Walter Rea & The Great Controversy over Plagiary
By T Joe Willey
“Can we hold something in the back of our head that we are absolutely sure about, and that most of the brethren stand with us on?—can we hold those things back and be true to ourselves? And furthermore, are we safe in doing it? Is it well to let our people in general go on holding to the verbal inspiration of the Testimonies? When we do that, aren’t we preparing for a crisis that will be very serious some day? It seems to me that the best thing for us to do is to cautiously and very carefully educate our people to see just where we really should stand to be consistent Protestants, to be consistent with the Testimonies themselves, and to be consistent with what we know we must do, as intelligent men, as we have decided in these meetings.” J. N. Anderson, 1919 Bible Conference.
Background & Introduction
On Thursday, October 23, 1980, the captivating headlines across the front page of the Los Angeles Times declared, “Seventh-day Adventist Controversy Plagiarism Found in Prophet Books.” (1) The Adventist Church was jolted in the public media by wrenching skepticism and doubt about the verity of its prophetess. Only this time the defense of Mrs. White’s legacy, glued to the pedestal of church authority, would have to rely on refutations and defenses provided by “Stewards of the Lord,” (to use her phrase). Syndicated in the Associated Press, the article traveled worldwide, and swept into other media—some estimated that the “plagiarism story” was published in hundreds of newspapers and magazines.(2)
The LA Times religious writer, John Dart had been researching Spectrum, Claremont Dialogue, Adventist Review, Ministry, and apologetical statements from the Ellen G. White Estate discussing the crisis created by Ronald L. Numbers’s Prophetess of Health (1976). By this time Prophetess of Health was widely read by the curious and many readers were unsettled by the evidence that White actually wrote her health messages shaped or borrowed from contemporary health reformers—and did not require a supernatural explanation. So when it came time to interview, Dart already knew much of the liberal borrowing evidence (a euphemism for plagiarism) and the lively debate over the nature of Ellen White’s inspiration that had emerged during the past few years.(3) He began his article by stating that he believed the main reason for her prodigious output could be explained by plagiarism.(4) “Most persons in the world-wide church body believed that White’s words came to her directly from God.”
Ellen White typically denied any literary dependency. Paraphrasing White herself, Dart wrote; “She was dependent on the spirit of the Lord in receiving and writing her views.” He also quoted from one of her letters: “yet the words I employ in describing what I have seen are my own, unless they be spoken to me by an angel, which I always enclose in marks of quotation.” From another letter, written by White in 1906, Dart quoted White; “All who believe the Lord has spoken through Sister White and has given her a message will be safe from the many delusions that will come in these last days.” Dart went on to give several examples of literary borrowing in the prophet’s books, noting that “[Walter] Rea is completing a manuscript for a book based on his research on White’s writings . . . “that he has not found any major work by White that did not use a previously published source.” Rea, shockingly, identified White as “a plagiarist.”(5)
Robert W. Olson, secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate, said “the church is not denying the accumulating evidence of White’s copying…” But Olson also said he puts credence in a theory advanced by Adventist Warren H. Johns (then associate editor of Ministry magazine) that White had a photographic memory and unconsciously used the phrasings and word choices of other writers in many cases.(6)
Historian Ronald L. Numbers (University of Wisconsin) was not so sure about White’s psychological profile that supported her supernatural claims. “When you look at her visions, hallucinations, depression and loss of speech, if she weren’t a religious leader, you would have had her in therapy.” “Nonetheless,” Dart continued, “delegates to the International Adventist convention in Dallas approved a resolution affirming White as inspired in the same sense as were the Bible prophets and as the Lord’s messenger her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth.” For most Adventists the LA Times article was probably the first time that they had been exposed in the public view to plagiarism since the first newspaper article on Ellen White’s use of sources appeared beyond memory in the Healdsburg Enterprise on March 13 and 20, 1889.(7)
General Conference president Neal C. Wilson was quoted as defensively admitting that most of Rea’s incontrovertible evidence was already known. “While acknowledging that White used sources more extensively than previously recognized.”
Prior to the LA Times, in January, 1980 Wilson had appointed an ad hoc committee to study Rea’s findings and reported in the Review that, “The degree of borrowed material and literary dependence is of alarming proportions.” The committee recognized that if church members found this out without proper preparation it could prove to be disastrous. Wilson cautioned the Rea-study committee against using such terms as “literary dependency and extensive borrowing and paraphrasing.” In the LA Times interview Wilson used a little known defense about how this borrowing might have happened. He explained that “The Holy Spirit helps the messenger to select his material carefully…The prophet’s use of existing materials does not necessarily mean that the prophet is dependent on these sources.” Dart quoted Wilson as saying, “Originality is not a test of inspiration.” And he added “The Holy Spirit helps the messenger to select his materials carefully…The prophet’s use of existing materials does not necessarily mean that the prophet is dependent on these sources.”
As soon as Walter’s wife Helen read the LA Times article over breakfast that Thursday morning her reaction was immediate without equivocation. Helen put down the newspaper, looked over at Walter and said: “Now you will be fired.” He turned and asked, “What for?”
It was difficult to find the LA Times in newsstands around Loma Linda. The next day, the same article appeared in the Washington Post.Then two weeks later Dart reported in the LA Times that Rea was dismissed for granting an interview on his findings. Rea was quoted as saying; “They’re upset it got out … There hasn’t been a shred of evidence that my findings are wrong or that I’ve neglected my ministry. Nor have I repudiated our doctrines or given up the faith.”(8)
The core of the LA Times article centered on recent literary discoveries attributed to Elder Walter T. Rea. In this case the source criticism came from inside the church rather than from outside. Responding to Dart’s interview, Rea said, “The important thing is that she and the denomination always claimed that she didn’t copy and that she wasn’t influenced by anyone.” Before Rea “spilled the beans,” he had been an able and flamboyant Adventist pastor in the Southern California Conference—the pastor of a 350-member congregation in Long Beach.
As expected, the LA Times article triggered a defensive and emotional reaction from the church.(9) Within days Mrs. White’s grandson Arthur White wrote a letter to his children commenting on the LA Times story. “Last Thursday and Friday probably you read either in the Los Angeles Times or the Washington Star (sic) that Ellen G. White, your great-grandmother, plagiarized much of what was published in her many books. So you see that Ellen White’s use of the writings of others in helping her express what she wanted to say was quite in keeping with what others were doing … There is no use trying to correct it in the press. Better let folks forget it.”(10)
A year later president Wilson was interviewed in Christianity Today.(11) The literary borrowing problem was narrowed to, “Satan’s subtle sophistry and cunningness.” Over the course of the next few years great lengths would be taken by the church to refute the so-called evidence of plagiarism or to simply brush over the facts and provide new meanings regarding White’s inspiration.(12)
After the LA Times article the faithful (including “big names of my denomination”) came calling to Rea’s Long Beach home. “People from all over Adventism are calling or coming, and I’ve had over a thousand people in my home sitting around the table…I have letters from the world, phone calls from over the globe.”(13)
There was already considerable upheaval in the life of the church. The sheer intensity of the Mary Kay Silver discriminatory lawsuit at the Pacific Press over wages, financial losses in the Davenport bankruptcy, intellectual attack on the SDA doctrine of investigative judgment brought on Desmond Ford, the source indebtedness in the health reform writings and now the widespread markings of plagiarism in other manuscripts and books was enough to sow seeds of discord amongst pew sitters.(14) “What is going to happen? Where is our authority and identity?” Thereafter a journalist in the South Bend Tribune reported that; “Neal Wilson is afraid. He doesn’t want to be known as the president who let the denomination blow apart.”(15)
Preparing to Visit Walter Rea, September 2011
In 2011 a minister friend of my father, and long-time sympathizer to Walter Rea told me that Rea had just recovered from triple bypass surgery. I asked if he thought Rea might accept an interview. Calling Rea on the telephone (he does not have access to the internet) and assuring Rea that I wanted to create a story of his intellectual journey, Rea approved my interview-warning me of possible interruptions throughout the day because he was taking care of his invalid wife.
