The C-F-A and a Non-literal Adam and Eve

This past Sunday I taught my 14 year old SS class about the Atonement from 2 Nephi 2 (we’re a week behind). A strange thought occurred to me after class concerning the possible effects of a non-literal or symbolical reading of the Adam and Eve story on the way we (or at least I) understand the Atonement.

One of the things I taught my class stems right from my missionary days, namely that the Atonement directly undoes, in effect, two outcomes of Adam’s Fall: physical and spiritual death. I’ve learned much about the Gospel since my mission and many of my views from the time have changed, but I’ve always retained this basic truth.

The reasoning is thus: because of Adam’s choices all mankind has become subject to physical and spiritual death through no choice of their own. This unfair situation is corrected by the Atonement and is explicitly taught in 2 Nephi 2.

8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

10 And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement—

25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness 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.

The emphasis is mine but the point is clear. All men are resurrected and brought back into the very presence of God to be judged, a complete overcoming of the Fall for every individual. Neither is said to be conditional (though remaining in the presence of God is said to be very conditional).

Now for the problem. As my previous posts have shown, I’m often not a literalist when it comes to reading the scriptures, especially the OT. For example, I do not read the Flood story literally, I think that it happened but has been blown out of proportion. I read the Creation account very symbolically and I personally hold to the belief that science gives us today about the age of the Earth and how it was formed. I believe that God began or put life here but I also believe that our findings about the evolution of animals over the millenia also reveals to us about how our current animals got to their present forms. A non-literal reading of the Creation allows me to believe the Bible and our science.

However, I stop short on Adam and Eve and the evolution of man. The only official statement by Church leaders on the issues of creation and evolution that I am aware of (Origins of Man, I think) states only that man did not evolve. I struggle personally to understand exactly how we fit into the whole scheme of things, having not yet found an answer that I find satisfactory in addressing both science and faith. So as of right now I’m a fence-sitter.

On the other hand, many of my fellow LDS friends are not. They read the Adam and Eve story completely symbolically. For many of them, it is a metaphor of the awakening of mankind to consciousness. Adam and Eve were not historical figures in any way. While I am not nearly ready yet to join them in their beliefs, I can see their points and try to consider them seriously. I’m not about to hash them all out here as this is not the direct point of my post but this view point has a direct effect on my understanding of the Atonement and the Fall.

It is not at all difficult once a non-literal or non-historical Adam and Eve are accepted to view the Fall in the same light. The Fall becomes an explanation for the difficult state of mortal life and our separation from God.

Fair enough, but this does considerable damage to our understanding of the Atonement as I explained above. If there was no Adam to explain the cause of our fallen and mortal state then the Atonement does not undo those effects. It may still undo physical and spiritual death but what then are the causes of those great obstacles? I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard anyone offer a satisfactory explanation for them beyond the traditional Fall story.

What I have heard is that the Fall story is necessary to extricate God from any wrongdoing in the Creation of man. After all, God could not possibly be the creator and cause of this miserable life we suffer through, right? I know that sounds sarcastic but the truth is that I honestly pose this question myself. This world is imperfect, we are imperfect, and things are decidedly unjust. Traditionally, that is why God let Satan do what he did. What are we to understand about Satan, the third of the hosts of heaven, or anything from our premortal existence? And this is really just one area in which our theology gets a serious hit if the Creation and Fall are not literal.

If it is true that God did not require an Adam to Fall to curse the world and bring about the conditions that we experience (as 2 Nephi 2 avows) then I will have to seriously reevaluate my view of God, his nature, his character, and that of the universe. And I’m not unwilling to do that but I definitely would need some serious reasons for undertaking that endeavor.

Our current explanations of these events take care of most of the problems a non-literal reading presents. It’s not perfect but they are not without great merit and support. And I think that anyone trying to convince others to understand Adam and Eve as non-literal entities (or at least have us take them seriously) has a lot of explaining to do. In fact, they have a huge chunk of theology to rewrite, theology that our scriptures and prophets have purported and supported forever.

