The Life of Ellen White by D.M. Canright

Chapter 20 - Her False Vision About the Planets

As previously stated, Elder Joseph Bates first met Elder White and his wife in 1846. He was keeping the Sabbath, and urged it upon them. Neither saw any great importance in it at first, but nominally accepted it to please Bates, as it was important to gain his influence. Mrs. White was having visions which Bates did not believe were of God; but they were anxious to convince him that they were genuine. Bates had been a sea captain, and had consequently studied the stars; had, in fact, become enthusiastic about astronomy. In the presence of Mrs. White and others he had often talked about the different planets, their positions, moons, and the "opening heavens." In his book, "The Great Second Advent Movement," page 260, Elder J.N. Loughborough, Mrs. White's great exponent and apologist, quotes a Mrs. Truesdale thus:

"We all knew that Captain Bates was a great lover of astronomy, as he would often locate many of the heavenly bodies for our instruction."

Mrs. White seemed to pay no attention to the subject, or to have any interest in it. But soon she had a vision about the various planets, which is thus told by Loughborough on page 258 of his book just quoted:

"One evening at the conference above mentioned [Topsham, Maine, 1846], in the house of Mr. Curtis, and in the presence of Elder (Captain) Bates, who was yet undecided in regard to these manifestations, Mrs. White, while in vision, began to talk about the stars, giving a glowing description of the rosy-tinted belts which she saw across the surface of some planet, and added, 'I see four moons.' 'Oh,' said Elder Bates, 'she is viewing Jupiter.' Then, having made motions as though traveling through space, she began giving descriptions of belts and rings in their ever-varying beauty, and said, 'I see eight moons.' 'She is describing Saturn.' Next came a description of Uranus with his six moons, then a wonderful description of the 'opening heavens.'"

This was sufficient, and accomplished its purpose. Elder Bates was convinced, and became a firm believer in the visions.

But what are the facts? Mrs. White simply saw what her companions at the time generally believed and talked about. Had God given her that view about the planets and the number of moons to each he would have given her the correct number in each case, and thus she would have revealed what astronomers at the time did not know, but later discovered. This would have proved her vision to be of God. But, blundering as she did, proves that the Lord was not in it. This vision was like all the rest of her revelations; she simply saw what others at the time had studied out and believed and talked about. Whether she pretended to see all this to win Elder Bates, or whether she really imagined she saw it, the fact remains that her statement of the number of moons to each planet was incorrect, and not in harmony with what we know to be the truth about them. Here cold facts which can not be denied prove her revelations to be wholly unreliable. Here are the facts as compiled by E.E. Frank, of New York City: "Jupiter has nine moons instead of four; Saturn has ten moons instead of eight; and Uranus has only four moons instead of six." These discoveries were made as follows:

Jupiter. In 1892, Bernard, at Lick Observatory, discovered the fifth moon of Jupiter; in 1905, Perrine, at the same observatory, discovered the sixth and seventh; in 1908, Melotte discovered the eighth at Greenwich; and in 1914, Nickolson, at the Lick Observatory, discovered the ninth.

Saturn. In 1899, Prof. W.H. Pickering discovered the ninth moon of Saturn, and in 1905, the tenth.

Uranus. Sir Wm. Herschel discovered the two largest moons of Uranus, and supposed he had seen four others, which was believed up to 1851, five years after Mrs. White's vision. In 1851, Lassell positively proved that Uranus has only four moons.

For these facts and the names of all these satellites see "Manual of Astronomy," by Charles Young, Ph.D., LL.D., late professor of astronomy at Princeton University.

[Editor: Recent discoveries show Jupiter with 16 moons, Saturn with at least 18, and Uranus 15. Uranus also has rings which were not mentioned by Mrs. White]

The conclusion is self-evident - Mrs. White's claim was false. She did not see Jupiter, for Jupiter has nine moons instead of four, as she said. She did not see Saturn, for Saturn has ten moons instead of eight (seven), as she claimed to see. She did not see Uranus, for Uranus has only four moons instead of six, as she claimed. Any yet she represents that the Lord showed her all these things in vision.

This vision of the moons, corresponding exactly with what Elder Bates believed, convinced him the visions were of God. He asked her if she had ever studied astronomy, and she replied by saying that she did not remember ever having looked in a book on astronomy. That settled it with him. But she could easily have learned all this from his own previous conversations. Later discoveries have now shown that both Jupiter and Saturn have more moons than she said. Elder Loughborough is obliged to confess this. In a foot note on page 258 of his book already quoted he says: "More moons to both Jupiter and Saturn have since been discovered."

As a matter of fact, Mrs. White herself, relating this vision, described Saturn as having only seven moons, the number then assigned to that planet by astronomers. Here are her own words in "Early Writings," page 32: "The I was taken to a world which had seven moons." But by the time Elder Loughborough had written his book, "Rise and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists," another moon had been discovered, and the publishers had the audacity to change her words to read, "I see eight moons." (See page 126 of that work.) This was in 1892. When Elder Loughborough revised this book in 1905, and issued it under another title, still more moons had been discovered to this planet, hence his admission.

The progressive discoveries of astronomy since Mrs. White had that vision have proved her revelation to be false. But it was a master stroke to win an influential convert to her cause. And it succeeded, fraudulent as it was.

Were Elder Bates alive today he would be compelled to reject her alleged vision of the planets as spurious, in view of her contradictions of known facts discovered since his death.

Revelations and visions which can be produced on demand or made to order to suit an occasion, may safely be questioned and distrusted, as well as may the peepings and mutterings of familiar spirits which come at a call.

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