Parable of the Sower Chapter 3

I wrote this story when I was a teenager at an SDA boarding Academy.

For commentary, please insert “Oh my GOD! *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*” after every single sentence.

3

I return to school and go through the rest of my classes. I am so shocked that I actually go to all of them (which, for me, is extremely rare) I know those pregnancy tests make mistakes once in a while, and I want so badly to believe thats what happened, but I know better. I’ve been puking every morning for the last week, craving weird foods, and I haven’t had my period at all this month. No, I am definitely pregnant. I wonder if I have some other STD??? I’d have to tell my mom if I wanted to find out. Should I tell mom?? I picture the look of shock, disappointment, and shame on her face. I picture her crying. No, Not yet. Not till I have to. Not till I start showing.

My sister actually picks me up from school today. Normally I just walk home, so that was pretty nice of her. I guess she could tell I didn’t want to talk to her at the moment though, because she said nothing, only put her arm around me.

I lie on my bed massaging my abdomen, thinking about the baby inside. I stare at the ceiling.

How am I going to explain this to mom? I’m not getting an abortion, I’m not. End of story, and I am keeping this baby. I am. I’m not gonna let my mom snatch it away from me. I think she might….

How am I going to clothe it? I reach into a bedside drawer, pull out bright pink yarn and begin to crochet a baby blanket. My friend, Tori, taught me how to crochet before she moved away.

What gender will it be? I stop crocheting. Better use something a little more transgenderal. I put the pink away and get out soft blue yarn that goes from light to dark blue and start working with that.

I don’t wanna know what gender it is till it pops out, but thats a little impractical because I’ll need to know what kind of clothes to buy. At least baby clothes shop(lift)ing will be fun, all those cute little outfits…. I cringe as I think about what it will be like to go baby shopping alone. Without a husband. Without a mother.

Do I want to tell Matt? After all, its his baby too. I picture his reaction. He’s never liked kids. Probably try to make me abort…. no, can’t tell him… maybe mom, I’ll have to tell her anyway….can’t hide it for long…. no, not yet…

staring up at the ceiling, I start crying. I’ve trashed my life. I blew it. I really really really blew it. I think about how screwed up I am; lying, stealing, cheating, having sex, sneaking out, skipping church… church! I groan and roll onto my right side. I’m gonna be kicked outta the church for this!

But thats what you want. It is. Spiritually speaking, I left the church years ago, and now, when I’m thinking about coming back, I’m gonna get kicked out!

I’m not crying that loud, but I guess it doesn’t matter because Jaimie hears me anyway. She comes in and sits down on my bed.

“Holly, do you wanna talk now? You can tell me about…. whatever it is you believe.”

I brush the tears from my eyes, sit up, and tell her a bit about satanism, occultism, spiritualism, new age, e.t.c. Jaimie listens as I talk, opens her moth to speak sometimes, then thinks better of it. She can tell something is wrong. She knows better than to ask. She doesn’t need to, I volunteer the information.

“I don’t believe in that.”

Jaimie raised her eyebrows, “then what do you believe?”

I flop back onto the pillows with my arms outspread. “I don’t know1 I don’t know what I am! I’m trying to figure that out!” Unwillingly I bust into tears.

My sister puts her arms around me, not saying anything. Somehow, I think she knows better than to say something and I am grateful.

“Jaimie! I’ve really screwed up!” she doesn’t say anything. I cry into her chest for a while, hating myself. Then, I am not sure what is happening, but I think a spark is beginning to ignite, a fire that was snuffed out a long time ago. I’m starting to see how dirty I am, and how this life I’m living seemed so glamorous at first, is really a nightmare. I thought spiritualism would be fun and interesting, which it is, but… its not… I stop bawling and start hiccuping. Jaimie rubs my back.

Even though it is interesting, I am not happy. I may not understand a lot about God, but I do know this: I was happiest when I was following Him. I’m not sure all of what is happening, but I think…..

Jaimie asks me if I want to pray with her. I nod.

“Dear Jesus, please be with Holly, Lord, I don’t have a clue what she’s going through, but you do. Please be with her and let her know your still here….”

I know she’s expecting me to pray after she does, we’ve always done it that way, but I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to say anything. I’m too embarrassed. Not so much because Jaimie’s here, but because God is.

“just say whats on your heart.”

Yeah. Thanks Jaimie. Real helpful.

“God….” I start crying again. Jaimie hugs me and encourages me to go on.

“I…. don’t know what to say….. I’m so sorry!”

After that, things change. Somehow, everything looks brighter, fresher, and purer. The snow is whiter, the sky bluer (even though its still kinda gray out… maybe it looks grayer?) and everyone around me seems much happier. I hug my mom today before I go to school. She seems surprised, but smiles and tells me she loves me.

Jaimie drives me to school today, and I actually stay the whole day. The teachers give me funny looks when I actually come into their classes, and a few make sarcastic comments today, but all their sarcasm seems to fall right off me. Today, nothing matters.

I don’t cheat on homework today, so I don’t get it all done. I don’t even understand it. The teachers give me funny looks, and I hear people laughing at me into their algebra books. My satanic friends just look at me, then look the other way. Somehow, they see I am different too, and they don’t like it.

I come home somewhat discouraged. I can’t do any of my homework, and today I have a lot of it, the students all laughed at me, and all of a sudden I have no friends.

When I tell mom about It (which, in itself, surprises her, because I never tell her anything) she asks me if I want to go to Jaimie’s school. I tell her I’ll think about it.

That afternoon, instead of going shop(lift)ing, I bug my sister to help me with my math, then, I quiz myself on my bible verses to see how much I remember. To my surprise, most of them are still there! Those that aren’t, I review. Then I read my Jesus bible, the one I have so frequently stepped on, sat on, thrown across the room, e.t.c. And on sabbath, I totally shock my friend Renee when I sit down next to her and actually listen to the whole sermon! Sure, I show up with pants and earrings (mom finally conceded to let me wear nice pants) but nevertheless, I show up!

“Hey Holly, why are you hear?” She asks me, “whats gotten into you?”

“Jesus!” I smile. Renee stares at me, shocked. Then, she hugs me (which, in itself, is a reason for me to smile) and says,

“Welcome back.”

That afternoon, I spend reading the bible, listening to Christian music, and stuff like that. I was, in general, a lot happier. My sister and I even had a bible study like we sometimes used to do.

I switch to the Seventh day adventist school the following week. Since a kid like me, with pierced ears, a rap sheet, and an attitude, is mega rare in a school like that, most of the kids are too afraid to talk to me, so I am pretty much in the same predicament that I was at the public school. Everything starts crumbling. My grades are going down since I’m not cheating, and I’m not understanding anything, my class is way ahead of me, and, since I’m not stealing anymore, I don’t have any money. That wouldn’t bother me, except for the fact that already my pants are getting to be a bit tight. Or is that just my imagination?

Every day I come home discouraged. Maybe I should just tell mom about the stupid baby I think one day as I slam the door. At least then she wouldn’t make me go to school!

I drag myself up the stairs to my room, flop down on the bed, take a pillow, press it into my face, and let out a frustrated scream. My door opens. Jaimie strides in, walks right up to me, shoves the pregnancy test kit in my face and asks me, “is this yours?”

I am so shocked I can’t think of a response. I simply nod my head, dumbly, “why couldn’t it be mom’s?”

“Because I asked her if she was having a baby and she said no, she’d hit menopause a long time ago.”

“You didn’t tell her–”

“No, I didn’t.” Jaimie sat down on the bed. I sighed with relief. “but you’ll have too.”

“I know.” I sigh, looking the other way.

“Now.”

“What?”

“Holly, the longer you put it off, the harder its going to be.”

“But Jaimie-”

“No Holly, now. If you don’t‘ tell her, I will.”

“She’s not gonna believe you!”

“She will when I show her the evidence.”

“Jaimie.” I moan.

Awkward silence.

“So. Are you actually pregnant?”

I roll over to face her, “what kind of a dumb question is that?!”

“Darling,” Jaimie holds up the box, “all this tells me is that you and your boyfriend whats-his-name have been fooling around. I didn’t see the test results.”

I sigh, “Jaimie…. I….” I sigh, no better way to get this out, “THERES A BABY IN MY TUMMY!!!”

Jaimie stares at me. I turn away, “Don’t look at me like that!”

“Darling, you my little sister! Your having a baby! Your only 16! What am I supposed to look at you like!”

I sigh.

“Come on Holly, you know you have to.”

“I can’t!”

“I’m sorry. You should have thought of that before you and your boyfriend decided to get it going on!”

“Jaimie!”

She pulls me up to my feet, puts her arm around me, and starts walking downstairs with me.

“Mom!”

“Jaimie?” She pushes me into the kitchen, where mom is working on her shopping list. “Oh, hey Holly. I’m going shopping tomorrow, how’re you doing on tampons?”

my face reddens, “umm…he he, mom… I… don’t think I’ll be needing tampons again for the next… oh, nine months or so.”

Jaimie slaps her hand to her forehead. Mom glares up from her shopping list.

“Not funny.”

“Mom….um…actually…. I was…um…..serious.” I choke out the last word. Mom looks up from her grocery list, stands up, walks over and hugs me.

“Holly, do we need to talk?” I nod into her chest. She sighs and plays with my hair with her fingers.

“Mom. My boyfriend and I…. Matt… we….” Mom pushes me away, her hands on my shoulders, and looks me in the eye.

“You didn’t.”

“I–”

“Holly, please tell me you didn’t!” my mom’s eyes are widening. She looks desperate.

“Do you want me to lie to you?” I squeak.

She gaps, “are you…. please tell me your not–”

“Yes!” I turn away. I don’t want to see her face. She lets go of me, steps back, shocked. Her mouth is open. I don’t know what else to say. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!” over and over. Mom stumbles back into the chair. I glance at her face. She’s crying.

“You…. I can’t believe your…..”

I can’t take it. I turn and walk away, discouraged. Jaimie puts her arms around me. Well. That went well.


A knock on my door, “Holly?” I don’t respond. I’m emailing friends. (Online friends, of course, because I ran out of real friends.) The door opens. “Holly? Can we talk?” she shuts the door. I sigh and sleep the laptop. Mom sits down on the bed. I sit at the desk with my back to her. “Holly, come here.” I don’t move.

“Holly.”

I sigh and turn around.

Mom takes a deep breath, “I can’t believe your pregnant.”

I shrug.

“How far along are you?”

“5 weeks”

“Wow. 5 weeks.”

Awkward silence.

“Holly…um… I want to take you to the hospital…. I want to get you tested for other STD’s…..”

I bite my lip.

“Holly, I know this is scary, but if you do have an STD, the earlier we can detect it….”

With my luck, I probably have aids.

“Mom, I’m not gonna get an abortion. And I’m not putting it up for adoption. I’m having my baby and I’m keeping it.”

“Holly –” she breaks off. “Is that what you’re worried about?”

I nod.

“Of course your not gonna get an abortion! That would just be….. no! And… about the child, well, of course were gonna keep it!”

I relax. I don’t care what happens, as long as I can have my baby.

“But we need to make sure its healthy; you need to have an ultrasound, and I want you to start excersing more, eating a better diet, get tested…..” she breaks off.

“Ok mom.” She gets up, comes over, and puts her arms around me.

“I know this pregnancy is kind of, well, hard on you, and….”

“A baby is supposed to be a blessing.” I cry bitterly into her chest, “now its a curse to everyone!”

“Hey.” my mother said softly, “your baby is not a curse. Sure, its an unwanted consequence, but Holly, you’ve always told me you wanted children.”

“Not when I’m only 16!” I sob harder.

“Its either gonna be a curse, or a blessing, depending on how you view it. What do you say it is?”

I think about that for a while. If I hadn’t had this baby, would I have come back to God? Probably not. Maybe God gave me this…..kid to bring me back…. fine. As long as I don’t have aids. This baby could be the entire reason your going to be saved!

I nod, “blessing. Its a blessing.” I pull away from her, she brushes the tears off my cheeks. “Mom,” I smile, “I’m pregnant!”


So that afternoon my mom takes me to the hospital and they suck blood out of my arm with a needle. I’m crying. I can’t stand needles. I’m freaked out! I’m afraid of the sewing machine. So yeah, blood testing is definitely not my favorite way.

“Can’t we do a urine test?!”

But they said that wouldn’t be accurate enough. Joy.

Mom makes it up to me though afterwards, she takes me and my sister to the mall to shop for baby clothes, which is REALLY fun because everything looks so cute!!!

We also buy diapers, bottles, a diaper bag, some rattles, toys, and other stuffed animals. We also had to buy a new crib because mom had given ours away a long time ago, thinking we wouldn’t need one. Yeah, nice one mom.

Christmas is fast approaching, so we also pick out presents for our friends. Mom also buys me some yarn so that I can make scarves or hats for friends, baby blankets, e.t.c. Then we go clothes shopping for me. I don’t look pregnant yet, but we may as well buy them anyway, just in case, and I do need pants with a slightly larger waistline.

We come back from the mall with bags full of baby clothes, pants for me, and baby stuff. When we get home, mom digs up the old car seat and stroller from the basement and puts them in the living room where we can get them in a hurry when we need them.

The phone rings. My mom answers it. She frowns, then hands me the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Holly this is Pastor Messer, umm….Holly, are you really pregnant?”

Warning bells go off in my head.

“Yes actually I am, why do you ask?”

He sighed, “Holly, I hate to have to be the one to tell you this but….. you’ve been disfellowshipped.”

No less than I expected ya big fat hypocrite!

