In the LDS Bible Dictionary, under the heading Fall of Adam, we have the following commentary by the late Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
Before the fall, Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood. There were no sin, no death, and no children among any of the earthly creations. With the eating of the “forbidden fruit,” Adam and Eve became mortal, sin entered, blood formed in their bodies, and death became a part of life.
While the whole No Death Before The Fall (and general historicity of Adam and Eve) is a big subject in and of itself, the specific concept and traditional belief of ‘no blood’ is worth examining on its own merits. This Bible Dictionary entry does not contain any citations, either scriptural, or of other revelatory or prophetic authority, leading one to wonder where this teaching originated.
The best way to uncover the source and authority for this teaching would be to work backwards, starting with where else this teaching can be found today.
Current Apostolic Teaching
The General Authority who appears to be the only current public advocate of this teaching is Elder Russell M. Nelson. In General Conference in October 1996 he repeated declarations he’d. been making publically since at least the 80s, when he declared:
“The Fall of Adam (and Eve) constituted the mortal creation and brought about the required changes in their bodies, including the circulation of blood and other modifications as well.”
1996 – a decade and a half ago – appears to be the last General Conference where this teaching was explicitly taught.1
Current Church Publications and Manuals
In addition to the Bible Dictionary already cited above, When it comes to Church manuals or other authorized Church publications, the teaching remains current only2 in the in the Seminary and Institute Manuals on the Old Testament , and the Pearl of Great Price3. However, in this case, references are given. Not to the Bible Dictionary, not to an initial revelation, but to resources published in the 1950s by Bruce R. McConkie, and Joseph Fielding Smith.
It is known that a revision to the Old Testament Institute Manual is currently in the works. It is unknown whether this teaching will continue to me promulgated in that edition.4
Prior to the Bible Dictionary: Elder McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith
The most recent reference found in those Seminary and Institute manuals is Elder McConkie’s edited collection of Joseph Fielding Smith’s writings in the three-volume Doctrines of Salvation.
“… The forbidden fruit had the power to create blood and change his nature and mortality took the place of immortality” ( Doctrines of Salvation, comp. BruceR. McConkie, 3vols. [1954–56], 1:76–77).
We can understand that in references further ahead in the future than this, that Elder McConkie was repeating what he had learned from this senior Apostle, who also happened to be his Father-in Law. For this reason, Elder McConkie’s many references to this teaching in his sermons and writings do not appear necessary to cite in tracing the belief’s history. We know where Elder McConkie learned it.
But where did Joseph Fielding Smith get it from? The Doctrines of Salvation citation does not give a reference.
However, in his 1954 Anti-Evolution book Man, His Origin and Destiny, he tells us…sort of:
President Joseph F. Smith said that Adam was “immortal” before the fall. Elder Orson Pratt, in the Times and Seasons, 1845, and Journal of Discourses 1:280-284, said the same. We are also taught that, not being subject to death, Adam had no blood in his veins before the fall. Blood is the life of the mortal body.
Note that while references are given for Adam’s immortality, when it comes to his assertion that “Adam had no blood in his veins”, there is no reference. He only says, “We are also taught”. But where? And by whom?
Prior to Joseph Fielding Smith: Speculative Origins
Going back to the Journal of Discourses, which Joseph Fielding Smith referenced, I was only able to find two references to this idea. The latest was by Erastus Snow, on March 3 18785 who said:
death passed upon our first parents, Adam and Eve, through their partaking of the fruits of the earth, their systems became infected by it, and the blood formed in their veins, and composed of the elements of the earth, which they partook, and these contain the seeds of dissolution and decay. And this blood, circulating in their veins, which was made up of the fruits of the earth—those things of which they partook—that formed their flesh, and made the deposits that constituted their muscle, and their bones, arteries and nerves, and every part of the body, became mortal and this circulating fluid in their systems produced friction which ultimately wore out the machinery of their organism, and brought it to decay, that it became no longer tenable for their spirits to inhabit, and death ensued;
But where did he get this from?
