OF RELIGION Field Guide to the

This material regarding the writings of Ellen G. White is part of a Field Guide profile on Seventh-day Adventism. Click here to go to the main page of the SDA profile.




   1 Timothy 2:8-10 (NIV)


   8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.


   9 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,


   10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.



Most Bible students would not take this passage to mean that a woman could never wear any kind of jewelry, or braid her hair. They would take it to mean that she should have her chief identity in spiritual matters, not as a "fashion plate."


But Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) prophetess Ellen G White (EGW) taught that this did, indeed, forbid all jewelry of any kind, including a simple gold wedding band.


And to this day, those Seventh-day Adventist women who are carefully observant of their denomination's rulings do not wear any kind of jewelry. A "special dispensation" has been made over the years in the case of some societies outside the United States in which the wearing of a wedding band was such a strong local custom that failure of a married woman to wear it would be considered scandalous, implying sexual looseness or some such.


But the taboo on jewelry is so strong that SDA women in local congregations will put extreme peer pressure on a woman who would dare to wear even simple earrings. One non-SDA woman that I know visited an SDA congregation when looking for a place for Sabbatarian fellowship, and was appalled when several of the local women took her (a complete stranger and merely a visitor to their Church) aside after the worship service and admonished her about her tiny, plain earrings, telling her that she was dishonoring God by wearing them. She did not return after that first visit.


This must not be untypical of SDA settings … here is a quote from an SDA pastor:


I know of young people who have never again set foot inside an Adventist church after they were told that jeans are not the proper attire in church; I know of others who have felt hurt by remarks about their earrings or their necklace; and again of others who were condemned for their ‘different’ hairstyle.


These people dispensing condemnation have not taken their guidance directly from the scripture. They have taken their guidance directly from Ellen White.


But are the standards imposed and enforced sternly by peer pressure within SDA congregations really the ones that Ellen and the early SDA folks adhered to? Have a look at this excerpt from a website discussing the jewelry issue.  


Letter 32a, 1891, pp. 2, 3. (To J. E. and Emma White, December 7, 1891.)


Sister Kerr took me into her parlor bedroom, and opened a box of ruches [A STRIP OF LACE, NET, RIBBON, OR THE LIKE, USED IN PLACE OF A COLLAR OR CUFF] for the neck, and desired me to accept the entire box. Her husband is a merchant in Honolulu, and though not a believer, he is a very liberal man. She also presented me with three yards and a half of silk, costing three dollars a yard with which I was to make a sack. [A SHORT COAT OR JACKET FITTING SOMEWHAT LOOSELY] I saw that she was very desirous that I should have this, and I could not refuse without greatly disappointing her. It was beautiful silk left from a dress which she had. She also gave me a silk scarf, and a ten dollar pin, composed of white stones, very plain and serviceable. I thought I could not accept this, but she looked so sorry, that I finally did take it, and have worn it ever since, for it is handy and becoming, while it is not showy at all.  


Note: A "ten dollar pin" in 1891 is equivalent to a $205 pin in 2005. This could hardly be considered a cheap piece of jewelry. In 1890 the average female laborer received a salary of $4.50 per week. Therefore, a ten dollar pin represents more than two weeks worth of pre-tax wages.


Compare the above, written in 1891, to the following:


Ellen White, Bible Training School, May 1, 1908


The ornamentation of the person with jewels and luxurious things is a species of idolatry. ... Expensive dress and adornments of jewelry give an incorrect representation of the truth that should always be represented as of the highest value.



Current Position


What is the current, clear teaching on jewelry among SDAs?


The following is the official position on the wearing of any jewelry, as stated in the SDA Manual revised for the year 2000:


pp 166-67


"To dress plainly, abstaining from display of jewelry and ornaments of every kind, is in keeping with our faith."—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 366. It is clearly taught in the Scriptures that the wearing of jewelry is contrary to the will of God. ". . . not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array" is the admonition of the apostle Paul (1 Tim. 2:9). The wearing of ornaments of jewelry is a bid for attention which is not in keeping with Christian self-forgetfulness.


In some countries the custom of wearing the wedding ring is considered imperative, having become, in the minds of the people, a criterion of virtue, and hence it is not regarded as an ornament. Under such circumstances we have no disposition to condemn the practice.


It would seem that the average SDA ladies' group today would likely be scandalized if their very own revered Prophetess Ellen would show up in her "beautiful silk sack" and her "ten dollar pin" that was "handy and becoming." The term "becoming" certainly seems like a term for an "ornament," and a "pin composed of white stones" surely seems like a term for a piece of jewelry! And a simple gold wedding band can hardly be termed "showy" by anyone, yet Ellen insisted:


Here the Lord, through His apostle, speaks expressly against the wearing of gold. Let those who have had experience see to it that they do not lead others astray on this point by their example. That ring encircling your finger may be very plain, but it is useless, and the wearing of it has a wrong influence upon others."-4 Testimonies, 630.



This is only one of many documented cases in which Ellen's stern, dogmatic Bible interpretations did not line up with her own practice. See the Documentation section of the main SDA movement profile at the link below for links to webpages which contain many other examples.



It is not clear whether hypocrisy in a Prophet/Prophetess is “becoming.”






Unless otherwise noted, all original material on this Field Guide website

is © 2001-2011 by Pamela Starr Dewey.


Careful effort has been made to give credit as clearly as possible to any specific material quoted or ideas extensively adapted from any one resource. Corrections and clarifications regarding citations for any source material are welcome, and will be promptly added to any sections which are found to be inadequately documented as to source.


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Seventh-day Adventist position on the wearing of jewelry:

From Biblical admonition, or from the idiosyncratic teachings of Ellen G White?