A Prophet Among You

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Ministry in the New Church—1863-85

About two weeks after the organization of the General Conference, a revelation came to Ellen White that was to have farreaching influence in the lives and activities of all Seventh-day Adventists. It is the one frequently called “the health-reform vision.” It appears that the Lord waited until the task of organization had been completed before introducing the broader light on health. “It was at the house of Brother A. Hilliard, at Otsego, Michigan, June 6, 1863, that the great subject of Health Reform was opened before me in vision.” The Review and Herald, October 8, 1867. APAY 226.2

Two workers, Elders R. J. Lawrence and M. E. Cornell, were conducting a series of evangelistic meetings in a tent at Otsego, about thirty miles from Battle Creek. On this occasion, a group of believers from Battle Creek drove to Otsego to spend the weekend and attend the meetings. In the group were James and Ellen White. At the time, James White was in poor health, for overwork and strain were taking their toll. No doubt the release from pressure after the formation of the General Conference organization less than two weeks before contributed to his feeling of weariness and depression. APAY 226.3

On Friday evening, the visitors joined the Hilliards in family worship service. What happened can perhaps be pictured best in the words of Mrs. Martha Amadon, who was present. APAY 227.1

“Sister White was asked to lead in prayer at family worship. She did so in a most wonderful manner. Elder White was kneeling a short distance from her. While praying, she moved over to him, and laying her hand on his shoulder continued praying for him until she was taken off in vision. She was in vision about forty-five minutes. It was at this time she was given instruction upon the health question which soon after became such a matter of interest to our people. Those present at the time this vision was given will never forget the heavenly influence that filled the room. The cloud passed from the mind of Elder White, and he was full of praise to God.” Mrs. Martha D. Amadon, Ellen G. White Publications Document File, No. 105. APAY 227.2

The first comprehensive presentation of what had been revealed in this vision regarding health was published the next year in a section of Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, entitled “Health.” For some years preceding the time of the health-reform vision there had been those among the Sabbathkeeping Adventists who recommended reforms in diet and the giving up of various harmful stimulants, such as tea, coffee, and tobacco, as well as alcoholic drinks. In 1848 Ellen White was given a vision in which tea, coffee, and tobacco were condemned. The response to the instruction was slow at first, but it steadily increased. The believers in general did not yet realize the connection there was between the care of health and the development of character. The 1863 health-reform vision re-emphasized some of these earlier reform attempts, introduced additional areas where change was needed, and made a definite tie between the physical condition and the spiritual experience. The relationship is stated by Mrs. White in this paragraph: APAY 227.3

“All are required to do what they can to preserve healthy bodies, and sound minds. If they will gratify a gross appetite, and by so doing blunt their sensibilities, and becloud their perceptive faculties so that they cannot appreciate the exalted character of God, or delight in the study of His word, they may be assured that God will not accept their unworthy offering any sooner than that of Cain. God requires them to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. After man has done all in his power to ensure health, by the denying of appetite and gross passions, that he may possess a healthy mind, and a sanctified imagination, that he may render to God an offering in righteousness, then he is saved alone by a miracle of God’s mercy, as was the ark upon the stormy billows. Noah had done all that God required of him in making the ark secure, then God performed that which man could not do, and preserved the ark by His miraculous power.”—Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts 4a:148, 149. The section on “Health” includes pages 120-151. APAY 228.1

In passing, we should call attention to the last two sentences of the above quotation. It was made plain in this first general presentation of the health message, that although there was a definite relationship between healthful living and the preparation for the advent of Christ, salvation would not come through health reform any more than through conformity to any other of God’s instruction. Salvation is the result of a miracle performed by God in the human life. This was the position taken by Ellen White. Men are to be obedient to God, not for the purpose of obtaining salvation; but in order to honor the One who has saved them and outlined for them the best way to live while waiting for His return. APAY 228.2

The instruction given in this first health vision was amplified in later revelations, and the record found in Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4, was expanded until we have such volumes as The Ministry of Healing, Counsels on Diet and Foods, Counsels on Health, Medical Ministry, and Temperance.The instruction also resulted in the founding of a world-wide system of health institutions for the purpose of giving physical and spiritual help to the sick, and instructing them in the principles of healthful living. APAY 229.1

The immediate inspiration for the opening of a health institution came as a result of another vision on health reform, given at Rochester, New York, December 25, 1865. In her record of what had been shown her, Mrs. White said, “I was shown that we should provide a home for the afflicted and those who wish to learn how to take care of their bodies that they may prevent sickness.” Testimonies for the Church 1:489. APAY 229.2

On September 5, 1866, the Western Health Reform Institute opened at Battle Creek, with “two doctors, two bath attendants, one nurse (untrained), three or four helpers, one patient, any amount of inconveniences, and a great deal of faith in the future of the Institution and the principles on which it was founded.” Medical Missionary, January, 1894. Not only had this parent institution come into existence as a result of the visions, but warning was given by the same means, that there were dangers involved in wandering from the revealed pattern. “I saw that in an institution established among us the greatest danger would be of its managers’ departing from the spirit of the present truth and from that simplicity which should ever characterize the disciples of Christ.” Testimonies for the Church 1:560. Such warnings came frequently to leaders in all phases of church work. They were and are important parts of the whole picture of God’s leading in the remnant church. APAY 229.3