Crucial Question 20:  Why did Ellen White go back and forth regarding which side would win the Civil War?




By the time the Civil War began, James and Ellen White were living in Battle Creek, Michigan.  The Seventh-day Adventist Church hadn’t been officially organized, but it would be organized during the war.  Ellen White had always been a strong critic of slavery, but she did not confine her criticisms to the South; she believed that God was also punishing the North for allowing slavery.


From the Pen of Ellen White:


“As this war was shown to me, it looked like the most singular and uncertain that has ever occurred” (1T 256).




“It seems impossible to have the war conducted successfully, for many in our own ranks are continually working to favor the South, and our armies have been repulsed and unmercifully slaughtered on account of the management of these proslavery men” (1T 256).




When our nation observes the fast which God has chosen, then will He accept their prayers as far as the war is concerned; but now they enter not into His ear. He turns from them, they are disgusting to Him” (1T 258).




“This nation will yet be humbled into the dust” (1T 259).




“Had our nation remained united it would have had strength, but divided it must fall” (1T 260).




“It looked to me like an impossibility now for slavery to be done away. God alone can wrench the slave from the hand of his desperate, relentless oppressor” (1T 266).




“Said the angel: ‘How can God prosper such a people?  If they would look to and trust in Him; if they would only come where He could help them, according to His own glory, He would readily do it.’

“I saw that God would not give the Northern army wholly into the hands of a rebellious people, to be utterly destroyed by their enemies” (1T 364-65).




Ellen White’s vacillating comments about the war show that she certainly had no divine information with respect to the immediate future facing the Adventist Church.  In fact, her statement that the United States “will yet be humbled into the dust” (1T 259) is historically false.  The United States emerged from the Civil War with the most powerful military in the world.  The South certainly suffered, but the North and the West prospered in the aftermath of the Civil War—as did the new SDA Church with its growing medical, publishing, and educational institutions.  The following statement is also false: “Had our nation remained united it would have had strength, but divided it must fall” (1T 260).  It completely fails to recognize that the country would reunite, and that it certainly would not fall.  EGWs supporters may argue that God chose not to reveal the immediate future to her for reasons known only to Him.  This argument would be more acceptable had Ellen White simply stated that God had shown her very little with respect to the war.  It would also have been much better had Ellen White avoided making false statements about the immediate future of America.  Reading her Civil War testimonies in their entirety (which we recommend), causes many readers to detect an “armchair general” quality to the writing: speculative, but delivered with gusto!


Thought Questions:


  1. What portion of Ellen White’s Civil War visions represents vital communication between God and His followers?
  2. Why do EGWs Civil War writings sound so speculative?
  3. Why are some of EGWs Civil War statements false?
  4. Why did God apparently miss an excellent opportunity to give Ellen White demonstrable prophetic insight during the Civil War?
  5. Did Ellen White ever deliver verifiable, specific, and accurate predictions?


Bible Texts:


“When the word of a prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him” (Jer. 28:9).


When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:22).


For Further Study:


  • Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 253-270 & 355-368


Continue on to Crucial Question #21:  Civil War Escalation

Go back to Crucial Question #19:  Predictions on Slavery