Wednesday, April 02, 2014

FairMormon mistaken about death before the Fall

"Mormonism and science/Death before the Fall" is the title of a FairMormon Answers article that misrepresents the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In its article, FairMormon asks this (present tense) question:

"What does the Church teach on this subject?"

In its answer, FairMormon gives misleading information about: (1) The Gospel Principles manual, (2) Statements of Church leaders, (3) The LDS Bible Dictionary, and (4) Pre-Adamites and death before the Fall.


FairMormon claims the phrase, "no death before the Fall," doesn't refer to the whole world. As evidence, FairMormon points to a four word sentence found in the Gospel Principles manual:

"There was no death."

FairMormon explains that the above sentence refers only to the Garden of Eden, substantiating that claim with this assertion:

"There is no statement in the manual that there had been no death anywhere in the entire world."

The assertion is false. Death and mortality are inextricably linked, and the manual does in fact teach that the Fall brought mortality into the whole world, not just into the Garden:

"God prepared this earth as a home for His children. Adam and Eve were chosen to be the first people to live on the earth. Their part in our Father’s plan was to bring mortality into the world." (p.27.)

"When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden,... there was no death." (p.28; emphasis added.)

"Adam and Eve were married by God before there was any death in the world." (p.219.)

Gospel Principles has been the Church's basic manual for investigators and new members since 1978. The current edition was used for Priesthood and Relief Society instruction during 2010 and 2011. What this manual says about death before the Fall is what the Church teaches on that subject.


FairMormon claims:

"There has been a difference of opinion among Church leaders on the extent to which immortality affected God's creations before the Fall."

This FairMormon claim is misleading for the following reasons:

    2a. The 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have never unanimously approved publication of any document that teaches there was death on this earth before the Fall of Adam.

    2b. In 1972, the First Presidency published a Melchizedek Priesthood manual which states:

"The earth and all upon it were not subject to death until Adam fell.... It was through the fall of Adam that death came into the world." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions, pp.54 and 111.)

Since 1972, the First Presidency and Twelve have unanimously approved publication of several documents that teach no death on earth before the Fall. (Gospel Principles, for example, and see below.)

    2c. During the Church's entire 184 year history, only two of 97 apostles have openly suggested there was death on this earth before the Fall. James E. Talmage died in 1933 and John A. Widtsoe died in 1952.

We are not following God's servants when we summon dead prophets to contradict Living Prophets.

It is misleading to imply a public lack of unity among current members of the First Presidency and the Twelve regarding death before the Fall. Such a lack of unity simply does not exist.


A good place to look for what the Church teaches is between the covers of its standard works. A good example is the LDS Bible Dictionary. It may not be official doctrine, but members of the First Presidency and Twelve teach freely and often from the LDS Bible Dictionary in general conference talks and other Church magazine articles.

FairMormon, on the other hand, questions the validity of these words from the LDS Bible Dictionary entry for "Death":

Death: "Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth before the Fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the Fall (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)."

    3a. The Church's official missionary guide, Preach My Gospel, sets forth doctrines that LDS missionaries are to study and teach, and it specifically endorses the LDS Bible Dictionary entry on "Death."

In Lesson 2: The Plan of Salvation, Preach My Gospel instructs missionaries to study the LDS Bible Dictionary entry for "Death" alongside several other references from the standard works. (p.52.)

    3b. The Church's official Guide to the Scriptures is a study aid that is now included in all non-English print editions of LDS Scripture and in all electronic editions (such as the Scriptures at LDS.org). Regarding death before the Fall, the Guide to the Scriptures says:

Death, Physical: "The Fall brought mortality and death to the earth (2 Ne. 2:22; Moses 6:48)."

    3c. In the April 2001 general conference (May 2001 Ensign), and again in the March 2002 Ensign, Russell M. Nelson recommended that members going to the temple for the first time read certain entries in the LDS Bible Dictionary, including these words from the entry for "Fall of Adam":

Fall of Adam and Eve: "Before the Fall, there were no sin, no death, and no children. With the eating of the 'forbidden fruit,' Adam and Eve became mortal, sin entered, and death became a part of life. Adam became the 'first flesh' upon the earth (Moses 3:7), meaning that he and Eve were the first to become mortal. After Adam fell, the whole creation fell and became mortal. Adam's Fall brought both physical and spiritual death into the world upon all mankind (Hel. 14:16-17)."

What the Church teaches about death before the fall can be found in the LDS Bible Dictionary and in the Guide to the Scriptures.


In its article, FairMormon recounts several events related to a private 1931 discussion among Church leaders about pre-Adamites and death before the Fall.

