Following are the remarks I shared in church today on the topic of the Second Article of Faith.
When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, the environment in which they lived was very different than the world we live in today. They lived in ignorance, not knowing the differences between the simplest things – good and evil, happiness and sadness, pain and comfort. They were immortal. They lived in the presence of God. They were to focus on only these things- to take care of the garden (Genesis 2:15), to multiply and replenish the earth (Gen 1:28), and to avoid the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17).
While focusing on these things, even in such an environment, they weren’t free of temptation. No, the Father, according to His eternal plan, had allowed Satan to tempt and try Adam and Eve. Why? I can think of three reasons.
Number one – There must be opposition. The prophet Lehi taught, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things…And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.” (2 Nephi 2: 11, 15)
Number 2 – Man is free to choose. Since the pre-mortal existence of mankind, we have been free to choose good or evil. That will never change. “Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” (2 Nephi 2:16)
Number 3 – God’s plan of salvation required his children to be mortal. In his infinite wisdom, our Father in Heaven foresaw the outcome in the Garden. Adam and Eve’s choices, made of their own free will, were part of God’s plan to bring the rest of his children into mortality. Elder James E. Talmage eloquently put it this way, “It was the purpose of God to place within the reach of the spirits begotten by Him in the heavens the means of individual effort, and the opportunity of winning not merely redemption from death but also salvation and even exaltation, with the powers of eternal progression and increase. Hence it was necessary that the spiritual offspring of God should leave the scenes of the primeval childhood and enter the school of mortal experience, meeting, contending with, and overcoming evil, according to their several degrees of faith and strength. Adam and Eve could never have been the parents of a mortal posterity had they not themselves become mortal; mortality was an essential element in the divine plan respecting the earth and its appointed inhabitants; and, as a means of introducing mortality, the Lord placed before the progenitors of the race a law, knowing what would follow.” (Articles of Faith, 63)
The Father himself would later teach the prophet Moses, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)
The consequences of Adam’s decision to partake of the fruit were eternal. By partaking of the fruit, Adam and Eve forfeited their life in the paradisiacal Garden of Eden, and had become mortal. However, Adam’s choice to transgress the commandment to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was necessary for our existence. Remember, “Adam feel that men might be…” (2 Ne 2:25) In conjunction with their commandment to avoid the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were also commanded to multiply and replenish the earth (Gen 1:28, Moses 2:28, Abr 4: 28) Before Adam and Eve had a chance to multiply, Eve had already fell to the temptations of the serpent to partake of the fruit. (Eve partakes in Gen 3:6 and they begin to multiply in Gen 4:1 after leaving the garden.) Had Adam not partaken of the fruit he would have been left by himself, alone in the garden, unable to keep the commandment to multiply with Eve, since she would be cast out. “And they would have had no children…” (2 Nephi 2:23)
There is opportunity for gratitude here. First, we can be grateful for the courage of Eve. Even though she had partaken of the fruit first, she consequently gained the knowledge enough to understand and explain to Adam that if he would not also partake, they would fail to keep the commandment to multiply. Second, we can be grateful for Adam’s sacrifice to partake of the fruit, allowing their posterity, you and me, the opportunity to come to earth, gain a physical body, and fulfill the measure of our creation. And, most importantly, we can be grateful for the love and mercy of God in providing a perfect plan resulting in a way back to His presence.
The second Article of Faith states, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.”
When mistakes are made, often is the case that the results of the mistake have repercussions on others. This is true for Adam and Eve. The repercussions fall throughout the entirety of their posterity. But let it be understood that Adam and Eve’s choice to partake of the forbidden fruit under the stress of temptation was theirs alone. Though the state of the world in which we now live is a repercussion of their transgression, we are in no way accountable or responsible for their actions. Our sins are our own.
Temptaion and trial continue to plague and hinder the progression of mankind. Satan continues his attempt to disrupt the work of God by targeting not only individuals, but families, and no one is immune. Elder Talmage taught, “Satan exerts a mastery over the spirits that have been corrupted by his practices; he is the foremost of the angels who was thrust down, and the instigator of the ruin of those who fall in this life; he seeks to molest and hinder mankind in good efforts, by tempting to sin; or it may be by imposing sickness, or possibly death. Yet in all these malignant doings, he can go no farther than the transgressions of the victim may enable him, or the wisdom of God may permit; and at any time he may be checked by the superior power. Indeed, even the operations of the utmost malice may be turned to the accomplishment of divine purposes.” (Articles of Faith, 57)
It is also important to understand that we are not born into this world tarnished with transgression or sin because of Adam and Eve. Many of our fellow Christian faiths believe that the original “sin” of Adam and Eve is transmitted to all those who are born into this world. Consequently, they feel the need to baptize their children soon after birth to remove the original sin. Such a practice is just not necessary. The doctrine concerning the state of children born into this world is one of many restored to the earth by way of the Book of Mormon record. The prophet Moroni taught the following…
“Listen to the worlds of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them…” (Moroni 8:8)
He continues, “But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for many children have died without baptism!” “Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy.” (Moroni 8: 12, 19)
Men will be punished for their own sins, but the atonement…The atonement of Jesus Christ is everything. The atonement of Jesus Christ changes everything.
“And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.” (Helaman 5:11)
“Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God sufferereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his delieverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.” (Alma 7:13)
In His infinite wisdom, love, and mercy, our Heavenly Father provided a way for us to overcome the eternal demands of justice by offering His Only Begotten as a last eternal sacrifice. Jesus came into this world and overcame it. He fulfilled his mission, thus becoming our Savior and Redeemer. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) There is no other way back to the Father’s presence except through Jesus Christ. None of us are perfect on our own. We must rely on Jesus.
To conclude, by way of testimony, I share the things that I have come to know, understand, appreciate, and respect. It is my testimony that we have an eternal, loving Father in heaven who knows us perfectly. He knows our strengths, he knows our weaknesses, and he knows our hearts. He has developed a perfect plan for our eternal progression through this life on earth made completely possible through the merits of His Only Begothen Son. Jesus Christ is real. Both He and the Father live. The Atonement is ours. It is the greatest gift ever given. It enables us to overcome this world and to overcome Satan’s temptations every single day. Adam and Eve were good. They were righteous. They were and are, redeemed. How thankful I am to have the Book of Mormon, and for it’s contents that expand our knowledge of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. May we always remember that we are capable of more than this world; that temptations are part of God’s plan and can be controlled, and that keeping the commandments is always worth it.