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.”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.
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.