America Religious Movements for Healthcare Professionals

Latter-day Saints
All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom; for I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.
Joseph Smith, Jr.
Seventh-day Adventists
As the health of invalids improves under judicious treatment, and they begin to enjoy life, they have confidence in those who have been instrumental in their restoration to health. Their hearts are filled with gratitude, and the good seed of truth will the more readily find a lodgment there and in some cases will be nourished, spring up, and bear fruit to the glory of God. One such precious soul saved will be worth more than all the means needed to establish such an institution.
Ellen G. White
Christian Scientists
There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual.
Mary Baker Eddy
Jehovah's Witnesses
The world is fast coming to realize that the ?kingdoms of this world? are not Christlike, and that their claim to be of Christ's appointment is not unquestionable. Men are beginning to use their reasoning powers on this and similar questions; and they will act out their convictions so much more violently, as they come to realize that a deception has been practiced upon them in the name of the God of Justice and the Prince of Peace. In fact, the tendency with many is to conclude that Christianity itself is an imposition without foundation, and that, leagued with civil rulers, its aim is merely to hold in check the liberties of the masses.
Charles Taze Russell
America, in the mid-nineteenth century, was a place of great religious ferment. The Second Great Awakening of the 1820s and 1830s brought a new revival in personal religion and spirituality among Protestant Christians. Protestants who comprised the dominant majority continued to carry the belief that America was a land of destiny and special purpose in the world. This belief, as well as a sense of optimism and adventure that came with the founding of the new nation and the modern progress in science, technology and industry, contributed to the flowering of new religious and social movements that sought reform in religion and society. Each of the religious movements discussed in this chapter arose as an expression of and response to that reform impulse in nineteenth-century America. Each presented a strong, unique vision of religion and American society and demanded radical dedication to the faith and practice of the community.
Latter-day Saints
As of 2007, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported the worldwide membership of 13.1 million in more than 19,000 wards (equivalent to local congregations). The United States had the highest number of Latter-day Saints with 5.8 million. Within the United States, the western states of Utah, California, Idaho, and Arizona had the highest number? with Utah leading the way with 1.8 million. Globally, the church was active in more than 120 countries, especially in Central and South American countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom. Mexico and Brazil had the largest number of Latter-day Saints outside of the United States each with about one million (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 2008).
Seventh-day Adventists
As of 2007, the Seventh-day Adventist Church had 15.7 million members worldwide in 125,000 local churches. Adventists have an active church presence in 201 nations. India had the highest number of Adventists in any country with 1.34 million, with Brazil coming a close second with 1.33 million. The United States had just over one million. Church membership was particularly strong in eastern and southern Africa, the American continents, parts of southeast Asia, and the Indian sub-continent. Within the United States, California has the highest number of Adventists with 182,000, followed by Florida, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Michigan, and Georgia (General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Office of Archives and Statistics 2008).
Christian Scientists
Per instructions by Mary Baker Eddy the founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, Christian Scientists do not publish actual membership figures. They reside in more than 130 countries, with more than 2,000 churches. Groups affiliated with the Church of Christ, Scientist, such as reading rooms, publishers, and social service enterprises as well as churches are active in 80 countries. The churches are called branches of the ?Mother Church? in Boston, Massachusetts. As of 2005, there were over 1,100 certified Christian Science practitioners (healers) listed in Christian Science Monitor, a daily newspaper owned by the church (The First Church of Christ, Scientist 2008).
Jehovah's Witnesses
As of 2007, Jehovah's Witnesses reported the worldwide membership of 6.7 million worshiping weekly in 101,000 congregations in 236 countries. The United States has the highest number of Witnesses with 1.1 million, with Brazil and Mexico coming second and third with 670,000 and 630,000, respectively. As with many other Christian movements, their numbers were particularly strong in Central and South American countries and Eastern Europe. Within the United States, higher concentrations of Jehovah's Witnesses were found in southern and western states (Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania 2008).
Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormonism as popularly called) was established in April 1830 in New York by Joseph Smith (1805?1844). Smith claimed to have received visions from God who instructed him to restore the true church of Christ. An angel named Moroni directed Smith to long-hidden golden plates containing stories of God's people in the North American continent going back to 600 bce, Jesus' revelations to Native Americans in the first century ce, and subsequent experiences of Christians in America. These golden plates were translated into English and took the name of the Book of Mormon. As a record of the direct revelation of Jesus, the Book of Mormon was considered to be of equal authority to the Bible. The restoration of the true church included acceptance of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith as a modern-day prophet.
The distinct claims of Latter-day Saints resulted in persecution of the group by Protestants which compelled the movement to become an itinerant community. In the period 1830?1844, Latter-day Saints moved from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois where an anti-Mormon mob killed Smith and his brother. This led them far west beyond the then-borders of the United States to what is now Utah under the leadership of Brigham Young (1801?1877), the church's second prophet?one of the tenets of Latter-day Saint belief system being the continuing gift of prophecy in modern times. Young guided the church through the difficult early years in Utah and toward becoming the thriving global movement that it is today.
