Moses 4; 5:1-15; 6:48-62
President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ. No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind” (Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 106-107; or Ensign, May 1987, 85).
Joseph Smith taught, “Adam was made to open the way of the world” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Press, 1938], p. 12). After creating the earth and Adam and Eve, God created a garden for Adam and Eve to live in. Two trees were placed in the midst of the garden : the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. To Adam and Eve, God said: “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, 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” (Moses 3:16-17). Though it was forbidden by God (Moses 3:16-17), it was necessary for Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. By eating the fruit, the Fall was brought about. And the Fall initiated mortality.
The reason the fruit was forbidden was a matter of individual responsibility. If God would have commanded Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit, then God would have been responsible for their fall and therefore would not have been in a position to save His posterity. The Fall must come by man’s agency rather than God imposing fallen conditions upon his children. When Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit by their own volition, God was free to implement a plan that would help them overcome the consequences of the Fall.
The account of the fall is recorded in Moses 4 of The Pearl of Great Price. The record first reveals the fall of Satan in the premortal world. In the grand council, (apparently after all were taught about the fallen condition that would prevail in the mortal world) the Savior offered his life to save mankind from the effects of the fall that would come upon mankind in the mortal world.
But Satan rebelled against the plan. He came before God saying: “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” Because Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him,” he was cast down to the earth where “he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken” to the voice of God.
Having been cast to the earth, Satan sought to cause the fall of Adam and Eve. The account of the fall is instructive for the fall of Adam and Eve is similar to the fall of every man and woman. According to the Mosaic account, Satan used a serpent to beguile Adam and Eve. The serpent was one of the creatures created by God and placed in the garden. However, Moses tells us that the serpent was turned away from God by Satan and used to thwart the purposes of God. Through the mouth of the serpent he attempted to beguile Eve saying: “Yea, hath God said–Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” This was a half truth. Satan was using the words spoken by God to Adam and Eve when he said, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat” (see, Moses 3:16). But Eve did not buy into the deceit reminding Satan that God qualified his command saying, “But of the fruit of the tree which thou beholdest in the midst of the garden, God hath said–Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”
Through the serpent, Satan responded with guile: “Ye shall not surely die [i.e., there would be no consequences]; 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.” The craftiness of Satan beguiled Eve. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, 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.”
Eve’s motive for eating the fruit was to become like God. We cannot fault our “glorious Mother Eve” (D&C 138:39) for this. Indeed, for this we praise her for had she not eaten of the fruit mortality would not have been initiated and man’s quest to become like God would have been thwarted. Yet, there were consequences to their actions.
Consequences of the Fall
Though the Fall was a necessary part of God’s plan, from a human perspective the Fall brought both positive and negative results. The positive results of eating the fruit were twofold. First, Adam and Eve could have children (Moses 6:48). As a result, God’s children could continue their progression by coming from premortality to mortality. Second, because of the mortal experience, Adam, Eve, and their posterity could “be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Moses 4:11-12, 28). After the Fall, Eve recognized with joy the importance of their decision to eat the fruit in these words: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil” (Moses 5:11).
Acquiring a knowledge of good and evil is vital for God’s children. Without it they could not become as He is. Elder James E. Talmage wrote: “A knowledge of good and evil is essential to the advancement that God has made possible for His children to achieve; and this knowledge can be best gained by actual experience, with the contrasts of good and its opposite plainly discernible” ( A Study of the Articles of Faith. 12th ed., rev. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978], p. 54; emphasis added). Mortality is necessary to the acquisition of the knowledge of good and evil. Elder Talmage said: “A knowledge of good and evil is essential to progress, and the school of experience in mortality has been provided for the acquirement of such knowledge” ( The Vitality of Mormonism [Boston: The Gorham Press, 1919], p. 46). Likewise, President George Q. Cannon declared: “It is for this purpose that we are here. God has given unto us this probation for the express purpose of obtaining a knowledge of good and evil–of understanding evil and being able to overcome the evil–and by overcoming it receive the exaltation and glory that He has in store for us” (Journal of Discourses.
