Saturday, May 23, 2015

Answers to Hard Questions About The Fall of Adam


Why does the Fall matter?

I have noticed that many people find the story of Adam and Eve, and their fall from the Garden of Eden, to be a puzzling chapter in the story of our shared Judeo-Christian faith.  Many find it hard to account for because it doesn’t seem to fit with modern notions of the origin of our species.  Others struggle with the difficulties that arise over what seem to be difficult doctrinal issues surrounding the fall.  I have even heard Mormons refer to certain aspects of the fall of Adam and Eve as “deep doctrine” as if it is some incomprehensible mystery which cannot fully be understood or explained.  Even those who accept the importance of the Fall of Adam and Eve sometimes struggle with the full significance and meaning of the fall, because the fall is so complex in its ramifications, and the full meaning of the events and symbols used in the accounts of the fall can be confusing and may even be perceived as contradictory to our limited understanding.

Due to these and other difficulties, some are tempted to dismiss the fall as a mere fable, and one that is no longer relevant to us today.  However, this could not be further from the truth.  As modern day prophets have repeatedly pointed out, it is crucial that each of us gain a good understanding of the events and significance of the fall of Adam and Eve, and to do so is actually fundamental to fully celebrating one’s faith.

“Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ.

No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind.”  (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, 85).

“The simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ and we will not adequately appreciate the unique purpose of His birth or His death—in other words, there is no way to truly celebrate Christmas or Easter—without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.”  (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” Ensign, May 2015, lds.org).
In the interest of full disclosure, Adam and Eve should be naked in this picture.
What was life like in the Garden?

Life in the Garden of Eden was very different from life as we know it here in the so-called fallen world.  One major difference is the fact that, as long as they remained in the garden, Adam and Eve would live forever and never die. Another important difference between Eden and our mortal existence was that Adam and Eve enjoyed the direct presence of God.  They spoke with Him and walked with Him in the garden.   Another was that Adam and Eve lived in a state of perpetual innocence, without knowledge (or experience) of good and evil (or joy and misery) and the difference between the two.  The prophet Lehi described some of the conditions of the garden as he described the necessity of the Adam’s fall.

2 Nephi 2:22-23  And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden.  And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.  And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

While we may view Eden to be synonymous with paradise, it is likely that we would find such a paradise to be a restrictive one at best, because in Eden (as Lehi pointed out) Adam and Eve could not have any children, nor could they experience joy, because in Eden they could know no misery or pain.  A life without joy or family isn’t really life at all.

“You might be inclined to think that a Garden of Eden life would be preferable to working at a job [or making mistakes, or getting sick, or growing old], but you’d be wrong. I’m convinced that Adam and Eve would have been bored to tears if they’d stayed in the garden: no kids, no challenges, no job. I think that Adam being made to grow food “by the sweat of his brow” was a blessing, not a curse.”  (Romney, M. (May 18, 2015). Mitt Romney to Grads: America Needs You to Serve. Retrieved from http://time.com/3882769/mitt-romney-graduation-speech-saint-anselm-college/).

“We find, then, Adam's status before the fall was:

1. He was not subject to death.

2. He was in the presence of God. He saw him just as you see your fathers; was in his presence, and learned his language. Now if any of you are professors from our schools of language, and have an idea that language came as these theorists say, I am going to tell you that Adam had a perfect language, for he was taught the language of God. That was the first language upon this earth. So much for those theories.

3. He had no posterity.

4. He was without knowledge of good and evil. He had knowledge, of course. He could speak. He could converse. There were many things he could be taught and was taught; but under the conditions in which he was living at that time it was impossible for him to visualize or understand the power of good and evil. He did not know what pain was. He did not know what sorrow was; and a thousand other things that have come to us in this life that Adam did not know in the Garden of Eden and could not understand and would not have known had he remained there. That was his status before the fall.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 3 Vols. Ed. Bruce R. McConkie [1954-56], 1:107-108)

Why was the period of innocence in Eden and the subsequent fall required?  Why could Adam and Eve have not been born already knowing good from evil?

The whole drama of the fall of man and of Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden was not just some ancient passion play enacted for the instruction of later generations.  Nor was it a puppet show enacted by some manipulative God on unwilling or ignorant participants.  Just as you and I must each choose for ourselves to participate in the plan of salvation by coming to Christ through faith, repentance, and covenant, even so Adam and Eve had to choose for themselves to take part in God’s plan.  God could (or would) not force Adam and Eve to enter a world of suffering and hardship, in which they would be subject to mortality and sin, against their will.  It had to be their choice.  In this way, the very fact that man was introduced into a state of innocence in the garden, instead of directly into a fallen state in a fallen world, is an expression of the tremendous importance which God places upon our individual agency and our willing and active participation in the plan of happiness.

“If Adam and Eve had been created mortal, they would have been denied one of the steps in the process that they were capable of performing themselves.  As we read in the Book of Mormon, man “brought upon himself” his own fall (Alma 42:12).  Since the Fall was a necessary part of the plan of salvation, and since man was capable of bringing about the fallen condition himself, he was required—or rather it was his privilege—to take the necessary steps.  (Robert J. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible! [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990], 186, in Ed J. Pinegar & Richard Allen, Teachings and Commentary on the Old Testament [American Fork: Covenant, 2005], 95).

2 Nephi 2:16  Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself.  Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.

