Chapter 27

Health Principles/4

Principles and Policies

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Ellen White’s Journey, Step by Step
The Best Food Available
Ellen White’s Dietary Practice After 1900
Rumors and Allegations
Applying the Principles
Study Questions

“Let it ever be kept before the mind that the great object of hygienic reform is to secure the highest possible development of mind and soul and body. All the laws of nature—which are the laws of God— are designed for our good. Obedience to them will promote our happiness in this life, and will aid us in a preparation for the life to come.”1

Ellen White set forth certain guidelines that would help everyone to make positive and progressive decisions, especially in health reform. The first principle, which applies to all areas of Christian responsibilities, is that everyone knows for himself what “known duty” is. “Known duty” at any given moment may not be the same for any two people. Yet, to balk at “known duty,” little or much, reveals the heart of a rebel—a deeper problem than a matter of diet.2

In 1893 Ellen White wrote: “No one can believe with the heart unto righteousness, and obtain justification by faith, while continuing the practice of those things which the Word of God forbids, or while neglecting any known duty.”3

Neglecting “known duty” will cause “weakness and darkness, and subject us to fierce temptation.”4 In other words, to hear instruction that God validated through Ellen White but not to incorporate it into one’s life, opens the door to other temptations and spiritual darkness.

The second principle is that we should do the best we can under all circumstances. For example, in the days when nutritional supplements were not available, or when various vegetables and fruit were not easily obtainable, Ellen White suggested that grape juice in the best form available was appropriate as a food supplement for medicinal purposes.5 Obviously she was not suggesting that wine be used as a recreational beverage or as a feature of one’s regular diet.

When she advised “domestic wine” for medicinal purposes, she knew that the sick person needed the nutritional properties of the grape, nutrients that could be assimilated quickly by the body. Under the circumstances, if the domestic wine contained a little alcohol, it still would have provided more benefit than not taking it. In 1868, in one of his question/ answer articles, James White wrote: “During the past year, Mrs. W. has, at three or four times, had feelings of great debility and faintness in the morning. . . . To prevent distressing faintness at these times, she, immediately after rising, had taken an egg in a little pure, domestic, grape wine, perhaps a spoonful at a time, and never thought that this had to do with drugs, as she uses the term in her writings, more than with the man in the moon. During the past year, she may have used one pint of wine. It is only in extreme cases that the use of wine is justifiable, and then let it be a ‘little wine,’ to gently stimulate those in a sinking condition.”6

In Australia during the 1890s, finding a quality diet was difficult and meat was the cheapest food available. On one occasion when sickness was in a neighbor’s home, Mrs. White recalled that “there was nothing in the house suitable to eat. And they refused to eat anything that we took them. They had been accustomed to having meat. We felt that something must be done. I said to Sara [McEnterfer], ‘Take chickens from my place, and prepare them some broth.’ . . . They soon recovered.”

The lesson? “Although we did not use flesh foods ourselves, when we thought it essential for that family in their time of sickness, we gave them what we felt they needed. There are occasions when we must meet the people where they are.”7

Here again, however, common sense is needed: the first and second principle taken together should give wisdom to the health-care provider and to the ill.

The third principle is to avoid “everything hurtful,” and the fourth is “to use judiciously that which is healthful.”8

The fifth principle focuses on self-control. “Excessive indulgence in eating, drinking, sleeping, or seeing is sin.”9 Self-indulgence is often displayed in “dressing” and “overwork,” thus indicating that the mind is not under the “control of reason and conscience.”10

The sixth principle is that we should “not mark out any precise line to be followed in diet.”11 Obviously, clear and precise warnings were given on certain unhealthful foods. But in turning to the diet that should take the place of injurious foods, Ellen White stroked out broad lines, such as “grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables.”12 Why the broad strokes without “precise lines”? Because she recognized that a healthful diet must recognize individual differences in climate, occupation, and physical characteristics.13

The seventh principle reveals caring and compassion: a non-flesh diet should not be urged until appropriate substitutes for protein are available and the reasons for the replacement understood.14

