It all happened many, many years ago in Northern California. Mrs. Ellen G. White, the Lord’s messenger, was living at Healdsburg only a few blocks from our new college. Since her husband, Elder James White, was now dead, Sister White invited several young ladies to live in her home as they attended school. Among these was one young lady of considerable ability who did some teaching at the school.
How this young lady enjoyed living in Sister White’s home! It was a large, white, two-story, frame house, surrounded with garden and orchard. Sister White was a big-hearted, understanding mother to the girls who lived with her. All went well for a few months. Then it happened. As this girl went through Sister White’s bedroom on some errand, she saw something on the dresser she wanted very much. She stopped and looked at it. The longer she lingered, the more she felt she just had to have it. She looked this way and that, and seeing no one around she reached out her hand and took it.
And what was it? A watch, or something valuable, you think? No. It was just a hairnet. The women at that time often wore a net over their hair. True, it was a well-made, silk hairnet. Sister White would not miss it, she thought, and it was just what she so much wanted.
Leaving Sister White’s bedroom, with the hairnet in her closed hand, the young lady went to her bedroom and opening her trunk, put the net in the corner of the tray. She closed the trunk and went about her duties. But there was no song in her heart now. You know why.
A few hours later in the day, Sister White was preparing to go out, and entering her bedroom to get ready, she brushed her hair, and thought to put on the net, as was the custom of that day. But she could not find the net anywhere. It was not on the top of the dresser. She looked back of it, she looked under it, but could not find the missing article anywhere. Giving up, she did without it.
That evening at worship time the girls gathered with Sister White around the open fireplace. Often Sister White, in connection with the worship, told a story of the early days. How they did enjoy these stories! But this evening, Sister White had a question to ask the girls.
“Have any of you seen my hairnet?” she asked. Continuing, she said, “It was right there on my dresser in the bedroom. When I went to get it, it was gone. It must be found. It could not go away by itself.” But no one seemed to know about the hairnet, for no one responded. There was one girl there, however, who wished Mrs. White would not say anything about a hairnet. The matter was dropped.
A day or two later, as Sister White was passing through this girl’s room, a voice spoke to her as she passed the trunk, “Lift the lid of that trunk!”
But it was not Sister White’s trunk and she would not think of looking into someone else’s trunk.
Again the voice spoke to her, “Lift the lid of that trunk.”
Now she recognized the voice to be that of an angel, and she obeyed and opened the trunk. In the tray was the missing hairnet. She left it there, closed the trunk, and went about her tasks.
That evening, as the family came together again for worship, the hairnet question came up. “Does anyone know where the hairnet is?” Sister White asked. “I am sure it can be found. It could not go away by itself.” But there was no response, and [as] no one seemed to know anything about the hairnet, Sister White did not press the matter further. One girl was worried and in her heart she determined to destroy the hairnet, lest Sister White should discover that she had taken it. How ungrateful this would seem!
A few days after this, Sister White was seated in the living room in front of the fire in the fireplace, busy with her writing. It may have been a personal testimony she was writing to someone, or she may have been working on some of the last chapters of The Great Controversy. For several hours she had been busy with her pen and her hand was tired, her mind was tired, and her eyes were tired. She laid her pen down and looked into the fireplace, and then just for a moment she was in vision. This was one of the shortest visions ever given to Sister White.
In this vision she saw the hand and arm of a girl. In the hand was a hairnet. She also saw on the table a kerosene lamp which was burning. She saw the hairnet held over the lamp and then lowered until the net touched the flame. In a flash of light, the silk net burned, and it was gone. The vision was over, and Sister White found herself in the living room by the open fire. Now she knew what had happened to the missing hairnet.
That evening when the family was together around the fireplace, Sister White again asked about the hairnet. Did not someone know what had happened to it? Someone must know about it. But nothing was said; no one seemed to know. Sister White dropped the matter.
A little later Sister White called aside the girl in whose trunk she had seen the hairnet. She told her about the voice that spoke to her. She told her what she saw when she opened the trunk. Then she told her about the short vision and of how she saw the hairnet burn up over the lamp.
The girl broke down in tears. “Yes, Sister White, I took it,” she confessed. “I wanted it so much, and I did not think you would miss it, but when you began to press the matter I feared you would find out that I had taken it, so I held the net over a lamp and burned it up, just as you saw in the vision, and I said to myself, ‘Now no one will ever know about the hairnet.’ ”
But someone was watching from up in heaven. The angels made a record of what took place, and God sent His angel down to this world with a vision for Sister White just about the hairnet. It was such a small thing for the Lord to bother about. God who created the earth and guides the planets, sent His angel down to this world with a vision for Sister White just about a hairnet a girl had taken. But it was a matter much more important than the value of the hairnet. Here was the soul of a young lady at stake.
She was a member of the church. She went to Sabbath School and to church. She was a Seventh-day Adventist, and she felt that she was all right. She did not realize that there were little sins in her life—sins which led her to steal and to deceive. But when she saw that God loved her so much that He sent His angel down to this world with a vision for Sister White just about the hairnet, then she began to see some things differently. Some of the seemingly little things now seemed much more important. How much the Lord must love her; how important the little things were!
Not only did this girl confess her sin of stealing and make the matter right with Sister White and with the Lord, but this experience became the turning point in her life.
This young lady gave her heart anew to God, and she lived a sweet, consistent Christian life. And that was why the vision was given to Sister White. It was to help men and women, and boys and girls to live sweet, consistent Christian lives that so many visions were given to Sister White. And the counsels were written out in the Spirit of Prophecy books to help everyone live good lives, and to get ready to meet Jesus.
Campfire Junior Stories from the days of Seventh-day Adventist Pioneers, 9. Ellen G. White Estate, Review and Herald Publishing Association.