In this series, we’re finding out what the Book of Mormon teaches about Mormons and Jesus Christ. What does their book actually say they believe? Mormons (a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) use both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, as well as two other books of scripture.
The Book of Mormon has smaller books by varying ancient authors, as does the Bible. Modern editors divided the book into chapters to make it easier to reference and we’ve been spending time a bit more time in 2 Nephi chapter 2 than we will on most other chapters. It contains the dying teachings of a prophet named Lehi to his young son Jacob. This chapter is about salvation—how people are saved.
Verses 6-30 bring about an important aspect of the subject of salvation. It ties the creation, the fall of Adam, and the atonement of Jesus Christ together into a unified topic. Each portion is dependent on the other, which is why we can never read a scripture or a religious teaching out of context. To understand one aspect, you must understand many others as well.
The late Bruce R. McConkie, a former Mormon apostle, taught that these three events—the creation, the fall, and the atonement—were the three most important events in the history of the world. God created our spirits and we lived with Him as spirits before coming to earth. We were ourselves and began there to decide who we wanted to become. We had agency—the right to choose for ourselves who we wanted to be and how we wanted to live. We brought that agency into the mortal world with us and so God created the world in such a way as to make agency possible. This made the fall possible, because Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden and told not to eat of the fruit, but were told it was entirely their choice, even though God told them not to.
Mormons believe they understood the full consequences of either obedience or disobedience. If they stayed in the Garden and never ate the fruit, they would live as they were forever, but they would be unable to have children, which means none of the rest of us would have gotten here. It also meant they would not have had the full experience of a mortality that involves hard work, opposition, trials, and sadness. While this sounds wonderful in theory, it is actually very limiting. If we never have any sadness, we don’t actually know there is happiness. Lehi told his son that opposition in all things was essential.
Satan provided the opposition in the Garden. He encouraged Eve to take the fruit and eat it. Mormons believe that her decision to do so was a transgression but not a sin. In fact, unlike most faiths, they honor Eve as a woman who had immense courage and faith. She volunteered to give up an easy life for a much harder one in order to become a mother and to bring God’s full plan into play. Mormons think it was a woman who made one of the most important and valuable decisions in history. The fall, then, was a blessing and not a tragedy.
It was because of the Fall that a Savior became necessary. In order to return to God, we needed to live a sinless life. Obviously that wasn’t going to be possible. However, the plan of salvation made it possible for mercy to temper the laws of justice and so it allowed for a Savior. Only God’s son could fulfill that role. To do so He had to be willing to come to earth with a mortal mother so that He was partly divine and partly mortal. This allowed Him to be perfect and to die, but only if He chose to do so. He also had to do this voluntarily. He did all of this and it made it possible for us to live forever, overcoming the bands of death. It also made repentance possible. If we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior we can repent and be forgiven our sins. This allows us to live with God forever. However, it has to be a true conversion, one so powerful we are willing to give up our sins and live as Jesus taught us to live—and to do so out of love for Him, not just out of hope for reward. All the good works in the world can’t save a person who rejects Jesus Christ’s atonement because it is only through that atonement that salvation is possible.
The three steps of mortality come together to form a unified program Mormons call the Plan of Salvation.
Learn more about the creation:
About Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.