Seventh-day Adventists
The year of Joseph Smith's death, 1844, is significant for Seventh-day Adventists for a different reason. That was the predicted year of Jesus' second coming for the followers of William Miller (1782?1849). Miller interpreted the 2,300-day prophecy of Daniel 8 as pointing to the return of Jesus and the end of history on October 22, 1844. Out of what came to be known as the Great Disappointment experience of that day, a group arose who reinterpreted the prophecy in Daniel 8 as referring to the beginning of the final phase in earth's history and adopted the seventh-day Sabbath as the true day of worship and the end-time sign of faithfulness to God. This group, eventually known as Seventh-day Adventists, was led by James White (1821?1881) and his wife Ellen White (1827?1915) who from 1844 claimed to receive visions from God.
In the 1840s and 1850s, Adventists' preoccupation with Christ's imminent return prevented them from engaging in active missionary work or building institutions. However, by 1863, as the church grew, Adventists organized the church formally with their headquarters located in Battle Creek, Michigan. The formal organization of the church launched Adventists on the path of building significant publishing, educational and medical institutions through the United States and eventually the world as they aggressively embraced missionary outreach. Significant in this process was the work of Ellen White who shaped Adventist thought and practice through her writings on the Bible, theology, lifestyle, church work, and mission.
Christian Scientists
The Church of Christ, Scientist, was officially organized in 1879 in Lynn, Massachusetts, by Mary Baker Eddy (1821?1910). Like Joseph Smith and Ellen White, Eddy claimed to have a special experience with God and taught a distinct set of beliefs that stood in clear contrast with the dominant New England Protestantism of her time. Eddy, who grew up as a Congregationalist Christian, is said to have ?discovered? Christian Science through a miraculous healing she experienced after a bad fall on the ice in February 1866. Initially, due to the severity of the fall, Eddy was thought to be dying. But after just three days of Bible reading while confined to bed, she made a dramatic recovery and ?discovered? the true science of healing, particularly after her reading of Jesus' healing of a ?palsied man? in Mark 9. This science, she believed, was to recognize that all reality is spiritual and to rely completely on life in the Spirit (see section Beliefs and Practices for further clarification).
Eddy's teachings are captured in her 1875 book which she expanded in 1883 with biblical expositions under the title, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Christian Scientists consider this book to be an inspired writing in addition to the Bible. In 1881, Eddy founded the Massachusetts Metaphysical College through which she spread her teachings on spirituality and healing. The following year, three years after the church was formally organized, the church headquarters moved from Lynn to Boston, signaling a more public phase of the community's outreach and growth. Though the teachings of Christian Science were directly at odds with the prevailing notions of knowledge, medicine, and religion, the very distinctive beliefs gave Christian Scientists a stronger and sharper identity and aided the community's international outreach.
Jehovah's Witnesses
The Jehovah's Witnesses were the last of these four groups to appear on the American religious landscape. After being involved in failed date-setting efforts for the second coming of Jesus Christ, a Presbyterian-turned- Congregationalist Charles Taze Russell (1852?1916) formed his own apocalyptic Christian movement in 1879 whose primary activity was the publication of Zion's Watchtower and Herald of Christ's Presence. Through this periodical, Russell advanced his own interpretation of the end-time prophecies of scripture, which included the belief that Christ had already come invisibly and his presence was increasingly being manifested in the world. Within a year, more than 30 groups formed in connection with Zion's Watchtower, leading to the incorporation of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society in 1884. Though Russell never claimed inspiration or prophetic calling, his interpretations of scripture, including his belief that Christ's presence would reach its peak in 1914 and that World War I was the biblical Battle of Armageddon, was normative for all the members of the Watch Tower Society.
After Russell died in 1916, Joseph F. Rutherford (1869?1942) succeeded Russell as the Society's second president. It was under Rutherford's leadership that the society began calling itself Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931. Rutherford made some revisions to Russell's interpretations, including the identification of Armageddon with World War I, and added some new predictions, including the failed claim that Old Testament patriarchs would be resurrected beginning in 1925. Another of Rutherford's innovations was resistance to governmental authority. He taught the Witnesses to resist military service and all political activity. Although the Witnesses have since experienced further failures of prophecies by their leaders and persecution from states that have not respected their conscientious objection stance toward military service, they have persevered and grown stronger through aggressive evangelistic outreach both within the United States and throughout the world.
Beliefs and Practices
Latter-day Saints
As the full name of their church indicates, Latter-day Saints clearly view their movement as a Christian church. However, they do not see themselves as belonging to the Catholic, the Orthodox, or the Protestant tradition. Rather, they present their community as an independent branch that was raised up by God as the restoration of the true church instituted by Jesus Christ in the first century ce.
