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.

 

 

 

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