It was nearly thirty-one years since the LA Times explosive expose. Rea was in his eighties-older and wiser—and I was told had become more cautious with considerable realignment of his former religious beliefs. And despite what you might have heard, Rea has not recanted from his criticism of Ellen White’s authority or renounced his book, The White Lie.
Before going to see Rea I researched the archives in the Heritage Room at Loma Linda University to determine the depth and nature of the apologetic pleadings that followed the publication of Rea’s “debunking book.” The White Lie has been translated into five languages and is available on the Internet for free. At least one Adventist theologian writing at the time that The White Lie was published, hoped that Rea’s “research will help Seventh-day Adventist deal more realistically with Ellen White and better understand the phenomenon of inspiration.”(16) This was something I wanted to discuss with Rea.Which of the defensive interpretations put forward by the church fathers and scholars best suited the plagiarism challenges and realignment of inspiration?
I learned that, before Rea’s awareness of the literary borrowing he was known for assembling Ellen G. White statements into Bible biographies and selling these books in Adventist book stores. Over time, Rea completed three volumes based on White’s works and sold these in many Adventist Book and Bible houses. Some schools in North America used these same volumes. It was not unusual for him to bring White’s books to the pulpit and read quotations directly during his Sabbath sermons to reinforce his preaching. Before getting sideways to the leadership of the church, Rea served on the conference committee and was a delegate to the Vienna General Conference. Going into the 70’s Rea was dubbed a hidebound Ellen G. White “fundamentalist.”(17)
It was clear in the source materials in the LLU library that the discovery of White’s extensive and varied use of prior sources had the effect of extinguishing certain aspects of the long-held verbal dictation theory. (Once the armor penetrating shell from Rea’s expose hit the Ellen G. White Estate around January 1980). It looked like the Ellen G. White Estate (hereafter known as White Estate) reluctantly conceded most of Rea’s major points on literary borrowing, except Mrs. White was not guilty of “any copyright infringement” based on the opinion of attorney Vincent Ramik.(18) Also, in a broader sense, articles written by academics in Spectrum and Adventist Today brought about changes in church intellectuals to sidestep the inerrant and infallible inspiration theory held for so many decades.(19) Looking back, Rea was able to get the attention of the White Estates and church leadership to recognize discrepancies in prophetic writings and plagiarism.
But as expected, the fundamentalists, otherwise known as paleo-Adventists, continued to maintain the classical structures for verbal inspiration and inerrancy in the prophetess’s writings.(20) The doors were flung open during the Numbers/Rea era to bring about general melancholy ranging widely over the awareness of frequent borrowing and its impact on the divine nature of inspiration.(21) Robert W. Olson, then secretary for the White Estates, justified the plagiarism; “Maybe I don’t like the idea of a prophet’s copying from somebody else, or borrowing, or whatever you want to call it. But whether you like it or not, if the Bible writers did it, then I can’t question Ellen White for being like the Bible writers in this respect.”(22) So now to ease the emotional trauma the trustworthiness of the Bible also came under attack too—since factual mistakes can be found in both inspired writings.
It seemed a little peculiar that White’s plagiarism (assuming that literary borrowing is equivalent to plagiarism) was defended most vigorously by invoking the memorandum of understanding created by a Catholic attorney Vincent L. Ramik’s, who was hired by the Church to render an opinion on whether or not Ellen White was a plagiarist. Ramik reassured the church, by using nineteenth-century plagiarism standards, that Ellen White was no different than many other authors employing free use of earlier works to improve her own. He claimed that copyright laws were feeble in the nineteenth-century.(23) Ramik was not hired to address the ethical issues of denial that Ellen White used to claim her writings were her own even though Ramik admitted plagiarism was at work. All best-selling historians and writers claim that plagiarism has never risen to the acceptance that Ramik implied, even in the nineteenth-century.(24) James White, editor of the Review in 1864 was outraged when a non-SDA “borrowed” one of Annie Smith’s (Uriah Smith’s sister) poems without attribution.(25)
The discussion that follows seeks to place Ellen White’s writings within the broader sweep of Adventist heritage and the full scope of the historical revisionists as seen in the discoveries of Rea. Did he provoked the controversy in the LA Times and Washington Post and how did Rea’s book that followed two years later (The White Lie), become the great controversy over plagiarism in the 1980s?
Interviewing Walter Rea at His Home in Patterson
I met Rea in his large study adjacent to his home (actually another home converted to a study) in September 2011. As I entered his study I noticed award plagues, recognitions and diplomas on the wall above his desk. Rea acquired two bachelor’s degrees in theology and speech and three master’s degrees in history, speech and theology. Looking around his study it was obvious he was still involved in continuing research on how Ellen White put her narratives together. This was evidenced by scattered religious volumes on the tables. Some were held opened by weights or rubber bands.
We reminisced how I first met Rea when he stopped off to see my father in Loma Linda in November 1980. At that time, he swept in from Long Beach on his way to a meeting called by his conference president, Harold Calkins. Standing in the driveway I overheard the brief conversation. I asked Walter if he remembered my father telling him not to go to the meeting, unless he had in writing the nature of the meeting. Rea told my father it was just a meeting to clarify certain misunderstandings—Rea was terminated that evening on November 12, 1980.(26)
Rea was energetic, witty, personable, gracious, and spry at eighty-eight years. His appearance was your menial, bald-headed, spectacles wearing, genteel grandfather wearing jeans, tennis shoes and a long-sleeve shirt. During the day he offered me Mountain Dew, his favorite drink. He drove me back and forth to my RV in a bright yellow Ford pickup. Rea lived on ten acres of orchards near the edge of Patterson, California.
Because Rea was taking care of his wife in the adjoining home, he gave me two notebooks to read while he was out of his office. Once he returned Rea was not vague in answering my questions and provided a running stream of impressions overlooked by Adventist apologists trying to undermine Rea. He was relentless in his own defense. During our time together he was also interrupted by telephone calls and individuals who required his signature (he served as foreman on the Stanislaus Grand Jury). He explained he was involved in several organizations as a volunteer where he gives expert accounting and management advice.