At the heart of that restoration lie their distinctive teachings on scripture, the Godhead, and the church. Latter-day Saints affirm scripture as recognized by Protestants (predominantly, the King James Version). But they differ from both Protestants and Catholics in that they accept additional writings as part of the scriptural canon: The Book of Mormon (believed to be a revelation of Jesus Christ given to Native Americans), Pearl of Great Price (Joseph Smith's corrections to the King James Version and translation of other documents), and Doctrine and Covenants (the prophecies of Joseph Smith and all his successor down to the present). The recognition of the latter book is based on the Latter-day Saint teaching that the gift of prophecy (and the inspired authority that comes with it) continues in the present age through the prophet of the church who serves also as the president. Another key difference between Latter-day Saints and other Christians is on the understanding of the Godhead. Latter-day Saints view God the Father, his Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit as three distinct persons. They understand Jesus to be a literal and physical son of God the Father?thus, subservient in authority to the Father. Still, like other Christian movements, they do believe in the incarnation of Jesus?that he left the spiritual realms to become a human being in flesh?and in salvation of humankind through faith in Jesus. Finally, the Latter-day Saint conviction that their movement is the restoration of the true church of Jesus Christ at the end of earth's history (hence, ?Latter-day? Saints) leads them to hold that the ordinances of their church have unique efficacy in the world that is to come. They believe that to reach the highest degree of salvation, or exaltation, one must participate in the ?saving ordinances? of their church, including particular washings, anointing, and celestial marriage which, on earth, is available only in the church's temple.
Seventh-day Adventists
Unlike Latter-day Saints, Adventists view themselves as belonging to the family of Protestant churches and adhere to the great Reformation principles of the supreme authority of the Bible, salvation by grace and faith in Jesus Christ, and the priesthood of all believers (the idea that each believer can approach God directly and that each has a divine calling to minister to the world). They also agree with the historic Christian teachings on the Trinity, the divine?human nature of Jesus, and the importance of the church community as a manifestation of the invisible ?Body of Christ.? At the same time, they hold some beliefs that distinguish them from other Protestant bodies. Among them are the teachings on Jesus' work in the heavenly sanctuary and the end-time, the Sabbath, and the gift of prophecy. When the Millerite expectation of Jesus' second coming on October 22, 1844, ended in what has come to be known as the Great Disappointment, a small group of would-be Seventh-day Adventists banded together to introduce a new interpretation claiming that Jesus, instead of returning to the earth, entered the Most Holy Place (the divine throne room) of the heavenly temple. This, they believed, was the beginning of the final period in earth's history during which Jesus was engaged in the investigation of all of humanity?dead and alive?to vindicate the true character of God and make the final determination of those eligible for eternal life. Since then, this belief has gone through several refinements, but Adventists remain officially committed to the belief that the final period in earth's history began in 1844 and that Jesus is engaged in a special end-time work in heaven. While this ?sanctuary doctrine? was being developed, another of Adventism's distinctives was also being formulated?the recovery of the seventh-day Sabbath. Early Adventists believed that the ?Christian Sabbath? of Sunday represented departure from the biblical Sabbath of both the Old and New Testaments which, they preached, was the same as the seventh-day Sabbath of the Jews. They further taught?and Adventists continue to teach?that the keeping of the Sabbath has special significance as a test of loyalty in the final days of earth's history. Finally, like Latter-day Saints, Adventists believe that the biblical gift of prophecy has continued throughout Christian history and was given to Ellen White, one of the founders of the church. Though she never claimed to be a ?prophet? and the acceptance of her writings is not a condition for membership in the Adventist church, White is widely considered to have received the prophetic gift and her writings, though subservient in authority to scripture, hold a special value in the life of the community.
Christian Scientists
Like Latter-day Saints, Christian Science does not see itself as belonging to any of the historic streams of Christianity. Rather, it claims to be a separate, unique phenomenon that recovers the healing power of God and the truth about reality. They agree with other Christians that the Bible is God's revelation and that Jesus who was the divine son of God was born of virgin birth and was resurrected after being crucified. They, however, do not read the Bible literally, but primarily metaphorically and allegorically, resulting in a theological system very different from most other Christian bodies.
Apart from their views on sin, death, metaphysics and healing which are discussed later in this chapter, other areas of uniqueness for Christian Science include their views on God the Father and Jesus Christ. Christian Scientists use the term ?Trinity? to refer to the three-person Godhead of the Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit, but their conception of the three is unique. For them, God is both a father and a mother figure who is different from Christ, the spiritual manifestation of God. God is simultaneously identifiable as the distinct ?Divine Mind? and all of reality. Christ, then, is a manifestation of God which came to physical reality and became Jesus the human. Jesus was able to heal and perform other miracles because of Christ's manifestation of God in and through him. However, Christian Science distinguishes Jesus from Christ, teaching that the former was merely the bodily existence displaying Christ. Through this Jesus, though, God pointed to the true nature of reality?that it is spiritual?and the power available to all human beings from God through prayer.
