Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3


Chapter 6—Experience Not Reliable

Dear Sister N,

In the view given me December 10, 1871, I saw that some things had been great hindrances to your recovery of health. Your peculiar traits of character have prevented you from receiving the good you might have received, and from improving in health as you might have improved. You have a special routine to go through and you will not be turned aside from it. You have your ideas, which you carry out, when frequently they are not in harmony with physical law, but simply with your judgment. 3T 67.2

You have a strong mind and set will, and you think you understand your own case better than others can, because you trace your feelings. You are guided by your feelings and are governed by your experience. You have tried this and that plan to your entire satisfaction, and have decided that your judgment was the best to follow in your own case. But what has been your standard? Answer: Your feelings. Now, my sister, what have your feelings to do with the real facts in the case? But very little. Feelings are a poor criterion, especially when under the control of a strong imagination and firm will. You have a very determined mind, and your course is mapped out before you; but you do not view your case from a correct standpoint. Your judgment is not safe to be relied upon when it relates to your own case. 3T 68.1

I was shown that you had made some improvement, but not as much, as fast, or as thorough, as you might, because you take your case into your own hands. For this reason, and that you might feel it your duty to be guided by the judgment of the more experienced, I wished you to come to the Health Institute. The physicians of the Health Institute understand disease, its causes and proper treatment, better than you can; and if you will yield your set ideas willingly, and abide by their judgment, there is hope of your recovery. But if you refuse to do this, I see no hope of your becoming what you might be with proper treatment. 3T 68.2

As I have before stated, you, my sister, rely upon experience. Your experience decides you to pursue a certain course. But that which many term experience is not experience at all; it is simply habit, or mere indulgence, blindly and frequently ignorantly followed, with a firm, set determination, and without intelligent thought or inquiry relative to the laws at work in the accomplishment of the result. 3T 68.3

Real experience is a variety of careful experiments made with the mind freed from prejudice and uncontrolled by previously established opinions and habits. The results are marked with careful solicitude and an anxious desire to learn, to improve, and to reform on every habit that is not in harmony with physical and moral laws. The idea of others’ gainsaying what you have learned by experience seems to you to be folly and even cruelty itself. But there are more errors received and firmly retained from false ideas of experience than from any other cause, for the reason that what is generally termed experience is not experience at all; because there has never been a fair trial by actual experiment and thorough investigation, with a knowledge of the principle involved in the action. 3T 69.1

Your experience was shown to me as not reliable, because opposed to natural law. It is in conflict with the unchangeable principles of nature. Superstition, my dear sister, arising from a diseased imagination, arrays you in conflict with science and principle. Which shall be yielded? Your strong prejudices and very set ideas in regard to what course is best to be pursued relative to yourself have long held you from good. I have understood your case for years, but have felt incompetent to present the matter in so clear a manner that you could see and comprehend it, and put to a practical use the light given you. 3T 69.2

There are many invalids today who will ever remain so because they cannot be convinced that their experience is not reliable. The brain is the capital of the body, the seat of all the nervous forces and of mental action. The nerves proceeding from the brain control the body. By the brain nerves, mental impressions are conveyed to all the nerves of the body as by telegraph wires; and they control the vital action of every part of the system. All the organs of motion are governed by the communications they receive from the brain. 3T 69.3

If your mind is impressed and fixed that a bath will injure you, the mental impression is communicated to all the nerves of the body. The nerves control the circulation of the blood; therefore the blood is, through the impression of the mind, confined to the blood vessels, and the good effects of the bath are lost. All this is because the blood is prevented by the mind and will from flowing readily, and from coming to the surface to stimulate, arouse, and promote the circulation. For instance, you are impressed that if you bathe you will become chilly. The brain sends this intelligence to the nerves of the body, and the blood vessels, held in obedience to your will, cannot perform their office and cause a reaction after the bath. There is no reason in science or philosophy why an occasional bath, taken with studious care, should do you anything but real good. Especially is this the case where there is but little exercise to keep the muscles in action and to aid the circulation of the blood through the system. Bathing frees the skin from the accumulation of impurities which are constantly collecting, and keeps the skin moist and supple, thereby increasing and equalizing the circulation. 3T 69.4

