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The Religious Affiliation of
Dr. William S. Sadler

William S. Sadler (1875-1969) was a nationally prominent physician, psychiatrist, professor, and author of 42 books. Dr. Sadler was an ordained Seventh-day Adventist who taught Exegetical Theology at the Seventh Day Adventist Seminary in San Francisco. He later left the Seventh-day Adventist Church and became the key figure in the bringing forth and subsequent dissemination of the Urantia Book.

William S. Sadler was an interesting figure in the way that he was so important in two normally separate fields. He was a major figure in American medical history; his actions permanently changed the American Medical Association. He was also the most important person in the appearance of a widely disseminated new religious text - the Urantia Book - and in the formation of an entirely new religious movement built around that book.

From: Meredith Sprunger, "A Short Biographical Sketch of Dr. William S. Sadler", written 18 December 1989,

It was my good fortune to know Dr. William S. Sadler as a personal friend and colleague for more than a decade in the early days of the dissemination of the teachings of The Urantia Book and I was honored to serve as the officiating minister at his Memorial Service. Although Dr. Sadler was an extraordinary person with great talents and diverse experience in serving humankind, he was also a warm and loving person with a great sense of humor.
Dr. Sadler's experience throughout life was in many ways unique, preparing him to serve as a pioneer in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and religion. As a boy he was not allowed to attend public school, after the death of his sister, because his parents were afraid he too might catch a communicable disease. Thus, he received most of his formal education from his parents, tutors, and through his own initiative.

While living in Wabash, Indiana, he spent much time listening to a relative, General McNaught, one time chief of scouts to General U. S. Grant, tell stories about the Civil War. Further exposure to history came from the library of General Lew Wallace, a close neighbor, who at the time was writing Ben Hur. Very early Sadler exhibited public speaking abilities. His first formal speech was given at the age of eight when he addressed a high school commencement in Indianapolis on "The Crucial Battles of History."

At fourteen he left home and moved to Battle Creek, Michigan where he started working at the renowned Battle Creek Sanitarium headed by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. Here, before and after work, he attended Battle Creek College and organized a group of students to study rhetoric and Latin. During a visit to Fort Wayne, Indiana the minister of a Christian Church discovered his remarkable knowledge of the Bible and speaking ability and asked him to supply his pulpit during a two week vacation. His preaching was so effective he received many letters of commendation and the local newspaper, referring to his unusual abilities, called him "the boy preacher." When Dr. Kellogg's brother, William K. Kellogg, began manufacturing health foods Sadler was employed as a salesman to grocery stores. He was so successful the factory had trouble keeping up with his orders.

In 1895 Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, founder of the Chicago Medical Mission, sent Sadler to Chicago as director of the Medical Mission. Here Sadler was engaged in teaching, speaking, and working with "skidrow" people. He initiated and edited a magazine which reached a circulation of 150,000 copies and managed a large financial budget. While carrying this heavy work schedule, Sadler also took training at the Moody Bible Institute and graduated with the highest grades in the history of the school.

Young Sadler sought training in speech at the University of Chicago and a lady professor after hearing his first speech said, "Get out of here. I can't teach you anything. You're very bad; your gestures are atrocious, but you are so effective I wouldn't change anything about you. I'll ruin you if I change you." Many years later when Dr. Sadler delivered a commencement address at the University of Chicago, she came up afterwards and said, "You're just as bad as ever, but so damn effective. You can just hold an audience spellbound; I'm so glad that we didn't change you."

Following his marriage to Leona Kellogg and the death of their first child, both Sadlers enrolled in the Cooper Medical College at San Francisco. While in medical school Sadler was asked to teach Exegetical Theology at the Seventh Day Adventist Seminary in San Francisco. In order to teach, he was required to be ordained in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Later Sadler financed their medical training in special detective work. Because of his daring and successful exploits as an investigator, he was offered the top executive position in the government agency which became the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

After graduation from medical school the Sadlers began their medical practice together. Over the years many people and organizations sought Dr. Sadler's organizational ability. He became a leading figure in the popularization of preventive medicine in the country. In 1911 he gave up surgery to enter into psychiatry and went to Europe to study under Freud.

Dr. Sadler served as a professor in the Post Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Chicago and taught a course in Pastoral Counseling at MeCormiek Theological Seminary for twenty-five years. He was a popular lecturer at Lyceum and Chautauqua meetings and authored forty-two books and many magazine and journal articles. Although Dr. Sadler had an outstanding career as a physician, teacher, speaker, and writer, he considered his most important contribution to our world was his leadership of a little known group called "The Forum" which received the Urantia Papers and published The Urantia Book.