The eighth principle focuses on the motivation behind health reform: health reform is not a set of duties by which we impress God and earn His love (legalism). Rather, it is one more revelation from a loving Lord as to how best to avoid sorry circumstances that result from bad decisions. Health reform contains those insights that will hasten character development and a life of service—the object of redemption and the purpose of living. Health reform embodies a system of choices that is understood progressively through experience. For this reason, meat eating, for example, has never been a “test of fellowship” in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.15

The ninth principle is best expressed in Ellen White’s simple formula: “I make myself a criterion for no one else.” She did not attempt to be conscience for others; neither did she make “a raid” on the tables of those who were slower to follow advancing light.16

The tenth principle permeates the previous nine: We must reason from cause to effect, perhaps best expressed in Paul’s counsel: “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7).17

Ellen White’s Journey, Step by Step

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Both James and Ellen White realized that it took time for them to respond “step by step” to advancing truth.18 Experience, common sense, and divine insight prompted her often-repeated principle: “The diet reform should be progressive.”19 God has always used this principle in revealing truth.20

Visions in 1848 and 1854 emphasized the injurious effects of tobacco, coffee, and tea. In the second vision such health-related issues as lack of bodily cleanliness, and the need for appetite control were noted.21 Ellen White stated that in 1863 “the Lord presented a general plan before me,” including the concept that caring for one’s health is a spiritual duty.22 Six months later she wrote: “Our plain food, eaten twice a day, is enjoyed with a keen relish. We have no meat, cake, or any rich food upon our table. We use no lard, but in its place, milk, cream, and some butter. We have our food prepared with but little salt, and have dispensed with spices of all kinds. We breakfast at seven, and take our dinner at one. . . . My food is eaten with a greater relish than ever before.”23

In 1870 Mrs. White revealed further how health principles were working in her home. She referred to her “well-set table on all occasions.” Visitors, expected and unexpected, came frequently. She set before everybody “simple, healthful food” and “if any want more than this, they are at liberty to find it elsewhere. No butter or flesh meats of any kind come on my table. Cake is seldom there. I generally have an ample supply of fruits, good bread, and vegetables.” Sugar was not placed on the table although sometimes it was used in kitchen preparation.24

When traveling on the railroad in 1870 the Whites ate at their usual hour, 1:00 P.M., “of graham bread without butter, and a generous supply of fruit.”25

The Best Food Available

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Did Ellen White eat meat after 1863? Yes, but not as a regular part of her diet. She practiced the general principles she taught others, such as that one must use the best food available under the circumstances. When away from home, either while traveling or camping in austere conditions, decades before frozen foods were invented, finding an adequate diet was often difficult. Not always able to obtain the best, for whatever reason, she at times settled for the good—the best under the circumstances.

In 1873 while on a working vacation high in the Rocky Mountains, the White party had no choice but to hunt and fish for food. She wrote in her diary: “Our provisions have been very low for some days. Many of our supplies have gone. . . . We expected supplies three days ago certainly, but none have come. Willie went to the lake for water. We heard his gun and found he had shot two ducks. This is really a blessing, for we need something to live upon.”26

A few weeks later, after arriving in California, she reported that they no longer ate meat, although they “bought meat once for May Walling while she was sick, but not a penny have we expended for meat since.”27

During the rainy, foggy January of 1884, Ellen White spent some time at the St. Helena Health Retreat where there was more sunshine and warmth. But the physician, manager, and cook did not favor a vegetarian cuisine. She wrote of her experience: “When I came to the Retreat, I determined not to taste meat, but I could get scarcely anything else to eat, and therefore ate a little meat. It caused unnatural action of the heart. It was not the right kind of food. . . .

“The use of meat while at the Retreat awakened the old appetite, and after I returned home, it clamored for indulgence. Then I resolved to change entirely, and not under any circumstances eat meat, and thus encourage this appetite. Not a morsel of meat or butter has been on my table since I returned. We have milk, fruit, grains, and vegetables.

