| Ellen G. White Estate

Didn't Ellen White contradict her own teachings when she died in debt?

Ellen White wisely warned against the dangers of indebtedness, but when she died she owed nearly $90,000, with assets appraised at a little more than $65,000. This left a deficit of more than $20,000. Did Ellen White handle her finances irresponsibly and in complete disregard to her own counsels? When all the facts of her business affairs are considered, it is clear that Ellen White did not violate the spirit and intent of the counsel she gave concerning freedom from debt.

It should be noted that Ellen White did not advocate an extreme position on debt--that under no circumstances should one make any moves unless the money is in hand. She recognized that opportunities present themselves where the appropriate response is to move forward in faith, even if it is necessary to "borrow money and pay interest" (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 278).

In her own experience, most of Ellen White's borrowing was incurred during the later years of her life when, realizing the shortness of her days, she did some of her heaviest work in preparing new books, both in English and in other languages. There were only two ways in which such expenses of book preparation could be met--either in profits from former publishing (i.e., royalties), or by borrowing against anticipated royalties. Because of Ellen White's past generosity in contributing funds toward the work of the church, she was left to rely upon future earnings (royalties) to liquidate her debt. Part of that generosity consisted in her declining to receive royalties for non-English editions, and donating the royalties of her most popular later works, Christ's Object Lessons (1900) and The Ministry of Healing (1905), for the support of specific church projects. In the years following her death the continued sales of her publications entirely met her obligations, as she had anticipated. For a fuller discussion of Ellen White's indebtedness, see "Mrs. White's Indebtedness."