Is anyone willing to take up the gauntlet? I find myself in the position of being just outside mainstream understanding on many similar issues (like the ones I mentioned at the start of the post) because I am willing to think about other view points and non-traditional stances seriously. But at present, I do not find such a stance to be tenable. It brings into question too much of what I already hold to be as close to the truth as I’ve found without offering enough in return to make up for what it takes away.

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42 Comments

Filed under Atonement, Book of Mormon, Doctrine

42 responses to “The C-F-A and a Non-literal Adam and Eve

  1. NorthboundZax

    Very thoughtful point, lxx. I often find myself outside the mainstream of LDS thought when it comes to literal reading of scripture as well. And I must say, your insight to death and atonement makes me see more of the utility in previous strains of Adam-God that used to be more prevalent in Mormon thought, but are now kicked to the wayside as heresy. Maybe its time to reevaluate the efficacy of our nearly century-long headstrong charge into a definition of God parallel (albeit non-overlapping) to our more orthodox Christian counterparts. There was a lot of wisdom in early Mormonism that we seem to have no current interest in pursuing as a church, despite (maybe because of) the possibility that it may take us to new places in our spiritual journey. Adherence to orthodoxy in the face of new information/inspiration is no virtue.

  2. lxxluthor

    “Adherence to orthodoxy in the face of new information/inspiration is no virtue.”

    Agreed. Completely.

    “There was a lot of wisdom in early Mormonism that we seem to have no current interest in pursuing as a church, despite (maybe because of) the possibility that it may take us to new places in our spiritual journey.”

    I have felt this way for a while but have not done enough personal reading of it all to be making well informed calls on those things. I don’t know about that second part though. It sounds like something Joseph Smith might have said though.

  3. lxxluthor,

    If there was no Adam to explain the cause of our fallen and mortal state then the Atonement does not undo those effects. It may still undo physical and spiritual death but what then are the causes of those great obstacles? I don’t believe that I’ve ever heard anyone offer a satisfactory explanation for them beyond the traditional Fall story.

    We have good reason to believe that the Adam represents mankind, so even in the traditional rendering you are encouraged to think of yourself as though you were Adam when you read the story. So, it seems to be that the easiest answer to your question above is that you are there to explain the cause of your fallen state.

    To dig in any further, you will have to explain to me what you think Adam did that “explains” the cause of our fallen and mortal state. I know that we have a story in which he ate a forbidden fruit, but this is open to interpretation. You seem to feel the story, if read literally, gives a good explanation to account for the fallen state of humankind, but please be more specific about your view: Was the forbidden fruit a literal fruit? Why did Adam’s choice thousands of years ago have an effect on my spiritual condition? To be honest, taking the story literally seems to me to be more problematic than the symbolic reading. So I will return your challenge and say that the literalists have a lot of explaining to do themselves.

  4. lxxluthor

    Jacob: I realize that we are to think of ourselves as Adam in some ways, to put ourselves into his role and learn from his actions but the concept that Adam was also a real, living, breathing individual who founded the human race is explicitly taught in the Church. Putting ourselves in his place in some instances does not making him a non-historical figure.

    As for your second question, I have no idea what Adam specifically did. I don’t think that the fruit was literal (Spencer W. Kimball didn’t think it was either). I think that what Adam did was he directly disobeyed a commandment from God that God explicitly told him what the outcome would be if he did it. The action is unimportant in my mind, only the general gist is necessary. After all, God makes the laws and if he wants to make the consequence of breaking any commandment to be “thou shalt be cursed and cast from my presence” then he can (and apparently did). There could quite easily be other and better explanations, and that is what I’m asking people to come up with.

  5. I’ve been kicking around the idea that all of us fell in the same way as Adam and Eve—that their story is actually our story; that I chose to fall just as Adam chose to fall. And I really am kicking it around, not quite ready to kick it out or take it up. That’s kind of along the lines of what Jacob J says, “that you are there to explain the cause of your fallen state.”

  6. lxxluthor

    Brianj: I actually quite like this take. Even as I take up a literalist position and write what is for me a conservative post, I don’t think that the story is all literal. My challenge is to those who think it is entirely symbolic. As usual I am personally in the middle, fence sitting and luke-warm, ready to be spewed.

