The Eastern Question and Willie White

Adapted from John Witcombe’s articles

Uriah Smith died in 1903. Here was what Ellen White wrote concerning Elder Smith in 1902:

“We can easily count the first burden bearers now alive [1902]. Elder [Uriah] Smith was connected with us at the beginning of the publishing work. He labored in connection with my husband. We hope always to see his name in the Review and Herald at the head of the list of editors; for thus it should be. Those who began the work, who fought bravely when the battle went so hard, must not lose their hold now. They are to be honored by those who entered the work after the hardest privation had been borne. I feel very tender toward Elder Smith. My life interest in the publishing work is bound up with his. He came to us as a young man, possessing talents that qualified him to stand in his lot and place as an editor. How I rejoice as I read his articles in the Review–so excellent, so full of spiritual truth. I thank God for them. I feel a strong sympathy for Elder Smith, and I believe that his name should always appear in the Review as the name of the leading editor. Thus God would have it. When, some years ago, his name was placed second, I felt hurt. When it was again placed first, I wept and said, “Thank God.” May it always be there, as God designs it shall be, while Elder Smith’s right hand can hold a pen. And when the power of his hand fails, let his sons write at his dictation.” 20MR 220

Here is how Smith’s book Daniel and the Revelation came together:

James White writes: “Connected with the Battle Creek Sabbath-school is a large and flourishing Bible-class conducted by Bro. Uriah Smith. This class has once passed through the entire book of Revelation, free from the spirit of debate, all coming to the same conclusion on almost every point, and confident that they had found a better harmony than they had before seen, and clearer light on some portions of the book. Sabbath,May 17, the class commenced the book again, with the intention of taking one chapter for each lesson. In this investigation we take a deep interest, and design to report in the Review, by way of a few thoughts on one chapter each week. Should we be called away for a few weeks, the class propose to leave the book of Revelation, in our absence, for some other portion of the Scriptures, until we return. Judging from past investigation of this book by the brethren and sisters of the Bible-class, we hope in expressing our views to express theirs also, yet we choose to be alone responsible for what we may say.” James White, June 3, 1862 JWe, ARSH 4.7, 8

“Being from home much of the time we are able to progress but slowly with the Revelation. Bro. Smith has consented to conclude the book, commencing with chapter x.” James White, October 21, 1862 JWe, ARSH 164.1

In 1867 James White writes: “These thoughts are not the fruit of one brain. In the time of the end the Revelation was to be unsealed and opened. And from, the open book, light has been shining. William Miller saw much. Others since have seen more. . . . This … is a book of thoughts, clothed in the author’s happy style, plain, yet critical and practical, coming down to the spiritual wants of the common people, yet elevated and dignified. This standard work should be in the library of every believer.” James White, The Review and Herald, July 16, 1867

In Ministry Arthur White writes: “In 1872, five years after Thoughts on the Revelation was printed, a companion volume, Thoughts on Daniel, was issued and announced for sale on- December 31, 1872. This, too, quite largely represented the joint study of able Bible students. After passing through several editions as single volumes, the two companion books in 1881 appeared as a combined work, Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation.” Arthur White, Ministry, January 1945

Is there any indication that the view on Daniel 11:45 that Smith presents in his book is valid?

In 1919 Willie White (Ellen White’s son) wrote regarding Ellen White’s statements making mention of the Eastern question is not proof “but they seem to me to be very interesting indications.”

Can we place any confidence in the views of this man? Here is what God said regarding Willie White:

“After this experience light was given me that the Lord had raised me up to bear testimony for Him in many countries, and that He would give me grace and strength for the work. It was also shown me that my son, W.C. White, should be my helper and counselor, and that the Lord would place on him the spirit of wisdom and of a sound mind. I was shown that the Lord would guide him, and that he would not be led away, because he would recognize the leadings and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

“The assurance was given me . . . ‘The Lord will be your instructor . . . .You will meet with deceptive influences they will come in many forms, in pantheism and other forms of infidelity but follow where I shall guide you, and you will be safe. I will put My Spirit upon your son, and will strengthen him to do his work. He has the grace of humility. The Lord has selected him to act an important part in His work. For this purpose was he born.’