From: G. Vonne Meussling, "William S. Sadler: Chautauqua's Medic Orator"
This study of William S. Sadler (1875-1969), physician, surgeon, psychiatrist, professor, and author of forty-two books, investigates that phase of his career devoted to oratory. It concentrates upon the period 1905 to 1926 when he was a popular lecturer on Chautauqua platforms. It traces the influences which molded his public speaking interest from a high school commencement address delivered at the age of eight to the decision to become a public lecturer. This was unprecedented in an era when concepts of the American Medical Association did not permit doctors to advertise. He was a student of Sigmund Freud, an associate of Alfred Adler, Karl Jung and John Harvey Kellogg. These associations were evidenced as influential factors in his career.
The purpose of this study was to analyze rhetorically those elements of Sadler's speeches on preventive medicine which governed his oral contributions. His message focused on the education of the masses so as to counteract public ignorance, medical quackery, and harmful patent remedies. The study revealed that audiences were eager for authentic health information.

Sadler had no published biography; however, the writer had access to his personal papers and books. Letters attesting to his popularity as a speaker were found in Special Collections at the University of Iowa. Early speeches were discovered at The John Crerar Library in Chicago.

Sadler would not be classified as a great orator; yet, he gained audience appeal through a unique style and implementation of histrionics and humor...

William Samuel Sadler was born in Spencer, Indiana, to Samuel Cavins Sadler and Sarah Isabelle (Wilson) Sadler on June 24, 1875. His father was a graduate of the Chicago Conservatory of Music; he was a teacher and a performer.

...while searching through the attic when he [William S. Sadler] was twelve, he found an old Bible. Thinking about the old deserted church across the tracks from his house, he called his baseball buddies together and for several afternoons they "played church," i.e. , his gang was the audience and he was the speaker. This small beginning of preaching in a vacated pulpit had its reverberations as he continued to prepare himself for a career of public speaking...

At the age of fourteen, Sadler left his home in Wabash, Indiana, and moved to Battle Creek, Michigan. He worked as a bell boy in the world renowned Battle Creek Sanitarium headed by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg [a famous Seventh-day Adventist] and attended Battle Creek College. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was influential in molding the lives of many young people "In those days he did much toward giving needed counsel, direction, and even financial assistance to . . . young men who were struggling to get ahead." Kellogg was to have more than a passing influence on the life of Sadler...

During this time when he was sixteen and was visiting a church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the minister extended an open invitation to the laity to speak; Sadler impulsively accepted the opportunity. After church the minister called him into his study and inquired concerning his knowledge of the Bible. The minister was planning a two-week vacation; he asked Sadler to preach for him during his absence. Sadler was eager to speak and for two weeks he preached both morning and evening sermons. He received letters of commendation concerning these efforts; a local newspaper called him "the boy preacher." His preaching as a boy possibly led to his later decision to enter the ministry.

On March 7, 1899, he became a licensed minister of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and in 1901 he became an ordained minister.

However, he rarely revealed this facet of his career to his closest associates. In his youth, Sadler did not remain with one career for long; he adapted to new situations easily and was willing to apply his energies to new tasks...

While Sadler was working with the Chicago Medical Mission, Dr. Kellogg felt it necessary that he receive more evangelistic instruction. He therefore enrolled as a special student at Moody Bible Institute.

In 1897, Sadler married Lena Kellogg, the niece of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. In 1899 their first son was born, but lived only nine months. While comforting his wife, Sadler said, "You can have another baby, and perhaps in the meantime since you have always wanted to do it, we can study medicine."

They entered Cooper Medical College in San Francisco in 1901. While at Cooper they earned their room and board by operating a home for Christian medical students...

While finishing his medical work, Sadler paid his expenses by lecturing and by special detective work.

Again, he demonstrated a talent for this type of activity. Largely through his services, a wide-scale situation of graft in Chicago politics was exposed.16 Many years later, he reflected how this work had almost led him into an entirely different career than the one he followed. He had been offered an executive position in the governmental intelligence organization which eventually was to become the Federal Bureau of Investigation...

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who was interested in the Hull House social service center, founded in Chicago by Jane Addams, invited Sadler to work with this project; however, because Sadler felt that physical health could not be taught separate from spiritual health, their association never actualized.

