Archive for the ‘Ellen White’ Category


The AAR in Chicago

November 29, 2008

I was fortunate to attend the meetings of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) – held this year in Chicago. I have attended the meetings once before – in Toronto in 2002 when they were combined with the Society of Biblical Literature.
One of the first sessions I attended was a Wildcard session on Apocalypticism – The End Is Not What It Used to Be: The Taming of the Apocalyptic Movements in American Religions, chaired by a friend of mine, Julius Nam of Loma Linda University. Ginger Hanks Harwood of La Sierra University was one of the presenters.

From L to R: Kenneth G. C. Newport (Liverpool Hope University), Ginger Hanks Harwood (La Sierra University), Grant Underwood (Brigham Young University), Richard Landes (Boston University), and Julius Nam (Loma Linda University).

The second session I attended with a SDA connection was a session sponsored by the Psychology, Culture and Religion group which focussed on a play called “Red Books” written & directed by Mei Ann Teo, artist in residence at Pacific Union College. The session was presented by A. Gregory Schneider (Pacific Union College), and Mei Ann Teo, and was titled, “Knowing through Becoming- Exercises in Documentary Theater: Reflections on Red Books: Our Search for Ellen White”.

The title refers to the books of Ellen G. White which were (and still are) published as red-bound hardcover books:


The session was interactive & very interesting. You can purchase the DVD of the play here. There were many. many other sessions on everything from Street Side Memorials, to the Reformation, to Black Gospel Music.  It was good to meet others interested in the study of religion. The publishers were there in force also & while I did try to restrain myself, I came home with the following pile, a rather eclectic mix:


From Eerdmans I picked up the new edition of Prophetess of Health by Ronald Numbers as well as the new biography of William Miller: God’s Strange Work by David L. Rowe. I have started reading the latter & will post a review in due time.

On Sunday evening I attended the Adventist Graduate Student Reception. It was great to meet new people including Trisha Famisaran and Ron Pickell of the Adventist Christian Fellowship of the North American Division. After the meal some of us walked to Millennium park. Here’s the group in front of this cool stainless steel bubble sculpture:



Ellen White – the real human being

November 5, 2008

Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll – without the drugs and rock & roll

June 23, 2008

Human sexuality was a popular topic amongst American “Health reformers” in the 19th century. One of the first publications on the subject was Sylvester Graham’s Lecture to Young Men on Chastity published in 1834. Most other popular health reformers: Alcott, Coles, Trall, Jackson etc also wrote on this subject. The focus for most of these reformers was the danger of “excessive” or abnormal sexual activity—with a particular emphasis on the evils associated with masturbation.

In order to understand 19th century views of sexuality, we need to understand the concept of “vital force”. Seventh-day Adventist leader John Loughborough wrote in 1868 that vital force was, “that power placed in the human body, at its birth, which will enable the body, under favorable circumstances, to live to  certain age.” (Handbook of Health, 1868, 14-15).

As the amount of “vital force” each person possessed was limited—and since each sexual activity used up an irreplaceable amount—every individual should keep their sexual activity to a minimum so that they would not die prematurely. To illustrate this concept, many nineteenth century authors compared it to money in a bank account gradually depleted by repeated withdrawals over the years until none remained.

Ellen White is no exception—the phrase “vital force” occurs quite frequently in her writings:

“Those who acquire and indulge the unnatural appetite for tobacco, do this at the expense of health. They are destroying nervous energy, lessening vital force and sacrificing mental strength.” (Signs of the Times, January 6, 1876.)

“Those who make great exertions to accomplish just so much work in a given time, and continue to labor when their judgment tells them they should rest, are never gainers. They are living on borrowed capital. They are expending the vital force which they will need at a future time. And when the energy they have so recklessly used is demanded, they fail for want of it.” (Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 1890, 64.)

