Ellen G. White -- the Myth and the Truth
by Å. Kaspersen
to Arthur White, his grandmother experienced about two thousand visions during
her lifetime. A considerable number when one consider the biblical prophets
and how few of their visions have found their place in the
Bible. The Bible is a book of some one thousand pages, while the writings of
Ellen G. White comprises more than 60 books, and thousands of articles, manuscripts
and letters -- totaling about 100,000 pages, or one hundred Bibles! According
to Ellen White and the SDA-denomination, all this material are direct communications
from heaven, a "thus saith the Lord".
Right from the beginning, and down to this day, the "Spirit of Prophecy" has been a suitable instrument the denomination has been using against its members to keep people in line. Carefully selected quotes shared from pulpits and through official papers, are very useful ways of spiritually guiding the people when there is a need, and this happened quite often. Ellen White's writings are from God, they claim, and who dares to ignore them!
Adventists who carry on their own ministry "offside" the SDA-denomination, are in fact the most instrumental in using Ellen White's writings to justify their work, and to condemn their "mother church". They use her writings as a Bible to "prove" everything from French revolutions and Turkish sultans to earthquakes, chewing and number of meals a day.
There is a statistic, published by the SDA-denomination (Comprehensive Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White, vol. 3, pp. 2978-2984), which says that during a period of 71 years (1844-1915), there are 188 documented visions, averaging 2.5 visions a year. This is a reduction of 1812 visions from Arthur White's estimated two thousand. Even Arthur White, who launched this number, is unable to document the missing 1812 visions. He stated however, that there exists no complete documentation for all the visions. During the early years, the visions may have been relatively frequent. A few hundred (some claim four hundred) visions are a more reasonable number.
Ellen G. Harmon received her first vision in December, 1844. This vision was first published in the Day Star, January 24, 1846, then in the 1846 broadside To The Remnant Scattered Abroad(April 6), and republished in 1847 in the pamphlet A Word to the Little Flock. Later it was edited and put into the book Experience and Views (1851), and later into Early Writings (1882). More on this in chapter 3. In this vision, Ellen White describes among other things, a narrow path extending from earth to the New Jerusalem; a seven day travel from earth to heaven in a cloudy chariot, and Sion's temple on the new earth.
According to information which right now are beginning to come to light, Ellen White may have borrowed elements to this vision, and a number of other early visions, from the writings of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. More on this later.
Most SDA-people are not aware of the fact that Ellen White's prophetic career started out in wild fanaticism. These dark pages of SDA-history have been carefully screened by informed leaders to give room for the myth about the glorious pioneer-time, centered around the adventist madonna Ellen G. White. There is some reason however, to believe that many SDA-leaders are completely ignorant about this less flattering part of their adventist heritage and their revered prophet.
In later years, a steady stream of new information from early adventist history has been dug up, forcing quite a number of people to view both Ellen White and early Adventism from new angles. In later life, Ellen White claimed that she and her husband James were busy fighting fanaticism, but hides the fact that both she herself and James were enthusiastic participants in fanatical meetings in the period after the great disappointment in October, 1844. During these fanatical gatherings, the young Ellen Harmon -- the image of Christ, as she was called -- would lie on the floor with a pillow under her head, while she in trance described her visions. How many SDA's have heard about the Atkinson-incident in February/March 1845, where both Ellen Harmon and James White were involved? In fact, the documentation shows that James White was a leader of fanatical groups.
In 1986 Bruce Weaver, a graduate student at Andrews University discovered an old newspaper report (legal report), describing the arrest and trial against a man by the name of Israel Dammon, an aquaintance of Ellen White. (Piscataquis Farmer, March 7, 1845, No. 31.) Some are of the opinion that the digging out of this report is one of the most significant discoveries about early adventist history ever being made.
For obvious reasons, this old newspaper report will never find its way into the official papers of the SDA-denomination, like Adventist Review. It was, however, published in Adventist Currents, vol. 3, No. 1, April 1988. The glorified image of Ellen White's prophetic call and early writings would begin cracking if this became generally known in the Adventist community.
To this time, adventists have to a large extent not been able to produce sources for their early history, other than Ellen White's own accounts, and from EGW-true pioneers. (Also some material from non-EGW true pioneers, which have largely been ignored.) The newspaper-report from 1845 however, where Ellen Harmon, James White, Dorinda Baker and others were involved, gives an unbiased report, and creates some doubt about the reliability of Ellen White's own biographical accounts.
In her autobiographical sketches, Ellen White points out that both she and her husband were busy fighting against various forms of fanaticism during the early years of Adventism. However, it now becomes clear that Ellen White herself was heavily involved in bizarre, fanatical activities, in which her "visions" played no insignificant role.
After the disappointment on October 22, 1844, the great majority of Millerites returned back to their respective religious denominations. A few -- Ellen Harmon included -- continued their gatherings in private homes. Quite a few of these private gatherings were marked by extreme fanaticism: "Holy kiss", shouting and screaming, promiscuity, bizarre, physical excercises, like crawling on the floor etc. A few, mostly female, "visionaries" were usually present, receiving "visions" during the gatherings.
