Can we trust the compilations?
First, would Mrs. White approve of making compilations from her writings, even the unpublished ones? And second, have the compilations been done well, representing fairly her original intent in the individual statements and her overall position on the subject under consideration?
Mrs. White has answered the first question for us. In her will, one of the three things that she specifically asked the trustees of her estate to do in regard to her writings was to see to “the printing of compilations from my manuscripts.” So those who wish to say that publishing compilations is an illegitimate use of her writings are in direct conflict with her own instructions to her trustees. (You can find her will in Herbert E. Douglass’s book Messenger of the Lord, a digital version of which is available on the White Estate Web site.)
The second question, whether the compilations have been done well, is a matter of opinion. I know that the trustees commit the work of drawing together a new compilation to those whose knowledge and balance in Mrs. White’s writings they trust. When a manuscript is complete, besides reading it themselves, they seek other knowledgeable people to read it with a view toward detecting any imbalance, bias, or omissions that would reflect on the value of the work. Only when they are satisfied that it fairly represents Mrs. White’s views and makes a worthy contribution to the life of the church do they send it out for publication.
I have heard various people complain about Messages to Young People. I have also heard others say how much that book has meant to them, even as young people. I am of the opinion that a good deal of the book’s bad press stems from the fact that it tells people truths that they may not want to hear just then. If someone gives the book to a rebellious young person with the idea in mind that this will straighten him or her out, it probably will not be well received. Likely, neither would a Bible. But to young people who want to deepen their relationship with Jesus and represent Him better, the book is a great blessing. In the words of the old saying, the same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay.
Ellen White included her letters to private individuals in the Testimonies because she had received divine instruction that the counsel given for one person would benefit others. So criticism of compilations because they contain information originally written to a specific person flies in the face of Mrs. White’s own practice. The original sources of the material used in compilations have always been identified so readers can check the context.