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Ellen Gould Harmon was born in Gorham, Maine, November 26, 1827, to Robert and Eunice Harmon. She and her twin sister Elizabeth were the youngest of eight children. When Ellen was in her early teens she and her family accepted the Biblical interpretations of the Baptist farmer-turned preacher, William Miller. With Miller and 50,000 other Adventists she suffered bitter disappointment when Christ did not return on October 22, 1844, the date marking the end of the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8.

Ellen WhiteIn December 1844, God gave Ellen the first of an estimated 2,000 visions and dreams. In August, 1846, she married James White, a 25-year-old Adventist minister who shared her conviction that God had called her to do the work of a prophet. Soon after their marriage James and Ellen began to keep the seventh-day Sabbath, according to the fourth commandment.

The mother of four boys, Ellen experienced the pain of losing by death two of her sons. Herbert died when he was an infant of few weeks, and Henry died when he was 16. Her other two sons, Edson and William, both became Adventist ministers.

Ellen White was a prolific writer. Beginning in 1851, when she published her first book, she sent forth a steady stream of articles, books, and pamphlets. Of her scores of books, some are devotional in nature, while others are selections from the many personal letters of counsel she wrote over the years. Still others are historical and trace the ongoing struggle between Christ and Satan for control of individuals and nations. She also published books on education, health and other topics of special significance to the church. Since her death about 50 compilations have been produced, in large part from previously unpublished writings. She also authored several thousand articles which were published over the years in the Review and Herald, Signs of the Times, and other Seventh-day Adventist periodicals.

In spite of her initial shyness and reluctance, Ellen White eventually became a very popular public speaker, not only in the United States, but in Europe and Australia as well. She was much in demand, not only at Adventist meetings, but also before non-Adventist audiences, where she was a much-sought-after lecturer on temperance. In 1876, she addressed her largest audience—estimated at 20,000—at Groveland, Massachusetts, for more than an hour without the aid of a microphone.

In her vision of June 6, 1863, Ellen White was given instruction on such health-related matters as the use of drugs, tobacco, coffee, flesh foods, and the importance of exercise, sunshine, fresh air, and self control in diet. Her health counsels, based on this and subsequent visions, have provided Adventists with a lifestyle which has resulted in their living approximately seven years longer than the average person in the United States.

Ellen White read widely. She found that reading other authors helped her in her own writing as she presented the truth revealed to her in vision. Also, the Holy Spirit impressed her at times to draw into her own articles and books literary gems from the works of others. She did not claim infallibility nor did she maintain that her writings were equal to Scripture, yet she firmly believed that her visions were of divine origin, and that her articles and books were produced under the guidance of the Spirit of God. Basically an evangelist, her primary concern in life was the salvation of souls.

Ellen White was a generous person, and set a good example of practical Christianity. For years she kept bolts of cloth on hand so that if she saw a woman who needed a new dress, she would be able to provide assistance. In Battle Creek she attended auctions and bought pieces of used furniture, which she stored; then if someone’s home burned or some other calamity befell a family, she was prepared to help. In the days before the church started its retirement plan, if she heard of an older minister who was in financial straits, she would send a little money to help him meet his emergency needs.

Ellen White died July 16, 1915. For seventy years she faithfully delivered the messages God gave her for His people. She never was elected to an office in the church, yet her advice was constantly sought by denominational leaders. She did not attend school beyond the age of nine, yet her messages set in motion the forces that produced the present world-wide Adventist education system—from day-care centres to universities. Though she herself had no medical training, the fruitage of her ministry can be seen in the network of Adventist hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities that circle the earth. And though she was not formally ordained as a gospel minister, she has made an almost unparalleled spiritual impact on the lives of millions, from one end of the earth to the other.

The E. G. White books continue to this day to help people find their Saviour, accept His pardon for their sins, share this blessings with others, and live expectantly in hope of His promised soon return. 

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