Ellen White (Harmon at that time), travelled around with these fanatics. It is quite possible that she just avoided being arrested during one particular incident (in Orrington, Maine) by fleeing from the place, and it is possible that she in fact was arrested once, together with a Joseph Turner. in Poland, Maine (April, 1845).
On February 15, 1845, these extremists were gathered in the home of a James Ayer, in the little town of Atkinson, Maine. The meeting was headed by a former sea captain, Israel Dammon, and two visionaries, Ellen G. Harmon and Dorinda Baker were also present.
Here follows some excerpts from the trial in 1845, describing the type of gatherings Ellen and James White were involved in after the disappointment in 1844,
"J.W.E. HARVEY, sworn. Have attended their meetings two days and four evenings. First meeting lasted eight days - have known Dammon six weeks - Dammon, White and Hall were leaders. Dammon said the sinners were going to hell in two days. They were hugging and kissing each other - Dammon would lay on the floor, then jump up - they would frequently go into another room. Dammon has no means to support himself that I know of. The meeting appeared very irreligious - have seen him sit on the floor with a woman between his legs and his arms around her.
"WM. C. CROSBY, Esq. sworn. I was at the meeting last Saturday night, from about 7 o'clock to 9. There was a woman on the floor who lay on her back with a pillow under her head; she would occasionally arouse up and tell a vision which she said was revealed to her. They would at times all be talking at once, halloing at the top of their voices; some of them said there was too much sin there. After the cessation of the noise, Dammon got up and was more coherent - he complained of those that come there who did not believe in the advent doctrine. At one time Dammon said there was hogs there not belonging to the band, and pointed at me, and said, I mean you, Sir.
"LOTON LAMBERT, sworn. They were singing when I arrived - after singing they sat down on the floor - Dammon said a sister had a vision to relate - a woman on the floor then related her vision. Dammon said all other denominations were wicked - they were liars, whoremasters, murderers, &c. - he also run upon all such as were not believers with him. He ordered us off - we did not go. The woman that lay on the floor relating visions, was called by Elder Dammon and others, Imitation of Christ. Dammon called us hogs and devils, and said if he was the owner of the house he would drive us off - the one that they called Imitation of Christ, told Mrs. Woodbury and others, that they must forsake all their friends or go to hell. Imitation of Christ, as they called her, would lay on the floor a while, then rise up and call upon some one and say she had a vision to relate to them, which she would relate; there was one girl that they said must be baptized that night or she must go to hell; she wept bitterly and wanted to see her mother first; they told her she must leave her mother or go to hell - one voice said, let her go to hell. She finally concluded to be baptized. Imitation of Christ told her vision to a cousin of mine, that she must be baptized that night or go to hell - she objected, because she had once been baptized. Imitation of Christ was said to be a woman from Portland. A woman that they called Miss Baker, said the devil was here, and she wanted to see him - she selected me and said, you are the devil, and will go to hell. I told her she want [was not] my judge. Mr. [James] Ayer [Jr., owner of the house] then clinched me and tried to put me out door. I told him we had not come to disturb the meeting. The vision woman called [to] Joel Doore, said he had doubted, and would not be baptized again - she said Br. Doore don't go to hell. Doore kneeled to her feet and prayed. Miss Baker and a man went into the bedroom - subsequently heard a voice in the room hallo Oh! The door was opened - I saw into the room - she was on the bed-he was hold of her; they came out of the bedroom hugging each other, she jumping up and would throw her legs between his. Miss Baker went to Mr. Doore and said, you have refused me before, he said he had - they then kissed each other - she said "that feels good" - just before they went to the water to baptize, Miss Baker went into the bedroom with a man they called Elder White - saw him help her on to the bed - the light was brought out and door closed. I did not see either of them afterwards. Once I was in the other room talking with my cousin. Dammon and others came into the room and stopped our discourse, and called her sister and me the devil. Imitation of Christ lay on the floor during the time they went down to the water to baptize, and she continued on the floor until I left, which was between the hours of 12 and 1 o'clock at night.
"WM. C. CROSBY, reexamined. I saw no kissing, but heard about it. I did not stay late, went about 7, left about 9 o'clock. After the visionist called them up she told them they doubted. Her object seemed to be to convince them they must not doubt. Dammon called the churches whoremasters, liars, thieves, scoundrels, wolves in sheep's clothing, murders, &c. He said read the STAR. By spells it was the most noisy assembly I ever attended-there was no order or regularity, nor anything that resembled any other meeting I ever attended - Dammon seemed to have the lead and the most art. I don't say Dammon shouted the loudest; I think some others stronger in the lungs than he.
"DEACON JAMES ROWE, sworn. I was at Ayer's a short time last Saturday evening - Elder Dammon found fault with us for coming to his meeting-he spoke of other denominations as Esq. Crosby has just testified - said the church members were the worst people in the world. I have been young, and now am old, and of all the places I ever was in, I never saw such a confusion, not even in a drunken frolic. Dammon stood up on the floor and said, I am going to stand here - and while I stand here, they can't hurt you, neither men nor devils can't hurt you.
