Phillips made a statement that caught my attention: “I am an atheist but the God of the Hebrews had it right.”
As a fourth-generation Seventh-day Adventist I often reflect on the rich heritage of faith my parents gave me. My mother once mentioned, “The blessings of being a Seventh-day Adventist have surely seeped into your genes and chromosomes by now.” The Sabbath has always been part of my life, as well as the prophetic gift of Ellen White.
It became somewhat confusing then, while growing up, to hear some Adventist voices questioning aspects of Ellen White’s writings. For example, some suggested that her historical accounts might not be trustworthy; her counsels for healthful living might be outdated. This bewildered me. Would not the God of truth guard the messages He gave prophets to proclaim? I placed such questions on a “shelf” in my mind to deal with later. I didn’t feel equipped to resolve such issues.
When my husband pastored in the state of Arizona our district was near a state university. I applied to the university to study nutrition. It would be the perfect opportunity to explore some of the topics I had “shelved.” It turned out to be a life-changing experience, with Ellen White’s writings grounded and amplified more than I expected.
Put to the Test
I took more than 30 academic semester hours from several different professors. My ears perked up the first day in Advanced Nutrition when the professor began describing why she was an atheist. I thought: This should be a good time to learn advanced nutritional principles from an atheist who would have no “agenda” to either prove or disprove Ellen White.
Professor Phillips had taught nutrition for more than 30 years, having just come to Arizona after teaching at Purdue University—known for its strong nutrition program. After a first class with Phillips, I registered for every class she taught—enabling me to pose the nutritional questions I had. Her responses cleared up everything and more.
When we covered the nutritional aspects of carbohydrates and grains, Phillips mentioned that because of the problems associated with baking soda, it should not be used.
Ellen White mentioned this more than a century before: “The use of soda or baking powder in breadmaking is harmful and unnecessary. Soda causes inflammation of the stomach and often poisons the entire system. Many housewives think that they cannot make good bread without soda, but this is an error. If they would take the trouble to learn better methods, their bread would be more wholesome, and, to a natural taste, it would be more palatable.”1
Moreover, Phillips described how baking powder was developed to help cooks make biscuits without some of the harmful effects of baking soda. It does help, she stated, to better balance the pH of the baked goods, but some of the other ingredients added may unbalance the intended benefits. Also, both baking powder and baking soda, when added to bread/biscuit doughs, may reduce the availability of vitamin C, riboflavin, and thiamin, but not others, such as niacin and folic acid. For these reasons, when possible, yeast is the most healthful leavening agent to use.
Without mentioning why I was curious, I also asked Phillips about the use of vinegar. She had mentioned in class that vinegar was made from acetic acid—a harmful acid in high concentrations—and distilled water. I questioned that since vinegar had only a small amount of acetic acid diluted with so much water, was it really that dangerous? She replied: “It all depends on how diluted you want your poison.”
I recalled what Ellen White had written a century before about the harmfulness of vinegar: “The salads are prepared with oil and vinegar, fermentation takes place in the stomach, and the food does not digest, but decays or putrefies; as a consequence, the blood is not nourished, but becomes filled with impurities, and liver and kidney difficulty appear.”2
When lectures reached the section on protein, Phillips made another statement that caught my attention: “I am an atheist but the God of the Hebrews had it right.” She went on to lecture about how ancient Hebrews were forbidden to eat the fat and blood of animals. Both are known to be harmful to the health of the human body. Even when all visible fat is removed, their tissue still contains significant amounts of “invisible” saturated fat and cholesterol. If the fat and blood could be fully removed, the meat would be an unappealing color, with a very rubbery texture and little flavor.
Professor Phillips explained that animals get their protein from plants. Consequently humans, thinking they need to eat meat for protein, are merely getting their protein “secondhand.” Again this reminded me of what Ellen White had written long ago: “Those who eat flesh are but eating grains and vegetables at second hand, for the animal receives from these things the nutrition that produces growth. The life that was in the grains and vegetables passes into the eater. We receive it by eating the flesh of the animal. How much better to get it direct, by eating the food that God provided for our use!”3
Phillips insisted that humans have been taught to think that they need much more protein than they actually do. The unnecessary excess burdens human organs. The body’s primary need is for energy (calories) from unrefined carbohydrates, not protein.
Phillips then moved into a section of material that horrified me—the modern treatment of farm animals: confined animal feeding operations (CAFO). We learned of the appalling treatment of animals—chickens, geese, turkeys, cows, baby calves for veal, pigs, fish, and lamb—that are raised for slaughter. Each year billions of these animals in the United States alone are confined to horrendous conditions from birth to slaughter to satisfy the tainted palates of human beings.
At the time I had no idea that this was going on. It again reminded me of what Ellen White wrote more than 100 years ago, even before these modern methods were being implemented: “Flesh was never the best food; but its use is now doubly objectionable, since disease in animals is so rapidly increasing. Those who use flesh foods little know what they are eating. Often if they could see the animals when living and know the quality of the meat they eat, they would turn from it with loathing.”4
Professor Phillips never knew the background of my keen interest in nutrition. But it was apparent that she had done her homework in food chemistry. She confirmed many of the health principles given decades earlier by Ellen White more strongly than I could have imagined. I was convicted that God had given Seventh-day Adventists the chance to be a “light on the hill,” sharing the blessings of good health principles. It’s sad that we’ve been so slow in being the blessing we could be.
1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905, pp. 300, 301.
2 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Diet and Foods (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1938), p. 345.
3 Ellen G. White, Child Guidance (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Pub. Assn., 1954), p. 382.
4 Ibid., p. 383. (Italics supplied.)