Ellen White—like many of her contemporaries—does use the phrase in relation to human sexuality. In regard to what she terms “self abuse” (masturbation—we’ll come back to this topic later), Ellen White states:
“They sacrifice physical strength and reason upon the altar of lust, and can they think that God will accept their distracted, imbecile service, while they continue their wrong course? Such are just as surely self-murderers as though they pointed a pistol to their own breast, and destroyed their life instantly. In the first case they linger longer, are more debilitated, and destroy gradually the vital force of their constitution, and the mental faculties; yet the work of decay is sure.” (An Appeal to Mothers, 1864, 24.)

“Females possess less vital force than the other sex, and are deprived very much of the bracing, invigorating air, by their in-doors life.” (An Appeal to Mothers 1864, 24.)

Health reformers in the 1800s considered sex to be very draining upon the vital energies. Well-known Seventh-day Adventist physician John Harvey Kellogg wrote in 1877:  “The reproductive act is the most exhaustive of all vital acts.” (Plain Facts for Old and Young, 119.)

Ellen White believed the same:
“They do not see that God requires them to control their married lives from any excesses. But very few feel it to be a religious duty to govern their passions. They have united themselves in marriage to the object of their choice, and therefore reason that marriage sanctifies the indulgence of the baser passions. Even men and women professing godliness give loose rein to their lustful passions, and have no thought that God holds them accountable for the expenditure of vital energy, which weakens their hold on life and enervates the entire system.” (Testimonies, Vol. 4, 472.)

During the 1800s it was believed that the ideal spiritual woman manifested little interest in sexuality. Writing in 1871, German neurologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing pronounced, “Woman, …if physically and mentally normal, and properly educated, has but little sensual desire.”
John Harvey Kellogg has a similar quote in his 1877 book: “I should say that the majority of women, happily for them, are not very much troubled with sexual feeling of any kind….The best mothers, wives, and managers of households know little or nothing of sexual indulgences. Love of home, of children, of domestic duties, are the only passions they feel. As a general rule, a modest woman seldom desires any sexual gratification for herself.” (Plain Facts for Old and Young, 473.)

Ellen  White writes that it is the duty of the ideal wife to restrain the desires of her husband:
“It is not pure, holy love which leads the wife to gratify the animal propensities of her husband at the expense of health and life. If she possesses true love and wisdom, she will seek to divert his mind from the gratification of lustful passions to high and spiritual themes by dwelling upon interesting spiritual subjects. It may be necessary to humbly and affectionately urge, even at the risk of his displeasure, that she cannot debase her body by yielding to sexual excess. She should, in a tender, kind manner, remind him that God has the first and highest claim upon her entire being, and that she cannot disregard this claim, for she will be held accountable in the great day of God.” (A Solemn Appeal, 1870, 175.)

“Sexual excess will effectually destroy a love for devotional exercises, will take from the brain the substance needed to nourish the system, and will most effectively exhaust the vitality. No woman should aid her husband in this work of self-destruction. She will not do it if she is enlightened and has true love for him. The more the animal passions are indulged, the stronger do they become, and the more violent will be their clamors for indulgence. Let God-fearing men and women awake to their duty. Many professed Christians are suffering with paralysis of nerve and brain because of their intemperance in this direction.” (A Solemn Appeal, 1870, 175.)

We should note that Ellen White never defined exactly what excessive meant. The term marital excess was however used by the other health reformers of her day.  In 1834, Sylvester Graham favoured a maximum of once a month. (Lecture to Young Men, on Chastity, 144-148.) Orson Squire Fowler stated, “to indulge, even in wedlock, as often as the moon quarters, is gradual but effectual destruction of both soul and body. (Hereditary Descent, 1843, 206.) [Since the moon quarters every seven-and-a-half days, Fowler was saying that engaging in sex at a frequency of once a week was too frequent!] Adventist physician John Harvey Kellogg seemed to agree with Graham by suggesting marriage partners “limit indulgence to the number of months in the year.” Kellogg considered daily sex to be dangerous for both partners: “Another case came under our observation in which the patient, a man, confessed to having indulged every night for twenty years. We did not wonder that at forty he was a complete physical wreck.” (Plain Facts for Old and Young, 487, 468.)

