Mormon Answers: Adam, the Fall, and the Role of Christ
This page discusses the Latter-day Saint ("Mormon") position on Adam, the Fall of Man, and the eternally planned need for a Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The LDS position is, in my opinion, fully consistent with the Bible, but differs from the teachings of many "mainstream" ministers. (The views and opinions expressed here are those of Jeff Lindsay, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This page has not been reviewed and approved by the Church.)
After reading this page, be sure to check my LDS FAQ site before you fire off a long list of questions or accusations. Many common sincere questions, along with a few hot rumors and slanderous attacks, are treated there. 2006 update: Also see "Adam in Ancient Texts and the Restoration" by Matt Roper at FAIRLDS.org. It's a fascinating article showing that some ancient Christian documents provide support for some of the restored doctrines in the Church pertaining to Adam.
Latter-day Saints differ from much of modern "mainstream" Christianity in their views on the Fall of man. Many other Christians teach that God intended for mankind to remain in the Garden of Eden without knowledge of good and evil, childlike and innocent. Adam is the great villain, who spoiled everything for the rest of us. As Augustine taught, Adam's sin was so terrible that all human beings deserve to suffer eternal punishment because of him and the original sin that comes upon us because of Adam (see Seth Farber, "The Reign of Augustine," The Christian Activist: A Journal of Orthodox Opinion, Vol. 13, Winter/Spring 1999, pp. 40-45,56). Adam's rebellion forced God to come up with an (inferior) alternative to His original plan. This alternative is either, depending on whose theology is being taught, predestination of a choice few to receive eternal life through no merit of their own while all else are cast into hell, or mortal life with free agency, with good and evil, with the choice of either sin and hell or eternal life through Jesus Christ. One approach largely denies the moral free agency of man while the other accepts it, but both agree that Adam's fall was a terrible, shameful disaster. One minister explained to me that this whole existence of ours and all that we go through is a big mistake, all because of that villain of villains, Adam.
In the LDS view, God's plan was not thwarted. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God to rescue fallen mankind was not an unfortunate backup plan, but was a key part of God's perfect plan from the beginning. Thus, the New Testament speaks of Christ as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). In fact, it was God's purpose from the beginning for all of us to be introduced into mortality where we would learn to choose between good and evil, to learn how to walk in faith, and be able to repent and overcome all through Christ. Blissfully ignorant innocents in paradise would never be able to become the mature sons and daughters that God wants as his priests and kings in His kingdom (Rev. 1:6). Just as mortal parents recognize that it's best for infants to grow up and become accountable, hopefully choosing obedience and goodness, so God's purposes called for us to gain knowledge of good and evil, face opposition, make choices to follow Him, and receive of His grace. Thus, the Fall of Man was intended. As Brigham Young explained, "The Lord knew they would do this and he had designed that they should" (Journal of Discourses, 10:103).
Adam and Eve, as innocents without knowledge of even their own nakedness (Gen. 2:25; 3:7), were unable to have children and were unable to keep the greater commandment that they had been given, to multiply and replenish the earth. This is my understanding based on the teachings of the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 2:22-23:
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.
It was God's intent and sacred plan that they should have children, for as the Lord explains in Isaiah 45:18, He "created [the earth] not in vain, [but] he formed it to be inhabited." God gave Adam and Eve a higher and a lower commandment - multiply on one hand, or avoid the tree of knowledge of good and evil on the other. God knew of Satan's intent to stir up disobedience, but was one step ahead. Yes, Satan deceived Eve, and she partook of the fruit, which meant that she would be cast out of the Garden. Then Adam had to choose between staying in the Garden of Eden without Eve, where he could never hope to multiply, or following Eve into mortality by partaking of the fruit in order to keep the higher law. Adam, in choosing to partake of the fruit, Adam was transgressing a lower commandment to keep the higher law. Eve was deceived, but Adam was not, as the Bible states in 1 Tim. 2:14. What does this passage mean under "mainstream" views of Adam as a villain? Is there a more reasonable explanation than the LDS perspective, which holds, as the Book of Mormon teaches, that "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25)?
Yes, Adam faced a dilemma because of Eve's disobedience, and thus had to disobey one instruction to keep another that was more important (to multiply and replenish the earth). As a result of the transgression, they were cast out of God's presence and became mortal, fallen creatures, yet they were blessed with knowledge of good and evil, free agency, and the ability to have children. But faced with death and the certainty of sin, they were doomed creatures - were it not for the foreordained role of the Messiah, who would redeem them and provide a way to return to the presence of God as glorious sons and daughters of the Father of glory. The end result is that God's children, by passing through this fallen state of mortality, can gain knowledge of the glories of God and become joint heirs with Christ of all that God has (Rom. 8:14-18). We must taste the bitter to fully understand the sweet, and we must enter into the dangerous stage of mortality in order to receive the blessing of eternal life, which is God's kind of life (not just immortality per se). The words of God to Enoch, recorded in the Book of Moses (given to Joseph Smith by revelation), summarize this powerful doctrine well (see Moses 6:55-61 quoted in the LDS scriptures section below).
We typically speak of two effects of the Fall: physical and spiritual death. But Alma 42 explains that this physical or "temporal death" is not merely bodily death, but is being physically cut off from the presence of God. It seems that this mortal state away from the presence of God is what "temporal death" really refers to. This is interesting because from a scientific perspective, James Talmage and other significant LDS minds understood that death may have existed before the Fall, in line with scientific understanding (see his article, "The Earth and Man" - also available at Archive.org)--an issue beyond the scope of this essay. Adam, though, was initially in the presence of God, but was physically cast out when he fell, bringing the same state on the whole family of Adam. Of course, we also understand that he was not going to die were it not for the Fall--but I think one can accept the scriptures and yet believe that the process of death existed before the special paradise of the Garden of Eden was created for Adam and Eve, and before they were put in that special state. Some LDS leaders have held different opinions on this matter.
