Amalgamation: A Denominational Embarrassment
By Dirk Anderson
Many Adventists agree the following statements are the most embarrassing ever penned by Ellen White:
"But if there was one sin above another which called for the destruction of the race by the flood, it was the base crime of amalgamation of man and beast which defaced the image of God, and caused confusion everywhere."1
These statements appear contrary to the Bible, which states:
And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth... (Acts 17:26)
A Summary of Mrs. White's main points about Amalgamation
Ellen White: Amalgamation = Intermarriage black and white persons
Mason Stokes writes: "From as early as 1860 Amalgamation, miscegenation, intermarriage, integration--these were the contemporary sins that would surely seal the nation's doom."3 Christians pointed back to the destruction of the earth during the flood and blamed it on the sin of amalgamation. For example, in 1860, Samuel Cartwright wrote of the "amalgamation" of the Adamic race with "inferior races" which led to the corruption of those living before the flood.4 Some considered negroes to be beasts. This idea was popularized by Buckner Payne who published a pamphlet in which he asked: "The Negro: ... Has he a soul? Or is he a beast?"5 His entire thesis was that negroes were soul-less beasts who did not descend from Adam. Like many of that era, he was concerned about the amalgamation that would occur if blacks were allowed to inter-marry with whites. He writes, "a man can not commit so great an offense against his race, against his country, against his God, in any other way, as to give his daughter in marriage to a negro--a beast--or to take one of their females for his wife."6 In language reminiscent of Ellen White, Payne spoke of the "crime of amalgamation" that "brought the flood upon the earth," and warned that if the country continued to allow inter-race marriages, then it could expect the same fate as the antediluvians: "people that favor this equality and amalgamation of the white and black races, God will exterminate."7 Minister Charles Carroll, in his book The Negro a Beast, agrees with Buckner, repeatedly referring to negroes as beasts. In his later book, The Temptor of Eve, Carroll writes that amalgamation is the "most infamous and destructive crime known to the law of God."8
To summarize this viewpoint:
In 1864, near the end of the Civil War, it was against this racial backdrop that Ellen White sent out her amalgamation statement to a church composed almost entirely of whites. After her statement on amalgamation was published, some pastors wanted to confirm what she was talking about. Two pastors report that James White told Elder Ingraham "that Sister White had seen that God never made the Darkey."9 This would be consistent with Ellen White's remarks about race. Later in life, she repeatedly stated, "there should be no intermarriage between the white and the colored race."10 It should be noted that in the 1851 book Negro-Mania, a book Mrs. White had in her library, the word "amalgamation" is used many times for the intermarriage between different races of humans; for example, it us used to refer to intermarriage between the Portuguese colonists of the Congo "with the Negro inhabitants."19
There is little doubt Ellen White was repeating the sentiments among some white Christians in the Civil War era, that intermarriage between blacks and whites was the amalgamation of man (whites) and beast (blacks), and this would bring the wrath of God down upon the nation in the same manner that if fell upon the antediluvians. With this understanding, her statement can be read as follows:
"But if there was one sin above another which called for the destruction of the race by the flood, it was the base crime [bestiality, Lev. 18:23] of amalgamation [intermarriage] of man [white people] and beast [black people] which defaced the image of God [resulting in mulattoes], and caused confusion everywhere."
This understanding is probable for these reasons:
Because of these reasons, there can be little doubt that Ellen White was saying amalgamation equated with intermarriage between black and white people.
Endless varieties of species of animals?
Mrs. White also insinuates some type of amalgamation was happening with the animals. There is no record of this in the Bible. In the Bible, God created all the different species. Since Ellen White was a prolific copier of the thoughts, ideas, and words of others, one must examine the literature she read to determine the real source. Many of Mrs. White's statements about the pre-flood era appear astonishingly similar to statements in the Book of Jasher, a fictional account of earth's early history published in 1840. In that book we find pre-flood humans experimenting with amalgamation...
