Home > Prophecy > Spirit of Prophecy Section > 1BIO - The Early Years by Arthur White >
Chapter 7 - Entering Married Life ( p. 110 )
Chapter 7:    Entering  Married  Life
( 1846 - 1847 )

Although James White and Ellen Harmon were closely associated in travel and labor through much of 1845, it seems that neither gave thought to marriage. They and their associates were of the strong opinion that Christ's second coming was very close at hand; attention was again focused on the tenth day of the seventh month [October], this time in 1845 instead of 1844. It was the conviction held by most that because of the near Advent it would not be right to marry. Of their situation James White later wrote:  {1BIO 110.1}
We both viewed the coming of Christ near, even at the doors, and when we first met had no idea of marriage at any future time. But God had a great work for both of us to do, and He saw that we could greatly assist each other in that work. As she should come before the public she needed a lawful protector, and God having chosen her as a channel of light and truth to the people in a special sense, she could be of great help to me.  {1BIO 110.2}
But it was not until the matter of marriage was taken to the Lord by both, and we obtained an experience that placed the matter beyond the reach of doubt, that we took this important step. Most of our brethren who believed with us that the Second Advent movement was the work of God were opposed to marriage in the sense that as time was very short it was a denial of faith, as such a union contemplated long years of married  life.-- 1LS, p. 126.  {1BIO 110.3}
Elaborating on this, White explained that Ellen was feeble and it seemed that consumption would take her life. She weighed about eighty pounds. Frequently on the steamboats or on the train she would faint and remain breathless for minutes. He wrote:  {1BIO 110.4}
It was necessary that she should have one or more attendants. Either her sister Sarah or Sister Foss traveled with her. And as neither her aged father nor feeble brother were suitable persons to travel with one so feeble, and introduce her and her mission to the people, the writer, fully believing that her wonderful experience and work was of God, became satisfied that it was his duty to accompany them.  {1BIO 111.1}
And as our thus traveling subjected us to the reproaches of the enemies of the Lord and His truth, duty seemed very clear that the one who had so important a message to the world hould have a legal protector, and that we should unite our labors.-- Ibid., p. 238.  {1BIO 111.2}
So although their courtship lacked some of the typical elements, Providence led them on to love and affection and fixed their eyes on marriage. It was now 1846, and the end of August seemed to be an appropriate time to unite their lives. Ellen had great admiration for James, "the best man that ever trod shoeleather" (DF 733c, "Interview with Mrs. E. G. White"). There is a note of excitement in a letter James wrote to Brother Collins while in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, August 26. James was there to conduct a funeral:  {1BIO 111.3}
I have a chance to get to Fairhaven tonight by sailboat, and shall take the cars tomorrow morning for Boston, and the express train of cars for Portland at four-thirty. Shall be in Portland tomorrow night at six o'clock. . . . Sister Ellen says that the way is made plain. We are published; we shall be married perhaps Monday.-- JW to Brother Collins, Aug. 26, 1846.  {1BIO 111.4}
He stated that Nichols, who had visited Portland while he, James, was in Massachusetts, was concerned when he first heard of their marriage plans, "but he was now satisfied that God was in it." James added:  {1BIO 111.5}
        I have visited Holms Hall, Brother Chase, and the sisters. . . .
They have no objections now to our marriage. But it tried them at first. . . . From what Ellen said in her letter, I judge that she thinks of coming west as soon as we are married.--Ibid.  {1BIO 111.6}

 The  Wedding
We would like to picture in our minds James White, 25 years of age, and his bride, Ellen Harmon, 18, with a bouquet in hand, standing in a little white New England chapel surrounded by parents, brothers, sisters, and close friends, as they listened to appropriate admonitions and exchanged their wedding vows. But it was not so.  {1BIO 112.1}
Sometime on Sunday, August 30, James Springer White and Miss Ellen Gould Harmon stood before Charles Harding, justice of the peace, in Portland, Maine, and were married. The marriage certificate, preserved through the years, is just a small slip of paper carrying a brief form and the signature of the one who officiated. While both recognized the importance of the event, they could not, with their concept of the imminent Second Advent, foresee that this was the beginning of thirty-five years of united lives laboring incessantly in building up the cause of God.  {1BIO 112.2}
Of their experience James White 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. . . .  {1BIO 112.3}
We entered upon this work penniless, with few friends, and broken in health. Mrs. White has suffered ill health from a child,  . . . and although I had inherited a powerful constitution, imprudence in study at school, and in lecturing . . . had made me a dyspeptic.  {1BIO 112.4}

In this condition, without means, with very few who sympathized with us in our views, without a paper, and without books, we entered upon our work. We had no houses of worship at that time, and the idea of using a tent had not then occurred to us. Most of our meetings were held in private houses. Ourcongregations were small. It was seldom that any came into our meetings, excepting Adventists, unless they were attracted by  curiosity to hear a woman speak.--1LS, pp. 126, 127.  {1BIO 112.5}

