Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thoughts on Adam and Eve

Today was a very fascinating lesson in Sunday School. We are studying the Old Testament this year and we've started with Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. Moses parallels the first books of Genesis in the Bible, but it provides clarification on information that was lost over the centuries and it gives greater detail about man's beginnings.

Something that I have always struggled to understand about Adam and Eve is why they couldn't multiply and replenish the earth when they were in the Garden of Eden.

{Adam and Eve in the Garden by Lowell Bruce Bennett}

I know that once Eve partook of the fruit she knew that she would be kicked out of the Garden of Eden for breaking God's commandment not to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17 or Moses 3:16-17). If Adam didn't also partake of the fruit and accompany Eve out of the Garden, he would not be able to keep God's other commandment to multiply and replenish the earth (Genesis 1:28 or Moses 2:28). But what was it about taking the fruit and having their eyes opened to the difference between good and evil that changed things in regards to procreating? Did God not want them to procreate when they were immortal? If so, then why did He give them that commandment knowing that they could not do it (no pun intended)? Were Adam and Eve unable to feel physical attraction? Were they ignorant about how to procreate? Did it not ever cross their mind?

Today we watched excerpts from this talk by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The lightbulb went on and I finally understood why procreation had to happen after Adam and Eve became mortal. When they were created, they had flesh and bones like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (Doctrine & Covenants 130:22Genesis 1:26-27, and Moses 2:26-27, also this great article Is the LDS view of God Consistent with the Bible?). But they were immortal and could not grow old or die (Alma 12:21-23). Whatever the biochemical makeup of their bodies were, they could not procreate (2 Nephi 2:22-23) because they were not mortal. Something had to physically change before they could multiply and replenish the earth. From Elder Nelson:
The Fall of Adam (and Eve) constituted the mortal creation and brought about the required changes in their bodies, including the circulation of blood and other modifications as well. They were now able to have children. They and their posterity also became subject to injury, disease, and death.
I get it now. Mortality was a prerequisite for having children.

{Adam and Eve Teaching Their Children by Del Parson}

Another very interesting idea we discussed was the role of agency and God's plan in the Fall of Adam and Eve. Heavenly Father gave two seemingly contradictory commandments: do not partake of the fruit (and stay immortal and unable to have children) and multiply and replenish the earth. What kind of impossible trick was God trying to play on them?

Before we came to earth there was a great council in Heaven where God presented a plan for all of His spirit children to become like Him.

{Grand Council by Robert T. Barrett}

Part of His plan included us getting a mortal body. That could not happen without Adam and Eve beginning the physical creation process. Another essential part of God's plan of happiness was agency, the opportunity for each of us to make our own choices. Thus, God presented two commandments that allowed Adam and Eve to make a choice, to use their intelligence to figure out which path would allow them to fulfill God's plan. He knew that Adam and Eve would have to transgress one of his laws to get the ball rolling. That is why His plan included choosing a Savior to redeem us from our mistakes. But He wasn't a fatalistic God trying to set Adam and Eve up for failure. He was providing a means to an end that involved Adam and Eve exercising their first act of agency. Presenting two paths from which to choose gave Adam and Eve the opportunity to own their choice rather than just having things easily dropped in their lap. Partaking of the fruit in order to begin procreating opened up the opportunity for emotional and spiritual growth.

No one knows how long Adam and Eve were in the garden before they partook of the fruit. They communicated openly with God and He taught them. I imagine Eve deeply contemplated how she and Adam could obey both commandments. She must have wrestled with it greatly. Somehow she understood that they could not procreate without partaking of the fruit and undergoing a physical change that would subject them to death. Perhaps Adam did not fully comprehend this. When Satan came to tempt Eve, I think she had already come to the conclusion on her own that she must partake of the fruit. Her choice to partake was an act of faith and a desire to fulfill God's plan, not a succumbing to Satan's power. Once she partook of the fruit, she had to go explain to Adam why it was the only way to put God's plan for His spirit children in motion. She knew that if they remained in their immortal state, nothing would ever change, nothing would ever grow, there would be no window opened to invite God's spirit children to earth. She was a very spiritually intuitive woman; a very selfless woman to sacrifice her own perfection to serve God's purposes.

We do not always understand God's ways. We don't always understand why He asks us to do things. Adam was commanded to offer up sacrifices (Moses 5:5-7) but he didn't know why. He just knew that God told him to.

{Adam and Eve Kneeling at an Altar by Del Parson}

In our modern world where we are inundated with information and almost any question we have can be answered with a few clicks on our keyboards, we have gotten into the habit of thinking we have to have a concrete understanding of everything in order to take action. But Adam taught us the first principle of the gospel, we must have faith. Someone in Sunday School shared an idea that had been told to them by an older, wiser woman many years ago. She said, "What I understand, I love. What I don't, I must trust." As parents we ask our children to do things they don't understand. We are asking them to trust that we have their best interest in mind, that we are asking them to do specific things because our experience has taught us that those things will make them happy. Is it any different with our Father in Heaven? He asks us to trust Him and follow His commandments in faith even when we don't understand all things.

I love it when I gain new knowledge and understanding. It's one of the reasons it's so important to go to church. The discussions and teaching from those who have studied the subject extensively lead me to greater understanding that I likely would not gain sitting at home. With that new knowledge comes the beauty of feeling the Spirit. And it is that Spirit that sustains us through our other mostly ordinary days.


Anonymous said...

A fair amount of deep doctrine in this lesson. We were even talking about it a Free Spirits luncheon yesterday.
Your Mom

Anonymous said...

I love this post. You explained it better than my gospel doctrine teacher did. Thank you! The contradictory commandments to Adam and Eve has always bugged me.

Becky in Wyo said...

Good, dude.