The Origins of the Seventh Day Adventists

The Origins of the Seventh Day Adventists

also known as the Adventist-Millerite Movement

by Jerry Blount

Today many religious groups can trace their roots back to the activities of a New York farmer named William Miller (1782-1849).  After fighting in the War of 1812, he then began farming in upstate New York. 

In 1818 he converted from Deism to become a Baptist preacher.

“I saw that the Bible did bring to view just such a Saviour as I needed; and I was perplexed to find how an uninspired book should develop principles so perfectly adapted to the wants of a fallen world. I was constrained to admit that the Scriptures must be a revelation from God. They became my delight; and in Jesus I found a friend.” (Sketches of the Christian Life and Public Labors of William Miller, by Elder James G White. 1875) 

His public proclamations of the impending end and the return of Jesus began in 1831.  In 1833 he published a pamphlet entitled, “Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843.” [an online version of the 1842 edition of this pamphlet is at]

Thus began an overall mania concerning the impending end of all things.  In this general time frame our country was going through a spiritually intense period and there were many competing voices. Miller affected many of them.

In 1840 Miller predicted that Jesus would come between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.  Miller used Daniel 8 and 9 with some arbitrary assumptions to come to this. 

“But one thing still remains to be proved. When did the 2300 years begin? Did it begin with Nebuchadnezzar's dream? No. For if it had, it must have been fulfilled in the year A.D. 1697. Well, then, did it begin when the angel Gabriel came to instruct Daniel into the 70 weeks? No, for if then, it would have been finished in the year A.D. 1762. Let us begin it where the angel told us, from the going forth of the decree to build the walls of Jerusalem in troublous times, 457 years before Christ; take 457 from 2300, and it will leave A.D. 1843; or take 70 weeks of years, being 490 years, from 2300 years, and it will leave 1810 after Christ's death. Add his life, (because we begin to reckon our time at his birth,) which is 33 years, and we come to the same A.D. 1843.” (“Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843” Lecture III Daniel 8:13 and 14)

Miller began charting out the history of the world like the one at right.  (ibid, fold out). 

The title of one of his lectures was, “25 Reasons Christ Must Come in 1843.”

Obviously this did not happen.  Well, not to worry: They made a mistake.  They forgot to take into account that there is no zero year between BC and AD.  So the actual date is to be October 22, 1844!

OOOPS!  That didn’t happen either. 

Depending on whose estimates you use, somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 gathered in various groups all over the country.  Many dressed in white robes for the pending event. 

Today in Adventist circles March 22,1844 is remembered as the “Great disappointment.”

"Were I to live my life over again, with the same evidence that I then had, to be honest with God and man, I should have to do as I have done I confess my error, and acknowledge my disappointment." (Memoirs of William Miller, Sylvester Bliss, p. 256).

Next we need to deal with Ellen White 1827-1915 (and to a lesser degree her husband Elder James White). Originally known as Ellen Harmon, at age 9, she was hit on the head by a rock and spent three weeks in a coma.   When she “recovered,” she was left with emotional and health problems for the rest of her life. 

This event tends to give at least some explanation for the preoccupation with the extreme forms of vegetarianism etc. that the Seventh Day Adventists are today also known for. 

In 1840, at the age of 12, her family joined the Millerite movement.  There was a tidal wave of enthusiasm over the impending return of Christ that likely contributed to what I would describe as a psychosis. 

She began prophesying as Ellen Harmon.  But she is better known for her married name,  Ellen G. White. At one time she was known as the “imitation of Christ.” Today the Seventh Day Adventists refer to her as “the Lord’s messenger.”

One trial documents their overall behavior.  Here is the testimony of one witness that actually focuses on the behavior of Miss Harmon. (see supplements for the newspaper document of the trial and scandal. 