"JOSEPH MOULTON, sworn. When I went to arrest prisoner, they shut the door against me. Finding I could not gain access to him without, I burst open the door. I went to the prisoner and took him by the hand and told him my business. A number of women jumped on to him - he clung to them, and they to him. So great was the resistance, that I with three assistants, could not get him out. I remained in the house and sent for more help; after they arrived we made a second attempt with the same result - I again sent for more help - after they arrived we overpowered them and got him out door in custody. We were resisted by both men and women. Can't describe the place - it was one continued shout.
"JAMES AYER, JR., Affirmed. Saw the woman with a pillow under here head - her name is Miss Ellen Harmon, of Portland. I heard nothing said by her or others about Imitation of Christ. I saw Miss Baker laying on the floor. I saw her fall. Saw Miss Baker and Sister Osborn go into the bedroom - Sister Osborn helped her on to the bed, came out and shut the door.
"JOB MOODY, affirmed. I was at meeting Saturday evening. Brother Dammon said in relation to other churches they were bad enough; said they were corrupt; he spoke of the STAR - he did not say they were thieves, &c. I am not certain, but think he said that evening there was exceptions. Sister Harmon would lay on the floor in a trance, and the Lord would reveal their cases to her, and she to them.
"JACOB MASON, affirmed. I saw Elder White after Sister Baker went into the bedroom, near Sister Harmon in a trance - some of the time he held her head. She was in a vision, part of the time insensible. Cross-examined. Do not know who it was that went into the bedroom with Sister Baker - he was a stranger to me; he soon came out. Can't say how soon he went in again. I have heard Crosby testify, and think him correct. I thought her visions were from God - she would describe out their cases correct. She described mine correct. I saw kissing out door, but not in the house. A part of the time we sat on the floor - both men and women promiscuously.
"JOEL DOORE, affirmed. Reside in Atkinson - Elder Dammon said there was bad characters in the churches; I did no understand him to say all. He preaches louder than most people; no more noisy than common preachers of this faith. The vision woman would lay looking up when she came out of her trance - she would point to someone, and tell them their cases, which she said was from the Lord. She told a number of visions that evening. Brother Gallison's daughter wanted to see her mother before she was baptized, but finally concluded to be baptized without seeing her. Sister Baker got up off the floor, and went to Lambert to talk with him. I saw no more of her, until I heard a noise in the bedroom - they went and got her out, as the other witnesses have stated. Cross-examined. When she kissed me, she said there was light ahead. We believe her (Miss Baker's) visions genuine. We believe Miss Harmon's genuine - it was our understanding that their visions were from God. Miss Hammond [Harmon] told five visions Saturday night. I did not tell any person yesterday that it was necessary to have anyone in the room with her to bring out her trances. Sister Harmon said to my wife and the girls if they did not do as she said, they would go to hell. My wife and Dammon passed across the floor on their hands and knees. Some man did go into the bedroom. Heard Brother Dammon say the gift of healing the sick lay in the church.
"J.W.E. HARVEY, called. I have attended the meetings a number of times - I have seen prisoner on the floor with a woman between his legs - I have seen them in groups hugging and kissing one another. I went there once on an errand - Dam[mon] halloed out "Good God Almighty, drive the Devil away." I once saw Elder Hall with his boots off, and the women would go and kiss his feet. One girl made a smack, but did not hit his foot with her lips. Hall said "he that is ashamed of me before men, him will I be ashamed of before my Father and the holy angels." She then gave his feet a number of kisses. (Piscataquis Farmer, March 7, 1845, as related in Adventist Currents, April 1988, article Incident in Atkinson, by Bruce Weaver.)
It was during such circumstances, and in surroundings like these, that Ellen G. Harmon received her first visions. One might ask, how many of the biblical prophets received their visions this way?
We are to note the following,
1. Most of the witnesses were men of integrity, godly men who were present in court under oath, and who would not commit perjury.2. The witnesses were largely in agreement on most points. There were some disagreement on peripheral points, like who went into the bedrooms with whom, and if Ellen Harmon was called "the image of Christ".3. The hearing took place only two days after the saturday-gathering, when their memories were still fresh.
Ellen White's own account
In the book Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, pp. 40-42, Ellen White describes the arrest of Israel Dammon. Compare this version with the hearing of witnesses quoted above. The same incident is being described,
"From Exeter we went to Atkinson. One night I was shown something that I did not understand. It was to this effect, that we were to have a trial of our faith. The next day, which was the first day of the week, while I was speaking, two men looked into the window. We were satisfied of their object. They entered and rushed past me to Eld. Damman [sic.].The Spirit of the Lord rested upon him, and his strength was taken away, and he fell to the floor helpless. The officer cried out, "In the name of the State of Maine, lay hold of this man." Two seized his arms, and two his feet, and attempted to drag him from the room. They would move him a few inches only, and then rush out of the house. The power of God was in that room, and the servants of God with their countenances lighted up with his glory, made no resistance. The efforts to take Eld. D. were often repeated with the same effect. The men could not endure the power of God, and it was a relief to them to rush out of the house. Their number increased to twelve, still Eld. D. was held by the power of God about forty minutes, and not all the strength of those men could move him from the floor where he lay helpless. At the same moment we all felt that Eld. D. must go; that God had manifested his power for his glory, and that the name of the Lord would be further glorified in suffering him to be taken from our midst. And those men took him up as easily as they would take up a child, and carried him out." (Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, pp. 40-42. Emphasis supplied.)