“This word was given me in 1882, and since that time I have been assured that the grace of wisdom was given him. More recently, in a time of perplexity, the Lord said: ‘I have given you my servant, W.C. White, and I will give him judgment to be your helper. I will give him skill and understanding to manage wisely.’ ”

“He [God] had chosen my sons to be my helpers. My son Willie especially was assigned the work of ministry with me to advise and counsel how to prepare the communications that were to come to the people.

“‘I will be his wisdom, I will be his judgment, and he shall work out in connection with his mother the important matter to come before the people. Select helpers must be given, for a great work was to be done. I will be your wisdom, I will be your judgment, for your son to carry out understandingly the matters I shall reveal to you that which is for the churches must be brought out distinctly in print that the churches may have it.

“‘I will appoint both your children that they shall strengthen your hands in sound judgment. But your youngest son shall carry the work with you, and I have appointed the eldest his work to do. They must be united firmly in harmony, and in no way fail or be discouraged. They are to aid one another to stand firmly, unitedly, in heart and mind. But the youngest will I endow with special wisdom to work intelligently for a special performance of this responsibility.

“‘Both will be your helpers, in perfect agreement, conducting different lines in missionary work, standing firmly, unitedly, for great battles are to be fought. Your sons are of different temperaments. Your youngest will be your dependence, but the eldest shall be my minister to open the Word to very many people and to organize the work in various lines.

“‘Temptations will come to the eldest that preference in judgment shall be given him above the youngest. But this cannot be. Both are to be guided by the light given their mother and stand in perfect harmony. Trials will come, but unitedly victories will be gained.

“‘There will be the character in the youngest that he will be counselor in large degree, and receive the words I shall give you and act upon them. Let no jealousy come in because of the position I have appointed the youngest. I have put My Spirit upon him, and if the eldest will respect the position given the youngest, both shall become strong to build up the work in different lines. The eldest must be standing as ready to be counseled by the youngest, for I have made him My counselor. And because I have given him from his birth special traits of character which the eldest has not, there is to be no contention, no strife, no division, but [they are to be] sanctified in the same work to bring about the desired end.

‘”Much more was definitely explained in the words I may hereafter write, but I would not pen them now.

“The Lord said, ‘I will prove them both, but both must stand distinct and separate from influences which will be brought to bear to break up the plans I have marked out. But the youngest is fitted for a work that will make him counselor, receiving the words from his mother. Both must carefully consider matters that I shall give, for there are times and places for the subjects to be taken up and certain times and certain places for the subjects to be left.

“‘The Lord will be your guide if you work obedient to all that I shall command you. This matter is not to be opened to your children, for both are to be proved. The time will come when you may have to speak all that I shall give you, but both sons are to be workmen and are to be at perfect agreement if they accomplish the work. They are to [be] faithful in performing [it]. They are to stand distinct and not bound up with men, to be influenced by them. I am your Counselor and theirs. 21 MR 141-142.”

Now let’s look at the statement regarding the Eastern question and its possible implications:

Eastern Question

“Sunday morning the weather was still cloudy, but before it was time for the people to assemble the sun shone forth. Boats and trains poured their living freight upon the ground, as was the case last year. Elder Smith spoke in the morning upon the Eastern question. The subject was of special interest, and the people listened with the most earnest attention. It seemed to be just what they wanted to hear. In the afternoon it was difficult for me to make my way to the desk through the standing crowd. Upon reaching it, a sea of heads was before me. The mammoth tent was fully seated, the seats having comfortable backs. These were all filled, yet thousands stood about the tent, making a living wall several feet deep.” {RH, September 6, 1877 par. 11}

Ellen White repeats this statement in volume four of the Testimonies page 279. For it to be included in the Testimonies, we can be sure that there is something of significance here. There must be more to this than simply weather reporting.

