Seventh-Day Adventists/Hidden books?


Hello, and thank you for considering my question. It has become knowledge to me after some research that Mrs. Ellen G. White's first message to the church was a book called "An Appeal to Mothers." Perhaps you've heard of it? I will be as polite, yet to the point as I possibly can in describing it. Basically it was a book about what Mrs. White called "self-vice" (masterbation). In the book, which is no longer in circulation for obvious reasons, she describes many diseases and ailments that humans contract from such practices. Later, when the scientific community found her to be entirely incorrect, the book was taken out of circulation (I do still have a copy however). Jeremiah says: "If a prophet saith things that do not come to pass he/she is a liar and not sent of Me." How do you feel about that?

Ellen White an "An Appeal to Mothers" 1864

1) First, Ellen White’s early writings were about eschatology and Adventist history.  She wrote about the details of her ministry, including her visions, as well as the development of the Advent Movement.  

Although she had previously written articles for the Present Truth Magazine, her first three books were--Christian Experience and Views of Mrs. E. G. White, first printed in 1851; A Supplement to Experience and Views, issued in 1854; and Spiritual Gifts, Volume 1, (219 pages) which appeared in 1858.

She also wrote some Testimonies before 1864 and articles for the Youth Instructor.  So this book you mention was not even close to “her first message to the church,” much less her first book.  So the chronology of the question is incorrect, and so too the assumption that this was an important work, by which Ellen White should be judged today.

2) Second, this idea from the White Estate, that Ellen White had to be correct on all points or she is a fraud, is absurd.  This is not how the Pioneers viewed her Spiritual Gifts, nor is this how the NT views such gifts.  

So here is the second misconception about this topic.  Ellen White can be wrong, and she often was, and still have genuine, spiritual gifts to help build up the church.  The “tests of a Prophet,” invented by the Takoma Park SDA’s is very wrong and misleading.  We all need to forget much of what has been taught by the 20th century SDA’s about Ellen White.


3) Third, this small, 1864 book is still available online.  It was originally titled: An Appeal to Mothers: The Great Cause of the Physical, Mental, and Moral Ruin of Children of Our Time.

An Appeal to Mothers -1864

This work has not been hidden or covered up as far as I know.  However, there are many, far more important documents written by Ellen White that were being suppressed and hidden from the church and the public.  This is a real problem that has yet to be addressed by the Adventist Community.


Here is the Barnes & Nobel Book Overview

Largely of historical interest, Ellen G. White's 1864 book on health care reform deals with the perceived problems of masturbation among the young. Terming it a "solitary vice" and "self abuse," she addresses her concerns--and her solutions--directly to mothers, advocating religion, awareness, and work.

Though hardly politically correct today, with modern knowledge and insight, her views and solutions are far less extreme than most other health care professionals' of the age.

4) Fourth; Historical Background

Ellen White wrote this small work after her Health Reform vision, at a time when she was raising four boys.  This topic was a big health issue at the time, even though it seems strange to us today.  But we should not judge those in the past by our modern standards.  We must keep the proper historical context to be fair.

In addition, the points made by Ellen White were normative and even restrained for her time.   America was in a “frenzy over the problem of masturbation” and Ellen White was dealing with this issue a practical manner for that time period.   This is why the original title was called: An Appeal to Mothers: The Great Cause of the Physical, Mental, and Moral Ruin of Children of Our Time.  The title alone clearly shows this was a popular crisis of the day.

In fact, Dr. J H Kellogg, of the famous Battle Creek Sanitarium, held the same views as Ellen White, because this is what the medical establishment taught at this time.  Masturbation, in addition to being a sin, was thought to cause all manner of awful diseases, including insanity, vision and hearing problems, epilepsy, mental retardation and even cancer.  

Kellogg was a popular author about many health topics, and one of his best selling books was about sex.  The first of many editions was written in 1877; the book was called "Plain Facts For Old and Young.”  It contained some very strange, harsh, and outdated advice about masturbation and sex that shocks us today.  Ellen White’s views are tame compared to Kellogg’s.  He was a strange man.

