December 4, 2022

Ellen White in Her Senior Years

Ellen White modeled positive principles of helpful service for all generational groups.

Delbert W. Baker

Sunday, July 19, 1903, at her home in Elmshaven, St. Helena, California, Ellen White sat down to write a letter to “My dear son Edson.”* Edson was Ellen White’s oldest living son. She was responding to a letter she had received from Edson the day before, asking for counsel on a publishing decision. At this time Edson and his wife, Emma, were living in Nashville, Tennessee, where he operated a printing business. 

Ellen White was 75 years of age at the time of this letter. She would live 12 more years until her death at the age of 87. In this letter we catch glimpses of Ellen White’s active involvement and service mindset during her senior years. These few insights model positive principles of helpful service for all generational groups. 

Letter Excerpts

“I thank the Lord for the good health that I enjoy.... I know that this is a miracle wrought by His mercy. I am so thankful, so thankful! If I can live until I can get my writings in shape and before the people, I shall be very grateful.” Here she is referring to several books she had interest in writing, such as on the work in the South, the life of Paul, and the work in Europe. (principle 1) 

“The last two Sabbaths I have spoken at the Sanitarium. Sister Kerr from Honolulu, who is staying at the Sanitarium, says that the patients are delighted with my talks. . . . They can hardly believe, Sister Kerr says, that I am seventy-four years old. When Sister Kerr told me this, I said, On the twenty-sixth of November next, I shall be seventy-six years old.” (principle 2) 

“My health is good. My appetite is excellent. I find that the simpler my food, and the fewer the varieties I eat, the stronger I am. I take a bath every day—sometimes two. . . . I prefer a cold bath in the morning and a moderately warm one at night.” (principle 3) 

“We can accomplish much if we work carefully, and in such a way that the Lord can work with us. . . . I believe that the Lord hears my prayers, and then I go to work to answer my prayers, which I am sure are indited by the Lord. I am of good courage.” (principle 4) 

Practical Principles

1. Sustained Commitment: We see ongoing dedication to God’s work; multiple book and service projects supporting evangelism and outreach in the South in the United States, other regions of the U.S., and around the world. This active commitment continued until her death. 

2. Service Engagements: Often readers see the big engagements and projects that Ellen White was involved with, but here we see her having pleasure in doing simple witnessing and service projects close to home. 

3. Health Principles: Here is seen sensitivity to the importance and awareness of healthful practices and their integration into daily life and practice—diet, hygiene, and sensitivity to their efficacy and positive impact on life. 

4. Confident Faith: Here is radiant faith born by years of cooperating with God, reading His Word, and prayer. Ellen White’s life of faith and assurance shines forth, clear and convicting. 

In this personal letter from a mother to her son we see rich commitment, faith, and trust that continued throughout Ellen White’s life to the very end. Everyone has their own path to travel, and Ellen White’s private and public example can be an inspiration to all. 

* Ellen G. White letter 150, 1903, in Ellen G. White, Letters and Manuscripts (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate), vol. 18, p. 153.