Ellen G. White and the SDA Health Message
Roger W. Coon
A. God's Apparent Priorities for Ellen White's Visions (1845-65)
1. Priority #1: Formulation of the Doctrinal Framework -- The Decade of the 1840s:
a. The role of the "Sabbath/Sanctuary Conferences" (1848-50).
b. Dec. 13, 1850: "We know [now] that we have the truth" (Letter 30, 1850).
2. Priority #2: Church Organization of the SDA Denomination -- The Decade of the 1850s:
a. Dec. 24: 1850: the first vision on "gospel order," 11 days after EGW's declaration on doctrinal certitude.
b. First three steps in organization, taken in 1860:
(1) May 13: first "legally-organized" church body, at
. Parkville, MI
(2) Oct. 1: Seventh-day Adventist name adopted.
(3) Oct. 1: first institution (publishing house) organized, at
. Battle Creek
c. The General Conference was organized on May 21, 1863, at
. Battle Creek
3. Priority #3: Development of the "Health"/LifestyleMessage -- The Decade of the 1860s:
a. The first major health-reform vision was given June 6, 1863, a mere 16 days after the General Conference was organized.
(1) The first known vision relating to health concerns was given in the Autumn of 1848.
(2) A second, limited, view was presented on Feb. 12, 1854.
(3) The third (and 1st major) vision was given Friday evening, June 6, 1863, at Otsego, MI, in the home of layman Aaron Hilliard, during a family Sabbath vespers worship fellowship.
(4) The last of the first four (and the 2nd major) health-reform vision would come two years later, on Christmas Day, 1865, in the church at Rochester, NY, in a service especially called to pray for the restoration of James White's deteriorating health condition.
I. The Need for a "Health"/Lifestyle Message
A. The Need at Mid-19th Century
1. A survey of obituaries of Seventh-day Adventist in the Review & Herald (1857-63) reveals that American life-expectancy was extremely short-and SDAs were no exception:
a. Age of SDAs at death:
(1) Slightly more that one-fourth (26.5%) died during the first seven years of life
(2) Another one-fourth (22.5%) died between the ages of 10 and 29.
(3) Thus, about half (49%) of all SDA recorded death in this period came before the individual attained his or her 30th year of life. (U.S. Government statistics for this period today are sketchy at best; but a published government study of mortality rates in
indicates that SDAs were no better or worse off than the general population.) Massachusetts
b. Death frequently came with unexpected suddenness.
c. Causes of death: Overwhelmingly from communicable diseases-
(1) Nearly half (46 of 101 victims) perished from pulmonary diseases (tuberculosis was then generally known as "consumption").
(2) Typhoid was the second most-frequently reported cause (16 of 101 victims).
(3) And diphtheria came in third (7 of 101 victims).
d. "Domino"-phenomenon: one family member would become ill, die suddenly, and contagion would quickly take many of the remaining family.
(1) Nursing the ill was almost a passport to death for the care-giver; and families were decimated in an unbelievably short period by multiple deaths.
e. Death was no respected of persons: family of church leaders were afflicted, suffering incredible losses, as often as those of lay members.
f. Frequently the funeral services for the deceased were conducted without the presence of a minister.
g. In short, death was a common, frequent, and most unwelcome intruder in every SDA family.
2. The practice of medicine in the first half of the nineteenth century was, according to our modern standards of medicine, nothing less than a scary and dreadful practice. The death of George Washington, first president of the
, offers an illustration of how medicine was practiced even when the person suffered from a minor ailment. This is the context in which Ellen White began to call for reforms in medical treatments. United States
See Appendix A on the Death of George Washington.
B. The Need Today
1. While mortality rates have been materially lowered in the past 150 years, the health condition of the average American is till seriously at risk:
b. Every 30 seconds an American is diagnosed with cancer, and every 55 seconds an American dies of one form or another of this deadly killer (At the rate of 1,400 per day!).
c. During 1995, more than 145,000 women learned they had breast cancer; and almost one-third of male deaths in this period were caused by either colon or prostrate cancer.
d. Diabetes costs the U.S. $13 billion yearly, with a new diabetic diagnosed every 50 seconds!
e. Every 25 seconds someone in
2. All of the latest studies point to the typical American diet as the major culprit in the nation's deteriorating health.
a. While, admittedly, American eating habits have made major shifts in the last century, yet sugar consumption has risen by 250% in the same period.
b. A century ago, 75% of all protein intake came from plant foods; but today 75% is derived from animal sources.
c. In his or her lifetime, the average American today will consume: 15 cows, 900 chickens, 24 hogs, 1,000 lbs. of fish and game, 12 sheep, 26,250 lbs. of dairy products (375 lbs. per year!).
d. This type of diet is high in protein and fat, low in fiber and complex carbohydrates, and deficient in many trace minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals -- a sure prescription for early disease and untimely death.