God instructed His messenger to give a glowing report of a public presentation on the Eastern question. The Eastern question that Uriah Smith presented to those thousands of people had to do with Daniel 11:45 from the point of view that is found in his book, Daniel and the Revelation.

If the last six verses of Daniel 11 are not about the Middle East, but rather are about the global Papacy, then God was completely silent in regard to the Eastern question. And we are told:

“Matters of vital importance have been plainly revealed in the Word of God. These subjects are worthy of our deepest thought. But we are not to search into matters on which God has been silent.” 1SM 173

She also says:

“Let us confine our public efforts to the presentation of the important lines of truth on which we are united, and on which we have clear light.” 1SM 167

And she also says:

“There are many questions treated upon that are not necessary for the perfection of the faith. We have no time for their study.” 1SM 163

If the Eastern question is not in the Bible, then we have no time for its study, we are not to search into it, and it certainly should not be presented in our public efforts.

If the Eastern question is not in the Bible, then Elder Smith should not have been talking about it. Ellen White’s failure to rebuke him leaves us with the impression that it was alright to talk about that subject. But if the subject isn’t even in the Bible, then he never should have brought it up.
This reasoning suggests that the acceptableness of talking about that subject places it in the category of “importance.” If the Eastern question isn’t even in the Bible, it would have no importance at all and it would be classed with “the speculation that the redeemed will not have gray hair” and “other foolish suppositions [that] have been put forward, as though these were matters of importance.” (1 SM 173) These things “we have no time for their study.” (1SM 163)

If Ellen White had simply said, “Elder Smith spoke in the morning upon Daniel 11. The subject was of special interest,” then we would know that Daniel 11 is a valid subject for presenting in our public efforts. But when she says, “Elder Smith spoke in the morning upon the Eastern question. The subject was of special interest,” then we know that the Eastern question is a valid subject for presenting in our public efforts. This means that the subject itself must be in the Bible somewhere; it must be valid to talk about. If the king of the north is the papacy then where is the Eastern question to be found in the Bible?

The only reasonable conclusion we can come to is that Smith and many of his fellow pioneers had the correct view on Daniel 11:45. If we were to teach what Smith taught today, God would again affirm such a presentation. (Ken LeBrun & John Witcombe)

From the following I get the idea that we ought to keep a united front before the world:

“I have no hesitancy in saying you have made a mistake here. You have departed from the positive directions God has given upon this matter, and only harm will be the result. This is not in God’s order. You have now set the example for others to do as you have done, to feel at liberty to put in their various ideas and theories and bring them before the public, because you have done this. This will bring in a state of things that you have not dreamed of. I have wanted to get out articles in regard to the law, but I have been moving about so much, my writings are where I cannot have the advantage of them. It is no small matter for you to come out in the Signs as you have done, and God has plainly revealed that such things should not be done. We must keep before the world a united front. Satan will triumph to see differences among Seventh-day Adventists.” {15MR 19.2}

Because of our disunity on many fronts I believe that we may have brought upon us that state of things she warned us of. Our disunity may be a root cause for the Pippengers we have amongst us, scattering the flock.

“My husband had some ideas on some points differing from the views taken by his brethren. I was shown that however true his views were, God did not call for him to put them in front before his brethren and create differences of ideas. While he might hold these views subordinate himself, once they are made public, minds would seize [upon them], and just because others believed differently would make these differences the whole burden of the message, and get up contention and variance.” {15MR 21.1}

The issue in this quotation is dealing with Daniel 11:45. Our church had a united civil view on this prophecy and James White was introducing a papal view of this verse. We had a published view, a view that we were taking to the world and it was important for our church to stay united in our public presentations.

I think James White would have given his presentation on the king of the north in the spirit of Christ. God’s rebuke did not deal with a wrong spirit but according to Willie White, it had to do with exhibiting the fact that we were not united on our understanding of prophecy and that we had differences of opinion on this prophecy.

