A companion piece to ‘The Troubling Implications’.
I propose an alternative view of the Fall, due to considerations of the surrounding circumstances and other doctrines, the role of Satan in causing the Fall, and latter-day parallels that shed light onto a plausible explanation for the conflicted situation.
First, a few terms should be defined that help clarify some of the issues. The Fall, as an essential pillar of salvation, refers to the partaking of the fruit, and the resulting spiritual and physical death, not necessarily to the transgression of the laws of God. A transgression is different from a sin and the partaking of the fruit is justly termed a transgression (Articles of Faith 1:2). A sin is an action that is inherently immoral and thus wrong, while a transgression is an action against some temporary command or law, such as speeding (“The Great Plan of Happiness” Oaks). Thus, the partaking of the fruit was not inherently wrong or immoral, but something about the circumstances designated it as a transgression, contrary to the will of God, which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, only possible by the eventual eating of the fruit (Moses 1:39, 2 Nephi 2).
Campbell provides some interesting support for this idea, although she uses it for other purposes, “She [Hebrew scholar, Dr. Nehama Aschkenasy] found that command as used in the Creation story was from a different verb form, whose usage connotes a strong, severe warning, perhaps a statement of law, that was possibly temporary in nature, so that at some future, unspecified time it might not apply.” (Campbell 43)
Second, a brief overview of an alternative way to approach the Fall. If Adam and Eve had not partaken of the fruit in opposition to God’s command, there would have been further instruction, ultimately resulting in a command to partake of the fruit. Therefore, Adam and Eve both transgressed the commandments of God, giving in to temptation to act contrary to God’s will, and leaving Satan as the great deceiver and counter to God’s ultimate goodness.
Third, scriptural and doctrinal support that leads to this conclusion. Scripture and doctrine work in harmony to create a fully-realized picture of how God interacts with man. Therefore, a view of the Fall that ignores the methods, words, and actions of God throughout scripture, will ultimately be flawed. In order to fully understand the Fall, and other essential doctrines, a consideration of how other doctrine and scripture relate to it is necessary.
1 Nephi 3:7 states: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
Nephi explains and testifies that there is always a way to accomplish what God has commanded us to do. In the case of Adam and Eve, there must have been a way prepared for them to be able to multiply and replenish the earth and not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If there were not a way for both to be kept, then 1 Nephi 3:7 would be false. The verse necessitates that a way be provided, in conventional interpretations of the Fall, this is not considered, maintaining the assumption that Adam and Eve had to break one of God’s commandments. This belief seems to go against the central belief that we can keep all of God’s commandments, it is possible.
Further, the text suggests that God intended to teach Adam and Eve more, perhaps to elaborate on the details of his plan, which was disrupted by Adam and Eve’s transgression. Moses 4:14 reads, “ And they [Adam and Eve] heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden…”. This is prior to God’s ‘discovery’ of their transgression, seeming to suggest that another purpose was behind His visit to the Garden. Whatever God intended to teach is not recorded, as He must deal with Adam and Eve’s transgression and the serpent’s temptation of Adam and Eve.
Here are some commonly raised objections to the alternate view:
- · God can’t force people to do something that hurts
- · How would physical and spiritual death enter the world
- · No agency then
In response to the first objection, I suggest looking more closely at the scriptures. Examples abound of God commanding people to do things that cause them harm, but in the end are good for them. A God that could not do so would be incredibly short-sighted and limited. More kind than loving. Recently, Elder D. Todd Christofferson has addressed this concern in a general fashion, using the story of the currant bush, told previously by Hugh B. Brown. The moral of the story is that God ‘prunes’ us, which hurts, but allows us to reach our fullest potential, to be what it is that we were meant to be. In this sense, if it really were in the best interests of God and the only way to ‘bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ was for Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit at the time they did, then God would have commanded it to be so.
The next objection raises a hypothetical problem, which there is not enough scriptural information to either support or refute. However, I propose that the eating of the fruit would result in physical death, regardless of whether it was in line with or against God’s command. Spiritual death may not have entered the world immediately, but with the loss of innocence, it would only be a matter of time before Adam and Eve made a mistake that would result in spiritual death.
The third objection seems to imply that obedience to the commandments robs us of our agency. This is clearly not doctrinal and therefore not an issue for God to command Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit. To further respond to a related concern, that opposition would only exist if God offered two opposing commandments, I would point to Lucifer in the pre-mortal existence, who chose to disobey the Father, without any contradicting commandments (at least as far as I know).
To avoid contradictions in theology and avoid unhealthy and incorrect implications that may subconsciously seep into our thought from the traditional view, opening our minds to an alternative is necessary. While the alternative I suggest is not the only option, it can serve to bring a return to a more complete and cohesive theological system, void of contradictions. It has helped me understand the events of the Fall and place them in a larger context, coloring my view of other events and how I conceptualize God’s working with humankind.
Note: James E. Talmage’s teaching that the commandment given to Adam and Eve to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the first incarnation of the Word of Wisdom, further supports the idea that it should not have been violated without strict counsel to do so. Otherwise, we would be free to interpret the modern Word of Wisdom as we see fit, partaking of alcohol and other substances to ‘enlighten’ us, because we know better than God and can fulfill his true plan by breaking the lesser commandments.