3. The tragic fact is that many (if not the majority) of these cases of disease and death are unnecessary, and readily preventable!
a. Dr. Suhma Palmer (
): "A healthy diet could dramatically reduce your chances of getting cancer of the colon, prostate, and breast." Georgetown University
b. American Medical Association: " A vegetarian diet can prevent 97% of our coronary occlusions."
c. Dr. Gio Gori (National Cancer Institute): "The dietary factors responsible for cancer are principally meat and fat intake."
d. Dr. Hans Diehl (Cardiovascular Health Improvement Program,
): "The main villain in diabetes in the enormous amount of fat in our diet." Loma Linda, CA
4. Ironically, the very
health/lifestyle message that would have prevented millions of untimely and unnecessary
deaths was proclaimed nearly a century and a half ago, by a remarkable, then
little-known, lady who had completed less than four years of elementary/primary
II. Seven Reasons Why God Gave Seventh-day Adventists a Health Message
A. The "Longevity" Reason: That
Seventh-day Adventists Might Live Longer
1. For an historical survey of the appalling health conditions which obtained in 19-th-Century
, when Ellen White gave much of her instruction in health-related matters, see Roger W. Coon, "The Good Old Days," Adventist Review, Feb. 25, 1993, pp. 1, 10-12. America
2. The typical life-span in the patriarchal period (Adam to Noah) was nearly 1,000 years (CD 117; 1SM 230).
3. Its decrease was especially rapid after the Flood (4 SG-a 121), and has continued to decline from generation to generation ever since (CH 19; EW 184).
4. Causes of a shortened life-span are identified as:
a. Man's sinful course (PP 68; SR 49) in disregarding the laws of life (3T 140) and nature (CH 41)
b. The misuse of the body (CH 41), particularly in:
(1) Self-indulgence (4T 343)
(2) Misuse of one's physical powers (COL 346; ML 134; MYP 235)
(3) Overtaxing one set of mental organs (3T 34)
(4) Overtaxing the stomach (CD 131), especially in eating flesh food (4SG-a 121).
5. And one may, today, prolong his/her longevity by a "careful supervision" of one's own habits of living (CD 162), especially by the promotion of a cheerful spirit (MH 241).
"Happiness" Reason: That Seventh-day Adventists Might Enjoy the Years
That They Do Have
1. What a God is our God! He rules over His kingdom with diligence and care, and He has built a hedge-- the Ten Commandments--about His subjects to preserve them from the results of transgression. In requiring obedience to the laws of His kingdom, God gives His people health and happiness, peace and joy. He teaches them that the perfection of character He requires can be attained only by becoming familiar with His word. (CT 454)
2. You have created unnatural appetites, and do not derive half that enjoyment from your food which you would if you had not used your appetites wrongfully. . . . A wrong course of eating or drinking destroys health, and with it the sweetness of life. Oh, how many times have you purchased what you called a good meal at the expense of a fevered system, loss of appetite, and loss of sleep! Inability to enjoy food, a sleepless night, hours of suffering--all for a meal in which taste was gratified! Thousands have indulged their perverted appetites, have eaten a good meal, as they called it, and as the result, have brought on a fever, or some other acute disease, and certain death. That was enjoyment purchased at immense cost. (2T 69)
C. The "Pragmatic" Reason: That Seveth-day Adventists Might Be Enabled to Render Service to God Longer, More Efficiently
1. The God of heaven has given us reasoning powers and intellect, and He wants us to use them. He has given us this body which he wishes us to preserve in perfect health so that we can give Him perfect service. (Ms 6a, June 27, 1886; cited in UL 192)2. Any course of action that weakens your physical or mental power, unfits you for the service of your Creator. We are to love God with all our hearts, and, if we have an eye single to his glory, we shall eat, drink, and clothe ourselves with reference to his divine will. Every one who has a realizing sense of what it means to be a Christian, will purify himself from everything that weakens and defiles. All the habits of his life will be brought into harmony with the requirements of the word of truth, and he will not only believe, but will work out his own salvation with fear and trembling, while submitting to the molding of the Holy Spirit. (RH, March 6, 1888)
D. The "Public
Relations" Reason: That Seventh-day Adventists Might Be a Good
Advertisement for the
1. God, by exhibiting His chosen people who are specimens of good health, hopes to attract the attention of non-SDA public, to create a favorable impression. We might characterize this as His "public-relations reason!"
2. Nothing will open doors for the truth like evangelistic medical missionary work. This will find access to hearts and minds, and will be a means of converting many to the truth.-Ms 58, 1901; cited in Ev 513:1.
