The Great Visions of Ellen G. White


Ten Categories of Counsel

1. Care of health is a religious duty. “I saw that it was a sacred duty to attend to our health, and arouse others to their duty,” 18 Ellen wrote. “The body, which God calls His temple, should be preserved in as healthy a condition as possible. Many act as though they had a right to treat their own bodies as they please. They do not realize that God has claims upon them. They are required to glorify Him in their bodies and spirits, which are His.... It is a sacred duty which God has enjoined upon reasonable beings, formed in His image, to keep that image in as perfect a state as possible.... GVEGW 93.4

“All are required to do what they can to preserve healthy bodies, and sound minds.” 19 GVEGW 93.5

She made it clear, however, that man earns nothing toward eternal life, by way of salvation, by following health principles. It is only after “man has done all in his power to insure health,” by various measures, that “then he is saved alone by a miracle of God’s mercy.... [Only] then will he be benefited with the atonement of Christ.” 20 GVEGW 93.6

2. The cause of disease is a violation of health laws. While recognizing that much sickness and disease come from an external invasion of the body by disease-bearing microbes, Ellen still stoutly maintained that much—perhaps most—of disease and illness originated with the “violation of the laws of health,” 21 “the laws of their being,” 22 “the violation of God’s constitution and laws.” 23 GVEGW 93.7

She urged her fellow Christians to “reason from cause to GVEGW 93.8

effect,” 24 assuring them that God would not work a miracle, either to heal them 25 or yet to preserve their health, 26 if they flouted such laws, even through ignorance. GVEGW 94.1

Much pain and sickness were held, in most cases, to arise from nature’s efforts to overcome unnatural conditions resulting from some transgression of nature’s laws. 27 GVEGW 94.2

3. She attacked intemperance on many fronts. Ellen White lived in an age when the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and other similar organizations were most active in publicly attacking intemperance—usually of the alcoholic variety. GVEGW 94.3

Mrs. White was remarkable for her more broad definition of “temperance” (“true temperance teaches us to dispense entirely with everything hurtful and to use judiciously that which is healthful”) 28 and her equally broad definition of “intemperance” (“since the Fall [of Adam and Eve], intemperance in almost every form has existed”). 29 For her, intemperance included at least five subcategories: GVEGW 94.4

a. “Stimulating drinks.” As might be expected, alcohol came in for attack as a “stimulating drink,” an intoxicant that “confused the brain and brought down man to the level of the brute creation.” 30 But perhaps much less expected were her equally strong criticisms of tea and coffee. These, she declared, “are stimulating. Their effects are similar to those of tobacco; but they affect in a less degree.” 31 GVEGW 94.5

Mrs. White recognized the dangers of addiction to these substances, pointing out that when efforts were made to break from these “slow poisons,” symptoms of “dizziness, headache, numbness, nervousness, and irritability” would appear. But if the victims were “determined in their efforts to persevere and overcome, abused nature will soon again rally, and perform her work wisely and well without these stimulants.” 32 GVEGW 94.6

b. Tobacco, “in whatever form,” is a “slow and sure” poison 33 (including snuff). 34 “It affects the brain and benumbs the sensibilities, so that the mind cannot clearly discern spiritual things, especially those truths which would have a tendency to correct this filthy indulgence. Those who use tobacco in any form are not clear before God.” 35 GVEGW 94.7

Later in the chapter she added, significantly, “Tobacco is a poison of the most deceitful and malignant kind, having an exciting, then a paralyzing influence upon the nerves of the body. It is all the more GVEGW 94.8

dangerous because its effects upon the system are so slow, and at first scarcely perceivable.... Multitudes have surely murdered themselves by this slow poison.” 36 GVEGW 95.1

Please note her three adjectives: “slow,” “deceitful,” and “malignant.” (By 1886 she would slightly revise her characterization to read “slow, insidious, but most malignant poison.”) 37 GVEGW 95.2

c. Highly spiced foods came under the rubric of intemperance, specifically, “highly seasoned [flesh] meats” and “rich gravies“: 38 “rich cake, pies, and puddings“: 39 and “various kinds of rich ...preserves.” 40 Such “rich food breaks down the healthy organs of body and mind“: causes children, in particular, to become “feeble, pale, and dwarfed.” Such “spices” are to be eschewed because they “have a tendency to excite the animal passions.” 41 GVEGW 95.3

d. Overwork. “Intemperance in labor” 42 had a special application to Ellen’s husband, James, who was a chronic “workaholic.” 43 But also singled out in particular were housewives whose slavery to a hot cookstove resulted in the neglect of their children, ill temper, and a beclouding of the reasoning faculties, with consequent fading of spirituality. 44 Habits of working, Ellen was assured, had a very definite effect upon one’s health. 45 GVEGW 95.4

e. “Indulgence of base passions,” not otherwise more specifically identified, was an obvious reference to intemperate sexual relationships. These were reported to have a tendency to benumb “the fine sensibilities, so that sacred things have been placed upon a level with common things.” 46 “Corrupt” and “debasing passions,” given “loose rein,” in “great measure” destroy the “reasoning faculties.” 47 God was now calling for “purity of heart.” 48 GVEGW 95.5