This is one of Ellen Whites glorius tales about the pioneer time. We are, however, to note that her account is in strong variance with sheriff Joseph Moulton's sworn account,
"JOSEPH MOULTON, sworn. When I went to arrest prisoner, they shut the door against me. Finding I could not gain access to him without, I burst open the door. I went to the prisoner and took him by the hand and told him my business. A number of women jumped on to him - he clung to them, and they to him. So great was the resistance, that I with three assistants, could not get him out. I remained in the house and sent for more help; after they arrived we made a second attempt with the same result - I again sent for more help - after they arrived we overpowered them and got him out door in custody. We were resisted by both men and women. Can't describe the place - it was one continued shout." (Emphasis supplied.)
We are to note that none of the other witnesses argued with the sheriff with respect to his short, concise explanation. He says that both he and his men were being hindered in their business by men and women in the house, and that a "number of women" clung to Israel Dammon. This was definitely not the power of God.
Ellen White, however, makes it clear that "the power of God" was present in the house, where Moulton said there was "one continued shout". The faces of God's servants "lighted up with his glory", she says.
We are also to note that Israel Dammon at a later time rejected Ellen White's visions.
Ellen White also says that "one night I was shown something that I did not understand." We are to note that this very night, Ellen Harmon laid on the floor as enthusiastic participant in this bedlam and related her "visions".
At the end of the book Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, there are some fifteen lists over people who attested to the correctness of Ellen White's accounts in the book. Five of those lists have to do with the Israel Dammon-incident. In those five lists, 61 persons are named, but because there are many repetitions, the number shrinks down to 38 names. There have been made attempts to check out the names by going into the national register for the state of Maine for the year 1850. 28 of the 38 names have been identified. Two persons were already dead at the time when the names inSpiritual Gifts were compiled. It is quite significant that eight of the names were strongly condemned by Ellen White in 1860 for fanaticism -- the same year the names were published!
In his book History of the Second Advent Message and Mission, Doctrine and People (1874), pastor Isaac Wellcome tells that most of the people who had signed the lists in Spiritual Gifts, were as involved in fanaticism as Ellen and James White themselves, and that some of them in fact were leaders of fanaticism. (p. 408.)
One of the lists in Spiritual Gifts comprises five names,
"We bear cheerful testimony to the truthfulness of the statements relative to Elder Dammon, on pages 40, 41 [of Spiritual Gifts 2]. As near as we can recollect we believe the circumstances of his arrest and trial to be fairly stated. Wm. T. Hannaford, James Ayer, Sen., H.A. Hannaford, D.S. Hannaford, Mrs. R.W. Wood." (Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 2, p. 302.)
We are to note that none of the five persons named, were present at the Israel Dammon trial. Three of the names are also from the same family. With respect to Mrs. R.W. Wood, she denied very strongly having put her name on such lists,
"In a private letter dated May 16, 1888, Mrs. Wood denies that she ever signed this statement and she did not know that her name was attached to it until many years after. She also denies the accuracy of Mrs. White's statements regarding the [Dammon] affair. She was present and remembered the experience very well, and her account does not agree with Mrs. White's account. If they will forge Mrs. Wood's name to a document they would forge other names; therefore we have good reason for doubting the value of their testimonials." (Edward S. Ballenger, Early History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Unpublished manuscript, p. 117. Quoted inAdventist Currents, April 1988, p. 31.)
During the trial, it became obvious that Israel Dammon, James White and a Mr. Hall were the leaders of this fanatical group Ellen Harmon and other "visionary" young women mingled with in the "rosy-red pioneer times".
In a letter from August, 1850, Ellen White tells about a case of "holy laughter" without connecting it to fanaticism. James White had suddenly become ill, and Ellen and several other sisters were present at his bed, praying for cure,
"Sister Harris and Clarissa were set entirely free and they prayed to God with a loud voice. The Spirit caused Clarissa to laugh aloud. James was healed every whit;. . ." (EGW letter to Bro. and Sis. Howland, August 15, 1850. Emphasis supplied. Quoted in Adventist Currents, April 1988, p. 30.)
It is strange that Ellen White removed the sentence "The Spirit caused Clarissa to laugh aloud" when she later published this story. Why?
Today, we have the so-called "Toronto-Blessing", or "laughter-movement" which is spreading like wildfire. This movement is characterized by the same strange, physical excercises which were manifested by fanatical movements in the 1840's and -50's -- the same kind of fanaticism Ellen White participated in: They crawled on the floor, making bizarre sounds, "holy laughter" etc. We might ask, which kind of spirit propels the "Toronto-blessing"? To all probability the same spirit which propelled the fanatical movements in the 1840's. The manifestations were quite similar.