3. "Medical Missionary work" is characterized as "a great entering wedge" (CH 535, 1893) and "the right, helping hand of the gospel" (Ms 58, 1901; cited in Ev 513:1; cf. 7T 59, 1902), that "will break down prejudice as nothing else can" (9T 211, 1909).
a. A warning against a disproportionate over-emphasis upon health was sounded in correspondence with General Conference President O. A. Olsen and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. In a letter to the latter, EGW wrote:
(1) I have been shown that you also are in danger of making serious mistakes. You feel a deep interest in the circulation of the health publications, and this is right; bur that special branch is not to be made all-absorbing. The health reform is as closely related to the third angel's message as the arm to the body; but the arm cannot take the place of the body.... The presentation of health principles must be united with this message, but must not be independent of it, or in any way take the place of it. (Lt 57, May 27, 1896; cited in 16MR 332)
4. I have been instructed by my guide that not only should those who believe the truth practice health reform, but they should also teach it diligently to others; for it will be an agency through which the truth can be presented to the attention of unbelievers. They will reason that if we have such sound ideas in regard to health and temperance, there must be something in our religious belief that is worth investigation. (Lt 1, 1875; cited in Ev 514)
E. The "Evangelistic/Missionary" Reason: That Seventh-day Adventists Might Help Non-Adventists Find the Benefits/Blessings of Good Health
1. In every place the sick may be found. . . . Workers for Christ should be . . . prepared to give those who are sick the simple treatments that will relieve them, and even pray with them. (MM 320, 1911)
2. As the medical missionary work upon the body, God works upon the heart. The comforting words that are spoken are a soothing balm, bring assurance and trust. (Ms 58, 1901; cited in Ev 517)
3. Many have lost the sense of eternal realities, lost the similitude of God, and they hardly know whether they have souls to be saved or not. They have neither faith in God nor confidence in man. As they see one with no inducement of earthly praise or compensation come into their wretched homes, ministering to the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and tenderly pointing all to Him of whose love and pity the human worker is but the messenger--as they see this, their hearts are touched. Gratitude springs up. Faith is kindled. They see that God cares for them, and they are prepared to listen as His Word is opened. (RH, Aug. 3, 1905; cited in Ev 517)
"Intellectual" Reason: That Seventh-day Adventists' Mental Perception
Might Be Sharpened to Better Understand Secular (as Well as Spiritual) Truth
1. You need not go to the
ends of the earth for wisdom, for God is near. It is not the capabilities you
now possess or ever will have that will give you success. It is that which the
Lord can do for you. We need to have far less confidence in what man can do and
far more confidence in what God can do for every believing soul. He longs to
have you reach after Him by faith. He longs to have you expect great things
from Him. He longs to give you understanding in temporal as well as in
spiritual matters. He can sharpen the intellect. He can give tact and skill.
Put your talents into the work, ask God for wisdom, and it will be given you. (
2. God gave Daniel and his companions "knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams" (Dan. 1:17). . . . God cooperates with human effort. . . God can give you skill in all your learning. He can help you to adapt yourselves to the line of study you shall take up. Place yourselves in right relation to God. Make this your first interest. . . . It rests with you to say whether you will have knowledge and skill. (Ms 13, Feb. 2, 1900; cited in UL 47)
3. Truth constantly enriches the receiver.
The minds of those who receive the truth increase in activity. As they exercise
their talents, seeking to improve every capability, their mental and spiritual
powers strengthen, for where there is spiritual life, there is development and
growth. . . . And not only will the minds of those helped be impressed, but the
mind of him who is doing the work will be quickened by the power of the Holy
Spirit. Through the cooperation of the power that comes from God alone, he will
be enabled to make the truth so plain that it will vibrate in other minds. (Ms
88, July 10, 1898; cited in UL 205)
"Spiritual" Reason: That Seventh-day Adventists Might Attain Greater
Spiritual Growth and Development-That We May Become More Like Him
1. The Lord desires that we excel in mental development as regards spiritual truth, as well as secular truth; and He wishes us to thereby be better enabled to withstand the temptations of Satan.
2. The sacred temple of the body must be kept pure and uncontaminated, that God's Holy Spirit may dwell therein. (Lt 103, 1897)
3. All who consecrate soul, body, and spirit to God will be constantly receiving a new endowment of physical and mental power. The inexhaustible supplies of heaven are at their command. Christ gives them the breath of His own spirit, the life of His own life. The Holy Spirit puts forth its highest energies to work in heart and mind. The grace of God enlarges and multiplies their faculties, and every perfection of the divine nature comes to their assistance in the work of saving souls. Through co-operation with Christ they are complete in Him, and in their human weakness they are enabled to do the deeds of Omnipotence. (DA 827)
4. Do not, because you are among unbelievers, become careless in your words, for they are taking your measure. If you sit at their table, eat temperately, and only of food that will not confuse the mind. Keep yourself from all intemperance. Be yourself an object lesson, illustrating right principles. If they offer you tea to drink, tell them in simple words [of] its injurious effect on the system. Tell them also that you do not use spirituous drinks of any kind, because you desire to keep your mind in such a condition that God can impress it with the sacred truths of His Word, and that you cannot afford to weaken any of your mental and physical powers, lest you shall be unable to discern sacred things. Thus you can sow the seeds of truth, and lead out upon the subject of keeping soul, body, and spirit in such a condition that you can understand eternal realities. (Ms 23, Nov 24, 1890; cited in UL 342)
5. All whom God has blessed with reasoning powers are to become intellectual Christians. They are not requested to believe without evidence; therefore Jesus has enjoined upon all to search the Scriptures. Let the ingenious inquirer, and the one who would know for himself what is truth, exert his mental powers to search out the truth as it is in Jesus. . . . The Lord positively demands of every Christian an intelligent knowledge of the Scriptures. (RH, March 8, 1887)
III. Characteristics of the Health Message
A. Source of the Health Message
1. EGW declared concerning the origin of her health message that it was given by Divine initiative; and, also, by direct revelation:
I have had great light from the Lord upon the subject of health reform. I did not seek this light; I did not study to obtain it; it was given to me by the Lord to give to others. (MS 29, 1897; cited in CD 493)
B. Purpose of the Health Message
This message was given for practical/pragmatic reasons. [We have already noted God's Seven Reasons for giving us a health message.]
