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    Chapter 1—Young Ellen Gould Harmon

    The student next to Ellen Harmon giggled to himself, sure that his trick had been the funniest one ever pulled in the history of the school. Carefully he glanced around to make sure he had his classmates’ complete attention. Ellen ignored him. But the teacher did not. Seizing his disciplinary stick, he marched down the aisle between the rows of high desks and stood over the boy. His face showing anger, the teacher raised the stick to strike the unruly student. But as he swung, the stick flew out of his grip and crashed against Ellen’s forehead.AOT 9.1

    Covering her face, the injured girl immediately arose from her seat and ran from the schoolroom.AOT 9.2

    Startled and momentarily forgetting about the boy, the teacher watched her go. When she did not return after several minutes, the man began to worry. Checking outside, he saw her heading down the road toward home.AOT 9.3

    Hurrying after her, he called, “Ellen, Ellen, I made a mistake. I’m sorry. Won’t you forgive me?” She turned and looked at him in surprise. “Of course I forgive you,” she assured him, “but where did you make a mistake?”AOT 9.4

    “I didn’t mean to hit you,” he explained, trying to catch his breath.AOT 10.1

    “It was a mistake for you to hit anybody,” she replied simply. “I would rather have a gash on my forehead than see it on somebody else.”AOT 10.2

    Quick to punish, some teachers in Ellen Harmon’s day whipped their students at the slightest excuse. Occasionally the students received harder punishment than they deserved.AOT 10.3

    Ellen’s family lived in the Atlantic Coast city of Portland, Maine. Friends always found her pleasant and full of the ideas and plans any bright young girl has. A serious girl, though, she had a more mature outlook toward life than some of her friends. Religion was an important part of her life. Every Sunday she went to the Methodist church on Pine Street. Rather than following constantly changing whims of her own, she found her greatest happiness in making her life useful for Christ. People had great interest in religion during much of the nineteenth century, and Ellen shared the strong faith of many of her neighbors. It was something, she discovered, that did not become boring after a while, as did the games she played.AOT 10.4

    When she became old enough, the Methodist minister baptized her in wide, island-studded Casco Bay, near the beach home of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. She was only twelve years old when she and eleven others braved the wind-tossed waves to be baptized like Christ. She understood the seriousness of the decision she had made.AOT 10.5

    Her father worked as a hatmaker. He was not a rich man, but he and his wife Eunice had a full and busy life raising eight lively children. Ellen had a twin sister, Elizabeth; and the two girls were the youngest members of the family.AOT 11.1

    The children worked hard to help their father make his business succeed. Ellen made crowns for the hats. Because of a bad heart she had to work while propped up with pillows in bed. Her father paid her twenty-five cents a day. She also knitted stockings for twenty-five cents a pair. Instead of spending her money, she saved it.AOT 11.2

    After many months of saving, Ellen went to her parents with thirty dollars. “Please buy tracts and pamphlets with it,” she said, handing the pile of coins to them. “I want other people to know about Christ’s coming again, so that they can get ready.” Christ was real to her, and she wanted to help others share her feelings. It gave her a strong purpose, a goal in life.AOT 11.3

    His daughter’s sacrifice deeply impressed Mr. Harmon. During the 1840’s thirty dollars represented a large sum of money, and it had taken Ellen four months to earn it. A girl with less determination would have spent the money long before.AOT 11.4

    Ellen Harmon had only one desire in life—to please God. But she found it hard to accept Christ as her Saviour. Her Christian friends told her to believe in Jesus and accept the fact that He would give her eternal life. Not understanding how she should believe, she thought that if her faith was strong enough, she would feel some kind of powerful emotion, such as she felt when she was excited or happy about something. When the feeling did not come, she condemned herself for her lack of faith. She did not know that faith would bring the blessings of God’s forgiveness and acceptance whether she felt any emotion or not.AOT 11.5

    At times Ellen feared that she was somehow different from other people. It seemed to her that God avoided her because of something she had done. Fear filled her heart. She felt forever lost and sank into despair and depression. In her mind God’s desire for justice overshadowed His love and mercy for imperfect men and women. Her worry began to make her actually sick.AOT 12.1

    Most people during the years of Ellen’s childhood believed in a real hell where Satan and his angels would torment sinners with fire for eternity—fire hot enough to cause endless pain, but not hot enough to kill. Ministers often preached on the subject, and would try to make it seem as terrible as possible to frighten their congregations into being good. Hearing many sermons about it, she sometimes shook with horror, afraid that fire would be her fate, also. She did not know that the Bible does not really teach there is an eternal, flaming hell. No one told her that the dead actually sleep until Christ comes again.AOT 12.2

    One night at prayer meeting she had the feeling that she should pray aloud. But when she tried to pray, she hesitated, afraid she would become confused. Believing that she did not know how to correctly express herself before God, she did not try again. Later, when she prayed in private, it seemed as if her prayers mocked God. Discouragement and frustration overwhelmed her. For weeks gloom surrounded her. Nothing could seem to make her happy.AOT 12.3

    One night Ellen had a dream which she remembered for the rest of her life, a dream that made her only more miserable at first. In it she saw a special temple. Many people went inside. Somehow she knew that only the people who had gone inside would escape destruction when Christ came again. Those outside would die, would face eternal loss. But most people did not seem to care whether they were saved or not. Instead, they made fun of those who did go inside the strange little temple. They claimed the temple was a trick, because no danger threatened anybody. Some even tried to stop people from entering the building.AOT 13.1