FairMormon quotes a 1931 unpublished memo, a 1931 private letter, and a 1931 personal journal to show a lack of unity among Church leaders regarding pre-Adamites and death before the Fall. FairMormon further points to a 1931 speech in which James E. Talmage spoke of plant and animal fossils and said:

"These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation."

FairMormon correctly notes that this 1931 Talmage talk was published as a Church pamphlet.

FairMormon carefully establishes that only one man, the President of the Church, may proclaim one teaching, among two or more, as the settled teaching of the Church. On this point, FairMormon quotes Harold B. Lee who said:

"There's only one man in this church that speaks for the Church.... If the President of the Church has not declared the position of the Church, then you shouldn't go shopping for the answer."

    4a. But FairMormon seems to have turned a blind eye to Harold B. Lee's own answer, while he himself was Church President, to the question of pre-Adamites:

"I was somewhat sorrowed recently to hear someone, a sister who comes from a church family, ask, 'What about the pre-Adamic people?' Here was someone who I thought was fully grounded in the faith.

"I asked. 'What about the pre-Adamic people?'

"She replied, 'Well, aren't there evidences that people preceded the Adamic period of the earth?'

"I said, 'Have you forgotten the scripture that says, "And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also...."' (Moses 3:7.) I asked, 'Do you believe that?'

"She wondered about the creation because she had read the theories of the scientists, and the question that she was really asking was: How do you reconcile science with religion? The answer must be, If science is not true, you cannot reconcile truth with error." (First Presidency Message, Ensign, Dec. 1972.)

    4b. FairMormon is careful to point out that it was "with the approval of the First Presidency," that the 1931 Talmage talk was published by the Church. But FairMormon doesn't even mention the Priesthood manual (see 2b above) that was written by a Church President and published by the First Presidency in 1972.

    4c. The 1931 First Presidency may have had questions about death before the Fall, but the 1972 First Presidency resolved those questions, and since then, everything members of the First Presidency and the Twelve have said about it in official LDS media has unanimously affirmed "no death on earth before the Fall."

    4d. The Teachings of Presidents of the Church series is a collection of gospel reference books established by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. As stated in the Introduction to the last three volumes, one purpose of this series is to help members answer questions about Church doctrine.

Our Church leaders are teaching us by example how to use this series: Nine speakers in the October 2013 General Conference quoted from Teachings of Presidents of the Church in their talks.

FairMormon chooses to avoid what three Church Presidents teach about death before the Fall, as found in Teachings of Presidents of the Church:

WILFORD WOODRUFF: "We acknowledge that through Adam all have died, that death through the fall must pass upon the whole human family, also upon the beasts of the field, the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air and all the works of God, as far as this earth is concerned." (p.81.)

HAROLD B. LEE: "Besides the Fall having had to do with Adam and Eve, causing a change to come over them, that change affected all human nature, all of the natural creations, all of the creation of animals, plants—all kinds of life were changed. The earth itself became subject to death.... How it took place no one can explain, and anyone who would attempt to make an explanation would be going far beyond anything the Lord has told us. But a change was wrought over the whole face of the creation, which up to that time had not been subject to death. From that time henceforth all in nature was in a state of gradual dissolution until mortal death was to come, after which there would be required a restoration in a resurrected state." (p.20.)

JOSEPH FIELDING SMITH: "Temporal and spiritual death [was] brought into the world by the fall of Adam." (p.51.)

"It was appointed ... that Adam our father should ... partake of the forbidden fruit and fall, thus bringing suffering and death into the world.... Had Adam and Eve not partaken, the great gift of mortality would not have come to them..... The fall of Adam brought to pass all of the vicissitudes of mortality. It brought pain, it brought sorrow, it brought death." (p.61.)

"Marriage [was] instituted on this earth before death came into it.... It naturally follows that the family organization was also intended to be eternal." (p.77.)


In its article about death before the Fall, FairMormon misrepresents or completely ignores the current Church publications quoted above and listed below:

    1. The LDS Bible Dictionary,

    2. The Guide to the Scriptures,

    3. The Gospel Principles manual,

    4. The missionary guide, Preach My Gospel,

    5. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff.

    6. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, and

    7. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith.

These books are not scripture, not even official doctrine. Yet each was approved and published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And in unison they teach "no death on earth before the Fall of Adam," which may not be what FairMormon wants you to believe, but it is what the LDS Church teaches.


Blogger White Man Retarded said...

Why is this such a hobby of yours?

4/02/2014 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

My motivations are not important to this discussion. Please speak of principles rather than personalities (per comment policies).

