Blood, The Fall, and Intelligent Design

According to current LDS theology, blood is a distinctive part of mortal life. Although Adam and Eve had physical bodies in the Garden of Eden, their bodies did not contain blood. The Bible Dictionary states, "Before the fall, Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood" (see BD, "Fall of Adam"). Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
Eating of that forbidden fruit subdued the power of the spirit and created blood in [Adam's] body. No blood was in his body before the fall. The blood became the life thereof. And the blood was not only the life thereof, but it had in it the seeds of death. (Seek Ye Earnestly, p.81)

That there was no blood before the fall is a relatively recent concept. From what I have been able to find, Joseph Fielding Smith appears to be the first person to have taught it. In regard to the origin and support for this teaching, Robert J. Matthews has written:
That there was no blood in the bodies of Adam and Eve before the Fall, and that blood came as a result of the Fall, is not categorically stated in any one passage of scripture, but leading doctrinal teachers such as President Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder Bruce R. McConkie have declared that such was the case. This conclusion is scripturally based and takes into account that blood is the mortal life of the body (see Gen 9:2-6; Lev. 17:10-15).

A further point supporting the conclusion that Adam and Eve had no blood in their premortal, non-death bodies is that we are assured by the Prophet Joseph Smith that resurrected beings do not have blood but possess bodies of flesh and bones "having spirit in their bodies, and not blood." The Prophet also said, "When our flesh is quickened by the Spirit, there will be no blood in this tabernacle." In speaking of the place where God dwells, the Prophet said, "Flesh and blood cannot go there; but flesh and bones, quickened by the Spirit of God, can." (See also 1 Cor. 15:50.)

This much we know about blood: (a) it is a vital part of our mortal lives and is basic to the reproductive process of mortals; (b) it was the agent of redemption in the atonement of Jesus Christ, he shedding his blood to redeem all people from the effects of the Fall and, upon the condition of repentance, from their personal sins; and (c) blood will not exist in the bodies of resurrected beings. With these known facts it becomes evident that blood is the badge of mortality, and since it will not exist in the deathless bodies of Adam, Eve, and their posterity in the resurrection, it is therefore reasonable to conclude that blood did not exist in the deathless, premortal bodies of Adam and Eve prior to the Fall. (Man Adam, p.45)
In passing, it should be noted that while blood is a vital part of our mortal bodies, and that of many animals, it is not a component of many mortal life-forms (plants, for example).

Blood fulfills a number of important roles in the body. It's most notable role is to deliver oxygen to cells and remove carbon dioxide waste. It also facilitates the transportation of many substances through the body including nutrients, hormones, and components of the immune system. Because it is so vital to life, there are mechanisms in place that help to keep us from losing blood, ie. clotting.

The formation and regulation of clotting involves a number of proteins, all of which are encoded in our genes. Inherited deficiencies in these genes can lead to such conditions as hemophilia. It is beyond the scope of this post to detail the interactions of these proteins, such as in the clotting cascade. (See here for further reading.) It is sufficient to know that the regulation of clotting is complicated and impressive.

Elder Russell M. Nelson has commented several times on the wonders of the human body, including the ability of blood to clot. (See, for example, “The Magnificence of Man,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 64.) The regulation of clotting has also been discussed by Michael Behe in his book, Darwin's Black Box. In his book Behe claims that the clotting cascade is an irreducibly complex (IC) system, which means that if any component of it were removed, the system would fail. Since it is highly improbable, if not impossible, that the whole system could have been fully developed by natural means, all at once, and since the system would not confer any advantage to an organism if it was developed one component at a time, Behe argues that this system has been intelligiently designed. Presumably, the "designer" is God. If Behe is correct, his argument would seem to add scientific support to the sentiments of Elder Nelson, and some undoubtably see it as such. (Whether or not Behe is correct is beyond the scope of this post.)

In thinking about the Fall, a natural question arises: Why was it necessary? Why did God create things in a paradisiacal state rather than a mortal state? In his criticism of evolution, Joseph Fielding McConkie wrote:
Latter-day Saint theology recognizes God as the creator. Thus the labor of creation must be godlike. God does not do shoddy work. Having completed the work of creation, he declared it "very good" (Moses 2:31). (Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions, p. 158-162.)
While the scriptures have much to say concerning the consequences of (and redemption from) the Fall, they have little to say about the reason for the Fall. Robert J. Matthews expressed this opinion:
If God had created man mortal, then death, sin, and all the circumstances of mortality would be God's doing and would be eternal and permanent in their nature whereas if man brings the Fall upon himself, he is the responsible moral agent, and God is able to rescue and redeem him from his fallen state. (Bible! a Bible!, p. 187)

Apparently McConkie sees anything less than a paradisiacal creation as "shoddy" and ungodlike. Matthews sees the Fall as a way for God to avoid responsibility for our mortal condition.

There may be other explanations, but I do not find either of these explanations compelling, which leads to the point of this post: If God does not create anything "shoddy" (and therefore ungodlike) and has no responsibility for mortal conditions, how can we say that God designed or created blood, the hallmark of the Fall? We can widen the question to include all things that are in a fallen condition, since the scriptures state that all things testify of Christ. In fact it was God who issued the curses that would characterize mortality for Adam and Eve. If we take the scriptural account literally, thorns and thistles were apparently previously unknown to earth. This means that either God had previously created such plants but held them in a dormant state, or he created them when Adam and Eve fell. The same can be said for blood or any other biological characteristic of mortality.

If we are to exclude any role for evolution in the creation of life on this earth on the grounds that God either does not create, or cannot be responsible for, anything that is less than perfect, then it seems to me that we have to relinquish his role in the creation of anything that characterizes fallen conditions, including blood. Conversely, if God has created (in a direct way) aspects of our mortal condition, then we cannot say that using evolution in the creative process would be "shoddy" and ungodlike. If evolution is to be rejected as a tool which God uses to create, it will have to be on theological grounds other than its imperfect nature.