Jehovah's Witnesses
The belief system of Jehovah's Witnesses shares many characteristics found among the three other movements discussed in this chapter. They also view themselves as the restorers of the true understanding of the Christian ideals, yet hold some very distinct ideas that separate them from all other groups within Christianity. Like Latter-day Saints, Adventists, and many other Christians, they view the Bible as God's Word and read it more or less literally, and they believe in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of humanity. Jehovah's Witnesses agree with Latter-day Saints and Adventists in the belief that the end of history is near and that their movement has been gifted with a special message for the end-time.
Along with Latter-day Saints and Christian Scientists, they reject the historic Christian understanding of the Trinity. Instead, they, like Latter-day Saints, take literally the biblical expression of Jesus Christ as the ?son? of God and see him as a divine figure subordinate in authority to God the Father. Also, much like Latter-day Saints and Christian Scientists, they do not see themselves as following a particular branch of Christianity, but as constituting a unique, independent, and the only true stream. Hence, they find it their mission and calling to convert the entire world to their movement.
Some of distinguishing features of Jehovah's Witnesses' beliefs include the particular use of the name Jehovah, their view on the two classes of salvation, and their relationship with society and governmental authorities. They have found it important to emphasize their allegiance to Jehovah, the English version of God's name found in Exodus 3:14, hence placing it in their name. They believe that there will be two classes of saved?the heavenly class consisting of the 144,000 (as referred to in the Book of Revelation) and the earthly class who will receive eternal life after Jesus' second coming and live on earth. The Witnesses believe that God began gathering the special group of 144,000 from 2,000 years ago and that process ended in 1914, as taught by Charles Taze Russell. Thus, the only hope for those who live today is to join the earthly class.
Another notable distinctive belief and practice of Jehovah's Witnesses is their neutral stance in the political arena. This stance arises out of their commitment to God's kingdom rather than earthly governments. Though they pay taxes and obey the laws of the land, they do not believe in participating in politics and serving in the military (even when drafted) as these activities do not allow them to maintain neutrality in times of conflict. Furthermore, they do not salute the flag or observe national holidays and other holidays of religious origin as, they believe, these can easily lead to excessive nationalism and propagation of false religious beliefs (since many of the religious holidays are of mixed, multi-religious origin).
Health and Bioethical Issues
While Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, Christian Scientists, and Jehovah's Witnesses all base their beliefs on the Bible and confess Jesus Christ as their Lord much like most other Christians, they have distinct beliefs and practices on health that set them apart. Still, all four of these groups share the general Christian commitment to physical, emotional and relational health, based on the biblical teaching that the human body is a ?temple of the Holy Spirit? (1 Corinthians 6:19). It is on the specific interpretation and application of the Bible's teachings on health that they differ.
Saints Latter-day Saints believe that it is a religious duty to take good care of the physical body with which the spirit is united during life on earth. The body is considered a gift from God which plays an important part in one's ?eternal progression,? the process of growth toward perfection that began before birth and will continue forever. What happens to the body and how one takes care of the body have consequences that go beyond this life.
They also teach that the family is the basic unit of the church and the basis for a righteous, holy life. Every person is viewed as a child of heavenly as well as human parents, as each in his or her pre-mortal life was created by the Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and is part of the eternal family. Through birth, the person who was in the spirit state is joined with a physical body so that one can go through the process of eternal progression and reach higher levels in the spiritual realms. Based on this belief, devout Latter-day Saints consider consumption of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and narcotics as violations of God's health laws. Coffee and tea are not to be taken due to their caffeine content which can be habit-forming.
Latter-day Saints tend to avoid other caffeinated drinks such as cola products as they too can be habit-forming, though technically this latter injunction is not considered to be mandatory. As for the dietary concerns, Latter-day Saints believe that all will become vegetarians during the Millennium, the 1,000-year period of peace which will commence with the second coming of Jesus, but none are required to be vegetarians. Still, meat is to be eaten sparingly, and all are encouraged to consume vegetables, fruits, and grains. These teachings are based on ?Word of Wisdom,? a section of Doctrine and Covenants, the 1835 book by Joseph Smith which is considered part of scripture by Latter-day Saints.
On a number of sexual and biomedical issues, Latter-day Saints hold conservative positions. They believe that sexual activity, including passionate kissing, outside of marriage is wrong. Though until 1890 they believed in and practiced polygamy, they teach monogamy?union of a man and a woman?as the only norm for marriage in contemporary life. They consider homosexuality a sinful condition and condemn its practice as unbiblical and unnatural. They oppose abortion, considering it a violation of the commandment not to kill (Exodus 20:13). Only in extraordinary circumstances can abortion be permitted?in cases of rape, incest, grave danger to the mother's life or health, and fatal defect in the fetus. In such situations, they are instructed to consult church leaders and give time for prayerful consideration before deciding on abortion. Latter-day Saints do not approve of artificial insemination except within a marriage relationship.