Conflicting Commandments?

“Two of the commandments Adam and Eve were given in the Garden of Eden were to (1) “be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28) and (2) not to eat “of the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). It is not difficult to understand why many who accept the account of Adam and Eve as recorded in the Bible as the word of God believe Adam and Eve rebelled against God when they partook of the forbidden fruit. The biblical account reads that Eve “did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6)” (Daniel K Judd, “The Fortunate Fall of Adam and Eve,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, ed. Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 297–328).

One of the principal difficulties which comes up every single time the fall is discussed in detail stems from the notion that The Lord gave Adam and Eve two conflicting commandments, which creates what appears to be an irreconcilable paradox that interferes with our ability to truly grasp the significance of the Fall.  Did God create sin?  Did He Force Eve and Adam to choose between two commandments in some sort of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario?

“Latter-day Saint scripture and teachings, while they do not provide all of the answers to the hows and whys of the story of Eden, do reveal additional information lost from the biblical record. The prophet Lehi taught that “if Adam and Eve had not transgressed, . . . . they would have had no children” (2 Nephi 2:22–23). Lehi’s words reveal a paradox in Latter-day Saint theology—Adam and Eve could not obey the Lord’s first command to multiply and replenish the earth without transgressing the second, to not eat of the fruit of the tree. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained, “Adam and Eve . . . did the very thing that the Lord intended them to do. If we had the original record, we would see the purpose of the fall clearly stated and its necessity explained.” President Smith continued by quoting from the Book of Moses: “And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Moses 3:16–17).

President Smith then explained, “It is that the Lord said to Adam that if he wished to remain as he was in the garden, then he was not to eat the fruit, but if he desired to eat it and partake of death he was at liberty to do so. So really it was not in the true sense a transgression of a divine commandment. Adam made the wise decision, in fact the only decision that he could make” (Daniel K Judd, “The Fortunate Fall of Adam and Eve,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, ed. Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 297–328).

This statement changes the entire way that we view the fall.  The Lord did not set Adam and Eve up to fail by trapping them with two conflicting commandments, rather, as President Smith explained, The Lord offered Adam and Eve two opposite alternatives.  Continue in innocence in the garden forever, or leave the garden and face death, but gain the ability to fulfill the divine injunction to be fruitful and multiply.

I have spoken with individuals who still see this as some kind of scam or trickery, because (in their view) Adam was essentially forced to abandon paradise if he wanted to keep the Lord’s commandment and if he wanted to experience joy and family.  However, it helps to consider that, as I said before, Eden might not seem like so much of a paradise to someone who has tasted true joy and the love of children.  As I said before, a life without joy or family isn’t really life at all.  Even knowing that bad might come with the good, I imagine that Adam and Eve recognized that sacrificing eternity in Eden was worth the joy and posterity they could realize if they chose mortal life.

Adam and Eve weren’t conned out of paradise.  The Lord essentially presented them with a choice, and they made the only choice that they could make if they wanted to progress and experience life.

“While there are no official statements of Latter-day Saint theology that explain all the reasons why God gave what appear to be “conflicting commandments,” Elder McConkie taught:

Thus we see why the Lord gave two conflicting commandments—one to become mortal and have children, the other to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil out of which mortality and children and death would result. The issue is one of choosing between opposites. Adam must choose to become mortal so he could have children, on the one hand; on the other hand, he must choose to remain forever in the garden in a state of innocence. He chose to partake of the forbidden fruit so that the purposes of God might be accomplished by providing a probationary estate for his spirit children. Adam must needs fall so that he would know good from evil, virtue from vice, righteousness from wickedness. He could not have done this without breaking a law and becoming subject to sin. He chose the Lord’s way; there was no other way whereby salvation might come unto the children of men.”  (Daniel K Judd, “The Fortunate Fall of Adam and Eve,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, ed. Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 297–328).

“We find Adam in the Garden of Eden with the promise that he can live there, he can stay there, he can enjoy himself as far as is possible under the conditions, as long as he wants to, as long as he does not do something he is told not to do, and that is to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He was told that in the day that he should eat of that fruit he should surely die.”  (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 3 Vols. Ed. Bruce R. McConkie [1954-56], 1:107-108)

“Theologically we say, “God is not the author of sin.” Sin is a choice made against God. If God gives people a choice, and they choose against him, then they are in such a situation that they are going to be held accountable. It’s not that God created sin. Rather, God created the possibility that people could make a different choice than what he intended.”  (John Walton in Kevin P. Emmert, “The Lost World of Adam and Eve,” Christianity Today, March 2015, Vol. 59, No. 2, Pg 42, Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/march/lost-world-of-adam-and-eve.html?start=5).

Adam and Eve Understood the Necessity of the Fall

“Modern revelation shows that our first parents understood the necessity of the Fall. Adam declared, “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God” (Moses 5:10).

Note the different perspective and the special wisdom of Eve, who focused on the purpose and effect of the great plan of happiness: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11). In his vision of the redemption of the dead, President Joseph F. Smith saw “the great and mighty ones” assembled to meet the Son of God, and among them was “our glorious Mother Eve” (D&C 138:38–39).

When we understand the plan of salvation, we also understand the purpose and effect of the commandments God has given his children. He teaches us correct principles and invites us to govern ourselves. We do this by the choices we make in mortality.”  (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 72-74, lds.org).

