Central to our quest of Eternal Life is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Let us understand why he suffered for our sins and gave his life upon the cross. We will begin by going back to the beginning and discussing Adam and Eve.
God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden.
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:7-8)
Knowing Adam would become the father of the human race, the Lord gave him a companion.
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:18,21-24)
We need to understand that God did not literally form Eve from Adam’s rib; Moses, in writing Genesis, used that expression as a metaphor to indicate the closeness that should exist between husbands and wives; as the Lord said, they shall be one flesh. As we read further, we learn that Adam and Eve were created in a state of innocence.
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25)
God told Adam that he had freedom to eat the fruit of all the trees in the garden, but he was commanded to not eat the fruit from one particular tree, a tree known as the Tree of Knowledge. That is, Adam was given freedom of choice while in the garden.
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:15-17)
Later on, Lucifer entered the garden and talked with Eve. He reminded her that God had said she could eat of every tree. Eve responded that she and Adam were free to eat from all the trees, but if they chose to eat the fruit from one particular tree they would die.
And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (Genesis 3:2-3)
Lucifer then said they should not die but would be as gods because they would have knowledge.
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:4-5)
Eve ate from the fruit of that tree and then gave it to Adam who also partook. When Eve partook of the fruit, she was still in a state of innocence and had complete faith in everybody. When Satan told her she would not die from eating the fruit and that she would know good from evil, she believed him. She partook of the forbidden fruit in innocence. However, after eating, her eyes were opened and she began to understand what she had done and how her actions fit within the plan of God. She explained to Adam the necessity of his partaking of the fruit, and he partook with an understanding of what he was doing and a willingness to accept responsibility for his actions. We see that Eve was deceived by Satan but that Adam partook knowing what he was doing. Paul referred to this in his epistle to Timothy.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. (1 Timothy 2:14)
As soon as they ate of the fruit they realized they were naked and covered themselves.
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. (Genesis 3:7)
This awareness of their nakedness indicates that a change came over Adam and Eve because they partook of the fruit. Prior to eating the fruit, they were free of the physical lusts of our world. After eating the fruit, however, they were aware of the physical aspects of their bodies, and they covered themselves. The eating of the fruit caused them to change from a state of purity and innocence to a state of knowledge. After this had happened, God acknowledged that the change had occurred and that Adam and Eve had become as gods.
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. (Genesis 3:22-23, emphasis added)
People who oppose the LDS Church claim that Satan lied in telling Eve she and Adam would be as gods. They point out that in Genesis 3:5 it was Satan not God who told Eve that they would be as gods.
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5)
They say, that since Satan is the author of all lies, this concept that Adam and Eve would be as gods is a lie, and they refer to it as the big lie. It is important that we notice from Genesis 3:22 (quoted above) that God himself acknowledged that Adam and Eve had become as gods in knowing good and evil. In doing this, God acknowledged that he is the author of this concept and that Satan had told the truth to Eve about this. Satan does tell the truth at times when it is to his advantage!
Another important observation must be made. To prevent Adam and Eve from eating from another tree known as the Tree of Life and living forever in a sinful condition, God banished them from the garden. Prior to this they were free to eat from the Tree of Life, indicating that while in the garden they were already living forever in an immortal condition.
Effect of the Fall
After eating from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve were changed to a state of knowing good and evil and suffering death. This change is known as the Fall of Adam. In other words, the effect of the Fall of Adam was the changing of the earth from an immortal, celestial earth to the mortal earth on which we now live. The Book of Mormon prophets referred to this change as a “lost” and “fallen” condition.
Now Alma said unto him: This is the thing which I was about to explain, now we see that Adam did fall by the partaking of the forbidden fruit, according to the word of God; and thus we see, that by his fall, all mankind became a lost and fallen people. (Alma 12:22)
And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence. (Alma 42:14)
Because Adam had become mortal, he had “fallen” from a celestial condition and would eventually suffer physical death. Because he was cut off forever from God’s presence, he was “lost” and was suffering a spiritual death. Had Adam and Eve not partaken of the fruit, they would have remained in the garden as immortal, innocent children, and they would have been unable to multiply and replenish the earth as God had commanded.
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. (2 Nephi 2:22)
After leaving the Garden, Adam and Even were obedient to God’s commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.
And Adam knew his wife, and she bare unto him sons and daughters, and they began to multiply and to replenish the earth.
And from that time forth, the sons and daughters of Adam began to divide two and two in the land, and to till the land, and to tend flocks, and they also begat sons and daughters. (Moses 5:2-3)
Adam and Eve rejoiced that they had become mortal and could have children in obedience to God’s commandment.
