Those Tall Jupiter People!
By Dirk Anderson
In 1846, Mrs. White had a "vision" of the solar system. Mrs. Truesdail, a dedicated and sincere SDA, was present during the vision. She describes how Mrs. White saw a "tall, majestic people" living on either Jupiter or Saturn:
Sister White was in very feeble health, and while prayers were offered in her behalf, the Spirit of God rested upon us. We soon noticed that she was insensible to earthly things. This was her first view of the planetary world. After counting aloud the moons of Jupiter, and soon after those of Saturn, she gave a beautiful description of the rings of the latter. She then said, 'The inhabitants are a tall, majestic people, so unlike the inhabitants of earth. Sin has never entered here.'"1
In 1942, SDA historian A.W. Spalding elaborated on the "vision":
In vision, then, Mrs. White was taken to see these planets, and as she talked about them, describing them, Captain Bates, his face wreathed in smiles, would say, 'Now she is viewing Jupiter,' and, 'She is describing Saturn,' and so on. She told much more than astronomers knew about these, for they are not sure the planets are inhabited, but she saw that they are. On Saturn she saw good old Enoch, who was translated five thousand years ago, without dying. He said that was not his home, that he was only visiting there, that he lived in heaven, where God dwells, and there he was waiting until the earth should be restored as it had been in Eden. The people of these worlds were all very much more beautiful and strong than the people of earth, for sin has never entered there.2
Were tall people living on Jupiter? Was Enoch living on Saturn? Was Ellen White way ahead of Science in her knowledge of the inhabitants of other planets? Mrs. White's solar system "vision" may have seemed plausible up until recent decades. Today, however, scientific knowledge of these planets has increased significantly. For example, it is now known that Jupiter and Saturn are both extremely inhospitable to life as we know it:
Jupiter Has FOUR Moons
In 1847, James and Ellen White published a tract announcing Ellen had seen a vision of the planets in the solar system:
At our conference in Topsham, Maine, last Nov., Ellen had a vision of the handy works of God. She was guided to the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and I think one more. After she came out of vision, she could give a clear description of their Moons, etc. It is well known, that she knew nothing of astronomy, and could not answer one question in relation to the planets, before she had this vision.3
Notice in the above quote that James says Ellen gave a "clear description" of their moons. The description was so clear that it included the exact number of Jupiter's moons. SDA historian J.N. Loughborough apparently interviewed Bates on the subject and here is how he described the vision:
One evening, at the conference above mentioned, at the house of Mr. Curtiss and in the presence of Elder 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 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 a description of belts and rings in their ever-varying beauty, and said, 'I see seven moons.'7 Elder Bates exclaimed, 'She is describing Saturn.' Next she said, 'I see six moons,' and at once began a description of the 'opening heavens,' with its glory, calling it an opening into a region more enlightened.4
To summarize the facts from Sister White's vision:
Coincidentally, these numbers are exactly the same as the number of moons that had already been discovered by astronomers around Jupiter and Saturn as of the year 1846. Notice that the publisher added footnote 7 in the above quote. Here is what the footnote says:
"7 In Rise and Progress, it says she saw eight moons to Saturn. This change was made after the proofs went out of my hands. More moons to both Jupiter and Saturn have since been discovered."5
This footnote demonstrates how Mrs. White's visions were later altered by others. Eyewitnesses reported that Mrs. White had seen "seven" moons around Saturn. However, an eighth moon had been discovered by the time Loughborough's book Rise and Progress was ready for publication. The SDA editors of the book altered the vision to say "eight" moons in order to make it correspond to known scientific facts. To his credit, Loughborough honestly admits that the actual number Mrs. White saw was "seven." This also proves that for at least 50 years Seventh-day Adventists believed the second planet in Mrs. White's vision was Saturn.
A "Clear Description" of the Moons?
Mrs. White once wrote:
Science is ever discovering new wonders; but she brings from her research nothing that, rightly understood, conflicts with divine revelation.6
Mrs. White's revelation certainly "conflicts" with modern science. If it is true that science never conflicts with divine revelation, then the only conclusion one can make is that Ellen White's solar system vision was not a divine revelation! Mrs. White got close enough to Jupiter and/or Saturn to see the "tall, majestic people" living there, but what did she fail to see?
Why Did She See Only What Astronomers Had Already Seen?
When Mrs. White had her "vision" in 1846, it was common knowledge that Jupiter had four moons. The fifth was not discovered until 1892. In 1846, it was thought that Saturn had seven moons. The eighth moon was discovered shortly thereafter, in 1848. After the discovery, an account of the "vision" was quietly modified to say "eight" instead of "seven." Mrs. White's vision did not reveal anything that could not have been obtained from an Astronomy book or even from a newspaper article! The only difference between what Mrs. White saw and what the astronomers saw through their telescopes was those "tall, majestic people!"
What About Those Tall, Majestic People?
While SDA historians, such as A.W. Spalding, used to trumpet the fact that Mrs. White saw tall people on Jupiter and/or Saturn in her visions, after the middle of the twentieth century, when science began to show the improbability of such, Ellen White's comments about tall, majestic people living on these planets stopped showing up in SDA books.