The Fall was planned?

“To the first man and woman on earth, the Lord said, “Be fruitful, and multiply” (Moses 2:28; see also Gen. 1:28; Abr. 4:28). This commandment was first in sequence and first in importance. It was essential that God’s spirit children have mortal birth and an opportunity to progress toward eternal life. Consequently, all things related to procreation are prime targets for the adversary’s efforts to thwart the plan of God.

When Adam and Eve received the first commandment, they were in a transitional state, no longer in the spirit world but with physical bodies not yet subject to death and not yet capable of procreation. They could not fulfill the Father’s first commandment without transgressing the barrier between the bliss of the Garden of Eden and the terrible trials and wonderful opportunities of mortal life.

For reasons that have not been revealed, this transition, or “fall,” could not happen without a transgression—an exercise of moral agency amounting to a willful breaking of a law (see Moses 6:59). This would be a planned offense, a formality to serve an eternal purpose. The Prophet Lehi explained that “if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen” (2 Ne. 2:22), but would have remained in the same state in which he was created.

“And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Ne. 2:23).

But the Fall was planned, Lehi concludes, because “all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things” (2 Ne. 2:24).”  (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 72-74, lds.org).

The fall was done in compliance with (and not defiance of) law
©Dan Piraro | Distributed by King Features
“Eve partook without full understanding; Adam partook knowing that unless he did so he and Eve could not have children and fulfill the commandment they had received to multiply and replenish the earth. After they had thus complied with whatever the law was that brought mortality into being, the Lord said to Eve: "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." To Adam the decree came: "Cursed shall be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee." Thus the paradisiacal earth was cursed; thus it fell; and thus it became as it now is.”  (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 85-86).

“I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. One may say, "Well did they not break a commandment?" Yes. But let us examine the nature of that commandment and the results which came out of it.

In no other commandment the Lord ever gave to man, did he say: "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself."

It is true, the Lord warned Adam and Eve that to partake of the fruit they would transgress a law, and this happened. But it is not always a sin to transgress a law. I will try to illustrate this. The chemist in his laboratory takes different elements and combines them, and the result is that something very different results. He has changed the law. As an example in point: hydrogen, two parts, and oxygen, one part, passing through an electric spark will combine and form water. Hydrogen will burn, so will oxygen, but water will put out a fire. This may be subject to some disagreement by the critics who will say it is not transgressing a law. Well, Adam's transgression was of a similar nature, that is, his transgression was in accordance with law.  (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [1954], 1:114)

How much of the account of the fall is merely figurative?

“How literally do we take the story of the Garden of Eden? This we know: Adam was real. He was as real as Christ. For if Adam was not real the Fall was not real; and if the Fall was not real the Atonement was not real; and if the Atonement was not real Jesus the Christ is not and was not necessary. Of some parts of the Eden story it matters little if we choose to view them as figurative or literal, but of others it is not so. The testimony of Christ, of necessity, embraces the testimony of Adam. Had there been no Eden there could be no Gethsemane; had there been no Eve there could be no Mary; if we have not inherited death from Adam, we have no claim on everlasting life through Christ” (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert Millet, Man Adam, p. 26-29).

While we know that Adam and Eve were real, and that the fall itself was real, there are certainly symbolic or figurative elements in the story of the fall which are not intended to be taken literally.

 “President Spencer W. Kimball taught that Eve was not literally created from Adam’s rib. He said: “The story of the rib, of course, is figurative”” (“The Blessings and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 71). (The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual, (2000), 3–27).

“Marriage is a partnership. Someone has observed that in the Bible account of the creation woman was not formed from a part of man’s head, suggesting that she might rule over him, nor from a part of a man’s foot that she was to be trampled under his feet. Woman was taken from man’s side as though to emphasize the fact that she was always to be by his side as a partner and companion. At the marriage altar you are pledged to each other from that day to pull the load together in double harness.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], p. 109)

Bruce R. McConkie was of the opinion that the two trees planted in the garden, namely the tree of knowledge of good and evil and  the tree of life were figurative representations of certain important principles pertaining to mortality and eternal life respectively.

“As to the Fall itself we are told that the Lord planted "the tree of knowledge of good and evil" in the midst of the garden. (Moses 3:9.) To Adam and Eve the command came: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Moses 3:16-17.) Again the account is speaking figuratively. What is meant by partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is that our first parents complied with whatever laws were involved so that their bodies would change from their state of paradisiacal immortality to a state of natural mortality. (Bruce R. McConkie, "Christ and the Creation," Ensign, June 1982, p. 15; emphasis added)

“As to the fall, the scriptures set forth that there were in the Garden of Eden two trees. One was the tree of life, which figuratively refers to eternal life; the other was the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which figuratively refers to how and why and in what manner mortality and all that appertains to it came into being. "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat," the Lord told our first parents, "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Moses 3:16-17.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 85-86).

Just because certain aspects of the account of the fall are likely figurative or symbolic does NOT mean that the fall did not happen, or that the account of the fall is any less meaningful.  Certainly, the effects of the fall are very real, and they have a very concrete impact on each of us in our daily lives.  We are subject to the very real threat of death and mortality.  As mortal beings, we are frail and flawed; we can get sick, or become bald, we can have bad breath or crooked teeth.  Similarly, our frailties extend to our behavior.  As mortals we make mistakes, and we commit sins, but we are also able to know the difference between right and wrong, truth and error.  The symbols and figures used in teaching the fall do not render the effects of the fall any less real, therefore it would not do to discount the whole account of the fall as a fable just because the story of Adam and Eve contains some symbolic elements.  That would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

For more on the role and symbolism of the tree of life in the garden of Eden, click HERE.

