Is the story of Ellen G. White holding up a big Bible fact or fiction?
Early in 1845, while in vision at her parents' home in Portland, Maine, 17-year-old Ellen Harmon (later White) picked up their large family Bible and held it on her outstretched left arm for 20 to 30 minutes. The story was documented by J. N. Loughborough who interviewed those who witnessed the vision, including Ellen's father, mother, and sister. The Bible (on display at the Ellen G. White Estate) weighs 18½ pounds (8 kilos) and was printed by Joseph Teal in 1822. W. C. White, Ellen White's son, also reported hearing of the incident from his parents. There are other reports of Ellen White holding large Bibles while in vision, including an eye-witness account printed in Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, pp. 77-79.
Such experiences should not be considered proof of divine inspiration, as prophets must meet the tests set forth in the Scriptures; but this experience, as well as other remarkable physical phenomena, were seen as evidence by many early Adventists that Ellen Harmon's visions were of supernatural origin.
Cursory readers of a 1919 discussion regarding the "big Bible" have mistakenly concluded that the General Conference president, A. G. Daniells, questioned the historicity of the incident. They have missed Daniells's point, which he clarified when he was asked whether he was discrediting the miracle or stating that he would not use such manifestations as a "proof" of inspiration. He replied, "No, I do not discount them nor disbelieve them; but they are not the kind of evidence I would use with students or with unbelievers. . . . I do not question them, but I do not think they are the best kind of evidence to produce" (Minutes of the Bible and History Teachers' Council, July 30, 1919, pp. 2341-2344, 2360-2362).