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. This testimony was written prior to Mrs. White's visit, in 1864, to the Jackson Health Institute in New York where the vegetarian diet was strongly advocated. On October 21, 1858, 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. The Whites were made aware of their discovery. In Old Testament times, when there was a question, the prophet would inquire of the Lord for the answer. How does the church's prophetess respond? What light does she receive from the Lord on this subject? Does she congratulate them for their good, scholarly Bible study? Is God pleased that this family has realized 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' 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 may not have taken too kindly to someone bringing in reforms without their prior approval. 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.
Pork Causes Cancer and Leprosy?
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 prohibited the Hebrews the use of swine’s flesh because it was hurtful. It would fill the system with humors, and in that warm climate often produced leprosy. ... But God never designed the swine to be eaten under any circumstances."
These dire warnings turned out to be completely false. Scientists now know that pigs do not carry leprosy (Mycobacterium leprae). Therefore, it is impossible for them to transmit leprosy to humans. Scientists have confirmed "pigs...are immune to the disease."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. The primary cause is chemicals which are used to cure processed meat. 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
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, Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4a, p. 333 (1868); Healthful Living, p.183. Also: "The tissues of the swine are peopled with living creatures; and yet this living mass is eaten and relished by men and women. Tubercular consumption is communicated by the practice of meat eating, and thus disease is extended." (Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, p. 297).
7. Ellen White, Review and Herald, June 20, 1899.
8. "Leprosy," AnimalResearch.info, May 5, 2015, http://www.animalresearch.info/en/medical-advances/diseases-research/leprosy/.
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." Also, "Does Red Meat Really Cause Cancer?", https://www.healthline.com/health/does-red-meat-cause-cancer, "The IARC report concluded that eating 50 grams of processed meat each day increases cancer risk by 18 percent. According to the American Cancer Society, this can raise lifetime risk for colon cancer from 5 percent to 6 percent."
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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