Sunday, January 26, 2014

Old Testament Lesson 4: Because of My Transgression My Eyes are Opened

Michelangelo's "God and Adam"
A serious study of the fall of Adam and Eve must include the question of why it was even necessary in the first place.
I decided this week to frame the doctrine of the fall of Adam and Eve in terms of another doctrine that seems completely opposite to where the fall appears to take us - Perfection. In doing so I hope to answer the question of why the fall was necessary, in a way that might be new to you and may enable you to ponder this great event in more detail.

The seedling
In Genesis 1:26-27 we learn that Adam and Eve were created in God's image, after his likeness. Do you notice the similarity in language between the other creations created "...yielding seed...after his kind" and Adam and Eve that are created in God's image, after God's likeness. Of course, this is not just a species commonality but the very likeness and image of gods, it's far more personal but nevertheless the point is obvious - we are of the same seed as God! As we explore further we discover that within us we have two specific ingredients that are God's and that make us His children and He our Father:
  • Our Spirit
  • Light 
Our Spirit: We each were born spiritually of heavenly parents - a heavenly mother and a heavenly father, inheriting from our heavenly parents divine spiritual qualities (for more scriptural evidences of this feel free to follow this link). Some may have received heavenly father's and heavenly mother's ability to discern and understand, or their ability to care and be compassionate, or maybe to forgive and love. 
Light: We also each received a portion of his light when we were born to our surrogate mortal parents. (cf Moroni 7:16-18). This light is in our very DNA. Like any seed, for us to grow to our full potential we must let that light nourish us and we must yearn and strive towards more light if we are to reach our full potential as a divine seedling. It is this portion of light within us that actually guides us towards the greater light; and it is this very journey that enables our growth. (For those wishing to go deeper into a study of spirits and light, read Doctrine and Covenants 93:29-38).

With these two divine ingredients we are created like God and have the potential to be as God.

Does this make us Gods? No. But it does make us Gods-in-embryo. Do we have the potential to grow and develop or evolve into Gods eventually, at some point in the eternities? Absolutely. For people caught up in the depths of darkness in this world that is a powerful and enabling doctrine. If you take nothing more from this lesson, take this: every person, every one, has that potential. Whether it is you sat on the internet right now in your warm house and eating a snack, or someone else sat on a hot barren plain in Africa with no food, or another person lying cold in the early morning hours behind a dumpster with an empty bottle of alcohol - every single one of us is a God-in-embryo.
When I ponder that I feel so many emotions: immense gratitude, self-respect, determination, sorrow, forgiveness, frustration and I start to feel just a little how Alma felt as he wished he were an angel, that he might declare these tidings more clearly to all mankind at once. This knowledge can be life-changing.
So this is the seedling. Us, mankind. We are the seedling.
Adam, Eve, and perfection
Now do you remember how at the beginning I said that I would like to discuss the fall within the context of perfection. Well, to do so we must first clarify and distinguish the two different aspects or definitions of perfection:
  1. without sin or blemish
  2. complete, whole
As we study the fall, differentiating between these two aspects of perfection will be vital in understanding why the fall was necessary. Ask yourself these questions:                Were Adam and Eve perfect when they were created and placed in the garden of Eden? To answer this question you may need to answer the following two questions.
In what ways were Adam and Eve like God, immediately after their creation?
They were spirit, intelligences, given a body in a paradisaical state, with both the likeness and image (form and shape) of God, without blemish or sin.
In what ways were Adam and Eve NOT like God, immediately after their creation? 
They had no knowledge of good and evil (that is they did not understand the difference for themselves), they had no posterity, and their body was of a substance or matter that was not resurrected immortal material but merely eternal. They were not yet complete as to their eternal purpose.

In short, they were LIKE God but not yet AS God. 

Now read the Saviour's admonition as he taught what has become known as the sermon on the mount:
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" Matthew 5:48
Is there any doubt what is intended for us in the long run? Heavenly Father intends for us to ultimately be without blemish or sin AND to reach our fullest potential - that is perfection.
Thus He does not intend for us to be LIKE him but rather he intends for us to be AS him.

