Do We Still Believe in “Believing Blood?”

While using the new beta version of Google Print last night, I ran across something that Jan Shipps wrote about Mormon history that I found interesting. She said:

By revelation, he [Joseph Smith] called his own father to be the patriarch of the church, and Father Smith instituted the practice of giving individual Saints spiritual messages called patriarchal blessings. Among much else, these blessings informed Mormons of their Hebrew tribal heritage, that is, through which of his progeny they were related to Father Abraham. From this, a concept of “believing blood” developed, and a powerful symbol system gradually grew up to support the notion that people who responded positively when they read the Book of Mormon or heard LDS gospel claims already had the blood of Abraham flowing in their veins. […]For more than a century, this “believing blood” concept was extremely important. In the wake of the explosion in LDS Church membership that followed World War II, however, less has been heard of it. Even the importance of the patriarachy as a connection to Israel appears to be decreasing. Still, for almost a hundred years, Gentile had a particular meaning in the Mormon world. (Shipps, Jan. Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons, p. 25, 2000)

Do we still believe this, that we are literal descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

Checking Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie, we read:

Believing BloodSee ADOPTION, BELIEF, FAITH, FOREORDINATION, ISRAEL, PRE-EXISTENCE. This is a figurative expression commonly used to designate the aptitude and inclination of certain persons to accept and believe the principles of revealed religion. In general the Lord sends to earth in the lineage of Jacob those spirits who in pre-existence developed an especial talent for spirituality and for recognizing truth. Those born in this lineage, having the blood of Israel in their veins and finding it easy to accept the gospel, are said to have believing blood.

Since much of Israel has been scattered among the Gentile nations, it follows that millions of people have mixed blood, blood that is part Israel and part Gentile. The more of the blood of Israel that an individual has, the easier it is for him to believe the message of salvation as taught by the authorized agents of the Lord. This principle is the one our Lord had in mind when he said to certain Jews: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:14, 26-27.)

I have discussed this on a number of email lists that I belong to, and most of those I have heard from do not believe it. It just isn’t scientific enough, I guess. Certainly it is not “official” Church doctrine. But is it true?

For myself, I do believe it. Why? Because it has been taught by the leadership of our church, and I believe they are true prophets of God. And while it has not been taught for many years from our General Conference pulpit, no prophet has taught that it is false, to the best of my knowledge. Has there been a revelation to overturn this teaching? Or is it just one of those early Mormon beliefs that is being allowed to die a natural death by neglect?

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12 Responses to Do We Still Believe in “Believing Blood?”

  1. Usagi Bulan says:

    having a natural inclination to the gospel of jesus christ in it’s fulness would never produce an elitest mentally. it would only incite faith, hope, and charity.

    and the notion of “believing blood,” i would think, would be a very personal thing between Heavenly Father and his children.

    I think the best way to act upon such knowledge is to find these people and both rejoice in truth.

  2. Does the Church exist in the premortal life? Alma teaches in a passage I do not have time to look up that every man who holds the higher priesthood, meaning the Melchizedek priesthood, was foreordained to that priesthood from before the foundations of the world. Now, were these men foreordained from among those who did not belong to the Church?

  3. Andrew H. says:

    I would say that the idea of “believing blood”, where “the more of the blood of Israel that an individual has, the easier it is for him to believe the message of salvation”, became invalid with the 1978 revelation. In 1979 Elder Howard W. Hunter specifically addressed the notion of a favored-blood lineage in the Church.

    “I take as a theme a passage from the Book of Mormon referring to the Lord’s relationship to the children of men throughout the earth in which it is stated:

    . . . And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. [2 Nephi 26:33]

    From this statement it is clear that all men are invited to come unto him and all are alike unto him. Race makes no difference; color makes no difference; nationality makes no difference. The brotherhood of man is literal. We are all of one blood and the literal spirit offspring of our eternal Heavenly Father. . . . Our common paternity makes us not only literal sons and daughters of eternal parentage, but literal brothers and sisters as well. This is a fundamental teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    “All Are Alike unto God,” Ensign, June 1979. 72–74.

    • Sérgio Ricardo de Souza says:

      But, the explanation given by Elder Bruce R. McConkie in Mormon Doctrine says: “In general the Lord sends to earth in the lineage of Jacob those spirits who in pre-existence developed an especial talent for spirituality and for recognizing truth.”
      The Lord isn’t making difference between people. But the people who have Believing Blood running in their veins developed an especial Talent for Spirituality e for recognizing truth. Every person on the earth has developed different talents and it doesn’t mean the Lord is Making difference between people.

    • Velma Gordon says:

      Interesting you mention the 1978 revealation. There is a great deal of DNA evidence that many africans are of Jewish lineage.

  4. Howie says:

    Believing Blood has never been disavowed by a living prophet, therefore I accept it as gospel. Over the past 50 years the LDS members seem to want evidence on many of the churches teachings. I believe issues like this calls for FAITH.

  5. Leroy says:

    I guess its one of those things that you either believe or don’t believe. While its connotations or overtones seem elitist, it is a modern fear of being overtly offensive or arrogant which causes much of the phobia around such terms as “Believing Blood.”

    It is another one of things which can only be discerned by the spirit.

    I have found that the biggest objectors to any spiritually based idea are those who have the least experience.