During the Israel Dammon trial, the witness Joel Doore told that he had seen his wife and Israel Dammon "passed across the floor on their hands and knees". It was during this noisy gathering that Ellen Harmon laid on the floor, with a pillow under her head, relating "visions". It was during this same meeting that "the power of God" was manifested, according to the prophetess. We cannot find any parallels in the Bible, at least not at places where the Spirit of God was manifest.
A similar incident took place in the home of captain John Megquier in Poland, Maine. This incident was reported in the Norway Advertiser,
"They seldom sit in any other position than on the bare floor. . . .A woman, at the meeting he attended, got on her hands and knees, and crept over the floor like a child. A man, in the same position, followed her, butting her occasionally with his head. Another man threw himself at full lenght upon his back on the bed, and presently threewomen crossed him with their bodies." (The Norway Advertiser, March 28, 1845. Quoted in Adventist Currents, April 1988, p. 30.)
In her letters from the 1850's, Ellen White mentions several such meetings where she was present, and where strong, physical manifestations were common. James White tells in a letter from 1851 about a "mighty vision", and that Ellen, when she came out of "vision", shouted so loudly that she was taken into a new "vision".
In 1847, Ellen tells how she "fell from the chair, unto the floor", while she was taken in "vision", and that Str. Durben shortly after was "struck to the floor" by "the power of God" (letter to Joseph Bates, July 13, 1847).
Otis Nichols describes how Ellen White (Harmon) later in 1845 spent four hours resting against the wall in a corner of the room while relating her visions in a "shrill voice". Later, Ellen White corrected the words "shrill voice" to "clear voice". But if we are to judge from the descriptions of the kind of meetings Ellen participated in, "shrill voice" would be a more appropriate word.
Lucinda Burdick knew Ellen White very well. Several times she had held Ellen's head in her lap while Ellen was in vision. However, in 1874, Lucinda Burdick gave a lenghty testimony in Isaac Wellcome's book The World Crisis,
"I became acquainted with James White and Ellen Harmon (now Mrs. White) early in 1845. At the time of my first acquaintance with them they were in a wild fanaticism, -- used to sit on the floor instead of chairs, and creep around the floor like little children. Such freaks were considered a mark of humility. They were not married, but traveling together."
We are to note that this testimony of Lucinda Burdick, who was not present at the Israel Dammon trial, but who at that time became aquainted with James and Ellen White, is in full harmony with the witnesses during the trial.
Visions on demand?
In her testimony in The World Crisis, Lucinda Burdick tells that Ellen was able to trigger visions when it suited her,
"It was ascertained by myself and others who saw her in vision, that she could throw herself into vision when she chose (this she confessed), but that James White could control them, and bring her out when he pleased" (emphasis supplied).
Here follows her testimony in its entirety,
"I became acquainted with James White and Ellen Harmon (now Mrs. White) early in 1845. At the time of my first acquaintance with them they were in a wild fanaticism, -- used to sit on the floor instead of chairs, and creep around the floor like little children. Such freaks were considered a mark of humility. They were not married, but traveling together. Ellen was having what was called visions: said God had shown her in vision that Jesus Christ arose on the tenth day of the seventh moth, 1844, and shut the door of mercy; had left forever the mediatorial throne; the whole world was doomed and lost, and there never could be another sinner saved. She very soon pretended to see that Saturday must be kept as the Sabbath. Her visions were something new, and there seemed to be first no decided opposition to them in the different churches where they traveled. They caused a great deal of discussion and excitement, and all seemed disposed to investigate. But, after a little while, her visions began to conflict one with the other. It was ascertained by myself and others who saw her in vision, that she could throw herself into vision when she chose (this she confessed), but that James White could control them, and bring her out when he pleased.
"There were also many failures. She pretended God showed her things which did not come to pass. At one time she saw that the Lord would come the second time in June 18. There were also many failures. She pretended God showed her things which did not come to pass. At one time she saw that the Lord would come the second time in June 185. [Here the last number is missing. Probably 1851, Ed.] The prophecy was discussed in all the churches, and in a little "shut-door paper" published in Portland, Me. During the summer, after June passed, I heard a friend ask her how she accounted for the vision? She replied that "they told her in the language of Canaan, and she did not understand the language; that it was the next September that the Lord was coming, and the second growth of grass instead of the first in June."
"September passed, and many more have passed since, and we have not seen the Lord yet. It soon became evident to all candid persons, that many things must have been "told her in the language of Canaan," or some other which she did not understand, as there were repeated failures. I could mention many which I knew of myself.
"Once, when on their way to the eastern part of Maine, she saw that they would have great trouble with the wicked, be put in prison, etc. This they told in the churches as they passed through. When they came back, they said they had a glorious time. Friends asked if they had seen any trouble with the wicked, or prisons? They replied, None at all. People in all the churches soon began to get their eyes open, and came out decidedly against her visions; and, just as soon as they did so, she used to see them "with spots on their garments," as she expressed it. I was personally acquainted with several ministers, whom she saw landed in the kingdom with "Oh! such brilliant crowns, FULL of stars." As soon as they took a stand against the visions, she saw them "doomed, damned, and lost for ever, without hope.
