by both Underwood and White.
This phrase has been a common one in religious circles, and can be found in the writings of
Charles Finney, E. M. Bounds, Matthew Henry, Dwight Moody, Charles Spurgeon, and others.
We were a bit disappointed that the ellipses in the quote from Daniel March represented such a mass of
missing material, as seen below. This fact makes it difficult to justify any sort of charge of plagiarism
in light of the copyright laws in existence in 1892.
Like the above, the words found in all three documents, March, Testimonies for the Church, and
Steps to Christ, are in bold, while the portion of Steps to Christ that came from Testimonies
Whether the few similarites between March and White are intentional or unintentional is anyone's guess,
since anyone who has just read a book meditatively might unconsciously incorporate some of its
wording into a new work.
Testimonies, vol. 3
Steps to Christ
The clearest and loftiest outlook upon the complicated affairs of this world is gained by prayer. When we keep near the throne,
dwelling in the secret place of the Most High, we shall see the path of duty plainly and all things working together for our good. The
highest and safest place of observation, from which to study the condition of the world and foresee its future history, is the place nearest
to the seat of infinite power; and that is the place of prayer. While we take counsel with our
doubts and fears, or try to solve the
problem of the universe in the cabinets and laboratories of science, or to explore the depths of eternity
with the feeble taper of human reason, we shall only increase our perplexity and deepen our disappointment.
The traveler in a mountainous region, while threading his way along the narrow valley, up the course of the winding stream and
under the brow of wooded hills, has very imperfect views of the real features of the country and of the relation of its several portions to
each other. He sees before him an apparent opening between mountain ranges, but when he approaches the supposed depression, he
finds it walled up to heaven by precipices which the wild goats could not climb. He turns in another direction to ascend a commanding
height from which to survey the whole region. But when he reaches the proposed elevation, he finds that still beyond mountains soar
above mountains, "Alps on Alps arise." He endeavors to follow the dry bed of a torrent as the surest path in his descent to the plain.
But that which seemed an easy and an open track in the distance becomes precipitous at his approach, and leads far away from the
course which he wishes to pursue. He hears the roar of a waterfall echoing from some hidden glen, and he thinks he has only to turn
aside a few steps to behold its beauty. But he toils on for hours in the vain endeavor to reach the sound which seemed so near. He
proposes to ascend some lofty peak which rises clear and cold above all the lesser heights. He starts in the early morning and hurries
on through the deep
valley and around the bold headland and up the steep declivity, and when the day begins to wane and his strength is exhausted,
the same solitary peak hangs over him, seemingly no nearer, no farther off, than it was hours ago.
Such are the illusions and disappointments of a traveler among mountains so long as he keeps himself down in the low valleys
or only climbs the heights of subordinate hills. But let him toil his way up to the loftiest peak, and from thence embrace the
whole landscape in one commanding view, and his former perplexity will disappear at once. What was before an inextricable
labyrinth of hills and valleys and forests and streams, becomes as easy to trace as the lines upon his hand.
So it is with men while pursuing the low and intricate paths of a prayerless, faithless, worldly life. They have no clear,
connected, harmonious view of the purpose of their own being, or of the order and tendency of events in the worlds history.
They have no one object in view, so high and sacred that they can afford to sacrifice all others to gain that alone. They struggle
hard to make their way along the dark and crooked paths of present interest, expediency or pleasure. They lift themselves up for a
wider view upon the molehills of human pride. They rise early and outwatch the stars to study the uncertain standards and
landmarks which human wisdom has set up. They toil hard and make no progress. They advance only
to return to the point of departure. They make many calculations, only to leave the great questions of life and duty darker than before.
But let them go up to the mount of God where man meets his Maker in humble, trusting prayer. Let them accept the great truth that
the supreme power governing the universe is a Being whom they can address as a personal Friend. Let them leave all the false guides
which they have been following, and look only to Him who sees everything at one view and governs everything with a word. Let them
believe that they can speak to that most mighty and Holy One at any time, and he will hear their voice and attend to their wants. And
then the darkness and perplexity will vanish from their minds. They will see man and the world and life and death and time and eternity
in their true relations. They will see that all life, power and blessing are centred in God, and the greatest possible privilege for man is to
come to God and ask all things of him in prayer. Take away the privilege of prayer, and nothing would be left to man but a pilgrimage
of darkness and a heritage of woe.