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 to all the obedient. (Moses 5:10-11)
As we read the story of Adam and Eve, we realize that Adam’s sin was the sin of disobedience. God commanded him to not partake of the fruit, but he disobeyed and ate of it. It was not a sexual sin, as some Christians believe, because their ability to have sexual relations did not occur until after they had partaken of the forbidden fruit and had become mortal. In addition, as we will see in a later chapter, Adam and Eve were married while in the garden.
There is disagreement between Mormon doctrine and traditional or “orthodox” teachings of Christian churches concerning the effect of the Fall of Adam upon mankind. Latter-day Saints believe God gave Adam and Eve freedom of choice while in the garden and they used their agency to disobey God by eating of the Tree of Knowledge. We believe the change of Adam and Eve to mortality came as a result of that disobedience. We believe that agency continued after they left the garden and was passed from them to us. Because we are free to choose, we will be held accountable for our actions.
Many professors of traditional Christian doctrine say we are born as sinners and have inherent dispositions to sin. They say babies are sinful at birth due to their nature. Let us study some of the Biblical verses they cite to support their position.
Paul taught that all people have sinned, and the professors say this means everyone is sinful by nature.
Wherefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:20-23)
Let us determine what Paul is saying. In talking about the law, Paul is not talking about the Gospel law but is talking about the Law of Moses. In verse 20, he explains justification or salvation does not come by the deeds of the law, referring to the Mosaic ceremonies. Then in verse 21 he says the law and the prophets witnessed that the righteousness of God would be manifest, meaning the Law of Moses taught that Christ would come as the Messiah. In verse 22, he says Christ came to two groups, all referring to both Jew and Gentile and all them that believe referring to Christians. Paul says there was no difference between the two groups, because (verse 23) all of them had sinned and come short of the glory of God. In other words, Paul is saying Christ came as the promised Messiah to everyone because everyone has committed sin and needs a Savior. It seems clear that within the context of these verses, Paul is talking about people who are old enough to perform the Mosaic ceremonies and to have faith in God. He is talking about people old enough to have used their freedom of choice to commit sins. There is no indication that he is referring to babies, and his comments make no sense in the context of the newly born.
Paul also taught that through Adam, sin and death came into the world, and the professors of religion interpret this to mean that the world is inherently sinful.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Romans 5:12)
In that chapter of Romans, Paul is explaining that we are reconciled with God through the Savior’s atonement. In verse 12, he explains that because of Adam the world became mortal, a world in which all people commit sins and die. In subsequent verses he explains that the effect of Adam’s sin is removed by Jesus Christ. There is nothing in that chapter that states or even implies that man is sinful by nature. If through Adam we inherited a sinful nature, an inherent desire to do evil, then man is not really free because his sins are due to that evil nature rather than due to his choices. If this be true, then God is not just in punishing man for those sins. Rather, it seems clear that Paul means through Adam the conditions which allow sin entered into the world. The world became mortal and man has his agency. It is important that we study Paul’s writings in the context of the Gospel as a whole, and that context teaches we have freedom of choice, and all people choose to commit sins.
In Psalm 51, David expresses his sorrow in committing adultery and murder, and he expresses his desire for repentance.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:1-5)
David confessed his sin and was accountable for his action; he did this so the Lord would be justified and clear in judging him of his sin. Then he said he was shapen or born in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me. As with Paul, it is important we understand David’s confession within the context of the scriptures as a whole. The scriptures teach children are born clean and free from sin, that they are of the kingdom of God. Thus, it seems clear David meant he was conceived and born into a sinful world, that is, in the midst of sin, rather than being born a sinful person.
In Psalm 58:3 David spoke of the wicked becoming estranged from God.
The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
To understand what David meant by go astray as soon as they be born, let us look at Isaiah 48:1-8. The Lord knew the Israelites would rebel and would worship false idols. He gave prophecies before certain events occurred so the Israelites would not think their idols had caused the events. In explaining the wickedness of the Israelites, Isaiah used a figure of speech.
For I knew that thou [Israel] wouldest deal very treacherously [they would sin], and wast called a transgressor from the womb. (Isaiah 48:8)
God called them transgressors from the womb, not because they had sinned as little children but because they had a history or “track record” of sinning. Likewise, David spoke of the wicked going astray as soon as they be born, not because they sinned as little children but because they as a nation had a history of rejecting God and sinning. The key to understanding the Biblical scriptures about sin is to read them in the context of the full Gospel.