Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 1 (1844 - 1868)



Ms 1, 1867

Reminiscent Account of the Experience of James White’s Sickness and Recovery


1867 [1880s]

Portions of this manuscript are published in OHC 318; 5MR 390-391; 6MR 90, 300-301; 11MR 108; 2Bio 122.
(Written early in the 1880s, but for convenience filed with the documents for 1867.)

When the affliction came upon my husband he had labored far beyond his strength. We attended a meeting in Memphis [Mich.], and in order to reach the place our hours of sleep, which we both needed, were broken in upon. Our powers were taxed to the utmost in Memphis. A debt was upon the house of worship, and likely to be, unless some special effort should be made to lead our brethren to see the importance of giving of their means to raise this debt. There were hearts that had been open to the world’s cares and burdens but closed to the wants of God’s cause until they became as hard and unimpressionable as the trodden pavement. But there are hearts that will respond and did respond. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 1

After the evening services on Sunday were closed, a special meeting was requested for the church members, and here in his exhausted, worn condition he presented the case before his brethren and pledged twenty dollars from his own limited means to help cancel the debt, thus identifying himself with their interest. They caught the spirit of zeal and beneficence, and after standing two hours longer in the desk he had the satisfaction of announcing the amount was raised. The house of worship was free from debt. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 2

We could not even then have the few remaining hours allotted to sleep granted us. Before day, about three o’clock, we were obliged to arise in order to be in season for the train; and this day, as my husband expressed it, he was the most tired he had been for years. He said, “I will rest when I get home.” The next day I urged him to rest. He answered, “The paper demands my attention. But when this is off, I will give myself one whole day’s rest.” 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 3

How little we know what a day will bring forth. The next morning we went out about sunrise to take our accustomed walk. As we entered the garden of a brother, my husband attempted to open an ear of corn, when an exclamation from him called my attention. I saw that faithful right hand, that had held the pen so long, hanging helpless at his side, and he was staggering as if about to fall. I sprang to support him, and helped him to the house. He could only utter the word “Pray,” and point to his helpless arm. We did pray with earnest, agonizing entreaty that God would help us in our great need. The Lord manifested His gracious presence. We knew and verified His promise to us, Where two or three are agreed as touching anything they shall ask in His name, it shall be done for them. In a short time my husband could raise the palsied arm; he could speak, and his voice was heard in praise and thanksgiving. He praised the Lord with his voice. Yet he was prostrated by the nervous shock. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 4

The anticipated day of rest was to prove a day of sorrow, a cessation from labor not for weeks but months. During the day we carried him upon a lounge to his home. As we moved in silent, sad procession back to the home left in the morning, I knew that God had not forsaken us. Satan would seek to thrust his temptation into my mind that this was the end of our labors. I thought fast and battled hard against discouragements as I walked the short distance to our home. Was this to be the end of our labors? Will God spare his life? was the question that was asked of my soul again and again. Then my faith seemed staggered. The hand was weak that sought to grasp the promises of God. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 5

All trials, all afflictions, all peace, all safety, health, hope, life and success are in God’s hands, and He can control them all for the good of His children. It is our privilege to be suppliants, to ask anything and everything of God, submitting our request in submission to His wise purposes and infinite will. Then I said, All is in the hands of God; I will go to One who is my very best Friend; He will either raise up my husband in answer to prayer, and deliver us from this great trouble, or send joy and peace to our souls that we may be able to endure it. I had submitted myself to God before I passed the threshold of my home. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 6

We had special seasons of prayer for the afflicted one and my faith claimed the promises of God. The precious peace of Christ, with the strongest assurance, took possession of my soul. I said then, He shall not die, but live to declare the works of the Lord. My faith firmly grasped the promises. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 7

The physicians had intimated that there was danger of a second shock. If this should come, there would be no hope. My husband heard this, and in his weak condition he wished me to call a lawyer to arrange his business. I told him this could not be. We would not talk of his closing up his work now, for we believed that he would recover. This I believed with all my heart. For three weeks I did not leave his room for rest or sleep. When I was too exhausted to watch with him through the entire night, he requested that I might be in his room on the sofa. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 8

I think I never realized more fully how much of heaven the fullest exercise of faith can bring down to earth. I think I never realized so much of the presence of the Saviour, so great a nearness to heaven, as during the period of my husband’s affliction, when day and night we battled with the power of the destroyer. The promises seemed to be mine in every sense of the word. My husband had lived and labored unselfishly. He had suffered and was suffering through over-labor and his intense interest for the cause of God. And although our prayers did not receive an immediate answer, I knew God heard. They would be answered in His own good time, in His own way. We were not to complain, not to mourn, not to mistrust God, for God had a purpose in this. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 9

