A Prophet Among You

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Receiving Visions

How the visions seemed to Ellen White. Describing her experience at the time of her first vision, Mrs. White said, “While we were praying, the power of God came upon me as I had never felt it before. I seemed to be surrounded with light, and to be rising higher and higher from the earth. I turned to look for the advent people in the world, but could not find them, when a voice said to me: ‘Look again, and look a little higher.’” Testimonies for the Church 1:58. APAY 280.2

She continued the description of the things she saw in the vision, telling of the path before the advent people, the coming of Christ, heaven, and the new earth. “Then,” she said, “an angel bore me gently down to this dark world. Sometimes I think I can stay here no longer; all things of earth look so dreary. I feel very lonely here, for I have seen a better land. Oh, that I had wings like a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest! APAY 280.3

“After I came out of vision, everything looked changed; a gloom was spread over all that I beheld. Oh, how dark this world looked to me. I wept when I found myself here, and felt homesick. I had seen a better world, and it had spoiled this for me.”—Early Writings, 20. APAY 281.1

During the time of the vision, the messenger was totally unconscious of her earthly surroundings, and it seemed to her that she was transported bodily to the place revealed in vision, as had been the case with Ezekiel and Paul. Ezekiel 8:3; 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. She seemed to be actually viewing or taking part in the activities shown. All her senses seemed to be employed as in the ordinary activities of life, but none were being used in the ordinary way. The fact that she was shut away from her immediate surroundings during the time of the vision made all that she saw the more vivid and impressive. The statement in the Introduction to The Great Controversy enables us to glimpse what took place in the revelation: APAY 281.2

“Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the scenes of the long-continued conflict between good and evil have been opened to the writer of these pages. From time to time I have been permitted to behold the working, in different ages, of the great controversy between Christ, the Prince of life, the Author of our salvation, and Satan, the prince of evil, the author of sin.... APAY 281.3

“As the Spirit of God has opened to my mind the great truths of His word, and the scenes of the past and the future, I have been bidden to make known to others that which has thus been revealed,—to trace the history of the controversy in past ages, and especially so to present it as to shed a light on the fast-approaching struggle of the future.” Pages x, xi. APAY 281.4

This was an intensely vivid experience for the prophet; so real, in fact, that it was painful for her to have to return to a consciousness of earthly things after having been given a view of heaven. It was, however, purely an enlightenment of the mind, and not an actual experience. Therefore, the prophet could be shown things past and future as well as present. APAY 282.1

The observation of others. James White observed his wife in vision more frequently than did anyone else. Many of her visions came when she was in public meetings. His description of her condition coincides with that given by others. APAY 282.2

“1. She is utterly unconscious of everything transpiring around her, as has been proved by the most rigid tests, but views herself as removed from this world, and in the presence of heavenly beings. APAY 282.3

“2. She does not breathe. During the entire period of her continuance in vision, which has at different times ranged from fifteen minutes to three hours, there is no breath, as has been repeatedly proved by pressing upon the chest, and by closing the mouth and nostrils. APAY 282.4

“3. Immediately on entering vision, her muscles become rigid, and joints fixed, so far as any external force can influence them. At the same time her movements and gestures, which are frequent, are free and graceful, and cannot be hindered nor controlled by the strongest person. APAY 282.5

“4. On coming out of vision, whether in the daytime or a well-lighted room at night, all is total darkness. Her power to distinguish even the most brilliant objects, held within a few inches of the eyes, returns but gradually, sometimes not being fully established for three hours. This has continued for the past twenty years; yet her eyesight is not in the least impaired, few persons having better than she now possesses.” James White, Life Incidents in Connection With the Great Advent Movement, page 272. Numerous additional descriptions are available of her condition in vision. J. N. Loughborough brought several of these together in his book The Great Second Advent Movement, pages 204-210. 8 Without giving space to repeat the accounts, we shall summarize their testimony. APAY 282.6