C. Uniqueness of the
1. Ellen White's health/lifestyle message was not always unique:
a. SDAs were not always the earliest--and, therefore, the first--to teach certain aspects of healthful living (though it is nevertheless true that, in certain areas, Elle White was well in advance of the general thinking of her day).
b. Ellen White is not proven to be a true prophet simply because of her advanced health/lifestyle counsels:
(1) Brigham Young, the Mormon leader who took his Latter Day Saints west to Utah in 1846, taught many of the same health principles that EGW taught-and, in some instances, a number of years before she wrote!
(2) Clara Barton (1821-1912), known as "The Angel of the Battlefield" during the American Civil War (1861-61) and later founder of the American Red Cross, also reportedly taught some of the same truths as EGW -- and, in certain instances, possibly earlier that EGW.
c. Priority in the time of utterance neither qualifies nor disqualifies one as a prophet.
(1) A prophet is proven true or false by whether or not his/her teachings-taken as a whole, and especially their theological teachings-harmonize with the Word of God (Isa 8:20). (See Roger W. Coon, "Where Ellen White's Health Writings Unique?: Does a Prophet Have to say It First?," Adventist Review, April 8, pp. 16, 17.)
2. But Ellen White's health/lifestyle message was unique in its Philosophical/Theological approach to health:
(1) Ellen White linked the Christian's physical condition and the spiritual experience in a cause-effect relationship.
(a) She made healthful living a religious obligation, part of "resent truth," as J. H. Waggoner pointed out in the RH of Aug. 7, 1866 (where he, too, made the point that SDAs were not always the earliest/first to teach certain health practices).
(2) In addition to SDAs, the only other religious bodies to make health concerns a religious and moral concerns are: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and Islam.
(3) As noted above, the health/lifestyle message was linked to the "right arm" of a human body; but it was not to be viewed as the entire body itself.
D. Practicality of the Health Message
1. Ellen White's health/lifestyle message is not merely a philosophical/theoretical subject for intellectual discussion and debate (though it does stand up quite well in such!). It is, rather, a practical way of life, with tangible, demonstrable benefits for the faithful adherent.
2. In 1895, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg recruited Dr. David Paulson to come and work with him as a professional colleague in the Battle Creek Sanitarium. During the interview Kellogg asked Paulson if he knew how the former managed to stay five years ahead of the medical profession. Paulson did not know, and Kellogg added:
When a new thing is brought out in the medical work, I know from my knowledge of the Spirit of Prophecy whether it belongs in our system or not. If it does, I instantly adopt it, and advertise it, while the rest of the doctors are slowly feeling their way; and when they finally adopt it, I have five years' start of them. On the other hand, when the medical profession is swept off their feet by some new fad, if it does not fit the light we have received, I simply do not touch it. When the doctors finally discover their mistake, they wonder how it came that I did not get caught. (Ellen G. White Estate, A Critique of the Book Prophetess of Health (1976), pp. 16, 17)
E. Breadth/Scope of the Health Message
1. The health/lifestyle message is more than vegetarianism (though it includes it). It is more, even, than the more broad question of diet/nutrition (though it includes these, too). It embraces a total concept of -- and program for -- wellness, including (among other things) physical exercise and mental hygiene.
2. It is concerned with the prevention of disease, not merely its cure. And it embraces the maintenance of good health, as well as its recovery.
F. Universality of the Health Message
1. Because it is based upon broad, far-reaching principle, as well as the application of those principles in specific instances, EGW's health/lifestyle message finds a practical, helpful, utilitarian application in every country, and in every culture.
G. Evangelistic Utility of the Health Message
1. Fitness, wellness, wholeness, healing through natural means, are all "in" topics of contemporary interest on the part of the majority in many parts of the world today.
2. SDAs do well to capitalize upon this interest, and exploit it to the fullest for soul-winning ends, by means of promoting:
a. Interest in vegetarianism
b. Cooking schools
c. Stop-smoking programs
d. Alcohol and substance-abuse emphasis in drug-recovery and prevention seminars.
e. Weight-loss programs
f. Exercise classes
g. Stress-management programs
h. Healthful living classes
3. The health/lifestyle message provides an excellent opportunity to make a first-introduction of Ellen White to non-SDAs, as a valuable and effective "entering wedge," by bringing into focus her amazing contribution in this area of near-universal interest, and showing her advance concepts from a positive perspective.
IV. The Health Message Defined: What is the Health Message?
1. There is a significant link between the Christian's physical condition and the spiritual experience.
a. God intends our bodies to be spiritual "temples" for the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.
