Abuse in Adventism: Ellen G. White Was (and Is) No Friend of Abuse Victims

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


Ellen G. White has been affirmed by the Seventh-Day Adventists as recently as 2010 as being inspired by God.  Here it is straight from the SDA’s official website:

Resolution on the Spirit of Prophecy

We, the delegates to the 2010 General Conference Session in Atlanta, Georgia, acknowledge with gratitude the continuing contribution to the Seventh-day Adventist Church found in the writings and ministry of Ellen G White. We are witnesses to how the Church has been blessed and guided by God through the inspired counsel of His messenger. Her counsels exalt the Bible as the Word of God, lift up Jesus as Creator and Redeemer of the world, and encourage a life of service and sacrifice. Her ministry has directly aided in the preservation of unity in the Church and its expanding global outreach.

The gift of prophecy, like the other spiritual gifts, is to bring about unity, equip God’s people for the work of ministry, build up the body of Christ, protect it from being deceived by false doctrine, and foster individual and collective spiritual growth (Ephesians 4:11-15). We recognize in Ellen G White the gift of prophecy, and affirm that as this gift is valued and its instruction heeded, the Church prospers.

Consequently, we express our gratitude to God for His gracious gift in the prophetic ministry of Ellen G White. We call upon Seventh-day Adventists everywhere to prayerfully study her messages and benefit from the inspiration and instruction found there. We encourage the teachers and administrators of our educational institutions and the leaders of our health-care facilities and publishing houses to review her counsels for their areas of service. We urge pastors to make use of these writings in their sermon preparation and in their planning with the members for the mission of their churches. We appeal to Church administrators at every level to exert their influence in affirming the importance of these writings for the Church and to continue efforts to make these writings available to church members at affordable cost. And we affirm our commitment to “believe His prophets” (2 Chronicles 20:20), that we may prosper in fulfilling our mission to the world and thus hasten the coming of Jesus.  [This statement was approved and Resolution was voted by the General Conference Session of the Seventh-day Adventists Church in Atlanta, Georgia, June 24-July 3, 2010]. (Resolution on the Spirit of Prophecy [Internet Archive link])

White’s writings reveal that Adventism is precisely the type of system that Paul warned the Colossians about:

(Col 2:18-23 ESV)  Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,  and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.  If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)– according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Many Bible believing Christians are aware of the peculiar doctrines, and many would even say heresies, in Seventh Day Adventist teachings. Certainly Ellen White was going on in detail about visions, and the SDA church tell their followers to submit to regulations [Saturday worship] – “Do not handle, Do not taste, [don’t eat meat, don’t drink caffeine] Do not touch [work is forbidden on the Sabbath, so all food preparation and wood chopping must be done the day before].

However, not so many Christians are aware of statements Ellen White made in connection with suffering wives.  We can probably find other such statements in her writings, but just from the quotes below, we can see that White was no friend of an abuse victim.  To the degree that the SDA’s cling to White as a prophet pronouncing God’s Word, abusers will find their system quite a fertile place to practice their evils:

Home Trials for Jesus’ Ear Only. Do not shirk your responsibilities. Be a daily home missionary. Not only teach your children from their babyhood, but train them. Keep a steady, firm hold upon your children. You must not only tell them what to do, but, to the very best of your ability, make their surroundings favorable and sow your precious seed in the love and spirit of Jesus. Because Satan uses the father of your children to counteract your work, do not be discouraged; do not give up the conflict. Do as you wish them to do. Treat your husband with kindness at all times and on all occasions, and bind your children to your heart with the cords of love. This is your work; this is the burden you have to bear. Talk not your home trials to anyone but Jesus; pour them into His ear. Jesus “came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:11-13].

White, Ellen G. (2010-12-05). Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce (Kindle Locations 568-577). Copyright © 2010, Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

“For Jesus’ ear only.”  Why, Ellen?  Where did you come up that piece of “prophecy”?  Cover up sin?  Enable wickedness?  Submit to evil and hide it? Pardon me, but I don’t recall a single verse that supports any of these ideas.  Oh, and this “home trials” business.  Would that mean the “trial” of getting the stuffing beat out of oneself at the hands of a tyrant?  Home trial?  Would that be in the same category as the children having colds and the stove not working right?  Just “trials.”  It is difficult to be patient with this kind of talk when we come to realize what words like this mean for abuse victims.

