Seventh-day Adventism in the mid 1800s had become well-known particularly for the health work that had begun. The state of health of people in America at that time was deplorable. In those early years of Adventism the believers also were not living very healthful lives, most being meat eaters. A common practice among the regular medical practitioners of the time was recommending the use of tobacco smoke as a treatment for people with lung conditions. Another treatment often used was bleeding with leeches, a treatment brought about due to the belief that there was too much bad blood in the body. The first U.S. president, George Washington, underwent this treatment toward the end of his life and it was possibly the cause of his death. Opium and heroin were common ingredients in popular remedies. Such was the state of medical education in America at that time.
Around 1863, Ellen White received a vision from God which became known as the health reform vision. In it God showed her many truths regarding our bodies and proper care of our health. This message of health reform was desperately needed in the world and certainly also in the church. Shortly after receiving the vision, Mrs. White established the Western Health Reform Institute which operated around 1866–1877. In the early days there was no medical doctor to head up the work there so its beginnings were humble—just a house where sanitarium work was conducted. Ellen and James White felt the need for a medical doctor to head up the work. There was one promising young man whom they had kept their eyes on, John Harvey Kellogg. As a young man he had shown promise of a very sharp mental aptitude and they encouraged him in his study of medicine. James White had taken him into the printing work and given him work on the printing presses. John Kellogg was a hard worker and he had very fine dexterous fingers which made him exceptionally quick at putting the typeset together. The White’s personally financed a portion of his tuition for medical school and, upon completion, he came back to the Western Health Reform Institute and headed the program there. Under his leadership the health work started to expand, adding to the hydrotherapy, medical, and surgical treatments.
Very soon he realized that the facilities they had were not adequate for the work the Adventist church wanted to accomplish so a fundraising campaign was begun to raise $25,000 to build a new facility. Later on from its humble beginnings it developed into the Battle Creek Sanitarium which became the center of the Adventist health work for many years.
Dr. Kellogg was a tireless worker doing up to three times as much as any others. God had given him tremendous talent. He was very long-winded and dictated to his secretaries twenty five to fifty letters each day. It was not uncommon for these letters to be eighteen to twenty pages long. He worked tirelessly from early morning to late evening. It is said that he could keep several stenographers busy at the same time, each writing different letters and could go from one to another without forgetting his thoughts on each separate letter.
He had the ability to multi-task, dictating letters while reading patient reports from other workers. He never wasted a moment while he was traveling around the country doing lectures and tours. On a three-hour train trip he would dictate scientific papers to be published in one of the journals being produced by the church. He dictated all of this information from memory. He did not have available to him the resources available today like the Google search engine. All the information he needed for these papers was stored in his mind.
While traveling he would carry a piece of material with him and practice stitching tiny little stitches to keep his fingers nimble for his surgeries. Even up into his seventies he worked around fifteen hours each day. Sometimes he went up to 48 hours with only a couple of two-hour naps in between. This was normal practice for him. Ellen White cautioned him against this, and told him that as a health educator he should practice what he was preaching. In reply he insisted that the Lord had given him a work to do and he must do it. He felt he was putting out fires and could not stop to spend more time on himself; he had so much to do. He believed that God had given him the work and he had to keep preaching and teaching. Amazingly, with the schedule he kept, he lived to be 91 years old.
Dr. Kellogg would regularly gather all the patients together and give lectures. Often there were scoffers, but because of his quick brain he was always able to answer any objections so well that the questioners often became embarrassed and left or kept quiet. The patients loved these sessions where they could hear Dr. Kellogg speak about healthful living.
He and his brother, William, developed the product cornflakes, which today still has the name Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. The kitchen of the sanitarium became Dr. Kellogg’s laboratory where amongst all of his other activities he would take time to do experiments with food. During his early days as a medical student, he cooked his own meals and kept careful records of the money and time he spent. Wishing there was a ready-made cereal available to purchase, he began experimenting with recipes. Cornflakes actually came about accidentally. In an attempt to make flakes, he cooked up a batch of wheat berries and put them through a roller which turned them into mush. Unsatisfied with the taste and texture, he continued in his attempts without pleasing results.
