Adventists Winning Mormons #2:
A Comparison Between the First Visions of Ellen G. White and
Joseph Smith Jun. Helps Reveal How Adventists and Mormons Differ
From each Other, Suggesting Modifications in our Evangelistic Approach.
Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21
Quench not the Spirit;
Despise not prophesyings;
Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.
Mormons (members of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and Seventh-day Adventists
have often been compared superficially with each other by those knowing
relatively little about either group. Seventh-day Adventists
want to share their faith effectively with other groups,
including the five million LDS persons in North America
(10 million worldwide). Curious outsiders have tended to consider
all claims to the prophetic gift as spurious because they
think that the "prophesyings" of everyone claiming
to receive visions are the same—all bogus.
A different picture emerges however when one compares
the Seventh-day Adventists with the Mormons more critically.
Admittedly, there are some similarities; yet it would be difficult
for one who has looked into the teachings of these two groups not to
conclude that there there are hardly two more dissimilar
religious bodies on the planet. Why are the belief-systems of Seventh-day
Adventists and of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
so unalike? One way to help answer that question is to compare
the first visions of each of the movements prophets: Ellen G. White
for the Adventists and Joseph Smith Jun. for the Mormons.
Friends, the Scriptures command us "Quench not the Spirit;
despise not prophesyings; prove all things; hold fast to that
which is good." And so our time in this worship hour will not
be poorly spent in making a comparison of these visions. How does
their content relate to the teaching of the Bible? If we find
one to be in harmony with the Bible, then how will we respond to it?
Ellen G. White's First Vision
How many of you here have read or remember what happened in
Mrs. White's first vision? O.K., How many have never read it?
Well, this might be interesting to you.
Let me give you an outline of the vision's 13 paragraphs:
- Occasion; description of entering the vision.
- Prologue describing the purpose of the vision: portraying
the journey of the advent people to the holy city and giving encouragement.
- Q and A: Where are the Advent people? Travelling high above the world.
- The 144,000 sealed.
- Jesus appears, scrutinizes Adventists, gives encouragement.
- Resurrection of the just and lift-off from earth.
- Transport and entrance of God's people into the holy city.
- God's throne and heaven's central park.
- Interview with Fitch and Stockman; heaven declared cheap enough.
- Transition to the "third" coming and the new earth.
- Beauty and safety in the new earth.
- Two companies of martyrs journeying.
- Description of seven-pillared temple; Jesus serves the
saints; the visionary's return to earth.
With that to help us to know where we are in the vision, let's take
a look at it together. You'll find it recorded in the book
Early Writings, pp. 13-20:
Up to December, 1844, my joys, trials, and disappointments were
like those of my dear Advent friends around me. At this time I visited
one of our Advent sisters, and in the morning we bowed around the family
altar. It was not an exciting occasion, and there were but five of us present,
all women. While I was praying, the power of God came upon me as I had never
felt it before. I was wrapped in a vision of God's glory, and seemed to be
rising higher and higher from the earth, and was shown something of the
travels of the Advent people to the Holy City, as narrated below.
As God has shown me the travels of the Advent [13/14] people to the
Holy City and the rich reward to be given those who wait the return of
their Lord from the wedding, it may be my duty to give you a short
sketch of what God has revealed to me. The dear saints have many trials
to pass through. But our light afflictions, which are but for a moment,
will work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of
glory—look not at the things which are seen, for the things
which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are
eternal. I have tried to bring back a good report and a few grapes
from the heavenly Canaan, for which many would stone me, as the
congregation bade stone Caleb and Joshua for their report.
(Numbers 4:10.) But I declare to you, my brethren
and sisters in the Lord, it is a goodly land, and we are well
able to go up and possess it.
While I was praying at the family altar, the Holy Ghost fell
upon me, and I seemed to be rising higher and higher, far above
the dark world. I turned to look for the Advent people in the
world, but could not find them, when a voice said to me, "Look
again, and look a little higher." At this I raised my eyes, and
saw a straight and narrow path, cast up high above the world. On
this path the Advent people were traveling to the city, which was
at the farther end of the path. They had a bright light set up
behind them at the beginning of the path, which an angel told
me was the midnight cry. This light shone all along the path and
gave light for their feet so that they might not stumble. If they
kept their eyes fixed on Jesus, who was just before them, leading
them to the city, they were safe. But soon some grew weary, and said
the city was a great way off, and they expected to have entered it
before. Then Jesus would encourage [14/15] them by raising His
glorious right arm, and from His arm came a light which waved
over the Advent band, and they shouted, "Alleluia!" Others rashly
denied the light behind them and said that it was not God that
had led them out so far. The light behind them went out, leaving
their feet in perfect darkness, and they stumbled and lost sight
of the mark and of Jesus, and fell off the path down into the
dark and wicked world below. Soon we [in some of her visions she
was a participant in the events, as for example, in Ezekiel's and
John's experiences] heard the voice of God like many waters, which
gave us the day and hour of Jesus' coming. The living saints,
144,000 in number, knew and understood the voice, while the wicked
thought it was thunder and an earthquake. When God spoke the time,
He poured upon us the Holy Ghost, and our faces began to light up
and shine with the glory of God, as Moses' did when he came down
from Mount Sinai.