The words of a prophet?  No, don’t think so.  Here are other abuser-friendly citations, all taken from the same book, Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce:

Cheerfulness Better Than Complaining.
Have you felt your lot was hard, and complained and murmured? Then as you received no help in this line, begin another course of action. Speak kindly; be cheerful. Because you have Jesus as your helper, break forth in songs of praise. When tempted, when reviled, revile not again; and labor with your children while there is one out of Christ. Sow the seed, the living seed, deep into the soil of the heart. Let your words be wisely chosen. Consider yourself as God’s appointed missionary, to be the light of your home. (Kindle Locations 594-598).

My sister, our Saviour is a present help in every time of need.
Do not distrust Him. Do not take your troubles to human beings; take them to the Lord. You may think that others should sympathize with you in your downcast feelings, but you will sometimes be disappointed. Jesus never disappoints one who comes to Him for help. (Kindle Locations 637-639).

The Husband’s Wishes Regarding Food.
The day we visited you we appreciated much the bountiful repast prepared for us. But you need to study how to prepare nutritious food in the most simple way. Your husband’s wishes regarding the preparation of food should be respected, and still you may study to prepare appetizing dishes in as simple and healthful a way as possible, so that the fine nerves of the brain will not become weakened and paralyzed, making you excitable, nervous, and easily provoked…. My dear sister, you stand in a responsible position in your home. Hold the reins of government with a wise, even hand. Do not allow the members of your family to lose their love and respect for you. Bind them to your heart with the silken cords of love. This you can do if you live close to Jesus. By beholding Him you will be changed into His image, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. God loves you; He loves your husband, and He is seeking to draw him to Himself. He desires to take his attention off mere earthly enterprises, and fix them on the eternal riches.—Letter 145, 1900. (Kindle Locations 693-694).

Well, I could go on, but I think anyone knowledgeable of the nature, tactics, and effects of abuse will understand how these kinds of “inspired” instructions will do horrific damage to an abuse victim. If indeed the SDA organization were faithfully following White as prophet, as they say they do in their denominational statement quoted above, then this suggests that abuse would be likely to be widespread in that denomination because abusers would be enabled and empowered by the teachings of White. Some might think that 1888 was a long time ago and White’s supposedly prophetic words are not so highly venerated these days.  But remember, in 2010 the SDA officially affirmed: “We recognize in Ellen G White the gift of prophecy, and affirm that as this gift is valued and its instruction heeded, the Church prospers.”

Did you notice the instruction of White to the lady whose home she apparently visited for a meal? She started telling this lady who had been her hostess about the deficiencies in her meal-making for her husband!  White’s writings are full of this sort of thing which parades as the Word of God and which is intended to bind the consciences of people. If anything, the New Testament tells us that we are free to eat anything and that in fact (Colossians 2 again) we are not to yield to people who tell us that God dictates our diet.  This in itself is abuse.  Don’t be taken in by it.

As to White’s view on divorce:

January 11, 1888. I had a long talk with Sister C, showing her that the marriage vow is binding and could not release its claims upon any of the parties who entered into it, save from the cause of adultery, the violation of the marriage bed. We had much profitable talk upon this subject.—Ms 22, 1888. Is an Oath Nothing?

One final note.  This is also in White’s writings.  If anyone doubts that White was hard on abuse victims, check this rather bizarre “counseling case” she conducted.  Here is the background:

When he was still a young man Walter C carried out the action that he felt was suggested in Matthew 19:12, and made himself a eunuch. According to Walter, Laura married him with full knowledge of his condition. However, she eventually divorced him and married someone else. After her remarriage, Walter also married again. The letters in this section reveal Ellen White’s earnest endeavor to protect the sanctity of the marriage commitment even in the face of extremely difficult circumstances. (Kindle Locations 696-700).

Okay, now here is what White told Laura (yes, we are tempted to wonder at Laura marrying a guy who had self-neutralized himself according to his interpretation of Scripture.  That would be what we call a red-flag.  But, maybe  the eunuch Walter was pretty smooth).  Anyway:

June 8, 1888. I wish to present before you [Laura] some few points. Why do you not regard facts as they are? You two registered an oath that has been recorded upon the record books of heaven by the recording angel, that you would love one another until death does you part. Why do you not remember this? Do you so lightly put aside your vows? Should you yield to evil counsel your honor, your oath, your duty? If evil thoughts have come in upon you, if you have had evil advice suggesting your estrangement, is that a reason you should lightly cast aside your oath? Is an oath nothing? Are your own whims everything? You may say you do not love your husband. Is that a reason you should not try to do so? Is this life so long and of such value to you that you will choose to have your own way and set aside God’s law? I see no possible grounds for you to obtain a divorce. If your husband deceived you, even so, there is your oath. If he told you, as he says he did do, and denies that he deceived you, then you married him, how can you obtain a divorce? I wish you would pursue a course in accordance with the advice I gave you, for I cannot give you any other counsel. Imperfection No Reason for Dissolving a Marriage. My heart is sick when I see the loose way that the marriage vows are held. We are nearing the judgment. I ask you to consider carefully, candidly, your position. There is, perhaps, upon more thorough acquaintance, a dislike of your husband’s ways and manners. Will not many people find the same, after the marriage novelty has passed? But when you made your vow before God and holy angels, you knew you were not perfect and your husband was not perfect; but this is no excuse for breaking your marriage vow. There is a need of training your mind and heart that you shall bear with one another, to be kind to one another, and not to allow distrust and hatred to come in. (Kindle Locations 703-720).

