"WHAT HAPPENED AT A FUNERAL"
While James and Ellen White were traveling in Ohio in 1858, they found a group of forty new Sabbathkeepers in a small settlement called Lovett's Grove. On Sunday afternoon, March 14, a funeral was held in the schoolhouse for a youth well known in the community. Elder White was asked to preach the sermon. When he had finished, Mrs. White arose to say a few comforting words. While speaking, she paused, and her listeners noticed that the expression on her face had changed. Instead of looking at those seated before her, she was gazing upward, as if seeing something in the distance.
Then they heard, in a rich, musical voice, the shout, "Glory to God!" Again the same words, as full of melody as before, yet lower and softer, "Glory to God!" And a third time, as if coming from a distance, "Glory to God!"
James White spoke. "My wife is in heavenly vision." She had become weak, as usual when entering into vision, and was leaning backward, supported by her husband's arm. Soon she stood up and took a step forward, a radiant smile lighting her face.
The people seated at the school desks watched in awed silence. Now and then they caught a word, perhaps a sentence, an exclamation, or question. Whisperings were heard around the room. "Hush, she must be talking with someone!"
James White said, "She is conversing with her accompanying angel. In these visions she is shown many things that those around her cannot see. At times she is given a view of things which happened long ago, or which are still in the future. Sometimes she seems to be in heaven, talking with Jesus and the angels."
There was an awed silence in the room. Someone whispered, "Heaven is near, very near!"
Softly another person said, "It seems as if we are listening at the open gate of heaven. If only we could catch a glimpse of the glory within, and hear the angel voices!"
"What can she be looking at now?" someone whispered. "It must be something terrible! See! She is wringing her hands as if in distress; and the expression of anguish on her face--what can it mean?"
Elder White answered quietly, "She is probably looking at scenes of great suffering!"
Breathlessly everyone waited and watched. What could be causing her such grief? After a time the anxious, troubled look left her face and a pleased expression took its place.
"Evidently the scene now before her is a joyous one," said Elder White.
The gloom had lifted. The coffin at the front of the room was for the time forgotten. It was now late afternoon. The people watching saw a change come over Ellen White. For the two hours that she had been in vision she had not breathed at all, but now she took a full, deep inhalation as if filling her lungs for the first time. After a brief pause there was another deep breath, then another.
She began to notice the people around her. They had gathered close to her and were asking what she had seen in the vision. But she did not wish to talk, she said--not just yet. It was a solemn time.
The coffin was borne to the graveyard, and relatives and close friends left for that part of the service. Some of the people remained, hoping that Mrs. White would tell them what she had seen in the vision. She described some of the scenes just presented to her, and they listened with special attention. What she had been shown we today call the Great Controversy vision.
On Tuesday, as the Whites traveled from Ohio to Michigan, Mrs. White told her husband more about what had been presented to her, adding, "I must write out the vision."
"And then we'll print it in a little book," her husband added.
At Jackson, Michigan, they stopped to visit their old friends, Brother and Sister Dan Palmer. Mr. Palmer took James outside to look around his garden while the two women visited. Suddenly in the middle of a sentence Mrs. White felt a strange sensation in her mouth. Her tongue seemed thick and numb. She could not pronounce the words she was trying to speak. A chill passed over her head and down her right side, and she knew nothing more until she heard the two men praying for her. She looked around and tried to rise, but fell back helpless.
"A stroke! A severe stroke!" she heard the men say. But they continued to pray. After a time she made another effort to rise. With her husband's assistance she was able to stand and move around a little.
The next day, despite the Palmers' invitation that they stay until Mrs. White was better, with her husband's support, she painfully made her way to the carriage and was lifted in. Soon James and Ellen were on the train for the two-hour ride to Battle Creek. For some time after getting home, she could not take one step alone, nor could she feel the coldest water poured on her head. Yet she could not forget the command of the angel to write the vision and publish it.
She asked for writing materials while her side was still paralyzed. Trying with all her strength, she managed to write a few sentences, and the first day completed one page. It wasn't easy, but each day she accomplished a little more than the day before. By the time the vision was written out and printed, the effect of the stroke had disappeared, and she was in her usual health.
After she completed her writing, but before the book was printed, God showed Ellen White in vision that the stroke she had suffered in Jackson at the home of the Palmers was Satan's attempt to kill her. Satan did not want her to be able to write out what she had been shown about him.
The vision filled a book of 219 pages. It told of the beginning of sin and sorrow, first in heaven, then in the Garden of Eden. It revealed how Jesus offered to die in the place of sinners. It showed His battles here on this earth with His great enemy, Satan, who finally led wicked men to nail Him to the cross.
She described the interest shown by angels and the inhabitants of unfallen worlds in God's great plan for saving people, and the wonder of the entire universe at God's unspeakable love in giving His own Son to save a race of rebels. She told of their joy when Christ arose to life and returned to heaven, having conquered Satan, sin, and death. She pictured the joyous welcome He received as He returned to His Father's home amid the shouts and praises of millions of angels.
Later, Mrs. White added a brief history of God's people from the time when sin entered the world to the time when it will be uprooted forever. This wonderful story, as she wrote it more fully in later years, fills five large books, called The Conflict of the Ages Series. These books have been translated and published in many languages and are read by millions of people. They explain many of the mysteries connected with the great cosmic battle between Christ and His holy angels on one side, and Satan and his evil angels on the other.
--Adapted from Stories of My Grandmother, by Ella M. Robinson, 1967, pp. 112-117. A facsimile reprint of the first edition of The Great Controversy, called Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, is available at your Adventist Book Center.