4/02/2014 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FairMormon, being apologetic in nature, is dedicated to the proposition that Mormonism isn't that weird; and argues accordingly. For the most part, they do pretty good work.

Unfortunately, every now and again Mormonism has a teaching that really is weird, and there's just no way around it. Unfortunately, FairMormon seems to be willing to stretch things a bit to "normalize" our more unique ideas--or at least give us "plausible deniability" concerning them. I notice that one of their articles on race and the priesthood even flirts with the idea that the Lamanites didn't really have a skin tone that was any different than that of the Nephites--which notion is, frankly, an insult to the intelligence of anyone who has actually read the Book of Mormon.

4/02/2014 09:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're skirting the loose language leaders have used. In all cases, they seem to be talking about the death of mankind, not the animals and insects that existed outside of the Garden of Eden. I think God commanded the animals to multiply and replenish the earth. Replenish normally would imply a re-filling. If there was no death, then there wouldn't be any need for refilling. Now, that commandment was also given to Adam and Eve, even before The Fall. I can only assume God knew The Fall was going to occur, and therefore gave the commandment knowing not only would Adam and Eve multiply, but that because of the Fall, they would also be replenishing the earth.

4/03/2014 01:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve R. said...

R. Gary, have any of the LDS general authorities attempted to account for the geological fossil record while insisting that there was no death on the earth before the fall of Adam? In other words, how often are both topics dealt with in the same sermon?

4/03/2014 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous: Your theory sounds a lot like the one FairMormon advanced in its article. If you have read my post and still think FairMormon got it right, good for you.

Steve R: Here is one example:

"When confronted by evidence in the rocks below, rely on the witness of the heavens above."

(Boyd K. Packer, "The Law and the Light," The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, to Learn with Joy, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1990.)

4/03/2014 05:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve R. said...

R. Gary, it's kind of like President Packer is saying, Why study the stars when you can look at the heavens? If we believe the planet on which we live is the same one that was once inhabited by the earliest humans, is it a sin to try to reconcile the conflicting sources of information?

4/03/2014 08:27:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Steve R: Now that is exactly what this post is about. President Packer says one thing and you say it's kind of like he is really saying something else (which he did NOT say).

No. Of course it isn't sin to attempt reconciliation. But it would be dishonest to claim the Church is teaching your reconciliation theory if the opposite were true.

4/03/2014 09:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve R. said...

R. Gary, I have a large flat stone in my back yard that was once under the shallow waters of an ancient beach, perhaps a pond. I don't know how ancient, but it has bird tracks preserved in the stone. Or maybe they were bird sized dinosaurs, depending on what kind of animal made tracks like that when the rock was formed.

45 years ago I took a geology class at BYU from Dr. Willis Brimhall. Something he said that impressed me was, this planet has had a lot of different life forms on it through geologic time, and many of these have become extinct; the thing he noticed is that once a species became extinct it never reappeared in the fossil record. If you go to a natural history museum, sure you'll see fossils of dinosaurs, but the good museums have displays of fossils that aren't so spectacular, and many of them closely resemble lifeforms that we see today. Examples would be algae, spiders, mosquitoes, houseflies, centipedes, snakes, and crabs. Plant life too: oaks, pines, ginkgo, maples, ferns, grasses, flowers. The first step a living thing has to go through to become a fossil is to die and be buried in ideal circumstances so that it can be preserved.

It used to be said that there is no conflict between true science and true religion. If the general authorities who insist that death for all things began with Adam's fall, perhaps they should provide a logical explanation of how to reconcile that with the fossil record.

4/03/2014 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Steve R: Personally, I can't reconcile the fossil record with "no death before the Fall." I know that fossils exist but I don't fully understand their origin. I do not believe the fossil record proves the Church is teaching false doctrine. I believe an explanation exists, but I don't have it. I am willing to postpone reconciliation of fossils with the gospel.

That said, the Church has recently published an authoritative response to questions like yours about things like fossil evidence for death before the Fall. Twice a month during 2014, priesthood and Relief Society classes study the manual, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith. When science contradicts the teachings of God's authorized servants, the manual offers this suggestion:

-------------- quote --------------
"So far as the philosophy and wisdom of the world are concerned, they mean nothing unless they conform to the revealed word of God. Any doctrine, whether it comes in the name of religion, science, philosophy, or whatever it may be, if it is in conflict with the revealed word of the Lord, will fail. It may appear plausible. It may be put before you in language that appeals and which you may not be able to answer. It may appear to be established by evidence that you cannot controvert, but all you need to do is to abide your time. Time will level all things. You will find that every doctrine, every principle, no matter how universally believed, if it is not in accord with the divine word of the Lord to his servants, will perish. Nor is it necessary for us to try to stretch the word of the Lord in a vain attempt to make it conform to these theories and teachings. The word of the Lord shall not pass away unfulfilled, but these false doctrines and theories will all fail. Truth, and only truth, will remain when all else has perished." (pp.142-143.)
-------------- end quote --------------

And so I bide my time, and follow the Living Prophets.