In general, when the scripture speak of death, it is worthwhile to consider what type of death may be meant.
(Special thanks to Dan Montez for sharing his views on this matter, and for calling my attention to relevant writings of Talmage.)
If Adam were the ultimate villain, it is puzzling that the Bible would speak of him as a symbol of Christ ("the figure of him that was to come" - Rom. 5:14) or say that he was not deceived (1 Tim. 2:14) or refer to Christ as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). Yet Adam's fall resulted in temporal death (being cut off from the physical presence of God; see Alma 42:7-9) and sin in the world, which could only be overcome through an infinite price paid by a sinless Redeemer who took our pains (the price of our sins) upon Him and sacrificed His own life that we might be free from the Fall and become new creatures in Him (Rom. 5:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:17-21). Christ's Atonement overcomes spiritual death, the state of being cast out of God's presence by sin, by having paid for our sins and offering us forgiveness through his cleansing blood, if only we will follow Him. His Atonement also overcomes physical death, the death of the body, by the power of the Resurrection, offering immortality to all (1 Cor. 15:21,22 - "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive"; see also John 5:28,29). Further, "temporal death" in Alma 42 refers to physical separation from God, more so than mere physical death, a catastrophe which the Atonement remedies for those who accept Christ.
Christ's glorious role as Redeemer required that there be a Fall. Without the Fall, there would be no grace. Without temporal death (being physically cut off from the presence of God; see Alma 42:7-9), we could never be tried and there would be no righteousness. Without knowledge of sin, there would be no knowledge of goodness and thus no true appreciation of the glory of God. As the Book of Mormon teaches, there must be opposition in all things to achieve God's purposes (see 2 Nephi 2 in the LDS scriptures quoted below).
The ultimate implication of the Fall is the possibility of having joy. True joy comes in knowing God and Christ and knowingly choosing to follow them, entering into their presence as sons and daughters who chose the good part and the grace offered by Christ. A babe without knowledge of good and evil cannot know the joy that comes with good, or the growth that comes by choosing the source of all good. It is through overcoming the trials of mortality, "our light affliction," that we have hope of "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17). This mortal experience gives us the opportunity to become the "jewels" of God (Malachi 3:17), being refined and chosen in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10), enabled to sit with Christ in his throne if we overcome (Rev. 3:21). God wants us in heaven with Him and Christ. The Garden of Eden was not heaven. Our intended and long-planned destiny is not ignorant nakedness in the Garden of Eden, but as Paul said in 2 Cor. 5:2-4,
2 ...we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven;
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up in life.
By the way, I'm pleased to note that not all non-LDS denominations feel that the Fall was a big mistake. A good treatise from someone a bit closer to our view is Erwin W. Lutzer in his book, Ten Lies about God (Word Publishing, Nashville, TN, 2000). See particularly Chapter 8, "Lie 8: The Fall Ruined God's Plan," pp. 137-157. Lutzer is a pastor at the Moody Church in Chicago.
Our critics say we endorse Satan's work by teaching that the Fall of man was part of God's plan. They say that we have yielded to the same lie that destroyed Adam and the paradise of God, where Satan said that Adam and Eve would not die by partaking of the fruit, but would "be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). The concept of becoming like God in any way is denounced as evil, allegedly being contrary to the Bible and part of Satan's deception, not God's plan. But Satan's lie was that man would not die. It was coupled with a truth: that by eating of the fruit, man would become at least somewhat like God in the sense of also knowing good from evil. We know this is true and not a lie because after Adam partook of the forbidden fruit, God said, "the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil...." (Gen. 3:22)
In evaluating the LDS position, the issue is not whether or not we can in some way become more like God (we certainly can - see my page on the divine potential of human beings, or take a quick look at 1 John 3:2; Romans 8:14-18; John 10:33,34; Matt. 5:48; Philip. 3:21; etc.), but whether God intended for us to enter mortality with the freedom to choose between good and evil. Likewise, we can ask if the gift of knowledge of good and evil was to be God's alone? Was the tree of knowledge and good and evil placed in the Garden for no other reason than to eternally tempt Adam and Eve? Was God's plan thwarted? Is this mortal existence really just one big mistake, an inferior back-up plan to the existence God intended, where there would have been no need for the Son of God to become our Redeemer?
In answering these questions below, I'll first examine what God's plan for us is and what our destiny is. I'll then discuss the importance of mortality in achieving his plan, and explain how God's plan for us was not thwarted by Adam but was established before Adam was created. I'll further show the significance of knowledge as an essential aspect of our salvation and destiny, and discuss the importance of the precious gift of free agency. Finally, I'll mention the implications of God's plan on our salvation - namely, that growth through obedience and diligence are essential.
Now what does the rest of the Bible teach us about God's plan and this current mortal world?
The Atonement of Christ allows us to receive blessings much greater than ignorant bliss: it allows us to become mature sons and daughters of God, partaking of the riches and glories of eternal life, making the sufferings of mortality a small price to pay. 2 Tim. 2:10-12 is one of many passages showing this concept:
10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.(Note: It's our choice to follow Him or deny him, even though we may be among the elect. Paul endured many things to help the elect choose Christ.)
11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead in him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.
