Saturday, January 23, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #4 "Because of My Transgression My Eyes are Opened"

(Moses 4; 5:1-5; 6:48-62)

Enoch taught, "Because that Adam fell, we are; and by his fall came death; and we are made partakers of misery and woe" (Moses 6:48).  But Lehi taught, "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25).  Both men were prophets; both taught the truth.  The Fall of Man was the result of the greatest dilemma ever known, and resulted in the greatest paradox ever known.

In the Garden of Eden, our Heavenly Father gave Adam and Eve two commandments, the first of which could only be kept by breaking the second.  He commanded them to multiply and replenish the earth, and then he commanded them to stay away from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which provided the fruit that would change their bodies to a mortal state, giving them the ability to procreate.  In this paradise, we find the only situation ever in which God issued a commandment that He really wanted disobeyed.

In order to find the reason God created this dilemma, we need to understand three things:
  • First, the characteristics of God--specifically what He cannot do and still be God;
  • Second, what the plan was for God's children;
  • Third, who Adam and Eve really were.

First, a little tip:  I recommend that you choose a particular color of pencil and as you study the scriptures, you mark the characteristics of God in that color.  I use yellow because it makes me think of the sun, the Celestial Glory, and all that.  (Credit for this idea goes to Jerry Wilson, former instructor at Logan LDS Institute.)  If you haven't done this before, you may be surprised to learn many things about God that Satan still does not know.

For our purposes today, we are going to discuss specifically some of the things that God cannot do.
  1. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man" (James 1:13). "For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil" (Alma 5:4). God will never command us to do something that will bring us misery. Neither can he create an environment that has evil in it. This is what Satan does.
  2. "The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught" (D&C 3:1).  God cannot fail.
  3. "The Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" (Alma 45:16). Nothing unholy can be in His presence.
  4. "For as I, the Lord God, liveth, even so my words cannot return void, for as they go forth out of my mouth they must be fulfilled" (Moses 4:30).  Any consequence God pronounces will come to pass because God cannot retract his words.

"And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon 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" (Abr. 3:24-26).

If the point of the whole plan was to test man by how he chooses to obey or disobey God, the vital component of that plan was the agency of man.  There are four elements necessary for agency:
  1. Laws
  2. Opposites
  3. Power to choose
  4. Knowledge
(Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 26)

This is where we hit up against the great dilemma.  When God created the earth, it was perfect.  This is because God only makes good things.  "And I, God, saw everything that I had made, and behold, all things which I had made were very good" (Moses 2:31), or, to use Abraham's words: "And the gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed" (Abr. 4:18)

So where would the opposing choices come from, if everything God makes is good and obeys?  It was necessary that the state of the world be changed so it would have good and evil, virtue and vice, pleasure and pain, health and sickness, but God could not do that and still be God.  Someone else would have to cause that to happen.

"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 opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter" (2 Nephi 2:15).  The fruit of the Tree of Life was eternal life, life like God and with God (1 Ne. 15:36); the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was death, first spiritual (a separation from God) and then physical.  "And I, 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, 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).

God needed Adam and Eve to partake of that tree to gain knowledge and to become mortal and have children and put the great plan into play.  So why didn't He just command them to partake of the tree?  Because God only commands us to do things that bring joy.  "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:3).  Eating the fruit of the tree would plunge Adam and Eve into a world of pain and sorrow.

He also would not command someone to do something that would separate them from Him. "He inviteth all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none..." (2 Ne. 26:33).  Partaking of the fruit of the second tree would make Adam and Eve unholy and unable to remain in God's presence, the type of spiritual death that is mortal life.  But it would also allow them to keep the first commandment, the command to begin mortality for all the spirit children of God.

Of the four elements of agency, only three existed in the garden for Adam and Eve. They had rules, they had opposition, and they had the power to choose, but they did not have knowledge before they partook of the tree.

