From News Release, July 17, 2015: Top leaders of the Adventist faith are on the campus of Pacific Union College in northern California this weekend to honor the memory of Ellen G. White, a founder of the denomination who died 100 years ago this Sabbath (July 18) at her home in Elmshaven near the college.
White was believed by her fellow believers to exercise the spiritual gift of prophet as described in the New Testament (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4). Together with her husband, Pastor James White, who served as the primary organizer of the denomination, the couple in their late teens and early 20s pulled together a handful of mostly other young adults during the 1850s to re-start the Adventist movement after the disaster the ended the movement in 1844 when Baptist evangelist William Miller predicted that Christ would return on October 22.
The White Centennial Legacy Conference began yesterday (July 16) and includes a number of speakers. Dr. David Trim is was a history professor at PUC when he was appointed archivist of the denomination; James R. Nix is director of the White Estate. Dr. Ted Wilson is president of the denomination and he will preach during the Sabbath services at the college church on the topic “The Importance of the Gift of Prophecy in the Adventist Church.” Other speakers will include Dr. George Knight, a retired professor of church history at Andrews University near South Bend, Indiana; and Elissa Kido, director of the Center for K-12 Adventist Education at La Sierra University in southern California.
The keynote event yesterday was a lecture titled “Ellen White, Elmshaven and the Napa Valley” following by Dr. Eric Anderson, director of the Walter C. Utt Center for Adventist History at the college, followed by a kick-off luncheon at the Elmshaven home of White. At 3:40 p.m. Thursday afternoon, attendees had a moment of silence followed by a commemorative prayer at the exact time 100 years ago that White died.
White’s significance is not limited to the Adventist denomination. In November 2014, Smithsonian Magazine chose White as one of the 100 most significant Americans of all time. According to the Adventist Encyclopedia, “Ellen G. White was a woman of remarkable spiritual gifts who lived most of her life during the nineteenth century (1827-1915), yet through her writings she is still making a revolutionary impact on millions of people around the world.”
During her lifetime Mrs. White wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles and 40 books; but today, including compilations of her 50,000 pages of manuscript, more than 100 titles are available in English. She is the most translated woman writer in the entire history of literature, and the most translated American author of either gender. One of her books, Steps to Christ, has been published in more than 140 languages.
She is seen by most Adventists as an inspired writer, although she insisted that such a belief not be a requirement for membership in the denomination. The official position of the Adventist denomination is that “the writings of Ellen White are not a substitute for Scripture. They cannot be placed on the same level. The Holy Scriptures stand alone, the unique standard by which her and all other writings must be judged and to which they must be subject.”
After serving as a missionary in Australia from 1891 to 1900, White moved to Elmshaven where she spent the last 15 years of her life writing many of the books that form an important part of her spiritual legacy. Elmshaven is located near the small town of Saint Helena in the Napa Valley of northern California.