"LOTON LAMBERT, sworn. They were singing when I arrived--after singing they sat down on the floor -- Dammon said a sister had a vision to relate-a woman on the floor then related her vision. Dammon said all other denominations were wicked--they were liars, whoremasters, murderers, &c. -- he also run upon all such as were not believers with him. He ordered us off -- we did not go. The woman that lay on the floor relating visions, was called by Elder Dammon and others, Imitation of Christ. Dammon called us hogs and devils, and said if he was the owner of the house he would drive us off--the one that they called Imitation of Christ, told Mrs. Woodbury and others, that they must forsake all their friends or go to hell. Imitation of Christ, as they called her, would lay on the floor a while, then rise up and call upon some one and say she had a vision to relate to them, which she would relate; there was one girl that they said must be baptized that night or she must go to hell; she wept bitterly and wanted to see her mother first; they told her she must leave her mother or go to hell--one voice said, let her go to hell. She finally concluded to be baptized. Imitation of Christ told her vision to a cousin of mine, that she must be baptized that night or go to hell-she objected, because she had once been baptized. Imitation of Christ was said to be a woman from Portland. A woman that they called Miss Baker, said the devil was here, and she wanted to see him -- she selected me and said, you are the devil, and will go to hell. I told her she want [was not] my judge. Mr. [James] Ayer [Jr., owner of the house] then clinched me and tried to put me out door. I told him we had not come to disturb the meeting. The vision woman called [to] Joel Doore, said he had doubted, and would not be baptized again--she said Br. Doore don't go to hell. Doore kneeled to her feet and prayed. Miss Baker and a man went into the bedroom--subsequently heard a voice in the room hallo Oh! The door was opened--I saw into the room-she was on the bed-he was hold of her; they came out of the bedroom hugging each other, she jumping up and would throw her legs between his. Miss Baker went to Mr. Doore and said, you have refused me before, he said he had--they then kissed each other--she said "that feels good"--just before they went to the water to baptize, Miss Baker went into the bedroom with a man they called Elder White--saw him help her on to the bed--the light was brought out and door closed. I did not see either of them afterwards. Once I was in the other room talking with my cousin. Dammon and others came into the room and stopped our discourse, and called her sister and me the devil. Imitation of Christ lay on the floor during the time they went down to the water to baptize, and she continued on the floor until I left, which was between the hours of 12 and 1 o'clock at night.

"Cross-examined. Answer. The visionist lay down on the floor I should think about 7 o'clock--she lay there from that time until I left. Dammon and others called her Imitation of Christ. Part of the time Dammon was down on the floor on his back--can't say certainly who first said she was Imitation of Christ, but can say Dammon repeatedly said so--Dammon said Christ revealed to her and she to others. I am not acquainted with Elder White. They called him Eld. White. They said if the Almighty had anything to say he revealed it to her, and she acted as mediator." (PISCATAQUIS FARMER Devoted to Politics, Agriculture, Literature, Morals, Temperance, News, Vol. 3 Dover Maine, Friday Morning, March 7, 1845 No. 31)

Some of her famous failures:

“I was shown the company present at the Conference. Said the angel: “Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.’” (Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 131)

1)   Note this was delivered at a conference in 1856.  Do you know anyone alive in 1856?  ___________

"My accompanying angel said, 'Time is almost finished. Get ready, get ready, get ready.' . . . now time is almost finished. . . and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months." (Early Writings, pp. 64-67).

After counting aloud the moons of Jupiter, and soon after those of Saturn, she gave a beautiful description of the rings of the latter. She then said, 'The inhabitants are a tall, majestic people, so unlike the inhabitants of earth. Sin has never entered here.' " (Taken from Mrs. Truesdail's letter, Jan 27, 1891)

The “Opening Heavens”

In the previous year, April 19, 1845, the Illustrated London News had published something of great interest to astronomers from Lord Rosse, respected the wonderful discoveries he had made through his monster telescope, especially a view of what astronomers call “the gap in the sky.”

One evening, at the conference above mentioned, at the house of Mr. Curtiss and in the presence of Elder Bates, who was yet undecided in regard to these manifestations, Mrs. White, while in vision, began to talk about the stars, giving a glowing description of rosy-tinted belts which she saw across the surface of some planet, and added, “I see four moons.” “Oh,” said Elder Bates, “she is viewing Jupiter!” Then having made motions as though traveling through space, she began giving a description of belts and rings in their ever-varying beauty, and said, “I see seven moons.” Elder Bates exclaimed, “She is describing Saturn.” Next she said, “I see six moons,” and at once began a description of the “opening heavens,” with its glory, calling it an opening into a region more enlightened. Elder Bates said that her description far surpassed any account of the opening heavens he had ever read from any author.

While she was talking and still in vision, he arose to his feet, and exclaimed, “O how I wish Lord John Rosse was here tonight!” Elder White inquired, “Who is Lord John Rosse?” “Oh,” said Elder Bates, “he is the great English astronomer. I wish he was here to hear that woman talk astronomy, and to hear that description of the ‘opening heavens.’ It is ahead of anything I ever read on the subject.” From that evening Elder Bates became fully satisfied that the visions of Mrs. White were outside of her knowledge and control. This and the character of the reproof and instruction given, satisfied him that they were from God.

 (Copied and pasted from  Great Second Advent Movement,  J.N Loughborough, 1905  p. 258,259)

"7 In Rise and Progress, it says she saw eight moons to Saturn. This change was made after the proofs went out of my hands. More moons to both Jupiter and Saturn have since been discovered." [This footnote is at the bottom of  page 258 - JB]

You may recall the so called Mormon prophets got into both the "end of the world" hype, and the "people on other worlds" prophecies.  This one is significant. It proclaims one thing, but allows us to detect quite another.  For example, Today we have discovered that there are at least 63 moons around Jupiter (plus the rings).  18 moons around Saturn were known before the year 2000, then 12 more have been discovered.  Today 46 are known to exist (more are likely!),  There are 27 known moons  around Uranus (plus the rings).

