Understanding the Fall of Adam & Eve

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FaithfulSkeptic
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Understanding the Fall of Adam & Eve

Post by FaithfulSkeptic » 22 Aug 2016, 13:44

I've never understood the fall of Adam & Eve. Maybe this is part of the reason that the endowment bothers me so much, and maybe I'm trying to take the story too literally, rather than allegorically. My wife and I have been reading a book about the temple and it seems that the story of Adam and Eve is key to understanding the temple endowment and the Plan of Salvation, including the Atonement.

Here are some things that I struggle with. Can anyone provide some help in how you frame these things so that it works for you?

1. Why would God give two opposing commandments to Adam and Eve? (To multiply and replentish the Earth and to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil)

2. Why are these opposing commandments? (Why couldn't Adam & Eve replentish the earth without partaking of the fruit? Did they need to become mortal in order to have children?)

3. Why would Satan help fulfill God's plan by getting Eve to partake of the fruit? Wouldn't the whole plan be frustrated if Adam & Eve didn't partake of the fruit?

4. Why was cherubim and a flaming sword placed to guard the tree of life after Adam and Eve partook of the fruit?

5. How much, if any of the story of Adam and Eve is to be understood as historical?

Thanks for any help you can provide. These things have always troubled me.
I know of no sign on the doors of our meetinghouses that says, “Your testimony must be this tall to enter.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2014

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LookingHard
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Re: Understanding the Fall of Adam & Eve

Post by LookingHard » 22 Aug 2016, 14:27

Sorry. I have too many Spock-like tendencies and I am just too logical to figure this out. It almost makes me want to call Child Protective Services when I read the story or see it in the temple. I want to say, "Bad parent!" for telling the kids to do two contradictory things. "That does NOT sound logical."

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Heber13
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Re: Understanding the Fall of Adam & Eve

Post by Heber13 » 22 Aug 2016, 14:55

Thanks for asking. I think about this some. I will try to answer as I think about it now, but am interested if there are new things to consider about it, because I am not sure just responding "it's symbolism" is the answer. Trying to explore meaning for the symbols is part of it for me.

Here is my response to these questions:
FaithfulSkeptic wrote:1. Why would God give two opposing commandments to Adam and Eve? (To multiply and replentish the Earth and to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil)
I do think this is a big part of the story in getting to know God and his nature and our purpose on earth. I think it is less about choosing "the right answer", because being able to have choices gives us experience, and we are meant to have experiences more than we are meant to find "the right answer". In many cases and circumstances there is paradox and priority to choices. It makes me think many times God doesn't care about what we choose, but why we choose it, where our heart is. Another factor to consider is that Adam and Eve were not in a state of mind that we find ourselves in. THey were in paradise, their eyes were not yet opened. So...some things that were setup for their world and their condition don't apply to our world (like much of the bible), but are given to us to reflect on our lives as we liken the scriptures to us and our world. We can pull some things that help me in making choices, but not an exact replica because conditions were different. Even if I don't believe it literally, in order to make the lessons more meaningful I need to remember that context to not over extend the allegory.

My short answer: so that they have a choice. They need to learn to choose good, better, best. Or, they need to learn consequence. THere is no other way.
FaithfulSkeptic wrote:2. Why are these opposing commandments? (Why couldn't Adam & Eve replentish the earth without partaking of the fruit? Did they need to become mortal in order to have children?)
Because there must be opposition in all things and if we can frame things in our lives with opposition it helps us choose. They were in a state of paradise and could not die or have children until they were born into the telestrial world where we now live. "Why" God chose that way to do it instead of another way is a mystery. It seems to me like it could be done other ways. And perhaps that is where the allegory ends...we aren't to spend time figuring that out, but only accept it was as it is told to us and apply the meaning to our lives from that perspective to make it useful. Perhaps it doesn't matter "why"...only what we do from it going forward.
FaithfulSkeptic wrote:3. Why would Satan help fulfill God's plan by getting Eve to partake of the fruit? Wouldn't the whole plan be frustrated if Adam & Eve didn't partake of the fruit?
Because he is the jester-type character used to express foolish thinking and error so that man can have opposites to consider in making choices...God says this...Satan says this...which will you choose? The jester is there to make the story interesting to the reader, and try to make it obvious of the foolish man that chooses that type of thinking in opposition to God, who is always right. Logically, as you state, it doesn't make sense for someone to actually play that role. It isn't like he can beat God in a battle, and throughout time any logical individual would learn it and stop trying to thwart it, and actually do more harm by not participating than to keep participating. But the story needs an adversary to tell it, and to make it interesting. It often leads to us vs them thinking, where we are going to choose our god, others are foolish like the devil. I am not sure there is a real individual doing anything...but more...the idea that the opposite of God is personified in a figure we call Satan so that we can tell the story, and judge choices or others by something.
FaithfulSkeptic wrote:4. Why was cherubim and a flaming sword placed to guard the tree of life after Adam and Eve partook of the fruit?
Perhaps because flaming swords are way cool. I mean...a steel sword isn't cool enough. Also...cherubim were mystical creatures, like unicorns or pegasus. And actually...adding wings or lion bodies to it is pretty cool too. I don't mean to be crass...but...in my opinion...that is what it is...a symbolic character or representing some angel or something. But the specifics of it are not important to the story. Only that the fruit was off limits after the fall, so they don't live forever, but can die and make way for the atonement part of the story to make sense.
FaithfulSkeptic wrote:5. How much, if any of the story of Adam and Eve is to be understood as historical?
In my opinion...it is probably about the same percentage of mormons as there are in the world population. Very small percentage of it is historical.