“For a time I lost all desire for food. Like the children of Israel, I hankered after flesh meats. But I firmly refused to have meat bought or cooked. I was weak and trembling, as everyone who subsists on meat will be when deprived of the stimulus. But now my appetite has returned. I enjoy bread and fruit, my head is generally clear, and my strength firmer. I have none of the goneness so common with meat eaters. I have had my lesson, and, I hope, learned it well.”28

In 1888 Mrs. White wrote that she had not bought “a penny’s worth of tea for years.” However, she would use some tea “as a medicine” for “severe vomiting.”29

In 1890, after two years of traveling in Europe, she observed: “Where plenty of good milk and fruit can be obtained there is rarely any excuse for eating animal food. . . . In certain cases of illness or exhaustion it may be thought best to use some meat, but great care should be taken to secure the flesh of healthy animals. . . . When I could not obtain the food I needed, I have sometimes eaten a little meat; but I am becoming more and more afraid of it.”30

Ellen White, with her heavy writing program and frequent public appearances, needed the help of a cook to care for her extended family. She was not always able to secure the services of a cook trained in health reform principles. In Australia during the 1890s, where fruit, vegetables, grains, and nuts were not easy to obtain or affordable, meat was the standby for most people. Two weeks after arriving in Australia, she penned her plea: “I am suffering more now for want of someone who is experienced in the cooking line, to prepare things I can eat. The cooking in this country is in every way deficient. Take out the meat, which we seldom use—and I dare not use it here at all—and sit at their tables, and if you can sustain your strength, you have an excellent constitution. . . . I would pay a higher price for a cook than for any other part of my work.”31

While in Australia, she came to the place where she “absolutely banished meat from my table.” For a time, she had allowed some meat to be served to workers and family members. From that time on [January, 1894] it was understood “that whether I am at home or abroad, nothing of this kind is to be used in my family, or come upon my table. I have had much representation before my mind in the night season on this subject.”32

Ellen White’s Dietary Practice After 1900

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What was her dietary practice at Elmshaven after her return to America in 1900? A number of letters reveal the daily routine of that busy home with many workers and members of the family eating together. Among the dietary features of the White home were:33

· Breakfast at 7:30 A.M. and dinner at 1:00 P.M., the most convenient time decided by the extended family;

· No meat, no butter, no cheese, no “greasy mixtures of food”; “all are satisfied” with the cream from their two cows;

· Ellen White preferred vermicelli and canned tomatoes cooked together, which she ate with zwieback; stewed fruit of various kinds augmented her main meal. Other items used occasionally included dried corn cooked with milk, and lemon pie;

· All members of the extended family ate items that best served their needs. (Ellen White said that she did not hold herself up as a criterion for them);

· Anyone desiring to eat in the evening was free to do so;

· A variety of food—simple, wholesome, and palatable—was always provided.

What shall we make of this “step-by-step” journey?

· Ellen White’s major health visions of 1863 and 1865 encompassed all features of the health reform message that she emphasized until her death. Changes in certain emphases through the years only refined those principles, they did not add or subtract from them. As time passes, even prophets must take time to assimilate revealed principles—time for theory to become practice in their own lives. She constantly advocated the principle, in practice as well as in teaching, that everyone who is committed to truth will move from the bad to the good, from the good to the better, from the better to the best. Such was her experience.

· Ellen White saw the difference between patently injurious substances (alcoholic beverages, pork, tobacco, tea, and coffee) and those items of diet that were not healthful in immoderate amounts (clean meat, milk, eggs, salt, and sugar). Some of this divine insight, especially regarding pork, came as a surprise to her. Other items were being discussed in the nineteenth century, but nowhere else were all the principles she advanced integrated into a practical program. Nowhere else were these principles put in terms of preparing a people for the coming of the Lord.

· What may appear to be lapses in her journey from the good to the best (in incorporating into her life-practice divinely-revealed health principles), can well be understood by those who remember their own journey from the good to the best. Circumstances beyond one’s control and the absence of the best often dictate selections that are not always one’s preferred choice. Those who understand the gospel, those who realize that God asks only for our best under the circumstances that prevail, those who realize that obedience to known duty is not done to impress God (legalism) but to honor Him—such people will understand why on rare occasions and unusual circumstances Ellen White ate some meat.