The Fall of Adam not sexual in nature

It has been taught by some, and I have even heard it spoken in the back of Sunday School, or among young Aaronic priesthood holders in private speculation on so-called “deep-doctrine,” that there was some aspect of sexual transgression involved in the Fall of Adam and Eve, or that the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil somehow represented the loss of innocence attached to sexual transgression, which is why Adam and Eve were able to have children after they were cast out of the garden.  Here I must take the opportunity to denounce this concept as a pernicious false doctrine with no basis in scripture or revealed teachings whatsoever.  In fact, such teaching directly contradicts the teachings of the church and the doctrine contained in the scriptures, as evidenced by the testimony of such leaders as James E. Talmage and Joseph Fielding Smith, and echoed by the great Christian writer and thinker C.S. Lewis.

“The transgression of Adam did not involve sex sin as some falsely believe and teach. Adam and Eve were married by the Lord while they were yet immortal beings in the Garden of Eden and before death entered the world.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 3 Vols. Ed. Bruce R. McConkie [1954-56], 1:114–15).

“Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake...what Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they 'could be like Gods' - could set up on their own as if they had created themselves - be their own masters - invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come...the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”  (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 49).

“I take this occasion to raise my voice against the false interpretation of scripture, which has been adopted by certain people, and is current in their minds, and is referred to in a hushed and half-secret way, that the fall of man consisted in some offense against the laws of chastity and virtue. Such a doctrine is an abomination. What right have we to turn the scriptures from their proper sense and meaning? What right have we to declare that God meant not what He said? The fall was a natural process, resulting through the incorporation into the bodies of our first parents of the things that came from food unfit, through the violation of the command of God regarding what they should eat. Don’t go around whispering that the fall consisted in the mother of the race losing her chastity and her virtue. It is not true; the human race is not born of fornication. These bodies that are given unto us are given in the way that God has provided. Let it not be said that the patriarch of the race, who stood with the gods before he came here upon the earth, and his equally royal consort, were guilty of any such foul offense. The adoption of that belief has led many to excuse departures from the path of chastity and the path of virtue, by saying that it is the sin of the race, that it is as old as Adam. It was not introduced by Adam. It was not committed by Eve. It was the introduction of the devil and came in order that he might sow the seeds of early death in the bodies of men and women, that the race should degenerate as it has degenerated whenever the laws of virtue and of chastity have been transgressed.

“Our first parents were pure and noble, and when we pass behind the veil we shall perhaps learn something of their high estate, more than we know now. But be it known that they were pure; they were noble. It is true that they disobeyed the law of God, in eating things they were told not to eat; but who amongst you can rise up and condemn?”  (James E. Talmage, Jesus The Christ, 30-31).

Transgression or Sin?

In involved discussions about the fall from a Latter-day Saint perspective, the distinction often arises between a sin and a transgression.  However what is the difference between the two, and why would such a difference even matter?

“It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25).

Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall (see Bruce R. McConkie, “Eve and the Fall,” Woman, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979, pp. 67–68). Joseph Smith taught that it was not a “sin,” because God had decreed it (see The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980, p. 63). Brigham Young declared, “We should never blame Mother Eve, not the least” (in Journal of Discourses, 13:145). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 1:114–15).” (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 72-74, lds.org).

“The Fall came by transgression of a law, but there was no sin connected with it. There is a difference between transgression and sin. Both always bring consequences. While it may not be a sin to step off a roof, in doing so one becomes subject to the law of gravity, and consequences will follow.” (Boyd K. Packer, "The Great Plan of Happiness and Personal Revelation," Things of the Soul [1996], pp. 45-60)

“The transgression of that law, contrary to the view of many, was not a sin. It was not a sin any more than the transgression in the laboratory by a chemist in combining two substances and creating another entirely different from the first. It was not a sin to bring to pass mortality, a condition which was essential to the eternal welfare of man. The Fall changed the nature of Adam and Eve to fit them for the condition in which we now are. After the coming of an angel with the plan of salvation informing Adam and Eve of the redemption which was to be made by Jesus Christ, Eve rejoiced and said:  " . . . Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient." (Moses 5:11.)” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols.[1976], 2:214-215)

The difference between a transgression and a sin as it applies to the fall may be akin to that between the concepts of Malum in se and Malum prohibitum, which is capably explained and applied to the fall by Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

“This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (emphasis added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 72-74, lds.org).

Results of the Fall

When Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden as a result of their transgression, they were banished from the presence of God, and so they became subject to spiritual death (being separated from God) through sin.  Adam and Eve retained their agency, and now they had gained the ability to discern between right and wrong, which meant that they had the ability to sin, and their mortal weakness made them prone to moral weakness, which meant that they would make mistakes and commit sins like any other person that has ever lived.  As God had promised, they also became mortal, which meant that their physical bodies became subject to physical death (or the separation of our spirit from our body).  Under these conditions, Adam and Eve could not hope to return to God’s presence on their own and unaided.  In addition to the condition of imminent death that accompanies mortality, Adam and Eve also became subject to mortal frailties, such as sickness, hunger, fatigue, baldness, bad teeth, and so forth.  All in all, it sounds as if Adam and Eve got a pretty raw deal.

