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The most important book of all

The Story of Great Controversy Part 2

“I write from fifteen to twenty pages each day. It is now eleven o’clock, and I have written fourteen pages of manuscript for Volume Four [1888 Great Controversy] . . As I write upon my book, I feel intensely moved. I want to get it out as soon as possible, for our people need it so much. I shall complete it next  month if the Lord gives me health as He has done. I have been unable to sleep nights, thinking of the important things to take place. Three hours, and sometimes five, is the most sleep I get. My mind is stirred so deeply I cannot rest. Write, write, write, I feel that I must, and not delay.”—19 Manuscript Releases, 78; E.G. White Brochures: Messenger to the Remnant, p. 57 (Letter 11, 1884).

“When the storm of God’s wrath breaks upon the world, it will be a terrible revelation for souls to find that their house is being swept away because it is built upon the sand. Let the warning be given them before it is too late. We should now feel the responsibility of laboring with intense earnestness to impart to others the truths that God has given for this time. We cannot be too much in earnest.”— 6 Testimonies, 16.

“I have been repeatedly shown that our presses should now be constantly employed in publishing light and truth. This is a time of spiritual darkness in the churches of the world. Ignorance of divine things has hidden God and the truth from view . . I seemed to be in a council meeting where our book work was being discussed. There were a number of our brethren present, leaders in our work, and Elder Haskell and his wife were there consulting together and with the brethren about the circulation of our books, tracts, and periodicals.

“Elder Haskell was presenting strong reasons why the books which contain the knowledge that has been communicated to Sister White—the books containing the special message to come to the world at this present time—should be more freely circulated.

“ ‘Why,’ he inquired, ‘do not our people appreciate and circulate more widely the books bearing the divine credentials? Why is not a specialty made of the books containing the warnings regarding Satan’s work? Why do we not give greater effort to circulating the books that point out Satan’s plans to counterwork the work of God, that uncover his plans and point out his deceptions? The moral evils of his deceptions are to be removed by opening the eyes of the people so that they shall discern the situation and the dangers of our times; so that they shall make diligent effort to lay hold by faith upon Christ and His righteousness’ . .

“[Another scene later in this vision:] Because books were being sold at low prices, some being especially reduced for the occasion, many were purchased, and some by persons not of our faith. They said: ‘It must be that these books contain a message for us. These people are willing to make sacrifices in order that we may have them, and we will secure them for ourselves and our friends.’

“But dissatisfaction was expressed by some of our own people. One said: ‘A stop must be put to this work, or our business will be spoiled’ . . Then I heard the voice of our Counselor saying: ‘Forbid them not. This is a work that should be done. The end is near. Already much time has been lost, when these books should have been in circulation. Sell them far and near. Scatter them like the leaves of autumn. This work is to continue without the forbiddings of anyone. Souls are perishing out of Christ. Let them be warned of His soon appearing in the clouds of heaven.’

“Some of the workers continued to appear much cast down. One was weeping and said: ‘These are doing the publishing work an injustice by purchasing these books at so low a price; besides, this work is depriving us of some of the revenue by which our work is sustained.’ The Voice replied: ‘You are meeting with no loss. These workers who take the books at reduced prices could not obtain so ready a sale for them except it be at this so-called sacrifice.’ ”—9 Testimonies, 65-67, 72-73.

May God help us each one to be faithful. Time is short, and there is much to do. We must believe these inspired books. We must read and obey them. We must share them with others.



Over the decades, Great Controversy has been attacked more than any other book Ellen White has written. When she first planned to write it, Satan physically attacked her with paralysis. God permitted that incident so we would realize the importance of this book! More than any other book in the previous 1900 years, Great Controversy reveals the devices of Satan and the final crisis on Planet Earth.

Part of this attack—one which we have all heard at various times—is the charge that one or another edition of Great Controversy is bad and should not be read. Well-meaning people become involved in this.

But, in reality, as the following quotations verify, all four editions (1858, 1884, 1888, and 1911) are fully inspired, although some are more complete than others. The first edition is the least complete. But, from 1884 onward, all the essential points are presented in each edition. (For more information on each edition, turn to 155-156 of this book.)

After completing her first large book, the 1884 edition, Ellen White was told to make it larger. After a two-year trip to Europe, she published the 1888 edition. The 1911 edition is essentially identical to the 1888, except that source references have been added to historical quotations and, in a few instances, different historical quotations were used when the original ones could not be located. All this was done with her approval. For much more information on this, plus the entire story of the writing of the book in its several volumes, see our 504-page, Editions of Great Controversy.

Now, let Ellen White speak about each edition:

 “Great Controversy should be very widely circulated. It contains the story of the past, the present, and the future. In its outline of the closing scenes of this earth’s history, it bears a powerful testimony in behalf of the truth. I am more anxious to see a wide circulation for this book than for any others I have written; for in The Great Controversy, the last message of warning to the world is given more distinctly than in any of my other books.”—Colporteur Ministry, 127 (Letter 281, 1905).


“In this vision at Lovett’s Grove, most of the matter of the Great Controversy which I had seen ten years before was repeated, and I was shown that I must write it out. That I should have to contend with the powers of darkness, for Satan would make strong efforts to hinder me, but angels of God would not leave me in the conflict, that in God must I put my trust.”—2 Spiritual Gifts, 270 (Life Sketches, 162 is almost identical. For the full story, read 162-163).

