Messenger of the Lord

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Chapter 27—Health Principles-Part 4: Principles and Policies

“Let it ever be kept before the mind that the great object of hygienic reform is to secure the highest possible development of mind and soul and body. All the laws of nature—which are the laws of God—are designed for our good. Obedience to them will promote our happiness in this life, and will aid us in a preparation for the life to come.” 1 MOL 310.1

Ellen White set forth certain guidelines that would help everyone to make positive and progressive decisions, especially in health reform. The first principle, which applies to all areas of Christian responsibilities, is that everyone knows for himself what “known duty” is. “Known duty” at any given moment may not be the same for any two people. Yet, to balk at “known duty,” little or much, reveals the heart of a rebel—a deeper problem than a matter of diet. 2 MOL 310.2

In 1893 Ellen White wrote: “No one can believe with the heart unto righteousness, and obtain justification by faith, while continuing the practice of those things which the Word of God forbids, or while neglecting any known duty.” 3 MOL 310.3

Neglecting “known duty” will cause “weakness and darkness, and subject us to fierce temptation.” 4 In other words, to hear instruction that God validated through Ellen White but not to incorporate it into one’s life, opens the door to other temptations and spiritual darkness. MOL 310.4

The second principle is that we should do the best we can under all circumstances. For example, in the days when nutritional supplements were not available, or when various vegetables and fruit were not easily obtainable, Ellen White suggested that grape juice in the best form available was appropriate as a food supplement for medicinal purposes. 5 Obviously she was not suggesting that wine be used as a recreational beverage or as a feature of one’s regular diet. MOL 310.5

When she advised “domestic wine” for medicinal purposes, she knew that the sick person needed the nutritional properties of the grape, nutrients that could be assimilated quickly by the body. Under the circumstances, if the domestic wine contained a little alcohol, it still would have provided more benefit than not taking it. In 1868, in one of his question/ answer articles, James White wrote: “During the past year, Mrs. W. has, at three or four times, had feelings of great debility and faintness in the morning.... To prevent distressing faintness at these times, she, immediately after rising, had taken an egg in a little pure, domestic, grape wine, perhaps a spoonful at a time, and never thought that this had to do with drugs, as she uses the term in her writings, more than with the man in the moon. During the past year, she may have used one pint of wine. It is only in extreme cases that the use of wine is justifiable, and then let it be a ‘little wine,’ to gently stimulate those in a sinking condition.” 6 MOL 310.6

In Australia during the 1890s, finding a quality diet was difficult and meat was the cheapest food available. On one occasion when sickness was in a neighbor’s MOL 310.7

home, Mrs. White recalled that “there was nothing in the house suitable to eat. And they refused to eat anything that we took them. They had been accustomed to having meat. We felt that something must be done. I said to Sara [McEnterfer], ‘Take chickens from my place, and prepare them some broth.’ ... They soon recovered.” MOL 311.1

The lesson? “Although we did not use flesh foods ourselves, when we thought it essential for that family in their time of sickness, we gave them what we felt they needed. There are occasions when we must meet the people where they are.” 7 MOL 311.2

Here again, however, common sense is needed: the first and second principle taken together should give wisdom to the health-care provider and to the ill. MOL 311.3

The third principle is to avoid “everything hurtful,” and the fourth principle is “to use judiciously that which is healthful.” 8 MOL 311.4

The fifth principle focuses on self-control. “Excessive indulgence in eating, drinking, sleeping, or seeing is sin.” 9 Self-indulgence is often displayed in “dressing” and “overwork,” thus indicating that the mind is not under the “control of reason and conscience.” 10 MOL 311.5

The sixth principle is that we should “not mark out any precise line to be followed in diet.” 11 Obviously, clear and precise warnings were given on certain unhealthful foods. But in turning to the diet that should take the place of injurious foods, Ellen White stroked out broad lines, such as “grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables.” 12 Why the broad strokes without “precise lines”? Because she recognized that a healthful diet must recognize individual differences in climate, occupation, and physical characteristics. 13 MOL 311.6

The seventh principle reveals caring and compassion: a non-flesh diet should not be urged until appropriate substitutes for protein are available and the reasons for the replacement understood. 14 MOL 311.7

The eighth principle focuses on the motivation behind health reform: health reform is not a set of duties by which we impress God and earn His love (legalism). Rather, it is one more revelation from a loving Lord as to how best to avoid sorry circumstances that result from bad decisions. Health reform contains those insights that will hasten character development and a life of service—the object of redemption and the purpose of living. Health reform embodies a system of choices that is understood progressively through experience. For this reason, meat eating, for example, has never been a “test of fellowship” in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 15 MOL 311.8

The ninth principle is best expressed in Ellen White’s simple formula: “I make myself a criterion for no one else.” She did not attempt to be conscience for others; neither did she make “a raid” on the tables of those who were slower to follow advancing light. 16 MOL 311.9

The tenth principle permeates the previous nine: We must reason from cause to effect, perhaps best expressed in Paul’s counsel: “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). 17 MOL 311.10