Our artist's rendition of what Mrs. White's tall,
majestic Jupiter people may have looked like.
"Sister White was in very feeble health, and while prayers were offered in her behalf, the Spirit of God rested upon us. We soon noticed that she was insensible to earthly things. This was her first view of the planetary world. After counting aloud the moons of Jupiter, and soon after those of Saturn, she gave a beautiful description of the rings of the latter. She then said, 'The inhabitants are a tall, majestic people, so unlike the inhabitants of earth. Sin has never entered here.'"1
Is this true? Are there tall, majestic people living on Jupiter and/or Saturn? This may have seemed plausible in 1846, but with all we know about these planets today, it hardly seems likely. Conditions on both planets are extremely inhospitable to life as we know it:
In 1847, James and Ellen White published a tract in which it is announced that she had seen a vision of the planets in our solar system:
"At our conference in Topsham, Maine, last Nov., Ellen had a vision of the handy works of God. She was guided to the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and I think one more. After she came out of vision, she could give a clear description of their Moons, etc. It is well known, that she knew nothing of astronomy, and could not answer one question in relation to the planets, before she had this vision."2Notice in the above quote that James says Mrs. White gave a "clear description" of their moons. The description was so clear that it included the exact number of Jupiter's moons. Here is how pioneer J.N. Loughborough describes the vision:
"One evening, at the conference above mentioned, at the house of Mr. Curtiss and in the presence of Elder Bates, who was yet undecided in regard to these manifestations, Mrs. White, while in vision, began to talk about the stars, giving a glowing description of rosy-tinted belts which she saw across the surface of some planet, and added, 'I see four moons.' 'Oh,' said Elder Bates, 'she is viewing Jupiter!' Then having made motions as though traveling through space, she began giving a description of belts and rings in their ever-varying beauty, and said, 'I see seven moons.'7 Elder Bates exclaimed, 'She is describing Saturn.' Next she said, 'I see six moons,' and at once began a description of the 'opening heavens,' with its glory, calling it an opening into a region more enlightened."3
Notice footnote #7 in the above quote. Here is what the footnote says:
"7 In Rise and Progress, it says she saw eight moons to Saturn. This change was made after the proofs went out of my hands. More moons to both Jupiter and Saturn have since been discovered."4This footnote shows how Mrs. White's visions were later altered by others. Eyewitnesses reported that Mrs. White had seen "seven" moons around Saturn. However, an eighth moon had been discovered by the time Loughborough's book Rise and Progress was ready for publication. The Adventist editors of the book altered the vision to say "eight" moons in order to make it correspond to scientific fact. However, in this later book, to his credit, Loughborough honestly admits that the actual number Mrs. White saw was "seven".
The Scientific Facts
1) Jupiter has 63 known natural satellites....the first certain observations of Jupiter's satellites are those of Galileo Galilei in 1610, who sighted the four large Galilean moons.... No additional satellites were discovered until E.E. Barnard observed Amalthea in 1892. ... Jupiter has a faint planetary ring system..."
2) "Saturn is currently known to have 56 moons. ... [Saturn's 8th moon,] Hyperion, [was] discovered [in] 1848"
3) "Uranus has 27 known moons. ... Voyager 2 photographed the Uranian ring system during its flyby in 1986. Two additional rings were discovered in 2005."
Mrs. White once wrote:
"Science is ever discovering new wonders; but she brings from her research nothing that, rightly understood, conflicts with divine revelation."5If it is true that science never conflicts with divine revelation, then the only conclusion one can make regarding Ellen White's solar system vision is that it was not a divine revelation! Mrs. White got close enough to Jupiter and/or Saturn to see the "tall, majestic people" living there, but what did she fail to see?
When Mrs. White had her "vision" in 1846 it was common knowledge that Jupiter had four moons. The fifth was not discovered until 1892. In 1846, it was thought that Saturn had seven moons. The 8th moon was discovered shortly thereafter, in 1848. After the discovery, an account of the "vision" was modified to say "eight" instead of "seven". Mrs. White's vision did not reveal anything that could not have been obtained from an Astronomy book or even from a newspaper article! The only difference between what Mrs. White saw and what the astronomers saw through their telescopes was those "tall, majestic people"!
Imagine if Mrs. White had told Bates that Jupiter had four large moons and 59 smaller moons! Her prophetic gift would have been proven beyond doubt to all future generations. Unfortunately, she missed this great opportunity. Imagine if Mrs. White had announced that Jupiter had rings! This amazing fact was not discovered until the Voyager space probes visited Jupiter in 1979 (as shown by the photo to the right). Such an announcement would certainly have validated her claims. Unfortunately, although she got close enough to see those tall people on the planet, she failed to see the rings.
