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Making Ellen White Teen-Friendly
By Cindy Tutsch
“I asked my Bible class how they felt about Ellen White, and all I heard were groans and arghhhhhs!
An academy Bible teacher was describing the reaction of the teens at his school to the name Ellen White. “So,” the teacher continued, “I asked my students to unpack their response. ‘Why do you feel this way about Ellen White? What Ellen White books have you read? What experience have you had with her writings that have given you these negative feelings?”
Ultimately, the class admitted that their perceptions were based largely on what they had heard others say about Ellen White, and not on their own personal experience reading her writings. At this point, the teacher suggested that the class study together Ellen White’s book The Desire of Ages in order to make an informed evaluation based on their own experience.
The outcome? Students discovered that Ellen White’s book on the life of Christ had immediate relevance in their spiritual life. Many students began marking and underlining their copies and were eager to discuss their favorite citations in class discussion.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church holds that the writings of Ellen White pass the biblical tests of confession in Christ and are in harmony with Scripture.[i] Adventists believe Ellen White communicates messages from God through her writings for the edification, encouragement, and consolation of the church. Thus, it is important that teens understand that her writings are a gift from God that can help Christians know Jesus and experience His love, obeying His teachings out of a response to God’s wonderful grace. 
So, how do we introduce teens to the writings of Ellen White?
Encourage Participation – First, don’t underestimate kids’ ability to appreciate Ellen White’s writings, when presented in a way that allows them to participate. Recently, I brought a group of children ages 10 – 13 together to read and discuss Ellen White’s first vision, found on pages 13 – 20 of Early Writings. I gave each child their own beautiful copy of the book and invited them by turn to read a paragraph aloud. During the reading, anyone could raise a question or make a comment about what they were hearing. There was so much discussion I ultimately had to limit the group to one comment per paragraph so we could finish the six pages in one afternoon![ii]
Tell Stories – Everyone enjoys a good story! Consider telling stories about Ellen White to your youth group. If you need resources for stories about Ellen White and Adventist heritage, check out the plethora of offerings at the Adventist Book Center, either in-store or online. Did you know, for instance, that Ellen White allowed the students living in her home to have a weekly pillow fight? Or that her shortest vision concerned the whereabouts of a hairnet stolen by one of her boarders? (http://visionary4kids.org/?p=331)  Or that the last of Ellen White’s 2,000 visions focused on God’s great love for the youth and His desire that they be saved in His kingdom?
Organize Field Trips – The NAD Ellen G. White Research Centers, found at Andrews University, Oakwood University, and Loma Linda University, have artifacts, pictures, and memorabilia about Ellen White, her writings, and her contribution to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Consider organizing a field trip to one of those centers with the youth of your school or your church. If you live in the northeast part of North America, perhaps you could plan an excursion that includes a visit to the White Estate at the General Conference, where your teens can lift a Bible that Ellen White held in vision, see a large wall mural of her first vision, and other artifacts about her life. Or visit Elmshaven, Ellen White’s northern California home near Pacific Union College, or Historic Adventist Village in Battle Creek, Michigan, or take a podcast tour to Adventist heritage sites in the northeastern United States, hosted by 11-year-old Kaili Kimbrow.[iii]
Bring Them Home at the End of the Day
What would be your response as a pastor to the suggestion that you allow the teens of your church youth group, or even your own family, to state their feelings, positive and negative, about Ellen White? Before your hackles rise too high, consider this instructive citation from the pen 
of Ellen White: “The youth should have a chance to give expression to their feelings.”[iv]
But let’s not stop after we have allowed our teens “to give expression to their feelings.” Let’s lead them on to “test and see” for themselves, to evaluate Ellen White’s personal spiritual benefit to them, not on the basis of others’ opinions, but from their own experience. By encouraging the students to read, journal, underline, and discuss the spiritual concepts found in Ellen White’s writings, many students I have known have experienced a complete transformation of attitudes toward the gift of prophecy.
Teaching our children to appreciate God’s prophetic word takes effort, creativity, persistence, gentleness, patience, and tenacity. But it will be worth it all when parents, teachers, and pastors see “the crown, the robe, and the harp, given to their children. The days of hope and fear are ended. The seed sown with tears and prayers may have seemed to be sown in vain, but their harvest is reaped with joy at last. Their children have been redeemed.”[v]
Cindy Tutsch is a retired associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. She currently serves as an evangelism consultant to the Columbia Union Conference.
Additional Resources
Some teens really struggle to read and understand the nineteenth-century language that Ellen 
White uses. To help communicate successfully with youthful readers, the Ellen G. White Estate has worked with selected authors and editors to publish a number of Ellen White books in con-
temporary language. Sentences and paragraphs have been condensed and language modernized. But every effort has been made to be faithful to the content, ideas, and principles set forth by 
Ellen White. In no case has the thought been changed. These adaptations are not intended to take the place of the original publications. But by introducing teens to Ellen White in language that they can understand, it is hoped that young readers will find her writings so compelling, interesting, and inspiring that they will ultimately explore the deep spiritual treasures found in her standard writings.
The White Estate has posted audio versions of nearly 50 of Ellen White’s standard and adapted books that teens can download free to their MP3 players. These audiobooks can be accessed at http://bit.ly/1kAgVmt. A phone app of all of Ellen White’s writings can be downloaded from the App Store / Google Play. 
Ellen G. White Print Books in English Suitable for Teens – available at ABCs or online
  • Messiah by Jerry Thomas (an adaptation of The Desire of Ages)
  •  A Call to Stand Apart (a footnoted adaptation of selected EGW writings on the topics of salvation, relationships, wellness, social justice, careers, and the authority of Scripture) The adapted version is not available online.
  • The Beginning of the End (an adaptation of Patriarchs and Prophets. It is the first volume in a five-book series known traditionally as the Conflict of the Ages Series)
  • Royalty and Ruin (an adaptation of Prophets and Kings, with biblical texts from the NKJV)
  • Humble Hero (an adaption of The Desire of Ages). 
  • Unlikely Leaders (an adaptation of Acts of the Apostles)
  • Love under Fire (an adaptation of The Great Controversy)
[i] Seventh-day Adventists Believe (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2005), p. 247.
[ii] You can find the entire discussion at http://www.whiteestate.org/vez/jul08/podcast/podcast.html or the shortened version at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbP4M2DAaCo.
[iv] Ellen G. White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1938), pp. 69, 70.
[v] Ellen G. White, Child Guidance (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1954), p. 569.