I believe there is greater value to the story of Adam and Eve by having these elements. The book would not have survived thousands of years if it was about a boring farmer who raised his family. Or about creatures that evolved from caveman over thousands of years where smarter and stronger genetics get passed on until homo-sapiens exist. The purpose of the temple, and the purpose of the bible stories, are to give us teachings to guide our lives to greater spirituality and goodness. All the specifics to me are kept within that purpose of the story.

I'm interested in insights from others how they look at it.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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nibbler
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Re: Understanding the Fall of Adam & Eve

Post by nibbler » 22 Aug 2016, 15:41

I'm afraid most of what I would say will be some variant or other of Heber13's answer but here goes:

Have you ever heard a discussion between two people about how terrible a movie is that goes on for hours and hours? The movie Prometheus comes to mind. I read lots of discussion about that movie. People enjoyed picking apart the movie's logic and pointing out all the unanswered questions. Who was the weirdo in the beginning? What was he doing? Why did that old guy think that he would find immortality if he could just travel to this star cluster that was drawn on a few cave walls? Why would a scientist take off his helmet on a foreign planet with a toothed space worm hissing in his face? Why did the android poison that dude? Why did the black ooze do different things to different people? If the "architects" created us why did that one guy immediately go into beast mode as soon as he saw some humans? Why did the lady run away from the rolling spaceship lengthwise? What did any of this have to do with Alien?

Some people hated the movie for all the questions it left unanswered and they expressed their hatred for the movie by endlessly discussing the all possibilities. Seems to me the movie served its purpose. It got people talking. What's more satisfying, being inspired to imagine endless possibilities and struggling to make sense of things or knowing a definitive answer for everything? It depends on the person. E.g. for me all the Matrix Revolutions fan fiction that was coming out before the release of the actual movie was much more entertaining than the movie itself but that's the subject of a different thread.
FaithfulSkeptic wrote:1. Why would God give two opposing commandments to Adam and Eve? (To multiply and replentish the Earth and to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil)
It gets Adam and Eve thinking. There's very little growth when a choice is obvious. I've found that life truly gets difficult (or interesting or whatever) when you have to chose between the lesser of all evils (or between good, better, and best). Everyone knows what to do when the choice is down to taking a nap or going to church but what do we do when the choice isn't as obvious? A labored decision challenges us and helps us exercise our agency.
FaithfulSkeptic wrote:2. Why are these opposing commandments? (Why couldn't Adam & Eve replentish the earth without partaking of the fruit? Did they need to become mortal in order to have children?)
That's a good question. Maybe you had to herd goats 3000 years ago to get it?
FaithfulSkeptic wrote:3. Why would Satan help fulfill God's plan by getting Eve to partake of the fruit? Wouldn't the whole plan be frustrated if Adam & Eve didn't partake of the fruit?
Good question. Have you ever seen the Good Guy Lucifer memes?

Image
FaithfulSkeptic wrote:4. Why was cherubim and a flaming sword placed to guard the tree of life after Adam and Eve partook of the fruit?
Before I read Heber13's answer I had come to a similar conclusion. It sounded cool.
FaithfulSkeptic wrote:5. How much, if any of the story of Adam and Eve is to be understood as historical?
Another good question. I feel like I could have said that for each of the questions and left it at that. :smile:

It's all the plot holes, inconsistencies, and illogical choices that get you thinking. It wouldn't be a good story if no one was talking about it the next day. Check out the thread on The Critical Nature of Paradox in Mormon Theology
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dande48
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Re: Understanding the Fall of Adam & Eve

Post by dande48 » 22 Aug 2016, 18:22

FaithfulSkeptic wrote: 1. Why would God give two opposing commandments to Adam and Eve? (To multiply and replentish the Earth and to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil)
2. Why are these opposing commandments? (Why couldn't Adam & Eve replentish the earth without partaking of the fruit? Did they need to become mortal in order to have children?)
Here is my theory: The commandments to abstain from the fruit of TKOGAE, and to multiply and replenish the earth, were not opposing. God would never issue a commandment which could not be fulfilled. "I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." (1 Ne 3:7).

