Visionaries and Prophets
of the 1700's and 1800's

Emanuel Swedenborg, 1688-1772

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, he was the son of a nobleman of high standing. Swedenborg was highly educated and moved in the highest society. He traveled extensively, and conversed with the most learned men of the age. The king appointed him to a high office, which he filled superbly for over thirty years. He rose to eminence in science and wrote 77 books, covering every branch of science. He was of the purest character and devoutly religious.

At the age of 55 he began to have visions of heaven, hell, angels, and the spiritual world. He says:

"I have been called to a holy office by the Lord himself, who most mercifully appeared to me, his servant, in the year 1743, when he opened my sight into the spiritual world and enabled me to converse with spirits and angels."
This work he continued for 30 years, and wrote about 30 "inspired" volumes. He made remarkable predictions which, it is claimed, were exactly fulfilled. He founded a new religion based upon his revelations. The Bible is sacredly taught and holy living promoted.

The church Swedenborg founded has steadily increased, till it has societies in all parts of the world and in the leading languages. His followers believe in him just as implicitly as Seventh-day Adventists believe in Ellen White, and are very zealous in propagating their faith. To learn more about him and the church he founded, click here to visit his web site.

Ann Lee and the Shakers, 1736-1784

Like Mrs. White, "she received no education." She joined a society who were having remarkable religious exercises, and soon began "to have visions and make revelations," which, just like Mrs. White, she called "testimonies." "Henceforth she claimed to be directed by revelations and visions." Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, article "Ann Lee." She was accepted as leader and as "the second appearing of Christ." Like Mrs. White, she required a "peculiar kind of dress," "opposed war and the use of pork." Johnson's Encyclopedia, article "Shakers." They have no intercourse with other churches; are renowned for their purity and devotion. To learn more about Ann Lee and the Shakers, click here.

Mrs. Joanna Southcott, 1750-1814

Born in England, of poor parents, she was wholly uneducated. She worked as a domestic servant till over 40 years old. Like Mrs. White, she was a Methodist, having joined the church in 1790. In 1792 she announced herself as a prophetess, and "published numerous [over 60] pamphlets setting forth her revelations." (Johnson's Encyclopedia, article "Southcott.") She was a Sabbath-keeper and, like Mrs. White, had trances and announced the speedy advent of Christ. (See Encyclopedia Americana, article "Southcott.") She carried on a lucrative trade in the sale of her books as Mrs. White did. Strange as it may appear, many of the clergy believed in her, and thousands joined her followers, till in a few years they numbered upwards of one hundred thousand! She made many predictions, which her followers claimed were fulfilled. "The faith of her followers, among whom were several clergymen of the established church, rose to enthusiasm." Encyclopedia Americana, article "Southcott."

Joseph Smith, 1805-1844

Smith, founder of the Mormons (also known as the "Latter Day Saints"), in 1823 began to have "visions" and "revelations," and even conversed with angels. In the picture (to the right) we find Smith receiving "inspiration" from an angel. Smith published a number of books, some of which show a remarkable similarity to Mrs. White's writings. Smith claimed the second advent of Christ was at hand, hence the name, "Latter day saints." His mission was to introduce "the new dispensation." They are the "saints," and all the other churches are "heathen," or Gentiles. (Note: Mrs. White's followers are all saints; all other churches are "Babylon" and apostate.)

Mary Baker Eddy, 1821-1910

Mrs. Eddy is the prophet-founder of the Christian Science Church. She published a number of books. Like Mrs. White, she had an interest in health. In 1890, she published her most famous book, Science and Health, which has been translated into over 16 languages and read by over 10,000,000 people. The disciples of Mrs. Eddy believe the writings of their prophet to be inspired and infallible.

Other Visionaries of the 1800's

In the 1800's America abounded with "prophets" of every description.

Visionaries in the Millerite Movement

In its final days the Millerite Movement was so infected with religious enthusiasm that Joshua Himes complained of being in:

"mesmerism seven feet deep"

Fanaticism continued to plague the Millerites even after the October 22 disappointment, and it seemed particularly prevalent among the "shut door" believers. In Springwater Valley, New York, a black shut-door advocate named Houston claimed that at times God spoke to him in visions. The shut-door group in Ellen Harmon's home town of Portland, Maine, was even more notorious in Millerite circles, as Joshua Himes describes its:

"continual introduction of visionary nonsense"

In March of 1845 Himes informed Miller that a Sister Clemons of Ellen Harmon's home town of Portland, Maine,

"has become very visionary and disgusted nearly all the good friends here"

But only a couple of weeks later he reported that another Portland sister had received a vision showing that Miss Clemons was of the Devil. Himes concluded,

"Things are in a bad way at Portland"

As a girl, Ellen met two Millerites she regarded as prophets. William Foy claimed to have received visions from God, and later published them in a book. (Some of Ellen's early writings appear to closely resemble Foy's. Click Here to examine the evidence.) Ellen's sister Mary's brother-in-law, Hazen Foss, also claimed to have received visions.

The 1700's and early 1800's were an era when visionaries and prophets were popular and attracted large followings. Mrs. White grew up in this atmosphere of religious "enthusiasm" and was closely associated with several other visionaries of her time.

  1. Ronald Numbers, Prophetess of Health, pp. 16-18.
  2. D.M. Canright, Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, Chapter 8.