I hang up. There is nothing more to say, and I will spare the poor pastor the awkward silence. Numbly, I walk upstairs to my room. I knew this would happen, but….I sit down on the bed. Tears run down my cheeks. I’ve wanted this so badly once, and it didn’t happen. I’m wishing so badly it hadn’t now, and it has. I sit there for a while with tears running down my cheeks. No one comes in to talk with me. No one knows how to handle this. I wonder if they even know.

Shortly after, mom comes up. “What did the pastor want?”

I shake the tears from my eyes.

Mom sits down next to me, puts her arm around me, and speaks to me gently. “I know. My sister got kicked out for the very same thing.”


I cringe at the words, “kicked out.” usually they are used when telling about a bad person. I feel ugly, dirty, worthless, and, well, bad. I sniffle as the last of my tears run down my cheeks. I’ve already cried enough to never be able to cry again. Or, so I thought.

Now! P.8-16

Last week, we left off with Book!Merikay hearing about the new Sunday worship laws that are being put into place all over the country.

“Merikay, set the table.” Mother’s words brought me to the realization that this wasn’t a dream. I’d never dreamed of setting the table before. Who’d want to?

I like this. I really do. I am also going to point out that sometimes people dream some really odd stuff. I had a dream once where I cleaned the house. Dreams are funny like that.

We get some characterization about Beth, the little sister, that I really like. It’s actually too bad we don’t get to see more of her in the story, because her character is really well drawn here. If Real!Merikay had handed me this story to critique, I would say, “More Beth, please.”

Beth left the table many times. First for a glass of water, then for some salt, then for chocolate for her milk, and then to let the cat in the house. That was the way it went nearly every night. She would hop up and down from the table, getting a dozen and one things which she needed.

Finally, Book!Merikay decides to tell her family what she’s heard on the news that day. Her little brother’s like, “oh shit, really?” But other than that, nothing really happens.

“The time of the end is near,” Mother said, as she often did when something horrid had happened. “We can see it all around us.”

Adventists really do say that quite a bit. After every single tragedy. That major earthquake that just happened? Guarantee you pastors are giving sermons this Sabbath about how it’s a sign of Jesus’ soon return.

Book!Merikay tells us that she’d imagined this moment in Bible Doctrines class. She’s not the only one.  Who among those of us who were raised Adventist haven’t thought about this at some point?

I remember my abstract plan seemed to be running to my best friend’s house. Her house was out in the country, and her dad knew a bit about off the grid living. He was a professional conspiracy theorist, and I figured he’d be a good person to go to in the end times because he knew how to hide.

But I never really made any concrete plans, and my plans for some reason never seemed to involve my parents, or any of my family members. I dunno, maybe I thought they would spontaneously combust?

If the end times ever do happen SDA style, I will be so screwed.

In any case, we are told that Merikay’s mother has lately been opposed to some of the religious things Merikay tells her, accusing her of being a fanatic. Book!Merikay tries to bring up Ellen White.

“No, what does Mrs. White say?” [mom] replied with a sigh of here-we-go-again.

Sounds about like how I’d respond.

This is pretty realistic. SDA teenagers, myself included, do have a tendency to get very fanatical about things. I could absolutely see a parent getting fed up with it all. But here I need to clarify I am talking about Book!Merikay and her Book!Mother rather than the real life people. I neither know nor care if this is how things actually played out in real life. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s move on.

Merikay tells her family that Ellen White says that when the Sunday Law decree goes out, they are to move out of the cities, because that means that the close of probation is coming very fast.

Pat is very interested in what Merikay has to say, and asks where they should go. Merikay says that they should go into “the country or wilderness somewhere.” Merikay’s mom asks where they are going to find, wilderness. Seriously? You guys live in Michigan. You don’t actually have to go that far to find woods.

Pat points out that they could go up north, and he’s right. Especially in the UP, there’s a lot of wilderness to get lost in.

Pat and I looked at each other. I never realized how interested he was in religious things. He had always seemed so careless and kidish. But in that brief glance, I could see that he was very interested.

I like this. I like that we get this characterization of Pat who is a child who realizes that he’s going to have to grow up and quickly, because there are some dark times ahead. Pat is going to become one of the main characters in the book, but despite this, we really don’t get a lot of characterization about him. Which is too bad, because I have a feeling that characterization is something that teenage Merikay has the potential to be good at. Perhaps if this book hadn’t been written in a weekend….

In any case, Book!Merikay’s parents aren’t too happy about their children wanting to go away and live in the wilderness. They like their lives, and they don’t particularly care to leave them.

If the end times ever actually happen SDA style, I wonder how many will feel this way?

Things are all wrong, I thought later as I lay on my bed. Nothing is happening like it’s supposed to. I didn’t even plan for Pat to get interested so soon. And mom… I didn’t even think the rest, for I knew now that she was not interested.

In some ways, this is a teenager’s worst fear. The fear that they or their loved ones are going to reject God in the time of trouble.

I think we’re going to stop there for now. Next week, we get to go to church with Book!Merikay and see how the pastor is going to react.

 

 

 

 

 

Now! P. 17-24

One week has passed since the events in our last post. That’s not that big a time jump, so I can roll with it. Merikay tells us that she and her parents have had many discussions about moving, but it turns out that they aren’t as eager to go live in the wilderness as she is.

Finally, Merikay’s mother promises that if Elder J is moving, Merikay and Pat can go with him. I have no idea if “J” is the man’s real name, so I’m leaving it out.

It seemed to me that she wanted us to leave, and yet she didn’t want to really let us go.

I wouldn’t want to let my teenagers go live by themselves in the woods either. I would also not want my teenage children to run off with some lunatic to go live in the woods either. (Note that I do not even have teenage children.)

In any case, Merikay is excited to go to church, mainly so she can run away with her brother and Elder J to form their own doomsday cult.

Elder J, of course, preaches a message about the new Sunday Laws. He also preaches that the close of probation is near and they should so totally move out of the cities.

Everyone agreed with him. People cried and gave hearty amens. Now things were happening.

But later, as I walked out of church, I noticed that people were laughing and joking together just like every other Sabbath. Some were talking about the new addition they were putting on their house or the new TV they had purchased.

At first, I thought that for sure this was inaccurate. Adventists have been waiting for this for years. Of course they’d take this new chance to panic about the end of the world.

Or would they?

See, the thing of it is, pastors and elders and teachers are always giving such sermons. “This current event happened, it’s a sign of the end of the world! Get ready!” And people get scared and panic about the end of the world.

But the thing is, you can only remain in a state of anticipation and fear and panic for so long before your mind and body acclimate to the new level or normal. Soon you will hear sermons saying, “the end of the world is near because of this current event,” and be totally immune. Just like any other Sabbath, you think as you head home to pass out in a potluck induced coma.

And so when the real last day events start, nobody’s paying attention, because the pastor has preached such sermons before. When the end of the world actually happens, they’re not ready, because they’re tired of hearing about it.

It’s like the little boy who cried wolf. Eventually, people stopped believing him. Likewise, they also no longer believe “the pastor who cried end times.”

I eventually came to the conclusion that maybe Merikay wasn’t so far off, though we probably have serious disagreements about the reasons. Teenage!Merikay probably thought it was something to do with people not being godly enough.

After church, Pat and Merikay go to Elder J’s house for Sabbath afternoon lunch.

After we had eaten and were talking in the living room, I finally said, “When are you moving?”

There was silence as Elder J thoughtfully stared at his feet……  “Well…” I waited, my eyes fixed on his face……He looked up at me. “I don’t really know, Merikay.”

When I first heard this read out loud, I remember thinking that perhaps The Good Pastor saw it as his duty to stay behind to help others who may not have been able to leave the city. I mean, Merikay is talking about packing and moving like it’s something everyone can do with relative ease. And that’s not always the case. My parents are very well off, and even they couldn’t afford to just put the house on the market and buy a house in the country.

Since we don’t know how much time is going to be passing between now and the death decree, it’s a bit unrealistic to start living in a cave at this point, so unless you’ve already got some property somewhere, you’re probably going to have to stay in the city a little bit longer, at least until you can be sure it’s 100% necessary to go live in a cave.

Also, I imagine there are many other teenagers in Merikay’s position, who want to leave but can’t. If no one stays behind, who’s going to help them?

Staying behind to help those in the cities, especially since there is a short window where people can be converted, is absolutely a noble cause. I don’t honestly know if teenage Merikay even thought about that. It’s probably not something I’d have thought of either, if I hadn’t already read about it in Left Behind.

In any case, Merikay takes this as a sign that Elder J is not as godly as she thought. She goes on for a bit about how spiritual the man is, and how she’s looked up to him. It takes 3 paragraphs, I’m skipping over it.

My whole world collapsed, and I felt my heart sink. I felt sick, dizzy, like I wanted to die. Oh, why was I ever born?

That “Oh, why was I ever born?” seems kind of odd and randomly thrown in. I hope like hell that teenage Merikay didn’t feel like that in real life.

Now what was I going to do? I wasn’t old enough to leave home. The Jenkins weren’t moving, and I knew I had to leave the city. Why did everything have to happen now?

Yanno, there are probably a lot of other teenagers in your situation. Have you thought of maybe finding them and forming a secret underground resistance group? You could probably do a lot of good if you remain behind. You could, I dunno, collect bottled water for when the plagues hit, distribute pamphlets while you still can, and just generally support those who also have no means to leave the city.

Actually, I’m not sure teenage me would have thought about that either. And in a way it doesn’t matter. If the end time events are happening SDA style, then Ellen White is a true prophet and if she says we need to leave the cities, we need to leave the cities because God will punish us if we don’t do what Ellen White tells us to.

Finally, Merikay and her brother have worn down their mom and dad enough that they tell the kids they can go live in the lake cabin for a while. Since they do have a lake cabin, I’m going to go ahead and guess that not wanting to move may not be a matter of logistics.

“But you can take only what we can get into the car in one trip,” Dad said…. Mother gave us food, money, bedding, and linens… I took my clothes, shoes, books, radio, the photographs I had won all my awards for, my camera, rollers and bobby pins, and of course, my driver’s license. Pat packed his clothes, models, magazines, transistor radio, flashlight, compass, and camping equipment.

Here my 11th grade bible teacher stopped reading to us, and told us that this was unbiblical. When the end times happened, he said, the Bible said that we were to just go. Don’t take anything with you, just go.

As an adult, I think that kind of depends. If matters were more urgent, he’d be right. But the Sunday Law has just gone into effect. It takes a while to enforce something like that, and there is a small window of time where you should, you know, pack things like food, clothes, flashlights, compasses, and, for some reason, rollers and bobby pins.

 

 

 

Tell The World Part 5: Foundations Laid

Are you ready for more time skips and jerky jumping around? Then hop on, because we’re on the Tell The World roller coaster, and holy cow is it going to get jerky. The first scene picks up directly after the last episode ends, but after that, we do so much time traveling we get whiplash.

Sad violin music plays in the background as Joseph Bates walks to the post office. I am rolling my eyes at this point because Bates has gotten himself into this, and he seems unwilling to do anything to get out except “pray for a miracle.” I understand that disabled people exist who can’t get jobs, and I have no issue supporting said people. But we have been told that Bates walks for “miles and miles” to share the gospel, so, he would appear to be able bodied. Are there just no jobs available? Then tell or show us that. If Bates were even TRYING I would respect that.

In any case, there’s a letter for Bates, but there’s 5 cents postage due. Joseph doesn’t have 5 cents. They argue a bit about whether or not Bates should take the letter anyway, because the postmaster trusts Bates to repay his debts. Bates says he’d be more comfortable if the post master opened it, and is that legal? Never mind. The post master opens it and inside is…I had to go back 3 times and pause it. I think it’s a $10 bill. The note reads only “I send you this in the name of the Lord.”

Bates: Deliver these goods to my wife, she’ll think you’ve made a mistake.

So, hang on. Someone was rich enough to send Bates a bunch of… I dunno, we’re not shown what. We just see piles of stuff by the door.  They can send Bates food (presumably) and money, but they can’t cough up 5 cents for postage? What the fuck?

Bates runs home to his wife, who says its a miracle. No, it’s an act of generosity that happened to reach you in the nick of time just before your husband would have had to go out and find a job.

After the opening credits, August 30, 1846 flashes across the screen as a voice says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

James and Ellen have just married. Ellen Harmon is now Mrs. Ellen White. She repeats that to herself while exiting the courthouse, giggling like a maniac a lovestruck teenager.

Ellen’s smile slips off. When James asks what’s wrong, she says she’d always pictured getting married in a church. The ex Millerites still haven’t built any, so they went before a justice of the peace.

James doesn’t know what to say, so he kisses her ear.

Is this one of those romantic/sexual things I’m not aware of? Kissing someone’s ear? Ew. What if they haven’t cleaned them? Earwax, gross.

We next see James and Ellen traveling by carriage, talking about Bates’ teachings on the Sabbath. They decide that they will be Sabbath keepers.

We next see Ellen and James white at a Bible study at Bates’ house. After Bates is done preaching about the Sabbath, Ellen goes into vision. Specifically: The Astronomy Vision. I am absolutely shocked that the movie makers had the guts to even bring this up. That is ballsy, especially because we have the internet and can look these things up. Certainly, this was never studied in Bible class or Sabbath School. I thought for sure they’d leave it out.

Well, they do leave out part of it.  All we get is a picture of Saturn, and I think one of its moons. Then we cut to Joseph Bates standing outside the house, talking to James. Joseph Bates believes Ellen when she says she’s never read an Astronomy book, and I wonder why. After all, he has only her word on the subject.

The movie does not go into detail about the astronomy vision, and unlike the last time they didn’t show her vision, I can see why.

We do get one important piece of conversation.

Bates: How is she?

