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No, these are not the accounts you read about in SDA school.
No, these are not the accounts you saw published in the Adventist Review.
No, these are not the accounts you heard about from the pulpit at campmeeting.
So what are these eyewitness accounts? These are the other accounts. The ones most SDA church members are unaware of. They are written by Christians, men and women of integrity, who were eyewitnesses to the visions of Ellen White. And these accounts paint a quite different picture of her visions...
"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."
A Word to the Little Flock, 1847, page 22
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."
A Word to the Little Flock, 1847, page 21
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."
(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 (Marion, Iowa: Advent and Sabbath Advocate, 1884), 4-6.)
Lucinda Burdick and Mary Bodge joined Ellen Harmon for prayer one afternoon in 1845. Here is Ms. Burdick's account of what happened:
"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.
"Her eyes remained open and assumed a glassy stare. Sometimes as she answered his questions she would rise stiffly to a half sitting posture only to fall back rigidly prostrate upon the ground. Her position upon the ground seemed so uncomfortable that I placed her head in my lap and supported her thus throughout the event.
"Many of the questions asked her by White were relative to the spiritual standing of people who lived in the surrounding country. Some she declared were right with God while others had spots upon their garments. It was noticeable that the spotted ones were those who rejected her visions or hesitated to accept them fully. ...
"This trance condition lasted more than an hour and someone suggesting that the gathering dew would cause them to take cold, White said, 'I guess it will be the will of the Lord to bring her out,' and immediately she arose and assumed her normal behavior.
"Soon after this both confidence and interest in this fanatical couple vanished as the visions were not only childish and devoid of sense, but absolutely contradictory. Considerable scandal was created by the intimacy of this man and woman, but the "talk" gradually subsided after their marriage in 1846 about a year after the incident just related."
(Letter from Lucinda Burdick, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Sept. 26, 1908)
"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."
(An Examination of Mrs. Ellen White's Visions, Miles Grant, Boston: Published by the Advent Christian Publication Society, 1877)
Ellen White herself noted that "many" who witnessed her visions felt that they were witnessing fanaticism and 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." (Testimonies Vol. 1, p. 71)
"If I had a vision in meeting, many would say that it was excitement and that someone mesmerized me." (Early Writings, p. 21)
Some have claimed that, while in vision, Ellen White performed supernatural feats, such as not breathing for an hour, holding up objects with supernatural strength, etc. If this is true, then why did Mrs. White admit that "many" who witnessed her "visions" said they were simply the result of excitement or mesmerism? There are only two possible answers. Either the witnesses actually believed that victims of "mesmerism" and "excitement" could stop breathing for long periods of time and manifest supernatural strength, or the witnesses did not witness anything of a supernatural nature. You decide.