Mormon beliefs treat the fall of Adam differently than do most religions, and their teachings about Eve are greater still, an affirmation that God values the wisdom and spiritual contributions of women.
The Fall of Adam refers to the time Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. God told them they could eat from any tree in the garden except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, he reminded them they had agency and could decide for themselves, but they must remember they would die if they ate from it. Eventually, they chose to eat from that tree and were cast out of the garden into the mortal world. Death became possible and their bodies became mortal. They had to begin to work for the things they needed. This has been referred to as the fall of Adam.Many people see this event as a great tragedy that caused all of us who came afterwards to face hardship and trials. However, Mormons understand that Adam and Eve acted in great wisdom when making their choice. While in the Garden, their bodies were not mortal and they could not have children. For that reason, had they selfishly chosen to remain living a life of ease in the Garden, none of us could have been born.
Mormons believe our spirits were created by God and that we lived with Him for a time in Heaven prior to the formation of the earth. Had our first parents not left the garden, all these spirits would have been trapped, unable to progress any further. Mormon beliefs state that mortality is the centerpiece of our existence, with pre-mortal life before it and our lives after death following it. Mortality was given to us as a time to be tested, to gain families, and to have experiences that would allow us to someday return to God’s presence if we lived the gospel. The Garden was an excellent transition place for Adam and Eve as they prepared for the full experience of mortality. It was, in a sense, their childhood, but we can’t stay children forever and become all we’re capable of being.
Mormons believe Adam and Eve were prepared for this experience prior to their creations and tutored by God in the Garden. When the serpent approached Eve, he hoped to ruin God’s plan, but in reality he helped it along. The scriptures do not say Eve made an instant decision and so may have spent time thinking it through. She understood her divine calling was one of motherhood—Adam named her Eve, which means Mother of All Living. She understood she had to leave the Garden and experience suffering in order to fulfill that role. The longing for motherhood is a gift given to women and it was given to Eve.
Mormons believe Eve was courageous and unselfish in her decision to give up the pleasures of the Garden in order to allow the rest of us to come to earth to live. Adam honored her choice and followed her lead, knowing it was the right thing to do.
In addition to being able to begin a family, leaving the Garden allowed them to fulfill the other responsibilities of mortality. Without trials, they could not learn everything they needed to know. They needed to experience the range of emotions in order to appreciate the good emotions. They had to be sick to appreciate health.
The Book of Mormon outlines how Mormons see the fall of Adam:
22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23 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.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
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 (2 Nephi 2:22–26 in the Book of Mormon).
The fall was a planned and essential part of our eternal plan, although Adam and Eve had complete control over whether or not it would happen, because, they, like us, had agency. God, being loving and kind, prepared a Savior to come to redeem us from the effects of the fall, so that we could be saved and return to God’s presence. The atonement covers the transgression of Adam and Eve.
Eve is honored as a heroine for her role in the Fall, and Mormon women are taught that she represents our personal responsibility for our own spiritual understanding and leadership. Women are considered to be equally capable of understanding complex doctrine and of making their own spiritual decisions and are taught to study the scriptures themselves, rather than relying on their fathers and husbands to interpret the scriptures for them. In addition, women are invited to speak and preach in the church, even at the international conferences and men are taught to listen to their counsel.
Neal A. Maxwell, a former apostle, said, “Mormon marriages ought not to be marriages in which men are the theologians and women are the Christians; we must press forward together , for men cannot finally go anywhere that matters without women.” (See Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1977)
Mormons do not teach the doctrine of original sin. They teach that we are punished only for our own sins, and not for those of anyone else, including the transgressions of Adam and Eve. While there were generational consequences handed down to us, we are not considered responsible for their choices. This is why Mormons teach that small children do not require baptism. They are free of sin until they reach the age of accountability, which is eight years of age.