18th & 19th Centuries

It was primarily during the 1700s and 1800s when masturbation was first associated with mental and physical deficiencies. Some prominent physicians, scientists, philosophers, and religious leaders believed that illnesses such as insanity, vision and hearing problems, epilepsy, mental retardation, and general health problems were caused by self-stimulation.  In fact, over 60% of medical and mental illnesses were blamed on masturbation.[1]

The fear of masturbation was so great that throughout the world, extreme preventative measures were instituted including the use of mechanical restraints, genital surgery, and physical discipline.[2]  By the 19th century the cereal magnate John Harvey Kellogg declared "sex for anything but reproduction" to be "sexual excess." Kellogg and others began advocating routine circumcision of males as a deterrent to masturbation.

Masturbation And The Bible

5) Kellogg’s Extreme Views

During this time period, the practice of Masturbation was viewed as so unhealthy and debilitating that barbaric measures were proposed to stop the practice.  

Kellogg actually became an Anti-masturbation crusader, along with his many other crusades, for which he was unapologetic.  He “upped the ante by insisting that circumcision should be performed with no anesthesia.”  Why?  So the teen would feel the pain and remember it the next time he was tempted to "self-abuse.”

Listen to Kellogg’s barbaric advice about performing circumcision without anesthesia.  We should all, both males and females, (who also suffered awful procedures), be glad we live in a more civilized time.

"The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment, as it may well be in some cases. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed."

Such were the uneducated and hysterical views during this time period.  Ellen White is not nearly so radical as she could have been.  This point alone underscores her wisdom in this matter.  She does not advocate the harsh and extreme measures that others, like Kellogg promoted.

6) A Public / Family / Health Topic

The topic of masturbation was a widely discussed health and family matter during this time period, which explains why Ellen White addressed it in a book for all to read.  And why many others also did the same thing, including Kellogg, with his large, best selling book that seems very bazaar to us today.

Ellen White was raising a family and this was a popular family topic.  Apparently, it needed to be addressed and she did so.

By 1860 the White family numbered six, with four boys ranging from a few weeks to 13 years of age. The youngest child, Herbert, however, lived only a few months, his death bringing the first break in the family circle. The culminating efforts to establish church and conference organizations, with the demands for much writing, traveling, and personal labor, occupied the early years of the 1860s. The climax was reached in the organization of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in May, 1863.

This revelation on June 6, 1863, impressed upon the leaders in the newly organized church the importance of health reform. In the months that followed, as the health message was seen to be a part of the message of Seventh-day Adventists, a health educational program was inaugurated.

An introductory step in this effort was the publishing of six pamphlets of 64 pages each, entitled, Health, or How to Live, compiled by James and Ellen White. An article from Mrs. White was included in each of the pamphlets. The importance of health reform was greatly impressed upon the early leaders of the church through the untimely death of Henry White at the age of 16, the severe illness of Elder James White, which forced him to cease work for three years, and through the sufferings of several other ministers.

7) The White Estate’s View

Physical and spiritual dangers of masturbation or "self-abuse"

Few topics have generated more ridicule from critics than Ellen White's statements regarding "self-abuse," "solitary vice," "self-indulgence," "secret vice," "moral pollution," etc. Ellen White never used the term "masturbation."

Her first reference to this subject appeared in a 64-page pamphlet, An Appeal to Mothers, April 1864, nine months after her first comprehensive health vision. Primarily devoted to masturbation, pages 5 to 34 were from her own pen; the remainder consisted of quotations from medical authorities. [1]

Ellen White did not say that all, or even most, of the potentially serious consequences of masturbation would happen to any one individual. Nor did she say that the worst possible degree of a serious consequence would happen to most indulgers.

Modern research indicates that Ellen White's strong statements can be supported when she is properly understood. The general view today, however, is that masturbation is normal and healthy.

Two medical specialists have suggested a link between masturbation and physical abnormalities due to zinc-deficiency. Dr. David Horrobin, an M.D. and Ph.D. from Oxford University, states:

"The amount of zinc in semen is such that one ejaculation may get rid of all the zinc that can be absorbed from the intestines in one day. This has a number of consequences. Unless the amount lost is replaced by an increased dietary intake, repeated ejaculation may lead to a real zinc deficiency with various problems developing, including impotence.

