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The Great Visions of Ellen G. White

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    How This Book Came to Be

    Author’s Introduction

    The Seventh-day Adventist Church was cofounded by James and Ellen White and Joseph Bates at Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1860. But its origins stretch back three decades earlier to the 1830s, when a Baptist farmer-turned-preacher, William Miller, began to preach the imminent return of Jesus Christ to this earth. Miller mistakenly agreed with a few other contemporary expositors of Bible time prophecies that the date for that event would be October 22, 1844.GVEGW 11.1

    Some six or seven weeks after the ensuing “Great Disappointment,” on a now unknown day in December, 1844, a 17-year-old maiden, Ellen Harmon (later Mrs. James White), received a vision. It was the first of hundreds of prophetic dreams and visions, spanning a period of seven decades. Seventh-day Adventists quickly came to view them as of divine origin.GVEGW 11.2

    During this remarkably fecund 70-year ministry to her church, some 25 million words would issue forth from the pen of Ellen White. Even in death she would attain to literary distinction, for she has been constituted as (1) one of the most translated writers in the entire history of literature (in 1991 her treatise on practical Christian living, Steps to Christ, was available in 137 languages); (2) the most translated woman writer of all time; and (3) the most translated American writer of either sex.GVEGW 11.3

    Adventists have held since earliest times that her writings were inspired by the Holy Spirit in the same manner—and to the same degree—as those of the 40-plus writers of the Bible. Yet they assiduously refrain from making of them either a substitute Bible or an addition to the sacred canon of Scripture.GVEGW 11.4

    Rather, the church sees Mrs. White in a role analogous to that of the eight men mentioned in the Old Testament who were acknowledged to be divinely inspired literary prophets—Jasher, Gad, Nathan, Ahijah the Shilonite, Shemaiah, Iddo, Jehu, and Elijah—yet whose writings never appeared in the Bible.GVEGW 11.5

    While not making belief in Mrs. White’s fascinating gift of prophetic inspiration a test of church membership, Adventists still have strongly upheld her unique role in their heritage. And entire courses dealing with her life, ministry, writings, and pronouncements have been and are being taught in Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities on all six continents.GVEGW 11.6

    The textbook for the undergraduate introductory course in Seventh-day Adventist prophetic guidance, since 1955, has been T. Housel Jemison’s A Prophet Among You. It has done yeoman service for some 35 years; but eventually it has become viewed as more and more out of date (through no fault of the author’s) vis-a-vis the changing issues and needs within and without the church.GVEGW 12.1

    On December 14, 1989, the trustees of the Ellen G. White Estate at Seventh-day Adventist world church headquarters concurred with the request of the Pacific Press Publishing Association of Boise, Idaho, that I be assigned the task of preparing a replacement textbook. Jemison’s work had 24 chapters, with some 600 pages of text; mine, now in progress, will have perhaps 28 chapters, and approximately 650 pages of text.GVEGW 12.2

    Despite the size of this editorial undertaking, it quickly became clear that several other works would also have to be written to round out the intention of the publisher and of the White Estate.GVEGW 12.3

    Two parallel series of volumes, giving background readings of historical and theological materials, would be needed to support the textbook: The Great Visions of Ellen G. White (of which this book is volume 1), and The Great Messages of Ellen G. White (as yet to be written) were among such.GVEGW 12.4

    A cursory look at this volume’s table of contents may bring disappointment to some readers whose favorite vision story is left untold. I hope that volume 2 in this series will—at least in part—rectify that deficiency.GVEGW 12.5

    And the reader may well inquire: Why these stories, instead of some others equally appropriate to the theme? By what yardstick were these particular vision stories selected for inclusion in this book?GVEGW 12.6

    There were at least six criteria that informed and guided the selection process at every stage of development—and it is quickly conceded that these might well have led another researcher into quite different paths. I asked myself:GVEGW 12.7

    1. Does this vision story illustrate some aspect or facet of that marvelous and mysterious process to which theologians often refer when they speak of “inspiration” and “revelation,” thereby enlarging our understanding of how this fascinating process came to work in practical day-to-day terms?GVEGW 12.8

    2. Does this vision story help to demonstrate how God used this precious gift of the Holy Spirit in Adventism’s historical past to shape the growth and development of our church?GVEGW 12.9

    3. Does this vision story help us to understand more fully—and, therefore, appreciate more—a major doctrine of our church, enabling us to see more clearly the precise nature of Ellen White’s role in regard to her relationship and contribution to that doctrine?GVEGW 13.1

    4. Does this vision story possess a large quotient of human-interest factors that would better enable us to understand the humanity of this prophet called of God (as well as that of those who preceded her)?GVEGW 13.2

    5. Does this vision story help to establish and confirm our appreciation for, and confidence in, God, His love for our church, and His special gift to our people?GVEGW 13.3

    6. Does this vision story contribute—as, indeed, all of Mrs. White’s ministry was intended to contribute—to our being better Christians? And does it also help us to prepare for the soon return of our Lord?GVEGW 13.4

    Each vision story in this volume (and in those to follow in this series) meets at least one of the above criteria. And each is presented here with a most fervent prayer that the examination of (and thoughtful personal reflection upon) each of these remarkable, dramatic incidents in our collective past will bring to you, the reader, as rich a spiritual blessing in the perusal as I have received in researching and writing them.GVEGW 13.5

    Roger W. Coon
    Highland, Maryland

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