Saturday, May 07, 2005

No death before the fall taught in Gospel Principles manual

The doctrine of no death before the fall is taught by the Church in its basic doctrine manual, Gospel Principles.  Any ambiguity about this doctrine is resolved by the manual sending its readers to Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine article about the Fall of Adam.

A document titled, "Information for Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders on Curriculum 2005 through 2008" is available on the Church's web site here.  According to this document, "The following materials should be in each home (as they are available in a language).  Leaders should strive to ensure that new members have access to these materials."  A number of items are listed but the first three are:

Church magazines, and
Gospel Principles (31110; online in html or pdf format).

According to the same document, a Gospel Principles Sunday School course is outlined "for investigators and others who want basic gospel instruction."  In all areas of the Church, the manual for this class is Gospel Principles (31110).  And the same manual is listed as an approved resource for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society "First-Sunday" study.

The following was announced in the 1992—2 Bulletin (see "Policies and Announcements," in Ensign, Mar. 1993, p. 80): "Leaders are reminded that the Gospel Principles course, formerly Gospel Essentials, is a twelve-month class.  The manual for both teachers and class members is Gospel Principles (31110).  There is no additional supplement for teachers.  However, both teachers and class members should use the scriptures regularly in this class.  Class members may be investigators, the newly baptized, those returning to activity, and those who may need or desire a stronger understanding of basic gospel principles.  This class would be especially helpful for prospective missionaries or other young adults."

The doctrine of no death before the fall is taught in the Gospel Principles manual.

In a chapter about "The Fall," Gospel Principles is very clear that there was no death until Adam fell.  Not only were they (Adam and Eve) not yet mortal and not able to have children, but the text includes this unqualified four word sentence: "There was no death."  Notice it doesn't say "no death in the Garden" as some today are supposing, but simply "no death."  In a paragraph about conditions before the Fall, the manual sends its readers to Elder Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine article on the Fall of Adam (See Gospel Principles, 1997, p. 32).  Click here to read that paragraph from the on-line version of the manual.  Elder McConkie's article reads as follows:

"Adam, our first parent (1 Ne. 5:11), a 'son of God' (Moses 6:22), was first placed on earth as an immortal being. His coming was the crowning event of the creation; and as with him, so with every department of creation — immortality reigned supreme. (2 Ne. 2:22.)  There was no death, no mortality, no corruption, no procreation....

"In that first edenic day, Adam was still in the presence of God, with whom he walked and talked and from whom he received counsel and commandments (Moses 3; 4.)  He had temporal life because his spirit was housed in a temporal body, one made from the dust of the earth. (Abra. 5:7.)  He had spiritual life because he was in the presence of God and was alive to the things of righteousness or of the Spirit.  He had not yet come to that state of mortal probation in which are found the testings and trials requisite to a possible inheritance of eternal life.  As yet the full knowledge of good and evil had not been placed before him; and, what was tremendously important in the eternal scheme of things, he could have no children.

"But all these conditions, in the providences of the Almighty, were soon to change.  According to the foreordained plan, Adam was to fall; that is, 'in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things' (2 Ne. 2: 24), Adam was to introduce mortality and all that attends it, so that the opportunity for eternal progression and perfection might be offered to all the spirit children of the Father.

"In conformity with the will of the Lord, Adam fell both spiritually and temporally.  Spiritual death entered the world, meaning that man was cast out of the presence of the Lord and died as pertaining to the things of the Spirit which are the things of righteousness.  Temporal death also entered the world, meaning that man and all created things became mortal."  (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., 1966, 268-269; italics in original, other emphasis added.)

The doctrine of no death before the fall is taught by the Church in its basic doctrine manual, Gospel Principles.  Any ambiguity about this doctrine is resolved by the manual sending its readers to Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine article about the Fall of Adam.


Blogger Get It Done said...

Exciting Gary. Good luck. Maybe some time we will get together for that lunch date.


5/07/2005 09:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary- In spite of the Church's present correlated teaching of No Death Before the Fall, faithful LDS Scientists, from Elder Widtsoe to others who publish periodically in the Ensign on the topic (sorry for lack of citations at this point), to a recent Deseret Book publication, "Of Heaven and Earth," testify that the fossil record and many other "correlated" science disciplines describe an earth that "appears" to have a long and ancient history of life and death. (what a sentence!)

For 34 years now, I have bet my life, so to speak, on the doctrinal authority of the Church. Not being a scientist, I don't have a daily bout with myself over divided loyalties between potentially conflicting truths. However, I have no doubt, due to the reasonableness of the testimonies of the scientists, that their findings are accurate. Thus, like a physicist who knows that both the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics are valid, but do not harmonize, I have faith in both "No Death Before the Fall" and the "rock record" of the earth as well.

