Elder Joseph Bates first met Elder White and his wife in 1846. He was keeping the Sabbath, and urged it upon them. Neither saw any great importance in it at first, but nominally accepted it to please Bates, as it was important to gain his influence. Mrs. White was having visions which Bates did not believe were of God; but they were anxious to convince him that they were genuine. Bates had been a sea captain, and had consequently studied the stars; had, in fact, become enthusiastic about astronomy, which Mrs. White assured him she had no prior knowledge of.
In the presence of Mrs. White and others he had often talked about the different planets, their positions, moons, and the "opening heavens." Mrs. White seemed to pay no attention to the subject, or to have any interest in it. But soon she had a vision about the various planets, which is thus told by Elder Loughborough on page 258 of his book, The Great Second Advent Movement:
"One evening at a conference in Topsham, Maine, in 1846, in the house of Mr. Curtis, and in the presence of Elder (Captain) 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 the 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 descriptions of belts and rings in their ever-varying beauty, and said, 'I see eight moons .' 'She is describing Saturn.' Next came a description of Uranus with its six moons , then a wonderful description of the 'opening heavens'."
This was sufficient, and accomplished its purpose. Elder Bates was convinced, and became a firm believer in the visions.
Here is a letter written by Mrs. Truesdale, who was present when Mrs. White received her "solar system" vision:
"Sister White was in very feeble health, and while prayers were offered in her behalf, the Spirit of God rested upon us. We soon noticed that she was insensible to earthly things. This was her first view of the planetary world. 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'. "
"It was evident from Brother Bates' smiling face that his past doubts in regard to the source of her visions were fast leaving him. We all knew that Captain Bates was a great lover of astronomy, as he would often locate many of the heavenly bodies for our instruction. When Sister White replied to his questions, after the vision, saying that she had never studied or otherwise received knowledge in this direction, he was filled with joy and happiness. He praised God, and expressed his belief that this vision concerning the planets was given that he might never again doubt." (Taken from Mrs. Truesdale's letter dated January 27, 1891).
But what are the facts? Mrs. White simply saw what her companions at the time generally believed and talked about. Had God given her that view about the planets and the number of moons to each he would have given her the correct number in each case , and thus she would have revealed what astronomers at the time did not know, but later discovered. This would have proved her vision to be of God. But, blundering as she did, proves that the Lord was not in it. Whether she pretended to see all this to win Elder Bates, or whether she really imagined she saw it, the fact remains that her statement of the number of moons to each planet was incorrect , and not in harmony with what we know to be the truth about them. Here are the cold facts, which cannot be denied that prove her revelations to be wholly unreliable .
Jupiter has 16 known natural moons, 12 of which are of a small diameter. The four large Galilean moons were discovered by Galileo in 1610. A small elongated moon was discovered in 1892 by Edward Barnard at Lick Observatory. In 1905, Perrine at the same observatory the next two. In 1908, Melotte discovered the eighth at Greenwich ; and in 1914, Nickolson, at the Lick Observatory, discovered the ninth.
Saturn also has at least 18 natural moons. In 1899, Professor W. H. Pickering discovered the ninth moon of Saturn, and in 1905, the tenth.
Prior to 1986, Uranus was known to have 5 natural moons. Tatania and Oberon were discovered by William Herschel in 1787; Ariel and Umbriel by William Lassell in 1851; and Miranda by Gerard Kuiper in 1948. In 1977 astronomers detected a system of narrow rings of small dark particles orbiting around the planet. When the Voyager 2 space probe flew by Uranus in 1986, it discovered 10 more moons and confirmed the existence of 10 rings. (The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, Copyright 1995 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.) (E.E. Frank of New York City .)
The conclusion is obvious - Mrs. White's claim was false . She did not see Jupiter, Saturn or Uranus as she said. Yet she said that the Lord showed her all these things in a vision.
This vision of the moons, corresponding exactly with what Elder Bates believed, convinced him that her visions were of God. He asked her if she had ever studied astronomy, and she replied by saying that she did not remember ever having looked in a book on astronomy. That settled it with him. But she could easily have learned all this from his own previous conversations. Later discoveries have now shown that both Jupiter and Saturn have more moons than she said. Elder Loughborough is obliged to confess this. In a footnote on page 258 of his book already quoted he says: "More moons to both Jupiter and Saturn have since been discovered."
As a matter of fact, Mrs. White herself, relating this vision, described Saturn as having only seven moons, the number then assigned to that planet by astronomers. Here are her own words in, "Early Writings," page 32: "Then I was taken to a world which had seven moons." But by the time Elder Loughborough had written his book, "Rise and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists," another moon had been discovered, and the publishers had the audacity to change her words to read, "I see eight moons." (See page 126 of that work.) This was in 1892. When Elder Loughborough revised this book in 1905, and issued it under another title, still more moons had been discovered to this planet, hence his admission.
The progressive discoveries of astronomy since Mrs. White had that vision have proved her revelation to be false . But it was a masterstroke to win an influential convert to her cause. And it succeeded, fraudulent as it was.
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