Ellen White did not employ the word “masturbation” in her writings—instead she used euphemisms such as “solitary vice”, “secret vice”, and “self-abuse.” Her first reference to this subject appeared in a 64-page pamphlet, An Appeal to Mothers, (quoted above) that was published in April 1864. Primarily devoted to masturbation, pages 5 to 34 were from her own pen; the remainder consisted of quotations from medical authorities. An Appeal to Mothers was reprinted in 1870 as part of a larger work, A Solemn Appeal Relative to Solitary Vice and Abuses and Excesses of the Marriage Relation.

In the 18th century the concept of harm to the body brought on by masturbation came to the fore in the United States. A European physician, Dr. S. Tissot took up the cause and brought to America his theories, which included not only the harmfulness of masturbation, but of some sexual conduct between husbands and wives as well. The list of disorders following such sexual behaviours were said to cause problems all the way from “acne to suicide.” Parents were alerted to this proclaimed evil to every body system. Much energy, time and money were spent on “cures” to put an end to this activity. These consisted of preventive measures which included mechanical devices and surgical procedures, many of which would now be considered abusive.

Male anti-masturbation device 1.Anti-masturbation device 2.

anti-masturbation device 3.

Above are examples of Anti-masturbation devices for men.

In her booklet, An Appeal to Mothers, Ellen White writes:
“I feel alarmed for those children and you who by solitary vice are ruining themselves…you listen to numerous complaints of headache, catarrh, dizziness, nervousness, pain in the shoulders and side, loss of appetite, pain in the back and limbs…and have you not noticed that there was a deficiency in the mental health of your children?” (p11)

“Secret indulgence is, in many cases, the only real cause of the numerous complaints of the young.” (p13)

“The state of the world is alarming. Everywhere we look we see imbecility, dwarfed forms, crippled limbs, misshapen heads and deformity of every description… Corrupt habits are wasting their energy, and bringing upon them loathsome and complicated diseases… Children who practice self-indulgence…must pay the penalty.” (p. 14)

“The results of self-abuse in them [females] is seen in various diseases, such as catarrh, dropsy, headache, loss of memory and sight, great weakness in the back and loins, affections of the spine, the head often decays inwardly. Cancerous humor, which would lay dormant in the system their life-time, is inflamed, and commences its eating, destructive work. The mind is often utterly ruined, and insanity takes place.” (p24)

“I have been shown that children who practice self-indulgence previous to puberty, or the period of merging into manhood and womanhood, must pay the penalty of nature’s violated laws at that critical period. Many sink into an early grave, while others have sufficient force of constitution to pass this ordeal. If the practice is continued from the ages of fifteen and upward, nature will protest against the abuse she has suffered, and continues to suffer, and will make them pay the penalty for the transgression of her laws, especially from the ages of thirty to forty-five, by numerous pains in the system, and various diseases, such as affection of the liver and lungs, neuralgia, rheumatism, affection of the spine, diseased kidneys, and cancerous humors. Some of nature’s fine machinery gives way…there is often a sudden breaking down of the constitution, and death is the result.” (p18)

“Moral pollution has done more than every other evil to cause the race to degenerate. It is practiced to an alarming extent and brings on disease of almost every description. Even very small children, infants, being born with natural irritability of the sexual organs, find momentary relief in handling them, which only increases the irritation, and leads to a repetition of the act, until a habit is established which increases with their growth. These children, generally puny and dwarfed, are prescribed for by physicians and drugged; but the evil is not removed. The cause still exists.”

“Parents do not generally suspect that their children understand anything about this vice. In very many cases the parents are the real sinners. They have abused their marriage privileges, and by indulgence have strengthened their animal passions. And as these have strengthened, the moral and intellectual faculties have become weak. The spiritual has been overborne by the brutish. Children are born with the animal propensities largely developed, the parents’ own stamp of character having been given to them. The unnatural action of the sensitive organs produces irritation. They are easily excited, and momentary relief is experienced in exercising them. But the evil constantly increases. The drain upon the system is sensibly felt. The brain force is weakened, and memory becomes deficient.” (Testimonies Vol. 2,  390.)