"... the sons of men in those days took from the cattle of the earth, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and taught the mixture of animals of one species with the other."12
This fictional book indicates the antediluvians were interbreeding animals to create new animals. Perhaps this accounts for the "endless varieties of species of animals" Mrs. White wrote about.
A "Base Crime"
Mrs. White describes amalgamation as a base crime. Webster's 1828 dictionary describes "base" as "Mean; vile; worthless; that is, low in value or estimation; used of things."13 Webster's 1913 dictionary describes it as: "Morally low."14 Synonyms include: "LOW, VILE mean deserving of contempt because of the absence of higher values."15 Sexual relations between humans and "beasts" would certainly fit the category of "base crime." It is condemned in the Bible as an abomination worthy of the death penalty.16 Notice carefully that the crimes of adultery and bestiality are in close proximity in the Levitical law:
Lev. 18:20 - "Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her."
Mrs. White uses the term "base crime" only two times in her entire writings. First, the sexual assault by Potiphar's wife upon Joseph, which refers to a violation of Lev. 18:20.17 Second, the amalgamation statement, referring to a violation of Lev. 18:23. Furthermore, Mrs. White says the amalgamation "caused confusion everywhere", linking it to Lev. 18:23 which states that bestiality "is confusion." Mrs. White's choice of the words "base crime" and her allusion to the resulting "confusion" indicate she was describing bestiality.
Which race is a product of amalgamation?
Ellen White's statement provoked instant controversy and stinging criticism when it was published in 1864. Some recognized it to be racist while others scoffed at the idea that certain races were an amalgamation of man and beast. This forced church leaders to perform damage-control to restore the image of their prophet. Mrs. White said the results of amalgamation could be seen "in certain races of men." People were asking: "Which race is a product of amalgamation between man and beast?"
If intermarriage between black and white people had indeed created new races of humans, who were they? This was a thorny question for a church that was becoming more racially tolerant after the Civil War. Thus, Adventist editor Uriah Smith18 was tasked with crafting an explanation that would quell the uproar. In 1866, two years after the amalgamation statements first appeared in print, Smith published a defense of Ellen White, in which he struggled to make sense of some of Ellen White's more outlandish statements. In a series of articles appearing in the Adventist Review is found the first official Seventh-day Adventist explanation of the amalgamation statement. Smith argued that the line between human and animal had been blurred, and that there was undeniable evidence of the union of man with beast which could be observed in "such cases as the wild Bushmen of Africa, some tribes of the Hottentots, and perhaps the Digger Indians of our own country, &c".19
To assure the SDA flock that Smith's explanations had the approval of SDA authorities, the General Conference reviewed his manuscript prior to publishing it in the Review and provided a "hearty approval" for his explanations.20 Two years later, Smith re-printed the articles in a book. James White "carefully" reviewed Smith's book prior to its publication, and then recommended it in glowing terms to the readers of the church's official magazine, the Review and Herald:
"The Association has just published a pamphlet entitled, 'The Visions of Mrs. E.G. White, A Manifestation of Spiritual Gifts According to the Scriptures.' It is written by the editor of the Review. While carefully reading the manuscript, I felt grateful to God that our people could have this able defense of those views they so much love and prize, which others despise and oppose."21
As noted, the prophet's husband carefully read Smith's book. It is inconceivable that the statements about the Bushmen of Africa passed by James White without notice. His endorsement of the book indicates his implicit approval of the new explanation. In fact, because it supposedly established Mrs. White's claims, James and Ellen took 2,000 copies of Smith's book with them to peddle at camp meetings that year!22 By promoting and selling Smith's book the Whites placed their official stamp of approval on his explanation of the amalgamation statement.
And just who are these races that are so unfortunate as to be labeled by Seventh-day Adventist leaders as amalgamations of man with beast? As indicated in the table to the right, they are some of the most truly authentic human beings on the planet!
