Chapter 24

Health Principles/1

Emergence of a Health Message

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Interaction a Spiritual Matter
Nineteenth-Century Health Notions
Physical Afflictions of Early Adventists
Dramatic Healings
First Health-minded Adventist
Ellen White’s Early Awareness of Health Principles
The Health Vision of 1863
Led Step by Step
Ingredients of the Otsego Health Vision
Adventist Lifestyle
Study Questions

“Through it all [the development and history of Seventh-day Adventist health principles and medical practice] we see the guidance of God as projected by the little lady from Elmshaven. At strategic moments in the development of our medical work, this remarkable woman gave the encouragement and wise counsel needed to keep the program balanced and moving forward.”1

Because of her understanding of the Great Controversy Theme, Ellen White saw the implications involved in humanity’s indivisible unity of body, mind, and spirit. Not only were human beings “free moral agents,”2 the interacting, integrating components of body, mind, and spirit required the health of each component so that all the components would function effectively. Without the well-being of this synergy, the human being would soon suffer and hasten the slide to death.3

Interaction a Spiritual Matter

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In 1875 Ellen White called this interaction between mind and body “a mysterious and wonderful relation. They react upon each other.” Further, she made this profound concept intensely practical: “It cannot be to the glory of God for His children to have sickly bodies or dwarfed minds.”4

One may ask, why do “sickly bodies or dwarfed minds,” as a general rule, have anything to do with “the glory of God”? Ellen White is consistent and wholistic: “Anything that lessens physical strength enfeebles the mind, and makes it less capable of discriminating between right and wrong. We become less capable of choosing the good, and have less strength of will to do that which we know to be right.”5

The question is: How did Mrs. White develop her expansive, wholistic contribution to health awareness, an emphasis that has become more relevant as the years pass? Was her distinctive formulation of health principles developed in a mind hermetically sealed from the world around her and penetrated by the Spirit alone? No, that is not how God works.6 Her theological understanding of the Great Controversy Theme provided the mental grid whereby she was able to recognize in the area of health and disease the fundamental and enduring wisdom of her age, and to reject that which would soon prove worthless.

Emanating from this theological sense of wholeness flowed a distinctive and eventually coherent philosophy of health. This philosophy, in addition to clear insights by which millions of church members have ordered their personal lives, has spanned the earth with a singular system of health institutions.

Nineteenth-Century Health Notions

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To better appreciate the distinctiveness of Ellen White’s philosophy of health, let us review some of the prevailing health notions of the nineteenth century. At the beginning of the century, a remarkably standardized pattern for the treatment of disease relied “mostly on bleeding, purging, and polypharmacy.”7

The cause of disease was a matter of widely diverse conjecture. The Christian world generally believed that illness and suffering were divinely inflicted because of sin. Healing, if possible, was the result of prayer and faith.

But new ideas were surfacing in the early 1800s. Horace Mann, in his famous 1842 report to the Massachusetts school authorities, wrote that suffering was “no part of the ordination of a merciful Providence, but to be directly chargeable to human ignorance and error.” Further, if people would obey “the physical laws of God, they would no more suffer pain than they would suffer remorse, or moral pain, if in all things they would obey the moral laws of God.”8

But changing the source of disease from heaven to earth did not automatically explain its cause. Mann, for example, rejected the idea of an invading, foreign body. Contemporaries blamed various causes, including variations in body fluids, filth and odors as found in garbage and sewage, and stimuli, either too much or too little. For many medical specialists, health was an intermediate state of excitement, and the physician’s task was to adjust the excitement level. Whenever people occasionally raised the possibility that nature itself contained healing powers, as Hippocrates long before had believed, they were “confronted with the almost uniform opposition of the regular medical practitioners, who labeled them as empiric rustics attempting to restore a discredited element of primitive medicine.”9

The “stimuli” theory, probably the prevailing treatment of disease, became known as “heroic” medicine. Benjamin Rush (1745?-1813), dean of American physicians, actively promoted this popular treatment wherein the sick had to resign themselves to “massive bloodletting, considered a panacea for almost every problem, and to submit to the violent purgatives and emetics which the medical doctors administered.” The physician’s task was to “conquer nature” with a special drug, the more violent the better, for each disease. George Washington became a well-known victim of deadly conventional medicine during the first half of the nineteenth century.10

