Did Ellen White say she spoke with her dead husband in a vision?

The account of this dream of Mrs. White’s is published in two places: The Retirement Years, pages 161–163, and Manuscript Releases, volume 10, pages 38–40. This account is not a revelation by one of Mrs. White’s critics of previously hidden and damning evidence about her. Rather, it is an account of an interesting and completely understandable incident from Ellen White’s life that the White Estate trustees felt might be of interest to people who had also lost their life companions.

In the dream, James seemed to have come back to life, and thus, Mrs. White expresses the natural wish that they might continue on together. In reality, though, she knew that it was just a dream—that’s what she calls it—though one with a message from God in answer to her prayer. Mrs. White’s critics wish to portray it as a kind of spiritualist communing with the dead. It was no such thing. The dream was vivid and seemed real, as dreams often do. But in Mrs. White’s waking reflections, she never imagined that she had actually been talking with James or with his “spirit.” In the dream, she even puts it this way: “Father, I saw you die; I saw you buried. Has the Lord pitied me and let you come back to me again, and we work together as we used to?” This indicates her belief in resurrection, not spiritualism, or else they could not work together as they “used to.”

It seems to me that people who are not looking for some basis on which to criticize Mrs. White will read her account as an appealing human-interest story of a grieving prophet. In this instance, the Lord communicated with her in a dream—in a manner that was sure to command her attention. She herself did not think the dream meant that James had actually appeared to her in any real way. Why should we take it otherwise?

The Bible records a dream in which Joseph saw the sheaves of his brothers bow down to his sheaf. Where did the dream come from? Wouldn’t we say it was from God even though it showed things that we would consider devilish if they happened in real life? In the dream, they had meaning, and they were portrayed to convey that meaning. So it is with Mrs. White’s dream.