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|Ellen G. White|
Ellen White in 1909
|Born||Ellen Gould Harmon|
November 26, 1827
|Died||July 16, 1915 (aged 87)|
Elmshaven (Saint Helena), California
|Occupation||Author and Co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church|
James Edson White
William C. White
|Ellen G. White|
Ellen White in 1909
|Born||Ellen Gould Harmon|
November 26, 1827
|Died||July 16, 1915 (aged 87)|
Elmshaven (Saint Helena), California
|Occupation||Author and Co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church|
James Edson White
William C. White
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Ellen Gould White (born Harmon) (November 26, 1827 – July 16, 1915) was a prolific author and an American Christian pioneer. She, along with other Sabbatarian Adventist leaders, such as Joseph Bates and her husband James White, formed what is now known as the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Ellen White reported to her fellow believers her visionary experiences. James White, and others of the Adventist pioneers, viewed these experiences as the Biblical gift of prophecy as outlined in Revelation 12:17 and Revelation 19:10 which describe the testimony of Jesus as the "spirit of prophecy." Her Conflict of the Ages series of writings endeavor to showcase the hand of God in Biblical and Christian church history. This cosmic conflict, referred to as the "Great Controversy theme", is foundational to the development of Seventh-day Adventist theology.
White was considered a somewhat controversial figure. Her reports of visionary experiences and use of other sources in her writings comprise much of the controversy. She received her first vision soon after the Millerite Great Disappointment. Historian Randall Balmer has described her as "one of the more important and colorful figures in the history of American religion". Walter Martin described her as "one of the most fascinating and controversial personages ever to appear upon the horizon of religious history." Arthur L. White, her grandson and biographer, writes that Ellen G. White is the most translated female non-fiction author in the history of literature, as well as the most translated American non-fiction author of either gender. Her writings covered creationism, agriculture, theology, evangelism, Christian lifestyle, education and health. She advocated vegetarianism. She promoted the establishment of schools and medical centers. During her lifetime she wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles and 40 books. Today, including compilations from her 100,000 pages of manuscript, more than 100 titles are available in English. Some of her most famous books include The Desire of Ages, The Great Controversy and Steps to Christ. Her work on successful Christian living, Steps to Christ, has been published in more than 140 languages.
Ellen and her twin sister Elizabeth, were born November 26, 1827, to Robert and Eunice Harmon. Robert was a farmer who made hats also, and the whole family helped with the hatmaking. With eight children in the family, home was a busy place. The family lived on a small farm near the village of Gorham, Maine. However, a few years after the birth of the twins, Robert Harmon gave up farming, and, with his family, moved into the city of Portland, about twelve miles east.
In 1999, Charles E. Dudley, Sr., published a book entitled, The Genealogy of Ellen Gould Harmon White: The Prophetess of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Story of the Growth and Development of the Seventh-day Adventist Denomination As It Relates to African-Americans. In his book, Charles Dudley claims that Ellen White had an African-American ancestry.
In March 2000, the Ellen G. White Estate commissioned Roger D. Joslyn, a professional genealogist, to research Ellen G. White's ancestry. Joslyn concluded that she was of Anglo-Saxon origin. Joslyn found that Ellen's mother, Eunice (Gould) Harmon was the daughter of Joseph Goold/Gould, an American Revolutionary soldier. After the war, he moved from Kittery to Portland, Maine. His father was Joseph Gould of Kittery. His father, Ellen's great grandfather, was also named Joseph Gould. He settled in Kittery in the first decade of the 1700s and was probably from Taunton, Massachusetts. His father was John Gould of Taunton and probably the one born in Hingham, Massachusetts Bay Colony, son of Jarvis Gould, a 1635 immigrant from England. See her ancestral chart
At the age of nine, Ellen was struck with a rock thrown by a jealous student. The injury severely disfigured her nose, and left her in a coma for several weeks.
Ellen would later write of her conversion experience that happened a few years after the incident:
In 1840, at age 12, her family became involved with the Millerite movement. As she attended William Miller's lectures, Ellen felt guilty for her sins, and she was filled with terror about being eternally lost. She describes herself as spending nights in tears and prayer, and being in this condition for several months. On June 26, 1842, She was baptized by John Hobart in Casco Bay in Portland, Maine, and eagerly awaited Jesus to come again. In her later years, she referred to this as the happiest time of her life. Her family's involvement with Millerism caused them to be disfellowshipped by the local Methodist church.