The fire of the furnace was kindled and we wanted to come forth as gold. The heart must remain open for heaven’s brightness to come into the soul. Thus day by day passed, and our prayers ascended to God for help. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 10

It was thought best to avail ourselves of the advantages of the Health Institution at Dansville, New York. There we took the afflicted one. But we did not leave God behind. We did not feel that the three months passed at this institution were in vain. We did not receive many of the ideas and sentiments and suggestions advanced, but we did gather many things of value from those who had obtained an experience in Health Reform. We did not feel that there was any necessity of gathering the chaff with the wheat. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 11

Elders Loughborough, Bourdeau, and Smith spent some weeks at this water cure. Sister Adelia Patton, now the wife of Elder Van Horn, with my two remaining children, Edson and Willie, tarried with us a short time, which was a great comfort to my husband. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 12

We listened to the lectures of Dr. Jackson with deep interest. But here I found there was a necessity of weighing, in connection with religious principles, the things advanced upon the best means of gaining health. There were sentiments advanced to the effect that it would be a necessity to let the mind be free from all religious exercises and impressions if it would recover health. While there was religious exercise in the Water Cure at Dansville, some might be confused in regard to these matters. I know my husband’s mind became confused. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 13

There was thought to be a necessity for dancing, and there was a fiddler employed for these occasions. Those who were trying to live a Christian life could not take part in these exercises and could see no good in them. We marked the effect. There were feeble ones who were much worse after these dancing exercises. Dr. Jackson carried the idea that it was the duty of all who were at the institution to pay the fiddler whether they favored the dancing or not, and those who would not do this might as well pick up their things and leave. A committee was appointed to solicit donations for this purpose. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 14

There were conscientious members of different churches as patients in the Water Cure who could not unite in this exercise, for they could not harmonize such amusements as card playing and dancing with Christian principles. These decided they would have to leave. In the bathroom I was solicited to donate to the fiddler, although Dr. Jackson had told them to pass us by, for our principles were well known. This missionary upon the dancing question had not understood the matter as the doctor designed it. Without any desire to offend the doctor, and determined not to offend God, I told the lady frankly I could not use my money for any such purposes, neither would I sanction this dancing exercise by my influence. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 15

“I am a follower of Jesus,” I said. “This dancing is thought essential to keep up the spirits of the patients, but have you not marked that the very ones who engage in this exercise are languid for a day or two afterward, and some are unable to rise from their beds? This is a matter that will bear thought, and that, by Christians, will need to be brought to the test of the Word of God. Will that sustain us in patronizing these amusements? Will you please to think candidly upon this subject, all of you?”—for there was a large number in the room. “When people are sick, and the fear arises as to whether they will recover, they never send for the ones who are regardless of the claims of God, who frequent the theater or the ballroom or the dance hall. However much they may have spoken jestingly or have ridiculed our religion and the idea of our much praying, they always send for these praying ones. You never see them, when death stares them in the face, calling for the amusement lovers or the dancers, but for those who have carried their religion into their daily lives and have led a life of prayer. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 16

“The ideas that are here advanced that we are too intensely religious, and that is the reason we are invalids, I will not, I cannot, admit. Do you ever see me gloomy, desponding, complaining? I have a faith which forbids this. It is a misconception of the true ideal of Christian character and Christian service that leads to these conclusions. It is the want of genuine religion that produces gloom, despondency, and sadness. Earnest Christians seek ever to imitate Jesus, for to be Christians is to be Christlike. It will be essential to have correct conceptions of Christ’s life, Christ’s habits, that His principles may be reproduced in us who would be Christlike. A half service, loving the world, loving self, loving frivolous amusements, makes a timid, cowardly servant. Such follow Christ a great way off. A hearty, willing service to Jesus produces a sunny religion. Those who follow Christ most closely have not been gloomy. In Christ is light and peace and joy forever more. We need more Christ and less worldliness; more Christ and less selfishness.” 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 17

There were a large number of sympathizers. These words set their minds at rest. They were becoming confused. Was it as Dr. Jackson tried to make them believe, that serious thoughts and religious exercises were dangerous to health, while amusements and dancing were just the exercise they should have? One Baptist minister was so influenced by these theories that he bought dancing pumps and joined the dancers. He regretted this afterwards and was ashamed of it. But there was with the little few who kept the commandments of God a determination, firm as a rock, that they would not take any man’s advice or theories that would not bear the test of the law and testimonies of God’s Word. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 18

