Fall of Adam and Eve

Articles about the Holy Bible

If God intended the Fall of Adam and Eve, why did he forbid the fruit? Why did he not simply create them as mortals?

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #269: Why Did Lehi Teach That The Fall Was Necessary? (Video)


One of the great problems of the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is that we want it to answer all sorts of questions, that it was never intended to answer. And because of this, everyone tends to read between the lines. After all, you might respond with the same sorts of questions. If God didn't ever want Adam and Eve to eat the fruit then why put it in the Garden? If he didn't want Adam and Eve to fall, then why allow the serpent in?

Purpose of mortality

In the Book of Mormon, Lehi has a long discussion about these issues in 2 Nephi 2. And without going into too much detail, what Lehi explains is that God's creation of man isn't finished in the Garden of Eden - that man wasn't perfect there - that God intended for man to develop agency (Lehi refers to this as the power to act as opposed to being acted upon). In framing it in this way, Lehi discusses many of the elements of the garden narrative from Genesis. We have the idea that to act, we have to have knowledge of good and evil (we have to understand purpose and consequences). We couldn't be forced or coerced to choose one over the other (this is why God tells Adam he has a choice with the Tree of Knowledge). So in 2 Nephi 2꞉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."

First is the idea of God’s "eternal purposes". This is the reason for our creation. And Lehi suggests that this reason is found in the "end of man". This isn’t about man’s beginning, but man’s eternal destiny. So everything is created – but, it isn’t a perfect creation, and isn’t final (this is contrary to much of Christian thought who see Eden as a perfect creation). And if that "end of man" is free will or agency, then real free will created a necessity for opposition. This is Lehi’s way of understanding the "good and evil" from Genesis 3:. Two outcomes are presented. But for mankind to be able to act (and not be acted upon), compulsion had to be removed so, in the next verse:

To act or be acted upon

"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."

Now this is an interesting dialogue. Lehi starts by pointing out that mankind has to be able to act for himself (again, the expression of free will). And then Lehi goes on to say that there had to be some reason for man to choose to act in one way and not in another. Why this bit of information? Because it gets to the philosophical problem of why Satan is in the Garden. Why does God allow the devil to be there? Would Adam and Eve have fallen if the Devil had not been there? And if they wouldn’t have fallen, could God have prevented the fall by removing the Devil? And if God could have prevented the fall, and didn’t, doesn’t that imply that God wanted the fall to occur? (Well that last bit might be a stretch – or not – depending on your point of view.) But for Lehi, there has to be some kind of enticement to encourage man to act. And so Lehi goes into some detail as to what this means (in the context of the comments above):

The role of Satan

"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. 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." (2 Nephi 2꞉17-18)

So the devil becomes the agent of enticement. So let’s summarize to this point –

  1. God wants to create mankind with free will (the power to act for themselves and not to be acted on).
  2. Created in the Garden, mankind could not gain this free will without having to understand the difference between Good and Evil.
  3. God allows man to choose, but in order to do so, God has to create an environment in which Evil can entice man just as much as Good can.
  4. The source of the enticement was a Devil, who seeks to ruin mankind. And the Devil understands that even if it means furthering God’s plan for the "end of man" only by encouraging the fall of man can he destroy man.

The Fall

So what happens next?

"And after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth. And they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth. 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." (2 Nephi 2꞉19-21)

The fall leads to eviction from the Garden. And now the Book of Mormon sets up something that comes from these earlier ideas. Mortality isn’t just a place of acting (and being acted on), it is a probationary period. That is, we learn to know good from evil, and we are given a period of time in which to do so, and in which we can show God how we will act. As a side note, although Lehi doesn’t get into it here, in Mosiah, this is expanded on just a bit. We have this idea of opposition. And on one side we have the devil enticing men to do evil. What is on the other side? Benjamin tells us (Mosiah 3꞉19) "For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord." What entices us to good? It is the Holy Spirit that prompts us and pushes us to do good. We will get a bit more on that later. Why was the eviction necessary? Lehi explains:

"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. 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." (2Nephi 2 22-23)

Here we come back to that problem of an incomplete creation. The garden was not a place of growth and development. Perhaps Lehi is drawing on the conclusion that Adam and Eve couldn’t have children precisely because they didn’t have children in the Garden. But the idea stems from the notion that if God wanted Adam to have free will (to be able to act instead of being acted upon) that it couldn’t happen in the Garden as it was. Without opposition, Adam could not be empowered to act for himself. If he was only given one choice, it couldn’t really be called a choice – it would simply be another situation in which Adam was being acted upon (if that makes sense). So the fall creates that ability to act. But at the same time, we have this idea of nothing changing. Perhaps the best way to explain this is that in the Garden, Adam and Eve were like children. In order to change (in order even to have children) they have to grow up. And Lehi tells us that without the ability to change, this couldn't happen.

