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Kindred Prophets

Emanuel Swedenborg, 1688-1772

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, he was the son of a nobleman of high standing. Swedenborg was highly educated and moved in the highest society. He traveled extensively, and conversed with the most learned men of the age. The king appointed him to a high office, which he filled superbly for over thirty years. He rose to eminence in science and wrote 77 books, covering every branch of science. He was of the purest character and devoutly religious.

At the age of 55 he began to have visions of heaven, hell, angels, and the spiritual world. He says:

"I have been called to a holy office by the Lord himself, who most mercifully appeared to me, his servant, in the year 1743, when he opened my sight into the spiritual world and enabled me to converse with spirits and angels."
Like Ellen White, Swedenborg taught that he and his writings were inspired by God:

Ellen White Emanuel Swedenborg
"In my books, the truth is stated, barricaded by a 'Thus saith the Lord.'" (CM 126) "I know for certain that what I write is the living truth of God" (Doc. II, page 404).
"I am only an instrument in the Lord's hands to do the work He has set for me to do." (SM3 46) "I am like an instrument with which He does according to His good pleasure." (Journal, 245)

His ministry continued for 30 years, and he wrote about 30 "inspired" volumes. He made remarkable predictions which, it is claimed, were exactly fulfilled. He taught that the "judgment" commenced in the "spiritual heavens" in 1757, and he rejected the idea of eternal damnation.(Wikipedia) He founded a new religion based upon his revelations. The Bible is sacredly taught and holy living promoted.

The church of Swedenborg has steadily increased, till it has societies in all parts of the world and in the leading languages. His followers believe in him just as implicitly as Seventh-day Adventists believe in Ellen White, and are very zealous in propagating their faith. To learn more about him and the church he founded, click here to visit his web site.

Ann Lee and the Shakers, 1736-1784

Like Mrs. White, Ann Lee "received no education." Ann joined a society manifesting remarkable religious exercises called the Shakers. Soon she began "to have visions and make revelations," which, just like Mrs. White, she called "testimonies." "Henceforth she claimed to be directed by revelations and visions." (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, article "Ann Lee.") She was accepted as leader and as "the second appearing of Christ." Like Mrs. White, she required a "peculiar kind of dress," "opposed war and the use of pork." (Johnson's Encyclopedia, article "Shakers.") The Shakers have no intercourse with other churches; are renowned for their purity and devotion. To learn more about Ann Lee and the Shakers, click here.

Mrs. Joanna Southcott, 1750-1814

Born in England, of poor parents, she was wholly uneducated. She worked as a domestic servant till over 40 years old. Like Mrs. White, she was a Methodist, having joined the church in 1790. In 1792 she announced herself as a prophetess, and "published numerous [over 60] pamphlets setting forth her revelations." (Johnson's Encyclopedia, article "Southcott.") She was a Sabbath-keeper and, like Mrs. White, had trances and announced the speedy advent of Christ. (See Encyclopedia Americana, article "Southcott.") She carried on a lucrative trade in the sale of her books as Mrs. White did. Strange as it may appear, many of the clergy believed in her, and thousands joined her followers, till in a few years they numbered upwards of one hundred thousand! She made many predictions, which her followers claimed were fulfilled. "The faith of her followers, among whom were several clergymen of the established church, rose to enthusiasm." (Encyclopedia Americana, article "Southcott.") To learn more about Joanna Southcott, click here.

Joseph Smith, 1805-1844

Smith, founder of the Mormons (also known as the "Latter Day Saints"), in 1823 began to have "visions" and "revelations," and even conversed with angels. In the picture (to the right) we find Smith receiving "inspiration" from an angel. Smith published a number of books, some of which show a remarkable similarity to Mrs. White's writings. Smith claimed the second advent of Christ was at hand, hence the name, "Latter Day Saints." His mission was to introduce "the new dispensation." According to Smith, his followers are the "saints," and all the other churches are "heathen," or Gentiles. (Note: Mrs. White's called her followers "saints" and all other churches "Babylon" or apostate.) To learn more about Joseph Smith, click here.