In physics, the best and the brightest are seeking harmony between relativity and quantum mechanics in "superstring" theory. This would not be a compromise, but a solution, without destroying the validity of either system. Having read fairly lengthy essays and followed sincere discussions by perhaps 30 or more loyal LDS scientists, in all but one case I can think of, when their scientific theory clashes with Scripture, it is the Scripture that gives way. They hold to the science. Why isn't a faithful LDS scientist looking for a "superstring" type of solution that would allow both Scripture (which would include no death before the fall) and science to remain intact?

One such attempt, "Earth, in the Beginning," by Eric Skousen, had me converted before Gary set me straight. One major flaw is that is teaches death before the fall. It would be wonderful if this blog could attract some qualified parties who would attempt a more complete solution. In the scientific world, there are two schools fighting the theory of evolution's dominance: "Creation Science," and "Intelligent Design." Only the former group posits theories attempting to reconcile science in favor of Scripture. However, this group is dominated by "young earth creationists" who believe that God created not just the earth, but the ENTIRE UNIVERSE in seven 1,000 year, or 24 hour days six thousand years ago out of nothing. Also, they are burdened with trying to correlate the entire fossil record and other "old earth" evidence with the Universal Flood. An LDS scientist would not carry a lot of this baggage.

At this point, my best "theory" is that - drawing on several statement of Joseph Smith, this earth was not only made from "older planets," but, was apparently assembled in an such an exacting manner that modern scientists would be able to construct theories that would enable them to use natural resources efficiently enough to get us to the millenium. A by-product of this "exacting contruction" of the earth is that the same theories that assist scientists in all fields, including medicine, to create modern "miracles" also tell them rather convincingly that all life on earth evolved by natural selection from a common ancestor.

Fortunately for us "believers," the theory of evolution, from an objective viewpoint, has some major flaws, beginning with "irreducible complexity," and other equally difficult problems that have not been solved, (I can furnish some information on these in the future) and probably won't be. What about the other "old earth theories." Is the Lord trying to "trick" the scientists? Well, in my opinion, yes. It may be that the earth was assembled from older "fallen planets," or maybe even just one, in such a manner the orderliness that enables scientists to do their work so effectively also gives them a choice, a choice to ignore enough of the evidence to not believe in God. In fact, this may have even been necessary to avoid being compelled to believe in a Higher Power.

5/10/2005 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Greg: Your comment shows thoughtful attention to several points of view. It will receive careful consideration.

5/10/2005 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Greg: Last night I put together an illustration that helps me visualize four stages of earth's existence. This is the image in my mind when I speak of a time before the fall when there was no death. Both the beginning and the end of mortality are shown.

I believe most LDS scientists agree that mortality for the earth and man will have an end. I'm confident they also agree that mortality had a beginning, but the question is when was that beginning.

Latter-day revelation seems to suggest that the current order of nature began abruptly six thousand years ago. The current scientific view is that the current order of nature extends back "approximately 20 billion years" (Big bang theory, American Heritage Dictionary, 2000). This represents a gigantic difference in point of view—a deep and wide chasm of opinion.

In pondering this along with your comments, I've been drawn back to an excellent article, "The Gospel and the Scientific View: How Earth Came to Be" (F. Kent Nielsen, Ensign, Sept. 1980, 67). I think the author intelligently addresses some of the issues here raised.

5/11/2005 04:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary -

Thanks for your entry and especially the Ensign Article. It describes exactly what the troops at Mormons and Evolution have fallen prey to, in my view. Thanks also for your diagram. In order to proceed in more detail on the topic which would address the specific factual issues raised in the 30 or so long scientific (not philosophical, like SSE from Duane Jeffery) essays I have read wherein LDS scientists see clashes with scripture, I would like to turn to the latest Pearl of Great Price (2000) CES manuel, from which I taught recently at the Institute here in San Luis Obispo.

There are 2 manuels, one for students and one for the teacher. On page 7 of the Student Manuel, it says "How Long was a day of Creation,?" and then quotes Brigham Young and Elder McConkie to the effect that we don't know. More important, it is not restricted to 24 hours or 1,000 years. "And each day, of whatever length, has the duration needed for its purposes .... There is no revealed recitation specifying that each of the "six days" involved in the Creation was of the same duration." ("Christ and the Creation," Ensign, June 1982, 11) Bruce R. McConkie.

