Who Was Ellen G. White?
By Brother Anderson
Ellen Gould Harmon and her twin sister Elizabeth were born in Gorham, Maine, on Nov. 26, 1827, as the youngest of eight children. Her parents were devoted members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Her father was a maker and seller of hats. As a child, Ellen assisted him in this business. Because her father used mercury in his hat-making process, Ellen was quite possibly a victim of mercury poisoning. Eventually Ellen's father moved the family to Portland, Maine, where Ellen grew to maturity. When Ellen was nine years old, another child threw a stone that hit Ellen in the face. She suffered severe trauma to the brain, was in a coma for three weeks and nearly died. The brain injury severely damaged her health and she was unable to continue her formal education past the 3rd grade, although she received some tutoring at home.
In 1840, at the tender age of 13, she heard the preaching of a farmer-turned-Baptist-preacher named William Miller announcing the imminent return of Jesus. Shortly afterward she accepted Jesus as her Savior, and she and her family joined the Millerite movement. On June 26, 1842, she was baptized by immersion in Casco Bay, Portland, into the Methodist Church. Her family would eventually be expelled from that church due to their vocal advocacy of Millerism. A couple years later, during the fervor and excitement of the 1844 movement, she had the first of hundreds of hallucinations which were thought by some to be "visions from God". She was one of five Millerite visionaries operating in or near Portland, Maine.
Ellen adopted the Sabbath teaching of Joseph Bates and began keeping Sabbath in 1846. Her parents would later accept the Sabbath teaching along with her older brother Robert who died in 1853. Her sister Sarah was the only member of her family to formally join the Seventh-day Adventist Church after its formation in 1863. None of her other siblings ever joined the church, although her sister Mary may have accepted some of the teachings of the sect.
On Aug. 30, 1846, she was united in marriage to elder James White. Together they labored in the Adventist cause for the remainder of their lives. At first, they lacked monetary support, and often had to deprive themselves of the bare necessities of life in order to continue their ministry. James White often worked in the fields by day, and worked on writing tracts in the evening. In later life, through royalties gained from the sale of Mrs. White's books, the Whites became quite prosperous. In terms of today's money, Mrs. White's income would have been measured in the millions of dollars. Mrs. White often used her great wealth to help the needy and support the various causes of the SDA church.
The marriage of James and Ellen was sometimes rocky. At one point while their travels had separated them Mrs. White wrote of their difficulties to a friend:
"I think he [James] would be satisfied if he had the entire control of me, soul and body, but this he cannot have. I sometimes think he is not really a sane man, but I don't know." (Letter to Lucinda Hall, DG 269, as quoted in George Knight's Walking with Ellen White, p. 75)
Ellen White had four sons--Henry, James Edson, William Clarence, and John Herbert. John Herbert and Henry died while they were yet children.
James and Ellen White preached and ministered together in the Seventh-day Adventist church until James' death on Aug. 6, 1881. After James' death Mrs. White continued her ministry with her son W.C. White by her side. She became a nationally known speaker on the subject of temperance. She was a gifted speaker, sometimes speaking to crowds of 20,000 or more people without the use of a microphone. Over her lifetime, with the assistance of the experienced writers on her staff, she wrote 55 books and 4,500 articles. Much of the material in her major books appears to have been plagiarized from other Christian authors, mostly non-Adventist. Perhaps the most famous book to appear under her name is Steps to Christ, which has been translated into over 165 languages and has sold over 100 million copies.
On July 16, 1915, Mrs. White passed away. Mrs. White died in debt, having spent all of her vast fortune. Her last words were, "I know in whom I have believed. God is love. He giveth His beloved sleep."
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