W. C. “Willie” White (Ellen G. White’s Son)





“…Sabbath morning I had opportunity to speak about thirty minutes. In my remarks I referred to the history of the Christian church. They began with pure principles, but through the attacks of Satan they became backslidden and departed from those principles. I pointed out that the only hope for the S. D. A. church was to ADHERE TO FIRST PRINCIPLES. I then referred to the order in which the enemy is attacking our work. His first effort was to destroy union and establish separation. His next work was to weaken our reverence for the Sabbath, then to weaken our faith in the Sanctuary service, then to break our confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy, THEN TO CONFUSE OUR CONCEPTION REGARDING A PERSONAL GOD.” {Letter from W. C. White to E. G. White, November 28, 1905. }

William C. White pointed out that the only hope for the S. D. A. church was to adhear to first principles. He is referring to the Fundamental Principles. He was talking in the historical context in 1905 when there were some people who were introducing some deceiving sentiments regarding the personality of God.

Ellen White’s son saddened.

In 1935, a man by the name of H. W. Carr had sent a letter to W. C. White, asking him to relate his mother’s views on the Holy Spirit (Ellen White had died 20 years earlier in 1915) but we did not elaborate on what was said in the exchange of dialogue that took place. Here we shall do so.

The response of W. C. White to Carr is well worth noting. This is because it does reveal that when this letter was written, this change in the ‘thinking’ of Seventh-day Adventists regarding the Holy Spirit was taking place. It also reveals that by this time (1935), the trinity doctrine had not become so established within Seventh-day Adventism as many have been led to believe. It is also proof that even though Ellen White had said that the Holy Spirit was a personality, everyone did not accept this (not even by 1935) to mean that this mysterious divine personality was a person not unlike God the Father and Christ.

Carr had asked Willie White what his mother’s views had been about the Holy Spirit. This was because of the debate and friction being brought about, amongst Seventh-day Adventists, by the attempted change in beliefs regarding the Holy Spirit. Froom’s book ‘The Coming of the Comforter’ had been published in 1928, 7 years before Carr wrote this letter.

Carr wrote saying to W. C. White:


Jan.24 1935

Eld. W. C. White
St. Helena, Calif.

Dear Elder White

Your recent reminder of the efficient provision for carrying forward Sr. Whites work, and the gems of thought which accompanied your announcement is very much appreciated, “She being dead yet speaketh”. God has lead this people on, and is still leading, through his chosen servant, for which we praise Him.

In the first pages of Great Controversy it is stated that the “Father had an associate – a co worker… The only being that could enter into all the councils and purposes of God. “The Father wrought by His Son in the creation of all heavenly beings… “He holds supremacy over them all. “Sin originated with Satan, who next to Christ had been most honoured of God, and was highest in power and Glory among the inhabitants of heaven. “Next to Christ he was first among the hosts of God. The Son of God had wrought the Father’s will in the creation of all the hosts of heaven. “The Son of God was exalted above Satan as one in power and authority with the Father. Christ created Satan. Ezekiel 28:15.

It is urged by some of our leaders now that The Holy Spirit is a third person of the same nature of the Father and Son, a member of the heavenly trio, cooperative in creation and personally active with the Father and son. For many years I have used these statements Of (sic) Sr. White in combating false teachings relative to defining the Holy Spirit.

Will you kindly tell me what you understand was your mother’s position in reference (sic) to the personality of the Holy Spirit.

Does Sister White’s writings any where teach that prayer should only be addressed to the Father, or that we should not address Christ in prayer, only through the Father?

Does she anywhere tell what that power is that “shall plant the tabernacle of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain? Daniel 11:45

I know Brother White you would not depart from your mother’s teachings, and that you have as perfect an understanding of them as any one. I shall appreciate your opinion very much.

Assuring you of the high esteem and respect I have had from my childhood in your father, mother and family,

I am very truly yours in the blessed faith,

H.W. Carr

Six weeks later Willie White replied to Carr:

April 30th 1935

Elder H. W. Carr
164 Saxton Street
New York

Dear Brother Carr

I hold in my hand your letter of January 24. For some months I have been so heavily pressed with work connected with manuscripts which we were preparing for the printer that my correspondence has had to wait.

In your letter you request me to tell you what I understand to be my mother’s position in reference to the personality of the Holy Spirit.

This I cannot do because I never clearly understood her teachings on the matter. There always was in my mind some perplexity regarding the meaning of her utterances which to my superficial manner of thinking seemed to be somewhat confused. I have often regretted that I did not possess that keenness of mind that could solve this and similar perplexities, and then remembering what Sister White wrote in “Acts of the Apostles,” pages 51 and 52, “regarding such mysteries which are too deep for human understanding, silence is golden,” I have thought best to refrain from discussion and have endeavoured to direct my mind to matters easy to be understood.