Sometime in 1845 Ellen came into contact with her future husband James Springer White, a Millerite who became convinced that her visions were genuine. A year later James proposed and they were married by a justice of the peace in Portland, Maine, on August 30, 1846. James later wrote:
We were married August 30, 1846, and from that hour to the present she has been my crown of rejoicing....It has been in the good providence of God that both of us had enjoyed a deep experience in the Advent movement....This experience was now needed as we should join our forces and, united, labor extensively from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific....
Ellen White spent the final years of her life in Elmshaven, her home in Saint Helena, California after the death of her husband James White in 1881. During her final years she would travel less frequently as she concentrated upon writing her last works for the church. Ellen G. White died July 16, 1915, at her home in Elmshaven, which is now an Adventist Historical Site. After three funerals, she is buried with her husband James White in Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Michigan.
From 1844 to 1863 White experienced between 100 to 200 visions, typically in public places and meeting halls. In later life, the visions occurred at home during the night.
J. N. Loughborough, who had seen White in vision fifty times since 1852, and her husband, James White, listed several physical characteristics that marked the visions:
Mrs. Martha Amadon added: “There was never an excitement among those present during a vision; nothing caused fear. It was a solemn, quiet scene.“
In 1844, Ellen White experienced her first vision.
At this time I visited one of our Advent sisters, and in the morning we bowed around the family altar. It was not an exciting occasion, and there were but five of us present, all females. While praying, the power of God came upon me as I never had felt it before, and I was wrapt up in a vision of God's glory, and seemed to be rising higher and higher from the earth and was shown something of the travels of the Advent people to the Holy City...
In this vision the "Advent people" were traveling a high and dangerous path towards the city of New Jerusalem [heaven]. Their path was lit from behind by "a bright (light)...which an angel told me was the midnight cry." Some of the travelers grew weary and were encouraged by Jesus; others denied the light, the light behind them went out, and they fell "off the path into the dark and wicked world below." The vision continued with a portrayal of Christ’s second coming, following which the Advent people entered the New Jerusalem; and ended with her returning to earth feeling lonely, desolate and longing for that "better world."
As Godfrey T. Anderson said, "In effect, the vision assured the Advent believers of eventual triumph despite the immediate despair into which they had plunged."
In February 1845, White experienced her second vision in Exeter, Maine known as the "Bridegroom" vision. Together with the third vision about the new earth, the visions "gave continued meaning to the October 1844 experience and supported the developing sanctuary rationale. Additionally they played an important role in countering the spiritualizing views of many fanatical Adventists by portraying the Father and Jesus as literal beings and heaven as a physical place."
Fearing people would not accept her testimony, Ellen did not initially share her visions with the wider Millerite community. In a meeting at her parent’s home when she received what she regarded as confirmation of her ministry:
While praying, the thick darkness that had enveloped me was scattered, a bright light, like a ball of fire, came towards me, and as it fell upon me, my strength was taken away. I seemed to be in the presence of Jesus and the angels. Again it was repeated, ‘Make known to others what I have revealed to you.’
Soon Ellen was giving her testimony in public meetings — some of which she arranged herself — and in her regular Methodist class meetings in private homes.
I arranged meetings with my young friends, some of whom were considerably older than myself, and a few were married persons. A number of them were vain and thoughtless; my experience sounded to them like an idle tale, and they did not heed my entreaties. But I determined that my efforts should never cease till these dear souls, for whom I had so great an interest, yielded to God. Several entire nights were spent by me in earnest prayer for those whom I had sought out and brought together for the purpose of laboring and praying with them.
News of her visions spread and White was soon traveling and speaking to groups of Millerite followers in Maine and the surrounding area. Her visions were not publicized further afield until January 24, 1846, when her account of the first vision: "Letter From Sister Harmon" was published in the Day Star, a Millerite paper published in Cincinnati, Ohio by Enoch Jacobs. White had written to Jacobs to encourage him and although she stated the letter was not written for publication, Jacobs printed it anyway. Through the next few years it was republished in various forms and is included as part of her first book, Christian Experience and Views, published in 1851.
Two Millerites claimed to have had visions prior to Ellen White – William Ellis Foy (1818–1893), and Hazen Foss (1818?–1893), Ellen White's brother-in-law. Adventists believe the prophetic gift offered to these two men was passed on to White when they rejected it.
Ellen White described the vision experience as involving a bright light which would surround her and she felt herself in the presence of Jesus or angels who would show her events (historical and future) and places (on earth, in heaven, or other planets). The transcriptions of White's visions generally contain theology, prophecy, or personal counsels to individuals or to Adventist leaders. One of the best examples of her personal counsels is found in a 9-volume series of books entitled Testimonies for the Church, that contains edited testimonies published for the general edification of the church. The spoken and written versions of her visions played a significant part in establishing and shaping the organizational structure of the emerging Adventist Church. Her visions and writings continue to be used by church leaders in developing the church's policies and for devotional reading.
