Organized in 1863, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has its doctrinal roots in the “Advent Awakening” movement of the 1840s. Hundreds of thousands of Christians became convinced that Christ would soon return from their study of Bible prophecy. This re-awakening of a neglected Biblical belief happened in many countries, focusing on North America. After the great disappointment of their hopes in 1844, these advent believers broke up into several groups.
One group, studying their Bibles for increased understanding, recognized the seventh-day Sabbath, Saturday, as the day of worship. This group, which included Ellen and James White, and Joseph Bates, became the nucleus of the church congregations that chose the name “Seventh-day Adventist Church” and organized in Battle Creek, Michigan, with 125 churches and 3,500 members.
Ellen White’s ministry under God’s unique guidance greatly influenced the development of the Adventist Church. Her counsels and messages to believers and church leaders shaped the form and progress of the church, while its beliefs have remained Bible-based. Other early Adventists of note include John Harvey Kellogg, co-inventor of the “cornflake” along with his brother Will, and pioneer of the Battle Creek Sanitarium;
Joseph Bates, retired sea captain and first leader of an Adventist administration; Uriah Smith, prolific author, and inventor, and editor of the church’s paper for almost 50 years. Adventist missionaries began work outside of North America in 1864, and ten years later, J. N. Andrews was sent to Switzerland as the denomination’s first official missionary. In 1890, an Adventist minister began working in Russia, while in 1894, church operations commenced in Africa (Ghana and South Africa). Missionaries also arrived in South America in 1894 and Japan in 1896. The church now operates in 209 countries and territories worldwide.
Growth from the early days has been dramatic. From the small group meeting in 1846 and the church’s organization with 3,500 believers, Seventh-day Adventists now number 19.5 million worldwide. Many people do not know much about the Seventh-day Adventist religion or the church’s interest in health-related fields. The following are common myths about SDAs.
"Adventists are like Christian Scientists."
While church members certainly believe in the power of faith, they are also pragmatic and understand modern medicine’s potency. This belief is why they have over 150 modern hospitals worldwide and sponsor ten medical schools in 10 different countries. One is Loma Linda University, located in Southern California.
"Adventists are all vegetarians."
They support a healthy diet and promote a meatless lifestyle, but not all members follow a vegetarian regimen. However, Adventists reject pork and shellfish based on prohibitions found in the Old Testament. SDAs are not newcomers to promoting healthy eating habits. They have been doing so for well over 100 years. The Adventist Mortality Study from 1960-65 concluded that Adventist men live an average of 6.2 years longer and women 3.7 years longer than non-church member peers.
The same study also revealed that cancer rates were 60 to 85 percent lower, depending on the patient’s gender and types of tumors. Coronary heart disease was also lower.
Whether these statistics were due strictly to a vegetarian diet or based on other Adventist practices is unclear. SDAs are also non-smokers and do not engage in alcohol consumption. They do not use street drugs nor participate in promiscuous sex.
"Adventists are ‘holy rollers.’"
This myth is also not true. Seventh-day Adventists don’t believe that they’re any better than another religion. If you were to attend a Seventh-day Adventist church service on a typical Saturday, you would find it very similar to most mainstream Protestant denominations.
"Adventists are strange because they attend church on Saturday instead of Sunday."
Historical records show that Christ, his disciples, and first-century Christians honored the seventh-day Sabbath. But in A.D. 313, Roman Emperor Constantine I legalized Christianity, and at the same time, declared Sunday as the empire’s “day of rest.” In A.D. 364, the Roman Papacy went along with this change. Some historians believe this decision was made to avoid the persecution of Christians by “blending in” with Roman pagan customs. Still, Adventists have always believed in the original Sabbath and therefore choose to worship on the seventh day, as directed in Biblical text.
"All Adventists think alike."
This myth was true at one time, but a diversity of opinion does emerge as with any church that has been around for longer than a century. Yet there are fundamental core beliefs that most, if not all, Adventists hold. Their thinking ranges from those who take a strict view of Biblical interpretation, as seen by the church’s prophet, Ellen G. White, to others who are known as “cultural” Adventists. These folks have historical ties to the denomination but are not necessarily obedient to church doctrine.
"Adventists don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter."
You’ll find several Adventist churches, schools, and universities recognizing these traditional observances. According to “Adventist Today” magazine, some events for these occasions have attracted as many as 10,000 visitors.
"Adventists only care about themselves."
Out of all the myths about Seventh-day Adventists, this myth is the most astronomically untrue. Adventist Health facilities are found in the U.S. and many other countries. Their mission is clear: to make lives better for human beings throughout the world. People of all faiths, as well as non-believers, are welcomed. Over the last 155 years, SDAs have been consistent, respected, and positive members of any community where they reside.
Like other religions, Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold fundamental beliefs to teach the Holy Scriptures. These beliefs constitute the church’s understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture. Seventh-day Adventists may not be a popular religion, but it keeps God in the forefront and desires to help people in any way that they can.
Instead of passing judgment, those unfamiliar with Seventh-day Adventists and their practices should educate themselves. Educating yourself on a religion that you don’t practice can be very fulfilling. It can open your eyes to something that you were initially unfamiliar with, and it can be an opportunity to make connections.