As I read the Bible, I find that the risen Saviour breathed on the disciples (John 20:22) “and saith unto them, ‘receive ye the Holy Ghost.” The conception received from this Scripture, seems to be in harmony with the statement in “Desire of Ages”, page 669, also Genesis 1:2; with Luke 1:4; with Acts 2:4 and also 8:15 and 10:44. Many other texts might be referred to which seem to be in harmo
ny with this statement in the “Desire of Ages.”

The statements and the arguments of some of our ministers in their effort to prove that the Holy Spirit was an individual as are God, the Father and Christ, the eternal Son, have perplexed me and sometimes they have made me sad. One popular teacher said “we may regard Him, (the Holy Spirit) as the fellow who is down here running things.”

My perplexities were lessened a little when I learned from the dictionary that one of the meanings of personality, was characteristics. It is stated in such a way that I concluded that there might be personality without bodily form which is possessed by the Father and the Son.

There are many Scriptures which speak of the Father and the Son and the absence of Scripture making similar reference to the united work of the Father and the Holy Spirit or of Christ and the Holy Spirit, has led me to believe that the Spirit without individuality was the representative of the Father and the Son throughout the universe, and it was through the Holy Spirit that they dwell in our hearts and make us one with the Father and with the Son.

My answer to your second question “Does Sister White’s writings anywhere teach that prayer should only be addressed to the Father, or that we should not address Christ in prayer, only through the Father,” is that I think not. I have not found such teachings in Ellen White’s writings.

Your third question “Does she anywhere tell what the power is that “shall plant the tabernacle of His palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain?” I must answer in the same way, I think not. We have not found any statement regarding this in Sister White’s writings nor do we remember any statement made orally in our presence.

Enclosed with this brief and unsatisfactory letter, you will find our News Letter of April 4.

I pray that you may have help from heaven in studying that which is necessary to be known and patience to wait for the revelation of that regarding which we are now in some uncertainty.

With kind regards, I remain,

Sincerely your brother,

W.C. White


William Clarence White’s response to H.W. Carr’s letter reveals that he personally did not agree with Seventh-day Adventist ministers back then trying to prove that the Holy Spirit was an individual as are God, the Father and Christ. Would these men be considered heretics based on the modern Seventh-day Adventist’s pneumatology and Christology? We have come along way since 1935. Back then it was a new teaching regarding the Holy Spirit. Now it is an established fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist church.

As we have seen with other pioneers, the views regarding the Holy Spirit were far more complex than their views regarding God and Christ. This can also be clearly seen in this letter that Willie White wrote to Carr in 1935:

“There are many Scriptures which speak of the Father and the Son and the absence of Scripture making similar reference to the united work of the Father and the Holy Spirit or of Christ and the Holy Spirit, has led me to believe that the spirit without individuality was the representative of the Father and the Son throughout the universe, and it was through the Holy Spirit that they dwell in our hearts and make us one with the Father and with the Son.” (W. C. White to H. W. Carr, letter, April  30th 1935)

This was the standard belief of Seventh-day Adventists. It was that while the Holy Spirit was regarded as some kind of a personality, He was not thought of as having an “individuality” like the Father and the Son. He was to Seventh-day Adventists both God and Christ’s omnipresence.

W. C. White was Ellen White’s third son. He was obviously (as we shall see) not someone who as we might say was ‘a bit slow on the uptake’ or perhaps even naïve, neither was he ignorant of his mother’s views.

Can you imagine over the years how many of his mother’s sermons he had heard, also the number of Bible studies that he attended with her? Can you also imagine the number of private discussions he had with his mother about the spiritual matters, probably even about the Holy Spirit? These are obviously inestimable.

Ellen White realized that he was ‘God ordained’ to do the work he was doing.

In 1899 (when in Australia) she wrote (these are just snippets from an 1899 manuscript

“In the night season, light came to me that W. C. White had from his childhood been trained for the Lord’s workBefore his birth he was dedicated to God; and after his birth he was chosen of God to serve Him with singleness of purpose. He is to stand ready to serve where necessity requires. It is not possible to separate him from the general work in which he is so intensely interested.” (Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases Volume 18 MR1329, “Sunnyside,” Cooranbong, N.S.W., Australia, August 1899)

“It is essential also that he shall be connected with his mother’s work. The preparation of my writings for publication in book form should receive his attention. And there are other responsibilities that he must bear in this country. He is better prepared than some others to see the needs of God’s cause and to present these needs before the people in a way that will arouse them to give these matters proper attention.” (Ibid)

Through his connection with the work of his motherwhom the Lord has instructed, W. C. White can give to the people the light that is essential in regard to plans and methods. The Spirit of the Lord will impress upon his mind the deep import of the matters laid out before him. I can communicate to him matters that the Lord has seen fit to present to me for many years–even before my son’s birth — in regard to the principles upon which God’s people should act.” (Ibid)

“W. C. White has a special work to do. He cannot disconnect himself from this work, for it is his lifeblood. It is his inheritance from the Lord. For this work he was born.” (Ibid)

“As this is the light given me, I now renewedly dedicate my son, W. C. White, to the Lord’s work — a work that includes the preparation, with as little delay as possible, of the matter which the Lord has given me to present to the
world, to our churches, and to individuals
.” (Ibid)

At the age of 21 in 1876, Willie White, as he was known to his closest friends, had been elected to the office of president of the board and as business manager of the Seventh-day Adventist Pacific Press Publishing Association. This was the main body responsible for our publishing work. Throughout his lifetime, amongst his other responsibilities and duties, he was integrally involved in the publishing work (far too much to list here).

