In early 1847 Stockbridge Howland and his wife offered James and Ellen White the top floor of their home. The Whites gratefully accepted the offer and moved the 35 miles from Gorham to Topsham and settled into the spacious second-story apartment. They had precious little furniture and even less money but they were happy to have a place of their own.
While they were living here on Sabbath, April 3rd, 1847, Ellen was given one of her most important visions. She was taken off in vision and saw an angel flying towards her. He carried her to the Holy City where she was taken through each apartment of the Heavenly Sanctuary until she finally came to stand in the presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Place. She stood before the Ark of the Covenant, watching as Jesus offered up the prayers of the saints before God mingled with the smoke of the incense that was in his censer.
Her attention was then directed to the contents of the Ark. Her eyes flickered over Aaron’s rod that budded and the pot of Manna before coming to rest on two tablets of stone folded together like a book. Jesus reached over and opened them for her and she saw they contained the ten commandments, which were inscribed by the finger of God. One tablet had four commandments while the other had six and the first four commandments seemed to shine more brightly than the last six.
What caught her attention most was the soft halo of light that seemed encircle the fourth commandment. The vision served to confirm two of the most significant pillars of the fledgling movement; the importance of the Sabbath and the reality of the heavenly sanctuary.
The work that God accomplished through the ministry of Ellen White, especially in the early days of the movement, was to confirm truths that had already been discovered through prayerful, earnest Bible study. It also served as a guiding light to preserve the movement from the fanaticism that engulfed many of the disappointed Millerites.