ARTHUR L. WHITE, Secretary, The Ellen G. White Publication
In reports of investigations and discoveries, current news releases frequently furnish items of unusual interest in the light of statements in Ellen G. White writings that appeared decades ago. A few instances of recent occurrence are worthy of note. Let’s begin with mid-June, 1956. We pick up the following very interesting item on cancer from Newsweek, the section on Medicine, in the article, “Cancer—Not All Despair.”
In Detroit last week, at a meeting of the third National Cancer Conference, Dr. Wendell Stanley, University of California virologist and Nobel Prize winner, went so far as to state without qualification that he believes “viruses cause most or all human cancers.” This is not a new theory, but Dr. Stanley, who received the Nobel award for the first purification and crystallization of a virus, suggested a new attack with the virus theory.
It is known that viruses can lurk in the human body for years, even a lifetime; some cause trouble, some do not. It is possible, said Dr. Stanley, that all of us are walking around with “sleeping cancer viruses.” In some cases, Dr. Stanley theorized, the cancer viruses might become active, through circumstances such as aging, dietary indiscretions, hormonal imbalance, chemicals, radiation, or a combination of these stresses, and malignancies may follow.—Newsweek, June 18, 1956, p. 102.
Time magazine of the same date, in reporting Dr. Stanley’s presentation to the Cancer Conference, makes it clear that although “by chance, the conference heard independent evidence that seemed to support Dr. (Ph.D.) Stanley’s sweeping theory,” there were yet many experts who remained skeptical.
The virus factor in cancer has been a matter of interest to Seventh-day Adventists for many years because of Ellen White’s clear-cut statement published in The Ministry of Healing in 1905 as follows:
People are continually eating flesh that is filled with tuberculous and cancerous germs. Tuberculosis, cancer, and other fatal diseases are thus cornmunicated.—Page 313.
When The Ministry of Healing came from the press these statements created no stir, for virtually no study was being given in any concerted way to cancer, its cause or transmission. Some two or three decades later careful investigation led medical authorities to announce that cancer was not a germ-borne disease. They freely acknowledged that they did not know what caused cancer, but of one thing they were certain, that cancer was not transmitted by a germ or virus.
Because of Ellen White’s clear, unmodified reference to “cancerous germs,” this positive scientific declaration was very perplexing to some Seventh-day Adventists. Some, in a kind and apologetic way, suggested that possibly Ellen White, being quite ignorant of medical science, employed the word “germ” in a very general manner to mean a cause, but that she did not mean an actual germ.
There were others who more boldly asserted that Ellen White, as a layman, should not have attempted to enter the field of medicine, and that this instance demonstrated her unreliability in writing on medical subjects. There were others who suggested that if we should patiently wait, time would no doubt bring an answer to the problem. Such had seen eminent scientists, on more than one occasion, because of new findings, reverse overnight their seemingly irrevocable pronouncements without embarrassment.
It is for this reason that such releases as that of June 18 are a source of special interest to us. Of course, the fact that Dr. Stanley presented his conclusions before the National Cancer Conference does not indicate that this is the last word or that the medical world now accepts the idea that human cancer is a virus-borne disease. Dr Stanley, however, does not stand alone in his opinions that link cancer with a virus, and the public press with accelerated frequency, with other releases* this same year, has been issuing significant declarations that take into account the virus factor as a cause of cancer.
There is no question today in the scientific world as to the virus factor in cancer in chickens, for this virus has been isolated and used to infect other chickens. It is known that this virus, conveyed from the hen to the egg and from the egg to the newly hatched chick, spreads the disease, all too widespread among fowls today. The present issue in the scientific world is over cancer in humans.
