2014 SUMMER MEETING -- "Ellen White and the Public"

Ellen White's 70-year career included numerous encounters with the public. From the unsympathetic records of the Israel Dammon trial to her well-received sermons in Methodist churches to her triumphal addresses to thousands of curious onlookers at the Groveland camp meeting in 1876, she intrigued a broad audience.  Since her death in 1915, her story has been re-told almost exclusively within her own Seventh-day Adventist faith.  The 2014 volume from Oxford University Press, Ellen Harmon White:  American Prophet, introduces her to a general academic audience, where she is little known.  One of the book's co-editors, Terrie Dopp Aamodt, will discuss past events and future trends in the ongoing story of Ellen White's relationship with the public.

September 13, 2014
9:30AM
Terrie Dopp Aamodt, PhD

Synopsis

Ellen White's 70-year career included numerous encounters with the public. She first entered the public record as a seventeen-year-old visionary who was named in transcripts of the 1845 trial of Israel Dammon, an early Adventist who was accused of fanatical excesses.  In the 1860s and 1870s, as she began to emerge as a public speaker, Ellen White sought audiences beyond the Adventist gatherings that packed her and her husband's schedules.  During an era when women were not encouraged to enter the public sphere, much less speak to "promiscuous" (mixed) audiences, Ellen White developed a powerful public voice.  She spoke on religious topics in non-SDA churches, particularly favoring Methodist congregations, and she also became a sought-after temperance lecturer in civic halls and at open-air camp meeting venues.  Her publicists sought newspaper coverage of these events, and Ellen White welcomed reporters' questions and scrutiny.  Her public speaking contacts provided her with a reality check as she strove to deliver her messages as effectively as possible.   Since her death in 1915, however, her story has been re-told almost exclusively within her own Seventh-day Adventist faith.  Audiences outside the SDA church know much less about Ellen White today than they did during her lifetime. The 2014 volume from Oxford University Press, Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet, introduces her to a general academic audience, where she is little known.  One of the book's co-editors, Terrie Dopp Aamodt, will discuss past events and future trends in the ongoing story of Ellen White's relationship with the public.

Questions to ponder:

1.  In his review of Ellen Harmon White:  American Prophet in the Spring 2014 issue of Spectrum, David Holland, associate professor of North American religious history at Harvard Divinity School, speculates as to why Ellen White is so little known outside the SDA denomination.  Why do you think her story has remained primarily within the Adventist fold since the time of her death?  How would you explain your answer to someone like David Holland?

2.  Based on your reading about Ellen White, how would you describe her composition and publication process?  Explain how the picture you grew up with does or does not harmonize with your understanding now. 

3.  How would you describe the impact of the testimony letters on their original recipients?  On the Adventist church as the letters were published during Ellen White's lifetime?  On the Adventist church since the death of Ellen White?

4.  In his article on headship theology in the Spring 2014 issue of Spectrum, Gerry Chudleigh identifies it with its Calvinist (predestinarian) roots and contrasts that source with Adventists' debt to Arminian/ Wesleyan (freewill) theology.  How does Ellen White's practical theology, particularly as expressed during the final decades of her life, inform this discussion?

5.  An (admittedly) unorthodox foray into counterfactual history:  if Ellen White had died in her twenties, and if James White and Joseph Bates had gone on to found a church, what would it have looked like then?  What would it look like today?

6.  What does it mean to be a prophet?  To have a prophet?

Terrie Dopp Aamodt was born in Clarkston, Washington. Her family followed her pastor father, Matthew “Bud” Dopp, to assignments in Alaska, California, Massachusetts, and Virginia. They saw Alaska celebrate statehood in 1959 and spent six summers at Wawona in Yosemite National Park. She graduated from Shenandoah Valley Academy (1972) and Columbia Union College (1976). After serving as an editorial assistant at Guide magazine, she earned an M. A. in English from The College of William and Mary in Virginia. She was publications officer at Loma Linda University Medical Center when she accepted an invitation to teach English and history at Walla Walla

College in 1979, where she has taught ever since. She earned a Ph.D. in American and New England Studies from Boston University in 1986, where her dissertation examined the idea of apocalypse in the American Civil War. Her interest in American religious history, including Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Shakers, led her to examine the House of David religious commune in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and eventually to their role in integrating baseball (outside the major leagues) before Jackie Robinson. In 2007 she helped form a planning group for a national academic conference on Ellen White, held in Portland, Maine, in 2009. Those efforts led to the publication by Oxford University Press in April 2014 of Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet, a collective biography of 18 chapters written by 21 authors. Her current project is writing Ellen White: Voice and Vision, a volume in the Adventist Pioneers biography series edited by George Knight. Terrie lives with her husband, Larry, a member of the Walla Walla University electrical engineering faculty, and their two college-age children in Walla Walla, Washington. Together they enjoy skiing, backpacking, running, and cycling.

Attendees are encouraged to read the book prior to the meeting and it is readily available at www.Amazon.com. 

Location: 
Tierrasanta SDA Church
11260 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.
San Diego, CA
United States

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