Ellen G. White's Heavy Bible

By Robert K. Sanders


Ellen G. White (EGW), (Harmon maiden name) holding up a large, heavy, family Bible is set forth as one of the proosf of her visions being of divine origin by Seventh-day Adventists. Is the claim true, or is it another Adventist fable.

We quote the following visions from Eld. J. N. Loughborough's book, The Great Second Advent Movement. Loughborough is regarded by Adventism as a reliable historian. Others have discovered that he is not all that reliable with his facts. Please notice; the Topsham vision took place in 1845, but Eld. Loughborough did not get these statements until 45-46 years after the event.


Account 1: By Mrs. E. G. White's father, mother and sister in her father's house

"I will here state some facts respecting her third vision, the one in her father's house related to me…. by Mrs. White's father and mother, by her sister, Mrs. Sarah Belden, and others."

"In the room where the vision was given, there was lying on the bureau a very large family Bible. It was one of an edition printed in Boston by Joseph Teale, in the year 1822. The book is eighteen by eleven inches, four inches in thickness, and weighs a little over eighteen pounds. While in vision, she arose, and took this heavy Bible on her left arm, the book lying open, and held it out at right angles with her body; and then for over half an hour, with her right hand, turned from to place, and pointed to different texts of Scripture, which she repeated while her eyes were looking upward, and in an opposite direction from the book… Her sister Sarah (afterward the wife of Stephen Belden), or, at times, some other person present, looked at every text to which her finger pointed, and saw clearly that in every instance she was repeating the scripture upon which her finger was resting." The Great Second Advent Movement, pp.236, 237.


Account 2: The Topsham Vision of 1845 by Mrs. Lunt in Mr. Curtiss' house

"The Adventist meetings at that time were held in the house of Mr. Curtiss. Mrs. Frances Lunt (formerly Miss Francis Howland), of Oakland, Cal., gave me the following statement, dated Jan. 19, 1890."

"I, with my father's family attended the meetings of Sister Harmon in Topsham, in 1845, and during these meetings she had a vision. It was the first time we ever saw her in vision. One of those old-fashioned Bibles [the Teale Family Bible, weighing eighteen pounds] was owned by Brother Curtiss. This big Bible was taken from the bureau by sister Harmon while in vision, and texts of Scripture were pointed out by her as she turned leaf, to leaf, while her eyes were looking upward, and away from the book. It was held on her open hand at an angle of forty-five degrees, and no one else was able to hold any book at a similar angle without its slipping at once from the hands; but Sister Harmon held this Bible at that angle for several minutes, as firmly as though it was stuck to her hand, she passing meanwhile from one to another in the room…." The Great Second Advent Movement, p.238.


Account 3: The Topsham account by Mrs.Truesdail's of the same 1845 vision at age 61 years

"Another statement respecting this same vision is from Mrs. Truesdail, of Trenton, Mo., dated Jan. 27, 1891. She says:"

"I was fifteen years old in 1845, and was present at the time of Sister Harmon's first visit to Topsham, when she had the vision at the house of Brother Curtiss, where she took up the great family Bible and held it up in a position in which none of the others could hold a book on the hands without its slipping off at once."

"Sister Harmon was in vision over two hours…. she read us passages. . . such as Heb. 2:2,3. James 5:7,8; Heb.10:35,39; 1 Peter 1:7; Luke 12:32-37, besides many others, holding the large family Bible so high that I was obliged to stand on a chair to read where she was pointing. I do not think Sister Harmon was over two inches the taller." The Great Second Advent Movement, pp. 238,239.          


Differences in the two 1845 Topsham accounts

Lunt's Account

Truesdail's Account

Bible and weight

Teale—18 pounds

Great Family Bible

Position of the Bible

"On her open hand at a 45 degree angle and no one else could hold any book at a similar angle without it slipping at once from the hands."

"A position none others could hold a book on the hands without it slipping off at once."

Position of the eyes

"Eyes were looking upward, and away from the book."

She not describe the position of the eyes.

EGW reads and points to the scripture and is verified.

Texts were pointed out by EGW, but not verified by others.

Yes, she stood on a chair to verify what EGW was reading.

Length of vision.

"Several minutes."

"Over two hours."