  7. My personal answer is that, despite the popular dualism that arises between separating out mind and body, the fact is that they are inseparable. Thus coming to be as this body (rather than in as we usually think of it) physical death and spiritual death are inseparable. It’s not like my brain is merely an organ like the heart – there as a limit and mild function to make the body work. Rather it’s an intrinsic part of my cognitive personae and so forth.

    Thus when our spirits expanded their physical makeup by being combined with a brain there ceased to be an easy separation of the two. Much of my thinking, probably the majority of my thinking, arises because of being embodied. That is what leads to an intrinsic spiritual alienation from God.

    Now Christ suggests it’s possible to be in the body but not alienated. Yet only he seems to have been able to do this. For the rest of us our body gives us death and gives us a ‘self’ that acts and desires in ways that alienate us from God.

    Thus the very resurrection that enables us to overcome physical death simultaneously enables us to overcome spiritual death. This is why we make a distinction between justification and sanctification. (Although I think it a blurrier distinction than some) Sanctification will only be complete when we have a different sort of brain. Justification is being told we made it despite the affirmaties of our flesh.

  8. To add, this more biological and cognitive science way of thinking about the resurrection explains a lot about the Garden Story as well. While a lot of the story as presented in Genesis is symbolic (such as the rib bit) I reject mythologizing the whole thing. For all his flaws BY had some interesting ideas here. The fall of Adam and Eve was leaving a terrestrial world and terrestrial makeup and coming to have a telestial body — including brain. Thus his descendents did as well.

    Why that was necessary escapes me. But then most of the whole spirit – body relation is a mystery. But I think the all too tempting tendency to interpret it through Descartes is very misleading (as B. H. Roberts explicitly did and influenced most 20th century LDS thought).

  9. larryco_

    I think many members struggle with the literal reading of the scriptures. But the fact is, it is often harder for a latter-day saint to move away from a literalist position because of modern day scripture. For example, a member is tied to a 7,000 year temporal existence of the earth not so much by the bible as by D&C 77:6-7. Adam is not figurative, but quite a literal person, in D&C 27, 29, 84, 107, etc.

    So, do I have a resolution for the obvious conflicts for these and the dozens of other things in the scriptures that seem to defy established fact? Nope. But I don’t think God planted dinosaur bones just to mess with my head, so I continue to seek knowledge by faith and also by study without necessarily expecting a resolution at the end of the road. (I do wish it were different though)

  10. lxxluthor

    Clark: You write like a man who has a lot more to say on the issue. Do you have a link to something more expansive on these ideas? BTW, I like that this theory of yours is unique and out of the box.

  11. lxxluthor

    Yeah, I always had problems with D&C 77. My non-literal reading of those verses is pretty uneasy as yet but I’m less comfortable with accepting them literally. So there you have it.

  12. lxxluthor,

    If the fruit is non-literal, then the part of the story that supposedly explains the fall is not literal and you subscribe to a non-literal reading to begin with. At which point, I am wondering where all the consternation in the post about a non-literal Adam is coming from.

    If you want to hold on to the belief in a literal Adam for various reasons, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But this needs to be separated from the issue of whether the Genesis story is read literally. In the post you tie these two together, arguing that there must be a historical Adam in order for the story to have explanatory power, but they you turn around and say the story is symbolic in the crucial places that explain the fall (i.e. eating of the fruit). This undermines your line of reasoning. I don’t see how you can use a text you say is symbolic to prove the necessity of a literal/historical Adam. Do you see my confusion?

    I don’t have any reason to argue against there being a historical Adam, but I do have a reason to argue against a strictly literal reading of the Genesis story. Are we on the same page? I can’t tell.

  13. lxxluthor

    Jacob: Good call. I’m in the quagmire of taking the story and reading parts of it literally and other parts not. I believe that just because parts of the story are figurative or symbolical does not mean that the whole thing must be read that way and what I’m understanding from you is that you want it to be one or the other. But I’m now thinking that I was wrong in that impression. Maybe we are getting on the same page.

