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Witness Statement: Forms of Fanaticism

The following witness statement is significant because several of the signers are not Seventh-day Adventists. Nevertheless, they went on public record stating they knew from personal experience that James and Ellen White avoided all forms of fanaticism in the years following the Great Disappointment of 1844.

Signed by one Methodist, three first-day Adventists, and four Seventh-day Adventists, this statement addressed various documents in circulation against the Whites. An explanation of terms follows:

Portland, Maine., Aug. 10, 1858.

As unfavorable reports are in circulation against Eld. James White and wife, it is a pleasure to us to testify that we have been personally acquainted with them since 1844. They have had no sympathy with the no-work theory, voluntary humility, spiritual second advent, and spiritual union not in accordance with the law of marriage, but ever raised their voices against these different forms of fanaticism which prevailed with some in New England.

N. N. Lunt,              S. H. Lunt,
Jacob Mills,             Thomas Worcester,
Dorcas Wright,       Phebe A. Gammon,
Elizabeth Haines,   Isaiah Libby.

(Spiritual Gifts, volume 2, 301-302)

 It is noteworthy that Elizabeth Haines, who witnessed Ellen Harmon’s first vision in her home and never became a Sabbathkeeper, was still willing to sign her name to this statement (for the story, see Spiritual Gifts, volume 2, 69-70).

An Explanation of the "different forms of fanaticism" listed in this document:

  • Spiritual Second Advent: The belief that Christ had come spiritually on October 22, 1844 and consequently believers were immortal.
  • No-work Theory: Since Christ had come spiritually on October 22, 1844, a significant number took the extreme view that it was wrong to work, since they were now in the seventh millennium and God’s eternal Sabbath had begun.
  • Voluntary Humility: These extremest taught that since Christ had come spiritually they should follow His injunction to humble themselves and become like little children. As such, some crawled on the floor and in the streets like little children (opponents referred to this as "creeping" around the floor), others shaved their heads and acted like little children in understanding.
  • Spiritual Union: The practice of spiritual wifery in which men formed a "union" with women other than their literal wives.

For more on these forms of fanaticism that James and Ellen White rejected, see George Knight, Millennial Fever and the End of the World (Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1993), 245-266.