The Camden Vision Genuine

By Gilbert Valentine, 1979

Introduction by Gary Gent

The following is an expanded revision of Gilbert Valentine's 1979 essay "The Camden Vision Reconsidered." A document that comes to us from 1851 is called the Camden Vision. The document purports to be a vision that Ellen White had in June of 1851, and is signed E. G. White. If the document is genuine -- if it indeed came from the pen of Ellen White -- it would cast a shadow over her claim to inspiration, for it would show that as late as 1851 she taught the Shut Door doctrine, taught it strongly, and taught it on the basis of her visions.

Ellen White herself, in later years, claimed three things about the doctrine that probation had closed for all the world who had not stood with the Millerites and looked for the Lord's return on October 22, 1844.

  1. The idea was believed by her for only the few months between the great disappointment in October of 1844 and her first vision the following December.

  2. The idea was not one that she taught for seven years: on the contrary, it was something that throughout the years of 1845 to 1851 she opposed.

  3. The idea never appeared in any vision.

If the Camden Vision indeed came from the pen of Ellen White, the above three claims are untrue. Those claims -- to put it harshly but accurately -- are falsehoods. And the deceit, as much as the vision itself, would tell much about Ellen White's status as a messenger of the Lord.

It is therefore no surprise to find that her followers have wished to believe that the Camden Vision did not come from Ellen White. It came, they say, from the pen of an enemy who invented it and fraudulently attributed it to her.

But the Camden Vision did come from Ellen White -- did not come from the pen of an enemy -- as the following essay will demonstrate.

The Camden Vision Genuine, by Gilbert Valentine

A document used by critics to show that Ellen White once held a Shut Door view similar to that held by others is the Camden Vision copied by R. R. Chapin and dated June 29, 1851. The document is of interest for three reasons:

  • It contains some strong Shut Door statements.
  • It contains an interesting example of the way Ellen White then applied passages of Scripture.
  • It purports to have been shown by God in vision.

The original text of the vision is not held by the White Estate, although the Estate does hold copies of it. The vision is signed "E. G. White," but the White Estate claims that the vision is spurious: that it was something that Ellen White herself neither saw nor published.

The vision over the years has been the subject of inquiries to the Estate, which various trustees have answered by giving reasons for regarding the vision as spurious.1 These replies were developed into a standard reply by D. E. Robinson.2 A similar reply was later made in 1941 by F. L. Wilcox.

Their reasons are:

  • The copying of the vision is credited to R. R. Chapin, a man who apostatized in 1854. (Review and Herald, August 22, 1854.)

  • Ellen White's published writings contain no similar "strong" statements for the Shut Door.

  • During the year given on the document, 1851, Ellen White was not in Camden. She was there (according to Robinson) a year earlier.

  • While at Camden in 1850, Ellen White did have a vision, but it concerned a woman living immorally.

  • Brother Preston, a witness to this 1850 vision, indicates that it applied to this woman and not to sinners in general.

  • In 1885, J. N. Loughborough mentions a document purporting to be the Camden Vision, which word implies he did not consider it to be authentic.3

In Robinson's view: "The combined evidence constitutes an impeachment of the authenticity."4

Wilcox in the main follows Robinson and reiterates his first five reasons. But he adds one of his own:

Documents indicate that by 1851 the pioneers had moved away from the extreme Shut Door view.

Wilcox also mentions that Ellen White was in fact in Camden during June 18-23, 1851, but he confuses the vision of that visit with the one of 1850 mentioned by Robinson.

F. D. Nichol also discusses the vision. He clarifies the confusion over the two Camden visits. In 1850, a vision at Camden did concern an immoral woman. And on June 21, 1851, there was a vision concerning time-setting, of which the Estate has the original text. The disputed vision is dated June 29.5

Nichol corrected Robinson by acknowledging that publications by Ellen White do contain statements similar to those in the disputed vision, but he still considers the Camden Vision to be unauthentic. His reasons:

  • Loughborough's evidence concerning it is ambiguous.
  • The date of June 29 seems to be in error: the Whites were in Camden from June 18-23.
  • The text of the vision has come down to us only through "avowed critics of Mrs. White."