(1) God "owns" these "buildings" by right both of original creation and subsequent redemption by purchase-back, at a staggering personal cost to Heaven.
(2) He, therefore, cares, deeply, about how they are treated (1 Cor 6:19, 20).
b. As the "Owner," God has every legal and ethical right to decide how His personal property is treated (and He wants, above all, to get His "money's worth!).
(1) As "tenant," man has no right to do as he pleases with Someone else's property -- "this wonderful house the Lord has given us" (Lt 85, 1888; cited in 7MR 224).
(2) We have a sacred obligation to maintain these "dwellings" in an condition of optimum health. (EGW often uses the expression "sacred duty.")
(3) Men and Women are to honor and to glorify God in their bodies, by not defiling them. To shorten one's life-span, "by disregarding nature's laws," is viewed as being "guilty of robbery toward God" (RH, Dec. 1, 1896; cited in CH 41). God will punish severely all who desecrate their "body-temple."
c. Mankind was originally created by Christ in "the image of God" (Gen 1:27)
(1) Through Adam and Eve's sin this image was subsequently marred (in some, nearly obliterated); the entire creation was affected.
(2) The great goal of Christianity, theologically speaking, is "redemption"-the restoration of what once was, back, ultimately, to its original state (Ms 161, July 1, 1903; cited in UL 196:2; GH, Oct 1, 1899:2).
d. "All should have an intelligent knowledge of the human frame, that they may keep their bodies in the condition necessary to do the work of the Lord" (RH, Dec 1, 1896; cited in CH 41).
e. "The health of the body is to be regarded as essential for growth in grace and the acquirement of an even temper. If the stomach is not properly cared for, the formation of an upright, moral character will be hindered. The brain and nerves are in sympathy with the stomach. Erroneous eating and drinking result in erroneous thinking and acting" (9T 159-160; cited in CD 405).
2. The body, in general, and the mind (with its central nervous system), in particular, is the only medium through which God can communicate with human beings (MH 130). (This, indeed, may be the most important concept in the entire health/lifestyle message!)
a. This may explain, then, Satan's concerted efforts to pollute, defile, and destroy -- if possible -- both mind and body.
b. And this is why we, as Christian human beings, have a "sacred duty" to resist, and to prevent-with God's help, of course -- this sabotage (CD. 44; 101; 257).
3. Although he/she follows correct health practices as a "sacred duty," yet in the act of obeying nature's health laws and basic health principles, the Christian "earns" nothing toward his salvation and eternal life (4SG-a 148, 149).
a. The laws of health are not absolutes placed by God at the same level as are the 10 Commandments; they are, rather ideal goals toward which we should strive to reach, whenever and wherever possible.
b. God has given us health rules, not as an arbitrary exercise in order to "show man who is boss;" but, rather, being able to foresee the end results of undesirable practices, He knew we would be healthier -- and, thus, happier -- if we avoided the harmful, and clung, instead, to the good. God requires obedience, not for the purpose of showing His authority, but that we may become one with Him in character (Ms 126, Nov 29, 1905; cited in UL 347).
c. Informed Christians observe true health principles, not in order to be saved, but, rather, because they have been saved; and they are motivated by love to do God's expressed will for their lives, as far as they know it.
d. "A clear mind enables us to understand God's will; a strong body enables us to do it" (SDA Encyclopedia :574).
e. But salvation itself, is not a matter of eating and drinking (see Rom 14:17); and salvation does not come to the Christian at the end of a knife, fork, or spoon! (While we cannot eat our way into God's kingdom, though, on the contrary, we certainly can eat our way out!)
4. The Christian, in every act of life, seeks to be guided by two great principles:
a. To actively seek to promote and maintain life and good health:
(1) "Preserve the best health" (CD 395).
(2) "Eat that food which is most nourishing" (9T 163; CD 353).
b. "Do the very best possible" in every circumstances in life in which we find ourselves (HP 60; MR #1115 and #1409).
(1) Ironically, following this principle, at times, may oblige and force the Christian to choose between the lesser of two acknowledged evils!
5. Authentic Christians will strive for self-control and follow the principles of "true temperance"
Temperance is defined as:
a. A "judicious" moderation in the use of all that is good and health-producing; and
b. "Total abstinence" from all that harms and hurts (PP 562).
6. The body, as temple of the Holy Spirit, can be polluted, defiled, and ultimately destroyed, through various bad health-habits.
a. Ingestion of all deleterious food/drink/and hurtful substances.
b. Insufficient (or a lack of the right kind of) physical exercise (ML 138; 2T 432, 525, 697; 3T 158; 7T 247).
c. Overwork -- often coupled with insufficient rest/relaxation (1T 618).
(1) I know from the testimonies given me from time to time for brain workers, that sleep is worth far more before than after midnight. Two hours' good sleep before twelve o'clock is worth more than four hours after twelve o'clock (Lt 85, May 10, 1888; cited in 7MR 224).
