Reasons that Ellen and her family were disfellowshipped from the Methodist Church
By Robert K. Sanders
When I read Ellen G. White's account of why she was disfellowshipped from the Methodist Church from Spiritual Gifts, Vol. II, pp. 21-26. I thought it very strange that the Methodist Church would disfellowship the Harmon family because they believed that Jesus was coming soon. After all, this was a Biblical teaching and also a fundamental teaching of most Evangelical churches including the Methodist Church.
I am indebted to Mr. Keith Moxon, who provided me the Seventh-day Adventist research from Australia. This research includes records from the Methodist church that show the real reasons the Harmon family was disfellowshipped. Mr. Moxon points out that Ellen G. White avoided saying that she and the rest of the Harmon family were disfellowshipped for believing and teaching the time-setting doctrines of William Miller that all terminated in October 1843. She did believe in William Millers' time setting in 1843 and also in 1844 and was teaching and preaching it. The Methodist Church would not allow this heresy of time-setting to continue in their church.
I would be more inclined to believe the Methodist Church's records as to the accuracy of the disfellowship than I would of Mrs. White's account for these reasons:
- She can not be trusted with truthfulness when giving her testimony as shown below.
- She was not being truthful about being a vegetarian and ate meat most of her life and condemned others for doing the same. Only those close to her knew the truth.
- She was not truthful in acknowledging the source of her material for her books. She made others think God gave her all the words she wrote. Her son, Willie White knew the truth.
- When she wrote a scathing testimony to an individual, she claimed it was God and now we know she received it hearsay from others.
Compare Mr. Moxon's numbered reasons below with the numbers in red in the text from "Spiritual Gifts." Then compare Ellen G. White's testimony with that of the Methodist Church letter.
9 NOV. 1988, S.D.A. MISCELLANY," No. 4, Keith Moxon, Editor
Signpost Publishing Service, Bo Bo Valley, Via Ulong, N.S.W. 2450, Australia
The reasons given by Mrs. Ellen G. White for her disfellowship from the Methodist Episcopal Church in Chestnut Street, Maine, U.S.A. in September, 1843 (shortly before the first failure of William Miller's time setting) is one of the two earliest examples, based on contemporary documents, of Mrs. White's failing of prevarication.
(Prevarication is to act or speak evasively; to circle around the truth but not tell quite the whole truth; to state something so that superficially it is true, but information is withheld which causes the hearer to gain a false impression.)
Regarding the disfellowship of the Harmon family, which included herself as a girl of sixteen years, Mrs. White insisted in her biographical memoirs (Spiritual Gifts, Vol. II, pp. 21-26) published in 1860 that the reasons for the disfellowship were:
- Because she "rejoiced in the soon coming of Jesus."
- Because she "longed for Jesus to come."
- Because she "wished Jesus to come and save his children."
- Because she had "stated, that when I had lived nearest to the Lord, the more earnestly did I long for his appearing."
- Because she told them "what Jesus had done for me, through the belief of the near-coming of the Son of God."
- Because she said "it was Christ and the hope of his soon coming that made me free."
- Because "the entire (Harmon) family were interested in the doctrine of the Lord's coming."
- Because they were "looking for and loving the appearing of our Saviour."
- "The only charge brought against us was that we had walked contrary to their rules. It was asked, 'What rules have we violated?' After a little hesitation it was stated that we had absented ourselves from the class meeting and had attended other meetings, and they considered that we had violated their rules. (Note how Mrs. White evades stating that the meetings were the Millerite meetings. - K.M.)
- Because "if they mentioned the coming of the Saviour or their love for his appearing, there was a hard pressing spirit against them and such displeasure manifested that there was a plain division of feeling and we knew if they loved Jesus they would love to hear of his coming."
- Because "they wished it understood that it was not for immoral conduct that we were turned out, but for a breach of their rules." 'We were all pushed out of the church because we believed and talked the near coming of our Saviour."
The full truth of the matter is that the Harmon family was disfellowshipped for believing and teaching, in particular in the Methodist class meetings, the heretical time-setting doctrines of William Miller whose five "prophetic periods" all terminated in October, 1843. At that time the gospel dispensation would end, probation would be closed and the Day of Judgment would occur. See the full statement of the Stewards and leaders of the Chestnut Street M.E. Church.
For a person to speak particularly of second advent teachings as many times as Mrs. White does in the above "reasons," without giving the slightest indication that these teachings were in any way connected with Millerism, seems to make the charge of prevarication a valid one. Or else Mrs. White had an extremely bad memory, which of course would not help us to accept very swiftly her other recollections of the SDA pioneer days.
Following is the section of Spiritual Gifts where Ellen G. White gives the 11 numbered reasons for her and her family being disfellowshipped. (The red numbers correspond to the eleven reasons numbered above.)