It was common for health reformers of the time to see a link between diet and sexuality.
John Harvey Kellogg wrote in 1886, “flesh, condiments, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate, and all stimulants have a powerful influence directly on the reproductive organs. They increase the local supply of blood; and through nervous sympathy with the brain, the passions are aroused.” (Plain Facts for Old and Young, 178.)

For Kellogg, the solution was simple: “Nothing tends so powerfully to keep the passions in abeyance as a simple diet, free from condiments, especially when coupled with a generous amount of exercise.” (Plain Facts for Old and Young, 179.)

Ellen White took a similar stance to Kellogg:
“Our food should be prepared free from spices. Mince pies, cakes, preserves, and highly-seasoned meats, with gravies, create a feverish condition in the system, and inflame the animal passions. (An Appeal to Mothers 1864, 19-20.)

“Children who eat improperly are often feeble, pale, and dwarfed and are nervous, excitable, and irritable. Everything noble is sacrificed to the appetite, and the animal passions predominate. The lives of many children from five to ten and fifteen years of age seem marked with depravity. They possess knowledge of almost every vice. The parents are, in a great degree, at fault in this matter….They tempt their children to indulge their appetite by placing upon their tables flesh meats and other food prepared with spices, which have a tendency to excite the animal passions.” (Spiritual Gifts Vol. 4, 132-133.)

Ellen White did not say that all of the serious consequences she associated with masturbation would be visited upon any one given individual; nor did she indicate that the worst possible degree of any of these consequences would be experienced by any particular person. However, no link has been found between masturbation and any of the conditions Ellen White discusses. In fact modern medical advice is generally that masturbation in both males and females is a normal part of human behaviour without adverse (and possibly even beneficial) consequences.

Studies show that over 90% of adult males masturbate and around 65% of females. Possible beneficial consequences include:

  • Increased fertility
  • Decreased levels of depression
  • Decreasing the chance of prostate cancer (for males).
  • It has been suggested that there is a possible link between masturbation and physical illness:
    “The amount of zinc in semen is such that one ejaculation may get rid of all the zinc that can be absorbed from the intestines in one day. This has a number of consequences. Unless the amount lost is replaced by an increased dietary intake, repeated ejaculation may lead to a real zinc deficiency with various problems developing, including impotence….It is even possible, given the importance of zinc for the brain, that 19th century moralists were correct when they said that repeated masturbation could make one mad!” (David F. Horrobin, Zinc, 8.)

    It should be pointed out that if this were correct, the same problem would theoretically arise in consensual sex between a married couple. Would this also mean that masturbation was OK provided one took zinc supplements? And what about women who masturbate and do not lose zinc via semen?

    “I believe that God’s ideal for sexual expression is an act to be consummated between a loving wife and husband in a committed, exclusive, and till-death-do-us-part relationship. Anything else in the way of sexual behaviour falls short of that ideal. But I also believe that by using scare tactics to prevent masturbation as almost the unpardonable sin, we have turned off many young people and have actually turned some away. I would rather see a balanced look at this issue.” (Alberta Mazat, Questions You Have Asked About Sexuality, 1991, 24.)

    It is quite clear that early Seventh-day Adventist views on human sexuality were shaped primarily by Ellen White and John Harvey Kellogg—noting that Kellogg in particular had a very negative view of sex—even with marriage, seeing it as a destructive activity intended solely for reproductive purposes. Gradually however, change in attitudes have however occurred within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

    • In 1931, the 2nd edition of The Home Physician and Guide to Health was published—still advocating sexual restraint within marriage. However, for the first time in Seventh-day Adventist history, the idea was expressed that sex was a divine gift, and that viewing it as solely for reproductive purposes was untenable.
    • In 1949, Harold Shryock published Happiness for Husbands and Wives, stating, “Sexual expression represents the culmination of all the desirable features of the family situation—the ultimate in marital happiness.”
    • In 1974 Charles Wittschiebe published God Invented Sex which was concerned with sexual pleasure within marriage.
    • Similar books were published in 1979 by Nancy Van Pelt: The Complete Marriage, and Alberta Mazat, That Friday in Eden. Van Pelt’s statement that, “Husbands and Wives should aim to be imaginative, creative, and willing lovers. God designed that sex…be exciting, enjoyable, and fulfilling” clearly indicates that some major shifts had taken place in Seventh-day Adventist views of human sexuality

