March 14, 2008, marks the 150th anniversary of Ellen White’s great controversy vision, possibly her most famous. Reproduced first is her own account of events surrounding the vision, given to her at a funeral on a Sunday afternoon in Lovett’s Grove, Ohio, followed by the subsequent stroke of paralysis that she suffered before having time even to write out the vision for publication.
Ellen White’s account is followed by Uriah Smith’s report of the meeting in Battle Creek, Michigan, on May 23, 1858, where Ellen White first related the vision publicly. In September of that same year, the first edition of The Great Controversy, titled Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, appeared in print. During the remainder of Ellen White’s life, she continued expanding her first 219-page telling of the conflict, climaxing with the five volumes of the Conflict of the Ages Series, published between 1888 and 1917.
The last account reproduced here contains the recollections of J. N. Loughborough, who was present in 1858 when Ellen White first shared the vision publicly. Although during the intervening 53 years the actual times of day when Ellen White originally made her presentations had dimmed in Loughborough’s memory, the impact of her message that day was still vividly impressed upon his mind when he wrote his recollections in 1911.
Ellen White’s Account of the Great Controversy Vision and Subsequent Events
In the spring of 1858, we [James and Ellen White] visited Ohio, and attended conferences at Green Springs, Gilboa and Lovett’s Grove. Bro. Tillotson took us from Green Springs in his carriage to the places of meeting. At Lovett’s Grove the Lord met with us, and his blessing rested upon us. First-day [Sunday] afternoon there was to be a funeral at the school-house where our meetings were held. My husband was invited to give a discourse on the occasion. The people could not all get into the house. My husband was blessed with freedom, and the power of truth seemed to affect the hearers.
When he closed his remarks, I felt urged by the Spirit of the Lord to bear my testimony. As I was led to speak upon the coming of Christ and the resurrection and the cheering hope of the Christian, my soul triumphed in God. I drank in rich draughts of salvation. Heaven, sweet heaven, was the magnet to draw my soul upward, and I was wrapt in a vision of God’s glory. . . .
In this vision at Lovett’s Grove, most of the matter of
the Great Controversy which I had seen ten years before, was repeated, and I was shown that I must write it out. That I should have to contend with the powers of darkness, for Satan would make strong efforts to hinder me, but angels of God would not leave me in the conflict, that in God must
I put my trust.
After I came out of vision, the afflicted friends, and a portion of the congregation, bore the body to its resting-place. Great solemnity rested upon those who remained.
Monday we commenced our journey homeward with Bro. and Sr. Tillotson. The next day we took the [railroad] cars at Freemont for Jackson, Mich. While riding in the cars we arranged our plans for writing and publishing the book called the Great Controversy immediately on our return home. I was then as well as usual. On the arrival of the train at Jackson, we went to Bro. [Dan] Palmer’s. We had been in the house but a short time, when, as I was conversing with Sr. P[almer], my tongue refused to utter what I wished to say, and seemed large and numb. A strange, cold sensation struck my heart, passed over my head, and down my right side. For a while I was insensible; but was aroused by the voice of earnest prayer. I tried to use my left arm and limb, but they were perfectly useless. For a short time I did not expect to live. It was the third shock I had received of paralysis, and although within fifty miles of home, I did not expect to see my children again. I called to mind the triumphant season I had enjoyed at Lovett’s Grove, and thought it was my last testimony, and felt reconciled to die.
Still the earnest prayers of my friends were ascending to heaven for me, and soon a prickling sensation was felt in my arm and limb, and I praised the Lord that I could use them a little. The Lord heard and answered the faithful prayers of his children, and the power of Satan was broken. That night I suffered much, yet the next day was strengthened to return home. For several weeks I could not feel the pressure of the hand, nor the coldest water poured upon my head. In rising to walk, I often staggered, and sometimes fell to the floor. In this condition I commenced to write the Great Controversy. I could write at first but one page a day, then rest three; but as I progressed, my strength increased. The numbness in my head did not seem to becloud my mind, and before I closed that work, the effect of the shock had entirely left me.
At the time of the conference at Battle Creek, June [May], 1858, Sr. Hutchins, who now sleeps in Jesus, was greatly afflicted with sickness, and we all felt that she would then go down into the grave unless the Lord raised her up. While praying for her the power of God rested upon us all, and as it came upon me, I was taken off in vision. In that vision I was shown that in the sudden attack at Jackson, Satan designed to take my life to hinder the work I was about to write; but angels of God were sent to my rescue, to raise me above the effects of Satan’s attack.—Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, pp. 265-272.
Uriah Smith’s Account of the First Public Sharing of the Vision
Social meeting resumed with unabated vigor on First-day [Sunday, May 23, 1858] morning at 8 o’clock. During the fore-
noon, sister White related a portion of the views she has had concerning the fall of Satan, the plan of salvation, and the great controversy between Christ and his angels, and Satan and his. It abounded in startling facts and vivid descriptions. And when the course of the narration had brought us down to the days of the first advent, the humiliation, the suffering and finally the crucifixion of the Saviour, especially then did not only the silent tear, but even the audible sobs of many in the congregation announce that their hearts were touched by the sufferings of the Son of God for rebellious man. When we view this great controversy as now going forward—its field the world, its subject man—we see not how anyone can long hesitate upon which side to enroll himself. And at least the justice of that sentence is very apparent, which condemns those who will persist to the end on the side of the power of darkness, to the same ruin which overwhelms the first rebel and his unworthy sympathizers.
At 2 o’clock p.m. we repaired to the river-side where thirteen willing souls rejoiced in a burial with Christ by baptism. . . .—[Uriah Smith], The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 27, 1858, p. 13.
John N. Loughborough’s Later Recollections of the First Telling of the Vision
In a social meeting at 9 a.m. Sister White arose to speak. Her countenance was lighted up with the power of God that rested upon her, and she began to tell us of things we had never heard her talk before. The said vision opened vividly before her. It was the vision of the great controversy, beginning with Satan’s revolt in heaven. As it opened then and there clearly before her, she related it to us.
As she spoke, the mighty power of God filled all the room where we were sitting. As some expressed afterward the sensation we felt, “it seemed as though heaven and earth were coming together.” Those present on that occasion, it seems, could never forget the evident power of God accompanying her relation of the facts connected with the great controversy between Christ and Satan in heaven, and the continued conflict of the ages on earth, with the final triumph of right, and the defeat of Satan.
As the subject opened up before her, Sister White talked on till noon. . . .
Sister White was at last told, “It is noon.” She replied, “Well, I have only just got fairly started in relating what opens before me.” Brother White inquired, “Will you go on with your talk at one o’clock?” She replied that she would. Promptly at one o’clock all were present to hear the remainder of the vision. . . . The afternoon talk was for four hours, closing at five o’clock p.m. The testimony of our people was that such a day they had never seen in their lives. This was the first time that Sister White had ever related her vision of the great controversy between Christ and Satan.—J. N. Loughborough, Pacific Union Recorder, September 28, 1911, pp. 1, 2.