IF Adam and Eve had not partaken of the fruit, God would've prepared a way for them to be able to keep the second commandment, to multiply and replenish the earth. If it weren't so, Adam and Even would've "transgressed"one commandment by "not transgressing" the other commandment. But because Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, we will never know what might've been. Adam and Eve's rationalization, that there was "no other way", was born out of ignorance, not wisdom.
3. Why would Satan help fulfill God's plan by getting Eve to partake of the fruit? Wouldn't the whole plan be frustrated if Adam & Eve didn't partake of the fruit?
Satan's plan, as I understand it, would be to have every man follow after the desires of their own heart, instead of submitting to God's will. By getting Adam & Eve to partake of the fruit, he was able to cut them off from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. If they had remained in the garden, Satan could not harm them.
4. Why was cherubim and a flaming sword placed to guard the tree of life after Adam and Eve partook of the fruit?
https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alm ... =eng#white
5. How much, if any of the story of Adam and Eve is to be understood as historical?
I would think most of it. Many sections of the story of Adam and Eve would not make sense in a linear timeline. Satan probably did not send college-educated false popes and preists to teach Adam and Eve. Peter, James, and John would not have been able to touch Adam or Eve without a physical body, nor would they have been able to give the signs and tokens without having first recieved them. Satan did not address members of the temple audiance right before being cast out by the real Peter in front of the real Adam and Eve. It is a story by allegory, to convey gospel truths.

There is great evidence that human kind were created in a similar manner as the rest of God's creatures; though hundreds of millions of years of genetic mutation and natural selection. I would likely guess that the bodies of Adam and Eve had biological parents, much like we do. For most of their childhood, Adam and Eve lived in relative peace, without knowledge of the predators and savagry of the outside world. Then, by a choice they made in ignorance, they discovered that there is pain, sickness, misery, and death in the world. They learned that their natural instincts are not always benificial for peace and prosperity (i.e. eating of the wrong "fruit" can make you very sick). They learned that sometimes they must sacrifice, whether time or the best of their harvest, in order to get something better. They saw the goodness of God, and loved it. They saw the misery of the world, and dispised it. They established between themselves basic principles of morality, in line with what they were taught by the goodness of God. They realized that most importantly, they needed to place bounds on their sexuality in favor of the peace and harmony of the community. And lastly, they realized the truth of concecration; giving all of yourself for the benifit of the community.
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Re: Understanding the Fall of Adam & Eve

Post by FaithfulSkeptic » 22 Aug 2016, 18:24

Thanks Nibbler and Heber for your responses. I just came across this post on Facebook about Eve being beguiled by Satan to partake of the forbidden fruit. The meaning of "beguiled" is not what we might expect. This fits perfectly with the perspectives already given:

http://www.womeninthescriptures.com/201 ... uiled.html


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Re: Understanding the Fall of Adam & Eve

Post by nibbler » 23 Aug 2016, 04:58

dande48 wrote:Here is my theory: The commandments to abstain from the fruit of TKOGAE, and to multiply and replenish the earth, were not opposing. God would never issue a commandment which could not be fulfilled. "I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." (1 Ne 3:7).

IF Adam and Eve had not partaken of the fruit, God would've prepared a way for them to be able to keep the second commandment, to multiply and replenish the earth. If it weren't so, Adam and Even would've "transgressed"one commandment by "not transgressing" the other commandment. But because Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, we will never know what might've been. Adam and Eve's rationalization, that there was "no other way", was born out of ignorance, not wisdom.
That's an interesting theory. That perhaps Satan presented a false dilemma, a set of binary choices where there were other available options.
dande48 wrote:Satan's plan, as I understand it, would be to have every man follow after the desires of their own heart, instead of submitting to God's will. By getting Adam & Eve to partake of the fruit, he was able to cut them off from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. If they had remained in the garden, Satan could not harm them.
There are a few scriptures that touch on Satan's mindset:
Moses 4:6 wrote:And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world.
2 Neph2 2:18 wrote: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.
I see a few things in those verses: 1) Satan was doing what he did out of ignorance 2) He wanted to invite misery into the world. I find the later more interesting. He was successful in inviting misery into the world but introducing misery into the world also had the effect of inviting joy into the world. What if the story was about a well meaning angel that wanted to introduce joy into the world but inadvertently invited misery into the world because you can't have one without the other?