The 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united. On their
foreheads was written, God, New Jerusalem, and a glorious star
containing Jesus' new name. At our happy, holy state the wicked
were enraged, and would rush violently up to lay hands on us to
thrust us into prison, when we would stretch forth the hand in
the name of the Lord, and they would fall helpless to the ground.
Then it was that the synagogue of Satan knew that God had loved
us who could wash one another's feet and salute the brethren
with a holy kiss, and they worshiped at our feet.
Soon our eyes were drawn to the east, for a small black
cloud had appeared, about half as large as a man's hand, which
we all knew was the sign of the Son of man. We all in solemn
silence gazed on the cloud as it drew nearer and became lighter,
glorious, and still more glorious, till it was a great white
cloud. The bottom appeared like fire; a rainbow was over the
cloud, while around it were ten thousand angels, [15/16] singing
a most lovely song; and upon it sat the Son of man. His hair was
white and curly and lay on His shoulders; and upon His head were
many crowns. His feet had the appearance of fire; in His right
hand was a sharp sickle; in His left, a silver trumpet. His eyes
were as a flame of fire, which searched His children through and
through. Then all faces gathered paleness, and those that God had
rejected gathered blackness. Then we all cried out, "Who shall be
able to stand? Is my robe spotless?" Then the angels ceased to
sing, and there was some time of awful silence, when Jesus spoke:
"Those who have clean hands and pure hearts shall be able to stand;
My grace is sufficient for you." At this our faces lighted up, and
joy filled every heart. And the angels struck a note higher and sang
again, while the cloud drew still nearer the earth.
Then Jesus' silver trumpet sounded, as He descended on the cloud,
wrapped in flames of fire. He gazed on the graves of the sleeping
saints, then raised His eyes and hands to heaven, and cried, "Awake!
awake! awake! ye that sleep in the dust, and arise." Then there was
a mighty earthquake. The graves opened, and the dead came up clothed
with immortality. The 144,000 shouted, "Alleluia!" as they recognized
their friends who had been torn from them by death, and in the same
moment we were changed and caught up together with them to meet the
Lord in the air.
We all entered the cloud together, and were seven days ascending
to the sea of glass, when Jesus brought the crowns, and with His own
right hand placed them on our heads. He gave us harps of gold and
palms of victory. Here on the sea of glass the 144,000 stood in a
perfect square. Some of them had very bright crowns, others not so
bright. Some crowns appeared heavy with stars, while others had but
few. All were perfectly satisfied with their crowns. And they were
all [16/17] clothed with a glorious white mantle from their shoulders
to their feet. Angels were all about us as we marched over the sea of
glass to the gate of the city. Jesus raised His mighty, glorious arm,
laid hold of the pearly gate, swung it back on its glittering hinges,
and said to us, "You have washed your robes in My blood, stood stiffly
for My truth, enter in." We all marched in and felt that we had a
perfect right in the city.
Here we saw the tree of life and the throne of God. Out of the
throne came a pure river of water, and on either side of the river
was the tree of life. On one side of the river was a trunk of a tree,
and a trunk on the other side of the river, both of pure, transparent
gold. At first I thought I saw two trees. I looked again, and saw
that they were united at the top in one tree. So it was the tree of
life on either side of the river of life. Its branches bowed to
the place where we stood, and the fruit was glorious; it looked
like gold mixed with silver.
We all went under the tree and sat down to look at the glory of
the place, when Brethren Fitch and Stockman, who had preached the
gospel of the kingdom, and whom God had laid in the grave to save
them, came up to us and asked us what we had passed through while
they were sleeping. We tried to call up our greatest trials, but
they looked so small compared with the far more exceeding and eternal
weight of glory that surrounded us that we could not speak them out,
and we all cried out, "Alleluia, heaven is cheap enough!" and we
touched our glorious harps and made heaven's arches ring.
With Jesus at our head we all descended from the city down to
this earth, on a great and mighty mountain, which could not bear
Jesus up, and it parted asunder, and there was a mighty plain.
