Ellen Harmon was in a quandary. She was eighteen years old and called by God to undertake an extremely daunting mission. Not only was it daunting, but it was also physically and emotionally exhausting and involved a lot of traveling. Standing in the little room staring sightlessly into space, her mind slowly recounted the information she had just received.
Her mother had sent word that she should return home immediately because tongues were starting to wag over a certain young man by the name of James Springer White and his involvement in her ministry.
For the past year, Ellen had been traveling all over the countryside doing the work that God had called her to do. Being a young woman traveling in the 19th century she was always accompanied by a female chaperone, either her older sister Sarah or some other woman. They would also have another companion who would travel with them to provide protection and a hand to drive the sleigh or the buggy that was needed for for transportation, depending on the weather.
That companion, for most of the year, had been James White. He was 26, driven, hardworking and absolutely committed to the cause of truth.
Of course, people had started to talk. Ellen’s mother had heard about the rumors that were swirling around her daughter and James and had sent Ellen word to return home immediately to put a stop to the unwanted nastiness.
Ellen was only too happy to do so. She had no intention of ruining her reputation nor did she have any thoughts in her head with regards to marrying or even courting James White.
They were both Millerites and given their understanding of the nearness of Christ’s second coming neither of them believed that marriage was a viable option.
When James heard the news he was understandably as upset as Ellen was but a short while later he approached her with a proposition.
He needed to go away to do some traveling, which coupled with the present troublesome circumstances would mean that Ellen would have to manage on her own for a considerable period of time or, he suggested they could get married and settle the matter once and for all.
Surprised though she was Ellen agreed to pray over the matter and once they were both absolutely certain that it was the Lord’s will they decided to get married. It is more than likely that when the issue of marriage came up they both realised that they had grown quite fond of each other.
As Ellen White later stated “And so we were married and I still say he was the best man that ever trod shoe leather” and for his part, recalling his marriage, James White later wrote “she has been my crown of rejoicing from that time to this”
They were married on August 30, 1846, by Charles Harding the justice of the peace in Portland, Maine and began married life as poor as church mice with a heavy burden of ministry pressing on their shoulders.
The circumstances surrounding their marriage may not have been wildly romantic but their affection for one another was deep and principled. It had to be, in order to weather the storms they faced as a couple.
They traveled extensively at a time when traveling was far from easy or comfortable, they moved fairly regularly and devoted their entire lives to the work God had called them to do. They lost two children and were almost continuously poor. In addition to this Ellen White’s work was fairly progressive for a 19th-century woman; she was out in the field engaged in active, visible labor for God, standing almost toe to toe with her husband. In addition to this, both of them suffered from major, life-threatening illnesses, which in James’ case led to personality changes after he suffered two strokes.
Each of these factors would have added a strain to their marriage and yet they weathered each strom with fortitude, coming out on the other side stronger and more united than they had been before.
Their marriage was a testament to the power of a christian home, especially when both parties are fully consecrated to God.
When James White died at the relatively young age of 61 Ellen White, grief stricken and heart broken wrote “When he upon whose large affections I had leaned, with whom I had labored for thirty-five years was taken away, I could lay my hands upon his eyes and say “I commit my treasure to thee until the morning of the resurrection”
May their marriage serve as an example and a beacon of hope that assures us of the power of God to enable us to overcome any challenges we may face in our own homes and marriages.