The question is, if Mrs. White did not see this in vision, then where did she get the notion that there were "tall people" living on the planets? Perhaps she got the idea from French author Voltaire, who in his popular 1752 story Micromegas wrote of "citizens" of Saturn who were "a thousand fathoms" tall.7
Solar System Visions not Unusual
In 1758, visionary Emanuel Swedenborg wrote extensively about his communications with spirits from other planets of the solar system. In writing about the people living on Jupiter, he describes them as human with faces that are "fair and beautiful." He says nothing of their height, but does reveal that their faces "were larger" than the people of Earth. He also wrote of people living on Saturn. He described the inhabitants of these planets as worshippers of God who are more spiritually elevated than the people of earth.8 Today, followers of Swedenborg have great difficulty reconciling these statements with known scientific facts.
In the 1840s, with the recent advances in Astronomy, there was a great deal of interest in the solar system. There was much speculation about what kind of beings inhabited the other planets in the solar system. During that era, people undergoing mesmerism (a form of hypnotism that often included hallucinations) sometimes reported visiting the planets and the moon.9
Incredible Missed Opportunities
Imagine if Mrs. White had told Bates that Jupiter had four large moons and 76 smaller moons! Her prophetic gift would have been proven beyond doubt to all future generations. Unfortunately, she missed this great opportunity. Imagine if Mrs. White had announced that Jupiter had rings! This amazing fact was not discovered until the Voyager space probes visited Jupiter in 1979 (as shown in the photo to the right). Such an announcement would certainly have validated her claims. Unfortunately, although she got close enough to see those tall people on the planet, she failed to see the rings.
After considering what she did see and what she failed to see, the question is: Did she really have a divine vision?
What was the REAL purpose of the vision?
In early 1846, the Whites were in trouble. They were poor and destitute. Many viewed Ellen White's visions with skepticism. What they needed more than anything was an influential friend who believed as they did. Fortunately for the Whites, they were able to locate just such a man—Joseph Bates. In the spring of 1846, the Whites met this retired sea captain. However, there was one major problem. Although Bates was advanced in age, his mind was still sharp enough to doubt Mrs. White's visions. The Whites tried to win him over, but had little success. But in November, all of that changed. At a small meeting with Bates and a few other diehard believers, Mrs. White had a special "vision" on Astronomy, which just so happened to be Joseph Bates' favorite subject. What a fortunate coincidence!
As Ellen went into vision, the elderly Bates was no doubt enthralled watching this 19-year-old young lady make motions as if she was flying through space. As Bates listened, Ellen described various details of the Solar System and the so-called gap in Orion. Bates had observed the gap many years earlier while on board a ship in the southern hemisphere. Orion was then a topic of great interest because of the recent telescopic observations of William Parsons, the third earl of Rosse. Just months earlier Bates had published a tract, "The Opening Heavens," relating Rosse's discoveries, but Ellen assured Bates she had no prior knowledge of astronomy.10
Mrs. Truesdail, also present at the "vision", reports it had the desired effect on Bates:
It was evident from Brother Bates's smiling face that his past doubts in regard to the source of her visions were fast leaving him. 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. When Sister White replied to his questions, after the vision, saying that she had never studied or otherwise received knowledge in this direction, he was filled with joy and happiness. He praised God, and expressed his belief that this vision concerning the planets was given that he might never again doubt.11
Yes, everyone, including the Whites, knew Bates was fond of Astronomy. What a fortunate coincidence that Mrs. White's first recorded vision of the solar system took place while the skeptical Bates was in attendance. From that time forward, Bates was a believer. He no doubt looked forward to that day in glory, when he would be able to travel to Jupiter to meet those "tall, majestic people!"
1. Taken from Mrs. Truesdail's letter, Jan 27, 1891. The letter was published in J.N. Loughborough's "The Great Second Advent Movement, pp. 260-261.
2. A.W. Spalding, Pioneer Stories of the Second Advent Message, chapter 17, "The Opening Heavens and the Unchanged Law", (1942).
3. James White, A Word to the Little Flock, p. 22.
4. J.N. Loughborough, Great Second Advent Movement, p. 258. According to the Francis Nichol in Ellen G. White and her Critics, Loughborough "undoubtedly based this account on conversations held with Joseph Bates years before." (pp. 93,94) It is interesting to note Ellen White is recorded as saying Uranus had six moons when only two had been discovered by 1846. Two more were discovered in 1851, and a fifth in 1948. Voyager discovered ten more in 1986. There was never a time when Uranus was known to only have six moons.
6. Ellen G. White, Education, p. 128.
7. Voltaire, Micromegas, translation by Blake Linton Wilfong.
8. Emanuel Swedenborg, Earths in Our Solar System Which Are Called Planets and Earths in the Starry Heaven Their Inhabitants, and the Spirits and Angels There: From Things Heard and Seen (translated into English from Latin), (London: Swedenborg Society, 1962), 52, 65, 98. Originally published in Latin in 1758.
9. La Roy Sunderland, Pathetism, (Boston: White & Potter, 1848), 133.
10. This paragraph taken from Ronald L. Numbers, Ph.D., Prophetess of Health, p. 15.
11. Truesdail letter, 1891. See also Ellen White's statement, "Bro. J. Bates, did not then fully believe that my visions were of God....I was wrapt in a vision of God's glory, and for the first time had a view of other planets. After I came out of vision I related what I had seen. Bro. Bates asked if I had studied astronomy. I told him I had no recollection of ever looking into any astronomy. Said he, 'This is of the Lord.'" (White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2 p. 83)
Category: Shocking Statements
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