Concluding thoughts

The idea is that this isn't simply a narrative about Adam and Eve - it's a narrative about all of us. Perhaps we see the Garden as something akin to the pre-existence, that we have to leave to "grow up" in an environment in which real choice becomes possible. Part of the purpose of the story is to explain the obvious, which has the same reason as it does in the Garden - why is Satan allowed to tempt us here? If God wants us just to be good, then why can't God simply take the devil and banish him so that he cannot influence us during our mortality? All of the questions that the story in Genesis is trying to answer are directly related to questions that we have about our lives in mortality today.

If "the wages of sin is death" as described in Romans 6:23, and the fall of Adam and Eve was a transgression rather than a sin, then why did it introduce death into the world?

The "death" that is the wages of sin is spiritual death—being outside the presence of God

"Transgression" is sometimes used in LDS discourse to distinguish a degree of moral culpability. In one context, a "transgression" violates God's law, but the guilty party is less fully responsible or aware of the moral implications: "In a general sense and in most instances the terms sin and transgression are synonymous, although the use of the term transgression lays emphasis on the violation of the law or rule involved whereas the term sin points up the willful nature of the disobedience" (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 804).

Adam and Eve and all humanity were redeemed from physical death by the atonement of Christ (2 Nephi 9꞉12). The "death" that is the wages of sin is spiritual death—being outside the presence of God (Alma 12꞉16-17).

Adam and Eve were told, however, that eating the fruit would cause them to die—the exact nature of their act is immaterial (see Genesis 2꞉17) and Adam and Eve understood this much (Genesis 3꞉2-3). Any disobedience of God's law puts us forever outside his presence—hence the absolute necessity of the atonement of Christ. Without the atonement, even those who are less responsible for their actions would have been lost (Mosiah 3꞉16). By the grace of Christ, however, they are saved.

How did the transgression of Adam and Eve introduce sin into the world?

It happened that way because God had told them it would

Adam and Eve's actions in the garden made them subject to death and put them out of the presence of God, as He had told them it would (Genesis 2꞉17). It happened that way because God had told them it would, as the Bible and other LDS scripture bears witness.

When out of the presence of God, the effects of a sinful world were possible for at least three reasons:

  • out of God's presence, it was possible that "sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good" (Moses 6꞉55).
  • all people "know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves," therefore we became subject to the consequences of others' evil choices (Moses 6꞉56).
  • Satan was present, and was able to tempt us to do evil (Moses 5꞉13).

If the transgression of Adam and Eve was actually a blessing for them, then why did they feel guilty and afraid when God approached them in the Garden of Eden after they committed their transgression?

Partaking of the fruit gave them knowledge of good and evil, and so their moral awareness made them feel guilty for doing wrong

  • Adam and Eve were guilty and afraid because they knew they had violated a commandment of God, and had been told the consequences of doing so. They had also not been taught the gospel or about the Plan of Salvation, and so did not know that the atonement of Christ could free them from the effects of their acts.
  • Furthermore, partaking of the fruit gave them knowledge of good and evil, and so their moral awareness made them feel guilty for doing wrong.
  • When Adam and Eve learned of the plan of salvation and repented, they did rejoice. Upon learning of Christ,
...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. And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God. And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. (Moses 5꞉9-11)

If the transgression of Adam and Eve resulted in physical and spiritual death, then why are we only subject to spiritual death for eternity if we do not repent?

We do not suffer eternal physical death for our sins and neither does Adam, for the same reason—the Atonement of Jesus Christ

We do not suffer eternal physical death for our sins and neither does Adam, for the same reason—the Atonement of Jesus Christ:

Adam spake unto the Lord, and said: Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water? And the Lord said unto Adam: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden. Hence came the saying abroad among the people, 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, for they are whole from the foundation of the world. (Moses 6꞉53-54)