James White's Dreams Just a Fish Story

By Robert K. Sanders


JamesWhitePhotoJames White (1821-1881)





What to look for in James' two fish dreams.

James and Ellen both regarded dreams and visions as messages from God.

The dream at Monterey

  • When James said, "we" he was including Ellen, as both, "dreamed a hundred times" of catching fish for 24 years.
  • What did catching fish mean in their dreams? James interprets his dream to mean, "The size of the persons, and their moral worth, is generally represented by the size and value of the fish." James is saying that he and Ellen now can judge the "moral worth" of a person by the size and value of the fish they have seen in their dreams. Wow! To bad Adventist evangelists do not have the gift of "fishy dreams" it would save them a lot of time by not baptizing those that did not have "moral worth"!

The dream at Wright

  • James dreamed that he and Ellen were fishing out of a boat. They were having problems with four large fish that would not stay in the boat and jumping back into the water, and were keeping small fish away. After they managed to catch the large fish, then they were able start catching small plump small fish.

The fulfillment of the Wright dream

James and Ellen were at Wright six weeks. Ellen spoke 25 times and James spoke 12 times. James was recovering from a long illness.

  • Ellen found she had to carry the heavy part of the burden but was careful to let James lead out.
  • As they labored for especially church members, James was a great help.
  • Was James' "Wright dream" really fulfilled by fish jumping in and out of the boat?

How would dreaming of fish help judge a persons moral worth? Only God reads the heart and can judge a person's moral worth.


The Dreams of James White

In his next report to the Review James White related a dream that he had at Wright. Four years earlier, while at Monterey, just before a special outreach for the youth (see Ellen G. White: The Early Years, chapter 32), he had dreamed of catching many small, plump fish. In the weeks that followed, many young persons were converted, first at Monterey, then at Wright, Greenville, Orleans, and finally at Battle Creek. He recounted that "for twenty-four years, we have probably dreamed of catching fish a hundred times, just before an ingathering of souls. The size of the persons, and their moral worth, is generally represented by the size and value of the fish."RH, Feb. 5, 1867.

Of the dream at Wright, he wrote: Mrs. White and self were fishing, and with much effort caught large fish. But four of the fish caused us much trouble. They were restless, and would get out of the boat into the water, when we would with difficulty pull them into the boat again. This was repeated several times, and we caught no more large fish. We saw no small fish, as they were kept away by the large ones. But when the large ones were all caught out of the way, the water was immediately alive with small fish, plump and beautiful, which we readily caught. I awoke, and behold, it was a dream.

Before leaving Wright, they witnessed the literal fulfillment of this dream. During the six weeks they were there, Ellen spoke twenty-five times, and James, twelve. As James was recovering from his long illness, she found that she must carry the heavy part of the burden, but she was careful to see that her husband led out. As they labored especially for the members of the church, Ellen found that her husband was a great help. —James White: Ellen G. White Volume 2 The Progressive Years, 1862-1876, page 165.


Can anyone make sense of how James' dream of catching fish had anything to do with the interpretation of James and Ellen White each preaching several times?

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