My brother Robert and myself still attended the Methodist class-meeting. One evening the presiding elder was present. And, filled with the love of GOD. I related what he had done for me, that I had at last found the blessing I had so long sought for—entire conformity to the will of GOD. I rejoiced in the soon coming of JESUS.  I expected they would rejoice with me, but was disappointed. After I ceased speaking Elder B. asked me if it would not be more pleasant to live a long life of holiness here, and do others good, than to have JESUS come and destroy poor sinners. I told him I longed for JESUS to come.  Then sin would have an end, and we should enjoy sanctification forever where there would be not tempting Devil to lead our steps astray.
Then he asked me if I would not rather die easy on a bed, than to pass through the pain of being changed from mortal to immortality. I answered that I wished Jesus to come and save his children;  and that I was willing to live or die; that I could endure all the pain that could be borne in a moment in the twinkling of an eye; and that I desired the wheels of time to roll swiftly round, and bring the welcome day, when these vile bodies should be changed, and fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body. I also stated that when I lived nearest to the LORD, the more earnestly did I long for his appearing. Some in the class-meeting seemed to be greatly displeased. 
Once more I attended class-meeting, and was happy in the love of God, and wished to bear my testimony among them. I told them again what Jesus had done for me, through the belief of the near coming of the SON of GOD.  The class-leader interrupted me, saying, "Through Methodism!" But I could not give the glory to Methodism, when it was Christ and the hope of his soon coming, that made me free.  I finished my testimony, the last I was ever to bear among the Methodists and sat down. I was convinced that I must give up my belief in the soon coming of my LORD, or should have no freedom in class-meeting, or among the Methodists; for my feelings would be wounded, and their ire would be kindled against me, if I talked out what the Spirit of the LORD wrought in me.
Soon the minister visited my father's family. The entire family were interested in the doctrine of the LORD'S coming.  The minister wished us to withdrew from the church, as that would save a church trial. My parents told him they wished to know the reason of the request. He said that we had been walking contrary to their ruled, and that they had rather would withdraw, than to have the sound go out that they had turned us out. We preferred a trial, that we might know what sin we had committed. We were not conscious of any wrong, unless it was a sin to be looking for and loving the appearing of, our SAVIOUR. 
Our family were notified of the church meeting, and we met in the vestry of the meeting house. The only charge brought against us was that we had walked contrary to their rules. It was asked, "What rules have we violated? After a little hesitation it was stated that we had absented ourselves from the class-meeting, and had attended other meetings, and they considered that we had violated their rules. 
They were reminded of some who were retained in the church, who had not attended class meeting for more than a year, and a portion of our family had been in the country, and none who had remained in the city had absented themselves but a few weeks, and they were compelled to remain away because they could not talk out the sentiments of their heart.  If they mentioned the coming of their SAVIOUR, or their love for his appearing, there was a hard pressing spirit against them, and such displeasure manifested that there was a plain division of feeling, and we knew if they loved JESUS they would love to hear of his coming. It was asked us whether we would agree to conform to their rules, and confess that we had walked contrary to them. We answered that we would confess that after the manner which they call heresy, so would we worship the GOD of our fathers. We dared not yield our faith. With free spirits, happy in the love of GOD, we left the vestry of the Methodist meeting house. We had the assurance that GOD was on our side, who was more than all they that were against us.
At the commencement of their love-feast, Elder B. read off our names, seven in number, and wished it understood that it was not for immoral conduct that we were turned out, but or a breach of their rules. He also stated that a door was now open, and all who should walk contrary to their rules would share the same fate. They had made a beginning, and should follow it up. There were others in the Methodist church who were looking for the appearing of the SAVIOUR. They wished to hold these persons among them by frightening them. They succeeded in a few instances, and some sold their favor with GOD for a place in the Methodist church. Many believed, but dared not confess their faith for fear of being turned out of the synagogue. They loved the praise of men more than the favor of GOD. Some after wards left them and joined those who were loving the appearing of JESUS. We were all pushed out of the church because we believed and talked the near coming of our SAVIOUR.12 At this time the words of the prophet were exceedingly precious: "Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified; but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed." Isa. Lxvi,5.
Chapter V: Opposition of the formal brethren
For six months not a cloud intervened between me and my SAVIOUR. Whenever there was a proper opportunity I bore by testimony in meeting, and was greatly blessed. At times the Spirit of the LORD rested upon me in such power that my strength was taken away. This was a trial to some of those who had come out from the formal churches, and often words were spoken meant for my ear, which grieved me. They did not believe that any one could be so filled with the Spirit of the LORD as to lose their strength. I began to fear. I reasoned thus: Am I not justified in holding my peace in meeting, and restraining my feelings, when my testimony caused such opposition, even in meeting, and in the hearts of some of those older in experience, and just as faithful in living out my religion, and not bear my testimony. I often felt pressed by the spirit of GOD to speak in meeting; but did not, and was sensible that the Spirit of God was grieved. I even kept away from meeting where some of those attended who were annoyed by my testimony. I withheld my testimony for fear of offending my brethren... —Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts, Vol. II, pp. 21-26