Prayer is the most rational and appropriate outgoing of the spiritual nature of man in the effort to grasp something higher and better
than earth and time can give. In every act of sincere prayer the soul comes into living contact with the infinite Mind.
We see no face
bending over us with looks of compassion. No
voice answers to our humble cry. No hand is let down for us to grasp. And yet in all prayer the heart pours itself forth to One whose
awful presence is deeply felt, whose benignant answer is waited for with longing desire, whose safe guidance is sought with such
confidence as the child seeks the parents supporting hand. Prayer is a representative act, standing for all the duties and dispositions
peculiar to a true, well-ordered life. Whoever prays aright looks away from man to God; from earth to heaven; from things seen and
temporal to things unseen and eternal. All that is feared and shunned in hours of the most earnest watchfulness, all that is sought and
hoped for as the result of the highest spiritual cultivation, all that rises to view in the glorious vision of faith, is present to the mind and
impressed upon the heart in the solemn hour of prayer. We must say, therefore, that the true greatness and exaltation of life are utterly
wanting to him who does not pray. The joy unspeakable, the peace that passeth all understanding, can never come into the mind and
heart of him who holds himself aloof from the Giver of all good, and refuses to speak, with reverent and sacred familiarity, to the
greatest Friend he has in the universe. (Night Scenes in the Bible, pp. 336-340)
While you take counsel with your doubts and fears, or try
to solve everything that you cannot see clearly before you have
faith, your perplexities will only increase and deepen. If you
come to God, feeling helpless and dependent, as you really are,
and in humble, trusting prayer make your wants known to
Him whose knowledge is infinite, who sees everything in
creation and who governs everything by His will and word,
He can and will attend to your cry, and will let light shine into
your heart and all around you; for through sincere prayer your
soul is brought into connection with the mind of the Infinite.
You may have no remarkable evidence at the time that the face
of your Redeemer is bending over
you in compassion and love,
but this is even so. You may not feel His visible touch, but
His hand is upon you in love and pitying tenderness.
(Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 323)
If we take counsel with our doubts and fears, or
try to solve everything that we cannot see clearly,
before we have faith, perplexities will only increase
and deepen. But if we come to God, feeling helpless
and dependent, as we really are, and in humble, trusting
faith make known our wants to Him whose knowledge
is infinite, who sees everything in creation, and
who governs everything by His will and word, He
can and will attend to our cry, and will let light
shine into our hearts. Through sincere
prayer we are
brought into connection with the mind of the Infinite.
We may have no remarkable evidence at the time
that the face of our Redeemer is bending over us in
compassion and love, but this is even so. We may
not feel His visible touch, but His hand is upon us in
love and pitying tenderness. (Steps to Christ, pp. 96, 97)
It should be noted that the similarity of first person plural pronouns in March and
Steps to Christ is only
illusionary. Ellen White's 1873 letter as found in Testimonies, vol. 3,
used second person pronouns, because she was writing to a minister and his wife.
When this letter was later adapted for use in Steps to Christ
two decades later, the pronouns were changed to first person plural, since the material was no longer
addressing particular individuals. Thus the use of first person plural pronouns in Steps
to Christ is unrelated to March's book.
It appears that:
- March's chapter on the mountains, from which her 1873 letter borrowed some wording, was of particular interest to Ellen White, since for part of 1873 she was living in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
- After the visit of a minister and his wife to their home in the Rockies, Ellen White sought to encourage them by writing a personal letter in August 1873, and in doing so used some of the wording from the book she was reading or had read.
- Two decades later this material was incorporated into Steps to Christ, without necessarily knowing that it contained some wording from March.
Thus, even if we ignore the fact that this wasn't plagiarism by 1892 standards, we are hard pressed to find
anything sinister in the writing of either the 1873 letter or Steps to Christ.
Return to our analysis of "Top 7 Myths: #2: Wrote Steps to Christ."