An analysis of Dirk Andersons:
The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

Adventists have long claimed that Ellen White predicted the earthquake that struck San Francisco in April 18, 1906. Our opponent Dirk Anderson wrote a paper in which he tries to refute this idea, telling us that she herself admitted to having never predicted the earthquake. In his paper, he quotes the following:

“Since the San Francisco earthquake, many rumors have been current regarding statements I have made. Some have reported that while in Los Angeles, I claimed that I had predicted the San Francisco earthquake and fire, and that Los Angeles would be the next city to suffer. This is not true. The morning after the earthquake, I said no more than that ‘the earthquakes will come; the floods will come;’ and that the Lord's message to us is that we shall "not establish ourselves in the wicked cities." –The Review and Herald, The Judgments of God in our cities, July 5, 1906.

Mr. Anderson quoted this from Life Sketches, page 411, but there it only appears as a quote. Originally she wrote this in the Review and Herald. We quoted it from there instead to get some context.

We won’t argue with Dirk Anderson on this point. She did admit to not having predicted the actual earthquake of San Francisco. But there are a couple of points we want to address which he made in his article.

First, she did, a few years prior, make a prediction that some catastrophic events would transpire in the city of San Francisco:

Sept. 1, 1902: Well-equipped tent meetings should be held in the large cities, such as San Francisco; for not long hence these cities will suffer under the judgments of God. San Francisco and Oakland are becoming as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Lord will visit them in wrath. {6BIO 87.3}

Again in 1903, about 8 months later, she wrote:

April 20, 1903: The message of warning should be sounded in the large, wicked cities, such as San Francisco. San Francisco and Oakland are becoming as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Lord will visit them. Not far hence they will suffer under His judgments.

It should be noted that in the quote our opponent provides above, she is not saying to have never predicted any kind of catastrophic event, but rather that she did not predict that perticular earthquake of San Francisco. She did, however, predict that something was going to happen in San Francisco, and lo and behold, something did happen:

“At the center of the city the earthquake took a heavy toll. Municipal and office buildings, as well as stores and hotels, were destroyed. Few buildings stood. Hundreds lost their lives in the collapse of several hotels. Frame buildings constituted most of the residential part of the city, and while the earthquake toppled chimneys and moved houses on their foundations from a few inches to a few feet, the buildings stood.

"Uncontrolled fires created greater overall damage than the earthquake. Block after block succumbed to the flames in the three days following the quake. Since no cooking fires were allowed in buildings not inspected for safety, most cooking in areas where homes stood was done with improvised stoves on the sidewalks or in the parks. Water was treasured as gold. The military pitched tents in the parks to help care for the homeless. Bread lines measured a mile long. In many cases families were separated; carriages carried signs and people wore placards stating, "I am looking for so and so."

"It was only two weeks later that Ellen White viewed the fifteen square miles of rubble and devastation and listened to tales of the bizarre happenings. How similar it was to the scenes of the night at Loma Linda!” –Ellen G. White Biographical Books,” The year of the earthquake” chapter 6, page 85-86.

Two days before the actual earthquake took place, Ellen White reported to have had a vision. Here’s what she said she saw:

“While at Loma Linda, California, April 16, 1906, there passed before me a most wonderful representation. During a vision of the night, I stood on an eminence, from which I could see houses shaken like a reed in the wind. Buildings, great and small, were falling to the ground. Pleasure resorts, theaters, hotels, and the homes of the wealthy were shaken and shattered. Many lives were blotted out of existence, and the air was filled with the shrieks of the injured and the terrified.

"The destroying angels of God were at work. One touch, and buildings, so thoroughly constructed that men regarded them as secure against every danger, quickly became heaps of rubbish. There was no assurance of safety in any place. I did not feel in any special peril, but the awfulness of the scenes that passed before me I cannot find words to describe. It seemed that the forbearance of God was exhausted and that the Judgment day had come.” -Testimonies for the Church volume 9, page 93.

Then after explaining what she saw in vision, she wrote:

“On April 18, two days after the scene of falling buildings had passed before me, I went to fill an appointment in the Carr Street Church, Los Angeles. As we neared the church we heard the newsboys crying: "San Francisco destroyed by an earthquake!" With a heavy heart I read the first hastily printed news of the terrible disaster.

"Two weeks later, on our homeward journey, we passed through San Francisco and, hiring a carriage, spent an hour and a half in viewing the destruction wrought in that great city. Buildings that were thought to be proof against disaster were lying in ruins. In some instances buildings were partially sunken in the ground. The city presented a most dreadful picture of the inefficiency of human ingenuity to frame fireproof and earthquake-proof structures.” –Testimonies for the Church volume 9, page 94.