· Ellen White followed the principle of the Great Controversy Theme that was reflected in Christ’s example—truth should never be coerced. She conveyed to others, whenever she had an appropriate opportunity, the principles of health reform as she had received them—an integrated, coordinated system of principles that promises health of mind and body and soul. She was clear and forceful regarding the relationship of health to one’s spiritual growth and eternal destiny. But she did not compel, threaten, or coerce others to do what she knew they should do—she would not be conscience or criterion for others. That fact, in itself, reveals the truth about God and our responsibility for each other.34

We are now better able to understand what Ellen White meant when she said at the General Conference session of 1909: “It is reported by some that I have not followed the principles of health reform as I have advocated them with my pen; but I can say that I have been a faithful health reformer. Those who have been members of my family know that this is true.”35

In modern attempts to understand history, too frequently we judge the past by the present, most often unknowingly. Individuals of the past must be judged in the context of their circumstances, not ours. In a day without refrigeration, when obtaining fresh fruit and vegetables depended on where one lived and the time of the year, when meat substitutes were rarely obtainable before the introduction of peanut butter and dry-cereals (mid-1890s),36 on some occasions one either ate meat or nothing at all. In our day, at least in developed countries, meat eating is rarely a necessity.

Rumors and Allegations

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What should we make of the rumors and charges that have been circulated through the years regarding Ellen White’s own dietary choices?

Ham on the White table. D. M. Canright, a hostile ex-Adventist preacher, is reported to have said that he saw the Whites eat ham in their own home. He probably was right since he “embraced the Sabbath” under James White’s preaching in 1859. Early Adventists did not understand the distinction between clean and unclean meats. In the late 1850s, the Whites were still eating swine’s flesh.37 Not until after the Otsego vision of June, 1863, did they cease eating it.38 Between 1859 and 1863, Canright would have had many opportunities to see the Whites eating swine’s flesh.

Ellen White was a backslider on meat eating all her life. Ellen White did not claim that after the 1863 Otsego health vision she never again ate meat. Prior to the vision, she believed that she “was dependent upon a meat diet for strength.” Because of her weak physical condition, especially for her tendency to faint when weak and dizzy, she thought that meat was “indispensable.”39 In fact, at that time she was “a great meat eater”; flesh meat was her “principal article of diet.”40

But she complied with advancing light. She cut meat out of her “bill of fare” immediately, along with butter and three meals a day. What was the result? “My former faint and dizzy feelings have left me.” Years later, at eighty-two years of age, she could write: “I have better health today, notwithstanding my age, than I had in my younger days.”41

Yet, as we studied earlier (see p. 312), Ellen White did eat meat occasionally, noting in 1901 that there were times in the past when she “was compelled to eat a little meat.”42 Difficult travel conditions, new cooks, and medical emergencies demanded reasonable adjustments. In other words, she was not a fanatic regarding meat eating, especially in her counsel to others: “I have never felt that it was my duty to say that no one should taste of meat under any circumstances. To say this . . . would be carrying matters to extremes. I have never felt that it was my duty to make sweeping assertions. What I have said I have said under a sense of duty, but I have been guarded in my statements, because I did not want to give occasion for anyone to be conscience for another.”43

It is also important to note that Ellen White distinguished between “meat” and “fish.” In 1876 she wrote her traveling husband: “We have not had a particle of meat in the house since you left and long before you left. We have had salmon a few times. It has been rather high [in price].”44

In poverty-stricken Australia during the mid-1890s, she recognized that fish would be an appropriate part of the diet of the workmen who were building Avondale College. In a letter to her son Willie, she wrote: “We cannot feed them all, but will you please get us dried codfish and dried fish of any description—nothing canned? This will give a good relish to the food.”45

Two years after her personal no-meat pledge at the Brighton (Australia) camp meeting, Mrs. White wrote to her non-Adventist niece, Mary Clough Watson: “Two years ago I came to the conclusion that there was danger in using the flesh of dead animals, and since then I have not used meat at all. It is never placed on my table. I use fish when I can get it. We get beautiful fish from the salt water lake near here. I use neither tea nor coffee. As I labor against these things, I cannot but practice that which I know to be best for my health, and my family are in perfect harmony with me. You see, my dear niece, that I am telling you matters just as they are.”46

