Eyewitness Accounts of Mrs. White's Visions
Compiled by Brother Anderson
The eyewitnesses below observed Ellen White while she was in vision. These eyewitnesses were Christians, men and women of integrity, many of them church leaders. Unlike the eyewitness accounts published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, these accounts paint a less flattering portrait of her visions...
Eyewitness account of "a beloved brother" (published by James White)
"I cannot endorse sister Ellen's visions as being of divine inspiration, as you and she think them to be; yet I do not suspect the least shade of dishonesty in either of you in this matter. I may perhaps, express to you my belief in the matter, without harm - it will, doubtless, result either in your good or mine. At the same time, I admit the possibility of my being mistaken. I think that what she and you regard as visions from the Lord, are only religious reveries, in which her imagination runs without control upon themes in which she is most deeply interested. While so absorbed in these reveries, she is lost to every thing around her. Reveries are of two kinds, sinful and religious. Hers is the latter. Rosseau's, "a celebrated French infidel," were the former. Infidelity was his theme, and his reveries were infidel. Religion is her theme, and her reveries are religious. In either case, the sentiments, in the main, are obtained from previous teaching, or study. I do not by any means think her visions are like some from the devil."1
Joseph Bates' eyewitness account
Although Joseph Bates eventually came to believe in Mrs. White's prophetic calling, he initially expressed reservations about the visions:
"It is now about two years since I first saw the author, and heard her relate the substance of her visions as she has since published them in Portland (April 6, 1846). Although I could see nothing in them that militated against the word, yet I felt alarmed and tried exceedingly, and for a long time unwilling to believe that it was any thing more than what was produced by a protracted debilitated state of her body."2
Adventist minister Isaac Wellcome's eyewitness account
Isaac Wellcome, a minister who was baptized by James White in 1844, and was active in the Second Advent Movement, wrote:
"Ellen G. Harmon... was strangely exercised in body and mind...falling to the floor... (we remember catching her twice to save her from falling upon the floor)... in meetings she would speak with great vehemence and rapidity until falling down, when, as she claimed, wonderful views of heaven and what was being transacted there were shown her. She claimed to have seen that Christ had left the office of mediation and assumed that of Judge, had closed the door of mercy, and was blotting out the names, from the book of life.... We saw her in Poland, Portland, Topsham, and Brunswick during the beginning of this career, and often heard her speak, and several times saw her fall, and heard her relate wonders which she said her heavenly Father permitted her to see. Her supernatural or abnormal views were not readily understood as visions, but as spiritual views of unseen things, which were quite common among the Methodists.... These visions were but the echoes of Elder [Joseph] Turner and others' preaching, and we regard them as the product of the overexcited imagination of her mind, and not as facts."3
Eyewitness account of Lucinda Burdick
Lucinda Burdick, the wife of a pastor, and Mary Bodge joined Ellen Harmon for prayer one afternoon in 1845. Here is Ms. Burdick's account of what happened next:
"While I was engaged in prayer, suddenly, Ellen Harmon became rigidly prostrate upon the ground. Miss Bodge immediately sent for James White who she said was the only one that could talk with her while in one of these spells. He and many others hurried to the spot and he immediately began to ask her a great variety of questions.