“The fall…brought death, with all its sad concomitants. Not such a death as the righteous now contemplate, and such as both righteous and unrighteous must undergo, as a change preparatory to resurrection; but eternal death--death of the spirit as well as the body. There was no resurrection when Adam fell--not upon this planet.” (Orson F. Whitney, Saturday Night Thoughts [1923], p.93)

“By one man came death--the death of the body. What becomes of the spirit when the body dies? Will it be perfectly happy? Would old father Adam's spirit have gone back into the presence of God, and dwelt there eternally, enjoying all the felicities and glories of heaven, after his body had died? No; for the penalty of that transgression was not limited to the body alone. When he sinned, it was with both the body and the spirit that he sinned: it was not only the body that eat of the fruit, but the spirit gave the will to eat; the spirit sinned therefore as well as the body; they were agreed in partaking of that fruit. Was not the spirit to suffer then as well as the body? Yes. How long? To all ages of eternity, without any end; while the body was to return back to its mother earth, and there slumber to all eternity. That was the effect of the fall, leaving out the plan of redemption; so that, if there had been no plan of redemption prepared from before the foundation of the world, man would have been subjected to an eternal dissolution of the body and spirit--the one to lie mingling with its mother earth, to all ages of eternity, and the other to be subject, throughout all future duration, to the power that deceived him, and led them astray; to be completely miserable, or, as the Book of Mormon says, "dead as to things pertaining to righteousness;" and I defy any such beings to have any happiness when they are dead as to things pertaining to righteousness. To them, happiness is out of the question; they are completely and eternally miserable, and there is no help for them, laying aside the atonement. That was the penalty pronounced upon father Adam, and upon all the creation of which he was made lord and governor. This is what is termed original sin, and the effect of it.”  (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 26 Vols. [1855-86], 1:284)

“What a plight! The entire human race in free fall—every man, woman, and child in it physically tumbling toward permanent death, spiritually plunging toward eternal anguish. Is that what life was meant to be? Is this the grand finale of the human experience? Are we all just hanging in a cold canyon somewhere in an indifferent universe, each of us searching for a toehold, each of us seeking for something to grip—with nothing but the feeling of sand sliding under our fingers, nothing to save us, nothing to hold on to, much less anything to hold on to us? Is our only purpose in life an empty existential exercise—simply to leap as high as we can, hang on for our prescribed three score years and ten, then fail and fall, and keep falling forever?  (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” Ensign, May 2015, lds.org).

However, the scriptures record that soon after the fall “Adam and Eve blessed the name of God” (Moses 5:12) and that Eve “was glad” (Moses 5:11). Why would Adam and Eve rejoice over what has traditionally been viewed as the first great tragedy of the human story?

“Because of Adam's transgression, a spiritual death--banishment from the presence of the Lord--as well as the temporal death, were pronounced upon him. The spiritual death came at the time of the fall and banishment; and the seeds of the temporal death were also sown at that same time; that is, a physical change came over Adam and Eve, who became mortal, and were thus subject to the ills of the flesh which resulted in their gradual decline to old age and finally the separation of the spirit from the body.

Before this temporal death took place the Lord, by his own voice and the visitation and ministration of angels, taught Adam the principles of the gospel and administered unto him the saving ordinances, through which he was again restored to the favor of the Lord and to his presence. Also, through the atonement, not only Adam, but all his posterity were redeemed from the temporal effects of the fall, and shall come forth in the resurrection to receive immortality. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 3 Vols. Ed. Bruce R. McConkie [1954-56], 1:111-112)

Adam and Eve could rejoice because they understood the whole point and purpose of the fall.  When Adam and Eve were first cast out, Adam built an altar and offered a prayer to God.  Shortly, an angel appeared and taught Adam and Eve that they would not be left alone to fend for themselves with no hope of ever returning to live with God again.  Further, he taught them that the sacrifices which Adam made on that altar were intended to be made in similitude of the great and last sacrifice which would be made by the Son of God.  The angel taught Adam and Eve about the atonement of Jesus Christ, through which Adam and Eve and all of their children might be redeemed, and reclaimed from the effects of the fall.  The Savior would overcome physical death for all men, and He would sacrifice himself in order to bring all men back into the presence of God (to be judged).  The angel then invited them to repent of their sins and to follow God once more.  Upon hearing this, it was only natural that Adam and Eve would rejoice with all of their hearts!

Moses 5: 6-12  And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?  And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore. And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will. And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God. And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.  And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.
I should emphasize that not all of the effects of the fall were bad ones, however.  To review, Adam and Eve were subject to the following conditions as a result of the fall:

“Adam's status after the fall was:

    1. He was banished from the presence of God and partook of the spiritual death. Now that was a terrible calamity. At least, as we read in the 9th chapter of 2nd Nephi, it would have been a most terrible thing, that banishment from the presence of God, if there had been no remedy.

    2. He also partook of the temporal or physical death, and that would have been also a terrible calamity if there had been no remedy for it.

