Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 2 (1869 - 1875)


Lt 30, 1870

Lay, Brother and Sister

Battle Creek, Michigan

February 13, 1870

Portions of this letter are published in 5MR 394-397. See 4T 94-104.

Dear Brother [Doctor] and Sister Lay:

I have written to Lizzie in regard to some things. As her case was presented before me, you were also. Some things were shown me in reference to yourselves and your children. I have been shown that you have erred in the management of your children. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 1

You received ideas at Dansville from Dr. Jackson which you have spoken of before the others and before your children, which will not bear to be carried out. From Dr. Jackson’s standpoint they may not appear as objectionable and dangerous, but when viewed from a Christian standpoint they are positively dangerous. The instruction he has given in regard to shunning physical labor has proved a great injury to many. The do-nothing system is a dangerous theory. The necessity of amusements, as he teaches and enjoins upon his patients, in order to occupy the time and engage the mind, is made a substitute for useful, healthful exercise, and physical labor. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 2

Amusements excite the brain more than useful employment. Physical exercise and labor have a more happy influence upon the mind and strengthen the muscles, improve the circulation, and give the invalid the satisfaction of knowing his own power of endurance; whereas, if he is restricted from healthful exercise and physical labor, his attention is called to himself and he is in constant danger of thinking himself worse off than he really is, and of having established with him a diseased imagination, which causes him to have continual fear that he is overdoing, overexercising, and overtaxing his power of endurance. At the same time, if he should engage in well-directed labor, using his strength and not abusing it, he would find that this physical exercise would prove a more powerful and effective agent in his recovery of health than even the water treatment he is receiving. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 3

The inactivity of the mental and physical powers, so far as useful labor is concerned, is that which keeps the invalid in a condition of feebleness that he feels powerless to rise above. It also gives these invalids a greater opportunity to indulge in impure imagination and self-abuse, which indulgence has brought many of them where they are in feebleness. They are told they have expended too much vitality, have labored too hard, when in nine cases out of ten, the labor they performed was the only redeeming thing in their life, and saved them from utter ruin. While their mind was thus engaged, they could not have as favorable an opportunity to debase their own bodies and complete the work of destruction for themselves. To have such cease all labor of brain and muscle is to give them an ample opportunity to be led captive by the temptations of Satan. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 4

Dr. Jackson has recommended the sexes associating together. He has instructed them to mingle together, stating that this was necessary for their health. Such teaching has done and is doing great injury to inexperienced youth and children, and is a great satisfaction to men and women of suspicious morals, a class whose passions have never been controlled, and for this reason they are suffering from mental and physical disorders. These are instructed from a health standpoint to be in the company of the other sex, which opens a door of temptation before them. Passion rouses like a lion in some of these and every consideration is overborne, everything elevated is sacrificed to lustful passion. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 5

This is an age when corruption is teaming everywhere. Were the minds and bodies of men and women in a healthful condition, were the animal passions subject to the higher powers of the mind, it might be comparatively safe to teach that boys and girls, and youth of still more mature age, could be benefited by being much in each other’s society, the boys with the girls, the girls with the boys. If the minds of the youth of this age were pure, innocent, and uncorrupted, the girls might have a softening influence upon the boys, and the boys with their stronger, firmer natures, might have a tendency to ennoble the girls. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 6

But it is a fact, a painful fact, that there is not one girl out of one hundred who is pure-minded, and there is not one boy out of one hundred whose morals are untainted. Many that are older have gone to such lengths in self-abuse they are polluted soul and body, and rottenness has entered the body and marrow of the bones. This is the stamp of a large class who pass around among men and women as polite gentlemen and beautiful ladies. It is not the time to recommend as beneficial to health the mingling of the sexes by being as much as possible in each other’s society. The curse of this corrupt age is the absence of modesty and true virtue. Females invite the attention of the other sex. Dr. Lay, you have advanced ideas in the lecture room that will not bear to be carried out. The young have heard you and your remarks have had as great an influence upon your own children as upon others. All these ideas had better been left at Dansville. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 7

Overwork for the young is injurious to their growing frames, but inactivity and delicate idleness is sowing the seeds of disease and bringing sure decay to thousands. Where there is in reality one hundred who have broken down their constitutions purely by overwork, idleness, an inactive life, and overeating bring to the grave one thousand, while overworking purely causes the death of but a few. Why the youth have so little strength of bone, of brain, and of muscle is because they do so little in the line of physical, useful labor. Ezekiel 16:49, 50. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 8