They also discourage using genetic materials other than the husband's or the wife's. At the same time, this decision is ultimately left up to the couple. On the issue of birth control, Latter-day Saints do not have a mandatory rule for all. However, because of the importance they place on family and the responsibility to bear children, they have historically encouraged child bearing and discouraged permanent birth control methods such as vasectomies, tied fallopian tubes, and premature hysterectomies. But, in the end, the decision remains with the couple.
Seventh-day Adventists
?The health message,? as referred to by Seventh-day Adventists, is a major component of their beliefs and practices. This teaching began to develop soon after the church's formal organization in 1863 after Ellen White claimed to have received a vision about the importance of physical health and its connection to the mind and spirit. In 1865, White reported another vision in which she was given the message to start a medical institution. This resulted in the first Adventist healthcare institution, the first of hundreds to follow.
Helped by White, Adventists soon made the link between their health teachings and their belief about the human nature. Unlike most other Christians, Adventists hold that human beings are indivisible, organic unions of the body, mind, and spirit. Rejecting the view that human nature is composed of the body and the soul, they believe that the human person is the soul who completely ceases to exist at the time of death (without the ?soul? going to heaven or hell). Because they view human nature as a composite of the body, mind, and spirit, they have found a deeper reason to value wholeness?harmonious development of the physical, mental and spiritual health?even claiming that this experience of wholeness is part of one's preparation for the second coming of Christ.
In practical terms, the Adventist emphasis on health has led the church to promote healthy diet and lifestyle. Adventists condemn the use of alcohol, tobacco, and narcotics and recommend against caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea. They teach vegetarianism as the recommended dietary norm and refrain from unclean meat as described in the Old Testament book Leviticus, chapter 11. There, ?unclean meat? is the meat of animals that do not have split hoofs or chew the cud and the fish and seafood that do not have fins and scales. At the same time, dietary decisions are ultimately left up to the individual. Adventists are active in smoking-cessation efforts, prevention and treatment of alcohol use, and promotion of vegetarianism through their global network of healthcare institutions.
Like Latter-day Saints, Adventists tend to lean toward the conservative side of the social spectrum on issues dealing with sexuality and biomedical ethics. Adventists do not condone premarital or extramarital sexual activity, though the extent to which one engages in expressions of affection prior to intercourse is left up to the individual. Because they hold that appropriate sexual intimacy can occur only between a man and a woman in a marital relationship, Adventists do not accept homosexual romantic relationships or practices as legitimate. Abortion is unacceptable when it is performed as a means of birth control. Understanding it to be tragic, there are occasions, such as rape and/or incest, when abortion is thought to be justifiable. Adventists leave the final decision to the woman. Decisions on birth control and various methods of assisted human reproduction, including artificial insemination, are left up to the individuals involved.
Christian Scientists
Given their root experience in the healing of Mary Baker Eddy, health and healing are part of the core beliefs of Christian Scientists. They hold that God and all of creation are good and spiritual?being non-material. They believe that the material reality is illusory and that true spiritual understanding leads to the recognition of the spiritual reality as the only true reality. Christian Scientists believe that it was through such realization that Eddy received healing and that all seekers of spiritual truth can experience healing and liberation from sickness.
Christian Scientists' belief about reality leads them to prefer prayer as the primary, if not exclusive, means of healing and therefore refrain from using modern medicine. Prayer for them is a method, or ?science,? through which one experiences awakening to the true nature of reality and connection with the healing power that is available in that reality. Important in this process are the church's recognized Christian Scientist Practitioners who provide spiritual treatment through prayer and use of scripture and Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. This treatment is covered by some insurance companies and recognized by the United States government as a legitimate medical expense. While Christian Scientists give strong preference to prayer and spiritual healing, they are not forbidden to receive medical services. Many do go to hospitals for births, broken bones, or treatment for emergency care due to accidents, but others choose to rely exclusively on spiritual healing. When they do seek medical services, they tend to avoid the use of drugs and pain relief as these are understood to have a negative impact on the spiritual nature of the person. However, the specific decisions on when or whether to seek medical care belong to the patients and their families.
As for the specific lifestyle and bioethical decisions, Christian Scientists tend to be conservative, though they leave many decisions to individuals. Marriage is generally viewed as that between a man and a woman, and premarital and extramarital sexual activities are not condoned. Christian Scientists do not have an official position on homosexuality, abortion, birth control, or assisted human reproduction. They do not follow a particular diet, although they tend to abstain from alcohol, tobacco and other stimulating and intoxicating substances.
Jehovah's Witnesses
As part of their commitment to the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, Jehovah's Witnesses value healthful living in all areas of life. With Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses hold the view that the human soul is mortal and integrated with the body. Thus, they believe that the soul dies at the time of death and becomes nothing?until the time of the second coming of Jesus who will resurrect the saints to eternal life. But, unlike Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses have not made this belief an essential part of their mission and global health work.