    Seventh-day Adventists still strongly discourage both pre- and extra-, marital sex:

  • A 1990 survey in the US showed that about two-thirds supported the Church’s traditional view.
  • A 1993 survey in Australia found that 79.9% of Seventh-day Adventist youth believed that “Sex should only occur within marriage”.
  • HOWEVER, actual practices are somewhat different:

  • A 1991 American survey found that 27% of Seventh-day Adventist youth surveyed were sexually active in school.
  • Roger Dudley surveyed a group of America 25-26 year-old Seventh-day Adventists of which 65% were sexually active.
  • References:
    Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart, Seeking a Sanctuary 2nd edition. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007).
    Alberta Mazat, Questions You Have Asked About Sexuality (Boise: Pacific Press, 1991).
    Ronald Numbers, Prophetess of Health (New York: Harper & Row, 1976).


    Divorce Part 2

    December 17, 2007

    The most up to date statement on divorce and remarriage for SDA Church members was was voted at the 57th Session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, August, 2000 as a revision of chapter 15 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 1995 edition. A full copy of the statement may be found here. For the moment I’d draw your attention to the following statement–particularly the section in bold:

    It is recognized that sometimes marriage relations deteriorate to the point where it is better for a husband and wife to separate. “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10, 11, RSV). In many such cases the custody of the children, the adjustment of property rights, or even personal protection may make necessary a change in marital status. In such cases it may be permissible to secure what is known in some countries as a legal separation. However, in some civil jurisdictions such a separation can be secured only by divorce.
    A separation or divorce which results from factors such as physical violence or in which “unfaithfulness to the marriage vow” (see sections 1. and 2. above) is not involved, does not give either one the scriptural right to remarry, unless in the meantime the other party has remarried; committed adultery or fornication; or died. Should a member who has been thus divorced remarry without these biblical grounds, he/she shall be removed from church membership; and the one whom he/she marries, if a member, shall also be removed from church membership.

    So let us summarize the SDA Church’s current position

    1. If your spouse commits adultery you may divorce & remarry without church sanction.
    2. If your spouse physically abuses you, you may divorce but must spend the rest of your life celibate and alone unless they enter into a sexual relationship first.
    3. If you are “abandoned by an unbelieving spouse” (whatever that may mean) you may also divorce and remarry without sanction.

    Does anyone else see how sad and perverse such a position is?

    I’d also like to draw your attention to a paper by Australian SDA Phil Ward on divorce. As part of his paper, Ward undertakes a very interesting examination of the position of Ellen G. White on this issue.


    Amalgamation: EGW & the “Science” of Race

    October 29, 2007

    Ellen White’s statements concerning “amalgamation” are among her most troubling & difficult to understand. Recently I came across a .pdf of a Powerpoint presentation by Dr T. Joe Willey at the Association of Adventist Forums meeting on the 13th of October, 2007; in the Tierrasanta SDA church in San Diego, USA, that examines this issue in some detail. Willey’s presentation is available in .pdf form here. The original webpage raising the issue was For the Gospel.

    For those unfamilar with the quotations in question:

    “But if there was one sin above another which called for the destruction of the race by the flood, it was the base crime of amalgamation of man and beast which defaced the image of God, and caused confusion everywhere. God purposed to destroy by a flood that powerful, long-lived race that had corrupted their ways before Him.” (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p 64.)

    “Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men.” (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p 75.)

    This volume was published in 1864 & republished in 1870; though it is no longer being published by an SDA press. It forms the basis for her later “Conflict of the Ages” series.

    Willey does an excellent job of locating White’s comments on race within Antebellum culture–focussing more broadly on White’s anthropology as a whole. I highly recommend it.

    Other resources on the topic include the less well researched; and the White Estate’s official response: The White Estate’s response argues from semantics that White did not actually mean what she says but rather meant something else. It is a quite superficial & inadequate response.