"Their traveling together, as they did, before marriage, brought a great scandal upon the cause. People generally felt that such intimacy should not exist between unmarried persons, and begged him to leave Ellen at home, and go himself and preach the gospel. He met them with insult and abuse, declaring that he never would bow to man. The churches all through the State of Maine (which is Ellen's native state) lost confidence in them. There was occasionally here and there a family, or individual, whom they seemed to hold under a kind of mesmeric influence, that stood by by and defended them. They were after awhile married, and worked West, where they were not much known; and perhaps she learned to be more cautious, and have more consistent visions. If these visions which she now has are of God, the first were; and if the first were of God, the door of mercy was close din 1844, and woe to the poor sinners this side of there. We know that God does not lie; and some of them did lie, to my certain knowledge. God does not contradict himself, and her visions have contradicted each other. I have been told that they deny on this coast that she ever saw the door of mercy closed; but there are thousands of living witnesses who know that a blacker lie could not be invented, and I am one of the number." (Isaac Wellcome, The World Crisis, 1874. Emphasis supplied.)
Ellen White vehemently denied this testimony of Lucinda Burdick. It becomes claim against claim. However, Lucinda Burdick's testimony was official, while Ellen White's denial was private. Accordingly, the reliability points in favor of Lucinda Burdick because Ellen White never was willing to come out with an official denial of an official testimony. This is quite understandable, because "the Shut Door" was an embarassing episode in her early works and writings. She wanted no more publicity about this matter, because it would damage her reputation as "God's prophet". More on the "Shut Door" in chapter 4.
The information on the Israel Dammon trial and the Atkinson-incident was taken from Adventist Currents, vol. 3, No. 1, April 1988.
Ellen White was not the only person at that time who had "visions". Ann Lee, who founded the Shakers, claimed to have received visions from God. Like Ellen White, Ann Lee called her visionary messages "testimonies". After Ann Lee's death in 1784, her followers continued to exalt her as the "woman Messiah". They claimed that the first advent of Christ was in the form of a male, therefore the second advent of Christ would have to be in the form of a female, to "maintain balance". In the second half of the 1830's, during the emerging Miller-movement, an epidemic of visions began to spread among young girls in the Shaker-community,
"Suddenly some of them began to shake and whirl. In the evening, after they had retired, the senses of three of the children appeared withdrawn from the scenes of time, and absorbed as in a trance. They began to sing, talk about angels, and describe a journey they were making, under spiritual guidance, to heavenly places. The next morning their behavior was normal; but the experience was repeated several times, and when older classes, and finally adult members of the family were affected, it became apparent that the gifts received by Ann Maria Goff and her Shaker sisters were not an isolated phenomenon. . . . An atmosphere of intense expectation was created throughout the whole society: within a few months of its generation, the current of excitement was felt in Canterbury, Enfield (N.H.), Hancock, and as far west as North Union - first, in most instances, by groups of Shaker girls in the impressionable stages of early adolescence. . . . Often they would be struck to the floor, where they lay as dead, or struggling in distress, until someone near lifted them up, when they would begin to speak with great clearness and composure." E.D. Andrews, A People Called Shakers (1963-edition), pp. 152-153. Emphasis supplied. Dover Publications, Inc., New York.)
This was in 1837-38, a few years before the Miller-movement began. Compare this with Ellen White's experiences during her first visions, where she fell to the floor, talked about angels and performed journeys, guided by angels, to heavenly places,
"And while Sister White was thus speaking, reaching a point in her remarks of most intense solemnity, instantly, and unexpectedly to all present, she was taken off in vision, and fell to the floor." (A.L. White, EGW, Vol. 2, p. 236. Emphasis supplied.)
"...a sudden light came upon me. Something that seemed to me like a ball of fire struck me right over the heart. My strength was taken away, and I fell to the floor. I seemed to be in the presence of the angels." (Life Sketches (1915-edition), p. 71. Emphasis supplied.)
"Sister Durben got up to talk. I felt very, very sad. At length my soul seemed to be in an agony, and while she was talking I fell from my chair to the floor. It was then I had a view of Jesus rising from His mediatorial throne and going to the holiest as Bridegroom to receive His kingdom" (EGW, letter to Joseph Bates, July 13, 1847. Emphasis supplied).
"Then another time, there was Foy that had had visions. He had had four visions. He was in a large congregation, very large. He fell right to the floor. I do not know what they were doing in there, whether they were listening to preaching or not. But at any rate he fell to the floor. I do not know how long he was [down] - about three quarters of a hour, I think - and he had all these [visions] before I had them." (Manuscript Release #17, p. 95-96. Emphasis supplied.)
"Eld. Damman [Dammon]. The Spirit of the Lord rested upon him, and his strength was taken away, and he fell to the floor helpless" (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 40. Emphasis supplied).
"I saw an angel flying swiftly to me. He quickly carried me from the earth to the Holy City." (Early Writings, p. 32. Emphasis supplied.)
"The Lord has given me a view of other worlds. Wings were given me, and an angel attended me from the city to a place that was bright and glorious." (Early Writings, p. 39. Emphasis supplied.)