(2) Physical as well as mental workers should take a much longer time to eat than they generally allow; then one hour spent after eating, upon matters which are of little more consequence than to interest or amuse, before they subject themselves to hard labor again (Ibid.; cited in 7MR 225).
d. Feeding the mind upon impure thoughts (2T 408, 470; 5T 593).
(1) Paul's counsel is appropriate: "Whatsoever things are true...honest...just...pure...lovely...of good report..., think on these things (Phil 4:8).
e. Improper posture (Ed 198)
f. Abuse of bodily organs by:
(1) Over-eating (Te 283)-or eating too rapidly (CD 136; CH 577).
(2) Too much liquid-intake at mealtime (CD 105, 420; CH 120; MH 305).
(3) Irregularity in meal times (CD 182).
(4) Snacking in-between meals (MH 303; Ms 15, 1889; cited in 16MR 173:2).
(5) Physical over-exertion, straining, or construction of organs.
g. Failure to employ natural remedies -- or in sufficient amount.
7. God's people has an obligation to establish health care (and educational) centers to provide for the healing of those affected with illness/disease and to propagate preventive methods in a program of health education (1T 489; Ms 1, 1863).
8. Wherever possible, healing should be accomplished through natural remedies.
a. Natural remedies identified: [acronym: New Start]
(1) Nutrition (proper diet)
(3) Water (pure)
(5) Temperance (abstemiousness)
(6) Air (pure, fresh)
(8) Trust in Divine power (MH 127)
b. Poisonous drugs/substances should be avoided whenever and wherever possible (MM 85; Te 88; 2SM 296; 5T 195; 9T 175)
c. There is a legitimate place for some categories of drugs:
(2) Vaccination/immunizations against disease; prophylaxis against malaria, etc. (2SM 279-84 [especially footnote, p. 282]; 303, footnote).
(3) Judicious use of X-rays [technically, not a drug] (2SM 303).
9. The original Edenic vegetarian diet (fruits, nuts, grains, vegetables) is still the ideal diet today.
a. Flesh foods (meat, fish, poultry) and certain dairy and poultry products are increasingly undesirable and unsafe for;
(1) Physiological reasons: disease in the animal/fish itself and possible chemical/radioactive contamination.
(2) Spiritual reasons: animal products have a cause-effect relationship to one's spiritual experience.
b. When flesh articles are removed from the diet, adequate nutritional substitutes must be sought, and provided (9T 161, 162; SD 352).
c. Meals served must be characterized as:
(2) "Palatable" (CD 471)
(3) "Appetizing" (CT 312, 313)
(4) "Attractive" (CT 471, 312, 313; 6T 357; MR #1115)
d. Sabbath meals should "provide something that will be regarded as a treat" -- "something the family do not have every day" (6T 357).
10. In seeking the reform of others, attitude may be even more important than precept.
a. The greatest patience, kindness, courtesy, tact, and discretion must be exercised by the health-reformer at all times, if he/she is not to be truly effective in exercising a positive influence for good (9T 161; 7T 113; CD 493, 495).
b. "Balance" (6T 291) and "common sense" (2T 535) are imperatives.
c. If one is to err, it is "better to come one step short of the mark than to go one step beyond it" (thus being obliged to retrace one's footsteps); "and if there is to be error at all, let it be on the side next to the people" (3T 21; see also 5T 120-23).
V. The Source and Scope of the First Four Health Reform Visions
A. Vision of Autumn, 1848
1. Injurious effects of:
(1) Subject first noted in Autumn, 1848, vision in Connecticut: people to discard.
(2) First writing on subject: Lt 5, 1851: a "filthy weed," an "idol" that must be given up; the "frown of God" upon users.
(3) 1864: characterized as "most deceitful and malignant" (4SG-a 128).
(4) Revised shortly thereafter: "a slow, insidious, and most malignant poison" (MH 327:1).
(1) Alton Ashner, MD, professor of thoracic surgery, Tulane University Medical School, New Orleans: produced cinema film, "One in 20,000" (with a production grant from GC Temperance Dept,); believed to be the first major scientist to directly link cigarettes with lung cancer. Lung cancer deaths in USA in 1954: 20,000, hence film title.
(2) EGW's choice of adjectives significant:
(a) "Slow:" it takes about 20 years to fully incubate a full-blown case of lung cancer.
(b) "Insidious:" if you wait until you have symptoms of lung cancer to get medical help, you have waited too long; those only who are saved are those who get lung X-rays with periodical medical check-ups, catch it in time.
(c) "Most malignant:" the jury is no longer out on whether or not cigarettes are the principle cause of lung cancer.
(1) Research at Harvard University Medical School, 1981: coffee is the predisposing cause of cancer of the pancreas. While the chief chemical culprit is not yet identified, it cannot be caffeine, because as many drinkers of decaffeinated coffee get this disease as those who drink the straight, unadulterated beverage.
(2) Scientific study, Norway, 1984: coffee-drinkers have 2-1/2 times increase in heart attack (myocardial infarctus) as non-drinkers.
(3) Scientific study, Canada, 1993: a study of 331 Canadian women showed that drinking three cups of coffee daily during pregnancy more than doubled the statistical risk of miscarriage.