Then we looked up [17/18] and saw the great city, with twelve
foundations, and twelve gates, three on each side, and an angel
at each gate. We all cried out, "The city, the great city, it's
coming, it's coming down from God out of heaven," and it came and
settled on the place where we stood. Then we began to look at the
glorious things outside of the city. There I saw most glorious
houses, that had the appearance of silver, supported by four
pillars set with pearls most glorious to behold. These were to
be inhabited by the saints. In each was a golden shelf. I saw
many of the saints go into the houses, take off their glittering
crowns and lay them on the shelf, then go out into the field by
the houses to do something with the earth; not as we have to do
with the earth here; no, no. A glorious light shone all about
their heads, and they were continually shouting and offering
praises to God.
I saw another field full of all kinds of flowers, and as
I plucked them, I cried out, "They will never fade." Next I
saw a field of tall grass, most glorious to behold; it was
living green and had a reflection of silver and gold, as it
waved proudly to the glory of King Jesus. Then we entered a
field full of all kinds of beasts—the lion, the lamb, the
leopard, and the wolf, all together in perfect union. We passed
through the midst of them, and they followed on peaceably
after. Then we entered a wood, not like the dark woods we
have here; no, no; but light, and all over glorious; the
branches of the trees moved to and fro, and we all cried out,
"We will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods."
We passed through the woods, for we were on our way to Mount Zion.
As we were traveling along, we met a company who also were
gazing at the glories of the place. I noticed red as a border
on their garments; their crowns were brilliant; their robes were
pure white. As we greeted [18/19] them, I asked Jesus who they
were. He said they were martyrs that had been slain for Him.
With them was an innumerable company of little ones; they also
had a hem of red on their garments. Mount Zion was just before
us, and on the mount was a glorious temple, and about it were
seven other mountains, on which grew roses and lilies. And I
saw the little ones climb, or, if they chose, use their little
wings and fly, to the top of the mountains and pluck the
never-fading flowers. There were all kinds of trees around the
temple to beautify the place: the box, the pine, the fir, the
oil, the myrtle, the pomegranate, and the fig tree bowed down
with the weight of its timely figs—these made the place all
over glorious. And as we were about to enter the holy temple,
Jesus raised His lovely voice and said, "Only the 144,000
enter this place," and we shouted, "Alleluia."
This temple was supported by seven pillars, all of transparent
gold, set with pearls most glorious. The wonderful things I there
saw I cannot describe. Oh, that I could talk in the language of
Canaan, then could I tell a little of the glory of the better world.
I saw there tables of stone in which the names of the 144,000 were
engraved in letters of gold. After we beheld the glory of the temple,
we went out, and Jesus left us and went to the city. Soon we heard His
lovely voice again, saying, "Come, My people, you have come out of
great tribulation, and done My will; suffered for Me; come in to
supper, for I will gird Myself, and serve you." We shouted, "Alleluia!
glory!" and entered into the city. And I saw a table of pure silver;
it was many miles in length, yet our eyes could extend over it. I saw
the fruit of the tree of life, the manna, almonds, figs, pomegranates,
grapes, and many other kinds of fruit. I asked Jesus to let me eat of
the fruit. He said, "Not now. Those who eat of the fruit of this [19/20]
land go back to earth no more. But in a little while, if faithful, you
shall both eat of the fruit of the tree of life and drink of the water
of the fountain." And He said, "You must go back to the earth again and
relate to others what I have revealed to you." Then an angel bore me
gently down to this dark world. Sometimes I think I can stay here no
longer; all things of earth look so dreary. I feel very lonely here,
for I have seen a better land. Oh, that I had wings like a dove, then
would I fly away and be at rest!
After I came out of vision, everything looked changed; a gloom was
spread over all that I beheld. Oh, how dark this world looked to me.
I wept when I found myself here, and felt homesick. I had seen a better
world, and it had spoiled this for me. I told the view to our little
band in Portland, who then fully believed it to be of God. That was a
powerful time. The solemnity of eternity rested upon us.
Ellen G. White's First Vision Considered
We notice first of all that this vision deals with
the journey of a group of people to heaven. We notice
the richly biblical language and imagery.
The name of Jesus is mentioned no less than 15 times,
not counting dozens more references by personal
pronouns. She recounts to us the journey and arrival of a people who
undergo an experience of "sealing." They ascend to God's
throne and return again to the earth—a changed earth,
where the lion and the lamb lie down together. Finally they
combine together to eat a great reunion meal in the earth
made new, but Ellen is sent back to earth "to relate to
others what I have revealed to you." Thus ends the vision,
starkly contrasting the glory that is before us and the
darkness of the present.
