February 1, 2016

​Letters on Love and Relationships

Beauty is only skin-deep. But you knew that.

Ellen G. White

True love is not a strong, fiery, impetuous passion. On the contrary, it is calm and deep in its nature. It looks beyond mere externals and is attracted by qualities alone. It is wise and discriminating, and its devotion is real and abiding.2

Edson was the second of Ellen White’s four sons. Because of her extensive travel and other responsibilities throughout her busy life, she had to be away from her children. A large collection of her letters to them has been preserved. The following letter was written to Edson and Emma in 1870 shortly after their marriage, and represents a mother’s hopes and prayers for the home that has just been established. The counsel shows a loving mother’s care for her son, but carries the added dimension of her own experience in receiving divine messages from the Lord in visions.

Camp Meeting Grounds
Clyde, Ohio, September 1870

Dear Edson and Emma:

You, my children, have given your hearts to one another; unitedly give them wholly, unreservedly to God. In your married life seek to elevate one another. Show the high and elevating principles of your holy faith in your everyday conversations and in the most private walks of life. Be ever careful and tender of the feelings of one another. Do not allow a playful, bantering, joking censuring of one another. These things are dangerous. They wound. The wound may be concealed, nevertheless the wound exists and peace is being sacrificed and happiness endangered.

My son, guard yourself and in no case manifest the least disposition savoring of a dictatorial, overbearing spirit. It will pay to watch your words before speaking. This is easier than to take them back or efface their impression afterward. Ever speak kindly. Modulate even the tones of your voice. Let only love, gentleness, and mildness be expressed in your countenance and in your voice. Make it a business to shed rays of sunlight, but never leave a cloud. Emma will be all to you you can desire if you are watchful and give her no occasion to feel distressed and troubled and to doubt the genuineness of your love. You yourselves can make your happiness or lose it. You can by seeking to conform your life to the Word of God be true, noble, elevated, and smooth the pathway of life for each other.

Yield to each other. Edson, yield your judgment sometimes. Do not be persistent, even if your course appears just right to yourself. You must be yielding, forbearing, kind, tenderhearted, pitiful, courteous, ever keeping fresh the little courtesies of life, the tender acts, the tender, cheerful, encouraging words. And may the best of heaven’s blessings rest upon you both, my dear children, is the prayer of your mother.

Letter 24, 18705

Several challenging questions are raised in this letter. It seems that both are too young and immature to consider marriage. Some evidences of immaturity are suggested. There is the problem of superficiality on the part of the [woman]. The question of whether it is real love or infatuation is considered. Ellen White urges the young man to take the long look rather than to think only of the moment.

Salem, Oregon, June 8, 1880

Dear John:

I am sorry that you have entangled yourself in any courtship with Elizabeth. In the first place, your anxiety upon this question is premature.

I speak to you as one who knows. Wait till you have some just knowledge of yourself and of the world, of the bearing and character of young women, before you let the subject of marriage possess your thoughts. . . .

Love is a sentiment so sacred that but few know what it is. It is a term used, but not understood. The warm glow of impulse, the fascination of one young person for another is not love; it does not deserve the name. True love has an intellectual basis, a deep thorough knowledge of the object loved.

Remember that impulsive love is perfectly blind. It will as soon be placed on unworthy objects as worthy. Command such love to stand still and cool. Give place to genuine thought and deep, earnest reflection. Is this object of your affection, in the scale of intelligence and moral excellence, in deportment and cultivated manners such that you will feel a pride in presenting her to your father’s family, to acknowledge her in all society as the object of your choice?

Give yourself sufficient time for observation on every point, and then do not trust to your own judgment, and let the mother who loves you, and your father, and confidential friends, make critical observations of the one you feel inclined to favor. Trust not to your own judgment, and marry no one whom you feel will not be an honor to your father and mother, one who has intelligence and moral worth. . . .

It will be far better not to marry at all, than to be unfortunately married. But seek counsel of God in all these things, be so calm, so submissive to the will of God that you will not be in a fever of excitement and unqualified for His service by your attachments.

We have but little time to lay up a treasure of good works in heaven; do not make any mistake here. Serve God with your undivided affection. Be zealous, be whole-hearted. Let your example be of such a character that you will help others to take their stand for Jesus. Young men do not know what a power of influence they may have. Work for time and work for eternity.

Your adopted mother,

Ellen G. White
Letter 59, 18807

  1. Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890), p. 176. Also in Ellen G. White, Letters to Young Lovers (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1983), p. 29.
  2. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 2, p. 133. Also in Letters to Young Lovers, p. 30.
  3. Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 358. Also in Letters to Young Lovers, p. 30.
  4. Letters to Young Lovers, p. 14.
  5. Ibid., p. 15.
  6. Ibid., p. 35.
  7. Ibid., pp. 36, 37.

Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen G. White (1827-1915) exercised the biblical gift of prophecy during more than 70 years of public ministry.