In 1860 Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, professor of anatomy at Harvard University, wrote that “if the whole materia medica, as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind—and all the worse for the fishes.”11

The second quarter of the nineteenth century, often known as the Jacksonian era, was swamped with innovation and change in most all areas of American life. Emotional, human-centered ideas overtook the rational, classical order of the preceding century. Fresh optimism and the sense of equality of all human beings inspired “reforms” in such areas as education, prisons, abolition of slavery, women’s rights, politics, and health.12

This new focus on the individual and away from traditional theories was thoroughly evident in the remarkably fresh concern for personal health.13 Distrust of traditional medicine with its “heroic” treatments and pitiful results turned the minds of many in all classes to what could be done with common sense.14

In this exhilarating era of optimism and its new focus on the “common man,” such health reform movements as the following sprang up everywhere: The temperance movement,15 promotion of vegetarianism,16 public renunciation of “all evil habits,” (tobacco, alcoholic beverages, tea, coffee, etc.),17 development of “physiological” societies,18 emphasis on public health, including sanitation and hospitals,19 new attention to fashion,20 and the emergence of “water” treatments.21

Physical Afflictions of Early Adventists

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Early Adventists were as physically afflicted as their contemporaries. Many of them, fearful of the prevailing medical practice, turned to prayer as their best hope. In 1846 Otis Nichols wrote to William Miller about young Ellen White: “The Spirit of God is with her and has been in a remarkable manner in healing the sick through the answer of her prayers; some cases are as remarkable as any that are recorded in the New Testament.”22

Dramatic Healings

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Ellen and James White participated in many dramatic healings within their own family. But they did not consider the use of natural remedies to indicate lack of faith. From her early years to her last, Mrs. White clearly warned against fanaticism: “We believe in the prayer of faith; but some have carried this matter too far . . . . Some have taken the strong ground that it was wrong to use simple remedies. We have never taken this position, but have opposed it. We believe it to be perfectly right to use the remedies God has placed in our reach, and if these fail, apply to the great Physician, and in some cases the counsel of an earthly physician is very necessary. This position we have always held.”23

In 1854 she visited a “celebrated physician in Rochester” for a painful swelling on her left eyelid that was diagnosed as cancer. But the physician told her that she would die of apoplexy before the cancer would kill her! About a month later, after much trust and prayer, she suddenly was healed of both the cancerous eyelid and the oppressive heart condition that had made breathing difficult.24

First Health-minded Adventist

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Joseph Bates, that indefatigable former sea captain, seemed to be the first and, for some time, the only Adventist leader who had come to terms with health principles and the cause of disease. On the basis of observation and personal experience, he had decided in 1824 (at the age of 32) to abstain “from all intoxicating drinks.” Earlier, he had given up tobacco in all forms. After another seven years, he determined not to drink tea or coffee. Probably the lectures of Sylvester Graham, who had written that “both tea and coffee are among the most powerful poisons of the vegetable kingdom,” confirmed his observations.25 By 1843 Bates had given up flesh food.26

However, though a staunch Millerite and later an energetic apostle of the seventh-day Sabbath, Bates apparently was not a health-reforming evangelist. He did not write out his strong health-reform beliefs nor personally try to persuade his associates.27 But he was very successful, through his Sabbath pamphlet, in convincing James and Ellen White in 1846 that the seventh day is the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Thereafter, Bates and the Whites were intrepid leaders of the “scattered flock.”

Ellen White’s Early Awareness of Health Principles

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As early as 1848 Ellen White was shown the harmful effects of tobacco, tea, and coffee.28 Some church members were not easily convinced regarding tobacco. In an 1851 letter she responded to the question as to whether she had seen “in vision” that it was wrong to use tobacco: “I have seen in vision that tobacco was a filthy weed, and that it must be laid aside or given up.” She wrote encouraging letters to those who struggled to break the tobacco habit.29

But diet was another matter for the Whites. Many lifestyle changes had already been made within a few short years. The introduction of further change, such as self-denial in dietary habits, would have been enormously distracting and a source of much division among these early Sabbath keeping church members. Achieving doctrinal unity was more important for early Sabbatarian Adventists. Such unity established the spiritual climate for the more personal tests that would be introduced later.30