1. Frequently, just prior to a vision, there was a deep sense of the presence of God, both by Ellen White and by others in the room. APAY 283.1

2. Often, as the vision began, Ellen White spoke, “Glory,” or “Glory to God,” at times repeated. APAY 283.2

3. There was a loss of physical strength. APAY 283.3

4. Then followed supernatural strength. APAY 283.4

5. There was no breathing, although her heartbeat was normal and her color was natural. There was no discernible disturbance in the circulatory system. APAY 283.5

6. At times there would be brief statements or exclamations telling something of the scene being presented. On a few occasions longer statements were made. APAY 283.6

7. Her eyes were open and she appeared to be watching something in the distance. APAY 283.7

8. Her position was not always the same; she might be seated, reclining, or walking around the room. APAY 283.8

9. She was unconscious of surroundings or of the presence of other individuals. APAY 283.9

10. Observers became aware that a vision was ended when a deep breath was taken. This was followed in a minute or two by another; regular breathing was then resumed. APAY 283.10

11. For a time after she was in vision all seemed dark to her. APAY 283.11

12. Normal sight, and natural strength and abilities were restored within a short time. There was no drain upon the physical system as the result of the visions. On some occasions, healing from illness took place. APAY 283.12

These characteristics marked many of the visions, but all were not given in this manner. On numerous occasions visions were given during periods when Ellen White was praying or writing. At such times she seemed cut off from her immediate surroundings, but the other indications that she was in vision were not present. Such presentations were brief, and frequently had to do with current situations and problems for which immediate guidance was needed. A typical incident was described by W. C. White as it took place at the Minnesota camp meeting in 1870: APAY 283.13

“Father and mother were carrying a heavy burden in behalf of the ministry who had been working in that state. On Sunday morning they undertook to conduct a revival service. Father spoke for a few minutes, but with little freedom. Then after mother had spoken briefly, they asked the congregation to kneel in prayer. Father offered a labored, sorrowful prayer, then mother began to implore for light and freedom. After she had prayed for about two minutes she stopped. There was silence long enough to count to forty or fifty, about half a minute. APAY 284.1

“I was kneeling with the congregation, and I turned to see what was the occasion for the silence. Just then she burst forth in prayer. Her voice was melodious, and triumphant, and the remainder of her prayer greatly moved the people present. APAY 284.2

“During the period of silence, a revelation was given her regarding conditions in the Minnesota Conference, also conditions regarding the work in Battle Creek, also regarding other matters of general interest in the cause. Following the camp meeting, father and mother found retirement at the home of one of our brethren. Mother wrote diligently for about two weeks, in recording what had been shown to her during the half-minute of pause in her prayer.” A. L. White, Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant,page 8. APAY 284.3

Commenting on a later incident, Mrs. White said, “While engaged in earnest prayer, I was lost to everything around me; the room was filled with light, and I was bearing a message to an assembly that seemed to be the General Conference. I was moved by the Spirit of God to make a most earnest appeal; for I was impressed that great danger was before us at the heart of the work.” Testimonies to Ministers, page 461. APAY 284.4

These revelations came to the messenger while she was in vision, and they were of the same nature as those in which the characteristic physical manifestations were present. They serve as examples of the “divers manners” in which God has spoken to His prophets. APAY 285.1

Types of revelations in the visions. The sentences already quoted from the introduction to The Great Controversy set forth one kind of view given in the visions—the panoramic view in which events of history and the future passed rapidly before the eyes of the prophet. But conditions existing in homes, institutions, and conferences were also revealed in detail. At times it seemed to Ellen White that she was being led from one place to another in an institution, where she observed the words and actions of the workers. She described one such visit in these words: APAY 285.2

“An angel of God seemed to conduct me from room to room in the different departments. The conversation I was made to hear in the rooms of the helpers was not of a character to elevate and strengthen mind or morals. The frivolous talk, the foolish jesting, the meaningless laugh, fell painfully upon the ear.... APAY 285.3