After considering what she did see and what she failed to see, we ask you this question: Was this a vision from God or a hallucination?
In early 1846 the Whites were in trouble. They were poor and destitute. Many viewed Ellen White's visions with skepticism. What they needed more than anything was a wealthy, influential friend who believed as they did. Fortunately for the Whites, they were able to locate just such a man--Joseph Bates. In the spring of 1846 the Whites met this retired sea captain. There was one major problem, however. Although Bates was advanced in age, his mind was still sharp enough to doubt Mrs. White's visions. The Whites tried to win him over, but had little success. But in November, all of that changed. At a small meeting with Bates and a few other diehard believers, Mrs. White had a special vision on astronomy, which just so happened to be Joseph Bates' favorite subject. What a fortunate coincidence!
As Ellen went into vision, the elderly Bates was no doubt enthralled watching the 19-year-old woman make motions as if she was flying through space. As Bates listened, Ellen described various details of the Solar System and the so-called gap in Orion. Bates had observed the gap many years earlier while on board a ship in the southern hemisphere. Orion was then a topic of great interest because of the recent telescopic observations of William Parsons, the third earl of Rosse. Just months earlier Bates had published a tract, "The Opening Heavens," relating Rosse's discoveries, but Ellen assured Bates she had no prior knowledge of astronomy.6
Mrs. Truesdail, also present at the "vision", reports it had the desired effect on Bates:
"It was evident from Brother Bates's smiling face that his past doubts in regard to the source of her visions were fast leaving him. We all knew that Captain Bates was a great lover of astronomy, as he would often locate many of the heavenly bodies for our instruction. When Sister White replied to his questions, after the vision, saying that she had never studied or otherwise received knowledge in this direction, he was filled with joy and happiness. He praised God, and expressed his belief that this vision concerning the planets was given that he might never again doubt."7Yes, everyone, including the Whites, knew Bates was fond of Astronomy. What a fortunate coincidence that Mrs. White's only recorded vision of the solar system took place while the skeptical Bates was in attendance. From that time forward, Bates was a believer. He no doubt looked forward to that day in glory, when he would be able to travel to Jupiter to meet those "tall, majestic people."
Your Questions Answered: Could it have been somewhere else in the Universe?
With recent scientific discoveries showing the vast number of moons circling Jupiter and Saturn, it is painfully obvious that Mrs. White did not have a vision of these planets. Furthermore, the fact that these planets are completely inhospitable to any type of known life casts further doubt on the "vision". So, in order to justify their belief in the visions, some Adventists have spun the tale that Mrs. White was actually viewing planets elsewhere in the universe. They claim that since she did not actually name the planets herself in the vision, then the planets could literally be anywhere. Does this stand to reason? Was she actually viewing planets somewhere else in the cosmos?
Let's examine the evidence closely. As noted earlier in this article, James said Ellen had seen a vision of "Jupiter, Saturn, and I think one more." J.N. Loughborough and Mrs. Truesdail both applied the vision to our solar system. In fact, all the eyewitnesses to the vision applied it to our solar system, and none of them ever changed their stance on that subject during their lifetimes.
What was the purpose of the vision? According to Adventists, it was given to convince Bates that Mrs. White was a true prophet. The vision had no other discernable purpose. Bates compared his knowledge of our solar system to what was revealed in Ellen White's "vision" and he came to the conclusion she was a true prophet because he thought she had no prior knowledge of astronomy. Now ask yourself this question: Why would God give Sister White a vision of some other planetary system which, by odd coincidence, just so happened to have an identical arrangement of planets, rings, and moons that our own solar system was thought to have in 1846, in order to convince Bates that Mrs. White was viewing our own solar system? Are we to believe that God engages in trickery? Furthermore, neither God nor the angels ever bothered to correct the misconception during the lifetimes of those involved. In other words, God tricked Bates into believing the vision was of our solar system in order to convince him to believe Ellen White, and then He kept quiet about it and did not tell anyone about the little charade! This is preposterous!
The truth, however painful it may be, is that James and Ellen White, Joseph Bates, Mrs. Truesdail, J.N. Loughborough, and many other early Adventists all recognized this "vision" to be of our own solar system, and none of them ever recanted that position.
1. Taken from Mrs. Truesdail's letter, Jan 27, 1891. The letter was published in J.N. Loughborough's "The Great Second Advent Movement, pp. 260-261.
2. James White, A Word to the Little Flock, p. 22.
3. J.N. Loughborough, Great Second Advent Movement, p. 258.
5. Ellen G. White, Education, p. 128.
6. Ronald L. Numbers, Ph.D., Prophetess of Health, p. 15.
7. Truesdail letter, 1891.