    3. He gained knowledge and experience--knowledge of good and evil.

    4. He obtained the great gift of posterity.

(Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 3 Vols. Ed. Bruce R. McConkie [1954-56], 1:111-112)

Yes, Adam and Eve suffered the apparent setback of mortal frailty and moral weakness (peccability), but they also gained the incredible gifts of knowledge and experience and, most significantly (to them and to us), they gained the ability to have children.  No wonder they rejoiced!  The fall gave Adam and Eve everything they needed to progress and to have joy!

2 Nephi 2:24-25  But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

“The fall had a two-fold direction — downward, yet forward.  It brought man into the world and set his feet upon progression's highway.” (Orson F. Whitney, Saturday Night Thoughts [1923], p.93)

“Adam's fall was a step downward, but it was also a step forward--a step in the eternal march of human progress; and it is by means of this everlasting Gospel, and our own individual efforts in making use of the powers that God has given us, that we lay hold upon eternal life, and go on to perfection. (Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, April 1908, p.90)

“To bring the plan of happiness to fruition, God issued to Adam and Eve the first commandment ever given to mankind. It was a commandment to beget children. A law was explained to them. Should they eat from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:17), their bodies would change; mortality and eventual death would come upon them. But partaking of that fruit was prerequisite to their parenthood.

While I do not fully understand all the biochemistry involved, I do know that their physical bodies did change; blood began to circulate in their bodies. Adam and Eve thereby became mortal. Happily for us, they could also beget children and fulfill the purposes for which the world was created. Happily for them, "the Lord said unto Adam [and Eve26]: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden" (Moses 6:53). We and all mankind are forever blessed because of Eve's great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, she did what needed to be done. Adam was wise enough to do likewise. Accordingly, we could speak of the fall of Adam in terms of a mortal creation, because "Adam fell that men might be" (2 Nephi 2:25).27

Other blessings came to us through the Fall. It activated two closely coupled additional gifts from God, nearly as precious as life itself--agency and accountability. We became "free to choose liberty and eternal life . . . or to choose captivity and death" (2 Nephi 2:27). Freedom of choice cannot be exercised without accountability for choices made. (Russell M. Nelson, “Constancy amid Change,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, p. 34).

Original Sin and the depravity of man

The doctrine of original sin has been a hallmark of Christian thought since fairly early in Christian history.

“St. Augustine (AD 354–430), the bishop of Hippo, added the idea of “original sin” (originale peccatum) to the doctrine of the Fall as taught in Genesis and by the early Christian Fathers.[25] Augustine’s doctrine of “original sin” does not simply refer to Adam and Eve eating from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17), but also suggests that the consequences of their sin, guilt, and depravity were imputed to their posterity. John MacArthur, president of the Master’s College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College) and pastor, explains,

    Adam passed to all his descendants the inherent sinful nature he possessed because of his first disobedience. That nature is present from the moment of conception (Ps 51:5), making it impossible for man to live in a way that pleases God. Satan, the father of sin (1 John 3:8), first brought temptation to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1–7) through one man. When Adam sinned, all mankind sinned in his loins (v. 18; cf. Heb 7:7–10). Since his sin transformed his inner nature and brought spiritual death and depravity, that sinful nature would be passed on seminally to his posterity as well (Psalm 51:5).” (Daniel K Judd, “The Fortunate Fall of Adam and Eve,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, ed. Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 297–328).

Because of this, Christians have been taught for centuries that man is naturally depraved, and that each of us sinned vicariously through Adam, and that as a consequence mankind inherits the blame and accountability for Adam’s transgression.  Much of the suffering inherent to our fallen state is therefore attributed to divine punishment exacted on all mankind for Adam’s sin and our inherited depravity.  However, through the light of the restored Gospel, we have learned that mankind is not inherently depraved, and that we are not accountable for the sins of Adam and Eve.  In this light, we reject the doctrine of original sin, and we hold that men are not inherently depraved.

Articles of Faith 1:2  We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.

“Latter-day Saint doctrine includes the teaching that the Fall of Adam and Eve brought spiritual and physical death to mankind but excludes the Augustinian doctrines of “original sin” and “the depravity of man.” Elder M. Russell Ballard explained: ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discounts the notion of Original Sin and its ascribed negative impact on humanity. Indeed, we honor and respect Adam and Eve for their wisdom and foresight. Their lives in the Garden of Eden were blissful and pleasant; choosing to leave that behind so they and the entire human family could experience both the triumphs and travails of mortality must not have been easy. But we believe that they did choose mortality, and in so doing made it possible for all of us to participate in Heavenly Father’s great, eternal plan.’

While it does not accept the doctrine of original sin, Latter-day Saint theology does accept that the Fall brought significant consequences to Adam and Eve and to their posterity. In the Pearl of Great Price we read the words of the ancient prophet Enoch: “Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death; and we are made partakers of misery and woe” (Moses 6:48). Because of their transgression, Adam and Eve were “cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Helaman 14:16), both physically and spiritually (see also Alma 42:9). Not only did Adam and Eve experience these consequences personally, but their actions brought about consequences for their posterity and the very earth upon which they dwelt. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit they brought mortality not only upon themselves, but upon the whole earth and every living thing upon it, in the air, the waters, or on the face of the land. Even the earth itself partook of the seeds of death. Since that day all living things, including the earth itself, have partaken of mortal existence.”[37] In addition to bringing physical and spiritual death to all mankind, the Fall also brought the inevitability and reality of sin to the accountable posterity of Adam and Eve (see Moses 6:55).”  (Daniel K Judd, “The Fortunate Fall of Adam and Eve,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, ed. Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 297–328).

