Messenger of the Lord


Open Visions Often Changed Skeptics Into Believers

For several decades, contemporaries observed Ellen White in vision and wrote out their descriptions of these impressive events. Open visions often changed skeptical people, even adversaries, into believers. MOL 144.4

One of the earliest, most prominent, skeptic-turned-believer was Joseph Bates. 2 Along with others who knew only by rumor of Ellen White’s early visions, Bates was not convinced that her visions “were of God.” 3 Visions at that time were confused with spiritualistic séances or mesmerism. Bates thought they were nothing “more than what was produced by a protracted debilitated state of her body.” 4 But he changed his mind after observing her in several vision experiences. MOL 144.5

One vision, in particular, impressed him. In November 1846, at the Stockbridge Howland home in Topsham, Maine, a small company of Sabbath keepers had convened. Among them were Joseph Bates and the Whites. Ellen White was taken in vision and “for the first time had a view of other planets.” After the vision she related what she had seen. MOL 144.6

Bates, an amateur astronomer, asked her if she had ever studied astronomy. He was astonished at what he had heard, saying, “This is of the Lord.” Later, after observing several other visions, he wrote in a small tract, “I thank God for the opportunity I have had with others to witness these things.... I believe the work is of God, and is given to comfort and strengthen His scattered, torn, and pealed people.” 5 MOL 144.7

Ellen White never wrote out this “astronomy vision.” She never identified by name the planets she saw, nor did she mention the number of moons any planet may have. But Bates attached the planets’ names to what he thought Ellen White was describing, and others, including James White, reported what Bates seemed to have understood from her brief comments. Telescopes today reveal much more about the planets, the number of their moons, and other heavenly phenomena than Bates would ever have dreamed of. What really astounded him was not the description of “planets,” but Mrs. White’s description of the “opening heavens,” a reference to the so-called “open space in Orion.” He was reported to have said that her description “far surpassed any account of the opening heavens he had ever read from any author.” 6 MOL 144.8