(a) Despite another recent study, which appeared to suggest that consumption of moderate amounts of coffee had no deleterious effect, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration was so concerned by the Canadian study results that it advised expectant mothers to reduce amount of caffeine intake (see Time Jan 3, 1994, p. 28).
(b) The Canadian study was reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Dec. 22/29, 1993, pp. 2940-2943 ("Fetal Loss Association With Caffeine Intake").
(c) In the same issue, an editorial appeared, based upon the findings of this study ("Caffeine During Pregnancy: Cause for Concern?," pp. 2973, 2974).
(d) In another study of coffee/caffeine: one-third of all bladder cancer caused by coffee-drinking!
(e) For a report on scientific research on caffeine-intake, see Galen C. Bosley, "Is Adventist Health Reform Scientific?," Ministry, April 1987, pp. 26-28; in Anthology I: 87/7-9.
(1) As beverage, tea is condemned as injurious to health.
(2) But as a pain-reliever, where no over-the-counter pain remedies are available, it was occasionally used by EGW.
B. Vision of Feb 12, 1854, Brookfield, NY
a. Health-related issues:
(1) Adultery among church members
(2) Lack of bodily cleanliness among Sabbath-keepers
(3) Control of appetite needed
b. Other topics disclosed:
(2) Parental neglect of their children
(3) Unwise youthful marriages
C. Vision of June 6, 1863
a. General Conference organized just 16 days earlier at Battle Creek.
b. James and Ellen White visiting evangelistic campaign by R. J. Laurence and M. E. Cornell at Otsego, MI over a weekend.
c. Stayed in home of layman Aaron Hilliard: 45-min. vision given Friday evening during sunset vespers at family worship; eyewitness account of teenage Martha Amadon extant.
d. Counsels given for recovery of James White's health and also for church at large.
e. For an account of this First major health-reform vision: see Roger W. Coon, The Great Visions of Ellen G. White, Vol 1[RH, 1992], Chapter 7 ("The Health Reform Vision: 'The Cure'"), pp. 90-107.
2. Content: emphasized earlier reforms, introduced new ones; 10 emphases-
a. Care of health a religious duty:
(1) God requires us to glorify Him in our bodies.
(2) We earn nothing, thereby, however, toward salvation/eternal life.
b. Most disease caused by a violation of the laws of health.
c. Wide-ranking attack on various forms of intemperance (not merely alcoholic form, though this was included):
(1) "Stimulating" drinks.
(2) Tobacco "in whatever form."
(3) Highly-spiced foods.
(4) Overlook: "intemperance in labor."
(5) "Indulgence of base passion" (not otherwise identified): context seems to focus upon intemperance sexual relations within marriage (not, however, an attack on legitimate coitus enjoyed in moderation).
d. Vegetarianism advocated for the first time:
(1) "Flesh" (meat, poultry, fish) in general, pork in particular, contraindicated in ideal diet.
e. Proper dietary habits necessary to control appetite: 2 dangers identified-
(1) Eating too much
(2) Eating in-between meals
f. Control of the mind essential:
(1) Many illnesses originate in a diseased mind, rather than from organic/viral cause.
g. Natural remedies preferred over drug medication:
(1) Those identified in this vision:
(a) Pure air
(b) Pure water-for both internal/external use
(d) Physical exercise
(e) Adequate rest
(f) Fasting for brief periods, to rest stomach
(g) Proper nutrition
(2) Another added in 1885 (22 years later):
(a) "A firm trust in God," "trust in divine power."
h. Personal cleanliness (originally raised in 1854 vision; reiterated here):
(1) Now broadened to include:
(c) Living environment
(2) Personal cleanliness placed on the level of "purity of heart" for all Christians.
i. Environmental Concerns:
(1) Remove decaying vegetation from immediate proximity of houses.
(2) Wherever possible, construct houses on high ground; avoid allowing water to settle in close proximity.
j. Health education urged:
(1) For the first time, education of the public raised to the level of "duty."
(2) Need further re-emphasized in the 4th health reform vision of Dec. 25, 1865, at Rochester, NY.
3. Significance of this vision: for the first time-
a. A link established between one's physical condition and spiritual experience.
b. Vegetarianism advocated as ideal goal; pork completely contraindicated.
c. Duty of church to engage in public-health education made explicit.
D. Vision of Dec. 25, 1865, Rochester, NY (1T 485-95)
a. Special service in Rochester SDA Church, not to celebrate Christmas, but, rather, to pray for recovery of James White's deteriorating health.
2. Vision Content: Seventh-day Adventists should establish a health-care institutions, to provide for two urgent needs:
a. To provide spiritual, as well as scientific therapies, to cure those already ill:
(1) God called for the creation of "institutions where the sick could get help from suffering" by the twin therapies:
(a) "Diligent treatment" based upon latest scientific discoveries
(b) "Earnest prayer in faith to God."