We continued to pray. Several were patients at the Health Cure who were God-fearing and true to their principles. We had many profitable talks with them. One whose mind had become confused sought interviews with me. We talked and prayed together and she was enabled to see things clearly. The question was asked, “What makes you always so cheerful, Mrs. White? You must know your husband will never be any better. I heard Doctor Jackson say this myself, and you have constant care of his case. I hear you praying all times of the day and all times of the night, and yet not a word of complaint escapes your lips. You always have cheerful words to speak in the bathroom and at the table and in the parlor. I cannot understand it. I should be full of sorrow.” 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 19

My answer was: “I have my eyes fixed upon the Sun of Righteousness and there is no sadness there. I am seeking for heaven as my home because joy and peace and happiness are there. Why should I not bring all the heaven I can into my life here? Why should I exclude from my life that which I consider the object most worthy to attain?” 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 20

Said she: “I have looked upon Jesus as our Saviour, but a man of sorrow. His was a hard life, full of grief, and if we seek to be like Jesus shall we not be wholly full of sorrow, our life hard and uninteresting, without gladness, full of intensity but void of joy?” 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 21

I answered, “Christ’s life was indeed a life of hardness. He was a burden-bearer for the whole race. ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed’ [Isaiah 53:5]. But Jesus is not held up to the people in the true light. He was filled with grief because the great blessings He came to bring to man, man would not see and accept, but continued to choose the hard path of transgression. He says, ‘Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life’ [John 5:20]. He is the joy and light of the world. ‘He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness’ [John 8:12]. Heaven is all light, peace, and joy. Jesus says, ‘Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full’ [John 16:24]. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 22

“Jesus had grief, but He did not carry it in His face. Wherever He moved blessings followed in His track. Joy and gladness were imparted to the children of men. Children loved to be in His presence. He took them in His arms. Christ was an earnest, thoughtful man, an intense worker for the good of others, but He was never frowning or gloomy. The calm, steady light of a holy peace was expressed in His life and character. His presence hushed wild levity and none could be in His presence without feeling that life was earnest, serious, charged with a great responsibility. The more I know of Jesus’ character the more cheerful I am.” 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 23

She wept like a child, grasped my hand and said, “I shall always be thankful for the lessons I have learned from you. I can feel different after this, every time I think of Jesus.” 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 24

Sometimes I was much worn. I cared for my own room, was nurse to my husband. The only way I could manage to have the bed aired and made, the room swept, and also take care of the beds and room adjoining ours, which our brethren occupied, was first to accompany my husband some distance up the steep ascent to the Institute where he received treatment, while I received treatment at the same hour so as not to be separated from him. After he came out of the bathroom we had it arranged that he, with his brethren, should take a circuitous route, avoiding the steep hill. I would go as quickly as possible down the hill, set the rooms in order, and have everything ready for my husband when he should arrive. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 25

His bed was made several times a day. In the night when he could not sleep he would call me. I slept in a room adjoining his. I would bow by his bed and plead with God, and while I was praying the sweet peace of Jesus would come upon him and he would fall quietly asleep. Then I would go noiselessly to my bed. Some nights this was repeated every two hours. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 26

This experience was the most valuable of my life, because I learned as never before where to carry my burdens. Night after night my husband was so nervous he thought he could not live through the night. At these times I besought the Lord most earnestly to rebuke disease and set the captive free. I knew the answer would come. I knew I should not ask in vain. I had perfect peace at these times. I could indeed say, My peace is like a river. I was drinking at the fountain of living waters. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 27

After such an experience I could never doubt the Christian religion. The Lord heard me every night and every day. He strengthened me for my responsible position as nurse to my husband. Life never seemed to me so full of importance. Christ must be with us in our words, in our thoughts, in our deportment. In nothing must He be separated from us. We cannot say as did one: “Religion is religion, business is business. Over this life in the church, in the social meetings, shall Christ rule; but over my life at home He shall have no control.” 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 28

Again and again I was entreated to let others do the duties I was performing, but they did not understand the feebleness of my husband. I was told I should certainly break down if I did not have a change and was not relieved of this constant anxiety and care. I was advised to leave him in the hands of the doctors and it would be better for him and for me. I knew better than this. His mind was already troubled and perplexed in regard to the many things arising that shook his confidence in the principles of the managers of the Institution, and he came to a standstill. He did not improve, and I felt that he must be removed. I obtained the consent of Doctor Jackson and half the night was spent in packing our trunks. Next morning it was snowing, but in the fear of the Lord I took my sick on board the cars for Rochester, New York. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 29