One day as he was cooking up a batch of wheat berries, he had an emergency call which did not allow him to get back to his experiment until 2-3 hours later. When he came back, he thought his mixture was ruined, but instead of throwing it away, he put it through the roller just to see what would happen. It came through like thick flakes—not what he wanted but it was better than before. Another time he and his brother William were experimenting and he was called away and unable to get back for a whole day. By that time the batch had molded. They decided to put it through the roller though and finally they had nice thin flakes. By regulating the humidity, the flakes would not mold and they had fine, thin flakes able to be baked. This was the start of the cereal industry.
Dr. Kellogg was encouraged to patent and market his discoveries; however, he did not like to make anything as a business. He had a very kind, generous heart and he thought if anyone wanted to have that recipe they could have it. Of course William, his younger brother, thought very differently and urged Dr. Kellogg to make money with it. This resulted in a disagreement that caused a lifelong division between William and John Kellogg. William went on to form the Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Company that has continued to this day to make millions. Dr. Kellogg, adverse to making a business out of health, would teach his patients in his own kitchen to cook healthfully for themselves. In this way, these people would be able to put healthy habits to practice in their own homes.
Peanut butter was another one of his inventions. Dr. Kellogg experimented with a lot of nut butters and protein foods, but it was peanut butter really that caught the attention of the American people. Once more he was encouraged to patent his discovery, and once more he refused. Peanut butter has become one of the most popular foods in America. Later he suggested that roasted peanut butter was hard on the digestive system. As a solution he began boiling the peanuts for the peanut butter used by the sanitarium. Incidentally, most people still preferred to eat roasted peanut butter because the flavor was better despite the health ramifications.
Dr. Kellogg and his wife never had children of their own. They adopted seven and also took care of 35 other needy children whose parents were not able to care for them. They raised 42 children in their large house. Dr. Kellogg was a very generous, hardworking man whom the Lord greatly blessed with many talents. He invented many medical apparatuses to aid in healing. He took great care to implement the eight laws of health into his medical practices which influenced his medical ingenuity. Because Michigan does not have a lot of sun through the winter, he advocated the use of electric lights and invented the electric light sauna bath. He had banks of light baths so people could come in the winter to receive the benefits of light therapy.
Dr. Kellogg was well-known as a very skillful surgeon. A highly acclaimed surgeon once came from the lauded John Hopkins Medical Center and spent a day observing Dr. Kellogg perform five gastric surgeries back to back, which took a period of ten consecutive hours. After witnessing this surgery marathon he said, “Today I have observed some of the most skillful surgery I have ever seen.” Dr. Kellogg continued with his surgeries and performed his last operation when he was 81 years old.
Once a patient went to the Mayo Clinic—a clinic whose medical prowess was as great then as it continues to be to this day. Dr. Mayo, noticing a scar on the gentleman, observed that Dr. Kellogg had operated on him. The patient was surprised that the doctor would know this, given he had not divulged any of his medical history. When asked how he could tell, Dr. Mayo replied, “That’s easy; the scar is small and neat, just like a signature.”
In addition to his medical abilities, Dr. Kellogg possessed God-given leadership skills that prompted him to head up the health work in the Adventist Church. Ellen White said, “The Lord Jesus has sent his angel to your side to tell you what to do. A hand has been laid upon your hand, Jesus, and not you, has guided your instrument. At times you have realized this, and a wonderful calmness has come over you. You dared not hurry, yet you worked rapidly, knowing that there was not a moment to lose. The Lord has greatly blessed you.” Battle Creek Letters, 32, 33. This was written in 1899 to the medical superintendent of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.
As they saw the results of Dr. Kellogg’s surgeries, doctors from the Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins Medical Center said, “This is astounding.” This was because angels placed their hands over Dr. Kellogg’s hands. Jesus, Himself, guided Dr. Kellogg’s hands as he performed these surgeries. “As you looked to God in your critical operations, angels of God were standing by your side, and their hands were seen as your hand performing the work with an accuracy that made the beholders surprised.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 285.
