By Lisa Winn


The last few issues of Proclamation! have included my column, “Truly Adventist”. My aim with this column was to convict cultural SDAs that to be truly Adventist, one must follow the teachings of Ellen G. White. Millennial Adventists do not seem as familiar with her writings as older generations, and I was hoping that upon delving into her works, younger Adventists would begin to see what I saw—the oppressive nature of her commands, her lack of the true gospel—and ultimately be confronted with the decision either to stay and obey (an almost impossible task), or to flee Adventism entirely.

After writing a couple columns, I began to come to terms with the fact that I was not as familiar with her writings, myself, as I needed to be in order to continue my endeavor. Wanting to gain the best understanding of her life and ministry as I possibly could, I started with her book Early Writings, which contains her first three publications. Having young children, I do not get much time to myself, but I began spending many of my precious free hours reading her material.

Early Writings is filled with strange events: a teenage Ellen running into the woods, hoping to ascertain if her visions are from God or from something else. The 144,000 ascending to heaven. The shut door doctrine. A young Ellen encountering Enoch flying around on another planet. Jesus manipulatively frowning at her for not obeying something she thought he wanted her to do. Her green cord vision. Satan falling from heaven and ultimately repenting of his rebellion. God refusing to forgive him.

It’s all in there.

At first it seemed so silly and harmless. I was not at all afraid. I knew she was a false teacher but felt that “reading this stuff can’t possibly hurt me.” In retrospect, I was being a bit arrogant.


Principalities and Powers

Unsettling things began to happen. Every night I found myself lying awake, afraid of death. “How can I be afraid of dying if I am a Christian?” I would ask myself. “Maybe my faith is not real.” These were distressing thoughts. I began to dread going to bed every night. In the mornings, however, all fears of death would subside. Other spiritual attacks, however, began hurtling at me from every angle. I was continually full of doubt. The joy and peace I had had in my faith had been ripped from me. Somehow, emotionally, I had been overcome by darkness. These struggles continued for months.

One night my husband, too, found himself lying awake in terror at the prospect of death, something that had never happened to him before. Perhaps it was a coincidence; maybe it was just my fear rubbing off on him—but the next evening he suggested that we were possibly being tormented by a demon. I was doubtful at first. “How silly!” Neither of us has ever been the type to jump to supernatural explanations easily.

Then I looked up at all the Ellen White books sitting on the shelf right near our bed. I had not considered my spiritual doubts to be a consequence of spending so much time reading a false prophet. I am often tempted to lean on my own strength and logical ability, something I had been doing a lot over the previous months in various ways, not just in my study of Adventism. I suddenly realized that I had been unwittingly fighting a spiritual battle.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12).


Glimpsing the Light

I put Ellen down for a month or two to focus on reading Scripture and on praying earnestly during my times of doubt. My husband bought me a book, The Thomas Factor: Using Your Doubts to Draw Closer to God, by Gary Habermas, which helped immensely. Whenever doubts and terrors entered my mind, instead of dwelling on them, I prayed thanksgiving to God until the fear subsided. As the book suggested, I relied heavily on Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It worked! I started to feel better. The night terrors dissipated, but soon it was time for me to write another column. I picked Ellen back up, praying for peace, but within twenty-four hours the dread returned. Now I could be certain this fear was no coincidence. I was, indeed, fighting a spiritual battle.

A few evenings later I had a nightmare. I could hear a metal scraping sound coming up the walkway to our front door. I ran to the front window to see if I could catch a glimpse of it. I knew it was something supernatural, something evil. I could not see the thing, it had moved too quickly; but, as I was peering out the window, I heard one loud rap on the front door. Chilling! I woke up terrified.

I haven’t read Ellen White since.


Dabbling in Darkness

Many Adventists try to salvage Adventism from the more egregious teachings of Ellen White. They make her many excuses. “She was inspired by God, but only human. Look at all the good that has come out of her work,” they say. After all I have learned about Adventism over the past several years, I would disagree entirely with these excuses. There is no good that has come out of Ellen White’s “ministry.”

An old adage states that the best place to hide a lie is between two truths. This deception is exactly what every successful false teacher does best. Many seemingly good things have come out of Adventism, but on closer inspection, one can see those benefits are usually countered by evil. How can Adventist hospitals and their medical innovations be praised when these same hospitals are quietly murdering unborn babies? What good is the Adventist education system when Adventism is unable to teach a family how to create a gospel centered, nourishing, loving, grace-filled home? What good is adding five to ten more years to someone’s earthly life through the health message, when Adventism’s false gospel has potential to deny the same person eternal life? When it comes to false religion, one simply cannot ignore the bad to salvage the good.

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph 5:11-14).

As if Paul wrote them just for me, the next verses say, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16). Clearly I had not been making the best use of my time in perusing the writings of a false prophet, and to compound the problem, I had been obliviously fighting this spiritual battle without putting on the armor of God:

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph 6:14-17).