God wants us to grow and endure afflictions, "approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distress," etc. (2 Cor. 6:4). As we do so, keeping ourselves separate from the unclean ways of the world, we become his sons and daughters and he truly becomes our God and our Father (2 Cor. 6:17,18). Now he is our God, our Creator, and the Father of our spirits (Heb. 12:9; Malachi 2:10; Num. 16:22; Acts 17:28,29) whether we like it or not, but when we follow Him and fully accept Him, that relationship becomes effectual for our salvation and we are received truly as sons and daughters by Him whom we receive as Father. Consider the powerful words of Paul in Romans 8:14-18:
14 For as many are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.
There is much more to us that what we see. As sons and daughters of God, even the very offspring of God (Acts 17:28; Heb. 12:9,10), there is glory waiting to be revealed in us that far outweighs whatever we must suffer in this life on the path to fully becoming children of God. In fact, as maturing children of God, we can become joint heirs with Christ and be glorified in some degree with him. We can reach the measure of the fullness of the stature of Christ (Eph. 4:11-15). In my view this far exceeds the childlike state that Adam was in.
In fact, Romans 8 also suggests that the sufferings (and temptations) of mortality that we must endure and overcome are part of the many things that work for our eternal good in this mortal existence, thanks to God's atoning work (Rom. 8:28-32):
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate ["foreordain" or "plan" may be more appropriate] to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified....
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
(This talk of predestination should not be understood to mean that God has determined who will be saved and that we can do nothing about it. Christ warns that even the elect, such as Peter, can fall (Matt. 24:24; Luke 22: 31,32, 40, 46, 61, 62); Paul also warns that Christians can still fall (1 Cor. 10:12; Heb. 3:12-14), and Peter warns about our need to grow and stay diligent lest we fall (2 Pet. 1:4-10). It is those who endure and overcome through Christ that are saved (Matt. 24:13; Matt. 10:22; Rev. 3:21).)
Romans 8:28-32, just cited above, makes sense in light of our understanding that we existed as spirit children of God before entering mortality. (This doctrine is not held by most other Christians, who feel we did not exist before birth. A few examples of Biblical evidence for this doctrine include Job 38:7, which indicates that we, the sons of God, rejoiced when the world was created; John 9:1,2, which indicates that the apostles understood that one could sin before birth; and Jer. 1:5, which shows a prophet was called before his birth. See also Acts 17:28,29 and Num. 16:22. Several very early Christian and Jewish writings, such as Chapter 39 of the Book of Enoch, show that the LDS view is not unique.) In this premortal existence, some of us were called and foreordained for great works and blessings, though we all would have the chance to choose eternal life, for God "will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4) and is "not willing that any should perish, that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
God wanted us to become like His Son ("conformed to the image of his Son" in Rom. 8:29, for example). But in spite of being so called, we are still given free agency and need to repent and be diligent to "make [our] calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10). Diligently overcoming trials and temptations, and suffering afflictions patiently, helps us grow and follow the example of the Son (1 Peter 1:19-23). And the result is something much better than the Garden of Eden: when we partake of the tree of life, it will be after we have overcome our trials (Rev. 2:7-11), when we will be the maturing sons and daughters of God, tried and refined, endowed with the riches of eternity and with a glorious resurrected body like Christ's (Philip. 3:21). In this process, we become more than innocents in garden, but we become like Christ in a sense (1 John 3:2). And this process requires the sufferings and temptations of mortality.
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But became himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men;
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name.
Thus Paul, speaking of the "abundant grace" of God, points to role of mortal afflictions in helping us reach the eternal glory which awaits us (2 Cor. 4:15-17):
15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
16 For which cause we faint not....
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
Likewise Peter in 1 Peter 1:3,4 speaks of the "abundant mercy" of Christ and our "lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" and of the "incorruptible and undefiled" inheritance "reserved in heaven for you." But then he speaks of current heaviness from many temptations in verse 6 and in verse 7 addresses the benefits of the trial of our faith:
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Peter continues this theme, holding up the example of Christ who suffered but then received glory (v. 11), and urges us to gird up our loins and hope to the end for the grace that will come when Christ returns (v. 13), replacing ignorance with obedience (v. 15), striving to be holy as God is holy (v. 15,16), purifying our souls in obeying the truth (v. 22), and looking to the precious blood of the Lamb for our salvation (v. 19). This Lamb, even Jesus Christ, "was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (v. 20). The Messiah was part of God's plan from the beginning - not a solution proposed when God's real plan was overthrown by Adam. Christ as Redeemer was planned from the beginning, as was our potential for honor and glory with Christ as we overcome the trials of our faith through the grace of Christ (1 Peter 1:7).
This is part of a persistent Biblical theme: the overcoming of trials, temptations, and tribulations is a means of refining and purifying the elect, who then are made glorious in the presence of God. Valuable passages illustrating this theme include:
All this is consistent with 2 Nephi 2 in the Book of Mormon (given in the LDS scripture section below), where the opposition we face because of the Fall is described as essential for progress.
The idea that God wants his sons and daughters to mature and become glorified beings is not something conjured up in Mormonism alone, nor does it depend on our unique interpretation of the many relevant scriptures. Others have understood these higher things about our destiny. Consider, for example, this passage from the famous Anglican scholar, C.S. Lewis:
"The command Be ye perfect [Matt. 5:48] is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were "gods" [John 10:33,34 and Psalm 82:6] and he is going to make good His words. If we let Him - for we can prevent Him, if we choose - He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said."
(Mere Christianity, Collier Books, MacMillan Publ. Co., New York, 1943; paperback edition, 1960; p. 160 - the last paragraph of Chapter 9, "Counting the Cost," in Book IV)
Paul also affirms that "Be ye perfect" is a serious goal, expressing that as his wish and prayer for the Corinthian saints (2 Cor. 13: 9,11). Peter likewise prays that "God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, [may] make you perfect" (1 Peter 5:10). This goal of His for us is according to His original and holy plan, which neither Satan nor Adam has thwarted. His desire for each individual is only thwarted when we as individuals use our free agency to reject God.
