Ellen Gould White, Mother Of Loma Linda’s Medical Legacy

Ellen Gould White (née Harmon; November 26, 1827 – July 16, 1915), who was named among the 100 Most Significant Americans by Smithsonian magazine, played a role is shaping San Bernardino County. White, a prolific writer, along with her husband James White and with Joseph Bates, essentially founded what is known today as the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
A mystic and visionary, White related her visionary experiences to her fellow believers. She and other Adventist pioneers believed her earthly access to the cosmic reality beyond life on earth to be  the Biblical gift of prophecy as outlined in Revelation 12:17 and Revelation 19:10 which describe the testimony of Jesus as the “spirit of prophecy.” Her Conflict of the Ages series of writings endeavored to showcase the hand of God in Biblical and Christian church history. This other-worldly tension and conflict, referred to as the “Great Controversy theme,” formed the basis of Seventh-day Adventist theology.
Controversy attended White because of her claim of visionary capability.
Ellen and her twin sister Elizabeth, were born November 26, 1827 near the village of Gorham, Maine., to Robert and Eunice Harmon.  There have been claims, never fully substantiated, that some of her ancestors were of African descent.  Her father was a farmer who also made hats using mercuric nitrate. Her parents were followers of William Miller, who in 1833 predicted that the Second Advent of Jesus Christ would occur in the year 1843. Her father’s adherency to Miller’s theology caused the White family to be disfellowshipped by the local Methodist church.
At the age of nine, an older classmate threw a stone that hit Ellen on the face.  This disfigured her features and left her in a coma for several weeks.  On June 26, 1842, she was baptized by John Hobart in Casco Bay in Portland, Maine, and eagerly awaited Jesus to come again. In her later years, she referred to this as the happiest time of her life.  In 1843 came the Great Disappointment, when Miller’s prediction of the Second Coming of Christ failed to manifest. Ellen White experienced her first vision soon after that.
Sometime in 1845 Ellen met her future husband James Springer White, a Millerite who became convinced that her visions were genuine. A year later James proposed and they were married by a justice of the peace in Portland, Maine. James later wrote: “We were married August 30, 1846, and from that hour to the present she has been my crown of rejoicing….It has been in the good providence of God that both of us had enjoyed a deep experience in the Advent movement….This experience was now needed as we should join our forces and, united, labor extensively from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific….”
James and Ellen had four sons: Henry Nichols, James Edson (known as Edson), William Clarence (known as Willie or W. C.), and John Herbert.
Only Edson and William lived to adulthood. John Herbert died of erysipelas at the age of three months, and Henry died of pneumonia at the age of 16 in 1863.
From 1844 to 1863 White experienced between 100 to 200 visions, typically in public places and meeting halls. In later life, the visions occurred at home during the night.
J. N. Loughborough, who had seen White in vision fifty times since 1852, and her husband, James White, listed several physical characteristics that marked the visions. According to them, “In passing into vision, she gives three enrapturing shouts of ‘Glory!’ which echo and re-echo, the second, and especially the third, fainter but more thrilling than the first, the voice resembling that of one quite a distance from you, and just going out of hearing.” Furthermore, according to Loughborough and her husband, she would initially swoon, having no strength but would then be filled with superhuman strength. She would gesticulate gracefully when in this trancelike state and her hands and arms could not be hindered nor controlled by even the strongest person. In 1845, she held her parents’ 18.5 pound family Bible in her outstretched left hand for half an hour. She weighed 80 pounds at the time. According to her husband and Loughborough, White would not breathe during the entire period of a vision that ranged from fifteen minutes to three hours. Yet, her pulse beat regularly and her countenance remained pleasant as in the natural state, they maintained.  Her eyes stayed open without blinking; her head was raised, looking upward as if staring intently at some distant object. Several physicians, at different times, conducted tests to check her lack of breathing and other physical phenomena. According to those around her at these times, she was utterly unconscious of everything transpiring around her, and viewed herself as removed from this world, and in the presence of heavenly beings. When she came out of her visions, all seemed total darkness whether in the day time or a well-lighted room at night. She would exclaim with a long-drawn sigh, as she took her first natural breath, “D-a-r-k.” She was then limp and strengthless.