    I’ll try to say again what I said in the post: If the entire story is to be read figuratively then there is something wrong with the pervasive idea in the Church that it was an action of a literal Adam (portrayed as eating forbidden fruit) that caused the Fall and all that goes with it. If a person wants to read the story entirely figuratively then they have much to explain differently in our theology such as Satan and his role, the pre-mortal existence etc. And they would also have to view the Atonement differently as they have completely altered its theological antecedents. The common cause-and-effect understanding of the Fall leading to Atonement is out the window and that has significant repercussions. Am I making this clearer? I can never tell how well I’ve written a thing out.

  14. “Clark: You write like a man who has a lot more to say on the issue. “ Hah! Clark writes like a man who could engulf me and all of my ideas without even flinching.

  15. Rob Osborn

    What I find quite interesting is that we debate whether something is literal or symbolic based completely on interpretaion coupled with logic. There has to be a separation obviously into two categories. These two categories separate the known literalness from the rest dividing what we know to be true into one category and what we “believe to not be true” into a second category that can be symbolic or not.

    For instance- Adam and Eve are put into the known literalness category because we know them to be the very first humans to be created on earth. They literally are the first parents of our human existance in mortality. How they were made and other figurative references have to go into the other category because we do not have enough information.

    Personally, as applied to the atonement, Adam and Eve were literal beings who literally fell both physically and spiritually. We are effected by their fall but are not responsible. We also recognize and accept their fall as necessary for our existance in mortality. We bring upon our own selves our own personal spiritual fall as we ourselves sin. Physical death however is not something we choose- we are just born into that predicament. That is why we take upon ourselves Adam and Eve in the temple so that we accept the fall as literally happening to our first parents and fully accept the physical death consequences of that fall. Our own spiritual fall though is wholly independant of Adam and Eve. Neither they nor I are responsible for each others spiritual fall.

  16. lxxluthor

    Rob: I’m not sure that I follow what you are saying about spiritual death. As I understand it, spirit death is the simple geographical separation from God’s presence. This occurs during birth or whenever the spirit enters the body. This is caused by Adam and Eve’s decision which cast them and their posterity out of the Garden and God’s presence. It ends, via the Atonement, when we return to His presence to be judged. Our spiritual state at that time depends on how we spend out time here in mortality and our ability to stay likewise. We spiritually die again if we are not worthy to stay. That’s how I read it. How is your view different?

  17. Jeff G

    “However, I stop short on Adam and Eve and the evolution of man.”

    Ha! Unfortunately, that is exactly where the science is strongest. Consider the Intelligent Design movement. Even if everything they say is correct about specified design and irreducible complexity, we are still left with man and ape sharing common ancestors. Even IDers aren’t willing to challenge this point.

    Regarding my attempts at harmonizing evolution and Mormonism, here is what I have posted in the past (I hope you don’t mind the long cut, paste and slight modifications):

    Dismissing the fall altogether is a notion that most members are simply not going to be willing to give up. But why is this? Is it the fall, as such, that cannot be rejected or is it rather the effects from, and reasons for the fall which are more important? I suggest that it is the second, though saving the first would be icing on the cake. After all, Mc Conkie’s strong adherence to the doctrine of the Fall stems from two things: 1) his desire to maintain the credibility of the scriptures and 2) it’s association with the atonement which shall be dealt with shortly.

    The doctrine of the fall is as follows and surely any attempt at reconciliation must account for such things:

    1. It was an introduction of physical death for those involved.
    2. It was an introduction of spiritual death for those involved.
    3. It was an introduction of the ability to physically procreate, again, for those involved.
    4. It was an introduction of knowledge in one form or another to those involved.

    I have left these statements rather vague (i.e. “those involved”) for good reason. First, and most obvious, yet least persuasive to the iron-rod member, is that ambiguity makes reconciliation easier. Second, and more persuasively, it is nigh impossible to deny that organisms have been dying and procreating on this planet for billions of years.

    What we know about life before the fall is:

    1. Adam was in God’s presence. God walked and talked with Adam.
    2. Adam lived in a paradise, whereever this was, it was not “here.”
    3. Adam had an immortal spiritual body of sorts. It is difficult to tell what this actually means.
    4. Adam was ignorant in that he had not gained some form of knowledge which seems to be an experience of good and evil. He could only progress spiritually by subjecting himself to spiritual and physical death.
    5. Satan was present was also present here in God’s presence. Only after goes against the Father is he banished.
    6. Adam was childless. This seems to be related to the nature of his spiritual body.