As we'll see from examining scripture, God knew that we could never become strong without opposition and temptation. From the beginning, his plan called for us to enter into mortality and take on the challenge and opportunities that only it could bring. Before the world existed, we were called and foreordained to receive glory, if we would accept the Gospel of Christ and endure to the end through whatever afflictions and trials God sees fit to give us. And it was only through the foreordained sacrifice of Christ that any of this would be possible. His role as Savior and Redeemer was planned and ordained by God long before Adam fell. His sacrifice was an essential component of God's plan from the beginning, thus making Christ "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). Or as Peter puts it, our redemption from sin is possible because of the price paid "with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:19,20). Many other passages in the Bible affirm this truth. 2 Timothy 1:8-10 is one example:
8 Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, an hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.
Even before the world began, we had hope in Jesus Christ because of His foreordained role as Messiah and Lamb of God. (And obviously, if we had hope before the world began, we existed then as well.)
Paul also speaks of the "hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Titus 1:2). In Ephesians 1, Paul speaks of believers being "predestinated" (the Greek word means "foreordained") "unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ" (v. 5, see also vs. 10,11).
Christ, in his great intercessory prayer in John 17, speaks of the potential of humans to become one with Him as He is one with the Father, and speaks of the glory which He had with the Father before the world was and speaks of the love which the Father had for Him, the Son, before the world was (John 17: 5,11,21-25). The added glory (and our eternal gratitude) which Christ obtained by coming to earth and completing the Father's will was part of the plan from the beginning (Phil. 2:5-10; Heb. 2:9-18).
In addition to the issues discussed above, the Bible contains other related teachings showing that knowledge is essential for our salvation. Our critics contend that knowledge of good and evil is a curse, but we know it to be a blessing. Such knowledge must be essential to truly understand and know God - and eternal life is knowing the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3). He is a God of knowledge (1 Sam. 2:3) and knowledge is a precious gift (Prov. 8:10; Hos. 6:6; Prov. 1:7; Prov. 9:10; Col. 2:3; Prov. 14:18). Christ gives us power to comprehend the depth of "the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:18,19). And "when that which is perfect is come," then our knowledge will also be perfected and we shall "know even as [we are] known" (1 Cor. 13: 9-12). How could we ever have hoped to truly understand the awesome love of Christ if there had been no need for His great and infinite sacrifice for us? How could we have tasted of his marvelous goodness and love if we knew nothing of the contrast between good and evil? How can we fully worship God in ignorance?
We need to gain knowledge of God's will and steadily increase in knowledge (Col. 1:9,10). Paul prays that God, "the Father of glory," will give believers "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him" to enlighten our understanding and help us know of "the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:17,18).
Colossians 3:4-10 shows a link between our destiny and knowledge:
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory....
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.
In Colossians 1, Paul speaks of our need to be filled with "spiritual understanding" (v.9), "increasing in the knowledge of God" (v. 10), "giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (v. 12). It is not in ignorance but in knowledge and light that we will have full joy in the inheritance of the saints in heaven, as joint heirs with Christ. This is our destiny through Christ, according to the plan of God from the beginning. We need knowledge and truth to be truly free (John 8:31,32), and without it, we are captives (Isaiah 5:13). Thus, we must continue growing in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).
Many modern views on the Fall of Adam are errant in failing to appreciate the sacred gift of free agency that God gives us. Some famous theologians and ministers have insisted that we are not free, especially not free to truly choose between good and evil. Some say that God has already decided to send some of us to heaven and others to hell, and there is nothing we can do about it. These doctrines make little sense in light of the Bible, where God and His servants are continuously exhorting us to choose good, to choose God, and to choose the grace of Christ. Why all the preaching and exhorting and warning if we are not free to respond? Why preach of salvation if we cannot choose to accept it? Man-made doctrines denying the free agency of man fly in the face of Biblical doctrine and in the face of the real freedom that we humans sense. They are an abomination.
Look, if we have no free agency, what is the purpose of preaching? And what sense does it make for Paul and many others to warn believers to endure in the faith until the end lest they fall? (See Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 3:12-14; Matt. 24:13; 2 Peter 1:10; Matt. 10:22; etc.) Why does Paul strive to preach the Gospel to all, "warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Col. 1:28)? Why does he say that God "will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4)? Why does Peter say that God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9)? The implication should be clear: we can choose Christ, or we can choose to reject Christ, and even current believers must be careful lest they fall away and lose their salvation. We're just as free to reject Christ as we are to choose Him - but either way, we are free to choose.
Those who follow Christ find that they are also free from their sins and have hope of eternal life. They find that the Gospel of Christ gives them great liberty - freedom from many sorrows and sins, and liberty to truly do good beyond anything that was possible for them before. Thus, "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor. 3:17). The following verse, 2 Cor. 3:18, shows where this wonderful liberty can lead through the influence of the Spirit, for we can behold the glory of the Lord and become more like Him, being "changed into the same image from glory to glory." But we must safeguard this blessing of liberty and "stand fast ... in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free" and not be "entangled again with the yoke of bondage" from sin (Gal. 5:1). Indeed, Paul goes on to warn the Galatians that they are fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4) - something that an happen to us as well. Caution and diligence is required to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10).
Because God wants us to grow and mature, it should be no wonder that He calls for more than belief alone for salvation. Though salvation is only possible by the grace Christ offers, He still requires us to follow Him and obey to gain access to that gift. This concept is more fully explained on my page on faith and works. But the idea that patience, endurance, diligence and effort on our part are required should be abundantly clear from passages like these:
The Fall is overcome by the fruit of the tree of life, which brings eternal life through the Atonement of Christ. Rev. 22:14 explains one part of what is necessary to partake of the holy fruit:
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the [heavenly] city.