Also, since the thread is about the fall I wanted to get technical about what the narrative in the scriptures says to see what people thought. In Genesis, the BoA, and BoMoses creation accounts the commandment to not eat from the tree of knowledge was only extended to Adam. When god issued the commandment Eve still hadn't been created. Was she under the same commandment?
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Re: Understanding the Fall of Adam & Eve

Post by Curt Sunshine » 23 Aug 2016, 09:15

I love the idea that the garden narrative is an allegorical telling of the pre-existent war in heaven between Jehovah and Lucifer.

The very short summary:

God's children had to choose between remaining in a state of never-ending stagnation, luxury, and ease (Eden) or leaving God's presence (as couples, not individually) by following Satan into a world of turmoil, strife, hard work, sin . . . and eternal progression.

The competing commandments were nothing more than the only options: commandments simply because they had to choose one or the other. They weren't commanded to to both; they were commanded to choose one or the other.

I also think it is fascinating and instructive that, in the garden narrative, they had to be tricked into choosing the right one (and that Adam only agreed in the end because he knew that staying with his wife was more important than staying alone with God) - that their "nature" (and prior experiences) leaned toward ease and unchallenging bliss.

I love the Garden of Eden story - but only if Intake it completely as an allegory / grand creation myth from which I can draw conceptual meaning. I don't believe at all that it is historical in any way.
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Re: Understanding the Fall of Adam & Eve

Post by Heber13 » 23 Aug 2016, 11:07

What I do not like about how the story presents how Eve is created. I have heard many proposed ideas around how creation wasn't complete until the woman was formed, or that Eve was the strong one to choose wisely, and those may be true...but the story seems still to be presented as the woman is the helpmeet or "suitable helper" to the man.

While I take into account the limitations of those who wrote the scriptures, it bothers me a lot the the temple and church lessons seem to reinforce the status of women as different and sometimes subordinate to the man, and I reject that completely.

Viewing the Adam and Even story allegorical means I can realize the limitations as how the story is told, and how it has been passed down, and that it does not literally establish any order or magnitude for the roles of men and women or husbands and wives or heterosexuality vs homosexuality. Anyone who would suggest Eve can't have the priesthood, for example, because of her choice in the garden is WAY off in the weeds, in my opinion, and those kinds of speculative things are not necessarily established by the Adam and Eve story, and can be damaging speculations.

The story has a purpose to teach some things. The story is limited. The story does not have application for all things.

There are things about it that bother me if I cannot take a cafeteria approach to reject some of it. Like other things about church, I try to focus on the good things I can draw from it, and leave behind the stuff that does not have value to me.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: Understanding the Fall of Adam & Eve

Post by Roy » 23 Aug 2016, 11:21

The Garden of Eden is not a Mormon story. It is a Jewish origin story that we have coopted and reinterpreted. We are trying to make sense of this story through the lens of a Mormon religion that was built upon Christianity that was in turn built upon Judaism. There are therefore elements that are confusing and serve no real purpose for us today.

Sometimes Mormonism does this in interesting ways. There is a scripture in the book of Jude that refers to angels that kept not their "first estate." We took this evidence of a pre-mortal life (first estate = pre mortal life and second estate = mortal life). The Greek word that was translated as "first estate" in the KJV means "principality," "domain," "dominion," "appointed spheres," "responsibilities," and "original rank." Google "First Estate" and you will find that it refers to a well known caste system employed in France. It would make sense for the KJV translators to translate the Greek word meaning essentially rank or nobility as "First Estate." First as in order of importance - such as the "First Lady of the United States". The Angels in heaven had rank, authority, and nobility in the kingdom of God that they lost by following Satan. We LDS came on the seen hundreds of years later without a caste system perspective and took this "first" to represent a linear or chronological order and felt that if there is a first then there must be a second - and that angels that keep the first estate will then graduate to the second estate.

I believe that we have done similar things in interpreting the Adam and Eve story.

It is Mormonism that has inserted the opposing commandments. Who says that Adam and Eve could not have had children in the garden of Eden? Most other Christian churches teach and believe that Adam and Eve could have lived with their posterity in the garden if only they had obeyed.

Do not get me wrong. I believe it is actually a beautiful thing to reinterpret and create new meanings for the old stories. We make these stories relevant for new eras of people by doing so. Rather than Eve being the foolish cause of bringing misery and sorrow into the world, Eve can be the heroine - realizing what must be done and having the guts to take that step despite much sacrifice.

It is a beautiful thing but I need to remember that this new interpretation is grafted onto thousands of years of interpretation, meaning, and mythos of the Adam and Eve origin/creation story that has gone before. It is a new panel in a grand mosaic of meaning through storytelling.

My $0.02
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

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"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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