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Masturbation Sin: A Cause of a Multitude of Diseases
A popular quibble against Ellen White is that she attributed so many diseases to
masturbation, which she called "secret" or "solitary vice," or "self-abuse." Maybe
it won't be a popular quibble much longer, for we just
found a web site that, while claiming that the practice "is a healthy . . . behavior,"
goes on to tell how it can cause "fatigue," "lower back pain," "anxiety,"
"fuzzy vision," and "memory loss." These are the very same problems that Ellen White
attributed to "secret vice."
critics typically fail to mention is that many physicians, preachers, and lecturers
of her day gave similar lists of diseases. For example, consider the list given in
the famed Wesleyan Bible commentary authored by Adam Clarke:
- "speedily exhaust the vital principle and energy"
- "the muscles become flaccid and feeble"
- "the tone and natural action of the nerves relaxed and impeded"
- "the understanding confused"
- "the memory oblivious"
- "the judgment perverted"
- "the will indeterminate and wholly without energy to resist"
- "the eyes appear languishing and without expression"
- "the countenance vacant"
- "the appetite ceases for the stomach is incapable of performing its proper office"
- "nutrition fails"
- "tremors, fears, and terrors are generated"
- "a mind often debilitated even to a state of idiotism" (vol. 1, p. 417)
Now Dr. Clarke, are you sure about all this?
Reader, this is no caricature, nor are the colourings
overcharged in this shocking picture. Worse woes
than my pen can relate I have witnessed in those
addicted to this fascinating, unnatural, and most
destructive of crimes. If thou hast entered into this
snare, flee from the destruction both of body and soul
that awaits thee! God alone can save thee.—Ibid.
No Methodist need be embarrassed by Dr. Clarke's comments. Neither
should Methodists worry about some critic accusing them of being cultists on account
of such sentiments in their Bible commentary. Why not? Because in recent years scientists
have found a medical basis for these claims in their discovery of
the role of zinc in the human body. (See "Zinc in the Brain"
for why it appears that Ellen White was referring to zinc.)
Before we quote what Ellen White had to say on this topic, we must in all fairness
say that not every list of diseases floating around among critics was actually written by her.
We have compared some of these lists with their original source, and have found that the source clearly
identified them as being the work of someone other than Ellen White, someone who
wasn't even a Seventh-day Adventist.
The following comments, on the other hand, did originate from
her pen, and specifically deal with what the practice does to a growing child or youth:
The frame is weak
and stunted; the muscles are flabby; the eyes become small,
and appear at times swollen; the memory is treacherous, and
becomes sievelike; and inability to concentrate the thoughts
upon study increases.—Testimonies for the Church,
vol. 2, p. 402.
H and I [To protect the identities of the guilty,
Ellen White replaced their names with the consecutive letters of the alphabet.
These two youth are thus identified as "H" and "I."—Webmaster]
have gone to great lengths in this crime of
self-abuse; especially is this true of H, who has gone so far
in the practice of this sin that his intellect is affected, his
eye-sight is weakened, and disease is fastening itself upon him.—Ibid., p. 404.
You listen to numerous
complaints of headache, catarrh, dizziness,
nervousness, pain in the shoulders and side,
loss of appetite, pain in the back and limbs,
wakeful, feverish nights, of tired feelings in
the morning, and great exhaustion after
exercising? . . .
And have you not noticed that there was a
deficiency in the mental health of your children?
that their course seemed to be marked
with extremes? that they were absent minded?
that they started nervously when spoken to?
and were easily irritated? . . .
Have you not noticed their reluctance to engage in
active labor? . . . The tendency of
many is to live in indolence.
Have you not witnessed the gloomy
sadness upon the countenance, and frequent
exhibitions of a morose temper in those who
once were cheerful, kind, and affectionate?—Solemn Appeal, pp. 49, 50.
Thus Ellen White identified a number of physical and mental
problems that result from "secret vice." While we by no means understand everything
about this issue, there are some things that we definitely do know today:
Dr. David Horrobin, an M.D. and Ph.D. from Oxford
"The amount of zinc in semen is such that one
ejaculation may get rid of all the zinc that can be
absorbed from the intestines in one day. This has a
number of consequences. Unless the amount lost is
replaced by an increased dietary intake, repeated
ejaculation may lead to a real zinc deficiency with
various problems developing, including impotence.
"It is even possible, given the importance of zinc
for the brain, that 19th century moralists were correct
when they said that repeated masturbation could
make one mad!"—Zinc (Vitabooks: St. Albans,
Vermont, 1981), p. 8.
This statement is similar to that made by Carl C. Pfeiffer,
Ph.D., M.D., in his book on zinc. He declares:
"We hate to say it, but in a zinc-deficient adolescent,
sexual excitement and excessive masturbation
might precipitate insanity."—Zinc and Other
Micro-nutrients (Keats: New Canaan, Conn., 1978), p. 45.
—Testimonies on Sexual Behavior,
Adultery, and Divorce, pp. 269, 270.
"Self-abuse" lowers zinc levels, at least in men.
The role of zinc in the body is a complex topic. It plays such an important
role in so many processes and enzymes, and even the immune system, that literally
a host of diseases will result from a deficiency of zinc, even diseases
that Ellen White never mentioned.
In the above quotations, Mrs. White connected "secret vice" with poor
memory, weak eyesight, stunted growth, lethargy, irritability, and
depression. Zinc deficiency has been proven to cause
these very problems. Just for starters, consider the following quote we
found on a U.S. government web site:
The clinical manifestations in severe cases of zinc deficiency included
bullous-pustular dermatitis, alopecia, diarrhoea, emotional disorder, weight loss,
intercurrent infections, hypogonadism in males and it is fatal if untreated.
A moderate deficiency of zinc is characterized by growth retardation and
delayed puberty in adolescents, hypogonadism in males, rough skin, poor
appetite, mental lethargy, delayed wound healing, taste abnormalities and
abnormal dark adaptation [night blindness].—Abstract
of "Clinical, endocrinological and biochemical effects of zinc deficiency," A. S. Prasad,
Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 1985 Aug;14(3):567-89.
One question remains. Did Ellen White
get her list of the diseases associated with "self-abuse" from
Adam Clarke, some other preacher or doctor or lecturer, from
her own observation, or from God? Actually, another question should
be asked first.
The apostle Paul wrote, "For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren,
by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you"
(1 Cor. 1:11). Since Paul's knowledge regarding contentions came from the house of Chloe
instead of from a divine dream or vision, does that make this particular verse
in 1 Corinthians uninspired? We think not.
Come to think of it, there are likely a lot of details that the Bible writers
gleaned from their own observations or from the
testimony of others, instead of obtaining them directly from God. The Holy Spirit
in such cases must have guided the inspired Bible writer to choose the true and reject the
false. Thus there really is no difficulty if one of the diseases in Ellen White's list
wasn't explicitly shown to her in vision.
At any rate, it is interesting that in an area in which Ellen White has garnered
more than a little criticism for her statements, medical science has now documented
that she was correct after all.
Give Us Your Opinion
|What do you think about zinc deficiency causing all these diseases?