4/04/2014 02:54:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Ken Kyle, FairMormon volunteer: How can you claim to have First Presidency and Twelve sources that trump anything when you don't quote a single word from any recent member of those two quorums?

In your comment, you claim William Evenson's Encyclopedia of Mormonism article about Evolution "was actually heavily edited by President Hinckley and his counsellors."

I have three thoughts about that.

1. Hinckley didn't have counselors until he became Church President in 1995, three years after the Encyclopedia of Mormonism was published.

2. Whatever Gordon B. Hinckley's involvement, the Encyclopedia article was published with Evenson named as its sole author. Any time Gordon B. Hinckley wanted the general membership of the Church to have his interpretation of something, he wrote it down, put his name it, and the Church published it.

3. The Church does not rely on physics professors and New York publishers to announce its position on anything.

The current Church publications quoted in my post and listed in its conclusion tell us what the Church presently teaches about death before the Fall.

p.s. I published your comment here.

4/08/2014 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Ken Kyle: I appended your current comment to the one from 10 days ago (linked above).

May I suggest you write to President Monson and his associates in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Their address is:

47 E South Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84150

Someone needs to explain to them how important the Evolution article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism is. Don't forget to explain the absolute necessity of publishing that article somewhere on the official Church website. Also, tell them it isn't necessary for them to affix their names or signatures because everyone knows anyway that it comes from them.

4/14/2014 10:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Pierce said...


Anonymous brought up a good point that you brushed aside: what does replenish mean before the fall?

Second: Most of the ideas surrounding "no death before the fall" stem from 2 Nephi 2:22. Lehi's statement about things remaining as they were is unique in scripture. So we really only have that scripture to go off of. That means that we must parse out what the words "all things" mean. Does it mean all things on earth? All things in the Garden?
The sentence before that says that Adam "would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things must have remained the same".
So the text that we draw this idea from can very easily be taken to mean all things in the garden of Eden would have remained in the same state. After all, we don't really know anything outside of the garden. It could also even mean "all things with Adam" would have remained the same. So taking the context, and seeing the overwhelming evidence for evolution, the finding and dating of fossils, etc., I don't see why this interpretation doesn't hold more weight.

Granted, many other LDS have chosen the "whole earth" view. Joseph Fielding Smith and BRM were big proponents of this idea, which affected a lot of modern thought in the church. B.H. Roberts and Talmage disagreed with them. But again, in absence of real revelation about the creative process and age in the earth, "there is no official position on this." And now we're seeing shift that accepts what we are learning through science. It can be done with scriptural integrity intact.

5/22/2014 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Pierce said...

I just did a little more digging into "replenish." I read that the original meaning in Hebrew meant "to fill" rather than to re-people. So I'll remove that.

5/22/2014 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Pierce: The current Church publications quoted in the original post were each approved and published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in unison they teach "no death on earth before the Fall of Adam." Today's apostles and prophets teach the "whole earth" view as did Joseph Fielding Smith and BRM.

What B.H. Roberts and Talmage thought is not relevant to this discussion.

You seem to have missed this line from the original post, "We are not following God's servants when we summon dead prophets to contradict Living Prophets."

2 Ne. 2:22 means what the Living Prophets say it means.

5/22/2014 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Pierce said...

"We are not following God's servants when we summon dead prophets to contradict Living Prophets."

So can you show me a prophecy concerning this view? Because if we don't have a clear revelation about this issue, then what do we have? We have opinions and policy, which are subject to change. We see this quite a bit, actually. The church has recently published a statement disavowing older teachings regarding black men and the priesthood. Those old notions were taught and distributed by Living Prophets, but it did not make them correct (ironic that those involve the same authorities you lean on with this too...?). There had not been a revelation from God instituting those teachings. They were derived from policy, from Christian tradition, and from the way some some had interpreted scripture.
Our view of Book of Mormon geography has changed. The church has taken more of a limited geography view, and has changed language from them being "the principle ancestors of the American Indians" to "among the ancestors of the American Indians." You see, evidence has shifted so much that we can no longer definitely take the position that all indians are Lamanites. So we shed our assumptions in light of recent evidence. What happened to those who believed this already before the change to the introduction? Well, they were shown to be right in their opinion, while others who had held onto the old orthodox view were incorrect. There's no penalty for being incorrect---they were just incorrect in their assumptions. One could make the argument that you turn off younger generations when you reject new evidence and refuse to update your paradigm, but that's too subjective to talk about.