There are but few of the youth of this degenerate age who can even endure the study necessary to obtain an education in the common branches. Why is this? Why do the children complain of dizziness, headache, nose bleed, palpitation, and a sense of lassitude and general weakness? Shall this be attributed mainly to their studies? Fond and indulgent parents will sympathize with their children because they fancy the lessons are too great a tax and that the close application of the mind to study is ruining the health of their children. It is not advisable to crowd the minds of the young with too many and too difficult studies. But, parents, have you looked no deeper than the mere idea suggested by your children? Have you given ready credence to the cause they assigned as the reason for their indisposition? It becomes you, parents and guardians, to look deeper into the cause than this. In ninety-nine cases out of one hundred the cause searched out and revealed to you would open your understanding to see that it was not the taxation of study alone that was doing the work of injury to your children, but that their own wrong habits were sapping the brain, and robbing the entire body of vital energy. The nervous system was becoming shattered by being often excited and thus laying the foundation for premature and certain decay. Self-abuse is killing thousands and tens of thousands. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 9

Useful labor in all the mysteries of housework will be beneficial to your girls. Useful mental labor for those who are qualified to engage in it, mingled with physical out-of-door exercise, will not break the constitution or injure the health of growing boys. For some, out-of-door employment is more favorable to their constitutions and health. Children should be taught to labor. Industry is the greatest blessing for men, women, and children that they can have. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 10

You have erred in the education of your children. You have been too indulgent. You have favored them and excused them from labor because they were not strong until labor with some of them is positively distasteful. Inactivity and the lack of well regulated labor have been felt by your children. This has given them time and opportunity to do those things which are violating the laws of their being and keeping them in a state of feebleness and disease. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 11

Dear brother, you have petted and praised your children too much. You have been blind to the power the enemy was having over your children. Household labor, even to weariness, would not have hurt your children one-fiftieth part as much as their wrong habits have done. Many dangers they would have escaped had they been instructed at an earlier period and disciplined to useful labor. They would not have had a disposition created for change, and so strong a desire to go in society. They would have escaped many temptations to vanity and to engage in unprofitable amusements and injurious reading, and talking chit-chat and nonsense. Their time would have passed more to their satisfaction and without so great temptation to seek the society of boys, and have their minds engrossed to the injury of mental and physical health. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 12

Your daughter is a proud, independent girl. She is stubborn, headstrong, and unsubmissive. Her ideas are so perverted and her senses so blunted and benumbed [that] she is in a great degree lacking in a sense of propriety and true delicate modesty. She is vain of her person, and it is her highest ambition to make herself attractive. She views herself with great complacency. She, in short, worships herself. Her vanity and affectation has its influence upon a class of minds like her own that are altogether lighter than vanity, while sensible youth and close observers are disgusted. She makes herself the subject of remarks by her vain, foolish course. Her parents have been asleep. You have made this child a pet. You have flattered and indulged her vanity. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 13

Dear brother, you have made a sad mistake in standing before the patients in the parlor, as you have frequently done, and exalted yourself and your wife before others as if jealous that all would not estimate you as highly as you deserved, or as you estimated yourself. Your own children have learned lessons from these remarks that have given shape to their characters. They have regarded themselves as superior to other children. You will now find it not an easy matter to correct the impressions that your own words and actions have made. They have thought that as your children they must receive special attention, for they were superior to children in general. They have been puffed up, proud, and self-conceited. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 14

You have felt anxious lest the people should not give you the respect your position required. This has shown a vein of weakness in you which has hindered your spiritual advancement, for it has separated you from God. It has also led to a jealousy of others, fearing that they would supplant you or not place the right estimate upon your position. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 15

You also exalted your wife. You sought to make her stand before those with whom you associated as a superior woman, possessing superior powers. You were like a blind man. You gave her credit for qualifications she did not possess. With you both your moral worth is estimated not by position but by your works, your acts, your deeds. These can never be hid. These can be seen. These will place you upon the right elevation before those for whom you labor. If your interest is manifested for them, if your labor is devoted to them, they know it. You will have their confidence and love. But talk will never make them see that they have made unreasonable demands upon your time or strength, or that they have taxed you and exhausted your vitality, when they know that they have not had your labor, your care, and special attention. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 16

Those for whom you labor will have confidence and love for those who manifest an interest for them, and who seek—regardless of self—to improve their condition. If you are the one who does this work which must be done, which cannot be left undone, which the patients pay their money to have done, then you need not by talking seek to gain esteem and respect. You will as surely have it as you do the work. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 17

