A Prophet Among You


Childhood and Youth—1827-44

At the time of the disappointment of October 22, 1844, Ellen Harmon was almost seventeen. Born November 26, 1827, to Robert and Eunice Harmon at their farm home a few miles from Gorham, Maine, Ellen came from an ancestry of hardy New England pioneers. She was one of twin girls in a family of eight children. Robert Harmon gave up farming when the twins were about seven years old, and the family moved to Portland, Maine, where the father took up his trade as a hatter. APAY 203.2

When she was nine, Ellen was severely injured by a stone thrown by a schoolmate. The accident nearly took her life, and its effects were felt for many years. She was so physically weakened that it was impossible for her to continue her schooling. Eager for an education, she made several unsuccessful attempts to further it. However, she received training in household duties, and in her own home continued to develop mentally in spite of ill health. APAY 203.3

At the age of twelve, she was baptized by immersion, at her own insistence, and received into membership in the Methodist Church. Her conversion took place while she was attending a Methodist camp meeting. Her spiritual experience seems to have been an unusual one for a child of her age—her convictions were clear and her decisions firm. She told the following incidents in connection with her conversion and baptism: “One of the mothers in Israel came to me and said, ‘Dear child, have you found Jesus?’ I was about to answer, ‘Yes,’ when she exclaimed, ‘Indeed you have; His peace is with you, I see it in your face!’ APAY 204.1

“Again and again I said to myself: ‘Can this be religion? Am I not mistaken?’ It seemed too much for me to claim, too exalted a privilege. Though too timid to confess it openly, I felt that the Saviour had blessed me and pardoned my sins.” Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 24. APAY 204.2

“Young as I was, I could see but one mode of baptism authorized by the Scriptures, and that was immersion. Some of my Methodist sisters tried in vain to convince me that sprinkling was Bible baptism. The Methodist minister consented to immerse the candidates if they conscientiously preferred that method, although he intimated that sprinkling would be equally acceptable with God.” Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 25. APAY 204.3

In March, 1840, and again in June, 1842, Ellen Harmon, with other members of the family and friends, listened to the preaching of William Miller at the Casco Street church in Portland, Maine. They were convinced that his reasoning on the fulfillment of the prophecies was correct. Ellen’s reaction to Miller’s preaching is made clear in these sentences: “Mr. Miller’s manner of preaching was not flowery or oratorical, but he dealt in plain and startling facts, that roused his hearers from their careless indifference. He supported his statements and theories by Scripture proof as he progressed. A convincing power attended his words, that seemed to stamp them as the language of truth.” Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 27. APAY 204.4

The acceptance of Miller’s teachings by the Harmon family led to their being disfellowshiped from the Chestnut Street Methodist Church in 1843. This was the experience of hundreds of others who believed in the soon return of Christ. APAY 205.1

The disappointment of October 22 affected the Harmon family as it did thousands of others. Earnest work had been done to prepare their lives for the coming of the Saviour. “Every moment seemed to me of the utmost importance. I felt that we were doing work for eternity, and that the careless and uninterested were in the greatest peril. My faith was unclouded, and I appropriated to myself the precious promises of Jesus.”—Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 60. It was this thorough preparation that held some of the disappointed ones through that difficult period. “It was a bitter disappointment that fell upon the little flock whose faith had been so strong and whose hope had been so high. But we were surprised that we felt so free in the Lord, and were so strongly sustained by His strength and grace.... We were disappointed, but not disheartened.” Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 61. APAY 205.2