The First Fairy Tale
Dale K. Brown
THE SEVENTH DAY ADVENTISTS"
Ellen Gould Harmon born on November 26, 1827 in Gorham, Maine, was the last of eight children. Her parents were strict Methodists. In 1840, the whole family attended a revival meeting presided over by William Miller, a Baptist who, through intense scriptural study, had come to the more or less humdrum conclusion that the world was coming to an end. In and of itself, this was news to no one; Christians the world over had long suspected as much. What was truly astonishing was Miller had figured out when.
He'd been carefully perusing the more prophetic books of the Bible. Like many a hard riding prophet before him, he found the eighth and ninth chapters of Daniel particularly intriguing. Verse fourteen of chapter eight seemed to offer intriguing possibilities. The 2,300 days mentioned in this passage had fascinated many scholars over the years, the more inventive of which had decided that prophetic days were not the same as real days. Each prophetic day, from their point of view, was equal to one year, for those of a conservative frame of mind, or one thousand years for the slightly more liberal.
Mr. Miller opted for the conservative interpretation, added 2,300 years to the date 457 B.C., the year those particular verses in Daniel were thought to have been written, and discovered, if not to his amazement then certainly to that of many others, that Jesus Christ was slated to make planetfall on or about March 21, 1843.
Elated by this glorious prospect, he wasted no time in sharing the glad news with his friends and neighbors. He began to write books and hold meetings so that humanity might properly prepare itself to meet its maker. It was one of these meetings which thirteen year old Ellen Harmon attended with her parents in 1840.
Mom and Dad were converted on the spot, joined a happy throng of joyous neophytes, and began making hurried preparations for their Savior's second coming. As the appointed day approached there was, no doubt, a breathless air of anticipation in the households of the faithful everywhere.
To this day, no one knows what prompted their Lord to change his itinerary, inclement weather, perhaps, or a hard day at the Pearly Gates; it could have been anything. Suffice it to say, he never showed up and the disappointed faithful crept down off the mountain tops where they had been waiting on what they presumed would be front row seats. Under the cover of darkness, they snuck back to their homes, hoping against hope that their neighbors wouldn't notice.
This fiasco ended William Miller's brief career in the heavenly pony express. Scorned and unforgiven by those he sought to save, he was unceremoniously excommunicated from his church and died a lonely man in 1849.
Young Ellen Harmon remained convinced the Lord would return however, it was only a matter of time. And, for her, the Lord did come. She started having visions shortly after her seventeenth birthday in December of 1844. She wasn't required to go and look for lost plates or anything like that but, in form and content, the visions were remarkably similar to those of others afflicted with this condition.
Jesus appeared to her on many of these occasions and, among other things, gave her a sneak preview of the many trials and tribulations she was to endure. Being at best, a reluctant prophetess, she begged to be released from these horrid responsibilities, but the Lord was adamant. She was it and that was that!
Unaccountably, she never asked the Lord why he was tardy or just what time to expect him in the future, even though a recently revised estimate had fixed the date as October 22, 1844. Since it was already December, there was obviously a hitch somewhere, but where? Jesus was perfect; that much was known. The trouble couldn't possibly originate with him. The problem, whatever it was, had to lie with his obstinate children or their sloppy method of time keeping. A diligent search of the scriptures finally provided the missing equation.
Jesus had not returned because Christians had not been keeping the Sabbath on the appropriate day. The Sabbath, it turned out, was to be kept on Saturday, not Sunday. This seemingly trivial inconsistency on the part of Christendom had, somehow, so fouled up the holy space-time continuum that there was now no telling when the Lord would return. And if things didn't shape up fast down here, there was no reason to suspect that he might want to.
Since Saturday was the true day of rest and no established religions seemed to be keeping it, a new church was obviously required. And the seeds that were planted in the mind of a shy thirteen year old at a long forgotten revival meeting became, in time, the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
In the process of its inception, Ellen Gould Harmon met and married fellow believer, James White, thus becoming Mrs. Ellen Gould White in 1846.
Their fledgling church faced the usual financial hardships endemic to such creations, plus the traditional hazings, ritually imposed by the older established religions on young upstarts. Nevertheless, the church grew and prospered. Ellen's visions and revelations continued unabated and, by the time she died in 1915 at age eighty-eight, she had had over 2,000 of them. She passed most of them on to the faithful in the form of divine admonitions and teachings. But in spite of her close, personal contact with the Lord, he apparently never confided to her the true date of his second coming or, if he did, it remained their secret.
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