The issue of eating swine’s flesh is a good example of an important Biblical concept that had to wait until a church was ready for its significance. Some had contended as early as 1850 that the Bible definitely forbids eating swine’s flesh, but James White thought that some of the Biblical reasoning was inappropriate: “We do object to a misapplication of the Holy Scriptures in sustaining a position which will only distract the flock of God, and lead the minds of the brethren from the importance of the present work of God among the remnant.”31

By 1858 the issue was being zealously pushed by the Haskells, to whom Ellen White wrote this interesting counsel: “I saw that your views concerning swine’s flesh would prove no injury if you have them to yourselves; but in your judgment and opinion you have made this question a test, and your actions have plainly shown your faith in this matter. . . . If it is the duty of the church to abstain from swine’s flesh, God will discover it to more than two or three. He will teach His church their duty. . . . I saw that the angels of God would lead His people no faster than they could receive and act upon the important truths that are communicated to them.”32

The Whites were not ready to take positions unless they had the clearest Biblical evidence or a clear word from the Lord through a vision. Up to the health vision of June 6, 1863, they believed that the dietary restrictions set forth in Leviticus 11 as part of the Jewish ceremonial laws, were no longer applicable since the Cross. During the 1850s, Adventists freely ate pork. After the June 6 vision, the issue of eating swine’s flesh was settled among Seventh-day Adventists. Why? Ellen White now wrote with vision-certainty: “God never designed the swine to be eaten under any circumstances. . . . The eating of pork has produced scrofula [derived from the Latin word for a breeding sow, a term for tuberculosis of the lymph nodes], leprosy, and cancerous humors [blood or lymph fluids]. Pork-eating is still causing the most intense suffering to the human race.”33

Ellen White had been suggesting for a decade other aspects of healthful living that cut across the general habits of almost everyone. In 1854, at a time when modern conveniences were not even thought of, she called for cleanliness among those professing Christianity: “I saw that the houses of the saints should be kept tidy and neat, free from dirt and filth and all uncleanness.” Turning to maintaining health, especially in dietary matters, she wrote that we must “take special care of the health that God has given us. . . . Deny the unhealthy appetite, eat less fine food, eat coarse food free from grease. Then as you sit at the table to eat you can from the heart ask God’s blessing upon the food and can derive strength from coarse, wholesome food.”34

The Health Vision of 1863

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On May 21, 1863, at Battle Creek, Seventh-day Adventists organized themselves under a General Conference that unified their scattered churches. For the first time they had a center that promised unity and efficiency in their missionary outreach. About two weeks later, on June 6, 1863, Ellen White was given the epochal health vision in Otsego, Michigan.35 It seems that God waited until the church had completed its organizational struggles before giving them the next step in their assignment—a responsibility that required unity of spirit and a general sense of harmony in doctrinal matters.

James White may have said it best when he reflected in 1870 on how the Lord had been leading the “scattered flock” into becoming a transcontinental movement. Although his sentiments could be applied as well to their doctrinal development in the earlier years, he contemplated the growing unity around the health messages: “The Lord also knew how to introduce to His waiting people the great subject of health reform, step by step, so they could bear it, and make a good use of it, without souring the public mind. It was twenty-two years ago [1848] the present autumn, that our minds were called to the injurious effects of tobacco, tea, and coffee, through the testimony of Mrs. White. God has wonderfully blessed the effort to put these things away from us, so that we as a denomination can rejoice in victory, with very few exceptions, over these pernicious indulgences of appetite. . . . When we had gained a good victory over these things, and when the Lord saw that we were able to bear it, light was given relative to food and dress.”36

Led Step by Step

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Psychologically, it could not have been otherwise. It was the method of Jesus: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). People cannot relate to too much change at once. Early Adventists proclaimed the seventh-day Sabbath at a time when a six-day work week was common, and to get Sabbath privileges was virtually impossible. Their enthusiastic announcement of a very near Second Coming seemed far-fetched to their neighbors who remembered the Millerite embarrassment in 1844. To declare further, in those early years, that Adventist Christians should not smoke tobacco, drink alcoholic beverages, use tea and coffee, or eat swine’s flesh—would have been too much to contemplate. Change takes time, even today.

And now the Otsego health vision. Many items in it were extremely relevant to the Whites themselves as to how they could improve their health by setting better priorities for their time and energies, by a more “cheerful, hopeful, peaceful frame of mind,” and by not leaving their own health care to God “to take care of that which He has left for us to watch and care for.”