Oysters. Fannie Bolton,47 a former literary assistant, wrote that Ellen White, at a rail depot, ate “big white raw oysters with vinegar, pepper and salt. . . . I was overwhelmed with this inconsistency and dumb with horror. Elder Starr hurried me out and made all sorts of excuses and justifications of Sister White’s action; yet I kept thinking in my heart, ‘What does it mean? What has God said? How does she dare eat these abominations?’”48

When G. B. Starr heard of this letter he was astounded. He responded to W. C. White: “I can only say that I regard it as the most absurdly, untruthful lot of rubbish that I have ever seen or read regarding our dear Sister White.

“The event simply never occurred. I never saw your mother eat oysters or meat of any kind either in a restaurant or at her own table. Fannie Bolton’s statement . . . is a lie of the first order. I never had such an experience and it is too absurd for anyone who ever knew your mother to believe. . . .

“I think this entire letter was written by Fannie Bolton in one of her most insane moments.49 . . .

“When we visited Florida in 1928, Mrs. Starr and I were told that at a camp meeting, Fannie Bolton made a public statement that she had lied about Sister White, and that she repented of it.”50

Though Fannie Bolton’s report was false, Ellen White did request oysters in 1882 in a letter to Mary, her daughter-in-law: “If you can get me a good box of herrings, fresh ones, please do so. These last ones that Willie got are bitter and old. If you can buy . . . half a dozen cans of good tomatoes, please do so. We shall need them. If you can get a few cans of good oysters, get them.”51

What shall we make of this request for oysters? Aren’t oysters considered unclean according to Leviticus 11? The answer to that question was not clear to Seventh-day Adventists in the 1880s any more than their attitude toward pork was clear in the 1850s.52

In 1883 W. H. Littlejohn, pastor of the Battle Creek Tabernacle, conducted a question/answer column in the church paper. In answering whether oysters are included among the unclean foods of Leviticus 11, Littlejohn said: “It is difficult to decide with certainty whether oysters would properly come under the prohibition of Leviticus 11:9-12. . . . It would, however, seem from the language, as if they might.”53

Where no direct vision insight was given, Adventists like anybody else had to work their way through such dietary matters.

Ellen White was a hypocrite. This charge is based on the fact that Ellen White was lucid and forthright regarding the danger of meat eating but occasionally ate flesh foods.

Her son W. C., wrote to G. B. Starr in 1933 that the White family had been vegetarians but not always “teetotalers” (total abstainers from flesh foods).

In 1894, Ellen White wrote to a non-Adventist active in the temperance cause in Australia who had asked about the Adventist position on being “total abstainers”: “I am happy to assure you that as a denomination we are in the fullest sense total abstainers from the use of spirituous liquors, wine, beer, [fermented] cider, and also tobacco and all other narcotics. . . . All are vegetarians, many abstaining from the use of flesh food, while others use it in only the most moderate degree.”54 Many of Ellen White’s strongest statements against meat were written after she had renewed her commitment to total abstinence in 1894.

Here we note that for Ellen White a vegetarian was not necessarily a “teetotaler,” that is, a total abstainer, but one who did not eat flesh foods as a habit. Here we have a clear example of the difference between a principle and a policy. Vegetarianism was a policy based upon principle: we should eat the best food obtainable under the circumstances. Principles are clear statements, always true under all circumstances. Policies may change, due to time, place, and circumstances. Policies work out the principles by always doing the best possible under the circumstances. Only the individual’s conscience knows when those decisions of doing “one’s best” have been made.

