Contradictory Testimonies on the Health Reform Institute
By Brother Anderson
On September 5, 1866, the Western Health Reform Institute was opened in Battle Creek. This was a fulfillment of Mrs. White's December 25th, 1865, vision in Rochester, New York, in which she reportedly received a divine directive to establish health reform institutions.
By January of 1867, the Institute was already filled to capacity, and the director wished to expand the institution. The estimated cost of the expansion was $25,000. In order to get public backing for the project Uriah Smith wrote a letter to Mrs. White on February 5 urging her to sanction investment in the new institute:
"...a great many are waiting before doing anything to help the Institute, till they see the Testimony and now if it goes out without anything on these points, they will not understand it, and it will operate greatly against the prosperity of the Institution. The present is a most important time in this enterprise, and it is essential that no influence should be lost, which can be brought to bear in its favor."1
Thus prodded, Ellen White wrote out Testimony #11 in order to promote the raising of funds for the expansion of the Health Institute in Battle Creek:
"Here I was shown, was a worthy enterprise for God's people to engage in, one in which they can invest means to His glory in the advancement of His cause."2
As the faithful followers began pouring in their hard-earned money, construction on the expansion commenced. By August the money had run out and the project was temporarily halted. What happened next is shocking. According to J.H. Kellogg, James was opposed to the idea of expanding the institute because he "was not consulted."3 Thus, James decided to have the beginnings of the Health Institute torn down at a cost of $10,000, which in 2019 dollars, would be $185,225.4 Then he apparently influenced his wife to write a testimony contradicting testimony #11:
"The brethren at Battle Creek who were especially interested in the Institute knew I had seen that our people should contribute of their means to establish such an institution. They therefore wrote to me that the influence of my testimony in regard to the Institute was needed immediately to move the brethren upon the subject, and that the publication of No. 11 would be delayed till I could write. ... Under these circumstances I yielded my judgment to that of others and wrote what appeared in No. 11 in regard to the Health Institute, being unable then to give all I had seen. In this I did wrong."5
A Testimony of God's Spirit?
Mrs. White claimed she "was shown" that Adventists should contribute to the "worthy enterprise" of expanding the institute. Then, apparently influenced by her husband, she contradicted her previous testimony, and the work which she said God had ordained was torn down at great expense. She freely admitted that her original testimony was the result of human influence. Was the second testimony also a product of human (James White's) influence? How many more of her "inspired" testimonies were simply the result of James or other SDA leaders prodding her to say something to support their projects or ideas?
1. Uriah Smith letter to Ellen White, Feb. 5, 1867, cited in Dr. Ronald Numbers, Prophetess of Health, third edition, p. 166.
2. Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 492.
3. D.M. Canright, The Life of Ellen White, chapter 4. "Dr. J.H. Kellogg, in his reply to an examining committee, said: 'It was an infamous thing, a crime, tearing that thing down, for no other reason than because James White was not consulted.'"
4. "The Inflation Calculator," https://westegg.com/inflation/infl.cgi.
5. Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 562.
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