On March 14, 1858, at Lovett's Grove, near Bowling Green, Ohio, White received a vision while attending a funeral service. On that day James White wrote that "God manifested His power in a wonderful manner" adding that "several had decided to keep the Lord's Sabbath and go with the people of God." In writing about the vision, she stated that she received practical instruction for church members, and more significantly, a cosmic sweep of the conflict "between Christ and His angels, and Satan and his angels." Ellen White would expand upon this great controversy theme which would eventually culminate in the Conflict of the Ages series.
From 1861 to 1881 Ellen White's prophetic ministry became increasingly recognized among Sabbatarian Adventists. Her frequent articles in the Review and Herald (now the Adventist Review) and other church publications were a unifying influence to the beginning church. She supported her husband in the church's need for formal organization. The result was the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1863. During the 1860s and 1870s the Whites participated in the founding of the denomination's first medical institution (1866) and school (1874).
After 1882 Ellen White was assisted by a close circle of friends and associates. She employed a number of literary assistants who would help her in preparing her writings for publications. She also carried on an extensive correspondence with church leaders. She traveled to Europe on her first international trip. Upon her return she promoted the message of righteousness by faith presented by young ministers E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones, leading to a more Christ-centered theology for the church. When church leaders resisted her counsel on this and various other matters, she was sent to Australia as a missionary. There she lived first in Melbourne and later moved to Cooranbong, New South Wales; co-founding Avondale College. After almost 9 years she returned to the US.
When Ellen White returned to the US in 1900, she thought her stay would be temporary, and she called for church re-organization at the pivotal 1901 General Conference Session. During her later years she wrote extensively for church publications and wrote her final books. During her final years she would travel less frequently as she concentrated upon writing her last works for the church.
White was a powerful and sought after preacher. While she has been perceived as having a strict and serious personality, perhaps due to her lifestyle standards, numerous sources describe her as a friendly person.
Jerry Moon argues that White taught Assurance of salvation. Arthur Patrick believes that White was evangelical, in that she had high regard for the Bible, saw the cross as central, supported righteousness by faith, believed in Christian activism, and sought to restore New Testament Christianity.
Ellen White's earliest essays on Education appeared in the 1872 autumn editions of the Health Reformer. In her first essay, she stated that working with youthful minds was the most delicate of tasks. The manner of instruction should be varied. This would make it possible for the "high and noble powers of the mind" to have a chance to develop. To be qualified to educate the youth, parents and teachers must have self-control, gentleness and love.
Ellen White's idea of creating a Christian educational system and its importance in society is detailed in her writings Christian Education (1893, 1894) and Education (1903).
Ellen White expounded greatly on the subject of health and nutrition, as well as healthy eating and a balanced diet. At her behest, the Seventh-day Adventist Church first established the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan in 1866 to care for the sick as well as to disseminate health instruction. Over the years, other Adventist sanitariums were established around the country. These sanitariums became hospitals, forming the backbone of the Adventists' medical network and, in 1972, forming the Adventist Health System.
The beginnings of this health ministry are found in a vision that White had in 1863. The vision was said to have occurred during a visit by James and Ellen White to Otsego, Michigan to encourage the evangelistic workers there. As the group bowed in prayer at the beginning of Sabbath, Ellen White reportedly had a vision of the relation of physical health to spirituality, of the importance of following right principles in diet and in the care of the body, and of the benefits of nature's remedies—clean air, sunshine, exercise and pure water. Previous to this vision, little thought or time had been given to health matters in the church, and several of the overtaxed ministers had been forced to become inactive because of sickness. This revelation on June 6, 1863 impressed upon the leaders in the newly organized church the importance of health reform. In the months that followed, as the health message was seen to be a part of the message of Seventh-day Adventists, a health educational program was inaugurated. An introductory step in this effort was the publishing of six pamphlets of 64 pages each, entitled, Health, or How to Live, compiled by James and Ellen White. An article from White was included in each of the pamphlets. The importance of health reform was greatly impressed upon the early leaders of the church through the untimely death of Henry White at the age of 16, the severe illness of Elder James White, which forced him to cease work for three years, and through the sufferings of several other ministers.