One key distinctive mark of Jehovah's Witnesses' teachings about health focuses on human blood. They take literally such biblical passages as Leviticus 17:10, 11 where God condemns eating of meat that has not had the blood removed (Kosher meat) and Acts 15:28 where Christians are instructed to abstain from blood. This is so because blood, according to the Bible, represents life. Acceptance of these passages has led Witnesses to rule out consumption, storage, and transfusion of blood or any of its parts at all times?even when threatened by death. They are also discouraged from receiving organ transplantation since others' blood may be introduced to their bodies through the organs. This belief regarding blood has stimulated Witnesses to seek alternatives to medical procedures that involve blood transfusion, leading to innovations in bloodless surgery techniques. The church's Hospital Information Services promotes greater public awareness of bloodless surgery and facilitates such procedures for its members with cooperative medical institutions.
As with the other three groups, Jehovah's Witnesses hold conservative views on sexuality and many lifestyle issues. They view marriage as taking place only between a man and a woman and condemn premarital and extramarital sex and homosexuality as sinful. They also condemn abortion and assisted reproductive measures that involve semen or eggs of individuals other than the couple involved. As for the dietary concerns, Jehovah's Witnesses do not have particular restrictions, except for consumption of meat with blood in it. They abstain from certain substances such as tobacco and narcotics, but alcoholic and caffeinated beverages are acceptable as long as individuals consume them in moderation.
Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses view diseases and illnesses as consequences of sin. Based upon passages in the Old Testament, they view sin as having entered the universe through archangel Lucifer's rebellion against God. After his rebellion, Lucifer is also known as Satan or the Devil who tempted and deceived Adam and Eve, the first human beings created by God and placed in the paradisiacal Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were indeed deceived and their ?fall? is how sin entered the world. Sin is defined as disobedience and rebellion against God and it has resulted in pain, suffering, further disobedience, broken relationships and environment, and ultimately death.
The three traditions commonly hold that sin has created physical and environmental conditions leading to physical and psychological dysfunctions, diseases, and illnesses. They also hold that the intemperate choices that individuals make?which are also consequences of the sinful condition of the world?contribute to sickness of all types. They do not distinguish between physical and mental illnesses, but view both in physical and spiritual terms. These illnesses have natural, physiological causes that can be managed or overcome through modern medicine, though Jehovah's Witnesses notably take exception to the transfusion and storage of blood.
They do not see utilization of modern medicine and naturalistic scientific understanding and practices as running counter to their belief in the spiritual dimension of human suffering. Prayer for healing does accompany the employment of modern healthcare, though individuals in each of the three traditions recognize that ultimate healing will only be possible when the fundamental cause of sickness?the sinful, corrupted condition of the world?is overcome at the time of the second coming of Jesus. At that time, Jesus will eradicate sin from the earth and bring about a perfect, sinless, disease-free state of being.
Christian Scientists, on the other hand, do not locate the cause of human suffering in one historical event whether it is Lucifer's rebellion or the fall of Adam and Eve. In fact, they do not take the biblical story of creation and fall as historical accounts. They only take the story of Adam and Eve as allegory that teaches the nature of sin which they define as fear and ignorance. Diseases and illnesses, according to Christian Scientists, are the result of human ignorance about the true nature of God, or the Divine Mind, and reality. They teach that God loves every individual and that true reality is spiritual and non-material.
They assert that the physicality and sickness as typically experienced by human beings are illusory. Once individuals abandon false understandings of God and reality and experience re-orientation of thought toward the true reality that is spiritual, sickness will disappear, even in this life. As noted already, due to such a strong belief in the spiritual nature of healing, Christian Scientists generally avoid modern medical care, including blood transfusion, organ transplantation, and drugs that affect the mind such as pain medication.
Death and Dying
Latter-day Saints
Latter-day Saints' belief in life after death allows them to accept it as the passage to the next phase of life, though they neither seek it nor embrace it openly. Upon death, all will proceed to the spirit world until the day of Jesus' second coming and resurrection of these spirits. At that time, all will be assigned to different levels of God's kingdom according to their actions and affiliations while on earth. Opportunities for accepting Jesus will be given to spirits even at that time and those who do accept him will join the process of ?eternal progression? toward the status of divinity. Satan, his devils, and those who persist in rebellion against God will be thrown into ?outer darkness? as eternal punishment.
Latter-day Saints are encouraged to bury their dead in the ground in keeping with the biblical practice of returning ?dust to dust.? However, if the local law requires, other practices such as cremation are allowed. Latter-day Saints who have received the ?Temple Endowment,? a particular privilege to take part in temple services, are dressed in a temple garment before burial?with the women of the Relief Society dressing women, and men who have been ordained as priests dressing men. Typically, a funeral and/or graveside service presided by a bishop or his representative precedes the burial. The burial may include the dedication of the grave as a holy resting place until the day of resurrection. The grave then becomes a sacred site for the family of the deceased. Suicide is denounced as wrong, but Latter-day Saints reserve the ultimate judgment to God. They generally condemn physician-assisted suicide and active euthanasia, but give room for allowing patients to pass away rather than keeping them alive in vegetative or extremely painful and miserable conditions in the final stages of terminal illnesses. In such dire situations, the decision is left to the patients and their families and caregivers. Autopsies may be performed, if required by law and/or consented by the family of the deceased.