We remained there a few days. We had many seasons of prayer for him—Elder Andrews, Brother Auten, Brother Lampson, and several of like faith. The power of the Lord rested upon us in a most wonderful manner, but still my husband remained an invalid. We took him back to Michigan, and ceased not our prayers in his behalf. All winter he remained an invalid. We did not lose courage. We had the assurance that God would raise him up, and we believed he would yet be able to work in the cause of God. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 30

I thought my husband should have some change, and we took our team, faithful Jack and Jim, and ventured a journey to Wright, Michigan. In this matter I was obliged to move contrary to the judgment of my brethren and sisters in Battle Creek. They all felt that I was sacrificing my life in shouldering this burden; that for the sake of my children, for the cause of God, I should do all in my power to preserve my life. His own father and mother remonstrated with me in tears. Physicians looked pityingly upon me and said, “You will not realize your expectations. There was never known a case where one afflicted with paralysis of the brain recovered.” I answered them, “God will raise him up.” 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 31

In answer to the appeals of Father and Mother White that I had done all that was in my power and I must not attempt impossibilities, that my life was precious, that I had children who needed my care, I answered, “As long as life is left him and me I will make every exertion for him. That brain, that noble, masterly mind, shall not be left in ruins. God will care for him, for me, for my children. Satan shall not exult over us. You will yet see us standing side by side in the sacred desk, speaking the words of truth unto eternal life.” I went alone, carrying with me the sympathies of many and losing the sympathies of many because I would follow my own judgment, not theirs. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 32

The doors of Brother and Sister Root were opened for us, and if we had been their own children they could not have been more kind, but they welcomed us as servants of God. They ministered to our wants cheerfully. Here I was again nurse and physician to my husband. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 33

I had not consented, while my husband was able to stand in the pulpit, to take this position, but now I dared not do otherwise. I spoke in the house at Wright more than twenty times upon the subject of temperance. The Lord strengthened me to do this. The people came out to hear—both believers and unbelievers. The Lord blessed me and blessed the hearers. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 34

The winter was a trying time, for my husband could not get out much because of the deep snows. I knew not what I could do for him. At length I encouraged him to walk out with me. I would go before, making tracks for him. Thus we walked some every day when it was not too bad to go out. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 35

As spring approached, my husband, Willie, and I journeyed to Greenville. Here again we found open doors at the house of Brother Maynard. We found rest here, and freedom from perplexing troubles. We were deeply grateful for this home. We attended meetings at Orleans, Greenville, Orange, and Bushnell. My husband was unable to labor. As the winter passed away, we were convinced it would not be wisdom for us to return to Battle Creek, the scene of my husband’s labor and trials. We purchased a small place in Greenville one quarter of a mile from Brother Maynard’s. In the summer we built here a plain, comfortable house. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 36

The physician at Dansville knew of my husband’s past busy, active life, and that the cause of his sickness was overwork. He therefore sought to impress upon my husband the necessity of avoiding all exertion, both mental and physical; that unless he did this he would surely place himself beyond recovery. These ideas had been so often presented that a continual fear was upon his mind that if he should do anything it would prove disastrous. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 37

I knew that he must have a change. I encouraged his trying to do something upon our place. This was the object we had in view when we purchased the little farm. His once active mind could not be at a standstill. Unless occupied with something it would center upon himself and he would never recover. He must become interested in something besides himself. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 38

I sent to Greenville for three light hoes. We encouraged my husband to come out of doors and help Willie and me in planting and in hoeing about our berries and vegetables. He did a very little in this line. My hands blistered. I pricked them, let the water out, and kept at my work. This was to provoke my husband to good works. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 39

Our hay had been cut with the mower and I knew my husband would send for his neighbors to help him get the hay in. We had no barn, and must stack the hay. I sent [word] to my accommodating neighbors that on such a day my husband would send for them to get in his hay. “You are driven with your own work, are you not?” I asked. Yes, they were behind, but designed to leave their work to help Mr. White. “When Mr. White sends for you,” I said, “just say what you have just said to me. You are behind with your work; it will suffer if you leave it; it will not be convenient for you to come.” 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 40

They were, in the kindness of their hearts, desirous to do all for us that they could do, and this they could hardly consent to do. But I presented it in the proper light before them, and although they said it was the hardest thing for them to do, they would follow my directions, however trying it might be to them. They respected Elder White as a grand and noble man and would not be guilty of manifesting indifference or neglect to his wishes. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 41

My husband sent to his neighbors for help, but they returned word that they could not conveniently come. My husband was disappointed. I said to him, “Do not be troubled in regard to this. Let them know we can attend to it ourselves. Willie and I will rake up the hay and pitch it into the wagon, if you will only drive the horses and load it.” After some encouragement he consented to do this. Then the next matter to settle was how to make the stack. I said, “I will arrange the hay, make the stack, if you will pitch it onto the stack.” Thus we accomplished this job, and my husband looked pleased that he had been able to do this much. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 42