It was obvious he had an excellent memory, a bit of a poet and recalled many happy times in the ministry. His most pleasant were the twenty-plus years spent in junior camps teaching young people archery. And I should add he possessed a fine sense of drama, a bit high-strung (perhaps because of attention deficit), with induced restlessness and presumably an inherited disorder in the way he skipped around and organized his documents. At the time of the interview, Rea with his present wife attended the Turlock Seventh-Day Adventist church. Unlike Desmond Ford, Rea’s ordination was not annulled or called into question.(27)
Fear of Rea writing a book on his findings caused the church administration to abnegate his retirement when he was discharged, even though he was legally qualifying by years of service. Rea hired James Walters an Adventist lawyer, to regain his church-affiliated sustentation. After two years of negotiations his retirement and medical coverage were reinstated, but it came with a non-binding stipulation that Rea would not publish another book (by then The White Lie had appeared).(28) Like many his age Rea, had his share of disappointments. His first wife Helen passed away in 1996. About two year later he married Eleanore Whitchurch who also was widowed. They were friends in college.
Rea was not raised an Adventist. He ran away from home around high school age and enrolled in Lodi Academy, finishing in 1941. At Pacific Union College, he learned to type by practicing with Messages to Young People. As a theology major he began collecting Ellen White statements he could use in future sermons. Graduating in three years from Pacific Union College, in the winter quarter of 1944, he was called into the ministry of the Central California Conference. He held evangelistic meetings and established the first company in Lompoc, California. His career involved building new schools, new churches and baptizing new members. He was ordained to the ministry in July 1949. After his ordination he was called to the Florida Conference, building schools, baptizing 25 to 30 members each year, and conducting weeks of prayer in the boarding schools. In Winter Park, Florida, just outside of Orlando, he grew the congregation in the Kress Memorial Church of 92 to 600 members. In 1958 he came back to California, first to the Pomona church for nine years. When the Conference was financially struggling with the Alhambra church, he was moved to solve the nearly $200,000 debt to the San Gabriel Academy. Another nine years passed and he was moved to the leadership of the Long Beach church, which also faced major financial problems and declining membership. Rea had a reputation for building up churches, schools and resolving church debts.
While in Florida Rea was given an old book authored by Ellen White. It was titled Sketches from the Life of Paul published in 1883. When he showed this book to a church member, he was told why the book was out of print. It was because it had been copied from another book with the same title. Rea began a comparison study and found that some of the literary borrowing in White’s book was unsettling to him.
After transferring to California, Rea met the Wellesley P. Magan Family—members of his congregation. At the death of Wellesley’s father, his widow Lillian Magan gave Rea a book from the Magan family library. It was titled Elisha the Prophet (1882) by Alfred Edersheim. On the flyleaf was White’s signature.
I asked Rea to trace the further events leading up to his expanding awareness that Ellen White had appropriated or adapted the literary works of others to give her own writing their beautiful stylistic and poetical power. He replied, “It was a chance encounter. I was enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Southern California. One day on the second floor of the library I happened to see Alfred Edersheim’s The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, published in 1883. Almost immediately I was struck by the parallels between Edersheim and The Desire of Ages.” He said he noticed also the chapter titles and illustrations published in 1890 in White’s Patriarchs and Prophets.”
So I asked him, “What was your perception or definition concerning the inspiration of Ellen White at the time and her use of sources without attribution.”
Without sounding pompous, with a slight delay while clearing his throat, and speaking in his finest preacher’s voice, he said, “I thought that Ellen G. White was divine, a voice from God, and everything that she wrote came straight from God. And I was no different than most other church-going Adventists.” Then he handed me an article written by Arthur L. White, a grandson of Ellen White which revealed what the church was teaching at the time he was a student at Pacific Union College.
In this article Arthur White stated that; “Mrs. White guarded against reading that which might have a bearing on her initial presentation of a basic topic. In this light it is easy to understand her declaration in 1887: ‘I have not been in the habit of reading any doctrinal articles in the paper, that my mind should not have any understanding of anyone’s ideas and views, and that not a mold of any man’s theories should have any connection with that which I write.’”(29)
“There you have it, that was what I absolutely believed,” Rea said. Following his discovery Rea researched deeper into the implications of the very familiarity of the words, chapter titles, illustrations, patterns of thought, even biblical texts out of context, found in Edersheim, Harris, Melville and other authors when compared with the “originality of White’s writings. Finally, it struck him. “At this point I was so dumbfounded that I went home, closed the door to my study, sat at my desk and wept.” Through a long history of lavish promotion of the Spirit of Prophecy the White Estate had some responsibility for Rea’s emotional trauma.
“But Walter,” I said, “many college educated in the church questioned the White Estate’s immoderate positions, (particularly respecting the Testimonies) and saw her prophetic gift in a broader interpretation than merely receiving and reporting of visions. Much of her writings were not directly attributable to visions.” In the past some Ellen White experts attempted to separate the Testimony writings from the visions. “Did you know that even some visions relied on borrowed literature?”
“I know.” he said, “The trouble was she led us to believe that her prophetic gift was not an on, then off inspiration, we took the whole of her writings as divinely inspired. How would you know when she said, I have been shown, or it has been clearly presented to me, or when she said, according to the light God has given me, or I am instructed, look not to human beings for wisdom.And how would you know that she was borrowing the very words that followed were from a passage in an article or book? Nearly everyone in my era believed in complete inspiration, otherwise you end up with circumstantial inspiration.”
So Walter, I asked, were you aware that you probably materially changed the historical view of inspiration held by the White Estates up to 1980? This shows up in a presentation at the 1982 International Prophetic Guidance Workshop in whichRobert Olson and Arthur White reluctantly distinguished the difference between Ellen White the uninspired columnist writing in the Health Reformer, from the inspired prophetic writings such asChild Guidance?
“Yes,” he said, “but pay close attention. Arthur White explained to the trusted counselors attending the workshop that Ellen White on occasion wore two hats; one of a health columnist where she copied the works of health reformers openly and the other hat asa prophet in her books and other writings. What was troubling to the attendees at the workshop was the fact thatEllen White copied various health writings in the Health Reformer, but then ‘borrowed’ without attribution these same uninspired materials across to The Desire of Ages or the Testimonies, as though she was there in vision. Arthur White told the attendees at the conference that just because this same material from Health Reformer might appear in the Review it did not necessarily mean that it was inspired. These same Review materials could end up in some of her books.” She gleaned fresh ways to convey her messages through plagiarism.
After contemplating the broader nature of inspiration Rea began to reflect (I should say with a certain sadness) on the “sheer recklessness of plagiarism by Ellen White while claiming to be a prophet of God and still appropriating the works of others to save time or to create a better article or book to increase her fame.” He continued to elaborate. “She was asked at one point when confronted about her copying; who had been harmed? Well, I suppose you could say that plagiarism could do no harm to anyone today because the copyrights are extinguished. But now of course, it is not what has been copied that harms the Church, but what the copying and her explicit and implicit denials reveal about the character of Mrs. White. Harm is not done from plagiarism, but from its discovery and denials.”