Another Testimony written by Lucinda Burdick
"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 month, 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."5
Israel Dammon's Testimony
"It has been some twenty years or more since we were associated with Mrs. W.; but we remember very perfectly that her first visions or vision was told both by herself and others (especially by Mrs. W.) in connection with the preaching of the "shut door," and went to substantiate the same. While under that influence, and preaching the visions, she, in vision, saw N. G. Reed and I. Dammon, in the kingdom in an immortal state, and crowned. After that, she saw them finally lost. How could both be true? I think one was just as true as the other, and that God never told her any such thing."6
H.S. Dille's Testimony
All who are conversant with the phenomena of visions, as they are experienced by Mr. [A.J.] Davis and Mrs. White, will readily perceive...their visions are nothing more or less than spontaneous extasis, whcih is the highest state of clairvoyance. ... We remark in concluding this point, that from all we know from personal observation and experience; from a knowledge of the so-called "occult mysteries," and the Word of God, it is perfectly evident that these visions are under that influence commonly called mesmerism. ...our advice is to investigate their doctrines carefully, candidly, and in a christian manner; but be very cautious about getting mesmerized.7
Dr. M.G. Kellogg's Testimony
"I have seen Mrs. White in vision quite a number of times between 1852 and 1859, in every instance she was simply in a state of catalepsy. In each instance she was suddenly seized, fell unconscious, and remained unconscious during the full time the fit lasted; every vital function was reduced to the lowest point compatible with life; pulse almost stopped and very infrequent breathing so slight as to be imperceptible except when she uttered short sentences; pupils dilated to great width, sense of hearing blunted; in fact all her senses so blunted that she could neither see, feel, nor hear; in fact was wholly unconscious, yet her mind was acutely active, the action being automatic and wholly involuntary, the whole vision being a conglomerated mental rehearsal of previous conceptions, scenes, meditations, and suggestions so vividly reproduced on her mind as to be to her a living reality. Catalepsy assumes many forms in its various victims, but in her case some phase of all forms was produced. I have seen many cases."8
Ellen White admits eyewitnesses doubting her visions
Ellen White herself noted that "many" who witnessed her visions felt that they were witnessing nothing more than fanaticism or mesmerism:
"...if it pleased the Lord to give me a vision in meeting, some would say that it was the effect of excitement and mesmerism."9
Some have claimed that, while in vision, Ellen White performed supernatural feats, such as not breathing for an hour. Shallow, almost imperceptible, breathing is a symptom of a medical condition known as catalepsy, and Dr. M.C. Kellogg diagnosed her as having this condition. In 2014, a man in Spain suffering with epilepsy, Gonzalo Montoya Jiménez, was thought dead because his life signs could not be detected. He was sent to the morgue where it was discovered he was still living. Catalepsy has these symptoms:
"A condition characterized by inactivity, decreased responsiveness to stimuli, and a tendency to maintain an immobile posture... Often, the person's vital signs such as breathing and heartbeat drop to very low levels, so they are nearly undetectable, even by doctors."11
There is no reason to assume a supernatural explanation for Ellen White's manifestations in vision when there are other reasonable explanations. As shown above, many of the eye-witnesses did not believe there was anything supernatural or divine about her visions.
1. James White, editor, A Word to the Little Flock (1847), p. 22.
2. Ibid., p. 21.
3. Isaac Wellcome, History of the Second Advent Message (Yarmouth, Maine: Advent Christian Publication Society, 1874); Jacob Brinkerhoff, "The Seventh-day Adventists and Mrs. White's Visions," Advent and Sabbath Advocate (Marion, Iowa, 1884), 4-6.
4. Lucinda Burdick letter, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Sept. 26, 1908.
5. Lucinda Burdick quoted in Miles Grant, An Examination of Mrs. Ellen White's Visions (Boston: Advent Christian Publication Society, 1877).
6. Israel Dammon quoted in Miles Grant, An Examination of Mrs. Ellen White's Visions (Boston: Advent Christian Publication Society, 1877).
7. H.S. Dille, ed., "Mesmerized", Hope of Israel vol. 1, no. 10, March 24, 1864, p. 4.
8. M.G. Kellogg letter to J.H. Kellogg, June 3, 1906.
9. Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 71.
10. Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 21.
11. Lindsay Dodgson, "There's a condition that makes people think you're dead when you're not — and it could explain why three doctors sent a living man to the morgue," Business Insider, Jan 10, 2018. https://www.businessinsider.com/catalepsy-is-a-condition-that-makes-you-look-like-you-are-dead-2018-1.
Category: Visions Examined
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