Alleged Historical Errors
While many events of the past were shown to her, neither Ellen White nor her son ever claimed that every historical detail mentioned in her works was provided by the Lord in vision. Ellen White says that she used "facts" which were "well known and universally acknowledged." (See The Great Controversy, pp. xiii, xiv.) She wrote, for example, "In 1816 the American Bible Society was founded" (The Great Controversy, p. 287). There is no reason to believe that this type of information was supplied in vision.
W. C. White [Ellen White's son] states:
"The framework of the great temple of truth sustained by her writings was presented to her clearly in vision. In some features of this work, information was given in detail. Regarding some features of the revelation, such as the features of prophetic chronology, as regards the ministration in the sanctuary and the changes that took place in 1844, the matter was presented to her many times and in detail many times, and this enabled her to speak very clearly and very positively regarding the foundation pillars of our faith.
"In some of the historical matters such as are brought out in Patriarchs and Prophets and in Acts of the Apostles, and in Great Controversy, the main outlines were made very clear and plain to her, and when she came to write up these topics, she was left to study the Bible and history to get dates and geographical relations and to perfect her description of details" (Selected Messages, book 3, p. 462).
In a letter to W. W. Eastman, W. C. White declared:
"When Controversy was written, Mother never thought that the readers would take it as authority on historical dates or use it to settle controversy regarding details of history, and she does not now feel that it should be used in that way" (Selected Messages, book 3, p. 447).
W. C. White also wrote S. N. Haskell on the same subject, stating that:
"We will make a great mistake if we lay aside historical research and endeavor to settle historical questions by the use of Mother's books as an authority when she herself does not wish them to be used in any such way" (W. C. White to S. N. Haskell, October 31, 1912).
In making her case for the future, Ellen White built not only on the revelations God gave her, but also on the records of the past. She made no attempt to write an authoritative history textbook. Rather, in the words of W. C. White, "The principal use of the passages quoted from historians was not to make a new history, not to correct errors in history, but to use valuable illustrations to make plain important spiritual truths" (W. C. White to L. E. Froom, February 18, 1932).
[Excerpt from R. W. Olson, 101 Questions on the Sanctuary and on Ellen White, pp. 48, 49. Available from the Ellen G. White Estate.]