Early in 1866, responding to the instruction given to Ellen White on Christmas Day in 1865 that Seventh-day Adventists should establish a health institute for the care of the sick and the imparting of health instruction, plans were laid for the Western Health Reform Institute, which opened in September, 1866. While the Whites were in and out of Battle Creek from 1865 to 1868, James White's poor physical condition led them to move to a small farm near Greenville, Michigan.
White's idea of health reform included vegetarianism in a day and age where "meat and two vegetables" was the standard meal for a typical North American. Her health message inspired a health food revolution starting with John Harvey Kellogg in his creation of Corn Flakes. The Sanitarium Health Food Company as it is now known was also started by this health principle. Adhering to the principles outlined in the health reform, John Harvey Kellogg differed from his brother's views on the sugar content of their Corn Flake breakfast cereal. The latter started Kellogg Company. White championed a vegetarianism that was intended to be not only physically, but also spiritually helpful to humans, and also to treat God's creatures with love and respect.
Her views are expressed in many of her writings such as Important Facts Of Faith: Laws Of Health, And Testimonies, Nos. 1–10 (1864), Healthful Living (1897, 1898), The Ministry of Healing (1905), The Health Food Ministry (1970), and Counsels on Diet and Foods (1938).
Some of her most well known books are:
During her lifetime Ellen White wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles, 40 books, and reported over 2000 visual/aural paranormal experiences, most of which she was convinced were communications with supernatural entities including various angels and sometimes Jesus. Today over 100 titles are available in English, including compilations from her 50,000 manuscript pages.
According to one evangelical author, "No Christian leader or theologian has exerted as great an influence on a particular denomination as Ellen White has on Adventism." Additional authors have stated "Ellen G. White has undoubtedly been the most influential Seventh-day Adventist in the history of the church."
The Ellen G. White Estate, Inc., was formed as a result of Ellen G. White's will. It consists of a self-perpetuating board and a staff which includes a secretary (now known as the director), several associates, and a support staff. The main headquarters is at the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Branch Offices are located at Andrews University, Loma Linda University, and Oakwood University. There are 15 additional research centers located throughout the 13 remaining divisions of the world church. The mission of the White Estate is to circulate Ellen White's writings, translate them, and provide resources for helping to better understand her life and ministry. At the Toronto General Conference Session (2000) the world church expanded the mission of the White Estate to include a responsibility for promoting Adventist history for the entire denomination.
Several of Ellen G. White's homes are historic sites. The first home that she and her husband owned is now part of the Historic Adventist Village in Battle Creek, Michigan. Her other homes are privately owned with the exception of her home in Cooranbong, Australia, which she named "Sunnyside," and her last home in Saint Helena, California, which she named "Elmshaven". These latter two homes are owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the "Elmshaven" home is also a National Historic Landmark.
Ellen G. White inspired and guided the foundation of Avondale College, Cooranbong, leaving an educational legacy from her time in Australia. Avondale College is the main Seventh-day Adventist tertiary institution in the South-Pacific Division.
The most comprehensive biography of Ellen G. White is an extensive six-volume work called "Ellen G. White: A Biography" written by her grandson, Arthur L. White. Thousands of articles and books have been written about various aspects of Ellen G. White's life and ministry. A large number of these can be found in the libraries at Loma Linda University and Andrews University, the two primary Seventh-day Adventist institutions with major research collections about Adventism. An "Encyclopedia of Ellen G. White" is being produced by two faculty at Andrews University: Jerry Moon, chair of the church history department, and Denis Fortin, dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary.
Red Books: Our Search for Ellen White is a play about White, a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the various perceptions of her throughout the history of the church. It was produced by the Dramatic Arts Society of Pacific Union College in California. It was based on interviews collected from over 200 individuals. The title derives from White's books, which were traditionally bound with a red cover.
Most Adventists believe her writings are inspired and continue to have relevance for the church today. Seventh-day Adventists began to discuss her writings at the 1919 Bible Conference, soon after her death. During the 1920s the church adopted a Fundamentalist stance toward inspiration. Because of criticism from the evangelical community, in the 1940s and 1950s church leaders such as LeRoy Edwin Froom and Roy Allan Anderson attempted to help evangelicals understand Seventh-day Adventists better by engaging in extended dialogue that resulted in the publication of Questions on Doctrine (1956) that explained Adventist beliefs in evangelical language.
Evangelical Walter Martin of the countercult Christian Research Institute "rejected White’s prophetic claims", yet saw her "as a genuine Christian believer", unlike her contemporaries Joseph Smith, Jr., Mary Baker Eddy, and Charles Taze Russell. Kenneth Samples, a successor of Martin in his interaction with Adventism, also denies White's prophetic claims yet "believe[s] she, at minimum, had some good biblical and theological instincts."
