Heralds of New Light

11/12

Modern Claims to the Prophetic Gift

A number of persons in the Adventist Church have come forth over the years claiming to have the prophetic gift. Three of these are worthy of comment here. All three were women. Two of them made their claims during Ellen White’s lifetime, and one of them made herself known shortly after Ellen White died. HONL 22.1

Claims during Ellen White’s lifetime. In the 1880s and 1890s two counterfeit prophets arose, creating no small stir in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. To be effective, a counterfeit must resemble the original as closely as possible. Since there was a genuine female prophet in the church at that time, it is not surprising that Satan chose women as pretenders. That he also chose women with the given name Anna is even more interesting, since one of the female prophets in the New Testament also bore that name. See Luke 2:36-38. HONL 22.2

The true story of Anna Garmire, who made her claims in the 1880s, can be easily reconstructed from the Ellen White testimonies published in Selected Messages 2:64-84. Anna Garmire’s claim to the prophetic gift had to be tested, just as Ellen White’s gift had to be tested when she received her first vision in late 1844. HONL 22.3

Anna Garmire failed to pass the test on several counts. She made false predictions. On one occasion she said that the mark of the beast would be given after the close of probation, whereas Mrs. White had declared that since it would be a last-day test it must come before probation’s close. She also said that the second coming would take place in 1884-a conclusion she based on Israel’s forty-year wandering in the desert because of unbelief. Of course, Christ did not come in 1884. HONL 22.4

On the test of her fruits, she measured poorly, as well. Ellen white called her “corrupt,” because of a disappearing act and subsequent out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Also, when Uriah Smith, the editor of the Review and Herald, failed to publish Anna’s “testimonies,” the Garmires conspired with a young man who worked in the Review office and who believed in Anna as a true prophetess, to steal the mailing list to this periodical so the message could be mailed directly. It was a felony crime. When Christ did not come in 1884, the disillusioned young man came forward and confessed to his theft. He was disfellowshipped and subsequently reinstated in membership in the Battle Creek church. 36 HONL 23.1

In the 1890s Anna Rice-Phillips claimed that she was to join Ellen white in the prophetic office. Her cause was championed by none other than Alonzo T. Jones, a leading minister in Battle Creek. However, her testimonies consisted largely of spiritual trivia. Speaking of Anna Phillips, Ellen White said: HONL 23.2

Childish figures and illustrations are employed in describing sacred, heavenly things, and there is a mingling of the sublime and the ridiculous. While the work has an appearance of great sanctity, it is calculated to ensnare and mislead souls. 37

Incredibly, one of the main reasons advanced for the acceptance of Anna Phillips was the so-called argument from silence: “our brethren...could see nothing objectionable in them.” 38 HONL 23.3

Fortunately, Ellen white was able to work quietly and kindly with this young woman. She eventually renounced her earlier spiritual experience and became a “trusted fruitful Bible instructor in the work of the church.” 39 HONL 23.4

After Ellen White’s Death. The most dramatic case of a party claiming to be Ellen White’s successor was that of Margaret Rowen, 40 a convert to Adventism from the Methodist Church in 1912, at about age thirty-one. Mrs. Rowen had a particular burden for small-group fellowship, and she formed a women’s prayer band the year after her baptism. Three years later, on June 22, 1916, during a meeting of this women’s prayer fellowship, she claimed to have received a first vision. Ellen White had now been dead eleven months. HONL 24.1

Again, Satan’s counterfeit was cleverly crafted in at least five respects: (1) Like Ellen White, Margaret Rowen was a woman the third such woman in three decades to arise claiming the prophetic gift. (2) Mrs. Rowen’s first vision, like that of Ellen White, was in connection with a ladies’ prayer fellowship. (3) While in vision Mrs. Rowen exhibited supernatural physical phenomena similar to that of Ellen White and the biblical prophets. (4) Like Ellen White, Margaret Rowen was small of stature, and (5) she also had a limited formal education. HONL 24.2

Mrs. Rowen fabricated a bizarre story in which she claimed that she was shown by supernatural revelation that she was not the daughter of Alfred and Matilda Wright of Los Angeles, but the illegitimate offspring of her father and a wealthy Philadelphia debutante! Her father allegedly discovered her abandoned at the city wharf, and he and Mrs. Wright informally adopted the foundling as their own! HONL 24.3

She claimed that God providentially led her to a reunion with her “real” mother in Pennsylvania-a perfect cover to explain new-found wealth coming to her from a growing band of followers who had implicit faith in her visions. HONL 24.4

Margaret Rowen prophesied that probation for all living would close on February 6, 1924, and that Jesus would return to earth exactly one year later. She forged at least two Ellen White letters, complete with signature (though the first was a most clumsy and transparently obvious counterfeit), and adroitly succeed in getting one of them smuggled into the vault of the Ellen G. White Estate, where she subsequently arranged for its “discovery.” HONL 25.1

Mrs. Rowen embezzled thousands of dollars from her own movement, a loss that was discovered by Dr. and Mrs. Burt Fullmer, co-leaders of her “Reformed Seventh-day Adventist Church.” Dr. Fullmer was her publications director, Mrs. Fullmer her treasurer, and they shared a duplex with the Rowens in Hollywood. HONL 25.2

Disillusioned by this discovery and perplexed by numerous failed predictions, Dr. Fullmer confessed to being the party who smuggled the first forgery into the White Estate vault in 1919. Angered at this exposure, Margaret Rowen vowed vengeance. Late on the night of February 27, 1927, she arranged for Dr. Fullmer to be summoned to a motel cabin in a suburb of Los Angeles, where he was ambushed and nearly murdered. The occupants of an adjoining cabin, upset at what they perceived as a drunken brawl despoiling the peace of the night, summoned the police, who arrived just in time to save the doctor’s life and apprehend some of the conspirators. HONL 25.3

Mrs. Rowen and others were tried for attempted murder in a Los Angeles superior court and served their sentences for approximately one year at San Quentin near San Francisco, after which they disappeared. HONL 25.4

The failed prediction on the second coming, which had been widely heralded by the press across America, and the sensational trial for attempted murder brought great embarrassment to the Rowenite movement. The Reformed Seventh-day Adventist Church disintegrated soon after that, thus ending the strange case of “The Woman Who Would Be Prophet.” 41 HONL 25.5

Other claims to the prophetic gift-some by doubtlessly sincere though misguided zealots, and some by charlatans with ulterior motivation have continued to be made from Ellen White’s day to our own. What are we to make of all this? HONL 26.1