Narrowing this down, I asked him if he remembered how his theology professors at Pacific Union College educated or indoctrinated him and his colleagues in preparation for the ministry concerning the church’s trademark for the Spirit of Prophecy. He rose from his desk and handed me a quotation from the Adventist Review. “I don’t remember anyone occupying any doubt on the subject of verbal or even inerrant inspiration,” he reiterated by handing me another quote. This time from Arthur White.
“If the messages borne by Ellen G. White had their origin in surrounding minds or influences; if the messages on organization can be traced to the ideas of James White or George I. Butler; if the counsels on health had their origin in the minds of Drs. Jackson, Trall, or Kellogg; if the instruction on education was based upon the ideas of G. H. Bell or W. W. Prescott; if the high standards upheld in the Ellen G. White articles and books were inspired by the strong men of the cause—then the Spirit of Prophecy counsels can mean no more to us than some very good ideas and helpful advice!”(30)
“In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me.” Testimonies. Vol. 1. p. 67.
Rea continued, “We all believed what Mrs. White’s grandson was telling us at the time and none of our professors objected to his accounts, although now I suspect they knew better,” he said. “If she was God inspired, why would she copy others and in the future possibly raise doubts about her unique claims? I found many instances in long letters to individuals where she would copy entire paragraphs from non-Adventist sources to make her letters appear more stylish. These letters were then used by her literary assistants to create articles in the Signs of the Times or compiled into the Testimonies and then rewritten again to enter her books. Each time subtle changes were made by her literary assistants, so unless you have the original letters you will only begin to see downstream the cycle of varying degrees of paraphrasing that is occurring from the letter plagiarisms. And another thing—many of the unique health things we thought she wrote were in harmony with her times and later shown to be inaccurate. Ron Numbers showed that in Prophetess of Health. We were told she was a hundred years ahead of her time on health— what nonsense. Think about it, if she had had a vision in 1863 to pasteurize milk what blessings to humanity would have been given to healthful living and control of disease.”
At times our conversations consisted of a series of interruptions because Rea moved quickly from one idea to the next. Often it seemed there was something left out before we advanced to the next topic. It seemed to me his own truths were his life and the companion of his thoughts and insights. In this respect Rea was certainly still vigorous and sure. At one point I tried to get him to elaborate an important concept he found in his research. It had to do with a subtle emphasis or direction of the copying that Mrs. White employed to bolster the confidence of her readers compared to her borrowed source. So I asked Rea if he could provide an example of improving borrowed sentences from others that entered her illuminations and then were used to produce greater assurances to her readers. He wanted to know more and after further discussions caught on to what I was asking.
Using an example from Calvin Stowe’s Origin and History of the Books of the Bible in her appropriations for inspiration Rea pointed to the phrase written by Stowe, “For the time being the utterances of the man are the word of God.” But when Mrs. White copied this phrase she simply wrote, “The utterances of the man are the word of God.” In this instance, Mrs. White preferred to leave out ‘for the time being’ from Stowe in her parallel paraphrasing, probably because Stowe was limiting the word of God in which inspiration acts upon the prophet.”(31)
“Clearly she had similar views with Stowe, but often her indebtedness would be more objective, positive and definite. As in other examples of literary indebtedness where the source might be more tentative, she used less imagination and provide a stronger subjective flavor.”
“As inquiries are frequently made as to my state in vision, and after I come out, I would say that when the Lord sees fit to give a vision I am taken into the presence of Jesus and angels, and am entirely lost to earthly things.” Selected Messages. Book 1. p. 36.
Rea bolstered his persuasive intellectual claims for finding literary parallels by saying that he had “spent more than thirty years as a hard-core devotee of Ellen White.” At this point in our conversation, it seemed to me that Rea’s memory and temperament was like a fifth string on a banjo. His iron-fisted memory fit him for an even greater role in detecting literary parallels, something his critics have ignored or failed to take into account as to how he discovers more appropriations of original works than others. In talking to Rea there was not as much verbatim copying as you might think—it is subtle with a piece here and there. The main footprint is in the nature of paraphrasing.
His discoveries were done without a computer. Rea types out his letters and manuscripts the old fashion way at 50-60 words a minute on a typewriter and has never taken up the internet, Google, email or modern software to detect literary dependency. I told him he would have been extremely dangerous if he had been computer savvy. I asked him if he was familiar with computer software used by professors to detect when student plagiarize their offerings for a grade. We talked about Turnitin® but he said he did all of his appraisals inch by inch from reading Ellen White and estimating the amount of copying. He admitted that his estimate of 50 to 90 percent paraphrasing or copying was just that depending on the article or book. Obviously, trying to get more specific estimates of literary dependence is extremely difficult since White and her assistants almost invariably rewrote, rephrased, and improved on the original author from which she borrowed. And her sources could come from materials other than books. For example, she asked her son Willie and his wife Mary to gather articles for her to use in her writing.(32) Religious pamphlets, broadsides and church newspapers were abundant and sent to the Review office from many different denominations for free. I pointed out to Rea that he would have to know all of these sources to establish the total amount of copying. But Rea argued “There was enough plagiary evidence that church leaders acknowledged a problem reflected in the apologetic estimates of F. D. Nichol. In 1951 Nichol claimed, “Of all this vast amount of matter (speaking of the corporate body of White’s writings) only an insignificant part is borrowed from other authors.”(33)
I picked up Thoughts on the Mount of Blessing lying on the table and randomly opened to the middle of the book and began reading. He stopped me half way through and began quoting the rest of the page with a few errors. Then he gave me the parallel source from which this was taken. I was impressed.
There was more to our discussions, so I will summarize. Rea has abandoned any sustainable belief that Ellen White was a “true prophet.” He accepts her pioneer role as pastoral or historic. He talked volubly about the need for cultural and social change and financial transparency in the church. Ministers and teachers are afraid to express themselves. During our conversations he frequently drew my attention to certain representative passages in the books or church papers scattered about the room or in file cabinets to emphasize his arguments.
“While writing the manuscript of Great Controversy I was often conscious of the presence of the angels of God. And many times the scenes about which I was writing were presented to me anew in visions of the night, so that they were fresh and vivid in my mind.” Letter 56, 1911, quoted in The Ellen G. White Writings, p. 117.
Based on the amount of fresh discoveries he continues to find, it is clear he is still sympathetic to his continuing convictions that “the heart of Mrs. White’s Adventist literary output was a derivative from others.” Recently, he sent a copy of his literary evidence to the White Estate indicating where he claimed every paragraph in The Great Controversy had a parallel connection to different authors through plagiary passages without attribution.(34)
I thought it would be helpful to review the events that led up to his dismissal as a pastor in trying to understand the venom and sarcasm in The White Lie. And I suppose at this point some readers would like to know if he still considered himself an Adventist. He is what I call a DNA Adventist—as a fallen pastor he is unfit to lead an Adventist congregation. Now that his ship has sailed, so to speak, into a real-life Proustian storm, would he have done differently?
