Ellen G. White: The Progressive Years: 1862-1876 (vol. 2)


Chapter 14—(1867) Battle Creek and the Health Institute

In response to the instruction given to Ellen White that the Seventh-day Adventist Church should own and operate a medical institution, the Western Health Reform Institute was brought into being, but rather precipitously. It would have been well if the health of James White had been such that he could exercise his cautious managerial experience, and Ellen could have been in a position to give closer attention to the project. In the absence of this, men in all sincerity but with limited experience moved ahead, sometimes inadvisably. This led to many unforeseen problems. 2BIO 192.1

Ellen White did not have time to write out fully the instruction given to her in the vision of December 25, 1865, before she presented it publicly at the General Conference session in May, 1866. When the financial support initially called for, so essential to the development of the enterprise, lagged, the leading workers pleaded with her to write out the instruction that led to the institution's launching, hoping it would strengthen financial support. Yielding her better judgment, she sent for publication that portion of the instruction that called for such an institution before she could write out in full all that had been shown her regarding the enterprise. Her incomplete presentation appeared in Testimony No. 11. 2BIO 192.2

The enthusiastic response from the general public led to premature plans for the rapid enlargement of the institution to accommodate all who applied for admission as patients. 2BIO 192.3

“What shall be done?” queried Dr. Lay, medical superintendent, in an article in the Review in early 1867. The article opened: 2BIO 192.4

Patients are coming to the Health Institute so rapidly that we are already being crowded for room. We do not dare to advertise the institution to any great extent, for fear we shall not have place for those that may wish to come. In addition to the three buildings which are wholly devoted to the wants of the institution, every room of which is occupied, we are fitting up a cottage for lodging rooms, which, according to present prospects, will be filled with patients in a few weeks. And the question arises, What shall be done?—The Review and Herald, January 8, 1867. 2BIO 193.1

Dr. Lay called for $25,000 to erect a new building. He wrote, “We can take care of at least one hundred more patients than we now have, just as well as not,” and added: 2BIO 193.2

There is need of another building being commenced as soon as early in the spring.... What shall be done?—Ibid. 2BIO 193.3

He asked the question: 2BIO 193.4

Shall we continue to do business on as limited a scale as at present, and in a few months from now not be able to receive at the Health Institute but a very small portion of those that may wish to come?—Ibid.

James and Ellen White, in northern Michigan, watched the rapid developments with growing concern. It was clear to them that plans for expansion of the Health Institute were premature, and the way in which materials from Ellen White's pen were being used brought particular distress, for the testimonies written to bring the institution into being were now being used to support the plans for immediate enlargement. 2BIO 193.5

Plans were drawn, an excavation was made, a stone foundation was laid, and materials were purchased for proceeding with the proposed enlargement. James and Ellen White watched at long range through the letters, the Review, and reports that reached them, and were greatly distressed. They were convinced that the denomination was quite destitute of what would be needed in skill, experience, and finance. 2BIO 193.6

Then, by vision, God gave direction. Of this Ellen later wrote: 2BIO 193.7

I was shown a large building going up on the site on which the Battle Creek Sanitarium was afterward erected. The brethren were in great perplexity as to who should take charge of the work. I wept sorely. One of authority stood up among us, and said, “Not yet. You are not ready to invest means in that building, or to plan for its future management.” At this time the foundation of the Sanitarium had been laid. But we needed to learn the lesson of waiting.—Letter 135, 1903.

In distress she wrote: “The disposition manifested to crowd the matter of the institute so fast has been one of the heaviest trials I have ever borne.”—Testimonies for the Church, 1:563. 2BIO 194.1

In the August 27, 1867, Review, there appeared an appeal for $15,000. This was needed immediately to push forward with the enlargement of the Health Institute, to complete the work already begun on the new building. The author of the article, in an endeavor to loosen the purse strings of the believers, quoted at length from Ellen White's initial appeal for a health institution as published in Testimony No. 11. 2BIO 194.2