    After the fall the conditions were as follows:

    1. Adam was cast out of God’s presence. We no longer had relatively easy access to God, but instead had to pray for “many days” for an angel to come.
    2. Adam was cast out of paradise into was is termed a lone and dreary world. In other words we was sent “here.”
    3. Adam became mortal. He received a mortal body just like we have now.
    4. Adam could now have children. Again, just like we can with our bodies now.
    5. Adam began to gain knowledge and progress spiritually.
    6. Satan was also was cast out of the paradise. He then came to the lone and dreary world with Adam to tempt him.

    If these events do not describe the Garden scene, what could they describe? If we merely note that the name Adam means “man” or “mankind” (hence my reason for not mentioning Eve, sorry ladies) and then replace “Adam” with “mankind” in all of these points we see a different sotry altogether. Rather than describing the Garden of Eden story, the points now clearly describe the pre-existence as Mormons understand it. The story of our coming to earth and the story of Adam’s fall, seem to be telling the exact same story. If this is the case, then why not just consider them to be one and the same story, namely mankind’s fall from heaven?

    Of course this theory doesn’t, in itself, tie off all loose ends, but I think it is a very strong start. It allows one to endorse a strong form of evolution while at the same time not sacrificing a meaningfully robust (thought not literal) story of the fall.

  18. larryco_

    Not bad, Jeff G.

  19. TT

    hey, I am just quickly going over this post while I am on the run, but it seems to me that whether or not Adam and Eve existed, sin and death evidently exist. How these conditions came to be seems less important than that the atonement solves for these conditions.

  20. Rob Osborn

    lxxluthor,

    Spiritual death is not just the mere separation of us from God geographically speaking. We somehow associate it as being the mere separation because it can accompany spiritual death. Spiritual death is “being dead unto good works”. A person is declared spiritually dead when he no longer heads the promptings of the spirit of god within him. It is then that the spirit withdraws and he becomes dead to some degree.

    When a person is “born again”, it means that he has been spiritually reborn of god- thus he has spiritual life- “being alive to God and his works”. In an eternal sense, a person will either gain eternal life or eternal death. In this eternal sense, either you will be eternally alive to righteousness, or you will be eternally dead unto righteousness.

    In the BoM we read in varios places that because we are separated from God we are spiritually dead. Often times though it is not understood because there is more to it. In Alma, it speaks of becoming “dead” only after one arrived into mortality and then sinned. At the end of the BoM it was misunderstood who needed baptism and so it was asked of god who needed baptism. God revealed that little children do not need baptism because they are already spiritually alive in Christ. Only spiritually fallen (dead) people need to repent of their spiritual fall according to D&C 29, and only accountable people are capable of falling spiritually (spiritual death).

    The logic of it is this- Just because there is a geographical separation of me and God does not mean that I cannot still converse with God and be associated to things of righteousness. Take Christ for example, he himself is a member of the Godhead and he himself cannot separate himself from himself. Nor do we say that he was spiritually dead while he sojourned on earth. It truly is no different for all the righteous- they are all alive in the spirit of Christ and do his will.

    We think of the word “dead” to mean just “separation” and thus say that we are spiritually dead. This is incorrect. The definition most fitting for spiritual “death” is to no longer be an “instrument” in Gods hand or to be “unresponsive” to the promptings of the holy spirit within us already. Everynoe is born with the light of Christ (spirit of God) within themselves. As long as they choose righteously, or are outside the law (handicapped, children, etc.) that light stays alive within them and they thus have spiritual life. As they sin though through choice, that light dims or dies and one is classified as spiritually dead.

    I hope I made some sense for ya.

  21. Nitsav

    What’s CFA?

  22. I believe in a literal Adam and Eve, but a non-literal way of understanding the fall, one that applies the fall to everyone who chose to came to earth, makes sense to me.

    Think of these as the two commandments:

    (1) Do not refuse to grow and learn.
    (2) Do not knowingly put yourself in a situation where you will succumb to temptation.

