James and Ellen—Their Personal Story


As we know, it was not long after the disappointment of 1844 that Ellen White was given her first vision, at only 17 years of age.  About a week after the first vision, she received the second, and in it she was given a view of the trials she would have to go through, and that she must relate to others the things God had shown her.  She almost felt that God was asking her to do the impossible!  How could she travel from place to place? Who would go with her? And, how could she even speak before people?  Who would listen to her, a timid, frail teenager?  She felt despondent, and her depressed state of mind could be clearly seen. 


While at a prayer meeting in the home one night, prayer was being offered for her to strengthen and encourage her to bear the message the Lord had given to her.  Suddenly, ‘something that seemed like a ball of fire struck me right over the heart.  My strength was taken away, and I fell to the floor.  I seemed to be in the presence of the angels.  One of these holy beings again repeated the words, “Make known to others what I have revealed to you.’”  One of the older believers, Father Pearson, witnessed this startling event.  “I saw it!  I saw it!  I can never forget it,” he exclaimed.  “a ball of fire came down from heaven and struck Sister Ellen Harmon right on the heart!!”


Ellen and James met when in the winter of 1845, several of Ellen’s Adventist friends invited her to travel with them to Orrington, Maine.  One of the friends was returning a borrowed sleigh to a young preacher named  James White.  At their first meeting, James was not especially impressed with this frail girl who weighed barely eighty pounds and stood only 5 feet 2 inches.  She had timid manners and a husky voice, but when he listened to her vision of hope explaining the delay in the second coming, he became convinced she must tell it to the Adventist believers throughout New England.  So, James offered his services to Ellen and her friend and traveling companion, Miss Jordon, to take them from place to place for Ellen to speak, and it seemed that this would be an ideal arrangement.


But, this did not last.  As always, people will gossip, tongues will wag, and some fanatical people who did not like the messages Ellen white had to give were so angry that once, when they thought Ellen was with James, there was an angry crowd waiting.  If Ellen and her friend had not already gone on a boat, this wild crowd had planned to seize Ellen, and drive her out of town.  As it was, they angrily grabbed James and his friends, horsewhipped them, and had them put in jail overnight.


James had plenty of time to think that night.  Obviously, something must be done.  How could he stop the people from being unkind, and yet continue to help her?  The thought kept recurring: “marry the girl.”  Yet, James and most the Adventist believers thought that Jesus soon would come, and that if anyone married it might be considered a lack of faith.   James carefully studied the Bible over the weeks, and could find no ban on marriage before Christ’s coming.  So, James decided to go to Portland, Maine, and tell Ellen his thoughts.  “Ellen, our traveling together has brought on us and God’s work the reproaches of our enemies.  We dare not tolerate these false stories.  I’ve prayed much for God’s guidance, considering the nearness of Christ’s coming.  I now feel there are only two options.  Either you travel alone which is not safe, or we get married and travel together.”  Then he smiled, and added, “I know which plan pleases me the most, and I feel certain it pleases God, too.”  Ellen was surprised, and asked for a little time to pray and think.  She had much admiration for this tall, dedicated man of God, and the next time they met, they announced their engagement.  No Methodist minister would marry Ellen, no Adventist churches existed, and so on Sunday, August 30, 1846, James Springer White, age twenty-five, and Ellen Gould Harmon, age eighteen, stood before the justice of the peace in Portland, Maine and were married.


The newlyweds had no place to live, so when they weren’t traveling they stayed at the Harmon home in Gorham, about twelve miles west of Portland.  It was several years before they had a real home, not until they moved to Battle Creek, MI.  But, in the meantime, there were still many trials to face.


Life Sketches,

Spirit of Prophecy Emphasis Stories

Why Me, Elieene Lantry


Edited by Dorothy Dunbar