[Edited by George D. Watt, et al. 26 vols. Liverpool: F. D.
Richards, et al., 1854-1886], 26:190-191). In light of this, at the beginning of World War I, the First Presidency gave the following instruction to the Church:
God, doubtless, could avert war, prevent crime, destroy poverty, chase away darkness, overcome error, and make all things bright, beautiful and joyful. But this would involve the destruction of a vital and fundamental attribute in man — the right of agency. It is for the benefit of His sons and daughters that they become acquainted with evil as well as good, with darkness as well as light, with error as well as truth, and with the results of the infraction of eternal laws. Therefore he has permitted the evils which have been brought about by the acts of His creatures, but will control their ultimate results for His own glory and the progress and exaltation of His sons and daughters, when they have learned obedience by the things they suffer. The contrasts experienced in this world of mingled sorrow and joy are educational in their nature, and will be the means of raising humanity to a full appreciation of all that is right and true and good. (Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [1833-1951]. 6 vols., ed. James R. Clark [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1975], 4:325-326.)
The knowledge of good and evil is a knowledge of opposites. Brigham Young taught the importance of experiencing opposites:
“The reason of our being made subject to sin and misery, pain, woe, and death, is, that we may become acquainted with the opposites of happiness and pleasure. The absence of light brings darkness, and darkness an appreciation of light; pain an appreciation of ease and comfort; and ignorance, falsehood, folly, and sin, in comparison with wisdom, knowledge, righteousness, and truth, make the latter the more desirable to mankind. Facts are made apparent to the human mind by their opposites. We find ourselves surrounded in this mortality by an almost endless combination of opposites, through which we must pass to gain experience and information to fit us for an eternal progression” (Journal of Discourses, 11:42).
Likewise, Elder Orson Pratt said:
“Suppose you had never tasted anything that was sweet–never had the sensation of sweetness–could you have any correct idea of the term sweetness? No. On the other hand, how could you understand bitter if you never had tasted bitterness? Could you define the term to them who had experienced this sensation, or knew it? No. . . The tree of knowledge of good and evil was placed there that man might gain certain information he never could have gained otherwise; by partaking of the forbidden fruit he experienced misery, then he knew that he was once happy, previously he could not comprehend what happiness meant, what good was; but now he knows it by contrast, now he is filled with sorrow and wretchedness, now he sees the difference between his former and present condition, and if by any means he could be restored to his first position, he would be prepared to realize it, like the man that never had seen the light”(Journal of Discourses, 1:285-286).
The negative side of all this is that the acquirement of knowledge of good and evil brings dire consequences both in mortality and in eternity. Enoch taught: “Because of that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death; and we are made partakers of misery and woe. Behold Satan hath come among the children of men, and tempeth them to worship him; and men have become carnal, sensual, and devilish, and are shut out from the presence of God” (Moses 6: 49). The Book of Mormon confirmed this saying that the Fall of Adam brought upon Adam, Eve, and “all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Alma 42:7,9; see also 2 Nephi 2:21; 9:6; Mosiah 16:3; Alma 12:22; 22:12; Helaman 14:16; Mormon 9:12). Together these two deaths comprise what the Book of Mormon calls the “first death” (2 Nephi 9:15; Alma 11:45; Helaman 14:16). Mormon also called it “the curse of Adam” (Moroni 8:8).
With the fall the physical nature of Adam and Eve changed. In the garden, Adam and Eve were in a deathless state. Because of the fall, their bodies became mortal, subject to all of the ills and imperfections of mortality. This mortal condition continued with their children. Because of this, little children are born into a fallen condition. Elder Orson Pratt explained further: “Spirits, though pure and innocent, before they entered the body, would become contaminated by entering a fallen tabernacle; not contaminated by their own sins, but by their connection with a body brought into the world by the fall, earthly, fallen, imperfect, and corrupt in its nature. A spirit, having entered such a tabernacle, though it may commit no personal sin, is unfit to return again into the presence of a holy Being. . .”(“The Pre-existence of Man,” The Seer, Vol. 1, No. 7, [July, 1853]. Republished by Eugene Wagner, Salt Lake City, p. 98) This teaching is not to be confused with the theory of original sin espoused by many Christian theologians wherein the total depravity of man is inborn.(For an explanation of original sin, see Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 550; and Byron R. Merrill, “Original Sin,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 3:1052-1053.)