Events Leading Up to Discovery of Plagiary
In the late 70s once Rea was persuaded of the potential for widespread copying he began gathering more examples and sending parallel comparisons and similarities to the White Estate, addressed to his friend Robert Olson, Secretary of the White Estate. He explained, “Bob Olson and I were classmates at PUC and he artfully encouraged me to keep sending him my discovered paraphrasing. But unbeknownst to me the White Estate was planning strategies to persuade believers to withstand the discomforting evidence I was discovering and about to release to the public.” Rea accidentally learned about the details of this strategy a few months later.
In a lengthy letter to his colleagues at the White Estate, Olson outlined proposed research involving The Desire of Ages compared to Hanna’s book on The Life of Christ. The name of Jim Cox, Chairman of New Testament faculty at Andrews, was proposed for the research—“with some misgivings.” Olson outlined the controls he thought might be imposed. “We could erect whatever safeguards we feel are needed to protect the interests of the White Estate. I think it was Elder White who mentioned that we might appoint a committee who would work with Jim as closely as possible in order to guarantee that the White Estate interests would be protected at all times.” This was one of several alternatives suggested for the research.
In addition to sending Olson his findings Rea’s persistent estimates of the rising amounts of borrowing in Ellen White’s most appreciated works eventually attracted the attention of General Conference president Neal Wilson (Wilson and Rea were classmates at PUC). After taking up Rea’s request to review his findings, Wilson, in conjunction with the General Conference President’s Executive Advisory or PREXAD, agreed to appoint a group of administrators and scholars to study Rea’s evidence. Arthur White vigorously opposed Wilson on this undertaking.
Wilson encouraged Rea to gather up his data and present his evidence without limitations to a committee of scholars he would appoint. In the letter to summon the review committee, Wilson explained; “We do not really know, and I believe that we should know. I would like to be able to clearly face people, critics or friends, and say that we have looked at the evidence. Elder Rea indicates he has supporting evidence, and that it is overwhelmingly convincing.” At this point Rea told me how excited he was. All of his research was going to pay off. He was going to get a professional hearing from church scholars. “I felt I really had a chance to educate the scholars in the church about the extent of the borrowings.”
The Glendale Meeting January 1980
The ad hoc committee of nineteen individuals (well-known throughout Adventism) was balanced across some of the culture bearers’ familiar with earlier research on Ellen White’s use of literary sources. The committee met in Glendale, California for two days on January 28 and 29th 1980.(35) At this meeting, Rea presented a detailed examination of some of the things he had discovered. The group invited Rea to remain in the afternoon of the second day to answer questions. Robert Olson was appointed secretary of this committee. After reviewing Rea’s evidence the Glendale group unanimously voted several recommendations to be conveyed to President Wilson and PREXAD.
Firstly, the committee expressed its “appreciation to Elder Rea for the enormous amount of work he had done,” and “gratitude to Elder Neal Wilson and PREXAD…for their readiness to consider our recommendations.” The six important recommendations that followed were voted unanimously with cool, wistful elegance, and the wording pleased Rea very much.
The recommendations included, “That we recognize that Ellen White, in her writing, used various sources more extensively than we had previously believed. In a number of her books the similarity between Ellen White and other authors is great enough to require the serious attention of our church leaders in order to determine the degree and significance of her dependence on other writers. And as soon as possible, a plan be developed for thoroughly informing our church administrators and immediate study be given to a plan for educating the church on the subject of inspiration and Ellen White’s use of sources including articles in the Adventist Review, Ministry magazine and though the Sabbath School lessons.”
They also recommended, “That the leadership of the church and the White Estate continue to educate SDA believers, workers and administrators as to the methods used by prophets to reveal God’s will to His church through the inspired writings of both scripture and the messages of Ellen G. White.”
One General Conference member on the committee spoke up and urged that they should “all agree not to cover up.” After passing these recommendations back to Washington, a month later PREXAD abolished the Glendale committee saying it had no further assignment, and was not heard from again. They met only once. Rea went on to recount what happened during General Conference Executive Committee in Washington.
On February 5, 1980 president Wilson called available members of the committee to discuss the literary criticisms introduced by Rea. The minutes summarized five general items that emerged from the morning discussions that would set the strategic accommodations or theory of inspiration in the future.(36) Rea handed me a list of recommendations from PREXAD. The General Conference recognized that:
- There had been a significant use of literary sources by Ellen White;
- Use of literary sources is consistent with the Seventh-day Adventist view of inspiration;
- The church should be informed and at the same time educated on the doctrine of inspiration;
- Walter T. Rea has done a considerable research but it is felt he should not be the one to communicate to the membership either the research or a view of inspiration; and
- General Conference members were united in their continued confidence in Ellen White as the special messenger of the Lord to the Church.
Less than two weeks later the president of Southern California Conference, Harold Calkins, and a member of the Glendale committee, released the following statement in the Pacific Union Recorder. Calkins briefly explained; “The committee did not discover dependence on other authors in the Spirit of Prophecy writings.” This was exactly opposite from what he and the others voted in Glendale. It was also the beginning of double-talk that would haunt Rea throughout the rest of his career as a literary authority of Ellen White’s writings. USC Law School Dean Jerry Wiley (also a member of the Glendale committee) wrote to Calkins asking him to explain his false statement. Calkins did not respond.(37)
As the Glendale Committee’s recommendations began to seep into the consciousness of Adventism, some adherents sent letters to the White Estate asking for clarification. In one query letter Olson defended his position, “I think you have somehow gotten the wrong impression of that meeting, because it took no particular courage on my part to vote the way I did. All of the votes of the committee were unanimous. There was no problem with any of the actions that were taken. When we acknowledged that Ellen White had engaged in a certain amount of literary borrowing, we were not diminishing her authority as a prophet in the least. The brethren here in the General Conference do recognize that most of our people do not understand how inspired writings were developed, not only in the case of Ellen White, but also in the case of the Bible authors.”(38)
While I am writing out important matter He [the Holy Spirit] is beside me, helping me … and when I am puzzled for a fit word with which to express my thought, He brings it clearly and distinctly to my mind. Ellen G. White. Letter 127, 1902.
From item (4 above), one could surmise that the GC brethren had accepted Rea’s unequivocal and undeniable evidence, but not Rea’s enthusiasm for educating and bringing about change in the world of inspiration for Ellen White.Rea was essentially muzzled from further reporting. Once removed from his ongoing study, the stubborn pastor from Long Beach could only watch the renewing of fervor in the cultural support of previous teachings on the inspiration of the prophetess. The General Conference and White Estate began to expend greater energy in shoring up previous convictions. You can actually see the waves of resistance moving back and forth across the articles published by the Church during the next five years.Even so, the question of the extent of her borrowings bothered many believers because they wondered how uninspired material, even fictional became inspired through borrowing. To bolster her writing habits Ellen White never explained what the Holy Spirit actually communicated to her on the topic of literary borrowing, even though son William implied she had received such communications from God.
