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The Mysterious Case of the Unanswered Letter

This accusation can be found coming from a number of critics. We found it recently in Doctrines of Demons, a 1999 booklet by former Adventist and retired physician Jack Gent, who was born in 1922.


The charge goes like this: Ellen White wrote a letter requesting those who had preplexities regarding her writings to send them in, and she would try to answer them. Dr. Charles Stewart did send her a letter containing a number of questions, but she never replied like she said she would.

We also know that she never answered Dr. Stewart's letter as she had promised to do.—Jack Gent.

Mrs. White never responded to Dr. Stewart's letter . . . .—M. Chugg and D. Anderson.

Neither from you nor from W.C. White has he ever received a word in answer to his letter.—A. T. Jones.

Stewart's lengthy letter—Sanders.

It took a little digging, but once we uncovered a few facts, and found Stewart's letter in its entirety on critic Robert Sanders' web site, we really do not understand what this one is all about. Consider the following points:

  1. Ellen White's request is dated March 30, 1906, and was sent to around twenty people. Quite a few questions came in.
  2. "Scores of letters totaling hundreds of pages were written" (The Later Elmshaven Years, p. 102).
  3. On June 15, 1906, Ellen White did indeed answer a question that Dr. Stewart had sent in (Ibid., p. 93).
  4. By mid-July she considered the work of answering all these questions finished (Ibid., p. 103).
  5. Dr. Stewart did not mail the "unanswered" letter, his second letter, until May 8, 1907, more than a year after Ellen White had sent out her request.
  6. When this second letter was later published, it took the form of an 89-page book.
  7. Dr. Stewart stated at the end that he wished to have a reply within 30 days, or else he would show the letter to anyone who asked.

Now if you were a 79-year-old prophet who had a number of important projects you wanted to complete before you died, and you received an 80-page letter more than a year after you had asked for such letters, a letter demanding a reply within 30 days, a letter from someone you had already replied to, would you have answered it?

It appears that Ellen White felt that some of the questions she was receiving were frivolous in nature. How many were and how many were not we have no easy way to tell. But that at least some of them were can be seen from one of the questions in Dr. Stewart's second letter. We quote the question in its entirety:

Spiritual Gifts,
The Great Controversy, by
Ellen G. White, 1858, Page 22:

  "Sorrow filled Heaven, as it was realized that man was lost, and the world that God created was to be filled with mortals doomed to misery, sickness, and death, and there was no way of escape for the offender."

Patriarchs and Prophets by
Mrs. E. G. White, Entered according to the Act of Congress, 1890. Page 69:Old Edition

  "The fall of man filled all heaven with sorrow. The world that God had made was blighted with the curse of sin, and inhabited by beings doomed to misery and death. There appeared no escape for those who had transgressed the law."

Why was this change made?

No joke. He really did ask this question. Why after 32 years did Ellen White change "and there was no way of escape for the offender" into "There appeared no escape for those who had transgressed the law"?

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