Factors in Development of Cancer
Dr. Stanley suggests that cancer viruses, which might “lurk in the human body for years, even a lifetime,” “might become active, through circumstances such as” (1) “aging,” (2) “dietary indiscretions,” (3) “hormonal imbalance,” (4) “chemicals,” and (5) “radiation, or a combination of these stresses.” To the careful student of these special messages by the servant of the Lord, this enumeration contains many interesting features, for on four of the five points he projects we find a close analogy in the declarations of Ellen G. White, some of them written at a very early date. Now let us look at these points and observe their analogy to statements published in the Ellen G. White pamphlets and books.
- “Aging.” “In some cases, Dr. Stanley theorized, the cancer viruses might become active, through circumstances such as aging.”
Ellen G. White wrote in 1864: “Cancerous humor, which would lay dormant in the system their life-time, is inflamed, and commences its eating, destructive work.” —Appeal to Mothers, p. 27.
- “Dietary indiscretions.” From early years the writings of Ellen G. White have linked cancer with improper diet. The first such statement was published in Spiritual Gifts, volume 4, in 1864 in the first comprehensive article from Mrs. White’s pen on the subject of health. In this case, “cancer-our humors” are associated with the eating of pork. (See page 146.) On a number of occasions that followed, Ellen White linked use of flesh food with cancer, in such statements as the one we have already noted from The Ministry of Healing, written in 1905, and the three that follow. In 1875 she penned these words:
Flesh meats constitute the principal article of food upon the tables of some families, until their blood is filled with cancerous and scrofulous humors.—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 563.
In 1896 she wrote:
Cancers, tumors and all inflammatory diseases are largely caused by meat eating. From the light God has given me, the prevalence of cancers and tumors is largely due to gross living on dead flesh.—Medical Ministry, p. 278.
And then before the General Conference in session in 1909 Ellen White stated:
If meat eating was ever healthful, it is not safe now. Cancers, tumors, and pulmonary diseases are largely caused by meat eating.—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 159.
Thus the Ellen G. White statements made over a period of nearly fifty years link cancer with dietary habits. But let us hasten to note here that as to causes of cancer, Ellen White recognized factors other than meat eating.
- “Hormonal imbalance.” Writing, as she said, of what “I have been shown,” Ellen G. White in 1864 in Appeal to Mothers spoke of the practice of “self-indulgence” (masturbation) by children and youth as laying the foundation for “cancerous humors” (p. 18). This early statement takes on particular significance in the light of more recent studies of the endocrine system with its delicate hormonal balance. And now Dr. Stanley designates “hormonal imbalance” as one of the factors that in his opinion may activate cancer viruses lying latent in the human system.
- “Chemicals.” Again we turn back to the very early statements from Ellen White’s pen, to the year 1865, for a statement linking cancer with the use of certain drugs. We quote her words as found in How to Live, No. 3, in which cases were presented to her, three of which showed the effects of certain types of then commonly prescribed drug medications.
The third case was again presented before me…. The intelligent gentleman before mentioned looked sadly upon the sufferer, and said,—”This is the influence of mercurial preparations.” . . . This is the effect of calomel. It torments the system as long as there is a particle left in it. It ever lives, not losing its properties by its long stay in the living system. It inflames the joints, and often sends rottenness into the bones. It frequently manifests itself in tumors, ulcers, and cancers, years after it has been introduced into the system.—”Disease and Its Causes,” pp. 55-59.
This statement was published ninety-one years ago.
A great deal of research remains yet to be done in the field of cancer. Scientists the world around are applying themselves to this task with a feverishness well justified by the challenge of the disease. Just what all the findings may be, we would not attempt to suggest, but Seventh-day Adventists, familiar with the Ellen G. White statements as they relate to cancer, will watch with eager interest the reports of these findings, with their faith-confirming points.
Now from cancer, with its grim implications, let us turn to salt—just common table salt. Here again an interesting recent release in the public press corroborates the published statements made by Ellen G. White half a century ago. We quote now from Time, section on Medicine, an item appearing in the column captioned “Progress Reports”:
Brookhaven National Laboratory scientists checked on fellow employees, found that of 135 who never added salt to their food, only one had unexplained high blood pressure; of 630 who added salt sometimes after tasting food, 43 had the disease; among 581 who always added salt without bothering to taste, 61 had it.—April 30, 1956, p. 64.