Eden, the philosopher, the fall
It seems clear that Adam and Eve, though perfect creations and being without sin and without blemish, were not complete in regards to their ultimate purpose. God knew this and set up a classroom in which Adam and Eve could learn this.

Read Moses 3:8-9
What kind of classroom is the Lord setting up, what do you think the focal point of the classroom will be?  

God also issued some basic class rules:
"be fruitful and multiply" Moses 2:28
"Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Moses 3:16-17
Notice that Eve elaborates further on this commandment, telling Satan that God had told them that  "Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest ye die." Moses 4:9
What do you think would have happened if Eve just touched it and then put it back?
Why did the Lord forbid them from even touching the fruit?
How can we relate this to our lives?

There is an interesting insight with the second commandment. God starts by pointing out all of the other trees in the garden which, he tells Adam, they may "freely eat". The key word is "freely" or in other words without consequences.
The same cannot be said of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam may choose for himself to eat of it but there will be consequences and God has forbidden it.
Joseph Fielding Smith once put this conversation between God and Adam into his own words. He said, "The Lord said to Adam, here is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If you want to stay here then you cannot eat of that fruit. If you want to stay here then I forbid you to eat it. But you may act for yourself and you may eat of it if you want to. And if you eat it you will die."
So with that setting, the Lord God then allows the guest speaker into the classroom. 

Now notice how Satan tempts Eve in Genesis 3:1-5. He tempts her by telling her a lie and a truth to confuse and muddy her determination. He lies by telling her that "ye shall not surely die".
Well, actually she will.
As things stood in the garden, Adam and Eve could go on eternally in their current state not tasting death. God had clearly stated that if they eat the fruit of that tree it would introduce them to death. So telling Eve that if she eats the fruit she wont die, is a big fat lie from the father of all lies (about as big and fat as lies come). But then he emphasizes the truth of what will happen "your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be AS gods, knowing good and evil."
This clearly indicates that even Satan knew there was potential for mankind not just to be LIKE God but to become AS God. How has this doctrine been lost to the world?
But teaching Eve the doctrine of her potential, backfired on Satan. It's an astonishing lack of cautiousness from Satan that seems to imply that he really thought he had a good chance of destroying God's plan right there at that moment in the garden of Eden. Moses tells us as much when he comments that at that point, Satan "knew not the mind of God" (Moses 4:6).

Genesis 3:6 How did Eve reason herself into taking the fruit?
  • it was edible 
  • it was desirable
  • it would make her wise. 
Without a distinction between good and bad she can only use the facts in front of her. The fruit was edible, it was pleasant (as God had made it), and now Satan had also informed her that it would take her one step closer to becoming as God. Is it any surprise she partook of the fruit?

Likewise, we can only presume that Adam chose to eat the fruit for the same reasons...except we have one other fascinating clue to his reasoning and for all you romantics out there this is as good as it gets!
When explaining to God why he ate the fruit, Adam says something often missed even by Latter-Day Saints. Genesis barely hints at it, but in the translation of Genesis that we call the Book of Moses we read this:
"And the man said: The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat" Moses 4:18
Clearly in Adam's mind the higher priority was staying with Eve. Seeing she had eaten and would "die", he chose to die with her rather than remain in the garden alone. Maybe he knew death would not be instantaneous and that this was also a way for them to be fulfill the other commandment to be fruitful and multiply, but clearly in his mind his priority was to stay with Eve. What a beautiful example of pure love from our first parents.

Be clear. No sin was involved here. Any notion of "original" sin or any sin is blatantly false and does not do justice to the great honour we should hold both Adam and Eve in.
Not having a knowledge of good and evil they could only obey or disobey, as a little child obeys or disobeys the command to leave the cookies alone. Sure it was wrong and it had consequences but it was not sin.
James E. Talmage said "Here let me say that therein consisted the fall -- the eating of things unfit, the taking into the body of the things that made of that body a thing of earth: and I take this occasion to raise my voice against the false interpretation of scripture, which has been adopted by certain people, and is current in their minds, and is referred to in a hushed and half-secret way, that the fall of man consisted in some offense against the laws of chastity and virtue. Such a doctrine is an abomination. What right have we to turn the scriptures from their proper sense and meaning? What right have we to declare that God meant not what He said? The fall was a natural process, resulting through the incorporation into the bodies of our first parents of the things that came from food unfit, through the violation of the command of God regarding what they should eat." (Jesus The Christ, p30)
Dallin H Oaks added to that the following:
“It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. …
“… We celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall. … Elder Joseph Fielding Smith 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.’ …
Consequences of the fall
But this transgression has left them in a bit of a state on the perfection front. Now, not only are they not complete but they are now as some would see it dirtied and sullied with mortality. Perfection seems further away than ever...except that wondrously, within the Great Plan, they are actually closer to perfection than in Eden.

