When I was growing up, I remember my parents teaching us about Adam and Eve. How Heavenly Father created them, and put them in the Garden of Eden, and then how they ate the forbidden fruit and were cast out. I remember thinking, “Why’d they have to ruin it for us?” I thought that surely if they had stayed there, then we all would just be living in the beautiful garden, and be immortal. It would be great! Later, though, I came to understand the true doctrine of the Fall, and the important place it holds in Heavenly Father’s plan for each of us.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the “Mormon Church,” we call these events the Fall because Adam and Eve fell from the presence of God to mortality. Before the Fall, when they were in the garden, they didn’t know good from evil, and were immortal. After the Fall, they had knowledge of good and evil, and became mortal.
President Boyd K. Packer, an Apostle and one of the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ explained the fall this way:
It is easier for me to understand that word fall in the scriptures if I think both in terms of location and condition. The word fall means to descend to a lower place. The fall of man was a move from the presence of God to mortal life on earth. That move down to a lower place came as a consequence of a broken law. Fall may also describe a change in condition. For instance, one can fall in reputation or from prominence. The word fall well describes what transpired when Adam and Eve were driven from the garden. (Funerals—A Time for Reverence, October 1988).
When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit and were cast out of the garden, they fell in both location and condition: they physically moved away from God, and the condition of their bodies changed from immortal to mortal.
Why Did We Need the Fall?
Latter-day Saints believe that the Fall was necessary to Heavenly Father’s plan for His children. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they didn’t know good from evil, and they could not have children. In order for the rest of Heavenly Father’s children to come to earth, Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden. They had to become mortal. In the book of Moses, Eve says, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient” (Moses 5:11). Once Adam and Eve left the Garden, they understood Heavenly Father’s plan, and rejoiced for the many opportunities they had now that they were mortal.
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, an ancient book of scripture similar to the Bible, explains that “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Nephi 2:25). Had Adam and Eve remained in the Garden of Eden, all of Heavenly Father’s children, us, would still be in heaven waiting to come to earth and receive a body.
The Book of Mormon also explains what it would have been like if Adam and Eve had not transgressed and eaten the fruit: “If Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the Garden of Eden.” At first, this sounds pretty good. The garden was beautiful, and God was there. But the Book of Mormon goes on to say, “And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Nephi 2:22-23). Everything that makes life really worth living—family, joy, doing good—would not have been possible without the fall.
Did Adam and Eve Sin?
The LDS Church’s Gospel Principles book explains:
Some people believe Adam and Eve committed a serious sin when they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, latter-day scriptures help us understand that their Fall was a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to us. Because of the Fall, we are blessed with physical bodies, the right to choose between good and evil, and the opportunity to gain eternal life. None of these privileges would have been ours had Adam and Eve remained in the garden. (29)
Latter-day Saints regard the Fall as a vital event in Heavenly Father’s plan for us. Similarly, Latter-day Saints regard Eve as a very important figure in the Fall. It was she who first ate the fruit, and then offered it to Adam. We believe that she was very important and celebrate her, and do not believe that Eve’s actions give good reason to treat women as inferiors.
What About Original Sin?
Another important piece of Latter-day Saint doctrine was explained by Joseph Smith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (Articles of Faith 2). We do not believe that men are born in sin; children are born perfect and innocent. Once we reach the age of eight, we are all accountable for our own actions only, and not for Adam’s transgression. Adam and Eve’s actions in the Garden of Eden weren’t really sins; they were transgressions. They didn’t follow what God told them to do, but their actions weren’t against any eternal laws.
After the Fall, mankind could die physically and spiritually (by committing sins). Because of the Fall, we could not return to live with
Heavenly Father on our own. We needed a Savior, a Redeemer, to overcome both physical and spiritual death. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the way we can overcome the effects of the Fall. Jesus Christ overcame physical death when He was resurrected, and spiritual death when he died for our sins. Because of the Atonement, we can overcome death and sin, and return to live with Heavenly Father again.
Knowing and understanding the true doctrine of the Fall helps me make sense of the world. It helps me understand why we need Jesus Christ. It also helps me understand Heavenly Father’s plan for His children to return to Him. Latter-day scripture, both the Book of Mormon and words of living prophets, provides additional insight and truth to what happened when Adam fell, the results of his fall, why he fell, and how it affects me personally.
Megan is a graduate of BYU-Idaho and recently married member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is a writer and avid reader, and loves music, hiking, and her family.