Let us hasten on then, and review Joseph Smith's first vision.
Joseph Smith Jun.'s First Vision
Sixteen paragraphs comprising Joseph Smith's first vision
are given below, as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.
But first, an outline of the paragraphs:
- The background of his first vision is sectarian controversies.
- The reality of the sects Christian experience is called
into question by their rivalries.
- Religious background of the Smith family.
- Confusion dogs Joseph about which group to join.
- Sectarian controversy between the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists.
- Anxiety to find a way of determining which group, if any, is the right one.
- Joseph discovers the James 1:5 solution.
- He recognizes his need of wisdom; sectarian controversy had
removed his confidence in settling matters with the Bible.
- Joseph decides to plead with God for wisdom as outlined in James 1:5.
- Retirement to the woods to attempt the prayer.
- Upon beginning his prayer, almost immediately he experiences
a supernatural attack upon himself.
- Smith exerts all of his strength pleading for help; pillar
of light descends upon him.
- Joseph is delivered; two beings appear to Him; one urges
him to hear what his "Son" is about to say.
- Smith regains self-possession, and asks the beings
appearing to him which sect to join.
- The answer returned, is not to join any of them, for they all
are wrong. They all "teach for doctrines the commandments of men."
- personages depart, Smith returns home, tells his mother that he has
discovered for himself that Presbyterianism is not true.
Now, let's get the story from Joseph Smith Jun. himself. . .
Some time in the second year after our removal to
Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual
excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the
Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that
region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed
affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the
different religious parties, which created no small stir and
division amongst the people, some crying, "Lo,' here!" and
others, "Lo, there!" Some were contending for the Methodist
faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.
For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to
these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion,
and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were
active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of
religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they
were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased;
yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and
some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of
both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real;
for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest
contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that
all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any,
were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.
I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father's family
was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them
joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum
and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia.
During this time of great excitement my mind was called up
to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my
feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself
aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several
meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time
my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I
felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the
confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it
was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted
with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was
right and who was wrong.
My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult
were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided
against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of
both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to
make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the
Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in
endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I
often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties
are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be
aright, which is it, and how shall I know it?
While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by
the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day
reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse,
which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,
that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it
shall be given him.
Never did any passage of scripture come with more power
to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It
seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my
heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if
any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I
did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then
had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the
different sects understood the same passages of scripture so
differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the
question by an appeal to the Bible.
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either
remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James
directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the
determination to "ask of God," concluding that if he gave
wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally,
and not upbraid, I might venture.
So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of
God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on
the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring
of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my
life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my
anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray
After I had retired to the place where I had previously
designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself
alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of
my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I
was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me,
and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my
tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered
around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were
doomed to sudden destruction.
But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me
out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and
at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and
abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin,
but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world,
who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any
being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar
of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun,
which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the
enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw
two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description,
standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling
me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My
Beloved Son. Hear Him!
My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which
of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No
sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be
able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me
in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time
it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and
which I should join.
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were
all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all
their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those
professors were all corrupt; that: "they draw near to me
with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they
teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form
of godliness, but they deny the power thereof."
He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other
things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.
When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back,
looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no
strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And
as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter
was. I replied, "Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off."
I then said to my mother, "I have learned for myself that
Presbyterianism is not true." It seems as though the adversary
was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was
destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom;
else why should the powers of darkness combine against me?
Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me,
almost in my infancy? Pearl of Great Price,
Joseph Smith Jun.'s First Vision Considered
Smith's first vision was—like White's—about a journey.
But rather than a journey to heaven, his was a struggle to
discover a "way of knowing,"—an "epistemology"—a
means of making decisions about what is truth and what is error. His
story begins in the setting of doctrinal religious conflict.
The young man's interest in discovering truth and being
spiritual is evidenced by his continual attendance at
religious meetings (1:8). Scripture
is of obvious importance to him by his use of it in
solving his dilemma, (vv. 11-12), as well as his use
of Bible language.
The passage in verses eleven and twelve is of special
interest, as there Smith draws from the subjectivist realm for his
solution. The James 1:5 "prayer for wisdom" looked
like the answer he had so earnestly sought. His reaction to
the inviting idea loomed large. "It seemed to enter with
great force into every feeling of my heart." While he longed
for a solution, "the teachers of religion of the different
sects understood the same passages of Scripture so differently
as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an
appeal to the Bible." This passage provides a most revealing
insight into what Joseph Smith was thinking. The objective realm
(Scripture—the Bible) was the "way of knowing" in
which he reports his confidence had been "destroyed."