There are two points we must bear in mind. First, in this vision she did not mention the city in which this disaster took place. The news of the earthquake in San Francisco was as much a surprise to her as it was to anyone else. So when she says she did not predict this earthquake of San Francisco, she was right. She never mentioned San Francisco! She simply reported that she saw building shaking, and people dieing. That’s it. When the earthquake took place two days later, she saw it as a fulfillment, or at least a partial fulfillment, of the vision she had received.

In the quotes of 1902 and 1903 which we quoted above, we note that she did not mention the word “earthquake.” She simply said that God’s judgments would be visited upon those cities. Hence we have the following conclusions:

1: She predicted that God’s judgments would be visited upon San Francisco and Oakland.
2: She never said it would be an earthquake.

3: Two days before the earthquake she has a vision of buildings falling, but never mentioned it would be the buildings of San Francisco.

In other words, perhaps she did not predict that perticular earthquake, but did predict that God’s judgments would come upon this city. And indeed it has, in the actual earthquake itself.

Then Dirk Anderson tries to make her look bad. He says that even if she was right in this prediction, she didn't try to warn the inhabitants of San Francisco of this coming earthquake:

“Unlike Biblical prophets, Mrs. White never made any attempt to go and warn the doomed city.”

(click image to enlarge)

Really? First of all, embedded in the very quote where she predicts that God’s judgments would come upon San Francisco, she says that the city should be warned of these coming judgments:

April 20, 1903: The message of warning should be sounded in the large, wicked cities, such as San Francisco. San Francisco and Oakland are becoming as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Lord will visit them. Not far hence they will suffer under His judgments.

Then he contends that this was not published:

“In fact, her manuscript was not even published until after the earthquake.”

But then again, she was not in charge of the publishing of all of her materials. Her job was to write, and she clearly “wrote” in 1903 that “the message of warning should be sounded in… San Francisco.” Just because this perticular quote was not at that moment published does not mean it did not make it into the hands of other people.

Nevertheless, only a few months prior to the above quote (and about the same time as the September 1, 1902 quote) Ellen White did warn to leave the large cities years before the earthquake, and yes, this was published. In Testimonies volume 7, in a section she entitled “Out of the cities,” she wrote:

"‘Out of the cities’ is my message. Our physicians ought to have been wide awake on this point long ago. I hope and pray and believe that they will now arouse to the importance of getting out into the country.

"The time is near when the large cities will be visited by the judgments of God. In a little while these cities will be terribly shaken. No matter how large or how strong their buildings, no matter how many safeguards against fire may have been provided, let God touch these buildings, and in a few minutes or a few hours they are in ruins.

"The ungodly cities of our world are to be swept away by the besom of destruction. In the calamities that are now befalling immense buildings and large portions of cities God is showing us what will come upon the whole earth. He has told us: "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it [the coming of the Son of man] is near, even at the doors." Matthew 24:32, 33.’” –Testimonies for the Church, volume 7, page 83.

These words were published in 1902, nearly four years before the earthquake. In the preface of this volume, we read:

“Volume 7 was published late in 1902, only about two years after the issuance of volume 6.” –ibid, page 4.

How then could Mr. Anderson say she did not warn the large cities about those coming destructions? In fact in this same volume only a few pages later, Ellen White even mentions San Francisco and Oakland as cities which should most receive the warning messages:

“There is work to be done in California, a work that has been strangely neglected. Let this work be delayed no longer. As doors open for the presentation of truth, let us be ready to enter. Some work has been done in the large city of San Francisco, but as we study the field we see plainly that only a beginning has been made. As soon as possible, well-organized efforts should be put forth in different sections of this city and also in Oakland. The wickedness of San Francisco is not realized. Our work in this city must broaden and deepen. God sees in it many souls to be saved.” –ibid, page 110.

Then Mr. Anderson argues that she did not “go and warn the doomed city.” Yet in 1903 Ellen White was 76 year old! She was also somewhat physically sick. There wasn’t much she could do at that age except write out her warnings and depend on other, more able people to help her spread the word. She said:

“If I were 25 years younger, I would certainly take up labor in the cities. But I must reach them with the pen.--Letter 164, 1906.

I think Mr. Anderson is being a bit hard on the lady.