"Suddenly her voice broke clear and musical, and we heard the ringing shout, 'Glory to God!' We all looked up, and saw that she was in vision." (Rene Noorbergen, Ellen G. White, Prophet of Destiny. p. 41. Emphasis supplied. Keats Publishing, Inc., 1972.)
It is quite obvious that the experiences of Ellen White during her early visions, often coincides with what the Shaker girls experienced during their trances. Both of them were struck to the floor, and began speaking with "clear, singing voice". Both described journeys to heaven, guided by angels.
In the Shaker-movement, young girls were struck to the floor during their trances, or visions. This is also common during modern Maria-apparitions, where young girls (why always young girls?) are being struck to the floor and taken into ecstasy.
Like Ellen White, Joanna Southcott did not have a formal education. In 1792 she proclaimed herself as a prophet and published more than sixty tracts, containing her visions and revelations. She kept the seventh-day sabbath, and like Ellen White she experienced trances and proclaimed the soon returning of Jesus. Like Ellen White, Joanna Southcott made a profitable business with her printed visions and revelations.
The Mormon prophet Joseph Smith began to receive visions and revelations in 1820-23. About 1830 the Mormon Church was organized. Joseph Smith was shot in August, 1844, while in jail.
As previously mentioned, source material is now beginning to emerge, indicating that Ellen White may have borrowed material to most of her early visions from Joseph Smith. It is a remarkable fact that several of Smith's books show similarities with Ellen White's writings, but Joseph Smith wrote his books years before Ellen White had her first vision, which was in December, 1844. According to Smith, the Mormons are "the saints", and the other christian denominations are "gentiles". According to Ellen White, the Adventists are "the saints", and the other christian denominations are "Babylon".
In the 1840's, visions were popular in the United States, particularly among advocates of the "Shut Door". An afro-american and "Shut Door"-preacher by the name of Houston claimed that God at times spoke to him in visions. During the later part of the Miller-movement, there were so much fanaticism around, that Joshua V.Himes, who was one of the leaders in the Miller-movement, remarked that there was "mesmerism. seven feet deep". It was still worse in Portland, Maine, Ellen White's hometown. According to Himes, it was a "continual, visionary nonsense". In March, 1845, Himes informed William Miller that a Str. Clemons in Portland, Maine, had become "very visionary, and disgusted nearly all the good friends here." Just two weeks later he told that another young woman in Portland, Maine, had received a vision, declaring that Miss Clemons was of the devil. Himes concluded that "things are really bad in Portland" (Ronald Numbers, Prophetess of Health, pp. 16-18).
"Her hometown of Portland, Maine, had been notorious for the 'continual introduction of visionary nonsense' and nothing proved more spontaneous and boundless than charisma. In large camp-meeting crowds or in small meetings in houses or barns, the 'gift of prophecy' poured itself out plentifully. . . .Shouts from the 'slain' were heard everywhere as were sighs from swooners." (Ronald L. Numbers and Jonathan Butler (ed.), The Disappointed, pp. 202-203. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1993.
"There is no question that Ellen White claimed, and no doubt came to believe firmly, that she received visions and messages directly from God. Today one may wonder why Ellen White was so easily accepted by others as a prophetess. During that period of history, prophets and prophetesses were rather common both in England and America. At this time Joseph Smith was accepted as a prophet, and Mormon missionaries claimed that their church had "the spirit of prophecy." Mary Baker Eddy, also a contemporary of Ellen White's, became the founder and spiritual leader of the Christian Scientists. Billington has pointed out that between 1830 and 1850, "women preachers were popular. Visions and trances were easily accepted." (Molleurus Couperus, The Significance of Ellen White's Head Injury. Adventist Currents, June 1985. Emphasis supplied.)
Jemima Wilkinson, who in 1790 founded the "Jerusalem Community", became known because of her visions and religious dreams.
Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), who founded Christian Science, was another visionary woman in the 1800's. Like Ellen White, she too showed interest in health topics, and her most famous book,Science and Health, has been translated into 16 languages and sold into more than ten million copies. The disciples of Mary Baker Eddy believe that her writings are inspired and inerrant. The second officer on the Titanic, Charles H. Lightoller, claimed that his faith in Christian Science saved him from the shipwreck in 1912.
William E. Foy
While still a teenager, Ellen Harmon had met two Millerites she both reckoned as prophets. The mulatto William E. Foy claimed to have received two visions from God in 1842, which he later published in a little book, The Christian Experience of William E. Foy (1845). Hazen Foss, who was brother-in-law to Ellen White's sister Mary, also claimed to have had visions.
In 1844, Ellen Harmon was present during a meeting where Wm. Foy was relating his visions. Some time after the disappointment on October 22, 1844, a meeting was being held east of Portland, Maine, at which Ellen Harmon related her first vision (which she received in December, 1844). She was not aware of the fact that William Foy was present until he arose and declared that this was exactly what he had seen in his own visions.