James: Fine. The visions do not weaken her. In fact, often she is healed.

Hallucinations that strengthen you rather than making you weak. I feel like that’s significant, but of course I am not a doctor, so what do I know.

James tells us all that Bates was one of her most vocal critics. No, he wasn’t. We’ve never seen Bates criticize Ellen at all. We’ve seen him act indifferent toward her, that is not the same as strongly criticizing her.

One of the main problems in this movie is that the characters tell us things rather than show them. I really do think this is just one of the side affects of trying to do too much while at the same time doing too little…

In case we didn’t have enough of Joseph Bates, we now cut to Bates having lunch with his wife, who asks if Ellen had “one of her fainting spells.” Bates excitedly tells her that they have it all wrong, and that his wife can read his written account of it. Um, ok, you’re not going to like, I dunno, talk to your wife?

Are you ready for another time jump? They’re not going to tell us what year this is, but it is at least 1847, because that’s when Ellen’s first son was born, and there’s a baby in this scene. Ellen and James are having money problems. Not because they’re trying to put food on the table, but because they are trying to finance the printing of pamphlets.

Ellen: How will we get $7.50?

According to an online conversion calculator, that would be roughly the equivalent of $200. That’s a significant amount of money.

In any case, this is apparently the cue for a montage of Ellen, Bates, and James traveling around spreading the good news. They don’t show them taking up an offering, but I would assume that that’s what they are doing.Then we get this confusing part:

Ellen: we work so hard to study God’s word and yet I still cannot understand the scriptures that you and the others wrestle over. I feel like I am always on the outside looking in.

This is exactly what I could have said when I was in Bible class at Academy, word for word.

James: Ellen, when we come to an impasse God gives you in vision a clarification from his word

Ellen: When I am not in vision it is as if my mind is locked to understanding the scripture.

James: This may be a blessing. Perhaps God is protecting you so that people cannot falsely claim that our message is based on your visions instead of on God’s word.

Our critics cannot claim that our message is based on Ellen’s visions…even though we rely on Ellen’s visions if we get stuck.

That doesn’t sound contradictory at all.

Ellen tries to calm the baby while she argues with James about going to a conference. James thinks they should attend.

Ellen: I cannot mind my child and travel, James. I cannot!

James: Our father has called us to this work. He will never leave us or forsake us.

1848 Sabbath Conference, Belden House, Connecticut

A group of people carries food outside to a picnic table. They talk about some of the “passionate discussions” they’ve had…not just about the Sabbath, but about signs of Jesus’ soon return, which are apparently being fulfilled all around them. They specifically mention the ones in “Matthew,” and I’m pretty sure they’re referring to Matthew 24.

Next we are shown Ellen, James, and a group of men taking a Sabbath afternoon walk. One of the men says that James and Ellen do a lot of traveling, but it’s still not enough. James agrees, especially since they hate leaving their son behind when they travel.

Ellen says that God told her they should create a newspaper. One of the men says that Bates believes they should instead print pamphlets and books.

Ellen: Brother Nichols, the two paths are but one. We have no quarrel with this approach, however, my husband is prepared to start a periodical, as books often suffer neglect on the shelf.

Every canvasser knows this all too well. Sometimes when we would show people the books, they’d tell us they bought them last year. Upon being asked if they read it, the answer was a then disheartening “no.” At no point did these books ever start glowing, and even if they had, that probably would only inspire their owners to back away slowly.

Brother Nichols asks Ellen how such a newspaper would be funded.

Ellen: Let it first be small, and as people read, they will be impressed to donate.

Pity they didn’t have the internet back then. They could have just created a blog, all for free. Of course, blogs also suffer neglect, so that may not have been enough for them.

We are then shown a montage of headlines from a paper called The Present Truth.

Afterwards we cut to an argument. James says they have to give up the newspaper, Ellen says the can’t. James points out that the White family is in a lot of debt. I guess the readers aren’t sending in regular donations. In fact, James is going to the printer to tell him that this month’s issue will be the last.

Ellen: Something will happen to change this course

James: Feel free to pray for a miracle, barring that we are done.

If only the “miracle” hadn’t happened. Were that the case, we wouldn’t have copies of The Review to snark on!

DECEMBER 20, 1849

We see Lucy and a man by William Miller’s bedside. He’s very very sick, and history tells us that this is the year he died. As a voiceover recites a Bible verse about heaven, we get reaction shots of Bates and Ellen finding out the news of Miller’s death.

Next we see James, Ellen, and a lady I can’t identify standing by a big machine.

Lady: How much did it cost?

I can’t tell if James says $6200, or 62 hundred thousand. I replayed this scene 4 times and I still can’t make it out. Ellen and Nameless lady look like they’re about to faint. Apparently Hiram Edson paid for it, so I don’t know what they’re worried about.

Oh, the machine is a printing press. Silly me. In any case, James published word of the purchase in the newspaper, begging for donations, and already money is coming in to repay the loan. This is touted by the ladies as “a miracle.”

Next we see an obviously pregnant Ellen walking with a basket. She holds her belly rather like she’s trying to keep the fake baby from sliding down. Someone hands her a paper. She reads it and frowns.

Ellen: They should call it “the messenger of deception!”

She goes on a rant about how these people have misled former Adventists and how scripture is misinterpreted… bitch take the plank out of your eye.

As James tells her that a meeting tent in Wisconsin has gone missing, I take a screenshot because god if I were heterosexual I’d find young James hot. Photobucket’s not working, so you probably won’t get to see it.

Ellen: We cannot allow this

James: We cannot stop it. We are not organized.

James has a coughing fit. There’s talk about how JN Andrews and Loughborough are exhausted and their health is failing. It’s and odd stilted bit of dialogue.

James: and I wish those were our only troubles

Ellen: What do you have to tell me?

I love Ellen and James’ on screen dynamic. They just really work well together.

James: The Landlord has sent a notice about next year’s rent. $14.50 a month.

Ellen gasps. My historical currency converter tells me that that’s roughly $420/month in today’s money. I don’t know what the cost of living was back then, but that’s like, nothing. Especially for that spacious house the Whites seem to have. Seriously, they are freaking out because their landlord wants PENNIES.

The Whites talk about moving to Michigan, which is apparently “west.” Battle Creek is suggested. Ellen says the name hardly sounds inviting. Indeed, the town of Battle Creek today is really not inviting. Most of the historical buildings are torn down, and it’s kind of a rundown area. I say that as someone who has sorta kinda lived in BC all her life.

This is the cue for BATTLE CREEK, 1855 to flash across the screen, over an aerial shot of something that definitely does not look like Battle Creek.

We see shots of people buying and selling what look like fake apples and rutabagas, before cutting to an interior shot of the Whites moving into a new house. We are told that a “house of worship” will be ready next week. Ellen has 2 small boys, and older and a younger, along with a baby that I suspect is the same baby they were using earlier.  I think this baby is playing multiple parts.

Next we are shown Ellen writing, as her voiceover tells us that too little heed is given to the Bible. Ellen says her writings are the lesser light pointing to the greater light. I will grudgingly allow that perhaps Ellen did not want her writings to be placed on the pedestal that they ended up getting placed on. That doesn’t change the fact that any argument SDAs have can be settled by “what Sister White has to say.”

After that, we see James and Ellen in bed. James surprises me by talking sense.

James: I want you to know that I have put the house in your name.

Ellen: I will not hear such talk!

James: I have deeded the house to you. If God should bid me rest in my grave I will not leave a widow with 3 children and no home. I will not.

That’s smart. That is really really smart. I’m not saying James shouldn’t hope for the best, but I absolutely support him preparing for the worst. Because sometimes, God doesn’t prevent tragedy, and it’s best to be prepared. I believe God would absolutely want James to set up a safety net for Ellen, especially since, spoiler alert, Jesus doesn’t come in Ellen White’s lifetime.

I get that Ellen doesn’t want to hear James talk about dying, but she needs to shut up and listen. She says that God wouldn’t take him away, that he has too much work left to do.

We next see James and another man arguing over whether or not they should organize formally. James decides to call a conference to decide.

James: We shall sit here until we make a decision or until the Lord returns.

We next are shown a large group of men gathered. If Photobucket decides to let me break back into my account, I’ll post a picture. If not, know that I count only one black man. There was never any slavery in Michigan, so he must be someone I should recognize from history class but don’t.

Everyone agrees that they should have a publishing association, but according to the laws of Michigan this can’t be done until they have decided on a name.

Man: We have been called “The people of the shut door,” because we believe that the door to the holy place was closed when the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary was opened.”

No. NO NO NO NO NO NO. NO. NO. You don’t get to rewrite history like that. That is NOT why people are calling you “the shut door people.” This is.

We cut to a shot of James and Ellen on the porch of their house. Ellen has the baby on her lap (It’s John, their 4th son. IIRC he only lived a few days). James tells her what’s been going on in the meetings, which we have just seen, so there’s really no need for this scene at all.

BATTLE CREEK MICHIGAN, OCTOBER 1860

They argue a bit more about a name, when finally someone suggests “Seventh Day Adventist.” Everyone agrees, and the next scene is of them hanging a sign on their church. That building looks really familiar… I think we went there on a school field trip once.

DECEMBER 14, 1860

Baby John is very sick, and dies.  There’s a funeral scene the next morning with falling snow. Ellen sadly sets a little pair of baby shoes on a cross over a tiny grave. I may or may not have actually shed a tear in real life. Moving on.

JANUARY 12, 1861

Ellen is speaking in a church lit with candles. She talks about losing her small son, and I actually do feel sad that Ellen lost the baby like that. She talks about how she deals with the loss, before moving on to talk about the upcoming war. She’s been “shown in vision” that more states are going to join South Carolina in seceding the union, and that the North and South will form armies and many will lose loved ones in the battle.

Oh boy…. really Adventism, you’re going there? Look. I acknowledge that Ellen White predicted the civil war. What I also acknowledge is that if I recall my high school history class correctly, the Civil War was kind of inevitable, if not downright predictable. It was even predictable that it be over slavery…sort of. (I understand that the Civil War was fought over states rights. However, again drawing from high school history class, one of the main rights the states were fighting over was slavery. The causes of the Civil War were intertwined. You can not take just one and say, “the civil war was fought over this.” Well you could, but that would be way oversimplifying things.)

The main point is this: Ellen could have learned all this just by paying attention to what was going on in the world around her. I know they didn’t have Facebook or Google, but they probably had newspapers and people talk. People talk a lot. It is probably a universal truth that people everywhere will always talk politics.

So, for Ellen White to be predicting the start of the civil war, especially when it is the very year the civil war starts is not actually out of the realm of possibility.

For further reading, please see this link. And do read up on this, especially from other sources. It’s fascinating stuff.

Ellen: The law that we must return the slave to his master we must never obey.

I know that the Bible was used by people to justify freeing slaves and helping them escape. The truth is, the Bible was used by both sides, both as an argument for and against slavery. The thing is, there’s an entire book of the bible dedicated to Paul returning a slave to his master. How does Ellen White deal with that? No idea. It probably gets ignored, which is probably not a bad thing.

That’s all for this episode. Next time we will (finally) reach the conclusion of the movie, and then I can dedicate more time to Parable of the Sower, Now! and Adventist Girl.

 

 

 

 

The Thanksgiving Post 2016

Silly me, forgot some of my family is still Adventist. I forgot to bring coffee, and since I refuse to go shopping on major national holidays, I will be coffeeless this thanksgiving morning. But that is ok, because I still have a lot to be thankful for. Here’s a small list:

  1. The fact that (knock on wood) nobody has died yet
  2.  That I’m able to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I’m unable to stay with grandma, but one of my family members has still taken me in, which, thank God.
  3. Cats. I’m extremely grateful for my own dear black cat this year, but I have also been appreciating cats more in general. There’s that black one the neighbor has that I talk to when I come home from work (Tilly), there’s the 2 black kittens my new neighbor has that are outside sometimes and rub against my ankles. There’s the cats at the house I’m staying at now, who are turning out to be very social when there’s not a crowd.
  4. My sweet cat. She sleeps on my face.
  5. I’m not sure how long I’ll have it, but for now, I have health care.
  6. Ditto college tuition, even if it is all loans at this point.
  7. My secular friends, all 3 of them. Maybe 4. That number is up from 2, so yay progress.
  8. My ex SDA Facebook groups. Seriously, I lived without support for way too fucking long.
  9. Books. I love books. Gimme all the books. ALL THE BOOKS.
  10. My job. Yeah, it’s a crappy job, but at least I have one. I am also increasingly thankful for the fact that, gasp, my fast food job isn’t open on major national holidays.
  11. Ariana, thank god she drove me home!
  12. Chocolate.
  13. My drinking meds (don’t ask)
  14. Food. Food food food food FOOD
  15. drinks. There will be minor amounts of alcohol. I shall consume very minor amounts.
  16. No seriously there are some wicked good smells coming out of the kitchen right now.
  17. I think if I were to continue this post it would just be about food and how amazing the cooks in my family are.
  18. That I have at least one family member who’s anti-Tump. I have one (only one, that I know of) pro-Trump family member and I am seriously hoping the two of them will balance each other out.

It’s good to be able to take time out and reflect on things I’m grateful for. While I still have them.

Help Me

Parable of The Sower: Chapter 2

This is a story I wrote as a young teenager at a boarding academy. It is both a conversion and an end times story.

I have edited nothing. (well I guess I did at some point in my early 20s, but this is the original version that I wrote at 15ish.)

2

That Monday, I wake up with a soar throat, headache, and stuffy nose. My sister comes in before she goes off to her SDA school (mainly just to make sure I’m not just faking it like I normally do) she gives me a hug, tells me she’s praying for me, and leaves.