Notice that he is not talking about settling the controversies
between the various groups, but solving the question of who is right
that is in his own mind.
The struggle pits young Joseph as an apprentice spiritual
hero, overcoming the powers of darkness (vs. 15) and then noting
his "destiny" in the battle between good and evil mentioned in
vs. 20. The tenor of the whole vision passage is set in
the very personal experience of one young man. A solution
is been provided. Joseph told his mother (a convert to
Presbyterianism) "I have learned for myself that
Presbyterianism is not true." A pattern is set in this
vision. The Mormon epistemology (way of knowing) would
incubate and blossom, mediated through the experience
of Joseph Smith as recorded here.
Contrast and Comparison
Ellen White's vision was about a group of people making
it through the closing deceptions of the final crisis, d
eveloping faith in Jesus, and going to heaven.
Joseph Smith's vision was about a young
man discovering how to determine what truth is, and being
told by the Father and Jesus (that is, he understood that this
was who they were), that no church then on the planet
had the truth at all. Ellen White clung firmly to a faith
in the Bible. Joseph Smith became convinced that he couldn't
discover truth from the Scriptures, his confidence in them
having been shattered in his reaction to the controversies
swirling in his community. Ellen White's people looked to a
heavenly kingdom. Joseph Smith's group began to build their
understanding of God's kingdom on this earth.
Both individuals were youthful at the times of their first
vision (17 years old for Ellen White, nearly 15 years for Joseph
Smith). Both previous to their visions had been unable to
pray in public. Both used Bible language. Both had visions
relating to their experience at the time, and involving
communities of believers. Both saw Jesus (that is, the
personages appearing to Joseph Smith implied that one
of them was Jesus). Both had visions that confirmed
their pre-visionary experiences or beliefs.
The place of Scripture in the experience and in the first
vision of each of these individuals was radically different
from the other. One had lost all confidence in it, while the
other had sustained fuller confidence in it. This makes all the
difference in the world for the long-term experience of the
religious communities that developed in connection with each
It should be noted that while Joseph Smith was the primary
individual leading out in the development of
the LDS church (the restoration of the
gospel and the priesthood and the true church on earth to
Mormons), Mrs. White was only one of several individuals
involved in the eventual founding of the Seventh-day
Adventist church. Her participation had increasing significance, but was not central.
Both groups are restorationist
(although the sense is different in view of the different
perceptions about what must be restored), yet Adventists,
(some will say)in spite of having a prophet, turned yet more fully to the
Bible. The Mormons, on the other hand, were led by their
"prophet" away from the Bible, or at least to a broader pasture
filled with what they hold to be additional Scriptures.
It should be apparent that these groups, while they share
a number of similarities, are uniquely opposite in even more
points. The superficial comparisons of the past will not
stand under the closer scrutiny of these points today.
The Bible urges us to "quench not the Spirit." If the
Spirit is speaking to us, and we refuse to consider the
possibility that He is, then we will quench Him. We need
to be willing to test those held up as prophets against
the standard of the Bible tests of prophets.
We need to let the Bible itself show whether one said
to be a prophet is speaking and living in harmony with
The Bible urges us to "despise not prophesyings." Claims such
as Ellen White's or Joseph Smith's should be treated seriously
if we would seriously respond to the Scriptural admonition
to not despise prophesyings. Heaven has no room for lazy
saints. We must be students of the Word, and especially its prophesy. Nor can we
safely ignore prophesyings elsewhere; if God is speaking then
we want to hear Him.
We are also admonished to "prove all things: hold fast
that which is good." Let us prove them according to the Bible.
And then let us hold fast to what is good. All who are said to
be prophets are not cut from the same clothe; all do not point
to the Bible, nor do all point against it. We are far past the
day when an Ellen White or a Joseph Smith can be so easily
dismissed. They must be tested by the Bible.
Of course, what is being urged here is classic
Seventh-day Adventist thought. It does not harmonize with Mormon thought.
If Adventists wish to work successfully for Mormons, they
need to realize that the Mormon way of knowing is built into
the very fabric of that religion, from the first vision of
Joseph Smith on up. We cannot just argue our doctrines with
them from our own mindset and expect to get very
far. Somehow, we must learn to cross-over into their own
decision-making process and keep it carefully in mind as
we share with them. There is a vast chasm between their way
of knowing and ours. By God's grace we must learn how to
bridge it so that we can meet them on their side and
bring them safely back to ours. The challenge is before us.
But now, having compared these two visions we can better understand
how they think, and thus more successfully lead them to Jesus as we know him.