However, Ellen White had been listening to Foy relating his visions before she herself received similar visions,
"Then another time, there was Foy that had had visions. He had had four visions. He was in a large congregation, very large. He fell right to the floor. I do not know what they were doing in there, whether they were listening to preaching or not. But at any rate he fell to the floor. I do not know how long he was [down] -- about three quarters of a hour, I think -- and he had all these [visions] before I had them. They were written out and published, and it is queer that I cannot find them in any of my books. But we have moved so many times. He had four." (Manuscript Release #17, p. 95-96. Emphasis supplied.)
Here is an example of Foy's visions,
"Behind the angel I beheld countless millions of bright chariots. Each chariot had four wings like flaming fire and an angel followed after the chariot, and the wings of the angel cried as one voice saying 'holy'." (William Ellis Foy, The Christian Experience of William E. Foy (1845). p. 18.)
"And as the chariot rolled upward, the wheels cried, 'Holy,' and the wings, as they moved, cried, 'Holy,' and the retinue of holy angels around the cloud cried, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!'" (Early Writings, p. 35.)
Here is another example,
"Those who eat of the fruit of this tree return to earth no more." (Foy, p. 14.)
"Those who eat of the fruit of this land, go back to earth no more." (A Word to the Little Flock, p. 17. The Day Star, Jan. 24, 1846.)
Ellen White says that William Foy had his visions before she herself got them, and that she was familiar with his visions. It is therefore quite possible that she, in addition to having borrowed from Joseph Smith, also borrowed material from William E. Foy as basis for her first visions.
But why do Adventists claim that William Foy "said no" to God, and that the task was given to Hazen Foss, who also "said no", and that the task therefore was given to "the tender vessel", Ellen Harmon, who "said yes"? The plain fact is that William Foy did not say "no". He travelled around, relating his visions, and published them as a booklet in 1845. The Adventist claim that he "said no" to God, is no more than a myth.
The time for beginning the sabbath
The Seventh-day Adventists got their teachings on the seventh-day sabbath from Joseph Bates, who in 1846 had been publishing the tract The Seventh-Day Sabbath a Perpetual Sign. Joseph Bates also teached that the sabbath should be kept from six PM to six AM. Both Ellen White and a majority of other Adventists at that time adopted Bates' view on this point. A number of years later (1855), both she and other Adventists adopted the "sunset-principle", based on "revelation". In other words, it was a "progressive light" in regards to this matter.
This is strange, when one consider that people like the Seventh-Day Baptists both had the seventh-day sabbath and the sunset-principle established long before there were any Seventh-Day Adventist around. The first Seventh-Day Baptist church was established in Amerika in 1671!
Perhaps some will take offence of what they have been reading so far, and some ultra-conservative Adventists may probably regard the information on Israel Dammon as sheer blasphemy. However, I am not the originator of this information. It is well-documented history, but somewhat in variance with Ellen White's own glorified account. I am just the informant, and can in no way be responsible for how certain people will react when they learn the truth. Truth can be extremely hard to digest at times, and people who have lived for years under a myth, will have problems digesting truth at all!
After the disappointment in October, 1844, the Miller-movement ended in wild fanaticism for a number of people, and Ellen Harmon and James White mingled with such people. It was under those circumstances that the foundation was laid for her later career and her visions and revelations. James White did a good job in travelling around, promoting the young Ellen G. Harmon.
"Her hometown of Portland, Maine, had been notorious for the 'continual introduction of visionary nonsense. . . . In large camp-meeting crowds or in small meetings in houses or barns, the 'gift of prophecy' poured itself out plentifully. . . .Shouts from the 'slain' were heard everywhere as were sighs from swooners Ellen might have faded into this inchoate charismatic background and entirely disappeared had not James White married her, in August of 1846, and served not only as her husband and protector, but her promoter and publisher." (R.L. Numbers and J.M. Butler (ed.), The Disappointed, pp. 202-203. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, 1993.)
We feel confident that this is an exact statement. There were many visionary young women in the state of Maine at that time, also within Ellen Harmon's own circle, but all these young women are completely forgotten today. They did not have the advantage of being married to an excellent promoter and organizer like James White. No one knows today what visionaries within Ellen Harmon's circle, like Dorinda Baker, saw in their visions, but during the Israel Dammon trial, the witness Joel Doore stated that they believed that both Ellen Harmon's and Dorinda Baker's visions were from God.
It should be quite obvious that the picture of early adventism and Ellen White's visions the SDA-denomination has been promoting through its official writings, does not square up with the documented facts that have come to light in recent years. I doubt if current, conservative Adventists who are reared in the myth, would feel comfortable during house-meetings like those Ellen Harmon, James White, Israel Dammon and other "pioneers" took part in -- even if "the power of God" rested over such meetings. Maybe they would be forced to revise their view of the adventist prophet, if they saw her laying on the floor in the dimly lit room, amidst din and noise from living room and bed rooms, while she related her visions. I do not say that this was common practise all the time, and at all places, but that this was more common than we have believed. There are no written accounts of all house-meetings that took place at that time. But a number of leaders in the SDA-denomination have been acquainted with the documentation available through a number of years, and in spite of that, still perpetuate the myths.