    Given these two commandments, then the whole Garden situation follows if you accept the following as true:
    (A) we need to be in a fallen world of temptation and struggle in order to grow.
    (B) we know that we aren’t strong enough to make it through such a world without sinning.

  23. Nitsav,

    CFA usually refers to the three pillars of eternity, Creation, Fall, and Atonement:

    “Before one can comprehend the atonement of Christ, one must first understand the fall of Adam.  And before one can comprehend the fall of Adam, one must first understand the Creation.  These three pillars of eternity relate to one another.”  (Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, Aug 1991, p.5.)

    .

    lxxluthor,

    Indeed, I too “stop short on Adam and Eve and the evolution of man.”  Some things have been revealed “and what has been made known it is our duty to receive and retain.”  (The First Presidency, “The Origin of Man,” Ensign, Feb. 2002, p.30.)

  24. lxxluthor

    Jeff, Rob, and Adam: Thanks all for your replies. I am going to think hard about them. I particularly like Jeff’s Garden = preexistence metaphor. Rob, that made much more sense and was well defended. Adam, interesting thoughts, I look forward to reading your unabridged post soon.

  25. Luthor, I wrote a lot about this on my blog over the years (although it’s kind of in limbo until I have more free time)

  26. Trevor M

    About the fruit:

    There is deep symbolism in the fruit and the two trees in the garden. I think the loss of innocence connected with the fall could actually be a symbol of the pre-mortal choice to leave God’s presence and be subject to agency at it’s fullest in which sin death etc were inevitable. (the tree itself being agency, the fruit being the decision to come to earth and be subject to good and evil etc.) Thus the Garden of eden is not a picture necessarily of the beginnings of mortality but of the plan symbolically rendered as a piece of the premortal (a scriptural drama if you will). Thus the consequences of sin are depicted and perhaps stylized but remain as death and sorrow, which we willingly chose for ourselves.

    I don’t have to write a long post on this, but I would love to hear what you think. I didn’t backread much either, sorry in advance.

  27. Nice pull Jeff. I would have linked to that comment too if you hadn’t done it already. For those interested, it originated in this thread which is on a topic similar to this post.

  28. Lxxluthor,
    my argument is probably best seen as an expansion of Jeff G.’s argument in #17. In other words, my argument is that the “garden=preexistence” argument helps explain the whole contradictory commandments bit.

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  30. Well, lxxluthor, I tend to not be very “lukewarm” on this issue.

    I am completely lost with #17. I need to reread Genesis. We are studying chapter 12 currently.

    I just finished reading I Nephi, recently. Maybe, I can pick up a few more of the pieces in II Nephi on Genesis.

  31. MattG

    Jeff G,

    I agree that is a very intriguing way to look at the Garden narrative. I think it’s still very difficult to preclude the idea that Adam actually existed. There is a very specific genealogy given of Adam’s posterity in the scriptures, his dual person as Michael/Adam is shown in the temple, and there are numerous geographic locations noted by Joseph Smith (Adam’s altar, Adam-ondi-Ahman, etc.). In my readings by B.H. Roberts and James Talmage (both avid pro-evolutionists), they seem to posit that Adam was the first of God’s spiritual progeny, though not necessarily the first Homo Sapiens, per se. In other words, he was the first instance of God putting the spirit of one of his children into the “shell” that is Homo Sapiens, and as such, treating him as an accountable child.

    BTW, I always interpreted D&C 77 to mean the history of the earth as it pertained to Adam’s progeny, not the entire age of the earth.

  32. Jeff G

    Matt,

    As Adam said, under my theory you don’t have to say that Adam didn’t exist. All my theory says is that the fall of Adam, was the same as the fall that we all experience when we come to earth. The Adam in the fall story, should be read, on my theory, as the Adam of the temple ceremony. None of this precludes the existence of a literal Adam, only a literal fall in a literal garden.

  33. Gary

    If the Fall story is symbolic of our leaving the preexistence for mortality, how do we explain the following:

    1. Eating the fruit which resulted in the fall was expressly prohibited by God. But this mortal existence was in fact encouraged by God. We are not here a result of transgression.

    2. Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan to eat the fruit, yet it was clearly not Satan that enticed us out of the preexistence.

