So for 2022 my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is studying the Old Testament. So we just studied the Creation and the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis, as well as in the Pearl of Great Price.
The Fall used to be one of those things that totally confused me as a teen. Why did God give Adam and Eve two different competing commandments? That didn’t seem fair, according to my pubescent brain that still only thought in black and white. Why did Adam and Eve have to disobey a commandment in order for the plan of salvation to move forward? Isn’t that saying it’s OK to disobey as long as you get the end result you want?
The answers have slowly come as I’ve grown up. Some of the parts of the answer comes from the Book of Mormon, for 2 Nephi 2:22-26 says:
22 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.
23 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.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
Part of the answer came from this talk given by Beverly Campbell, linked over here. She later developed this talk into a whole book. If you haven’t read it, please go read the talk as a Cliffs Notes summary of the book.
I love that she points out that Eve’s choice to eat of the fruit was a courageous choice. Eve gave up her comfort of living in a paradise, in order to ultimately be more free, to be liberated of her static, perfect, yet boring state, so that she, and all of us, could receive all that Heavenly Father has in store for us, to become like Him. We have to have a body, knowledge of good and evil, and family, to become like God. We couldn’t have all of that unless they partook of the fruit.
I wrote the following in my book, Tree of Life Mothering Vol. 1:
“…much of the domination of women and the resulting need for the feminist movement came from the historical misunderstanding of Eve’s choice to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Many, many people have ‘blamed’ her for the condition of the world, the perceived mess involved in this imperfect mortal world, and transferred this blame to all women. On the contrary, she is not to be blamed, for without her, we would not even be born. She is to be praised. She was the first stateswoman, and, remarkably, a tree is involved in her dramatic act.”
I have a friend who recently said, “I used to think the feminists were a bunch of angry women. Then I got married and had children. Now I understand what they were talking about!”
I know, right?!
There’s nothing like being a mom to finally understand the universal plight of women and to see why some women felt a need for “women’s liberation.” I had read in a college textbook B.C. (before children) that women all over the world and throughout time have done most of the world’s menial work, without pay or recognition. This wasn’t even a “Women’s Studies” textbook. I think it was a textbook about the environment. Anyway, it wasn’t until after I had children that I resonated with that statement. Suddenly I was thrust into a world where no adults recognized what I did, at all hours of the day and night, except for once a year in May, which is hardly commensurate for all my work. All of you moms reading this know what I’m talking about.
Anyhoo, here is more from my book (click on the tab “The Book” above, then Chapter 3 if you want the endnotes, i.e., the sources referenced to by the superscript numbers):
The original tree of life is the Tree of Life that grew in the Garden of Eden. We read in Genesis 2:9, “And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
The Bible also tells us in Genesis 2:17 that God told Adam and Eve, “Of all the trees in the Garden of Eden, thou mayest freely eat, but of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” So they were told they could freely eat of all the trees, except for the Tree of Knowledge. If they ate fruit from that tree, they would surely die.
Adam and Eve had also been commanded to be fruitful and multiply (in Genesis 1:28), in other words, to have children. There was a glitch, though. They could not have children in this paradisiacal state. The Bible does not tell us why. It is not because sex is unclean and therefore could not happen in the Garden of Eden. Sex is part of God’s plan for the purpose of uniting husband and wife and creating offspring, and therefore is clean and wholesome when performed in the bonds of marriage. It is not because Adam and Eve were not married, for Joseph Smith told us that Adam and Eve were married in the Garden of Eden. In 1835 his exact words were “marriage was an institution of heaven, instituted in the Garden of Eden.”9 Joseph Fielding Smith corroborated this statement. He said, “The transgression of Adam did not involve sex sin as some falsely believe and teach. Adam and Eve were married by the Lord while they were yet immortal beings in the Garden of Eden and before death entered the world.”10
So the Bible does not tell us exactly why Adam and Eve could not have children in the Garden of Eden. We know they were married and therefore could have children and be morally clean. The Book of Mormon contains this statement by Father Lehi about Adam and Eve (see the scriptures above, 2 Nephi 2:22-23).
So, for some reason, procreation could not happen in this static, immortal condition of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve therefore faced two choices:
1. Not eat the fruit, and therefore remain forever in the garden, and not have children, or
2. To eat the fruit, and therefore die (be evicted from the garden/God’s presence, which is spiritual death, and also be subject to physical death). But, there was some good news. The good news was that they could then have children, and ultimately have the opportunity to become as God is because they would have knowledge of good and evil.12
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “The Lord said to Adam that if he wished to remain as he was in the garden, then he was not to eat the fruit, but if he desired to eat it and partake of death he was at liberty to do so.”13 This concept is not widely understood. It adds a key element to the story of the Garden of Eden, to the comprehension of why the Fall was a good thing and actually a necessary thing. Another way of looking at it is to say that God told Adam and Eve that if they wanted to stay in the garden, they were not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.
