|Ellen Gould White|
Ellen White in 1899
|Born||November 26, 1827
|Died||July 16, 1915 (aged 87)
Elmshaven (Saint Helena), California
|Occupation||Author and Co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church|
Ellen Gould White (born Harmon) (November 26, 1827 – July 16, 1915) was an American Christian pioneer whose ministry was instrumental in founding the Sabbatarian Adventist movement that led to the rise of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Supporters of Ellen G. White regard her as a contemporary prophet, even though she never claimed this title for herself (see: Inspiration of Ellen White). Supporters for her believe that she had the spiritual gift of prophecy as outlined in Revelation 19:10. Her restorationist writings endeavor to showcase the hand of God in Christian history. This cosmic conflict, referred to as the "Great Controversy theme", is foundational to the development of Seventh-day Adventist theology. Her involvement with other Sabbatarian Adventist leaders, such as Joseph Bates and her husband James White, would form what is now known as the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
White was a controversial figure even within her own lifetime. She claimed to have received a vision soon after the Millerite Great Disappointment. In the context of many other visionaries, she was known for her conviction and fervent faith. 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." 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 theology, evangelism, Christian lifestyle, education and health (she also 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; but today, including compilations from her 50,000 pages of manuscript, more than 100 titles are available in English. Some of her more popular books include Steps to Christ, The Desire of Ages, and The Great Controversy.
Ellen, with her twin sister Elizabeth, was born November 26, 1827, to Robert and Eunice Harmon. Robert was a farmer who made hats also, and the whole family helped make hats. 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.
At the age of nine, Ellen was struck with a rock thrown by a fellow student. The injury severely disfigured her nose, and left her in a coma for three weeks.
When Ellen Harmon had her first "conversion experience," she would later write:
This misfortune, which for a time seemed so bitter and was so hard to bear, has proved to be a blessing in disguise. The cruel blow which blighted the joys of earth, was the means of turning my eyes to heaven. I might never had known Jesus, had not the sorrow that clouded my early years led me to seek comfort in him.
– Review and Herald, Nov. 25, 1884, par.2
Shortly after her injury, Ellen, with her parents, attended a Methodist camp meeting at Buxton, Maine, and there, at the age of 12, she was converted. Two years later, on June 26, 1842, at her request she was baptized by immersion.
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. She was baptized by John Hobart in Casco Bay in Portland, Maine, and eagerly awaited for 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 its disfellowship 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.
In 1844, Ellen White reported her first encounter with the supernatural.
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 she reportedly saw the “Advent people” 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.” According to her vision, 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 White returning to earth feeling lonely, desolate and longing for that “better world.”
As Godfrey T. Anderson points out, “In effect, the vision assured the Advent believers of eventual triumph despite the immediate despair into which they had plunged.” 
In February 1845, White claimed to receive a second vision which became known as the “Bridegroom” vision in Exeter, Maine. Together with a third vision where White reportedly saw the new earth, these 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 think she was experiencing mental illness, 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 supernatural 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 travelling and speaking to groups of Millerite followers in Maine and the surrounding area. Her visions were not publicised further afield until January 24, 1846, when White’s 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 — including as part of White's 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 gift offered to these two men was instead passed on to White.
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 Sabbatarian 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, 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 then 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 for several years.
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, including a new edition with historical revisions expounding the title, The Great Controversy (1911). During her final years she would travel less frequently as she concentrated upon writing her last works for the church. Not too long before her death she laid her books before a group of people, held up a Bible, and made a point that her writings would not have been needed if people had just read the word of God for themselves and prayed for understanding. Ellen G. White died July 16, 1915, at her home in Elmshaven, which is now an Adventist Historical Site.
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.
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 evolved into 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. 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. 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 the 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. 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, 1865 (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 489) 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. It is also based on White's health principles that 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 spiritually helpful and with regard to the moral issues of the cruel treatment of animals (See White's book, Ministry of Healing pg. 315).
Her views are expressed in the writings Important Facts Of Faith: Laws Of Health, And Testimonies, Nos. 1-10 (1864), Healthful Living (1897, 1898), The Ministry of Healing (1905), and The Health Food Ministry (1970).
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).
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.
Some of her most well known known books are:
During her lifetime she 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." According to the "Valuegenesis" studies, the percentage of self-identified Adventists studying in Adventist schools who read White's writings at least once a week was 13% in 1990 and 6% in 2000. According to a 1985 questionnaire of North American Adventist lecturers, White was the second-most influential Adventist writer on them, after Edward Heppenstall. However no lecturers aged under 39 nominated her as a major influence on their thinking. A 2004 survey of American Protestant pastors by The Barna Group showed those under 40 "championed" Ellen White as an author who had influenced them.
