Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1


Chapter 25—Love and Sexuality in the Human Experience

Note: Ellen White lived and worked in a day when great restraint was exercised in speaking publicly or writing about sex and the sexual relationship between husbands and wives. 1MCP 218.1

She was married to James White on August 30, 1846, after assuring herself through prayer that this was a proper step. It should be noted that she was well into her ministry, for she had for twenty months been the recipient of visions from the Lord. As a result of this union with James White she gave birth to four sons, born in 1847, 1849, 1854, and 1860. 1MCP 218.2

It was in the 1860's—the decade of two basic health-reform visions (June 6, 1863, and December 25, 1865)—that Ellen G. White began to discuss matters relating to sex. Statements in later years provided some elaboration. In referring to sexual intercourse in marriage she employed such terms as “privilege of the marriage relation,” “privilege of the family relation,” “sexual privileges.” 1MCP 218.3

To gain an accurate and balanced concept of Ellen White's teaching in this delicate field, statement should be placed with statement. The balance revealed in many of the statements should be observed. Careful note should be taken of the meaning of the words employed. 1MCP 218.4

Terms such as “passion” and “propensities” are at times used. These are often qualified by such words as baser, animal, lustful, depraved, corrupt. This strong language could lead some readers to assume that all passion is condemned and all sexual activity is evil. The following quotations would hardly sustain this: 1MCP 218.5

Not only does God require you to control your thoughts, but also your passions and affections.... Passion and affection are powerful agents....Positively guard your thoughts, your passions, and your affections. Do not degrade these to minister to lust. Elevate them [passions and affections] to purity, devote them to God.—Testimonies for the Church 2:561, 564 (1870). 1MCP 218.6

All animal propensities are to be subjected to the higher powers of the soul.—Manuscript 1, 1888. (The Adventist Home, 128.) 1MCP 219.1

In the same context in which some of the strong terms referred to above are used, she urges that the passions are to be controlled by what she called “higher, nobler powers,” “reason,” “moral restraint,” and “moral faculties.” She writes of temperance and moderation and avoiding excess. In marriage those passions common to all human beings are to be subject to control, they are to be governed. Note again: 1MCP 219.2

Those who regard the marriage relation as one of God's sacred ordinances, guarded by His holy precept, will be controlled by the dictates of reason.—Healthful Living, 48. 1MCP 219.3

Very few feel it to be a religious duty to govern their passions.... The marriage covenant covers sin of the darkest hue.... Health and life are sacrificed upon the altar of base passion. The higher, nobler powers are brought into subjection to the animal propensities.... Love is a pure and holy principle; but lustful passion will not admit of restraint and will not be dictated to or controlled by reason.—Testimonies for the Church 2:472, 473 (1870). 1MCP 219.4

She writes of the marriage relation as a “sacred institution” which may be “perverted.” She speaks of “sexual privileges” which “are abused.” Again, it is not passion that is condemned, but “base” and “lustful” passion. And it is worth observing that Ellen White pictures the intimacy of marriage as a “privilege.” Though she warned against gross sexual behavior in marriage, she wrote of a time when affections held in proper restraint can be “unfettered.” Another enlightening statement is worthy of close examination: 1MCP 219.5

In regard to marriage, I would say, read the word of God. Even in this time, the last days of this world's history, marriages take place among Seventh-day Adventists....We have, as a people, never forbidden marriage, except in cases where there were obvious reasons that marriage would be misery to both parties. And even then, we have only advised and counseled.—Letter 60, 1900. 1MCP 219.6

At one time when because of the demands of the work in which she and her husband were engaged a half a continent separated them, she confided in a letter to James: 1MCP 219.7

We feel every day a most earnest desire for a more sacred nearness to God. This is my prayer when I lie down, when I awake in the night, and when I arise in the morning, Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee.... 1MCP 219.8

I sleep alone. This seems to be Mary's preference as well as mine. I can have a better opportunity for reflection and prayer. I prize my [being] all to myself unless graced with your presence. I want to share my bed only with you.—Letter 6, 1876. 1MCP 220.1

At no time did she participate in or condone teachings which called for a sort of platonic brother and sister relationship in marriage. When dealing with some who pressed teachings of this nature, Ellen White counseled against urging such views. To dwell on them, she wrote, opened the way for Satan to work “upon the imagination so that impurity” instead of purity would result.—Letter 103, 1894. 1MCP 220.2

For every lawful, God-given privilege, Satan has a counterfeit to suggest. The holy, pure thought he seeks to replace with the impure. For the sanctity of married love he would substitute permissiveness, unfaithfulness, excess, and perversion; premarital sex, adultery, animalism in and outside of marriage, and homosexuality. All are referred to in this chapter.—Compilers. 1MCP 220.3