The tree of life is mentioned in another verse of the New Testament, Rev. 2: 7, which again emphasizes doctrine which is soundly LDS and, of course, Biblical:
Rev. 2 goes on in verse 10 to urge Christians not to fear trials and suffering, for if they are faithful unto death, God will give them a crown of life.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Christ's Atonement makes it possible for us to receive the fruit of the tree of life and enter heaven as maturing sons and daughters of God. In this process, the effects of the Fall are fully overcome, and we find that our end is far better and more glorious than would have been possible if there had never been a mortal existence. The Fall was painful, but intended by God to achieve even greater purposes than could have been achieved in the Garden of Eden. Once we understand that, is it any wonder that Eve rejoiced at her prospects because of the Fall - and the redeeming grace of Christ, the promised Messiah? Her rejoicing is recorded in Moses 5:11 from the LDS Pearl of Great Price:
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.
The Garden of Eden was paradise, but not heaven. There was peace, but not true joy. Had mankind remained there, there would have been no need for a Savior, no victory to be won, no partaking of the joy and glory of God, and no crown of eternal life to be worn. Thanks to the Savior's redemption from the Fall, we can be more than babes, but can become perfect in Christ and partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). And in this process, God the Father is truly "glorified in his saints" (2 Thess. 1:10). As he said to Moses in LDS scriptures, "This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). Praise be to God!
An important theological issue is whether or not we are accountable for Adam's transgression. Do we share guilt in that original sin (i.e., the sin associated with the origin of man)? Concerning evangelical views on original sin, L. Ara Norwood in FARMS Review of Books (Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 164-201) explains that "the source of this doctrine rests with the erroneous scriptural interpretation of Romans 5:12" from Augustine, as Professor Elaine Pagels details:
The Greek text reads, "Through one man [or 'because of one man,'] sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came upon all men, in that all sinned." John Chrysostom, like most Christians, took this to mean that Adam's sin brought death into the world, and death came upon all because "all sinned." But Augustine read the passage in Latin, and so either ignored or was unaware of the connotations of the Greek original; thus he misread the last phrase as referring to Adam. Augustine insisted that it meant that "death came upon all men, in whom all sinned" - that the sin of "one man," Adam, brought upon humanity not only universal death, but also universal, and inevitable, sin. Augustine uses the passage to deny that human beings have free moral choice, which Jews and Christians had traditionally regarded as the birthright of humanity made "in God's image." Augustine decrees, on the contrary, that the whole human race inherited from Adam a nature irreversibly damaged by sin...."
Augustine attempts to rest his case concerning original sin ... upon the evidence of one prepositional phrase in Romans 5:12, insisting that Paul said that death came upon all humanity because of Adam, "in whom all sinned. But Augustine misreads and mistranslates this phrase (which others translate "in that [i.e., because] all sinned") and then proceeds to defend his errors ad infinitum.... Augustine's argument has persuaded the majority of western Catholic and Protestant theologians to agree with him;... But, ... when we actually compare Augustine's interpretation with those of theologians as diverse as Origen, John Chrysostom, and Pelagius, we can see that Augustine found in Romans ... what others had not seen there. (Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, New York: Random House, 1988, pp. 109 and 143, emphasis in the original, as cited by Norwood, pp. 187-188.)
Dr. Seth Farber writes of Augustine's doctrine of original sin in "The Reign of Augustine," The Christian Activist: A Journal of Orthodox Opinion, Vol. 13, Winter/Spring 1999, pp. 40-45,56:
Thus, according to Augustine, due to Adam's sin every person belongs to a "mass of perdition".... Augustine wrote, "The damned lump of humanity was lying prostrate. Nay, was wallowing in evil...." Augustine argues that infants who did not receive baptism would be condemned to suffer the torments of eternal punishment in hell. He wrote that no one who is born of Adam and Eve was "less a sinner than they were." ... "Everyone arising as he does from a condemned stock, is from the first necessarily evil and carnal through Adam." Because it was transmitted by natural propagation, "original sin was as universal and inevitable as life itself." Thus, Augustine writes, "The infant is bad: though little, he is already a great sinner."
Hey, Augustine, speak for your own kids!
Unfortunately, Augustine's views prevailed. They were formally canonized by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century.
Farber also writes of Luther's views on original guilt (ibid., p. 41):
Like Augustine, Luther denied that God willed the salvation of all human beings [in contrast, see 1 Tim. 2:4, for which Augustine said the "all" only referred to the predestined saved ones], and he asserted that He "saved so few and damned so many." Luther's explanation for this is similar to that of Augustine: By not granting salvation to all, God shows us that His grace cannot be taken for granted.... Like Augustine, Luther conceived God as a majestic sovereign, to whose arbitrary fiat human beings - at least those who are predestined to be saved - ought to succumb in fear, in reverence, and in gratitude.
Luther asserted that original sin had completely abnegated freedom of the will, which was now entirely in bondage to sin, and "not free to strive toward whatever is declared good." He stated that man "neither does the good nor is capable of it in the absence of grace." (Farber, p. 41)
Farber also explains Calvin's position:
Like Augustine and Luther, Calvin believed that man's nature was altered and irreparably damaged by original sin. He stated, "Infants bring their own damnation with them from their mothers' wombs; the moment they are born, their natures are odious and abominable to God." (p. 41)
(Could Calvin's children really have been that ugly? Again, please speak for your own kids!)
Modern Protestant views continue to emphasize the inherited nature of the sin. The related Roman Catholic view is summarized by Byron R. Merrill in the article "Original Sin" in Vol. 3 of The Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
The doctrine of original sin as taught traditionally states that, due to the Fall of Adam, infants are born tainted with actual sin, resulting in the "privation of sanctifying grace"; this dogma "does not attribute to the children of Adam any properly so-called responsibility for the act of their father," nor is it a voluntary sin "in the strict sense of the word," yet it is a "real sin" (S. Harent, "Original Sin," in Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 ed., Vol. 11, p. 315). All people, according to this doctrine, except the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, inherit an actual, existing personal guilt.... A corollary of this belief is the doctrine of infant baptism, holding that infants are to be baptized to remove this sin because those who die without baptism remain unsanctified and forever excluded from heaven and the presence of God.