“I do not know the details of what happened on this planet before [Eden and the Fall], but I do know these [Adam and Eve] were created under the divine hand of God, that for a time they lived alone in a paradisiacal setting where there was neither human death nor future family, and that through a sequence of choices they transgressed a commandment of God which required that they leave their garden setting but which allowed them to have children before facing physical death. To add further sorrow and complexity to their circumstance, their transgression had spiritual consequences as well, cutting them off from the presence of God forever. Because we were then born into that fallen world and because we too would transgress the laws of God, we also were sentenced to the same penalties that Adam and Eve faced.”  (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet,” Ensign, May 2015, lds.org).

Are Men Inherently Good or Inherently Evil?

Because we believe that men are not inherently depraved from birth, does that mean that Latter-day Saints believe that men are automatically born good?  It is perhaps more complicated than that.  We believe that men are born innocent, rather than good.  While that distinction may seem purely academic, it is a crucial one, for the following reasons. To put it succinctly: we are born innocent rather than good because the absence of sin (original or otherwise) is not the same as/does not equal the presence of righteousness. We are not automatically born good just because we are not born evil. Righteousness requires an active choice, which we have not yet had the chance to make at birth.  Because our innocence is lost as soon as we are old enough to be accountable for our own mistakes, we must first seek to be justified by Christ's righteousness so we can begin the process of conversion and sanctification (through Christ's grace) whereby we may be enabled to grow and to develop the beginnings of our own righteousness as we are perfected by Him.

While some might assume that being born innocent means that we start life as a blank slate, this is not actually accurate either.  It helps to remember that when it comes to describing God’s judgment of the righteousness of an individual at any point in our lives, the language of (criminal) law is often employed in scripture.  The idea that we are born innocent differs from the idea that we start out as blank slates because there is no blank slate in the eyes of the law.  One is either guilty or innocent, and anything else has no meaning according to justice.

The Fall of Adam and the Atonement of Jesus Christ

“The Latter-day Saint doctrine of the Fall is vitally connected with the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Like most Christians, Latter-day Saints accept the words of the Apostle Paul: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Paul’s teachings are similar to those of the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni: “By Adam came the fall of man. And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ. . . . And because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man” (Mormon 9:12). Adam and Eve’s partaking of the fruit and their subsequent fall did much more than, in the words of Pelagius and his followers, “set a bad example” for their posterity. President Ezra Taft Benson explained the importance of understanding the consequences of the Fall of Adam and Eve in connection with the need for the Atonement of Jesus Christ when he stated, “Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ. No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind.”

Latter-day Saints believe that the consequences of the Fall of Adam and Eve affect all mankind, all living things, and even the very earth on which we dwell. Such consequences can be fully addressed only through the infinite Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Daniel K Judd, “The Fortunate Fall of Adam and Eve,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, ed. Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 297–328).

Christ the Last Adam

The Apostle Paul understood the relationship between the fall and the atonement of Jesus Christ, and he contrasted Adam and his role in the plan of salvation with that of Christ in order to help the Saints to better understand their own role in the plan of salvation.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:45-49  And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.  Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.  The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

Just as Adam is our physical father, and the one who begat us into a world in which we would be subject to the conditions of sin and mortality (which he also brought about), even so in Christ we are born again spiritually, and redeemed from the effects of sin and death.  Christ then becomes our spiritual progenitor.  Adam, our first father, was of the earth, and earthy; that is, as a natural man, he was subject to mortal weaknesses and frailties, including death.  The second Adam, Christ “the Lord from heaven” is heavenly, and possesses that spiritual life which can only come from heaven, and which He offers to all who will follow him, as a “quickening [or lifegiving] spirit.”

As Paul explained to the Romans, Adam was a “figure of him that was to come” (Romans 5:14).

“Like Christ himself, the first Adam had been both an individual man and the representative of the whole human race.  He too bore the whole race in himself.  In him the human race fell, in Adam (which means “man” in Hebrew) man fell (Romans 5:19).  Christ is the second man (1 Cor. 15:47) in whom the new humanity is created.  He is the “New Man.”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 238).

Father Adam was the first Adam, from whom come all people, and Christ is the last Adam, to whom all people must come if they desire redemption.  When we exercise faith and come to Christ with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, to enter into a covenant of redemption and rebirth with him, He becomes our spiritual father, as we seek to be made like him, both spiritually and physically.  We were born in Adam’s likeness and image, but if we wish to be redeemed of Christ we must be born again in the heavenly likeness and image of Jesus Christ.

“Consequently the incarnate Son of God existed so to speak in two capacities—in his own person, and as the representative of the new humanity.  Every act he wrought was performed on behalf of the new humanity which he bore in his body.  That is why he is called the Second Adam or the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45).”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 238).

Whereas before we were just people (as the collective descendants of Adam), now we are particularly “a people,” and more significantly, we are Christ’s people, and the sons of God.  After all, Christ died that he might purify unto himself a people who are special, and set apart from the rest (the earthy, and the natural man) to an inheritance of spiritual life:

Titus 2:13-14  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

1 Peter 2: 3-5    If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

1 Peter2: 9-11  But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

Adam and his descendents received “earthy” mortal bodies, but those who become the spiritual children of Christ are promised an inheritance of eternal life, which includes a promise that they will be resurrected to the same heavenly (or “celestial,” in Paul’s words) glory to which Christ himself has been resurrected.