The evidence shows that the vision is authentic

In 1868, Uriah Smith addressed himself to a defense of the ministry of Ellen White in a book titled, The Visions of Mrs. E. G. White.6 In this book Smith takes up a number of objections to the visions and answers them at length. In the fourth objection he considers the Shut Door, and one by one he discusses Ellen White's Shut Door statements. These statements, according to Smith, only seem to accept the Shut Door, but in fact do not. The statements he gives are as follows:

  • I saw that Jesus finished his mediation in the holy place in 1844.
  • He has gone into the most holy, where the faith of Israel now reaches.
  • His Spirit and sympathy are now withdrawn from the world, and our sympathy should be with him.
  • The wicked could not be benefitted by our prayers now.
  • The wicked world whom God had rejected.
  • It seemed that the whole world was taken in the snare [of Spiritualism], that there could not be one left.
  • The time for their salvation is past.

Three quotations of the seven are from the Camden Vision:

  • His Spirit and sympathy are now withdrawn from the world, and our sympathy should be with him.
  • The wicked could not be benefitted by our prayers now.
  • The wicked world whom God had rejected.7

A fourth, "The time for their salvation is past," is found in the Camden Vision; but it is also in a vision published in Experience and Views (p. 29).

By defending the vision, Smith showed he believed it authentic: that is, he believed it to be published by Ellen White as something she had in fact seen. He states that he will deal with none but authentic documents:

Much is reported purporting to be the testimony of the visions, for which they are not at all responsible . . . Our only proper course, therefore, is to confine ourselves to what has been published under Sister White's own supervision, and by her authority, and what appears in manuscript over her own signature in her own handwriting.

By defending the Camden Vision, Smith showed that he believed that it met these criteria and was authentic. The assertion by Robinson (p. 4), that the vision was not accepted as genuine by the pioneers, is therefore not the case.

Other evidence deriving from Smith's book further shows that during Ellen White's lifetime the Camden Vision was accepted by herself and the pioneers as genuine.

[1] Smith's book first appeared as a series of articles in the Review and Herald.8 It is clear from his article on the Shut Door that Smith assumed that the Review's readership accepted the Camden Vision's authenticity.

[2] Before their publication, Smith's articles were carefully examined by the leading brethren. Their note states:

This manuscript was prepared before our late conference; but its publication was withheld till it could be submitted to the ministering brethren . . . for them to decide upon its merits, and the disposition that should be made of it. It was examined by them, and received their approval . . . Most of the manuscript was also read before a joint session of the General and Michigan State Conferences, whereupon the following action was taken.

Resolved: That we, the members of the General and Michigan State Conference, having heard a portion of the MS read . . . hereby express our hearty approval . . .

Resolved: That we tender our thanks to Brother Smith for his able defense of the visions . . .9

In light of this double-checking of the manuscript it would seem that the Camden Vision was at that time accepted by church leaders as authentic.

[3] Following the publication of the series, a number of articles appeared commending the articles and urging their careful study. J. N. Andrews wrote of the articles that they...

are well worthy of the attentive perusal of the readers of the Review. I ask those who have not read them, to take time and read them with care, and those who have read them hastily, to give them further attention. I hope we may have these articles in pamphlet form.10

A month later, one C. O. Taylor strongly endorsed the series and again urged their careful study.

Read twice, yes thrice and even more till you can see the point.11

Despite such scrutiny, no one suggested that the Camden Vision may not be genuine. The readership of the Review, including the church's scholars and James and Ellen White, raised no question as to the vision's authenticity.

[4] Smith's articles were occasioned by an attack on Ellen White by B. F. Snook and Wm. H. Brinkerhoff, two leaders in the Iowa Conference who had apostatized in 1865. They had published a book, The Visions of E. G. White, Not of God, and theirs were the attacks to which Smith replied.12

In one criticism, they accuse Ellen White of believing for several years that probation for the world had closed in 1844. In proof, they quote the Camden Vision.13 They add:

We are aware that doubts have recently been suggested as to the genuineness of this vision. But of this there can be no question as Mrs. White attempted to explain it to the writer, and did not attempt to deny its validity. If it [were] a forgery, why did she not then condemn it as such?14

Granted, this comes from a critic. But as the church leadership was much concerned with Snook and Brinkerhoff's book, and had closely evaluated Smith's reply, they clearly accepted what Snook and Brinkerhoff asserted: that Ellen White had not denied having seen and published the vision.