How unfortunate that the SDA prophet and SDA leaders failed to realize that the very "Bushmen" they labeled as part-man, part-beast, carry the genetic markers indicating they are the ancestors of the entire human race, and are genetically as fully human as white people! How could their inspired prophet be so dreadfully wrong?
SDA scholars forced into Mental Gymnastics to explain White's outrageous statements
At the time Mrs. White wrote her statement, it was believed by some...
"...that crosses between men and animals had created a no-man's-land between man and beast, populated by gorillas, chimpanzees, wild bushmen of Africa, Patagonians, and Hottentots."23
Thus, Uriah Smith's explanation seemed believable. Instead of amalgamation being the intermarriage of whites with blacks, as Ellen White no doubt intended it, Smith spun White's amalgamation statement to be the sexual union between humans and animals, which produced certain ethnics groups of humans. But while the "Bushmen of Africa" explanation was good enough for the Whites, Smith, and the 1866 General Conference, it eventually fell out of favor with later generations of SDA leaders. It became increasingly difficult to explain these statements to an increasingly educated and racially diverse denomination.
Despite the controversy, the SDA Church continued for over 80 years to hold the position that Mrs. White was talking about sex between humans and animals. However, in 1947, an Adventist biologist named Dr. Frank Marsh convinced an SDA panel to interpret Mrs. White's statement to mean the interbreeding among species, not interbreeding between man and beast. Dr. Marsh argued convincingly that the union of man and beast was impossible. Despite the fact that James White, Uriah Smith, W.C. White (her son), and D.D. Robinson (her secretary) all claimed Mrs. White's statement was referring to the interbreeding of humans with animals, the mounting scientific evidence made it impossible for Adventists to continue to defend her statement based upon that meaning.24 That meant they must either swallow the bitter pill and admit that Mrs. White was talking about intermarriage between blacks and whites, or come up with a new explanation. So, SDA scholars began concocting new explanations.
Adventist scholar, Francis D. Nichol, in his book Ellen G. White and Her Critics, rightly concluded that the word "amalgamation" was used commonly in the 19th century to refer to intermarriage between the black and white races. However, this presented the original racial problem. So, he also notes that Ellen White used the word "amalgamation" to refer to the intermarriage between those of different faiths. Nichol also improvised a new twist, arguing that Mrs. White's statement was referring to amalgamation between "man and "man," namely, the interbreeding between different races or different religions. Does this provide a believable solution to the thorny amalgamation problem?
Intermarriage between the races?
Nichol's argument had one advantage, which was it removed the derogatory word "beasts" from the equation. He reinterpreted her statement to be amalgamation of man with man, even though that is not what it says. Regardless, it brought back the original charge that she was making a racial slur. The solution raises big questions:
It is obvious the "intermarriage" theory was not going to fly in modern Adventism. With intermarriages between races becoming more common among Adventists in the 20th and 21st century, Nichol's "explanation" has been discarded on the trash heap of history.
Intermarriage between godly and ungodly?
Nichol's second theory was amalgamation meant intermarriage between those of believers with unbelievers. One point in favor of this view is that Mrs. White once used "amalgamation" in reference to God's people uniting with the world.25 However, this interpretation does not fit the context of the Mrs. White's statement in Spiritual Gifts. Gordon Shigley explains:
"It was difficult to read the statements within their context without seeing a series of sins, of which the last sin--the 'one sin above another'--was obviously the climax. It was not likely that Ellen White was talking about intermarriage since she already had described that sin in an earlier paragraph. ...it is impossible to make the amalgamation of beast with beast or man with man the one sin greater than idolatry, adultery, polygamy, theft, or murder."26
Obviously, marrying another faith was not the pre-eminent, heinous and vile sin that called for the destruction of the antediluvians. This interpretation raises far more questions than it answers:
Obviously, this explanation has even more holes.
Is Amalgamation the greatest reason for the flood?