Shortly after my mom comes in to talk to me before she goes to work.

Sometimes, I feel awful. My mom is so nice, so loving, and I treat her like crap. I feel awful.

As soon as I hear my mom’s car in the driveway, however, I get out of bed, get dressed in baggy clothes, and head out. First stop: mom’s room. $40 is now missing from her purse. Then I leave the house.

I’m browsing the CDs at the store in the mall. I’ve just shoved one into my pocket when my boyfriend, Matt, pokes his head out and says, “Hi.” I jump a thousand feet. He laughs.

“Startle you, ‘Drona?” I nod stupidly. He calls me ‘Drona, because Ladrona is Spanish for thief. (female thief anyway) “Skipping school again?”

Rhetorical question, right?

“Wanna come to my house for a while?? My parents aren’t home.” He puts his arm around me and whispers in my ear, “we can do whatever we want!”

I hesitate, not knowing weather or not I want to do what I know he is asking me to do. Not knowing weather I’m ready for this. I mean, it is a big step…. the bible… then I look into his gorgeous eyes, and remember that he’s the only one who really understands me. The only one who won’t condemn me for what I’ve done. He slips his hand into mine and says, “don’t worry, I’ll be protected, it’ll be fun. You’ll be alright.” He kisses me on the cheek, “trust me.” He gently pulls me towards his car, and I do not resist.


At 2:59 I jump into my pajamas and dive down under the covers. My sister is just getting out of school, and ten minutes later she walks into my room. I jam on headphones, pop in a CD, grab a book and try to look like I just woke up. Jaimie walks in, giving me a piercing look. She walks up to me, hits a button on the CD player sits down next to me on my bed. I put the book down and take off my headphones.

“Where’d you go today?”

I look away. The look on her face tells me there is no room for doubt that I was not home today.

“Nowhere.” I say, turning back to look at her, hoping she can’t tell that I’m lying.

“Holly.”

No such luck.

“The mall.” I admit, looking away.

“Thats it?”

I nod. I don’t look at her.

She sighs, “Holly, I’ll still love you. I’m not gonna yell at you.”

I put the CD player and book aside, and roll over in bed. She pats my back.

“I’m praying for you.”

Don’t waste your breath you pathetic fool! I want to shout it out so bad, but I can’t because tears are falling out of my eyes and my throat is getting tight. I bury my face in the pillow. I won’t let her see me cry.

Jaimie gets up and walks out of the room. I feel so dirty, so unclean. So worthless and lost. Yet at the same time, a perverted kind of happiness, a feverish delight. But mainly, I feel like taking a gun and–


Over the next few weeks, my life grows worse. I continue stealing, skipping school, and hanging out with my boyfriend, though we haven’t been alone together since that one special afternoon!

One day, my bubble is burst. I wake up, run into the bathroom, and start puking. A horrible thought occurs to me, but I shake it off. No, its the flu. Its been going around school…. but I haven’t been at school enough to… no, I can still catch it.

My sister, of course, thinks I’m faking it, but there isn’t much she can do. I’m really sick, enough that I actually stayed here all morning and had pizza with chocolate syrup for lunch.

At noon, I feet much better, so I sneak out to the mall and steal some new pairs of jeans, rock CDs, new age books, and occult paraphernalia. And some earrings.

Every morning for the next week I continue tot throw up every morning, and mom no longer believes that I’m sick, and I can see that I’m also beginning to loose her trust, which in itself makes me feel sick, but at the moment theres nothing I can do about it.

By now I’m so worried that I have to find out. At lunchtime, I sneak out of school and run to the nearest drug store. I find what I am looking for and slip it into my coat pocket. Then I buy some cough drops just to make it look like I came in there for something so I don’t look as suspicious.

I get home at 12:10; I have 20 minutes before I have to go back to school for Spanish 4. I take my lunch into the bathroom with me and set everything up, then begin to eat lunch. After I’m finished, I take a look at the results.

“Please God……” I look at the test strip.


“NO!!!!! God, no!!!!” I throw down the test strip and kick the wall. I burst into tears. I’m pregnant.

Now! P. 1-8

Since I have the kindle version of the book, my page numbers aren’t going to correspond exactly with everybody else’s page numbers.

In any case, this is a story written by the author for Bible class. She wrote it one weekend when she was a teenager living at a Seventh Day Adventist boarding academy. In fact, in a way, it was kind of the same Academy I went to, except not.

The version I have is the unedited original. When it was edited for publication, it looks like all they did was make it shorter. This is why Merikay has published the original for us to enjoy. We begin with a news report.

UN troops are moving into Iraq. The new government which the UN set up there collapsed today after a month of uprisings and riots. The troops are being sent in to bring peace to the small country, put down any further uprisings, and establish the democratic government.”

Our story starts with the protagonist, Merikay, watching the news. I kind of skimmed through this at first, because it sounded about as boring as most news reports about the middle east do in real life.

On the rereading this, I have a serious question, and I haven’t been able to figure this out: can the UN do that? Can the UN just waltz in and set up a government? If so, could they please do that right here, right now? Or does the UN actually approve of Trump?

I do not blame Merikay for not knowing the answer to this question. At 17, I had no idea what the UN did either. (Still don’t, for the record.) In fact, a lot of end times writers, most notably Jerry Jenkins and Tim Lahaye of the Left Behind franchise, think that the UN has something to do with end times prophecy, because it is an organization that is somehow set up to take over the world.

I have to wonder how much of this Merikay would have picked up on, not just from her teachers at the Academy, but from the books she was reading. And I know she read a lot not just because she says so in the post script, but because she can clearly write well, and that’s the sort of thing that comes from doing a lot of reading.

So moving on.

“The president, along with government leaders of England, France, and Russia signed a peace pact today at Moscow.”

This story was written in 1963-1964 ish, according to Merikay’s post script. So, what was going on in the 1960s, exactly, that England, France, and Russia would need to sign a peace pact over? I mean that as a serious question, by the way, not a criticism of the text. Damn Merikay, you’re making me do homework!

Let’s see, the cold war would have been going on… hang on, the cold war ended in 1991? I was alive during the cold war? What? I-what? Ok. you know what, I am getting just way too distracted. Let’s move on.

The news report goes on to say that it is hoped that China will soon sign the peace pact. Then the news moves on to something closer to home.

“The Supreme Court today finally approved the much debated National Sunday-Sabbath Bill. The bill declares Sunday the one and only day on which all Americans are to worship….Politicians, educators and religious leaders alike have been pushing the bill for some time, and the majority is quite pleased with its passage…. it is universally accepted that this bill will prove to be the answer to many of our national and international problems…..The president expressed his approval of the bill, and…encouraged other world leaders to pursue similar courses in their countries.”

The important thing here that I want to note is that Merikay and I, in writing out stories, were working off a checklist of end time events. We were not the only ones. Fred Clark, who does critiques of the popular Left Behind novels, has noted that Lahaye and Jenkins work mainly from a checklist of end time events. Fred notices that events B and C in the Left Behind novels do not stem from event A as a consequence of Event A, but that the events all just kind of…happen. For no well explained reason.

Why are there Sunday Laws? What problems are they going to solve? Why does everyone think Saturday Sabbath keepers are a problem? How did they go back and re-write the constitution?

These probably aren’t the sorts of things teenagers would think of, but these are the things I would expect an editor who published this story to think of. Yes, it was edited for publication, however, from the post script it sounds like all that was done to Now! was to make it shorter. And it’s pretty short as it is, so while I’m sure there are some parts you could cut, just making it shorter does not make it better. The short answer: I blame the publishing house/editors/adults.

We will not dwell upon this for long. Whatever the reason, there are Sunday Laws. I can see where the author wouldn’t want to focus too much on politics. The focus of her story is individuals, not governments. Indeed, this is really the only time we will see a news broadcast, and it’s already over. Merikay has turned off the television. Apparently she has one of those old fashioned kind that don’t have remotes, because she has to turn the dial to shut it off.

I walked over to the window and looked out. As I stared at the bright sky, I kept hearing the words Elder Brown had spoken in Bible Doctrines class only a few weeks before: “The National Sunday Law is the sign for Christians to move out of the cities.”

This paragraph is highlighted mainly because this is exactly what I could picture myself doing if Sunday Laws ever did show up in real life.*

In my mind I had figured out exactly where I would go and how I would get there.

I, too, had an end times plan. Well, sort of. For some reason it somehow involved going to Jacq’s house. Right. Because going to a house I was known to visit frequently was totally a good idea. No one would ever find me there.

But I must not have really believed it would come, for now I seemed to be in a collapsed balloon with everything pressing in around me.

About the same way I would react if Sunday Laws ever got enacted, yes.

I could see all those many, many charts Elder Brown had drawn, day after day, on the board, showing the events of the time of the end.

Seventh Day Adventists love charts. I can’t tell you exactly how many I had to memorize in my own Bible classes. I can tell you exactly how many of them I still remember, which is a big fat zero. But then, Merikay probably didn’t spend Bible class wondering if she was too stupid to understand it, or if what they were teaching just wasn’t Biblical.

Don’t get me wrong, I tried, really really tried, I just… never could see where in the Bible they were getting this from. I concluded I was just too stupid, so I went back to working on that ghost story I was secretly writing. No, you don’t get to read it.

In any case, Merikay remembers these charts more than I ever did, because she remembers that the National Sunday Law comes right before that thing we all dread–the close of probation. That moment when Jesus throws down his work and says, “He who is righteous, let him be righteous still. Let him who is unjust remain unjust…” That moment in time when you are either lost forever or saved.

Suddenly it hit me that I had only a very short time left in which to become perfect.

This requires some explanation. For the most part, Christians believe that we are not going to be perfect, and that we don’t have to. It is Christ that stands for us and is perfect for us. His blood covers our imperfections. Adventists also believe this, however, they also believe that, in the last days, there will come a time when, for a little while, we will have to be perfect on our own, without Jesus to intercede for us.

I never really understood where this doctrine came from either, but just being told about it in Bible class was enough to terrify me. You have no idea how many nightmares I had about being lost!

In this story, Merikay’s nightmares have come true. Merikay is going to have to stand before God without an intercessor. That means that she

a) Has to confess all her sins, all of them, any that she’s ever done in her entire life, so she can be forgiven.

b) Never sin again. Ever. Until Jesus comes.

There’s debate over whether or not this doctrine is biblical. Most Christians say that it is not.  As an atheist, I really don’t care, so I’m gonna move on.**

Merikay goes on to tell us that she feels as if she is moving in a dream. How could there be a national Sunday law?

And this is very realistic. If a Sunday Law ever happened, that is how I’d feel. Shoot, that’s kind of how I felt last Tuesday. (Which won’t actually be last Tuesday by the time this post goes up, so nevermind.)

Even though I had read about it and knew in my heart that it was coming, I just couldn’t believe that it was here…. now.

Believe me, ever since I was a kid, I wished it had happened…. then. Cuz then I’d be born in heaven and not have to deal with…well, anything.

So, thoughts. This book… is not the worst SDA end times novel I’ve ever read, which is different from my reaction at 17. I remember when our Bible teacher read Now! out loud to the class, I thought it was some terrible writing. Surely my own story, Parable of the Sower, was far superior.

As an adult re reading both stories… no, that’s not true, I still haven’t had the courage to go re read mine. I know it’s awful. Really awful. I still haven’t made up my mind if I’m going to go back and insert commentary into Parable of the Sower or not, but I’m leaning toward not because, well, what would I say?

So, let me start that sentence over: re reading Now! as an adult, I can see that there is indeed talent here. Yes, the story isn’t the greatest writing ever, but it does have its good points. The dialogue, once we get to it, is very realistic. The characters all speak in ways I find believable. And, at least at this point in the story, I have a protagonist I can relate to. Sunday Laws have just been enacted, and she’s still reeling from the shock of that actually happening. And that’s something that I know a lot of current and former Adventists can both relate to.

Because some of us still haven’t stopped having nightmares.

 

 

 

*I know that there are some Sunday Laws in real life. Adventists don’t like them either, and this is the reason.

** That’s not to say I won’t listen if a Christian does want to educate me. I merely do not care enough to dwell upon it right now.

 

 

 

 

Tell The World Part 4: Faith Tested

We have jumped forward 2 years in time. At first I thought we missed a lot, but no, apparently the stuff that happens in this episode didn’t take place until 1846. Really? Ellen didn’t start talking about the visions until 2 years later? Nevertheless, this appears to be historically correct, so let us not move on.

The two people walking through the woods, a man and woman who I don’t recognize, are talking about Joseph Bates. Everything they say is true, but I still think it’s some rather clunky exposition that tells rather than shows. I can see why they wouldn’t want to show us all this, for the sake of time… that doesn’t excuse the clunkiness of this exposition.

Joseph Bates is still passionate about the second coming of Christ, even though it didn’t happen when it was supposed to. We are also informed that Bates has been preaching about the Sabbath. The woman says Bates is sincere in his belief.

Man: that may be, but any man who has to rely on the generosity of believers to survive  is reckless in my view.

Woman: reckless to you perhaps. Courageous to others.

Man: his wife must have some thoughts about that. I doubt Poor Mrs. Bates finds it courageous

Why is that courageous? Look, if you want to preach, fine, but if that’s not going to support you, get yourself a fucking job until your preaching career takes off. Paul of the Bible was tent maker who used his ability to support himself, look to his example.

The woman, instead of agreeing that Bates should find a balance, says that Bates’ convictions require action. Ok, but you can take action while having a freakin’ job.