God therefore provided them a warning by way of the commandment. He told them what the consequence of eating the fruit would be, so that they could make an informed decision despite having no knowledge themselves.  Since His words are always fulfilled, when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, there was no possibility that the Fall would not occur.  At the same time, He provided them an encouragement to break the commandment by reminding them, "thou mayest choose for thyself".


God allowed Satan to enter the garden and tempt Eve.  He had not created Satan to be evil, but Satan had agency in the premortal existence like everyone else, and he had chosen evil.  Satan did not understand Heavenly Father's plan and thought that he (Satan) had the ability to mess it up. Heavenly Father, however, is omnipotent, and knew what Satan would do. He is also always successful and knew His plan would be implemented, albeit unknowingly, by Satan.  Satan entered the garden, approached Eve when she was alone and unable to counsel with her husband, and he appealed to her divine nature: "And the serpent said unto the woman: Ye shall not surely die; for as 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" (Moses 4:10-11).  Did Eve want to be like her Heavenly Parents?  Absolutely!  So she partook of the fruit.  Then she found Adam and gave it to him.

When Heavenly Father asked Adam whether he had partaken of the fruit, Adam gave the right answer:  "The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat" (Moses 4:18).  God had married them and commanded them to be bound together (Moses 3:24), and Adam honored that eternal covenant, even at the loss of paradise.

When God asked Eve what she had done, she simply told the truth: "The serpent beguiled me and I did eat" (Moses 4:19).  Who was cursed for this disobedience?  Only Satan.  "Because thou hast done this thou shalt be cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life" (Moses 4:20).

Both Adam and Eve had chosen what the Lord wanted them to choose, and both were blessed.  Eve was blessed to be able to bear children.  "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Moses 4:22).  The Hebrew word translated as "sorrow" in this passage refers to "pain," not "sadness."  "Multiply" means repetition, not an increase in intensity.  So Eve was promised that she would pass through the pain of childbirth many times (Camille Fronk Olson, Women of the Old Testament, p. 16).  This was exactly what she wanted, and what God wanted.  In addition, she was blessed to desire her husband, bringing joy to her marriage and her life.  And she was blessed to have her husband "rule over her."  This meant he had a "governing responsibility to provide for, to protect, to strengthen and shield [his] wife" (Pres. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1991, p. 99).

Eve was also given the great blessing that she and her children would always be more powerful than the devil.  Speaking to Satan, God said, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; and he shall bruise [or crush] thy head, and thou shalt [only] bruise his heel" (Moses 4:21).  Eve's children would have an enmity, a natural aversion to evil: they would always be warned against it.  Never again would the devil have power to completely fool anyone as he did Eve.  The ability to discern evil is a divinely bestowed blessing which every mortal being possesses through the Light of Christ.  And although Satan would be allowed to tempt mortal men, they would always have the ability to resist or overcome that temptation.  "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able" (1 Cor. 10:13).  Infinitely multiplying the ability to conquer Satan, the Savior's Atonement would negate all errors and failings and sins for any of the children of men who would simply repent and call upon His name.

Adam was blessed to have the earth cursed for his sake (Moses 4:23).  This would give him the opportunity to learn and grow through the necessity of working.  "Work is the miracle by which talent is brought to the surface and dreams become reality.  There is simply no substitute under the heavens for productive labor.  It is the process by which idle visions become dynamic achievements" (Pres. Hinckley, Standing for Something, p. 80).

After the Fall, Adam stated, "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" (Moses 5:10).  Why would he say that?  The result of partaking of the tree was death, both spiritual and temporal, just as God had said it would be!  Eve's statement explains:  "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 unto all the obedient" (Moses 5:11).  The key to the joy lies in the word "redemption."