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 modest 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 College. 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.
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. An academic work is Ronald L. Numbers' analysis of Ellen G. White's health reform teachings in the context of other nineteenth-century health reformers "Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G. White" William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 3rd edition (July 2, 2008). 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.
Most Adventists believe her writings are inspired and continue to have relevance for the church today. Some believe that her writings have devotional value only. 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, which was added to in 2005 to 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.)"
Soon after Ellen Harmon's first vision in 1845 doubts were cast as to the reliability and authenticity of her visions. While there would be numerous critics during her lifetime, the most prominent critic was D.M. Canright. His criticisms are summarized in his 1919 book, Life of Mrs. E.G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Prophet: Her False Claims Refuted. The criticisms found in this book synthesize those of all previous critics and, until recent years, served as a basic text for many of Ellen G. White's critics. Some of the most prominent criticisms include:
"If the practice [self-indulgence] is continued from the age of fifteen and upward, nature will protest against the abuse he has suffered, and continues to suffer, and will make them pay the penalty for the transgression of his laws, especially from the ages of thirty to forty-five, by numerous pains in the system, and various diseases, such as affection of the liver and lungs, neuralgia, rheumatism, affection of the spine, diseased kidneys, and cancerous tumors. Some of nature's fine machinery gives way, leaving a heavier task for the remaining to perform, which disorders nature's fine arrangement, and there is often a sudden breaking down of the constitution; and death is the result." 
Females possess less vital force than the other sex, and are deprived very much of the bracing, invigorating air, by their in-door life. The result of self-abuse in them is seen in various diseases, such as catarrh, dropsy, headache, loss of memory and sight, great weakness in the back and loins, affections of the spine, and frequently, inward decay of the head. Cancerous humor, which would lie dormant in the system their lifetime, is inflamed, and commences its eating, destructive work. The mind is often utterly ruined, and insanity supervenes."
Critics cite modern studies which seem to show that not only is masturbation normal and healthy, it even helps protect against certain diseases such as prostate cancer and heart disease. The scientific consensus hereupon was rendered by Thomas Szasz, MD as "Masturbation: the primary sexual activity of mankind. In the nineteenth century it was a disease; in the twentieth, it's a cure."
"Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men."
This criticism is compounded by a defense published 8 years later by church leader and personal friend of Ellen White Uriah Smith, inferring that this "amalgamation" produced certain lesser races which are difficult to differentiate from animals:
" Now we have ever supposed that anybody that was called a man, was considered a human being. The vision speaks of all these classes as races of men; yet in the face of this plain declaration, they foolishly assert that the visions teach that some men are not human beings! But does any one deny the general statement contained in the extract given above? They do not. If they did, they could easily be silenced by a reference to such cases as the wild Bushmen of Africa, some tribes of the Hottentots, and perhaps the Digger Indians of our own country.. Moreover, naturalists affirm that the line of demarkation between the human and animal races is lost in confusion. It is impossible, as they affirm, to tell just where the human ends and the animal begins.
Seventh-day Adventists have long responded to critics with arguments and assertions of their own. Typical responses to these criticisms include:
subsection). At the conclusion of Ramik's report, he states:
"It is impossible to imagine that the intention of Ellen G. White, as reflected in her writings and the unquestionably prodigious efforts involved therein, was anything other than a sincerely motivated and unselfish effort to place the understandings of Biblical truths in a coherent form for all to see and comprehend. Most certainly, the nature and content of her writings had but one hope and intent, namely, the furthering of mankind's understanding of the word of God." 
When the laws of men conflict with the word and law of God, we are to obey the latter, whatever the consequences may be. The law of our land requiring us to deliver a slave to his master, we are not to obey; and we must abide the consequences of violating this law. The slave is not the property of any man. God is his rightful master, and man has no right to take God's workmanship into his hands, and claim him as his own.
– Testimonies For The Church Volume 1, p. 201-202
Some apologists suggest that White's 1864 controversial statement was an attempt to attack Darwin's Theory of Evolution since Darwin's influence was only beginning to be felt throughout the world. From a 1899 issue of Signs of the Times, White is quoted in suggesting that she believed in a pre-flood antediluvian world, a technologically advanced civilization that may have engaged in genetic engineering  While White indicates that it was man's doing of the amalgamation before the Flood, she does not say who provided the amalgamation after the Flood. Elsewhere she does speak of Satan altering plants through some sort of process: "All tares are sown by the evil one. Every noxious herb is of his sowing, and by his ingenious methods of amalgamation he has corrupted the earth with tares."—Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 288. So it is possible that it was Satan doing the post-Flood amalgamation instead of man.