Man: Elder Bates was almost eaten by a shark once… taken captive by the British, jailed in Dartmoor prison. Once a risk taker, always a risk taker, and I don’t think we need that kind of influence here very much.

All of which is true…and it’s still quite clunky. And I don’t understand what that has to do with relying on others for your very survival.

The woman says he forbade sailors on his ship from drinking or swearing, and held weekly church services. If she’s trying to make Bates look good, she’s failing. Those poor sailors!

Man: No one denies he’s committed, but I  mean, selling everything he has and leaving his poor wife destitute? I mean, really.

The man has got a point. Especially in a time when women were not able to go out and get a job, this would have been a big deal. This is one of the many reasons why women need rights to work: in case their husbands are reckless money spenders that sell all they have to give to their doomsday cult.

After the opening credits, we cut to a scene of the men at the bar. Apparently Miller has shut himself up in his farm, never leaving. They talk about how the Millerites can’t go back to their churches, because most of them were kicked out. Some of them are still setting dates. The men in the bar refer to “a girl having visions in Maine, and a sea captain holding prayer meetings on Saturday.”

Man: Saturday? Now that’s one group I won’t be joining.

Right. The thing of it is, Ellen White wasn’t the only woman at that time to have visions. Aside from the clunky exposition, what the men should be talking about is, “all these women (and some men) having visions, declaring themselves prophets…”

Or something.

Next we are going to watch Ellen share some of her vision with a group gathered in someone’s home.

 

She comes in with her mother, leaning on her arm for support. Ellen buries her head in her mother’s shoulder and whispers, “I don’t think that I can do this.”

“Just being here is an act of courage” Ellen’s mother whispers back.

Some of you have commented that, in the beginning of Ellen’s ministry, you aren’t sure just how much choice Ellen actually had. Ellen had these… visions or seizures or whatever exactly they were, and the religious adults around her sort of… I dunno how to phrase it exactly, but like, they pushed her into sharing, and they encouraged her. When what they really should have been doing is seeking medical attention. (Not that the state of medical knowledge was anything to brag about, but still.)

Ellen slowly starts speaking about the vision she had two years ago. I’ve already written about it in the last post, there is no need to go over it now.

We cut next to a shot of the Harmon sisters sitting around working on hats for their father’s business.

Mrs. Harmon(smiling proudly): You were used of God mightily today. I have no greater joy than to know my children walk in truth.

Elizabeth bends her head over her work. Ellen gives her a pointed look when she says

Ellen: I was afraid that no one would believe me.

Elizabeth doesn’t look at Ellen, who finally looks away and tells her mother

Ellen: When I walked in, I heard a woman say I was possessed of Satan.

Hang on to that. We’ll come back to it.

Mrs. Harmon tells Ellen that of course her visions are from God, and not to ever think otherwise.

Elizabeth has been doing her very best to ignore all this, but then Ellen addresses her directly.

Ellen: Do you see, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth finally responds: I am finished with all of your foolishness Ellen

Sara: Elizabeth!

Elizabeth: It’s always about Ellen. When is there ever time for anyone else?

Mrs. Harmon: Elizabeth Harmon! How can you abandon your sister in such a way?

Elizabeth: have you considered that you may have abandoned me at some point along the way? Mother, you do have more than one daughter.

Elizabeth leaves the room.

I want to note, here, that before this, Elizabeth has had some very real criticisms against her sister that should be addressed. I’m not saying jealousy was never at hing between the twins, and I’m not even saying this movie shouldn’t show that. I’m saying that Elizabeth has some genuine concerns about her sister’s visions, and the movie does its best to downplay them and instead make Elizabeth just “the bitter, jealous sister.” And that’s obnoxious.

Next we are shown an establishing shot of a flour mill. Because they still haven’t had time to buy houses, I guess. Inside, a group of men is debating whether or not Ellen’s visions are from God.

Sargent says that God would never choose to send a message through a frail young girl who is so weak she can barely walk. Another notes that she doesn’t have a background in ministry.

Another man brings up the verse about false prophets. Yes. Thank you. Finally, jeez!

Robbins: I heard the visions overtake her, like a trance

Man: I’ve talked with a neighbor who has seen her. He finds her to be credible.

Wait a second. We jump straight from “the visions are from Satan” to, “these visions have physical effects on her.”

Ok, those two things are not mutually exclusive.

Sargent: Ellen Harmon’s visions are a lie of the deceiver

Finally, someone brings this up. However, this is downplayed. The men are accused of never having seen the girl, so how would they know? Sargent and Robbins insist that if Ellen tried to have a vision in their presence, the power of their faith would bind the devil’s work. Um, what? That is not how it works.Have these people even read the Bible?

Man: she speaks with great tenderness of the word of the Lord!

Instead of bringing up the numerous verses about false prophets and evil spirits disguised as good, Sargent walks down the staircase and says, “Brother Nichols, do not be fooled.”

Now, let’s actually get into this “possessed of Satan” business. The movie will address this… a little bit, but not to my satisfaction. I’m going to address it right now.

We see here that there are people who acknowledge that these visions Ellen is having, if real, could be from Satan. The devout people of the movie are upset at this, and I can’t see why. If you believe in Satan, it’s a fair question to ask. When I was a Christian, I too wondered if Ellen had been deceived by Satan. (In fact, teenage me concluded that she was.) Here’s a nice Bible verse that needs to be brought up:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1, NIV

And here’s the one that one of the men just quoted:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

False prophets exist. Malicious spirits can come disguised as good spirits. So, how does one tell a good spirit and a true prophet from an evil spirit and a false prophet? Once again, the Bible has the answer.

To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to the Word, there is no light in them.

Isaiah 8:20

Compare the words of Ellen White with the words of scripture. See if they add up. That is what these people should be doing.  They should be searching their Bibles diligently, to see if what she says matches up with what it says. I would even go so far as to say that we should get a montage of this.

However, I don’t see anybody here doing this, or even telling us that this is what they did. What they actually end up doing is…well, we’ll see. For now, all they do is argue about whether or not Ellen’s visions have physical manifestations. Someone does bring up the idea of trances, but is quickly shot down.

Brother Nichols goes home. His wife asks if the other men were persuaded. Upon being told no, his wife says he should invite Ellen to come there. Apparently Ellen travels around with Sarah, her older sister. Nichols agrees, figuring that if Ellen’s message really is from God, a few men  aren’t going to be able to stop her.

Next we are shown Sarah and Ellen traveling. Sarah is driving the buggy, and tells Ellen that there’s no place she’d rather be than by Ellen’s side. Ellen tells Sarah she doesn’t like doing this. She’d rather stay home. This was probably inserted to make it seem like Ellen wasn’t having these visions for attention, but it fails because it tells us that instead of showing her having visions in private places as well as public.

We next see Ellen and Sarah entering a room.

Man(to James White): Have you met the Harmons? I said, have you met the Harmons?

James(oggling Ellen): I’ve had tea, sir, thank you for asking.

Man: Why don’t you go meet the ladies before you get any more tongue tied.

James introduces himself as “pastor with the Christian coalition,” then gives Ellen the best pickup line ever:

James: I have heard much about your work for the lord.

HA. HA HA HA. ahem. HA HA.

The two then discuss age. Ellen will be 18 when she has her next birthday, whenever that is. James is 23. It’s a good 5 year age difference, which isn’t actually too bad. For some reason I was thinking he was ten years her senior.

Ellen: And you have put yourself in the service of the Lord?

Did you not hear that he just fucking told you that he was a pastor with the Christian Coalition? No Ellen, it sounds like he put himself in the service of Satan.

We’re then shown a montage of Ellen and James having a very chaste courtship. This….isn’t how it actually happened, but ok. This is already a long post, so I’m going to skip the explanation and move on.

We see Sarah and Ellen meet with Brother and Mrs. Nichols.

Nichols: Surely this young girl is no child of Satan.

Seriously? If I was Satan, someone like this is exactly who I would send: Young, naive, weak. I mean, these people are seriously underestimating Satan here.

Sargent and Robbins drive up in a buggy, asking Nichols if they can spend the night at his house. Nichols says yes, and that Ellen Harmon is here. That was his big mistake. He should’ve just let them find that out for themselves after the fact.

Mr. Robbins: The Harmon Girl?

Sargent: Is here?

Is this supposed to be a comedy sketch?

Nichols: she arrived a few days ago to share with us

Sargent: Mr. Robins, we have forgotten to visit your sick friend

Mr. Robbins: Oh yes, I have a friend who is sick and we have made a previous commitment.

Nichols: Well, if you can’t come in even for a moment I could bring her to meet you in Boston.

Mr. Robbins: We would never allow–

Sargent(cutting him off): Yes, why yes that sounds like a fine plan. Bring her to Boston this Sunday.

The two men drive away. Nichols is excited, but apprehensive.

That night, Ellen and her sister Sarah are sleeping in bed. Ellen stares out at the moon, and a deep voice says that he is God. He tells her to go to Randolph, specifically the Thayer home. The next morning at breakfast, Ellen tells the Nichols’ what the Lord has instructed her to do. The man and his wife are surprised. They don’t understand, and neither does Ellen.

Ellen: God has promised that when I arrive, he shall reveal why.

Cut to a scene of them arriving at the Thayer home in Randolph. An old woman, presumably Mrs. Thayer, is excited to see the Nichols. When she asks what brings them to Randolph, they introduce Ellen and Sarah Harmon.

Mrs. Thayer’s smile slips. She stammers a bit, then says, “I don’t know what to say.”

Mr. Nichols: Welcome would be a start

Seriously? How rude. In any case, all of them enter the Thayer household. Inside, Brother Sargent is speaking to a small group of people, telling them to beware of false prophets. He trots out the bible verse about false prophets, but doesn’t go about telling the group how to know one when they see it.

Sargent and Robbins look at each other. It’s clear now that they only told Nichols to bring Ellen Harmon to Boston that Sunday because they planned to be in Randolph. It is clear that the God of this movie said, “yeah, fuck that.” Seriously, the looks on Mr. and Mrs. Nichols’ faces should be priceless, but instead we get Mr. Nichols whispering to his wife that clearly, the two men in the buggy never intended to meet with Ellen at all. Like we didn’t just figure that out for ourselves 5 seconds ago, thanks. The movie does a lot of telling rather than showing, and it’s quite annoying.

Sargent decides that now is a decent time for a lunch break, and exits the room dramatically.

Mr. and Mrs. Thayer discuss with Nichols whether or not Ellen’s visions could be from Satan. They don’t know what to believe, but are being cautious.

Good. Someone in this movie has to be reasonable, besides Elizabaeth.

Mr. Thayer says that Sargent said Ellen would never dare have a vision in his presence because he walks uprightly. It’s not so subtle foreshadowing that there will be a vision in Sargent’s presence.

Brother Nichols tells the Thayers that Sargent and Robbins told him to bring Ellen to Boston today, but that Ellen had instructions from God to come here instead.

After seeing the looks on their faces, we cut to the little group getting back together and singing, “Oh when shall I see Jesus.” As they are singing, “oh shout Glory, for I shall mount above the skies–” Ellen’s pupil’s widen, and she shouts: Glory. Glory! GLORY!

The timing of that was oh so perfect. According to sources, this is what Ellen would say sometimes when she was going into vision.

Here, in the words of Ellen White’s grandson, is an account of this vision: https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/642.79 you can read and compare, if you are so inclined.

As Ellen shouts, everyone stops singing. Then Sarge and Robbins decide that the best course of action would be to sing a hymn. They continue to sing, until Mrs. Nichols moves toward Ellen.

Sarge: Stay clear of her!

And actually, that’s not terrible advice. If you suspect that someone is

a) possessed of Satan

b) in a trance

it makes sense to not want anyone to go near or touch her. She could get violent.

Mr. Robbins pulls out a Bible and starts reading the ten commandments, but quickly and panicky, as if reading the Bible alone could ward off the Devil.

Like the devil doesn’t know how to quote scripture.

Mr. Nichols: Oh be quiet you fool!

Mr. Robbins: You’re bowing to an idol!

Both these men are right. Quoting scripture alone will not help. And SDAs will end up making an idol of Ellen White. Set that aside for now, it’s largely irrelevant.

Mr. Thayer: I have heard that visions from Satan can be stopped by placing a Bible on the person

That doesn’t sound like a Biblical test of a true prophet to me. Could you quote chapter and verse, please?

Mr. Thayer moves to pick up a Bible. Sarge and Robbins decline to place the Bible on Ellen, and I think the movie wants us to see this as a sign of their stubbornness, but honestly, if Ellen is possessed of Satan, and you seriously believe that putting a Bible on her will stop whatever is going on, it makes sense not to want to be the one setting a Bible on her lap. Again, if she is possessed of Satan, she could very well get violent. This is also true if instead the visions are caused by a medical condition. Those two men saw Ellen as an unknown, and were justifiably a little frightened.

Thayer sets the Bible on Ellen’s lap. Ellen picks it up and says that this is the Bible, the inspired word of God. She points to a Bible verse and reads it out loud. Someone finally looks at what she’s pointing to and discovers that, without looking, Ellen is reading the exact verse her finger is pointing to. The little group takes it as a sign that the visions are indeed from God. I think that Satan could pull off the same trick, but no, this is enough to convince everyone that she’s totes not possessed of Satan y’all. Whatever.

Next, we cut to a scene of William Miller in his home. He’s received a letter, but Lucy has to read it to him because his eyesight sucks.

The letter is about Ellen Harmon, and that he should really check her out. It’s from Otis Nichols. In fairness to him, he does say to compare what she says with the Bible. Which someone should have been doing  A LONGASS TIME AGO.