Philippians 3:10-11, 20-21 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Why must there be opposition in all things?  (Good and evil, light and dark, pleasure and pain, bitter and sweet, etc.)

“If the Scriptures are true, it proves that sin is in the world, and the question arises, Is it necessary that sin should be here? What will the Latter-day Saints say? Is it necessary that we should know good from evil? I can answer this to suit myself by saying it is absolutely necessary, for the simple reason that if we had never realized darkness we never could have comprehended the light; if we never tasted anything bitter, but were to eat sweets, the honey and the honeycomb, from the time we come into this world until the time we go out of it, what knowledge could we have of the bitter? This leads me to the decision that every fact that exists in this world is demonstrated by its opposite. If this is the fact--and all true philosophy proves it--it leads me to the conclusion that the transgression of our first parents was absolutely necessary, that we might be brought in contact with sin and have the opportunity of knowing good and evil. It may be deemed strange and singular by the Christian world that we should believe such a thing; but the Scriptures inform us, in Genesis iii., 22, that the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become as one of us, to know good and evil."” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 26 Vols. [1855-86] 14:70-71)

This tree, of which they both ate, was called the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why was it thus termed? I will explain a mystery to you, brethren, why this was called so. Adam and Eve, while in the garden of Eden, had not the knowledge you and I have; it is true, they had a degree of intelligence, but they had not the experience, they had not the knowledge by experience, which you and I have: all they knew was barely what they knew when they came there; they knew a commandment had been given to them, and they had sufficient knowledge to name the beasts of the field as they came up before them; but as for the knowledge of good, they had not got it, because they never had anything contrary to good placed before them.

We will bring up an example. For instance, suppose you had never tasted anything that was sweet--never had the sensation of sweetness--could you have any correct idea of the term sweetness? No. On the other hand, how could you understand bitter if you never had tasted bitterness? Could you define the term to them who had experienced this sensation, or knew it? No. I will bring another example. Take a man who had been perfectly blind from his infancy, and never saw the least gleam of light--could you describe colors to him? No. Would he know anything about red, blue, violet, or yellow? No; you could not describe it to him by any way you might undertake. But by some process let his eyes be opened, and let him gaze upon the sun beams that reflect upon a watery cloud, producing the rainbow, where he would see a variety of colors, he could then appreciate them for himself; but tell him about colors when he is blind, he would not know them from a piece of earthenware. So with Adam previous to partaking of this fruit; good could not be described to him, because he never had experienced the opposite. As to undertaking to explain to him what evil was, you might as well have undertaken to explain, to a being that never had, for one moment, had his eyes closed to the light, what darkness is. The tree of knowledge of good and evil was placed there that man might gain certain information he never could have gained otherwise; by partaking of the forbidden fruit he experienced misery, then he knew that he was once happy, previously he could not comprehend what happiness meant, what good was; but now he knows it by contrast, now he is filled with sorrow and wretchedness, now he sees the difference between his former and present condition, and if by any means he could be restored to his first position, he would be prepared to realize it, like the man that never had seen the light. Let the man to whom all the beauties of light have been displayed, and who has never been in darkness, be in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, deprived of his natural sight; what a change this would be to him; he never knew anything about darkness before, he never understood the principle at all; it never entered the catalogue of his ideas, until darkness came upon him, and his eye-sight was destroyed: now he can comprehend that the medium he once existed in was light. Now, says he, if I could only regain my sight, I could appreciate it, for I understand the contrast; restore me back again to my sight, and let me enjoy the light I once had; let me gaze upon the works of creation, let me look on the beauties thereof again, and I will be satisfied, and my joy will be full. It was so with Adam; let the way be prepared for his redemption, and the redemption of his posterity, and all creation that groans in pain to be delivered--let them be restored back again to what they lost through the fall, and they will be prepared to appreciate it.” (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 26 Vols. [1855-86], 1:285)

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father...in heaven. . . .” (Orson F. Whitney, as cited in Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 98.)

The fall was not just high theatre, acted out as a fable to instruct primitive followers of God.  It is a living, breathing, real event from the history of God’s dealings with man.  Through the fall, Adam and Eve became subject to the misery and grief that accompanies the spiritual and physical death that form twin obstacles to our progress toward returning to live with God again someday.  However, they also gained the blessings of eternal progression and joy (and posterity), and the ability to overcome the obstacles of sin and death, through the atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.  The fall opened the way for each of us to experience mortal life in this world, with all of its joy and pleasure, but also with all of its misery and heartache.  We need to experience all of these aspects of mortality if we are going to learn and grow and progress into something greater than we are today.

The Fall of Adam and Eve is not an incomprehensible mystery.  With study and pondering, each of us can gain a greater understanding of the opening chapter of mortality.  In turn, this will grant us a greater understanding of (and appreciation for) our need for, and the power of, the atonement made by Jesus Christ to redeem each of us from the effects of the fall and of our own mortal frailties and moral failings.  Armed with this understanding we can gain a greater appreciation of our purpose in life, and increased resolve to face those trials and temptations which each of us must face in mortality.

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