While making the stack, our unbelieving neighbors who had attended my appointments passed in their carriages. They looked with curiosity and wonderment to see the woman who was speaking to a houseful of people every week treading down hay and forming a haystack. I felt not at all troubled. I was succeeding far beyond my expectations. Little by little I was, by the help of God, able to lead my husband to exercise and thus lead him to forget himself. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 43

Our seasons of prayer were deeply interesting, made so by the tender influence of the Spirit of God. I was battling for a life, and while presenting our case to God with great earnestness I believed that I must use all the powers God had given me to bring about the result desired. But few had faith to believe I should succeed. It looked like seeking to overcome impossibilities. Faith is made perfect by works. If we expect God to hear our prayers, we ourselves must work. Christ’s work is not to do that which man can do. He came to bring to man divine power to combine with human effort. Christ was to do that which man could not do—unite the divine with the human. We are to believe, and then to work in accordance with our faith. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 44

We visited Orange. My husband walked out in the field and found Sister Howe, with hoe in hand, hoeing corn. He provided himself with a hoe and kept pace with her. When he came into the house he looked very well pleased. Said he, “I helped Sister Howe hoe corn, and for the first time in months perspiration has started.” That night he seemed to be more hopeful in regard to his recovery, and our supplications to the throne of grace were most fervent and mingled with living faith. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 45

We laid our case just as it was before the great Physician. We pleaded with Him who healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, restored the palsied limbs, rebuked fevers, raised the dead—not by a long process of treatment but by a word which the Son of God alone dared to utter—to work mightily in our behalf. He gave a dead son to the arms of a weeping mother. He brought from the grave a dead brother, filling the hearts of his sisters with unspeakable joy. He could do all that we could ask of Him and more than we could imagine. We saw precious evidences of the hand of omnipotent power stretched forth through the clouds to heal the long-afflicted one. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 46

We returned to our home encouraged. On the way we passed a pile of clean pine chips, and my husband proposed that we gather a quantity. My heart leaped for joy at this small token of good, that his mind was awakening with a desire to do something. My silent thanksgiving went up to God. Before the summer was over I had to guard my husband from doing too much. His activity was returning. And after much entreaty he was prevailed upon to stand in the desk and speak to the people. My heart was full of gladness but I could but weep aloud. The victory, I knew, was gained, the moral sensibilities and powers were aroused. My husband was saved. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 47

Soon after this we attended a grove meeting in Bushnell. The wind blew and I was obliged to speak to the people. It was taxing to me, but our meeting was deeply interesting and a very important one to the church. We returned home after the meeting and I walked out with my husband in the wheat field. As we were returning to the house my feet seemed heavy. They would not obey the power of the will. I said, “I cannot lift my feet.” My husband half carried me to the house, which was a few rods off. As I attempted to lift my feet to mount the steps, they would not move. I fell fainting upon the doorstep. I was utterly exhausted. For weeks I could not sit up without fainting. I was completely prostrated. My will power was good enough but my limbs would not obey the will. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 48

My husband was obliged to attend appointments in Orange and Greenbush without me. The people, he said, would not be satisfied unless I attended the meeting. He left an appointment for me in two weeks. I told my husband that it was not possible for me to go. He said, “I shall not go without you. I know you have had a long, taxing, perplexing case in me. You have been to me an angel of mercy. What can I do in my turn for you? Can’t you exercise the faith you did for me? Cannot you go, trusting in the Lord as you have done many times? ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ [Hebrews 11:1.]” 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 49

I consented to try next day to ride ten miles to Orleans. Then if I could, I would proceed to Orange, the first appointment, and to fill the second appointment at Greenbush. The very day we must start Jack stepped on a nail and was very lame. He would not put his lame foot to the ground. This looked as if Satan meant to interpose and hinder us. I began to look to the Lord by faith for strength. That afternoon just as we were ready to start, notwithstanding the lameness of the horse, a tempest arose, blowing about our papers and making general confusion everywhere. Addie Howe, who was then doing our work, was trying to close the windows, which were open at the time. As she did this, she pressed her hand against the window casing where she had stuck a needle in the wood. This entered the thick part of the hand. We at once dispatched a team to take her to the doctor’s. Her hand was cut up badly to find the needle, and she came back pale, nervous, and suffering greatly. But this did not hinder us from starting on our journey. 1LtMs, Ms 1, 1867, par. 50