Lucy and William have a discussion. Lucy reminds him that the bible says that in the last days, people will receive visions from the Lord. The Bible does say that, and there were a lot of people having visions in the mid 1800s. However, it is beyond time to admit that the 1840s were not the last days. Neither were the 1940s. I will even venture to predict that there will be a 2040 and that it will not be the last days.

We next see Joseph and Mrs. Bates, having received the same letter. Joseph calls it all nonsense.

Mrs. Bates: you mean Ellen Harmon? They say her longest vision lasted 4 hours.

Joseph: Yes, but visions… condition of her poor health is more likely the explanation.

Even then there were people wondering if Ellen’s visions were the result of a medical condition. It is my uneducated belief that they are right.

Bates sees no reason to seek out Ellen Harmon. She’s invited to speak regularly now, so he’s certain they will run into each other. In the meantime, he’s more concerned about their financial situation.

Mrs. Bates: Joseph, I don’t have enough flour to bake even one loaf of bread

Bates: How much do you need?

Mrs. Bates: At least 2 more cups

Joseph goes to what is clearly a fabric store, and asks the clerk for as much flour as his money can buy. He slides a single coin across the table. I can’t tell what kind of coin it is. It’s too big to be a quarter. Maybe a dollar coin or a 50 cent piece. At any rate, the clerk gives Joseph a small packet of flour. It does not look like 2 cups worth.

That night in the Bates house, Mr. and Mrs. Bates have a tense argument about food. Joseph tells his wife that he spent the last money he has on that flour his wife wanted earlier. Well then, why the fuck are you asking if your wife has apple butter or jam?

Mrs. Bates: First the farm to the Millerite cause, then our friends and family to scorn us, then our son to the sea. Now all of our money is gone? How much more of this do you think we can take?

Mrs. Bates has a point. I think the cause would be better served if Bates got a real job. Then he could use his own money for the cause.

They argue a bit more. It’s clear Mrs. Bates wants him to get a real job, but Bates isn’t having it.

Bates: Perhaps the earth should swallow me whole. Is that what I should pray for?

Seriously? Your wife is bringing up these very real concerns, and all you do is whine about how maybe you should just go die? That sounds horribly manipulative to me. Bates is not addressing his wife’s concerns. He wants her to be satisfied with “The Lord will provide.” But such words are empty when there is nothing behind them. I mean, have you ever considered that the Lord’s way of providing for you might be that job opening you saw in the paper yesterday?

In any case, that’s the end of the episode. It’s…. I mean, it kept me more entertained than previous episodes, and I did learn a lot. That said, I still feel like it is trying to do too much, and winds up doing too little. In a movie like this, it’s not wise to try and tell the entire story. Far better to focus on maybe 3 people. I personally wouldn’t say no to having the focus be solely on Ellen White. Her story is far more fascinating, as well as her sister Elizabeth. You could write a whole book on Ellen’s relationship with her sister, her parents, and her medical condition.

I don’t particularly care about the financial troubles of Joseph Bates. His troubles are of his own making, and he doesn’t seem particularly invested in getting out of them himself.

And what was the point of those two people at the beginning of the episode? Who were they? Why were we listening to them? If there is no reason for me to care for them as characters, do not introduce them.

Tune in next time where, surprise surprise, a miracle happens for the Bates family, and Ellen has, spoiler alert, another vision! Oh and a baby.

 

 

 

 

 

The thing here about Ellen saying that the Bible is the inspired word of God… ok, fine. But that does not prove she isn’t a false prophet. You see, Satan can quote scripture, too. He does it when he tempts Jesus in the wilderness.

But here’s another Bible verse to back it up:

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well. The devils also believe — and tremble.

James 2:19

 

Oh my God… they are showing The Astronomy Vision! That’s… ballsy. Isn’t someone going to notice that Saturn doesn’t have people living on it? That Ellen named only the number of moons that astronomers of the day knew about?

I’ve already done a post on this recently, so let’s move on.

 

One thing the movie isn’t really trying to hide is that a lot of Ellen’s visions seem to have happened in public places. That may or may not mean anything. Ellen does record having visions in private.

 

 

 

Parable of The Sower: Chapter 1

Obligatory Disclaimer: This is a story I wrote when I was a teenager. I was attending an Adventist boarding academy at the time, and questioning everything I believed. Writing this story was my excuse to research things. I was also writing this to give to my friends as a Christmas present, and knew they were very selective.

This story is terrible because it was written by a 15 year old. I have edited nothing.

I don’t even want to re read this. Do I have to re read this? Should I insert commentary? I kind of feel like the only commentary I have would be saying “oh my GOD” over and over again as I bang my head against the desk.

So, here it is, unedited, and without commentary.

1

Bells start ringing. I slip start walking toward the exit, heart pounding. I smile at a few people, trying not to show my fear. In all my years of doing this, I have never quite mastered the technique of staying calm. Oh well, practice makes perfect. I exit the store, forcing myself to walk at a steady pace until I turn the corner, then, I start running,my breath coming out in puffs of white smoke as my feet pound against the pavement.

It isn’t easy to run in 3 inches of snow, not to mention the thick coat, boots, backpack, but I have to run. I have to get there. I reach the ally behind the church and duck behind a statue of Jesus on the cross. I open my backpack, yank out a long black velvet skirt and shove it on over my baggy black cargo pants. I drag out a pair of heels from the backpack, zip it up, and, running barefoot through the icy snow, shove the backpack in the trunk of the car, run up the steps to the church, stopping briefly at the door to put on the heels, open the door and head for the bathroom. I take a few minutes to catch my breath, then I open the stall door –only to bump into Jaimie, my sister.

“You skipped again.”

“What–”

“And don’t even think I’m gonna tell you what the sermon was about Holly, you wanna deceive people like this, your gonna do it on your own. I’m not gonna help you anymore.” I can’t look at her. Somehow, she always manages to make me feel like crawling into a grave and dying. I walk out of the bathroom, not looking at her. As I come out of the bathroom, I see Renee, my friend, approaching.

“Renee!” I run over to her, “quick,” I whisper, “what was the sermon about?”

“You know this is all gonna catch up with you someday, right?”

“Renee!”

“The parable of the sower, darling. The soil in the story represents the soil in our hearts, and the seeds represent the gospel. The seeds land in our hearts, and no matter how hard and crusty the soil is, if we let him, Jesus can make him grow.” Renee looks at me piercingly.

“Thanks Renee.” I say, running out the door of the church.

“love you Holly!” she calls out to my retreating back.

I jump into the backseat of the car and wait for my sister and mom to get here. They like to talk a lot. I dig my backpack out of the trunk, hike up my skirt, and start pulling stuff out of my pockets and stuffing them into my backpack.

Spanish music CDs, French and German learning CDs, books on new age, and, of course, a satanic bible!!!! I continue pulling out junk until I see my sister come out. I quickly shove my backpack under the seat and yank down my skirt.

Jaimie opens the car door, jumps in and slams it shut. I turn to look out the window. I don’t want to look at her.

“Holly.” I still won’t look at her. “I still love you.” I sigh. Unbidden, a tear falls down my cheek. I wipe my eye and force the rest of them down. I will not let these Adventists win me back. I will never forgive them for what they’ve done to me. And I will never forgive my sister for abandoning me.

“Holly, Jesus loves you too –”

“Do not start that with me again!” I whirl around to face her angrily.

“Holly please —

“No!!! I’m sick of you! You don’t care about me!”

“Holly–”

“No!” I turn back to the window and watch my mom take her time moving her butt from the church door to the car.

Jaimie sighed, “Holly… ”

I don’t turn around.

“Holly, how about this; I’ll listen to you about…. whatever you believe, and I won’t interrupt and contradict with what I believe or argue with you.”

“Whats the catch?”

Jaimie silently prays as she speaks, “if you’ll do the same for me.”

Don’t do it. Don’t do it. She doesn’t really love you. She just wants you to be a seventh day adventist!

But I love my sister! And she wouldn’t do this for me if she didn’t really love me, right? I turn around.

“Deal.”

I throw my backpack onto my dolphin bedspread, yank off my skirt, and fish stuff out of my pockets and onto the bed. I open the backpack and start pulling out clothes. Lots of clothes. All of them stolen. I unzip my coat and start pulling stuff out of the pockets. Then, I stick my hand through the slit seam and pull stuff out of that too.

I pull out a portable CD player and pair of headphones, newly stolen, and pop in a French conjugation CD. Then I recline back on my blue, fluffy pillows and relax., listening to the annoying voice conjugate French verb after verb.

I spend the rest of the afternoon listening to the CDs I’ve stolen, answering email, and, of course, looking at any other websites I can think of that mom would kill me for even knowing about. Today I make it a point to learn about how to tell different Pine trees apart.

I know, I know, sounds stupid, I know. But I want to be smart. I like to get out in nature, even though I don’t feel close to God anymore, its still comforting, and besides. When I’m smart about something, people listen to me. And When I talk about things I’m smart about, I have the floor. All attention is riveted on me.

I’ve studied criminal law in several different states, taught myself Spanish, French, and German, have memorized half the bible, and am working on Hebrew, Greek, and Enochian, the latter one being the language of the satanist rituals. I’m researching new age too, thought the 2 are not exactly synonyms. Sometimes, when I’m talking about something, my sister even listens to me, though thats rare. Mainly it gets the attention of my friends.(or lack thereof actually.) I’m still learning about the bible, even though I hate God, because it gets attention when I talk about it, plus it makes people think its impossible for me to pull off all the things I’d been doing lately.

At 5:30, I head downstairs for sundown worship. mom prays, and, as usual the prayer is long and boring, and, as usual, I sit down on my butt, eyes open, and glaring. After the prayer we have a discussion on some biblical passage.

After worship, my sister took me out to rent a movie.

“Holly…”

“I don’t wanna talk now.”

“Fine. We don’t have to. But can I at least say something???”

“I think your going to weather I let you or not.”

she sighed, “Holly, I don’t mean to be so busy all the time that I can’t talk to you, but please, don’t take out your anger on God –”

“ I hate God!”

“Holly, please, give him a chance…. what happened?”

Silence.

“You used to love God, Holly, you were one of the most spiritual people I knew. Now, you hate God and don’t want anything to do with him, why?”

I shrug.

Jaimie didn’t say anything, just pulls into the parking lot and gets out of the car. The movie we end up picking is “Saved.” Its about these girls at a Christian school. It looks interesting enough that I will be able to suffer through it. I watch the movie with my family that night, my mom putting her arms around me. It is at times like this when I can relax. It Is at times like this when I can almost imagine that I can go back to being a Seventh Day Adventist. Almost. But I know I can never go back, I’ve gone too far. I am rejecting God, and He won’t care about me anymore.

Tell The World Part 3: Bitter Disappointment

Ok, so, first off, a few notes. I have discovered that, for this movie, the actors are mostly real actors. I didn’t do this with all of them, but I looked up specifically Tommy Amber-Pirie (Ellen Harmon). Tommy Amber-Pirie was actually in an episode of one of my favorite TV shows: Warehouse 13. But aside from that she’s done a lot of other projects that definitely aren’t Adventist approved, including something called “How to Plan An Orgy In A Small Town.” I looked itup, and it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. These are, for the most part, normal actors. I have no idea how they got involved in an Adventist movie.

I have discovered that Pink Dress is supposed to be Elizabeth, Ellen’s twin sister. Ellen and her sister Elizabeth are 17 in this episode. This is known from history, not stated. The actress who plays Elizabeth looks so much older than Ellen, I honestly thought the other sister was her twin.

Alright, here we go. Our episode begins with William Miller in the barn angrily swinging pitchforks full of hay. Mrs. Miller comes up and says

Mrs. Miller: The master of the house cleaning out his own barn. This setting of a date must have you upset

Were farmers usually rich enough to hire someone else to clean the barn? In any case, I don’t think we needed Lucy to tell us William is upset. The way he is just pitching hay all over the place with no apparent rhyme or reason would have told me. She could have skipped telling us Miller was upset and just said, “what’s wrong?”

William tells Lucy that “Our hope is not in a specific day, but in the soon coming of the Lord.” He goes on to say that he was wrong about 1843 because he forgot to factor in that there is no year 0. He’s worried that he caused these people to doubt, all because he got the year wrong.

Well, yes, he did… then he’s going to go on to do much worse.

Anyway, Miller goes on to say that the Bible is very clear, but that since Samuel Snow is “a trusted brother in the Lord,” he’ll pray about it. Lucy stalks off angrily. I guess she really wants Miller to endorse the date.

Miller is right to show caution. Even then, there were a lot of failed end times predictions. 

William Miller, per the all knowing Wikipedia, was a voracious reader. He had to know that date setting was a thing.

Miller shakes his head and goes back to pitching hay. Fade to black, roll opening credits.

We open next on 2 men carrying a trunk. 2 other men come out of a house. One of them I recognize as Joseph Bates. I recognize him because of those tiny round glasses he always wears.

Man: We are very pleased to have purchased your property. If you don’t mind my asking, where will you and your wife go from here?

Bates: To Heaven

Man: But if the end of the world comes to pass, do you have a plan?

Bates: God has a plan in store for all of us *pulls paper of of Bible and hands it to man. Man tucks it into his coat*

This is where I have another issue with the movie. The movie touches briefly on how the setting of a date affected people, and I wish the movie would have focused on this more, instead of trying to distract us with OH LOOK A PROPHET!

Because Millerism harmed people, and it harmed them directly. People sold their homes, their crops went unharvested, and they quit their jobs to spread the good news.

Mainstream Adventists aren’t likely to run off and sell their homes and quit their jobs. However, modern Adventists do continue to preach that Jesus is coming “in a few short years.” Imagine yourself as a high school student, hearing that you may never graduate high school, never mind college. Jesus is coming, be ready. Why waste time on college?

