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The Development of the Seventh-day Adventist Understanding of Ellen G. White’s Prophetic Gift, 1844-1889


Theodore N. Levterov

Ellen G. White was a major figure of nineteenth-century American Christianity although she has not been widely studied or researched. Shortly after the second coming of Jesus predicted by the Millerites did not materialize on October 22, 1844, White became one of the principal leaders of a small remnant group of disappointed believers. She also began claiming visionary manifestations. The Sabbatarians, who later came to be known as the Seventh-day Adventists, gradually accepted White as having the genuine gift of prophecy and her gift became one of their distinctive doctrines. How did the early Sabbath-keeping Adventists become convinced of her prophetic claims?
This volume is a historical examination of the process through which early Seventh-day Adventists justified and accepted White’s prophetic claims between 1844 and 1889. It evaluates and analyzes the development of their understanding of the doctrine of the gift of prophesy in general, and White’s gift in particular. In 1844, she claimed to have received her first vision, and by 1889, the essential arguments for and against her prophetic gift were in place.
Ellen White’s gift of prophecy has remained a controversial subject within and outside the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. This analysis provides an important historical context that illuminates the prophetic claims of Ellen White and the attempts of her denomination to find a more balanced and informed approach toward such a complex topic.
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3. The Turning Point: The Gift of Prophecy Becomes a Part of the Seventh-day Adventist Statement of Beliefs, 1863–1881


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The Turning Point: The Gift of Prophecy Becomes a Part of the Seventh-day Adventist Statement of Beliefs, 1863–1881

From 1863 to 1881 the Seventh-day Adventist Church continued to deal with issues related to the gift of prophecy and its role for the new denomination. Its leaders who had already dealt with opposition in the 1840s and internal controversies in the 1850s had to confront a more organized and focused attack against Ellen White’s claim of the prophetic gift by dissident Sabbatarian and non-Sabbatarian Adventists. James White, Uriah Smith, M. E. Cornell, and other Seventh-day Adventists not only continued to defend the initial Sabbatarian belief in the modern prophetic gift (as manifested through Ellen White) but made it a part of the first Seventh-day Adventist doctrinal statement, published in 1872. Although that statement was not officially adopted, the Seventh-day Adventist Church formally acknowledged the gift of prophecy as an inseparable part of their doctrinal package and as being one of their unique distinguishing marks from the other Adventist and Christian denominations.

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