Perhaps no other biblical account has been debated more and understood less than that relating to Adam and Eve. Elder Mark E. Petersen wrote:
“Adam, the first man, is a controversial figure in the minds of many people. So is Eve, his wife. Together, they probably are the most misunderstood couple who ever lived on the earth.
“This is hardly to be wondered at, though. Misconceptions and far-out theories have been bombarding the public concerning our first parents for centuries past. Probably the most to blame are teachers of religion themselves. Not knowing the facts about Adam and Eve, they have foisted their own private notions and uninspired creeds upon the people, with the result that a mass of confusion has mounted year after year.” ( Adam: Who Is He? p. 1.)
One reason the accounts of the Creation and the Fall are misunderstood and misinterpreted is the willful removal of plain and precious things from the Old Testament (see 1 Nephi 13:25–29 ). Members of the Church have much of what was lost, which was restored in the books of Moses and Abraham, but the world has only the Genesis account in the present Old Testament, which treats the Fall as an event but does not discuss the doctrine of the Fall. In other words, the reasons why the Fall came about and what it meant for mankind are not discussed in the Old Testament the world has today. Some light is shed on this matter in the New Testament, but it is limited. Actually, the doctrine of the Fall is taught most clearly in the Book of Mormon. Thus, it is not surprising that the world should have misconceptions about the Fall when they do not have latter-day scripture to help them. The purpose of the events discussed in Genesis 3 was summed up by Lehi when he taught, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” ( 2 Nephi 2:25 ).
This statement must cause utter confusion in the minds of all but Latter-day Saints. It demands a lengthy explanation.
In the scriptures, the Lord said that at the end of the six “days” of creation, He sanctified the seventh day and rested. But in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 77, it also says the following:
“We are to understand that as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth, even so, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years will the Lord God sanctify the earth, and complete the salvation of man, and judge all things, and shall redeem all things, except that which he hath not put into his power, when he shall have sealed all things, unto the end of all things; and the sounding of the trumpets of the seven angels are the preparing and finishing of his work, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years—the preparing of the way before the time of his coming.”
The Lord didn’t just sanctify the seventh day, He sanctified the earth. The Garden of Eden was in a sanctified state, the same state as the earth will enjoy during the millennium, except that everything there was static. There was no death or birth. No one knows how long Adam and Eve were in the garden before they fell, but it could have been a very long period of time. The Lord had given Adam and Eve two conflicting commandments. The first was to multiply and fill the earth with their posterity. The second was to refrain from eating the forbidden fruit — the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. To eat of the forbidden fruit was to become mortal, subject to death, but also to be able to procreate. To eat of the forbidden fruit meant to be cast out of the Garden of Eden.
The Plan of Salvation is, very simply, this: The purpose of the Lord is to make men and women like Himself and to bring them home to Him to dwell with Him forever. He is the literal father of our spirits, and we dwelt with Him in a heavenly realm which Mormonscall the Pre-existence, Pre-mortal life, or Pre-earth life. Through His Son, Jesus Christ (the Word), He created an earth for us, where we could obtain mortal bodies and be tried and tested, and learn from our experience. In the book of Abraham it says,
“…and we will make an earthwhereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate [Pre-mortal] shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate [earth life] shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:24-26).
The Lord knew we would sin and fall; therefore, He ordained Christ as a Savior for us. The atonement is the pivotal part of the Plan of Salvation… but so is the fall.
The Lord has guaranteed us our agency to choose between good and evil. The only way to exercise choice is if there are opposing things to entice us one way or the other. In the Book of Mormon it says,
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, …righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound inone; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
“And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in oppositionto the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter” (2 Nephi 2:11, 15).
Eve Was the First to Partake of the Fruit
The accounts in both Moses and Genesis state only that Satan approached Eve, but latter-day revelation records that he first approached Adam and was refused. Eve, however, was deceived by Satan and partook. Knowing that she would be driven out of the garden and separated from him, Adam then partook. Paul the Apostle wrote of the Fall, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” ( 1 Timothy 2:14 ).
Elder James E. Talmage explained how, even in her being deceived, Eve still brought about the purposes of the Lord:
“Eve was fulfilling the foreseen purposes of God by the part she took in the great drama of the fall; yet she did not partake of the forbidden fruit with that object in view, but with intent to act contrary to the divine command, being deceived by the sophistries of Satan, who also, for that matter, furthered the purposes of the Creator by tempting Eve; yet his design was to thwart the Lord’s plan. We are definitely told that ‘he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world’ [ Moses 4:6 ]. Yet his diabolical effort, far from being the initiatory step toward destruction, contributed to the plan of man’s eternal progression. Adam’s part in the great event was essentially different from that of his wife; he was not deceived; on the contrary he deliberately decided to do as Eve desired, that he might carry out the purposes of his Maker with respect to the race of men, whose first patriarch he was ordained to be.” ( Articles of Faith, pp. 69–70.)
