In early 1858 James and Ellen White planned a three-stop tour of Northwest, Ohio. They had recently moved from Rochester, New York to Battle Creek, Michigan and finally had all three of their sons at home with them. The scheduled trip was for the purpose of encouraging and exhorting Sabbath keepers in Ohio.
The last speaking engagement on the tour was at Lovett’s Grove and they arrived in the little town sometime between the 8th and 12th of March. On Sunday the 14th of March, James White was conducting a funeral service in the school hall when Ellen White went into vision in the middle of the sermon. Her vision lasted 2 hours and brought the funeral proceedings to a standstill.
The vision she received was twofold in nature. The first part of the vision dealt with some of the needs and problems faced by the local congregation in Lovett’s Grove, while the second part of the vision was a detailed panoramic sweep of the conflict between Christ and his angels and Satan and his angels. Ten years prior Ellen White had had a similar vision regarding the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan but the vision she received at Lovett’s grove was far more detailed than the one she had received previously
She was instructed to write out what she had seen and was warned that she would have to “contend with the powers of darkness for Satan would make strong efforts to hinder (her)” but she was given the assurance that “angels of God would not leave (her) in the conflict” and “that in God (she) must put her trust”
On Tuesday, March 16, the Whites boarded a train in Fremont, Ohio headed for Jackson, Michigan. During the trip, James and Ellen White had time alone to discuss the great controversy vision in detail. They began to lay careful plans for the writing and publishing of the vision in the form of a book, planning to begin working on it as soon as they arrived home.
They arrived in Jackson on Tuesday and were greeted at the train depot by Dan and Abigail Palmer. The Palmers were hosting them for the night before they embarked on the final leg of their journey home to Battle Creek. After arriving at the Palmer’s home, which was a short ride from the train depot, Ellen was visiting with her longtime friend Abigail Palmer when suddenly her tongue grew heavy and refused to move.
As she recalls “a strange cold sensation struck my heart, passed over my head and down my right side. For a while, I was insensible but was aroused to the voice of earnest prayer.” She had suffered a stroke which left her left arm and leg completely paralyzed. She was 30 years old at the time and it was the third stroke leading to paralysis she had suffered.
After much earnest prayer on the part of her husband and the Palmers, she began to regain some sensation in her arm and leg. She spent a difficult night at the Palmer household but felt strong enough to travel the remaining 40 miles home to Battle Creek by train. Writing about the stroke in June 1858 she said: “I was shown in vision that in the sudden attack at Jackson, Satan intended to take my life, in order to hinder the work I was about to write; but angels of God were sent to my rescue.”
For several weeks she struggled with the effects of the stroke. She didn’t have much sensation in her left side and could barely walk. But she was determined to get started on her book and when she had regained enough strength to hold a pen she started to write. She began by writing a single page but was so exhausted by the effort that she had to rest for 3 days to recover. However, she soon found that the more she progressed with her writing the more strength she regained. Soon her head began to clear and the effects of the stroke wore off completely.
She completed the book in five months and the book was printed and available for purchase by September 1858. Regarding the book, Ellen White later wrote “The Great Controversy should be very widely circulated. It contains the story of the past, the present, and the future. In its outline of the closing scenes of this earth’s history, it bears a powerful testimony in behalf of the truth. I am more anxious to see a wide circulation for this book than for any others I have written; for in The Great Controversy, the last message of warning to the world is given more distinctly than in any of my other books.”