Brother Lay, you have been in this position where God could not bless you. All your actions have said, I and my family are of more consequence than the whole Institute together. You have not been free from selfishness in this respect, and you have not had the blessings which God gives His unselfish workman. Your interest has been divided. You have had such a special care for you and yours that the Lord has had no room especially to work and care for you. Your course in this respect has disqualified you for your position. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 18

I saw one year ago that you had felt competent to manage an institute yourself. Were it yours, and were you the one that should be especially benefited or injured by the losses and gains, you would see it your duty to have an especial care that losses should not be incurred and that patients who were there upon charity should not drain the institution of means. You would investigate, you would not have them remain a week longer than it was positively necessary. You would see many places and ways you could exert your influence to save means and keep up the prosperity of the institution. But it was to you another thing, seeing it was not yours. You were employed, and then what? The zeal and interest and ability which you think you possess to carry on a large enterprise does not appear. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 19

The invalids expect patient attention. I was shown you frequently turning away from invalids who were in need of your counsel and advice. You were presented before me as apparently indifferent, seeming rather impatient, while scarcely listening to what they were saying, which was to them of great importance. You seemed to be in a great hurry, putting them off till some future time, when a very few appropriate words spoken in sympathy and encouragement would quiet a thousand fears and give, in the place of disquietude and distress, peace and assurance. You appeared to dread to speak with the afflicted, to dread to come in contact with them, as though fearful of being contaminated; you feared to enter into their feelings and held yourself aloof, when you should have manifested ease and familiarity, and not be so distant and unapproachable. They look to you as a child to a father, and have a right to expect and receive the attention from you they do not obtain. Me and mine comes in between you and the labor your position requires to have done. Invalids and helpers may need your advice frequently, but they feel an unwillingness to go to you and be free to speak with you. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 20

You have sought to maintain too much dignity. In the effort you have not attained the object, but have lost the confidence and love that you might have gained had you been unassuming, possessing meekness and humbleness of mind. True devotion and consecration to God will find for you a place in the hearts of all, and clothe you with a dignity not put on, but which will be natural and inspire respect and confidence. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 21

The life of Christ must be your pattern, to do good in every spot and place. In caring for others, God will care for you. The Majesty of heaven did not avoid weariness. He traveled on foot from place to place to benefit the suffering and needy. He was wearied with His journey and sat upon the well to rest. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 22

Although you may “possess all knowledge,” may understand the human system and trace disease to its cause, and even if you had the tongues of men and angels, there are yet qualifications necessary or all the former will be of no special account. [1 Corinthians 13:1, 2.] You must have power from God, which will only be realized by those who make God their trust and consecrate themselves with devotion to the work He has given them to do. Christ must be in your knowledge. His wisdom must be seen instead of yours. Then will you understand how to be a light in the rooms of the sick. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 23

You lack freedom of spirit, power, and faith. Why is this faith so feeble? For want of exercise it cannot be vigorous and healthful. You cannot carry the faith and peace and hope of Christ to others without experiencing the same yourself. Your efforts will not be as successful for those who are sick in heart and body, and they will not be gaining in physical and spiritual strength if you do not carry Jesus with you in your visits. His words and works you want to accompany you. Then you will feel that those whom you have blessed will bless you in return. They shine brightest who feel most their own weakness and darkness, for such make Christ their righteousness. Your strength all comes from your union with Christ. Be not weary in well doing. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 24

You have not felt your whole dependence upon God and your inefficiency and weakness and foolishness without His especial wisdom, grace, and power. You have too much worrying and fearing and doubting. You have worked too much in your own strength and labored too hard to preserve your dignity. In God can you prosper. In humility and lowliness of mind will you find great peace and especial strength. The Majesty of heaven has invited all that feel weary and heavy laden, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ... Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” [Matthew 11:28, 29.] Why the burden seems so heavy, and the yoke so galling at times, is because you have got above the meekness and lowliness possessed by our divine Lord. You are too anxious to be somebody. In Christ you will find all the qualifications which would make your work, your burdens, very light. You should cease to try to save self, to exalt self, to honor self, but let self be hid in Jesus, and learn of the One who has invited you, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest to your soul.” 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 25

I saw that the Health Institution could never prosper while there were those in responsible positions closely connected with it who possessed more interest for themselves than for the prosperity of the institution. God wants unselfish men and women who will look after the interest of the institutions, having a general interest in, and oversight over, every department, saving expense, caring for the littles, seeing that things do not decay or losses be incurred which might be avoided—in short, those who will be just as careful of expending means as they would if it were their own, themselves to be the losers if not judiciously managed. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 26