The spiritual death of Adam and Eve was dramatically symbolized by Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. After leaving the garden, “cherubim and a flaming sword” were placed at the entrance of the garden (Moses 4:31) to physically stop Adam and Eve (and their posterity) from coming into the presence of God and partaking of the tree of life (Moses 5:4) and, as made clear in the Book of Mormon, thus living forever with the consequences of the knowledge of good and evil (Alma 12:26-27; 42:3-5). The cherubim represent the justice of God that will not allow unworthy beings to come into his presence (the same symbol or metaphor as the river of filthy water in Lehi’s dream of the tree of life – 1 Nephi 8:13-26; 12:18). They are what Brigham Young taught, “the angels who stand as sentinels” guarding the way “to the presence of the Father”(Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 2:31; also Discourses of Brigham Young, Compiled by John A. Widtsoe,. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978] p. 416; Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997], p. 302).
The Need for the Atonement
The scriptural account records that after Adam and Eve were driven from the garden, they “began to till the earth, and to have dominion over all the beasts of the field, and to eat [their] bread by the sweat of [their] brow.” Further, “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 5:1-3).
Though much time and energy were spent in eking out a life for themselves and their children in that virgin world, Adam and Eve had not forgotten God.
They must have felt the pangs of their fallen condition. Being expelled from the presence of God must have at times been overwhelming.
They must have wondered what they could do to return back into God’s presence. We are told that “Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence” (Moses 5:4). Though we are not specifically told what they prayed for, the account tell us that the Lord told them to “worship the Lord their God” and to “offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord.” Adam responded obediently by offering sacrifices to God (Moses 5:5).
Through the offering “of the firstlings of their flocks,” Adam was introduced to the atonement of Jesus Christ. The account reads: “And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth” (Moses 5:6-7). Adam and Eve were taught that acceptance back into the presence of God would be possible only through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The things taught Adam were accompanied by the witness of the Holy Ghost: “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” (Moses 5:9).
Difference Between Adam’s Fall and Individual Sins
Adam was taught that the atonement would be made effective for each person through the exercise of faith, repentance, and reception of the Holy Ghost (Moses 5:8; 6:51-52). Adam was confused. The only way to initiate mortality was by eating the forbidden fruit. Why must there be an atonement made for something that he was supposed to do? So he asked, “Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water? (Moses 6:53)
Atonement for Adam’s Fall
In response the Lord first said: “Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden” (Moses 6:51-53). Adam and Eve had acted appropriately in the garden by eating the fruit thus opening the way for God’s children to come to mortality. However, eating the fruit brought upon Adam, Eve, and all mankind, mortal and eternal consequences. An atonement must be made in order to free man from these consequences. Orson Pratt taught of the role of the Christ’s atonement in freeing man from the consequences of Adam’s fall:
“We believe that through the sufferings, death, and atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind, without one exception, are to be completely and fully redeemed, both body and spirit, from the endless banishment and curse to which they were consigned by Adam’s transgression; and that this universal salvation and redemption of the whole human family from the endless penalty of the original sin, is effected without any conditions whatever on their part; that is, they are not required to believe or repent, or be baptized, or do anything else, in order to be redeemed from that penalty; for whether they believe or disbelieve, whether they repent or remain impenitent, whether they are baptized or unbaptized, whether they keep the commandments or break them, whether they are righteous or unrighteous, it will make no difference in relation to their redemption, both soul and body, from the penalty of Adam’s transgression.” (Remarkable Visions (No pub. nor date), 12.)
Because of Christ’s atonement for Adam’s transgression, the Lord forgave them unconditionally for their transgression in the garden: Adam and Eve did not need to repent of their eating of the forbidden fruit. “Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt [Adam’s transgression in the garden]” (Moses 6:54).