Further, the Lord instructed the Whites and others to speak out “against intemperance of every kind . . . in working, in eating, in drinking, and in drugging.” But they were not to have only a negative message. They were to guide Seventh-day Adventists and others to a life style that harmonized with the laws of the spiritual and natural world. The sweep of the vision “astonished” Ellen White. She wrote: “Many things came directly across my own ideas.”37

In May 1866, she visited Dr. H. S. Lay, an Adventist physician in Allegan, Michigan. Fascinated with her vision summary, he wanted a full interview. Mrs. White responded reluctantly because she “was not familiar with medical language,” and because “much of the matter presented to her was so different from the commonly accepted views that she feared she could not relate it so that it would be understood.”38

Dr. Lay was impressed. Her insights were accurate and the overall coherency profound. He knew that the interacting nature of these principles did not come from human sources. He often related to others what he learned that day.

One of his medical friends with whom he much later shared this special information was Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. In 1897 Dr. Kellogg said: “It is a very interesting fact that the Lord began giving us this light thirty years ago. Just before I came to the Conference I had a talk with Dr. Lay, and he told me of how he heard the first instruction about health reform away back in 1860 and especially in 1863. While he was riding in a carriage with Brother and Sister White, she related what had been presented to her upon the subject of health reform, and laid out the principles which have stood the test of all these years—a whole generation.”39

Speaking to the assembled delegates at the 1897 General Conference, Dr. Kellogg added: “It is impossible for any man who has not made a special study of medicine to appreciate the wonderful character of the instruction that has been received in these writings. It is wonderful, brethren, when you look back over the writings that were given us thirty years ago, and then perhaps the next day pick up a scientific journal and find some new discovery that the microscope has made, or that has been brought to light in the chemical laboratory—I say, it is perfectly wonderful how correctly they agree in fact. . . . There is not a single principle in relation to the healthful development of our bodies and minds that is advocated in these writings from Sister White, which I am not prepared to demonstrate conclusively from scientific evidence.”40

While traveling on a brutal schedule, still mourning the sad death of Henry, their firstborn, Ellen White rushed to completion Spiritual Gifts, volumes 3 and 4. Volume 4 contained a section called “Health,” which contained the first comprehensive statement on health principles since the Otsego vision.

Were Adventists ready for this next call for personal reform? So many orders were received that an announcement was made in the Review and Herald, August 23, 1864: “The call for Spiritual Gifts is so great that we are unable to fill orders as soon as they are received. We have two binders at work, but today have not a single copy in the office.”

Reports of immediate and beneficial results began to pour into the Review and Herald, the Adventist clearing house for information. Pastor Isaac Sanborn wrote that for ten years he had tried many remedies for his inflammatory rheumatism. Then, in the spring of 1864 he gave up pork, and a few months later he adopted a two-meal-a-day program, without meat of any kind. He joyfully reported: “I enjoy as perfect health as probably can be enjoyed in this mortal state. I would not return to my old habits of eating for any consideration. . . . I thank God for the light He has given upon this subject.”41 M. E. Cornell recounted how his wife lay at the point of death with typhoid: “We knew that to take the drugs of physicians would be in this case certain death.” They applied hydrotherapy treatments, giving “nature a chance to throw off the disease.” In a short while, as they united in prayer, Mrs. Cornell was out of danger.42

Ellen White was forthright about the changes that had come to her as she applied the counsel she passed on to others, counsel that “came directly across my own ideas.” In her “Health” article, one year after the vision, she wrote: “Since the Lord presented before me, in June, 1863, the subject of meat-eating in relation to health, I have left the use of meat. For a while it was rather difficult to bring my appetite to bread, for which, formerly, I have had but little relish. But by persevering, I have been able to do this. I have lived for nearly one year without meat. For about six months most of the bread upon our table has been unleavened cakes, made of unbolted wheat meal and water, and a very little salt. We use fruits and vegetables liberally. I have lived for eight months upon two meals a day.”43

Ingredients of the Otsego Health Vision

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What was so electrifying, so sweeping, so full of promise in the Otsego health vision?44 The core principles were:

· Those who do not control their appetite in eating are guilty of intemperance.

· Swine’s flesh is not to be eaten under any circumstance.

· Tobacco in any form is a slow poison.

· Strict cleanliness of the body and home premises is important.

· Tea and coffee, similar to tobacco, are slow poisons.