Ellen White said of her first vision, which occurred in 1844, “While praying, the power of God came upon me as I never had felt it before, and I was wrapt up in a vision of God’s glory, and seemed to be rising higher and higher from the earth and was shown something of the travels of the Advent people to the Holy City…”
In this vision the “Advent people” were traveling a high and dangerous path towards the city of New Jerusalem [Heaven]. Their path was lit from behind by “a bright (light)…which an angel told me was the midnight cry.” Some of the travelers grew weary and were encouraged by Jesus; others denied the light, the light behind them went out, and they fell “off the path into the dark and wicked world below.” The vision continued with a portrayal of Christ’s second coming, following which the Advent people entered the New Jerusalem; and ended with her returning to earth feeling lonely, desolate and longing for that “better world.”
According to Godfrey T. Anderson, the report of her vision convinced the Millerites that Miller had been correct, if somewhat off in his date. “In effect, the vision assured the Advent believers of eventual triumph despite the immediate despair into which they had plunged” as a consequence of the Great Disappointment.
In February 1845, White experienced her second vision in Exeter, Maine known as the “Bridegroom” vision. Together with the third vision about the new earth, the visions “gave continued meaning to the October 1844 experience and supported the developing sanctuary rationale. Additionally they played an important role in countering the spiritualizing views of many fanatical Adventists by portraying the Father and Jesus as literal beings and heaven as a physical place,” according to Merlin D. Burt, a professor at Andrews University.
Fearing people would be disbelieving of the actual spiritual significance of her visions, White initially did not share her visions with the wider Millerite community. In a meeting at her parent’s home, she said she received what she regarded as confirmation of her ministry, later writing, “While praying, the thick darkness that had enveloped me was scattered, a bright light, like a ball of fire, came towards me, and as it fell upon me, my strength was taken away. I seemed to be in the presence of Jesus and the angels. Again it was repeated, ‘Make known to others what I have revealed to you.’”
In time she began giving her testimony in public meetings — some of which she arranged herself — and in her regular Methodist class meetings in private homes.
News of her visions spread and White was soon traveling and speaking to groups of Millerite followers in Maine and the surrounding area. Her visions began to be publicized, the first of which ran on  January 24, 1846, in the Cincinnati, Ohio-based  Day Star, a Millerite paper that gave an account of her first vision in an article entitled  “Letter From Sister Harmon” by Enoch Jacobs. White had written to Jacobs privately, stating the letter was not written for publication. Jacobs printed it anyway. Through the next few years it was republished in various forms and is included as part of her first book, Christian Experience and Views, published in 1851.
Two Millerites claimed to have had visions prior to Ellen White – William Ellis Foy (1818–1893), and Hazen Foss (1818–1893), who was Ellen White’s brother-in-law. Adventists believe the prophetic gift offered to these two men was passed on to White when they rejected it.
Ellen White described the vision experience as involving a bright light which would surround her and she felt herself in the presence of Jesus or angels who would show her events, historical and future, as well as places on earth, in heaven, or other planets. The transcriptions of White’s visions generally contain theology, prophecy, or personal counsels to individuals or to Adventist leaders.
On March 14, 1858, at Lovett’s Grove, near Bowling Green, Ohio, White received a vision while attending a funeral service. In writing about the vision, she stated that she received practical instruction for church members, and more significantly, a cosmic sweep of the conflict “between Christ and His angels, and Satan and his angels.” Ellen White would expand upon this great controversy theme which would eventually culminate in the Conflict of the Ages series.
From 1861 to 1881 Ellen White’s prophetic ministry became increasingly recognized among Sabbatarian Adventists. Her frequent articles in the Review and Herald (now the Adventist Review) and other church publications were a unifying influence to the beginning church. She supported her husband in the church’s need for formal organization. The result was the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1863. During the 1860s and 1870s the Whites participated in the founding of the denomination’s first medical institution (1866) and school (1874).
She was a very prolific author. Her book titles included A Word to the “Little Flock., 1847;   A Sketch of the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White, 1851;  Supplement to the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White,  1854;  An Appeal to Mothers, 1864;  An Appeal to the Youth, 1864; A Solemn Appeal, 1870; Life Sketches of James and Ellen White, 1880;  Early Writings of Ellen G. White, 1882; Sketches From the Life of Paul, 1883;  Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day Adventists, 1886;  The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan, 1888; The Sanctified Life, 1889;  Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 1890;  Patriarchs and Prophets, 1890; Gospel Workers, 1892;  Steps to Christ, 1892;  Christian Education, 1893;  Story of Jesus, 1896, 1900;   Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 1896;  Healthful Living, 1897; Medical Missionary Board, 1898;  Special Testimonies on Education;  The Desire of Ages, 1898; The Southern Work, 1898, 1901; Christ’s Object Lessons, 1900;  Testimonies on Sabbath-School Work, 1900;  Manual for Canvassers, 1902;  Education, 1903;  The Ministry of Healing, 1905;  The Acts of the Apostles, 1911;  The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan, 1911;  Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 1913;  Gospel Workers, 1915;  Prophets and Kings, 1917; and Colporteur Evangelist, 1920.