Persons in health should on no account neglect bathing. They should by all means bathe as often as twice a week. Those who are not in health have impurities of the blood, and the skin is not in a healthy condition. The multitude of pores, or little mouths, through which the body breathes become clogged and filled with waste matter. The skin needs to be carefully and thoroughly cleansed, that the pores may do their work in freeing the body from impurities; therefore feeble persons who are diseased surely need the advantages and blessings of bathing as often as twice a week, and frequently even more than this is positively necessary. Whether a person is sick or well, respiration is more free and easy if bathing is practiced. By it the muscles become more flexible, the mind and body are alike invigorated, the intellect is made brighter, and every faculty becomes livelier. The bath is a soother of the nerves. It promotes general perspiration, quickens the circulation, overcomes obstructions in the system, and acts beneficially on the kidneys and urinary organs. Bathing helps the bowels, stomach, and liver, giving energy and new life to each. It also promotes digestion, and instead of the system's being weakened it is strengthened. Instead of increasing the liability to cold, a bath, properly taken, fortifies against cold because the circulation is improved and the uterine organs, which are more or less congested, are relieved; for the blood is brought to the surface, and a more easy and regular flow of the blood through all the blood vessels is obtained. 3T 70.1

Experience is said to be the best teacher. Genuine experience is indeed superior to book knowledge. But habits and customs gird men and women as with iron bands, and they are generally justified by experience, according to the common understanding of the term. Very many have abused precious experience. They have clung to their injurious habits, which are decidedly enfeebling to physical, mental, and moral health; and when you seek to instruct them, they sanction their course by referring to their experience. But true experience is in harmony with natural law and science. 3T 71.1

Here is where we have met the greatest difficulties in religious matters. The plainest facts may be presented, the clearest truths, sustained by the word of God, may be brought before the mind; but the ear and heart are closed, and the all-convincing argument is: “my experience.” Some will say: “The Lord has blessed me in believing and doing as I have; therefore I cannot be in error.” “My experience” is clung to, and the most elevating, sanctifying truths of the Bible are rejected for what they are pleased to style experience. Many of the grossest habits are cherished under the plea of experience. Many fail to reach that physical, intellectual, and moral improvement which it is their privilege and duty to attain, because they will contend for the reliability and safety of their experience, although that misjudged experience is opposed to the plainest revealed facts. Men and women whose wrong habits have destroyed their constitution and health will be found recommending their experience as safe for others to follow, when it is this very experience that has robbed them of vitality and health. Many examples might be given to show how men and women have been deceived by relying upon their experience. 3T 71.2

The Lord made man upright in the beginning. He was created with a perfectly balanced mind, the size and strength of all its organs being perfectly developed. Adam was a perfect type of man. Every quality of mind was well proportioned, each having a distinctive office, and yet all dependent one upon another for the full and proper use of any one of them. Adam and Eve were permitted to eat of all the trees in the garden, save one. The Lord said to the holy pair: In the day that ye eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, ye shall surely die. Eve was beguiled by the serpent to believe that God would not do as He said He would. “Ye shall not surely die,” said the serpent. Eve ate and imagined that she felt the sensations of a new and more exalted life. She bore the fruit to her husband, and that which had an overpowering influence upon him was her experience. The serpent had said that she should not die, and she felt no ill effects from the fruit, nothing which could be interpreted to mean death, but, just as the serpent had said, a pleasurable sensation which she imagined was as the angels felt. Her experience stood arrayed against the positive command of Jehovah, and Adam permitted himself to be seduced by the experience of his wife. Thus it is with the religious world generally. God's express commands are transgressed, and because “sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” 3T 72.1

In the face of the most positive commands of God, men and women will follow their own inclinations and then dare to pray over the matter, to prevail upon God to consent to allow them to go contrary to His expressed will. The Lord is not pleased with such prayers. Satan comes to the side of such persons, as he did to Eve in Eden, and impresses them, and they have an exercise of mind, and this they relate as a most wonderful experience which the Lord has given them. A true experience will be in perfect harmony with natural and divine law. False experience will array itself against science and the principles of Jehovah. The religious world is covered with a pall of moral darkness. Superstition and bigotry control the minds of men and women, and blind their judgment so that they do not discern their duty to their fellow men and their duty to yield unquestioned obedience to the will of God. 3T 72.2

Balaam inquired of God if he might curse Israel, because in so doing he had the promise of great reward. And God said, “Thou shalt not go;” but he was urged by the messengers, and greater inducements were presented. Balaam had been shown the will of the Lord in this matter, but he was so eager for the reward that he ventured to ask God the second time. The Lord permitted Balaam to go. Then he had a wonderful experience, but who would wish to be guided by such an experience? There are those who would understand their duty clearly if it were in harmony with their natural inclinations. Circumstances and reason may clearly indicate their duty; but when against their natural inclination, these evidences are frequently set aside. Then these persons will presume to go to God to learn their duty. But God will not be trifled with. He will permit such persons to follow the desires of their own hearts. Psalm 81:11, 12: “But My people would not hearken to My voice.” “So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.” 3T 73.1