Applying the Principles

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For Ellen White, the two basic principles in health reform are to “preserve the best health,”55 and “to eat the food which is most nourishing” in any given set of circumstances.56

In applying these principles, she said on many occasions: “In countries where there are fruits, grains, and nuts in abundance, flesh food is not the right food for God’s people.”57

She frequently used the term, “principle,” when stating her views on health reform. She credited her much improved personal health to “the principles of health reform.”58 She noted that her instruction on health reform dwelt “upon general principles.”59

Toward the end of her life, reflecting back on the years since 1863, she penned: “It is reported by some that I have not lived up to the principles of health reform, as I have advocated them with my pen. But I can say that so far as my knowledge goes, I have not departed from those principles.”60

For this reason Ellen White counseled church members “to avoid meat eating, not because it is regarded as a sin to eat meat, [that is, not a principle] but because it is not healthful [but a good policy].”61

She understood clearly the difference between unchangeable principles and the conditionality of policies. Note this wisdom: “Those who understand the laws of health and who are governed by principle, will shun the extremes, both of indulgence and of restrictions. Their diet is chosen, not for the mere gratification of appetite, but for the upbuilding of the body. They seek to preserve every power in the best condition for the highest service to God and man. . . . There is real common sense in dietetic reform. The subject should be studied broadly and deeply, and no one should criticize others because their practice is not, in all things, in harmony with his own. It is impossible [in matters of diet] to make an unvarying rule to regulate everyone’s habits, and no one should think himself a criterion for all.”62

Prior to the 1901 General Conference session, a few leaders met with Ellen White concerning dietary practices. Her remarks were recorded by C. C. Crisler, her secretary: “Oh, how it has hurt me to have the [road] blocks thrown in the way in regard to this subject. Some have said, ‘Sister White eats cheese, and therefore we are at liberty to eat cheese.’ I have tasted cheese once or twice, but that is a different thing from making it a diet. Once when at Minneapolis, I sat down at a table on which there was some cheese. I was quite sick at the time, and some of my brethren told me that they thought if I ate a little cheese, it might do me good. I ate a small piece, and from then it has been reported in large assemblies that Sister White eats cheese.

“I have not had meat in my house for years. But do not give up the use of meat because Sister White does not eat it. I would not give a farthing for your health reform if that is what it is based upon. I want you to stand in your individual dignity and in your individual consecration before God, the whole being dedicated to Him. . . . I want you to think of these things. Do not make any human being your criterion.”63

Ellen White understood clearly the difference between principle and policy. Her common sense in regard to health reform made her a physically stronger, more productive person as she became older—not a common experience for many in her day. Far from being a hypocrite, she led the way in assimilating principle into practice. Dietary practices were not a form of penance, nor a ritual by which to earn salvation.64


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1.Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 23. See also pp. 273, 274, 310.

2.Selected Messages, book 1, p. 396.


4.Selected Messages, book 2, p. 58.

5.Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 384, 386. In the nineteenth century, no method had been devised to keep grape juice from fermenting, excepting with ice (which was not a practical alternative). When the Whites used the term “domestic wine,” they referred to grape juice as free from fermentation as possible. In reference to communion services, James White counseled in 1867: “This objecting to a few drops of domestic wine with which to only wet the lips at the Lord’s supper, is carrying total abstinence principles to great length. . . . Know what you use. Let the deacons obtain the cultivated grape, see the wine made, and secured from the air to keep it from fermenting as much as possible.”—Review and Herald, April 16, 1867.

6.Review and Herald, March 17, 1868.

7.Letter 363, 1907, cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 466.

8.Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 562.

9.Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 417; “Every violation of principle in eating and drinking blunts the perceptive faculties, making it impossible for them to appreciate or place the right value upon eternal things. It is of the greatest importance that mankind should not be ignorant in regard to the consequences of excess. Temperance in all things is necessary to health and the development and growth of a good Christian character.”—Counsels on Health, p. 38.

10. Temperance, pp. 139, 146.

11. Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 159.

12. The Ministry of Healing, p. 296.

13. See pp. 95-97. Ellen White’s sound judgment was reflected in her admonition against extremism in diet matters: “Those who desire to be co-workers with God must consider carefully before they specify just what foods should and should not be eaten. We are to be brought into connection with the masses. Should health reform in its most extreme form be taught to those whose circumstances forbid its adoption, more harm than good would be done. As I preach the gospel to the poor, I am instructed to tell them to eat that food which is most nourishing. . . . The gospel must be preached to the poor, but the time has not yet come to prescribe the strictest diet.”—General Conference Bulletin, June 2, 1909, p. 270.