It is said that when Dr. Kellogg knew just one millimeter to the left or to the right could cost the patient his life, he would bow down with all his staff and pray for God’s hands to guide his. Before all surgeries he would kneel with the surgery staff and pray, a practice for which his patients were very grateful.
The fame of Battle Creek Sanitarium became worldwide, and in the early 1900’s, all manner of patients were coming in, many of them very wealthy. But something happened during the peak of Dr. Kellogg’s career at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. About the turn of the century, his relationship with the Seventh-day Adventist Church began to change. Although he enjoyed a wonderful relationship with James and Ellen White during the early years, later he questioned the prophetic gift of Ellen White.
In his book, John Harvey Kellogg, Swartz quotes from George Butler, a president of the general conference, who said: “Most everybody believes the Testimonies very strongly as long as they favor them, and sustain them, and stand up for them, and fight their battles. The time when they become questionable about the Testimonies is when the Testimonies begin to reprove them, and present before them certain faults, and wrong courses, or methods, or motives of action.” George Butler said that most people in the Adventist Church agree that Ellen White has the prophetic gift as long as they agree with the testimonies. But as soon as the testimonies of Ellen White say something that pricks their conscience, that is directed toward them, then they question the authenticity of her gift. This is what happened with Dr. Kellogg.
Dr. Kellogg had enormous power over the medical work in Battle Creek Sanitarium, which, by this time, had become quite large. Ellen White was opposed to the idea of having one large sanitarium saying, rather, that smaller institutions all across the country should be erected outside every large city. Dr. Kellogg successfully encouraged medical students to receive their training at Battle Creek. Upon enrollment as medical students, their contract required them to work with his society for a certain number of years post graduation. The facility was becoming a directorship.
The Lord had blessed John Kellogg with many talents to accomplish wonderful work. However, no one is exempt from pride and must guard carefully against it or suffer the results—results which can affect more than just the individual. Ellen White reproved his actions. Again and again she pleaded with Dr. Kellogg to branch out from Battle Creek and help the other sanitariums and correct the issue of autonomy. Each should be able to make decisions independent of Dr. Kellogg or the Battle Creek Board. Though her reproofs met with a congenial answer, Dr. Kellogg chose not to reform his practices.
In a conversation with Willie White, Dr. Kellogg stated that his faith in Ellen White’s teachings were based on his belief in the fundamental principles she taught rather than on any natural disposition or trust in the supernatural. Dr. Kellogg asserted that his belief in Willie’s mother’s being under God’s direction was due to her doing and saying what he also believed to be right, rather than a result of the supernatural power affecting her.
Dr. Kellogg’s is a dangerous stance to take. When any one person feels himself adequate to judge the spirit of prophecy or even become his own standard for right and wrong, trouble is imminent. This is what Dr. Kellogg was trying to do around the turn of the century and after many warnings from Ellen White, in 1902, the sanitarium burned down. Mrs. White and many others of the General Conference thought this was a sign from God and that Dr. Kellogg would come to understand and begin expanding the medical work into other areas.
Dr. Kellogg received the news of the fire in the sanitarium during a medical tour and immediately began drawing plans for a new sanitarium. The General Conference agreed to rebuild but decided it must be downsized. They started laying the foundation in 1903, but no one saw the whole blueprint of the new sanitarium except for Dr. Kellogg. By the time the foundation was laid and the conference checked the work, they saw the new foundation for the sanitarium would be even larger than the one that had burned down. The next sanitarium was a huge complex, and in 1928 a 14 story addition was added. Dr. Kellogg spared no expense in building his new sanitarium. The materials included marble imported from Italy, tiles imported from Europe, a fountain inside the cafeteria, and crystal chandeliers from Europe. Inside, the building was magnificently done to encourage upper class patronage.
Dr. Kellogg became the driving force behind the sanitarium, and through his vigorous efforts the Sanitarium was raised to national prominence as a “place where people learn to stay well.” The rich and famous frequently made annual trips, sometimes several weeks in duration. They were pampered while being restored to health by eating a healthy diet and scientifically planned exercises. Patients poured in internationally to indulge in the medical luxury. Even presidents came to Battle Creek Sanitarium for treatments.