Offering a Compromise Not to Write The White Lie
Rea continued to quietly add to White’s writing parallels after the Glendale Conference. He stepped back from the limelight. He came to see that he was not to be a spokesperson about his parallel literary findings in just the same way through Olson as before. It became a certain class of truth, which cannot become true till our faith has made it so.At Andrews University, Bruce Weaver a seminary student under ministerial appointment by the Arkansas/Louisiana conference, discovered an unmarked file folder on a table in the reading room in the James White Library. The folder contained examples of Rea’s literary criticisms of the prophetess writings. The White Estate’s foiling plans were in the folder discussing who could be trusted on the university faculty to blunt the impact of Rea’s findings. Weaver copied this file and sent it to Rea. Consequently, Rea was not surprised when Arthur White explain in the Adventist Review the countervailing evidence to prepare the church for what to expect from Rea’s sourcing revelations. When it was discovered that Weaver had copied this file, he was dismissed as a graduate student and his ministerial appointment was revoked for passing the sensitive materials to Rea.(39)
To preempt Rea’s revelations the Pacific Press rushed to publish The White Truth which was intended to defend the inspirational integrity of Ellen White. It is important to note that this book was published prior to the appearance of The White Lie in 1982. The White Truth by John J. Robertson (assistant to the president of Southeastern California Conference) did not mention Walter Rea by name but devoted the first two chapters against the plagiarism charge. (Robertson had been an investor in Davenport.)(40)
Embarrassed Adventists accused Rea of approaching the LA Times for the interview. The religious editor at the LA Times John Dart told Spectrum that “the interview was not initiated or suggested by Rea.”(41) Soon it was rumored that Rea was going to be fired. Two weeks after the LA Times article (November, 1980) Rea was asked to meet with the local Southern California Conference Executive Committee. The committee cited the negative influence of Rea regarding a fundamental belief which Adventists held for the past century. Concerned, Rea offered a compromise to keep his job. Rea assured the committee that he had not initiated the interview or supplied background information used in the interview. He agreed to work with any committee to study the matter of White’s borrowing. He agreed not to speak publicly on the subject or talk to “anyone in the peanut gallery,” as president of the conference Calkins put it. Also, Rea agreed not to publish any book on his findings as long as he was employed. After Rea was fired he felt he was released from any of these stipulations. The book arrived in 1982 and was first titled, Too Close to Call, but Rea later changed the title to The White Lie.(42)
Calkins reversed himself from a previous communication in the Pacific Union Recorder when he said that the Glendale Committee had not found any parallel writings (see above). In firing Rea he explained; “The fact that Mrs. White creatively used Protestant historians in preparing her work does not negate her inspiration … and we are confident that her works can withstand careful scrutiny. The action was taken to maintain the integrity of the Church’s worldwide ministry.”(43)
Critics bashed Rea’s book as “grossly exaggerated.” The tone and format would certainly intimidate some readers. And the details at times overstated would endure as thoroughly written. Ministry magazine was more gentle and recommended those “honestly searching for the truth about Ellen White should make their way through Rea’s book, even if the journey is a little jarring at times.” Doug Morgan, historian from Columbia Union College (now Adventist University) in Washington said, we do need to at least pay attention to him. Is it possible that those who have overused or misused Mrs. White are making her of “none effect,” who have lynched the very lady they profess to adore as Rea charges.”(44) Some critics went so far as to say that The White Lie was written in a strident or angry personal tone throughout the book.
Historian Jonathan Butler felt that Rea “reacts with the harshness of a man who feels not only misunderstood but abused.”(45) I told Rea that maybe Butler was on to something that might had led Rea to explode against his colleagues in the ministry as “the super-salesmen of the psychic or tired old men.” Was there something in the way he was treated by church leadership that provoked Rea’s withering belligerence towards his friends in the ministry? Listening to Rea’s account after the LA Times appeared, it seemed possible that Rea was also somewhat naïve about the charge and direction that plagiarism might go. I told him he reminded me of someone who tipped over a bee hive and then wondered why he got stung.
My mind has been deeply stirred over many things. It seems to me that light from heaven flashes upon me, and the Holy Spirit brings many things to my remembrance. Important views are clear to my mind’s eye, as though I was looking upon the scene as I wrote.”–Letter 27, 1895. [Referring to The Desire of Ages]
The church was facing three simultaneous problems, of which Rea and The White Lie was only one. The other two problems were associated with Desmond Ford’s criticism of the investigative judgment and the Donald Davenport financial scandal. Rea told me that he thought he was fixed in the stream of the ill-gotten “Ford Davenport Rea” (FDR) exposure. He sincerely believed that the real reason for his dismissal was his early involvement in exposing the Davenport Ponzi scheme and malfeasance by church leaders, not his research on Ellen White’s literary frameworks. Mrs. Davenport was a member of Rea’s church and brought the court sealed records which included a list of investors for Rea’s help in determining if her husband was hiding assets. Seeing the list of church investors Rea brought in Jerry Wiley (also a member of the Long Beach Church) and together they began to write letters to church leaders involved with Davenport. Bringing this to light did not help Rea’s reputation at the time, especially in the letters he wrote to the GC president Pierson and Pacific Union Conference president Walter Blehm. Rea would go on to write a rough draft of book he called, The Pirates of Privilege that deals with Davenport. (See The Pirates of Privilege at nonegw.org)
Around March of 1980, after being advised that PUC professor Fred Veltman would be assigned the continuing literary analysis of White (in The Desire of Ages project), Rea cut back on his own literary criticism and assumed a more vigorous pastor’s role in his church. Rumors that Rea was going to be fired continued.
In a letter address to Rea in July, 1980 Wilson raised his own concerns. “You and I have been a part of the Seventh-day Adventist ministry long enough, Walter, to know that ordination becomes a binding, sacred agreement. It indicates our full acceptance of all the vital truths and teachings of this church, including the fact that the gift of prophecy was manifested through the ministry of Ellen White, and that this is an identifying mark of the remnant church…to many it appears as though you have been carrying on activities which tear down the very things that you are supposed to build up.”(46)
After the LA Times article, the church decided that Rea’s research had carried him too far into labeling the denomination’s highly respected pioneer Ellen White a plagiarist. Rea was fifty-eight years old. Had he not shared his results it is likely he would have retired from the ministry under the natural order of things. As it was, Rea thought the church was punishing him because he publicly revealed church administrators involved with Davenport. On the plagiarism side he naively thought his discoveries would simply launch a revisionist view of the prophetess Ellen White and reshape the properties of inspiration.(47) Eventually the church’s decision to discipline Rea was not because his information was incorrect or because he failed to perform his ministerial duties. He allowed his critical and doubting imagination to play over and around the prophet of the Adventist church. The month before Rea told a reporter from the Chicago Tribune that he knew his firing was coming because he had “spilled the beans.” Around this same time Rea became frightened because, “there have been some threats against my life.” He was reluctant to discuss the details with the reporter.(48)
“Mrs. White’s copying from others was not a necessity, but was done chiefly to conserve time and in the interests of brevity and forcefulness. She acted without knowledge of the literary standards that would count a moderate use of others’ writings as unfair or worthy of condemnation.” W. C. White and D. E. Robinson. Brief Statements Regarding the Writings of Ellen G. White. p. 11.
