Health Reform to the Death of James White (1863-1881)
The Health Reform Vision
Two weeks after this, James and Ellen White visited Otsego, Michigan, over the weekend, to encourage the evangelistic workers there. As the group bowed in prayer at the beginning of the Sabbath, Ellen White was given a vision of the relation of physical health to spirituality, of the importance of following right principles in diet and in the care of the body, and of the benefits of nature's remedies--clean air, sunshine, exercise, and pure water.
Previous to this vision, little thought or time had been given to health matters, and several of the overtaxed ministers had been forced to become inactive because of sickness. 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. Early in 1866, responding to the instruction given to Ellen White on Christmas Day, 1865 (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 489), that Seventh-day Adventists should establish a health institute for the care of the sick and the imparting of health instruction, plans were laid for the Western Health Reform Institute, which opened in September, 1866. While the Whites were in and out of Battle Creek from 1865 to 1868, Elder White's poor physical condition led them to move to a small farm near Greenville, Michigan. Away from the pressing duties of church headquarters, Ellen White had opportunity to write, and she undertook the presentation of the conflict story as it had been shown to her more fully in further revelations. In 1870, The Spirit of Prophecy, volume 1, was published, carrying the story from the fall of Lucifer in heaven to Solomon's time. Work with this series was broken off, and it was seven years before the next volume was issued.
The Work Expands
The success of Seventh-day Adventist camp meetings held in Wisconsin and Michigan in the late 1860s led to broader plans for such endeavors in succeeding years. James White took an active part not only in laying plans for these meetings but also in attending as many as his pressing administrative duties and failing health would permit. The long periods of overwork during the struggling beginning days of the church, the taxing strain of editorial duties, together with responsibilities as president of the General Conference and chairman of several institutional boards, took their toll on his health. Ellen White accompanied her husband on his journeys, doing her full share of preaching and personal work, and, as time permitted, pushed forward with her writing.
The winter of 1872-1873 found the pair in California in the interests of strengthening church projects on the Pacific Coast. This was the first of several extended western sojourns during the next seven years. An important vision was given to Ellen White on April 1, 1874, while in the West, at which time there was opened up to her the marvelous way in which the denomination's work was to broaden and develop not only in the western States but overseas. A few weeks later, tent meetings were opened in Oakland, California, and in connection with this public effort Elder White began the magazine Signs of the Times.
Battle Creek College
In the fall of 1874 the Whites were back in Michigan, assisting with the Biblical Institute, leading out in Sabbath services, and taking a prominent part in the dedication of Battle Creek College on January 4, 1875. As Ellen White stood before the group who had gathered from a number of states to dedicate this, the denomination's first educational institution, she related what had been shown to her the day before in a vision. The picture she presented of the international work that must be accomplished by Seventh-day Adventists impressed the assembled workers and believers with the importance and need of the college. Among other things, she told of having been shown printing presses operating in other lands, and a well-organized work developing in vast world territories that Seventh-day Adventists up to that time had never thought of entering.
Writing and Traveling
During the next few years much of Mrs. White's time was occupied in writing that part of the conflict story dealing with the life of Christ and the work of the apostles. This appeared in volumes 2 and 3 of The Spirit of Prophecy, in 1877 and 1878. Elder White was busily engaged in establishing the Pacific Press in Oakland, California, and in rasing money to enlarge the Battle Creek Sanitarium and to build the Tabernacle in Battle Creek.
When the Whites visited the new health institution near St. Helena, California, early in 1878, Ellen White exclaimed that she had seen those buildings and surroundings in the vision shown her of the broadening work on the West Coast. This was the third Pacific Coast enterprise she had seen in the 1874 vision, the others being the Signs of the Times and the Pacific Press. During the camp meeting season of the late 1870s, Ellen White addressed many large audiences, the largest being the Sunday afternoon congregation at Groveland, Massachusetts, late in August, 1877, at which time 20,000 people heard her speak on the broad aspect of Christian temperance. Her travels and labors during this period took her east and west and into the Pacific Northwest. She wrote incessantly, attended General Conference sessions, filled speaking appointments at camp meetings and in churches, appeared before temperance groups, and even filled appointments in town squares and state prisons. Elder White's failing health led to a trip into Texas for the winter of 1878-1879. It was here that Arthur Daniells, who in later years served as president of the General Conference, and his wife, Mary, joined the White family, the youthful Arthur as Elder White's companion and nurse, and Mary as cook and housekeeper.
Death of James White
There were periods during the next two years when Elder White was in reasonable health and able to continue with his work. But his long years of mental and physical overwork had diminished his life forces, and he died in Battle Creek on August 6, 1881. Standing at the side of her husband's casket at the funeral service, Ellen White pledged herself to press on in the work that had been entrusted to her.
Soon Ellen White was again on the Pacific Coast, feeling keenly the loss of her companion, but earnestly engaged in writing the fourth and last volume of the Spirit of Prophecy series. The conflict story from the destruction of Jerusalem to the close of time was presented in this long-awaited volume. When it came from the press in 1884, the book was well received. An illustrated edition for house-to-house sale was published, carrying the titleThe Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels, and within three years 50,000 copies were sold.