Elsewhere, I commented that "No Death Before the Fall" was taught only guardedly in the manuels. Listen to this!! While 2 Neph 2 is quoted in several places in both manuels, 2 Neph 2:22 is omitted!! Only the fall of Adam and Eve are addressed directly. The fall of the rest of the creation is only mentioned tangentially in a couple of places, but always connected to the fall of Adam and Eve. My opinion is that an editorial decision was made to avoid the controversial NDBF issue when dealing with students in university settings. If you want me to try and scan in all of the referrences and send them, I could probably do that. One thing you may be able to help me with would be to locate a video "Old Testament Video presentiation #6, "The Fall,(4:40) which is recommended. Perhaps this would be more direct and clear up this potential "problem."

In Bro. Nielsen's excellent article, he speaks broadly, and never deals with the details that so concern the LDS scientists who often make their daily livings by relying on theories based upon the elegant uniformitarianism that seems to exist in the earth's "rock record." You also don't deal with this in your diagram, so, I would be interested on your take on this matter. Thanks again for complementing me on my post at "Spinozist" Mormon. It was my first there, and only made because of your participation. I have posted again.

5/12/2005 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Greg: Regarding the length of creation days, my diagram says "illustrated as." But you are correct. The diagram should be more clear on this, so I've added a note. Also and just as a reminder, I did say in an email on April 7th—and will gladly repeat it here for the record—that two questions I cannot answer are: 1. How long were Adam and Eve in the Garden? and 2. How long were the creation days?

I checked the CES manual you mentioned. There are at least two places in that manual where NDBF is taught.

Under the heading "Moses 3:7. Man Was Formed 'from the Dust of the Ground'?" the manual says, "Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: 'Those natural elements that make up the physical earth are sometimes referred to in the scriptures as dust. Thus Adam was created from the dust of the ground meaning that the physical body which he received was created from the elements of the earth. (Gen. 2:7; Moses 3:7; Abra. 5:7; D. & C. 77:12.) Similarly all men are created from the dust of the earth; that is, the elements organized into a mortal body are assembled together through the birth process (Moses 6:69)' (Mormon Doctrine, 209). In the physical creation, man became a 'living soul' (see Moses 2:26–27; see also D&C 88:15). This means his spirit body gained a physical body of flesh and bones. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that the bodies of Adam and Eve were at first 'quickened [made alive] by spirit and not by blood.... After the fall, which came by a transgression of the law under which Adam was living, the forbidden fruit had the power to create blood and change his nature and mortality took the place of immortality, and all things, partaking of the change, became mortal' (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:77). Thus, in the Fall, Adam and Eve became the first beings upon the earth who were mortal flesh, or subject to death." (p. 9; emphasis added.)

Under the heading "Articles of Faith 1:10. 'The Earth Will Be Renewed and Receive its Paradisiacal Glory' " the manual says, "Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wrote: 'The great change which shall come when Christ our Savior begins his Millennial reign, is to be a restoration to the conditions which prevailed before the fall of man.... This new heaven and earth which will come into existence when our Lord comes to reign, is this same earth with its heavens renewed or restored to its primitive condition and beauty. Everything is to be brought back as nearly as it is possible to its position as it was in the beginning' (The Restoration of All Things [1945], 294–95)." (p. 78.) During the millennium, of course, "there shall be no sorrow because there is no death" (D&C 101:29).

I'd like some time to think about "the elegant uniformitarianism that seems to exist" before discussing that aspect of your comment.

5/12/2005 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

P.S. I'm not sure one should expect a manual on the Pearl of Great Price to quote 2 Nephi 2:22.

5/12/2005 02:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary - excellent! You found some of the quotes. I was focusing on "Moses," and hadn't considered the Articles of Faith portion. The reason why I would expect 2 Neph 2:22 to be included is because nearly ALL of the verses around it are referrenced. And, I hope you will agree that the FALL of the rest of the creation is not given the prominance it is in either Gospel Principles or the Gospel Doctrine Study guide. Also, the Flood is treated quite perfunctorally. My points are that the "controversial" status of both the Flood and NDBF are recognized to the extent they are placed in the background compared to how they appear in non-university oriented Church materials. Instead, the more centrally "spiritual" elements of the Fall, as defined by the fearsome foursome, are placed front and center. A parallel instance of this kind of editorialism might be the article either the Fall, or the Garden of Eden (I don't have a copy) in your very favorite, the "Encyclopedia." In the article by Bro. Matthews, one of my favorite BYU Religion professors, he carefully separates the doctrinal "purity," so to speak, of the immortality of life in the Garden, contrasted with what may have been going on outside. Before being influenced by you, I have to admit that the editorializing I have mentioned, whether valid or not, had a strong influence on my personal NDBF beliefs. I'm remembering another Enyclopedia entry. Prof. Morris from BYU, a geology professor and erstwhile Stake President who has published in the Ensign about the "rock record" discusses the Flood, (for which, I believe, there is no direct separate entry in the Encyclopedia) in the article he authors, and states that the whole earth had to be covered by at least an inch of water! This is a very "literalist" reading for someone like him.

