Did Ellen White copy her first "vision"?
by Dale Ratzlaff
There is creditable evidence pointing to the conclusion that Ellen White copied her first “vision” from Joseph Turner.
Ellen White’s first two visions taught that the door of mercy was closed for everyone outside the little band of Adventists. While they had given up the shut door teaching for a short time, her visions corrected this “error” and the door was shut—again.
There is yet more evidence that this is exactly what Ellen White believed. In a letter to Joseph Bates, she describes incidents in connection with her first vision. Two things should be noted: first, there is evidence that Ellen White may have obtained the material or ideas for her first “vision” from Joseph Turner. Second, Ellen White’s first vision agreed with Turner’s understanding of “truth.” It will be seen that Turner was an avowed believer in the radical shut door of mercy.
Perhaps you would like to have me give a statement in relation to both visions. At the time I had the vision of the midnight cry I had given it [closed door] up in the past and thought it future, as also most of the band had. I know not what time J. Turner got his paper. I knew he had one out and one was in the house, but I knew not what was in it, for I had not read a word in it. After I had the vision and God gave me light, he bade me deliver it to the band, but I shrank from it. I was young, and I thought they would not receive it from me. I disobeyed the Lord, and instead of remaining at home, where the meeting was to be that night, I got in a sleigh in the morning and rode three or four miles and there I found Joseph Turner. He merely inquired how I was and if I was in the way of my duty. I said nothing, for I knew I was not. I passed up (to the) chamber [either bedroom or sitting room in Mr. Turner’s home] and did not see him again for two hours, when he came up, asked if I was to be at meeting that night. I told him, No. He said he wanted to hear my vision and thought it duty for me to go home. I told him I should not. He said no more, but went away.
Very early next morning Joseph Turner called, said he was in haste going out of the city in a short time, and wanted I should tell him all that God had shown me in vision. It was with fear and trembling I told him all. After I had got through he said he had told out the same last evening.1 the above reference makes it patently evident that Joseph Turner, upon hearing the details of EGW’s first vision, which taught the shut door, said it was the same thing he had said the evening before. This is evidence that EGW at least agreed with Turner. But what did Joseph Turner teach? In The Advent Mirror, of January 1845, is found a long article by A. Hale and Joseph Turner which “explains” the parable of the ten virgins, giving arguments in favor of the shut door of mercy. Here is just one excerpt:
But can any sinners be converted if the door is shut. Of course they cannot, though changes that may appear to be conversions may take place. The state of mankind before God, would be very much as it has been in cases where communities have been given up of God to destruction.…But to think of laboring to convert the great masses of the world at such a time, would be as idle as it would have been of the Israelites, when they were down by the Red sea, to have turned about to convert the Egyptians.
From this letter we know that:
1. Joseph Turner had written a paper supporting the shut door.
2. Ellen White knew he had a paper out, knew it was in the house and claimed not to know what was in it.
3. She went to his house, against the will of the Lord, spent two hours by herself in the “chamber” and then went back home.
4. We now know from research within the last thirty years that Ellen White was a copious copier of other people’s works, if not an outright plagiarist. We know that even some portions of her visions were copied from books published before her visions were received.3 With these facts in mind, it is interesting to note the circumstances of this letter.
Could it be that the information EGW related in her first “vision” regarding the shut door actually came from Joseph Turner? We should note that Turner was the first to hear EGW’s first vision and he said, “he had told out the same last evening.”
For more detail on these items, see Cultic Doctrine, Chapter 7, "The Swinging Door".
1 A. L. White, "Ellen G. White and The Shut Door Question", Letter 3, 1847, pp. 49–51)
2 Knight, Rise of Sabbatarian Adventism, pp. 133 –136.
3 See Walter Rea, The White Lie, M & R Publications, Box 2056, Turlock, CA 95381, 1982. Available from LAM Publications