Mary Baker Eddy, 1821-1910

Mrs. Eddy is the prophet-founder of the Christian Science Church. She published a number of books. Like Mrs. White, she had an interest in health. In 1890, she published her most famous book, Science and Health, which has been translated into over 16 languages and read by over ten million people. The disciples of Mrs. Eddy believe the writings of their prophet to be inspired and infallible. She once prophesied:

"To my sense, the most imminent dangers confronting the coming century are: the robbing of people of life and liberty under the warrant of the Scriptures; the claims of politics and of human power, industrial slavery, and insufficient freedom of honest competition; and ritual, creed, and trusts in place of the Golden Rule, 'Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.'" (Dec. 1900, My. 266)
Ellen White Mary Baker Eddy
Born in the 1820s Born in the 1820s
Born in New England Born in New England
Injured and not able to attend much school Ill and not able to attend much school
As a young woman, lost consciousness to the world As a young woman, suffered spells of unconsciousness
Sought hydrotherapy to restore health Sought hydrotherapy to restore health
Claimed divine inspiration Claimed divine inspiration
Published books on health reform Published a book on health reform
Lived a life of the rich and famous Lived a life of the rich and famous

Other Visionaries of the 1800's

According to Dr. Ronald Numbers in his book Prophetess of Health, in the 1800s America abounded with "prophets" of every description.
  • In the 1830s an epidemic of visions spread through the Shaker communes as young girls "began to sing, talk about angels, and describe a journey they were making, under spiritual guidance to heavenly places." Frequently those afflicted "would be struck to the floor, where they lay dead, or struggling in distress, until someone near lifted them up, when they would begin to speak with great clearness and composure." (The People Called Shakers, pp. 152-153)

  • Rebecca Jackson, was a black Shaker who founded a small religious community in Philadelphia in the mid-1800s. She was known for her prophetic dreams, inner voices, and waking visions. (Gifts of Power: The Writings of Rebecca Jackson: Black Visionary, Shaker Eldress, Jean McMhon Humez, ed., p. 6)

  • Jemima Wilkinson, who in 1790 founded the religious community of Jerusalem in western New York was known for her visions, religious dreams, and prophesying. One of her followers, Sarah Richards also had visions. She would swoon as she went into vision and lie "motionless and apparently lifeless" for a while. Afterwards, she would rise up to deliver her message. (Pioneer Prophetess, Jemima Wilkinson, p. 63)

  • John Starkweather, a Millerite, and the assistant pastor of Joshua Hime's Chardon Street Chapel, had what some critics described as "cataleptic and epileptic" fits that greatly embarrassed his more subdued colleagues. He was eventually expelled from the chapel when his spiritual gifts proved to be contagious.

  • John Alexander Dowie, born in 1847, claimed divine inspiration, believing himself to be the second Elijah. In 1901 he founded Zion City, a Christian Community, where Dowie "would allow no liquor, pork, tobacco, or drugstores." Calling itself a theocracy, Zion City maintained a well-disciplined community. Dowie believed this movement would usher in the millennium. It was claimed that he performed hundreds of miraculous cures. The devotion and enthusiasm of his followers were unbounded. Money flowed in freely. Like Mrs. White and Mrs. Eddy, he was dogmatic and arbitrary. His word was law. He required an austere religious life.

Visionaries in Garabanda, Spain

In the summer of 1961, several young Catholic girls in Garabanda Spain reportedly had "visions" of the virgin Mary. For those familiar with the tales of Ellen White's visions, many of the manifestations of these Catholic girls mirror those of the young Ellen White.

  • Supernatural protection from injury while in vision: "When the vision appeared, the girls fell instantaneously on their knees, striking the sharp rocks with a loud noise that was frightening, yet they showed no signs of injury."

  • Supernatural expression on face: "The expression on their faces was suddenly transformed. Their look became extraordinarily beautiful, sweet, one of profound mysticism. There are no words that can properly describe the change. They were completely absorbed in their rapture, unaware of anyone or any material thing around them except for each other."

  • Supernatural trance-like state: "They did not react to pricks, burns or blows. All attempts to distract them failed. Powerful beams of strong light were focused on them, yet their eyes did not even flicker, blink or show any signs of discomfort. Quite the contrary, their eyes remained wide open , expressing a look of intense joy. However, when the girls returned to the normal state, they immediately shielded their eyes from those bright lights which under normal circumstances should have caused permanent eye damage."

  • Supernatural immobility: "On many occasions they remained immobile in off-balance, beautiful 'sculptured-like' positions, heads tilted back, eyes looking up, kneeling on the rocks or bare-legged in the snow."

  • Supernatural energy: Had visions in the night, but the next day they showed no "signs of fatigue."

