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Steve Daily: “True leadership will always empower people to become more than what they could be apart from said leadership”

True leadership will always empower people to become more than what they could be apart from said leadership. It will be humbly directed by a Higher Power, motivated by altruistic ideals, always placing a premium on justice for all, freedom and responsibility, and protections for the most vulnerable. It will be ever-vigilant not to abuse […]

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True leadership will always empower people to become more than what they could be apart from said leadership. It will be humbly directed by a Higher Power, motivated by altruistic ideals, always placing a premium on justice for all, freedom and responsibility, and protections for the most vulnerable. It will be ever-vigilant not to abuse its authority or to misuse it for self-benefit. Contrary to much popular thought, the framers of the American Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights were such leaders.


As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Author Steve Daily. He talks about his mission to make a significant social impact with his new book called “ Ellen G. White A Psychobiography. His book talks about the 7th-day Adventist Church and his mission to free them from the misinterpretation they have of their founder/leader Ellen G. White.

It will also address major issues of religious abuse, healthy versus unhealthy spirituality, and healthy versus unhealthy leadership and authority for all. Daily has a Ph.D. in Psychology, holds an M.A. in history, and a doctorate in social ethics and biblical studies, he has also written 27 other books. Daily currently resides in Riverside, California, and is very eager to get his message out to people to hopefully help raise awareness of this issue.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I had a grandmother who was a “true believer” in Ellen White and Seventh-day Adventism, so she loved to give me Ellen White books when I was a kid and a `teenager. My mom was a fairly conservative Adventist, but my dad was a skeptic by nature and taught me to question all things including the “inspiration” of Ellen White. So I grew up with the tension between these views.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or change your life? Can you share a story about that?

The most influential book I read as a kid was, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis. It helped me think about the battle between good and evil in terms of the big picture, and presented a portrait of God that I found to be very meaningful. My real passion as a kid was to become a professional athlete, and I was excelling in public school sports, but when I was transferred to Adventist schools that dream died, and I became interested in seeing the Adventist Church become more appealing to its young people. That goal, and the works of C. S. Lewis inspired me to go into the ministry.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career of being an author? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

One of the first writing assignments I ever had was from a Bible teacher who believed Ellen White’s claims, that everything she wrote came from God. He was concerned for us poor teenagers, so he assigned us a reading from Ellen White on the subject of masturbation and asked us to write an essay about what she wrote. She claimed God had shown her in vision that masturbation was the cause of every imaginable disease and premature death. My dad (a health professional) saw me reading the assignment, and asked me what I thought of it. Embarrassed, I said, I didn’t know what to think. He smiled, and said, “Don’t let it bother you too much, she didn’t always know what she was talking about!” He was wise beyond his time, but a heretic in the church. I should have quoted him in my essay, but made the mistake of kissing up to the teacher, to get a better grade. Something I didn’t find at all funny at the time, was having to re-type my master’s thesis in history over and over again in 1982 (198 pages), because of small mistakes that could not be corrected, before the time of word processors. I learned from those mistakes to pay better attention to detail.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

I believe this book will ultimately make a major impact on the 20 million-member Adventist Church, providing the most comprehensive and highly documented account of the fraud, plagiarism, life-long pattern of dishonesty, pathology, and a gross misrepresentation of God, by its “prophet”/founder. The book will also not only be very informative to those who do not have Adventist background, but will address major issues of religious abuse, healthy versus unhealthy spirituality, and healthy versus unhealthy leadership and authority. I believe it will make a significant contribution to the literature of psychobiography, as well.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Picture a little girl who has an abnormal amount of fear that she is lost for eternity at the age of eight, and suffers a major head injury at the age of nine which causes her to drop out of school and never get more than a fifth-grade education. Then she joins a fanatical charismatic religious group in her teens (the Shouting Methodists), and after that, the even more fanatical Millerite movement insisted that the world would end on October 22, 1844. Surrounded by a group of greatly disappointed, depressed and desperate adults, when the world didn’t end, this 17-year-old girl claimed to have a vision from God giving them hope that the Lord was still returning very soon, and that probation was closed for all others. She circulates among this small group of true believers trying to convince them she is a visionary, with a fellow believer named James White. They teach that God is returning so soon that it is a sin to marry, showing a lack of faith. But, when they are accused of being inappropriate for traveling together, they themselves feel forced to get married. This couple is so poor and desperate for the support that they hatch a plan to con a mature, respected, and wealthy man named Joseph Bates who is unconvinced about her professed visions, by having Ellen fake a vision on his favorite subject.