“Let there be light”

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:4-5).

I was enjoying my inquisitive dive into the darkness until it began to take its toll on my spiritual life. Unfortunately, it is in my nature to investigate everything, and I suffer through this temptation quite frequently. For now, at least, I shall be packing up those little red books and putting them in the garage. As Christians, God has called us “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9). And unlike the writings of a false prophet, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). Lord, I pray that you help me learn to live in the light.


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  1. Lisa,

    Thank you for this article. I had a VERY similar experience while writing a day by day review of the adult Sabbath School lesson. I am not particularly given to flights of fantasy or jumping to supernatural explanations. Actually, quite the opposite. I am quite the skeptic and a person who would be predisposed to dismiss such things. Your piece above was reaffirming to me. Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t immerse myself in SDA materials and teachings from EGW for long periods of time. I thank God that some of my spiritual warrior colleagues can because I know they are helping people parse through issues and resolve questions. I, evidently, am not cut out for venturing too deeply back into darkness. Thank you again for your honesty above. If you’re anything like me, it’s not easy to acknowledge or discuss stuff that isn’t readily explainable.

  2. Wow, that is frightening, Lisa. I’ve always assumed that Spirit-indwelt believers cannot be afflicted in such a way. I, too, have not grown up with much familiarity with her writings (though I do remember avidly reading portions of her Conflict of the Ages series as a young boy). If I understand you correctly, based on your experience, it seems you would caution former Seventh-Day Adventists against reading and investigating to find out more about her theology? I say this because I know many Adventists who will try to argue with me that she could not possibly have been a false prophet, and I often admit that I do not have as strong a basis for showing them their error as I might otherwise have had.

    1. I think believers can open themselves up to evil and darkness. I wouldn’t say it could happen accidentally- but if you spend the majority of your free time reading a false prophet, like I was, it might start to take its toll! It would be good to arm yourself with some quotes and facts about Ellen White so that you could better converse with SDAs. However, ultimately what will be most effective in evangelism is the gospel and scripture! God works through His word.

      There are several great websites that expose EGW’s false teachings. Overall, however, I would definitely encourage former SDAs to move on completely from anything Adventist. I have found my new knowledge of EGW’s writings very helpful in my conversations with Adventists, so am glad that I wrote my column, but due to the negative consequences, I won’t be able to continue doing so right now. I have a passion for cult-evangelism but for whatever reason I am not able to do it right now. I would encourage anyone who has such a calling to spend way more time in Scripture and edifying Christian material than they do in cult material! I was foolishly not praying for spiritual protection and foolishly not spending enough time in scripture during these months.

  3. Lettlander, I’m eager to read Lisa’s reply to your questions. When we first left Adventism, we had to swear off all SDA materials and even radio, TV, and online broadcasts. It was confusing and upsetting, and Richard and I both were aware of strange dynamics just in the family if we–for example–watched “church”. I often tell people not to return at all to Adventist material for at least two or three years.

    Sometimes God never calls people back into direct apologetics dealing face to face with Adventism. Sometimes, as in our cases, He made it clear we had to keep dealing with it. It has not been without a high price of what I can only call harassment, but I know that over time, God has protected us. He has helped us see and know what we are dealing with and also given us insight into the true nature of Adventist deception.

    I don’t think we can make a hard and fast “rule” about whether or not to return and deal with Adventist materials, especially EGW directly. God brings us the work He created in advance for us to do. That being said, it’s crucial that we KNOW that what we came out of is dark. It’s not “natural unbelief”, as a friend once said; “it’s dark like the darkness in witch-doctor Africa.” That comment was made by our Spanish translator who has never been SDA but who has travelled in Africa with the HIV ministry He Intends Victory.

    My experience over the years is that most people who come out of Adventism don’t want to know that it is actually demonic at the core, although if we actually think about it, any religion that makes Satan the scapegoat who ultimately carries the sins of the saved into the lake of fire, thus cleansing heaven of the sins which Jesus’ blood supposedly carried there, MUST be demonic.

    God calls some people to deal with these things, but it is necessary that we are trusting Jesus to know whether or not He is asking us to do that. Reading her for the sake of titillating discovery is dangerous. Always we have to know that dealing with EGW and Adventist doctrine is very, very dark. In fact, this reality is why it is mandatory that we pray for Adventists. They are not merely naturally dead in sin, but they are deceived by doctrines of demons.

    As for dealing with other Adventists who ask…I believe there is a place for that. I’m learning that God will both open opportunities and also bring words in His time. Lisa’s point about being aware of wearing the armor of God, though…THAT is crucial.

    We have had experiences very much like Lisa’s and Chris’s. It is important to know and thank our Father for delivering us from a demonic religion whose prophetess and whose fallible “Jesus” masqueraded as angels of light. God is faithful. He protects us and leads us and holds us in His hand.

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