At present the building is a federal building, the only one of which has a fountain in the cafeteria.
Dr. Kellogg continued teaching the laws of health, but there was a gradual shift. Mrs. White had said to exercise in the open air, out in nature. Although Dr. Kellogg kept the basic teachings, there was a subtle change in all of his practices. For example, the exercises now conducted on the rooftop of the sanitarium more resembled dancing. In his early years as a student, the medical institution he attended used dancing as a form of recreation, something that Dr. Kellogg never advocated. As a violinist, he was frequently asked to play music for some of the dances, which he did with great discomfiture. In the new sanitarium, the social events were vastly different than the Western Health Reform Institute.
Ellen White had spoken against having sports competitions in the schools, but Dr. Kellogg incorporated many of these things in his sanitarium, even including a billiards room in the new sanitarium. Many of the principles he once stood by slowly began to disappear. Strange things started happening at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Dr. Kellogg formed an association called the Race Betterment Foundation. The goal of the foundation’s “Eugenics Registry” was “to make an inventory and record of the socially important hereditary traits and tendencies of the individual” and “to assist in the maintenance and increase of natural endowments and to combat race decay.” They felt the need to keep the gene pool pure in order to increase the health of the human race. The gene pool registry has John Harvey Kellogg listed as the secretary of the association. In order for a person’s name to go on the registry, the individual was required to divulge family lineage, hereditary weakness, and diseases. From these lists, marriages were arranged to obtain the best genes in an attempt to better the human race. The concept of eugenics was the primary idea behind the holocaust carried out by the Nazis, the superior race.
Such was the nature of John Harvey Kellogg’s medical leanings later in his life. While he was still working within the church, many worldly physicians would broach him on how he chose what treatments to incorporate into his sanitarium. He replied, “When new research comes along, I compare that research with what I have studied from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophesy [sic] and if the principles agree with the Bible and the Spirit of Prophesy[sic] I immediately take it in and study more about it and incorporate it into our practice at the sanitarium. If there is anything not according to the principles of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophesy [sic], I immediately throw it out, that way I can sift through much quicker all the research happening in science.”
The medical profession estimated that Dr. Kellogg was nearly a decade ahead of the medical practices of his day. This gift was due to his practice of comparing every new idea with the principles of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. As soon as he threw out the Spirit of Prophecy, and the things he had previously learned, the Spirit of God was not able to bless the things that he did.
Proverbs says that “pride goeth before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18.) John Harvey Kellogg was no exception. The Battle Creek Sanitarium eventually experienced some financial difficulties and one of the buildings was sold to the Federal Government. Later a sanitarium was established in Florida, but never succeeded as Battle Creek had. Dr. Kellogg credited his talents and his skills for the success in Battle Creek, but the failure in Florida proved otherwise. Only the Spirit of God was able to cause success. Unfortunately, however, the fall that is taken does not affect just the proud, but also everyone with whom that person is associated. This is especially the case with persons of influence and renown. Pride affects ourselves, people in our care, colleagues, businesses we are associated with, friends, family, and wonderful works that would be accomplished when dedicated to working for God’s glory and not our own.
“Believe in the Lord [your] God, and so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, and so shall you prosper.” (II Chronicles 20:20.) Putting faith in God and His abilities is the only hope of accomplishment. The purpose of a Christian is not to glorify self—there is no glory in humanity except in the presence of God.
No matter how blessed you may be of God, no matter how many talents God may have given to you, by trusting to self there is no way we can carry on any good work. Dr. Kellogg is a good example of that. Without constant dependence upon God, for His wisdom, for His spirit, there is nothing we can do. Whatever work the Lord has given to you, always keep a spirit of humility and dependence upon God, for we know that without Him we can accomplish nothing.
Dr. Kinjo is a Naturopathic physician practicing in Edmonds, WA. He is director of Restoration Natural Health and is dedicated to helping people achieve optimal health of body, mind, and spirit using the principles found in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy. He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.