Consider what happened as a consequence overall:
  • Mankind is now introduced to the world and mortality with its physical trials and hardships and temptations and death.
  • Having, now, the ability to distinguish between good and evil and choose either, sin (or spiritual death) is also introduced. 
  • No longer able to endure the presence of God in their mortal state, mankind are separated from Him. 
Specifically Eve is told that her pain and sorrow will greatly multiply as she bears children and Adam too is told that he will feel great pain and sweat as he has to labour to provide for him and his family. Interestingly, neither Adam or Eve are cursed or punished here.
Of Eve we are told that the serpent is cursed so that her seed will be able to crush it (thus prophecying of Christ's victory of Satan).
Of Adam, we are told that the ground is cursed  "for thy sake"(I'm not sure why the ground was cursed). It is an interesting turn of phrase. Whatever it means, it does seem to imply that the consequence of the ground being cursed and Adam now struggling for his existence was actually a good thing.

Metaphor of the seed
Consider a seed: Even a seedling today follows the same process that Adam and Eve did. The seed is formed in the plant or on the tree. When the time is right the plant or tree dispels that seed whereupon said seed, through one process or another, falls to the ground. As part of this process it goes into the earth and there finds the perfect setting of nutrients, external darkness and internal light to help it develop and intuitively know to stretch, to extend itself, to reach towards the greater light above. Thus imbued with the characteristics of the plant or tree it came from, it is perfectly capable of becoming a tree or plant as strong and as beautiful as the tree or plant it came from. And thus capable of producing seed as did the tree or plant it came from.

Similarly in our lives as divine seedlings we come to earth -  we are plunged into a world of darkness (or temptation) but there are also many things around us that can help nurture and nourish us. We too are imbued with characteristics from that source which gave us life and we have been given a portion of his light that we might know from whence we came and recognize and feel the need to push toward the greater portion of light above the surface of the earth. It is in this very struggle that we can eventually become that which we were born from. There is no other way. Eternal laws of nature decree it. Thus it was as necessary that the fall happen, as it is that a seed fall from a tree or a plant if it wishes to grow and become a tree or plant itself.

Perfection: pipedream or possible?
Are we perfect? Can we be fully perfected in this life? It seems hard to fathom. And yet we have a commandment suggesting we be perfect?

It seems altogether clear that to become as God (not just "like" God) we must learn and evolve and grow and then after all we can do, we must rely upon the saving merits and grace of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There is no other way. We only grow by pushing beyond our current limitations - hence "because of my transgression my eyes are opened".
Even Christ, the Great Redeemer in this plan, had to study and learn in this classroom we call mortality. (Doctrine and Covenants 93:11-14). He was without sin - that much we do know or else he could not have been the Saviour of the world. But scripture seems to tell us even the Saviour had to go through mortality (condescend/fall) before being considered "perfect" or before becoming AS God (not just "like" God). The verse "...and the third day I shall be perfected" in Luke 13:32 seems to suggest the Saviour himself felt he was waiting to be perfected.
Even more telling is the sermon Christ preaches to the Nephite people AFTER his atonement and resurrection. It is pretty much the very same sermon he gave on the Mount as recorded in Matthew 5-6 except for one very interesting, small detail. When he gives the command to be perfect to the Nephites he uses himself as an example of perfection
"Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect." 3 Nephi 12:48
Adam and Eve fell so that mankind might exist and so that they might have a chance not only of being LIKE God but experiencing the joy of being AS God and Jesus Christ. 2 Nephi 2:25

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