In the Eastern Christian tradition, Orthodoxy, the misanthropic concept of original sin never became entrenched. As Farber explains, "The source of evil lies in the freedom of man. Sin is not in the nature of humanity but is entirely an act of will. Sin is sin because it is voluntary. Otherwise God would not condemn us for it" (p. 44).
In LDS doctrine, free will is a vital gift from God - but a dangerous gift that makes evil possible. God wants all of us to be saved, but does not force us to accept Him. We must choose. Infants are free from guilt and are saved in the glories of heaven if they die before becoming accountable. In fact, they're precious, clean, and cute, not "odious." The Fall of Adam affects us all in bringing spiritual death (sin) and temporal death (which can be understood as physical death or, in what may be a preferred interpretation, our physical separation from God here in mortality--see "The Earth and Man" by James Talmage). But we are accountable for our own actions, not for Adam's. Byron R. Merrill explains (ibid.):
While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the transgression of Adam and Eve brought death into the world and made all mortals subject to temptation, suffering, and weakness, it denies that any culpability is automatically transmitted to Adam and Eve's offspring. All mortals commit sin, but they will be punished "for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression" (A of F 2)....
Latter-day Saints believe that infants inherit certain effects of the Fall, but not the responsibility for any sin as a result of Adam's or Eve's transgression. From the foundation of the world, the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes amends "for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam" (Mosiah 3:11). Therefore, baptism is not needed until children reach a state of accountability, generally at the age of eight years, for little children cannot sin and are innocent.... They are redeemed from the beginning by the grace of Jesus Christ (D&C 29:46-47), whose Atonement cleanses them of the effects of the Fall (D&C 137:10). The Prophet Mormon wrote the following words of Christ: "Little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them" (Moroni 8:8).
In one account in the Pearl of Great Price, Adam learned that he had been forgiven for his transgression in the Garden of Eden, and that "the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children" (Moses 6:54). However, as a consequence of the Fall, evil is present in the world and all "children are conceived in sin, [and] 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). Begetting children in marriage is not a sin (cf. Heb. 13:4), but the propensity for sin is inherited.
No mortal person bears the burden of repenting for Adam's transgression. Nevertheless, all inherit the effects of the Fall: All leave the presence of God at birth, all are subject to physical death, and all will sin in some measure. From the moment of conception, the body inherits the seed of mortality that will eventually result in death, but only as a person becomes accountable and chooses evil over good do personal sins result in further separation from God. Thus Adam was counseled: "Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there" (Moses 5:57).
Haag, Herbert. Is Original Sin in Scripture? New York, 1969.
McConkie, Bruce R. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp. 81-104. Salt Lake City, 1985.
BYRON R. MERRILL
The Fall of Adam made the Atonement necessary for in our fallen state, we all sin individually and are subject to temporal death (or physical separation from God) as well. In fact, the Book of Mormon actually makes it clear that humans are incapable of doing good on their own, due to our fallen nature, and that we must be changed by the power of Christ to be able to follow Him. For details, see "Cry Redemption: The Plan of Redemption as Taught in the Book of Mormon" by Corbin T. Volluz (FARMS Review of Books, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1994, pp. 148-169). It is only through the Atonement of Christ and HIs merits and grace that we have any hope of returning to the Father.
The Lord revealed to Adam that "the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt" so that little children were not evil, but were "whole from the foundation of the world" (Moses 6:54). Thus, "every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God" (Doctrine and Covenants 93:38). Thus, little children are redeemed from the Fall and need not be baptized, but as we become accountable, we each fall into sin and need to be born again. (Little children do not have knowledge of good and evil, as stated in Deut. 1:39, and thus aren't accountable yet and do not fall into sin.)
Adam and Eve were husband and wife. While in the Garden, God sealed them in eternal marriage (Gen. 2:22-24). God instructed Eve, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Gen. 3:16). President Spencer W. Kimball explained that the Hebrew word translated as "rule" would better be understood as ""preside' because that's what he does" (Ensign [Mar. 1976]:72), and the husband presides only in righteousness.... Correlatively, God introduced Eve to Adam in terms that are rendered into English by the phrase "an help meet for him"; these words mean "to be strong, to help, rescue, or save" and "to meet, to correspond to, to be equal," thus indicating that Eve was to be a strong, saving partner in righteousness (Gen. 2:18).
The Lord himself made coats of skins and clothed Adam and Eve (Moses 4:27). Eve bore unto Adam sons and daughters. She worked with Adam. They prayed to the Lord and heard his voice (Moses 5:4-5). They made "all things known" to their children and taught them to read, write, and to keep records of family remembrance (Moses 5:12; 6:5-6).
Eve is a "joint-participant with Adam in all his ministry, [and] will inherit jointly with him all the blessings appertaining to his high state of exaltation" (Mormon Doctrine, p. 242). President Joseph F. Smith saw her in vision in 1918: among the great and mighty ones in the celestial congregation of the righteous, he beheld "our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshipped the true and living God" (D&C 138:39).
The fall of Eve and Adam is profoundly significant: they opened the way of mortality for all humankind, and they subjected themselves to temporal death in order to make continued progression toward eternal life possible. Mother Eve bestowed upon her daughters and sons a heritage of honor, for she acted with wisdom, love, and unselfish sacrifice.
Moses 5:6-15 from the Pearl of Great Price describes events after the Fall of Adam and Eve:
6 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.
7 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.
8 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
9 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.
10 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.
11 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.
12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.
