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Contradictory Testimonies on Pork

By Dirk Anderson

After Mrs. White got onto the health bandwagon in the 1860s, she frequently warned her followers of the dangers of eating pork:

"Never should one morsel of swine's flesh be placed upon your table."1
What few Adventists are aware of is a testimony written in the late 1850s in which Mrs. White rebukes the Curtis family in Iowa for not eating pork. (Of course, this testimony was written prior to Mrs. White's 1864 visit to the Jackson Health Institute in New York where the vegetarian diet was strongly advocated.) Sister White wrote:
"If God requires His people to abstain from swine's flesh, He will convict them on the matter. He is just as willing to show His honest children their duty, as to show their duty to individuals upon whom He has not laid the burden of His work. If it is the duty of the church to abstain from swine's flesh, God will discover it to more than two or three. He will teach His church their duty."2


A Testimony of God's Spirit?

Brother and Sister Curtis studied their Bibles and came to the conclusion that eating pork was wrong. How does the church's prophetess respond? Does she congratulate them for their good, scholarly Bible study? What message does God have for them? Is God pleased that this family is ahead of their time in realizing the dangers of eating pork? Apparently not! Mrs. White soundly rebukes them!3 Was it God's Spirit that led her to write this testimony? If brother Curtis's health practices were in accordance with God's health plans, then why would God's messenger rebuke him?

H.E. Carver, an early Adventist who was friends with the Curtis family, shares what happened to this family:

"Brother and Sister Curtis were among my most intimate friends for many years, and as we lived side by side a portion of the time, I knew some of the circumstances connected with the vision instruction given above. Sister Curtis was a very conscientious woman, and becoming satisfied (long before any movement was made in that direction by Eld. and Mrs. White) that pork-eating was injurious, she tried to banish it from the table. This produced trouble. Sister C. was a sincere believer in Mrs. White's divine inspiration, and from the extract given above, it appears that she must have written to her for instructions, which she received as above; and that professedly through vision. ... Bro. Curtis also stated that Eld. White had endorsed on the back of the letter the following in substance:
"That you may know how we stand on this question, I would say that we have just put down a two hundred pound porker."4

Question: Was God the source of this testimony to Sister Curtis? Or was her testimony influenced by James, who was quite fond of eating pork?

James White's article on pork

In 1850, James White wrote an article defending the eating of pork by Christians. Here is how he concludes the article:
"Some of our good brethren have added "swine's flesh" to the catalogue of things forbidden by the Holy Ghost, and the apostles and elders assembled at Jerusalem. But we feel called upon to protest against such a course, as being contrary to the plain teaching of the holy scriptures. Shall we lay a greater "burden" on the disciples than seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and the holy apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ? God forbid. Their decision, being right, settled the question with them, and was a cause of rejoicing among the churches, and it should forever settle the question with us."5
It is easy to understand why Sister Curtis's health practices seemingly irritated the Whites because they thought they had already settled the matter forever! Furthermore, the Whites probably felt that they were God's channel of truth to the church, and they apparently did not take too kindly to someone else bringing truth to their flock.

Pork Causes Cancer and Leprosy?

A few years later, of course, Mrs. White adopted the exact same stance as Mrs. Curtis on pork, and then she brought it to the church as if she had received the instruction from God through visions. The Curtis family no doubt found that to be confusing, but to add to all the confusion about whether or not pork is proper for Christians to eat, Mrs. White claimed that pork caused various diseases, including leprosy and cancer:

"God did not prohibit the Hebrews from eating swine's flesh merely to show his authority, but because it was not a proper article of food for man. It would fill the system with scrofula, and especially in that warm climate produce leprosy and disease of various kinds."6

"The eating of pork has produced scrofula, leprosy, and cancerous humors."7

These dire warnings turned out to be completely false. Scientists now know that pigs do not carry leprosy. Therefore, it is impossible for them to transmit leprosy to humans. Here is confirmation from a veterinary scientist:
"As per our phone conversation of 15-Feb-93, swine are not a known host for Mycobacterium leprae, the cause of leprosy."8
Here is further confirmation that leprosy is not found in pigs:
"Infectious agent—Mycobacterium leprae, the leprosy (Hansen's) bacillus. Other than in man it has multiplied in the footpads of mice, in the tissues of immunosuppressed rodents, and in the armadillo. 4. Reservoir— Man is the only known reservoir."9

Mrs. White was closer to being accurate when it comes to pork causing cancer. Heavy pork eating does raise the chances of a person developing certain types of cancers.10 However, the cause is not the one suggested by Mrs. White. It is a myth to suppose that eating cancerous meat causes cancer in humans. Even when injected with live cancerous organisms, laboratory animals do not develop cancers:

"It is true that many varieties of germs, molds, and microscopic parasites can often be cultivated from various kinds of tumors, but when these microscopic organisms are injected into animals they fail to cause any cancerous or other tumors to grow."11
Dr. Gregory Hunt, in his book Beware This Cult, adds, "If they fail to cause cancer when injected, they won't when ingested."


1. Ellen G. White, Testimonies, Vol. 2, p. 93.

2. Ellen G. White, Testimonies Vol. 1, p. 206.

3. For those of you who have access to Testimonies, volume 1, we would encourage you to read the entire harsh testimony on pages 204-209.

4. H.E. Carver, Mrs. E.G. White's Claims to Divine Inspiration Examined, 2nd edition, 1877.

5. James White, The Present Truth Vol. I., Nov., 1850. No. 11., "Swine's Flesh".

6. Ellen White, Healthful Living, p.183.

7. Ellen White, Review and Herald, June 20, 1899.

8. W.G. Van Alstine, DVM. PhD, Veterinary Pathologist, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, in a letter dated 18-Feb-93 to Robert K. Sanders.

9. A. S. Benenson, Control of Communicable Diseases in Man, pp. 175,176.

10. See Dec. 1, 2002, issue of the journal Cancer. "A high intake of red meat--including beef and pork--doubled the risk of colorectal cancer."

11. August A. Thomen, Doctors don't believe it - why should you? Facts and fallacies about health, with practical guidance for the layman, p. 266.

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