[5] That Ellen White accepted having had the vision is shown by the fact that she raised no protest that Smith would defend it. And she certainly read Smith's defense. Not only is it reasonable to assume that she read the Review, but in writing Great Controversy she quoted a lengthy section from Smith's Shut Door answer.15

[6] That James and Ellen White knew and read Snook and Brinkerhoff's book is shown by the fact that the reply to it was originally to have come from James White. Around October of 1865, we find Thomas Hare writing Loughborough, wishing that "Bro. White would hurry out his answer to the objections." As it turned out, the reply was written not by James White (who was ailing at the time) but by Uriah Smith. Yet it is evident that the Whites read the Snook-Brinkerhoff book. If the Camden Vision -- heavily relied upon by these critics -- were in fact spurious, the silence of James and Ellen White is baffling.

[7] What is true at this time also holds for subsequent years. James White, for example, addressed the Shut Door problem two years later, in his 1868 series of articles, "Life Incidents." Although the Camden Vision had been the critics' strongest exhibit for the charge, James White did not deny the vision's authenticity. There is, in fact, no known statement, either from Ellen White or from James White, ever denying that she had had the vision, or alleging that it was something made up by her enemies.

[8] Although Snook and Brinkerhoff's quoting of the vision was known to the ministering brethren, and although Uriah Smith's defense of it was also known to them, no one mentioned R. R. Chapin as being the cause of any problem. The brethren knew of Chapin's departure from the church, and knew of his attacks, but no one raised this as a problem. It seems that either Chapin's name attached to the vision was not then considered a problem, or (more likely) that texts of the vision were available without Chapin's name attached.16

[9] In defending Ellen White against the Camden vision's "strong statements" on the Shut Door, Uriah Smith's most convincing course would have been to deny that she had had the vision. This avenue seems not to have been open to him.


As Nichol points out, the testimony of J. N. Loughborough concerning the vision is ambiguous. Secondly, the apostasy of R. R. Chapin does not discredit the vision's authenticity.

The contention of F. L. Wilcox, that by June of 1851 the pioneers had abandoned the Shut Door, is unfounded. Just eight days before arriving in Camden, James White had published an article stating the Shut Door in terms much like those in the vision. He wrote:

At the seventh month, 1844, we were called out from the world . . . Previous to this, we were warning the world with tears to be ready for the Lord's coming; but on that day, or about that time, our labor for unbelievers rolled off from us, and an unseen hand drew us away from the world, and shut us up in sweet communion with Jesus. The . . . experience of the entire body of Advent brethren established this point. The church of Christ, since the day of Pentecost, has not experienced so sudden and so great a change in labor and feeling, as Adventists experienced in 1844. A few days before the tenth of the seventh month [a few days before October 22, 1844, thousands were running to and fro, giving the cry, and papers containing the message were scattered everywhere, like the leaves of autumn. But about the tenth, every Advent paper was stopped, and the traveling brethren returned to their homes, feeling that they had given their last message to the world. The state of feeling throughout the entire body of Advent brethren can be accounted for in no other way, than that a change then took place in the position of the "VINE" [Jesus], and the living "BRANCHES" felt it. And as he ceased to plead for the world, and moved within the second vail, the living branches were called away from the world, and their sympathy was with Jesus, and with each other.17

This leaves the remaining problem of the June 29 date. In view of the fact that other White Estate documents have had to be re-dated because they had been assigned a wrong date, this is not much of a problem.18 Two explanations suggest themselves:

Firstly, as Ellen White was in Camden from June 18 to 23, the 29 could be a miscopying of the figure 20, or 21, or 22.19

Alternatively, the vision may have been had during the June 18 to 23 stay at Camden but written out while Ellen White was at nearby West Milton and given the then current date of June 29. Confirmation of this might be seen in the fact that an early critic, relying on documents available to him and writing long before any controversy had arisen over the June 29 date describes the vision not as having been had on June 29 but as published on June 29, 1851.20

The Camden Vision is obviously relevant to the whole Shut Door discussion, and its genuineness or spuriousness ought to be decided on the weight of evidence. The evidence suggests that the vision was authentic.