13 And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.
14 And the Lord God called upon men by the Holy Ghost everywhere and commanded them that they should repent;
15 And as many as believed in the Son, and repented of their sins, should be saved; and as many as believed not and repented not, should be damned; and the words went forth out of the mouth of God in a firm decree; wherefore they must be fulfilled.
In 2 Nephi 2 in the Book of Mormon, Lehi in the 6th century B.C. explains the condition of Adam and Eve in the Garden and the role of the Fall and the Redemption offered by the Messiah:
15 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.
16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.
18 And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.
19 And after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth.
20 And they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth.
21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.
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 fullness 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.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit.
In Alma 42, Alma explains the implications of the Fall and the Redemption to a rebellious son who questioned the justice of God in punishing sin:
3 Now, we see that the man had become as God, knowing good and evil; and lest he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever, the Lord God placed cherubim and the flaming sword, that he should not partake of the fruit--
4 And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.
5 For behold, if Adam had put forth his hand immediately, and partaken of the tree of life, he would have lived forever, according to the word of God, having no space for repentance; yea, and also the word of God would have been void, and the great plan of salvation would have been frustrated.
6 But behold, it was appointed unto man to die--therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth--and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man.
7 And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will.
8 Now behold, it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness.
9 Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death.
10 Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state.
11 And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord.
12 And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience;
13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.
14 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.
15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.
16 Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul....
22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.
25 What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.
26 And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world. And thus cometh about the salvation and the redemption of men, and also their destruction and misery.
27 Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds....
30 O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.
Alma in Alma 12 of the Book of Mormon teaches the wicked people of Ammonihah about the Fall and Redemption:
22 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.
23 And now behold, I say unto you that if it had been possible for Adam to have partaken of the fruit of the tree of life at that time, there would have been no death, and the word would have been void, making God a liar, for he said: If thou eat thou shalt surely die.
24 And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead.
25 Now, if it had not been for the plan of redemption, which was laid from the foundation of the world, there could have been no resurrection of the dead; but there was a plan of redemption laid, which shall bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, of which has been spoken.
26 And now behold, if it were possible that our first parents could have gone forth and partaken of the tree of life they would have been forever miserable, having no preparatory state; and thus the plan of redemption would have been frustrated, and the word of God would have been void, taking none effect.
27 But behold, it was not so; but it was appointed unto men that they must die; and after death, they must come to judgment, even that same judgment of which we have spoken, which is the end.
28 And after God had appointed that these things should come unto man, behold, then he saw that it was expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof he had appointed unto them;
29 Therefore he sent angels to converse with them, who caused men to behold of his glory.
30 And they began from that time forth to call on his name; therefore God conversed with men, and made known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been prepared from the foundation of the world; and this he made known unto them according to their faith and repentance and their holy works.
31 Wherefore, he gave commandments unto men, they having first transgressed the first commandments as to things which were temporal, and becoming as Gods, knowing good from evil, placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good--
32 Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness; for on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God.
33 But God did call on men, in the name of his Son, (this being the plan of redemption which was laid) saying: If ye will repent and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon you, through mine Only Begotten Son;
34 Therefore, whosoever repenteth, and hardeneth not his heart, he shall have claim on mercy through mine Only Begotten Son, unto a remission of his sins; and these shall enter into my rest.
If the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of the original Gospel of Jesus Christ, one might expect LDS doctrines to resonate with very early Christian writings, but to become increasingly different from other Christian writings after the time of the apostasy. I believe LDS doctrine is solidly in tune with the Bible on the issues of freedom, salvation, and the effects of the fall, as I have tried to demonstrate above. As for other early Christian writings outside the New Testament, Barry Bickmore, author of Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity, (Ben Lomond, CA: The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999--now available online at FAIRLDS.org) sent me the following e-mail in Feb. 1999 on the topic of the Fall, which I quote with his permission:
The writings of several early Christian writers agree with the Prophet that the Fall was "fortunate." Clement of Alexandria exclaimed: "O mystic wonder! The Lord was laid low, and man rose up; and he that fell from Paradise receives as the reward of obedience something greater [than Paradise]--namely, heaven itself." (1) Referring to the Fall, Irenaeus wrote:"'Thine own apostasy shall heal thee;' God thus determining all things beforehand for the bringing of man to perfection, for his edification, and for the revelation of His dispensations, that goodness may both be made apparent, and righteousness perfected, and that the Church may be fashioned after the image of His Son, and that man may finally be brought to maturity at some future time, becoming ripe through such privileges to see and comprehend God." (2)
Certain Jewish Christian documents, especially the Clement Homilies (3), went even further. In the Homilies, Peter stated that Adam "was ignorant of nothing," (4) "neither was Adam a transgressor." (5)
But while Willis Barnstone pegs this as a major theme of Gnostic Christianity, and we have shown it to have been present in early Catholic and Jewish Christianity [for details, see Barry Bickmore's book, The Restoration of the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity, available from the online store at FAIRLDS.oeg], later Christian mystics such as Pseudo-Dionysius (sixth century) claimed that since partaking of the tree of knowledge was what got Adam and Eve into trouble in the first place, the true Christian should actually strive for ignorance! (6)
1. Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen 11, in ANF 2:203, brackets in original.
2. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:37, in ANF 1:521. Similarly, Origen taught that God is able to use the presence of evil to our advantage:
"God does not create evil; still, he does not prevent it when it is displayed by others, although he could do so. But he uses evil, and those who exhibit it, for necessary purposes. For by means of those in whom there is evil, he bestows honour and approbation on those who strive for the glory of virtue. Virtue, if unopposed, would not shine out nor become more glorious by probation. Virtue is not virtue if it be untested and unexamined."
Origen, Homilies on Numbers 14:2, in Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers, 192.
