Question: Did procreation exist on the earth before the Fall of Adam?

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Question: Did procreation exist on the earth before the Fall of Adam?

Whether other forms of life passed through procreation and death before the fall is not an issue on which the Church doctrine provides any official stance

The scriptural evidence indicates that Adam and Eve did not have any children or understanding of procreation until after the fall. This is indeed what is taught in church. However, whether other forms of life passed through procreation and death before the fall is not an issue on which the Church doctrine provides any official stance.

There are two primary reasons for questions about procreation before the Fall. One arises from a curiosity about whether or not Adam and Eve had any children in the garden before the Fall. The second reason arises from a hypothesis entertained by some church members about pre-Fall procreation of animals being necessary for organic evolution. (Since evolution requires reproductive success, lack of reproduction rules it out.)

Children before the Fall?

Concerning question source one: The Book of Mormon teaches us that Adam and Eve were innocent, and as long as they were in the Garden, "they would have no children" (2 Nephi 2:23). This is also strengthened in the Bible. Children are not even mentioned until after the fall (see also Genesis 3:16).

Irenaeus[1] said that both Adam and Eve "had no understanding of the procreation of children."[2] He also mentioned that Eve was a virgin in the garden three different times. He went on to say that after the fall, Adam "had lost his natural disposition and child-like mind."[3]

Thus, there is evidence from Biblical, Book of Mormon, and early Christian sources that Adam and Eve did not have children prior to the Fall. The records are silent about whether other living things had offspring.

Life and death of non-human animals before the Fall?

Concerning question aspect two: Although the church has no official position on the occurrence of evolution (other than the creation did not occur ex nihilo), strong opinions have been expressed on both sides of the question. Some have hypothesized that God, being bound by natural laws, used evolution to create what we see now in the fossil record. In order for this to have occurred there logically would have been procreation and death among plants and animals before the fall of Adam.

Some LDS members and leaders have argued that there was no death anywhere on earth prior to the Fall, and such a position also assumes—if only implicitly—that there was likewise no procreation. (See FairMormon Answers article on Death before the Fall.) Other members and leaders have held that, as Elder James E. Talmage said, "life and death have been in existence and operative in this earth for ages prior to [Adam]."[4]

The Church does not take an official position on this issue

This is one of many issues about which the Church has no official position. As President J. Reuben Clark taught under assignment from the First Presidency:

Here we must have in mind—must know—that only the President of the Church, the Presiding High Priest, is sustained as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the Church, and he alone has the right to receive revelations for the Church, either new or amendatory, or to give authoritative interpretations of scriptures that shall be binding on the Church....
When any man, except the President of the Church, undertakes to proclaim one unsettled doctrine, as among two or more doctrines in dispute, as the settled doctrine of the Church, we may know that he is not "moved upon by the Holy Ghost," unless he is acting under the direction and by the authority of the President.
Of these things we may have a confident assurance without chance for doubt or quibbling.[5]

Harold B. Lee was emphatic that only one person can speak for the Church:

All over the Church you're being asked this: "What does the Church think about this or that?" Have you ever heard anybody ask that question? "What does the Church think about the civil rights legislation?" "What do they think about the war?" "What do they think about drinking Coca-Cola or Sanka coffee?" Did you ever hear that? "What do they think about the Democratic Party or ticket or the Republican ticket?" Did you ever hear that? "How should we vote in this forthcoming election?" Now, with most all of those questions, if you answer them, you're going to be in trouble. Most all of them. Now, it's the smart man that will say, "There's only one man in this church that speaks for the Church, and I'm not that one man."
I think nothing could get you into deep water quicker than to answer people on these things, when they say, "What does the Church think?" and you want to be smart, so you try to answer what the Church's policy is. Well, you're not the one to make the policies for the Church. You just remember what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians. He said, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). Well now, as teachers of our youth, you're not supposed to know anything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. On that subject you're expected to be an expert. You're expected to know your subject. You're expected to have a testimony. And in that you'll have great strength. If the President of the Church has not declared the position of the Church, then you shouldn't go shopping for the answer.[6]

This was recently reiterated by the First Presidency (who now approves all statements published on the Church's official website):

Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency...and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles...counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.[7]

In response to a letter "received at the office of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" in 1912, Charles W. Penrose of the First Presidency wrote:

Question 14: Do you believe that the President of the Church, when speaking to the Church in his official capacity is infallible?
Answer: We do not believe in the infallibility of man. When God reveals anything it is truth, and truth is infallible. No President of the Church has claimed infallibility.[8]


Notes

  1. "Irenaeus," entry in Wikipedia.
  2. Irenaeus, "Adversus Haereses," in III.22.4 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:455. ANF ToC off-site This volume (circa A.D. 165)
  3. Irenaeus, "Adversus Haereses," in III.23.5 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:457. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  4. Talmage to Heber Timothy, 28 Jan. 1932, Talmage Papers; cited in Richard Sherlock, "A Turbulent Spectrum: Mormon Responses to the Darwinist Legacy," Journal of Mormon History 4:? (1975): 45–69.. See also James E. Talmage, "The Earth and Man," Address in the Tabernacle, (9 August 1931); originally published in the Deseret News, 21 Nov 1931; subsequently published as a pamphlet by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1931; later published in The Instructor, 100:12 (December 1965) :474–477; continued in The Instructor 101:1 (January 1966): 9–15. FAIRWiki link
  5. J. Reuben Clark, Jr., "Church Leaders and the Scriptures," [original title "When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?"] Immortality and Eternal Life: Reflections from the Writings and Messages of President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Vol, 2, (1969-70): 221; address to Seminary and Institute Teachers, BYU (7 July 1954); reproduced in Church News (31 July 1954); also reprinted in Dialogue 12/2 (Summer 1979): 68–81.
  6. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 445. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  7. LDS Newsroom, "Approaching Mormon Doctrine," lds.org (4 May 2007)
  8. Charles W. Penrose, "Peculiar Questions Briefly Answered," Improvement Era 15 no. 11 (September 1912).