The next reference is two decades back, in a discourse by Orson Pratt, September 11, 18596. He said:
Death had no dominion over his tabernacle: the principle of blood which flows in the mortal tabernacles of men did not exist in his immortal body; but his veins and arteries contained a fluid of a far purer nature than that of blood: in other words, they were filled with the spirit of life, which was calculated to preserve them in immortality.
Though they partook of various kinds of fruit in the garden, yet there was no fruit in that garden, except one called the forbidden fruit, which would have the least tendency to destroy the principles of immortality that reigned within them.
They were organized to endure, bodies and spirits united, millions of ages. By the transgression of that simple law given to them, they fell from immortality to mortality: their bodies partook of disease; the seeds of death were sown within them; and in the day that Adam ate thereof (reckoning according to the Lord’s time), he passed away and returned to his mother dust.
That is the end of the Journal of Discourses’ references to this teaching. But where did Orson Pratt get it from? Does it go back any further?
I searched into his writings presents what appears to be the earliest mention of this teaching in LDS literature.
It is from Orson Pratt’s periodical The Seer, from May 18537.
If any living creature, had been subject to death, or any manner of pain, it would not have been perfect in its organization; it could not have been pronounced good ; neither would it have been consistent, as the work of an all-wise and supremely good Being. Perfection characterizes all the works of God, therefore, all the tabernacles which he made from the dust, must have been capable of eternal endurance.
There must have been something connected with these fleshly tabernacles which was capable of preserving them in immortality. What was this something ? It was doubtless a fluid which circulated through the system in every part thereof; preserving it from decay, and from being impaired by age, renewing, if necessary, any part thereof, that disease, sickness, pain, and death, could have no dominion. The circulating apparatus for the conveyance of this fluid, was, no doubt, the veins and arteries, as they extend forth in innumerable branches, and in minute ramifications to every extremity of the organization. The fluid, now circulating through this apparatus, is the blood : but the blood does not renew our systems and give immortality to our present bodies ;
Blood, instead of imparting eternal life to the system, only imparts a natural or temporal life, and contains within itself all the ingredients of decay and death or dissolution. It is reasonable to suppose, then, that a fluid of a more refined and life-giving nature, flowed through the bodily organizations of our first Parents, and all the other animal creation—that this fluid was the life-preserving agent, that imparted immortality to all flesh, so long as they retained it in their systems.
As this fluid could not have been blood which contains the seeds of death, What kind of substance was it ? We reply, that it must have been a spiritual substance or fluid, which is the only kind of substance capable of preserving any organization in immortality.
Were there any trees, or fruits, or vegetables of any kind which the Lord had planted, that were calculated, if eaten, to counteract, or subvert the operations of this spiritual fluid, and introduce into the system a fluid of a different nature ! There was only one tree which would produce these deleterious effects—only one tree whose fruit, if taken into the system, would change it from immortality to mortality—all other fruits and vegetables were so constructed as to produce no harm ; hence they were
the only food which God gave to the immortal animals which he placed upon this earth. We may suppose that the vegetable creation, with the exception of this one tree, contained, at that time, no poisons—no ingredients of decay and death—no injurious combinations unadapted to immortal flesh and bones. The bodies of Adam and Eve, and of all the fish, fowls, and beasts which God made directly out of the dust, would have been still living as fresh and as fair as when they first came from the hand of their Maker, if Adam had not partaken of the forbidden fruit. All other fruits were good for them, and they might have feasted upon them to all eternity without destroying the immortality of their bodies.
Here Orson Pratt demonstrates the origin of this idea: his own suppositions and logical conclusions based on the concept of an immortal and perfect and undying initial creation.
I have been unable to find any way to trace this teaching back to Joseph Smith, or anyone of greater authority prior to this speculative presentation of theoretical logic in Orson Pratt’s periodical.