Alas, these kinds of conscience-binding, spiritually abusive church cultures are not confined to the writings of Ellen White, the SDA prophet.  You can find the very same kinds of bondage in many churches that claim their only authority is the Bible.

It’s also somewhat odd, given their affirmation of White’s writings as prophetic inspired counsel, that in recent years the SDA church has (apparently) taken a proactive stand against domestic abuse, providing resources to address the issue (see SDA Abuse Response – Creating A Caring Response) – which is more than can be said for many other denominations.

28 thoughts on “Abuse in Adventism: Ellen G. White Was (and Is) No Friend of Abuse Victims”

  1. Um, is this woman my mother in law? How can anybody take her seriously after reading that meal criticizing nonsense?! That’s some thank you note she sent to that hostess.

    1. No kidding! She showed her true colors as a total control freak, and even worse, she claimed to speak for God. “Guess who’s coming to dinner tonight, honey?” “It better not be the Whites again! That woman…..!”

  2. uh? wow? This is me refraining from what I REALLY wanna say!!
    Does not read like prophetic spiritual counsel. Wait? I do hear something? Ya? Its like a hint of June Cleaver? And? Wait?…..I think I hear Stormy Omartian? Now I am a tad scared! I think this lady appears to be a prophet due to the underlying thinking she is projecting has NOT changed one bit in the last century.

    -by the way, I do like June Cleaver, her husband seem pretty cool too.

    Her saying the husband is used by Satan to undo what she has done, we know that statement is for the purpose of keeping him off the hook for his bad behavior…..its her job after all, to keep the house, rear the children, feed him to his tastes, and in her spare time wrestle some demons…..I wonder? Its kinda funny, that statement also makes him look like a weak, mindless person that God apparently made head of the household. Would God really put a putz as head of the household?

    She can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan [as long as it’s turkey bacon, and he prefers grilled] and never ever EVER let him forget he is a…….? What was that?….Satan’s minion? Or the weaker vessel that needs continual looking after and all her endless prayers. The woman was definitely a prophet, possibly given the wrong brownie at the dinner party but nonetheless a prophet. Bottom line, lets just not hold men accountable for ANYTHING and we will all be okay.

    Hate to ask? Hows that workin out for ya? Here we are decades later, same abuse happening.

      1. Yes! Spunky in such an endearing way! Your posts are so honest. I think Christian women have been conditioned to be reserved and cautious, and it’s so refreshing to see someone just letting it all out.

        When I was in high school, I went to a baseball game with a friend and her family. In the car, her mother (a Christian counselor) turned around and said to us “Now girls, when we’re at the game, remember your quiet demeanors.” I remember it like it was yesterday. We were not rebellious kids, and it was a baseball game! No similar admonition was given to this girl’s brother. Are girls not allowed to cheer for the team? No? Not even for the Yankees? That’s just cruel….

        Anyway, my point is, Memphis, keep it coming. I think your abuser is the worst that I’ve ever heard about and I hope that you’re finding some measure of healing in your writing.

      2. Nope, Memphis would certainly not fit into the Victorian model of womanhood! Her chutzpah is quite refreshing.

    1. You have to be an abuser, sociopathic control-craver to start and run a cult. Normal people want some days off to go fishing and generally goof off. Personality cult type church leaders just go and go and go like an Ever-ready Bunny. Writing and speaking and down-to-the-church 7 days a week. It’s not normal.

  3. I had attended a couple of meetings of DivorceCare sponsored by SDA. The outright minimization of my abuse by the woman leader there just put me off. I didn’t go to another meeting. Also she tried, almost to the point of being a pest, to become my friend. I felt some guilt about not reciprocating, but really felt that it wasn’t a good idea.

  4. I know someone (who is close to me) who took ellen white’s counsel very seriously–“The wife’s heart is the grave of her husband’s faults” –and suffered in silence for years. She never admitted to what was going on, but it was obvious. It probably led to the worst case of “brush it under the carpet” I had ever seen.

