Messenger of the Lord



Few topics have generated more ridicule from critics than Ellen White’s statements regarding “self-abuse,” 57 “solitary vice,” 58 “self-indulgence,” 59 “secret vice,” 60 “moral pollution,” 61 etc. Ellen White never used the term “masturbation.” MOL 493.4

Her first reference to this subject appeared in a 64-page pamphlet, An Appeal to Mothers, April 1864, nine months after her first comprehensive health vision. Primarily devoted to masturbation, pages 5 to 34 were from her own pen; the remainder consisted of quotations from medical authorities. 62 MOL 493.5

Ellen White did not say that all, or even most, of the potentially serious consequences of masturbation would happen to any one individual. Nor did she say that the worst possible degree of a serious consequence would happen to most indulgers. MOL 493.6

Modern research indicates that Ellen White’s strong statements can be supported when she is properly understood. The general view today, however, is that masturbation is normal and healthy and thus should be free from guilt feelings. MOL 493.7

Two medical specialists have suggested that in “a zinc-deficient adolescent, sexual excitement and excessive masturbation might precipitate insanity,” 63 and “it is even possible, given the importance of zinc for the brain, that 18th century moralists were correct when they said that repeated masturbation could make one mad.” 64 MOL 493.8

Two professionals in the area of clinical psychology and family therapy have compared Ellen White’s statements on masturbation with current medical knowledge. 65 Dr. Richard Nies defended Ellen White’s general counsel on masturbation, making four main points: (1) Masturbation leads to “mental, moral, and physical deterioration.... It is not the stimulation, per se, that is wrong. It’s what’s going on in ... [persons] when they’re becoming self-referenced and self-centered.” (2) Masturbation “breaks down the finer sensitivities of our nervous system.... It is not difficult to see in terms of the electrical mediation of our nervous system, how disease becomes a natural result of individuals who have placed their own gratification at the center of their being.... Disease is the natural result of this.” MOL 493.9

(3) Masturbation is a predisposition that can be “inherited and passed on and transmitted from one generation to another, even leading to degeneration of the race.” MOL 493.10

(4) In dealing with others, especially children, Ellen White’s counsel lies in the direction of dealing with the consequences, of showing them that we should be training for love and eternity, not self-gratification with its terrible consequences. Dr. Nies concluded his paper, “Self-gratification is synonymous with destruction.” MOL 493.11

Alberta Mazat observed that Ellen White’s concern regarding masturbation was primarily on the mental consequences rather than the “purely physical act. She was more concerned with thought processes, attitudes, fantasies, etc.” Mazat quoted Ellen White’s references to the fact that “the effects are not the same on all minds,” that “impure thoughts seize and control the imagination,” and that the mind “takes pleasure in contemplating the scenes which awake base passion.” MOL 494.1

Mazat further noted that some may be embarrassed by Ellen White’s strong statements regarding masturbation. However, many of Mrs. White’s other statements also seemed “unrealistic and exaggerated before science corroborated them, for example, cancer being caused by a virus, the dangers of smoking, overeating, and the overuse of fats, sugar, and salt, to name a few.... It seems worthwhile to remind ourselves that medical knowledge at any point is not perfect.” 66 MOL 494.2