3. Hennecke and Schneemelcher, eds., New Testament Apocrypha, 2:107.
4. Clementine Homilies 3:28 in ANF 8:241.
5. Clementine Homilies 2:52, in ANF 8:238.
6. Introduction to The Mystical Theology of Pseudo-Dionysius, in Willis Barnstone, ed., The Other Bible, 719.
The passages cited above come from Barry's remarkable book, which stands as a challenge to anti-Mormons everywhere. If there was not an apostasy, and if there was not a Restoration of the Gospel, then why is it that much of modern mainstream Christianity has departed from the teachings of the earliest Christian writers, while so much of early Christianity reverbates with modern LDS theology? On numerous issues such as the divine potential of human beings, the nature of God, sacred rites, baptism, faith and works, etc., LDS doctrine seems much closer to major parts of early Christianity than does modern Protestantism or Roman Catholicism, for example. Get Barry's book and find out for yourself! It can be ordered from FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research).
The early Christian view of Adam as being among the saints is shown in the early Christian document, The Gospel of Nicodemus, available in The Lost Books of the Bible, Alpha House, Inc., Newfoundland, 1926, reprinted by World Publishing, New York, 1972, pp. 63-91. According to the printed introduction, this document is of uncertain origin but clearly appears to have been composed by an early Christian. The text claims to have been written by Nicodemus but was possibly a "pious fraud" written in the end of the third century (others have said it comes from the fifth century). "Whether it be canonical or not, it is of very great antiquity, and it is appealed to by several of the ancient Christians" (p. 63). This document teaches of Christ's descent into hell to free Adam and the prophets, patriarchs, and other saints, bringing them to Paradise (Chapters 17-20). Between His death and Resurrection, The Gospel of Nicodemus, in accordance with modern LDS revelation, teaches that Christ visited Adam and other dead saints in hell (instead, we would say it was the "spirit world"), where, with overtones of the LDS Temple, he used a handclasp to deliver Adam: "taking hold of Adam by his right hand, he ascended from hell, and all the saints of God followed him" (19:12). Just as Adam's journey in the LDS Temple symbolizes the journey and covenants that each Saint must make, so Adam is the first whom other delivered saints follow in The Gospel of Nicodemus. (It also affirms another LDS view in Chapter 20, verses 3-4, stating that Enoch, like Elijah, was "translated" by God and has not yet tasted death.)
The Gospel of Nicodemus also affirms the LDS teaching that Adam was a prophet who knew of the coming of the Messiah, and that Adam will be physically resurrected, like the Messiah. Here is a passage from Chapter 14, speaking of the future baptism of Christ that Adam knew of:
1 But when the first man our father Adam head these things, that Jesus was baptized in Jordan, he called out to his son, Seth, and said,
2 Declare to your sons, the patriarchs and prophets, all those things, which thou didst hear from Michael, the archangel, when I sent thee to the gates of Paradise, to entreat God that he would anoint my head when I was sick.
3 Then Seth, coming near to the patriarchs and prophets, said, I Seth, when I was praying to God at the gates of Paradise, beheld the angel of the Lord, Michael appear unto me saying, I am sent unto thee from the Lord; I am appointed to preside over human bodies.
4 I tell thee Seth, do not pray to God in tears, and entreat him for the oil of the tree of mercy wherewith to anoint thy father Adam for his head-ache;
5 Because thou canst not by any means obtain it till the last day and times, namely, till five thousand and five hundred years be past.
6 Then will Christ, the most merciful Son of God, come on earth to raise again the human body of Adam, and at the same time to raise the bodies of the dead, and when he cometh he will be baptized in Jordan;
7 Then with the oil of his mercy he will anoint all those who believe on him; and the oil of his mercy will continue to future generations, for those who shall be born of the water and the Holy Ghost unto eternal life.
8 And when at that time the most merciful Son of God, Christ Jesus, shall come down on earth, he will introduce our father Adam into Paradise, to the tree of mercy.
9 When all the patriarchs and prophets heard all these things from Seth, they rejoiced more.
Then later, we read that Christ "took our earthly father Adam with him to his glory" (17:13). Adam is hardly the villain that some modern preachers make him out to be.
Say, if Joseph Smith were a fraud and was just making things up based on what he knew, how come his teachings agree much better with early Christianity than the religious teachings he was exposed to? Why do so many early Christian documents support LDS doctrine and strongly contradict mainstream religious teachings about things like Adam and the fall, the physical reality of the resurrection, baptism for the dead, the preaching of Christ to the dead, the nature of God, the role of faith and works in our salvation, the existence of other scriptures, and so forth? (For an excellent online article about the LDS position and its support in early Christianity, please see "Doctrinal Trends in Early Christianity and the Strength of the Mormon Position" by Barry Bickmore, available at http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/DocTrends.pdf. ) Joseph Smith's teachings depart from those he knew, and align better with early Christian documents that he had no access to. Makes sense if there really was a Restoration of the Gospel. If there was no Restoration, how did he get so lucky?
The Endowment Ceremony in the LDS Temple represents a restoration of ancient revealed concepts to bring man closer to God through teachings and covenants, centered entirely around Christ. I discuss many of the parallels to ancient Christian and Jewish elements on my page about the LDS Temple and Free Masonry. A non-LDS scholar, Margaret Barker, has also commented on the relationship between the ancient Jewish temple and the significance of Adam in her 2004 essay, "Creation Theology" published by the Diocese of Wakefield:
[T]he High Priest was the human, male and female as the image of God ["as the image" not "in the image"!]. Adam - which simply means the human -- Adam-male-and-female as the original High Priest is an important theme in temple theology. The Second Adam was the Great High Priest, and if we are the body of Christ, we all have this high priestly role.
The idea of Adam as a priest, and all of us as "Adams" following him in moving toward Christ is, in the mind of Margaret Barker, an authentic ancient concept from the ancient temple. And I dare say that we can find this restored in the LDS Temple.