Early Sabbatarian Adventists, many of whom had come out of the Christian Connexion, were anti-creedal. However, as early as 1872 Adventists produced a statement of Adventist beliefs. This list was refined during the 1890s and formally included in the SDA Yearbook in 1931 with 22 points. In 1980 a statement of 27 Fundamental Beliefs was adopted, to which one was added to in 2005 to make the current list of fundamental beliefs. Ellen G. White is referenced in the fundamental belief on spiritual gifts. This doctrinal statement says:
"One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord's messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. (Joel 2:28,29; Acts 2:14–21; Hebrews 1:1–3; Revelation 12:17; 19:10.)"
Ellen Harmon's critics began to cast doubt as to the reliability and authenticity of her visions, beginning after her first vision in 1845. The most prominent critic was D.M. Canright who aposticized and whose criticisms are summarized in his 1919 book, Life of Mrs. E.G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Prophet: Her False Claims Refuted. and which served as a basic text for many of Ellen G. White's critics. Some of the most prominent criticisms include:
During her lifetime Dudley M. Canright, a Seventh-day Adventist minister who left the church, claimed that she had a “complication of hysteria, epilepsy, catalepsy, and ecstasy” and stated that her “visions were merely the result of her early misfortune". Some neurologists later commented that her early injuries may have caused partial complex seizures and hallucinations which led her to believe that she had visions of God. Ellen White was posthumously diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy by the paediatrician Delbert H. Hodder in 1981 and again in 1984 by Molleurus Couperus, a retired dermatologist. A symptom of temporal lobe epilepsy, as noted by Sachdev and Waxman in 1981, is the frequency and degree of hypergraphia which is said to be seen in her writings.
Many critics have accused Ellen White of extensive plagiarism. One such was Walter T. Rea, who argued against the "original" nature of her supposed revelations in his book The White Lie. Another critic Ronald Numbers argues that her understanding of health reform was simply plagiarized from other health reformers and therefore did not come from divine revelation.
Some critics, as well as some non-Trinitarian Adventists, have asserted that Ellen White did not openly support the teaching of the Trinity in her early writings Some critics have characterized her descriptions of the Godhead as Tritheistic. Church historians have pointed out that early Seventh-day Adventists came from a wide assortment of nineteenth-century American Protestant churches, and typical among early Adventists, two of the church's principal founders, James White and Joseph Bates, had a background in the Restorationist Christian Connection church, which rejected the Trinitarian conception of God as held by the mainline churches. Some early Adventists joined the church believing and advocating semi-Arianism, i.e. the view that Jesus is a separate, lesser being than God the Father. However, church historians point out that the teachings and writings of Ellen White, who was raised in a Methodist family, ultimately proved influential in shifting the church from largely semi-Arian roots towards Trinitarianism.
Some critics disagree how much her writings shifted the church towards Trinitarianism and point to a study that White's views reflected the materialist theology of early Adventism .
"Few topics have generated more ridicule from critics than Ellen White's statements regarding 'self-abuse,' 'solitary vice,' 'self-indulgence,' 'secret vice,' 'moral pollution,' etc." Though her meaning was clear, Ellen White never used the actual term 'masturbation.' In her book A Solemn Appeal she writes that:
Thomas Szasz states the shift in scientific consensus as "Masturbation: the primary sexual activity of mankind. In the nineteenth century it was a disease; in the twentieth, it's a cure." Many other medical researchers and state medical education boards support his conclusion.
Seventh-day Adventists have long responded to critics with arguments and assertions of their own. Typical responses to these criticisms include:
Critics have especially targeted Ellen White's book The Great Controversy arguing it contains plagiarized material. However in her introduction she wrote...
Ellen White also stated that the Holy Spirit was divine.
Ellen White was a strong proponent of abolition her entire life. She met, lectured with and was friends with Sojourner Truth  as well as other leading abolitionists like Frederick Douglas. She influenced the Adventist church to be so strongly abolitionist that her husband James White could write:
At a later conference that Ellen White was involved in, it was voted:
Ellen White not only abhorred slavery as a demonic invention, but preached full equality of all races, something that was still not widely accepted even much later during Martin Luther King's time.
She also understood the wrong of economic caste injustice:
In 1891, she wrote:
However, a couple years later she wrote,
And, in 1896 she wrote,
Dr. Samuel Pipim writes of an incident illustrating this point
Also, Ellen White stated the following near the end of the 19th century
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