After the death of his father (James White) in 1881, Willie White spent much of his time assisting his mother with her literary work. He also travelled extensively with her wherever the work took her. In fact in a very brief space of time, this all-important responsibility absorbed the vast majority of his time. He even accompanied his mother to Australia and played a major part with her there in the establishing of the Seventh-day Adventist faith.

By 1901, Willie White had been a member of the General Conference committee for 36 years and when in 1915 his mother died, he was one of the five persons who were nominated in her will as trustees of her writings. Along with the others nominated, he was to take care of these writings for future publication. It was through his personal leading that certain books containing his mother’s writings were published after her death and also by him that her writings were so comprehensively indexed.

As it says in the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (this was after saying that he was elected as one of the trustees of his mother’s writings)

“Since he had carried the burden of the business interests of her publishing work for many years, it was but natural that he should be asked to continue. As secretary of the board he led in the preparation of a number of posthu­mous books compiled in harmony with the provisions of Mrs. White’s will, and in the making of a comprehensive index to the then current works (1926).” (Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Volume 10, 1966 edition, page 1427, ‘White, William Clarence)

At the time of his death at the age of 83 (1937), Willie White was still serving the cause that he had loved and embraced all his life. He was then, at that time, as well as being secretary of the Ellen G. White Estate, a member of the General Conference Committee. He was also on the boards of such as the St. Helena Sanitarium as well as the Pacific Union College.

Much more could be said of the positions that this man held in the Seventh-day Adventist Church but they would be far too many to detail here, suffice to say that what has been listed above shows that if any man in this world knew what Ellen White believed it was her son W. C. White. Yet when asked by H. W. Carr what his mother’s views were regarding the Holy Spirit, he said that they were far beyond his comprehension.

Now what does this tell us? Is it that Willie White was mentally inadequate? The answer to this question is obviously a decided ‘no‘. He was neither mentally inadequate nor naïve, neither was he ignorant of what his mother had written. This is because from what we have seen of his office and responsibilities, he was obviously a very intellectually minded, as well as a very spiritually minded person (he was 60 years of age when his mother died).

Now let’s reason together some more.

If as the Seventh-day Adventist Church claim today that Ellen White regarded the Holy Spirit as just another person like the Father and the Son, do you think that this would have been something that was beyond the intellectual capabilities of Willie White to grasp? Is that a fair question to ask? Let’s put it this way. If you are a trinitarian, is it too much for you to grasp that the Holy Spirit is a person like God the Father and Christ? If it is, then why are you a trinitarian?

Obviously, if Ellen White’s view of the Holy Spirit was that He was just a third person like God and Christ, Willie White would not only have known about it but he would have quite easily understood it. Certainly it would not have been beyond his capabilities to fathom it. This is why we can see that Ellen White did not just simply believe the Holy Spirit to be a person like the Father and the Son but regarded His nature and being as a much more complex issue.

This can be borne out by the words of W. C. White to Carr.

This is when in his letter he said

“The statements and the arguments of some of our ministers in their effort to prove that the Holy Spirit is an individual as are God the Father and Christ, the eternal Son, have perplexed me and sometimes they have made me sad.” (W. C. White to H. W. Carr, letter, April 30th 1935)

Now what is this telling us?

It is telling us that in 1935, there were those of the Seventh-day Adventist ministry who were trying to introduce a trinitarian concept (idea) of the Holy Spirit (that which Froom was seeking to introduce) into Seventh-day Adventism but it was saddening Ellen White’s Son (W. C. White). We can readily and safely assume therefore that this trinity view of the Holy Spirit was not the ‘standard’ view of either Ellen White, or the belief of the other pioneers of Seventh-day Adventism, neither was it, in 1935, the views of W. C. White and perhaps tens of thousands of other Seventh-day Adventists throughout the world.

It seems that in irony of this realization (that some were attempting to make the Holy Spirit a person like God and Christ) W. C. White said to Carr

“One popular teacher said “We may regard Him (the Holy Spirit) as the fellow who is down here running things”. (Ibid)

This today is the way that many Seventh-day Adventists regard the Holy Spirit. They see Him as an individual person not unlike the Father and the Son who is here on earth directing God’s will in the affairs of men.