 Moons of Saturn

Her so called “revelations from God” were based on the scientific knowledge available at the time.  As knowledge increased her “revelations” were shown faulty.  This becomes a good opportunity to critically analyze reading between the lines. 

2)  Mrs White is properly noted to have had very little formal education.  But does that mean she has no knowledge?  ______________________ 

3)   Look closely at the comment on John Rosse.  What does this inadvertently reveal?  _________________  Knowledge of Lord Rosse at the time would not be too incredulous, he advanced astronomy in 1845 by using a telescope with a six inch reflector to study swirling nebulae. This was well known and spoken of at the time. 

4)  Focusing on Jupiter, it’s fifth moon was discovered in 1892.  So. . . Was White using the secular knowledge of the time to “reveal” or was she using God given knowledge? ____________________________________   

5)  Read Acts 8:9-13. Is the White mentality a new phenomena? _____________________  What is the motivation (compare to Simon’s)? _____________________________ 

In this case the motivation was likely to be a little more sinister.  The Whites were poor and needed what today would be called a “sugar daddy.”  Joseph Bates was a retired sea captain (elderly) and astronomy was one of his hobbies.  He had published a tract, “The Opening Heavens” detailing the discoveries of Lord Rosse, earlier the same year.  He was also skeptical until this 19 year old woman went into a trance and began describing the very things he had been researching. . . together with his mistakes.  He was converted. 


6)  Read Isaiah 40:21-27. What were some of the prevailing views concerning the earth at the time of Isaiah? _______________________ What is not included in Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the stars, when you compare it to White’s description of the moons? _____________   Can you think of any Biblical “error” in revelation along the lines of Mrs. White’s? ______________________

7)  Is it reasonable to conceive of getting so close to an alien planet that you can see it’s tall slender people living there. . . but not see all it’s moons?  ____________  How many moons did she miscount by? __________ 

8)  Does God know how many moons He made around each of these three planets?  _____________  Care to make any predictions about the “tall majestic people”  that supposedly live there? ______________

9)  Now look at the footnote I included above.  What admission is made in it? _______________ What inadvertent admission or apology was made? ________________________________  When was this text published? ____________________________ Does the Seventh Day Adventist church know she is a false prophet? ________________________

Note that modern research has revealed that she borrowed much from the contemporary writings of the time.  This brought along with it the limits of then current human knowledge. . . and it’s mistakes. 

The Sabbath Day

Today the big thing the Adventists are known for is their Sabbath day worshipVirtually all of so called Christendom worships on the first day of the week.  How did they revert to the Old Testament practice of Sabbath worship? The Adventists would answer, “a vision from God!” Knowledgeable historians would answer, “MONEY!” 

Again we come around to Joseph Bates. 

“This experience of Miss Harmon and Elder Bates was in harmony with the Lord’s method of working. The attention of both Miss Harmon and Elder White was called to the Sabbath question by Elder Bates, who presented to them from the Scriptures the claims of the unchangeable law of God. Although Miss Harmon had been blessed with special manifestations from the Lord for about eighteen months, nothing on this subject had been previously shown her. Now the Lord’s time had come, as believers were being raised up to keep his law, to impart light to them through the gift of prophecy, and thus, by his own way of working, the third angel’s message, “the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ,” were brought together." (Life Sketches, pages 95, 96)

Beginning of the Third Angel’s Message

"From that time the third angel’s message, as connected with the other two, began to be proclaimed. The Sabbath truth, as connected with the ark of God and the light developing with reference to the sanctuary, confirmed what had been previously shown, that the past advent movement was right, and in the order of the Lord. They could now understand more fully than ever. . . “  (Copied and pasted from  Great Second Advent Movement,  J.N Loughborough, 1905  p. 257,8)

The bottom line is that Bates (also known as elder Bates, or Colonel Bates) had written a pamphlet on the Sabbath worship.  The Mrs White claimed she “miraculously” confirmed what Bates had been teaching. . . by an angel.  