“In the sudden attack at Jackson [Michigan], Satan designed to take my life to hinder the work I was about to write; but angels of God were sent to my rescue, to raise me above the effect of Satan’s attack.”—2 Spiritual Gifts, 272 (Life Sketches, 163 is almost identical).


“I was shown . . that I should devote myself to writing out the important matters for Volume Four [Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 4 was the 1884 Edition of Great Controversy]; and that the warning must go where the living messenger could not go, and that it would call the attention of many to the important events to occur in the closing scenes of this world’s history.”—Colporteur Ministry, p. 128 (Letter 1, 1890).

I was moved by the Spirit of God to write that book, and while working upon it I felt a great burden upon my soul. I knew that time was short, that the scenes which are soon to crowd upon us would at the last come very suddenly and swiftly.”—Colporteur Ministry, p. 127 (Letter 1, 1890).

“I write from fifteen to twenty pages each day. It is now eleven o’clock, and I have written fourteen pages of manuscript for Volume 4 . . As I write upon my book, I feel intensely moved. I want to get it out as soon as possible, for our people need it so much. I shall complete it next month if the Lord gives me health as He has done. I have been unable to sleep nights, for thinking of the important things to take place. Three hours and sometimes five is the most sleep I get. My mind is stirred so deeply I cannot rest. Write, write, write, I feel that I must, and not delay.”—E.G. White Brochures: Messenger to the Remnant (Letter 11, 1884).


“About this time when the new [second] edition of Volume 4 [the 1888 edition] came from the press, the new book, Bible Readings, was introduced. This book had a great sale, and has been permitted to swallow up every other interest. Canvassers found it an easy book to handle, and Vol. 4 was kept out of the field. I felt that this was not right. I knew that it was not right, because it was not in harmony with the light which God had given me.”—1888 Materials, 653.

“I do not demerit Bible Reading. It is a book which will do a great amount of good, but it can never take the place the Lord designed that volume 4 should have in the world and among our people. I have spread before them the light of heaven in that book.”—Publishing Ministry, 355.

“The delay was Satan’s own devising. He was working diligently and has brought about a condition of things that the work cannot now go as it would have gone and done its work, which the Lord presented before me needed to be done. Those who hindered the work will have to answer to God for this.”—1888 Materials, 1281.

“For nearly two years the book [Great Controversy] containing warnings and instructions from the Lord, given especially for this time, has been lying in our publishing houses, and no one feels the necessity or the importance of bringing it to the people. Brethren, how long am I to wait for you to get the burden? Now Volume One, or Patriarchs and Prophets, is ready for circulation, but even for this book I would not allow Volume Four to remain longer as a light under a bushel. I am in sore distress of mind, but who of my brethren cares for this?

“Has the Lord moved upon my mind to prepare this work to be sent everywhere, and is He moving upon my brethren to devise plans which shall bar the way, so that the light which He has given me shall be hid in our publishing houses instead of shining forth to enlighten all who will receive it? . . If the Lord has light for His people, who shall venture to put up barriers so that the light shall not reach them?”

“Light was in that book which came from Heaven; but what account will those men have to give to God for the little faith and confidence manifested in that book that the warnings should not come to the people when they should have had them?”—1888 Materials, 1280-1281.


“A few day ago I received a copy of the new edition of the book, Great Controversy, recently printed at Mountain View, and also a similar copy printed at Washington. The book pleases me. I have spent many hours looking through its pages, and I see that the publishers have done good work.

“The book, Great Controversy, I appreciate above silver or gold, and I greatly desire that it shall come before the people. While writing the manuscript of Great Controversy I was often conscious of the presence of the angels of God. And many times the scenes about which I was writing were presented to me anew in visions of the night, so that they were fresh and vivid in my mind.”—3 Selected Messages, 123 (Letter 56, 1911; the second of the above two paragraphs is in Colporteur Ministry, p. 128).

“Recently it was necessary for this book to be reset because the electrotype plates were badly worn. It has cost me much to have this done, but I do not complain, for whatever the cost may be, I regard the edition with great satisfaction.”—3 Selected Messages, 123 (Letter 56, 1911).


“The results of the circulation of this book [The Great Controversy] are not to be judged by what now appears. By reading it, some souls will be aroused and will have courage to unite themselves at once with those who keep the commandments of God. But a much larger number of those who read it will not take their position until they see the very events taking place that are foretold in it. The fulfillment of some of the predictions will inspire faith that others will also come to pass, and when the earth is lightened with the glory of the Lord in the closing work, many souls will take their position on the commandments of God as the result of this agency.”—Colporteur Ministry, pp. 128-129 (Manuscript 31, 1890).

“As the spirit of God has opened to my mind the great truths of His Word, and the scenes of the past and the future,
I have been bidden to make known to others that which has thus been revealed—to trace the history of the controversy in past ages, and especially so to shed a light on the fast-approaching struggle of the future.”—Great Controversy, xi.

Several facts stand out:
(1) Great Controversy is the most important book for these last days,
(2) Satan hates it more than any other book.
(3) It has been the most reviled and slandered of any of the Spirit of Prophecy books.
(4) All editions of Great Controversy are equally inspired.
(5) Give the book to the people, in whichever edition you prefer—but give it to them.
(6) The book provides the reader with the issues and warnings he needs just now. The deceptions and events of the future are unveiled; and before the reader lays down the book at its last page, the book brings him personally to the brink of eternity to make his own life decision.