Messenger of the Lord


Applying the Principles

For Ellen White, the two basic principles in health reform are to “preserve the best health,” 55 and “to eat the food which is most nourishing” in any given set of circumstances. 56 MOL 316.8

In applying these principles, she said on many occasions: “In countries where there are fruits, grains, and nuts in abundance, flesh food is not the right food for God’s people.” 57 MOL 316.9

She frequently used the term, “principle,” when stating her views on health reform. She credited her much improved personal health to “the principles of health reform.” 58 She noted that her instruction on health reform dwelt “upon general principles.” 59 MOL 316.10

Toward the end of her life, reflecting back on the years since 1863, she penned: “It is reported by some that I have not lived up to the principles of health reform, as I have advocated them with my pen. But I can say that so far as my knowledge goes, I have not departed from those principles.” 60 MOL 316.11

For this reason Ellen White counseled church members “to avoid meat eating, not because it is regarded as a sin to eat meat, [that is, not a principle] but because it is not healthful [but a good policy].” 61 MOL 316.12

She understood clearly the difference between unchangeable principles and the conditionality of policies. Note this wisdom: “Those who understand the laws of health and who are governed by principle, will shun the extremes, both of indulgence and of restrictions. Their diet is chosen, not for the mere gratification of appetite, but for the upbuilding of the body. They seek to preserve every power in the best condition for the highest service to God and man.... There is real common sense in dietetic reform. The subject should be studied broadly and deeply, and no one should criticize others because their practice is not, in all things, in harmony with his own. It is impossible [in matters of diet] to make an unvarying rule to regulate everyone’s habits, and no one should think himself a criterion for all.” 62 MOL 317.1

Prior to the 1901 General Conference session, a few leaders met with Ellen White concerning dietary practices. Her remarks were recorded by C. C. Crisler, her secretary: “Oh, how it has hurt me to have the [road] blocks thrown in the way in regard to this subject. Some have said, ‘Sister White eats cheese, and therefore we are at liberty to eat cheese.’ I have tasted cheese once or twice, but that is a different thing from making it a diet. Once when at Minneapolis, I sat down at a table on which there was some cheese. I was quite sick at the time, and some of my brethren told me that they thought if I ate a little cheese, it might do me good. I ate a small piece, and from then it has been reported in large assemblies that Sister White eats cheese. MOL 317.2

“I have not had meat in my house for years. But do not give up the use of meat because Sister White does not eat it. I would not give a farthing for your health reform if that is what it is based upon. I want you to stand in your individual dignity and in your individual consecration before God, the whole being dedicated to Him.... I want you to think of these things. Do not make any human being your criterion.” 63 MOL 317.3

Ellen White understood clearly the difference between principle and policy. Her common sense in regard to health reform made her a physically stronger, more productive person as she became older—not a common experience for many in her day. Far from being a hypocrite, she led the way in assimilating principle into practice. Dietary practices were not a form of penance, nor a ritual by which to earn salvation. 64 MOL 317.4