Willie says, “I was shocked when Elder White presented another view regarding the king of the north.” Why was he shocked? Possibly it was not known by his son that he believed differently from the rest of the church on this issue. To the question, “Do you really believe that Rome is the king of the north?” his father did not answer him with a yes or a no.

Willie White wrote: “And when he heard Eld. Smith’s presentation, fear seized his soul, and he threw in his exposition on Daniel 11, not so much that he really believed it, as that he thought it would check a movement that he thought was bordering on fanaticism, and might lead to the hindrance of the work to be done.” (see the two pdf Willie White letters at:

So that may be why we don’t read much from James White on this issue. I get the impression from what Ellen and Willie White wrote on this event that James White’s motives were right. He was simply trying to get some heavy indebtedness taken care of. But by presenting what Willie called an “old, old view” he brought before the people differences of ideas that revealed disunity of prophetic teaching in the leaders.  From this story it appears to me that God wants us to all speak with one voice on the prophecies including the prophecies of Daniel 11 seeing that this was the chapter that was at issue in this situation.

I am not sure what to make of this letter from Loughborough. It does shed some light on what one of our pioneers thought about the significance of Ellen White commenting on the lecture by Smith on the Eastern question.


Letter from J. N. Loughborough.

Sanitarium, California. March 25, 1915.

Wilfrid Belleau, College Place, Washington, (Box 3)

Dear Brother,

Your letter of recent date received. Yesterday I mailed to you a copy of the book on the sealing message. And I have sent a dime to the Pacific Press requesting them to mail to you a copy of “Prophetic Gift in the Gospel Church.” As to where you can get information on “the king of the North,” I think you will find it in Bro. Daniel’s book on “The World War.” Brother Uriah Smith laid no claims to “inspiration,” but his view on the king of the North is well established by Sister White in speaking of one occasion when he spoke on the “Eastern Question.” This you can read in Volume 4 of the Testimonies, page 278-279 where she called the discourse “a subject of special interest.” etc. It would bother those holding another view than what he advocated to find a word from her favoring their views.

One Brother who had intimated in his writing on the subject that the king of the North might be the pope, told me that Sister White told him he “never should have intimated any such thing, and that his idea would only create confusion.” This was not put in print, but it was what he told me in Autumn 1878.

Yours in the blessed hope,

J. N. Loughborough.


So here we are in 2012 and we have many folk all presenting conflicting views on the prophecies. Our members observe that there is no unity of belief on the prophecies of the trumpets and the prophecies of Daniel 11 and so when Pippenger’s group comes along and offers yet another view to consider, people might be more vulnerable because we don’t have a unified view as we once had.

I do believe that there will be more light to shine from the prophecies. But I believe that the new light will not contradict what God gave to our church in the past but rather build upon and strengthen the message found in that book that we were to sell to the world, a book that represented the views this church holds.

Based upon how this movement was led, I would not expect that new light would lead to major paradigm changing views such as Pippenger is presenting to our members.

I believe that we could, as a church, give a more united message on the prophecies and the core messages of this movement if we allowed the dead to speak to us.

“God has given me light regarding our periodicals. What is it?–He has said that the dead are to speak. How?–Their works shall follow them. We are to repeat the words of the pioneers in our work, who knew what it cost to search for the truth as for hidden treasure, and who labored to lay the foundation of our work. They moved forward step by step under the influence of the Spirit of God. One by one these pioneers are passing away. The word given me is, Let that which these men have written in the past be reproduced. And in the Signs of the Times let not the articles be long or the print fine. Do not try to crowd everything into one number of the paper. Let the print be good, and let earnest, living experiences be put into the paper.”  {CW 28.1}

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Sabbath Sermons is a small resource information ministry in Australia standing upon the original platform of the Adventist truth. We are dedicated to spreading the special 'testing truths' for our time and are not affiliated with the various denominations. This website is administered by lay members only

Posted on 17/10/2014, in The King of the North. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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