I look forward to your coming comments.

5/12/2005 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

So this is where everybody went!

One thing I've always considered about no death before the fall is whether death was introduced to Adam or Adam was introduced to death. Was he in an immortal world which, because of Adam and his actions, degenerated into a mortal world. Or was it rather that he was taken from an immortal world and placed in an already degenerate world. I suggest that both meanings are plausible given the relevant verse in 2nd Nephi.

5/17/2005 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Welcome to ndbf.blogspot.com!

Your comment echos what Stephens and Meldrum said in their book: "The prevailing conditions would have continued indefinitely, as they had for millennia. On the other hand, Adam and Eve would have continued in a state of immortality as long as they had access to the Tree of Life" (Trent D. Stephens and D. Jeffrey Meldrum, Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001, 135).

In a chapter about "The Fall," Gospel Principles is very clear that there was no death until Adam fell. Not only were they (Adam and Eve) not yet mortal and not able to have children, but the text includes this unqualified four word sentence: "There was no death." Notice it doesn't say "no death in the Garden" as you—and Stephens and Meldrum—are supposing, but simply "no death." Then as if to make certain the reader is not confused, in a paragraph about conditions before the Fall, the manual sends its readers to Elder Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine article on the Fall of Adam (See Gospel Principles, 1997, p. 32). Click here to read that paragraph from the on-line version of the manual.

As I've stated here, I am willing to consider various sides of many questions, but always "without looking for flaws in the Church or its leaders" (Gordon B. Hinckley, "True to the Faith," Ensign, June 1996, 6). For me, therefore, finding fault with one of the Church 's basic doctrine manuals is not an option.

5/17/2005 07:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I especially enjoyed the "Parry" Ensign article from 1998. This was something I had missed. I know of noone who has a more encyclopedic command of Church resources on these issues than yourself. I am still interested in examining the causes, sources, and context for the apparant uniformity in the structures of the planet.

It is one thing to say "The Scriptures are correct, and the uniformitarianists are wrong" about what we might call "the big picture." However, there still is all that order, and it had to come from some specific processes. As I have mentioned elsewhere, perhaps in a post at Christian's blog, that "Creation Scientists" and earlier Mormon writers like Melvin Cook attribute the entire "order" to the flood. This theory, however, seems to have some problems.

Another issue I am still not clear about. Is is your position that - because President Joseph Fielding Smith opposed Elder Roberts in 1931 on the issue of a "prior creation" that included death and thus left a certain fossil record, and, that since Pres. Smith published some of his arguments while he was President of the Church that NDBF must be 100% "retroactive" as to planet earth?

My understanding, as I read all of the current NDBF doctrinal matetrial you have assembled here, is that the earth that Adam, Eve, and the immortal animals accompanied them were placed upon, while paradisiacal, needn't have had any particular creative "history" in order to achieve that status. You provided quotes from early Brethren about Joseph Smith teaching that the earth had been made from other planets. Quotes from early Brethren, even to include Joseph Smith on occasion, can, as you know "be all over the doctrinal map." I am wondering why it matters what earth's specific "pre-paradisiacal" history is?

5/17/2005 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

It seems that you are adding words to the manuals sentence: There was no death.... anywhere. But that is not what is says. It is a vague statement, not a specific one. If could have been no death in the garden, Adam saw no death anywhere, no death in the world, no human death, no death in the terrestial world in which he found himself, no death (this is my version) in the pre-existence. It could have been lots of things, but it doesn't go into too many details. I know that it is rather popular among GA's (hugh nibley included) to say that there was death outside of the garden. Talmage insisted that there MUST have been death before Adam's fall. If fact, Eve picking fruit from the tree killed the plant and it died. Did Adam and Eve's hair and finger nails grow? If so, this is due to the death of cells in the body. The fact is, it is a VERY vague doctrine which is open to a lot of interpretations, and that's a good thing.

5/18/2005 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Yes, we are talking about this unqualified four word sentence found on page 32 in Gospel Principles: "There was no death." Any ambiguity about this sentence is resolved by the manual sending its readers to Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine article about the Fall of Adam.