    Ellen Harmon watched for a while, wanting to go inside, but fearing someone would laugh at her if she did. Instead, she decided to wait until no one looked in the direction of the temple; then she would slip through the door before anyone could catch her. But the crowd around the building grew larger. Realizing that if she waited, it would become harder to get through the throng of people, she started pushing her way through the milling men and women. A fear that she might be too late nagged at the back of her mind. At first the crowd pushed and shoved her about, but as she concentrated on reaching the temple in time, she forgot about the people around her and soon did not even notice them. Entering the building, she saw that a single immense pillar supported it. Bruised and torn, a lamb stood tied to the pillar. Everyone inside seemed to know that his deeds had caused the lamb’s injuries. To enter the temple, one had to stand before the animal and confess the wrong things he had done. In front of the lamb clustered rows of elevated seats. On them sat a number of happy-looking people. Light seemed to shine on their faces as they sang and praised God. Ellen knew that they had confessed their sins to the lamb, and that God had pardoned them. Now they waited for some special event.AOT 13.2

    Although she stood inside the building, fear seized her. She felt ashamed that she had to humble herself before the people in the temple. Nor did she want anybody to overhear her confess her sins. Yet a strange force compelled her to approach the lamb, and she slowly edged around the group of people sitting on the raised seats. When she turned to face the lamb, prepared to confess her sins, a trumpet blared. The people shouted in triumph, shaking the building, and a bright light flashed through the temple. Suddenly a cloak of darkness dropped over Ellen, and she found herself alone—terribly alone.AOT 14.1

    With a cry of terror, the girl shook herself awake. The dream remained so vividly in her mind that she could barely convince herself that it had not actually happened. God had left her, she felt, never to return. He wanted to have nothing to do with her. Her anxiety and torment increased.AOT 14.2

    God did not let Ellen Harmon remain in her despair for long. Soon afterward He sent her another dream. One night she seemed to be sitting by herself in her room, her face in her hands, utterly dejected. Wishing she could meet Christ, she planned how she would throw herself at His feet and tell Him all her problems and fears. She knew He would not spurn her pleas, but would have pity on her and comfort her. If He did come, she promised herself, she would serve Him in everything she did for the rest of her life. God was real to Ellen, and she wanted His love as most people want the love of a family member or a friend.AOT 14.3

    Suddenly the door to her room opened, and a man stood in the doorway. “Do you want to see Jesus?” he asked after looking kindly at her for several moments. “He is here,” the stranger added, “and you can see Him if you desire. Take everything you possess, and follow me.”AOT 15.1

    Too happy for words, Ellen gathered up her trinkets and followed the angel. Leading her to a steep, frail stairway, he cautioned her not to glance down or she would become dizzy and fall. Many other people walked up the stairs with her. During the climb several did look down, and they toppled backward and fell far below.AOT 15.2

    The stairway ended at a door. The angel told Ellen to leave her possessions outside, and this she did without hesitation. Opening the door, the angel motioned for her to enter. Jesus stood in front of her, kindness and majesty in every feature of His face. His eyes penetrated her, and she knew that He understood her fears and thoughts.AOT 15.3

    At first she tried to hide from His eyes, but His smile encouraged her to come closer to Him. Laying His hand on her head, He said, “Fear not.” His voice filled her with happiness so great that, overcome with the emotion, she dropped to His feet. As she lay there, she seemed to be in heaven. Finally her strength returned. Christ still smiled at her, awakening great reverence and love in Ellen.AOT 15.4

    The angel guide returned and opened the door. Reluctantly Ellen realized that she had to leave now. Outside, the angel told her to pick up her possessions. Once she had them bundled in her arms, he handed her a tightly coiled green cord and told her to put it next to her heart. Whenever she wanted to see Jesus again, he explained, she should take the cord and stretch it as much as possible. But, the angel warned, she should not leave it coiled too long or it would become knotted and difficult to straighten. As she descended the stairs, Ellen’s joy increased until she had to tell everybody she met along the way how to find Christ, lest her heart burst from all the happiness it contained.AOT 16.1

    The dream gave her new hope and confidence. She believed the green cord in the dream symbolized faith, and through it she began to understand how she should trust in Christ.AOT 16.2

    Up to then Ellen had kept her worries to herself. After the dream she talked about them to her mother. Mrs. Harmon sympathized with her and suggested that she go to see Levi Stockman, an Adventist preacher with whom the Harmons had become acquainted. Ellen had great confidence in him, calling the man “a devoted servant of Christ.”AOT 16.3

    Pastor Stockman listened to her story, studied her face, then affectionately placed his hand on her head. “Ellen,” he said, tears in his eyes, “you are only a child. You have had a most unusual experience for one of your age. I believe Jesus must be preparing you for some special purpose in life.”AOT 16.4

    Telling her to continue trusting in God, he prayed for Ellen and sent her home. She felt certain God would answer the dedicated minister’s prayer, and the doubt and fear that had plagued her vanished.AOT 17.1

    The next time she had a chance, Ellen prayed aloud at prayer meeting. God poured His Spirit on her, and she strongly sensed His presence. For the rest of her life she remembered the calmness that came over her. Daily she learned more about her relationship with Christ, and as she did, He prepared her for the role she would play in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.AOT 17.2

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