Bates was a former ship captain who was well off and had written a book on astronomy, his passionate hobby. So Ellen and James arrange for him to attend a house meeting where Ellen conveniently goes into a trance and acts out a vision where God is showing her the planets. With her arms spread like she is flying through space, she describes then known details about Saturn and Jupiter, without naming the planets. Bates gets all excited and identifies the planets she is describing. She then goes on to describe the beings God was showing her, who lived on Jupiter. Bates is beside himself and grills the 19-year-old Ellen when she comes out of vision. She denies having ever read or been taught anything about astronomy, and Bates becomes a true believer in the visions, supports the Whites, and the three of them become the co-founders of Seventh-day Adventism. Bates and James come up with the doctrines, and Ellen conveniently has visions from God to substantiate every one of them, no matter how ludicrous they prove to be.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

When I discovered that a White Estate insider had released secret documents about Ellen on to the internet in 2014 which had been withheld from all historians (including me) who had been given access to the White Estate vaults for research (it was a Wikileaks moment), and convinced me that I had to write another book about Ellen White exploring ALL of the evidence. These embarrassing documents further revealed the extreme hypocrisy of Ellen White (her diary showing that she was an alcoholic when she condemned the use of all alcohol as a hardcore prohibitionist), and the sad distortions of God, claiming that God had shown her that He hated disobedient children along with many other ridiculous lies. I decided that I could no longer keep giving Ellen the benefit of the doubt as I had tried to do in my previous writings, and had to address the hard cold truth.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who has been impacted or helped by your cause?

I have a friend who is a race car driver, who builds race cars, is a Porsch dealer and garage owner, and a real renaissance man who is extremely well-read. After reading the book he told me that his family had struggled with the bondage of Adventism and Ellen White for generations and that this was the most freeing, liberating book he had ever read. That meant a lot to me knowing how widely read this guy is, and now his family is experiencing a breakthrough that is very exciting. Many others have expressed similar sentiments, so I am very grateful for that.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I don’t know if politicians can address the problem of dishonesty and deception very well, given that they seem to be experts at practicing these vices. But, religious abuse, that misuses the authority of God to exploit and manipulate others, is the worst kind of abuse. As power becomes increasingly concentrated in our society through global structures, corporations, institutions and governments, it becomes incumbent on the rest of us, through communities and society in general, to require, accountability, liability and protections for the powerless and those who are targeted by the majority, misusing authority.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

True leadership will always empower people to become more than what they could be apart from said leadership. It will be humbly directed by a Higher Power, motivated by altruistic ideals, always placing a premium on justice for all, freedom and responsibility, and protections for the most vulnerable. It will be ever-vigilant not to abuse its authority or to misuse it for self-benefit. Contrary to much popular thought, the framers of the American Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights were such leaders.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started writing my book” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. That the writing of the book, although a 3 and ½ year experience, would actually be easier and more enjoyable than getting it published. I have written 27 books, but this was the first time going through an east coast publisher, and COVID made it a long and difficult process. That is not to say I was unhappy with my publisher, they did a great job given all the challenges of COVID.
  2. That the devil is in the details. This book contained so much detail in terms of research, bibliography, endnotes, indexing, and all the extras that I never realized would be so time-consuming when I started the project. My favorite professor in graduate school, never published a whole lot in spite of being a brilliant teacher, because he was a perfectionist, and now I can understand why he never published much.
  3. That putting a reading committee together is a nightmare. I made the mistake of asking 21 scholars, historians, psychologists, psychiatrists and other prominent people and experts in their fields to read my book and give me feedback before it was published. Just getting a lot of their unlisted numbers and making contact was a huge challenge. Sadly, the man I asked to write the preface to the book died before he was able to do so, and I ended up just dedicating the book to him, but even though I benefitted greatly from the feedback I got, it was a very labor intensive process.
  4. That you are going to put your spouse and marriage to the test. My wife is used to my many academic pursuits, but this book was something different. She was so understanding and willing to give me the space I needed to get it done, but if either of us had known the sacrifice involved, I’m not sure the book would ever have been birthed.
  5. That marketing a book is even more difficult than getting it published. I did not have the kind of big-name publisher that pumps unlimited amounts of money into marketing and advertising the book, so much of that was left to me. I was able to get some great help from Anthony Mora Communications, but even with their help, it has been hard and expensive to market a book. However, the word is getting out and I have been very excited by the response I have gotten so far.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I will give you the famous quote by Lord Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” All my life, I have been put off by leaders who abuse their power and authority. I am currently a senior pastor, a CEO of a non-profit corporation, and a board chair of another non-profit corporation, so I try to keep this quote constantly in mind, and probably error on the side of being too easy-going in my leadership style for fear of abusing power or authority.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

I would love to have a sit down with Magic Johnson, not just because I am a Laker fan, but because Magic grew up in an Adventist home and I would love to ask him questions about his upbringing and how Adventism came into tension with his sports career. I know his answers would have great relevance for my own life.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I would refer them to mywebsite, egwpsychobio.com, which gives a lot more information about this current book, as well as my other books, life work and ministry.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you so much for having me!


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