Was Ellen White a millionaire?
More than once in her ministry, Ellen White was confronted by reports that she was accumulating great wealth because of her book royalties. Here is her direct response to one detractor, written in 1897 while she lived in Australia:
"You have made reports in reference to me being rich. How did you know I was? For about ten years I have been working on borrowed property. Should I sell all that I have in my possession, I would not have sufficient to pay my outstanding debts.
"Where have I invested this money? You well know where. I have been the bank from which to draw to carry forward the work in this country. . . .
"I have borrowed money to do the work which must be done. Not one shilling of the donations sent me, from the least sum to larger amounts, has been used for myself. Our good Sister Wessels made me a present of a silk dress, and made me promise I would not sell it. But I thought that had she placed in my hands the amount the dress was worth, it would have been used in the cause of God.
"I see debts on our meetinghouses and it hurts my soul. I cannot but feel distress over the matter. I have invested money in the Parramatta church, in the Prospect church, in the Napier church, in the Ormondville church, in the Gisborne church, and in the education of students. I have sent persons to America that they might be fitted to return and do work in this country. If this is the way to become rich, I think it would be well for others to try it.
"All the royalty on my foreign books sold in America is sacredly dedicated to God for the education of students, that they may be fitted for the ministry. Thousands of dollars have been thus expended. Is this the way to accumulate money? The old story that Canright and others have circulated, that I was worth thirty thousand dollars, all fiction. It has increased to thirty thousand pounds, by report, since I came to Australia.
"I do not know where it is. I am using up my means, just as fast as it comes in, to carry forward the work in this country. If I had thirty thousand pounds, I would not have sent to Africa for the loan of one thousand pounds on which I am paying interest. If I could, I would get a loan of another thousand pounds, so that we might be able to put up the main school building.
"I have not thirty thousand pounds. I only wish I had a million dollars. I would do as I did in Sydney. I would put men in the field to labor, defraying their expenses from my own funds. We need one hundred men where we now have one in the field" (Letter 98a, 1897).
Six years later, in a private letter dated October 19, 1903, Ellen White wrote, "I have done all I could to help the cause of God with my means. I am paying interest on twenty thousand dollars, all of which I have invested in the work of God. And I shall continue to do all in my power to help to forward His work" (Letter 218, 1903).