Summary and Conclusion
In summary, the chain of promulgation of this teaching appears to be:
- Speculation and expression of Orson Pratt’s logic in 1853
- Reading of this material by Church Historian Joseph Fielding Smith 100 years later, who finds this useful in his 1954 doctrinal arguments against organic evolution, publically teaches, writes, and passes this on this old and formerly buried-in-the-archives information to his current generation.
- Bruce R. McConkie continues to teach, write about, and advocate this principle on the authority of Joseph Fielding Smith, and codifies it in the LDS Bible Dictionary, which, while specifically claiming not to be a revealed source of doctrine, is nonetheless viewed as authoritative by a great many Latter-day Saints.
While it may perhaps turn out in the end that this teaching is indeed in tune with reality, as of now, there have been no known claims to revelation on this subject, and it appears to be simply a passed on tradition of one man’s well-thought-out speculations in a periodical that ended up being officially denounced by the First Presidency of its day.
While theoretically a powerful doctrinal obstacle for the ability for a member to accept principles of organic evolution as concerning the physical origins of man’s body, and while indeed taught by individuals with ecclesiastical authority, the history and origins of the concept of Blood being something new added to Adam’s body upon eating the tree being not much more than a well-thought-out philosophy of man should be weighed and considered when this is being presented in a debate as a ‘revealed doctrine of the Church’.
ADDENDUM on Joseph’s Teachings (3/30/2011)
In the comments, I’ve been helpfully directed towards Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo teachings concerning the makeup of the Resurrected body as being fueled by spirit, and not by blood.
“All being raised by the power of God having the spirit of God in their bodies & not blood.” See Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 109, 260-270.
This is an important point, and aquinas gave a great link to wvs’ blog entry at Book of Abraham Project (BOAP) on the subject here.
While I am familiar with this teaching of Joseph, and its role as being the spark that most likely led to the latter conclusion, I don’t believe Joseph himself ever connected this idea with any concept of Adam and Eve’s pre-fallen state. Since the focus of this post was specifically on that aspect, I didn’t feel the need to trace it further than the initial instance of associating Adam and Eve with not having blood, which was done by Orson Pratt. Not expressing this was perhaps a mistake in my judgment.
I should have made clear the that ‘immortal personage not having blood’ concept itself was not something made out of whole cloth by Orson, but was an expansion and re-application of a distinct teaching by Joseph, most likely based on his understanding of 1 Corinthians 15:50.
The logic would have been as follows:
- Joseph taught that Resurrected Beings Do Not Have Blood
- Resurrected Beings Are Immortal
- Adam and Eve were Immortal Before The Fall
- Adam and Eve therefore didn’t have Blood Before the Fall
Brigham Young went one step further:
- If Adam and Eve were Immortal and Didn’t Have Blood Before the Fall, therefore, they were Resurrected Beings.
Ergo, the foundation of Brigham Young’s Adam-God ideas. But that’s another topic for another day.
- see also Constancy amid Change, October 1993, Standards of the Lord’s Standard-Bearers, Ensign, August 1991, The Magnificence of Man, Ensign, January 1988. There are also more recent examples where he advocated the study of the Fall of Adam entry in the Bible Dictionary, implicitly supporting what was presented there, see the 2002 article Prepare for the Blessings of the Temple and and the 2001 General Conference address Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings [↩]
- with the exception of references to the Fall of Adam entry in the Bible Dictionary given in the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Sunday School teacher’s and student’s manuals [↩]
- see The Creation of Eve, Old Testament Seminary Manual and The Creation, Old Testament Institute Manual, Part 1 , and, additionally All Things Were First Created Spiritually, Pearl of Great Price Institute Manual [↩]
- Both Old Testament manuals were last slightly updated in 2002 [↩]
- JD 19:271-272 [↩]
- JD 7:251 [↩]
- The Seer 1:5, p 70 [↩]