Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of unhappy posts by people of other faiths concerning Adam and Eve and even God’s role in the whole story. As I read the posts, I wish everyone could see the bigger picture of the story of the Fall of Adam. If they could, they’d see it as a blessing, not a curse.
I love the Mormon take on Adam and Eve and the events that caused them to leave the Garden of Eden. Mormon is a nickname sometimes used for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons consider Eve a hero, believing she was an intelligent and unselfish woman who chose to make life harder for herself in order to bring about God’s plan.
Mormons believe that Adam and Eve were real people and the first of all God’s children to come to Earth. In order to understand the Mormon view of this critical part of history, you’ll need a little background information.
For Mormons, Earth life is not the beginning of our lives. We believe that we lived with God as spirits for a time before coming to Earth. During that time, we learned the gospel, developed a relationship with God, and were taught the purpose of mortality. We learned that mortality would be a time of learning and testing—a final exam, so to speak. We’d have to find and commit to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’d have trials and have to learn how to manage them. We’d have temptations and would need to learn how to overcome them. We wouldn’t remember our time in Heaven, since that would eliminate the need for faith and the ability to use prayer as a way to discover eternal truths. However, we’d have the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Ghost to help us if we allowed them to do so.
With that in mind, the story of the Fall makes more sense. It’s only confusing because the world has tuned out the scriptures referenced in the above link that tell us we lived premortal lives.
It’s clear that if we lived in Heaven, we had to be able to come to Earth. You’ll note that Adam and Eve did not have children when they lived in the Garden of Eden. They needed fully mortal bodies for the creation of children. This means that if they had not partaken of the fruit, they would never have had children. They had the right to stay in the Garden as long as they wanted to stay there—but until they left, we could not have our turn on Earth.
Since we shouted for joy at the thought of coming to Earth, (Job 38:4-7), you can imagine we were watching anxiously for the moment they felt ready to leave the safety of a childhood-like existence and move on to the full mortal experience. I suspect we shouted for joy again when this happened.
Why Did God Give Conflicting Instructions?
You may have realized that if Adam and Eve were instructed to go forth and multiply, but couldn’t do so until they disobeyed a commission to avoid the tree. It would be impossible for them to keep all the commandments given so far. Why did God set it up that way?
Agency is a critical part of our life on Earth. We are here to learn how to make wise decisions. Sometimes the decisions are obvious, but sometimes they are not. Sometimes commandments conflict. For instance, the Ten Commandments say we are to honor our mothers and fathers, and they also say to keep the Sabbath Day holy. When I first became a Mormon as a teenager, this was a problem for me. My parents often wanted me to do things Mormons don’t do on the Sabbath. I couldn’t keep both commandments and so I had to choose which one was the most important for my specific circumstances. (For others, a different decision might have been the better choice.) The Ten Commandments also say we are not to kill, but many times in the Bible, we discover that killing is commanded. Sometimes God wants us to think the choices through intelligently and pray for help in deciding what the best choice is.
This is the situation Adam and Eve found themselves in. They had agency, and God wanted them to make the decision for themselves and their future family as to what was best. In the Book of Mormon, which Mormons use with the Bible, a prophet named Lehi explains:
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. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men care, that they might have joy (2 Nephi 2:22-25).
Adam and Eve understood exactly what they were doing when they made their choice. In another book of Mormon scripture, the Pearl of Great Price, they said:
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 (Moses 5:10-11).
God knew Adam and Eve were intelligent and unselfish enough to eventually give up their perfect life in order to introduce the full measure of mortality. He planned for it even before the world was created, by providing Jesus Christ as the Savior who would atone for our sins. Because it was essential for the fall to happen—but also essential for them to allow it to happen by their own choice—Mormons consider Eve’s choice a transgression, not a sin. Joseph Smith, along with two other men, had a vision which showed Adam and Eve holding places of honor in God’s kingdom in Heaven. This demonstrates that Eve did not do something awful—instead, she did something very brave.
If Eve Had Not Partaken of the Fruit
If Eve had not partaken of the fruit, we would not be here at all. No one would have the opportunity to experience mortality and God’s plan would have been destroyed. Imagine how carefully God chose those first parents. They had to be righteous so they could start the family with wise parents who would teach the gospel. They had to be unselfish enough to make sacrifices for the benefit of their future children—a trait that has been passed on to all good parents. They had to be intelligent enough to understand the consequences of their choices.
If our lives had somehow been able to be carried out in the perfect world of the Garden, mortality would have no real purpose. Why not just remain in Heaven if you want everything perfect all the time?
We are here to learn and to grow. In order for growth to occur, we have to face trials. The Garden provided no real opportunity to make choices, since there were no contrasts. Adam and Eve never really understood joy while in the Garden because they had never been sad, lonely, or afraid. Only when they had experienced negative emotions and trials could they really appreciate the times they were happy. They didn’t need faith because God was in the Garden with them. They didn’t need to make decisions, to grow, or to become all God wanted them to be.
Mortality isn’t always easy, but it’s meaningful and wonderful. Most people enjoy being alive, even with all the trials of life. Most take satisfaction in their personal growth. Without the courage and unselfishness of our first parents, none of the joys of life—including parenthood—would be possible.
Mormons are grateful to Adam and Eve and honor them as heroes. Anyone who loves life should do the same. After all, it was all part of God’s plan for us.
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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.