Not every Adventist thinks this way, but this why some* SDA parents don’t set aside college funds for their kids. This is why some high schoolers aren’t serious about picking a career. This is why someone I once knew tried to convince his wife it was necessary to build a shelter somewhere on the property and invest heavily in going off the grid.

Adventists may no longer set dates, but they are still expecting Jesus to come in a very short amount of time.

Some of the more moderate Adventists will stress that you have to have a backup plan in case Jesus doesn’t come, but not everybody listens to that.

Modern Adventism, in some cases, causes the same harm as did William Miller. This should be acknowledged.

Anyway, Mrs. Bates comes up to Joseph after the man who bought their house leaves.

Mrs. Bates: So, even the house is sold to finance the message. The children believe we are foolish.

That’s seriously the look on their faces when she says that line. It’s like they’re trying to come across as smug little pricks.

Mrs. Bates: You are so firm in your conviction

Bates: Yes, my dear. The clock is ticking. God’s appointed time is almost here.

Did I mention how stilted the dialog is in this movie? The dialogue is stilted in this movie. I also love how they feel a need to mention the sincerity of those who believe. This is very clunky, and it’s unnecessary to tell us this, especially when you’ve spent the entire movie showing it. Selling their house to finance the message kind of screams “sincerity.”

No one doubts that the Millerites were sincere. However, people do understand that it is possible to be sincerely wrong.

We cut from this to a shot of the Harmon family at dinner. Ellen’s appetite has improved. The thought of “going home” gives her strength. We get a reaction shot of Elizabeth, before quickly moving on to a brief moment where the Harmon parents hold hands. At first I think they are praying, but no, Papa Harmon just randomly holds his wife’s hand and says that they must do everything they can to spread the message. We get a few seconds of the look on Elizabeth’s face.

Now, I have read that Elizabeth never bought into the Millerite message like her family did. I’m not convinced that this is the case, and I’ll talk more about why at the end. For now I’m just going to note that the movie seems to be trying hard to show that Elizabeth is having doubts.

We cut to a scene where Mr. White (yes, that would be James White, Ellen’s future husband) comes into a shop, where the owner says his pamphlets are ready for him. The owner of the shop remarks that the Millerites are turning into his best customers.

Papa Harmon, who just so happens to be picking up pamphlets as well, introduces himself to James. When the shop owner asks for payment, Papa Harmon pays for James’ papers. James thanks him, and he and James go to pass out papers on the streets. People respond… just about like you’d expect people to respond. At best, James and Harmon are straight up ignored. At worst, they’re poked fun at.

James: (to passerby) Jesus is coming in just a few short weeks. Prepare your hearts.

Passerby: Oh. Well. Tell him he’s buying the next round when he gets here. *hands paper back*

Harmon: I’m sad for those men.

We get a few more shots of young James and Papa Harmon trying to pass out tracts before cutting to a scene of William Miller writing a letter to Joshua Himes. Miller, if you recall, has been reluctant to accept the date of October 22, 1844 as the date of Christ’s return. This is the famous scene where it all changes. As Miller writes the letter, his voiceover reads it out loud:

Dear brother Himes, after much study and prayer I see a glory now in the 7th month which I never saw before. We are almost home. Glory! Glory! Glory!

We cut from Miller putting down his pen to an aerial shot of old fashioned camp meeting tents. That must have taken a lot of effort for the movie maker to set up. We hear William Miller preaching about, what else, the 2nd coming of Jesus.

Miller: there is no time for delay. Put it not off, I beg of you. No, not for a moment. Do you not want a house made with hands eternal in the heavens? And seek first the kingdom of heaven says Christ, and then all these things shall be added unto you.

We cut to a shot of someone walking through what looks like a carpenter’s shed. A man walks through, puts down his apron, picks up his bible, and leaves. We get a closeup of the sign on the door.

We next cut to a shot of the Bates family, who are having an argument.

Bates’ Son: My ship sails tomorrow and my decision is final! I will not stay here and beg while you stare up at the skies!

Bates: Jesus is coming tomorrow my son!

Son: Well when he arrives, tell him he can find me on the high seas!

Son stalks off. Mrs. Bates begs Joseph to go after him, and I can’t think why. I mean, even if Jesus had returned on October 22, 1844, do the Bates actually think Jesus won’t know where to find their son? I  mean, there’s no reason he has to wait with his parents. As long as he’s ready, when Jesus comes, he’s going. There’s no reason he can’t live his life in the process.

Mrs. Bates does some of the most fake and forced crying I’ve seen on television while Mr. Bates prays out loud that his son will come back to Jesus.

We cut to dawn the next day, OCTOBER 22, 1844.

Miller and his wife are standing on a riverbank with Himes and some woman I don’t recognize. They talk about how they hope they did their best to reach as many people as possible, and stand there smiling at each other.

We cut to a scene of Ellen Harmon standing in a field of what looks like wheat. She’s clutching her bible to her chest, anxiously scanning the skies. She looks happy, then anxious, then happy, then confused.

Cut to a shot of Miller and Lucy.

Lucy: Thank you. For telling the world before it was too late.

Miller looks grim as the sun rises. He anxiously scans the sky for a bit before saying

Miller: What if we are too early?

Um, guys? It’s been October 22 for like, 5 hours in Europe already. It makes more sense to be too late than too early.

And this is another issue I have with them. In Ellen White’s biography, it is said that the Millerites waited faithfully until midnight.  This… doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I mean, by midnight here, it’s already October 23 in England. Do they think of that? I mean, does the whole world have to be on the date October 22 when Jesus comes?  Why do they think that Jesus will return on October 22 as far as Americans understand it?

I am probably overthinking this. Let us move on.

We cut to a bar, where a man is playing a lively tune on the piano. Fun fact: Adventists once threw a fit over having a piano in church, because pianos were for bar music.

The bartender calls out: Gentlemen! Free ale till the end of the world!

Everyone cheers and raises their glasses. The music continues to play as the men talk and drink. Then the clock starts chiming midnight. The piano stops playing. Talk ceases. Everyone in the bar glances anxiously at the clock. We cut to a large group of people gathered outside the bar. Cut to Miller and Himes, disappointed looks on their faces. Ellen still outside in the field. Mr. and Mrs. Bates looking so eager.

We cut back to the bartender after the last chime sounds.

Bartender: Well. It’s too bad the Good Lord Jesus couldn’t join us. Because we always have room for one more!

The piano starts playing again, talk resumes.

October 23 dawns, grey and cloudy. The wind sighs through the trees. Ellen is still outside, though at least by now she’s got a shawl.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are Ellen. You had a traumatic brain injury when you were younger and you’ve been weak and sick ever since. You also suffer from anxiety and depression, particularly as it pertains to religion. You believe Jesus is coming soon to take you to heaven, where you will be miraculously healed, not just from your physical sickness, but you’ll never again have a panic attack about going to hell, or worry that Jesus won’t let you into heaven.

Now imagine how you feel on October 23. Jesus isn’t coming. You’re going to be weak and sick  until the day you die. That’s what The Great Disappointment felt like for Ellen.

She lost something worse than a house. She lost hope of being healed. I have a lot of sympathy, here, for Ellen.When I realized Jesus wasn’t coming in my lifetime, I too realized I would always have my neurological condition. It’s a very sucky realization.

Here’s how Miller and Himes are reacting.

Miller: God’s message was never meant to be about a single date

Himes: All is not lost. look at the movement you have begun. You have won thousands

Miller: And to what have I won them? Disappointment. despair.

Himes: to the truth of God’s word

Miller: setting a date has now made that untrustworthy. Why was I so weak to endorse one?

I can forgive Miller a little bit here, because he shows regret. Because yes, he was weak. He wanted Jesus to be coming on October 22, and he wanted it so badly he convinced himself that it was true. I think we’re not supposed to be nodding along in agreement with Miller as he berates himself, but the fact is that Miller was wrong, and he caused a lot of people harm. I actually have way more sympathy for him now that I see him actively regretting that.

I do not, however, have any love for Himes.

We cut to a reaction shot of Mr. and Mrs. Bates, who apparently sleep in separate beds. Mrs. Bates is sitting on one bed fake crying her eyes out, while Joseph stands there and looks baffled.

Next we check in on the Harmon family. They are all sitting around a plain wooden table, not saying anything. Finally, Ellen breaks the silence.

Ellen: We will keep waiting

Elizabeth: For how long?

Papa Harmon: For as long as it takes

Which… makes no sense. What if it takes 100 years? You can’t just sit around waiting. You have to move on with your lives.

Ellen coughs. Elizabeth makes like she’s going to comfort her sister, but Ellen stops coughing, and Elizabeth turns away.

PORT GIBSON OCTOBER 23 1844

Hiram walks out of his… barn. Some people drive by in a buggy.

Man1: I see you’re still with us this morning, Hiram.

Man2: The chickens too

Man1: Maybe Jesus will come and fix him some breakfast!

Everyone laughs as they drive away in the buggy. Hiram just keeps on walking.

Hiram comes inside, where his wife is holding a Bible. They say something about their hope being gone. A man knocks on the door. He’s with a bunch of other men, and they ask what they should do. Hiram decides they need to pray. He and the men approach a group of other men and ask them to join them for prayer. But the other group of men isn’t interested.

Man1: Guidance? Open your eyes, Hiram.

Hiram: This is the time that we need to be together

Man1: we have been deceived. Do you suggest that we continue in this delusion?

Hiram: If you would just give God a chance–

Man1: I did that already.

The three men stalk off angrily, and Hiram and the others walk into the barn for a prayer meeting. Do not ask me why they are meeting in a barn. I mean, I get that they probably sold off all their church buildings, but isn’t there someone among them who hasn’t sold their house?

We suffer through watching them pray in a barn, then we get a shot of Hiram in the corn field. Why the men are walking through a corn field, no idea. Can’t they walk on the road?

Hiram stops. Owen calls out to him. But Edson is having what he claims is a vision. In a cornfield. I just got done watching Children of the Corn, and half expect Hiram to start jabbering on about an angry corn God.

Here’s what he says instead. The real Hiram, I mean, not Movie!Hiram.

“We started, and while passing through a large field I was stopped about midway of the field. Heaven seemed opened to my view, and I saw distinctly and clearly that instead of our High Priest coming out of the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary to come to this earth on the tenth day of the seventh month, at the end of the 2300 days, He for the first time entered on that day the second apartment of that sanctuary; and that He had a work to perform in the Most Holy Place before coming to the earth.”[4]F. D. Nichol. The Midnight Cry. p. 458.

We cut to a shot of a house, where Hiram is talking.

Hiram: The early Christians thought Jesus came to set up an earthly kingdom, not a heavenly kingdom. After his death on the cross, they were bitterly disappointed just as we are now……maybe we were wrong about what was supposed to happen on October 22. The early Christians got the date right for the Messiah, but their expectations were wrong. Perhaps the same is true for us….what if we mistook the meaning of the word “sanctuary?”

They read out Bible verses that supposedly prove that the sanctuary is in heaven. On October 22, 1844, Jesus entered the Most Holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to begin the work of judgement. This is what Adventists believe. That the date was correct, but the event was wrong.

Owen: So Jesus is still coming back soon, then. We just don’t know how quickly.

I get that these people still want to hold onto hope that Jesus is coming… and I still want to slap the shit out of this character.

We cut to a scene of Mrs. Miller coming down the stairs. We see that William is reading a newspaper with the headline: THE GREATEST HOAX OF ALL TIME.

We get more angst from Miller about what he has done. Lucy tries to encourage him, and I get that she’s his wife… but frankly I’m inclined to let the man wallow. At least for a little while.

Miller takes out his pen and writes that he will continue to wait for the Lord to come.

DECEMBER, 1844

Wait a second… December, 1844… in Maine? It looks like summer.

Ellen and her twin sister, Elizabeth, are riding in a cart pulled by oxen. That cart looks extremely uncomfortable. There’s no back support, and they also look like they’re about to fall off the end at any second. Cut to an interior shot of a house, a woman is praying out loud, asking God why he did not come. Suddenly, Ellen falls. Elizabeth, who has had her eyes open the entire time, rushes to her sister’s side. “Ellen! Ellen!” immediately the prayer circle breaks up as everyone tries to get Ellen to respond. But she just lies there, eyes open, unblinking.

There’s a bright flash of white light, and a deep voice says, “I am the messenger of God. Look again, a little higher.” We see the earth, and the camera pans up. We see a streak of neon green light hanging above the earth, then a bright light rushes toward us, and the screen looks like it does on Star Trek when they’re trying to show what traveling at the speed of light looks like.

That’s all we get to see before we fade to white and see Ellen lying on her back on the floor the house.

That was…. interesting. Here, in Ellen White’s own words, is what she actually saw that day.

I seemed to be surrounded with light, and to be rising higher and higher from the earth. I turned to look for the advent people in the world, but could not find them, when a voice said to me, “Look again, and look a little higher.” At this I raised my eyes, and saw a straight and narrow path, cast up high above the world. On this path the advent people were traveling to the city which was at the farther end of the path. They had a bright light set up behind them at the beginning of the path, which an angel told me was the “midnight cry.” This light shone all along the path, and gave light for their feet, so that they might not stumble.

If they kept their eyes fixed on Jesus, who was just before them, leading them to the city, they were safe. But soon some grew weary, and said the city was a great way off, and they expected to have entered it before. Then Jesus would encourage them by raising His glorious right arm, and from His arm came a light which waved over the advent band, and they shouted “Alleluia!” Others rashly denied the light behind them, and said that it was not God that had led them out so far. The light behind them went out, leaving their feet in perfect darkness, and they

stumbled and lost sight of the mark and of Jesus, and fell off the path down into the dark and wicked world below.