If Ellen White is correct, that the "one sin above another which called for the destruction of the race" was amalgamation, why was that sin never mentioned in Genesis? Moses mentions the sins of corruption and violence in Genesis 6:11-13, but never amalgamation. One would think that if amalgamation was the "one sin above another" that caused the flood, Moses would have at least mentioned it! How could such a grievous sin pass by Moses without mention?
Why were these "inspired" statements removed?
If the amalgamation statements were true, then why did the brethren remove them when republishing the same material in Mrs. White's later book Patriarchs and Prophets? Many questions are raised by this deletion:
Finally, and most importantly, why should prophetic utterances need to be deleted from later editions of a prophet's writings? Many have been asking that same question for over 100 years. The removal of the amalgamation statements created such a controversy that the White Estate decided it was important for them to provide an explanation for the omissions. Her son W.C. White writes:
"Regarding the two paragraphs which are to be found in Spiritual Gifts and also in The Spirit of Prophecy regarding amalgamation and the reason why they were left out of the later books, and the question as to who took the responsibility of leaving them out, I can speak with perfect clearness and assurance. They were left out by Ellen G. White. No one connected with her work had any authority over such a question, and I never heard of anyone offering to her counsel regarding this matter.
That explains it. Now we know the reason.
No, no, no! The prophet's son assures us she removed them because one of the spirit guides assisting her in writing her books instructed her to do so. That leads us to our final question:
Why didn't the angel instruct her to omit the lines before they were published?
1. Ellen White, Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, p. 64.
2. Ibid., p. 75.
3. Mason Stokes, "Someone’s in the Garden with Eve: Race, Religion, and the American Fall", American Quarterly Vol. 50, No. 4, Dec. 1998 (Johns Hopkins University Press).
4. Samuel A. Cartwright, "Unity of the Human Race Disproved by the Hebrew Bible," Vol. 29, Issue 2, Aug. 1860, pp. 129-136.
5. Buckner Payne, "The Negro: What is His Ethnological Status? Is He the Progeny of Ham? Is He a Descendant of Adam and Eve? Has He a Soul? Or Is He a Beast in God's Nomenclature? What Is His Status as Fixed by God in Creation? What Is His Relation to the White Race?", (1867). He wrote under the pseudonym of "Ariel."
6. Ibid., p. 48
7. Ibid., p. 31, 48.
8. Charles Carroll, The Tempter of Eve; or, The Criminality of Man’s Social, Political, and Religious Equality with the Negro, and the Amalgamation to Which These Crimes Inevitably Lead (St. Louis, MO: Adamic, 1902), 406.
9. Snook and Brinkerhoff, The Visions of E.G. White Not of God, chapter 2.
10. Ellen White, Manuscript 7, 1896. Selected Messages Book 2, p. 343, para. 2.
11. John Campbell, Negro-Mania: An Examination of the Falsely Assumed Equality of the Various Races of Men (Philadelphia: Campbell & Power, 1851), p. 365. That this book was in Mrs. White's library is affirmed by Ronald Numbers, "Science and Medicine," Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet (NY: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 216.
12. Jasher 4:18.
14. Webster's 1913 Dictionary. The 1913 Webster's Dictionary gives a good definition of how "base" relates to immorality: Base, Vile, Mean. These words, as expressing moral qualities, are here arranged in the order of their strength, the strongest being placed first. Base marks a high degree of moral turpitude; vile and mean denote, in different degrees, the want of what is valuable or worthy of esteem. What is base excites our abhorrence; what is vile provokes our disgust or indignation; what is mean awakens contempt.
15. “Amalgam.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amalgam. Accessed Nov. 30, 2023.
BASE stresses the ignoble and may suggest cruelty, treachery, greed, or grossness [base motives].
LOW may connote crafty cunning, vulgarity, or immorality and regularly implies an outraging of one's
sense of decency or propriety [refused to listen to such low talk].
VILE, the strongest of these words, tends to suggest disgusting depravity or filth [a vile remark].