    1. I have no doubt that abuse abounds in the Adventist churches. With a “prophetess” like White it is inevitable

      1. There is a book that Ellen G White wrote that talks about the sacred circle that the husband and wife are both admonished to share family secrets only to each other. The chapter called “A sacred Circle”.
        This has a bad loophole in that the abuser will use against the well meaning spouse.
        It has been used instead as a silencing tool for the wife when the husband is abusing her verbally, emotionally, and psychologically in front of their children, and that is the horrible problem with this concept of keeping silent.
        The children grow up desensitized to the abusiveness of this toxic environment and become primed to repete it .

  5. I converted to Adventism as a young Adult and then married the man who introduced me to the church. For some time I lived by this creed of silence as well. However, when I did start to speak up my husband accused me of gossip. I have a lot of self-doubt, guilt, and shame. Still sorting out what i believe and what abuse really is.This website has been very helpful!

    1. Earthernvessel, there was some biblical application that I learned within this Adventist church that I am still holding on to.
      But there were many other ideas that I questioned because I felt uncomfortable following, like bringing so much relevance and attention to Helen White rather than the Word of God each time we came together to study.
      So much attention was directed to her writings insted of the bible when we gathered.
      I had a friend in this same church that I could talk freely with about the marital abuse that I was suffering, (only because she too had suffered abuse and understood its nature)
      Several times I shared with her by email that I wished the pastor would focus more on the Bible insted of so much on her writings.
      I didn’t like hearing in church that “Sister White said this, and Sister White said that.”
      It felt like we were following what Sister White was saying insted of the bible.
      At the same time, my claims of abuse from my husband to the young pastor at that time were trivialized, and dismissed, as something that marriage counsiling would take care of.
      This was due to my abuser was in regular contact with the pastor throughout each week informing him of my lack of compliance to his wishes and that I was a bitter and unforgiving wife.
      The pastors end goal was to “save the marriage” in spite of my abuse allegations.
      And because I also refused to go to any “save the marriage type counseling”, the pastor started peppering his weekly messages to the “whole church” with forgiveness and reconciliation in marriages for the interests of my abuser.

      This made me feel bad only because the pastor was so intent to see me reunited with my husband that he “bombarded the whole church” with these tireless messages of forgiveness and reconciling messages over and over.
      Inside my heart I knew these messages did not fit me, because the issue of the “constant psychological, verbal and emotional abuse” I was enduring from him was never acknowledged.
      Probably everyone knew in this church that those messages were directed at me.
      These people really needed to hear something refreshing about God or Jesus to give them something to lift their spirits insted.
      In the end because I would not bend in the direction that the Pastor or my abuser wanted me to go, so they devised a way to excommunicate me. (scapegoating)
      Little did I know, my abuser was stalking my emails all along, and found some that I wrote to my friend in the church regarding questioning the emphasis on the Ellen White teachings, and my concerns in that area, and he sent them to the pastor to try to incite him against me.
      That night the pastor called me informing me that he read my emails (sent to him courtesy of my abuser) that I wrote to this other person, and he did not approve of what I said.
      Nevermind that these are private emails, with my free thinking thoughts in them.
      (heaven forbid I think freely!)
      After that I was excommunicated.
      My friend was then asked by the church elder to stop associating with me, if she wanted to continue attending the church, but she ended up resigning rather than betraying her conscience.
      Now I am one of the scattered sheep of Gods people, but at least I know the truth.

      1. I’m so sorry that happened to you. There has definitely been spiritual abuse in my own affiliation with the church. If my friends knew how I felt about Ellen White they probably wouldn’t even talk to me. I pretty much keep my views to myself. I’m in a tight spot because my husband is studying for ministry to be a pastor and he was the one who introduced me to the church. However, I did want to mention a ministry, (Compassionate Cup-I will leave a link) within the church that helps abuse victims…They helped me the first time I left my husband. Compassionate Cup Ministries: Board Members [Internet Archive link]

        [NOTE from ACFJ Admin: We noted that this link to Compassionate Cup includes material from Stephen Tracy of Mending the Soul, whom we endorse. However, we caution our readers to proceed with care at this site because we do not know the people who administer it. In addition, we do not endorse Adventism as being a true and biblical representation of the gospel.]

      2. Mabye the links at Spiritual Sounding Board under the topic Spiritual Abuse may be of use to you if you havent’ already found them. We link to SSB in our blogroll in the sidebar to the right.