The same thing is happening here. There is no revelation that states what the age of the earth is, or that plants or animals in the world didn't die prior to the garden of Eden. Some church authorities formed opinions based on a reading of scriptures and taught them in their capacity as an apostle. Thus, some ideas have simply carried on through our curriculum. Those are subject to change.

I didn't bring up Roberts and Talmage to prove that their opinion was right. I brought them up to show that this subject is not a matter of devine revelation. These apostles had different OPINIONS than their fellows. So that's what you are defending--opinion. And why you would marginalize these two prominent "Living Prophets," I don't know.

Joseph Smith taught that a prophet was only a prophet when acting as such. So I ask again, where is the prophecy? The revelation?
Not the interpretation. The world (and fellow Mormons) has produced evidence that you cannot explain with your traditional view. So people have chosen to embrace the evidence and change their paradigm in a way that still harmonizes with the scriptures--even though it is not in harmony with the opinion of some authorities past and present. My forecast is that eventually you will see a change in our publications that actually consider fossils and evolutionary theory. It cannot be ignored any longer. And it doesn't need to be.

5/22/2014 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Pierce: Apparently, all it takes for you to be comfortable contradicting today's FP/12 is the conviction that what they say is merely their personal opinion.

Re: "And why you would marginalize these two prominent 'Living Prophets,' I don't know."

Roberts and Talmage are NOT living on earth today. They both died in 1933.

A discussion about raising children in the gospel would never bring up the 2nd verse in chapter 22 of Genesis. Why? Because verse 12 trumps verse 2.

We accept the latest word of God in preference to any former communication. That is why dead prophets (Roberts and Talmage) are not relevant to this discussion but today's apostles and prophets are.

5/22/2014 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Pierce said...

" Apparently, all it takes for you to be comfortable contradicting today's FP/12 is the conviction that what they say is merely their personal opinion."

Yes, I am doing just that. In absence of actual revelation on a subject that has little relevance (opinion on this subject does not affect anyone's discipleship or salvation), history has shown that opinions differ and even change. Adding to the fact that apostles in the past have had opposing views. I noticed you did not comment on my examples regarding this. I would like to hear your thoughts on it.

Do you hold to the belief that everything that an apostle says, or everything that is published in a Gospel Doctrine manual comes from the mouth of God?
Are you also actually so sure that today's FP/12 are all in unison that there absolutely was no death before the garden? Are they publishing this view as a unified body as some sort of proclamation? Is it unchangeable?
That ideas are just passed on every year in publications is not convincing that apostles are actively teaching some sort of heavenly truth. And I will even call this an outdated view, since it makes no attempt to deal with modern evidence.

"Roberts and Talmage are NOT living on earth today. They both died in 1933."

So? Were they not Living Prophets at one point? That new generally trumps old in terms of what is "official" at the moment is not what I'm contending with. I'm not arguing about what the official stance of the church currently is. You are treating the opinions of apostles as though it is heavenly truth. But here you have two men who had a different opinion, who were apostles of God--same as the other apostles. My point remains: you are defending opinion rather than fact or revelation. It's not a firm foundation, and it can shift out from under you like the priesthood ban assumptions did, and like the Indian ancestors assumptions did.

5/22/2014 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Pierce: The Lord gives the authority to judge and condemn His authorized servants only to the regularly constituted councils of the Church and not to man generally. Not to me. Not to you.

Let me just emphasize that it isn't really all that important to me whether you agree with the teachings of the Church and its leaders. But I think all of us ought to heed more often the wise counsel of a Pharisee named Gamaliel who cautioned moderation when criticizing the apostles "lest haply ye be found even to fight against God" (Acts 5:39).

As long as God honors his apostles and prophets (those who lead us now, today), so should we.

5/22/2014 06:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a good article.

Here's a question about the Fossil record.

Why are only ancient things fossilized?

Why aren't wild horses or bison, etc. found in the process of fossilization?

The answer is because something extremely catalytic happened long ago to bury those ancient creatures.

My guess is that dinosaurs and other ancient creatures died during Noah's flood and got buried in deep sediment that became fossilized over the last 4,000 years.

11/11/2014 10:25:00 PM  

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