"It is even possible, given the importance of zinc for the brain, that 19th century moralists were correct when they said that repeated masturbation could make one mad!" [2]

More recent research has confirmed the critical role of zinc as a principal protector of the immune system, with a host of physical illnesses attributable to zinc-deficiency.

Two professionals in the area of clinical psychology and family therapy have compared Ellen White's statements on masturbation with current medical knowledge. [3] Dr. Richard Nies defended Ellen White's general counsel on masturbation, making four main points:

(1) Masturbation leads to "mental, moral, and physical deterioration. . . . It is not the stimulation, per se, that is wrong. It's what's going on in . . . [persons] when they're becoming self-referenced and self-centered."

(2) Masturbation "breaks down the finer sensitivities of our nervous system. . . . It is not difficult to see in terms of the electrical mediation of our nervous system, how disease becomes a natural result of individuals who have placed their own gratification at the center of their being. . . . Disease is the natural result of this."

(3) Masturbation is a predisposition that can be "inherited and passed on and transmitted from one generation to another, even leading to degeneration of the race."

(4) In dealing with others, especially children, Ellen White's counsel lies in the direction of dealing with the consequences, of showing them that we should be training for love and eternity, not self-gratification with its terrible consequences. Dr. Nies concluded his paper, "Self-gratification is synonymous with destruction."

Alberta Mazat observed that Ellen White's concern regarding masturbation was primarily on the mental consequences rather than the "purely physical act. She was more concerned with thought processes, attitudes, fantasies, etc." Mazat quoted Ellen White's references to the fact that "the effects are not the same on all minds," that "impure thoughts seize and control the imagination," and that the mind "takes pleasure in contemplating the scenes which awake base passion."

Mazat further noted that some may be embarrassed by Ellen White's strong statements regarding masturbation. However, many of Mrs. White's other statements also seemed "unrealistic and exaggerated before science corroborated them, for example, cancer being caused by a virus, the dangers of smoking, overeating, and the overuse of fats, sugar, and salt, to name a few. . . . It seems worthwhile to remind ourselves that medical knowledge at any point is not perfect." [4]

Looked at from another perspective, God always upholds the ideal for His people through His messengers. However one reacts to Ellen White's specific counsel, clearly masturbation was not what God had in mind when He created man and woman, united them in marriage, and then instructed them to be fruitful and multiply. God's ideal in regard to sexuality is the loving relationship that exists in marriage between husband and wife. Anything else, including masturbation, falls far short of God's ideal.


[1] An Appeal to Mothers was reprinted in 1870 as part of a larger work, A Solemn Appeal Relative to Solitary Vice and Abuses and Excesses of the Marriage Relation. A facsimile reprint appears in the Appendix to A Critique of Prophetess of Health (by the Ellen G. White Estate).

[2] David F. Horrobin, M.D., Ph.D., Zinc (St. Albans, Vt.: Vitabooks, Inc., 1981), p. 8. See also Carl C. Pfeiffer, Ph.D., M.D., Zinc and Other Micro-Nutrients (New Canaan, Conn.: Keats Publishing, Inc., 1978), p. 45.

[3] Richard Nies, Ph.D. (Experimental Psychology, UCLA, 1964; equivalent Ph.D. in clinical psychology, including oral exam, but died during dissertation preparation), Lecture, "Give Glory to God," Glendale, Calif., n.d.; Alberta Mazat, M.S.W. (Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, Calif.), Monograph, "Masturbation" (43 pp.), Biblical Research Institute.

[4] Mazat, Monograph, "Masturbation."
[Adapted from Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord: the Prophetic Ministry of Ellen G. White (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1998), pp. 493, 494, with additional comments.]

8)  Modern View about Ellen White and Masturbation:

Revisiting Ellen White on Masturbation

Such discrepancies between what Ellen White wrote and what modern medical science thinks prompt some to question whether she was inspired by God, as Seventh-day Adventists generally believe. It is my view that we cannot answer this question unless we look at her life and work as a whole. When we do that, I think she fares very well even though she made many mistakes along the way.