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  35. A non-literal reading of the Creation allows me to believe the Bible and our science.

    Could you please seek out a academically trained non-BYU evolutionary biologist, run this past him/her, and let me know what their reaction is like? I’m deeply interested in what they would say to that.

  36. Stephen R

    I have enjoyed all of the preceeding comments.

    I recently re-read an essay by Michael R. Ash, “The Mormon Myth of Evil Evolution,” that addresses many of the questions that have been raised. http://www.mormonfortress.com/evolution.pdf

    I hope that it will contribute to the discussion.

  37. jason

    The Garden of Eden = Pre-existence theory offered by comment #17 is probably the most creative and thought provoking theory I have ever come across. However it only works if we treat our study of mormon scripture the same as we do the study of traditional ancient texts. There is plenty of room for “out of the box” thinking on the Genesis account of creation since their is no universal authority in the world that one must appeal to. Where many of the new age mormon theories on this post fail is that the CFA doctrines/scriptures are the “egg” while revelation is the “chicken”, not the other way around. In other words, the LDS position on prophets is that they stand as a conduit between God and man, and therefore all truth. Until the the more recent PR generation of prophets, where the in vogue position on nearly any non-political postion seems to be “we don’t know”, the prophets of former generations were very specific on the traditional interpretation of these stories. Joseph Fielding Smith, and Brigham Young in particular come to mind, but I think almost all of the others are safe examples as well. Point is, if you choose to undermine the positions of these prophets on the matter in any way, then you also undermine revelation – then were back to the same old question of what came first, “chicken or the egg”.

  38. I personally believe the Fall of Adam was about choice, love and sacrifice, which forgive me to say, it all could even likened unto the Atonement. Although I am fairly careful about sharing my views on these topics, except when prompted.

    First, for some reason, I felt prompted to Google: Adam & Eve, symbolism.

    My Google search came up with a number of hits, I enjoyed a blog, along with it’s comments: Re “The C-F-A and a Non-literal Adam and Eve”.

    Second, if not oddly enough, I feel impressed to share my thoughts regarding this blog, here. Before I do though, I’d like to share a quote Brother D. Kelly Ogden (BYU professor of ancient history) taught me once, “Don’t lose faith in what you do know, because of what you don’t know!”

    I testify that I believe our first father Adam was sent here on a mission to earth, as a literal man [as prophet] to till the earth, WHICH MAY HAVE been populated with natural men [as hunters & gatherers] outside the safe garden grounds; i.e. a botanical temple – where heaven meets earth.

    Re: I do not read the Flood story literally, I think that it happened but has been blown out of proportion. … A non-literal reading of the Creation allows me to believe the Bible and our science.

    1. My personal interpretations of scripture do not have much difficulty with [some] aspects about evolution; such theories can co-exist. It is far easier for me to grasp, than say incestuous relationships would be. I suspect the family of Adam intermingled with the natural men, I believe, because of the literal flood, much of the latter folk [not all] with the “natural” DNA had ceased to exist [another topic].

    Re: The only official statement by Church leaders on the issues of creation and evolution that I am aware of (Origins of Man, I think) states only that man did not evolve.

    To date, the church has NO official position on evolution. A letter addressed to William Lee Stokes, professor of Geology at the University of Utah from 1947 to 1982, was written by President David O. McKay in 1957, signed with his signature. I have photo-copy of [perhaps] the same letter, but here’s a link to the exact wording in it.

    2. Society concludes, The FALL was basically just the SEPARATION of man from God. I certainly agree Adam and Eve would literally have to leave the garden, thus being separated from God’s presence, BUT Adam would literally die if/when he “ate” the symbolic fruit; NOT just of very old age either [sorry - forbidden topic!]

    Moses 3: 17
    But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

    3. In so many ways, Satan really had it in for Adam; Michael had a part, wherein Satan was expelled from heaven. As far as Satan is still concerned, he remains at war with God and the inhabitants on earth. The great counterfeiter loved his part, wherein Adam had to leave the garden!

