Ellen White and Vegetarianism- Contents
- Did She Practice What She Preached?
- Chapter 1—Three Typical Charges
- Chapter 2—A Chronology: Teaching and Practice
- Chapter 4—The Brighton Camp Meeting: A Transition
- Chapter 5—The Question of Fish and Shellfish
- Chapter 6—The Allegation of Hypocrisy
- Chapter 7—Ellen White Not Our Criterion
- Chapter 8—The Importance of Historical Perspective
- Chapter 9—Conclusion
- Weighted Relevancy
- Content Sequence
- Earliest First
- Latest First
Chapter 2—A Chronology: Teaching and Practice
It is well to remember that the prophetic gift was given to a seventeen-year-old meat-eating Sunday keeper on an unrecorded day in December of 1844, and that that first vision was totally silent concerning the advantages of a vegetarian diet. Her first vision dealing with healthful living was given in the autumn of 1848, when the use of tea, coffee, and tobacco were forbidden to Sabbath keepers. 1James White, “Western Tour,” , 165; cf. also Dores Robinson, The Story of our Health Message (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Publishing Association, 1965), 65-70. Her first comprehensive health-reform vision, contraindicating the use of flesh foods, was given still later on June 6, 1863. 2; cited in , #1EWV 8.1
When she received her first vision, Ellen Harmon had just passed her seventeenth birthday (November 26). She was in poor health and weighed but eighty pounds. The man who would become her husband twenty-one months later described her condition at that time:EWV 8.2
When she had her first vision, she was an emaciated invalid, given up by her friends and physicians to die of consumption.... Her nervous condition was such that she could not write, and was dependent on one sitting near her at the table to even pour her drink from the cup to the saucer. 3James White, Life Incidents in Connection With the Great Advent 29 Movement as Illustrated by the Three Angels of Revelation XIV (Battle Creek, Mich.: Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1868), 273.
At the time the health-reform message first came to her, she characterized herself as “weak and feeble, subject to frequent fainting spells.” 4. (Hereunder cited as 1T, 2T, etc.)
I have thought for years that I was dependent upon a meat diet for strength.... It has been very difficult for me to go from one meal to another without suffering from faintness at the stomach, and dizziness of the head.... I ...frequently
fainted.... I therefore decided that meat was indispensible in my case.... I have been troubled every spring with loss of appetite. 5 . (Hereunder cited as 1SG, 2SG, etc.)
To remedy these physical weaknesses, Ellen ate substantial quantities of meat daily. She subsequently referred to herself as “a great meat eater” in those early days.6. “Flesh meat ...was ...my principal article of diet.” 7 (July 15); cited in , #10.
The resulting alleviation of faintness was, however, temporary—“for the time,” 84SG:153. as she put it—and “instead of gaining strength, I grew weaker and weaker. I often fainted from exhaustion.” 9 (July 15); cited in , #10.EWV 9.1
Ellen White’s vision of October 21, 1858, on which she based her rebuke of “Brother and Sister A” for unduly urging abstinence from pork as a test of church fellowship, was, as far as can be ascertained, the only vision dealing with flesh foods prior to 1863. It should be noted, however, that this vision offered no clue that abstinence from flesh food would result in improved health.EWV 9.2
As regards the rightness or wrongness of the eating of pork, Ellen White neither condoned (as is sometimes alleged) nor condemned. She did say that if this position were the mind of God, He would, in His own time, “teach His church their duty.” 10.EWV 9.3
In His own good time and through His chosen channel of communication God did teach His people. In the first major health-reform vision of June 6, 1863, for the first time, God’s people were urged to abstain from flesh food in general, and from swine’s flesh in particular.EWV 9.4
Ellen White characterized this first comprehensive health-reform vision as “great light from the Lord,” adding, “I did not seek this light; I did not study to obtain it; it was given to me by the Lord to give to others.” 11; cited in , #24. Expanding on this theme on another occasion, she added:EWV 9.5
The Lord presented a general plan before me. I was shown that God would give to His commandment-keeping people a reform diet, and that as they received this, their disease and suffering would be greatly lessened. I was shown that this work would progress. 12; cited in , #2.
Mrs. White’s personal response was prompt and positive: “I accepted the light on health reform as it came to me.” 13; cited in , #3. “I at once cut meat out of my bill of fare;” 14 (July 15); cited in , #10. indeed, she says, “I broke away from everything at once,—from meat and butter, and from [eating] three meals [a day].” 15. And the result? “My former faint and dizzy feelings have left me,” as well as the problem of loss of appetite in the springtime. 164SG:154 And at the age of eighty-two years she could declare, “I have better health today, notwithstanding my age, than I had in my younger days.” 17; cf. also Ms. 50, 1904, cited in , #3.EWV 10.1
I suffered keen hunger, I was a great meat eater. But when faint, I placed my arms across my stomach, and said: “I will not taste a morsel. I will eat simple food, or I will not eat at all.” ...When I made these changes I had a special battle to fight. 18.
A struggle, yes, but the point is that she struggled and won. The very next year, after the 1863 health-reform vision, she could report, “I have left [off] the use of meat.” 194SG:153. And five years later, in a letter to her son, Edson, in which she urged him and his family to “show true principle” in faithfulness in health reform, she assured him that she was also practicing what she preached:EWV 10.3
We have in diet been strict to follow the light the Lord has given us.... We have advised you not to eat butter or meat. We have not had it on our [own] table. 20 (May 25).
I have not changed my course a particle since I adopted the health reform. I have not taken one step back since the light from heaven upon this subject first shone upon my pathway. I broke away from everything at once. 21.
Does this mean that Ellen White never again ate a piece of meat? No, not at all. And furthermore, she did not attempt to hide this fact. There were occasional exceptions to a habitual pattern of vegetarianism. In 1890 she stated: “When I could not obtain the food I needed, I have sometimes eaten a little meat,” but even here “I am becoming more and more afraid of it.” 22 (1890; hereunder cited as CTBH); cited in , #699. And eleven years later (1901) she openly admitted that “I was at times ...compelled to eat a little meat.” 23 (July 15); cited in , #10.EWV 11.1
As we examine more specifically now the particular nature of these “times,” we discover three principal categories in which Mrs. White felt obligated to depart, temporarily, from her habitual practice of vegetarianism.EWV 11.2