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Visions Copied from Foy?
By Dirk Anderson
In 1835, William Foy, an African-American living in New England, gave his heart to Christ and became a member of the Freewill Baptist Church. In 1842, while preparing to take holy orders as an Episcopal minister he had two visions. Foy began traveling around the local area relating his visions to various Millerite groups. Adventist historian J.N. Loughborough writes:
"Having a good command of language, with fine descriptive powers, he created a sensation wherever he went. By invitation he went from city to city to tell of the wonderful things he had seen; and in order to accommodate the vast crowds who assembled to hear him, large halls were secured, where he related to thousands what had been shown him of the heavenly world..."1
In an interview Mrs. White admitted that she attended William Foy's lectures:
"Question : Then you attended the lectures that Mr. Foy gave?"Ellen Harmon was very well acquainted with Foy and his visions. Delbert Baker, an Adventist who authored a book on Foy, tells us:
"Ellen White said that she had copies of Foy's visions and had heard him speak on a number of occasions, so she was acquainted with him and his material."3
In December of 1844 Ellen Harmon had her first "vision". Delbert Baker tells us:
"Shortly after Ellen had her first vision, Foy sought her out and expressed his desire to speak with her. Referring to this meeting, she said, 'I had an interview with him.' We have no record of their conversation, but quite probably it dealt with her visions, what she had seen, and perhaps the accompanying physical phenomena."4The evening following this "interview", Ellen was scheduled to speak of her first vision at a meeting held east of Portland. Unbeknown to Ellen, Foy had decided to attend the meeting. While she was speaking, Foy leaped to his feet and declared it was just what he had seen! He excused himself from the meeting and had no further contact with Ellen White after that point. Later, in 1845 when he published his visions, he had them copyrighted. Mrs. White describes the experience as follows:
"Question : Did you ever have an interview with him? "What an amazing coincidence! Ellen Harmon interviews Foy regarding his visions, and later on the same day she relates her visions in a meeting and her visions sound so similar to Foy's that he cannot restrain himself from interupting the meeting, standing up and telling the crowd that she was relating exactly what he had seen in vision!
In 1906, over sixty years after the incident with Foy, Ellen White recalls that Foy was jubilant over her relating the vision, and stood up and praised God. Of course, we now know from the Israel Dammon incident that Mrs. White sometimes stretched the truth when relating incidents in her early life. Besides this recollection, there is no other evidence Foy ever endorsed Ellen White, accepted her visions, or accepted her shut door teachings. In fact, after the meeting mentioned above, Mrs. White never had any further contact with Foy. This is odd considering they lived in the same area and both claimed to be receiving messages from God.
Adventist historian J.N. Loughborough, in his book The Great Second Advent Movement describes the process by which Ellen Harmon was selected as God's prophet. Loughborough claims that God picked Foy as the first person to receive visions. After Foy failed to fulfill his commission he sickened and died, and the prophetic baton passed to Hazen Foss, who then received a vision. After Foss refused to relate his vision, God turned to the "weakest of the weak," Ellen Harmon.
There are many problems with this reasoning. First and foremost, Foy did not die shortly after the disappointment as supposed by Loughborough. Foy continued in the Christian ministry pastoring various Freewill Baptist churches throughout Maine. He continued witnessing for the Lord throughout his life until his death on November 9, 1893 at the age of 75. His tombstone can be viewed in Birch Tree Cemetery in East Sullivan, Maine.
Second, Foy's visions appear to support doctrines that Adventists reject, such as life after death. In his book Foy describes his visions as out-of-body experiences:
"...it appeared to me that I was a spirit separate from this body."6Foy's visions seem to indicate the spirits of the dead are in heaven, as he describes below:
"I then saw an individual which had passed through death. Her brightness was beyond the expression of mortals, and at her right side stood a guardian angel, the angel's raiment was like pure gold and his wings like flaming fire, and as she passed me, she cried with a lovely voice, 'I am going to the gate to meet my friends.' An angel then appeared flying through the midst of this boundless place, and came to the spirit of one of those which had not passed through death, and cried with a loud voice, saying, 'This is my mother.' He then became her guide."10The fact that Foy's visions indicate life after death would lead many Adventists to question whether Foy's visions actually came from God.
Foy's visions show a heaven that is devoid of modern technology. The angels who record the sins of humans in books receive their updates from angels flying back and forth between earth and heaven:
"I then beheld angels ascending and descending to and from the earth; they bore tidings to the recording angels."11Of course, this was before the advent of radio, telephone, and internet communications. The only way to communicate in the 1840s over a long distance was for someone to personally carry a message between parties.
In summary, the modern Adventist may have some difficulty believing Foy's visions originated with God. This fact would lead one to question whether there was ever any prophetic baton that was passed from Foy to Ellen White.
The two initial visions of Foy were published in 1845 in a pamphlet in Portland, Maine. Later statements from Mrs. White indicate that she apparently had a copy of these 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."12
1. J.N. Loughborough, The Great Second Advent Movement, p. 145.
2. Ellen White quoted in an interview. Manuscript Releases vol. 17, pp. 96-97; Ms 131, 1906, pp. 1, 4-6. Relased by the Ellen G. White Estate, Washington, D. C. June 4, 1987.
3. Delbert Baker, Spectrum, "Questions and Answers about the Unknown Prophet, William Foy", vol. 17, no. 5, p. 25.
4. Delbert Baker, The Unknown Prophet, p. 143.
5. E.G. White interview cited in footnote #2.
6. William Foy, Christian Experience of William Foy, p. 9.
7. Ibid., p. 16.
8. Ibid., p. 20.
9. Ibid., p. 21.
10. Ibid., pp. 11,12.
11. Ibid., p. 20.
12. E.G. White interview cited in footnote #2.
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