It seems you are the one who is adding words to the manual sentence when you suggest Adam saw "no death in the garden,... no death in the terrestial world in which he found himself."

The manual itself simply says, "There was no death." But I guess "it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is, or perhaps what the meaning of the word "was" is?

5/18/2005 08:58:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Greg: As I understand it, the earth's "pre-paradisiacal" history would be prior to "the beginning" of Gen. 1:1.

5/18/2005 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: I think I understand your explanation about Adam and death. The world is billions of years old, 4.5 billion to be exact (if .5 billion is an "exact" number). Anyway, death is everywhere. God plants a garden, the Garden of Eden. God places Adam and Eve in this garden and they know nothing of the world outside their garden home. Adam and Eve can live in the garden without tasting death until they partake of the fruit of the wrong tree. When they do partake, they are cast out of the garden. And that is the fall of Adam. (Not my version.)

It's a nice story. Theoretically, it allows much of today's science to co-exist with the creation accounts in scripture. But where did this story come from? Who first postulated this explanation about Adam and death?

5/18/2005 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

Have you guys read Nibley's "Before Adam"? His science isn't very good but his take on the doctrines involved in interpreting both the fall and the flood narratives are VERY good. It can be found here:


It might be good for you guys to read it, if only to understand where many most Mormons who disagree with you are coming from, thus helping us understand your position better.

To answer your question. I don't much care who taught what. I only care if it is true, and I have as much a right to receive revelation on any subject in my life as any prophet, living or dead, has. In otherwords, if every single prophet believed something, but I felt that it was wrong, and I prayed and felt that I was right, I would be absolutely comfortable with my decision.

No two prophets have ever believed exactly the same, and many have flat out contradicted others. Maybe we shouldn't put them on too high of a pedestal.

5/19/2005 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: I appreciate the link to Nibley's article. I am sure that any attempt on my part to characterize Nibley or respond to anything he said or wrote would simply fail miserably. So, I'll quote the words of another:

"His works are characterized by several unmistakable traits. He harbors an urgent sense of placing immediate priority on eternal values. He knows that the door is about to close, that time is running out, that money is not worth it, that the extreme situations involving total extermination of nations in the Book of Mormon are relevant for our day — and for him all these realizations trivialize many pedantic projects and issues. He is relentless in his examination of documents and in providing abundant documentation. His curiosity is inexhaustible. He still feeds his memory a steady diet of vocabulary cards. Discoveries constantly amaze him. His writings often draw parallels or offer new characterizations that others have failed to perceive. His interests are usually ahead of their time. He incisively exposes the shortcomings of scientific absolutism and the fundamental flaws of both gospel detractors and zealots. His works are typically bold and daring, challenging but reassuring, resourceful and creative, innovative if not revolutionary, sensitive and insightful.

"Still, he does not take himself at all seriously. Repenting and giving thanks are the things he thinks he does best. He sees his learning as forever tentative, incomplete, and accumulating. Once discovered, his innovative insights are so painfully obvious that it is hard for him to see why he had not noticed them before. He willingly describes himself as a buffoon and, from time to time, as a frustrated fiction writer, waiting for the real scholarship to begin.

"As a university community and as a people, we owe an immeasurable debt to Hugh Nibley for his unique contributions to our lives. His work has changed us all. 'Few students can talk coherently about their first class from Hugh Nibley,' observed his former academic vice-president. For many, it has been viewed as a necessary 'rite of passage,' while for others it was an electrifying baptism in the waters of ideas and ideals. Hugh Nibley's manner of speech — tempered hyperbole — instills an extraordinary sense of vitality. His unfailing encouragement to students to satisfy their own curiosity — not his — is the kind of faith that has moved many inert cerebral mountains." (John W. Welch, Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.1, Foreword, p.ix).

Thanks again for the link.

5/19/2005 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

I agree with the assment. Many (even those at FARMS) have noted that on many occasions Nibley was just flat out wrong and/or misguided. But he does say so much that is right that nobody pays much attention to his errors unless they have an agenda. Before Adam is a good example of this. His grasp of evolution isn't terribly up to par, but his grasp of the scriptures is amazing. I just wanted to give you a source which shows where a lot of my views come from.

5/20/2005 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: There are definately some "innovative if not revolutionary" views in "Before Adam" and some of it fits his self characterization "as a frustrated fiction writer, waiting for the real scholarship to begin."

But now I know where you get some of your ideas. And since I had asked here who first postulated your explanation about Adam and death, I can now see a basis for your views in Nibley's "Before Adam."

5/20/2005 04:37:00 PM  

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