Subsequent Visions

"The Lord gave me the following view in 1847, while the brethren were assembled on the Sabbath, at Topsham, Maine." [Early Writings, 32.1]

"We felt an unusual spirit of prayer. And as we prayed the Holy Ghost fell upon us. We were very happy. Soon I was lost to earthly things and was wrapped in a vision of God's glory. I saw an angel flying swiftly to me. He quickly carried me from the earth to the HolyCity. In the city I saw a temple, which I entered. I passed through a door before I came to the first veil. This veil was raised, and I passed into the holy place. Here I saw the altar of incense, the candlestick with seven lamps, and the table on which was the shewbread. After viewing the glory of the holy, Jesus raised the second veil and I passed into the holy of holies." [Early Writings, 32.2]

"In the holiest I saw an ark; on the top and sides of it was purest gold. On each end of the ark was a lovely cherub, with its wings spread out over it. Their faces were turned toward each other, and they looked downward. Between the angels was a golden censer. Above the ark, where the angels stood, was an exceeding bright glory, that appeared like a throne where God dwelt. Jesus stood by the ark, and as the saints' prayers came up to Him, the incense in the censer would smoke, and He would offer up their prayers with the smoke of the incense to His Father. In the ark was the golden pot of manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of stone which folded together like a book. Jesus opened them, and I saw the ten commandments written on them with the finger of God. On one table were four, and on the other six. The four on the first table shone brighter than the other six. But the fourth, the Sabbath commandment, shone above them all; for the Sabbath was set apart to be kept in honor of God's holy name. The holy Sabbath looked glorious--a halo of glory was all around it. I saw that the Sabbath commandment was not nailed to the cross. If it was, the other nine commandments were; and we are at liberty to break them all, as well as to break the fourth. I saw that God had not changed the Sabbath, for He never changes. But the pope had changed it from the seventh to the first day of the week; for he was to change times and laws."  (Early Writings. pg. 32-33)

10)  Read Colossians 2:13-17. What does Paul say about the commandments being nailed to the cross? _______________  Does it appear she is quoting this passage?  _______________  How is she quoting it? _______________________  Should you receive her later teaching over the teaching of Paul? ___________________  What is the instruction from Paul concerning the Sabbath? ______________________

The Adventists identify those who worship on Sunday as those who have received the mark of the beast!

"Terror seized me, and I fell upon my face before the angel and begged of him to cause the sight to be removed, to hide it from me, for it was too dreadful. Then I realized, as never before, the importance of searching the Word of God carefully, to know how to escape the plagues which that Word declares shall come on all the ungodly who shall worship the beast and his image and receive his mark in their foreheads or in their hands. It was a great wonder for me that any could transgress the law of God and tread down His holy Sabbath, when such awful threatenings and denunciations were against them." [Early Writings, 64.2]

"The pope has changed the day of rest from the seventh to the first day. He has thought to change the very commandment that was given to cause man to remember his Creator. He has thought to change the greatest commandment in the decalogue and thus make himself equal with God, or even exalt himself above God. The Lord is unchangeable, therefore His law is immutable; but the pope has exalted himself above God, in seeking to change His immutable precepts of holiness, justice, and goodness. He has trampled underfoot God's sanctified day, and, on his own authority, put in its place one of the six laboring days. The whole nation has followed after the beast, and every week they rob God of His holy time. The pope has made a breach in the holy law of God, but I saw that the time had fully come for this breach to be made up by the people of God and the waste places built up." [Early Writings, pg 65.1]

11)  Who is the beast? _______________  What is the mark of following him? ____________________ Who gets credit for worshiping on the first day of the Week? ______________________________________

Do not worry we have Mrs.  White pleading our case before God for us! 

“I pleaded before the angel for God to save His people who had gone astray, to save them for His mercy's sake. When the plagues begin to fall, those who continue to break the holy Sabbath will not open their mouths to plead those excuses that they now make” [Ibid]

12)  Read Revelation 13:11-18. Is the day of worship under discussion?  ______________________  What/who,  related to worship, is under discussion? _____________________   What is the outward sign, if any, that could be noted of those with, or without the mark? _____________________________

13)  Luke 24. On what day did Jesus raise from the dead? ________________

14)  Make a list of all the things in the New Testament that specifically relate to the first day of the week. 

15)  Read Revelation 1:9-10. This is the only time the phrase Lord’s Day was used.  Does it define what day is under discussion? _________

In fairness we need to point out that many of the people of her time (the mid 1800’s)  were identifying some aspects of Catholicism with the beast in Revelation.  Many saw the Catholic church as the ‘great apostasy.”  We also need to point out that historically the Christians worshiped on the first day of the week.  It is easy to make an assertion that the Pope did this or that.  History does not back them on this. From day one, Christians worshipped on Sunday literally! 

16)  Read Acts 2:1. On what day of the week did Pentecost fall? _______________________   

17)  Acts 11:15 Years later, what did Peter call this day?  ____________________________

Their question and ours really is the same. "But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge;" (Acts 4:19).

With the death of William Miller the movement splintered. We have followed the seventh day Adventists.  But this also led to a group of Sunday Adventists. Today, they are better known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The fervor of the times and miraculous revelations eventually led to the Pentecostals.