If she did nothing more than help establish Loma Linda University, that would be enough evidence to convince me that God used her in a special way; however, she did this sort of thing several times! Clearly, not everything she said and did will pass the test of time. I think it unreasonable to think that it should.

I find it helpful to compare Ellen White’s remedies for masturbation with what many in the medical community were practicing in her time. Over the last several decades, this has become more evident to researchers. For instance, in the spring of 2003, The Journal of Social History published a review essay by Robert Darby titled “The Masturbation Taboo and the Rise of Routine Male Circumcision: A Review of the Historiography.” Written from the point of view of one who believes that there is no more justification for circumcising infant boys than girls, it summarizes and evaluates many recent historical studies.

9)  Conclusion,

Today, the critics need to better understand the historical context of this topic, (and all others), before they try to discredit Ellen White.  She was very restrained on this topic as compared to Kellogg and others.  

In addition, everyone needs to repudiate the “tests of a prophet” that was dreamed up by the White Estate.  This worthless test only causes misunderstanding, diverting people away from the important contributions of Ellen White.  Regardless of her “spiritual gifts,” Ellen White was still a person of her time and culture.

Although Ellen White lived in another time period, her genuine contributions to the Advent Movement should not be overlooked or marginalized.  She lived to promote the Advent Cause, which she defined as the Three Angels Messages.  

More than that, she tried to push the SDA’s forward from their prophetic position of the 3rd Angels Message, to the 4th and final Advent Message.  This is still what she wants to see for the Advent Movement.

It is a tragedy that the White Estate has been so dishonest and incompetent about Ellen White.  They have failed to correctly explain her views or her life story, for which they need to repent and correct the record.

The Advent Movement needs to better understand Ellen White and her views about the Law, Gospel, and the 2nd Advent.  The topic under discussion hardly rises to such an important level, nor does her book about masturbation discredit her spiritual gifts or negate her eschatological insights as many assume.

I hope this answers your question.

Tom Norris for All & Adventist Reform  

Seventh-Day Adventists

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Tom Norris


I can answer most any question about church history and theology, starting from 1818 when William Miller articulated the 1st Angels Message that became the foundation of the Adventist Movement. While this first prophetic message terminated in the spring of 1844, it was followed by what Adventists refer to as the 2nd Angels Message, which dates from the spring of 1844 until the great disappointment of October 22, 1844. By 1847, the 3rd Angels Message had been developed and this Sabbatarian theology represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Moreover, I can explain the historical and theological development of the SDA denomination from its beginning and on through the great Battle Creek schism that forced the SDA's to retreat to Takoma Park. Here the 20th century church recovered from their internal battles that had erupted at the 1888 General Conference in Minneapolis over the definition of the law and the Gospel. Fearing another repeat of this disaster, President Daniels, determined to hide this debate. However, this policy led to more conflict, especially over the role and authority of Ellen White, a unique and accomplished religious writer that had remarkable spiritual gifts. However, by the decade of the 1970`s, the church once again erupted into debate. The hierarchy settled the turmoil in 1980 with the trial of Dr. Desmond Ford at Glacier View. Here Dr. Ford was exiled because he supposedly disagreed with Ellen White over the Fundamentals. But this controversial action resulted in another major schism that is still in progress today.


Tom Norris was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist in Takoma Park, Md. He attended SDA grade and High schools, moving on to study Adventist theology at Columbia Union College. He also spent significant time conducting independent research in the General Conference Archives and the Ellen G. White Estate. Over the years he has also interviewed a number of prominent Adventist scholars, theologians, and Pastors ranging from the late Arthur White to the exiled Dr. Desmond Ford. In addition, he has amassed a large private library, which includes numerous rare books and manuscripts about Adventist theology and history. He is presently the online editor of Adventist Reform, and can be found at Adventist for Tomorrow answering questions online about SDA theology and history as well as promoting Adventist Reform.

Tom Norris attended SDA grade and High schools, moving on to study Adventist theology at Columbia Union College. He also spent significant time conducting independent research in the General Conference Archives and the Ellen G. White Estate.

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