Those who desire to follow a course which pleases their fancy are in danger of being left to follow their own inclinations, supposing them to be the leadings of God's Spirit. The duty of some is indicated sufficiently clear by circumstances and facts; but, through the solicitations of friends, in harmony with their own inclinations, they swerve from the path of duty and pass over the clear evidences in the case; then, with apparent conscientiousness, they pray long and earnestly for light. They have earnest feeling in the matter, and they interpret this to be the Spirit of God. But they are deceived. This course grieves the Spirit of God. They had light and in the very reason of things should have understood their duty; but a few pleasing inducements balance their minds in the wrong direction, and they urge these before the Lord and press their case, and the Lord allows them to have their own way. They have so strong an inclination to follow their own course that He permits them to do so and to suffer the results. These imagine that they have a wonderful experience. 3T 73.2

My dear sister, firmness is a strong and controlling influence in your mind. You have acquired strength to stand up and brace against opposition, and carry through difficult and perplexing enterprises. You do not love contention. You are highly sensitive and feel deeply. You are strictly conscientious, and your judgment must be convinced before you will yield to the opinions of others. Had your physical health been unimpaired, you would have made an eminently useful woman. You have long been diseased, and this has affected your imagination so that your thoughts have been concentrated upon yourself, and the imagination has affected the body. Your habits have not been good in many respects. Your food has not been of the right quantity or quality. You have eaten too largely and of a poor quality of food which could not be converted into good blood. You have educated the stomach to this kind of diet. This, your judgment has taught you, was the best, because you realized the least disturbance from it. But this was not a correct experience. Your stomach was not receiving that vigor that it should from your food. Taken in a liquid state your food would not give healthful vigor or tone to the system. But when you change this habit, and eat more solids and less liquids, your stomach will feel disturbed. Notwithstanding this you should not yield the point; you should educate your stomach to bear a more solid diet. You have worn too great an amount of clothing and have debilitated the skin by so doing. You have not given your body a chance to breathe. The pores of the skin, or little mouths through which the body breathes, have become closed, and the system has been filled with impurities. 3T 74.1

Your habit of riding out in the open air and sunshine has been very beneficial. Your life out of doors has sustained you so that you have the measure of physical strength that you now enjoy. But you have neglected other exercise which was even more essential than this. You have depended upon your carriage to go even a short distance. You have thought that if you walked even a little way it would injure you, and you have felt weary in doing so. But in this your experience is not reliable. 3T 75.1

The same power of motion which you exercise in getting in and out of a carriage, and in going up and down stairs, could just as well be exercised in walking and in performing the ordinary and necessary duties of life. You have been very helpless in regard to domestic duties. You have not felt that you could have the care of your husband's clothes or of his food. Now, my sister, this inability exists more in your imagination than in your inability to perform. You think it will weary and tax you to do this and that; and it does. But you have strength that if put to a practical and economical use would accomplish much good and make you far more useful and happy. You have so great a dread of becoming helpless that you do not exercise the strength with which the Lord has blessed you. In many things you have helped your husband. At the same time you have taxed his patience and strength. When he has thought that you could change some of your habits and improve, you have felt that he did not understand your case. Your friends have felt that you might be more useful in your home and not so helpless. This has grieved you. You thought they did not understand. Some have unwisely pressed their opinion of your case upon you, and this, too, has grieved you. You have felt that God, in answer to prayer, would help you, and you have many times been helped in this way. But you have not gained that physical strength which it was your privilege to enjoy, because you have not performed your part. You have not worked in full union with the Spirit of God. 3T 75.2

The Lord has given you a work to do which He does not propose to do for you. You should move out from principle, in harmony with natural law, irrespective of feeling. You should begin to act upon the light that God has given you. You may not be able to do this all at once, but you can do much by moving out gradually in faith, believing that God will be your helper, that He will strengthen you. You could exercise in walking and in performing duties requiring light labor in your family, and not be so dependent upon others. The consciousness that you can do will give you increased strength. If your hands were more employed and your brain less exercised in planning for others, your physical and mental strength would increase. Your brain is not idle, but there is not corresponding labor on the part of the other organs of the body. Exercise, to be of decided advantage to you, should be systematized and brought to bear upon the debilitated organs that they may become strengthened by use. The movement cure is a great advantage to a class of patients who are too feeble to exercise. But for all who are sick to rely upon it, making it their dependence, while they neglect to exercise their muscles themselves, is a great mistake. 3T 76.1