4. Vegetarianism was, for the first time, revealed to Ellen as the ideal diet, being the original diet of Adam and Eve in Eden before death became a factor in human existence. 49 Now, a “wholesome diet,” consisting of fruits, vegetables, and “plain” (whole-grain) bread, was the ideal. 50 GVEGW 95.6

Recognizing that God had permitted “clean” animals (as later defined by Leviticus 11) to be eaten after the Noachian flood, animal food was nevertheless “not the most healthy article of food for man“: 51 it was a chief factor in dramatically shortening the life of the postdiluvians. GVEGW 95.7

Later, during the Exodus, although God did not prohibit Israel from eating a flesh diet altogether He withheld it from them “in great GVEGW 95.8

measure,” 52 providing instead the daily manna. As for today, “many die of diseases caused wholly by meat-eating, yet the world does not seem to be the wiser.” 53 GVEGW 96.1

Pork, however, was totally prohibited to ancient literal Israel, and Ellen White made the extension to modern, “spiritual” Israel. Five years earlier, in 1858, she had rebuked the Stephen N. Haskells (“Brother and Sister A”) for making the eating of pork a test of church membership. 54 Now she was shown that from ingesting swine’s flesh the human body would suffer from “scrofula, leprosy, and cancerous humors,” 55 for “pork-eating is still causing the most intense suffering to the human race.” 56 GVEGW 96.2

5. Proper dietary habits now called for the control of appetite, which had “been indulged to the injury of health.” 57 The twin habits of too-frequent eating between regular meals and eating too much (“gluttony”) 58 had an ill effect upon the stomach, which needs regular periods of rest. A two-meal-a-day dietary program was highly preferred; the third, an evening meal, if taken at all, should be “light,” and be eaten several hours before bedtime. 59 GVEGW 96.3

6. Control of the mind was an essential feature of this vision. Mrs. White wrote: “There is a class of invalids who have no real located disease. But as they believe they are dangerously diseased, they are in reality invalids. The mind is diseased, and many die who might recover of disease, which exists alone in the imagination.” GVEGW 96.4

Again: “The power of the will is a mighty soother of the nerves, and can resist much disease, simply by not yielding to ailments, and settling down into a state of inactivity. Those who have but little force, and natural energy, need to constantly guard themselves, lest their minds become diseased, and they give up to supposed disease, when none really exists.” 60 GVEGW 96.5

7. Natural remedies in healing. Mrs. White inveighed heavily against the contemporary practice of physicians in her day in prescribing “poisonous,” “powerful” drugs and “dangerous mixtures,” 61 such as nux vomica (strychnine), opium, mercury, calomel, and quinine. 62 GVEGW 96.6

“Nature alone is the effectual restorer.” “Nature alone possesses curative powers.” 63 GVEGW 96.7

The “natural” remedies focused upon in this first major health reform vision were: (a) pure air, 64 (b) pure water—both for internal and external needs, 65 (c) sunshine, 66 (d) physical exercise, 67 (e) GVEGW 96.8

adequate rest, 68 and (f) fasting for brief periods to give the stomach rest. 69 GVEGW 97.1

(While only hinted at inferentially in this vision, “a firm trust in God,” or “trust in divine power” was added 22 years later, in 1885, to round out Ellen’s final, complete list of natural remedies.) 70 GVEGW 97.2

8. The subject of personal cleanliness had been raised in the 1854 vision at Brookfield, New York, as noted above; now it was reemphasized and broadened to include the body, clothing, and living quarters. 71 God had “required the children of Israel to observe habits of strict cleanliness.” He was “still a God of cleanliness,” and personal cleanliness was now placed on the level of “purity of heart” as an obligation of all professing Christians. 72 GVEGW 97.3

9. Environmental concerns were included in this vision, with counsel to remove decaying vegetation (and even shade trees and shrubbery) from too-close proximity to family dwellings, to prevent occupants from breathing in the “effluvia” that such tended to generate. Wherever possible, houses should be built upon high, dry ground, because lowland locations tended to foster the settling of water, which in turn would produce a “poisonous miasma” that caused fever, ague, sore throat, lung diseases, and fever. 73 GVEGW 97.4

10. Health education by the church, with particular reference to prevention of illness, rounded out the multifaceted counsel of the 1863 health reform vision. “I saw that it was a sacred duty to attend to our health, and arouse others to their duty.... We have a duty to speak, to come out against intemperance of every kind.... I saw that we should not be silent upon the subject of health, but should wake up minds to the subject. GVEGW 97.5

“I saw that our children should be instructed, and we should take time to teach them.” 74 GVEGW 97.6