      3. SFT,

        The church we were in did the exact same thing to the victim we knew with peppering the sermons with forgiveness stuff she knew was aimed at her. (That she was intentionally targeted from the pulpit was denied, but she felt it and I felt it too.) Also with the end goal being to save the marriage, and the complaint of her being unforgiving, and in the end throwing her out. Worse things than that happened after.

        I don’t know where these guys get this stuff from but clearly it is not that uncommon, unfortunately. 😦

      4. Truth be told BIT is I felt worse for the church members that had to endure these continuous “reconcilliation and forgiveness messages”, more than the obvious misapplication to my situtation.
        I bet they would have loved to hear a refreshing uplifting fresh word insted.
        Some of the people that “werent in the know” as to why these messages were being preached, were starting to ask if they might have offended someone inadvertantly.
        This was the hardest part for me to see how others were being negitively affected by these planned messages to try to control me.
        It felt like being a kid in a classroom where the whole class was being punished for one students misbehavior.
        Towards the end I could pretty much predict how the message would go, and nothing hit me by surprise.

      5. Oh yeah. It’s terrible manipulation, and misuse and abuse of the pulpit. Such things happened more than once both before and after the victim was refused fellowship. The congregation was addressed in a completely inappropriate way with the result you describe, also. One incident in particular stands out to me that seriously infuriated me. But the whole sale comprehensive mishandling of the situation nearly drove me batty. 😡

      6. Thank you Earthenvessel, I appreciate the link to a place that has been good to you.
        And i respect and understand your being in a difficult situtation.
        We are all at different stages of getting our ducks (so to speak) in a row.
        I have put many ducks in a row, one at a time, but was afraid to get the “last duck” in its proper place.
        So God helped me out with my endless procrastination about this last duck, and put him in place for me.
        I should have known that if i was just faithful in getting some of what needs to be done, that God would help me with the rest. ☺

  6. Re: “It’s also somewhat odd, given their affirmation of White’s writings as prophetic inspired counsel, that in recent years the SDA church has (apparently) taken a proactive stand against domestic abuse, providing resources to address the issue (see sdaabuseresponse.org) – which is more than can be said for many other denominations.”

    From the look and wording of these webpages, I do not think that this is an official SDA initiative, but rather an independent effort by some SDA members.

  7. Pastor Jeff wrote:

    Well, I could go on, but I think anyone knowledgeable of the nature, tactics, and effects of abuse will understand how these kinds of “inspired” instructions will do horrific damage to an abuse victim.


    If I had cooked the way my anti-x wanted, my health would have deteriorated at a faster rate. Shortly after we “married”, I radically changed my eating habits and left him to fend for himself. I retained some measure of health….

    Food was a battleground in my family of origin. Portions were controlled, ridicule ran rampant, and the male members received “first dibs”. My relationship with food was distorted.

    In (only) one sense, I consider becoming anorexic in my late teens a blessing – I eliminated the poorer food choices from my diet. (BTW, I do NOT advocate following this route to implement dietary changes!!!!!!!!!!)

    For me, I am specific with my food because my health is affected in accordance to what I eat. I do not fast, no matter the reason. I do not give in to people who say “one bite won’t kill you.” WWhhhhoooooeeeeee!! I just realized I have one boundary on which I stand firm!!

    Mealtimes are times for sharing, not enforcing legalistic standards. Yes, I realize for many the mealtime battleground was / is significantly different than mine. I suppose my current dietary habits may seem “legalistic”, but I am no longer willing to pay the price.

  8. On the quote about the wife making food….she was saying somewhat the opposite. The wife had been making unwholesome foods and had said the reason was she wanted to make things her husband liked….(That’s kind of common.)….but Ellen White was saying to her….that’s fine if she wants to make things for her husband, but she has to put God first and know she has a responsibility for the health of her family….so if she wants to co [choose] those things, she should do it with her responsibility to God first and prepare it in as simple and healthful way as possible.

  9. Am writing a book related to mental health and found in the writing process several letters by Ellen White to women (and to a man) that were victims of physical and verbal and spiritual abuse. She counseled several to escape and told one husband that he should not expect his wife to return because of the way his behavior was destroying her. These are letters to victims. But what you quote on this page are letters to church members generally. And to the average family, the best thing for a mother is to stay by the erring father of her children and to seek to show the children a better way. This might be twisted to excuse abuse (as have the words of Paul, “wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands” and the words of Jesus, “tell him his fault between you and him alone.”). But the writings of Ellen White are strong against passionate anger in the home, against violence there, against hard-hearted fathers who show inadequate affection for their children. So though I advise abuse victims to escape to safety, I stand by these statements.

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