    I think

  6. Trevor says:

    Joseph Smith Jr. also taught that when one of gentile heritage repents and accepts the gospel by baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost that the Holy Ghost had a purifying effect on that persons blood which was necessary in order for the Spirit to remain with them. If I remember correctly he also implied that a natural born Israelite (before Jacob one of the chosen lineage Adam to Seth to Enoch to Noah to Shem to Abraham to Isacc) who lived the gospel woud always have the advantage, spiritually speaking, if they lived the gospel covenant fully vs. a gentile who lived the gospel. Perhaps this leads into the spiritual gifts of God being promised in pre-existence ordinations. This doctrine can be easily misunderstood and taken out of context (since we don’t have memory of the context because of the veil of forgetfulness) and can pose a serious threat of false doctrine being fabricated from what little has been said by authorized prophets and apostles of God. I think that modern apostles fully realize the truth (This goes back to Cain and Able, Ham and Shem) and dangers of such doctrines and have wisely held those truths back from a people that are incapable as a society/church from living correctly such a doctrine; not pridefully/elitist but mercifully,lovingly and diligently striving to give everyone the full and requisite opportunity to hear the gospel messge and accept or reject it as they choose. The day will come though that we will know this doctrine in full and be required to live correctly with it just as we will have to do with the law of consecration and other doctrines that are kept back at this time for our sakes. God’s great wisdom is clearly evident even in his dealings with us (meaning we can see it now, not in hindsight after the doctrine is both revealed and understood). Line upon line, precept upon precept we as individuals and as a church assembly progress to greater and greater light and knowledge. Furthermore, the doctrine of lineage tied to Gospel acceptance/living/blessings ties in to the purpose of the sealing power and the promise of the hearts of the children turning to the fathers, and the fathers to the children. All these truths confirm that the fullness of the Gospel as restored through Joseph Smith is with us and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is under the direction of God Himself. Now we only understand in part but that will not always be the case. I have little doubt that there are individuals who know these things already because they have sought it from God and received it from Him.

  7. CRC says:

    Regardless of whether it is “popular” or not, the doctrine comes from scripture. The plain fact of the matter is that only the blood of Israel responds to the gospel message.

    If the Gospel resonates with you, you have the spiritual DNA of Israel, if not, you don’t.

    In the song that Moses gave to the children of Israel that stands as a witness against their apostasy and the apostasy of their latter day posterity the LORD ends the ominous message by reminding his people that he will remember mercy upon them after he chastises them.

    He then categorically identifies who Gods people are and will be at the end of the day

    “”When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORDS portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” Deut 31:8-9

  8. Kathy S. says:

    Any concept that sounds even vaguely elitist isn’t going to be popular. “Believing blood” can inspire elitist thinking of the worst sort. Still, I believe that the concepts behind the term (though perhaps not all the applications which preceed from it) are doctrinally solid.

    I haven’t heard the actual term “believing blood” in contemporary usage very often. [M. Catherine Thomas refers to it in the chapter “Premortal Election and Grace” from her book, Selected Writings.] But I don’t think we can brush off concepts such as 1)the House of Israel existing premortally,(2)membership in that premortal group making one more likely to accept the gospel here (how could it not?), and (3)the majority of Church members today being literally of Israel.

    Some of those doctrines are spoken of in this BYU devotional by Russell M. Nelson:
    http://speeches.byu.edu/htmlfiles/Nelson_Russell_11_1988.html

    Monte Nyman wrote an article, “The Second Gathering of the Literal Seed” which focuses on the D&C revelations corresponding to modern day Israel. While there may be no tidy revelation that puts all the pieces together for us, there are revelations which, to some at least, clearly spell out the concepts behind the idea of “believing blood” (This was from the 1989 BYU Sperry Symposium on the D&C).

    Haven’t you wondered why the vast majority of church members are of Ephraim, or Manasseh? Is that just the “default setting” for patriarchs to adopt millions of people into Israel? Or could it be, as these sources suggest, that this tribal membership is literal, attesting that Ephraim and Manasseh are being gathered first, in preparation for their responsibilities to gather the other tribes?

    I don’t know how to work out the specific application McConkie offers (as far as blood-level percentages being determinants of spiritual inclination). Rather than saying that one’s blood composition makes them a certain way, it may be more clear to say that by virtue of premortal choices, which predispose one to similar choices here, one may have the privilege of placement in the Israelite lineage.

    Now, I fully agree with Johnna, that such concepts can cause all kinds of poor thinking and behavior. I also think that such concepts can inspire diligence and sobriety. Like so many concepts, we can twist them to fit our pride if we choose. The “much is given, much is required” rule applies — being literally of Israel will only become a curse if one doesn’t live up to the birthright.

  9. J. Stapley says:

    Has there been a revelation to overturn this teaching?

    I think a more appropriate question is: “Has there been a revelation to validate this teaching?” to which I would reply: no.

    FYI: Brigham taught the most common 19th century incarnation.

  10. Are the saints better than other people? And if they are, is it because they received the blessed gospel which gives us a new heart, or is it because their mitochlorian count is higher than that of other people?

    I don’t like the idea of believing blood because it promotes apathy instead of earnestness, pride in place of humility, and sour grapes-ism in missionary work. The reason to reject the idea of “believing blood” is that as an idea it bears bad fruit.

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