· Rich cake, pies, and puddings are injurious.

· Eating between meals injures the stomach and digestive process.

· Adequate time must be allowed between meals, giving the stomach time to rest.

· If a third meal is taken, it should be light and several hours before bedtime.

· People used to meat, gravies, and pastries do not immediately relish a plain, wholesome diet.

· Gluttonous appetite contributes to indulgence of corrupt passions.

· Turning to a plain, nutritious diet may overcome the physical damage caused by a wrong diet.

· Reforms in eating will save expense and labor.

· Children eating flesh meat and spicy foods have strong tendencies toward sexual indulgences.

· Poisonous drugs used as medical prescriptions kill more people than all other causes of death combined.

· Pure water should be used freely in maintaining health and curing illnesses.

· Nature alone has curative powers.

· Common medicines, such as strychnine, opium, calomel, mercury, and quinine, are poisons.

· Parents transmit their weaknesses to their children; prenatal influences are enormous.

· Obeying the laws of health will prevent many illnesses.

· God is too often blamed for deaths caused by violation of nature’s laws.

· Light and pure air are required, especially in the sleeping quarters.

· Bathing, even a sponge bath, will be beneficial on rising in the morning.

· God will not work healing miracles for those who continually violate the laws of health.

· Many invalids have no physical cause for their illness; they have a diseased imagination.

· Cheerful, physical labor will help to create a healthy, cheerful disposition.

· Willpower has much to do with resisting disease and soothing nerves.

· Outdoor exercise is very important to health of mind and body.

· Overwork breaks down both mind and body; routine daily rest is necessary.

· Many die of disease caused wholly by eating flesh food.

· Caring for health is a spiritual matter, reflecting a person’s commitment to God.

· A healthy mind and body directly affects one’s morals and one’s ability to discern truth.

· All God’s promises are given on condition of obedience.

Adventist Lifestyle

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These fundamental principles became the clear, sensible, practical outline of what has become known worldwide as the Seventh-day Adventist life style.45 Ellen White often amplified these core principles, probably most clearly in her 1905 volume, The Ministry of Healing. One of her graphic statements that has galvanized millions is: “Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in divine power—these are the true remedies.”46

For Adventists living in 1864, these health principles were indeed electrifying. Adventists had read and heard some of these principles before but not within Ellen White’s spiritual context. Furthermore, Adventists now had a concise, coherent outline of health laws separated from the excesses and frivolities of others who were promoting lifestyle changes.

The Whites knew that Adventists would need all the help possible in educating themselves and others concerning the laws of life. James White used the church paper to draw attention to books and lecturers then available that would support his wife’s first article on “Health”: “Our people are generally waking up to the subject of health. . . . And they should have publications on the subject to meet their present wants, at prices within the reach of the poorest.”47

He was referring to books by Mann, Jackson, Trall, Coles, Lewis, Shew, Graham, Alcott, and others.48 For years these writers had been trying to get the attention of their world. Each of them emphasized certain aspects of healthful living that Ellen White recommended. But their books were often technical, voluminous, costly, and, at times, merely personal opinion floating in oceans of verbiage. And none of them had placed healthful living within the context of the Third Angel’s Message, preparing a people to meet the Lord.

So innovative James White moved ahead with his usual enthusiasm. He announced that since Adventists had an urgent need for health literature “to meet their present wants” and “at prices within the reach of the poorest,” six pamphlets were being prepared and would be published under the title, Health, or How to Live. Mrs. White would “furnish a liberal chapter in each number on health, happiness, and miseries of domestic life, and the bearing which these have upon the prospects of obtaining the life to come.”49 The six “chapters” unfolded the basic message of her earlier message, “Health.” In addition, in the second article Ellen White wrote specific counsel regarding the relationship between husbands and wives and the proper care of infants and young children. In article four she gave added counsel to those who cared for the sick.

New material on the subject of dress for women and children appeared in the fifth and sixth articles.50


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1. Godfrey T. Anderson, long-time president of Loma Linda University, cited in Warren L. Johns, Richard H. Utt, editors, The Vision Bold (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1977), p. vii.

2.Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 49, 331.