Seventh-day Adventists
While Seventh-day Adventists view death as an abhorrent consequence of sin, they emphasize the hope that they hold for resurrection at the time of Jesus' second coming. As noted already, Adventists believe that one goes neither to heaven nor hell after death, but the soul, i.e. the person, dies and ceases to exist. Their hope lies completely in God's power and promise of resurrection. The wicked, who persist in rebellion against God until the time of death, are expected to receive the final judgment of complete non-existence which constitutes the Adventist understanding of hell. While they believe heaven to be a literal place, Adventists do not believe that hell represents an actual location but a metaphor for eternal non-existence.
Adventists do not have a prescribed ritual connected with death, though they typically hold funeral and burial services to celebrate the life of the deceased and encourage the loved ones. These services are similar to most Protestant funeral rites; they involve singing of hymns, reading of scripture, pastoral homilies, tributes by family and friends, and prayers. Both burial and cremation are acceptable, and autopsies may be performed. While efforts to prolong life are positively viewed by Adventists, they do not oppose cessation of life support when signs of consciousness and of the possibility for recovery have ceased. They oppose suicide, assisted suicide, and active euthanasia, though the church's response in such difficult situations is one of ministry and support, rather than condemnation.
Christian Scientists
Death for Christian Scientists is an illusion. It, along with decay and sickness in life, is a result of erroneous understanding of God and the spiritual nature of reality. Thus, with proper understanding and insight, it can be overcome. When one does die, Christian Scientists do not consider the event as necessarily a tragedy as it represents release into the mental, spiritual state of existence where the individual's consciousness will continue in its quest for purer understanding of God and reality. Christian Scientists believe that this process of ?purification? will continue forever with neither reward nor punishment awaiting the end of this life or future transitions in phases of existence.
Christian Scientists do not have a pre-determined method of marking death or preparing for death. Given their particular view toward modern medicine, it would be important to ascertain the exact wishes of the patients and their families nearing death as to how they desire to receive medical care, if at all. The church does not have an official position on euthanasia or assisted suicide, though suicide in general is considered to be against the divine principle of life. All decisions?including the method of disposition of the body?are left to the dying and their families. Christian Scientists hold memorial services typically at home or the funeral home. Since they do not have ordained clergy, family members or recognized leaders of the local Christian Science community may preside.
Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses view death, hell, and the nature of afterlife in the same way as Seventh-day Adventists. They too believe that death and hell mean complete non-existence and that the righteous will be resurrected, i.e., given new existence, at the time of Jesus' second coming and live forever with God experiencing the reward of eternal life. Care for the dying and disposition of the dead are largely left to the individuals and their families. While they do not believe that scripture requires indefinite life support, Jehovah's Witnesses believe in maximizing the length and quality of life. Thus, they oppose suicide, assisted suicide, and active euthanasia. Autopsies of the deceased are accepted, as are cremation and burial, depending on the wishes of the families. No particular funeral services are prescribed for Jehovah's Witnesses, though typically a ?memorial talk? will be held at the Witnesses' Kingdom Hall or a funeral home, followed by a graveside service. These services consist of a homily by a community leader based on scripture and prayers of comfort for the families.
Though Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, Christian Scientists, and Jehovah's Witnesses share many important commonalities with other Christian traditions such as Catholicism and mainline and evangelical Protestant groups, they bear some prominent beliefs and practices on health, human nature and death that set them apart. The distinguishing features result from each group's different interpretations of scripture's teachings on health, sin, human nature, and reality, though the four do share a generally similar outlook on sexual morality and importance of right, healthful living. Each in its own way represents a response to the challenges that the advancement of modern science posed to nineteenth century America.
Latter-day Saints and Seventh-day Adventists showed great openness to the healing methods of modern science and allowed the best of science to inform their health practices. Jehovah's Witnesses generally followed the same path, though they could not embrace modern science as openly as the former two due to the literal reading of scripture's teachings on blood. On the other hand, Christian Science represents the strongest exception taken to modern science, denying its premise of viewing reality as material. In a different way, though, the four movements represent the common nineteenth-century American openness to bold experimentation with new interpretations of scripture and new ways of being Christian?a tradition that has continued in manifold ways throughout the twentieth century into the twenty-first.