Atonement for Individual Sins
The Lord then explained why men have need of repentance and baptism: “Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good” (Moses 6:55). The meaning of this statement is clear when the following is understood: Though Adam’s transgression in the garden was unconditionally forgiven, the consequences of his transgression would have lasting effects upon all mankind. With the Fall, the physical nature of Adam and Eve changed. They became mortal or natural, subject to all the ills of mortality including the capacity to sin. This mortal condition would be passed on to their posterity. Of this, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “The natural birth creates a natural man, and the natural man is an enemy to God. In his fallen state he is carnal, sensual, and devilish by nature. Appetites and passions govern his life and he is alive — acutely so — to all that is evil and wicked in the world”(A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985], p. 282). Further, the world into which Adam’s posterity would be born is a sinful world where men have become “carnal sensual and devilish” (Moses 5:13). Therefore, the enticement of sin will be continually before Adam’s posterity. Being born in a natural body and into a sinful world, Adam’s posterity would thus be “conceived in sin.” In such a condition, when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.”
When this happens, each person suffers a personal fall, doomed to endure the eternal consequences of their own actions. Though man is not responsible for Adam’s fall, they are accountable for their own actions while in mortality. (This is the meaning of the second Article of Faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” – see Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:49.) Orson Pratt taught that the “universal redemption from the effects of original sin, has nothing to do with redemption from our personal sins; for the original sin of Adam, and the personal sins of his children, are two different things” (Journal of Discourses, 1:329). The atonement for the fall of Adam will not save each man from his personal sins. An individual atonement is required. Thus a modern revelation states that the mission of Christ was to redeem “mankind from the fall, and from individual sins” (D&C 138:19).
Adam and the Ordinances of the Priesthood
Adam learned that the atonement for personal sin is conditional! He was taught that Christ’s atonement for personal sin would become effective only after an individual exercises faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and enters into the priesthood ordinances outlined by the Lord (see Moses 6:58-68).
Desiring to overcome his personal spiritual fall, Adam entered into the ordinances prescribed by the Lord. The scriptural account gives this description of the ordinances: “He was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.
” After being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, he entered into “the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity” (Moses 6:64-67).
What was the “order” that Adam entered into? President Ezra Taft Benson explained:
“When our Heavenly Father placed Adam and Eve on this earth, He did so with the purpose in mind of teaching them how to regain His presence. Our Father promised a Savior to redeem them from their fallen condition. He gave them the plan of salvation and told them to teach their children faith in Jesus Christ and repentance. Further, Adam and his posterity were commanded by God to be baptized, to receive the Holy Ghost, and to enter into the order of the Son of God. (See Moses 6.) To enter into the order of the Son of God is the equivalent today of entering into the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is only received in the house of the Lord.” (“What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children About the Temple,” Ensign, Aug. 1985, p. 8)
Becoming Sons of God
Because Adam had received these ordinances, the Lord said: “thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.” He then said: “Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons.” (Moses 6:67-68). This statement teaches that having passed through the ordinances of the priesthood, Adam was called a son of God! Further, all could become sons of God in the same way.
But are we not taught that we are already sons and daughters of God? Why would we have to go through priesthood ordinances to become what we already are? The answer: when one is called “a son of God,” it means he or she is entitled to inherit all the Father has. But because of the Fall of Adam, each person born into the world has inherited a fallen, mortal condition. As such, they have lost their inheritance as a child of God and are subject instead to inherit the misery of their fallen condition. In order to escape this fate and receive the fulness of the Kingdom of God, each person must be re-inherited by becoming a “son of God” again. The Lord declared: “I say unto you, that as many as receive me, to them will I give power to become the sons of God” (D&C 11:30; see also, 3 Ne. 9:17; Moroni 7:26, 48; D&C 34:3; 35:2; 45:8; Moses 7:1). The power to become sons of God is obtained by receiving all the priesthood ordinances of the gospel by which men become adopted into the family of God (see Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., rev. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p. 394).