SDA Church Beginnings


William Miller

William Miller calculated that Christ would return in early 1840s. In 1831 he began traveling and preaching his convictions.

As the predicted time neared, interest in Christ’s soon coming swelled. And a national religious movement, known as Millerism, filled the churches.

The appointed time came. But Christ did not.

Different calendars, refined calculations and Biblical typology were used to set new dates. Still, no Christ.

Miller admitted that he was wrong. Most Millerites returned to their churches and abandoned the movement.

Only a few scattered Millerite groups remained. Their legitimacy waned. And they rapidly descended into fanaticism often inspired by someone’s dreams or visions.

As a result, their beliefs and behavior became increasingly bizarre. And they were denounced by both religious and secular authorities.

The Prophet

Ellen G. White in 1899.
Ellen G. White in 1899

Among those having visions was Ellen G.(Harmon)White. Her visions vindicated and encouraged a desperate, poor, mostly ignorant, and needy group. They welcomed the visions as from God. And rallied around her as their prophet.

That frail, sickly, poorly educated, emotionally fragile teenage girl, with few economic prospects, discovered her vocation as she published and promoted her visions.

And a religious movement who’s purpose and momentum was as bleak as Ellen White’s, found a new leader.

For a season, it was a win – win situation. But promoting and publishing those visions, combined with the Adventist’s history of revising them, would eventually become their undoing.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church

Had someone in that downtrodden little group taken a closer look, they would have found her visions:

  • were un-biblical
  • lacked consistency
  • were contradictory
  • and contained factual errors

They would have found those visions lacked any kind of credibility. They were not from God.

But such was not the case. New visions showed that the earlier calculations were correct. But indicated their earlier expectations were wrong.

Instead of returning to earth, Christ was cleansing a heavenly sanctuary. The disposition of sins, recorded against believers, was being settled for eternity. It was the time of the Investigative Judgement.

A name would come up. If unconfessed sins remained on record, that person lost their salvation.

When the fate of the last believer was determined, Christ would have a small group of perfected believers waiting for his soon return. And then He would come back to earth. Raise the righteous dead. And take everyone back to heaven.

For almost 9 years after 1844’s great disappointment, new visions indicated that the investigative judgement was about finished and Christ would soon return. New dates were repeatedly set. And calamity after calamity was prophesied as the beginning of the time of trouble.

Yet, despite the failure of Christ to return, and the calamities to usher in the time of trouble, belief in the visions continued.

It didn’t take long before “I was shown” in vision became the standard for interpreting and understanding the Bible. It was a un-reformational position that directed the course of SDA theology and the culture of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Their focus changed from time setting, to the old testament Jewish sanctuary and character perfection.

Ellen G. White continued to have visions which directed the SDA Church for more than 60 years.

Those Visions

Wonder what’s in those visions? Much of what Ellen G. White saw and published is available online at the Ellen G. White Estate.

Some of the more controversial material was edited, removed or retired back to the “vault”. But there’s more than enough material online to get their scope, tone and nature.

And there’s a more detailed analysis of them at Sabbatismo, Truth or Fables and Ellen White Exposed.

So What

What do you think? Are they from God?

If so, then it’s possible to become an SDA by being baptized into the SDA church.

If not, then take a real close look at the SDA Baptismal Vows, especially item number 8 before joining the SDA church. Notice these phrases:

  • Biblical teaching of spiritual gifts
  • gift of prophecy in the remnant church
  • one of the identifying marks of that church

That’s SDA speak referring to Ellen G. White as a prophet, and her visions as inspired by God.

The foundation of the SDA church is built on the veracity of her visions. Without them the theology of the SDA church fails. And the SDA church looses it’s reason for existence.

These facts are not often mentioned in the SDA’s stealth community outreach programs. And unscrupulous evangelists may cover them up to get a baptism. Today’s SDAs want to be seen as just another kind of Saturday keeping evangelical church.

But despite appearances, SDA theology is different from conventional Protestantism. And the belief in Ellen G. White’s visions is at the heart of the matter.

I’ll have more to say about those visions later.


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