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.

 

 

 

 

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