3.“Since 1863, Seventh-day Adventists have promulgated a wholistic view of the human person. The view that the body, mind, and spirit are all integrated and interrelated constituent elements that together form a single being is the very cornerstone on which much of our work as a church has been built. Believing that these three are interdependent and constantly interacting, we have adopted a ‘systems’ approach in our anthropology: the whole person cannot be understood merely as the sum of separate, constituent parts. Each variable in the system is so enmeshed in its interaction with the other parts as to make the relationship the key to understanding each individual component. . . . From this vantage point, the spiritual enterprise addresses a sentient being with the capacity to monitor the universe and respond to it (both consciously and unconsciously) on the basis of information gleaned from physical, rational-emotive, and spiritual radar. Thus, each of these spheres provides the total person with methods of learning and wisdom distinctly its own, and may be the appropriate starting point for spiritual education or discernment, just as distortion or distress in any one of these spheres will serve to undermine the survival or well-being of the person.”—Ginger Hanks-Harwood, “Wholeness,” Charles W. Teel, Jr. ed., Remnant and Republic: Adventist Themes for Personal and Social Ethics (Loma Linda, Calif.: Center for Christian Bioethics, 1995), pp. 127, 128.

4.Testimonies, vol. 3, pp. 485, 486.

5.Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 346. “The moral powers are weakened, because men and women will not live in obedience to the laws of health and make this great subject a personal duty.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 140.

6.See p. 111.

7.George W. Reid, A Sound of Trumpets (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1982), p. 21.

8.Horace Mann, “The Study of Physiology in the Schools,” Educational Annual Report for 1842, Annual Reports on Education, ed. Mary Tyler Mann, vol. 3, Life and Works of Horace Mann (Boston: Horace B. Fuller, 1868), p. 227, cited in Reid, A Sound of Trumpets, p. 25.

9.Reid, A Sound of Trumpets, pp. 25-28.

10. Ibid., pp. 29-31; D. E. Robinson, The Story of Our Health Message (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Publishing Association, 1965), pp. 13-27.

11. Ronald L. Numbers, Prophetess of Health (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1976), p. 49.

12. Reid, A Sound of Trumpets, pp. 31-48.

13. Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart, Seeking a Sanctuary, p. 128.

14. Rennie B. Schoepflin, “Health and Health Care,” Land, World of E. G. White, pp. 143-158.

15. Jerome L. Clark, “The Crusade Against Alcohol,” Land, World of E. G. White, pp. 131-140; Stephen Nissenbaum, Sex, Diet, and Debility in Jacksonian America (Chicago: The Dorsey Press, 1980), pp. 69-85; Robinson, Our Health Message, pp. 38-42.

16. Nissenbaum, Sex. Diet, and Debility, pp. 39-52; Reid, A Sound of Trumpets, p. 85; Robinson, Our Health Message, pp. 42-47.

17. Reid, A Sound of Trumpets, pp. 42, 43.

18. Ibid., p. 37; Robinson, Our Health Message, pp. 47, 48.

19. Schoepflin, in Land, World of E. G. White, pp. 151-157.

20. Ibid., p. 155.

21. Ibid., pp. 146-148; Reid, A Sound of Trumpets, pp. 79-81; Robinson, Our Health Message, pp. 28-37. See also Ronald L. Numbers, Prophetess of Health, pp. 48-76.

22. Otis Nichols Letter, Apr. 20, 1846, cited in Bio., vol. 1, pp. 76, 77. Several instances of divine healing include Mrs. Penfield—Letter 1, 1848 in MR, vol. 5, pp. 248, 249; Frances Howland—Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 42; William Hyde—Ibid., p. 44; Clarissa Bonfoey—Letter 14, 1850 in MR, vol.7, pp. 352; vol. 8, pp. 221, 222; Lumen Masten—Review and Herald, Sept. 30, 1852. J. N. Loughborough reported on these experiences in 1909, noting that in the 1850s Adventists “had not the light on the treatment of disease by the use of nature’s remedies, but were requested to bring our sick ones to the Lord in prayer, following the rule in the fifth chapter of James. . . . This led some to conclude that every case thus presented to the Lord would be healed. For this conclusion we had not, however, had any such instruction from either Brother or Sister White.” When some were troubled after prayed-for people died, Loughborough pointed to Ellen White’s counsel in Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 120, 121, where she made clear that every sincere prayer is answered in God’s wisdom. In some cases, death may be the most compassionate way for a prayer to be answered. See J. N. Loughborough, “Sketches From the Past—77,” Pacific Union Recorder, Sept. 16, 1909, p. 1.

23. Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, p. 135 (1860). In The Ministry of Healing (1905), Ellen White wrote: “Those who seek healing by prayer should not neglect to make use of the remedial agencies within their reach. It is not a denial of faith to use such remedies as God has provided to alleviate pain and to aid nature in her work of restoration.”—Pages 231, 232.

24. Bio., vol. 1, p. 292. Some people are puzzled by a statement Ellen White made in a January 31, 1849 broadside (a one-sheet publication) that said: “If any among us are sick, let us not dishonor God by applying to earthly physicians, but apply to the God of Israel. If we follow His directions (James 5:14, 15), the sick will be healed.” This broadside was edited and reproduced in Experience and Views and again in Early Writings, pp. 56-58. This particular reference to physicians was one of the sentences deleted in later printings. Ellen White often edited her own material, sometimes several times, before publication and before reprints. Any wise author does the same for the sake of clearer communication and to avoid misunderstanding. As time passed for this material to be republished, Mrs. White could see how it could be misunderstood in view of her own practice of consulting physicians when it seemed appropriate. When we think of the limited medical knowledge of the mid-nineteenth century, we can understand well her agreement with Oliver Wendell Holmes’s assessment of contemporary medicine (see p. 279) when she wrote in the early 1860s: “I was shown that more deaths have been caused by drug-taking than from all other causes combined. If there was in the land one physician in the place of thousands, a vast amount of premature mortality would be prevented”—Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, p. 133. But there was more behind that 1849 statement. Adventists in the late 1840s experienced many dramatic divine healings (see Life Sketches, pp. 121-124, and Bio., vol. 1, pp. 88, 89, 115, 158, 159, 232, 371), from illnesses that often defied medical knowledge at that time. They threw themselves on James 5:14, 15 and rejoiced with the promise fulfilled, over and over again. They saw too many of their contemporaries being bled, purged, and drugged to an early death. In later writings, Mrs. White made very plain the proper balance between faith and working with God in employing the best of medical knowledge.

25. Joseph Bates, The Autobiography of Elder Joseph Bates (Battle Creek, Mich.: Steam Press of the Seventh-Adventist Publishing Association, 1868), pp. 168, 234.

26. The Health Reformer, July 1871.

27. “Regarding the minor points of [dietary] reform, he [Bates] exerted a silent influence, but did not urge his practices upon others. Sometimes his friends would ask him why he did not partake of flesh meat, or grease, or highly spiced foods; and he would quietly reply, ‘I have eaten my share of them.’ He did not make prominent in public or in private his views of proper diet unless asked about them.”—Robinson, Our Health Message, p. 59.

28. Review and Herald, Nov. 8, 1870.

29. Bio., vol. 1, p. 224. Tobacco was tolerated for some time among Sabbath-keeping Adventists. The church paper published various articles with both scientific and scriptural arguments against tobacco in the 1850s. The first disfellowshipping of tobacco users occurred in Morristown, Vermont, in 1855.—Robinson, Our Health Message, pp. 66-70.

30. James White wrote in 1857: “In those days [referring to the late 1840s and early 1850s] there were trials, and these trials generally arose in consequence of a disposition to draw off from the great truths connected with the Third Message, to points of no vital importance. It has been impossible to make some see that present truth is present truth, and not future truth, and that the Word as a lamp shines brightly where we stand, and not so plainly on the path in the distance.”—Review and Herald, Dec. 31, 1857.

31. Present Truth, Nov. 1850.

32. Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 206, 207. See p. 34.

33. Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, pp. 124, 146.

34. Manuscript 3, 1854, cited in Selected Messages, book. 3, p. 274. Careful examination of Ellen White’s writings indicates that by “grease” she meant animal fat, such as lard and suet, very common cooking ingredients in her day. “Coarse” was a word that could have at least two meanings, such as “coarse” in a healthy sense (unrefined bread) and “coarse” in an unfavorable sense (certain vegetables not properly cooked).— Education, p. 204.

35. Background for this important vision may be found in Bio., vol. 2, pp. 16-22; Robinson, Our Health Message, pp. 75-85. It was actually Friday evening, June 5. Since the Sabbath had already started, Ellen White refers to the date as June 6.