14. “None should be urged to make the change abruptly. The place of meat should be supplied with wholesome foods that are inexpensive. . . . In all cases, educate the conscience, enlist the will, supply good, wholesome food, and the change will be readily made, and the demand for flesh will soon cease.”—The Ministry of Healing, p. 317.

15. “We are not to make the use of flesh food a test of fellowship, but we should consider the influence that professed believers who use flesh foods have over others. . . . Will those who are supported by the tithe from God’s storehouse permit themselves by self-indulgence to poison the life-giving current flowing through their veins?”—Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 159, 160; “While we do not make the use of flesh meat a test, while we do not want to force anyone to give up its use, yet it is our duty to request that no minister of the conference shall make light of or oppose the message of reform on this point.”—Letter 48, 1902, cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 401.

16. Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 493; MR, vol. 1, p. 223. Note Christ’s example: “While Christ accepted invitations to feasts and gatherings, He did not partake of all the food offered Him, but quietly ate of that which was appropriate for His physical necessities, avoiding the many things that He did not need. His disciples were frequently invited with Him, and His conduct was a lesson to them, teaching them not to indulge appetite by overeating or by eating improper food.”—MR, vol. 7, p. 412.

17. “I consider that one reason why I have been able to do so much work both in speaking and in writing, is because I am strictly temperate in my eating. If several varieties of food are placed before me, I endeavor to choose only those that I know will agree. Thus I am enabled to preserve clear mental faculties. I refuse to place in my stomach knowingly anything that will set up fermentation. This is the duty of all health reformers. We must reason from cause to effect.” —Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 493.

18. Testimonies, vol. 3, pp. 20, 21.

19. The Ministry of Healing, p. 320. See also pp. 282, 304, 311.

20. See pp. 34, 422.

21. James White, Review and Herald, Nov. 8, 1870; Manuscript 1, 1854 in MR, vol. 6, pp. 217-219.

22. Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 481; Manuscript 1, 1863 in Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 279, 280.

23. Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, p. 154, cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, pp. 482, 483; see also Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 371, 372.

24. Counsels on Diet and Foods, pp. 330, 486.

25. Ibid, p. 486.

26. Manuscript 12, 1873, cited in MR, vol. 7, p. 346.

27. Letter 12, 1874, cited in MR, vol. 7, pp. 346, 347.

28. Letter 2, 1884, cited in Bio., vol. 3, p. 245.

29. Letter 12, 1888, cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 490.

30. Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 394.

31. Letter 19c, 1892, cited in MR, vol. 7, p. 346.

32. Letter 76, 1895, cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 488.

33. Bio., vol. 6, pp. 393-396.

34. Mrs. White divided her nutritional principles into three major categories: (1) Foods to be used freely, such as fruits, grains, and vegetables; (2) Foods to be used moderately, such as salt, nuts, and certain non-animal fats; (3) Foods injurious to health (some worse than others), such as animal products, coffee, tea, alcohol, etc. Letters 45, 1903; 62, 1903; 127, 1904; 50, 1908, as cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, pp. 490-492.

35. Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 159.

36. Except for beans, which not everyone could eat: “I cannot eat beans, for they are poison to me.”—Letter 19a, 1891, cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 494.

37. Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 206, 207.

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

39. Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, pp. 153, 154.

40. Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 371, 372; Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 487.

41. Manuscript 50, 1904, cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 482; Letter 83, 1901, cited in Ibid., p. 487; Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 371; Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, p. 154; Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 150.

42. Letter 83, 1901, cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 487.

43. Letter 76, 1895, cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, pp. 462, 463.

44. Letter 13, 1876, cited in MR, vol. 14, p. 336.

45. Letter 149, 1895, cited in Roger Coon, Ellen White and Vegetarianism (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1986), pp. 20, 21.

