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Counsels for the Church

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    How the Light Came to the Prophet

    At one time in the experience of the children of Israel, as we have already seen, the Lord told the people how he would communicate with them through the prophets. He said: “If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.” Numbers 12:6.CCh 13.3

    We stated above that the 1858 Great Controversy vision was accompanied by certain physical phenomena. One might very logically ask why visions were given in this way. Undoubtedly it was to establish the confidence of the people and to assure them that the Lord was truly speaking to the prophet. Not often did Mrs. White refer in detail to her condition while in vision, but on one occasion she said, “These messages were thus given to substantiate the faith of all, that in these last days we might have confidence in the spirit of prophecy.”CCh 13.4

    As Mrs. White's work developed, it could be tested by its results. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” But it takes time for fruit to develop, and the Lord at the outset gave evidences in connection with the giving of the visions, which helped the people to believe.CCh 13.5

    But not all of the visions were given in public, accompanied by marked physical phenomena. The Lord promised to communicate with the prophets through dreams as well. Numbers 12:6. These are prophetic dreams, such as Daniel had. He declares: “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.” Daniel 7:1. As Daniel tells of what was revealed to him, in several instances he says, “I saw in the night visions.” Likewise, in Mrs. White's experience visions were given to her when her mind was at rest during the hours of the night. Her writings often contain the introductory statement: “In the visions of the night some things were clearly presented to me.” Frequently God spoke to the prophet in a prophetic dream. Questions may arise concerning the relationship between a prophetic dream or night vision, and an ordinary dream. Of this Mrs. White wrote in 1868:CCh 13.6

    “There are many dreams arising from the common things of life, with which the Spirit of God has nothing to do. There are also false dreams, as well as false visions, which are inspired by the spirit of Satan. But dreams from the Lord are classed in the word of God with visions. Such dreams, taking into account the persons who have them, and the circumstances under which they are given, contain their own proofs of their genuineness.”CCh 14.1

    At one time, quite late in Mrs. White's life, her son, Elder W. C. White, seeking information to help those who were less informed, made this inquiry of her: “Mother, you often speak of matters being revealed to you in the night season. You speak of dreams in which light comes to you. We all have dreams. How do you know that God is speaking to you in the dream of which you so frequently speak?”CCh 14.2

    “Because,” she answered, “the same angel messenger stands beside me instructing me in the visions of the night as stands beside me instructing me in the visions of the day.” The heavenly being referred to was at other times spoken of as “the angel,” “my guide,” “my instructor,” etc.CCh 14.3

    There was no confusion in the mind of the prophet, no question as to the revelation that came during the hours of the night, for the very circumstances in connection with it made it clear that it was instruction from God.CCh 14.4

    At other times while Mrs. White was praying, speaking, or writing, visions were given to her. Those about her would not be aware of the vision, unless there was a brief pause if she was speaking or praying publicly. At one time she wrote:CCh 14.5

    “While engaged in earnest prayer, I was lost to everything around me; the room was filled with light, and I was hearing a message to an assembly that seemed to be the General Conference.”CCh 14.6

    Of the many visions given to Mrs. White through her long ministry of seventy years, the longest vision lasted four hours and the shortest just a brief moment. Often they were for a half hour, or a little longer. But no single rule can be stated which would cover all the visions, for it was as Paul wrote:CCh 14.7

    “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.” Hebrews 1:1. The light was imparted to the prophet through visions, but the prophet did not write while in vision. His work was not a mechanical task. Except on rare occasions, the Lord did not give him the very words to speak. Nor did the angel guide the hand of the prophet in the precise words to record. From the mind, enlightened by visions, the prophet spoke or wrote the words that would convey the light and instruction to his audience, whether they read the message or heard it orally.CCh 14.8

    We might ask how the mind of the prophet was enlightened—how did he gain the information and instruction he was to impart to the people? Just as no one rule can be established for the giving of the visions, so no one rule can be established governing the way the prophet received the inspired message. In each case, however, it was a very vivid experience that made an indelible impression on the mind of the prophet. And just as that which we see and experience makes a much deeper impression on our minds that what we only hear, so the representations to the prophets, where they seemed to witness dramatic events, made deep and lasting impressions on their minds. Mrs. White wrote once, “My attention is often directed to scenes transpiring upon earth. At times I am carried far ahead into the future and shown what is to take place. Then again, I am shown things as they have occurred in the past.”CCh 15.1