Thousands are sick and dying around us who might get well and live if they would; but their imagination holds them. They fear that they will be made worse if they labor or exercise, when this is just the change they need to make them well. Without this they never can improve. They should exercise the power of the will, rise above their aches and debility, engage in useful employment, and forget that they have aching backs, sides, lungs, and heads. Neglecting to exercise the entire body, or a portion of it, will bring on morbid conditions. Inaction of any of the organs of the body will be followed by a decrease in size and strength of the muscles, and will cause the blood to flow sluggishly through the blood vessels. 3T 76.2

If there are duties to be done in your domestic life, you do not think it possible that you could do them, but you depend upon others. Sometimes it is exceedingly inconvenient for you to obtain the help you need. You frequently expend double the strength required to perform the task, in planning and searching for someone to do the work for you. If you would only bring your mind to do these little acts and family duties yourself, you would be blessed and strengthened in it, and your influence in the cause of God would be far greater. God made Adam and Eve in Paradise, and surrounded them with everything that was useful and lovely. He planted for them a beautiful garden. No herb nor flower nor tree was wanting which might be for use or ornament. The Creator of man knew that the workmanship of His hands could not be happy without employment. Paradise delighted their souls, but this was not enough; they must have labor to call into exercise the wonderful organs of the body. The Lord had made the organs for use. Had happiness consisted in doing nothing, man, in his state of holy innocence, would have been left unemployed. But He who formed man knew what would be for his best happiness, and He no sooner made him than He gave him his appointed work. In order to be happy, he must labor. 3T 76.3

God has given us all something to do. In the discharge of the various duties which we are to perform, which lie in our pathway, our lives will be made useful, and we shall be blessed. Not only will the organs of the body be strengthened by exercise, but the mind also will acquire strength and knowledge through the action of those organs. The exercise of one muscle, while others are left with nothing to do, will not strengthen the inactive ones any more than the continual exercise of one of the organs of the mind will develop and strengthen the organs not brought into use. Each faculty of the mind and each muscle has its distinctive office, and all require to be exercised in order to become properly developed and retain healthful vigor. Each organ and muscle has its work to do in the living organism. Every wheel in the machinery must be a living, active, working wheel. Nature's fine and wonderful works need to be kept in active motion in order to accomplish the object for which they were designed. Each faculty has a bearing upon the others, and all need to be exercised in order to be properly developed. If one muscle of the body is exercised more than another, the one used will become much the larger, and will destroy the harmony and beauty of the development of the system. A variety of exercise will call into use all the muscles of the body. 3T 77.1

Those who are feeble and indolent should not yield to their inclination to be inactive, thus depriving themselves of air and sunlight, but should practice exercising out of doors in walking or working in the garden. They will become very much fatigued, but this will not injure them. You, my sister, will experience weariness, yet it will not hurt you; your rest will be sweeter after it. Inaction weakens the organs that are not exercised. And when these organs are used, pain and weariness are experienced, because the muscles have become feeble. It is not good policy to give up the use of certain muscles because pain is felt when they are exercised. The pain is frequently caused by the effort of nature to give life and vigor to those parts that have become partially lifeless through inaction. The motion of these long-disused muscles will cause pain, because nature is awakening them to life. 3T 78.1

Walking, in all cases where it is possible, is the best remedy for diseased bodies, because in this exercise all the organs of the body are brought into use. Many who depend upon the movement cure could accomplish more for themselves by muscular exercise than the movements can do for them. In some cases want of exercise causes the bowels and muscles to become enfeebled and shrunken, and these organs that have enfeebled for want of use will be strengthened by exercise. There is no exercise that can take the place of walking. By it the circulation of the blood is greatly improved. 3T 78.2

The active use of the limbs will be of the greatest advantage to you, Sister N. You have had many notions, and have been very sanguine, which has been to your injury. While you fear to trust yourself in the hands of the physicians, and think that you understand your case better than they do, you cannot be benefited, but only harmed, by their treatment of your case. Unless physicians can obtain the confidence of their patients, they can never help them. If you prescribe for yourself, and think you know what treatment you should have, better than the physicians do, you cannot be benefited. You must yield your will and ideas, and not rein yourself up to resist their judgment and advice in your case. 3T 78.3

May the Lord help you, my sister, to have not only faith but corresponding works. 3T 79.1