46. Letter 128, 1896, cited in MR, vol. 14, p. 330.

47. See pp. 479-482.

48. Letter of Frances E. Bolton to Mrs. E. C. Slauson, Dec. 30, 1914, cited in The Fannie Bolton Story: A Collection of Source Documents (Ellen G. White Estate, April 1982), pp. 108, 109.

49. Fannie Bolton spent thirteen months as a mental patient in the Kalamazoo State Hospital, 1911-1912, and another three-and-a-half months in the same institution in 1924-25; she died in 1926.

50. Letter of G. B. Starr to W. C. White, Aug. 30, 1933, cited in Ibid., pp. 118, 119.

51. Letter 16, 1882, cited in Coon, Ellen White and Vegetarianism, p. 19.

52. In a document entitled, “The Development of Adventist Thinking on Clean and Unclean Meats,” Ron Graybill stated that “nineteenth-century Adventists . . . did not generally accept this distinction [between clean and unclean meats] based on Levitical law, even though they clearly condemned pork [eventually]. . . . While Adventists argued vigorously against pork, the weight of their argument continued to be carried by physiological criteria. Uriah Smith explicitly rejected the applicability of the Mosaic distinction: ‘We believe there is better ground on which to rest [the prohibition on pork] than the ceremonial law of the former dispensation, for if we take the position that the law is still binding, we must accept it all, and then we shall have more on our hands than we can easily dispose of.’. . .

“Ellen White’s own understanding of the clean-unclean distinction seems to have grown stronger over time. In 1864 she did note in passing that Noah wasallowed to eat ‘clean’ beasts after the Flood. And in 1890, when Patriarchs and Prophets was published, she noted that Samson’s parents had been instructed to withhold from him ‘every unclean thing.’ This distinction ‘between articles of food as clean and unclean’ was not, she said, ‘a merely ceremonial and arbitrary regulation, but was based upon sanitary principles.’ Furthermore, the ‘marvelous vitality’ of the Jewish people for thousands of years could be traced to this distinction.

“Probably more familiar to early Adventists were James C. Jackson’s comments on oysters, included along with his other criticisms of flesh foods in an article James and Ellen White reprinted in Health: or How to Live. Jackson objected to the oysters because they were scavengers.” Graybill noted that S. N. Haskell was probably the most explicit in using Leviticus 11 as a clear Biblical prohibition on all unclean meats. He concluded his research with this perspective: “Compared with the amount of material in the [Adventist] literature against pork, however, the objections to oysters and other ‘unclean’ meats is so minuscule as to hardly be noticed.”—Ron Graybill, “The Development in Adventist Thinking on Clean and Unclean Meats,” available from the Ellen G. White Estate.

53. Review and Herald, Aug. 14, p. 1883.

54. Letter 99, 1894, cited in Bio., vol. 4, p. 119.

55. The Youth’s Instructor, May 31, 1894, cited in Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 395.

56. Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 163.

57. Ibid., p. 159.

58. Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 482.

59. Ibid., p. 493; Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 372.

60. Ibid., pp. 491, 492.

61. Manuscript 15, 1889, cited in MR, vol. 5, pp. 400, 401; vol. 16, p. 173.

62. The Ministry of Healing, p. 319.

63. Manuscript 43, 1901, cited in MR, vol. 13, pp. 202-203.

64. “I saw that you had mistaken [dietary] notions about afflicting your bodies, depriving yourselves of nourishing food. These things led some of the church to think that God is surely with you, or you would not deny self, and sacrifice thus. But I saw that none of these things will make you more holy. The heathen do all this, but receive no reward for it.”—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 205; (See whole testimony, pp. 204-209).

Study Questions

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1. What are Ellen White’s ten guidelines for keeping health reform positive and progressive?

2. What is the difference between being a “teetotaler” and a practicing vegetarian?

3. In regard to health reform, how does one distinguish between principles and policies?

4. Why is the practice of ignoring “known duty” a symptom of rebellion?

5. How do we explain Ellen White’s “step-by-step” journey into incorporating her own health principles into her daily practice?

6. How can serious health reformers distinguish between principles and policies? What possible circumstances alter policies, but not principles?

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