Do We Still Believe in “Believing Blood?”

May 27, 2005

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?