| Ellen G. White Estate

Do I have to stop eating meat to be saved?

You may be thinking of this statement, from Counsels on Health, page 575:

Greater reforms should be seen among the people who claim to be looking for the soon appearing of Christ. Health reform is to do among our people a work which it has not yet done. There are those who ought to be awake to the danger of meat eating, who are still eating the flesh of animals, thus endangering the physical, mental, and spiritual health. Many who are now only half converted on the question of meat eating will go from God’s people, to walk no more with them.

Though Mrs. White gave such warnings about the effects of meat eating, she recognized that a vegetarian diet would not be the most healthful—or even possible—in every part of the world. In some places there is simply not the variety of wholesome foods available to sustain the vegetarian. She urged that one do the best one can in the prevailing circumstances. One of the best summaries of her position is found in Testimonies for the Church, volume 9, pages 153–166. It was a message she delivered to the General Conference of 1909, the last one she attended. Here are a couple of key paragraphs on the points we are discussing.

If we could be benefited by indulging the desire for flesh foods, I would not make this appeal to you; but I know we cannot. Flesh foods are injurious to the physical well-being, and we should learn to do without them. Those who are in a position where it is possible to secure a vegetarian diet, but who choose to follow their own preferences in this matter, eating and drinking as they please, will gradually grow careless of the instruction the Lord has given regarding other phases of the present truth and will lose their perception of what is truth; they will surely reap as they have sown (156, 157).

We do not mark out any precise line to be followed in diet; but we do say that in countries where there are fruits, grains, and nuts in abundance, flesh food is not the right food for God’s people. I have been instructed that flesh food has a tendency to animalize the nature, to rob men and women of that love and sympathy which they should feel for everyone, and to give the lower passions control over the higher powers of the being. If meat eating was ever healthful, it is not safe now. Cancers, tumors, and pulmonary diseases are largely caused by meat eating. We are not to make the use of flesh food a test of fellow-ship, but we should consider the influence that professed believers who use flesh foods have over others. As God’s messengers, shall we not say to the people: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God”? 1 Corinthians 10:31. . . . The health of the body is to be regarded as essential for growth in grace and the acquirement of an even temper. If the stomach is not properly cared for, the formation of an upright, moral character will be hindered. The brain and nerves are in sympathy with the stomach. Erroneous eating and drinking result in erroneous thinking and acting (159, 160).

In short, we might say that Mrs. White recognized and warned about the physical, moral, and spiritual dangers involved in a meat diet without insisting that everyone in every part of the world must stop eating meat. If meat eating jeopardizes one’s salvation, it is because of the natural effects of the meat on the body and the sensibilities, even the moral ones, rather than its being a matter of disloyalty or disobedience to God in and of itself, such as Sabbath breaking or the failure to return the tithe might be.

See also the following question and answer.

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