Newsweek introduced mention of this survey with the assertion that “a high salt diet, started early in life and continued for many years, may bring on hypertension (high blood pressure).”—April 30, 1956, p. 75. Perhaps this reminded some Seventh-day Adventists who read this note of a statement in The Ministry of Healing, which was published in 1905: “Do not eat largely of salt.”—Page 305.
I suppose that by many this word of caution in The Ministry of Healing may have been overlooked. Some may have regarded it as a rather strange notion, especially in the light of findings that indicated the definite need of salt in the body. But checking at Brookhaven National Laboratory would seem to indicate that there may be some good reason for the caution penned by the messenger of the Lord: “Do not eat largely of salt.”
Salt, by the way, has been an interesting subject to Seventh-day Adventists for a good many years. Back in the early days when we were finding our way in the health reform, after we had started the publication of a health journal and had opened an institution in Battle Creek, some attention was given to this subject. Seventh-day Adventists had happily discovered in the current writings of Dr. R. T. Trail, a progressive physician of the world who was at that time leading out in great reforms in a very commendable way, much that was helpful to us in finding how to apply the principles that were revealed to Ellen White in vision. They began to lean quite heavily upon Dr. Trall, and his articles frequently appeared in our journal, The Health Reformer. Then he was asked to be responsible for one of the departments of the paper.
Unfortunately, as time went on, Dr. Trail became more inclined to extremes on some points, especially salt, sugar, and dairy products. As he answered medical questions in 1869 some of these extreme positions boldly showed up in our journal. Note the following:
Question: “Do you think that salt is an injury to every person, to use a little in his food? Or can he do better without?”
Answer: “Salt, being a poison, should not be used at all.”—The Health Reformer, July, 1869, p. 19.
This extreme position was supported by some other writers and seconded by the editor, a goodhearted Seventh-day Adventist layman, who advised in an editorial:
If you have used salt, spices, butter, milk, etc., diminish the quantity of these articles until you find it easy to leave them out altogether.—/bid., 1870.
The extreme position concerning salt brought hardship to those who tried strictly to put the teaching into practice, which by the way, the editor of the Reformer did not himself attempt to do.
At this point Ellen White stepped in, cautioning against extremes that would deter the cause of true reform. On the question of “salt, sugar, and milk” she wrote that while “a free use of these things is positively injurious to health,” “at present our burden is not upon these things.” —Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 21.
And it must have been to the experience of these times that Ellen White referred in 1901 when she wrote to one of our physicians:
At one time Doctor ____________ tried to teach our family to cook according to health reform, as he viewed it, without salt or anything else to season the food. Well, I determined to try it, but I became so reduced in strength that I had to make a change; and a different policy was entered upon with great success. I tell you this because I know that you are in positive danger. Food should be prepared in such a way that it will be nourishing. It should not be robbed of that which the system needs. . . .
I use some salt, and always have, because from the light given me by God, this article, in the place of being deleterious, is actually essential for the blood. The whys and wherefores of this I know not, but I give you the instruction as it is given me.—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 344.
Ellen White had no detailed knowledge of body chemistry. In fact, those in the scientific world had very little knowledge of body chemistry when the light was given to her that salt was essential for the blood. She made it clear that this was not some notion of human devising, but that God had given her clear instruction. She freely admitted that just why salt is essential to the body she did not know, but the fact that God had given her this light was sufficient. Near the close of her ministry, in 1909 at the General Conference in session, she again referred to salt:
I use some salt, and always have, because salt, instead of being deleterious, is actually essential for the blood.—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 162.
So here again the balanced counsels given to Seventh-day Adventists in early years, calling for the use of salt, but cautioning against its overuse, are corroborated by the researches of today.