  • Did Truesdail in her account, when she was 15 years old, remember all the Bible texts that Ellen read while in vision 46 years previous, at age 61? How many of you can quote as many texts from your preacher's last sermon the next day, much less 46 years later as Truesdail did? Truesdail is truly unbelievable! I do not think in a court of law Truesdail's memory would be believable.
  • Lunt gives the length of time of the vision as "several minutes" and Truesdail gives the length of the vision as "over two hours." It would seem that Lunt and Truestail should be able to remember whether the vision lasted "several minutes" or "over two hours" on something they regarded as the "power of God."
  • A CHALLENGE FOR ALL: In account number 1 the Teale Bible weighs 18 pounds, and is 18"x11"x 4". I challenge anyone to take an object which would be 27" x 11" which would be the same as the Bible "lying open" and hold it in your left hand at a right angle from your body and straight out from your left side at a 45° angle. Taking then your right hand, try to reach towards your left hand. You probably will not be able to reach past your left shoulder. Do you think in this position, Ellen could point out Bible texts with her "right hand?" It is impossible.
  • The following document from Wallace Slattery, will show that the White Estate no longer believes this heavy Bible vision and that holding up any large Bible "great length of time is tenuous and cannot be validated."


No Proof of Ellen Holding a Heavy Bible

"My other recollection of Elder White's visit was the Friday night vespers where he displayed the huge 18-pound family Bible that he claimed Sister White, while in vision, had held up at arm's length for approximately 45 minutes. He challenged us students to select one of our peers strong enough to duplicate the feat. We chose a powerful young fellow sitting directly behind me. He held the Bible up for less than a minute, and we were all duly impressed with Sister White's 'supernatural' feat."

"Today the White Estate admits that any evidence that she ever held up any large Bible for a great length of time is tenuous and cannot be validated. 'My aide in my last SDA teaching position in Pennsylvania was a great-granddaughter of Sister White. I discussed this supposed event with her, and she agreed that undoubtedly it never happened. She telephoned her mother, who worked at the White Estate in Washington, D.C., and asked her, 'Why do you still show that big Bible to people who come in, when you know that the event never took place?" Her mother answered, "But you should see their faces when they see it!" Wallace D. Slattery, Are Seventh-day Adventists False Prophets?, p. 5.


A. G. Daniells, General Conference President speaking to teachers and Administrators in the July 30, 1919 Bible Conference

"I have heard some ministers preach, and have seen it in writing, that Sister White once carried a heavy Bible — I believe they said it weighed forty pounds — on her out stretched hand, and looking up toward the heavens quoted texts and turned the leaves over and pointed to the texts, with her eyes toward the heavens. I do not know whether that was ever done or not. I am not sure. I did not see it, and I do not know that I ever talked with anybody that did see it. But, brethren, I do not count that sort of thing as a very great proof. I do not think that is the best kind of evidence. If I were a stranger in an audience, and heard a preacher enlarging on that, I would have my doubts. That is, I would want to know if he saw it. He would have to say, No, he, never did. Then I would ask, "Did you ever see the man, that did see it?" And he would have to answer, "No, I never did."

"Well, just how much of that is genuine, and how much has crawled into the story? I do not know. But I do not think that is the kind if proof we want to use. It has been a long time since I brought forward this sort of thing, — no breath in the body, and the eyes wide open. That may have accompanied the exercise of this gift in the early days, but it surely did not in the latter days." The 1919 Bible Conference, pp. 28, 29.

Elder Daniells knew Ellen G. White and Loughborough and still did not have proof of the heavy Bible story. The heavy Bible story grew from eighteen pounds in 1890 as told my Mrs. Lunt, to forty pounds in 1919 as told by A. G. Daniells. In twenty-nine years the Bible gained twenty-two pounds. That is a rate of 1.3 pounds a year. Just think if this story was told today in 1999, which is one hundred nine years from 1890, the Bible would weigh, 147.7 pounds.

Keep in mind that a person holding up a heavy object for hours does not make them a prophet. There are mental patients in mental hospitals that can do this feat when in a catatonic state. Ellen did have seizures and went into trances called visions with little breath. She had a head injury as a youth and suffered with this mental problem throughout her lifetime. She often went into a catatonic state.

Webster defines catatonic as: "catatonia n. a psychotic syndrome, esp. in schizophrenia, characterized by muscular rigidity and mental stupor, sometimes alternating with excitability and confusion. catatonic adj., n."

Some authorities call her mental state "Temporal Lobe Epileptic Seizures. Adventist Currents, June 1995, by Molleurus Coperus.

Ellen G. White may have lifted a heavy Bible for a length of time, but this was not a special gift from God to show that she was his prophet. I do not believe she could point out texts from the Bible without seeing them. This is indeed a fable. Many regarded Ellen G. White, when in a catatonic state as having a vision. Many that witnessed EGW did not regard it as a vision from God.

See Lucinda Burdick's Statement.

Robert K. Sanders, Founder and Editor of Truth or Fables, 1997–2012
Life Assurance Ministries assumed ownership of Truth or Fables in 2012
© 2016 Life Assurance Ministries. All rights reserved.