Believers had a new concern. Did it really matter that its prophetess, a self-described “messenger of God,” was a plagiarist? She had given the impression that her messages came directly from God, not paraphrased from others. She had concealed the fact and also attempted to cover up her copying, making evidence difficult to find. The highly respected Jack Provonsha ethicist at Loma Linda University, thought her messages collectively in “whatever form it appeared, can guide the church safely home.”(49) Wasn’t that good enough? Maybe she thought that God owned everything in the literary world and she could freely utilize what was available? Her grandson tried to use the most common defense; “Ellen White in actuality used very little from other authors, and it was no injury to them. There was no misrepresentation in the matter.”(50) But in the end the denials did not play well for all believers. Olson explained; “In my opinion, she did not want her readers to be distracted from her message because of concentrating on her method. Undue attention to how she wrote might raise unnecessary doubts in some minds as the authority of what she wrote.”(51)
Rea learned that as a local pastor he was not to become influential on such matters, but a simple passenger on the voyage of life, and only allowed to remain on board without touching the helm or handling the riggings. Rea’s polemical findings during the Glendale Conference called attention to White’s borrowing in works such as Patriarchs and Prophets and other books. This prompted the White Estate to sponsor a study by religion professor Veltman at Pacific Union College, with a doctoral degree in hermeneutics from Berkeley. After eight years of research Veltman also discovered that there was clear evidence from Ellen White’s personal handwriting that she had composed The Desire of Ages using dependent sources. Veltman’s 2,561 page report readily revealed that “multiple aspects of literary dependence or independence are often too subtle, to intertwined, and too complex to be precisely and consistently evaluated.”(52) Generally, Veltman found the closer one is able to move back through the textual tradition to White’s own hand, the greater is the degree of literary dependency. Veltman concluded that White used approximately 31 percent from outside sources (paraphrasing) in parts of The Desire of Ages. After extensive study with numerous volunteers assisting in the search (and a $100,000 plus)—perhaps his most important conclusion was …
“How do you harmonize Ellen White’s use of sources with her statements to the contrary? I must admit at the start that in my judgment this is the most serious problem to be faced in connection with Ellen White’s literary dependency. (Italics added) It strikes at the heart of her honesty, her integrity, and therefore her trustworthiness.”(53)
Like Numbers in Prophetess of Health many of the literary facts put forward by Rea were accepted by the White Estate, but their importance and significance were minimized. Tortuous arguments were used to reduce the impact of these findings and numerous theories were proposed. But for many in the church;White’s writings and inspiration were no longer as lustrous, they were no longer infallible, inerrant, or verbal and consequently today (among many) she does not enjoy the same assumed supernatural status as before.
“The Holy Spirit traced these truths upon my heart and mind as indelibly as the law was traced by the finger of God upon the tables of stone.” Colporteur Ministry. p. 126.
Walter T. Rea born on July 12, 1922 and passed away August 30, 2014 leaving behind two children, a son and a daughter. He was 92 years old.
T Joe Willey, graduated from Walla Walla University, received a PhD in Neuroscience from University of California, Berkeley, and taught at Loma Linda Medical School, as well as University of California, Riverside, La Sierra University, and Walla Walla University. He was a fellow with Sir John Eccles, a Nobel Prize winner at New York University Buffalo. T Joe is retired, enjoying reading and traveling and exploring and writing on Adventist historical interests.
T Joe Willey © Copyright July 27, 2016
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1 The first newspaper criticism of Ellen White was created by The Church of God (Seventh Day) after splitting from the Seventh-day Adventist church. This account accused White of suppressing some of her earlier writings. The controversy made it into the newspaper in 1866 in Battle Creek and San Francisco. See Ron Graybill. “Visions and Revisions Part II: Editing the Testimonies.” Ministry. April 1994. p. 8.
2 Ronald Yates. “Church Jolted by Plagiarism Charge.” Chicago Tribune. November 23, 1980. Steve Maynard. “The White Controversy. Three professors say writings—even though borrowed—still play a role in Adventism today.” Walla Walla City News. December 4, 1981. “A False Prophetess?” Newsweek. January 19, 1981, and “The Church of Liberal Borrowings.” Time. August 2, 1982.
3 “The Editor. Ellen White and Literary Dependency.” Ministry. June, 1980.
4 In addition to Walter Rea, Dart also interviewed Robert W. Olson from The Ellen G. White Estate, Don McAdams from Southwestern Adventist College, Marilyn Thomsen, communications secretary for Southern California Conference, and Fred Veltman from Pacific Union College. Quotations from GC President Neal Wilson came from the Adventist Review.
6 For a discussion of plagiarism see Richard A. Posner. The Little Book of Plagiarism. Pantheon Books. 2007. p. 37. The stigma of plagiarism seems never to fade completely, not because it is an especially heinous
offense but because it is embarrassingly second rate. This unconscious plagiarism is referred to as cryptomnesia. The plagiarist has read something he remembers without remembering he has read it. Psychologists have investigated the phenomenon and have found no evidence that people can recite entire passages written by someone else yet believe they are their own.
7 A report in the Heraldsburg Enterprise (near St. Helena, California) comparing five religious books from which the literary critics determined that Ellen White in her Great Controversy had copied.
8 John Dart. “Report Costs Adventist His Job as Pastor.” LA Times. November 15, 1980.
9 See “Press Release from the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” November 5, 1980. “The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not about to disregard Ellen White’s books or lessen its convictions regarding her work as a true prophetess of God, [Robert] Olson concluded.” Shirley Burton. “Applications of Inspiration; What the Media Overlooked.” Pacific Union Recorder. November 10, 1980. William L. Johnson. “Reflections on Ellen White’s Inspiration.” Adventist Review. November 27, 1980.
10 Arthur White. “Ellen G. White and Her Writings.” Adventist Review. November 27, 1980. Reprinted.
11 “Beset by Critics, Adventist Official Cites ‘Satanic Influence.’” Christianity Today. November 20, 1981.
12 The first to appear after the LA Times article was the announcement of tapes and presentations available through the White Estate. See “Documents on E. G. White Sources.” Adventist Review. November 6, 1980. Various Authors. “The Inspiration and Authority of the Ellen G. White Writings.” Ministry. August 1982. Note: Herbert E. Douglass in Messenger of the Lord (Pacific Press. 1998) does not mention Walter Rea or The White Lie.
13 Ralph Hinman, Jr. “Deposed Pastor See Adventist Split.” Long Beach Independent Press. Section A. Page 8. January 31, 1981.