    Rev. 12: 7-9
    7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
    8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
    9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

    4. Yet, honestly what was Adam’s transgression? I don’t believe it was [as simple as] just for eating fruit; it was about cause and effect. God said Adam could choose to eat the fruit/or not; if he did/he’d die.

    Re: If it is true that God did not require an Adam to Fall to curse the world and bring about the conditions that we experience (as 2 Nephi 2 avows) then I will have to seriously reevaluate my view of God, his nature, his character, and that of the universe. And I’m not unwilling to do that but I definitely would need some serious reasons for undertaking that endeavor.

    5. Not for a second do I ANY LONGER believe God “set up” Adam and Eve for the fall; Satan covered that. However the Father’s warnings were real; Adam’s fall came about due to HIS transgression; curiously not Eve’s. Although she too suffers considerably for her actions!

    Think of this, just as in war today, someone who has “fallen” often refers to someone who has DIED! Just because the Father knew what would happen, did not specifically make it so. Adam’s and Eve’s choices simply made it so. God wasn’t bluffing either. Except, about certain things, he simply forbids discussion. I suggest, ask Him!

    Alma 12: 9
    And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

    6. Now if eating the fruit was NOT the sin, then what was it? The Father instructed Adam to cleave unto Eve; this means to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly, God meant it, “Stick with your wife, Adam”. Make note though, out of the garden, Adam sticks to Eve like glue; he’s depicted as physically stepping between her from anyone who comes near them!

    Moses 3: 24
    Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.

    7. Adam’s transgression was by going, in direct opposition to the Lord’s counsel. So, [initially] Adam does not do, as he was told to do; he decides to trot off one way. Consequently, ditto; Eve vulnerably heads off in a separate direction. I ask this, who of us is not guilty of omission. Prophets today [speaking for Lord] have counseled us against similar behavior, both literally and figuratively. God is the SAME today, yesterday and tomorrow.

    8. Satan is also the SAME today, yesterday and tomorrow. He wants us divided, to gain advantage to conquer both then & now, thus destroying holy bonds of matrimony! Make note: Adam was steadfast against Satan. However, sadly Eve is deceived; she does as Satan “the father of all lies” instructs. She then goes to tell Adam what’s up; note, different than how she covenants with the Lord later on.

    Re: Is anyone willing to take up the gauntlet? I find myself in the position of being just outside mainstream understanding on many similar issues (like the ones I mentioned at the start of the post) because I am willing to think about other view points and non-traditional stances seriously.

    9. Here’s my critical point. Adam’s sacrifice was actually a “type & symbol” for the ATONEMENT, not sin. Adam had realized the cause and effect, wherein his own actions couldn’t “shield and protect” Eve from the powers of Satan [“more” is necessary]. He realizes he must sacrifice his own safety for hers. [He DOESN’T do so, due to Satan!] God gave Adam the choice whether to not to partake/or not. If Adam doesn’t – he understands Eve should surely die soon, outside the garden without him.

    10. Sinless, at this point, Adam shoulders ALL the responsibility out of LOVE. [In this aspect] Adam represents Christ. Eve represents ALL of mankind. Both the fruit and the bitter cup are symbolic of the literal need to “internalize” what must be done. The Garden of Eden represents Gethsemane!

    Elder Joseph Fielding Smith had said: “I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin…. This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin … for it was something that Adam and Eve had to do!” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 1:114-15).

    Jehovah & Michael together prevail against Lucifer/Satan. Together, they establish the heaven/earth. The earthly mission of Michael/Adam was important. It was about co-creation of choice, the fall – for love – and then a sacrifice like unto the Atonement.

    I ask now, from here on out, should there be any more wonder that the name Michael LITERALLY means ‘Who is like unto God’?

  39. Oops, the link I made reference too, did not translate.

    To date, the church has NO official position on evolution. A letter addressed to William Lee Stokes, professor of Geology at the University of Utah from 1947 to 1982, was written by President David O. McKay in 1957, signed with his signature. I have photo-copy of [perhaps] the same letter, but here’s a link to the exact wording in it. http://eyring.hplx.net/Eyring/faq/evolution/McKayStokes1957.html

    Now, I know it commonly said “yesterday, today and tomorrow”, I was only trying to make my point – nothing really changes.

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