Did Ellen White say we shouldn’t wear wedding rings?

In eating, dressing, and in the furnishing of our school building, we want to preserve the simplicity of true godliness. Many will deny themselves and sacrifice much in order to contribute toward making the missionary work a success, and should they see this means expended upon the finest linen and the more expensive furniture or articles for the table, it would have a most unfortunate influence upon these brethren and sisters. Nothing could militate more decidedly against our present and future usefulness in this country. The very first lesson to teach the students is self-denial. Let their eyes, their senses, take in the lesson; let all the appointments of the school convey prac-tical instruction in this line, that the work can be carried forward only by a constant sacrifice. . . .

Our ministers and their wives should be an example in plainness of dress; they should dress neatly, comfortably, wearing good material, but avoiding anything like extravagance and trimmings, even if not expensive; for these things tell to our disadvantage. We should educate the youth to simplicity of dress, plainness with neatness. Let the extra trimmings be left out, even though the cost be but a trifle.

The Wedding Ring

Some have had a burden in regard to the wearing of a marriage ring, feeling that the wives of our ministers should conform to this custom. All this is unnecessary. Let the ministers’ wives have the golden link which binds their souls to Jesus Christ, a pure and holy character, the true love and meekness and godliness that are the fruit borne upon the Christian tree, and their influence will be secure anywhere. The fact that a disregard of the custom occasions remark is no good reason for adopting it. Americans can make their position understood by plainly stating that the custom is not regarded as obligatory in our country. We need not wear the sign, for we are not untrue to our marriage vow, and the wearing of the ring would be no evidence that we were true. I feel deeply over this leavening process which seems to be going on among us, in the conformity to custom and fashion. Not one penny should be spent for a circlet of gold to testify that we are married. In countries where the custom is imperative, we have no burden to condemn those who have their marriage ring; let them wear it if they can do so conscientiously; but let not our missionaries feel that the wearing of the ring will increase their influence one jot or tittle. If they are Christians, it will be manifest in their Christlikeness of character, in their words, in their works, in the home, in association with others; it will be evinced by their patience and long-suffering and kindliness. They will manifest the spirit of the Master, they will possess His beauty of character, His loveliness of disposition, His sympathetic heart.

You will notice that Mrs. White did not forbid the wearing of the ring, but said that “in countries where the custom is imperative,” that is, where it is a “criterion of virtue” (to use W. C. White’s phrase), she had no objection to people wearing the ring “if they can do so conscientiously.” By that latter expression, I think she meant that they should weigh the matter carefully, mindful of the possible negative side of wearing the ring, and then wear it only if they are convinced that this is what they should do. Here in North America the more widespread wearing of the wedding ring seems to have been accompanied by the increased use of other kinds of jewelry by our people—rings of various kinds, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and even various piercings. This is the practical danger that confronts the church.