Personally I think the whole "flesh and blood" ought not be taken so literally. I think it just means mortal. Rereading modern notions of medicine back into the worldview of fairly primitive peoples is very dangerous. I think it is acontextual to assume that those phrases in the scriptures are saying something about the biology of resurrected beings. I'd probably include Joseph Smith in that as well.

While I'm sure there is a big difference between mortal and immortal bodies, and it may well be that there is no circulatory system, one might also take Alma 11 as implying a fairly similar body. The idea of no blood (and related ideas) suggests that an immortal body just has the appearance from a distance of a regular body, but few other equalities. Sort of like an android appearing to be human.

I'm not sure I buy that. In any case unless some immortal being offered his body for examination or gave specific comments on immortal biology, I'm up for just saying, "we don't have a clue." 

Posted by Clark

6/02/2005 10:37:00 AM  


I agree with your caution. For example, people used to think that blood played a role in physical inheritance (bloodlines).

My point here was not to read modern medicine into earlier views but to show how two theological arguments, both of which are employed today against evolution, are at odds with one another.

6/02/2005 11:26:00 AM  

Amen to Clark! Preach brother!

If a resurrected body requires that energy be sent from the heart to the extremities then some sort of circulatory will be necessary. Not only that, but I find it almost impossible to imagine a world without viruses of any kind. A very powerful immunity system should be needed as well. While we can say that the blood involved in such systems will not be the same as this blood, if we are to believe that our future bodies will really be flesh and bones then some kind of blood will be necessary. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

6/02/2005 11:54:00 AM  

"an immortal body just has the appearance from a distance of a regular body, but few other equalities. "

I don't follow. Why exactly is this an objectionable idea? Isn't this part and parcel with the whole "perfect" body concept? What in Alma 11 leads you to make this objection?

Blood carries symbolism along with oxygen. There are plenty of symbolic reasons to associate the introduction of blood into mortal bodies with the Fall, just as the shedding of blood was necessary symbolically for making them immortal again. It may be short-sighted to dismiss this use of blood because it is symbolic. 

Posted by John C.

6/03/2005 08:36:00 AM  

Jared, excellent post. You have made a clear, well-written case for a compelling point. I have a strong distaste for trite aesthetic arguments (I almost hate to even dignify them with the word "aesthetic"), completely devoid of evidence, used by the lifes of J.F. McConkie as if they were silver bullets against the vampires of "tough gospel questions."

If Matthews' point about man bringing about his own fallen condition refers to a literal physical Fall of Adam, it is worthless, because it only applies to Adam; none of the rest of us brought about our own physical fallen condition. But if we all brought about our own fall from premortal life because of some kind of disobedience on our part there, the point could be profound.

A trivial question: Since we no longer believe in "bloodlines," in what sense does Matthews mean that blood "is basic to the reproductive process of mortals"? Does he simply have in mind the maintenance of erections and vaginal engorgement?  

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

6/04/2005 05:38:00 AM  

I believe Matthews is referring to the association between blood and mortality and how mortality and the ability to reproduce are connected in 2nd Nephi 2. I don't think he is terribly interested in the medical associations.

Also, I am concerned. Am I guilty of making aesthetic arguments because I don't think arguments based on symbolism in the scriptures should be set aside out of hand? As an example, I don't think that that is what J.F.McConkie was doing. For all his pride in basing himself in the scriptures, I don't know what exactly he is referring to that might lead him to make the argument that Jared refers to in this post. But, if God found the spilling of blood necessary for the redemption of sins, then I am happy to associate blood with mortality, where sins are committed. That seems scripturally sound to me (if you insist, I'll post about it on my own website with citations and everything). 

Posted by John C.

6/04/2005 11:52:00 AM  

John, I do think blood has a lot of interesting symbolism in the gospel, and I can see how one can make the arguments about blood based on the scriptures and statements of the early brethren that Jared cited.

The "aesthetic argument" I was referring to was not the one about blood, but the "God does not do shoddy work" line. It's the use of this sort of "reasoning" to argue for a paradisaical creation in the face of overwhelming evidence that I am suspicious of. 

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

6/04/2005 12:11:00 PM  


To the extent that the fall of Adam and Eve was a historical event, my thought at the moment is that it should be viewed as a vicarious work. In other words, they were representing all of the rest of us in choosing mortality, just as Jesus represented us in the atonement.

As to the reproductive part, I hadn't thought of it that way--but I did notice the phrase. I don't know what he meant there, so I let it go betting that it would come up in the comments. 

Posted by Jared

6/04/2005 01:03:00 PM  

In that case, I couldn't agree more. Such reasoning is ridiculous. 

Posted by John C.

6/04/2005 04:22:00 PM  

The whole idea of blood being "mortal" rests heavily on a couple of OT verses which say that mortal life is in the blood or something like that. It seems to me to be a classic example of taking scriptures out of context and making a chain out of them in order to create more 'revelation.' No, this is just a poor reading of the scriptures. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

6/06/2005 09:49:00 AM  

Jeff, the idea of blood being important to mortality and the atoning of sin is found also in the PGP and NT. It isn't that absurd a construct. 

Posted by John C.

6/10/2005 11:11:00 AM  

I understand that the atoning aspect of blood has been emphasized in many places, but the viewing of blood as somehow bad seems to be strongly rooted in the "word of wisdom" practices of the old testament. Blood is bad to eat, therefore it is the bad part of us as well. There seems like an awful lot of hand waving in such an interpretation. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

6/10/2005 11:25:00 AM  



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