The flip side of this statement by President Smith is that if they wanted to leave the garden, then eating of the fruit was necessary. I believe that Eve wanted to further the plan of salvation for Heavenly Father’s children. As Joseph Fielding Smith also explained, “This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin in the strict sense, for it was some thing that Adam and Eve had to do!”14
This understanding is supported by two insights from Beverly Campbell in the book Eve and the Choice Made in Eden. Campbell spoke to a scholar of the Hebrew language, Dr. Nehama Aschkenasy. Her conversations revealed that the full meanings of two words in the Bible, command, and beguile, have been lost in the translation process of the Old Testament from its original Hebrew language. By understanding the full meaning of these two words, we gain enormous light to better understand the partaking of the fruit as a noble step taken by Eve and Adam, not a sin.
Aschkenasy explained to Campbell that the translation of the word 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.”15 To help us understand this idea, Campbell gives the example of parents telling a child not to touch a hot stove or cross a street alone. When parents tell their children not to do these things, are they telling the child never, ever to do these things for the child’s whole life? No, of course not. The prohibition holds until the child is ready with full understanding and maturity to deal with hot stoves or watching for traffic.
The same holds true for the commandment to Adam and Eve about not eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There would be a time when, with greater light of the consequences of their actions, the choice to partake of the fruit would be a good thing. Not just a casual “good thing,” as Martha Stewart says, but really, the best, most important thing that they could do, for it furthered the plan of salvation for the all of the spirit sons and daughters of our Heavenly Parents by allowing these spirits to gain mortal bodies and be tested. The ramifications were so great, however, that this choice had to be a choice deliberately made by Adam and Eve. This is why in Moses we read that Heavenly Father told Adam and Eve, “nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself.”16
Aschkenasy also examined the original meaning in Hebrew of the word that has been translated to beguile in the English King James Bible. It does not mean “to deceive,” but instead “it indicates an intense multilevel experience which evokes great emotional, psychological and/or spiritual trauma.”17
Satan’s offer to Eve to eat of the fruit did not result in him tricking her, and in him thwarting Heavenly Father’s Plan. Rather, Satan acted as an unwitting catalyst in furthering the Plan. He offered the fruit to her, hoping she would partake because he wanted her to die or be separated from God. Of course, this was not according to the lie he told her. He told her, “Ye shall not die, but shall be as the gods, knowing good from evil.” Here is the half-truth. She could become as the gods, by knowing good from evil, but he did not mention all the pain, suffering, and time it would take, not to mention the fact that she would die and be separated from God for a time. Nevertheless, she knew it was the best choice.
I believe that she partook because she had studied the situation and was fully aware of the consequences. I am guessing that she must have done this by communication with God. Perhaps you can think of some deal offered to you that you accepted, not because of what some other guy was telling you, which might not be true, but because you knew for yourself after much study and prayer what you were going to get out of it. For example, you didn’t buy the used car because of the shifty salesman’s hype, but because you read Consumer Reports and recognized the good deal.
This is akin to Eve’s story. She wanted to courageously further the plan of salvation by ushering in mortality, so that all of God’s spirit children could have joy, so they could be “free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon. . .”18 Most stunningly, Eve was the very first human rights activist and advocate for women’s liberation, as well as men’s! Her name should be praised forever more. She was the first stateswoman, as she took the first step to improve the state or condition of all mankind, with eternal consequences.
As explained earlier, this bringing forth of children could not have happened in the Garden of Eden. President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “He (Adam) partook of that fruit for one good reason, and that was to open the door to bring you and me and everyone else into this world, for Adam and Eve could have remained in the Garden of Eden; they could have been there to this day, if Eve hadn’t done something.”19
Eve demonstrated public virtue, a willingness to do what was best for everyone involved, not just herself, by sacrificing her own personal comfort if she selfishly stayed complacently in paradise. She gave up her own contentment for the joy of all the human race. As Robert L. Millet said, “Because the Fall (like the Creation and the Atonement) is one of the three pillars of eternity, and because mortality, death, human experience, sin, and thus the need for redemption grow out of the Fall, we look upon what Adam and Eve did with great appreciation rather than with disdain.”20
Millet quotes two other authors as saying, “The fall had a twofold direction—downward, yet forward. It brought man into the world and set his feet upon progression’s highway.”21 As Enoch declared, “Because that Adam fell, we are.”22 No wonder Eve is glorious and exalted. She has a rightful place in the Celestial Kingdom. According to Doctrine and Covenants 137:5, Adam has attained the glory of the Celestial Kingdom. Eve would have to be there also, since one can only go there sealed in marriage to a husband or wife.23
After Adam and Eve partook of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, their bodies became mortal, subject to death and sin, and they were separated from God. This is the Fall of Adam. At this point, it would not have been a good thing to follow the invitation to eat of the Tree of Life, because then they would have lived forever in their fallen state, separated from God eternally. Therefore, God placed cherubim and a flaming sword before the Tree of Life to keep them from eating of the fruit.24
Adam and Eve were sent from the garden into a world full of weeds and were told to work for fruit, both the fruit of the earth, and the fruit of the womb. In latter-day scripture we learn that they were taught that a savior would come, Jesus Christ, to redeem them and allow them to return to Heavenly Father’s presence. “And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.”25 Thus Adam and Eve found a new, symbolic Tree of Life from which they could partake. This is the personal, metaphoric Tree of Life which each of us, sometimes unknowingly, is searching for; the only source of eternal life and joy.