Julius J. Nam
Dos and Don'ts

1. Be respectful of the patient's dietary specifications (no caffeine).
2. Involve the family in decision-making.
3. Ask if the patient wishes to see a Latter-day Saint leader.
1. Do not speak condescendingly of the patient's or Latter-day Saints' view on diet.
2. The preferred name of the group is ?Latter-day Saint? rather than Mormon though the latter is not an offensive term.

1. Be respectful of the patient's dietary specifications (often no meat or fish).
2. Be respectful of Sabbath considerations.
3. Facilitate the patient's wish to use a more natural means to the degree that it is possible.
4. Facilitate the patient's desire for prayer and anointing by an Adventist pastor or elder.
1. Do not speak condescendingly of the patient's or Adventists' view on diet and Sabbath-keeping.

1. Explain fully and clearly the physiological effects and implications of each procedure.
2. Ask to what degree the patient wishes to receive medical care and drugs and respect his/her right of refusal.
3. Find out what arrangements the patient and his/her family has made for the dying.
4. Help locate a Christian Science practitioner for prayers of healing.
5. Allow time for personal prayer.
1. Do not speak condescendingly of the patient's or Christian Scientists' suspicion toward medical care.
2. Do not insist on specific care that the patient is uncomfortable with.
3. Do not make any medical decisions even simple ones without explaining everything fully.

1. Respect the patient's desire to avoid blood transfusion and storage.
2. Explain fully and clearly how the blood will be used and disposed of when it is drawn.
3. Work with the Hospital Information Services of Jehovah's Witnesses' Watch Tower Society if bloodless surgery is an option.
4. Be sensitive to the fact that Jehovah's Witnesses do not involve themselves in politics or celebrate holidays including birthdays.
1. Do not speak condescendingly of the patient's or Jehovah's Witnesses' view on blood.
2. Do not make any medical decisions even simple ones without explaining everything fully.


Book of Mormon A book believed to be a revelation of Jesus Christ that contains stories of God's people in North America throughout the centuries.
Endowment Ritual consisting of symbolic acts and covenants that is performed in a Latter-day Saint temple.
Joseph Smith The founder and first prophet of the Church of Jesus (1805?1844) Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Temple Recommend A certificate given to Latter-day Saints by church leadership for entrance to the temple. It is given only after the member is able to show worthiness by answering a series of questions.

Ellen White One of the co-founders of the Seventh-day Adventist (1827?1915) Church.
Great This is a term used to describe what took place on Disappointment October 22, 1844, among those who awaited the return of Jesus Christ that day.
Health Message Adventist teaching about the connection between the body, mind and spirit and the importance of complete wholeness as part of one's preparation for the second coming of Christ.
Vegetarianism Adventists recommend vegetarianism as the ideal dietary choice. It stems from their emphasis on health as part of the call to a life of wholeness.

Divine Mind Another name for God. Used very often due to Christian Scientists' emphasis on the mental and the spiritual as the only reality.
Mary Baker Eddy She is the founder of Christian Science. (1821?1910) Practitioners Individuals who practice healing through prayer according to the principles of Christian Science. Qualified practitioners are typically listed in the Christian Science Journal and
Science and Health A book written by Mary Baker Eddy, published originally in 1875 and expanded in 1883 with Key to the Scriptures. Considered an inspired book that stands on equal footing with the Bible, it provides a description of the principles of Christian Science.

Bloodless surgery A method of surgery without the use of another person's blood, some may choose to use their own blood in a bloodless surgery.
Charles Taze Russell Founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses movement. (1852?1916) Kingdom Hall Meeting place of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the external appearance of which is similar to a modest Christian church yet without any of the typical external symbols.
Watch Tower Society The central administrative organization of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2008) ?Statistical information.? Online, available at: (accessed December 14, 2008).
First Church of Christ, Scientist (2008) ?About the Church of Christ, Scientist.? Online, available at: (accessed December 14, 2008).
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (2008) ?145th Annual statistical report?2007.? Online, available at: (accessed December 14, 2008).
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (2008) ?Statistics: 2007 report of Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide.? Online, available at: (accessed December 14, 2008).
Suggested Texts
Albanese, C. L. (2007) America: Religions and Religion, 4th edition, Belmont, CA: Thomson.
Miller, T. (1995) America's Alternative Religions, 2nd edition, Albany: State University of New York Press.
Moore, R. L. (1986) Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans, New York: Oxford University Press.
Neusner, J. (ed.) (2003) World Religions in America: An Introduction, 3rd edition, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox.
Latter-day Saints
Bush, Jr., L. E. (1993) Health and Medicine among the Latter-day Saints: Science, Sense and Scripture, New York: Crossroad.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1948) The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi, Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Seventh-day Adventists
Knight, G. R. (2004) A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists, Washington, DC: Review and Herald.
White, E. G. (1905) Ministry of Healing, Mountain View: Pacific Press.
Christian Scientists
Eddy, M. B. (2000) Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Boston: First Church of Christ, Scientist.
Knee, S. E. (1994) Christian Science in the Age of Mary Baker Eddy, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Jehovah's Witnesses
Bergman, J. (1984) Jehovah's Witnesses and Kindred Groups: A Historical Compendium and Bibliography, New York: Garland.
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (2005) What Does the Bible Really Teach?, New York: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.
Suggested Websites
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( (
Seventh-day Adventist Church (
Ellen G. White® Estate, Inc (
Christian Scientists (
Church of Christ, Scientist (
Watchtower (
Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses (

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