Their  First  Home
The Harmon home in Gorham became the place of residence for the newlyweds. We know very little of the early weeks of their married life. But in November they attended a conference in Topsham some thirty-five miles to the north, at the home of Brother Curtis. Joseph Bates had come up from New Bedford and was present. Ellen White wrote:  {1BIO 113.1}
 The Spirit of God rested upon us in Brother C.'s humble dwelling, and 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.--Ibid., p. 239.  {1BIO 113.2}
Actually, during the vision, wholly unbeknown to her, she spoke of what was passing before her. J. N. Loughborough recounted in print the description of the meeting as Bates told it to him:  {1BIO 113.3}
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."  {1BIO 113.4}
"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."  {1BIO 113.5}   Elder Bates exclaimed, "She is describing Saturn."  {1BIO 113.6}
Next came the description of Uranus, with its six moons; then a wonderful description of the "opening heavens," with its glory, calling it an opening into a region more enlightened. Elder Bates said that her description far surpassed any account of the opening heavens he had ever read from any author.  {1BIO 113.7}
While she was talking and still in vision, he arose to his feet, and exclaimed, "O how I wish Lord John Rosse was here tonight!" Elder White inquired, "Who is Lord John Rosse?" {1BIO 113.8}
"Oh," said Elder Bates, "he is the great English astronomer. I wish he was here to hear that woman talk astronomy, and to hear that description of the 'opening heavens.' It is ahead of anything I ever read on the subject."-- GSAM, p. 258.  {1BIO 114.1}
Ellen White reported of this experience in the Curtis home:  {1BIO 114.2}      After I came out of vision I related what I had seen. Elder Bates then asked if I had studied astronomy. I told him I had no recollection of ever looking into an astronomy.  {1BIO 114.3}   Said he, "This is of the Lord."  {1BIO 114.4}
I never saw him as free and happy before. His countenance shone with the light of heaven, and he exhorted the church with power.-- 1LS, p. 239.  {1BIO 114.5}
 A few months later James White wrote:
At our conference in Topsham, Maine, last November, Ellen had a vision of the handiworks of God. She was guided to the planets Jupiter, Saturn, and I think one more. [ELLEN WHITE, NEITHER IN VISION NOR AFTERWARD, GAVE THE NAMES OF THE PLANETS SHE SAW. FROM HER DESCRIPTIONS BATES IDENTIFIED THEM AND JAMES WHITE MADE USE OF HIS IDENTIFICATION.] After she came out of vision, she could give a clear description of their moons, et cetera. 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.-- WLF, p. 22.  {1BIO 114.6}
  Bates had been troubled with serious doubts as to the visions, but the evidence in the experience at Topsham was such that he accepted them wholeheartedly from that time forth. Ellen White never wrote out in detail what she was shown. It is evident that God's purpose in giving this vision was to establish confidence in the heart of Joseph Bates. It should be borne in mind that the number of moons she was shown was what Bates, up to that time, had seen through the telescope. Stronger, more modern telescopes have brought into view additional moons circling the planets described. Nevertheless, had Ellen been shown what stronger telescopes now reveal, Bates's doubts would have been confirmed, rather than alleviated. {1BIO 114.7}

Stricken  with  severe  illness
 But more than other planets was shown to Ellen White in the vision at Topsham. Of this she wrote:  {1BIO 115.1}
I was shown that I would be much afflicted, and that we would have a trial of our faith on our return to Gorham.--1LS, p. 239.  {1BIO 115.2}
Fulfillment was rapid. Ellen was taken desperately ill. Earnest prayers in her behalf brought no relief. For three weeks James White's bride suffered until in her intense agony she requested that no more prayers be offered in her behalf, for she was convinced that "their prayers were protracting" her life and thus her sufferings. Every breath came with a groan. Otis Nichols, in Massachusetts, sent his son Henry to bring some things for her comfort, and while he was there he joined in the earnest prayers for her recovery. Ellen White tells of what followed:  {1BIO 115.3}
After others had prayed, Brother Henry commenced praying, and seemed much burdened, and with the power of God resting upon him, rose from his knees, came across the room, and laid his hands upon my head, saying, "Sister Ellen, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole," and fell back prostrated by the power of God. [ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS IN THE YEARS 1840 TO 1851 -- AND EVEN LATER -- THERE WERE EXPERIENCES IN WHICH THE POWER OF GOD WAS MANIFESTED IN PHYSICAL PROSTRATION. THE CIRCUMSTANCES, AND THE HIGH CHARACTER OF THE INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED, WOULD LEAD TO THE CONCLUSION THAT SUCH EXPERIENCES WERE GENUINE AND NOT THE FRUIT OF FANATICISM.]
     I believed the work was of God, and the pain left me. My soul was filled with gratitude and peace.--Ibid., pp. 239, 240.  {1BIO 115.4}


still under construction 


Continue to Chapter 8  - -  Laying the Foundation

Return to  Table of Contnts - Biography of EGW