Let's return to the opening quote from Adam's fourth-great-grandson Enoch: "Because 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 tempteth them to worship him; and men have become carnal, sensual, and devilish, and are shut out from the presence of God." But now let's add the next sentence: "But God hath made known unto our fathers that all men must repent" (Moses 6:48-50).  Having entered into mortal life by partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Atonement of Jesus Christ provided the way that men could also partake of the Tree of Life, which is the love of God manifest in His Atonement.  The fruit of this tree sanctifies us for eternal life (see 1 Ne. 11).  As the prophet Alma taught, the way to partake of it is simple (although not easy):  "Come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life" (Alma 5:62)

Despite the "misery and woe" which surround us on this fallen earth, through the Atonement we can repent and be redeemed. As we live in a state of redemption by continual repenting, we can become "at one" with God more and more of the time, experiencing more and more joy even in our earthly estate, until in the end we are finally redeemed to a fullness of joy. "And the Lord showed Enoch all things, even unto the end of the world; and he saw the day of the righteous, the hour of their redemption, and received a fulness of joy" (Moses 7:67). 

Which leads us right back to Lehi's statement:  "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25).


Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

My husband pointed out another good reason for Heavenly Father giving Adam and Eve two conflicting commandments: To confuse Satan. It worked!

Unknown said...

Awesome lesson! Thanks so much for your helpful insights!

Anonymous said...

I'm confused as to how God giving Adam and Eve a warning regarding the consequences of partaking of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was not giving them knowledge as an element of agency.

Cory Wyatt said...

Another possible reason for the seemingly contradictory commandments has to do with the most difficult part of mortality; using agency wisely when confronted with ambiguity. Hegal once wrote that the most difficult choices that we experience are not between what is good and evil, because those are easy decisions (in theory at least; perhaps not in execution).

What is more difficult, are the decisions between what is good, and what is good. Or, between what is good and what might be better. Eve had the option of not partaking of the fruit and being able to live forever in the Garden forever with no pain or misery (thereby stopping all spiritual progression). Tempting, no doubt. Or, she could break the first commandment, eat, be subjected to pain and misery (as well as the corresponding pleasure and happiness) and continue in spiritual progression. For someone like Eve, who had no experiential knowledge, this decision would be more difficult than a simple good/evil dilemma. So much ambiguity in life requires us to find out for ourselves what God wants us to do. It requires us to rely on Him more.

I would also add that there are enough hints in the accounts of the Fall to show what God really wanted them to do. Eve understood this; Adam clearly did not. He seems to have seen this difficult decision purely in a good/evil framework.

1) God acknowledges in Gen. 3:22 that "man is become as one of us,to know good and evil," indicated that the Fall brought about a kind of spiritual progression. Before eating the fruit, Adam and Eve were not as God, and did not know good and evil; after, they were as God and did understand good and evil.

2) God cursed the ground for their sake, or on their account in Gen 3:17. He enabled their decision to enter mortality by preparing the earth for this purpose.

3) God denied Adam and Eve access to the Tree of Life (the symbolic source of immortality) because they weren't ready to partake of it yet. They would have "lived forever on their sins" if He hadn't done this, forever disqualifying them from exaltation (Gen 3:24).

The heavily symbolic nature of the account of the events which enabled Gods spirit children to come to Earth and progress is wonderfully multi-layered. There is always something new for me to learn.

Cory Wyatt said...

I think that Adam and Eve knew quite a bit; however, this knowledge was almost entirely theoretical. We have come to Earth to gain experiential knowledge. In other words, they knew the consequences of partaking of the fruit, but they didn't "know," if that makes any sense. They had to actually eat the fruit and go through mortality to learn everything before they really "knew."

Unknown said...

I can not begin to tell you how much this lesson helped me! Not only because I teach Gospel Doctrine, but because I have personally never felt like I understood the Fall. It's always bothered me that God would give two contradictory commandments! Your lesson - specifically the part about understanding what God can't do and still be God - was the clarity I needed. Thank you so, so much.

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

Robert, this was something that had bothered me as well. It took me a lot of time and a lot of prayerful study to understand it. I love how the Lord will reveal answers to our questions if we truly seek. Thanks for your feedback!