Soon we heard the voice of God like many waters, which gave us the day and hour of Jesus’ coming. The living saints, 144,000 in number, knew and understood the voice, while the wicked thought it was thunder and an earthquake. When God spoke the time, He poured upon us the Holy Ghost, and our faces began to light up and shine with the glory of God, as Moses’ did when he came down from Mount Sinai.

The 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united. On their foreheads was written, “God, New Jerusalem,” and a glorious star containing Jesus’ new name. At our happy, holy state the wicked were enraged, and would rush violently up to lay hands on us to thrust us into prison, when we would stretch forth the hand in the name of the Lord, and they would fall helpless to the ground. Then it was that the synagogue of Satan knew that God had loved us who could wash one another’s feet, and salute the brethren with a holy kiss, and they worshiped at our feet.

Soon our eyes were drawn to the east, for a small black cloud had appeared, about half as large as a man’s hand, which we all knew was the sign of the Son of man. We all in solemn silence gazed on the cloud as it drew nearer, and became lighter, glorious, and still more glorious, till it was a great white cloud. The bottom appeared like fire; a rainbow was over the cloud, while around it were ten thousand angels, singing a most lovely song; and upon it sat the Son of man. His hair was white and curly, and lay on His shoulders; and upon His head were many crowns. His feet had the appearance of fire; in His right hand

was a sharp sickle; in His left, a silver trumpet. His eyes were as a flame of fire, which searched His children through and through. Then all faces gathered paleness, and those that God had rejected gathered blackness. Then we all cried out: “Who shall be able to stand? Is my robe spotless?” Then the angels ceased to sing, and there was some time of awful silence, when Jesus spoke: “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts shall be able to stand; My grace is sufficient for you.” At this our faces lighted up, and joy filled every heart. And the angels struck a note higher and sang again, while the cloud drew still nearer the earth.

Then Jesus’ silver trumpet sounded, as He descended on the cloud, wrapped in flames of fire. He gazed on the graves of the sleeping saints, then raised His eyes and hands to heaven, and cried, “Awake! awake! awake! ye that sleep in the dust, and arise.” Then there was a mighty earthquake. The graves opened, and the dead came up clothed with immortality. The 144,000 shouted “Alleluia!” as they recognized their friends who had been torn from them by death, and in the same moment we were changed and caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.

We all entered the cloud together, and were seven days ascending to the sea of glass, when Jesus brought the crowns, and with His own right hand placed them on our heads. He gave us harps of gold and palms of victory. Here on the sea of glass the 144,000 stood in a perfect square. Some of them had very bright crowns, others not so bright. Some crowns appeared heavy with stars, while others had but few. All were perfectly satisfied with their crowns. And they were all clothed with a glorious

white mantle from their shoulders to their feet. Angels were all about us as we marched over the sea of glass to the gate of the city. Jesus raised His mighty, glorious arm, laid hold of the pearly gate, swung it back on its glittering hinges, and said to us, “You have washed your robes in My blood, stood stiffly for My truth, enter in.” We all marched in and felt that we had a perfect right in the city.

Here we saw the tree of life and the throne of God. Out of the throne came a pure river of water, and on either side of the river was the tree of life. On one side of the river was a trunk of a tree, and a trunk on the other side of the river, both of pure, transparent gold. At first I thought I saw two trees. I looked again, and saw that they were united at the top in one tree. So it was the tree of life on either side of the river of life. Its branches bowed to the place where we stood, and the fruit was glorious; it looked like gold mixed with silver.

We all went under the tree, and sat down to look at the glory of the place, when Brethren Fitch and Stockman, who had preached the gospel of the kingdom, and whom God had laid in the grave to save them, came up to us and asked us what we had passed through while they were sleeping. We tried to call up our greatest trials, but they looked so small compared with the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory that surrounded us, that we could not speak them out, and we all cried out, “Alleluia! heaven is cheap enough!” and we touched our glorious harps and made heaven’s arches ring.

After I came out of vision, everything seemed changed; a gloom was spread over all that I beheld. Oh, how dark this world looked to me! I wept when I found myself here, and felt homesick. I had seen a better world, and it had spoiled this for me.

Life Sketches of Ellen White, p. 64-68

I have no idea why they felt the need to cut out the details of her first vision. To save on time? The way the movie does it makes it seem like Ellen’s reaction to this vision is way over the top. She’s so very excited… about basically seeing the same thing I could if I put on an episode of Star Trek.

It also has the unfortunate effect of making it seem like Ellen was, at best, exaggerating. (If not outright lying.) She tells people she saw Heaven, and “so many wonderful things…” when all we were shown was a streak of green light and some faster than light travel.

There’s debate, among ex Adventists, as to whether or not Ellen did lie about her visions. I don’t know for sure one way or the other, but I am inclined to believe that Ellen didn’t think she was lying. Mind you that doesn’t mean I believe her, but I’m not sure she herself had any ill intent.

In any case, Ellen’s friends help her to a chair.

Elizabeth: Ellen, are you alright? I was so worried, I thought we’d lost you.

Ellen: I saw things. I was taken to another place high above this world and I… I… I heard a voice.

Elizabeth: I was praying for you, was it my voice you heard?

Ellen: No. I think it was an angel speaking.

One woman quietly whispers to another that Ellen must have bumped her head when she fell.

As she starts crying, Ellen starts talking about her vision. Not what we saw, mind you, but what I have just quoted from one of the books the real life Ellen White wrote.

I get that something had to be cut for the sake of time. However, when you are trying to establish that someone is having visions from God, then show us one of the visions, and have the character describe something different than what we as an audience were shown… well, what are we supposed to think?

On the ride home, Ellen tells Elizabeth she feels her vision gave her renewed energy and strength.

Ellen: I saw so many wondrous things, I heard things.

Elizabeth: So you claim

Ellen: Elizabeth, I’ve never lied about anything.

Elizabeth: I’m not saying you’re lying now. You collapsed from your illness, you are not of sound mind, you know not of what you speak.

If the conversation had stopped there, that would be one thing. I would know that the movie makers could acknowledge the fact that Ellen may very well think she’s telling the truth –and be sincerely wrong. But the makers of this movie don’t want you to think about that, so they have the twins keep talking.

Ellen: The Holy Spirit showed me a view of the midnight cry…he encouraged our Advent hope. There were people who fell off the path.

Elizabeth: You had an accident when you were young. It left you weak. You won’t have a regular life Ellen, we understand that. You won’t marry, you won’t be able to contribute, but this is hardly a way to get attention.

Either your sister thinks she is having visions from God and is sincere in that belief, or she is lying to get attention. You cannot do both at the same time. You really do need to make up your mind which it is you’re accusing her of.

Now, I have no idea if they are getting this conversation from, say, someone’s written record of it, or if they are just doing a bit of creative licensing here. If the former, I can’t say too much about it. If the latter, what the heck, movie makers.  Don’t make Elizabeth sound so inconsistent. Either she believes Ellen is sincerely wrong or she believes Ellen White is faking it. Of course, any Adventist reading this is likely to roll their eyes and say that of course unbelievers are inconsistent. Elizabeth knows the truth, she just doesn’t want to believe it. Adventists would not see this as wildly contradictory because they believe that unbelievers are wildly contradictory.

In any case, let us return to the conversation, for it is most interesting.

Ellen: Why are you speaking to me like this? I pledge to you that I am telling the truth!

I almost imagine the real Elizabeth saying something like, “because I’m your sister and I love you.” Especially if Elizabeth believes that Ellen is sincere, but sincerely wrong. Instead we get this:

Elizabeth: Well here’s my truth: Christ will not return any time soon and I am done with prayer groups.

Ellen: But Elizabeth–

Elizabeth: No you heard what I said. Consider me someone who’s fallen off the path.

She…almost sounds sad when she says it.

Ok, so. Let’s unpack this a bit. First of all, Elizabeth has absolutely fallen for “the Millerite trap.” She has believed with her whole heart that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844. She has less reason to want this than Ellen, but she still wants it very much. Jesus doesn’t come, and she’s angry. I would agree that she has every right to be angry. People who really should have known better have been sincerely wrong, and have deceived many.

Elizabeth is angry, and Elizabeth has learned to beware of people like Miller. And so she is aware that her sister, though believing she is sincere, could herself be deceived.

I can’t know what the real life Elizabeth thought. Was she angry at God for allowing people to be deceived? Is that why she, er, “Fell off the path?” Or did she do some genuine thinking and Bible reading and come to the conclusion that Miller was wrong?

We don’t get to know. Most of the information I’ve found on Elizabeth is through the White Estate, who of course would want to spin things their way.

So, while I can’t know what the real Elizabeth Harmon would have felt, I can only know how *I* would feel, and guess at how Movie!Elizabeth thinks.

Ellen screws up her face and weeps like a child as the wagon pulls away from the camera. We cut next to Sunday morning, as people are preparing to go to church. Mrs. Preston is there, talking to an old man who she seems to have cornered in the doorway

Mrs. Preston: With all this fuss about Jesus not returning in October, it appears to me that I am alone in my commitment to worship on the Sabbath.

Old Man: ah, but Mrs. Preston, I fear that there are no churches nearby that meet on Saturday

Mrs. Preston: If only Elder Wheeler were close

Miss Preston: Mother, please! The Farnsworths have been so generous letting me stay here while I teach. You’ll likely offend them.

Aside from this being extremely clunky exposition, Mrs. Preston’s daughter is right. There is a time and a place for theological discussions. It sounds to me like Mrs. Preston cornered the old man as they were about to leave for church, to tell him that they are going to church on the wrong day.  This is extremely offensive. Unfortunately, Mrs. Preston doesn’t see what’s so offensive about it.

Mrs. Preston: What is offensive to God is that we worship on the wrong day.

She goes on for a bit about Saturday being the Sabbath, while the other members of the group look unamused at being told they are doing church wrong.

Mrs. Preston, along with many (but not all) other Adventists, doesn’t know about tact, apparently. This episode is worth watching for Mrs. Preston’s facial expressions alone. They are HILARIOUS. When one of the men present asks why it would matter to God what day they worship on, Mrs. Preston shoots her daughter this look:

Seriously, she looks like a spoiled child who’s parent just grounded her.

Mrs. Preston preaches about the Sabbath for a while while the group stands around awkwardly. Some of the men look like they are paying attention, when in real life they would be rolling their eyes and trying desperately to get to the wagon so they could get to church on time. In private, they would be whispering about this “uppity, outspoken woman.”

Old Man: Well the carriage is ready. We may be going to church on the wrong day, but we shan’t be late.

Everyone looks relieved. I am in agreement with Miss Preston. Even if Mrs. Preston is right, this is not the time nor the place.

The church they are all going to is merely a small group of people meeting by a large body of water. A woman is standing up, speaking about how she doesn’t understand why Jesus didn’t come on October 22, but that she still holds onto hope that he will come again someday.

A man stands up next, and tells the group that he chooses to keep the Sabbath on the 7th day of the week. An instrumental hymn plays in the background. Another man gets up and says that he, too, will keep the Sabbath. For some reason this makes young Miss Preston very happy.

We next see Joseph Bates, in his home, studying the Bible. His voiceover reads a bunch of Bible verses that say why Saturday is the Sabbath.

After a while, Joseph tells his wife that he is going to leave to spend some time with Elder Wheeler, feeling that it will refresh him.

Mrs. Bates: What we need, Joseph, is a way out of this predicament. We are penniless. Where will all this Sabbath business lead you?

Bates says he’s following his heart, and we all know how that can turn out.

In the next scene Bates is standing under a tree, telling a man that what Elder Wheeler said makes a lot of sense, and that he plans on keeping the Sabbath. The man talks about “The girl in Maine, the one who has visions.” Bates says he has his doubts about this, and as we fade to black I wonder if this movie is going to show the infamous Astronomy Vision that convinced him.

Personally, if I were the Adventist church, I’d leave that part out.

 

 

Some closing thoughts before we move on.

I feel like the movie was trying to subtly show us that Elizabeth either didn’t believe in the Millerite message, or she did but not with the same zeal as the others. Indeed, my first watch through I noted that Elizabeth always struck me as a bit different. Partly because she always looked so smug. But there are other little differences. Elizabeth is different from her family in that she does wear a pink dress. The rest of Ellen’s family wears boring funeral colors: black, grey, maybe a nice dark blue to change it up a bit. Not Elizabeth. She wears bright pink, and seems to really care what she looks like. I even called her “Pink Dress” before I could find out her actual name.

I have read on various websites that Elizabeth never fell for “the Millerite trap.” However, I am inclined to disagree. Part of this is because it makes more sense for a teenager in a family of religious nutcases to get caught up in the same fervor as her family, but also because of this quote in one of Ellen White’s books:

I [Ellen] had two sisters at home,–Sarah, who was several years older than myself, and my twin sister Elizabeth. We talked the matter over among ourselves, and decided to earn what money we could, and spend it in buying books and tracts to be distributed gratuitously. This was the best we could do, and we did this little gladly. (Christian Experience and Teaching (CET) 38.4)

Elizabeth invested her money in helping to spread the message. That is not the action of someone who is secretly harboring doubt. That is the action of someone who is sincere in what she believes.

I guess this answers my question as to where Ellen’s many siblings are. Guess they’re only showing the sisters, for reasons I don’t understand.

Next up: Some debates as to whether or not Ellen’s visions are from The Lord. Spoiler alert: according to the movie, the answer is yes.

 

 

*I’m trying not to use absolutes here. Not all Adventists are like this.