After she was hit in the face with a stone, Ellen Gould White received visions from God that gave the world the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination and Kellogg’s corn flakes.
She was probably the most influential Seventh-Day Adventist leader, having published 5,000 periodicals and 140 books – 100 of which are still in print -- over her lifetime. She preached the virtues of fresh air, pure water, exercise and a diet of fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains. Her crusade for vegan diets and health reform ultimately resulted in the Seventh-Day Adventist health care network.
Though much of her nutritional advice came from her visions and the Bible, modern scientific researchers say it is sound.
Dr. Agatha Thrash writes that her 19th century wisdom sounds like dietary advice offered by 21st century physicians and dietitians. Her beliefs, Thrash said, are validated by scientific evidence that nations consuming the greatest amount of meat and dairy products also have the highest rates of cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease, asthma, and diabetes.
Ellen Gould Harmon White was born Nov. 26, 1827, in Gorham, Maine, about 12 miles west of Portland. She was one of eight children, including her twin sister, born to Robert and Eunice Harmon. Their father was a farmer and a hatmaker, and he used mercuric nitrate in his hatmaking – a substance that causes brain damage.
Shortly after Ellen and her sister were born, her father moved the family to Portland. At nine, she was running home with her sister when an older classmate shouted at them and threw a rock that hit Ellen in the face. The injury caused her pain and bitterness, but she later credited it with helping her convert to Methodism. She found God when she and her parents attended a Methodist camp meeting in Buxton, Maine, a few years later.
“The cruel blow...was the means of turning my eyes to heaven,” she later wrote. “I might never had not known Jesus Christ, had not the sorrow that clouded my early years led me to seek comfort in him.”
Visions of Millerism
By 1840, Ellen and her family became followers of William Miller, who famously led thousands of people on a religious wild goose chase in 1843 that ended only when (to his followers’ disappointment) the world did not end.
When the world continued in 1844. Ellen began to experience visions every two or three days, typically in public places or meeting halls. The man who would marry her, Millerite James Springer White, believed she had the power of Biblical prophecy. Others believed she suffered from epilepsy as a result of her head injury.
Her husband and another observer described her typical vision: She began by shouting “Glory!” three times and then fell into a swoon. She recovered with superhuman strength, once holding her parents’ 18-1/2 lb. Bible in her outstretched hand for a half hour – when she weighed 80 lbs. She didn’t breathe, but her pulse was normal and she had a pleasant expression on her face. Sometimes she walked around, though she was unconscious of her surroundings.
When she came out of her trance, everything seemed dark to her. She sighed and said, “Dark.” Then she became limp and weak.
She married White in Portland on Aug. 30, 1846, and they began traveling to Millerite groups to talk about her visions. Eventually her prophecies gained acceptance among groups that had evolved from the Millerites. James White published a periodical for their followers, and Ellen Gould White began writing extensively about her prophecies.
Seventh-Day Adventism was formally established on May 21, 1863, in Battle Creek, Mich., incorporating many of Ellen Gould White’s doctrines and prophecies. During the past decade, it was the 12th largest religious denomination with nearly 75,000 churches, 18 million members and 175 hospitals.
James and Ellen Gould White had four sons, but only two lived to adulthood. James suffered from poor health and died on Aug. 6, 1881.
One of the tenets of Seventh-Day Adventism is the commitment to healthy living, something Ellen Gould White preached. She advocated a health food diet, exercise and Nature’s remedies of sunshine and clean water. She campaigned for the church to establish health institutes for the care of the sick and the instruction of health. She taught that all God’s creatures should be treated with love and respect.
Her health food crusade inspired Seventh=Day Adventist John Harvey Kellogg to develop corn flakes.
Some of her sayings:
Overeating has a worse effect upon the system than overworking; the energies of the soul are more effectually prostrated by intemperate eating than by intemperate working.
Grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator. These foods prepared in as simple and natural a manner as possible, are the most healthful and nourishing.
Meat is not essential for health or strength, else the Lord made a mistake when He provided food for Adam and Eve before their fall.
If ever there was a time when the diet should be of the most simple kind, it is now.
In order to preserve health, temperance in all things is necessary,--temperance in labor, temperance in eating and drinking.
Ellen Gould White died on July 16, 1915 in California.