Messenger of the Lord

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Chapter 25—Health Principles-Part 2: Relationship of Health to a Spiritual Mission

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones” (Proverbs 3:7, 8). MOL 288.1

In their six pamphlets on health, the Whites deliberately included the writings of “able and experienced health reformers in addition to Ellen White’s articles.” 1 Writing a few years later, James White said that the pamphlets were “made up chiefly from the most spirited and valuable articles and extracts from Trall, Jackson, Graham, Dio Lewis, Coles, Horace Mann, Gunn, and many others.... This work was readable and well adapted to the wants of the people. It has also had a wide circulation outside of Seventh-day Adventists, and its influence for good in calling the attention of the people to the subject of health reform can hardly be estimated.” 2 MOL 288.2

In the first pamphlet, James White wrote the lead article, entitled, “Sanctification.” He set the tone for the six-pamphlet set in connecting physical health with spiritual health. Toward the end of this article he said: “To those who are active yet suffering from failing health we urgently recommend health publications, a good assortment of which we design to keep on hand.... To those who call themselves well, we would say: As you value the blessings of health, and would honor the Author of your being, learn to live in obedience to those laws established in your being by High Heaven.” 3 MOL 288.3

The articles written by other health reformers were used to buttress Ellen White’s straightforward counsel. At the same time, she urged caution regarding certain notions or suggestions in those other articles included in these six pamphlets, such as a warning that not all sick people may be strong enough for the heroics of cold-water therapy and heavy exercise for long periods of time. MOL 288.4

Ellen White avoided the notions of contemporary health reformers that were in conflict with the principles she had received in vision, such as the condemnation of salt, not only as wholly lacking in nutrition but also as indigestible. MOL 288.5

How many of these fundamental health principles had Adventists known and implemented in their lives prior to the Otsego vision? What was the result of this additional orbit of reform that those 3,500 Adventists now began to understand more clearly? Apart from Joseph Bates, who decided to be only a silent evangelist for health (see p. 280), very few had adopted any of these principles. Although these principles were discussed here and there, they surely did not represent the medical world in the mid-nineteenth century. And it seems just as certain that few Seventh-day Adventists had taken these reforms seriously prior to 1863. MOL 288.6

Several Adventist families (including Annie Smith, J. N. Loughborough, the MOL 288.7

J. P. Kellogg family, and the J. N. Andrews family) seemed to have had some acquaintance with one or two of the contemporary advances, but the concept of total health eluded them until they got the coherent, spiritually motivated picture depicted by Ellen White. Some had tried hydrotherapy and used Graham bread. But their general life style, including the way they related to diet, exercise, cleanliness, and fresh air, was generally the same as that of other Americans. 4 MOL 289.1