Sadler believed that the laity was passing through a period of popular reaction against the scientific materialism of the last century. "The common people are awaking to the fact that the mental state has much to do with bodily health and disease."

...Eventually Sadler gave up surgery and entered into psychiatry full time. In 1911 he went to Europe to study under Freud. Although he respected Freud, he rejected his notion of fixed symbols.

"Now, I don't mean by this that I am a believer in all the non-sense that has been put out under the guise of modern Freudian philosophy. When I have a patient who has a sex worry, I find the Freudian system very helpful in trying to get at the bottom of the thing and helping them over their trouble; but when it comes to the belief that all forms of worry, tension and nerves are of a sex origin, then I dissent . While we all recognize much that is valuable in Freud's teaching, it should be stated that he has not convinced the majority of psychologists and psychotherapists that all nervous disorders have a sex origin. We recognize that there are other human instincts and impulses just as strong as the sex urge. First of all there comes the instinct to live, to get food, and then, in many individuals, the religious emotion is very powerful, so that we cannot accept the Freudian doctrine that all our nervous troubles are due to suppression of the emotions and further that the particular emotion suppressed that is responsible for the trouble is the sex emotion."

...In 1911, Sadler began giving public addresses concerning the various phases of the phenomena and philosophy of spiritualism. He had had many patients under his professional care who had been clairvoyants, mediums' trance talkers, psychics, and sensitives. Due to the great interest factor pertaining to spiritualism following the war, A. C. McClurg and Company, his publishers, asked Sadler to prepare the manuscript of his lecture for publication.

Sadler had an unusual interest in the spiritualism phenomenon.

At one time he worked with Howard Thurston, the magician, in the exposure of frauds, fakes, and mediums in the Chicago area.

It is not the intention of this paper to make the claim that Sadler was solely responsible for major changes in the American Medical Association or in the attitudes of the lay public toward medicine and medical practitioners. It may well be that such changes were forthcoming by the very nature of the social structure and dynamic institutions which were contributing to the evolutionary movement of American society. Certainly, in his own mind, and in the opinions of many who knew him, he had had a role of more than average significance. That change was occurring is attested to in statements found in the Index and Digest of Official Actions, published by the American Medical Association, where a record of a 1914 report mentions:

Of late years the American Medical Association, through its Council on Health and Public Instruction has endeavored to spread broadcast knowledge of preventive medicine and public hygiene. It has endeavored to educate the public to an appreciation of what physicians and surgeons are doing and what are their aims and ideals in medicine. This has aroused a widespread interest in the public mind, and the public press has eagerly seized on this propaganda as news which interests its readers and which is, therefore, something to be sought and published. This has been legitimate work of public benefit and for the public good, and no one questions that it should be highly commended.

Certain newspapers have heralded this stepping over the limits of the former strict adherence of the profession to its non-advertising principles as something laudatory and much to be desired.

Although this change had taken place, the American Medical Association was still persistent in its efforts to prevent the abuse which this new freedom could possibly give birth to.

Sadler's position followed the logic that people were going to get their information from other sources less authentic and reliable; therefore, it was the responsibility of capable authorities to provide them with the correct inclination:

". . . I myself am tempted to feel that it might be better to shut up like a clam and make an end of all this effort to instruct the layman, but my better judgment admonishes me that this is not the solution of the problem. Whether it pertains to science, philosophy, or religion, if a little knowledge is dangerous and the public already has this deleterious minimum of information, then there is but one solution of the problem--competent teachers must step into the picture and give the layman sufficient authentic information to take the danger out of the little knowledge he has." ...Sadler was no ordinary man or he could not have endured the pace in which he lived. Not only was he a surgeon and a psychiatrist, but he was a professor at the Post graduate medical school of Chicago, professor of pastoral Psychiatry, at McCormick Theological Seminary, and a staff member of Columbus Hospital. He held memberships in the following associations: Life Fellow American College of Surgeons, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of the American Medical Association, Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Member of American Psycho-Pathological Association, Member of Illinois Psychiatric Association, The Chicago Society for Personality. Study, The Chicago Medical Society, The Illinois State Medical Society, Board Member, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, The Eugene Field Society, International Mark Twain Society, National Association of Authors and Journalists, Founder Member, Gorgas Memorial Institute in Tropical and Pr! eventive Medicine, and member of its governing board. Involvement in these institutions and their activities undoubtedly required effort; however, Sadler had a desire to extend his talents to the Lyceum and Chautauqua platform.


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