Crucial Question 22:  Did God send Ellen White a vision rebuking a non-existent hospital building?




The General Conference sent Ellen White to Australia in 1891.  She continued sending testimonies from Australia, and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, head of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, became a frequent recipient of these testimonies.  Under Kellogg’s direction, the Sanitarium had become world-famous for its alternative therapies.  Kellogg established a branch of the Sanitarium in Chicago, intending to serve wealthy individuals who could afford his treatments.  The profits from the new sanitarium were used to fund a clinic for the sickly residents of Chicago’s slums.  The clinic, called the Chicago Medical Mission, provided hygiene services, food, basic medical care, medicine, clothing, and health training.  The Chicago Medical Mission was a private attempt to fight the desperate poverty and diseases of the lower classes suffering from hunger, filth, and overcrowding, and it fulfilled its objectives in a non-sectarian manner (it had a non-denominational advisory committee).  However, this early attempt at working with other denominations for a common humanitarian goal did not meet with Ellen White’s approval.  She forbade Kellogg from using denominational funds to feed the destitute, and he agreed.  A major point of contention between White and Kellogg was that she wanted to establish a Sanitarium in Australia, and she needed money from Kellogg to accomplish this purpose, but Kellogg was busy raising money for his charitable venture in Chicago.  Then Mrs. White sent a fateful testimony in 1899 that convinced many people that she was not a true prophet.  The offending testimony has disappeared, but her correspondence before and after indicates the subject of the testimony (Numbers 312, note 31).  She accused Dr. Kellogg of erecting a new building to house the Chicago Medical Mission, and she said she had seen this building in vision.  Unfortunately for her, prior to her testimony, Dr. Kellogg had nixed plans for the building due to the great expense involved.  The building which she had seen in vision had already been rejected; it had never been started.


From the Pen of Ellen White:


“Brother Kellogg, the Lord calls for a halt, while you sit down and count the cost, to see whether you will be able to finish the building which you have begun….  In your effort to embrace so much in the rescue work, you are in danger of divorcing yourself from the leading and most urgent features of the last gospel message” (4MR 132).




“Three mornings ago I laid my hand upon several papers, exchanges from America, sent me about two years since.  In the New York Observer of August 6, 1896, I saw your name and the heading, ‘Dr. Kellogg’s Work, The Workingman’s Home, and Medical Missionary Work in Chicago.’  There followed an account of the work then going forward, and the large amount of means required to sustain it.  Since that time the work has greatly extended, and of course a much larger amount is required for its support.  As I read the article and thought of these things, I could understand the light given me by the Lord as to what the principles of truth and righteousness would lead the Sanitarium supporters and workers to do; that they should make it their first business to aid the work in this country [Australia], where the Lord had sent experienced workers fitted to carry forward His work” (4MR 139).




“All this the [sic] work in Chicago was presented in a vision given to me at midday.  It laid upon me a burden which none could understand.  I could not understand it.  I was overwhelmed with the things presented.  When I came to myself, I was like one stunned.  Night after night the picture was presented before me.  I saw the investments you were making, the money you were consuming; and what would the end be?  I will not say.  ‘Who has required this at your hands?’ was the question asked.  ‘Sister White,’ you bemoan, ‘somebody has set things before you in a wrong light.’  No, no; things that no one knows have been presented to me.  I have been made to understand the ambitious projects that have bound up in one wicked city means which should have helped the work in this new world [Australia]....” (4MR 141).




I understand that someone said that the testimony that I bore in regard to this was not true,—that no such building was erected in Chicago. But the testimony was true. The Lord showed me what men were planning to do” (7MR 350).




“But the work of providing for all the depraved, all the drunkards, and all the prostitutes, has not and never will be given by the Lord to Seventh-day Adventists....” (1MR 224).




“Shall all our means and all our efforts be expended for a class from which very few will be brought into the truth?  We cannot depend on converts from this class to represent the people of God as a wise, noble people.  Very few of them will become light bearers to the world.  God does not choose them as men of dependence.  Some of them will become sons and daughters of God, but the number saved will be small in comparison with the efforts put forth.


“Unless care is taken, the work of God will be bound up just as Satan will be pleased to have it bound up.  Were all our means spent in labor for the lawless, depraved, corrupted class, where would be the work that should be done to bring into the truth a class of people who would properly represent the truth for this time? (1MR 233-235).




“Those who are of the household of faith come first, not the depraved, polluted men, who have destroyed themselves, filling soul and body with iniquity, as did the antediluvians and as did the inhabitants of Sodom.  Yet for these Dr. Kellogg has labored, while those with whom he should have linked up in perfect harmony he has treated as offensive” (1MR 233-235).




“The deceptive power of the enemy has led you [Dr. Kellogg] to leave God’s banner trailing in the dust while Dr. Kellogg has committed himself as working ‘undenominationally’ in a work which had taken the money from a people who are decidedly a denominational people” (2MR 242).




To our sanitariums has been given the work of reaching the higher classes” (1MR 227).




Mrs. White's rhetorical questions actually sound sarcastic.  Kellogg has not proposed to care for all–just some–and he has developed an ingenious method, combining the best elements of liberalism & conservatism.  Anyway, she is trying to change the terms of the discussion, arguing against something that has not been proposed (a straw man fallacy).


Thought Questions:


  1. Why would God to rebuke a building plan that had already been rejected by Dr. Kellogg?
  2. Why would God to send a representation that would embarrass His prophet and lead to loss of faith in her writings? 


Bible Texts:


“When the word of a prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him” (Jer. 28:9).


When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:22).


“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40).


For Further Study:


  • Ronald Numbers, Prophetess of Health (2nd ed.), pp. 191-193
  • A Critique of Prophetess of Health, p. 88 (available from White Estate)
  • Schwarz, Richard W. John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., pp. 164-171 & 178-79


Continue on to Crucial Question #23:  Confusion About Trinity

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