There has been with you, Dr. Lay, too much of a feeling that, this and that is not my business. Everything that is connected with the prosperity of the institution is your business. If things come under your observation that you cannot attend to because called in another direction, call the attention of someone who will give the thing or matter immediate attention. If this work is too great for you, someone must take your place who can care for these things, or everything will go to ruin. It is supreme selfishness that has brought embarrassments upon the Institute. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 27

Frequently in your parlor talks you have charged the patients and helpers with bringing burdens and cares upon you, when at that very time I saw that you were doing not more than half the duty resting upon you as a physician, in attending to the cases of the sick who needed your presence and your care. The patients knew they had not the care they should have, while they were away from their homes upon expense to obtain the care and help they could not get at home. These things have hurt you and have grieved the Spirit of God. You have had burdens to bear, but in many instances they were those brought upon you by your perplexities and trouble in your own family, which you sought to lay upon the patients and helpers. They did not belong upon them and they knew it. It is expected that you will become weary and often perplexed in your business, yet God lives and can make that which is trying and wearisome light and easy if you only look to Him and believe He will do it. He is our source of strength. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 28

All this scolding spirit in the parlor is displeasing to God. It is true you have a heavy burden at home. There is not one there to stay up your hands, but your family requires help of you rather than to help you. For this cause it may be your duty to occupy another position rather than the one of being a physician in the Institute. The place is an important one and requires clear intellect, strength of brain, nerve, and muscle. Had you no burdens outside the Institute, you could bear up much better and not lose your strength and courage. It is a duty you have to care for your family and preserve your health. But it is not at all necessary for your family to be helpless as they are and lie with such weight upon you. They can help you if they will. If the work is too taxing for you to devote the time and attention that is actually necessary for the good of the patients, then you should seek to place yourself in a position where you can do justice to your family and justice to the place you are called to fill. Devotion to the work is required, not less than has been, but in a greater degree; earnest, persevering devotion is needed. Nothing short of this will make the Institution prosperous. It must, in order to be a living thing, have living, devoted, disinterested workers to conduct it. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 29

Sister Lay has not been the help to you she might have been. Her attention has been devoted more to herself. She has not seen the necessity of arousing her dormant energies, and being helpful to encourage and strengthen you or bless her children with her sanctified influence. If she had set herself to the task, feeling that it was a duty God enjoined upon her to be helpful to you, helping you bear your burdens and drawing in even cords with you, and you unitedly taking hold to discipline your children, the order of things would be changed. But Sister Lay has given up to her feelings. She has cherished gloomy sadness which has brought a cloud into the dwelling rather than sunshine. She has not encouraged hopeful, cheerful, happy feelings. All this is the result of selfishness, she requiring attention and sympathy from her husband and children, and yet not feeling the responsibility she is under before God of taking her mind from herself and laboring for the happiness and good of her husband and her children. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 30

She should encourage a social turn of mind that she can interest and make her children happy. She has given way to impatience and has censured her children, which has only had a tendency to confirm them in an evil way and sever the cords of love and affection which should bind parents and children’s hearts together. She has not felt the necessity of self-control, but has been too ready to indulge in some things and censure in others. She has censured her husband before the children, which weakens the discipline of both. She has had trials. She has felt gloomy. She has been discouraged, but has charged this discouragement to others, which is not just. The reason is to be found more in herself. She deceives herself in thinking others are to blame. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 31

Sister Lay, you have failed to make your home what you might have made it. It is in your power to make your home more cheerful. Come out of that cold, stiff reserve. Soften your feelings. Give more love rather than exact it. Give cheerfulness and sunshine. You can do this if you will. Encourage humility. When your children have come to you with complaints, you have decided against others. Especially in the case of Lizzie, your feelings have been stirred to censure others. You have not silenced her, but have rather indirectly encouraged her by blaming others. Her own course has caused sorrow and many remarks to be made. She has not been dealt with as strictly and severely as her case demanded either at home or abroad. She is in the broad road to ruin. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 32

Awake, my dear brother and sister, to your family needs, for Satan is seeking to control your children. Lizzie’s influence has been poison to the youth she has associated with, and poison to your other children, especially Inis. She has had a great influence over this child. Do not be blind. Be awake. Take hold of the work unitedly, calmly, unexcitedly, prayerfully, and in faith. Set your house in order, and God will bless your efforts. 2LtMs, Lt 30, 1870, par. 33