36. Review and Herald, Nov. 8, 1870; also cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, pp. 495, 496.

37. Manuscript 149, undated, cited in Robinson, Our Health Message, p. 81.

38. Robinson, Our Health Message, p. 83.

39. General Conference Daily Bulletin, March 8, 1897, p. 309; cited in Robinson, Our Health Message, pp. 83, 84.

40. Ibid., p. 84.

41. Review and Herald, April 11, 1865.

42. Robinson, Our Health Message, p. 96.

43. Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, p. 153, cited in Robinson, Our Health Message, p. 94. For a continuing record of Ellen White’s experience with health reform principles, plus her principles of common sense, see Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 362-390. For a discussion of her dietary record and personal growth, see p. 311.

44. Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, pp. 120-151. See Counsels on Diet and Foods, pp. 481-494.

45. Time, Oct. 28, 1966, referred to the astounding health and mortality statistical differences between California Adventist men and the general population as “The Adventist Advantage.”

46. The Ministry of Healing, p. 127. See also Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 443.

47. Review and Herald, Dec. 13, 1864.

48. Horace Mann “Report for 1842,” Life and Works of Horace Mann (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1891); James C. Jackson, American Womanhood: Its Peculiarities and Necessities (Dansville, N.Y.: Austin, Jackson & Co., Publishers); Russell T. Trall, Drug Medicines; their Nature, Consequences, and Modus Operandi; with an Exposition of the False Doctrines on which their Employment is Predicated (New York: Davies & Kent, 1862); Larkin B. Coles, Philosophy of Health: Natural Principles of Health and Cure (Boston, Ticknor and Fields, 1855); Larkin B. Coles, The Beauties and Deformities of Tobacco-Using (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1855); Dio Lewis, Weak Lungs and How to Make Them Strong (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1863); Joel Shew, Tobacco: Its History, Nature, and Effects on the Body and Mind (New York: Fowler and Wells, 1850); Joel Shew, The Hydropathic Family Physician; a Ready Prescriber and Hygienic Advisor with Reference to the Nature, Causes, Prevention, and Treatment of Disease, Accidents, and Casualties of Every Kind (New York: Fowlers & Wells, 1854); Mrs. M. L. Shew, Water-Cure for Ladies: a Popular Work on the Health, Diet, and Regimen for Females and Children, and the Prevention and Cure of Diseases; With a Full Account of the Processes of Water-Cure; Illustrated With Various Cases (New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1844); Sylvester Graham, Lectures on the Science of Human Life—People’s Edition (London: Horsell, Aldine, Chambers, 1849); Sylvester Graham, A Lecture to Young Men on Chastity (Boston: Charles H. Pierce, 1848); William A. Alcott, The Physiology of Marriage (Boston: Dinsmoor and Co., 1866); William A. Alcott, Forty Years in the Wilderness of Pill and Powders (Boston: John P. Jewett and Co., 1859); William A. Alcott, The Library of Health, and Teacher on the Human Constitution (Boston: George W. Light, 1837).

49. These “chapters” have been republished in Selected Messages, book 2, pp. 410-479. In this material Ellen White utilized some information from contemporary writers that she could endorse.

50. When discussing Ellen White’s admonitions on dress today, knowledge of dress customs in the 1860s and her common-sense principles need to be seen in perspective. One of her basic principles appeared in the sixth article: “Christians should not take pains to make themselves gazing-stocks by dressing differently from the world. But if, in accordance with their faith and duty in respect to their dressing modestly and healthfully, they find themselves out of fashion, they should not change their dress in order to be like the world.”—Selected Messages, book 2, pp. 476. See also Selected Messages book 3, pp. 241-255.

Study Questions

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1. In what integrating way did the Great Controversy Theme contribute to Ellen White’s health message?

2. How did the Whites maintain common sense in their practice of healing themselves and others, when ill?

3. How did the Adventist Church arrive at a position against the eating of swine?

4. What was the essential contribution of the Otsego health vision of 1863 that transcended any particular aspect of the health reform message?

5. What was the significance of including the writings of well-known health reformers in the Seventh-day Adventist magazine, The Health Reformer?

6. Review some of the elements of conventional medicine in the nineteenth century.

7. Why were dramatic healings apparently more prevalent among Adventists in the middle nineteenth century than now?

8. Explain Ellen White’s rebuke to Stephen Haskell in 1858 regarding swine’s flesh and her later condemnation of the practice. What principle can explain each event?

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