    More Masons

    February 6, 2007

    Recently Julius Nam at the Progressive Adventism blog discussed the issue of William Miller’s connections with the Freemasons.

    Miller is not the only figure in Seventh-day Adventist history to have such connections. One of the better known stories on this topic is that of Ellen White and N. D. Falkhead. It is found in White’s diary entry for December 13, 1892 and also in a letter written December 23, 1892 from Melbourne Australia, to Dr. and Mrs. J. H. Kellogg. In her letter White wrote:

    “I have to give some very personal testimonies. During the conference here last December, I had much burden and wrote out many things for individuals, but felt that the time had not come to present the matter to them. For one brother I have had a special burden. He is a keen, apt man, connected with our publishing house. Upon my return to Melbourne this time, one week ago last Tuesday, I read to Brother F[alkhead] that which I had written for him. It affected him deeply. He was glad I did not send it for him to read. “Your reading the reproof yourself,” he said,” “has touched my heart. The Spirit of the Lord has spoken to me through you, and I accept every word you have addressed specially to me; the general matter also is applicable to me; it all means me. That which you have written in regard to my connection with the Free Masons I accept. I belong to five lodges, and besides this I have the entire control of three. I have just taken the highest order in Free Masonry, but I shall sever my connection with them all. I will attend no more of their meetings. It will take me nine months to wind up my business relations with the three under my control.”
    Our interview lasted four hours, and it was late at night when he left. He lives in Preston, ten miles from St. Kilda, and being too late for the train from North Fitzroy, he had to walk seven miles to his home. He said he had a good time to think, and he told Elder Daniells he did so much want to meet some of our brethren, that he might tell how free and happy he was after he had made this decision.

    She repeated the story in a letter written 3 years later—on May 7, 1895, from Glenorchy, Tasmania to O .A. Olsen; and again in a May 31, 1906 letter to Brother Salisbury & Elder Olsen,  following Falkhead’s cessation of work at the Echo office.

    N.D. Falkhead in his Msonic Regalia:

    Another encounter with a Freemason apparently occurred in 1893:
    Prior to the conference I saw the persons in responsible positions, and labored with one man three hours, reading that which I had held so long. He said, “Sister White, had you sent that to me I would not have received it, but the Lord has moved upon you to move discreetly. For three nights past I dreamed that the Lord had shown my case to Sister White, and she had a message for me.” The man had not a religious experience. He was bound up in Free Masonry. (Letter  39, 1893).

    In 1859, the Review and Herald published an article titled, “Is Freemasonry Compatible with present Truth?”:
    IF we say aught against masonry they say we are prejudiced, speaking against that of which we can know nothing.  But this is an error.  We have no prejudice in the case.  We only speak of what we do know.  In addition to what has been heretofore published I would offer the following thoughts.
    The first quotation may have been published in the Review before.  It is said on funeral occasions, on throwing evergreens into the grave.
    “This evergreen is an emblem of our faith in the immortality of the soul.  By this we are reminded of our high and glorious destiny ‘beyond the world of shadows,’ and that there dwells within our tabernacle of clay an imperishable immortal spirit, over which the grave has no dominion and death no power.”  Craftsman, p.208.
    The next is more practical, and may possibly account for the slowness of some to obey the truth when convinced.
    “All masons shall work honestly on working days, that they may live peaceably on holy days; and the time appointed by the law of the land, OR CONFIRMED BY CUSTOM, shall be observed.” – Craftsman.  Ancient Constitutions, SS5.
    Many affirm that masonry is a christian institution, but others confess the absurdity of this.  But all affirm that a belief in the Bible is necessary to being a mason.  Masonry is professedly founded on certain facts in the Old Testament, but that a belief in the New Testament is not necessary is evident from the well known fact that many (or most) of the Jews are masons.  It is the boast of masonry that it is universal, and has members of all nations and religions.  Of course their forms and modes of working must not interfere with the religious views of any.  This is their profession, but it is impossible to carry it out in practice without discarding every form of worship whatever.  The first recognized and most common act of worship is prayer; this is practised in the lodges, and forms of prayer are given in their books of instruction.  Now suppose that Jews and Christians are met together in lodge.  It is opened with prayer.  But Christians can only pray in the name of Christ, while the Jew would be highly offended at a prayer so offered.  How shall these brothers pray together?
    It has been answered that it is not necessary that the name of Christ should be mentioned in every prayer: it may be understood.  Very true.  So Paul taught in regard to meats offered to idols.  If nothing is said, ask no questions.  But if it is said, This is offered in sacrifice to idols; then eat not.  So if I kneel with others with the understanding that Christ is recognized as the medium of prayer, I can say, Amen, though the name of Jesus be not mentioned.  But if it be understood that this prayer is offered without reference to Christ, it is anti-christian, for Jesus says, “No man cometh to the Father but by me.”  The boasted universality of masonry makes it necessary to exclude the name of Christ from prayers, otherwise they would be fitted only for a class, and hence be local and not general.  He who joins in a prayer where the name of Christ is intentionally omitted to gratify another who denies Christ, certainly compromises his christianity, and “has denied the faith.”  This should lead every Christian to avoid such a connection.     J. H. W[aggoner]. Review and Herald, September 15, 1859.