“I was conducted to a few rooms from which came the voice of prayer. How welcome was the sound! A bright light shone upon the face of my guide as his hand traced every word of the petition.” Counsels on Health, 412. It will be of interest and value to read the complete description on pages 412, 413. APAY 285.4

In the summer of 1893, during her ministry in the Australasian field, Mrs. White spent some time in New Zealand. Delayed on one of her trips by a storm which made the roads impassable, she spent a few days in a home where only one daughter of the family was a Seventh-day Adventist. During the first night of her stay—before she had met all the members of the family—she arose at four o’clock to write out some things that had been revealed to her in the night. APAY 285.5

“The angel of God said, ‘Follow me.’ I seemed to be in a room in a rude building, and there were several young men playing cards. They seemed to be very intent upon the amusement in which they were engaged and were so engrossed that they did not seem to notice that anyone had entered the room. There were young girls present observing the players, and words were spoken not of the most refined order. There was a spirit and influence that were sensibly felt in that room that was not of a character calculated to purify and uplift the mind and ennoble the character.... APAY 286.1

“I inquired, ‘Who are these and whom does this scene represent?’ APAY 286.2

“The word was spoken, ‘Wait.’ APAY 286.3

“I had another representation. There was the imbibing of the liquid poison, and the words and actions under its influence were anything but favorable for serious thoughts, clear perception in business lines, pure morals and the uplifting of the participants.... APAY 286.4

“I asked again, ‘Who are these?’ APAY 286.5

“The answer came, ‘A portion of the family where you are visiting.’” Ellen G. White Letter 1, 1893. APAY 286.6

In order to ensure the laying of wise plans, the Lord at times gave insight into His will for the future. “I have been thinking of how, after we began sanitarium work in Battle Creek, sanitarium buildings all ready for occupation were shown to me in vision. The Lord instructed me as to the way in which the work in these buildings should be conducted in order for it to exert a saving influence on the patients. APAY 286.7

“All this seemed very real to me, but when I awoke, I found that the work was yet to be done, that there were no buildings erected.” Ellen G. White Letter 135, 1903. APAY 286.8

On other occasions the Lord pointed out to Ellen White what would be the results of following either of two plans or policies. Indicating the end from the beginning as He did, God gave opportunity for a wise course of action to be selected. Such an instance is recorded in Testimonies for the Church 9:28, 29, where two lighted maps were brought to view to illustrate the results of varying courses of action. APAY 287.1

Again, parablelike representations, somewhat similar to many found in the Bible, were given to her. A striking example of this is found in Gospel Workers, 136-139, where in a dream she saw a berry-gathering expedition. This was used to illustrate the way some persons go about their soul-winning work. APAY 287.2

The different approaches introduced into the Ellen White writings give the instruction an interest and variety that constantly reminds one of the teachings of the Bible. The same general lines of instruction are frequently repeated for the benefit of different individuals or groups, but it is varied to suit the particular needs of those addressed. This results ultimately in a body of teachings that is most enlightening to all readers. Whatever the type of revelation or the circumstances under which it was given, it was from the same source, and the fact that it was a divine message was clear to the messenger. This is true of the light sent in dreams at night, sometimes referred to as night visions, as well as of visions given during the waking hours. No clear distinction is made between the two in either the Bible or Ellen White’s writings. APAY 287.3

W. C. White once inquired: “Mother, you often speak of matters being revealed to you in the night season. You speak of dreams in which light comes to you. We all have dreams. How do you know that God is speaking to you in the dreams of which you so frequently speak?” APAY 287.4

Her reply was: “Because the same angel messenger stands by my side instructing me in the visions of the night, as stands beside me instructing me in the visions of the day.” A. L. White, Ellen G. White, Messenger to the Remnant,page 7. APAY 287.5

The import of the message is in no wise affected by the manner in which it came to the messenger. In her writings no distinctions or classifications are made. All that was given as instruction is placed on the same plane of validity and importance. APAY 288.1