Camden Vision of Ellen G. White

Camden, N. Y. June 29, 1851

The Lord shewed that he had, in answer to prayer, removed his frown from this band, and that they could have the smiles of Jesus, if they would live very humble, and walk carefully before the Lord, and know that in every step that they took that God was guiding them, and the band would be strong and would be a terror to their enemies; and the band must press together. Then I saw Bro. Wing and Bro. Hyatt -- that the enemy had been trying to destroy them -- that they were praying for light upon a few texts of Scripture, and the more they prayed the darker they grew, and the enemy was shutting down a network of darkness over them; and just about as they were getting entirely shut in, they were delivered -- the net was broken, and they escaped. I saw the true light on these texts &c. I saw that this rebuke was given by Jesus to the Pharisees and Jews, who were filled with self-righteousness, and would only speak to or greet those who were just as full of self-righteousness and hypocrisy as they themselves were; and they entirely neglect and pass by those who; did not make quite as much, and who did not receive greeting in the market as they did. I saw that it did not in any way apply to this time -- that we are now living in. Then I saw that Jesus prayed for his enemies; but that should not cause us or lead us to pray for the wicked world, whom God had rejected -- when he prayed for his enemies, there was hope for them, and they could be benefitted and saved by his prayers, and also after he was a mediator in the outer apartment for the whole world; but now his spirit and sympathy were withdrawn from the world; and our sympathy must be with Jesus, and must be withdrawn from the ungodly. I saw that God loved his people -- and in answer to prayers, would send rain upon the just and the unjust -- I saw that now, in this time, that he watered the earth and caused the sun to shine for the saints and the wicked by our prayers, by our Father sending rain upon the unjust, while he sent it upon the just. I saw that the wicked could not be benefitted by our prayers now -- and although he sent it upon the unjust, yet their day was coming. Then I saw that scripture did not mean the wicked whom God had rejected that we must love, but he meant our neighbors in the household, and did not extend beyond the household; yet I saw that we should not do the wicked around us any injustice; -- But, our neighbors whom we were to love, were those who loved God and were serving him.

(Signed) E. G. White.

Copied by R. R. Chapin


1. On the copy at the E. G. White Research Center at Andrews University the word spurious is written on the front page in red pencil and a handwritten note following the name of Chapin reads: "who apostatized and became a bitter critic and some things about vision lead us to believe it is not a correct account -- A. L. White."

2. D. R. Robinson, "That Camden Vision," File DF 103b.

3. Review and Herald, March 24, 1885. On the other hand, some copies of the vision held by the Estate have a statement attesting that J. N. Loughborough accepted the vision as authentic.

4. Robinson, "That Camden Vision."

5. F.D. Nichol, Ellen G. White and Her Critics (Washington: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1951, p. 615-619).

6. Uriah Smith, The Visions of Mrs. E. G. White, Manifestations of Spiritual Gifts According to the Scriptures (Battle Creek: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1868), pp. 20-41.

7. This quotation is also found in Ellen White, Day Star, Jan. 24, 1846, but was this statement not reprinted by James White when he republished his wife's earlier visions in Experience and Views in 1851.

8. Uriah Smith, "The Visions -- Objections Answered," Review and Herald, June 12 - July 31, 1866.

9. Review and Herald, June 12, 1866, p. 16.

10. J. N. Andrews, "Answers to the Objections Against the Visions," Review and Herald, August 14, 1866, p. 16. Italics supplied.

11. C. O. Taylor, "The Visions, Objections Answered," Review and Herald, September 11, 1866, p. 16.

12. B. F. Snook and Wm. H. Brinkerhoff, The Visions of E. G. White, Not of God (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Cedar Valley Times Press, 1866). This book was apparently first published before 1866, perhaps circulating in mimeographed form. A letter to Thomas Hare from J. N. Loughborough, dated October 29, 1865, speaks of Hare's concern for the need of "an answer to the objections." See File 349, E. G. White Research Center, Andrews University.

13. Ibid., chapter one. The quotation is a long one and shows that the text of the vision, over the intervening years, had not changed.

14. Ibid.

15. Ellen White, Great Controversy, pp. 428 to 431.

16. It is likely that a genuine text existed that Chapin merely copied. This is indicated by the fact that Chapin claimed to have copied a written account signed by E. G. White. Such could have been later lost: many early publications were lost because of Mrs. White's constant traveling. See her own statement to this effect: MS 4, 1883.

17. James white, Review and Herald, June 9, 1851. The timing of article and vision, and their similarity of content, are suggestive.

18. For example: Letter 8, 1895, was originally listed as written Feb. 9, 1896.

19. Inasmuch as F. D. Nichol elsewhere in his book defends statements of Ellen White on the basis of typographical errors and printer's errors, it is difficult to believe that he sincerely put weight on a date being off by a digit.

20. H. E. Carver, Examination of the Visions of Mrs. E. G. White, p. 40, 1877.

Category: Bible vs. Mrs. White Great Controversy
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