Her 9-volume series of books entitled Testimonies for the Church contains edited testimonies published for the general edification of the church. The spoken and written versions of her visions played a significant part in establishing and shaping the organizational structure of the emerging Adventist Church. Her visions and writings continue to be used by church leaders in developing the church’s policies and for devotional reading.
White is the most translated American non-fiction author of all time – with 100,000 pages of manuscripts and 40 books, with the book Steps to Christ being translated into more than 140 languages.
After 1882 Ellen White was assisted by a close circle of friends and associates. She employed a number of literary assistants who would help her in preparing her writings for publications. She also carried on an extensive correspondence with church leaders. She traveled to Europe on her first international trip. Upon her return she promoted the message of righteousness by faith presented by young ministers E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones, leading to a more Christ-centered theology for the church. When church leaders resisted her counsel on this and various other matters, she was sent to Australia as a missionary. There she lived first in Melbourne and later moved to Cooranbong, New South Wales; co-founding Avondale College. After almost 9 years she returned to the U.S.
Almost from the beginning of her public ministry, Ellen Harmon White’s critics cast doubt as to the reliability and authenticity of her visions, beginning after her first vision in 1845. The most prominent critic was Dudley M. Canright, a minister who left the church, and whose criticisms are summarized in his 1919 book, Life of Mrs. E.G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Prophet: Her False Claims Refuted. Criticisms of her included that she suffered from mental illness and that she had  a “complication of hysteria, epilepsy, catalepsy, and ecstasy” and stated that her “visions were merely the result of her early misfortune.” Some neurologists later commented that her early injuries may have caused partial complex seizures and hallucinations. In 1981, pediatrician Delbert H. Hodder theorized that she suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy.
She has also been accused of plagiarism, and that she committed a type of heresy by not supporting the teaching of the Trinity in her early writings. Moreover, her views on sexual self-gratification have come under repeated attack in the modern world. Though she never used the modern  term  for this activity, her reference to  “self-abuse, solitary vice, self-indulgence, secret vice, [and] moral pollution”  was clear. Of self-indulgence, she said, “If the practice is continued from the age of fifteen and upward, nature will protest against the abuse she has suffered, and continues to suffer, and will make them pay the penalty for the transgression of her laws, especially from the ages of thirty to forty-five, by numerous pains in the system, and various diseases, such as affection of the liver and lungs, neuralgia, rheumatism, affection of the spine, diseased kidneys, and cancerous humors. Some of nature’s fine machinery gives way, leaving a heavier task for the remaining to perform, which disorders nature’s fine arrangement, and there is often a sudden breaking down of the constitution; and death is the result.” Moreover, she wrote, “Females possess less vital force than the other sex, and are deprived very much of the bracing, invigorating air, by their in-door life. The result of self-abuse in them is seen in various diseases, such as catarrh, dropsy, headache, loss of memory and sight, great weakness in the back and loins, affections of the spine, and frequently, inward decay of the head. Cancerous humor, which would lie dormant in the system [during] their lifetime, is inflamed, and commences its eating, destructive work. The mind is often utterly ruined, and insanity supervenes.”
In 1904, while she was looking for sites upon which Seventh-Day Adventist-run sanitariums could be located, White  became interested in an abandoned hotel in Loma Linda that had formerly been run as a health resort. White envisioned the property to be an ideal place for a school where medical missionaries, including physicians, could be trained. Her plan was that the Loma Linda facility would be the principal training school on the West Coast. Nursing instruction commenced in 1906 and the first class of nurses graduated in 1907. The Loma Linda Medical College opened on September 23, 1910 and the first class of physicians graduated in 1914. The school evolved into the Loma Linda University and Loma Linda University Medical Center.
Ellen G. White died July 16, 1915, at the Elmshaven estate, her home in Saint Helena, California. She was given three funerals, after which she was buried with her husband James White in Oak Hill Cemetery, Battle Creek, Michigan.

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