    In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Freemasonry was a common and well-accepted part of American society. As Bullock points out in his book, Revolutionary Brotherhood,
    [Masonry] attracted large numbers of Americans eager to associate themselves with these cosmopolitan ideals. Fraternal membership and ideology helped bring high standing to a broad range of Americans, breaking down the artificial boundaries of birth and wealth. To men engaged in learned and artistic occupations, rural men with cosmopolitan aspirations, and even Boston’s women and blacks, Masonry offered participation in both the great classical tradition of civilization and the task of building a new nation. Just as importantly, the fraternity also seemed to provide the leaders for these enterprises. (p138)

    At the official establishment of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (1860), Freemasonry was no longer the major movement that it once was—the popular anti-masonic movement that had begun in 1826—had taken its toll and while Freemasonry did not die out, it never recovered either.
    It would be interesting to know of any other Adventist/Freemason connections.

    Just for interest’s sake, there is a rather odd page titled “The Masonic Connection In the Foundation of the 7th Day Adventist Church” at The fragmented text however makes little sense and contains (so far as I can tell) no actual references to early Adventist Freemasons!


    Context is Everything

    December 24, 2006

    Recently Tom Zwemer commented: “What better evidence that Ellen G. White was a child of her time?” He is correct; for the historian, context is everything. Context is the key to understanding not only Ellen G. White, but every other aspect of our past.
    Recently while browsing the June 13, 1907 Advent Review and Sabbath Herald I came across an interesting essay by Ellen G. White titled, “No Other Gods Before Me”. In it she states:

    As I visit the homes of our people and our schools, I see that all the available space on tables, what-nots, and mantelpieces is filled up with photographs. On the right hand and on the left are seen the pictures of human faces. God desires this order of things to be changed. Were Christ on earth, he would say, “Take these things hence.” I have been instructed that these pictures are as so many idols, taking up the time and thought which should be sacredly devoted to God.
    These photographs cost money. Is it consistent for us, knowing the work that is to be done at this time, to spend God’s money in producing pictures of our own faces and the faces of our friends? Should not every dollar that we can spare be used in the upbuilding of the cause of God? These pictures take money that should be sacredly devoted to God’s service; and they divert the mind from the truths of God’s Word.
    This making and exchanging photographs is a species of idolatry. Satan is doing all he can to eclipse heaven from our view. Let us not help him by making picture-idols. We need to reach a higher standard than these human faces suggest. The Lord says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Those who claim to believe in Christ need to realize that they are to reflect his image?? It is his likeness that is to be kept before the mind. The words that are spoken are to be freighted with heavenly inspiration….
    After going from home to home, and seeing the many photographs, I was instructed to warn our people against this. evil. This much we can do for God. We can put these picture-idols out of sight. They have no power for good, but interpose between God and the soul. They can do nothing to help in sowing the seeds of truth. Christ calls upon those who claim to be following him to put on the whole armor of God.

