The Fall of Adam and Eve is a seemingly simple yet potentially, incredibly complicated facet of theology. It is essential to Mormonism often termed as one of the ‘three pillars’ alongside the Creation and the Atonement. The Fall has troubled me for most of my life. I couldn’t wrap my head around why two conflicting commandments were given. The conventional view I heard in Church that celebrated Eve’s decision to partake of the fruit contrary to God’s command only served to deepen my confusion. (For a breakdown of the types of ideas that I heard and found commonplace amongst members of the Church see hereor the book Eve and the Choice Made in Eden by Beverly Campbell).
I’ll briefly review what I found to be the conventional view. Eve is held in high regard for being beguiled by Satan and seeing the bigger picture to which Adam was blind. Further, this interpretation states that Adam and Eve should be praised for their sacrifice and great choice to disobey the Father’s explicit command to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The idea being that the greater commandment was to multiply and replenish the earth, which was impossible without eating the fruit. At least three troubling implications arise from this interpretation.
First, that sometimes for the better good we should give-in to the temptations of Satan.
Second, that we cannot keep all of the commandments of God, and sometimes we need to break them, only able to fully fulfill God’s will by violating His revealed will (the commandments).
Third, that Satan was in fact enticing Adam and Eve to fulfill the larger purpose God had in store for them and therefore, was acting in line with God and deserves our respect and adoration for knowing that his job was to tempt Adam and Eve to disobey God to actually obey God. Satan is really just fulfilling his own purpose and should be exalted for doing what he does. The implication beyond this is even more troubling, if Satan was really furthering God’s plan all along, then we can and will be punished for doing the will of God (Genesis 3:14).
Occasionally this concern will be addressed using the following verse:
“And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world.” (Moses 4:6)
The claim is then made that Satan didn’t know God’s plan and unwittingly played into it, after which he was cursed above all the beasts of the field. This is a difficult position to maintain with troubling implications. I believe that a key part of the verse is the last clause- ‘wherefore he sought to destroy the world’. The structure is difficult to interpret precisely, but is open to the interpretation that Satan in beguiling Eve thought that the world would be destroyed and God’s plan frustrated. However, he didn’t take into account that God’s plan cannot be frustrated by any one individual and will always move forward, with something done to compensate for any mistakes that individuals make along the way. So, Eve eating the fruit at that time was contrary to the will of God, but would not lead to the destruction of the world that Satan wanted, because ‘he knew not the mind of God’.
If you accept the other interpretation, the implication is that sometimes the devil tempts us to do God’s will and we should in fact give in to temptation. In addition, not only is the devil an accomplice with God in accomplishing his work, but he played a key role in bringing to pass our mortality. Should we rejoice in Satan’s part in the Garden of Eden as well? It would appear not, as he was cursed ‘above all cattle, and above every beast of the field’ and if God curses us when we do His will, well, it seems useless to obey.
These are the troubling conclusions that led me to reconsider my view of the Fall and eventually find an alternative view.
My thoughts are continued in ‘The Fall: An Alternative View‘.