As we continue to examine his document, Mr. Anderson, while acknowledging that she said she saw a vision of what seems like an earthquake in Loma Linda two days before, contends that:

“Two days later, on April 18, 1906, a devastating earthquake struck San Francisco. On the surface, this appears to have been a wonderful opportunity for Mrs. White to show off her prophetic foreknowledge. Unfortunately for Mrs. White, she did not write out her "vision" until weeks after the earthquake.” [emphasis is his]

First, the vision at Loma Linda did not mention San Francisco, and it took place on the night of the second day previous to the earthquake. Second, the reason why she did not write out the vision she had at Loma Linda until some time after the earthquake was explained by her in an article she wrote about leaving the cities. The day after her Loma Linda vision, she pondered on her vision while spending the day traveling:

“It was while we were still at Loma Linda, the second night after the dedication of the sanitarium, that there passed before me an awful scene of buildings shaken down and destroyed, with great loss of life. I have already described this scene, in the article, ‘The San Francisco Earthquake.’ Throughout the following day, I pondered the scenes that had passed before me, and the instruction that had been given. During the afternoon we journeyed to Glendale, near Los Angeles; and the following night I was again instructed regarding the holiness and binding claims of the ten commandments, and the supremacy of God above all earthly rulers.” –The Review and Herald, The Judgments of God on Our Cities, July 5, 1906.

Then the very next day was when the earthquake struck. So, she received the vision at night, went to bed, and spent the following day traveling to Glendale. We could say she had at least 12 hours or so before she went to bed again. Now consider that they did not have the types of fast moving vehicles we now have today. How much time do you really think she had to both write and publish her Loma Linda vision? Remember, her vision did not mention San Francisco, so she did not have a sense of urgency during this time; she was not "time-restrained." She admitted in this same article that:

It has taken me many days to write out a portion of that which was revealed those two nights at Loma Linda and Glendale. I have not finished yet, as many other matters of urgent importance have come up for consideration.” –ibid.

Ellen White is not trying to “show off her prophetic knowledge,” but there’s no point in emphasizing her vision after the event took place, even though she did remind the people of her warnings to leave the cities.

Hence we have the following flow of events:

-First, in September 1st of 1902 she warns that the cities of San Francisco and Oakland will be visited with judgments from God.

-Second, a few months later in late 1902, she again warns that the large cities will be “shaken terribly.” This was published the same year. She mentions San Francisco and Oakland as cities which need to receive these warnings in the same context.

-Third, she again warns in April 20 of 1903 (8 months after the September 1, 1902 quote) that judgments will visit these two cities.

-Fourth, two days before the actual earthquake, April 16 1906, she receives a vision of “falling buildings” in large cities.

-Fifth, April 18 1906, the earthquake struck.

So where did our critic get the idea that Ellen White made no attempt to warn the cities about these coming calamities?

Finally Mr. Anderson says that Oakland was not “seriously damaged.” True, but nevertheless, it suffered considerable damaged:

(click image to enlarge)

“When the 1906 earthquake struck, Oakland suffered considerable damage, but it avoided the devastating fires that crippled San Francisco. Oakland’s residents responded quickly to the disaster and welcomed almost 200,000 San Franciscans who sought refuge.” –

A few years later, another earthquake hit San Francisco… and Oakland:

“It (the earthquake) struck just after 5:00 pm local time and lasted approximately 15 seconds, with a magnitude of 7.1. The most severe damage was suffered by San Francisco and Oakland, but communities throughout the region, including Alameda, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Monterey, also were affected…. The earthquake significantly damaged the transportation system of the Bay Area. The collapse of the Cypress Street Viaduct (Nimitz Freeway) caused most of the earthquake-related deaths. The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge was also damaged when a span of the top deck collapsed.” -Encyclopedia Britannica “San Francisco–Oakland earthquake of 1989”

It should be remembered that Ellen White did not give dates as to when those calamities would come upon those cities, nor that it would only happen once. She simply said that it would happen “not far hence.” So this earthquake could also be a part of the warnings she has spoken about before.

Unfortunately for Mr. Anderson, she did in fact try to warn those cities before the earthquake took place. The facts layed out in the quotes provided in this document clearly show that she both received visions of judgments to visit the large cities and tried to warn those cities ahead of time. All this before the earthquakes (plural, of course) actually took place.


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For further study, see:

-Ellen White: Cities and Earthquakes (off site)
-Other notable Bay area earthquakes (off site)
-See a REAL footage of the after-effects from 1906
-Ellen White alive when Jesus returns?
-Ellen White and Orion Nebula