    Now, how should one interpret such an essay? Do I have to get rid of the picture of my wife in my office? Throw out my wedding pictures at home?

    While Ellen White’s negative statements on bicycle purchase and cycling have frequently been raised, I’ve never seen this particular prohibition against photographs dealt with.

    When dealing with such statements, we must recognize indeed that “Ellen G. White was a child of her time?” This is something that both those against Ellen White and those for her, often fail to do.

    The biggest difficulty lies in determining the cultural context in which she was writing. Questions that need answering regarding this article include:

    • What was the cost of having your picture taken in 1907?
    • How does this cost compare with the average wage of the time?
    • What was going on in the Seventh-day Adventist church in 1907? Was there are financial crisis etc?

    Unfortunately I don’t have complete answers to these questions, however the following points may provide some insight:

    • According to the History of Photography timeline photography was well developed by 1907—the first positive permanent photograph was created in 1834 by Henry Talbot. In 1900 the Kodak box-brownie was introduced, and in 1907 the French Lumiere brothers had introduced the first colour film.
    • During the period 1900-1909, “Many changes during this time were brought about through advances in technology. The turn of the century decade began one of transition and progress and is considered the first decade of materialism and consumerism. The Industrial age was in full swing, mass production made prices fall to all time lows. Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs were read more than any book other than the Bible. Teddy Bears became a fad started from a cartoon of a bear with Teddy Roosevelt (Letter’s to his Children) (1902) and were mass produced in 1905. During this decade, safety in food processing and the environment became issues and laws were enacted. There were hundreds of job openings for a typewriter secretary. Radio broadcasts and transportation, especially automobiles, ships, and trains, changed the way people viewed their world.” ( (Emphasis added.)
    • The “average worker (1900-1909) made $12.98/week for 59 hours [work]”. (
    • George R. Knight terms the period 1901-1910, the “Era of Reorganization and Crisis”. (A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists, p108) Knight notes that John Harvey Kellogg was disfellowshipped from the Battle Creek congregation in November 1907 after a long and traumatic feud. He also points out that this decade was a time of major expansion in both education and overseas missions.

    It must also be noted that numerous photographs of Ellen G. White exist, the earliest being an ambrotype of James and Ellen most likely taken in the late 1850s:

    Here is James and Ellen in 1868:

    One of the last photographs taken of Ellen G. White was this one taken as she was addressing local church school children on June 15, 1913, in California:

    The photographs of Ellen White include this family group taken in 1907—the year she wrote so vehemently against photographs:

    Front row (L to R): Great grandchildren Henry, Gracie, and Herbert; seated- Mrs. W. C. White, Mrs. E. G. White, Elder W. C. White; standing: Ella M. Robinson, D. E. Robinson, W. D. Workman, Mabel E. Workman.

    Some photographs of Ellen White have caused controversy:

    This 1913 family group photograph shows Ellen G. White’s granddaughter Ella May Robinson seated on the right. Ella is wearing a long dark necklace. The presence of this item of jewellery in close proximity to Ellen, caused the Review and Herald publishers to censor the photograph—removing the necklace—when it was published in the final volume of Arthur L. White’s biography Ellen G. White: The Later Elmshaven Years in 1982. The retouched photograph appears at the bottom of page p243. You can see the photographs side-by-side here.

    Similarly, this 1878 photograph of Ellen and her twin sister Elizabeth, in which Ellen wears some jewellery—apparently a watch chain of some description—has caused controversy amongst some Ellen White opponents.

    There are still a lot of gaps to be filled in this story of Ellen White and photographs. Let me conclude with this: in this Christmas season—a time of overeating, commercialism, rampant consumerism, and selfishness—we would do well to remember Ellen G. White’s words in another passage from that same article:

    Christ looks upon a world filled with the din of merchandise and trade, with the dishonesty and scheming of buyers and sellers. In their desire to get gain, men have lost sight of the laws of justice and equity….
    We are God’s stewards, and “it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” The money that God has entrusted to us is to be carefully husbanded. We are to increase in efficiency by putting to the best use the talents given us, that at God’s coming we may return to him his own with usury.

    Merry Christmas to you all.