One of the differences I’ve noted between the Mormons and other Christian denominations is their view of Eve. From what I understand, many churches view Eve’s choice to partake of the fruit in the Garden of Eden as inherently wicked and that thereby she introduced sin into the world and hence all mankind are born into a state of “original sin.” This is not the view held by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, all people live in a fallen condition, separated from God and subject to physical death. However, we are not condemned by what many call the “original sin.”
The second Article of Faith states:
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression
We believe that each baby comes to earth in a state of innocence—free of the stain of sin. We believe that the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ paid the price for Adam and Eve’s transgression and thus, we are not responsible for a choice that was never ours to make. The sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children (Moses 6:54).
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given a commandment not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The reason God gives for this commandment is because in the day they eat of it, they will surely die (Gen 2:17). But additional LDS scriptures shed greater light on this. Moses 3:17 reads:
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.
So we understand that it was a commandment and yet it was also given as a choice with a clear consequence—death. That’s really important because they were living in the Garden of Eden in a state of immortality and innocence. Death hadn’t yet been introduced to the Garden and they didn’t have a knowledge of good and evil yet. So you have Adam and Eve in the garden with no concept of death, no concept of good and evil when Eve is deceived by Satan. If you don’t understand good and evil, how do you understand a lie? With no concept of evil, how do you comprehend Satan?
There are some who view the dialogue between Adam, Eve and God as further evidence of her wickedness. They may say that Adam puts the blame on Eve and Eve places the blame on the serpent (see Genesis 3: 8-13)—all in an attempt to get out of trouble. Nevertheless, Eve’s statement, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat” is simple in its truthfulness. She was deceived and she did eat. And Adam’s statement, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” shows the dilemma he was placed in. He had to choose between keeping the commandment to not partake of the fruit or to keep the covenant he had made to stay with her because she was now his wife—flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.
Eve later says, “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 to all the obedient.” (Moses 5:11) This is another important clue to understanding their state in the garden. For whatever reason, they were unable to procreate until after partaking of the fruit. And here is another difficult choice. Adam and Eve were already commanded to “be fuitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). If they chose not to partake of the fruit, they couldn’t have children. If they chose to have children, then they had to partake.
In 2 Nephi, Nephi says:
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 nojoy, 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 are, that they might have joy.
James E. Faust describes it this way:
We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Eve. In the Garden of Eden, she and Adam were instructed not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, they were also reminded, “Thou mayest choose for thyself.” The choice was really between a continuation of their comfortable existence in Eden, where they would never progress, or a momentous exit into mortality with its opposites: pain, trials, and physical death in contrast to joy, growth, and the potential for eternal life. In contemplating this choice, we are told, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, … and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.” And thus began their earthly probation and parenthood….If it hadn’t been for Eve, none of us would be here. (James E. Faust, “What It Means to Be a Daughter of God,” Ensign, Nov 1999, 100)
Some see the “curse” of Eve as further proof of a displeased God releasing his wrath on all women who now need to suffer during childbirth because of Eve’s choice. The Lord says, “Unto the awoman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;” (Genesis 3:16). He never claims that it is a curse. Adam and Eve are now cast out of the garden and into a world where there is opposition in all things (see 2 Nephi 2:11, 15). When I think of God increasing Eve’s sorrow (in Hebrew meaning “travail” or “pain”), I remember what Nephi says about needing to know misery in order to understand joy. And I see the work of childbirth as a blessing, not a curse. Because it is through such a great sacrifice that we understand the joy and value of children.