14 Douglas Hackleman. Who Watches? Who Cares: Members for Church Accountability. 2008.
15 South Bend Tribune. November 21, 1982.
16 Alden Thompson. “The Imperfect Speech of Inspiration.” Spectrum. 1982. 12(4). p. 48.
17 Eric Anderson, et.al. “Must the Crisis Continue?” Spectrum. 1981. Vol. 11(3). p. 44.
18 Ronald Graybill. “E. G. White’s Literary Work: An Update.” Presentation, Worship Services at the General Conference. November 15-19, 1981. Ronald Graybill. “The ‘I Saw’ Parallels in Ellen White’s Writings.” Adventist Review. July 29, 1982. Robert W. Olson. “Ellen White’s Denials.” Ministry. February, 1991. Leonard Brand and Don. S. McMahon. The Prophet and Her Critics. Pacific Press Publ. Assoc. 2005. Graeme Bradford. “More Than a Prophet.” Biblical Perspectives. 2006
19 Various Authors. “The Inspiration and Authority of the Ellen G. White Writings.” Ministry. August, 1982.
20 “And while I do not hold her writings to be equal in authority with the Bible (although inspired in the fullest sense of the word by the same Holy Spirit.” J. R. Spangler. “The Two Mind-Sets.” Ministry. June 1982. p. 5. Russell R. Standish and Colin D. Standish. The Greatest of all the Prophets. Highwood Books. Australia. 2004.
21 “Ellen White: Prophet or Plagiarist?” Ministry. June, 1982.
22 J. R. Spangler. “Ellen White and Literary Dependency.” Ministry. June 1980. p. 5.
23 The facts are that it is still literary deceit.
24 Richard A. Posner. Ibid. p. 26.“Paraphrasing or creative imitation is used to throw the reader off the scent of literary copying.”
25 James White. “Plagiarism.” The Advent Review & Sabbath Herald. Vol. 24. September6, 1864. p. 120.
26 My father, a retired Adventist minister from the Northwest, became an evening librarian in the LLU Heritage Room with James Nix. Walter Rea would come by on occasion seeking Ellen White sources and letters.
27 Rea lost his ministerial credentials, but as a preacher could still marry or baptize individuals.
28 Rea showed me the outline and several unfinished chapters of a manuscript titled, “Pirates of Privilege.” The book details his involvement from the beginnings of the of the Davenport bankruptcy and participation of church leadership in the debacle and scandal. As part of his legal settlement with the church Rea agreed not to publish this manuscript.
29 Arthur L. White. “Who Told Sister White.” Review and Herald. Part II. May 21, 1959. p. 7.
30 Ibid. Review and Herald. Part I. May 14, 1959. p. 6.
31 There were other differences between Stowe and Ellen White on the subject of inspiration. For example, Mrs. White omitted Stowe’s denials of thought inspiration. To deny inspiration of the thoughts is to deny inspiration of the prophet. Both Stowe and White held to a theory of progressive revelation and the human character of the writings in the Bible. Ellen G. White. Selected Messages. Book One. 1958. p. 19-21. Shows strong parallel to Professor Stowe’s Origin and History of the Books of the Bible. Hartford, CN: Hartford Publ. Co. 1867.
32 Letter from Ellen G. White to W. C. White written in October and November 1880.
33 Francis D. Nichol. Ellen G. White and Her Critics. Review & Herald Publ. Assoc. 1951. p. 467.
34 Don McAdams during the January 28-29, 1980 Glendale meeting predicted that this would be the case. Walter Rea presently claims that he has confirmed McAdams suspicion.
35 Ad hoc committee members included, Ralph Thompson (Chair), Robert Olson (Secretary), Walter Blehm, Harold Calkins, Herbert Douglass, Fred Harder, William Johnsson, Harold Lance, W. R. Lesher, Donald McAdams, Jack Provonsha, Walter Rea, W. L. Richards, Ottilie Stafford, Fred Veltman, Louis Venden, John Waller, Mervyn Warren and Jerry Wiley. Also present the second day (Jan. 29), Galen Richardson, Jim Wagner, Ron Graybill and James Nix.
36 Minutes of Meeting. General Conference Committee. GC Archives. February 5, 1980. 80-31.
37 Letter from Jerry Wiley (associate dean USC Law School) to Harold Calkins March 18, 1980. “I have thought for some time about the short piece you printed in the February 11, 1980 Pacific Union Recorder, and I simply cannot harmonize the committee’s action with your statement … My memory of the meeting is in direct conflict with what you wrote in the Recorder.” Sent also to Neal Wilson.
38 Letter from Robert Olson, Secretary, EGW Estate to Eryl A. Cummings, February 21, 1980.
39 In the fall of 1978 Bruce Weaver copied a list of books in Ellen White’s library at the time of her death. He systematically purchased copies he could find in used book stores and acquired copies from the libraries and examined them for evidence of plagiarism. He left Adventism in early 1982. For fanaticism in early Adventism; see Bruce Weaver. “Incident in Atkinson: The Arrest and Trial of Isreal Dammon.” Adventist Currents. Vol. 3, No (1), 1988.
40 John J. Robertson. The White Truth. Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publ. Assoc. 1981. 112 p. See LA Times. January 16, 1982/Part II. p. 5.
41 Spectrum. Vol 11, Number 3. p. 49.
42 The New York Times stated; Walter Rea has inflamed the issues confronting the cult with incontrovertible evidence he provides in The White Lie. Time magazine stated; The White Lie is a bombshell which has shocked the church.
43 “Negative Influence on Church Doctrine Leads to Credential Withdrawal.” Pacific Union Recorder. November 24, 1980. Harold Calkins admitted significant dependence in the writings of Ellen White in an Adventist Review article written in February 14, 1980 with caveats. He said, “Inspired writers themselves do not always understand how the Spirit works on and through them.” 44Doug Morgan. The White Lie. College People. Summer, 1982. p. 32-33.
45 Jonathan Butler. “Prophet or Plagiarist: A Dichotomy.” Spectrum. 1982. 12(4). p. 44.
46 Letter to Walter Rea from Neal Wilson. July 2, 1980. GC president Neal Wilson and Walter Rea were classmates at Pacific Union College.
47 “Adventist Minister is Unfrocked after Calling Prophet Plagiarist.” The Washington Post. Friday, December 12, 1980.
48 Ronald Yates. “Church Jolted by Plagiarism Charge.” Chicago Tribune. Sunday, November 23, 1980. p. 12.
49 Jack W. Provonsha. “Did Ellen White Attempt to Conceal the Fact that She ‘Borrowed’ from the Writings of Others?” Loma Linda University Heritage Library Document.
50 John Dart. “Plagiarizing Prophets: Are Words Tainted?” Los Angeles Times. Part 2, p. 5. December 24, 1980.
51 Robert W. Olson. “Ellen White’s Denials.” Ministry. February, 1991. p. 18.
52 Robert W. Nixon. “The Desire of Ages Study Completed.” Adventist Review. September 27, 1986.
53 Fred Veltman. “The Desire Ages Project.” Ministry. December 1990.
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