Brigham Young said that “we should never blame Mother Eve,” because through her transgression, and Adam’s joining her in it, mankind was enabled to come to know good from evil ( Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 103; see also Reading 3-12 for a discussion of the greatness of Eve).
The Fall of Adam Brought Death into the World
When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, they brought death into the world. Prophets have revealed to us that the whole earth fell at this time. When it was sanctified it had been taken to a place in the galaxy nearer to the throne of God, but at the fall, it fell to the far reaches of the galaxy where the earth is now found. During the millennium, it will regain its position nearer to the throne of God. That is why in Matthew 24:27 it says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” (See also Mark 13:25; Doctrine and Covenants 29: 14; Doctrine and Covenants 34:9; Doctrine and Covenants 45:42.) It will literally appear that the stars are falling.
Many Latter-day Saints wonder how the fall of Adam and Eve could have brought death into the world, when the dinosaurs pre-existed them and experienced death. Primeval plants and creatures existed and lived and died before Adam and Eve were placed in the garden. It was when Adam and Eve were placed on the earth that it was sanctified and death ceased. This is the beginning of modern life and human history. In its newly sanctified state, the earth was positioned in the heavens near the throne of God. When Adam and Eve fell, the earth fell away from its heavenly location and became corruptible. Death was re-introduced, but also birth.
The fall of Adam brought two kinds of death into the world. The first is physical death. The second is spiritual death, or separation from God. Both deaths have been overcome by the atonement of Jesus Christ. The resurrection overcomes physical death, and exaltation overcomes spiritual death. Along the way, the atonement provides comfort for us and enables us to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Prayer and scripture reading help us to feel the spirit of the Lord. Repentance reconciles us to Him, so that we can draw closer to Him spiritually.
The Fall of Adam and Eve was not a Transgression of the Law of Chastity
Speaking of the transgression of Adam and Eve, Elder James E. Talmage said:
“I take this occasion to raise my voice against the false interpretation of scripture, which has been adopted by certain people, and is current in their minds, and is referred to in a hushed and half-secret way, that the fall of man consisted in some offense against the laws of chastity and of virtue. Such a doctrine is an abomination. . . . The human race is not born of fornication. These bodies that are given unto us are given in the way that God has provided. . . .
“Our first parents were pure and noble, and when we pass behind the veil we shall perhaps learn something of their high estate.” ( Jesus the Christ, p. 30.)
The Curse of Satan
Genesis 3:15 — The promise concerning the bruising of the heel and head means that while Satan (as the serpent) will bruise the heel of the Savior by leading men to crucify Him and seemingly destroy Him, in actuality that very act of Atonement will give Christ the power to overcome the power that Satan has over men and undo the effects of the Fall. Thus, the seed of the woman (Christ) shall crush the head of the serpent (Satan and his kingdom) with the very heel that was bruised (the atoning sacrifice).
Were Adam and Eve Cursed?
The pronouncements of God upon the fallen Adam and Eve were simply pronouncements of what mortal life outside the sanctified state would be like. Eve would bring forth children and that would cause distress, not only because of the nature of childbirth, but also the nature of raising independent human beings. Adam would be forced to till the ground and live by the sweat of his brow. Eve was to look to Adam for counsel. There is a caveat in this, however, since men and women are of equal value unto the Lord, and since men and women are meant to be co-equals in the divine institution of marriage. Eve was to look to her husband, as he looked to the Lord. No woman is beholden to a husband who practices “unrighteous dominion,” or who guides in a manner that is ungodly.
“We can picture the plight of Adam and Eve. They had been condemned to sorrows, woes, troubles, and labor and they were cast out from the presence of God, and death had been declared to be their fate. A pathetic picture, indeed. But now a most important thing happened. Adam and Eve had explained to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. What would be their reaction? When the Lord explained this to them, that a redemption should come through Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father, Adam exclaimed: ‘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 shall I see God.’ ( Moses 5:10 .)
“And what was the response of Eve, his wife? She ‘heard all of 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 . . . eternal life.’ ( Ibid., 5:11.)
“There is the key to the question of evil. If we cannot be good, except as we resist and overcome evil, then evil must be present to be resisted.
“So this earth life is set up according to true principles, and these conditions that followed the transgression were not, in the usual sense, penalties that were inflicted upon us. All these that I have named to you that seem to be sad inflictions of punishment, sorrow, and trouble are in the end not that. They are blessings. We have attained a knowledge of good and evil, the power to prize the sweet, to become agents unto ourselves, the power to obtain redemption and eternal life. These things had their origin in this transgression. The Lord has set the earth up so we have to labor if we are going to live, which preserves us from the curse of idleness and indolence; and though the Lord condemns us to death—mortal death—it is one of the greatest blessings that comes to us here because it is the doorway to immortality, and we can never attain immortality without dying.” (George Q. Morris, in Conference Report, Apr. 1958, p. 39.)
Go to The God of the Old Testament.