Does the End Justify the Means? Ellen White and Plagiarism

Speaker: Categories: Sep 10, 1994


[56min, 51sec / 43min, 48sec]


Much has been written and spoken in recent years about the ways in which Inspiration works and about Ellen G. White, her mission and role, and her use of other sources. San Diego Forum attenders have part participated in some of these discussions.

The September topic will continue this analysis with a presentation which should prove informative, challenging, and disturbing. Dr. Walters contends that "Ellen White engaged in pervasive plagiarism and that this diminishes, but need not destroy, her prophetic role in Adventism." He has identified seven key points as follows:

I. Widespread plagiarism must be openly acknowledged by the church.

II. Lying and theft have long been viewed by society and Adventism -- and Ellen White -- as wrong.

III. A good person can do conventionally wrong acts that are ethically justifiable, but Ellen White did not see herself in this category.

IV. Ellen White adamantly defended her literary practices, despite pointed criticism.

V. Ellen White's religious self-understanding provided personal legitimation to her plagiarism and also to its defense.

VI. Ellen White, a sophisticated religious leader in later life, rationalized that her service to The Truth necessitated the sacrifice of lesser truth.

VII. Ellen White's sincere, but simple, religious views of God, church, and world -- formed early in her life -- may allow an Adventist believer to understand, and charitably forgive, her serious ethical lapse into plagiarism.


Dr. James Walters, co-founder of the Center for Christian Ethics at Loma Linda University in 1983, received his Master of Divinity degree at Andrews University and his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees at Claremont Graduate School. He has served as a pastor and as a college/university professor. He has done post-doctoral work with the National Endowment for the Humanities and has been widely published in the areas of religion, ethics, and medicine. He serves as associate editor and co-founder of Adventist Today, the new Adventist news magazine. He was a key organizer of the recent and highly controversial panel discussion on creationism held at Loma Linda University.

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