    From this it becomes evident that Ellen White saw these events take place, seemingly as an eyewitness. They were reenacted before her in vision, and thus they made a vivid impression on her mind.CCh 15.2

    At other times it seemed to her that she was actually taking part in the scene presented to her, and that she was feeling, seeing, hearing, and obeying, when, of course, she was not, but the impression was made on her mind in an unforgettable manner. Her very first vision, presented on pages 33 to 36, was of this nature.CCh 15.3

    On other occasions while in vision, Mrs. White seemed to be present at gatherings or in homes or institutions located at distant places. So vivid was this sense of being present at such gatherings that she could report in detail the actions and words spoken by various persons. Once, while in vision, Mrs. White had the sensation that she was being taken on a tour of one of our medical institutions, visiting the rooms, as it were, seeing everything that was going on. Of this experience she wrote:CCh 15.4

    “The frivolous talk, the foolish jesting, the meaningless laugh, fell painfully on the ear.... I was astonished as I saw the jealousy indulged, and listened to the words of envy, the reckless talk, which made the angels of God ashamed.”CCh 15.5

    Then other more pleasant conditions at the same institution were revealed. She was conducted to the rooms “from which came the voice of prayer. How welcome was the sound!” A message of instruction was written based on the seeming visit to the institution and on the words ofCCh 15.6

    Often light was given to Mrs. White in vivid symbolic representations. One such representation is clearly described in the following sentences, taken from a personal message sent to a leading worker, who was seen to be in peril:CCh 16.1

    “At another time you were represented to me as a general, mounted on a horse, and carrying a banner. One came and took out of your hand the banner bearing the words, ‘The Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus,’ and it was trampled in the dust. I saw you surrounded by men who were linking you up with the world.”CCh 16.2

    There were times, also, when different, contrasting views were presented to Mrs. White—one illustrating what would take place if certain plans or policies were followed, and in another view the outworking of other plans or policies. An excellent illustration of this may be found in connection with the locating of the health food factory at Loma Linda, in the western part of the United States. The manager and his associates were planning to erect a large building very near the main sanitarium building. While plans were developing, Mrs. White, at her home hundreds of miles away, was one night given two visions. Of the first vision she says:CCh 16.3

    “I was shown a large building where many foods were made. There were also some smaller buildings near the bakery. As I stood by, I heard loud voices in dispute over the work that was being done. There was a lack of harmony among the workers, and confusion had come in.”CCh 16.4

    She then saw the distressed manager in his attempts to reason with the workers to bring about harmony. She saw patients who overheard these disputes, and who “were expressing words of regret that a food factory should be established on these beautiful grounds,” so near the sanitarium. “Then one appeared on the scene and said: ‘All this has been caused to pass before you as an object lesson, that you might see the result of carrying out certain plans.’”CCh 16.5

    Then the scene changed, and she saw the food factory “at a distance from the sanitarium buildings, on the road toward the railroad.” Here the work was being conducted in a humble way and in harmony with God's plan. Within a few hours of the vision, Mrs. White was writing to the workers at Loma Linda, and this settled the question of where the food factory should be built. Had their original plan been carried out, we would have been much embarrassed in later years with a large commercial building right near the sanitarium. Thus it can be seen that in varied ways the messenger of the Lord received information and instruction through the visions by day or by night.CCh 16.6

    It was from an enlightened mind that the prophet spoke forth or wrote, conveying the message of instruction and information to the people. In doing this Mrs. White was aided by the spirit of the Lord, but there was no mechanical control. She was left to choose words by which to convey the message. In the early years of her ministry she declared:CCh 16.7

    Although I am as dependent upon the aid of the Spirit of God in writing my views as I am in receiving them, yet the words I employ in describing what I have seen are my own, unless they are those spoken to me by an angel, which I always enclose in marks of quotation.”CCh 17.1

    Like several Bible writers, Mrs. White at times elected, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to use the language of other authors, where she especially appreciated their wording and their expressions.CCh 17.2

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