Core Religious Values and Health Among Young Adult Seventh-Day Adventists
CitationSmith, Alyssa. 2019. Core Religious Values and Health Among Young Adult Seventh-Day Adventists. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThis thesis explores, from a sociocultural anthropological perspective, the values and norms that are distinctive to the young adult population of Seventh-day Adventists. In doing so, this study has uncovered the ways in which the social and cultural standards of the young-adult Adventist population differ from the traditional standards, which are found to be more prevalent among older generation Adventists. Furthermore, through research conducted in two major Adventist communities in the United States, this study looks to uncover potential distinction between the norms and values of Adventists in Southeastern Tennessee and Southern California.
From its early beginnings, rooted in the brief but impactful Millerite Movement of the 1800s, Seventh-day Adventism has developed and grown exponentially, becoming a dominant global religious denomination, with its own unique social and religious standards, which in many ways, have direct ties to the past. In this thesis, I evaluate the role that the early church played in the development of current Adventist norms, as well as the impact of their prophetic history, especially in regards to Adventist prophet Ellen G. White. White was crucial in the development of Adventist social and health principals, many of which still play a key role in the social and religious norms of modern-day Adventists.
Additionally, to establish a baseline for my current research on the values of young-adult Adventists, I provide a review of past scholarly research which demonstrates the traditional, conservative norms of Adventism, as well as studies that provide insight into more liberal religious standards among modern-day Adventists. I also consult several studies vis-à-vis Adventist health and the impact that the traditional Adventist lifestyle has played on the overall health and longevity of Seventh-day Adventists both in the United States and abroad, to better determine the main factors that have contributed to longevity among Adventists, as it relates to my study.
In order to understand the current norms and values among the young-adult population of Seventh-day Adventists, I spent several weeks in two cities that are known for their large Adventist populations. During this time, I conducted short-term participant observation to gain an understanding of the day-to-day lives of young-adult Adventists living in these communities. Additionally, I carried out structured interviews with 17-20, Adventists in each of the two locations, to obtain data regarding the value systems of both the younger and older generation Adventists. For the purpose of this study, I identified the younger generation as individuals age 18-29 and the older generation age 30 and above. Half of interviewees in each location were of the younger generation and the other half were of the older generation. Interview questions were asked regarding several different factors, including frequency of church attendance and attendance of other religious gatherings, diet, and consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, as well as activities that individuals engage in during the Sabbath. Participants were also asked how often that they pray privately, how much they try to carry religion into all aspects of their lives, their main motivation behind their diet and exercise choices, as well as their opinion on the Adventist Church Fundamental Beliefs.
My hypotheses, that the younger-generation is less strict in carrying out the societal aspects of Seventh-day Adventism, and that the Tennessee Adventists are more conservative than the California Adventists, were supported by my research. Through structured interviews with 18 Adventists of the younger generation and 20 of the older generation, I discovered a higher frequency among the older generation of regular church attendance, attending religious events outside of church, vegetarianism or veganism and abstaining from stimulants. However, the younger generation was found to have a higher prevalence of praying privately multiple times a day, interest in carrying religious values into all aspect of their life and acceptance of the Fundamental Beliefs. This data suggests that young-adult Adventists are not as externally conservative as the older generation, but that they may have a slightly stronger personal religious belief system. This interesting paradox suggests that outward religious behavior may not indicate one’s internal religious belief system and that although the younger generation is not as consistent in following traditional Adventist norms, that they may be just as invested, or even slightly more so, in their personal religiosity than the older generation.
Furthermore, I discovered that, especially among the older generation, Tennessee Adventists were significantly more conservative than California Adventists. All of the older generation Tennessee participants identified as being vegetarian, abstaining from all stimulants, observing the Sabbath in a strict manner and attending worship service and other religious gatherings regularly, whereas much more inconsistency in these factors was found among the California Adventists.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42006730