16. Leviticus 18:23, 20:16.
17. See article written by Ellen White, Signs of the Times, Jan. 8, 1880.
18. In 1868 Uriah Smith still professed belief in Ellen White as a prophet. By 1883, he did not hold the same degree of conviction: "It seems to me that the testimonies, practically, have come into that shape, that it is not of any use to try to defend the erroneous claims that are now put forth for them." (Smith to Canright, March 22, 1883).
19. Uriah Smith, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, July 31, 1866. A similar statement is found in the book Smith later published called The Visions of Mrs. E. G. White, A Manifestation of Spiritual gifts According to the Scripture, p. 103, (Steam Press, Battle Creek Michigan, 1868). NOTE: This book is not available in any SDA bookstores today. Here is the full quotation from pages 103-104:
"Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men." This view was given for the purpose of illustrating the deep corruption and crime into which the race fell, even within a few years after the flood that signal manifestation of God's wrath against human wickedness. There was amalgamation; and the effect is still visible in certain races of men." Mark, those excepting the animals upon whom the effects of this work are visible, are called by the vision, "men." Now we have ever supposed that anybody that was called a man, was considered a human being. The vision speaks of all these classes as races of men; yet in the face of this plain declaration, they foolishly assert that the visions teach that some men are not human beings! But does any one deny the general statement contained in the extract given above? They do not. If they did, they could easily be silenced by a reference to such cases as the wild Bushmen of Africa, some tribes of the Hottentots, and perhaps the Digger Indians of our own country, &c. Moreover, naturalists affirm that the line of demarcation between the human and animal races is lost in confusion. It is impossible, as they affirm, to tell just where the human ends and the animal begins. Can we suppose that this was so ordained of God in the beginning? Rather has not sin marred the boundaries of these two kingdoms?
20. “Objections to the Visions,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 12 June 1866, p. 16. Smith's manuscript was reviewed prior to publication by both the Michigan and General Conferences who published the following statement in the June 12, 1866, edition of the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald: "Resolved, That we, the members of the General and Mich. State Conference, having heard a portion of the manuscript read, which has been prepared by Bro. U. Smith, in answer to certain objections recently brought against the visions of Sister White, do hereby express our hearty approval of the same. Resolved, That we tender our thanks to Bro. Smith for his able defense of the visions against the attacks of their opponents."
21. Review, June 12, 1866.
22. James White, Review, Aug. 15, 1868.
23. Gordon Shigley, "Amalgamation of Man and Beast: What Did Ellen White Mean?", Spectrum, vol. 12, no. 4, p. 13. Gordon Shigley wrote this article while a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin.
24. Shigley, p. 18, footnote #11: "This information appears as a handwritten note at the bottom of a copy of Uriah Smith's 'Objection 39: The Negro Race Not Human,' provided by [Professor] Frank Marsh." It is a good thing that Smith provided this explanation, because some were apparently applying Ellen White's statement to the Negra race. The author is saddened to say, that as an SDA for 33 years, I know for a fact that behind closed doors in private conversations a few white American SDA's still believe this "inspired" statement applies to the entire negro race. One person claimed to have seen an unpublished manuscript in the White Estate vault indicating such, but proof is lacking. In a statement received from a former SDA via e-mail, October 2004: "I found the testimony from the guy that was in the vault and Dr. B showed him where EGW wrote about women being with apes. Well, I wanted to tell you back in the early 1980s my husband had a good friend that went to Andrews. He told my husband about seeing this writing while doing research in the vault. We wondered all these years about it. I was pleased to confirm it with that part of your site. We suspect he was kicked out of school, as bearing that statement he began preaching to kids on campus about what he had found, referring to black people as monkeys."
25. Ellen White, Review and Herald, August 23, 1892.
26. See Shigley, pp. 11-18.
27. W.C. White, Selected Messages, Vol. 3, p. 452.
28. "Bushmen", Wikipedia, extracted June 19, 2009.
29. "Khoikhoi", Wikipedia, extracted June 19, 2009.
30. "Paiute", Wikipedia, extracted June 19, 2009.
Category: Shocking Statements
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