| Ellen G. White Estate

Did Mrs. White’s understanding of the cause of diseases change?

I looked up Ellen White’s uses of the word miasma. Most of them were metaphorical; only one, as I recall, would I be willing to see squarely through the “miasma theory” glasses, and I can’t be certain that she had bought into the theory in full even then. We all use the language we have at our disposal to discuss matters, but the words mean what we make them mean. The fact that Mrs. White used the term miasma doesn’t prove that she believed disease came from foul odors; she could be referring to other unhealthful conditions in low-lying places. But it does not discredit her if she did believe the theory for a time and later changed her mind as more information became available.

I wonder if the miasma issue might not be parallel in some sense to what Mrs. White said about salt. Some of the reformers of her day had labeled it a poison (which it is in large enough quantities) and forbidden its use. She wrote, “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, 344]. The counsel she gave was sound, but she did not know (was not shown) the “whys and wherefores.” Might her counsel against living in the midst of rotting vegetable material also have been sound but not for the reasons she assumed it was (the “whys and wherefores”)?

[The Ellen G. White Estate Web site contains three questions and responses on this subject, all involving the same people and all with the same—or very similar—title lines. You can find more helpful material there.]

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