Ellen White's changing attitude toward the General Conference in Session is illustrated by these statements:

E.G.White in 1875:

  • "I have been shown that no man's judgment should be surrendered to the judgment of any one man. But when the judgment of the General Conference, which is the highest authority that God has upon the earth, is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be maintained, but surrendered." - Testimonies For The Church, Vol. III page 492 {PC 422} (1875).

In the 1890’s:

  • "The voice of the General Conference has been represented as an authority to be heeded as the voice of the Holy Spirit. But when the members of the General Conference Committee become entangled in business affairs and financial perplexities, the sacred, elevated character of their work is in a great degree lost." Manuscript 33, 1895. {14MR 278}
  • "As for the voice of the General Conference, there is no voice from God through that body that is reliable."  {17MR 178} (1895)
  • "The voice from Battle Creek, which has been regarded as authority in counseling how the work should be done, is no longer the voice ofGod." {17MR 185} (1896).
  • "It has been some years since I have considered the General Conference as the voice of God." {17MR 216} (1898).


  • "That these men (leaders) should stand in a sacred place, to be as the voice of God to the people, as we once believed the General Conference to be, that is past." - General Conference Bulletin 1901 page 25 {PC422}

  • The Lord declares that His church is not to be governed by human rules or precedents. Men are not capable of ruling the church. God is our Ruler. I am oppressed with the thought of the objectionable human management seen in our work. God says, Hands off. Rule yourselves before you attempt to rule others. Strange things have been done, things that God abhors. For men to claim that the voice of their councils in their past management is the voice of God seems to me to be almost blasphemy.—Manuscript 35, 1901. {17MR 250.1}


  • "At times, when a small group of men entrusted with the general management of the work have, in the name of the General Conference, sought to carry out unwise plans and to restrict God’s work, I have said that I could no longer regard the voice of the General Conference, represented by these few men, as the voice of God. But this is not saying that the decisions of a General Conference composed of an assembly of duly appointed, representative men from all parts of the field should not be respected. God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority. The error that some are in danger of committing is in giving to the mind and judgment of one man, or of a small group of men, the full measure of authority and influence that God has vested in His church in the judgment and voice of the General Conference assembled to plan for the prosperity and advancement of His work. {9T 260.2}

[Editor's Note: Some suggest that in this 1909 statement Ellen White says that as long as we think of the General Comferene as large numbers of delegates in session, rather than as a few officers, the General Conference is still "the voice of God," still "God's highest highest authority on earth," and that when the GC in session votes something "private independence and private judgment must not be maintained, but surrendered." But in the 1909 statement she does not use any of those strong terms to discribe her now-seasoned view of General Conference authority. Instead, her strongest counsel here is that:

  1. She never said the decisions of the GC representatives in session shouldn't "be respected."
  2. The decisions of the GC in session "shall have authority."