  • Supernatural conversions: "On seeing the girls approach, many witnesses experienced such a tremendous spiritual awakening, that it produced a very deep interior emotion in them. They cried unashamed tears, admitting the supernatural nature of what they were seeing, hearing and feeling within them, the very presence of the Mother of God. The conversion of unbelievers and those of different faiths, of souls suffering from religious indifference, the conversions of many sinners, all of which have experienced an increase in faith, hope, and charity."

  • Supernatural gravity-defying acts: "The girls went throughout the entire village - up and down stairways, in and out of homes, at all hours of the day and night, avoiding obstacles without faltering, guided solely by the vision. Frequently, they ran at great speed down the steep mountainside, even backwards, so that it was impossible for the astonished spectators to follow them. Their bodies did not seem to be subject to the law of gravity, but endowed with some sort of spiritual agility."

  • Supernatural protection from flame: "...she placed the flame of the heavy candle beneath the fingers of her left hand which were spread apart so that the flame easily passed between them. A fairly strong breeze got up at that moment, and made the flame flicker, but it did not seem to cause any harm to the skin it touched."

  • Testimony about God's anger: Conchita on January 1, 1965 warned of "God's anger." She earlier had written a testimony about a punishment that was coming that would be "more terrible and fearful than anything we can imagine."
To learn more of these visionaries, click here.

Visionaries in the Millerite Movement

In its final days the Millerite Movement was so infected with religious enthusiasm that Joshua Himes complained of being in: "mesmerism seven feet deep" .

According to Dr. Ronald Numbers, fanaticism continued to plague the Millerites even after the October 22 disappointment, and it seemed particularly prevalent among the "shut door" believers. In Springwater Valley, New York, a black shut-door advocate named Houston claimed that at times God spoke to him in visions. The shut-door group in Ellen Harmon's home town of Portland, Maine, was even more notorious in Millerite circles, as Joshua Himes describes its: "continual introduction of visionary nonsense".

In March of 1845 Himes informed Miller that a Sister Clemons of Ellen Harmon's home town of Portland, Maine, "has become very visionary and disgusted nearly all the good friends here" .

But only a couple of weeks later he reported that another Portland sister had received a vision showing that Miss Clemons was of the Devil. Himes concluded, "Things are in a bad way at Portland" .

As a girl, Ellen met two Millerites she regarded as prophets. William Foy claimed to have received visions from God, and later published them in a book. (Some of Ellen's early writings appear to closely resemble Foy's. Click Here to examine the evidence.) Ellen's sister Mary's brother-in-law, Hazen Foss, also claimed to have received visions.

SDA Visionaries

In 1859, Ellen White rebuked a young prophetess named Phebe Knapp. She wrote the woman was "professing to have visions of God, yet teaching the grossest errors..." (Manuscript 9, 1859) Several years later she also rebuked another up-and-coming prophetess:

"The pretensions of Sister Steward to have visions, the fanaticism of the most wretched, revolting kind being the fruits, and the influence of the false exercises..." (Manuscript 3, 1862)
However, the visionary that likely caused Mrs. White the greatest consternation was Sister Ogden. The manner of Ogden's "visions" reminded people of Ellen's "visions" and this caused people to doubt Ellen's visions. Perhaps they were reminded that Sister White's visions seemed to be little more than the recycled teachings of James White and other Adventist leaders. Ellen was particularly outraged when Brother Moses Hull "said she looked just like Sister White when she was in vision." As usual, she attributed it all to Satan:
"Satan saw the influence of the visions was affecting some, and by controlling Sister Ogden and making her think she had a vision while under a satanic influence confirmed the opinions of many that Brother White controls his wife and gives her visions; therefore the visions are only Brother White's mind." (Manuscript 6, 1862)

Thus, the 1700s and early 1800s were an era when visionaries and prophets were popular and attracted large followings. Mrs. White grew up in this atmosphere of religious "enthusiasm" and was closely associated with several other visionaries of her time. Perhaps these associations helped to shape her own prophetic career.

Primary Sources of this web page:

  1. Ronald Numbers, Prophetess of Health, pp. 16-18.
  2. D.M. Canright, Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, Chapter 8.
  3. F. Sanchez Ventura, The Apparitions of Garabandal, (USA: Litho, 1966), http://www.garabandal.org/BrownBook/Print/PrintBrownBookA.htm. "The Garabandal Story", http://www.garabandal.org/story.shtml. Extracted Dec. 24, 2018.

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