(2) "With all our treatments given to the sick, simple fervent prayer should be offered for the blessing of healing. We are to point the sick to the compassionate Saviour, and His power to forgive and to heal. Through His gracious providence they may be restored. Point the sufferers to their Advocate in the heavenly courts. Tell them that Christ will heal the sick, if they will repent and cease to transgress the laws of God. There is a Saviour who will reveal Himself in our sanitariums to save those who will submit themselves to Him. The suffering ones can unite with you in prayer, confessing their sin, and receiving pardon." (Lt 158, May 14, 1908, cited in 8MR, 267, 278).
b. To instruct in methods of preventive medicine, "that the sick may...learn how to live healthfully..so as to preserve health," to avoid unnecessary illness.
(1) "When the light came that we should have a sanitarium, the reason was plainly given. There were many who needed to be educated in regard to healthful living. A place must be provided to which the sick could be taken, where they could be taught how to live so as to preserve health."
(2) "Lectures should be diligently kept up as means of teaching the patients how to prevent disease by a wise course of action. by means of these lectures the patients may be shown the responsibility resting on them to keep the body in the most healthful condition because it is the Lord's purchased possession. Mind, soul, and body are bought with a price.... 'Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's (1 Cor 6:20)."
(3) "In the providence of God, instruction has been given that sanitariums be established, in order that the sick may be drawn to them, and learn how to live healthfully. The establishment of sanitariums is a providential arrangement, whereby people from all churches [of different denominations] are to be reached, and made acquainted with the saving truth for this time" (Lt 59, Feb. 4, 1905; cited in 7MR 378, 379).
On the Death of George Washington
Excerpt taken from Mervyn G. Hardinge, A Physician Explains Ellen White’s Counsel on Drugs, Herbs, and Natural Remedies (RHPA, 2001), pp. 37-38.
The death of George Washington offers one of the most dramatic examples of the dangers of early American medical practice. On Friday, December 13, 1799, Washington was exposed to a cold rain. Sometime during the night he had a bout of violent ague (a fever marked by paroxysms of chills alternating with fever and sweating) with pain in his upper throat, some difficulty in swallowing, and a slight cough. A fever and labored breathing followed the ague.
Washington, who believed in the benefits of bleeding, sent for a neighborhood bleeder, who removed some 13 ounces (370 milliliters) of blood. About 11:00 Saturday morning his own physician arrived. He decided to send for two consultants, who arrived in the afternoon. While waiting for their arrival, he bled Washington twice. The accounts do not specify the amount of blood removed, but do record “two copious bleedings.” He also gave the former president two doses of calomel (a cathartic), applied a blister to the front of his neck, and washed out his lower bowel with an enema. All his efforts produced no benefit. Washington’s breathing had become labored.
After the two consultants arrived, the three physicians, after discussing the case among themselves, decided to try another bleeding. This time they drained 32 ounces (900 milliliters) of blood, with no apparent benefit. In addition, they repeatedly gave their patient vapors of vinegar and water to breathe, several doses of tartar emetic to keep him vomiting, and a large dose of calomel to keep his bowels active. He had a large bowel movement, but his general condition worsened. Next they applied blisters to his legs and a bran poultice to his throat. Washington’s breathing became more difficult until he could speak only in whispers, and about 11:00 Saturday night he died.
As best as we can gather, Washington’s exposure to a cold rain on Friday brought on a sore throat or pharyngitis and laryngitis, an inflammation of his voice box. Washington himself, a believer in bleeding, ordered the first blood to be taken.
Part of his treatment consisted of four bleedings. His first involved about 13 ounces (370 milliliters). We can only estimate the amounts of blood drawn for his second and third procedures, although the historical records describe them as “two copious bleedings.” Since his final bleeding was 32 ounces, let’s estimate that his third and fourth [sic] bleedings were 24 ounces (675 milliliters) each. The total blood withdrawn, conservatively comes to 2,600 milliliters, more than two and one-half liters. It has been estimated that Washington, for his build and age, would probably have had seven liters of blood. The therapy drained Washington of roughly 40 percent of his blood. If the “copious bleedings” were in amounts the same as his final bleeding, the doctors could easily have withdrawn half of his blood.
They administered two moderate and one large dose of calomel. Calomel is a rather harsh cathartic. Also he received an enema. Repeated doses of tartar emetic induced vomiting. In addition, they blistered him on his front upper neck as well as his lower “extremities.” Usually the procedure involved large blisters on the thighs and calves. To add to the misery, they intermittently asked him to breathe “vapors of vinegar.”
Can you picture what occurred? A strong man developed a severe laryngitis. His doctors withdrew half of his blood, scoured his bowels with doses of cathartics, gave him an enema, and made him vomit repeatedly while breathing vinegar vapors. The blisters on his neck, thigh, and legs must have been like torture. And all this going on at the same time! It was enough to kill a man—and it did.
While some physicians criticized the treatment given Washington, I believe Paul Leicester Ford sums up the whole incident. “There can be scarcely a doubt that the treatment of his last illness by the doctors was little short of murder.”
A physician stated in 1849 that for many of his fellow medical professionals “the lancet, mercury, antimony or opium, are the great guns that they always fire on all occasions. . . . Whoever sends for a physician of this sort expects to be bled, blistered or vomited, or submitted to some other painful or nauseous medication.”